Tag Archives: book

Book Review: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

A couple of weeks ago, my family went down to my in-laws’ lake house, about an hour from our home. I packed some reading, you know, in case naps went as scheduled and I ended up in the sunshine with a drink in my hand. And what do you know? I did. But I was NOT in the mood for any of the reading I had packed. It was mostly non-fiction, which I’m not opposed to, generally. But they were all a little heavy in nature, and I was feeling a little more lighthearted on our mini-vacation.

Sometimes I need a beach read. Here’s my definition of “beach read”: not difficult to read, totally enveloping, can’t put it down, captivating story, and no real-life application. I’m not reading a “beach read” so that I can apply it to my life or think about it for the rest of the week. I’m reading one so that I can dissolve into another world, another story besides my own, and lose track for a few moments (or two days, as it was with this one). So naturally, I perused my mother-in-law’s bookshelf, and spotted a Nicholas Sparks book I hadn’t read. You probably already know that he’s famous for his “beach reads” and The Longest Ride is no exception!

Because I’ve read a lot of his books, I knew that when the book began by alternating between two seemingly unrelated stories, we’d find them intertwined by the end. But even I was a little taken aback by how the stories came together at the end. I enjoyed the little surprise – especially since so many love stories follow a formula that’s fairly easy to predict. As an art history buff, I especially appreciated his nod to abstract expressionism and modernism throughout the story. And if that wasn’t enough to make me love it, one of the stories was also set right around where I live. Crazy!

Loves old and new were explored through the two “separate” stories, and I enjoyed the character exploration in each, as well as the varying points of view. It’s a creative way of the book being “third person omniscient”. If you’re looking for an easy read, full of feelings and a little historical enjoyment (without being a period piece), then you’ll love The Longest Ride. Channel your inner teen girl and you won’t be able to put it down.

Podcasts

Recently, I’ve started listening to some podcasts. I know, I know; I’m a several months (years?) late to that party. With young children constantly around me, it’s sometimes hard to listen to spoken word (you know, something that I actually need to pay attention to if I want to comprehend what’s happening), and that’s most of the reason I’m late to the podcast-listening idea. I can’t just turn one on when I get in the car because I usually have several people communicating wth me at once. I don’t need another voice added to the fray. But I’ve really enjoyed getting recommendations from friends about what podcasts are making them think, which ones are encouraging them, or even affecting heart change. So naturally, I’ve started putting in my headphones a little more often, and, you know, crying while I mow the lawn or fold the laundry. It’s almost like reading a book, but I can work on something else while I’m doing it.podcast

It been so interesting to me how God has ordained things in my life, right down to which podcasts I’m listening to. Ever think He doesn’t influence the small things in your life? Just look for connections between your struggles and an innocent book or podcast suggestion made by a friend. I know He is wooing me through different ways every single day, pursuing me by letting me hear from Him even in the oddest of places.

That all being said, I’ll tell you about these podcasts I’m checking out. I started with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. She brings another person (often one of her friends) onto her show and they talk about real life and I have LOVED it. It’s often a faith-based writer or speaker and I can get choked up just hearing them have real conversation about their lives. It’s so fun listening in on a conversation that feels like it would’ve happened the same way, even if they weren’t recording. After I blasted through several episodes of Jamie’s show, I got turned onto That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs. She has similar guests and conversations, but she has a cool perspective, too. Basically what I’ve realized is that these two hosts are writers, they have writers on their shows frequently, and I am totally inundated with books I want to buy/read because of it. And these aren’t usually novels that I can get on my Kindle and just blast through in a few days because they’re easy reads. These are the sort of life-changing books that I want to dig into. I want to have my own paper copy because I like underlining and circling and reading them again and again. For instance, I’ve already ordered Annie’s Let’s All Be Brave and one of her guests’ (John Mark Comer) books called Garden City. I want to hear the Lord speaking to me, I want to learn about Him and others’ experiences with Him and His goodness. Wouldn’t you?

Now don’t think I’m all crazy – I don’t necessarily think that God ordained these people to say things that are meant just for me. But I do think that there is knowledge we can glean from hearing about others’ journeys. I think we can hear from God when hearing someone else talk, teach, preach. I think we are more in tune to His voice than we think, but we often don’t give Him the credit when He speaks to us through the words of others.

Do you have any podcasts that you think I’d like? Please comment with them! I’m LOVING listening to them!!

Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold, by Margaret Atwood

hag seed
Image of the book cover found on Google.

I must admit, when I caught sight of this book on the shelf at the library, I snagged it without even reading the cover, simply because I knew I had read Margaret Atwood before and loved it. So I began Hag-Seed without really knowing what I was getting into.

The book is a part of Hogarth Shakespeare, a project I actually hadn’t heard of before. It aims to see Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed modern novelists. The Tempest is the story being retold here, and to be honest, it’s a play I’m not familiar with, but Atwood summarizes it at the end of the book.

The premise of Hag-Seed is that a washed-up play director with a reputation for pushing boundaries gets screwed out of his job by a colleague. He has an epic meltdown, sets his sights on revenge, and then moves to a new town to start over, teaching literacy through theatre (read: Shakespeare) at a local prison. He takes Shakespeare’s plays, and adapts them for his rag-tag group of convicts, letting them take some artistic license, of course. Together they do costumes, set design, and even film the production at the end of the class to be viewed by the other inmates. Of course, the play being done when we are a part of the story is The Tempest. The director is definitely a little bit bonkers, obsessed with his former life and bringing his eccentricities with him to his new one, but it makes for an interesting read to see how everything comes together at the end.

