Sunday, April 20, 2014

Current Read - April 20, 2014

It has been a long time since I've written one of these. I've certainly spent more time hiding myself in the stories of others than writing my own. For a season, I'm convinced, that's okay. The truth is, I have had so much in my head, so much in my heart, but it hasn't felt like the time or the place to pour it all out. It's like Thumper was taught by his momma, "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." And I haven't. So I haven't.

But today, on a day to celebrate newness and life and restoration, it seems like this is a good, safe place to start.

So stories. I have read piles and piles of stories. Words written on paper and giving rest and, at times, escape.

I have read (from most recent to oldest):

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now, Gretchen Rubin - A continuation on her first project, it's more of Gretchen's story on how to live life, in the context one finds themselves in, seeing the beauty, the fun and the happiness there is to be found. The fun thing is, while I wouldn't choose to do all of the same things - some are certainly applicable and resonate - the truth is, her search is inspiring. Who couldn't use a bit more happiness at home?

The Help, Kathyrn Stockett - My confession is that I didn't think I would like this one. I don't normally get all into the "drama" category. Not often anyway. I read it more out of curiosity. It's been on the best seller list forever. My friends that read all seemed to enjoy it. Book clubs have devoured it. A movie has been made out of it. And with good reason. It's unique and honest. The characters are real and loveable - well, at least most of them..the rest you just love to hate - diving into the issue of black versus white and white versus black, people with differences on the outside but all the same hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations on the inside yet still coming at them from very different perspectives.

Cress - Marissa Meyer - The third in the trilogy. Fun to the end. So fun. If you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (books 1-5), Rick Riordan (oh, and I watched the movie adaption of Sea of Monsters. It was actually pretty good. For a movie based on a young adult fiction. But then again, we liked the first one, The Lightning Thief, in this house too.)

The Happiness Project: Or Why I spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun, Gretchen Rubin
A project to find more happiness. You know what I liked the most? It's not like so much of this type of thing in society. She was not in crisis of any sort, in fact, life was good. It wasn't about being a victim but about building a "bank" of sorts, a series of habits to rely on, so that if life were to get tough, like it often does, she would be prepared to face it. It wasn't about being a victim and expecting someone or something else to the work of "making" her happy. It wasn't about having more or getting more or having to make big changes to the context (like move) in order to be happy. What it was, was about finding the moments of brightness, of happiness, within her already there life and enjoying them. Like stopping to smell the roses. Making the choice. Taking responsibility for her own happiness. Making the choice to be happy with who she is and what she has. What a novel concept. And yet oh, so needed, and so deeply refreshing. I feel like this is one that I'll likely read more than once.

Crossed - Ally Condie
The first book in the series, while young feeling, caught my attention enough to bring me into the pages of the second one. It picked up right where the first one left off except that now, instead of just questioning the existing structure, Cassia, the main character, chooses to leave what she knows in search of a new future, new adventure and possibly even a new society. And now, that I'm two thirds into the story, I may just have to pick up the third book.

Matched - Ally Condie -They choose when and who you marry. They choose who you die. They choose what you eat and where you work and what you study. They. And everyone goes along with it. But what if something changes that causes someone with a bright future to question whether they should or whether they really know what they're doing? Another utopian, challenge the regime book, in the wake of young adult fiction books like Divergent but, unfortunately, this one comes off being a bit younger feeling than the others. I can't quite put my finger on why. 

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the full love of Story of Christmas, Ann Voskamp - Sometimes the holiday season gets so full and busy that it's hard to see the truth of Jesus in the midst of it all. Voskamp's devotional focuses on the truth of the manger and how it ties through to the prophecies of the old Testament. It sounds so dry when I say it like that but the style of it is such that it comes alive and makes it beautiful. True. Even holy. I think this might be a part of our household holiday traditions.

A Tale of Three Kings - Gene Edwards - A sweet friend who knows much of our story over the last couple years recommended this one. Actually, she insisted that I had to read it in light of everything. Then one of the pastors I shared life and ministry with at Journey told me the same thing. Two people I respect, trust and know me well so read it I did. And I'm glad. Solomon. David. Absalom. Three kings with different stories but all needing grace and forgiveness and hope. What struck me most profoundly was the message of hurt, loss and betrayal experienced, at the hands of other believers and how each character dealt with it differently. Hurt, loss and betrayal are emotions I know well and even just knowing that there is enough truth to them to write a book made me feel a little less alone and, in company, brings hope.

Scarlet - Marissa Meyer  -The first book in the series, Cinder, took to space and political crisis the story of Cinderella, twisting it into something unique and different but strangely similar. Scarlet brings to life the little red riding hood and the big bad wolf. And then the two characters collide in the midst of political breakdown, potential global takeover, and the threat of war. The only problem I had with this one was that when I finished the last page, I didn't the third and last book waiting for me to start.

The Infernal Devices (books 1-3), Cassandra Clare - I think I liked these better than the Mortal Instruments. Set approximately three generations before the events of the Mortal Instruments, it prefaces the stories of the other series and yet still tells its own, full of battle, suspicion and magic.

Allegiant, Veronica Roth - I don't know if I've ever been as angry at a book as I was at this one. Seriously. With each page approaching the end hoping I kept hoping it wasn't going to end the way I feared, and, when it did, I threw it one the floor. Really. But I don't want to ruin the fun for the rest of you reading through the series. Enjoy.

City of Lost Souls, Cassandra Clare
The story of the shadowhunters, full of love, loyalty, betrayal, fear, sacrifice and family continues. Husband has lost interest, I think. Too much teenage angst, perhaps? And he's probably right. The story has probably been drug out one book too long but I need to see it through to the end. It's just the way I am.  The story gets bigger, the characters take on a little bit more and I just have to know. I want to find out where it goes and, in the battle of good and evil, who will actually win. Because that's what it's about, isn't it? Good and evil? Love and hate? Hope and fear? Loyalty and betrayal? Somewhere, deep down, we're wired to hope that good can and will overcome. Always. So there's one more book to wrap the story up. Thinking I might pre-order. Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. 

I feel like I'm missing a few but I can't remember what I'm forgetting. I suppose it wouldn't be forgetting if I could. That's the thing about forgetting.

Now there's this one. My current read:

Fall of Giants, Ken Follett

I loved the last Follett books that I read. I also enjoyed that my dad recommended them to me. So when he told me about these, I couldn't help but hunt them out. Spanning the stories of families over generations through some of the biggest global confrontations in history, the Century Trilogy combines historical truth and fantastic, gripping fiction...and I'm barely a third of the way into the first book. It's a big book. A really big book. Even so, I've already encountered Welsh coal miners, German spies, American ambassadors, Russian plant workers, police and peasants and English royalty. I think this one's going to be good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Round 1 Picks

For the last several years, I've been posting my picks for each round and my thoughts on the match ups. This season I'm a little bit behind. My days since the round was finalized have been full - I think work is taking it's toll and getting more than just the best of me. Regardless, here's a quick look at the teams I choose. If I can, later this week, I'll expand. But, for now, I choose:

Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh over Columbus
New York over Philadelphia
Boston over Detroit
Montreal over Tampa Bay 

And, with slightly less confidence, and I hate to admit that, I choose:

Western Conference (the West, in my opinion, is way harder than the East!)
Dallas over Anaheim
St. Louise over Chicago
Colorado over Minnesota
LA over San Jose