Tag Archives: books

April #WATWB: 10 years of Little Free Libraries

In 2009 Todd H. Bol created the first Little Free Library book exchange and placed it in his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard in tribute to his mother, who had been a teacher. Ten years later, his idea has snowballed into a worldwide book-sharing movement. There are now more than 80,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and 90+ countries, from Argentina to Zambia. Sadly, Todd passed away last year at the age of 62. This article remembers him and the movement he started: “A Tiny Library that Changed the World.”

Having just installed a Little Free Library in my own front yard, I thought this would be a perfect topic for the We are the World Blogfest. May 17 is the official 10th birthday of the Little Free Library organization, and here are some ways to celebrate.

In addition to mine, which we bought from the LFL organization, painted, and installed ourselves, here are some pictures of other Little Free Libraries around or near my home. The orange one to the right belongs to a friend of mine. They can be made out of repurposed furniture or containers, or built from scratch!

The “We Are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB) shares positive news on social media. Cohosts for this month are:   Shilpa GargInderpreet UppalPeter NenaLizbeth HartzEric Lahti.Please check out their WATWB posts and say hello!

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Come out on Sunday, Sept. 30th at Orchard House for the 150th Anniversary of Little Women! Book signing for “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy”

Susan W Bailey, another author in “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes,” writes about the upcoming celebration at Orchard House. Her blog is where I first learned about the anthology and about the community of modern Alcott scholars.

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

It’s coming up fast! In less than 2 months we will celebrate the anniversary of a classic; a book that has profoundly influenced women around the world since 1868. That book? Little Women of course!

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is throwing a bash and you’re invited – Sunday, September 30 from 1:30-4. Stay tuned for details …

A great way to do that is to follow Orchard House on Twitter – @LouisaMayAlcott

“Like” their  Facebook page too.

One detail I can share is that copies of Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy from Pink Umbrella books will be available for sale. Contributors will be on hand (including me) to sign your copy. 10% of all book sales will be donated to Orchard House.

My essay is titled “Louisa May Alcott as muse, guide and grief counselor.”

Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy is also available for pre-order…

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Book Review: Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living GodFuture Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to give this book 5 stars, and for audacity and imagination, I do. But I also found much of the text slow, repetitive, and curiously unemotional, and it lost a star for those aspects.

The animating idea of this novel is that in a time not too far from our own present day, evolution has begun to go backwards. Creatures are devolving from more complex to less complex forms, the very laws of the universe may be reversing themselves, the expanding universe has reached its apex and is now contracting back into singularity. What would this look like in the slow motion way that biological creatures experience time?

Such a big idea is almost impossible to bring down to our mundane level, but Erdrich almost pulls it off through the eyes and ears of Cedar Songmaker, nee Mary (Potts), a single mother newly converted to Catholicism, pregnant with a baby due on December 25th. Cedar addresses her story to her unborn child, whom she loves abstractly and believes to be normal, unlike the majority of babies born to women in the devolving universe.

Unfortunately for the reader, Cedar is the least interesting character in the novel. For the first third of the book I found her annoyingly passive and uncurious about what was happening to her world. Her trip to find her birth parents that comprises this part is interesting mostly because we get to meet Sweetie, her birth mother; Eddy, Sweetie’s husband; and Little Mary, their daughter. They are Ojibwe who live in northern Minnesota on a reservation, run a Superpumper gas station, and are setting up a shrine to a local Saint. The reader can theoretically understand and empathize with Cedar’s desire to find out more about her own origins as the world collapses around her, but her first reaction is one of muted disappointment about small things. She mopes around in her house, says nice things about her adoptive parents, avoids her baby’s father’s phone calls, reads pregnancy literature, and works on a Catholic newsletter that she is writing. This section of the novel felt like a clumsy and unnecessary expository lump, especially since I have been pregnant myself, and when I was, I read carefully the pamphlets about fetal development from my OB/Gyn’s office, which some of these chapters sounded like.

Things really get going, though, when Cedar is captured by the pregnancy police and put in a “hospital,” ostensibly for her and her baby’s protection in the New World Order, in which most pregnant women and their babies don’t survive. Again, she is surrounded by characters more interesting than she is: her fellow pregnant prisoners Agnes and Tia, the nurses who either torture them or bravely risk everything to help them escape, and her adoptive mother Sera who is highly placed in a resistance movement and actually manages to spearhead a successful escape for both Cedar and Tia.

This part makes the whole book worth reading. Events pull the reader along in suspense, and then the action almost stops for a painfully true conversation between Cedar and Sera, encapsulating mother/daughter tensions and bonds. Then Erdrich shows how effortlessly beautiful her prose can be, with a harrowing and horrifying account of Tia’s labor and stillbirth closely followed by Cedar’s wild joy and confidence in her own body’s wondrous abilities to bring forth life.

As the book barreled towards its conclusion and then petered out, I wondered if the author just couldn’t figure out how to end it properly. A dramatic climax comes about when Cedar discovers something surprising and dismaying about her own parentage, but this revelation neither propels the main plot nor illuminates the themes of devolution and collapse. And then when Cedar was captured again just before giving birth, I felt mostly tired and numb. Unlike most pregnant women in this book, she and her baby survive the birth process. Then Cedar’s voice, never particularly strong, fades into near nothingness and the book ends without our finding out what happens to her baby.

Does he become the “Living God” of the title, the messiah that his father hoped for? Has the very idea of a messiah become turned on its head, another exercise in futility? What does that mean for the future of faith?

This book promises a great deal and occasionally delivers. But because of the slow start and this truncated ending it was ultimately not as satisfying as it could have been.

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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will start by thanking PJ Lazos at Green Life Blue Water, who introduced me to this book, The Hate U Give, a debut novel by Angie Thomas. I might not have read it without her excellent review; I was initially turned off by the word “hate” in the title and by the prospect of YA fiction preachiness. Those concerns were completely unfounded. This novel is a great read: sad, funny, forgiving, and wise. And Starr, the viewpoint character, is a strong and relatable voice.

The novel’s plot comes straight from tragic headlines. Starr is the only eyewitness to her black friend Khalil’s shooting at the hands of a white police officer. She tells the story to the media and eventually testifies before a grand jury. The officer who killed Khalil is not indicted. But those are only the bare bones. The meat of the story is about Starr’s conflicts due to straddling two worlds: the inner city ‘hood where she grew up and still lives, and the wealthy, mostly white, suburb where she goes to private school.

I am not qualified to speak to its authenticity regarding African-American culture, but because of Thomas’ skill at writing vivid characters and dialog, I found most of the book very easy to understand and relate to. I especially appreciated the way the author was able to walk the reader through Starr’s thought processes as she moves from being a terrified, silent teenager to a more mature activist, ready to speak her mind and shine a light on injustice. At first I was a little impatient with her reticence; it seemed self-defeating to me and I wondered where it came from in such an otherwise bold and self-aware character. But then even Starr herself shared the same impatience, and she was a self-aware enough narrator to figure out and explain the effects that fear, conditioning, and loyalty had on her. These insights are not something one can understand merely from reading headlines on the news.

After I finished the book I realized that it contained characters that touched on almost every point of view, and that those choices must have been deliberate. There was a heroin-addicted parent, a clueless and mean white girl, an abusive drug kingpin, an activist female attorney, a set of fiercely protective parents, an upper middle class black family jokingly referred to as the Huxtables, a well-meaning white boyfriend, an Asian friend and ally, and a strict family matriarch. In fact, if you watch the TV show “Black-ish,” you may recognize the broad outlines of many of these characters, or at least their quirks. But at the same time each character had his or her own unique voice that made the novel fresh and original. The author has a wonderful ear for dialogue that never sounds forced or confusing, in spite of the liberal use of slang. Reading this book is like being a part of Starr’s extended family.

I was also initially a bit wary of this book because I was afraid it would be a downer, something to feed despair and hopelessness about the brokenness of our world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Young people like the author and the real communities represented by Starr and her friends can point the way forward and give us all hope for the future.

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Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book back in April because my mother recommended it from her book group and I wanted to talk about it with her. Of course by the time I finished it, almost 7 months later, her book group had moved on and she asked me, “what was that book about again?” It took me so long because I started it in the midst of reading several other books and I had to put it aside for a while. This happens to me more than it used to–the long breaks, the stopping and starting again–and I wish it would stop. I feel my attention span contracting, slamming shut like a big oak door that I have to push open again with great effort.

However you finally get there, this book is worth it. Continue reading Book Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Book Review: The Secret King–Lethao, by Dawn Chapman

The Secret King: LethaoThe Secret King: Lethao by Dawn Chapman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book bears a heavy responsibility. It is part of a larger team enterprise called The Secret King, which has a website, several book titles, a dictionary, audiobooks, 3D artwork, and a created language associated with it. This book, Lethao (named for the home planet), is where it all starts in more ways than one: it introduces the important characters, their conflicts, and their quest. Continue reading Book Review: The Secret King–Lethao, by Dawn Chapman

Thursday Doors on Friday: Little Free Library

I am again taking a slightly different approach to the Thursday Doors theme. For one thing, it’s not Thursday . . . but these are still doors. They just aren’t doors that humans can literally walk through. They are doors to the imagination: doors to books!

Continue reading Thursday Doors on Friday: Little Free Library