The Great Alone: A Book Review

Title: The Great Alone

Author: Kristin Hannah

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Copyright Date: 2018

*Setting for book challenge: Isolated Location (Kaneq, Alaska)

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The Vietnam War stole Leni Allbright’s father.

He returned in 1974 a former POW and a new man with a violent streak. His love for her mother ran deep, but flipped a switch in him. And that switch hurt her mother. Every episode ended with an apology and every time Cora took him back. Meanwhile, teaching her teenage daughter that to wake up to broken glass, overturned furniture, empty whiskey bottles and a mother speckled black and blue is normal.

News that they inherited a cabin in Alaska brings Leni hopes that the move will help him. They pack their Volkswagen bus and settle on a homestead in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Leni’s small family from Seattle learns to live off the land and adjust to life without electricity where their nearest neighbor is miles away.

They quickly become part of their new community in Kaneq. Leni befriends Matthew, the only other teenager in town, and he teaches her how to prepare for her first winter in Alaska. He strengthens Leni’s spirit and shows her that love doesn’t have to mean being a punching bag and letting men walk all over you.

“Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now.”

During their first winter in Kaneq, the citizens face a horrific tragedy that soon brings division. When they need to lean into one another for support the town scatters themselves and builds walls of hatred.

“They were trapped, by environment and finances, but mostly by the sick, twisted love that bound her parents together.”

This was a beautifully written novel about a young girl learning to survive harsh circumstances and weather. Life dealt Leni an unfortunate hand, but throughout the course of her story she learns how to live unbroken.

I haven’t read a book I loved this much in a long time. There were at least five twists in this plot that I NEVER SAW COMING. I love a good, unpredictable read. I found myself constantly wanting to know what would happen next. I cheered for Leni, screamed at her mother, and all but spit at her abusive father.

This year, my goal is read books set all over the world. This is my first book of 2019. As I complete books this year I plan to share some details I learn about different corners of the world.

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I felt like I was in the last frontier as I read this novel. Glacier filled white mountains, cloudless cornflower blue skies, fjords, and northern lights all drew me into the landscape of this beautiful state. Orcas, seals, otters, bears, moose, bald eagles, ptarmigans, and cormorants were all wildlife that appeared in the secluded woods of Kaneq.

“The natural world spoke loudest here.”

I experienced both of the Alaskan seasons. The days where the sun barely set were unusual to me. I found myself wondering how one could fall asleep at midnight with the light of day still bright. Other days, the sun surfaced for only a couple of hours. How depressing that must be to endure! I learned that in many parts of Alaska one must travel over the ice by small planes and that during the winter months casualty numbers were high due to stupid mistakes and poor planning.

I’m off on another travel. Stay tuned to see my latest reading destination.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

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Family Photo Session

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Thanks to a friend from The Mund Life Photography our family was able to get some awesome pictures over the holidays. It was time to update our family shots since our oldest was a bald baby approaching her first birthday in the most recent photos. I wanted a canvas this year of all FOUR of us.

Josh did a great job capturing the love of our family.

The picture above is the one that we had made into a large canvas as part of my Christmas gift. It was hard to choose just one picture though. In the hour we spent at the studio we collected so many amazing snapshots into our life.

There were so many perfect shots:

 

But my favorite photographs were the unstaged, unedited ones. I love how he captured our REAL personalities with these fun, candid shots:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To wrap up this post I wanted to share my meme-able photo. Below, share a meme that would be perfect for this picture. I can’t help but laugh every time I see this. Who else thinks a falling baby is hilarious!?!

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The Ameri Brit Mom

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Book Review

The new Netflix series Tidying Up is based on this book. Since the show has taken off I decided to reblog my post from 2016 from reading the book. I still use many of the principles in this book and I have a renewed sense of getting to a healthy, tidy place both in my life and in my home.

The Ameri Brit Mom

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences.

Title: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Author: Marie Kondo

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Copyright Date: 2014

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For the past week I’ve been in hard core tidying mode. I attribute my passion for cleanliness to having read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is a book by a Japanese organizational consultant and it is about her experiences and methods for helping people to declutter their homes while also getting their life affairs in order.

We’ve all heard about ways that some of the cleanest people keep things clean and tidy.

