Poor 59-year-old Sookie. She’s the daughter of an elderly, demanding, wack-a-doodle, star quality mom who manages to get her three daughters married, leaving only her son to take the plunge. Sookie’s life with her devoted and supportive Great Dane-loving, dentist husband is fine. Except for the problem of the blue jays hogging the sunflower seeds in her bird feeders and preventing the little birds from eating, her life is pretty great. In managing her mom’s mail, a job she assumed when it became obvious mom couldn’t manage it herself (and Sookie needed to keep tabs on what mom was doing), she encounters a registered letter that shakes her to her very core with information indicating she is a year older than she thought.
In “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion,” Fannie Flagg unfolds a tremendous story that seems so real, you’ll wish it were true. The wisdom and revelation makes this book one that, if politicians and all of us read and embraced the philosophy, our country would be in a better position. The historical relevance turns out to be the clever premise for the story.
GREAT, GREAT story!!
Three words that describe this book: patriotism, women, family
You might want to pick this book up if: Historical fiction with intriguing information about the WASP, who were the female pilots called to duty when the men left for WWII.
“Raising Money Smart Kids” is about teaching children money management skills as they age. It includes tips for teaching preschoolers through high schoolers about money. I enjoyed the letters from readers with questions and the advice the author provides. This book helped me realize what I’m doing well as I teach my kids how to handle money, and it gave me some tips for improving my skills.
Three words that describe this book: Informative, easy-to-read, helpful
You might want to pick this book up if: You have children and are interested in expanding your teaching skills as they learn how to handle money.
“Guitar Zero” has a subtitle which reads: “The Science of Becoming Musical at Any Age.” It definitely lives up to this title with the author’s in depth analysis of what it takes to become musical. Gary Marcus gives a first person perspective on what it’s like to start out with zero musical knowledge or capability and turn oneself into a mediocre musician. I enjoyed how Marcus had done very detailed research on all his points, and, if you view the bibliography, you can see he went through seemingly endless amounts of journal articles to accomplish this book. One part that was not to my liking was when he began to speak a lot about how the brain is put together and which parts help with music. I feel as if there were a lot of anatomical things stuffed into the book which it could have done without. As a guitar player, I figured it might focus on guitar more, but it turned out to be mostly about music in general. The title is a bit deceptive.
Three words that describe this book: Challenging, Informative, Inspirational
You might want to pick this book up if: You really prefer reading non-fiction and don’t mind stumbling through some “college level research paper” passages. Or if you want to understand the lengths at which you are required to go to become musical and need an example of someone who has done it.
“Cinder” is set in the future: it’s about a girl who is part cyborg. She lives in present-day China with her mean stepmom, two stepsisters and her best friend — who is a computer. She works as a mechanic and meets the prince of her country when he seeks her out for a job. On top of this, an evil queen is desiring to marry the prince. Further complicating things, a terrible disease is infiltrating the city and a cure is desperately being sought. I like this book because it’s fun and quick to read, the story is different with the creation of a Lunar world and it plays off of Cinderella.
Three words that describe this book: Futuristic, Science, Fiction
You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy young adult novels, quick reads or easy/enjoyable plot lines.
The young ladies with the glamorous opportunity to paint the first luminous watch dials and navigational instruments come to life as Kate Moore takes you through America’s love affair with radium. “The Radium Girls” is so much more than a sordid tale of corporate greed. It is a celebration of the lives and spirits of the ladies who lived each day to its fullest despite being charter members of the “Society of the Living Dead.” Kate Moore’s work is laudable in that she brings the human dimension to the forefront while uniting the social, economic, scientific, medical and legal facets of the story. This book is well-rounded and thoroughly researched. It is inspiring, heart wrenching, infuriating and timely. Mollie, Grace, Catherine and their comrades would be proud. These women have finally had their stories told in a way that allows us to understand their roles and sacrifices in improving industrial health and safety, workers’ rights, labor laws and medicine. The final line of the postscript continues to haunt me: “How quickly we forget.”
Three words that describe this book: well-researched, visceral, captivating
You might want to pick this book up if: you are interested in early 20th century history, environmental/industrial health or you want to know a little bit more about that antique, glowing watch in your family.
“Every Heart a Doorway” shows you a whole different side of fantasy and adventure that you may have never considered. What happens when kids fall into portals and doors to mysterious new worlds? And then what happens to them once they return? This short novel covers the heartbreak and despair of characters who found their homes, but cannot return. This school for children teaches them to come to terms with reality, and how to accept the fact they may no longer be able to return to their magical land of whimsy and fairies, or wicked lands of vampires and lords of death. McGuire effortlessly seams magic, realism and humor in this short novel. My only complaint is that I wanted more!
Three words that describe this book: Fantasy, Magic, Mystery
You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a short, unique and fascinating read. This book will make you wonder what exactly happened to those children in the classic fairy tales we loved as kids.
The premise of “Outliers” is that extraordinary success is difficult to achieve without opportunity and fortuity. The book abounds with examples: The Beatles having the opportunity to hone their craft in Hamburg, Germany; Bill Gates’ computer club membership in high school and proximity to the University of Washington computer lab; the legendary lawyer Joe Flom getting castoff work from white-shoe law firms; European and Asian children having longer school years than American children; Canadian youth hockey players gaining an advantage over their peers based on the month of their birth, and other examples too numerous and nuanced to describe here. The author does not argue that opportunity automatically begets success. Time on task and hard work are necessary prerequisites to success, in his view, but he also argues persuasively that being in the right place at the right time, or even being born at the right time, can have tremendous consequences. I liked the book because it challenged conventional wisdom and was thought-provoking.
Three words that describe this book: Fascinating, provocative, counter-intuitive
You might want to pick this book up if: You appreciate ideas that cause you to reexamine conventional wisdom.
“A Bend In The Road” is about two individuals who have suffered losses in their lives. They meet and wind up deciding to get to know each other better. The story is about their past and present lives.
I enjoyed the book, and it kept me interested in its storyline. I did not wanting to stop reading. It is more than a feel-good love story: it’s about real life, and how things are beyond our control and may not always be what they seem. As we go through life, what we do has both direct and indirect impacts on others’ lives, whether we intend for it — or even realize it.
Three words that describe this book: hope, forgiveness, love
You might want to pick this book up if: you want to relax, see into someone’s life and how they overcame huge hurdles of grief and moved forward.
There are many good books in the world, but they don’t all stay with you. When you read a book that speaks to your heart and your world and you can’t stop thinking about it in terms of how your life is different because of it, then you know you’ve found something special.
“Small Great Things” is one of those books. I’ve read a number of Jodi Picoult’s books over the years, and although this one has the major hallmarks of her work — gripping courtroom drama, monumental twist at the end — it feels different. The characters, with the exception of Turk, the white supremacist, are all people whose hearts are basically in the right place and who have their lives together. This doesn’t feel like reading a novel, where you can see the artifice. It feels like reading about real people you know.
She’s not subtle in addressing her theme. Race is present on every page. It’s addressed through the eyes of well-intentioned white people, black people trying to fit in, and black activists trying to make white people see what they (we) don’t want to see. She even takes us into the point of view of Turk, a white supremacist, and in so doing helps us see how people become what seems incomprehensible to most of us. Continue reading “Reader Review: Small Great Things”
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is a memoir of Maya Angelou’s childhood, sharing the events and people who were important to her as she entered into adulthood. It discusses issues emphasizing family and relationships, racism, classism, sexism (along with other ‘isms that were important in her life), self-discovery and personal growth. While many of the events highlight her ability to survive in uncertain circumstances (which seems to be a strong family trait), her tales denote the strength in those who have endured and not the scars or self-pity that such damaging situations can create. It is one of those rare books that can stir up tears and giggles with its honestly and authenticity — it is both serious and light-hearted, a true reflection of whom I felt the author to be. I felt like I knew a real person (someone I knew to be an admirable person) before the first chapter had ended. Ms. Angelou has the power to bring forth and normalize the most common of human experiences while also surviving some of the most horrendous and terrifying (and not at all common) situations. I am even more in awe of her after finishing this book.
Three words that describe this book: Vulnerable, Inspirational, Real
You might want to pick this book up if: You’re working through the list of “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.”