7 Quick Takes: The Summer Reading Edition

Subtitled:  Books, books and more books!

My bout of nausea over the last couple of months has prohibited my ability to read as much as I would like, but below is a list of 7 books I've read or am in the process of reading. 

Without further adieu:

1. 

The Language Of Flowers

(Fiction):  I loved this book.  Fast, easy Summer beach read that was also meaningful.  The author had some powerful insights on what it's like to be a new mother.  Highly recommend.  From the Amazon review:

A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

 2. 

Sparkly Green Earrings:  Catching The Light At Every Turn

(Memoir on Motherhood):  I didn't get this book.  I mean, yeah, some parts were funny but if this is the best modern day reflection on motherhood, skip it.  Overall, I was annoyed by the superficial insights this woman shared.  Lots of (silly) humor, no depth.  No thanks.  From the Amazon book description:

“There is really no better indicator you’re a mother than acquiring the ability to catch throw-up in a plastic bag, disinfect your hands, and immediately ask your friend to pass the beef jerky as you put on another Taylor Swift song and act as if nothing has happened.”
This is the type of insight Melanie Shankle offers in this quirky memoir of motherhood.
Written in the familiar, stream-of-consciousness style of her blog, Big Mama, Sparkly Green Earrings is a heartwarming and hilarious look at motherhood from someone who is still trying to figure it all out. Filled with personal stories—from the decision to become a mother to the heartbreak of miscarriage and ultimately, to the joy of raising a baby and living to tell about it—Sparkly Green Earrings will make you feel like you’re sitting across the table from your best friend. A must-read for anyone who’s ever had a child or even thought about it.

3.

My Sister The Saints: A Spiritual Memoir: I wrote about his book here, so I'll keep this simple.  I loved this title and highly recommend it.  From Amazon's book description:

A poignant and powerful spiritual memoir about how the lives of the saints changed the life of a modern woman.In My Sisters the Saints, author Colleen Carroll Campbell blends her personal narrative of spiritual seeking, trials, stumbles, and breakthroughs with the stories of six women saints who profoundly changed her life: Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina of Poland, Edith Stein of Germany, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Mary of Nazareth. Drawing upon the rich writings and examples of these extraordinary women, the author reveals Christianity's liberating power for women and the relevance of the saints to the lives of contemporary Christians.

4.  

The Practice of The Presence of God (Spiritual Reading):  The simple words in this book have revolutionized my thoughts about and approach to prayer.  This is a powerful, small treatise.  Highly recommend.  From the back cover:

At any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks God may find Him, and practice the presence of God.

Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century French monk, learned to practice the presence of God at all times. And you can, too. Here in one volume are two classic works by Brother Lawrence. Each book reveals how to practice God's presence and see His glory in every facet of your life.
The Practice of the Presence of God is a collection of documented conversations and letters that reveal the heart of this humble man. He wrote, "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen . . . I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament."
Brother Lawrence's wisdom and spiritual insights have helped bring people closer to God for more than three centuries. The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence, a lesser known but equally outstanding work, is a summary of his teachings. Throughout, he develops one great theme, best expressed by the psalmist, "In Thy Presence is fullness of joy."

5. 

The Ragamuffin Gospel:  Good News For The Bedraggled, Burnt Out, and Beat Up (Spiritual Reading):  I've read this book before, but I pulled it off the shelf again recently and it never disappoints.  You may not agree with all of Manning's theology, but his insights on grace and the human person are profound and moving.  I cry every time I read this book.  (Manning is a recovering alcoholic and his humility and compassion puts my tear ducts in overdrive.)  Highly recommend.  From Amazon's book description:

A Furious Love Is Hot on Your Trail!
Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Ten Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”
Are you bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out?
Most of us believe in God’s grace—in theory. But somehow we can’t seem to apply it in our daily lives. We continue to see Him as a small-minded bookkeeper, tallying our failures and successes on a score sheet.
Yet God gives us His grace, willingly, no matter what we’ve done. We come to Him as ragamuffins—dirty, bedraggled, and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, the chosen objects of His “furious love.”
Brennan Manning’s now-classic meditation on grace and what it takes to access it—simple honesty—has changed thousands of lives. Now with a Ragamuffin’s thirty-day spiritual journey guide, it will change yours, too.

 6.

Les Miserables (Fiction/Classic Literature):  I have a strange rule about not watching movies that were adapted from Classic literature so I have never, ever seen a production of Les Miserables. (Weird, right?)  But I'm so glad.  Plowing through this book has been an act of discipline and so not knowing what's going to happen next has motivated me to keep on reading.   Ignorance of the story has made the reading process that much more enjoyable.  The book is beautiful and moving, with a powerful tale.  Like all the greats, Hugo is a master story teller.  I highly recommend this but suggest reading it with a friend or with a group because you'll want to discuss it.  From Amazon's book description:

‘He was no longer Jean Valjean, but No. 24601’
Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.

7.

And The Mountains Echoed (Fiction):  I loved Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns which is why I grabbed this book from the library shelf.  I'm not really supposed to be reading anything right nowbecause I'm behind in Les Miserables, but I just couldn't resist.  I don't know how much of it I will actually finish, but I'm enjoying the small bit I've read so far.  (Disclaimer:  I've never read his other book The Kite Runner which some people detest.)

8. 

Some titles on my to-read list, assuming I can read anything once school and the insane Fall schedule swings into action:

A Severe Mercy

Personal Recollections of Joan Of Ark

by Mark Twain

Cellist of Saraejvo

Pillars of the Earth

An Invisible Thread:  The Unlikely Story of An 11-year old Panhandler, A Busy Sales Executive, And An Unlikely Meeting With Destiny

2,000 to 10,000:  Writing Faster, Writing Better, And Writing More Of What You Love

The Endurance:  Shackleton's Legendary Antartic Experience

I think that's about it.

And speaking of books...have you entered to win

52 Ways To talk To Your Kids About The Catholic Faith here?  If not, go do it.  Now.  

What good things have your read lately?  I'm open to suggestions.

Be sure to stop by Jen's for more Quick Takes.