So I thought the start of this book was quite a bit slower than the first book. But I was eventually hooked back in. And the ending -- pow! -- somehowSo I thought the start of this book was quite a bit slower than the first book. But I was eventually hooked back in. And the ending -- pow! -- somehow not what I expected! It is not a satisfying ending, so now I HAVE to start the final book right away. ...more
I have SUCH mixed feelings about this book. The way it came into my hands was a passing mention of the title and genre by my child's specialist, whichI have SUCH mixed feelings about this book. The way it came into my hands was a passing mention of the title and genre by my child's specialist, which is so random. I went ahead and reserved the book that afternoon because historical fiction was my first love, as far as genres go. But then when I got it and realized it was taking me to a place I'd been before and loved, I was delighted, fascinated, surprised. I don't mean literally: I've never been to Kenya. However, in high school I read Out of Africa and loved it, passionately and beautifully. To be perfectly honest, as a high schooler, I was surprised when somebody revealed that Karen Blixen and Denys Finch-Hatton were lovers. It's not stated in the book and I only ever saw them as friends from my reading. (I haven't read it in some years, so I'm not sure if that just complete naivete on my part or an honest mistake anyone could have made.) But the book was so beautiful. Kenya was so beautiful.
I have loved Africa from several books I was exposed to in high school and Out of Africa was one of them, a very key one. So . . . when I began this book and saw that Beryl Markham was a contemporary of Karen Blixen, I was interested to see a glimpse from a different angle of that world and even between the lines a little of Blixen's memoir. But here's the thing, I have trouble with the love entanglements. I find them selfish and self-absorbed and thoughtless. So if this were fiction, it would drive me completely crazy. As it is, I would be reluctant to recommend this to many of my friends and, in fact, went back and took back my recommendation to a friend who I'd mentioned it to when I realized how much this is really about two women circling Finch-Hatton. But the trouble is that I was already hooked by Out of Africa. And also, Markham was a remarkable, brave, bold woman who did amazing things in the world of horse training and flight, who broke boundaries and lived in such an admirable way in so many things by not being stopped by barriers. Also, the language of the novel is quite beautiful. And finally, this isn't complete fiction -- the love triangle in particular was a real, absorbing part of the lives of real, fascinating people, which makes it much harder to just completely disregard as trash than I would a fiction story with the same elements. So I just couldn't bring myself to end it despite my impatience with the romance. I wanted to learn about these people and these romantic connections were a huge part of these people. And, in fact, I was startled by the ways that people of the era were much less "traditional" than I'd imagined or would have guessed possible; and, while I don't necessarily agree with the lifestyle choices (drugs, wife-swapping, etc.), it was a real part of the period and my pretending that it wasn't doesn't change that. All in all, I learned a lot and felt a lot reading this novel and can't regret choosing to read it.
After reading this novel, I am interested in reading other works by Paula McLain and even more interested in reading something in Markham's own voice by checking out West With the Night....more
My dad recently read this and insistently recommended it to me, acknowledging that it's already out of date. So far, I find it fairly interesting, altMy dad recently read this and insistently recommended it to me, acknowledging that it's already out of date. So far, I find it fairly interesting, although I thought the introduction could have been pruned down without much loss.
Notes so far: Ch. 1 -- I dislike the example of sushi in "modeling down." I know people who introduce their kids to sushi. I think it's great if kids develop good taste in food at a young age and I don't think it compares well to more serious issues of modeling down like allowing children access to information they're not prepared to handle. I know is a fairly harmless example, but I also thought it was stupid and ineffective in getting the point across.
Ch 2 -- I liked the suggestions to encourage uniqueness as a positive desirable trait to help kids resist the materialistic "stuff" race that is so seductive. (I think my dad was always SUPER good at that.) I also like the suggestion to discuss financial decisions with kids from time to time -- why or why not to make a purchase. I like the suggestion to engage in social referencing by discussing popular culture with them and their perceptions, thoughts, experiences and how they relate. (I think my mom was really, really good at this.) Also, I like the discussion of how we are aging our children up by allowing them to acquire things and experience rites of passage prematurely.
Ch. 2 (more) -- I like the comparison of a child to a landscape and the parents to the landscape architects, working with the strengths and limitations that are present in the environment. I liked the concept of "cognitive restructuring" so that you could acknowledge a child's feelings but reframe a situation to expand the child's perspective (eg. regarding authority figures)
Ch. 4 -- discussed here the concept of delayed gratification as a muscle that must be strengthened. Also talked about making the parents' relationship and needs a priority and not just the kids' desires and wants. As a Mormon, I have a special appreciation for his version of family council.
Ch. 5 -- I see things here I could work on, for example, asking my kids open-ended questions to lead discussions on interactions we see or they tell new about or that I share with them. I like the distinction in this chapter between being aggressive, passive, and assertive -- I would like to do better at promoting their abilities to be assertive. I also appreciated this statement near the end of the chapter "While some kids seem to acquire empathy naturally, this is the exception rather than the rule." I know teaching empathy is something I'd like to work on as a parent.
Ch. 6 -- I liked that he discusses how different parenting styles are better for different kids; I haven't infrequently heard one touted as the ONE, but since I believe there are a lot of ways to be a good parent I buy his philosophy more. In this chapter he discusses being consistent; I think I could do better at this. I really like the discussion on teaching kids to make decisions early -- giving them chances to practice and ways to counsel them through a decision when they're struggling. I liked the discussion of time management too, specifically helping kids do it by planning with them and keeping a calendar.
Ch. 7 -- I like the section on communication: the emphasis on asking kids what they think about things instead of lecturing and responding by recognizing their emotions rather than being reactive to their words. Our church encourages family meetings (though they term them family councils), but I like the addition of a place to record items of concern (the agenda) for all family members leading up to the meeting.
In summary, I thought this book was interesting. I feel that his clients were primarily five to fifteen years younger than I am, and that things have shifted for better or worse quite a bit since that time. Also, his clients were primarily much wealthier (and/or possibly stupider?) than most people I know. When he's talking about getting kids all the newest gadgets the moment they come out and upgrading to the newest version as much as every eighteen months, I can't relate to that. But then I don't have teenagers yet. My dad said he was surprised by the way sex and media are intermixing, and I wasn't that shocked by that, but possibly because I've seen quite a number of TED Talks on the subject recently and read quite a number of articles on it. However, overall, I found some interesting points and some reminders useful. It took me too long to read, though, and I am glad I finished it. It was a bit of a drag. Also, I would love to know what happened to that hard-working girl he mentioned near the end of the book who was raised by her grandmother and had less access to technology than most of his clients, because his predictions were rather dire and my guess is that she turned out just fine and probably even thrived! ;) ...more
1. My mom owns a small scale zoo and it was fun to see parallels between her and Antonina's personality and their lives when ASince initial thoughts:
1. My mom owns a small scale zoo and it was fun to see parallels between her and Antonina's personality and their lives when Ackerman gives background information.
2. I very quickly started learning about Poland. I didn't know a lot. I didn't realize that Poland and Germany had previously been at war so much. I also didn't realize the cost in statistics to Poland from WWII or the particular barbarity with which the Poles were treated as a nation compared to others (which was plenty bad enough!). By the end of the book, I just admired the Poles so much! There are a lot of Polish descendants in Wisconsin (where I live) and my mother-in-law is half-Polish. I didn't DISLIKE Poles at all -- I just felt fairly apathetic about them -- but it's because I knew almost nothing about the Poles or their culture or their history. This book changed that and made me think it would be fascinating to learn more and made me proud that my children have such a proud heritage.
3. The language! On p.82 Ackerman is describing Heck's quest for ancient ancestors, in particular talking about the takhi. She says, "What a powerful ideal--that sexy, high-strung horse, pawing the ground in defiance, its hooves all declaratives." I LOVE the imagery of this so much! I've always admired Ackerman's writing, and I just loved that sentence and the phrase "its hooves all declaratives." However, I was also so glad that she quoted Antonina so much because she seemed to have a beautiful writing style of her own. In fact, sometimes I wished that I could read her story completely through her own words because it seemed that she was such an able communicator all on her own.
4. "Although Mengele's subjects could be operated on without any painkillers at all, a remarkable example of Nazi zoophilia is that a leading biologist was once punished for not giving worms enough anesthesia during an experiment." (p.86) I think Ackerman does a good job of communicating what different groups represented. The Nazis? Brutality cloaked in cultivation. The Poles? Courage and cleverness and sociability. Again, I never realized until reading this book how little I knew about Poland at any time, including WWII. What an interesting, brave people!
5. I am learning about so many interesting people. Besides the Zabinskis themselves, also Magdalena Gross (the sculptor); Henryk Goldszmit (the doctor and writer -- under the pseudonym Janusz Korczak -- and creative runner of an orphanage in the Jewish Ghetto (also practically a Jewish saint!); Dr Szymon Tenenbaum (the entomologist) and his wife Lonia Tenenbaum (a dentist); as well as others.
6. I was fascinated by the description of the "cosmetic finishing school." The lengths that people had to go to disguise themselves as Aryan. Of course, bleaching hair was one that was obvious and could be inferred, but recreating the foreskin over a circumcised penis was not!
7. I thought the last chapter wasn't particularly necessary. I felt fairly satisfied the chapter before that and it seemed to draw it out unnecessarily.
8. All in all a fascinating book! I learned so much about individual people and about the people of Warsaw, Poland. ...more
I saw a recommendation for this book on A Mighty Girl Facebook page, and I enjoyed this author's retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, so I resI saw a recommendation for this book on A Mighty Girl Facebook page, and I enjoyed this author's retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, so I reserved this book from the library. It should be known up front that I didn't know until I just looked it up on the Goodreads site that this was a part of a series. It seems to stand alone just fine. I feel like this book has a lot of promise. If someone were to sum up the plot, I would think, "That sounds like a good book. I should read it." The main character is a princess who doesn't quite fit in. She develops into a powerful warrior. She's fairly awesome!
