Friday, October 24, 2014

Living Abroad - Rwanda

"A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope and a Restaurant in Rwanda" by Josh Ruxin

Josh Ruxin is a multi-degreed, fairly wealthy, New Yorker who had put his public health experience all over the world, but more often recently in a consulting capacity. But he wanted to get his hands dirty and get out in the field again. He talks at a party with a wealthy tech guy who wants to know why he isn't in Rwanda. Rwanda seemed to be a great place to come in and help to revitalize after the devastating genocide in the 1990s. So he and his new fiancee (who also had a public health background) get themselves on a plane and go to Rwanda.

Josh works with (sort of? I think? Sometimes I didn't know who was exactly working for and with whom) an already established medical clinic in Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The clinic was already there but it was in a horribly poor area where people were starving but the clinic was run down and wasn't really where someone went for help.

It takes a lot of time, but along with a TON of help, the clinic becomes a shining beacon in the little community. They also feed the starving residents, and then help teach farmers different farming techniques so there's always food. Sometimes there's even enough of the crops leftover to sell for profit. Getting all of this going makes for very long days for Josh and so now wife, Alyssa looks for a way to help in the community.

She volunteers at an orphanage that helps to try to send promising kids to college, which would make a huge difference, not only in their own families, but also in the community. One of the main problems is that there aren't any jobs for the kids and teenagers to work and put money back for tuition. Through a huge and roundabout way, Alyssa opens a restaurant called Heaven. It was a great place for the kids from the orphanage to learn a skill, put money back for tuition and help support their families.

These next 2 stories didn't really fit into the review anywhere but I thought they were worth telling:

Pierantonio, a next door neighbor, told Josh what he witnessed during the massacres. He could see soldiers breaking into their neighbors and good friends home, where they were murdered, and the wife and daughters raped and murdered. He held the title Italian Consul to Kigali, which though it was mostly a symbolic honor, now meant that he had to try to get all 200 Italian ex-pats in Rwanda out. He stuffed his pockets with money that he had withdrawn before the uprising began, knowing that if something happened money would grease a lot of wheels. He (and his son) crept into houses and churches and rescued many many people, often just seconds away from being shot and macheted to death. He and his family were on the last flight out of the country. As soon as he got his family safely into Kenya, he returned to Rwanda to save more people.

I finished reading this book on September 11th. Josh was in Paris at the time and was one the very first flight out of Paris back to America on the 14th. He said the pilot gathered all of the passengers around him and talked about how they would "have to take action as a group if anyone was acting suspicious".  What a horrifying flight to be on, it must have been agonizing.

What I learned about Rwanda
-There's a weirdly large amount of ex-pats from Arkansas living in Rwanda
-The average life expectancy in Rwanda is just under 60
-They are one of the least corrupt governments in Africa

So that's a really long review. But the only thing that I didn't like was that sometimes the stories seemed kind of disjointed or seemed like they could have been organized a little differently to make things a little more clear. 3.5 out of 5 stars!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: "Jackaby" by William Ritter

Who is this smiling mustachioed man? It's my Dad! He's the reason I have blonde hair, a fondness for maps and odd facts, and more. The box he is holding contains the donations to the local women's and children's shelter that was donated by Andi, the winner of my blogiversary giveaway! I put a little card in the box explaining the giveaway, it might just confuse them, but hey what can you do? The box has lots of school supplies, hair supplies, and some cozy winter scarf for the upcoming winter. Dad dropped it off at the shelter (thanks Dad!) so I'm sure everything is already put to good use :)

Onto our regularly scheduled book programming!

The best way I can think of describing this book is: if you dropped Sherlock Holmes into Supernatural (like early Supernatural when it was monster of the week, before all the angels and demons and stuff), add a smart female assistant and put it in New England in 1892. That's basically it.

Abigail Rook finds herself in New England (via Eastern Europe) after leaving her suffocating life as basically her mom's dress up doll in England. She is smart, and wants adventure. She sees a help wanted ad for an assistant position for a detective agency and that is where she really meets Mr Jackaby. He's a bit of an eccentric, I think is safe to say. He has a reputation around town of being a touch crazy considering he talks about all kinds of paranormal things like trolls, ghosts and exotic Ukrainian helper elf things. Abigail is like "this might be a really bad idea working for him buuuuut I basically have no other options and I don't want to be homeless and broke in a foreign country so let's do it".

Then it's all interesting characters and foul murders and a handsome policeman and sleuthing and detectiving. (Word? Not a word? Word.)

My favorite line from the book was from Abigail : "I shook my head. It wasn't that I did not believe in ghosts; it was that I believed in them the same way noncommittal way that I believed in giant squids or lucky coins or Belgium.They were things that probably existed I never had any occasion to really care one way or the other". Screw you Belgium! (Not really, Belgium is very nice)

I liked Douglas and Mrs Morrigan the best.

The ending is very obviously set up for more stories, which I understand, but when it's in a super obvious way it annoys me.

This book isn't really reinventing the wheel in any real way, but that doesn't mean that it isn't fun or entertaining; because it is! A fast, entertaining, light read with some funny characters and interesting folkloric elements. High 3 out of 5 stars.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: "Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You" by Ray Bradbury and Guest Post at Traveling with T

Click here to read my guest post over at Traveling with T!

Did you guys participate in the Dewey's 24 hour readathon?  It was my first one, I only participated in a cheerleader capacity (Team Butler!) and I had so much fun! I don't think I could stay up and read for 24 hours but I will try one of these years. For now, I will just wave my pompoms! It was a really fun 24 hours to be on twitter!

Last year I was messing around on Goodreads, as I am apt to do (you can friend me if you like!) and made a fantastic discovery: a Ray Bradbury book I'd never heard of! This is not to say I've read all of his books, but I thought I had at least heard of all of them before. (Oh Wesley, how prideful of you). Anyway this was the book and I was so pleased to find it and now I'm so pleased to share it with you!

So it's not a story per se, but a collection of essays. Ray wrote almost his whole life, and it was a long life, he died in his 90s. He wrote this book about how he wrote, what helped him, his writing habits and the like. The book title cracks me up because it sounds like something that they would sell on QVC at 4 am and some struggling writer would buy it and hope that it would help him write a blockbuster. But I digress. Some of Ray's most famous quotes come out of these essays and the stories are great.

I really love some of the titles of the essays, like "Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle" (been there,amirite? haha) or the name of the preface "How to climb the tree of life, throw rocks at yourself, how to get down again without breaking your bones or your spirit: a preface with a title not much longer than the book". He isn't joking this is a fast read at only about 158 pages. (Honestly if you have an English/Creative Writing/something wordsy or artsy major in your life, get this book for them for their birthday or a holiday or what have you. Inspirational, thoughtful and books always make the best gifts).

From what I gather from this book I'd say there are a few ways to "release you're creative genius"

- Experience things. Don't sit around "contemplating your navel". Go do things, have experiences, talk to people, do things that scare you. It's a good way to get material and have a good and interesting life.

-Write everyday. Write down things that seem strange to you, things that scare you, things that puzzle you. Write write write write. Even if you think something is bad, or you don't really understand what to do with it, don't throw it away. Put it in a folder and tuck it away. A lot of Ray's stories he got from looking back on things from when he first began to write and improving on them.

-Read. Good readers make good writers. Take notice of the things that you love to read, words you love, settings that you are intrigued by. Take note of the things that drive you crazy and remember that when you're writing too.

Quick story: Ray wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of  a library at UCLA. They had rows and rows of typewriters you could rent, you just put a dime into the machine and it bought you half an hour of writing time. So there Ray sat in a slightly creeping musty basement, on the clock, typing away at the book that would become his masterpiece. Also two of the main characters in F451 are named Faber and Montag. He realized years later that Faber is a pencil manufacturer and Montag was a paper manufacturer. How fitting for a book about books, the tools of the trade. (Also, subconsciousness are tricky things!)

I loved this book. I squealed in delight once or twice reading it.I loved hearing the back stories of some of my favorite of his works and how his brain ticked. I give it a 4 out of 5!

Zen in the Art of Writing

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: "October Sky" by Homer Hickam

My husband asked me to read this for him because he wanted to use it for class that he is teaching, but he knows that I'm a faster/better reader than him :) , and he's was on a time crunch. I barely charged him anything for this wonderful service I provided because I figured I could use it here on the ol' blog.

This is the story of Homer Hickman. He grew up in the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia. As you might have guessed from the name, the whole town revolved around the local coal mine (and the high school football team.) His dad is one of the higher ups at the mine, and is there all the time. His mom paints beach scenes in their kitchen to distract herself from the layer of coal dust that settles on everything. (Even on the bedsheets, when Homer wakes up in the morning and pushes back his comforter a thin layer of dust rises from it. Bleh). Her main concern is keeping Homer and his older brother Jim out of the mining business. Jim will get to college on a football scholarship, but Homer starts high school pretty rudderless and mom begins to worry.

During this time, Sputnik and the space race have begun. Homer takes a keen interest in it and does research to find out as much as he can about space. He becomes borderline obsessed with Wernher von Braun, a German scientist who works at NASA. If they'd been around at the time Homer would have totally had a "W.W.W.V.B.D?" bracelet. He's so inspired by this brave new world of long distance rockets (and sees it as maybe an oppurtonity to get out of Coalwood and avoid working in the mines) that he starts the BCMA (Big Creek Missile Agency) with a few friends. They all teach themselves about rockets, and chemistry and black powder and explosions. They manage to blow a few things up on accident, but always avoid major injuries to themselves, somehow.

What I liked about Homer is that he took on this ambitious task aaaaaaand he's not good at math. I feel like all rocket scientists (or rocket scientists in training) are doing math equations that I can't even comprehend at a very young age. However it turns out that Homer just can't handle algebra, and he manages to teach himself trigonometry. Which is amazingly impressive.

The story isn't just about boys and rockets. It's about a small town that will die soon because the coal is running about. It's about living in your brother's shadow. It's about a marriage in strife. It's about the incredibly dangerous work that happens in mines. Not everything and everyone has a happy ending.

Considering this wasn't a book that I picked on my own to read (and that I don't know much about rockets), I enjoyed it more than I thought it would. If you're kind of on the fence about reading this, they also made it into a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal, and it followed the book pretty closely. It's one of my dad's favorites! I give this tale of coal dust and star dust a 3 out of 5.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: "All the Night We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr

The giveaway winner from my blogiversary post is Andi of the wonderful Estella's Revenge! Thanks to everyone who entered, the amount of people who participated was great! Congrats Andi :)

Also I was the featured blogger over at Jamie's blog Books and Beverages. And today on her blog there's a discussion going on about the Hobbit. So stop by if either of those things be ticklin your fancy!

Okay, down to business!

There was all kinds of buzz around the book world about this title. I was seeing it everywhere! But I was a little wary of the hype, and was a bit of a WWII book hiatus so I waited on it. Then I got myself on the uber long waiting list at the library (that's how it always is with this girl)

Marie Laure and her father live in Paris. (Do we ever find out what happened to Mom? I don't remember.) Her father is the locksmith at the (I think, in English) the National Museum of Natural History. She goes blind at around 6, but her father doesn't want her to be shut out from the world so he comes up with a pretty genius solution. He carves her a little model of their neighborhood, down to every street light and sewer cover so she knows where everything is and she has more confidence when they are out and about. Life is pretty good, but then the Nazis come to France and they must flee Paris, and her father is holding onto more than just a huge secret. (Dum Dum Duuuuuuuuuum). They flee to Marie's uncle's house. He is a recluse after watching his brother die in combat during World War I.

In Germany (it might as well be on a different planet for how different the situation is) Werner and Jutta are living in an orphanage. This brother and sister have a bare bones, but not cruel existence in the orphanage. Werner comes across an old busted radio and manages to coax back to life to the joy of the kids in the orphanage. Werner is naturally inquisitive and engineering inclined and soon other people in the neighborhood are bringing Werner their devices that need fixing. This eventually gets him noticed by some Nazi higher ups in the area, and he is accepted into a competitive, brutal military academy. He does well in his classes but hates the cruel brutality that pervades the school. He has seen other boys turn into ruthless, mindless thugs and doesn't want to be like them.

The war is long and brutal for both of these characters, though Marie Laure is not ever on the front lines. I was waiting impatiently throughout the book for their lives to intersect and when it finally happens I wasn't disappointed.

