Friday, February 22, 2019

Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong and Kathleen Van Cleve (Young Reader’s Edition)

Title: Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge
Author: Erica Armstrong and Kathleen Van Cleve
Read by:  Robin Eller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 5 hours and 22 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

You may know that George Washington, the father of our country, was a slave owner. What you may not know is that one of his slaves, Ona Judge, ran away while he was President and the Washingtons had a quest to recapture her spanning for years after she ran away.

This book is very straightforward on the fact that slavery was evil and has a good discussion about it at the beginning.  Basically, that people try to justify it with the benevolent slave owner myth, but it is just a myth.  People did not want to be enslaved.  I loved that this gives a deeper background for kids on the founding of our country.  We tend to give an over simplification of history to youth and leave out the details that may make our countries heroes look bad.  I think we should show that not everyone is perfect and that we have a complicated history as a country that causes many of the issues of today.

Ona’s story is fascinating, but sadly a lot of the book is really about George and Martha Washington and inferences they can made on the life of Ona based on the Washingtons’ movements.  That is sadly the case for most biographies about enslaved people.  I did like that there was more information about Ona after she was a free woman from interviews she gave later in life.

This is a Young Reader’s Edition of the book.  I was fascinated and want to read the adult version of the book.   Parents may want to know that although this is a middle grade reader’s edition, there is still some frank talk in the book that children may not be prepared for depending on where they are at learning the facts of life.  There is a discussion about whether Ona’s parents, a black slave woman and a white indentured man, were in love or whether it was rape.  The word rape is used and there is a bit of discussion about it in general without getting explicit.  I don’t think my 5th grade son would know what was going on if he read that part of the book and it will lead to questions.  Just be aware.  It is an interesting discussion of African American women and the terrible situation they were put into. Later in the book it also references why a white man may buy a black woman a house and give it to her, but the wording is very coy so I think it would go past young readers.

It made me sad to realize that when an enslaved woman had a child even if it was with a free man, that child was still considered to be property of the woman’s owners.  This was the case for Ona herself and for her children after she married.  She had to always live with the fear that not only could she be captured, but her children could be taken into captivity as well.

The author really didn’t seem to like Martha Washington and seemed to think George was more willing to give slave’s freedom than Martha.  There didn’t seem to be any basis for this argument, but I’m assuming there may be letters or other documents backing up this assumption in the adult version of the book.

Robin Eller was a great narrator and I enjoyed listening to this audiobook on my commute.  I learned so many interesting things and it was fun to share what I learned with my husband, Dad, and friends.  I think this will be a future book to listen to on a family road trip.

Overall, Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge is an important part of American history and is an enjoyable, informative audiobook.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter lives in Garden Heights, which is known as a rough part of town.  She and her siblings attend an elite high school about forty minutes away from where they live.  As one of the only minorities at her high school, she feels she must act different to fit in.  She also has a white boyfriend, which she keeps secret from her father.

Feeling as she belongs, but doesn’t belong to two different worlds, Starr has a hard time fitting in at home as well as at school.  She goes to a party in her neighborhood with a girl friend, when she runs into a childhood friend that she hasn’t seen in a few months, Khalil.  After a fight breaks out at the party, Khalil offers Starr a ride home.  During this ride, Khalil becomes the victim of a cop shooting even though he is unarmed.

Khalil is the second of her trio of childhood friends to be killed by gun violence.  Starr is left bereft and confused, unable to process the event and determine how to act in either one of her worlds.  Should Starr remain the anonymous witness or should she tell her story to the world?  How will her school friends and her friends in Garden Heights react?  Will the officer that shot Khalil be punished?

I enjoyed this book.  It was a fast paced read with a hot topic and a new perspective to me.  It was a book that made me really ponder about today’s society.  In all, this makes it a good book for discussing at a book club, but it also makes it a troublesome one as race is hard to discuss.  I thought things were kept mostly civil at our book club yesterday, although I’m still troubled by the fact that one member said as an aside to me that it is “fake news” that African Americans are shot and killed by police officers. I don’t know how to respond to people saying things like that with such a statement so far off of reality. She also found no value in the book and didn’t understand why it won awards or why young people should read it.  Luckily most people seemed to like the book and seeing things from a different point of view.  Being an all-white book club, in a predominately white town, it was a point that one member brought up that it would be nice to have a discussion with African American readers as well for a different perspective.

I think a book like The Hate U Give is a good book to get people to think about a hot topic issue from a different point of view or your point of view if we live a life like Starr’s.  It’s a gripping read, and I can see how it would also be good for teenagers to use to talk about current issues.  Police shootings are a very tough topic and I liked that Starr’s Uncle Carlos was a police office. We saw that Starr was conflicted about knowing there are good police officers, but that the one that shot Khalil was in the wrong.

I really liked Starr’s family.   They were a strong family with their own issues, but at the end of the day they supported and loved each other. 

Some people had a hard time with the lingo and did not like that there are swear words.  I didn’t have any trouble reading it.  The book is told from Starr’s first-person narrative.

Favorite Quotes:

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong.  The key is to never stop doing right.”

“I hate that I let myself fall into that mind-set of trying to rationalize his death.  And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door.  If you do, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

Overall, The Hate U Give is a must-read gripping account of the hot topic of police shootings with great characters.  It’s a good book to discuss.  I’ve never had so many people from book club want to talk to me before book club about a book.

Book Source:  Christmas gift from my best friend Jenn.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is one of my favorite authors.  When life is stressful, I know that her stories will cheer me up and take me to a quaint village somewhere in the UK where a woman faces a crisis and finds a path forward through hard work doing what she has always loved. In this case, doing what she loves involves books, which I always love reading about.  As February is the saddest month of the year, I picked this light read for the February selection of the FLICKS Book and Movie Club (aka Rogue).  We meet tomorrow night at my house – we’ll see what everyone thought of the book.

Nina Redmond loves books.  She has the perfect job as a librarian and loves to match books with the perfect readers.  Her community decides to cut libraries and librarians, and instead have everything electronic and geared toward young people, she finds herself out of a job and adrift.  What should she do with life?  Unable to afford a store, she gets the grand idea of starting a bookstore in something she can afford, a van, and driving it around to match the perfect books with the perfect people. She moves to a small village and drives around to people that are yearning for books, but live without a library or a bookstore.  She also learns that she may be open to love as well.

I enjoyed this book.  I loved how Nina was able to take the dive and move someplace new with a career that she loves. She doesn’t make tons of money, but she finds happiness helping other people while meeting new ones.  I also loved the setting of the small village in Scotland.  It was quaint and cute.  

I will admit though that while this was an enjoyable book, I still love the Little Beach Street Bakery and The CafĂ© by the Sea the best of her novels so far.  It may be that they are series, so I know the characters better.  I saw that this book will have a sequel this year.  I can’t wait!
I found a great book club discussion list of questions complete with recipes at this link:

I only wish I would have found it before I picked up ingredients for desserts for hosting my book club.

I loved the message for readers for readers where Colgan describes all her favorite places to read and I enjoyed the humor.  Ironically as this is my book club pick, she says, “If you’re reading this for book group, I can only apologize and assume it’s 2:15 A.M. the night before the evening.”

Favorite Quotes:
“Dogs are tremendously good at showing you you don’t have to check your phone every two seconds to have a happy life.”

“The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things.”

“You know, women who find men who read really frightfully attractive.”

“Books were the best way Nina knew – apart from sometimes, music – to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe to the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between two worlds.”

Overall, The Bookshop on the Corner is a love story about reading and fulfilling your dreams.  It’s a fun read.

Book Source:  A Gift from my Best Friend Jenn. Thank-you!