Summer Reading List

April 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Ahhh, ambition. Leave it to me to want to be a total slacker when it comes to studying for my law school finals, but when it comes to the summer reading list, then I decide to be totally ambitious. Dream big, Kelsi. Good call.

As though I have nothing else going on this summer, like work, hiking as much as possible, rafting just for fun, finishing up my Law Review article and trying to work on a novel, I decide to conquer a large chunk of the reading on my book shelf. There’s this cruel joke of law school where you read constantly, but nothing of any good literary value. (Sorry, Scalia…You make me laugh, but I wouldn’t call your opinions literature.) So when I get a chance to delve into someone else’s fantasy world, thoughts, ideas, etc, I just can’t help myself.

I mean, I usually read a little here and there throughout the year, but never as much as I’d really like to. It takes forever to get through a book when you only read in 5 minute intervals. And this isn’t THAT huge of a list. But, I also know that I’m going to be too busy doing other things to give this reading list the time it deserves. I sure am going to try, though!


A Lesson Before Dying– Ernest J Gaines

The 5 Love Languages– Gary Chapman

The Alchemist’s Daughter– Katherine McMahon

Naturally Thin-Bethanny Frankel

Change of Heart– Jodi Piccoult

I Shall Not Hate– Izzeldin Abuelaish

Left To Tell– Immaculee Ilibagiza

The Screwtape Letters– C.S. Lewis

Committed– Elizabeth Gilbert

All the Pretty Horses-Cormac McCarthy

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee– Dee Brown

The Outline of Sanity: The life of G.K. Chesterton– Alzina Stone Dale

The Shack– William P. Young

Water for Elephants– Sarah Gruen

A Lucky Child– Thomas Buergenthal

Six Wives– David Starkey

The Other Queen – Philippa Gregory

Why We Watched– Theodore S. Hamrerow

I’m not sure what order I’m going to proceed in yet, but I think Water for Elephants will be first. Then, I’m open for suggestions. What have you read? Any suggestions?


Eat, Pray, Love

April 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

Its time for another book review. I’ve quoted the book Eat, Pray, Love and the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, numerous times on here. Gilbert’s book “Committed” is next on my reading list (or close to next). And, as I work on my novel, I look to Gilbert’s life and writing style for inspiration.

After her marriage falls apart and a tumultuous relationship after her marriage ended, Gilbert took a year for self-discovery. I want to take a year like this. The first four months in Italy learning the beauty of doing nothing and and exploring the magical world of carbo-loading.

My take away from this part? We, Americans, do often get so caught up in the hustle of everyday life and the rat race that we forget to sit and be. This is necessary for joy. For us knowing what we’re feeling. When we shove our feelings aside by focusing on everything around us, we don’t ever really deal. We also get so caught up in life that we forget the beauty of sharing a good meal and a bottle of wine. And we don’t have to go all the way to Italy to get this. We can force ourselves to turn off the tv and constant bombardment of noise and just be. Just for a little while. Sunday Family Dinners have become the perfect way for me to enjoy good food (if I do say so myself), drink wine, and savor my friendships.

The next four months, Gilbert goes to India to live at an ashram and delve into the lifestyle of a true yogi. Its here that she really mourns the loss of her marriage and who she thought she was. She meets people who help guide her, and who, frankly, I find even more inspiring. I loved learning about the various pasts and histories of the people she met at the ashram and learning through the wisdom they bestowed on Gilbert.

Take away: Gilbert is taught that “God dwells within you, as you.” I think this is true in so many ways. The best parts of us, are God in us. I even once read a book that pointed out that the way a woman wants people to do things for them without asking, that’s God’s personality too. The way women often want quality time and conversation, God wants that too. And that whole thing about hell having no fury like a woman scorned? Just read the Old Testament. But we often don’t realize the ways that we can get in touch with God through our own personalities and feelings. Remember that whole thing about being created in His image? Its worth some contemplation.

Then Gilbert spends her last months in Indonesia with a medicine man. Here, she falls in love again. I love the man she falls in love with for his infinite wisdom; He tells her that a broken heart is a good thing because it means she tried for something. This was the culmination of her year of traveling and learning; the experiences she had prepared her to be open to love again, but in a way that she didn’t completely lose herself, rather she was made better by the man she met.

All in all, it was a good story of self-discovery. Although I find it sad that we often have to go to such lengths to figure ourselves out because we’re so out of tune with who we are on a day to day basis. I feel like Gilbert, and the people she meets, share wisdom that I can apply to my life and I appreciate the book for that.

But, I did have a hard time with Gilbert, simply because I felt like she often became bogged down for problems she created for herself; although, I was in a severely unsympathetic mood for the months before I read this, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask. So for a lot of the book I wanted to call her up, go “really?! REALLY!? I promise life can get a hell of a lot worse and if we could all have the year of funded excitement to heal, it’d be a completely different world.” (**Note: I didn’t call her, just in case you were wondering.)

She often says this herself though. She catches herself whining. Kind of apologizes. But then it seems like she goes right back to whining even though she’s trying to fight it. Ok….I do that too sometimes, so I can’t get to angry.

And really, wouldn’t we all learn a lot if we went and spent a year living abroad? I do, however, commend the bravery it takes to committing to live in a foreign country, entirely alone, for months; no guarantee you’ll meet people or that it will be comfortable. It is something I would love to do.

Anyone want to furnish that? I’ll write all about it. Hey…it was worth asking. : )

Sidenote: I hated the movie. I love Julia Roberts and I realize I included pics from the movie, but there was just too much to glean from reading the book that simply couldn’t have been conveyed in movie form. While I appreciated experiencing someone else’s vision of the book and putting more real images to my imaginary ones, the book was much better. But isn’t that always the case?

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“God is an experience of supreme love.”

“God dwells within you, as you.”

“Destiny, I feel, is also a relationship – a play between divine grace and willful self-effort.”

“Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…”

“I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said — that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.”

“The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement.”

“Om Namah Shivaya, meaning,
I honor the divinity that resides within me.”

“Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.”

“[My guru] says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you are fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it…”

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.”

“Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be… a prudent insurance policy.”

“Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.”

“Look for God. Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.”

“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. ”

Summer Reading

June 8, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (probably a thousand times): I love to read.

It transports you to a different place, a different life, a different journey. It allows your imagination to run wild, only controlled by the slight details the author leaves you. Movies paint the whole picture for you; books leave your imagination filling in the blanks. And nothing compares to a beautifully written sentence. Writing well is an art form that fewer and fewer people appreciate.

On that note, not everything I read is well-written, educational, or even that good. But, I get caught up in the story either way. This summer, all I want to do is read books (ok, I also want to spend time with family and friends, cook, shop, tan, run, travel, but whatever…you know what I mean). And spending my time reading law articles and court cases (which make my mind want to just relax with something pointless), makes me grab some easy read as soon as I get a chance. So, my summer reading started off a little smutty.  But, I still love it!

So, I thought I’d give a run-down of my summer reading thus far. Some deserve their own posts about how amazing they are, which might come soon, but for now, we’ll stick to a list.

  • Russian Concubine- Kate Furnivall. Pretty good, and an element of historical fiction to it, which I love.
  • The Elegance of the Headgehog- Muriel Barbery. Simply amazing. Deep, eloquent, a beautiful story. This one will have its own post eventually.
  • Dead Until Dark-Charlaine Harris. Kinda a smut-like novel, but an easy read when you need one. Someone had given me the first season of TrueBlood, the HBO series to watch, and one of my best friends sent me this book in the finals care-package she sent me. I’m always happy when I get to read the books before I see the movie/t.v. show.
  • Living Dead in Dallas-Charlain Harris. The second book in this series.
  • Eat, Pray, Love-Elizabeth Gilbert. Another book that needs its own post. I loved this one. While I disagree with some of the things she says, I appreciate her point of view and I would absolutely love to spend 4 months in Italy (eating and learning Italian), 4 months in India (praying, meditating and practicing yoga), and 4 months in Indonesia (learning from a medicine man and finding balance). The experiences and things she learns are priceless and she’s a great writer. Plus, the movie comes out later this year, starring Julia Roberts. Count me in!
  • Les Miserables- Victor Hugo. Ok, this is a huge book to tackle this summer. I can’t really carry it with me because its too big, but, so far I’m loving it. Its well written, has amazing quotes, symbolism, historical parallels, plus its a classic and I’m always game for reading anything considered a “classic.” Plus, then I can see the musical!
  • Beowulf- Author unknown. Another one of those classics I want to tackle. I’m not too far into this one and its a pretty difficult read, but its short and I can handle it. Its also an epic poem, rather than a novel, which makes it a little more complex.
  • Master Your Metabolism- Jillian Michaels. I love her. So, I read her book. Mostly, it just says to eat organic, cut as many toxins out of your life as possible from plastics, products you use, things like that. And avoid carbs in your evening meal because your body doesn’t need them. Also, gives tips for trying to balance out your hormones so that they work for your advantage to have your metabolism working its best.
  • The Constant Princess- Philippa Gregory. This is a great author, and I love historical fictions. I feel like I’m learning something as I read them. It also allows me to put a story with history, so when I go back and learn more about the subject, I feel more connected to the people. Almost like I know them. Its great. This is the author of The Other Boleyn Girl, which I loved. (not the movie though!) I just started this one, but so far, I like it!

