Have Book, Will Travel (sort of)

5 Jul
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Standing next to a replica of the Husky Clipper.

I had a recent conversation with a fellow booklover, and ever since I have been thinking and re–thinking about how she described why she loves to read.

You can go anywhere without having to travel.

I favor the historical fiction genre because I love to learn about historical people and places through the author’s imagination. I can experience my favorite decades (1920s-50s) and favorite places (Europe and Asia) through interpretations, without having physically been there.

To better experience what I read, I’m stepping up my game. With every book I finish (non-fiction and fiction), I will take something from the story and create an experience, visit a new place, try something new, that I was introduced to in the story.

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The UW Conibear Shellhouse.

For example, after reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, my husband and I visited the UW Conibear Shellhouse, to physically place what I loved reading about. I was able to picture the scene set in the 1930s.

Often times stories I read take place further out than driving distance. I recently finished Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan and will follow up with a lobster roll to experience New England in the Pacific Northwest.

Each story will introduce me to an experience that will get my nose out of the book and into our world in a more tangible way. A subject featured on the Humans of New York Facebook page said, If you force yourself to go outside, something wonderful always happens.

It’s time to go outside and see what happens.

Blog Tour: Summer’s List

14 Jun

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Two things caught my eye when the press release for Summer’s List by Anita Higman arrived in my inbox: 1, I (kind of) share the name of the title character; and 2, said character manages an independent bookstore (hello, dream job!).

A third thing that caught my attention was the book’s author, who stopped by A Writer’s Purpose when her novel A Marriage in Middlebury was released in November 2013.

I wasted no time to request a review copy from Litfuse Publicity Group and upon the book’s release in early June, the book was in my mailbox.

Summer lives a life of selflessness, putting the needs of others before her own. She passed up college to care for her dying parents, and she took over her grandmother’s bookstore when age and health prevented her from working. Her path was determined by the decisions to care for others, with little thought to herself.

But Summer’s sacrifices did not go unnoticed by her grandmother, who presents her granddaughter with a list (Summer’s list) of adventures and goals to complete. There’s a catch: Summer has to complete the bucket list of sorts with an old childhood friend, Martin, who she hasn’t seen since they were much younger.

This work of Christian fiction includes a cast of characters with many hurts, and while it’s a story of forgiveness and second chances, there’s also a sweet love story beneath the surface.

Summer’s List is a perfect read for the season.

Do you have a list?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

10 Jun

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Hello fellow book lovers! Did you miss me?

This past month marked my first go at blogging monthly, rather than trying to (unsuccessfully) blog what I’m reading weekly. The month of May was spent in the 1930s-1940s, in the Pacific during WWII, in Paris at the climax of the Nazi occupation, in the Scottish Highlands hunting the Loch Ness monster, and in New Jersey at Palisades Amusement Park.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The story of Louis Zamperini is almost unbelievable. An Olympian athlete is shot down during WWII, manages to survive 47 days at sea and endures unimaginable treatment as a Japanese POW. But as the title states, Zamperini’s spirt was unbroken. He survived it all and when Billy Graham’s crusade crossed his path, he was saved from it all.

I wanted to read this before watching the movie, and I’m so glad I did. While Hollywood paid a great deal of attention to Louis’ story, of course there were gaps. My husband would ask me throughout, Did that really happen? And sadly, every time the answer was yes.

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

Last Christmas my sister-in-law (hi Tifani!) gave me this book. We have a similar literary tastes, and she had enjoyed this one and thought I would, too. It follows the formula that I most enjoy about historical fiction: present day with flashbacks.

This story is a work of fiction set against a historical background. I enjoy WWII stories, and especially of the bright women who bravely served doing more than rolling Red Cross bandages. There’s the Resistance, the Nazis and a family mystery nearly 50 years later.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

I was excited to see the author of Water for Elephants release her latest work! During the height of the second world war, a trio of high society friends travel the globe in search of the Loch Ness monster. Far away from home and close to war, they learn things aren’t always as they seem. Discoveries are made as the trio find themselves in their own personal war.

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert

There is one book that sits on my bookshelf that I’m quick to recommend when asked for a book recommendation. Have you read Moloka’i? It’s good. I promise.

I was returning a book at the library when a vintage cover of a 1930’s high diver caught my eye. I picked it up and saw it’s from the same author of Moloka’i and without even thinking I took it home with me.

This story spans decades and generations, all centered around Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey. The story takes many angles, but stays close to the nucleus of one family; a family full of dreamers.

I’ve already jumped into Book 1 for June. But tell me, what should I be reading this summer?

What I’m Reading Wednesday

6 May

I’m finding it difficult to keep to my weekly blog deadline. I’m reading fast enough, but during a busy season of life, it can be difficult to find time to sit at my computer.

Rather than trying to maintain my weekly reading schedule (because I know you all are just dying to see what book I’m into), I will begin to combine several books into one post. So for those of you who are always looking for my recommendations (Hi Brooke!), this will help give you a few books at a time.

To catch up, I have some great news! We’re now five months into 2015 and I have $0 in library fines! I can hardly believe it! Speaking of which, these next two books are due on Thursday…

GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi

GI-BRIDES-COVER-JPEGI love a good WWII love story, especially of the non-fiction variety. Inspired by her own grandmother’s experience as a GI bride from England, Calvi and Barrett traveled the states to interview more than 60 surviving brides. The authors chose to feature four brides that displayed the most perseverance and growth from adversity, including Calvi’s grandmother.

The English women fell in love with dashing men in uniform during a time of war. It’s naive to believe the romantic story continues on after the war and the new brides travel across the pond to their husbands’ country. They discover their handsome service man is a gambler, womanizer, boozer, or just not who they fell in love with.

But these women traveled thousands of miles away from their families, great tea and comfort of their own country for the idea of love. And one way or another they find it.

Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

22571664Dilloway became one of my favorite authors after I read How to Be an American Housewife in a weekend. Her debut novel was inspired by her own Japanese grandmother, which in turn made me think of my ‘Bachan (who was also a GI bride from Japan).

Sisters is Dilloway’s third novel and weaves the present day relationship of two sisters and their family with a samurai story from twelfth-century Japan. There are many historical details of the samurai era included but this is a work of fiction.

But enough about me. What are you all reading this month? I’ll be back in June for another update!

An Evening With Daniel James Brown

25 Apr

My husband made a comment to me last night that I needed to start a book club. I responded with a sigh, said I’ve tried that more than once, but I’ll stick to the books that interest me.

“No, you need to start a book club for women older than 60,” he said.

Now, I’ve been described as an “old soul,” but I’ve never thought about what demographic I best fit in with. I guess now I know.

Friday night is date night, and my husband was gracious enough to sacrifice our usual date of dinner and a movie, to attend a local author event. The event was the finale of Pierce County READS 2015, which encourages the county to read the same book. This year was The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

I have already blogged about the book, and I’ve already said that if you have yet to read it, you should stop whatever you’re doing and pick it up.

We were surrounded by 1,400 other fans, or family members of fans who had no choice but to come (including the bored teenage girl who sat next to me). Brown gave insight into how his 4 1/2-year research culminated into a New York Times bestseller. He read excerpts that put you in the Husky Clipper with the nine boys as they raced for a national title and a shot at the 1936 Olympics.

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Georgia Lomax, executive director of the Pierce County Library System, described it best when she said she first picked up the book and already knew how it ended. But as she read she couldn’t help but worry about the boys. Brown’s narrative sets you in the scene of a time long gone.

The event also included a short video clip of Team USA’s gold medal-winning race. You can’t help but feel emotional watching the finish because as a reader you know about the adversity the boys went through leading up to Berlin. You even know what was going on in the boat during the race thanks to Brown’s insight.

Brown said The Boys is more than a book about rowing, but that it’s also about us and where we come from. We read about the Pacific Northwest small towns after the stock market crash, during the depression and pre-World War II.

The event wasn’t enough to encourage my husband to pick up the book, but he did say he would watch the movie. I’m already looking forward to that date night.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

8 Apr

imgresEveryone has a story. And being the curious one that I am, I’m always asking people about theirs.

With that being said, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, is the perfect book for me. It’s someone simply telling their story, from beginning to nearly the end.

Addie Baum is the Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents. But the story starts in 1985 when Addie’s grand-daughter asks her “How did you get to be the woman you are today?”

Readers learn the building blocks of Addie’s life of growing up in Boston, holding onto every bit of education while trying to avoid child labor. She goes through more than one tragedy, happy experiences and major accomplishments, my favorite of which is her experience working for a newspaper as a twenty-something.

