7 Quick Takes | The "Why, I've Been Reading, of Course"


So I've been long-absent from this little blog joint of mine, something a friend of mine likes to point out once in a while (although she, being a fellow writer-mommy, gets the whole "dry spell" thing).

I could bore you with all my assorted bete noires about why I've been avoiding distilling the ramblings of my mind here for the internetz to enjoy, but I won't; that's blog fodder for another day (or ten) when I've got more clarity.

What I have been doing, in great quantities, is reading some good books.  A brief rundown; no spoilers, I promise.  ;-)

1.  Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line by Abby Johnson

This was a book I suggested for my book club to read; I didn't really think through the consequences of picking a book based around the divisive topic of prolife vs. prochoice. 

It actually was a great discussion last month and I let out a sigh of relief when I drove home. 

If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it.  It is engaging, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once.  

2. Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen

This one is my book club's pick for our upcoming June meeting.  It's a great summer read; it takes you right into the familiar (and at the same time, foreign) world of circus life. 

As a writer, I really admired the structure of the novel, how all of the pieces fit together from start to end.  As a reader, I enjoyed the sense that the circus itself was a character in the story. 

There are some explicit bits in this story, a few more than I thought necessary.  I'm no prude, but as a writer (and I'm speaking metaphorically here), I think the tease is far better (and far more skillful to craft) than the full frontal.

Just sayin'.

3. Stalking the Divine: Contemplating Faith with the Poor Clares by Kristin Ohlson

It makes total sense to go from a full frontal to full faith, right?  ;-)

I picked this book up off the "High Circulation" shelves at my library (or, I assume they are the High Circulation shelves; all I know is that they are downstairs, just by the front door and the checkout desk which means I can dash in and out and quickly grab a few books that catch my eye while keeping a lookout for my kiddos who roam through our town's library, totally in their element of books, books, BOOKS) and thought it might be one I'd end up reading slowly. 

I was surprised at how quickly I read it; the author is a freelance journalist who found herself both searching for a way back to her Catholic faith and enthralled by the devout lives of the Poor Clares in Cleveland, Ohio.  She interviewed many of them over three years and this book is the result; it follows her struggles with faith and the journeys each of the Poor Clares took in finding their vocations. 

Truly fascinating, truly inspiring.  I love knowing there are Poor Clares all over the world praying for us 24/7. 

4. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Fr. Gregory Boyle

I can't say enough about how this book MOVED me. 

This was another "quick grab" at the library; I wasn't sure if it would hold my attention for more than a chapter or two. 

It.had.me.enthralled.

It is full of tragedy, yes (Fr Boyle has presided over the funeral masses of over 160 gang members in LA so there is much sadness); but the prevailing message is joy in God's love for us no matter WHO you are.

The utter hope of this book; well, it is inspiring.

There were many passages in this book that struck me; the entire length Chapter 2, "God, I Guess", which opens with, "God can get tiny if we're not careful,"  had me wide-eyed, realizing all the many ways I make God tiny. 

Read this book, then read it again.  Then pass it on to someone else to read and tell them to do the same.

5. A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

This was a quick read, one that I had on my bedside table thanks to a friend of mine who hit the local gently used bookstore during their $1 bag night sale. 

It was ok; I thought the characters were somewhat true to their nature (although I had a problem with suspending my disbelief that someone would agree to quietly be the other woman for 25+ years without  complaint) but it was kind of disappointing overall.  There was also a story within the story; well told but a bit confusing in it's overall purpose.

I don't need "happily ever after" when I read but I guess I'm a Shawshank Redemption kind of girl - I like a story that ends on a note of hope.

6. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

This was a book I received as part of From Left to Write (and I am woefully behind on writing about all the fine books sent my way thanks to them). 

It's a quick read, a short memoir of a woman and her snail.

Yes, you read that correctly.  ;-)

Perhaps it would make more sense if I described it as a short memoir of a bed-ridden, sickened by an unknown pathogen/virus woman and her snail.  Now you can see why it might be a bit interesting.

I really liked this book, mostly because I spent two years at Maryland studying Zoology so I appreciated the field notes and naturalist slant.  I remembered quite a bit of my long ago Zoo 201 class.  ;-)

What I liked most about this book, however,  was the reminder that I am fortunate to be healthy, whole, and happy.  We too often take for granted our healthy bodies until they fail us.

7. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel by Natasha Solomons

This was another From Left to Write book club read that I truly enjoyed; I felt like I'd been transported to post WWII England.

It's a good look at the lengths the outsider will to become assimilated, to find a way to navigate through the boundaries of class and culture to be finally accepted as an insider.  I also enjoyed the element of Old English myth woven through the novel. 

++++++++++++++++

Thanks for hanging in there, loyal readers. I shall return again soon with more random wonderings. ;-)

Oh, and yes, those are all my Amazon affiliate links, just so you know.  ;-)