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review 2017-04-22 18:53
Review: With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1) by Sarah Sundin
With Every Letter - Sarah Sundin

This book.

 

*SIGH*

 

*great book noise*

 

Where has this author been all my adult reading life?

 

I ended up creating a draft copy of my end of the year best of list for fiction. It has one book on that list. This book.

 

So I picked this book up from Amazon's bargain/close out section and then it gathered dust on my book shelves for years. I am now kicking myself for not reading this (and the other two books in the trilogy, but I don't have a copy of those yet) sooner.

 

Lt Philomela Blake (Mellie) is an Army nurse working on the experimental Air Evacuation section of the Army-Air Corps. She wants adventure, she wants travel, and she wants to move up in her career. Mellie is a damn fine nurse, and a fine person - but she is lonely because she never could make friends, especially female friends due to her childhood. Mellie is half-Filipino and half-white; she was too Asian for American school kids to like and too American for Asian kids to like. She has been instructed to learn to make friends and get along with the other women in her squadron or she will be removed from the Air Evacuation team and sent back to hospital work. She decides that part of this new "make friends and influence people" plan is to write anonymous letters to a male pen pal in her supervisor's husband's platoon.

 

Lt Tom MacGilliver is the son of an executed killer who just wants to be accepted for himself and be the best engineer the Army needs. He is working with the Airfield Battalion, hopping from location to location to lay down airfields for the Allies in North Africa. He too is lonely, so he answers Mellie's letter, staying anonymous. She goes by "Annie" and he goes by "Ernest".

 

Tom and Mellie form a deep bond through letters, even when Mellie's unit deploys to North Africa. They do meet, neither of them knowing that the other is the pen pal. At the end of the first meeting, Tom gives away a little of his identity and Mellie figures out Tom is her pen pal. She keeps this knowledge to herself, hoping to keep letter writing going. Both are falling in love with each other via letters, but Tom is also starting to fall for Mellie when she comes to his airfields to pick up wounded soldiers. He is very conflicted about his feelings for the "two" women throughout the second half of the book, but in the end he decides on "Annie" over Mellie, because "Annie" knows him deep down while Mellie he is physically attracted to. When he finally (FINALLY!!) figures out that they are actually the same woman, he mows down anyone in his way of him getting his woman.

 

This romance tackles racism, ethnic tensions, sexism, and how to deal with long hair when in the combat theater and you are rationed water supplies. Honestly, the deft hand when dealing with these issues plus the emotional baggage Mellie and Tom bring to their relationship is amazing. The story is rounded out with a variety of characters, some good - some bad - some ugly. But all the characters felt real. And the setting was aptly described; the reader is taken on a tour of North Africa including Casablanca, Oran, Tunis, Algiers, Youks-les-Bains, Constantine, Tabarka, and a few places in Sicily. This is an inspie romance, non-denominational Christianity. However, the religious aspects are really well-woven into the story, with no lecturing or long monologues or selfish praying. 

 

Tom adopts a stray dog early in the book. The dog is still alive at the end of the book and still working and living with Tom's unit.

 

I am definitely making it a point to read the other two books in the series and read the author's backlist (she tends to write in trilogies, all WWII). HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!

 

 

 

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text 2017-04-18 13:39
17th April 2017
Out of Africa - Isak Dinesen,Karen Blixen

I know of a cure for everything: salt water...in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.

 

Karen Blixen

 

Karen Blixen (born April 17, 1885) wrote under several pen names including Isak Dinesen, the name she used for Out of Africa, a novel based on the two decades she spent on a coffee plantation in Kenya.

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review 2017-03-29 23:28
Tropical Fish by Doreen Baingana
Tropical Fish: Tales From Entebbe - Doreen Baingana

This is a collection of eight short stories about the lives of three sisters as girls and young women growing up in Uganda. It's not an "awareness novel" - the stories are about relationships and the characters' inner lives, not "Africa issues," though one does deal with AIDS through a very personal lens. This was the most remarkable story in the collection to me, with more intense emotions than are found in the others. Overall, the writing is adequate, but I did not find this collection particularly noteworthy or memorable.

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text 2017-03-05 21:35
Reading progress update: I've read 34 out of 480 pages.
A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson

So why does my sidebar say this book is called Land in the Sun, the Story of West Africa, by Russell G Davis?

 

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review 2017-03-05 11:39
Made for Goodness (And Why This Makes All The Difference) by Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference - Desmond Tutu,Mpho Tutu

In Made for Goodness, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner and international icon of peace and reconciliation, shares his vision on why we can find hope and joy in the world’s darkest moments by realizing that we were made for goodness, that we are wired so that goodness will win in the end. Archbishop Tutu is a spiritual leader and symbol of love and forgiveness on the level of Gandi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Made for Goodness, written with his daughter Mpho, is one of the most personal and inspirational books he's ever written.

