A Handful of Stars

51kylxczcql-1-_sx342_bo1204203200_I love a good dog story.  I also love a good cat story.  In a Handful of Stars, which I just finished a few days ago, Lily’s dog is blind and she is his only guide.  Cynthia Lord, the author of Rules, which earned her a Newbury Honor, released Stars last year, and it is such a great read.  Lily lives in Maine with her grandparents.  She doesn’t know her father, and her mother passed away when she was really young.  All she has left of her mother is this dog which she had before she died.  During the summer, in preparation for the blueberry festival, she befriends another you girl named Salma.  Salma is the daughter of migrant workers, in the area to pick blueberries for the season.

They are introduced when Salma saves Lily’s dog from being hit by a car.  They have little in common, as Lily has lived in Maine her whole life, and Salma has lived all over the place.  Though she calls Florida home, Salma and her family move up and down the east coast, following spring and summer harvests.  Lily’s grandparents own a story that locals and tourists frequent.  In order to raise money for a surgery that could restore Lucky’s eyesight, she paints bird houses to be sold at the store.  When Salma hears of Lily’s work, she spends the summer helping paint more, and as a talented artist, her work becomes quite popular.

Salma was strong and brave, and helped Lily to raise money for Lucky’s surgery.  This story about these two young girls really got to me.  Maybe I was having a rough day, but when I got to the end of the book I just cried.  Her grandfather and Salma have a very close relationship, and though he supports her mission to save Lucky, he has some advice for her.  He tells her this:

“Giving up and letting go are too very different things, Lily.  Giving up is admitting you’re beat and walking away.  Letting go means you’re setting something free.  You’re releasing something that’s been keeping you stuck.  That takes faith and more than a little courage.”

The summer is life changing for this 12 year old.  She learns about love, friendship, and letting go – in ways that she couldn’t have expected.  I loved this story, and the way that these two girls, from very different backgrounds, were able to connect.


Where Do We Go From Here?

unnamedLast Friday was a tough day for me.  I know I’m not alone in feeling disappointed and hopeless.  This past year has been filled with shock and fear, and through the election cycle I thought he’ll never get the nomination, he’ll never win the election, he’ll never really be inaugurated.  Well, here we are.  It’s still so hard to process, and as rough as Friday (or honestly, this past year) was, I am so incredibly proud of the women across this country who participated in the women’s march on Saturday.  I know that to most of us, this seems like a small consolation.  To help process these feelings of desperation and loss, and to help us all move on, we have to find a way to continue on.  These books may help.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis was the progressive voice of a generation.  Not our generation, but one which faced similar challenges.  The story charts the rise of a dictator, and the demise of democracy.  It was written as satire, but still feels very current.  It’s such a strong message, and a cautionary tale, calling us all to protect our democracy.

House of Cards – The book the TV show is based on is a behind the scenes look at national politics.  The show takes a slight departure from the book, and I’m constantly wondering who the main characters are supposed to be based on.  Part of the story is frightening – making it seem like there is no one in Washington politics who is honest.  The main character is ambitious (and his initials just happen to be FU), stopping at nothing to get ahead.  Sound familiar??

Hillbilly Elegy This is one of the best books from 2016.  To understand just how anyone might be interested in a Trump presidency, read this book.  If the explanation of Trump’s win comes from the idea that there are average Americans – living in the “flyover” region of the country who don’t feel represented in national politics (or anything for that matter), this is the idea that this book represents.  I would never have voted from Trump, but there’s still something so powerful in this message.

Between the World and Me – “Black Lives Matter” has become another political issue dividing our country. Unfortunately, while some within the African American community use this as a unifying and empowering statement, that their lives are just as important as anyone else’s, others criticize the movement and this slogan, in that it might suggest that not all lives matter. This is not the message at all – let us not forget that there still is real racism in this country.

We Should All Be Feminists – This is a really quick read, but it’s an important one. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Americanah, which I really loved.  This essay is based on a Ted talk that she did about feminism.  Feminism isn’t just for women or about women, women’s rights are human rights.  That’s her major argument here – and one that we all need to hear.

Undocumented – Undocumented immigrants seems to be the focus of every immigration policy.  Could there be reoform?  Yes.  Dan-el Padilla Peralta was just that, an undocumented immigrant.  Yet, he lived a real life, and succeeded despite his immigration status.  This book challenges readers to look beyond that, and remember that these undocumented immigrants are people.  People who are not worthless, people that may have something to positively contribute to society.

Let there still be hope.  Let us start to heal.  We will get through this, this is not really the first time the country has been so divided.  We can work together.  And though it seems that Trump isn’t interested in working together, we can!


New Fiction Friday: Fantastic Beasts

61ks08br-el-_sx311_bo1204203200_I cannot get enough Harry Potter – and I know I’m not alone.  As soon as I got my hands on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I devoured it.  That came out last year, and around the same time another piece to the Potter world was released – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  It’s an original screenplay, written by Ms. Rowling.  So not an official Harry book, it does tie into the series.  The title actually comes from the name of a textbook used by students at Hogwarts.

Newt Scamander is the main character of the story, the character played by Eddie Redmayne in the movie.  He is a magi-zoologist (someone who takes care of magical creatures – kind of like Hagrid).  The story takes place in 1920s New York, and it seems as if these beasts are taking over the city.  The imagery in the book is amazing, and the movie takes it to another level.  No one has quite the imagination as Ms. Rowling, which is why she is unnamedhands-down my favorite author.

What’s also interesting is that in the story (screenplay??), there is a peek into the wizarding world of New York City.  There is a large and thriving magic community in the states, with a wizarding school that rivals Hogwarts.  Newt is British, and is definitely an outsider.  He’s trying to blend in, not just with American wizards, but in a bustling NYC.  He seems to be on the run, and he claims to be looking for a certain species, yet is accused of coming to New York and setting some of these beasts free.  This again is an amazing visual – even without seeing the movie.

There is dark magic, and in one part of the story Newt faces an execution committee.  It was a fun and quick read, and I can only hope that Ms Rowling keeps writing, and keeps taking us back to the wizarding world!  Side note – when is the next Cormoran Strike book coming out??


51i88vwotol-_sx330_bo1204203200_2017 is already in full swing.  Though I am enjoying the new boots and comfy sweaters I got for Christmas – I am already over the winter weather!!  We got 6 inches of snow here last week, and that is about 5 1/2 inches too many for me.  Luckily, before being snowed in I was able to make a quick trip to the library.  In front of the fireplace, with a good cup of coffee and a new book to read is the perfect place to be!  One thing I’m excited about this year is participating in the #TBRChallenge, being hosted by The Misadventures Of Super Librarian.  Each month, there are posted themes and “due dates”.

First up is for the month of January is romance (or a novella, or short stories).  I don’t normally read a lot of romance, but finding a good romance wasn’t too hard.  I am a fan of Meg Cabot, and have been looking forward to reading her latest book!  The Boy Is Back, which is kind of romance, is all about a small-town scandal and a reignited romance.  I picked the book for this particular part of the challenge, and after reading it, decided that although it was a good read, it really wasn’t that romantic.

Reed and Becky once dated in high school, and had one hell of a prom night.  The night had ended in a crashed golf cart and a dislocated shoulder for Becky.  Reed’s father is a prominent judge in the area, and to him this was an embarrassment.  Fast forward 10 years, neither have seen each other.  Reed has been traveling the world on the PGA circuit, Becky and her sister have started their own business locally.  He’s back in town to help his parents, and along with his siblings needs the help of Becky’s business.

The flame between them is almost immediately reignited.  The story wasn’t as romantic as I expected, but it was a fun read.  One thing unique about the story is Cabot’s writing.  The story is told strictly through a series of texts, e-mails, transcripts of interviews, and a few newspaper articles.

Next up in the #TBRChallenge is a new-to-you author.  I’m super excited about that – there are two series that I’ve been dying to read!!

Love Warrior

51wytwcohgl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Glennon Doyle Melton is one of the most popular bloggers on the internet.  She reaches millions of readers, and has started a movement of giving, of compassion, and acceptance.  And not just acceptance of others’ differences, but acceptance of our imperfect selves.  Love Warrior is her second book, a memoir of her childhood, her marriage, and her struggle with bulimia, alcohol and drug abuse.  It’s ultimately a story of healing, of acceptance, and of carrying on, and that’s exactly what her blog is all about. It’s also what makes her such a compelling voice.  There is such power in this vulnerability that she exposes and shares openly.

I’m normally not even a fan of memoirs, and I can’t honestly remember the last time I read one and actually liked it. This one I could’ve finished in one sitting. She’s very critical of herself – and openly shares her faults. That’s something that is so familiar to me, and made me kept turning the pages.  I’ve never experienced drug abuse or an eating disorder, but I could relate to the judgement and criticism she places on herself.

Parenting was not the perfect role for her, but just like all parents, having a child changed her life. It brought her and her husband together – 3 kids later, they struggled daily for balance. Between the crazy schedule of parenting 3 busy kids, and constantly reparing what seemed to be a fractured relationship, they struggled. This made her role as mother even harder.  She found grace, though.  And in that grace there is hope.

I loved the relatability of all of her stories. Most of the stories she has written about on her blog, so followers of the blog won’t find much new material.  But in the stories readers will find the same kind of compassion and raw emotion she is known for.  Readers connect with her message, and it resonates so many women who think themselves imperfect.  We all may be battling demons, but that’s ok.  She shows us that we don’t have to be perfect to be loved, and that’s perhaps her most important message.

A New Reading Challenge

unnamedEmbarking on a new year is inevitable.  It’s here wether we want it to be here or not. Fear not!  There are exciting things ahead – and new reading challenges to tackle!  Last year I finished 26 Books in 2016 hosted by BringingUpBurns, just in time before the year ended.  The last thing on that list that I was able to check off was Gone With the Wind, which I had been wanting to read for a long time, and it was a serious challenge.  For this year, I signed up for TBR Challenge 2017, hosted by The Misadventures of Super Librarian.  I am super excited because the challenges are different, and the categories are different.

I don’t think I have a comfort zone when it comes to books – but with this list, I’ll be reading quite a variety of books.  First up is short stories, which I normally don’t read.  Some I’m already out of my book comfort zone!

Reading Marathon LogoThe Virginia Beach Public Library is also hosting a book marathon this year – users can sign up and log in each time they finish a book.  The  goal is to finish 26.2 books this year.  You don’t even need  to be a library card holder to sign up for this challenge!

Hope the new year brings many new books!  Happy reading and enjoy!!


Welcome to 2017!

unnamed-2Happy New Year everyone!  All of our decorations have been put away, and I am ready to get back to a routine.  My daughter went back to school yesterday, and I am ready to embark on another semester.  The holidays this year for us were bittersweet.  We spent lots of time with our families and our friends, which was really great, but my husband left for deployment yesterday.    His departure date seemed to loom over our heads, though I tried not to think about it.  We enjoyed our time together, but I dreaded yesterday.  The start of a new year is usually a time for resolutions, or a new start, but for right now, my only goal is to survive.  And I know we will – and I know it will be hard.

I have resolved before, or set a goal to do more yoga, and that is a goal I haven’t met.  I would really like to try meditating.  So, instead of setting a specific goal, my only goal is just to try it.  I’m also starting a new teaching job next week, which will be challenging.  I know I’ll need time to de-stress, and I believe meditation might help.

I’m excited to tackle another reading challenge.  Last year, I finished a reading challenge that got me reading “outside the box”.  This year I signed up for TBR Challenge that is being hosted by The Misadventures Of Super Librarian.  First up: a collection of short stories.  I can’t wait!!

One other goal I have is to create more.  I love making things – but don’t always have time.  I have a bunch of crafts that are half-finished.  Whether I decide to finish those projects, or embark on new ones, it is a goal of mine.  I have a couple of huge projects on my to-do list.  One thing I need to do is to organize and sort through my daughter’s many school projects.

What are your goals for the new year?  Do you have any resolutions??