May absolutely flew by. All of a sudden the end of the month is here and we are fast approaching June. I can’t believe the school year is almost over, it’s felt weird teaching digitally since March. Normally at this time we would be gearing up for end of the year celebrations, field trips and fun assignments. Instead, we are saying goodbye on Zoom and Google Meet. I’m anxious to see what the fall brings in the teaching world. It also feels weird blogging at a time like this with the world slowly opening up, stay at home orders being lifted even though the Corona Virus is very much still here. Also, there have been protests for racial inequality and police brutality all across the country the past few days. Last night, protests broke out in our downtown. I saw a cop car up in flames, windows shattered, and businesses looted. The trauma and heartbreak that communities are feeling right now is very real and complicated. Yesterday, I ordered some books on Amazon to help continue to educate myself on racial inequities and to help myself be an anti-racist ally and educator. I hope to read at least one each month and reflect on them here on my blog. The books I read this month didn’t wow me as some of my other books this year have. There was one that blew me away but the other three were just okay.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim is a book that examines how far someone would go to protect themselves and their family. The book focuses on a group of people who know each other from participating in an experimental treatment center called “Miracle Submarine”. The treatment is a hyperbaric oxygen chamber that is said to help a wide range of issues from infertility to autism. The book opens up on the day of a terrible accident, there is an explosion at Miracle Creek that leaves two people dead and the treatment center ruined. The book focuses on the trial that is examining who is responsible for the accident. Was it a mother who felt helpless with her son’s disability? The owners who wanted to cash out on a big insurance payment? A protester who didn’t agree with the treatment of kids with autism? Each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, as the book goes on more and more evidence and clues are revealed. As you read, your opinions change about each character until it’s finally revealed at the end who is responsible.
The story drew me in and I thought it was a creative story line. However, I normally finish books quickly and this one took me awhile. I would read a chapter a day and not feel the need to keep reading. Some books you can’t put down and this one was not one of them. It was interesting how it examined the relationship between parents and their children who have disabilities. It examines how difficult it can be and I think it was a very realistic portrayal of parents who are trying their hardest to do what’s best. The story also focuses on the owner of the treatment center and his family, a family of Korean-American immigrants who are striving for a better life. It explores the hardships they experience trying to adapt to their new life and wondering if making the move really was for the best. I think part of what was difficult about this book is there is no character that you are really rooting for. They all have flaws and they all seem responsible for the horrific accident. The ending wraps everything up well and I do think the author is a creative and talented writer.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
This was my audio book for the month and it definitely took me the whole month to finish listening to this. I think I would have liked this book more if I read the hard copy of it. I found myself getting frustrated with the character in the audio book and I’m not sure if it was the narrator or the character herself. The story focuses on Nina Hill, she has her life planned out to a T. She works at a local bookstore, works out occasionally, has a group of friends that she plays trivia with and a cat who she cuddles up to each night. One day, a lawyer shows up at her work announcing that the father she never knew has recently passed away and she discovers a family she did not know she had. On top of her new found family (who all live within driving distance of her), a man enters her life. Nina feels overwhelmed by all the changes and the book focuses on her trying to let new people in and learn to live her life a little less planned and a little more spontaneously.
I think my main issue with the book was Nina was so set in her ways I found myself getting frustrated by her! The author describes Nina as an introvert who has issues with anxiety. I think the author jumped between Nina being fine to Nina being anxious and closed off in a not very realistic way. The descriptions and reviews of the story describe Nina as “heartwarming” which I agree with for parts of the book. It also described Nina as a “modern-day Elizabeth Bennet”; this description is definitely not true. It is a cute romance but I’ve definitely read better ones. Overall, I feel like the book was meh. I finished it but I wasn’t insanely impressed. The ending is happy and I felt satisfied by it but I didn’t love the journey we took to get there.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Valentine was one of my Book of the Months from April. I picked it because it seemed good based on the description and it was the “Read with Jenna (from the Today show)” pick for BOTM. I usually like Jenna’s picks so I thought I would give it a try. It explores how a brutal crime impacts the women from a small Texas oil town in the 1970s. The book opens up on the morning after Valentine’s day when a fourteen year old girl was brutally attacked in a nearby oil field. She drags herself to a nearby farm house setting in motion the aftermath of the crime. Everyone in town has an opinion on how the crime should be handled. The book explores the different perspectives through different women from the town of Odessa.
I think the issue I had with this book was there were too many perspectives. The book focused on too many story lines that didn’t always connect together. The reviews said the character’s would bury themselves in your heart, I didn’t feel that connection to them. Since there were so many perspectives I found myself not really caring as much as I should? I did appreciate that all the women in the book were survivors who took care of themselves. The women all had a deep sense of strength and independence. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mindset when I started this book because it does have a lot of great reviews and even on Book of the Month a lot of readers really enjoyed it and said they could not put it down! I was glad when I finished and eager to pick up something new.
Educated by Tara Westover
Educated by Tara Westover blew me away. I devoured this book and read it so quickly. After three books this month that I felt pretty “meh” about, I was excited when I picked this up and immediately didn’t want to put it down. I have heard from a bunch of different people that I should read this book and everyone who has read it had amazing things to say. It definitely lived up to the hype. The book is a memoir about Tara’s childhood and her determination to become educated and to make something of herself. Tara was born to survivalist parents in the mountain’s of Idaho and she was seventeen years old the first time she stepped foot in a classroom.
Her parents didn’t believe in public education, didn’t trust the government and never took the kids to doctors. Her mother was a midwife and natural healer, when injuries or illness struck they used herbs and essential oils to treat it. Her father was a doomsday prepper who believed the world would end one day and they needed to be prepared. They would can and preserve food, store water and supplies and had to go bags packed and ready in case they needed to flee. It’s not until one of her older brothers ventures out and attends college that Tara considers another life. As she enters mainstream society and gets an education she grapples with how much of herself does she owe her family and how much should she change in order to move on and grow? Tara eventually earns a PhD from Cambridge University. Her journey is inspiring and I was so amazed by everything she overcame and everything she learned. There were dark moments in her life, abuse she faced, estrangement from her family, and terrible accidents. The trauma she overcame to create a new life for herself is incredible. This book has been named one of the best memoirs of the decade and I can see why. I highly recommend this memoir to anyone and everyone. After I finished reading, I found myself watching interviews she has given and I wanted to learn even more about her. This was one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year!
I’m done with teaching June 5th so I’m excited to hopefully read a few more books this month. However, we are in the process of moving and packing up our house so we will see how much time I end up having for reading for fun. The book I just started the other day is a juicy thriller so I can’t wait to write about that! Happy reading, hope you find some good summertime reads.