I’ve been a total bibliophile lately, or what some might call a bibliomaniac. Thanks to The Amusing Muse for crowning me with that literary title! Ever since, I’ve been singing “I’m a maniac, maaaaniac on the floor! And I’m reading books like never before!”
Today is another round of Top Ten Tuesday, the weekly themed book list hosted by the peeps over at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is a freebie, so I’m creating my list of must reads for the summer.
I’ve read 7 out of 10 books on my spring ‘to be read’ list which isn’t bad in less than 3 months time. My favorite thus far has to be Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova. Fans of magical realism and mythology will love this one. I’m also super excited to let you all know that Krassi will be joining us on The Happiness Project in the near future, so stay tuned! She’s amazing! And I saw her doppelganger the other day outside a coffee shop and almost chased her down. (I didn’t. But only because a friend stopped me.) I’m very pleased to welcome the real Krassi Zourkova here soon.
Time to get reading!
Top 10 Books I’m Excited to Read This Summer
1. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman
I’m back on my humorous memoir kick. I’m devouring any women writers I can find and I picked this one up recently at an indie bookstore. Can’t beat “a funny and poignant collection of true stories about women coming of age that for once isn’t about finding a date.”
2. Dietland by Sarai Walker
The feminist in me can’t wait to pick up a copy of Dietland. The premise is a young woman dealing with body shame who gets entwined with a radical female group called the “Jennifers” that terrorizes mainstream society and its social constructs for women. Yes please, I need to know more.
3. Listen to Your Mother by Ann Imig
A collection of essays based off the critically acclaimed stage performances, Listen to Your Mother encompasses tales of all aspects of motherhood. I can’t wait to read the ups and downs and learning lessons inside as well as support several friends who have participated on stage!
4. I Don’t Care About Your Band: Lessons Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated by Julie Klausner
I can’t help it. I married a musician. This title makes me laugh.
(Note* I DO in fact care about my husband’s band, but I don’t get to as many shows as he’d like, so no doubt he thinks this is true.)
5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
I’ve started reading this one and fans of Catcher in the Rye and Rule of the Bone will like it. Miles “Pudge” Halter is off to boarding school. He meets the illusive and mesmerizing Alaska Young and becomes entranced. His life is about to change.
6. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This title is on everyone’s ‘to read’ list, and I’m joining the bandwagon. Set in the Great Lakes region, Station Eleven is the tale of a misfit troupe of actors traveling the countryside and performing in ramshackle towns. Disease has wiped out much of the population, and many are living a nomadic life. How does art survive here?
7. Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of) by Elaine Lui
You gotta love a mother who starts the conversation with “Where’s my money?” Based on parts of her blog, Elaine Lui elaborates on her mother-daughter relationship with her mom, known as “The Squawking Chicken.”
8. Don’t Lick the Minivan: And Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids by Leanne Shirtliffe
Author and blogger of Ironic Mom, I’ve had Leanne’s book on my to read pile for awhile. I also purchased her children’s book, The Change Your Name Store, for my niece this year. It is delightful and I can’t wait to dive into her memoir about her time raising twins as an expat and more!
9. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
As a fan of Bossypants by Tina Fey, I needed to pick up her partner in crime’s equally hilarious book. From her early school days of playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz to how she upped her improv game, Amy dishes it out and talks about her new motto, “Yes, please!”
10. Is My Crazy Showing? by Leigh Baker
Surviving a mental breakdown and stint in a hospital, Leigh Baker shares the tumultuous journey of finding one’s way and creating your own family. Shout out to Beth Teliho for recommending this one to me!
What’s on your summer must read list? I’m always willing to make it a Top Twenty! ;)
So when I spotted The Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday theme of ten books I’d love to read with my book club, I had to share my suggestions. Be sure to swing by their post and check out other book club suggestions too!
In my group, we have 11 members and meet once a month, with December being a holiday party in which we each wrap a book we read in the past year to giveaway. It works out nicely that each member gets to pick the book for the month they host book club. This year we also each picked a genre so we’d end up with a wide variety of kinds of books. Should be a fun year!
Since book recommendations are always something I love, in addition to my dream list, I’m sharing the titles my book club has selected for this year so far.
Historical Fiction: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Mystery: Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James
Autobiography/Memoir: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren
Nonfiction: The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Sci-fi: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (my pick)
Classic: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
But if they ever let me choose ALL the books we read in a year…
Top 10 Books I’d Love to Read in My Book Club
1. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The story of two women – Nao, a teenage girl who feels she has nothing to live for and Ruth, a novelist living across the ocean who finds a lunchbox with a secret history inside. Now, these women’s stories are about to entwine.
2. Child Star by Shirley Temple Black
I grew up watching Shirley Temple films, so I’ve always wanted to read this book. Sadly, it’s out of print, but you can get used copies on Amazon. This is her story about becoming a rising star during the depression era.
3. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
We’ve already read quite a few war books in my club, but none that focus so much on the women’s perspective. Almost 75,000 women were recruited to work in Manhattan Project’s secret cities on a variety of tasks that aided WWII.
4. The Never List by Koethi Zan
Sarah and Jennifer are two friends who make one bad judgement call and spend the next three years held captive by sadist men. Ten years later, when Sarah’s abductor is up for parole, she decides to confront her phobias, and faces fears she didn’t know existed beneath the surface.
5. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Phones no longer ring. The internet stops working. News reports have ended. People live indoors and stay there. One look at what’s outside and they will never be the same again.
6. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Jenna Metcalf is searching for her mom. Her mom that has been gone for over a decade. She scours what little information is left behind and partners up with both a medium and a private investigator.
7. The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival by Carine McCandless
Most are familiar with the story of Chris McCandless, the boy who left home to live off the land. His story of the nomadic life was made famous as the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild. Now, twenty years later, Chris’s sister, Carine, shares intimate details about her brother’s journey and their family.
8. Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Author Suki Kim shares her experiences of teaching English in North Korea. It’s a mysterious world where her letters are censored, yet she adores the enthusiasm of her students. A unique glimpse at a culture we rarely get to peek into.
9. See How Small by Scott Blackwood
A brutal murder leaves three girls dead in an ice cream shop. The remainder of the story follows the townspeople as they try to make sense and move on from the travesty. But it also follows the three girls, whose spirits also check in on the townspeople.
10. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The hottest new title in Young Adult novels. A chance encounter on the school roof throws Theodore – who thinks only of death – into Violet’s world, where she lives in the future – planning for life after graduation. How will these polar opposites shape one another?
Have you read any of these titles? What did you think?
What books would you pick for your book club to read?
Hey Dudes and Dudettes,
It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about my progress with the To Be Read Pile Challenge, so I thought I’d better “update my status.” You see I’ve been reading a lot about relationships lately, so I have three titles of love advice for anyone to enjoy.
And as a refresher, if you’re unfamiliar with the TBR Pile Challenge, it’s a reading contest hosted by Adam over at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to complete in 12 months time 12 books that have been sitting on your bookshelf for a year or more. You know the ones, they linger in the ever-looming “to be read” pile. At nine months in, I’m just two books away from completing the challenge this year. Holla!
What have I recently crossed off my list?
Little known fact about me, or maybe it’s no secret, I love learning about sex and sexuality. I minored – and only because it wasn’t offered as a major at the time – in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’m passionate about women’s issues and rights, and I’m thrilled to be working at a reproductive health clinic in my town. Reading about the history and science of sex research was right up my alley.
The author, Mary Roach, is quite possibly the queen of nonfiction exposition on risque topics. Her other books dive into the worlds of human cadavers, the digestive track, and what happens when we die. For Bonk, the woman volunteered herself and her husband to be lab rats for sex research on orgasms. That’s dedication.
In Bonk, not only will you learn about the doctors and scientists behind the “G-spot,” the infamous Kinsey “attic sessions,” or just how artificial insemination happens in a pig, but so much more!
