Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #18: Fabookulous May 31, 2010

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Book description:

Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie—a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance—and even, to some degree, friendships—believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.

I was so excited to read another Emily Giffin novel! Having met her on her Heart of the Matter book tour, I couldn’t wait to devour her latest story. And devour I did, poolside on Memorial Day weekend.

With each Giffin novel I’ve read, I’ve always said each one is better than the last. (And they are all really good!) She never disappoints, introducing you to your new best friends and making it easy to feel compassion and empathy for the characters. I love how Heart of the Matter is told from two points of views (Tessa in first person and Valerie in third person). I love getting both sides to the story!

Without giving too much away, I can say that the twists and turns, the ups and downs, and the friendships developed will have you turning the pages as fast as you can! I couldn’t put the book down and as I neared the end I was actually sad that it was almost over.

Emily Giffin novels remain some of my favorites and I love that they are not all too predictable. I like novels that keep you guessing. This one doesn’t disappoint and I recommend it for your summer TBR list!

Giffin’s first novel, Something Borrowed, is currently being made into a movie and will release next summer. While reading Heart of the Matter, I could easily imagine which celebrities would be great for the roles. So here’s hoping this one’s a movie someday too so I can see how well I did!

5/5 stars.

Happy Reading,

Fabookulous

Advertisements
 

Book #29: LibraryLove May 30, 2010

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood

Book description~ This book tells the haunting story of a young man who narrowly survives a terrible car wreck that kills his little brother. Years later, the brothers’ bond remains so strong that it transcends the normal boundaries separating life and death. Charlie St. Cloud lives in a snug New England fishing village. By day he tends the lawns and monuments of the ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. Graced with an extraordinary gift after surviving the accident, he can still see, talk, and even play catch with Sam’s spirit. But townsfolk whisper that Charlie has never recovered from his loss.  Into his carefully ordered life comes Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventuresome woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that blows her back to harbor, to a charged encounter with Charlie, and to a surprise more overwhelming than the violent sea itself. Charlie and Tess discover a beautiful and uncommon connection that leads to a race against time and a desperate choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go.

Soulful and transformative.  Suspenseful yet subtle. Engaging and realistic. Set in New England, these are just a few words that describe Ben Sherwood’s thought-provoking novel, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud. First and foremost, St. Cloud is about the unbreakable bond of devotion between brothers Sam and Charlie, who are forever changed by a tragic car accident. I am fascinated to read about sibling dynamics and love to see such a strong bond with these characters. Sherwood does a fantastic job developing the characters of both brothers. Charlie and Sam were just so relatable, making me miss my sister,  even more than I normally do. Two forces pulled me toward this novel almost simultaneously. My favorite author, Garth Stein, posted a comment on Facebook last week saying his best buddy Ben Sherwood’s novel, St. Cloud, was made into a soon-to-be-released major motion picture with Zac Efron cast as Charlie. I added the book to my library queue the following day when a friend and I went to the movies and I saw a preview for the film! I’m a curious person by nature and knew I’d want to see the film. Why do I always do this?? I walk out of the theater disappointed.  Frankly, it’s my own fault for having unrealistic expectations and a vivid imagination; the films always somehow fall short. Ah well, maybe one of these days I will learn from Pavlov’s Dog. In the meantime, I wanted the book under my belt first. Most of all, as I was with The Lovely Bones, I’m curious how the director is going to interpret the “in between” scenes.

Regardless of how the film turns out, I’m SO glad my interest was piqued into devouring this book at the pool over the weekend. Sherwood paces the action just perfectly. I was right along side Charlie’s struggle to find a place in this world after the accident. Charlie felt that he robbed Sam of life because of the accident. I could really sympathize with  how Charlie felt he didn’t deserve love or  happiness, as suffering was his due diligence. He wrapped himself in a bubble where he didn’t let anyone in for a while. These walls of limitation prevented him from truly feeling or moving on… that is, until Tess came along.  You will have to pick up this fantastic book for yourself to see how Tess flips Charlie and Sam’s worlds upside down.

In St. Cloud, Sherwood created an interesting world where tragedy is morphed into a renewal so beautiful, you will not want to put this book down. Clearly I was compelled….can’t you tell by my furrowed brow?

As you know if you follow this blog regularly, poolside is where we bookwormz get our best reading done. I couldn’t put this book down and finished it at the pool this afternoon. This novel was a thoroughly enjoyable read I recommend to everyone. I’ll be interested to see how the movie interprets this novel. Have you read any of Sherwood’s other works? What’s your take on books made into films? Would love to hear your thoughts! And if you haven’t already, there’s still time to enter to win our current summer giveaway. Click here for details!

When the goin’ gets hot, take a dip in the pool and crack open a great book this summer!

5/5 stars

29 down, 23 to go!

In progress, Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

PS- below is where you’ll find us all summer chugging through this challenge!


 

Book #17: Fabookulous May 29, 2010

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush

Book description~

In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of our most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.

Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland’s brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day. For the first time, in heart-wrenching detail, she writes about the devastating high school car accident that left her friend Mike Douglas dead and about her decades of unspoken grief.

When Laura Welch first left West Texas in 1964, she never imagined that her journey would lead her to the world stage and the White House. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1968, in the thick of student rebellions across the country and at the dawn of the women’s movement, she became an elementary school teacher, working in inner-city schools, then trained to be a librarian. At age thirty, she met George W. Bush, whom she had last passed in the hallway in seventh grade. Three months later, “the old maid of Midland married Midland’s most eligible bachelor.” With rare intimacy and candor, Laura Bush writes about her early married life as she was thrust into one of America’s most prominent political families, as well as her deep longing for children and her husband’s decision to give up drinking. By 1993, she found herself in the full glare of the political spotlight. But just as her husband won the Texas governorship in a stunning upset victory, her father, Harold Welch, was dying in Midland.

In 2001, after one of the closest elections in American history, Laura Bush moved into the White House. Here she captures presidential life in the harrowing days and weeks after 9/11, when fighter-jet cover echoed through the walls and security scares sent the family to an underground shelter. She writes openly about the White House during wartime, the withering and relentless media spotlight, and the transformation of her role as she began to understand the power of the first lady. One of the first U.S. officials to visit war-torn Afghanistan, she also reached out to disease-stricken African nations and tirelessly advocated for women in the Middle East and dissidents in Burma. She championed programs to get kids out of gangs and to stop urban violence. And she was a major force in rebuilding Gulf Coast schools and libraries post-Katrina. Movingly, she writes of her visits with U.S. troops and their loved ones, and of her empathy for and immense gratitude to military families.

With deft humor and a sharp eye, Laura Bush lifts the curtain on what really happens inside the White House, from presidential finances to the 175-year-old tradition of separate bedrooms for presidents and their wives to the antics of some White House guests and even a few members of Congress. She writes with honesty and eloquence about her family, her public triumphs, and her personal tribulations. Laura Bush’s compassion, her sense of humor, her grace, and her uncommon willingness to bare her heart make this story revelatory, beautifully rendered, and unlike any other first lady’s memoir ever written.

It became clear to me early on while reading this memoir that it was going to be a beautiful read. From cover to cover, Laura Bush’s personal and deeply touching story is beautifully written and a delight to read. I closed the book with a smile on my face and yet sadness that it was the end. Taking three weeks to read it (due partly to the fact that I was on business travel one of those weeks and by the time my head hit the pillow I could hardly read a single paragraph), I feel I spent enough time to soak up every word.

Laura Bush is to be admired, respected, and an example to follow. Not only has she always been (and remains to be) committed to her husband and family, she has a heart for people that stretches to the corners of the world. She used her platform as First Lady to serve others and bring attention and aid to some of the most devastating circumstances around the globe.

Spoken from the Heart discusses painful topics for the former First Lady, from the tragic accident that took a friend’s life and the grief-stricken years to follow, to the challenging decisions her husband was faced with every single day and her admiration for him to persevere in tough times. She does a marvelous job “humanizing” the former First Family. The Bush family respected each other and remained committed despite all the negative circumstance and attention surrounding them. They stayed true to themselves and served our country with honor and integrity.

Something that came to mind frequently while reading Spoken from the Heart was a quote from the Book of Esther. When Esther is called to become Queen, her uncle tells her she was called, “…for such a time as this.” I truly believe President Bush was called for his time. He brought with him a beautiful family and a strong, caring, loving and gracious wife.

Laura Bush is a genuine soul who continues work for many of the initiatives she began in the White House. As a fellow lover of books and literacy, she has inspired me to consider where I can lend my hand and support. To share books with others, to encourage education and literacy, to meet authors and enrich our understandings, all of this is a gift to be shared.

What more can I say other than I respect, admire, and appreciate Laura Bush. I thank her for opening up to the world and writing a memoir, despite her preference for privacy. I thank her for her efforts and her faith in the human people to help one another. And I recommend this memoir to anyone who admires the Bush family, enjoys autobiographies and memoirs, or just wants to be inspired to make a difference in their world.

Without a doubt, 5/5 stars.


Happy Reading,
Fabookulous

 

Summertime Giveaway: FREE Garth Stein Swag Bag! ***Winner just announced*** May 26, 2010

Ok guys. Are you ready for this??

I’ve been bursting at the seams with excitement over here and can finally announce this exciting giveaway!

Thanks to Garth Stein and his publicist, Sarah at Terra Communications, I am excited to announce our first contest here at Year of the Bookwormz. One OH-SO-LUCKY winner will receive a FREE Garth Stein  ‘GoEnzo.com’  SWAG BAG (pictured below) with a stunning red Raven Stole The Moon umbrella AND autographed hardcover copy of Garth Stein’s prolific New York Times Bestseller, Art of Racing in the Rain!

How can you win this fantastic booty?
It’s SUPER EASY! Just leave a comment  and tell us:

1) Your name

2) The name of your favorite pet (past or present)

3) Something funny or cute or anything at all this pet did/does to make you smile

If you’ve never had a pet, you can still enter– use your vivid imagination and make something  up!

This contest will be open until Wednesday June 9th.

After the contest closes, a winner will be chosen using Random.Org. Please check back here to find out if you’re the lucky winner of this fantastic prize pack!

Not only is my favorite author of my favorite novel an amazing writer, speaker, and chef, but he’s extremely generous, humble and kind. If you follow this blog, you know I had the honor of meeting Mr. Stein last month at the Bethesda Writer’s Center where he made all the girls cry (ok but then he made us laugh immediately after). I look forward to supporting his future endeavors, including attending his event in September. After viewing this blog and my photos from the event, Sarah, Garth’s publicist,  approached me asking if she could use my photos in Garth’s newsletter. (No brainer!) I was honored and told her yes immediately! She then gave me the opportunity to host this giveaway.

Where would we be without technology?! Social media and Web 2.0 afford me the platform for promoting someone I believe in and support so much. Being able to reach out to our readers and give one of you the gift of this compelling novel  is a privilege. The Art of Racing in the Rain changed my life and I believe if you read it, it will change yours as well.

Good luck! Please share this with all your friends!!

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

PS- Here’s a photo of one of my favorite pets. His name is Zumo and his strength amazes me. Zumo is our 18-month-old rescue Akita. He loves his weekly hydrotherapy rehab sessions and this photo just makes me smile every time I see it, because it’s like a circus just getting him into his “swim gear”. One afternoon, while unloading the dogs from hydrotherapy, one of the young neighborhood girls asked, “So Zumo is a rescue? He, like, jumps in pools and saves kids and stuff?” I laughed and replied, “No sweetie. We rescued him.” 🙂

 

Book #28: LibraryLove May 24, 2010

Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Taylor Kidd

Book description~ Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann traveled together to sacred sites throughout Greece and France. Sue, feeling her years and longing to reconnect with her daughter, struggles to find the wherewithal to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel, that will become her bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and facing her future, grapples with a painful depression.

I’ve recently read a number of novels that flip back and forth from one character, in first person, to the next. It’s an interesting literary choice done EXTREMELY well by authors like Jodi Picoult (think My Sister’s Keeper, House Rules) and Jennifer Weiner (think Little Earthquakes). This book is the first memoir I’ve read where, as the reader, we hear both first-hand accounts of the two main characters. Usually, authors select to write one character in first-person narrative and the rest in third-person.
This memoir tells the story of a very tumultuous time for mother and daughter, Sue & Ann. Both ladies allow us direct access into the eye of their most vulnerable storms. The mother and daughter pair venture on a fantastic trip to Greece and through Europe after Ann’s graduation. We are introduced to Sue who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose, now that her daughter is graduating. Sue feels all alone. Then we are introduced to her daughter, Ann, who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose now that she is graduating and moving on in her life. Dramatic irony- most certainly! 😉 In the beginning, Ann is very silent about her depression. She doesn’t get accepted to the Graduate school she wanted to and is sent into a tailspin to figure out what direction her life should go in.

She eventually decides she has such a passion for writing that she cannot deny. Sue struggles to find the inspiration she needs for her idea to write a novel about bees. I was initially drawn to this book because of my enjoyment of her bestselling novel, The Secret Life of Bees. I saw this was a memoir and was curious to learn about Sue’s impetus behind writing that novel, which was written as a result of this life-changing and inspiring trip Sue took with Ann back in 1998. The parts of this book that I enjoyed the most were about how Sue’s creative process grew so organically, to form one of my all time favorite pieces of southern fiction.

Along their journey through Greece and Europe, Sue and Ann discover a new found appreciation for each other. They confide in each other and draw strength from the other’s struggle.

“At times it seemed beyond weird that we’d lived in the same house during those years- I’d known so little about what she’d struggled with inside. There had been hints- bits of conversation, or the piles of feminist theology books that were suddenly in the house. But mostly I knew her as my mother- the one who stayed up to decorate my Raggedy Ann birthday cake, who helped me pick out my cotillion dress, who taught me how to parallel park. I glimpsed her, for the first time, as a woman, like one of those beautiful Caryatids she’s standing with now,”~ Ann, speaking of her mother, Sue.

“For one elongated minute we sit there and listen to rain pelt the roof. The closeness we discovered in Greece seemed to solidify during the fall. We talked endlessly about the experiences we’d had, pored over our trip photographs, and picked up the conversations we started over there,”~ Sue, speaking of her daughter, Ann.

Unfortunately, I found myself wanting to rush through many of Sue’s chapters because she insisted upon including numerous Greek mythological tangents. I found the self-indulgence unnecessary to the story, lecture-ish and along the lines of a historical textbook, not a memoir. Sue’s writing style in this particular selection didn’t keep my interest as much. It was harder for me to relate to a menopausal woman’s struggles, something I’ve yet to experience, whereas Ann’s story I really enjoyed, as she is closer to my age.  I enjoyed the beautiful imagery of Greece and to hear the development of The Secret Life of Bees’ plotline. It’s also a nice reminder that we should be kinder, sweeter, and more understanding of the silent struggles we, our friends, and our mothers face on a daily basis. It is a good reminder to maybe check in with the women in your life in a different way- refocus conversations to real matters of the heart rather than just getting caught up in the minutiae of daily life. For Ann especially, their trip to Europe was a gift- the opportunity to re-acquaint herself with the person who baked her birthday cakes and sewed her buttons back on…

3/5 stars

28 down, 24 to go!

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Author Spotlight & Book Signing:: Emily Giffin :: May 20, 2010

No author’s work epitomizes summer reading like Emily Giffin (NOT Griffin)! Thanks to Fabookulous’ recommendation and a few credits from Paperbackswap.com, my girls and I devoured each of Giffin’s books last summer by the pool/beach. On the outside, the book covers are girly and bright. On the inside, these books will make you laugh, cry, and call your best friend. Giffin’s books cover all the bases- life’s challenges in personal growth, relationships,  marriage, friendships, motherhood and beyond. These books are written in such a fun and fresh way. To quote CoverGirl- they’re just easy, breezy!

In March, while on vacation visiting family and away from the computer, Fabookulous was bursting at the seams to tell me about Giffin’s tour dates hot off the press! With the date firmly inked on the calendar, we sent a “smoke signal” and organized a group of our gal pals from near and far. Tonight was the long awaited Girl’s Night Out to share in the excitement of meeting Giffin as she kicked off her 2010 summer book tour (thankfully with a stop in our town) promoting her latest release, Heart of the Matter. The girls and I HAD anxiously awaited this event since voraciously devouring all her books last summer. We’d been chomping at the bit for more. Turned out it was also the BabyMoon weekend I organized for one of my besties to come down to stay with us at “The Chateau” for a girly weekend of pampering and prenatal massage before her new baby arrives. She was able to arrive a day early and join us for GiffinFest2010!

Those of us who were able, met at a french cafe for dinner before the big event. We arrived in plenty of time to save prime seats for our other friends who were coming from farther away in traffic.

I don’t know how it happens, but I seem to make new friends everywhere I go.  I was complimenting the girl in front of us on her gorgeous blue/purple dress. We starting chatting books and she loved hearing about our blog. Turned out this was her VERY first book signing event! So Alyssa, if you’re reading this, I’m so glad to have met you and we hope to see you at the Jennifer Weiner event this summer 🙂

From the moment Emily walked into the room, she captivated us. She’s the kind of girl you want in (as I call it), in your “friend arsenal”; intelligent, friendly, hilarious, kind and thoughtful. It was such a fantastic opportunity to hear her talk openly about her process for writing Heart of the Matter as well as her other bestselling novels, balancing being a wife, and and mother of twin 6-year-old sons and a 3-year-old daughter.

My gal pals and I coordinated outfits to match the beautiful deep purple cover of Heart of the Matter. Emily was so tickled by our gesture that she had her assistant take a photo of Emily with our group especially for her blog. I cannot wait to see it! Emily, we love you and cannot wait for you to come back around!! I would say more but I have out-of-town company to attend to. I knew you folks would want a quick recap and the night was just spectacular. Thanks to my girlfriends for making it extra special. As I say, it’s always better together!

With the most wonderful time of the year a week away, that’s right folks- pool and beach season, time to pack that beach bag, pool bag or airline carry-on with your favorite summer reading. What’s at the top of your favorite summer reads? Drop us a comment anytime, I’d love to get suggestions for my summer TBR list.

Want more Giffin? The first book, Something Borrowed, is currently being made into a major motion picture!! So far, Kate Hudson (Darcy), Ginnifer Goodwin (Rachel), Colin Egglesfield (Dex) and John Krasinski (Ethan) have been cast for the film. As can be expected, we can’t wait to make a fun night of this and go as a group to see the film when it comes out 😉 In the meantime, check out Giffin’s recent blog post as she shares her experience of visiting the set of the film, and getting to meet the cast! Giffin is also working on the screenplay for Baby Proof!


Happy reading and don’t forget the sunscreen.








xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Spotlight:: When Worlds Collide:: Sue Monk Kidd & Jenna Lamia:: May 18, 2010

Did you know June is National Audiobook Month? The other day, while perusing the “just added section” of my library’s iPod audiobook catalog, loading up my wish list for next month, I stumbled upon a gem: The Secret Life of Bees!! Just when it couldn’t get any better, I see under the title, read by Jenna Lamia!!!!!!!!

Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees left a lasting impression on me when I first picked it up a few years ago after a recommendation from one of my besties. I absolutely adored it; I laughed, I cried and I felt like Lily was my little sister who I wanted to just take under my wing. I wanted Lily to know she would overcome the horrible turn her young life took and comfort her. Watching the movie was just “so-so”, as I’ve found are 99.9% of movies adapted from novels. Knowing Lamia was the voice of Lily, I made a beeline and downloaded Bees immediately. Kidd’s other books have been on my TBR list for a while now. I was recently re-inspired when Traveling With Pomegranates became available from my local library, Kidd’s dual memoir with daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Mermaid Chair is also on its way to me through Paperbackswap.com. Unfortunately, Kidd’s author event in my area falls on what seems to be THE busiest weekend of the year and I won’t be in town. If Fabookulous can make it, I will anxiously await her gushing afterward!

Jenna Lamia, my FAVORITE voice-over artist, in addition to narrating Secret Life of Bees, has cropped up in some of my other favorite audiobooks (go figure)! I just love when worlds collide and simply had to blog about it. I plan to follow her career, as Fabookulous would say, “like white on rice”! After a quick IMDB search, Lamia has also appeared in numerous films as an actress, but carved out a perfect niche in the voice-over universe. Lamia read the voice of Skeeter in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, a book that will remain in my Top 10 best reads. In addition to narrating the entire audiobook for Bees, Lamia also narrated the audiobook for friend and YOTBWZ2010 supporter, Beth Hoffman’s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. Interestingly enough, I found many similarities between the three books’ main characters- Skeeter, Lily and CeeCee. If I were a college student again, I’d write a character analysis paper comparing/contrasting these three young women. I think it’d be fascinating to analyze these three books in relation to one another’s main characters. Lamia’s voice is the perfect tie to bind them and I thank the “voice over powers that be” for “casting” the audiobook just right. Lamia’s voice so perfectly springs these authors’ words from the page and into life with such feeling and intensity. Her timing is right on point.

If you’re new to the audiobook realm, I highly recommend you just give it a try and observe June’s National Audiobook Month in a few weeks. Take a listen to Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, The Help and/or Secret Life of Bees and come back here to let me know your thoughts, feelings, reactions! You will be hooked. Audiobooks make my commute, housework, and summer roadtrips much more enjoyable and are widely accessible from your local library’s digital download section or in CD format. When all else fails, head over to iTunes and download the audiobooks from there.

“Jenna Lamia brings a fresh, captivating voice to the audiobook world, and with only a few audiobooks under her belt, she has had amazing success. Her performance of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES was a 2003 Audie Award Finalist in the prestigious category of Best Female Narrator. Director Paul Ruben shared his excitement about their work on the audiobook, saying, “Only good actors make good directors, and she’s one of them. A natural.” GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING was her first audiobook, and an Earphones Award Winner. We celebrate HOPE WAS HERE with another Earphones. She has an attentive ear for the nuances of speech patterns and regional inflections, yet makes an effort not to overprepare. “I let the characters grow and take care not to be too knowing,” she says. “I come to the story as the listener does, allowing it to unfold.” Jenna’s success is not just in audiobooks; a big break came with her 1998 performance in Ah, Wilderness on Broadway, and recently she starred in Bed Bound Off Broadway. She’s now in Los Angeles where she had a role in HBO’s Oz. Movies on the way include Audrey Tautou’s Nowhere to Go But Up. Jenna’s interest in audiobooks will likely keep open some time for narration in the coming months”.–2003 Narrator Yearbook.

Look for my review of Secret Life of Bees coming soon!

Happy reading,

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove