Tuesday, October 30, 2018


There is no shortage of books to read. This is just one pile--I do try to keep my library books separate so as not to incur fines. Somehow I don't mind them though...I'm always dropping in a couple of bucks into the Friends box because I always manage to find books I want to buy and keep. The latest was The Cat Who Came in off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt (translated by David Colmer). What a find! I saw the movie--Miss Minou--that it's based on and loved it. Highly recommend it to all cat lovers. It's rare to see such charming adult characters in a children's book. I'd not known about this author until I found the book. She is the Dutch Queen of Children's Literature.

I'll come back to this list again but first I want to mention the books on my Kindle that I've enjoyed very much. It's easy to forget about them because they aren't taking up physical space. I have a paperwhite that's easy on the eyes and I often read it in bed (without disturbing Michael).

No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler is a book I kept putting off because of those library books. What an interesting story about a Chamorro boy whose path intersects with that of a Japanese straggler on the island of Guam. This is based on a true story (that of the Japanese soldier who did not surrender at the end of WWII but instead lived undetected on Guam for nearly 30 years). I've read about Japanese honor and pride and it pained me to feel his anguish and shame. The author has excellent command of the research and weaves a tale in alternating voices of what it means to forgive, how the sorrows of war don't end for many. I especially enjoyed a story set in a culture I don't know much about but the family values are universal--taking care of one another, especially the elderly, boys becoming men, and friendship. I was surprised to learn that Kiko and his family and community were Catholic. 

Christine Kohler also has a writing book--Words Alive! Christian Writers' Skills and Prompts--that's a real gem. I've not done all the exercises but she uses examples from Scripture to guide a writer to explore poetry and prose. Given this is a teaching guide, I would've preferred a paperback. I hope she will make one. It is a perfect addition to any writing curriculum in a Christian home or school.  

I really loved You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins. I know lots of writers who are putting the cart before the horse, who do not invest the time in the craft but are eager to publish and with self-publishing becoming easier and easier, there is a temptation to rush into it. This book is a wonderful little gem that reminds you to focus first on the craft and then take it to market. Learn by doing. And what comes first is Writing! You can't miss this advice for 99 cents.

Praying for Your Special Needs Child by David and Mercedes Rizzo is a book that helps you to not only pray for and appreciate your special needs child but is full of practical advice for maintaining calm when chaos threatens, dealing with the needs of all your children when one needs so much more, dealing with doctors, schools, and other people who have a part in caring for your child. The Rizzos are unflinchingly honest, sharing many examples from their own lives. It is a book that will bring peace as parents learn to abandon themselves to God's Holy Will. Highly recommended.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins was such a joy to read. Isn't the cover gorgeous?!!! It's written in alternating voices of two sisters, and their daughters. So much resonated because I, too, arrived in the US as a teenager and there was so much to learn living in a culture so different than my own, balancing my dreams with expectations of my family, discovering who I really was. I've loved Mitali's books for a looooong time now and so happy she dipped into her own past to write this book. Brew a cup of tea and enjoy! The title is from a Tagore poem and it really tells you how to honor your heritage when you are caught in the middle. 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was a book I did not want to read. There's so much hate in this world and to have a book with "hate" in the title was a total turnoff. But my roommate at the Carolinas conference, Becky Shillington, said it was a powerful book. Indeed it is. And timely too with the Black Lives Matter movement. I had very mixed feelings about this because I do not like books with so much profanity. I don't mind a well-placed f- or sh- bomb. However, the lives the author depicts are incredibly violent so I'm not surprised that this is the result. I've never had to see a best friend killed, yet, Starr, the main character has lost two friends in her short life. It is tragic. What occurs after the grand jury delivers its verdict is terrible. I remember so well the riots in LA back in the 90s and can say that nothing good has come out of rioting. You cannot fight evil with evil. It only escalates the cycle of violence and retribution. There are no easy answers. However, I have hope. I was very happy to see portrayals of intact black families and what a positive difference they make in the lives of their children. We need to do everything we can to strengthen the family. As the family goes, so goes society. 

In contrast, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, despite its bleakness is joyful. It comes from his mother, a most unconventional woman, who passed on her can-do attitude to Trevor. What a woman! I loved this book so much; his mother reminded me so much of my own, in her devotion, her no nonsense attitude, her love. I liked the way the book was organized--in between his personal recollections, he gives a little history lesson, some context. It was a crime for him to even exist! He compares apartheid to the American practice of "forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation. Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid."

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty was such a fun book to read, with the typical obstacles that middle-school children face, except Lucy isn't very typical at all. She's a math whiz, homeschooled by her grandmother, who is forcing her to attend school for a year before Lucy embarks on a college career. I thought it especially cruel, yet Lucy not only rises to the occasion but surpasses her grandmother's wishes. There's also cool math stuff... The author is an engineer-turned-writer and has numerous picture books and chapter books out but this is her first middle-grade novel. I had a chance to see Stacy in action at the Carolinas conference. She is lightning fast on her feet and her team (paired with a librarian) won the pyramid game designed by Alan Gratz! Fun, fun, fun.

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw is a beautifully crafted tale based on the author's mother's time in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped. Again, we get a window into Japanese culture through the eyes of 12-year-old Yuriko and the incredible resilience of these people who went through unimaginable sorrow seeing everything decimated. Yet, life finds a way to go on as exemplified by the cherry blossom. The first-person narrative is lovely, so un-American. Yuriko is polite, even when annoyed by her little cousin-brother. There is also a family secret woven in, which I found fascinating. Japanese pride and honor again take center stage when the women consider committing suicide rather than fall into American hands. Oh how I wanted to wrap Yuriko in a blanket to preserve her from the horror of war, and to tell her how much Jesus loves her. I first met Kathleen at the Carolinas conference six or seven years ago. She'd won a prize for this same manuscript so what joy to see it turn into a book! 


Faith E. Hough said...

My goodness! That is an impressive pile and list!!

Interesting to hear your take on The Hate U Give. I've wanted/not wanted to read it for ages, if that makes sense. :/ Having struggled on and off with anxiety, I'm becoming more and more conscious about the words I take in. I can only read something so heavy when it's sandwiched between some extremely joyful, inspiring, and preferably funny books. But I've been told it's a very important and meaningful book, so I should probably prepare myself the fluffy white sandwich bread books and go for it...

Mirka Breen said...

My to-be-read pile never seems to shrink... I don't know how you do it. I am very drawn to the cat book you recommend on top. Cats are my healers in times of trouble and my troublemakers when I'm healed.

Vijaya said...

Faith, I get the desire to read/not read a particular book. If I were in a vulnerable place, I wouldn't be reading Hate. I felt assaulted at times and if that was the author's intention, she succeeded. By the way, Francisco Stork's Disappeared is similar in its intensity but without the extreme profanity. I think you'll enjoy it far more. Hate is gritty, no question. And if you can believe me, Born a Crime made me laugh so many times. There's not a trace of sentimentality. I loved it.

Mirka, I think it's an occupational hazard with us. I have told myself, no more book buying until I make a serious dent in my kindle books. And you will love the cat book!!! They truly are healers.

Caroline McAlister said...

Nice post. Thanks! i enjoyed finding out what you are reading.

Vijaya said...

Thanks for visiting Caroline.

Carolyn Astfalk said...

Great reading roundup! I'd love for you to link it to my An Open Book post at my blog and at CatholicMom. Your book Unbound is included in my roundup this month!


Vijaya said...

Thank you Caroline. I'll link it up.