Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #39: Fabookulous October 30, 2010

Oogy: The Dog Only A Family Could Love by
Larry Levin

Book description:

In 2002, Larry Levin and his twelve-year-old twin sons, Dan and Noah, brought their ailing cat into the neighborhood animal hospital to be put to sleep. What began as one of their family’s saddest days took a sharp turn for the better when the oddest-looking dog they’d ever seen bounded into the waiting room and into their arms.

Larry and the boys assumed that this white puppy had been in a fire- he was missing an ear and half his face was covered in scar tissue- but they were soon told a different story. He had been near-fatally injured as part of a dog-fighting ring in the area, discovered by the police, and left at the after-hours service of the hospital. When the hospital administrator found him in the morning, he was so bloodied and battered she knew he had a slim chance of survival. But, determined to keep him alive, she convinced her veterinarian boss to perform a series of surgeries and readied him for adoption.

The Levins- Larry, his wife Jennifer, and their sons- accepted him as one of their own from the moment they met him. As the rambunctious puppy matured into a loyal and protective member of the family (dubbed the “Third Twin”), he marked himself indelibly on their lives, healing long-held wounds and showing the twins, themselves adopted as infants, that unbreakable bonds can be formed in all kinds of families.

Oogy is about the power of redemption, and how animals and people can overcome the greatest of odds. And Oogy is an incredibly special animal, whose sense of security and being loved has persevered despite his trials. This one-in-a-million dog and his story will enter your heart and stay with you for a long time.

As is the case with most animal lovers, books like these are hard for me to get through for the sole reason of the fact that I don’t want to be sad. I hold a very special place in my heart for all animals, particularly dogs. While I enjoy memoirs that center around dogs and their lives (a favorite that comes to mind is A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz), stories that stem from an animal being abused, neglected, or mistreated in any way are harder. Even if I know they have a happy ending, the thought of what the dog went through and the fact that others still are abused on a daily, regular basis, absolutely breaks my heart. So I read Oogy with a great deal of caution, keeping an arm’s length of space so as not to allow myself to be sad.

That was hard to do given the situation. Oogy was a “bait dog” used to teach dogs how to fight. The fact that people in our country (or people ANYWHERE) participate in, train dogs to, and profit from dog fighting makes me sick to my stomach. I feel there is a special place in Hell for them. Dogs that are found as strays, homeless, or “free to good homes” may face the horrific and traumatic fate as a bait dog. Thus was the case with Oogy.

When Larry and his sons find him (or shall I say when OOGY found THEM, as ‘they’ say dogs find us), he was in the middle of rehabbing from a near fatal experience as a bait dog. He had lost one ear, had already gone through surgeries, had bandages on his heads, and was in pretty bad shape. The connection was instant among Oogy and the Levin boys. (I did find it interesting, by the way, the small role Larry’s wife Jennifer has in the book. Guess this is another example of dog really being man’s best friend) 🙂

With nobody to claim Oogy, Larry did not have trouble adopting him and bringing him home. I thought it was so sweet the way he talked to Oogy every day and loved that he promised never to cause him pain nor fear again. I believe dogs can understand us to an extent, and love this very real relationship this man and dog had from the very beginning.

When Oogy tears his ACL and has to go through reconstructive surgery as well as water therapy (which due to the panic he felt in the water, was modified for him elsewhere in keeping with Levin’s promise), it reminded me of LibraryLove’s Akitas, who have both undergone this surgery. The play by play was the exact same in the book, from the surgeons telling Levin what to expect, to his sleeping on the floor with Oogy to prevent him from climbing any stairs, to the water therapy. It was nice to read in familiar territory and made me feel that much closer to Oogy.

As  Oogy is still alive, this story does not end with death (refreshing for an animal story/memoir), rather it is a heartwarming collection of stories, moments, and love shared between the Levin family and their very special dog. It was touching and surprising to see the sweet mannerism’s of a dog who had been through the trauma he had. A miracle itself that he survived, it is truly shocking Oogy remained as sweet and loving as he did, both with other animals (he just wanted to play with everyone) as well as humans (the bond with the twin boys will make you smile as you flip through).

If you can face the reality of the animal abuse that goes on in this world (I realize sometimes it’s easier to pretend if we don’t hear about it, it doesn’t happen), then I recommend this book for you. Oogy is a special dog who received a second chance and then loved unconditionally. I can’t wait to meet him one day when we are in a place where dogs will never have to worry about being harmed again.

4/5 stars.



Book #44: LibraryLove

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Book description~  On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother–her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother–tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden–her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them.

Like me, I’m sure throughout your life at some point, even as a kid, you wondered what it’d be like to hear people’s thoughts or be a fly on the wall. Might not be all it’s cracked up to be…especially not for Rose Adelstein. Rhe blessing is also her curse, as Rose can taste people’s feelings and emotions through the food they cook. The worst part- those feelings, emotions and secrets are of her family, among others.  Discovering her curse through a bite of chocolate lemon cake made by her mother on her 8th birthday, Rose’s life would never be the same. Never again could she ignore the painful secrets or struggle of her mother, who is restless and feels that something is missing from her life though she does not know what, her father,  who never really “got” how to be a Dad, and her older brother Joseph, so intelligent, he is unable to assimilate into the rest of society.

