Tag Archives: books

Book Review:  Confessions of a Prairie B*tch by Alison Arngrim (Audiobook)

Where do I begin?  First, if you are or were a fan of The Little House on the Prairie TV show in the 70s and 80s, I can’t recommend this book enough.  Be aware:  This isn’t saccharine.  Far from it.  If you are easily offended, this probably isn’t for you.  However, if you loved to hate Nellie as a little girl and wished each week for Laura to give Nellie exactly what she deserved – in spades – this book is for you.  If you ever thought that playing the most outrageous villain possible on TV would be fun, once again, this book is for you.  Last but not least, if you count Nellie Oleson and her overbearing mother Harriet among the favorite TV characters from your childhood, you need to read this book.

Frankly, both The Little House on the Prairie TV show and the children’s book series were a huge part of my childhood.  I can’t imagine growing up without either.  I do know that by 2nd grade, I was hooked.  Mrs. Butz reading Little House in the Big Woods to our 2nd grade class saw to that.  In early elementary school, I would fly off the bus to make sure I didn’t miss the start of Little House on the Prairie at 4 PM, in much the same way I made sure I was home at 4 PM during my high school years to watch Oprah.  It was simply what I did, and I loved every minute of it.

I know that there are still a lot of adult fans of the show out there – millions of them, in fact – but I’m not really one of them.  As an adult, I couldn’t get over the increasingly bizarre storylines that strayed further and further from the books – Albert’s opium addiction, anyone?  Then there was the issue of no mountains in Minnesota, where the show was supposedly set, and the fact that the Ingalls family spent a big part of Laura’s childhood in DeSmet, South Dakota.  In reality, the Ingalls family didn’t live in Walnut Grove for long.  Still, there was something special about the show.  It might be a little too sweet for my taste now, but back then, it was the best.

Nellie and Harriet made the show, of course.  The Ingalls were so wholesome and down to earth that they needed Nellie and Harriet as foils.  Personally, I think the show would not have worked without their over-the-top antics.  They had to be just that outrageous. In the book, Alison talks lovingly about her TV parents.  Supposedly, in real life, they were similar to their TV characters, although Katherine MacGregor (Harriet) was much nicer, even if just as bold.  Alison’s descriptions of Katherine alone make the book worthwhile.  As fun as Harriet was to watch, the best scenes were the ones in which Nellie and Laura actually fight.

About Laura and Nellie … in real life, Alison Arngrim (Nellie) and Melissa Gilbert (Laura) were best friends.  They spent a lot of time together on and off set and at each other’s homes.  One of their favorite pastimes happened to be simply appearing in public together.  People freaked out.  I can only imagine how much fun they had playing up their “rivalry.”

Alison’s antics with Melissa Gilbert are a great part of the book, but there is so much to unpack here.  First, there is that voice.  I chose to listen to the audiobook version as soon as I learned that she read her own book.  As soon as I started listening, I knew I had made the right choice.  Regardless, the book would have hit me with a huge wave of nostalgia, but Alison reading her book in a voice that I have always associated with childhood evil personified:  priceless.

In all fairness to Alison, she comes across as extremely down to earth in her book to the point that I’d actually love to meet her.  She spends quite some time discussing the perils and perks of playing one of TV’s greatest child villains.  Can you imagine growing up playing a character people loved to hate?  Once, during a publicity event at a private school, an event that she attended with Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Oleson), both in full costume, some of the students shoved her so hard that she laid face down on the pavement for a while until her father realized what had happened to her.  He ended up taking her home immediately.  It was the last time she attended a publicity event in costume.  How do you deal with that all before adolescence?

Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson with her TV mother, Katherine MacGregor as Harriet Oleson.

In the book, Alison uses the trauma she experienced as a child as a way to frame her memoir.  No, her trauma isn’t exactly what comes to mind with young stars and Hollywood, but sadly, it seems all the more common – and of course, very real.  I’m not going to discuss it here for many reasons; the main one being that, in a way, it is the point of her memoir.  I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it.  She has used that trauma to try and help prevent others from experiencing the same thing.  In essence, she uses her “inner b*tch” to create real legislative change in an effort to protect kids – all kids.

One of the more interesting tidbits I learned in the book is the history behind why the TV show deviated so much from the books.  Michael Landon supposedly exclaimed at one time:  “My God!  Have you actually read the books?  There are descriptions of churning butter!”  In other words, they had to up the action.  I get it, I do.  What makes a great book doesn’t necessarily make great television.

