Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun

Source: Amazon.com

Although I'd heard people's positive opinions of I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, I didn't pay very close attention, as sometimes happens when I'm on new book overload. At the end of this school year, a student randomly stopped me in the hall and said, "You HAVE to read I'll Give You the Sun."

Then, mid-June, I received an email from a co-worker saying it was such a good book. And a teacher friend from another district chimed in, agreeing. With all of that encouragement, how could I not drop all else and read it? Found it on library ebook, through the Overdrive app (gotta love it), and took off.

The story is told by a set of girl/boy twins, Jude and Noah, at different times. Noah tells his parts of the story in the past, when they are approximately 13, while Jude's narration happens in the present, age 16. I got really wrapped up in each set of narration, especially as tragedy presented itself in Jude's narration, but you had to get back to Noah's past narration to see what, why, and how it happened. I would find myself reading one section and thinking, this is a whole story in itself, what else could be coming? I think this method of narration drew me in and made me want to continue reading.

The story itself focuses on the twins. Their closeness almost seems to draw them apart as they get older. When jealousy and tragedy strikes the twins' lives, actions are taken and personalities shift. Overall, I really liked this story because it kept my attention, I cared about the characters, and I wanted to know the outcome. I definitely throw my positive opinion in with all others!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Think about this one beyond your initial gut reaction to it. Is there truth to it?

"The one you love and the one who loves you are never, ever the same person." Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk

My initial thought: How much do our perspectives (not necessarily truth or reality) play into how we see a loved one and them us? Cause I've met people who I've wondered how their better half deals with them...and have thought the same for my poor husband at times!

And then take into account a number of things, such as maturity level, experience, situations, needs, wants, etc., that can arise between two people, for good or bad. There's something to this I think.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Source: Amazon.com
California, by Edan Lepucki
Publisher: Little, Brown and Comapny
Publication date: July 8, 2014
Category: Literature/Fiction
Source: I received this galley from the publisher via NetGalley for consideration of review.

Last fall I got my hands on a galley of California, by Edan Lepucki. Please note, it was months after the release date, so although this book has been out almost an entire year, I didn't necessarily slack on my review timing! 

So why did I want to read this one? Post apocalyptic. I read many good things about it, but all it took was a statement about post apocalyptic living and I was sure to try it. The story centers around a couple, Frida and Cal, who are living in the woods of an unknown place. When I say living, I guess it's more like surviving. They have to hunt, grow, make most everything they need. Their location is unknown because it seems the nation has deteriorated enough that states and cities no longer carry their names, although Frida and Cal are from California.

The story held my attention the entire time. Parts of it are told in flashback, so I read on, interested in what exactly went down, where other people were, and then how Frida and Cal we're going to make it once they moved on from their new home. Snippets of back story from Frida and Cal's normal lives, pre-apocalypse, give an idea of how the world began to fall part, what it has become, and how it functions now.

As the story moved to a close, I felt myself waiting for some big revelation about why they ended up where they were and how they were going to change everything, etc. I won't give any spoilers, but have to say the ending was disappointing for me. I understand it and can even see why it ended the way it did, but I didn't like it. It's one of those endings where people will go back and forth about why it is or isn't good, which is good in itself because it means the writer created discussion. If you like apocalypse books, it's worth a try.

How do you feel about "those" types of endings?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

This weekend was a doozy! We traveled two hours from home to attend a music festival called Alive in Mineral City, Ohio. We spent the first day with things going wrong and the entire second day in the rain. And I mean every single minute in the rain. By the time we hit dinner we decided not to come back for the evening bands, which is a shame because they were what we came for. But it was so miserable...and every time we parked in their lots (aka fields + rain = mud pits) we got stuck and my dad had to pull us out with his truck. Every time = more than once.

I was really looking forward to this trip, especially after the rough start we've had to summer, it was very disappointing. However, I sit at the hotel pool this Saturday night, watching two of my three kids swim, with my husband at my side, and I'm reminded of Ann Voskamp's teachings about Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving in all things, with joy and grace as a result. And I recall these quotes from her book One Thousand Gifts:

"Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle." Voskamp

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.” Voskamp

And I know I have to find the good moments and focus on those, because anything else is a thief of joy. And why be an enabler to that?

I also want to share one very cool moment from this past week, an addition I had done to my shoulder tattoo, which goes along with one last Voskamp quote. Consider it one for the road:

"When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?" Voskamp 

Wording and blue flower at end of "Eucharisteo" are original
tattoo from 2013. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Born Survivors: A True Holocaust Story

Source: wendyholden.com
Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope, by Wendy Holden
Publisher: Harper 
Publication date: May 5, 2015
Category: Nonfiction
Source: I received this ARC from Harper in consideration of a review.

Born Survivors is the amazing true story of three Jewish women whose lives turn upside down as Hitler comes into power. Sounds like any other Holocaust story? Well, aside from the fact that it's nonfiction, maybe I should mention these three young women were pregnant at the time of their incarceration in various concentration camps. All passed through the hands of Dr. Mengele (aka The Angel of Death) and journeyed from Auschwitz to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria.

Amazing? Uh, yea. This story is unique from others in the aspect of the hidden pregnancies. Who knew it would even be possible to hide a pregnancy, let alone give birth and have the baby survive? I also liked that we are given a picture of the women's lives before the world went haywire, as well as how things began to descend to the point of no return. Or seemingly so. Author Wendy Holden brings together the stories of these three women and their children, the born survivors of the Holocaust, in time for the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. Such tales of survival defy a "point of no return."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

The first week of summer has passed and it was crazy. My friend in the hospital is recovering very well, but still has another surgery to face in a couple months. My uncle passed away and my parents and aunts and uncles are very upset, but at the same time know he is in a better place. Day by day, other friends are gaining their footing...sometimes day by day is all we can ask for. And my husband faces a fourth bout with his skin cancer, this time within the swirl of his ear. The cancer, being basil cell, is not so harmful as the location. There are many important nerves and glands in the face that can become complications. But we are confident, having been down this road before.

Suffice it to say, the last two weeks have been a doozy. Luckily, all of is has been mixed with great moments shared with wonderful family and friends. I thank them all for their amazing love and support, even though they may not realize how much the little things have meant the past two weeks.

I offer these quotes about endings and beginnings for this week's #sundaysentence.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Haven't quite finished reading California, but this line hit me as meaningful. And it strikes me that we do an awful lot of thinking to the past. And if we aren't thinking in the past, we're looking ahead. I think we need to dwell on the present more...just a thought.

"Time moved forward, but the mind was restless and stubborn, and it skipped to wherever it pleased, often to the past: backward, always backward." California, by Edan Lepucki

As I thought about this, I recalled the last line of The Great Gatsby (below). Wow, same thought, so many generations apart. We humans really don't change.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ignoring My Goodreads Goal

Every January I look forward to setting a new Goodreads reading goal for the year. And every year I strive to complete the goal, missing by a book or two a year or so and making it others. It gets annoying here and there because I end up picking some reads based on how they will help me add another tally to my goal keeping. And yet, I love the idea of a challenge, tracking books, and reading more than I did the year before.

But not this year.

I set a goal, but for the first time, I've decided to ignore my Goodreads goal. I'll add books as I go, but I'm not going to strive to make it. For those of you involved in yearly reading challenges, I know you understand the internal conflict this causes a bibliophile (the rest of you can feel free to laugh at me). As I started to think about doing this, more reasons popped up, making it easier and easier.

1. I fell behind on my challenge between the crazy months of March and April. Ugh, do I want to read just for the sake of catching up?

2. I have some big books I really wanted to read this year. Namely, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Outlander series, all big books! The bigger the books, most likely, the fewer you end up reading. And that's not good for a reading challenge based on number of books read. Besides, reading the whole Outlander series in two or so months would be an accomplishment in itself!

3. My friends. I have a few close friends who find themselves in a tight spot right now, specifically in the next few months. A couple of them will have a more stressful and tiring summer than usual due to circumstances or changes in their lives, while another friend will be fighting for his life. The school year restricts not only my daily time, but also my time outside of school with planning, grading, and attending activities (my students' and my kids'). Summertime is free time for me and it is the only time I can be at the beck and call of those who need me. Also, there are my other obligations, like the day-to-day time with my kids and some family events we have planned. 

Obviously, the last reason is the one that sealed the deal. With the addition of each person I felt I needed to be there for, it became abundantly clear the reading goal would have to go. I know it's the right thing to do because I feel completely at ease about it. But you better believe I'll still be reading - it will help keep me sane - and the blog will keep going strong.

Have you ever decided to give up something you love or enjoy because something more important came along?