Monthly Book Review - March

Ah, March! I had a lot of book-ish things going on in March that prevented me from reading as much as I would have liked to. I know we can all relate to that. I was happy to attend the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association Conference and the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute as well as visit St. Mary's School in Portage, but that means my review list is much smaller for March. 

The stand out read for the month was a middle grade novel I had downloaded quite some time ago. Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana follows Armani Curtis who is turning ten the weekend Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans. All that Armani cares about is the party she’s been looking forward to for weeks, but things turn sinister when Hurricane Katrina changes course and heads straight for New Orleans. Armani and her family stay put in their Ninth Ward home, hoping things won’t get as bad as predicted. Of course, we know the area becomes flooded when a levee collapses. The rest of the book is a terrifying set of tragedies that kept me turning pages well after midnight. These events set us in a time and place with such a poignant story that I highly recommend this book for any age.


Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. All her friends are coming to her party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten is a big deal to Armani. It means she's older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm. A powerful story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the miraculous power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable.


My second recommended read is Syncopation: A Memoir of Adele Hugo by Wisconsin author Elizabeth Caulfield Felt. This was our Columbus Books & Beer book club pick, and it was a delight to talk with Felt about this novel. Adele Hugo was the daughter of French novelist Victor Hugo who wrote Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The novel is written in memoir form from the perspective of Adele but in third person, which gives it a unique format that enhances the intriguing content. Felt stays true to the major historical facts about Adele Hugo’s life—portraying her inability to fit within the expectations of women in 19th Century France. This is a fast-paced, surprising, and sometimes shocking look at a historical figure we don’t know much about. Highly recommended.


Writer. Composer. Seductress. Liar. In nineteenth-century France, a woman's role was explicitly defined: she was a daughter, then a wife, then a mother. This view was held by novelist and poet Victor Hugo, but not by his daughter, pianist and poet Adèle Hugo. Under such constraints, what's a woman of passion to do? Syncopation breathes life into the unconventional thoughts of this controversial female figure. An elderly Adèle recounts her desperate attempts to gain personal freedom. Her memoir blurs the fine line between truth and madness, in a narrative that is off-kilter, skewed, ...syncopated.


What have you been reading lately. I love getting recommendations!

"Never Did THIS Before" Challenge Update

The other thing that kept me away from reading in March was the Museum as Muse class I took at the Chazen Museum of Art on the UW-Madison campus through the Continuing Studies program. If you remember back to my “Never Did THIS Before” challenge, you might recall that the first of my challenges was taking this class to stretch my creativity. I had a blast using art as inspiration for the writing exercises we were assigned. My favorite one was not so much writing about the art I was viewing, but instead had me describing the experience of viewing a work of art as I took in the people and sounds around me. Great observational writing. I realize that I don't stop and really "see" things as much as I should. I hope this class is offered again. It truly had me thinking in a different creative way and sparked some new story ideas. So . . . "check" . . . March challenge complete!

For my April “Never Did THIS Before” challenge, I am taking a trip to a part of Spain that I’ve never been to before – Andalusia. I can’t wait to see some of the Holy Week processions as my husband and I tour Seville, Granada, and Cordoba. I promise to share what I am seeing and learning here on the blog next month. If you want to follow me throughout the week, I’ll be posting regularly on Instagram. Click here to go to my Instagram page. 

Are you up for this challenge? Let me know what new things you’ve been doing.




Both sound good! Thanks Valerie!

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