On Losing Someone: A Personal Post

Last Wednesday, September 23rd, my eighty-seven-year-old grandmother passed away unexpectedly. If you remember, I shared earlier this year that my other grandmother, my dad’s mom, passed away in May after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. This time, there was no battle. There was no physical illness or mental issues – my Grandma Jeannie, who was in great health, my mom’s mom, a person who had been a huge influence throughout my entire life, someone I expected to have around for at least a few more years, suddenly was gone.

I was shocked and honestly didn’t know how to react. Of course, I flew home to Chicago as soon as I could to be with family. I had moments of grieving, moments of sobbing uncontrollably, but mostly I just tried to be strong for everyone else, especially my mom and aunt. I helped as much as I could with funeral arrangements, talked with family about the money/inheritance situation, helped figure out what bills needed to be paid and what accounts to cancel, started the process of cleaning out her home, all while feeling sort of numb to the whole thing. As I said, I had my moments of breaking down, but they were few and far between.

And now I’m back in Florida, back to reality and have a few days to reflect and regroup before starting work on Monday. And I just have to take a minute to share with all of you, my friends who have gotten to know me over the years, what an amazing woman my Grandma Jeannie was.

My grandma was a fiercely independent person. She bucked the trend of her era and didn’t get married right out of high school – she got a job and lived an exciting life as a single woman. She didn’t marry until just before thirty (ancient, at that time!), and had two daughters, my mom and aunt. When her daughters were 12 and 5, she courageously divorced her alcoholic husband and went back to work full-time to support her daughters on her own. She was extremely involved in her girls’ lives, they both have fond memories of their hard-working mom showing up for them in every possible sense of the word.

My grandma was the most fun, funny, involved, and loving grandparent I had. She was involved in every activity her seven grandchildren participated in, showing up at every single sporting event, dance recital, vocal performance, graduation, and anything else that was significant in our lives. Every single one of the seven of us thought we were her favorite – she made each of us feel special and unique, showering us with the kind of undivided and unconditional love and attention that can come only from a loving grandparent. I was so lucky to have her love for as many years as I did.

My grandma was truly the most kind person I’ve ever known. She loved everyone with a ferocity that is not seen in most people. She got to know strangers in elevators, formed extremely close bonds with friends at work, church, and other places, and took care of anyone who was in need of a helping hand, loving hug, shoulder to cry on, or just a kind listening ear. There were people in her life who didn’t do right by her all the time, yet she forgave them time and time again. She truly saw only the best in people and had the unique ability to forgive the bad while at the same time, not allowing someone to mistreat her twice.

Everything that is good in me came through her – either directly from her, or through my mom, also from her. When I feel myself reacting with unkindness or anger, I ask myself how she would respond. I remind myself that she taught me to respond to negativity with words of encouragement, to respond to hate with love, to be kind to others not because they deserve it, but because it’s just the right thing to do.

Truly, she was the most incredible person I’ve ever known. I am so very lucky to have had thirty-one years with her. I know she had a wonderful, long life, and to die at eighty-seven, still living independently and volunteering at church, with all of her wits about her and no physical pain, is just about the best possible way to go. I will miss her every day but I know she’s always going to be with me. The grief I feel for her loss is masked by the incredible impact she’s had on my life and the knowledge that I would not be half the woman I am today without her influence. Not everyone gets a perfect example of how to live a life full of love and joy – but I did.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my amazing Grandma Jeannie. I’ll be back in the next week or so with more bookish posts. :)

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the RageAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

From the publisher:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

This is a book about rape. It’s also a book about rape culture, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, because when the golden boy in town rapes the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, whose fault do you think the world says it is? Hint: not the person who actually did the raping. It’s a sad truth, but this is the world that we live in and this is the reality that many women face, which is why this is an important book and one that should be read by teens, parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Basically everyone.

Romy’s pain is real and raw and not easy to read about. The emotions she’s dealing with, the guilt that she feels, for something that happened TO her, that has been put upon her by society and her school is almost unbearable at times for her – and for the reader. But this is what the world does to girls, to women with bright futures who make the “mistake” of having one too many drinks in the presence of a rapist (in Romy’s case – in other cases, it’s the “mistake” of simply being in the presence of a rapist at all). It’s not an easy read, nor should it be, especially if a person reads this book with the understanding that this is reality for all too many women and girls. But as I said, it’s an important one.

All the Rage packs an emotional punch but it’s worth the roller coaster ride of emotions to get to a more healing place by the end of the novel. I think this is a must-read and I believe Courtney Summers, more than almost any YA author I can think of, truly gets teenagers, especially those in crisis. She understands how bad it can get and writes with painful honesty about all types of issues. Just read it.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Who Do You LoveWho Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
Published by Atria Books

From the publisher:

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are eight years old when they meet late one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up all alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to the emergency room and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Rachel, the beloved, popular, and protected daughter of two doting parents, grows up wanting for nothing in a fancy Florida suburb. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent that will let him become one of the best runners of his generation.

Over the course of three decades, through high school and college, marriages and divorces, from the pinnacles of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Andy and Rachel will find each other again and again, until they are finally given a chance to decide whether love can surmount difference and distance and if they’ve been running toward each other all along.

I mentioned last week that I needed a book to sweep me up, to hold my interest from page one, something to break this streak I’ve been on of not being able to finish a book. Well, Who Do You Love turned out to be that exact book. This novel is not perfect, but it was perfect for what I needed, so I absolutely loved it. LOVED it.

What initially drew me into the story was how I saw myself in Rachel – I, too, was born with a congenital heart defect and spent a lot of time as a kid in the hospital. I have a scar on my chest from my own open-heart surgeries that matches the one Rachel describes in the book (although I’ve never been ashamed of mine or felt the need to cover it up). And once I got to know Andy, I saw myself in him as well – I, too, grew up with not much in the way of money or material possessions, I was the kid with the secondhand clothes, I was the kid who didn’t fit in with my more well-off classmates. I think the fact that I identified so strongly with both of the main characters really connected me to their story.

Besides my personal connections to both Rachel and Andy, I loved the two of them together. I loved their love story, fragmented and spaced out as it was. Theirs is a love that spanned years, and physical distance, and scandals, and all kinds of tension and challenges. Just when you think their story as a couple is over … just wait, because theirs is the kind of love that stands the test of time. Who doesn’t love to read about love like that?

Jennifer Weiner consistently writes relationships so well – between parents and children, romantic relationships, friendships, etc. She also creates these characters that are flawed but essentially good people who you’d want to have as friends in real life. All of her books are this way, and it’s something I’ve come to rely on her to provide when I pick up one of her books. I knew that this novel would be one I’d fly through, but to say that I loved it, especially when it’s been so hard for me to get into a book lately, well that’s an accomplishment. I couldn’t put this novel down and it was exactly what I needed at this exact moment in time. As I said, maybe not a perfect novel in every way, but perfect for me, for right now. So much love for Who Do You Love!

Catching Up

So I said back in July that I would catch you guys up with what’s been going on in my life lately and then I just … didn’t. I guess I had a busy summer as it seemed to just fly by, which can be a good thing because here in Central Florida, summer is HOT and it’s best to be indoors as much as possible. Today is the first day I can feel a hint of fall in the air, so I have the windows open in my entire house as I type this, a gentle breeze wafting in. It’s delightful.

So what has been going on with me? For starters, we are moving! We are having a home built in a Meritage Home subdivision about 30 minutes from where we currently live. This house is truly our dream house, our forever home. It has everything we could possibly want in a home and I see us there for many, many years. The whole house-building thing is kind of a crazy and stressful time, so a lot of my time has been devoted to that – we had multiple design meetings, pre-construction meetings, meetings with the bank, next week we have a pre-drywall meeting – I think you get the idea. It’s incredibly fun and I’m beyond excited, but also – it’s a lot of work! So we’ve been a bit busy with that.

What else? Well, in July I spent a few days back “home” in Chicago for my nephew’s 2nd birthday. It was a quick trip, but I got lots of time with family, which was wonderful. I’m headed back there next weekend for my husband’s grandmother’s 100th birthday. Yep, 100! She’s amazingly healthy for 99, no physical health problems besides needing a walker as her balance is a little off, and intellectually she’s doing pretty great, too. There have been a few memory lapses here and there recently, but I think that’s to be expected when a person has 100 years of memories crammed inside of their brain! Obviously we’ll spend time with my family, too, and since we’re going for almost an entire week this time I’m hoping to squeeze some time in with friends as well.

And then … I’m SO excited for the weekend after we return from Chicago, because I’m headed to New York for a girls’ trip!! I couldn’t be more pumped about this – four days with the girlfriends in my life I’ve known the longest of anyone and remained friends throughout years of changing interests, different colleges, moves across the country, husbands, etc. I’ve never been to New York, so one of my friends and I are arriving a day early to do a whirlwind tour of the hot tourist stuff in NYC. The next morning, the other three arrive and we’re heading up to Upstate NY for two days of vineyard touring. It should be an amazing time and truly, I could not be more excited.

Work has been … really weird lately. Some stuff has been happening that hasn’t directly affected me, thank God, but has affected some people I really care about, and it’s been kind of hard. Sorry about the vagueness but it’s nothing I can or should share publicly. Let’s just say it’s a time of uncertainty for a lot of people and while I’ve done a decent job at keeping my team motivated and working hard every day despite what’s going on, I’d be lying if I said people aren’t feeling it. We’re all feeling the vibe and I’m just hoping things will settle down soon. It’s looking like that will be the case – I’m truly crossing my fingers that what looks hopeful becomes reality sooner than later.

Let’s talk about reading, shall we? I was doing pretty okay for a while there, reading a few good books in a row, and now I just can’t get into a book to save my life. I’ve started and abandoned three books this week, and I’m currently reading nothing in print. I just can’t get into anything. I need to pick up something that will just sweep me up, right from page 1. Hopefully I find something soon. I decided to listen to the audio of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please as a sort of comfort listen – I read the print last year – and it’s totally working. I LOVE this book on audio, and it puts me in a good mood each day as I listen while driving to and from work.

And writing? Writing is going even worse than reading. I have zero motivation to write about any of the books I’ve read recently. Zero. I’d love to change that but I’m just not sure if/when it will happen.

So that’s what’s been going on with me! What has been going on in your neck of the woods?

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Black Dove, White RavenBlack Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Disney-Hyperion

From the publisher:

Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

Elizabeth Wein has done it again. Like Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, Black Dove, White Raven is an incredible book that mixes history with YA with ALL THE FEELS. There’s so much to love about this novel that I am not even sure where to start.

First, this novel brought to light for me a conflict in history, the war between Italy and Ethiopia, that I had no idea was even a thing that happened. Honestly, I love books that make me feel ignorant about the world – not because I feel bad about myself for not having the knowledge (which does also happen), but that it reminds me that there’s SO much I don’t know, and that I should keep seeking out books and authors that will continue to challenge me and teach me new things. Which this book did, in spades. I learned a lot about this time in Ethiopia’s history, and I’d highly recommend this novel as a good choice for those who want diversity in their reading experiences, combined with amazing characters and relationships.

Speaking of the characters – the characters! Elizabeth Wein just writes friendship so amazingly well, I have to tell you. Emilia and Teo grow up as siblings after Teo’s mother, Delia, dies, but in addition to brother and sister, they are best friends. These two would absolutely do anything for one another, and this pure, loving, uncomplicated friendship is, in my opinion, the heart of this story. There’s also the friendship between their mothers – when Delia dies, Rhoda goes into a deep depression, shutting out everything and everybody, barely taking care of her own children. While this is incredibly heart-breaking, it’s also indicative of the deep and true friendship these two women shared. The things they did together – breaking down sexist and racist stereotypes about what women of color can and should do, embarking on incredibly difficult barnstorming maneuvers, engaging in intensely dangerous situations, raising children together – only served to strengthen their bond. So much so that when Teo’s mom dies, Rhoda knows that the only thing she can do is live out Delia’s dream for her son and bring him back to his father’s homeland, Ethiopia. The goal is to get him out of racist America and give him an opportunity for a life free from oppression.

While at first their life in Ethiopia seems idyllic and, frankly, perfect, it spirals out of control a few years later when the war with Italy starts. When I tell you that I learned so much in this book, I’m not kidding. Did you know that there were slaves in Ethiopia, too? As recently as 1930? I certainly did not. Anyway. The book escalates at a rapid pace in the last 100 pages or so as Teo ends up involved in the war, the three of them get separated, and awful things happen. And in typical Wein fashion, readers’ hearts are broken and tears ensure (at least in my case).

I’m realizing now how much I rambled here and how and messy this “review” was but I don’t even care. Read this book. Black Dove, White Raven is incredible for so many reasons.


The One & OnlyThe One & Only by Emily Giffin
Published by Ballantine Books

Emily Giffin is an author I usually adore – one of the few authors I’ve read every single one of her books and loved them all. The One & Only features Shea, a thirty-three-year-old woman who lives and breathes her college football hometown – she has stayed in the town her entire life, and even works at the University as an adult. Her best friend, Lucy, is the daughter of the legendary coach of the University’s football team, and has always been a father figure in Shea’s life. Until Lucy’s mom passes away, and Shea finds herself having feelings for the coach.

So I didn’t love the premise of this novel. I also have zero interest in football. The ONLY reason I read it is because, duh, Emily Giffin. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I didn’t love the book, but it just did not work for me. I didn’t believe in the relationship between Shea and Coach – the first chapter of the book is his wife’s funeral, and 75 pages later they are flirting! It was just weird. It made it difficult for me to like Shea herself, and I couldn’t relate to her at all. Plus, football, no thank you. Maybe other readers will have a better reaction to this book than I did, but it was just not my thing.

Carry Me HomeCarry Me Home by Sandra Kring
Published by Delta

This is the story of a rural Wisconsin family as their oldest son joins the military and goes off to war in 1940. Jimmy is eighteen years old when he enlists in the military and leaves his parents, girlfriend, and sixteen-year-old brother Earl “Earwig” behind. Told from Earwig’s perspective, this is a story about how war affects even the most innocent among us, and how people are changed forever because of it.

Earwig isn’t the smartest kid – he probably has some kind of intellectual development disorder – he has difficulty counting change at his family’s store, he gets along better with ten-year-olds than with teens his own age, and it’s clear that his family treats him differently from how they treat Jimmy. But Earwig might just be the most astute observer of the atrocities of war out of all these people. He gets it in a way that adults with their rational thinking and their intellectual debates simply can’t, or won’t. I really liked this novel and cried several times while reading it. I hadn’t read anything by Kring before but this one definitely won’t be my last.

NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson
Published by Harper Collins

Nimona is a young shapeshifter who is looking who is looking for a villain to hang out with. Enter Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain with a mission, also a guy who didn’t know he needed a sidekick. Together the two team up to show the world that the head of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics isn’t the perfect hero everyone thinks he is.

Everyone has been raving about this gorgeous graphic novel, and I completely see why. The illustrations are amazing. Nimona herself is an incredible heroine, she has a dark past, she can be terrifying at times but is tenacious and strong, wanting to right the wrongs of the world, and is ultimately looking for someone to recognize and value the humanity in her. This books turns the idea of heroes and villains upside-down as it’s clear that there is no black and white good guys and bad guys – everyone here is just doing the best they can.

There’s so much more to love about Nimona that I can’t even explain properly. Nimona herself is not your traditional beautiful superhero – she’s average-sized with bright red hair that’s shaved on two sides. The villain and hero in this story are former lovers and best friends who now have vendettas against each other – oh and they’re both guys, and that’s not even discussed, and the fact that it doesn’t have to be discussed is GREAT. Please read Nimona! It’s awesome.

Those Secrets We Keep by Emily Leibert

Those Secrets We KeepThose Secrets We Keep by Emily Leibert
Published by NAL
Review copy provided by the publisher

Sloane loves her life – her husband adores her, she gets to stay at home with her young daughter, and their family has enough money that she doesn’t worry about much. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that something is missing, so she takes the opportunity her aunt gives her to stay at a beautiful cabin in Lake George, New York for three weeks in the summer.

Sloane’s friend Hillary joins her for the trip. Hillary is carrying a big secret about why she can’t conceive a child with the husband who so desperately wants to be a father, and this trip just might give her the courage to be honest about it. At the last minute, Sloane’s old friend, Georgina, invites herself along for the trip, too. Georgina has always been wild, a spur-of-the-moment kind of person, but this time she’s escaping something very specific, something she is terrified to reveal to Sloane.

This novel had a lot of promise for me. I enjoy books about friendships, books sent in fun settings, and books with tough subjects and potential conflicts that arise from these tough subjects. Those Secrets We Keep had all of those elements. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one much. I really didn’t like any of the characters and overall, the book just never came together for me. It could very well just be me, but here’s my opinion of what exactly didn’t work in the book.

The three women in the book really did nothing for me in terms of personality. They were catty and mean to one another, and jumped to conclusions about the motivations for each others’ behavior and choices. It was clear that there was a lot of pain behind the interactions between Sloane and Georgina, but there was so little effort towards a reconciliation that it was laughable. Why would they choose to spend this time together if they were just going to fight the whole time? It made zero sense to me. Hillary was a little better, constantly trying to be a peacemaker between the other two, acting as a voice of reason when all other reason was out the window, but eventually that kind of got old and I wanted her to have a personality of her own, something unique and special about her that I could latch onto in order to connect with her character. It never happened for me.

I also had a difficult time with the juxtaposition of the seriousness of the issues being discussed and the lighthearted manner the women displayed in dealing with the issues. We’re talking infertility, cancer, a death in the family, and more. And while this stuff was discussed, in fact it was in some cases a central part of the book, it was done in a strange way that treated these issues as secondary to the fights the women were having. I am not sure if I’m explaining it properly, but it just didn’t work for me.

While Those Secrets We Keep was disappointing for me, perhaps you’d enjoy it more. Stories about female friendships are important to me, and I like what Leibert tried to do here, it just wasn’t a novel that lived up to my expectations. If the description sounds interesting to you, though, by all means give it a try!

The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis

The Summer of Good IntentionsThe Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis
Published by Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by the publisher

The three Herrington sisters are back at their Cape Cod family home for the summer with their husbands and children and their parents (separately, they’re divorced). Oldest daughter Maggie feels the need to organize and control everything so that everyone is happy and the summer goes according to plan. Middle child Jess is unhappy in her marriage and envious of Maggie’s seemingly perfect life. She’s at a crossroads with her husband, and has made a terrible mistake that she must confess if she wants to move forward. Youngest girl Virgie has kept her focus solely on her career for her entire adult life, but the stress is taking its toll on her and physically, she’s not coping well. In addition, she’s just someone and is considering what this new relationship will mean for herself and her future. The three of them spend the summer navigating each other, their families, and their divorced parents, as they find a way to make everything fit together as it should.

Overall I enjoyed this novel. The three main characters were likable and I related to each of them in a different way. While I don’t have kids so I had trouble relating to the stay-at-home mom stuff, I understood Maggie’s desire to have everything in working order and everyone in the family getting along all of the time. I often play the peacemaker role in my own family, so that felt authentic to me. Luckily, I couldn’t personally relate to the marriage problems Jess was dealing with, but we’ve all been through times in our lives that have taken a stall, so I got the feeling of needing something “more” in her life. And Virgie was most like me – no kids, super focused on career – so I totally got her drive to be good, better, best at her job and that push to be more successful each day than you were the day before. I liked the way the three interacted, and while there were some birth-order stereotypes, overall I found their relationships realistic. I also appreciated how each sister had grown personally by the time the book ended.

Personally I could have gone without the parents. There was too much unnecessary drama from the two of them, and I think it would have been a better novel had it just focused on the three sisters and their families. However, the ending proved that the parents were important to the story, so I get why they were in it. Just, I don’t know, I wish they had been removed completely and the author had come up with some other way to end the book.

Overall, The Summer of Good Intentions was a pleasant and fun read. It’s not going to be the best book I read this year, but I enjoyed the time I spent with these sisters and their families, and I’ll read more from Wendy Francis in the future.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile

Sydney has always played second fiddle to her smarter and more charming older brother, Peyton. Although Peyton has always received more attention and time from their parents, his continued reckless behavior eventually lands him in jail after a drunk driving episode leaves another teen paralyzed. While Sydney’s parents continue to focus exclusively on Peyton and what he needs while in jail, she’s left attempting to figure out her place in her family and the world. It’s at this point where she meets the Chatham family, owners of a local pizza place, who are a rambunctious and loving group who would go to the ends of the earth for one another. Layla Chatham becomes Sydney’s closest friend and Mac Chatham, Layla’s older brother, becomes a guy Sydney can’t stop thinking about. In this family Sydney discovers people who accept her for who she is, pull her right into the fabric of their lives, and she can’t help but wonder, and hope, that this kind of love and loyalty is possible within her own family, too.

I haven’t been appreciating much YA lately, but Dessen is a favorite author of mine, so I was hopeful that her newest novel would be different. And I was right, of course, Dessen really just gets it where teens are concerned, and I always find something to love about her books, Saint Anything being no exception.

Sydney was a character I felt for immediately. She was almost ignored in her own family – her parents were SO concerned with her brother, even when he was doing some awful things, and neither of them paid much attention to her. I often find myself annoyed at the parents in YA books, but this was a little over the top. They seemed to have zero regard for her feelings in almost every situation. Their behavior made it so clear why Sydney would cling to another family, the Chathams, like she did. And wow did I LOVE the Chathams. This family had so much energy, spunk, fun and most of all love, all wrapped up in sarcastic comments and witty conversations. It was the perfect place for Sydney’s confused mind and aching heart to land.

I loved how much of Saint Anything was focused on friendship, specifically the friendship that Sydney and Layla developed. They formed a quick bond but it was intense, and Layla showed Sydney the kind of love and loyalty that even her own parents weren’t capable of showing her. So much so that when Sydney began developing feelings for Mac, she went to great lengths to push those feelings away in fear of upsetting Layla. I loved how Dessen showed Sydney drifting away from her old friends naturally, not through the fault of anyone, and coming closer to people who were better able to understand what she was going through with her brother and parents. Because that happens to kids, teens, even adults – our friendships can and do change over the years, and that’s okay. It’s normal.

The romance between Sydney and Mac wasn’t necessary to the story, but I have to admit that I did like it. What I liked is that it progressed very naturally and slowly from a genuine friendship to mutual feelings of “I see that you understand me, therefore I want more of this, I like you”. They just got each other, in a way that not many others did, so it was sweet to read. But as I said, it wasn’t entirely necessary, and I think Sydney got some of that same understanding from other members of the Chatham family (the mom, I loved the mom!), so the book would have been just fine without the romance. But what’s a Sarah Dessen novel without a romance? So I get why it was there.

Anyway, I really liked Saint Anything! Sarah Dessen never disappoints me. If you enjoy contemporary YA this would be a great choice.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and WarIt’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
Published by Penguin Press

As a war photographer, Lynsey Addario has experienced some of the most amazing and terrible things imaginable. She has made it a point to travel with a purpose, to get the photographs most photojournalists won’t or can’t get, to show the world the truth through her photographs. This memoir is a peek into the years she’s spent all over the world, documenting some of history’s scariest and most important moments.

I’m not really into photography myself, but I love and appreciate how great photographers can tell a story with a single image. I also enjoy reading about the incredible and terrifying experiences of journalists (as I learned when I read Lisa Ling and Laura Ling’s memoir). It’s What I Do is a perfect combination of these two things, as it’s a memoir of Addario’s many experiences in the decade plus she’s spent photographing many parts of the world, peppered throughout with photographs from these experiences.

I’m not sure I could have enjoyed this book any more than I did. Not only is Addario an incredible photographer, but she’s a fantastic writer too. Her book is informative and rich with detail, yet she still maintains a friendly tone throughout that made me feel like I truly got to know her. Some of the things she’s experienced in her life were downright terrifying – many, many times she wondered if she’d survive – and she tells these stories with seriousness but also sprinkles in moments of lighthearted humor. Other things she’s experienced were simply beautiful – the humanity of the world, all the different people she’s met and various cultural experiences she’s had, it’s just incredible to read about. And see via her photographs.

I don’t really have much to say about this one, I guess, other than I really think everyone should read it. There’s nothing NOT to like in It’s What I Do so please check it out for yourself. What an inspiring, beautiful book – one that is entertaining, educational, and enlightening. Highly recommended.


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