|As a child one of my favorite memories was going book shopping with my Mom as a reward for getting good grades in school. A side effect would be the perpetual tuning-out of crazy family members because I always had my face in a book. For years nobody knew what I looked like…. Naturally, the ideal profession for a book nerd is to become a book seller. I was lucky to do so after working 20 years in health care. I joined McLean and Eakin in August of 2010. When not reading or selling books, I like to spend my time with my hubby/best friend and our kids: "The Warden”, “Mr. Extreme”, “The Artist”, “The Politician”, and “The Diva”. That said….COME BUY BOOKS! See you there…|
This lovely novel takes place in Stun Meahchey-a municipal landfill in Cambodia. Ki Lim and her husband eke out a living picking recyclables from other people's waste while raising a chronically ill son who requires medicine that the family cannot afford. To make matters worse, they must give almost all of their earnings to Sopeap, the slovenly, downright mean rent collector.
When Ki Lim brings a colorful children's book home from the dump, Sopeap sees it, snatches the book and runs out the door weeping. In an instant all of their lives are changed as Ki Lim finds a soft place in her heart for Sopeap and endeavors to learn why she would have such a reaction. Ki Lim knows she and her family are destined for a better future and the secrets she unearths about Sopeap will begin her journey.
This is a story of hope and redemption in the most dismal of circumstances. A definite must-read for anyone who knows the transformation of heart that can accompany a good tale.
I'm pretty sure nobody out there needs me to tell them to read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver as she is well known and loved by many. However, I had never read any of her books before so she was new to me. Might I say, I am so glad I did!!
At the onset, I grew a bit weary of the process of shearing sheep, but after 60 pages of getting to know Dellarobia, I was hooked. Living under the watchful eye of her overbearing mother-in-law, and about to throw her mundane married life away for the young, strapping telephone man, she hikes up to the family cabin with the thought of beginning a tryst. She suddenly looks up to see a forest filled with vibrant orange "flames" that do not burn. Thinking she is having an epiphany, she returns to her daily life a changed-and still monogamous-- woman. In fact, what she has stumbled upon is a harbinger of global change.
Thousands of butterflies that normally would reside in Mexico during the season have found their way to Dellarobia's fanily's woods. These same woods are about to be clear-cut in order to save the foundering family farm. Dellarobia finds herself awakening to a world far larger than the one she or anyone around her has ever known. Much to the dismay of her husband, family, and town.
Not only a wonderful novel, could Flight Behavior be a quiet warning of our global future? It certainly got me thinking......
Sigrid's husband is serving the Fatherland on the front while she is left at home to maintain a life as a good German hausfrau. She lives with and watches over her mother-in-law, goes to work, manages the household income and everything a daughter of the Fatherland should do. All the while aching for her lover, Egon, who happens to be Jewish. He is living a life on the run from German soldiers while stealing torrid moments with Sigrid until he vanishes.
Grieving a lover she thought she had lost forever, Sigrid feels trapped and soulless until, quite by accident she is drawn into the business of smuggling Jews to safety. Feeling more alive than she can remember, she becomes quite adept at switching personalities in order to maintain the ruse of loyalty to the Reich. Her involvement helps to fill the void in her heart left at the loss of Egon. However, black and white blur into grey when Sigrid's wounded husband comes home
This haunting book allows the reader a glimpse into the harsh world of a post-Civil War New York City orphan. Twelve year old Moth has been abandoned by her father to be raised by her gypsy mother in the slums of New York. Unable to provide for Moth, she is sold by her mother into a life of servitude. Hopes high, Moth moves in only to be beaten and otherwise abused by her mistress. She manages to escape, returning to her home only to find that her mother has disappeared.
Having nowhere else to go, she is taken into an "Infant School" where she is taught by Miss Everett-the proprietress of the "Infant School" how to use her feminine charms to attract gentleman willing to pay a high price for a virgin (a virgin being a "cure" for syphilis). Within the confines of her situation, Moth is fed, clothed and cared for, making her reluctant to leave thus she be thrust back into the streets. She has accepted her fate, hoping that the man who chooses to pay for her services is kind and "clean".
However, the spark within Moth burns bright for a better future-one she can call her own-- serving nobody. Does she have the strength to make a better life for herself?
This story is a richly woven account of the Slepy family—Dick, his wife Seena, and his diverse daughters Mary Grace, Mary Tessa, Mary Catherine and Amaryllis (Yllis).
We are flies on the wall of each Slepy’s consciousness as each of them moves through their odd family’s days with their own separate form of reality. The thoughts of stubborn Mary Tessa, beautiful, self absorbed Mary Grace, Mary Catherine the Saint, and oddball Amaryllis are shared with us as the family is uprooted from their Michigan home to join their father in Africa as he “ministers” to the underprivileged .
Each of them will be challenged, broken, and rebuilt by events that, until their arrival on the Dark Continent, have been shrouded from even their own conscious minds. Each character in this story is colorfully painted and shared with the reader. Sometimes the thoughts are not pretty—leading us to realize how fragile and complex all of us truly are.
Ok—I’m not sure I would recommend this book for the faint of heart. But, nobody was more surprised than myself that I actually came away with a different view...
Malcolm Ede was an unusual boy—often throwing tantrums or removing his clothes in certain public situations. People around him learned to overlook his eccentricities because of his kind and wonderful nature as a whole. His family also operated in orbit around him. His mother enabled him, his father disappeared into his attic to immerse himself in his construction of lifts and elevators, and his diligent younger brother was forever in his shadow.
On his 25th birthday, disenchanted with the world and it’s ideas or how we all should live, Malcolm goes to bed...and never gets out. He spends the next twenty years in, and becoming one with, his bed. Out of love, his mother caters to his every need. She feeds him meals that forever increase proportionally to Malcolm’s size, she bathes him, and her life becomes defined by him. As do the lives of his father and younger brother. Malcolm becomes a 1,000 pound planet with his loved ones caught in orbit around him.
The author’s writing style drew me even though the subject matter did not...at first. Written from the perspective of the younger brother, the terms used to describe what Malcolm’s body is becoming are often colorful and a bit disturbing—but these are what held me to this book. And at the end, I’m glad I stayed. Malcolm’s father said it best: “To love someone is to watch them die”. Decide for yourself when you read this book if helping someone you love do what makes them “happy” is, in fact, love.
Admittedly, I have read a bunch of REALLY GOOD BOOKS lately. Also admittedly, I tend to shy away from young adult books in general. But the buzz about this book—and then hearing the subject matter—”cancer kids”—drew me in. Now, many of us find the subject of cancer off-putting and depressing. As if our own struggles aren’t enough to deal with, am I correct? Yet, after working in the field of cancer care myself for many years, I was interested in the approach the author would take. I am so glad I read this book, because John Green did the subject justice.
Hazel and Augustus, two teens going through very different cancers, meet in a support group that neither of them is thrilled to be attending. Augustus is in “remission” and Hazel knows she is terminal—her lungs struggling with metastatic tumors from thyroid cancer. Both of them find themselves tired of the experience of their disease defining them in the eyes of others. Their story is much the same as any teenager struggling with regular issues, falling in love, peer pressures, etc. But it is with the added facet of having cancer as well. Using the typically sarcastic, intelligent teenage voice, Mr. Green “Nails it” for many people (not just kids) who have to deal with cancer on a daily basis. Those folks are not defined by the disease (the only thing we outsiders seem to see). Instead, it becomes part of their daily pattern albeit a dreary part. So, those folks wish to be greeted with normalcy rather than pity and sorrow.
Hazel and Augustus approach their day-to-day lives as well as their relationship with a maturity that we don’t find in typical teenage situations. Or do we? Are teens more than vampire romances, mean girls, and zombies? Read this book about two super-cool, intelligent teens who just happen to have cancer. And yes—you will cry.
Welcome to Ginny Selvaggio’s world. Hers is one in which dealing with people is frightening and she retreats into closets and other small spaces when things get too overwhelming. To calm herself, Ginny immerses her thoughts in the processes involved in cooking. It is in the structure of following a recipe that Ginny can find safety and order.
With the deaths of Ginny and her sister Amanda’s parents, the protected world in which Ginny survives is gone. No longer can she find refuge in routine and in her parents presence. In her twenties, Ginny finds herself living alone in her parents house, having to deal with the day-to-day business of dealing with other people. Her sister wants to get rid of the house and with it the only safety Ginny had ever known.
During their parents’ wake, Ginny finds comfort in cooking one of her Nonna’s favorite dishes. In doing so, she is able to conjure Nonna herself who brings a message for Ginny. “Don’t let her do it”, Nonna says. Who? Do what? As Ginny struggles through her Asperger’s syndrome to decipher what message Nonna is trying to send from beyond the grave, she also struggles against her sister to keep the family home.
Cook along with Ginny as she tries to overcome her many obstacles and in doing so, gain an opportunity at a somewhat “normal” life.
Most of us are ill-versed in the Victorian language of flowers. Often we associate this method of communication with romance, patience, passion, etc. But the flip side of floral communication is true as well. We can send messages of contempt, spite and other forms of ill will.
As a child, young Victoria Jones has been thrust from one foster home to another as each family she meets finds her violent outbursts too much to handle. As she grows, she is increasingly detached from human contact and finds refuge in flowers and their meanings. Here she finds the gift of being able to communicate with others via the meanings built into the beautiful arrangements she constructs. Most of her recipients are unaware of the significance of the arrangements she chooses — sometimes they are even filled with hateful statements.
Victoria ages out of her final group home and finds herself utterly alone, homeless, and jobless. She lives in a park, forages for food discarded by restaurants, and steals flowers from other people’s gardens to build her own sanctuary. After she lands a job at the shop of Renata, a rather unorthodox florist, Victoria’s life begins to change. But, can she release her heart from the steel chamber she built to keep it safe?
As summer is winding down and our blooms are fading—-pick up this book and step into a greenhouse filled with another bygone way of communicating that is far more beautiful and meaningful than any email could aspire to be.
This is a teen’s book and I LOVED it. Upon
opening, I was reading the weird dialog of my own teenager, Nate.
I loved it because as parents, we
struggle with trying to keep the lines of communication open with our kids in a
dangerous world. Unfortunately, the
albatross of parenthood is that we are perpetually uncool.
The author, Josh, is a twenty-something
who candidly shares his own life of sometimes poor choices and struggles that
come with being passed between several foster homes. And through his story, our kids can see that
it’s ok to remain YOU and not compromise your identity.
Josh reinforces the message we try to
tattoo onto our childrens’ hearts but he does so in a way cooler way that we
parents can. So step outside your comfort
zone, parents. Share this book with your kid. He just might throw you a bone and say “Wow, that’s what you’ve said,
Marylou is in her sunset years and she is irate and snarky. Why? Because back in the 1960’s while pregnant with her first and only child, she was part of a study of 800 pregnant women. They were asked to swallow a pink fizzy “vitamin drink” that would ensure a healthy baby. As a result, after having eight years with Helen, her daughter succumbed to cancer. Marylou begins a life that revolves around her quest to find Dr. Wilson Spriggs—the man in charge of the study—and kill him.
Fast-forward to present day. Marylou is now known as Nance. She has found Dr. Spriggs and has begun to slowly infiltrate his life like the cancer that took her daughter. As she creeps into the marrow of the family, she begins to doubt whether she can fulfill her quest, having formed ties to the evil doctor’s grandchild.
I love the biting inner dialogue Nance has as she argues with herself over which way to kill Dr. Spriggs. The candy-coated exterior she displays to Dr. Spriggs’ family hides an inner bitter shrew hell-bent on revenge. The question is, will she….?
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
I need to open by saying how much I enjoyed this book. I learned much about the chasm there is between the parenting styles of "Chinese mothers" versus the diverse parenting styles of the West. The "Chinese mother" doesn't allow play dates, video games, sleepovers, or complaints about any of those things. Her children should be practicing their instrument for 3 hours a day-after homework. Her children should be the best at all of their studies-often grades ahead of their peers. But, alas, as Ms. Chua has so poignantly shared, that sort of discipline when used alone, comes at a price. This book caused me to examine my own parenting style as well. We in the West hold "understanding and support" very high on the parents list of priorities. But-as with Eastern disciple as well-it cannot stand alone. We get too soft and afraid to tune-up our kids when they need it. Parents-read this book. You will find it biting, eye-opening, hilarious and moving. And hopefully-we will all learn to examine our relationships with our kids as honestly.
In contrast to Ms. Chua's book-this colorful children's tale by Boni Ashburn follows a little girl who "makes a mountain out of a molehill" when she finds she has outgrown her favorite dress. Her understanding and creative mother encourages to relax-it's not the end of the world. As she grows, the beloved dress becomes a shirt, a skirt, a pair of socks-it keeps morphing into something new and useful, thanks to the artful sewing of her mother. Until one day...but I won't spoil the ending. This is a clever story of creativity, growing more mature, and repurposing all rolled into one delightful read-aloud. Maybe a bit "soft" for the Tiger Mother....but a fun read. Share it with your little diva who trends toward the dramatic.
This is a fascinating true account of three early nineteenth century women arrested by the British government for petty crimes. These women (and children as well) were tagged with a “tin ticket” and herded like cattle to board slave ships bound for Australian and Tasmanian penal colonies. This overlooked portion of history is resurrected as we follow them to the other side of the world and into lives of slavery and torture. In the event of being born female and poor in Britain, oftentimes women were forced to decide between the “relief” of selling their bodies or steal to survive. Those caught stealing were deported. 12 year old Agnes McMillan is the girl whose journey we follow after being captured for stealing scraps of food. She and her friend Janet somehow stay together through the four month journey overseas to the island called Van Dieman’s Land—later named Tasmania. These girls meet their fates with an ingenuity, humor and strength that are still exhibited by their descendants to this day. Stay with Agnes and Janet as they survive their amazing journey as well as Elizabeth Gurney Frey—the Quaker reformer who fought to make the lives of female convicts more bearable. Originally published in 2010, this book is due for paperback release in November of 2011. Truly amazing.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
The first book in the-- "His Fair Assassin" trilogy-- this is an excellent Young Adult read. Please do not be dissuaded by the "typical YA cover" and give this book a try.
Set in medieval Brittany, Ismae is able to escape an arranged marriage to a brutal man. She is spirited away to the convent of St. Mortain-the patron saint of Death. It is here that she and the other novitiates learn of the gifts they are born with-the gifts the convent will teach them how to use. The god of Death himself has blessed Ismae with with the ability to learn the dark art of assassination. The abbesses of the convent introduce her to her talents and teach her how to use them. Contrary to her nature, she is being trained to kill using all varieties of poisons and hidden weapons.
For her first assignment as an assassin she is placed within the high court of Brittany to protect the Duchess. Here she is to pose as the mistress of the darkly handsome Gavriel Duval-a man who has the confidence of the Duchess, but is under suspicion for treason and a potential target for Ismae. Will Ismae allow her conscience to guide her or will she become a soul-less killer?
This latest book by one of McLean and Eakin's favorite kid's authors brings us a magical tale of generosity versus greed. Annabelle lives in a dismal, wintery town void of cheer. Until one day she happens along a box filled with beautifully colored yarn and knits herself a sweater. Finding she has "extra yarn", she begins knitting sweaters for her family, pets, and all of the townsfolk who have begun to admire her colorful knitted creations. Enter the clothes-mongering archduke-who, upon being denied purchase of this wondrous box of yarn, sends his minions to steal it from Annabelle. Alas, for now I will tell you no more-so please see for yourself how this tale ends-oh yes, and if you have read I Want My Hat Back-- you may recognize a cameo appearance by one of Jon Klassen's other delightful characters.....