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Monday, February 06, 2017

Teresa Messineo: The Fire by Night

3:12 PM

Today, I listened to a podcast episode from HarperAudio Presents, which was called Teresa Messineo Talks The Fire by Night.  In this podcast episode, Messineo discusses how she wrote her debut novel, The Fire by Night. I was immediately impressed as she talked about how she spent seven years reseaching the material for her text.  Messineo talked with World War II nurses to get the material and understand their first-hand accounts about World War II. Even though the book is a historical fiction novel, Messineo explained that only two characters within the book are not based on actual facts.  I have always been intrigued by historical fiction and the talent that exudes from writers, who tackle this particular genre.

Hearing this fact, I added The Fire by Night to my To Be Read list.  I am craving to understand how the plot unfolds.  Also, I am intrigued because she takes a viewpoint of the World War II nurses, who are often forgotten when war stories are shared.  I am excited about buying my copy of The Fire by Night.

The energy that Messineo exhibits as she talks about her inpsiration for the book is quite contagious.  During the podcast episode, she shares her background and life.  Even though she researched for her book, she homeschools her children, which I tought was very impressive.

Here is the synopsis about the book from Amazon:

Image Retrieved from Goodreads
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.

Based on the information that I shared,  would you read this book?

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Booksellers at Laurelwood

1:51 PM

Celebrating my wedding anniversary in Memphis, Tennessee, I knew I could not leave without finding a locally-owned bookstore. Using the Maps Nearby feature on my iPhone, I discovered the Booksellers at Laurelwood.

Immediately, I fell in love with the store. The entrance had books, as knobs on the door. I had to stop and snap a picture.
Entrance to The Booksellers at Laurelwood
Entering the store, I was confused. Shelves were semi-empty. Signs were posted, which stated that bookcases and other fixtures were for sale.

After browsing for awhile, I decided to ask the cashier what was going on with the store. She informed me that the store was being closed. They were not relocating but closing the doors.Even though it was my first time visiting the store, I felt sad. I hate to see a bookstore closing. It's like a community is losing a foundation component.

Based on the books and accessories that were left, the bookstore was probably an awesome environment and experience. It offered so much more than just books. I wished that I had visited it when I first saw it in December.

I found some pretty amazing books and gifts. I bought a digital photography because one of my goals is to improve my photo taking skill. I found three cameras at a pawn shop. Two Cybershot and a Nikon FG Vintage camera had my name on it.

I was really excited to purchase this book and save 40% off on the listed price. I bought books, journals, an address book, gifts for my nephews, and a notepad. My husband even found some great books and accessories.

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I even found books that were on sale. The sale books had yellow stickers on them. The 40% discount was applicable to clearance books, too. This fact made me very happy.

Once I made my purchase, and we left the store, I googled the Booksellers at Laurelwood. The cashier was speaking the truth. The news article confirmed the store closing. I was saddened even more.

I still desire to open a bookstore. However, witnessing the untimely demise of another bookstore hurts my heart and makes me wonder if my desire to open a bookstore is feasible. I know if so many bookstores that have closed.

I hope I can return to support them again before the doors are locked for good.

What's your favorite bookstore? Where do you go to get your books?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review - The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

12:41 PM
Author: Nicola Yoon
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I downloaded The Sun is Also A Star for two reasons: 1. The cover was pretty. 2. The book was very popular.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book.  In the beginning the mixture of a characters and their point of views was a bit confusing. I was able to keep up with the transitioning from one character to the next because of the variety of narrators for the audiobook. Eventually, I start to get Yoon’s point of intertwining the mixture of characters because each character was somehow entangled in the lives of the other characters.  The writing skill that was necessary to create a story that intertwined like this one proves that Yoon knew exactly how to embed the reader in such a complex story.  

In The Sun is Also a Star, two teenagers, Daniel - a Korean boy and Natasha - a Jamaican girl, find themselves functioning in a day of complete chaos.  Their chance meeting feels like true love, yet as the story unfolds, this one day ultimately changes their lives in more ways than one can imagine.  The story of Daniel and Natasha is entertaining, inspiring, and very interesting. Every person, whom they encounter, is uniquely impacted by the interaction with Daniel and Natasha, and these interactions lead to the climax, as well as the conclusion of their story. Ultimately, I started to wonder about the people, whom I come in contact with on a daily basis.  I began to consider how my interaction with other people, either negative or positive, impact a person’s life.  I even considered the angry and hate I felt when I was racially profiled at a store.  Did my heated reaction ultimately seal the fate of the woman, who racially profiled me? As I read this book, I questioned my interaction with others and viewed these interactions in a different light.  My choice to react could possibly stop or motivate someone to continue with their plans of suicide.  My actions or the lack of actions could have an impact on the future of myself and so many others.  The lives of Daniel and Natasha continue after their fateful date of initial encounter.  In my heart, I wanted everything to change. I wanted it bad. Yet, Yoon did not let me have my heart’s desires.  Once Daniel and Natasha became adults, they lived the normal lives of adults. Yet, their lives somehow still managed to be entangled until the very end. 

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Even though this book is characterized as young adult fiction, adults of all ages can enjoy it just as much as I did. The Sun is Also a Star follows the theme that everything happens for a reason, while presenting a story that fits with the current event topics of immigration, racism, poverty,  and mental health. 

Interracial dating has always been a topic in the United States for years. Laws against interracial dating have been in place to prevent it from happening for centuries.  Even my state, Mississippi, had a law against interracial dating, which is still on the law books.   As a parent, who has a child now old enough to date, while reading The Sun is Also a Star, I started me to question my own perception of my belief system on interracial dating.  How would I react to my sons or daughter dating someone, who is not African American? Does it matter? Would I disown children? Would I stop talking to my children? Would I forbid any interracial dating? Yoon presents the answer that some parents have to these questions.  Whether or not you like it or not, Yoon paints a picture of the known and underlying consequences that your answers can have on your children. 

As the plot unfolded, Yoon forced me to examine my past, present, and future.  As a parent of a high schooler, I started to consider how my plans for my child aligned with his plans.  As a parent, I want to protect my child and ensure that all of my children have a “better” life than I do. Yoon makes you question, as a parent, whether your ideology of what is better reflects your child ideology of better. Yoon made me realize that perhaps what I think is best for my child is not necessarily best.

The epilogue of the book is one word: EPIC.   Yoon did not disappoint me at all. Before the epilogue, I just knew I would be in my feelings.  I just knew my day would be filled with gloom of a story not ending exactly the way I had hoped. Don't judge me. You know how it feels when a book doesn't end just like you want it to end, your day is doomed.  You want to throw the book, the audiobook, or your phone (if you downloaded the book from Audible) at the wall. I am so glad that my day did not end in doom.  Yoon pulled the entire story together and sealed the theme of the book in the epilogue. 

Until Next Time,


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Saturday, January 07, 2017

First Book Review of 2017: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

6:12 AM

Author: Mark Manson
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reading in 2017 is all about "getting my life together." Since I am turning 35 this year, I am focused on being the "best me" that I can be. Therefore, when I chose The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I knew that I was starting my year off just right. 

I started the audiobook on January 3rd, during my morning commute to work. I'm guilty of not reading the synopsis of a book that I have chosen, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Matter of Fact, I think I heard about the book when I was listening to a podcast by Myleik Teele. Her podcasts give me life, and I love that she is an avid reader, who is dedicated to personal development. So, when she recommends a book to read, I take note.  After reading 48 Laws of Power because of Myleik's recommendation and enjoying it, I have started making a list of books that she suggests to her listeners.

Listening during my commute to work, I started to contemplate my own patterns of thinking and logic based on Manson's explanations of choosing what and what not to care about in your life. Every choice makes a different in my life. Even when I choose not to react or act, I am still making a choice, which is rooted in my value system. Manson forces you to start to evaluate your life's values and start to identify what's essential and important to you, as well as to identify why. For example, he talks about an individual, who remains in a marriage, even though happiness has been long gone. This person refuses to leave because the value of staying married, even though misery and insecurity have replaced joy. This person does not value their happiness as much as their desire to stay married. Thinking back on this situation in my life, I felt compelled to reckon with this analysis. A person, who valued their happiness more than staying married just for the sake of marriage, probably would not remain in a bad marriage, which is sucking the life out of their existence. Interestingly enough, Manson emphasizes the significance that your values contribute to your overall actions and what's important. The wisdom within the text provides a taste of reality and encourages the reader to question their values and why these values matter. 

