Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Heart is Not a Size - Book Review

The Heart is Not a Size/Beth Kephart
Harper Collins 2010
Why?  my middle child received this one for Christmas...this was one of our picks to read together...I ended up keeping the hardback and she downloaded it to her Nook-Color
Now What?  donate to the library

Golden Lines:

Apply your intelligence to every living thing.  I heard my mother and then I heard myself telling Drake that panic attacks are like wanting to run except that you can't because you are trapped inside the hole of who you are.  

Don't you dare break down, I told myself, remembering Buzzby's class and Longwood Gardens, the night before Juarez.  Don't you dare.  And now I was running - kicking up dust in the face of the dogs, which made the dogs run, too, close at my heels, yipping.  If they'd come any closer, they'd have had my ankles in the teeth, my shoelaces, something.  But, I wasn't letting them get any closer.  I wasn't letting anything else get in my way, not the dogs, not the dust, not myself, not the blackbird that thundered and banged in the place of my heart.

I wasn't going to be beat by panic.  Not this time.  Not one more time.


Georgia and Riley are unlikely BFFs.  Georgia is a serious, bookish thinker while Riley is more interested in her looks, the latest fashions and pleasing her immature self-centered mother.  Georgia instigates a group working trip to Juarez for the pair, helping a poverty stricken community begin to help itself.  Along with a small group of students much like themselves and a seasoned leader, the girls head to Juarez.  There they are faced with a life and surroundings much unlike their own.  Hard work, no whining and following the rules are tantamount in Juarez; there is absolutely no time for "drama."  Georgia realizes before they leave that Riley is in trouble and has to make the most difficult decision any friend ever has to make, keep the secret and pretend it's not there or face the secret head on and very possibly lose the friend in the process.  Georgia's decision is not a simple one but through the negative consequences of her choice, she is able to spend more time devoted to her own "self" rather than completely focusing on Riley.  Growing up is definitely hard to do.

My Personal Response:

I really enjoyed Sea by Heidi Kling, another of the choices for my middle daughter and I to share, so I had high expectations for this one. By the time I was 3/4 of the way done, however, I was struggling.  I even had to take a break and read something else faster. I never really "disliked" the book...but my middle child, the reluctant reader, finished this one before I did.  Now, that's sayin' something.  With 2 daughters in high school I feel myself constantly reminding them to be themselves, not what society or their group of friends expects them to be.  It's easy for a mom to say but one of the most difficult concepts for them to grasp.  After I finally finished the book and began to think about it, I realized that maybe that's what Kephart was also trying to say albeit in a non-parental know that "accidental learning" concept.  I think I unfairly read The Heart is Not a Size the same way I've read other "quick" skimming the surface.  The Heart is Not a Size is too deep for that...without the reader really realizing how deep it is.  The language, the dialogue between the students, the descriptions of their surroundings, and the Georgia's in depth analysis of herself  is real life, no vampires and no silly boy drama (not really anyway).  Kephart is indeed a very special writer. 

What I Liked:

Georgia's got herself so wrapped up in Riley that she's almost lost her individual reality...when Riley gets angry and turns her attention to another BFF, Georgia must re-focus on herself and what she herself wants out of life.  This theme was incredibly realistic...unlikely friends to begin with, the shallowness of Riley's response to Georgia's concerns, the anger and pain both girls experience and the realization that their friendship will never be quite the same...and also the realization that it's ok.

There's no perfect ending here...and there shouldn't be.  Growing up is a lifelong process, especially the part where you have to come to terms with who you are as an individual.  Georgia's self-discovery will and should continue for the rest of her life...I think this is an incredible message for young adult women who are reading this many of them seem to expect there to come a day when all problems are solved.  The End.  I'm 42 and that hasn't happened to me yet.  Life keeps changing and we have to find the strength to keep changing with it...keep on keeping on my daddy used to say.

Thank heavens there's no boyfriend drama here. I get a little tired of that silliness.  I know it's not silly to young adults but it sometimes keeps me from being able to enjoy some of the YA selections available.  I'm just not interested....again, I'm 42.  Nuff said.

What I Didn't Like:

After I first finished this book I didn't feel like there was enough development of what I thought were the major issues, anorexia and panic attacks...I even wondered why Kephart would choose to deal with both in the same short novel almost in passing...and not really develop either one.  As I began to work on this review and was considering exactly what it was about this story that I liked and the imprint this story left on my daughter, I realized I was wrong about the major issues.  I think Kephart's main theme is one of individuality and change through the developments in one's life as well as staying true to who you are.  I think the panic attacks and anorexia were used more as a sideline than major issues...which in reality I think was a strategic move in some way to say that we all have warts...of all kinds...but those warts don't define who we are.  We keep going through life and learn mechanisms for constructively dealing with those warts...even if we sometimes find ourselves slipping into destructive mode, we keep truckin' and dig ourselves out.  In other words, I think I was too busy looking at the individual trees in Kephart's forest and almost completely missed the beauty...OY.
My middle child did NOT miss the forest, however, which makes my analytic researcher brain almost want to work on  a dissertation comparing adults reading YA lit and YAs reading YA lit. 

Overall Recommendation:

My middle daughter and I both enjoyed Sea more than The Heart is Not a Size...but she uses the title/major theme of the The Heart is Not a Size as her signature line on Facbook and BBM.  Something there touched her. PERFECT.
Don't read this looking for a fast plot with an easy ending.  The Heart is Not a Size should be read with thoughtfulness...from a 42 yr. old perspective.  I didn't prime my daughter at all about this book...she got it and I didn't.   This book is definitely one for those YA readers who want something besides the standard paranormal stuff. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Blogger Hop, June 3-6

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books.

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question/prompt:

“Share your favorite post from the last month and tell us why it’s close to your heart!”

My answer:

I have two favorite posts from May; one is bookish and one is not.  The bookish post that was my favorite was my review of the newest installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead Reckoning.  May is always a wild month with those of us who teach...this May was even more so with my firstborn daughter graduating from high school.  Dead Reckoning was my gift to myself after all the hoopla was over...WHEW!   No more essays to grade, no more parties to attend or host, no more checks to write (for the month of May anyway), and just pure pleasure reading....ahhhhhhh :)

My 2nd favorite post for this month had nothing to do with books.  It was a tribute to my mother on Mother's Day.  My mom and I have had an up and down relationship all of our lives, and it is hard for me sometimes to tell her how I feel.  However, for some reason this year I was able to find the words...she called me crying after she read it to tell me how much it meant to her so I think I got it right :) 

Can't wait to hop around and read everyone else's favorites!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wordless (Almost) Wednesday which is really Thursday :)

My youngest was so proud of her big sister on graduation day that she couldn't stop kissing her :)  This is not a phenomenon that happens on a daily, monthly or even yearly basis at our house, hence the specialness of the situation.

Can you tell by the look on my firstborn's face that she's had enough "sugar" from baby sister?


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books to Read on the Beach

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish

I've been out of the loop for a while but couldn't resist this week's topic.
Beach reads for me have to be something quick, something I can read with about half my mind, and something entertaining.  I'm on vacation!  I don't read books on the beach that require emotional investment, extra brainwork or a highlighter.  My list this week contains books that I have personally read on the beach as well as a few I haven't read yet but will put in my beachbag if I ever get to the beach this summer!

1.  Alex Cross series by James Patterson - creepy villains who stay with you (and sometimes Alex) even after the crime is solved, a tough detective who is also a family man living with his grandmother and daughter, and the constant battle between good and evil in the world all make this series an addiction.  Go ahead and read even if you've seen the movies because there are enough differences to keep you enthralled. Very short chapters in case you need to jump in the water or order your next pina colada :)

2.  Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris - FUN stuff here...some thought necessary later on in the series but vampires, werewolves, etc. are all living in present day Louisiana.  Spooky at times but lots of laughter too!  If you've watched the series True Blood, you owe it to yourself to go back to the original...definitely worth the time.

3.  Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton - vampires, werewolves and zombies! Much edgier than Sookie or and graphic violence from time to time so these are not for the lighthearted or easily offended.  Be prepared to get swept away into Anita's world if you decide to read these on the beach.  Probably don't want to be the designated kid watcher once you start this series...just sayin' :)

4.  Sneaky Pie Brown series by Rita Mae Brown - Don't pass these up if you're a animal lover...but you probably have to be a cat lover to get as involved in these mysteries as I do.  The mysteries are well written all by themselves but the fact that the protagonist's cat Mrs. Murphy and the other animals help her solve them is priceless. 

5.  The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Brown - I've read these on quiet weekends on the beach when I've been in need of a soft place to lay my head...another cat lover's mystery series with an old time feel to them. 

6.  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - I haven't reviewed this one yet because I read it on our recent trip to Baltimore.  I literally couldn't put this one down.  What a beautiful story! And, to be honest with you, I really wasn't interested in WfE based on the book synopsis; I really just read it because I like Rease Witherspoon and figured I would eventually get roped into seeing the movie.  Best love story I've read in a long time. 

