Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Words or Book Topics I can't resist...

It's Tuesday which means it time for a TOP TEN TUESDAY post hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is about the Top Ten words that describe a book or a part of a book and/or book topics that I can't resist picking up and reading. So without further ado here is my Top Ten list. :)

1. Christian Missions... this has been a passion for mine since I was in 8th grade, 
not to mention what my Bachelors degree is in

2. Ecuador and the 5 missionary men killed by the Waodani Indians... again, a passion of mine 
since 8th grade and my first missions trip in 2004

3. A strong heroine... I like books where a girl is the center of the story and shares life 
through her eyes or in her words

4. World War 2... I love history and the 2nd World War has always fascinated me, 
especially Pearl Harbor

5. Morals... I like to be challenged in my thinking of good and evil andto have to find 
the moral of a story within the setting, characters and plot

6. English history... I love the stories about the kings and queens that shaped so much 
of the English speaking world

7. Families... Stories with strong family relationships immediately pull at me, mostly 
because I have strong ties with my family and hope that my future children and family
will too 

8. Adventure... I want there to be some sort of action going on in the stories I read

9. New places/travel... I love to travel and am always wanting to just take off and fly 
somewhere new, so what better way (not to mention a much cheaper way) to do that 
than through a book

10. Classics... I love Classic literature and the fact that they have withstood the test of time 
and culture and yet remained loved and popular and important to the world of readers

What about you? What are your Top Ten topics and descriptions that you just can't pass up?

A record reading month!!

I read so much in April! I'm pretty sure it was a record month both in how many titles read and how many pages read. I just couldn't help myself. I just couldn't put my books down. Two weeks ago I started a marathon re-read of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I read all 9 of them in 10 days. I was lost in the world of the late 1800s as the West was settled and Laura roamed the prairies with Mary, Carrie and Almanzo. And I have to admit that I did fall in love all over again with Almanzo. It was just like when I was little and first watched the shows with my mom in the mornings before schoolwork had to be done. It was a wonderful 10 days of marathon reading. 

Everything I read this month was fantastic, with the exception of The Great Gatsby. I wasn't real impressed with that one, but at least I can say I have it read now. And with that said... here are my record-breaking stats for the month of April!  

Books read: 

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain 
The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II by Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
Aesop's Fables
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)  
The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (re-read)  
Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan 
The Tudor Throne by Brandy Purdy 
Tales of the Not Forgotten by Beth Guckenberger 
  
Favorite book read: 
A tie between Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens &
 These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Least favorite book read: 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Number of pages read this month: 
5,173
Number of pages read this year: 
9,954

Numbers of books read this year: 
45
Number of Classics read so far: 
14 of 76

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Reading is a doorway to another world....

Earlier this week (on Monday actually), I walked through a doorway that led me to Paris in the 1920s. I walked through the pages of a story about the life of Hadley Richardson Hemingway. I walked into her world and saw things through her eyes (or rather Paula McLain's thoughts). I walked through a doorway and escaped into a world so very different than my own. And that is part of why I love reading so very much. I have said it before and will say it again and again. But I love the escape that reading becomes. I love the fact that I can explore and experience so many things just by curling up in a comfy chair with a well-written book. I love that I can crawl into the life of Hadley Richardson Hemingway or countless other real people or fictional characters. And I love that there are authors who are so willing to make that possible.

Paula McLain definitely did a great job of creating a story and a world that I could crawl into. Her book, The Paris Wife, was one that I didn't want to leave when it was time for me to sleep or work or clean. It was a world that I wanted to explore more than what she had on paper. And maybe one day I will find a way to explore it more. Ms. McLain had a great way of maintaining the voice of the story, Hadley's voice. There wasn't one moment where I thought that she left Hadley behind or that she made the voice of the story change. It was Hadley the whole way through and at times I really thought it was a true story and actually written by Hadley herself. It was an engaging, beautiful, heartbreaking story. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. But it really was so very good. The only uncomfortable part was the bits that talked about Ernest and Hadley's sexual life. I don't like books that have that sort of stuff included and so that wasn't enjoyable for me. But overall, the book was wonderful and one that I will read again one day.

