Divergent – by Veronica Roth (2011)

Divergent

Beatrice – or Tris as she calls herself – is 16, and it is time to decide what position or faction in society she wants to identify with the rest of her life. Her choices are:
Abnegation, which values selflessness above all,
Candor, which holds honesty as its highest priority,
Erudite, which pursues knowledge and intelligence,
Amity, which prices peace and harmony,
or Daughtless, which are the brave protectors.

Once she choses a faction, she and the other newbies go through a rigorous initiation to see if they are right for the position they have selected. It is much harder than Tris thought it would be. The training is brutal, and her fellow trainees don’t always support her. Just as she starts feeling comfortable in her faction, everything starts falling apart around her.

There is something instinctive about wanting to put individuals in a box, and expecting them to behave and function in a set way. But you can only do that so long before the people begin to push back and insist on being able to try something different. Pigeon-holing people only works to a certain degree, as is demonstrated in “Divergent”.

Bed Number Ten – by Sue Baier and Mary Zimmeth Schomaker (1986, 1995)

Bed Number Ten
One December day in 1980, Sue Baier’s fingers and toes began to go numb, her limbs became so weak she could hardly walk, and she had a burning sensation in her mouth. By the next morning she was unable to swallow, and was growing weaker by the hour. Within 48 hours, she had become totally paralyzed except for her eyelids, and was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This book tells of her eleven months of hospitalization. The first two-thirds of the book cover the time she spent in the ICU unit, in bed number ten. It was agonizing to read what was going on in her mind as she lay there, totally dependent on the nurses and doctors. The last third of the book describes the months she spent in another part of the hospital, having intensive physical therapy.

Throughout the book, Sue describes the love-hate type of relationship she has with the physical therapist, nurses, and doctors. She lay there for months, unable to communicate except through a primitive blinking system her husband Bill set up. Some of the hospital staff were too impatient to figure out what she was saying with her blinks. Others tried, but couldn’t figure out what she needed. A few succeeded in understanding her. Bill often ended up being the advocate and interpreter for his wife, and his love was a major reason Sue was able to recover.

 

 

 

At Home In Mitford – by Jan Karon (1994)

At Home In Mitford

“At Home In Mitford” is the first book in the Mitford series. In this book we are introduced to Father Timothy Cavanaugh, the rector of Lord’s Chapel in the small town of Mitford. After having read the book version, and having listened to the audio version many times, I wish there really was a Mitford!

Father Tim is single and 60-ish, with his share of quirks. We see into his mind, and agonize with him in his social anxieties, and the constant worry that he’s not meeting the needs of his congregation. He is surrounded by a host of unique and lovable townsfolk, including Emma, his snappy secretary; Percy and Velma, who own the diner; Dooley, a young boy he ends up raising; Hoppy the local doc; Sadie Baxter, the oldest person in town, and Cynthia, the rector’s new neighbor.

There are a number of story-lines that run through the book, and you will surely find yourself drawn into many, if not all of them. The combination of fantastic characters and entertaining events makes for a book that you will read with great relish, then reach for the next one in the series.

A Light In The Window – by Jan Karon (1995)

A Light In The Window

The saga of Father Tim in the little town of Mitford continues in “A Light In The Window”. We are introduced almost immediately to Edith Mallory, who is determined to make herself Mrs. Timothy Cavanaugh. Poor Father Tim has no inclination to marry, but she hounds him without mercy.

If you listen to this book on audio (the unabridged version), you can get the full effect. The reader is so good at being Edith! It will have you howling with laughter as you roll about on the floor. Of course, if this was a true story, you’d feel sorry for the rector, but since it’s fiction, you can enjoy the plot without reserve.

The other character that you will both love and hate in this story is dear cousin Meg, who comes from Ireland to pay a visit to Father Tim. She clearly overstays her welcome, but the rector has no idea how to ease her back out the door.

You will find this to be as good a read as the first book, if not better!

