Storytime: Two Boys and a Van

This is the story of when my heart caught up to my intellectual understanding.

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Today I’m going to bring you something a bit different.  I’ve written before about how I came to start my blog and how I’ve gotten educated on various topics.  You can read more of those under the about me tag.

Most of the moments I write about have at least a tangential relationship to books or education, but this one does not.  For that reason I’ve debated sharing this here, but ultimately decided to do so.

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Review: Highly Unusual Magic

“In the United States, people thought of Leila as Pakistani. But here, people thought of her as American.” page 45

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou.
Harper, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2015.
Modern fantasy, 297 pages.
Highly Commended by the South Asia Book Award.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 8.0 points)  .

Two girls, each living with extended family for the summer, find a book entitled The Exquisite Corpse, surprisingly blank until one writes in it.  Then the book itself starts filling in a story, a story which has interesting ties to the real world, a story which both girls are anxious to read the ending to.

Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

I generally dislike books with two narrators.  Often one is stronger than the other, and the author struggles to give them equal screen time while keeping our interest in the story.  However, when this method works, it can be very strong.

Highly Unusual Magic starts with Kai, who is staying with a quirky older woman, a distant cousin whom she calls Aunt.  Leila is visiting relatives in Pakistan alone and realizing that she doesn’t speak the language, and knows little about Islam although her family is nominally Muslim.

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E-book Review: Lynching in America

“In all of the subject states, we observed that there is an astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching.” Introduction, key point 5.

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, a report of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Published online at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/, Montgomery, Alabama.
Accessed in July 2017.

This report walks the reader through the events surrounding racial terror lynchings in America, including case studies of individual lynchings and photographs, illustrations, legal reactions, and original source quotations.

Lynching in America image resized
Lynching in America Report Introduction. Freely available at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/ .

I don’t recall how this crossed my path.  Normally I prefer to read books in person, whether I purchase, checkout from the library, or borrow from a friend.  However, some popular books are easier to get from the library as ebooks and older books that are out of print can often be found online for free.

This book doesn’t fit either of those categories.  Instead, this is a report from a team led by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.  His book’s been on my TBR for a while now (I even had it checked out, but had to return it as there was a hold).  After reading this report, Just Mercy got bumped up on my must-reads.

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Review: The Lucky Few

The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis.
Zondervan, HarperCollins, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.
Adoptive parent memoir, 223 pages.
Not Leveled.

This is the story of one woman who couldn’t become a mother even though all she yearned for was motherhood.  This is the story of her three children, and the journey she and her husband went through to bring them home and accept them as forever family.

The Lucky Few

This was a fairly light and quick read.  (I finished it in a few hours, your mileage may vary.)  I think if I didn’t know so many people in situations very similar to hers, this might have had more impact.  As it was, I felt like she kept the story extremely positive and glossed over a lot of the harsh realities.  However, that makes sense given that the goal of this book is to reach as many people as possible.

In parts it is more obvious than others that Avis was extremely lucky.  She glosses over the birth family of their daughter Truly Star, which makes sense because she is quite young yet and not ready to decide if she wants to disclose that information to the world.  She has close and loving relationships with the birth families of her other two children.  That’s fairly unusual, especially the birth family reaction to her.  Perhaps it’s a different scenario because they have Down Syndrome as opposed to other challenges.

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Review: Redefining Realness

“The boundaries of gender, I was taught, were unmovable, like the glistening white rocks that surrounded Grandma’s crawfish ponds.” page 77

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock.
Atria, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2014.
Memoir, 263 pages including acknowledgements.
Not leveled.

Redefining Realness resized

I’d seen this book recommended multiple places before I finally bought it.  The tagline says “You will be changed by this book” and I have to say, that is entirely accurate.  Janet Mock is diverse and disadvantaged in so many ways – part Hawaiian, part African-American, transgender, from impoverished circumstances, a former sex worker, abused and traumatized as a child.  Yet out of this mix she has formed something gorgeous.

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Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

“I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there crying when another car rolls up in front of me. I look up, and it’s Peter Kavinsky’s black Audi with the tinted windows.” page 36

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.
Simon and Schuster BFYR imprint, New York, 2014.
YA Romance/realistic fiction, 355 pages plus recipes and excerpt.
Lexile:  630L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 12.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would recommend this book for high school students and not elementary school.

Lara Jean is the middle of three sisters and her mother has passed away.  Her oldest sister, Margot, is moving to Scotland, leaving Lara Jean in charge of her younger sister and father.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before resized

I am probably the only person ever to read this book because I first enjoyed Jenny Han’s middle grade book Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream.  This series has been hyped so much that I thought it would be another Everything, Everything, but after reading and liking Clara Lee, I grabbed this at Target.

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Review: The Refugees

“It was a trivial secret, but one I would remember as vividly as my feeling that while some people are haunted by the dead, others are haunted by the living.” page 71

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, New York, 2017.
Adult short story collection, 207 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

This collection of eight short stories is tied together not so much by the characters as by a common theme – they all deal with Vietnamese immigrants, albeit in very different and sometimes surprising ways.

The Refugees cover resized

I first heard of this book when reading an interview with the author prior to the release.  Instantly knew I wanted to read it and put in a library request.  Received it at the end of April and was about to send it back unread because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it, but then Shenwei posted about the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge … so I read one story at a time during lunch breaks.  Because of the tight time frame for this challenge and needing to return the book, I only read it once.

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