13 books to fall for

I’ve never been one to take Halloween too seriously. When I was 16, I dressed up as a monk for my church’s fall festival and told everyone “Happy Reformation Day!”

However, one of my very best friends is the Queen of Halloween. She’s a bona fide, pinterest-recipe maker, decorative Fall-banner-sewing, Halloween movie connoisseur.

She was my roommate my last year of college. When you’d enter our apartment on October 1, you’d enter a world of lighted owl figurines, glittery orange pumpkins, scary cobwebs in the ceiling, and a delicious fall scented candle burning.

Under her watch, I baked sugar cookies to look like pieces of candy corn, dressed up like Charlie Brown for the annual Famous Maroon Band Halloween Rehearsal, and indulged in candy corn frappes from StrangeBrew Coffee House while watching Hocus Pocus for the 10,000th time. (Let’s be honest, can you watch that movie too many times? I don’t think it’s possible.)

She even convinced me to watch Halloween with her in the dark one time.

Although I will never be up to her Halloween standard (though I did make a fall centerpiece for my dining room table this year), fall is, and has always been, my favorite time of year.

I love the cooler weather, leaves changing colors, and getting to wear a sweater. I love sweaters. Cardigans. Hoodies. Sweatshirts. Yes.

I love crock pots of chili cooking all day, baking scones, watching football, and feeling cozy under a blanket.

And I may be the only white American 20-something female who doesn’t like Pumpkin Spice Lattes (I like pumpkin and I like coffee, but the two flavors are way too strong together), but I always enjoy drinking coffee more when it’s cold outside.

My birthday is always around Thanksgiving, so usually my birthday cake consists of an entire Thanksgiving feast.

And all you fall-haters out there, did you forget you get an extra hour of sleep soon? Come on, people.

So what could you add to Fall to make it even better?

Books.

Here’s a list of 13 books for you to read during the Halloween/Thanksgiving season.

13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet (watching the movies don’t count), Fall is the perfect time to start. You’ll be finishing the series around Christmastime, which is already the most magical time of year. You can buy the paperbacks at a really inexpensive price, or dust off your library card and get to work. You won’t regret it; the hype is real.

12. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know I’m shamelessly addicted to Gillian Flynn’s novels. Be warned: Dark Places is scary. And disturbing. And CRAZY GOOD. Dark Places lives up to its title, and it’s an excellent story to get sucked in during Halloween.

11. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
I wrote a review on this book in an earlier post. It’s about a horror-film maker and the mystery surrounding his family and his daughter’s death, and you’ll be up all night trying to finish it.

10. Carrie by Stephen King
If you’re excited to see the new remake of Carrie, I encourage you to read the book first. I read Carrie for the first time when I was in high school, and later fell captive to Stephen King’s books. Read the book and be creeped out before the movie.

9. Nancy Drew and The Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene
Reading Nancy Drew as a child was a life-changing event for me. Why? Because Nancy Drew made me love books. These books were the first “real” books I ever read. I felt like I achieved a huge accomplishment when I finished them, and for a first/second grader, it was a huge accomplishment. Nancy Drew laid the foundation for my love of a good mystery. The Password to Larkspur Lane is my favorite, if I absolutely had to just pick one favorite. You can read it in a day.

8. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
This is about a hidden pregnancy and murder among an Amish farm community. It’s like reading a novel-length episode of “Law and Order: SVU.”

7. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
I read this book in high school so I would understand all the brouhaha surrounding this book and Christianity. The book is fiction, as indicated on the cover. The conspiracy theories in the book are just that–conspiracy theories. As a Christian, I read this book and was not offended or upset…in fact, I loved it, and I’ve probably read it twice since. It’s a murder-mystery treasure hunt intertwined with history, religion, conspiracy theories, and a tiny shred of romance.

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Again, this would be a great book series to start during the fall (and in time for the spring movie). The third installment comes out next week, so get busy!

5. The Green Mile by Stephen King
This book is probably my favorite Stephen King novel. It’s one of the few books out there that made a movie adaptation equally as good. Even if you have seen the movie, I encourage you to experience this story the way it was intended.

4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
My husband got me to read this book a few weeks ago, and I could kick myself for waiting this long to read it. If I were a teacher, this book would be required summer reading. It’s packed with literary elements and social commentary.

3. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
This is my favorite of Flynn’s novels, and probably in my top 5 favorite books of all time. This is a story about a journalist recovering from her addiction to cutting herself, investigating murders in her hometown, and facing her troubled past. I stayed up until four in the morning trying to process this book after I finished it.

2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This book is brilliant. It’s fun, light-hearted, witty, and adventurous. I can’t say too much about it because I’m waiting on my husband to read it and I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say this: it’s like National Treasure meets The Social Network. Only better.

1. Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine
Does anyone else remember how CRAZY MESSED UP this story was? Especially for an 11-year-old! I remember vividly picking up this book at the library and finishing it so fast it made my head spin. This, like Nancy Drew, was foundational for me: it scared me, and I liked it. I like reading books that made my heart pound. So this fall, pick up a Goosebumps book for old time’s sake and re-live your fourth grade nightmares.

Happy reading, and Happy Fall, y’all.

MC

sunday book club: two books to make up for tardy posts

I realize this is my Sunday book review on a Tuesday, again, but I have a good reason this time.

My husband and I flew to my hometown of Somerville, Tennessee (metro Memphis area) for the weekend to hang out with my family and visit my alma mater for a football game down in Starkville. It was a lovely weekend and I really enjoyed getting to see my parents, my sister, my friends, and let’s be honest…the most important thing: my dog. Just kidding. Kind of. 

With all this traveling around, I got to finish Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl and also read Dare Me by Meagan Abbott. 

Of all the books I’ve read in the past few months, Special Topics in Calamity Physics is at the bottom of my list of favorites. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it–I did, and I think Pessl is a talented writer. I just had such a hard time getting used to how the story was told. It was so wordy and complicated. But if you enjoy complicated, you’ll like it. I liked it. I really did. It just didn’t blow me away like some of the other books I read. 

I picked up Dare Me for two reasons: 

1. I read an article about a list of books suggested by Gillian Flynn, and this was mentioned. I’m having severe Gillian Flynn withdrawals. Flynn’s quote about the book was on the front cover, and she described it as “Lord of the Flies set in a high school cheerleading squad.” Uh, heck yes. 

2. Said article described it as the “Pretty Little Liars” of the book world. And since I (now) shamelessly watch “Pretty Little Liars,” of course I had to get this book. 

Dare Me was crazy. I like crazy, so I definitely enjoyed this read. It sort had a “Great Gatsby” feel to it–the book is told from the perspective of a girl who isn’t directly involved in the major conflicts. Very Nick Carraway. 

The story is exactly what Gillian Flynn said it would be: Lord of the Flies in a high school cheerleading squad. It affirms my belief that there is nothing more mean, crazy, or dangerous than a teenage girl. 

 

find joy here

One dreary, rainy morning, I was driving down the infamous Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. (Not to be confused with Peachtree Road, West Peachtree, or the other 500,000 variations in the metro area.) It’s easy to lose yourself in the sea of cars and seemingly endless windows reflecting in towering skyscrapers. I always notice the old brick churches housed between the illustrious skyscraper landscape–they can’t help but stand out. There’s one particular beautiful church I notice every time I drive down Peachtree. On that rainy morning, I saw the sign in front of the building said “Find Joy Here.” As soon as I read those words, I noticed two homeless people sleeping outside on the front steps, all of their possessions being soaked in the rain.

This image was a kick in the chest. For one thing, it was real. It wasn’t some photoshopped image used for ignorant Facebook propaganda. I was hurting for the two people trying to find rest and a place they should be able to find rest. I don’t know if the church has a homeless ministry; I don’t know if the doors were locked; all I know is what I saw. And it hurt to see.

There are a lot of people suffering in Atlanta. I don’t know their stories, I don’t know if they’re addicted to drugs or just down on their luck, but I hurt for them. Earlier this summer, I saw a guy in a truck go out of his way to drive on a patch of water on the side of the road to drench a homeless man. I was literally speechless.

Ask yourself this: How do you react when you see homeless people asking for food? What goes through your head when you see someone using food stamps?

Do you feel angry that someone would have the nerve to ask you for money and not just go get a job?

Are you disgusted that your hard-earned money is being taxed to assist people who, perhaps, don’t deserve it?

