Book Review: “Pilgrimage,” by Lynn Austin

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51D9sUdgf8L._SY346_We all encounter times when our spirit feels dry, when doubt looms.
The opportunity to tour Israel came at a good time. For months, my life has been a mindless plodding through necessary routine, as monotonous as an all-night shift on an assembly line. Life gets that way sometimes, when nothing specific is wrong but the world around us seems drained of color. Even my weekly worship experiences and daily quiet times with God have felt as dry and stale as last year’s crackers. I’m ashamed to confess the malaise I’ve felt. I have been given so much. Shouldn’t a Christian’s life be an abundant one, as exciting as Christmas morning, as joyful as Easter Sunday?
With gripping honesty, Lynn Austin pens her struggles with spiritual dryness in a season of loss and unwanted change. Tracing her travels throughout Israel, Austin seamlessly weaves events and insights from the Word . . . and in doing so finds a renewed passion for prayer and encouragement for her spirit, now full of life and hope.

Title:  Pilgrimage: My Journey to A Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House
Copyright: 2013
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 5/5
Goodreads

My Thoughts:

I first came in contact with Lynn Austin’s work about 6 years ago, by randomly picking up one of her Christian Historical Romances at a second hand Christian book store. I can’t remember exactly which book it was, but I was new to Christian Fiction and the blurb sounded good. I fell in love with the book I read, and then rapidly began picking up more of her books. (At this point I have read MOST of them, and at some point will probably do an Author’s Spotlight on her work.)

When the Beau and I were preparing for the Camino De Santiago, and also leaning toward a Holy Land trip -I became obsessed with reading about other people’s journeys, Camino’s and Pilgrimages. When I saw that one of my favorite authors had done a Holy Land Pilgrimage, I couldn’t wait to snap it up.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. This is a small book for her (241 pages), but it is packed with her warmth, humor and distinctive voice. It was nice to get to know the Author on a more personal level, and hear about where she is at in her journey. Lynn Austin isn’t afraid to bear her fears or doubts, but at the same time gives hopeful messages to herself and the reader. As a Christian, I’ve noticed people don’t like to talk much about going through periods of spiritual dryness, and instead focus on all the positiveness. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and our relationships with Christ are no different. Lynn really opens up in her book, to show her struggles as a Mom, wife and Christian Writer. It was really refreshing to read, and made her all the more relatable.

The book is set up in chapters each featuring a place she visited during the Holy Land. She talks about the places she’s seen, the people she’s met, and the historical/biblical significance of each destination.  Also, she takes the time to figure how each place may be significant to her personal journey spiritually. Each chapter ends with a prayer, and there are hand drawn sketches throughout. It’s one part travelogue, and one part spiritual journey/devotional.  In the end,  she finds the refreshing of the spirit that she’s looking for, and I have to say it helped me get some fresh insight as well. I’m sure this will be a re-read for me in the future.

Book Review: “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck

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51GK6Es5YBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes the very nature of equality and justice in America.

Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book—which takes its title from the first verse: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” As Don DeLillo has claimed, Steinbeck shaped a geography of conscience” with this novel where there is something at stake in every sentence.” Beyond that—for emotional urgency, evocative power, sustained impact, prophetic reach, and continued controversy—The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics.

Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright: 1939
Format Read: Mass Market Paperback
My Rating: 5/5
Goodreads

My Thoughts:

I first met the Joad family when I was in 11th grade English class. Unlike “Gone With The Wind,” the book never quite made it back to my school at the end of the year… and I have since revisited the Joads pretty much every year since then. I’m not usually rough on my books, but 17 years later…

(#booktheif #sorryhighline401)

Anyway, I was thrilled when I saw this book on the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list, and couldn’t wait to get back into it once again.  There are so many things I adore about this book that I could go for pages and pages.read_hp_harrysassface                                                        (but I won’t, I promise!)

“The Grapes of Wrath” is so beautifully written. The book is set up alternating chapters between the Joad’s story, and snapshots of what America (and Americans) were going through during the Great Depression. With this format you get to know motivations and history without endless back story, and you get to have a little break from the (sometimes) emotionally intense main story line.

Steinbeck has a way of setting a scene which draws you completely in , and is beautiful described without being overly flowery. His characters have flaws, yet are completely realistic. You’ve seen these people in Cafe’s and at Gas Stations. He’s not afraid to point out their flaws, but does also show their hearts and good qualities.

Although the focus for the main story seems to be Tom Joad, and you see the story mostly from his narrative – I think the real star of the story is Ma Joad. Ma kept the family together as well as possible through all costs, and showed many facets of what people in the Great Depression went through. In the end it was Ma who showed what the spirit of this westward migration was about, how to be a leader within her traditional role, and how to make the best of any situation you’re given.

The political societal aspects of the book are surprisingly accurate still today, even more so in this current administration. Still people struggle with acceptance based on who you are -whether race, sexual orientation or origin. People are still faced with needing to be able to get their foot in a door, are told you need experience/money/etc – but how do you get these things without first being given a chance? Corporations still push out the little guy, and people are told what they should want – rather than being allowed to make their own decisions…

“The Grapes of Wrath,” is not necessarily a happy or feel good book, but it an extremely good and important read that will suck you in and keep you thinking for a long while afterward.

Book Review: “Gone With The Wind,” Margaret Mitchell

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51vXH2JGV8LGone with the Wind is a novel written by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman’s March to the Sea. A historical novel, the story is a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest Dowson.

Gone with the Wind was popular with American readers from the onset and was the top American fiction bestseller in the year it was published and in 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide.

 

Title: Gone With The Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Publisher: Macmillan
Copyright: 1949
Format Read: Hardback
My Rating: 3/5
Goodreads

My thoughts:

The first and only time I read “Gone With The Wind,” I was 16 years old. Myself, along with 2 of my grandmothers and one of my aunts spent the week in a condo together at Lake Chelan. I spent pretty much the entire time lounging in the sun reading this book, loving every minute of it. Last year I was browsing in an antique shop looking for Abandoned Books (books with inscriptions, pre 1960’s)  where I found a 1949 copy of “Gone With The Wind” for $3.00.

I couldn’t be more excited, and was dying for a chance to re-read it.

Well, Fiddle-Dee-Dee, I kind of wished I hadn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, it is well-written book. I enjoy Margaret Mitchell’s writing style and voice immensely, and there is a reason it has sold so many copies and become a long lasting hit. I just had a few issues with the story.

There were a lot of times where I felt dialogue/plot lines to be repeating/over done and  certain shock points to be completely redundant. Also, after a while the whole Scarlett/Rhett/Ashley triangle felt like the beating of a dead horse. (I mean, WE GET IT. WE GOT IT HALF A BOOK AGO…) In generally, many of the characters were so skewed to their flaws or one particular quality – it was hard to find many to be likeable.

I understand for the time the book was written in,  a long, well descripted book was desired – as people had more time on their hands. In my opinion however, this book would have been much better if it was shortened by half.

One of the things I did find surprising, is how relevant the political themes in the book still are today. We still deal with a shyster government and surprisingly, rampant racism. There were aspects of the political climate from the book that if you just changed the clothing of the day, it would still  sadly be the same.

For Scarlett, as a heroine, she was strong in her way, and did what she thought she had to do in any given situation – and throughout the book the actions were true to her character. It would have been nice to see some gradual growth in her story arch, rather than all coming together suddenly at the end.

Overall, it was an O.K. book, and was interesting to revisit. I would love to spend some time at Tara the way it would have been before the war and I just, unfortunately loved the book way more at 16 than I do now at 34.

 

 

 

Book Review: “Siddhartha,” by Hermann Hesse

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41PYoPd0S1L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life—the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

 

Title: Siddhartha
Author: Hermann Hesse
Publisher: MJF Books New York
Copyright: 1951
Format Read: Hardback
My Rating: 5/5
Goodreads

My thoughts:

Most times you reach for a book because it’s one you’re dying to read it, and it either exceeds your expectations, or fails horribly. Sometimes you reach for a book you’ve never heard of, because it’s part of a Reading Challenge . Surprisingly, your Beau actually has it on his bookshelf (IN ENGLISH NO LESS), and you end up loving it!

For being just 122 pages, “Siddhartha” packs in a wallop of adventure in the physical and spiritual sense. I don’t know if it’s my age, or the fact that  this just seems to be a running theme with me right now – but I find people’s journey of self quite interesting. I really connected with the idea of searching for peace and ultimate being of self.

As a Christian, my path is much different the Siddhartha’s obviously, and although I didn’t quite understand everything about Brahmans and Ascetics (I’m not well versed in Eastern Religions), I found it overall a pretty easy and engaging read.

Always being drawn to women in stories, I really enjoyed following Kamala’s story, though true to many tropes she is a martyr in the end – her character arch was enjoyable.

The underlying theme of the book seemed to be that Love is the way to Peace. Throughout Siddhartha’s journey we get to follow the different types of love that one can show another (familial, lust, religious devotion).

I would recommend this book highly, and hope to read more by Hesse in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge 

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Every year I attempt a GoodReads challenge of 100 books. I have not yet, so far, made it. I think last year and the year before I attempted 50 and did make that (thanks to a few shorties). This year, in conjunction with our personal book challenges,

read_hp_harrysassface(I AM SO FAR BEHIND ALREADY)

my friend Laura and I are attempting to do the Rory Gilmore reading challenge! For those of you who don’t know, some crazy brilliant person put together a list of every single book mentioned in the ENTIRE run of Gilmore Girls. Our mission, is to read them. NOT ALL IN THIS ONE YEAR MIND YOU, that WOULD be insane. I don’t know that there is any official list to the RGC, but we got our list from HERE The way we have chosen to “compete” this year is to read 50 books, or a total of 20,000 pages. If you’re interested – feel free to contact us on our Facebook Group .  I’ve decided to document my progress here, and will link reviews as they are done.

What kind of book challenges are into?

Books Read:

Books Started or Currently Reading:

  • “Complete Stories,” Dorothy Parker
  • “On The Road,” Jack Kerouac
  • “Heidi,” Johanna Spyri
  • “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Mark Twain
  • “Pride & Prejudice,” Jane Austen
  • “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Harriet Beecher Stowe

Total Books Read: 4
Total Pages Read: 2139

Book Review: Finding Fraser By kc dyer

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Sometimes searching for true love can be a little…Outlandish.

“I met Jamie Fraser when I was nineteen years old. He was tall, red-headed, and at our first meeting at least, a virgin. I fell in love hard, fast and completely. He knew how to ride a horse, wield a sword and stitch a wound. He was, in fact, the perfect man.

That he was fictional hardly entered into it. ”

At 29, Emma Sheridan’s life is a disaster and she’s tired of waiting for the perfect boyfriend to step from the pages of her favorite book. There’s only one place to look, and it means selling everything and leaving her world behind. With an unexpected collection of allies along the way, can Emma face down a naked fishmonger, a randy gnome, a perfidious thief, and even her own abdominal muscles on the journey to find her Fraser?

Title: Finding Fraser
Author: kc dyer
Publisher: Lion’s Mountain Literary
Copyright: 2005
Format Read: Kindle
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads

My thoughts:

Sometimes, after a run of reading classics and “really need to concentrate here” books, you just want something light hearted to get you out of a potential book slump. This book did the trick for me! First of all, much like the author – I too met Jamie Fraser when I was 19, and have loved him ever since. I also, am in awe of Herself,  and would absolutely die if I had the chance to meet her. I digress…

I’ve just come off of a bit of a classics/heavy reads stint, and wanted something not so demanding to read through, and came across this book on my kindle. Really, I was in the mood to read Outlander (my comfort book), but seeing as how I have leant out my copy (and even if I DID read that, it would be self-mandatory to re-read the entire 8 book series), this was the next best thing.

And it turned out it really was. Right away I feel for, and can see a lot of myself in the main character Emma Sheridan. We’ve both known unlucky love, both are accident prone, the free spirited ones of the family (nice way of saying slack-ass), have a desire to run away from it all, love all things Outlander, and have pretty much held up every guy to Jamie-level standards. Although some of the supporting characters were a little just-this-side of real, the main characters were definitely believable, and real feeling. Aside from Emma herself, my favorite would probably be Morag, the gruff lady who takes Emma in  when she finds herself without a home (mostly because sometimes I wish I was a Scottish farmer).

 The author has a voice that is humorous and engaging. The format of switching back and forth between the ‘actual’ story and the blog posts, gave an interesting contrast,  and leant a fast pace which left me having trouble putting it the story down when responsibilities called. The majority of the plot points (except having to do with The Ghost), I could guess pretty easily, which was a little disappointing, but as I was looking for a light read, it was still thoroughly enjoyable!

I look forward to checking out more by this author!

And now I need to go find who I leant Outlander to damnit ….

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