Weekly Reads: 6.1.15

Oh, goodness! It’s like I forgot the password to login here!

I can honestly say that life has gotten the better of me these past few months. But, let’s not dwell because I’m here today.

June is National Great Outdoors Month. In honor of that, I’m finally reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Like, finally. It’s been on my to read list for quite some time. I suppose I was just waiting for the perfect time to pull it out.

I have a few fun posts planned this month to connect reading to the great outdoors. I hope you’ll return and join me!

What are you reading this week?

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Top 5 Memoirs I’d Recommend to a Memoir-Reading Newbie

I’ve found over time that I’ve read a number of very good memoirs. Using a creative, narrative approach, these authors embrace and dig into their lives with a no-topic-off-limits approach, discussing everything from race relations to tragedy, murder and more.

I’d recommend the following memoirs to someone who hasn’t embraced the genre:

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Brother, I’m Dying (Audiobook)
By Edwidge Danticat
Read by Robin Miles

Danticat’s clear, strong voice shines in this memoir about the two men who raised her–her father and her uncle. America may be the land of progress and second chances, but Danticat and her younger brother found themselves left behind in Haiti while their parents tried to and succeeded in creating a new life for the family in New York. This memoir is touching, moving and, at times, infuriating.

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

The Solace of Open Spaces
By Gretel Ehrlich

Ehrich has lived in and loved Wyoming for years. Her clear, open writing paints a beautiful picture of the quiet, wide-open prairie where she chose to make her home.

Midnight in the Garden of good and Evil by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
By John Berendt

Berendt brought his journalistic profile approach to this book. Part memoir, part nonfiction mystery and so much more, this book tells the story of Berendt’s time in Savannah, GA, and the trial that changed the face of the city.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
By Jon Krakauer

Krakauer is a celebrated outdoor writer. In this memoir, he recounts his experience climbing Mt. Everest during a particularly deadly season.

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile
By Isabel Allende
Read by Blair Brown

Like Haiti, Central American countries such as Chile experienced great political strife in the 60s and 70s. While many of these continue today, Allende provides background to Chile’s struggle and the events that would shape her celebrated fiction work.

What memoir(s) would you recommend to someone who hasn’t experienced the genre?

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Touching & Thought Provoking: A Review of Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

A Review of Letter to My Daughter Written & Read by Maya Angelou

Letter to My Daughter
Written & Read by Maya Angelou

Review

Well, let’s get this out of the way. Angelou doesn’t have a daughter. Rather, this brief guide was written for all the daughters she saw around her every day. The entire piece is a series of numbered, brief essays that relate the struggles and triumphs of Angelou’s life and what she learned from each experiences. From racism to being a strong, resilient woman, Angelou covers it all.

Audiobook Review

Angelou, who has a very varied background, including dance, drama and writing, has learned how to moderate her voice. To use inflections when necessary, but mostly to cultivate a voice that when heard, the listener knows immediately that it’s THE Maya Angelou. Her voice is stilted, but the listener doesn’t really get a whiff of pomposity. Rather, it’s like her voice is imbued with intelligence and wisdom.

Ratings

Writing  5 out of 5 stars

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

Cultural Impact 5 out of 5 stars

Reading Performance 5 out of 5 stars

Total:  5 out of 5 stars

 Have you read any of Angelou’s work? What did you think?

Deeply Affecting : A Review of Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying

Oh, this book. I don’t think I’ll see things the same way ever again.

Deeply Effecting: A Review of Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying | The 1000th Voice blog

Brother, I’m Dying
By Edwidge Danticat
Read By Robin Miles

Review

Brother, I’m Dying, the story of the deaths of the two men who raised Edwidge–her father and her uncle, was profoundly and deeply affecting. Like many kids whose parents are emigrating to the U.S., Danticat and her brother remained behind in Haiti as first their father and then their mother emigrated.

Throughout the beginning of the book I was struck by how private Danticat was with sharing info with her family, but then, I realized why. For years, when she was able to speak to her parents, it was over the phone with her uncle telling her what to say, and when she wrote, her uncle always checked over her writing to make sure her English was good.

When I wrote in the title that this book was deeply affecting, I truly meant it. On multiple levels, Danticat’s story did deeply affect me. As an American citizen now, Danticat didn’t spend a lot of time bashing the U.S. policy in Haiti, but she was very clear in sharing how the U.S.’s influence was both positive and negative. Regardless of the U.S.’s influence, reading about young children living in a war- and conflict-torn country was incredibly saddening, and to know there are so many children living in similar situations today makes the first-hand account even more impactful.

Additionally, the reader learns toward the end what it was like (at least in the early to mid 2000s) for Haitians, who feared for their life in their home country, to try to emigrate to the U.S. In fact, Danticat even makes it clear that Cubans who illegally enter the country, washing up on Miami’s beaches, are treated better than Haitians who have clearance to enter (but not stay) in the U.S. It’s sad, scary and needs to be changed.

Audiobook Review

With years of experience, Robin Miles is an amazing voice talent. Her Haitian accent and Creole-laced sentences were lyrical and beautiful to hear. There wasn’t a single point when I felt the reading was a miss.

Ratings

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

Cultural Impact 5 out of 5 stars

Reading Performance 5 out of 5 stars

Total: 5 out of 5 stars

Have you read or listened to any of Danticat’s work? What did you think?

What is the most deeply affecting book you’ve ever read?

Please Enjoy an Excerpt from Double Happiness by Tony Brasunas

I’m happy to be participating in my first book tour! Below is an excerpt from the book Double Happiness by Tony Brasunas, and you can expect a book review to be coming in March. Read to the end of the excerpt to enter for your chance to win a hardcover book. Tony’s generously giving away three.

The first promise of dawn paints a watercolor on Tiananmen Square. An old man dressed in navy blue flows quietly through the circular movements of tai chi; a woman on a bicycle tows a young girl in a red wagon. The canvas of this painting is the broad square stones beneath my feet, stones that murmur nothing about parades or riots, joy or mania, blood, the toes of leaping feet, tears. The moment holds only peace. Long stone buildings form the painting’s frame: The Great Hall of the People stands to the west, the People’s Museum of the Revolution is on the east, the granite-gray Frontgate towers to the south, and Tiananmen Gate stands at the north, guarding the count-less golden roofs of the Forbidden City. On every stone cornice, eave, and column, the air hangs silent and still, as if waiting between earth-quake beats of time.

Out of place amid all the stone is an electronic billboard in front of the Museum of the Revolution. “147,988 seconds,” announce its red digits, precisely measuring the earthquake beats of time that remain before the huíguī, the handover of Hong Kong, in a bit less than two days. The four dark squares to the left of the decrementing digits suggest that the billboard has been counting down for years, perhaps even for all thirteen years since Margaret Thatcher first pledged to return the colony to China. In any event, it’s June 29, 1997, and there’s little time left for the British to change their minds. Decorative flags hang everywhere, drooping patiently in the quiet air: Half are the familiar, scarlet Chinese banner; Half are the future flag of Hong Kong, which is also red but with a single white Bauhinia orchid succinctly replacing the British crown. 

Three young women clutch miniatures of the two flags in their fingers, and they skip the scoreboard and stroll up to me. “Be in a picture?” one asks boldly.

I nod, and two of them stand beside me, tentatively touching me just at the moment the third snaps a camera. Then they’re gone, as always.

Follow the Rafflecopter link to enter Tony’s giveaway. Good luck!

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If you don’t win, you can purchase Tony’s book at Amazon.

I received a free eBook copy of Double Happiness in exchange for posting the excerpt.

Audiobook Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Audiobook Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | The 1000th Voice Blog

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
By Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson is a bad influence. As I listened to this on my commute, I had the following conversation with my husband.

Me: (I’m in the car on my phone.) Hey, can you grab my purse?

Nick: OK. Where are you?

M: Driving to the eye doctor, but I forgot my wallet.

N: Ugh.

M: I just packed your lunch!

N: Are you coming back?

M: No, you need to bring it to me.

N: Ugh.

M: Oh, also. I don’t know where I’m going.

N: Ugh.

M: Please look it up.

N: (Gives me address.)

M: OK. I’m there. I love you.

::Later::

M: OK. I’m there. Walk in the door facing the hospital.

N: You want me to walk into the hospital?

M: No, the building facing the hospital.

N: In the hospital?

M: OMG! No!

Review

Jenny Lawson, who read this book herself, is incredibly entertaining in short doses. She’s almost a little too much for me to take at once. Don’t let that stop you from listening to this, particularly if you gain energy from other people’s energy.

Rating

Writing 3 out of 5 stars

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Cultural Impact 4 out of 5 stars

Total 3.67 stars

Are you a Bloggess fan or is she too much for you as well?

Book Review: We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down

Book Review: We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel | The 1000th Voice Blog

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down
By Rachael Hanel

The story of my life is bound up in the story of my parents, their life in the cemetery.

Described as macabre and lyrical, Rachael Hanel’s memoir is about life, death, cemeteries and her father’s unexpected and timely death.

When Rachael was young, her father Paul began a career as a gravedigger. While talking about her father she writes about how he’d grown up as one of 14 children. Her grandparents worked hard just to feed their children. College and eventual careers weren’t in the equation. While his siblings found jobs, Paul build a career. As Rachael put it:

A career brings enjoyment, is closely intertwined with identity; it’s who you are. It’s not easy to separate career and life, whereas job and life have clear deliniations.”

While he took his responsibility to the dead and their loved ones seriously, Paul’s sense of humor showed in his business’ tag line: We’ll be the last ones to let you down. Rachael recalls him putting that tag on tons of promotional items. As a marketer, that makes me very happy.

Once her dad embarked on his career, death and cemeteries became a part of him, his life and his family’s lives. After spending countless hours riding her bike through the cemetery as her parents worked, she became very fascinated with macabre books of all kinds–true crime, ghosts and the like. She spent hours finding books in the library and devouring them and asking her mom to tell and retell stories about the deaths of their county’s citizens.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Writing a memoir is a popular thing right now. To be successful, the book has to be compelling and Hanel’s is–from her lifelong fascination with the macabre to her ability address the philosophical issues of death:

Some say we can’t see time, that it’s an invisible fourth dimension. But we can see its evidence–the gears of a clock, the swing of a pendulum, the aging of a face.

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Cultural Impact 3 out of 5 stars

Total 3.67 stars

What’s your favorite macabre story?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog