To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is a riveting account of the westward trek of 19th century pioneers told from the perspective of 19 year old Mary Ann Graves, one of the Donner Party survivors.  Written in verse, this is a story of the young woman and her family as they make the treacherous journey west in 1846. Working together or not, decisions good and bad all influence the outcome of this fantastic adventure and the fates of many brave families.  By focusing on one member of the Donner party, the author makes one of the most mysterious episodes in American history come to life.

Mary’s family later joined up with a wagon train led by George Donner. Together they continued heading towards California, certain the trip would only take a few more months by taking a short cut. If they had known of the dangers and the cost to their families that lay on the road ahead after they became lost for 32 days, they would all have stayed in Illinois…

Mary’s account of the horrors of their trip, which included death, starvation, freezing cold and mountainous terrain, will transfix readers. One hundred and seventy years later, all that they faced are brought to life in poetic verse.

The writing was as beautiful as it was dark.  The research that went into this is was impressive, and the intimacy and intensity of the verse is absolutely captivating. As you near the inevitable pages that have become fabled in history, you will sense the desperation of the men and women on this journey. It’s an unflinching story of death and survival.

The Trees by Ali Shaw

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is the first book that I would EVER want to read over and over again.  First, we need to pause and admire this amazing cover.  It has so much meaning to me now that I’ve finished the book, but prior, it was what incited me to indulge in the story it held behind it.  The book is quite hefty being close to 500 pages, but I promise you that you won’t even notice.  Reading this was a journey; at times light, and at others so heavy I felt myself shrinking into the couch. I loved every minute of it.

In the dead of night, without any warning, they came.  The trees.  They came without remorse for what damage was to come or who would be in the way of their rapid eruption from the earth.  The aftershock of creaks and groans were heard then, the sound of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins… Why had they come.  What did they want?

The story seemed to revolved around Adrien Thomas, a man who in the beginning you think will not ever be able to make it in this abruptly “new” world but he has no choice once he realizes that help isn’t coming.  His wife Michelle is thousands of miles away in Ireland, across the sea and Adrien has no way of knowing whether she is alive or if the trees had come for her too.

On his way out of his destroyed town he meets Hannah and her son Seb.  Although Adrien would prefer to travel alone, Hannah will not have it.  Her and Seb are setting out as well to reunite with her brother who lives in the forest.  Then they plan to help Adrien reunite with his wife.  Although nothing could have prepared them for what was to come. This has become a fascinating, frightening and grim world to traverse into filled with new strange creatures and animals alike.

THIS is a book you MUST read dear followers.  Dig into it and smell the freshly turned soil, experience the authors poetic way of writing.  Let the story take you into the dark heart of nature where you will find it’s beauty and this book may just change the way you look at the world we live in.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

~Book Club Selection~ A Novel Idea’s book for March!

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

A Man called Ove was a laugh and a tear jerker for me.  Ove is a grumpy old man. A man of principle. And not very nice. He was never a talker and not very social either. It’s the way he is, and there is a reason too. His wife Sonja died recently and he just can’t take life anymore. In flashbacks we learn how he meets Sonja, how they build a life together in which he absolutely adores her. He misses her dearly and when we meet Ove he actually makes several attempts to end his life as he sees no use living on without her. However, the neighborhood prevents him to do so…. He meets a new family who comes to live in his neighborhood. A pregnant woman, a clumsy husband, and two little daughters. The first encounters with the various family members are hilarious. And Ove meets a cat, who comes to live with him. And other colorful neighbors follow…. he does not want to connect with them at all, but it can’t be helped. And then… the story really starts. And Ove, without wanting it, bonds… with the cat and with the family. And the other neighbors.

This book was fantastic!  I had previously read Fredrik Backman’s  “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” and this book was just as enjoyable!  This book is about the transformations we go through in life and how different events within our life affect, shape us, and make us who we are today.  This book is a journey. For Ove, for Ove’s surroundings and for the reader. It is a magnificent tale about true love, Saab and the fact that what you see isn’t always what you get.  Ove is melodramatic but he will make you laugh and cry and you’ll be glad that you met him in the end.  A highly recommend read!

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home (Mennonite #1) by Rhoda Janzen

Book-Club

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Rating: ♥ ♥

This is the first book in my new post series “Book Club Selections”, as they are books that we have read for our book club ~ A Novel Idea!

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.

Written with wry humor and huge personality—and tackling faith, love, family, and aging—Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is an immensely moving memoir of healing, certain to touch anyone who has ever had to look homeward in order to move ahead.

I will be completely honest with you, this book was difficult for me to get through.  I stepped out of my box, which is why I wanted to join a book club, and this one to me was just not a winner. All things considered I did find humor in a few places!  Sad to say, she pretty much used up her good material within the first few chapters, after that I felt as though she was rambling on, going no where.  Here’s another thing, the author makes a point of mentioning that she is an English professor and a grammarian who is often asked to edit her colleagues’ research papers and has in fact taken on a paying editing gig in the wake of her divorce. Apparently, these editorial skills don’t extend to fact-checking (in which her copy editor also failed her), since the text is sprinkled with such things as “Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers” (the actual name is spelled Bonne Bell).

Although I think the part that kept me reading the book was that it was interesting to me all the skills that Mennonites have.  Now a days you won’t find kids in the kitchen learning how to make bread or learning to sew.  Still, this was a bizarre read. I had no idea what to expect of this book but I’m glad that I stepped out of my ‘norm’ to take a shot at it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts.

Julia is still mourning the loss of her beloved dog Ramon when her mother signs Julia and her younger brother Randy up for a local university production of The Wizard of Oz.  Julia is quite short for her age, so her mother is certain she will be cast as a Munchkin.  Reluctant at first, Julia becomes more and more enamored with the various people involved in the semi-professional production.  The director, some of the actors, and a few of the tech crew have been hired from out of town; some are college students; the rest, like Julia, are from the local community.  Julia acknowledges not only her own “shortcomings” both at school and at home, but is realistic in her assessment of other people as well. The reader will grow along with Julia as she learns about life and the world around her through this classic production. A must read for students who love to act, as well as for those who feel they are average in a world of “stars.” I loved the main character Julia SO much and I think I took a liking towards her right from the beginning due to her love of her dog! Highly recommended for grades 4 & up!

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter.

Some Writer! is one of the best biographies, for kids, that I have ever read!  Seriously! E. B. White is one of my most favorite authors.  If you don’t know the name, he is the author of the iconic Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, among many others.

The mixed media approach calls for the reader to slow down to observe all the details and sweet emphasizes, that E. B. White did himself. It’s filled with maps and collages that connect to the stories/chapters included of his life. There are thirteen chapters, among them, White’s beginnings and his work for The New Yorker magazine, his three books, and his collaboration on a new edition of The Elements of Style. His love of solitude and being in nature is evident in nearly every chapter. A beginning page, for children’s use especially, is a full-page picture of a manual typewriter, and an explanation of how it works. There are pages of actual pictures of White’s manuscripts, some hand-written, some typed; and a page about boat building, which is a surprising thread throughout the book. He was given a canoe by his father when he was young, and when the family spent summers in Maine. And, among others owned, late in life his son built him another one. (His son became a boat builder!) He spent much time canoeing and sailing on the water, observing, thinking about life.

The whole thing is a masterpiece. It’s so lovingly and expertly written and illustrated – capturing White’s essence perfectly.  For any literary lovers, this is a must for your personal library!  I cannot wait to read a few more books from E.B. White such as a book full of letters.  A beautiful, exceptionally written book that is a gift to us all!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

What happens to the leaves on a tree when autumn and winter comes around the corner? Well, that is what we are about to find out! “Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” is a children’s book  and it is about a young fox named Fletcher who tries to save a tree’s leaves from falling off during autumn and winter. “Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” is a cute story about the beauty of changes in weather that I am sure that many children who are interested in knowing what happens to the trees during winter and autumn will easily enjoy for many years!

Each morning, Fletcher would come out of the den and explore the world, but then he realizes that the tree’s leaves were turning gold and beginning to fall off the tree. Fletcher than goes to the tree every day to keep the leaves on the tree; however, when winter came, Fletcher noticed that all the leaves were starting to fall off more rapidly than before.

Fletcher is very worried. He tells the tree he’ll help. But when the very last leaf falls to the ground, Fletcher feels as though he’s let down his friend . . .until the first day of winter, when Fletcher sees that his tree has turned into a shining, glittering surprise.