Nonfiction, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

October Reading

Apparently, I haven’t taken my own good advice lately, because what I’ve read in the past month has equaled not much. My blogging time has been taken up with the 31 Days of Picture Books and I’ve had a blast with it. I have managed to squeeze in a few adult reads, though.

The Silver StarAt the beginning of the month I  read The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls. This novel was an interesting combination of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Glass Castle, Walls’s first book, a bestselling memoir. Here’s the plot summary of The Silver Star from goodreads.com:

It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

Jeannette Walls, supremely alert to abuse of adult power, has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.

The Silver Star reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird because of two child characters, Bean and her cousin, and because of the unfairness of the small town’s judicial system. Though the issues brought up don’t have much to do with race, they have a lot to do with gender and social status equality. I enjoyed the characters, though I thought them a bit to reminiscent of the main characters in The Glass Castle. The book also had that run down mill town feel that is so poignantly portrayed in Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. It’s as if you get a peek into what Empire Falls looked like before everything shut down. Walls does a good job of drawing a reader into her writing by putting flesh on her characters. However, this book was my least favorite of hers because the plot was a tad too predictable. Still, I read it cover to cover in three days and I think most people who like Walls’s work will enjoy The Silver Star.

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and RedemptionI also read Kisses From Katie as part of my 7 Challenge to learn more about poverty stricken countries. Katie Davis writes about her experiences as a very young woman who goes to Uganda for a few months after graduating from high school and cannot see herself staying away ever again. The book is both heartbreaking and heart-swelling. It’s heartbreaking to not just suspect or vaguely hear about Ugandans’ hardships but to really know what life is like for them. It’s important to know, but it’s heartbreaking.  It is heart-swelling to see that one young woman can make so much of a difference if she will stop saying “someone else” and start saying “Me. I will love one person and one more person and bandage one person and one more person and do what I can. Even if it’s never enough, I will do what I can because that’s all I can do and that’s what I must do.” (paraphrase). You must read it, not as a fine piece of literature, but as a bolster for your belief in what one person (read: you) can change if you try. I am so challenged and changed by this book.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Finally, I just finished the Young Adult favorite, Alanna: The First AdventureThis book was written in 1983 by Tamora Pierce, but somehow it didn’t show up on my wide book radar until I started this blog and saw it on so many Top Ten Tuesday lists. I quickly learned that Alanna is a favorite heroine of many book loving girls. And since my real life name is only one letter away from Alanna, I had to read it for myself. (If your curious about why I go by Mia on this blog, check out the About Me page). I put it on my to-read list and then October came. October is historically a month when I crave a good fantasy adventure book. Last October, I discovered The Hero and The Crown and thoroughly enjoyed it. The year before that, it was Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I think I can trace this feeling that Fall means fantasy adventure books back to when I read the Lord of The Rings trilogy in the fall lo those many years ago. But that would be way to nerdy to admit. Anyway, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t love Alanna. I liked it okay, but I’m afraid I missed the boat when I was twelve or thirteen that would have sailed me into Tamora Pierce fandom. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading the rest of the series! Because it’s October, and adventurous fantasy stories are akin to October (write that down).

Now I’m reading Rump: The True Story of RumpelstiltskinSo far, it’s much grimmer than I thought it would be. We all know how the fairy tale ends, so I’m hoping there’s some kind of twist that will make this poor boy Rump into a hero after all. Rumpelstiltskin as a character has always unnerved me. I think the writing style of Liesl Shurtlief is very similar to Shannon Hale’s–pointed and carries the story along at a good pace–but I wish it were a wee bit more descriptive. I’m interested to see how the author weaves the brief mentions of other fairy tales into Rumpelstiltskin’s story. Expect a full review soon.

How’s your October reading going?

7 Challenge

7 Challenge, Month 2

It’s Month 2 of my 7 Challenge. I crafted this 7 Challenge along the lines of Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. You can read my review of the book and what my modified 7 challenge includes here.

Food Month Is Done…Sort Of

Month 1 was all about reconstructing my thoughts about food. Jen Hatmaker picked 7 foods to eat for four weeks. I picked 7 poverty stricken countries and ate like the people in those countries for one day each. Except…I only finished five of the countries. But I’m making up the rules in this challenge, and I see no reason why I can’t overlap and do two more countries while I’m in the midst of the second month. Here’s to ultimate control.

It was hard look at reality as I pried open my half shut eyes to really see how little so many people have. The realization has intensely affected my thinking. For example, the only TV show I follow (unless Downton Abbey is on) is The Biggest Loser. I used to love watching those contestants defeat their food addictions and other demons and move toward a healthy lifestyle. Last week, I watched the Season 16 premier and could hardly stand it. How do we as Americans and people from other wealthy countries allow ourselves to stay so blind? To not share our vast food supply? I know, I’ve rolled my eyes when “do-gooders” have talked about “those starving Africans,” too. And I’m ashamed of that. Because the difference between what we have and what the poor in other countries have is ridiculous. Yes, we have our food hardships in America, even if they are the polar opposite of many countries’ food challenges. I don’t want to belittle North American health struggles, because I struggle to eat healthfully as much as the next American. I simply don’t think our struggles would be so hard if we realized how little others have. And it’s not like now that I’m aware of the suffering, I’m all of a sudden cutting our grocery bill in half and giving all kinds of money away. It’s not that easy. But I wish it could be.

Uganda is Calling

Kisses from Katie | Paperback EditionThe country I ache for most right now is Uganda. I learned more about this country through reading Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis. Davis went to Uganda on a short term missions trip and found it impossible to leave. She couldn’t say ‘no’ to the orphans she knew needed her. I know all of us can’t leave everything and adopt 14 children at age 19, but I am inspired by her do something attitude and her love for her Lord and His people. I find myself asking, “what am I doing that matters in my culture? In this world?” I hope to figure this out sooner rather than later. I don’t have answers yet, but a desire to do more is stirring inside of me.

It’s clear something is stirring because we were about $50 under budget for groceries last month. People, that is no small feat. Part of that is because we were out of town for a few days, and part of it was from my eating way less 5 days out of the month. So I will be able to give a donation to Hunger Relief International, which makes those faint-feeling days totally worth it.

LOVE | Red NecklaceAnd while I can’t snap my fingers and adopt all the orphans of the world, I can support orphans and impoverished families in Uganda very easily. You can, too! Check out the shop that Katie Davis’s ministry, Amazima, runs. They provide training and materials to a very poor group of Ugandans who are refugees from the northern part of the country. These people are often in abject poverty. With the help of Amazima, women are able to feed and clothe their children honestly by creating necklaces and other jewelry. And it’s beautiful!

If you don’t find something you like at the Amazima shop, try Kanzi, a division of Pearl Ministries. My husband’s cousin worked with this ministry and I can tell you that I’ve seen the jewelry in person and it’s gorgeous. There are also many little handmade items like this adorable wooden giraffe that would make great gifts for the holidays.

Moving On: Month 2

Month 2 is a challenge focused on clothes. This is a two-part challenge. Part 1 is sorting through my clothes and giving away as much as possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this part of my 7 challenge starts at the same time the weather is turning cold here. It’s time for me to switch out my summer clothes for winter, and it’s a perfect time to help those in need prepare for the cold season. My extra clothes will go to an organization just down the street from us called Sharing God’s Love that provides needy families with food and clothing.  (I wanted to contribute my extra clothes to refugees or women’s shelters, but the organizations here don’t take clothing).

Part 2 of the clothes challenge is to not buy any clothing for myself for three months. I began the no shopping part of this challenge on September 19th, so I’m already a month into it. For someone who thinks she doesn’t like to shop, this challenge is proving a lot harder than expected. I promised myself at the end of winter last year that this would be the year I would buy some good boots, really dark jeans, colored corduroys..I was reckless with my promises to myself. While I’m still wishing I had bought boots in August before starting this challenge, I’m learning a lot as I wait. One of the things I’m reminded of is that (a) I don’t need as much as I think I do and (2) once I determine what I really do need, I should go for quality. I am a sucker for rock bottom prices. Anyone got good recommendations for quality boots at a decent price? I’ll be in the market for some on December 19th. =)

So I’ll be cleaning out my closet this week and may even post some pictures of the process. Brace yourself. I encourage you to think about what you need and don’t need in your closet. How could you bless people who really do need what you have but don’t use? There’s a balance between beauty and just too much stuff, and I’m looking for it right now. Won’t you join me?

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