I’m just going to stop apologizing for not blogging much. My life is currently a pressure cooker of packing for our move, first week of school, and jobs with big responsibilities (for both me and Steven). I’ll blog when I can. That’s all I got!
Anyway, I didn’t read as much this summer as I usually do, but I did want to point out a few really good books that I read.
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen.
This was my first Sarah Dessen book, and I like her style. This book was an easy but engaging read. The main character, Sydney, is having a hard time because her brother is in prison for causing a car accident that injured a boy in the community. While Sydney’s mom obsesses with her brother, Sydney begins to find some solace in her newfound friends from school: Mac and Layla Chatham. The Chathams are a quirky family who run a pizza parlor and play bluegrass. Mrs. Chatham has MS, and she plays an important role in the story as she takes Sydney under her wing a bit while Sydney’s own mom worries about her brother in prison. Suddenly Sydney begins to feel noticed and wanted. One of the most beautiful scenes is when Mac and Layla take Sydney to this part of the woods where there is an old broken down carousel. At that point, Mac and Sydney begin to realize they have feelings for each other (so yes, it’s a love story, too). Suddenly Sydney starts riding along on Mac’s pizza delivery runs, and it was fun to see their relationship unfold naturally. The reason the book is called Saint Anything is that Mrs. Chatham collects pendants of all kinds of saints. Mac gives Sydney a necklace with a saint pendant, and when she asks which saint it is, he answers, “It doesn’t matter. It can be Saint Anything. You get to choose.” I really loved that, and I think Sydney did need to choose to be something more than invisible. This book really made me thing about the importance of family and the call to choose what kind of person you will be.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
I like this book a lot. Jenna Fox wakes up from an accident she wasn’t supposed to survive. As she re-enters family and community life, she begins to wonder about details of her life that seem out of place. Jenna eventually finds out she’s only 10 percent human. The rest of her is made from something called BioGel, which is an artificial biological substance that her doctor father created. Attempting to save her life after the accident, he was able to bio scan her brain and upload it to a server, then rebuild her body and download her brain functioning and memories. It sounds really sci-fi, but the author made it seem completely realistic. However, Jenna begins to question the ethics of her own body as she realizes a creation like her is against the law. Set in the not-so-distant future, this book deftly looks at the effects of medical and scientific technology. Jenna has to decide how she will deal with the technology that has saved her. I enjoyed thinking about the ideas in this book – ethics, science, medicine, and identity. There are two other books in this series, but this one was the best one in my opinion!
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
So I only gave this book 3 stars, but I found the book intriguing. The main character, Rose, is a typist for the NYPD in the 1920s. It’s written as a first person account, which I think gave the book a sense of urgency. When a new typist arrives at the precinct, Rose’s life begins to change. Odalie is captivating, wild, and rich. She befriends Rose and begins taking Rose along to speakeasies. The whole time I was pretty upset with Rose for not putting her foot down and just telling Odalie no. But Odalie is both charismatic and manipulative, so Rose goes along with her. The strangest thing is the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but something really terrible happens and Rose gets blamed for it, even though Odalie was there, too. However, the way the ending is told is really surprising and it makes you wonder how unreliable of a narrator Rose really was. Definitely an interesting book.
I’ve also been listening to podcasts on my commute! Here are some cool podcasts I’ve found.
This is an NPR podcast hosted by Krista Tippett. Every week she interviews a different person, and most of her interviews are loosely related to faith and spirituality. This is a longer podcast, so I’ve been picking and choosing. So far I’ve listened to an interview with poet Elizabeth Alexander (who wrote a poem for Obama’s inauguration) and an interview with Mirabai Bush, a pioneer in contemplation and mindfulness. The next one I’ve downloaded is an interview with poet Mary Oliver! All of them have been great.
This is a collective of Christian artists, including Gungor, Rachel Held Evans, “Science” Mike McHargue, and Rob Bell. The point of the podcast is to examine different issues in the light of faith and art. I’ve listened to several episodes so far, including one on Meditation, two titled “Lost and Found” (about losing and finding faith again), and one on LGBTQ issues. I am super impressed by this podcast and it’s definitely given me a place to feel like I belong as far as struggling with belief and questioning things.
Mike McHargue was a Southern Baptist deacon and then became an atheist. Much of his reasoning for that was his interest in science and his need for proof. After having a mystical experience of God at the beach, Mike came back to the faith, but now he believes (as do I) that is possible to believe both in God and in science. This podcast is shorter – about 30 minutes a week, and what’s unique about it is that he takes questions about science, faith, and life. People can pose questions via email, twitter, or voicemail, and he answers 3-4 questions a week. I am really enjoying this podcast, and there’s a range of topics that are addressed. This is another podcast that feels like a safe space for me.
So I am not currently listening to Serial, but I wanted to mention it in case you haven’t heard of it. Serial is a spin off podcast from NPR’s This American Life. The first season of Serial investigated a murder and trial from the 1990s. It was really fascinating to go through all the details of the crime and history. In fact, the accused murderer was even interviewed via phone from prison a few times. I enjoyed trying to figure out if he was really guilty or not. This was definitely a binge-worthy podcast for me. I listened to most of it over last Christmas break!
A friend recommended several more podcasts for me, so I hope to update you on some of them later!