Another point about the book is the distinction from other self-help books.  Manson does not preach positivity. Instead, Manson instructs the reader to recognize that sometimes things are wrong.  Problems do occur. Bad stuff does happen.  Manson suggests that instead of transforming the bad things into a wonderfully tasting lemonade you should learn how to withstand the bad things and learn how to effectively deal with them.  I liked this spin on dealing with life.  Many personal development books focus on the turning lemons into lemonade philosophy, but Manson suggests that the reader learns how to suck the lemon and deal with the horrible sting of its taste.

After reading Manson's book, I've found myself wondering what is important to me and why. I noticed that I have a tendency to pay attention to things that should not be given any thought. I become angry when I feel that someone has intentionally or unintentionally "done me wrong." Giving value to "being done wrong" distracts me from things that I cannot control and should care about in my life. Should I actually project the energy of anger and dwell on the fact that someone bumped me in the grocery store without saying excuse me? Should I actually lose time and energy over someone talking about me behind my bump or making false accusations? Could I focus on more important things in my life instead of such trivial things, which add nothing to my life? What am I avoiding? Why am I afraid? What do I fear? Why am I afraid? I like how Manson's proposes that you focus more on the why than on the what.

As as you can see, Manson really makes you think. Even the profanity and the sarcasm within the text add to his message and theme. I finished this book in two days. I will probably read it again and purchase the eBook or paperback. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because it is truly thought-provoking. People, who enjoy personal development books, will enjoy this text. This book encourages self-evaluation for the improvement of your life. This book is definitely one that I will be giving as a gift to other people.

If you are interested in the book, check out the excerpt from Manson's website. Have you read this book? Would you read this book? Let's talk in the comments.

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

3:16 AM
Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My oldest son is finished his first, freshman semester of his advanced English course with an exam on Their Eyes Were Watching God, which was written by Zora Neale Hurston, who is one of my favorite authors. When he informed me that he needed the book, I became excited and disappointed.  I was excited because he would be experiencing real literary talent from the Harlem Renaissance. I was disappointed because even though I own numerous copies of this book, all of them are packed away deep in my storage unit.  ( I really miss seeing my books.)

Hearing my son say that he enjoyed reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. I appreciated how my son was able to recognize the work of a writer, who had inspired authors like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

Due to traveling for my job and dealing with family emergencies, I have been unable to engage in "book talk" with my son about Their Eyes Were Watching God. I am hoping that during the holiday break, I am able to engage him in literary conversation about his analysis of the text.  I want to compare my analysis of the book with his and just chat about it.  Engaging in in-depth discussion about various literary texts is something that I miss since I no longer teach English.

I must say that my son was never tempted to watch the movie version of the book.  I even mentioned it once to him, and he did not take the bait.  I was so proud of him. He wanted to read the book, and he finished it without being entangled in the web of comparing the book to the movie.  So many students fall deep into this trap. He did not. He wanted to devour the text, and knowing this fact makes me very proud.

My children know that my love for reading is very serious.  Give me a book, as a  gift, and I am overjoyed.  Take me to a bookstore and allow me to sit undisturbed for hours, I am forever grateful.  However, when my children share my love for a book(s), like my son did for Their Eyes Were Watching God, "my cup runneth over."

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My love for books was instilled in me by my mother and father. When we traveled, we always found a bookstore or a library.  Because of this habit, I do the same thing when I travel.  My parents always read.  They read to us. They taught us how to read. They read in front of us.  To this day, I love seeing my father fall asleep with a book in his hand.  He is always reading and always learning.  To be able to share my love of Zora Neale Hurston and Their Eyes Were Watching God with my oldest son is such a blessing. I am trying to savor each and every moment with him.  Before I know it, he will be in college, and he will be away from "my nest."

Have you read Their Eyes Were Watching God? Who do you share you love of reading with?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Guest Post: How to Be a Successful Adult Student - Taking Notes While Reading

7:50 AM

How to Be a Successful Adult Student - Taking Notes While Reading

How to Be a Successful Adult Student - Taking Notes While Reading
By John Steely

An adult student needs to be able to read a paper or a chapter and understand the material on their own, outside of the classroom. One of the best ways to make sure that this happens effectively is to take notes while reading, writing down the ideas and thoughts inspired by what is being read.

