Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson writes an advice column called "Ask Amy" in the well-known Chicago Tribune. She wrote a memoir with the complete title of The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, A Daughter, and the People Who Raised Them. While I haven't read very many memoirs in my life, I enjoyed this one so much that I would like to begin reading more!

Peter Sagal (author and the host of NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!") does a great job of summarizing the book, and I share his feelings exactly, "...Amy Dickinson shares her life story about love and loss, parents, daughters, aunts, fathers, pets and life from the mundane to the ridiculous to the quietly heartbreaking. Or, sometimes loudly heartbreaking, with great big honking sobs. Amy doesn't have all the answers, but she suggests a good place to find them: at home, with the people who love you."

Amy's father left her family when she was an adolescent, and her own husband leaves her as well, with a 2-year old daughter. However, Amy raised her daughter in a warm, loving atmosphere, just as her mother raised Amy and her siblings. All the women in the family seem so strong, capable and caring, even though they have dealt with disappointment, sadness and the breakup of marriage. Like her mother, Amy does not become bitter and cynical when she is left to raise a daughter on her own, but she maintains a sense of humor and positive attitude to prevail through the tough times.

I really connected with Amy throughout her memoir. She is honest about her experiences, and she is not overly emotional or humorous just for the story's sake. Though I enjoy humor, it really starts to annoy me there is tons of humor, especially sarcastic humor, but Amy is funny without trying too hard or becoming annoying. The following is a passage that I found to be quite funny, and which I could definitely say about myself as well, "I am crafty to a fault, by which I mean that anything handmade by me is usually delivered along with the phrase 'I'm sorry. It's all my fault.' " (113). Other things I share in common with Amy are her love of cats, and her delight of spending time in the home she grew up in. I also love that her daughter dressed up as Laura Ingalls Wilder for Halloween!

The Mighty Queens of Freeville was a delightful read! It is fairly short, and could probably be read in one or two settings. I think women from the age of 20 to 80 would all enjoy this book!
(A special thanks to Hyperion for sending me this advanced reader's copy! The book will be released on Feb. 3, 2009).

Date completed: January 14, 2008
# of pages: 224

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

The Known World by Edward P. Jones is based in Manchester County, Virginia, and tells the story of a pre-Civil War slave owner, his family, and his slaves. What makes this story so different from many others is that the slave-owner, Henry Townsend, is a black man who was a slave himself before his father purchased his freedom.

Edward P. Jones gives the readers of his Pulitzer Prize winning novel a glimpse of life for all types of people, both black and white, who live in Virginia in the mid-1800s. There is Fern Elston--a free black woman who educates black children; there is Sheriff John Skiffington, who tries to be an upstanding Christian citizen while upholding the laws and keeping the peace, all the while struggling with his own internal demons; there is William Robbins, one of the wealthiest white men in the county, who not only has a wife and daughter, but who falls in love with a black woman and has 2 children with her; and there is Moses, the slave who is the overseer of all other slaves. Jones's characters are so unique in their personalities and situations.

Though I have been on a bit of a Civil War kick the last year, I have never read anything about a former slave slave-owner. I must admit that I never even knew that such circumstances ever existed. I did just a little bit of research on the topic and it looks as though a good percentage of black "slave owners" were former slaves who purchased their own freedom, then purchased their family members, and the purchased family members were then considered their property. However, there are also records of free black slave owners who owned large numbers of slaves to work their land.

I found The Known World to be an engrossing read. Jones brings many circumstances of slavery and the pre-war South out in the open that are not examined in most regular U.S. History classes. This would be a great book to discuss with others, and I will remember it for a long time. Highly recommended!

Date completed: January 9, 2008
# of Pages: 388

Monday, January 5, 2009

Looking back at 2008

Since we are almost a week into the new year, I think I should hurry up and "look back" before the 0ld year is so far away that I can't even see it anymore. 2008 was my best reading year as an adult, by far. I read a total of 46 (1/2) books, which was 16 books over my original goal of 30. I also started blogging, which I think it is the reason I read so much more than my norm. I did not write a review on every book that I read, even though I planned to do so. However, instead of stressing over trying to catch up, I'm just going to start fresh with a clean slate for the new year.

In 2009, my goal is to read 30 books. I also am planning to read the entire Bible. As far as challenges go, I am not planning to join any at this point. Though the challenges I joined helped me to stretch to read more books and a broader variety than normal, I don't like the stress I put on myself to finish books "on time," and I don't like having a set list of books that I have to read. Since there are so many great challenges out there, I may change my mind once we get further into the year. I'm going to try to write a review on the books that I read, but I WILL make them short and sweet. Some may even be just a few sentences.

The following is a list of all the books I read in 2008, with the books I've reviewed in blue and the top 10 are listed in green:

46. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
45. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
44. Persuasion by Jane Austen
43. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
42. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
41. The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
40. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith
39. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
38. Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Darie Snadowsky
37. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
36. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
35. Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clare Robson
34. Sweetsmoke by David Fuller
33. My Father's Paradise by Ariel Sabar
32. March by Geraldine Brooks
31. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
30. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
29. The Hot House by Pete Earley
28. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
27. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
26. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
25. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
24. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
23. 1984 by George Orwell
22. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
21. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
20. The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women by Dawn Dais
19. Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
18. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
17. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
16. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
15. Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes
14. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
13. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
12. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
9. The Pact by Jodi Picoult
8. Jewel by Bret Lott
7. The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
6. The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
5. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
2. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
1. Jacob's Ladder by Donald McCaig

I'm looking forward to another year of great reading!