Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I read this in July because a friend loaned it to me she was so insistent that I should read it. I had seen the name around for several months so it was on my TBR list but not near the top. What a wonderful book – I’m so glad I moved it up the list and read it. I went out and bought a copy of my own so I could reread it and lend it to family and friends. My mom has it right now, my aunt is next on the list to read it.

One thing I did was create a character list. Since it wasn’t the normal narrative format I had to focus a little harder on who was doing the talking by paying attention to who the letter was to and from. But I quickly got this habit down. I recently read The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham and my complaint with that book was that he described each character in such detail that you didn’t have to form opinions about them, he provided them already formed. This book gave you room to get to know the characters by their actions and words and develop opinions in detail. I much prefer that. And the characters were consistent, no surprise character defects or anything forced to make the plot work.

I loved the relationship between Sophie, Sidney, and Juliet – even without letters from Sophie, you can tell what she is asking, telling, and wondering about – it’s clear they are all close and looking out for the best for each other.

I had to revise my view of Dawsey, for some reason I pictured him older than he obviously is. I loved his direct and shy way of communicating.

Questions from 5 Minutes for Books:

~Is this your first book of letters — fiction or non-fiction? If so, do you like this particular writing style? Why or why not?

I am sure I have read a book of letters before but it isn’t coming to mind. It can be difficult to pull off, causing difficulty keeping the characters straight and the timeline clear. But it can also be fun, like sneaking a peak at someone’s life.

~Do you think Guernsey would have been the same if the author had employed the typical fiction narrative? Would it have been better, or worse?

The format of letters was great. It could have been a good story in regular narrative, but this way worked so well, giving a sense of passing time and letting each voice come out.

~Who is your favorite character? Why?

I love Amelia – she is practical and wise and generous in how she sees others.

~How does the reading that brings the Society’s members together become more than an alibi? What do their literary choices say about each character?

Reading widens the world and provides not just an escape but growth and peace. They certainly needed all of that while under the occupation. They had limited options (unlike all of us) but still found their favorites that suited them. I also thought it very true that men who work with the land and live according to the seasons can be deep thinkers. I loved that Clovis found Wilfred Own and Wordsworth.

~In her last letter, Juliet says that she is …in a constant state of surprise these days. What do you think she means by that?

What I think this means: The war had closed a lot of people down, turning inward and staying safe. Juliet, just like the islanders, is finding new life and rediscovering emotions and the pleasures of growing close to people again. And after her misfires, she is learning what it is to truly love and be loved.

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My nightstand in August-September

nightstand

The month has flown by and I got less reading done than expected.

Look here to see what I have been doing with my time.

On my list for the coming month:

  • Finish John Adams by David McCullough for Book Club in September.
  • Finish Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
  • Fearless by Max Lucado for Thomas Nelson Bloggers
  • Let Go by Sheila Walsh for Thomas Nelson Bloggers
  • The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny – #3 in the Three Pines mysteries
  • Finish The Divine Comedy audio book from ChristianAudio.com. I finished The Inferno and I’m deep into Purgatory now.
  • Into the Looking Glass by John Ringo – borrowed from a relative – good science fiction with quirky humor.

How did I do on last month’s list?

  • I got through 4 or 5 more chapters in John Adams by David McCullough for Book Club in September. that puts me right on schedule.
  • I’m successfully reading a chapter a week in Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
  • Emily’s Quest by L. M. Montgomery to complete my Emily series this year – I read it the day before the last post. It was shorter and not as engaging as the other two Emily books. We knew how it had to end, and it took a long time and some struggles to get there. I find the most interesting part is watching Emily develop as a writer.
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius – This was not very engaging and not very enlightening. I would have liked more expansion on some of the topics he touches on, rather than touching on so many in one small book.
  • The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham – Interesting story, but a little depressing. The story of Somerset Maugham isn’t very inspiring either. There was so much potential for this story, but it didn’t go far.

Other books that I read this month:

I finished my “car” book. I ended up at a meeting an hour early and that got me within a few chapters of the end, so I had to bring it in and finish it. Luckily, I got some good books at the library used book sale so I have a “new” book in the car. The Eleventh Commandment by Jeffrey Archer was very good. It probably isn’t a very good recommendation that it took me 6 months to get through it. The story was very interesting and I did want to see how it ended. But it was also the perfect car book. It has a small number of characters and each is different in profession and personality so it was easy to remember them. The plot is not overly complex or subtle. This means it is easy to just pick up where I left off rather than trying to remember what was happening. I have enjoyed the Jeffrey Archer books I’ve read so I’m always on the look out for others.

I also veered away from my list to read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I had it on my TBR list and it was on the buy 2 get 3 sale table at BN. It was as good as I’ve heard. Every character was handled well, even the brother. I had read the ending in a review of the movie, but I was still surprised and saddened by it. (Yes, it ends differently from the movie.) I felt it was very well written, but at the same time the issues that this family had to deal with were suffocating. I found myself reading it each night with the desire to finish so I wouldn’t have to live with this family any longer. Because it was so real. I highly recommend it, and will be looking for others by Picoult.

I finished Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson. It was free from ChristianAudio.com last month and was very good. I still need to finish Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, part of the same series.

I also read the first four juvenile novels that Robert A. Heinlein wrote in the 50’s. They were collected together into a book called Four Frontiers and were very interesting. I enjoyed Heinlein when I discovered him years ago, but then I wandered into his later works and got tired of them. It is refreshing to read real science fiction, when it was expected that we would be colonizing other planets and moons.

One I enjoyed was Unspoken Words by Elizabeth Musser. I don’t read much Christian literature usually – it just isn’t something I spend much time on. This was well done with a good story.

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The New Me

My New Year’s Resolution, like so many years, was to get in shape and do a better job of taking care of myself. I’ve made some changes over the years but never made a real consistent change in lifestyle. In January I was determined to do better. Then came March and April when I didn’t do much of anything and still ate pretty much what I wanted.

My goals for the New Me:

In late March after my yearly physical my doctor called with my cholesterol numbers and said it was time to get serious. Something about turning 40 must have sunk in because I have done very well since then. I started back up in April – mainly focusing on diet at that time. I cut back sat fat to under 17 grams every day. I’ve gone over only 3 or 4 times since then, and only once over 25 grams. I have also done very well at cutting out all hydrogenated oils, HFCS, and white flour. Sodium level has been good, nothing added on top of what comes in the food. And I haven’t eaten frozen meals since then.

Then in May I started working on the physical side. I started out just working 5 days a week. I got a new bicycle and then started the C25K program to learn how to jog. I started out slow and didn’t think I’d ever be able to jog for more than a minute or two. But I kept going. I also started doing some yoga once in awhile. In June I got real active at SparkPeople. It’s where I learned about C25K and got encouragement each week as I made more progress. I also found new workouts and more information on things I could change in my diet (like adding ground flax).

In June I rode 36 miles on the bike, and did that again in July, with shorter rides spread out in there. In July I jogged for 30 minutes with no stopping. So far I run about an 11 minute mile which is still jogging (a 10 min/mile is often considered running). I have kept that up and last week I ran 3.2 miles in 35 minutes. A 5K is 3.1 miles so I’m all set for the 5K runs I have coming up in the next few weeks.

I worked on my pushups and did 73 within a 15 minute period week before last. I have signed up to run in a 3 mile run this Friday, then a 6K on the 5th and a 5K on the 12th. I’m considering an 8K on the 19th and I have my eyes on a 10K on Thanksgiving Day.

While the runs/races are fun (jogging or cycling) the real accomplishment is that I have stuck with this for 4 months and it’s become a real part of my day now. I’ll have to make some adjustments as the weather gets colder, and the shorter days are already changing my schedule some, but I’m enjoying it and like being active. I’m half-way to my next physical and it will be interesting to see what the numbers say next time.

thenewmegraphic

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My Jesus, I Love Thee

We sang this hymn Saturday at the First Presbyterial meeting in Burlington ARP.

