What Would Your 2002 Past Self Think of Your 2012 Present Self?!
We all need at least one just-for-fun, “beach read” included in our summer reading list; I’m glad I chose this one as one of mine!
This book really had me contemplating! What if I fell off a cardio machine at the gym (I’m there almost every day!), woke up and thought I was back in 2002? There are so many beautiful events and significant changes that occurred in the last 10 years that I would be shocked! In 2002 at this time, I would be anxiously anticipating to begin my dream job teaching within the district I’ve always wanted to teach (this year marked my 10 year anniversary there!). I’d be ecstatic and literally bursting with pride that my daughter not only is flourishing at her dream university but landed a full-ride as well. Whoa – talk about a dream come true! I’m in a different, completely newly furnished home (I’d say my old self would be happy with the new style), I’m at the gym much more than I ever was (my old self would be thrilled with the leaner muscles but want to stock the fridge with more carbs). Finally, ten years ago, I was newly divorced – I’ve been loved and have loved but apparently haven’t found my last love yet (my old self would be surprised at this yet it would be sad if I didn’t remember the many beautiful experiences, moments and feelings I’ve gained). Yes, the person I am today is different from the person I was then . . . but it doesn’t hurt to take a step back sometimes . . . Interested? . . . Here’s the premise of the book:
Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she hates the gym!) and discovers that she’s actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.
A knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn’t sure she likes who she’s become. It turns out, though, that forgetting might be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to Alice.
Moriarty did a fabulous job of bringing everything together from Alice’s past and present. For me it was hard to put this book down because I wanted to see Alice overcome her present and take the joys from her past and bring them with her to her present time. I think that somehow as we go through the trials of life we forget the joys. It was wonderful to be reminded to remember the good times even better than the bad, and use those good times to overcome the pain of loss and mistakes. The side stories of her sister, mother and grandmother continue to carry the lesson that the pain we are in now does not influence the joy we can truly have in life. The format in which these side stories are presented worked seamlessly as well. Moriarty has a way of holding suspense – Alice’s small spurts of memory hint at the mysteries she’s forgotten. Everything about this book was fun and heartwarming – it was interesting to watch Alice watch her own life from an objective point of view. There are some serious messages here mixed in with at times very comedic delivery. I’ll eat my new summer hat if you don’t delight in this read!!
GG gives What Alice Forgot an A+ for a delightful protagonist trying to overcome believable obstacles in this crazy, busy, busy world.
A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. ~Henry David Thoreau
Yes, I shop at Barnes & Noble and Borders more than the average person, and I undoubtedly always will. There is, however, an independent bookseller that I happily discovered twenty years ago and have been a devoted customer to ever since. Chinaberry offers “books and other treasures for the whole family” in a personal, intimate, honest manner.
What makes shopping through Chinaberry’s catalog or Chinaberry.com so distinct from the larger booksellers is that each and every item is scrutinizingly chosen by its employees. Employees personally read the books, play the games and used the products to sell only the best. As the catalog states, “You won’t find a single ho-hum or overly hyped, media-driven product in our catalog.”
I started receiving Chinaberry catalogs when I was pregnant with my daughter and remember reveling in their arrivals. I used to sit and read the catalogs from cover to cover as if it was a book itself!! Every description about each item included a funny anecdote, memorable quotation or practical suggestion that I took to heart. As you read these descriptions, you can’t help but feel you’ve got a friend sitting next to you excitedly telling you about the great book she just read!!
I’m absolutely convinced that my daughter’s home library wouldn’t have consisted of as many endearing pieces had it not been for the wonderful people of Chinaberry. The Christmas story book with the unique painted image of a very pregnant Mary on her way to the Inn, the glossy, boldy photographed My First Word book, the gentle Stopping at Every Lemonade Stand parenting book . . . these and more come to mind.
Books are categorized by age-appropriateness from birth through adults. Other offerings include educational games, special items for parents to pamper themselves with (you must check out the Seven Year Pen!), and seasonal items to make the home cozier (we have a few of those mugs with hidden animals at the bottom).
While I’ve continued to purchase books for myself and my family through the years from Chinaberry, my devotion is fervently renewed now that I have a baby niece. Case in point, for Christmas she received four special books for her library from her Auntie!! One of her favorite presents, in fact, was the In My Den finger puppet book. She looooves to pull on the bear. She’ll be able to carry her family close with the People Who Love Me Album, jump up and down when the baby ducky pops out at the end of I Kissed the Baby, and gaze at animals snuggle up with snow in When Snowflakes Fall.
Grading Girl gives Chinaberry an A+ for offering kind, gentle products with kind, gentle service. What started as a very small mail-order business in founder Ann Reuthling’s home to a catalog that reaches over 3.5 million people today, Chinaberry has so much more to offer than the bestsellers.
Check out the About Chinaberry story in detail here. Ann Reuthling’s story is inspirational!
What I’m Reading This Summer
At the beginning of every school year, I sit down with my reading students, forming a circle – either with our desks or on the floor – and I share every single book I read over the summer. I lug every single book in and give a little book talk on each one. Regardless of whether every book is interesting and/or appropriate for them is irrelevant. My goal is simply for them to understand right away just how much I enjoy reading – yes, I practice what I preach. If one of the books I describe happens to catch their fancy, wonderful! – They have a book idea for the coming semester! If not, I’ve hopefully at least motivated them to choose a book they enjoy as much as I’ve enjoyed mine.
WHAT I’VE READ SO FAR (in this order):
Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult A: Jodi does it again – the author’s known for her surprising twists and shocking connections. This story of a man wrongly accused of statutory rape is a page-turner. It was a good one for me to kick off my summer reading, and it is definitely in my Top 5 Jodi Picoult books (along with My Sister’s Keeper, 19 Minutes, and Change of Heart).
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hussein A+: I should have read this a loooong time ago. Let me tell you, it left an impression. It is the story of a young boy from the a district of Kabul, who befriends the son of his father’s servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afganistan’s monarchy through the Soviet invasion. As a side note, the dirt imagery fascinated me all along. Men, women, young and old will find this story of redemption so endearing!!!!
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen A: I already knew that elephants understood emotions but this story helped me appreciate just how smart they truly can be. This fictional novel focuses on one man’s adventures with a traveling circus he runs away with after his parents’ sudden deaths. The most poignant piece of this is the narration as flashback: the protagonist, Jacob Jankowski, is a 93-year old man living in an assisted living facility; the reader catches a glimpse into the agonizing frustration one goes through as faculties fade away. As he deals with the tribulations around him, Jacob flashbacks to his young self’s adventures. I’m very much looking forward to the movie starring Robert Pattinson.
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer B-: I finished this over-600 page book in 2 days!! While I appreciated the passion and romance, I quickly grew weary of Bella’s whining. Parts were predictable as well. The most fun part was shouting out turning points to my daughter as I approached them in my reading. She finished the series long ago but still holds a passion as she just saw the movie (twice.) I’m going next week and looking forward to it in spite of Bella’s inevitable drawn-out laments. I’ll read Breaking Dawn soon before that movie comes out . . . but I can wait.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer B+: The book’s narrator is a nine-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who lost his father on 9/11 two years before the story began. In the story, Oskar discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father. He is determined to find what that key opens; his determination takes him through all of New York’s burroughs. What is so uniquely interesting about this book that will keep you on your toes as you read is that the author brings a multimedia sense to the book. He uses type settings, spaces and even blank pages to give the book a visual dimension beyond the narrative. Additionally, this brought back all my nightmarish thoughts about 9/11.
Complications by Atul Gawande A: This is a fascinating peak into the very human side of medicine. I never was one to put all my faith into every single thing my doctors say – now I won’t for sure!!! Dr. Gawande, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is a general surgeon at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, is very VERY candid in his behind-the-scenes portrayals of hospital life. Very thought provoking. I may read his other book, Better, as well.
One Day by David Nicholls A-: Dexter and Emma met on their college graduation day in 1988. The book depicts a day in their lives (the same calendar day) over the next 20 years. Dramatic irony takes great form here as the reader watches these two run circles around each other but never quite getting in synce in spite of their apparent strong affection for one another. I actually exclaimed out loud at one point when reading – and I was outside at the pool. Books rarely make me do that. The movie version is already in production. Run to the bookstore before the movie; you won’t regret it.
Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert B+: My favorite line from this book talks about our power of thinking – we can choose our way of thinking just as we choose our wardrobes. It’s up to us how we perceive situations occuring in our lives. The author takes the reader on her mental and spiritual journey as she travels to Italy, India and Indonesia . Her revelations are inspiring and endearing. Plus, her sensory-detailed depictions of the Italian food she feasts on made me want to grab a deep-dish pizza that very second.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick B: This is a darker novel than I normally pick up but it came highly recommended by two colleagues. This is definitely NOT a recommendation for students. Set in Wisconsin in 1907, Ralph Truitt places an ad for a wife. Catherine Land, a woman with a scandalous past, answers the ad. She secretly invents a plan to benefit from his riches; but, Ralph is more knowing than he seems. The twists are shocking, the illustrations are sensual, and the characters are colorful. The ending, however, was disappointing. After the preceeding tumultuous events, I was left with an emptiness.
The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer A+: This is one of those books that changes your life after you read it! Some may be familiar with Dr. Dyer as he appears frequently on PBS. This book emphasizes the belief that we can find spiritual solutions to problems by “living at higher levels and calling upon faster energies.” This may sound like The Law of Attraction, but Dr. Dyer takes the belief much further with practical, every day steps to take along with fascinating research to back up the claims.
Boundaries – When to Say Yes & How to Say No by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend A: Physical boundaries are usually easy to discern (fences, walls, signs, etc) but emotional and spiritual boundaries are not. This book illustrates how boundaries such as skin, words, time, geographical distance, emotional distance, etc. defines us. It is up to us to make those definitions clear, understand what is within our boundaries (or responsibilities) and what is not. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read this. Well worth the read!!
WHAT I WILL READ BEFORE SUMMER IS OVER (also in this order): I better get busy . . . . these books are all piled and waiting for me →
House Rules by Jodi Picoult – this is her latest, a story of a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Kholed Hosseini – another one I should have read long ago – many told me they enjoyed this more than The Kite Runner. We shall see . . . it has much to live up to.
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD. – can’t wait! I heard this offers stunning insights into the “hormonal roller coasters” that seem to rule our lives sometimes.
The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD. – this book promises to show how and why every phase of a man’s life is vastly different from a woman’s. I’m looking forward to the new understanding. 🙂
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – the story of lost love and the journey to find it. Every woman needs to read at least one great love story over the summer.
comeback by Claire Fontaine & Mia Fontaine – a memoir recounting a mother and daughter’s journey through hell and back. I read a great review on this so I am anxious to see if it lives up to its critique.
Fair Isn’t Always Equal – by Rick Wormeli – this year’s summer read for my English department. I am particularly interested to read the sections on grades and assessments.
**WHAT I READ EVERY DAY: Until Today! Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind by Iyanla Vanzant A: I bought this at the beginning of the summer and it now sits on my nightstand as the first thing I read each morning. It is filled with devotionals for each day of the year. Each month focuses on a different spiritual principle: June focuses on forgiveness, July on understanding, August on faith, and so on. It’s a wonderful tool to ponder over aspects of ourselves and what we can do to transform to help us grow and learn. GG side note: I started reading this on June 21st and have already discovered four grammar goofs. While the words inspire, the English teacher in me cringes when I read such lines as written for yesterday’s devotional: “When you spend time honoring the dreams of one who has changed, when you continuing standing up for the things they believed in and when you. . . ” Oops!!
WHAT ARE YOU READING THESE DAYS? PERHAPS YOU CAN GIVE ME SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR MY NEXT PILE TO BEGIN ATTACKING DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR?!
I was honored and excited when the good folks at Zappos sent me free advanced copies of CEO Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose to review. I have been a completely satisfied customer of Zappos (major online shoe and clothing commerce company) for quite a few years. I previously read of the uniquely people-pleasant, family culture that Hsieh creates for his employees and was curious about his philosophies. Hsieh’s new book sets out to reveal how this young executive created such a phenomenal success – not only is the online retailer achieving over $1 billion in merchandise sales each year but it is one of Fortune magazine’s top companies to work for. From my experience, the company’s success certainly shines through every single time I talk to a customer service representative . . . Zappos has the only service department in which patrons can actually hear representatives’ smiles over the phone.
Delivering Happiness is NOT another quick how-to-improve-your-business book. This book reveals secrets and ideas about (as the sub-title hints) increasing profits, igniting passion, and identifying purpose in personal life as well as work. Anyone looking to create or build upon current business or personal goals would benefit from this book. Through Hsieh’s anecdotes and quirky thought-processes, the reader gets into the head of someone who’s been there, someone who’s taken a dream and turned it into reality.
Hsieh begins by illustrating his work experiences – from grade school worm selling to creating and selling study guides in college to his first major success with co-founding LinkExchange – an internet advertising cooperative. He provides snippets from old letters, journal-like recollections and lists that illustrate the thinking behind the success.
You know you are in the right field when you go to work and it doesn’t feel like work; that’s the impression I get of the Zappos employees’ attitudes toward their jobs. Hsieh intriguingly reveals how he brought the company from start-up to last year’s acquisition by Amazon valued at over $1.2 billion. Some interesting strategies along the way include creating a company “culture” book, a very interactive weekly employee newsletter, and the WOW factor (a new verb part of the company’s everyday vocabulary!). Read this book and some of that WOW factor just may rub off into your own way of thinking. Indeed, the 10 core values of the Zappos culture apply to conducting life along with conducting a business . . . you may be surprised what some of those 10 values are!
**These are my honest opinions after reading this book!! Grading Girl gives Tony Hsieh an A+ for unabashedly honest thoughts, unique ways of looking at the world of work, and a frankly fun read!**
Watch for GG’s review of Delivering Happiness on its release date, June 7th 2010!!
I am honored to be selected to review the new, yet-to-be released book by Tony Hsieh, the successful, young CEO of Zappos.com! The Zappos team generously sent me two advanced copies of Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. I’m busy reading my first copy and can’t wait to post the review. In the meantime, I’d like to give away the second copy to one lucky GG follower.
This book will not be released until June 7th. I would like YOU to receive an advanced copy!
I’m almost halfway through the book and can tell you that Hsieh shares insightful, interesting and humorous anecdotes about his plight through entrepreneurship. He doesn’t use a ghostwriter and writes authentically. This read is useful for all in its illustration of how Hsieh uses happiness as a framework (imagine!!) to produce results in business and personal life.
So . . . here is my challenge to you. Too many times people see the glass half empty instead of half full; too many times people don’t see the fun in life; too many times people don’t feel the joy in their journeys. I challenge you to deliver happiness to someone and share just how you did it:
1. Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GradingGirl
2. Perform an act of kindness to someone you know or to a complete stranger. Your act of kindness can be as simple or elaborate as you like.
3. Come back to this post and, in the comments, describe that act of kindness. What did you do? What was the reaction and result of your delivered happiness?
4. Respond by Friday, May 14th 11:59pm. You can post as many delivered happiness descriptions as you like.
5. One winner will be chosen based on the genuineness of the delivered happiness.
6. I will mail the book anywhere in the United States. SPAM comments will be deleted if deemed appropriate. Make sure you have a valid email address when commenting so I can contact you for a shipping address. (your email address will be kept private)
Enjoy delivering happiness!!!
**GG does NOT endorse or giveaway products I do not stand behind. As an English teacher, a self-proclaimed reviewer of “all things worth grading,” and a life-long reader of many books, I can give this away with confidence that the recipient will not be disappointed.**
Once in a while, we meet someone who truly leaves an impression. I met such a person this past Sunday after being invited to a book signing. This was no ordinary book signing, however, because the author is an incredible 12-year old girl!!!
Amanda R. Dell’Aringa wrote, illustrated, and published Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail at the tender age of 11 after being inspired by her friend’s two guinea pigs. What started as a “small little story that popped” into her head turned into a beautifully illustrated and professionally published book. Amanda’s mother was impressed with the moral Amanda attached to the story so she encouraged her daughter to bring it to life.
Just picking up this book at the bookstore, one cannot guess such a mature message came from such a young mind. Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail is the story of a young guinea pig who is not too happy with her short, seemingly useless tail. She soon dreams that she’s turned into other tail-equipped animals and discovers what their tails are for. In the end, she learns just how special her own tail is and she contently accepts it for all its squiggly charm. What a wonderful message that all children need to hear!
Besides her creativity and discipline in creating this book, what impresses me so much about Amanda is her articulation and poise. She spoke to a crowd of about 35 adults and children, quite eloquently explaining her inspiration for the book, proudly retelling the disciplined process she took on to see her dream through, and impressingly illiustrating how she brought Gertie to life through a drawing demonstration on a whiteboard. Not only did Amanda draw each illustration in the book, she learned how to color each drawing in Adobe Photoshop herself. Amanda said she worked 1 – 2 hours almost every day for a few months. She claims she has trouble finishing projects (which I find hard to believe!), but with the support of her father (an artist himself) she did it. What an accomplishment for a young, ambitious girl!
Amanda is truly an inspiration for young and old alike. I am giving a signed copy of this book to my soon-to-be-born niece; this will certainly provide a role model and inspiration for her. And of course . . . I’m keeping a copy myself. 🙂 Grading Girl gives Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail by Amanda R. Dell’Aringa an A+ for a valuable moral, adorable illustrations (what a cute little stuffed doll Gertie would make!), and off-the-charts effort. This was an easy one to grade!!
→ → → Amanda’s book is currently available on Amazon. Click here to order your own copy! While you are at it, please feel free to review Amanda’s book on Amazon – this aspiring author will appreciate your words of support. Amanda’s book is also on sale at Books at Sunset.
For a peek at some of Amanda’s other drawings, visit her website at AmandaDraws.blogspot.com. Prepare to be dazzled when you glance through the mythical characters Amanda has created . . . and she’s only just begun! Accomplishing so much by age 12, imagine where she will be later on. This girl is well on her way!!
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Grading Girl would like to give a shout out to the adorable bookstore holding Amanda’s book signing. I’ve never been to Books at Sunset in Elgin before, but I think I’ll be back. Nestled among a quaint residential neighborhood, Books at Sunset carries an impressive variety of new and gently used books. For much more personal service (think Meg Ryan’s store Shop around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail), check out this wonderful store that is always hosting a variety of local events as well as children’s activities. Amanda’s book is also on sale at this bookstore!!
Did you know that barn owls mate for life? Are you aware that they are extremely emotional creatures and have many ways to express their feelings? Could you guess that they practice birth control and will breed only when they perceive an excess of available mice for food? These are some of the many intriguing facts about owls that readers learn in this little gem of a book.
This book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law. I enjoyed its message so much that I am recommending this for my school’s next summer reading list.
Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien is a book about love and devotion. It is a true love story about a woman and her owl. Stacey O’Brien is a Southern California biologist who adopts a baby barn owl with an injured wing. He could not survive in the wild so she selflessly takes him in, oblivious to the joy that stands before her in raising this creature. Through the trials and triumphs Stacey experiences with this bird, the reader realizes just what a significant role a pet plays in our lives. As Stacy states in her book, “When humans and animals understand, love, and trust each other, the animals flourish and we humans are enlightened and enriched by the relationship.” (O’Brien 202) Animals are more intelligent than we may give them credit for; this book reminds us of that intriguing reality.
The story chronologically follows O’Brien’s 19 years with Wesley from owl infancy when she weaned him into his “nest box” in her bedroom through the end of his long life with his battle with cancer. She gives both her scientific, factual views and tender-hearted observations about Wesley. O’Brien even shares the insides of Caltech and some of her interestingly eccentric colleagues. I laughed when Stacey brought Wesley to the grocery store wrapped in a blanket as a baby, I gagged when she described how she killed endless amounts of mice for Wesley’s diets (yes, as much as I have much more respect for owls, I won’t be raising one any time soon), I melted when Wesley “held” Stacey with his wings, and I cried when Wesley tried to console Stacey through a horrible dehabilitating disease she contracted during Wesley’s later years. I could sit here and let my fingers ecstatically fly off the keyboard with all of my favorite tidbits from the book . . . but that would take out the fun of reading this book. You can definitely read this within a day or two; O’Brien writes her observations and feelings with fervor. As a bonus, she includes “Some Things You May Not Know About Barn Owls” at the conclusion of the book.
We humans can learn from owls about devotion, trust and love. I am inspired by Stacey O’Brien’s life philosophies and the devotion she returns to Wesley. As she proclaims, she made a vow when she was very young to live life not by wading in the shallow water but by diving into the deep end as much as possible, no matter how dangerous. The way she raised Wesley attests to her commitment to that vow. As of the book’s print, she was contemplating raising another owl and beginning the whole process again! If I am ever lucky enough to have a chance encounter with one of these magnificent feathered friends, I will stop and admire this feathered friend and be very grateful for the opportunity. GG gives Wesley the Owl an A for the heartwarming lessons and touching account of this love story. Extra credit for the wonderful photographs spattered throughout the book – most of which O’Brien took herself while raising Wesley. They help illustrate just how funny, complex and beautiful Wesley was.
Shhhhh . . . Keep this a secret . . . Don’t tell a soul about this post . . . Read on only if you are ready to be enlightened, tickled and shocked.
Begin if you dare!
WARNING: For maximum validity, enlightenment, and fun, do NOT read down to the bottom until you have completed the exercise in its entirety!!!
This is the tone you will encounter when you open the book The Cube . . . Keep the Secret. It is a self-awareness game I play with my students on the day before a holiday. I’ve been using this book for many years now, and I’ve yet to encounter a class in which the students are not in awe of its accuracy. When we’re done with the game, I ask the students to write either a one-page analysis of their findings from the game or a descriptive piece illustrating their landscape. Never is there a complaint for this assignment. I also have fun with this at family gatherings!!
Readers are asked to picture a desert landscape. In the desert landscape are five specific elements: a cube, a ladder, a horse, a storm and flowers. The idea is to write down and describe the very first image of each that arrives in your head to achieve the most accurate results. Each element represents something about the reader – therein lies the secret. I’ve always been good at keeping secrets so I’m going to make you wait until you have the book itself in your hot little hands to find out what each represents.
There’s something to this. I was shopping in Francesca’s boutique, flipping through Michele Bernhardt’s Colorstrology book, and discovered that my personal color is Jaffa Orange. There is something to this because the cotton tank I already had in my hand to purchase matched the color exactly. Hmmm . . . Colorstrology tells us that our birthday carries a numerological value and meaning. That value corresponds to a color palette from which we can draw insight about our personalities. Wearing, decorating and surrounding ourselveswith this specific color is supposed to bring out our true selves, our best selves. We are not to confuse our personal color with our favorite color – Bernhardt says that our favorite color can change as we evolve or change our surroundings. Our personal color, on the other hand, remains constant.
This fun book rests on my coffee table. There is a page for every day of the year. There are even color swatches in the back to take with you when shopping for your color. 🙂 In addition, each color has its PANTONE® Color identification to help find the perfect match. I like the suggestions Bernhardt gives for using your personal color.
Want to send an ecard telling the bday person what his/her color is?! It’s completely free – here’s the link for the ecards!
Grading Girl gives Colorstrology an A+ for an interesting alternative to traditional zodiac and astrology readings.
I’d say this is pretty accurate . . .
My Personal Color ~ JAFFA ORANGE
Analytical, Responsible, Sensitive
If you were born on this day: “You love to use your mind. Your ability to analyze problems and situations is exceptional. You never really know just how good or talented you are due to your yearning for perfection. Many of you cover your sensitivity with facts and a composed exterior. You actually have a very sensitive spirt that needs to be nurtured and recognized.” (Bernhardt)
Colorstrology says that wearing or surrounding myself “with Jaffa Orange helps you live life more freely by integrating your intellect with your emotions and your passion with self-control.” (Bernhardt)
I just finished my fourth Jodi Picoult novel this afternoon. I was sitting poolside and vowed not to get up until I finished it. My redder-than-usual arms attest to the follow-through. It’s an interesting thing about “Jodi books” – they provide conversation starters and bonding opportunities. As I was sitting engrossed in the last 75 pages of the book, a woman whom I never met came up and asked me what I thought of the story so far. We ended up having a 10 minute conversation about various references in Picoult novels; another woman joined in when she overheard the conversation. Yes, Jodi Picoult is known for her in-depth, well researched twisted, surprise endings. Handle with Care may be her saddest story yet. I have to admit that I shed a few tears while reading – only accomplished once before while reading My Sister’s Keeper.
I am personally impressed with the thorough background on osteogenesis imperfecta (serious brittle bone disease) and the realistic trial experience. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, is born with severe OI. As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the payouts might ensure care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, that their daughter Amelia also painfully takes to heart and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And here’s a really sad twist: the ob/gyn she’s suing is her best friend. This twist brings up questions on friendship: can a very strong, old friendship be broken instantly? Is family more important than friends? Can a broken friendship be put back together?
Grading Girl recommends this book to anyone interested in exploring medical ethics and personal morality. When faced with the reality of a fetus who will be disabled, at which point should an OB counsel termination? Should a parent have the right to make that choice? How disabled is TOO disabled? And as a parent, how far would you go to take care of someone you love? Would you alienate the rest of your family? Would you be willing to lie to your friends, to your spouse, to a court? And perhaps most difficult of all – would you admit to yourself that you might not actually be lying? If you’re looking for a light summer read, this may not be your rag right now. But if you’re interested in these compelling questions, this gut-wrenching tale will keep you thinking.
One element I truly admire about this story is that Picoult illustrates it in the second person point of view. This view is rarely used; in fact, I plan on using this book as a model for defining point of view to my students who have a hard time grasping that the second person point of view is when the narrator is speaking directly to another character using the pronoun “you.” The chapters rotate between five narrators : Charlotte (mom), Sean (dad), Amelia (sister), Marin (lawyer), and Piper (best friend being sued). Each of these characters reveals how they see events unfolding to Willow, the little girl with OI. They are explaining themselves to Willow, in a sense. A cool effect is that the reader feels viscerally what it’s like to be at the center of this controversy.
Grading Girl gives Handle with Care an A-. The minus is given because I wasn’t happy with the ending (hey, who said grading is objective?). Some readers will misinterpret Willow’s motivations in the end. Her actions seem uncharacteristic of her intelligence. For fear of writing spoilers, I’ll say no more. Just go out and borrow or buy this book for another page-turning Picoult. Your time will not be wasted, GG assures you.
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult did not receive quite the notoriety as My Sister’s Keeper or 19 Minutes but not for lack of a compelling story. The controversial topics of religion and capital punishment are what kept this book off of some people’s nightstands – but not mine!! Picoult is my favorite contemporary author and she does not disappoint with this one; she carries her characteristic twists to the end once again.
Within each of her 16 novels, Jodi Picoult delves deep into the most troubling contemporary social issues. In Change of Heart, she examines a convicted killer on death row, Shay Bourne, who has taken the lives of Officer Kurt Nealon and his young stepdaughter, Elizabeth. When Shay discovers that his victim’s living daughter, Claire is desperately in need of a heart transplant, he sees his only chance for salvation – donating his own heart after his death sentence. Standing in his way, of course, is the law and a mother filled with anger. On his side are three unexpected allies: a Catholic priest (who had a hand in Shay’s sentencing!), an ambitious attorney who is determined to see Shay die on his own terms, and a community that sees Shay as a messianic character who gives them hope.
Picoult’s research never ceases to amaze me. Her meticoulous portrayal of death row laws along with the book’s attention to Christianity, Judaism, and the Gnostic gospels gave me new insight. This story is told from four different points of view: the Catholic priest, the attorney, another death row inmate, and the mother of the victims. Through their thoughts, the reader is given some very deep food for thought . . . “There’s a big difference between mercy and salvation” . . . “Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love?” . . . “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you” . . . quotations such as these make for a very provocative book. In fact, Picoult uses several famous quotations here from some of the greatest thinkers in history including Lewis Carroll, Mother Teresa, Albert Einsten, the Dalai Lama, Woody Allen, Albert Einstein, etc.
I enjoy books that make me think, challenge my philosophies, and offer new perspectives. Change of Heart does all that and more. In the story, religion seems at times to bring characters together and at others to drive a wedge between them. All the while, what defines “justice” is continually challenged. We all know it’s wrong to execute someone innocent, but what about someone who is guilty? The book never screams one side or another. Rather, through the completely varied characters in Change of Heart, the reader is left with perspectives on all sides of these compelling issues so that one closes the book exploring one’s own values and beliefs.
Grading Girl gives Change of Heart a B+. While this did not make me outwardly cry like My Sister’s Keeper did (something I never normally do when reading), this did leave me with some deep, concerting thoughts. It’s a captivating story of redemption, justice, and love.
On to more books off of my very high summer reading pile . . . Picoult’s Handle with Care is one of them and I look forward to exploring more thorny moral and ethical issues with this compelling author.