Lemon Cake follows Rose through the years and into young adulthood as she learns how to harness the surreal power she was given and try to keep her family’s inner secrets.

This book was much different than I expected. Chosen by one of my book club babes for November discussion and despite wanting to adore this novel, I couldn’t help but feeling rather ambivalent about it. Bender does a nice job building the rising action but her bizarre lack of conversational punctuation became a bit of a cumbersome distraction, and her subtlety was almost too subtle for my liking.

One of my favorite parts is when Rose learns how to find loopholes in her curse; she’s able to use the school cafeteria vending machine as a “safety” net since the foods are not handmade, but made in a factory by machines. Unfortunately, although I think Bender had a great concept for a book, she doesn’t necessarily tie up all the parts of the story as I would have liked. As the reader, we are invested in each character introduced, not just Rose. For me, the book ended much too soon; I felt as though Bender only wrote the first half of the story. In particular, I would have loved to see where Rose’s life went as a result of the the job at the school working with children.

I think there is a happy medium between being subtle in the way you write, like Diane Setterfield, and being TOO subtle to the point where you may be losing your audience along the attempt. Unfortunately, I think Bender was the latter.

I’m looking forward to hearing what the book club babes think about this one next weekend.

3/5 stars

In progress- Burnt Toast by Teri Hatcher

44 down, 8 to go!




Book #38: Fabookulous October 28, 2010

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

Book description:

One sunny morning in 1969, near the end of her first trip to Miami, twenty-six-year-old Frances Ellerby finds herself in a place called Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings in the middle of Biscayne Bay.

It’s the first time the Atlanta native has been out on the open water, and she’s captivated. On the dock of a stilt house, with the dazzling skyline in the distance and the unknowable ocean beneath her, she meets the house’s owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself.

Turning away from her quiet, predictable life back home, Frances moves to Miami to be with Dennis. Over time, she earns the confidence of his wild-at-heart sister and wins the approval of his oldest friend. Frances and Dennis marry and have a child—but rather than growing complacent about their good fortune, they continue to face the challenges of intimacy, and of the complicated city they call home.

Stiltsville is the family’s island oasis—until suddenly it’s gone, and Frances is forced to figure out how to make her family work on dry land. Against a backdrop of lush tropical beauty, Frances and Dennis struggle with the mutability of love and Florida’s weather, and with temptation and chaos and disappointment.

But just when Frances thinks she’s reached some semblance of higher ground, she must confront an obstacle so great that all she’s learned about navigating the uncharted waters of family life can’t keep them afloat.

In Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel interweaves the beauty, chaos, and humanity of Miami as it comes of age with an enduring story of a marriage’s beginning, maturity, and heartbreaking demise.

After reading some heavier novels such as Precious and In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, I was really looking forward to losing myself in a light-hearted, easy to read fiction novel. When I saw Stiltsville advertised in an issue of Shelf Awareness, I placed a hold for the novel at my local library thinking this would be it! I had very high hopes for this novel, looking forward to another author’s debut. Unfortunately, I feel like I read the whole thing wondering where was the meat of the story?

Stiltsville follows Frances’ life as she meets Dennis, falls in love, gets married, and then lives life. And that is basically it in a nutshell. I found myself wondering where the mystery was, the big complex situation/problem, the action, the passion, the laughter, the intensity. None of that was found here as the novel slowly moves through mundane details of Frances’ life with Dennis and their daughter in increments of time. Skipping one, two, or six years between chapters, it feels like a very broad overview of what’s going on (with one side storyline that sort of died out and never went anywhere), all while providing nebulous details (a word used more than once in the story itself.) I never connected with Frances’ character and didn’t feel like she had much of a personality. The other characters and the situations in this novel left this reader longing for more and hoping it was on the next page.

I really hate not to have many glowing things to say about this novel as it’s Susanna Daniel’s debut. Stiltsville has been and continues to receive praise, but I just don’t see what the hype is about. I found this novel to be slow and uninteresting. I was hoping for something more.

My lack of words says it all. This book was just…eh.

2.5/5 stars



Book #43: LibraryLove October 24, 2010

Strangers At The Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes

Book description~  On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job. A series of tragic events bring these two worlds ever closer, exposing the dangerously thin line between suburban privilege and urban poverty, and culminating in a crime that will change everyone’s life.

I must first thank Alexis Gargagliano and Wendy Sheanin at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of Strangers at the Feast to read and review. From the moment I read the inside book jacket, I couldn’t wait to read this novel, as the autumn weather rolls in and the season of giving thanks draws near.

Race, class, and family are three of the big ideas at the heart of Strangers as the Olson family members observe and learn things about each other around the Thanksgiving Day table they would never have expected….

