Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde and the Girls: A Guilty Pleasure

Okay I'm admitting it, British "Chick-Lit" is one of my guilty pleasures. It might be Rom-Com or I have even heard it called Choc-o-lit, but it's not a romance novel.  No judgement it's just romance novels are more about the physical romance and Chick Lit is more about the lifestyle. I love the bright colors, and the whimsey of the pictures chosen for the covers, and how you can actually judge, or at least identify the genre, by the cover.

This all started when I read the highly enjoyable and immensely clever Jasper Fford's "Thursday Next" series.  "The Eyre Affair" is on my top 10 favorite reads of all times!  While Jasper Fforde is NOT a "chick-lit" author his books do sit right next to Katie Fforde in the library and while searching for, and neglecting to find, a Jasper I grabbed a Katie instead. Delightful!

I know, I know, I've heard all the arguments and to you I say, "so!"

Predictable?  Only in the best way.  I would be furious if the main character died because my lovely British friends suddenly decided that they were going to be deep and shadowy.

Light?  Only in the best way.  The characters are real (well you know fictional but real-ish) and deal with all the wonderful mucky stuff of life, but no...these books are not dark, or heavy or whatever the opposite of light is.

Unrealistic?  Only in the best way. Um, hello....that's why I'm reading them, I've got real in spades all day long, who needs more of that!

Besides, I like to figure out the words that are different from our American ones.  For example

  • Agas: Some sort of stove which may or may not be quite like our old wood/coal burning stoves 
  • Biscuits: Cookies (usually popping out of tins!)
  • Jumper: I can never remember if they are a sweater or sweatshirt, but one definitely needs one when it's cold out!
  • Wellies: Rain boots
  • Bin: Trashcan
  • Boot: Trunk of the car
  • Plaster: Band-aid
  • Tea: Well Okay tea is tea, but they drink it a lot!

Anyway I just finished Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley.  It was lovely and delightful and fun. Everything one wants in their guilty reading.

I love Katie Fforde's books because I always feel like I learn a new profession when I read them. Thyme Out is one of my favorites. (Can you guess what the profession is?)

Enjoy, and don't feel guilty!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Well

"The Well" is Stephanie Landsem's debut novel and part of her "Living Water" series.

I like historical fiction, and I love Biblical fiction.  Who doesn't read a Bible story and wonder about the back story, or what else happened.  We are told about an angel visiting Mary to tell her she will carry the Christ child, and we naturally wonder what would her mother say, how was she treated, did she hide?  Or how many people did she tell about the Angel's visit before she gave up?

Ms. Landsem wove a wonderful story surrounding the woman at the well.  We could feel the angst between the Jews and Samaritans, we felt the shame of Nava, the fictional name given to the famous Samaritan woman at the well, and felt the peace and joy which was the result of the encounter with Jesus. This is a wonderfully engaging setting because we know some juicy tidbits about the woman, and because the conversation between Jesus and this woman is the longest one-on-one conversation recorded.

It is impossible for me to read Biblical fiction without the lens of Biblical scholar. (Notice I didn't say expert as I am far from that but I can't get enough of the research) So one is forced to ask, "Are these characters believable," "Is the story and setting true to the era and purpose of the original writing," and "Did the conjecture of the fiction affect my faith or ideas?"

I thought the characters were believable, the research made the setting come alive, and the fictionalized parts of the story  never caused me to question what I believe as truth. What I did learn however is that I read fiction with certain expectations and desires, and those expectations are very much of this world.
Without giving away the ending, let me just say that Jesus remained totally in character as Jesus even as I longed, much like the Jews of the day, for some righteous revenge and maybe a little fire and brimstone to rain down on the characters of my choice!  

That for me was the point of this book, and frankly most Bible studies.  I don't get to pick what happens. Jesus doesn't change his actions to meld with my limited ideas of how a story should end.  My happy endings are so short sighted when compared to the Messiah's. What an enjoyable trip to Samaria!
Check out Stephanie Lansem's web page and see her next book in the Living Water series.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 No-Fail Questions to Spark a Great Book Discussion

Have you ever had to lead book club and you just don't know what to ask?  Here are 10 great questions that will get the conversation started, and keep it going.

1.  If you were forced to add 100 more pages to this book where would you take the story?
2.  Could this plot work in another setting? (either time or place) Why or why not?  Pick a different setting to prove your point.
3.  Who would you cast as the leads if this book was turned into a movie?  If it is already a movie, do you agree with the casting?
4.  Did you know what the book was about when you saw the title?  Would you have given it a different title? Do titles matter?
5.  Who was your favorite character?  Why?
6.  Who was your least favorite character? Why?
7.  If you could jump into the story would you like to be an observer, a minor character, or a main character?
8.  What did you learn from this book that you didn't know before?
9.  Do you agree with the reviews on the front or back jacket of the book or any others you have read? If there aren't any, what review would you give?
10. With time could this book be considered a classic?  Why, what does it have or lack that makes you say that?  If it is already considered a classic, do you agree with that classification?  What attributes might make it so?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Art of Trapeze: One Woman's Journey of Soaring, Surrendering, and Awakening (The Awakening Consciousness Series)

"How Hard Can It Be?"  A good friend has threatened to put that on my tombstone.  I may have uttered those words once or twice in my life, so you can imagine when I saw the description for "The Art of Trapeze" by Molly McCord, that I was intrigued.

On a random Thursday morning, with nothing to lose and only a dream to gain, Molly McCord decides to move to Paris, France to follow the courageous call of her heart. She arrives in a city she has never visited before and where she knows no one, yet she trusts her ability to figure it out because her adventurous life has prepared her for this biggest of leaps.

I enjoyed the story immensely and kept thinking, "this author does a great job of making this feel like a memoir!" Well somewhere along the line (Okay, okay it was when I was done and was researching the author) I figured out that this lovely story was "real life" as my kids would say. Ms. McCord is a beautiful writer and her physical and spiritual journeys are honest as well as intriguing and inspiring.  I love hearing about another culture, getting the inside scoop on everyday living, and spending time walking (and walking, and walking, in this case) in someone else's shoes.

As interesting as this book is in it's ability to be a travel guide for Parisian neighborhoods, (Not really...but kind of ) I think it's intention lies in being a travel guide for personal growth, or at least revealing Molly's path of growth.  Check out  conscious cool chic Molly McCord's web site!