On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Steven King. A Review. Book 18 out of 52

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

I had no idea how much I needed to read this book. “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Steven King is a tale of tales. I tried to go into this book with an open mind, fearing that it was going to be a writers guide. Afraid of what that would bring out of me. But this is so much more. King is a master of this craft, and it is utterly refreshing to see what has driven him as an author. Yes, even the rougher times.

Transparently, King walks through the struggles, missteps, and flaws in an attempt to show perseverance. Along the way imparting knowledge about drive, application, and voice. In a very real, and very raw way, this book put even more pressure on me to write.

Oh, the crazy journey of my reading challenge. Self-improvement, introspection, igniting passion, correcting vision, and so much more. It seems that this is another book that you should have on your shelves. Who knows in what ways it will inspire you?

I am giving “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Steven King a sold 4 out of 5 stars.

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 Magician: Master: By Raymond Feist. A Review. Book 10 of 52

See, I have been writing, and reading, and stuff. Sigh. But I know, no time for excuses. On wards and upwards for my next review for my 2018 reading challenge.

So, I have already spoken about the first part of this book. You can read that here. But, now, let’s dive into The Magician: Master by Raymond Feist. Another good book as a standalone, but I purposely waited to write this review until I had read both. Then I waited a few more weeks. Because of time. For as great as this book may be by itself, this pales in comparison to the power that reading them both, back to back, contain.

The conflict is real and palpable. Shockingly distant from other novels of the same feel. Consumed by the authors ability to keep the story, making every sentence count. So much that I, yet again, lost sight of the love story. But, there it was, time and time again. Not in an annoying way. It helped tell the story. There was not a lost section, or something that was there just to fill space.

I am usually one that likes to leave with a simple quote, something that gives insight into what I think of the book. But for this one, it is a longer one. A few sentences that I had to read over and over again. Before I do that, I give this book, by itself a 3.5 as well. But together with Apprentice I can do no less than a 4. If you have the time, read these books.

“There are many ways to love someone. Sometimes we want to love so much we’re not too choosy about who we love. Other times we make love such a pure and noble thing no poor human can ever meet our vision. But for the most part, love is a recognition, an opportunity to say, ‘There is something about you I cherish.’ It doesn’t entail marriage, or even physical love. There’s love of parents, love of city or nation, love of life, and love of people. All different, all love”

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

The Magician: Apprentice: By Raymond Feist. A Review. Book 9 of 52

Ok, ok….. I know that I am WAY behind on these. I have been reading, but been busy getting ready for our fourth child to join us in a couple months. Anyway, here is my next entry for the 2018 Reading Challenge.

Magic, sci-fi and war all wrapped around a love story. No, I am not talking about The Princess Bride (though an amazing book that you all should read). I am, in fact, talking about “The Magician: Apprentice” by Raymond Feist. I was warned that this book was a long one, originally published as one, split into two. But it was an amazing read. I have found in my time that there are books that are long, and horrible reads. So much fluff or dry events. This book is not the case.

I did not even really see the folding in of the love story until it was already there. It was amazing.

“Some love comes like the wind off the sea, while others grow slowly from the seeds of friendship and kindness”.

But, for as good as this book is, it is lacking without the second part, Master. As a stand-alone I would say 3.5 out of 5. Worth the read.

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

The Alienist: By Caleb Carr. A Review. Book 8 of 52

“The defenders of decent society and the disciples of degeneracy are often the same people”

Such an apropos quote for the season we find ourselves in. Nonetheless, The Alienist by Caleb Carr is what I envision happens when Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes meets Poe’s… well anything by Edgar Allen Poe really. This may not be a good thing for all of you. I did find myself losing a little patience with the story. But, it was still a good read. I think that if one has the time and space to read it, they may enjoy it.

It is significantly difficult to provide some substantive review, while remaining spoiler free, on a mystery novel. Especially one of this ilk. I do feel that Carr did an amazing job of putting me, the reader, into turn of the (20th) century New York. Bordering on the overly descriptive (trust me, I am as shocked as the rest of you that those words just came from me) the narrative puts you in the moment. I just wish that it had been a little more like the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes, pulling no punches, and yielding no major clues until it should be nearly over.

But the story, the story was amazing. Enrapturing even.  Worth the read just for that in and of itself.

I am giving this book three out of five. stars Though there may be many that love it more, I am happy with that. Onto the next book in my 2018 Reading Challenge.

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.