Sunday, May 27, 2012

Financial Peace

My husband and I are on a budget, and he took a class that used much of Dave Ramsey's material, so I wanted to read it for myself. Conclusion: If you're ready to buy into it, read the chapter entitled Baby Steps  that is five pages long and you'll be good to go. Actually, you don't even have to do that because I'm attaching a handy-dandy pdf of all seven of them.

That being said, it is a very thorough and helpful program. I think it's better to do with people though-- as a program, and not just reading a book by yourself. If its a complete lifestyle overhaul, you'll want (and need!) some support.

Yay! I finished the book! Look how happy (and sunburnt) I am! A long day at Lake Michigan will do that to you. Note about Lake Michigan lifeguards: they do not like it if you attempt to swim to the "no wake" buoys. You will get reprimanded. (It felt amazing! I felt so rebellious!)

Ender's Game

My darling sister-in-law Havilah suggested this book, and I am super glad I read it, and when I looked online at IMDb and saw they were going to make a move of it, I almost cried with happiness! Plus, HARRISON FORD IS IN IT!!!!!

It's perfect for him-- a war with aliens on another planet? Potentially typecasting, but thats ok.

The book is about a genius little boy Andrew (who goes by Ender) and how he progresses through different schools very quickly, with the hope that he will be the next great commander. A few twists and turns, interesting relationship with his brother (who always threatens to kill him and his sister?) but really good.

Dangerous Wonder

As I've been doing this challenge I've been trying to be sure that I'm doing it for a reason better than "wow, that would be cool if people read my blog and thought I was cool and then I wrote a book and made a million dollars". I want it to be a connecting point, be a help to people who are looking for books to read, encourage people to be intentional in their schedules, and using the books and the emotions that they reach to help me be a more authentic person and be able to articulate the connection in my blog.

Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli helps me get there. I had started reading it in 2007 on a plane ride to Alaska, but then never picked it up again. I have no idea why... I just, stopped.

I'm glad I finished it. It's pretty simple stuff, just live your life in childlike wonder, and you'll be good to go! But it's alot harded to do. To cut out the busyness, to find things that make you feel alive. But it's worth it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Tiger's Wife

When I tell people that I am reading a book a day for a year, their second reaction , after "is that even possible?", is typically "you won't have time for anything else!" or "you'll have your head in a book the entire year!" and while yes, this is a lot of reading, it's really only 1-3 hours a day. I get frustrated with people who think it isn't possible, because tons of people watch a movie or TV for two hours a day, and no one tells them "wow thats really hard to do" because well, its not hard to do. It's very easy to sit it front of a TV or on Facebook for hours, and then look up later and see how much time has passed.

The hardest part about this challenge was making the initial commitment to read a book a day for a year, and actually starting it. It means I have to be intentional about when I wake up (which I haven't been that great at) and finding books to read (I go to the library once a week and pick up 5-6 books). While I would like to be even more intentional about what I read, like "oh today is International Jazz Day ? I'll read Blue like Jazz!" (which I can't do, because I've already read it. and love it. Donald Miller, you coy, clever man)

But in the mean time, I try to alternate each day between fiction and non-fiction, and can choose whatever genre I want. I don't have all 365 books chosen because new books will be written and friends may recommend books I haven't heard of so I want to leave room for those changes. And yes, its added reading, but I am being intentional about what I read, and making sure that life doesn't pass me by while my head is stuck in a book.

This book was another well chosen birthday present from the hubs. What made it even better was that I read it on the train to and from Chicago to meet up with my friend Andrea from highschool. We had a blast! Saw the bean, went on the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, walked the Mag Mile, went to the Cheesecake Factory, put our hands inside an imprint of Michael Jordan's, and went to a ridiculous amount of souvenir stores. Our feet were yelling at us by the end of the day, but it was worth it.

Tea Obreht is an amazing author- she should win awards for this book.  I am extremely jealous of her-- not only does she have a cute pixie face, but this book was published when she was 25. But I will look past my jealousy and try to give an unbiased opinion (unbiased opinion? that's sort of an oxymoron).

This book was set in a non-descript Balkan country which I enjoyed. Since I've spent some time in Albania, I pictured it in Albania. Rakija was raki, and burek was byrek. The symbolism of the tiger reminded me of The Life of Pi, and the relationship with her grandfather was heartbreakingly beautiful.
She leaves much unsaid, but the silences and pauses tell us more than we need to know.

Shume mire, Tea shpirt, shume mire.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moonwalking with Einstein

I love the title of this book. It conjures up an amazing metal image, which as you read the book, is the point.

Joshua Foer (who is also the younger brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, one of my favorite authors) finds himself at the USA Mental Athletes championship a year after he started researching memory.

It's a pretty meaty read, but interesting as well. I think I wanted to hear more humorous vignettes of his story while preparing, but all in all, a good book.

I think I am going to start to practice the Major system.

(This post is short because I went kayaking and got lost in the woods in flip flops for 2 1/2 hours with my friend Lindsey)

Lone Wolf

Jodi Picoult is a book writing beast! Seriously, in the time I have written this sentence she probably popped out a well researched chapter. I really admire her-- she takes her writing (and her readers!) seriously. Out of all of the authors that I have emailed to ask for book suggestions, she was the first to reply, and probably the one that writes the most.

Lone Wolf is really interesting. The first time I had read anything about wolves was in Twilight, and I don't think Twilight's description has much integrity in the real world. The Wolves of Mercy Falls is a good series that mixes werewolves with real info about pack mentality etc, but I think Lone Wolf is much more researched. Probably because you can't actually research werewolves, now that I think of it.

I've enjoyed others of Picoult's book more, but I really admire this book, and the amount of research that she does. Seriously, there is so much info on wolves, I feel like I could go live with them in the wild now.

I would have loved more character development in Cara Warren, and slight hints (even misleading hints) until we find out what actually happened to her dad.

Anyway, if you like Jodi Picoult, you will like it, but you probably won't cry in it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I love Ann Kiemel. (now Ann Kiemel Anderson)

Her writing is free and reminds of of e e cummings, who enjoyed experimenting with punctuation and syntax. I wouldn't want to read such "free punctuation" every day, but its liberating in small doses.

This book is about Ann saying YES to obedience, sacrifice, loneliness, all for the glory of the Cross.

to tomorrow.
fresh dreams.
higher mountains.
greater impossibilities.
wider sunrises.
stouter courage.
braver risks.

The War of the Worlds

This book by H. G. Wells has created quite a stir. Orignially science fiction set in small town England, a radio drama troupe in 1938 decided to make it more relevant to the listeners by setting it in 1938 New England, and people who did not hear the introduction stating that it was fiction thought the world was coming to an end.

I really enjoyed this book. H.G., I am sorry I have never read any of your work before-- I love it! For those of you that don't enjoy sci-fi, its a pretty short book (around 200 pages) and its literature, so expand your horizons.

PS I also read this short book today.

Seriously... I'm kidding

Dear Ellen Degeneres,

Thank you for being as amazing as you are. You are funny, your eyes are luminescent, you love fuzzy animals, and you love to help people. When I move to Pasadena I am going to work for you. You don't know it yet, but every day I am going to show up to your house, make your bed, clean your shower and give Portia foot massages.

hmm.... actually I will probably not do any of those things, because I do not want to get arrested. But this was a funny book, and a good read. It read like a lot of her monologues smushed together, but I love her monologues, so "it's all good!".

I don't know what I put that in quotation marks. Who was I quoting? Will Smith. I was quoting Will Smith.

Note to readers: Read this book, even if you think this blog post is creepy.

The Night Circus

Look at my fancy picture of this book! Aren't I such a great photographer? I will take your wedding pictures for one million dollars, all I need is my iPhone and some great hipster music. You better let me take a jumping picture.

Please, someone famous, make this into a movie! I loved this book, and it was staged perfectly for Oscar winning cinematography.

But seriously, this is a great book. It might take you a little bit to get through the intro, but it sets the scene for a great book. I wish this was a real circus.

The Pearl

This is my second book that I've read by John Steinbeck. ( I can hear you saying "whhaaaaattt?!??!" in your heads. No judgement- I grew up in Africa).

The first was East of Eden. I greatly preferred East of Eden, even though a bitter ex once told me that I was "his Cathy". Sorry, bitter ex. Actually, did we even date?

Anyway... The Pearl was good, but since I read so fast sometimes I feel like I get jipped with shorter books-- not enough character development. I was rewriting this book in my head while I was reading it, and I think it ended kind of like a disney movie. (Speaking of rewriting stories to be like Disney- watch this Jaws remake... I LOVE IT!!!!)

So John Steinbeck, thank you for writing pensive literature, and even though it wasn't my favorite, I appreciated The Pearl and its symbolism.

The Glass Castle

My loving husband has it pretty easy on buying me presents this coming year. My birthday was last week and this was one of my presents. However, I don't want to demean his purchase, because he did a pretty good job knowing what I would like.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is a "growing up" memoir that talks with brutal, beautiful honesty about growing up as a semi-transient. While one reviewer bashed on the "kiddie-sex", I think Walls did a good job of painting truthfully what went on in her life and family. While not all aspects of the story were good, she did a beautiful job of painting a complex story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Ok, so the title of this book makes me think of The Wizard of Oz: "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!"

But the book (and series) has nothing to do with that. Pretties is the second of four (so far) in the Uglies series-- a dystopian series where people grow up ugly (aka normal) and then have a surgery when they are 16 to make them pretty (aka perfect... and really ditzy).

It's a good read, but sadly, I haven't finished the book yet! Agh this is cutting it close. But I wanted to blog today so that I will be completely caught up (sans 150 pages of my book... I can do it!)

My birthday was yesterday and it was wonderful, but it was really busy so I've been playing catch up on errands and work etc. Tonight after my husband and I ran an errand he said "so, whats for dinner?" and I had completely forgotten that normal people cook food, not eat out for every meal like I had been for the past two days.

Luckily I have mad cooking skills, so that mixed with an impulse purchase of tortellini created a delicious dinner.

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is a play that it set on the south side of Chicago, post World War II.  The title is based off the Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred".

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Reading this play brought me back to high school drama class, sitting next to Fundiswa Zwane and talking about who we wanted to kiss, what God was doing in our lives, and theatre in the round.  

I starting staging this play while I was reading it. SO GOOD! So much conflict and symbolism. My brain is tired from reading it, so instead of me explaining it, just read it too so we can sit next to each other and instead of discussing it, sip coffee in content silence. 

The Secret of the Desert Stone

Ok, I did it. Sunday was such a lazy day and I wanted a nap soooo badly that I read a childrens book. But not without reason-- I read the first four books in the Cooper Kids Adventure Series by Frank Peretti when I was little, so I was VERY excited to find the fifth one at my in-laws house!

The Secret of a Desert Stone is about a stone that appears (poof!) in the middle of a desert in an African dictatorship. The Coopers are flown in (along with a geologist) to try to figure out the meaning of the stone, and end up on the other side of it, in the hands of supposed cannibals, who turn out to be very civil-- and have a monotheistic religion that is eerily similar to that of the Cooper's Christianity.

If you're a Christian, the book can actually lead to an interesting discussion on inclusivism vs. exclusivism.

And if you're not a Christian, well, you probably would like the book better if it had aliens in it.

Let Go

The book Let Go by Fenelon was a book given to me by my husband, and recommended to him by his past mentor and boss, Ezra. Z, thanks for the input. This book has greatly influenced how I view my life and my grasp onto things that I deem important.

Fenelon reminds us that the pain we experience when we try to do what we want isn't our flesh dying, because the dead can't feel, but rather it is our flesh that is living and that needs to die in order to be the people we were created to be.

This book is pretty deep but is luckily written as 30 or so letter to Fenelon's friends and contempories, so read a letter each day for a month and meditate on what it means for your life.

The Guinea Pig Diaries

I love A.J. Jacobs. I emailed him to ask for suggestions of books to read and he responded (I'll talk more about that when I read his recommendation) and if my printer was working, I would have printed the email, kissed and framed it.

Now both he and I are happily married, but I just truly appreciate his quirky experimental approach to life-- and I suppose have be influenced by him enough to start this reading challenge.

The Guinea Pig Diaries are basically a collection of stories cataloging the different experience he has put himself (and his wonderful wife Julie) through.

One thing that I didn't realize that could happen in this project is that writers would reference each other. A. J. talks about Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, and he didn't exactly enjoy it.

Some of the experiments that A.J does are: outsourcing his life to India, impersonating a movie star, and radically telling the truth (no filter!). He is wonderful. Read all of his books. And use apricot toothpaste, just because you damn well like the taste.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Outliers and 44 Scotland Street

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: You should REALLY read this one. If you've heard about the 10,000 of practice that it takes to become a master, this is where it comes from. It is a really good book. I read his book Blink in 2008 and loved it, so I'm glad to see that he's still writing premium books. It really made me think about the importance of summer school/tutoring/ free programs for the underpriveledged, becuase of that large gap in education that occurs during the summer months when learning basically stops for those who cant afford extra activities in the summer.