7.  Wicked Lovely - paranormal YA with edge..the protagonists are old enough to have histories and some experience, bad and good.  I stumbled on this one and am so glad I did.

8.  Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich - hilarious New Jersey girl Stephanie, amateur bounty hunter, hunks Joe and Ranger, hysterical (laugh out loud hysterical) Grandma Mazur and the rest of the crew will have you rolling in the sand. 

9.  Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? - By Steven Tyler - I haven't read this one yet but it sounds like the perfect addition to the beach list...subject matter that will draw me in and keep me there...Aerosmith fan anyone?

10.  A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield - a fellow blogger recommended this series a while back and I am almost finished with Book 1.  The protagonist reminds me a lot of Stephanie Plum except she's in her 50's and was a victim herself before she became a vigilante of sorts.  These are also pretty short novels and action packed.  Really good for a girls' weekend on the beach :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Salon - May 29, 2011

Whew!  We've been on a roller coaster for a while these last few months, especially with the firstborn's high school graduation.  A lot of things have taken a back burner to getting her situated, dealing with my own emotions and handling the normal end of the year hoopla at our college...banquet after banquet after banquet.  One week in May I swear we attended some sort of banquet every single night that week. Yeesh.  (While I was happy I didn't have to cook, there's only so much overcooked steak and green beans anyone can handle.) :p

I mentioned the chaos my life had become and the blubbering goofus I had become in response to that chaos to my M.D. during a regularly scheduled check-up.  She called my once controlled but now now slowly but surely increasing anxiety symptoms "situational anxiety" and assured me it was normal for me to feel this way at my age with all the changes going on inside my body as well as outside.  She also changed my medication temporarily ("situational" anxiety should ease once the chaos settles down, hence the "temporary" change in meds).  After a couple of weeks of woozy, and a couple of visits to our family therapist, I feel great again!  Thank Goodness!! 

I am constantly stunned by the numbers of people who refuse to take medication because they 1) think they ought to be able to handle it by themselves 2) don't believe mental health issues can cause physical symptoms 3) are afraid of the social stigma associated with mental health issues/medication. I am able to enjoy my life...really enjoy it, rather than just making it through each day on pins and needles because of therapy and medication.  It's not rocket science, people!

My M.D. also noticed a spot on my leg she wanted me to get checked out with a dermatologist.  Now, let me tell you; I come from the baby oil era.  Sunscreen and sunblock were dirty words and nobody used those might as well stay inside if you were gonna slather that mess on yourself.  When my biopsy reports came back with basal cell carcinoma in the result section, I was sure wishing I'd slathered a little more on myself :(
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common kind of skin cancer and lucky for me the most easily cured.  I will have an in-office kind of removal surgery in a few weeks and my understanding is that the dermatologist will remove tissue until all the yucky stuff is gone.  I'll get stitched up and have a nice scar to remind myself to keep the SPF 45 handy :)
Case closed.

Somewhere along the way I decided it was time to pick up something to read just for fun...I tore into the new Sookie Stackhouse, the new Women's Murder Club mystery, Water for Elephants, Deception, and a few other books on my Nook and Kindle...Reading has always been my outlet...and it obviously still is.  I do have quite the backlog of reviews to post, but I'll get them done in due time. 

I'm also cooking more...I love to cook but just don't always have the time.  I will only be teaching online in June so I plan to stay home most of the time and take care of me and mine 24/7 for a few weeks :) 

Last but not least, I have a new baby. Tee Hee.
One of our vets takes care of strays and helps find them new homes.  My girls and I frequently stop in to hold, pet, love and otherwise help socialize the animals while they're waiting for adoption.
You already know the end of this story, right??

Her name is Layla, and she is actually a full bred German Shepherd.  To offset the cost of caring for the strays, the vet buys a few purebreds at a time from local breeders and re-sells them to established clients.  I don't mind paying a little extra when I know I'm not only doing something for myself but also something for our community as well as the homeless animals. 
Gemand Shepherds are incredibly intelligent dogs and require lots of time and training.  Layla is my new best friend...I've spent so much time with her that I think focusing on her has helped me redirect my anxiety from my firstborn leaving the nest.  Does that make sense?
Anyhoo, I'll have a whole Layla post coming up the short 2 weeks we've had her she's already become a huge part of our lives.

Here's a little sneak peek for you dog lovers out there:

Have a wonderful relaxing Sunday :)