What’s Ashley Reading?: Becoming

Did you know that you can pick up voter registration forms and applications for advance voting ballots here at the library?  The elections are over but the forms are available all year round.  Just ask at the front desk. 

I do not follow politics very closely but I know that it is important to vote.  No matter who you are voting for it is your right and a way to help serve your country.

Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, in her recent best selling book gives us a peek into her life in and out of the White House.  One of my favorite parts was that she focused on herself and her family rather than politics.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

First line: When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple.

Summary: In her memoir, former First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story from her childhood in the south side of Chicago to her years living in the White House. It is filled with stories of her family, career, and her life in the public eye.

Highlights: I absolutely loved this. The cover is beautiful. Her story is inspirational. Other reviewers have stated that it felt like having a conversation with a close friend. I felt the same way. I listened to the audiobook version where Michelle reads it herself. She is very open about her life.

I enjoyed hearing her stories of her family life in Chicago. I learned so much about her inside these pages. I knew very little about her. I do not follow a lot of politics. That was not my motivation behind reading this. I genuinely just wanted to hear her story. I am awed by her life. She grew up in an environment that is completely foreign to me. She is an intelligent and driven woman. It really shows that you can go from very poor beginnings to becoming one of the most recognizable women in the world.

Some of my favorite parts were her years in the White House. Upon one of their first visits to the Presidential home the Bush sisters showed them around and pointed out the fun parts of the mansion. As part of her role as First Lady she takes on several causes to support. She discusses her goals to help children around the country. The initiative to bring healthier meals to schools started with her own child. Michelle ended up starting a vegetable garden on the lawn of the White House. Local school children came in to help plant and take care of it.

No matter which side of the political universe you are on this book is about a woman. A woman who set goals for herself and achieved them.

“And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in.  Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.  Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same.”

Lowlights: Nothing.

FYI: Listen to the audiobook. It is 19 hours but it is worth it.  We do not have a hard copy at the moment but you can find it on Sunflower eLibrary and RBDigital. But you also need to see the pictures so grab a copy of the book as well.  If you enjoyed this, check out Sisters First by Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager.

Book Review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

First line: Clara Darden’s illustration class at the Grand Central School of Art, tucked under the copper eaves of the terminal, was unaffected by the trains that rumbled through ancient layers of Manhattan schist hundreds of feet below.

Summary: For Clara, a struggling artist and illustration teacher, Grand Central School of Art is a stepping stone in the hopes of greater things to come. She has dreams of working for Vogue as an illustrator. By moving to New York City, she left behind everything but so far, things have not turned out the way she had planned.

After her divorce, Virginia Clay has been trying to figure out how to support herself and her daughter after spending years as the wife of a powerful attorney. When she gets a job at Grand Central Terminal in the information booth, she does not realize how much it will change her life. She discovers a watercolor behind a cabinet in the old art school and it leads her on search for the artist and the history of the terminal.

Highlights: I really enjoyed the character of Levon. He was fiery and temperamental. He portrays the iconic angsty artist. He had a rich back-story and little quirks that made him stand out. I wish that he were a real person so I could see some of the work that Davis describes in her novel.

The descriptions of Grand Central were amazing. Google is my best friend when reading historical fiction. I am always pausing my reading to search for pictures or more information about places and characters. It is sad that the terminal was in such bad shape in the 70s and that at one point it was going to be torn down. I have never traveled to NYC but I have seen the station at Kansas City and if it is half as pretty as that, it would have been a shame to lose it.

I have enjoyed the time jumps in Davis’ work. I think the thing that makes her work so great. She is able to switch between characters and time while keeping the flow of the story. I have not read her second book, The Address, yet but I am on hold for it now.

Lowlights: The beginning was a little slow to start. Davis gave us some background on the characters plus some information about the time. Then the speed of the relationships went very fast. I was a little shocked by Virginia early on but she grew on me as I continued to read. One scene in particular stood out between Virginia and Dennis.

FYI: If you like this try the novels of Susan Meissner.