Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family's Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption

Vinh Chung's life is nothing short of amazing.  Born in Vietnam in the 70s his family fled the country in an attempt to find a better life.  

Vinh's grandmother made her living after her husband's death by starting a rice mill, which eventually led to great prosperity. Vinh was born into a family with wealth, yet when Vietnam fell to the Communists, the family fled the country for life in America, where they hoped to start anew. 

Their journey was dangerous from the outset. They joined the "boat people" despite knowing that thousands of other who had embarked on this journey never reached their destination. Pirate attacks, dehydration and near starvation were all faced with immense courage.

When the Chung family finally arrived in Arkansas, their new home, their struggle was not over.  They faced a language barrier and discrimination.  Chung shares stories about the ways in which his family made their way in a new country, and the work ethic his father passed on to his children.

Where The Wind Leads is an inspirational story, Chung's memoir is not full of sorrow despite everything his family lost.  Instead, his family chose to work hard and take every opportunity given to them.  

As I looked at Where The Wind Leads on Amazon, Chung's memoir has over one hundred reviews, and still retains a 5-star rating, the highest it can garner.

I am recommending this memoir to everyone; it is truly a tale of inspiration everyone should read.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Secret of Raven Point

I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I will tell you that as soon as I saw the cover on Amazon, I added The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbees to the list of books I wanted to read.

Then, to add to my desire to read this book was my friend, Kristin's glowing recommendation.  

I started The Secret of Raven Point on my iPad, using my kindle app during our all day in-service on Friday night.  By Saturday afternoon as we sat at a friend's house watching a football game (and a good game at that), I was trying to find any reason to sneak my iPad out and continue reading.

Juliet Dufresne and her brother, Tuck, have had a sheltered life in South Carolina until World War II breaks out. Her brother decides to enlist, and after he is MIA, Juliet goes overseas to work as a Red Cross nurse. Although her goal is to find someone who knew her brother, and therefore give some closure to what happened to Tuck, Juliet is also finding herself a bit as well- growing up quickly as she cares for the wounded and dying.

The mystery of what became of Tuck takes a few twists and turns, which created a bit of suspense as I read. Vanderbees resolution is satisfying, although not what I expected.

I still have an earlier novel, Strangers at the Feast, by Vanderbees that I am excited to dig into after reading The Secret of Raven Point.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Salon

Well, aside from a little rain yesterday morning that occurred during the girls' soccer games (and ended up canceling them), the weather has been beautiful. This upcoming week looks like more of the same. 

My husband is in Washington, D.C. for a few days for work.  The rest of us here at our house are all jealous since this is where we had contemplated vacationing.  Instead of visiting national monuments we are folding laundry and vacuuming while he is gone.

I have enjoyed sitting around this weekend and reading - and even getting a little organizing done.  Hopefully by the time he returns it will look like we have done some cleaning.

I still have lesson plans to write along with a few blog posts for the week.  Although it is supper time and we just returned from the grocery store a bit earlier, I have no idea what I will make.  I would be happy if everyone would find something on their own, but doubt that will happen.

Enjoy what's left of your weekend, everyone!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Book Boat's In

Cynthia Cotten's story, The Book Boat's In, tells of a little known (and now obsolete) method of bringing books to people who might not have had access to them otherwise.

An author's note in back shares how the Erie Canal's opening allowed boats to travel from New York City westward providing a variety of new and hard to get things to cities such as Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, allowing them to grow quickly.  Floating libraries helped bring reading material to people who otherwise would not have had access to books.  

In The Book Boat's In, Jesse and his father travel to town where Jesse is excited to visit the book boat.  When he sees a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson, he returns home to count his money and try to find ways in which he can earn more to be able to buy himself a copy of the book when he returns to town next week.

Aside from helping share the story of book boats, I also appreciated Cotten's story which depicts a boy who values books and will work hard to own one himself.  Illustrator Frane Lessac's folk illustrations give this story the feel of early American life.  

I'm an easy target for a book about books and libraries, but this is one I will be reading to classes at school and sharing with my own children.  I am fascinated by the idea of floating libraries and know that my listeners will find it amazing as well.

If you're looking for some other great books about libraries, check these out:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Five

It's Friday, which means another collection of great things I've found this week - either on the internet or a variety of other places.  Enjoy!

Just this past week a co-worker suggested Quest bars to me.  I've done little research on them. Aside from the fact that they cost $2.29/bar (which I think is a lot), they have 20 grams of protein, natural ingredients, more fiber than other bars, and less sugar.  And, they even taste good.  

I suffer a little bit from wanting to know more about pretty much everything.  So, when friends comment on something or someone that I know nothing about, I usually do a little bit of research on my own. I hate to be out of the loop.  This past weekend a group of gals I know went to the Zac Brown Band concert. I hadn't ever heard of the guy. Since Monday I've been listening to his album and even enjoying it.

We still need to purchase an area rug for our living room.  I've looked at a lot of rugs lately, and aside from the fact that I'm on a tight budget, I also need to look for something dark that hides dog hair.  I'm liking this one I found on Joss and Main. It's not dark exactly, but I feel like it is busy enough that a lot of dog hair would be hidden.

A co-worker of mine has a top similar to this that she purchased at Younkers. I found this one on the JCrew Factory website. It seems so versatile to me....good with jeans, black slacks, or even yoga pants.  

My week wouldn't be complete without sharing a pair of shoes that has caught my eye.  My oldest daughter has a little babysitting money that she wants to use to purchase a pair of Vans. I have been perusing their website, and these cute shoes a la The Beatles come in just my size.  Fun!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Such Good Girls

Such Good Girls: The Journey of The Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors is a non-fiction account of a few of the thousands of children who managed to survive the Holocaust outside of the concentration camps.

R. D. Rosen shares the stories of three girls: Carla, Flora and Sophie.  Each girl's tale is unique, yet are representative of the variety of ways children were hidden and survived during the Holocaust.  

Sophie changes her name and is told by her mother that she is Catholic, As years pass with Sophie believing she is Catholic, the news that she is a Jew is nearly unbelievable.

Flora and her mother move to avoid being sent to a concentration camp, and her mother leaves Flora with others to care for her and keep her safe.

Carla, who lived in Holland, is hidden in plain sight, living with her mother and brother and a family of nine near a busy area that Germans frequented.

These three women have now shared their stories after many years of being silent.  After Sophie, Flora and Carla's stories are shared Rosen adds the stories of other hidden children and the way they have been able to find closure and also share their stories with others who have had similar experienes.

I enjoy nearly anything written about the Holocaust, and did enjoy Such Good Girls. Rosen's account was not easy for me to get into initially, and I felt little connection to these women. However, as I continued to read, Rosen shared more human elements of these ladies, allowing me to connect with them, and want to know more about them and their miraculous survival.

Such Good Girls is definitely worth the time it takes to read, and brings an interesting perspective to the Holocaust by focusing on the many children who were able to survive and go on to build lives elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Due out: February 3, 2015

Product Information taken from Goodreads:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic novel of love and war, spanning from the 1940s to the present day, and the secret lives of those who live in a small French town.

Viann and Isabelle have always been close despite their differences. Younger, bolder sister Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann lives a quiet and content life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When World War II strikes and Antoine is sent off to fight, Viann and Isabelle's father sends Isabelle to help her older sister cope. As the war progresses, it's not only the sisters' relationship that is tested, but also their strength and their individual senses of right and wrong. With life as they know it changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions. 

Vivid and exquiste in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with great monstrosities, but also great humanity and strength, Kristin Hannah's novel will provoke thought and discussion that will have readers talking long after they turn the last page

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I'm trying to get through some of the books that I know my students will enjoy.  Dash, Kirby Larson's most recent novel, will appeal to a variety of middle grade readers.

Set during World War II, Mitsi was born in the United States, but is relocated along with the thousands of other Japanese Americans to an internment camp in the desert.  Although she is upset about leaving her home, most upsetting is that she will have to leave Dash, her dog and constant companion, behind.

Mitsi is dealing with the loss of her dog, but also realizing that her Japanese heritage has caused her friends to look at her differently.  With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the life that Mitsi knows changes dramatically.

Once relocated, Mitsi and her family find ways to endure their time in the internment camp.  Mitsi is able to find a friend or two, but it is her brother and his friends that most worry her.  

Larson's Dash is a great animal story, but it is also a good tween historical fiction book that will provide young readers a look at the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir

Robert Timberg was injured in Vietnam just days before he is to be sent home to his wife.  In just the span of time it takes for his vehicle to drive over a landmine, Timberg's life is changed forever.

In Blue-Eyed Boy Timberg takes us on the journey he goes through to reclaim his life after suffering third degree burns on his face and neck.  

His appearance is forever altered, and Timberg endures and endless number of surgeries as skin grafts and reconstruction take place. His wife, Janie, stands firmly by his side, encouraging and loving him.

Although a career as a writer was not on Timberg's radar prior to his accident, he had always enjoyed reading, and with few other prospects, decides he will attend graduate school and become a journalist.  

Blue-Eyed Boy is a well written memoir, clearly Timberg's decision to pursue a writing career was a good one.  Timberg shares the details of his time in Vietnam and his personal life, but what he is most focused on in the last third of his memoir is his research and the process he went through to write The Nightingale's Song.  

Had this memoir been less well written, I may have given up on it at that point.  As it is, although this was not my favorite portion of his memoir, I enjoyed Timberg's writing and felt invested enough in Blue-Eyed Boy that learning more about The Nightingale's Song was still enjoyable enough reading.

Memoir lovers, journalists, and readers with an interest in Vietnam will all enjoy Blue-Eyed Boy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Salon

This weekend has been a whirlwind of activity. I so appreciated staying home by myself on Friday night while my husband took all three girls to the football game.  That was the one bit of relaxation I managed to get.

Little Sister had her first soccer game yesterday as did Middle Sister.  The weather was cool, definitely fall-like. Unfortunately I missed both games since I worked yesterday morning.  In the afternoon we watched the Iowa/ISU game with friends. By the time we got home it was nearly bedtime.  And today.....well, I have been up cleaning and then we are signed up to play in a 4 person best shot.

What? You've never heard me mention that I golf?  Well, my ten year old asked me if I knew how to golf.  That means I haven't golfed in the past decade. What was I thinking when I agreed to this?  I'm sure it will be memorable.

Big Sister had her second XC meet.  Her time was slightly slower than her first meet. This week I won't be able to get to her meet in time to see her run.  I don't get off work in time to get there, so my husband will be her cheering section.

My mom, who has been on vacation with her brother (visiting another brother) for the past ten days returns today - finally!  She helps out a lot when she is around, so we've really been missing her while she was gone as I tried to juggle where everyone needs to be - which seems to be three different places all at the same time!

What's up for your Sunday? I would love to relax with a book....but maybe after the golf that can happen.