Alright, let’s tame things down a bit. For all you Downton Abbey diehards and regency era wannabees, I suggest you give Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress a try. My book club read this one and it was well enjoyed.
Cora Cash is an American debutante. She is wealthy, beautiful, and definitely high society. Her mother, opinionated at her core, has high plans of wedding her daughter to an English Duke, which would grant Cora the one thing she doesn’t have…a title.
It won’t surprise readers to learn that Cora is soon wed in the novel, however can Cora’s marriage last when she comes from a different world than her husband? So many unknowns!
Escape on a whirlwind love affair in Europe, walk the halls of the great English mansions, and go galloping with the finest – or are they – members of society.
By and far one of my favorite reads this year! I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner! After all, the film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock is tied for first place (with North by Northwest) as my favorite film of his.
Be very aware, young lovers, when falling head over heels into this tale. A young woman of unfortunate circumstance believes her luck has turned around when she meets and marries millionaire, Maxim De Winter, owner of the luscious estate, Manderley. But all is not well inside these walls. The great rooms of the house, the garden with its roses, and the forgotten cottage down by the beach – they are all haunted by Rebecca – the first Mrs. De Winter.
A shocking truth brings the honeymoon to a miserable end in this chilling story by Daphne Du Maurier. I can’t tell you what happens, just read it for yourself!
What have you been reading? Are you participating in the TBR Pile Challenge? How’s it going? Got any recommendations for me?
It’s officially September, which in my line of work, means it’s Christmas. I’ve been feeling all nostalgic already for summer. I know I did accomplish a lot, but I still didn’t get to the full list. Every summer, I make a commitment to get to the beach and read at least three times. You know why? It never happens. How many times did I get to the beach this summer? Once. And I left after only an hour because there were a lot of bees around and the sand was piping hot.
Maybe the beach is overrated. I like the idea of the beach. But there’s probably a reason why all of the vacations that Joe and I take are to cities. We’ve gone to Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Boston, MA, Toronto, Ontario, and this year our road trip. You don’t see us planning vacations to resorts or taking scuba lessons. While those sound found, I’m not sure I could handle a whole week of beach life. I just don’t operate that slow. You know, island time.
I blame my family. Look at them.
Ok, I probably coordinated that… We were in the Tetons, I was feeling epic.
Ok, so ROW80, I’m off of work today and it’s time to Fast Draft! Since I also have to take my car into the shop, I’m hitting another summer to do and biking to the coffee shop to get my writing done. See you tweeps at #teamsprinty and #FastDraft today!
Other news, The Redhots kicked off this past friday to a huge success! Did you miss out? I won’t hold it against you, just go rectify the situation right now! It’s not too late to get the cutest redheaded version of Siskel and Ebert tear down and pump back up again the sexy series that’s sweeping the nation: Fifty Shades of Grey. So visit Marcia and I and tell us what you think: 50 Shades of Hot? or 50 Shades of Not?
If you’re up for a readathon, there are several great ones going on. Great New Books just announced the September book review of Hemingway’s Girl and will be voting soon for the next several months. We’d love your input on what the hottest books this season include – what do you want to read with us?
Then Jenna at Lost Generation Reader is hosting a Harry Potter Readathon from Sept. 1st – December 15th. I’ve actually never read any Harry Potter books, so I’m signing up for the first book, just to say that yes I have read Harry Potter.
I finished reading A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain this week and LOVED it! Never would I have thought that foods like haggis and cobra heart and sheep’s balls would sound delicious. But reading this book confirmed, once again, that my dream job would be traveling around as Tony’s quirky redheaded counterpart – no real experience, but an eager and gullible partnership could work well. I also have the travel bug again. Vietnam and Portugal are placing high at the moment. Next year…
How is your summer winding down? Are you looking forward to fall and getting more writing done? What’s on your autumn reading list?
I know you all have one, that looming pile next to your nightstand, the sinking bookshelf that can’t hold anymore, the stacks creeping up on your desk, and the ones you borrowed or were given months ago and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.
It’s the dreaded To Be Read Pile!
Here is my 2012 TBR List:
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
- Little Bee by Chris Cleave
- Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
- Blessings by Anna Quindlen
- The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
- The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
- The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
- Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Part of the challenge is to also write up a short review of the books you’ve read, and so I’m going to share with you a few titles I’ve recently finished both on the list and off!
Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag: I picked this one up for my library’s book club and sadly only 5 of us showed up for the discussion that night. Even more sad was the fact that I was the only one who liked the book. For those of you who religiously read murder mysteries, I guess Deeper Than the Dead might not mesmerize, but I hadn’t read a creeper book in sometime.
The premise for DTTD begins when three school children discover a dead body in the park one day. Their teacher, Anne Navarre is struggling to both interrogate and comfort her class about the serial murders that are happening. The chapters move from the point of view of Anne, the lead detective following the case, the mind of the next victim, and also the killer.
Tami Hoag, a 15 consecutive time New York Times Bestselling author, set the book in the 1980’s. At first, she thought how fun it would be to reminisce about leg warmers and big earrings, but as she got into the book’s research, she realized how little we had in DNA testing, even in 1985. The book took a whole new interest as she discovered what detectives had to deal with in order to solve a crime then.
I for one, give this book a thumb’s up! It was interesting to think about in terms of the advanced technology and testing we have now, and it was a super creepy read! Don’t read this book before bed! Or listen to it in the car! I mean it, it was eerie!
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee: I just couldn’t get into this one. I read this title with my other book club group and I think all of us would vote it our least favorite read so far. It does have some interesting historical value, but the pace was slower and I didn’t like many of the characters.
The Piano Teacher is set in the 1940’s and 50’s, and webs together multiple stories from both during the war and after it. At that time period, the British who lived in Hong Kong were somewhat of an elite society, and we are thus introduced to Claire Pendleton, bored housewife who begins an affair with the driver of the family she teaches piano for.
Though I didn’t care for this particular novel, that isn’t to say I don’t admire Ms. Lee. Janice Y. K. Lee is an incredibly accomplished and intelligent woman. Born in Hong Kong to Korean parents, she attended college at Harvard University. Her first writing job was as beauty editor for Elle Magazine. While there, she sought out her true passion, the features section. She later wrote for Mirabella Magazine, and completed the Hunter College MFA program. I appreciate her dedication to her work immensely. Lee spent 5 years working on this book, setting it down here and there to raise a family of 4 (including twins).
The Piano Teacher is another New York Times Bestseller and Lee’s only book so far. I have no doubt we’ll see her name in print again.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: I LOVED THIS BOOK! I couldn’t stop reading this book! It’s quite possibly one of THE best written books I’ve ever read!
Into Thin Air recounts the firsthand telling of the Mount Everest Disaster of 1995 by Jon Krakauer, who was solicited to go along and write an article for Outdoors Magazine. While Krakauer’s book is illuminated with terminology definitions and historical background of the world’s highest peak, I do recommend making yourself a cheat sheet of names and what team they belong to as there are many tourists and sherpas traveling at the same time.
Into Thin Air will excite the adventurer in you; you’ll want to climb Everest. However, as you read further into his journey, it becomes all too clear how little we are in control with the force of nature. It is extremely tragic what happened on this expedition and my heart and condolences go out to the victims’ families. But there were many heroes on that mountain too, who risked their lives to ensure the safety of others.
As for Krakauer, he is a well known name for writing stories of great adventure and adversarial topic. Checking out his wikipedia page, you’ll see lots of retorts toward every one of his works. I’m definitely interested in reading more of his works.
Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson: Chris is a woman who wakes up every day believing herself to be 20 years younger, single, and certainly not a mother. The reality is far different. Suffering serious damage from an accident, Chris has severe amnesia. Every night when she sleeps, she forgets all that happened the day before and can’t remember much past her childhood. Except, each morning a doctor calls her and reminds her where to look for her diary, the only place where Chris can piece together her life and know who she can and can’t trust.