“Just clean a little bit every day.”

“For each thing you buy get rid of something else.”

“Store things…

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Better: Five Minute Friday

I’m kicking off my 2019 FMF streak with a late post.

In Ohio, I spent my Friday preparing for the imminent arrival of this weekend’s snowpocalypse. After school yesterday I joined the rest of the state at the grocery store stocking up on necessities. If you want to join in on the weekly fun over at Five Minute Friday or check out others’ posts be sure to click on the link. Here is my five minute uninterrupted response to the prompt: Better.

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Fuzzy socks, wool blankets, hot coffee, and good books…does life get much more relaxed?

Sure, there is a mound of laundry beckoning me to wash and a room full of toys that need to be boxed up, but today I chose to hibernate. The steady rhythm of the snow outside is the perfect backdrop to my reading adventure. The laughter of the children forming snow men and throwing snowballs can not be outweighed.

I was scheduled to attend a writing conference today, but the weather forced me inside. I was excited to focus on my writing today (I haven’t done anything like that since I had the baby last year.) But if I’m honest having this perfect day at home turned out better.

There will be other conferences.

Today I am choosing to embrace the tundra and enjoy the benefits of this house arrest. I’m taking time to read, write, and make memories with my family.

If you were snowed in how would you spend your day?

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: Critiques and Workshopping

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The theme of this book I am studying is that writing is personal and your work will never please anyone (so stop trying.) As I dive further into the pages of this work I am feeling myself gain confidence as a writer. I’m worrying far less about what people think and I am embracing writing for my own pleasure.

There are obvious benefits for allowing others to critique your writing.

They can help a piece to be accurate in conveying our intended emotions and tension. Each story first created in our minds is never the one another reads. Everyone carries their lives when they read. Sometimes it is a struggle to step out of our own mind in order to convey a story the way we intend to.

Giving someone permission to comment on the accuracy of your work is helpful. It is a healthy exchange so long as you keep the perspective that you are not your story.  Advice may critique our work, but it does not critique the writer.

So write what you are curious about–write what you love. Then let another in on the experience.

Practice: Get into a workshop

I’ve workshopped a few of my pieces in online critique groups and in live groups at my local SCBWI. It is helpful to do so with the right mindset. This year I want to jump back into more critique groups and workshops and not allow my ego to respond to negative or positive feedback.

In the past I have gained immense wisdom from published authors that I continue to carry with me every time I write.

Put your work out there too!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Aldi Delivery

 

One month ago my life changed…

My husband and I found out that Aldi, our favorite grocery store, was now doing home deliveries.

Aldi uses a program called Instacart. Basically, this is Uber for your groceries. Each area has a list of approved shoppers and those people take your list to the store and shop for you. If your location does not have a particular item they can alert you and allow you to make a substitution. If you would rather not substitute you receive a refund for that product.

I haven’t even told you the best part!

Yesterday, I ordered my groceries while home alone with a sleepy baby. The idea of going out into the cold did not excite me. Dinner time was nearing and I really needed to get milk beforehand. Normally, I would have taken my whiny child and braved the aisles while she fought sleep like a boxing match.

Instead I took ten minutes and put a whole week’s of groceries into my Aldi Instacart and in less than two hours everything was unloaded, sorted, and dinner was on the stove.

If you are interested in giving it a try please click my link before you shop. By using this direct link I may receive compensation for referring you. It costs you nothing.

The Ameri Brit Mom

2019 Writing Journal

Setting goals and preparing for the upcoming year is something I look forward to every winter. I like to sit down and map out my journey for the next twelve months. I start by envisioning where I want to be at year-end and then create small steps that will get me to that point. Do I always follow-through, nope. But starting with a goal in mind for the year really helps me to develop a mindset for growth.

This year I want to focus on the literary aspects of my life.

Earlier this week I posted about my 2019 Reading Challenge where I plan to read books set all over the world.

As for writing, I decided to create a Writing Journal for 2019. I used an old notebook I had laying around, some cardstock tabs from Illustrated Faith, and Papermate Flair pens to set up the notebook.

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This is a simple notebook, but I used many of the aspects of bullet journaling when setting it up. I started with a goal page:

In the middle of the page I started with my Word of the Year 2019: Adventure. From there, I broke my writing down into four parts: blog, craft, short stories, and novels. I wrote 1-2 personal goals for each of these branches of my writing.

I broke the year down into four quarters and on the following page I created a space to track my goals for that quarter.

Some other spreads in my Writing Journal include:

-Work-In-Progress sections for planning out novels and short stories

-Books of Craft to Read

-New Novel Ideas

-2019 Reading Challenge: Adventure

-Boot Camp Writing Prompts

-Craft Notes

-Blog

-Publishing

-Action Chart (for pieces I have queried or had published)

-Beautiful Words and Phrases

I’m old fashioned in the fact that I prefer to write in notebooks as opposed to using online calendars and notes. If you are a writer, I would love to hear about how you organize your writing.  I find relaxation in functional notebooks. I know there are others like me out there.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

2018 Bullet Journal Flip Through

I rang in the new year with a household of germy humans.

We took turns sharing flu symptoms. I must admit it was not the ideal ending to the winter break, but I was able to get a few things done around the house as I was confined within it.

Today I wanted to share with you a Flip Through of last year’s bullet journal. In 2018, I set a goal to maintain a regular schedule in my bujo and I’m happy to say that apart from some short setbacks I was able to complete the journal. I’m really pleased with many of the pages and I’ve learned some techniques that I plan to incorporate into my 2019 bullet journal.

Here is a look at some of my favorite pages:

 

Which spread is your favorite?

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: Accuracy

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The worst motivation for writing is to please other people. In fact, people are never really pleased to the level of your expectations when your goal is their acceptance.

As human beings our preferences are unique to each of us. Some people will pick up a book and absolutely love it while others read the same text and loathe it completely. We all read with our own experiences to draw from and because of our differences we come away from the same piece with original opinions.

You cannot please everyone. It is an impossible goal. Much like last week’s discussion on Writing What You Love you need to give yourself the freedom to write things other people might hate. You rob yourself of creativity when you care about the reader as you write. Your job as the author is to transcribe for a reader not to make them love every word you use.

In this chapter, William Kenower offers some replacements to “Is my writing good?” Instead he suggests asking these two questions after each session, “What did I want to say?” and “Have I said it?”

The answer to those two questions is objective. It is not based on someone else’s viewpoint therefore setting you up for rejection. As authors we must, “set aside the notion that you will ever write something so good that everyone in the world will like it and no one will criticize it.” (Kenower 59)

Practice: Start Documenting your preferences.

Since we are all unique it is important to figure out what works and doesn’t work for you. Find a way to document writing that you love and writing that you cannot stand. Then, evaluate what it is about that piece that you like or dislike so strongly. Knowing your own preferences can help you to develop a genuine voice as an author. That’s the goal…not pleasing others.

For me, in my new 2019 Writing Journal I am keep track of what I loved from books I am reading.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

Long Way Down: A Book Review

Title: Long Way Down

Author: Jason Reynolds

Publisher: Antheneum

Copyright Date: 2017

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Will’s brother, Shawn, is dead. The rules of his neighborhood say he must avenge his brother. He grabs a gun and enters the elevator with a plan to murder Shawn’s killer.

The sixty seconds that Will rides the elevator help him to see that revenge isn’t his only option. In that time Will is confronted by other victims of gun violence and they help him to see clearly and distract him from his anger.

By the time he reaches the first floor, Will must decide if he is going to add to the count of dead bodies in his neighborhood or if he is going to challenge the rules of the streets.

This book is written in verse and is a quick read. My husband and I took turns reading aloud from this book and finished it in about two hours. Although the story is short it makes lasting impressions on its reader. It is clear to see why this book landed on the honor list for the Coretta Scott King award. I really love Jason Reynolds and the way his works are challenging gang culture and violence in the United States.

Last year year I read All American Boys which he co-authored with Brendan Kiely. That novel took the perspective of two boys who witnessed an act of police brutality. Kiely authored a white boy’s voice as a witness to the crime while Reynolds penned the voice of the African American boy victimized by an officer. I’ve book-talked All American Boys and several students have read it this year. It’s a classroom favorite amongst my ninth graders.

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I highly recommend both books.

The Ameri Brit Mom