Sunday, August 13, 2017

July Reads- is it really important?

Sometimes writing about what I've read this past month seems pretty silly in comparison to the big things occurring in this world.  I'm very troubled by a lot of the events that occur daily in our world.    The Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally has me just sick to my stomach.  People have died- innocent bystanders, pilots of Virginia State Patrol helicopter, and many injured.  The light in the darkness for me was the post on FB with the picture of white children reaching out a window to shake former President Obama's hand and with that picture Obama's quote from Nelson Mendela, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.  For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

So how is reading related to this mess of a world we have made.  Well reading for me is some of the best therapy around.  I think of it as an education on how to love by reading stories of love.  I think of it as an education to history I'm unaware of and ignorant of and therefore the books show me history, ugly truth, and sometimes how to resolve these issues.  Finally, reading is an escape.  It is a way to step away for a few minutes to an hour(s) to find some deep breathing, and rhythm of the reading that helps my anxiety, anger and sadness feel less so.  I found these quotes on reading and feel they are very in line with how I too feel when I read or what I think reading can accomplish. 

“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”
Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song

“I spent the rest of the day in someone else's story. The rare moments that I put the book down, my own pain returned in burning stabs.”
Amy Plum, Die for Me

“You're trying to escape from your difficulties, and there never is any escape from difficulties, never. They have to be faced and fought.”
Enid Blyton, Six Cousins At Mistletoe Farm   

Now some may say I'm selfish and escaping through a book is not how we deal with things, but sometimes escaping via reading gives me just enough time to blow off steam and reenter the world in a better frame of mind.  Maybe reading will give me some answers to problems I face or help those I love. Wouldn't it be an amazing feet to conquer some of our current state of affairs , which is depressing if you follow any major news station or media mogul, by opening a book and reading.  So today I'm cutting my commentary short on the books I read this past month, because I'm just sad, angry, scared and confused on what is happening in our country and throughout the world.  I'm hoping to sit down with a book this afternoon and take a break from the Charlottesville sadness, and other too numerous things wrong with this world.  I'll take some deep breaths, and start reading and hopefully I'll be able to do what the last quote above states "... and there never is any escape from difficulties, never. They have to be faced and fought".  I'll hope to be a better fighting woman after an afternoon of reading. 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Four out of 5 stars.  I found this a great story, but not my favorite of the series.  I thought it was too packed with multiple stories within the story and could've been easily made into two books.  I did love the end, even though it was sad.  I also struggled with at the end of book skipping forward 10 years- felt kind of disjointed for me.  What a great series though.  What would the reading world have done without this young man and his brilliant author?  Thanks Harry and J.K. Rowling!

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
4 out of 5 stars.  Listened to this on audio and the author read it which made this memoir even more powerful.  A book everyone should read/listen to.  Obesity, body image, rape, redemption, depression, are just a few of the topics covered in this book.  Made me look at my own thoughts on obesity in a different light.  Well written and despite the heavy topics covered read very quickly.

The Summer Before the War
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
4 out of 5 stars.  Another audiobook for the month.  Loved listening to it for the accent of the reader.  A book that starts in 1914 East Sussex, England.  Beatrice Nash is the main character and I really love her "gumption".  Great leading lady.  This book mainly occurs prior to WWI, but the lead up and brief discussion of events during the start of WWI again make me aware of how little of history I really know.  Great Read/Listen

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living
How to Be Here: A Guide To Creating a Life Worth Living by Rob Bell
5 out of 5 stars.  I previewed this book earlier- the last post on my blog before this one.  It was jam packed with so many great quotes/ideas/answers I had to share.  Look into this post if interested in seeing what I found so great about this read.

Since We Fell
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
3 out of 5 stars.  Rachel Childs, main character, is so interesting and I loved her character development.  There are a couple different stories within the main story which revolves around her husband and their marriage.  I can't say a lot or else I'll give too much away, but the reason I didn't rate this book higher was I was disappointed with the ending.  I wanted something different and based on the character development of Rachel throughout the book I thought something different should've happened.  I'm not sure that is a fair way to "star"/rate a book, but that is how I role.  I will be picking up Mystic River soon as I found Denns Lehane's writing style intriguing and read very well.  It has been on my "to read" list for quite awhile and when I picked this book up I had no idea he was the same author of Mystic River. 

   
Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession
Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell
3 out of 5 stars.  I was disappointed in this story.  I listened to this one on audio also this month.  Julie Powell read it so that was a plus, but the story was very "me, me, me" and I just got tired of it and frustrated and angry with what I was listening too.  Not giving anything away here.  She and her husband are having major marital problems, due to her infidelity and then he joins in on the infidelity game.  She decides she needs time away so she becomes an apprentice in a butcher shop and tries to figure out her life by cutting meat and then traveling abroad to learn further about meat and butcher profession.    Again probably not the best way to judge a book, but I just really didn't like Julie Powell much after listening to this book.  Her first book Julie and Julia I loved, so unfortunately I was going in with high expectations.  Note to self- no expectations is best in life- even in my reading life.

Homegoing
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
4 out of 5 stars.  This was our Book Club read for the month.  This book was recommended to me by another friend whose book club in Texas read it and found it very interesting.  I'm so glad she recommended this book.  It was filled with rich characters.  It was filled with historical fiction which again taught me more about slavery,African and African American oppression.  It is a story many should read.  It is unbelievable what people will face and how they will persevere.  The book spans generations of two half-sisters' and yet it, like many books/stories, circles back around.  Great author and writing!

So friends/bookies/strangers out there that might be reading this I wish you peace and rest in your reading. 


Saturday, July 15, 2017

"How To Be Here" by Rob Bell

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living
How to Be Here
by Rob Bell

I don't do this very often, but every once in awhile I read a book that really strikes me or impacts me and I can't wait for my monthly recap to share.  I was waiting to board a plane on Wednesday and due to some fun thunderstorms going through the Chicago area I was delayed for several hours.  So I pulled this book out of my bag and started reading. 

I had heard about this book on the "What to read next" podcast by Anne Bogel. It caught my interest because the reader was talking about feeling "burned out" at work and how this book really helped answer some questions about how to handle work/life issues. 

Overall I think this book is more "life coaching" than just one's profession/work. The following are some of the quotes that really spoke to me when reading this book. 

pg 9 What you do with your life is fundamentally creative work.  The kind of life you lead, what you do with your time, how you spend your energies- it's all part of how you create your life.

pg 50 The more you do the work, the more you build muscle for that particular work.

pg 51 Everybody starts with a blank page, then everybody starts from the same place.

Such a good reminder.  We all start from the same place.  Blank page- it's up to us to create our masterpiece on it.

Part 3 of the book is title "The Japanese have a word for it".... that word is "ikigai". 
pg 56 Ikigai- sense you have when you wake up that this day matters, that there are new experiences to be had, that you have work to do, a contribution to make.

Lovely word and meaning.  Maybe I'll be posting this on my bathroom mirror to remind me that this day does matter, I have work to do and contributions to make. ~ Ikigai

pg 62 Getting a paycheck for doing that thing you love may actually ruin it.

Kind of gut check- maybe the grass isn't as green on the other side of the fenceGetting a paycheck may put different expectations and demands on one's profession/career path- and those stressors/expectations could change your passion/love.

pg 84 Success says what more can I get? Craft says, can you believe I get to do this?

pg 86 What would it look like for you to approach tomorrow with a sense of honor and privilege, believing that you have work to do in the world, that it matters, that it's needed, that you have a path and you're working your craft?

pg 153 If you feel stuck in your life, like it's passing you by, like there's something way better for you somewhere out there and you're missing it, try this- try throwing yourself into the small things and repeating to yourself "This is where I start".

I like this idea of "This is where I start" as a mantra or meditation that will remind me to be where I am. Focus on small things and with making those small great bigger things will come.   Sometimes the small things really are those that matter the most. 

pg 157 The details of your life are vital to your staying true to your path.

pg 158 How you do anything is how you do everything.

pg 159 The details matter... there is a difference between details and clutter.

pg 161 Our external environments mirror our internal lives.

So much good stuff in this book.  Hope I haven't given away too much and I hope I have given enough away that makes you want to read this book.

So many things are constantly going on in life. The world is ever changing.  Negativity seems to reign these days.   Every minute is another minute gone and another memory or moment made or lost depending on how you see it.  This book was a quick read and a great reminder of how precious life is.  We all start from the same place.  A blank slate awaiting some great creation!  We all have the ability to create whatever life we desire. Sometimes one just needs a little nudge from some great writing by Rob Bell. 

Happy summer reading. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

June Reads



There is something about summer which turns on the "reading bug" in me.  I feel like I should be reading all the time.  This past month I read some great books and it helped that I traveled which gave me ample reading time.  Here are my June Reads in no particular order...

Paper and Fire (The Great Library, #2)
Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
The Great Library #2
I loved the first book in this series "Ink and Bone".  Once I was finished with it I rushed out to library to borrow the next one only to find out it wasn't published yet.  Then time went by and I kind of forgot about this series and so at the end of this school year when the kids and I were perusing the shelves of the Young Adult reading area at our local library I came across the 2nd in the series.  I was very excited to read this book, but alas the first one I enjoyed much more than the second.  Jess Brightwell, the main character in both books, comes from a family of book thieves.  The Alexandria Library is not like the libraries we know and love.  In the first book you learn about the library's control on books and who has access to them.  In this second book Jess is part of the library's army and he endures some major stresses- loss of his best friend (Supposedly dead), loss of his love (she is being held in the Iron Tower due to her special abilities), and loss of family.  For some reason I just really struggled with the story line and the pace of the story- I felt like it was on "slow-mo" in comparison to the first book's fast pace, easy and quick read.  I will likely read the next one to see if Rachel redeems herself.  Also of interest the author- Rachel Caine is really Roxanne Longstreet Conrad.  Rachel Caine is just one of a handful of pen names.  I found this interesting.  I wonder why someone uses a pen name, let along numerous pen names. 

The Hidden Letters of Velta B.
The Hidden Letters of Velta B
by Gina Ochsner
When I read the following excerpt I thought this sounded like the perfect audiobook for June...

From a critically acclaimed fiction writer comes the moving story of a boy with extraordinary ears who — with the help of a cache of his great-grandmother’s letters — brings healing to a town burdened by the sins of its past.~ Good Reads

However, it was my least favorite book from June.  I just couldn't get into the story line.  I normally don't mind and actually really enjoy books that go back and forth from present to past multiple times, but this book's time travel bothered me for some reason.  I just didn't really like any of the characters nor felt the "audioversion"  was enjoyable.  I felt ready to give up about half-way, but didn't give up in hopes of redemption, but alas none was had. I gave this book only 2 stars per the 5 star Good Reads rating scale.  To my surprise the average stars for this book based on reading patrons of Good Reads was 3 and 1/2- so other readers saw or read something I didn't into this story.  So reminder that my views on these books are my views and maybe you might get a whole different reading experience out of reading or listening to these stories.  That said, Velta B's letters just weren't interesting enough for me. 

                                                             The Nest
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
This was the Bookie's June read. First off whomever designed the cover did a spot on job.  It is so easily visible and for those who haven't heard of the book just by describing the cover one would say "Oh yeah I know that book".  Bravo cover book person! This book stimulated some great discussion about dysfunctional families and how money can play into family's dysfunction.  Prior to reading this book I had heard a podcast discussing how this book was one of the very few books which looked specifically at how money can be so rooted in dysfunctional families.  The book's main premise is about four siblings who are all relying on money from a trust fund or "the nest" as they all call it.  As one can imagine counting on inheritance money is not always the smart way to bet on sound financial status.  I found this book irritatingly honest, so honest and ugly is the story that it made me somewhat want to stop reading.  However, this book is a great reminder of why one should read on.  I loved the last 1/3 of the book and in that last 1/3 redemption occurred and I really ended up enjoying the story.  The story was packed with many more separate stories and themes/topics than just "the nest".  Themes such as infidelity, single parenting, questioning your sexual identity, 9/11, stolen art, and amputees learning to survive without their limbs (Bet you didn't see that one coming).  I recommend reading this book as it is a great reminder to all of us who live in dysfunctional families (which is likely anyone reading this post) how the importance is really being family.  This book is also a great reminder on how sometimes family grows and builds without blood ties and through friendship. 

                                                             Letters from Paris
Letters From Paris
By Juliet Blackwell
I was trying to pick up nonfiction or fiction books based in or on Paris over the last several months as a lead up to my trip in Paris.  I found this book early in June at a used book store and couldn't pass it up.  This fiction story which takes place partially in Paris and partially in New Orleans, LA was a beautiful story.  The main character Claire travels to Paris in search of information regarding some letters found in her grandmother's attic.  Of interest, and added liking from this reader, part of the story takes place during WWII with Claire's great grandfather being an American army officer in Paris acquiring some Parisian goods (think soldier's souvenirs from abroad).  He had acquired a death mask of "L'inconnue" the unknown woman. He has it shipped back to the states and with the letters Claire finds in her grandmother's attic trunk she also finds this mask.  The rest of the story is her search for answers to who "L'inconnue" is and what the letters mean.  I loved this book and plan to read other books by this author. 

The Red Notebook
The Red Notebook
by Antoine Laurain
I bought this book awhile ago and have been waiting to read it until my Paris trip.  The story takes place in Paris.  The main characters are a bookseller, Laurent Letellier, and a young lady who has lost her red handbag.  The plot is a simple one Laurent spending time on finding the young lady with the red handbag, which just happens to have in it a red notebook telling many of the young lady's thoughts and dreams.  However, simple the plot the writing is quite clean, and beautiful.  I read this book quickly and was sad to see the story come to an end.  He also has written other books, one called "The President's Hat" which I plan to pick up very soon.  What a marvelous addition to my trip in Paris to read such a wonderful story which takes place in Paris written by a Parisian author. 

Invincible Summer
Invincible Summer
by Alice Adams
I won this book.  Yep, you read right, I won this book from Good Reads a couple of months ago.  Good Reads has giveaways.  If you mark a book as "want to read" and it comes up as a giveaway they will contact you and you can enter to win.  Well low and behold I actually won something- a book even better.  I also had held onto this book to read during my Paris trip as I was only bringing used or owned books with me just in case I lost them.  So this lovely book, isn't the cover beautiful, traveled with me to Paris.  It was a good summer read.  This story was not overly heavy in topic/theme, but wasn't total fluff. It is a real coming of age story of four friends (two girls and two guys).  The chapters all started with a certain date and the following chapters were dated several months or even a year(s) or so from the previous chapter's date.  I liked the way this progressed the story line.  I also thought the time this book spanned showed how friendships can real morph and change over time.  It wasn't a total feel good story and brought out many true topics that friendships sometimes end over: alcoholism, success of one friend professionally while another just can't catch a break and is pretty much unemployed, marriages, divorce, wanting more than just friendship, and again how friends can be like family to those who don't have family.  I'm so glad I won this book and was able to pack it on my travels to Paris.  Great Travel Reading!

Dark Places
Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn
Last but not least I listened to Dark Places this month.  I was hoping it would redeem my love of audiobooks, since I really didn't enjoy Velta B.  It did redeem that love and it also reminded me to read more of Gillian Flynn's books.  I first fell in love with Gillian Flynn's stories when I read "Gone Girl".  That book and story line was amazing and so real it was disturbing.  One of my coworkers said he liked this book the best of hers so I gave it a try.  I did enjoy, but still think "Gone Girl" is my favorite work of hers I've thus read.  However, Dark Places again brings out Gillian Flynn's ability to take a gruesome story (The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas).  This horrific murder of a mother and two daughters leaving one surviving daughter and one son- who is found guilty of the murders, is an amazing story.  What is more amazing is the story that comes after and before these murders.  Gillian does a great job of flashing back and forwards with the countdown to the exact date and time of the murder.  She really had me guessing up until the very end.  It is realistic murder mystery at its best.  Gillian Flynn knows how to write about "gone girls" and "dark places" and I can't wait to read what else she can write about!






Friday, June 9, 2017

May Reads

Two audiobooks and 3 reading books.  1 disappointment, a love for English accents, another Paris find, and one book that made my heart warm for books.  Life is pretty good when you are reading!
Here are the May Reads in no particular order.

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
by Diane Ackerman
This is one of those books that has sat on my "to read" shelf for quite awhile.  It was one of those books I was waiting to read, because I thought it would be so good. The wait was purposeful and planned.   I was savoring it without knowing what it would taste like.  Well, like some things we hold onto for too long, it was stale.  I didn't enjoy this read.  I had trouble getting into the story, because of the writing.  I love historical fiction and nonfiction about WWII and I was thinking this would read like many of the WWII stories I have  so loved.  It didn't.  The story seemed disjointed. Just as I was getting into a specific story line the chapter would end and the story would have moved onto another part of the Zabinski's story.  I can tell when I'm not really into a book.  I struggle to stay awake when reading in bed.  This was one of those bedtime snoozers.

The story sounded very intriguing to me- Jan and Antonina Zabinski were in charge of the Warsaw Zoo.  During WWII they were able to use their jobs as zookeepers to help many escape Warsaw- mainly Jews. 

Besides struggling with the way in which the book was  written I was also bothered by the way in which Jan  Zabinski  treated his wife Anotnina.  He seemed to be emotionally abusive.  His wife, Antonina was brave, smart and held the zoo together among other things during WWII.  Yet throughout the book I felt like her bravery and actions were diminished by him.  This could've been just the way the writer depicted their relationship, but it even bled through at times with her relationship with her son.  Meanwhile as I am bothered by how Antonina is being treated by her husband I'm missing the real story- they saved hundreds of Jews by hiding them in their home, in the zoo, and getting them out of Nazi occupied Warsaw.  It was an amazing story, I just got lost in the writing not being good and the stories lacking connection.  Sorry Diane Ackerman just wasn't the book for me. 

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Greg McKeown
So it has only taken me like a hundred billion years to figure out how to easily listen to audiobooks via "Overdrive" APP.  This was my first audiobook I was able to download to my iPhone.  It was not disappointing.  The following couple of lines describing the book on Goodreads intrigued me.

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?

Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?

Are you often busy but not productive?

Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist
.

So I answered yes to all of the above and started listening.  First off the author reads the book and his English accent I could listen to all day long.  The kind of voice that could describe tedious everyday jobs like cleaning toilets or washing dishes, but the voice is so beautiful that one could listen to it all day long.  This was a quick read/listen for me.  It was a great book and I highly recommend picking it up.  However, when I went to enter the book into my "read" list for Goodreads I did the stupid thing of checking the reviews and other readers had a differing opinion.  It is amazing how we all are so different and get such different reading experiences out of the same book.  Here is one of my favorite lines from the book.

If you don't prioritize your life someone else will.

Greg also quotes one of my favorite poets Mary Oliver in the book " Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
I thought this was a good listen and information gained through reading/listening could be applied to many facets of life. 

The Secret Keeper
The Secret Keeper
By Kate Morton
Sometimes reading/listening to two books at the same time can make stories become overlapping and I wonder if it affects a reader's ability to truly give each story the needed attention it deserves.  I feel like that happened with this story.  Two of the "Bookies" recommended this book to me and I didn't want to wait to read it so when I was done with one of my audiobooks I quickly put this on for the May audiobook to "read".  It was a good story, with interesting plot line and some fascinating characters.  It had another one of my favorites- flashbacks- book took place in present day and WWII- England.  However, the other book I was reading at the same time I was listening to this one I felt more "akin" too . So I think as with so many things in life sometimes multitasking isn't a good thing. I just was more into the other book I was reading, and not listening to.    I will plan on reading other Kate Morton books and give it the undivided attention it deserves.  If you like a good plot and some surprises I recommend reading this one.


To Capture What We Cannot Keep
To Capture What We Cannot Keep
by Beatrice Colin
This one quickly made it on the May read list because of the upcoming trip to Paris.  The book is historical fiction.  It is the story of one of the main engineers that worked on building and constructing the Eiffel Tower.  The protagonist in the book is Caitriona Wallace. Cait is a widow who due to financial hardship has to work as a companion, almost like a nanny to teenagers, for two wealthy siblings (boy and girl).   She meets Emile Nouguier the engineer on a hot balloon ride while chaperoning the young adults in Paris.  Their paths continue to intertwine throughout the story.  It is a story that is stocked full with multiple little story lines.  However, the author does a fantastic job connecting them all cleanly.  It is not only the building of the Eiffel Tower but a great picture of Paris 1887.  Reading this book definitely will impact how I view the tower when I see it in a few weeks and that is what I call a powerful book. 

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap
By Wendy Welch
Yes, this is the same Big Stone Gap that Adriana Trigiani wrote of in her novels based in Big Stone Gap, West Virginia.  This however, is not fiction, it is a memoir as the extended title explains: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book. I found this book so enjoyable and comforting like fresh baked chocolate chip cookies or homemade mac and cheese. It warmed my heart.  I love reading books about books and what could be better - reading a book about a bookstore.  Better yet reading about a bookstore that is surviving despite Amazon and electronic devices on which people can read books.  I hope to make it to this bookstore sometime in the near future. 

And so as to remind you again of Mary Oliver's wise words I add one word to her famous quote...
Reader,Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Happy Reading Friends!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

April Reads

Sometimes I wonder why I feel the need to write about the books I read.  I think it is just another way I can "talk" with friends/family/strangers about my love of reading. Even if the books I read I don't really like I can pull some redeeming qualities from them- well maybe not "Mrs. Dalloway". I think talking about what we read is just an added bonus of the reading process.  Hope you enjoy the book "talk" below.  As always welcome any comments, suggestions, or feedback if you have read some of this month's reads or know of others I need to add to my TBR (to be read) shelf. 
 
Station Eleven
I was hearing a lot about this book.  I heard about if first on a podcast I listen to (What Should I Read Next).  Many of those interviewed on the podcast were saying they liked this book a lot. Then one of my Bookies gave it 4 stars on GoodReads  (her and I tend to read and like similar books).  Some were talking about it compared to "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy- which I really liked.  Lastly our local library was having a book discussion about it.  So I picked it up and I really just didn't like it.  It is apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, present day and flashback, many characters, and I just didn't enjoy it.  I'm sure I'm just not smart enough to like it :). 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
This is so far my favorite Bookie book for the 2016-2017 year.  As we are getting ready to celebrate our 15 year anniversary of the Bookies I am just so thankful this book was brought into my life.  It is a serious story, serious topic, and just down right unbelievable, but at the same time believable because of how crazy our world and the people in it are.  The book chapters are written from the perspective of many different characters laced throughout the story. I liked reading and seeing the story from multiple character's eyes.  The protagonist of the book young, 8 years of age, Wavy falls in love with a 18 year old Kellen.  The relationship develops throughout the book and the discussion of age among lovers  was a hot topic at our book club.  I soon got over their age difference because I felt Kellen was Wavy's savior.  Wavy's life is utter crap: druggie and mentally ill mom, father who is a meth dealer and ignores her existence, insinuation that mental, physical and possible sexual abuse has occurred for Wavy.  The author's writing was clean, intriguing, and this was a page turner. This book is a great reminder of how truly remarkable life can be and how perseverance can shine through the worst situations.

Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
"Prayer" was our Lenten read for our church.  I was really looking forward to this read because I don't do prayer/praying well. I was wanting an Anne Lamott tutorial on prayer, not the one I received from Richard Foster.   I thought this book was just OK.  Parts of the book, last 1/2 especially, were  just too theological for me- again maybe I missed out on some good stuff because I'm not super theological. It was a "dry" book. However, there were some good parts of the book, mainly the beginning of the book- more underlines and note taking found there. Here are just a few lines that did really speak to me- so not totally "bad" book. 
pg 22- It is not that we disbelieve in God, but more profoundly we wonder what kind of God we believe in.
pg 67- We gain freedom in anything through commitment, discipline and fixed habit.

Paris for One and Other Stories
I love Jojo Moyes, but alas I didn't really like this book.  Partly I think because I'm not a huge fan of short stories.  I always want more, especially if I like the story as I did with the main one called Paris for One.  The other stories were just "meh".  I feel like I'm talking about one of my best buddies badly by writing I didn't enjoy this book, but it just didn't have what I normally love about her novels- character development, twists, good plot- all likely due to the constraints of when you write a short story. 

Today Will Be Different
I really enjoyed this book.  Eleanor, main character, wants things to be different. That speaks to me as I would like some things in my life to be different, but how does one go about making that difference occur.  Read this book to find out what happened to Eleanor, her husband Joe, and her son Timby.  It is written in a somewhat satirical/snarky tone at times which brings some comedy to some tough subjects: dysfunctional family, religion, parenting, and general life relationships.  The following is the first page of the book and it felt like I was reading something I could have wrote about myself- switching a few names- had me hooked from get go.

Today will be different.  Today I will be present.  Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply.  Today I'll play a board game with Timby.  I'll initiate sex with Joe.  Today I will take pride in my appearance.  I'll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend.  Today I won't swear.  I won't talk about money.  Today there will be a n ease about me.  My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile.  Today I will radiate calm.  Kindness and self-control will abound.  Today I will buy local.  today I will be my best self, the person I'm capable of being.  Today will be different. 


The Wednesday Wars

Another book I kept on hearing brought up in either podcasts or amongst reader friends.  I had never heard of it, but the story line was intriguing.  Middle school grade boy and Presbyterian Holling Hoodhood is the only student in his class that doesn't have either catechism or classes at synagouge to attend on Wednesday afternoons. So while the rest of his classmates are bussed off for their religion classes he stays behind for that last hour of class time in the school day.  He pretty much knows his teacher has it out for him because she can't have a "free hour" because he has to stay in class with her.  So as his punishment he has to read Shakespeare and have book discussions or write papers on the works of William.  However, what occurs on Wednesday afternoons is more than learning Shakespeare.  The story takes place during the late 60's an historical perspectives are brought into this story.  I really enjoyed it and reading it was more enjoyable because my son read it too.  We both talked about the story and the characters. I feel indebted to any author who allows me some one on one book discussion time with my children.  Thanks Gary Schmidt for making that happen.

Fangirl
I loved "Eleanor and Park" written by Rainbow Rowell.  So when I was perusing the YA audiobook section at the local library and saw this I put it in my bag.  It was a great audiobook.  Premise is Cath, an identical twin, is getting ready to go off to college at the beginning of the book and finds out that her  and her twin sister won't be roommates at college.  Cath's world starts to turn a little upside down then and signs of high introversion are noted from the first pages of the book. However, Cath does have a huge source of "friends" via a social media site that allows her to write fan fiction.  Fan Fiction is when a person can write about characters already developed  based on another author's story- think about someone continuing to write the story of Harry Potter or side stories of  Harry Potter, but isn't JK Rowling.  Through the story Cath has to cope and change, which so many of us remember doing our freshman year in college.  I really enjoyed this book. A+ for Rainbow Rowell

What an amazing month of reading.  Some books that really challenged me: Prayer and Station Eleven, and some books that just remind me of the pure joy of reading/listening to good story telling: All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, and FanGirl

Monday, April 24, 2017

March Reads

6 books, including one picture book and one audio, not a bad month of reading.  Here they are in no particular order.

Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1)
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
"Life After Life" is the first book I read by Kate Atkinson.  I really enjoyed it and so was looking forward to reading some of Kate's earlier works.  Jackson Brodie, the detective, and main character is a likeable guy.  Not "teddy bear" likeable, but down on his luck, needing a break, type of likeable.  The book starts with Case 1- involving a little girl who goes missing from her backyard one summer night when camping out with one of her 3 sisters.  Case 2- involves a young clerical worker who is killed in front of coworkers at her father's law firm.  Case 3- a new mother is losing her mind due to her crying, unconsolable baby and her demanding husband.  Her actions tell a brutal story.  Jackson Brodie gets to know all three cases as he tries to solve all three.  These stories intertwine, and once I got over the fact that the book wasn't written in short story form and the cases all did connect I was a much happier reader  At the beginning of the book I struggled with where the author was leading me.  Overall easy read, but not as enjoyable as "Life After Life". Jackson Brodie was enjoyable and so I just might have to try another Jackson Brodie mystery. 

Holes (Holes, #1)
Holes by Louis Sachar
Audiobook
On spring break the kids and I listened to this story.  I hate to admit I hadn't read (listened) to the story before this.  My son had already read the book, of course :). I found the story to be sad and a tad bit depressing.  The main character, Stanley, has to spend time at a detention camp for young boys.  He quickly learns that his main job will be to dig holes.  The warden is wanting to find treasure and she thinks the boys can dig the holes and locate the loot.  I can't say too much more for fear of giving the story away, but I did enjoy it, but think my kids enjoyed it even more.  Good family read/listen. 

Everything, Everything
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
I really enjoyed this book.  It is a young adult story about a girl who has a disease- think "bubble boy" and she can't go outside her home and she only every gets to see her mom and her housekeeper/health aide Carla.  Then one day things change when a tall, dark haired boy moves in next door.  The book is written not only in words, but pictures.  (Reminded me of some of the graphic novels my kids read).  I liked this book so much I picked it for book club in May.  I'm hoping the bookies like it as much as I did.  We've been reading some "heavy" stuff in book club, so although this story is somewhat heavy, overall I came away from this story with hope and happiness.  We all need a little hope and happiness amongst the real life and fictional tragedies in our reading lives. 

Serena
Serena by Ron Rash
I've joined another book club.  This one started out with some focus on picking books that have been made into movies.  The first book we read was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  We read the book and then got together for dinner and watching the first episode of the HBO show made from the book.  Then we all put our picks for our next read into a hat and the next book was drawn.  Just happened to be the book I put into the hat.  I didn't know much about this book/story, but the fact that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence played the main characters in the movie was indication that the book couldn't be that bad.  I have enjoyed most of the movies the two have played in either together or separate so I trusted them to have picked a good story to be involved with.  I was not disappointed.  This story of lumber baron Pemberton and his bride Serena is a story about so many different things: love, greed, power, wealth, the lengths a person or people will do to have it all.  An added bonus is a third character Rachel Harmon who births the illegitimate son of Pemberton soon after Serena and Pemberton are married.  Rachel's character was likely my favorite out of the three main character.  The setting was really perfect for this book and I felt the writing style depicted the 1920 Appalachian/Smoky Mountain atmosphere perfectly. 


Stone Fox
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
One of my monthly goals is to read a book with one of my children.  Either together, as I do with my daughter, or separately with my son and then discuss it.  My daughter is a huge dog lover.  To support her love of dogs I try to find books with dogs as the main character or theme of the story.  This book my sister gave to my daughter, as she knows her love for dogs, too.  It was overall not a real feel good story, but it has a happy ending which helps remove the other sad events that take place throughout the story.  The main character is a young boy who is trying to take care for his sick grandfather and also pay bills on the family home, while grandpa is sick in bed.  It has a little bit of a "little house on the prairie" vibe.  The boy's actions in the books remind me of how Laura Ingalls Wilder would have reacted if she were in his place.  A fun book to read with my 3rd grader.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
I had heard about this book in "The Book Page" magazine that most local libraries carry.  The description of the book just sounded so magical I added it to my "to read" list. I was a little surprised when I went looking for the book, because I didn't realize it was going to be a picture book.  I was a  little sad it wasn't a longer story because I thought it really could've made some good realistic fiction.  The main character is a loner and the following is a good description of the basis for the book (from goodreads)...It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. Then one day he gets a message in the bottle, addressed to no one in particular, the message is an invite to a party.  He doesn't know what to do because he always wants to make sure the message in the bottle is taken care.  So if there is a party he might as well show up for it because he doesn't want to disappoint the bottle's messenger.  You'll have to read the book to find out what happens to our bottle keeper.  If you haven't picked up a good picture book in awhile this is a great one to start with.


The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino
My trip to Paris with my son is swiftly approaching.  Due to this trip I wanted to try and pick a book to read a month that had some relationship with France, Paris, the French, etc.  I was lucky to pick up this great book at a library sale ($2 for hardback).  The author, Elaine Sciolino, knows how to write and she should since she was the former Paris Bureau chief for the New York Times.  She did a great job of describing  this street in Paris and capturing the atmosphere of the people, businesses, buildings and houses that grace this street.  This street can be found lying between the 9th  and 18th arrondissement (district)/ Montmarte, Paris.  I truly felt like I could smell the bread, hear the street sounds, and close my eyes and visualize this street while reading this book. She did a great job of weaving personal stories in with describing the street and its patrons.  We definitely will be taking this street as we walk to the Sacre Couer of Montmarte, a beautiful basilica with one of the best views of Paris- or so I've been told.  This was one of those books after reading I so meant to write the author and thank her for sharing her experience and opening up this street of Paris to me.  Maybe I'll write her after our trip to Paris and tell her how the book affected my visit and allowed me to traverse this area of Paris. 

Happy Reading friends.. and as always any book suggestions or comments on the above books I'm always all ears. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

My time away from Facebook...

So I started Lent early this year. I gave up Facebook for Lent.

I decided to give up Facebook for multiple reasons.  Here are the major ones:

1. It was a total "time suck" for me- I was wasting so much time scrolling through Facebook.  I was literally throwing away minutes or hours of my day.  Couldn't I be doing something more productive with that time? 

2. I was getting an ulcer, or at least I felt like it.  I was daily reading a ton of angry, negative, and mean posts.  The election had a lot to do with this.  Friends that don't share my political/life views would post negative comments.  Friends that did share my political/life views would post negative comments.  I couldn't really get away from it. I was very disappointed after the election and couldn't get out of my negative funk.   I'm a "feeler" and when people are negative around me it really gets under my skin and affects my own being.  All of this negativity also got me thinking about why we post what we post on FB.  Do I think I'm going to sway some person's mind about a political/religious/"big time" life decision/subject?  Nope likely not.  But I am likely to piss someone I call a friend off.  Some of you may say well maybe that person shouldn't be your friend then.  I think as I age I start to realize some of my favorite people in this world  don't agree with me 100% on all the "big" topics (i.e. politics, women's rights, religion, parenting, etc). However, because they don't agree with me or I with them does that mean I throw those relationships away? Stepping away from FB would not only filter out the bad, but also give me time to think about when I return to FB how I want my presence on social media to be.

3. The kicker for me- what really pushed me off the cliff and in a nose dive away from FB was when I had to "unfollow" a close family member.  This person has shared, inappropriately a picture of my beautiful kids and their cousins, with a total stranger who then had our kid's picture on their timeline.  It weirded me out.  The picture was totally innocent, a great shot of the cousins enjoying summer, but when you start to realize everything you put on FB can be shared with anyone- strangers, etc it makes you think is this form of communication really worth it?

So I took a break.  It was really lovely.  I didn't really miss it. I do feel like I was using my now free FB time- I read more, I interacted with my kids and husband more.  The time off social media flew by and I felt so much more happier without it in my life.

Now there were a few things I did miss while off FB. I wasn't kept abreast of all local events/gatherings. I missed keeping in touch with friends who live far away. I especially missed seeing pictures of family members.  Social media does make it easy to forge friendships that may otherwise not be sustainable due to distance.  For instance, I'm on a couple of different nurse practitioner boards and many of my colleagues on those boards live all over the US.  Not having FB to stay in touch with these amazing colleagues and friends was a negative. 

So how do you combat that issue-  distant family and friends?  One idea I had was I like to write letters (partially I think I'm just addicted to stationary and cards) and so I could send those friends letters and help keep the good old postal service in business.  I could also just take the time and send e-mails or utilize the messenger application on FB and send FB buddies messages.  Last, but not least I could actually pick up the phone and call these friends and talk the old fashioned way- by phone. 

For now I'll continue to have a FB account, but I'm not wanting to go back to reading/scrolling feeds countless minutes of the day.  I will utilize some of ideas above and message, e-mail, send a letter and even call my friends and family because having people in my life truly does make me happy. 

I of course would love your feedback on what you think about taking a vacation from FB.  Have you ever taken a hiatus from social media?  What was it like?  If not, do you think you could take a vacay from FB/Twitter/Instagram, etc?  I bet you could and you might notice yourself a little bit more content. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

February Reads

It's been a pretty great month of reading, considering it is the shortest month of the year and I got some decent pages read.  Before I get into the books I read I want to share with you a great Podcast one of my bookies, Angie, recently shared with me.  I've read the blog http://modernmrsdarcy.com/ for awhile now, but I missed that she had a Podcast: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/what-should-i-read-next/.  I've listened to 3-4 episodes now and I find them truly entertaining.  There are 69 episodes total as of today.  She interviews different people and asks them their 3 favorite books, the one they didn't like, what they are reading now, and then Anne Bogel (the modernmrsdarcy) picks some books that she thinks the reader would like.  I love hearing other people talk about their favorites and their dislikes too.  Check it out- great way to burn time carpooling, trucking into work, or road tripping.

Here are February Reads...

Slaughterhouse-Five
Slaughterhouse-Five
By Kurt Vonnegut
I liked this book even though it was a little different. It was our book club pick for the bookies in February.  We had some great discussion.  The premise was reliving the Dresden Bombing in WWII.  A lot of flashbacks, flashforwards and a trip to Tralfamadore (alien planet). It is called an anti-war book, but I'm not sure I got the anti-war.  I thought it was just a fair representation of the ugliness of war.  Prisoner of War camp is a major backdrop for the book.  Also some time in a VA hospital and of course the alien planet.  I know it sounds bizarre even writing all of this description down, but I really did enjoy it.  It also reminded me how little I know about history-
Bombing of Dresden
British/American aerial bombings of Dresden (capital of German State of Saxony)- 3,900 tons of bombs to be exact (according to WIKI)

The Story of Lucy Gault
The Story of Lucy Gault
By William Trevor
William Trevor died last year on November 20, 2016.  When he died I was still on Facebook and received a lot of FB posts about his death.  He has been called an "Irish statesman" in the literary world.  I had never read any of his books, short stories or plays so I put this book on my "to read" list.  It is a sad story of a young Lucy Gault who is told she is going to have to move away from her home in Ireland to her mother's homeland of England due to some threatening of the locals (they didn't care for English visitors).  So Lucy, being a smart girl, decides she will run away from home for awhile so her parents can't leave.  Long story short her runaway doesn't go well and she is thought to have died in the ocean near their home and her parents leave Ireland due to their utter sadness.  When they leave Ireland they leave no further contact information.  Meanwhile- Lucy is found later (this is the part of the story that I struggled with I think she was missing for several weeks).  Unfortunately due to her parents not wanting to be found, they weren't found until much later and Lucy grew up under care of the caretakers of her parent's home.  Continued sadness abounds in this book.  I thought it was a good read, but not a "feel good" read.  I can now say I've read "William Trevor". 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Just Mercy
By Bryan Stevenson
I'm trying to get more books "in" this year and one way I'm trying to accomplish this is by listening to books on audio.  One of my friends- actually I think the bookie Angie- recommended listening to this book because the author reads the book and his voice adds more to the story.  It is nonfiction and it is a needed read for any American- actually I think it would make a good high school read  for government class or American history.  Bryan is a defense lawyer who started the Equal Justice Initiative to help the poor, the needy and wrongly condemned.  There were so many times in listening to this story that I was really embarrassed to be Caucasian and know the wrongs "whites" have done to the African American community.  So many powerful stories in this book.  Another not full "feel good" read, but it is real and sometimes we need some "real" story telling to wake us up.

Echo
Echo
By Pam Munoz Ryan
My daughter, son and I listened to this book on audio.  It was superb!  My sister had recommended reading this book; she said it was her new favorite.  Her daughter had loved it too.  Then my bookie friend Angie (I know I sound like a broken record- Angie is a great bookie with great recommendations) recommended listening to this book on audio.  She said there is music throughout the book and so on audio the music is really highlighted- especially the playing of a harmonica.  The stories of Otto, Friedrich (Germany early WWII), Mike (Pennsylvania- mid 1940's) and Ivy (California during time of internment of Japanese Americans) are entwined.  Beautifully written story and I wasn't disappointed by the music that accompanied it throughout.  My kids really enjoyed it too.  I will likely read this book in the near future.  Don't think you would be disappointed with reading or listening to it.

Unbound: A Novel in Verse
Unbound: a novel in verse
By Ann Burg
I read this book with my daughter.  Another continued goal of mine is to read with my kids.  I thought I read a lot with my kids, but then when I started to track it- write down when I read with my kids, there were many weeks I was maybe reading with them only once (really  just my daughter- as my son has moved on with his reading-The Hobbit 3 times at least- can't keep up with him).  So this was the book my daughter and I read together and it was a good one.  It is a book in verse- like reading a run on poem.  It is the story of Grace, a slave, who works in the master's house.  When she gets a little "to big for her britches" the master's wife decides to teach her a lesson by selling her mother and twin brothers .  Teach her just where her place in society is.  Grace finds out about this and her mother, brothers, Aunt and Uncle decide to escape before the date of sale.  However, they don't escape in the way in which I knew slaves escaped.  Another reminder of how little I know about history, let alone American history.  Grace and her family fled to deep Southern woods, swamp land.  I was unaware that slaves fled inland instead of northward.  It was another beautifully written story that my daughter and I really enjoyed. 

Happy Reading Friends- looking forward to some good reading over Spring Break- have high expectations that won't likely get met, but love having them. 




Friday, February 24, 2017

January Reads

I feel like I'm always writing "I'm always behind", which I am, but I'm taking the "half-glass full" approach and state..."At least I'm writing"....

So here are January's "reads" a little late.

Number the Stars

Number the Stars
By Lois Lowry

Annemarie Johansen is a wonderful protagonist and her story is beautiful.  For some reason I had been putting off reading this book.  I have enjoyed all the various books I've read by Lois Lowry from "Gooney Bird Green" to "The Giver".  This story is the same old story of WWII, but as we all know there is never the same old story.  This time the Denmark Jews are being "relocated" and some Jews recognize the "relocation" isn't a good deal and so they hide and some lie to save their lives.  I think the thing I love most about reading historical fiction is realizing no matter how many times you read about a subject such as WWII, the personal story teaches you something new you never knew about that historical subject. Easy read, that I think any age of reader could enjoy. 

Comfort Food
Comfort Food
By Kate Jacobs
I first fell in love with Kate Jacobs when I read her book "Knitting Group".  I have now read three books by her and enjoyed everyone of them.  I gave this book 4 stars, but when I recently reviewed the reviews I found many didn't get above 2 stars.  Many felt that the book put them to sleep.  I didn't fall asleep and I found the characters, and the main one "Gus"- Augusta Simpson entertaining.  I like a good "people" story once in awhile.  I liked how the main story about "Gus" and her "mid-life" crisis at the big 50 carries throughout the book, but I also enjoyed the minor character stories going on also.  Maybe I'm easy to please, but I think I'll keep reading Kate Jacobs and ignore other's reviews. 

Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary
By Gustave Flaubert
After my "Ulysses" crash and burn I felt I needed to read a classic.  This was better than "Ulysses", but I'm not sure I'll be picking up any other books by Flaubert.  I thought it was a very materialistic/superficial story about a lady who was always wanting what was on the other side of the fence.  Madame Bovary's materialistic nature and her self-centered being was a little painful to read through, but I made it. 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Hillbilly Elegy
By J.D. Vance
This was our book club book for January. It is a very popular book right now.  The reason for it's popularity? Some feel the people represented in this book are many who voted for our current president.  The main story line is how a young boy grew up in a dysfunctional family in Appalachian town and got out going into the marines and then making it to Yale Law School.  I read this book as a story of this young man.  I wasn't attune to the hype of the book because of the recent win of Trump over Clinton. However, when I read further and got towards the end of the book, along with talking to others who had read the book, I did see some interesting points.  I think Vance says it best....

pg 191 " Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities.  He is a good father while many of us aren't.  He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we're lucky enough to have a job at all.  His wife tells us that we shouldn't be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it- not because we think she's wrong, but because we knows she's right".
This line helped me understand a little bit of why some voted for Trump.  I had been really struggling with why these people hated/disliked Obama so much and I think this quote tells me a lot.  I kept on hearing that some Americans wanted "something new" and that was what was appealing about Trump nominee for president. 

pg 228 " Unfortunately the fight-or-flight response is a destructive constant companion.  As. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris puts it, the response is great 'if you're in a forest and there's a bear'. The problem is when the bear comes home from the bar every night".
I thought this was a great analogy and a great way to visualize constantly being stressed, anxious and ready to flee.  What that constant being "on" must feel like. 

pg 238 " People sometimes ask whether I think there's anything we can do to 'solve' the problems of my community.  I know what they're looking for a magical public policy solution or an innovating government program.  But those problems of family, faith and culture aren't like a Rubik's Cube and I don't think that solutions... really exist."
As hard as it is for many of us to read this and believe this statement.  I think J.D. Vance has something here.  Change has to come within the community or else change has to come by moving out of the community, but no government program/policy or "outsiders" will likely make that change happen.  Start at community roots with patriarchs or matriarchs such as J.D.'s grandmother and that maybe how change occurs. 

Pg 256 " These problems were not created by government or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them."
I appreciated his honesty in this statement.  I think this statement could be used for so many problems in life. 

Great Read, Great Honesty, and Great Story that I'd highly suggest you read.

Wildflower
Wildflower
By Drew Barrymore
This was my Audiobook for the month and I enjoyed it.  Not quite what I thought it was going to be.  I think I thought it was going to be more like a typical biography- baby, child, teenage, young adult, and then mom timeline.  Instead it was not really chronological.  Her witty, comical nature shined through and I really enjoyed listening to her read her story.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell 
The Daring Ladies of Lowell
By Kate Alcott
This was my favorite read of the month.  The main character Alice Barrows joins the Mill Girls and in joining these ladies she becomes a powerful lady in her own right.  Alice has a lot of challenges: the heavy labor, the unsafe conditions of their work place, fitting in with the other boarders at her boarding house, and loving a man way out of her league.  I love historical fiction and this book had great history and great fiction- the perfect match.  It's a keeper. 

Looking forward to sharing February's reads in a few weeks.  It's been a good month of reading. 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Multicultural Book Day- #ReadYourWorld

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I am Not a Number
by Kathy Kacer and Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis
Published by Second Story Press

I can't remember how exactly I found out about Multicultural Children's Book Day, but I do know that when I read the below mission "to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid's books that celebrate diversity in home and school" I was all in.  I applied to be a reviewer of one of the MCBD books, and was lucky enough to get chosen.

So in the mail Second Story Press sent me "I am Not a Number" by Kathy Kacer and Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis Second Story Press. This beautifully illustrated and well written book describes the real life events of 8 year old Irene Couchie Dupuis, a Nipissing First Nation Indian.  Irene at age 8 (some children were as young as 4), along with her brothers, were removed from their home and taken away to live and attend a residential school .  These residential schools were across Canada and for over a century approximately 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were taken away from their homes to attend these schools.

In the story Irene and her two brothers are taken away from their home by an Indian Agent and transported to a residential school.  This school was run by nuns and each child who entered was no longer called by their given name, but instead given a number.  Irene was number 759. Besides the demoralizing act of no longer being called by name students were also not allowed to ever speak in their Indian language,  and they were forced to have their hair cut (long hair was a source of pride in their community and the only time hair was cut was when a loved one died).

One of the toughest parts in the book, for me, was when Irene spoke in thanks to one of her classmates in her native language at lunchtime.  Irene was immediately hit with a wooden spoon across her head and then taken down the hallway to learn her Lessons by Sister Mary.  Sister Mary proceeds to ask Irene to hold out her hands, palms up,  and then placed a hot bedpan onto her palms- scorching and burning her skin.  This Lesson was to help Irene learn to not "speak the devil's language". 

Irene and her brothers eventually end the school year and are returned to home for summer break.  However, as the summer rolls on Irene's father discovers the truth about Irene's experience at the residential school.  The family then makes a plan for the children to hide when the agent comes back to take them to the residential school in the fall.  The day arrives when the agent again returns to retrieve the children and Irene and her brothers hide and escape return to the residential school.  It ends on a high note with all of the family safely together after the agent departs.

The story was well written and kept my attention throughout. I had not heard of the residential schools in Canada prior to this book.  At the end of the book there are three pages filled with biographical facts about the real Irene Couchie Dupuis, author Jenny Kay Dupuis' grandmother.  I found these three pages to be super informative about the injustice brought onto these children, and their families, because of their ethnicity.   

"The schools were created and funded by the federal government in the belief that Indigenous peoples were uncivilized and needed to be 'saved" from themselves."

In 1986, The United Church of Canada, apologized to the Indigenous people in regards to the residential school program as Roman Catholics, Presbyterians United and Anglican churches staffed the schools with nuns, priests, and teachers. Sadly the last residential school didn't close until 1996 and it took until 2008 for the Prime Minister of Canada to issue an apology to these Indigenous people.

The affect of these kinds of stories are powerful. It makes me realize and remind me of how little I know or have heard of other people's cultural, and ethnic struggles.  It reminds me to open a book and read on diverse groups of people, not to stay within my own ethnicity and culture.  We need to hear and read more of these stories and I feel grateful to have been introduced to this day of celebrating multicultural children and the books that tells their stories. 

The following is further information about MCBD and links for those interested in further information and resources. 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. 

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

  Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Delores Connors, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin,  Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O'Malley, Stacy McAnulty,  Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela TiscareƱo-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

  Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Delores Connors, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin,  Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O'Malley, Stacy McAnulty,  Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela TiscareƱo-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i