Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Side Note

Two years ago...one of the gerbils who started it all.

This weekend we buried one of our eight (yes, eight, long story) gerbils. My older daughter and younger son were saddened, but otherwise unaffected. My middle daughter, however, instantly broke into tears, which continued off and on throughout the morning. Even now, two days later, she is inspecting the other gerbils for signs of illness and hovering in worry.

My daughter has been an extreme animal lover her whole eleven years of life. It's convenient for her that we are a pet loving family. We've had a ferret, hermit crabs, fish, butterflies, ant farms, turtles, two dogs, and a series of gerbil litters that equaled 24 when all was said and done. We love pets, but when it comes to animals for my daughter, the absolute joy or pain - whichever the situation calls for - absolutely shines through.

And like anything that shines as a light in the darkness, I've learned from it. I'd always kind of shrugged off people's passion for almost anything, even my own for books and reading. I tempered my love of books for years...the only evidence being that I obviously did a lot of reading, as I was always seen with a book or two. I don't know why I tried to overlook people's passion, as this is a newer revelation about myself and I haven't thought it through yet. What I do know is that watching my daughter grow in her passion for animals these past few years has opened me up to watch for the passion in people. Hence this blog I started in July of 2012 as I enveloped my own passion.

Off the top of my head I think of my son, who has loved to run from 18 months of age and has placed first in cross country runs the past two years at his elementary school. My father who (we like to say) can fix or build anything with glue and toothpicks (that may or may not be a stretch). My husband who likes to build things. My older daughter who is a budding fashionista. My close friend who loves to bake. Two friends who love movies and know everything there is to know. Three couples on fire for their ministries and where God is leading them. And a number of my girlfriends who currently have very small kids and inspire me with their passion for motherhood.

Yes, I've noticed passion used as an excuse for losing control and I've seen it overdone, but overall I've enjoyed seeing all the ways in which the good things of the Earth have been covered with the passion of those around me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jeannette Walls and The Silver Star

Photo Source: rainydaybooks.com

The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: June 11, 2013
Category: Literature/Fiction (Adult)
Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I typically don't read fiction e-books (free or not) because I far prefer the experience of a book in my hands. However, when I found Jeannette Walls (author of ever popular The Glass Castle) had a new book on NetGalley, I could not pass up the opportunity to read it before most everybody else!

The Silver Star is a story of two sisters and their eccentric and somewhat neglectful mother. The sisters travel to their mother's hometown where they find family they've never met and a (now broken down) legacy they never knew existed. In their attempt to settle in, sisters Liz and Bean Holladay find themselves in the midst of searching out identity and a major complication by the name of Jerry Maddox.

I have to say the story was somewhat predictable at times, which keeps me from saying too much here. Even if you couldn't nail the events exactly, you could guess where a few pieces of the storyline were headed. (Especially if you are familiar with Jeannette Walls's family history from The Glass Castle.) Yet, I found myself reading throughout the afternoon and late into the night, finishing the 288 page book in almost one day. (And that's reading around a full time job and three kids!)

So what held my interest?

Bean Holladay. One of the main characters, she is also the narrator. As a twelve-year-old living an atypical family lifestyle, she has an interesting take on many things. Her spunk keeps you cheering for her as she learns to view her mother through more mature eyes, instead of blind love, and takes on an entire town in the fight of her lifetime. She is endearing and inspiring and really makes The Silver Star worth the read.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Borne Back Ceaselessly Into the Past

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

I haven't updated my read-a-thon progress at all this week because I knew I wouldn't get very far, very fast! End of the school year, things are winding down, but still busy. At least I did finish the book  I started with, titled Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, so I figured I'd just write a review for it here as my update. A definite must read for any Fitzgerald fan.

If you have a general knowledge of stories about Scott and Zelda, you know that Zelda is often painted as the (literally) crazy wife who refused to marry Scott until he was a published author. And although they both liked to party, it always seems Scott comes out the gentleman in most stories I've heard. So I went into the reading expecting to become more enamored of Scott and find all the craziness behind Zelda explained. I've yet to be enamored and find Zelda's biggest error that she married Fitzgerald at all.

Author Therese Anne Fowler did extensive research while writing this fictionalized account of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's lives together, so although the dialogue and some scenes are imagined as it might have happened, the thoughts, people, places, and situations discussed are widely supported by diaries and letters between the Fitzgeralds and others, as well as writings about them at the time. (These writings were also used in the making of the new Gatsby movie.)

At first the party life is exciting and new to Scott and Zelda, but much like his Gatsby, Scott's will to party is the means to an end. While Jay Gatsby is ultimately searching for the love of Daisy Buchanan, Scott Fitzgerald longs to be somebody, and maybe even everything, to everybody. Every piece of success wears off quickly as he feels the urge to become bigger and better. At the top of his game, Fitzgerald takes new writers under his wing, giving guidance on everything from writing to life. Among his circle is Ernest Hemingway, a most detestable man if ever there was one (if Zelda's observations are to be trusted). Hemingway's portrayals of the Fitzgeralds in his memoir A Moveable Feast are among the most lasting and popularly believed, although when put next to biographers' research prove to be half truths, if that.

I won't say too much more, so as not to spoil the incredulousness the book will bring as you read, but be forewarned, right when you think Fitzgerald can't disappoint you more, he will. It is truly a time period and state of mind to make most any woman a feminist, even if only at the moment. I apologize to Zelda's memory for every bad thing I ever assumed about her. 

Fitzgerald's life, and by association Zelda's, a true and very sad testament to the famous last line of The Great Gatsby, which is also an engraving that sits at the Fitzgeralds' graves: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The “What Now” of 3rd Generation and Beyond

Today, we have the pleasure of hearing from Danna Pycher, the author of 3rd Generation and Beyond. For my review, click here.

Danna Pycher, Author

My life has changed since 3rd Generation and Beyond FINALLY finished and came out to the world in ways that I never expected.  I am now a speaker at schools all over the place speaking about my grandparent’s stories of the Holocaust.  I never thought I would be a representative of a topic of such significance.  Every time I speak, I speak for the people who never got a chance to tell their storybecause their life was taken from them.  It is a responsibility I carry with both pride and heaviness.  

Day to day I work as a hypnotherapist specializing in trauma and chronic illness.  In a micro way, I hope to heal others who in turn will heal people I never come into contact with.  3rd Generation and Beyond is healing on a macro level, at least that’s what I intended it to be.  I find myself time and time again in a place of awe when I receive feedback that the book is actually planting seeds of hope and good character in people in the ways that I dreamed it would.

I plan to very soon create a non-profit around 3rd Generation and Beyond that will represent and support activism and humanitarian education.  The whole philosophy behind the book was to create a society of people who in times of wrong or darkness stand up for what is right.  I hope to advocate for strong leaders in the world with unparalleled ethics.
I hope you enjoy the messages that 3rd Generation and Beyond has to offer. No more hoping for a better tomorrow; here’s to creating it!

                                                                                With Love,

If you’re interested in learning more about this title, 3rd Generation and Beyond is 50% off for the Kindle edition on Amazon and 20% off for the physical book throughout this tour.
Be sure to check out the other Book Tour Stops.
The tour Twitter chat will be on Wednesday, May 22 at 7PM (New York) using the hashtag #3GAB

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

3rd Generation and Beyond - Book Tour

                                          3rd Generation and Beyond by Danna Pycher
Publisher: ByThisTime Publishing
Publication date: 2013
 Category: Memoir
Source: Received from author for review

History is important to us. We record it, talk about it, study it, analyze it, write it, and strive to make it. We feel a wide range of emotions about it: proud, joyful, angry, perplexed, ashamed, and devastated. There aren't many other things in life that touch us and teach us quite like history does.

Especially family history. For many of us in the big melting pot we call America, our heritage is a mosh posh my dad likes to call Heinz 57...meaning too many nationalities in the gene pool to really claim one or two over the others. But what if you knew from whence you came and yet it was still a mystery?

Danna Pycher is the third generation in a family of Holocaust survivors. Her grandparents each survived hidden away, waiting out the war. Her grandfather was literally told to take his brother and run, which he did. Neither of their families made it. So while Danna knows her nationality, much else from her past and extended family is a mystery buried beneath the literal rubble of history.

Danna's book 3rd Generation and Beyond is a mix of memoir and Proverbs. She discusses the last days of her grandmother and the feelings she (Danna) has as she learns about her family's past. Along with giving her family history, each short chapter is a bit of wisdom Danna has gleaned from her family's collective experience and practiced herself as life has thrown her curveballs. She closes the book with copies of emails she had sent to friends upon visiting Poland with her parents in 2007. Each step Danna traces brings her closer to her history and to the wisdom for a bright future. We should all be so smart to take heed of both the history and the wisdom.

Come back Thursday, 5/16/13, for a guest post from the author! 

If you’re interested in learning more about this title, 3rd Generation and Beyond is 50% off for the Kindle edition on Amazon and 20% off for the physical book throughout this tour.
Be sure to check out the other Book Tour Stops.
The tour Twitter chat will be on Wednesday, May 22 at 7PM (New York) using the hashtag #3GAB

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week Long Read-A-Thon

Yes! Another read-a-thon! I am new to this one, so I have included the little blurb from the host site just below.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

My more reasonable goal is to finish two books I've started, but not progressed through very quickly (due to a busy schedule and distractions). The books are You are Not so Smart by David McRaney and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. My ultimate goal is to also catch up on a devotional I've been reading titled Sparkling Gems from the Greek by Rick Renner. It is a set of 365 Greek word studies to sharpen understanding of the Bible. Gives you an idea of what has been lost in translation. 

I can guarantee I'll be reading more than usual to accomplish this goal! Between my daughter's softball and putting up an above ground pool in our yard (among the usual busy schedule), we've had little downtime. I look forward to a reason to take it easy and enjoy doing what I do best: Read!

So if you're interested, check it out. If you can't, that's fine too. If you were to join any kind of read-a-thon, which books would top your list?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tempted, Tested, True

Tempted, Tested, True by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross
Publisher: Bethany House  (Baker Publishing Group -photo credit)
Publication date: April 2013
Category: Christian, Nonfiction (Adult)
Source: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Temptation. A word people know, use, and consider on many different levels. Yet, no matter how temptation is considered, it stands in history as the downfall of mankind and has haunted us ever since. 

In Tempted, Tested, True, authors Arnie Cole and Michael Ross take readers through what they label as Nudges, where the authors point readers in the direction for which they should aim. Each nudge is introduced with life stories/testimonies from people and then discussed in a workbook type fashion, asking the reader to understand the material personally. While the intro story may not be your direct experience, the root Temptation behind the story could. The reader is then moved to Tested, where the authors discuss a path to help change your course or help with the topic being discussed. This includes survey information they've gathered from Christians. True is the last category given and it charts a path toward change.

There are 10 Nudges discussed: 
Learn to be God-centered
Pinpoint Your Weakness
Reconsider Holiness
Change Your Brain
Interrupt Your Heart
Detach Attachments
Surrender Control
Shake the Shame
Fall in Love Again
Rethink Church

There are also two sections that discuss the points in which men and women are most tempted. Each section discusses five "hot button" points. One chapter in particular (Interrupt Your Heart) provides a website with free services to carry out their suggestions. The chapter is about interrupting your day with thoughts on God and scripture to keep you on track. They offer automated texts, emails, and even phone calls, in which you'll receive a scripture or thought based on the topics in the book to keep your mind focused on the change you seek - the lessening of successful temptations. I tested it and sure enough, at the times I preset, I received emails and texts with various scriptures or Bible devotional content.

Having read many books in this particular genre of Christian reading, I found Tempted, Tested, True on par with the rest. The free online service through their website was an extra that people taking this topic seriously would benefit from. The authors also have another book, mentioned in this one, that I will be reading. It is called Unstuck and it deals with learning to engage with the Bible instead of reading it "just because" or in a cognitive manner.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Gone Girl - SPOILER Alert!

Quick note: This "review" (and hopefully ensuing discussion) is about the ending of Gone Girl, so it will be a SPOILER!

I'm coming late to the review and discussion of Gone Girl, so I'm thinking I can skip the whole book review part and straight out ask about the end. Let me start by saying I liked the book, it definitely has the twists and turns that make me love a book. I switched sides between Nick and Amy, not knowing who to believe through the first half (although I can honestly and proudly report that I believed Nick most of the time)! I called the Desi twist the second he mentioned his place for Amy's refuge (yes, another proud reader moment). It was all good the whole way through...

...but what's up with the ending?! Cheering for Nick those last twenty pages, having his secret meetings with Boney and Go, I'm nuts waiting for them to bring about a clue I had missed or for Amy to slip up. I just know he will be not only vindicated of Amy, but also liberated from Amy. And there is a clue I overlooked, but it's not one that works in Nick's favor. Amy had saved their specimen from the fertilization clinic and caught Nick with the age old girl tries to keep boy tactic: I'm pregnant. Yes, it is different because they are married, but it is also the same because she is using it to keep Nick by her side. She knows a baby, especially a son, is enough reason for him to drop everything and stick around. And so it ends.

WHAT? Was there no way for Nick to plot a little in the next nine months and get his baby and trip Amy up somehow? The end made me so mad! I was pulling for Nick and as the pages became fewer I should've realized it wasn't going to be. I stayed up until 2AM only to have my hopes crushed. And all I can think now is, "Poor Nick" and "What kind of life will that poor child have?" It's the left over possibilities that haunt me most.

What did you think of the end? Is there any good side to see in it?