I suppose that’s what has always bothered me about the TV show.  As an aspiring writer, it sickened me to think what happened to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original work.  Now, older and wiser, I can see the value of the TV show too.  I am sure it inspired millions of kids to pick up the original books.  All publicity is good publicity, right? For people who grew up with the TV show, I can’t recommend Confessions of a Prairie B*tch enough.  There are so many great aspects to Alison Arngrim’s memoir.  It is a wonderful combination of nostalgia, good story, and humor.  By the way, Alison’s voice impression of Melissa Gilbert is hilarious.  Several other memoirs have been written by the child stars of Little House on the Prairie.  In fact, I plan on reading both of Melissa Gilbert’s books.  I will be surprised if Confessions of a Prairie B*tch doesn’t remain my favorite.

Book Review: The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

J.P. Morgan’s Personal Librarian Was A Black Woman. This Is Her Story.- Karen Gringsby Bates

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is one of the more memorable books I’ve read lately.  As historical fiction, it hits all of the right notes.  A tribute to its authors – one Caucasian, one African-American – I personally love how race and all the issues surrounding Belle, a mixed woman from a prominent African American family from Washington, DC “passing” as white in the Gilded Age, are treated in the book.  Nothing is held back.

It is clear what Belle “da Costa” Greene is forced to give up as she becomes personal librarian to JP Morgan.  By permanently passing as white, she is forced to sever ties to her extended family in Washington, DC, eventually loses hope of ever marrying or having children, and lives in constant fear of her secret being discovered.  The family decision to “pass” tears it apart.

In return, Belle is hired as JP Morgan’s personal librarian.  She secures a financial future not only for herself, but members of her family as well.  She also becomes witness to history.  By becoming JP Morgan’s personal librarian, she enters the rarified world of high-end manuscript and art actions – a realm dominated by men at the time.  Working together for decades, Belle and JP Morgan build one of the finest personal libraries and art collections in the world.  It is her perseverance that eventually helps to open the JP Morgan library to the public.

There are a few things that I adore about this book.  First, Belle is a likable protagonist.  One can’t help but wish her the best.  That said, she is not perfect.  We are treated to all of the tricks and coping mechanisms Belle uses to cause a sensation in a world of men.  We are privy to all of her hopes and dreams, wins and losses.  For me, this is what makes the book.  We all have secrets, and we get to know Belle’s intimately.

Then there is just plain envy.  Can you imagine being charged with securing some of the most rare manuscripts and artwork in the world for JP Morgan, helping him create a first-class institution from the ground up?  That is exactly what Belle accomplished.
I am in awe that Belle is a real historical figure.  Her story deserves to be told in full.  While certain details are fictionalized, The Personal Librarian is rooted in many historical truths.  I cannot recommend it enough, particularly if you are a lover of books and history.

The real Belle. Her true given name was Belle Marion Greener.

2023: The Year Ahead – Music and Books

Over the last several months, I’ve given plenty of thought of where I’d like to take Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde.  For years, I’ve wanted to incorporate my love of music into my writing.  The issue is that quoting song lyrics, even with proper attribution, can be seen as copyright infringement.  Yet, I want to share some of my favorite songs and the memories they represent.

Early childhood and dolls aside, my favorite Christmas and birthday gifts all related to music – everything from my earliest Fisher Price record player and tape player to various albums/tapes/CDs, to my last Sony Discman.  They were all used and abused.  In fact, there were times I had to repurchase CDs due to overuse and sand.  I replaced several Sony Discman due to the same issue.

Enter the mixtape.  See, I am just old enough to remember how fun it was to listen to the radio long after my parents went to bed in order to record my favorite songs.  I’m thinking of creating a category here that will serve as a mix tape of sorts.  On a separate Mixtape page, I will outline and categorize my favorite songs and albums.  Each link to to song or album title will include a passage about that particular song/album, along with links to lyrics and official music videos.  I am beyond excited about this, and I am looking forward to seeing this project take off.  It will take time.

In addition, my reading life has really taken off.  I’ve read so many wonderful books lately.  I’ve been thinking about how to best share it all with you.  I plan to start sharing book reviews again as well.  Stay tuned!  Right now, I am working on how best to do this.  I’ve researched the tools.  Now it is a matter of figuring out what works out best for me – and you, the readers.

Here’s to a productive – and FUN! – 2023!

This is quite possibly the most 1999 thing I’ve ever come across.
It immediately takes me back to the summer of 1999. You can listen to it here.

