Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Salon: December 4, 2016

My life in books: 
For some reason I am still not reading as much as I would like. I really need to set aside time to do it and am going to try to ensure 30 minutes a day at least. I know that if I do that, I will end up reading for longer.
  • A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya--non-fiction about a woman who stood up to the Taliban and other Warlords in Afghanistan
  • Blindman's Bluff by Faye Kellerman--a police detective novel that was really fun
  • Knocked Up Abroad Again edited by Lisa Ferland--essays by moms who gave birth while living abroad
My life outside books:
I spent yesterday Christmas shopping, but not just the usual shopping for family. The various departments at the school district office where I work have each taken on a family for whom to purchase Christmas gifts. My personal family has also taken on a family. These are families with students in our district and they are either newly out of being homeless or are currently homeless. My family agreed to buy presents for a family of five who live in a van. It breaks my heart and we are going all out. They asked for shoes, pants, sweatshirts, and a grocery gift card. Yep, we've covered it all! It feels so good to do this. We also found a couple super cozy blankets for them. Gotta' love Macy's and their sales on top of sales!

In fact, my family has agreed that we aren't getting one another gifts this year. Instead we are donating the money we would have spent to groups that we feel will do some good. But, I did buy myself a couple throw pillow cases and a table runner at a Tribal Arts Fair today. They are from Turkey and really warm up my rooms.

I have also returned to my journalling past. I used to purchase Claire Fontaine graph-paper notebooks and keep my to-do lists and wish lists in them. I stopped as my daughter got older and I got busier. But, I recently read an article about bullet journalling (BuJo to those in the know) and I am back! I bought a Moleskine notebook am not following all the BuJo rules; instead I am doing my own version. I am really enjoying the creativity of it all even though I am not very artistic.

I hope you are having a great weekend!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: Knocked Up Abroad Again edited by Lisa Ferland

Title: Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turns around the globe
Author: Edited by Lisa Ferland
Year Published: 2016

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 305
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map): World Wide (Guatemala)

FTC Disclosure: I was given this book as part of a Kickstarter

Summary (from the back of the book): Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turn around the globe is told by 25 mothers in 25 different countries. Each mother, with her unique voice and from her perspective, describes the highs and lows of motherhood as she straddles the distance between what was once familiar and the reality of her foreign environment. This heartwarming, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking collection of stories illustrates that the more we see, the more we learn about ourselves as human beings.

Review: A former colleague of mine now lives in Guatemala and is married to a Guatemalan man. They have a young daughter and Michelle blogs and does Instagram about what it's like to live in a bi-cultural family. She contributed an essay to this book so I definitely wanted to support her by contributing to the Kickstarter. And, I love a good travel/live abroad story and a good birth story so it seemed like a fun book to support and read.

This book is fun. I am doing the review before I am completely done, but that's okay because of the type of book it is. It is set up with a few sections: Knocked Up Abroad; Loss and Healing Abroad; and Parenting Abroad. Since it is all essays, it is easy to skip around, read about the countries or topics that most interest you, and to do so in any order you want. Pretty freeing, right?

One of my favorites so far is the essay by my friend, "Woven Between Two Cultures" (Michelle Acker Perez) even though I've heard much of it before in her Instagram and on her blog, Simply Complicated. The other one I found fascinating was "A Girl and Her Guard" by Sara Ackerman. Sara lived in the Congo and adopted a girl from Congo. The essay takes place once they are living in Ethiopia and the friendships her young daughter makes with the house guard and neighbors.

Some of the essays are funny, some are poignant, some are sad, but they are all interesting!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Blindman's Bluff by Faye Kellerman

Title: Blindman's Bluff
Author: Faye Kellerman
Year Published: 2009

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 489
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): A 3 am phone call summons LAPD homicide detective Peter Decker to the well-fortified Coyote Ranch compound of billionaire developer Guy Kaffey. A grisly scene awaits: Kaffey and his wife dead, gunned down along with four employees. A philanthropist known for extending second chances to delinquents--many of whom he had hired for his personal security--the wealthy businessman died badly in what had to be an inside job. Perhaps even deeper inside than anyone imagines.

At first the darkness enveloping this horrible multiple murder cannot touch Decker's wife, Rina Lazarus, who's serving on a jury in an LA courthouse. But a chance meeting and a request for help from a court translator is leading Rina straight into the heart of her husband's investigation--and directly into the path of relentless, cold-blooded killers.

Review: I can't believe I haven't read this Kellerman book yet; I thought I had read them all. Obviously, I am a huge Faye Kellerman fan. I like her two main characters--Detective Peter Decker and his wife, Rina Lazarus--and their family. I like Peter's co-workers, Marge and Oliver. And I like the stories, which always seem to be different and interesting.

This novel has lots of twists and turns, with a ton of characters, all of whom could be guilty. And it doesn't seem too far-fetched that all of these people could have been involved. When you have billions of dollars at stake, a few family members running a company, and a large staff of stable hands, grounds keepers, security folks, and maids, there is just too much opportunity for things to go wrong. And wrong they did in this mystery!

If you like detective novels and want to get to know a family along the way, I highly recommend Faye Kellerman's.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review: A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya

Title: A Woman Among Warlords: the extraordinary story of an Afghan who dared to raise her voice
Author: Malalai Joya with Derrick O'Keefe
Year Published: 2009

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 238
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2016 Google Reading map): Afghanistan (and Pakistan and Iran a little bit)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Malalai Joya was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2010. An extraordinary young woman raised in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan, Joya became a teacher in secret girls' schools, hiding her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn't find them; she helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province in Farah; and at a constitutional assembly in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2003, she stood up and denounced her country's powerful NATO-backed warlords. She was twenty-five years old. Two years later, she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan's new Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords and drug barons and their cronies. She has survived four assassination attempts to date, is accompanied at all times by armed guards, and sleeps only in safe houses.

Joya takes us inside this massively important and insufficiently understood country, shows us the desperate day-to-day situations its remarkable people face at every turn, and recounts some of the many acts of rebellion that are helping to change it. A controversial political figure in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Malalai Joya is a hero for our times.

Review: This is another book that my daughter's Gender Studies class is reading and, again, it sounded so good I went and got myself a copy. It is definitely some dense reading with lots of history and details of dates and people. But, the story is an important one and here are some of my thoughts:
  • I had some idea, just not quite how much, we have interfered in Afghanistan over the years. I hadn't realized quite the level of involvement of the US government in training the Taliban and putting the post Soviet government in place. 
  • I didn't know that the US-backed government (called the Warlords by the author) was the first to make all the rules about woman completely covering, not laughing, etc.
  • Obama is seen as just as bad as Bush in Afghanistan and they want us out!
  • I already knew the extent of the crimes against women, but that doesn't make it any easier to read about.
  • The author is strong. I love that she speaks out and says whatever she feels is the truth no matter who is listening or the danger it may bring to her. 
If you are at all interested in Afghanistan, the war there, the Taliban, or women's rights, this book is a good one.

Sunday Salon: November 20, 2016

My life in books: 
I realize that I will only get a Sunday Salon post out every two weeks and then I am sad that I don't have more reading accomplished. I was doing so well and I seem to have slowed down again.
  • I did a Non-Fiction November post, which helped me remember that I want to read more non-fiction.
  • The Whistler by John Grisham--this one is set in Florida and is a bit different from all his other lawyer books. I enjoyed it and passed it on to my parents who both quickly read it.
  • I am currently reading A Woman Among Warlords (non-fiction about a woman who speaks up against the Taliban and the current warlords who are in power).

My life outside books:
Well, the election didn't exactly go the way I wanted it to at the federal level (locally and at the state level all my people won) and the days since have felt sad and crazy. The politics are one thing: every four years my person wins or doesn't and I know that, mostly, it will be okay. However, this time around the non-political seems awful. Students at our local schools are feeling overwhelmed, scared, and unsure. I feel like the ugly that already existed is now out in full force. Maybe that means we'll have to deal with it as a nation rather than pretending it doesn't exist.

In the US it is the beginning of the Thanksgiving vacation and that means my daughter is home from boarding school for a whole week; it is so great to see her! I love that she is thriving at her school and becoming more independent. She and I both wanted a change of scene this week so we are off to Vancouver, Canada tomorrow! It is supposed to be cold and rain a lot and that's a good thing since we live in southern California, which is in the middle of an horrible extended drought. I can't wait to wear sweaters, rain gear and see green. One of our must-sees is the anthropology museum at the University of British Columbia with all of its Inuit art. We've also heard the Chinatown is impressive. So, lots of fun things lay ahead for us this week.

We watched the movie Zootopia last night; what a fun film! For little kids it's got a fun storyline and for adults there are a lot of issues brought up so it's good for the whole family.

I hope you are having a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to all my US people!