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.

Time Traveler’s Wife: By Audry Niffenegger. A Review. Book 11 of 52

My 2018 Reading Challenge is coming along nicely. Having just finished Feist’s The Magician, I dove head first into this book, and fell for about a week.

So I may have been guilty of falling asleep during this movie. Not because it was bad, I am sure that it was because I was tired. However, I do not think that even watching the movie would have prepared me for this book. “Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audry Niffenegger threw me for a loop.  There is no single quote that could do justice to how I feel about this book. It is complex, there is time, love, loss, and more love, more time. I both read and listened to the audio book. Having two characters speak the parts of the protagonist’s was delightful.

One of the most mind blurring parts did have a quote that resonates with me today. As a father, watching my children grow up, it pulled on the heart strings a little.

“Think for a minute, darling: in fairy tales it’s always the children who have the fine adventures. The mothers stay at home and waif for the children to fly in the window”.

Okay, those of you that have read it know what that is about. It is a smaller part of the entire story. But I honestly believe that there is little that I can say about this book without giving something away about it. It is amazing, wonderful and the ending.  Well, it hit me right in the gut. But so worth it. Every page, every line. Sold 4.5 out of 5. Even if you have watched the movie, read this book.

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.

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.

Gathering Blue: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 2-52

Sorry for the delay. Between snowstorms and putting together the announcement for the next addition to our family, life has been full. If you missed the announcement, you can find it here. Please check it out, it took far too long for me to put together. However, I am happy with it nonetheless.

Without further ado, my less than 300 word spoiler free review of “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry.

On the heels of finishing “The Giver” I dove into “Gathering Blue”. I was begging for continuation, closure, and solace. It was quickly made apparent that I was not going to get these things. But, what I did find was something amazing. Perhaps it was because I had just finished “The Giver” that I was able to immerse myself into the setting so quickly. It is also, most likely, the case that I yet again saw the protagonist as one of my children, my daughter. It was not until the last few chapters that ALL of it started to come together.

When it started to collide, I found myself reading at a breakneck pace. Pages conquered in minuets, if not seconds. Flipping backwards to see if I read something right, honing in on what was happening. My heart was racing, and there were tears in my eyes as I got to the end. A quite from early on resounded loud and true as I put the book down, sighing in some closure and relief. “Take pride in your pain; you are stronger than those who have none” is a mantra to keep close to your heart.

With the same tenacity, as I finished “Gathering Blue” I started “Messenger”. With many of the same hopes carrying over from “The Giver” as before. Seeking more, seeking closure, seeking the rest of the story.

I would give this book a strong 5 out of 5. When I started reading it, the rating was hovering around a 3. But, upon completion it has rocketed to my 2nd or 3rd favorite book of all time. Worth the read as a standalone, but I think better after reading “The Giver”. Looking to pick up a copy, use my link here: “Gathering Blue”. This is not an affiliate link.

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

The Giver: By Lois Lowry. A Review. Book 1-52

I am not sure what my apprehension was behind not reading this series. Until I was challenged by a friend on Facebook for my self-imposed 52 book reading slurry, I just cast it aside. Perhaps it has something to do with the “Left Behind” series that started just two years later, which I have read, and do not like. I recall there being a love for this book, accolades showered like shooting stars from the mouths of every reader. Much like that of “Left Behind”. However, I was challenged to read this book, in fact the quartet. Having finished it (in two days) here is my (spoiler free) review.

“The Giver” starts off slow, rhythmic and lulling. Not painstakingly slow like other books I have read. Almost enjoyable. Perhaps it was, in part, due to the winter season that the pace was restful. However, Lowry is a skilled writer. Well adept in the art of building a climax. Even better in letting the climax drive the story, pulling at all of your emotions. There is subtle imagery that is used. Without trying too hard you find yourself looking through the eyes of the protagonist, even if you do not want to.

There is a very particular point that the metronomic pace is shattered. Perhaps the moment that I wish I was warned about before reading at work. Thankful for a door that I could close, and an undisturbed few moments to collect my thoughts. Combined with my projections of one of my own sons onto one of the characters, I found my heart racing more often than not. I felt pulled to read the last half of the book as fast as I could. To reach the end and find out the conclusion.

“I was yearning to languish in its azure pools filled to the brim with potential and hope.”

When I did reach the end, I found that I was yearning to languish in its azure pools filled to the brim with potential and hope. But, it was not to be. There is closure, but I was left wanting more, so much more. I screamed, not in my head, not in my heart, I screamed “THAT CANNOT BE THE END”! I fought the urge to research. To take to task and find out what happened after the final words of the book. Oh how that sentence has haunted me. “But perhaps it was only an echo”.

All in all, I will give this book a 4.9 out of 5. It has risen to my top ten. If you have not read it, do yourself a favor and do so. Right now. Seriously. Go and buy it. Head to a library and check it out. Just read it. Trust me.

In full transparency, I am on the second day of my second week. But I am almost done with my third book.

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