Thursday, December 24, 2009

2010 Book List Bonanza!

I'm pleased to share with you my list of books for 2010 - I'm very excited to get started on these!! :) My goal for 2009 was to read at least a book per month. However, I managed to read a total of 19 books all year, and I could have definitely made it 20 but I wanted to take some time off and catch up on my magazines :). I'll be getting started on this list come Jan 1, and I'm VERY much looking forward to it! I hope you enjoy :)

Vanishing Acts

Time Is a River

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

There's No Place Like Here

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The Shack

Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction Anthology

The Savage Detectives

Roses Are Red

Pop Goes the Weasel (Alex Cross, Book 5)

Nineteen Minutes

The Next Big Thing

Last Kiss

The Kite Runner

It's Your Time: Finding Favor, Restoration, and Abundance in Your Life Every Day

The Inn At Eagle Point

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Dating Big Bird

Certain Girls

Cat & Mouse

Become a Better You

Angels & Demons

Hilary's favorite books »

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mitch Albom's For One More Day

I recently read Mitch Albom’s “For One More Day”. I’d give it 3 stars out of 5. I had high hopes for this book, since one of my all time favorite books was “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”. I did also read “Tuesday’s with Morrie”, and it was good, but not near as wonderful as TFPYMIH.

For One More Day kept me turning the pages as I constantly wanted to find out what was going to happen to main character, Chick, next, or how his deceased mom was going to teach him yet another valuable lesson of life. I particularly enjoyed the chapter dividers titled: “Times my Mother Stood Up for Me” & “Times I didn’t stand up for My Mother” – or something similar to that – I don’t have the book with me now to do a true, direct quote! :) Regardless, these little inserts were tidbits of life lessons in their own way – times that Chick has reflected on from his childhood and probably regretted in most cases. The main take away of the book for me was to take advantage of the time you have with your parents right now – make amends with whatever issues you have with them now while you still can because they won’t be with us forever! Also, that issue you have with them that you continue to harbor will most likely blow up in your face in the form of depression, alcoholism or some other type of negative behavior. This was the case for Chick – who defied his mother to gain his father’s approval and attention repeatedly throughout his child and adult life, and as a result missed out on one of the last moments he had to share with his mother before her death. In the end, Chick was defied by his own family and was left alone to alcoholism and attempts at suicide – not a lifestyle I think any of us desire!

It was a quick read, and if you’re a fan of Albom’s other books I’d still recommend it simply because how can you NOT read all of the books by one of your favorite author’s!

Stay tuned for my 2010 reading list! I'm so excited to put it together :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

MULTIPLE BLES8INGS – Surviving to Thriving with Twins and Sextuplets

I purchased this book a year ago the day it first came out. I bought a copy for both me and my sister, since, at the time, we were both huge Jon & Kate fans. Actually, I was a Jon fan, my sister was a Kate fan. A year later I have finally read it. I'm quite glad I waited, given the outcome of their marriage.

What I liked:
Since I prefer to be positive when I can, I'll start with what I liked about the book. I liked how every chapter began with a Bible verse that foreshadowed what the upcoming chapter would be about. I also liked how the book intertwined religious aspects, constantly referencing Kate's gratitude to God for getting her through each trying time of her life. I also enjoyed hearing the story of Jon & Kate prior to their show on TLC. In short, they struggled to have kids, and underwent fertility treatments in order to get pregnant with the twins and later the sextuplets. At the beginning of the book, it was hard to imagine this was the same Kate who I watched on television so often. In the first few chapters, I felt she genuinely expressed her gratitude toward Jon for his patience during her tribulations at getting pregnant both times, as well as other sincere remarks regarding other events in her life up to that point. The book talked extensively about how many volunteers were required, for at least up to one year regularly, to help the Gosselin's get through each day. I found it remarkable that they were able to make it through some very trying times financially and how there were so many generous people donating their money, time, or supplies. I kept trying to put myself in their shoes, and I can only imagine how difficult it would have been accepting people's generosity. I would feel so guilty taking all those donations, but at the same time, it was so wonderful that people were reaching out. I think the Gosselin's truly needed those donations, and I'm not judging them at all for accepting them – I'm sure they had no choice! I was overwhelmed just reading their story about their financial and emotional struggles. One thing is very clear to me – Kate loves her children. The book was also well written. It had a nice flow, and I had a very easy time reading it and getting right back into it each time. It also took me just 5 days to read.