The beginning of this book is a slower start, which is to be expected because as you read and learn clues with Chris, much of the information is repetitive. This would be the case for you if you had to start over from scratch each day. As the book progresses though, you become more and more on edge wondering who’s telling Chris the truth about her life.
I’d give this book a sideways thumb, if that makes sense, because it has a lot of potential and is thought provoking. It is the first book published by S. J. Watson, an English writer and now international bestseller. He wrote the book while taking a writing course at Faber University, and based it upon several accounts of amnesiac patients and their families.
There you have it folks! Adding these in, I’ve completed 7 out of my 12 TBR books so far! How far are you on the reading challenges you’ve set for yourself? What is your reading goal? I’m shooting for at least 2 books a month. You can check out what I read here. What titles are you reading right now?
And don’t forget! We’re trying to help Jillian Dodd convince author CJ West to participate in her MANday blog. Find out how you can help here!
Big news! Huge! Spectacular! Extra, Extra!
The Life List Club Launches Own Blog!
That’s right guys and gals! The Life List Club has decided to launch their own blog site and make things easier ON YOU! Instead of trying to bounce around between 8 or more blogs on one day, we’ll be able to space out our plethora of viewpoints and encouraging ideas over the course of a month at our site. We’re posting on Wednesdays and Fridays all about achieving goals, and using Mondays for any announcements or guest posts that may occur (hint, hint – Who’s interested?) Please give a round of applause to my co-founder, Marcia Richards who worked doggedly on setting up our site. You can visit us at our new blog, and we’ll officially transfer there the first wednesday of April! Don’t forget, we hang out at the hashtag #LifeListClub too, so you can always give a shout out there!
And Now a Word from our Sponsors:
Ok well not sponsors, I don’t currently have any of those, but if companies like Bath and Body Works, Lush, Target, Barnes and Noble would care to make a contribution, I’m sure it would only do wonders for the ol’ Witkins’ Happiness Project. ;)
It’s time for our Milestone Party!
You can’t have a party without dancing! Previously you’ve raved to Ce Ce Penniston’s Finally, you’ve jammed to Ke$ha’s Tik Tok and here to teach you how to boogie is the Bingo Boys featuring Princessa singing ‘How to Dance!’
The point of a Milestone party is to celebrate the strides you’ve made on your life list. A few months ago I condensed my list to the core necessities, and here’s where I’m at with my progress:
1. Write Everyday – My minimum goal was to write at least 5 things in my gratitude journal each day, with a long term goal of scheduling time each week to get writing done on my book. However, in the last month, I changed projects. Instead of the paranormal young adult novel I was working on, I switched to memoir. Pretty drastic switch there! I got some good tips from my Warrior Writers Boot Camp gang and will be starting to piece together this project in the next weeks. I’m also attending the DFW Writers Conference in May, featuring guest author James Rollins.
(My favorite items to have made the Gratitude Journal lately)
- Writing a letter home
- Crossing paths with 7 young deer while hiking in Hixon Forest
- Reading the fun comments on my Musicalpalooza blog
- Watching the finale of Season 2 The Walking Dead – OMG! What is about to happen??!
- Feeding the ducks down at Riverside Park
- Discovering Joe Lando (Yes! As in Joe Lando who played Sully on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) is playing Cassie’s father on The Secret Circle
2. Read Two Books a Month – I’ve excelled at this goal! In February I read four books, and hope to complete that same number by the end of March. My upscale in reading led to two author interviews for Shifting by Bethany Wiggins and The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund! It was an absolute treat to get to chat with these phenomenal women! I also felt a big push to get to that “To Be Read” Pile and cut out costs of buying more and more books before getting to the ones on my shelf, so I joined the 2012 TBR Pile Challenge. I’ve completed 5 out of my 12 books so far, two more in progress, so I just need to finish writing the reviews.
3. Save Money – I was amazed at how much money I could add to my savings after using my ridiculous star stickered chart to track when I didn’t spend money frivolously! I was able to save up funds to ensure my trip to South Korea is a go! (I leave in a week and a half!) I have yet to meet with a personal banker to find a better savings account and finish Suze Orman’s book, Women and Money.
4. Work out at least once a week – I’m probably most behind in this goal, but I have stepped it up nutritionally. I started keeping a food journal along with my gratitude journal so everything’s in one place. I track what I eat each day, and just writing it down keeps me accountable enough to make sure more fruits and veggies find their way onto the plate. I’ve made some new recipes including CM Stewart’s Green Smoothie! And I’ve definitely been buying more produce instead of junk snacks at the grocery store. On days off, I’ve been good about doing some hiking or walks because I read an article about how even 10 minutes/day in nature can do wonders for anxiety and fatigue issues (which I’ve been battling as of late). The next step is to go full swing with some consistent workouts!
That’s what I’m up to! How ’bout you? Do the Bingo Boys inspire you to take dance lessons? How’s your writing going? Your workouts? What dream vacations are coming up?
AND…any time the Life List Club has a Milestone Party we give away prizes! Drop me a comment below sharing your goals and you’re entered to win a blog swap and I-Tunes Gift Card!
More fabulous prizes to be had! Visit each contributing writer of the LLC for a chance to win:
Marcia Richards Guest post swap and Amazon gift card
Sonia Medeiros A guest post from Sonia or the winner’s work featured on Sonia’s blog
Jenny Hansen A Margie Lawson lecture packet and a $10 Starbuck’s gift card
David Walker A free download of his “Web Wisdom: Inspiration from the Inbox”
Gary Gauthier A choice of 3 eBooks
Lara Schiffbauer A $25 Gift card
Happy Friday Everyone!
I admit I picked up Moloka’i based on the cover. The lure of a Polynesian island, the bright colored hibiscus flowers, the young girl with a no doubt unique story. When I saw it on the list of my local library’s book discussion list, I thought, ok, good read for January, if I have to live in Wisconsin, I’ll at least escape to Hawai’i. I had no idea what I was in for.
The story of Moloka’i is a love story, that is if you’re looking from the author’s point of view. Alan Brennert fills the pages with historically accurate information about Native Hawai’ians and the early stigmas of leprosy. Brennert was working in the television world, writing for L.A. Law, which won him an Emmy, and also wrote and worked on productions of China Beach, Simon and Simon, and the 80’s revival of The Twilight Zone. When a production project he was working on with Kevin Costner’s Tig Productions never made it to air, he started a completely new project: the result, Moloka’i.
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.
With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka’i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death. Such is the warmth, humor, and compassion of this novel that “few readers will remain unchanged by Rachel’s story”
I’m going to warn you, readers, cause like all of you, I’ve got a big pile of ‘to-read’ books, so I’m going to say that I LIKED this book, but I didn’t love it. Mainly, because it’s sad. You shouldn’t read Moloka’i if you’re looking for a feel-good, girl meets boy, normal growing pains kind of book. But I’d like to tell you why I think YOU SHOULD read Moloka’i.
I believe any book that opens our eyes to a different culture, especially when it’s done with such clear reverence for those individuals, is a worthy read. Like many who attended the book discussion that night, we knew there were leper colonies, but we couldn’t tell you where they were. The island of Moloka’i was one of them. The stereotypes and fears of leprosy then are similar to what many of us saw when AIDS first appeared in the media. People fear what they don’t understand. The nation didn’t know what caused the disease, how it was spread, or how to treat it. So they simply said, here’s paradise, but you can never leave it. Anyone who showed signs of the disease was taken from their family and sent to Kalaupapa. In Rachel’s case, she was so young, she lived with the nun’s at the school on Moloka’i.
Imagine living your whole life on one island. Living the same routine, eating the same foods, watching your friends die from disease. Part of that is Rachel’s story. But part of her story is about finding strength in yourself and making families wherever they come to you. A fascinating element to the book is the dichotomy of religion in Rachel’s life. Her mother was a vigorously converted Christian woman who sought to teach her children manners and respect. When Rachel is moved to Kalaupapa, she meets Haleola, a Hawai’ian medicine woman who teaches Rachel about the Hawai’ian gods and goddesses.