Wow…I’m feeling like I’ve accomplished quite a bit this summer! So much more to go, but I’m enoying every second of my time spent buried in a book.

The Last Song

March 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is the first Joyful Heart book review. Word of caution: if you have not read The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks, you might want to stop reading here. I don’t entirely know what I’m going to say yet, but I’m willing to bet this post should come with a spoiler alert. Finish the book and come read the post later. If you’ve finished (or don’t plan on reading the book anyway), keep on reading.

While I find Nicholas Sparks novels to generally be “easy reads,” I never fail to enjoy them. And, while some elements of the novels seem to be quite predictable, he always seems to find something to throw a twist in things and not every novel has a happy ending. However, you can generally assume that a male and female will meet, fall in love relatively quickly (he’s a huge fan of the love at first sight thing), and the novel will be set in North Carolina. But, he does tend to have pretty good character development, and like I said, he throws in some sort of twist and the happy ending isn’t a guarantee (which I appreciate). In The Last Song, I enjoyed Ronnie. In a lot of ways, I could relate to her. For one, I felt like she was pretty tough on people, but just as tough on herself. For expample, she was skeptical of everyone’s intentions, but she always questioned her own actions, like how she treated her brother and if she had been unfair to her dad or Will. I also appreciated the way she wanted to be her own person, didn’t necessarily buy into every trend, but loved classical piano (I know she was raised around it, but she loved it too and could pick out any tune), and while she tended to judge people by what they were wearing (i.e. Will and the girls that followed him at the game, or Blaze and her goth attire), she didn’t hold onto her original ideas so much that it was impossible to change her mind. Ronnie turned out to be incredibly giving, sacrificing, loving, and forgiving.  The Last Song, was at its heart, a coming of age story for Ronnie and Will. I loved that they had to tackle bigger life issues at a young age because it made them each question who they really were. I honestly think that the sooner people are challenged by their own preconceived notions and ideas, the sooner they find what they truly believe in and who they really are. When people become aware and comfortable with who they are, then they are open to other people’s ideas and outlooks. That was Ronnie. She became understanding of Will and his upbringing, she was able to forgive her dad so much so that she took care of him on his death bed and she was even able to realize that it was her mother that had an affair and get past it. I loved that Will saw the genuine aspects of Ronnie’s character; he saw that she was the person who cared for the young boy, he noticed that she was concerned about the baby turtles, and somehow, despite her hard exterior, saw the person she really was. And, isn’t that what we all want? The person that sees who we really are even when we aren’t being the best version of ourselves. That way, they make us live up to that person and help us stay true to ourselves. So, even though the novel was an “easy read,” it did have a certain amount of depth.

I also appreciate the parallel between the way that Ronnie grew closer to her earthly father as her father was growing closer to his heavenly father. As Ronnie pulled out the letters that her father had written her, her father pulled out his Bible and read what his heavenly father had left written for him. How perfect is that?!? And the way that he longed to grow closer to her, look out for her, and want the best for her is the same way God feels about us. I think when we see that parallel, we can also see a more human aspect of God as our father. For a while there, I was worried the book was going to have some tragic parallel to Anna Karinina (which, it probably does somewhere, but its been awhile since I’ve read Russian Lit) which made me slightly concerned that someone was going to have a tragic love affair, get pregnant and throw themselves under a train. But, alas, we escaped that little scenario.

A few quotes I found enjoyable:

  • “Everyone and everything was put into neat little boxes: popular or not, expensive or cheap, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly. And he’d eventually grown tired of her shallow value judgements and her inability to accept or appreciate anything in between.”  (don’t we all know someone like that?!)
  • “She didn’t put others into neat little boxes because she didn’t put herself in one, and that struck him as refreshing and different, especially when compared to the girls he’d known.” (and this is the kind of girl I’ve always wanted to be…)
  • “Never forget that God is your friend. And like all friends, He longs to hear what’s been going on in your life. Good or bad, whether it’s full of sorrow or anger, and even when you’re questioning why terrible things have to happen. So I talk with him.” (So so so true…and something most people forget.)
  • “You need to learn to forgive yourself” (nothing too special here, but still a good, genuine life lesson)
  • “Life, he realized, was much like a song. In the beginning there is a mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it’s in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile.”

Hope you all enjoy the book…and actually read it before you see the movie!

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