What I Didn't Like:
As I was getting ready to write this blog entry, I was examining the outside of the book and happened to notice that the book was categorized as: Religion/Christian Life/Family. I found this very ironic considering the recent events in their life. Kate talked extensively in the novel about how God gave her strength through this and that, and how Jon was her rock, but how much of that was real? Trying to look at it strictly from the book's point of view, and not the show, I did at first think I had it all wrong in the beginning of the novel. Kate, at first, seemed quite selfless. However, as the book went on, her true self began to shine – her demanding, abrasive, impatient, selfish self. I also wondered what part of the book Jon took part in, since it was written in Kate's voice and from her perspective throughout, yet his name was on the book as the author.

In the end, knowing what the outcome of this life of "thriving" with multiples was, I felt sad, mostly for the children, that this life quickly fizzled out. As I sat here writing this, a commercial came on TLC announcing the series finale of Jon & Kate Plus 8. Just watching that commercial also made me feel sad – sad for those kids, and sad for a marriage that seemed to dissolve so quickly and easily. If I would have read this book a year ago, hearing how strong Kate supposedly is in her faith in God, I would have never expected their marriage to end. If you had once been a fan of the show like me, I think you can continue to live your life just fine without having read this book. It doesn't change my thoughts or opinions about the situation this family is going through, it just makes me feel worse. I give this book 2.5 stars out of 5.

Next up – For One More Day by Mitch Albom.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coal Run by Tawni O’Dell

I'm always curious about how readers choose the books they read. That's one of the first questions I'll ask a fellow reader – "What made you want to read this?" So, how do you pick your next book? Do you judge a book by its cover, and pick up the cute/interesting/neat-looking novel? Do you ask around for recommendations, and make your selection based on the feedback you receive from your fellow readers? Or, do you search some of the well-known bestsellers lists online to make the choice for your next big read? Perhaps a combination of all these things? I did none of these methods when selecting Tawni O'Dell's Coal Run. In fact, my reason for choosing this book was simply because I had read O'Dell's first book, made famous by Oprah and her Book Club. That first book was called Back Roads. I chose to read that one because O'Dell is actually from my hometown in rural Pennsylvania. When she came out with Coal Run, I knew I had to get it.

I liked how Coal Run began with a look at main character Ivan's childhood in a small, rural western PA coal town. The first few pages were spent revealing a tragedy endured by this small town, when the local coal mine, Gertie, exploded killing many of the local miners. Among the victims was Ivan's father. (Not to worry, that bit of fact is not a spoiler by any means!) After the first few pages regarding his childhood, the story fast forwards to a week in the life of narrator Ivan. The rest of the story is spent revealing little secrets about Ivan's past, from his life as a famous Penn State football player, to his career-shattering injury, to his present day life as a former-local-hero-turned-alcoholic. I found bits and pieces of the story moving and also humorous. I liked Ivan's passion for Crystal, an acquaintance who was nearly beaten to death by her husband. I also enjoyed having a perspective of a male narrator – I don't believe I've read a book in the past with a male telling me the story! His perspective alone provided some humor. I really enjoyed the Penn State reference, being an alum myself! Also, what I like about O'Dell's writing is that it's very relatable for me – in the last two books she's written, they have taken place in western PA towns similar to the one I grew up in. Also, I'm a coal miner's daughter and I honestly had a hard time reading the detailed account at the beginning of book – in fact, it brought tears to my eyes at times.

What I didn't like about the storyline was the lack of drama. I had hoped for more elaboration on Ivan's well-kept secret. I had also wanted to hear more about what was going to happen to the Raynor family, the same family Crystal was married in to. There was no elaboration on his "relationship" with Chastity either. I felt like in the end, I was wanting more, but it was all over. I'm also not entirely sure I understood what the book was supposed to portray – perhaps the troubled life of a former all-star college athlete? I'm sure it was deeper than that and I just missed it.

Out of 5 stars, I would give this book 2.5!

Next up – drum roll…. – Multiple Blessings by Jon & Kate Gosselin!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl

Well it's been awhile since I posted here. You can thank a month full of weddings and a move from one state to another for that! It took me WAY too long to get through this book, and not because it wasn't good either. In fact, I loved it! Thanks to my lengthy bus ride to work, I was finally able to finish it this week. Below is my review:

I stumbled across Shauna Reid's blog about 8 months ago. Shortly after I started following her blog, I noticed that she was coming out with her first book. Being the book lover that I am, and a big fan of her blog, I had to buy it. I actually ordered it from the UK, b/c it wasn't available in the US yet and I HAD to have it. As I've already mentioned, I LOVED this book! I honestly felt like Shauna wrote this book for me. The same weight loss struggles she'd had, I've had. I loved how candid she was about her weight loss journey. I was moved by her story of growing up while living in Australia, with constant critiques from her mother regarding her weight – something I can totally relate to! As she talked about her lifestyle as a 300+ lbs 20-something female, I could totally relate. While I've never been that heavy, I could fully understand her experiences with not wanting to do certain things because of how she looked. She even went so far as to make a list of things she'd do when she was skinny, which she ticks off throughout the novel. She talked about how one time her friends got all dressed up to go out, and how she had nothing to wear, and began to feel fat and gross, and so at the last minute she opted out – definitely something I've done on many occasions. At many points at the beginning of the memoir, I had tears stinging my eyes, simply because of the realization that there are other people out there who can relate to a 'fat-girl' way of life. Shauna spelled it out so well. This book was so inspiring and I would recommend it to anyone – from the skinny-minis to those who've struggled with weight loss as well. I think it's important to understand how debilitating a life of obesity can be – it's more than just the physical aspect of being overweight – it's all the emotional trials that go along with it.

Next up on the 2009 Book List is Tawni O'Dell's Coal Run. I will try very hard to have a post on here before I finish that book – life is slowly starting to normalize now that I've moved and am getting settled in to the new place! Take care everyone!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Doh! (said to the tune of Homer Simpson)

I had just arrived inside the Metro station, quickly stealing a spot along the crowded platform, and reached into my bag only to discover I had forgotten my book in the office!!! AAAHHHH!!! Having no book to occupy myself for the commute sure does make for a long 40 min train ride home! There was actually a moment where I contemplated running back to the work place to grab the book…just for a split second. I have been so engrossed in this book since having started it on Monday, and honestly, if rush hour wasn't such a mad house in this city on a daily basis, I would have ran back for it! Anyone who's visited/lives in DC can attest to that I'm sure!

The book is The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, and I'm having trouble putting it down (well, not enough trouble that I was able to forget it obviously!). I have a good excuse for it not being in my bag, however. Although this wasn't the case today, some days I am so raveled up in my book that even when my train arrives at my stop downtown, I will continue to read the book for the 4 blocks I have to walk to my office. I'm sure I look like a complete fool/nerd doing this! Who cares – a good book is worth this silliness! At any rate, my luck was working against me today. After I arrived at my desk, I began my morning routine which includes turning on my computer immediately upon arrival. It takes so long to boot up, so this morning I decided to finish the chapter I was reading. I rarely do this – usually I turn on my computer and start preparing my tea or putting my lunch in the fridge. Today I couldn't put the book down! Of course, who walks around the corner to my desk but one of top managers. Great. It was one of those moments where you'd almost look just as bad explaining "I swear I wasn't reading on the job", as opposed to just sitting there and acting as though you weren't doing anything wrong. In reality, I was 10 min early, and I was just waiting until my computer was ready to go. But still!

For once I'm actually looking forward to going to work tomorrow…but only to get my book!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I Now Have a Strong Desire to Knit

I just finished reading The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. I had high hopes for this book & I will come right out and say I was disappointed. However, it does make me want to take up knitting. hehe

Before I begin, I've glanced at other blogger's book reviews and noticed how a lot of them start off by giving a synopsis of the book, and then the blogger gives their thoughts. I tend to only read reviews about books AFTER I've read the book, so I'm going to skip the synopsis piece. Sorry for those who were hoping for the traditional book review! With that said, there will most likely be "spoilers" ahead.

So moving on… I expected this book to be more focused on the Knitting Club itself instead of the life of the shop owner, Georgia. I had envisioned a more "Sex in the City" plotline, where there would be a handful of main characters and each one would tell their own story, with all this great drama happening during Club hours (obviously I did no research of my own before reading it). While there were a handful of Knitting Club members, their lives were not the focus of the book. Sure, their lives were mentioned with some mini-drama: a grad student who cheated on her med-school hubby, a wanna-be lawyer, a wanna-be purse seller, and a wanna-be momma. I had simply hoped for more drama.

Still, I want to try to focus on the good of the book, despite my lack of excitement regarding the story. I enjoyed how after so many chapters there would be a page on knitting techniques. In the end I came to realize, at least to me, that these section dividers told a story more deeply than just knitting how-to's – they actually seemed to reveal life lessons camouflaged by the practice of knitting. I was also thrilled whenever Georgia was able to get back with her daughter's father, James. Really, who doesn't like to see the trials and tribulations of love result in a happily-ever-after? No? Well, I am actually a romantic at heart, so I do! However, this wasn't entirely a happily-ever-after type story. Obviously a woman is going to have some resistance with allowing a man back into her life who once exited so quickly and easily out of selfishness. Perhaps one reason for my lack of love toward Knitting was that I didn't actually love the main character. I just had a hard time getting in to her story and situation. I liked that she was from PA, and I liked her story with her ex-best friend-turned best friend, Cat. For those who've ever had some rocky friendships, and I'm sure you've had, don't you just wish they'd all end up like this? Still, Georgia seemed very uptight and stressed out, which is no surprise given her lifestyle as a sole-proprietor. She just didn't reel me in like I like to be reeled in by a main character! I felt like a 20lb bass swimming around in the Potomac just waiting to be caught, and the fisherman didn't use the bait I liked (that analogy is for Joel!). Now, I loved Anita, Georgia's mentor and pseudo-mom, and I loved James, the ex. I really had a little yearning in me when I would read their stories. I was pulling for James – I knew he deeply regretted leaving Georgia and was willing to do whatever it took to make it up to her. I was also pulling for Anita and Marty, the deli/building owner, to get together and have their own little happily-ever-after.

I must admit that I never anticipated a death in this story, not for one second. I figured after Georgia got cancer, it would somehow work itself into the ending of the story in a different way than the way it did! And while I actually liked the twist that the story took when Georgia died, only a few more pages later and the book was over! "Just when it was really gettin' good…!" So, would I recommend this book to others? Eh. BUT, I do plan to read the sequel, Knit Two, just because I always have to read sequels, and also because I'm not giving up hope for Kate! I'm holding out faith that her second novel will be much more worthwhile.

P.S. Did anyone make Dakota's muffins or Darwin's sweater (the recipe was in the back in case you didn't notice)? I definitely plan to make those muffins, and I'd like to try to knit soon (it was on my list of New Year's Resolutions), so I think I'll start with that one!

Next up is The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl! Happy reading!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2009 Fall into Reading Challenge

Since I’m new to the blogging community, particularly the book blogging community, I’m trying to participate in as much as I can not only to help establish my blog, but also because I love reading – that is what I’m here for after all! With that said, this is my 2009 Fall into Reading book list:

1. The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl – Shauna Reid

Chosen b/c I am on my own weight loss journey right now, and I love her blog!

2. Coal Run – Tawni O’Dell

I loved her book, Back Roads, which took place in the town I grew up in!

3. Multiple Blessings – Jon & Kate Gosselin & Beth Carson

I used to be a fan of this show, although I am no longer since all that has transpired with the family. However, I did buy the book awhile back and would still like to read it.

4. For One More Day – Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet In Heaven was my ALL time favorite book, and he has not disappointed me since!

For 2009 I had created my own challenge list, aiming to read 1 book per month (I’m a slow reader!). However, I managed to get through all 12 plus 4 more (thanks to the Twilight madness!), so I’m looking forward to this mini challenge to round out the 2009 year!

Happy Reading! :)

Black September...on the National Mall?

As we made our way down to the National Mall for the Book Festival, I couldn’t help but think about Black Friday, and all the madness associated with that ever popular day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree. You’ll understand why soon!

As soon as we got onto the Mall, it was already so busy with people wandering around everywhere (hint #1!). (Sometimes I’m still so naïve and forget that I do live in the Nation’s Capital, and the significance, and crowds, that go along with it.) I just had no idea what kind of madness this festival would attract since this was my first time attending. Well, it attracted quite a large one to say the least!

My 2 friends, Katie & Jess, and I formed a game plan pretty quickly. Katie & I knew we wanted to see Paula Deen, and therefore we knew we had to buy one of her books. We headed over to the Borders book sales tent, and quickly found the table with her books for sale. Since this was my first time attending a book event like this, I didn’t know what the limitations were for the author to sign them. Would they personalize them? Was there a limit to how many they would sign? Fortunately, I had asked the Borders staff member milling around the tent. She informed me that while Paula Deen would sign any of the 3 books they offered for sale, she would only sign those books if you had purchased the Cookbook for the Lunch Box set. This was a book for kids! It put bit of a damper in my plan. Aside from personally wanting to meet Mrs. Deen & have her sign a cookbook for myself, I also wanted to get Joel’s brother a signed copy of The Deen Family Cookbook. (His brother is now in culinary school, inspired to take such a career path because of his love for the Southern Belle.) The Borders staffer didn’t know if Paula had a limit on the books she would sign, so I only bought those 2 books – 1 for Joel’s brother, and then the children’s one for my niece. No offense to Paula or any other diehard fans, but I already spent $50 on just those two purchases, I wasn’t chancing buying a third book that she wouldn’t sign.

After all that hoopla in the book tent, the three of us headed over to one of the tents where James Patterson (woo hoo!) was giving a talk on his children’s book series. While I have no interest in those, I do love Jimmy and his Cross series so it was worth it just to see him anyhow. Really, if Patterson knew my obsession with his fictional character Alex, he would totally want to hire me as his assistant. (Because I didn’t want to let my current employer down, I decided not to reveal this bit of info to Jimmy.)

Me & Jimmy

After Jimmy was done speaking, Katie really needed to get her cup-o-joe, so we started to head in the direction of Starbucks. This was also in the same direction where the author’s tents were for the book signings. Now, where does my reference to Black Friday come in? Paula Deen’s tent was set up next to John Grisham’s, so we wanted to check out the line status. Well, as you probably have guessed by now (since you’re smart and I tend to be naïve in most cases), Johnnie’s line was at least 200 people deep at this point, and he wasn’t due to be at his tent for at least another hour and a half! Ugh! It was only a little after 10 AM and Paula Deen wasn’t set to sign until 1 PM, and she already had a small line of about 20 people approximately 2.5 hours prior to her signing! CRAP! How was I going to see her give her speech, and then get a guaranteed spot in line for that southern-style John Hancock?!

John Grisham

There are always sacrifices that have to be made for events like this! Just like during Black Friday where you can’t be two places at once (or three….or six!), so you try to bring other team members on board to stand in lines for you at other stores while you’re at another store at 3:00 AM waiting to snag two $300 laptops (regularly priced at $800/ea) when they open at 8 AM. Well, alas, I certainly could not be at her tent to hear her speak, AND be in line to guarantee that I would get her signature, so I had to make that dreadful decision – I stood in line.

I mean, heck, my objective was to get a gift for Joel’s brother, and to get pictures of her and I (which didn’t happen FYI). The authors were only scheduled to sign for one hour, and Mr. Grisham was such a nice man that he extended his an extra hour and he STILL didn’t get through that line of people. The line just continued to grow and after 2 hours it was cut off. How sad for those folks who didn’t get to fulfill their dream of meeting the famous author! I was not about to let that happen with Paula, so I took one for the team and stood in line for 2.5 hrs to meet her. While I’m happy I got her signature, and I understood the rushed process in order to do so, I was still disappointed that I didn’t get my picture with her! Also, we all learned about 10 min prior to her signing that she would sign any book you brought – no need to have that Lunch Box book – which by the way, I learned it was pre-signed after about an hour of standing in line (a fellow “lineman” told me that while we awaited our 2 seconds of southern lovin’.).

In the end I did not get to see any other authors but the ones I mentioned above – I knew Jodi was counting on meeting me (I’ll try to see you in Bailey’s Crossroads next time, I promise!). I still had a good time though, but next year I am going to scrap the signatures and just hear the authors talk. I’d rather have that experience instead, rather than the rushed 2 second-cattle herd through a line. I would totally recommend the Book Festival also, which I learned was started by Laura Bush during her hubby’s presidency. Neat! It was a great experience to share in the love of books with so many people, and get the opportunity to see those people who help you go away to another place in time with their amazing books!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Festival 2009 - Here We Come!

*Image Courtesy of Library of Congress

This Saturday is the Library of Congress's Book Festival. I am SO excited to go see this with my friend Katie. Some of my favorite authors have made their way to our Nation's Capital for this special event including Jodi Picoult, James Patterson (good ole 'Jimmy' in our book), and my childhood favorite, Judy Blume. Also making an appearance is "Just add 20 sticks of butter ya'll".... Paula Deen!!! I really cannot wait to get there Saturday morning, and I hope that I get the opportunity to see all of the authors on my must-see list. Paula Deen will have to be our first stop simply because I love her, her show, her food, and most of all - her accent! This will be my first Book Festival, but I hope it's so special that it can become an annual outing for Miss Katherine and I! Stay tuned for a good story and hopefully some awesome pictures of me and that southern belle!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Passionate About Having A Passion

I love books. I love to look at books, hold books, smell books, and buy books. Why, then, did I choose a career path that involved nothing about books? I almost daily find myself wondering why I went into the field I did when one of my life's passions stares me right in the face each morning as I take the train into downtown. No regrets, however!

Either way, here I am in Blogger land - ready to spill the beans on books I've read, are currently reading, or just happy little book findings along the way. I'm not new to the blogging community - I've been reading blogs faithfully over the last year and a half. However, I am moderately new to having my own and sharing my thoughts.

My reason for creating this blog is because I always find myself wanting to converse with others about the book I'm currently reading. I used to be apart of a book club, but quit because I just had too many books of my own I wanted to read, and I couldn't keep up with their books and mine. Other than hopes of my blog generating conversation, I also just wanted a way to pay tribute to the book of choice at whatever point in time I am reading it. I often finish a book with mixed feelings - happy because I've finished and found out whatever was meant to be discovered, but guilt because I just throw it in my Sterlite storage container and move on to the next book without much thought. Of course, I'd like to sit and ponder what I had just read in that book, but a minute or two of thought, then tossing it away doesn't seem right to me. I'm not a fast reader by any means, but I'm also not the kind of reader who wants to read books in search of great themes or writing styles or all that goes along with reading classic literature. Granted, I enjoyed the teacher-guided classic lit books in high school/college, but now I personally just want a "mindless read" - something that will both entertain me, but not cause me to stress over getting through all the thick analogies and themes.

With all of that said, I look forward to documenting all things book-related!

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