Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

This book was well-worth the wait!

I found it appropriate that I should read this book after the last book I just read.  Also, I found it interesting that it took place 100 years after the last book and showed that these issues were still, well, issues. 

This is a fictitious book, but it's based on how things were once upon a time (and still probably are, in some areas, unfortunately).  It switches between the points of view of two black women and a white woman.  The two negro women are maids for white folk, and are asked by the white woman to give an account of what it's like being a maid for white people for a book she's endeavoring to write.  The white woman, Skeeter being the name she goes by, also gets the stories from more black women.  She surprised to find that they're not all bad.  I really don't think I can do this book justice by telling you what it's about.  It's probably a fairly accurate dipiction of what life was like in the south in the early 1960's, for black woman and white woman.  What I can say is it's full of emotion, so enjoyable to read, and is one I'm going to own in the future - that's how good it is. 

I waited two months for it to become available at my local library - and I'm glad I did.  I'll be seeing the movie, but I would recommend reading the book, first, as the book usually is better.  :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers, by Jean Fritz

Between my computer breaking, the book I finally got from the library that I couldn't wait to start and have hardly been able to put down since, and life, I'm just now getting this review done.  I finished last Saturday, so it hasn't been too long. 

I was one of the people who vaguely knew who this woman was, knew that she had written a book (Uncle Tom's Cabin - on my list of to read) that I may or may not have read once upon a time in Junior High, and that's about it.  I thought she was African-American - that's how little I knew about her.  I wanted an autobiography or biography to read while I waited for the above mentioned book, and I couldn't be happier that I chose this one.

Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the era of the Civil War.  She was raised by a well-known preacher who wanted his sons to be preachers, too, since daughters weren't good for much outside of marrying them off or them becoming teachers.  Harriet felt oppressed by this her whole life, felt there was fire burning within her that she didn't know what to do about, since her options were so limited.  She married and had kids, just like any woman should've done in those days, and even became a teacher at the insistence of her oldest sister.  This never made her happy - in fact, she was prone to depression, like most of her family.

She always opposed slavery, but didn't become an actual abolitionist until later in her life.  She helped with the finances by writing articles for the media.  Then she got an idea of writing something that helped the fire she felt burning within - a book about slavery.  It started as magazine articles that she couldn't get published fast enough, because her readers longed for the next edition.  She used fictional characters that were based on people she'd met and based the events in the book on stories she's heard from people, both black and white, over the years of her life.  The book was an instant success in both America and England.  She was very well-known in that time period for this book and her views as well as her speeches (that were delivered by men, since it was considered improper for a woman to speak to the masses), although a lot of people in the South, after realizing what the book was about, didn't like her.  She was an advocate of Abraham Lincoln, but only after she met him personally to make sure he really would sign the Emancipation Proclamation like he said he would. 

She and her family played huge roles in the Civil War.  This woman is my new hero, next to Mother Teresa.  She rocked the literary world and lived a stellar life.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a quick book, one that tells an excellent story about an excellent woman. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

About Alice, by Calvin Trillin

I love books that are written by real people telling their real stories.  This book was a short biography of sorts written by a grieving husband about his late wife, Alice.

He touches on the details of her personality, things he cherished about her... things, I'm sure, every wife wishes her husband would notice (and love) about her.  :)  He quite obviously loved every bit of her, from her outer beauty to her inner stubbornness.  She was a hopeless (or hopeful?) optimistic, a wonderful mother, a well-rounded, talented person with a desire and ability to touch the lives of others.  Alice was diagnosed with lung cancer in her early years, only to be given a 25 year grace period to see her daughters both married.  She had a sweet and realistic outlook on life and was able to always see the best in things.  She was never shy about expressing her opinion, no matter the number of feathers it might ruffle.  Her husband painted a nice little picture of her; a small glimpse, I'm sure.  I have to wonder if this was part of his grieving process... Either way, it was just nice to read about a small portion of this woman the world is now without.  She died from cardiac arrest, her heart being damaged by the radiation treatment she received.  But she died happy, seemingly satisfied with the life she'd lived.  I'm sure her family and friends feel equally blessed to have had her apart of theirs.

An Interview with Anna Deskins

I've been fortunate enough to be found by this new and up-and-coming author, Anna Deskins.  She's interviewed me about my blog and life as a mommy, and now I'm going to post my interview with her.  :) 
Your children's book, The Adventures of Smitty looks magical. Tell us about it.
It's the story of a magical island of little creatures called Smilies and the mischievous little main character, Smitty. He's such a naughty boy. Haha! All the moms and kids I've shared it with have been giving me such a wonderful reaction. I cannot believe it. I have to tell you how excited I am to finally have a life-long dream come true. Writing The Adventures of Smitty was really about finding a story that I would want to read to my children at night. It has to be exciting but not scary so that my two daughters can go to sleep. Basically, I was looking for that perfect blend to read to my kids at night and decided, "Why not try writing my own?"
We've had a lot of changes in our life recently, so I want to make sure that when I put my daughters to sleep that they feel safe. I have short chapters because I know how busy we moms are but if you can just sacrifice 5 minutes at night reading to your kids, it makes a world of difference. Your kids will never forget it. And although we're running around the whirlwind of life, our kids grow up so fast, and that time that we'd rather finish watching what happened in our favorite soap opera instead of reading to our kids will never come again. I hope that The Adventures of Smitty and books like it help moms do exactly that.
And it's only 99 cents this week. That's what I love about it. Now, You are recently divorced. How have you been able to continue writing when going through such a change?
Yes, it is by far one of the most challenging points in my life. To see a marriage you thought would last forever to not last forever was difficult for the two of us. I really learned a lot about myself and most importantly, it's brought me closer to my daughters. I think that's what really motivated me to finish this children's book no matter what. When you're going through changes in your life like this, you need something to hold on to. There's a part of you that wants to prove that you can make it, that you will be a success even if it's not with the partner you originally imagined building a life with. I had to keep writing, for my kids. I want to show them that they have to keep strong, no matter what.
We as women, as moms really need to stick together to support each other and our dreams. We're living in an age when I think we're finally realizing, although we want love, the men in our life aren't the answer to everything. We have to stand up on our own two feet and keep going. True love will happen, but until then, we have to keep moving forward. Our children depend on us and we depend on us.
In addition to being a children's book author, you're also a small business owner. How do you juggle taking care of two daughters and at the same time running a business?
Yes, I am a fashion designer and have a retail store. Any type of creativity is what I'm passionate about. That's why writing The Adventures of Smitty was so important to me. Let me tell you, running a small business in today's economy isn't easy especially when raising two girls at the same time. But somehow, it seems someone's watching over me because my dreams are coming true no matter what. To have that many moms glowing about my children's book, means so much to me. And I know my girls are proud.
When do you ever have time to write?
You mean, in between laundry, running a business, chasing my girls around the house, cleaning the house, and flying back and forth from Miami to New York? Haha! That's one thing I've learned, when you really want to do something, you find a way. Things fall into place if you just go for it and that's what I want to encourage all the moms who are reading this right now. Whatever your goal is, you can do it. Don't let the challenges in your personal life stop you from going for your dreams. Just go for it and it's almost magical how things fall into place.
Where can we get a copy of "The Adventures of Smitty"?
Right now, it's available online by going to: You can also visit my website: where you can read more about my writing process, my recommendations for other books and my own adventures in Mommyhood.
I'm so grateful for your support and the support I'm getting from so many wonderful moms who dream of writing children's books one day too. Writing The Adventures of Smitty has been such an emotional experience for me, a true journey as I was going through so many changes while writing it. It's truly been a blessing in my life. It, along with my daughters, and that guy upstairs have really pulled me through a challenging time.
Thanks for the interview, Anna. And let's go out and support a fellow mom by getting a copy of The Adventures of Smitty today. I know I will!

Darth Paper Strikes Back, by Tom Angleberger

Our library had this when I placed it on hold, but I didn't want to wait for them to tell me it was ready so I just went and got it.  :)

This one was as equally entertaining as the last one... with an unexpected ending.  :)

Harvey was the antagonist in the first book, always making claims that Origami Yoda wasn't real, that he was just a wad of paper.  This book is another "case file"; stories put together to help a cause.  The cause was Dwight (the creator of Origami Yoda in the first book) and his potential to get kicked out of school.  The kids who've come to know him as an ok guy instead of just the weirdo they thought he was have put together some letters to the school board in attempt to keep him in school with them.  Harvey and his Darth Paper seem to be against the plan the whole time, always adding rude comments or pointing out the bad things about Dwight.  Convinced that the school board will see Harvey's point over Dwight's new friends', Tommy presents his case to the school board, anyway. 

Will they let Dwight stay in school or send him to the reform school for naughty kids? Guess you'll have to read it to find out! ;)

I'm assuming by some slight indication at the end of the book that there are more to come - which I'm very pleased to assume because these have been fun books that I'm so glad my kids have the chance to add to their brain's library.  :) I recommend sharing them with your kids, too!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

My son brought this home from his school library - he said there was a long waiting list of kids who wanted to read it.

I read the inside cover and thought it sounded funny, so I read it.  :)

It was pretty funny! It's about a kid (Tommy), who is in 6th grade and is having a debate over whether or not Origami Yoda is real.  Sure, he's "real", but does he really have the wisdom he's been giving advice to kids with? Or is Dwight (the creator of the finger puppet, and, coincidentally, biggest weirdo in the 6th grade) smarter and wiser than people think? The book is a conglomeration of other kids' experiences with Origami Yoda, all compiled to create a sort of case file.  The gist of it is, you ask Yoda a question and he gives you an answer.  An answer that is usually a very good one.

The big question Tommy is debating on asking, is why he compiled other people's experiences, in the first place.  Does Sara like him? (heehee)

If you want to know what Yoda had to say about that, you'll have to read it for yourself.  ;)

It's a very cute book that I'm very glad my son read because it actually has some non-obnoxious lessons in it, plus, it's just good, clean fun.  :)  I prefer this one over Diary of a Wimpy Kid, any day.

We currently have on hold at our local library, "Darth Paper Strikes Back".  Should be fun! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

I so love this book! I read it a long time ago and was given a copy by a friend.  Since I'm still waiting my turn for a couple books at the library, I decided to re-read it.

If you've never read this book, I highly recommend it. 

It takes place in 1964, during the whole Civil Rights Act era.  Lily is a girl who's lost her mother by an accidental shooting she caused, lives with a father who treats her badly, and is being raised by her negro nanny, Rosaleen.  When Rosaleen's arrested for defending herself against the typical racism of that day and age, Lily breaks her free after running away and the two follow clues to a town she believes her mother once visited, once upon a time.

There, she not only finds herself, but also finds the love of mothers in unlikely places.  She falls in love, learns about her mother's past, experiences death of a loved one for the second time in her life, and learns the art of beekeeping. 

It's a beautiful story filled with love, laughter, tears, anger and forgiveness.  I'm glad I already own my very own copy because this is definitely a book I'll be re-reading, again, in the future.  :)