Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hidden Girl, Shyima Hall

I couldn't find an image url that would work here, I guess the book is too new!

This book is incredible.

Shyima Hall is a beautiful woman who went through something NO CHILD should ever have to go through.

This book is her memoir of what it was like for her to be sold into domestic slavery by her family in Egypt when she was 8. A couple of those years were spent in Egypt, where unfortunately, it is fairly common and accepted practice for wealthy families to "employ" the lower class as servants. Some of these families receive a small compensation. For instance, it was Shyima's older sister who first served a wealthy family and her family got paid the equivalent of $17 US dollars per month for her to work for them. She stole from this family and the family required something for justice. So they said they'd take Shyima to work in her sister's place to uphold the family honor and repay her sister's debt.

Her stroke of luck came when the family she was serving had to move out of Egypt because The Dad of the family had gotten into some sort of trouble and couldn't stay or was running from the government. They chose California in the US to come. They smuggled Shyima with them. She was around 10. They had 2 older daughters (teens), a daughter Shyima's age and two younger twin boys. Shyima was their only servant they brought to the states.

A day in her life: wake up on her own before dawn in her tiny garage room. Knock on door to be let in (since it was locked) to even be able to use a bathroom. Then she'd get the twins up, iron their clothes for school, wake the 10 year old daughter, iron her clothes for school, make breakfast and lunch for the 3 younger kids and get them off to school. Ask the older girls "What can I do for you?" and iron their clothes, make them a breakfast of coffee, orange juice, cereal, eggs and bacon. Bend to their every whim of requests to re-iron clothes, find purses and keys, etc. Clean kitchen, bathroom, office. The Mom and the Dad would wake up around noon, she would then have to draw a bath from The Mom, then vacuum and dust two living spaces that were never used. Then clean all the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms. Go next door to where a family member of The Mom's lived and clean THAT house top to bottom. Come home, get snack ready for younger kids, start cooking dinner. Serve dinner, get younger kids ready for bed by turning down their beds (that she had made that morning), laying out PJs and even putting toothpaste on the boys' toothbrushes! If the boys were late for bed, or didn't listen to her to go to bed, SHE would get in trouble for them not getting to bed on time, not them. Then she would finally be able to eat her one and only meal-whatever was leftover from the family's dinner. She often didn't even drink water during the day. She'd have to clean up the kitchen and the house long after the rest went to bed. Sometimes she'd be up as late as 4am only to get up and do it again in a couple hours. The one thing we can be grateful for is that she was not sexually molested during any of this period of time. The only time she had issues with that was some of her older brothers in Egypt when she lived with her family. Her clothes were not allowed to be washed in their washing machine, so she had to wash them in a bucket. They denied her medication when she was sick. When she started her period, The Mom said she didn't deserve to have good pads, so they bought her the cheapest thing available. They only spoke Arabic at home so she never learned English.

She has no idea who made a call about her to rescue her. But she is grateful. She gives you ideas on how to potentially spot a child or adult who is the victim of human trafficking. It was a LONG way for her to learn English, to become literate, and to become a citizen of the United States. She has come a long way in being able to trust people. I may not agree with the way she thinks about everything, but if I had gone through what she did, I am almost certain I would feel nearly identical to her. And she is definitely evolving as a person. I found a few interviews with her that I will post links too.

If you want a fresh perspective on life, read this book! I love how she says that these bad things need to be a memory not a present thing if you are to be able to live the life you want.




If you want a long one:

And one thing that I think is exceptionally incredible is that whoever Shyima's rescuer is has continued to remain anonymous. This person obviously does NOT care about getting ANY fame or glory for doing the right thing. I could understand giving an anonymous tip until you knew for sure that something was wrong. False accusations to CPS can be crippling to an innocent person, so no one wants to be on the wrong end of a false accusation. But once it came to light that it WAS a bad situation, to never come forward and claim that you were responsible for setting her free, I like to think that it shows that the motives for this person were pure.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Artemis Fowl The Eternity Code (#3)

Another fast paced adventure!

I enjoyed this installment and particularly liked Artemis' character development. I also enjoyed the point made in this novel that we are who we are because of what we experience and what we remember. Kinda falls back on the "What Alice Forgot" line of thinking. Artemis underestimates himself and his opponent. This gets him in a VERY sticky situation and he calls on the People for help. In return for one last epic help-he agrees to be mind wiped at the end of it all.

He does warn them that he is worried he will physiologically revert back to who he was before he had all the experiences with the People. Well, "worried" is a loose term meaning that Artemis wants THEM to worry about it enough to not rob him of the memories he has grown to really like-and potentially profit from.

But it does bring to light the fact that we are VERY complex beings. And no one factor can truly dominate how and why we make the choices we do. It's a mixture of personality, knowledge, mistakes, successes, failures, being wronged, being supported, being rewarded, moral values-and our level of understanding and/or commitment to those moral values, levels of personal endurance and probably a whole lot more!

My nearly 10 year old and I had a good conversation about the enemy in this book, Jon Spiro, and what the ramifications of owning/controlling TV and media. Spiro states that if he had the wealth and technology he wanted, he could most importantly control TV and the world. So we talked about how the dissemination of information is vital to being able to have an informed and educated opinion. We talked about countries who give VERY one sided information to their citizens (i.e. N. Korea, China, Middle East, etc.) and how they have certain opinions simply for lack of being able to have access to another side of the story. And how that happens even on a smaller scale in America, based on the political leanings of those in control of the network channels. It was a great side discussion that I hope starts bringing awareness to my daughter about the importance of seeking out ALL the information-and trying to find objective information when possible-before coming to a conclusion of how you feel about a certain situation or issue.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty

Oh. My. GOODNESS. This was a FABULOUS book! I could not put it down. From page one-a dream-like sequence where Alice is waking up from a head injury.....to a life she has no idea she's living. She has lost 10 years of her memory and thinks she is pregnant with her first child. This resonated with me quite a bit because if I had a head injury today and lost the last 10 years of MY life, I would be pregnant with my first child as well.

It's told from the perspective of Alice, from her sister Elizabeth in her "homework" journal entries to her counselor, and from their adopted Grandmother Frannie in her letters to a man named Phil. I loved all the perspectives and I think it really pieced the story together nicely.

You are completely confused-you are right along with Alice in her inability to understand anything going on. She wakes in the hospital to find out that she and her husband are separating and she has no idea why. WHY would they separate? They are madly in love! They had a baby together (she has a whole FAMILY she can't remember). But without the experiences of the last decade of her life to form her current opinion, she looks at everything differently. The way she parents is different; the years of having kids haven't worn her down, which help her to have a better relationship with them, I think. It's SO funny, when she realizes that she doesn't know their routines, she wonders when they should go to bed and what she ought to pack them for lunch, for instance. She has to ask her kids what usually makes her upset. Talk about taking a step back!

Anyhow, I can't write a ton without giving everything away, but this book also deals with situations such as infertility and how it affects people (one quote was "We'd done all those things that people with children seem to miss so passionately"), lost love, death, grieving, real friends vs. fake ones, the affects of husbands working hard and not being present (but caught up needing to make the money their wives insist on having to spend), and keeping up with the Jones', who to handle other's situations, ("I don't know why I did it, except that I understand now that desperate, clumsy desire to make people feel better-even when you know perfectly well that nothing will."). However, my FAVORITE lesson here is the role that forgetting MUST play in order to forgive. Not necessarily erase from your memory, but the ability to look back to BEFORE an incident occurred to remember how you felt about a person before they did something to wrong you, pretend it never happened and contemplate your reaction. Then, remembering those good feelings, look at the reality, the wrong, and then choose to forgive them even though you know what they did and how it made you feel. The phrase "forgive and forget" doesn't necessarily mean to me that you actually forget the incident as if you had it wiped from your memory. One quote I LOVED was: "It was good to remember that for every horrible memory from her marriage, there was also a happy one. She wanted to see it clearly, to understand that it wasn't all black, or all white. It was a million colors."

I also really liked how believable things were with her amnesia and the memory coming back. For instance, muscle memory. When she goes to the computer and needs to enter a password for her profile, she rests her hands on the keyboard and her fingers automatically type in the password (which she thinks is the strangest password, WHY would her password be THAT???"). And that when she remembers things, it's usually because of a smell that throws her back in time. Studies have shown that sense of smell is most strongly linked to our memories than any other sense we have. My science teacher in high school once told us of a study where they gave people something to smell and though none of the adults could identify it, they all said it reminded them of playing outside as a child. The scent turned out to be some pheromone that ants secrete, so it would make sense that people as kids paying outside in the dirt would have been exposed to it completely unaware.

