ACFW, April, art, bayou, book review, bullying, Carlos, Christian fiction, compassion, courage, death, faith, gifted children, gifted teachers, grief, gulag, hope, Houston, intelligence, intolerance, languages, learning, life, Love, Luca, Nick, overcoming grief, patience, photography, prison, Rachel Phifer, Romania, Romanian language, Sierra, suicide, survivors, teaching, Texas, The Language of Sparrows, women's fiction, writing
When artist April Wright and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Sierra, move to Houston, Texas, they are trying to escape a past neither of them can get over. But their pain follows them, and April has no idea how to help her brilliant daughter, who learns languages like others eat candy but is failing school. Sierra can barely speak to others and does her best to remain invisible. Even her classmate and neighbor, Carlos, has a hard time reaching her, in spite of his compassion and patience. Then Sierra meets old Luca, a survivor of a Romanian gulag, who matches wits with her and draws her into a friendship that others refuse to understand. His son, Nick, is a gifted teacher, but the relationship between him and his father is like a tree that has grown twisted and bent under years of misunderstanding and grief. As Nick reaches out to help Sierra, he becomes friends with Sierra’s mom, April, and falls for her. However, April is still grieving about her husband’s suicide, and she doesn’t know how to tell the truth to her daughter. It’s been a long time since she even took a photograph. As the two families come to know each other and reveal what is in their hearts, a miracle begins to happen.
I LOVED this book! Wow! I was up until 2:30 a.m. reading. I could not put it down. After reading this book, I need to go back and lower all the stars I gave to the other books, because this one deserves five stars, no – ten stars.
I was drawn into the inner workings of each character’s heart, and I felt so deeply for them. I ached to help them. Though the story centers around Sierra, all four characters are vividly portrayed, each struggling under weighty burdens. Eventually, rays of hope break through the clouds of adversity and drench their lives. Their faith is handled sensitively with just the right amount of emphasis. This incredible book is about the courage to reach out to others and make a difference in someone’s life. I was so inspired by it.
Rachel Phifer has done an absolutely amazing job with this beautiful debut novel, which was the winner of the 2012 ACFW Genesis Award. The Language of Sparrows is now one of my very favorite books.
Anna Zogg, Books, Brandon Sanderson, Cheree Alsop, children's books, Christian romance, cozy mystery, death, eating, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, fantasy, fiction, food, Greek, Greensleeves, Harry Potter, Hilary McKay, inspiration, JK Rowling, knowledge, Laura Morrigan, life, Love, love of books, Marie Rutkoski, Moon Dancing, Moon-Flash, mystery, nourishment, Paranormal fantasy, Patricia A. McKillip, Rachael Anderson, romance, romantic suspense, Saffy's Angel, scriptures, Silver, Terri Blackstone, The Alloy of Law, The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Winner's Kiss, Truth Stained Lies, western, Where the River Ends, Woof at the Door, Working It Out, YA, young adult
I eat books. For breakfast, along with my cereal, fruit, and milk, I eat the bread of life found in the scriptures. For lunch, along with a peanut butter and jam sandwich, I’ll add a chapter or so of Harry Potter, or perhaps a chunk of the Dead Sea Scrolls (in English). Afternoons, I need a snack. Fruit, chips, or chocolate? I might read a little of Saffy’s Angel, by Hilary McKay, or maybe start a mystery, like Truth Stained Lies, by Terri Blackstone. Or how about a romantic suspense like Moon Dancing, by Anna Zogg? Usually though, I spend the afternoon writing, because if I let myself get caught in a story, I won’t get anything else done that day. For supper, along with the meat and vegetables, (if my husband isn’t there to talk to), I’ll add a generous helping of Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law, or Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss. Sometimes I’ll enjoy a couple of pages from my Greek textbook. I keep these reading meals short because there’s a lot to do every day, and my dog wants to walk. But when I’m in bed, and it’s quiet, with only my lamp shining in the dark, then I begin the true banquet at my fingertips. Books are stacked on my nightstand, and in my Nook and Kindle are hundreds more. Sometimes I feel like a lemon meringue romance, like Working It Out, by Rachael Anderson. At times I’ll have a cozy cup of mystery like Woof at the Door, by Laura Morrigan. Other times I want a sweet chunk of paranormal fantasy, like Silver, by Cheree Alsop. Then there are the books which touch my heart deeply, stir my imagination, and keep me up late, like Greensleeves, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, or Moon-Flash, by Patricia A. McKillip, or Where the River Ends, by Charles Martin. These are the true meals, the books that inspire me to be a better writer and a better human being. I love books.
