Tuesday, January 29, 2013

10 characters I cannot stand...

So it's Tuesday which means it's time for a Top Ten Tuesday post. The lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish gave us the topic of discussing 10 characters that are frustrating to us as we read. It didn't take me long to decide which ones to pick. So without further ado... Here are the 10 characters that I just cannot stand:

1. Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows. She is just pure evil and it made my stomach hurt to read the sections that involved her. I honestly think that in a way she is far worse than Voldemort.

2. Saruman from The Lord of the Rings. I didn't like how tricky he was and how easily he could make trouble for the hobbits.

3. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice. Talk about a creeper!

4. Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair. Her conniving ways and her constant telling of lies embarrassed me in a way. I was disappointed in how a "lady" would do the things that Becky did all for status and approval. In my mind that didn't make her a lady at all.

5. Ida Glenshaw from The Inheritance. Again, she did not impress me as a lady. I love strong, independent females and to read about how she just tricked, lied, flirted and sought to cause trouble just so that she could be noticed is just embarrassing to me as a woman.

6. Percy Weasley from Harry Potter. I know he wasn't a main character or have any big role in the books, but he was such a prick that I just got irritated whenever he showed up.

7. Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings. She may have been a strong warrior, but she definitely got a little too carried away with her "love" for Aragorn and a little reckless with her responsibility to take care of the people of Rohan when she ran away with the men to war.

8. Susan Pevensy from The Chronicles of Narnia. She also was a bit of a prick and I wish she had been more child-like the way her siblings were.

9. Mr. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice. I have quite a few friends in the military whom I love and respect a great deal. Men who are worthy of respect and honor the uniform that they wear. I felt like Wickham was a bit of a disgrace to the uniform and definitely wasn't a man worthy of any respect.

10. Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. He was too manipulative for me to really enjoy or respect his character. I didn't like how he handled various situations and especially the way that he oftentimes talked down to Jane.

What about you? What are the 10 characters you just cannot stand? Did you like some of the ones that I listed? 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Still here...

It's been a few ridiculously crazy weeks since I wrote last. The house we were living in was unofficially condemned due to mold, a crumbling foundation and not worth the repairs. So that sent my husband and I on an interesting adventure of finding a new place to live for fairly cheap, in a good area and close to the church. We finally found a great place in a brand new complex. When I say brand new I mean only one of the 4 buildings is actually finished. So cleaning, packing, moving and unpacking has dominated my life over the last two weeks and then I had to wait until we got our internet reconnected. And because of all of that I haven't been reading much at all. In fact, I have only read two incredibly short books (short as in less than 100 pages each) in the last three weeks since I finished Harry Potter. It makes me sad that I have been ignoring my books. Especially since reading is what relaxes me and it's what I need right now after a crazy quick move.

And so since, I don't have much to say in regards to what I have been reading since I haven't been reading much... I thought maybe I would write about my love for just the right, perfectly comfortable reading spot. I have always been a fan of comfortable reading spaces. When I was little I used to have one of those cool inflatable chairs that were all the rage in the late 90s. I would put that chair into my big walk-in closet, crawl under a few blankets and read for hours. When we moved away from that house I got my own room for the first time ever and so my bed (a super fashionable day-bed) became covered in pillows and more like a couch than a bed which meant that is where I spent most of my time reading. Then when I was in college and reading for school I would lay out in the grass on a blanket by my dorm. And now I have a big, comfy recliner that I can curl up in in our spare bedroom. I seriously love comfy reading spaces! They just make the whole experience so much better in my mind. When you find that perfect spot it becomes incredibly inviting, hard to resist and always waiting for you to fall into with your book and a blanket. It becomes so very easy to lose track of time when you have a great place to sit and read. Every read should have that one perfect spot!

This is our office/library/guest room in our new apartment. And that recliner is the comfiest thing ever! I am not kidding!

Where do you love to spend time reading? Do you have any comfy chair or reading nook that is your go-to place whenever you have a good book and are ready to escape into another world? I hope you do. I think every reader should.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

That moment when...

You finish a book or book series that you have lived in for days on end. It's a sad moment. It's a moment that every book lover dreads. It's a moment that caught up to me today as I finished the final Harry Potter book. 24 days ago I started reading the Harry Potter series for the second time. I started reading them one after another rather quickly. Part of it is because I normally read quickly. Part of it is I just love the stories so much that I can't really make myself slow down or even stop to take a break in the middle of them because I just don't want to. I loved every minute that I got to spend re-reading and re-imagining the stories and adventures of Harry, Ron, Hermione. For 24 days I loved getting to live in Britain, exploring Hogwarts and defeating evil for the whole wizarding world. And now, only a short two hours after finishing book 7, I miss that world. Those characters.

