First: the how I’m reading.

Inspired by my friend Jessica who once told me that she reads NINE(!) books at once (Yes, I said NINE.  Jess said that she has played around with the number, but found that NINE is her sweet spot.  She is typically reading NINE books at any given time.), I’ve decided to allow myself to have THREE books going at once. According to Jessica, the benefits include: never being “stuck” because you became bored of the storyline, and the ability to “drag out” a fantastic read that you don’t want to end. My plan is to have one Book Club selection going at all times, one nonfiction selection (likely a nonprofit management book for my NEW for 2017 Professional Development Book Club) and one “personal choice.”  We will see how this goes!

Next: the how I’m posting.

Rather than post each review on the BOOKS page, I’ll post what I’m reading here. Beneath that I’ll post the books I’ve finished reading and link to the full review (if warranted). Sound good? Here it goes…

Currently Reading

Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years (A Speechwriter’s Memoir) by David Litt
The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace

What I read in 2018.

We the Animals, by Justin Torres
Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
The Edge of Everything, by Jeff Giles (YA fiction annotated with sticky notes by the author himself!)
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang (A Little Free Library score!)
Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim (bookclub selection)
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NG (bookclub selection)
Sing Unburied Sing, by Jessyn Ward (Audble)
The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (read by Dennis Quaid via Audible)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Audible)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Audible)
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (Audible)

Personal Choice (FINISHED!) in 2017

Wish You Well by David Baladacci
The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Graphic Novel) by Emil Farris
A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacobs
The God of Small Things by Ahrundhati Roy
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamante
Blind Rage by Anita Paddock (Arkansas Author)
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
The Great Gilly Hopkins (YA) by Katherine Patterson
A Wrinkle in Time (YA) by Madeline L’Engle
The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper  and Gloria Vanderbilt
Imagine Wanting Only (Graphic Novel) This by Kristen Radtke
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier (Arkansas Author)
All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
Good Harbor by Anita Diamante
The Outsiders (on Audible – in the car with Genna) by S.E. Hinton

The Dangling Shoes Book Club Selections 2017
Can’t we Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast – January
The Underground Railroad (didn’t finish)  by Coleson Whitehead – February
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – March
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – May
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – June
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy -July
Between, Georgia by Joshilynn Jackson – August
Homegoing (didn’t finish) by Yaa Gyasi – September
Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – October
Hillbilly Elegy (I didn’t read it)  by J.D. Vance – November
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flanner O’Conner  – December

What I Read in 2016

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (Book Club Selection)
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Book Club Selection)
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Book Club Selection)
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante  – didn’t finish (Book Club Selection)
A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous (Book Club Selection)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
How to Read Like a Literature Professor by Thomas C. Foster
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Ordinary Grace: A Novel by William Kent Krueger
The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Truly Madly Guilty by Lianne Moriarty

Mindless Wanderings Reading Log 2015What I Read in 2015

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (Book Club Selection)
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Book Club Selection)
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People (my own review) by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber
The Boys in the Boat (my own review) by Daniel James Brown (Book Club Selection)
The Light Between Oceans (my own review) by M.L. Stedman
Me and Earl & the Dying Girl (my own review)  by Jesse Andrews
Norwegian by Night (my own review)  by Derek Miller
This is Where I Leave You (my own review) by Jonathan Trooper
Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn
The Great Gatsby (my own review) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Station Eleven (my own review)  by Emily St. John Mandel (Book Club Selection)
The Girl on the Train (my own review) by Paula Hawkins (Book Club Selection)
Serena (my own review)  by Ron Rash (Book Club Selection)
A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison
We Were Liars (my own review)  by E. Lockhart
Eleanor and Park (my own review) by Rainbow Rowell
The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope (my own review) by Rhonda Riley

REading Log 2014It’s a new year, and that means it is time for a new reading log.

Last year I managed to read 17 books. (I know people who read 17 books within just a matter of weeks, so I realize that this is nothing to brag about!) Hoping that I can make it 18 or more this year.  We’ll see how it goes!

