Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Goodbye for now, Santa! As much as I'm going to miss that jolly old man, I'm looking forward to the next year. The past year has been a pretty good one - my second year of marriage, tons of wonderful books, some fantastic mini-vacations with my husband and a wonderful week in the mountains with my family. It had it's hard moments - recovering from a major surgery, being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and connective tissue damage, and losing my Papa to liver cancer. Spiritually it has been my year to discover God as Jehova Rapha (the Lord my Healer). Educationally, it has been my first year of graduate school. Halfway there!

I don't usually do resolutions, but this year I have come up with some "goals" to try to focus my work and my life:

1. Physically: Lose all of the gabapentin-induced weight (I'm finally off this medication and MUST get back to my normal size before a spring wedding)

2. Academically: Finish graduate school with a 4.0

3. Personally: Read more than I read last year. I haven't decided yet if this means reading more books or more pages. Go through the alphabet and read one book representing each letter that is written by an author I've never read (letter can be first word in the title or the author's name).

4. Personally: Keep updating my blog.

5. Professionally: Continue working on computer skills, especially in relation to work. Choose one program used at the school (AutoCAD, MultiSIM, Project, or Visio) to learn very well.

6. Spiritually: I want to spend the year focusing on getting to know God as Emmanuel (God with us) and in remembering that every moment of every day. If you have any suggestions on studies to deal with this name of God, let me know, because it's going to be my focus this year. Also, i want to continue to grow in my knowledge of the Lord my Healer as, hopefully, my health continues to improve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Made It!!

Last night I finally reached my original goal set last January of 150 books in 2009. Feel free to view my spreadsheet to see the full list. My favorites from this year have been:

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Shutter Island by Dennis LeHane
Crossbearer by Joe Eszterhas
The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Website Recommendation

I put this website together for the girls on my internet book club and have since become obsessed with updating it and adding features. It's a wiki, so we all add to it at times, but it's currently locked until I get it backed up, so it's a good time to share it on my blog. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Power of An Encouraging Word

Before I review this, I have to confess that I'm a little bit biased. I consider the author to be one of my dearest friends and his wife was my mentor when I lived in Little Rock. I actually spent a few months living with them. They sat behind my parents at my wedding and I consider them my adopted family.

Ken gave me this book as a Christmas gift a few years ago and I was a horrible friend and didn't read it until now, but it is a beautiful book. I cried several times during it and I'm really loving the idea of becoming an encourager and sharing life affirming words with others. I definitely recommend it! It has several short stories illustrating the power that we have in the words we say as well as practical suggestions for encouraging others.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

150 in 2009

I'm so close to reaching my goal of reading 150 books in 2009. I'm working on number 141 right now, which means I have 14 days left to read 10 books. Around July when I had my surgery and wasn't reading as much I lowered my goal to 125, but when I passed that, I decided I could make 150 if I try really hard. Give me some encouragement and leave me some ideas for quick reads!

Good Tidings of Great Joy!

Tyndale is offering this free download of the Christmas story by Matthew West. Check it out!

Scroll to the bottom of the page and you can download the Christmas story as well as the entire gospel of John.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Sacred Meal

This book was a beautiful gift from Thomas Nelson and I certainly enjoyed it. The cover is as beautiful as the writing, and I will certainly keep it on my shelf. The title, The Sacred Meal, reflects the authors respect and honor for Communion. She provides a detailed examination of the act of communion as well as the history behind the act. My favorite aspect was her description of the importance of community of believers to take Communion with.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I had one major complaint – throughout 137 pages of description of Communion and the reason it is important for us, the author never mentions the cross or the resurrection. I kept expecting that this would be explored in the next chapter, but before I knew it the book was over, without a single mention of Christ’s death or resurrection. Because that is such an integral part of Communion, I could only assume that the author was avoiding any topic that may cause offense to readers who do not hold similar beliefs. I, for one, would much rather have read a differing opinion from my own than to have the entire issue so blatantly ignored.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Autobiography of a Face, Truth and Beauty, and Suellen Grealy

What a treat to read these two books together over the weekend. Until I read Autobiography of A Face, I had no idea that the two were related, although I own them both. Autobiography of A Face describes Lucy Grealy's struggle with cancer at a young age, causing 30-something surgeries over her lifetime and leaving her with a disfigured face. Years after the book was published the author died of an accidental heroin overdose.
Ann Patchett, a close friend of Grealy's since they were roommates at grad school, later wrote a book, Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Lucy Grealy. In the book she describes Lucy's neediness and consuming desire to be loved. The book is honest and reveals faults in both women, but is a beautiful portrait and friendship and devotion. Both books are beautifully written and moving.
Following the release of the book, Lucy's sister, Suellen Grealy, wrote an angry article in The Guardian regarding Ann's book. Suellen attacks Ann's portrayal of her sister as unfair and damagint to the family in their time of grief. Unfortunately, having to read both books, this article seems unfair to me. I must admit that I am a huge Patchett fan, so this may have colored my opinion, but it seemed to me that a large portion of Suellen's anger has nothing to do with Ann's book (the missing picture - which Ann did not take, the study guide questions regarding her mother in Lucy's book - which Ann did not write, etc). The worst part was her description of Ann as an inferior writer who was hitching her wagon to Lucy's star. What a bitter and obviously incorrect way to describe Patchett, who won a Pen/Faulkner Award as well as an Orange award for Bel Canto which was published while Lucy was still living.
I highly recommend both books, and it is fascinating to read them together if you are able to do so. Take a look at Suellen Grealy's article as well, for an interesting take on both books:(

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review: Angel Time

I really wanted to like this book. I mean really. I've never read Anne Rice but I've heard about how great she is from all my friends who read all my life. Her vampire books never appealed to me, but I was thrilled to get her memoir for Christmas last year (even though I have yet to read it). I was so excited for this book to come out and I've been watching for it ever since it was announced.

That said, I didn't really like it. I wanted to like it. I wanted it to be this awesome book that appeals to everyone and fulfills my expectations for "roaring lamb" literature (well-written, critically successful, artisitic expression from a Christian, although not necessarily with a Christian focus). It actually pains me to write this, but as far as books about angels go, I much prefer Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. I'm interested to see what my friends think of, but it seemed so overtly Christian to me that I'm surprised to see it marketed as popular rather than inspirational fiction. Don't get me wrong, I'm always thrilled to see Christian authors break out of the ghetto that is Christian fiction, I think I just expected more. The story wasn't all that interesting to me, the writing didn't seem great, and I didn't like the main character at all.