Book Review #100: “Maritza: Lead with Your Heart” (World By Us)

The third book in the World By Us from American Girl was as equally compelling and thought-provoking as the other two.

As an American Girl collector, I wish I had the space for all of the community center items and accessories. It’s so colorful and fun!

I appreciated the fact that American Girl tackled immigration and deportation in this book. Like Evette’s and Makena’s books, it’s clear that this was well-researched and carefully crafted.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #99: “Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me” (World By Us)

After reading Evette’s book, I quickly moved to Makena’s book in the World By Us collection from American Girl.

Makena loves fashion, and posts her #OOTD (outfit of the day). I love how expressive she is!

Similar to Evette’s story, racism is a major theme in Makena’s story. Despite Makena’s struggles to come to terms with not one, but two incidents in her young life, I applaud American Girl for addressing both incidents in a thoughtful way. It definitely educated me.

It also encourages open communication between family members, and how talking about your feelings with someone that you can trust is so important.

Reading Makena’s story was another eye-opener for me, as a white woman, to how one phone call or one remark could very easily put someone else’s life at risk in an instant.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #98: “Evette: The River and Me” (World By Us)

I’m always up for new books from American Girl. When they announced the new World By Us line with three books, I was excited. I was able to get the books practically brand-new from a seller in the big American Girl Obsessed BST group that I’m a member of on Facebook.

The first book that I read is Evette’s book. She’s passionate about the environment. The book also addresses the pandemic, social media, and other real-life issues. Racism is one big topic that’s incorporated. I also love the community center that’s featured!

I read through the whole book in one night several months ago. Most American Girl books don’t take me long to read at all, but this one was also beautifully illustrated!

The interesting part about these books, and this line/collection, is that the characters are 13 years old, which is older than the typical target demographic for the company. I personally think this is a great thing, and it shows that American Girl is dedicated to diversity, inclusion, education, and other things.

Given that the target audience is quite a bit younger than myself, I had to put myself in the shoes of a 13-year-old while reading it.

I really appreciated how the author and the diversity team that is recognized in the book did their homework and tried to respectfully and carefully craft a story that was relevant and would potentially resonate with readers, families, and others.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #271: Twentieth TBR Recap

Image Credit: Mommy and the Books

Welcome back!

Here’s what I’ve read since my last TBR post:

  1. Elliott, T.E., Service and Slumber: A Historical Tale Inspired by Sleeping Beauty (The Beast’s Legacy Book 2) — Review coming soon!
  2. Oviatt, Didi, Sketch — Review coming soon!
  3. Skloot, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  4. Yee, Lisa, Lea Dives In

Removing from Laura Beth’s TBR

  1. Mlynowski, Sarah, I See London, I See France
  2. Owens, Delia, Where The Crawdads Sing

Laura Beth’s Updated TBR

  1. Bethell, CM, Forged in Fire Book Two – Ayden (The Guardians Series 2)
  2. Cervantes, Angela, Lead With Your Heart (World By Us series)
  3. Cullen, Dave, Parkland: Birth of a Movement
  4. Davis, Michael, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street
  5. Land, Stephanie, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive
  6. Macy, Beth, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America
  7. Patrick, Denise Lewis, See Me, Hear Me, Know Me (World By Us series)
  8. Rosen, L.C., Jack of Hearts (and other parts)
  9. Wyeth, Sharon Dennis, The River and Me (World By Us series)

So, my current TBR is nine (9) books.

Do you have a TBR?

What are you looking forward to reading next?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #269: My Favorite Things of 2021

Image Credit: Quote Master

So, before starting the lists of favorites, here’s my tally for books and Book Reviews for 2021:


Now, on to my favorites!

Favorite Books

Favorite Movies

  • Baby Driver
  • Beanie Mania (HBO Max)
  • Black Widow
  • Coming 2 America (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
  • Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (Disney+)
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife
  • Moxie (Netflix)
  • Noelle (Disney+)
  • Richard Jewell (HBO Max)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy (HBO Max)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • The Tomorrow War (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Without Remorse (Amazon Prime Video)

Favorite TV Shows

  • Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (HBO Max)
  • Black and Missing (HBO Max)
  • Cold Case – Seasons 1 – 7 (HBO Max)
  • Hawkeye (Disney+)
  • Head of the Class – Original Series (HBO Max)
  • Hoarders (YouTube)
  • LEGO Masters – Season 2 (Hulu)
  • Loki (Disney+)
  • LuLaRich (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Midnight Mass (Netflix)
  • Supermarket Sweep (YouTube)
  • Ted Lasso – Season 1 (Apple TV+)
  • The Baby-Sitters Club – Season 2 (Netflix)
  • The Muppet Show (Disney+)
  • WandaVision (Disney+)

Favorite Podcasts

  • 48 Hours
  • American Radical
  • Auld Lang Gone: The Lost Carmen Sandiego
  • Criminal
  • Cold – Season 2
  • Crimes of Passion
  • Dateline NBC
  • Embedded
  • Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera
  • Life After MLM
  • Mind Over Murder – Seasons 1 and 2
  • Operator
  • Over My Dead Body – Season 3
  • Suspect
  • The Thing About Helen and Olga
  • Up and Vanished – Season 3
  • Small Town Dicks
  • StoryCorps

Well, that wraps up my favorite things for 2021!

What about you? What were some of your favorite things of the year?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #97: “The Breach: Devon” (The Guardians Series Book One)

I met the author, C.M. Bethell, in a Facebook group for writers. She made a post that she was looking for readers, and I commented with interest. She messaged me, I gave her my address, and her first two books arrived on my doorstep very quickly a few months ago.

Thank you, C.M., for sending the books my way.


It took me a lot longer than anticipated to get into this book. I’m not a massive fantasy fan, never have been. However, once I got into Bethell’s first book, I started to appreciate it better. She’s a good world builder. I love the concept of the Guardians and how they are sworn to protect. And putting them on a modern Earth was cool to see.

—-

The incorporation of Gaelic is interesting, and great for world building. But it’s not my favorite thing. It really threw me in the beginning, and it was hard to follow throughout the book. It was almost distracting.

—-

I liked the portal concept and traveling between two worlds plot point immediately.

I also really liked, and was surprised by, the super slow burn romance between two of the characters. I wasn’t expecting that. It was surprising and refreshing. This was the biggest plot point that held my interest and moved the book along for me.

—-

The one thing that really slowed me down was I felt like I was reading several different books in this one book/arc. It was hard to keep up with the menagerie of characters, although from the title and blurb, it’s made clear that Devon is the main character. Or is he really?

Also, this first book is well over 400 pages. In one way, that’s impressive that this author wrote an almost 450-page book for the first one in a series. However, it also has a lot of drawbacks. I felt like this book was a freaking marathon and the finish line kept moving farther away. I kept putting it down and coming back to it days later, not wanting to or excited to power through it.

It’s almost too much detail, too much story, and it was exhausting sometimes to reach the end of one chapter. There are some chapters that are great and invigorating, and others are really boring and a slog to get through.

—-

I wanted to give this book more stars in terms of a rating, but I just can’t do it. I found myself enjoying the book less and less over time. There are chapters and moments that shine through, but as a whole it’s really long and a bit confusing. I think this one book could have easily been split into two full books as part of the series.

Despite my issues with the first book, I’m going to read and review the second book in the series. I hope to have that review posted here on the blog soon.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth

Book Review #96: “Lea Dives In”

American Girl books are great pick-me-ups! Whenever I’m in a reading slump or struggling to pick the next book, an American Girl book usually sets me right. I found Lea Dives In at my local library.

Lea was the Girl of the Year for 2016. I remember falling in love with the doll and her collection. And the books sounded magical – Traveling and seeing a new country? Yes, please!

Lea’s brother, Zac, is studying abroad in Brazil. Lea and her parents are going to spend a week there! Lea is excited, but also nervous and a bit sad. She’s grieving the recent loss of a dear family member, and she knows she’s changed since Zac left for college a few years earlier. It’s great how this book addresses multiple real-world challenges in less than 100 pages.

I loved Lea as a character, she reminded me of me around her age. I love the richness of the culture, too, and how the author paid attention to detail with mixing English and Portuguese, one of the languages spoken in Brazil. I’ve always appreciated that about American Girl in general – Both the historical and modern stories try really hard to educate readers on different cultures and time periods. There’s even a glossary in the back of the book with pronunciations!

I’m excited to read book 2 – Lea Leads The Way. There’s also a third book, Lea and Camila.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #258: Nineteenth TBR Recap

Image Credit: hippoquotes.com

Welcome back!

Here’s what I’ve read since my last TBR post:

  1. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (DNF)
  2. Gladwell, Malcolm, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference — Review coming soon!
  3. Hakesley, Faith, Glimmers of Grace: Moments of Peace and Healing Following Sexual Abuse — Review coming soon!
  4. King, Stephen, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  5. Rosen, L.C., Camp

Removing from Laura Beth’s TBR

  1. Thomas, Angie, The Hate U Give

Keep & Re-Classify – Laura Beth’s Updated TBR

  1. Cullen, Dave, Parkland: Birth of a Movement
  2. Elliott, T.E., Service and Slumber: A Historical Tale Inspired by Sleeping Beauty (The Beast’s Legacy Book 2)
  3. Mlynowski, Sarah, I See London, I See France
  4. Oviatt, Didi, Sketch
  5. Owens, Delia, Where The Crawdads Sing
  6. Yee, Lisa, Lea Dives In

Book Review #95: “Camp”

I fell in love with this book within the first few pages. I was enveloped into the world of Camp Outland, and I felt so sad when it ended and I had to say goodbye to Camp and the characters in it.

The way Rosen crafts his characters is amazing. They all have names, and personalities, and interests, but they could also be people that you know in your own life. That’s how real he makes them. I found myself coming up for air in my hammock on my porch a few weekends ago, not realizing I’d read 200 pages already.

The story of Del and his adventures at Camp are fun, silly, and amazing. The friends he’s met, and the one that he’s determined to fall in love with, are all unique and precious. I love the counselors, too, and their stories. To go along with Del on his quest is a wonderful journey with so many emotions wrapped up together. I laughed, I cried, and just adored this book.

I can’t wait to read it again. This will stay on my bookshelf forever. It’s marketed toward ages 14 and up, but I believe that everyone should read this book. There are so many real-life lessons that are wrapped up in this adorable love story, told at an amazing place that I think a lot of people wishes had existed many, many years ago in the real world.

Thanks to Mike Holtzclaw for another excellent recommendation.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #114: Viewpoints on Health – A Conversation with David Sheff

David Sheff, right, and his son, Nic. Image Credit: The New York Times

I had the opportunity to participate in a live-stream with the James Madison University (JMU) College of Health and Behavioral Studies and Mr. David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and the new book, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. This was presented in collaboration with Sentara Healthcare, and I learned about this opportunity as a Sentara employee. It was open to everyone, and was presented through Facebook and YouTube.

The structure of the event was a conversation between one of the JMU staff members and David Sheff. Before it started, the JMU staff members commented that “Sheff will share about his family’s experience with addiction. He will also report on findings from the years he spent investigating the disease of addiction and America’s drug problem.”


With David, his family’s experience with addiction was with his son, Nic. He was plagued with anxiety and depression. He was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, Nic’s first experience with drugs was marijuana at age 11.

Sheff emphasized that parents can’t do it all. They aren’t their child’s social worker, psychologist, counselor, etc. The sooner that parents intervene, the better.

One topic that came up was “tough love,” Sheff and his wife did not go that route with Nic. Sometimes, it’s successful, but a lot of times, it’s not successful.

Family also sometimes adds to the problem.

One of the best things that parents can do is ask for help, whether that be from a counselor, coach, teacher, or doctor. There are a lot of support groups online, too.


What is Addiction?

“Addiction is the only disease that lets our family members hit rock bottom.”

Addiction is a health problem, not a problem of morals. It’s not bad behavior, either.

It’s a brain disease. We don’t want people to get worse.

Sheff said, “I didn’t know rock bottom had a basement.”

Using the term “bottom” is dangerous.

There are alternatives that work.

For healthcare providers – People don’t want to be addicted. We need more people to be trained to recognize the warning signs. And it’s not just a need for healthcare providers. So many others should be trained as well – Coaches, clergy, teachers, counselors, parents, guardians, and more.


How to Help or Get Help

Early warning signs include isolation, sadness, depression.

Don’t talk to your child or children – LISTEN to them.

There’s also a great, significant need for psychological testing in the substance abuse treatment system. For Nic, he had not had any psychological testing in the 10 years that he’d been in treatment, and that was years ago. After he had the proper psychological testing, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and, more importantly, he hasn’t relapsed since then.

In terms of a healthcare system that treats disease, there simply aren’t enough providers.

“Diseases of despair”

There was a study conducted of pediatricians not too long ago. Nearly 70 percent of them couldn’t recognize a drug problem in a child.

In 2020, 80,000 people died from drug overdose.

Sharp increase: Isolation from lockdown. Also, drugs have normally/usually been social gatherings. Because of the isolation, no one was with them to call 911.

Money has been diverted form support programs to help with COVID-19.

Pharmacological: Brain disease, chemical issues.

Opioid addiction: Meds lower cravings.

Methadone and suboxone – These drugs help people function! It’s almost equivalent to cancer drugs.

Replace shame and guilty with knowledge and hope.

Irresponsible prescribing needs to stop. Educating professionals needs to increase. Not leaving people alone.

Medications must be monitored.

Teenagers: Opioids must commonly found / used in home medicine cabinets.

Identify stressors: It takes a village, support for everyone

Mental illnesses often go undiagnosed or not properly diagnosed, sometimes for years or decades.

Societal problems: No money, no food – Those things, and others, lead to violence. Also consider unemployment and abuse.

Be relentless: Make a million phone calls if you have to.

There have been successful Nurse-Family Partnerships, where a nurse is in consistent contact and communication with a family, offering support and medical assistance.

Teenage pregnancy is a significant factor, too.

A team that works together can help: Write resume, job interviews, proper nutrition, staying at a job.

Support includes making appointments, going to counseling sessions.

There needs to be an increase in and acceptance of harm reduction programs, community resources, needle exchanges.

There’s a JMU graduate who works for a needle exchange program in Tacoma, Washington.


I have not yet read either of Sheff’s books, but I plan to. See the links below for more information.


Resources

FRONTLINE | Chasing Heroin (2016) – Exploring what happens when addiction is treated like a public health issue, not a crime.

At George Floyd’s Treatment Center, Recovering Clients See Racism in Addiction Assumptions | FRONTLINE (2021)

Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) FAQs | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Methadone | MedlinePlus

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

What is Addiction? | American Psychiatric Association

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