Mental Health Awareness Month

May 2, 2019

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

 

 

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, I have a book recommendation for you!

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Today’s post is inspired by Silver’s Reviews: Have You Heard of This Book?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Last year I was honored to read and review A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety by Michele Balge. Thank you to @michellebalge @michelle_balge for my free e copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

A Way Out is a gritty, completely transparent, and inspiring first-person account of Michelle’s early childhood, eventual diagnosis, and her young adult day-to-day life. In addition, she includes valuable tips and resources. If someone you love is dealing with these challenges or if you work with persons struggling with mental illness, I think you will appreciate the read. *Trigger warnings for thoughts and discussion of suicide.
Find my full review here.

A Way Out

A Way Out Information



 

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Things My Son Needs to Know About the World: A Review

April 12, 2019

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World Review

Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Essays, Humor, Parent/Child

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Thank you to #NetGalley #AtriaBooks for my free e-copy of #ThingsMySonNeedstoKnowAbouttheWorld by Fredrik Backman in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary:

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World is a collection of humorous and poignant essays Backman wrote to teach his son about life. Essays range from short and light (how to beat Monkey Island 3) to poignant and deep (why a dad might hold onto his son’s hand just a little too tight). Underlying it all are thoughtful themes including those of unconditional love, a desperate desire to not fail at fatherhood, falling in love, and friendship.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

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Brown Girl Dreaming: A Review

April 10, 2019

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming Review

  • Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Poetry, Memoir, Middle Grade, Racism, Prejudice, African-American, Family Life

*This post contains amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In free verse, Jaqueline Woodson shares her experience as an African-American growing up in South Carolina and New York during the 60s and 70s. An award-winning book, Brown Girl Dreaming is a poignant and inspiring story of a girl finding her voice and her place in the world. Even though she struggled with reading in childhood, she loved stories and blank writing paper as she held her dream of writing close to her heart.

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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love: A Review

March 27, 2019

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance Review

Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Ancestry, Bioethics, Jewish

Family secrets….bioethics…..if you send in a DNA sample to Ancestry on a lark, be prepared for truth.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Receiving DNA results from Ancestry propels a determined and persistent Dani Shapiro into a quest for identity and paternity. Shapiro thoughtfully unravels family secrets as she explores the meaning of love versus biology, a new cultural heritage, and family bonds. The story behind Shapiro’s discovery is not what you might expect and I won’t spoil that part of the story for you. You will want to know, though, that the ethical considerations that she brings up are worthy of discussion and careful thought.

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In Pieces: A Review

February 18, 2019  

In Pieces by Sally Field

In Pieces coverGenre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Family Relationships, Motherhood

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Summary:

Beloved actor Sally Field tells her story for the first time. Her earliest years were lived as a shy, vulnerable, insecure, and anxious little girl in social situations, and she reveals that she did not feel safe at home. In middle school she discovered acting and it became a refuge for her. As she reached her later teens and landed her first professional acting job, she felt responsible to help her mom and younger sister in financial and practical ways. Even when she married for the first time, she felt the burden of providing financially for her young family. From her early years as Gidget and The Flying Nun, Sally Field went on to captivate movie lovers with riveting and emotional performances in her portrayal of characters such as Sybil, Norma Rae, and Mary Todd Lincoln. Of course, we also loved her in Forest Gump and Mrs. Doubtfire. Most recently, she played a leading role in the TV drama series, Brothers & Sisters. Through Sally Field’s personal story, readers see her behind-the-scenes reality and also follow her unstable and codependent relationship with her mother in which she ultimately finds healing and reconciliation.

Amazon Ratings (February): 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

Content. Although Sally Field’s story, In Pieces, is a bit sadder and more tragic than I expected, she writes in the same authentic, transparent, upbeat, and vulnerable style we’ve come to expect from her. Sally Fields shares her behind-the-scenes experiences and her complicated family relationships. Especially poignant is the relationship with her mother and eventual reconciliation. I appreciate Sally’s struggle to understand her choices and those of others. She is determined to chase her dream and demonstrates grit in dealing with life’s disappointments and circumstances. Through her life experiences, we learn what it was like for her to follow her heart and pursue her ambition in a male dominated world. She shares the good and bad, her ups and downs, her fears and her success, her doubts and passion. Her memorable story is honest and authentic, powerful and inspiring. The story doesn’t come across as written by a celebrity (except for mentions of the movie industry)….it’s a story from someone we might sit across the table from working though difficult life issues.

Personal Connection. Stories in which readers can make personal connections become the best reading experiences! I grew up in around the same area of Southern California as Sally Field; in fact, as it turns out we lived in the same city during our childhoods. I grew up fangirling Sally, watching her first in Gidget and then The Flying Nun. I’ve admired her work in later years and cheered for her on award shows, so it was incredibly interesting to hear the behind-the-scenes stories for movies that I’ve seen (not on DVD or TV but as they were released).

Cover. I don’t often mention covers in my reviews, but I love the cover of In Pieces. Her picture reflects the vulnerable and transparent person we read about in the story.

Recommended. Sally Field’s accomplishments despite the obstacles she faced are remarkable. I love hearing how the profession of acting and the portrayal of certain characters helped her work out the emotions and desperate circumstances in her own life. She is a survivor, and it’s an engaging and well written story. I’m awarding this five stars because of the emotions I felt while reading her story and because it was engaging (read it in two days). In Pieces is recommended for readers who love memoir, for fans of Sally Field the actor, and for those who desire to read about the movie industry. ***Trigger warnings for child abuse and for attention given to women without their consent.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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In Pieces

In Pieces

Meet the Author, Sally Field

Sally Field

Sally Field is a two-time Academy Award and three-time Emmy Award winning actor who has portrayed dozens of iconic roles on both the large and small screens. In 2012, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2015 she was honored by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts. She has served on the Board of Directors of Vital Voices since 2002 and also served on the Board of The Sundance Institute from 1994 to 2010. She has three sons and five grandchildren.



Let’s Discuss!

Are you a Sally Field fan?! Which of her roles is your favorite?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Come back Friday for a review of Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly.



Links

Check out The Secret Library Book Blog and her great weekly links!

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

Leadership in Turbulent Times: A Review

February 15, 2019

In recognition of the Presidents’ Birthday Holidays in the United States….

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Leadership in Turbulent Times cover.jpg

Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Biographical, U.S. Presidents, U.S. History, Government/Politics

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In Leadership in Turbulent Times, Pulitzer Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin explores the topic of leadership. Goodwin provides case studies of four presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. As she describes their early lives and follows them into adulthood, she explains how they faced challenges and difficult circumstances and became noted leaders. What traits or skills did they share that helped them become leaders in their time?

Amazon Star Rating (February): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Leadership. Goodwin sets out to compare and contrast the leadership of four U.S. presidents, but the challenge of studying four vastly different men living in different times and facing unique circumstances is a monumental task. From her material, I gained some insights. Each of the four presidents faced challenges in childhood and their personal lives that might have discouraged them from pursuing their dreams. So the first traits I notice are resilience, determination, and risk taking. Each one had a feeling that he was destined to do more and be more than what his present circumstances would suggest was attainable. It is interesting to me that in our county’s early history, ambitious young men decided that politics was their best opportunity for achievement. In addition, they each cared deeply about the welfare of individual folks and the nation. They each were driven to make a difference and to be remembered for something. Finally, it struck me how each president was gifted in interpersonal communication, exhibited an affable personality, and was an excellent communicator. Overall, each of the presidents was visionary, an innovative problem solver, and thought outside the box. Although they had more differences than similarities, the similarities I mention are a significant part of their leadership traits. I think young people who study these presidents can be encouraged that a difficult childhood or challenging personal circumstances do not have to determine the course of their lives or their leadership potential.

The Presidents. Each president studied is a unique person with a dissimilar background and skill set from the others, yet each became a leader. Noted here are a few facts and insights I gained from the reading. Hopefully, the following details will whet your appetite for reading more about these interesting and famous presidents.

  • Abraham Lincoln was self educated with a great resolve to succeed, sensitive, and deeply empathetic. He is remembered for his ability to promote teamwork and for the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Even though Theodore Roosevelt was privately educated, privileged, and sheltered, he was extremely self disciplined, ambitious, and grew in his ability to work well with others. He is remembered for being a rancher who took risks to build courage, a “rough rider,” for his leadership to resolve the coal miner strike, and for The Square Deal.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, a late bloomer, exhibited warmth and charm and verbal skills, had an optimistic temperament, had a desire to please, was a quick decision maker and masterful problem solver, and demonstrated adaptability. He was known for his leadership during the Depression, his efforts in the banking crisis, Fireside Chats, and The New Deal. Eleanor Roosevelt was a great partner with FDR as she traveled the country taking the pulse of the people (FDR: “Don’t confuse what people in Washington are saying with what people in the country are feeling.”). Women in journalism owe Eleanor a nod of appreciation as she declared that only women journalists were allowed at her press conferences which sent newspapers across the nation scrambling to hire women journalists!
  • Lyndon Johnson, never satisfied and always pushing forward, was driven by the lure of power. It’s thought provoking to compare Lincoln, driven by affiliation and teamwork, and Johnson, driven by power and control. Johnson is known for the Great Society (legislation in Civil Rights, federal aid to education, Medicare, voting rights, etc.). His greatest failure was Viet Nam which laid the foundation for future mistrust of government that we experience today.

All four presidents felt called to public service, and each experienced personal and professional setbacks. While some people quit under these circumstances and others recover somewhat and plod along in life, still others adapt, change, and grow like our four presidents.

Recommended. Leadership in Turbulent Times is highly recommended for all citizens of the U.S. because understanding our history informs our present and affects our future. It is especially recommended for those who enjoy inspiring stories of resilient and determined individuals, for history buffs, and for readers who enjoy personality studies and case studies.

Rating. I can see this is really good, and I know that for others it might be a 5 star read. For a person like myself who didn’t major in history, it’s wonderfully readable, thoughtfully presented, and engaging.  I particularly appreciate that Goodwin includes reflective analysis as well as detailed historical facts. For readers like my husband who have read her other individual biographies of these presidents, some of the material in Leadership will be familiar and might seem repetitive. For me, it was informative and enjoyable, and it put random facts and acquired knowledge into a meaningful context.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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leadership in turbulent times

Leadership in Turbulent Times

Meet the Author, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin
 
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN’s interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for LBJ in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. Goodwin earned the Lincoln Prize for the runaway bestseller Team of Rivals, the basis for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film Lincoln, and the Carnegie Medal for The Bully Pulpit, the New York Times bestselling chronicle of the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, the writer Richard N. Goodwin. More at http://www.doriskearnsgoodwin.com @DorisKGoodwin

See my review of Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin.



Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any work of Doris Kearn Goodwin? I’ve read Wait Till Next Year (her memoir) and my husband has read several of her works…. Team of Rivals is a favorite.

What non fiction have you read so far this year? I just finished In Pieces by Sally Field (memoir).



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Look at all these books I’ve read that will be reviewed on the blog in the next few weeks! The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio, In Pieces by Sally Field, Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly, Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris, and Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (MG).



Links

The Secret Library Book Blog always has great weekly links! Please check out this reading resource!

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!

SoCal residents: If you live in or near the Orange or Riverside Counties of Southern California, you might be interested in the Corona Library Author Brunch on April 13.

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In Movie News….

For Fredrik Backman fans, Britt-Marie Was Here will be a movie! (I also heard that a Beartown series is being produced for Europe HBO…so maybe soon in the US?)

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might consider adding these four books to your ‘want to read list’ in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Just Mercy Review: In Honor of MLK Jr and His Work

*this post contains affiliate links

January 21, 2019

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) and his work, I’m reposting a review of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson from my September 14, 2018 post …..



September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Sciences

Summary:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson works determinedly and thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are unfamiliar to me, I am mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, the experience is like looking into a mirror and other times it’s like looking through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciate the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. I’d like to invite reviewers to leave a review link for Just Mercy in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Just Mercy

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia

Review: House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery

November 23, 2018

“Words were her salvation, her business, and her hope.”

