Sunday, June 26, 2016

Divine Collision

Gash, Jim. Read by Brandon Batchelar. Divine Collision: An African Boy, An American Lawyer, and  Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom. Oasis Audio. 2016. Audiobook.

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Summary (from Oasis Audio, publisher)
"Jim Gash’s comfortable life as a Los Angeles lawyer and law professor nearly ensured that he and Henry, a Ugandan boy languishing in prison for two murders he didn’t commit, would never meet. Henry was losing hope and prayed for a sign from God. Halfway around the world, Jim listened to best-selling author of Love Does, Bob Goff, encourage lawyers to use their legal training to help imprisoned children in Africa. Jim felt an irresistible urge to respond to this call. Little did Henry know, his prayer had been answered.
Divine Collision tells the first hand, true story of how Jim and Henry, separated not only by an ocean and thousands of miles, but also differing cultures and life experiences, inspired justice reform for an entire country. Divine Collision is a fast-paced thriller and will keep you listening, wanting to know what happens next for Henry and Jim."

My Thoughts
This is another dual narrator story, but for this audiobook, it seems there truly are two different readers (even though I can only find the one name listed as reader). Jim Gash begins his story, and then Henry, with a Ugandan accent, inserts his. The book flips back and forth. At first, this bothered me. Why was this happening?, but as I got into the story, it was perfect. Jim would stop and then Henry would pick up. I smiled in several parts as I enjoyed the humor. I also felt my blood pressure rise with both anticipation & frustration of what was going to happen next, especially to Henry.

I didn't realize how fresh this story was--literally some of written last year.

I was glad that SYNC included a faith-based story. I know I listened to one earlier this summer that dealt a little with faith, but this story was more direct about having a relationship with God and how prayer truly can make a difference in a situation (or how prayer can bring peace to an uncertain situation). I could hear both Jim and Henry's faith.

Some of the story seemed a little too "feel good" for me, but I did enjoy listening and bringing my attention to a cause that I didn't know much about before this story. I also found myself looking at the Country reports database to learn more about Uganda.

Starfish story--I liked the parallel of this story and think that American often think of ourselves as the "savior" of the world--that we can swoop in, fix everything, and then go back to our regular lives. I was glad to hear what Jim had to say towards the end of the book about his starfish and Henry.

The story ended as I hoped, but I didn't know until the epilogue. With the absurdity of the country's laws, I wasn't sure until the proclamation was read.

Also, after the content of the book, there is a short biography of Jim Gash. It is funny how God uses us, (or a "twin family") even when the way is not what we expect.  In 2010, Gash traveled to Uganda thinking it would be a quick trip, and he'd help a few people. After meeting Henry, his life was flipped. Gash visited Uganda numerous more times and is slated to become a Ugandan citizen this year.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Words in the Dust

Product Details
Reedy, Trent. Read by Ariana Delawari. Words in the Dust. Scholastic Audio, 2012. Audiobook.
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Summary (from audiobook overview)
"Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her—'Inshallah,' God willing.
Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to her village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha—but can she dare to hope they'll come true?"
I also want to include this from AudioFile Review 
"This story, written by a former American soldier, features an Afghan girl named Zulaikha who dreams of learning to read, marrying well, and living a peaceful life. Narrator Ariana Delawari reads with a slight lisp to reflect Zulaikha’s cleft palate. Delawari’s narration strongly conveys the timidity and strength Zulaikha has developed from living with this defect, the constant hard work of her life, and the loss of her mother when she was very young. Moving fluidly between English and Dari, as does the story itself, Delawari’s performance captures Afghan customs and the challenges of rebuilding a society that has lived so long with war and oppression. This insightful and moving production concludes with interviews with the author and the narrator. A.F. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine"

My Thoughts

I bumped this up on the list to listen to because there was a downloading glitch, and I wanted to make sure I had the entire book (good thing I listened, as indeed, I didn't have the entire book downloaded).

