My Year of Books

photo (1)I always feel like I never have enough time to read. There are always more unread books on my bookshelf than there are minutes in the day to read them. Of course, that doesn’t keep me from buying more books. I figure I’ll get to them someday.

Looking back through my book journal, it looks like I took more time to read than I thought I had, having read 24 books in 2012. While this is not a huge number, I’m proud to say I read more than two.

I bought a little Moleskine book journal at the big, multi-story Barnes and Noble store in Kansas City last year and while, historically, I’ve not been very good at keeping personal logs, this is one I have been faithful at keeping. It feels like Progress (with a capital P) to look back and see books from my bookshelf that I’ve “knocked out.” Anything that feels like progress is a very good thing.

Other than the memoirs, the only non-girly books I read last year were The Hunger Games trilogy (and to say those aren’t girly is pushing it,) of which Mocking Jay received one of only four of my 5-star ratings.  Maybe this means I need to be reading better books, maybe not.

Of the 24 books, only two did I want to re-read immediately after finishing. One, because I felt like there were things I missed along the way and should have taken notes. The other, because I got so caught up in the story, I lost track of reading it like a writer; analyzing the plot, structure and characterization along the way. I truly admire authors who have the talent to write that way. (And the editors who polish the story to that level.)

Two of the memoirs I read in 2012 were research for the novel I’m writing.

The Slave Across the StreetA Stolen Life

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores is a true account of the author’s experience as a victim of sex trafficking. This is the book that really got the wheels turning, so to speak, for my book. To think something like this could happen, literally next door to us, is appalling and frightening.

By far, the most difficult book I tackled this year was Jaycee Dugard’s book, A Stolen Life. In fact, I put it down about a third of the way through, not intending to finish it. But I had to know how she got away and if the monster who enslaved her got what was coming to him, so I finished it.

Both of these stories broke my heart for all the young ladies out there whose lives will forever be marked by the tragedy they were forced to endure. And I pray they find their way through it so as not to feel defined by it.

One other memoir I read, which wasn’t research, was Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.

The Glass Castle

It starts out with, “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.” This opening sentence is what made me buy the book and what followed kept me reading until the end. In the Opinion section of my book journal I wrote, “Wow. This would be an incredible fictional story but blows your mind as a true story.”

Although I gave it only 3 ½ stars, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was an interesting read.

The Language of Flowers

The protagonist was so well-developed I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and either strangle her or slap some sense into her. And just about the time I was ready to give up on her, she turns it around. For a bit. This would be a wonderful read for anyone who appreciates the different meanings of flowers.

The Help

Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Help by Kathryn Stockett. (Which was rejected over 60 times before it was published!):

“If chocolate was a sound, it would’ve been Constantine’s voice singing. If singing was a color, it would’ve been the color of that chocolate.”

“…look around, investigate, and write. Don’t waste your time on the obvious things. Write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else.”

“It always sound scarier when a hollerer talk soft.”

The other three 5-star ratings belong to Christian Fiction stories whose authors I have come to adore and I pray every single writing day that I can emulate. One of which includes my very first Historical Christian Fiction read, A Home in Drayton Valley by Kim Vogel Sawyer.

A Home in Drayton Valley

I loved this story and loved how Kim seamlessly wove Christian truths into it without ever coming across as preachy. My favorite quote: “…she couldn’t eat a bite. Joss’s sweet words filled her so completely, she didn’t have room for anything else.”

One of the most heart-wrenching stories I read was Deborah Raney’s book, Beneath a Southern Sky.

Beneath a Southern Sky

This is a tremendous story of love, love lost and Love’s promise. My favorite quote: “She turned away, keenly aware that she was closing the cover forever on another chapter of her life. Yet the pages that lay ahead, still to be written, held sweet promise.”  Every one of Raney’s books I’ve read leaves me saying to myself, “Wow. This is how I want to write my stories.”

And finally, the book whose characters carried me away through their story, The Will of Wisteria by Denise Hildreth.

The Will of Wisteria

One of the main reasons I loved this book so much is its setting: Charleston, SC. Having been there and fallen in love with my experience there, this story was a fun read. This is “…a Southern tale about learning to love, learning to live, and learning to bend.” My favorite quotes:

“At least he knew now that wherever he was headed, it was away from where he’d been.”

“We do not travel along the paths of our lives so that we can pretend they never happened. We travel them so that when we encounter others on the same journey, we can comfort and help them.”

That wraps up My Year of Books 2012. 2013 is starting with Submerged by Dani Pettrey, which I bought because of the beautiful cover and its setting in Alaska – a new love for me after traveling there last year. See, isn’t it pretty?

SubmergedSM

And on my Kindle (which I read from at night because it’s easier to hold in bed than a “real book” as my Dear Husband likes to call them), The Negotiator by Dee Henderson.

I plan to tackle a couple Classics this year. The Great Gatsby tops my list. I saw that’s coming out in movies this year – need to read it first. Anna Karenina is on my Kindle, as well as Les Mis, Madame Bovary, Dracula, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Wuthering Heights and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

And I promised my son that, at some point, I would read ALL of the Harry Potter books. Those might take me awhile.

What was your favorite book of 2012? Of all time? Have a ‘Must Read’ recommendation? Leave me a comment.

Happy Reading!

Rockin’ the 4-0

Today is the day. My birthday. My 40th birthday. Ugh.

I can’t say I’ve been thrilled about this birthday. It seems as though it’s a milestone for a mile I have not yet finished. I’m not ready to be forty. I haven’t done all the things on my bucket list I wanted to have done by this time in my life. I think my perfection in procrastination might have something to do with that. There are so many more things I want to accomplish and the years left after forty will not be enough to get them all done.  There are two halves in life – the half before 40 and the half after. I am now in the after; the second half of my life. I can either embrace it or cry, but I can’t change it.

Turning 30 wasn’t a big deal, but 25 was hard. At 25 I looked back at what I had done and, while having graduated high school while being a wife and a mother was a miracle and a blessing, I felt I hadn’t really done anything since. It kind of feels the same at 40.

I was telling my Dear Husband this the other night – that I really didn’t feel like I’ve accomplished all that I was meant to by this time in my life – to which he rolled his eyes and said I was being ridiculous. And then he listed all the things I have done. Sometimes looking at things through someone else’s eyes gives you a new and better perspective. That’s what best friends do and I’m thankful to be married to mine.

So, instead of lamenting over all the goals I didn’t reach in 2012, my 39th year and the end of my first half, I have decided to be excited to have another chance and to make 40 a ROCKIN’ year! They say 40 is the new 20. I guess I’ll find out.

Looking over the goals I wrote for 2012, there isn’t much I would change for 2013. The areas of Faith, Family and Health are all the same. In Writing, I’ll continue the neurotic ebb-and-flow dance that I’ve fallen in step with and pray that I’ll wind up nearer my goals by the end of the year. The Other category, which includes contact with family and friends, will have a bigger focus this year. Those relationships are an important part of life; important for learning and sharing and being a part of something beyond ourselves and our four walls. I let the four walls of myself confine me a little bit much last year and I think I’d like to ‘get out’ more this year.

By the end of this year and every year that follows, I want to be able to say, “that was my best year yet.”

Because I am starting to grasp the importance of good time management, the motto I’ve picked for this year is:

Do it. Do it right. Do it right now.