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

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Genre/Categories: Narrative Nonfiction, Biography, Middle Grade, Canada

Summary:

House of Dreams is the biography of L.M. Montgomery. Told in narrative style with a few illustrations, the story reveals the complex and troubled life of the well-known author of Anne of Green Gables. As well as exploring her lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, the biography also details her childhood years and her love for books and writing. Through L.M. Montgomery’s own words, we are struck by her talent, perseverance, and hope.

Amazon (Early) Rating (November): 4.3 Stars

My Thoughts:

Target Audience. This is tricky discussion. Although House of Dreams is categorized as Middle Grade, I think that because of mature themes that it’s more suitable for YA and adults than children. I’m not suggesting that children should be shielded from the harsh realities of real life or the actual life of L.M. Montgomery, but I think the book might not appeal to children. Even though there’s a great deal to admire about L.M. Montgomery, it seems that middle grade readers might be bored with or even disturbed by discussions of an unhappy marriage, mental illness, feelings of despair, drug dependencies, and law suits. In my opinion, there seems to be a great deal of adult talk about adult issues in a children’s book. It’s a sad story and may discourage children (8-12) from reading Montgomery’s work.

I need to inject here that I appreciate today’s trend of writing about difficult topics that children might face within the context of children’s or young adult literature. A few examples are: Far From the Tree (adoption, foster care), Crenshaw (homelessness), The Hate U Give (racism, black lives matter), Stella by Starlight (racism, prejudice), Louisana’s Way Home (found family), Wishtree (diversity and tolerance), El Deafo (hearing challenged), Inside Out and Back Again (immigrant experience, bullying), Wonder (disabilities, acceptance, bullying), etc. Do you have titles to add to this list?

Realism or Happiness? For mature readers, there’s a great deal of inspiration to gain from the life of L.M. Montgomery and the double life she led. One life was the harsh reality of losing her mom as a toddler and having a loving father abandon her as a young girl. Even though she was placed with grandparents, they were strict and stern.  Her other life consisted of her passion for writing and her imagination, a happy place of escape and inspiration. Laura Ingalls Wilder also wrote happy stories for children which didn’t always reflect the reality of her life. Even Louisa May Alcott was pressured by publishers to write happy stories for children. It appears that this was the expectation of the time. Thus, the unhappiness of Montgomery’s actual life was treated with lightness and hope in her stories for children:

“Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work,” she wrote. “I would not wish to darken any other life–I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.”

Inspirational. The author often refers to Montgomery as “heart-hungry,” always searching for family, friendship, love, and belonging. The author notes: “Maud was honing her special genius–to make the most of any situation, and to find humor under the most trying circumstances. It was a gift she would pass along to her own young fictional heroines, and a resource that upheld her for years to come. She transformed her own history of abandonment into a story of love and rescue. Ann of Green Gables is a book about creating lasting family. It is a celebration of place, a story about belonging. No one but Maud Montgomery, with all her checkered history and heart-hungry longing, could have created it.”

Not only was her ability to rise above her childhood circumstances inspirational, her ability to navigate a man’s world is noteworthy. In dealing with her publisher, she stated, “They cannot bluff, bully, or cajole.” Even though she wasn’t given a fair contract, she ended up making quite a substantial amount of money for a woman at that time. This money gave her some power and resources to sue the publishing company and to support her family as her husband’s mental health declined. Despite suffering from depression herself, Montgomery was able to take charge of her family, make important decisions, and write prolifically until the very end. She rose above her suffering for a very long time and accomplished so much in the face of it.

In addition, I think her loyalty and unwavering commitment to her grandmother is noteworthy. Her grandmother made many sacrifices for L.M. Montgomery and took care of her the best she could. Montgomery, in turn, sacrificed some things to make sure her grandmother was taken care of at the end of her life. Even though Montgomery never received the love she craved as a child and was even abandoned by her own father, she didn’t use this as an excuse to abandon her grandmother. Her sense of duty and responsibility is admirable and inspiring. In the most difficult of circumstances, she always strived to do the right thing for her family.

Favorite Quote. “She kept a notebook and pen in her apron pocket for small literary ’emergencies.’ ”

I Wish. Throughout the story, I wished the author had included real life pictures of people and places. It would have enhanced the reading in my opinion.