This is Zulaikha's story (a young girl in Afghanistan). She deals with hardships. Even though the story is grim in places, I did find laughable moments. This book just gives me another layer of learning about Afghanistan and Afghan culture.

There are 22 chapters. The narrator did a great job creating different voices for the characters. I appreciated the theme of education being so important. I couldn't help but think of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which I taught a few summers ago to Upward Bound students. I know about the controversy with that book, but what I still agree with is the theme that NO ONE can take away your education! I liked that Zulaikha was not only learning letters and words, but she was also learning about her mother and comes to understand her step-mother.

I'm so glad that I made sure I had all of the files on the download. I would have missed part 7, which is the end of the story, of course, but there were also two "interviews" included by Trent Reedy, the author, and Ariana Delawari, the reader. I enjoyed both "behind the book" conversations and perspectives they give. It really completed the story (and I wondered if these are included in the print version).

This book is more a "middle grade" read than high school partly because of the age of Zulaikha and partly because of the simplification of the "hard issues" involved with the story.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Sin Eater's Daughter

Salisbury, Melinda. Read by Amy Shiels. The Sin Eater's Daughter. Scholastic Audio,  2015. Audiobook.

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Summary (from audiobook overview):
"Sixteen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, no one speaks to her. No one even looks at her. Because Twylla isn't a member of the court. She's the executioner.

As the goddess-embodied, Twylla kills with a single touch. So each week, she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love her. Who could care for a girl with murder in her veins? Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to her touch, avoids her.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose playful smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and sees the girl, not the goddess. Yet a treasonous romance is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies--a plan that requires an unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?"

My Thoughts
At first, I didn't think I'd get into this book. The author's voice was accented (Irish? Scottish, perhaps?), and I could tell pretty quickly that it was going to be a fantasy read. I just didn't know if I was in the mood for that after listening to Vivian Apple's story. But, I stuck it out and listened. I did catch my mind wandering off and having to back up the book (I was listening) to rehear what I'd zoned out hearing.

My notes as I listened. You might want to skip these and go on down to the line break if you don't want the book spoiled.  As I'm listening, I'm not sure of spelling.--side note: found spellings on the author's web page. HOORAY!

Queen Helewys--evil!
Merek-is Prince (Queen's biological son)

Unspoken pact--ladies cannot become pregnant if the queen cannot. Queen sentences Loreal (sp?); King pardons and then kneels before Queen (unprecedented!).

Lief (new guard)--was to inherit land, father died, ended up at castle

"We must be ghosts. That's how we stay alive in this castle"--Twylla to Lief

Lief kisses her and she doesn’t die!
she is questioning what is truth—doesn’t drink the vial of mornings bane (poison) at The Telling to prove she’s Daunen embodied 

King is now “ill”—Twylla confronts Merek and he asks who she’s been talking to—

T's "victims" poisoned beforehand—drops of Oleander in their last meal (Merek confesses)—Tyrek knew it wasn’t Twylla—planned to tell her, so he was killed

“people need something to believe in”—hope. 
Twylla is a symbol--had to make people believe new queen is divine to take the thrown
Queen & King pretended Twylla was a tribute to gods

“Why would the man I’m to marry let me think I’m a killer?”-Twylla

Tregellans know MUCH about apothecary—they would know about a poison that kills to the touch..

Tregellans believe in oak, holly gods (Lief doesn’t believe in any gods)…some people just need gods to believe in 

Twylla admits that she’s in love with Lief 

come up with plan to escape—will let Merek think Twylla will be part of the rouse on the kingdom

Lief and Twylla have sex (implied)

Queen poisons King—wants to marry son (UGH!!!)

