Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

3 stars Fiction

I had a hard time with this book.  I thought had the stories not been chopped up, I would have enjoyed the book more.  Between the different timelines and all the characters in this book to keep track of.  I felt I was learning about one person and the story would suddenly shift to someone else.   I remember reading about making cigars and I was enjoying this passage when suddenly, that story was gone and I was reading something totally different.  There were a few times when I was reading sections of the book and I thought, why was this included in the book?  How does this pertain to anything I have previously read?  Had I missed something? Don’t get me wrong as there were some very interesting sections in this book, sections that I would have loved to know more about but I never got to return to them.

I don’t think this book was for me.  This book was read for book club and as we discussed the book, we talked about how disconnected some individuals felt as they read. I’m glad that I was not alone in my confusion.  I see that others have read this book and loved it so I have to say that it was not a good choice for me.   3 stars 

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian

5 stars Fiction

I’ve been wanting to read this book so I was excited we read it for bookclub.  The cover of the book and the synopsis gives me this dark mysterious feeling and I was intrigued by how these girls seemed so much alike but were separated by race.   Nestled into the swamp, these folks have their own way about doing things and whether it’s proper or not, is not what matters, it’s that it’s taken care of.

She was in love when she left and now, she has returned.  Her fondness of Jesse prompted her to run off with him but now she has returned. Returned to her home, to her father, to this home in the swamp, the house on stilts.  There had been room for Ada in this house but now, her father’s tools are more important and Ada will sleep in the shed.  Her father has expectations of Ada now that she has returned.  He didn’t welcome her with open arms but with expectations and responsibilities. 

My heart was torn for Ada as she tried to fit back into her old lifestyle.  Her father wasn’t making it any easier.  When he compares his daughter to his wife and begins to criticize and lash out at her, I wanted to reach inside the book and cause my own scene.  The words that were spoken, the truth that was revealed was painful but Ada had to learn what she could from her father, no matter what the conditions were.  

Matilda to the rescue!  I was so grateful that Matilda arrived on the scene and took action.  Anything that she could do would be beneficial but I didn’t expect her to be such a strong character.  Matilda had her own issues but to Ada she was a ray of light and she knew the w’s: what, where, why and when.    I enjoyed the friendship that Ada and Matilda formed and how they supported each other.   

I liked how the beginning of the book tied into the middle of this book rather than at the end of the book, that had a nice touch.  I knew the story wasn’t over and the ending was still yet to come.   I had never expected the ending that the author led me down, as I had envisioned many different paths as I became entwined inside this book.  A 5-star read for me.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

4 stars Historical Fiction

Lakshmi wooed them but did they really know her?  There was so much to enjoy about this book from the language of the text, to keeping all the characters separate and unique, to transporting me to a different place and time yet, I felt that I was the only one who really knew Lakshmi.  I liked that Lakshmi was a strong-minded and independent individual but I felt that she was a meddler, when she need not be.

I understand that Lakshmi was proud of who she had become and she needed to be “out there” to keep her name on the lips of individuals needing her services but there were other instances in the book where I thought she just needed to step back and not insert herself.  She can get enough popularity, what she needs to be getting the attention for, with her talents, she doesn’t have to be involved in everything.  I liked the end of the book the best, as that gives me hope that she can discover who Lakshmi really is.  I see that there is a sequel and I’ll have to look into that and see what transpires.  I read this book for book club.    

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

4.25 stars Fiction

I was so glad that our book club picked this book for this month’s selection.  I’ve been meaning to read it but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  This book totally surprised me.   I seriously had to reread the synopsis a few times, as I thought perhaps, I had this book confused with something else. I didn’t find this book humorous at all, so I’m confused why it was labeled as a humorous book.  It was an entertaining book that got my attention, a book that I couldn’t quit reading it until I got to the final page. 

I couldn’t believe how much Korede covered for her sister, Ayoola. I realized that Korede felt responsible for her younger sibling but to take it to that extent was ridiculous.  What began as a responsibility turns into an obligation, with only one of the parties, receiving any benefits.  Ayoola was a hoot!  She could wrap people around her finger and they’d come back for more.  He lies were ridiculous yet people fell for them. Ayoola tries to act like an innocent victim but it’s obvious she’s not. I just couldn’t understand why no one questioned her or looked into her track record.  Perhaps if they did, they would also realize that Korede was not the innocent bystander she thinks she is either.  She played an active role in all of this.  It’s like they deserve one another but really? 

This was a fun read; I think everyone in book club enjoyed this entertaining story and could see why this book is so popular.  We had a good discussion about this book and I thought the ending was great as it got me all fired up.  4.25 stars

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

5+ stars Fiction

Once I inside the doors of Big Angel’s house, I didn’t want to leave. I knew exactly how this story would end as I was told that in the beginning pages of this book, yet I grew fond of each individual in Big Angel’s life and my admiration for him soared.  I laughed, cried and flipped my way through these pages until I realized that I was holding just a few unread pages in my right hand.  This was it, I had to finish what I had started.  I eased my pace for I would only be able to hold onto these dear individuals for just a while longer.  My new family knew that change was inevitable but to what decree, was undetermined.

