Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #16: LibraryLove March 15, 2010

Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein

Waiting for Daisy is about loss, love, anger and redemption. It’s about doing all the things you swore you’d never do to get something you hadn’t even been sure you wanted. It’s about being a woman in a confusing, contradictory time. It’s about testing the limits of a loving marriage. And it’s about trying (and trying and trying) to have a baby. Orenstein’s story begins when she tells her new husband that she’s not sure she ever wants to be a mother; it ends six years later after she’s done almost everything humanly possible to achieve that goal, from “fertility sex” to escalating infertility treatments to New Age remedies to forays into international adoption. Her saga unfolds just as professional women are warned by the media to heed the ticking of their biological clocks, and just as fertility clinics have become a boom industry, with over two million women a year seeking them out. Buffeted by one jaw-dropping obstacle after another, Orenstein seeks answers both medical and spiritual in America and Asia, along the way visiting an old flame who’s now the father of fifteen, and discovering in Japan a ritual of surprising solace. All the while she tries to hold onto a marriage threatened by cycles, appointments, procedures and disappointments. Waiting for Daisy is an honest, wryly funny report from the front, an intimate page-turner that illuminates the ambivalence, obsession, and sacrifice that characterize so many modern women’s lives.

What does it mean to be a mother? To what lengths would you go to be one? Would you sacrifice your health? Life? Marriage? Your own sense of self? And more interestingly, what are the impacts on your husband through the process of being treated for infertility? My husband and I plan to have children some day. But a couple’s personal time line is so not public information. And conversely, I wish more people would be sensitive towards couples that decide they DON’T want to raise children, whether they biologically can or not. It’s so frustrating to see and hear how ostracized a couple can be if they decide children are not part of their plans. But what if children WERE part of your plans but you waited beyond the point of healthy conception?

My knowledge and understanding of fertility/infertility are so minute. So, in my typical fashion, what better time to expand my personal horizons than during this, The Year of The Bookwormz? This year’s reading challenge is a personal goal to learn more about topics I don’t know about, through books. I also had some extra time to read as I traveled to visit my family out-of-town over the weekend. My sister’s cat especially enjoyed “helping” me read. 🙂

I also appreciated the intellectual conversation on this topic with my sister and brother-in-law, both medical doctors, who had interesting insights from a medical and scientific perspective. The topic intrigued me after reading Baby Proof by Emily Giffin over the summer (who by the way I cannot WAIT to meet during her 2010 book tour)!

Baby Proof‘s premise challenges the idea of a married couple deciding not to have children.  It begs an interesting question, are children all a woman wants?? And discusses whether some couples have kids because they genuinely want to invest in raising children, or because they feel pressure from mothers, grandmothers, and female friends because it’s just “what you do after you get married”.  I couldn’t wait to learn about the topic by reading Waiting for Daisy and was amazed at just how far one woman would go for a baby.

In Waiting For Daisy, Peggy so candidly, shares her six-year struggle toward motherhood. Peggy and her supportive husband Steven, try every medical possibility to conceive a child.   As a woman over 35, she experiences major difficulty every step of the way. Despite her struggles, I loved this book and felt like I was watching Peggy and Steven’s life as a fly on the wall, traveling between two continents. Peggy, a well-known journalist so  forthcoming with her heart wrenching experiences, had me in awe. I cannot image wanting a baby so badly that I’d have gone to the great lengths Peggy goes through. She puts her health, well-being, mental stability, financial stability, marriage, and career on the line.

I have some very strong opinions on the topic of fertility treatments. As this is a public forum, won’t do it here, because those feelings and views belong to my husband and I in privacy. What saddened me the most in reading this book, was how unregulated the cash cow fertility industry is!! I was horrified to read how things went from bad to worse for Peggy and Steven. Below is a brief excerpt from Peggy’s book that I felt extremely apropos:

“I felt like the high roller whose new friends disappeared when his stake was gone. The caring brochures, the chummy smiles, the warm affect of the clinic “team” seemed abruptly stripped away, revealing nothing more than a cold-blooded business. We had wanted so desperately to believe that we had ignored the sales pitch in the compassion, the coercion in the photographs of babies and sunflowers. But I finally got it- these guys may have been doctors, but they were also salesmen. I may have been a patient, but I was also a consumer. I was undergoing a procedure, but I was also making a deal- and they were making a buck”. ~ Peggy Orenstein

I give Peggy so much credit for writing this book. What a strong woman for enduring those most difficult 6 years and basically throwing away the second half of her 30s. I don’t want to give away too much, but this book will be a testament to Peggy’s strength. This book will be a truly amazing gift for Daisy to look back and reflect upon, as her earliest scrapbook.

Such a thought-provoking topic. I wish more people took the time to learn about the political, societal, and social impacts of the fertility industry, even if it doesn’t apply to them!

~5/5 stars~

16 down, 36 to go!

In progress: The Opposite of Me and Testimony (Audiobook)




Book #9: Fabookulous March 14, 2010

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

Book description: In this new novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames- recently widowed, coping with loss and grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her- is beginning to depend far too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, and is meddling in her life, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Helen’s problems are compounded by her shocking discovery that her mild-mannered and seemingly loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. The Ameses had painstakingly saved for a happy retirement, but that money disappeared in several large withdrawals made by Helen’s husband before he died. In order to support herself and garner a measure of much needed independence, Helen takes an unusual job that ends up offering far more than she had anticipated. And then a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery that causes both mother and daughter to reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

“Maybe Freud didn’t know the answer to what women want, but Elizabeth Berg certainly does,” said USA Today, and that special gift of understanding shines through in this remarkable new novel. Home Safe is an exquisitely rendered story about mothers, daughters, and finding new richness in the stages of life, in one’s family, and in oneself.

I just finished this book and I have to say, I was very disappointed. The cover jacket’s summary of the story (the book description posted), I felt, was extremely misleading. About 2/3 in, I was still waiting to read what the book claims happened. I feel very misled.

I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters. The main character was all over the place and her flash backs to other events and times in her life seemed random at times. Something that was very distracting throughout the ENTIRE book was the amount of punctuation! Commas, semi-colons, colons, I mean REALLY?! They are all over. The sentences seem to run on and on separated by punctuation. It felt rushed and sloppy. While I was reading this book a friend noticed it on the table and said “Oh I love Elizabeth Berg, is that good?” And I said “No, not really. What’s with all the punctuation?” and she said “YES, I noticed that too!” I feel bad being so harsh because apparently she is a bestselling author. Until this book, I had not heard of her or read her books.

Something else that I found annoying was  EVERY TIME her daughter spoke to her/addressed her mother, she said “Mom, mom.” Why is she saying mom twice? I have no clue what that was about and it got annoying.

I was very disappointed with this book, found the ending disappointing, and felt the story was incomplete. I had the feeling it was rushed through just to release another book and the author just went through the motions putting words to paper. I had high expectations and maybe that’s where I made a mistake. I read the cover jacket, which I do not feel is an accurate description of the story. Very odd book and very odd characters. Sorry, I don’t recommend this book…

2/5 stars…



Book #15: LibraryLove March 7, 2010

Raven Stole The Moon by Garth Stein

Book description: In this haunting debut, Garth Stein brilliantly invokes his Native American heritage and its folklore to create an electrifying supernatural thriller. When a grieving mother returns to the remote Alaskan town where her young son drowned, she discovers that the truth about her son’s death is shrouded in legend—and buried in a terrifying wrinkle between life and death.

Coloring powerful legend with universal emotions, Garth Stein masterfully evokes our most primal dreams and fears. Remarkably vivid and relentlessly suspenseful, Raven Stole the Moon marks the arrival of a stunningly imaginative new talent.