Each experience, each person she meets along the way create Addie’s tale, and the story helps readers gain the appreciation that every story is worth being told.

A thank you goes out to my step-mom, who picked up this book for me!

What would you say if someone asked you,”how did you get to be the person you are today?”

What I’m Reading Wednesday

1 Apr

TheBoysintheBoatSometimes I come across a book I wish would never end. And sometimes the story is so compelling, I wish it were a true story. I found both traits in Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat.

Based on the University of Washington rowing team and their quest for Olympic gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, The Boys is more than a sports biography. It’s a compelling narrative that goes beyond surface descriptions of the nine Americans who made up the boat. It delves into the almost unimaginable personal tales of the boys who endured the Great Depression, and at times insurmountable odds, to be a part of something historical.

I tend to favor the fiction genre, but when I come across a work of non-fiction such as The Boys, I am always in awe at the amount of research the author did to obtain the historical and personal nuggets of their subject. Brown takes you inside the mind of the boys, on board their shell, the Husky Clipper, battling fatigue, rough waters and competition. This book became one of my favorites before I even reached the Author’s Notes.

I can see why Pierce County Library System selected The Boys for the 2015 Pierce County READS (one-community, one-book program). I only wish I hadn’t waited so long after hearing so many positive reviews before giving it a chance myself.

Even if you’re not a fan of sports, the personal stories alone are enough to pull in a reader. Brown weaves the story of the boys, the coaches, and the historical WWII German figures in his book.

I knew how the story would end. But yet, I could not wait to be in that boat with the boys in Germany. To see how they battled through an epic race, joined together as brothers, to bring home the gold.

Every four years during the Olympics I am often weepy watching high-caliber athletes reach the very top of their sport, often times overcoming crazy odds. This was no exception.

Thank you, Mr. Brown, for breathing such life into the boat’s story, and sharing it with the state and the world. This Washington State University graduate admits a Husky pride.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

11 Mar

97812500203692Looking for something to hold you over until the next season of Downton Abbey? Luckily the show’s creator also fancies himself a novelist.

Julian Fellowes’ debut novel, Snobs, was released in 2004, and from my perspective is a story of Downton in the 1990s. The satire of the manners and expectations of the upper class gives a glimpse into the world of society and showbiz that Fellowes knows very well.

The story centers around the obnoxious decisions of Edith Lavery (hardly a lady) who marries an earl and is thrust into a world where who you know and telling people who you know is really the only thing people care about. It’s a tale of modern England and class still matters. Fellowes’ story is full of characters who will annoy you and characters you might sympathize with. You may also picture the familiar Downton cast in some scenes that take place in grand homes around even grander tables.

Fellowes doesn’t characterize this book about class, but rather about choice and how lives are the products of the choices we make.

There’s no Maggie Smith to deliver wit and wisdom, but a colorful and very rich cast of characters will show you what life at Downton just might look like 70 years later.

Are you snob enough?

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My friends and I met Lady Mary this winter.

 

Be a Blessing

22 Feb

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Do you have something nice to say? Then say it. Your words of kindness, gratitude and positivity can do nothing but great things.

I have been sitting on this post since last fall. I was first inspired last summer, then a few months later did a re-write, followed by another and another and…

What first inspired me to write this has only multiplied as time has passed, and after an event today I am finally committing to finishing and sharing this. Because like I said, if I have something nice to say, I should say it.

You see, it’s easy to count our blessings, but are we as concerned about how we can be a blessing to others?

Out of the blue I heard from a high school/college friend today. Our paths don’t cross often, but after she released her memoir last year and my eagerness to promote, promote, promote, a writer-kinship was formed. And my encouragement and cheerleading compelled her to send me a letter of gratitude.

It was an honest confession and a letter of thanks that both humbled me and even encouraged me, and I let her know. She followed up by saying, “The beauty of writing these letters is that the response blesses me just as much as the letters are meant to bless the recipient!”

This is just one of many examples I have experienced in the last few seasons that have pushed me to write this.

My husband and I recently attended a 75th birthday party, an occasion normally dedicated to the person of the hour. But this wasn’t a typical cake and candles celebration.

All the party-goers (median age 60), gathered in a cramped overflowing circle as the birthday boy shared how grateful he was for everyone in his house. He went around one-by-one, telling each person what they meant to him.

