Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good Stuff Saturday 8-30


Life has been crazy with getting ready to go back to school and actually going back to school the last two weeks. I have some great blog posts in my head and I might even get them written down this coming week. Thanks for being patient.


Island in Maine, Aspen trees, Disney Princes


Maybe we are supposed to be over the Ferguson tragedy by now, but my heart is still breaking for the whole thing.  These are not the definitive words on the situation, but they spoke to me. And this too. I just keep hoping and praying that as a teacher I can do something to make a difference.

When Ferguson, Iraq, depression, murder, missing, diseased, and death get to be too much and threaten to overwhelm me, I can find a little happiness and a little hope in Disney.  Frozen: the feels, Anna and Kristoff, Hans. And this song.

Less liking is a good thing

Small colleges are too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Good Stuff Saturday 8-16

Norway, Tea fields, Waterfall

Patience - I'm not so good at that.

Depression isn't for the weak.

Pray for who?

Hashtags are fun.

And among all of the other horrible things that have gone on this week, to me this one seems to be the one that needs to be discussed most.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heavy Laden

There has been a lot going on in the world lately, as well as my world. The genocide in Iraq, the racial issues in Ferguson, the murder of a teacher, a teenage runaway, the response to Robin Williams' suicide, the poorly dealt with state of mental health in this country, a friend in pain, a friend struggling with addiction, my son starting kindergarten, a sort of new assignment for me at work. Those are in no particular order because they are all swimming through my head and heart.

It has all left me feeling hopeless and helpless. I doubt there is anything I can really do as a middle class white American living in a small city in North Carolina. I don't think my prayers are strong enough. I'm not sure that God is big enough to fix it soon. I worry about all of those that will suffer before these problems are fixed. It is enough to make me want to just sit and cry. There is an overwhelming amount of pain. It takes my breath away, but it also takes my hope away. Life is hard. Then we add the injustices forced upon so many to the difficulties of simply living and I just want to curl up in a dark place and forget about it all.

I wish I had a positive thought to end on, but I don't. I'm heavy laden today and leaning on God.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat Photo Credit: Barnes and Noble

I bought this book for my mom Mother's Day. When I was looking at the book choices I could make, this one stood out as different than your average romance or mystery or action novel. It seemed like it told a story. A few days later my mom called me to tell me she finished the book in just a day or two. (So obviously she enjoyed it.) She sat it aside for me and when I visited her, she passed it along. With the recommendation of my mom, I knew I would enjoy the book.

The strongest part of this book is hands down the characters. They are so vivid that you sometimes forget that they aren't real! Each character has a story and a past. Throughout the novel we discover those stories. We also discover their flaws and they are big flaws. No one is perfect and these women are no exception. Despite their flaws and maybe even because of them, the women are best of friends and no one can tear them apart. We see their flaws, but we also see how their friends see them. I think that is what makes us love them so much. The other minor characters are also full of flaws, but we don't hate them either because we see how other people see them. And each character realizes their faults and does try to make them better. It would probably be very easy to hate most of these people for their faults, but we don't have a chance because there are so many people around them that love them. And that love inspires them to love themselves a little more.

The plot is well done as well. The shifts in time and character perspective could be confusing, but I never had a problem with it. The author does an exceptional job of clearly defining who and when these events are taking place without the reader noticing him doing it. The history of each character is presented as it applies to their present circumstance. It really makes it seem like you are sitting next to them hearing stories. The end is a total surprise and pleasantly so. My only slight 'complaint' which really isn't so much of a complaint is that the Eleanor Roosevelt thing was a bit odd. You'll have to read it to get that though.

The author does an amazing job of presenting life for African Americans over the last 50 years without getting too bogged down in politics and culture differences. It teaches without a guilt trip. I greatly appreciated that as well.

A fun read with unforgettably lovable characters.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat

Publishers Weekly
The indefatigable trio of Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette (known as "The Supremes" since high school) churns the small community of Plainview, Indiana into a Southern-fried tailspin this debut from Moore, a professional cellist. Each of the central characters brings unique challenges to the tables at Earl’s diner: Odette battles cancer while her pothead mother communicates with famous ghosts; Clarice tries to salvage a crumbling marriage with her cheating husband; and beautiful Barbara Jean, who married for money, drinks to forget a youthful affair and her dead son. In a booth at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, a short walk from Calvary Baptist Church, these women lay bare their passions, shortfalls, and dramas. Clarice’s cancer treatment brings them together in melancholy, but it isn’t long before secrets are revealed and the scramble to catch up on lost time begins. Despite meandering points-of-view and a surplus of exposition, Moore is a demonstrative storyteller and credits youthful eavesdropping for inspiring this multifaceted novel. Comparisons to The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe are inevitable, but Moore’s take on this rowdy troupe of outspoken, lovable women has its own distinctive pluck. Barney Karpfinger, the Karpfinger Agency. (Mar.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Addison's Mark by Matt Kuvakos

 Photo Credit: Amazon

This book is a Young Adult novel and there will be a sequel to this book. I would consider it Christian political fiction, but in the normal Christian book store kind of way. Normally, I do not read books in a series at all. If I choose to read them, I wait until several or all of the books are out, so I don't have to wait on any more. Often I lose interest in the series before the next one comes out. A series has to be exceptional for me to start reading it and wait on further books. This book just might fall into that category.

The setting in post economic fall America is very clear. It was not written so tragically that I wanted to stop reading. However, it was not glossed over as if it weren't real either. The sequences about visions were described vividly and their duration was clear as well. The characters were interesting and believable. I quite easily fell in love with the main characters. I knew who I didn't trust as well as who was caught in the middle. The plot moved along well. It was fast paced without being so fast as to lose the internal character struggle. When plots move so fast that they lose the internal character struggle, I stop reading and deem it poorly written. This book was not at all that way. 

However there were a couple things that I didn't care for. Theologically I disagreed in a few places. I did not disagree with the overall presentation of God, angels, Heaven, demons, etc. I did have an issue with Sam's ability to see and know all of this without declaring God as Lord. The ending seemed more like a stopping place rather than an ending. I understand it is book 1 of 2, but I didn't feel the resolution was sufficient enough to consider it the end of the book. I did like the way some things were hinted at without directly telling us. We have hints at what is coming, especially if you are aware of Biblical prophecies. However, it has not been so directly stated that there are no surprises left. I didn't like that it was not presented as Book 1 of 2, but I discussed those thoughts above. I didn't particularly like the cover, but I don't know that I could have done better. So maybe that isn't a very valid point.

I assume that the many questions I have left will be answered in Book 2. So I don't count those against the book. Some reviews did not like the abundance of similes and metaphors. I was not distracted by the similes and metaphors. It made Sam Addison more believable as a 20 year old non-scholar. Some mentioned confusion during the vision sequences, but that was not a problem for me.

Overall, the story itself is very good and doesn't limit itself to simply a young adult audience. The minor problems do not detract from the enjoyment of the whole novel.

I received a free copy of the book from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.


Addison's Mark

Twenty-year-old Sam Addison is marked by both good and evil. Sam is plagued by thoughts of his parent’s violent and mysterious deaths, making survival during a major economic collapse in the United States difficult to endure on his own. Before he loses all hope, an ethereal being visits him in multiple dreams and visions, trying to ignite his faith. Sam tries to forget what he saw, but it’s something that simply can’t be ignored when he finds an odd marking burned onto his wrist. He becomes consumed with unanswered questions about his purpose in life and what the mark could mean or even do. Until, he meets the beautiful Ashlin Ammon, the adopted daughter of the popular presidential nominee, and who some call the “savior” of the dying country, Marcus Ammon, who sees a lot of himself in Sam. Once invited to join the campaign trail as an assistant for Marcus, Sam is pulled into a war no man could ever survive. He is left with a choice that will not only change himself, but mankind forever.

  • Paperback: 272 pages
Buy New $9.89

Friday, August 8, 2014

Failure Sucks

 Photo Credit: Dimitris Papazimouris

This week has been a rough one. It wasn't one of those weeks that you expect to be rough. It was one that sneaks up on you. It creeped behind me just out of sight and just out of reach. More than one my husband has asked me if everything is okay this week. I've said that I'm just tired. And I thought that was it. I was just tired.

And last night in the middle of the night I realized that I'm not okay this week. I feel like a failure. Not like I just failed at one thing, but I've failed at multiple things. The failure is quickly followed by guilt. I think of all the people I have let down with my failure. And I start thinking of all the things that should have been and now aren't because of my failure. I start believing that my failure can't be rectified and that the whole course of events on the earth have been changed because of my failures.

Yes that sounds over dramatic, but lets be honest. In our moment of failure when the chains of what could have been are hanging heavily on us, aren't we all over dramatic. There are plenty of cute sayings about the good that failure does in our lives. And we know those words in our heads, but our hearts don't believe a word of it. Our hearts aren't looking for optimism. Our hearts are hurting because we found out that we are not the person that we thought we were. We didn't live up to a standard that was set before us. Often it was a standard that we set up for ourselves.

So here I am at the end of the week. I am not okay. I feel sad. Several things didn't go the way that I had planned on them going. To me that feels like failure, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it is God reminding me that it isn't about me or my plan. It's about Him and His plan. So today I'm going to take some time and look at all the things are going right. I'm going to give myself some grace and I'm going to attack some things with renewed vigor.

I might be a little down, but I'm not out.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

 Photo Credit: Amazon

I had this book on my to be read list for a while and had thatuple opportunities to put it on my read list, but I didn't. I just wasn't convinced that I would really enjoy this book, so I passed it up a couple times. I finally decided to take it off of my TBR list, but I also got a few other guaranteed winners just in case. So what is my verdict?

Why did I wait so long?!

This book is heart squeezingly fabulous. It is a homey fantasy that is lovely and tragic and beautiful and creepy. In today's day where the idea of longer is better, this book is a scant 180 some pages. One could assume that it isn't long enough to really connect with the characters and have a sufficiently plotted story. Those assumptions would be wrong.

I  connected with the characters quickly and passionately. Some I loved, some I hated, some I pitied, and some I feared. They were all very well drawn and believable within their world, which was just almost our world. The plot is well done. We are left wanting more, but knowing that more is not possible and could quite possibly ruin what has already been recorded.

And yes recorded is the correct word. It is more of a recorded tale instead of a written story. It feels like an old tale that is somehow foundational to all that we know and all that we have forgotten.

I will say that there is one tiny part that gave me a cold chill because it was creepy. That shouldn't keep you from reading it, but I want to warn you that it is there.

A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Timesbestseller Anansi Boys.
This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real...
  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • Buy New

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Tie That Bound Us: The Women of John Brown's Family and the Legacy of Radical Abolitionism by Bonnie Laughlin - Schultz

 Photo Credit: Amazon

I will say that I have not finished reading the book. And you are probably thinking, I should stop writing reviews before I finish. However, I can't wait to finish the book to write a review because I LOVE this book! This book is very readable and very real. I don't want to read through it too fast because there is so much to absorb in what I am reading. So I don't want my review to be put off for too much longer. I feel as if I am sitting beside these women as they go through their life. The author does a very good job of putting the events in a larger context of the time. She does not show bias toward any one side. She tells us what these women went through and to the extent possible, she tells us what they felt about it. At no point in time did I feel like she was trying to convince me to think of this controversial figure in a certain light. I felt that I was being encouraged to make up my own mind. 

This is not simply a book about the women in John Brown's family. This is not simply a book about radical abolitionism. This is a book about a nation, a struggle, a time period. This is a book about family, duty, and sacrifice for a cause. It is a book that will cause to look at history differently. It might even make you look at the present differently. It will make you question your beliefs. 

I would recommend a physical copy of the book as it would be easier to refer to the notes on the author's source material. And I would recommend buying this book and not simply borrowing it from the library. You will want to read it more than once.

If you are interested in the lives of women, get this book.
If you are interested in abolitionism, get this book.
If you are interested in the Civil War era, get this book.
If you are interested in family dynamics, get this book.
If you are even slightly interested in history, get this book.

I received a free copy of it through NetGalley with the agreement that I give an honest review. My review is rather late at this point, but better late than never, hopefully.

Book Description

John Brown was fiercely committed to the militant abolitionist cause, a crusade that culminated in Brown's raid on the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and his subsequent execution. Less well known is his devotion to his family, and they to him. Two of Brown’s sons were killed at Harpers Ferry, but the commitment of his wife and daughters often goes unacknowledged. In The Tie That Bound Us, Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz reveals for the first time the depth of the Brown women’s involvement in his cause and their crucial roles in preserving and transforming his legacy after his death.
As detailed by Laughlin-Schultz, Brown’s second wife Mary Ann Day Brown and his daughters Ruth Brown Thompson, Annie Brown Adams, Sarah Brown, and Ellen Brown Fablinger were in many ways the most ordinary of women, contending with chronic poverty and lives that were quite typical for poor, rural nineteenth-century women. However, they also lived extraordinary lives, crossing paths with such figures as Frederick Douglass and Lydia Maria Child and embracing an abolitionist moral code that sanctioned antislavery violence in place of the more typical female world of petitioning and pamphleteering.
In the aftermath of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry, the women of his family experienced a particular kind of celebrity among abolitionists and the American public. In their roles as what daughter Annie called "relics" of Brown’s raid, they tested the limits of American memory of the Civil War, especially the war’s most radical aim: securing racial equality. Because of their longevity (Annie, the last of Brown’s daughters, died in 1926) and their position as symbols of the most radical form of abolitionist agitation, the story of the Brown women illuminates the changing nature of how Americans remembered Brown’s raid, radical antislavery, and the causes and consequences of the Civil War.

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
 Buy New$27.04