December 2014

TORNTorn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-VS.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Details/Topics: Nonfiction. A compelling memoir as well as thoughtful and practical advice for the modern church.  This book doesn’t try to change anyone’s deeply held religious convictions about the nature of homosexuality. Instead, it talks about how we as Christians can live out the gospel by modeling our behavior after Christ’s.

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzershine shine shine
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Details/Topics: Sunny and Maxon are extraordinary people, which is why they are perfect for each other. Until Sunny decides she would rather be ordinary.

I’ll admit I picked this book up because of the book jacket. (That, and it was in the “bargain selection” area of Barnes and Noble for $4.98.)  It was a New York Times Notable Book, but it wasn’t notable to me.
Favorite Quotes:
“She was sitting so upright in a chair, and looking so bald, like a cartoon of an idea. Aha! A lightbulb, her neck the part you screw in, her skull the glass bulb, her brain, her soul, her generosity the filament.”

“Maxon had written down everything he had eaten for the last seventeen years. He had a resting heart rate of thirty-tow. He had a graph to indicate the wattage he had emitted in an eighty-seven mile bike ride yesterday. But he could not stop himself from dying.”

November 2014

The House Girl by Tara Conklinhouse girl
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Details/Topics: Like The Devil in the White City, two story lines play out during alternating chapters. One, following a slave girl named Josephine in the Antebellum South. The other, following a modern day attorney named Lina working for a big-time law firm on a reparations case.
Favorite Quotes: “Over the years she had learned to fold down rising emotion just as she would fold the clean bed sheets, the sheet growing smaller and tighter with each pass until all that remained of that wide wrinkled expanse of cotton was a hard closed-in square.”

October 2014

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave EggersHeartbreaking_Work_Dave_Eggers

My Rating: 2 out of 3 stars.  After picking up this book (and putting it back down) a dozen times at Barnes and Noble, I finally decided to purchase and listen to it via  Maybe that was the problem. It was too manic for me. Too “stream of consciousness.” I didn’t love it.
Details/Topics: Memoir of a young man raising his younger brother after their parents death. Auditioning for MTV’s the Real World.
Favorite Quotes:
“Thank you,” he says.
“Thank who?”
“I don’t know. You?”
“No, not me. Jesus.”
“Thank you, Jesus?”
“Yes, Toph, Jesus died for your Christmas fun.”

Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittmanplanting dandelions
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. (And I’m not just saying that because I’ve met the author through Arkansas Women Bloggers!)
I loved this book for several reasons, including:

  • Disguised as “chapters,” this is really a series of essays. Perfect for reading in several sittings (though I read it cover to cover in about two).
  • Kyran (we’re on a first name basis now :)) is so honest and real, I didn’t find myself jealous of her version of a “semi-domesticated life.”  Instead, her stories inspired me to appreciate MY semi-domesticated life.
  • The book was given to me by one of my favorite, crazy-smart, brutally honest friends – Sarah.
  • The joy of reading Planting Dandelions doesn’t end when the book does.  Kyran writes a blog by the same name.

Details/Topics:  A modern take on marriage, family, and becoming an Arkansan.

September 2014

cemetery girlCemetery Girl by David Bell
My Rating:  3 out of 5 stars – A compelling read all the way through  – until you get to the end.  It fell flat.
Details/Topics: Missing child found after 4 years. The toll it takes on a marriage.  Sometimes the happy ending you get isn’t the happy ending you wanted.

August 2014

signs of lifeSigns of Life by Natalie Taylor
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars – I saw this on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble years ago, set it down, then couldn’t remember the name of the book or the author when I circled back around to pick it up. I vowed to buy it if I ever stumbled upon it again.  I’m glad I did.  It’s not exceptionally well written.  Her story of surviving the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband isn’t especially remarkable.  It’s just a real story about a real person coping with a reality of life – one that we never want to face.
Details/Topics: Loss of a spouse, grief, life goes on.
Favorite Quotes:  “All I know is it feels good to cry that hard. It’s like cleaning the leaves out from the gutters. If the leaves sit there too long, they weigh on the metal and hurt the house.”
Sabbath_as_ResistanceSabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now, Walter Bruggeman
Details/Topics: I’m reading this with my “MC (Missional Communities) Huddle”