I also thought about taking a step back in parenting. It's apparent that Alice and her older daughter probably haven't seen eye to eye in years. She is very sullen and doesn't respond to who Alice has become (albeit probably from years of parenting!), but as amnesia Alice meets her oldest daughter and finds way to make her smile, she realizes things about her daughter that she probably had overlooked having "been there" the whole time verses looking at her through new lenses. I could probably benefit from doing that.....try to see my kids as other people see my kids, even though I KNOW they have faults and quirks that drive me nuts that these other people don't see, it would benefit me to try to choose to see only the good in more instances than I currently do.

I DO have to warn you that there IS some foul language, including the F-bomb every now and again (only used in extreme anger, not as a casual everyday piece of vocabulary, like the way swear words were used in "Fangirl" that I wasn't a fan of), and discussion of extra-marital relationships (no details). However, if you view it from these people's perspective, it is REAL dialog used and real behaviors of our day and if I didn't know any better, I might react in exactly the same way. I feel the lessons learned overshadowed the incidents. If I could, because of that, I would give this book 4.5 stars, but Goodreads doesn't do half star ratings, so I did give it a 5.

I can't wait to read more from this author!


The tone of this book is HILARIOUS as well. For instance, when Alice has to help a child with homework "(She'd actually groaned when she saw the number of worksheets Tom had pulled out from his bag the other night, which wasn't very parental of her)," and contemplative: "She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship with Nick was the ultimate, the feeling they'd always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, after you've seen the worst and the best-well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Traitor's Wife, Alison Pataki

Holy WOW! What a debut novel! Some of the most riveting Historical Fiction I've read. I am DEFINITELY going to seek out more Allison Pataki books in the future-especially as she's chosen Historical Fiction as her genre of choice.

The other thing I found absolutely FASCINATING is that this is the SECOND Historical Fiction piece I've read about the exact same historical event. The first being "Sophia's War" by Avi. The first historical fiction book I read with my older daughter to introduce her.

What was intriguing about juxtaposing both of these is that it was the maid who made privy the information that a betrayal was going on. Sophia, if I remember correctly, from the New York front, as she was recruited to be a spy posing as a maid to John Andre, and in this one, Clara, the ladies maid to Miss. Peggy Shippen Arnold. What is striking is that in both accounts, the fatal flaw was that they assumed their help to be of such a simple mind that they couldn't possibly understand what was going on; either that or they overestimated the loyalty such a person of help could have. The upper class was so high as to believe that out of their magnanimity, they provide their servants with food, shelter and employment, and in return they brazenly expect loyalty. Or at the very least, they expect their hired help to agree with their political sentiments. But in both cases, the hired help were greatly underestimated. Sophia by her agreement to be a spy and Clara by her free will as a person who wants freedom-and who is, in fact, a very smart person with morals and integrity.

So this story, is, as you may have surmised, told by Clara, Peggy's maid from the time she was 18 years old. She is at the height of Philadelphia society and the most sought after beauty. A loyalist through and through, youngest child of Judge Shippen who also has him wrapped around her little finger. She's used to getting what she wants, and sources after her death strongly suggest that it was she who orchestrated the treachery that was to be handing over West Point and even perhaps General Washington's life. Of course, nothing is simple and Benedict Arnold was certainly wronged on many accounts and appears that he was kind of a difficult personality to deal with as well. I absolutely loved reading the section at the end that talked about what was fact and what was fiction. I TOTALLY want to read some of the non-fiction books she read as preparation for writing this novel! This is truly only of those salacious stories that are so crazy it probably all reads more like fiction than reality.

And if you aren't familiar with the story of the Revolutionary War enough to know about Benedict Arnold and his betrayal-you should get yourself familiar with it! Kudos to the real people in history who uncovered this plot. Otherwise, it is quite likely that we never would have had a United States of America.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Septimus Heap, Angie Sage

This book (series) came recommended by a friend, so I got it on my Kindle and couldn't put it down! Adventure, secrets, intrigue, good vs. evil.

You get just enough information about the world around you to sort of figure out where and when you are, but not quite enough for my taste. I kept wanting MORE so I could try to place my mind where they are at in terms of technology etc. Of course, there was something that I figured out about halfway through and it BUGGED THE HECK  out of me that NO ONE ELSE in the book had figured it out! I felt like it was brazenly obvious. But maybe that's how life is; we can't see what is obvious because we are in the middle of it (no doubt with emotions and other distractions), but if we were to write out a current situation in prose, from the point of an observer or narrator other than ourselves, it would become painfully obvious.

I've got a long line of other books that I need to finish before I can continue on in this series, so while it was extremely captivating, it isn't like some other series where I just HAVE to stop everything and read the next one before I go to anything else. Overall, I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.