People are suffering everywhere. Right in your hometown, people are struggling to make ends meet. Barely making enough money for food. There are people actively seeking jobs and simply can’t find employment. There are people who work hard every day, but can’t afford proper healthcare. And these people aren’t in some distant hypothetical place, they’re in your own backyard.

I think a lot of today’s Christians are severely lacking compassion. I think our desire to be “right,” our selfish human greed, and the manipulation of how information is presented clouds our judgement and dries up our compassion.

I’ve personally encountered people who live in crummy apartments, can’t afford a car so they rely on MARTA or walk, are on Medicaid or have no health insurance at all, and live paycheck to paycheck they receive from the jobs they work hard to have. I know it’s hard to imagine, but there are people in this country who can’t work. They can’t find employment. They have disabilities. The list goes on.

Since I google things like “how to pass car emission test” and “how many movies has Kevin Spacey been in”, I figured I’d try out googling “what does it mean to be a Christian?” I’d like to share two of the top responses:

“Being a Christian means that you are changed on the inside, not controlled from the outside.  It means that your heart has been changed by the presence of God.”

“Christians are people who follow the teachings of Jesus.”

I also found ten adjectives to describe Jesus, in no particular order (and there are many more adjectives out there to describe Him).

1. Compassionate
2. Merciful
3. Good
4. Caring
5. Submissive
6. Honest
7. Patient
8. Loving
9. Humble
10. Sacrificial

After a little more digging, I came across a rather interesting blog post addressing the 7 marks of a stereotypical American Christian. Let’s take a look:

1. You love to fight, argue and attack.

“…There’s nothing quite like flooding people’s Facebook feeds with posts about the sins of gay marriage, abortion, and the Democratic Party or the volleyed claims of bigotry, hypocrisy, and self-interest. American Christians seemingly love to argue with people and engage themselves in various culture wars. Whether it’s about the existence of global warming, prayer in schools, evolution, gun control, or homosexuality, you love to let people know that you’re RIGHT and they’re WRONG. Oh yeah, and if you don’t agree with me —You’re going to hell! Literally….”

2. You Practice Christianity Through Groups And Institutions

“Without structured, regulated, and organized religious affiliations, your faith would be radically different.”

3. Your Theology is Burrowed

4. Your Online Faith Doesn’t Reflect Reality

“You post Bible verses on Twitter, claim ‘Christianity’ as your religion on Facebook, and proudly put inspiring quotes about God and faith on your Tumblr account. But in reality you never pray, read the Bible, or practically live out your beliefs. If only your faith was as strong as it appeared on Social Media.”

5. You Love Labels

“When you meet a fellow Christian, you immediately classify them. Are they a Liberal, Conservative, Calvinist, Open Theist, Pacifist, Methodist, Egalitarian, Complementarian, Premillennial, Postmillennial, Lutheran, Charismatic, Catholic, Dispensationalist, Literalist, Universalist, or Annihilationist?”

6. You Crave Efficiency Over Spirituality

7. You Need Entertainment

These seven stereotypes are the expressed views of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect my personal opinion–but he’s got a point. And like I said earlier…stereotypes exist for reason.

So how can we, as Christians, find a way to make sure our stereotypes match the adjectives of Christ?

Here’s five points of my rough draft:

1. Stop judging others. I long for membership in a church body that would welcome anyone with open arms and genuine love. I want to see a drag queen walk in the doors and be greeted with a cup of coffee and intentional conversation. We have GOT to stop thinking we have everything figured out and that we understand the lifestyles of people we clearly do not. We can’t preach hour-long sermons about how gay people are an abomination to the world (I’ve been through one, it was awful). Sermons like that aren’t constructive or correcting; they’re destructive and condemning. You know what? They’re no more of an abomination to the world than we good ol’ Southern Baptists are. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can begin to actually show people what Jesus was like. There’s a distinct difference between compromising your own convictions and following Jesus’s command to love and serve everyone–not just the people who believe the same way as you. Don’t use the first as an excuse for the latter.

To quote Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?”

2. Get your hands dirty. We need to get outside our comfort zone. Talk to people who are nothing at all like you. Get to know the people who are so easy to judge. Get to a place where you don’t feel uncomfortable investing in people who believe differently than you.