Favorite Quote:

“Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”

July 2014

afterwifeThe After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer
My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars – Readable but so, so, so shallow. Not a fan.
Details/Topics: Loss of a spouse, communicating with the dead, superficial Hollywood lifeJuly 2014

wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
MyRating: 4 out of 5 stars – I found it difficult to get “into” the story initially, but I’m so glad I kept pushing myself. The story is about much more than the mental and physical endurance required to hike the PCT.
wild-cheryl-strayed-book-coverDetails/Topics: Loss of a parent. Forgiveness and acceptance of yourself.
Favorite Quotes:  “I was twenty-two, the same age she was when she’d been pregnant with me. She was going to leave my life at the same moment that I came into hers, I thought. For some reason that sentence came fully formed into my head just then, temporarily blotting out the F### them prayer. I almost howled in agony. I almost choked to death on what I knew before I knew. I was going to live the rest of my life without my mother.”“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to f### every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”

The Time Traveler’s WIfe by Audrey Niffeneggerthe-time-travelers-wife-book-cover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars  – This was my 2nd read of the Time Traveler’s Wife, yet it was like it was the first. I either have a really lousy memory, or there was SO MUCH more there for me this go around.  I might just have to read this every summer. It’s my favorite love story ever.
Details/Topics: This is a rare blend of sci-fi and romance. It’s about love, loss, the maturing and deepening of a relationship, the “holiness” of domestic life, and free will.
Favorite Quotes: “As I stand in the elevator, dazed, I realize that a massive winning lottery ticket chunk of my future has somehow found me here in the present, and I start to laugh. I cross the lobby, and as I run down the stairs to the street I see Clare running across Washington Square, jumping and whooping, and I am near tears and I don’t know why.”“Do you worry sometimes that all the really great stuff has already happened?”

June 2014

Me before You by JoJo MoyesMe-Before-You-book-cover-Jan-12-p122-1
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars – A fantastic summer read!
Details/Topics: A man with a zest for living large suffers a spinal cord injury and is confined to a wheelchair. Louisa is hired to become his companion and to, hopefully, convince him to accept his new life.
favorite Quotes: “Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”

gone girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (on
My Rating: An abysmal 1  out of 5 stars
I cannot understand why this novel hit the NYT Bestseller List.  There must be a  lot of dark and twisty humans out there.  I listened to all 19 hours and 11 minutes of this book and wish I could have it all back.  I’ll give it this – a surprising plot twist halfway through kept me reading (listening) but the ending was completely unsatisfying and I absolutely loathe both characters.
Details/Topics: Dark, sick, twisted human beings who deserve each other.
Favorite Quotes:
“The End.”

May 2014

Behind the Beautiful Forevers:
Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
A National Book Award  Winner.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
An important book. Because the author is a journalist, I felt removed from these characters whose circumstances should break my heart. I’m sure she has to emotionally distance herself in order to remain in the trenches to get the story. Still, I would’ve liked to have felt more.
Details/Topics: Non-fiction account of several families striving for a better life in a Mumbai slum. Gender, class, corruption, economics.
Favorite Quotes: “…and maybe because of the boiling April sun, he thought about water and ice. Water and ice were made of the same thing. He thought most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably a little different from the corrupt people around him. Ice was distinct from – and in his view, better than – what it was made of. He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai’s dirty water, he wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marraconstellation
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Beautiful sentences on every page. And one heck of a sentence that is a page and a half long! (Seriously! Page 138-139)
Details/topics: Holding on to hope amidst the horrors of war.
Favorite Quotes:
“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.” “We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.”

April  2014

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

January 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greenthe-fault-in-our-stars-cover
My Rating: An enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars.
What is it about YA fiction?  I seriously believe that the books written for teens and tweens are often superior to anything out there for adults.  Maybe I’m just immature. But the conversation between the “kids” in this book has more feeling, depth, humor and realism than perhaps any other book I’ve read.
Details/Topics: Teenagers with cancer meet in a support group and fall in love.
Favorite Quotes:  “The world is not a wish-granting factory.”  “You are so busy being YOU that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.” “Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always listdepression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.” booksI started 2013 on a crazy reading jag. I figuratively “inhaled” 2 books in 2 days. It was invigorating. And, hoping to cultivate my renewed interest in reading, and inspired by Julie at and Helene to keep track of what I read in a year, decided to create this page.So here I will keep a running list of what I’m currently reading, followed by a summary of the books I’ve finished this year. I’ll give my personal rating, list the topics that were explored (if only as a way to remind me of the details of the book, you know, because I’m going to read so many this year!) and the overall theme. If its really good, I’ll inevitably write a full-on post and link to it. Here goes . . .

November 2013 divergent_hq
Divergent by Veronica Roth
My Rating: 2.5 out of 3 stars
I should’ve loved this since I’ve been on such a Dystopian kick.  We listened to this on our way to Dallas for Thanksgiving.  I found it a bit dry.  I didn’t think they would EVER get out of the training, fighting each other, simulation.  It was too much for me.  I think the movie will be great.
Details/Topics: Teens are divided according to dominant character traits in Dystopian Chicago.  Beatriz has multiple strong traits and is therefore “divergent,” which is a dangerous thing to be.
Favorite Quotes:  “Sometimes the best way to help someone is just to be near them.”September 2013

Pastrix3Patrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
My Rating: Details/Topics: Grace, death and resurrection, God constantly coming TO us and making us NEWFavorite Quotes: Oh so many!  Seriously, nearly every page contains highlights. Here are some of my faves:

  • “But then at 2 a.m. I was startled awake with what can only be described as a bitch slap from the Holy Spirit.”
  • “It’s about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig or ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small.”
  • “This is exactly, when it comes down to it, why most people do not belive in grace.  It is f#%ing offensive.”

Do yourself a favor.  Take 20 minutes to watch this, the first time I met/heard Nadia.

August 2013

Every Third ThoughtEvery Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons by John Barth
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading the book jacket synopsis, I thought Every Third Thought would be somewhat mystical and mysterious.  Not so.  And if you’re looking for an intriguing STORY, this isn’t it either.  The “page-turner” quality of this book comes from Barth’s brilliant sentences, not storyline. And, like life itself, it is the hum-drum, everyday routine of life that lulls us into that comfortable space in our relationships.  This book packed a surprising (to me) emotional punch.
Details/Topics: meta-fiction, narrates the fictional story of the writing of the book itself

August, 2013Human_stain
I’ve finally learned to give myself permission to NOT finish a book that doesn’t grab me.  In the past, I would torture myself and drag out reading the book (sometimes for close to a year!) telling myself I “had to finish” it before I started another.  What ended up happening is I wouldn’t read anything at all!So In August I started reading The Human Stain by Phillip Roth.  It just didn’t grab me.  Perhaps I’m meant to read it at another time, in another frame of mind.  I’ll hang onto it and revisit it.8/3/13

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogerstestament
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
My Dystopian novel jag continues.  I cannot explain my recent fascination.  Maybe it has something to do with the popularity of The Hunger Games? Ha!In the not so distant future, Jessie lives in a world plagued by MDS (Maternal Death Syndrome.)  An idealist, who wants her life to have meaning, she volunteers for an important mission.  Her parents, understandably, resist.Details/Topics: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Idealism, biological warfareFavorite Quote: “I put the dress on and in doing that I’d put on another body.  A light, twirling, dancing body.  And after me, someone else could wear the dress.  And someone else,. And they would all have a sense of that, the light twirling dancing body.  But of course they would be themselves as well.  I was thinking, if that much can be passed on in just a dress, how much of every living person lives on after they die? Feeds into everyone else, in different ways, through what they’ve said, and done, and made. ” 7/13/13