BANNED BOOKS:  Looking for Alaska by John Green

I adore John Green, both as an author and as host of “Crash Course History” videos.  For those who don’t know, he is the best selling author of young adult hits such as The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska.  Even though I read The Fault in Our Stars well into middle age, it left a deep impression on me.  I discuss the influence in Dear D., Continued – Revisited, quoting the book.

Unfortunately, all is not well with John Green.  Last week I came across the article below discussing how Looking for Alaska is being challenged in his hometown of Orange County, Florida  You can read the article below.

John Green’s First Novel May Be Banned At His Old School

Frankly, this isn’t about John Green or Looking for Alaska; it is all about banning books.  I don’t care what anyone’s personal political views may be, banning books should have no place in the United States of America.  I love that libraries have Banned Book Week and have expanded on the idea.  Some of the best books I have ever read have been challenged over the years.  Personally, I believe that any good library should have something to offend everyone.  Outright banning of books is disgusting to me.

As a teacher, I do have to clarify something though.  Banning books in a library or even a school library is completely different from deciding which books are taught in the classroom.  While I believe that all students should have access to as wide variety of books as possible, parents should be able to have options if they have concerns regarding books their child is reading in the classroom.  However, one parent’s objections should not be forced on to everyone else.  Ideally, a resolution should be agreed upon by the teacher, parent(s), and administration.  Why do we have to make it so complicated?

That is about it:  My little political rant for the week.  I just hope that people come to their senses and realize that it is OK if not everyone views things the same way.  That is the beauty of living in a complex society.  We as a society need to relearn that we don’t have to agree on everything.

Why I Write

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Why do I write? I write because I must write. I have a story within me that must be told. There may be other ways to tell that story, but writing fits me – and more importantly, it fits the story I need to tell. I’ve dabbled in many forms of writing over the years, everything from daily throw away articles to blogging to academic papers. I view it all as preparation for writing a larger story.

More than anything, writing allows me to organize all the seemingly random thoughts rambling around my head. I love reading what I wrote years ago as it normally takes me back to a certain time and place. It is a way for me to see just how much I’ve grown over the years, both personally and as a writer.

As a teacher, it saddens me when students tell me they hate to read and write. In my mind, my love of writing grew out of my love of reading. I loved to read as a child – and I still love to read. Reading and writing are so intertwined in my life that it is difficult for me to tell where one begins and the other ends. For example, something I plan to write will inspire me to read a certain book. Other times, a book I pick up because it looks good will inspire me to write. One of my all-time favorite books, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, sums up the symbiotic relationship perfectly. In fact, it changed how I read as a writer in every sense of those words. As long as I have books, paper, and pen, I will never be bored.

Writing, to me, also means a sense of community. I’ve taken writing classes at the local community college, spent years as a member of Mid-Michigan Writers, Inc., and attended workshops and seminars for writers. I have yet to meet one writer who didn’t have something to offer others, whether it be a new critique technique, a new source of writing prompts, or information on various programs for writers. As with teachers, writers are happy to share. We can all learn from one another.

The wonderful thing about writing is that it can be personal or shared, solitary or social, and organized or spontaneous. There is room for all types, and there is no one set of rules that apply to everyone. I love that young and old have access to reading and writing. Unlike many sports, there is no expiration date. There is no real barrier to entry other than basic literacy. I like to think that my writing will just get better with age, like a fine wine. It inspires me that many writers did not find their way until late in life. Above all, there is no stopping a great story.

Let’s face it: Good storytelling isn’t going anywhere, whether that means books, movies, television, or something else entirely. As long as there is hunger for a good story, there will be writers. I am proud to be a part of that tradition.

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Book Review: Heal Yourself with Journaling Power by Mari L. McCarthy

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In Mari L. McCarthy’s latest book Heal Yourself with Journaling Power, she outlines the many personal benefits of starting or continuing to journal.  Heal Yourself with Journaling Power offers writers and non-writers a concise overview of how journaling can be used to help resolve all kinds of personal issues through daily journaling.  The book itself serves as a roadmap and call to action for anyone desiring change or left wanting more out of life.  I expect nothing less from the author/creator behind CreateWriteNow.

Mari begins by describing the true power behind journaling:  daily habit.  It did not surprise me that she begins by mentioning morning pages.  The same concept fuels one of my favorite websites:  750words.  Deceptively simple, the humble act of writing daily drives later change.  Once journaling becomes a daily habit, the real work begins.  However, all true healing through journaling hinges on writing consistently.

In the book, Mari provides readers with an outline on how to use this power to heal their own lives.  She includes different aspects of her personal story and anecdotes of others who have had similar experiences to drive her points home.  In addition, she provides readers with journal prompts in each chapter.  As a result, it can easily be viewed as a textbook by anyone wanting to use journaling to fundamentally change his or her life.  Part memoir, part writing manual, and part self-help book, I would recommend Heal Yourself with Journaling Power to anyone remotely interested in self-improvement, journaling, or writing generally.

In fact, a few simple tools will put anyone on the path to healing through journaling.  Personally, I would recommend using 750words or another online journal to get started journaling daily.  Add in the community and resources over at CreateWriteNow along with a copy of Heal Yourself with Journaling Power to keep motivated and moving forward.  I don’t see the need for much else when it comes to journaling, although different prompts are always fun and often provide insight that moves the process along.

As a writer, I found myself largely agreeing with Mari throughout the book.  While I haven’t experienced some of the more dramatic physical changes she attributes to journaling, I have journaled consistently enough during various stages of my life to attest to its power.  I particularly agree with Mari that journaling provides a clarity that is difficult to find anywhere else.  The clarity that comes from journaling consistently can help writers overcome a myriad of obstacles that may be in their way, no matter what they might be.

While I would recommend Heal Yourself with Journaling Power to any writer, non-writers may benefit from it message to a greater degree.  The techniques outlined in the book can be used by anyone to help identify roadblocks and move forward on any goal, dream, or ambition.  Using the journaling process to help organize one’s thoughts and formulate a plan of action may not be obvious to non-writers.  The power of journaling needs to be experienced to fully understand just how lifechanging it can be.

Stay tuned!  Next week I will be interviewing Mari L. McCarthy.

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About the Author, Mari L. McCarthy

Mari L. McCarthy is the Self-Transformation Guide and Founder/Chief Inspiration Officer of CreateWriteNow.com. She is also author of the international-bestselling, award-winning book Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live.

Mari began journaling to relieve the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) over 20 years ago. Through journaling, Mari was able to ditch her prescription drugs and mitigate most of her MS symptoms. Now she teaches people throughout the world how to heal, grow, and transform their lives through the holistic power of therapeutic journaling.

She lives in a gorgeous beachfront home in Boston, where she has the freedom, flexibility, and physical ability to indulge in all her passions, which include singing and recording her own albums.

Journaling Quote

Bookish Blog Hop: How does reading inspire your everyday life?

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This may be my first time participating in a Bookish Blog Hop, but I hope it will not be my last.

Today’s discussion question is:

How does reading inspire your everyday life?

What a great – and in my case, loaded – question!  First, I can’t imagine my life without reading and writing.  They are inseparable in my mind, and I would not be writing – not even here at Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde – if it were not for reading.  As a child, I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables and all the Little House books, and of course, Nancy Drew – along with so many others.  While I did largely stop reading for pleasure during my college years, as I began to explore my love of writing, I found my love of reading again.  It informs my writing to the point where I can’t tell you where one begins and the other ends.  Once I read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, there was not looking back.  I still consider it one of the most influential books I have ever read.  Every day reading offers me hope, inspiration, and an education.  It is as simple and as complicated as that.

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Views She Writes https://viewsshewrites.wordpress.com

Reading is the soul of my existence, the breath in my life. Reading inspires me to live, to dream and to observe the surroundings as our surroundings are the greatest story tellers. I started writing because of these teachings from the books that surround me. I hope to read till my last breath of life.

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Leslie Conzatti www.upstreamwriter.blogspot.com

Ha! I recently wrote a whole blog post on how certain books have played a part in my worldview philosophy!

In short, reading has inspired my everyday life because while on the surface the characters face impossible odds and fantastical situations–deep down, all these exaggerations are just hyperboles of real-world choices we all face. Through reading, I can find a character who struggles with a lot of the same things I do, and I can see a new perspective on it, a fresh way to deal with the issue that I hadn’t considered before. The good books connect me closer to my real-world life, instead of dragging me further away. It’s like that quote I shared yesterday, from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: “Good writers touch life often.” In order to make good literature, you have to be grounded in the real world, and bring some of that real world into the writing you do. Only then will it make an impact that will last for generations!

Rush Tree Clouds Bank Old Birds Landscape Book

Rush Tree Clouds Bank Old Birds Landscape Book

Brandy Potter www.brandypotterbooks.com

The best way I can sum up how reading inspires my life is this quote from Stephen King “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”  I have read fiction almost every day of my life. A good book can take you to a place where your mind stops and you become another person. As George R.R. Martin said, you can live a thousand lives through books. When you are troubled or stressed or depressed a good book can lift you up.

