I have to admit that I've been feeling kind of guilty ever since I wrote that last post, thinking that you all don't need to hear my dumb old problems. Especially when I consider that in the greater scheme of things I'm a very lucky person. But wow...you all went and proved to me how very blessed I indeed am when it comes to the wonderful gifts of friendship. I can't tell you how much all your kind words meant to me! Seriously, I'm in tears again just thinking about it. Thank you, thank you, thank you...from the bottom of my heart!
(And as an update--my BIL checked himself out of the hospital "against medical advice" and went to stay with my MIL for a few days. Who knows what happens from here on out, but the ball's in his court as they say. Our computer is in the shop. Though the fellow there could make no promises, of course, he wasn't totally pessimistic about our chances of recovery.)
Considering how few books I seem to be finishing these days, I can't believe how far behind on book reviews. I decided that instead of stressing about it, I'll just catch up by doing some mini-reviews. I'd love to steal Eva's 12-word version, but I don't think I'm quite that talented.
*The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak.
Absolutely delightful. Sweet, innocent charm. The joys of being oneself and following one's dreams, even when that means you'll sometimes be alone. A children's book that will truly resonate with readers of all ages.
Thank you so much Chris, for your lovely review that introduced me to this little treasure!
*Double Cross by James Patterson.
I read this during the read-a-thon...one, because I'd just finished The Graveyard Book and I needed to pick up something that wouldn't be quite so emotional an experience, and two, simply because his books always fly by which makes them perfect for the read-a-thon. As I've said before, for several years, I read almost exclusively thrillers, but my horizons have expanded greatly, thanks for the most part to all you cool people and your incredble reviews. But I do still enjoy a thriller now and then. And I did enjoy this book. Honestly though, I didn't love it. There were twists that were a bit too predictable, and there were actions by some of the characters that I simply didn't find believable. I tend to wonder if Mr. Patterson is just cranking out his books too quickly these days. When it comes to his "Alex Cross" series anyway, I feel that their quality has been going downhill. And still, all that said, they're obviously still doing something for me, because I just can't seem to quit reading them. :)
*50 Reasons to Buy Fair Trade by Miles Litvinoff and John Madeley.
This was quite a different read for me. While I love non-fiction, economics/business has just never interested me in the slightest. But Annie and I are studying "poverty" for school. And I guess it is through this avenue that all of sudden economics became a much more interesting subject. The human side, if you will. Let me say right off the top here that I'm not reviewing this book from the position of an educated economist. I don't want to debate anyone on the topic of fair vs. free trade. This is just my personal opinion as a human being and a consumer who wants to be responsible in her choices. So anyway, before reading this book, I had a very vague idea as to what fair trade was about, and a gut feeling that buying fair trade was the right thing to do. So this book was perfect for me. It explained the nuts and bolts of fair trade from many angles, so for me it was quite educational. Does that mean that someone who already understands fair trade or someone who fully supports fair trade already won't get anything from this book? No. I truly believe this is a book for every consumer. For while I loved gaining a deeper understanding of how fair trade works, my favorite parts of this book were the personal stories. The stories of lives changed and hopes renewed. It truly is an uplifting little book.
(I will probably be having a giveaway for this book in the future, but I think Rich wants to read it first.)
*The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper.
I'd really hoped to write a wonderful review of this book--it certainly deserves it. I'd bookmarked a dozen pages with passages to share or points to comment on. But it turned out that I finished this book only minutes before I had to give it to Rich so he could return it to his school's library. But I'll do my best to share what I loved about this book anyway. Helene Cooper, who is now the diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, was born in Liberia, into what can only be called the privileged class. The first half of the book tells the story of her childhood at Sugar Beach, a mansion her father had built outside the capital city of Monrovia. When the family moved to Sugar Beach, Helene, then a young girl, was not happy about it. She didn't want to leave the city where her friends and family lived. And living seemingly out in nowhere (though it was really only about 10 miles from the city), brought out Helene's superstitious fears...fears of neegees and heartmen. And it is these fears that bring Helene a new sister. Her parents adopt Eunice, a "country" child to keep Helene company. The story is so sweet, so humorous in only the way that true childhood innocence can be. As a child, Helene doesn't comprehend the situation in her country. Her reality has always had her placed in the elite class, and it has never occurred to her that maybe the system in her country isn't fair.
But her previously privileged world comes crashing to an end when Helene is in 9th grade. She is witness to brutal acts committed against her family. Her mother soon moves Helene and her younger sister Marlene to the U.S. Eunice is left behind to return to her biological mother. So after six years together, Helene is separated from her sister, her friend. The privileged life is behind her. She continues to share her story through high school and college, and then into the world of journalism. And believe me, her life as a journalist has been mighty exciting. But the stories she shares all lead to one point. Everything seems to be bringing her to one decision. Helene covered all kinds of world events as a reporter, including the Iraq war, where she was an embedded journalist. A near death experience in Iraq finally brought her to the realization that she could no longer run from her past. She needed to return to Liberia. She needed to find her sister whom she hadn't seen in fifteen years.
I'm not sure what I loved most about this book. Helene Cooper is a fascinating woman. And I love that she didn't whitewash her story. She freely admitted her frailties as a human. But I also loved all the history included in this book, from the founding of the country up through the brutal modern history of Liberia. The book is humorous, bittersweet, joyous, and heartbreaking. And I thank Helene Cooper for sharing it.
If anyone has reviewed any of these books, please feel free to leave a link in the comments so I can add them here. Thanks.
Emmanuel at Liberia and Friends Journal (The House at Sugar Beach)
Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On (The Bat Poet)