Through the use of multiple narrators, Strangers is told in what is becoming the most popular writing-style.  The story unfolds on Thanksgiving Day in 2007, through each of the Olson family member’s eyes, both in past and present. We are led inside the hearts and minds of both Eleanor and Gavin’s characters, as the Matriarch and Patriarch of the family, but also inside their children’s and spouses hearts and minds. Instead of the typical construction of a novel,  where the rising action develops in a ‘steady-little-tug-boat’ type way, in Strangers, as the reader, we are strung along until the very last possible moment and then foiled completely and utterly.   I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and could never have predicted the way the story would unfold.  Normally, I would criticize this; instead, Vanderbes does the artful job of burying little ‘Easter Eggs’ for the reader to discover, piquing curiosity enough to keep turning the page along the way.

“At worst, he thought Ginny would overcook the turkey. He’d been prepared, out of sibling loyalty, to drench slices of Ginny’s holiday char in his mother’s gravy and give a heartfelt yum.  But he’d counted on stuffing, vegetables, dessert. Was this her plan? Deprive them of football and food and teach them some kind of history lesson? See! This is what Thanksgiving was like for indentured servants in seventeenth- century Virginia!”

If one hadn’t read the book jacket to know there was a catastrophic twist coming, you’d simply read this book thinking this was a nice multigenerational story, written with excellent characterization, about enjoying Thanksgiving and learning about each other’s struggles, many of which are buried quietly and deep under the surface…until you read the bombshell on page 149 ending the chapter with this:

“Denise opened the door, through it would be hard later for Ginny to remember if Denise used her keys. Everyone was talking and carrying things. It would be difficult to say with certainty if the door had been locked.”

Chills ran up and down my spine. I wondered what on earth would happen next. Yet it took another 100+ pages to finally work us up to the peak of the rising action, which was indeed worth the wait!

“As the detective expected, the case got the entire city talking. Diana Velasquez was the reporter who finally realized that five white adults plus two dead, unarmed black kids equaled one major story. Having worked at the paper for a decade, she knew to double-check the police blotter every night in the hopes that the cub reporters missed something. She knew that a shooting in the North End would sell papers. When word got out about the stone knife in Kijo Jackson’s pockets, a Siwanoy Indain relic, Diana dubbed the incident the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. “

Tragedy strikes the Olson Family at a most unlikely time- their Thanksgiving meal, as a result of a previous business decision that rocks the family, neighborhood, and city for years to come.

Intrigued? Pick up Strangers at the Feast; you won’t want to put it down.

This Thanksgiving, what will you be thankful for?

4/5 stars

43 down, 9 left!!!!!!!! In the homestretch. Zzzz

In progress- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (audiobook) and Burnt Toast




Book #37: Fabookulous October 19, 2010

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher

Book description:

On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In front of twenty-five horrified pupils, thirty-two-year-old Charles Roberts ordered the boys and the teacher to leave. After tying the legs of the ten remaining girls, Roberts prepared to shoot them with an automatic rifle and four hundred rounds of ammunition that he brought for the task. The oldest hostage, a thirteen-year-old, begged Roberts to “shoot me first and let the little ones go.” Refusing her offer, he opened fire on all of them, killing five and leaving the others critically wounded. He then shot himself as police stormed the building. His motivation? “I’m angry at God for taking my little daughter,” he told the children before the massacre.

The story captured the attention of broadcast and print media in the United States and around the world. By Tuesday morning some fifty television crews had clogged the small village of Nickel Mines, staying for five days until the killer and the killed were buried. The blood was barely dry on the schoolhouse floor when Amish parents brought words of forgiveness to the family of the one who had slain their children.

The outside world was incredulous that such forgiveness could be offered so quickly for such a heinous crime. Of the hundreds of media queries that the authors received about the shooting, questions about forgiveness rose to the top. Forgiveness, in fact, eclipsed the tragic story, trumping the violence and arresting the world’s attention.

Within a week of the murders, Amish forgiveness was a central theme in more than 2,400 news stories around the world. The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, NBC Nightly News, CBS Morning News, Larry King Live, Fox News, Oprah, and dozens of other media outlets heralded the forgiving Amish. From the Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates) to Australian television, international media were opining on Amish forgiveness. Three weeks after the shooting, “Amish forgiveness” had appeared in 2,900 news stories worldwide and on 534,000 web sites.

Fresh from the funerals where they had buried their own children, grieving Amish families accounted for half of the seventy-five people who attended the killer’s burial. Roberts’ widow was deeply moved by their presence as Amish families greeted her and her three children. The forgiveness went beyond talk and graveside presence: the Amish also supported a fund for the shooter’s family.

AMISH GRACE explores the many questions this story raises about the religious beliefs and habits that led the Amish to forgive so quickly. It looks at the ties between forgiveness and membership in a cloistered communal society and ask if Amish practices parallel or diverge from other religious and secular notions of forgiveness. It will also address the matter of why forgiveness became news. “All the religions teach it,” mused an observer, “but no one does it like the Amish.” Regardless of the cultural seedbed that nourished this story, the surprising act of Amish forgiveness begs for a deeper exploration. How could the Amish do this? What did this act mean to them? And how might their witness prove useful to the rest of us?