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

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Cats

Things seem to be going pretty well with the new cat. He came with the name Oliver, which I liked. But Anthony really liked Blu-Ray so he and BlueTooth would be the Blues Brothers. So, he is now Ray.

Ray and BT

Once we decided to call him Ray, he proceeded to pee in a box under my desk and then yesterday he peed on our bed. I’m thinking he may prefer Oliver 😉

Some thoughts on why he peed on our bed. Marking his territory? Perhaps, but really the bed is ours and he’s allowed to spend time there, he needs to learn that. Jealous because we abandoned him to watch a movie? Doubtful, he spent the whole time curled up with one of us. Mad because we wouldn’t let him jump on the table and eat some of that delightful salmon fresh from the grill? I’m thinking this is it. He stomped off toward the bedroom to pout and I think he took revenge.

Of course, we didn’t discover it until time to sleep, so our evening was disrupted some. He also got Anthony’s pillow so I had snoring, cat pee smell, and BlueTooth making weird meowing noises while Ray stalked him. I finally went up to the guest bedroom to sleep. Then I got up this morning and did 3 loads of laundry. The sheets smell great, we’re still working on the bed.

When he isn’t making wet disturbances, Ray is actually a cute cat and he and BlueTooth are getting along better each day. Both of them were resting on Anthony yesterday afternoon and they aren’t as loathe to be in the same room together now.

BlueTooth tends to stay away, and here’s why. Wherever BT goes, Ray follows. But if BT curls up somewhere and goes to sleep, Ray will leave him alone to go find the action. Therefore, the only way to be alone is to be sleeping, away from us. Hopefully Ray will continue to calm down and let BT have some space once in awhile.

One game they play is entirely accidental. The sun will reflect off of BT’s tag and Ray will chase the light. BT is completely unaware that he’s the reason Ray is suddenly leaping all around the room. It’s pretty funny.

That’s it for now!

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Everyday Greatness – review

_80_140_Book.66.coverEveryday Greatness by Stephen R. Covey and David K. Hatch is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers pick.

I have a book on my shelf called 70 Most Unforgettable Characters from Reader’s Digest. I have kept it since I was in high school and read it again every few years. They are short little stories about a person who made am impression. The stories are funny or sad, and provide a look at people and places that are long gone and often foreign to me.

I was pleased to get a copy of Everyday Greatness, which is a collection of stories from Reader’s Digest about people who display character and make contributions, with insights and commentary from Stephen R. Covey.  The book has 7 categories containing 3 principles which can guide our choices in life. The stories under each one show times when someone was faced with a time of choice, what decision they made, and what the outcome was for the person and for others.

Stephen Covey’s introduction and postscript to each story, plus the quotes between each chapter are well done. They aren’t too long or preachy, but just simple and direct, raising questions if you want to think about how the principle applies to your own life. This book can be used for self-study or just read for the inspiring stories of regular people who did good things.

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Oliver

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Oliver doing yoga

We adopted a second cat Sunday. Cat #1 (BlueTooth) has not said he wanted a friend, but we keep thinking it would be nice if he had a another cat to play with. 

BlueTooth is still wondering what he did to deserve this. And hisses when Oliver proceeds to sniff his rear (I can’t blame BlueTooth, I’d hiss too). But it’s only been two days so we have hope. 

BlueTooth is about 4, and Oliver is about 1. What a difference. Oliver is very curious as he learns the new smells and sights (and harasses BlueTooth). He is also persistent and fast. Putting him down just means he gets to jump right back up. 

He’s also a paper chewer. BlueTooth chews through tiny wires, but that’s not a worry with Oliver. He’d rather chew up a book or papers sitting on the table. He’s also attracted to push pins. 

I’ve been alternating between having fun playing with him and watching him do fun things and then pulling him away from stuff and removing things from his mouth. Then he just chews on me (maybe we should file his teeth ;-). 

