Saturday, August 26, 2017

Before the Fall

This is a compelling novel by Noah Hawley. One foggy Summer night eleven passengers - ten wealthy, one painter trying to begin anew - and three crew members leave Martha's Vineyard on a private jet for the short hop to New York. Within sixteen minutes, the plane crashes into the ocean. There are only two survivors; the painter, Scott Borroughs, and JJ, the four year old son of a rich, powerful media mogul. The story of their survival is harrowing, heroic, incredible! What happens after the survival is just harrowing, for they are chased by the media. The "objective" news reporters won't wait for investigators to tell them what happened to the plane; they begin speculating what could have happened based on the people on the plane. And reputation means nothing to the media - when Scott refuses to answer questions they begin destroying his. Some go beyond those kind of tricks... Meanwhile, the bond between Scott and the boy, JJ, grows.

Parts of this book were beautiful; parts were caricature. Characters, mainly. As though Hawley has been writing screenplays so long he can no longer write an unlikeable character without overdoing it. A shame. It's a good read, otherwise.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Be gentle with yourself

I was having a conversation this evening with Secunda and Quatorze... Secunda getting more and more passive aggressive and, finally, a bit vicious in what she said. I gathered my things up to leave as Quatorze fled the room in tears. Then my beautiful teen apologized and cried. We were able to speak calmly about what was going on and find some solutions.
At one point, I said to her, "You are so hard on yourself! And I don't know where that comes from." She looked at me as though I'd sprouted two heads. Then, quietly let me know she just acts like me. My heart broke!!! I made a pact with her that we would both try to be gentle with ourselves.

I tried. I tried to keep my mental illness, my self deprecation, my own loathing away from my children. I don't want any of them to be my age and have to look back on such a life. Don't get me wrong: my life is lovely now. But by the time it became that way I had such an ingrained habit of looking at myself negatively... I am having trouble breaking that habit. And now one of my vital, amazing children has seen and internalized that nasty habit. I tried to teach them that they were loved by God, important simply because they were made in His image and likeness. Unfortunately, my actions have spoken louder than my words. Father God, help me with damage control. Because this negative self image and harsh self treatment is damaging! Give me the words for each of these precision souls. I love these people you have entrusted to me. And I'm learning to love myself. May we be gentle.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Same Kind of Different as Me

A Modern - day Slave, An International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together. This is a powerful work by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent. I was surprised to find it classified as Religion/Spirituality: I simply thought of it as memoir. However, you throw a mention of God in there and you're labeled... and as the book went on it began to fit its label. It's a fantastic read!

Deborah and Ron Hall met at TCU, married, through the years had two children. Ron went from selling soup to grocery stores to investment banking to selling masterpieces in the art world. Debbie and he (mainly Debbie) grew closer to God and to serve Him, together they began working at a homeless shelter in Fort Worth. One morning, Debbie told Ron of a dream she'd had the previous night of a wise man who changes the city. She'd seen his face. Soon, she saw the same man at the shelter. It was Denver Moore, an angry man who refused to sleep inside; a loner who frightened everyone (except Debbie). Denver grew up in virtual slavery as a sharecropper in Louisiana until he hopped a train to Fort Worth. Life on the streets was a step up, in his opinion. This is the story of an unlikely friendship, forged by an incredible woman.

Monday, August 21, 2017


The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. As an introvert, I loved this very well - researched book by Susan Cain. Here in America, we live in a society geared to extroverts. Quiet, more contained, possibly shy people are greatly undervalued as a result. Cain tells how the Extrovert Ideal became the norm in Western society. She cites psychological and neurological studies which show stunning differences between introverts and extroverts. She gives personal stories of introverts who "fake it", recharging in private after their successful outgoing presentation or sales call or whatever. She gives pointers for how the introvert can give a little to better meet the world and how the world could give to better meet those who are introverts, especially quiet children. A fascinating study.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Glitter and Glue

This is a mini-memoir by Kelly Corrigan. It tells the story of how Corrigan, in her early 20's and on a Grand Adventure, ran out of money in Australia. She was faced with the decision to go home and face her mother ("I told you so...") or get a job. This is how she wound up as the nanny to newly-widowed John Tanner's two children. As she stepped into this role, she began to hear her mother's no-nonsense voice everywhere. She had not expected this. Like many "daddy's girls", Corrigan's relationship with her mother was fraught... sometimes distant. Her time with the Tanners is when she first began to appreciate her mom. Later she had her own children and a health scare, cementing the bond she now has with her mother. Who we admire and why changes as we grow and develop. That's what this book is well as motherhood and what that looks like in its absence as well as in its glorious, messy, mind-wracking presence.

The Shepherd of the Hills

This lovely work by Harold Bell Wright is my mother's favorite book. So when my Reader's Challenge included "A book published before you were born" I knew what it had to be. I had actually read it once before, in my teens, and hadn't seen what all the fuss was about (it was one of my grandmother's favorites, as well). Now that I'm an adult, with children and a relationship with God, I get it. It's a gentle tale of second chances, forgiveness, and the love we bear through the generations.

Daniel Howitt comes into the Ozark mountain community of Mutton Hollow from the City - the world outside. For reasons of his own, he takes his place among the simple backwoods people as a shepherd for Grant Matthews and his family. He teaches young Sammy Lane how to be a real lady, since her intended has gone to the City. He fills in for the preacher. He finds a home and, eventually, peace for his heart. There are secrets revealed, and pride broken down, and hearts eased. It's a lovely book. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I Let You Go

Holy cow! I just finished this intense, compelling novel by Clare Mackintosh; it is four in the morning! The novel opens with a young mother walking her son home from school one rainy day. Excited to be home, he darts across the street when she momentarily lets go of his hand. He is struck and killed by a car whose driver then flees the scene. Jenna leaves her life in Bristol behind; everything she lived for has been taken away. She moves to Wales to begin anew, but is haunted by the car accident that instigated her move. And there's Ray and Kate, the police investigators in charge of finding the perpetrator of the hit-and-run. As they're drawn deeper into the twist -filled case, they're drawn closer to each other... An excellent read: highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Good As Gone

Amy Gentry's debut novel, and a true suspense thriller. Julie was kidnapped from her own bedroom when she was thirteen years old, while Anna and Tom, her parents, slept downstairs and Jane, her ten year old sister, watched from a closet. Eight years later, Julie returns, with an unbelievable story of what happened and where she has been. Is Julie lying to them? Is this young woman who showed up at their door even Julie at all? And if not, what does she want?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Stars Are Fire

This is a fabulous novel by Anita Shreve! She began with the truth of the largest fire in Maine's history, and spun her story of a young mother finding herself around that. In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast, racing out of control from village to village. At 24, Grace Holland and her two toddlers are home alone because her husband has gone to fight the fire. She saves herself and the children by huddling together under a blanket in the sea overnight. They emerge to a changed world. They are now penniless, homeless, left in a town that no longer exists. Grace must learn to rely on herself - to drive, to find a home, a job, a way to care for the children while all these other things happen. She finds a freedom and her own strength in the aftermath of the catastrophe. Little does she know, her greatest test still lies ahead. A fantastic read. Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Secret Keeper

A novel by Kate Morton which I found to be uneven but intriguing nevertheless. Laurel Nicholson is hiding from her sisters in her childhood treehouse during a family birthday party when she sees a stranger coming onto their farm. She watches as he and her mother speak... and then witnesses a crime that calls into question all she thought she knew about her loving, imaginative, near-perfect mother, Dorothy. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful actress in London. The family is gathering at the old farmhouse for her mother's ninetieth birthday and Laurel decides it's time to find the answers for that crime that still haunts her; answers buried in her mother's past from pre-WWII England through the blitz and the unlikely friends she made then, to the 1960s and beyond.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Death Comes to Pemberley

This is a fabulous novel by P.D. James! She has taken the characters from Pride and Prejudice and drawn them into a murder mystery with emotional ramifications for the Darcy and Bingley families. It is 1803. Elizabeth and Jane have been married six years to their respective mates. They are each mothers, in charge of large estates. Elizabeth has settled well into Pemberley, with Jane nearby. Her father visits often; Darcy's sister Georgiana may soon marry. They are all busily preparing for the annual autumn ball when a coach barrels up the drive. Inside is a hysterical Lydia, Elizabeth's disgraced sister who married the infamous Wickham, both of whom have been banned at Pemberley. Lydia is screaming that Wickham has been murdered in the woodland. Pemberley is now embroiled in a murder mystery.

The first chapter of this book is given to a synopsis of Jane Austen's original work. Then we're given a glimpse of the peaceful, orderly world of Pemberley with Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy in charge. Then the mystery.... P.D. James has lovingly and masterfully re-created the world of Pride and Prejudice. There are no glaring anachronisms, no one slips out of character.... It really could be a "sequel" . It almost feels traitorous to Miss Austen to say that. This was a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.

My Stubborn Heart

Can't think why I had a Christian romance novel by Becky Wade on my to-be-read list. Any kind of romance novel. I determined long, long ago I could not read romances; they left me dissatisfied with my life as it was and I just couldn't handle that irritation. Now that I'm married, actually, now that my identity comes from God rather than from my husband or our relationship, I find I can read romances again. The Christian romance is often quite saccharine, setting my teeth on edge (and there seem few Catholic Christian writers in this genre). 

This book avoids the too-sweet pitfall. It's well written, with real interior struggles between main characters and the Maker included. Kate, disillusioned by both her work and dating, agrees to accompany her grandmother to Redbud, Pennsylvania to restore her childhood home. Their contractor is Matt Jarreau, handsome, clearly wounded. What in his past could cause this rift between him and others, God, himself? Kate sets herself the task of finding out.