Sunday, January 27, 2019

Out Sick, Listen, and Read

Have I mentioned I rang in the new year with sickness? Yes, 2019 has been a struggle for me up until now. This is the first weekend I've felt like myself in the last month. There's no need to go into details about the whole thing, but I will say that when I'm too sick to read, you know it's bad. It's also the reason I didn't blog last Sunday. I'm not a whiner, but I'd felt physically bad for too long and was afraid if I managed to blog at all, I might have a meltdown. I'm one of those "grin and bear it" kind of people, so meltdowns don't go well on the very rare occasions when I have them. Trust me. (See? I spared you all that. You're welcome. ;)

I am also one of those "silver lining" kind of people, so...the good news is that because I wasn't up to reading last weekend, I listened. And I enjoyed everything I heard...

Unfu*k Yourself

I love brutal honesty. If you like it, too, or you just need to hear some, Gary John Bishop's Unfu*k Yourself is a definite Audible winner. Bishop narrates his own book and gives you a good, common sense "talking-to" (as my grandma used to say).

I should tell you, I'm not a self-help book person. At all. But I feel like Bishop's is not a self-help, it's a guide to help you clear your thinking and help you understand the importance of life choices. I agreed with everything he said because I'm at an age where experience has already taught me...the hard way. I wish I'd had his voice in my ear 35 years ago. Would I have listened? I'd like to think so.

In an ever-changing world, where the more ways we have to communicate, the less truly connected we are, people need to learn their own minds. They need to know how to live authentic lives instead of social media ones. Personally, I think everyone would benefit from hearing what Bishop has to say, whether it's to learn...or to confirm.

(Side note: Bishop is Scottish and has a lovely dialect. Listening was a delight.)

Almost Everything

If you don't know Anne Lamott, you're missing out. I fell in love with her words many years ago when I read Bird by Bird. The book had such an impact on me, I wrote in the front of the book when and where I began the journey into her world of words. I think she's quite amazing.

All that being said, I'd never heard her read her own words until last weekend. I was excited to hear her Audible narration of Almost Everything. I knew what to expect, personality wise, because I've read her writing and her deadpan, dry sense of humor comes through in most everything she writes.

Almost Everything is funny and wise and sarcastic and hopeful. Lamott acknowledges the world could end any moment, but she also believes we should live with the hope it won't. I told you I love brutal honesty, and Lamott has plenty of that with a bit of dark humor, but she also believes in kindness and empathy and love.

I have to say that I was more than a bit offended when I read a book review that called this book "new age" stuff, when it isn't at all. (But, you know, ignorant people who limit their exposure to the world around them tend to be...labelists.) Lamott may talk about spirituality in a way that a strick denominationist may not understand, or that a diehard atheist may not care to hear, but that's because they lack the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it and moving on. At no time is Lamott preaching her beliefs, some things simply come out as a reference in a few anecdotes she tells. Labelists don't like it when they have difficulty labeling you, and I assure you Lamott is quite good at avoiding those labels, as she believes in many good things in many different ways. I should also mention I don't agree with everything she says,.. but I'm certainly entertained by it.

To sum it up, in terms you might understand better,...if you enjoy brutal honesty, a sense of humor that's a bit twisted, and a heart full of light and goodness with a Lily Tomlin voice, Anne Lamott is for you.

Sea Creatures

I read Sea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel, this weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a solid read. By that, I mean it's excellent writing, well-paced, interesting, and thought-provoking about the ordinary things in life. It also makes you wonder what you'd do in the same circumstances if the push in your life came to shove.

The plot revolves around Georgia, our narrator, who moves to Florida with her husband and toddler son. Her business has shutdown and her husband, a professor, had an incident that caused him to lose his job. They buy a used houseboat, park it in her father's boat slip and try to start over. There are two main problems in Georgia's life: her husband's terrible night terrors/sleeping disorder and her three year old son won't talk, won't make a sound. Oh, there are other problems, to be sure, but those are her most difficult ones at the opening of the novel. 

Georgia tells us about her life in fragments, flashbacks, to help us understand who she is as the main story moves along, and it flows well. The author weaves a good story about what makes us who we are, why we make the choices we make, and how loving the people in our lives is a complicated thing that only our own hearts can define.

Good book.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Turtle Warrior

In a world of watered-down contemporary fiction, I certainly notice when a book has bite. The Turtle Warrior, by Mary Relindes Ellis, is definitely the kind of novel that leaves behind teeth marks in your soul.

I found this treasure in a used bookshop in Kailua, Hawaii. It was both the title and the picture on the cover that drew me to it. I saw it was a debut novel (from 2004), and I just knew it needed to go home with me. And I was right.

First, let me say, the writing is excellent. The story is told by different narrators, and it isn't labeled by chapter, or section, who is who. But it isn't confusing at all. The author had confidence in the ability of her writing, and her readers' brains, to make it clear who was speaking. I love the different perspectives and back stories of the characters. Like I said, excellent writing.

Second, I will tell you that it isn't easy to read about the tragedy of some people's lives. Yes, it is fiction, but it is very much realistic fiction. It is everything life is: happy, tragic, disappointing, surprising, euphoric, lonely, and loving.

Third, and last, I will tell you the plot revolves around a boy, Bill, and his life. It begins when he is young and dreams of fighting bad guys with a wooden sword his big brother made him and an old turtle shell for a shield. But life for Bill is harsh on a Wisconsin farm in the 1960s with an alcoholic father, an unbalanced mother, and a beloved older brother who goes off to war and leaves him behind. It's a story about surviving childhood and living with decisions and forgiving and hoping to find a better life.

It's a worthy read. I don't think any synopsis could have prepared me for the incredible story that unfolded in this book. I'm so glad I read it. I hope you will decide to read it one day, too.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Year, Same Me

Don't look here if you're looking for my New Year's resolution. I resolved not to do those anymore, and it was absolutely the best New Year's resolution I ever made...and have kept. As the title of this post indicates, while it IS a new year, I am still very much the same me. Of course, in truth,...I am also constantly changing - as, I hope, we all are. But the changing? Yep, that's still the same me. 

I haven't blogged for...quite awhile, in case you hadn't noticed, but it's been a year full of more changes and adjustments than I've ever had to handle. But I have it all handled now. Quite nicely, too, I might add (though it sure didn't feel like it while I was going through it).

In upcoming blogs I will share several stories about a variety of things: my new location, my new job, my goal to finish a novel (something my daughters bug me about on a continuous basis - bless their sadistic hearts), my writing journey, and - as always - my reading journey. 

Barring death or dismemberment, I'll post every Sunday. I may post more often than that, from time to time, but definitely every Sunday. It's when I tend to reflect the best...and have the most quiet. 

Tune in next week to hear about the odd books found (and bought) in a used bookstore in Hawaii, as well as a review on the book I'm currently reading. 

Until then, happy reading!