Has anything ever been stolen right out from under you? Can you describe the feeling that comes over you when you mourn the loss of a friend or loved one? It’s pretty intense and hard to articulate with the proper nuance, yes? Does it feel like your whole world has gone dark? Almost as if the moon is no longer present in the night sky to guide you on your way? Have you ever gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and struggle finding your way without a nightlight, feeling lost just on the way to the bathroom? That’s what Jenna, Raven’s main character must have felt when her young son Bobby, drowned in an unfortunate  accident. The surrounding events and its toll on Jenna and her husband Robert, are the basis of this novel.

One of my FAVORITE things about reading is to uncover through my inference, or the author’s intent, the meaning behind the book title. For me, Raven was not just about the Native American fable Stein spells out in the book. But rather the idea that sometimes a life loss sucks the light out from under us and a dark cloud moves in. Anyone with a heart can relate to this.

Don’t want to dwell, but for most of us who have one time or another felt that immeasurable loss, I recommend you read Raven. And if you’re going to read this book, I recommend you take a sick day, take a vacation, do whatever you can to hole yourself up for uninterrupted quality reading time! You will NOT want to put this book down. If you do, it’ll make you cranky because you want to keep reading- trust me, I know from experience 😉

Due to a jam-packed birthday celebration schedule (I know, woe is me, where’s the violin? saucer of milk?), this week didn’t afford me the opportunity for much uninterrupted reading time. However, I sacrificed sleep to read, it was that good! I say the above, because although Raven was SUCH a departure from Stein’s second novel, Art of Racing in the Rain, which is on my short list of best books I’ve ever read, their differences make them each all the more powerful in my eyes.  They’re both amazing books for different reasons. I don’t want to give too much away about either book, but I recommend you read Art of Racing first, as I did.  I love to hear about how/when books find you and their impact on your life. After reading Art of Racing, I felt so fulfilled, satisfied with the ending, and with a goofy grin on my face. I told all my friends. Many of them went to their local libraries and both read it AND loved it immediately. It  forever changed, for the better, the relationship I have with my pets.  Because I loved Art of Racing so much, I decided to check out Stein’s other novels on Paperbackswap last fall. Sure enough, one of the (now out of print) copies was available! I had a stockpile of credits, so there it sat on my bookshelf. I grew busy with library books and book club reads that I forgot all about it. Last Sunday, Planetbooks mentioned she’d been approached by Stein’s new publisher asking if she’d kindly read and review it, as she did for Art of Racing, to promote the re-release and drum up some more interest and internet/blog traffic. When Planetbooks mentioned it, I nearly leapt out of my seat and suggested we read it together. We could compare notes and send texts back and forth sharing our thoughts. I’ve had the book and been waiting to read it, this was the perfect excuse. She had a short window of time and needed to read and review it within a week, to coincide with Raven’s re-release. Knowing myself, I knew that this would be no problem for me, and that I was actually just finishing another book that same evening and could start the following day!

I’m really looking forward to getting to meet Garth Stein at one of his book events this year. Chatting with one of my favorite authors will be a dream come true for me. Art of Racing will without question remain one of my top five books of all time, but recommend you give Raven a try- the action never quits!

5/5 stars

15 down,  37 to go!

In progress- Three Cups of Tea (Audiobook), Waiting for Daisy




Author’s Spotlight::Beth Hoffman::

Did you enjoy my review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt?

I loved that book so much I had to do a feature on Beth Hoffman. After a career in one of her life passions (interior design), Beth had the chance to pursue her other passion, writing. When she suffered group A streptococcal infection that resulted in septic shock and was forced to reevaluate her life, she seized the opportunity. She spent the next four years writing her debut and, in my opinion, exploded onto the literary scene! If you haven’t picked up Saving CeeCee Honeycutt yet, I am confident it is the first of many delightful stories to come from Beth Hoffman!

Check out my review of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and visit Beth’s website. And this bookworm is following her Event Schedule hoping she makes it to the nation’s capital! Maybe I’ll see you there!

Happy Reading!



Book #8: Fabookulous

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by N.T. Wright

Book description: “The longer you look at Jesus,” writes N.T. Wright, “the more you will want to serve him in his world. That is, of course, if it’s the real Jesus you’re looking at.”

Plenty of people in the church and outside it have made up a “Jesus” for themselves, an invented character who makes few real demands on them. He makes them feel happy from time to time, but he doesn’t challenge them, doesn’t suggest they get up and do something about the plight of the world- something the real Jesus had an uncomfortable habit of doing.

N.T. Wright has already written about the search for Jesus in his book, Who Was Jesus? In Following Jesus Wright talks about the “so what?” that necessarily follows from that search.

The twelve exhilarating meditations in this volume explore what it truly means to follow Jesus today. Wright first outlines the essential messages of six major New Testament books- Hebrews, Colossians, Matthew, John, Mark, and Revelation- looking in particular at their portrayal of Jesus and what he accomplished in his sacrificial death. Wright then takes six key New Testament themes- resurrection, rebirth, temptation, hell, heaven, and new life- and considers their significance for the lives of present-day disciples.

Though I think N.T. Wright offers great ideas and intelligence, this book wasn’t the typical Christian read for me. I found it to be a bit “scholarly” for lack of a better word. It definitely wasn’t a book I couldn’t put down as I found I had to motivate myself to pick it back up. There have been Christian authors that I’ve struggled to read before, and its not to say I ‘struggled’ with this book. But I did find myself reading the words without hearing them. In one ear out the other.

Perhaps I felt rushed because while reading this, the library emailed to say that several of the books I was waiting for became available to me and because there was a wait list, I couldn’t check them out more than once. I admit I may not have given this book a fair chance. That being said, there are a lot of other Christian themed books that have really made an impression on me and I’ve retained a lot from. So if you are a believer seeking wisdom on discipleship, don’t let me sway you. Try this one for yourself.

As for me, 3/5 stars.



Book #7: Fabookulous

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Book description: Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille- the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town- a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when tragedy strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who skinny-dips in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapon, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman’s sparkling debut hums with wacky humor and down-home heart. It explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others. Above all, it is a book full of feminine wisdom- one to cherish, remember, and share.

I do not know where to begin because I cannot say enough good things about this book! I loved the fact that the main character is 12 and the story is through her eyes. It was fun to live the story through a child’s eyes. The innocence, the humor, the confusion. I completely lost myself in this book as I remembered how I viewed the world at such a young age.

CeeCee is an extremely lovable main character and very relatable. I found myself wishing I could give her a hug and encourage her. Call me crazy for getting so involved, but this book ran like a movie through my mind the entire time. Yes, I realize that’s what happens when you read, but I mean I was ON the streets of Georgia with them, I was at the roadside lunch outside the jewelry shop, I was next door watching Miz Goodpepper with CeeCee and I sat down at the kitchen table with Oletta and CeeCee during breakfast. I loved everything about this book and will recommend it to whoever needs suggestions!

This book reminded me a lot of the movie Steel Magnolias and I loved the sweet southern belles and all their hospitable endeavors. I laughed out loud at the tales of friendship and I enjoyed all the surprises throughout the book. For a 306 page book, I feel I spent every part of that summer with them. Beth Hoffman did a superb job in her storytelling and I love that this was her debut novel as now I will follow her career!

You know how sometimes you see a movie and you really like it, and then it’s announced that a sequel will be made? And you know how it makes you wonder if it will be as good as the original? In the same way, I thought this book was so entertaining and enjoyable that I wonder if Beth Hoffman could even top herself! That’s not in any way to doubt her creativity or capabilities as an author, but rather to say how refreshing and wonderful this debut novel was! It’s been a long time since I’ve related to characters so well and Beth is a marvel at creating characters you will wish were your friends and neighbors. CeeCee’s aunt Tootie makes you feel right at home among her house and her friends. They are one big happy Georgia family!

I couldn’t put this one down from the minute I got it at the library. And now I can say I have proudly purchased my very own copy, not only to lend to friends but to get signed if/when I meet Beth on her book tour! I highly recommend for anyone looking for a good read. Women will especially enjoy this as it develops the beautiful friendships between women where we can talk and laugh and fight and cry and make up and still love each other in this crazy thing called life. Please, grab some sweet tea and find a spot outside and step into the southern world of Savannah with CeeCee!

5 out of 5 stars!



Book #13: LibraryLove February 26, 2010

The Girl’s Guide To Being A Boss (Without Being a Bitch) by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio

Book description~

As women, we haven’t always had the best role models at work. We’ve either worked for men or we’ve had female bosses who are, well, big bitches. Woman still don’t have much of a road map right now when it comes to taking charge at the office, so the team who brought you the national bestseller The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business is drawing one for us. Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio will teach you to be powerful without being possessive, to be opinionated without being brassy, and to have a strong voice without micromanaging. You’ll learn just how to own the role of queen bee in a positive way so that you can be more mentor than manager, one who leads, inspires, and motivates.So, you finally got that promotion. You’re the boss now. The supervisor. The manager. The captain. The taskmaster. Those days of taking orders, running errands, and clock-watching are over. As exciting as all this might seem, once the rush of the promotion is over, you might be scratching your head wondering exactly what to do. Being the boss is never easy, but it’s twice as hard for a woman. It seems like there’s no middle ground. Either you’re the dragon lady who rules with an iron fist or the mousey girl who gets drowned out at every meeting. When a woman wields authority and dares to make tough decisions, how often is the “B-word” bandied about by her employees? How can she strike that balance between pushover and dictator?

It’s hard to believe but I’ve been a Federal Government employee for almost TEN years! WOW. I’ve worked my way up from a lowly GS-04 and earned every bit of my success along the bumpy way. With that being said, this IS a public blog, and not a place I’m going to discuss my job at length- other than saying that I absolutely love my job and the flexibility and security it brings. My boss is my personal and professional mentor and someone I look up to with respect every day. She motivates me and gives me the autonomy and trust I need to shine.  She believes in me and challenges me.

Because people I work with will eventually read this, I’m not going to editorialize too much. I liked this book. It would make a nice reference guide for young women entering college and beginning to make a place for themselves through internships or in the corporate arena. I just wish it went more into the communication techniques required to deal with touchy situations. I guess that’s my background coming through again- incase you couldn’t already tell, I have a degree in Communication and Public Relations. I am so acutely aware of how impactful communication is, I chose my words carefully.  Because I’ve been in my office’s dynamic environment for so long,  a lot of the things in this book were a bit common sense. They were things I’ve already learned through “on the job training”. The ideas of “baptism by fire” or “being thrown into the shark invested waters” are things I’ve all experienced.

I loved the section on team building because it’s one of the tools I use regularly to get my team and our customers energized on the job. It’s proven 100% successful for me.  I highly recommend every office employ some sort of teambuilding mechanism, whether playing with legos or solving brainteasers as teams.

One fun takeaway I will share from the teambuilding section is the following list of team roles below.

“The key to good, efficient teams is to create a healthy balance of these individuals or to identify the roles that you need your team members to play even if that’s not their natural role”~ Meredith Belbin, author of Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail

I’m challenging you! Ask your self  “which role do I play at my place of business?”. Pretty thought-provoking, yes? Leave me a comment below with which role you play and how. Are you satisfied with that, or do you strive for more?

You can leave your comment anonymously if you prefer, no right or wrong answer, you’re a winner in my book! 🙂

The Plant: Original thinkers, generate new ideas, offer solutions.

The Resource Investigator: Creative, take ideas and run w/them. Extroverted and popular.

