Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #21: Fabookulous June 27, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Book description:

Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around one devastating, blurred memory- the afternoon her mother was killed when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted, and sometimes just fierce, black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her “stand-in mother.”

When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it’s time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina- a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.

There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.

The Secret Life of Bees has a rare wisdom about life- about mothers and daughters and the women in our lives who become our true mothers. A remarkable story about the divine power of women and the transforming power of love, this is a stunning debut whose rich, assured, irresistible voice gathers us up and doesn’t let go, not for a moment. It is the kind of novel that women share with each other and that mothers will hand down to their daughters for years to come.

This book was suggested to me by a few of my friends after they heard how much I loved Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. Another southern fiction novel, I found this to be excellent summer reading! I took my time with it as my summer schedule has been out of control thus far. It seems like I haven’t had much time to sit and read, but I did take this book with me when I traveled (just in case there WAS an extra minute or two).

Sue Monk Kidd’s storytelling is so rich that the reader is constantly enticed and interested. Not once did I find myself trying to figure out what would happen, rather I let Kidd tell the story and I enjoyed every word. I loved the diversity in the relationships Lily shares with all the characters (her rough and unrelenting father, T. Ray, her loving friend and mother figure Rosaleen, the caretaker relationship with August, the forbidden and complicated attraction to Zach). There are two other Boatwright sisters: May, the troubled sister who keeps a wailing wall outside the house to release her anguish and June, the hardheaded, skeptical sister.

There’s something about a southern fiction story that is so comforting. Maybe it’s the southern charm, the hospitality, or the history that comes with the surroundings. Whatever it is, it makes me want to sit on a porch with some sweet tea and share lunch with new friends. The way these three Boatwright sisters take in Lily and Rosaleen is inspiring and endearing. Lily is a strong minded teenage girl who longs to be loved and feel wanted and protected. It’s easy to root for her and sympathize with her throughout her journey. I applaud Sue Monk Kidd for the complex and intriguing character development!

This debut novel charmed the pants off of my expectations. I am looking forward to seeing the movie this week as some girlfriends and I already have a movie date lined up! It will be interesting to see the interpretation of the story once Hollywood got a hold of it 🙂

If you haven’t already read this novel (or seen the movie) I encourage you to pick it up. And as a side bonus, you’ll learn trivia about honeybees and the beekeeping world. 🙂

5/5 stars.

Happy Summer Reading,
Fabookulous

The queen, for her part, is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness. ~ Man and Insects (The Secret Life of Bees, Chapter 1)

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Book#34: LibraryLove June 22, 2010

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love and Faith in Stages by Kristin Chenoweth

Book description~ In this lively, laugh-out-loud book, Kristin shares her journey from Oklahoma beauty queen to Broadway leading lady, reflecting on how faith and family have kept her grounded in the dysfunctional rodeo of showbiz.

When I travel for business, I’m constantly going going going all day 99% of the time. Then there are the few and far between times when I’ll have 20 minutes before the next “thing” when it’s handy to have a casual read nearby. For times like the latter, I pack books that I can easily pick up and put down. I got so much more than I bargained for with singer, actress AND comedienne, Kristin Chenoweth’s memoir. Her book kept my interest but it was so nicely ‘chapterized’ that although it was sequential, it allowed me to read it casually when the time allowed (on the plane, before bed, etc). This book was laugh-out-loud funny, down-to-earth, and sweet like slice of cherry pie.  Chenoweth has an honest and genuine voice throughout the novel; I really commend her. I expected this to be a McMemoir and was pleasantly surprised. What? You’ve never heard the term McMemoir before?? You know, the just-add-ghostwriter and stamp with a glamorshot of the celeb-of-the-month on cover and voila, instant bestseller? We’ll now you’ve heard of it! Luckily for Chenoweth, this was not the case for A Little Bit Wicked. I first saw Chenoweth in her cutesy-yet-multifaceted character, Olive Snook, in the gorgeous albeit short-lived Dramedy, Pushing Daisies. When her show(s) were canceled, in addition to all her Broadway work as Glenda the Good Witch in Wicked, she also did a multi-episode cameo in the hit tv-show Glee. She was SO funny on Glee, I actually wish she would have been cast instead of the current actress cast as the guidance counselor. I digress…

Chenoweth’s memoir is written clearly, with a concise and conversational tone. She opens up her heart, soul, biggest fears, dreams, failures and heartaches to the reader and I absolutely adored her every step of the way. As I’ve got to jet back to another session, I’m keeping this one short and sweet.

Highly recommend you pick up this book for a quick and fun summer beach read.

Before I go, here are a few of my favorite Kristin-isms from the book:

“Sometimes you nail it- sometimes you’re the best- and you still don’t get it. Whatever you do as a performer, you have to do it for the performance. You can’t do anything with the expectation of winning an award. It’s best if you learn that now.”

“Some relationships aren’t meant to be Great Love; they’re meant to be like a hot fudge sundae- enjoyable but not something you can actually live on.”

4.5/5 stars

34 down, 18 to go!

In progress, Bitter is the new Black

Xoxo,

Library♥Love

 

Book #33 LibraryLove June 19, 2010

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Book description~ After losing her boyfriend and her job in one fell swoop, Noreen finds it hard to know what the next step is—never mind take it. For the first time in a great many years, Noreen has time to herself. So she puts on a new pair of sneakers and a seriously outdated pair of exercise pants, and walks. It isn’t long before she’s joined by neighbors Tess and Rosie, two women as lost as she is. As the Wildwater women walk and talk, and talk and walk, they tally their steps, share their secrets, and begin putting their lives back together. And along the way, they learn what women everywhere are finding out—time flies, and getting fit is actually fun when you’re walking with friends.

What I often miss from many of our fellow bloggers’ reviews is what drew them to pick up the book they are reviewing! There are so many ways I get inspired to read different books. What or who inspired you to pick up the book you’re reading?

From the bright flip flops on the cover to the intriguing title, stumbling upon this novel was quite serendipitous. I first saw Wildwater Walking Club advertised in a daily edition of Shelf Awareness, one of my favorite book trade publications, advertising the newest books available for advanced review to bloggers and where special giveaways are announced.  I entered a ‘beach reads’ giveaway and although I didn’t win, I immediately checked out WWC from my local library. Then, randomly I received a Facebook friend request from author Claire Cook after she saw the blog link on fellow author Beth Hoffman’s page! What a fun small world.

From the very first page I was hooked. Cook wrote such a fun and refreshing read! Who knew a breakup with a scum bucket, boxes of sneakers, a pedometer, a corporate buyout AND retractable clothesline art could bring such unlikely ladies together?? Well it did! Forty-something ex-sneaker marketer/developer, Noreen,  makes a less-than clean break from slimeball Michael. With her life in flux, taking the first step is the hardest. As part of her corporate buyout, Noreen is entitled to a huge discount on the sneakers she once developed. Taking advantage of that final discount, Noreen grabs stacks of sneakers and two of her neighborhood gal pals and they start the Wildwater Walking Club, as a diversion from their complicated lives.

I love how flawed Noreen’s character is. It’s easier to relate to characters who aren’t perfect. Noreen, as I say, acts as a “ground wire” for the two women she ends up forming a walking club with. The ladies walk the neighborhood every day and record their steps with pedometers.  They plan future vacations, discuss life, love, their uncertain futures, and most important of all, learn to move forward when their lives throws monkey wrenches into the mix. I thoroughly enjoyed the gardening tie-in as lavender plays an important and unexpected role as a character in this book! The ladies plan to ‘pool their pedometer mileage’ and trip over to attend a nearby lavender festival. Noreen and Rosie’s bond strengthens as they tend to the lavender and discover fun lavender recipes like MY personal favorite, lavender black currant champagne (heavenly)!!  Lavender’s solid, calming and rejuvenating presence plays such an important role in setting the foundation for this easy breezy summer read.

I grew up watching my parents tending to their backyard pool/waterfall gardens, front rolling hill and arbor areas year after year.  When you walk up to my parents’ front door, the expansive and fragrant lavender greets you with all the butterflies and bees loving the oasis. It sparked my green thumb and when my husband and I bought our home, I also learned an appreciation for gardening. Orchids and flowering herbs are my absolute favorite, but I love the solidarity of rubber plants and our beautifully rare and draping cultivar rosemary in the front. It’s a quietly slow and steady hobby, but it’s so rewarding seeing new buds, stalks, and petals take form out of nowhere…

WWC was a story of second chances, redemption, starting from scratch and being strong enough to demand what you want at any age. A few of my very close friends are dealing with many seriously hard-hitting issues in their lives right now and ladies if you’re out there, you would really enjoy this book. I think we all can benefit from a fresh start in one way or another and WWC is an uplifting and fun read that left me with a smile on my face. Take “that first step” and toss WWC into your beach/pool bag today!

I look forward to reading Cook’s other works in the near future. And Claire, PLEASE add the Nation’s Capitol to your book tour (pretty please) 😉

Before I head out-of-town for a business trip, here are two recipes from the book that I couldn’t help but share.

For all you walkers out there, enjoy!

Aches Away Lavender Tea Soak

1 c lavender

½  c chamomile

¼ c sage

¼ c rosemary

6 crushed bay leaves

Mix all ingredients. Fill a metal tea ball, muslin, or organza bag. Hang on the tap or float under warm  running water in tub. Climb in and soak liberally to relax muscles, increase circulation, soften body and re-energize soul.

Lavender Dream Pillow

½  c lavender buds

½  c rose petals

½ c crushed mint leaves

3 drops peppermint oil

6 drops lavender essential oil

Mix all ingredients and fill 6-by-12 inch rectangular pillow. Place over your eyes to encourage a restful, rejuvenating sleep, and to make all your dreams come true. 😉

Don’t forget to enter our FREE summer giveaway. Click here for details! Winner announced Wednesday!

4.5/5 stars

33 down, 19 to go!

In progress, A Little Bit Wicked

xoxo,

LibraryLove

PS-

Here is a photo of the enormous lavender plant at the entrance to my parents beautiful home:


Here is a photo of just a fraction of the lush landscaping around their backyard pool, the result of a decade of care:


 

Book #20: Fabookulous June 16, 2010

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen

Book description:

One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging. He observes the Sabbath, he goes to synagogue, and he even flies to New York on weekends for a series of “speed dates” with nice, eligible Jewish girls. But, something is missing. Looking out of his window and across the street at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlanta, he asks, “What would it be like to be a Christian?”

So begins Benyamin Cohen’s hilarious journey that is My Jesus Year– part memoir, part spiritual quest, and part anthropologist’s mission. Among Cohen’s many adventures (and misadventures), he finds himself in some rather unlikely places: jumping into a mosh-pit at a Christian rock concert, seeing his face projected on the giant JumboTron of an African-American megachurch, visiting a potential convert with two young Mormon missionaries, attending a Christian “professional wrestling” match, and waking up early for a sunrise Easter service on top of Stone Mountain- a Confederate memorial and former base of operations for the KKK.

During his year-long exploration, Cohen sees the best and the worst of Christianity- from megachurches to storefront churches; from crass commercialization of religion to the simple, moving faith of the humble believer; from the profound to the profane to the just plain laughable. Throughout, he keeps an open heart and mind, a good sense of humor, and takes what he learns from Christianity to reflect on his own faith and relationship to God. By year’s end, to Cohen’s surprise, his search for universal answers and truths in the Bible Belt actually make him a better Jew.

How many times have you started reading a book with a preconceived idea of how you would like it? I certainly did so with this book. The premise sounds eerily similar to that of The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, which to this day remains my all time favorite book. And because Jacobs offers a cover quote for My Jesus Year, it was easy to assume this memoir was going to be very similar.

