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review 2018-03-16 17:26
BLANKY by Kealan Patrick Burke
Blanky - Kealan Patrick Burke


BLANKY is a powerful novella, full of grief, pain, and horrors previously unknown-those both real and imagined.


You can't let Kealan deceive you with that innocent looking cover. Any of you already familiar with his work wouldn't fall for that anyway. This is a tale that touches on everything it is to be human, both good and bad.


The time we spend with our families, even the irritating or angry times, are all something special. We may only want to focus on the fun, good memories, but that's not reality. BLANKY makes you think about, made ME think about- exactly what reality is.


With this story, be prepared to bring a piece of yourself and leave it upon the altar of Kealan Patrick Burke.


My highest recommendation. Period.


*I bought this novella with my hard earned money and reading it cost a small piece of my soul.*

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review 2018-03-16 16:44
Remember by Karen Kingsbury and Gary Smalley
Remember - Gary Smalley,Karen Kingsbury

Convinced she could make it on her own, Ashley Baxter has kept the most important people in her life at a distance—her family, the man who loves her, and the God she is sure can never forgive her. Now, just as she begins to open her heart, the events of September 11 rip into Ashley’s world and she is led to heartbreaking and hope-filled decisions that will forever change her life. This story vividly illustrates that we must value others more than ourselves, and it drives home one of Gary Smalley’s key messages: Honor one another. (from Goodreads)

Series: book 2 in the Redemption series; book 2 in the Baxter family series.

Rating: 4 stars

This was a fascinating read. It isn't often that you read about either Alzheimer's or 9/11, but this book combined both subjects perfectly.

I'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Christian contemporary fiction can be a hit or miss (usually miss because of the fluffiness), but this was a solid book. A+ to the authors. 

The main couple of the book is Ashley and Landon, but you get points of view from Kari and Ryan, tying up the loose ends from the previous book, and you also get points of view from Luke, setting up the next book in the series. You also get points of view from from John, their father, which was a cool way of seeing things, from the parental persepective of the outside looking in, kind of thing.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book and cannot wait to continue the journey of the Baxter's, seeing how there is like 20 other books featuring them or something.

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review 2018-03-16 13:42
the family next door
The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth

Author: Sally Hepworth

Rating: 4 stars


Good writing and a nice twist elevate this book from this is just a Hallmark-movie-of-the-week in print status. Not that I dislike Hallmark movies. I've been known to binge watch with mom on snow days.


How well do you know your neighbors? In this story, there is more than meets the eye to all our characters. It was fun putting the pieces together and trying to figure out what was going on in this little suburban neighborhood. I thought I had it a couple of times in the beginning but was wrong.  Finally, by page 172  I had figured out the big twist. BUT I thought- If Hepworth is going there, that's a nifty twist.  I'm on board. Let's ride this train. 


Well done.


Definitely recommend. 

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review 2018-03-15 17:29
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko - Min Jin Lee

It took me almost four months to read Pachinko. As I read, I began wondering about my slow pace. My fall semesters are busier, yes, but I still manage to finish most books in what's a timely manner for me. It certainly wasn't because I found the book hard to read in terms of comprehension or engagement. As I got closer to the end, I realized: it was because I was so invested in the characters and storytelling I had to take time to process the intense feelings the novel evoked. There are also regular gaps in time that take place between chapters where characters' situations change significantly; I needed mental space before diving into the story again. I can't think of another novel that required this sort of reading from me.


In addition to Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh, Pachinko has served to establish that "family sagas" can engage me, or at least when another culture is involved. Through the family portrayed here, I learned more about Korea, but it never feels like a history lesson. Everything comes from the characters. The novel also provokes thought about national and racial identity.


There were moments I dreaded, as with the return of a less sympathetic character, though not in a way that made me dislike the novel or its author. There were moments that shocked me to the point of gasping. There are many scenes that easily and vividly come to mind when I recall my reading, which I finished more than a month ago.


I would love to teach this novel. I have the feeling I may reread it some day, regardless. For me, that's a rarity, a compliment, and a sign of deep gratitude. 

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review 2018-03-14 19:18
The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir - Kao Kalia Yang

This is an interesting memoir by a Hmong-American writer, about the experiences of a community that is opaque to many Americans. The Hmong are an ethnic minority who moved from China to Laos centuries ago; the Chinese outlawing their written language is apparently the reason they lack one even today. Many Hmong assisted the Americans in the Vietnam War, in which about a third of their population died; another third was killed in the persecution after the American army’s departure. The author’s parents and extended family, like many others, fled into the jungles of Laos and later to a refugee camp in Thailand, where they lived for several years before relocating to Minnesota.

Though a memoir, this book is more about the author’s family than about Kao Kalia Yang herself. It begins by detailing her family’s travails in Laos and Thailand before her birth in the refugee camp, and the bulk of the book focuses on the camp and the family’s immigration to America when she was seven. It goes on to describe the difficulties of their adjustment, for her (being too shy to speak English in school even once she learned it), but mostly for the family: part of the extended family winds up in another state; money is tight, and her parents are forced to take exhausting night shifts at a factory to support the family, while Yang and her older sister are responsible for caring for their younger siblings and sometimes serving as interpreters for their parents. There is little sense of the author’s life after elementary school, though; while she is a student at Carlton College by the end (and later went on to Columbia University), the later chapters focus exclusively on the last years of her grandmother’s life and the grandmother’s death and elaborate funeral. I would have liked to see more of the author’s life and how she has related to Americans and American culture – her educational choices indicate that she has her own stories to tell – but the focus of the book does make clear how extremely family-oriented both she and her community are.

It is an incredible story, and especially given that the Yangs’ experiences were evidently common among the Hmong after the Vietnam War, it’s an important one to tell for the sake of awareness. The writing is fairly good, though it doesn’t always flow in the clearest way. Here’s a sample:

“My mother and father told us not to look at the Americans. If we saw them, they would see us. For the first year and a half, we wanted to be invisible. Everywhere we went beyond the McDonough Housing Project, we were looked at, and we felt exposed. We were dealing with a widespread realization that all Hmong people must do one of two things to survive in America: grow up or grow old. In the case of the noticeably young, the decision was made for us. For those who were older, the case was also easy to figure. Those marred by the war, impaired by the years of fighting, social security and disability were options. [sic] For my mother and father, already adults who had waited on life long before it was their time, the government stepped in and told them: the welfare clock was ticking. She was twenty-five. He was twenty-eight. They knew they wanted a chance to work, but they did not know how to keep that chance safe, so on the streets, before the slanted brows of mostly white men, they held us close for security.”

The gist of the passage makes sense: the family feels insecure, they don’t want to attract attention, and the parents are under pressure to find work. But the notion that there is pressure on “all Hmong people” to “grow up or grow old,” and how this is meant to apply to the author’s parents, is unclear to me even after taking the time to re-read it carefully. And perhaps because of the author’s cultural and linguistic background, she has a distinct way of expressing ideas that may not make a lot of sense to American readers if read quickly or with less than full attention.

Overall then, I found this memoir worthwhile, mostly for the opportunity to learn more about a community that was unfamiliar to me. However, it’s not the first one I would recommend for literary reading.

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