One of my favorite parts (and what really got me hooked) is as follows:

"I didn't learn to swim, didn't run and play in the park as my friends did. I read books instead, tucked into the window seat in the parlor, surrounded by swirls of stained glass and claret-colored drapes. And after a time, I stopped struggling even internally against the prescribed quietness. Books could be an incredible adventure. I stayed under my blanket and barely moved, and no one would have guessed how my mind raced and my heart soared with stories. I could fall into any world and go without notice... (pg. 26)"

After that, it was so hard to put the book down. I wanted to fall into her world just like she would fall into worlds as she read. And so... I did. It took me two short days to finish the book. And it was wonderful.

Hadley Richardson Hemingway

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Please, sir, I want some more." -- Oliver Twist

I finished my book for the Classic Spin challenge! I started Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens on Monday (April 1st) and finished it late last night (April 5th). And let me just say that I loved every word of it! It was incredibly hard to put down on numerous occasions (mostly just before work or at night when I should have been sleeping). And to be honest it was the perfect "first read" experience that everyone raves about when they find that one gem of a book. It's kind of sad to know I will never have that experience again with Oliver Twist; unless of course I don't re-read it for years and years, then maybe I will. But even then it may not be the exact same.

Well, when I was younger, my first introduction to Oliver Twist was the 1968 movie Oliver starring Mark Lester as Oliver, Ron Moody as Fagin and Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger. My grandma had it on VHS and we (my siblings and I) may or may not have permanently borrowed it from her due to falling in love with it. But after reading the book this week, I was surprised at just how much that version of the movie left out. So many good parts of the story and so many details were not included, such as everything connected to the Maylie family, Monks and the inheritance which I thought were key pieces to Oliver's story. But I suppose that's the common problem of making books into screenplays that Hollywood is plagued by when producing a movie. The one thing I did love about the film was that it had music incorporated. I am a sucker when it comes to musicals and that made this version wonderful in my eyes.

While the movie was my introduction to the story of Oliver Twist, the book was my first introduction to the writings of Charles Dickens. And I have to say, that for my first step into his books, I was swept away and now I am really looking forward to reading more of his writings. I like his writing style for various reasons. One of the main reasons is that he describes everything, down to the smallest detail of an outfit or expression or location! Sometimes, like in Jane Austen's books, I like to be able to have less detail and therefore allow my imagination to fill in the picture. But with Dickens because his stories are so detailed I was able to just be caught up in the story and not have to do any extra work to fill things in and that was incredibly refreshing to me.


Another huge reason I loved Oliver Twist and Dickens was that he made the characters so very human. Especially the women. He put a lot of emotion into them and it made it so much easier to connect to them or to really grasp what he was trying to say in regards to that specific character in a specific situation. It was also good because he had so many characters that popped in and out at different times. To have that emotion and character development be so strong and prominent really helped solidify the character so that when they faded in and out they weren't easily forgotten. And as I was talking this morning with the mom of a couple of our students at church, who also happens to be a high school English teacher and uses Oliver Twist in her freshman classes, she mentioned how some of the story development is because the book as a whole was originally published as serials in the paper or magazines (which I didn't know). And so I think because they had to be broken up and a week or two or even longer may have passed in between each new serial, Dickens had to develop and solidify the story and write his characters and details in such a way that the readers would stay connected to, interested in and engaged with the story week after week.

And of course, I absolutely loved the main character... Oliver. Everything about him made my heart ache and smile and cry and laugh at different points. Part of it is because of how well Dickens wrote about him and developed the story around him, very much making him the central character (which makes sense with the book being Oliver Twist and all). But part of it is because I have special soft spot in my heart for children and especially for orphans. I have always wanted to adopt and my husband and I plan to one day. And I have to admit that I often find myself longing for the day when I get to be a mom. I have a big family and have always loved babysitting, holding babies or playing with children. I can't wait for the day when I have that in my own house and my own little family. And so to read about little Oliver growing up without a loving home and not having parents to care for him just made my heart ache. But then at the end when he learned who he was and that he belonged somewhere and to a family, it was just amazingly wonderful and made my heart smile and cry tears of joy (I didn't literally cry by the way, surprisingly). Oliver was an amazing little boy who faced a lot of situations, but came out on top and found himself greatly loved and cared for despite all of the craziness that led him to that point. And I loved that.

Well, I suppose that is all I have to say about Oliver Twist and Charles Dickens. For now anyway. I am definitely not afraid to read more of his works now. I was terrified at first when I realized that my Classic's spin book was to be Oliver Twist. Not sure why I was scared, but I was. I think partly because of how well loved or disliked he can be depending on the reader and because of how his books have just that tradition and reputation of being high classic literature. I was afraid that it would be too dense or too old English for me to really enjoy. But I was proved wrong with Oliver Twist. That may change as I venture into some of his other novels, but only time will tell.

Now I am off to read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which just so happens to be a favorite of the mom I was talking about earlier. I am only a few pages in, but already like the feel of it and can't wait to get lost in the world of Paris, France in the 1920s. And yes, my reading habits do tend to cross all sorts of time periods, locations, styles and authors every time I start and finish a new book. I just read whatever I feel like reading whether or not it is by the same author or genre or style of what I just finished. And I wouldn't have it any other way! :) 

Happy reading!! And hooray for warm weather and reading on the deck (which is where I am currently sitting)!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A quarter of the way through the year already?!?!

It is the first day of April and we are a now a fourth of the way through the year 2013. How crazy does that sound? I honestly can't believe it. Spring weather has been pretty picky lately here in the Midwest, complete with 55 degree weather one day and freak snowstorms the next.  But nonetheless spring and summer are on their way and I am oh so excited. With it now being April, my fast from reading anything not written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer or C.S. Lewis has come to an end. I read a lot of philosophical and spiritual (Christian) writings from those two gentlemen over the last month and a half. Some of the books by Lewis really gave me a headache because of how much they required me to really pay attention and think through the ideas, theories and beliefs he was presenting. After almost a whole month, I was pretty worn out with those types of books. And last Tuesday came along leaving me with only 5 days til the season of Lent was over. And I couldn't take much more philosophy. So, I decided to end Lent with a marathon re-read of Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. It was a perfect way to end the season of Lent in my mind. Mostly because it gave me a good break from his deeper writings and it allowed me to read without forcing myself to pay attention to every word of every sentence of every paragraph. And it reminded me that I really do love C.S. Lewis' writings even if they are challenging and frustrating at times. 

Now I am reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens which was my pick for the Classics Club Spin Book. I am reading my Uncle Dan's copy from when he was in 7th grade and starring as Oliver in his school production. He passed away 12 years ago and it's one of the only things I have of his. It's a well-worn, beat-up and loved copy. I am already a few chapters in and enjoying it much more than I did years ago when I tried to read it. Probably because I am older now and can focus on some of the details of the story and the language better. I am looking forward to getting completely lost in the story and hope that I love it as much as my Uncle did. 

And with all of that said... here are my stats for March! 
 
Books read: 
The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast by C.S. Lewis
Miracles by C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Lion, the Witch and the Bible by Robert Velarde
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
On Three Ways of Writing for Children (an essay) by C.S. Lewis

Favorite book read: 
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Least favorite book read: 
Miracles by C.S. Lewis

Number of pages read this month: 
1,672

Number of pages read this year: 
 4,781

Numbers of books read this year: 
27

Number of Classics read so far: 
13 of 76