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

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2019 Read the World Challenge

Every year I forget how quickly time passes.

I feel like I was just writing my goals for 2018 and here I am days away from 2019. Part of my annual goal setting means creating a plan for reading. Losing myself in the pages of fictional stories has become a daily part of my self-care routine. As a routine-oriented person I love to have a plan or a map of where I want to be at the end of every year.

This year I want to read the world.

Over the next twelve months I plan to visit every region and corner of the planet by reading books set in those locations.

Inspired by my mother-in-law who is currently on a trip of a lifetime around the world I’ve set out to craft a few travel plans myself.

I scoured travel websites and maps. I read lists of book reviews. Then with a bit of travel-envy I let myself be inspired by the travels of Karen Sisley. She is one brave woman who has sold all of her belongings and is currently traveling all over the eastern hemisphere doing humanitarian work and site-seeing.

I may not ever climb to the peak of a mountain, wash elephants in Cambodia, or sun bathe in the Caribbean, but I can always enjoy those adventures from the pages of well written novels.

I’d love for you to join me on a reading journey that takes us around the world. You can choose to read the following books in order or at random.

Reading Challenge 2019

You can do this journey reading library books (and do it all for free) or you can buy them cheap at discount book shops, yard sales, or download ebooks. However you prefer to get the books make a plan now!

If you plan to travel with me please let me know!

I want to discuss where we’ve been and what we’ve seen as we embark on this adventure.

The Ameri Brit Mom

The Bridge of Clay: A Book Review

Title: Bridge of Clay

Author: Markus Zusak

Publisher: Knopf

Copyright Date: 2018

Bridge of Clay

As the semester came to a close my freshmen students presented a book they read throughout the year thus far. I read alongside my students several days a week and so I kicked off the presentations with one of my own. This book review is actually going to be told through Google Slides that I created for my class…

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I did admit to my students that I had high expectations for this book. The Book Thief, Zusak’s most popular book, is in my Top 5 favorite books of all time. I’ve waited a long time for Zusak to author another novel. To me, Bridge of Clay, just didn’t quite stack up. It was good. I do recommend it. But be warned…if you loved The Book Thief it is very different.

Check out my review of I Am Messenger from 2015.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: Write What You Love

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“Now here we are, this attractive idea and me, going somewhere together, and it doesn’t matter at all that I don’t know the destination, because I’m already someplace I want to be.” (Kenower 49)

The most successful writers are those who love the stories they write. They don’t write to someone else’s standards or for any expectations. They don’t measure their success by followers, royalties, or sales. No, they are content with the production of something they love.

When we use other people to create the standard for our writing we forfeit our happiness. Choosing to focus on craft over passion turns a hobby into a job and quickly puts out the fire that brings us back to the page.

Each story we commit to is like a marriage. There are days full of elation and all the things of fairy tales, but more often there are challenges and struggles. None of us would face life with just anyone and stick it out unless we truly loved our partner. It’s the same way with a story. If we are choosing to write something for anyone else and not because we love it then we will quickly find ourselves signing divorce papers with the story and going our separate ways.

So if you love to read stories about Kung-Fu pirates write about them.

If you love to create southern recipes write them.

If you love graphic novels about garbage men, then go for it.

Write about what your mind keeps returning to. Each time you sit down to write make it something that you are excited about. Let curiosity guide your tales. Don’t get caught up in the promise of money or fame. Get caught up in writing your passion.

(Side note- I follow a very famous children’s author on Facebook who is asking for donations this Christmas to pay her bills. So if you are waiting on a story to pay your bills–they won’t. This particular author has many, many best sellers.)

Practice: If I could tell only one story what would it be?

I love to read stories that restore my faith in humanity. I read a lot of YA fiction as an English teacher…there’s so much to love and learn from teen protagonists.

Most recently I’ve loved The Hate U Give, All American Boys, When We Collided, and Words in Deep Blue.

When I am reading a book that reminds me that this world is a good place full of amazing people I am drawn in. I hate to leave those characters on the final page. They become friends because they’ve spoken to my soul.

So if I could only tell one story it would be similar to this.

It would be one where the teen protagonist overcomes hate or prejudice. Where love wins and society is changed. It would be a tale that brings readers together with a common experience of love and where the last page isn’t the end of a story, but the beginning of a journey for the person who just finished it.

One day you may get to see some of my manuscripts turned into a novel.

But if not, if nothing ever comes of them I will have the pleasure of meeting my characters myself. Writing cannot be about agents, publishers, or readers. I will never be happy if that is the case. I cannot control those things. All I have control over is my own heart and diligence. And if I do not love my own stories then the world never will either.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Books I Read in 2018

I’ve had so many reading adventures to share with you from 2018. I traveled back to Hogwarts, solved the murder of a teen in detention, witnessed the prejudices against minorities, fought countless types of mental illness, united a broken family, visited postwar Europe to save a child, and restored my faith in the human race.

Here is the list of books I read in 2018:

Devotional/Faith Books:

 

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp

Anxious For Nothing by Max Lucado

 

Other Books:

 

 

 

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Every Day by David Leviathan

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crawley

When We Collided by Emery Lord

-One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany

I didn’t quite meet my goal of 26 books this year, but considering I had a baby in February I am pleased with the fact that I kept reading a priority.

I am excited to start a new Reading Challenge in 2019. Next week I plan to share with you my plan and I would love for you to join me.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Still:Five Minute Friday

That last week before Christmas break makes all of us teachers go a bit crazy.

Case in point, it’s Saturday and I’m reviewing my week and somehow I managed to get just about NOTHING off my to-do list done. I survived Monday-Friday and that’s all. No, there were great moments for sure (like the one in my post below), but by Friday afternoon I felt like Miss Frizzle-crazy hair and all.

This week I’m joining in late to the Five Minute Friday prompt. This is our last regular prompt of the year and so I can’t let it slip by without contributing. The prompt this week is Still.

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I awoke to cooing…the happy sounds of a baby who has yet to decide that 6am is too early to babble. My body drudged through the house with the weight of sleep still on my eyelids. At the sink I fixed a bottle and prepared to let her soothe herself back to sleep.

When I made it to her room and her voice jumped an octave in excitement my heart changed it’s song.

Instead of leaving her I picked her up. Held her close. And I rocked her like I used to before she was too busy to let me cuddle her.

I fed her a bottle and looked into her eyes as she slipped back to sleep.

It’s been several months since she’s let me do this.

And in the way we adults do–I’ve forgotten to be still with her like this.

I’ve forgotten to be still in so many ways.

The routine of being a working mom has kept me from moments like these. I get caught up in what I need to do and I don’t always appreciate those mornings when my babies just want my stillness. So many days I focus too much on preparing for the day and not enough on those moments.

We all need to be still. To take in those unscripted smiles. To look into the eyes of someone we love. To drop the lists and expectations.

This holiday season is the perfect time to drink in the stillness.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: Feel First

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I’m jumping into the third chapter of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower. This chapter challenged me in my approach to unfinished pieces. When I open my Google Drive it’s full of partial-manuscripts and half-finished short stories. I’ve completed only one manuscript and it is in need of serious TLC before I can move forward in the process with it.

This chapter is all about how to face the discomfort of resistance when we write. If we exert our own efforts we take a turn in the wrong direction. Oftentimes, that discomfort signifies that we need to stop focusing on words, rules, and audience and realign our feelings with the project.

“This is what I’m selling in my stories: a feeling. I am a feelings merchant.” (Kenower 28)

Facts are far less important to the reader than the feelings that they receive from your writing. So feel first; write second. It’s nearly impossible to write about a feeling that we haven’t also experienced in our own lives. Intellectually knowing an emotion is different than experiencing it.

Sometimes what our writing needs most is for us to get real on the page and let our emotions drip from our fingers.

Practice- Write down some of the lies that have kept you from moving forward on a project

“No one will want to read this.”

“This idea is stupid.”

“You have no idea what you are doing.”

“Does this even make sense?”

“This isn’t interesting.”

“You are not even good at writing. Why are you wasting your time?”

*Whenever these thoughts creep into your writing time and interrupt The Flow of writing, write them down. Stop what you are working on to address that thought on the spot. Then write down the many ways that it is incorrect.

The Ameri Brit Mom

My (New) Car

Last week I was coming home from dropping my oldest off at church. The battery light came on and all of the lights within my car started to dim. By the time I reached my neighborhood I didn’t have any headlights. It was a scary journey home.

I now know that the alternator needed replaced.

My husband and I weighed the pros and cons of getting the work done. This Toyota Camry was extremely special because it was a gift from friends. It came to us during a time when we really needed it, but couldn’t afford another car payment. That was several years ago and that car now has nearly 310,000 miles!

We’ve known the day was coming when my car would give out. She outlasted anything we’ve ever driven before and aside from this event she has been a very reliable vehicle.

But after counting the costs and investigating our options we decided it was time for a newer car.

We spent time searching local lots and my husband made many calls/emails to different dealerships. He set a price and mileage range. I inquired about the safety of every model that came up in his quest. With two little ones I wanted to be sure that the investment we were making in a new car would be the safest.

A few days later I drove home my (newer) car. A 2015 Nissan Sentra. She has 30,000 miles and we got an amazing deal at Car Source in Grove City.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Balance: Five Minute Friday

It’s a chilly Friday night in Ohio and I’m bundled up in my fluffy robe, fuzzy socks, and fleece blanket. This was one of those weeks that lingered beyond its welcome. Tuesday felt like Friday and each day thereafter was salt in the wound. I’m so glad to jump in on this Five Minute Friday because I’m in need of my community of writers tonight. I love plugging in and spending time in this group of encouragers. This week our prompt is Balance (how ironic!).

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Balance is one of those myths that we tell ourselves so that we believe that we will conquer chaos. Maybe I’m wrong and true balance does exist, but I feel like every time I take a step toward finding that perfect equation I get knocked off course. Part of me wants to believe that at some point I will realize that balance was there all along waiting for me to grasp. Another part of me is skeptical to its existence.

The problem is that I’m trying to balance way too many things.

Faith.

Family.

Friends.

Work.

Exercise.

Writing.

Etc…

The truth is that I cannot balance it all on my own. I go through seasons where I spend more energy in one area of my life than another. That’s the reality of balance. It’s an ever-changing concept. It’s a sliding scale. And the zen version of balance I’ve created in my mind is a pipe dream.

Balance is living each moment according to God’s plan. It’s listening to his direction and following his instruction.

Balance is saying “no” to myself and letting God take the lead. I’ll never achieve balance apart from Christ. Only He is both the Alpha and Omega.

He alone can make it work.

So for now I will rest in the knowledge that my life is in His hands. It isn’t up to me to find that balance. The only way I can overcome the chaos is through surrendering to God.

The Ameri Brit Mom