Monday, April 30, 2007

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

This was a very disturbing book that I couldn't put down. I admit, I live in a bubble. There is so much that is ugly that I try not to think about or know in the world. I don't think I will forget this haunting book for a long while.

I never thought much about foot binding in the Chinese Culture long ago during the 19th Century. This book takes you through it from a young girls perspective and her mother and cultures view. I didn't understand so I googled foot binding and the images that came up were unforgettable. All the toes break and the foot is broken and bend down under and bound. Then you only walk on your big toe and heal, if you can walk at all. Your foot is no longer then 3 inches to be perfect. YIKES!

But what if you lived in the time when this was social acceptable in your traditional society? What if it meant your future to have Lily feet? Would you bind your daughters feet and put her through years and a lifetime of pain? Yes I think I would. Is it not any different then wearing a corset or getting your babies ears pierced or even stretching your neck in the African culture. It was a sign of beauty and endurance and it prepared a young girl to be submissive to her husband and a good faithful hard working wife. YIKES I can't believe I am saying this! BUT then it was to survive and be no longer worthless to everyone.

Okay the book wasn't all about foot binding...there are a lot of other horrible and beautiful things in a Young Chinese girls life. The book was inspired because of a secret women's writing called nu shu. Very fascinating and very clever.

There are two girls in the story that become laotong or "old same", which is an emotional women friendship that lasts forever. They share many wonderful things in life and also the saddest things. They are friends before their arranged marriages and through motherhood and loneliness and even after death. One girl has it all and the other, well I don't want to give away the story but the parts from her life I hope to never see or ever have to endure such horrid things.

The book take you on a journey of love. Not the love you think though. "mother love" is part pain and part love, friendship is another kind of love, husband love is another and the book takes on other loves that I never thought of before and can't even explain. I always thought love was love.

This was a Broken book and Healing book. I cried when as I read it. I would recommend it though just so you aren't stuck in your little bubble like me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

This was a very good book. I was taken to a different world through the eyes of a Jewish Boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950's. I read one other book by this author before this one called the Chosen. I liked that book a lot more but this one really does stand on its own.

This book is about , tradition and Artists. A boy becoming an artist but not any boy, this boy has a gift from a very young age and yet everyone thought this gift was doomed from the beginning because this boy happened to be Jewish. To become an artist this boy Asher, must wrench apart his own life and the lives of this parents and community, which he loves but must almost jump off a cliff to reach his potential.

The story takes us into the mind of the artist. His experiences and his imagination and commitment and selfishness. He is encouraged at first by the great Rebbe and he gets to do an apprenticeship with the world famous Jacob Kahn. Without him he wouldn't have had a passage way opened to the great world of Art. He learns about Christians and Crucifixion and opens his scope of the world, learning about artists in the past.

His father hates all that his art needs to flourish in. There is so much contention between him and his dad. Which then makes his mom sad. Asher didn't have a happy normal childhood. His mom was very sick and his dad traveled often for his great work that only he could do and he did whatever the Rebbe asked him to do. He never had time for his son.

Anyway the story eventually ends up with Asher all grown up and barely speaking to his father. Asher is famous and his paintings sell for LOTS of money. He has surpassed his teacher as an artist. He paints a picture of a crucifixion but uses his mother and father in the picture. He has done something that observant Jews do not do. Mean words are written and spoken about him and myths are generated. He is thought of as a traitor and an apostate and a self-hater and inflicter of shame upon his family, his friends and his people. Plus Christians also hate him for using our special and to some a sacred symbol of the cross.

This was a very sad book. Very depressing and an eye opening perspective.

Broken, Healing Book

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer

This is a good book about a little boy that has an abusive father. Through the friendship of the lady next door and a few other miracles, the little boy and his mother are no longer afraid.
The Author is from the Netherlands and the book is translated by John Niewenhuizen. It was a little strange at first but when I got to the end I was glad I read it.

Healing Book

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ultra Marathon Confessions of an all-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

This is a wonderful book! I had never heard of an Ultra Marathon. I never even considered it...not just Marathon but Ultra. Did you know that people run foot races that are 100 plus miles long? They do! They run all night sometimes. I am still in awe and so inspired to run more. Of course I only run a few miles but still the book inspired me to want to be healthier and try harder to reach my goals. (I do have goals even though I didn't publish them at New Years, really.)

Dean is the guy writing this book. He loves to run. He runs and runs and runs. He still works a full time job to support his wife and two kids yet he finds time to run. He even finds time to play with his kids. He runs in the morning, at night, at lunch...he runs every day.

He takes you on his journey from start to finish as he races the most amazing distances and places. Every muscle in his body is screaming out in pain and he keeps going. He never gives up. He would die if he didn't run because he is so addicted to running.

He has almost run every race there is to run so now he runs for charity and helps raise money for sick children. I think that is really cool. He lives in the bay area and runs right around here. I haven't seen him.

I don't want to eat refined or processed food anymore. I wish I could shop at Whole Foods every day. I wish I could feed my children wholesome fresh foods instead of junk and sugars and fat that are holding our society back.

Anyway, this was a very entertaining and intriguing book. I HIGHLY recommend it for anyone sitting down right now!

Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry

Another Children's book. Very creative...this would be a good book for children learning to write stories. It takes place in a 2nd grade classroom. A new girl moves in and everyone wants to know about her. She is a very good storyteller and only tells the truth in her stories. Each story she tells is always very clever and funny. The best part of this book is how the author makes fun of 2nd graders and how they always want to be heard, have something to say about everything and are not very patient. I just enjoyed this book as a light read and since we own it I think I will read it out loud to the kids soon.

Whole Book

Because of Winn Dixie

This was the second time through this book. The kids and I listened to it on Tape in the car. It was great! We couldn't wait to hear what was going to happen next.

