When I first read a few years ago that women detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detention centers were being sterilized involuntarily, I thought that cannot be true. After reading “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, I now understand the US Government has been using sterilization on the poor, especially on people of color over the last 100 years. And I’m mad as hell about it.
“Take My Hand” is a historical fiction novel loosely based on the 1973 Relf v. Weinberger case where two sisters, ages twelve and fourteen, were sterilized without their consent in Montgomery, Alabama by a federally funded agency. In this story, we follow Civil Townsend, a nurse hired by a clinic to help women and girls with their reproductive health. She believes that all women and girls should take care of their reproductive health. Her mission is to help them.
She is responsible for administering Depo-Provera shots to two girls living in a one room shanty where they live with their father and grandmother. They live in complete squalor.
The girls are ages 11 and 13. The youngest does not speak and has developmental issues. When Civil learns that the youngest has not even had her first menstrual cycle, she questions why the girl is required to receive birth control.
Her friend, Ty, informs her the shot is not FDA approved and causes cancer in animal subjects. This alarms Civil and she realizes this may be similar to the Tuskegee experiments. She decides to stop giving the girls the shots and either get them on birth control pills or altogether stop administering birth control to them since they are not sexually active.
But her supervisor is monitoring the situation and notices the doctored reports. She shows up at the girls’ home and gets dad and grandma (both cannot read) to sign a slip of paper to take the girls to the ‘clinic’ for their shots. At least, that’s what they thought they were signing.
When Civil visits to let the youngest girl know she got her into a special school, she discovers the girls were taken to a hospital to be sterilized. By the time she gets to the hospital, it’s already too late.
Ty’s parents are lawyers and decide to help the family get justice for what has happened. A young white man is assigned to the case to help them. It catches the eye of Senator Ted Kennedy and he brings the family to Washington, DC to tell a Senate committee what happened. The story makes national news and more stories surface from across the nation of women and girls forced to be sterilized by federally funded agencies.
Reports appear of mothers in the midst of childbirth forced to sign papers that will allow the doctor to sterilize them after the birth of their child. The doctors threaten to not deliver the child if they refuse to sign the papers. In California, doctors report that poor Hispanic women are forcibly sterilized. More and more stories come to light as to how bad the situation really is.
We have found that sterilization is the rule, not the exception. It is widely endemic in this country. It is a form of reproductive control.
Last year we did a survey and found that although two-thirds of federally funded clinics’ patients were white and only one third are Black, 43 percent of those sterilized are Black. A report from the United States government…found that between the summer of 1972 and the summer of 1973, twenty-five thousand adults were sterilized in federally funded clinics. Of these, 153 were under the age of eighteen.
“Take My Hand” is terrifying and shocking as you learn that this atrocity happened and continues to happen. This is a war waged against women, especially those who are poor.
Our bodies belonged to us. Poor, disabled, it didn’t matter. These were our bodies, and we had the right to decide what to do with them. It was as if they were just taking our bodies from us, as if we didn’t even belong to ourselves.
The fact that involuntary sterilization still occurs is unfathomable. How is it that an administration that is anti-abortion and pro-life is also pro-sterilization?
There’s also a conversation that underlies all of this and that is the importance of women’s sexual and reproductive health. Throughout the world, talking about any of this is taboo. From first periods to menopause, no one talks about women’s health. It is shunned. In some parts of the world, women and girls do not have access to sanitary napkins or tampons. Girls end up dropping out of school when they get their first periods, because they do not have access to something as basic as pads or tampons.
Sexual health is health care.
Women needed access to reliable birth control and information about their reproductive health.
One item that is very important to mention is that many of these women and girls felt like they had no choice but to accept sterilization. Those who accept government assistance (welfare, food stamps, housing, Medicaid) are subjected to constant government intervention. Government officials constantly came and went out of their homes. For some people, they were threatened that if they did not submit to sterilization, mandatory birth control, etc., they could lose their government assistance.
In some cases, people were not given the proper information on sterilization and Depo-Provera. They were not told that the surgery was not reversible. Side effects of Depo-Provera were not discussed. At times, clinics were not advised on the procedures regarding sterilization or the administering of it. Women and girls were not given alternatives to birth control. For thousands of women and girls, their right to have children was taken away from them without their consent.
That’s the most important thing here…their right was taken from them without their consent.
Women in prison as recently as 2006-2010 faced forced sterilization. Less than a hundred years ago, sterilization was forced on those institutionalized. Many women during that time were not mentally ill. A woman with irregular periods, or a woman whose husband wanted to rid themselves of their wife to marry another woman, could be institutionalized.
During the Trump administration, rumors of detained female immigrants who were forced to be sterilized made the news. But the only response became disgust, and then yesterday’s news.
The war on women needs to end. We don’t hear of men undergoing forced sterilization because they are poor or an immigrant. Their right to their own bodies is not under attack by the government. But for women, we are constantly threatened. It needs to stop. We need to stop being a taboo. Our reproductive health and overall women’s health needs to be considered important in the medical field. When I want to talk about menopause and what happens to the body changing, I need my doctor to be able to know what exactly that is and advise me on what to expect. When we are provided a vaccine, make it not just for men in mind, but women, too. Sanitary napkins and tampons should not be taxed. They are a necessity. It should be covered as a health need.
Why not provide adequate birth control to all women? There would be less abortions if women had the proper medical care and access to it. Give them other alternatives to birth control. Sterilization should be a choice, not something forced upon women by the government. Truthfully, I have to ask, why is the government so obsessed with controlling a woman’s body? Women must really scare them.
I have to say, this book made me mad. It is a difficult read, but necessary. Everyone needs to understand the way war is raged upon women, especially those who live in poverty and are a person of color. Women are not yesterday’s news. We are victimized daily in a numerous amount of ways, because we are women. It needs to end.
[All quotes are from “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez]
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of a review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.]
Ever feel like taking a chance in life and leaving your comfort zone for the great unknown? Erik and Emily Orton decided to do just that. They left their lives in New York City behind to spend a year on a sailboat with their five children and they tell their story in “Seven at Sea.”
Erik wasn’t even an experienced sailor six years before their trip. Watching sailboats pass by as he looked out his corporate office, he decided he wanted to learn how to sail. He signed up for classes at a nearby marina and began to learn. Soon after, he realized it would be cheaper and easier if he enlisted his family to take the classes with him to become certified to sail.
Now, don’t think Erik and Emily are multi-millionaires and can do whatever they please whenever they please. They are not rich. They are just a normal middle class family with a dream to be free from the doldrums of the corporate world, and free to set their days as they please.
Even as a family of seven, they were able to find a way to make it work…this dream. They got in as much training as they could, finding economical ways to rent boats, earning money while shuttling their friends around on excursions. But the big step they wanted to take was to buy a boat of their own to take some time away from the city with their family to sail to parts unknown (to them).
It took six years to make that dream a realization, but they stuck to their goal together as a family. Then one day, they bought a boat and their adventure began.
What “Seven at Sea” teaches us is that we should all work towards our goals and dreams. For the Ortons, it took a lot of planning, preparing and learning before their dream could even begin. Even at the start, when they first arrived on their boat, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There was still more to learn and mistakes that needed to be made, because no matter how much you prepare, when you are in the thick of it, it is not necessarily what you envisioned.
With Erik micromanaging their schedule, he quickly learned that you can’t plan life or dreams. You have to sort of go with the flow. They spent the first few months in their first port of call, Sint Maarten (the Netherlands side – the French side of the island is Saint Martin). Between fixing the boat and equipping it with the things they would need to make their journey, they were stuck on Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.
But it was a good thing this happened. It allowed them to get their sea legs taking short jaunts to nearby islands, preparing them for the longer stretches. They made friends with other families doing the same thing as them (always good to know you’re not alone). Thanks to fellow sailors, he was able to learn how to fix his boat – a vital source of knowledge when you’re alone on the seas and no one nearby who can help. These are all things he could only learn with hands on training. Books and the internet can only get you so far.
I will admit, reading this book turned me off from that fantasy of learning how to sail. It’s something I always thought about doing, not necessarily around the world, but maybe off the coast of New England or in the Mediterranean. I’ll explain why I was turned off – learning how to fix your own boat, the problems that could arise, being stuck on a boat with other people – really, it was all of the technical details that turned me off from learning how to sail. Then again, I would probably be the worst sailor of the group like Emily, so maybe someone else can sail and I can just be the matron.
At any rate, being on a boat allows you to have some soul searching moments. Erik shared a lot of his thoughts in this book and they really rang true with how we should look at life, especially the dreamers.
“A lot of times people feel like, ‘Oh we have kids so we can’t do that until the kids are out of the house.’ The time to go is when you have your kids with you because you only have them for a short period. There will be plenty of time to make more money. There’ll be plenty of time to take it easy in retirement when you’re older, but the reason we’re going now is because we want to go while our kids are with us. Let your kids be a reason rather than an excuse.”
I also appreciated Erik’s thoughts on having patience and playing the waiting game.