Recommended. As indicated above, I recommend this well written biography for YA (14+) and Adult fans of L.M. Montgomery, for readers who appreciate narrative biographies, and for all who are looking for a story about a strong, independent woman facing difficult circumstances and creating her best life. I would recommend this for mature middle grade readers with some parent or teacher support.

Although well written, I’m giving this 3.5 stars because I feel like it missed its target audience.

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House of Dreams

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Liz Rosenberg

Liz RosenbergLiz Rosenberg is the author of 5 novels, 4 books of poems and more than 20 award winning books for children. She has edited five prize winning poetry anthologies (including THE INVISIBLE LADDER and LIGHT GATHERING POEMS) and her picture book, THE CAROUSEL was featured on PBS’ Reading Rainbow. TYRANNOSAURUS DAD (illustrated by Matthew Myers) is a Children’s Book of the Month Club bestseller and has garnered praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal and elsewhere, and was an Amazon top 10 children’s book. WHAT JAMES SAID, her newest children’s book, (ALSO ill. by Matthew Myers) is a Best Book for Social Studies. Her children’s book, MONSTER MAMA, is currently under option as a feature movie.

Her long-awaited first non-fiction book, HOUSE OF DREAMS, a biography of author L.M. Montgomery, (Anne of Green Gables) will be published June 2018. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Her first novel for adults, HOME REPAIR was a Target Breakout book, a BookBub pick, and voted top ten for Book Clubs and Most Likely to be Next Oprah Pick on Goodreads. Her second, THE LAWS OF GRAVITY, has been a best-seller in the United States, Canada, Germany and the UK. and was a Jewish Book Network selection for 2013. The Boston Globe hailed it as “a thoughtful story about morality, personal responsibility, the law, and above all, the complicated, sometimes incomprehensible ties of family.”

THE MOONLIGHT PALACE was the #1 best-selling Kindle book on Amazon. It was chosen to be a Kindle First, and was a #1 best-seller in the US and UK. BEAUTY AND ATTENTION, published in fall, 2016, is an updated re-telling of Henry James’ classic, PORTRAIT OF A LADY.

Her newest novel is INDIGO HILL, due out in November, 2018. About INDIGO HILL, author John Dufresne writes, “Liz Rosenberg loves her characters and makes us love them, too. She knows what Faulkner knew, that the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. She knows, as well, that every story is many stories, and she handles the complex intersecting tales of unspeakable loss, astonishing secrets, familial chaos, and heartbreak, with intelligence, poise, and tenderness.”

She is a full professor at Binghamton University’s English Department and has guest taught all over the world, from Russia to Austria to Singapore, and throughout the United States. Ms. Rosenberg spends her time reading and writing. Her hobbies and passions are reading and writing.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

Kingdom of the Blind will be released next Tuesday! This is an enticing promo!

If you’ve read My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie and provide a review on social media or Amazon, you can fill out this form to receive FREE bonus content!

Have you voted in the 2018 Goodreads Awards?  Final voting is Nov 13-26. To vote, follow this link. Honestly, I’m discouraged with this year’s voting because my favorites of the year didn’t make it to the final cut in most categories. Did yours?

Have you seen The Hate U Give movie? Here’s the THUG trailer. 
I’ve read positive reviews with some saying it could be one of the best movies of the year. Of course, the movie is never as good as the book so don’t miss this important read.



Looking Ahead to December

Of course I’ll be reviewing Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny next Friday, and then I’m planning posts that will include a November Wrap Up, a bookish gift guide, a Winter TBR, and end of the year recap. After that, I’ll see what library holds come in and watch for kindle deals. I’m definitely looking for some lighter reads in December.



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often! Only one more read after Kingdom of the Blind until I complete my Fall TBR. Did you make a fall reading list?



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What do you think about including harsh realities in children’s literature? Do you have some examples of this being done well?

I’d love to hear updates on your November reading! What are you looking forward to reading in December?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: Just Mercy

September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Sciences

Summary:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson works determinedly and thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are complex for me, I am mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, I look through a mirror and other times I look through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciated the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. I’d like reviewers to leave your review link in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Buy Here

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read all but three on the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman and Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (author of Peace Like a River). I’m planning an extra blog post soon highlighting three recently read ARCS.

lieutenant's nurse

virgil wander



A Link I Love

Are you a fan of the Enneagram types or Winnie the Pooh? Check out this post that explores the Enneagram type of each character in the Hundred Acre Wood:  Kendra Nicole: My World In Reviews: The Enneagram in the Hundred Acre Wood.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy issue-centered, thought-provoking memoirs? Have you read Just Mercy?
(kind and considerate comments are appreciated….others will be deleted or not approved)

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you next Tuesday for Top Ten Tuesday!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

 

 

 

Rash: A Memoir

April 20, 2018

Rash: A Memoir
by Lisa Kusel

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Genre/categories: memoir, Indonesia, travel, expat

Summary:

In the midst of living a comfortable life in California, Lisa Kusel encourages her husband to consider a teaching position at an international school in Bali. In six weeks, the family makes a “rash” and radical move to “paradise.” Looking for happiness and inspiration for writing, all Lisa finds in Bali are challenges that threaten her peace of mind, her marriage, her husband’s professional happiness, and her daughter’s safety. Throughout her candid, engaging, and well-told memoir, Lisa explores the difficulties of relocation and assimilation into a different culture and the pursuit of happiness. Adding to the pressure, Lisa’s husband’s position as a teacher in a start up international school is not all that had been promised. Will Lisa find happiness? Amazon (early reviews) 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“Eat, Love, Pray” gone wrong…

The grass is always greener…

No matter where you go, there you are…

Privilege….

Memoirs always intrigue me! Thank you to Lisa Kusel for sending me her memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

How many times have we each thought how much happier we’d be if only…. If only I had a different house….. If only I could lose 10 pounds….. If only I could take a vacation this year…… If only I could win the lottery…..  If only…..

This was Lisa’s frame of mind as she contemplated a move to Bali:

“I would reinvest myself. I would find contentment. I would be present. Victor and I would fall in love all over again. Bali would make that happen. Bali. How tropical and flowery that sounded. Yes, if we moved to Bali, all would be light and golden and I’d……..

I think if I moved to Bali, I’d learn how to stop searching for something new all the time and be grateful for what I have.”

Although I have enough life experience to predict where this memoir would likely lead, I was pleasantly surprised by the conversational, casual, chatty, and witty writing style. Lisa has an incredible ability to tell an engaging story filled with humorous details and vivid descriptions. Reading it felt like meeting her for coffee and hearing the story in person. On a few occasions, I laughed out loud. My only difficulty with the narrative was her use of profanity. I realize that this is a personal preference and that other readers may be fine with it; however, I prefer to experience a more limited use of profanity in my reading.

Readers who have expat experiences or have visited Bali (not the resorts) may find this memoir especially interesting as Lisa provides a great deal of cultural details and observations in her honest and reflective narrative.

While Lisa’s husband and five-year-old daughter take cultural adjustments in stride and try to make the best of a difficult and new situation, Lisa dwells in unhappiness. She fears that they might have made a “rash” decision to relocate to Bali but also worries that her daughter might develop a “rash” indicating dengue fever. Lisa’s excessive and persistent unhappiness and her inability to assimilate lead to tension in her marriage and a less than positive reputation among the locals and the school staff. Readers can appreciate her predicament based on her idea that moving to Bali would make her a happier person. Many of us realize that circumstances cannot provide real happiness because it’s an inner state of being. Can one choose to be happy in a difficult cultural environment and in a less than ideal living situation?

I appreciate the author’s honest reflections and her struggle toward rediscovering happiness:

“When had I stopped being just happy? …..  I’d been moody. Too quick to anger and accusation. I was often a dark presence, hovering over Victor’s life like a bitch balloon; a Pigpen cloud of ugliness following me around. Sometimes, I remembered, no one, not even me, wanted to be with me……I no longer knew how to appreciate all that was good and beautiful in my life. I was stuck. Could that be why I was so desperate to move to Bali?”

Have you, too, chased happiness? I think the theme of happiness is one to which most us can relate. In my younger years, as a mom with littles, struggling along trying to make ends meet on my husband’s meager salary, I remember thinking one Sunday that if only we had money to go to a fast food place for tacos after church (as many of my friends did) that I’d be happy. It seemed like that would be the secret to my happiness and a well-lived life. I wasn’t asking to win the lottery–just a few cheap tacos. I was sure that the happiness quotient of my life would greatly increase when we could drive through and get tacos after church instead of going home to make lunch. I clearly remember feeling cheated and miserably sorry for myself.

In addition to a theme of happiness, there is also the theme of cultural differences and privilege. As the author describes the Bali culture in great detail, readers can imagine themselves living in that environment. Lisa has a difficult time accepting the lack of air conditioning and flushing toilets, windowless huts, inadequate medical care, spotty electricity and internet, etc that she is privileged to have access to in the U.S. I follow the blog of a missionary in Haiti and she often writes about her happiness and contentment factor and cultural assimilation as she reflects on safety concerns and what her family may be missing by not living in the U.S. Her family proactively works on creating experiences within the Haiti culture that will meet the needs of their growing family. I admire expats who experience a few rough years of adjustment in the beginning and can create a lifestyle of contentment and happiness despite very difficult circumstances. Lisa reminds us of the challenge.

“I must stop looking to others for happiness. It’s right here, always available for the taking, and I have to stop blaming Victor and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants for any and all that goes wrong. There was only this one moment. This now. And I needed to embrace it.”

In the memoir, Lisa comes to an intellectual grasp of happiness; however, she falls short of showing the reader what that looks like in her life when she returns to the U.S. I wonder today if she is truly happy. Is she able to put into practice the insights she gained? Can happiness be learned through disciplined practice or will it always elude us?

Rash: A Memoir is recommended for readers who appreciate candid, reflective writing exploring themes of happiness and cultural differences, for expats (especially those who have lived or traveled in Bali), and for readers who love engaging memoirs.  ***Language***

My Rating: 4 Stars

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rash

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Lisa Kusel

lisa kuselLisa was born in New Jersey two miles from where Thomas Alva Edison first recorded sound. She went to college and studied biology and theater arts. She went to graduate school and studied environmental anthropology. After years of writing copy for non-profits, selling surplus cosmetics in Russia, and living off rich married men, she accepted an editorial position at that little-known Open Office competitor, Microsoft. There she created MATTER, the company’s first online magazine read by the 34 people who were patient enough to wait the twelve minutes it took the GIFs to download through their 56K modems.

She got married. Left Microsoft. Went to Africa. Moved back to California. She wrote two books: “Other Fish in the Sea” and “Hat Trick.” Wrote another one after that about WWII–not yet published. Then she moved to Bali to save her wounded marriage, and wrote a memoir about her time there. It’s called “Rash,” and it’s a funny poignant tale about a woman who mistakenly believes that running away to paradise is the only way to find true happiness.

She presently lives in Vermont, where she is writing her first young adult novel. Follow her writing at http://www.lisakusel.com. Feel free to drop her a line at lisakusel<@>gmail.com because she loves to hear other people’s stories.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Extra:
The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

room on rue Amelie

“Cruelty is the weapon of the ignorant.”

If you’re looking for an easy reading WW11 histfic selection, you might enjoy “The Room on Rue Amelie, a story of people who see injustice and have the courage to stand up and fight against it. For me, it was mediocre compared with other reads in the same genre. Although the dialogue could have been better written and the events better developed, the topic of rescuing downed English pilots over war town France was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I felt that the insta love story lines (2 of them!) were definite weak points of the story (insta love is more common in the YA genre and is usually stereotypical). Even though I would rate the writing 2.5 and skimmed several sections, I’ve rounded this to 3 stars for a compelling topic. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read.

My Rating: 3 stars

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Buy Here



Links I Love:

Modern Mrs Darcy: 15 Literary Novels That Will Have You Compulsively Turning The Pages
(How many have you read? Even though this genre is made up, it’s my favorite: great unputdownable literature!  I’ve read 6 on the list [some I liked better than others: e.g Homegoing, The Mothers, and Little Fires were my favorites; I DNF Americanah]. I would add News of the World to this list!)

The Novel Endeavor: A Gift Giving Round-Up For Book Lovers



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your reflections on finding happiness? Do you think it’s found within or can it be chased?