Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday for January 29, 2019!

    Here are previous Smoke & Mirrors Top Ten Tuesday posts.
This meme was created by The Broke and the Bookish and hosted by that site 
until January 2018 when That Artsy Reader Girl took on the hosting duties!

Today's theme is The Ten Most Recent Additions to my To-Read List!

This is from 
Lydia Schoch's Top Ten Tuesday listing for January 22
Thank goodness she stopped by and commented on my 
Top Ten Tuesday posting for that day! 
Else I might never have visited her listing!

The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias
by Dolly Chugh
This is a topic near and dear to my heart! 
We all have biases. Period. To deny that is to deny reality. 
However, that doesn't mean we can't fight 
to eliminate just as many of our own biases as possible!
This book has an amazing 4.57 rating on Goodreads! 
And that is with 161 ratings! (Not just one...or two!)
Ooohhh, how exciting!! :)

Anger Is a Gift
A second book from Lydia's TTT posting last week!
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
This is a debut novel.
Trying a new author always excites me! 

How relevant this story arc is...
A child dealing with the aftermath of a parent 
having been killed by the police!

And a third book from Lydia!
(Lydia and I would evidently make a good reading team!)
The Cowkeeper's Wish: A Gealogical Journey 
by Kristen Den Hartog and Tracy Kasabaski
I am utterly fascinated by this book!
It is nonfiction, a recounting of past generations 
of these two sisters' ancestors and their journeys 
to create a better life for themselves as well as their offspring.
These people start by walking from coastal Wales to London, with their cattle in tow! Their great-granddaughter ends up in southern Ontario!

The Goblin Emperor cover.jpg
The fourth and book that I became familiar with 
from Lydia's TTT post last week...

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Normally I might not be drawn to this type of book, 
but I admit the Goodreads synopsis intrigued me!

This is the initial installment in a series, 
so hopefully she will continue it in the near future...

The Sisters of the Winter WoodAnd finally, book #5, graciously offered by Lydia:
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

The synopsis of this rather reminds me of 
The Bear and the Nightingale, which I loved!

Fantasy. Magical Realism. And Historical Fiction.
All in a book classified as Young Adult!
Yes! Lead me to it! 

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
Book #6...
I became acquainted with this book 
on Goodreads.
A retelling of Pride and Prejudiceset in Pakistan. 
However, it has been so long since I read 
Pride and Prejudice
I should probably reread it before reading this! 

scent coverThat brings us to book #7 for this posting.
I am thrilled to report that one of my all-time favorite authors, 
Erica Bauermeister, has another novel set to release May 21st 2019: The Scent Keeper
This woman uses language in such exceptional ways 
as to be totally unique! 
I cannot wait for this and will definitely have my favorite 
used bookstore owner order it in so I can 
have it as soon as possible following the release date! 
If I'm really lucky I'll pick it up on a weekend 
and be able to read it the same day!

Book #8 is Hope on the Inside by Marie Bostwick.
Everybody in my book club adored the two Marie Bostwick books we've read, 
A Single Thread, the first in the Cobbled Court Quilts series, and The Second Sister.

Book #9 is If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
A movie adaptation is due to be released this year. 
The first Baldwin novel I read and loved was 
Go Tell It on the Mountain
I recently read The Fire Next Time 
and Giovanni's Room
Both are intense reads, 
despite the relatively small page count for each.
Image result for Between Shades of Gray ruta sepetys cover image

And lastly, book #10 is 
Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys. 
I adored Salt to the Sea when I read 
and reviewed it almost 3 years ago! 
I have since acquired a copy of Between Shades of Gray 
and hope to read it yet this year!

What books have you recently added to your TBR listing?

Have you read any of these?

Happy reading!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Unworthy by Antonio Monda

Firstly, thank you to the publisher for a free copy of this book
as part of the Turning the Pages Goodreads book discussion group.
I seriously doubt I would have read this book otherwise. 
Although I truly enjoyed Monda's writing style, 
I found this book to be thoroughly frustrating. 
I do not currently subscribe to any 'organized religion'. 
Nor have I for almost 30 years.
It no longer appeals to me nor am I interested in it.
The main reason for that? It's simple really... 
The hypocrisy I have witnessed among it's "believers" and leaders. 
I suppose I could best describe myself as a humanist
I do believe in both the collective and individual 
ability of humans to create our own world. 
The one book that opened me up to a whole new belief system was 
I spent the first 5-6 years of my 3rd decade of life reading and studying alternative forms of religion, both organized and otherwise. 
I was searching because the Christian religions to which 
I had been exposed just didn't work for me. 
"Just have faith." 
"You must have faith."
"You must simply believe..." 
The only symbols offered for such unlimited and eternal "faith" and belief 
seemed ethereal/nonexistent, unreliable, and undependable at best. 
If nothing was absolute, then why couldn't I learn 
 to simply develop MYSELF/ME? 
Surely I could benefit just as much, if not more, by simply living my daily life to the best of my ability, since I really have very little to no control over my life circumstances to a great degree. 
I refused to believe some mythical being had predetermined my life. 
Nope. That did not work for me...
Once I began reading about other worldwide belief systems I realized many of the same underlying tenets were present for many, if not most, of them.

Now that you have a bit of my 'religious' history, you can perhaps understand why I would not typically be interested in reading this book. :)
However, I found the writing to be easily accessible even if it was a bit dense and definitely thought-provoking. 
The whole book deals with "Father" Singer (Abram) and his battle with Catholic beliefs, 
especially regarding the personal activities expected  of priests, in his own daily life. 
Firstly, a priest is to remain celibate. 
(Admittedly, this has never made sense to me.)
Whereas, Abram has had relationships with three different women thus far during his priesthood years.
Granted, the first two were very brief in nature, 
but this third woman, Lisa, he truly loves and I believe she truly loves him, even while realizing the limitations of their relationship given his vocation. 
Now, really, I admit that overall, this doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that 
he is constantly stealing from the church. 
Secondly, a priest should NOT be a thief!
He steals from the collection plate consistently to purchase gifts for Lisa, meals and even to finance a short trip for them both. 

Abram states that each of these three women have stated to him:
You're a priest, aren't you ashamed? (6)
Though Lisa says 
...it with a caress, because she loves me as she loves her own life... (6)
Lisa even undergoes an abortion during the time they are together. I wondered who paid for that. His stolen funds?

Fortunately, this book is relatively short--only 175 pages in length, because I kept wanting to shout out loud about every other page, "WHY?" Why would a person persist in perpetuating himself in such a sham of a vocation and societal/cultural role when he is a total and complete hypocrite? I would agree with some of the Turning the Pages members who cited that Abram's ego was the true motivation for his becoming and remaining a priest. He exhibits this as he realizes that many people recognize him as "Father" even when he is not wearing his vocational 'costume'/robe. He likes that. He very much loves the idea of others viewing him as pious and a good role model, even when he knows he is anything but. As one of the members stated, he loved the idea that he was fooling everyone! Hence it fed his ego... I believe that was a large part of his motivation for remaining in the priesthood. 

Though he describes how he could "see God in everything" when he was working as a construction worker building skyscrapers:
In my fellow workers' eyes, filled with enthusiasm and hope.
In our callused hands, which defied first the sea and then the sky. (8)
Now this I could relate to. We should be able to recognize spirituality in every aspect of our daily lives. However, it seemed that once he entered the priesthood that sensible spirituality left him. Rather ironic... It was then that he became successful at building up the diocese, increasing attendance, etc. I felt he exchanged this "success" for the insightful reverence for everyday interactions and tasks. 

And I must wonder at the author's intent in writing this book. Perhaps Phillip Roth put it succinctly:
With storytelling finesse, Monda has written a compact and forceful book that might be 
a morbid erotic tale out of Boccaccio, exposing the tormented lust of the clergy. (Wikipedia)
Monda is a practicing Catholic. Which seems to make no sense as I feel this whole book meant to undermine the Catholic religion for its unrealistic expectations with regard to the humans who serve as its leaders and champions. Perhaps he would like to incite change? Or is he merely trying to prove that all sinners are absolved even if they never truly change their behaviors? It is this tenet of the Catholic religion with which I specifically disagree. There is accountability to be had for your efforts to improve and change for the better, in my opinion. Without that, there is no real positive change to be had. 

I could appreciate Monda's description of the Twin Towers (at least I suppose that was the construction project he was working on and describing in NYC in the '70's) and one politician's description:
On the day of his inauguration, Mayor Beame declared that at least fifty thousand people 
would work in those two skyscrapers, and that within a few years the buildings 
would be welcoming two hundred thousand visitors every day. 
A monument to the future, he said, a monument that nothing and no one could scratch, 
and would bear witness forever to the power of the city whose mayor he had the honor to be. He thanked us all, Mayor Beame did, speaking in the same vibrant tones that he would employ before too long when begging President Ford to help the invincible city avoid bankruptcy. (10)
Talk about "tongue in cheek"! To me, this whole book was about ironies...

Abram describes confessing to Father John and the "severity with which he absolved" him, followed by the "kindness with which he put his arms around" Abram. 
...I also remember his gray face when he died a few weeks later.
I felt guilty, as if I had been the cause of the aneurysm, and I wept like a baby, 
because...I realized that from that moment on, 
nothing and no one would stop me from going adrift. (15)
How hypocritical! We are to believe that without this one man, Abram is now incapable of controlling himself? What happened to God?!? and faith?!? Or is that a manifestation of the Catholic religion? I have always understood that it is the priest who controls a believer's relationship with God, that a priest is the only conduit, so there is no supposedly personal relationship between "God" and any believer. That makes even less sense to me than the religions to which I have directly been exposed. 

Abram states that he's "always been afraid of losing the privilege of his religion."  That statement caught my attention. I often wonder how many times people simply "go with the flow" and assume or even pretend to have "faith" and "believe in God" simply as a way to "fit in" with society. It has been quite a journey for me to begin to feel halfway comfortable stating that I subscribe to no organized religion, nor do I hold any belief in a deity. But I can state that my own spirituality is very much hands-on and practical, with its foundation in my everyday interactions, behaviors, and actions. This usually shocks people. They appear to be dumbfounded that anyone could state such certainty in such a completely 'unreligious' belief system. 

I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book, though I admit it did make me think. Mostly in an angry and frustrated way, however. In my own world, this book depicted much of what I feel is "wrong" with organized religion, particularly Catholicism. Just keep "sinning" and as long as you beg forgiveness, all is well.

Have you read this book? 
If so, what are your thoughts?

I would love to know the reactions of a Catholic believer to this one...

Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday for January 22, 2019!!

    Here are previous Smoke & Mirrors Top Ten Tuesday posts.
This meme was created by The Broke and the Bookish and hosted by that site 
until January 2018 when That Artsy Reader Girl took on the hosting duties!

Today's theme is Books I Meant to Read in 2018!

And trust me, there are MANY!

by Ruth Emmie Lang

A very good friend graciously loaned this book to me 
at the beginning of 2018 
and I am appalled to realize I have yet to read it. 

I intend to change that this year 
and hope to get it read next month, 
in February 2019!

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I have wanted to read this book for several years, 
ever since two of my best friends and I 
sat and watched it in a theater 3 times in a row! 
(And, no, no one ever chased us out or made us pay more...)

I hope I will enjoy it 
since I already own 
the second book in the series, 
The Girl With No Shadow.

 And, of course, if I enjoy those two, 
then I must read the third installment 
in the series, 
Peaches for Father Francis.

And as of April 4, 2019,
the fourth installment, The Strawberry Thief
is due to be released! Bonus!!

Third on this list is Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

It has been about 5 years since 
I read a Kingsolver book 
and I am soooo looking forward 
to reading this one in 2019!

It will satisfy several prompts for reading challenges!

Fourth is Every Note Played by Lisa Genova.

Everyone in my book club adored Still Alice 
and I went on to read and love
Left Neglected and Love Anthony.
I also own but have yet to read Inside the O'Briens.

Fifth is The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin.

I loved Alice I Have Been and 
The Aviator's Wife (this links to my review).
And I have yet to read The Swans of Fifth Avenue or 
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
which Ms. Benjamin claimed to be her personal favorite 
when I met her a few years ago!
She is one of my absolute favorite writers!
And she has another release scheduled for May 21, 2019:
Mistress of the Ritz!

Sixth is Lionboy by Zizou Corder

I purchased this book on a whim several years ago 
from a clearance rack at Books-A-Million
Then in the course of researching books for the 
"book written by two female authors" 
2019 Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge
I learn Zizou Corder is simply a pseudonym 
for a mother-daughter writing team! 
And it is the first of a trilogy... 
Now I am truly fascinated and anxious to finally read it!

Seventh, eighth, and ninth are Giovanni's RoomThe Fire Next Time
and If Beale Street Could Talk, all written by James Baldwin.

I LOVED Go Tell It on the Mountain (links to my review)!
I want to read more classics this year. 
I already know I love this man's writing style, 
so these are definite reads for 2019!
Then I'll be anxious to see the movie adaptation for If Beale Street Could Talk!

The tenth book for this posting follows this theme 
with a reread of a classic, 
Soul On Ice by Eldridge Cleaver. 

I first read this at the 'ripe old age' of 13 and I am CERTAIN
I didn't grasp much from it.
I trust my reading of it some 50 years later 
will prove to be much more enlightening and informative!

What's even more fun is that this year, all of these books (and more!) will fulfill prompts for both the 2019 Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge
and the 2019 Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge.
I have created a page for each of these challenges which I update as I finish reading books 
and it is so much fun to see just how many prompts can be fulfilled with each book!
If I had the time, I would certainly prefer to read a separate book for each prompt, 
but I do not, so I will approach these challenges in this way...
I have listed each book already selected for each of the book clubs in which I participate 
and secondly, am trying to read as many from the current stock of books 
I already own as possible. 
Though I already know I will purchase more books in the year to come as well. 
But I am trying to complete blog posts for books I've read and then give them 
to my favorite used bookstore to be resold, 
hoping to decrease the total amount of books in my household throughout 2019. 
At least that is my goal!

What books did you intend to read last year but didn't manage to get to?

Happy reading!