The Faith Club

For the past year, every other Thursday night, I’ve been a part of a group of women who meet to discuss their faith. We started out calling ourselves Women’s Bible Study, but recently our name has changed, due in part to our most-recent read: The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner.

We chose this book after a study on John Stott’s Basic Christianity. Although we’d enjoyed reading about the background of our own faith, we agreed that we’d like to learn more about some of the other prominent religions of the world. We considered reading short books on each of the main five world religions, but in our search we came across The Faith Club, and knew it was right for our group (which now goes by the name Faith Club).

The Faith Club was written by three women–Christian, Muslim, and Jewish (respectively)–living in New York City after 9/11. They originally met with the intention to write a children’s book explaining the three religions, their similarities, and their differences. However, the realized that before they could write such a book, they had quite a lot to learn from one another. The Faith Club details the conversations they had, the stereotypes they shattered, and the relationships they formed. Each woman shares parts of her own story, from dealing with death, to anxiety issues, questions over the existence of heaven and hell, and what is deemed the “Crucifixion Crisis”. Each woman develops in her own faith, yet the respect they form for one another is outstanding.

The Faith Club highlights the similarities between the three religions, while also tackling the over-arching question: How can I be comfortable and devout in my own faith, yet recognize the validity of other faiths?

I believe anyone in my Faith Club would highly recommend this book, and would LOVE to discuss it with you. Now that we’ll be moving on to another to-be-determined book, I know I’ll miss Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla. Those Thursday nights, it felt like they’d become a part of our faith club.

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

I’ve recently discovered the wonderful land of book blogging. Book blogs, for those of you who don’t venture far into the blogging world (besides my insightful ramblings, that is), are exactly what they sound–blogs strictly about books. I’ve been reading some of Dana’s stuff at Much Madness is Divinest Sense for awhile, and she gave me the idea to try the Mixing It Up Challenge this year, hosted by Ellie at Musings of a Bookshop Girl. Then, more recently, I stumbled across Forever Young Adult, a blog committed to young adult literature. I could hardly contain my excitement when I noticed a link to Meg Cabot’s blog, who has been one of my oh-so-very-favorite authors since I discovered the Princess Diaries in about sixth grade.

Since I can’t pretend that Sharing Closet Space is a particularly focused blog (you’ll find posts on everything from weddings to running to just how cute my puppies are), I’ve decided to add yet another facet to my broad base of topics. Besides just keeping you updated on my progress in the Mixing It Up Challenge this year, I’ve decided to keep a running log of the books I read in 2012. This is really for selfish reasons, more than anything else–I want to be able to go back on New Year’s Eve and reminisce about all the pages I’ve turned in the past 365 366 days (it’s a leap year!). I want to run the facts, like, “I’ve read x number of books this year, x amount of which were by new-to-me authors, x amount of which were fiction, x amount of which were classics, etc., etc.”

Why not keep a list like this to myself? Well, because how much more fun will it be for you to keep track with me, tell me what you’ve read or would like to read, and recommend books I might like? I’m hoping this year, my friends, we can start a bit of a conversation on Sharing Closet Space. So far, I feel like I’ve been talking at you… and if I’ve learned anything in my education classes, it’s that the best things happen in conversation.

So, it’s happened. If you venture on up to the top of my blog, you’ll see a new tab labeled “Book Log“. This is where the list will be housed, and if you click on it now, you’ll see the very first book I read in 2012.

Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

I’m telling you right now that I’m never going to make an excuse for devouring a good piece of chick literature. It’s an important part of modern fiction, if you ask me, and I read a good amount of it. If you haven’t read any of Meg Cabot’s works, you’re seriously missing out. The Heather Wells mysteries are some of my favorites, and for the young adult realm she’s also written the Princess Diaries series, All-American Girl, and a few more series that are currently on my holds list at the library. Meg Cabot is the type of author you want to pick up when you have a few days off work, and can curl up on the couch with a cup of tea or in a bubble bath with a glass of wine. Just like Pringles, once you start, you just can’t stop–you’ll keep flipping pages, and without a glance at the clock, you’ll reach the end of the novel and race to your computer to request or buy the next in the series.

In Queen of Babble, the reader is introduced to Lizzie Nichols, a recent graduate (well, almost) who is jetting off to London to spend a romantic summer with her British boyfriend. However, things don’t go quite as she planned when she arrives in London–starting with the horrific jacket Andrew wears to pick her up at the airport. Soon enough, Lizzie finds herself living with her friends at a chateau in France for the summer, helping the venue put on fabulous bridal affairs. Lizzie is surprised when her degree in the history of fashion allows her to save the day, and is swept off her feet by Luke, the son of the chateau’s owner.

Queen of Babble in the Big City takes place after the whirlwind summer has ended. Lizzie and her friends have moved to NYC in pursuit of their dreams, and Lizzie is forced to realize that a history of fashion degree may not have created the most economic stability in her life. However, after befriending the best-known bride in the city and taking her hand-me-down wedding gown from horrendous to fabulous, Lizzie realizes that she has the cojones to handle life independently. All is not smooth sailing, though. Lizzie’s friend, Shari, reveals her bisexuality by starting a new relationship with a woman. Lizzie’s boyfriend turns out to be a bit of a commitmentphobe, and, to top it all off, his father steps on and breaks her sewing machine. My only complaint (ahem, Meg Cabot), is the cliffhanger at the end. And the only reason I’m complaining is because I don’t have the next in line, Queen of Babble Gets Hitched, to start tonight.

Cabot has done it again, by creating a character you just can’t help but fall in love with. Lizzie is believeable and relatable, funny, and someone who I can imagine sitting down and having a diet Coke with. After meeting Lizzie Nichols, Heather Wells, and Mia Thermopolis, I look forward to getting to know Meena Harper, of Cabot’s Insatiable series, which is upcoming on my TBR (to-be-read) list.

New Year’s Resolutions Part 1

be less prejudiced

prej-u-dice /ˈprejədəs/ Preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience

So often we think of racial, religious, and sexual prejudice. Though the word is often used in regards to one’s bias towards a group of people, my trouble with prejudice is largely more personal.

Allow me to illustrate this point with a stoy…

One afternoon in the weeks before Christmas, I rushed off to Target between work and handbell practice to pick up a few things–namely, gift wrap, Play-Doh, and a book for my book club’s Christmas exchange. With less than 20 minutes to shop and get to church, I quickly chose the latest Lisa See novel, Shanghai Girls, sped through the aisles, and was disappointed to find only three open registers. I chose the shortest line–and quickly regretted my choice. The sales associate was an older, larger woman with huge, thick glasses. She had a nasally voice and was talking in a slow drawl with the customers in front of me. Each conversation seemed to go on far too long–every item she scanned invoked a story about her grandchild, or a discussion about the sale price. I considered jumping in another line, but at this point felt like I’d invested too much time waiting. Compulsively checking the time on my phone (and realizing I was, without a doubt, going to be late and hungry), I had certainly pre-judged this woman. From her appearance and the comments I’d overheard, I’d (unconsciously) decided she was uneducated, unintelligent, and just plain a hindrance to my busy evening.

Finally, it was my turn in line. I placed my three things on the belt and greeted her with a cursory “hello,” meant to indicate my hurry. Picking up Shanghai Girls, the woman commented, “Oh, this is a fabulous book.”

I looked up, a little surprised. “Well, good,” I replied, “I’m looking forward to reading it.”

“Have you read any of her others?” she asked me.

“Actually, I did my junior project on Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in college,” I answered.

“Oh, that one was wonderful. You know what else I just read that I really enjoyed? Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

“I love that book!” I gushed. “I just read it a few months ago.” The woman, who was so clearly the opposite of all the preconceived notions I’d made about her, went on to name two or three other books that are on my To-Read list.

“Well, honey,” she said as she handed me my back, “you come back and tell me about what else you’re reading!”

“I will!” I said. As I walked out to my car, amidst the other holiday shoppers rushing to and fro without an ounce of patience for one another, I thought about how that experience at the register had really put me in my place. Who was I to judge someone based on their appearance or their career? How unkind, prejudiced, and un-Christian was that?

I truly feel as though God chose my line at Target that Wednesday. Since that evening, I’ve thought of that woman often; I even considered returning with an invitation to join my book club, since I know it would match her tastes. So, one of my 2012 resolutions is to judge less, practice patience, and endeavor to see the good in people.

Mixing It Up Challenge 2012

In 2012 I will be participating in the Mixing It Up Challenge. You, too, could participate in this challenge and expand your reading repertoire. Just go here for more information and to sign up.

In an effort to round out my reading this year, I’m vowing to read one book from at least 13 of the 16 listed categories. Although I’m tempted to go for the All the Trimmings and a Cherry on Top participation level, I’m keeping it real and admitting that between my two book clubs, I may be over-committing. So, I’ll be a Two-Tier Cake-r this year. Confused yet? Read this blog for more information on the challenge.

Without further ado, the categories, and my brainstorming:

CLASSICS

Considering some Willa Cather, but considering going back to some of those should-have-read-in-high-school novels, such as Scarlet Letter or Three Musketeers.

BIOGRAPHY

I absolutely love reading biographies, but to be honest, don’t have any on my “to-read” list. However, I know that Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff has been getting a lot of attention recently, so I may have to check it out.

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

The author of this challenge suggested a book on wine for this category. If I can pair this with some real-life research, I’m down!

HISTORY

On tap for my July book club meeting is Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, a WWII story named by TIME magazine as “the best nonfiction book of the year”. We also have Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowley and Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo coming up in February and April.

MODERN FICTION

And this is the category where I’ll fit in my recent addiction: Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble series.

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

This genre will (would) be entirely new for me, and quite a stretch out of my comfort zone. May be one of the 1-3 genres I skip. We’ll see…

CRIME AND MYSTERY

Paying homage to my mother, I will probably zip through an Agatha Christie or two in 2012, but I also plan to enjoy a few more of the Stephanie Plum series. In addition, Hardball, by Sara Paretsky, is on my book club’s list for March.

HORROR

I can honestly say I’ve never read a horror novel, but on my to-read list for quite some time has been Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

ROMANCE

The latest Nicholas Sparks? Yes, please.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Ugh. This is my general reaction to science fiction and fantasy. If I re-read the Harry Potter series, does that count? (Maybe I’ll sign up for the Harry Potter Reading Challenge.)

TRAVEL

B gifted me with travel guides on London and Paris in preparation for our 2013 European vacation, so you can bet I’ll be scouring these in 2012.

POETRY AND DRAMA

I always enjoy poetry more than I think I will. Since I honestly never think to sit down and read it, I will appreciate taking the time to do so this year. I’m thinking some springtime reading…

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

This genre will take some research for me. It’s another one that I’m not too familiar with. Maybe I’ll check out one of those Chelsea Handler books that always look like they’ll annoy me… or maybe I’ll delve deeper and read a journalist’s collected works. Hmm….

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this year, I’m honestly not sure I can put myself through another work in this genre so soon…

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
In my profession, this one should not be a problem!
I’ll keep you updated on my favorites of 2012.

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY
I gave B a copy of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart this Christmas. The subtitle, Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Not sure this challenge is for you, but interested in learning about some others? Check out this blog, one of my favorite literature-based reads, for some more ideas.

Completed Reads

CLASSICS

The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald

BIOGRAPHY

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

HISTORY

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo

MODERN FICTION

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

Homecoming by Meg Cabot

CRIME AND MYSTERY

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

HORROR

ROMANCE

The Villa by Nora Roberts

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

TRAVEL

POETRY AND DRAMA

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell