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Whitney Family Book Swap

25 Mar

Last November I birthed a new and wonderful idea. I immediately talked to Julie and Will and they got on board. The first annual Whitney Family Book Swap was born.

For starters, all of us like to read. Some get more done than others, but some (me) have more time than others (Julie and Will). For Christmas we each purchased our favorite book we read in 2012. On Christmas Eve we unwrapped someone else’s book and made the solemn vow to read all of them before Christmas 2013.

What better time to try some new reading material than Christmas break? So here’s what we unwrapped.

book swap

Yes, Julie has brown hair now, and yes, Will is wearing a tuxedo tshirt.

I tackled Redeeming Love while on vacation in Argentina, and I just finished  West of Dodge towards the end of February. I thought this would be a cool way to try new books and something new for us to talk about rather than how crazy our parents are and who is going to change Dad’s diaper when he’s 106. Kidding.

Now, I realize that this blog post was still on my “To Blog List.” Sorry it’s way late. When I run, I blog in my head and sometimes I can’t keep track of things I post here and posts that still live in my noggin.

In October I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and LOVED it! That was my contribution to the swap. Julie really liked it and my mom sorta liked it. Will, feel free to read it over spring break!

Gone Girl is a thriller about a missing woman, narrated by her old diary entires and her husband, the prime suspect. Surprisingly, I hated all the characters by the end, but I still enjoyed the book. Both of the characters had strong voices, but Gillian did a marvelous job weaving them together. There is an element of suspense to the whole read, urging you to finish one more chapter before you go to bed. I judge a book by its negative impact on my sleep. This one was incredible.

Although “Girl” is in the title, I don’t think it’s a super-feminine book. hopefully Will doesn’t either. I picked it to gift because I thought both Julie and Will would get into it. They are both students and I knew it was a page-turner. Also, who doesn’t love a mystery?

Julie’s contribution, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, was a Christian Romance novel. I haven’t read a romance novel in years, so it was defiantly different territory than my current reading list.

Loosely based on the book of Hosea, it follows a prostitute during the gold rush in California. She is saved/kidnapped by a farmer who rescues her from her terrible life and at the same time sort of holds her hostage. The man, who is written to be dreamy (strong yet sensitive) came off a little in your face to me. It was great that he took her out of the brothel, but I’m not sure his approach was the most considerate.

The Book of Hosea is virtually unknown to me, so I enjoyed learning about it and doing some more research. Redeeming Love also opened my eyes to the cycle of prostitution and how hard it was/is for a woman to stop and create a life of her own. Those women have virtually no other life skills and very few people still willing to help them.

Will’s pick, West of Dodge by Louis L’Amour, was a book of short stories by one of the Whitneys’ favorite writers. My dad is a big Louis fan, and we’ve all read a bunch from the shelf in the basement. I was glad to read some short stories instead of a long narrative to switch up my pace. I should do that more often!

The stories were mostly about cowboys and took place in western towns. By the end of the book, they all felt a little repetitive. Good guy defeats bad guy, usually gets a girl. Louis does a wonderful job setting a scene and building suspense. He’s a gifted writer, and I wish I could do those things half as well. A quick, but fun read.

So that’s what I thought of the three books for 2012. Maybe if we start a chant Julie and Will might do guest posts?!?! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!

What was your favorite book of 2012? What book do you wish you could guilt your siblings into reading?


Game of Thrones Season 3

22 Mar

You guys! And girls! It’s almost time for the Game of Thrones, Season 3 premiere on HBO. Ok, it doen’t come out until March 31 (Easter, weird  I know), but it’s never to early to get pumped up.

I am so excited for many reasons, here’s a short list:

1. Book 3 (Storm of Swords) is my favorite. I’m happy they divided it into two seasons, there’s a lot of material to cover.

2. It’s been just long enough, almost a year to be exact, since I’ve read book 3 and I’m at the sweet spot where I’ve almost forgotten some key plot points. That means I’ll relive the suspense via the show. I will make the same case I always argue, read the books before you watch the show. You owe it to yourself, really.

3. Our Sunday night watch parties, including the infamous boob game are simply the best.

4. Kit Harington.

5. This…

peter baelish

Perks of being a fast reader

30 Nov

On Monday I got an email from the library saying a book I requested was ready. On Tuesday I picked up Perks of Being a Wallflower. I finished it at 12:02am Wednesday night.

I remembered reading a review of this book in high school and being interested. After totally forgetting about it, the movie came out and it looks great. I decided I must read it before I see it, and then it appeared on my request list at the library.

Even though I had a million things to do this week and I probably should have thought a little bit about that upcoming stats exam, I read the book in two days. I stayed up late and read during lunch. I haven’t done that enough this semester. I forget that I love to read sometimes.

Perks, as I’ll call it for short, is a coming of age story about a freshman in high school with some sort of social handicap that unravels throughout the story. As I read I kept thinking of my dear friend Holden Caulfield.

Charlie, the protagonist, was trying to figure out how to be social and how to be in high school. He’s got some pretty heavy issues on his plate. After reading for a while, I’d have to put the book down and remind myself that I’m Shannon and I have Shannon’s problems, not Charlie’s problems. I was just so into the story.

Perks reminded me of how it actually felt to be in high school. It’s only been 5 and a half years, but I didn’t realize how much I forgot. The media doesn’t give high school kids a fair shake. Movies and TV shows are the biggest proponents of laughing at high school problems.

This book really took them seriously. Most issues teens have aren’t giant problems. They are lots of smaller things magnified by the hormones and hate that happen in schools. Although it’s not true, it feels like your whole social life hinges on going to one party one time. Missing it for a trip to your grandma’s house is out of the question. Cutting weight for a wrestling meet is worth it, no matter what. Watching a TV show is more important that tomorrow’s quiz. Having a Coach purse or American Eagle jeans is necessary, even if it’s not something you actually like.

I forgot how in high school everything felt like a huge deal. Everything. Every single dance, test, phone call, weekend, IM conversation. It was all earth-shattering important. Perks reminded me that little deals are huge deals and huge deals and catastrophic.

School wasn’t as funny as Mean Girls, as happy as High School Musical or as interesting as the Breakfast Club. It was complicated and pretty awkward. And on the spectrum of experiences, I know mine was a walk in the park compared to so many others.

My friends felt like my whole world and I probably treated my family like crap. Now, it’s my family I talk to all of the time and most of those friends are just photos on my newsfeed. No one understood me, especially my parents. my curfew was too early and I didn’t have a cell phone. I cried about that almost every week. Really.

Most of us grow out of high school and realize the people we want to be friends with make us feel good instead of look good. They are the people who can both listen and talk. The friends who get to know your family and remember your birthday without facebook.

Looking back, I felt like no one understood me or took me seriously. I can say now that I was being crazy dramatic. I know that. But then, it wasn’t dramatic. I did not have a rough life, trust me.

It’s amazing how quickly I forget that feeling of silence and roll my eyes at teenagers pulled up next to me at a stoplight. How frustrating it is to see those kids make bad choices. They know better- they really do. It’s just the blinders that most people wear from 13-18 that don’t let them stop and realize what they do can affect so many other people.

It’s comforting to know that mostly everyone grows out of it. At some point we gain the perspective and realize getting a C on one test one time is not worth crying about. A guy who doesn’t call you back is probably a jerk, and you thank the heavens for letting him weed himself out. In high school, that would have ruined your year.

That’s what breaks my heart when I hear about teen suicide. I wish I could have given each one of those souls a hug. I wish I could have eaten cafeteria lunch with them just one time. I would have told them it’s ok that things are confusing right now. It’s ok that you’re feeling misunderstood. We all did. We all do. But you can hold on for four years. They are the longest and shortest of your life. After high school the world gets so much bigger and better. You are feeling right now so strongly, that you are having trouble grasping later. That’s ok. Just know that people care about you. That feelings changes and people grow. You will too.

I wish I could have understood the world a little more clearly then. I wish I would have been more polite to my parents. I wish I would have cared a little bit more about people outside my immediate daily life. I am so thankful I never battled any thing serious because I can’t imagine that.

Perks of Being a Wallflower reminded me of that delicate time period. It reminded me that even though I had friends, I could talk to people, I was involved and active, that I too felt like Charlie. Looking back, it wasn’t hard. But boy, it felt hard.

I’m sorry this post got so deep and so long. I guess I’m just having a lot of feelings. Let’s all try to be more understanding of people in different life stages than us. Ok?

Have you read anything mind numbing lately? I’m always looking for suggestions.

Losing Thrones steam

19 Jul

So as you may have noticed, I’m totes into Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire. I started the fifth book of the series, A Dance with Dragons, about a month ago.

The fourth book, A Feast for Crows, was pretty slow-moving. It followed some of my least favorite characters and seemed like a 1,000 page set up for some action. But the action never really came.

I started the fifth book and it’s moving at a better pace, but I’ve lost the will to read. What is my deal? While I’m reading it, I’m totally into it. I try to read a chapter or two each night (that’s why it’s taking for-ev-er) but I never seem to make time on weekends. I think I’m a little tired of school work and driving. There is some lake time in my future, so hopefully I can wrap that up!

But I can do it! Maybe I just need some cheesey Pinterest motivation….

Oh shoot, neither of those have anything to do with anything.

Now endorsing: Books on tape

25 Jun

((This blogger receives  no compensation for rave reviews. She would accept free things to review, if you want to send her cool stuff.))

My beautiful Cedar Rapids hostess!

People, I love books on tape, well cd, does anyone still use tapes? I love to read and I love podcasts, so I’m not sure why I didn’t do this earlier. I guess I was skeptical of not being able to physically read the words as well as being distracted by the road.

Two weekends ago I drove to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to visit my friend Kate and her family. We had a ball catching up and hanging out with her extended family. If you ever get the chance, check out Iowa. I endorse the Hawkeye state as well.

The ride from Columbia to Cedar Rapids takes about 4.5 hours through the scenic back roads of Missouri. The whole way, I listened to Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass.”

I finished it this weekend on the road to St. Louis (to catch a plane to Dallas). Being a world-traveler sometimes doesn’t leave enough time to read all the books on my list!

It’s a young adult fantasy book that tells the story of kids fighting evil in a similar world. It’s a great story and listening to it was easy after the first 15 minutes. It’s a cross between Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. You should totally read it.

You should also try out a book on tape if you haven’t. I think a car ride that involves a lot of highway time or a destination you’ve been to before (so you’re not concentrating on where you’re going) would be best. Kate says she listens to books as she runs, so I’ll have to try that out soon.

New shoes, new schedule, old read

13 Jun

Last night I went on a really great run. After my 100 miles in April, I’ve lost a little motivation to run as regularly. I went from daily in April, to 2 times a week in May, but now I’m back to 3-4 times a week which is where I want to stay. Yesterday I just wasn’t really feeling like it, but I decided to try out my new shoes.

I did a four mile, super hilly course around my house. I was nervous that the shoes might rub, but they felt nice compared to my old pair that I wore for almost two years. Even though I love to run, I just don’t get into the gear. I feel like my runs aren’t far/fast/serious enough to need expensive shoes. Someday when I need my knees replaced at age 35, I’ll be sorry. For now, the cheap stuff feels fine.

About halfway through, I realized I was actually having fun. Just me and some NPR podcasts kicking in my new sneaks.

The past two weeks have felt really full as I adjust to my “summer schedule” and my new class. So far the class is awesome. I like the online discussion, although the actual discussion board is a little clunky. It’s making me think more and I can feel my brain growing. Just kidding, but I am learning.

Grad school is a fancy word for “We’re going to tell you what to read.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love to read like Kate Middleton loves classic pumps, but I don’t really love being told what to do. Blame it on my oldest child need to be the boss complex or my free spirit. It just seems my own summer reading list has been cast aside for text-book stuff and poorly scanned PDF’s. #gradschoolproblems

After I finish as much of my class as I can for the night, I make sure to read something for fun too. I just finished F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  It was a high school lit book, and I remember loving it.  Before the new movie comes out this summer, I wanted to reread it.

It was a good as I remembered it and really the perfect summer book. You know how everyone watches Christmas movies in the winter and you feel all in the Christmas spirit? I think we should all respect summer movies and books too. I mean, what makes you feel more ready for sunshine than reading about the beach. I think I relate better to sweaty characters when I’m actually sweating.

Well Gatsby is the perfect summer book. You should reread it too and then we can see the movie together? Ok, cool.

Game of Thrones: Book vs.TV

10 May

Oh hey readers, as you know I’ve become quite the Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire fan. I’m (slowly) working through the fourth book of the series A Feast for Crows and watching the second season each Sunday night. I feel a little nerdy, but many of my friends are equally excited about the books and the movies. Also, Beyonce and Baby Blue watch the TV show, so I know I’m in good company.

To be real, I’m not trying to be a snarky reader in this post. I am a firm believer that you should read the book before the movie or the show, but listen to your heart. Everyone is different, I’m a book worshiper.

It’s funny to hear some of my friend’s reactions to the TV show without any of the reading. They have a different view of the characters because they are missing the inner dialogue and some of the smaller, character-building moments you can only get from reading a thousand page book.

Daaaaaad, I found a direwolf puppy, can I keep him? Pleeeeeeease?

Each week a group of us go to Stef and Alex’s to eat dinner and watch together. About half have read the book so we’re pretty invested. We get mad when they deviate from George RR’s masterpiece. A lot of times I whisper to Josh, “That didn’t happen in the book, did it?”

One of the biggest things the show has done is simplify the characters. The series has over 1000 different people. For time and money and confused viewer’s sake, the show is able to skip certain parts and take out some characters all together. Convenient, I guess.

I couldn’t possibly write this post without tipping my hat to the elephant in the room: boobs. The TV show has a lot a lot a lot of nudity and a lot of dozing it. Well, so does the book. I think the ratio of raunchy scenes to general scenes in the TV show is maybe 1:15 in the book it’s probably closer to 1:50.

In the book, George RR loves to describe all the food at the feasts. Literally, I know about every blood sausage every person eats, ever. I think food does not get a lot of love in the show. I’m not mad about it, just saying.

Some of the actors were so perfectly cast that I can’t even use my imagination on them anymore: Cersi, Jon Snow (ha makes uggs look gooood), the Hound and Arya. Some of them are less close. The Wall is definitely different than I pictured it, in my head it wasn’t as big.

The biggest perk of the show is the theme/intro. I wish that would play every time I opened the book.