On My Nightstand – March

5 Minutes for Books
I’ve been reading a lot this week while I’ve been sick. My book pile is starting to get rather small. I checked out a couple more books today but they are all specific to fulfilling reading challenges.

Emma & Knightley, by Rachel Billington – I need to work on my Jane Austen reading challenge.
Knit the Season, by Kate Jacobs – I’ve read a couple of books by this author and have enjoyed every one of them.
Vanity and Vexation, by Kate Fenton – Another book for the Jane Austen challenge.
Just Jane, by Nancy Moser – I really enjoyed the last Moser book I read about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and I’m really looking forward to this book.

My Life in France, by Julia Child – I’ve seen Julie & Julia (wasn’t impressed) but wante to read Child’s memoir. She seems like an interesting person.
A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena De Blasi – I’ve heard great things about this book.
A Thousand Days in Tuscany, by Marlena De Blasi – The sequel to A Thousand Days in Venice.
Scheisshaus Luck, by Pierre Berg – I’m sure this book will make me cry, but I’ve always been interested in this time period.

If God is Good, by Randy Alcorn – I’m not sure I’m going to get to this book before it’s due back at the library, but I will certainly try.

Great books

I wanted to highlight a couple great books I’ve read lately.

In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the Mirabel sisters, known as las mariposas (the butterflies). From the back of the book – “They were the four Mirabel sisters – symbols of defiant hope in a country shadowed by dictatorship and despair. They sacrificed their safe and comfortable lives in the name of freedom… [the book] describes the everyday horrors of life under the Dominican dictator Trujillo.”

I knew the book was going to be a tearjerker. But I didn’t realize how much it was going to draw me into the story, make me feel as if I lived under that government and was suffering for want of freedom. I was pulling for the sisters, hoping (irrationally) that they would survive in the end, knowing full well that the sisters were martyred. I couldn’t put the book down even though I was heartbroken by the way the government treated its people and the consequences people suffered in standing up for themselves. This really is a story of courage and standing up for one’s beliefs.

June Bug surprised me. I spotted this book on the “new” bookshelf at my library and grabbed it on a whim. I’d never read anything by this author, though I’m definitely going to look for his other books. This is the story of a young girl who discovers her photo on the missing persons board at Walmart. It describes her experiences in trying to find out who she really is as well as her adopted father’s thoughts and feelings as he tries to raise his daughter by himself. The writing was great and I felt the author had an authentic voice for June Bug. What was even more shocking was how the ending, the events around John’s adoption of June Bug, came as a complete surprise! Normally Christian fiction is very formulaic but this book was a breath of fresh air.

My only complaint is that I wish there had been just one more chapter. I wanted to know what happened next!

I loved How Do I Love Thee?, a slightly fictionalized account of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This is the first Nancy Moser book I’ve read but I can’t wait to get my hands on others. The book started a bit slow and I almost returned it to the library. But then I started getting really interested in Elizabeth and Robert and wanted to know how they were going to marry when Elizabeth’s father had forbidden any of his children to marry. Could their love break Elizabeth free from her controlling father?

While reading through the book, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of it was based on truth and how much was fictionalized. The author was kind enough to include a chapter by chapter list of the events that were true to life. The vast majority of this book is true! That made the story all the more engaging.

This is one of my new favorite poems (and just in time for Valentine’s Day!):

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
`I love her for her smile … her look … her way
Of speaking gently, … for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,–and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.

On My Nightstand – February

January has been a slow reading month. I’m dedicated to finishing the Bible in 90 Days plan and that takes precedence over everything else. I’m not reading much else, maybe half an hour each day of other books.

Here’s what I have queued up for the rest of this month and for February.

In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez – In progress. Based on a true story, unfortunately. I’m sure I’ll be crying by the end.
Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See
How Do I Love Thee?, by Nancy Moser – This is another book that is based on a true story but novelized.

Things I’ve Been Silent About, by Azar Nafisi – Or at least I am going to try. I’ve read Reading Lolita in Tehran and this is the same author. Reading Lolita in Tehran was a difficult read for me so we’ll see how I do with this book.

The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook, by Cybele Pascal – Our diet is changing for the better. As we’re eliminating unhealthy foods, my recipe stash keeps getting smaller and smaller. We need to find some healthy recipes to replace those that I’m not making anymore.
The Wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt, edited by Donald Wigal

I finished most of January’s list. Those that are crossed off are the ones I finished reading.

  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – A long book and I just couldn’t get to it before it was due back at the library.
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – I LOVED this book. The adventures were fun, lessons were learned, and things turned out how I wanted. Great book and now I want to see the movie.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Wonderful book. It was long but I read it in only several days. I really enjoyed each section, though I think her trip to Italy was my favorite part of the story. And I heard they are making a movie of this book! I hope they don’t butcher it like they did The Time Travelers Wife.
  • A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle – Okay book… was interesting but not great. Took me awhile to finish.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fondues & Hot Dips – We were supposed to have fondue for New Years but hubby was sick and we decided it was bad idea. Then we started eating vegan. Oops. There are still a couple recipes in this book that I plan on making, just not the cheese fondue.
  • Rotary Magic – Haven’t read it, but I still have it for another week. Might get to it.
  • The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan – Cute, filled in details about Jane Austen’s time period that will be useful when reading the books this year.
  • Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility by Judith Martin – Same as above.