One of the things that I loved most about this book was the settings. Even if the descriptions of the settings weren't particularly vivid they were so easy to picture for me. This was especially the case at Uncle's house and at the beach nearby. I felt like I could feel the sea breeze on my face and smell the saltiness in the air. And I love that the house seemed like it would smell a little bit musty and "shut up" no matter how often Madame cleaned it.

I loved this book. I loved the short chapters. I loved how even the side characters were complex and interesting. I loved that basically all the questions I had got answered in the last few chapters (I mean, how rare and wonderful is that!?) This book gets a hearty 4 out of 5 stars for me.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout" by Lauren Redniss and last day to enter the giveaway!

(Everyone, don't forget to enter the giveaway before midnight tonight! Winner will be announced on the 15th! Thank you to everyone who has entered so far, the response has been great!)

Are you ready to have the "Radioactive" song stuck in your head for the rest of the day? Because thats a real possibility.

First things first, part of the cover glows in the dark! Which is fun, though puzzling when you see it when you are stumbling out to the kitchen for a glass of water and see something glowing in the living room. So, that's my PSA about that.

This is basically a biography of Marie that is interspersed with shorter stories about radiation and it's affect on history (the 7 Mile Island disaster, the Chernobyl disaster, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) I'm not going to recount the whole thing but it includes: heartbreak, working your butt off to get what you want, love,a horrifyingly public accident resulting in death, all kinds of scientific discoveries and the Nazis (because those a-holes ruin everything).

The most horrifying part of this story is hearing the details of Marie's health declining due to her exposure to radiation. At one point she kept a vial of it in her apron pocket, and she and Pierre would keep a vial of it near their bed. It was almost 24 hour exposure. When I read that I was like "Marie noooooooooooooooooo!". It's kind of amazing she lived as long as she did.

I think my favorite part of the story is that Marie named polonium after her beloved homeland of Poland. She wanted to bring recognition to her native land and was a little bit sad that the discovery of radiation overshadowed polonium for that reason. So in the middle of the GN they stop and devote  two pages to all the wonderful things and people who come from Poland: Chopin, Copernicus, all kinds of other achievements and even flowers that are native to Poland. I think she would have loved the Poland shout out.

(If you have more interest in Chernobyl I highly recommend the book "All that is Solid Melts into Air" by Darragh McKeon.)

A few complaints. A lot of the time the text was hard to read. It would be like blue text on a blue background. I felt like an old person because I had to hold the thing under a lamp to read it sometimes. Also the pictures were not what I had expected at all, like I kind of feel like the pictures didn't add to the story. They were a little too abstract for my taste but maybe you will think they are awesome!

Overall I thought this was so interesting and I learned a lot, though there were definitely some sad bits! A high 3 out of 5 stars!


Friday, October 10, 2014

1 Year Blogiversary and Giveaway!

Well, we are coming up on the big one year anniversary here at Library Educated HQ. (It's technically the 12th, but wanted to celebrate on a Friday not a Monday. Monday = Bleh)

Basically, I think that the book blogging community has some of the most smart, funny, creative, lovely people on the internet. At least in my experience I think this is basically a fact.  I enjoy reading my way through so many other book blogs, it's usually I highlight of any day! I am always inspired by the cool things that other people are doing.Thank you for guest posting here, thank you for letting me guest post on your blogs.

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog for your kind suggestions, your kind comments, your support and everything else. You make my day all the time.

TL;DR: I love you all. Thank you.

To thank you I'm doing my very first giveaway! (Well I've been a part of giveaways before, but this is just from me to just you. Just for the USA and Canadian readers, sorry beloved International readers. I will get you in on the next one.) Also using Rafflecopter for the first time. It was easy and they're websites make them seem like they are funny bunnies.(Having said that, if it isn't working let me know!)

So here's the deal with the giveaway. If you are the winner, you get a scarf lovingly handmade by me! I'll even let you pick the color so it matches your favorite fall/winter jacket.

The second prize you don't actually get to keep, but you get to pay it forward for women and children in need. I will make up a box of needed supplies and donate it in your name to the local women's and children's shelter in my city. A prize to keep and a prize to give, I thought it was fitting considering we are barreling towards our seasons of gratitude and gift giving.The last day to enter is the 13th, so get to scooting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway