Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Salon - April 2010

Wow, I didn't realize how little I read this month until planning this post. Hopefully I will find more reading time soon.

April Review

The Reluctant Suitor by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoffis

Reviews Written

Monique and the Mango Rains
Day After Night

Currently Reading

To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy
The Know It All by A J Jacobs

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Booking Through Thursday 4/22/10

It’s Earth Day … what are you reading? Are your reading habits changing for the sake of the environment? What are you doing for the sake of the planet today?

I am currently reading The Know It All by A. J. Jacobs, a satire written by a journalist about his experience reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. I am thoroughly enjoying it.
My reading habits have changed
  • I recycle all magazines and newspapers
  • Share my books with neighbors, colleagues, family and students
  • Purchased an e-reader
What am I doing for the sake of the planet today? The past year has been one of change in our household as we become more and more aware of how our individual actions affect our planet. Here is a list of the small things we do in our household to "make our world a better place" (a quote from 6 yo Boo Boo last weekend when she saw some kids planting flowers at their school).
  • Use reusable shopping bags wherever we shop, not just the grocery store. Most of them are made of recycled materials.
  • Switching out all lightbulbs to more energy efficient ones
  • Grow our own produce - we started a rather large suburban garden last year and I did not have to purchase much produce last summer and fall. We expanded this year to blueberries, strawberries, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Installed a water barrel to use to water vegetables, fruits and flowers
  • Turn off lights when we leave the room (we are still working on this one!)
  • Recycle as much as possible
  • Use BPA free reusable water bottles
  • Cook at home as much as possible

We have a long way to go, but I believe our family has made some positive changes in the past year. How about you? What are you doing to "make your world a better place"?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Book List - Three Favorite Eras to Read About

For Lost in Books meme, The Book List - a short and fun meme that lets you make and share lists of books.
This week's topic is - Three Favorite Eras to Read About

1. Tudor England - this is by far my favorite era to read about. From Catherine of Aragon to Jane Parr, I am and always have been intrigued by everything revolving around Henry VIII and his many wives. As I have read more and more about this era, I have developed a deep respect for the literary and political advances of the time. His marital woes aside, Henry VIII was an innovative king and his dabbling in humanist ideas and the encouragement he offered men such as Sir Thomas More set the stage for the changes to come in Europe and the world.

Favorite books from the Tudor Era - The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett

2. World War II - During my high school history classes this was always a favorite topic of mine. I was devasted in college when I could never fit the WWII History class into my schedule. As an AP European History teacher, I probably spend way too much time on this subject (but the students don't mind!). The sacrifices, the heart wrenching stories and the ultimate triumph of determination and spirit make this era one I cannot resist.

Favorite books from the World War II Era - Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Dairy of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

3. Modern Day Middle East - this is a new era of interest for me, sparked of course by the influx of Middle Eastern literature due to the recent conflicts in the area. Most of the fascination comes from how radically different the cultural norms are from our everyday existence. Another pull to this era is how women are treated.

Favorite books from the Modern Day Middle East - A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra, Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

4. Civil War Era - I know, I know, I am only supposed to list 3, but the Civil War was the very first era I was interested in, going all the way back to reading Across Five Aprils in 3rd grade. This era developed my intense love of historical fiction as well as establishing my love of history which led to me chosen profession. My father being a member of the local Civil War Roundtable, just sealed the deal.

Favorite books from the Civil War Era - North and South by John Jakes, In the Season of the Wild Rose by Clara Rising, and the classic, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Booking Through Thursday 4/15

This week's Booking Through Thursday Question -

In general, do you prefer the beginnings of stories? Or the ends?

I love a good beginning, it grabs your interests, pulls you in and keeps you going to discover the wonderful characters, plots, twists and turns of the book. For me, if the beginning doesn't get me, I probably won't finish the book. Now, I do love a good ending as well, but many, many times, I hate to see a book end because it means I have to say goodbye to a time, place and people that I have grown attached to. The end is where my emotions take over. This is where I cry (The Friday Night Knitting Club, Death Be Not Proud), get angry and throw the book across the room(My Sister's Keeper), sign with longing (Gone With the Wind), smile with hope (A Thousand Splendid Suns) and a million other emotions. I think it would be fair to say I enjoy the entire reading process. After all, isn't that why we read?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monique and the Mango Rains - Two Years with a Midwife in Mali

by Kris Holloway

Monique and the Mango Rains is a memoir following the friendship of a Peace Corps volunteer and an overworked midwife in Mali It is an honest and heart tugging view of life, especially for women in a lesser developed country.

In the developed world we, as women, take for granted so many things -- the ability to choose our own spouse, clean drinking water and an indoor bathroom, to use birth control or not, being in control of our own finances, giving birth in a safe, clean environment, access to health care and medicines for our children and seeing our children survive childhood. In many countries in the developing world, all of these are considered luxuries -- in Mali, to achieve even one of these is a miracle.

As Monique Dembele's midwife's assistant, Kris Holloway experiences first hand some of the most horrifying statistics in Africa. She weighs a 2 year old child who weighs only 5 kg (11 pounds). She treats the wounds of a woman beaten by her husband because she gave birth to a girl. She attended horrible births only to watch both mother and child die. She watched as Monique's salary was given to her husband who spent it on motorcycles and leather jackets. She helps Monique struggle to aid the women of the village against a lack of education, a lack of resoures and the oppression of a strict patriarchical society.

Yet, for all these differences there are also many similarities - somen depend on each other for support. Just like we go to lunch with our girlfriends to share our joys and frustrations, Malian women meet in the fields or at the well to share the news of the village. Women share the joys and sorrows of marriage, birth and death together. And in Mali, women are also the force behind change and innovation. Monique's determination to bring modern birth control methods and post-natal care to her village are just as radical as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony's crusade for the women's right to vote.

The relationship that develops between Monique and Kris is beautiful. Never, at any time is it an unequal relationship -- both women have so much to teach and offer each other. There is never pity or envy, complaining or preaching, just two women who bring out the very best in each other. Monique and Kris remain close long after Kris's Peace Corp assignment is over. Monique even visits the United States.

In a book that could have been so sad, depressing and hopeless, there was so much love and hope. This book will stay with me for a long time.

Rating - A

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day After Night

by Anita Diamant

After loving The Red Tent, I was excited to pick up Day After Night by Anita Diamant. The book tells the migration story of a group of young women who join the Zionisht movement to Israel after World War II and the Balfour Declaration. This was a new topic for me and I learned a great deal about the settling of modern Israel. For example, when first arriving in Israel the girls were all put in camps run by the British. This seems a rather ludicrous idea after many of the settlers had just been released from German concentration camps. The camps however were clean, there was plenty of food and many educational opportunities from learning Hebrew to organizing political events.

The bulk of the story follows 4 young women as they try to settle in Israel. Their reasons and goals for coming to Israel are just as varied as their backgrounds. Diamant develops these characters so well, that you can visualize not only the physical characteristics of each girl, but also the psychological scars each bears.

The reasons people came to settle Israel were so varied. There were many staunch Zionists -- many who had fought for a Jewish homeland long before World War II. There were many who were non-religious and viewed Israel as an ethnic country rather than a religious one. There were also many who came because they had no where else to go -- they had lost everything and everyone to the Germans, so they came to Israel to start over.

This was a quick, light read, which I was not expecting given the subject. I expected more emotion and depth to the total story, but it was truly rather passive, almost as if they story, like the Jewish suriviors of the war, was tired. The story also mimics the holding pattern the settlers are in once they arrive. They wait in the camps until someone sponsors them or the British/Israeli government assigns them to the kibbutz.

This book fascinated me. I learned so much about the settlement of modern day Israel, how the settlers were treated, their reasons for coming and how the British were overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees coming to the new country. This is a great book to read if, especially like me, you love World War II novels.

Rating - B

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Book List - Books I Should Love, But Actually Hate

For Lost in Books meme, The Book List - a short and fun meme that lets you make and share lists of books.
This week's topic is - Books You Should Love, But Actually Hate
1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling- not just The Sorcerer's Stone, but all of them, I just could not get into these. My husband and son have both devoured them as have numerous students, they are just not for me. Not a big fan of the movies either, so that has nothing to do with it.

2. The Shack by William Paul Young- This book is nothing at all like my personal perception and relationship with God,
I had a hard time believing it at all. I know others just loved it, but not me.

3. Atonement by Ian McEwan - I was the only on in my book club that did not like this
selection. In fact, it was one of the few books I have never finished. I could not connect with any of the characters and the plotline just left me cold. I was disappointed, because I really like Ian McEwan and have read (and liked) many of his other books, especially Amsterday. Again, didn't see the movie either.

To join the fun, like up to The Book List at Lost in Books!