Thursday, May 3, 2018

Of Mess and Moxie - Jen Hatmaker

Of Mess and Moxie
Title: Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
Author: Jen Hatmaker
Publication Date: 8/8/17
Pages: 224
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a Jen Hatmaker fan.
Date Completed: 4/28/18

Summary: Hatmaker broaches motherhood, faith, and the messiness of life in her new memoir. As always, she does it with grace and heart. 

What I Thought: Hatmaker delivered exactly what I expected her to here. She's funny and witty and so real. She's not afraid to engage with hard issues and lay her vulnerabilities out on the table. 

She does it in a way, however, that still protects others in her life. I love that she's clearly only sharing stories that she's received permission to share or aspects of vulnerability that are hers alone to reveal. It has to be such a hard balance and she walks it well. 

One of my favorite parts of the book was Hatmaker's real talk about motherhood. Now, I'm not a parent, but I love reading about the Hatmaker family. I regularly read her Facebook posts about her kids to Kevin and we laugh and laugh. The book is no different. It just adds in a layer of depth that is not always present in the sound bites on social media. She talks about what it's like being a working mom and how she doesn't let her kids - or anyone - make her feel guilty about that. Loved that section! See the second quote below for a perfect example of Hatmaker blending humor with real talk. It was a encouragement to me, someone who has no intention of giving up work if and when I ever have kids. Mostly because I would lose my mind. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April 2018 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

April News 

I feel like I've been longing for spring on here every month. I've talked incessantly about the weather like I'm at a cocktail party and don't know anyone. I can't help it, though. It was such a long winter and this spring has felt like a very, very long time coming. It is finally here and it is glorious. Leaves on the trees, color everywhere. North Carolina offers the most beautiful spring colors. My lilac bush is right on the verge of blooming. I'll be smelling that sweet scent every time I open the front door within days. So, forgive my months-long diatribe on the weather.

It was, once again, such a busy month. We can't catch a break this spring. I feel this way every year, but I always forget just how intense things are. Kevin is not in grad school this year, which is wonderful, but he still worked almost every weekend of the last two months. He's finally done with his crazy season; I have two weeks left until I'm finished with the semester. He's thrown himself into outdoor projects full force, mostly because we're hosting a party for some of his student workers today and he wants our yard to be nice for that. This will be our third summer in this house and we are slowly but surely making our deck area a wonderful summer oasis in which we love spending time. I can't wait for long, lazy evenings out there with cool beverages and good friends.

Part of what has made April particularly busy is all of the extra stuff I've been doing on top of my regular job. I started leading the choir I'm in that goes to sing at nursing homes. I'm still serving on the board of our local housing authority; this month, that involved a conference in Myrtle Beach and several extra meetings because we're making some major transitions. A commitment that is usually 3 hours a month became 3+ hours a week in April. Sigh. I'm also the new Production Assistant for Pantsuit Politics! I've actually been doing this since the start of March, but we've got our rhythm down and I'm doing as much as I can to help the amazing Sarah and Beth. If you aren't already listening to this podcast, you really need to! Today's episode is an interview with Jen Hatmaker and it exemplifies everything I love about the show and why I wanted to work with them. On top of all of that, I've been very actively searching for a full-time job. I'm hoping to have some news on that front next month...

Somehow, I always seem to read more when I am crazy busy. I ended my reading slump and, though my numbers aren't super impressive, every single book I read was gold. Seriously. Not a bad one in the bunch this month. I can almost never say that. I would easily recommend any of the books I read this month, and have already! If you haven't read my reviews this month, I definitely encourage you to go back and take a look. I am confident you'll find something to enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The News - Alain de Botton

The News
Title: The News: A User's Manuel
Author: Alain de Botton
Publication Date: 2/11/14
Pages: 272
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: Several sources have recommended it recently. 
Date Completed: 4/25/18

Summary: de Botton takes a wide angle look at our news climate. He breaks the book into sections, each one tackling a different type of news: political, international, celebrity, disasters, weather, etc. 

