Reading: February 2020

Do you ever read the last page before you get to the end?

I do. All the time. I read 30-50 pages to get to know the characters, and then I need to know who will still be important at the end. Generally, I don’t understand the action so it doesn’t give much away. Although it did take the luster off Gone Girl.

A friend gifted me a Kindle edition of The Immortalists and I realized that reading on a Kindle keeps me from checking the ending before its time. Of course I could scroll ahead, but I don’t. I laughed at myself when I realized it made me itchy, being out of my reading routine, plus the irony of not knowing the ending from the beginning which directly connected with the plot line of The Immortalists, in which the main characters discover as children the date on which they would die- they knew the ending from the beginning.

Look Alive Out There

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I almost didn’t finish this one. Maybe it’s because Crosley is a New Yorker and I am a California girl, but the first two chapters felt aggressive and off-putting. I stumbled through a few more, and decided to commit when I got to a chapter about her deciding on a whim to climb Cotopaxi, a 20,000-foot active volcano outside Quito, Ecuador. Since my husband and son recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I know a few things about how to prepare yourself for this type of adventure. Crosley did nothing beyond hiring a guide, not even allowing herself time in Quito to acclimate to being above sea level. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t summit.

She can write, that’s for sure, and she’s willing to take some bold (stupid?) risks but her attempts at humor made her less rather than more attractive as a narrator. I’m glad I’m done with it, and I don’t expect to pick up her books again.

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mesmerizing. I don’t know what a singing crawdad sounds like, but my brain buzzed with the heavy-hot song of cicadas as I read this beautiful book. It was a fascinating companion to The Giver of Stars, both about women who don’t fit in, who balk against cultural standards to live their own lives.

The Giver of StarsThe Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy (enjoyed book 1 best),  this book came as a big surprise- it’s so different! Set in the US/Appalachian Mountains in 1930’s, it follows the Works Progress Administration Packhorse Librarians, women who road trails to remote areas to promote literacy. These brave women faced off against cultural mores, physical threats, and personal challenges to make the world a better place for themselves and those they served. A beautiful book.

I received a free copy of this book from Viking through a Goodreads giveaway.

Millenneagram: The Enneagram Guide for Discovering Your Truest, Baddest SelfMillenneagram: The Enneagram Guide for Discovering Your Truest, Baddest Self by Hannah Paasch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Foul-mouthed and funny, this might be the most helpful enneagram book I’ve read. I didn’t read every word, just sections relevant to me.

The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you could know the date on which you would die, would you want to?
If you did know, how would it affect your life?

I wouldn’t want to know, and this book confirmed that.

Told in five sections, an intro plus one for each of the four Gold children, this book examines life and death from various angles. And it’s an epic family saga to boot. It’s bold and smart and beautiful.

However, trigger warning: suicide.

“Life isn’t just about defying death… It’s also about defying yourself, about insisting on transformation. As long as you can transform, my friends, you cannot die” (130).

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Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. 

Cover image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Smell the Roses

It’s rose season!

I take a lot, and I mean a lot, of pictures of flowers. Roses especially, but any beautiful flower that captures my attention.

Taking pictures—just on my iPhone, nothing too fancy—is for me a joy-filled discipline of noticing.

I stop. I lean in. I frame the subject. I go for a better angle. I see the flower, its unique bloom. The way the petals curl, the nuances of color, the contrast with its foliage and/or background in the frame. This flower, in this moment, this beauty.

I allow the bloom to give me pause, to be present to the goodness in the world. It is good for my soul.

And then, generally, if the picture captures anywhere near the truth of what I saw, I share it. Because we all need more beauty, more goodness, more joy and peace in our lives.

This may seem an obvious omission, but what I don’t always do? Smell the rose.

I read recently (because I’m always reading) that someone took a breath so deep that it was like inhaling the smell of a rose all the way down to her toes.

Yes!

That phrase captivated my imagination. I could see myself leaning in even closer, phone down, sticking my nose inside a gorgeous, single white rose in full bloom. Inhaling all the way down into my toes. What a way to slow down and become present.

So I’m adding “smell the roses” to my discipline of noticing, whether or not I have my phone in hand.

I discovered this blessing the other day, and it seems appropriate to share here:

May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
Amen. Let it be so.

(John O’Donohue’s Blessing for Solitude, from The Road Back to You by Cron & Stabile, p230)