The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Book Review: Broken Glass Park May 7, 2010

For those of you who don’t know, I also review fiction for the website It’s a great website with reviews for many different genres, author interviews and all kinds of fun stuff. Recently I reviewed the book Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky and translated by Tim Mohr. Talk about a powerful read! If you want the full review just click here.


Multicultural Discussions with an All-Blond Preschool Class February 23, 2010

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 12:42 pm
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It was Sunday school on Valentine’s Day. The topic was the fact that Jesus loves everyone. The characters were Jesus and Matthew and Matthew’s tax collector friends.

The major challenge: find a way to show a classroom of blond-haired, blue-eyed children how there are so many different kinds of people in the world.

Clearly, looking at our class where I have the darkest hair, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of first-hand examples, so I decided to make a trip to the library. I could have gone to the one in Lowell, but I knew the one between my work and home was significantly larger, so it gave me hopes that I would more likely be able to find something to help me out.

Walking into the children’s section at the library was incredibly overwhelming. Where was I supposed to find a book with photos of lots of different kids in between Angelina Ballerina and Walter the Farting Dog?

I walked to the front desk, and I talked to the librarian at the counter. She told me that our libraries are trying to place an emphasis on multicultural awareness, so there should be something for me. She then asked how old the kids were. I said between two and five.

“Sadly,” she said, “we have decided to make the program cover everyone except preschool age because no one makes multicultural books for preschoolers.” How disappointing. (As I look back, I think it’d be a great area to market, but at the time, all I could think about was how irritated I was.)

She then directed me to the children’s librarian, who directed me to a couple books, but they didn’t have a variety of people in any one of them. She seemed annoyed with me when I said, “Are there any books with less painted pictures?” She eventually found the perfect book with a ton of National Geographic pictures in it (everything from a kid herding cows in Africa to Amish kids playing ball in Pennsylvania).

The following Sunday we continued to learn about how there were differences between us and other people in the world by what we ate. I brought in tortilla chips, rice (with chopsticks) and bananas. I was impressed that the two oldest were able to use their chopsticks pretty well. We also talked about how a missionary is someone who tells people in other countries that Jesus loves them and sometimes they make sure the other people have a Bible in their language. As always, it was a thrill to see the excited looks on each of the children’s faces when they heard all of this.

For all that learning those kids have been doing, they somehow managed to associate the word “Europe” with “syrup.” But that’s preschoolers for you.


2009 Books In Review January 5, 2010

Last year, in my own personal blog, I wrote lists of three of this and three of that about 2008. I’ve decided against that this year.

One thing I have continued from 2008 through 2009 was my goal to read 10,000 pages in completed books (excluding children’s books, which have been too numerous to count) within one year.

Inspired by the similar goals of my friend Rachael Clanton, I started at January 1, 2008, and on December 31, 2009, I had reached about 9, 500 pages. I had missed it by one book. How disappointing.

So, I have decided to renew the goal. This isn’t a New Year’s “resolution”, just a goal to accomplish by next New Year’s.

This year, I was not nearly as successful, but I have enjoyed the books I read. One way to motivate myself has been to always read a book before seeing a movie based on it. As a result, I’m sure you’ll recognize a lot of the books I’ve read this year as major movies that have been released.

Another way I’ve managed to motivate myself to read new books is by following along with the Schindlers’ book club. While I might not drive all the way to Chicago every month to attend, I’ve attempted to read many of the books. (That was probably a good thing, as it took me two months to read October’s book.)

As 2009 came to a close, I must admit: I only read about 2/3 of my goal this year, 6,179 pages. I’ve read many more incomplete books and magazines, but I only included completed books.

Considering I haven’t yet met my goal, I am going to try again this year. Perhaps I’ll manage 10,000 in 2010? Who knows? I’ve already completed my first book.

Maybe this next year I should require that they are all in large print so that I can multiply pages faster. Hmmm.

I’ve also recently discovered the BBC book club. (My dear friend Katie sent me a link letting me know that John Irving would be on and discussing my favorite of his books, A Prayer for Owen Meany.) I might try to follow along with that book club as well, but that might be a bigger stretch.

Please suggest any for this following year if you know of any I might like in particular. Thanks to anyone who may have suggested one I’ve read this year.

Here is the list of the books I completed in 2009:

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
  • He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
  • New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
  • Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
  • Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
  • A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth
  • Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Blind Dates Can Be Murder by Mindy Starns Clark
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • The World as I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin by Rich Mullins

My list from 2008:

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Baudolini by Umberto Eco
  • Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (twice)
  • Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Pirsoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • REVEAL by the WCA
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Why do we read? September 14, 2009

Filed under: Life in General,Writing — ashleybarrett @ 12:44 pm
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I just finished a great book and am freshly reminded of the thrill from diving into a story and letting it move you, letting yourself care about the people and their world. But aside from the sheer pleasure of reading,  I feel like it also enhances my understanding of God, myself, people and places. Reading gives me a fuller and more examined life.

Here are some quotes from other authors about what reading gave to them:

“We read to know we are not alone.”

-C.S. Lewis

When I look back, I am so impressed again
with the life-giving power of literature.
If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of
myself in the world, I would do that again by reading,
just as I did when I was young.
~ Maya Angelou ~

Books are standing counselors and preachers, always at hand,
and always disinterested; having this advantage over oral instructors,
that they are ready to repeat their lesson as often as we please.
~ Oswald Chambers ~

All good books are alike in that they are truer
than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one
you will feel that all that happened
to you and afterwards it all belongs to you;
the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.
~ Ernest Hemingway ~

What about you, what does reading give to you?


The End September 3, 2009

Filed under: Life in General,Writing — michellehuegel @ 3:27 pm
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And they all lived happily ever after... The End

Reaching the end of a book holds an exquisite sort of sadness for me. After finishing the last page, I’ll mope around in a funk for an hour or so – for a particularly good book it might even last a day. The better the book, the longer and deeper this odd depression lasts.

Now if the book is part of a series, I may skip this funk entirely in favor of immediately finding and beginning the next book. I love series – they delay the end! Unfortunately, it just all saves up and hits me when I finish the last book of the series. I may rail against the author and life in general for a good two days at the end of a great series (Harry Potter, anyone?).

Although I’ve never tried drugs, I imagine this might be a tiny bit of what it feels like to come down from a high. Just after you’ve crested the peak of exhilaration (the hero got the girl! they saved the world! everyone lives happily ever after!), comes the cold reality that this is not real life. My brief, glorious departure from reality has ended. This is the end of the line, please exit the train in an orderly fashion.

I bet I’m not the only one out there who reads books to escape from real life. That’s partly why I like fantasy and science fiction, because if I’m going to escape, I may as well go all the way! The problem is I’ve flown so far from the ordinary, riding the wings of an author’s imagination, that it’s hard to land. Some days I wish I could discover my secret magical ability and conjure a spell to fix my troubles, or be told that I’m really the long-lost heir to Fill-in-the-blank Kingdom. Then I could issue a royal decree to fix my troubles.

When I was younger I’d pretend that the book didn’t end, and I (as the heroine, of course) would go about practicing my magic spells or riding my new horse (I loved horse books too). But inevitably, the spells didn’t work, and the horse’s wheel would go flat, and I’d be left with real life.

Real Life sucks.

On the other hand, my Real Life includes a few pretty magical things–a handsome prince who (occasionally) does the dishes and gives me backrubs, a gorgeous baby boy whose smiles and coos are worth more than any castle, a family who loves and appreciates me, and cool friends I can both laugh and cry with.

Maybe my life isn’t a fantasy storybook, but it isn’t a horror novel either.