I just have a lot to say.
January 5th, 2015 by

So, Whatcha Reading? 2015

nook, toes, Biscuit

I don’t like science fiction.

I am immediately sucked into an old mystery. If the 200-year old house was demolished and two skeletons and a love letter were found behind the cellar door, I can’t put the dadgum book down until I know whodunit. I don’t want to figure it out. I am disappointed if the author can’t trick me. I like to be surprised and say, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.”

I’m not afraid of hard, sad books, but the next book on my list will be lighthearted and funny and probably pointless.

I don’t like books where the daddy died when the heroine was a child.

I like happy endings.


Book Club Picks

I have learned about myself through my book club that I would rarely read a new release on my own. I typically choose a book that has withstood the test of time and proven its worth and other cliches. I am usually wary of a book from a top-selling author. The more best sellers the person has written, the less I trust him/her. Danielle Steel has penned a gazillion hits. (I just picked a name. I’ve never read her.) Harper Lee wrote one book. Margaret Mitchell wrote one. Olive Ann Burns wrote one. I will always choose to read a classic a second time before I choose to read a current big-time American book. (I enjoy a Mary Higgins Clark mystery, but she tells the same story over and over, and I can pick the killer every time.)

My book club peeps often pick newer books. I take the book club pick seriously. It’s like an assignment, and I’m a mark-it-off-the-list chick. I like that I HAVE TO read the newer books. I enjoy occasionally being able to discuss a contemporary tome with semi-intelligence.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Thirteen-year-old Theo Decker and his mother were in the museum when the bomb exploded, and she died. In his confusion from a concussion and from the surrounding chaos, Theo took the painting The Goldfinch, because the old man who lay dying on the floor told him to.

The remainder of the 750 pages tell of the 13 or so years until the painting is returned.

It consumes his life, much as this book consumed mine. It is about 300 pages too long. I didn’t care what happened to Theo. I just wanted to read the last page.

I thought the plot was original, but there are only so many ways to say, “He took a lot of drugs and drank a lot of alcohol.” And the F-bomb does not make great literature, regardless of the amount of times it is repeated.


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarity

I read it in 24 hours. (Please see above reference to old murders and lost letters.)

This story of three Australian women takes place the week before Easter.

Cecilia is a perfect wife and mother of three girls. She finds a letter from her husband to be opened after his death.

Tess’s husband Will falls in love with her cousin and best friend Felicity. Tess runs home to take care of her mom who broke her leg and takes her son Liam.

Rachel’s daughter was murdered 20 years ago, and the killer was never found.

Their lives intersect for that one week (or for me, one day).


Far Outside the Ordinary by Prissy Elrod

Prissy Elrod is an Ocala, Florida native and a current Tallahassee resident. This is her memoir about her attempts to save her husband from a fatal brain tumor. It is an easy, interesting read, and it made for a lively book club discussion between the women who think they would have reacted similarly in her situation (she dragged him to Texas for an unorthodox, unapproved treatment and had his parents’ bodies exhumed after his death, so they could rest in the same cemetery) and those–like me–who imagine they wouldn’t have responded in the same way at all.

Her husband’s name was Boone. Bonne and Prissy. How Southern is that?!


Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder is a children’s book on bullying told by seven characters.

August Pullman has serious facial abnormalities. He was not expected to live at birth. He was homeschooled until 5th grade when he enrolled in a private middle school in Manhattan. The story is about his every day struggle to be treated normally and the kids’ struggle to get to know him.

It raps up nicely, and the epilogue by the torturer Julian is unexpected.


“Let Me Tell You about the Time . . .”

I enjoy fiction and a well-spun yarn, but more and more as I age, I like for folks to tell their own tales, especially funny ones. Probably, I always liked it and never noticed.


Bossypants by Tina Fey

The book was funny, but I’m not really sure why I chose it. Tina Fey is popular right now, but I don’t watch anything that she does: SNL, 30 Rock, the Golden Globe awards.

She writes about her childhood and her journey to comedic superstar. She is a highly driven woman in a man’s domain; it was hard for me to relate. She has one daughter by the end of the book, but has two in “real life.” She loves her husband and her living, married parents. That was refreshing.


Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

This book was much more my style. Jim Gaffigan is called “a clean comedian,” but he doesn’t like that. He says that’s a phrase similar to “a family-friendly restaurant.” You can take your kids to it, but the food’s not good.

He tells about his and his wife’s adventures with their five children in a two-bedroom apartment in NYC.

It’s one of the books that I like to re-read at bedtime when I’m too pooped to retain any words. Just for fun.


A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Zippy was born in 1965 in Moreland, Indiana. She had a bad staph infection as an infant and was supposed to die. She didn’t die, but she didn’t talk until she was almost three. Her first words to her daddy were, “Let’s make a deal.” He called her Zippy, because she could not be still.

She was raised a Quaker in less-than circumstances; however, I found many similarities in our lives, simply because of our ages, but also . . .

  • She had two siblings who were several years older than she. The oldest one she adored, and the middle one was evil and they argued endlessly and chose to sleep together.
  • She loved, loved, loved Glen Campbell.
  • She had two best friends whose houses she hung at all the time.
  • Her daddy liked to go camping.
  • She made a new friend in the 5th grade named Jeanne Ann.

This was my favorite book of the year. It was published in 2001. I don’t know how I allowed her to slip through my fingers all these years.


She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel

The sequel to Zippy. Zippy’s mom sat on the couch watching TV, reading science fiction, eating popcorn, and talking on the phone for the first 10 years of Zippy’s life. Then, she took a CLEP test and got some student aid and went to Ball State University. She graduated with Honors, got her master’s degree, and got a job teaching English at Zippy’s high school.


My Friend Charise’s Brother-in-Law

My friend Charise told me a couple of years ago that her brother-in-law had written a book I might li-i-ke (that’s how she says it). I humored and ignored her. Then I gave in. She was ri-i-ght.


Sorrow Wood by Raymond L. Atkins

Sorrow Wood is the name of a grand and spooky old house surrounded by sourwood trees. It was recently bought by a hippie love guru, and she was murdered.

Wendell is the sheriff who has to solve the crime. His wife, Reva, is the local judge. Reva believes they have loved each other in many lifetimes.

There are three storylines in this book:

  • Current day, murder solving
  • The history of Wendell and Reva from Reva’s childhood through meeting Wendell in WW2 and raising their children
  • About 10 flashbacks to the other couples through time whose bodies their spirits have inhabited (a tad freaky, but very romantic)


Camp Redemption by Raymond L. Atkins

Early Willingham lives with his sister Ivey who is 18 years older than he is. Together, they run a Bible camp in inherited Willingham Valley near fictional Sequoyah, Georgia, where his other books are set. The camp has fallen on hard times. Ivey is a Good Christian Woman who speaks in Bible verses.

Fabulously Southern, I want to re-read a real copy, not a digital one, to underline Facebook-worthy quotes (high praise, indeed).


Books I Listened To

I was taking Emma to Atlanta to catch a plane. I wanted something to listen to on the way home by myself. I looked at Cracker Barrel, but nothing piqued my interest. (See above reference to current literature.) I didn’t have enough time to call my friend Yo, who has a great audio library, but I did have a few minutes to run by Barnes and Noble. Rarely have I purchased an audio book. They’re so expensive, and I can’t imagine listening to them again. But I had a gift card. (I know! The new libraries have a good selection! I’ll go the next time! Sheesh!)

My eyes fell on Outliers. It had been on my To Read list for some time, so that’s the one I purchased with my 10% off members reward card.

I was home from Atlanta before I knew it and looking forward to the return trip to pick Emma up.

Malcolm Gladwell reads his audio books. His father is English; his mother is Jamaican; and he was raised in Canada. His accent is mesmerizing. I decided I wanted for him to read me all his books.


Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell dissects success, especially success that seems to come from nowhere, using the Beatles and Bill Gates, among many others, as examples.

  • Hard work (10,000 hours practice)
  • Right circumstances
  • A fair amount of luck and talent


David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell looks at the advantages of disadvantages: disabilities, mediocre schools. Often, the underdog wins by virtue of being the underdog.


Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell analyzes split-second decisions that we make based on our likes and dislikes, prejudices, and experiences.



SheBooks are short, digital books for women. A few are released every month. I downloaded a couple that caught my attention.


The Mother of All Field Trips by Jeannie Ralston

Two married National Geographic writers took their two boys out of school for three years. They intended only one year. They explored South America. The boys talked them into another year – Europe, and then a third – Asia.

I should have gotten book club to read it just to discuss whether or not, given the opportunity, we would choose to do it. I think I would have done it, but I would have done USA in an RV.


Jamaica Dreams by Rosemarie Robotham

Four chapters, 52 pages, about growing up in Jamaica.


Sandra Dallas

Prayers for Sale was my first Sandra Dallas book and probably my favorite. It was a book club book several years ago. Frequently, I get obsessed by a theme or an author, and I became obsessed with her. I wouldn’t read anybody else until I had finished her dozen or so books. She writes of women of the west about a century ago. Sandra Dallas’s works are about hard life and strong women and everyday love. And quilting. I don’t quilt, but I do in my heart. Whatever that means.

Her characters meander in and out of more than one book.

I also love The Persian Pickle Club.


Fallen Women by Sandra Dallas

Set after the Civil War, Lillie Osmundsen was murdered in a whorehouse in Denver. Her sister Beret goes to stay with their aunt and uncle to assist the police in their investigation, whether they want her to or not.


A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas

Eliza Spooner loved her Will and their life together on their farm in Kansas with Davy, 14, and Luzena, 12. Kansas was not a state during the Civil War, but Will volunteered to fight. He hated the Secessionists and wanted to help preserve the Union and free the slaves. He left in August 1864. She began working on a Stars and Stripes quilt and sent it to him by a soldier returning from furlough.

“A quilt made with loving hands, a quilt that would warm Will against the winter cold, a quilt for Christmas.”

Will died, but his quilt came home with a Southerner and a good story.


World War II

I saw that Unbroken had been made into a movie to be released at the end of the 2014, and I wanted to read the book first. That decision plunged me into WW2. After reading Unbroken, it was time for me to pick a book for book club. I usually pick an older book that I have not read or haven’t read in two decades and think needs to be revisited. I chose The Hiding Place. I don’t remember why.

At the book club meeting, Night was mentioned. After I read it, I revisited The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I don’t know why I chose to delve into Hell this year, but I felt if they lived it and wrote about it, their books deserved to be read.

Zamperini and ten Boom were adults fighting the evil, officially and unofficially. Wiesel and Frank were children stolen by the evil.

Faith is present on every page. Zamperini chose Christianity after his ordeal. Ten Boom’s Christian faith never wavered. Wiesel lost his Jewish faith, but Frank retained hers.


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The life of Louie Zamperini:

He ran in Hitler’s Olympics in 1936.

He was a bomber in WW2.

He was shot down over the Pacific.

He survived on a life raft for 47 days with another man (which is actually a world record).

He was captured by Japanese and kept as POW for about three years.

The world thought he was dead.

He married Cynthia.

He suffered from PTSD and was an alcoholic.

Cynthia convinced him to go to Billy Graham crusade in LA.

He became a Christian.

He ran a camp for troubled boys.

He returned to Japan for 1998 Olympics when he was 80 years old. He tried to find his tormentor, The Bird, to offer forgiveness. The Bird refused to meet with him. Zamperini wrote him a letter instead.


The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom tells about growing up with her watchmaker father and kind mother above their watch shop. She has a brother and two sisters. Her three unmarried aunts lived with them in post-WWI Holland.

Her father, Casper, was well-respected in the community. He read the Bible to his family every night. His family tried to put the words to action. They took in a dozen or so foster children through the years after everyone was grown and the aunts died. Corrie and her sister Betsie never married.

In spring 1940, after a five-day battle, Holland fell to the Nazis. Business boomed in the watch shop for a year or so because of the German soldiers.

Corrie witnessed the disappearance of Jewish citizens and businesses. While watching soldiers destroy a Jewish man’s belongings, she grabbed him and quickly shoved him into her house. This began the 50-year-old woman’s involvement (along with Caspar and Betsie) with the underground. Their home became the hiding place.

On February 28, 1944, their house was raided, and they were arrested. They went to prison. Caspar died.

The women went to concentration camps: Vught in Holland and Ravensbruck in Germany. Betsie died.

Corrie was accidentally released on December 30, 1944.

She returned to her home in Haarlem and set about establishing rehabilitation centers for war victims, including one in Germany at Darmstadt, a former concentration camp.

She died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday.

Their hiding place is a museum.


Night by Elie Wiesel

His village in Sighet, Hungary was warned by Moishe the Beadle of the horrors. They called him crazy and ignored him.

Their evacuation came in April 1944 when Elie was 13 years old. He and his father stayed together, but they were separated from his two older sisters, younger sister, and mother. He never saw his mother and baby sister again.

Cattle cars





Suffering from dysentery, his father was beaten to death in front of him on January 28, 1945.

April 10, 1945, “the first American tank stood at the gates of Buchenwald.”

Elie Wiesel spent his life campaigning for peace and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986.


The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I thought Anne’s diary was important because it documented a young girl in Hell, which is true. But the writing is beautiful, profound. It is fascinating to watch her writing deepen as she grows up over the two years that her family was in hiding.

“Thank you, God, for all that is good and dear and beautiful.”

“At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains.”

“Beauty remains, even in misfortune. If you just look for it, you discover more and more happiness and regain your balance. A person who’s happy will make others happy; a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery!”

Their hiding place is a museum.


Fun-getable Fiction

Girl recovers from bad relationship and swears off men.

Girl meets Boy whom she hates and argues with.

Boy pursues her anyway.

They solve a mystery and confess their love.

They live Happily Ever After with a large, loveable dog.


Savannah Breeze and Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

Fun-gettable fiction set at the beach.


One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

Fun-gettable fiction set on a road trip across England and Scotland. (Bonus points for British accents in my brain.)


The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Fun-gettable fiction set in a train. At Christmas. (There’s not a dog.)


This and That

The “Books that Don’t Fit Nicely into a Category” Category


The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Sookie (whom we met in Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!) discovers at 60 years old that she was adopted. She was raised by Lenore in Selma and currently lives in Point Clear, Alabama, two doors down from Lenore who still runs her life.

She discovers that she is the illegitimate daughter of Fritzi Jurdabalenski from Pulaski, Wisconsin, who was a WASP in WW2. WASPs were women who flew planes to transport them from army base or factory to port to be shipped overseas. The women were allowed to help since it freed up men to fight.


Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Albom shares uncomplicated truths learned from his friendships with a Jewish rabbi and a Christian preacher. I read it a few years ago. Mary told me to. It’s my favorite Mitch Albom book, so I re-read it. I’ll probably re-read it again sometime. (That’s not redundant.)


Moonrise by Cassandra King

(She’s my cousin!)

Emmett Justice remarries quickly after Rosalyn’s mysterious death. He takes his bride Helen Honeycutt to Rosalyn’s summer home, Moonrise. Helen spends the summer with Emmett and Rosalyn’s friends, who obviously resent her and yet she seems not to understand why.

The mystery of the death is uncovered.

The story is told from three viewpoints: Helen’s, Rosalyn’s friend Tansy’s, and the housekeeper Willa’s.


The Seven Experiment by Jen Hatmaker

A 9-week Bible study against excess in seven areas: clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media, stress. My Sunday school class read it together and watched the accompanying videos. It enlightens on American overabundance. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I will read it again.


The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

Laurel McKelva Hand goes with her father and silly young stepmother to a New Orleans hospital. Her father has eye surgery and loses the will to live. He dies, and Laurel and Fay return to Mississippi for the funeral. Fay leaves her for a couple of days after the funeral alone in her childhood home.

As she grieves her parents and their home, Laurel aches for her husband who died young and for the children they never had.

“If Phil could have lived–” she says out loud and repeats to herself.

That took my breath away. That was my mama’s mantra.

“If Phil had lived–.”


Fearless by Max Lucado

Jesus said “Do not be afraid” more than any other statement.

Lucado discusses about a dozen modern fears and how to face them with faith.

“Fear, at its center, is a perceived loss of control.”

“Storms are not an option but fear is.”


An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton just got dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine. Not Kate. Not Kathy. And heaven forbid, not Catherine.

He is a former child prodigy. Former, because he just graduated from high school.

He and his friend Hassan set out on a road trip. They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, where they spend the summer gathering oral history stories for a rich woman named Hollis and befriending her daughter Lindsey.

Colin excels at anagrams and languages. He wrote a theorem on how to figure which person in the relationship will dump the other: Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability.

My Abby is a huge John Green fan. She told me this was her 2nd favorite John Green book after A Fault in Our Stars. It is great fun; there is no heartbreak. Thumbs up; thumbs up.


The Circle Maker and Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson

“All of us love miracles. We just don’t like being in a situation that necessitates one . . . We want God to provide for our need before we even need it.”

Circle the prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” – Jesus


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” They finagled themselves into the Christmas pageant. It was going to be a disaster.

I read this out loud to my kids every year. We start on December 18 and read a chapter a night through Christmas Eve. I started when the girls were four. They were 20 this year.


Books that Are Already on My Nightstand or Downloaded to My Nook

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

It’s a book about grace, amazing grace.


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Cindi told me to read it, and her choices never let me down.


Sweetwater Blues by Raymond L. Atkins

See above reference to My Friend Charise’s Brother-in-Law.


What the Dog Saw and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Santa brought me the audio books. I am looking forward to a road trip.


Almost 4,000 words about words later, that’s all I’ve got to say. Now it’s your turn. What are you reading?



2 Responses to “So, Whatcha Reading? 2015”
  1. Christy Keyton says

    I am your friend – I read the post to the end. I love this selection and will come back to it when I need some new reads. I read “All the Light We Cannot See” last year and “The Book Thief” if you want more good WWII suggestions!

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