Queen accuses Tregellan (Lief?) of killing King

Sin Eater slows down the eating of King’s sin—shows her power (including over the Queen)
Twylla finds out sister died two harvests ago

Twylla realizes that she’s never asked about sister—wanted to leave mother’s house so she wouldn’t be sin eater
says she “deserves” to stay her as punishment—she’ll become the queen (as punishment of sorts)

“I will take the one thing she values and she will know what it means to suffer!” Twylla’s thoughts

Lief returns—Queen “catches” them after sex 
Queen has two sons—one by birth and one by inheritance (land/kingdom)

Merek learns of betrayal (he comes in and Queen tells him). Merek is confused, disbelieving

Twylla remembers story of piper—queen summoned Bringer—guess I should have paid more attention to the piper’s story Lief told Twylla. Twylla is figuring out Queen’s motive and tells Merek.  Bringer is son of Sleeping Prince—medallion is not filed like Queen said—
she wants own alchemist—to make gold and finance war with Tregellan 

MEREK BELIEVES HER! Calls for “trial” and Twylla is a witness. Calls Queen out on the entire lie of Daunen embodied. 

Queen says Merek needs her to control the Bringer. 

Queen says “how & why did Lief get here”?

Chapter 23-Lief explains that Queen hired him to seduce Twylla, his real backstory—OH MY! 

Merek still wants Twylla. She wants to think on this and make sure that SHE wants this.  

Lief tries to say that we would have told her truth…he would have run with Twylla and he loves her. “He went back and forth” with Twylla—when he saw Merek kiss her, Lief realized that he loved her
story stops and leaves room for sequel 

Epilogue: “wrap, tap, tap”…who is knocking? 

This concept of the "sin eater" is interesting and sprinkled through the story. It made me think of the many lessons we learn about people through our customs.

I'm glad to have listened to this because I wouldn't have pronounced the names correctly. I would say /twi la/ for /twill a/, for example. 

Some words I had to look up to see the spelling since I wasn't reading the actual book:
Lormere-land/realm where Twylla lives 
Daunen-goddess (ok, "a child of gods, but not a goddess herself"-Twylla to Lief)
Tregellan (a science-minded democracy)
I never did find the best friend that Twylla killed early in the book. It starts with a "T" I think. 

While researching, I read some reviews through Titlewave (my book vendor) and found this: 

"Twylla's mother is a Sin Eater, one who eats symbolic foods of the deceased person's sins at their grave site;
Salisbury's concept is not new: Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me (HarperCollins, 2011) and Kristin Cashore's Graceling (Houghton Harcourt, 2008) have similar heroines with tactile killing powers. However, her luscious world-building and mythology make this fantasy a worthy read. Twylla is strong and sensible, and teen fans of royal intrigue titles will be rooting for her.-Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted."
I thought this part interesting, since I recently finished Graceling. Yes, I can see some parallels between the two stories. Interesting timing. I am always amused when it seems my reading connects. 

Ok, when I saw that I only had 8 minutes left to listen, I was afraid that 1. my download wasn't complete or 2. the story was going to drop and leave me waiting for a sequel--the second option happens. 
Here's something I found on the author's website that I thought was good (
"I thought I was writing a fairytale; a girl in a tower who falls in love at the wrong time. A wicked queen, and a handsome prince and a damsel in distress. It’s a tale as old as time, and one we all know. Sin eater  cover share
And I did write that. All of those things are in the book. What I didn’t realise until the end was that it was also a story about emotional abuse. Control. Manipulation, lies, and threats. Neglect. Growing up in a loveless environment. Being taken advantage of. Being used.

In writing about a girl who is trapped by her heritage, and her abilities, and her gender, I wrote about a girl discovering who she is, and what she wants, in a world that’s never considered she may be anything more than what it decides for her. I thought I was telling a story about a caged bird who longed to be freed. And I was. but it was also more. Darker. Less palatable. Twylla’s story might be fiction, but for a lot of girls it isn’t."
Yes, I agree. This is a fairy tale story that we all know, but yet it isn't. The author puts a name pronunciation guide on her website (I should have looked at her site sooner). Also on the author's website, I learned that this book may come "alive" on television. I hope the author gets to help create this version of her story.