Eden

April 6, 2018

Eden
by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Eden 2

Genre/categories: Fiction, Family Life, Family Saga

*linking up with Words on Wednesday

Summary:

Generations of Becca Meister’s family have traditionally spent memorable summers at the family’s estate affectionately known as “Eden” in Long Harbor, Rhode Island (fictionalized setting). This year as the family gathers for the 4th of July holiday, Becca (the family’s 70 year old matriarch) plans to admit to the family that she can no longer afford the upkeep on the estate because her late husband mismanaged their retirement funds. Suddenly, the family is faced with the reality that this might be their last summer at Eden. Because of other personal events happening in Becca’s life, she also concludes that this is the time she must reveal a family secret. In addition to the present day timeline, the story introduces readers to Becca’s childhood and family, we learn the history of Eden (including the hurricane of ’38), and readers come to appreciate what Eden means to the family.

Amazon Rating (April): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Historical fiction: Although this book isn’t categorized as historical fiction, there are historical elements that some readers may find fascinating.  For instance, life in the 1920s (particularly for women), the stock market crash, the hurricane along the east coast in 1938, lifestyle of the east coast elite and their summer resorts, and the experiences of women in one family over eight decades.

Family saga: I love a multigenerational family saga! Readers follow this family for eight decades and experience their joys, sorrows, challenges, achievements, trials, hopes, dreams, relationships, values, and connectedness (or disconnects)…..in other words, this is a normal family much like our own. Readers will find a myriad of opportunities to relate. In particular, I liked how getting to know the grandparents helped explain Becca’s actions and decisions. I found the focus on mother/daughter relationships throughout the story especially interesting.

Child birth and adoption:  The story’s most fascinating and interesting themes for me were the unwed girls and their unplanned pregnancies story lines. Over the course of eighty years, the author includes stories of three unwed girls: one in the early 1900s, one in the mid 1900s, and one in present day. It was fascinating to trace how each of their pregnancies were handled in the time periods. Early in the century, an unwed girl’s unplanned pregnancy was generally hidden (even from the baby’s father), and the girl was whisked away to deliver the baby and place him/her for adoption. Upon returning home to resume her normal life, no mention was made of the baby and the girl was expected to live with the secret for her entire life. To disclose the situation would have caused the family and the girl a great deal of shame. In the middle of the century, an unwed girl experiencing an unplanned pregnancy was strongly encouraged to marry the father quickly even if  the couple hadn’t planned on a marriage. This attempt to “legitimatize” the baby often resulted in making two mistakes as the marriage arrangements were often made out of necessity and coercion and not out of thoughtful commitments and promises. Finally, unwed girls facing unplanned pregnancies at the end of the century experience having many options and not hiding their pregnancies. While some girls opt to place the baby for adoption, others choose to marry and keep the baby, or choose not to marry and raise the child as a single parent with the help of the extended family. There is no shame and the child is welcomed with love and celebrated. This theme touched me as our family has been blessed by adoption. My aunt who was born in the ’20s was a girl that was whisked away until her baby was born and placed for adoption. My husband was placed for adoption as a baby (at a time when adoptions were not as openly discussed as they are now), and although his adoptive parents weren’t forthcoming with him about the adoption during his early childhood, he was able to meet his birth mother and his biological sister as an older adult a few years ago. When my husband was eventually told about his adoption, his parents cautioned him not to tell anyone that he was adopted…that it was their secret. This caused him to believe that there was something wrong with the process that brought him into the family. In more current times, my nephew was adopted through an open adoption process and had the opportunity to meet his birth mother as soon as he became an adult. Open adoption is probably the scariest for the adoptive mom but I think it’s probably healthiest for the first mom and for the child. I know mothers and adopted children from all three perspectives and these personal connections greatly enrich the story for me.

The title: The first concept that comes to my mind with the title Eden is a paradise….and Eden in this story is a type of paradise, but it’s also a symbol for traditions (locations or experiences) that hold families together for generations. Perhaps we all have that place in mind that evokes warm childhood memories of families gathered, feelings of being loved, and of belonging. For me, it’s visiting the family farms of my childhood in South Dakota.

Themes: If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I love stories with substantial themes. A few themes that I feel would merit some discussion are themes of mother/daughter relationships and expectations, unwed girls facing pregnancies, adoption, privilege, women’s voice and power (or lack of), and family traditions.

The cover: I passed over this book time and time again on my TBR shelf because the gray toned, muted cover wasn’t calling out to me. This is obviously a subjective statement with which others may completely disagree. After reading the story, I can make guesses about why the author chose the cover; however, it wasn’t one that appealed to me. Look beyond the cover!

Lots of characters and jumping between timelines: Thankfully, the author provides a family tree at the beginning of the story because I really needed it! Readers listening on audible might want to jot down names and relationships along the reading journey. Many stories today have alternating timelines and it’s more challenging in some books than others. I felt like I worked hard throughout the story to be fully present in the timeline hops. Frequently, I found that I needed to stop and think about the characters and the situations when jumping to the alternate timeline.

Recommended? Yes! The more I reflect on this story, the richer it becomes. Recommended for readers who enjoy well told family sagas, thought provoking themes, or who might have some familiarity with Rhode Island (or summer beach resort living!).

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Eden

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Jeanne Blasberg

jeanne blasbergAlways hunting for writerly detail, I’ve been known to stare or eavesdrop on the table next to me.  Call it research or maybe an over-developed sense of empathy; I’m fascinated by human nature.  At heart, I’m really still that only child who played for hours with imaginary friends.  Now my imaginary friends are characters on the page, flawed but honest, people worth spending time with.  My stories may echo timeless struggles, but they are spun with my own peculiar slant.

Jeanne Blasberg is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. She has been known to stare at strangers on more than one occasion to the embarrassment of her three children. (Mom, stop staring!)  After graduating from Smith College, she surprised everyone who knew her by embarking on a career in finance, making stops on Wall Street, Macy’s and Harvard Business School, where she worked alongside the preeminent professor of retail and wrote case studies and business articles on all sorts of topics on everything that has to do with…shopping.

A firm believer that you are never too old to change course or topics (in truth, she’s not a big shopper), Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, one of the country’s great creative writing centers, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction, inspired by her childhood journal. Eden is her debut novel.

Now deep into her second novel, Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, Jeanne can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay, and sometimes simply staring at interesting characters doing uninteresting things.

