Friday, March 22, 2013

Help. Thanks. Wow by Anne Lamotte

Help. Thanks. Wow. by Anne Lamotte

I love Anne Lamotte.  My friend, April got me hooked on Bird By Bird.  Another friend, Audrey told me about Help. Thanks. Wow.  When she told it was written by Anne Lamotte, I rushed out for a copy.  Anne is so funny and more importantly, so real.  I now know Anne Lamotte is in my circle of friends even though we've never met. This book is subtitled The Three Essential Prayers.  Little did I know I'd been praying these prayers all along. 

Help.  We ask God for help all the time.  Anne says she asks God to help her not be such an ass.  I've prayed that prayer more than once in my life.  More than once in a day, in an hour even at times.  When saying the Lord's Prayer, God's name is Howard.  You know the line, Howard be thy name.  it's odd how things stick in your head.  As a child learning this prayer in Sunday school, I had not a clue what the work "hallowed" meant.  In my effort to even pronounce the word, it stuck in my head as "Hallow Wed".  Well into my adulthood, I never made the correction to my pronunciation.  It didn't really matter anyway, because I was raised Presbyterian.  We say forgive us our debts not forgive us our trespasses, so I never said the prayer out loud.

Thanks.  When the car zooms past us in the intersection narrowly averting disaster, we take a deep breath and say "Thank you, God for saving me".  He hears us and gives us more time to do our good here on earth.  People come into our lives for a reason.  Some for a minute, some for years and even when we may not want them.  But we need to give thanks for the lesson, the protection, the love, the guidance they are offering us.

Wow.  Anne talks about wow and awe.  They are two little words, same number of letters, same height, same impact.  We need to go outside and say "Wow!" when we watch the sunrise of soft pinks and oranges, hear birds sweetly singing, or make a wish upon a glittering star.  These are God's creations.  Let's never take for granted the wonder of them.  Say "Wow!" God hears you.

Anne Lamotte will make you laugh and bring a tear to your eye.  She will also walk you a little bit further on your own spiritual path, with three simple words.  Help.  Thanks. Wow!  

The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge

The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge

Thank you to Netgalley and Faith Words for my advance reading copy.

Publication Date:  April 16, 2013

Sarah's story is quite incredible really.  At 27 she is diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of breast cancer.  At the brink of a promising future as a physician's assistant, newly engaged to the love of her life, discovering her passion for writing, Sarah's world comes crashing down around her.  Her struggle to put the pieces back together leads her to Portland, Oregon where by chance she lands in the arms of a family of Somali immigrants. 

Actually they land in her arms and who needs who more is the story's question.  Poor, not understanding the language or culture in America, it is practically impossible for the mother to navigate the never ending red tape of the welfare system.  Sarah enters a world she knows nothing about and tries to change things by bringing food, teaching the girls proper hygiene, taking them out to play.  Until one day they suddenly move to Seattle into what they consider a more stable safety net of other Somali immigrants.

A piece of Sarah's story was her dream to become a medical journalist.  I felt the writing lacked alot of that passion.  She spoke of the girl's clothing, the Somali dress, yet I had trouble imagining how they might look in their colorful and dirty native dress among the jeans and T-shirts of America.  Sarah wrote that the children were constantly getting her own clothes dirty when they came close.  And yet I have no real description in my mind of how any of them looked.  And then I recalled a scene when Sarah's parent's sent her off to college in a dress from the Goodwill that was four sizes too big.

For different reasons, Sarah and her Somali family had learned how to blend in to remain safe and secure in a big and scary world.  Finding each other put them on a path out of the cloak of darkness.  That's why they call themselves The Invisible Girls.   My bet is they are invisible no more.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Once Upon A Gypsy Moon by Michael Hurley

Once Upon A Gypsy Moon by Michael Hurley
Publication Date: April 16, 2013

Thank you to Center Street and NetGalley for my Advance Reading Copy.

The Gypsy Moon.  She's a sailing vessel.  Maybe she's one who's seen finer days, but she's up to the challenge of fulfilling a dream.  The dream belongs to a land locked sailor.  They are a pair meant for each other.

Michael longs to sail on the deep blue sea, alone with God and nature.  He knows how to handle a sailboat.  He'd spent most of his life developing his love for the water.  He became land locked however by those usual things we call life.  Developing a career, providing for children and a family, held his feet on dry ground.  When the perfect life came crashing down around him, his dream of sailing around the world floated to the surface.

Once Upon a Gypsy Moon is Michael Hurley's true story of finding a new life, love and himself aboard the Gypsy Moon.  He tells his story in a rolling manner, sometimes soft as on calm seas, often pounding and crashing as the storm approaches.  His thoughts and prayers to God guide him through his journey far more easily that the super duper, fancy smancy electronic guidance systems he installed on the Gypsy Moon prior to setting sail.

I'm not a sailor. In fact I am the 'Queen of Seasickness'.  Often Michael's writing got lost in trying to educate us about sailing terms.  And he rushed us through how he found the love of his life, Susan.  This is his story however, and can only be told in his words.  Often I loved it.  And the rest of the time I skimmed through. By the end I'd had enough and was more than ready to be back on dry land. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dancing at the Shame Prom:Sharing the Stories that Kept Us Small by Amy Ferris and Holleye Dexter

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories that Kept Us Small by Amy Ferris and Holleye Dexter

This anthology of stories came recommended by a very dear friend of mine.  She has helped me through many edits of my own stories written for and eventually sold to anthologies.   I happen to love real life stories.

Dancing at the Shame Prom is 27 different essays written by different women with different experiences all with dramatic impact in their lives.  All the stories dealt with shame and the effect of keeping the events hidden from the world.  The effort it took these women to keep such a secret is mind boggling.  The effort it took to reveal their shame to the world, even greater.

I have to admit I found this book very depressing, stories so sad and gut wrenching, I almost gave up on it for good.  And anyone who knows my love of books, knows it takes a lot for me to stop in the middle of a book and put it away forever.  I didn't do that here either and I'm pretty sure I came out the other side better for it.

There are stories of abuse at the hands of men, fathers, relatives, lovers.  Stories of the shame of growing up filthy and poor often occurs when alcohol is at the center of family life. Playmates can never come over for a visit for fear of the secret being uncovered.  The list goes on and on.  And while the stories were painful to read, they are stories we need to know.  The shame can only end when we stand up and help others keep their heads held high.  Let's all help break the cycle.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer by Brian Sweany

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer by Brian Sweany

Thank you to Netgalley and The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House for my advanced reading copy.  Publication date April 25, 2013.

I have to admit I selected this book because of the title.  I was looking for something foreign and exotic.  Often titles and their covers speak to a mood I am in at the moment.  It was time to read something out of the ordinary.

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer is certainly out of the ordinary but hardly the tale of a distant land I longed for.  This is Hank's story, a teenage boy in rural Indiana.  His journey toward adulthood is filled with all those boy-like adventures of sex, drugs and alcohol.  All while carrying a picture of a belly dancer in his wallet. 

The story starts out with an interesting hook.  His parents are openly discussing the reversal of his father's vasectomy so that they can try for another baby.  Hank, who starts each morning masturbating to the picture of the belly dancer, finds this news distasteful.  The story from there on out is one alcoholic stupor, followed by teenage sex and drug induced fog, after another.  Even though I lived that teenage life myself at one time, I'd long ago moved on.

 Frankly, I got pretty bored.  Oh, there were some hysterically funny moments alongside a few sad and poignant  scenes.  But Hank never suffered a consequence of any of his actions.  Just when I thought some deep and cleansing event was about to happen, the author dragged us away with another case of beer.  Maybe that was the point but I kept me from fully understanding the depth of emotion inside what could have been some really fascinating characters. 

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...