A Fighting Chance

9781250062253_p0_v3_s260x420So, who is Elizabeth Warren?  Before reading this book I didn’t know much about her, and in this past week I’ve asked my students who she is and I got a bunch of blank stares. I honestly don’t even know what drew me to this book, other than I knew she might be someone who throws her hat into the ring in the 2016. A Fighting Chance is part memoir, but it also describes her law and political career. She is relatively new to the world of politics, (compared to other congressmen and women who have served for years), having only started serving in the Senate in 2012. However, she was a law professor for many years, and became involved in TARP (the Treasury Asset Relief Program), beginning with Senator Ted Kennedy, who originally held the Senate seat that she’s currently serving in (along with his brother).

She’s currently serving the state of Massachusetts, where she had worked at Harvard as a law professor. Her beginnings were much more humble. She was born in Oklahoma, to a working class family. As a woman she faced unique challenges in her career. Her mother actually encouraged her not to focus too much on college, and to instead focus on finding a good husband. It was after her daughter was born that she decided to go to law school, her mother discouraged that too. Her father worked as a janitor, and her mother worked in a bank – which gives insight into who she is as an individual.  It also kind of explains why she became involved with bankruptcy law.

This became the focus of her career, and one of the main reasons she became involved in politics. Another project she became involved with is the income gap. It’s something she worked on with her daughter, who was interested in statistics. What they concluded was that the income gap between the richest Americans and the working class is growing harder.  It has become one of the focuses of her political career. One of the reasons that I loved this book w as that it made me think about … It just made so much sense.

I know that the average American won’t pick up this book – but the average American should be interested in the work that she’s doing. One important question she poses is why there are so many government agencies and policies governing products and none for banking. If consumers are protected from bad consumer products, food, etc. – then what about loans and the terms of loans?? If this isn’t her attempt to run for president in 2016, maybe it should be.  In running for the Senate, she ran against Scott Brown, who won the Senate seat after Ted Kennedy’s death. I think people were shocked when a Republican newcomer won this long-heald Democratic position. She gives an intamite account of the campaign trail and it was somewhat shocking. Whatever your position on Super Pacs are, for or against, I learned they have much more power than I ever knew. They were allowed to run campaign ads, without giving money directly to candidates, or declaring their identities, or their backers.  I loved this book, and loved getting to know her better.  She’s one of the few politicians in Washington whose political career seems untarnished.

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The Astronauts Wives Club

9780594555759_p0_v1_s260x420So a while back Amy messaged me to tell me there was going to be an Astronaut Wives Club tv show.  Having read the book and reviewed it just over a year ago in April.  I loved the book, the show well… (Can you see me waffling my hand back and forth in the air? If not that’s what you should be picturing right now.)

Honestly I was ready to turn off my recording two or three different times while the show played, I only kept going to the end because I had promised Amy a review.  Now with that said let me be more specific!!

This show jumps right into the men being chosen and then on to a party where the wives all meet one another.  From the outset the ladies are barely civil to one another.  So ok in the book it said it took time for them to connect and they as much as their husbands were part of the competition to see which man would be the first in space but a lot of the first half or more of the show felt very sensationalized.  I wanted to get to know the wives. I know there are seven of them, I can tell you which astronaut each belongs to but I can’t tell you all of their first names, and I think part of that is because I read the book.

I was really disappointed that they skipped right over the fact that as soon as their husbands were chosen for the program they became instant celebrities, hounded by the press.  The book mentions them being followed in the grocery store, reporters just inviting themselves in the houses of the families.  The pressure to be the perfect American family is inferred but not really addressed.  Life magazine did a story on every astronaut, every wife, every family.  I wish we’d seen a montage of the wives each being interviewed.

The actresses chosen for the roles seem to be right on target with the personalities we’re introduced to in the book. By the end I really was much happier, the last five minutes were enough for me to set the DVR to record another week.

Side note, I know smoking was much more common back in the 60s but it almost distracted me from the scene as there is so little smoking on network TV these days.

Overall while I was disappointed, I think maybe I was hoping for more of a realistic/drama such as the way Marilyn Lovell is presented in Apollo 13 (I so love that movie) as well as Fred Hayes wife Mary.  Those felt organic and natural, realistic.  This felt rushed, pushed, sensationalized, soap opera-esque instead of drama, like they were trying to make it more of a Desperate Housewives feel (I quit that show after two seasons).  I am holding out some hope as like I said the last five minutes was better, felt more real, and the previews show some scenes that I think are good.  All in all I’d say give it a shot.

One last thing, I’m going to be searching the ‘net to see if I can find impressions of the show from the living Mercury astronauts, wives, and kids, as well as any of the following astronauts and their wives.  Curious to see how they feel about the representation.

Book Blogger Confessions

unnamed-1It’s time to confess.  I’ve been reading a ton lately, I’ve been enjoying some extra free time now that summer is finally here (though I’m not exactly enjoying the 100 degree weather).  I’ve been inspired by The Bookie Monsters to share these confessions about some of my favorite books, and some of my not-so-favorite books:

1. Which book, most recently, did you not finish?

Last night at the Viper Room.  I tried to like this book, and as much as I loved River Phoenix, I just couldn’t get through it.  It’s very rare that I put a book down and don’t finish it – but this one I did.

2. Which book is your guilty pleasure?

Murder mystery series – my current favorite is the Coffeehouse Mystery series.  I love a good mystery – and have the habit of getting wrapped up in a series.  I love Cleo Coyle’s series, and book number #14 is on my summer TBR list!

3. Which book do you love to hate?

Anything involving teenage vampires (or other mythical creatures)…

4. Which book would you throw into the sea?

50 Shades of Grey, and I just heard there’s another book coming out by E.L. James called Grey, which is the story rewritten from Christian’s point of view.  I think I’ll skip that.

5. Which book have you read the most?

Anything by Mo Willems.  My daughter loves his books – a bunch of which I already have memorized.  She loves his Pigeon series, and the Piggie and Elephant series.  So fun!

6. Which book would you hate to receive as a present?

Oohhh…  Tough one – because generally I will read anything.  I think that if a friend was passing along a book she’d really enjoyed I’d probably read it.

7. Which book could you not live without?

Anything written by J.K. Rowling.  Harry Potter has so many fans, but I’ve become a huge fan of her Comoran Strike series – and can’t wait to read the next one.

8. Which book made you the angriest?

Dare Me.  I actually finished the book, but did not like it at all.  It’s about high school cheerleaders – and I just couldn’t believe (even though it seemed to be the general consensus from other reviewers) that teenage girls could be that mean.

9. Which book made you cry the most?

Tuesdays with Morrie.  Balling.  Tears.  Tissues.  More tears.  So touching, so sad, and so inspiring.

10. Which book cover do you hate the most?

It’s been a while for this book – but every time I saw A Million Little Pieces by James Frey I was reminded of sprinkles, which made me crave donuts and cupcakes! If you want to share your confessions, feel free!  You can tag me, or The Bookie Monsters.  Enjoy!!

Summer Reading Programs

unnamedWhat are your plans for the summer?  My daughter and I have already spent hours at the pool, the beach, and Ocean Breeze (our favorite local waterpark).  I can only imagine that the rest of summer will be spent doing more of the same.  Tomorrow is her last day of school, and I think we are both excited.  Instead of dreading keeping her busy and occupied all summer, I’m looking forward to some down time!  Among many other plans this summer, we have both signed up for the summer reading program through the Virginia Beach library.

Keeping kids occupied during the summer is always a challenge.  Now my daughter is 4, and close to reading on her own, I think she’ll be more excited than ever to participate.  Last year I was disappointed in the kid’s program, as the prizes weren’t as good as some of those given the previous years.  There were less prizes overall, and those that were given weren’t that exciting.  This year seems to be similar, but we’re going to do it anyways!

There are 3 separate programs – one for kids, one for teens, and another for adults.  Kids who participate get a free book, and get to spin the prize wheel each time they have read 5 books in the challenge.  Teens also get a free book, bowling passes, and raffle tickets for bigger prizes each time they read a book.  The adult challenge is similar in that raffle tickets are given, there is also a “Bingo” game with raffle tickets awarded for each “Bingo”.  What I love about this is that in order to cover bingo spaces on the game board, players (or readers) must read different types of books, getting readers out of their comfort zones.  It’s a fun way to “escape” this summer!

There are also reading programs available through Barnes and Noble, Book It, Sylvan and Scholastic.  All of these programs are available online, and offer free books & more for reaching reading challenges.  The best part is you can do them all at the same time – and all can be done online.

Have you signed up yet?  Even if you don’t have a young reader at home your local library probably offers an adult summer reading program.  What books are you looking forward to this summer??

Summer Reading

unnamedIt is finally summer!!  School isn’t actually out here yet, but will be next week.  I’m teaching summer school, so I don’t have as much free time as I would like.  And Kel is currently vacationing in Florida, making me super jealous to have my toes in the sand.  As I type, she may be sipping on something tropical!  My good news is that my husband is finally home from a 10-month deployment that I thought would never end.  So, our summer has unofficially begun.

I’m looking forward to more down time this summer, at the pool, at the beach, and just relaxing.  No matter where we’ll be this summer, these are some of the books I’m looking forward to:

At the Water’s Edge – Sara Gruen

Beauty’s Kingdom – Anne Rice  This is another series in her Sleeping Beauty series.  This was originally a trilogy, so this will be the fourth book in the series.  I loved the first three books and can’t wait to read this one.  Seriously, E L James has nothing on Anne Rice!!

Finder’s Keepers – Stephen King

In the Unlikely Event – Judy Blume

Royal Wedding – Meg Cabot  Cabot is one of my guilty pleasures, and I can’t wait to read the next chapter in Princess Mia’s ongoing story!

Summer Secrets – Jane Green

The Wright Brothers – David McCullough

American Wife – Taya Kyle  I read American Sniper and was so surprised that it was so good.  I also really loved the movie – which closely followed the details Kyle wrote about in the book.  His wife lived through several deployments, his transition to civilian life, and his tragic death.  The book also shares a title with one of my favorite books ever, written by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Primates of Park Avenue – Wednesday Martin

Endless Summer Cookbook – Katie Lee  A few weeks ago I wrote about the start of my garden.  I’m hoping this is the perfect book to use all of the tomatoes, squash, basil, and peppers I’m growing.

I hope you can find a hammock, lawn chair, or beach towel to relax and enjoy a new book!

Guantanamo Diary

UnknownOne controversy surrounding the ongoing war on terror is the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Used to house suspected terrorists, or “enemy combatants”, individuals held there are subjected to routine and ongoing interrogations.  Obama himself promised to close the prison, but to this day it still remains open. What goes on there is a closely guarded secret – operating outside of the Geneva Convention, which is one the main criticisms of the prison.  One story that has emerged is that of Mohamed Ould Slahi a prisoner that has been held there for  many years.  Guantanamo Diary chronicles his experiences there, and also of his arrests and ongoing interrogation.  He began writing the diary 3 years into his stay, and although a federal judge ordered his release, he remains in U.S. custody in Cuba.

The diary was written by Slahi, and what he describes and details are not only the conditions under which he lives in Guantanamo, but the way in which he was captured and detained.  He was suspected to have been a part of the Millenium plot, which before reading the book, I knew nothing about.  Larry Siems edited the book, and he also worked to get the book published to get Slahi’s story out there.  The book was also edited twice, and censored by, the military. The details are shoking – and I had a vague of what went on there, and a somewhat strong opinion against the prison and the housing of “terrorists” there. Waterboarding is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here he talks about the ongoing interrogations:

“Weeks went by, months went by, and the interrogators’ thirst for information didn’t seem close to being satisfied. The more information a detainee provided, the more interrogators complicated the case and asked for more questions. All detainees had, at some point, one thing in common: they were tired of uninterrupted interrogation.”

I know there are real terrorists there, there are bad guys there. But, many have been there for years, like Slahi himself, having never actually been charged with anything. He was originally detained Mauritania, and actually had once been affiliated with Al Qaeda when they were fighting against the Soviet Union with Afghanistan. Somehow his name stayed on a watch list, which is somewhat understandable. He goes through a short series of prisons in the middle east, and is briefly released to his family. He is arrested again after 9/11, and it’s then that he finally makes his way to Cuba.

Parts of this book were shocking – but it was hard to put down.  I hope there can be real justice for the prisoners being housed at Guantanamo.  With that said, I also read this book with the idea that Slahi himself could be guilty of something, and that in reading the diary, I was only getting one side of the story.  The story is compelling, and part of a broader story that may never be told.