Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #15: Fabookulous April 27, 2010

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

Book description~ Twenty-nine year old Lindsey Rose has always lived in the shadow of her devastatingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named Creative Vice President of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of 80 plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully-constructed life implodes. Humiliated and desperate, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her prince charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin, while she furtively tries to put her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

Of course The Opposite of Me was on my TBR list, as I’ve been anticipating this book for months. To be more particular: I’ve been waiting almost a year. It was after a book signing last summer that LibraryLove and I met Planetbooks who turned us on to up-and-coming breakout author, Sarah Pekkanen. And I was honored enough to be able to borrow LibraryLove’s very own autographed-by-Sarah copy of this debut novel!

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I had such high expectations, that I am an only child and don’t share that sibling bond with anyone (though my best friends FEEL like sisters I never had), or a culmination of those facts and how busy I was during the time I read this book. But I found myself disappointed until the end. I didn’t feel the characters had a lot of depth to them and I found myself annoyed at Lindsay’s self-centerdness and insecurity regarding boys. I wanted to love this book as much as my friends have but it just wasn’t happening for me. The story didn’t resonate with me or speak to me and I couldn’t relate to any of it. Maybe that’s why.

But then, about 3/4 through the book, my experience with these characters changed. It almost felt like I was reading a different story entirely. There was depth to the characters, there was compassion, love, commitment and struggle among family. It was wonderful to watch the sisters’ relationship change and develop. I believe the reason I enjoyed the last part of the book is because it’s a topic I have double-experience with. (I can’t say what it is because I don’t want to give anything away) But it pulled on my heart strings and it was at THAT part that I couldn’t put the book down. I feel disappointed it took that long to get to that part in the book, but I look forward to seeing what Sarah does next!

4 out of 5 stars.

Happy Reading,



Book #23 LibraryLove April 22, 2010

The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

June Parker’s life is meandering along until a freak car accident leaves Marissa, her 24-year-old passenger, dead and June wracked with guilt. June discovers a list Marissa had been keeping of 25 things she wanted to do by the time she turned 25. After a run-in with Marissa’s brother, June resolves to complete the list. Kissing a total stranger and throwing away her scale prove far easier than pitching an idea at work or changing someone’s life. But June approaches the list with aplomb, daring to speak up about being passed over for a manager position, and becoming a Big Sister to a quiet, studious Latina teen named DeeDee. But when June uncovers a secret of DeeDee’s, she realizes changing someone else’s life might involve changing her own as well.

When I started reading The Next Thing On My List, I took it for another book about completing your bucket list- you know, the list of things you want to accomplish before you turn a certain age, or just things you want to do in your life. Before reading this book, the reason people even MADE bucket lists, knowing they wouldn’t accomplish all the things on it, boggled my mind. Now I think I’ve figured out why (more on this later)…

“People are living too much, or too little, and I wondered if anyone out there is living the right amount.”~ June

June, the book’s main character, offers 24-year-old Melissa a ride home one evening after a meeting. The girls are involved in a tragic car accident leaving Melissa killed. June finds Melissa’s “20 before 25”- her list of things she wants to accomplish before her 25th birthday and vows to complete the list in Melissa’s honor. June takes us into her world with her hijinks along the way. The book made me laugh out loud, especially when June accomplishes #7 and has to go bra-less to the office for an entire day!

Although the majority of the population makes New Year’s Resolutions and bucket lists, I’d bet only a VERY small percentage of folks actually follow through in completing those. As the cliché says, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey, sure. Like many of us, June is motivated within herself and through Melissa’s memory to achieve her goal. She arrives at that destination and still wants more. I’m sure you can relate. I know I love nothing more than completing a project, but I look forward to the next one with excitement.

The more June learned about Melissa along the path of completing her list, the more she ended up learning about herself. After completing Melissa’s list, June makes a list of her own. She found it strangely comforting. She craved having a compass of sorts; something to give her life purpose, direction. I find list making a cathartic practice and a great way to manage my time. It feels SO good to scratch things off my list. But there are many things that are so big and such works in progress, to put them on a list would be diminutive and unfair to their grandeur.

This book directs the reader beyond the page and asks us to look a step further. I love books that make me re-evaluate standard ideologies to find purpose, direction and motivation within ourselves. I’m a highly effective and motivated person. Why? It makes me happy, simple as that! I don’t want to sloth around; it’s boring! Who wants to be around Eyeore all day?

Sure, it’s satisfying to do things on your list. We’re all works in progress, but why not focus more on cultivating rewarding relationships. Do good things just for the sake of being good-hearted rather than because a list dictates you must perform a random act of kindness. This book would make excellent beach or travel reading!

PS- thanks Melissa/Jane for the Taco Soup recipe. It was delish!

3.5/5 stars

23 down, 29 to go!

In progress- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks




Author Spotlight and Book Signing:: Garth Stein :: April 17, 2010

Two barks Denny, two barks!!

Have you ever read a book that changed the way you view the world? For me, that book was Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, which continues to hold its place on the New York Times Bestseller list. Tonight, I had the rare opportunity to meet this amazing author alongside my friends Becca, Planetbooks, and her husband. Stein held a reading, Q&A discussion, and book signing that still has me floating on a cloud.  Not only is Stein charming, funny, and down to earth, he also loves to cook! Click here for his favorite recipes 🙂 Garth has excellent skills as a public speaker, gave fantastic eye contact, and was truly connected with engaging the audience. As someone who volunteers with animal rescue, this book had such a profound impact on me, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I first read it, as ARR is told from the viewpoint of the family’s beloved dog, Enzo. In our rescue newsletters, we try to establish a connection from our orphan dogs to the reader  often telling their stories as if they themselves, the dog, were writing to our readership. We’ve gotten so many compliments on these types of stories and love doing it whenever possible. It was so fascinating to hear Garth talk about the path to publication, and how difficult it was to find an agent who would represent a novel narrated by the dog. I think it to be genius, and I’m SO glad Garth persevered and followed his dream. In doing so, he challenged the status quo.

I also loved Stein’s Raven Stole the Moon and look forward to supporting and promoting this creative and thoughtful author.

Albeit a small token, I gifted Garth a handwritten card along with a copy of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide. Garth, I hope you enjoy this book and that you will share it with your 3 sons, as a very small token of my appreciation for your talent and what you do to change peoples’ lives with your writing. What do you get the person who changed your life? Maybe a book that can teach him and his sons how to fend off a bear attack? Or how to find food in the wilderness? Sure, why not! If nothing else, Garth, I hope you get a kick out of it 🙂 I hope to get a full review of the book when we see you at your event in September!!

I’ve shared ARR with countless friends in my circle who have each loved it for their own reasons. Make a beeline for your nearest bookish establishment and pick up a copy of Art of Racing in the Rain or any of Garth Stein’s artful works.  Stein is on my VERY short list of top favorite authors. Art of Racing in the Rain does not disappoint. I laughed, I cried, and smiled at the end of the book and loved the way Stein tied things up. Enzo, one of the main characters, will always be in my heart and I will be forever changed by him. Check Stein’s website for more information on his other projects or to attend an event in your area.

“Garth Stein is the author of the New York Times best-selling literary novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain (Harper, 2008). Now published in 23 languages, The Art of Racing in the Rain was the #1 BookSense selection for June, 2008, the Starbucks spring/summer 2008 book selection, and has been on the IndieBound™ bestseller list since its publication. Stein’s previous novel, How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets (Soho Press, 2005) won a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and was a BookSense Pick in both hardcover and paperback. Raven Stole the Moon (Harper, 2010) was Stein’s first novel. He has also written a full-length play, Brother Jones, and produced a number of award-winning documentaries. With an M.F.A. in film from Columbia University (1990), Garth worked as a documentary film maker for several years, and directed, produced, or co-produced several award winning films. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Seattle, Garth’s ancestry is diverse: his mother, a native of Alaska, is of Tlingit Indian and Irish descent; his father, a Brooklyn native, is the child of Jewish emigrants from Austria. After spending his childhood in Seattle and then living in New York City for 18 years, Garth returned to Seattle, where he currently lives with his wife, three sons, and their dog, Comet.”

Two barks from our Akitas, Senshi and Zumo!!

Don’t forget to patronize your local library and pick up a page turner. 

Happy reading!




Book #22: LibraryLove

The Inheritance by Tom Savage

Book description~ Yesterday, she was Holly Smith, living a comfortable, middle-class life. Today, all that has changed. For Holly Smith is actually Holly Randall, born twenty-four years ago to a woman convicted of a heinous crime and given up for adoption as an infant. Now, the mysterious death of a great aunt she never knew has made Holly one of the richest women in America – and heiress to a magnificent Connecticut estate. In the beautiful mansion above Long Island Sound, they are waiting for her. Uncle John and his imperious wife, robbed of what they believe to be rightfully theirs; the odd, reclusive great uncle, lost in his faded scrapbooks and disturbing memories of dark family secrets; the troubled young woman who roams the estate, murmuring cryptic warnings; the handsome servants’ son to whom Holly is dangerously attracted; and the silent teenage boy who watches Holly’s every move. But is he protector or predator, angel or devil? For Holly, the answer may come too late. From the moment she crosses the threshold, she sets in motion a series of tragic events that will reveal the true – and terrifying – price of the inheritance.

Before a trip to visit my sister last month, I’d never heard of author Tom Savage. My sister’s extremely hectic work schedule doesn’t allow much time for reading, so when she does pick up a book, it’s got to be good. After hearing her excitement about this book, I added The Inheritance to my library queue. I couldn’t wait to pick up this book and go along for the ride with Holly. My sister enjoyed this book so immensely that she re-read it along with me.

In the way of movies like Fight Club, The Illusionist, and The Sixth Sense, this book’s twists and turns will make you want to re-read this book when the final twists are revealed. I found myself going back many times as I got farther along into Holly’s world. From the moment Dora Jessel had her outburst in the Randall house, I thought I knew something was fishy with the Jessel Family and kept them “on watch”. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next and was completely surprised- which I LOVE! I hate figuring out a book’s plot twists too soon- it ruins the drama for me, so thumbs up for The Inheritance’s ability to keep me guessing!

Although I really enjoyed this book, I was a bit disappointed in the novel’s structure. Cough it up to being picky or maybe just spoiled by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner‘s style and their strength in creating a solid novel in multiple voices, if you will. In their novels, when the voice changes, a new chapter begins. I like having the visual and mental switch, allowing myself to prepare for the voice I will be hearing from next. Unfortunately for me, Savage’s lack of  ‘chapterization’ (I think I just made this word up!) was distracting. I didn’t mind the 3rd person narrative, as we hear from quite a few characters in this book. But it becomes an annoyance if you’re not sure whose story you’re reading when a paragraph is abruptly ended and a new paragraph begins in a different character’s voice. I found myself going back a few times, and re-reading some opening paragraphs to get into the ‘groove’ and switch. My sister felt the same way the first time she read this book. She’s reading it for the second time now and said it was much smoother the second time. Authors should be cognizant of the way their writing style is received. Herein lies the beauty of the book blogging community. Book bloggers are approached by authors and publishers to read and review advanced copies of their novels. Apart from the free advertising, this affords authors the opportunity to plug in to feedback they can use for future editions. The Inheritance was written back in 2000 when book blogging and social media were gaining momentum on the digital scene. Had Savage sent The Inheritance out to the book blogging community, I think he would’ve taken note of the constructive criticism, and possibly considered modifying his format.

Regardless, The Inheritance is a sleeper and ‘edge of your seat’ thriller. I really enjoyed the dark and twisty ride. Great Uncle Ichabod is my absolute favorite. I want to hug him, and wish he was a part of my family or a close friend. He so genuinely looks after Holly and is one of the only people on her side as she pieces together the puzzle of her new found life. I got a good vibe from him, and love how Savage so artfully and subtly brings Ichabod to the forefront, empowering Holly along the way. Their moment of first meeting, her vivid velvet sapphire dress, their tea service, and the cozy red wing chairs- I was absolutely engrossed. Then I was completely sucked in to the interesting literary choices made in Toby and Kevin’s characters- brilliant! This book kept me on the edge of my seat until the last sentence. It was like playing the game “Clue” with Colonel Mustard. After a while, I forgot about the lack of division with the characters because the storyline was so intensely gratifying. What an awesome ending!

Have you read any of Savage’s books- Valentine or Precipice? He also goes by pen name T.J. Phillips. If you read any of his works, let me know what you thought.  Were they written in a similar fashion, in different voices?

4.5/5 stars

22 down, 30 to go!

In progress- The Next Thing On My List




Book #14: Fabookulous April 14, 2010

The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek

Book description:

The children of a once-brilliant playwright and a struggling actress, the four Haas siblings grew up in chaos- raised in an environment composed of neglect and glamour in equal measure. When their father dies, they must depend on their intense but fragile bond to remember what it means to be family despite years of anger and hurt. These brothers and sisters are painfully human, sometimes selfish, and almost always making the wrong decisions, but their endearing struggles provide laughter through tears- something anyone who’s ever had a sibling can relate to.

I don’t even know where to begin my review. I feel like this book was such a huge waste of my time. I have only given really bad reviews to a couple of books and that is because I had nothing positive to say about them. This one is going to fall in that category so if you were hoping to read it, be warned this review is not going to encourage you to do so.

The story is split into 5 sections from 5 points of view (4 of them are the children and the last one is the mother’s view). Amy’s story is the first section and throughout the whole thing I just couldn’t get into it. Amy had no personality, she was hardly a character I felt like I knew, and I didn’t think she had anything valuable to add to the story. She just sort of seemed to go through the motions as narrator. A couple of times throughout I felt like there were pieces missing and wondering if something was implied because it was mentioned once. I feel there were way too many gaps in the story line.

Then you move on to the second section (from George’s point of view). Here’s where this review is going to plummet. First of all, the point of view literally changed from first person (Amy) to third person (George). I wasn’t a fan but maybe some sort of literary writing technique is lost on me here. George is homosexual and his story gets into graphic detail of his affairs. I’ll leave it at that, but the language and the graphic nature of the content did nothing to interest me but rather make me skip his entire section. I knew I was a sensitive reader but didn’t realize just how sensitive until I read this section.

I thought I’d jump ahead to the third section: Kate’s point of view. Kate is a lawyer in DC hoping to make partner and quite frankly, the first few pages of her story did NOTHING to impress me or draw my attention. I just didn’t connect with any of the characters. At all. They are all so disconnected themselves that it was hard to like any of them. (The 4th sibling is a drunk and the mom is MIA until I assume the last section of the book) I just couldn’t make it there.

I’ve decided this book was probably one of my worst read (and that’s a very short list). My opinion is the farthest thing from an editor, professional, or publisher standpoint. I’m just a girl who loves to read and is challenging herself to read 52 books this year. I’ve read some great books, and this one was anything but.

So after deciding I was going to give up entirely on this book (but I’m totally counting it in the 52 for this year because to be honest I’m that bitter I spent any time on it at all), I needed to revisit other reviews. I discovered this book in People magazine and it had a great review. So after doing a Google search to find other reviews, I started thinking it was just me. Everyone seemed to think really highly of the story. Then I started finding other bad reviews and was relieved when someone else pretty much said the same thing I felt:

S. Miller (in Phoenix, AZ) said on her review of this book:
I don’t understand the rave reviews other readers have left as I found this book very tedious and depressing. I read to about the half way point and just gave up…. something I never do. I found nothing redeeming about the book but kept pushing through it. When the book got into some graphic detail of one of the brothers homosexual affairs, that was the final straw for me and I quit reading. The only reason I gave this book two stars was because I did not finish reading it and maybe the book gets better in the last half. I wish I would have never bought the book… my worst read in at least 10 years.

I’m afraid I have to say I agree 100%.

1 out of 5 stars….

Happy Reading to all of you,



Book #21: LibraryLove April 11, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Book description~

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject–in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do–and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s–not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect–can look a heck of a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel — and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder. House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way–but lousy for those who don’t.

The first Jodi Picoult (pronounced Pee-koe, like the tea) book that I read was The Pact. Recently I read Change of Heart, My Sister’s Keeper and Keeping Faith. Jodi understands character development, proper pacing, the importance of rising action, and planting little “Easter Eggs” of information that excite when their significance is revealed to the reader, drawing them in right away. Jodi has an artistic way of taking the reader inside a handful of characters in one novel, each through first person narrative. Reading a “Jodi book” is like the feeling you get when the optometrist finally settles on your new prescription- you can see the world in a whole new and clear way. House Rules did almost all the above  for me. Jodi’s writing style is precise and careful. She bravely writes about controversial topics with such grace and consideration.

When I read, I want to be challenged. I want to re-assess the way I view the world, so I embrace the controversy her books can spur.

In House Rules, we spend the majority of the story hearing from Emma Hunt and her two teenage sons Theo, and Jacob Hunt. We also hear from the Attorney, and the local detective. Jacob is 18 years old with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), a highly functioning form of autism. Most of us are vaguely familiar with autism through the popular movie Rain Man but our understanding as a society is very minimal. Before reading House Rules, I too, knew nothing about autism and AS. This book expanded my knowledge and opened my eyes to the misunderstood behavioral condition that is Asperger’s. This behavioral disease challenges the way justice is/will be served in our legal system, and how it’s limited scientific proof can affect judgments about right and wrong.

Theo, 15, has issues of his own. He often gets frustrated by how attentive his mother Emma is of older brother Jacob. Theo acts out to get attention or claim his place in the world by sneaking into houses and stealing things.

Emma has to cook all the food gluten and casein-free for Jacob, by color, by day. For example, on green food day, all the food served at the dinner meal must be green or Jacob will spin out of control. Dietary restrictions, rigorous vitamin supplementation and sensory quirks like Jacob’s hatred of the color orange, are just the tip of the iceberg for what it means to have AS.

Part of Jacob’s routine is to watch CrimeBusters everyday at 4:30pm sharp. He loves anything to do with forensic science and investigations. Unfortunately, the Hunt brothers end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and fall victim to unfortunate circumstances. I’ll leave it at that, as many of you have House Rules on your TBR lists!

I love “Jodi books” and always will. However, I felt a bit let down with this one, just by the ending. Maybe it’s the pressures of being one of the hottest modern writers of our time, being forced by her publisher to hammer out a book or more per calendar year? Regardless, I figured out the twist extremely early on, and felt like I was watching a rerun (because I knew how it would end). Despite the above, this book would be fabulous to discuss as a book club selection. The downside- the reader must wait unnecessarily long for the pay off at the end that left me annoyed. I know that part of Jodi’s MO is to leave the reader with their mouth agape and leave you wondering and pondering in your own mind. But I felt at a critical point in the book, pieces of vital information were left out until the absolute end, making the ending a bit too abrupt. I didn’t think it worked as well as it had in Change of Heart or My Sister’s Keeper. We, as the reader, need/want to know those morsels of detail. Let us in! It’s one thing to include twists and turns in a story, but it’s another to withhold vital information to the reader, almost like the story was redacted. It affected my sense of rising action and ultimate “pay off”, which left me a bit perplexed.

Despite my criticism, every single “Jodi book” I’ve read left me changed somehow. I love when books make a real impact on me, and I look forward to the thought-provoking discussions my book club babes and I will have over House Rules.  I am disappointed Picoult won’t be touring around in my area this time around. I can’t wait to hear about her creative process and how she juggles her responsibilities as wife and mother of 4. Jodi will always have a cemented place on my list of top 5 favorite modern authors. I look forward to reading many more “Jodi books” in the future and hope I don’t figure out their twists as early next time 😉

Which authors are your favorites?

4/5 stars

In progress: The Inheritance by Tom Savage

21 down, 31 to go!




Book #13: Fabookulous April 7, 2010

Sabbath Keeping by Lynne M. Baab

Book description:

Six months in Iran and eighteen months in Israel, where all activity stops on every seventh day, began Lynne M. Baab’s twenty-five-year embrace of a rhythm of rest- as a stay-at-home mom, as a professional writer working out of her home, as a student and as a vocational minister of the gospel. With collected insights from Christian history and sabbath keepers of all ages and backgrounds, Sabbath Keeping offers a practical and hopeful guidebook for all of us to slow down and enjoy our relationship with the God of the universe.

This was the 2nd Lynne M. Baab book I’ve read and I think she is such a great teacher. I read her book Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites when I knew nothing of the concept of fasting and she taught me much to consider. So when I saw she had a book on the Sabbath, my interested was piqued.

My dad’s side of the family is Seventh-Day Adventist, observing sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening as the Sabbath. Growing up, I’d stay with my grandparents on Friday evenings and attend Sabbath school and church on Saturday. My earliest memories from Sabbath were the activities that were not “allowed”, or at least in our family, activities that were avoided. As a kid, the weekends are looked at as days to do all kinds of things and such restrictions were not always welcome. (Ah, youth can never relax) Such activities that were avoided were shopping, television, computers, secular music, and working, to observe a day of rest and focus on God and His provisions. The idea of observing Sabbath is not only to follow God’s law (Old Testament) and Jesus’ example (New Testament), but to allow ourselves to step outside of the things of the world that occupy our mind and time 6 days a week.

Following family tradition I attended an SDA high school and spent four years going to Friday night vespers and Saturday morning worship services. So my understanding of the Sabbath is very much based on my experience/knowledge of Seventh-Day Adventist faith.

In Sabbath Keeping, Lynne Baab suggests Sabbath can be any 24-hour period that you dedicate to keeping holy. For many Christians, this day happens to be Sunday. But for others, including the author, that day could be Monday or Tuesday. I guess that’s hard for me to get my head around because I view it more as a structured concept, rather than one that changes based on circumstances.

Lynne’s experience with the Sabbath began when she lived in Iran and I very much enjoyed the history parts of this book. I also loved all the references to the Old Testament and Jewish traditions. The Jewish Sabbath is the same as Seventh-Day Adventist: sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Lynne argues in this book that any 24 hour period can be Sabbath, for example, sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday, or whatever fits your schedule.

Though the Sabbath is not observed by all, I definitely agree it is something we should all try to recognize. We all need a day of complete rest. This world is always so hurried and moving. From the ever ringing cell phones to emails and faxes, to business trips and part time jobs, to children and families, to housework and cooking and cleaning, and all of the television shows we find ourselves wanting to follow. It’s a wonder we can keep going at this fast pace for very long. Even God rested on the 7th day. I do think it’s important to recharge, refocus, and step out of the “world” to focus on things eternal. The Sabbath is a gift from God. Lynne discusses that point in this book pointing out that when you receive a gift from someone, you usually say thank you and embrace it. You don’t typically analyze it over and over: “Why did they give me this?” “What did they think I needed it for?” etc. So why do we do that when God blesses us with free gifts?

For anybody looking to learn about a day of rest or about the Sabbath, I think Lynne’s book is a peaceful and informative teaching on the subject. Though I don’t view it as an official authority (that can only be the Bible itself), Lynne offers great suggestions for practices to give up/to do during your day of rest and relaxation. And I love how she sums it up on the back cover: “Seven full days makes one weak.” Ain’t that the truth??

4/5 stars

13 books down in 2010 (and this is week 14 so I’m right on track!), 39 books & 39 weeks to go!

Happy Reading,



Book #12: Fabookulous April 4, 2010

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey

Book description:
Steve Harvey, the host of the nationally syndicated
Steve Harvey Morning Show, can’t count the number of impressive women he’s met over the years, whether it’s through the “Strawberry Letters” segment of his program or while on tour for his comedy shows. These are women who can run a small business, keep a household with three kids in tiptop shape, and chair a church group all at the same time. Yet when it comes to relationships, they can’t figure out what makes men tick. Why? According to Steve it’s because they’re asking other women for advice when no one but another man can tell them how to find and keep a man. In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve lets women inside the mindset of a man and sheds light on concepts and questions such as:

  • The Ninety-Day Rule: Ford requires it of its employees. Should you require it of your man?
  • How to spot a mama’s boy and what if anything you can do about it.
  • When to introduce the kids. And what to read into the first interaction between your date and your kids.
  • The five questions every woman should ask a man to determine how serious he is.
  • And more…

Sometimes funny, sometimes direct, but always truthful, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man is a book you must read if you want to understand how men think when it comes to relationships.

Boy am I glad this book does not speak on behalf of all men. I do think Steve Harvey is funny and if this book were a stand-up comedy routine, then ok, it was entertaining. But since the cover claims he is “always truthful”, let me dive right in on why I didn’t like it.

First of all, Steve suggests so many ways women need to take a step back to let the man feel important, appreciated, and looked up to. Ok, I get that men need to feel needed. I understand there comes a sense of being and pride that comes from having a secure job and providing for your family; these things make sense. But what I don’t agree with is being told to be a weakling and not do things I am perfectly capable of in order to let the man have his pride. And there is a difference between romantic (the man opening the door for us when obviously we can get it) and silly (waiting for the man to go to Home Depot to get the tools even though we know what we need). Why does a women need to be completely helpless and NOT do things so the man can feel needed? The security should come from within…(hmmm, maybe read Beth Moore’s book So Long Insecurity??)

Secondly, Steve Harvey tells women we have “a good month or so” of not giving a man “the cookie” (you know what he means…) before he will find it somewhere else. Really?? A month? He does take a disclaimer by saying after you’ve had a baby, men understand there will be a 6 week recovery period. Well, gee, thank you for understanding. I find it offensive to suggest that if women don’t provide that “need”, a man will go somewhere else. And I felt like throughout the book, Steve made it sound like if your man ended up doing that, you had no one to blame but yourself. Later, he’d say he doesn’t promote cheating, but the argument was not convincing at all.

Third of all, WHAT THE HECK is all this talk about meeting the kids? I am going to tread lightly here because there are a lot of single parents in the world raising children because the father (or in some cases, the mother) was of no help or support and they are better without them. And in a perfect world, every child would be raised by two parents that loved and supported them deeply. Obviously, we see more and more single parents trying to do their best. But Steve argues instead of waiting to see if you are serious about someone before introducing them to your children, you need to bring them around sooner because if they don’t get along with the kids, it’s going to be a problem. I tend to disagree with this. Children do not need to get attached to every person their parent dates. Talk about confusion.

And it’s disappointing to read about the “baby mama drama” as if everyone out there is a single parent trying to find their mate. There was way too much talk about the children (for either a man or a woman) and maybe Steve is part of a blended family. But I gotta say, as harsh as it may be, by using some of the suggestions in this book, the pattern will probably be repeated.

I’m left to question the motives of a man who is ok with his wife giving up things she loves (ex: scuba diving) because he doesn’t like it and feels he can’t “protect” her when she “risks her life”. It’s a shame that he doesn’t see what’s wrong with that picture. So HE can feel like  man, his wife gives up what SHE enjoys and is even CERTIFIED in! Unreal…

Ladies, do NOT stop being strong and independent women. You can need your man and make him feel that way without pretending to be a weakling you are not, which in a twisted way is what I think Mr. Harvey defines as a “lady”. And if your man wanders to another woman, I’d argue he’s got other problems that don’t involve you. If he was in a committed relationship, he wouldn’t need to cheat.

Nobody is a relationship expert, and we all learn with each one. And sure, I may be more on the old fashioned side with some of my beliefs. But I definitely disagreed with a lot of ideas Steve Harvey writes about in this book. I would not recommend it for anyone, except maybe the “serial daters”. It’s good to have standards and put value on yourself and if you don’t already know that, this book could sober you up a bit.

Either way, I do not believe this is a groundbreaking relationship book. I don’t even think a lot of it is good advice. I was disappointed, at best.

2 out of 5 stars…

Happy Reading,


Book #11: Fabookulous April 3, 2010

Big Girl by Danielle Steel

Book description:

In this heartfelt and incisive new novel, Danielle Steel celebrates the virtues of unconventional beauty while exploring deeply resonant issues of weight, self-image, sisterhood, and family.

A chubby little girl with blond hair, blue eyes, and ordinary looks, Victoria Dawson has always felt out of place in her family, especially in body-conscious L.A. Her father, Jim, is tall and slender, and her mother, Christina, is a fine-boned, dark-haired beauty. Both are self-centered, outspoken, and disappointed by their daughter’s looks. When Victoria is six, she sees a photograph of Queen Victoria, and her father has always said she looks just like her. After the birth of Victoria’s perfect younger sister, Gracie, her father liked to refer to his firstborn as “our tester cake.” With Gracie, everyone agreed that Jim and Christina got it right.

While her parents and sister can eat anything and not gain an ounce, Victoria must watch everything she eats, as well as endure her father’s belittling comments about her body and see her academic achievements go unacknowledged. Ice cream and oversized helpings of all the wrong foods give her comfort, but only briefly. The one thing she knows is that she has to get away from home, and after college in Chicago, she moves to New York City.

Landing her dream job as a high school teacher, Victoria loves working with her students and wages war on her weight at the gym. Despite tension with her parents, Victoria remains close to her sister. And though they couldn’t be more different in looks, they love each other unconditionally. But regardless of her accomplishments, Victoria’s parents know just what to say to bring her down. She will always be her father’s “big girl,” and her mother’s constant disapproval is equally unkind.

When Grace announces her engagement to a man who is an exact replica of their narcissistic father, Victoria worries about her sister’s future happiness, and with no man of her own, she feels like  a failure once again. As the wedding draws near, a chance encounter, an act of stunning betrayal, and a family confrontation lead to a turning point.

Behind Victoria is a lifetime of hurt and neglect she has tried to forget, and even ice cream can no longer dull the pain. Ahead is a challenge and a risk: to accept herself as she is, celebrate it, and claim the victories she has fought so hard for and deserves. Big girl or not, she is terrific and discovers that herself.

This book was my first Danielle Steel novel and I was very excited to read something she wrote. My mom has read most of her books and by the time she was my age, she had probably read about 30 of Danielle’s books. I’m fairly certain this isn’t your typical novel by the best selling author.

It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner books where typically the main character is overweight and has some self image issues. However, I think the story held its own throughout the book.

Victoria Dawson was a character easy to like and sympathize with. Her father was easy to hate. He never had anything positive to say to her and it was so frustrating that her mother was his puppet who went along with everything he said. Surprisingly, Victoria and her sister had an incredible bond despite the fact they had very different experiences with their parents. It’s pretty amazing Victoria didn’t grow bitter and hateful toward Gracie, who received nothing but praises from both of her parents.

At first I felt the story was written in a sort of rushed way because there were parts where the story skipped 4 or 5 years ahead. But later I found it worked really well for this novel so you could absorb the highlights and get to know the history of the characters.

I enjoyed reading about Victoria’s journey to finding who she is and learning how to love herself despite the fact that she had been told her whole life anything but. From leaving the family for college to life in New York where she makes new friends that support her and care for her, it’s easy to root for Victoria in this book.

Danielle Steel does a wonderful job at creating characters you could love, hate, want to slap, root for, laugh with, and roll your eyes at. I had all of those moments in reading this novel. An easy, laid back read, I am sure this is not the typical Danielle Steel book. And I would definitely be interested in reading more of her books.

4.5/5 stars

Happy Reading,



Book #20: LibraryLove April 1, 2010

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

De Rosnay’s U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand’s family, about France and, finally, herself. Already translated into 15 languages, the novel is De Rosnay’s 10th (but her first written in English, her first language). It beautifully conveys Julia’s conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah’s trials so riveting and her innocence so absorbing.

What countries come to mind when you think of the heinous events of the Holocaust and extermination of thousands of Jews during World War II?

I’d bet you a cookie that Paris France wasn’t on your short list. If you’re like me, I was not previously aware before reading this book, of the Paris roundups of 1942. Thousands of Jewish families (children and all) were arrested from their homes, held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vel’ d’hiv for short) outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz internment camps for extermination. I knew France was involved in underground events along with Germany. Now I realize how large a roll French police played in the mass extermination of innocent Jews during the occupation- the black moment in France’s history. Immediately, I thought of the New Orlean’s SuperDome during Hurricane Katrina and how awful those conditions were. Newspaper articles compared the SuperDome to a ‘lawless concentration camp’ and I’ll never forget the headlines. Consider it a dramatically ironic parallel to the Holocaust. Dirty, fearful and exhausted. The stench of human feces, the close quarters, no access to the outside world; simply awful. Magnify your worst ideas exponentially; only then can you begin to grasp the atrocities that ensued for the folks trapped against their will at the Vel’ d’hiv. The difference- many of the folks who were temporarily displaced due to Katrina, which was an awful natural disaster, were provided aid and eventually survived. The same cannot be said for the innocent Jews of Paris, France who were held captive, then gassed, in the Vel’ d’hiv just for being Jewish. In Sarah’s Key, de Rosnay does a fabulous job weaving past (early 1942 WWII) and present (2002) together through her artful work. The book is paced just perfectly, switching between fictionalized 1942 (Sarah’s story) and 2002 (Julia’s story). I was glued to the pages and could NOT turn away. In Julia’s story, we follow an American-born journalist living in Paris with her family. In researching the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’hiv roundups for a work assignment, Julia learns through records that the apartment she and her husband plan to move into was once lived in by The Starzynski family. The Starzynski family along with thousands of others, were ripped from their apartments and exterminated after being held in the Vel’ d’hiv and shipped off to internment camps. The homes of these innocent families were then made available for whoever wanted to rent them immediately. Julia becomes fascinated by this idea and begins her quest to find information on Sarah Starzynski, the one family member whose name did not have additional information. Did Sarah escape the Vel’ d’Hiv alive? What happened to her? Was she still alive?

In Sarah’s story, we follow the 10-year-old as she escapes the Vel’ d’hiv. We don’t even know her name until almost halfway through the book. She’s “the girl” until she tells the kind farmers her name after they offer her refuge. This was strategically appropriate considering the topic. I felt de Rosnay kept Sarah “nameless” as a tool. It conveyed the pain of being ‘just another Jew’ carted off for extermination and the idea that you weren’t an individual with a name or with feelings because you were a Jew.

Sarah’s got an important reason to get back to her apartment, and fast! You won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough as Sarah and Julia’s lives intersect and Julia learns more secrets about her family, and herself as she deals with her own personal struggle. Probably the turning points for me were:  when Julia felt her moment of clarity- when everything clicked. I absolutely loved the scene when she gets the heck out of that clinic and felt the momentum pick up even more, and then the first scene with William in the cafe.  One criticism- I wish we would have continued to hear from Sarah periodically in the last third of the book. I know, I know. We’re not supposed to. But I really wanted to hear more 😦

I don’t want to give too much away because I know if you pick up this book, you will not put it down. But Sarah’s strength, Zoe’s maturity, and Julia’s drive to uncover the story are just three of the many reasons I loved this book and think you will too. Although painful to read at times, I recommend everyone read this book. Sarah’s Key brings the atrocities from the Vel’ d’Hiv to light so we ensure they NEVER happen again.

I can’t wait to check out other novels by Tatiana de Rosnay. Special thanks to two of my girlfriends, CCP and GFCB, for recommending this book.

4.5/5 stars

20 down, 32 to go!

In progress- House Rules and Atonement (audiobook)