Monday, January 23, 2017

New Year 2017

Happy New Year! 

Yikes, it's already the middle of January and I am just getting around to blogging. I am committed to blogging more about the books I have been reading. I also want to share more of my reviews. 2017 is going to be amazing and I am thrilled to share it all here.


I am excited to share, that the Longhorn Leaders from our Abilene Middle School came to our school today, for a character education day. Sharing Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss and connecting this story to citizenship. They did amazing and the students really enjoyed the fun.

Research Papers

First graders are working on their very first research paper in the library. They select an animal book, read the book, share 3 facts that they read about their animal with a friend (in their own words), then show their buddy where they found that fact in their book. We then go to the tables and begin filling out our graphic organizers.

What Am I Reading?

I decided to step up and make an extra effort to read more this year. I'm on a roll, I have been reading a lot lately and I'm hoping to keep up the effort. I have read 6 books since January 1st and I'm currently reading my 7th book. I am going to post my reviews here.

My first book of the year:

 Two By Two

By Nicholas Sparks

 I read all of Nicholas Sparks books, I am very happy to have picked up Two by Two, it kept me reading into the night until I had finished it. With that being said it wasn't my most favorite of his books to be sure, but I did like it.

It is narrated by Russell,  husband to Vivian and father of London. He is a wonderful father, but somehow his relationship with Vivian has been in a bit of free fall, without his awareness. He is a romantic, a people pleaser,  he is always trying to give her what she wants and has started to fail miserably. 

Vivian is a character I didn’t like at all and that’s putting it mildly. We never hear her point of view, but what she says and does and what others observe, rounds her out somewhat. She seems irresponsible to me and really selfish. I got annoyed with Russ for not standing up to her more, in a way he enables her in her ways, always believing in the love he has for her.

This is a book about fatherhood, both Russell’s own Dad and his pleasure in his own daughter, London. He has delighted in everything about her since birth, and when Vivian goes back to work, his more hands on parenting is heartwarming. Its a beautiful relationship to watch.

Russ has a sister Marge, who has a partner Liz and both are very much part of the the family. Russ has an excellent relationship with Marge, they have shared much and Marge is often that friend and voice of wisdom and love.

As well there is Emily, a woman who Russ loved at one time, now divorced with a son that London has become friends with. Russ and Emily slowly renew their friendship as their children’s lives touch.

Russ has some rather tough things thrown at him, however he doesn’t crumble, because he has a strength within that helps him to keep putting one step in front of the other, and also placing other people first. He is able to listen and take on board the support and advice he is given. One step at a time when things just keep getting worse he moves through it.

There is sadness and loss, big loss but it is balanced by the love of family and friends and renewed love. The power of two by two, rather than descending into loneliness.

 3 Stars

The Marriage Lie

By Kimberly Belle

Let me say right away that this story grabbed me in the first chapter and never let go. It's about a couple, Iris and Will, who are very happily married for 7 years. They celebrate their 7 year anniversary and decide to begin a family. The next day the husband, Will is supposed to go to a conference in Florida. There are a series of events that don't add up. After her husband, Will's death, Iris begins to investigate whether her husband, Will, is the man she thought she knew. This story is full of twists and turns and it leaves you guessing, quite literally until the very end. I loved it.
5 Stars

The Girls By Emma Cline

 I absolutely loved the cover of this book. So much fun. I read the blurb on this story and it instantly reminded me of Charles Manson and the Tate murders.  I was excited to read this and I have to say I felt transported to 1969.

At 14, Evie's parents have recently divorced. Her father has a new girlfriend, and her mother is dating a variety of men. Neither parent was paying any attention to Evie. Her best friend wasn't either. The only woman at that party who looked exciting was her dad's girlfriend. She was sexy with cool clothes. Evie knew she should hate her dad for cheating, but...she didn't. Evie began to fantasize about her father with his girlfriend. We not only could see the longing Evie has for attention but love, she no longer feels safe to her. She was angry at her mother and angry that her dad left.

Being 14, angry, and lonely, can lead one down a dangerous path. The year is 1969, the cornerstone for drugs, sex, and rock-in-roll. Evie gets mixed up with a cult. The Leader manipulates his followers into a dark world of violence.

 I'm familiar with the Charles Manson and Sharon Tate story which this novel is loosely based on but the books strength ( besides fresh, intimate, and addictive), is the authors ability to understand teen chaotic years of vulnerability and curiosity. The author points to the fact that Evie did not know when things exactly went wrong in her life. I took value from Evie's unspoken words. Some of  her inner thoughts just before she joined the cult. It's not that we haven't read about angry or sad 'coming-of-age' girls before...but Emma Cline touches on areas where many books don't go. Which made me feel a bit uncomfortable at times.

3 1/2 Stars

Missing Pieces

By Heather Gudenkauf

 How well do you know your spouse? After twenty years of marriage, Sarah Quinlan discovers secrets about her husband that rock her world.

Missing Pieces, takes you on a twisty roller coaster of a ride. Jack Quinlan’s Aunt Julia is critically injured in a fall, Jack and Sarah leave their home in Montana and rush to Jack’s hometown of Penny Gate, Iowa, to be by Julia’s side. After Jack’s parents died in a traffic accident when he was a teenager, Julia and her husband Hal had taken in Jack and his sister Amy and raised them as their own. Why has Jack been so reluctant to return to his hometown all these years?

As Sarah  meets some of Jack's family members for the first time and renews acquaintances with others, Sarah gets a sinking suspicion that Jack has been hiding things from her. She soon learns that not only has he been lying about his mother’s death, he has been covering up much more.

Despite a number of problems with the characters and some of the circumstances, I really enjoyed this book overall.
3 stars

A Wrinkle In Time

By Madeleine L'Engle

This book is one, that can transport me. When I was 10 years old I read it for the first time and I felt like nothing was impossible. It made me realize that with wisdom came strength. Strength to overcome, to carry on and to achieve, and of course a battle between good and evil. I love this book and no matter how many times I read it, I come away with the same feelings. 

As many know the manuscript for this book was rejected by many publishers, who believed its content would be too advanced for young readers. And now, fifty years later, this book frequently finds its way onto “banned” and “challenged” books lists. It contains descriptions of multi-dimensional travel right alongside biblical passages. 

But to me, a child of the 70's (when I read it), it was profound and enlightening and it spoke to me in a way adults spoke to each other. It conveys a bundle of important life concepts without getting weighed down by them.  As an adult it reminds us the critical importance of faith, as we deal with some difficult and harsh realities.

This is a children’s adventure with in a science fictional setting. The story is centered around a strong, smart girl named Meg, and her intuitive and wise younger brother, Charles Wallace. Their relationship is so brutally honest, kind and loving.

It will always be 5 stars for me.

The Whistler

By John Grisham

  The Whistler is a tale of  corruption. Corruption so profound and well hidden that it lasts decades and involves an entire Native American tribe. Going deep into how the organization of a Native American tribe and the federal laws that allow gambling on the tribes land works. I was glued to the edge of my seat.

It all begins with a tip as to a corrupt judge who allegedly is skimming money, along with the help of the little known Coast Mafia, from a casino on Native American land.  Lacy Stoltz, a lawyer who works for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, who gets the tip based on a complaint of a Florida judge. It is the informant's goal to earn a large fee under the whistler statute for providing a tip that leads to the recovery of money from the corruption.

 Lacey and her partner, Hugo, are presented with several problems; First can they believe the informant? A person who refuses to be identified and who has only reached them through an unknown intermediary's counsel, who goes by the very common name of "Greg Myers." Myers fully admits that he has a criminal record and was at one point disbarred for his past transgressions.  Myers also seems to live beyond his means and constantly on the run on his expensive boat. Can Myers be trusted? Even if he can, Lacey's normal line of work involves sanctioning judges who commit small infractions, not organized crime. When she suggests that Myers take his complaint to the FBI, he absolutely refuses. Stating he will never work with the FBI. Just who is telling the truth and who is corrupt in this story? And the deeper Lacey digs the more dangerous the situation gets when it becomes clear that someone wants to silence her investigation. Can she stay safe when she has no formal law enforcement training to guide her?

This story was gripping but not my favorite Grisham novel.

3 stars

My Secret Sister Swap

I can't believe it is time to sign up again for the OTSP Secret Sister Project. This is a project that the ladies over at The Girls On The Same Page have created a 6 month swap with book lovers, bloggers and the like. This is my 4th round and I am very excited to be in connection with these ladies. I truly appreciate the friendships I have created.  

Happy Reading,
Tula Shamhart