3. Have compassion for the people you can’t stand. Do you get angry when you see homeless people? Take them to dinner. Hate the President? Pray specifically and lovingly for him every single day.

4. Stop relying on other people to meet the needs of others. If you sit in church on Sunday and talk, as a congregation, about how “we need to reach the people around us” and do nothing, STOP IT! Don’t talk about doing something. Do something.

Mom and Dad, don’t freak out about this next part.

I, like any other sinner, am of course guilty of things I write passionately against. I’m an imperfect human being. But I’m trying.

Who doesn’t enjoy their comfort zone? Does anyone actually enjoy being uncomfortable?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I broke out of our comfort zone tremendously. After church one Wednesday night, Christopher and I were leaving a restaurant when a woman flagged us down in the parking lot. We stopped to talk to her. In tears, she begged us for a ride home.

My mind, of course, went directly into “Law and Order: SVU” mode. The entire ride, I was praying that we wouldn’t be assaulted by a group of gang members or have our car stolen or be stabbed.

I was thinking about me.

Meantime, the woman named Lisa was weeping in the backseat and repeating over and over, “I just want to go home.”

I’m not encouraging all Christians to drop their common sense. Use the brain God gave you. If something seems dangerous, don’t do it.

Lisa wasn’t dangerous at all. She was hurting and lost. She just wanted to go home.

I did get her phone number and have tried to check on her, but I can’t help but think about the opportunity I missed to pray for her, with her.

Don’t be like I was. Get out of your comfort zone.

5. Be a source of joy. Forgive easily. Love tremendously. Err on the side of grace.

sunday book club: night film by marisha pessl

This past week I read Night Film by Marisha Pessl. After reading Gillian Flynn’s novels and absolutely loving them, I decided to tackle Marisha Pessl next. Her first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, is up next on my list. I just had to get my hands on Night Film once I heard about its plot.

The story is about a journalist named Scott McGrath who sets out to find out the truth behind the suicide/possible murder of Ashley Cordova, daughter of a legendary horror film director. It’s a hefty read–over 600 pages of twists and turns, and an ending you didn’t really see coming.

The thing I liked most about it was how Pessl addressed the battle of supernatural vs. fact-driven logic. It scared me at times. The characters, while not particularly likable, were very well developed. I enjoyed her writing style and I’m looking forward to reading her other book.

If you want a freaky read for the Halloween season, pick this one up.

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Happy reading!

MC

sunday book club

In an effort to keep up regular blog posts, as well as read frequently (after all, the best writers are readers), I’ve decided to have my own little book club of sorts. Every Sunday, I plan to discuss the book or books I read the previous week, offer suggestions, and hopefully engage in feedback from you all.

For a little over a month now, I’ve been on an extreme reading binge. My Uncle Buddy passed away on August 16 after suffering with heart and other health issues. This was a particularly difficult time for my family for many, many reasons. In fact, I’d be willing to say that this was the hardest things I’ll ever go through.

Grief is an odd thing. It takes the form of so many emotions: a burning ball of anger in your stomach, a lump of overwhelming sadness in your throat. How we handle grief is even more strange. Being in Atlanta and away from my hometown added another obstacle in dealing with the loss. For example, when I found out Uncle Buddy died, I cleaned our apartment for three hours (it was spotless to begin with) and spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly and tearing up in Barnes & Noble. I picked up Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I really haven’t stopped reading since.

Since he passed away, I’ve escaped into amazing stories.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Paper Towns by John Green
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I’d give each one of these books at least 4/5 stars.

I discovered the genius that is Gillian Flynn. I haven’t enjoyed reading a writer’s voice this much since I read Harry Potter. Flynn tends to write about bad women: the women are the ones capable of some truly manipulative and heinous actions. Sharp Objects and Gone Girl left me jaw-dropped and speechless. Dark Places almost gave me nightmares.

Since it’s Emmy night, I’d like to take a moment to COMPLETELY FREAK OUT about the movie adaptations of Gillian Flynn’s novels.

“Gone Girl” will be directed by the same director of my favorite TV show at the moment, “House of Cards.”

“Dark Places” will feature Corey Stoll, who happens plays congressman Peter Russo in “House of Cards.”

I am so unbelievably excited about this.

However, I will be the first to say: READ THESE BOOKS. Most of them are in the process of becoming films/will have a film adaptation in the future. Don’t wait to see the movie. Read the book. Always, read the book. Always. And watch “House of Cards.”

Anyway.

If you want to read anything by John Green, especially The Fault in Our Stars, get ready to cry hard. This book will make you laugh out loud and sob louder. I didn’t enjoy Paper Towns as much as the other books, partly because I couldn’t relate to the characters. It’s still a great book, though.

Divergent and Insurgent are fun, fast-paced, exciting stories that are similar to the Hunger Games, but not really. The third book will be released on October 22, and I may have already pre-ordered it on my Kindle.

I finished Ender’s Game this afternoon. If I ever become an English teacher and have the power to control summer reading, I think I’d put Ender’s Game on the list. There’s a plethora of literary elements in that book…symbolism, foreshadowing, irony, etc. It’s definitely a science fiction novel, but I think anyone would enjoy it.

Happy Reading!

the ultimate job-seeker’s playlist

Friends, Romans, job-hunters and unemployed: lend me your ears.

In my months-long search for full-time employment, I have devised a musical journey to help you through the process of searching for jobs, polishing off those resumes, and filling out page after page of applications.

Enjoy.

Editing Resume & Filling out Applications for the First Time:
“Pretty Girl Rock” – Keri Hilson
All eyes on me when I walk in,
No question that this girl’s a 10
Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful…

“Applause” – Lady Gaga

“I Look Good” – Chalie Boy

First Job Rejection Email:
“Forget You” – CeeLo Green
And I was like ughhh… WHYYY?

“Keep Your Head Up” – Andy Grammar

Editing Resume & Filling out Applications for the Second Time:
“Take a Chance on Me” – Abba

“All I Really Want” – Alanis Morissette

Second Job Rejection Email:
“Mean” – Taylor Swift

“Don’t Bring Me Down” – Electric Light Orchestra

Editing Resume & Filling out Applications for the 400th time:
“Jesus, Take the Wheel” – Carrie Underwood

“Misery” – Maroon 5
I am in misery..there ain’t nobody who can comfort me…why won’t you answer me? I’m desperate and confused.

“The Long Way Around” – The Dixie Chicks

400th Job Rejection Email:
“That’s Life” – Frank Sinatra

“They Just Keep Moving the Line” – Megan Hilty (SMASH)
 But for real though, listen to this song when you’re at rock bottom. 

“Roar” – Katy Perry
I am a champion…and you’re gonna hear me ROAAAAAAAAR (editor’s note: you’ll feel much more empowerment if you pretend to be a tiger)

Please feel free to post your musical remedies for unemployment life in the comment section.

MC

quotes from the Pope that rocked my non-Catholic world

Christians, non-Christians, anyone and everyone:

Please take a few minutes to read this interview with Pope Francis published in America Magazine.

I don’t need to write a blog post explaining my thoughts on this or why I think it is crucial for the church–regardless of denomination–to soak this in.

Instead, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes (emphasis added by myself):

“I ​​do not know what might be the most fitting description…. I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

“…the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.”

“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner…preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

“If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing.”

transition

If you want a summer to go by quickly, get married and move to another state. I spent three summers working camp all over the country, and I thought those passed quickly.

A part of me is in total disbelief at the fact that I am currently sitting in my apartment in Atlanta, Georgia, beside my HUSBAND, drinking a homemade latte and eavesdropping on Wednesday night children’s church plans. Sometimes I wonder if May 18, 2013 really happened. I still can’t believe I drive in Atlanta traffic almost everyday without hesitation. Maybe this is a dream.

For those reading along who may not know who I am or what I’m talking about, I’m a newlywed and a new citizen of Atlanta. I love writing and I am passionate about sharing my thoughts and forming them into carefully-crafted words. Writing, to me, is the most genuine reflection of myself.  For four years, I’ve kept a blog similar to this one– www.marychasebreedlove.wordpress.com. It contains four years of college experiences, camp stories, opinion columns, and a variety of other posts. Since I’ve officially started a new chapter of my life, I thought a new blog would be fitting. Plus, I have a new last name now.

I hope you will enjoy the ideas and experiences I share, and I hope I can make you laugh, give you inspiration, and/or some food for thought.

 

 

MC