One of my favorite things about the series is that the stories grow as the characters do. In the first two books it's definitely a children's story about children going off to a new school. By the end, it's a story of young adults fighting for their lives and the lives of those they love. It starts out as a simple story and transforms into a complex story of life, love, relationships and good overcoming evil. It's literally a story of growing up and readers get a chance to grow up with the characters if they want. It's right there... ready and waiting for them. I love how the story is developed. It's been said before, but JK Rowling is a master writer and did amazing things with words and stories. I honestly believe that her books will be considered classics in 100 years. Books that children and adults will read over and over for years to come.

In thinking about how I now feel a little lost without the world of Hogwarts and that moment every devoted reader dreads, I have been thinking about how much of a blessing it is to me to be able to read and have access to books. And how important it is to me to really appreciate words, stories, lessons and characters that others have taken the time to create and write down. I never want to lose my love for reading. I never want to give up on books. I never want to think that I don't need to read or that there aren't anymore things I can explore and learn. I never want to look at my bookshelves and just decide to give away all of my books because I don't think they hold anymore value. I don't think that will ever happen. But it would be an awful day if it did. I know that I can't take my books with me when I die, but I value them very much and treasure the things that lie between the covers. Reading is a blessing and a privilege that I never want to throw away or discount or give up on. Even that dreaded moment when a wonderful book comes to an end is worth suffering through a bit at a time if it means that one more story has been read, one more world has been explored, one more adventure has been had. Even that dreaded moment is a blessing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My least favorite classic so far...

The Classics Club is kicking the year off with a discussion on what our favorite or least favorite Classic is that we have read since beginning the challenge. I looked over the list of 10 classics that I have read so far and thought about how it would be nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite. Out of the 10 I have read so far... 6 of them were amazing, 1 was okay and 3 were just awful. So I couldn't pick just one favorite. But I could pick my least favorite. And that was... Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.

I don't know what it was but I absolutely hated that book. I had the hardest time reading it, but I did finish it. And yes, I was very excited and proud of myself. But I just couldn't get into the story. I thought the storyline was all over the place, the characters didn't make sense, the typos and incorrect grammar that my copy had irritated me to no end and the character of Becky Sharp made me want to throw the book out the window. No joke. And again, I have no idea why all of those things bothered me, but they did. I couldn't help it. I kept reading in the hopes that it would get better, that I would like it by the end, that I would finally get into the story. But that never happened. I finished reading it and put it on my shelf thinking to myself that I will probably never read it again.

I know that a lot of people love Vanity Fair and think very highly of it. But oh my goodness. I just can't be counted among them. I would love to hear what others think/thought of it. I want to know if others hated it as much as me and why. I want to know why some absolutely love it. I want to know if maybe I am just the one in a million who happened to hate it and therefore have made myself an outcast in the literary world.

So there you have it. My least favorite classic that I have read so far. Hopefully I won't have too many more that I absolutely hate while I continue read through my list. And maybe one day, if I re-read it, Vanity Fair will become one that I appreciate and enjoy reading, even if it doesn't become a favorite.

Wanting to escape...

So, I am now a few days into the new year, still plugging away at the Harry Potter series, and still wondering what the year is going to look like for my reading habits and phases. I am starting to hit the point with Harry Potter where I am ready to be done and to move onto a new book or series. But I am in the middle of book 6 and just have book 7 left after that, so I really want to finish it rather than stopping so close to the end. I am, however, starting to think about what I want to read next. What story I want to dive into. And honestly, I am not sure what I will actually end up picking. I have quite the TBR stack full of classics and discipleship books. But I'm not really feeling interested in any of them. Not sure why. Thinking I may be hitting one of the phases where I don't want to and won't read very much. Part of that I think is that I am once again being faced with having to clean, sort and pack my house in order to move to a new house or apartment, so I am incredibly distracted and torn between what I want to do and what I should do. And that certainly does not help me in deciding what I want to read next or even in focusing on finishing Harry Potter. But oh well. Such is life. Right?

To be honest, right now, all I want to do is read. But I can feel that desire starting to slip away as I keep plugging away at Harry Potter and looking at the things I should be doing. But right at this moment, all I want to do is escape into a book and not come out til I've finished. I want to escape into a book and find that when I finish all of the craziness of packing, moving, and the usual frustrations that go along with that will be done and a thing of the past. I want to escape into a book and find that the happy ending is real when I finish. That the frustrations or worries have disappeared while I was lost in the words of the story. But yet, I know that won't happen. I know that can't happen. But I sure wish it could and would. Right now, all I want to do is to escape. To hide from the things that I am frustrated by and the things that I am worried about and the things that make me angry. I just want to escape into a story and a world that is different than my own.

Is that awful of me? I certainly hope not.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I am determined to read in 2013....

One of the many lovely ladies at one of my favorite blogs, The Broke and the Bookish, wrote this week's TOP TEN TUESDAY post and focused it on the books that she is resolved to read in the coming year. The only challenge or list I have committed to reading from is for the Classics Club. I tried to do a read-a-long/challenge last summer, but didn't like reading by a schedule. It was too much like school for me and that definitely sucks the joy out of reading for me. And I also didn't like committing to reading one set of books back to back. Sometimes I can do that (like right now I'm reading all of the Harry Potter books), but at other times I need to take a break after one or two books in a series. So, I am a bit hesitant at times to commit to saying that I am going to read specific books by a specific time. But, I thought that this weeks TOP TEN would be something that I could easily do because it's just picking 10 books that I want really to read at some point in the year. I read 55 books this last year and think that this year I can do just as many if not more. And so picking out 10 specific titles may not make that much of a difference in what I read. But then again, maybe it will. Who knows? Anyway, it was tough to pick out 10 titles (it's hard to pick 10 books for any of the TOP TEN topics) because there are so many books I want to read and have sitting on my shelves just waiting for me to pick them up and carry them with me for a few days while I explore the stories and settings within. But after some thought I think I have it... and so here are the TOP TEN books that I am determined to read in 2013:

1. Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
2. Forgotten God by Francis Chan
3. Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
4. The Just Church by Jim Martin 
5. What Color is Your God? by James & Lillian Breckenridge
6. Aesop's Fables 
7. Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte
8. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
9. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10. Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell 

The first 5 are some of the Christian ministry/discipleship books that I own, but have never felt a strong desire to read. Until now that is. They are ones that I think will deeply affect my own personal faith and maybe help me as my husband and I continue to learn to navigate doing ministry in the American Church. The last 5 are ones that are on my list for the Classics Club and I don't feel bad at all picking them instead of others on my "Want to/Need to Read" list. They are some of the Classics that I specifically want to read this year. Not sure why. They just are the ones that I am excited to read right now and the ones that jumped out at me as I reviewed my lists. In looking at the above list, I think that no matter what happens this coming year, my reading will be all over the place again like it was last year. I will go through phases where I devour a certain genre or author or topic and then switch to phases where I may not read at all for a while. And that's okay. I don't mind. I will read. I will love every minute of it. And hopefully I will love everything I read. It's going to be a good year of reading. I can already tell and I'm definitely excited!

It's a New Year!

Well, normally I would be asleep by this point in time. But since I am married to a youth minister and therefore a designated youth sponsor, I am spending my New Years at an all-nighter with about 300 junior high and high school students from some of the churches in our area. It's a crazy night. So much noise and so much going on. But everyone seems to be having a good time. But let's just say that I am very tired already. So between being tired and typing this post on my iPad, there may be a few more typos or errors than usual. It also means I can't format things the way I want to. But I may just go back in and re-do it when I've gotten some sleep. Either way, I apologize. I hope you won't judge me too badly or stop reading. That would make me sad. But anyway...

It is a new year and that means that it's time to recap what I read in 2012 and get excited for what I'm going to read in 2013. With the way my blog is set up, I am going to replace the list of books read in 2012 (see the tabs under my header) so that I can begin to track what I read in 2013. But I don't want to lose my 2012 list. So I am going to include it at the end of this post. But before I do that I want to do parts of a survey that one of my favorite bloggers did for her end of the year recap. I'm not going to do all that she did, but some of it is just too good to pass up.