However, I felt like the start was SUPER slow and awkward -- with a mixed up chronology that I found confusing. The slow start was due to clunky world building. That was probably where I first started to get bummed. There were a few other issues, but one was when the other potential love interest gets introduced: I didn't love the way that was handled. And the magic is confusing throughout. Also, a friend of mine once complained that Harry Potter doesn't actually DO anything -- he's just lucky and has really useful, intelligent, gifted friends. I sort of get that feeling at times with Aerin. There are definitely times she steps up, but I feel like there's a lot that just carries her passively through the novel. Anyway, I would have loved to love this, but I just didn't. It was all right. It had potential. There were moments where I was pulled it, but a lot of moments where I wasn't. ...more
I reserved this from the library upon a recommendation. When I read it to my boys this morning, my six-year-old marveled partway through the book, "ShI reserved this from the library upon a recommendation. When I read it to my boys this morning, my six-year-old marveled partway through the book, "She's really clever!" And she is! What a wonderful heroine! And the setting is a delight! I love the Southern bayou (?) flavor. It was fun to read with a bit of an accent. ...more
In the last two weeks, I've had this book recommended to me by two different people, which just goes to show how influential it is. I started it aboutIn the last two weeks, I've had this book recommended to me by two different people, which just goes to show how influential it is. I started it about a week ago. I find with biographies that it can be hard to remember the things of note. Particularly with a biography of Joseph Smith, I think my prior narrative of him might overshadow the details when it comes down to the end of it unless I record observations and new details in the midst of it.
1. I was startled by how very, very poor Joseph's family was. I mean, people always say they were poor -- specifically that he was a "poor farmhand," but I don't think that takes into account that he was hardly even a farmhand. They were honestly just scraping by. (And the story about the swindler over ginger was only partially familiar to me from someone else sharing it. It was nice to read the story through directly.)
2. The author's observation of the supernatural in Joseph's history -- in dreams and gold-digging -- was really interesting. I thought his way of drawing attention to it and analyzing it was fascinating.
3. The background of the seer stones was new to me. His use of them to find things for people until he began to use them for the translation was unknown to me. To be honest, I think I knew next to nothing about the seer stones, except that I had heard of them.
4. I really valued the author's analysis of the Book of Mormon origins. I liked that he discussed other possibilities. Also, however, I thought that section was certainly faith-promoting. Every other explanation of the Book of Mormon besides that it somehow came from the mouth of his uneducated young man seems even more far-fetched than the actual truth (which is saying something).
5. I had no idea that Joseph recorded the first chapter of Moses in the year 1830. I thought it came much later in Kirtland or Nauvoo.
6. I have read the revelations in Doctrine and Covenants, of course, but this book puts them both in context of the church more completely -- and, an even fresher perspective, in the context of American history. I love the comparison of what else was going on at the time.
7. I have never heard (or don't remember) the layout plans for Missouri. The information on the various temples -- a holy city in a whole new sense -- was a surprise to me.
8. I was interested in D&C 88 as "the Olive Leaf" revelation. It is described this way in the introduction to the section, but I never had thought so much about the significance of it. Also, apparently this was described as "The Vision" (if I'm understanding this section correctly) and I suppose that would designate the time when Joseph's original vision was called "The First Vision."
9. Robert Matthias was a new character to me from history. He wasn't familiar to me, so I was surprised at the significance his existence seems to have in the minds of historians to the Joseph Smith story. In the section discussing him, Bushman says, "Matthias's religion was driven by his personality, Joseph's by doctrine, program, and organization" (276) This is interesting to me particularly because there have been some extended periods in Mormon history where Joseph did seem to take on a much larger role. When Bushman says that "Missionaries preached the gospel without mentioning his name; most converts accepted Mormonism without meeting the Prophet" (276), that just seems unfathomable from recent Mormon culture standpoint. But interesting. It gives more credibility to the early saints and the early church that it was based more on doctrine than on the charisma of Joseph Smith.
10. I have heard about plural marriage since childhood. I have mostly accepted it as a thing that existed but doesn't now. But I have to admit that the chapter on plural marriage is just weird. Plural marriage and that entire chapter of the church's history is weird. The portion about him getting sealed to married women was the weirdest. The age of the girls. Things like that. They're all weird. I haven't sifted through that all the way, but I suspect it will end with me setting it on the back burner like I've done most of my life because I'm not sure I'll find a better resolution.
Final Thoughts: I thought this was a good book. I had it recommended to me. It was dense and it was a chore to read, but I thought it was a worthwhile chore so I kept with it. I had this feeling through much of it that it was lacking something, perhaps what it was lacking was more life or more flow. It felt strangely skeletal for such an immense book. But I don't think that's because information was missing so much as liveliness. But then Bushman was trying to stick to the facts, so I'm not sure it should have been any different. However, it did make it a very dry read. ...more