Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Sarah Blake’s Book Signing: The Postmistress February 28, 2010

Hi all!

Today was a very special day.  My dear friend and fellow book blogger, Planet Books, whisked me away on a fun-filled birthday date about town. The highlights- mozzarella tasting,  gourmet dinner, cupcakes, and Politics & Prose for Sarah Blake’s book signing!

What an amazing privilege to listen to fDC native, Blake, read in her gentle soft tone, from The Postmistress. Even more amazing? Getting to hear (from where else but the front row of course) about the almost decade long journey to completing this amazing work and the impetus behind it. Like Stockett’s The Help, Blake’s Postmistress was also inspired by events of September 11th, 2001. Blake explained how moved she was by a 9/11 photo. She yearned to know more about what was going on “to the left and to the right” of that particular photo depicting a man and son, who were killed on that fateful day. Directly from Blake’s website, here’s a quick description of the book in case you’ve lived under a rock for the last two weeks and didn’t see it in People Magazine, The NY Times Best Seller List or all the other publications she’s been praised in:

Iris James is the Postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts a small town at the end of Cape Cod. She firmly believes her job is to deliver and keep people’s secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Faithfully she stamps and sends the letters between people such as the newlyweds Emma and Will Fitch, who has gone to London to help out during the Blitz. But one day she slips a letter into her pocket, and leaves it there.

Meanwhile, seemingly fearless radio gal, Frankie Bard is reporting the Blitz from London, her dispatches crinkling across the Atlantic, imploring listeners to pay attention. Then in the last desperate days of the summer of 1941, she rides the trains out of Germany, reporting on what is happening to the refugees there.

Alternating between an America on the eve of entering into World War II, still safe and snug in its inability to grasp the danger at hand, an a Europe being torn apart by war, the two stories collide in a letter, bringing the war finally home to Franklin.

It was also fun getting to meet fellow book bloggers, S. Krishna’s Books & The Book Lady’s Blog, who shared our front row experience. Thanks to Planet Books, I cannot wait to read my very own autographed copy! Stay tuned for my review in the next few weeks! I will be circulating this book around to my network and can’t wait to hear what they and my book club babes think of this amazing novel. If you can, I urge you to attend one of Blake’s book tour dates. Grab your copy asap!

Xoxo, Library Love



 

Book #13: LibraryLove February 26, 2010

The Girl’s Guide To Being A Boss (Without Being a Bitch) by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio

Book description~

As women, we haven’t always had the best role models at work. We’ve either worked for men or we’ve had female bosses who are, well, big bitches. Woman still don’t have much of a road map right now when it comes to taking charge at the office, so the team who brought you the national bestseller The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business is drawing one for us. Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio will teach you to be powerful without being possessive, to be opinionated without being brassy, and to have a strong voice without micromanaging. You’ll learn just how to own the role of queen bee in a positive way so that you can be more mentor than manager, one who leads, inspires, and motivates.So, you finally got that promotion. You’re the boss now. The supervisor. The manager. The captain. The taskmaster. Those days of taking orders, running errands, and clock-watching are over. As exciting as all this might seem, once the rush of the promotion is over, you might be scratching your head wondering exactly what to do. Being the boss is never easy, but it’s twice as hard for a woman. It seems like there’s no middle ground. Either you’re the dragon lady who rules with an iron fist or the mousey girl who gets drowned out at every meeting. When a woman wields authority and dares to make tough decisions, how often is the “B-word” bandied about by her employees? How can she strike that balance between pushover and dictator?

It’s hard to believe but I’ve been a Federal Government employee for almost TEN years! WOW. I’ve worked my way up from a lowly GS-04 and earned every bit of my success along the bumpy way. With that being said, this IS a public blog, and not a place I’m going to discuss my job at length- other than saying that I absolutely love my job and the flexibility and security it brings. My boss is my personal and professional mentor and someone I look up to with respect every day. She motivates me and gives me the autonomy and trust I need to shine.  She believes in me and challenges me.

Because people I work with will eventually read this, I’m not going to editorialize too much. I liked this book. It would make a nice reference guide for young women entering college and beginning to make a place for themselves through internships or in the corporate arena. I just wish it went more into the communication techniques required to deal with touchy situations. I guess that’s my background coming through again- incase you couldn’t already tell, I have a degree in Communication and Public Relations. I am so acutely aware of how impactful communication is, I chose my words carefully.  Because I’ve been in my office’s dynamic environment for so long,  a lot of the things in this book were a bit common sense. They were things I’ve already learned through “on the job training”. The ideas of “baptism by fire” or “being thrown into the shark invested waters” are things I’ve all experienced.

I loved the section on team building because it’s one of the tools I use regularly to get my team and our customers energized on the job. It’s proven 100% successful for me.  I highly recommend every office employ some sort of teambuilding mechanism, whether playing with legos or solving brainteasers as teams.

One fun takeaway I will share from the teambuilding section is the following list of team roles below.

“The key to good, efficient teams is to create a healthy balance of these individuals or to identify the roles that you need your team members to play even if that’s not their natural role”~ Meredith Belbin, author of Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail

I’m challenging you! Ask your self  “which role do I play at my place of business?”. Pretty thought-provoking, yes? Leave me a comment below with which role you play and how. Are you satisfied with that, or do you strive for more?

You can leave your comment anonymously if you prefer, no right or wrong answer, you’re a winner in my book! 🙂

The Plant: Original thinkers, generate new ideas, offer solutions.

The Resource Investigator: Creative, take ideas and run w/them. Extroverted and popular.

The Coordinator: Highly disciplined and controlled, focus on objectives, they unify a team.

The Shaper: Achievement oriented, like to be challenged and get results.

The Monitor Evaluator: Analyze and balance and weigh, calm and detached, objective thinkers.

The Team Worker: Supportive and cooperative, make good diplomats, want what is best for team.

The Implementer: Good organizational skills, display common sense, like to get the job done.

The Completer: Check details, tidy up after themselves, painstakingly conscientious.

The Specialist: Dedicated to acquiring a specialized skill, extremely professional, possess drive and dedication.

3/5 stars*

*If I were to have reviewed this 10 years ago though, I would probably would have given this 5 stars.

13 down, 39 to go!!

In progress: Raven Stole The Moon,  Memoirs of a Geisha (audiob00k)

Xoxo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #12: LibraryLove February 24, 2010

Forever Lily:  An Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell

Book description~

When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the greatest challenges of Russell’s life. Russell, watching in disbelief as Alex distances herself from the child, cares for the baby — clothing, bathing, and feeding her — and makes her feel secure in the unfamiliar surroundings. Russell is overwhelmed and disoriented by the unfolding drama and all that she sees in China, and yet amid the emotional turmoil finds herself deeply bonding with the child. She begins to have dreams of an ancient past — dreams of a young woman who is plucked from the countryside and chosen to be empress, and of the child who is ultimately taken from her. As it becomes clear that her friend — whose indecisiveness about the adoption has become a torment — won’t be bringing the baby home, Russell is amazed to realize that she cannot leave the baby behind and that her dreams have been telling her something significant, giving her the courage to open her heart and bring the child home against all odds.

“Will you take her?” is not a question you’d expect to hear your best friend ask, who you’ve accompanied to China, to help her adopt a baby…

That’s the basic storyline here. Alex realizes once she gets to China, and actually comes face to face with her brand new adoptive baby that it’s too much for her to manage. The book then vaguely discusses the legalities of their options. About 1/3 of this book was enjoyable. Another 1/3 was filler dream sequences, and the other 1/3 was flashback scenes.

The lack of continuity in this book fell flat for me pretty early on. Maybe because I’m soaking books up this year like a sponge, I had high hopes and expect a book to grip me immediately. There are SO many amazing books on my ‘to be read’ (TBR) list, I don’t want to spend time reading mediocre books. Sure, I was roped back in when the twist showed up, but it was short lived. I wanted to like it. I really did.  I am so intrigued by the international adoption process and was hoping to learn more about a topic I previously knew nothing about. I love challenging myself to learn about foreign topics.  Reading is a great way to do this. But alas, I’m still on the hunt. Unfortunately, when page 2 began a string of hokey dream sequences that reared their ugly head what seemed like every other page, all momentum was lost.  Any hope of rising action was lost. I don’t recommend this book and I feel bad for saying that.  I expected to learn more about the impetus behind the couple deciding to actually adopt, and the mechanics of the adoption process because it would have given the reader a better insight as to just how in the world Alex could have changed her mind at the drop of a hat.

Have you read a great book on international adoption? If so, please drop me a comment below, I’d love to give this topic a second chance!

2/5 stars

12 down, 40 to go!

In progress: Memoirs of a Geisha (audiobook),  The Girl’s Guide to Being the Boss Without Being a Bitch

Xoxo,
LibraryLove

 

Book #6: Fabookulous February 22, 2010

Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore

Book description: How do we practice II Corinthians 10:3-5, “tearing down strongholds by captivating our minds with the knowledge of God”? Beth Moore shows you how in Praying God’s Word.

A topical prayer guide addressing fourteen common strongholds and what Scripture reveals about each of them, Praying God’s Word presents Scriptures in prayer form to be incorporated into your daily prayer life.

God’s Word, through prayer, helps you overcome bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, setting you free from each and every stronghold which claims your life, and replacing it with the mind of Christ.

As a huge Beth Moore fan, I hope to make my way through all of her books and/or bible studies! She is such an inspirational teacher and  I am always encouraged by her. Her passionate relationship with Christ is contagious!

Praying God’s Word discusses several strongholds that can take control of one’s life and prevent them from living to their full potential. Understanding how you can pray Scripture to overcome them was very eye-opening and comforting. While I could relate to some better than others (as would anyone who reads this book), I got something out of each topic and the Scriptures that pertain to it. Of course the book is not comprehensive, as the Bible is the ultimate resource. I liked that at the end of the book Beth leaves space for the reader to look up their own Scriptures and practice on their own. It’s definitely a habit I hope to continue!

I feel peaceful when I am reading inspirational books and it feels good to return to my favorite genre, Christian non-fiction. I enjoy the teachings of others who are clearly better versed than me. Beth Moore remains one of my favorites. Definitely a must read for anyone struggling with anything…so basically, everyone! 😉

5/5 stars!

Closed the books on #6, 46 to go…

Happy Reading!

Fabookulous

 

Breakout Author’s Spotlight:: Sarah Pekkanen:: February 20, 2010

Are you a fan of authors like Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin?

Do you love quick whitted and down to earth authors?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, you will ADORE Sarah Pekkanen! Major congratulations are in order for my friend’s brand new breakout novel, The Opposite of Me, in stores March 9th, 2010.

Please check out Sarah’s Website for more information on her book, tour dates, and to sign up for her hysterical monthly newsletter. Oh, and email Lorne Michels and tell him you want to see Sarah on Saturday Night Live 😉

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has been published in People, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, Reader’s Digest, and Washingtonian, among others. She writes a monthly Erma Bombeck type column for Bethesda Magazine, and has been an on-air contributor to NPR and E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show.” She is the winner of a Dateline award and the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and three young sons. ~Simon & Schuster

Other Sarah Pekkanen News:

Publisher’s Weekly Deals, 07/21/08
http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6579803.html?industryid=47146
A first novel by Sarah Pekkanen titled The Opposite of Me; Victoria Sanders sold world English rights. Pekkanen, a monthly columnist for Bethesda magazine, will, tongue in cheek, explore low self-esteem, the hunger to succeed and have it all, and the grueling but rewarding bond of sisterhood. Pekannen’s work has been published in a host of newspapers and magazines. Pub date is early 2010.

Bethesda Magazine

Other clippings

“Rookie reporter scoops the big guys on Collins,” Detroit Journal
http://www.forensic-intelligence.org/corrupt/10rookie14.htm

Xoxo, LibraryLove

PS- Special thanks to my dear friend PlanetBooks for introducing me to

Sarah, who is so whitty, our facebook conversations crack me up everytime!

 

Book #11: LibraryLove February 17, 2010

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriquez

Book description:  Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors, nurses, and therapists–seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers, overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families’ breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup. Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride sold into marriage to pay her family’s debts, the Taliban member’s wife who pursued her training despite her husband’s constant beatings. Through these and other stories, Rodriguez found the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style. Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the arts of perms, friendship, and freedom.

Beauty Without Borders- what an amazing concept? I love Rodriguez’ entrepreneurial spirit mixed with philanthropy. She was able to get donations/sponsorship from well-known names in beauty, like Paul Mitchell, to donate truckloads of products, getting her Kabul Beauty School up and running. I admire her for giving up the comforts of Westernized life, time with her children and her own safety to give the women of war-torn Kabul opportunities to make a new life for themselves and teach them a skill they can use after attending Rodriguez’ program learning the trade of cosmetology. Rodriguez is not the strongest writer but I appreciate her story and couldn’t put this book down. I wish Rodriguez chose a few of the girls who were just briefly introduced in her memoir and delved deeper into telling their stories, learning their struggles, along with some heartier dialogue between them. I like to give constructive criticism and I felt that although the concept of the book was great- telling her story of struggle and the fight to bring opportunity to these women, it also showcased just how HARD it is to change cultural ideologies and hegemony that’s been in place for hundreds of years. I just didn’t feel that the book was cohesive enough; the chapters were lengthy and could have been divided up in a more effective way possibly by student?  In the beginning, we’re so drawn in by Roshanna’s story and the heartache of her arranged marriage. Yet Roshanna’s story was really not expanded much more. I was disappointed when I invested myself into her character and I’m left wanting more.

I’m a very loyal person, and will do just about anything for those around me. Because I get so deeply invested in people and things, it’s natural that I get equally attached to characters in books I read. I’ve also found that on the surface, when a book is more than 350 pages, I tend to have more positive feedback towards it. The author takes the time necessary to truly develop the characters, plot, and bring the book to its logical dénoument.

I think that with so much to discuss and expand upon, Rodriguez left me wanting more. I could discuss the practice of wearing the burqa for pages and I wish she would have possibly expounded on that. In fact,  I was actually hoping for it. She could have touched on the impact having to be completely covered took on these young woman. Where was their sense of self and confidence was pulled from? Personally, I love getting to “change my look” from day to day- glasses or contacts, straight or curly hair,makeup or none, \feminine dresses, skirts and open-toed shoes, accessories, hats and purses, or pjs and sweats. We’re so fortunate in Westernized cultures to have the freedom to express ourselves with our appearance. It’s something I appreciate more after having read this book.

So it’s understandable that Rodriguez faced some resistance, because as it is obvious, Middle Eastern cultural norms are very difference from Western culture.  But give us more than just surface descriptions. And please don’t introduce new characters on page 235 of 270! Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot? Sigh.

Moving on, I will say it many times over the course of this year– part of this challenge for me is to read books that fall well outside my typical genre or comfort zone, including books from other cultures and countries. Previously my understanding of Middle Eastern Culture was limited only from exposure to Iranian family ideologies through a friendship of over 12 years with one of my dearest. Other than what her family struggles have been, exposure to their food, music, and culture, I know little about that part of the world let alone what living in a war-torn place like Kabul would be like as a young woman wanting to make a life for herself. I take it for granted too often as an assertive modern and free thinking woman, that I have just that– the freedom to be so. If I want to take a class, learn a new trade, expand my horizons- I go for it without having to ask! When I go to my library, I don’t have to wonder if the armed guards will take me prisoner for reading about topics that are dubbed taboo in my culture. So, for all the soldiers who’ve lost their lives, and for everyone who continues to fight whether overseas or from behind a desk, thank you for giving me the freedom and opportunity to even blog about subjects such as these. Let freedom ring!!

3.5 stars for the composition of the book

5 stars for the strength Rodriguez had to bring to this country

11 down, 41 to go…!

In progress: Forever Lily, and Testimony (audiobook)

Xoxo, LibraryLove

 

Author’s Spotlight:: When Two Worlds Collide:: February 12, 2010

Hi all! As we dig out from the Snowpocalyptic conditions here in the area,  a fellow book blogger and dear friend, Planetbooks, uncovered this fun and exciting interview about an author I will get the pleasure of meeting at her book signing/reading in two weeks!  Ever heard the phrase when worlds collide? Read on to find out about two fantastic authors we love here at YOTBW2010. Just so happens that Kathryn Stockett, one of YOTBW2010’s new favorite author of New York Times Bestseller The Help, which both of us bookworms read and raved about, just interviewed Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress, for an Amazon.com review exclusive!  I couldn’t be happier to meet Sarah Blake, and am patiently waiting to read Blake’s The Postmistress until the signed copy is in my hands, and not a minute sooner! Of course, I’ll share my review here for you all to enjoy. I hope you’ll pick up one of Sarah’s other novels, Grange House or Full Turn while you wait your turn for The Postmistress at a library near you.

Until then, here’s the interview!! xoxo, LibraryLove

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