Writing Prompt #160: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter O)

The ABC Book Challenge - L


Memorable Books that Start with the Letter “O”:

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

  • This is by far one of my favorite memoirs, and writing craft books. I first found the book on a whim at the library. I loved it so much, I knew I needed my own copy. This book is staying on my bookshelf forever.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude

  • This was a hard book to read and digest in high school, but it was definitely magical.

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The Outsiders

  • I love this book. I read it when I was younger. Then, I re-read it, and fell in love with it. The movie adaptation (1983) is also quite good.

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The Odyssey

  • This was a whole unit in one of my high school English classes. I’d originally learned part of the story from Wishbone.

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “O”:

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Of Mice and Men

  • I enjoyed reading Steinbeck in my American Literature class in college. We didn’t read this one then, but I tried after the class ended. I failed. I want to try again, however.

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On the Road

  • I became fascinated with Jack Kerouac, and the other Beat Generation poets, while studying history in high school.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

  • I first learned about this book from Sesame Street! They did a “Monsterpiece Theatre” segment where they were discussing classic literature. A number 1 flew over a cuckoo’s nest.

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Ordinary People

  • I really should read this book. The movie adaptation (1980) is fabulous.

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Our Year of Maybe


What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter O? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #158: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter N)

The ABC Book Challenge - K


Memorable Books that Start with the Letter “N”:

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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

  • I was introduced to Barbara Ehrenreich in my freshman year of college by way of this book. I plan to re-read it soon. It’s a powerful book regarding minimum wage, and how a lot of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes not even that.

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Night

  • I first read this book in eighth grade. We were studying the Holocaust, and it left a profound impact on me. Everyone should read this book.

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Nineteen Eighty-Four

  • This book creeped me out for quite a while. However, I feel the need to read it again soon.

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November Blues (Jericho #2)

  • I really like and enjoy Sharon M. Draper’s books. I’ve gained a greater perspective of African-African teenagers through her fiction. The Jericho trilogy is one of my favorites.

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Number The Stars

  • I was assigned this book in fifth grade. Originally, I really struggled with this book. It was one of the first times that I read so fast that my comprehension suffered. Through this book, I learned to slow down in my reading, especially assigned books, and my comprehension improved. Also, Lois Lowry is one of my favorite authors!

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “N”:

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The Night Circus

  • I’ve wanted to read this book for several years. The author wrote this book during NaNoWriMo!

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North and South

  • I’m part of a Facebook group called The Book Drunkard. This book has been recommended to me several times, so I need to find it at the library soon.

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A Northern Light

  • I’ve heard so many good things about this book!

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Northanger Abbey

  • I learned about this book from Wishbone! I know I have a greater appreciation for Jane Austen now than I did years ago.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter N? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #68: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”

evicted

Image Credit: Amazon

I think I first heard about this book from friends on Facebook, who all said what a powerful book it was.

Then, author Matthew Desmond was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in April 2018. My local area, Hampton Roads in Virginia, was specifically mentioned in the interview regarding high numbers of evictions in three separate cities. It stung, and propelled me to want to learn more. As soon as possible.


I bought the book in August, and finally started it in late December. But once I started, I could not put it down. By the time we came home from the farm on December 26th, I’d flown through Part One. I was itching to go to bed that night, eager to dive in to Part Two. It only took me a few more nights of intense reading to finish it. I came away from it with a greater understanding, and appreciation, for being able to own my own home with my husband. It’s one of those books that makes me realize how good I have it, especially as a white woman with no children.

I’m drawn to books like this because of the human interest. I was reminded of the term “ethnography,” which is the systematic study of people and cultures. Author Matthew Desmond settled in Milwaukee, in the trailer park and other low-income neighborhoods, to not only interview people for the book, but to learn about their lives, and specifically what they go through day by day. The housing crisis and recession of the late-2000s began while he was conducting interviews, and it’s referenced in the book as well.

However, the housing crisis and recession are not all to blame here. It’s just one factor. There are many other factors involved with eviction and those who struggle with it. Landlords have profited by buying cheap, often dilapidated houses or buildings, charging rent, and then sometimes refusing to fix inherent problems in these properties. The tenants complain, nothing gets fixed, and rent can go unpaid or withheld. There are certain processes for evictions, but they vary greatly. There are voluntary and involuntary procedures. It’s definitely not black-and-white.

When someone is evicted, that goes on their record. It’s exponentially harder for parents with children to find an affordable place to live, and eviction(s) exacerbate that problem. Multiple evictions are even more problematic. It’s a vicious cycle, where parents want to protect their kids from negative influences and crime, but can’t break out of those areas because of their eviction record. Welfare benefits can also be affected. If you’re lucky to have a job, getting evicted can cause immense stress, affecting job performance and more. Choices have to be made, painfully – Pay rent, or the utilities, or the car repair, or a need for your kids. Kids are uprooted, shuffled, changing schools, and also stressed. It’s a horrible experience all around.

Desmond’s dedication to these interviews, living in their space, researching the processes and procedures, and soaking up everything he could about eviction shines through this book. It’s depressing, in more ways than one, but incredibly informative, educational, and eye-opening.

This is one of those books, in my opinion, should be studied and taught in schools, especially upper levels of high schools and colleges/universities. It’s an important issue that needs more focus, discussion, and change.

My eyes were opened widely to the multiple problems regarding eviction. I thought I knew a few things, but this book turned my thinking completely on its head. The book focused specifically on Milwaukee during a set number of years, but there are eviction problems and issues throughout the entire U.S.

That was one of the focuses of Desmond’s interview with Terry Gross – Thanks to receiving a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2015, Desmond has started The Eviction Lab, where a dedicated team of researchers and students from Princeton University are creating the first-ever eviction database in the U.S. At the time of the interview, in April 2018, the Lab had already collected 83 million records from 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The book was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017. That says something, too.

“Stabilizing a home has all sorts of positive benefits for a family,” Desmond said in the interview.

Desmond has written two other books, and co-authored one on race. I look forward to reading and seeing more from him.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #67: “Small Town”

I found this book at a thrift store in Florida in May of this year, for $1.50. Why it took me so long to read it, and finish it, I don’t know. But, overall, I enjoyed this book. Lawrence Block was a new name to me, but what captured my attention was the setting – New York City. I’m a sucker for books set in the Big Apple!

Originally, it took me a while to read more than two chapters per night. Block’s writing is so incredibly detailed, and the cast of characters is extensive. His chapters are meaty, but mighty. I told a group on Facebook that this is a good thriller, but if you’re not a fan of sex, violence, and profanity, I would avoid this book. Those three things are very prevalent in this one!

I liked this book, for the most part. It’s not my favorite thriller in the whole world, but I liked the structure of the story, and how the title is so fitting. Despite several heavy subject matters – It’s set in 2002, so that gives you an idea of the circumstances in New York City – the characters were constantly engaging. Each character was unique. Also, one of the main focuses is on a published author, and seeing the process of a book deal in a fictional story was really cool to see. I enjoyed following the author’s story, and the saga he’s involved with.

I could have seen less graphic sex, and the violence was definitely unsettling. But, it’s a thriller. And Block accomplished that with his writing.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #82: “How Iceland Got Teens to Say No to Drugs”

The Atlantic

Image Credit: The Atlantic

I saw this article on Facebook recently. Thanks to Brittany A. for sharing it.

Here’s the link to The Atlantic’s article, published January 19, 2017:


What were you doing in 1997?

According to a local psychologist, Gudberg Jónsson, back then most of Iceland’s teens were drinking or drunk. All the time. It felt unsafe.

Fast-forward 20 years. There aren’t teens wandering the park, nearly passed out drunk. There aren’t many wandering teens at all.

Why?

They’re involved in after-school classes, art club, dance, music, or with their families.


Iceland boasts incredibly low percentages of teens drinking, using cannabis, or smoking cigarettes.

Here are the numbers. This was a survey of 15-year-old and 16-year-olds, reporting these activities for the previous month.

Drunk, 1998: 42 percent
Drunk, 2016: 5 percent

Ever used cannabis, 1998: 17 percent
Ever used cannabis, 2016: 7 percent

Smoked cigarettes every day, 1998: 23 percent
Smoked cigarettes every day, 2016: 3 percent

It’s radical, and exciting. But, there’s a method behind it. And if adopted by other countries, it could have a revolutionary change. However, it’s a big if.


In 1992, Project Self-Discovery was formed, offering teenagers “natural-high alternatives to drugs and crime.”

Instead of a treatment-based approach or program, the idea was to allow the kids to learn anything they wanted, including art, music, dance, martial arts. By having the kids learn a variety of things and skills, their brain chemistry was altered, and give them what they needed to cope better with life. Other ways to combat depression, anxiety, numb feelings, etc. Life-skills training was also incorporated.

Research and studies in the early 1990s showed a series of factors that played into Icelandic teens not getting involved with alcohol and drugs: Participating in organized activities three to four times per week, especially sports; total time spent with parents during the week; feeling cared about at school; and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Youth in Iceland began gradually, before being introduced nationally. Correspondingly, laws were changed. You had to be at least 18 to buy tobacco, and 20 to buy alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned. In addition, another law, still in effect today, prohibits children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10 p.m. in winter and midnight in summer.

Another key provision was involving schools and parents. State funding was increased for sports, dance, art, music, and other clubs. Low-income families received help or assistance to take part in these extracurricular activities.

“Protective factors have gone up, risk factors down, and substance use has gone down—and more consistently in Iceland than in any other European country.”

Youth in Europe started in 2006. The questionnaires – Sent out to many European countries, South Korea, Nairobi, and Guinea-Bissau – shows “the same protective and risk factors identified in Iceland apply everywhere.”

However, no other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. Sweden has called the laws to keep children indoors in the evenings “the child curfew.”

There are cities that have reported successes, being a part of Youth in Europe. Teen suicide rates are dropping in Bucharest, Romania. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third in another city.

“O’Toole fully endorses the Icelandic focus on parents, school and the community all coming together to help support kids, and on parents or carers being engaged in young people’s lives. Improving support for kids could help in so many ways, he stresses. Even when it comes just to alcohol and smoking, there is plenty of data to show that the older a child is when they have their first drink or cigarette, the healthier they will be over the course of their life.”

Would something like this work in the U.S.?

Not a generic model, nothing exactly like Iceland, but something specifically tailored to individual cities, maybe even individual communities. By working with communities to identify the biggest issues and the biggest needs, maybe adopting facets of the Iceland program may help teenagers, and others, in the U.S.


My two cents: While I do drink alcohol now, I’ve never smoked. I was never tempted by alcohol as a teenager. Not at home with my parents, anyway.

I was involved with music and sports from a very young age – Piano, gymnastics, soccer, then the viola, and softball. My church was another huge part of my life. If I wasn’t in school, at music lessons, or at sports practice, I was likely at church.

Also, I know my parents played a huge role in my life. Being an only child, I know I’m a bit biased. But, we had dinner at the table almost every night. We didn’t eat out a lot. The Internet was new, and no one had a smartphone. We had a computer, but there were strict limits, and more educational games than Web surfing. They were fully present in my life. I may have been sheltered and protected, but it gave me so many benefits.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

 

 

Commentary #81: “How One Woman Is Teaching Homeless & Foster Care Children To Dream”

Precious Dreams Foundation

Image Credit: Sam Dahman

A dear friend shared this article on Facebook on November 30th, and I felt compelled to write about it.


Who knew that decorating an ordinary, simple pillowcase could make such an impact?

Nicole Russell, together with volunteers, provides comfort items that help children in transition to self-comfort.

What makes you happy?

What images can help you dream?

Things that many of us take for granted – Warm pajamas, stuffed animals, receiving blankets, books, and journals – This foundation helps provide it!

This is awesome!


If you’re interested in learning more, please see the resources below:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #156: The ABC Book Challenge (The Letter M)

The ABC Book Challenge - L


Memorable Books that Start with the Letter “M”:

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Macbeth

  • We studied Shakespeare in high school. This one was significant to me.

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Madame Bovary

  • I believe this was assigned reading when I was a senior in high school.

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The Man in the High Castle

  • I’d wanted to read this one for quite a while, and finally did in the summer of 2017. It sparked my interest in not only the author, but in alternate reality, as well.

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Mansfield Park

  • I need to re-read this, but I’ve read most everything that Jane Austen wrote.

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Misty of Chincoteague

  • I read this one several times as a kid. I live about three hours from Chincoteague!

Books I’d Love to Read Starting with the Letter “M”:

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M. C. Higgins, the Great

  • I remember seeing this book in the school library, but I’ve never read it.

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The Minority Report

  • I knew this short story was adapted into a movie (2002) and a TV series (2015), but I didn’t know until much later that it was written by Philip K. Dick.

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Les Miserables

  •  Despite having seen the most recent movie adaptation (2012), I’ve never read the novel.

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Misery

  • I vaguely remember parts of this book, so I think it deserves a re-read.

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The Mosquito Coast

  • I’ve been interested in this novel since I heard about the movie adaptation (1986). I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I don’t plan to until I read the book.

What books have you read, or want to read, that start with the letter M? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