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Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Tuesdays with Morrie"

by Mitch Albom, 1997, 192pgs, rating=3.5

Another quick read and more importantly a good book by Albom. This is my fourth book of his that I've read so I'm used to his style of writing. Plus since this was his earlier book than the ones I've read, I noticed he'd learned a couple more tricks in writing ... that or the stories have gotten bigger and better over the years. Anyway, I'm not going to review this book, other than to say it carries sweet messages of wisdom that one gets from aging and to say go ahead and read it 'cause it's a pleasant book!

I want to take this time to reflect a bit on the books I've read so far. I didn't realize it, but much dealt with death and dying, mixed with life lessons one can make good out of those darknesses. I'm afraid I've unconsciously set myself up for something! Sure enough these lessons have done something good to me. Just awhile ago, my friend told me that her doctors found another tumor in her. I found myself empathizing instead of sympathizing. She's handling it as best as she can and truly it's no good to her to have a friend to be sad for her. Continued friendship, love, and respect are better. And if I listen well, I might discover what's best. ~I love you my dear friend. I'll see you soon.

"The Book Thief"

by Markus Zusak, 2005, 550pgs, rating=4

I read this book choppily through the week (finally finished it early last night) so I found myself anxious and fighting not to get lost. One can tell this is a schooled author because he writes with skill. His story telling is structured and calls for an alert reader. Although I may have missed something, it wasn't enough to miss what counted. It was a wonderful story of how powerful words can be ... to persuade, to excite, to invite, to hate, to love, etc. I enjoyed Leisel's, the book thief, adventures and looked forward to discover what was next ... or at times how it came to be because the narrator, Death, told you the future in advance. Genius writing because you might say, well he ruined the ending for me but the better picture was how it got there! Also, staged in Nazi Germany during World War II, the book had to have something to balance the trying time. It didn't fail! What a joy to read Rudy giving a teddy bear to a dying pilot. What a joy to read Leisel reading to all the families in the basement during an air raid. What a joy to read a family hiding a Jew. These and many more to document humanity in action. Oh, the many wonderful characters! I love that this book embraces human vitality. I'm sure glad I'm a human!! ~Thanks Melanie for recommending this book.

The only thing that hurt my eyes and hears was the swearing.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The book was better

Watched the film version of The Boy in the Striped Pajama this afternoon and yeap, the book was better! The movie omitted a few things and tweaked the characters. The movie was still moving and basically true to the message, but you get a more powerful awe from the book. However, I did cry at the end of the movie. The book left me too shocked and dumbfounded to shed a tear and now a few days later, I got my chance.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"

Gasp, gasp, gasp!! I don't know what to say. I came across this book while looking for another (The Book Thief, my next book to read). I recognized the title as a movie that got rave reviews, so I thought it would be interesting to read the book which inspired the movie. No wonder someone jumped on the ban wagon and wanted this on film for many to see. This book was breathtaking! I had a general idea of what it was about and as I started to read and continued to read until the end, I was anticipating what was coming next. Bruno and Shmuel didn't know what was going on as they were only 9yo, at a period of innocence, and living at the moment; while the reader, me and you, at the 21st century knew the history. Granted history class was not my favorite subject, perhaps I looked at it as many dates and events to remember for a test. But here in this book, history was alive. History was personal. History became understandable and appreciated. What a horrible time that was! Yet, the author took a point to address that such a "fence" still exist today. As grateful as I am to have not encountered such a fence, I can't help but wonder if I too can be counted as complacent to what's going on at this day and age. I'm going about my life oblivious to today's history of contention. I really should read a newspaper! Yikes!!

This is the best novel I've read so far. Simple seemingly dragging form of writing but the whole of it is beyond description! It will not give you the sympathy cry like one might expect of a story about the Holocaust, but rather place you in a profound silent heartache and awe.

My sister-in-law has this movie so Dave's going to pick it up from her after work tonight, so as you can imagine a portion of tomorrow will be spent watching it! I'm eager to find out the movie's take on it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Faith, The Essence of True Religion"

The language of this book is mainly geared for the ears of LDS members. In other words, churchy. You'll find scripture verses, principles, and history that a member would appreciate. Not to say that anyone who reads this would not feel the important message of faith. Certainly President Hinckley took well account of supporting the title's claim. I believe his assertions. I like the references of the early pioneers. I like how he describes the strength and endurance of the Church. I like this book!

By the way, this book was published in 1989, 11 years before Standing for Something, and you will find yourself taking a double take ... some of the things written here are found in verbatim in Standing for Something. No major importance, just an observation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"have a little faith"

I cried again! This time, tears sober from the "monthly curse" so these were tears because it tugged my heart. Tugged it hard! It wasn't even the death that made me break down, but the beautiful man Albert Lewis was. He was full of wisdom, love for humanity, serenity in his faith, and integrity in his journey of life. Mitch Albom did this man justice in this book and what an incredible reminder that good selfless faithful people are the happiest people.

This book also chronicles another man's life, Henry Covington. His 360 degree turn of lifestyle was hard to swallow for the author and for myself. It is easy to judge someone from the life he lead in the past. But that's exactly it, it's the past. Henry gave his last half of his life to God and not to say that these good deeds now would erase his past misdeeds, but he wants to make good of his remaining life and then he's at the Lord's mercy. His story was a reminder that we don't do the judging, we can't "work" our way to heaven alone, and God is good and merciful.

So far I'm liking this guy Mitch Albom. His books stir the spirit and I like that. I like that a lot. You come away from reading his books with something to ponder about and so that's awesome!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Standing for Something"

I wanted to take a break from reading novels and read something meaningful so I looked up (President) Hinckley in the library catalog under authors. I was happy to see that he had a couple of books there so I checked them out.

I finished this book today and to no surprised found it quite inspirational. If you don't know already, Gordon B. Hinckley was the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1995-2008, hence known as president or prophet to the LDS members. As you know, I am Mormon so one might conclude this review will be biased on my part. Actually, having the same beliefs allows me to understand his messages much more in depth.

This book started with kind words of Foreword by Mike Wallace followed by a gripping Introductory that set the tone for the messages to come next ... the ten virtues and the two guardians of virtue. These include: love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness and mercy, thrift and industry, gratitude, optimism, and faith; and marriage and family being the guardians. In words of matter-of-fact and through examples in his life, President Hinckley relays the plea of the healing powers of these virtues to restore America to it's original purpose. America forgot that it holds power to use the freedom it stands for to safeguard humanity. It has forgotten that God is the source of strength. Instead, America is enslaved in the horrifying societal challenges and virtue is becoming things of the past. President Hinckley exhorts us to stand for something again. To be accountable and live our lives according to godly virtues. To come to know that we are sons and daughters of Heavenly Father and so our existence is precious, meaningful, and purposeful.

I took particular care to read the marriage section of this book. I have friends that have and going through divorce. I felt helpless at no offer of wisdom for them. I could not relate to their circumstances and any words of plea to try to save the marriage came at deaf ear. All I could say is to sincerely plead to Heavenly Father for guidance. Now, after reading this book, I could refer them to this section and perhaps find some understanding in a prophet's counsel. In brief I will list his suggestion of four cornerstones on which to establish and nurture marriages and homes: (1) mutual respect and loyalty to one another, (2) soft answer (see Prov 15:1; communicate in calm language, not anger), (3) financial honesty, and (4) prayer.

If I want these virtues instilled in my children, then it starts with me living by them! In our home, Dave and I must work together to provide a loving and learning environment for these virtues to thrive and pass to our children and generations thereafter. Indeed, home is where it begins.

This is an amazing book. I highly recommend it and I believe you will find it a great source of reference for sound counsel.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"The Guardian"

Just finished this book a little while ago. I liked it! Liked it more than I thought I would. It almost seemed predictable but not quite. I was first drawn that it was the first book I read since I started this book reading quest that made me laugh ... hence, I added in my blog description ... tickle the funny bone. Anyway, some of the sarcasm made the characters personable. Moreover, I believed the love story in this book. From the start I was pulling for what seemed to be the underdog. Sure glad that the author didn't drag that choice ... should I choose the handsome charming Richard or my best pal Mike? Yeay, Mike wins! No, I didn't ruin it for you ... it was obvious. Well, Richard of course wasn't going to give up, so the thriller part of the book comes to play. Good choice Julie, 'cause Richard was a nut ball! That part was obvious too. At any rate, I loved the characters in this book; the main characters, their friends, the cops, and of course Singer. I was totally reading this as if it was a movie with the thought in the back of my mind that the movie version would totally get it wrong! One of those movies one would say, the book was much better. Overall, this book tugged the heart, challenged the brain a bit, tickled the funny bone, and brought calm goosebumps to the skin; meaning that it didn't scare the living daylight out of me! Hey, I might have to add that last part to my blog description ... bring goosebumps to the skin! I'll have to think about it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Nights in Rodanthe"

Last night I finished this book, another day read. I didn't know this was adapted into a movie until my brother said so when he discovered I was reading this. I know, I don't get out much! Well, I don't think I bought the "fell in love over a weekend" thing. The love letters that supposedly showed proof of such love, I thought was cheesy. Granted love can get cheesy but it didn't work for me here, but I like everything else in the book. I found the love story of Robert and Jill Torrelson more compelling because it was based on long endearing relationship. I like how parenthood was portrayed ... relationships between mother and daughter, father and son. I also liked that I can relate to a middle aged woman wanting to be seen as attractive. Our circumstances are completely different, but I certainly have let myself go and was reminded to take time to groom better! Overall, if you believe in the main characters' "love at first sight" story then the book flows, otherwise it was a crazy fantasy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

"the five people you meet in heaven"

Clever title! Lures you to want to read it. You figure, hey this guy has the answer! Forget that it's a fictional book, he has the answer!! Well, of course the five people is specific to the main character of the book. Darn! I thought he was going to tell me that I'm going to meet Elvis!! Anyway, I like the feel of the story. I was carried to Eddie's adventurous ride in heaven (btw, in my head, Eddie and Marguerite respectively looked like Carl and Ellie from "Up" the movie) and kept me reading to find out the next person and lesson to learn. This had the same style of writing as "for one more day" which I like ... see-sawing to present time, past time, and transported time. A movie script kind of feel. Anywho, I think I would have liked the book more if I hadn't received rave reviews from friends about the book. I had high expectations and felt it wasn't met; that or I just liked "for one more day" much better. None-the-less, it's a well written book. It did make you think about the people you come in direct and indirect contact with and the cosmic relation of us all. It gave life lessons that make you say, "Huh, that makes sense!" ... like: I died but you lived, you didn't know the whole truth so forgive yourself, love exists even when you die, what's meaningless to you is not to others, etc. Pretty cool, eh? So, if you haven't read it already, go ahead! It's a quick read.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"for one more day"

I took my two youngest to the library today for story time. Gave me a chance to also check out another book. I was actually looking for "have a little faith" by this author, but it was checked out so I have it on hold. In the mean time this was available. When I noticed that it was a short book, I went ahead and checked out another of his book, "the five people you meet in heaven". Anyway, as I suspected this was a quick read. I truly enjoyed it! No tears, but not to say it wasn't moving. Anyway, I like his style of writing. It's different, interesting, and eloquent. This story line I found quite fascinating. Seemingly typical enough ... a down and out man looses hope and turns to suicide. But, the captivating part was that he finds himself in an in-between world where he gets a chance to discover the behind the scene stories of his childhood ... and through this magical adventure he learns self-worth through his mother's eye.

I'm grateful for my parents. The sacrifices they made to make a better life for their children. They too have behind the scene stories that brought me where I am today. For me, this was also a reminder that ancestors paved the way for their children's sake ... their posterity. I can see them dreaming and working for a smoother ride in life for their kin. To them all, I appreciate your efforts and successes.

I also got to reflect on the relationship I have with my mother and the relationship I have with my children as their mother. In sum, I feel a heartbreaking appreciation for my mother's rocky road to get me here. As far as being a mother, I pray that I don't mess them up! :D

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Ever After"

Since I didn't know what books are out there, I went to my local library yesterday and asked a librarian for help. This ended up to be the book that she handed me. It didn't grab me at first but then I found myself crying in several occasions; though I suspect more easily during this hormonal time for me! Yeap, that time of the month ... sorry, too much information? Well, throw themes of patriotism, death, love, Christianity to an emotional woman, you get a reader that will finish the book!

I like how the author intertwined the futile concept of war in the love stories. How a woman struggles to find common ground with her fiance; when she is a strong liberal journalist against the war in Iraq and he, a devoted life military man finding good in the war. Through her plea to God to find an answer, she finds it during the example of her daughter's first love to a military man, a 22yo who exudes military blood. His great love to serve his country and compassionate personality marked him an extraordinary man that defines patriotism. People may not like the war but soldiers in the war must be supported.

I cried mostly because I was reminded of how blessed we are to live in a country that allows us to live freely. I cried for the immense gratitude I felt for the men and women who fought and fight to maintain that freedom. I cried for the sacrifices their families bore and bare. I cried for those who paid the highest price to give me safety here. I cried for knowledge of God's hand in allowing us to experience the choice to believe that good prevails. I cried in pride that people have compassion for others who needs it. I cried because life is great.

Change of venue

Those who have been following me will know that this started out to be my spiritual blog ... the place to log my quest to turning my weakness of reading the scriptures into a strength. I have found difficulty in a routine of study so I was not regular in posting. Recently, I admitted to myself that my weakness was not specific to reading the scriptures, but reading in general. So, I set another goal to get myself reading books since basically that's the root of my struggle ... the need for reading discipline and desire. I do not know good authors or books out there so this will be an adventure! I hope to accomplish a love for reading and through the process will give me the discipline to studying the scriptures. Don't get me wrong, I have not eliminated scripture reading. In fact, I have committed to reading the scriptures daily with my 7yo son. Together we read a chapter or so from the Book of Mormon.

Since this will be my climb to changing my weakness of reading into a strength, I will not set myself to fail! My motto, inspired from a friend's post in her blog, is "Inch by inch is a synch, yard by yard is hard", thus I will pursue this quest slowly and carefully.

I don't want to stray far from the original aura of this blog ... that is, that it be spiritual. So that's why I'm mainly in the quest for books that tug at the heart. I also expect to continue to write about spiritual moments I experience from reading in the scriptures and church materials.

Thank you in advance for your support.

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