Talk about inspiring. In a world where tragic events happen regularly, including school shootings, terrorist and sniper attacks, murders, and other crimes, forgiveness does not come easy to many, if not most Americans. Generally speaking, we prefer to hold grudges, stay angry, and plot vengeance. Yet when the Amish suffered their “own version of 9/11” forgiveness flowed freely, grace was extended to the killer’s family, and the country was left stunned at a reaction that, quite frankly, seemed like a foreign concept.

When Charles Roberts entered the Amish school house with his mind made up to take the lives of innocent children, his grief and sorrow had overtaken him. How sad that a man mourning the loss of his own daughter (9 years prior) thought the only way to cure his pain would be to take someone ELSE’S children and then kill himself. That thinking seems backwards to me, but I’m not here to psychoanalyze Roberts’ motives.

Amish Grace focuses on the reaction of the Amish who were mourning the loss of their own children as well as loved ones. In a small community where everyone feels like part of your extended family, the pain was felt by all. Steeped in their religious beliefs that to forgive is divine (and even likening your ability to forgive to your secured salvation), the Amish were able to state their forgiveness in a shockingly short amount of time. Even the Bible says there is a time to love, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to forgive…

What happened to the mourning? Did they allow themselves the time to grieve over the victims? While I’m sure in the privacy of their own homes, they were saddened, it’s inspiring to think it’s humanly possible to forgive so quickly, if at all. I know people who are holding grudges for far less; families that are still angry at relatives 30 years later, lovers still bitter about a relationship’s demise, parents and children that have not spoken in decades, friends who have let a disagreement destroy their friendship, gangs in cities that lie, cheat and steal, and  just the other day there was a news story of a fight that took place over a parking place that ended in death. It seems our culture has grown so accustomed to staying angry. Seeking revenge. Demanding to “get even”. Expecting someone else to suffer because we have.

How unfamiliar then to expect anyone to offer forgiveness to a man that would intentionally take the lives of our young children. What was most disappointing in this book was listening to the accounts of those who doubted the truth to the Amish forgiveness. It made me sad to hear about all of the news stories, critics, and spectators that either doubted the Amish truly forgave, critiqued them for doing so, and/or questioned their intention (as if this was some twisted publicity stunt). Hard as it may be to understand, forgiving those who have wronged us will bring healing much quicker than harboring a bitter spirit. Why then are we so hesitant to offer it?

The book, while repetitive at times, is very inspiring and encouraging. Most of us have forgiveness to either offer someone who has wronged us or to seek for ourselves where we have wronged others. Even if we may not agree with “the speed” of how it’s done, we can certainly learn valuable lessons from the Amish in how to live a peaceful life in harmony with others. After all, Jesus did say we must forgive others so we too may be forgiven. Those sound like words to live by to me.

4/5 stars



Book #36: Fabookulous October 13, 2010

 Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire

Book description:

Claireece Precious Jones endures unimaginable hardships in her young life. Abused by her mother, raped by her father, she grows up poor, angry, illiterate, fat, unloved and generally unnoticed. So what better way to learn about her than through her own, halting dialect. That is the device deployed in the first novel by poet and singer Sapphire. “Sometimes I wish I was not alive,” Precious says. “But I don’t know how to die. Ain’ no plug to pull out. ‘N no matter how bad I feel my heart don’t stop beating and my eyes open in the morning.” An intense story of adversity and the mechanisms to cope with it.

For this sensitive reader, this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. I actually needed a day before I could review this book because my mind was so filled with negative images and disturbing thoughts. This book was the first audiobook I listened to while I drove to North Carolina for the long weekend we just had. I finished listening last night on a long walk. While I must admit, the narrator’s voice is probably the perfect one cast to read this story, the story itself was so horrific and disturbing that I’ve let my mind go on vacation since finishing.

Am I overreacting? Doubtful. Those who have read this story probably agree with what I’m saying. I find it hard to believe the movie captures as much as the book mentions and after watching an interview with the author, I’m certain of it. Those who haven’t read this story, allow me to tell you why I do NOT recommend it.

Very gritty, vulgar, and graphic, Precious is a story about an overweight, young, black woman who is raped by her father, has two children by him, gets AIDS from him, is abused by her mother both physically and sexually (not to mention emotionally), is illiterate and kicked out of school after having baby number 2 at 16. The story itself is bothersome and coupled with the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it that much more traumatizing.

What I didn’t know while listening to the audiobook is that Precious (based on the novel Push and later renamed to match the major motion picture’s title) is based on stories of several students Sapphire (the author) had while teaching in Harlem in the ’80s. I assumed (and this is always a dangerous thing to do) that this was literally an autobiography; this woman telling her painful story as a means to healing. Not the case. Yes, there was a woman in Sapphire’s class that had two children by her father. But she was articulate, slim, and blonde. Yes, there were students who were abused by their mothers and HIV positive. But I’m not finding any definite answers to that this ALL happened to one child.

Based on that knowledge, that Precious is a work of “fiction” based on many different students, I wonder what that says about Sapphire’s imagination? This story could have been told without HALF of the language, graphic detail, and vulgarity that it used. The point will still come across and will still horrify the reader. Why, then, is it necessary to write in the worst way? Even if a child is illiterate, does that mean she still cannot speak properly? Ok, maybe not. But the text in this book is unlike any I’ve ever come across.

It was a struggle to get through, and it’s a short 5 hour audiobook. However, the scenes are SO intense and ugly, that while driving down the road I found it hard to get past 20 minutes of listening before I turned it off to listen to something else. In fact I almost didn’t finish. Thanks to the encouragement of LibraryLove, who has already listened to the book AND seen the movie, I pushed through. I don’t know that it was worth finishing for me. Where is Precious now? What happened to her children? Did she keep them? Did they go to foster homes or get adopted? Are they all still alive? Why didn’t her dad go to jail after she had her first baby by him when she was 12? Who did nurses, doctors, and social workers think the father was? And if they knew it was her father, why no action?

To read/listen to these horrific things happening to ANYONE is traumatic. But to read about a three year old girl being raped, well that’s something that literally I lost sleep over. I found myself praying in earnest for these children, their families, and those they encounter. How could this happen to anybody? What kind of sick person can steal a childhood, destroy it with lifelong consequences, and never be punished? And what happened in her father’s life that would cause and enable him to treat his own offspring this way? What a sad, sad world…

Though the narrator in the audiobook did fantastic at the reading, I am not impressed with the story telling in the book. After learning, this is not one woman’s story, rather a compilation, it is a work of fiction. (Though how tragic to know that there are probably men and women out there who HAVE gone through all of this in one lifetime…) But my biggest issue comes from the vulgarity and language. I don’t think it’s necessary or prudent to the topic. And it made it VERY challenging to listen to.

That being said, I am proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone that I didn’t want to continue. I’m still disturbed by the things I heard in this book and I have no desire to see the movie. I think Sapphire overused her methods and went too far overboard with the graphic detail. If you want, watch the interview with the author and Katie Couric. As for me, I’m done with this book. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this book. I am too troubled by it to do so. Yes, I am a sensitive reader, but I think we can do things in our world to make a difference without exposing ourselves to the graphic details. We know people are abused. We know children are raped. It’s a terrible, terrible truth to the world we live in. Ignoring it won’t make the problem go away. Let’s try to do something about it in our own neighborhoods and may it continue to spread. Spend some time volunteering and loving others more than yourselves. May we remember to show kindness every day that we are here. Let us be the change we wish to see in the world.

I’m not sure how to rate this book. While I feel the narrator did fantastic, I did not enjoy the story itself or the way it was told. Rather than give it a poor rating (these things do happen in our world so how can you say someone’s story is bad?), with the knowledge that this is considered a work of fiction, I will not rate this book.





Book #42: LibraryLove October 12, 2010

Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps:  How We’re Different And What We Can Do About It

by Allan & Barbara Pease

Book description~ Barbara and Allan Pease traveled the world collating the dramatic findings of new research on the brain, investigating evolutionary biology, analysing psychologists research, studying social change and annoying the locals. The result is WHY MEN DON’T LISTEN AND WOMEN CAN’T READ MAPS, the sometimes shocking, always illuminating, frequently hilarious look at where the battle line is drawn between the sexes, why it was drawn and how to cross it. Revealed: Why men really can’t do more than one thing at a time Why women make such a mess of parallel parking Why men should never lie to women Why women talk so much and men so little WHAT MEN AND WOMEN REALLY WANT A must-read for everyone – you will learn as much about yourself and how to improve your relationships, as you will about the opposite sex.

First, I want to point a disclaimer toward this review:  Please, PLEASE don’t go getting your panties in a twist; by no means am I putting any gender in a box or saying that men never listen or no women can read maps. If you know me, you know my belief system is very liberal and modern. But no matter who you are, you can’t deny that men and women internalize and react to the outside world in different ways.  Yes, my husband is a kick a$$ cook. Yes, I mow the lawn. Yes, I can use power tools. Yes, my husband has the best ironing skills I’ve ever seen. This book isn’t saying men and women can’t challenge traditional gender roles. This book isn’t about putting women and men into ‘their places’ but rather brings the gap between Mars and Venus a bit closer together.

Just for fun, I wanted to share one of the many fun optical illusions from the book! Researcher Edward Boring devised the illustration below to show how we each perceive different things in the same picture. Women are more likely to see an old woman with her chin tucked into the collar of her fur coat, but men are more likely to see the left side profile of a young woman who is looking away. Which did you see? Leave me a comment below and let’s see how many women/men challenge the norm!

What I enjoyed is that authors Allan and Barbara Pease use hard facts (sometimes ad nauseam), research, and interviews from both men AND women to back up their findings. It’s truly fascinating to read about communication for the sexes and I hope this will spark some conversation between you and your significant other tonight. If nothing else, maybe you won’t expect your partner to truly listen to you while watching the game…invest in a DV-R instead or respect your partner when they’re in the middle of something! As I’ve said since its invention; DV-R saves marriages.

As the book calls out, do you wonder: “ why women can brush their teeth while walking and talking on various subjects while men generally find this very difficult to do? Why 99 percent of all patents are registered by men? Why stressed women talk? Why so many husbands hate shopping?” I was so drawn to this book by the funny title and imponderables, I couldn’t wait to make time to check it out. I’m also trying to hammer through a 600-page novel and needed a bit of a palette cleanser. Bottom line, to know me is to know how important communication is in my life. We’ve all had one-sided relationships, miscommunications with friends, significant others, family members, co-workers and even strangers. The way people communicate, or not, is an area of life that fascinates me. Lack of communication, tone of voice, relationship dynamics; I love it all! The older I get, the less effort I’m willing to expend on dysfunctional relationships of all kinds. In turn, the older I get the more I strive to make the most important relationships last the test of time. Setting realistic expectation is key. As you can tell, it was no coincidence I was attracted to the field of Communication, even as a high school student, and as a result, have a college degree in Communication and Public Relations that I find useful as I navigate my world.

Each day we communicate with our body and not just our mouths. An eye roll to a friend; a firm handshake;  the way we sit arms folded. Each of these non-verbal cues illustrates a different feeling. Each person, whether male or female, interprets each of these non-verbal cues differently.

This book delved into the way both the male and female brains, minds, and reactions work. This book also explored ways we can better coexist with the opposite gender by using concrete scientific data studies, examples and practicality. What I loved even more, is that this book was written and then re-written by a husband and wife team over years and years as more advanced research surfaced. This  book highlighted the following realization: many folks in committed relationships do NOT spend enough time understanding their partners as they date, but rush into marriage only for it to end in dissatisfaction from both parties because of communication breakdown. Instead, folks spend way too much time on trying to make their partners someone they are not. If every couple took time to understand their partner’s communication style and needs as this book suggests, I wonder if the divorce rate would improve. Honestly- before you moved in with your partner, did you ask how much time they like to have to unwind when they first get home? Do they like to talk about their day right away? Do they need 30 minutes to unwind? Do they like quiet in the morning or are they chipper? Do they get cranky when they’re hungry? How do they like to be treated when they’re sick?  Do they like to pay bills when the come in the mail or the day they are due? My (now) husband and I most certainly did. Although these items sound petty, these are constant areas of frustration for a lot of couples who just plain fail to communicate effectively.  I often think that an experience my husband and I shared in our first few months of dating, attending a life changing and HILARIOUS performance of Rob Becker’s Defending the Caveman at the Warner Theatre back in the winter of 2000, helped propel us on a trajectory of open communication, a solid foundation for marriage, and lighthearted outlet toward understanding one another on a different level. We embrace our differences and find it really hysterical how we joke with each other. Case and point- whenever my husband and I walk into Kohls, the guys stuff is on one side and the girl’s stuff on the other. We hold hands a lot and we have this fun habit of saying to each other “I’m off to gather” or “I’m off to hunt” or “Ready? Set? Break!” and we joke but it’s so true as we each go our separate way. I don’t need you at my hip when I’m trying to look at all the pretty things on the hangers. Everyone likes to have their space to just peruse without being followed like a shadow everywhere.  Then when one of us is done, usually me first, I’ll come find him and we’ll ask for each other’s opinions on a particular item we may like. It’s a fun way to make shopping less of a chore and more of a fun outing when possible.

Conversely, it also makes us sad to observe friends we encounter who regularly speak over their partner in social settings ,  nag their partners, put their partners down, and just generally have ‘poor manners’ when it comes to the person they love the most. Basically, if you’ve ever wished for an instruction booklet on understanding the opposite sex, this is as close as any.

“In England in 1998, John and Ashley Sims created a two-way map that has a standard map view when traveling North and a second upside-down view, with South at the top of the page, for traveling south. IN a national newspaper’s weekend magazine they offered a free map to the first 100 people who wrote in. They received requests from more than 15,000 women- and a handful of men. They told us that men saw no point in an upside-down map, or else thought it was a joke. Women, however, are impressed because it replaced the need for spatial rotation. BMW was the first to install global positioning systems (GPS) visual navigational equipment in their vehicles, which allows for the image to be turned upside down to match the direction the car is traveling. Predictably, it has proved a huge hit with women.”

I read a similar book back in college called Women Are Like Spaghetti, Men Are Like Waffles. This book left a lasting impression on me and a few friends that read this book after me as well.  The idea is that (generally speaking now, don’t go sending hate-mail!) women are like spaghetti- every small thing, conversation, disappointment, success in our lives effect everything else, and the idea that men are like waffles- thinking about life in a compartmentalized, goal-oriented way. No matter who you are, you should spend more time considering the way your words, actions and non-verbal cues are interpreted not only by others but by the opposite sex. I bet it’ll make you reconsider your world!

After you read this book, I highly recommend you ‘YouTube’ a clip of Rob Becker’s Defending the Caveman and/or try to see one of Becker’s hilarious live performances.

4.5/5 stars

Sweet relief, 42 down, 10 more to go! The pressure is mounting…

In progress- Cutting for Stone




Book #35: Fabookulous October 11, 2010

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White

Book description:

Neil White, a journalist and magazine publisher, wanted the best for those he loved-nice cars, beautiful homes, luxurious clothes. He loaned money to family and friends, gave generously to his church, and invested in his community- but his bank account couldn’t keep up. Soon White began moving money from one account to another to avoid bouncing checks. His world fell apart when the FBI discovered his scheme and a judge sentenced him to serve eighteen months in a federal prison.

But it was no ordinary prison. The beautiful, isolated colony in Carville, Louisiana, was also home to the last people in the continental United States disfigured by leprosy. Hidden away for decades, this small circle of outcasts had forged a tenacious, clandestine community, a fortress to repel the cruelty of the outside world. It is here, in a place rich with history, where the Mississippi River briefly runs north, amid an unlikely mix of leprosy patients, nuns, and criminals, that White’s strange and compelling journey begins. He finds a new best friend in Ella Bounds, an eighty-year-old African American double amputee who had contracted leprosy as a child. She and the other secret people, along with a wacky troop of inmates, help White rediscover the value of simplicity, friendship, and gratitude.

Funny and poignant, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is an uplifting memoir that reminds us all what matters most.

This book came highly recommended to me by a friend’s aunt. I read every page wide eyed and in awe. It was news to me that we had lepers in our country; it has always been something I think of from biblical times or in third world countries. To learn that there was a leprosarium (the only one in the U.S.) in Louisiana for people with leprosy (or Hansen’s Disease) was mind blowing to me. And then to incarcerate convicted felons alongside them…well, talk about a sanctuary of outcasts.

Neil White is convicted in the ’90s of kiting checks in excess of $1 million and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Sent away from his wife and two children, he checks into prison and takes up residence among a wide array of people. After he learns there are patients with leprosy living at the colony, the job given him when he first arrives is writing up the menu boards in their cafeteria. Talk about being taken out of your comfort zone.

It’s easy to feel sorry for White and to be sympathetic. Granted, he was in there because of his pride, greed, selfishness, and lack of regard for the well being of his family, business, employees, and investors. However, I think it’s safe to say that most people would be pretty terrified to live at the leprosarium. There is such a stigma to the disease and then to be surrounded by the patients every day…well I can see where this would unnerve most people.

Having known people who have spent some time in jail, I have a soft spot for inmates. Yes I believe a lot of them deserve to be in jail but at the same time, I feel a compassion for those who are separated from loved ones, disowned by their families, and are making an effort to really better themselves and learn from their mistakes. People are unforgiving and not always willing to offer second chances. White was in a prison with lepers and inmates, two groups of people considered outcasts and looked down upon in our society.

This book will challenge you to open your eyes and feel a compassion for humans you otherwise may not have noticed. Ella Bounds, White’s closest friend while at the colony, is 83 years old upon White’s arrival. It was discovered that she had leprosy when she was just 12 years old. Her dad dropped her off never to return and Ella spent her life apart from the world, bound to the same four walls her entire life.

While his family makes tough decisions “on the outside” without him, White is fortunate enough that his parents would still visit, his children could come for “play days” and he had forgiving loved ones. He learns valuable lessons about himself and the kind of life he wants to live upon receiving his freedom.

When the government decides to close the prison due to the financial burden created in running it, inmates with less than 6 months to serve are considered for early release and others are transferred to another prison. After the closing, the National Hansen’s Disease Museum is opened to honor the lives of many at Carville as well as support the National Hansens Disease Program in educating the public on the history, treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy.

At the end of the book, White updates you on the whereabouts of his new friends that he will likely never see again. While always nice to see “where are they now”, I was hoping for a more profound wrap-up and longer conclusion about how White’s life has been different since he served his time.

Neil White summed it up best with the last line of his acknowledgments. First apologizing to those he hurt, then thanking those who offered their love and support, White closes with:

“To Judge Walter Gex for holding me accountable.”

Bravo, Neil, on recognizing your wrong, serving your sentence, and coming out a better man. May more inmates follow in your footsteps.

4.5/5 stars



Book #41: LibraryLove October 2, 2010

Stash by David Klein

Book description~ Gwen Raine is a thirtyish stay-at-home mom in the kind of tranquil suburban community where the wives spend their days ferrying the kids to and from school and music lessons and nature camps and where the husbands work long, grueling hours at stressful white-collar jobs in order to maintain the upscale standard of living to which the whole family has become all-too-accustomed. It’s a milieu in which everything seems to be right–yet so much can go wrong. And it does–starting with a seemingly minor decision that turns Gwen’s perfect life upside down. It’s a typical Friday morning in late summer and Gwen is anticipating a long-awaited weekend away at the lake with her overworked husband, Brian, and their two small children. After dropping her daughter off at swim class, Gwen drives across town to purchase a small bag of marijuana from an old flame. She’s counting on the pot to help her unwind later that night in those precious private moments with Brian after the kids are asleep. Then, on the way home, Gwen gets into a car accident–an accident that leaves her bruised and somewhat battered but leaves the other driver (an elderly man who crossed over into her lane) dead. The local police know the accident isn’t her fault, but when they find the marijuana in Gwen’s car, they throw the book at her. There have been problems with drugs in the schools and they want to crack down on abusers, whoever and wherever they are. Before long, Gwen is in legal hot water–and the temperature keeps rising. Finally, under pressure from the police, her attorney, and her own husband, she reveals her source’s name. Meanwhile, Brian is embroiled in a moral and legal dilemma of his own when the big pharmaceutical company he works for markets an anti-anxiety drug for “off-label” use as a weight-loss aid, only to discover that it can have deadly consequences. And Gwen’s former lover Jude, a local restaurateur and the supplier of the stash of the title, has gotten in way over his head with his little side business.

First, let me thank Jennifer Robbins of Broadway Books who sent me a Galley copy of this book to read and review.

Now down to business. I started out really enjoying this book. Think American Beauty + Season 1 of Weeds + Desperate Housewives and there ya have it. In a nutshell. Granted I absolutely love American Beauty,  Showtime’s Weeds AND Desperate Housewives, but it’s nothing new. When I make time to read, I want to expand my horizons. I want to learn something new. I want to discover about a foreign land, a time period in history, or about the human condition. This book did not enlighten me at all, but rather it made me feel like I was losing brain cells by the minute. Stash could have easily been an episode or two pulled right out Weeds or DH. I was completely on board until about half way. The action starts out really gripping. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what happened after desperate housewife Gwen decided to visit an old flame for some Mary Jane before leaving for the weekend with her husband and children to their lake house. Making yet another poor decision, Gwen got behind the wheel after smoking a joint and set a series of unfortunate events in motion. Sounds interesting right? It did….until about halfway through. The introduction of too many moderately developed characters and moderately developed plot lines later, the action, chapterization and dialogue became so choppy, it was no longer enjoyable. I hoped sometime before the ending things would pick up. The author took the (attempted) ‘plot twists’ so far into left field, I found myself suffering through the last half of this novel.

Sadly, I do not recommend this novel, nor do I want to waste anymore time reviewing it.

I know I can’t love every book, yet I am always disappointed when I can’t at least recommend folks pick it up and give it a try. You’re better off watching American Beauty and Season 1 of Weeds than reading Stash.

2/5 stars

Holy smokes. This marks 41 books read leaving 11 to go! Can I do it? Stay tuned to find out…the year is almost over!

In progress- Cutting for Stone




Book #34: Fabookulous

A Heart Like His by Beth Moore

Book description:

In this in-depth biblical biography, Beth Moore takes you on an intimate, exciting journey through virtually every astonishing episode of David’s remarkable life. From shepherd, to refugee, to king of Israel, David exhibited the purest virtues and the most heinous sinfulness. But through it all, his relationship with the Lord continued to grow. A Heart Like His looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration from today’s perspective and draws spiritual insight and understanding from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny.

Based on Scripture and Moore’s probing insights into the romantic, majestic life of David, A Heart Like His, will show you how to serve God better by understanding our own unique place in His heart.

It’s taken me a while to finish this book. It has nothing to do with how good or not good I thought it was, rather a busy schedule and a new fall study has kept my reading time to a minimum. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind in the “52 books this year” challenge. I do hope to still complete the challenge, and if nothing else this has been a great year for me to plow through all of the Beth Moore books I’ve wanted to get to.

Moore remains one of my favorite teachers and if you’ve been following this blog, you probably feel like you know her too! She writes in such a clear way, you’ll find yourself thinking “That makes total sense, why didn’t I think of that?!” as you study the lives of biblical characters with her. She is also always entertaining and humble in her approach. A Heart Like His is a book based on a bible study Beth created about the life of David. This makes it ideal for those who want to just read the story without the 12 week commitment to a study. As with most of Moore’s books, review questions can be found in the back of the book if you enjoy going a little further into detail.

David has been a fascinating character to many. A “man after God’s own heart”, David seemed like the perfect example of being a faithful servant. Yet when he sinned royally with Bathsheba, thus setting off a domino effect of sins, he still kept God nearby and sought forgiveness. How refreshing, considering we all have our highs and lows. It’s pretty amazing the significance these ancient stories still have today.

Though I don’t feel I gave this book the attention it deserves, I did read it in its entirety. However there really is something to be said for picking up a book, reading a few chapters at a time versus picking up a book and just getting through a few pages at a time. A slower pace really will make you feel like the book is dragging on and on. Sticking with my better judgment, Beth Moore continues to be one of my favorite authors and teachers. This would be a great book for those wanting to discover more about David’s life and the lessons we can glean from reading about it.

For Christian non-fiction fans like myself, add this one to your TBR list! As for me, I’ll still plow my way to number 52 by December 31st…

4/5 stars

Happy Reading,