Category Archives: Books

Laughing Without An Accent

Charming!  That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of the stories in Firoozeh Dumas’ book Laughing Without An Accent.  Firoozeh was born in Iran and spent part of her childhood there before her family moved to the United States.  Firoozeh married a man from France and raised her older children in California.  Now she and her husband and youngest daughter live in Germany because of her husband’s job. 

Firoozeh_Dumas creative commons

Firoozeh Dumas

Firoozeh is a global citizen and part of what makes her personal essays so charming is that she offers insight into how American culture looks from an Iranian perspective and how Iran may look to people with only an American perspective. She makes us keenly aware that Iran was once a very different country than it is now.  laughing without an accentAnother reason her essays will charm the reader is because though they have an international flavor we can all relate to them.  She writes about her relationship with her mother who is constantly giving her things she doesn’t need, her relationship with her father as he adjusts to retirement, and going clothes shopping with her teenage daughter. I especially enjoyed the last two essays in the book- one a list of ten pieces of advice from a graduation speech Firoozeh gave at an American college and another about her friendship with Kathryn Koob, one of the American embassy employees held hostage in Tehran, Iran, by the student-led Revolutionary Guard for more than four hundred days beginning in the fall of 1979.  The rescue of these hostages was immortalized in the movie Argo. 

I’ve read some of Firoozeh’s more current essays which chronicle her family’s life in Germany and have appeared in The New York Times in 2018. They are charming too. 

It Ain't So Awful FalafelFiroozeh has written two other books- Laughing in Farsi for an adult audience and It Ain’t So Awful Falafel aimed at a middle grade audience. 

If you are looking for a charming and delightful read Laughing Without An Accent  is it. You can pick it up anytime and just read one story.  It’s perfect to take to the beach or cottage or on a summer holiday. 

Other posts……..

A Different Kind of Daughter

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

On My Kindle

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Are You A Book Hoarder or a Book Minimalist?

On Sunday I was busy in the library at my church doing my annual weeding of the shelves. A man came in and watched me.  I told him what I was doing. “I never give away books,” he said.  “What if I want to read them again?”

bethel library“I only discard books from the library if they haven’t been read in five years,” I said.  I could tell he was nervous just watching me.  “Are you sure you should be getting rid of that one?” he asked over and over as I selected different books to discard. Then he strode over to some shelves in the Mennonite History section of the library and selected several volumes. “Surely you’ll keep these?”  he said. I was glad when he finally exited the library.  I could tell he was a book hoarder. 

church libraryI have a friend who gives me lots of new books to put in our church library.  She loves to read but as soon as she finishes a book she gives it away to someone else who might enjoy and appreciate it.  She is happy to part with her books realizing that she probably won’t read most of them ever again and besides she doesn’t have room in her house for them all.   She is a book minimalist. 

I admit I used to be a book hoarder and had an entire room in my house lined with shelves from floor to ceiling filled with books.  Numerous geographical moves and house moves in the last decade have forced me to become a book minimalist.  And I have to say I have rarely, if ever, regretted  giving a book away. 

Are you a book hoarder or a book minimalist?  

Other posts………

Winnipeg’s Millenium Library

She Persisted

Book Lady

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Family of Spies

family of spies“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”   That quote from the Bible was the theme of a  commencement address given at a Virgina college last week by recently fired American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  Tillerson warned that when leaders lie and people accept those lies, it won’t be long before freedom is lost.  

jodi book launch

I attended the launch of Jodi Carmichael’s book Family of Spies 

Interestingly that same Bible verse about truth and freedom appears a number of times in a new novel for middle grade readers by Winnipeg author Jodi Carmichael. Much of the story in her Family of Spies is set in 1944 just before the end of World War II.  The action happens during a period of time when Hitler is trying to conceal the truth and make the German people accept his alternate reality.  

edward crawford

 Jodi’s grandfather who inspired her book

Jodi’s inspiration for the book grew out of the fact that the records detailing her grandfather Edward Crawford’s service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II remain sealed to this day. Why? Could he have been a spy? In her book Jodi imagines that three of Edward’s great-grandchildren have arrived in Paris on a family vacation. They have a suitcase of their great grandfather’s belongings and hatch a plan to try to figure out the mystery surrounding his military service. 

war medals family of spies

Jodi’s grandfather’s military service medals

I attended the launch of Jodi’s book at the end of April and she had some of her grandfather’s memorabilia on display, including his war medals and a photograph of him after the Newfoundland native was named a Rhodes Scholar. 

cookies jodi's launch

The cookies served at the book launch for Family of Spies featured the Eiffel Tower.

Jodi wrote Family of Spies while living in Europe so she was able to visit the important sites in Paris where the action in her novel takes place. That  ‘feet on the ground’ research is evident in her vivid descriptions of French landmarks. 

As Jodi’s heroes Ford, Ellie and Gavin explore Paris, trying to discover the truth about their great grandfather’s past, they also discover some truths about themselves and their relationships with one another. I really liked that about the book. 

jodi signing her book

Jodi signs books for her fans

Jodi is a member of the children’s writers group I meet with twice a month. I have just finished the first draft of a novel based on an event in my own grandfather’s life.  Jodi’s success with  Family of Spies gives me a tiny bit of hope that I may be able to get my novel published as well. Jodi is a successful writer and I so appreciate her willingness to share her expertise with our writing group.  You can find out more about Jodi and the other books she has published on her website. 

Other posts……..

A Glamorous Night For Manitoba Writing

The Cube

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

 

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You Have to Hear Their Stories

Richard Wagamese is a beautiful writer whose work I have read before and so I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy the prose when I started his book Ragged Company.  I wasn’t disappointed. 

Despite the beauty of the writing I admit I was a little frustrated during the first half of the novel.  It depicts the lives of four homeless people who have formed a little band or family.  Amelia One Sky has three male companions Digger, Timber and Double Dick. The book starts with relating Amelia’s history so you feel like you know her right away.  But honestly the other three guys kept getting mixed up in my head as the story unfolded.  I just couldn’t keep the three of them straight and was actually a bit upset with Richard Wagamese.  Couldn’t he have found better ways to distinguish between his male protagonists?  However in the second part of the story one by one each of the men, Digger, Timber and Double Dick share their life stories and after that I had absolutely no trouble telling the men apart.  

Richard Wagamese

I don’t know whether Richard Wagamese did it purposely but his book really demonstrates that until we hear their stories homeless people sort of seem all the same to us.  They are just struggling, nameless, faceless folks we encounter begging or sleeping on the street. They aren’t individuals with individual lives and histories and personalities till……………..we listen to their stories. 

Other posts……….

Indian Horse

Teaching Kids About Being Homeless

The Break

 

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A Chicken Soup Story For Mothers Day

Years ago someone critiquing my writing style told me I should try to make my pieces less “chicken soupy”.   That critic was right on the money.  My writing does have a certain “chicken soupy”  quality and to prove it I’ve just had my fourth story published in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. 

This time my story is in a book called My Amazing Mom and I’ve written a story about my own amazing mother.  I am grateful to my Mom for so many things but my story is about the wise and gentle way she introduced my sister and me to the ‘facts of life’ by reading us the book Susie’s Babies which tells the story of a mother hamster giving birth.   My sister and I were ages nine and seven at the time and after she read us the book Mom told us she was going to have a baby too and we could ask her any questions about it we wanted to.  She also explained what would happen to us as we became young women .  It wasn’t till I was older that I realized not nearly all mothers in the 1960s were so open and honest with their daughters and how very lucky I was to have a mother who was.   

I enjoy writing Chicken Soup stories and usually have at least one I’m in the process of working on.  Not all of them make the cut from the thousands submitted for each book, but Susie’s Babies is the fourth one that has and that’s enough to keep me penning in my “chicken soupy” style. 

You can buy the books from Simon and Shuster   or Amazon   or Barnes and Noble 

My Other Chicken Soup Books…….

I’m in the Latest Chicken Soup Book

In Chicken Soup Again

Back in Chicken Soup

 

 

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The Cube

I admire my friend Kelly so much.  We got to know each other when we both worked at the same international school in Hong Kong and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.  

quiz-night-crew

Here are Dave and me sitting across from Kelly and her husband Aaron at a Quiz Night we used to go to together in Hong Kong.

Kelly is much younger than I am but she’s equally passionate about writing and over the last decade I’ve been following her determined efforts to write and publish a book.  Kelly is the kind of person who doesn’t just talk about doing something, she takes action.  During a job transitioning period she planned for time off from her career to finish her manuscript.  Then she hired an experienced editor to help her hone her science fiction novel.  

kelly

Check out Kelly’s blog at https://www.kellyfumikoweiss.com

She started a blog where she detailed her writing journey. She joined a writers’ association to make connections and grow professionally. She sought advice from other writers by interviewing them and then writing about what she had learned on her blog.  Kelly fine- tuned the art of writing query letters and started sending them out to publishers. She went to writing conferences and met with publishers there. 

symbols in the cube

As you read Kelly’s novel The Cube you are going to be just as intrigued as Kelly’s protagonists who are trying to figure out this coded message after gathering the symbols from locations all over the United States.

She hired a designer to help her create the intriguing symbols which are at the heart of her novel’s plot. After a period of determined effort to find a publisher for her book she decided to publish it herself with the assistance of Windy City Publishers and set about planning her book launch and a publicity campaign to bring attention to her book. After all that hard work her dream has been realized and her book is now in the hands of readers.  

the cube by kelly weissOf course as soon as I heard the news I ordered Kelly’s book and I’ve just finished reading it. I’m a sucker for a good romance and The Cube certainly offers that so I was hooked right off the bat.  Because I am not a gamer at all,  I admit the intricacies of The Cube which is a virtual reality game, initially confused me, but when I reached the section where the book’s hero Will enters The Cube and tries his hand at the various tests of intellectual skill and physical endurance I was completely caught up in his quest and read furiously to see if he would be successful.

Dave and I have visited Kelly’s family in Chicago and so the fact that the book is set in that city made it even more interesting to me, and will appeal to others who either live in Chicago or who have traveled there and been charmed by its history, geography and culture. Although Kelly’s book is an entertaining mystery it also makes you consider ethical questions around the success of large social media entities who know so much about our personal lives, and as the last American election showed, have so much power.   Will they use their power to make the world a better place? Is it safe for them to have so much influence?  Kelly’s two main characters have different opinions about that and it really gets the reader thinking. One thing I appreciated about Kelly’s book is that it gives readers hope for the future while many other novels present such a dark, dystopian picture of what is to come.  

Kelly is a role model for me as I write new manuscripts, hone others and attempt to get them published. Her determination and dedication to the writing craft is inspirational. You can order her book The Cube from Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Other posts………

Visiting Chicago

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Books About Death For Children

A group at my church which provides care and expressions of sympathy for people who are grieving, asked me to recommend books that might help families explain death to children.  I am the church librarian and realized our children’s section didn’t have many books on the topic.  I  ordered four to add to our collection.  I think they will all be excellent resources. 

There is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive.  In between is living. That is how the  book Life Times opens. It talks to children about the lives of plants and animals and people and birds and butterflies and helps children understand that dying is a part of living. There is a pattern to the way each life cycle is described in the book so that by the time the lives of human beings are introduced the children are familiar with the pattern and there is a certain comfort in its rhythm. 

Twins Jeremy and Liza are worried about being separated from those they love.  Their mother explains about The Invisible String which reaches anywhere and everywhere connecting people who love one another.  The string even reaches to heaven. Mother tells them  “people who love each other are always connected by a very special string, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart.”
I’ll Always Love You traces the friendship of a boy and his dog Elfie. After Elfie dies the boy is comforted by the fact that he told Elfie everyday that he loved him. Death is described like going down a long tunnel in the book Badger’s Parting Gifts. Badger dies peacefully by the fire as he has a wonderful dream. After he is gone his friends realize that badger has taught them lessons that will help them be happy even though he is no longer with them. He has taught them to cook and skate and make art and tie knots and as they share these gifts with others they remember badger and somehow they don’t miss him quite as much. 

Explaining death to children is important and these books might be good to read with kids even before someone they know and love has died or is facing death.  Death is a part of life and good children’s literature can help us have a conversation with children about that reality.

Other posts…….

I Just Won a Cache of Great Children’s Books

Picture Books Have Changed

Teaching Kids About the Diversity of Families, Gender Identities and Sexual Orientations

A Book For Children About Poverty

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