Book Review #84: “Paper Girls Volume 1”

I first heard about this book from Sara’s review on her blog, The Bibliophagist!

I found my copy at 2nd and Charles in Newport News this summer.

One of the beautiful things about graphic novels is you get a great story, plus beautiful illustrations. The writing of Brian Vaughan and illustrating by Cliff Chiang did not disappoint!

This was a quicker read than I expected. The first night, I got through about a quarter of the book. The next time I picked it up, I got through another 10-15 pages. Last night, when I finished it at the chiropractor’s office, I’d flown through the rest of it in less than 30 minutes. All told, I think it was roughly an hour to 90 minutes for me. The illustrations in particular were incredible, and I wanted to keep turning the pages!

I was left with wanting to find Volume 2 immediately. However, I’m going be a responsible adult here, and wait a bit before purchasing the next one.

I loved the characters, and the adventure they are thrust into within minutes of the book’s opening. I also appreciated the setting – 1988 – and the “vintage” vibes and multiple references. I felt like I was watching everything unfold in the background.

Have you read any graphic novels?


5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #96: Thoughts on “Mindhunter”

Mindhunter Season 1

Image Credit: Mindhunter Wiki

This show right here. Holy cow!

I had heard many good things about it before I sat down to watch it. I took my time with it – I originally committed to one episode per day. This turned out to be a good thing.

This is one of those shows where you need to block everything else out, or as much as you can. Watching it sucks you in, but my habit of looking at my phone while watching a show or movie was broken pretty quickly. Otherwise, I would miss stuff. I started Episode 1 over at one point, because something interrupted me about 30 minutes in, and I wanted to make sure I was refreshed on the details from the very beginning.

I do have some issues with the show, but overall, I really enjoyed it. I really hope Netflix does a Season 3. I want more!


Season 1 (2017)

The show opens in 1977. Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, Glee) is introduced to veteran FBI agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). They begin studying and interviewing murderers in various prisons.

I thought Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper was amazing! It was a bit surreal to hear these actors emulate these horrible men. And the sets looked and felt real!

The pacing was a bit hard to follow sometimes, but I also enjoyed the addition of Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv, Fringe) to the team, and Bill’s wife, Nancy Tench (Stacey Roca) is such a good character.

As you follow Ford, Tench, Carr, and their lives, there are scenes set in Kansas toward the beginning and end of every episode. I thought Sonny Valicenti as the ADT Serviceman was great, but also incredibly creepy! No spoilers — But I highly recommend paying attention to these brief scenes every single time. They are important.

This season was captivating. There is so much going on with these characters! And I enjoy history, so seeing this based on true events in the 1970s was pretty groovy. Haha!


Season 2 (2019)

Image Credit: Mindhunter Wiki

It was perfect timing when I started watching the show. Season 2 dropped on Netflix on August 16th, which happened to be right as I finished up Season 1. I feel bad for everyone else who had to wait two years!

Overall, I liked the angle of Season 2. I knew a little bit about the Atlanta Child Murders before watching the show, but not a lot. I thought it was interesting they focused on it for the majority of the season, if not a bit disappointing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I wanted more about the history and development of the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU).

Regardless, I liked how this season wove the work of the BSU and the ongoing investigation in Atlanta together.

One key piece was Bill struggling to cope with his unfolding family situation in Virginia, while trying to help the investigation in Atlanta. Again, no spoilers, but this was so emotional and real!

Regardless of my slight disappointments, this season felt more emotional and riveting. And the actor they cast to play Wayne Williams is uncanny. The casting was so good!

Also, check out YouTube for several videos on how they made the sets and historical details look so good!

I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of Season 3!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #78: “Glory Be”

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I love 2nd and Charles. It’s a great place to buy used books, among other types of media – They have almost everything you can think of. You can also sell your used items to them. While I was waiting for my most recent buyback to be completed on August 23rd, I found this gem of a book in the $1.00 clearance pile.

It’s designed for readers ages 9-12, but something like that usually doesn’t stop me from reading it.

I loved the different angle the author, Augusta Scattergood, took with the volatile summer of 1964. The main character, Gloriana “Glory” Hemphill, is going through many changes. She dreams of her twelfth birthday at the community pool, but then discovered it’s locked up tight, “closed for repairs.”

Angry, she turns her juvenile anger into action. She truly begins to come of age among her family and friends. She learns about how tumultuous the nation is that hot, sticky summer, especially the state of Mississippi. She works to fight prejudice from her 11-year-old eye. She also begins to discover who her true friends are, and the meaning of family.

This was a surprise book for me. I bought it on a pure whim, and felt pulled in from the very beginning. I flew through more than half in the first two hours.

I think the author did a good job creating the atmosphere, and capturing how dangerous the summer of 1964 was for many people. She took her own experiences from that summer in Mississippi and wove them into a compelling book that many can learn from and enjoy.

I think this would be a good book for a class to read in school, or simply kids and family to read together.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #74: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption”

Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption

Image Credit: Amazon

I received this book as part of a fun “book and chocolate” swap through an awesome Facebook group called The Book Drunkard. Thanks, Raquel!

I’ve been wanting to read this book even since its publication was announced. I’ve admired Laura Hillenbrand since reading Seabiscuit: An American Legend.


One thing I figured out quickly: This is a really long book! It’s nearly 500 pages. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because Hillenbrand is incredibly detailed and well-researched. However, that’s one of the big reasons why it took me so long to finish it!

I’d heard about Louis “Louie” Zamperini through news reports, and press about the book (2010) and movie adaptation (2014). A sequel was released in 2018.

It’s jam-packed with details, beginning with Louie’s early life and Italian family in Torrance, California. I enjoyed learning about his life, his running career, and then him being thrust into the Pacific theater of World War II. He was a prisoner of war (POW) for several years, and reading about his life in Japanese camps was utterly horrifying.

Everyone should know Louie’s story, along with the other brave men he served with. I know I wouldn’t have the guts to fly the unreliable planes and dangerous missions.

This was a tough read for me. I’ve always enjoyed reading and learning about World War II, but I’ve always “done better” with fictional accounts. It’s been good for me to read more non-fiction and biographies over the years, but reading about Louie and the other men was more painful and difficult than I originally expected.

I don’t want to criticize Hillenbrand. I think this book is really good, and the research she did shines through. The list of acknowledgments at the end is profound!

But, I was not expected the length it would take for me to finish this book. I felt frustrated at times, only able to get through one chapter, and then finding 2-3 days passing before picking it up again. I was able to read more than 150 pages when we visited the farm in the middle of July, which was great, but that’s where I noticed this book takes significant concentration and emotional investment.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #220: Romantic Movies (Day 19)

Romantic Movies

Image by Nietjuh on Pixabay

Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)

Everafterposter.jpg

We had this on VHS! I remember being scared by a few of the scenes the first couple of times I watched it. Now, I want to watch it again. It’s been years!

I love the historical fiction take on this Cinderella-inspired story. I remember being fascinated by France and French history after watching this. Drew Barrymore is beautiful!


Come back tomorrow for a new movie!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Writing Prompt #216: Romantic Movies (Day 15)

Romantic Movies

Image by Nietjuh on Pixabay

Forrest Gump (1994)

Film poster with a white background and a park bench (facing away from the viewer) near the bottom. A man wearing a white suit is sitting on the right side of the bench and is looking to his left while resting his hands on both sides of him on the bench. A suitcase is sitting on the ground, and the man is wearing tennis shoes. At the top left of the image is the film's tagline and title and at the bottom is the release date and production credits.

I love the love Forrest has for Jenny throughout this gem of a movie. This movie is my all-time favorite. If it’s on TV, I watch it. I first watched it in middle school, when it was broadcast on ABC that Saturday night when I was babysitting. I was so enthralled with the movie, I barely moved until it was over.

I can’t believe it’s the 25th anniversary of the release this summer! I hope theaters re-release it. I really want to see it on the big screen for the first time.


Come back tomorrow for a new movie!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #84: “As GM’s Lordstown plant idles, an iconic American job nears extinction”

Lordstown GM Plant

Image Credit: CNN

I saw this fascinating CNN article on Wednesday, March 6th:


The Lordstown, Ohio plant has been closed for nearly a week now. It made its last Chevy Cruze sedan on March 6th. Another sign of the times. General Motors (GM) has shrunk from more than 618,000 workers to just north of 100,000 people.

Auto manufacturing in the U.S. has been declining for a while now. The closure of Lordstown is part of GM’s shift in strategy – Away from sedans, more focus on higher-margin trucks and light SUVs, as well as researching and developing electric and autonomous vehicles. GM has also invested in a ridesharing platform called Maven.

In addition to a declining workforce, U.S. auto workers have experienced a drop in wages (Roughly 18 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation), and less retirement benefits. Just two years ago, only eight percent of factories offered pensions.


Lordstown sits in the Youngstown, Ohio region, halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The average worker in Youngstown made $38,000 per year in 2017. Compare that to $61,000 to $88,000 per year for full-time GM production workers, according to their United Auto Workers union contract. And that doesn’t include overtime pay and bonuses.

The Lordstown plant started to see changes about two years ago. As the demand for the Cruze sedan declined, the second and third shifts were cut, and 3,000 people were laid off. Of the remaining 1,400 people, about 400 accepted transfers to other plants, and they are able to hold on to their healthcare and pensions. There were 350 workers eligible for retirement. Those transferred workers will receive $30,000 in relocation assistance.

One of the workers interviewed for the article, at GM since 1995, thought she had enough seniority to transfer to another facility, such as the metal fabrication plant in Cleveland or the transmission factory in Toledo. However, relocating is not ideal, either. She’s stuck, quoted as saying GM has her in a “chokehold.”

“I make $32 an hour. I’m not going to go get a $12-an-hour job. I couldn’t survive on that at all. I’m going to get up and go, ride it out, try to get the best gig I can get, and be done with them.” She’s hoping to net her 30 years at GM – which won’t happen until 2025.


The Youngstown region has watched manufacturing slide downhill since the 1970s. The auto industry started to crack less than a decade later, with stiffer competition from Japanese automakers. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dealt another blow, as work was outsourced to lower-paying suppliers. In 2007, as the automakers were having systemic issues related to the financial crisis and impending Great Recession, a lower-wage tier was created for entry-level workers, where they made 45 percent less per hour and got a 401(k) rather than a guaranteed pension. GM’s bankruptcy two years later tightened things even further.

For Lordstown, the community has thrived on GM. At one point, GM helped bring more than $2 million in tax revenue, among other benefits to schools and community ventures. Twenty years ago, Lordstown was competing with other cities to win another car model to replace the Chevy Cavalier. The community banded together, and along with plant officials, were successful in winning that car model. The community tried it again in 2018 – Posting signs, writing letters, and working with politicians. Unfortunately, one of the big factors was plant management wasn’t interested in participating this time.

Many are uncertain and fearful. They’ve watched GM shutter, and then re-open, their plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. What if that happens in Lordstown?

Another problem is many GM workers were hired without secondary education. Nearly two-thirds of the 13,000 purported job openings in Youngstown, including information technology and healthcare, will require a post-secondary credential by 2021.

One bright spot is trade adjustment assistance, available to GM workers through the state and U.S. Department of Commerce. Truck driving certificates have been popular recently, due to the quick turnaround to earning them, and relatively good pay.


As Lordstown begins to adjust to life without GM, the local high school has started a training program for the logistics industry, helping prepare students for jobs in the various distribution centers in the area. Roughly 15 percent of students have parents worked in the plant. And they’ve already begun to experience losses, as families leave to accept those transfers at other GM plants.

TJ Maxx is building a facility that will employ 1,000 people locally. However, the wage difference is drastic. Where many at GM made $30 per hour or more, entry-level listings for other TJ Maxx facilities sit between $10 and $13.50 per hour.

However, Lordstown doesn’t want the shuttered plant to be turned over to Amazon, Tesla, or any other company. Not yet, anyway.


This story isn’t just about one GM plant in one Ohio town. It’s about history, the manufacturing industry, the changes in the American workforce, and what can be done for those who need jobs now.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #66: “WHO KNEW? …Reflections on Vietnam”

I received this book as a gift! My dear friend, Lydia, sent a sweet card with the book, explaining that she knows the author, and wanted to send it to me after reading a blog post regarding my interest in Vietnam. Thank you, Lydia!

The best way I can describe this book is a mix of a memoir, photo album, and poetry collection, all wrapped up into a nice book. It gave me a sense of what Watts went through during her year of service.

While preparing to receive her undergraduate degree at Villanova, she knew wanted to travel. She wanted to join the Peace Corps, but they wanted her to start before graduation. Then, she found a brochure for the Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) program of the American Red Cross.

What she ended up with was a year of service, and a lifetime of memories.

Watts blends photos, poems, soldiers’ artwork, and her memories into a powerful book. It made me feel like I was there with her.

I also learned about the SRAO program of the Red Cross, and how instrumental these women have been since World War II. I gained a new perspective, and a sense of gratitude. I know Watts and her crew were appreciated by the men in the jungles of Vietnam, during a very trying time there, and here at home.

Although I wasn’t alive during her service, I appreciate Watts for writing this book. It provides a unique perspective on a unique type of service during the war, and I’m grateful for her to show me, and others, this insight. Reading accounts like this makes me want to learn even more about the Vietnam War and the people who were involved, both soldiers and civilians.

Thank you again, Lydia, for this gift!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #60: “A Girl Named Hillary: The True Story of Hillary Clinton”

A Girl Named Hillary

Image Credit: Amazon

Like A Girl Named Rosa, this book was a fast read.

I appreciated that Hillary was considered for this series, given her recent presidential campaign.

Like Rosa’s book, I learned several new things about Hillary. Since her childhood, she’s always stood up for herself and tried to help others.

I literally grew up watching Hillary as First Lady from 1993-2001. So, in a way, she has always been inspiring to me. I think this book can be just as inspiring to other girls, now, and in future generations.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #59: “A Girl Named Rosa: The True Story of Rosa Parks”

A Girl Named Rosa

Image Credit: Amazon

American Girl just started releasing their “A Girl Named” series, and I definitely wanted to get my hands on them!

When A Girl Named Rosa arrived, I was a little dismayed. It was a very short book! I then realized that this series is clearly designed for much younger readers. However, I still wanted to read it!

The book is beautifully illustrated, and is packed with facts and a good story. It’s like a mini-biography. I even learned a few new things!

While initially disappointed, I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and I imagined parents reading these books to their children at night before bed. Also, it’s a great history resource.

It’s designed to be inspiring to young girls, which I can certainly appreciate.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