What I’m Reading, August 2017

This month has been stressful, in spite of the fact that we took a week’s vacation with the kids to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary.

I am thankful for the chance to get away and build stronger relationships and store away good memories.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s August QuickLit.

Camino Island by John Grisham

The story begins with a theft of rare manuscripts from a university library.

Then we’re taken to a Florida bookshop and an undercover operation to recover the manuscripts.

John Grisham’s stories are easy to read. You can figure out the characters and stay with the plot without a lot of work, even if you’re stressed.

I’m not sure I would have noticed that, except that I heard him say something about not introducing more than 5 new characters in the first few chapters.

There’s some elements I didn’t like about Camino Island. I might not be reading John Grisham any more, since I seem to be growing an increasing sensitivity to those elements.

I wish I could combine the strengths of some authors with others.

It was interesting to see a story about the bookselling world, even if it was cheapened by taudry scenes.

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

It took 100 pages for this story to really get good. But, when it did, I was hooked.

Who can resist the search for a lost city? There’s quite an appeal to explore virgin territory, untouched by human hands for centuries, but yet once a thriving civilization.

The book took a left turn for the last fourth and covered tropical diseases, almost leaving archeology in the dust. I found the information interesting, but it certainly wasn’t where I was expecting the book to go.

A Place of Refuge by K. M. Gross

The story is set in Montana and revolves around Dani, a young woman escaping an abusive relationship and Matt, who’s dealing with grief and loss.

A Place a Refuge is recommended for young readers, say 12-16. I liked the moral tone of the book.

Kudos to the author for her debut novel.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House traces several decades of whites and blacks during slavery in the South.

I can’t really say I liked the story line. Like the author herself said, it has some disturbing elements.

But, the story is compelling. Tragic, really, what the people of the time endured. The twisted and convoluted relationships. The evil that existed. The foundational beliefs that paved the way for so much that was twisted and convoluted.

It wasn’t graphic, given the nature of the subject matter.

Unfortunately, it rings true.  If you really want to understand the times, you have to understand the undercurrent that runs through the story.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train traces two orphans: a girl from modern times and one from the early 1900s. It’s interesting to see how the philosophy of orphan care has changed in this country, especially knowing some great foster parents and some of the inside pros and cons of the foster system.

I liked the book, except for one passage that was too graphic.

It was a fictional account, but the amazing fact is that 250,000 children rode the train over a period of several decades.

What are you reading this month?

Five Minute Friday: Place

It’s  Friday!  This has been a stressful week.  Glad to make it to Friday.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the FMF crew, writing for five minutes prompted by a word.

This week’s prompt is place.

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Where is my place in this world?

The question needs to be answered by everyone, but it gets trickier for global nomads.

That longing for belonging feels harder to satisfy when you’ve already lived several different versions of yourself.

What is the essence of belonging?

I believe it is living in community.

And, to me, the essence of community is connection.

So, now, the question remains– how do I connect to others in community to find my place of belonging?

The way to do that is to search for kindred spirits and create connection, community and culture with them.

Sound like a tall order?

Maybe.

Or maybe you could just call it an retreat or reunion. That feels doable.

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Stop wishing you read more: one simple key to reading more books

Every year, almost 5 million people google how to read more as part of their research for New Year’s Resolutions.

It comes in behind exercising and eating right, but it’s on the list of things people want to do to improve their lives.

I remember wishing I read more.  I didn’t google it and I didn’t make it a New Year’s Resolution, but I was feeling it intensely.

I still wish it sometimes, but not as often and not a strongly, since I discovered the simple key to reading more.

 

The key to reading more is to surround yourself with irresistible books.

Goals and challenges can help.

Accountability and support systems are good.

But, achievement will be almost effortless if you are surrounded by irresistible books.

The challenge will no longer be, how can I make time to read? But, how will I get my cleaning done, how do I get a full night’s sleep every night? How can I get my work done?

Not just great books, not just bestsellers, not just books that are famous, but books that are irresistible to YOU.

Finding them and getting access to them is your challenge.

How do you find them, the irresistible books?

First of all, you have to answer the question Why am I reading?

Am I reading to be educated or entertained? Do I want to learn or escape? These are the two main reasons people read.

The exceptional writers are the ones who can entertain while teaching or instruct while entertaining.

So, you mainly want to escape and be entertained? Where do you find great books? The plethora of books available makes finding ones you love a daunting task.

You could go by bestseller lists, by GoodReads or Amazon reviews, what your friends are reading, book clubs or bloggers. There’s so many great resources on the internet now to find books you love. Pinterest, instagram, twitter.

So, you’re interesting in learning? To scale up your business, to take up a new hobby, to rocket your side hustle. Or to improve your spiritual, emotional or relational life. To understand what’s happening in the world or in politics. To understand a cause or join the conversation.

This is the best time in history to connect with people with the same interests as you. You can find them online. You can find out what they’re reading and what they’re writing.

Surrounding yourself with irresistible books has never been easier.

Even with the disappearance of bookstores. Even if you’re not close to a library, the possibilities are greater than ever. There’s audio books. There’s ebooks. There’s used books–sometimes cheap online, sometimes not. There’s free books from people building their businesses.

Some people don’t consider the time that they’re exercising or commuting or cleaning the kitchen as a good time to read. But, if you add audio books into the mix, all of a sudden windows of time for reading open up.

 

Find books you love.

When you are surrounded by books you love, then it’s no longer a problem of finding time to read, it will be a problem of finding time to clean or mow the lawn or sleep.  It won’t be a matter of finding time to read.

I think this is the key. I really do. I owe a lot to Modern Mrs Darcy for helping me to find books that I love. Not that everything I’ve heard on podcast or read about in her blog have been winners, but I found out about a lot of books that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It gave this fiction snob a reason to believe that there are novels out there that I like. I had about given up hope. It felt like all the wholesome novels were not well-written and the well-written novels were not wholesome.

“Throw your phone in the ocean.”

Even with print books and ebooks, there’s the time you spend waiting, there’s the time you spend on your phone or watching tv or engaging with social media.

Austin Kleon’s number one rule for reading more is “Throw your phone in the ocean.” Nuff said.

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Try

Lately, Friday has been sneaking up on  me.

There’s been so much on my mind that I’ll be in the middle of writing my daily 500 words when it hits me:  it’s Friday!

This week has been particularly hard on the routines, which isn’t a bad thing for vacation.

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the FMF crew.

Today’s prompt is try.

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To me, try goes hand in hand with persistence.

It also goes hand in hand with courage. Trying often is proceeded by pep talks that work up the courage to take the plunge.

I remember sitting in the car once, working up the courage to walk into the office and hand in a resume. The job didn’t work out, but it felt good to face the fear and take the plunge. To do it scared.

It’s a tad disappointing to discover that as you get older, there’s still so many fears to overcome. So many chances to be brave. So many new hills still to climb.

In that way, it makes it good to flex the courage muscles.

They are always needed.

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OK, full disclosure:  I went over 5 minutes.

I wrote for 9 minutes (and I deleted my false start).

We’re on vacation this week, and I’m using my son’s computer, which doesn’t have a visible clock at the top like ours.

So, I could blame it on that.  Or, the desire I have to wrap things up and not leave them hanging, once I start a thought.  Plus the desire to crank something out in five minutes that’s worth reading.

I like the challenge of such a limited deadline.

But, I also want to post something worth reading.  Something I’m not embarrassed to promote.

Therein lies the dilemma.  And therein lies the temptation.

The temptation to look good.  Wow.  That’s a problem.  That’s a problem I struggle with daily.

So, since confession is good for the soul, now you know.

Hmm.  It’s hard to be vulnerable.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Five Minute Friday: Inspire

 

What a week.  Lots of overwhelm.  Thankful for some vacation days coming up.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the FMF crew.

Today’s prompt is: inspire.

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There’s few things that can inspire like hearing someone’s story: raw, transparent, redemptive.

Just knowing that they triumphed creates within us a hope.

If they could do it. If they survived. If they attained, made peace or reached an understanding, I can. There’s hope for me.

That’s the bottom line of inspiration.
Since we are all part of the human race and you came through it, I now have hope.

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Five Minute Friday: Collect

Another Friday and another chance to link up with Kate Motaung and the FMF community.

Five minutes of free writing on the prompt. Today’s word is collect.

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The first thing that comes to mind is sea shells.

Searching in the sand for the pretty ones. Cleaning them off, letting them dry, showing them off.

Then my mind turns to collecting friends– one of the very most valuable collections you can make.

Because when the work life is over, when positions and titles and budgets are stripped away, what remains are the relationships.

The investment you make in friendships pays dividends.

The friends you collect along the journey are the ones that help you get through the rough patches of road.

So many collections we can invest in. Why not collect friends?

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What I’m Reading, July 2017

 

July is a good time to be grateful for the good ‘ol USA.

May we never take for granted the freedoms we have, the sacrifices of those who have gone before and the foundational truths that benefit us every day.

I’m loving summer mornings.  It’s so great not to have to be out of the house by 7:30.

Not a lot of books finished this month, due mostly to an overindulgence in Blue Bloods episodes.  Gotta love summer schedules.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, a portion of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit for July.

Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

This book is a game changer.

It challenges long held beliefs and deconstructs myths.

Real Artists Don’t Starve doesn’t just refer to painters and sculptors, but writers, poets, and creatives of all types.

The twelve principles that emerged from Jeff studying creatives are supported by success stories from today and throughout history.

I love lots of them, but my favorite is about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and the literary group they belonged to, the Inklings.  They shaped each other’s art.  It debunks the myth of the lone genius and highlights the need to work in collaboration.

This message of Real Artists is important for young people who have been told to put their dreams on hold in favor of a steady income.

It’s also important for older people who have not pursued their dreams believing in the inability of artists to make a living.

It’s time for a paradigm shift and Jeff Goins is leading the way.

.  Buy now from Amazon

  Buy now from Amazon

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval is a fantasy story that revolves around two sisters wanting to escape an abusive home.

They are enticed by the promises of Caraval and the chance to win their hearts’ desires.  The rules of the game put everything they know and believe to the test.

I can recommend this book to young people.  It’s great to see a YA book with traditional values.

The story was intriguing enough to keep me to the end– high praise for a fiction snob.

I think we’ll be seeing more of Stephanie Garber.

 Buy now from Amazon

Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott.

Even though I don’t agree with all of Anne’s theology and less of her politics, I love her writing.

Hallelujah Anyways is classic Anne.

I can’t say it’s one my favorites, though. Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions and Some Assembly Required rank up there at the top for me.

I like her definition of mercy– Radical kindness. Need more of that.

 

 Buy now from Amazon

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Successful book marketer, Tim Grahl, included Show Your Work! on his list of 11 Best Book Marketing Books.

As a bookseller, I’m fascinated with the world of book publishing and marketing, especially in the days of great industry upheavals.

There’s a lot of misbeliefs about selling and marketing your book.  Probably number one is all you have to do is write a great book and wait for it to be discovered.

Authors really have to do a lot of networking, platform building, audience rapport and building relationships with influencers.

One of the points that Austin makes, that is also made in Jeff Goin’s Real Artists Don’t Starve is that you need to practice in public.  Show people the process, whether it’s rough drafts or behind the scenes work or works in progress.

Get feedback in the middle of the creative process, don’t create in private and wait for the big reveal.

You know, though, the way I see it, sometimes you have to guard the gate if you create in public, because haters are out there and their feedback is unnecessarily discouraging.

I’ll be checking out some more on Grahl’s list.

Hope you had a great book reading month!

What are you reading?

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

How can it be Friday again already?

Linking up again with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community.  Today’s word is comfort.

How do you comfort someone who has experienced great loss?

In the past few months, we walked with two families in the midst of their loss.

Sometimes there are no words.  Sometimes you sit without words and feel their pain.

Sometimes they want to talk.  Some words ease the pain a bit.  Sometimes a hug helps or the tears you shed that mirrors theirs.

At times like these, there lurks a fear.  The fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of being inappropriate.  The fear of making their pain worse instead of easing it.

Pushing through the fear to show up, even if you say the wrong thing or unintentionally step on someone’s toes, is the right thing to do.

Showing up lets people know you care, even if you do it imperfectly.

Sitting with them in the middle of the pain is the best way I know to offer comfort.

Five Minute Friday: Play

It’s Friday!  That means it’s time to link up with Kate Motaung and the FMF gang.

Today’s prompt is “play”

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Play is a child’s work.

It’s where a child can try on the Superman Cape or the Mommy’s apron.

It’s where her world is safe and she can abandon herself to the serious pursuit of imagination, oblivious to the sacrifices required to make that possible.

When we’ve grown up with that luxury, we make the sacrifices for the next generation to enjoy it as well, unfettered by the weight of adult responsibility.

It’s a gift to kids.

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Real Artists Don’t Starve

 

This book is a game changer.

It challenges long held beliefs and deconstructs myths.

Real Artists Don’t Starve doesn’t just refer to painters and sculptors, but writers, poets, and creatives of all types.

The twelve principles that emerged from Jeff studying creatives are supported by success stories from today and throughout history.

I love lots of them, but my favorite is about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and the literary group they belonged to, the Inklings.  They shaped each other’s art.  It debunks the myth of the lone genius and highlights the need to work in collaboration.

This message is important for young people who have been told to put their dreams on hold in favor of a steady income.

It’s also important for older people who have not pursued their dreams believing in the inability of artists to make a living.

It’s time for a paradigm shift and Jeff Goins is leading the way

.  Buy now from Amazon