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Kim J www.writersideoflife.com

I love how we all read completely different things but, when it comes to how passionate we are about reading, it is exactly the same for all of us. I could have written any one of the above answers!

I simply can’t understand how people can not read. It is a stress release, it helps me get to sleep (as long as it’s not at the exciting part). Reading helps to understand ourselves; why we think the way we do, what others may think about us, what other scenarios may happen. Also, on a more practical note, reading about different times and places sparked my love of travel and pushed me to start writing myself.

BBH Cats Luv Coffee 5Valerie, Cats Luv Coffee www.catsluvcoffeez.blogspot.com

I just read an article that reading fiction makes people more compassionate and increases their empathy. It states that we read, we emphasize with the characters. “Without necessarily even noticing, we imagine what it’s like to be them and compare their reactions to situations with how we responded in the past, or imagine we might in the future.” (Read the full article here) It’s an interesting take and one I think rings true. People who read often immerse themselves totally in the story. We do this over and over with each character that we experience. It’s part of what I love about fiction; that it takes me outside of myself and what might be happening in my life.

 

Jo Linsdell www.JoLinsdell.com

I’ve discovered a lot about myself through reading. Books are a part of my journey to self discovery. Whether I’m reading a romance or a thriller about a serial killer, I always discover something new about myself and how I view the world. Reading shows me my own morals, and helps me get a clearer idea of how I think and feel about certain topics.

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Becki  A Book Lover’s Adventures

I find that books give so much and all they ask in return is a little of our time. For me, I think I have become a better person because of reading. Reading makes me more empathetic towards others because I’ve read about so many different life situations. I am more creative and imaginative when I read fantasy. I tend to be more adventurous and take more risks when I read about adventure and bravery. Books are part of the tapestry that makes up who I am!

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That is it for today’s Bookish Blog Hop, but be sure to check out yesterday’s offering at Lovely Audio Books.  Eline hosts a discussion on favorite book quotes!  You can find it here.  Also, stay tuned tomorrow for the next stop at Views She Writes where the topic of the day will be the worst film adaptations of books!

A BOOKISH BLOG HOP

 

Book Club

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Read It Forward – 13 Reasons Why Book Clubs Are Saving the World

What is it about a book club that makes it so irresistible? Personally, I believe it is the structured discussion of a set topic. It is nice, neat, orderly; we all know exactly what to expect. And yet, we don’t. Book club discussions often lead to interesting places. I’ve formally been a member of a book for the last five years. During that time, I’ve read books I never would have picked up otherwise and had discussions I never dreamed I would have all thanks to book club.

The Standish-Sterling Book Club, however, is not my first. I like to think that Grandma Buttrick and I had our own little book club of two for a few years. Every time I visited, usually weekly, she never failed to ask me what I was reading. I loved sitting with her in the den, cold drinks in hand, talking books. I clearly remember both of us reading Malcolm Gladwell’s books and discussing them at length. Even when poor eyesight and memory issues made reading difficult for her, she still loved to talk books. I wouldn’t leave until I told her about the latest book I read.

When Grandma passed away in 2014, I saw it as no coincidence that I soon discovered the Standish-Sterling Book Club. The fact that they were discussing The Fault in Our Stars at the time captured my imagination. I’d read it as well, and due to the loss of an old childhood friend, that book will stay with me for the rest of my life. I wrote about the connection here and even quoted part of the book. On some level, I like to think that Grandma knows all about book club and that our family still shares books.

Regardless, book club will always be a part of my life, even if one day I must start one myself. I get too much out of it – as a reader, a writer, and a human being. This article nails it when it comes to the importance of book clubs and their resurgence. I hope the trend continues. I don’t see myself giving up book club any time soon. I enjoy it far too much.

As a teacher, I wish I could impart my love of books on all students. I truly believe that everyone can learn to love reading. Those who supposedly hate reading just haven’t found the right books yet – or they equate reading with reading in school. In school, students often have little or no choice as to reading material – although that is changing for the better and one of many reasons why I love Donnalyn Miller’s work. You can find more information on her work here. She stresses how important it is for teachers to help students discover good books and learn how to make solid reading choices on their own. I hope one day book clubs – and more importantly, the love of reading – will become so pervasive that students will want to create their own. There is so much to be gained through reading and too many good books to allow a hatred of reading to grow.

The Fault in Our Stars

Libraries

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Palaces for the People – 99% Invisible

If you love libraries and haven’t checked out this podcast yet, you need to do so.  Personally, I believe libraries are more important than ever.

I’m not quite sure when I first fell in love with libraries, but it did happen at an early age. In kindergarten and first grade, I remember Mrs. Mosley, the Sterling Elementary librarian with a wonderful British accent and the personality of everyone’s favorite grandmother, reading books such as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day aloud.  What’s not to like?

As I grew older, I devoured mysteries, especially the Nancy Drew series.  In second and third grade, I scoured the shelves for ghost stories and the latest Choose Your Own Adventure book.  Time spent browsing the library shelves are among my favorite memories of my years at Sterling Elementary.

My love of libraries and reading grew as I grew.  In junior high and high school, I started my day off in the library readying myself for the day or reading.  Later in high school, that same school library served as workplace as I tutored younger students after school.  Now as a teacher, I still believe that school libraries are a crucial part of the fabric of any school.

Reading Quote

Of course, the same is true – or maybe even more true – of community libraries.  Whenever I need a quiet place to work without the distraction of everything I need to do at home, I head to the library.  College libraries such as the library at Delta College or Saginaw Valley State University are among my favorites.  Smaller community libraries have so much to offer.  For example, Mid-Michigan Writers, Inc. meets in the community room of the West Branch Public LibraryHuron Shores Genealogical Society (HSGS) has its own room at the Robert J. Parks Library in Oscoda.  In fact, HSGS hosts their fall and spring programs at the library too.  Where else could such groups meet publicly?

In rural communities, libraries, and to a certain extent schools, are often the only places where people can come together freely.  Personally, I love reading and writing in independent coffee shops and cafes, but I always order something.  Even book stores eventually expect you to purchase something.  Businesses count on it.  Libraries are one place where everyone is welcome and there is space to just be.

There is a great case to be made that libraries are an important part of our social infrastructure.  The idea didn’t even cross my mind until I discovered this podcast.  You can listen here.

Not long ago, many felt that libraries were becoming obsolete.  I understand the thinking behind that statement; however, just a simple glimpse beneath the surface would prove the exact opposite.  Libraries are needed now more than ever.

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“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

Robert Service
Sometimes a novel ends up giving me the worst case of wanderlust. That is precisely what happened with The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. The Alaskan wilderness itself comes across loud and clear as a distinctive character. I particularly enjoyed descriptions of how Alaska changed from the 1970s to the 1980s. These descriptions were normally accomplished through Leni’s observations. It is this Alaska in all of its forms that I plan to visit one day.

It just so happens that I read the novel in the midst of a severe winter weather crisis that affected most of Michigan. Something about being housebound for a few days added to my enjoyment of The Great Alone. I kept telling myself “at least it isn’t as bad as winter in Alaska. At least I have power and indoor plumbing.” It made me feel better about my circumstances and helped me to empathize with the characters to some extent.
The characters throughout are wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Leni’s view of the world, her love of Matthew, and the protectiveness she exhibits towards her mother Cora. Ernst, Leni’s father, is, of course, a complex character designed to make us uncomfortable and question what we know about family dynamics. He largely drives the plot, and he is the reason why the Allbright moved to the Alaskan wilderness from Seattle in the first place.

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Secondary characters that I particularly enjoyed were Large Marge, Mr. Walker, Geneva Walker, and Matthew. Even though Geneva Walker does not play a large role in the novel, her presence is felt until the end. Matthew’s tenacity, dedication, and love for the women in his life is exemplary. Mr. Walker seems to try to hold it all together under the worst circumstances. He even expands his business in the process. I admire his entrepreneurial spirit.

Then there is Large Marge. She makes it her business to know all that goes on in Kaneq. What may seem to be simple nosiness elsewhere may just save a life in wild Alaska. Her steady presence tends to help make everything right, even in the face of the worst situations. She knows how to handle just about anything. In many ways, I want to be like Large Marge when I grow up.

I largely focused on the characterization in this novel simply because I don’t want to give away much. The novel is definitely action driven. I will leave it at that. If you are looking for a solid adventure novel, this is it. In my opinion, it has the right balance of description and action. In the end, I truly cared about the characters – or at least most of them. I would recommend The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

Warning: The discussion questions include spoilers!

As a side note, I read this for the Standish-Sterling Book Club. This is very much the type of book I would hope I’d discover on my own eventually. You can find discussion questions for The Great Alone here.

Great Alone