2010 Resolution – Read More Books!

Well, that’s not really my resolution. I read many, many books and I don’t think I need to increase the quantity. I just need to increase the quality of books that I read.

With that in mind, I’m joining the following challenges for 2010.

Christian Historical Fiction Challenge – The goal is to read 24 books that qualify as both Christian and historical. Almost half of this challenge will be fulfilled by the A.D. Chronicles series. I love reading the Thoene’s books and this series is great. I’ve read through book seven but I plan on rereading the first seven books this year and then hoping I can find the newer books at my library. I think between the two nearest libraries, I can borrow at least through book 10.

Biblical Fiction Challenge – I only need to read six books to complete this challenge, and the A.D. Chronicles will qualify. One book I really want to get hold of is Havah: The Story of Eve, by Tosca Lee. Unfortunately, my library does not yet carry it.

Christian Non-Fiction Challenge – I have to read at least 10 books that are Christian and non-fiction. This would be anything in Christian living, inspiration, or Christian biography/autobiography. I usually read a lot of fiction (mostly Christian but some secular), a tiny bit of nonfiction, and a smattering of memoirs. Christian non-fiction is my weakest area and I want to increase my reading in this category.

Jane Austen Challenge – I am VERY excited about reading more Jane Austen books. I’ve seen all the movies except Northanger Abbey but I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice. I must remedy that! I’m aiming for the Lover level – 4 books by Jane Austen, plus 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors).

Colorful Reading Challenge – The goal is to read nine books, each with a different color in the title. This will be interesting. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one book whose title contains a color: The Color Purple.

Memorable Memoir Challenge – The requirement for meeting this challenge is four memoirs. I’ve already read one this year and can’t wait to read more.

South Asian Author Challenge – I have never read a book by a South Asian author. I’m planning on reading at least three this year (hopefully memoirs so they overlap with other challenges).

Chunkster Challenge – A Chunkster is any book with at least 450 pages. I want to be a “Chubby Chunkster” and read three of these monster books. Looking back, the only book I remember reading that is long enough to qualify is The Count of Monte Cristo. This challenge will definitely stretch my normal reading habits. I wish that my Bible in 90 days reading plan would qualify for this challenge, but the challenge starts on February 1. Oh, well. I will find other long books.

Support Your Local Library Challenge – This one should be easy for me. The vast majority of my reading material comes from the library. I’m aiming for the Stepping It Up level, at 75 books.

100+ Reading Challenge – The ultimate goal is to end up with 100+ books read in 2010. All the books from my other reading challenges can be included in this list and I should easily reach 100.

Now I’d better get to reading!

On My Nightstand

I love 5 Minutes for Books. My library to-read list is huge because of the book reviews. I currently have 258 books on my list and it grows almost every day.

For January, I plan on reading:

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (my hubby’s recommendation)
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (I’ve seen the movie but have never read the book)

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fondues & Hot Dips
Rotary Magic
The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan
Miss Manners’ Guide to Domestic Tranquility by Judith Martin

I will probably read more than this, as I usually finish a book every two to three days. But this list covers the bare minimum of my reading list.

Scottish Folds and 31 Days to Clean – Day 14

I finished reading the most delightful little book – The Cat Who Went to Paris. The author is given Norman, a Scottish Fold kitten. The pictures are adorable, the stories are hilarious, and the book is a very quick read. Thankfully, our library carries at least one more book in this true life series about an adorable and very intelligent cat!

Today was mostly about cleaning and budgets. I puttered around the house most of the day, picking up after our weekend. The day was not exciting but I was content in my activities. The only things I have left on my agenda today are half an hour of research and then Bible study.

Day 14 of the cleaning challenge is all about time management. For a few days, I’ve been paying attention to how I spend my time. While I rarely leave the house during the week, my days aren’t all alike. I spend some days doing a lot of contract work, up to 5 hours each day. Other days are spent cleaning and organizing. And a few days here and there are spent mostly reading once my daily housework is complete. I have read a lot of books in the past month.

Last week, I spent way too much time watching television. We don’t own a television but there are a multitude of (legal) shows and movies available online. When I realized how much time I was wasting watching television, I was disgusted with myself. I was watching up to the equivalent of a movie a day. While I was still being productive, completing all of my housework and devoting hours to my contract job, I felt my time could be better utilized. I made myself a promise – I will spend more time with my Bible every day than I will with television or movies. It’s sad to realize that I was spending more time watching television than reading God’s word. Over the last three days, I have kept my promise. Each day, I have spent more time reading the Bible than watching television.

Praise report

Praise the Lord! Today was a very good day for our car. We visited Jiffy Lube and had an oil change done (expensive, even with a coupon!). Then we had our emissions tested so that we could renew our car registration. The car passed!

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Today I finished the book Unveiled, the story of Tamar, by Francine Rivers. It was a quick read but very good. Tamar’s story is a short one, covered in Genesis 38. Only one chapter is written about her, but the story covers years in time. I had always wondered why Tamar chose to disguise herself as a prostitute, of all things. The book gave me understanding of one possible reason she made that choice.

I found the book at the library. If you have a chance to read it, check it out. It’s a great insight into a strong woman who is included in Christ’s lineage.