Category Archives: Rachel

The Good, the Bad, and the Orange

A Higher Loyalty by James Comeyfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

35108805He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. — Thomas Jefferson

For someone who is not big on the memoir genre, I never expected to be this moved by one, nor to be here giving out a five-star rating to one. But we live in strange times, don’t we?

We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.

Let’s be honest, most of us are reading this book for the juicy bits about Trump and Hillary, but that comes later. Before that, we learn all about Comey’s childhood and the work that eventually led him to become director of the FBI. Usually, this is the part where I find my eyes glazing over sentences, bored if I were being honest, but not so with this book. It all adds dimension and color to Comey as an individual and the decisions he would come to later in life. Plus, talk about an interesting pastthe Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, Rudy Giuliani in his earlier years, and the Ramsey Rapist all make an appearance. Notably is his experience with bullies and the obvious connection to some people he has to deal with down the line. In contrast, he also discusses individuals who inspired him and showed him how true leadership behaves. I really enjoyed how Comey wrapped this discussion of leadership into his memoir.

Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world.

And then we get to the good, or rather, terrible stuff of Hillary and the whole email fiasco. By experiencing it in Comey’s shoes and knowing the past he was coming from, I was able to gain a whole new perspective on this moment in our nation’s history. I think it’s dangerous territory when we play judge and jury and pass judgments in ways we have no authority or expertise over. This book is important for everyone to read because it helps us avoid that line of thinking and helps us become more empathetic, focusing instead on why people may have behaved in the way they did. For someone who originally experienced a lot of anger over the way this investigation was handled, I feel much more at peace about it.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not partisan political tools. Lady Justice wears a blindfold. She is not supposed to peek out to see how her political master wishes her to weigh a matter.

And then Trump comes into the picture, and it’s like you can hear The Imperial March slowly rise in volume. Much like the Hillary drama, readers get fresh insight into this weird, creepy dance Trump and Comey had all before he got fired in such an unceremonious way. In all seriousness, I experienced a lot of emotions at this point in the bookthere was anger, fear, and at some points, tears. The radical shift in the way not just Obama but also Bush ran the White House…man, I mourned the loss of that all over again. I knew it was coming, but these chapters felt like the valley of despair. How on earth did we as a country get here? How on earth were we going to get out?

Without all those things—without kindness to leaven toughness, without a balance of confidence and humility, without empathy, and without respect for truth—there is little chance President Trump can attract and keep the kind of people around him that every president needs to make wise decisions. That makes me sad for him, but it makes me worry for our country. 

Even in the midst of all this, A Higher Loyalty ends on a very optimistic note. I was surprised to find myself, after all that came before, feeling both inspired and a little optimistic myself. I read the epilogue twice to remind myself that, though we are in the eye of the storm, all storms pass over. It’s true that this review is a far more personal/emotional one than most others, but I think it’s because this is that kind of book, and I think that shows its effectiveness in presenting its message. It inspires you to reach that higher loyalty and demonstrates what true ethical leadership can be. I hope that readers from both sides of the aisle will reach for this book, and will come out on the other side fighting for the values that make this country great.

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Quick Takes: Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

11387515Looks like I’m continuing my tradition of reading books after the hype has passed! What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? It really is one of those books that should be required reading, for children and adults alike. It is an uplifting story that makes you smile and believe the world can be a better place–who doesn’t need that?? All the characters in it were quite wonderful, and I enjoyed the narration from different viewpoints. Even with six narrators, the POV didn’t jump around too much, and I really think it added to the characters and the story as a whole. It’s a tale that’s full of both humor and wisdom, and the message comes across wonderfully without turning cheesy and cliché. It shows why we should choose kindness, to go out of your way to make someone else’s day a little brighter, and in turn not only help them but also ourselves. I can’t think of many other books that portray this so comprehensively, and for that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

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Quick Takes: Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

23602562This was a bittersweet little tale of two old widowers find each other at a time when loneliness lingers in the nights. I enjoyed this first foray into Haruf’s fictional town of Holt, Colorado, and think I may pick up some of his other books when I get the chance. I definitely appreciated this sweet little book as a short break from the hefty Les Mis. Haruf has that sparse, Hemingway style of prose, though, and unfortunately that doesn’t always work with me. I feel like the tale moves too quickly, and I’m not able to sit with the emotions as long as I’d like. Maybe I’ll just have to practice slowing down my reading pace. I also just found out Netflix came out with a movie about this book last year, so I may have to check that out!