But talk about being pleasantly surprised! Done from an anthropological perspective, Cohen does something I’ve talked about doing for years! I’ve often wondered and considered exploring different churches every weekend just to see how different people worship. My motives have never been to rethink my religion as I’m confident in my beliefs and where I am with them. But for pure interest sake, it has always appealed to me to visit neighborhood and local churches of different denominations. That is exactly what Cohen does for an entire year. (Well, sort of. He kind of leans toward the other extreme visiting a Christian wrestling match, a Christian rock concert, megachurches, as well as a monastery; so on and so forth…)

Born Jewish and the son of a Rabbi, Cohen’s quest is more profound in the sense that he is exploring his religion and seeking knowledge and thirsting for that closeness to God. In a rut with Judaism he dives into Christianity, in a new location every single weekend for one year. While still observing Sabbath on Saturday, Cohen went to Christian churches on Sundays as well. Again, for an entire year. That seems overwhelming to experience that much that often.

While reading laugh out loud funny (once I got past my predetermined judgments of how the book would read), this is one of the wittiest memoirs I’ve ever come across. The depth to his conclusions after visiting a new church or Christian body are astounding and surprising. Cohen writes with a sincerity that will appeal to every reader no matter your religion or lack thereof.

His humor is engaging, his story is intriguing and his memoir is both revealing and enjoyable. I’m happy to share this book (which I had purchased a few years ago) with over 30 swappers on the wish list on PaperBackSwap. This is a story that should be shared and I’m glad I finally picked it up to read.

5/5 stars!

Happy Reading,
Fabookulous

 

Gearing up for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

September 13-17th is National Book Blogger Appreciation Week and Year of the Bookwormz2010 is entered in the running for 2010 Best Eclectic and Best Written Book Blog!

We look to our readers, fellow book bloggers and favorite authors for suggestions and ideas. Many of our readers turn to us before loading up their library queue. What better time to appreciate your favorite book blogs than during the Book Blogger Appreciation Week coming this fall, especially if a book blog helped you discover some of your favorite reads!

We were asked to select 5 blog posts in each category that best represent our voice here at Year of the Bookwormz. This blog is not only unique in that we review ALL genres of books, but it’s jointly managed by both of us so the only way to fairly participate is to enter one category each. So thanks to our loyal fans, below are links to our most popular and/or most commented posts that we selected as entries. Thanks so much for making this blog a success and for all  your enthusiasm so far!

Entries for Best Written Category

1) Book #7: Fabookulous

2) Book #10: Fabookulous

3) Author Spotlight: Laura Bush

4) Book #17: Fabookulous

5) Book #20: Fabookulous

Entries for Most Eclectic Category

1) When World’s Collide: Sue Monk Kidd & Jenna Lamia

2) Book #26 LibraryLove

3) Book #24 LibraryLove

4) Author Spotlight: Garth Stein Author Event

5) Book #18 LibraryLove

As an added bonus, each blog entered in Book Blogger Appreciation Week is asked to select 1 work of fiction (wish we could pick 5!) as their favorite.

We selected Beth Hoffman’s best selling novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, as our 2010’s Best Fiction. Reviews of her novel here at YOTBWZ received the most blog hits and searches of all, AND she was kind enough to allow us to host a CeeCee Giveaway! Good luck Beth, we hope you win! we’ll also let you know closer to the time if voting is open to the public!

xo♥xo,

Year of the Bookwormz


 

Book #32 LibraryLove June 10, 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. 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.

Having read each of Emily Giffin’s previous novels, I couldn’t help but have extremely high expectations of her latest release, Heart of the Matter. I met Giffin during her summer tour with some of my best girlfriends beside me. At her event, Giffin was endearing, hilarious, and so accessible as a wife and mother of three small children.

