Friday, December 28, 2012

Worth more than 1 read...

I am on a re-read spree right now. Since the beginning of the month, I have only read one book (out of 7 so far this month) that was new to me. Other than that one, everything else has been a re-read. I have absolutely no problem with re-reading books. Especially if they are ones that I bought and have sitting in my house all the time. If I spent the money and read it once already, I am almost certain to read it again. Part of it is because I know that it's a story that I really like (or absolutely love). Part of it is that sometimes I want to read a story that is familiar and well-known, one that I have parts memorized or etched into my memory. And part of it is convenience. If it's on my shelf I don't have to worry about driving to the store and picking from countless titles to find something that may not be as good or one that I may not love as much. One of the series that I think is totally worth re-reading over and over again and the one that I am currently re-reading is the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. And I am so not ashamed to admit that I am loving it just as much now as I did the first time around. I don't really remember when the first time was that I read them all. It was sometime in high school and early college when the movies were all in the process of premiering. My sisters and I all read them one after another and fought over who was going to be the first to read the next one on the list.

I started reading The Sorcerer's Stone on the Tuesday before Christmas and I am now (3 days after Christmas) in the middle of the Order of the Phoenix. I have been reading non-stop and loving every bit of it. We (my husband and I) have been at his parents' house all week for the holidays and so I have had countless hours to read since I don't have shifts to work at the gym, chores and to-dos at the house or meetings and events at the church to worry about. As I have been reading, I am constantly amazed at all of the details that I have forgotten and the pieces of the story that the movies change or just leave out entirely. Seriously, I love the movies, but there are some really great moments in the books that would have been great on screen. Just saying.

One of my favorite things about JK Rowling's writing is that it is easily for anyone of any age. It's a story that may quite possibly become counted among the Classics one day. It's a story that may one day place Harry, Ron and Hermione alongside characters like Alice, Bilbo, Charlie, Charlotte and Oliver. I think one of the things that makes it a story that is loved by so many is that it's full of adventure, relationships, character and lessons. It's a story that pretty much anyone can find something within to connect to, to identify with. JK Rowling spent a few hours on a train just scratching out some rough ideas about a boy with a scar and it became a story that children and adults alike, across the world, came to love and cherish. It is a story that I love.

I have a feeling that this won't be the only re-read of Harry Potter that I do in my lifetime. In fact, it's probably just the first of countless times that I will re-read it. And I have a feeling that I will grow to love it more and more each time. So, here's to re-reading books that are worth more than just one read through. Here's to re-reading books that have become cherished stories. Here's to re-reading books that will one day be considered classics. Here's to Harry Potter. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

"How Reading Changed My Life"

When I was younger, my favorite way to celebrate my birthday was to go and spend time by myself or with my mom since she would have to drive me at Barnes and Noble. One year my mom drove me an hour to the closest Barnes and Noble and spent the entire day reading in her own chair and corner while I wandered and read to my heart's content. My whole family quickly learned to give me giftcards so that I could buy books rather than buying toys or clothes as presents. And whenever I got those giftcards I looked for every chance I could to go to the store.

This year's birthday was no different. My birthday was earlier this week and my husband and I didn't do much to celebrate other than driving around and looking at Christmas lights (I've never been big on birthday celebrations). And on Tuesday night he had a meeting. So, I decided that I was going to take the time he was in his meeting to go and wander my favorite store. It was an amazingly wonderful night. I ended up being there for almost 4 hours! I spent most of that time walking up and down each aisle looking at all the titles and covers. While doing that I realized something about my reading habits or preferences... I realized that when I pick a book off the shelf I look at different things. I look at the font or cover picture and then read the back description. I then flip through the pages and look at the size of the margins and the font within the story. And if it's too big or too much empty paper I put the book back on the shelf, oftentimes adding it to the list of "won't read." I don't know why I do it that way. But I do and that may need to change because I feel like I am probably missing out on a lot of great reads by doing so.

As the night wore on, I found a book in the essays section that I thought looked interesting despite having large font and lots of empty paper. I picked it up, went and found a table, bought an iced tea and sat down to read. The book was Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life and I read all 85 pages of it in about 2 hours. It was an incredible read and as I finished it I couldn't help but think about how I want to read it again and again.

What made it so good in my eyes was a mixture of things. First of all, it was written very simply. It was almost like I was sitting across from Anna and talking with her about love for books and reading. It was written in such a way that it was more conversational rather than lecture or essay or even a well-rounded story. And with it being more conversational I was more intrigued and easily caught by what she had to say. Another thing that made it good was how so much of what she said about reading rang true in my heart. She talked about the deep passion and love she had (and has) for reading, along with how it was her safety net, her comfort zone, her escape. She talked about how she would go somewhere with her family, but long for that book she had left behind on the floor and the adventure it offered her. Those are sentiments that ring true in my heart in regards to reading. I was always the shy girl who hated doing anything with anyone outside of my family and books were always my refuge. Anna's book totally put every bit of emotion and appreciation I have for reading into words far better than I ever could. And as I read page after page I found myself appreciating more and more the fact that my parents encouraged and fostered a love of books in me as I grew up. All of those things made the book great and totally worth the backache that I got from sitting at the table reading for 2 hours.

Anna Quindlen's book How Reading Changed My Life was an amazingly great read and one that I am glad I picked up despite it having large font and empty space. I am definitely going to try and not just automatically put books on the "wont read" list because if I had done that with Anna's book, I would have missed out on a book that was wonderful. And I don't want to miss out on great books. I don't want to miss out on amazing stories. And I certainly don't want to lose my love for reading or spending my birthdays in a bookstore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Favorite Reads of 2012

I can't believe that December is already half over and that Christmas is just a week away. I can't believe that a new year will be starting soon and that I will yet again get tripped up for a month on what year to write on paperwork and checks. I can't believe that 2012 is almost done.

But I also can't believe just how much I have read this year. Since this blog is fairly new (I started it in March) and this is the first year that I have actually tracked or paid attention to what I've read and how much I've read, I was surprised to look at my "Read in 2012" page and count that I have read 50 books so far this year (I still have two weeks of December left and am reading a lot, so it'll be more than 50 by the actual end of the year!). I never would have guessed that that's how many I read. I knew I read a lot, but to have a number to make it real is kinda crazy. And kinda cool at the same time. I am actually pretty impressed with myself (is that bad or prideful?) for having read that much this year. And even more for actually having kept track of it so that I can look back on it and see how the years to come will change and grow my reading habits or preferences.

So with that said, here are my Top 10 (plus a few) favorite reads of 2012:

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (books 1-3... still waiting on 4 to come out)
Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs
Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Little Women (a re-read), Little Men and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott
Girl Soldier by Faith McDonnell & Grace Akallo
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (a re-read) by JRR Tolkien

Friday, December 7, 2012

Proving once again that...

I am such a nerd! Honestly, I don't know how else to describe myself. I am a full-fledged nerd, bookworm and hopeless romantic. Earlier this week I spent time re-organizing my bookshelves because I was bothered by the fact that I had books stacked on top of each other. I have spent countless hours on Pinterest looking at book lists, book art and various libraries and reading nooks. I have spent too much time watching the clock at work counting down the minutes til I could go home and get back to my book. I have spent too much time quoting The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien while watching the movie and gotten too upset with how different the movie is from the book. Seriously. I'm ridiculous. Such a bookworm. Such a nerd. 

What can I say? I love my books. I love the adventures I get to go on. I love the characters I get to know. I love the trials and triumphs that I get to experience through my imagination. And those things happen whether I read fiction or non-fiction. Fantasy or classical. Children or adult (and no I don't mean the nasty, sexual adult kind!). It doesn't matter what I read... I still love those things no matter what the book. And I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Right now, I am reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I finished The Two Towers this morning and will be starting the Return of the King sometime this evening. It's the last of the Trilogy and will complete my fifth or sixth re-read of Tolkien's books (including The Hobbit) since I was 12 years old. 

I have loved The Lord of the Rings Trilogy since the first time I read the book after my dad took me to see the first movie (Fellowship of the Ring) as a thank-you for helping with childcare at his Bible study. I watched the movie and then asked if I was old enough to read the books. He said I could try. Not only did I try, I read all of them in a very short amount of time. Let me just say both of my parents were pretty surprised, but hey, I couldn't help it... I loved every bit of it. I still do. It's a Trilogy that I re-read almost every year (while I was in college I didn't do that... I didn't have time to read and when I did have time, I didn't have much desire to read). This year I have split up my re-reading of it. I read Fellowship in July and now have finished Two Towers. I decided to go ahead and read Return right away since the year is almost over and I have nothing else I really want to read at this moment.

I have come to love the world of Middle Earth more and more every time I read the Trilogy. Every time I re-read the books I find some new details that I had never noticed before. Or I realize just how connected some of the stories are to other sections of the books or even to The Hobbit. With this re-read, I have found that my favorite characters have changed. They used to be Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf. But now I really love the characters of Aragorn, Eomer and Faramir. I have come to admire and love the character that each of them had as rulers, leaders, men of valor. They were strong men who fought for what they knew to be good and right. They were men who were willing to fight for those they loved (the Hobbits, Arwen, Eowyn, Denethor, Gondor, Rohan, etc.) even though it seemed hopeless. I also loved them because they were men who had faults but still fought hard to be good men. I think the reasons those characters stood out to me so much is the fact that not many men are like that today. Not many men will own up to their faults and strive to be better. Not many men will fight, no matter what, to save or protect the people they love most. And that is so incredibly sad. I am a romantic. I do hold to the stories of chivalry and valor and courage. I do hope to one day raise my sons (if I have sons) to be that type of man. The world needs men like that. No more of the men who don't take responsibility for their actions. No more of the men who don't see anything worth fighting for. I want to see the world filled with men like Aragorn, Eomer and Faramir who had courage, valor, faith, chivalry and honor.

And yes, I know that this post especially proves yet again that I am a nerd. A bookworm. A hopeless romantic. But oh well. I accept it. This is who I have always been and will always be. 


Dickens in December

What is your favorite memory of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Have you ever read it? If not, will you? Why should others read it rather than relying on the film adaptions?

So, I have to be completely honest and make a confession... I have never in my almost 24 years of life and 20ish years of reading ever actually finished a book by Charles Dickens. I own all of his books (whether in hard copy or on my Nook), but I have never actually finished one of his works. I attempted to read Oliver Twist and David Copperfield back when I was in junior high and maybe high school. But I gave up not long after starting them. I have seen the movies, in fact they are two of my favorite movies of all time, but sadly I have failed in reading the books. And honestly, I have no idea why. I think back when I first tried to read them they were just a little too hard for me. The older English grammar. The more detailed and intricate story-lines. They just made it hard for me to get through.

With that said, quite a few of his works are on my list for the Classics Club. Including A Christmas Carol. I am not sure when I will get to it. But it's on my list, so at some point during the next 4.5 years I will read it. I may even read it this month after I finish reading The Lord of the Rings, but then again, I can't commit to deciding what I am going to read next until I am ready to start something new. Anyway, I am not sure yet if I feel nervous or excited about reading it (along with his other works). In my mind I know it's a classic and it's one of the most well-known ones, but yet at the same time I still have a bit of a fear or a hesitation in reading classics by authors that aren't Alcott, Austen, Tolkien, Lewis or Montgomery. But then I remind myself that this is part of why I joined the Classics Club and why I committed to reading 70+ Classics in the course of 5 years. I just have to move outside of my safety zone when it comes to books. And who knows, I will probably end up surprising myself and adding Dickens to the list of my favorites. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A love of words turning into a dream...

Jo March in her "scribbling" suit
This  is a post I wrote last night over at my other blog and thought it was worth sharing here too. Especially since it has so much to do with my love of literature and writing. Enjoy!

For as long as I can remember I have loved to read. I have loved to browse shelves in stores, libraries or homes. I have loved to bury my nose in an old book and breathe deeply to smell the amazing worn yet loved scent that comes from books. I have loved the ability to throw my Nook into whatever purse or bag I may be using at the moment and easily have a large selection of books at my disposal without the weight or bulk of multiple books. I have loved reading blogs, reviews, critiques and suggestions for books that I have never heard of which has been expanding my knowledge of literature and what is out there just waiting to be discovered. I have loved knowing that my escape from reality isn't through TV or video games, but rather through words, stories and adventures.

And that love for words, stories, books, and reading has made me start to dream a new dream. Well, it's not necessarily a new dream. More like a renewed or re-awakened dream. That dream is the dream to take literature classes and learn more about the world of literature. To learn how to read more critically. To learn how to edit. To learn how to write.

When I was younger, before GOD got a hold of me through the stories of Steve Saint and Mincaye, I wanted to be a literature teacher. I wanted to study literature and maybe even do some writing myself. Well, obviously that changed a bit when GOD laid a huge passion for missions on my heart and I never really thought of it again. Until recently. I have been reading so much this year (the perks of not being in school anymore and not working full-time!) that my love, my passion, for reading and books has burst out again and that dream is re-awakening.

I know that I don't really have money to go back to school to study literature and that I still have too much to pay back in loans to even think about that as an option. But maybe one day I will get the chance to. Maybe one day I will get to be back in the classroom and study some of the greatest authors and stories in history (and yes, I know that I got to study the best piece of literature and the greatest Author ever in Bible college). And maybe one day I will get the chance to edit or write something of significance myself. Maybe one day I will have a story (whether fictional or non-fictional) that people would want to read. Maybe one day this re-awakened dream of mine will become more than just a dream.

Sometimes when I think about this dream, I wonder about this blog (and my other one devoted solely to books and authors). I wonder why I write here. I wonder who reads it. I wonder if it's any good. I wonder what the purpose is behind it. And then I remind myself that this is my outlet. Writing has always been a way for me to vent or dream or work through a topic of interest. It has always been a part of me and this blog is where I do most, but definitely not all, of that writing. My thoughts are not always coherent. My writing is not always eloquent. My topics are not always consistent. But I suppose that's okay. Especially since it's a way for me to get all of the words, ideas, frustrations, stories, etc. out of my head and somewhere where I can remember them without the headache.

So, I write here. And I will keep writing here until I decide it's time to write somewhere else or time to stop writing altogether. I don't see that happening for an incredibly long time. But you never know what dream will stay a dream, what dream will become a reality or what adventure life will take you on that is so very different than the one you are on now or the one you dream to be on. So, here's to writing and reading for as long as I can.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November Check-In with a Top-Ten Tuesday bonus!

Have you ever asked yourself why people go through phases in life? What the purpose is behind those phases or even if there is a purpose? Have you ever spent some time looking over how you have spent your time in the last few months or even years and looked at how your hobbies or interests have changed? I have asked that question a lot over the last couple of months. Mostly because I took a look at this blog and my other more personal blog and noticed just how much I seem to bounce from thing to thing with no real sense of rhyme or reason. I noticed that over the last few months (since August really) I have gone from reading nothing but classics and fiction to reading nothing but missions and church books to reading nothing at all and playing with my paints and canvases to spending hours on Pinterest or watching Netflix and then finally back to reading fiction again. There are so many things that I am interested in. Things I am passionate about. Things I am entertained by. And I just can't help but bounce around them all at different times, in different phases. 

Reading has always been my first choice of entertainment. It has always been the one constant hobby or interest in my life since I was about 4 or 5 years old when I first learned to read and discovered the magic that words and stories can bring to one's life. It has always been my escape when things get too overwhelming or home seems too far away or life is just not fun and easy at the moment. But now as I am still growing up and finding out more about who I am, especially now as a young college graduate and wife, I am finding that I am going through more of these life phases and have no real rhyme or reason behind them sometimes. I have realized though that I am just seeking out more activities, more genres of books, more worlds to travel through and more adventures to go on. So, I don't think that phases are necessarily bad. They are just random and crazy and exciting and weird. And maybe it's time to for me to start embracing those phases more and running with them to see what adventures they may bring.

With that said here are my reading stats for the month of November...

The books I read in the month of November: 
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot
Scaling the Wall by Kathy Hicks
The number of pages I read in the month of November: 
The number of pages read year-to-date (middle of December 2011 - end of November 2012): 
Number of Classics Club books read so far:  
  10 of 70 

And here is my list of the Top-Ten (really 14) books I would love for Santa to bring me this Christmas:

1. Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers -- I have passed buying this trilogy up countless times because it does cost a bit but I want to read it so bad!
2. Middlemarch by George Eliot -- this is a new one to my wish list and I'm hoping it's good
3. The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen -- who doesn't love reading about the czars of Russia and Princess Anastasia? And yes, I love the animated movie!
4. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain -- the storyline looks so inviting
5. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte -- I have heard nothing but good things about this one
6. Villete by Charlotte Bronte -- same goes for this one as for #5
7. William and Kate: A Royal Love Story by Christopher Anderson -- I have wanted to read up on the story from a fairly reliable source rather than just the tabloids
8. The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II by Lawrence Verria -- who doesn't love that picture in Times Square? I want to know the story behind it!
9. Slum Life Rising by Ash Barker -- I have a great deal of respect for Ash and really enjoyed his first book. I am now waiting oh so patiently for this one!
10. Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith -- English history is fascinating and the Queen is one inspiring person. I want to know more of her story
11. Harry Potter #'s 5 and 6 (Order of the Phoenix & Half Blood Prince) -- they are the last two I need to complete my set -- update... thanks to a birthday card with a bit of cash in it I have finished off my Harry Potter collection! :)