Most students are taught to highlight while reading. This can be somewhat useful, but simply highlighting does little to improve the understanding of what is being read. Highlighting is an effective method of finding a passage later, as is underlining and even making comments in the margin. However, none of these are as effective as taking notes.

The Purpose of Taking Notes While Reading

The reason the student is reading something is, usually, to gain an understanding of something that was previously not understood, or at least to improve the existing understanding of the material. Often, the reading assigned to an adult student is more condense and full of information than reading done in grade school. Thus, the reading can be more difficult.

The purpose of taking notes while reading is two-fold. On the one hand, the student is trying to understand what is being said, and to incorporate that understanding in a larger picture of the course or goal of the reading. This purpose means that the student must understand not just the content but also the structure of what is being read. By taking notes while reading, this structure can often become clearer, more easily understood. On the other hand, the student does not want to read the material more than is necessary; after all, the student is working within a time frame that can sometimes put constraints on the amount of time spent in the reading. Being forced to read the material more times than is necessary can be a waste of time. This does not mean that the student will read the material only once; in many cases, multiple readings are needed. But readings should not be wasted. By taking notes, the material can be understood faster and more effectively.

How to Take Reading Notes

Unlike the classroom, the student has the opportunity to read the material more than once. This fact means that the method of taking notes can be more deliberate; the student can take the time needed to create a set of structured notes, rather than using a method of note-taking that minimizes time. For this reason, probably the best method of taking notes while reading is to use an outline. By creating an outline, the structure of the material can be more easily understood.

The outline should be constructed as a sequence of layers, rather than trying to get the entire outline done with one pass. The first layer should be based on the structure of the reading; if section headers are provided, these can provide a readily available initial structure. Within each section, the first thing to determine is the purpose of the section. Is this section putting forth an argument? Is it explaining an idea? Providing an example? Once the purpose is determined, this should be written under the section heading.

After the section's purpose is determined, the reader then needs to put in the details. I have found that doing this twice and comparing the results creates the most effective notes. Read the section through, creating an outline based on the reading. After the section is done, the student usually has a better understanding of what that section of reading is doing. Then reading the section a second time, creating a fresh outline can provide a fuller understanding. Whether this second reading is done immediately after the first is entirely up to the student. With particularly difficult sections, taking a break between the readings can provide a fuller perspective on the reading, creating a better outline.

Once the outline is created, it should be reviewed for completeness. Is anything in the outline unclear, confusing? If so, then the student has two options. Either he can reread the material, looking for a clearer understanding, or a question can be created for the next class, looking a clearer understanding from the instructor.

Reading Technical Material

This technique works best in material where claims are made and supported, such as in economics, design principles, or surveys. Technical writing, such as mathematics and electronics, need a slightly different approach. The key sections for technical material are often not the sections provided by the reading material but the formulas being presented. Once the formulas are presented, then the outline should provide first an explanation of what is in the formula then at least one example; more examples are useful if the material is not clearly understood the first time.

Practice makes Perfect

If there is any academic activity which improves with practice, it is reading and taking notes. Initially, the student will find the endeavor difficult and fraught with uncertainty. Working with others, comparing notes and examples, can be of immense help when learning how to take notes on reading material. As the student practices, however, she will notice a remarkable improvement. As in many other efforts, persistence in reading and taking notes pays off.

John Steely has been teaching mathematics, study skills, and habits of success for over 25 years. You can access a number of free resources he has found and made at Steely Services

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/John_Steely/330623

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Cassandra desires to live in a world where her access to books is endless. As a Book Reviewer, Lifestyle Blogger, English Instructor, Conference Presenter, and Published Writer, Cassandra’s been recognized for her work at local, state, and national levels. When Cassandra’s not being a mother, wife, instructor, presenter, writer, or volunteer, you can find her hypnotized by the pages in a book. Her books can be found via Amazon, Kindle, and iTunes. Currently, she is working on her first creative writing piece, entitled “A Vision of My Imagination.” So, stay tuned for her upcoming book. Discover more about Cassandra, by connecting with her on social media.

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