The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky. A Review. Book 19 out of 52

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Living the life that I have, perhaps the reason that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky has evaded me is its realism. There is something about knowing someone’s life, or at least seeing it come alive on paper, that causes us to account our own. I mean, that is what good books SHOULD do, right? Make you think. Put you in the time and place and see how your life, your experience, your heart, would conflict or commiserate with the protagonists. Perhaps it is just me. Maybe I hold many authors to a higher standard. I am okay with that. The question is, are you?

This book, this story, is like looking through a lens at life as I was coming to age. God, that makes me sound old. But it is true. The world that I grew up in is a fading memory, severed from the one we are in now. But this book captured it. It took me back. Recalling my memories of friends, people I knew. Reviewing this book without spoilers is difficult. So my recommendation is that you read it.

4.5 out of 5 for “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Do not let the lack of a perfect five fool you, this one is near the top of the list of the ones that I have read this year for my reading challenge. I am not sure why I had not read this before, but I am glad that I did now.

Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie. A Review. Book 14 out of 52

“They have been in prison so long that, if the prison door stands open, they would no longer notice!”

One of the things that I have enjoyed with the Agatha Christie novels that I have read is her propensity to make the solution a surprise, but entirely logical. I have a deep love for crime novels, but I will forgo my diatribe regarding the “who-done-it” to avoid spoilers. I will say that it is a little disappointing that Christie took as long just setting up the crime. Making you see the reasons the victim met their end is essential, but this was a bit drawn out. Instead, following the journey that this reading challenge has taken me on, I want to dissect the underlying theme.

Sometimes we live in a prison, constructed by others, only to realize it when it is too far-gone to escape. We often grow content, even proud, in our assumption that we know what life is all about. As children, life is a game. There are magic and mystery, for most of us, that enthrall our minds. But, what if that was taken away as well? Instead of it falling by the wayside as we grow, it was stricken away from us like a prize unearned. I, for one, do what I can to ensure the world is filled with magic and mystery for my kids. I want them to explore its vast trappings fully. Trust me; I KNOW that this book was not written to make you think of such things. But, that is not how my mind works.

I am giving 3.5 out of 5 stars to “Appointment With Death” by Agatha Christie. Not the worst I have read, not by a long shot. But far from the best Christe novel that I have read to date.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. A Review. Book 13 out of 52

“If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the hights you are no doubt capable of”

I love when stories have the same effect as peeling back an onion layer by layer. Be it through a thrilling crime novel, or through the eyes of discovery. Done right, it is a brilliant device in literature. In The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, brilliant is an understatement. Though it took a little to get into, to figure out what was going on, this was a joy to read. But only in the sense of one lacking introspection. Be it Ishiguro’s intent or not, taking what the protagonist is working through, and applying it to my life is what I do.

This book leaves me asking questions about potential, perception, and drive. All of this, in every aspect, is a good thing. Perhaps it is only adding to the foundation of what this year is turning into for me. This journey, my 2018 Reading Challenge, has had a sudden impact surrounding self-discovery. This book is yet another fantastic catalyst in the process. While being a delight to read, it may leave you questioning quite a bit about what you think you know.

4.5 out of 5 is what I give “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro. Add it to your shelves, give yourself a couple of quiet nights, and enjoy the ride.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. A Review. Book 12 out of 52

“In my experience, successful people shoot for the stars, put their hearts on the line in every battle, and ultimately discover that the lessons

learned from the pursuit of excellence mean much more than the immediate trophies and glory” – Josh Waitzkin

I did not think that I would glean as much as I did from a book about chess. Granted, I understand that there is a lot one can learn from game theory. No, not just the mathematical conflict models, the actual practice of playing games with others. Perhaps it is in part my desire to be the best at whatever I am doing. It could also be that my drive is based more on the overall success and not just the momentary ones.

Regardless of what my idea was about this book, it provided a ton of introspection as Waitzkin walked through the trials and tribulation of striving for excellence. Not just with chess, but with martial arts as well. The parallels and similarities drive through and through this book. I think that I am going to need to revisit this one once my 2018 reading challenge is over. There is more to pull from this.

All in all I would give The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin a 3.5 out of 5. Lower than most would expect, but based purely on the fact that I am going to have to re-read it to understand it a little more.

The Goal: By Eliyahu Goldratt. A Review. Book 7 of 52

I love it when books get their point across by way of story. What could have been a droll business case study of the effects that were worked through, and the results, was instead a magical story. I found myself living in the moments, working through the problems, and applying the solutions to the things that I do every day. In fact, there is already a few key points from this book on my whiteboard in my office.

This story does an excellent job of placing you in the story. You find yourself learning so much about manufacturing, and then seeing the little ways that you can apply the thought process that the main character is working through, in your life. I do not work at a plant. But, there are countless processes that function underneath me. One HUGE takeaway that I have, and am applying immediately is the following:

“Putting it precisely, activating a resource and utilizing a resource are not synonymous.”

In other terms, if you work for or with me, and you are reading this review, you need to read this book. There are many things that I will be rolling out in the near future. Very near.

All in all, 4 out of five stars. “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt deserves a place on your shelf if you have interest in changing how things work in you life. You might be surprised in all the ways you can apply the solutions. Book seven is finished! This 2018 Reading Challenge has been… interesting.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

I Will Carry You: By Angie and Todd Smith. A Review. Book 6 of 52

I knew that I would be experiencing some roller-coasters during this reading challenge. Still on a high from ‘Crash the Chatterbox’ this one hit me. It hit so hard that I had to visit some places in my heart and mind that I have left barren for some time now. “I Will Carry You” is a breathtakingly raw look into dealing with life after loss. Not just any loss, the compounding and exhausting emotions around carrying a child that was found to be ‘incompatible with life’.

This book raised to the surface things that I, purposefully, have ceased any conversation on since my daughter, Zoey, was born. Many, many nights this week were spent crying in the dark, reliving my own losses. From a lifetime ago, the pain still exists. I am not going to lie, it wrecked me a little.

Okay, a lot.

But Angie and Todd Smith have a quote about dealing with the loss that I think that so MANY out there need to know.  For countless parents out there, working through a miscarriage or stillbirth will leave your lives scrambled, hearts broken, and faith shaken. I know that I felt abandoned by God for a long time. It did not stop me from reaching out, but the thought was always there. Anyway, the quote (as I am running out of my word limit):

“..all the while He is just waiting for the time that is right. He hasn’t forgotten, nor has he abandoned us.”

Folks, the long and short of it is this. This kind of loss, it is devastating. You must know that you are not alone in what you feel, what you are going through. But that does not mean that it is not unique. Or, that it is any easier. I think that there is a post building in me about this. Though I am not sure if it will ever come to view. Regardless, if you are in this moment, dealing with this, know that you are not alone. Know that there are many out there that understand that the pain you feel, will never go away. But, we have found some ways to make it hurt a little less from time to time.

“I Will Carry You” By Angie and Todd Smith is a MUST read, for everyone. Weather you have experienced loss or not, read it. Without a doubt 5 out of 5. Very, very emotionally hard to get through, but happy to own, and will read again.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Crash the Chatterbox: By Steven Furtick. A Review. Book 5-52

On the heels of finishing “The Giver” quartet I dove into “Crash the Chatterbox” by Steven Furtick. I know of the author, as my beloved bride and I watch some of his sermons from time to time. But, I really was not ready for what this book stirred in me. This is what excited me the most about this book.

There is so much that Furtick hits you with, from the start of the book. Heavy, heavy stuff. But this is displaced with fairly transparent views into how the very topic that he is asking you to think about has affected him. But that, in no way, made them less challenging. There is one quote that has been sticking with me since I read it.

“Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”.

As a dad, there have been so many times that I have wondered about some of the struggles in raising children. We all have them. Some of us write about them, others do not. However, being a cranio dad. Man, let me tell you. The times that I have been on my knees crying and screaming at God are countless. Begging to take on the pain for my daughter, to have her get a break, to not have to go through whatever event we are going through. Man, my conversations with God are awesome.

But, still reeling from the context of this book, something was made clear for me. Look for more on this topic in the days to come.

All in all I would say 4.7 out of five.  Add it to your shelves and devote some time to what may come from reading this book.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

Son: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 4-52

After making great headway on the books I wanted to read this year, life became life. However, I finished “Son” on time. Having had a weekend to digest all that this tome entailed, and wanting to keep the momentum moving, here is my review.

Gut wrenching heartache. Having the ability to read all four books of the quartet, back to back, has been astounding. “Son”, by far, the longest, takes some of the craziest turns out of the four book in “The Giver” quartet. I had heard from many that this book was highly favored in the series. Though I found the book to be amazing, I also found it harder to follow.

There is such a departure from the rhythm. Trust me, I stay that knowing that based on what all is covered by “Son” that this departure was needed. Regardless, there were times that I had to re-read multiple chapters, listen to the audio again and again, all in an effort to make sure that the leaps the story was taken were intended.

Still, it was a fantastic book. Not my favored in the series, least favored to be frank. But still a very good book. The arc that the protagonist takes is a wild and crazy ride. I found myself wanting to dive into the story and be there, to place my hand on their shoulder, out of comfort and guidance. Times that I was internally screaming for joy, and others that I was wracked with sorrow.

But there is one thing that just irks me. One thing that I have had to read, re-read, and listen to multiple times. The conclusion. Things, all things, come together. The climax has been built, laid out, sullied, and then displayed for all. My heart was racing, pages were turning. Each word was being read with a sniper like accuracy. Then, in a flash, it was over. The end. Perhaps it is the quick ending of the entire saga why this is my least favorite book out of the four.

Three and a half out of five stars is all that I can give. Pales in comparison to the books that preceded it, but still worthy of reading by all. I may come back and read it again later, just to see how my mind has changed.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Messenger: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 3-52

For once, there was continuity, from the beginning. However, that made me want to devour the words on the pages even more. With every turn there was a flurry of thoughts, connections, and wonder.  “Messenger” is by far the most intense of the first three books in this quartet. Much like as in “The Giver” and “Gathering Blue” there were many, many moments where I had to turn back the page. Not because I was lost, but because I found something amazing.

Through the entire last half of the book, I was on the edge of my seat. Wondering what was going to happen next, uttering prayers for characters of a book. I, once again, saw another one of my children in this books protagonist. My son David shares so much with the character, that there were moments where I could close my eyes and see David, a little older, going through the events. This was both a good and a bad thing.

It is hard to NOT read these books through the eyes of a parent. Even harder to rationalize how I may have read them when I was younger. I would challenge any parent to read “Messenger” and NOT see at least some glimpse of your child in one of the characters.

Out of the three books that I have read for my (self-imposed) 2018 Reading Challenge, I think that this one would be my second favorite. Perhaps I need to create a ranking list. All in all 4.9 out of 5 stars. If you have not purchased the quartet, you should. Then read it all and let me know what you think. All of this, and I still have one more to go.