book review, Books, decisions, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Georgetta Einszweiler Smith, Greensleeves, intelligence, learning, life, Love, meaning of life, passion, romance, search for self, Shannon Lightley, Sherry, Uncle Frosty, undercover, wills, wisdom, work, YA, YA fiction, YA romance
Book Review: Greensleeves, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Shannon Lightley has reached the end of high school and wonders what to do. All her life, she’s been pulled in many directions and has tried without success to fit in. She’s lived all over Europe with both sets of famous parents, lived with her aunts and uncles in America, and now her father is demanding that she go to a European college. She doesn’t know if she even wants to go to college. She’s lonely, confused, and aching to find some real meaning in her life.
Then her Uncle Frosty offers her a chance to live on her own and do something for herself. He needs an investigation done: an elderly woman has died, leaving a substantial inheritance to a group of people in Portland, Oregon, and the will seems shady. The daughter, who is contesting the will, isn’t even mentioned. Shannon volunteers to go undercover for the summer. She assumes the identity of Georgetta Einszweiler Smith — a plain, unintelligent girl with a bad hairdo, blue eye shadow, and a flat American accent. Then she rents a room in a boarding house, which turns out to be the same room where the late Mrs. Elizabeth Dunningham, died. Shannon finds work as a waitress in a café nearby, dons her green uniform (from whence comes her nickname, Greensleeves), and the drama begins. Shannon expects to find a group of money grabbers who coerced an elderly woman out of her wealth, but as time goes by and she gets to know each of the recipients listed in the will, she realizes that nothing is going to be that simple. For one thing, there is the handsome, intelligent, George Maynard Sherrill, a college student better known as Sherry, who sees through her performance and is patient enough to want to find out who she really is. The more Shannon gets to know the different people, the more she realizes she doesn’t know herself at all. And when Sherry professes his love for her, she doesn’t know what to do.
This was an incredible book, full of laughter and unexpected twists, and just as relative today as when it was first published. I really loved it. Shannon is a delight, with her outrageous and unique way of solving problems and her quirky sense of humor. The story is also painful, for Shannon’s struggle to understand who she is and what she wants out of life is one that everyone goes through. Shannon sees the potential of each of the people she meets, and she grows to care about them. She understands why Mrs. Dunningham bequeathed money to them. With Sherry’s help, she struggles to overcome her own shyness and fears. Shannon has the maturity to recognize the difference between physical attraction and real love, as contrasted by the angry, passionate artist, Dave, and Sherry, who is gentle, patient, and loves to learn. Shannon sees the kind of man Sherry needs to become and the things he needs to do with his life in order to be truly happy, and she has to make some painful decisions. She realizes that some things must wait for when one is truly ready. This book haunted me, and I was awake until late thinking about my own life. Are we all just playing a part? When do we step out from behind the roles and masks we wear and be our real selves? Do we know who we really are? Greensleeves will move you, make you laugh, and then make you cry. It’s definitely worth reading over and over.
Book Review: Birthmarked, by Caragh M. O’Brien
Gaia Stone is a sixteen-year-old midwife who lives in a harsh world where a quota of babies must be handed over to the elite society who lives within the Enclave. When her parents are arrested, Gaia begins to question everything she has been taught. She sets out to get inside the Enclave and rescue her parents, but the secrets she learns put her in danger as well, and soon the authorities are after her too.
I couldn’t stop reading this book. I was up until three in the morning because I had to find out what happened. Now that’s a good read! I can’t wait to read the next installment, Prized.
best friends, bluegrass music, book review, boyfriends, Chathams, courage, drinking, drugs, drunk driving, friends, Layla, life, Love, Mac, music, new school, Peyton, pizza, Saint Anything, Sarah Dessen, story, Sydney, teenagers, YA, YA Contemporary, YA fiction
Book review: Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen.
Sydney has always been the quiet one in the family, while her older brother, Peyton, gets all the attention from their parents. His behavior becomes increasingly wild, and when a drunk driving spree results in an accident that leaves a boy in a wheel chair, Peyton ends up in jail. But still Sydney’s parents don’t really see her or her needs. Her father escapes into his career, and her mother is obsessed with trying to visit Peyton. Sydney is left alone to cope with feelings of guilt and shame, not to mention a real creep of a guy who is supposed to ‘babysit’ her for the weekend. So Sydney flees, in search of something to fill the void in her life. In a pizza place near her new school, she meets the Chathams, a beautiful, loving, chaotic family that open their arms wide and bring her in. The Chathams have their own problems, but unlike her family, they face them with honesty. Layla is warm and charming — the best friend Sydney has always wanted, and Mac is everything a girl could want in a boyfriend — kind, thoughtful, and patient. He sees the real her, and he listens. (Sigh. What a heart throb.) Through their love and acceptance, Sydney grows to have the courage to deal with her problems.
In her usual talented way, Sarah Dessen has written another story that looks into the teenage heart and sees what is really there. It is thought-provoking and beautifully written. I enjoyed this book very much.
beauty, beauty in nature, boating, book review, children's books, children's classics, classic literature, Cough Rock Island, courage, Ellen Potter, Frances Hodgson Burnett, friendship, gardening, ghosts, grief, growth of character, islands, life, Love, nature, personal growth, Roo Fanshaw, sanitarium, secret gardens, the Faigne, The Humming Room, The Secret Garden, tuberculosis, will power
Book Review: The Humming Room – by Ellen Potter
When Roo Fanshaw’s parents are murdered, she is sent to live with her reclusive uncle on Cough Rock Island. She was raised without love, and she doesn’t expect any when she arrives at her isolated, forbidding new home, which was once a sanitarium for children with tuberculosis. Her uncle wants nothing to do with her, the housekeeper considers her a nuisance, and Roo hears frightening, ghostly noises through the walls. Life couldn’t be worse for the lonely little girl. But Roo is good at hiding, exploring, and listening. She sneaks outside, and in her wandering, she falls in love with the lovely wildness of the island. She finds a kindred spirit in the Faigne, a homeless, wild boy who lives in tune with nature. She makes friends with her fretful, grieving, bedridden cousin. And she finds a secret garden…
If you recognize a similarity to The Secret Garden, it’s no accident. This is a modern retelling of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic tale, and it is definitely worth reading. Ellen Potter has captured the mystery and beauty of the original story and brought it alive again in a different time and setting. The reader experiences Roo’s growth as she overcomes the many obstacles in her way and finds a way to help those she grows to care about. The description of the nature around them is stunningly beautiful. There is a timeless, magical feel to the story that triggers a deep longing to set out in your own boat and visit all the people and places that become so real by the end of the story. Like all classics, it shows us a glimpse of the key to deep, lasting happiness. The Humming Room is so well done. If I could give it an award, I would. Although meant for middle grade readers, all ages will enjoy this book.
birthday, changing, charity, Dad, example, family, father, Father's Day, foster care, foster parents, life, Love, Mother, parenting, parents, sisters, stories, storytelling, teaching, teaching children, the power of a story, the power of stories, tribute
When my sister and I moved to our new foster home, we had no idea how much our lives would change. We came with a lot of problems that stemmed from the destructive home life we had survived. Now we were finally in a stable environment with a family that loved each other and extended that love to us. My foster father spent a lot of time in the evenings telling stories and teaching us principles of life that if followed would make us happy. He seemed to have a limitless amount of these stories, some about his childhood and how he dealt with the problems he had growing up, and some were copies of stories he had read, saved, and filed to share later. Slowly, day by day, week by week, he taught us through these stories, and then he stepped back and watched as we tried to incorporate what he had shared with us into our lives. He had great wisdom when he didn’t expect us to become perfect overnight. He and my foster mother showed us true charity by accepting us as we were and demonstrating the way to improve. For example, my sister and I had fought with each other since we were little. We knew just which buttons to push to make each other mad. This did not change when we moved, even though we progressed in other areas. I’m sure it tried our foster parents’ patience when we quarreled over the stupidest things. But in my last year of high school, I thought, ‘My sister is going to be so happy when I move out and go to college.’ This made me sad. The things my foster father had taught me through stories about patience, tolerance, kindness, and service sank deep into my soul, and I felt ashamed of the way I had treated my sister. So I resolved to change: by the time I left for college, my sister and I would be friends. And so, when we both jumped into bed for the night, and K said, ‘Who’s going to turn off the light?’ I volunteered. I held back the snarky remarks and tried to give her true compliments. Instead of making fun of her or berating her, I listened and was kind. I did small things for her. It was very hard at first, but it worked. By the time I left for college, we were best friends, and we have been ever since. I owe so much to my dear foster parents. I can never repay them for the time and love they poured into us. I am especially thankful for my foster father’s stories. Thank you, Dad, and Happy Birthday.
A J Jacobs, blindness, book, creativity, curiosity, experiments, experiments in life, hardships, humor, journalism, learning, life, nurses, nursing, professor, questions, sense of humor, sister, sisters, stories, storytelling, sword fighting, teaching, The Guinea Pig Diaries, trials, what if?
I just started reading The Guinea Pig Diaries, by journalist A.J. Jacobs. He thinks up an experiment (as in experiments of living life), carries it out, and then writes about the results. He outsources his life to a team in India, with hilarious results. (His wife must really love him.) He disguises himself as a movie star and goes to the Academy Awards to find out what it feels like to be famous. After practicing a month of Radical Honesty, he decides that complete honesty is not always the best policy, especially to your boss, wife, and the guy whose wife has just died.
This humorous book reminds me of my next-oldest sister, who has an inquisitive mind and the courage to do her own social experiments. As a child, she fed our younger sister cat food on toast, to see if she would eat it. (She would. But my younger sister hated us for a while.) While doing dishes as a teenager, she convinced us to try sword fighting with butcher knives (the results of which were (for me) numerous stitches and a phobia of knives.) Once while at college, she asked the question, ‘What if I were blind?’ She bandaged her eyes for a week and had her roommates take her to classes. She found that people were generally kind, life was a lot harder, and that she really, really appreciated being able to see.
During nursing school, she pretended to be an unwed pregnant teenager and entered the Social Services program in order to find out if unwed mothers were treated fairly. Suffice it to say, when the authorities found out, they were not amused. She was put on academic probation and threatened with expulsion if she ever tried anything like that again.
When my sister realized that the nursing students in their final year of education at the hospital were not allowed time off during holidays, but instead had to work shifts and had no time set aside to prepare for exams, she decided to do something. She organized all the student nurses for a peaceful protest and personally called up several prominent radio stations to report on the situation. When the story and interview were aired on a national radio station the morning afterwards, the Director of Nursing almost drove off the road upon listening to the report. My sister was forced to retract the story or be expelled. Eventually, because of her actions, students nurses were granted time off for holidays and to prepare for exams. The Director of Nursing thanked her for having the courage to stand up and enable change, as the director had been trying to change those policies for a long time. My sister also learned important lessons about following protocols.
During her thirty years as a nurse, she developed a great compassion for others. On one occasion she stood up to the Chief of Orthopedic Surgery to enable a patient in excruciating pain to have surgery in a timely manner. Today, as a university professor, she uses her creativity to teach entertaining, thought-provoking, and sometimes life-changing lessons. Her students come away from her classes fired up to be better people and better nurses. She has presented papers in various countries and has come up with a new theory of learning. She has crossed mountains in her life that would make weaker people give up, yet she still manages to keep her sense of humor. She reminds me that even in hard situations, there is always something to laugh about or something to learn. I am proud to call her my sister.
Annie, beautiful music, Country Roads, Deer Valley Muxic Festival, environment, guitar, hail, humanity, Jerry Steichen, Jim Curry, John Denver, laughter, life, Love, mountains, music, Park City, ponchos, rain, Take Me Home, thunder lightning, umbrellas, Utah Symphony, wind
On Saturday my husband and I drove up to Park City to the Deer Valley Music Festival. The night’s performance was Take Me Home – The Music of John Denver. The concert was performed by Jim Curry on guitar, with his wife, Annie, also on guitar, and accompanied by the Utah Symphony with Jerry Steichen conducting. In spite of wind, hail, rain, thunder and lightning, the seats of the amphitheatre and lawn behind it were crowded with John Denver fans of all ages. Sam and I pulled on rain ponchos, cuddled under umbrellas, and tucked our picnic blanket around us as we sat back in our lawn chairs and enjoyed the show. As well, we enjoyed the gorgeous mountain scenery. It is so beautiful there! I was impressed with how much Jim Curry sounded like John Denver. He did a marvelous job. He had the audience clapping, dancing, and singing along as he performed this beautiful music that contains messages of life, love, humanity, and caring for our land. The Utah Symphony did a great job of accompanying him. I’m grateful that someone is keeping this music alive. The evening will be remembered with great fondness.