“For so many weeks, I’d been trying to push and force the situation. I wanted the engine fixed on my timeline. I wanted to hustle off to the BVI (British Virgin Islands). I wanted to know when and where we would arrive in the Bahamas. The truth is, there was no way of knowing. I would have to let it emerge. I could predict, plan, and hope, but in the end, the wind, sea, and a thousand other breezes would shape the unfolding events. I had to wait, just like everyone else. No amount of planning or willpower could make it otherwise. I learned to become fairly zen about it. “It will emerge” was the yin to the yang of “trial and error works every time.” Tenacity has its place. But so does waiting; engaged, curious, and resourceful, but patient.”
On fear and the uneasiness of taking the first jump:
“At the moment, Jane was happier to be at the top of the grotto, barefoot, hot, and scared, than she was to be in the cool, clear water below. Her anxiety over what she could no longer see, and the fear of what it would take to get there, were more powerful than her will to jump. We did our best to help her shift the balance, but it was up to her. Only she could decide when she wanted to move and how she would do it. She could climb back down or she could jump. The push of her current situation, the pull of her new situation, her anxiety about her future, and her loyalty to her present were all shifting moment by moment. We change when we’re more excited about getting the new thing than we are scared about losing the old thing. I go through this same semiconscious process every time I face my own fears. I think we all do. It’s very personal. I internally weigh all these factors in the balance, and something happens or it doesn’t.”
Karina Orton, after being asked how she had changed on Fezywig (their boat):
“I don’t think I’ve changed,” she said. “I’ve become even more myself. I’ve gone further down the path that I was already on.”
Emily Orton on the ‘confidence that it will emerge’:
Erik – “Why do you think the last one is more important?”
Emily – “Because it lets us get started. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to control everything. It lets us be patient while we’re figuring it out.”
Why you should read “Seven at Sea”: If you’re a dreamer thinking ‘someday,’ this book will help give you the confidence to take risks and chase after that dream. It is a raw look into how difficult it is to make your dreams come true. From making excuses to planning and researching for that big day, it’s all about getting over that fear and taking the leap. You have to have patience that the journey “will emerge.” You can’t force it to happen on your timeline. It will emerge on its own.
There are a lot of life lessons here for those who have dreams that want to make them come true. This book is not just about a family who bought a sailboat and sailed from the Caribbean to New York City one year. This is about living your best life and taking the chance to live your life to the fullest and the Ortons are here to inspire you to do so.
[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]
For all of those lovers out there who need a little bit of Valentine’s Day reading, I would like to introduce you to “Healing Hearts.” This is the latest title from Proper Romance (Shadow Mountain).
If you are a fan of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters, then Proper Romance should be your “go to” source for romance books. The books are PG-rated (so no blushing in public during the heated scenes).
“Healing Hearts” is a heartwarming story that will make you smile. When Miriam arrives in Savage Wells, she believes she is there to take a position as a new nurse. As the town whisks her into the local chapel, she realizes she was misled. Doctor Gideon MacNamara has requested a mail order bride, who can also serve as the town’s nurse.
When Miriam realizes she is supposed to marry Dr. MacNamara, she runs from the chapel.
Even though Gideon’s pride is hurt, he cares about the town more and is willing to let bygones be bygones and hires her on as a nurse. After all, it was not her fault that she did not know this was an arranged marriage.
With Miriam comes many dark secrets. These secrets eventually see the light of day as Dr. MacNamara and the town gets to know her. Even though she starts off on the wrong foot by not marrying the good doctor, the town grows to forgive her after she saves them from an epidemic that spreads like wildfire.
And when her past comes back to haunt her, the town rallies around her to save her.
You will enjoy this story from start to finish. There are parts that will leave you smiling with pure happiness. Then there are parts that will leave you at the edge of your seat, wondering just how bad things really are for Miriam…what is she escaping? And when you discover what she’s escaping from, it will leave you horrified.
I always say this about the Proper Romance books from Shadow Mountain, but I really love the stories they publish. Romance books that leave me blushing while I am reading on the train or on the bus are just not the type of books for me. The good old fashion stories from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte where a simple kiss is all that is needed, as well as honesty at how one feels about another, are the perfect romance stories for me.
I enjoyed this story because I could see a little of myself in Miriam. When she says to the doctor that if he really knew who she was, he would find it a blessing he did not marry her, I know I’ve felt the same way time and time again. In a way, it’s rejecting yourself for the other person because you know they will reject you if they really knew you. It saves yourself from whatever heartache will follow.
Of course, in Miriam’s story, he didn’t care. But isn’t that what every person that rejects themselves wants? To be told everyone is broken somehow, so it does not matter?
One very important aspect of the story I found extremely interesting is insanity and how women were treated. It is only in the last few decades that we’ve treated illnesses differently. Women lost all individual rights and deemed insane if they had a seizure or had heavy or erratic menstrual cycles. They were committed to asylums to be forgotten by loved ones. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s were “treated” until they stopped showing any signs of life.
Can you imagine today being committed to an asylum and labeled insane just because you suffered from epilepsy or had a horrible menstrual cycle? These were the issues women faced back then.
“Healing Hearts” brings a lot of these matters to light. It will shock you to discover just how bad things were back then. Even though this is a work of fiction, what happened in asylums, especially to women, still rings true historically.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. The love story will warm your heart. The part where you can’t stop turning the pages is when you discover what happened to Miriam. Stories like this will not only help you to understand the past, but to see that many of the issues that broken people face are still the same. It takes a lot to convince them that people will not hurt them and that they can actually trust people.
That’s the thing with this story, there’s proving to people that you are not what they think you are. You are better than their misconceived notions. You can change the way they think by being yourself. But it takes a lot to trust an entire community with your secrets that they will protect and save you and not turn you over to those who seek to do you harm.
Getting to that point that you can trust people…that is something that Miriam will make you ponder if you could do the same if you were in her shoes.
[DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]
My 2018 New Year’s Resolution was to read 100 books. I did not accomplish that goal this year. I was 16 books short. The prior year, I read only 64 books. This year, I read 20 more books than the previous year for a total of 84 books. That’s not bad. That’s 1.6 books each week.
If I keep this up, I’ll be able to finally reach my goal of 100 books in 2019.
Along the way to my goal, I discovered the secret to getting in an extra book a week. On Sundays, I choose an easy read that’s 225 pages or less and read it in one day. Of course, I didn’t discover how this could help my numbers until I was 3/4 of the way into the year.
In 2018, I became more selective with what I chose to read instead of reading whatever is sent to me. I am fortunate that the books I read were the ones that helped me grow this year. I learned so much from every single book, but more importantly, I learned more about myself this past year.
All 84 of the books I read this year helped me to answer the questions burning inside of me. They educated me. I learned that everything happens for a reason, and books can find their way into your hands when you need them the most. In May, I was asked to leave New York and travel the world indefinitely with this guy I’ve been crushing on for the last 7 years. When I decided to stay, I realized what was really going on in the grander scheme of the universe. This beautiful man was trying to wake me up and free me from the cage I had built around myself since the tumor was removed (2013). I was blind to what I had done to myself out of fear.
As my crush left for Tibet, Tal Gur contacted me and asked if I would like a copy of his book to review. I read it and thought to myself…WOW. This was the book I needed in this moment. I understood what I needed to do. I needed to free myself so that the next time when the hottest guy I know offers me the world, I will be in a position where I can drop everything and run away with him, because in my heart, that’s what I really wanted to do.
Publishers and authors sent their books. As I read each one, I realized that each book isn’t just an escape from this horrible 2018. It was also the universe’s guide book into helping me get back on my feet again, to seeing what I was doing to myself out of fear, but most importantly shining the beam of light to show me how to be me again.
Sometimes it was the entire story, or it was just a sentence or a paragraph. All 84 of the books listed below were the words I needed in 2018.
The Best of the Best
For those looking for some ideas on what to read, these are the books that I found to be the best reads of 2018.
The Books I Curated Into My Library: For the books I thought were the best of the best were very few. It’s a given that I curate all autographed copies and classical literature into my library. But the books that entered into my collection based on its own merits (i.e. the books I would want saved for mankind to read if there was some cataclysmic end) are as follows: Slade House, Hag, The Air You Breathe, Melmoth,The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, Scribe, Dietland, Neverwhere, Sommelier of Deformity, The Stuff of Stars, Everything Happens for a Reason, A Higher Loyalty, Anansi Boys, and The Tuner of Silences.
The Stuff I Learned from Self-Help: This year was a tough year. I literally fell apart. My poor work husband spent most of this year trying to put me back together again. When he wasn’t around, I read a lot of self-help books to try to get back to who I was. Of all the books I read, I think The Abundance Project and Make Peace with Money were two of the most important books, because they speak my language. At work, the Speed Reading book taught me how to perfect my craft (reading).
What really helped me in understanding why everything was happening was Everything Happens for a Reason. When one of my colleagues left to travel the world, Tal Gur contacted me about his book, The Art of Fully Living. I made the difficult decision to not run off with my colleague. While I do regret doing so, I thought…maybe my circumstances will change. Gur’s book helped me to make the decision to free myself from the cage I built around myself that prevented me from running off with the hottest guy I know who was trying to give me the entire world. [Review: The Abundance Project]
The Best YA/Children’s Books: When I tell publishers I read almost everything, that includes children’s books. Oh, and I love YA. Besides Brad Meltzer’s “I Am” collection (I curate all of his titles into my library, because he signs everything I have), I curated in The Stuff of Stars. When I met the author, there was a moment between us when she asked me to read/review her book. I haven’t written about her book yet, because I don’t know how to describe it beyond it being the most wonderful children’s book I’ve ever read. It gave me goosebumps. I cried at the end because it was so beautiful. I thought…if I had a kid, this is exactly how I would feel telling them the story of how they came to be in my life. It was just…I have no words. The story took my breath away. I feel like this book became a little secret in my life that I want to tell the world, but I don’t know how to accurately describe how this book made me feel. So parents…pick up the book. Read it to yourself and then decide.
As for the others, Prince & Knight was beautifully done. Loved it! To finish off the year, I ended with Wundersmith, Book 2 in the Nevermoor series. I love this series. It sucks that I have to wait for Book 3 now. [Review: Nevermoor]
Proper Romance Changed Me: I have a rule. Or maybe I should say I had a rule. I don’t do romance books. But Shadow Mountain Publishing changed my mind about romance books when they launched their Proper Romance group. The book that changed me was Promises and Primroses. Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s followed. They even have a steampunk series that I’ve been trying to finish (when I’m not trying to meet deadlines). What I like about their stories is that it’s not mushy all unrealistic lovey dovey romcom books. There’s no over the top “well this is just unrealistic” love stories. It’s all PG rated. None of that 50 Shades stuff I turn up my nose to. In other words, it’s a clean romance. It’s the way I like stories to be told (in a Jane Austen kind of way), especially because I am the type that will vomit after I say the words “be in a relationship with” or “get married.” [Review: Lies, Love and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Christmas by Accident]
The Scary & the SciFi Books: I read a lot of the Cirque du Freak series this year. I have two books left. Neil Gaiman’s books are excellent. American Gods is still my favorite, but Anansi Boys and Neverwhere were just as good. Erik Therme’s Roam scared me. Scribe was one of the best ghost stories I’ve read in a while. Melmoth made my mouth drop. It disturbed me so much, I had to text my brother (who never reads) about it. Did I mention I curated Melmoth into my library? Hag was excellent (my first book I’ve read that has roots in Scotland). But the story that really scared me this year was David Mitchell’s Slade House (another curated book).
The Best Stories: The stories I really enjoyed in 2018 beyond the ones mentioned above are: Before We Were Yours, The Air You Breathe, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, Sommelier of Deformity, Dietland, The Escape Artist, The Girl You Left Behind, and The Other Side of the Bridge.
The Book Deserves Its Own Category: James Comey. A Higher Loyalty. The book was excellent…until the last 3 chapters. This book helped me to understand my guys a lot better, because they used to work with Comey. There’s so much about leadership that I recommend for all lawyers/public officials to read. But the parts that really stood out to me is how he found a silver lining in life when he was faced with tragedy. It made me understand the book Everything Happens for a Reason so much better. [Review]
Food: Every single cookbook I read this year was so amazing. I loved Siriously Delicious so much, I bought the book. Then I found out Siri Daly was signing the book. I showed up and told her who I was and she said she read my review and loved it. Copycat Cooking from Six Sisters’ Stuff is also one of my all-time favorite cookbooks now. The In N Out Burger and fries recipes were so much better than the real thing. I can’t visualize a burger any other way now. Glow 15 made me look at caring for myself differently now. I take different vitamins now and eat differently because of it. I recommend all 3 of these books. [Reviews: Siriously Delicious, Copycat Cooking, Glow 15]
The Classics: My work husband saw Villette sitting on my desk and he asked me about it. He was a literature major in college, so naturally, he would ask. I didn’t have the heart to tell him why I was reading it. It’s a book you read when your heart has been broken. It’s about unrequited love. It took me most of the year to read it, but when I got to the end, I sat there heartbroken for Charlotte Bronte. My friend was going through something similar where someone was in love with her and acting like M. Paul. She couldn’t understand his crazy. I explained to her what was really going on. Men haven’t changed so much in the last 200 years.
I finally read another monster classic: The Invisible Man. I will say I was unimpressed. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow read exactly like the Disney cartoon. Kudos to Disney! I don’t understand why Of Mice and Men is a classic. I’m wondering if it has more to do with the language Steinbeck chose. The highlight and uplifting classic of the year beyond Villette was T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. It had a very profound affect on me.
I also finally read The Great Gatsby. I read it alongside The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark. It helped me to really understand the depths of how beautiful this book is. I do not recommend reading The Great Gatsby without Clark’s commentary (it’s only a chapter in X-Ray). You will miss the importance of some of the elements used in the book, like color.
Best Non-Fiction: Slave Stealers. I learned so much about slavery then and now. It’s not so different. The providence at work for Tim Ballard and his team as they try to free children from the depths of hell just amazed me. I remember sitting in bed, reading, exclaiming out loud, “No fucking way!” Just amazing to see the Universe working to help people who are saving the innocents. I highly recommend this book about real life work around the world to stop human trafficking (aka slavery). [Review]
Below is the complete list of books I read this year. If you’re interested in any of them, just click on the book and it will take you to Amazon where you can read more about the book and you can order it from there.
Today, I am introducing a new feature at Perfectionist Wannabe. I will be showing you at the end of each month the books I read that month. At the beginning of each month, I’ll show you my To Be Read pile.
The To Be Read pile is usually advanced copies of books coming out that month I need to get through. I try to read at least one classic and whatever looks good on my shelf I’ve been meaning to get to.
So let’s get to the current October stack. I tried to read as many scary books as I could. Six of the eight books featured are, at the minimum, about a ghost or a witch.
I did not include below “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, because the story is part of a collection of stories. I will include that when I finish Irving’s book.
A young girl, Dores, is a kitchen servant on a sugar plantation. She’s been there since she was born. During the lean years, when sugar prices bottom out, she remains on the plantation with the head cook, when the sugar baron’s family leaves for the city.
But then the next sugar baron in the family arrives with his family. Their child, Graça, is around the same age as Dores. They do not get along in the beginning, but soon Dores becomes Graça’s playmate. They do everything together.
Graça’s mother realizes that unlike her daughter, Dores is intelligent and absorbs everything she is taught. She offers Dores the same opportunities given to her own daughter, but with limitations.
One day, she introduces Dores to music and her world changes.
Music is what shapes this story of the two girls growing up together on a sugar plantation. They later escape to Rio de Janeiro to try their luck at fame and fortune. One girl is the beauty and the voice, the other has the smarts and the talent with words.
Their story is filled with love, loss and obsession. You’ll learn how these girls help make samba a revolution, and how Hollywood changes their lives forever. This is a story that will whisk you away to a time before the great war. You will fall in love in Brazil, and you will grow to appreciate the world of samba.
Hag is a witchy tale that starts off in Scotland and transports you to Colorado and then London as we follow Alice, the descendant of the Cailleach (an ancient witch who takes residence in the Scottish cliffs).
As Alice grows up and tries to understand the weird things she can do, she has no idea her daughter will bring all of the Cailleach ancestors of witches together, bringing the story of the Cailleach full circle.
What I liked about this story is that I saw a lot of myself in Alice. For people that know me very well, they know there are a few things I can do that is just not explainable. I used to tell my dad that if we were back in the 15th or 16th century, he probably would have had me burned at the stake for being a witch.
After reading this book, I think I became a little more accepting of who I am. Sometimes people have a better intuition than others, or as my friend says, I am better in tune to the universe than most people. I think maybe back in the day, I would have been labeled a witch.
In this book, I believe the author was well versed in the subject of witchcraft and what it has evolved into today. Not all witches are brewing potions or practicing magic. Some are just regular people living their lives, but are a little bit more in tune with the universe and the universe responds.
The Witch of Willow Hall
The Witch of Willow Hall is my favorite scary read this month. Speaking of women trying to understand who they are, the weird things they can do and thinking that back in the day, they would have been burned at the stake or hung by the neck. It is 1821 and right outside of Boston in a town called New Oldbury, Lydia and her family have relocated to Willow Hall to escape the embarrassment her family endured in Boston thanks to her older sister Catherine and brother Cyrus.
Willow Hall is filled with ghosts and secrets, which makes it a perfect place for the Montrose family.
Lydia and Catherine are always at odds. When they lose Emeline, the youngest Montrose, the family begins to completely fall apart as Catherine’s sins unravel before them.
Lydia is not aware she is a witch. She can see ghosts and notices storms brew when she becomes upset. It takes her mother being on her death bed to reveal Lydia’s true ancestry.
For this story, it’s the ghosts that will scare you. What will make your stomach turn is how evil Catherine can be and how she will do everything she can to destroy her sister’s happiness. Oh, and there is a bit of a love story in there, blackmail, incest and scary dead witches…but damn, if this isn’t a great book.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a ghost story. This book is a popular new release for the month of October. I stood in line for a long time to get this book.
I will warn you right now that I had a hard time getting through the first 60% of the book. It kept putting me to sleep. But the last part of the book, I could not put the book down. I kept thinking…why in the world was I having a difficult time reading this book in the beginning? Maybe because she saved the best part for last?
This story jumps between the present and the past. We follow the story of Elodie in the present day. She discovers a leather satchel with a sketchbook and a photograph. One of the sketches reminds her of a story her mother used to tell her before she died. She becomes so obsessed with the picture that she starts to investigate the truth of its origins.
We are then transported back to a different time…around 1862. A group of artists spend the summer at Birchwood Manor. What happens in Birchwood changes their lives forever.
Over the next 150 years, a ghost haunts the old manor. It is her story that is being told and it is up to Elodie to unravel the mystery of Birchwood Manor. The ending is well worth it.
Violin is another ghost story. This time it comes from the queen of vampires, Anne Rice. Believe it or not, it has taken me a few years to get through this book. I started it years ago and then put it to the side. I decided to finally finish the last 150 pages.
It was time to find out what becomes of Stefan, the evil fiddler and the woman he is haunting.
I did not expect that Triana would become a world class violinist that mesmerizes her audiences with the haunting violin that actually does not even exist. This violin was destroyed back when Stefan was alive, but in death, he took the essence of the violin with him and made it real. He made himself (and the violin) real again to those who could hear his hypnotic melodies. So when Triana steals it from his grasp, the violin transforms her world. Stefan will do anything to get his violin back…but how far will he go?
Villette is a classic tale from Charlotte Bronte. I love Jane Eyre so when I got my heart broken, I decided to read this book. It was recommended for people with broken hearts.
This is a somewhat true story of Charlotte’s life…about unrequited love.
It is funny how I saw the things happening in my life, as well as my friends, echoing what I read in this book. Men act funny when they are in love with someone they know they cannot have. It seems that things still have not changed 170 years later.
One person on Twitter told me that she noticed there are a lot of people that have a difficult time with this book because of the ongoing misogyny. But if you press on, you’ll really enjoy how the book ends. I have to agree with her on that. It was very difficult to not want to reach into the book and punch Monsieur Paul, but you’ll find as you continue that he has some redeeming qualities.
Bronte is supreme at writing. What I appreciate about Jane Eyre continues in her writings here.
The rise of the Vampaneze Lord brings Mr. Tiny to Vampire Mountain to issue a new prophecy and a quest for Darren and Mr. Crepsley. They return to the Cirque du Freak to have their first of four encounters with the Vampaneze Lord.
I’m probably going to spoil the next few novels, but my guess is that the Vampaneze Lord is Darren’s best friend from the time when he was still a mortal. This friend is the reason why Darren became a vampire to begin with…to save his life.
Don’t tell me…I want to figure it out myself in the next few novels.
Anita is an immigrant from Mauritius who meets her husband at a New Year’s Eve party in Paris. They have a child together and decide to move to the country where Anita freelances as a journalist and Adam is an architect.
When Adele, another Mauritius immigrant, enters their lives, she turns their lives around. She helps care for their home and their daughter. But she has this magnetic pull about her that inspires Adam to be the painter he always wanted to be and Anita to finally write the novel she’s been dreaming of. But the strange thing is that the subject of their work is Adele.
As the novel goes on, we find Adam is in prison and their daughter is in a wheelchair. But why? What happened? I will say that I never saw the ending coming. It was very surprising.
This is a quick read. Only 176 pages.
The Curated Collection
Each month, when I finish reading the books for that month, I try to decide which books will be curated into my library. This month, I decided to keep Villette (I like to keep all classic novels), The Clockmaker’s Daughter (signed), The Air You Breathe and The Witch of Willow Hall (signed). Generally speaking, if the book is signed, I will keep it. For books not signed, it has to be an exceptionally good book in order to be placed in the curated collection. The Air You Breathe was really that good and deserved to be placed on the shelves.
From the author of Salvage the Bones comes another great American novel set in the rural south of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi where young Jojo lives with his grandparents and baby sister. His white father (Michael) is locked up in the state penitentiary. His mother (Leonie), a drug addict and sometimes mother, is absent from their lives most of the time. This leaves Pop with the duty of teaching Jojo how to become a man, while they take care of Mam, who is dying from cancer. When news comes that it is time for Michael to be released from prison, Leonie decides to take the kids with her, along with a friend, to pick him up. This proves to be a thoughtless decision, because she does not have a mothering bone in her body. This road proves to be a horrible mistake for both Leonie and the children. In the spirit of those deep seeded southern stories of the supernatural and spirits of the dead walking the earth, we find that this family has a special gift. This gift will bond mother and daughter, brother and sister during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
We live in a time where there are very few well written novels entering the market. Jesmyn Ward is one of the most exceptional writers of our modern time. For book collectors, her works should be added to your library. She was added to mine. This book is one of the most important books to read in 2017.
This book is due to be released on August 1, 2017. This is by far one of the best stories I’ve read this year. I gave it 5 stars because this is more than just a Spider-Man story. This is about a kid facing adversity, just like every other kid out there. He may have super powers, but it does not mean that he is not a victim of society. He is learning how to be a hero, not just a superhero fighting super villains. Jason Reynolds is an excellent writer. The story is absolutely incredible. I had a hard time putting the book down. I couldn’t wait to get back to reading it again. This is a must read for everyone. Get this book for your kids. Read it yourself. I don’t like Spider-Man, but I do love Miles Morales. Excellent read. [PW REVIEW]
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission.]
This book is due to be released on August 29, 2017. A coming of age novel set in Royston, Massachusetts. Two girls, Julia and Cassie, grow up together in this small town. Julia is from a good, middle class family, while Cassie is from the other side of town. Having known each other since nursery school, the girls spend one last summer together before middle school. They seek out and discover an old asylum where they spend their days playing and pretending. Without knowing it, these are their last days together being close friends. When they enter middle school, Cassie finds new friends and becomes popular. She starts dating the boy Julia has a crush on, a complete betrayal. Then one day, Cassie’s mother marries, changing the dynamic in their household. Cassie slips into a deep depression that changes everyone’s lives. She disappears. Even though they are no longer friends, Julia is the only one that can save her. She must go back to the place where she lost her friend. This is a story about friendships and dealing with depression. It doesn’t effect just one person, it changes the lives of everyone around that person.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission.]
Looking for something new to read this summer? There are a few that are out that you can purchase now, and a few coming out this August.
1. Unraveling Oliver. Considered to be one of the IT books of 2017, “Unraveling Oliver” tries to explain why Oliver Ryan, a prominent Irish children’s book author, beat his wife into a coma. Never having displayed violence before, Oliver’s friends try to explain what happened to him. From his childhood all the way into his adult years, Oliver’s story is unraveled piece by piece.
At first, you will feel sorry for Oliver. As the story completely unravels, you realize just how horrible of a human being he was. He commanded the respect of others for decades. One act brought him down.
[Due to be released August 22, 2017.]
2. The Leaf Reader. This mystery will keep you guessing all the way until the end. Marnie Wells is an outcast, because she’s one of the weird kids. She starts reading tea leaves for the popular kids and winds up deep into the tale of what happened to Andrea Quinley, one of the girls that went missing.
Her best friend, Matt Cotrell, seeks Marnie out to see if she has the answers he’s looking for, sending them on a chase to find Andrea, who is presumed dead. Instead, they uncover a much deeper secret that threatens both of their lives. Andrea’s disappearance is linked to Marnie, just not in a way anyone could ever imagine.
This book will have you guessing all the way until the end. The details are always unraveling. Nothing is ever set in stone where you can guess who did what. A must read for those who love thrillers.
[Book is out now.]
3. The Hearts We Sold. Imagine we live in a world where demons walk beside us and they are out in the open. Everyone knows demons exist. People trade parts of their bodies for wishes without ever asking what they do with the body parts.
Dee Moreno is in a tough spot when she discovers that her scholarship to a boarding school is drying up. She has to come up with the money for the rest of school or find somewhere else to go. She doesn’t want to return to her dysfunctional home.
When she sees a demon knitting outside of the hospital where she volunteers, she decides to take a chance. She gives the demon her heart in exchange for money that will get her through a doctorate program (if that’s what she wants). In return, she has to do the demon’s bidding over the course of 2 years.
What she doesn’t know is why the demon is sending her and a group of teens to do his bidding. She has no idea what these demons are trying to do with their body parts. What they discover is much scarier than the thought of demons walking the Earth.
[Due out August 8, 2017]
4. DragonWatch. If you are looking for your next YA series, FableHaven is a great place to start. FableHaven is a 5 book series that takes place at a sanctuary for mythical creatures. DragonWatch picks up where FableHaven leaves off.
With the Demon King vanquished, the Dragon King rises. He wants out of the sanctuary and into the world. Our heroes Seth and Kendra head off to the dragon sanctuary to be the new caretakers.
The kids need to prove to everyone that they can do the job and keep the dragons at bay. Their adventure takes them on an adventure to find a way to keep the castle safe. If the dragons overtake the castle, they can escape into the world. What the two discover is that they need each other to be strong, but they also must learn how to be fearless on their own.
Brandon Mull is one of my favorite young adult authors. The FableHaven series (and now DragonWatch) is an incredible universe to escape to. You will see the beauty in fairies and unicorns, but also the very ugly and scary in demons, trolls, and creatures that you don’t want to bump into.
For those looking for a series, this is one worth diving into. You’ll fall in love with this world.
[All books in the series and DragonWatch are out now.]
5. A Dog’s Purpose. For those who love animals (especially dogs), this is the book for you. We follow one dog’s soul as he (or she) goes from one dog’s life to another. Each life bears an important part in the dog’s future lives.
The story though is about Bailey and his boy, Ethan. The two grow up together and have many grand adventures together, including getting lost in the woods. But Bailey can’t live forever and eventually dies at an old age. He is reborn again and again.
As a police dog, she learns how to search and find. She sees her purpose is to help save lives. In her next life, he uses that search and find technique to find his boy again.
This time his boy is an old man who is alone and has no purpose. It is up to Bailey to help Ethan find his purpose. All the while, he hopes that Ethan will realize that he is really Bailey.
A wonderful story as told by a dog. This book will make you hug your fur babies (and monsters) a little closer. It will make you love and appreciate them a little bit more.
[This book is currently out.]
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of books 1-4 above from publishers in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]
Book Two in the Dark Cycle Book Series. For those who love stories about good vs. evil, heaven vs. hell, this is your kind of book. In book two, Aidan is still learning more about his powers and what happened to his sister Ava. Stuck between his love for two girls, all struggle in their choices. One love was a spell and that spell is killing her. The other is his soulmate. The one he chooses though, hurts everyone in the end. It’s not his fault that a wrench was thrown into the fate lines. Somehow, they have to fix this. Meanwhile, Aidan and his crew must keep darkness at bay, and keep the demons from entering the earthly realm.
[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]
Imagine living your entire life inside of your house, never able to leave because you are sick. You don’t have friends, because you can’t play with other children for fear they may make you sick. This is Maddy’s world. The only people in her life are her mother, her nurse and her tutor…no one else. On the cusp of her 18th birthday, Olly moves next door and everything changes. Olly is allowed to come into her world, which gives her the courage to be in his world…if only for one day.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]
In a post-apocalyptic world, a young man (Rose) appears, intrigued by a young woman that attempts to save him from toxic waters. She goes about her life working in a factory for food rations, when one day she volunteers to scavenge metal with her boss. When he tries to take advantage of her, Rose intervenes to save her, when unbeknownst to them, the incident was recorded by one of the drones. Shortly after, her boss is found dead, and Rose is the prime suspect. Rose is smart, yet very strange. He is different than everyone else. There’s something about him that is unusual that she can’t quite put her finger on. It is discovering what Rose is…that is what will save them all. If you liked the Twilight movies, you’ll notice that Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen) is one of the writers. A really great read if you like young adult fiction. In light of our current political climate, it is very scary to read this Orwellian book knowing we are heading in that direction.
Things aren’t going so well for Ove. He lost his wife and all he can think about is joining her in death. As handy as he is, he really sucks at dying. Every single attempt is foiled right as the world comes at him to let him know that he is not alone. Right when he thinks he is alone in this world, new neighbors push their way into his life, as well as the old ones. While he thinks the world doesn’t need him, the world shares with him how important he is to them in their world. Set in Sweden, this book will make you laugh, cry and love this old man called Ove. The film was nominated for a 2017 Oscar. [Book Club Review]
[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]
For those who love setting off on adventures, this book takes us into the mystical realm of Shangri-La. For those who watched Netflix’s “The Iron Fist,” this is the book that is the original background to where the story of Danny Rand began, deep in the Himalayan mountains, saved by monks. Rand’s back story is based on the original tale from “Lost Horizon” of a plane stolen and flown deep into the Himalayas where a group of monks finds the passengers and invites them into their monastery, a place like no other. When having to choose between staying in paradise, living a very long life with access to knowledge beyond imagination or going back to Western Civilization, which would you choose? That life of unhappiness out in the real world, or a long lifetime of peace and tranquility living in the most beautiful place on the planet?
[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.]
For those who love Young Adult Fiction, here are a few books to peruse.
Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel is filled with mystery and intrigue as we follow Lorrie Hollander, a young rich girl who all of a sudden has her trust fund cut off while at riding camp. Thinking that her absent-minded aunt forgot to pay the bills, she returns home to discover that her trust fund is missing. With only a few dollars in her pocket, she tries to buy gas and a drink only to discover she doesn’t have enough money for both when she meets Charlie, the son of a senator, who pays for her purchase in exchange for joining him at a party in his family’s home. What Lorrie later discovers is that her predicament and money problems are directly related to Charlie’s family. What begins as a rich girl gone broke turns into something much more…explaining why her mother left her and her sister behind with her senile aunt and where all of this money is really coming from. It’s an ending no one is expecting.
2. Mysteries of Cove by J. Scott Savage. If you liked “City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau, you’ll like this new series. Imagine a world where doing anything ‘creative’ is a crime and the word ‘invention’ is a curse word. Welcome to the Cove, a steam-powered city inside of a mountain. Why the city is this way is a mystery, especially to Trenton Coleman, who loves inventing and all things mechanical. Along with Kallista Babbage, they discover a mechanical dragon. Together they try to put it together and leave the Cove. What they were not prepared to learn was why the city was hidden inside of a mountain and why any mechanical noise was forbidden. When they learn why, it’s too late and it jeopardizes the lives of everyone inside the Cove. They’ve attracted something to them that was better off left alone. [Mysteries of Cove is a series. The second book was released last year.]
3. Court of Fives by Kate Elliott. For those who loved “The Hunger Games,” you will love “Court of Fives.” Jessamy lives in a world where a mixed race child will never rise in society. Add in every sexist thing you can of how a woman will never be equal to a man, and you have a good idea what kind of society Jessamy lives in. The Fives is a maze where various contenders compete in five different trials. Winners of the Fives live handsomely, but there is one catch. They have to reveal their face. It is because of this that Jessamy allows someone else to win, so as not to embarrass her father, a famous soldier who would be humiliated if he knew his illegitimate daughter had competed and won in the Fives. Things take a turn for the worst when her family’s patron (the man who cares for them financially) dies. The patron’s death splits up the family and sends Jessamy to live her dream of training and running for the Fives without fear of embarrassing her father, but she finds something much more sinister is happening to her family. It is up to her to save them. [This book is the start of the Court of Fives series. The third book will be released this summer.]
Disclosure: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.
I received these books from the publishers in exchange for an honest review and promotion of these products.
Hello, everyone. It’s time to discuss the first official book club selection for 2017: A Man Called Ove. Even if you haven’t finished reading the book, feel free to come back here and post your thoughts either here or on the Facebook page after you’re done.
Let’s start off…
The Book Club Questions
What did you think of the book?
Who was your favorite character in the book and why?
With the story going back and forth between present day and the past, do you think the progression of the story was easy to read?
Ove is a unique character. Did you find his character relatable? If so, how? Does he remind you of someone? Does he remind you of yourself?
Ove’s attempts at taking his own life fails every time. Do you find the failures to be purely coincidental or maybe something more otherworldly happening?
Ove went from wanting to die to wanting to live for today and fight for the people around him. What were some of those significant markers that occurred that made him realize he wasn’t alone?
The film “A Man Called Ove” was nominated for Best International Film at the Academy Awards this year. Did you get to see it? How did you like it? Was Ove how you imagined him to be? Did the film do the book justice?
What was your favorite part of the book?
I really enjoyed this book. It was very comical with incredible characters.
I loved Parvaneh. She was always right in his face trying to make sure that Ove did right for himself and for others. She was the right relationship he needed to come into his life. She was the daughter he never had. I also loved the cat. That cat was something else. When he walked in and knocked down the pills, it was like he was saying, “I know what you’re trying to do, so stop it!” I also loved that he went wherever Ove went. Who takes their cat everywhere they go? It wasn’t even Ove’s cat!
I liked the progression of the story. In my other book club, there were some people that did not like the way it went back and forth. For me, I liked that it would leave a little detail that made you question what happened and then the next chapter would explain what happened in the past. It’s a lot like having a conversation with someone. You are trying to explain how X happened, but then realize you need to fill in the historical context. I liked learning about Ove’s history as the author tried to explain how he got to be the way he is now.
Ove is a little on the weird side, but I saw a little of myself in him. How people don’t know how to change a tire mindboggles me. That was the first lesson I ever had when I started driving…you have to know how to change the tire on a car. You have to know how to parallel park. In Ove’s tirade, you need to know how to back up a car with a trailer hooked up behind it. Life for Ove is very hands on and mechanical. He expresses his emotions and who he is as a human being by doing things for others. He shows he cares by repairing fences, fixing cars, teaching people how to drive, etc. He is not one to be emotional or affectionate. He shows he cares by doing things. The man has a big heart, even if he acts like he doesn’t care. You know he does. I have a friend that says she hates people, but I find her to be the most compassionate person when it comes to people. She’s always out helping the homeless, her family, her friends, etc. She acts like she doesn’t care, but she really does.