A little girl makes friends with a dog and then makes new friends with the whole town. She learns a lot about what it really means to love someone and let go of others. Great book for families and the movie is good too.

Whole BOOK

The Sign of the Beaver

This is a great book for 8-12 yr. old boys. It has Indians, wild animals, survival, friendship and adventure. I really liked it. My son did too.

Whole BOOK

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Somehow up to now I skipped reading this book. It is such a classic! I had heard so much about it from here and there and different classes but hadn't ever read it. Then the movie came out recently with Tom Cruise...well it didn't do justice to the book. HG Wells wrote three really good science-fiction books. All classics and all have parallel purposes...or in better words, "Wells was famous for his thinly-veiled diatribes."
The book is actually about the present. "It simply uses different techniques to show us who we are, who we might be and whom we ought to become." -Orson Scott Card

Take Africa for example...England was a super power. It couldn't invade Africa until it come up with a way to not catch all the plagues and disease there. The African people had build up immunities to things like Malaria, the people from England hadn't yet. This book talks about this but in Fiction terms and never mentions Africa.

I realy hated this book but I really liked it too. I am never for scary but this was just old fasioned enough I could get through it and still keep my head from hiding under the covers and teeth chattering. I did have nightmares but not like I did from Alas Babylon. Yikes.

So Martians invade the Earth, they slaughter people in England and the narrator of the story sees most first hand and lives to tell about it. He describes each day in detail after the invasion. He really makes us take a good hard look at society in general...and how stupid we are to forget nature and how little we are really in the big picture of life in this universe.

I think this would be a fun book for a book discussion because there are so many ideas that really make you think. What would I do if I was in the same situation? Well I hope I wouldn't rubber neck at an unknown object that fell from space and then just get killed.

Healing Book?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Little Britches by Ralph Moody

This is the second time I have read this book. This time I was reading it out loud to the kids. My oldest son took it and finished it in a few days and my 7yr. old always complains when I have to stop and it is time to go to bed. I love books that do that to kids. They really listen and you know they are getting something out of the effort and time spent reading together.

I love this book! This time around I had to pay more attention to details because I was leading a book discussion in one of my book groups. Everyone loves this book that reads it! It is full of adventure, sadness and deep lessons on life taught by a dad to his son.

It reminds me of something my dad used to say, "When the going gets tough the tough get going!" This is so true and through out the book no matter how hard things are the everyone pulls together and learn valuable lessons in life. They bond together in their family and the simple things are what matter most. Telling the truth, working hard and helping your neighbor. Also having faith in the almighty.

The part that especially came alive was the Character House concept. Here is my favorite part. Father said, "A man's character is like his house. If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin. If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn't do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin. A Man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth."

I am including the questions I used (borrowed) for the discussion. Some we skipped and some we expanded on. It was really fun to hear some of the ladies tell about their own childhoods way back when things were similar to the character in the books life. Actually Ralph isn't only the character but the whole book was based on his, the author's, real life. There is a whole series in fact. I can't wait to read them all. I have read #1, #2 and #5 already.

1. Little Britches
2. Man of the Family
3. The Home Ranch
4. Mary Emma and Company
5. The Fields of Home
6. Shaking the Nickel Bush
7. The Dry Divide
8. Horse of a Different Color

Discussion Questions for Little Britches by Ralph Moody (gives some of the story away so only read if you already read the book)

1.When the family first saw the house (pg. 13) why did Ralph think it looked all right? Why didn't father yell or mother cry?

2.How is the life as an 8-10 year old boy different today from then? What changes are good, which are bad? - Did Ralph make the right choice to fight Freddie?

3.Do you think it was a good idea for Ralph to work for Mrs. Corcoran? Why? -On pg. 92 (read aloud) Why did Ralph say he'd do it when he didn't understand? Why did Mrs. Corcoran change her mind? Could she have handled the situation differently?

4.What kind of a neighbor was Fred Autland?

5. Do you think Ralph made the right choice to go off and get Two Dog to help save Bill? What else might he have done?

6. Did Ralph handle his confession to the Sheriff well? Why or why not?

7. What does Father mean when he says that some people tear boards off their character house and “burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable”?

8. Why did those men at the head of the ditch steal water?

9. What parenting qualities do you admire/disagree with about Little Britches' parents?

10. Why did the cowboys do so much for Ralph? Was Hi a good mentor to Ralph, even though he did things Ralph knew his parents wouldn't approve of?

11. Why did Father tell Ralph to give the man who's paying him a good day's work?

12. Did you find any good ideas from the life of this family that you would like to employ into your own family life?

13. What kinds of lessons did Ralph have to learn the hard way?

14. Which character do you most identify with and why?

15. What would your family do if your dad died? Do you think Ralph's family is going to make it all right?

I read some stuff about Ralph Moody and I really liked this:
He told an interviewer for the New York Times Book Review, August 6, 1967, "My goal in writing is to leave a record of the rural way of life in this country during the early part of the twentieth century, and to point up the values of that era which I feel that we, as a people, are letting slip away from us." (This information was gleaned from Something About the Author, Vol. 1, p. 162)

This is a Whole and Healing book. I recommend it for all ages and especially for families to read together out loud.

Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

This is a wonderful book about a little girl, 11 years old, that gets moved around to a lot of new foster homes and is a pretty mean kid. She has to be to survive. She is also very smart and finally she finds people that she loves but doesn't know it until it is almost too late. She also learns that things don't always go as you expect them to and life is hard. What really draws you into this book is that you hate the little girl at first but by the end of the book you really love her. There are a bunch of very humorous parts and sad parts. Katherine Paterson the author has a really good knack with this sort of thing. She also wrote the Bridge to Terabithia.

Whole Book, Healing Book.