He was selfless, kind and grateful. And I was blessed.

Last summer I attended a co-ed bridal shower with my neighbors and good friends, Jessica and James. We chatted in a small group with the bride’s grandmother, and in response to a question, Jessica began to talk about her commute to work.

Nothing exciting happened in the conversation. It was freeways and traffic wait times, but the grandmother was in awe – of James.

“You are blessing me,” she said to him.

Huh?

“You are blessing me with how you listen to your wife. It’s like you don’t want to miss a single word.”

It’s amazing how we have the ability to be a blessing in any situation or opportunity. An act as simple as listening intently to your spouse had a positive effect on someone else.

Soon after the bridal shower I received a Facebook message from a sweet girl I worked with more than three years ago. She wrote me a thank you note.

“I just wanted to take a minute and make sure you know what a difference you make to those around you.”

Humbled. I’m so grateful I didn’t squander the opportunity I had while I was around her to make a difference, and I hope I still continue to do so today.

Bringing it around full-circle, my college friend from earlier created the Facebook group, Give Thanks + Get Fit, as a means to serve as an encouragement. Her name is Sarah and she is a professional writer and traveler. In fact, you can order her book here. 480914_10100815495911723_387681245_nShe had posted this on the group’s Facebook page:

“So I usually write from the RV, but I like to change it up and head to Starbucks sometimes. An elderly man overhead me saying I was from Washington so he started talking about how he was a green beret stationed at McChord back in the day, then he served in Vietnam. I thanked him for his service (without bursting into tears) then he showed me his puffed up, swollen hand, most likely a product of the war. We discussed treatment options then I told him I would pray for him. It was awesome to be able to offer up the most foolproof healing known to man. Don’t forget to slow down and talk to someone today, offer a smile, a prayer. Let these opportunities bless you and the people around you. Much love, friends!”

Every day is an opportunity to be a blessing. Whether it’s with a positive attitude, a smile, sharing a snack, giving an unsolicited compliment, helping someone with a task, saying hi.

If someone blesses you, tell them. If someone blessed you five years ago and you just now realized it today, let them know what that meant to you.

Don’t count your blessings, share your blessings! Be blessings.

The Grand Paradox

8 Feb

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Two years after Ken Wytsma published his debut book, Pursuing Justice, the pastor, educator and justice pursuer released his second book, The Grand Paradox.

I first heard from Wytsma in 2012 at The Justice Conference in Portland. The founder of the conference created an annual international event that exposes men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations related to justice. My friend and I traveled to Philadelphia in 2013 for the conference and then to Bellevue last year to see a simulcast of the event that took place in L.A.

When Wytsma was getting ready to release his first book I was fortunate to be a part of his book launch team. It’s been two years since I blogged about Pursuing Justice, which remains my most-read post to date.

I’m excited to introduce you to The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith (Thomas Nelson). Wytsma is a genuine storyteller who pulls from his own life experiences of coming to faith at age 22 while a student at Clemson.

Wytsma is a pastor who loves the local church and uses The Grand Paradox as a way to have a frank conversation about the true nature of Christian faith.

I’ll let Wytsma tell you more about his new release in the following Q and A:

Q: How did the idea of The Grand Paradox come about?

A: The Grand Paradox was an attempt to address the tension we feel in life when we realize life is messy (messier than we think it should be) and God is mysterious (less clear and forthright than we think he should be). That tension is the life of faith — the walk where we choose to obey and follow despite the lack of clarity, presence of suffering or experience of doubt and dark nights.

The American church has a history of shading faith so we come up with false notions that everything is about me… it’s all individualized and ultimately is aimed at my well-being and blessing. Scripture, however, tells a different story. We were never promised exemption from difficulty or perfectly blessed lives simply because of our belief in God — rather, we’re promised that God is good and his ways are better despite the trials, despite the setbacks and despite the allure of sin and selfishness.

I loved the exercise of tackling most of the deep questions we wrestle with and emerging with a God-centered and joy filled answer: that faith, hope and love are possible even in the mess and in the mystery.

A side note, this book was also kind of a part two to Pursuing Justice. I discuss this in Chapter 5, but if we are going to give our lives away — show greater concern for others than for ourselves — the issue of faith and whether God will “catch me” becomes a very important one. God, if I live this crazy counter-intuitive life of love and service, will you truly walk with me and be there for me? Continue reading