And there are others who become part of Rachel’s family. Sister Katherine is her caretaker, Nahoa teaches her to surf, and she meets Kenji, a man who comes to Moloka’i also afflicted with the disease and ostracized for his Japanese heritage. All of these individuals will teach Rachel a new form of freedom: what it means to be daring, to have fun, to love. Each person plays a role in her life and she as much in theirs.
It is rare to find a story that recounts a person’s life from the age of early childhood to maturity. How can one person’s story be so engrossing? To answer that, you’d simply have to read the book and get to know Rachel yourself.
What do you think? Had you known of these leper colonies before? Have you been to Kalaupapa? What other books have you read that have transpired one person’s life tale well?
For Lynne Cox, a champion long distance open water swimmer, practice and positivity go hand in hand.
If you’re unfamiliar with Lynne and her triumphs, here are just a few of her records:
- In 1972 at age 15 Lynne swam across the English Channel and shattered the men’s and women’s world records with a time of 9 hours and 57 minutes.
- In 1975 Lynne became the first woman to swim across Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Her time was 12 hour and 2 1/2 minutes.
- In 1976 Lynne became the first person to swim across the 42 degree F waters of the Strait of Magellan with a time of 1 hour 2 minutes.
- In 1985 Lynne swam “Around the World in 80 Days” by swimming 12 extremely challenging waterways some that had never been attempted.
- In 1987 Lynne became the first person to swim across the Bering Strait as a way to open the US-Soviet Border for the first time in 48 years with a time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.
- In 1994 Lynne swam through the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt to Israel and from Israel to Jordan tracing the progress of peace between the three countries.
- In 2002 Lynne became the first person to complete a 1.2 miles in Antarctica, from the ship the Orlova to Neko Harbor in a time of 25 minutes. (All facts from Lynne Cox’s website)
Not bad right? Would you believe me if I said Lynne was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame? She is.
Lynne’s journey in the water began at the age of 9, when she was coached by Harvard University coach, Ben Muritt. By age 12, she was working with 4 time US Olympic trainer Don Gambril.
Imagine yourself swimming laps early in the morning, back and forth between pier points. The sun is not up yet. You are alone in this day where the black sky blends into the dark waters. Suddenly, hundreds upon hundreds of anchovies are swimming past you! And behind them are grunion. Slippery, iridescent fish are moving so fast, that one grunion ends up in your mouth!
After the grunion, you become swarmed by large, 40 pound tuna, bouncing out of the water, all chomping for their next meal. That’s when you realize, you’re in a food chain cycle.
Below you, the current is weighted. You can tell something is beneath you. Something big. It’s following your path. As you continue to stroke forward, you peer behind you with each breath checking for dorsal fins. Is it a shark? Panic in every fiber of your body tells you to leave the water, but the fighter inside you says stay. Stay and finish your workout. This situation is real and you will face it again on another swim, you have to prepare yourself. Stay.
You can see a friend on shore waving their arms at you. He comes running down and he tells you, “It’s a whale!”
That is the beginning of the story of Grayson, a four month old baby gray whale and how Lynne meets him while she is practicing in the ocean. What follows is an epic journey that lasted hours where the two new friends go in search of Grayson’s mother, without whom he will not survive.
You will not believe what they go through, and yet through it all, Lynne is a consistent reminder of the power of positivity in our thoughts. There are times where her body becomes weak, where she loses Grayson, where she wonders if his mother is dead. But Lynne will defy it all and remain assertive. She will remind you that there is no task too big if you break it down and go piece by piece. She will remind you that the hardest and most difficult trials of our lives are best made with decisions of heart instead of head. And she will do all of this with such imagery as you can barely imagine.
