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 πŸ™‚

Book Review #77: “Mosquitoland”

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I’m going to go out on a limb here, and declare that Mosquitoland is my favorite book of 2019.

I had a feeling this book was special when I found it at Barnes & Noble last year, while I was looking for books to purchase with the gift card I received for my birthday.

I fell in love with Mim, the main character, right at the start. I loved how Arnold addressed mental illness, psychiatric care, and dysfunctional families. I was rooting for Mim the entire time on her journey, which became quite a map of routes, detours, and exits.

I admire Arnold and his creation of his characters. I love how he used music throughout the story. The resounding theme of being on a journey stuck with me the whole time. It was quite a ride.

Arnold is so good with his words and storytelling, that I felt like this story was a mix tape of coming of age, mystery, suspense, a bit of horror, and all of it was delicious. I could hardly tear my eyes away from the book. I wanted to know what happened next.

I found myself a bit surprised with the end of the book. No spoilers — But it was an interesting turn, something I hadn’t considered. It made me like Arnold even more as an author.

I look forward to reading more from Arnold – He has three more books I’m eager to devour.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #76: “Bravo, Mia!”

Bravo Mia - American Girl

Image Credit: Amazon

Here’s the link to the first Mia book:


The first book illustrated several themes. Mia is trying to find her own way among her hockey-loving brothers. She’s dealing with a tough new coach, and snotty Vanessa. Now, she has to triumph over tragedy. Will she make it to Regionals?

Along the way, she discovers several things about her family, friends, and, most importantly, herself. She’s growing up, and trying to do what she loves. However, she also clearly understands the meaning of sacrifice, much better than many of her peers. And even Vanessa changes her tune a bit.

I appreciated the story flowing pretty seamlessly from the first book to the second. And the punches keep coming. For a child audience, these two books are a hard look at a big family who is trying to get by, but they still work together and have fun, and I think that’s a good thing.

Through the local rink and the chance to perform at Regionals, Mia gets a taste of what figure skating could look like for her in middle school, high school, and beyond.

I think both books are still relevant to today, in 2019. It teaches about following your dreams, and working hard to achieve them.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #75: “Mia”

Mia - American Girl

Image Credit: Amazon

I have a whole shelf of my bookcase dedicated to American Girl books. It will always be this way, period, end of story.

I remember reading Mia several years ago. I was fascinated with the doll when she was the Girl of the Year in 2008. But, at that time, I was in college, and I wasn’t about to breathe a word of liking American Girl dolls and books at school.

Now, 11 years later, I’m loud and proud. And I own Mia the doll as well.

I wrote stories about ice skaters and figure skaters when I was a kid. I did a report on Michelle Kwan in fourth grade. I wasn’t a good ice skater myself, but I was always taken by the figure skaters on TV, and especially during the Olympics.

Reading Mia’s story brought back that nostalgia, but it also reflected the mid- to late-2000s appropriately. I really appreciated the partial story line about the U.S. economy and what became the Great Recession, where Mia’s parents are working multiple jobs and barely making ends meet for their four kids. It made it relevant to readers when it was published, no matter how sad.

I’ve always liked how American Girl pays attention to details. In addition, these books are good for many ages to read! Although clearly written for younger girls, I enjoyed reading it as an adult. And the illustrations are beautiful, too.

Come back tomorrow for the review of the “sequel,” Bravo, Mia!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Commentary #95: “Non-Fiction That Changed My Life”

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Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I enjoyed Norees’ post so much, I wanted to share it.

Here’s the link to her original post:


The only book on Norees’ list that I have heard of is Quiet.

I’m intrigued by The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley.


Her question was: What are some non-fiction books that had a big impact on you?

Here’s my list, in somewhat chronological order in terms of when I read it, or was assigned to read it.

The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)

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This was one of the first books I was assigned to read about World War II, the persecution of Jewish people during that time, and the Holocaust. I re-read it every couple of years as a reminder.

Night (1958)

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We read this as part of our Holocaust study in eighth grade. Now, I want to read the rest of the trilogy, after I re-read this one.

A Child Called “It” (1995)

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I was probably a bit too young to read this when I did (Middle school, I think), but it left a profound impact on me. I had legitimate nightmares and crying spells for weeks.

The Freedom Writers Diary (1999)

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This is one of those rare instances where I saw the movie adaptation, several times, before reading the book. I first read the book through one of the libraries, whether it was in Chesapeake or Farmville. I now have my own copy. I’m grateful for teachers like Erin Gruwell.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2002)

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This was one of the first books I was assigned when I started at Longwood in the fall of 2007. It left a profound impact on me. I’ve read it several times since then. Ehrenreich is now one of my favorite writers.

In Cold Blood (1965)

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I read this somewhere between high school and college. Capote was an incredible writer.

The Last Lecture (2008)

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I first heard about this book from one of my professors, Jeff Halliday. It’s one of the most moving, powerful books I have ever read. I believe everyone should read this book at some point in their lives. Also, if you haven’t seen Randy Pausch on YouTube, I highly recommend it. It’s powerful stuff.

Tough Choices: A MemoirΒ (2006)

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I read this when I was in college. I found it at the library. Fiorina is an impressive woman!

Columbine (2009)

I learned about this book when the author, Dave Cullen, was a guest lecturer at Longwood in 2009. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for The Rotunda. It’s a tough book to read, but a good one.

The Glass Castle (2006)

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I first stumbled upon this book when I was in my junior or senior year at Longwood. This is another book, a memoir, that everyone should read.

Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on A Woman’s Life (2011)

Image Credit: www.shapingyouth.org

This is another book that I think many should read, both men and women. And, I’m glad I’ve re-read it a couple of times.

If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation (2007)

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This is another book that came into my life at the perfect time, in February 2016. I’ll never forget reading it, late at night, in the early months of being married to Al, grateful that I was able to escape. Thanks to my good friend, Mike H., I learned about Janine and her incredible story. This is another book I think many others should read.

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (2005)

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I found this book at a thrift store at the perfect time, about 12 years ago. It’s a compelling account of how alcohol can affect someone so early. I think I need to re-read this. I first wrote my book review in 2016!

The Unknown and Impossible: How a Research Facility in Virginia Mastered the Air and Conquered Space (2017)

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Remember Mike H. from earlier? He’s now a published author. I loved reading this compelling 100-year history of NASA!

Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond (2012)

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I learned about this book through my church bulletin, as one of the women’s circles was reading it for discussion. I’m so glad I found out about this book. Lilly Ledbetter has had an incredible life, and wanted to fight for what’s right.

Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide (2017)

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Patrice Banks is a bad-ass! This was another author interview on Fresh Air. This is a must-have for every glove box!

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016)

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Matthew Desmond was interviewed on Fresh Air, discussing the book and his ongoing project on evictions and the database he has been building. Like Ehrenreich, Desmond is a true ethnographer, and I can’t wait to read more from him.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (2010)

Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival Resilience and Redemption

I’m glad I received this book through a book swap. Hillenbrand is a remarkable writer. This is not my most favorite non-fiction book in the world, but Louie Zamperini’s story is incredible and important.


Want to Read

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010)

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I’ve been wanting to read this for years.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (1997)

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I took a Linguistics course at Longwood. We read a different book by Bryson, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always been fascinated by the Appalachian Trail, so I think this book would be great.

Hidden Figures (2016)

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I’ve wanted to read the book since the movie adaptation was released. The movie is excellent, so I’m pretty the book is pretty terrific, too.

Educated (2018)

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Tara Westover’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air was one of the most riveting podcast episodes I’ve listened to. I hope to read this before the end of 2019.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016)

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I’ve been curious about this memoir since hearing the author’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement (2019)

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I’m not ready to read this yet, but just knowing that Cullen wrote it is enough to put it on my list.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012)

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Granted, I didn’t hear about this book until the movie adaptation with Reese Witherspoon was announced, but it peaked my interest.


 

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 πŸ™‚

Commentary #93: Thoughts on β€œA Girl Like Her”

A Girl Like Her

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Thanks to my friend Hannah for posting the trailer on Facebook recently. I hadn’t heard of this movie until I watched the trailer. I cried.

I finally sat down and watched it last night. What a powerful, emotional movie.


The tag line reads, in part, “based on a million true stories,” and that’s so true.

Although it’s been a few years since it was released, it’s still so sadly relevant.

As I started watching, I immediately thought of a young man named Alex, who died by suicide when he was a freshman at Oscar Smith. He was 14-years-old. He had just started the IB program. I didn’t know him at all, but I felt compelled to go to his funeral. I didn’t know his story, but I wanted to be there for his family, and the IB family.

As the movie progressed, I thought about the other people I knew who have died by suicide. Not necessarily from bullying, but other circumstances. The most poignant bullying tragedy was Nick L’Hoste. He was only 12 when he died. It sent shockwaves through our schools, and especially our church. He was only a year younger than me. It’s hard to believe he would have turned 30 this year.


This movie makes me incredibly grateful I didn’t have the access to the far reaches of the Internet when I was in high school. But, it’s still sobering. Bullying has expanded to online and offline, and it’s so sad.

The other lesson I learned is that no one should be afraid to ask for help, whether you’re the victim or the bully. It’s a bit of a contradiction, so let me explain.

When I was younger, I was taunted and teased. I wasn’t classically “bullied.” I never considered suicide as an option or a way out.

However, when I brought up instances on the school bus and in the classroom, my parents typically said, “Oh, if it’s a boy, it’s just because he likes you.” I’ve NEVER liked that phrase, nor did I believe it was true. I’m writing another blog post about that – More to come.

But that’s not my point. Kids, regardless of their age, should be able to go to their parents, or any trusted adult, with their problems and struggles. They shouldn’t be dismissed or brushed off. They need to be believed.

Also, if they don’t want to talk about it right away, that’s perfectly fine. They need to feel like they’re being heard, and that’s huge!

And, the bullies need as much help as the victims. I’m glad the movie showed both perspectives. By the end of the movie, it was painfully obvious how much Avery was dealing with, and she felt like she had no one to turn to.

I appreciate what the principal said about there being two sides to every story. That’s absolutely true.

However, bullying is still incredibly complicated! Jessica was targeted in multiple ways – In person, physical abuse, text messages, emails, social media posts, and more. It gutted me to watch it all unfold.

I cried multiple times. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the ending, but I understand why it was framed that way. The point is the movie as a whole, not necessarily how it ends.


I applaud Amy S. Weber for making this movie. I think many more people need to see it. I was able to find it on Amazon Prime Video for free. And I will likely watch it again. It’s a good reminder to be kind, and recognize that you probably have no idea what someone is going through.

So, thank you, Hannah. You introduced me to a movie that’s left a mark on me. Thank you for inspiring me to share it.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