Amazon.com

 

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a Nobel Prize winner (1984) and a survivor of not only an abusive childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father, but also of the apartheid era in Africa. In this book, which he writes with his daughter Mpho (pronounced mm-POH, btw) who is also an archbishop, finally addresses the topic he's been asked about most over the years --- how does he manage to stay happy, given what he's been through? How does he continue to see good in the world and not lose faith in humanity? In under 300 pages of illustrative stories of hope and faith, he gives you your answer. 

 

Desmond's path has not been an easy one. Remember the alcoholic, abusive father I mentioned? He was actually principal of Desmond's elementary school in Johannesburg, South Africa when Desmond was a child. No escape for the poor kid! But he endured, survived and went on to become educated and highly respected within a career of service. By the time apartheid in Africa reared its ugly head, Desmond was a father himself. One of the quietest actions to signal the fight to come was when the lunch program was canceled for all black children in South African schools, though white students were still served. Then Prime Minster Hendrik Verwoerd's official statement on the decision? "We can't provide for all the children, so we won't provide for any." That moment was cruel enough but ohh if only the fight had stopped there! If you've read up on your history regarding this time, you're aware of the bloodshed that was to follow all across the country. 

 

Desmond takes up the position of archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. During apartheid, he serves as president of All Africa Conference of Churches. In the apartheid's aftermath, he becomes chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, dedicated to helping shattered families emotionally and physically rebuild their lives. His daughter Mpho worked alongside Desmond as a counselor to emotionally, physically or sexually abused women & children, rape victims and / or drug addicts. So you can guess, they were in the thick of it, seeing humans at their darkest, lowest emotional states. There must have been days where Desmond and Mpho had to have lost heart! This whole book is Desmond describing how they were able to stay strong in a world full of cruelty and depravity, dedicating themselves anew each day to building up rather than tearing down. 

 

Your whole life is holy ground.

~ Desmond Tutu

 

Desmond's work in South Africa, as well as time spent working in a refugee camp in Darfur, drove him to develop the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Tutu the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

 

Archbishop Tutu ends each chapter of the book with a prayer poem, giving the reader something to contemplate on, regarding struggles within their own life. If you wish to pray on something troubling you but don't know how to go about wording it, these can be a useful tool to help guide your mind to a peaceful place. Tutu hits upon some solid truths on the subjects of truth, faith and general perseverance through life. While his message did get a little repetitive in parts for me, I can't argue with the message itself. The man's been put through the fire and came out the other side an intact happy man. His words have been field-tested, you could say! 

 

One thing that Tutu stresses in these chapters that did really resonate with me is the need to be realistic with oneself. We should all be striving for everyday kindness for humanity, but also keep in mind you don't have to be a perfect saint. You will have days where you get angry, where you break down, where you feel like you're not doing enough or that your efforts are pointless because the world is just too damaged. To this line of thinking he gives the reader this in return:

 

There is a relief worker who resides in our soul. In each of us, there is a dignified Darfuri, one who can find occasion for gratitude and joyful laughter in almost any circumstance. To whatever extent we recognize and act on those traits, they are there and want to be expressed. We can always aspire to be more compassionate and more generous, not out of some dogged need to be good or to be lovable, but because to give love is our greatest joy.

 

I was also moved by Tutu's words on "ubuntu", the South African way of describing everything and everyone in the world being interconnected. 

 

Some of the hardest truth to take (though the guy is right!) is when he breaks down the idea of freedom of choice. Admittedly, an amazing gift, but as he points out... it comes with a caveat. Freedom of choice also means potential for people to choose wrongly or poorly, which will likely affect a great many people. Could be you, could be someone else. So then he says, if your life has been negatively affected by the poor choices of others, you THEN have the choice to CHOOSE to forgive them or carry the weight of that anger / sadness / disappointment etc within yourself for however long you choose. Freedom of choice doesn't always mean everyone wins, but it gives you the freedom to choose how you react to the options provided.

 

I did really love Mpho's stone exercise for releasing hurt feelings, so I thought I would share it here: Mpho says to take a small stone that can fit in a pocket (but some with noticeable weight to it), put it in your pocket and throughout the day tell the rock what is troubling you. Whenever you feel that hurt or anger bubbling back up, voice it to the rock. At the end of the day, find someplace to set the rock down and mentally set down your weighted mind with it. Then walk away. Leave the rock there and walk away with a lightened spirit. 

 

Worth a shot! 

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