What I Read | APRIL 2017

28092902Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

Bryson, known mainly for his European travelogues, here documents his return to the USA through a series of newspaper essays.  Having tasted life in Europe, his musings about his home country are mostly exasperated.  Occasionally, usually at the prodding of his British wife, he remembers something lovely about the United States, which just goes to show that it’s easiest to love greener grass elsewhere than to love what we were given.

NorseMythology_Hardback_1473940163Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

The first creation stories were not especially amazing, and I almost lost hope for this book!  But once we dive into character-driven narratives, there is a distinct Gaiman-sparkle that elevated the book and helped the story feel more cohesive.  I’m becoming more and more interested in Norse mythology, especially because the gods seem especially unfair, and unrepentantly so.

51nBwU944QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

A true memoir of one guy’s journey of Not Dating, and how this could have happened.  It’s funny, and there is meaningful growth, which is good because I spent most of the book yelling “you’re self-sabotaging!” at him until he heard me and said so himself towards the end.  The premise is even more fun because he frames each story through the lens of a scientific hypothesis to be proved or disproved.  It was fun to see that he was mostly wrong, and had to learn that we see what we want and/or fear, not what is really there.

28588459Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

King is one of my all time favorite authors because she walks a fascinating “is this mental illness OR magic OR reality” line that she refuses to clarify.  This book in particular dealt with a subject I haven’t really seen represented before.  King confidently asserts that abuse, big or small, endured or witnessed, is traumatizing and deserves to be acknowledged, addressed, and healed.  Through the lens of a teenager girl meeting other-aged versions of herself.  Fun!

25528801Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

This book is a little more PSA-y, telling the “ideal” rape scenario in which the victim knows it’s not her fault and is believed and supported by everyone.  It’s not very realistic, but it’s very encouraging to see a future to work toward.  Secondarily, I was very impressed that Johnston made me question my cheerleader-stereotypes, and by the end I really admired the sport.

51vR3C-ZWpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

I don’t usually like books written in the form of diary entries, but Schlitz pulled the form off wonderfully.  The break between entries, and how the time in between is explained either in a rush or with embarrassment, really added to the narrative.  It’s set in the early 1900s, and the journey from country (which felt vaguely Little House on the Prairie) to city (which felt modern…ish) highlighted just how drastically technology changed people’s lives during that time period.  It was a fun read!

27230789Honestly Ben by Bill Konigberg

This is a sequel to Openly Straight, now told from Ben’s perspective.  And thank goodness, because Ben is so good!  He’s so lovely!  He’s thoughtful and deliberate, and we all need a Ben in our lives.  There was also so much good gender and sexuality talk going on in this book, with a gender fluid character who is almost immediately embraced by their all-male high school (if only!) and a main character who is something like demisexual…but not really?  I hope there’s a third book from Hannah’s perspective.

41d41DLmZwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

I LOVE St. Francis, so reading a fictional book about a Protestant pastor who goes to Assisi and also falls in love with the saint was right up my alley.  I mean, it’s history/travel/theology all in one!  It was actually a little heavy-handed for a novel in the way that it presented a model for how the Church could be remade, but I found it quite inspirational.  Definitely a book for the postmodern mystic/skeptic.

25665016The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

A seriously uplifting book about four teenagers struggling with mental disorders (rage, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) inside a mental health hospital.  I loved how they helped each other in their brokenness WITH their brokenness.  Stork’s amazing ability to write about depression and suicide attempts is apparently based on his personal experience, but his ability to write female teenagers believably is all skill.

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 2

A few months ago I recommended some of my favorite podcasts (and received some great recommendations back!), because there is rarely a time when I don’t have a podcast playing in the background.  While all of my previous recommendations (especially Dear Hank and John, Overinvested, and The Liturgists Podcast) are still high on my priority list, I have since added some new ones to my queue!


600x600bb1|  The Guilty Feminist

Big thanks to blogger Jesse for recommending this one to me.  Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White are European comedians who record their shows about “the feminist ideals we hold and the insecurities and hypocrisies that undermine them.”  They start each show with a series of “I’m a feminist, but…” confessions that create a safe place to laugh about all the ways we fail to be as body positive and self-confident as we profess to be.  They’ve done shows about exercise, apologizing, femininity, and many more, and I look forward to each new episode every week.

14711124649122|  Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

This is a new podcast that I only just discovered, but I LOVE it. Continue reading “Podcast Recommendation List | PART 2”

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

I re-read The Lost Hero (well, I listened to it on audiobook), and I am so amazed at Riordan’s ability to modernize myths, expand the scope of his own story, and create diverse characters who are deeply troubled and funny.  All this in a “children’s” book.

I was able to enjoy the story more immediately this time through.  When it first came out, I was so confused and annoyed that Percy Jackson wasn’t narrating the story.  In fact, he was nowhere to be found!  But since I’ve read the rest of the series, and I’ve learned to love Jason, Piper, and Leo, I really enjoyed re-reading their first adventure.

I mean what I said above, about Riordan’s remarkable ability to create diverse characters.  The three narrators of The Lost Hero are a white male (aka stereotypical hero), but then we change perspectives and get to be in the head of a Hispanic male and a Native American female!  Jason struggles with identity issues relating to his loss of memory, Leo struggles with identity issues relating to his potentially destructive power, and Piper struggles with identity issues of wanting to be valued for more than beauty and fame.  In other words, they are total human, unsure of who they are or if they’re good.

Piper is especially impressive to me, since Riordan manages to delve into distinctly female-centric topics such as beauty, body positivity, and romance.  I loved what he did with her character, adding depth to the conversation that most authors miss.  Although Piper is initially hesitant to express her beauty, afraid that it will diminish her in the eyes of others, she learns that beauty has a power of its own.  But Riordan doesn’t stop there, granting women the “right” to be beautiful.  Instead, he validates and encourages her stereotypically feminine power while also giving her a bunch of other skills.  She learns to fight with a dagger, speak persuasively, and make difficult decisions in times of stress.

I’m going to continue listening to The Heroes of Olympus series, and I cannot wait to get back to Percy, Hazel, and Frank (and eventually Annabeth, who is my favorite!).

The_Lost_Hero_210Book Jacket

Jason has a problem.
He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret.
Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools.
When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who;s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

StumbleUpon Sunday (5)

StumbleUpon is a giant collection of the best pages on the Internet.

StumbleUpon is a great way to lose hours of your life.  Luckily, I braved the Internet vortex so you don’t have to.  This week I found these especially interesting websites:

  1. Clever Illustrations Reveal the Two Kinds of People There Are in the World
    Well, I’m definitely the neat freak.
  2. 30 Places You’d Rather be Sitting Right Now
    A great way to feel worse about your desk/couch/location.
  3. Powerful Illustrations Show Women How to Fight Gender PrejudicesFor example:  “Rebecca had depression, and only after many months she was able to wear clothes that revealed the scars left on her body.  Rebecca, these marks are a reminder of how brave you have had to be!  Psychological pain is also human, and suffering it does not make you any less of a person.”
  4. Pudding the Fox is Too Friendly to Go Free
    I know he says he doesn’t support keeping foxes as pets, but with a name like Pudding?  Give me one!
  5. When Their Trailer is Transformed Into a House, Everyone is Left Completely Amazed
    This amazing camper has all the clever hacks that has made me love tiny houses.
  6. This Artist Doesn’t Just Drink Coffee, She Also Makes Incredible Portraits With It!
    Yoda!  Mario!  Daenerys!
  7. This Sentence Has Five Words
    Incredible writing advice given in an incredible format.
  8. The 30 Best Films of the Decade
    I’ve seen only 10!
  9. 30 Shower Thoughts You’ve Never Had Before
    “The saying ‘Money can’t buy you happiness’ should be changed to ‘Money can’t prevent sadness.'”
  10. The Hero’s Journey Outline
    Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, with multiple lists and charts!  This will be very interesting to a very specific set of people.

StumbleUpon Sunday (2)

StumbleUpon is a giant collection of the best pages on the Internet.

StumbleUpon is a great way to lose hours of your life.  Luckily, I braved the Internet vortex so you don’t have to.  This week I found these especially interesting websites:

  1. This is what happened when a photographer came face-to-face with one of Antarctica’s most vicious predators
  2. 14 Hacks That’ll Help the Laziest Person Host a Dinner Party
  3. Just Puppies:  Pure Breed Information
  4. 23 Best Movies on Netflix You Haven’t Seen Yet
  5. 10 Popular Books for Teen Boys
  6. A Guy Photoshops Celebrities Into All His Holiday Party Photos
  7. 10 Unusual Beaches You Have Never Heard Of
  8. 10 Most Beautiful Views From the Top of Famous Landmarks
  9. 15 Fascinating Facts About Ancient Egypt
  10. Family Tree of the Greek Gods