Jeanne’s writing has appeared in The Sun Literary Magazine’s Reader’s Write, Squash Magazine, Interfaith Family.comDead Darlings.comBreakingMatzo.comThe Huffington Post,  Women Writers Women’s Books, and Adoptimist.com.

jeanneblasberg.com



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



Looking Ahead

I’m on very long library wait lists for The Force of Nature and The Music Shop….meanwhile I’m waiting for kindle prices to fall and reading other selections. Consequently, next Friday I’ll read and review From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon (a  histfic title from my Goodreads TBR shelf with an average Goodreads rating of 4.41 stars and Amazon rating of 4.7 stars).

From Sand and Ash

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Extra:
Reading Recommendation For Middle Grade Readers!

(And for all readers looking for a thought provoking story!)

Crenshaw

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is a beautifully and creatively written middle grade story exploring poverty, homelessness, and imaginary friends. Because the content of this book builds compassion and the topic of homelessness might worry some readers, I’m recommending it as an excellent “read together” book.

The first reason I loved this story is because of the personal connections I made as a teacher at a Title 1 school where the student population often experienced poverty and homelessness. I could share many stories of how their personal experiences impacted my life and our classroom.

I believe this is a thoughtful story for students who are not in this situation to build empathy, but I wonder how children who are experiencing poverty and homelessness would react to the story without having someone with which to process.

In the story, the main character, Jackson, has an imaginary friend (Crenshaw, as seen on the cover) and I appreciate the author’s subtle message that the imaginary friend appears to help Jackson deal with his stress. In fact, when Jackson questions why Crenshaw is larger than he was when Jackson was little, Crenshaw explains that Jackson needs a bigger imaginary friend now that his problems are different.

I thought a great deal while reading the story about how children process stress. It is interesting that Jackson appears fine to his parents (mom thanks him for being positive and helpful), yet he experiences stress because of not knowing what is going to happen. In addition, he also feels tremendous responsibility for his sister (even giving up his plan to run away in order to take care of her).

“What bothered me most, though, is that I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t control anything. It was like driving a bumper car without a steering wheel. I kept getting slammed, and I just had to sit there and hold on tight. Bam! Were we going to have enough to eat tomorrow? Bam! Were we going to have enough to pay the rent? Bam! Would I go to the same school in the fall? Bam!”

This thought impacted me while reading: Children can adapt easily because they desire/need stability, togetherness, love, predictability, family….but adults sometimes don’t realize the stress the child is feeling because they “appear” to be adapting.

Crenshaw is an interesting, creative, thought provoking, and worthwhile read. I’ve heard it described that books can be a door or a mirror. This book is both: a door through which children can build compassion and a mirror for children facing similar situations.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



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!

How has adoption touched your life?

Do you enjoy hearing about middle grade recommendations? Do you think great literature and wonderful stories can be enjoyed by all ages?

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Most Compelling Characters of March

March 30, 2018

March Compelling Character

This month I’m choosing two most compelling characters: Leni from The Great Alone (fiction) and Tara from Educated: A Memoir (nonfiction). Leni and Tara share some similar struggles and challenges. The two stories reminded me at times of The Glass Castle (charismatic yet unpredictable fathers, unstable homes, neglect, poverty) and Hillbilly Elegy (chaotic family life, nurturing grandparents)….a fascinating book club discussion could be centered around discussing the connections between these books and characters.

I’d love to hear which characters you read about this month that were the most memorable for you. I’ve provided a link up or you can leave a comment.

 

Meet Leni and Tara:

For me, memorable characters who grow and change despite the obstacles make all the difference in a good story. Both Leni and Tara are my choices for this month’s most compelling characters because they share some experiences and traits that make them memorable. Both endure emotional and physical abuse (not sexual), yet despite difficult childhoods, they each rise above their circumstances. Surprisingly, they continue to love and show devotion for their parents (this struck me in The Glass Castle, as well). Leni and Tara share a drive to pursue an education and a desire to belong. In addition, they are determined, persistent, courageous, loyal, clever, and brave. Each girl feels threatened (one by her father and the other by her brother) and fears for her safety.  While Leni receives support from her small village community, Tara receives support from one brother, a BYU counselor, and some professors. Each girl is memorable in her grit, her ability to survive,and her drive to strive for something better in her life. These memorable characters allow me to rate both stories 4 Stars and to recommend these reads to others. ***Trigger warnings***

Tara’s words after dance class: “The other girls rarely spoke to me, but I loved being there with them. I loved the sensation of conformity. Learning to dance felt like learning to belong.”

Tara’s words about her abusive brother: “Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.”

Brief Synopsis and Review of The Stories:

The Great Alone is a story about a dysfunctional family that eventually moves to the harsh wilderness of Alaska to make a fresh start. In this page turner by Kristin Hannah (author of the Nightingale), thirteen-year-old Leni watches her gentle and artistic mother struggle to live a happy and secure life with her father, a Vietnam War vet, who suffers from PTSD.  A survivalist, her father becomes more paranoid and controlling as the story progresses. ***trigger warnings for emotional and physical abuse***  Leni, struggling to stay in school and walking on egg shells around her father, is also concerned about her mother and about their general well-being as the dark winter and isolation of the Alaskan wilderness cause her father’s symptoms to worsen. The first part of the story is slower paced and devoted to establishing a sense of place, character development, and a slow build up of the problem. The last part of the story  unfolds at a rapid pace and there are attempts to escape and confrontations. Some have commented that the ending is tied together easily, quickly, and conveniently. This didn’t bother me too much because rapid emotional plot twists are Kristin Hannah’s style and part of me was eager and relieved to have closure to Leni’s story.  If you’re looking for an engaging page turner with an Alaskan wilderness setting, this is a good selection to meet that criteria. However, The Nightingale remains my favorite work by Kristin Hannah. My Rating for The Great Alone: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating  4.6 Stars)

Great Alone

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here

Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover.  Tara grew up as one of seven children in a Mormon family making their home in Idaho.  Both parents are devout Mormons; however, her father is an extremist, survivalist, and he isolates the family while stockpiling supplies, avoiding the government, and planning for worst case scenarios. ***Trigger Warnings*** While Tara’s soft-spoken mother makes healing herbs and ointments and practices midwifery, her charismatic father makes a living extracting and selling scrap from his junk yard. To avoid the government, the children do not have birth certificates, are not taken to the doctor, and most of them are home schooled, although according to Tara’s account, Mom’s interest for home schooling waned with the younger ones and to complicate the situation, Dad always needed help in the junk yard.  Tara wished she could go to school, and I didn’t receive the impression that her parents would have kept her from school, it’s that she suffered from not having the right clothes, feelings of not belonging, and often felt pressured to help her father in the junk yard. Over the years she experiences mental and physical abuse from one of her brothers, becomes more dissatisfied with her chaotic home life, and her desire for an education grows. With the encouragement of a brother, she decides to study independently for the ACT and apply to BYU. Thus begins her educational journey, her path of self-realization, healing, and ultimate separation from her family. Tara’s first classroom experience was at age 17. Readers will thoroughly understand and empathize with how difficult and emotional it was for her to  take these steps as she’s a loyal girl who feels a great duty to her family. Tara’s understanding of “education “ is that with it, one is able to gain one’s own perspective on life. Here is Tara’s interview with CNN. If you’re looking for a compelling memoir similar to The Glass Castle, you might enjoy this selection. My Rating for Educated: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars).

Educated

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



March’s Most Compelling Character Link Up

Please share your most memorable character from your March reading in the comments or link up your blog post.



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



Looking Ahead

I have several books on hold at the library (I’m #27 for The Force of Nature so that will be a while) and I’m waiting for kindle prices to fall on some new releases……consequently…….next Friday I’ll read and review a book already on my shelf, Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (and check it off my winter TBR list).

Eden

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Reading Podcasts I Love

Modern Mrs Darcy: What Should I Read Next

Read Aloud Revival (focus on children’s literature)

Reading Women (reviews of books written by women about women)



Extra:
Reading Recommendation For Middle Grade Girls Who Love Science!

Finding WondersFinding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins is a beautifully and creatively written middle grade story exploring the lives of 3 girls who are curious, love questions and the world around them, and are persistent in pursuing their love of science and scientific inquiries. Each woman makes important scientific contributions, and I loved reading about them and the context of their lives. I’m not sure middle grade students will read slowly enough to appreciate the beautiful prose and nuance/subtlety of language, so it might be a good “read together” book.

The author ensures that the girls exhibit some modern feminist thoughts that struck me as the author’s agenda rather than something girls in that era would usually think. However, these thoughts might provoke good conversation starters. For example: “But she hates embroidery, its worth measured by the smallness of stitches. A needle woman trains her eyes to stay cast down while hiding knots and boredom, committing herself to the circumference of a lap.”

An interesting extension read for adults might be The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe, a fictionalized biography of the first African-American woman (passing as white) to attend Vassar (same college where Maria Mitchell in Finding Wonders was a professor).

Finding Wonders is an interesting, creative, and worthwhile read. It makes me eager to read all the untold stories!  My Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



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 the most memorable character from your March reading!

We Were the Lucky Ones

….. family …..

March 23, 2018

We Were the Lucky Ones
by Georgia Hunter

we were the lucky ones

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Jewish, Inspirational, WW11, family

Summary:

In the spring of 1939, the extended Kurc family is living a modest and happy life in Radom, Poland. In the midst of joyful family celebrations, however, there is increased talk of the mistreatment of Jews. Soon the entire close-knit Kurc family faces separation, makes attempts to flee, and desperately focuses on safety and survival. Family members share a will to survive and seeing one another again is their greatest goal. Through cleverness, determination, faith, hope, and hardship they endure. Amazon Rating (March): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Very often when writing a review I change my star rating. This was the case here as I closely reflected on the endearing commitment to family themes. I changed my initial rating of 4 stars to 4.5, finally rounding it to 5. To solidify my thinking I noticed that 84% of the 914 reviewers on Amazon also rated it 5 stars. This is a solid, satisfying, and inspirational read.

What worked:

For me, themes are one of the more compelling elements in literature, and a story with strong themes has a great chance of earning a 4 or 5 from me.  In addition to the story’s harsh themes of survival, fear, prejudice, and hardship, the theme that means the most to me is the importance of family. Even though the children are adults, there is a devotion and commitment to family that is especially joyful, endearing, and inspirational.

In addition, I appreciated the author’s inclusion of religion as an important part of family life and a basis for their hope. Sedars are described and prayers and song lyrics are explicit. It is becoming more rare in contemporary fiction to see religious themes presented in positive ways.

Finally, I enjoyed that this story is closely based on the author’s own family history. That added an element of investment that I felt toward each character. I cared deeply about each one and their survival. Researching and writing this story must have taken the author on quite an emotional journey.

What was difficult:

There were so many characters! I should have kept a character chart with important details in my journal as I read. Because this story is about the survival of a family, I don’t see how the author could have left any one out. Just be prepared to keep track of many individuals!

Recommended?

This is a book that I highly recommend for readers of WW11 historical fiction, for those who love family stories with great themes, and for those who enjoy against-the-odds and inspirational themes. As with any WW11 survival story there are some difficult parts, but it is balanced nicely with humor, hope, and lovely characters. Plus the title is comforting because I kept reminding myself “they will find a way through this situation!” We Were the Lucky Ones is going on my potential favorites of the year list.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars rounded up to 5

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we were the lucky ones

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Georgia Hunter

Georgia HunterWhen Georgia Hunter was fifteen years old, she learned that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors. We Were the Lucky Ones was born of her quest to uncover her family’s staggering history. Hunter’s site, http://www.georgiahunterauthor.com, offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the extensive research this project has entailed. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and son.

 



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



Looking Ahead

Friday 3/30 I’ll be offering a March Compelling Character Link Up. Think of a favorite character you’d like to share either in a blog post or a comment.

What are you reading this week?


Links I Love

hash

*Photo credit: Good Cheat Eats

 

My newest favorite recipe, zucchini and sweet potato hash, is from Good Cheap Eats

If you’re looking for an easy, tasty, and healthy side dish (or I could eat this as a main dish), try this recipe! I usually double it, and I’m not a mushroom lover so I leave that out. You can pair this hash with any meat or even top it with an egg for breakfast. Here’s how I’ve been using it: I pop salmon into the oven and while that’s baking, I make the hash. Or if I have left over chicken (or other meat) from a previous meal, I make this and it helps me forget I’m having leftovers. I’m an avocado lover so I always pair it with avocado as in the picture. Below is a pic I snapped as it started cooking. I’m not a great cook and I always look for ways to cut down my kitchen time so that I can spend more time reading….. so this recipe is a win for me because I eagerly look forward to making it and it fits with my need for easy and quick. For gardeners, this would be a great way to use up an abundance of zucchini!

hash 2

Other Links:

Novels and Nonfiction guest posted for The Hungry Bookworm: 12 Memoirs for Nonfiction Newcomers

DefinitelyRA: Thoughts After Seeing The Wrinkle Movie.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20!
(notice the Downton Abby actors!)

If you loved The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak has a new book releasing in October:
Bridge of Clay



Extra: 

Author Panel + Brunch

If you live in Southern California near Corona, you might be interested in an Author Brunch at the Corona Public Library on Saturday morning, April 21. Authors are Susan Meissner, Laura Kamoie, and Michelle Gable. Here’s the flyer:

histfic author brunch



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 are reading (or cooking!) this week!

 

 

 

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

March 9, 2018

Colorful Hawaii…friendship…loyalty…pies…romance…racism…brave marines…and a lion

Island Of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
by Sara Ackerman

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction, WW11, family life, military

Thank you to The Loud Library Lady for a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion. This review of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is part of a Reading Train and all opinions are my own.

Summary:

Surrounded by the tropical beauty of Hawaii in 1944, Violet Iverson and her daughter Ella struggle to stabilize their lives after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the disappearance of Violet’s husband and Ella’s father whom some speculate might have been a spy. After Pearl Harbor, prejudice against the Japanese is common on the island, and the fear and mistrust is difficult for Violet to face as many of her close friends and community members are Japanese and suddenly become the feared “them.” Because Violet and her friends desire to make a little money and also wish to support the war effort, they devise a plan to make sweet pies for the soldiers, Meanwhile, Ella is miserable because she’s keeping a secret, is scared, and refuses to talk about it. More complications set in when Violet develops a close relationship with Sergeant Parker Stone. In spite of Violet’s attraction, she feels guilty because her husband’s disappearance has not been resolved. Readers will need to suspend their belief when they find out that a friendly pet lion is the marine mascot and among the cast of characters.  Goodreads Overall Rating: 4.14

My Thoughts:

Recommended

Readers that are looking for a light historical fiction read with a bit of mystery and romance might enjoy Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. It’s a quick and easy page turner with memorable characters (including a pet lion!). Readers who call or have called Hawaii home might find this an especially interesting read. The author is from Hawaii and her story is based on stories she heard from her grandmother.

What Worked

I enjoyed the Hawaiian perspective of the war, appreciated hearing about the training for the soldiers, and was conflicted about the treatment of the Japanese (the only other time I’ve read about the prejudice against the Japanese is in Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet). Also, I appreciated the realistic story line of a single mom trying to hold it together and the heartbreaking descriptions of ten-year-old Ella suffering from severe anxiety and fear.

Themes

Told from two perspectives (Violet’s and Ella’s), readers will enjoy the strong themes of friendship, hope, loyalty, mother/daughter relationship, secrets, heartbreak and tragedy of war, and the power of choosing love in difficult circumstances.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sara Ackerman

Sara Ackerman

Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean.

 

 



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



Looking Ahead

Next week, I’ll review How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to find love in a bookstore

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?


Links I Love

Novels and Nonfiction: Top Ten Favorite Classics With Quotes

Top Shelf Text: 50 Books By and About Women of Color
(in celebration of International Women’s Day)

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters TODAY March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



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 are reading this week!

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

March 2, 2018

comprehensive…eye opening…richly researched…real life…resiliency

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Caroline Fraser

Prairie Fires

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, American History,  Biography, Frontier, Family Life

Summary:

Prairie Fires is a comprehensive look at the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the beloved (and fictionalized) “Little House on the Prairie” books that have been loved by children, teachers, and librarians for decades. Over 600 pages, Prairie Fires goes beyond biography as the author provides extensive American history material including information about westward expansion, the railroad, extreme weather, fires, the Indian Wars, rural communities, and the Dust Bowl.  The author also addresses the controversy surrounding the true authorship of the “Little House” series. Prairie Fires was chosen as one of New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year.

Amazon Rating (March): 4 Stars

My Thoughts:

First, I must mention that this is a long book! It can be tedious in places if you’re not a history fanatic. However, Laura’s true story is rather fascinating in its historical context.

One question that I wanted answered while reading is this: Why did Laura Ingalls Wilder write idyllic, happy, fictionalized stories when her actual living conditions were extremely harsh?

Pa

Through extensive research, the author draws a realistic picture of the struggle, poverty, and transient life style of the Ingalls family. As the true history of Laura’s family is significantly more harsh than is portrayed in the children’s books, I pondered why Laura chose to write the books in the happy, idealized manner that she did (besides the obvious reason that she couldn’t successfully publish the reality of her life for children). As I read, I came to realize how much she adored her Pa in spite of the harsh living conditions and his financial  difficulties. In Laura’s childhood her parents might have normalized the fact that their family moved around as much as they did, or concealed the fact that Pa had difficulty supporting them, or perhaps it was simply the norm that most people were poor and that every member of the family was expected to pitch in. As evidenced by Laura’s poem describing her Pa, she didn’t fault him for failing to provide financially; on the contrary, she remembered him fondly: for his music (violin, singing, dancing, entertaining), for adoring and cherishing his family, for his strength and physical endurance, for his spirited contentment despite the circumstances, for his excellent reputation exemplifying a faithful and loving husband, and for his character which was honest and upright. The person that Pa was to his family and his community greatly overshadowed his financial failures. I know I would have liked him because his children adored him (and that’s always a good recommendation!). In the epilogue, the author states that Wilder’s purpose in writing was “to save her father’s stories from being lost…and…..to promote her parents’ values which were her own: courage, self-reliance, independence, integrity, and helpfulness.” It’s understandable that in her 50s Laura began to write these stories because she adored her Pa and experienced yearning and melancholy for home, her parents and sister, and remembered and appreciated the strong moral teaching she had received. This special relationship she enjoyed with her Pa most certainly was not fictionalized, and I strongly believe that she wrote the “Little House” stories later in her life as a tribute to her dear Pa and his values.

Charles Ingalls reminds me a bit of the father in The Glass Castle as he supplied a bit of “magic” in their difficult lives and he never gave up hope for achieving his dream as he moved from place to place and provided little physical or financial stability for his family. As in Prairie Fires, the children in The Glass Castle could forgive their father of a lot because they felt loved.

Authorship of the “Little House” Series

As well as getting to know the family, the author explores the tumultuous and competitive relationship that Laura had with her own daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, and attempts to clarify the controversy surrounding the true authorship of the stories. It’s true that Rose encouraged her mother to write and provided a great deal of editing assistance; however Rose also manipulated and bullied Laura. In fact, Rose was unstable and probably mentally ill. Some feel that her daughter was a ghost writer; however, the author provides strong evidence that clears this up (at least for me).  I’m choosing not to include that spoiler here.

Traits of Settlers

Coming from the midwest, I’ve been accused of being self-reliant, independent, and stoic. An interesting part of the book for me was the identification of self-reliance as the highest and most held onto value among the settlers coming west. Also interesting was the conversation that Laura and Rose had about stoicism versus apathy. Rose accused the settlers of appearing apathetic in the onslaught of difficult circumstances because of their subdued reactions. Laura explained that when one is faced with difficult circumstances during one’s entire life that one doesn’t overreact to each instance…rather, one takes setbacks in stride (which may seem like apathy to a casual observer). The author is struck by the resilience that the settlers exhibit in facing years and years of difficult times, adversity, and disappointments. She indicates that they just keep on going time after time.

Women

Because I grew up on the prairies of South Dakota as did my mother, grandmothers, and aunt, I can both embrace and am struck by the solitude of the farming lifestyle. Therefore, it affected me to read the author’s descriptions and explanations of the solitude that many women settlers in the mid west faced as they often endured a life of loneliness and isolation in the years before automobiles, radio, television, email, and the internet.

Rating

Why didn’t I give this ambitious and well written work 5 stars? First, I feel that it was a bit too long and too much time was spent on Rose. Also, the author became distracted by providing too many facts about too many historical events….in other words, it was overly comprehensive for me. Bottom line, readers need to know that this is an exhaustive biography and contains a great deal of American history.

I would recommend reading a print or electronic version as the audible version’s narrator is not optimal.  I have a great deal of difficulty with audio books in general and I really struggled with this read. My husband who listens exclusively to audio books gave it a listen and assured me that it would’ve been easier with a better narrator.

My Rating: 4 stars with a tip of the hat to the amount of historical research the author did in compiling this comprehensive look at the life of Wilder.

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Recommended for readers who love history, who love Laura Ingalls Wilder, and who might be looking for a nonfiction historical read.

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Caroline Fraser

Caroline FraserCaroline Fraser is the author of Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution (Metropolitan, 2009) and God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church (Metropolitan, 1999), which was selected as a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Review of Books, and Outside magazine, among others. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

 



Flight Pick

If you’d like to read more about the Dust Bowl, consider Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. It’s a beautifully written fictional account of a Oklahoma girl’s experience in the Dust Bowl. See my brief review here.

Out of the Dust



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



Looking Ahead:

I’m reading Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman for next week’s review.
(…that title and cover though! ….Are you a bit curious?!)

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?


The BUZZ

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters NEXT WEEK on March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



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!

If you’ve read Prairie Fires, what was the most surprising fact you learned?

Were you a Little House on the Prairie reader or TV fan?

Please tell me about your early reading experiences. What were your favorite childhood reads? My favorites include Nancy Drew, Heidi, The Bobbsey Twins, Penny Nichols and the Black Imp, The Triplets Take Over, etc. My first big book and book hangover was Gone With the Wind. I still have my copy of The Bobbsey Twins!

Bobbsey Twins

 

What are you reading this week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February’s Most Compelling Character

February 23, 2018

February's Most Compelling Character

Meet two sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright

As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner

As Bright as HeavenGenre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Spanish Flu reaches America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Spanish Flu and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars

February’s Most Compelling Characters: Evie and Maggie Bright

For me, historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances.

Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters in this story and become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions would promote some great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.

Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.

Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is whole heartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, and for those who are looking for a value centered, clean read. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. There is some beautiful language sprinkled throughout, but I would not categorize it as literary fiction.  Its memorable characters  and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read.

My Rating: 4 Stars.

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As Bright as Heaven

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Susan MeissnerI cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I’ve a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner



Link Up: February’s Most Memorable Character

Please leave a comment or link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your February reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up… I am inexperienced with link ups!)




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



Extra

Out of the DustA runner-up for most memorable character in February is fourteen year old Billie Jo from Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. A 1998 Newbery Award winner, this story of dust, poverty, tragedy, and despair is one of the saddest I’ve ever read. I think its free verse format brings some beauty to the story. Set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and dust storm years, Billie Jo endures significant tragedy, loss, and despair. In the end, her fighting spirit, her hope in the future, and her ability to forgive are truly memorable.  This would be an excellent story to accompany a history lesson of the time period for mature middle school students and is a thoughtful and unforgettable adult read.

 



Looking Ahead:

I’m hoping to finish and review Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?


The BUZZ

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters on March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



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!

Have you read other historical selections about the Spanish Flu?
(I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.)

Please tell me about the most memorable character from your February reading!

What are you reading this week?

January’s Compelling Character Link Up

January 26, 2018

January Compelling Character

Link up with me today and share a post about your favorite character from your January reading! I’m hoping there will be enough interest to make this a regular last Friday of the month feature and link up opportunity. If you do not have a blog, please share your favorite character from your January reading in the comment section!

Meet Kavita


Secret Daughter

by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter 2

Genre/categories: adoption, cultural heritage, family life, mothers/daughters, Asian American

Meet Kavita, a young, poor mother in India traveling on foot to an orphanage in Mumbai and making a heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. Her husband, who is hoping for a son, killed the first-born daughter, and Kavita is determined to save her second daughter’s life. She makes a difficult decision and risks everything to give the only gift she can give her daughter, a chance to live.

This is a compelling story of adoption from three perspectives: Kavita, the mother who gives up her newborn daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai in hopes of saving her daughter’s life; Somer, a heartbroken, newly married physician in San Francisco who, upon hearing the news she cannot have children, decides to adopt; and Asha, Somer’s adopted daughter from Mumbai, India.

Kavita

Although there is an abundance of strong women in this story, I couldn’t stop thinking about Kavita and the hardships she faced and the bravery and determination needed to put the daring plan of saving her newborn daughter into action. She risked her life, and then was faced with living with that decision for the rest of her life, wondering if she had done the right thing. What would any of us have done in similar circumstances? Giving up her infant daughter was only one of the hardships Kavita faced in her life as she struggled to care for her family and trust her husband with their future.

Grandmother

Honorable mention for incredible and admirable women in this story goes to Asha’s gracious grandmother from India who worked tirelessly to welcome and embrace Asha, to unite the family, and to help Asha appreciate and understand her birth culture. She reminded me of the important and endearing role that grandparents can play in a family.

This engaging and heartfelt story is similar in themes to Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and highly recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational stories of strong women, for readers whose lives have been touched by adoption and would benefit from exploring it from different perspectives, for readers who appreciate how reading about a different culture can add to our understanding of the world and build compassion for the hardships that women around the world might face, and for those who are looking for a compelling page turner. This would make an excellent book club selection for its various discussion possibilities.

Amazon Rating (January): 4.5 Stars

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Buy Here

Meet the Author, Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Shilpi GowdaShilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, SECRET DAUGHTER. Shilpi holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She has served on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She lives in California with her husband and children.

SECRET DAUGHTER, Shilpi’s debut novel published in 2010, has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide in over 30 countries and languages. It was a New York Times bestseller, #1 International bestseller, and the screen rights have been optioned.

THE GOLDEN SON, her second novel, is a Target Book Club Pick and #1 International bestseller, being published around the world in 2016-17. The screen rights have been optioned to Conquering Lion Pictures.

http://www.shilpigowda.com



Link Up

Link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your January reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up…it’s the first one I’ve attempted)



 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



Update:

I indicated last week that I’d be reading Library at the Edge of the World (from my 2018 TBR list). I decided not to highlight it this week because I was a bit underwhelmed with the reading experience. I’ll provide a brief review here.

Library at the Edge of the World

Readers who love a character driven story with a lovely sense of place, will likely enjoy this read. I prefer a bit more plot with my reading and I found myself becoming bored and impatient by 60% with minimal plot development. I stuck with it because the writer is talented and the characters are well developed and interesting. By the end of the book, the plot picked up a bit and I was glad I stayed with it. This might be a good read if you’re looking for a gentle read for a time when you want minimal stress in your reading material….I also think readers from Ireland or those who have spent time in Ireland might enjoy this read. I do appreciate the strong themes of a community coming together for a purpose and of a woman rebuilding her life after a divorce and finding her voice. If you read and enjoy this story, there are two more books in the series. Amazon Rating (January): 4.0 

My Rating: 3 Stars.

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In the spirit of fairness, please consider these reviews from two bloggers whom I greatly respect that enjoyed the book a great deal more than me. Check out their reviews before making your reading choice.
The Loud Library Lady’s review of Library at the Edge of the World
Top Shelf Text’s review of Library at the Edge of the World

Amazon Information Here



Looking Ahead:

My library hold (since November) has finally come in, and I’ll be dropping everything this week to buddy read (with my husband) the nonfiction selection:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Amazon information here

I’m also reading an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety.

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

What are you reading this week?



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!

What are your reactions to hearing about a woman who plans to give up her newborn daughter to save her life?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature different cultures and address difficult topics such as adoption?

What are you reading this week?

If you haven’t joined the link up, I’d love to hear in a comment about the most compelling character from your January reading.

Left Neglected

What is your reaction to the thought: “accommodations equal failure”?

January 19, 2018

Left Neglected
by Lisa Genova

left neglected 2

Genre/categories: fiction, women’s fiction, traumatic brain injury, family life

Summary:

In this compelling story, thirty something Sarah is a career driven, over achieving, competitive type A, and perfectionist mom of three. She and her husband live near Boston and manage a frantic and fast paced life as they each pursue careers and tend to the family’s schedule for soccer practice, piano lessons, parent/teacher conferences, and day care. As they are striving to have it all, a car crash leaves Sarah with a traumatic brain injury called “left neglect.” As the story unfolds, readers journey alongside Sarah as she fights to regain her independence and seeks to answer questions about an uncertain future. While Sarah experiences relinquishing all the control she thought she had to her once absent mother and her physical therapists, she begins to envision a life apart from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets and wonders if a happiness and peace greater than the success she has known is within her grasp.

Amazon Rating (January): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Readers may recognize Lisa Genova as the author of the best-selling book Still Alice or may have seen the movie based on the book. Genova’s degrees are in biopsychology and neuroscience and her fiction work is focused on writing characters who live with neurological diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s, autism, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and traumatic brain injury.

In addition to an unforgettable lesson in NO TEXTING OR PHONE WHILE DRIVING, readers will find an inspiring story of courage and determination in the face of a tragic and devastating traumatic brain injury.

Sarah is left with the disability of “left neglect” which means that she’s unaware of anything on her left. She even has difficulty finding her left hand (In a humorous and light-hearted moment she hints to her husband that a big brilliant diamond for her left hand might better help her to notice and find her hand!).

“The first step in my recovery is to become aware of my unawareness, to constantly and repeatedly remind myself that my brain thinks it’s paying attention to all of everything but in fact, it’s only paying attention to the right half of everything and nothing on the left.”      ~Sarah

As Sarah is able to come home, she begins to reflect about the way she and her husband had been living which up until now had meant not even taking advantage of paid vacations so that they could work more to get ahead. In a conversation with her husband, Sarah thinks:

“Pre-accident me nods, understanding the life-and-death stakes [of his job] completely. He’s doing exactly what I would’ve done. But I’m worried more about him than his job right now and can see what pre-accident me is blind to–that he and his job are, in fact, two separate things.”     ~Sarah

Given the high achieving and perfectionist competitor that Sarah’s always been in life, part of her struggle in therapy is the temptation to equate accommodations with failure. This tension is especially painful as she contemplates the dilemma of giving up skiing or skiing with accommodations.

handicap snowboarding

*photo from the NEHSA website

 

 

 

 

 

NEHSA. I appreciate information shared in the book about the New England Handicapped Sports Association (NEHSA) and the thoughts Sarah has about her experience as it relates to her disability and her therapy.

Themes: If you’ve been reading my reviews you know that the presence of substantial themes is a huge component in my final rating of a book. Important themes in this book include reconciliation, determination, courage, humor, forgiveness, finding peace, and building your best life with a visible or an invisible disability. In addition to interpreting the title on a  literal level (the disability), I began to think of the title in terms of all that had been neglected in Sarah’s life as she chases her vision of success. Perhaps there is  happiness and peace that is greater than the success one can find in competitive cooperate America.

4 or 5 stars? While I like that the author drops readers right into the action of Sarah’s busy life and readers are engaged from the beginning, I think the conclusion could have been more fully developed so that readers could experience it unfolding instead of writing it like a summary.  Perhaps the inciting incident could have been moved ahead in the story (readers understand right away how crazy her life is and some of these details were a bit tedious and could have been edited out) and more time could have been allotted to developing the conclusion. This is a minor concern and falls into the category of personal preference. The overall experience of reading the book is a solid 4 for me, and I appreciate the positive, hopeful, and uplifting closure that the author brings to Sarah’s situation. In addition, I think that reading and understanding more about disabilities is a beneficial pursuit in my reading life.

Recommended? I highly recommend this book for readers who have become acquainted with this author through reading Still Alice, who might be challenged by a thoughtful journey into living with a disability, and who enjoy stories of resiliency, bravery, courage, hope, forgiveness, and determination.

My Rating: 4 Stars
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Left Neglected

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova

(from Amazon)
Lisa Genova
graduated from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. Acclaimed as the Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, she is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels STILL ALICE, LEFT NEGLECTED, LOVE ANTHONY, and INSIDE THE O’BRIENS.

Lisa’s writing focuses on people living with neurological diseases and disorders who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood, portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public. Through fiction, she is dedicated to describing with passion and accuracy the journeys of those affected by neurological diseases, thereby educating, demystifying, and inspiring support for care and scientific research. She has written about Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, autism, Huntington’s disease, and ALS.

STILL ALICE was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish. Julianne Moore won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alice Howland.

In 2015, Lisa was named one of the U.S. Top 50 Influencers in Aging. She received The Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square in recognition of “a contemporary storyteller whose work has had a significant impact on the public dialogue,” The Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award, The Global Genes RARE Champions of Hope Award, and The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Media Award for Informing the Public about Treatment and Ongoing Research in Medical Illness.

In 2016, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bates College, The Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Award, and The Huntington’s Disease Society of America Community Awareness Award.

Her 2017 TED talk, “What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s,” was seen by over 2.5 million viewers in its first few months.

Her fifth novel, EVERY NOTE PLAYED, is about ALS and will be published March 20, 2018.



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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



Extra:

A book that I’d recommend for our protagonist, Sarah, to read next in her journey is Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.

present over perfect



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (but it’s a slow read for me), so next week look for a review of Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (and possibly Library at the Edge of the World if I finish it).

(Amazon information in links above)

What are you reading this week?

 

 



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!

Have you read Still Alice or Left Neglected?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature disability topics?

What do you think about Sarah’s concern that “accommodations equal failure”?

Have you read any of Lisa Genova’s other titles?

What are you reading this week?

This Must Be the Place

January 12, 2018

Complex, complicated, and multi layered…

This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must Be the Place 2

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary:

This Must Be the Place is a story of a collapsing and reawakening marriage.  Daniel, a young American professor, travels to Ireland on holiday and family business and to stabilize his life after a failed marriage and a difficult custody battle. By chance, he meets Claudette, a world-famous actress who dramatically left the public eye for a reclusive life in a rural Irish village. Daniel and Claudette fall in love and create an idyllic life in the country and have two children of their own. A secret from Daniel’s past threatens to destroy their carefully constructed and quiet, happy life. As Daniel leaves to make peace with his past and himself, he also reunites with the American son and daughter he has not seen for several years. His story is told from his own voice and other multiple voices as he wrestles with the complexities of loyalty and devotion, family, and an extraordinary love. Amazon Rating (January): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

At first I was less than enthusiastic about the book and set it aside on multiple occasions. Although the writing was beautiful, the structure was complicated and jarring as the story jumped perspectives and time periods. If I wanted to continue with the book, I knew I had to focus and invest some hard reading work. Somewhere around 50%, the persistence paid off and I started enjoying my reading experience. After that switch in my attitude, I grew to admire this complex and multi layered literary fiction work.

If you’re looking for a challenging and complex read and appreciate literary fiction, you might consider this book. I think what I enjoyed the most was the fully developed character study of a complex and flawed human being who really is trying to get things right in his life. If you’re in the mood for something light and easy reading, you might want to skip this one.

As always in well-written literature, I appreciate the meaningful themes presented. In this read, you will find substantial themes that include family relationships, choices, love, regret, and courage to make changes. Daniel is certainly a flawed character; however, I appreciate his determination to do the hard work in his life of becoming sober to work toward regaining that which is most important to him.

I read this book as part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and this is how she applied one concept in the book to her personal life.

My rating: 4 stars (based on my analysis after the half way point)
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This Must be the Place

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie OFarrell

MAGGIE O’FARRELL is the author of four previous novels, including the acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which was a B&N Recommends Pick, and After You’d Gone. Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, O’Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland. She has two children.

 

 

 



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



Extras: Links I Love

Are you interested in Christian Fiction? Check out The Caffeinated Bibliophile: If You Loved This, Read This book recommendations.

Are you an educator or work in an environment that promotes children’s literacy? Check out The Loud Library: Best Faculty Meeting Ever post. She is a literacy leader and I know you’ll be inspired!

For all things children’s books, check out Miss MaGee’s Reads: A Literacy Blog. She’s a third grade teacher who provides reviews for all the newest and greatest in children’s literature.



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading Left Neglected (an inspiring story of a woman living with a traumatic brain injury) by Lisa Genova (author of Still Alice). 

Left Neglected

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?



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!

What are you reading this week?

Ginny Moon

November 3, 2017

Do you appreciate reading stories from a differing abilities perspective? Do you know someone with Autism or would you like to experience what that would be like? Are you a professional whose work involves persons on the Autism spectrum? If you wonder what life looks like from the perspective of Autism, please continue reading and be encouraged to add Ginny Moon to your TBR.

Ginny Moon
by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny Moon

Genre/categories: Contemporary Fiction, coming of age, autism, family life, adoption, differing abilities

Summary:

Ginny is fourteen, adopted, autistic, and is committed to saving her “baby doll.” In her fourth home since having been removed from her biological mom’s care, she has now been adopted by her “forever mom” and “forever dad.” For years, Ginny has been troubled about something that happened the night she was taken away from her biological mom and cannot think about anything else until she makes it right. Her “forever” parents and her counselor don’t seem to understand the extent of Ginny’s commitment to her past, so Ginny is left with no choice but to attempt an escape.  Amazon Rating (November): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

As you discover the cause of Ginny’s preoccupation and consuming worry, you will love Ginny and your heart with break for her as she sacrifices everything and risks it all to make it right.

The author speaks from an authentic voice because he also adopted an autistic child. Ludwig does a phenomenal job of unlocking Ginny’s inner world for the reader. Ginny loves Michael Jackson, eats nine grapes for breakfast, needs lists and rules, always notes the time, takes things literally, and is “special” in more ways than her autism….she’s a “smart cookie,” determined, compassionate, an innovative problem solver, loyal, a survivor, and brave.

Frustrating parts of the story for me were the adults who could have dealt more effectively with the abuse and trauma that Ginny had experienced in her first home, and they could have focused more on communication and understanding the desperation behind Ginny’s actions. It saddened me that Ginny had to act in extreme ways to deal with her anxiety and worry, and I wish she had received more support.

Overall, this is an important and meaningful read. Readers will fall in love with Ginny and be touched by her deep desire to belong (can’t we all relate?!), her struggle being stuck on the “wrong side of forever,” and her desperation to get back to make things right.

If you work with or know of children with autism, you appreciate that each one has different needs and that there’s a great deal to learn about working with communication challenges and rigid and literal thinking. As a teacher, I’ve had some experience with students on the autism spectrum and Ginny reminds me so much of a former student. I kept visualizing my student through Ginny’s actions, expressions, and thinking. They were eerily similar and I immediately cared a great deal for Ginny.

For me, a small weakness in the writing was (in Ginny’s words) the “tedious” use of certain words/phrases such as “forever mom,” “forever dad,” “forever home,” and “baby doll.” I realize this was an author’s  technique to demonstrate a certain exactness and rigidity in Ginny’s thinking; however, because I enjoyed an audio version of the book the repetition of words was a bit bothersome. If I were reading, I probably would’ve skimmed more over these words.

Recommended for all readers who appreciate reading books from different perspectives, who care deeply about autism, and who root for characters with lots of heart.

My rating 3.5 stars (founded up to 4 stars on Goodreads).

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Ginny Moon

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Benjamin Ludwig

Benjamin LudwigA life-long teacher of English and writing, Benjamin Ludwig lives in New Hampshire with his family. He holds an MAT in English Education and an MFA in Writing. Shortly after he and his wife married they became foster parents and adopted a teenager with autism. Ginny Moon is his first novel. His website is available at http://www.benjaminludwig.com, and he tweets @biludwig.

 


Happy Reading Bookworms!

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

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

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


Extra:

I promised last week that I would read and review Young Jane Young. I read it but decided to lead the post with Ginny Moon because I rated it higher and for me it was a more meaningful read.

Young Jane Young
By Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young

Genre/categories: contemporary women’s fiction, feminism, politics

Summary:

Monica Lewinsky reimagined.

Still with me? This story is about a woman who is reinventing her life after interning for a congressman as a college girl and gets into a Monica Lewinsky type scandal. The story is told from five distinct female voices: younger Jane (Aviva), older Jane, Jane’s mother, Jane’s daughter, and the congressman’s wife.

Amazon Rating (November): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

Even though contemporary fiction with a feminist focus is not my go to genre, I was enticed to give this a try because (1) Zevin is the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, a favorite read; and (2) it was selected by the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club as the October read, and I trust their recommendations.

Strengths:

The five voices through which this story is told are certainly distinctive. Sometimes my experience with multiple voices/perspectives is that they all sound like the author. In Young Jane Young, the voices are refreshingly different. Also of note is that the voices do not move the story forward, rather they retell the story from their unique perspective. It’s interesting that two of the voices are her younger and older self.

I’m always looking for important themes in books. One important theme in the book is the importance of one’s good name. We hear from younger Jane’s mom, and I’m sure you’ve heard this wise advice from your own parents, too, that your good name is all you have.

“In this life and the next one, all you have is your good name.”
~Rachel Shapiro

Your good name has always been important but even more so in current times because your online history lives on forever.

Another theme that would lead to good discussion involves the double standard. In young Jane’s experience, she has a relationship with an older married congressman. She gets shamed and is forced to rebuild her life, while the man apologizes, is forgiven, and continues with his career and recovers his public image.

In addition to a couple of relevant themes, another important strength of the story for me is that it ends on a redemptive and hopeful note as Jane is found rebuilding her life, gaining confidence, and finding her voice.

Weaknesses:

I will always give you my honest opinion, so I do need to address some weaknesses (which affect my rating). First, I felt like some of the writing choices were gimmicky. For example, the young Jane chapter is told in a choose-your-own-adventure format and second person point of view. Choose-your-own-adventure books are popular in elementary school (you or your children most likely have read a few). In a way, it’s a clever connection and metaphor for those times in life when we reflect on our previous choices and wonder what would’ve happened if we’d made a different choice; however, to have the entire structure of the chapter shaped around this concept seemed gimmicky. In addition, I thought the second person POV was difficult to read for an extended amount of text in that it was a jarring departure from more traditional first or third used in the rest of the book. You know what I mean?! An additional weakness for me also involved structure in that we find the daughter’s entire chapter written in email format as she communicates with a new pen pal from Afghanistan. This was not only distracting because it added en entirely new cultural context and character to the story, but it also seemed like an impersonal glimpse into serious events that were happening, as we hear only the daughter’s side of the conversation in a second hand way. Continuing with a couple more weaknesses, it seemed to me that at times the author was checking off her list of political agenda items to address, and most of these issues are not a match with my issues. Furthermore, I would have appreciated an epilogue. Specifically, I felt more resolution needed to happen for the daughter. Finally, I was disturbed by the lack of good men in this story. With the exception of young Jane’s intern friend, the men were not upstanding role models. I didn’t appreciate the portrayal of generally badly behaved men. The above concerns affected by rating and ability to recommend this book. My Rating: 2,5 Stars (Rounded up to 3 Stars on Goodreads)

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Young Jane Young

Buy Here

Many readers give this book high ratings, so I encourage you to read more reviews before deciding whether or not to read the book. Readers who are looking for a light and engaging vacation/beach/plane read focusing on feminism and politics might enjoy this. For a really exciting vacation read, I might suggest an alternative Castle of Water (reviewed here).

Meet the Author, Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle ZevinGabrielle Zevin has published six adult and young adult novels, including Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, which has been translated in over twenty languages. She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart), for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Los Angeles.

 


Looking Ahead!

I’m sorry….I haven’t yet made a final decision about what I’m reading and reviewing for this next week. Sometimes it depends on what’s available at the library! However, The Other Alcott is high on my TBR list! What are you reading or thinking of reading?

The Other Alcott

 

 

 

More Information Here.

 

 


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!

Have you read Ginny Moon or Young Jane Young? Is either one on your TBR?  How do you feel about reading a book from a differing abilities perspective? I’m curious what you think about the portrayal of Ginny if you have an autistic child. What are you reading this week? What book are you most looking forward to reading this fall? I’d love to hear from you!


***Linking up today with Puppies & Pretties/Reading Lately.