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.

 

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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, homosexuality, YA

How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation

5/5 stars

IMG_1485When I first saw this book on social media, I knew it was something I wanted to share with my two teenage daughters and something I thought would be a good addition to our library collection.

Since the election in 2016, Maureen Johnson, the editor of this book, had been feeling that she wanted to DO SOMETHING.  She was inspired by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and the NEVER AGAIN movement.  She asked various celebrities how they resist.  Some celebrities wrote lists, others wrote essays.  All encouraged kids to think about what really matters to them, what is important to them and to do research, to learn as much as they can about the topic and then to think about how best to get that message out there.  Twitter.  Social media.  Rallies.

The intro Ms. Johnson wrote for the book is very easy to read, quick and to the point and makes her seem very approachable.

The book is a collection, so you can pick the celebrities you are interested in reading about, such as authors Jodi Picoult or Jennifer Weiner or actor Jessie Tyler Ferguson, and read what they had to say about resistance.

I think this a great book and I hope this is just Volume 1.  I hope there are many more volumes to come.  Encouraging our kids to take interest in the world around them and be an active part is always a good idea.  Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 2.35.01 PM.png

When I think back to who I was in high school and college, I realize that I had a lot more passion about things than I do now.  Part of that is because I know more now, I am more jaded and yes, maybe more realistic.  But what if we could make the world more like I envisioned before I became jaded?  What if we could make the world work the way I thought it did?  And by that, I mean equality for everyone, protecting the environment, no discrimination, everyone agrees that guns have no place in schools and that we need to address mental health and regulate gun ownership, everyone is accepted for who they are, etc., etc.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Maybe the way to get there is to let those who have yet to become jaded enter the conversation.

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4 star reviews, Book reviews, race relations, YA

American Heart by Laura Moriarty

4/5 stars

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I LOVE Laura Moriarty’s writing.  The Center of Everything is one of my favorite books, after I read it, I read everything Laura Moriarty had published.  I have been waiting and waiting for a new book from her.  I was so excited when I heard about the release of this book.

In this novel, Muslim-Americans are forced to register and go to interment camps.  Sarah-Mary Williams and her brother have been abandoned by their mother to live with their conservative Christian aunt in Missouri.  From what I have read and from what I know from years of homeschooling and following homeschool blogs, I do not doubt that there “schools”  like the one Sarah-Mary’s aunt sends her to really exist.

Sarah-Mary doesn’t know any Muslims and she assumes that what she sees on the news and hears from her aunt and the people at her school and church is all true.  Then she happens upon Sadaf, a Muslim doctor who is trying to escape to Canada to avoid the interment camps.  At first Sarah-Mary wants to turn Sadaf in, but as she spends more time with Sadaf and gets to know her better, Sarah-Mary realizes all that she has in common with Sadaf.

I thought this novel was good.  I thought at times it was too simple, too easy and the ending was too neat and tidy, but it was aimed at a YA audience and not an adult audience.  Had it been aimed at adults, I would have expected more depth and less simplicity especially in the ending.  I think it is an important read for teens (and maybe their parents) and a good place for discussion.

I love that there are so many books that encourage a diverse world view.

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, Mother/Daughter Read, race relations, YA

The Child Finder/The Hate U Give

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The Child Finder by Rene Denfield

I was nervous about this book because, as a mom, child abductions have long been my worst fear.  I found the hunt for the abductor thrilling, I loved the strong main character and I was very interested in people who still live a very old-fashioned lifestyle of trapping game and trading furs.  The Pacific Northwest is on Jason and my shortlist of places to visit, so I ate up all the descriptions of the setting.

Naomi, a private investigator who had been abducted as a child, is hired to find Madison Culver, a little girl who went missing three years ago when her family was out looking in the woods for a Christmas tree.

The characters are very well developed, the plot is rock solid and the storyline was different and intriguing.  I give this book 4/5 stars.

While I was reading The Child Finder by Rene Denfield, my 15 year old was reading (and loving) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My daughter LOVED this book.  She found the main character, Starr, very relatable.  She said she wanted to be friends with Starr and help her through everything that was going on in her life.  Starr lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a prep school.  The other kids at the prep school can not relate to the issues Starr faces at home.  Starr’s best friend is fatally shot and killed by a police officer.  His shooting makes national headlines and some say he was a thug, while others say the police officer was wrong for shooting him.  Starr’s family is targeted by both the police and drug lords and Starr is the only one that knows what really happened that night.

My daughter’s review reminds me how different the world she is growing up in from the world I grew up in.  I grew up in an upper-middle class town, there were a few Black kids and I was and still am friends with them.  They may have been going through things – I am pretty sure that they were – but I did not know about it.  I just saw them as friends, we talked and joked and made plans to hang out.  I always thought that we were so much further along with race relations than we actually are.  I really believed, up until a few years ago, that we needed to be color blind and not so shallow as to judge people based on the color of their skin.  I was so proud to be an American in 2007 when Barack Hussein Obama accepted the Democratic Nomination for President of the United States and won the election.  I cried along with the prolific newscaster, who was on his knees weeping because he never thought he would see a black man become President, his own grandfather having been a slave–I think that was the moment that it hit me that I could never really understand this.  I could have sympathy.  I could support equality, but my experience as a white person would protect me from things and feelings and situations that I had no idea existed.  I wish that the world was the way I thought it was 15 years ago, but since it is not, I am glad that I have raised two girls who want to read books like this and want to stand up for people of color.  I am glad that publishers are publishing books like this and I am glad that we can have this conversation.  I hope that at some point soon, this conversation won’t be necessary and we will all be treated equally.