Left Neglected

Put your phone away while driving….

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 they had been living which up until now had meant not even taking advantages 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.



Dont-Text-and-Drive-21



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?

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Last Christmas in Paris

January 5, 2017

War changes everything….

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of WW 1
by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Last Christmas in Paris 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction (WW 1), epistolary, war, romantic

*Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit January 

Summary:

At the beginning of WW 1 as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas, leave for the front, she (and nearly everyone) naively believes the war will be over by Christmas. To keep their spirits up, the three make plans for celebrating Christmas in Paris. The Great War, as we know from history, turned out much differently. While Thomas and Will struggle with the horrific realities of war, Evie does her part by writing to each of them. Through letters, Evie and Thomas grow fond of each other and find it easy to share their deepest hopes and fears through letters. Evie is a high-spirited, determined, and independent young woman who wants to more fully participate in the war effort. Through her interests in writing, she writes columns for a newspaper on the topic of war from a woman’s point of view. These columns become more controversial as she finds it difficult to write anything but the truth. Eventually, she travels to France to be closer to the front as she wants to contribute to the war effort in a more significant way. Will Evie and Thomas and their love survive the war? Will they ever make it to Paris to celebrate Christmas?
Amazon Rating (January):  4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

The title is a bit misleading as the story doesn’t take place at Christmas….Christmas in Paris is mostly a symbol for hope and happier times. In addition, I think it symbolizes the tremendous loss of innocence and lost years.

Despite the heavy subject matter of WW 1, The Last Christmas in Paris is a mostly light, easy,  endearing, and romantic read. I loved it and there is a high likelihood it will end up on my favorites of 2018 list at year’s end. It reminded me a great deal of my other favorites Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. If you’ve read either one and loved it, then The Last Christmas in Paris must be added to your TBR immediately!

Themes play an important part in my enjoyment of literature. In Last Christmas in Paris there were several themes to ponder including themes of hope, tragedy, humor, friendship, and love. First, we must recognize and honor the service of the heroic young men who served in WW 1.  Through the bravery, endurance, loyalty, and determination of Lieutenant Thomas Harding, readers can imagine the sacrifice and horrors of war.  My mom said that this story reminded her of what her dad (my grandfather) told her about WW1 (he received a Purple Heart). Next, we can be inspired by independent, determined, and free-spirited Evie, an aspiring writer, and her chagrin at having been left behind. Evie represents the role of many women in WW1.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me:
I am a free human being with an independent will.” 
“One must always have an adventure in life, or the promise of it, at least.”       ~Evie

In addition to some great insights into WW1, the story includes a bit of romance as the letter writing process unfolds. Through reading their letters, I can imagine thousands of similar relationships that bloomed over the years of the Great War.

“I will reserve my shoulder for the curve of your cheek anytime. I hope I am lucky enough to feel it again.”
“Letters make one uncommonly honest, don’t you think? I’ve told you things in words that I would have been far too shy or distracted to tell you in person.”

I was also struck by the angst, tediousness, and patience of communicating solely by snail mail! From our modern perspective of instant communication, it’s amazing to be transported back to the realities of life in the early 1900s when beautiful letter writing on elegant stationery defined the times.

I loved the gentleness of this book, and I felt as close to the characters as if I had stumbled upon the letters of my great grandparents in their attic. Trust me, you need this book in your life!

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, epistolary format, and are looking for an easy, enjoyable, engaging, charming, clean, and uplifting read. Also recommended for book clubs for its interesting themes. In fact, as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day approaches, this would make a thoughtful gift for your wife, mom or grandmother. You’re welcome.

My Rating: 5 romantic Paris Stars twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

last christmas in paris

Buy Here

Meet the Authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Hazel GaynorHazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

In 2017, Hazel will release two historical novels: THE COTTINGLEY SECRET (August, William Morrow/HarperCollins) and LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (October, William Morrow/HarperCollins).

Hazel was selected by the US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent selection in spring 2015. Her work has been translated into several languages and she is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative Management, New York.

For more information, visit http://www.hazelgaynor.com

Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the international bestselling author of historical fiction, including Becoming Josephine, Rodin’s Lover, and Last Christmas in Paris, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. Rodin’s Lover was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. To date, Heather’s novels have sold in multiple countries worldwide. She is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America.



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



Looking Ahead:

Next week I’ll review This Must be the Place
by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must be the Place

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 your favorite WW1 or WW2 historical fiction reads?

2017’s Most Memorable, Inspiring, & Unforgettable Characters

December 28, 2017

Who are the memorable, inspiring, and unforgettable characters that you still think about days, weeks, months, or years later?

Most Memorable Characters 2017

For me, one joy of reading is experiencing life through someone else’s perspective and at the same time building compassion and understanding. Similar to choosing favorite books, choosing favorite characters from the year’s reading is a daunting task! My initial list was very long, and I’ve condensed it to the most memorable of the memorable characters from my 2017 reading (in no particular order).

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor OliphantI still think of brave, traumatized, quirky, and lonely Eleanor (and wait patiently for a sequel).

Her bravery is a beacon of hope for others. In the midst of deep personal pain, she carves out a life for herself and dares to hope for more. When confronted with the scariest prospects of all…friendship and love… she faces the fear with her same trademark courage.

In time, I think she really will be fine.

Brief Review and Amazon Information Found in This Post.



August Pullman

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

WonderAlso exemplifying the character trait of bravery is Auggie Pullman. Unlike Eleanor’s hidden internal pain, Auggie battles the discomfort of public appearances because of his facial abnormality.

Auggie’s bravery enables all children (and adults) who look different from others to face their physical challenges and live full, meaningful, and productive lives. Furthermore, his bravery teaches all of us to be accepting and KIND.

Full Review and Amazon Information Here.



Chief Inspector Armand Gamache

Glass Houses by Louise Penny
(#13 in the popular Three Pines Inspector Gamache series)

Glass HousesWhen I think of Inspector Gamache in this character driven series, I think of integrity and compassion. I’m continually impressed that in his difficult career, assignments, and pressures, he treats others with respect.

Interestingly, in a Louise Penny interview, she indicates that when she created the character of Gamache, she created a man whom she could have married. The rationale for this being she would spend years with him as a main character in the series and she wanted to create someone she would like and not tire of.  This is likely part of the cause of the series’ success is the memorable, kind, honest, thoughtful, trustworthy character of Armand Gamache.

Throughout the series, readers appreciate the exemplary character traits of a tough-minded policeman and gentleman.

Full Review and Amazon Information Here.



Emma

The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Baker's SecretThe bravery, courage, and resiliency of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the most difficult, challenging circumstances always inspires readers like myself. A likable 22-year-old heroine, Emma stealthily and quietly fights back against the Germans who’ve invaded her small Normandy village during WW 11, and she courageously provides the villagers with a bit of sustenance and a taste of hope.

Amazon Information Here.

 



Count Alexander Rostov

Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in MoscowA true gentleman, the Count is sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life in a Moscow hotel in Russia for a crime he allegedly committed against the government. Through the elegant and exquisite telling of this story, we see an example of living with grace, purpose, meaning, and a bit of wit when life hands you lemons. When life doesn’t go according to plan, how then will you live?

Amazon Information Here.

 



Rahima and Shekiba

The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Pearl That Broke its ShellTwo Afghan women (a century apart) fight for similar women’s rights as they battle powerlessness and customs that suppress women, and fight for some freedom to control their own fates. Their stories remind me of the importance of supporting women (such as Malala in her fight for education) around the world as they fight for basic human rights.

Brief Review Found in This Post and Amazon Information Here.

 



Noa and Astrid

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Orphan's TaleNoa and Astrid are two extraordinary women in a traveling circus whose friendship drives this harrowing tale of sacrifice and survival during WW 11.

I’ll always remember them and their courage that symbolizes women throughout history who have made similar decisions and risked their lives for others.

Brief Review Found in This Post and Amazon Information Here.



(teenage memorable, inspirational, and unforgettable characters)

Lina and Joana

Between Shades of Gray (Lina) and Salt to the Sea (Joana) (by Ruta Sepetys

In these WW 11 stories that will break your heart, two teenagers face a fight for survival and are placed in positions that are difficult and/or impossible for adults to handle. Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea are both YA (high school and older) reads that are compelling for adults.

I admire the resiliency, strength, bravery, courage, and determination of these characters as they fight for survival. Stories like these always cause me to ponder what I would do in similar circumstances and to admire the human spirit.

Between Shades of Gray Amazon Information Here.

Salt to the Sea Brief Review in This Post and Amazon Information Here.



Eve

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Alice NetworkIn this page turner, Eve Gardiner joins the fight against the Germans in WW 1 when she unexpectedly is recruited to become a spy and work in the Alice Network.

Her sheer courage is breathtaking and her sacrifice is memorable.

I also enjoyed learning about the female spy system.

Full Review and Amazon Information Here.

 

 



(12-year-old memorable characters)

Rill Foss, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud

Before We Were Yours (Rill) by Lisa Wingate and Refugee (Josef, Isabel, Mahmoud) by Alan Gratz

Several children became memorable and unforgettable characters for me this year. They each are inspirational in their fights for survival and safety and how often they are required to make adult decisions and take on adult responsibilities. Before We Were Yours is adult fiction and Refugee is Middle Grade fiction  (compelling as an adult read).

Before We Were Yours Full Review and Amazon Information Here.

Refugee Full Review and Amazon Information Here.



Honorable Mention:

There were so many memorable characters throughout 2017 that I can’t resist mentioning others (I’ve included links to my reviews and Amazon information):

Ginny in Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Starr in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Ladies of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Li-yan in The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Nurse Ruth in Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult



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



Looking Ahead:

Because of Christmas activities and a touch of the flu, I have not yet read the book I committed to last week: Woman in Cabin 10 (which is a MUST read for me this week to meet the deadline for my IRL book club). In addition, I really, really want to review a special book that I did read while I was recovering from the flu (I needed an easy reading book), and I can’t wait to tell you about it next week! 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!

Who were your memorable, unforgettable, and inspirational characters of 2017?

Wonder

October 27, 2017

You were probably an ordinary kid. Did you ever experience a terrifying first day in a new school?

Consider Auggie. He feels ordinary inside but no one else sees him as ordinary. As he expresses: kids don’t scream and run away if you’re ordinary….they don’t stare.

This is the advice 10-year-old August Pullman receives from his parents on the first day of school:

“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”

Because the movie Wonder releases in theaters on November 17, 2017, it seems timely to provide a review of the book.

Movie Trailer here.

Wonder
by R. J. Palacio

Wonder

Genre/categories: Middle grade through adult contemporary fiction,  growing up, difficult discussions, family life, friendship, character traits

Summary:

On the inside, ten-year-old August Pullman feels very ordinary. But as he says, ordinary kids don’t make other kids run away screaming and they don’t get stared at wherever they go. Auggie was born with a rare genetic abnormality that affected the formation of his face. Because of extensive surgeries and an attempt to protect him from cruelties of the outside world, Auggie’s parents have home schooled him. The reader meets 5th grade Auggie as he’s being enrolled in a traditional school for the first time. Will he be accepted? Will he find friends? Will he find a hostile or friendly environment? How will adults in his life support him? The story is told from six perspectives (August, Via–his older sister, Summer–a friendly caring peer, Jack–a student leader who struggles in his role as friend, Miranda–his sister’s best friend and a close family friend, and Justin–Miranda’s boyfriend) plus a bonus chapter from Julian’s point of view (Auggie’s nemesis).  Amazon Rating: (an amazing) 4.9 Stars

My Thoughts:

If you plan to see the movie, don’t miss out on reading the book first!  It’s an easy, engaging, thoughtful, inspirational, and meaningful read with valuable discussion possibilities for the entire family.

As we venture to school with Auggie, we feel his daily apprehension and celebrate his courage and determination. Even though he thinks of himself on the inside as an ordinary kid, we know he doesn’t look ordinary and his severe facial abnormality could cause him to be the object of unkind actions by his peers and to experience bullying.

Throughout the story, the narrative changes perspectives with each chapter. This helps us get a 360 degree understanding of Auggie’s world and also allows us to see the nice circle of people who care for him and support him. In addition, it allows the reader to understand that everyone battles something. Because this is written for a children’s audience, it does have a happy ending where ‘good” people are rewarded and the “bad” get their punishment. I like that there is an epilogue (extra chapter) in the current version of the book that follows Auggie’s nemesis Julian and we see how Julian changes and grows in empathy and compassion

The story takes a dramatic turn when Auggie overhears his friend Jack’s derogatory remarks about him; he is discouraged and devastated, and everything changes as he has to fight to rebuild what he’s lost. Through these authentic middle grade voices, we learn about true friendship, risk, and the importance of kindness.

I especially admire Auggies’s English teacher who each month presents the idea of precepts to live by and encourages students to write their own…an example of a precept he presents is “When given the choice between being right or kind, choose kind.” In an attempt to establish the habit of writing precepts as a lifelong practice, he encourages students to email their precepts to him in the years after graduation. Auggie’s 5th grade  precept is “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation once in their lives because we all overcometh the world.”

The following is a sampling of the types of quotes you will find from the adults in the story:

“Kinder than necessary,” he repeated. “What a marvelous line, isn’t it? Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness. And what does that mean? How is that measured? You can’t use a yardstick. It’s like I was saying just before: it’s not like measuring how much you’ve grown in a year. It’s not exactly quantifiable, is it? How do we know we’ve been kind? What is being kind, anyway?”

“….If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary–the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

“It’s not just the nature of kindness, but the nature of one’s kindness. The power of one’s friendship. The test of one’s character. The strength of one’s courage–” 

Don’t miss out on this inspirational story filled with heart, heroes, and humor and which inspired the Kindness Movement. I expect that Wonder will become a beloved classic in upper grade classrooms and in family libraries. Highly recommended for every reader who believes in the power of teaching through a story and for every family who is in the process of building empathy, compassion, and kindness. I believe good literature can be enjoyed by all ages!

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

My rating: 4.5 stars (I tried to read this and rate it from a kid’s perspective. As an adult reader, however, I lowered the rating by half a star because it could have included more beautiful writing and some adults seem stereotypical and could have been more fully developed.)

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Buy Here.

There is an additional book, Auggie & Me. It’s not a sequel, rather a companion read and an extension of Auggie’s world with three additional points of view.

Auggie & Me

More Information about Auggie & Me Here.

The Kindness Movement and Sign the Pledge Here.

The author interviews kids about kindness here.

Movie Trailer here.

 

Meet the Author, R. J. Palacio

R. J. Palacio

R. J. Palacio was born and raised in New York City. She attended the High School of Art and Design and the Parsons School of Design, where she majored in illustration with the hopes of someday following in the footsteps of her favorite childhood author-illustrators, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Maurice Sendak, and the D’Aulaires. She was a graphic designer and art director for many years before writing Wonder. We’re All Wonders, which is based conceptually on the themes of her novel, represents the fulfillment of her dream to write and illustrate her own picture book. R.J. is also the author of Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories and 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is surrounded by magical water towers, with her husband, their two sons, and their two dogs, Bear and Beau. Learn more about her at rjpalacio.com or on Twitter at @RJPalacio.


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:

In my last post, I indicated that I would read and review If the Creek Don’t Rise. I did read it; however, I decided that Wonder would be the primary focus of my review this week so that I can encourage you to read it before the movie releases. Here’s my brief review of If the Creek Don’t Rise.

If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don’t Rise
by Leah Weiss

Genre/categories: Literary Fiction, historical fiction, small town, rural, Appalachia, hillbilly culture

Summary:

Young Sadie Blue lives in the North Carolina mountain town of Baines Creek and suffers abuse at the hands of her drunken husband, Roy Tupkin. When a new teacher comes to town, Sadie begins to think of finding her voice and of a life that doesn’t include Roy.

Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Harsh and hard realities of life in this remote Appalachian community make If the Creek Don’t Rise a gritty and sobering read. Young Sadie Blue is pregnant, abused, mistreated, and struggling to find her voice. Only a few chapters are from Sadie’s POV. The story is told from multiple viewpoints giving readers a good perspective of her life and the hillbilly community. Some characters offer hope and healing while others are despicable. Sadie does find her voice in a way that surprised me (but maybe it shouldn’t have given her situation and the hillbilly culture). As a teacher, I hoped to learn more about the new teacher’s contribution to the youth of the community….I’m always looking for hope and redemption in a story….but after the teacher’s strong introduction, she fades into the background of the story. This is also disappointing because she is important to Sadie. Overall, I enjoyed the read and the excellent writing; however, I hesitate to recommend it because I don’t think it’s a read that everyone would enjoy. It’s gritty and a bit dark but certainly an impressive debut novel. I would encourage you to read additional reviews.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Buy Here.


Looking Ahead:

My library hold of Young Jane Young finally came in so I think I’ll read and review that for next week. I’m a bit apprehensive because it borders on “chick lit” and that’s not my  usual genre. However, it’s a selected read for my online book club at Modern Mrs. Darcy and will be a good break from some heavier reads.

Young Jane Young

 

 

 

More Information Here.

 


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Let’s Discuss!

I’m curious if you’ve read Wonder! Do you have children that have read it? I’d love to hear your (or their) reflection. Do you plan to see the movie? How do you feel about teaching character traits such as empathy and kindness through literature? What are you reading this week?

 

Hillbilly Elegy

August 18, 2017

Do you love memoirs?

Hillbilly Elegy
by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

“I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact
that spiritual and material poverty has
on their children.”

Genre: memoir, nonfiction, biography, sociology, poverty

Summary:

This is an observant, powerful, and sincere memoir about growing up in a poor white working class family in a poor Rust Belt town in Ohio. A Yale Law School graduate and a former marine, J. D. Vance was originally from Kentucky’s Appalachia region. His grandparents who were “dirt poor and in love” moved the family to Ohio in the hopes of escaping devastating poverty. Throughout the memoir, we learn that despite a geographical move, the family was never able to entirely escape the hillbilly culture of alcoholism, poverty, abuse, and trauma. Even though J. D. Vance beat the odds and graduated from law school, he still struggles to come to terms with his chaotic family history. The memoir is filled with detailed, humorous, dramatic, and colorful examples of what his life was like. Amazon Rating (August): 4.4 Stars.

My Thoughts:

Book clubs and friends could discuss this book for hours. The following personal thoughts represent only a few of the many discussion topics this book offers.

Love

Primarily, it struck me that the impact of his grandparents’ love affected his life. All through school, he was a bright student; however, when his grades started falling in middle school he states that it wasn’t the teachers or the school that was at fault, rather it was the chaos at home (living with his mom)  and in his community that affected his school performance. After he went to live with his grandparents officially, this is what he writes: “What I remember most of all is that I was happy–I no longer feared the school bell at the end of the day, I knew where I’d be living the next month, and no one’s romantic decisions [mom’s rotation of boyfriends or husbands] affected my life. And out of that happiness came so many of the opportunities I’ve had for the past twelve years.” J. D.’s description of the stability his grandparents offered him caused me to reflect on the importance of the home in a child’s life and education. His grandparents were certainly less than perfect, in fact they had serious flaws which would make one question his placement in their home. However, J. D. Vance lied to the case workers so that he would be ensured of being placed in their home because he didn’t think he could make it in life without their love and the stability they offered. Children can endure a lot if they feel loved. This doesn’t make the neglect right but it does make a difference. This reminds me of the story of Jeanette Walls in The Glass Castle…even though she suffered extreme neglect, I think she felt that both parents loved her which most likely made a great difference in her ability to achieve success. Another similarity between the authors is that both Jeanette and J. D. had an older supportive and nurturing sibling which added to the love and stability in their lives.

Upward Mobility and the Family

Hillbilly Elegy offers an in-depth look at the struggles of America’s white working class. J. D. Vance describes one incident when he was in a primary grade (I think 2nd but I don’t have the book here to look it up) that helped the reader think about how important  family support is in upward mobility. He recounts sitting in class while the teacher was asking students to solve mental math problems. He felt great about his answer and was delighted when the teacher recognized his brilliant thinking. However, the next student to offer an answer explained how “times” could be used to reach the same answer. J. D. was shaken. How did this child know about “times” when he had never heard about “times.” He knew it couldn’t have been taught at school because he would’ve remembered and learned it. After some thought, he realized that the child who knew about “times” must have learned it somewhere other than at school and realized he must have learned it at home. He offers this profound reflection, “There existed a massive ignorance about how to achieve white-collar work. We didn’t know that all across the country–and even in our hometown–other kids had already started a competition to get ahead in life.” As a result of his classroom experience, J. D. went home and asked his mom and grandparents why he didn’t know about “times,” and grandpa spent the weekend teaching him “times” and division. His point in explaining that situation is that the competition starts at home with the support and “extras” that parents offer. He realized as early as 2nd grade that his poor community was already finding it difficult to compete in this area.

No Blame for Public Schools

J. D. Vance is clear that neither public schools nor public school teachers were to blame for his declining grades in middle and high school. He describes the situation as follows: “We didn’t live a peaceful life in a small nuclear family. We lived a chaotic life in big groups of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.” He describes again and again how this chaos affected his education, “The constant moving and fighting, the seemingly endless carousel of new people I had to meet, learn to love, and then forget–this, and not my sub par public school, was the real barrier to opportunity.” Officially moving in with his grandparents provided the stability he needed to succeed in school.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

J. D. Vance related throughout his stories the pessimism that permeated his community. Not only pessimism but blame. People he knew were always blaming someone else for their situation (the president, the government, taxes, etc.). When he came home from the military, one of his first observations was that he felt like an outsider, “For the first time in my life, I felt like an outsider in Middletown. And what turned me into an alien was my optimism.” He goes on to reflect that perhaps getting out of the community and entering the military and going away to college was the action he needed to take to achieve success, “It’s no surprise that every single person in my family who has built a successful home…married someone from outside our little culture.” The culture strongly defined by pessimism.

The Message From Home

Even though his chaotic childhood was filled with turmoil and trauma, J. D. Vance states, “Despite all the environmental pressures from my neighborhood and community, I received a different message at home [his grandparents’ home]. And that just might have saved me.”

Yay for grandparents!

Companion Reads

As I read Hillbilly Elegy I thought of two memoirs (among several) where the authors were able to rise above poverty and their communities: The Glass Castle and We Beat the Streets.  In The Glass Castle, we also see the hillbilly culture mentioned as Jeanette’s family moved in with her father’s mom in Appalachia. From this move, we see that the way her father treated his children could in part be due to an influence from the hillbilly culture. We Beat the Streets is a middle school read and I often referred my boys who were reading at grade level to this inspirational story about three kids who “beat the streets’ and became doctors. Theirs wasn’t a hillbilly culture but they were from a poor black community.  Information about The Three Doctors Foundation can be found here.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot more to talk about in Hillbilly Elegy! If you read it, I’m certain you’ll need to discuss it. In fact, at times your discussions might be heated because of different reactions to one person’s analysis of a culture in crisis. I love that the insights and ideas in this book can be applied to communities around the United States. The discussion is much broader than simple hillbilly culture.

Finally, this book gave me additional insight into the chaotic lives of students at my Title 1 school. It’s difficult to learn when children are preoccupied with what drama is going on at home and in the community.

Recommended for women and men (especially those working with poor communities) for its thoughtful themes, discussion possibilities, and its ability to build empathy and understanding for different cultures and communities. Rating 4 stars.

Hillbilly Elegy

Buy Here

Meet the Author, J. D. Vance

J. D. Vance.jpg

J. D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm. Vance lives in San Francisco with his wife and two dogs.

Happy Reading Everyone!

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

Looking Forward:

Next week, Reading Ladies will reflect on our reading roots…and in two weeks we’ll review Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate if you’d like to “buddy read.”  In three weeks I’ll review the long anticipated (at least by me!) Glass Houses, a new installment in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny (release date: 8/29 …. happy birthday to me!)

Before we Were Yours

Buy Here

Please Share:

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

Discussion:

Please share your reflections on Hillbilly Elegy in the comments section. Did any of the themes mentioned challenge you in your thinking? How does this book compare with other memoirs you’ve read with similar themes? In addition, I’d love to hear what you’re reading.

Guest Post

August 4, 2017

In the spirit of supporting women authors writing about strong women, the Reading Ladies Book Club focuses on a new release this week by author, Lori Benton. In addition, we have a guest reviewer who has graciously offered to write a guest post. Patti Iverson is a member of Lori Benton’s launch team and a cheerleader and supporter of her many friends’ endeavors.

Meet Guest Reviewer, Patti Iverson:

Patti Iverson

A lifelong cherished friend, Patti Iverson is a Christian wife and Gramma who lives in a forest resort in Sunriver, Oregon, An entertainer at heart (having performed as a clown and having entertained children as Mrs. Clause), she delights in reading, writing, thrift-stores, and ministering to women and whoever may show up on her doorstep! With a warm and outgoing personality and a caring heart, many of us have been the recipient of her gift of gracious hospitality. Thank you for guest posting today Patti!

Many Sparrows
By Lori Benton

Many Sparrows

Genre/categories: historical fiction, western, frontier, religious, inspirational

Patti Shares:

The highly anticipated new release from award-winning author, Lori Benton, is almost here! (release date 8/29) Pre order Many Sparrows today and get Burning Sky, her Christy Award winning debut, for free! Two books for the price of one!

Pre Order before 8/29 and get the official details about your free book HERE.

Summary:

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail. When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can recover her son…especially when her second child is moments away from being born. Clare will face the greatest fight of her life as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Patti Iverson Reflects:

Historical fiction is not my favorite genre, but I stayed up ‘til 2:30 a.m. to finish Lori’s book, Many Sparrows, as yes, it IS that good! She sure knows how to tell a story, keep one guessing about what’s going to happen, how CAN this possibly turn out well, or even for God’s glory? I hate war—never read it or watch it—but her descriptions were gripping. And both sides had the Almighty on their sides! I’m not into history—but golly gee it was interesting back in 1774—at least how she shared their lives. I think there could have been more romance—it was there, alright—but just not enough! I found myself caring about simply EVERYBODY—Indians and white people and those who were both! Lori Benton knows how to turn a phrase and make you want to read her words more than once. Try it—you’ll love it—and Lori Benton will become a favorite author for sure!

Read the first two chapters here!

 

Many Sparrows

Buy Here
or Pre Order HERE (before 8/29) to receive your free book!

About the Author, Lori Benton

Lori Benton

Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.

Lori’s debut novel, Burning Sky, earned the 2014 Christy Award for First Novel, Historical, and Book of the Year. More information about Lori Benton at http://loribenton.blogspot.com/

Happy Reading Everyone!

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

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Looking Forward:

Our regular weekend post will feature The Glass Castle (a memoir) by Jeannette Walls in anticipation of the movie release August 11th if you’d like to “buddy read.” I plan to see the movie Friday before I post the review.

Glass Castle

Buy Here

Please Share:

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

Great Price Tip:

If you haven’t yet read Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, it’s on sale for Kindle today (8/8) for $2.99 (check price before purchasing as Kindle prices can fluctuate daily.

Dreamland Burning

Talking Books:

Please share comments below. I’m curious if you’ve read The Glass Castle and if you have plans to see the movie.