This is a beautiful novel about an unlikely friendship between a young writer named Veronika, and her reclusive elderly neighbor Astrid, who come folkThis is a beautiful novel about an unlikely friendship between a young writer named Veronika, and her reclusive elderly neighbor Astrid, who come folks refer to as "the village witch." Each woman has experienced personal tragedy and loss, and each finds meaning and truth through honest confessions to the stranger. They do not remain strangers for long as their relationship deepens the more they share candidly stories of love, loss, and perseverance. No longer just neighbors, but on outings they are mistaken for mother and daughter, which neither Astrid or Veronika bother to correct. They are at peace, and their time together is a precious gift. There is beauty in their lives, in their overcoming darkness, and in their laughter and embracing their humanity.
Beyond their striking conversations, is their love of nature and the healing power of their daily walks in the woodlands surrounding their houses. The story takes place on the outskirts of a rural village in Sweden. The descriptions of the natural world--the wild strawberries growing lush in a hidden glen, the change in the quality of air and light on the cusp of a seasonal change, the mushrooms and lignon berries found and collected-- are superb. Olsson's gift is to put the reader in the scene. Furthermore, Olsson's integration of poetry to thematically introduce each chapter is lovely. This is a book you will want to savor and revisit again. I'll end this review with a sample of the amazing poetry in the book. Here is a portion of the poem "Morning" by Karin Boye in the novel Astrid and Veronika.
. . .for the day is you, and the light is you, the sun is you, and all the beautiful, beautiful awaiting life is you. ...more
The art in this book is fantastic,and the choice for color is excellent (blue, gray, and black). The use of color captures both the memory and the mooThe art in this book is fantastic,and the choice for color is excellent (blue, gray, and black). The use of color captures both the memory and the mood of the summer. Both dialogue and illustrations capture beautifully the tween experience, the process of observing, internalizing, lashing out and becoming.
Rose and her parents make their annual summer trip to their beach cottage, but this summer mum is glum to say the least. She is quiet, withdrawn, and moody. The tension in Alice's face and body and her daughter Rose's desire to be close and comfort her mother is neatly captured in the illustrations. Something is wrong, but we don't know what. The story keeps the reader guessing until the truth is revealed near the end.
In the meantime, Rose spends most of her free time with her summer friend Wendy, the adopted daughter of a very loving and intuitive Earth mother personality. Wendy is a year younger than Rose; she is spunky, adventurous, and surprisingly the more mature girl at the story's end. She and Rose are slowly letting go of childhood pursuits and are making little sprints into the teen realm by watching rated R horror movies and eaves-dropping on the older teenager's sex lives.
What I liked best about the novel is the writer's and artist's ability to capture the unspoken moods and feelings tweens and teens go through--the boredom, the discontent, the uncertainty of what to do with oneself, and the passing of judgement on others lives and personalities, often wrongfully, but by doing so, the young adult is organizing her world, classifying people and situations, and trying to sort out where she fits in spite of it all. Sorting oneself out is really a lifetime journey, but when you are a tween/teen, it is just the beginning; and usually, a very, very intense beginning.
A fantastic read! True-to-life and visually compelling! ...more
Hyperdiculous. . . a new word introduced in this zany novel and an ample descriptor of some plot elements in this contemporary preteen sci-fi book WhaHyperdiculous. . . a new word introduced in this zany novel and an ample descriptor of some plot elements in this contemporary preteen sci-fi book What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World. Three unassuming middle school students and neighborhood friends--River, Freak, and Fiona—take a rest on a unique green upholstered sofa with wooden ball-and-claw feet that appears by the curbside near their bus stop. Supposedly it was left by a Mr. Underhill for the large item trash pick-up day. After inspecting the sofa and rummaging in the cushions for spare change and treasure, the friends find an odd assortment of lost items: a double-six domino, a zucchini crayon, an argyle sock, an unusual coin, and a fishhook. Each item serves a thread in the story about an interdimensional megalomaniac who is plotting to enslave Earth’s inhabitants. The three friends team up with the evil tyrant’s rebel son Alf and daughter Miranda and their super self-evolved computer Guernica to trap the dark father figure and to put an end to his sinister plot.
Author Henry Clark juxtaposes middle school social hierarchy and relationships with that of a despotic corporate power structure. While the adult figures are over the top, the young heroes are realistic and sympathetic. Freak is coping in a household with an alcoholic father. Fiona is noted for her clothing’s outrageous color and patterns. We later learn she is color-blind, and she is putting forth her best effort to be noticed at school. River lost his parents to an auto accident, is raised by his aunt, and is bullied for his red hair, small stature, and slight limp. The plot twists and the “scientific explanations” for the way things work in the alternate universe of Indorsia are fantastical, hyperdiculous, and will appeal to readers who are willing to laugh and roll with it and embrace the possibilities of such things as toothpick trays that can read and sequence DNA and of furniture loaded with nanotechnology capable of transporting itself or “tessering,” a nod to term first introduced in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In fact, there are several allusions to other classic young adult books in What We Found in the Sofa that are fun literary nuggets for readers familiar with those texts. One of my favorite characters from the book is the ax-wielding hologram ghost granny who serves as a security alarm in the Underhill mansion; she scares the pants off our young friends and several others in the novel producing some hilarious scenes. Overall, this is a fun and wacky sci-fi novel recommended for grades 5-8. ...more
My best friend is a Croatian émigré. Her Roman Catholic family escaped their village with help from their Muslim neighbors. I read this book to gain aMy best friend is a Croatian émigré. Her Roman Catholic family escaped their village with help from their Muslim neighbors. I read this book to gain a better understanding of the war my dear friend and her family endured. Joe Sacco was there. He does a fantastic job in this graphic novel relating the harsh realities of war, the ugliness, the horror, the humor, and the humanity. If you have children, work with children, or simply have a heart for kids, sections of this book will be difficult to stomach.
My heart goes out to all who suffered, to all the émigrés living abroad, now 20-some years later, still asking questions and grappling with their new lives in America or elsewhere. When these families go back to their villages, the bombed out shells of their former homes are still standing. Rubble and ruin. Few people they know are left. You can't go home again.
My friend's family still owns their home in Croatia, but it is burned out, and they cannot afford to fix it. They have adult children and grandchildren living in the U.S. They're lives have been uprooted, changed forever.
Many thanks to Joe Sacco for giving us a unique portal into the Bosnian war. His work is exceptional. Highly recommended. ...more
Mathis uses a technique that Faulkner debuted many years ago. Why the professional reviewers make such a fuss over this clever technique is beyond me.Mathis uses a technique that Faulkner debuted many years ago. Why the professional reviewers make such a fuss over this clever technique is beyond me. The book was all right, but nothing extraordinary. Good story-telling, but i would've like to have experienced more literary devices and intrigue. Will be curious to hear what my book club friends thought....more
What a fantastic group of stories James Herriot shares in this collection. Best of all, you don’t have to read them straight through. Each one standsWhat a fantastic group of stories James Herriot shares in this collection. Best of all, you don’t have to read them straight through. Each one stands independently, with the exception of his travel chapters. Pick up and read when and where you like. Each chapter takes only 10-20 minutes to read. Perfect leisure reading with big rewards for the spirit, both laughter and tears to be expected.
I love the beginning story describing the 7 gates of hell Herriot had to pass through before he got to this remote farm where the farmer was frugal and forgetful. He had promised and promised to get the gates fixed and to call the vet sooner for castrating bulls, but never managed. The gate was forever dangerous and the old bulls were terrors. Herriot gritted his teeth and persevered. I like how Herriot describes the desire to perform, to make clients happy, the super feel good moments of easy wins, and the suffering his heart endured during the terrible, agonizing losses. There were situations with some animals that simply could not be helped and yet, Herriot made such valiant efforts, such was the case with the Sister’s dog Brandy who had the then-incurable form of mange.
My favorite stories. . . The paraplegic miner who’s companion dog also experienced temporary paralysis in its hind legs. Herriot was steamed that the call for help came on a Sunday night (no rest for the wicked), but he later chided himself for grumping about getting out to help the disabled miner’s dog. There are always people in less fortunate situations than our own. I love the moments of camaraderie described between Jim and the miner, sharing those pints of beer together, the long visits and laughs. I also enjoyed the camaraderie shared between Jim and the cook on the ship bound for Klaipeda, Russia. Jim’s approval of the meals was such a satisfaction to the cook. Jim’s stories don’t leave anyone out. No one is insignificant. Everything and everyone matters, is beautiful and worth describing and celebrating.
I love his misadventures in Russia and Turkey. Poor chap! No Caribbean cruise or 4-star hotels for Mr. Herriot. Whatever the circumstances, Jim made the best of it. I love how he includes his children in his work. I appreciated the exchange he had with Grandma Clarke as she noted his children and remarked that the time raising children was one of the best times of life.
Best of all, I love Jim’s descriptions of the countryside. In 2000, I had the awesome opportunity to spend a few weeks camping outdoors in northern England and Yorkshire country and was absolutely enchanted. The hills, dales, fells, moors, and open skies are stunning. Desolate to some, but inviting, grounding, and invigorating to me. I love this part of the world and can’t wait for the day I get to see it again. One of my life’s big dreams is to go back and hike the Pennine Way my family. Herriot’s writing about this landscape speaks to me. His words help me see it and breathe it again. His writing is champion.
I know I will read this book again and take time to read Herriot’s other biographies. Reading his words is such a pleasure; he is a gifted story-teller whose stories about his work with animals and their people have much to teach us about life. ...more
I turned to this Hakan Nesser mystery after getting bored with Frances Mayes memoir Under the Tuscan Sun. After reading about her dinner with other exI turned to this Hakan Nesser mystery after getting bored with Frances Mayes memoir Under the Tuscan Sun. After reading about her dinner with other expat literati living in Italy, I couldn't go on. I needed plot, action, suspense, and Nesser delivered exactly what I wanted. I love Inspector Van Veeteren. He's an older detective (been working for almost 30 years), divorced, plays chess, loves his beer, chews pensively on toothpicks, succumbs to his weakness and invariably bums a cigarette from his compadre Reinhardt. He's not sure how long his drive to hunt and locate his prey will last. Nevertheless, he keeps on going. he's steady, never quick to jump to conclusions, and good at trusting his intuitions. Hakan Nesser has done such a fine job of creating a three-dimensional detective and a complimentary police force in his Van Veetern books.
Woman with Birthmark entails a series of four murders with a motive rooted thirty years in the past. It is a story that sheds compassion on the murderer despite her transgressions. Feminism, despair, and vengeance are Nesser's themes. If you like mysteries, this is definitely a good read. Dark and engaging. ...more
My son's occupational therapist recommended this book to me to help me better understand his behavior as a "sensory seeker," which is a type of sensorMy son's occupational therapist recommended this book to me to help me better understand his behavior as a "sensory seeker," which is a type of sensory processing disorder that falls under the umbrella of ADHD. I appreciate Dr. Greenspan's comprehensive and developmental approach to treating ADHD. He advocates a program that strengthens abilities and addresses root causes such as difficulty with motor planning and sequencing. This is not a quick fix book; rather, this a book gives parents and caregivers a road map and strategies to help the child improve and adapt.
The 7 key goals of Dr. Greenspan's comprehensive approach are: 1. Strengthen motor function with various exercises 2. Help the child plan and sequence actions and thoughts 3. Modulate a child's response to sensations 4. Help the child practice reflective thinking 5. Build the child's self-confidence 6. Improve family dynamics 7. Create a healthy physical environment
The recommendations are sensible and the results we are seeing with our child are encouraging.
Dr. Greenspan does not discourage medication or rule out the possibility of dietary allergies, but he promotes his comprehensive approach of exercises and other strategies for 6-12 months before medication is considered. From his experience working with children, he believes the majority can be helped without medication. And he acknowledges that diet is a problem for some children, but not all. Each child is unique; each case of ADHD is unique.
I don't think the general public realizes the complexity of this diagnosis and its underlying causes. I certainly did not. My eyes have been opened and my heart goes out to families and children who are challenged with these conditions. I highly recommend Dr. Greenspan's book. He is a gentle soul, an expert in his field, and a man who genuinely cares about helping children....more
Maybe I should have read O Jerusalem first. Two key characters from that book appear in this mystery. I just couldn't connect or care about the characMaybe I should have read O Jerusalem first. Two key characters from that book appear in this mystery. I just couldn't connect or care about the characters in this one. I stopped reading 200+ pages into it, feeling bored and disinterested with the plot, especially when presented with the outlandish dinner party crashers--19020s Bohemians domineering an old school aristocratic estate house. When one eclectic guest's pet monkey jumped on Ms. Russell, causing her to spill her drink on her beautiful gown, I left the party aghast, a guest to this tale no more. ...more
I loved this book, and now I want to read more Inspector Van Veeteren mysteries by Hakan Nesser. An axmurderer? How cliche, right. Think again. This mI loved this book, and now I want to read more Inspector Van Veeteren mysteries by Hakan Nesser. An axmurderer? How cliche, right. Think again. This mystery is smart, post-modern, and defintely worth your time. Excellent character development, intriguing and economical narrative with just the right amount of philosophical musings.
Borkmann's point was an insight given to Inspector Van Veeteren by his superior early in Van Veetern's career, "In every investigation, he maintained, there comes a point beyound which we don't really need any more information. When we reach that point, we already know enough to solve the case by means of nothing more than some decent thinking. A good investigator should try to establish when that point has been reached, or rather, when it has been passed. . . (232). Three ax murders and a deluge of information, leave everyone on the investigative team stumped. While soaking in a hot tub, smoking a cigarette, munching on olives and sipping a beer, Van Veeteren concludes he has reached the Borkmann's Point and he has all that he needs to solve the case. It doesn't roll out all at once however. And that's the beauty of Nesser's delivery. Well done. Highly recommended. ...more
I respect the Amish people's commitment to a simple life, and I am in awe of their endurance over the years. I disagree with their literal interpretatI respect the Amish people's commitment to a simple life, and I am in awe of their endurance over the years. I disagree with their literal interpretation of the Bible and placing limits on formal education to grade 8. What if someone wants to further their education? So many self-imposed limits. There is great fear that elements of modernity (and dare I say, higher education?) will draw them away from God. I disagree, but I have to respect their choice and dedication to this way of life.
For me what is spiritually profound, is finding God in the mess of modern life--in urban settings, the suburbs, university campuses, etc. Look around, the Spirit, Life and Love are everywhere. Distractors from the spiritual life abound wherever you go, but that doesn't mean you have to cloister yourself away, or live in an insular community to connect with God. It is possible to encounter the Eternal wherever you find yourself. I am grateful for my blessings and am in awe of God every day. I don't have to look far. I see God's love when I look at my children's beautiful faces.
That said, I think it is important to read and learn about different spirital traditions and interpretations. This book gives an account of the Amish commity in Southeast Minnesota, and I found it to be very insightful. It left me excited to learn more. ...more