I wouldn’t call it an easy beach read, but I would definitely say it’s worth a try! The beginning dragged a little for me, so don’t put it down when you realize the story doesn’t truly start till a few chapters in. Find it at your local library, and give Hogarth Shakespeare a try! I’d like to find another book from the project, and give it a try, too.

Our First Chapter Book

Recently, I’ve been noticing that my daughter was ready to read something big… something that went on from night to night, and didn’t even need to have pictures! This was a big deal for us, since she is only four and cannot read yet. It was also a challenge because the brothers wouldn’t be reading this book… just EK and me. I remember my mom reading Harry Potter to my brother and me as they came out, and now I’m a Potterhead. I’d love to cause a deep love for a story in my kids.

I happened to be at Barnes and Noble about this time buying a few new books for our home and a friend of mine with a new baby. Naturally, I wandered to the chapter book section (within the children’s books) and began looking around. I came upon a new series of books, sponsored by Disney’s Hyperion, and thought they looked very interesting, as they were set in our home state. They were books about a special girl called Serafina, and the first of the series mentioned something about a black cloak. So after reading the back cover, I snagged it.

It wasn’t until a couple of chapters in that I realized this was a little over EK’s head. I don’t mean that she couldn’t keep up with the story. I mean more that I would need to stop and explain words a little too often, and I would need to alter the words here and there… a lot of “kill” or “murder” and many details about blood.

That being said, I learned two things. I learned that I need to be a lot more familiar with the book I choose to read to her than reading the back cover.  I need to ask friends, do research, or choose a book I have read before or have time to read before I start it with her. Next, she is ready for an interesting and complicated storyline. She loved the book, asking me questions and keeping up from day to day (or few days) between reading sessions. Four and a half is not too young to read a chapter book and expect them to remember it! I just should have been a little choosier with the book.

Tomorrow we plan to visit Barnes and Noble after school to choose our next book. I plan to lead her to a certain direction, but I am excited to begin a new journey with my daughter that is just for us. 

What have you read to your kids? Do you have a suggestion for what we should read next?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Unexpected But Great

I have been waiting for this book for a million years. Okay, well, I’ve been waiting since the The Deathly Hallows came out for JK Rowling to announce that she had a little more to say. You can imagine I was thrilled when I heard that there was a new part of the story.

I will say that reading a play has always been a little weird for me, so when I realized that the book was actually a script, I was slightly disappointed. I love Rowling’s style, even in The Casual Vacancy, so to hear that this was just her story, and not truly her writing, was a little sad.

That being said, I REALLY enjoyed reading it! Yes, there was an element of the enjoyment that was happiness to be immersed in the wizarding world again. I mean, muggles get me down, ya know? But I actually enjoyed the story and getting a glimpse into the adult lives of Harry and the other characters I’ve loved so well for so long. ((Here are where the spoilers start hopping in there… if you plan to read it but haven’t yet, watch out!)) It was an interesting story and concept that Voldemort had procreated (yikes) so I had to read it in basically one sitting to ease my mind.

I didn’t really like the time travel obsession of the story. I mean, I get the time-turner idea and how they wanted to go back, and then they HAD to go back again to fix things. But it was confusing and convoluted, especially when I wasn’t seeing it, I was just reading a script that was inevitably less detailed than it would’ve been in book form. It also raised questions of “what if?” and “why this?” in several situations. Like, if the Potter’s house was under the Fidelius charm, why could everyone see it when they travelled back? And wasn’t it a little insulting to Cedric’s previously upstanding character to make him have one bad experience and turn to Dark Magic? I always liked Cedric! And Amos seemed old and bitter, but then I guess I understand that losing a child could probably make you crazy.

Anyway, overall, I’d recommend that you read it. Whether you’re a Potterhead or not, you’ll probably enjoy it. I know several people who were disappointed in it, but we all probably had unrealistic expectations, since JK Rowling didn’t actually write this one. It’s a quick read, so you’ve got nothing to lose. I enjoyed it, and plan to read it again once I’ve let my copy circulate through the friends who are borrowing it! If you’ve read it, tell me what you think!

Saturday Review: The Vanishing Game by William Boyd

For the Reading Challenge I’m doing, there’s a category that was extremely easy to fulfill: A book you can finish in a day. For this category, I had actually already downloaded a short ebook on my Kindle that had been “recommended for me” (you know how they’re always predicting things you might like?) called The Vanishing Game by William Boyd.

vanishing game

The book itself was good but a little oddly laid out. There were pictures (on my Kindle, no less) and the 8 chapters seemed more important, like if the book was longer, they would’ve been big sections.

The book was endorsed by Land Rover (the car that the main character drove the entire time), which I thought was interesting. Seems strange for a car company to commission a book, but they wanted the book to join with Land Rover in celebration of adventure. I get it, I guess 🙂

I also like a nice, clean finish at the end of mysteries, and I didn’t really get one at the end. There was a little resolution, but it still left me with lots of questions. It was a quick, easy and fun read, though, and I’d definitely recommend it if you need one day’s worth of entertainment!