Monday, October 14, 2019

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I have been wanting to read this book for years, no less because my best friend Jenn loaned it to me a while ago and I need to read it and give it back.  I decided to read it during banned books week. It was the perfect week as it is included again on the 2018 list of most banned books.

Junior is growing up on a reservation in Spokane, Washington.  He was born with water on the brain and had to have surgery as a six-month-old that almost killed him.  He could have been brain damaged, but he is a very smart kid. He has other problems (like with his vision) caused by water on the brain and is picked on constantly.  His best friend Rowdy is the one person who understands him and helps to defend him against the bullies.

That all changes when Junior decides to leave the reservation and go to the closest white school to further his educational opportunities. Rowdy and pretty much the entire tribe think of him as a traitor.  Will Junior be able to fit in at his new school and will he be able to fit in with his tribe?

Junior loves to draw cartoons and they are included throughout the text.  I loved how they were part of the story and had provided moments of humor for sometimes very dire situations.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was both humorous and at times a very sad story.  I love how Junior realized his parents had a lot of love and support for him, but he also had to deal with his father’s alcoholism and his family’s poverty.  That lead to one of my favorite lines in the book, “Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance.  No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.”  I realized a lot of the books I read, particularly the books I read in childhood, try to teach you that poverty is something you work through to become a stronger person.  Junior take a hard look at that and does not agree.  I thought this was quite profound.

As I was reading this book, I read about Sherman Alexie and discovered that not only is he considered one of the leading Native American authors of today, but he is also at the center of accusations as part of the Me-Too movement.  Can one separate the actions of the author from his work?  I think yes, otherwise I would be throwing most classics out the window (I’m looking at you Ernest Hemingway).  What do you think?

I read this novel with the eye on – why is it banned and I saw plenty of items that a parent could freak out about.  I had read it was a racist portrayal of Native Americans.  I think that is ironic when it is written by a Native American and is largely based on his childhood.  There is alcoholism in the novel, and Junior has an anti-religion page after some tragic deaths in his family.  He also waxes on about masturbation for a page or so at the start of the book. Any of these items could be something that someone could complain about to a school library. All in all, they would also definitely make it a novel that young adults would enjoy and identify with.

Favorite Quotes:
“I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.”

“You have to read a book three times before you know it.  The first time you read it for the story.  The plot . . . The second time you read a book you read it for its history.”

“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess.  We all have pain.  And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”

“If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing.”

Overall, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is an excellent novel that made me both laugh and cry.  I loved Junior’s story and how it looked at some of the deep trials that a Native American teenager faced trying to find his place in the world and where he fits in.  It was a great coming of age story.  I loved its look at friendship, family, and loss.

Book Source:  My best friend Jenn loaned me this book. 

Winner of Diamond in the Rough by Jen Turano

The lucky winner of Diamond in the Rough by Jen Turano is Alicia Haney who left a comment on the blog on September 25th.  She has been notified via email and has a week to respond before another winner will be chosen.  Alicia was chosen using 

Thank-you to everyone who entered the giveway, TLC book tours for allowing me to be on the tour, and Jen Turano for writing such a delightful book.  If you would like to read more about this book, check out my review at this link.

I'm sorry I've been missing from the blog this month thus far.  I'm still reading, but switched jobs at the start of the month.  To add onto that each weekend has been booked and we've had kid sporting events most evenings after work.  That is what happens when it rains all September and everything is rescheduled to October!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Diamond in the Rough by Jen Turano (TLC Book Tours Review and GIVEAWAY!)

Looking for a fix for your Downtown Abbey withdrawal?  A Diamond in the Rough is the story of a spirited heiress who makes a splash in New York City as she has her first social season in town amongst the elite 400.  Poppy Garrison has been raised on a horse farm in Pennsylvania.  Her parents have fallen on hard financial times and her grandmother, Violet, will only help them out if they agree to send Poppy to town for a social season.  Violet is determined to turn Poppy into a “diamond of the first water” although Poppy seems to be a magnet for trouble. 

Violet hires Reginald Blackburn to help Poppy on etiquette and turn her into a diamond of the first water.  Reginald has traveled to America to help his cousin Charles, who also happens to be an Earl, to find an heiress. Reginald agrees to help, but finds himself entranced by the impossible women.  Will Poppy be able to make a success of her social season?  Will the two find love?

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  It is the second in a series, but I didn’t realize it until after I had finished the novel.  It serves well as a standalone novel.  It is a Christian fiction novel and had a great part of the novel about forgiveness as Poppy’s family works through past wrongs.  I loved Poppy’s independence, but even more so, I loved how Violet discovered herself in the novel.  The romance, humor, and adventure were very entertaining.  This was exactly the book I needed right now.

Favorite Quotes:
“I’m not really a gentleman who is comfortable discussing feelings.  If you’ve forgotten, I’m British.  We don’t discuss our feelings.”

Overall, A Diamond in the Rough is a great historical Christian romance with humor, adventure, and love in high society.

Book Source:  Digital Review Copy as a part of the TLC Book Tour!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.

As a part of the TLC Book Tour, I am giving away one copy of this novel. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book.  
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday September 27th!

Please make sure to check the week of September 30th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Genius Files (#1): Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman

Title: The Genius Files (#1):  Mission Unstoppable
Author: Dan Gutman
Read by:  Michael Goldstrom
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Length: Approximately 6 hours
Source: Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

My sons read The Genius Files (#1):  Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman a few years ago for the library Youth Book Club and they loved it.  Ever since they read it, my now 11-year old son Daniel has wanted to visit the location of the book’s climax, The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  I had visited The House on the Rock as a college student nineteen years ago, but I’m the only one in my family who had seen it.  We let Daniel plan our summer vacation this year and visiting The House on the Rock was high on the list.  As we drove to the Wisconsin Dells area and back, we listed to The Genius Files (#1):  Mission Unstoppable.

Coke and Pepsi McDonald are twins and very bright.  They are recruited to a secret organization, The Genius Files, but they also are now being chased and almost killed by mysterious men in bowler hats as well as by one of their teachers, Mrs. Higgins.  The summer family vacation is renting an RV and driving it from California to Washington DC for their estranged Aunt’s wedding.  Mrs. McDonald runs a blog about unique destinations so they have plenty of interesting stops along the way including visiting the Pez Museum and the largest ball of twine.  Mr. McDonald gets a destination as well when he races the rented RV across the salt flats, which was my husband’s favorite part of the book. Why are people trying to kill the twins?  What are the mysterious genius files?  Will they make it to the wedding?

The climax of the book takes place at the The House on the Rock.  We listened to this part of the audiobook right after we had visited and it was spot on with the description . . . although it took us so long to get around the House that we questioned the timing of the characters as they made their way around the house.  It was extra thrilling for Daniel (and for all of us) to listen to the book and having it fit with a place he had just visited.

If you haven’t visited The House on the Rock, it’s one of the most interesting and peculiar places you could visit.  Alex Jordan Jr was an eccentric man who built a party house around a unique rock structure in the 1950’s.  It became a tourist destination and Jordan Jr kept adding on and building a collection of unique items.  It is a LARGE collection and very unique.  My kids really liked all of the musical items and looking at everything, but I think we were all numb by the end as there was so much to take in.  My husband Ben and I decided we wished we could have hung out with Alex Jordan Jr in the 1950’s at one of his get togethers in the original house.  It sounds like a good time.

Overall, I highly recommend The Genius File series as an audiobook for the entire family to listen to on road trips.  We’ve listened to the series before and we have loved it.  It’s full of action and humor. It’s highly entertaining.