The books that have meant the most to me, both this year and in the past.

This Year:

While both books are very recent reads for me, I know that they have shaped me and my way of thinking.  I have always been a firm believer that if I don’t understand something, or am confused, I had better get educated.  For me, the easiest way has always been to find a book.  A pastor I once knew told me that we (then I believed he meant Christians, but now I think he meant people) must learn about what we don’t understand because misunderstandings can lead to fear, leading to hate, violence… all of that can be reciprocated, pushed back.  Doubled.  All of it could be nipped in the bud by just reading up on a subject, putting yourself in another person’s shoes.  Asking questions…. just looking at someone and saying: I accept you.  There’s so much fear in America right now about “foreigners”, immigrants.  So many are screaming for them to be sent back- to never be allowed to be here in the first place…. but have they thought about what these people came from?  Why they needed us, and what they actually receive in way of help.  Have they thought about how long a refugee must wait, the hoops they have to jump through, just so their kids can have the life we take for granted?  It’s the same with the transgender question- which should never have become a question in the first place.  People are afraid of what would happen if they were allowed to pee in peace for crying out loud.  The world has gone mad and violence won’t solve it- only knowledge and acceptance.

Since I began my blog:

The Eagle Tree was a phenomenal book whose main character is autistic.  It goes into depth on March’s feelings, intellect, frustration and how he sees the world.  Having spent a lot of time working with autistic children, I feel like Hayes has a unique grasp on the struggle of autistic children.

Highly Illogical behavior addresses agoraphobia.  Solomon was a great character that brought to light a lot of heavy issues and still seemed to keep things light a lot of the time through the book.  It left me feeling wrecked and reworked.  I loved it.

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is a book that I have spoken of several times.   It is both a coming of age, and a tutorial on how to survive with severe defects.  It is a study in fury and grace.  I loved it so much!

The Diary of Ma Yan wrecked me for a different reason.  Like nearly every other kid I have ever met I never respected the gift that education is.  There are those that can’t go to school- where it is so hard as to be nearly impossible to attain.  It made me grateful for the things I have in my life, for the chances I have been given.  It is one girl’s sweet search for knowledge.

Invisible Ellen moved me because of the way the author showed Ellen.  She was so obese as to be ashamed, to wish for invisibility and feel like she could never change.  Never get better.  Her best chance is to live a life where she is ignored.  Through the book she changes with the help of a new friend- but not it the magic “poof, now I am skinny” way a lot of books seem to- as if being skinny would magically cure her image of herself.  She made changes, got healthier, started believing in herself more…. understood she was worth the work.  That is why this book inspires me.

And just a few books that moved me from my past:

It is rare to find a book like I Shall Not Hate.  The author spent his life moving back and forth between sides of the Gaza strip trying to bridge gaps and bring health care to patients.  Even after the war cost him two children he refused to give in to hate.  This inspires me.  He, who had every reason to be angry, chose to preach peace and love.  Every time I even think of this book I am moved near tears.

The Book Thief inspired me simply by watching what the characters went through, how they reacted to one another, what was important to each of them.  It was beautiful and thought provoking.

I Am Nujood forced me to take a good look at the way of life in other areas, and the things we take for granted in our own.  It is a gorgeous, heart breaking story of a girl with more courage than I can even imagine.

I Am Malala, well, see above.  Like I Am Nujood and The Diary of Ma Yen it showed a girl fighting for something that should never have been in question in the first place.  Here, it is the right to education.  She was threatened- she was shot! And all for wanting an education.  It made me sick, and it made me desperate for change.  It made me think.  Stories like this, while hard, remind me to be grateful for what I have and remember that these are things worth fighting for.

A Monster Calls is maybe an odd book to have in this list.  A young boy trying to cope with the illness and possible loss of his mother.  A monster, is he of the boy’s making or working beside the boy?  It is a sad book, intense and fraught with emotion, that left me drained.  And yet it is one that I think of all the time.  It shaped how I thought of grief, and the strength needed to overcome.

Lastly, the book that meant the most to me through my life:

eva luna

I cannot explain it.  I have come back to this book every year for twenty years.  I don’t always read the whole thing, it’s more that I visit sections.  When I am frozen and feel like I will never be warm again I go to the jungle.  Allende’s description of the hot air, the lush jungle, warms me every time.  The characters have become like old friends that I miss if I don’t visit often.  Eva’s story has never failed to bring me out of myself when depression hits.  Before I found it in eBook I had bought eight copies of this book because I had either read the current copy so much that pages were coming loose or I had loaned it out and never got it back.  I literally cannot function without access to this book.  (I still have the eighth paper copy as well).

Which books mean the most to you?

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100 Notable Books of 2017- NYT Edition!

Can you believe there’s only a month left of this year?  It went so fast!!  I was going through the New York Times website and saw this list for notable books of 2017.  I have to admit to not having read a lot of them, but there are so many that look interesting!  Go through the list- do you have favorites?  Are there books that didn’t make the cut that you think should have?  I really want your opinion!

Here are the books I have added to my TBR list due to the list:

Also, a couple books that I feel really ought to be on the list:

 

Maybe I am biased, but…. oh,  I loved these books!  I am actually still reading This is How it Always is but I love it already.

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Times where the first page clinched it for me.

If I live to be three hundred I will probably still have books I want to read and haven’t gotten to.  I have over a thousand eBooks and a well loved two book shelves that I am particularly picky about because of space constraints.  Still, there are thousands of books that I want to read- or would if I knew about them- and more coming out all the time.  You have the classics that you swear you’ll get through eventually and your just-for-fun books.  You have the books that make you weep, and the books that make you think.  How is a gal with limited time and even more limited funds supposed to pick one?   I will admit there are times where the cover has been so breathe-taking, so compelling, that I could not resist.  Then there’s the times when the blurb won the day- looking at the description on Goodreads or Amazon, I could not resist.  Other times I will be on the fence forever, poring over book reviews and Litsy, waffling on the merits of a book, until I read the first page.

That’s what I want to talk about today- times where the first page swayed me in favor of the book.  Some of these were read-for-reviews I was skeptical of, and some are books that I kept telling myself that I did not need…. and yet they won.  I am going to put the cover, lines, and link to my reviews below for each of these gems.

  1. Reincarnation Blues, Michael Poore:

reincarnation bluesFlorida Keys: 2017

This is a story about a wise man named Milo.

It begins the day he got eaten by a shark…..’

Wait… what?  I had to read this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Turtles All the Way Down, John Green:

turtles all the way down‘At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time between 12:47 and 1:14 pm by forces so much larger than myself  I couldn’t even begin to identify them…’

     And now I knew that my narrator and tour guide for this ride was a bit OCD, nutty and oddly hilarious.  Hot damn, I’m in! 

Oh, I had told myself all the normal things a bibliophile does.  I already spent too much on books, it isn’t really in the budget.  I can borrow it at the library if I just wait for the 58 people in line in front of me to be done (this, by the way is no exaggeration, but my place in line when I tried to put the eBook on hold before it came out).  I already had books, etc.  Then I perused the book isle at work- usually safe as they never have any of the can’t-live-without books…. and there it was- fairly cheap and signed no less!  I opened to the first page and was nearly late coming back from my 15 minute break!  I rationalized the purchase as this obviously being a “to-share” book and I would need a hard copy eventually- can’t share eBooks or Audible.  I was right- it’s fantastic, and it’s loaned out with at least two people waiting their turn.

3.   The Hidden Oracle, Rick Riordan

the hidden oracle‘My name is Apollo.  I used to be a god.  In my four thousand six hundred and twelve years, I have done many things.  I inflicted a plague on the Greeks that besieged Troy.  I blessed Babe Ruth with three home runs in game four of the 1926 world series.  I visited my wrath upon Britney Spears at the 2007 MTV  Video Music Awards.

   But in all my immortal life, I never before crash landed in a dumpster.’

I waffled on this series forever- let’s face it, Apollo is not my favorite character and I could not see this being on of my have-to-have series.  And yet I read that in a Walmart and started grinning.  Why not?  The next book was the same for me and if I don’t know if I want to continue next year, the first page will no doubt bring me back again.  I do, after all, love Riordan’s writing style and world building.

 

  This is just a few of the books where page one made all the difference.  Are there books like this for you?  What are your favorite starters?

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Can someone explain this to me?

Sometimes through the course of a work day I will come across something that just makes me stop and wonder.  Some times it has to do with one’s mode of dress (if you “sag” your pants at least wear underwear… just saying), sometimes it has to do with one’s actions ( a drunk man came dancing up to my lane to buy alcohol.  I refused.  Not only was he not mad, he proposed to me);  and sometimes it has to do with items we sell.  Today I sold two of these things in half an hour.  They are full-on furry animal masks and sell for $19.98.  You know the Mickey Mouse heads?  Yeah, this is it.  I tried to get info on these things through google, but got a lot of clips for a band and not much else.  Am I missing some internet meme or something here?

Mostly I just want to know if I will be ringing up a lot of people while they wear these.  Do you know what this is about?  Do you have one?  Post (an appropriate) pic in comments.

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Where is the love?

Over the last few days I have been seeing a lot of people talk about the best books of the year so far- both in YA and adult categories.  While I thought long and hard about doing this as well (and still might), it got me thinking about some of the books that I have loved in the past- I mean went fan-girl bananas for-but haven’t seen much chatter about.  So I present to you my list of hype worthy books that never got the hype they deserved.

  1. I Shall Not Hate, Izzeldin Abuelaish.  This book is one of the most inspiring that I have ever read.  Izzeldin was a doctor working in hospitals on both sides of the Gaza Strip.  In this book he is very candid about the war, prejudices, his treatment on both sides, and the loss of his daughters who were killed.  I still tear up when I talk about it.  I cannot imagine having something like this happen, but what really floored me is his reaction.  It would be easy to lay blame, become hardened, hurtful…. instead he is still an advocate for peace.  He did not let this tragedy destroy him, or his remaining family.  He chose not to hate, and instead insist upon peace, love, and understanding.
  2. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende.  This has long been my favorite book.  With a touch of magical realism and a flare for words Allende brings to life this intriguing woman.  We follow Eva as she tells us the story of her life, loves, and discoveries.  The characters are unique and charming, and the world she built in the jungle is so real that on cold nights I open up that book just to feel the humid heat.  How does this book not have a fandom?!?
  3. Kids of Appetite, David Arnold.   This was definitely a YA fave from last year.  We open to Vic and Mad stalling for time, each in their own interrogation room (seriously, what an opening)!  As he attempted to fulfill his father’s last wish, Vic is engulfed in a group of street kids.  Having a birth defect, he had never been able to really interact with people easily, but Mad, Baz, Zuz and Coco take him into their little family and life changes for all of them.  I don’t want to go too far into it, you can read my review here.  All I am going to say, is that this book needs hype.  Everyone should read it!  I loved it and am still mildly obsessed with it.
  4. A Taste For Monsters, Matthew J Kirby.  Another favorite from last year, this book blew me away.  Evelyn Fallows is a down on her luck young woman who had been disfigured badly in her previous job.  As a madman called Leather Apron is terrorizing London, Evelyn finds safety in a hospital as a probationer.  She looks after John Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man.  As the two get close, she notices that Merrick is visited by ghosts- Leather Apron’s victims- looking for closure.  Kindhearted man that he is, he wants to help and give comfort, but it is taking a toll on him.  To protect her new friend, can Evelyn find the strength to find the answers herself?   Seriously guys, this book is fantastic and I just didn’t find that many reviews on it.  How are we not talking about this book still- and always?
  5. Passenger, Alexandra Bracken.  I guess there were a lot of books from last year that I am still obsessed with.  On the night of her big performance, Etta learns a secret.  Her family can jump through time!  Practically kidnapped and thrown back in time, Etta tries to come to terms with this new reality and discover who is friend and foe.  With an amazing caste of characters and gorgeous world building I feel like this deserves at least Hunger Games level hype.  The sequel, Wayfarer, was even better, allowing for some fantastic character development.
  6. Learning to Swear in America, Katie Kennedy.  An end-of-the-world novel where our hero is a socially awkward teen genius from Russia who is just now learning the ins and outs of dating and human interaction.  Yuri and his friends were fantastic, well developed characters that you loved to death.  The book was both hilarious and heartfelt.  I remember seeing it reviewed here on WordPress and thinking…. I have to have this.  It took me over completely.  I am still waiting for I<3 Yuri shirts and memorabilia.
  7. The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, Scott Stombach.  All his life (seventeen years), Ivan has lived the a Belarus hospital for Gravely Ill Children where he spices up the day to day hum drum by manipulating everyone around him.  He is a brash potty mouthed little demon that is both hilarious and annoying, often getting the better of his nurses.  Then Polina shows up.  While she is, indeed, terminally ill, there is such a life force to her that Ivan knows she doesn’t belong.  As the two get to know one another they both grow as people, maturing before our eyes.  The personal growth I saw in Ivan was mind blowing.  This was just a really great read- and I may or may not know how to call someone a “beef whistle” in Russian.  Seriously, lets get some merchandise out for this one.  I would totally wear that shirt!
  8. The Eagle Tree, Ned Hayes.  I have to say, this is one of the most unique narrators I have ever read.  March Wong is autistic, and has a lot of trouble being understood.  His obsession of trees, and climbing them, has landed him in some hot water in the past and with the threat of having him taken away, his mother is trying to curb that.  It is his love of trees, though, that allows him to find his calling and branch out, allowing others into his world.  I felt like Hayes did an exceptional job with this book, making March the hero of his own story and bringing the struggle that people with autism and their loved ones go through.  March needs a fan club.
  9. Love in Lowercase, Francesc Miralles.  Samuel is a loner.  A linguist and a genius, he never did learn how to interact with others and has no one in his life.  When Mishima, a stray cat, arrives at his apartment and refuses to leave, Samuel is forced out of his comfort zone and into an intriguing world with unforgettable characters.  Again, where is the merchandise?!?!  Where are the Samuel/ Mishima fan clubs?
  10. Invisible, Shari Shattuck.  Ellen is severely overweight and self conscious.  She has learned to make herself so unnoticed as to be invisible.  Having lived her adult life hoping never to be seen, Ellen isn’t ready for the moment when everything changes.  Coming off the bus, Ellen notices a young blind woman being robbed and rushes in without thinking.  Temerity doesn’t care what Ellen looks like, only that Ellen was there.  She takes her new friend in hand and with the help of her brother Justice starts giving Ellen the things she needs for a better life- basic nutritional education and a whole lot of confidence.

I may love this one best because it has such a great message.  No one made Ellen change her life- there was no boy that would fall for her if only…. instead this is about a woman not only beginning to learn how to love and take care of herself, but a testament to the power of friendship and encouragement.  Sometimes I think Ellen has partially inspired my own drive to become healthier.  Both she and Temerity need fan clubs.

Of course, I could name a hundred others… but you get the point.  Which books do you think did not get the hype they deserved?  And what are you still obsessed with?

Amber

I may seriously never leave my new library!!

pic of front.jpg We just got a new town library and it is absolutely gorgeous!  I am so excited!  Not only is it at least five times larger than the previous one, but there is more parking, lots of computers, study rooms- yes, rooms that students can rent out and put themselves in so that they can study in peace, conference rooms, a storm shelter and IT support on hand.  Holy cow!

Did I mention how gorgeous it is?!?  Sky lights and open layout, comfy chairs scattered everywhere.  Tables…. freaking vending machines!!!!  That’s right, we have an eating area where I can see myself having a lot of snacks (brought from home, of course, so that I don’t blow my diet), while I read several papers or magazines.

Warren is excited because we are also supposed to get a 3D printer here, along with other tech in the green room (it isn’t open yet, I think they are still getting equipment).

Here are just a few pics I took in my quick tour:

While I love all this, it does hurt that it is so far from me now- it used to be a five minute walk, now it is across town.  Having our area loose fast access has made me consider things like the Little Libraries that are popping up everywhere.  I am blessed in that I have a car and can get anywhere, and have free time.  Some of my neighbors aren’t so lucky.  I had considered taking some of my books- ones that I don’t mind possibly loosing- and setting up one a Little Library outside my house with the idea of people being able to take a book to read and return, or leave a well loved book for others.

In a perfect world this would work flawlessly.  Everyone would only go to the book area and leave the rest of the house unmolested, books would return, and nothing would get broken or vandalized.  But I worry that this would not be the case.  Is it fair of me to invite strangers so close to my home- a home I share with my husband (and his possessions)?  Also, would this affect the neighbors?  And for the love of God, I don’t want to be part of the Little Library site because I would have to enter my information and address!  You have to pay them at least once, maybe more, and I don’t see how they could make this any safer.  I just want a weather proof cabinet outside that proclaims that it has Community Books- take a book, share a book.  That sort of thing.  One would open the cabinet and see a small selection of books.  They would take one to read, and return it when finished for the next reader.  I want to believe this would work!  I also don’t worry about “getting the word out” because it would be small and, with luck, just for my community.  What do you guys think?  Crazy, right?  I haven’t even asked the husband yet because I know he’s gonna nix it lol.  Let me know your thoughts in comments!

Amber