Monday, January 30, 2012

Not Just Hiking - January 2012

Want to see what I am reading and have read before I post my complete list at the end of the month? Want to know when I read a book or what I am going to read? Check out my Goodreads page. Want to see a list of every physical book in this house? Want to know what my husband read? Want to know what my kids own? Visit LibraryThing.


The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein
I loved it. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful trilogy. Who doesn't love the triumph of good over evil? Who can't love Sam? I think I would read the trilogy over again just to get to the last book.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson
This was a book club choice for January, and at first I did not really like it. I am not sure I would have liked much 2 hours after finishing Tolkein. Maybe I should have waited a day. Slowly the story grew on me. Once I realized this was a story about mental illness (although some in my book club disagreed - the girl at the gravesite was NOT real!!) and not about a girl lost in the wilderness, I began to enjoy and appreciate it. It turned into a compelling read. I am glad this was a book I "had" to read otherwise I would have put it down at page 30. For more information on the Frank Slide visit the interpretive center website (one of the more depressing history centers I have ever had the chance to visit.) For a great book about mental illness review Drawing Mental Illness.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
Enjoyable. The Boston Globe called it "as casually unadorned as rawhide," which I thought was a perfect description. Above all, this is a story about finding HOME.

The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler
This was a quick (2-hour) read on a lazy afternoon one weekend. I have the same question now that he asked at the beginning of the book. If something happened to me, what would my kids remember of my voice?

Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare
The first of my 12 Shakespeare plays this year. Not my favorite, but still good. The movie was great!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
Not an easy read, but well worth the time I put into it.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
The 4th of 16 books from the Tournament of Books I have read. (Last year I read The Sisters Brothers, The Cat's Table, and The Marriage Plot.) I don't really have any intention of reading all of the nominations, but when seaching for a good book to read, go to a reliable source. In the first round, this one is up against The Cat's Table. I think Swamplandia! is the better of the two books, but neither author made me really care about the characters until it was almost too late. Good enough story, no emotional pull.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
The 5th of 16 books from the Tournament of Books, this had quite a few similarities to Swamplandia! They both had dead mothers, kids with no emotional or physical support, daughters searching, sons looking for a way out, fighting animals and ultimate restitution of family. However, I found this book to be far more compelling and a much more enjoyable read. I think this books had more "life." Perhaps, having lived in South Texas, I also find the characters to be more familiar. Don't think I am saying that I know what these people go through or how they live, but I have seen them and I know who they are.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
This was the book club choice for February. I have a feeling that I will be in the minority, but I really liked this book. T.S. Eliot called it the first great mystery. Collins was a contemporary and friend of Dickens. It is set in Victorian times. It was well written. My guess, from what I have heard is that people don't like it because of the language. Which was one of the reasons why I liked it. Besides, it was a good story.

Watership Down by Richard Adams
So how is this for a recommendation ... my younger brother and my oldest son say this is one of their favorite books. Since I love and trust them both, and since I think they are both smarter than me, and since their recommendations are usually spot on I decided to read this during a quiet week when none of my choices had come in at the library and none of my book orders had arrived from Amazon. So, nominally, this is a book about rabbits. But if all you ever get out of it is a rabbit story, I suggest you stick with Beatrix Potter. This is a book about trial and hardship and loss and loyalty. It is about the daily struggle to live in a world that doesn't want you. But it is also about living in that world and making it your own. I loved it and I will definitely read it again. (J has read it 5 times.) There is no more devastatingly sorrowful chapter in all of literature that chapter 17 of this book.

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore
This was not a planned read and not a chosen read. I guess you could say it was thrust on me in a heated moment. My oldest son reads anything he can get his hands on and has been reading at a high-school level since he was in 3rd grade. But what do you do with a 12 year old boy who read every book or series out there for the 9-12 crowd by the time he was 9? How do you continue to find works that challenge him but aren't too mature? And here was the discussion. My husband thinks the boys should read more Westerns. They don't because he doesn't take the time to encourage them. They read classics and mythology because when they were young that is what I read to them. They graduated to Rick Riordan and never looked back. In a bit of a heated discussion last night I suggested that if he wanted to influence what they read he needed to know what they read. He took one look at Book 7 in this series and declared it inappropriate. He didn't read it in context and he didn't care to. He was just mad. So I took it upon myself to see what the series is about. Long story short .. I read this first in his series in one sitting. It isn't great (or even good literature) but I can see why it appeals to a 12 year old boy. It definitely has more mature content than most of the other books he has read, but I doubt it isn't anything he hasn't heard on the bus or at school. I wouldn't let my 8 year old read them, but I decided it would be o.k. for my older son. There are a lot of "better" books he could be reading, but when your teacher assigns you The Iliad in 6th grade sometimes you just need a break.

Big Jake
I am a big John Wayne fan. My dad raised me on him (and Elvis). I will never forget the day we found out The Duke had died. He was larger than life and this is one of his best.

Much Ado About Nothing directed by Kenneth Branagh
Because Mrs. M-mv said so, "One thing I've pounded home, here and elsewhere, is that the introduction to Shakespeare should be as much like Shakespeare's intended experience as possible -- that is, his plays were meant to be seen and heard, not read." This made me laugh on a day I needed some joy in my life. I love Michael Keaton.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
As soon as M finishes one, we get to see the movie. When he finishes all, he gets the BIG Lego set. I haven't read these in a while so the story is a surprise again.

The Return of the King
The end of the trilogy. And just like the written story, I found this last to be the best. And just like in the books, I was moved to tears by the courage and loyalty of one Samwise Gamgee.

Total Books in 2012: 11

Other Notes:
I started Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland, but I didn't finish it. Bored.

Nabokov on the Brain

Lots and lots on the internet today about my favorite author (who was also my favorite word - lepidopterist).

From an article in Flavorwire.

And from the newest list of the Top Ten Works of the 20th Century.

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
4. Ulysses* by James Joyce
5. Dubliners* by James Joyce
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
9. The complete stories of Flannery O’Connor
10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Do You Choose What to Read?

I have been visiting a few more blogs than usual this month and I have begun to wonder, how do you choose what you read?

I have two books a month I have to read. And have to is pretty strong. The first is my book club book. I know quite a few people who go to book club just for the social part. But if I have joined a group then I feel I need to do my duty. I haven't loved any of the books that we have shared, but I have liked a few and would have never chosen them on my own. I have also met some women who I like. As I am becoming more introverted as I age, it is always a good thing to meet people you like.

The second book I feel I have to read is my personal challenge book. And if you know me, my personal challenge, while phrased as a challenge, is really more of a loose goal. I set out to read 12 major classics last year. I didn't finish 12, but I read four. Then I moved and then other books caught my eye. But those four were worth it.

I came across a website earlier today with a very well defined list of 52 (very challenging) books the author will read this year that fit into 24 challenges and projects. I asked the question in the comments and I will ask it here. And while sometimes my questions come across as critical this really was just a question. I really am curious.

How do you choose what you read?

Do you plan?

And if you plan, do you make any allowances for the book that you didn't plan to read but that sneaks up on you. You know, the one you walk past at the bookstore with the appealing cover or the book that your brother (or sister or best friend) mails to you with a note that says, “You have to read this!” What do you do with spontaneous books? The ones that might, just might, surprise you.

I admit it. I plan a lot of my life. When we went to DisneyWorld I had a day by day plan of everything we wanted to accomplish including where to eat and what rides to ride. We followed the plan. We did not miss a thing. We had the time of our lives. I would do it that way again.

I have just about every weekend from now until September planned. I don't want to miss a great event or outdoor opportunity.

I know plans change. Ours often do.

But I don't plan what to read. I give myself a challenge a year and then I wing it. I do have a TBR pile, but it is really more just a list of books I will get to some day.

Because of winging it, I just finished Watership Down which has moved to the very top of my "Books I Love" list. My son had recommended it to me. My brother had recommended it to me. So when I had some free time and no books from my hold list at the library available and no new books from Amazon, I read it. Oh what I would have missed if I hadn't. I would have missed chapter 17. To have gone my whole life with reading that chapter would have been a tragedy.

Winging it also means feeling free to put down that truly awful book ... good-bye The Help! Because there are too many good book out there to waste time with bad books.

So how do you chose what to read?
How do you feel if you don't meet your own expectations?
Do you accomplish you goals?
Wht about that "spontaneous" book?

P.S. If you have a list and Mrs. Dalloway is on it, be warned. I am a pretty fast reader and that book took me almost a month. It was worth it, so stay with it.

Quote of the Day

I figured I would have read so many books by now that I would have some measure of wisdom. But really, it’s hard to feel wise while raising kids. And there are so many more books to read. ~Edward Petit, The Bibliothecary

This was at the top of Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Could not resist copying it here. Kind of sums things up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Birthday

My best friend's little girl turns two tomorrow. I was there when she was born and I was there when her older brother was born. My friend was there when J was born and when M was born. She was there when Charlie died and and she was there when Charlie was born. Because my husband was on the other side of the world that day, she sat on my sofa and held my hand. She didn't say anything. She didn't need to.

She was there when the doctor told me that M might be suffering form a massive brain tumor at the age of 6 months. She sat with me when I took him to have an ultrasound that would determine the course of my amazing little boys life. She cried the same tears of joy that I did when they told me that he just has a big head. Then we laughed.

She and her very funny husband celebrated our anniversary with us at the most amazing dinner we have ever eaten. She helped me celebrate my 30th which was a disaster and she single-handedly planned my 40th which was one of the best nights of my life.

She waved goodbye when we moved to Asia and she was the first one to greet us when we came back. She is the very first person I will visit on my way home from Canada.

She is closer to me than my sister. She is the person that, if anything should happen to us, we have chosen to raise our kids.

I know, you thought this post was about a little girl's birthday. It is. Happy Birthday C. I want you to know that you are gifted every day with an amazing mother. I miss you and your big brother. I would give just about anything tomorrow to run over to your house and give you a big kiss and hug.

But I miss your mom more.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Way!

I don't know if my Houston Public Library had this or not. But all I know is that I can CHECK OUT e-books from the library and read them on my iPad. That Rocks.

So I am "totally" a child of the 80's.

First up, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, one of the 13 books I haven't read in this years Tournament of Books. I don't even care if it is good. I am just excited I don't even have to GO to the library now to get the books I want. I can check them out on my iPad sitting in front of the fire. Where It. Is. Warm.

Life is good.

Oh WOW! Life is even better! Since I still have my Harris County Library Card I can check e-books out from them too!!! Yippee. O.K. so now I am just a geek.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I opened Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas in late December and almost immediately put it back down. I think my problem was that I began with the Introduction and the Prologue.

After putting the book down, then starting and finishing two other books, I picked it up again at a more favorable time and with high temps reaching only -15℉. I was settled into my house for a week and this time I began with the first chapter. When the author allows Bonhoeffer to do the speaking and begins to tell the story of an amazing life, the writing comes alive.

He grew up in a family that believed the essence of learning lay not in a formal education but in the deeply rooted obligation to be guardians of a great historical heritage and intellectual tradition. pg. 5 without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God. pg. 14

Karl Bonhoefffer taught his children to speak only when they had something to say. He did not tolerate sloppiness of expression any more than he tolerated self-pity or selfishness or boastful pride. pg. 15

Dietrich said, "even if you were to knock my head off, God would still exist." pg. 38*

As long as we let the word be our only armor we can look confidently into the future. pg. 57

He could appreciate the value in something, even if he ultimately rejected that something--and could see the errors and flaws in something, even if he ultimately accepted that something. pg. 61

...he often said that if one couldn't communicate the most profound ideas about God and the Bible to children, something was amiss. pg. 64

Then he came to his main point: the essence of Christianity is not about religion at all, but about the person of Christ. pg. 83

Philosophy was man's search for truth apart from God. But theology begins and ends with faith in Christ, who reveals himself to man; apart from such revelation, there could be no such things as truth. pg. 89

Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has heard how they try to persuade a new resident that you'll get into society quite differently by doing so, anyone who has become acquainted with the embarrassing nervousness with which the pastor lobbies for membership--that person can well assess the character of such a church. All these things, of course,take place with varying degrees of tactfulness, taste, and seriousness; some churches are basically "charitable" churches; others have primarily a social identity. One cannot avoid the impression, however, that in both cases they have forgotten what the real point is. pg. 107

It became clear to me that the life of a servant of Jesus Christ must belong to the Church. pg. 123

On cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. Pg. 136

"If you board the wrong train," he said, "it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction." pg. 187

He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead. pg. 196

He felt that what was especially missing from the life of Christians in Germany was the day-to-day reality of dying to self, of following Christ with every ounce of one's being in every moment, in every part of one's life....Christ must be brought into every square inch of the world and the culture, but one's faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust. pg 248

...between the Scylla of orthodoxy and the Charybdis of confessionlessness. pg. 286

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. pg. 363

There is so much more to this book than I can ever express in words. The powerful story of a man who LIVED in CHRIST. In Bonhoeffer's life, there could not be one without the other. LIFE and CHRIST. He was not (as my old pastor used to say), "to worldly for heavenly good or to heavenly for worldly good." He understood that, "it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith," and "being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin that about courageously and actively doing God's will."

In the end, he is a testimony to the truth that "the only fight which is lost is that which we give up."

This is not an easy book. It took a week of solid and thoughtful reading. While you don't need a Ph.D. to complete it, it does take some education. You don't have to know what Scylla and Charybdis are, but it would sure help.

By the way, I still haven't read the Intro and Prologue.

*My husband said almost the same thing during a discussion about the influence of faith in Scouting just the other day, "Just because you don't believe, it doesn't mean God doesn't exist."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Worth It

We spent the weekend in Fernie, BC and I could be writing about the 8 inches of fresh powder. I could be writing about the great runs. Or I could be writing about the short lift lines and the great friends we travelled with.

But I am not writing about those things.

I am writing about my new boot heaters.

Slip the insoles into your boots ... my new ski boots came pre-wired ... charge up the batteries and turn them on. Warm toes! I am not kidding.

Eight inches of powder and below freezing temps. Warm toes. Worth. Every. Penny

How Many Challenges?

I just visited a blog connected to the only online book challenge I am participating in this year. Honestly it isn't even much of a challenge as I often read many more books than 52 (last year with an international move being the exception). I have some personal challenges, but those are personal and will not have a blog dedicated to them or a special webpage. You would have to read my blog, and I mean really read it, to even know what my personal challenge is.

And that is when I almost fell off my chair. At one blog I counted eleven challenges. Really? A Medieval challenge and a Feminist Classics challenge and an Around the World challenge. I guess if you count books toward more than one challenge you might finish. I have to say, I think that is cheating. In my opinion, if you join the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge and the 150+ challenge then you should read 202 books.

Now THAT would be a challenge!

***Update ... I found someone with 29 challenges.

What $10 Million Gets You

If I had $10 million dollars lying around, I just might buy this.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I just finished Alexandra Fuller's Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and what moved me the most was it's idea of HOME.

People often ask why my parents haven't left Africa. Simply put, they have been possessed by this land. Land is Mum's love affair and it is Dad's religion. pg.118

Each time Mum set sail or moved to another farm or gave up a country, she had to assess what would fit into a few boxes....Considering that Mum has always moved with a full complement of animals and a sizable library, precious few other acquisitions have survived the shift from one place to the next. "Lost, stolen, broken, died, left behind," she says. pg. 122

He wanted a farm, land on which to root his growing family. pg. 130

This struck me because this week, I have been missing home. My husband did not help by reminding me that we currently don't own a home, but that isn't what I meant. I miss belonging. I miss my friends. I don't miss the place as much as the feeling.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Worthwhile Map

Slate magazine has an article on a guy named David Imus who made an award winning map. It is actually an interesting article about an award I didn't even know existed until today, the Best of Show award from the Cartography and Geographic Information society.

I love his map. The article gives lots of reasons why you should appreciate the map. But I love this map for one reason. And I think it is brilliant.

Look at the differences. What do you see in the first that the second does not have? Exactly, the best University in the country has now been found map-worthy. And apparently it is more map-worthy than that other school. Go Northwstern Go!

(And yes, for that reason alone, I purchase the $40 rolled and laminated map and paid $20 to haveit shipped to Canada. Some things are worth it.)

Friday, January 6, 2012


What a great name for a science museum.

We spent our first museum visit since moving to Calgary (I can't believe we haven't been yet - I am museum crazy) at the SPARK Science Center enjoying Astronomy night.

We had so much fun. We took the telescope that my brother gave us for Christmas 3 YEARS ago to the "learn how to use your telescope" night hosted by the Center and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. I had no idea that we have an Equatorial Mount scope. Until last night I didn't even know what and equatorial mount was. The best part of the evening ... after learning how to set up the telescope and taking it outdoors, WE had a line of people waiting to look at the moon. Gives new meaning to the words "amateur astronomy night."

Can't wait to practice and go back in February.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Give and You Shall Receive

Via The Morning News ... if you sign up to be an organ donor in Israel, you move higher up on the list in case you need an organ.

I understand the thought process behind this policy, but I am not sure I agree with it. What if someone else needs the organ more than you do? This is the country with the lowest rate of registration in the Western World, so your chances might be slim otherwise. Would you take advantage of this? Two kids I want to see growing up and a life I haven't finished yet vs (what I assume would be) a "faceless/nameless" other might make me say yes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Book of the Year

I finished my first book of the year. I would have finished it earlier, or even last year, but I got to spend 30 hours driving in six days over the Christmas Break. Ta Da ...

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein
I loved it. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful trilogy. Who doesn't love the triumph of good over evil? Who can't love Sam? I think I would read the trilogy over again just to get to the last book.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Never Again

We've moved a lot, but, until our most recent move, I have never lost anything. Many, many things have been broken or damaged. But nothing ever got lost along the way. This time two boxes went missing. One box had M's cowboy hat in it. Easily replaceable in Calgary, especially around Stampede time. No biggy.

The other box was full of books.

Now I love my books. I have carried my copy of The Annotated Lolita, an absolute favorite and a memory of college from Chicago, to California, Argentina, Texas, Korea and Canada. Thankfully that was not in the box that got lost. My Shakespeare picture book, the one I have had since I was 10, that did not get lost. See, I can tell you all of the books that didn't get lost. Bark George? Yes, it made it. None of the essentials are gone. J and M's faves also made it.

What I can't do is tell you what was in the box. Did some of my husband's college Engineering textbooks go missing? One can only hope.

The benefit of moving with a major corporation is that they will replace anything that gets lost. But I couldn't remember. I could put a general value on the box ... it was small so $300 seemed about right. But I'll never replace what was in THAT box.

Never Again.

I am not an obsessive cataloguer. I don't keep lists. But I have decided that this is one list that will be invaluable. I have reworked my Library Thing account and paid for a lifetime membership. Smart, cause if my computer gets lost, the whole list will be online! Right now, only the books that are in Canada with us will be on the list (cause if I can't remember what was in one box, do you really think I will be able to remember what are in the 200 other boxes we left in Texas?)

Some of the books will never be able to be replaced if lost (like the Lolita), but at least I won't wonder what I lost.

If you are a Library Thing member, let's be friends. Just remember, I am putting ALL of the books in the house in the general "Your Library" category. If you want to see what I read, you will have to look under "Patricia's" Library.