4 Books Down

It is always my goal to read more — whether it’s a new year, new month, or just a random Tuesday: read more books. So far in 2023 I’ve read 4 books and would like to start sharing the titles I’ve read here on my blog.

Everything Happens for a Reason

And other lies i’ve loved

by Kate Bowler
published by Random House in 2018
rating 4/5

This book came recommended to me by a friend and I’d actually purchased another book by Bowler recently. When I saw it at the library I picked it up and the impending due date had me reading it quickly.

I appreciated very much how Kate wove her knowledge of the Prosperity Gospel into her story to both teach us about this movement within Christianity but also to provide context about how she was feeling about her diagnosis.

I’m personally interested in exploring how Christianity has deviated from the message Christ supposedly came here to proclaim. Kate’s insight was very eye-opening into a different side of Christianity as a born-and-raised Roman Catholic.

What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, “you are limitless”? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed?

page 21

But she also dealt with some topics I’d been thinking about. Ever since my depression over the summer, my mind always comes back to the topic of death and mortality despite the fact I’m (as far as I know) a perfectly healthy 30-something. This quote definitely caught my attention:

I keep having the same unkind thought — I am preparing for death and everyone else is on Instagram. I know that’s not fair — that life is hard for everyone — but I sometimes feel like I’m the only one in the world who is dying.

In the midst of all of the dire things going on in the world, from climate change to racism and homophobia, from war to fascism, and knowing we only have a limited time to personally do anything about any of it, social media and entertainment still seem to take priority.

Kate had much more to say about Christianity, her cancer diagnosis, and how to speak to someone in crisis. If you’re looking for a quick, witty non-fiction read, check this book out.

Nona the Ninth

by Tamsyn Muir
published by Tor in 2022
rating 4/5

This is book 3 in the Locked Tomb series and it says something about Muir’s writing I even wanted to pick up this book in the first place. Without a doubt, I loved Gideon the Ninth, the first book in the Locked Tomb series. So much so, I really had to force myself through book two, Harrow the Ninth.

In both books two and three, I’ve felt like I’m reading through a fever dream. The characters, the world, the plot — they all seem to change without any warning.

However, I love the characters enough to push through both and Muir does eventually bring things back around and tie them together to a central plot. If you’re looking for a sci-fi whirlwind filled with skeletons, lesbians, and post-apocalyptic amnesia, check out the Locked Tomb series. The next book, Alecto the Ninth, is set to be published in 2024.

Kingdom of Bones

by James Rollins
published by William Morrow in 2022
rating 4/5

The SIGMA Force novels are an old friend to me. I’ve enjoyed reading Rollins’ work for a long time and I look forward to any addition to this series.

While the writing style and flow of the plot are formulaic in my opinion, I always appreciate Rollins’ ability to blend science and fiction while keeping the pace of the plot moving in a way that makes you want to turn the page. Kingdom of Bones was no exception. Tucker and Kane, two characters that have had their own spinoff novels and have made appearances in a couple SIGMA Force books, made a comeback in this book.

Without spoiling anything, I was definitely drawn into the plot surrounding Kane later in the book. It had me on the edge of my seat and I stayed up way later than I should have to find out how things ended. Book 17 in this series is slated to come out in August 2023 from William Morrow and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy.

Hill Women

by Cassie Chambers
published by Ballantine Books in 2020
rating 5/5

Memoirs are not typically something I read, but I saw this book at the library and picked it up on a whim. Once it got home, it sat in a stack of books and I kept peering at the cover and picked it up. Appalachia has always been a bit mysterious to me and so I was curious to get some insight into the region that both seems near and far.

Chambers’ has an ease in her writing that allowed me to read this book in only a few days. The first half of the book draws you in with stories about the women in her family throughout the 20th century.

Cassie then utilizes the second half of the book to detail her own life and how she’s taken the lessons learned from these strong Appalachian women and implemented them in her own life. She goes on to tell several impactful stories of women she’s helped navigate the court system with divorce, child custody, and domestic violence with lead to the creation of Jeanette’s Law in Kentucky.

One thought she had stuck out to me and I made note of it:

I slowly understood that instead of focusing on becoming someone, I needed to figure out who I already was.

We are all products of the place and people who raised us and I am no exception. I’ve recently been exploring who I am, my sense of self, and how I interact with the world around me. Instead of trying to evolve and change, I’ve been working on diving deeper into my self through meditation, therapy, and journaling to discover more fully who I already am.

If you’re headed on vacation and need a not-too-heavy read, I would definitely recommend this book.

A New Low

I am no stranger to mental health. I have long considered myself to be a mental health advocate, always encouraging coworkers, friends, and family to take care of their mental health. Find a therapist, take meds, meditate, read: get your spoons back.

I have also been open with friends and family about my past struggles with anxiety. This was mostly in college as I dealt with coming to terms with being gay, graduating, and moving into the “real world.” I haven’t minded sharing about anxiety attacks or taking SSRIs. For the last several years it’s been easy to talk from a place of peace and safety.

It’s more difficult now to write about my depression and dark night of the soul from the midst of such a terrible moment. I have never had such a crisis in faith as I reevaluate who I am and what I believe. I have never felt more terror as I contemplate death. The unceasing rumination in my head trying to fathom nothing. Trouble falling asleep, waking up to unwelcome thoughts, constant feelings of impending doom. Fatigue, heart palpitations, short breaths, hopelessness.

Honestly I’m not sure if there is nothing or something in death. I haven’t come to any particular conclusion as I sort through things. But I want to write, journal, and catalog more of my thoughts from the eye of the storm rather than in retrospect.

Thoughts, prayers, and good vibes are all welcome.

I have recently restarted my SSRI, am in intensive outpatient therapy, taking a leave from work, and am fortunate to have a decent support system. If you’re going through something, you’re not alone. We’re in this together.

A blog? In 2022?

The blog craze of the early 2000s has come and gone, and yet here I am in 2022 starting a blog. With platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more all still in large use, it might seem odd to start a blog now. Why not publish my thoughts elsewhere?

However, I have my issues with these platforms. Facebook’s algorithm and marketing strategy continuously change my timeline and every fourth post is an ad. Instagram was created and continues to be a platform mostly for images. Twitter has its roots in quick, SMS-style bits of information even after they’ve increased the amount of text per tweet and the ability to create long(er) form threads. And all of them are jumbled mixtures of media: posts, ads, stories, reels (RIP fleets), retweets, collaborations, a share of a share of a share from a page that used to be a like… the list goes on.

I’d like to post with more intention. Recently, I read a book titled How to Do Nothing which was a very thought-provoking read. In it, the author, Jenny Odell, discusses social media and its impact on the world. I appreciated that her solution to social media as it exists was not to tear it down, renounce it, and never look back, but rather to change it. Could we use a decentralized system? Might it be geographically based using larger mesh networks and platforms such as Mastodon?

A WordPress blog isn’t necessarily decentralized, but I do have more control over what people see when they visit, and that’s a step in the right direction. Posts can be long form and I’ll have a chance to edit, delete, elaborate, and review before posting. But the goal with choosing this platform is intentional. And simple. These are just my musings and posts: maybe I’ll post a new cocktail recipe or which book I’ve picked up. The beauty of it though is that it stops there. I don’t have any goals of making money from these pages and posts, no affiliate links or ads.

So feel free to join me and follow along! Add a comment, send me a message, suggest a new recipe. I’m all ears.

Dune Messiah (Dune #2)

Frank Herbert

If I hear a movie or TV show is coming out and it’s based on a book, I always try to read the book first. Dune, by Frank Herbert, was no exception. I will admit that the size of the book was daunting but last year I read Dune in anticipation for the stunning movie.

The movie was so good, in fact, that I watched it twice and after the second time I ordered the second book in the saga, Dune Messiah. I was excited to read the second book because it offered much more to the story. While reading a thread online, I saw some concerns about Dune being a story of a white, male savior coming in to save the day. One commenter on this thread mentioned that this is only the first book of six and that the story progresses to be quite the opposite.

This piqued my interest and so I ordered book two, curious to learn more. I have to agree after reading this that Dune does not end in a happily-ever-after. Herbert wrote this saga to chronicle this universe and all it’s ups and downs.

Prior to starting, I also saw that Dune Messiah was not originally written as a novel, but it was serialized and published in parts in a magazine and later compiled into a book. I could tell where some of the story was broken up but it didn’t detract from the story or interrupt my reading in any way.

If you enjoy the writing style of Herbert in Dune and fell in love with Arrakis, then you’ll enjoy Dune Messiah. Curious to find out what I’m reading next? Check me out on Goodreads!

The Outskirts of Hope

I picked up The Outskirts of Hope: A Memoir of the 1960s Deep South by Jo Ivester during a spontaneous weekend trip to Franklin, Indiana where we visited the Wild Geese Bookshop. The store is located in a gorgeous old home and the books were very well curated.

I finished this book today, March 25, 2022. The further I got into the book, the more I enjoyed it. Ivester interplayed her and her mother’s diaries very well and the story and plot worked well together. As I read, I kept thinking that Aura Kruger was such a lively character that this would make a great movie. In reading the epilogue, it turns out they did! In 1986, a made-for-TV movie titled The George McKenna Story, was released and the story didn’t focus on Aura Kruger, but she was included in this film and portrayed by Barbara Townsend. It appears that it’s on Netflix so I’ll have to go watch it.