5 star reviews, activism, Being a Librarian, Blog Tour, historical fiction, race relations, Racism

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Thank you @randomhouse #partner for my gifted copy of this classic novel.⁣

Did you realize that this book was 50 years old?  ⁣

“Fifty years of young black girls learning that even the greatest voice among them was once muted by pain, fear, and insecurity.⁣

Fifty years of young black girls finding out in these pages that trauma forced upon them in their youth didn’t have to stifle their dreams for a grand future.⁣

Fifty years of Random House publicly acknowledging that the stories of black American women matter, are worthy of their moment in print, and can change the world when shared widely with all readers, respectfully, and authentically.⁣”

Sharing with us her grandmother’s wisdom and her brother Bailey’s cunning wit, Dr. Angelou gave so many of us exactly what we needed: context for the historical injustices meted out by an oppressive society; firm examples that beauty is not for the mainstream to determine, but is rather found in all a person has to offer, in her talent and smarts more than her pretty face and long legs. And she powerfully bestowed on us an unflinching reminder that we can overcome any obstacle and let our lights shine.” ~ Porscha Burke, editor at Random House⁣

It’s been years since I read this book and I am looking forward to a re-read.  ⁣

Do you re-read books?  Have you read this book?  ⁣

5 star reviews, activism, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

Mercy House by Alena Dillon

Let me tell you about the book I am reading!⁣⁣
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I love Mercy House by alena.dillon . It’s about nuns who run a shelter in Brooklyn for abused women and girls. The backstories on the girls show how they came to be in the bad situations that they were in and is appealing to the side of me that wanted to be a social worker or therapist. Sister Evelyn has her own upsetting backstory. ⁣⁣

I was raised Catholic and I attended Catholic school. I had some experiences with nuns which I still reflect on, some good, some bad. I have been sharing my experiences in my stories. This book feels very cathartic in terms of my experiences.⁣⁣
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Something I did not know, which takes place in the book, is that Pope Benedict XVI, sent bishops to investigate nuns and make sure they were upholding doctrines of the church and not being “too feminist” in a time when the Vatican was covering up pedophilia accusations for priests.⁣⁣

5 star reviews, activism, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

We have been having kind of a crappy week around here, so last night, after dinner, my daughters ran to Whole Foods for some Abe’s Vegan Blackout Cupcakes and Cashewmilk ice cream. Because sometimes you just need to change the energy, do you know what I mean? You need something good to happen to chase away the bad.⁣

When I originally heard this book, If You Want to Make God Laugh, was about apartheid, I thought it would be upsetting and depressing and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. But after so many people raved about it, I decided to try it and I’m so glad I did! The writing is like putting on a comfy sweater, it envelops you and cocoons you and you never want to stop reading this story of two estranged white sisters and a young poor Zulu girl in South Africa in 1994, just as Nelson Mandela wins the election and apartheid ends. Politics play a small role in the book, it’s mostly about friendship, caring for those you love and being true to yourself. There is an abandoned baby. The AIDS epidemic touches the lives of the characters in a beautiful and human way. There are power play politics. I learned more about canned trophy hunting (which is something I’d already been vehemently opposed to). This book is anything but depressing, this book makes you glad to be alive. It makes you remember the importance of family. It makes you remember that even with the bad in the world, there is still good.⁣

5 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Non-fiction, Women's Fiction

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Rating: 5 stars

Were you outraged when Brock Turner got 6 months for raping a girl on the Stanford campus?  Did you want to throw your phone across the room when you read that the judge said Brock “had a promising future and he didn’t want to derail it” with a longer sentence?  

The message: a boy, especially one who is white, an athlete and wealthy means more than a girl.  

The press had called her Emily Doe, a name given to her by the prosecution to secure her identity, something she embraced for a while because it helped her compartmentalize her pain.  But now she is taking back her power and her name is Chanel Miller and she is making a difference.

This book is gorgeously written.  Chanel is a likable, relatable, flawed character.  I want to be her friend.  

I was upset by the humiliating procedures she had to endure after the rape and although I understand it is necessary, there has to be a better way.  Although Chanel was the victim, she was the one that was humiliated in court and the one who had to answer for everything she had ever done, while Brock was lauded as a star athlete and good student at a school with a 4% acceptance rate.

I was so upset and annoyed by the way Chanel was treated by the court system and the comments people made on articles.  I am glad she wrote this book. I applaud her for the final chapters where she talks about the different issues in our society, a President who says vulgar things on camera to Billy Bush and how these things need to change in our society.  Girls lives and bodies are worth just as much as boys. The idea that boys can’t control their sexual urges degrades boys, they are not animals, they can control themselves and should be expected to and held accountable. I was raised to believe that boys only wanted one thing from girls and that I had to be wary of being alone with boys.  I did not raise my girls that way. I told them to be careful, to be aware, but I told them that boys are human too, with feelings and emotions and complicated layers, just like girls.

5 star reviews, activism, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, romance

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

5+/5 stars

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This book gets ALL THE STARS. I texted several friends and my mom while reading it to tell them that they all HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. Then, as soon as I was finished, I went to my husband, tears literally streaming down my face and told him he had to read it. It’s that good!!

Kya is a little girl, abandoned by her family on the marshy coastline of North Carolina in the early 1950s. She eludes child protective services and truant officers and she survives by digging mussels and selling them to a Black man who sells gas for boats on the water (not really a marina gas station in 1952). The white people in town don’t accept the little girl, they won’t let their children near her when she comes into town to buy groceries – grits, all she can afford. But the colored community accepts her as one of their own, although she chooses to live a rather solitary life in her grandfather’s fishing shack on the marsh. The one exception is a young boy who is often fishing on the marsh and befriends her.

This is an absolutely beautiful story. There is so much in it. A deep reverence for nature and I hope that the popularity of this book means that people appreciate and understand that. True learning – as a homeschool mom, I believe that you don’t need to be in a classroom to learn; Kya never stepped foot in a classroom and yet the author shows and tells how she is smarter than many of the smartest people in town and she ends up being accepted as a renown naturalist. A beautiful love story between the young fishing boy and Kya.

But this book is not just about beautiful things. The star quarterback, the alpha male in town is found murdered and after an investigation, the police accuse Kya of the murder and she has to stand trial. This girl who has lived in the marsh, not been accepted by the townspeople and is so uncomfortable in the world where there are people and buildings and rules so different than that of nature.

This is such a beautiful, powerful and moving novel. I recommend it to everyone.

4 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Keeping House, Minimalism, plant based, Sustainability

The Sustainable Home by Christine Liu

4/5 stars

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Several years ago, I was a homeschool mom blogger and I took on the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge for Lent.  Basically what you do is fill up 1 bag a day of stuff to donate (or discard) for each of the 40 days of Lent.  I felt so much lighter after I got rid of that stuff.  It was so much easier to keep my house clean.  So I just kept going with it.  It has made us be more intentional with what we bring in to our home and what we purchase.

Over the last couple of years, I have become more and more aware of how much is being wasted in our society.  The rate at which we are redecorating, stores that sell fashionable items for dirt cheap, all of this is contributing to waste.  What are we going to do with it all?  It won’t decompose.  Where on the planet will it all go?  We are depleting resources by continually creating these things.  The working conditions of the people making these products is often deplorable.  I want to be more intentional and so when I saw this book available on Netgalley, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy.

Christine Liu does a great job of explaining the global issues of consumerism and materialism.

Then she goes on to explain the benefits of a decluttered space with useful and meaningful items.

Which space would you rather work in?

I used to admire the one on the left, but think that was not where someone actually worked, it was just a design space.  I have found that when you get rid of what you don’t need, you can have a workspace like the one on the left.

Christine Liu gives a practical guide to how to decide what to keep and what to toss and gives suggestions on what to do with the things you decide not to keep.

She then goes into energy consumption in the home and making your home more energy efficient.  She discusses using plants in the home.  She goes into detail about being sustainable in the kitchen, from diets that sustain the planet to growing your own food to how to store your food to what to do with food waste.  There are recipes for several plant based meals.  She gives advice on clothing that is sustainable for the planet and what to look for.  Christine Liu advises getting higher quality pieces that last longer.  There is advice on caring for your clothing and laundering your clothing.  She also discusses bedding and has a recipe for making your own room spray.  From there she goes into being more sustainable in the bathroom from skin care and body care recipes and ideas to hair care and water usage.  Ms Liu also discusses greening the workspace, dining out, going places and taking action.  This is an extremely comprehensive guide to living a lifestyle that is better for the planet as well as our bank account.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

4.5 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

4.5/5 stars

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From the Publisher:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

My Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my go-to authors.  I love how she takes relevant, timely and often controversial issues and shows them from the perspectives of many people on different sides of the issue.

A Spark of Light is about abortion and a woman’s right to choose.

Both the gunman and the hostage negotiator are struggling with their teenage daughters growing up.  Both of their daughters have been to the clinic.  We don’t know Hugh, the hostage negotiator’s position on abortion, but we know that when his college girlfriend got pregnant, she had the baby and derailed his dreams of becoming an astronaut and we know he wants to save his daughter.

Jodi Picoult allows us to go inside the mind of an abortion activist who has gone undercover in the clinic on the day the hostages are taken to try to get some incriminating information about the clinic.  We also go inside the mind of a woman who was raised in foster care and is struggling to put herself through college when she gets pregnant.  And we get inside the head of the nurse, who is pregnant herself and was raised in poverty but now has a devoted boyfriend from a different background and she lacks the confidence to believe he could love her.  We get to see the pain that each of these women is in as they come to grips with their situation.

We also get to understand the position of the doctor, who is a Christian, but whose mother died having an illegal abortion.  I found his perspective to be the most interesting and the most different and things that I had never thought of before.  At the end of the book, he takes one of the pro-life activists out for breakfast and they have a talk and he explains his position.

I think this is an important book.  It’s easy to be on the side we are on, it’s more difficult to understand someone else’s perspective but we need to be able to do that.  So often I feel that our country is becoming more and more divided.  Twenty-four hour news and the de-personalization of social media and I find myself angry with people that I have been friends with for thirty years because they don’t understand my side of things or because they don’t agree with me.  Politics and religion were always two things we didn’t talk about in polite company, yet now we seem to feel free to put those things on social media and it is dividing us more and more.  I am guilty of it myself.  I feel strongly about things and I want my voice heard.  I think it’s ok to use social media as a political platform, as long as you are open to the perspectives of other people.  That is what I love about Jodi Picoult’s books, she makes it easy to understand the perspectives of other people.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Random House Ballantine for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

4 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction, YA

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

4/5 stars

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From the Publisher:

A debut novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the emotionally stirring, wildly captivating story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family’s hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart.

Esther Ann Hicks–Essie–is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage–and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media–through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell–Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?

My Review:

Essie and her siblings have been raised in the public eye on their parents’ reality television show.  Their dad is a famous televangelist and their mother is a very calculating, cunning woman who is raising her family as a “brand”.  Nothing imperfect allowed.  But Essie has a plan…will she be able to pull it off?

I absolutely loved this book.  The storyline was unique and made a strong statement about the hypocrisy of religious extremists and how [white] men and boys are viewed by our society and especially by our judicial system.  I loved so many of the characters and my heart broke for Essie.  I also despised some characters, Celia is a character you love to hate and want to see her get what is coming to her.

I am currently OBSESSED with the Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.  There were some themes in this novel that reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale, in terms of a very conservative religious organization.  Toward the end of the novel, Meghan MacLean Weir quotes lines for Margaret Atwood’s Variation on the Word Sleep, which is one of my favorite poems and a beautiful poem about true love.  It was so perfect to quote Margaret Atwood that I got chills and tears in my eyes.  I think Meghan MacLean Weir did a wonderful job with this topic in this novel. 

I recommend this novel to anyone who likes Handmaid’s Tale or to anyone who is interested in really looking at some of the issues with religious extremism in America.  This book explores two different types of religious extremism: a cult that follows a man who predicts that the Messiah will rise again in a cave and an evangelical minister and his family who have their own reality TV series and espouse racism and homophobia, among other things.

 

4 star reviews, 5 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, End of Month Wrap Up, thriller, Women's Fiction, YA

June Wrap Up

June Books

I never realize how many books I read until I do the wrap up!

This was a great month for reading for me!  I read 4 thrillers, 3 books that I guess would be considered women’s fiction, 2 contemporary fiction, 1 YA book and 1 children’s book.

Pride

I read Sewing the Rainbow by Gayle E. Pitman.  This is a picture book, for young children about Gilbert Baker, who was a sparkly boy and was told not to be a sparkly boy, but as he grew up he found a community where he was accepted for being sparkly and he came up with the idea to create The Rainbow Flag as a happy, positive sign of being homosexual.  I love that there are book for kids about homosexuality because it means more people are comfortable with talking to kids about sexual orientation.  When I was a kid, I had no idea what being gay meant and it was a big, awkward conversation with my parents around the dinner table and we were all uncomfortable.  My own girls were raised that their two uncles love each other just like their mom and dad do.  That was it, end of story, nothing awkward or uncomfortable about it.  My girls have been raised that LOVE IS NEVER WRONG.

How I Resist

I saw this book advertised and decided we needed a copy for the library where I work.  I reviewed it when we got it in.  It’s a compilation of essays, lists, interviews by celebrities that encourage youth to stay informed and get involved.  This book details different ways of getting involved, from social media to writing letters to marches to calling your representatives.  I loved the message that even though kids are not old enough to vote YET, they will be one day and their representatives should take them seriously.

Thrillers

I LOVED both What Happened That Night by Sandra Block and Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia.  What Happened That Night is about a college student is brutally gang raped at a fraternity party, the authorities don’t take her seriously and she takes matters into her own hands.  Leave No Trace is about a boy and his dad go missing in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.  Years later the boy comes back and is institutionalized because they think he is violent when really he just wants to save his father who is very ill in a remote rural part of the boundary waters.  It’s hard to pick which one I liked better–they were both SO GOOD!

I enjoyed Broken Girls by Simone St. James, too.  It was a stretch for me and a little out of my comfort zone as there was a ghost in the book and that is something I typically stay away from, but I thought the story was good and that the ghost had an interesting and important role that could not have been accomplished any other way.

Something in the Water did not live up to the hype for me.  It started strong, then spent another third or so of the book getting mired down in day to day trivialities.  The characters made stupid choices and it got a little confusing.  It ended well.

Women’s Fiction

I really enjoyed Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin and felt it spoke volumes about friendship and love.

The Ever After by Sarah Pekkanean was a wonderful look at a marriage and what is really important in life and in marriage and family.

Contemporary Fiction

Although I adored A Man Called Ove (who read it that didn’t?), I never read Beartown by Fredrick Backman.  When Us Against You came out and I started seeing all the wonderful reviews, I decided to listen to Beartown on audiobook with my daughter, who was sick at the time.  We both loved it!!  I was happy to visit Beartown again when reading Us Against You, which I also loved.

I have seen some people say they could not get into Beartown.  I can understand that.  There are A LOT of characters and at first it seemed very overwhelming and like how would I keep them straight–my daughter started a chart for them!  lol.  But as the story went on, we found it easy to keep them straight and their story captured so much about the human spirit and the human experience.

 

 

5 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Childrens' Books, homosexuality

Sewing the Rainbow by Gayle Pitman

5/5 stars

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Typically I read and review thrillers, contemporary and women’s fiction and YA books, I also work at a library and run children’s programs.  I adore Gayle E. Pitman’s A Church for All. Although my job requires me to be conscious of everyone’s right to an opinion and I understand not everyone feels the way I do, I do like to slip in a book or two here and there that might reach a child who needs to hear it.  Gayle E. Pitman writes those books and this is one of those books.

This is based on the creator of the Rainbow Flag, Gilbert Baker who was a sparkly, glittery boy whose dad could not accept that he wanted to be creative and colorful.  When he grew up, he moved to San Francisco where he made costumes for famous people and sewed banners for marches but there was one evil symbol in his city and he wanted to change that.  He got the idea to made a beautiful colorful flag to replace the symbol.  And it did.  When you see that Rainbow Flag, you know it is ok to be yourself.

The illustrations are wonderful.  There is an informative note about Gilbert Baker at the end of the book.

Sewing the Rainbow is not overtly in-your-face Gay Pride, but it gets the point across.  My hope in slipping this story in once in a while is that maybe there is a kid who feels they are sparkly and glittery and that they don’t fit in and maybe they will remember this story and realize they are not alone.  Maybe they won’t know it when they hear the story, but at a later time they will remember the story and remember the flag and realize they are not alone.  Or maybe there are kids who are just curious about the pretty flag with rainbow colors and their parents were uncomfortable with the question, but after hearing the story, they will now understand that it symbolizes that it’s ok to be yourself.

I would like to thank Netgalley and American Psychological Association Magination Press for the galley copy of this book.