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Quick Takes: The Humans

The Humans by Matt Haig (3.5)

16130537Some parts of this book were definitely a four, others a three, so I’m settling at a 3.5! The Humans is about an alien that comes to Earth in order to complete a somewhat heartless mission but ends up falling in love with the human race instead. The beginning of this book was quite hilarious as he acclimated to what life on Earth was all about, but it started to drag a little bit. The rest of the book settles into more of a heartwarming tale of becoming part of this family of his.

Although I thought it was a good story with a lot of clever observations on the human condition, the novelty of the story started to wear away and parts of it did start to drag. I also felt at times that I was being hit over the head with all those clever observations. It seemed like Haig was trying to cram all the ones he thought up into these pages without realizing that fewer well-placed ones could have a much more significant effect on the reader. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more had I not come off a five-star book that also had similar themes. Still, a fun quick read!

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Rachel’s Favorites of 2017!!


2017…oof, what a year. Let’s just leave it at that, kay? Now to focus back on books! Many books have been read by us as a collective this year. Between the three of us, we have read…105 books!!! Here we are to share with you some of our favorites from this past year!! These are not in any specific order for any of us, just as a heads up!

  1. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey: Though it took me a very long time to get through it, Sometimes a Great Notion is an amazing piece of American Literature! It was enjoyed all the more by starting it during my PNW vacation. If you love character-driven stories, ignore the seemingly boring summary and dive right in!
  2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer: I definitely did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did! Nonfiction isn’t usually my thing, but Krakauer does such a good job of laying out the story. Chris McCandless seems to be the deciding factor of who loves or hates this book, but I am 100% in the love it category.
  3. Schooled by Gordon Korman: This was probably a bigger surprise than Into the Wild! It was honestly the cutest story and I’m surprised it isn’t more popular. Schooled had an original concept and didn’t feel like a cliché middle school story–definitely an enjoyable read!
  4. Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon: this is like a more modern day On the Road with more traveling stories and less drugs. I’m honestly shocked to find two nonfiction books in my top five…maybe that’s something to consider for the coming year!
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Make that three out of the five are nonfiction–wow, 2017 really was a bizarre year. Still, this book is like way super important for people to read in this day and age. It’s by no means an easy one, but I think I agree with Toni Morrison when she calls it “required reading”.

There you have it! What were some of your favorite reads from 2017? 

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Survival is Insufficient

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”

I’m telling you; if you want to kick off the new year in that bright-eyed, optimistic, hope-against-all-hope mindset, read this book. It’s easy to see the past year as one giant burning heap of garbage, but books like this help remind me of all that we have to be grateful for. Apparently a book about the end of the world is just what the doctor ordered.

“Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. No one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no one removes fallen trees from electrical lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out.” Continue reading

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Quick Takes: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Listen; Neil Gaiman could write a book discussing different  procedures used in making primitive ceramics and I would eat it all up. This man can do no wrong and I freakin love him for it. He’s the kind of author you can turn to when you want the assurance of a good read.

The Graveyard Book is no different. It is fun, creative, and engaging from start to finish. It even has some Romanian representation (holla) that doesn’t even involve vampires or gypsies! I’ll take it. Fun fact: Miss Lupescu’s nickname for Bod–Nimeni–is Romanian for Nobody. And her last name hints at wolf (Lupu).  Though her heritage was never specified, well, now you know.

The only reason I’m not giving it a higher rating is because at times I wished I was reading the same story at an adult-level complexity. There is room for growth in this tale, and I would have loved it more had it not been for the childhood flavor of some parts of the story. Still, a good read from a great author!

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