HOM stresses the importance of life’s subtle nuances and hammers home the idea of not taking life for granted, especially for Tessa and Valerie, whose lives intertwine as a result of a tragic accident and an even more tragic circumstance. Tessa’s husband, a top surgeon, is married to his job and must leave her side when his pager beeps to go tend to another family.  Valerie is a single mother struggling to give her son the life he deserves. Early on, the book draws you in as the character development begins. I was right there with Tessa, the eternal optimist, as the daily minutiae set in of such things as what snacks to pack for her child’s classmates and gossip around the school. It is while Tessa’s friend April shares the latest town gossip, that Valerie and Tessa’s stories become interconnected. I was still 100% on board until I predicted the outcome 100 pages into the 350+ page novel. The book was not only a bit too formulaic for me, but the subject matter is one that disgusts me. If you’ve read Something Borrowed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And although it was bad in SoBo, what unfolds about 200 pages in to HOM is despicable. Every book needs a protagonist, a villain, I get that. But the situation in SoBo didn’t involve a married couple. Nick, Tessa’s husband, is so quietly self-contained that Tessa’s mother’s frenetic ways basically give away the plot early on, picking at their marriage and creating an aire of doubt within the reader, making it tough to fully commit to connecting with Valerie and Nick’s characters, knowing what’s to come. I just couldn’t help but feel like this story was one that was told 1,000 times before. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Giffin’s writing style, so conversational. But pair the awful subject matter, which is completely unoriginal, with the way this book was constructed and it just went off the deep end for me. The story is written in Tessa’s first person POV and then switches back and forth between Valerie’s third person POV. I would have liked this book better if, as the reader, we could’ve been inside Valerie’s head too. Authors make very specific choices for a reason. The next time I get the chance to chat with Giffin, I’d like to ask her why she constructed the book this way. If you happen to know, please drop me a comment and let me know why you think it was done. I’ve seen it done before and it worked from authors like Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, and Anita Shreve; I just didn’t feel it this time. I’m sure she had a great reason and I’d love to find out what it is.  Regardless, Something Borrowed and Something Blue will still remain intact as my two favorite Giffin novels so far.

I look forward to hearing what my fellow book club babes think of HOM when we discuss next weekend.

While you’re here, make sure to enter our Second Sizzlin’ Summer Giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Beth Hoffman’s awesome novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt!

3/5 stars

32 down, 20 to go!

In progress- Wildwater Walking Club

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


 

Second Sizzlin’ Summer Giveaway:: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt:: **WINNER JUST ANNOUNCED**! June 9, 2010

Twice is nice!  This summer is on fire already with more exciting news and another chance for you to win free stuff! Who doesn’t love free stuff?! Thanks to the kindness of Beth Hoffman, one of our biggest supporters,  favorite authors, and one of the sweetest ladies we know, I’m thrilled to announce our second super exciting sizzlin’ summer giveaway…

Enter now to win your very own FREE autographed first edition hardcover copy of Beth Hoffman’s New York Times Best Selling novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, packed with a ‘CeeCee slug-slingin’ pancake flipper and yummy bag of Wonka’s sluggles!

If you don’t get the joke, it means you need to enter this contest to win Beth’s laugh-out-loud pee-your-pants novel about the life-changing summer CeeCee spends in Savannah to hear what all the buzz is about.

How can you win this fantastic booty? It’s SUPER EASY!

Just leave a comment  below telling us your favorite summer memory, favorite summer getaway or favorite summer treat.

The contest will remain open until midnight on Tuesday June 22nd. Using Random.org, a lucky winner will be selected and announced here on Wednesday June 23rd. Don’t be shy if you’ve never commented before – now is your chance to win!!

Click here to read my review and click here to read Fabookulous’ review if you’ve not already done so. Our reviews of Beth’s novel received a record number of hits here at Year of the Bookwormz. With Beth’s paperback tour heading our way in early 2011, we’re keeping the buzz going about CeeCee’s story and spreading the word about Hoffman’s debut Southern Fiction masterpiece. Bookmark Beth’s beautifully designed webpage;  you will NOT want to miss her on tour in your city! If you loved books like The Help and/or Secret Life of Bees, you will LOVE CeeCee’s story!

We look forward to reading all your entries!

Good luck 🙂

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

PS- my favorite summer memory is hanging by the pool feeling like I’m on a deserted tropical escape with no baseboards to clean, dog hair to vacuum, or laundry piling up! My favorite summer getaway is heading w/friends to my neighborhood “quiet pool” every weekend, and my favorite summer treat is frozen lemonade!

***WINNER JUST ANNOUNCED*** Check the comments to see if it’s you!