Thursday, July 13, 2017


Typically when I haven't posted in awhile I'm still busy reading but not taking time to write... not so this time. I am STUCK! I began reading a book about 2 months ago... it is quite lengthy, about 1,000 pages. I was off to a good start, got about halfway into it and just stalled out. The story was not progressing and I just couldn't get into it anymore. But I just can't seem to get going again :( I've continued to pick it up and read a few pages only to set it aside again. And yet for some reason I feel invested or obligated to finish it.... that hasn't happened to me in a really long time. I thought I had gotten to the "life's too short for a bad book" philosophy, but apparently this one has stumped me.

I have actually read two other books in the meantime, neither anything to write home about. However, I have read a couple of interesting cooking books! One called Ratio that discusses fundamental ratios for cooking specific things. For example, a pasta is 3 parts flour: 2 parts egg, while a pie dough is 3 parts flour: 2 parts fat: 1 part water. When these ratios are maintained, the other add ins don't matter.  I found this fascinating, as it provided insight into those competitive cooking shows on tv that seem to boggle my mind! Ratio provides ratios for a variety of doughs, batters and sauces, but it is NOT a "cook book" the ratios are given, but not any step by step directions for making any of these things.

The other book is The Olive Oil and Vinegar Lover's Cookbook, which is a combination cookbook and information about different oils and balsamic vinegars. YUM! It is also a very pretty book so if you're into those coffee table books it's a good candidate.

Another thing I've been doing is making cheese, which has nothing to do with reading whatsoever, but has been a fun and tasty adventure. I've only tried ricotta and mozzarella. RIcotta is so simple and delicious I can't imagine ever purchasing it in a tub again--- there is truly NO comparison between what you make and what you buy at the store. The mozzarella is more challenging and time consuming, but equally yummy when you get it right. But the fresh mozzarella at the deli is good enough unless you are just interested in trying to make it yourself.

OK, back to books:
I'm hoping by getting this out on the table I'll be able to finally move beyond Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (isn't that a tempting title?). I'm not saying don't read it, just that I stalled out.  If you've finished it and it's worth the effort to keep reading, please let me know! Furthermore, if you have a great book to get me back in the groove, I'm happy for a recommendation. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Blue Parakeet

by Scot McKnight

The last few years many of the younger set at the church I attend have opted to leave this congregation in which they have grown up and find a new church home. At the same time our fellowship continues to be blessed with other young families new to the church. It makes me wonder why that might be. What is it they are turning from or turning to? While I haven't come right out and asked (but probably should) knowing some of them, I think they are just trying to figure out how to live a life that reflects Christ to others. They are wondering how to live out the Bible today. How do we read, interpret and apply Scripture in our 21st century? This can be a huge challenge when scripture seems so counter cultural. In The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight poses some theories on Bible reading and Bible doing.

Let me say personally this was a challenging book to read. Not in that it was hard, rather the ideas challenged some of my thoughts on scripture reading.  Here are a few of McKnight's thoughts on scripture:
  • God gave us the Bible not so that we can know it, but so that we can know and love God through it. (emphasis mine)
  • The Bible is God's communication to us. We need to listen as He speaks. 
  • God speaks to people in their day in their way.
  • When we take our hands off the pages of the Bible, read and listen to its words, and enter into its story by faith, something happens. It renews and continues to renew its powers. 
McKnight says most of us approach the Bible as bits of laws and morsels of blessings. We read the Cliffs Notes version of the Bible and we pick what we will adopt and choose what we will adapt, often basing our decision on a "that was then, this is now" philosophy.

Scot uses a number of examples to support his theories, but his champion is the role of women in the church. His interpretations of the scripture verses used to establish these roles is new to me. My church tradition in that regard is rather conservative and limiting. Yet, I think the role of women is one of the big questions confronting most of today's churches in America. How do women fit into God's plan? How do men and women continue to carry God's plan of salvation to all nations?

Here are some of my thoughts about scripture:
  • Reading and doing the Bible is not easy. It sometimes seems to contradict itself and it sometimes seems impossible. 
  • I feel like I need to know it all and I want to be right because I'm committed to it. But I don't know it all and I'm not always right and I have to be okay with that.
  • I need to be a better listener when I read God's word.
  • Love is the key.
Go ahead and read The Blue Parakeet. Be challenged. Then call me for coffee and we can talk.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Whole Town's Talking

by Fannie Flagg

Ugh! Such a disappointment.

