Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Book of Halloween by Ruth Edna Kelly

Title: The Book of Halloween
Author: Ruth Edna Kelley
Read by: Oliver Vale
Publisher: New Paradigm Press Audio
Length: Approximately 2 hours and 31 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Narrator Oliver Vale – Thank-you!

I am a big fan of holidays.  As a child, I used to love to read every book I could get my hands on to find out more about the background of all of the holidays I loved to celebrate.  As an adult I enthusiastically decorate my house for the holidays with my children and still love to read about the holidays.

The Book of Halloween is a vintage book about Halloween from ancient times to the early Twentieth Century.  Oliver Vale bring the book to life as an audiobook narrating all of tales, myths, and legends that make up the background of Halloween across different countries in the world (mostly Great Britain).  This includes that Halloween takes place on the important date that several cultures celebrated.  

I was sad that The Book of Halloween didn’t contain more detail on how Halloween is celebrated in the United States and the history in this country of where all of our traditions came from.  Also a lot of the information seemed very randomly put together with not much transition between ideas.

Overall , I enjoyed this audiobook and learning the background legends from the past that form the basis for Halloween.  It put me in the Holiday spirit!

Do you have a favorite Halloween book or tale?

Monday, October 24, 2016

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Talaban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I am Malala is our FLICKS (Rogue) Book and Movie Club pick for October/November.  It will give us a lot to discuss!  Malala was a young girl who refused to back down to the Talaban in Pakistan and gave speeches and wrote blogs about the need for girls to get education.  In order to silence her, on October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head while she was riding a bus home from school.

I am Malala starts with the fateful bus ride home and then goes back into the story of Malala, her parents, and her growing up in Pakistan.  She is a proud Pakistan citizen of the Pashtun heritage growing up in the Swat Valley, a remote valley in Northern Pakistan that sounds quite beautiful.  She was named after a Pashtun heroine who sacrificed herself during battle to inspire the soldiers and win the day.  Her naming is prophetic for the young brave girl she became.

Malala’s father, Ziauddin, and grandfather, Rohul Amin, were both great speakers and Malala continued in their footsteps.  As Malala grew older, the Talaban came to Swat Valley, and people were getting murdered for not following their decrees.  Malala spoke up when they started to demand that girls stop going to school as education is very important to her.  After that fateful date, Malala and her family found themselves separated from their beloved country of Pakistan with no way to return in the current climate.  They are refuges living in Great Britain.  I felt really bad for their family being displaced and wanting to go back to a homeland that is not safe for them.  I hope one day they will be able to return.

I was fascinated by this book by having descriptions of Pakistan and a world I don’t know much about. Equally fascinating and disturbing was a look at how the actions of the United States have a direct impact on the people of another country.  While we were celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden, our actions in Pakistan going in and killing him without telling the leaders of the Country, deeply offended the leaders of Pakistan.  With drone attacks killing not only the guilty, anti-American sentiment is up and allows for groups like the Taliban to take hold.  Reading this right now during our current election cycle made me very fearful of the feature.  The words that the President say can lead to the rise of radicals in other countries that hurt the people of that country more than they hurt us.

I enjoyed Malala’s story of growing up.  She seemed so relatable along with her love of Ugly Betty and Twilight – like an average girl.  That is what makes it even more horrifying to get shot for speaking out.  It made me realize one again that we are lucky to live in the United States were you are allowed to freely speak your opinion on the government.  You make not like your neighbor’s opinion, but we are allowed to voice them without fear of reprisal.  I also was sad that it is still so hard in other parts of the world for females to get educated.  An educated female population allows a country to move onto the path of a more developed nation and a better living for all people of the nation.

There were a few times in the book where it did move a bit slow to me – I would get slightly confused on the action that was taking place in the past.  I probably should have kept track of the characters and events by writing them down.  

Favorite Quotes:

“I come from a country that was created at midnight.  When I almost died it was just after midday.”

“It’s the same with stealing.  Some people, like me, get caught and vow they will never do it again.  Others say, ‘Oh it’s no big deal – it was just a little thing.’  But the second time they will steal something bigger and the third something bigger still.  In my country too many politicians think nothing of stealing.  They are rich and we are a poor country yet they loot and loot.  Most don’t pay tax, but that’s the least of it.  They take out loans from state banks, but they don’t pay them back.  They get kickbacks on government contracts from friends or the companies they award them to. Most of them own expensive flats in London.”

“I was ten when the Taliban came to our valley.  Moniba and I had been reading the Twilight books and longed to be vampires.  It seemed to us that the Taliban arrived in the night just like vampires.”

“Though we loved school, we hadn’t realized how important education was until the Taliban tried to stop us.  Going to school, reading, and doing our homework wasn’t just a way of passing time, it was our future.”

“We were learning how to struggle.  And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.”

“Those who could, stayed in the homes of local people or with family and friends.  Amazingly three quarters of all the IDPs were put up by the people of Mardan and the nearby town of Swabi.  They opened the doors of their homes, schools, and mosques to the refugees.”

“Foreign governments pointed out that most of our politicians weren’t paying any income tax, so it was a bit much to ask hard-pressed taxpayers in their own countries to contribute.”

“Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country – this is my dream.  Education for every boy and every girl in the world.  To sit down on a chair and read my books with all of my friends at school is my right.  To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish.  I am Malala.  My world has changed, but I have not.”

Overall, I am Malala is a must read, inspiring tale of one girl’s struggle for education in Pakistan.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

Have you read any inspiring books lately?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin

Title: Five Presidents:  My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford
Author: Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin
Read by: George Newbern
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 14 hours and 32 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

Clint Hill was a secret service agent for five presidents starting with Eisenhower.  Raised in a Lutheran family in North Dakota, Hill married girlfriend Gwen while a junior in college.  After college he served in the army and then looked for a steady history teacher / coach job, but couldn’t find one that would support his family.  He applied for a secret service job and after a few retirements was lucky to be hired on full time with the secret service.

What Clint Hill didn’t realize at that time, was that he was about to become a firsthand witness to many of the iconic events of United States history from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.  He is most remembered as the secret service man that crawled up onto the back of the car after JFK’s assassination and pushed first lady Jackie Kennedy back into the seat for protection.  That would ultimately define Clint Hill to not only the nation, but also to himself as he struggled for years from the post-traumatic stress of the event.

I enjoyed this book immensely and have been telling all of my friends, relatives, and students great tidbits of history from it.  While the raucous 2016 election cycle continues, I enjoyed learning more about past presidents and how different and similar they are to our current political climate.  One of the things I was most disturbed about was that Clint Hill thought the events of 2016 reminded him of the tumultuous year of 1968.  What was the best for me is that Hill was able to tell the story of these presidents from a different side than I had read before.  This was someone who was intimately involved with these great leaders and had no political agenda.

Clint Hill greatly admired Eisenhower and learned a lot from traveling with him and seeing the adoration he inspired from countries all over the world.  He also saw that he was truly lucky to have been born in the United States.  Eisenhower had a great work schedule that I am in awe of.  He would have intense work for half the day and then would golf the other half.  For all that gets said in the media about the golf and vacations of our last two presidents, they have nothing on these presidents of the past.

I enjoyed learning about the Kennedy years where Hill was assigned as the first lady’s secret service.  As Kennedy was the first Catholic President, there was a lot of fear at that time of the unknown.  I enjoyed learning about how personable Kennedy was, learning all of the secret service men’s names and families.  They felt like part of the family.  Hill describes it as being the glowing Camelot years as you’ve always heard about, that’s what makes the assassination of President Kennedy even more devastating.

Lyndon Johnson was a complicated man.  He didn’t trust his detail or make their guard of him very easy, which I found strange as the president right before him had been assassinated.  He was crude, loud mouthed, and vulgar at times, but although he didn’t seem to have empathy for those that were close to him, he had great empathy for the people of the nation.  I was touched by how the Vietnam War affected him so deeply and of his secret prayer meetings with a Catholic priest.  Being raised by parents who always blamed Johnson for Vietnam, it was interesting to read about how much he truly suffered and tried to get the United States out of the conflict.

After being in charge of the President’s detail, Hill was moved to guard Vice President Spiro Agnew.  In a political year where there seems to be no bars, it was interesting to read how taxes brought Agnew down and the entire Watergate Scandal brought down Nixon.  I didn’t know much about Agnew besides his resignation, but he sounds like he was a good man.  Hill moved up the chain at the end of Nixon’s administration, but the pressures of the job took their toll and he retired early, not too far into Ford’s administration.

Hill has written two more books about the Kennedy years and I really would like to read them.  Not only was the living history excellent in this book, but I also enjoyed learning more about the pressures of working for the secret service.  I thought I work a lot, but Hill hardly saw his family or spent the holidays with them with his travels with the Presidents and duties.

George Newbern was an excellent narrator and I thought of him as the voice of Clint Hill.  I listened to this book on my way to and from downstate Michigan and it kept me riveted the entire way and also kept me from falling asleep!

Favorite Quote:

“If there was one thing I had learned . . . it was that politics was a damn dirty business”

Overall, Five Presidents is an excellent book of living history of what it took to be a secret service man and the details of the moments that made our modern United States history.