 

Excerpt from chapter 11:

Behind the bifocals, her eyes looked like the magnified eyes of a housefly that he’d seen on the cover of Dooley’s natural-science book.

“Cousin…Meg?” He held Barnabas, who was still growling, by the collar.

“You know,” she said, pushing her hair behind her ears, “Cousin Erin’s tea party. You invited me for a visit when I came to America.”

“Aha,” he said, standing awkwardly in the doorway.

“We had a gab by the china dresser. You were drinking sherry.”

He remembered Erin Donovan’s notable family china dresser, but as to gabbing with anyone by it…

“Didn’t you get my post a couple of months ago?” She seemed to loom over him.

“A letter?” A letter! On mauve writing paper. “Of course! Please… come in…”

“Could I borrow a twenty for the driver? Had to be fetched up in a taxi. I’ll repay.”

“Certainly,” he said, digging into his pocket and handing over a twenty.

Selling Sickness – by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassells (2005)

Selling Sickness

Although this book was written in 2005, the trends described are still the same. As I re-read it, I was amazed at how little had changed, and how many people are still believing what the pharmaceutical industry tells them. The book devotes a chapter to each of following areas that Big Pharma focuses on: high cholesterol, depression, menopause, ADD, high blood pressure, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, social anxiety disorder, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and female sexual dysfunction. It’s not a long book – a mere 200 pages – but it will open your eyes to the deception that is constantly being pushed on us as Americans.

 

Excerpt:

The marketing strategies of the world’s biggest drug companies now aggressively target the healthy and the well. The ups and downs of daily life have become mental disorders, common complaints are transformed into frightening conditions, and more and more ordinary people are turned into patients. With promotional campaigns that exploit our deepest fears of death, decay, and disease, the $500 billion pharmaceutical industry is literally changing what it means to be human. Rightly rewarded for saving life and reducing suffering, the global drug giants are no longer content selling medicines only to the ill. Because as Wall Street knows, there’s a lot of money to be made telling healthy people they’re sick.

Hit The Road – by Caroline B. Cooney (2006)

Hit The Road

Brit has just gotten her driving permit, and is itching to get behind the wheel. When her parents go out of town and leave her with her grandmother, she finds the opportunity. Nannie is trying to get to her 65th high school reunion, along with her dearest friends. So Brit ends up being the designated driver for the senior ladies, with mishaps along the way. By the end of the road trip, she and Nannie know each other much better. This is a gem of a little book that you can read in an evening.

 

Excerpt:

“When Brit and her parents got to Nannie’s house that morning, Nannie was standing outside in the rain, holding her handbag and looking around the front yard as if she were shopping at the mall…

Brit’s mother shouted to penetrate Nannie’s deafness. “We’re early, Mother! I’m worried about traffic. Here’s Brit.”

“I told you I cannot keep Brit this week,” said her grandmother.

“Nannie!” said Brit, hurt.

“I reminded you twice,” yelled Brit’s mother. “We’re spending two weeks in Alaska and Brit’s staying with you.”

“And twice,” said Nannie, trembling, “I explained that I cannot take care of Brit. I have plans.”

“You’re eighty-six,” muttered Brit’s mother. “You don’t have plans.”

 

What Difference Does Prayer Make? – by Paul E. Miller (2013)

What Difference Does Prayer Make

Praying – it’s something each believer does. But for a lot of us, it can be a frustrating experience. In the quietness, our minds wander off-course. We suddenly become self-conscious about how un-elegant we sound to the Almighty and those around us. If we’re praying about something that we’ve prayed for many times, we wonder if the prayer borders on nagging. After all, God knows everything, so why would we keep repeating the same requests over and over? After a while, cynicism begins to creep in. Does prayer really make a difference?

What I loved most about this tiny book (a mere 55 pages) is that the author encourages the reader to come to God as a child would – messy, unpolished, laying before God whatever is on the heart. As we stop worrying about how we sound, or if our prayers measure up to others’ prayers, we will experience the difference an authentic prayer makes.