Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

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 #40: LibraryLove September 18, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Book description~ When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny. All children mythologize their birth… So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist. The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune, but kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

This modern-day ‘chunkster’ and piece of literary fiction is written beautifully with a Gothic-style undertone sure to transform you right along with the story AND make your heart pound! Remember how magically transformative movies like The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story were when we first watched them as kids? Remember how halfway through the movie, we’d forget the main character was reading a story? Or as adults, watching The Sixth Sense, when nothing was as it seemed?? This is exactly how I felt while reading The Thirteenth Tale (TTT). The beginning was a bit rocky; I wasn’t sure where the author was going with things. But quickly, after Margaret Lea makes a bone-chilling discovery about her past, she decides to take an offer she can’t refuse.

As the reader, I was transported right along with Margaret to the remote English countryside after accepting the offer to write the sought-after biography of notorious and dying author, Vida Winter. Less than 50 pages in, I was sending fevered texts to some of my book club babes who had already read TTT so I could share in the ride with them. I think if you’re interested in starting your own book club, or just for fun reading a book along with a friend, TTT is a great one to start with; it’s a definite conversation piece, will certainly keep your interest, and spark much conversation.

Biographer Lea couldn’t have predicted the parallels between her life and Miss Winter’s but it is quickly made clear that the adventure she embarked upon will change her on every level. And Miss Winter, although known for her ability to create vivid mockeries when asked to share about her personal life, opens up in such unlikely ways; you have to read to believe it…

“I shall start at the beginning. Though of course the beginning is never where you think it is. Our lives are so important to use that we tend to think the story of them begins with our birth. First there was nothing, then I was born…yet that is not so. Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.” – Vida Winter

Although I never would have picked up TTT on my own, I’m so glad it was chosen by one of the book club babes as the October selection.

As usual, I don’t like to reveal too much plot information in my reviews. For a synopsis, you can always read the book description up top. But I want to share some of my reactions while whetting your appetite and hopefully intrigue you enough to want to read this book. I don’t want you going into this novel with too many preconceived notions; just know you will not be disappointed!

“As I started to sleepwrite my questions, the margin seemed to expand. The paper throbbed with light. Swelling, it engulfed me, until realized with a mixture of trepidation and wonderment that I was enclosed in the grain of the paper, embedded in the white interior of the story itself. Weightless, I wandered all night long in Miss Winter’s story, plotting its landscape, measuring its contours, and on tiptoe at its borders, peering at the mysteries beyond its bounds.” – Margaret

One criticism- I wish Margaret’s character was as dimensional as Miss Winter’s character. I’m sure Setterfield did this on purpose, to draw the reader closer to Miss Winter, but I still would have liked Margaret’s character developed a bit more.

TTT was such a fantastic palette cleanser of a book. If you’re looking for a quirky, mysterious, dark and enthralling departure from the norm, I highly recommend TTT as a great way to dive into your fall reading. Special thanks to Tiffany for picking this for October.  I look forward to hearing about everyone’s thoughts.

4.5/5 stars

40 down, 12 to go!

In progress- Stash (Advanced Review Copy)



PS- sidenote….after our bookclub discussion and two of the book club babes couldn’t stop raving about how well done the audiobook was, I simply HAD to get it from the library. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I now look forward to sitting in traffic getting to re-read this amazing book again knowing what I now know! 🙂


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 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,




Book #17 LibraryLove March 18, 2010

Testimony, the Unabridged Audiobook by Anita Shreve

Book description~ At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora’s box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices–those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal–that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Cause. Effect. Guilty until proven innocent? Innocent until proven guilty? These ideas along with so many others were central in Anita Shreve’s fast-paced and intense novel, inspired by the Duke Lacrosse scandal of 2006.  In Testimony, the reader was hearing first hand accounts from the 15 different people, each involved in some way, in the high school sex scandal caught on tape, after an Avery Academy boarding school dance. Testimony proved how a single action caused a life to veer in a direction it was never meant to go. Can watching a video tape clarify motives, intentions, and who provoked whom? As the reader, we  hear the testimonies of parents, administrators, law officers, students and teachers, trying to get to the bottom of the “truth”.  Shreve carefully and wonderfully examined the  impulses that swayed the lives of (seemingly innocent) students, their needs,  desires, and fears. Were the students driven in malice? Or just testing the waters of right and wrong ending in demise? What I loved most about Testimony, although the first 15 minutes were quite graphic, was how thoroughly it investigated and explored the idea of “the truth” and “perception”. It examined ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions, using all the various points of view, age differences, and relation to the scandal itself, to explore the minds and actions of the youth. The realism in action, consequence, and dialogue was unreal. I’ve never seen an author, even Jodi Picoult create 15 real and plausible characters that WORKed in one novel alone.

Silas and Noel’s stories were particularly emotional for me.  I wanted to smack Sienna- she was “all about the PGs”. Rob was my favorite. I felt sad for Irwin more than anyone- can you imagine  the anguish of holding his secret in everyday? Unimaginable.

Not everyone embraces audiobooks. I’ve really enjoyed picking particular books to listen to on my iPod instead of read. Time is precious for me, as I have such little down time and need to read 35 more books in 2010!  I love using my morning commute and cleaning/cooking time to listen to these books using such great new technology.  This book translated SO well to audiobook.  Shreve is artful with her character development, their voices,  and inflection. This particular audiobook was a full cast. Each of the 15 characters had a different voice-over artist representing them.  I felt like I was sitting across the interview table from each of the folks involved. I felt like I was sitting in the administrator’s office as the horrible news was delivered to the parents of the students involved.  I felt like I was reading Rob’s letter to the “researcher”.

Anita Shreve is one of my newest favorite authors and I can’t wait to read more of her work. I’m curious to hear what my book club babes think of this thought-provoking and controversial book, as half of us will have read it, and the other half will have listened. I don’t think I’d feel as invested in the story and characters if I hadn’t listened to the audiobook.

Thanks to my sweet apple turnover w/ powdered sugar for picking this great book! Hope you liked it as much as I did.

5/5 stars

17 down, 35 to go!

In progress, The Opposite of Me




Book #10: LibraryLove February 11, 2010

Olive Kitteridge: The Unabridged Audiobook by Elizabeth Strout

Book description: At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama — desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.  At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life — sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

I listened to this audio book twice all the way through. I wasn’t expecting the novel “in stories”, or mini vignettes but gave it a chance. Olive, retired schoolteacher, interacts with various people who are showcases in the 13 stories that make up OK, in Crosby, Maine. I was feeling a bit confused and disjointed, as were many of my girlfriends who are also reading OK. Considering this book won the Pulizer Prize, I felt it deserved another go round. With 40” of snow on the ground, much baking, shoveling, housework, and dog grooming afforded me the time to give this a second chance and listen as I went about my daily tasks while being confined to the house due to the white out conditions! And you know what? I found myself growing attached to Olive in all her grumpy glory.  OK offers insights into the human condition — its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires through stories about her fellow Crosby-ians that each include Olive in some form or another. The best illustration of Olive’s endurance is when her husband is confined by an injury and Olive sticks by his side when an unfortunate turn of events occurs. Classic Olive: “We’ve lost weight, not eating our cheese and crackers every night”, she says to her husband.

She’s overbearing, brash, quite outspoken, but she’s tenderhearted too. As the book progressed, so did Olive’s self-awareness. She began to recognize that although we can’t/won’t like everyone, we need to make an effort to understand them and where they’re coming from. Specifically, when she talks about how she always remembers her past students, thinking of them fondly, as they’re now grown, living their lives as she encounters them about town. I enjoyed Strout showcasing her ability to write vibrantly and beautifully about a mediocre character in a mediocre town. Every character is flawed, and the book is meant to showcase these character flaws, more so in Olive than anyone else. Olive, although in some of the 13 stories, is only barely mentioned/included, she’s essential to the story as a whole. I felt luke-warm about this book despite my deep desire to love it. You can’t force it and you also can’t absolutely love every book you read. It’s like eating cupcakes 3 meals a day. Sounds nice but the actual practice would lend itself to boredom. It’s important to recognize what you like and don’t like in different books to grow as a reader and as a person. So I’m glad I gave OK a second listen. I would have preferred the book be written in narrative form.

2/5 stars for the construction and plot line of the book

5/5 stars to Strout for her writing ability

10 down, 42 to go…

In progress- Kabul Beauty School

Xoxo, LibraryLove

Ps- Have a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend! My husband is off this weekend (yay)! We’ll be out and about enjoying our time together. Looking forward to our adventures downtown now that the artic tundra snow is melting, including a romantic dinner at the 5-star restaurant where we had our first date 9.5 years ago, which also happens to have our caricature hanging on their wall!

Love the one your with and please consider donating used books to your library. It’s a tax write off!


Book #6: LibraryLove January 28, 2010

The Alchemist by Paul0 Coelho

Book description: Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world, and this tenth anniversary edition, with a new introduction from the author, will only increase that following. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

What’s your personal legend? Are you living your dreams? What are you doing today that is getting you one step closer to fulfilling those lifelong aspirations? What goals did you accomplish when you were a child that shaped who you are today? What things do you still want to do? These are all questions that I wish we took more time out to ponder and maybe even share with friends as conversation starters. The Alchemist takes us along for Santiago’s ride through self discovery through a lighthearted fable about following through with dreams and tuning in to life’s simplicities along the way.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to truly listen to my gut. I get into this fun habit of sharing my “predictions” with my husband and close friends. A classic Hillzism is “Mark my words, insert prediction/gut feeling here”. Then when it comes to fruition, I love to recognize it. Why? Sure it may sound silly, but I wish more of us would go with our gut instinct, our inner voices. When something feels a bit off, I employ the “when in doubt, don’t” ideology. Or when the “I’m just not feelin’ it” or “I didn’t get a good vibe. I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy” sets in, I’m quick to recognize. I’ve gotten much more in tune with my inner voice which has guided me to make really sound decisions both in life, love and in friendships that I am proud of. I stick to my guns and I think those around me appreciate the stability this brings. I wish more people were better at following through, to thyne own self be true. Albeit an OCD quality, yes I do recognize this, how truly satisfying it is for me to strike something from my “ta-da” list when it’s done. Or how rewarding it is to look at my home after I’ve spent an entire day cleaning from top to bottom, yes baseboards too!, and feel a sense of pride. Why not challenge ourselves to feel that sense of accomplishment every single day and make someone else feel good??

I could relate a lot to Santiago, The Alchemist’s main character. His quest for meaning, truth, and treasures introduce him to three ‘forces’, a Gypsy, a king, and an alchemist. There was a lot of symbolism in this story, especially behind each of the three characters he meets, hence it’s position as a fable. But moreso, it made me stop and think about my life and what 3 forces, 3 experiences, 3 moments in time that changed the direction of my personal journey altogether, and for the better. I am so fortunate to have such an amazing personal network of friends that facilitate me living my dreams and always support me whatever I do, in part because they know when I say I’m going to do something, I actually DO follow through, it’s not just a pie-in-the-sky hair-brained scheme (although I’ve had those too!). There’s a funny card at Hallmark that I wish was my personal mantra and it makes me think of Santiago. The cover shows an image of two dogs, one large, one small, each with suitcases in their mouths at a train station. The inside reads “It’s not about where you’re going, but who you’re going with”. This card makes me smile every time I see it. It evokes the sense that life isn’t about checking the box, but about how the people you meet change your life in subtle or dramatic ways. I draw strength from each of my friends in different ways. My dynamic with each is unique and I love that. From the way we talk on the phone to the way we communicate in other ways, and the depth of our relationship. My life is never a dull place because I’ve got an amazing group of folks to share it with that make me a better person just for knowing each of them.

Santiago quickly discovers through his travels, the beauty and power of the “other worldly” treasures lie within. Although a bit juvenile and geared towards younger readers, I would recommend The Alcheist for a quick and light read while on travel, poolside, as a “palate cleanser” between “intense books”, or an uplifting book to share with your tween/young adult embarking on high school or college.

I’m curious to see what Fa-BOOK-ulous thinks, this is our first simultaneous read in 2010. Stay tuned for her review.

4/5 stars

6 down, 46 to go…

On deck, unSweetined by Jodie Sweetin and Olive Kitteridge (audiobook)




Book #4: LibraryLove January 26, 2010

The Penderwicks on Gardham Street by Jeanne Birdsall

Book description: The Penderwick sisters are home on Gardam Street and ready for an adventure! But the adventure they get isn’t quite what they had in mind. Mr. Penderwick’s sister has decided it’s time for him to start dating and the girls know that can only mean one thing: disaster. Enter the Save-Daddy Plan a plot so brilliant, so bold, so funny, that only the Penderwick girls could have come up with it. It’s high jinks, big laughs, and loads of family warmth as the Penderwicks triumphantly return.

This book came recommended with high praise by one of my beloved fellow Lit & The City book club members who is also a 2nd grade teacher coaching an elementary book club. It was available on audiobook at my library so I happily gave it a listen. “Wait, hold on, you’re reading an elementary school book?” you may be thinking. Chillax, no, I didn’t regress back into my strawberry shortcake roller skate days (despite my immense desire to do so). But yes, I did read a young adult book and loved it. “But why?” Welp…ya see…the challenge that Fa-book-ulous and I embarked upon for 2010 is not just to read 52 books. Sure, on the surface, that’s part of the challenge. However, the real idea is that the challenge will facilitate us expanding far beyond our literary comfort zones of one or two main genres, open up our minds and expand our horizons. Making reading a priority takes us beyond the point of casual reader and makes us bonafide bookworms, hence our monniker. Devoting more time to reading means we’re afforded the opportunity to read all kinds of books whether we end up loving them or hating them. There’s also something to be said about the time when a book finds you. Closing out 2009 with a streak of tear-jerking intense reads (The Lovely Bones, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Change of Heart, My Sister’s Keeper, Precious), it was time for something lighthearted and fun to brighten up the bitterly cold winter. The Penderwicks was exactly that. A lighthearted and fun tale of the Penderwick sisters, who hatch a plan to deter any future suitors from successfully falling in love with their father, recently widowed, who is trying to oblige his sister Claire by getting back out in to the dating scene. The girls don’t want their father to come home with a wicked stepmother. They realize their hijinks are making their father miserable and revise, along with the help of their newest next door neighbor, Iantha. Listening to this on audiobook was that much more enjoyable. The various voices the narrator made for the ranging ages of all four Penderwicks gals kept the hours flying by and with such fun. If you babysit teens or work with children, this would make a really fun slumber party/camp out book to share about the ups, twists and turns of a young family of girls just looking out for their dad, and the fun that ensues along the way.

5/5 stars

On deck on my iPod: The Alchemist (audiobook) + still bookin’ through Keeping The Faith….

4 down 48 to go!

Love and patronize your local library!

Xoxo, LibraryLove


Book #3: LibraryLove

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Book description~ In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world’s most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling — a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths… all under the watchful eye of Brown’s most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale. As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object — artfully encoded with five symbols — is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation… one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom. When Langdon’s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon — a prominent Mason and philanthropist — is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him.
Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations — all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth. As the world discovered in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown’s novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histories, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readers with an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown’s fans have been waiting for… his most thrilling novel yet.

SquidPod!!!! I am captivated by Dan Brown’s ability to make me fall back in love with D.C., just like we fell in love with Rome and Paris in parts 1 and 2 of the Robert Langdon series. I love our Nation’s Capitol but especially loved seeing it (hearing the audiobook, in this case) through the eyes of our favorite symbologist, Robert Langdon. Despite much criticism, and although I did enjoy Angels & Demons and  The DaVinci Code,  The Lost Symbol fell victim to the formulaic nature of Dan Brown’s novels. It seems like it’s falling into the same template: Find Langdon. Save the world from disaster. Run through streets, caves, dark alleys. Solve riddles. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Although I was already familiar with the Masonic Temple and all the astrological morsels Pierre L’enfant left for us to discover about Washington D.C., the average person was not aware of the historical, religious, and anthropological enigmas in the city’s past. Brown does a fantastic job of really keeping us on the edge of our seats, like we’re with Langdon and Dr. Santo through every turn. I think if you’re new to Dan Brown, maybe read one of the three books, I would recommend Angels and Demons. However, after now having read all three, I hate to say it’s getting a bit predictable. An immense amount of research went into making this book and it kept me engrossed, but I couldn’t help thinking about the movie National Treasure the entire time….

Sorry Langdon, I think it’s time you went back to swimming laps for a while. On the upside- my book club babes and I will be enjoying a picnic lunch discussion at the Cathedral in honor of this book in May 2010.

3/5 stars

3 down 49 to go.

On deck…Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

Xoxo, LibraryLove


Book #2: LibraryLove

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Book description: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women – mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends – view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

I can’t say enough about this book. I kept sending texts to my fellow L&TC Book Club girls as I listened to the audiobook laughing, joking, and loving it. I’m so glad this was one of the books I chose to listen to instead of read. This book is a carefully woven patchwork quilt full of rich character development tying each of the three main character’s lifes to one another, for better, or for worse. If you just read this book, you may miss the added bonus of tone, emphasis and emotion that the three narrators added to the story with their different voices in the audiobook. If you’re going to start listening to books on your iPod, I recommend The Help be the first! Stockett does an amazing job at really separating the characters while keeping them bound to one another throughout the entire story’s plotline. I found myself laughing out loud many times, especially to the scene at the event with the chocolate pie!

Skeeter by far was my favorite character. I love her tenderness. Although she was a bit of an outcast, I appreciated her plight. As a young white woman growing up in the south in 1962, she took gutsy chances by doing what she did. She stood up for not just women’s rights, but human rights. She never let the debutante Ms. Hilly get the best of her, or get in her way for anything. Ms. Celia’s character was my second favorite. I loved how she really didn’t “need” Minnie, but she needed a friend. Ms. Celia didn’t treat Minnie like the rest of the “housewives” treated their “help”. She treated her with respect, like an equal. I also love how the title of this book really digs deeper than just the help the women provided in the home. We all need help. Sometimes, the help we need is someone pushing us. Someone pushing us to shift our focus a bit, regardless of what we’re told by society is “right” or “the way it is”, and challenge us to reach beyond the norm. We can help each other see what’s really important in life. Start valuing others and their individual contributions to our lives rather than their social status.
I recommend everyone read this book!!

5 stars

2 down 50 to go…

On deck, Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult…