Bird’s Eye View

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T Lee is a fictional novel about Chinese-American sisters named Lucia and Miranda. It is a story about mental illness told by an omniscient narrator who offers insights on Lucia’s mental illness through the eyes not only of Lucia, but the people with whom she has close relationships as well.

Having personally known people suffering from mental illness made this a difficult book for me to read. Knowing what a terrible toll mental illness takes on everyone connected to the patient gave me a clear understanding of the author’s purpose in telling this story the way she did. I respect that. I struggled to the very end where the heart of the subject of mental illness is most shockingly revealed.

I received an advance copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. There are many truths about mental illness portrayed in the book which are very sad and unfortunately, very real. I believe it is a story worth reading and recommend it.

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Amazing Grace

One Heart at a Time by Delilah recently called my name from the library bookshelf. The author’s radio broadcasts are familiar to me, so her new memoir piqued my curiosity. Although I recognize her voice, I knew nothing about her life. I was in for a delightful awakening!

Delilah’s autobiography is full of spiritual stories and love. She has successfully navigated the deepest losses life holds. However, where others might have turned away from God, she chose to embrace her Christian faith. Her commitment to spreading her beliefs extends far beyond the reaches of radio waves. Living frugally, Delilah shares her time, talent, and love to enrich the lives of those less fortunate. This is not a case of writing checks and sending them off, it is one of personally flying halfway around the world to a refugee camp in Ghana where human suffering is immeasurable.

Both here and abroad, this amazing mother actively lives and shares her faith and resources without prejudice. She is an inspirational powerhouse of love. I believe her story will touch your heart. It most certainly touched mine. Highly recommended!

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Deep Fried Love

If The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Mamma’s Table by Rick Bragg doesn’t inspire you to try some down home Southern cooking, it will, at the very least, make your mouth water!

I loved this cookbook/homage to well-known author Bragg’s mamma. It is a humorous collection of secret recipes and the family lore attached to them. There’s an extraordinary amount of what sounds like artery clogging food and ingredients here, but oh, if you’ve ever tasted some of these foods made by Loving, capable hands in the South, you will most likely recognize the value of these recipes. Biscuits with gravy, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, and pecan pie are just a few of the many recipes included in this memoir. Hard as it is to believe, there’s even a recipe for cooking opossum!

As valuable as the recipes in this book are, the real treasure lies in the stories surrounding the food shared here. Bragg is a master storyteller. If you’ve never read his work, I recommend you do. In my mind, this memoir is priceless.

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Child of the Gods

Circe by Madeline Miller appeared on a number of 2018 Top Novel lists which led me to give it a shot. Gosh, I totally don’t agree in its inclusion on these lists.

This novel fictionally expands on a Greek mythological female who was a skillful witch, so good that she turned her rival into a monster with numerous heads! Circe’s green- eyed action provoked the wrath of the Gods and she is banished forever to life alone on a deserted island. It’s a pretty grim fate, but anyone who was forced to read Greek mythology probably recalls it is tragically depressing.

I didn’t enjoy reading Homer in high school and that sentiment remains. I did enjoy Circe’s reaction to unwelcome men who arrived unexpectedly in boats. When they acted badly, she turned them into pigs! Kudos Circe!

The writing of this novel deserves a nod, however, this reader doesn’t recommend it.

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The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea immediately draws its readers in when the main character states he’s going to be late for his mother’s funeral. A great hook usually leads to a great story as is the case with this novel. The author is also an educator – no surprise there! Urrea practices what he most likely preaches.

This humorous and emotional tale is told by an omniscient narrator. It is about a Mexican-American man whose mother has just died. Sadly, he has cancer and is reflecting on his own life. His story which began in Mexico, is multi-faceted and indicative of the Mexican immigrant experience in the U.S.

I almost abandoned this book for a couple of reasons. I don’t have a wide knowledge of Spanish and parts of the story are sexually graphic. However, the author’s poetic prose kept me hanging in there and the end of the story made me grateful I stuck with it.

I think this is one of the best books I’ve read in 2018. It is a powerful story about the importance of family and will remain with me for a long time to come. Highly recommended!

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Unsung Hero

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan was recommended to me by my niece Laura. It is an amazing true story about Pino Lella, a young Italian man who chauffeured a top Nazi general around Italy and neighboring countries during WWII.

Very little has been written about the war in relation to Italy and this incredible tale brings to light not only Lella’s experiences, but those of the Italian people as well. Living under Fascist and Nazi rulers at the same time created chaos for the Italian people. Pino had no interest in the war, but at the urging of his parents, enlisted in the German army before being drafted in effort to gain a job where his life might not be lost in battle. Ironically, he ended-up becoming an undercover agent who reported every move the Nazi general made to the Italian resistance.

Much of this biography is gut-wrenching, but at the same time, awe inspiring. There is no doubt Pino was a hero. His life after the war is just as incredible as during it.

I stayed awake listening to this book for two consecutive nights! What a story! Highly recommended for history fans!

P.S. Many thanks to Laura for leading me to it!

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Stiff Upper Lip

Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce is a novel I truly enjoyed! It takes place in London during the German blitzkrieg in WWII. Emmeline, the main character, is a woman in her early twenties who dreams of becoming a war correspondent. Unfortunately, the closest she comes is a part-time position at a women’s magazine. Her boss, Mrs. Bird, is a close-minded woman from another era who authors the advice column. Bird’s overly strict moral code prevents the majority of the scant letters from readers to go unanswered. Sensitive to the needs of the young women whose requests for advice end-up in the waste basket, Emmeline begins to secretly responded to those rejected.

There’s much more to the story and the author cleverly weaves the letters from readers in with the lives of Emmeline and her friends and coworkers to paint a moving portrait of everyday life in London during these trying times.

I think this is an excellent novel. It runs the gamut of emotions. I highly recommend it and am grateful to have read it!

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