Sunday, July 16, 2023

The Sunday Post #337

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The Sunday Post is a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, tell you what I’m reading, and share news. It’s hosted by The Caffeinated Book ReviewerReaderbuzz, and Book Date.

The Sunday Post #337

On The Blog Recently

In My Reading Life

I haven't written a Sunday Post in weeks, so I have lots of books to update you about. I've been trying to knock the classics and modern classics off my TBR list. It has not been going well because I didn't adore any of these. But, here we go:

I read The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Judging by the synopsis, this is a total "Me" book. It's a family saga set in the US and the Dominican Republic. Oscar dreams of getting married and then becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien, but he's pretentious and awkward, so nothing goes right for him. Definite Confederacy Of Dunces vibes with Oscar.

I loved it at first. The author is a clever writer, and I liked learning about the Dominican Republic. Oscar is a believable character who easily grabs the reader's attention. You know from the title of the book that he dies at the end, which adds suspense. How is this awkward bookworm going to die?

I fell out of love with the story as it went on. The family saga gets too repetitive for me. Under the surface, it's a book about people trying to get laid. Every person in Oscar's family is desperate to have sex, but they're all weirdos, so it's not easy. Every family member's story is pretty much the same. I got bored.

According to reviewers on Goodreads, this novel started out as a short story that the author later expanded. I think I would have liked it better as a short story.

Then I read The Shack by William Paul Young. It's Christian fiction, which is not a genre I normally read, but I was curious about the hype. This book has been popular for over a decade. I've seen it on many "Best Books Of All Time" lists. When I stumbled across it at the library, I couldn't pass it up.

Turns out, this isn't really a novel. It's a philosophy book with a thin plot. The story follows Mack (the "everyman" because this is a philosophy book) and his family on a camping trip. On the trip, Mack's youngest child is abducted and murdered. That's where the plot ends and the philosophy begins. Mack goes to the shack where his child was killed and encounters the personifications of different Christian ideas. The rest of the book is Mack's conversations with God, Holy Spirit, etc.

I realize I'm not the target audience for this book. It seems to be aimed at fanatical Christians who think they know God's mind and are judgmental of everyone who doesn't live exactly like they do. The God in this book wants them to chill out. I'm not a fanatical Christian. I'm not even a Christian, so the "chill out and love everybody" philosophy isn't revolutionary for me. That's just how I (attempt to) live.

My issue with this book is that the author can't write. Every character is a stereotype. Since I couldn't connect with the characters, their emotions feel phony.

The author is so determined to get his philosophy across that he seems to forget the plot at times. Mack meets God fairly early in the book, but he doesn't really ask about his murdered daughter until 60% of the way through the story. His daughter's blood is all over the house where he meets God! Shouldn't that be the first question he asks? What happened to the plot?

I didn't like this book, but I'm not the target audience, so you shouldn't listen to me.

Then I read North And South by Elizabeth Gaskell. This British classic is like a snapshot of history. That's pretty cool. The story follows nineteen-year-old Margaret and her bland, apathetic parents. Margaret's world is turned upside down when her father quits his job in a small farming village and moves the family to an industrial town in northern England. Margaret suddenly finds herself surrounded by poverty and disease. The factory is making the townspeople sick, and the union isn't doing enough to help.

The most interesting part of the book is how the social classes blend in the factory town. Margaret befriends the owner of a mill and the employees who go on strike. It really allows the reader to see the complexity of life in an industrial town. Everyone is dependent on the factory, but it's killing them.

I found the characters frustrating. Most of them are kind of pathetic. Margaret's parents seem like they've given up on life. A lot of readers love Margaret's relationship with John Thornton, but I thought he was pathetic too. He keeps obsessing over Margaret after she makes it clear that she's not into him. I spent most of the book wanting to slap him.

Reading this book was a slog at times because of the characters and the slow pacing, but I'm glad I finished it. It gave me a lot to think about.

Up next was Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I guess this is a philosophy novel? The morals are the main focus. It follows an Indian Brahmin named Siddhartha who spends his entire life trying to find happiness and meaning. He gives up all his possessions and lives in poverty. Then he tries the opposite and becomes rich. Then he seeks out gurus who can guide him. Nothing makes him happy.

He eventually learns that happiness comes from moderation, loving others, and living in the present moment. Unfortunately, gurus can't teach this to their students. Students have to discover it for themselves, which is why it takes people so long to find true happiness.

This is a tough book to review because I agree with its philosophy, but I can't say I enjoyed the reading experience. The plot and characters only exist to deliver the story's morals. Since I couldn't get invested in the plot or make myself care about Siddhartha, it was easy to put the book down and not pick it up again.

If you love philosophy, then this is a must-read. I highlighted so many quotes! It has a lot to teach you. If you're looking for a gripping novel, then maybe you should skip Siddhartha.

Okay, last one. I read a memoir called October Sky by Homer Hickam. (Also published as Rocket Boys.) This memoir is fun and gives you faith in humanity. Homer Hickam grew up in rural West Virginia in the 1950s. His father was the overworked superintendent of a dying coal mine. Tension and violence often erupted between Homer's father and his unhappy employees. In the midst of all this instability, teenage Homer was working toward his goal of becoming a rocket scientist. This is the story of how a divided town came together to help 5 teenagers build and launch rockets.

I enjoyed this one! In a weird way, it reminds me of Stephen King's novels. It's not scary at all, but the writing style is simple, and the protagonists are misfit kids who do dangerous things while the adults are occupied with bigger problems. It has hilarious moments and heartbreaking moments. This memoir is proof that it really does take a village to raise a child. Rocket science is not an easy skill to learn, but the adults in Homer's life will do anything to help him succeed.

Just like with Stephen King's books, my only complaint is the length. This memoir doesn't need to be 400+ pages! It drags in the middle. I didn't mind too much because I cared about Homer's family and wanted to know what happened to them.

If you're looking for a fun, quick-to-read memoir, please consider this one!

In The Rest Of My Life

What have I been up to? I've been working a crap-ton of overtime. July is the busiest month of the year at the park where I work. I sell park passes, answer questions, make spreadsheets, direct traffic, pick up garbage, and deal with angry sirs and ma'ams. Between all that, there are frequent intervals of searching for missing people and relocating stubborn turtles that insist on sunbathing in the street. Turtles really need to get over their unrequited love of streets. It's not healthy.

Anyway, work is all I've been doing, so here are 5 random work photos from Penelopy. (Penelopy is my phone's name. Yes, I name my phones, as all normal people do.)

Smoke from the Canada wildfires.

The park has several pass-along boards where our supervisors leave notes for us underlings. Sometimes I really want to know the stories behind the notes. What happened with the attempted animal rescue? I have no idea, but I suspect it's hilarious.


Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other. See you around the blogosphere!


  1. I read The Shack years ago after it was gifted to me and I remember it being preachy. I downloaded North and South onto my Nook after watching the mini-series years ago but have yet to read it. Nice pictures! The remember to smile note is a good one lol.
    Enjoy your week!

  2. Yes we are certainly having a bad wildfire season right across Canada due to extremely dry conditions and plenty of thunderstorms. Sorry to send the smoke your way!

  3. I know your job is stressful, but it sure is gorgeous out there!

  4. Sounds like this is a busy time of year for you at work. I think I read The Shack years ago. It sounds familiar but I don't remember much. I hope you have a great week!

  5. It looks like you tackled a bunch of "I feel like I should read this" books lately. I liked Oscar Wao, but haven't read the others.

  6. I remember reading October Sky as a youngster. It was interesting. I would also want to know the stories behind the messages posted!

  7. Thank goodness for that last book. I was worried that you read a bunch of books you didn't really like. That first picture is really beautiful. It's lovely in your park. Love the ranger humor.

  8. Every one of your book reviews today is just wonderful. Penetrating. Realistic. Useful. Thanks for such a great blog post. I have read one or two of those books but mostly I take your reviews as a warning!

    best… mae at

  9. I would be considered the target audience of The Shack (as a Christian), but I really disliked the book. I didn't see what the hype was or why everyone loved it. I had North and South from the library but didn't get the time to read it before it had to go back. I am still planning to attempt it. Have a great week.

  10. I hope your work is going well even though it is so busy. I can't read those kind of books consistently or I'd fall asleep. I need something lighter when I am busy as you are or when it's hot in the summer. The summer is half over so you are surviving.

    Anne - Books of My Heart This is my Sunday Post

  11. North and South was a very slow read, I thought, but I kept going because (1) the author is a woman in a time when women didn't get published, and (2) I think the issues it raises are important. I had a copy of The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao and gave it away after reading about two paragraphs; I think that was a good move for me.

    And, as usual, your work has provided much content for a future book.

  12. The white board stuff made me laugh. I can hear the frustration oozing through the screen. I frequently find I would enjoy books more as a short story than a full length book. Somehow I have never read October Sky even though I've met the author (he's an incredibly nice man - we live in the same town and used to live in the same neighborhood) and I used to work in the aerospace industry and my husband (and really most of the people I know) still do. Have a great week!

  13. I struggle with classics, so I am probably not the best judge here either. I've had friends recommend The Shack to me, but I've never read it. I met Junot Diaz at a writers conference and found him to be less than pleasant. Maybe he was having an off day. I just avoid his work entirely.

    Hope work slows down for you. Enjoy your week.

  14. Hopefully you have some slow days at work where you can enjoy your surroundings without the angry sirs or ma'ams. :) It looks gorgeous.

    I remember when the movie October Sky came out! I never watched it but I am intrigued by your review of the book. I will have to add it to my TBR!

  15. I absolutely loved The Shack. Have a beautiful day 🌞☕📚💜

  16. I actually had to think about that meme for a minute before it clicked. Guess my mind does not automatically go to the dark side. LOL Busy days are good but busy days in the heat... I just couldn't.

  17. Fun post today. Let's see: I love The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the "Spanglish" words and the accent the reader used. The narrator of the book is a mystery for a long time but will be revealed at some point.

    I want to read Siddhartha. My husband tells me every boy should read it. Okay. What about girls?

    I was just thinking about The Shack. It is one of the only self-published books I've read and I loved it. Time for a reread? Hmm...

    Enjoy your week.

    I got a late start on Sunday Salon this week. Here is my post.

  18. Interesting assortment of books. I tend to avoid classics and books that wind up on bestselling lists or "best of" lists. I did read Siddhartha in high school because it was assigned reading in my English class. I don't remember anything about it though. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  19. Just about every classic I've attempted has been slog. I don't pick them up now if I don't have to. The Shack doesn't sound like my kind of book either. Love the photos Penelopy "took", lol. And the notes, haha!

  20. Looks like you got some slightly angry skies from all the smoke as well. I noticed last night was hazy around here too.

  21. The Shack was one I wanted to read, but I probably won't get to. I liked October Sky as well! The North and South I remember is the one by John Jakes I think? Hope you have a good week, love that you name your phone!

  22. Hi AJ! I felt the same exact way about The Shack, and although I agree that Mr Thornton is obnoxious the way he obsesses, I think it's a very realistic scenario.

    I remember my mom got lost at Arches once. She wandered iff the trail when dad wasn't looking. They looked and looked for her, and she was finally found by a random passerby. Kind of funny in retrospect. It was a really short trail - maybe half a mile each way, and the area was surrounded on all sides by roads. So, it was a rather silly place to get lost.

    (Rachel @

  23. I find that these Richardson ground squirrels up here (that look like prairie dogs) love the roads too; they're all over them. I worry about them constantly. They flirt with danger, just like the turtles. That saying : Dig Deep. is a good one.