love story

title: Love Story: The Hand that Holds Us From the Garden to the Gate

author: Nichole Nordeman

genre: Non-fiction, biblical stories, retellings, modernization

suggested by: Becca H.

dates read: November 23rd – November 25th

review: 4.5 out of 5 stars

summary: Inspired to take a new look at well worn stories from the Bible and the characters who march across the pages, Nordeman pulls these familiar characters through time and brings them into our modern world as she relates them to everyday life. From Adam and Eve, to Esther, to Jesus and Paul, she finds ways to relate to each of them and some of the struggles and triumphs they encounter, bringing us all into this Love Story with our God.

personal thoughts: Nichole Nordeman is one of my favorite Christian musicians. She writes with candor about her struggles in faith and life in general. She doesn’t have all the answers but joins me in the questions I sometimes encounter understanding aspects of the Bible and the things some of His followers go through. Having been a Christian since I was a child, and growing up in a Christian home, it’s easy to skip over stories I’ve heard time and time again. It’s nice to get a fresh perspective and see things I haven’t before. Seeing it through someone else’s eyes is a great way to see it anew.

favorite quotes:
“I wondered if it might finally put periods where question marks had taken up residence for so long.” p. xviii

“Why bother with every luminous shade of orange on the flimsy wing of a monarch if he knows how the story will end?” p. 3

“Adam and Eve. . .fell – not because they succumbed to some evil lurking in their hearts or because they felt so compelled to defy God’s careful instructions, but perhaps because they fell in love with the poisonous suggestion that they could be who they were never created to be. And in doing so, fell out of true relationship with the only One who could have told them the truth, had they asked.” p. 20

“Some days our lives read like a sonnet, and other days we feel like the misplaced apostrophe in an awkward dangle. But every day, we are woven into each line. And not one of those lines was meant to be crossed off.” p. 66

“honesty is the foundation of intimacy, and they had told God the ugly truth about how they felt about what he had permitted. They realized God could handle it. Actually wanted to handle it.” p. 150

“hearts don’t speak the jargon of appraisal.” p. 177

“This is what I envy sometimes about people who find Jesus later in life. They are so unpolluted by the language of religion that they can only speak in their own native tongue.” p. 196


paddle your own canoe

title: Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living

author: Nick Offerman

genre: Non-fiction, memoir, life story/advice

dates read: November 19th – November 22nd

review: 4.5 out of 5 stars

summary: Nick Offerman, probably best known for his role as Ron Swanson in the TV show Parks & Recreation, writes about his life and the advice he has from living it.  He talks about hobbies, working in theater, loving life, just plain loving, among many other things.  He encourages readers to find what they are passionate about and then try to find a way to get paid for it.  He recounts the difficulty he’s had in the tv and movie business but found a way to do what he loves anyway.

personal thoughts: Let me warn you right off the bat that this is a very irreverent and often times inappropriate book.  Lots of swearing and very liberal views on religion and sex (which, if you’re a fan of him already, you probably aren’t surprised about).  However, I think the core of what he’s saying is wonderful and I love that he’s not afraid to say it in his own style.  Jason and I got to see him live and it was a grand old time.  He believes in living with passion and treating people with respect, and he models it again and again in his own life.  It was fun to understand more of the man Nick Offerman.

favorite quotes:
“I learned thee word nonconformist in fourth grade and immediately announced that I would grow up to become one.” p. xi

“Whatever the adversity, if a man is on hand to provide ease to a lady’s cause, I tink he’s a s***heel if he stands idly by when she could use an umbrella, a handkerchief, or a steady arm.” p. 47

“Pursue decency in all dealings with your fellow man and woman.  Simply put?  Don’t be an asshole.” p. 51

“Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole, located deep in the forest or a desolate area of the desert or tundra.  Bury your cell phone and then find a hobby.” p. 79

“live theater is loaded with a certain sense of altruism that cannot be found in any other art form.  By engaging in the act of “putting on a show,” a theater is holding up a mirror to our hilarious and tragic human foibles so that we, society, may see ourselves therein and thereby receive a dose of social medicine.” p. 119

“No matter our age, if we always have a project to which we can apply ourselves, then we will wake up every day with an objective, something productive to get done.  This allows us to go to bed at night in the peaceful knowledge that we have done some good, gained some achievement, however small.” p. 168

“if we think of others in our fastidiousness or lack thereof around the toilet, how can we not extrapolate that notion into how we are leaving the rest of the world for the other show will com to use it after us?” p. 169

“Men and women alike, if you think that altering the tip of your nose with surgery will make you happier, I would suggest you alter something much more malleable than your flesh, like your priorities, or your friends.  Quit looking in the mirror so much.” p. 202

“If you think that a doe and a couple of fauns standing a few yards away watching you float by, or a beaver swimming along with a willow branch for its front porch, won’t chill you out and heal the hole that getting too many e-mails is eating in your brain’s ozone layer, then your thinking parts might be in need of repair.” p. 333

prelude to foundation

title: Prelude to Foundation

author: Isaac Asimov

genre: Fiction, futuristic, science, psychohistory

suggested by: Will F.

dates read: November 13th – November 18th

review: 4.5 out of 5 stars

summary: Hari Seldon is a humble and brilliant mathematician from Helicon who is visiting Trantor, The capital of the Galactic Empire. He’s there to present his theory of psychohistory, the ability to predict the future. Emperor Cleon sees the potential of this theory and brings Hari to question him about it. Hari explains that right now it is just a theory and has no practical value and eventually the emperor reluctantly lets him leave.   Waiting for the ship that will take him home to Helicon, Hari meets Chetter Hummin, who warns him that the emperor might have let him go, but he’ll be closely watched to see that his ideas don’t fall into the wrong hands. Chetter convinces Hari to go into hiding, setting Hari off on an adventure and flight for his life around Trantor.

personal thoughts: I loved “I, Robot” and knew that this would be an interesting ride. Though it was, it wasn’t as full of mind bending ideas as “I, Robot.” I loved the twist at the end, though I had suspected it for a while. I thought Hari was a likeable guy and enjoyed the different cultures he came in contact with in his travels. This is the first in a long series of books and I would love to return to it and see where the story leads.

favorite quotes:
“’I have promised to try,’ said Seldon and thought to himself that it was about like promising to try to make a rope out of sand.” p. 71

“’How harmful overspecialization is. It cuts knowledge at a million points and leaves it bleeding.’” p. 89

“’Oddity is in the mind of the receiver.’” p. 188

“the Emperor had had to remember to avoid making commitments of substances, while freely applying the lotion of words without substance.” p. 317

“’If we are always to draw back from change with the thought that the change may be for the worse, then there is no hope at all of every escaping injustice.’” p. 392

the reason i jump

title: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

author: Naoki Higashida (translated by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell)

genre: Non-fiction, understanding autism, autistic behaviors

suggested by: Michalle T.

dates read: November 12th – November 13th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: The title says it all. But to further explain, Naoki’s teacher and mother came up with a grid alphabet system that allows him to communicate and now he has a blog (along with this published book). He answers commonly asked questions about autism, why autistic people flap their hands, why they repeat phrases over and over again, why they can’t seem to remember what they’re not supposed to do, and many others. He answers the questions and also shares some of his other writings, including a short story at the end of the book.

personal thoughts: Autism is shrouded is so much mystery, why do people get it, what is going on inside their heads, why do that do those things? Naoki writes with such honestly and because he’s so young, it’s amazing to see how aware he is. He writes with no bitterness, only trying to shed light on what we don’t understand.   Over and over he talks about how angry he gets when he makes mistakes and when others can’t understand him. Instead of being angry that people aren’t more understanding, he simply asks for some grace and patience and tries to explain why he does the things he does. The grace he has for and asks from others is something we could all learn from.

favorite quotes:
“True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.” p. 15

“Making sounds with your mouth isn’t the same thing as communication, right?. . .Isn’t there a belief out there that if a person is using verbal language, it follows that the person is saying what they want to say? It’s thanks to this belief that those of us with autism get even more locked up inside ourselves.” p. 19

“to us with people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a short of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often we’re ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts.” p. 85

worn stories

title: Worn Stories

author: Emily Spivack

genre: Non-fiction, clothing, memories, history

suggested by: Michalle T.

date read: November 12th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Emily Spivack has complied stories that center around articles of clothing or accessories.  Going from tragic, to heartwarming, to hilarious, everyone shares something that has stuck with them over the years.  Each story is accompanied with a picture of the item that has impacted their life.

personal thoughts: I love this idea.  As I was reading each story I was thinking about all the pieces of clothing/accessories that I could write about and the stories they make me think of.  I buy most of my wardrobe from thrift stores but I keep everything until it is falling apart.  I wish I could find out the significance of my clothing to the previous owners.  One of the stories is just that, telling of someone who gave her shirt to a thrift store in high school and found out that her friend had bought it from that thrift store years ago.  I’ve seen people wearing the clothing I got rid of years ago and I feel a connection with them.  The clothes we wear tell stories about who we are and I think it’s beautiful to celebrate those stories.

favorite quotes:
“The clothes that protect us, that make us laugh, that serve as a uniform, that help us assert our identity or aspirations, that we wear to remember someone – in all of these are encoded the stories of our lives.  We all have a memoir in miniature living in a garment we’ve worn.” p. 7 – Emily Spivack

“I always write in the shirt because it makes me feel like I have a secret.  When you write, it’s good to have a secret because in a way you do.  You have to nurture the secret until other people know about it.” p. 12 – Greta Gerwig

“I think there is a direct relationship between what you pay for an item and how long you hang on to it. . .” p. 27 – David Carr

“I keep the remains of these escapades neatly tucked away in the back of my closet, empty shells of late nights and questionable decisions that evolved into nothing at all.” p. 47 – Laura Jane Kenny

“It takes me a while to recognize beauty; that’s why, as a writer, I edit so compulsively.” p. 75 – Stephen Elliott

the dovekeepers

title: The Dovekeepers

author: Alice Hoffman

genre: Historical fiction, fall of Masada, sisters, daughters

suggested by: Sara R.

dates read: November 5th – November 11th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Yael’s father is an assassin and her mother died giving birth to her, which has set her father against her.  Revka’s husband is murdered before she and the rest of her family flee the town they live in.  Aziza was raised as a boy and taught to live as a warrior.  Shirah was shown the ways of magic and medicine before leaving her mother’s home at the age of 12.  These four women find their lives intertwined as they make a home in Masada, the refuge of 900 Jews during the time of Roman massacres throughout Judea.

personal thoughts: I loved how each woman had a unique voice and the way Hoffman wove their stories together.  Such tragedy but also such strength.  She did not shy away from talking about the difficult stuff, which made for a richer story.  The mystical and fantastical parts of the story reminded me of “Of Bees and Mist,” one of the earlier books I read this year.  I also liked how independent each woman was, how they didn’t need a man to care for them, but had enough tenderness to love.  This was another beautiful story.

favorite quotes:
“The voice that arises out of the silence is something no one can imagine until it is heard.  It roars when it speaks, it lies to you and convinces you, it steals from you and leaves you without a single word of comfort.” p. 4

“The sisters were so close their words were like beads on the same strand of gold.” p. 93

“Anguish such as ours is fed on bones and blood.” p. 182

“Our rest is formed by our waking life and our waking life is formed by our sorrows.” p. 251

“although words were God’s first creation, silence was closer to His divine spirit, and that prayers given in silence were infinitely greater than the thousands of words men might offer up to heaven.” p. 272

the first casualty

title: The First Casualty

author: Ben Elton

genre: Fiction, WWI, murder, mystery, undercover

suggested by: Indy P.

dates read: November 1st – November 4th

review: 5 out of 5 stars

summary: Douglas Kingsley is a conscientious objector, but not for religious or moral reasons, he thinks that war is illogical.  For this belief he is imprisoned.  As a former detective he has put many men behind bars and was even instrumental in killing a few.  Popular with no one and seen as a coward, he is placed in a cell with men he convicted, who beat him nearly to death.  While he is in the infirmary another man is murdered, a famous poet and hero of the war.  Douglas is broken out of prison and brought to investigate the murder, but as those who broke him out faked his death, he cannot return to the life he once had.

personal thoughts: This was so interesting and I was captivated from the beginning.  I was quite frustrated at everyone’s reaction to Douglas, since I did see the logic of his reasoning.  He explained that the men he put behind bars or helped kill were people whose lives he had investigated and didn’t feel guilty about ruining.  The people he would have been fighting were strangers to him and he saw the end result as a loss for everyone and thought that everyone had lost too much already.  When he was forced to see the war up close, I think he saw the holes in his logic, but I don’t think he was the coward he was painted to be.  I absolutely hated Captain Shannon, but thought he added a real an interesting element.  Nurse Murray was so likable and I loved her spunk, another interesting character to add to the mix.  Douglas himself was very honorable and I was happy to cheer for him.  Definitely a recommended read.

favorite quotes:
“‘It is intellect that informs a man what is right and conscience that determines if he will act on that information.'” p. 16

“Kingsley was a shrewd judge of human nature and no stranger to the numerous hoops through which a man’s conscience will leap in order to apportion blame to anyone other than himself. . .” p. 41

“A not and a wink were to be his death warrant.” p. 91

“‘The whole world is mad and I am a dead man brought to life to discuss a living man who is about to die.'” p. 188

“‘The woman who does not speak her mind is worse than the man who does not give her credit for having a mind in the first place.'” p. 215

the man in the iron mask

title: The Man in the Iron Mask

author: Alexandre Dumas

genre: Fiction, revenge, kings, power, retired Three Musketeers

dates read: October 28th – November 1st

review: 1 out of 5 stars

summary: The retired Three Musketeers (or really four) are seen in this last installment of Dumas’ d’Artagnan Romances.  Aramis discovers that king Louise XIV has a twin brother,  Philippe, who is locked up in the Bastile and has been there the last 8 years.  Aramis convinces Porthos to help him, though Porthos is unaware of what is really going on.  After successfully switching the brothers out, with Louise now in the Bastile, and Philippe playing the part of the king, Aramis plans on having Louise banished.  When it is discovered that it’s Philippe and not Louise, everyone involved must choose sides.

personal thoughts: I really did not like this.  Maybe it was because I didn’t read the other books in the series, but I really didn’t care for anyone except for maybe Raoul, who is barely in the book.  I felt like everyone was either extremely wishy washy, or they were way too committed to their dumb causes.  I know that Aramis was hoping that Philippe would make him cardinal, but I also think he was putting too much stock in someone he didn’t know at all.  Who’s to say that Philippe wouldn’t choose to do his own thing and be a worse ruler than Louise?  Maybe he is a terrible person who would just make everyone bend to his will and kill anyone who didn’t.  That said, Louise was pretty confusing.  He seemed to want complete control, but then would change his mind and be really merciful.  Not that I’m opposed to mercy, but why the tough act?  Also, Louise is about 23 years old and seems to be really immature (besides just being a normal 23-year-old).  I also have a difficult time with Dumas’ style of giving every character about 5 different names.  It was really difficult for me to keep everyone straight.  I also had a difficult time with the way it would jump back and forth between characters in very different places.  This style can work in some cases, but it made me feel lost a lot of the time.  And lastly, the book is called The Man in the Iron Mask but this man in the iron mask is hardly discussed at all.  He doesn’t make it beyond the first half of the book.  Not saying that it needs to be entirely about him, but at least give the readers an idea of his fate.  Or name it something else.  I know that this was translated into English, so my beef on this point is not with Dumas.  And again, maybe if I read the other books, this title would make more sense.  But as long as I’m being honest, I felt that I needed to include that point.

favorite quotes:
“‘I have the sun, a friend who comes to visit me every day without the permission of the governor or the jailer’s company.'” chapter 1: The Prisoner

“‘I shall have made one human being happy; and Heaven for that will hold me in better account than if I had made one man powerful; the former task is far more difficult.'” chapter 9: The Tempter

“‘The eyes of a woman who loves are not easily deceived.'” chapter 10: Crown and Tiara

‘”A flash of lightning without thunder awakens nobody.'” chapter 21: The King’s Friend

“‘Every one journeys towards happiness by the route he chooses.” chapter 29: Planchet’s Inventory