For this midwest girl, the Mississippi River is the closest thing I have to open water. I have been to both oceans surrounding our country, but I have never had the delights and trepidations that Lynne describes while encountering dolphins and jellyfish. It has been a few months since I read this book, it was at the end of summer. I just went to my library’s book discussion on it and it reminded me that I while I was reading this book, I was sitting on a patio chair outside with my feet up on the seat because reading about the food chain cycle around her was terrifying! I also shared bits of the book aloud with my boyfriend because the descriptions are so rich and magical. Lynne Cox does something only a handful of us can do, but she invites us along in her writing with beauty and awe.
If any of you are looking for a great Christmas present idea, I highly recommend Lynne’s book. She intended it for an adult audience, but teens all over have grasped at this inspiring story and found hope in its pages. It’s a book that with a message that will make you go, “Ok Lynne, I know you’re talking to me!” and anyone can appreciate it.
Go get this book!
For more information about Lynne, her world records, her speaking engagements, her other books, and even her blog, check out her website www.lynnecox.org.
What do you think? Can you imagine swimming in the ocean with a baby whale? What experiences have you had growing up where positive thinking played a crucial role in helping you face an overwhelming situation?
After several pleading conversations from my friend, Annie, I went out and bought The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It sat on my bookshelf for awhile, not out of apathy, but let’s face it, there are always lots of books to read! If I’m being honest, it only made the “next in line” list because it was a smaller paperback and I was traveling, not adding a lot of weight is good when you’ll be carrying this backpack around an airport for a couple hours. And I have yet to purchase an e-reader; don’t hate me. I started reading The Hunger Games on the plane ride home. I was hooked by page four.
I’m not usually one to ignore the driver on a long ride home, but I did. Joe and I had just come back from a fabulous week long vacation in Toronto, and instead of regaling each other with stories about our favorite visits and dishes, I was reading. (I did put the book away when I saw him doing the droopy eye thing; I don’t want to die to get to the next chapter.)
The Hunger Games put me right back in excitement mode. The story of a post-apocalyptic North America where only 12 districts remain intact, all ruled by one Capital. To ensure no further outbursts or rebellion, the Capital created the Hunger Games. Twenty-four must go, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district. They will compete to be the last one standing, and the Capital will do whatever is necessary to see it’s a good show.
Suzanne Collins did an amazing job with the pacing of this book, the story gives you normal world in the beginning, quickly sets up the problems for the people, shows you how the lead character, Katniss Everdeen, is a little rebellious, even in the beginning. The games are quickly introduced and once she’s in the game, there’s no putting the book down. I commend Collins for her writing; she reminded me of the Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley books I used to love reading as a teen. And while many things occurred to terrorize the survival of Katniss, I never thought it was unbelievable in the world Collins created. Her plot points and actions are well mapped together.
Collins found her niche writing for children television shows, including Nickelodeon. Her biography is a bit outdated, but you can glimpse into how her mind thinks when she’s world building. Her first series, The Underland Chronicles, tells the story of an 11 year old boy and his sister who fall through a grate in their apartment and end up in the Underland below the streets of New York City. There, the boy is considered a warrior and his sister is worshiped by cockroaches. Together they must win the battle against the rats to save their lost father. See what I mean? She’s a hoot!
The Hunger Games is set to be released on film in March 2012, but you’ll definitely want to read this book. The next two in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, have been purchased and sit by my bedside. I’m pacing myself, reading another book in between the series. Although, if any of you read the blog review Ellie Ann Soderstrom did, you may second guess continuing the series. While she too raved about the first book, she thought the next two were lacking in character growth for our leading lady, Katniss. Don’t read Ellie Ann’s post unless you’re ok with spoilers!!! I’m still planning to finish the series, and hoping I’m able to to see Katniss evolve as the battle takes on new levels.
“May the odds be ever in your favor!” –Effie Trinket, The Hunger Games
Have you read The Hunger Games? What do you think of Suzanne Collins world building? Are you prepared to have dreams that YOU are in the Hunger Games? It is the leading side effect of reading this book. Proceed with caution, and don’t sleep with your archery kit.
P.S. Don’t miss the just released trailer for The Hunger Games!