Big Angel had been planning his last birthday party but now mother/grandma would need to be laid to rest before the celebration.  Big Angel knew that this would be his last hurrah, as he gathers his clan together in the family’s home.  As the patriarch, he was actually much more than that to his family and friends throughout the years.  This story of about hope, survival, family, about making a difference, and about being yourself was fantastic and I’m so glad bookclub choose it. 

Big Angel, the family’s leader, feels that he has now been reduced to a child.  This man, that his siblings used to see as a father figure, the punctual, computer-genius he once was, is now using a wheelchair and needs help with most of his daily functions.  As a Mexican immigrant, Big Angel and his family have had some interesting and amazing adventures throughout their lifetime.  As family and friends gather to celebrate Big Angel birthday, their adventures are far from over.  For on this one day, some see Big Angel for who he really is.  

As I listened to all the different individuals in the story, I enjoyed their interactions and how they all fed into the maze of each other’s lives.  As the author blended in all the different time periods, I liked seeing and hearing exactly what had transpired during this time and their account of the event.  Big Angel is a proud man yet he’s also humble.  As he writes in his mole-skinned notebooks, it’s the honesty and the thought that he puts into each entry that makes these books so special.  He’s a man who has accepted what life has given to him and now, he’s appreciating it all.  Speaking from the heart, his comments led me to cry and to laugh, sometimes all within a few pages of each other.  There are tons of great moments in this book, moments that make me smile just thinking about them.  After borrowing this book from the library to read, I realize that I need this book in my collection so I can reread it in the near future. It is definitely a keeper and one that I highly recommend.  5+ stars

“At the end of the day, all he really knew was that he was a Mexican father. And Mexican fathers made speeches. He wanted to leave her with a blessing, with beautiful words to sum up a life, but there were no words sufficient to this day.  But still, he tried.  “All we do, mija,” he said, “is love. Love is the answer.  Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death.”

Between Heaven and Texas by Marie Bostwick

4 stars Fiction

This is my first book by Marie Bostwick and I enjoyed it much more than I originally anticipated. I don’t think I would have selected this book to read on my own, which is why book clubs are so beneficial. With this book completed, I would love to continue on with the series, to see what the future held for a few of the characters.

Settling down into Too Much, Texas with the Templeton family, I followed a few younger sisters as they matured and became adults. Since the family unit is a huge and important part of being a Templeton, I ended up getting to know quite a few of the girl’s friends and family members. Leading an eventful life, I found that the story moved quickly with an engaging storyline that pulled me in quickly.

As the girl’s become adults, they began to get serious about the men in their lives and unfortunately, they started to drift apart. This begins a “muddy” period for them and their family. They can’t see what the future holds for them so right now, things look great and they’re excited to get their adult lives started. Oh, does it get exciting. Perhaps not the excitement that they were expecting, but it’s exciting! For it’s one thing-on-top-of-another and it-just-will-not-stop.

This book has almost a little bit of everything. I liked that the family ranch is passed down to the women in the family and how they take this responsibility seriously. There are parts in this book that are funny while it also has its serious moments. The family does have its differences and I like that they show this in the book without a lot of negative drama. There is a little bit of religion in the book but nothing preachy and there’s also romance in the book. I’m not one that’s into a lot of romanace but this was just enough for me. I enjoyed this book and Iwould like to read more of this series in the future.

“You wait and see if I’m not right. This boy is going to be something. One of a kind. Aren’t you, Howard?”

Living With Twelve Men….. a mother in training by Betty Auchard

4.5 stars Memoir

Reading Betty’s stories are like sitting beside her and having a conversation.  Betty doesn’t leave out anything as she writes about events in her life and I enjoyed the assortment of stories and her honesty.  I found myself laughing many times as I read and I even thought, “no, she really didn’t do that, did she?” 

Her story about the prayer chain hit home with me.  When it came time for Betty’s turn to pray, I cracked up as she spoke to the group.  I would have loved to be in that room and see everyone’s response as I think I would’ve started laughing. Her story about the guinea hens reminded me of the time I had turkeys.  I don’t know how she kept her composure during that whole ordeal but I feel she’s a strong woman as I know I wouldn’t have been able to.    

This is my second book of Betty’s that I’ve read and they’ve both been very enjoyable.  Betty writes about her personal experiences which are honest and open.  I read this book for book club and we had the honor this month (April 2021) of having Betty at our book club meeting via Zoom.  Seeing her in person was wonderful, as she’s just like the individual, I pictured her to be.  A very sweet, entertaining woman spoke with us.  She answered all of our questions, talking about the stories in the book, asking us questions, and telling us about her life.  We all enjoyed having her join us. 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

5 stars YA

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.  This has been my precept lately and when I read about August’s language teacher giving his students precepts to reflect upon monthly, I was moved. In fact, there were many characters in this book reflecting back on their actions and/or their comments because sometimes, individuals act spontaneous. I enjoyed all the characters in this book, each one of them was important to this story.  August may have been the common thread that linked them all together but they were all needed, to make August into the best person that he could be. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have read parts of this book over the years.  As a substitute teacher, I would read this book in various classrooms when I would do a read-aloud with the students.  I never heard a student tell me they didn’t enjoy the book, in fact, most kids got excited when I read it to them.  They would try to tell me different parts of the story and I could definitely feel their enthusiasm.  I had no desire to read this book after reading the disjointed version over and over throughout the years.  Book Club came to my rescue and dang, what a book!  I laughed, cried, and gave my copy of the book a good talking to, a few times as August ventures inside a school building.   Don’t go to school, go to school, don’t go, go, heck…..I don’t know.  I wobbled back and forth, as August tried to decide what he should do about attending school in a building vs. being home schooled again by his mother.

August knows the reaction that he’ll receive when he goes to school, he’s been getting it his entire life.  He wants to think that he’s used to it but in reality, he knows he’s not.  His mom feels that since it’s 5th grade, all the students will be new to the building and it’s a perfect transition time but August knows that he still has the disadvantage.  After the school tour, August feels that it’s not as bad as he thought yet, when he actually attends the school, it’s harder than he thought. 

I wasn’t ready for parts of the story as I read them.  In the back of my head, I’m thinking positive thoughts but I know that negative things can happen, when “it” happened.  They made me feel as if I’ve been run over by a bus.  I know kids can be cruel, I know they can be truthful and honest but wow, seriously? I loved August’s sister, Via.  She’s the real deal.  She tries to toughen him up as she throws punches at him and he has the choice to either fight back or walk away.  I believe that Via hoped that he’d confront her, she wanted him to push back, as that made him stronger. 

Being a kid is hard, you want to fit in, but where?  There’re many examples of this in the book, and the reality of it hits home.  Kids want to be accepted, they want to a part of something, I think everyone has this feeling sometime in their life as I read, I understood the position they took.  Sometimes I didn’t like it but I understood it.  I think both his peers and August matured in this book.   I liked how the teacher was trying to get his students to think on their own when he assigned the precepts.  He wanted them to apply the various concepts and form an opinion, then they were to express themselves on the various subjects. I think this is a great exercise will help the students grow internally. 

I’m so glad that I was forced to read this book for book club as I don’t think I would have read this book otherwise. I now want to see the movie as I heard it was good and was close to the book. 

There were many great quotes in this book but these stand out as my favorite:

“Now, unless you want to be treated like a baby the rest of your life, or like a kid with special needs, you just have to suck it up and go.”    (guess who said that?)

““Do people go out of their way to avoid touching you, Vic?” he answered, which left me momentarily without an answer. “Yeah, right. That’s what I thought. So, don’t compare your bad days at school to mine, okay?””

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

4 stars Historical Fiction

I never would have picked up this book had it not been for bookclub.  I almost didn’t read it because it really didn’t look or sound like something I would like YET, wow, what a story!  It was a wonderful story built on strong female relationships and determined individuals.  

Jacob was the one we all know about, the one whose name rang a bell with me.  Anita writes that Jacob has 4 wives and 10 sons. Jacob is mentioned just a bit i

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n this story but it’s the women’s lives who take over the pages.

Rachel was one of Jacob’s wife who was a midwife. She gives birth to Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah.  The Red Tent which is the book’s title refers to the structure where women would go when they’re menstruating or when they’re having a baby. Dinah though, was able to go into the Red Tent anytime, to learn from the women who were inside there. 

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I liked how the women went inside the Red Tent monthly, for just a few days, to rejuvenate themselves. The outside world would continue on, while she held herself up, inside that structure with the other women, until she opened up the door and walked out. I thought this was powerful but then, this also had to do with their religion. 

Reading this book was interesting but later, I located a guide to use with this book and that was an eye-opener.  It had me analyzing situations and yes, I could see what they were addressing but I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Had I not read this guide; this concept never would have crossed my mind. I hadn’t thought this much about historical or biblical times. Wow, this was a lot to think about and it started to make this reading material, deep. I was starting to see that there were some complex issues going on. One of my issues with this story had to do with keeping track of all the names of the characters as they made their journey.  

I’m glad that I read this story. 4 stars. 

April Bookclub

This is my April’s bookclub book that I picked up today. I belong to my local library’s bookclub, which is in Iowa and we meet once a month, usually at the library but lately we’ve been meeting online. We read the author’s, The Home For the Friendless: Finding Hope, Love and Family back in November 2020 and our group’s leader connected with the author, since the author lives in Iowa. We’d looked at her other books and some of our questions surrounded this book, Living with Twelve Men….a mother in training, it sounded interesting.

Today, when I picked up my copy at the library, imagine my surprise when I opened my sack and I found all these extra goodies. Yeah! A library coffee mug, tea, popcorn, candy, bookmark, and the book.