What I Thought: After seeing recommendations for this in several places, it seemed like a good time to pick it up. After all, we are struggling with how to handle media in our world right now. A user's manual seems like just the ticket.

The book is fascinating. de Botton has a lot of astute observations about how the news works and how we consume it. I particularly enjoyed the section on political news, as that is the majority of what I consume these days. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: 6/7/16
Pages: 300
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 4/21/18

Summary: Generations of Ghanaians are separate by the Atlantic when one half-sister marries a British slaver and the other is sold into slavery herself. Gyasi tracks the fates of their descendants from the early nineteenth century to the modern era. 

What I Thought: This book was just so lovely and heartbreaking. It's a great concept and Gyasi executes it well. Each chapter centers around a different character, alternating between the family living in Ghana and the family living in America. It's really interesting to track two hundred years of history through those two lenses, separated only by fate. 

This book made me think quite about about alternate histories. What would the world have been like without the slaving exploitation of Africa. Would African culture have developed differently? Western culture certainly would have. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pastrix - Nadia Bolz-Weber

Title: Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Publication Date: 9/10/13
Pages: 204
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I attended a conference Bolz-Weber spoke at.
Date Completed: 4/12/18

Summary: Bolz-Weber went from a child raised in the church to an alcoholic stand-up comic to a sober Lutheran pastor. She tracks those big shifts and muses about the nature of faith in this memoir.

What I Thought: Back in March, I attended the Why Christian conference for the first time. It's a progressive Christian conference hosted by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans, whose work I adore. It was being hosted at Duke University, which is basically in my geographic backyard. While I don't align with every theological stance the conference takes, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn and grow and listen. I'm so very glad I went. It was an incredible two days sitting under the testimonies and teachings of women of every stripe and color. It was a beautiful reminder of the diversity of the church and how we are united at the Eucharist table in our belief in Christ. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daughter of the Gods - Stephanie Thornton

Daughter of the Gods
Title: Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Publication Date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 442
Genre: Biography / Chick Lit / Historical / Royals / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Thornton's other books.
Date Completed: 4/8/18

Summary: Hatshepsut likely served as one of ancient Egypt's only female pharaohs. Somewhere along the line, one of her successors attempted to erase her legacy from history. Thornton pieces together what little we know and adds a hefty dash of her own imagination to create this historical fiction look at the powerful woman's life. 

What I Thought: I feel as though my general disdain for historical fiction - particularly about royals - has been well established on this blog. It's why I steer so far clear of Phillipa Gregory's fictional Tudor empire. I know too much of the real history to be able to enjoy a fantasized version of events. Thornton, however, has consistently proved herself the exception to my rule.

Very little is known about the life of Hatshepsut (the number of times I've spelled that name wrong while writing this post gives me a whole lot of respect for Thornton's editor). Like with her other novels, Thornton had to draw extensively from her own imagination to craft the world her characters inhabit. It's a lot of educated guessing. Usually, that's what drives me crazy about historical fiction. Thornton, however, has been wise in selecting relatively unknown women. We know so little about them that all we really have is imagination and educated guesses. So, these stories feel indulgent and far less of a violation of historical truth than many other works in the genre. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar
Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publication Date: 1963
Pages: 244
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: It's a classic.
Date Completed: 4/5/2018

Summary: Esther Greenwood seems to have a wonderful life as a young, single woman in the city. Things are, however, slowly unraveling at the seams.

What I Thought: I remember having the option to read this book at one point in a high school English class. I remember several of my classmates who did. We talked briefly about how Plath's journey is mirrored in some ways through this novel, which was published after her own battle with mental illness and suicide. Since that point, I've been intrigued by the book, but never had a particular impetus to finally read it. Having read it now, I'm rather glad I waited until this point. I definitely would not have understood its depths as well when I was a high school student.

When I was looking through my immense TBR list and trying to decide which specific books to select for Roof Beam Reader's challenge this year, I added this one as a whim. It's been on my list for quite a while and it just seemed time.