How many books and pages read:
As I said in a post a few days ago, this is the first year that I have ever tracked my reading. I have always read a lot but never really saw a need for or had a desire to keep track of titles, authors and pages. But for some reason I decided to track it this year and it has been quite an interesting experience. One that I am glad I started and hope to continue for awhile. In the last year, I read 55 books for a total of 17,289 pages (I am not counting Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix because I haven't finished it yet and actually haven't read it in a few days). In December alone I read 2,519 pages (again not counting Order of the Phoenix). I am completely astounded by those numbers and pleased that I read so much. In my mind it's nice to have a number to verify just how much reading I do and to have a number to try and beat in the coming year. 

* 34 out of 55 = fiction
* 21 out of 55 = non-fiction 

* 10 out of 55 (not bad!!!)

* tie between Vanity Fair by Victor Hugo and Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling = longest (736 pages)
* How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen = shortest (85 pages)

Best book:
* Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far by Bristol Palin.... Her story was amazing and as I read her book in one day, I kept thinking about how she wrote as if we were best friends and she was just filling me in on life. It was really impressive also how she wrote so openly and with a rare, real honesty despite the way some people react to her family and their life.

Most Disappointing Book:
* A tie between Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.... I was so bummed that I hated these two books. I had been looking forward to reading them, but they were so long, full of fluff and had no solid thread to keep me tied to the story. I wanted to give up on them, but stuck it out til the end hoping they would get better. But alas, they didn't and I was disappointed. 

Most beautifully written book:
* Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.... This was by far one of the most beautiful stories of love and forgiveness that I have ever read. 

Most surprising book (but in a good way):
* Not Afraid of Life by Bristol Palin.... Her honesty and real, down to earth way of talking about her family and her life was what made the book so good and surprising. She easily could have just glossed over things or painted a better picture of her family and her mistakes, but she didn't. She was real and honest the whole way through. 

Most thrilling or un-put-down-able book:
* Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling.... Can't get enough of her writing and I love the stories of Harry, Ron and Hermione. I think the fact that I read the first 4 in less than a week proves that it fits this category pretty well!

Book that had the greatest impact on me personally:
* Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot.... I only read the first half of it, but it was inspiring. It truly gave me a whole new understanding of journaling and have working out my faith through prayer and study of Scripture, along with allowing myself to be raw, real and brutally honest in my personal writing.

Best series discovered:
* The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson.... Words can't describe how good this series is. I'm eagerly awaiting for the release of book 4. It may be a children's series, but like Narnia and Harry Potter, it's great for any age!

Well... I think that's good for now. I won't go on too much longer. I just wanted to share some of the highlights of this year and record them for myself so that I can look back one day and see how my love of reading changes and grows the more I read. I hope the New Year is filled with even more reading. Even more new titles. Even more new authors. And a few loved re-reads. Here's to a new year and a chance to read even more!


Here is the list of books that I read in 2012. A couple of them were started at the end of December 2011 when I returned home from my internship in South America. 55 books in total and 17,289 pages all together! I am so amazed by and pleased with this list!

December 2011/January 2012: 
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 
The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (only books 1, 2 and 3 since book 4 isn't released yet) 

February 2012: 
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman  
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (started)

March 2012: 
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (finished) 
Revolution of Missions by K.P. Yohannan
Get Your Hands Dirty edited by Doug Priest 
The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott (re-read)
Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

April 2012: 
Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (started) 

May 2012:
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (finished)
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James 
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux 

June 2012: 
Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
The Brotherhood by Jerry B. Jenkins  
Candide by Voltaire 
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

July 2012: 
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read) 
Journals of Jim Elliot compiled by Elisabeth Elliot (1st half) 
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (re-read) 
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott  

August 2012:
Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story by John Sowers  
Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far by Bristol Palin  
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan 

September 2012: 
Going Global: A Congregation's Introduction to Mission Beyond Our Borders by Gary Nelson, Gordon King & Terry Smith
The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church by Michael Frost
Compassionate Kids: Practical Ways to Involve Your Students in Mission & Service by Jim Hancock 
Ready to Go Missions by Jason Schultz
Girl Soldier by Faith McDonnell & Grace Akallo
The Mission Minded Child by Ann Dunagan
Youth & Missions by Paul Borthwick

October 2012: 
Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing it Right! edited by Robert J. Priest
Unleashed: The Church Turning the World Upside Down edited by Dudley Rutherford 
Eats With Sinners by Arron Chambers
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 
Crispens Point by JoHannah Reardon 

November 2012: 
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot
Scaling the Wall by Kathy Hicks  

December 2012: 
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)   
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen 
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (re-read) 
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (re-read) 
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (re-read) 
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (re-read)