Ove trying to kill himself made me laugh every single time he failed at it. I really loved that part of the story. The fact the fail happened over and over and over again makes it look like there was something otherworldly trying to stop him from taking his life. One person from my book club thought that his wife was looking out for him by sending all of these people into his life so that he knew he was not alone and that the world still needed him. I can definitely see that.
Parvaneh was a huge part of letting him know he wasn’t alone. Just her arrival with her husband and kids was a huge marker. The fact that her husband doesn’t know how to do anything shows that they need Ove to help them with ‘the simple stuff.’ Parvaneh needing to learn how to drive shows that Ove is still needed (like teaching your own daughter how to drive for the first time). The two girls look up to him as a grandfather. They become the grandkids he never had. The two teenagers made Ove remember the compassion of his wife and the things she did for the children. Jimmy didn’t have anyone to look up to except Sonja, Ove, Rune and Anita. Jimmy didn’t want to be forgotten so he tried to patch things up in a subtle way between all parties. Ove finding out from Jimmy that they had kept Rune’s condition quiet helped pave the way towards two friends rekindling their friendship.
I saw the film and enjoyed it immensely. They did not fit in the entire story and made a few subtle changes, but they weren’t so bad as to step completely away from the book. The book though was better. Ove in the film was exactly how I imagined him to be.
My favorite part of the book was when Ove hit Parvaneh in the nose. That’s when I fell in love with her character.
Last week, I stopped into Barnes & Noble where Brad Meltzer introduced his latest book, “I am Jim Henson.”
I do not normally go to children’s author events, but I decided to go to this one. I’m glad I did. I was not prepared for the incredible lesson I was about to learn.
These books appear innocent on the outside. They are stories about important figures in human history. From Martin Luther King, Jr. (a book that is constantly sold out) to Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart, these books are designed not just as a history lesson for children, but as an underlying act to encourage children to become someone amazing.
There’s good in all of us. Sure, we’re all different. Some of us have beards, or no hair, or blue fur, or green flippers. But goodness lives within each of us. That’s an idea that should never get old. Believe in the good of the world. Create something new. Share what you love. And find others who believe in those favorite things you dream about. Together…
It starts when we’re kids. That’s when we learn some of the best things in life. Laughing. Sharing. Imagining. Dreaming. Creating. Never stop doing them. And never stop being kind. There’s nothing wrong with being a do-gooder.
Think of your life as a hill that must be climbed. There’s no correct path to get to the top. We all zigzag in our own ways. At some point, you’ll slip, you’ll fall, you’ll tumble back down again. But if you get back up and keep climbing, I promise you…you will reach the top. Don’t let anything hold you back. Our lives are what we make of them. There will always be obstacles. But there will always be ways around them.
In my life, people tried to knock me down. Tried to make me feel less than I was. They teased me for being small. Being black. Being different. Let me be clear: NO ONE should be able to do that. But if they try, you must stand strong. Stand for what’s right. Stand up for yourself (even if it means sitting down). When you do…others will follow. I am Rosa Parks. I’m not a politician, or a president, or an actor, or a famous business owner. I’m just an ordinary person. But I’m also proof that there’s NO SUCH thing as an ordinary person.
These books are not just for children. Adults need to read them, too. We need to be reminded that these people were just ordinary people who did something incredible with their life. Their stories are a reminder that no matter how ordinary we are we can change the world.
That is the point of these books. But there’s also an even bigger message. We are living in a time where our political climate threatens our livelihoods. We see how the bully won the election and it gave rise to white supremacists who threaten people that are not 100% white. [One teacher at the event told me that following the election, every child in her school was on suicide watch.]
Children are scared. Adults are scared. But it is in these very books, we see how being defiant and choosing to do good, choosing to do what is right and overcoming obstacles as they arise, can make us into extraordinary people. We can rise up.
The book that had the biggest effect on me was “I am Rosa Parks.” It made me sad and embarrassed to know how America used to be. Even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 happened, we are seeing America revert back to darker days. Everything that made America great, we are told is not so great. We are told that equality between human beings is not a great thing. We are told that being a bully is ok. It is accepted to be the bully. America wants the bully to lead us.
We are told that the things we know in our heart are true and good are BAD. What these books tell us is to stand strong. We have to stand up for ourselves. We may be a bunch of ordinary people, but an ordinary person can change the world. That is self evident in these books. WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.
I highly recommend buying these books not just for the kids, but for yourself. We sometimes need to be reminded to believe in ourselves. It is so hard to remain strong each and every day after facing the onslaught of bullying and fear we live in.
These books serve as a reminder that we can follow our dreams. We can overcome obstacles. We can be the change, just like President Obama says we should be.
Read them to remind yourself of who you are and who you can become. Read the books to your children. Let them see that these people were just like them. They were kids too and they grew up to do something wonderful just by being themselves.
EXTRA: Over the last year, two of Meltzer’s children books had an overall 91% increase in sales, which is completely unheard of in the publishing industry. This was in direct correlation to the election. Those two books were “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.” and “I am Rosa Parks.”
Here are the current children’s books available from Brad Meltzer. He is developing 100 stories about ordinary people who did extraordinary things. This is just the beginning, so start collecting.
To be released later this year:
Disclosure: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.
Each year, I try to commit to reading a book a week. That is 52 books a year.
With every book read, I reward myself monetarily so that I can purchase something very expensive that I really want. In past years, I used that money to purchase a very expensive designer handbag. This year, I am using my earnings to save money for my new home.
I created a reward system as a way to force myself to save. This year’s reward system is designed to help me save more for my new home, as well as declutter my library (both physical and electronic).
Make the Time to Read
This past year, I found other lovers of books reading more than 100 books in a year. While that is an incredible challenge to complete, I resolved to read more than 52 books this year.
I’ve heard from a lot of people lately how they are lucky to read one book a year. I don’t know what they are doing, but everyone should be reading more. It is important to keep challenging your brain and your mind. We need to always be continuously learning.
I am a very busy person, but I also make the time to read. It is important to analyze what is sucking away your time. I bet the main culprit are your devices. Put down your phones (unless you’re reading a book on it). Stop scrolling through social media. Stop playing games all of the time.
Take a moment to disconnect.
You can find time to read. You can even listen to audio books. I do. At the office, I’ll put my headphones in, find a free classic on audio and listen to the book. That counts as part of the reading challenge.
If you have some free time at the office, find an ebook on Kindle Unlimited and read up on a subject matter that can help you with your job. Many ebooks are 50-100 pages and are very quick reads filled with so much information on how you can be better at your job.
When you’re commuting, listen to an audio book or read a book. You can get books for free at the library, including the latest ones. You can even download library books to your devices.
There are many ways you can indulge in reading a book every single day. Seriously…you can listen to a book and play Candy Crush at the same time.
I would like to challenge all of you to read a book a week this year. I’ll be sharing my resolution with you in hopes that it will inspire you to read more books.
We should never stop learning. We should always encourage each other to become more educated, even if it is just through books. There is always something new we can discover in books.
My Reward System
So without adieu, here’s how my resolution works. You can use this as a guideline when you set up your own reward system.
Classic = $100
Library Book (i.e. free book) = $50
Book purchased in 2017 = cost of book x2
Review Books* = $25
Personal library + donated after reading = $50
Personal library = $30
Electronic book = $10
[*I am asked to review books by authors and publishers on a regular basis.]
You don’t have to create your own reward system exactly like mine. Construct your chart based on the type of books you want to read and how much you can afford to save towards whatever your goal is.
I put classics at $100 because they are considered ‘smart’ books, meaning, it takes a little longer to read. Since one of my resolutions this year is to minimize more, if I donate the book, I’m rewarded a little more than if I keep the book.
Finally, keep track of what you read. Keep a list of the books you’ve read in the form that is easiest for you.
I record my list in my calendar so I can see the date each book was completed. I also write down the name of the book so that I when I look over my resolutions at the end of the year, I can see what types of books I read for the year.
I also record the name of the books read on a pretty piece of paper…like a library card. I noticed this in the movie “Mr. Church” and thought that would be a cute idea to keep track of what I’m reading all in one place.
Also, since I sometimes forget if I’ve read a book before, I keep a notebook of all of the books I’ve ever read. There have been a few times when I’ll get 3/4 of the way through a book before I realize I’ve read the book before. I am not one of those that likes to re-read books, because there are so many books out there that need to be read and so little lifetime with which to do it in.
PW’s Reading Challenge: Books Read 2017
For those wanting to follow along with my resolution, here are the books I’ve read. I will be doing a review of each book on the site and linking to where you can purchase the book at Amazon. [Note: When review is complete, review link will be live.]
If I am able to interview the author, I’ll also put a link to that interview as well.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I am doing a Russell Crowe movie binge. I have not revealed why. I keep promising to reveal why on the site and today is your lucky day!
[DISCLAIMER: What you are about to read may weird you out a little, because this is something different. The people that know me or are close to me can testify to the fact that I am different. As my Muslim friends say, I am not weird or crazy. I am special in a unique way.
As you read through this, bear in mind that in the Old Testament there are stories of people that spoke of dreams where God has spoken to them to reveal a prophecy or to deliver special messages. The Bible speaks of people speaking in tongues or seeing angels…even talking to God. If you are Muslim, Jew or Christian, you believe these stories.
To say that it does not continue to exist today and it only existed thousands of years ago, you do not know God. God never stopped talking to his people. Today, there are many people out there that are listening to God and speaking with him.
My understanding of God and the universe is a little more elevated than conventional religions. For Muslims and Christians who have heard me speak about God, they have always noticed how I reference their beliefs, but explain the way that things should be. It is more elevated in understanding, and it always rings inside their heart as being God’s truth.
As one friend explained to me, there are times I speak about God and the universe in such a way that he does not understand. Even though he does not understand it, what I say rings in his heart as being the truth. Some time will pass and he will be going about his business when something will happen to him and then he will recount the words I said to him. That is when he says to himself, “That is what she was talking about!”
He told me that I’m on a much higher plane of understanding than he is. He is just trying to get there.
This higher plane of understanding…that is what I am going to be discussing today. It is much easier for people to hear my voice when I describe these things, because oftentimes, seeing is believing. To hear someone’s voice as they tell you this story is much more powerful than just reading their story. It’s their voice that strikes the chord within your heart that what this person is saying is true. Even if you don’t understand it, you will eventually.]
The Crowe Binge is Really About the Novel
On this site, I have been talking a lot about the novel I am currently working on. The book is about a dream I had last month that was so prolific that I had to share it. I saw the dream from beginning to end. The story was just so incredible, I had to bring it to life and share the story with the world.
Who was the lead character in the dream? Russell Crowe.
Before you go thinking that I’m having some prolific and awesome dreams about Russell Crowe, note that I said ‘lead character.’ That means that he’s playing the role of the actual person and it’s not really about Russell Crowe. In other words, the dream plays out like a movie and Crowe is just an actor in the dreamlike movie playing the role of an actual person.
For some odd reason, when God is trying to explain something to me, he uses Russell Crowe in the story to explain it. For the last three years, if Crowe appears in the dream, that means it is a message to explain something going on in my life or something that will happen in my life (aka prophetic dreams).
These dreams play out from beginning to end. I see and feel what every character is thinking and feeling. I see all of the fate lines as they interact and intersect with each person in the dream, and I understand the meaning of it all in the grander scheme of things (i.e. from God’s point of view).
When God speaks, he is speaking a million things all at once. That is the way the universe operates. There is not just one single thing happening in the universe at that very moment, there are many things happening across the universe instantaneously. So when God is explaining one situation, there are many things involved beyond just the story. There is the greater message, which is God’s message, and that message is oftentimes lost in the story. It is his message that is the most important part of the story because it explains everything. It truly explains the story of your life.
A lot of times Crowe’s appearance is a mixed bag. He’s playing the role of everyone the story is about. He’s me. He’s the guy in question. He’s the good guy, the bad guy, the clueless guy and the guy that gets his heart trampled on and can’t figure out why it happened.
In this story though, he’s playing the role of the guy this story is really about (an actual person that exists). I decided to call the book “The Death Between Us.” If you’ve followed along with what’s happened to me over these last 3 years, you’ll understand why I chose that title. There are even some elements that go back to when I was at the Vatican in 2012 and what transpired after that. Death himself plays a prominent role in this book and it is not in a way you could ever imagine.
The Vatican – July 2012
Let me take you back to a day in my life – July 2012. I am in Rome, Italy and I’ve decided to go to St. Peter’s Basilica. I leave the hotel, pick up a few slices of pizza, jump on the subway and head to St. Peter’s Basilica.
I’m tired, because I know my cancer has returned, but I refuse to go to the doctors because I am not ready to go through another year of testing. It’s the testing that’s the worst part.
I get through security in Vatican City and decide to sit down at the obelisk and share my lunch with the birds. After lunch, I head into St. Peter’s Basilica, wearing a long black dress and a red Valentino scarf wrapped around my head to hide my hair as a matter of respect to the church. [I’m not even Christian.]
I start looking around, photographing the church, reading the walls. The marble floors are really weighing down on my body, sucking the energy out of me. I notice there’s a prayer room, so I pretend like I’m going to go in and pray just so I can sit down in one of the pews for a while.
This is where I confess that I can do something that most people can’t do. I can push thoughts into people’s head. When you meditate as much as I do, it awakens parts of your mind and allows you to use parts of your brain that most people do not use. There are a lot of people who meditate regularly that can do this. These are sort of ‘powers’ that come when you have a deep understanding and relationship with God. There are many nuns that I know that have this same ability.
Also, another ‘power’ I have is the ability to see with my mind’s eye things that spiritually cannot be seen with the naked eye. It’s the same kind of ‘power’ where when I’m interviewing someone and they are saying one thing, I hear something else. It is that something else that scares them, because if I print it, it could be bad. As I’ve learned from Ilya Kovalchuk, I am 100% correct in what I see in their mind and that scares them (i.e. hockey players).
At any rate, I’m not Catholic and I’m definitely not Christian, so I decided to eavesdrop on what the nuns were praying about. I pushed myself into the eldest nun’s mind and saw her praying for the souls of man that they would find their way to God. So I pushed the answer into her mind on how that should be accomplished. Another nun was visiting from another country. She was praying for funds so that her church would not close. I looked around me in this room filled with opulence and just shook my head. The Vatican has vast sources of money. They are rich beyond belief and they cannot share the wealth with their flock and churches? Come on now.
That’s when I heard the giggle. I immediately looked up and saw two angels sitting up near the top of the ceiling. They were listening to the prayers and laughing at the people below, having a grand time. That’s when they noticed me. One of them said, “I can’t believe she’s here. Of all places!” The one angel stopped the other and said, “Don’t you know she can hear you?” They left out the window, with one looking back at me as he left…like he was getting ready to run and tell on me for stepping foot in what I believe to be…well, I don’t want to make you mad so I won’t share what I truly think of places of worship.
I stayed in the prayer room a little longer listening to people’s prayers, pushing thoughts into their mind to help them find the answer to their prayers. I even bestowed blessings upon people.
When I felt like my body could handle touring the Vatican again, I got up. I walked out of the prayer room, passed the nun at the admittance area, and just felt this weight on my body, pulling me down. I leaned up against one of the columns and sat down. It was unreal how difficult of a time my body was having. It felt like life was being sucked right out of me.
A couple of tourists took it upon themselves to sit down next to me against the column. A guard came running up and told them to get up. They couldn’t sit there. He looked at me and said, “You, you are okay. You can sit there. Just rest.”
As I was sitting there, I saw an Asian priest hurriedly walking through the Basilica. I was astonished. I’d never seen an Asian priest before. So I decided to get up and follow him. I wanted to see how far I could get into the Vatican before I was stopped.
I followed him to the back of the Basilica and then stopped dead in my tracks.
Imagine standing in front of Death’s Door (this really exists at St. Peter’s Basilica) and realizing what is happening in that very moment that transcends human understanding. You are standing in Death’s throne room and he knows you are there.
When I realized what was going on, I started to bolt out of St. Peter’s. Then I turned back around, because I wasn’t sure. I took out my camera and started photographing Death’s Door. I needed proof that what I was seeing was what I was really seeing. [I’m telling you right now, not a single photograph came out. Not a single one.]
Then I saw him form next to Death’s Door. That was when I bolted for the front door.
Death himself followed me all the way to the front door, telling me a million things all at once (like God does). I looked around me as I made my way to the front door. I came to understand the fallacy of the Christian religion. He told me that they had no idea what they were doing by worshiping the dead. It gave him power and that was wrong. They had no idea how wrong they were. It was not the way things were supposed to be. It was disrespectful to God to give Death so much power by worshiping and praying to the dead.
I hadn’t noticed before while I was touring the Basilica, but there were dead popes all over the place and people were bowing down and praying to their corpses!
When I got to the front door, he told me I had to clean out my soul before it was too late. I took one step out the front door and I saw the guy that had hurt me worse than anyone had ever hurt me in my lifetime standing there on the other side of the gate. Of all the fucking places to run into him, I run into him at the Vatican in Italy.
I turned around and went back into the Basilica, thinking ‘What the Fuck?’ I had a choice. I could either run again or face my fears. I remembered when I was a kid, how I used to get up on the high dive, scared to death. I would stand at the edge and say to myself, just get it over with and jump. So I jumped.
I decided, if God put this guy here at the Vatican at the exact same time as me, it was time to talk to him. So I went back outside, ready to talk to him. He was standing there on the other side of the gates, looking right at me. A woman called from behind him and he turned his head. Then like seeing a haze lift, I saw that it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him at all.
I was so confused, I looked back towards the entrance to the Basilica and Death was standing there. He said, “Now you understand.”
What he was talking about was that I needed to forgive that guy for hurting me worse than anyone has ever hurt me and forgive myself for hurting him by walking away. Death wasn’t there to scare me. He was there to help me. He told me there are certain things you do not want to carry with you when you die. He had dug down deep into the bottom of my soul for that one.
He didn’t pick the guy that killed himself. He didn’t pick the soured relationship between me and my family. He chose him. I had to forgive him and myself for what happened. This was something I should not take with me in my soul when I die. It was a story that should never be repeated in any lifetime.
I was so exhausted from what had transpired, I sat down on the steps outside of the Basilica. Once again, the tourists took it upon themselves to take liberty and sit next to me. The guards came running over telling everyone to get up and leave…EXCEPT me. The guard told me I was fine. I could sit in the shade if I wanted to. There were 3 different guards that relayed that exact same message every single time tourists sat down next to me.
This is why I love the Catholics. They’re so nice.
I Speak in Tongues
The next day, I headed to Sorrento. I was sitting in a cafe when this old gypsy woman approached me asking for donations. I gave her 20 euros. She thanked me and then did a double take. She crossed herself a few times and immediately headed out of the cafe. She kept looking back at me a little scared.
She came back 15 minutes later with all of these charms and pictures of saints. She told me in Italian, “Death is following you.” I responded, “I know.”
She gave me the charms to help ward him off and explained what I should do to help keep Death at bay. I know college level first year Italian. My professor claimed that I was such a native speaker she thought I was lying when I said I didn’t know Italian prior to taking her class…and she was an Italian. [My Russian professor said the same thing about my Russian.] How I was able to communicate with this woman in Italian for a good 20 minutes, I have no idea. My Muslim friends tell me that every now and again I speak in Arabic to them. I don’t know Arabic except for a few choice words.
A friend of mine even witnessed me talking to a Palestinian woman in Arabic on the subway one time. When the lady left me, I blessed her and my friend and I went on our way. She said, “I had no idea you knew Arabic.” I replied, “I don’t.” She thought I was messing with her. I said, “Honestly, I don’t.”
She looked at me strange and said, “But I just witnessed you talking to her in Arabic.” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “She was telling me about her husband and how he had died in a bomb attack. They were sleeping when it hit the house and instantly killed him. She’s on her way to her in-laws in Queens.”
She told me that the conversation was not in English (like I thought it was). It was completely in Arabic.
[I believe this would be the equivalent to a modern day ‘speaking in tongues.’ To me, I hear what the soul is saying. The soul speaks a universal language. It is the same language no matter what language you speak. I may think I’m speaking in English to someone, but I’m really talking to their soul, so somehow it translates into the correct language. Which means that if you are speaking in a foreign language around me, chances are high I understand everything you are saying and can respond in your language.]
So back to the Italian gypsy lady. She told me Death was following me. I knew he was because I could feel him. St. Peter’s Basilica is Death’s Throne Room. That feeling like the life was being sucked right out of me…that was my spiritual side feeling Death himself nearby.
He followed me all over Italy that next week and then continued to follow me around until October 22, 2013. During that time, I came to terms with Death. I learned he was not to be feared. He was a friend. He was an uncle that cared about what was happening to me.
I knew the cancer had returned. I could feel it back then at the Vatican, but I refused to go and see the doctor because in 2008-2009 I spent the entire year going through medical testing, looking for the cancer. The signs were there. We just had to wait and see where it would appear. I also had surgery in 2008 and there were complications post-op. The doctors were trying to figure out what happened. The cancer was awakened thanks to that surgery.
After a year of medical testing, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was just too tired to keep doing it with no results. We were playing the waiting game. We were waiting to see where the cancer would show up.
In 2013, I returned to hockey writing and I was mad as hell. In my meditation, I yelled at God for that broken heart associated with giving up on a dream. He kept telling me I needed to see a doctor. There was something wrong. It wasn’t something I could fix. Only a doctor could fix it. He told me that during every single meditation.
By June, he had to scream it in my head during a meditation, so I booked an appointment to see my doctor. I told her exactly what the meditation was saying. I said to her in the exam room, “God told me in my meditation that there is something wrong with me. It is not something I can fix. Only a doctor can fix it.” She put what I said into the computer system, probably thinking me delusional and to circle back on that later. She told me to just go workout, start a diet, blah blah blah. Everything was okay.
Then the blood tests came back. The result: they found the tumor.
With each doctor I went to at Roosevelt after that, they all asked me again and again, “How did you know?” It’s like they had to hear me say it in order for them to believe it. Science isn’t meant to disprove that God does not exist…it is also meant to prove that God does exist.
During the final stages of my testing, the first doctor I saw during my nuclear testing asked me how I knew. I repeated the exact same words. “God said there is something wrong with me. It is not something I can fix. Only a doctor can fix it.” That doctor did not just want to hear me say it once. She needed to hear me say it again, just to make sure I was not crazy.
With each nuclear test I took that day, each doctor asked me how I knew. I repeated the same thing. In one of the longest part of the tests, the doctor ran out of the room to get the chief doctor to look at my tests. They were also talking about what I had said. I could hear one of them say, “There is no way she could have known about this.”
The technician sat there in the nuclear science lab with me looking at the screen, he turned to me and asked me (because he had heard the other doctors talking about it), “How did you know? There are no signs for this type of cancer. How did you know?”
I repeated the exact same words to him. I explained that the symptoms I was having could have been easily diagnosed as something simple like plantar’s fasciitis, or how I needed to workout more, etc. The blood test was what told us the tumor was there.
The technician sat there looking at me in disbelief. He was an Indian man. He told me that in his culture, they believe this stuff, but this was the first time in his life that he had ever witnessed someone say something like this and it ended up being completely accurate. There was something wrong with me. It was not something I could fix, only a doctor could.
How many men of science do you think changed their mind about God’s existence after meeting me that day?
Death Follows Me
I came to realize that what happened at St. Peter’s Basilica in front of Death’s Door had an even bigger meaning. I wasn’t just figuratively standing before Death’s Door, I was literally at death’s door and he had taken an interest in me that day. He followed me everywhere I went and I could feel him.
Over those two months of testing, the doctors told me to prepare for the worst. So I did. I got my affairs in order and on October 22, 2013, I walked into Roosevelt Hospital hoping that I’d live through this. I had said a prayer that morning when I arose. I asked God to let me live. If he were to let me live, my entire existence would be to live by his will. I would do what I was supposed to do (which is to complete the novels).
As I lie in the bed in the prep room, the team of doctors came in to talk to me to explain everything to me all the way down to explaining how they were filling my body with Gatorade (no joke). At one point, they left. I lay there waiting when I felt Death standing at the edge of my bed. He was happy and told me that he wasn’t there for me that day. He was there for someone else down the hall. “Surprise, you’re going to live!”
I have to say, the weight was lifted off of my shoulders. After the surgery, when I realized I was dreaming, I did a whole, “Fuck. I’m alive.” I heard a beeping noise and a nurse yelling at me to breathe. She told me to just concentrate on breathing. Deep breaths in and out.
I tried to come out of my haze and focus on my breathing. I saw Death standing there smiling saying, “See, I told you that you would live.” He then went on to explain to me that I was on borrowed time.
The Borrowed Time & the Storyline
That ‘borrowed time’ became prevalent in this dream I had last month. According to the dream, Death had taken pity on me and did something he wasn’t supposed to do. He gave me time…time to do what I was supposed to do…to make the dreams come true.
This is why the book is called “The Death Between Us.” This is truly about Death’s vested interest in giving me that borrowed time and what it all means.
Crowe’s role in the dream was not Death. He played the guy who loses the woman he loves. Death is the evil nemesis that steals from him the woman he loves. Death becomes the lover and the one that wipes her memories from her, so she would not only forget who she was, but forget who this man was and how she felt about him. Death is the one that causes the ultimate heart break.
So this whole Russell Crowe binge is about making sure that I continuously see the main character in my mind. Seeing the actor from the dream pushes me to keep on writing, because I am constantly thinking about the story.
One thing I would like is for all of my books to turn into movies. The books in my head are based on those prolific dreams I’ve had. Oddly enough, Crowe was in every single one of those dreams I’m writing about. Like I said, God likes to use Crowe as my spirit guide in my dreams. I’m not complaining. He’s nice to look at. Just saying.
I think perhaps the ultimate reason why Crowe plays out in every story is because if and when these books turn into films, perhaps Crowe will take an interest and be in every single one of these films. I mean, how many authors can say that when they wrote their books, Crowe was the main person in mind to play the lead male character? The character looks like him (something to keep in mind if you ever read the novels).
As for this particular story, I am not going to reveal who the actual person is that this story is really about. That is for him to choose to pick up the book and read it, if and when he is ready. This book is about his heart break. This is my way of explaining to him why his heart breaking was out of my control and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. What happened on October 22, 2013 made me forget who he was. When the memories returned, those feelings I had for him never returned.
It is hard watching someone’s heart break in front of you because he knows you no longer love him. This book is being written for him to understand that there was something much greater going on in the universe and it was not within his control. This is about learning to let her go.
I bet never in a million years did you ever expect me to say that the reason for the Russell Crowe binge was because of this. Now you know. It’s about the novel.