Books

Books: Where the Crawdads Sing

I had been wanting to read Where the Crawdads, the debut novel by Delia Owens, for almost a year. It came out last August and has been on my running “books to read” list since then. I finally got around to it this summer, and it did not disappoint.

The novel tells the story of Kya Clark, the “marsh girl,” living by herself in rural North Carolina in the 1960s. After a local man is found dead, Kya is arrested for murder. Owens’ background in nature and ecology is evident in her writing.

I really loved this book. The characters are interesting and well-developed. I was struck by the beautiful imagery combined with the underlying theme of how society treats those who are different.

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I have been caught up in the emotional throes of sending my firstborn to kindergarten this week, so stay tuned for more on that. She is doing great. Me? I’m all out of Kleenex.

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Books

Books: Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love

Maybe it’s the South Dakota ranch girl in me or my years as an avid 4-H member, but the origins of our food sources have always interested me. Regardless of where we live, I think it is important that we are aware of where our food is coming from and that we instill that knowledge in our children. It was only natural, then, that Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi caught my eye at the local library.

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Before you get depressed just looking at the cover, Sethi is not talking about the real, complete loss of these foods, but rather the loss of diversity in our cultivating and marketing of foods like coffee, chocolate, and wine. Worldwide, when huge corporations are taking over we lose that diversity, not to mention we put the livelihoods of many at risk.

Sethi encourages us to be aware of where our food is coming from, and be willing to, at times, spend a little more to sustain small food producers. She describes sitting down to an elegant meal and truly thinking of all the people involved in bringing that dinner to her plate.

Sethi also speaks to the self-described foodie in me. I love trying new foods and have yet to find one I would shy away from. I eat Rocky Mountain oysters straight off the branding fire.

Sethi writes: “Great tastes are everywhere. Sometimes they’re fancy, but most of the time they are not. Finding those tastes requires less of an open wallet and more of an open mind and heart.”

Sethi finishes the book with a chapter on octopus and its place as one of the most memorable meals in her life. She writes: “To most a solo meal isn’t a courageous act, but to me, it was because it revealed my vulnerability around being alone and, in being by myself, feeling like I was settling. Now I know I’m not I was not actually alone. I was with myself, having one of the very best meals I have ever tasted, surrounded by people celebrating the same.”

Bread, Wine, Chocolate provides an interesting and educational look at food. It explores the science of our food sources as well as the economic impact our decisions have. Above all, it encourages us to be aware as we purchase and enjoy the foods we love.

Books

Books: If You Only Knew

I will confess that I was not in love with the first half of Jamie Ivey’s If You Only Knew. She seemed to wallow in guilt and judgment. Rather than promoting positivity and moving forward, she seemed obsessed with reliving her past mistakes.

Then came the chapter on sin shock and acceptance and I said “wow.” Ivey writes about how we say we accept others and believe we can be forgiven for all sin, but when someone really confesses, we are shocked. We have an “I would never do that” mentality when it comes to accepting and forgiving others.

Despite being happy in her present life, Ivey is ashamed of many parts of her past. She also writes about perceived perfection and our need to free ourselves from it. I particularly liked the chapter in which Ivey writes about confessing about shameful parts of her past to a new friend. The woman loved her and accepted her no matter what, and became one of closest friends. She writes “something beautiful happens when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.” I love that statement and it is something I need to work on in my own life.

If You Only Knew is a quick read and, at least for me, it was completely worth powering through the wallowing part of the book to get to the messages in the second half. Ivey surrendering to self-pity makes her story of hope more relatable, because we have all done that at one point or another. Now I’m onto some historical fiction so I’ll post that review soon. Stay tuned.

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(Image from amazon.com)

Books

Books: A Serial Killer’s Daughter

Kerri Rawson thought she had a normal life. She was newly married and living in a small apartment with her husband when the FIB knocked on her door. Her father had been arrested for several murders decades prior. He was the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer, one of the most wanted serial killers in American history.

In A Serial Killer’s Daughter, Rawson writes about this shocking news as well as her relationship with her father, which she thought was a normal father-daughter bond. She writes about family camping trips and holidays, but also about her father’s paranoia and occasional outbursts of anger. Rawson is honest and thoughtful in her writing.

Rawson suffered from depression after her father admitted to the horrific acts of which he was accused. Still, she found a way to move forward in a positive way. She embraced her faith and found a community of people who would remain good friends and care about her even after they found out she was BTK’s daughter.

As she worked through accepting the fact that her world had been turned upside down, she began to realize she had been emotionally abused by her father for many years. This book was very interesting. Rawson struggled to cope with the fact that her father, a person she thought she knew, was a brutal murderer. She also struggled to not let being the BTK Killer’s daughter define her.

Rawson continued to communicate with her father for some time after he confessed to the murders and was sentenced to life in prison. Eventually as she became a mother herself, she cut off communication. It was part of her healing process. Rawson focuses on overcoming something that was completely out of her control, and, in doing so, provides insight on finding the strength to move forward.

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Books

Books: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

As someone who enjoys organizing, minimalizing, and similar activities, it’s only natural that I would eventually read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Here’s my take: For the most part, this woman is crazy. However, in some ways I related to her in a very big way, so does that make me the crazy one? Don’t answer that.

Kondo teaches some good theories on how keeping an organized home and living with less can give us a free and peaceful feeling. She also encourages us to dry our dishes on the veranda instead of in a dish drain and to tell our shoes “thank you for your hard work today” when we get home from the office. Clearly, not all of her tactics are reasonable, but a few are.

I related to her writing about the strong desire to get rid of some of her family’s excess belongings. My husband still accuses me of throwing away his favorite hunting knife a couple of years ago. I didn’t, but he knows my committment to living with less is pretty strong.

What Kondo says about our culture of excessive gift-giving also resonated with me. She writes: “We need to show consideration for others by helping them avoid the burden of owning more than they need or can enjoy.”

I’m not saying Kondo reads A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER and copies my ideas, but the portion of the book on storing seasonal clothes is similar to a blog post I wrote a year or so ago. She advocates for storing everything where it can be used, not hauling winter clothes up from the basement when the weather cools off and keeping totes of clothes in storage during the off-season. I’m a fan of this theory.

I’m not a fan of talking to my belongings and only keeping things that bring me a profound sense of joy. Yes, if a sweater makes my arms itch every time I wear it even though it’s pretty, it should go. If I haven’t worn a pair of boots in over a year because they pinch my toes, buh-bye. However, I don’t need to see fireworks every time I look at my toothbrush holder for it to get to stay in my home.

All in all, I really liked some of the ideas Kondo shares, but I also couldn’t help but think she must live kind of a sad and boring life. Still, after finishing the book, I immediately donated a box of clothes to charity. I think we can all benefit from exercising a little minimalism in our lives. And if you hear me talking to my tea kettle, thanking it for heating my water, please intervene.

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Books

Books: When You Read This

When You Read This by Mary Adkins is an epistolary novel told through E-mails and blog posts. I was worried this would make it difficult to “get to know” the characters, but Adkins does such a great job developing them through their writing. The novel centers around Iris, a young woman who has since passed away, and her former boss, and her sister. Iris leaves behind some dreams she wanted to fulfill, and those left in her life pursue them.

Despite being relatively positive under devastating circumstances, the book also is a reminder of how harsh the blogging world can be. The protagonist would often write a very deep and vulnerable blog post and the comments posted would be cruel or, worse, completely ambivalent to the writer’s pain.

I really liked this book. I cared about the characters, despite their flaws, and couldn’t wait to read what happened next. Adkins takes depressing subject matter and reminds us of the beauty of love, hope, and moving forward.

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(Image from amazon.com)

 

Books, In My House

Books: Looking for Lovely

I write about most of the books I read, and that means writing about the ones I didn’t love. I didn’t love Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs, but I really liked certain parts, which was a enough to keep me going. Downs is a public speaker and author of several inspirational books. This is the first of her books that I have read.

In some chapters I was irritated by this woman, but not to the extent that Rachel Hollis drove me nuts in Girl, Wash Your Face. Downs does annoying things like name-dropping country music band Lady Antebellum, but then she throws the reader a real-life gem of wisdom on finding ways to find beauty and joy in the simple parts of life. Her honesty about her battle with food addiction and depression is inspiring and brings meaning to the message of the book.

Downs does a good job of balancing hardship and humor. For instance, she is not afraid to poke fun at herself, writing about things like the earrings she wore in middle school that featured a pig’s face as the front and the pig’s behind as the back. I had those exact earrings!

Looking for Lovely is a quick read that provides the reader some nuggets of genuine, applicable ideas for being joyful and positive. It is worth weeding through a few lackluster chapters to grab onto them. The overall message of finding happiness in simplicity resonated with me, even if it wasn’t my favorite book of all time.

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(Image from amazon.com)