44 Scotland Street is the first in the 44 Scotland Street book series by Alexander McCall Smith. I read his No. 1 Ladies detective Agency series and loved it (probably because I could relate to his picture of Africa that he painted from growing up in South Africa) and really enjoyed this first book too. It was published in a newspaper in installments so the chapters are short, but not choppy. McCall Smith did a good job at making it run smoothly. 

So read them both. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother Night and The View from Saturday

Since I did not write a post yesterday (but don't worry-- I did read a book!) I just decided to write one post for the past two days instead of trying to remember what happened on what day.

Today I am jet lagged. There was no time change from where I have been and where I am now, but thinking that yesterday I was at The Empire State Building and today I am doing laundry fills me with a sense of loss and makes me tired. But I will slowly become accustomed to the time here, and remember what I love about it.

Yesterday I read Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut is like lemonade-- you always forget how much you love it until you experience it again. I never say "man I really want some lemonade!" but when it is given to me at a summer picnic, I remember how good it is. Same with Vonnegut.

He is blessedly satirical in a morose way. I need to read more of his work.

Today I went to the library and chose 6 books for the upcoming week. I love the library. I love touching books, watching fellow auto-didacts soak in knowledge, and knowing that the books I pick with influence my life in some way (some in very small ways).

The View From Saturday by E. L Konigsburg is a success. If you've seen Slumdog Millionaire, it does the same sort of "flash back to how the contestants knew the answer" thing, but its so beautiful. I want to be one of The Soul and have tea every Saturday at 4pm.

But for now, I will go to sleep on Tuesday at 1030.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Prophet

Today I read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It's always been on my list as one I've wanted to read, but for this year its been in the "good short books catagory" because, well, its only 90 pages long. I really needed that today-- I started the book at 11:20 and just finished now at 11:52.

But today I was not lazy-- my life was full! Full of deep conversations, community, red velvet birthday cake, a trip the Upper West Side, and a movie night.

And right now, I'm too tired to write about this about the book, but I say read it! It's short enough, that if you're halfway through and realize you don't like it-- well, just finish it.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from it:
When you love you should not say "God is in my heart" but rather, "I am in the heart of God".

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Happy Cinco de Mayo! I hope you celebrated with delicious Mexican food. I had fritos with greek yogurt and salsa for lunch, so I filled my Mexican food quota for the day.

Today was extremely eventful and I feel hungover from all the excitement. A run in Central Park this morning, and copious amounts of coffee. My dad and I had some free time this afternoon, so we decided to take a bus to find a cool Starbucks. I am slightly obsessed with my handy dandy iPhone, and when we realized there were many Starbucks in the area we were like "Hey! Let's go to 10!" so we drank 3 cups of coffee, two cups of water, and one Izze. I think I wrote a book in my head while we were walking, and daydreamed about being in Hunger Games (partially because I was wearing my mom's Katniss boots).

My birthday is just over a week away and since I won't be with my parents or my brothers family on my birthday, we went out for a delicious early birthday meal at Chez Lucienne, a great French restaurant in Harlem. They have sexy Cobb salads and delicious chocolate mousse.

"But wait!",you say, "What about the book?!?" I broke down yesterday and bought Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent by Veronica Roth, which came out on May 1st. It was really good! If you haven't read Divergent, I won't ruin the surprise, but you need to find the nearest 24 hr store and purchase it. If you are self conscious about buying YA fiction, bribe a 13 year old girl with a Justin Bieber poster.

Divergent is dystopian fiction, and similar to Hunger Games in that it has a female lead character, and factions similar to districts. These factions are based on the qualities or "virtues" of the eople in the factions, truth, knowledge, courage, etc.

Tris (the main character) chooses a different faction than she was born into, and during aptitude tests, scores high in more than one faction. Anyway, then she meets a boy and they change the world in a dangerous, interesting, YA fiction way. Insurgent continues the story and ends with a horrible cliffhanger, with my curiosity only to be satisfied in a year when the third book of the trilogy comes out. But bravo, Veronica Roth, and I would like to be your friend.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Little Princes

Little Princes by Conor Grennan is one of the best books I have read in awhile. I think I cried at least 5 times in this book, and laughed countless others.

When Conor is describing the other volunteering efforts he could have been a part of-- helping baby koalas stricken (STRICKEN!) with lonliness, I almost fell over. But then, it kinda made me sad. How many people care more about helping animals than people? Sure, we have commercials about saving puppies (thank you, Sara Mclachlan for ruining my day) but the first most people hear of child trafficking may be this book. So read it, buy it for your friends, and talk about it all the time. Thankfully, the majority of children in this book were not sold into sex trafficking, but any sort of trafficking or ownership of another person is horrible.

I have a five year old nephew who today, while I was in a bookstore, came looking for me with my dad (unbeknownst to me) and as I am coming down the escalator I hear the cutest exclamation of "there she is!" I am grateful for the chance he has to grow up with family who love him, and I pray he never has to experience anything like the children in the book do, or take what he has for granted.

Anyway, back to the book. Conor's story is perfect. If in 10 years it comes out that this is all fiction, I will want to punch him in the neck because I will feel completely betrayed- but I am trusting that it is true. Such a fluid journey filled with heartbreak, faith, friendship, and conflict. This should be made into a movie. Tell everyone.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Like Dandelion Dust

Today, my day started at 3:30am. After rushing to the airport in a silent car (my wonderful husband drove me at 4:15), my flight was delayed by an hour, and I finished my book by 8:15am. After that, I had strange dreams about a "know it all" man who told me to drink a placenta milkshake (probably because I watched Dr. Oz with my grandma), which has nothing to do with the book.

I'm glad I read this book. So many people have suggested it to me so I thought it needed to be included in this challenge, but frankly, I was kind of disappointed. I loved the beginning and liked the interplay between the different characters in different locations, but there wasn't enough background about the relationship between Molly and Beth, and I was hoping for more of a "Jodi Piccoult" type court scene. 

That being said, read this book, unless you're in the middle of an adoption process. It will make you paranoid. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Outsiders

Day two and still going strong! As per my husband's recommendation, today I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Apparently every American has read it because those people who I tell that I had only heard of it a few months ago give me a look like "where have you been for the past 20 years" and well, I've been in Africa. I thought Ohio was below Indiana, that Benjamin Franklin was a president, and I've never watched Saved by the Bell.

But back to the book. Just in case you grew up in Africa as well, or only learned English a few months ago, The Outsiders is about two gangs on the opposite sides of the city, the Greasers (of who the main character, Ponyboy is a part of) and the Socs (upperclass hooligans).  It is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet (sans the unrequitted lovers), but hits home a little harder because the oldest character in the book is 20. These are KIDS who are fighting! And as Ponyboy finds out, the "enemy" watches the sunsets too.

So next time you come in contact with someone you disagree with, don't forget that they watch the sunset too.

bird by bird

I decided to read "bird by bird" by Anne Lamott for my first book. I had ideas of how symbolic my first book would be, that people would catch my first blog post and then follow my blog religiously for the rest of the year... but when the time came to choose a book I had no way to get to the library and was up to my ears in grandparents (who I love) and graduation cake. 

That being said, since this reading challenge will require a lot of writing (here on this handy blog) I decided to read a book on writing. 

Anne Lamott writes sexy books. This is the third of hers I've read (Traveling Mercies and Plan B are great too) and when I read her books I want to take off my shoes, dance in the rain, kiss a homeless man (because he deserves love) and see the good in little things. Plus, I giggle when I read profanity. 

For anyone that is wanting to be a writer, she lays everything out in a succinct (237 pages), easy to read "how to" on writing that reads more like a inspiring memoir. She speaks of finding identity in the print word, and the unromantic process of publishing. 

For people that are starting to write she tells them to start writing about their childhood, and so here is a snippet from mine:

The floor is lava! Quick, jump on the bed! Goosey (with the help of 5 year old Melody) snatches teddy from the floor (aka lava pit). Some stuffed animals weren't so lucky, and there will be a funeral and an imaginary tea party in their honor. Daddy's invited-- lets build a fort! Hopefully he won't fall asleep in it this time. 

My house on Mill Court in Portland, Oregon was the perfect house for a kid. From jumping down the laundry shoot to sliding down a matress on the stairs, we lived well. A few days ago my mom mentioned that we only got pets in South Africa and I reminder her of our pets in Portland:

- Prince Charles (a cockatiel who could whistle the wedding march)
- nameless bird (who flew away)
- Matthew (our angora rabbit who's fur my brother pulled out and kept in a shoebox because he thought it was worth money)
- Mittens (an evil black and white cat who, as his name says, had white feet)
-Sparkle ( a lovely cat who fell in our swimming pool, drowned and then the water froze over)
- Torty (a tortoise)
- Possy (a baby possum, best friends with Torty)
- Sneaky (a garter snake who had a bad habit of sneaking out of his tank)
- Oscar (a corgi mix)

Conventional names for unconventional pets who were my best friends when my brother was away with the neighbor kids playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 

Until tomorrow.