Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"'You must never feel badly about making mistakes,' explained Reason quietly, 'as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.'"

~from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster~

Monday, December 10, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Alcatraz From Inside

Alcatraz From Inside: One Man's Climb from Desperation to Redemption is the account of former Alcatraz inmate Jim Quillen's journey to and from Alcatraz written from his own perspective. My book is copyrighted 1991 with an editor's note at the end stating Quillen died in 1998. 

I guess you could classify Alcatraz From Inside as an autobiography though the main focus of this book was Quillen's criminal activity and subsequent prison time and rehabilitation. I picked this book up while Cody and I were actually visiting Alcatraz in October (more details on our trip to California hopefully coming to the blog before the end of the year—don't hold your breath). 

Quillen begins his story detailing his troubled childhood. He became involved in increasingly dangerous criminal behavior as a teenager and, at only 22 years old after escaping San Quentin prison and going on a crime spree, found himself sentenced to 45 years inside America's toughest prison, US Penitentiary Alcatraz Island. 

What can I say about this book? I thought it was interesting and informative if not somewhat biased (which is only natural when a person writes his own story). I was thoroughly impressed with Quillen's determination and success with using the resources available to him in prison to educate himself and become a fully rehabilitated, productive member of society. I'm guilty of having a pretty narrow view of prisoners and what they should or should not be afforded during their incarceration, but this book showed me that prison can (and should) be a safe place for inmates to learn how to function in society and given the skills they need to do that successfully. I'm not so naive to think that any or every prisoner is capable of rehabilitation, but Quillen's story showed me the importance of offering prisoners the opportunity to change their circumstances and encouraging them to better themselves instead of writing them off as soon as their sentence is read. 

What I didn't care for about Alcatraz From Inside was how muddled it was at times. I would have liked a clearer timeline and more attention given to the chronology of his life. There were details lacking that I was curious about and too much attention given to other things that didn't seem very important to me as a reader. Obviously writing this book must have been very difficult for Quillen as he had to relive a time of his life that was absolutely horrible for him. I would have liked an editor to give this story some more care and help Quillen iron out some of the more confused aspects of his account.

Most importantly, reading this book reminded me that justice and compassion are not and should not be mutually exclusive. Loving my neighbor means hoping for his best and helping him back up after he fails. It means rooting for him, not against him. If for no other reason, I'm glad I read this book for that reminder. 

Have you visited Alcatraz? When Alcatraz became part of the National Park Service system, Jim Quillen went back and became one of the island's most popular volunteers, retelling his story as part of the audio tour and sharing his past with visitors. Cody and I really enjoyed visiting Alcatraz and would definitely recommend doing the audio tour of the island. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"'But why do only unimportant things?' asked Milo, who suddenly remembered how much time he spent each day doing them.

'Think of all the trouble it saves,' the man explained, and his face looked as if he'd be grinning an evil grin—if he could grin at all. 'If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won't have the time. For there's always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing.'"

~from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster~

Monday, December 3, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : And Then There Were None

Y'all. This was the last book I finished in October

PSA: it's December. I've bought a grand total of like, one Christmas present, and I have six blog posts just waiting to be written. My tree is up and there are lights on it (thanks to my husband), but there's a gigantic Rubbermaid bin of ornaments and other decorations sitting open in the middle of my living room. Will my tree be decorated by Christmas Eve? Maybe. Will we still be talking about books I read in 2018 after 2019 has already started? Probably. Let's just keep our expectations nice and low and enjoy the holidays, deal?

Okay, so last year I read my first Agatha Christie and thoroughly enjoyed it. I decided to follow it up this year with her most popular work and the one that has personally been the most recommended to me, And Then There Were None. This, the most difficult of her books to write according to Christie, was published in the UK in 1939 and the US in 1940. More than 100 million copies have been sold, and, not only is it the world's best-selling mystery, it's also just one of the best-selling books of all time. Pretty impressive. 

In this book, ten strangers are randomly and somewhat mysteriously summoned to Soldier Island, an isolated rock off the Devon coast. Completely cut off from civilization with no host present to greet them, they are each charged with committing terrible crimes. 

And then they start dying, one by one. 

Who could the murderer be? Will any of them make it off Soldier Island alive? Will the police ever figure this out? Y'all. I thought Murder on the Orient Express had a masterful ending, but that was child's play compared to And Then There Were None. Christie managed to create the impossible murder mystery and then brought it home in the most incredible (and satisfying) way imaginable. 

I have very mixed emotions about this book. Not the actual book itself, but my reading of it. On the one hand, I'm so glad I read it. It is excellent. 10 out of 10 would recommend to a friend. On the other hand, I have absolutely peaked with Christie. It makes total sense to me that this is her most popular book, and I will call you a liar to your face if you tell me there is a better Christie mystery out there. 

So how do you follow that up? I still haven't landed at the level of fandom which would compel me to read every book she's ever written, but I do still own three more of her novels. I'm thinking maybe I'll take a break from Christie in 2019 and then put a Miss Marple on my 2020 book list. What are we thinking, friends? Are you fans of Agatha Christie? Should I just keep reading Christie mysteries every year for the rest of my life on earth? So many books, so little time! Give me all the advice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

~from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis~

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did.
As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.
When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."

~from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis~

Saturday, November 17, 2018

My Birthday Buddy

My birthday buddy's name is Shallot. She lives in Uganda, and today, she turns 11 years old (which seems impossible since she was just 7 two minutes ago). She wants to be a nurse when she grows up. We love her dearly and pray for her consistently. We write her letters, and she writes us back. I would encourage you to consider sponsoring a child in need. You will change his or her life for the better and fall in love in the process. We hope to be able to visit Shallot one day, but we may never get to hug her this side of Heaven. If you have questions about how this all works, I would love to talk to you more about this amazing ministry. 
To find your own birthday buddy, click here