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynnsharp-objects-book-cover
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I’ve seen Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on the best seller list for months. I’ve picked it up at Barnes and Noble countless times, read the back of the book jacket, and put it back on the shelf. Not interested. But then when crowdsourcing my next read on Facebook, my friend and neighbor recommended Sharp Objects and Dark Places. A quick search on GoodReads and I knew that I had to give these books a try.Sharp Objects did not disappoint. It was incredibly disturbing throughout. Although I knew where the ending was going (and I was right) there was still a surprise (though a bit too rushed) at the end. Now excuse me while I go put Dark Places on hold at Psychological thriller, deeply disturbing, cutter, child serial murder
Favorite Quote: “They always called depression the blues, but I would have been happy to wake to a periwinkle outlook. Depression to me is urine yellow. Washed out, exhausted miles of weak piss.” 7/1/13

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Historical fiction mixed with romance and, ultimately, betrayal.
details/Topics: Ernest Hemingway, Hadley Richardson Hemingway, The Lost Generation, Paris, Love and Loyalty
favorite Quotes:“I miss good old-fashioned honorable people just trying to make something of life. Simply, without hurting anyone else. I know that makes me a sap.”“Not everyone out in a storm wants to be saved”6/22/13

20130625-081409.jpgThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
My Rating:3 out of 5 stars
I thought the storyline was heading one direction, but then it suddenly veered off in an unexpected direction. The ending was ambiguous, but not at all disappointing.
details/Topics: 1920s, prohibition, speakeasies, NYC police precinct, psychological thriller, obsession
favorite Quotes:

They said the typewriter would unsex us.”

“You see, I didn’t know then what I know now, which is this: Only the very rich and the very poor enjoy sex with a careless, indifferent abandon.”


Life after Life by Kate Atkinsonlife-after-life_original
My rating
: 3 out of 5 stars
Throughout this novel, Ursula slowly realizes that she has lived this life before. It soon becomes inevitable, she must “go back” (die and be born again) in an effort to stop Hitler. Of course, as a reader, you simply cannot forget or accept, though you wish that you could, that the holocaust happened. Ursula ultimately fails at assassinating the demon, but finds her own happy ending. Or is it the end?
Details/Topics: deja Vu, reincarnation (kind of) WWII
Favorite Quotes:
“There was always a second before the siren started when she was aware of a sound as yet unheard. It was like an echo, or rather the opposite of an echo. An echo came afterwards, but was there a word for what came before?”
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher
My Rating: 4/5 stars
First, a confession. I chose this book mostly because of the book jacket. Porch sittin’ (or in my case, deck sittin’, just speaks to me.) I inhaled this book in just 2 days. Warning: it’s a tear-jerker and its TRUE. I loved the book and decided to pass it on (and on and on) by donating it to our church library.
Details/Topics: faith journey, sibling dynamics, dying young
Favorite Quotes:
“This would be our family’s Lent. There is no Easter without Good Friday.”“I have never in my life prayed, but when I heard this news, I prayed twice, dammit.”“How could a teenager mourning her dead mother prefer to open herself to the lightness, color and gaiety of the world of French Impressionists when she could be trooping around a gray Gothic pile with her flying butthead of an uncle, contemplating God, medievalism and the meaning of life?”

craig-ferguson-american-on-purpose1American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot, Craig Ferguson
My Rating:
4/5 stars
Disclaimer: I do kind of have a “thing” for Craig Ferguson. I also, admittedly, have a thing for the Scottish brogue.
Craig’s personal recollections of growing up in Scotland; his early loves; embarking on a career in punk rock, stand up comedy, television and films; his descent into alcoholism and his eventual recovery and his journey to becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Favorite Quotes:
“I didn’t flee a dictator or swim an ocean to be an American like some do. I just thought long and hard about it.”

“America truly is the best idea for a country that anyone has ever come up with so far. Not only because we value democracy and the rights of the individual, but because we are always our own most effective voice of descent….We must never mistake disagreement between Americans on political or moral issues to be an indication of their level of patriotism. If you don’t like what I say or don’t agree with where I stand on certain issues, then good. I’m glad we’re in America, and don’t have to oppress each other over it. We’re not just a nation, we’re not an ethnicity. We are a dream of justice that people have had for a thousand years.”

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood the-handmaids-tale
My Rating: 5/5 stars
I must note, that Claire Danes’ narration of this book is exceptional. Absolutely chilling.
Details/Topics: Speculative fiction surrounding issues of gender and class.
A fundamentalist Christian theocracy has overthrown the US government and established the “Republic of Gilead.” Women can hold no property and are forbidden to read. They are either Wives, handmaids, Aunts, “Marthas” or econowives.
Favorite Quotes:
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”“There is more than one kind of freedom…Freedom to and freedom from.”

Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourtangelas-ashes-audio-book
My rating: 4/5 stars (I probably couldn’t have gotten through this heart-wrenching book by reading it, but listening to Frank McCourt’s own narration full of that beautiful Irish lilt and with his own inflection hinting at the humor beneath the sorrow, I could almost imagine his “Irish Eyes a Smilin’.”)
Details/Topics: A memoir of Frank McCourt’s coming of age while enduring extreme poverty and surrounded by alcoholism in Depression-era Ireland. It is quintessentially an immigrant story and simultaneously humorous, harrowing and heartbreaking.
Theme: Coming of age, triumph of the human spirit.Favorite Quotes:
“The master says it’s a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it’s a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there’s anyone in the world who would like us to live.”
“You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it. If you won the Irish Sweepstakes and bought a house that needed furniture would you fill it with bits and pieces of rubbish? Your mind is your house and if you fill it with rubbish from the cinemas, it will rot in your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”

Pure, Julianna BaggottPure
My rating: 4/5 stars
Details/Topics: Post apocalyptic dystopian society where the Pures are “blessed” to live in the Dome while the poor Wretches struggle to survive outside. Those in the dome are waiting for the earth to regenerate and become the New Eden. Search for a missing parent.
Theme: Adults have ruined the planet, children must redeem it. Creation of a master race.
Favorite Quote:
My own. This is how I described the book on Facebook the day I started reading it: “It’s like the Hunger Games and Justin Cronin’s The Passage had a baby.”

20130117-065123.jpgWhat Happened to Sophie Wilder, Christopher R. Beha My rating: 3/5 stars
Details/Topics: Writing, faith, Catholicism, assisted suicide
Theme: Salvation
Favorite Quote:
“Sometimes she woke too quickly, on the cusp of morning, before the world was ready for her. Then she would hear a hum in the distance that an untrained ear might mistake for falling rain or the labor of the air conditioner but which she knew for what it was: the sound of all the elements that make up a life, floating free of their proper place, awaiting the call to cohere. In that moment, before these parts had responded to her arrival, it was possible still for some new past to coalesce behind her, some new future to fix itself ahead, some other life to take her in its grip.”

1/7/2013 – Silver Linings PlaybookSilver Linings Playbook Book and movie review

My Rating: 5/5 stars
Details/Topics: Mental illness, Philadelphia Eagles, Kenny G, Total Eclipse of the Heart, “Apart time”, Father/Son estrangement/relationship, literature including Hemingway, Plath, Hawthorne
Theme: We are responsible for creating our own happy endings.

This one warranted a full-on blog post.

*The movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence released in November 2012 nominated for several Oscars including: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress

1/5/2013 – Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher13 Reasons Why Book Cover

My Rating: 4/5 stars
Topics: suicide, suicide note (in this case audio tapes), rumors, bullying, high school culture
Theme: Human connection. What we say and do to others has real and lasting impact, choose to impact for good.
* to be made into a movie starring Selena Gomez

1/5/2013 – A Prayer for Owen Meany, John IrvingA Prayer for Owen Meany Book Cover

Full Disclosure – I began reading A Prayer for Owen Meany in the summer of 2012. I set it down over and over but kept picking it back up, determined to finish it. This is the first book I finished reading in 2013, and thus I include it here.

My rating: 4/5 stars
Topics: Search for a parent, private school, Vietnam War, draft dodging, organized religion
Themes: Fate, Faith