Last year at this time I was inspired by all of my friends who one after another listed the books they had read over the past year.
I must admit, I was a little ashamed that I realized my love of reading had gone by the wayside. Almost completely forgotten like an old toy. I decided that I could make time easily to read one book a month. I set an easy target and continued to read, “The Diary of Anne Frank” (A book that I was rereading and had been plugging away at it for almost a year by this time.)
Three months later, I finished it.
Not a good start to this lofty goal of 12.
Then….yeah..you got it….COVID.
And reading became the thing to do. I started blogging about the books. I made new friends with authors I was discovering. I convinced people to read. I learned. I was inspired. I became reacquainted with my lost love.
Thank you to Rebecca Kaser and Bob Bixby for several of the book suggestions!
I don’t recommend everything I read, but I do recommend that you read even if you start small.
2020 goal -12 Read-20 2021 goal–52
1. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank N/F 5/5 2. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull N/F 5/5 3. When I lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent N/F 5/5 4. Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon 4/5 5. The Sea Before Us by Sara Sundin 4/5 6. News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt 2/5 7. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner 4/5 8. Educated by Tata Westover N/F 5/5 9. The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon 10. If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh 5/5 11. The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin 4/5 12. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon 4.5/5 13. All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr N/F 2/5 14. The Last Flight by Julie Clark 5/5 15. Untamed by Glennon Doyle N/F 3/4 16. Homegoing by Yaa Yasi 3/5 17. Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh 5/5 18. Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh 5/5 19. The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese 5/5 20. The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin 5/5
Did you read any of these? I’d love to know what you thought! Did you have a favorite book this year?
One of my friends posted on Facebook a few days ago. She asked her friends to list all the positive ways Covid had changed their lives. I was stumped. I typed out:
“Covid has done nothing positive for me. It has changed me, but not for the good.”
As I was typing I saw all the positive responses that others were writing. I decided I really didn’t want to be THAT person. You know the one I mean? The one that always has to think the worse or take a good situation and make it negative.
So, I stopped typing. I tried so hard to think of something positive to say. Sadly, I couldn’t think of any. I expressed that thought to my husband when he came home and he looked at me and said, “What about your hummingbirds?” Oh! Yes, I thought….and then I thought about the hours I spent on my deck watching them and reading. Oh! Yes, reading! That is something very good that has happened to me this year. I have regained a lost love.
Try it. It’s good for you.
Last month I tackled 4 books! Here is my review for each of them.
As I have mentioned, I would rather read historical fiction than anything else. However, I have decided that it is good for me to read other genres and thus improve my awareness and knowledge. I have made it a rule to read one non-fiction book a month. So far, I’m still not a fan. Maybe I just don’t pick the right books for me.
That being said, I do think it’s good for me. There is a lot going on in the world that I didn’t know about. Knowledge about who Glennon Doyle is one of those. I guess she is a incredibly popular writer, partly made popular by Oprah.
To fill you in, Glennon Doyle is the author of Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior. She became popular as a Christian mommy blogger who focused on self-discovery, parenting and faith.
From the cover:
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world’s expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at ourselves and recognize: There She Is.
What I liked about the book.
Untamed is divided into short, meditative chapters. I loved that I could pick up the book and read two or three pages and be left with profound thoughts to meditate. Each chapter charts her experiences. Some of them are about finding herself, getting sober, motherhood, and feminism. She talks about the good, the bad and the ugly and her life and is honest about how she deals with it all. She proclaims that it is okay to fail. She teaches that it is okay to speak the truth you know. She is a very powerful writer.
I think most woman strive hard to be good at everything. We compare ourselves to other mothers, teachers, friends. Glennon points out that this competition doesn’t make us better–it makes us weary, unhappy and overwhelmed. We compare our lives and loves to romantic movies and books and wonder why we don’t have the happy ending like in fairy tales. We push away the discontent and tell ourselves to settle…until it’s too late. She tells the story of rebuilding herself with a great deal of honesty and humor.
There is a great deal of language as well as details about love life with her ex-husband and new love life with her new partner, Abby.
Who should read this: if you are a fan of Glennon Doyle, if you struggle with finding your own voice, if you have pain in your past that you are struggling to deal with. I also find it interesting to read about her faith that so much a part of her life both past and present.
The thing that gets me thinking and questioning most deeply is a leader who warns me not to think or question.
The beauty industry convinces us that our thighs, frizz, skin, fingernails, lips, eyelashes, leg hair, and wrinkles are repulsive and must be covered and manipulated, so we learn to not trust the bodies we live in.
People will like me or not, but being liked is not my One Thing; integrity is…I’m willing to lose anything that requires me to hide any part of myself.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
“The tale begins in the late 18th century in an Asante village, part of the Gold Coast which eventually became Ghana. A young girl, Effia Otcher, is sold by her father to a British slavetrader named James – as a bride, not as a slave – and taken to live with him in Cape Coast Castle, a fort overlooking the sea. The slaves are in dungeons underneath the castle, awaiting transit to the Americas and the Caribbean via the Middle Passage. Among them are ex-house servants, overflow prisoners of tribal and regional wars and unlucky captives sold to the Europeans for money and goods, such as 15-year-old Esi Asare, Effia’s half-sister. Esi was seized during a raid on her own village and brought to the castle by “bomboys”, local boys who worked for the British transporting cargo. In a series of subsequent interconnected stories, the bloodlines of these two women are followed through seven generations covering the associated histories of the US and Ghana up to the turn of the 21st century.”
Yaa Gyasi has truly crafted an extraordinary picture illuminating slavery’s troubled legacy and reminds us how slavery will continue to cause pain to our nation.
I will admit it took me awhile to get into the book. I was confused with the constant addition of new characters and the jump in the timeline. I had to constantly refer to the genealogy chart in the beginning of the book. Once I got the hang of it I couldn’t wait to see where Yaa Gyasi was going to take us next. I loved watching the stories unfold and seeing how the pain of the past caused pain in the present. I felt the horrors of slavery and the injustice that still plaques generations of families.
This book was enlightening, eye-opening and disturbing. I was drawn into a wonderful family history that introduced me to African culture and the horrors of the slave trade. It is a reminder to tell a story that should not be forgotten.
“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
“They would just trade one type of shackles for another, trade physical ones that wrapped around wrists and ankles for the invisible ones that wrapped around the mind.”
“The older Jo got, the more he understood about the woman called Ma. The more he understood that sometimes staying free required unimaginable sacrifice.”
Who should read this book? Anyone who is interested in generational stories or if you are interested in historical perspectives or learning more about african culture.
Warnings: drug use, spousal abuse, slavery (and all associated horrors), racism
Book #3Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh
From the book cover:
After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.
Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.
Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but I really love the way Courtney Walsh writes.
JUST LOOK UP is everything I love in a book. It is a beautiful love story that has a little drama that teaches all of the main characters a lesson. This might be my favorite Courtney book yet.
The story pulled me in right away. I didn’t want to put it down. I loved that the story was complex enough that it wasn’t predictable.
Courtney has a beautiful ability to develop characters that you believe and root for.
I loved Lane from the beginning. I devoured each page of her story as she fought the demons in her life and let others into the shell she had put around her heart and life. I love how smart, talented and witty she is. I felt her pain and couldn’t wait for her to realize that the pain of her past didn’t have to ruin her whole life.
And oh, Ryan. He was the perfect and I mean perfect boyfriend prospect. He is kind, loving and the perfect example of “a love that wouldn’t let go.”
One of the things that I admire most about Courtney Walsh’s writing is that her characters are well layered. They each have hurts, but they each have triumphs as well.
I loved the history of Ryan and Lane and how he was able to let her be herself and brought out a banter and personality that she didn’t let others see.
This is more than a love story though, Courtney gives a picture of the whole town and the community. (Warning, you may want to move there.) Courtney also weaves a religious aspect through her stories in a way that is natural. It never sounded preachy. It just feels like this is how life should be.
In case you can’t tell, I love everything I read from this author and I can’t wait to read the next one that I pick!
Who should read this book? Well, everyone, but especially lovers of contemporary Christian fiction.
“She glanced at Betsy, who smiled as if they’d always been friends, the kind who could communicate without words, the kind who knew what the other one needed whether anyone said so or not.”
“seeing him there served as a well-placed reminder that life was short and people were what mattered most.”
Book #4The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese
From the cover:
Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.
Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.
I have so loved discovering new authors and this one does not disappoint! This book captivated me from the very first paragraph. This book is a perfect blend of mystery, love, family, faith and forgiveness.
Rayne Shelby is a beautiful character who has lived to please her family her whole life. She is talented, smart, and giving. She has worked to be appreciated and seen, but has failed. She is loving and loyal and naive. I love the way she loves not only her family, but history and her town. Nicole did an excellent job of creating someone I just wanted to see be happy.
Nicole has written Levi in a way that was entirely intriguing. From one chapter to the next you are left wondering if Levi is a bad boy or if he is really the hero we long for. Our hearts go out to him as we learn about his past. We root for him to become that knight in shinning armor for Rayne. He is electrifying and interesting.
The reminder of the characters are also well developed. The story is so well written that those characters provide a great foundation to propel the actions of the story. You will find yourself loving some of them and hissing at the villians!
I was charmed and entranced by this book and I cannot wait to read another one by Nicole Deese!
Who should read this book? Lovers of Contemporary Christian Fiction as well as all of you who just want to read a good love story with a twist of intrigue.
“Good character isn’t produced overnight; it’s grown over many seasons. In the same way you sort the good apples from the bad, the marks of poor characters are just as easy to detect.”
“You told me not to worry. You told me that God takes care of his creation…that his timing is always perfect – Rayne”
“Bitterness can compromise a heart the way fireblight disease can consume an apple orchard.”
Reading is a wonderful way to learn more about other cultures, lifestyles, history. In short, it is a gateway into the lives of others. I hope you read. There is nothing like it.
I’d love to know if you have read any of these books and what you thought! What are you reading?
Until next time–this is me-talking to you-From the Wings!
I have successfully completed another month of reading one book a week. I’m pretty proud of this month because I did it even while I was studying my lines every day for the play that closed this month. Maybe….maybe I have successfully regained the love I used to have for this and found time for my new habit.
It is possible to read this book without reading Book One first, but I’d recommend reading, The Sea Before Us first.
The series tells the story of three brothers who are estranged by an event. Each book highlights the story of a different brother. Reading book one will give you a better understanding of the pain of these brothers.
Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary like her great aunt, but for now she is in the American Red Cross Aeroclub in England. She wrestles with her inner demons because she believes God wants her to be working with children but that is only a small part of her job. She is recovering from a broken engagement and the men around her are crude and immoral. Except for the kindly Lt. Adler Paxton, whom she met on the boat ride over.
When Adler meets Violet, he is attracted to her but determines to avoid her. A tragic decision during a family outing led to the death of his fiancée, and in the hours immediately following that calamity Adler made some decisions that hurt a lot of people he loved. He refuses to believe that he is worth having any joy in his life as a result of his bad decisions.
We all know that God is bigger than all of our inner doubts and this is a sweet love story as God reaches out to both of them.
I enjoyed this book even more than I did the first one.
Sundin has a campy, quirky style of writing that is easy to read. I love the way she combines the plot points- such as the dangers the men faced on their missions, and the vital work of the Red Cross – by keeping the focus on how these things affect the characters. In this tale, there is also a mystery that is perfect for the storyline and is ideally utilized to show growth by Violet.
If you like Christian Historical Fiction then you will love this book! The plot tackles some big issues as the main character needs to learn how to forgive himself and others. Humility is one of those sins people don’t talk about very often and I love that this character has to deal with that as well.
Warning: There is a big plot reveal that deals with some sexual decisions in Adler’s past. When I first read the book I was able to dismiss the behaviors as plot developments. Now, thinking back, I’m a little disturbed that it was wrapped up in too nice of a package. It was confusing how violently Violet reacts to Adler’s past. I loved how she came to terms with his behavior, but I did it make sense for her to be so unforgiving at all? I think reacting in disappointment might have made more sense.
In spite of that, I really did enjoy the book. In fact, I liked it even more than I did the first one. The characters were fantastic and I loved that there were things about them that made them extraordinary. There are things to relate to in Violet if you grew up thinking that you needed to be a good “church” kid. There comes a time when you obey because God lives in your heart not just because you are doing as you are told. I love Violet’s journey to discovering for herself what God wants her to do.
I have all ready ordered the third book in the series! I can’t wait to read it!
As usual Sundin writes detailed historical descriptions.
Who should read this? Lovers of history, World War II, and love!
“Wars weren’t won with caution, and aces weren’t made in straight and level flight.”
Once again, God was winning the wrestling match, and Adler silently thanked him. For most of his life, he thought he’d deserved all of it. God had waited to give it to him until Adler knew he deserved none of it.”
Book #2 What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
From the back cover:
In an unforgettable love story, a woman’s impossible journey through the ages could change everything…
Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted with her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.
The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.
As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?”
I am a big fan of things that involve time travel. Amy’s dialogue and description pulled me in from the first paragraph. Although I didn’t know where the story was going I felt Annie’s love for her grandfather and Ireland from the start. I didn’t want to put the book down–almost feeling that if I did the magic would come to an end.
I, too, had a grandfather that I loved deeply so as we learn the details about Eoin’s (Anne’s grandfather) past and he begins to share stories with her I just wanted more. I LOVED their relationship. What a brilliantly written connection between them.
I learned so much about Ireland’s history. I was intrigued by how Anne was able to remember stories from history that her grandfather had taught her and it reminds me to listen to older people. They can give you the world in their words. I must admit, the historical detail was a tad too much for me and I had to really concentrate to get it to play out in my mind. But I enjoyed it immensely! I especially liked the details as Anne had to adjust to her life without the modern day clothes and ….other items.
And the love story? I didn’t want it to end. I was so afraid that it wasn’t possible for it to continue, but I desperately wanted it to. One word. EPIC.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes. Honestly, I could have pages of them. I love the way Amy writes. There is a certain romance in the way she uses words.
“We turn memories into stories, and if we don’t, we lose them. If the stories are gone, then the people are gone too.”
“Time was the one thing I wanted and the one thing no one could give me.”
“I’d heard once that our view of God has everything to do with those who taught us about Him. Our image of Him often reflected our image of them. Eoin taught me about God, and because I loved and cherished Eoin, I loved and cherished God.”
“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,” he repeated over the chuckling, “and nodding by the fire, take down this book, and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; how many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true, but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face.”
“I’d been wrong about one thing. These were not average men and women. Time had not given them a gloss they had not earned. Even those I wanted to loathe, based on my own research and conclusions, conducted themselves with fervor and honest conviction. These weren’t posing politicians. They were patriots whose blood and sacrifice deserved history’s pardon and Ireland’s compassion.”
“Don’t write a book about Ireland’s history, Annie. There are plenty of those. Write a love story.’ ‘I still have to have context, Eoin,’ I argued, smiling. ‘Yes. You do. But don’t let the history detract you from the people who lived it.”
Poetic, lyrical, charming, heart-warming. Who is this book for? Lovers of historical fiction. Historical romance. Science fiction (time travel)
I was deep into this book before the first mention of sexual activities. There are several.
Do you remember the first time someone really close to you died? My dad’s mother died when I was in third grade, but we were in Germany so I wasn’t around to experience it. My Mom’s dad died when I was in Jr High and I remember it vividly. Why is it that when we first think about someone dying, all we think about are the good memories? There is the old saying, “Never speak ill of the dead.”
Isn’t it okay to still learn the good and the bad after someone is gone?
In her memoir, All That You Leave Behind, Erin Lee Carr graces us with all the wisdom imparted to her by her late father, renowned New York Times’ columnist David Carr. Told through a series of emails, Carr’s debut novel documents each dad-to-daughter pep talk that shaped her life and career.
When I started reading this book I believed it was going to be filled with these priceless letters of whit and wisdom. I was reminded that I as a human need to put my words in writing and write the people who mean something to me. That’s about as far as my love for this book goes.
Carr inherits more than career wisdom from her father. She also inherits his love for excessive drinking. Her memoir tells us the lessons that she learned from her father–both good and bad. Erin is indeed a disaster. Every time she gets a break she ruins it with her black-outs or being too drunk to behave respectfully. I respect her ability to look at herself in light of her father’s eyes. It’s a hard look because it is very ugly.
What I found more disappointing is that what could have been a touching reminder of a father’s love became an annoying perspective that became frightening. As a father do you have to do hard things sometimes? Absolutely. Do you have to deliver them with hate and coldness? No. If this book was supposed to make me like and respect David Carr it failed miserably. After reading this I think of him as a talented journalist who failed with his communications within his family.
On the cover it states: “This book shows that love does not end after death, nor should it.” That is the whole reason I read this book. Did it show me that? Hmmm. maybe. Blind love? The love that only a daughter can have for her father. Defanately.
This book was not at all what I expected. I wanted a book about a father’s love and relationship as he mentors his daughter and watches her grow. I got a book about Erin’s failures.
Things I liked:
That it was raw and honest. It didn’t hold back from really delivering punches.
I loved the list of things she learned from David that are in the back of the book.
I also loved her list of what she read while she was writing this.
“Storytelling still attains…and that means characters and import, but also editing and writing.”
“I started to understand the spasm of grief. Once someone close to you dies, you feel loss more plainly, as it is a part of your everyday experience. It feels crushing as the wave hits you, but then you can see the tide begin to drift in and out again after the storm.
“Whenever I would send him a flare email, his response was always relentlessly positive and made me feel like I was part of a tribe, a team. That someone was taking care of me. I knew, then and now, that this was a rare relationship for a child to have with a parent.”
Warning! Language. Lots. Difficult subject matter included abuse of …well, almost everything.
Book #4 The Last Flight by Julie Clark
Two women. Two flights. One last chance to disappear.
Claire Cook’s husband is ambitious, admired, and from a powerful and influential family with deep pockets. Behind closed doors, he has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career.
Claire is making plans to disappear.
But then she meets Eva James and her future is changed once again, but what has she gotten herself into now?
Julie Clark describes The Last Flight as a story about two women, both of whom have been victimized by men under different circumstances and in different settings. Now they both are seeking to run away. She knew her main character had to be a woman with “an inner strength, even if her current situation didn’t allow her to use it.”
I don’t think I have enjoyed any of my books as much as I did this one. I LOVED the characters. I rooted for both of them. Feared for both of them. Hated the circumstances and people who forced them to have to choose these paths.
If you had to make a hard decision like this, could you? Both of these women are strong and determined and afraid. As a reader, I was caught up with both of the stories and couldn’t wait to finish one chapter and start the next so that I could see what would unravel to reveal itself next.
To say I was captivated would be an understatement. I love books with an unusual plot that I don’t figure out and this one had me all the way.
It is interesting to note that Clark uses alternating narratives. Claire’s story is told in first person. Eva’s is told in third person. I loved that. For me, it added to the mystery.
The book is full of new plot developments and shocks. It will leave you with plenty of room for discussion!
Very easy to say! I LOVED IT! You will be thinking about this one long after you put it down.
“Eva could walk away with no regrets, knowing for certain the past held nothing of value for her. That sometimes, the death of a dream can finally set you free.”
“It’s a system that tells women we are unreliable, and then expendable. That our truths don’t matter when set side by side with a man’s.
“Are we who we say we are, or do we become the person others see?”
“Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”
“If we don’t tell our own stories, we’ll never take control of the narrative.”
“If you pay attention, solutions always appear. But you have to be brave enough to see them.”
What are you reading? Did you read any of these? I’d love to hear what you think!
Until next time this is just me talking to you, From the wings!
This month I tackled four books! They were all very different and I loved the places they took me. You will find in my book reviews I am going to be very honest about the way I feel about each book. Please understand that I do not intend to be mean about the reasons I do not like something, but I feel that my words matter so if I don’t like it–I won’t mince words. More about that when we get to book number 3.
First up, a dear friend of mine suggested that I read this. I have read several of Susan Meissner’s books and always enjoyed them so it was not a hard sell to get me to purchase this book. I knew it was about the Spanish Flu. I didn’t know; however, how often I would check to see when this book was published. I felt like someone had taken pages out of 2020 and written a fiction story about it. Eye-opening would be an understatement.
From the book cover:
“In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.”
As Bright As Heaven is the story of the Bright family; Thomas and Pauline and their daughters Maggie, Evelyn, and Willa.
I may have mentioned before that I don’t particularly care for books that are told from alternate points of view. So when I discovered that each chapter alternates between each of the females in this story– different points of view–I wasn’t a fan. It always seems to take me a little more time to attach myself to the characters when they each take a turn telling the story. If that doesn’t bother you then this book might be for you!
This historical novel is based on the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that wiped out nearly fifty million people worldwide, though very few people know much if anything about it.
The story is a dark one. At least it was to me. It might be the timing for me. Perhaps it is because I watch the news every day and see the death totals rise or maybe because I heard the stories of the bodies in New York that didn’t have graves because there was no time or place to accomplish a proper burial. All in all, reading this book made me think of everything we are going through now. On the other hand it was also incredibly hopeful. Life goes on. There is always hope.
There is also something to be said for a story that doesn’t wrap everything up into a neat little package. The reality is that, at times, we all hurt in our real lives. The events in As Bright as Heaven make our hearts hurt a little and that’s okay. The events are written with love to answer the following question posed by the author at the end of the book concerning the fact that death will come for us all one day.
“How does this knowledge that we are mortal affect our choices? The risks we take? The risks we don’t? …… We are, all of us, living out the stories of our lives. Each of our stories will end, in time, but meanwhile, we fill the pages of our existences with all the love we can, for as long as we can. This is how we make a life.”
By far my favorite thing about the book was the details about the Spanish Flu. I loved her acknowledgements and resources at the end of the book. Susan described vividly the impact of the flu on the old and young alike-even making us consider the children who ultimately have family and friends die. Sometimes having to consider if their own carelessness caused the death of their loved one. Ouch! Sound like something we are experiencing now?
It is important to note that she reminds us that even if you cannot see the wounds no one escaped without wounds of some sort.
“We only see a little bit of our stories at a time, and the hard parts remind us too harshly that we’re fragile and flawed. But it isn’t all hard. Your story isn’t all hard parts. Some of it is incredibly beautiful.”
You think you have a view of what’s waiting for you just up the road, but then something happens, and you find out pretty quick you were looking at the wrong road.”
“I think that grief is such a strange guest, making its home in a person like it’s a new thing that no one has ever experienced before.”
“Home isn’t a place where everything stays the same; it’s a place where you are safe and loved despite nothing staying the same.”
Who should read this? If you love historical fiction this book is for you. The details alone make it worth it.
Warnings: Death is almost its own character in this book so it is dark and heavy at times.
Book #2Educated by TaraWestover
Turning toward our house on the hillside, I see movements of a different kind, tall shadows stiffly pushing through the currents. My brothers are awake, testing the weather. I imagine my mother at the stove, hovering over bran pancakes. I picture my father hunched by the back door, lacing his steel-toed boots and threading his callused hands into welding gloves. On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping.
I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.
–from Educated by Tara Westover.
The inside cover of the book jacket reads: “Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her ‘head for the hills’ bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.”
After reading that and a few other details about how Tara was raised you open the book and read this:
“This story is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”
And instantly I am intrigued. I read this book at the urging of my husband. He read it and couldn’t wait to talk to me about it. I dragged my feet. The title sounded boring and I’m not really a non-fiction reader. I much prefer to escape in my reading. But I read her note and wondered, “What are you going to tell us about that makes you write a disclaimer like that???”
What we know:
Tara Westover grew up in an extreme survivalist Mormon family in Idaho. She didn’t receive a birth certificate for years, she didn’t go to school, and never went to the doctor. Although many details seem to be debatable she must have received enough home-schooling from her mother or other siblings along with effort she put into it herself to allow herself to gain entrance into Brigham Young University.
Although that is an amazing part of the story, much of the memoir is about her childhood.
Tara is the youngest of seven children. Her three oldest brothers experienced a different early childhood than the younger Westover children did. Tony, Shawn, and Tyler were allowed to attend school for a few years before Tara’s dad, Gene, began to get paranoid that the federal government would come and interfere, like the FBI did to the Weaver family.
There is something about the way Tara writes that is fascinating to me. I could easily picture her working in the salvage yard, or singing on stage or looking at all the burns and injuries that she dealt with over the years. She writes in a way that just makes you “see” it-almost experience it with her. It indeed did almost seem fictional that Tara could have escaped the countless incidents that she tells us about. Chapter after chapter has us holding our breath for tragedy the family will experience. How can so much happen to one family??
I connected with Tara not because I have ever experienced the horrors that she had, but there was something in her writing that pulled me along. I wanted to cheer for her. She helped me see things through her eyes. She gives several notations through the book that other people in her family don’t remember things the way she does and honestly, that was also okay with me.
Whoever we are, we hear and listen through the lens of our own experiences. We analyze what has happened through that lens. So when you tell a story it might not be the same way your sister remembers it. I thought it made Tara more human to me.
Much of Tara’s younger years are filled with horrific instances. As she tells story after story you root for her to get away–go somewhere safe.
She finally makes it onto campus and immediately begins to judge the people she lives with. “This person wears clothes too tight and too short. That person works on Sunday!”
I had to put the book down.
Not because I didn’t like it. But because it caused me to look at myself.
How often have we prejudged someone because we have been taught that a simple act of wearing the wrong color lipstick or dress at the knees instead of below the knees makes them a….”—–“?Tara carried the lessons of her family with her. She couldn’t escape them. Sometimes we are not that far removed from the very things we dislike in others.
There are other moments that are more horrifying. Burns and injuries, beatings and abuse. Sadly, all done by the people that are supposed to love you and protect you. I think that is one of the saddest parts about the book is that I think Tara really loved her family, but couldn’t live with their beliefs and behaviors any longer.
Do you think that perhaps Tara wrote the book to “educate” others? Do you think she wrote it so that it would heal what was broken in her?
After I finished this book I began to search the web for stories from her family. I wanted to know how they responded to the stories she told. I discovered that many people are not sure the book is indeed true.
Interesting. I will let you do your own research to make that decision for yourself. Once thing is sure. She definitely is educated now! She even has her PH.D. That is inspiring enough for any read.
“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is strength: the conviction to love in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.”
“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”
“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, Ihad written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.”
“what a person knows about the past is limited, and will always be limited, to what they are told by others.”
“The most powerful determinant of who you are is inside you,” he said. “Professor Steinberg says this is Pygmalion. Think of the story, Tara.” He paused, his eyes fierce, his voice piercing. “She was just a cockney in a nice dress. Until she believed in herself. Then it didn’t matter what dress she wore”.”
I could go on and on. I really really loved this book. I hope you will pick it up and read it and then I’d love to hear what you think.
Who should read this book? Adults who love stories about beating the odds. Those who love memoirs. Those who believe in family. Those who believe in the power of education.
Warnings: Extreme graphic violence and abuse. Not for sensitive minds.
I did not finish this book. I almost didn’t list it at all, because I honestly don’t want to promote this book. However, as I contemplated that fact, I realized that if I had seen a negative review such as this then I wouldn’t have wasted my money. So, here goes.
I am soooo disappointed in this book. I was excited to read something that was advertised as having “strong female friendship.” I loved the book cover and it’s colors and I felt like it was going to be a fun book to read. The book was recommend by one of the the book blogs I follow. It was recommended by someone that I thought would put a content warning if necessary.
I don’t necessarily consider myself as being a hyper sensitive reader, but the language choices and sexual content was extreme. When I got to the first swear word I paused. I read a little more and was confronted with a sexual innuendo. I wondered if I was reading too much into it and letting my mind fill in the wrong blanks so I kept reading. I’m sorry to say that I feel I read too much. The thought, “Set no wicked thing before mine eyes” kept going through my head so I finally said “enough was enough” and put the book away.
My take away:
Don’t just wholeheartedly read books that get recommended to you. Take a moment and do a little research to make sure you have the same values/opinions as those who are doing the recommending.
Book #4 If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh
From the book cover:
“Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door–turned–baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.
As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.”
I’m pretty sure most anyone who is reading this blog right now has already heard of Courtney Walsh. If not, then hurry up and get your hands on any of the books she has written.
Courtney is my new favorite author. There are probably many reasons, but at the top is her wonderful writing style. Her word choices paint a picture for me that almost has me smelling the salt air and feeling the sand between my toes.
This particular book charmed me for another reason.
When Emily arrives in Nantucket she pulls her suitcase through town on the way to her Grandparent’s beach home. (Yes, I said beach) She suddenly finds herself looking at the arts center and entering the building and looking at the empty stage. I was hooked. I loved that so much of who Emily was started on that stage.
The characters were incredibly human and realistic, but my favorite character was Emily’s mom. We mainly hear her voice through the letters that Emily carries with her and we instantly realize the importance of such a treasure.
Families are complicated and navigating through this one kept me captivated and breathless as I turned page after page.
I loved that the story has layers. It isn’t just a light romantic read. Each character is thought out and comes with their own backstory, pain and dreams.
Sometimes you just want to sit down and read something that entertains you and sweeps you away. But if you can add plot and depth to your story you truly have discovered something priceless.
Who should read this book? Lovers of clean romantic fiction. If you like an entertaining story that tugs at your heart-strings. You should read this story if you love to read about the relationships between mothers and daughters. If you love Courtney Walsh!
That’s it for this month! Please let me know if you have read any of these books. Also, I’d love it if you would share these reviews and follow me!
By the way, I do not receive any compensation if you chose to order one of these books. It’s just me sharing my love of reading!
During the month of July I read 3 books. I know most of you are reading 3 books a week, but my little heart is just happy that I have managed to stumble back into something I have always enjoyed and yet somehow stopped doing!
The one good thing that came out of COVID is that I’ve managed to rediscover my love for books.
This month I tackled: When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent, Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon and The Sea Before Us by Saran Sundin.
When I Lay My Isaac Down was a very thoughtful gift from Naomi Rogers, a dear friend of mine. I had mentioned to her that I heard Carol Kent speak at a writer’s conference I attended on-line and was so moved by Carol’s story. Naomi heard my words and gifted me the book so generously.
This book outlines eight transformational power principles Gene and Carol Kent learned in the process of facing the news that forever changed their lives: their twenty-five-year-old son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with an impeccable military record, shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband.
This book forever changed the way I will think about hope and faith and most of all community.
The book starts with this quote from Eric Liddell:
“Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.”
Carol tells her personal story explaining the loss she and her husband felt. She tells of her melted pride, her destroyed agenda and a heart sacrifice that she never dreamed she would have to make. With each step she reminds us that God is always in the middle of each circumstance whether we recognize Him or not.
Each chapter tells the story of what Carol and her husband learned along this journey and ends with discussion questions that would make this book a very interesting Bible study.
This is a convicting story of hope….not in our lives and personal goals, but in the God who is always working out His plan of love.
I also found it interesting to read the comments that people made to the Kent’s out of ignorance and how unfeeling it would seem to the person going through such loss. I have personally always struggled to say the “right” thing. It was so helpful to see the other perspective. I loved seeing the examples of how friends and family could minister in such creative ways.
One last thought. I LOVED the example of Abraham and what God asked of him when God asked him to “lay his Issac down.” What a wonderful thread that tied her whole story together.
Thank you, Carol Kent, for your wonderful testimony and inspiring all of us in so many different paths.
Who should read this? This book is good for all those who want to be challenged past their comfortable walk with Jesus. It is also great for those who are experiencing the pain of disappointment and loss. It isn’t a hard read, but it is a heart read.
Where the Lost Wander By Amy Harmon
In 1853, newly widowed Naomi May sets out for the West with her family on the Oregon Trail which is filled with hardship, danger, and loss. During this travel she meets John Lowry. As the journey progresses and becomes more harrowing, they grow closer but their relationship is tested in intense and emotional ways.
After you have read a few of my book reviews it will become clear to you that Historical Fiction is definitely my favorite genre to read. This book did not disappoint. This book is filled with wonderful historical details and is really quite beautifully written. As a bonus the author gives notes at the end with extraordinary details of her own family history and what inspired this story.
This is definitely a love story, however, there is hardship and loss and survival that makes you keep turning page after page. I loved the characters and found myself cheering their loves and mourning their losses.
I loved learning more about Native American culture and giving myself time to consider how certain actions would have made them feel. I have always felt that pioneers did so many of them wrong. Looking back, we have made serious mistakes with other races and nationalities time after time. This is another book that will make you think about those actions.
I’m sure we will never know exactly how difficult the early pioneers had it when they traveled across America on the Oregon trail, but this book gives you a wonderful painting of what that could have been like.
My one negative is that the book began with a Prologue that was a serious spoiler so I kept reading the book anticipating the one big event. I wonder what it would be like to skip the prologue and just read from Chapter One? If I could go back and do that over, I would.
Warnings: There are several passages that are quite difficult to read. There is violence, massacres, a rape as well as other things. If you are sensitive to those things this is not a book for you.
The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin
In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France – including those of her own family’s summer home – in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.
As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.
This is Book #1 in a series SUNRISE AT NORMANDY. Of the three books I read this month, this was the easiest, fastest read. Hmmm. maybe it was an easy read because I enjoyed the story so much?
The story is well done. The characters drew me in and I was fascinated by the back story of both of the main characters which led to the reason they would act and react the way they did. In spite of that, they were lovable and I wanted them to be able to get past the mistakes they had each made individually and bask in the forgiveness of God!
Sarah writes with just the right amount of detail. You can lean into the time period and facts about the war and military so that the words paint an incredible picture. I loved the new British phrases I learned as well as the quirkiness of the cute Texan! I also loved thinking about all the backstory of preparations for D-Day about procedures I had never even given thought about.
If you are looking for a book that is a light romantic read with a touch of history thrown in or love books set in WWII. Then, I think this book is for you.
In case you wondered? I will be ordering the next two books in the series. I mean, we all need a little light romance read every once and awhile don’t we?
Warning: There are some mentions of premarital relationships.
That is it for this month. I hope you are reading. I know that it isn’t a past time that some enjoy, but it is so good for you! Will you try to read any of these?
I am really jealous of my oldest daughter in one specific way. She seems to be able to make time to read…like really read maybe for an hour or hours a week. I’m not sure how she does it, but thinking back….there was a period of time in my life when I did the same thing. I’m desperately trying to regain that desire/ability, but still struggling a little.
A couple of year’s ago my daughter, Becca author of the Blog, Daily Joy, read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. She told me that I really NEEDED to read the book. To be honest, I kinda blew it off. Why did I want to read a book about the President of Pixar?? My mindset was that Pixar wasn’t Disney and I was too old for cartoons. So, when my daughter, Ashley, gave me the book for Christmas, I put it away.
Enter Covid. (Is it strange that every one of my blog posts lately say…Enter Covid? Life changing for sure….)
With Covid my world stopped and I tried to recreate good habits and get rid of old bad ones. I had previously made a New Year’s Resolution to read at least one book a month during this year. After a few light reads I decided to pull this book off the shelf.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award–winning studio behind Inside Out and Toy Story.
I cannot believe I waited this long to read this book. It was inspirational, motivational, entertaining and educational. This book tells the story of a man who had a dream and worked hard to build a company that set a new standard for a creative culture–believing at all times–that it is important to do the best work possible. I started reading it thinking that it was a great book to tell the story of Pixar, but quickly began telling my friends and anyone who would listen about the lessons I learned each day.Lessons that applied to me as a writer, director, story-teller, leader, President of a non-profit and maybe even just a person. I started taking notes realizing that this book is for me. Ed would tell stories about how they would write their scripts and I would find myself realizing that his struggles were things I needed to learn from.
My lessons didn’t stop there because Creativity, Inc. is also a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, and create a working environment that is successful, safe and causes each employee to also strive to be better.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”
“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
“If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.”
“Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.”
“When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.”
“When faced with a challenge, get smarter.”
“Fear can be created quickly; trust can’t.”
“Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.”
“Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.”
“What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?”
“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.”
“You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.”
“Be patient. Be authentic. And be consistent. The trust will come.”
“The future is not a destination – it is a direction.”
“We must remember that failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.”
“We want people to feel like they can take steps to solve problems without asking permission.”
“THERE IS NOTHING quite like ignorance combined with a driving need to succeed to force rapid learning.”
“Quality is the best business plan.”
“it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.”
The title, “To Whom it May Inspire.” is taken from a section of the book where Ed is talking about something he created called, “Notes Day.” He warns that things change and that they should and we shouldn’t be afraid of that change but instead approach it with fresh thinking. Ed received a letter from one of his animators, Austin Madison, which started, “To Whom it May Inspire,” He stated that like most artists he constantly shifts between two states. The first is white-hot, “in the zone.” A place where everything flows creatively. He says it only happened 3% of the time. The other happens the other 97% of the time and is when we are frustrated, struggling and throwing ideas out the window constantly. His advice?
PERSIST on telling your story.
PERSIST on reaching your audience.
PESIST on staying true to your vision.
That’s what we do. Keep on keeping on. Stay focused. Don’t give in.
I think there is comfort in the fact that we will always have problems: some we see right away and some that come out of nowhere….like COVID.
It isn’t the goal to avoid the problems or even to make things easier. The goal is to rise above the problem with excellence.
Who is this book for? EVERYONE. Honestly, do yourself a favor and read it. It isn’t a quick read because there is sooooo much to think about. You might be surprised. You might even shed a tear. It’s that good.
This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).
I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!
Cooking up Characters with Kady! (did you like that alliteration?) Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.
First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.
An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.
I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like?Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´?And Jane Eyre..modern or historical?How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun?How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)
Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!
And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.
Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.
With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.
Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.
The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.
The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.
I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this: My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.
I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.
From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.
But theater is not a solo endeavor.
Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!
“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.–Alberto Manguel
At the beginning of 2020 I read page after page of posts on Facebook from friends who beautifully recapped all the books they read during 2019. I was ashamed, informed, entertained and inspired. You see? I love to read, but somehow I’ve gotten out of the habit. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but after reading post after post I decided that the bad habit needed to be broken and I resolved to read at least one book a month during 2020.
I started off great during January and February, but as I was working on “Trip to Bountiful.” reading became a huge luxury because I needed to spend so much time on my lines. I vowed that I would still get back to reading. I just needed to make sure my lines were firmly embedded in my brain before moving on.
Then, our world stopped and reading…well, reading became everything. I must admit, I spent the first part of quarantine reading about the virus and the dangers and all the theories behind it, but slowly I pulled my head away from that and decided I wanted to be entertained instead.
Why is it that some of us love to read and others make ourselves read and still others don’t do it at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that subject because I’m not sure I know the answer and I’d love to hear theories.
For now, I’d like to share my January-March reading experience with you.
I had the honor of being in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank last year. I actually started this book at that time, but just couldn’t fight way my through it. I finished it this year. I’m not sure I could have picked a better book to begin my new journey with books.
Do you know the story? It is the real life account of a young girl during WWII. Anne’s father, Otto, has the forsite to prepare a place for his family and one other to hide from the Germans. Anne faithfully writes in her diary the day-to-day activities during their time in hiding. She was thirteen when she began detailing her accounts. Most of us think of reading this book for school, but I think I learned even more reading it as an adult. I’m inspired at Anne’s intelligence and how prolifically she writes. Was it because she was trapped with adults for such a long time or has the world been robbed of a bright mind that would have given us such immeasurable greatness? When Overshadowed produced this play last year, we talked about living in cramped spaces with people who would grow to get on our nerves. We talked about eating the same things over and over and the idea of not being about to go outside and how that would feel. We talked about the fear of the unknown and dependance on others…..who knew that we would be experiencing a little of the same things? It makes me so thankful for what we DO have. Freedom at the top of the list.
As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?–Anne Frank
This book is available at Amazon! There are also other books that you might be interested in. Some of them are also in the photo above.
I loved this book! I am a fan of all things Titanic and this story about fourteen members of a small village in Ireland who journey towards America is captivating. We instantly love, Maggie, who is torn as she heads to a future that must be better, but ache for her as she leaves her true love behind. The story blends the past with the present as we meet Grace Butler who struggles to find focus on the future until her great-grandmother decides it is time to tell the story of….The Titanic.
This story is inspired by true events and the blending of history, fact and fiction reminded me of so many tragic decisions involved in the sinking of that great ship that changed the world forever.
That night when Titanic went down was so terrible that some survivors, like me, wanted to stop talking about it. I suppose people move on, history moves on, and there will, sadly, always be something more terrible waiting around the corner.--Maggie
Why is that my favorite? Because it reminds us to talk, because stories teach. And it reminds us that life has wonderful times and terrible ones. We need to find the good in all of them.
This one was a struggle to read. In fact, I had to make myself read a chapter a day to get finished with it. I found the disjointed way that she introduced her characters hard to follow. I continually went back and reread portions to see if I had missed something. It finally all came together in the end, but that’s too long to wait for the story to make sense. It also touched upon being very inappropriate at times. She didn’t go into detail, but it just made me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to feel that way when I read!
By the way, I do NOT receive anything for the recommendation of these books. This is just me…sharing things with you!
I’m not sure why I chose these three books for the beginning of this year. They all involved very deep topics and all three brought me to tears at times. My title for this blog was One Book Can Change the World. I truely believe it can. I think The Diary of a Young Girl did that. What books have your read that changed you or the world? Or…should you write one?
During this time of darkness….why not pick up a book and read!
Please take a moment to like and share this! And please let me know about books you have read!