I'll admit it has been a long time since I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe, but I can't imagine this book was written by the same person. Green Tomatoes had interesting and engaging characters who lived interesting and challenging lives. The Whole Town's Talking is overflowing with characters, so many that you can't remember who's who, and yet none of them is developed enough to make them worth your time. The idea of the book is to cover a century in the life of a small Missouri town, so there are historical references throughout the book provided in light of its impact on these midwesterners. Basically, it's not enough and it's too much.

I know that I tend to be a tough critic when evaluating a book, but my neighborhood book club read this, and at our recent meeting not a single one of them enjoyed the book. Several didn't get much past the first hundred pages. There was only one burning question for those who didn't finish it, and that was, "what happened to those people who disappeared?" In case you are reading it for an answer, I won't spoil, but I'll tell you go ahead and skip to the last page to find out, then dust your hands and walk away. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Heavens May Fall

by Allen Eskens

A whodunit that puts two good guys on opposing sides of the murder of Jennavieve Pruitt. Detective Max Rupert is convinced it's the husband, Ben while his friend, attorney Brody Sanden is so convinced of Ben's innocence he comes out of retirement to defend him. Ben, the handsome young attorney, loving husband and father was out of town when his wife was killed. As the discovery unfolds lots of skeletons pop out of Jenn's closet that provide great motives for her lover, her sister and her friend. Brody just needs to find out which of them is responsible for this horrific crime.

The Heavens May Fall is kind of like a James Bond movie in which you already know how it has to end. But unlike those movies, Eskens makes the "bad guy" so likeable you are actually hoping for the twist. This is a decent read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Brat Farrar

by Josephine Tey

The poor Ashby kids, after losing both their parents in an accident, their elder twin brother, Patrick, heir to the family fortune, disappears without a word. Then ten years later, as the property is ready to transfer to Simon, a handsome young man appears at the door claiming to be Patrick, but is it really him? He looks like Pat, talks like Pat and knows all the family secrets. He is soon settled in and ready to gain his inheritance. Only his twin brother Simon knows the guy's a fraud, but he cannot reveal the truth without exposing his own past misdeeds.

Brat Farrar is a classic psychological suspense novel in the style of Alfred Hitchcock, who was Tey's contemporary. For me, it was predictable, but I kept hoping it would end differently. A very quick and enjoyable rainy day kind of book. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Hike

by Drew Magary

In a word: bizarre!

Ben is a hard-working businessman, husband and father who may just be having a midlife crisis when he is sent to the mountains for a seminar. Because he arrives early, he decides to get some fresh air and go for a hike in the woods, but then he gets lost. He notices a path and begins following it and stumbles upon a campsite only to be chased away by some doberman-faced guys determined to kill him. Enter BIZARRO WORLD! The remainder of The Hike is a cross between a fairy tale, an adventure game and a drug-induced psychosis. Ben finds a witch who gives him magic beans, a man-eating giantess, a talking blue crab and a Spanish explorer on a century old expedition. His only way home is to stay on the path for years and years until he encounters the Producer.

Yes, this is a strange and oddly fun book, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy kind of way.  You'll like it if you like weirdness and read it on the right day. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Am the Messenger

by  Markus Zusak

I previously mentioned I'd read some different but fun books, here is the second:

There are times in everyone's life in which you struggle with your own purpose. In I Am the Messenger, Markus Zusak addresses that head on with Ed Kennedy, a 19- year old cab driving, card playing, dog loving kid who is unsettled and unsure of where this path is taking him. But then one day he finds an ace of diamonds in his mailbox and that changes everything! Ed is now on a mission to discover the meaning of the card and who left it there. The card leads him into some challenging situations where he is forced to make some difficult choices. Along his journey he meets a barefoot runner, an abusive husband, a struggling family and himself.

The story of Ed shows how the people you encounter on your life's journey provide you with meaning and purpose. Success is in the person and how they respond to circumstances and those around them not in place or position. This is a quick, fun read with a good life lesson.  It is listed as YA, but keep in mind Ed is 19 before you let too young of an adult read it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


by George Eliot

Any reading nerd knows Middlemarch is listed on every "top 100 books" list and as such it would also be on their own "to-read" list.  I'm glad to say I can finally check it off mine! Eliot is in the same genre as Dickens, Austen and Alcott who present long, drawn out dissertations on society, culture, class structure, roles and relationships. I tend to like these stories and this was no exception.

The story begins with Dorothea Brooke, an intelligent young woman anxious to find her life's purpose. Then there's Dr. Lydgate caught between medical advancement and debt, Reverend Casaubon living with his aging spinster sisters but wishing instead for a wife and Mary Garth with her nose to the grindstone. Gradually we become acquainted with the whole little village of Middlemarch with all of its cares and concerns. There are so many characters it can become confusing, but each one has their own challenges along with supportive friends who guide them through. This is definitely a character driven novel, so there's no hurry to get it done and even when you do finish, it seems as if Middlemarch just keeps marching right along through time.

If you're a fan of the aforementioned author's then this is right up your alley.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
inspirational idea Siobhan Dowd

I've read a string of different but fun books the past few weeks.

The first was A Monster Calls which is an elementary grade story about facing death. What's fun about death? Having a monster who navigates you through the pain both physical and emotional. That is what happens for Conor O'Malley as he lives with the stress of his mother dying of cancer and dealing with his future prospects for life without her. Conor is thirteen and lives with his single mother. His father has remarried, moved across the ocean and doesn't have much interest in maintaining a connection with his son. His grandmother is prim and stern and doesn't know what to do with a rowdy boy. And Conor is angry with all of them: his mother, his friends, his teachers and himself.

That is when the nightmares begin and the monster comes calling. The tree monster provides Conor with explanations for his actions and emotions that free him from guilt for his seemingly selfish thinking. While this story is mostly sad, there are many life lessons presented, which would be great springboards for discussion with your kids. But even us more mature people benefit. Read it with your kleenex nearby.

Friday, February 10, 2017

For the Love

by Jen Hatmaker

Last month a local university hosted Jen Hatmaker to speak at their chapel, interact with students and share some life/love tips mixed in with lots of funny! I was fortunate to get tickets, as both sessions sold out in a flash (thanks to my friend looking out for me). I really enjoyed the evening and found Jen's speaking very much in line with her writing. When you're reading For the Love, it is really like having a chat with your girlfriend. Sharing struggles, pet peeves, frustrations and laughs. It is a light hearted, quick and easy read and will remind you to love yourself and love others. Grace first- always!

I have a little card I carry that says:
Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. -- Thomas S. Monson

I need lots of reminders. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

Have you ever read a book and wondered why you kept reading? That's this one in a nutshell. I guess I kept thinking the Readers at Broken Wheel might actually begin to love books and recommend something. Instead the Swedish visitor to the tiny town in Iowa name drops a bunch of titles that some of the townspeople seem to read. But their main purpose is to be matchmakers of all sorts-- and there's LOTS of preachiness about it. Homosexual, bisexual, interracial, intergenerational, whatever and however you want it!

Why did I keep reading? Just so I could tell you not to.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Harry Potter Series

by JK Rowling

I don't tend to re-read many books, mainly because my to-read list is already constantly getting longer, but toward the end of last year and into January I read the Harry Potter series again. My initial experience was with my kids--- particularly my daughter who happened to be eleven when the first book came out (as were Harry, Ron, Hermione and friends) and as each year brought another book we waited expectantly, attended midnight release parties at Barnes and Noble, read and discussed and imagined what would happen next! Those are some fun memories.

My reason for reading them again was mainly to pump myself up for our trip to Universal Studios in Orlando. I should now add that the entire purpose of the trip was to allow some crazy runners an opportunity to runDisney marathon- which they said was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and must be done again! But for me it was all about Potter World-- Hogsmead and Diagon Alley-- which were amazing (although a few of the rides are pretty intense)! They sell wands that actually "make magic" throughout the village and there is even a Hogwarts Express train that transfers you between places-- but you must have tickets to both parks to ride.

So, back to the books--- it was quite a journey. Most things were just as I remembered, also having watched the movies multiple times.... but a few things I didn't remember. The main thing was just how dark the stories became at about number 5. I got to a point with Professor Umbridge that it was just hard to keep reading. I actually set the task aside and read other books before forcing myself back into it (I was determined to finish them all before our trip). This story is fun, fantastic, clever, magical, adventurous, scary, sad and joyous. It's a story about friends and enemies, winning and losing, teaching and learning. It's a great story to experience with your kids (11+).  Read these books, watch the movies, save your gold and take a trip to Universal (runDisney).