So, it was with great trepidation that I rode the bike on the trainer and then did yoga. I kept him away from the bike successfully. Then he turned out to be an even better yoga partner than BlueTooth. BT thinks he should watch my yoga session from the center of my mat (which hampers my form just a tad). Oliver was content to lie down at the head of the mat and didn’t get in my way at all. In fact, he closed his eyes and stayed quite still. I may have found a way to tame the inner wildcat.

Sunday night Anthony slept in the guest bedroom with Oliver and I stayed in our room with BlueTooth. But I didn’t shut BlueTooth up in our room so he kept going to the guest bedroom door and meowing pitifully. No one but Oliver slept well.

Last night I slept in the guest room with Oliver and Anthony and BlueTooth were shut up in our bedroom. Oliver decided to play around 3am and I had to hide my digits because he kept chewing on my fingers. Then he would lick and chew on my ear. I finally got him to stop that, but he just laid down with his belly right up beside my ear and purred nice and loud!

I really hope BlueTooth accepts Oliver soon so they can go play with each other at 3am and leave me to sleep.

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

classics-bookclub

I have heard of this book forever (it was published in 1938) but never got around to reading it. I could never really tell what the book was about so when 5 Minutes for Books put it on the Classics Bookclub list I knew it was time to read it. Then I read the teaser questions and got even more intrigued. I didn’t realize Rebecca wasn’t the main character of the book.

Why do you think the heroine remains nameless? (did you notice she was never referred to by name?) Don’t you find it interesting that the novel is titled “Rebecca” yet our narrator is nameless? Why the contrast, do you think? Do you see her anonymity as indicative of some deeper meaning?

She’s a shy, insecure, girl with no personality of her own yet. Contrasted with Rebecca who was very sure of herself and very vivid in her personality.

Did you like Maxim at first? Did you trust him? Why do you think the narrator was so unsure of his affection? Did you share her doubt? What gave her confidence in his love–or did she remain insecure? Did you alter your opinion of either Maxim or the narrator in the course of the novel? What made you change your mind?

I liked him but I did wonder why he was marrying her so quickly and then abandoned her once they got to Manderley. Reminded me of The Scarlet Pimpernel where he loved her so very much and then because they both had secrets that they wouldn’t trust the other one with, or ask about, the distance grew.

The narrator annoyed me after awhile and I wanted to give her a kick in the rear. I can relate very much to the overactive imagination and the habit of assuming others are thinking negative things about you. But it was so unrelenting that I started to wonder how she could be the happy and sincere person Maxim loved.

I was happy when Maxim finally trusted her with the truth, even though it did mar some of her innocence.

Rebecca has one of the more famous opening lines in literature. How do the opening lines set the tone of the novel?

Presents the imagination of the narrator and the centrality of the place.

How would you classify Rebecca? Love story? Ghost story? Tragedy? Mystery? It’s been called one of the greatest gothic romances; would you agree?

I found it on the YA shelf at the library, and I would agree with that categorization. I was losing patience with the narrator. I see it as a love story – since the two main characters (not Rebecca) do find true love and realize it comes when you are honest with each other and face things together.

Without giving too much away (hate spoilers), were you satisfied with the ending? Why or why not?

I was satisfied with the ending to the story of Rebecca, I thought it suited her character. I found the ending of Manderley a bit unexpected.

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Nightstand status in July

Another month passing away.

What do I plan to read in August?

I’m sure I’ll find many others to read through the month as well. Maybe I’ll start Anna Karenina

Here is the list of books I planned to read in the month of July. I did very well. Having the list kept me accountable.

I renewed this thing twice. Not hard to read, but not interesting for some reason. Some of it was humorous but it just didn’t work for me this month. I read 4 chapters (135 pages) and decided that was enough exposure to this classic for me.

I am reading about a chapter a week on this one. The subject is meaty and he puts a lot into it, plus the edition I have is small tight print which shouldn’t be legal.

  • Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson – Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger – not received until 7/20 – almost ran out of time.

This was an amazing book. As fun and weird as the description said, but also hits some very serious topics.

This was a really fun book – second in the series. The 4 young heroes are thrown into action to save their friend, and it takes all 4 of them working together (again) to do it. Very fun read.

This was pretty funny. Again, young heroes, not the popular type but thrown together to solve a mystery and then find they are friends. The tone and marration are a bit different from the Mysterious Benedict Society and I enjoyed this book as well.

The last of my YA books for the month. Next in the series and very good story, with a few new friends thrown in. Strange ending and a few people get grounded along the way.

I did it! And I’m glad I did. Just like The Illiad, it was an interesting read. It also got me into the pattern again as preparation for reading The Metamorphoses. I didn’t realize that it isn’t even until chapter 5 that we see Odysseus himself. Then halfway through the book he’s home and we spend the next half building up to the great purge of the suitors.

  • I need to start John Adams by David McCullough for the Sept book club meeting.

I started this. If I read a chapter a week, I’ll be done in time for Book Club. It is very interesting, but slow reading. I’m sending my chapter notes out to the rest of the book club to try to encourage them to work through it.

Plus Extras I read

I made it through the entire book of Psalms and Isaiah.

I read A Test of Wills by Charles Todd – the first in a good series of mysteries. I enjoyed this one a lot! I look forward to reading more by this author.

A Fatal Grace, the second in the Three Pines mysteries by Louise Penny. She gets into relationships well, and I like that.

Then I went off course for a week and read a wonderful fantasy trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – Mistborn. Volume 1, The Final Empire, does a great job of introducing the world and characters. They achieve an impossible mission to save the world and seem to have doomed it in the process. Volume 2, The Well of Ascension, has great character growth and lots of scurrying around trying to patch and fix the damage caused in volume 1. Then just as it seems like it’s all going to work out, it gets a whole lot worse! Volume 3, The Hero of Ages, spreads our characters all over the continent as the end of the world is rapidly approaching. Well worth the 1500 pages total to see how it all works out in the end!

I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. It was fantastic! The format of letters and the characters as we learn about the occupation of Guernsey Island during WWII was just great. I laughed and cried and couldn’t put it down.

I also read Slave Hunter by Aaron Cohen about his time spent identifying and helping free slaves, especially sex slaves, around the world. Well written and interesting. Even the autobiographical information was interesting. But a depressing read, it’s unrelenting. He does a good job of reminding the reader that even one life helped is a good thing, not to get overwhelmed by the numbers or the inhumanity that the world is capable of.

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Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl – review

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World by N. D. Wilson is my latest Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers choice.

I thought it would be a good change in pace after Dred Scott’s Revenge and the biographies I have been reading. It was a great change and a wonderful book.

I was a little leery of the book. It looked fun, but I wasn’t sure how serious it would be. I was hooked with the Preface and enjoyed the entire ride. I could tell you that it is deep and truthful, but that might scare you away. It is funny and sarcastic and gentle, hopefully that will intrigue you. Using the seasons, his knowledge of philosophy, and a little science along the way, N. D. Wilson does a wonderful job of talking about the world and it’s Creator. He takes on subjects like God and the existence of evil, the reality of Hell, facing death, and he even talks about whether God is every truly silent. It is very serious but in a wonderful spinning way.

I recommend this book – it is a great read with a wonderful sense of humor. You will laugh out loud and think deep thoughts along the way.

page 6 has this:

First, every culture has felt the overwhelming pressure of existence itself and the need to explain it. There’s a sort of nervousness apparent in the myths of every people group, as if maybe we’re not supposed to be here and we al have to rehearse our story before the authorites come.

“We’re sorry…there was this ice giant,” we explain.

On page 170:

Christ to the apostle Peter: Where I am going, you cannot follow.

Christ to the thief: Come with me. …

Stories don’t end at death.

What a ride.

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