I wanted to briefly pop in and update you on what I’ve been reading. Some of these were review books and others are some oldies that have been on my list for awhile.
Between visiting and caring for my parents and preparing for graduation, I’ve found reading to be an important escape. I’ve enjoyed every one of these books and wanted to take the time to share them with you. I’ll update you more on my life next month!
THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE
By: Melanie Benjamin
Published: January 16, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Historical fiction based on real people always makes the story more interesting. I expect that the author takes liberty with the story, but I always find that I learn so much about the past. Melanie Benjamin took on two very strong, determined women and her research on their past was meticulous. I am embarrassed to say I had never heard of the screenwriter, Frances Marion or the actress, Mary Pickford. But, once I got into the story, I had to google them to find out more. These women became best friends and took on Hollywood in the age of male domination on the screen and behind it. Mary was the darling actress everyone loved but couldn’t find true love. Frances was twice divorced and just wanted to do something that inspired her creativity. Together they created amazing “flickers” and then moved on to movies.
I loved the friendship between the two women even though Mary always seemed to be the needy one. When the two women became successful and found true love, their friendship suffered. But, they still continued to support one another even if they weren’t working on the same projects. Both women were so smart and driven. Neither one wanted to be home cleaning house and raising children. They weren’t the norm for the time and instead carved a path for future women to take charge on the set.
Their story is empowering and fascinating. Actresses, directors, screenwriters, and producers have these two women to thank. If you are intrigued by stories of Old Hollywood, by powerful women in history, or friendships then the story of Frances and Mary will be one to add to your list.
“Men can be in love and it doesn’t affect anything else they do; it gives them even more cachet. It adds something to them. But for women, love doesn’t add, it subtracts. Why do I feel as if falling in love means I have to give something up?” – Frances Marion
“I don’t want that – to be full of regret when I’m older. I think that’s the thing I’m most afraid of, actually – to look back with regret, to think of all the things I didn’t do.” – Frances Marion
“I’ve always believed we’re allowed one great love in our lives. I’ve found mine, thanks to you. Now it’s your turn. We can’t know the future. Bue we can know our hearts.” – Frances Marion
THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR
By: Susan Meissner
Published: March 19, 2019
Just when I feel like I have learned all there is to learn about WWII, I find another book that opens my eyes to even more. I found the Iowa connection interesting as well because I assumed Iowans were mostly untouched by the war, but this book opened my eyes to sadness in our backyard beyond those with family members serving in the war.
Meissner’s meticulous research and devotion to the story of families sent to these camps were completely clear in her telling of the stories of these two very different, yet much the same, families. Telling the story of these two young women who met at a camp and their lives after being “deported” was emotionally wrenching. I loved the way Meissner told the story between the present day and the past, knowing that presently Elise is fighting a disease that will steal her story before she gets the chance to remember it. As we learn about Mariko and her life, you anticipate Elise and her meeting again and when it happens, I promise, tears will fall down your cheeks.
I’m a huge fan of Meissner’s writing and just when I think she can’t top her latest book, she does. She shares a dark secret from America’s past and puts us in the minds of two innocent young girls and the ramifications of that war had on their lives. I was gripped all the way to the end.
“In that moment I began to see that there are times when there is no best choice. There is only this choice and that choice, and both are terrible.” – Elise Sontag
“Nice was a word that I’d not been able to say in such a long time, and it encompassed so much in that moment. It truly did. Nice is a throwaway word until it’s not. ” – Elise Sontag
“Maybe being brave is different from being unafraid. If you’re not afraid, what is there to be brave about?” – Mariko Inoue
“Love, when it’s lavished on your after you’ve said ugly things, is almost too painful to bear.” – Elise Sontag
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
By: Delia Owens
Published: August 14, 2018
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
The more I heard about this book, the more I knew I needed to read it. I was thrilled when my friend chose it for our April Book Club read.
Delia Owens is well-known for her non-fiction writing, but there is no doubt she will be known for a very long time for her fictional writing as well. WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is one of THE BEST books I have read in a very long time. I don’t even know where to begin except that if you love beautiful writing, description of nature, a family drama, and a coming-of-age story with a mystery tucked in then I promise you will love this book.
I had to stop myself several times and remind myself that Kya was not a real person. This “Marsh Girl” found a place in my heart and after finishing the book I am still thinking about her and talking about her as if she was real.
So many people have raved about this book, that I don’t think there is much more to say about it. I stayed up late to finish the last few pages and then silently wept while hugging the book to my chest. I was deeply invested in the story of “the Marsh Girl” and eagerly await more books from Delia Owens.
I give this book ALL. THE. STARS.
A SHIFT A DAY FOR YOUR BEST YEAR YET
365 Ways to Improve Your Life, Career, and Relationships
By: Dean Del Sesto
Published: March 5, 2019
What started out as personal development emails sent out to various clients and vendors has turned into Dean Del Sesto becoming an author. His “Shift Your Thinking” mindset will have three books published by July 2019. His approach is simple, yet highly valuable and thought-provoking. With just a few sentences each day, you can learn a new way to think about your life, be motivated to try something new, or look at a problem with a new perspective. It really only takes a minute to read and reflect on his statement for the day. You could certainly find things you already do and believe in, but I guarantee there will be new perspectives to bring to a situation you are struggling with.
I think my favorite reminder in the book has to do with relationships. Del Sesto reminds readers to think of relationships like a bank account. It can handle withdrawals, but it will need small deposits along the way to make sure it doesn’t go bankrupt. This day’s shift seems so obvious, but when you read it, a realization hits that maybe you have been withdrawing a lot lately and reminds you to find ways to make some deposits into that relationship account.
As a member of a few boards and committees, the shift that explains “Delegation is the art of getting people from ‘have to’ to ‘want to'” is so true. I try to get volunteers excited about helping and having ownership in their task. Stressing over it makes the task much less enjoyable and makes the volunteer less likely to sign up again to help.
I really love this little book. It’s the perfect size for a desk at work or your bedside table. I could see teachers writing a shift on their whiteboards each day before class. Employers would benefit gifting this book to leaders in their company. Recent graduates or those entering the workforce could also benefit from the life lessons inside this book.
Del Sesto’s next book offers shifts for a deeper faith and it’s one I plan to purchase.
OUT OF MY MIND
By: Sharon M. Draper
Narrated by: Sisi Aisha Johnson
Published: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Audiobook through library
I heard this story mentioned on a podcast and the book was likened to WONDER. I was certain I would love it and found the audiobook was available immediately for download from my library. Since it’s middle-grade fiction it is a quick listen at around six hours. The narrator read the story well and I never lost interest.
OUT OF MY MIND is a really wonderful story of a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. Draper writes from the mind of Melody, who due to her disease, can’t speak, and opens readers eyes to a whole new understanding of the disease and frustrations that go along with living with it. Teachers, associates, and students could benefit from reading this book. I wish every kid could have a Mrs. V or a Catherine in their lives. I think this would make a wonderful classroom read-aloud or part of a literature circle for a class as there would be plenty for students to relate to and discuss.
THE GOOD HOUSE
By: Ann Leary
Narrated by: Mary Beth Hurt
Published: January 15, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Hildy Good and the story of the residents of Wendover, Massachusetts is a train wreck that you can’t walk away from. Hildy is an alcoholic that even after treatment, doesn’t think she has a problem with alcohol. As the local realtor and lifelong resident of Wendover, she knows everyone and their history. Rebecca, new to Wendover is a bit off her rails and watching her create chaos makes you uncomfortable as you know a disaster is looming. Frank, Hildy’s long-time friend, and new confidante was my favorite character in the book. His calming presence and loyal friendship were so critical to the story.
If you like dysfunctional families/friendships and community dramas, this would make for an excellent read. Mary Beth Hurt channels Hildy as she narrates the story. I could picture each of the characters and the gravely voice she uses for Hildy is perfect for her character.
FIVE DAYS IN NOVEMBER
By: Clint Hill
Published: November 19, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Format: eBook through library
On November 22, 1963, three shots were fired in Dallas, and the world stopped for four days. It was the end of the age of innocence. – Clint Hill
The intimate detail given by Secret Service Agent Clint Hill leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy and the days following makes the reader feel like they were present. I have toured the Book Depository and walked the streets of Dealy Plaza but the stories shared here really put me in the time and place of the dreadful events. I was not yet born when Kennedy died but as a wife and mother, I understood the pain he described and heartache felt by Mrs. Kennedy and the people of our country.
The photographs included offer details to back up the descriptions and take the reader to the scenes printed in the minds of all who was there. Agent Hill was a dedicated and loyal man and his love for the Kennedy family shows in this memoir of the worst five days of his life.
For the rest of my life, I will live with the overwhelming guilt that I was unable to get there in time. – Clint Hill