The Coordinator: Highly disciplined and controlled, focus on objectives, they unify a team.

The Shaper: Achievement oriented, like to be challenged and get results.

The Monitor Evaluator: Analyze and balance and weigh, calm and detached, objective thinkers.

The Team Worker: Supportive and cooperative, make good diplomats, want what is best for team.

The Implementer: Good organizational skills, display common sense, like to get the job done.

The Completer: Check details, tidy up after themselves, painstakingly conscientious.

The Specialist: Dedicated to acquiring a specialized skill, extremely professional, possess drive and dedication.

3/5 stars*

*If I were to have reviewed this 10 years ago though, I would probably would have given this 5 stars.

13 down, 39 to go!!

In progress: Raven Stole The Moon,  Memoirs of a Geisha (audiob00k)




Book #12: LibraryLove February 24, 2010

Forever Lily:  An Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell

Book description~

When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the greatest challenges of Russell’s life. Russell, watching in disbelief as Alex distances herself from the child, cares for the baby — clothing, bathing, and feeding her — and makes her feel secure in the unfamiliar surroundings. Russell is overwhelmed and disoriented by the unfolding drama and all that she sees in China, and yet amid the emotional turmoil finds herself deeply bonding with the child. She begins to have dreams of an ancient past — dreams of a young woman who is plucked from the countryside and chosen to be empress, and of the child who is ultimately taken from her. As it becomes clear that her friend — whose indecisiveness about the adoption has become a torment — won’t be bringing the baby home, Russell is amazed to realize that she cannot leave the baby behind and that her dreams have been telling her something significant, giving her the courage to open her heart and bring the child home against all odds.

“Will you take her?” is not a question you’d expect to hear your best friend ask, who you’ve accompanied to China, to help her adopt a baby…

That’s the basic storyline here. Alex realizes once she gets to China, and actually comes face to face with her brand new adoptive baby that it’s too much for her to manage. The book then vaguely discusses the legalities of their options. About 1/3 of this book was enjoyable. Another 1/3 was filler dream sequences, and the other 1/3 was flashback scenes.

The lack of continuity in this book fell flat for me pretty early on. Maybe because I’m soaking books up this year like a sponge, I had high hopes and expect a book to grip me immediately. There are SO many amazing books on my ‘to be read’ (TBR) list, I don’t want to spend time reading mediocre books. Sure, I was roped back in when the twist showed up, but it was short lived. I wanted to like it. I really did.  I am so intrigued by the international adoption process and was hoping to learn more about a topic I previously knew nothing about. I love challenging myself to learn about foreign topics.  Reading is a great way to do this. But alas, I’m still on the hunt. Unfortunately, when page 2 began a string of hokey dream sequences that reared their ugly head what seemed like every other page, all momentum was lost.  Any hope of rising action was lost. I don’t recommend this book and I feel bad for saying that.  I expected to learn more about the impetus behind the couple deciding to actually adopt, and the mechanics of the adoption process because it would have given the reader a better insight as to just how in the world Alex could have changed her mind at the drop of a hat.

Have you read a great book on international adoption? If so, please drop me a comment below, I’d love to give this topic a second chance!

2/5 stars

12 down, 40 to go!

In progress: Memoirs of a Geisha (audiobook),  The Girl’s Guide to Being the Boss Without Being a Bitch



Book #6: Fabookulous February 22, 2010

Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore

Book description: How do we practice II Corinthians 10:3-5, “tearing down strongholds by captivating our minds with the knowledge of God”? Beth Moore shows you how in Praying God’s Word.

A topical prayer guide addressing fourteen common strongholds and what Scripture reveals about each of them, Praying God’s Word presents Scriptures in prayer form to be incorporated into your daily prayer life.

God’s Word, through prayer, helps you overcome bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, setting you free from each and every stronghold which claims your life, and replacing it with the mind of Christ.

As a huge Beth Moore fan, I hope to make my way through all of her books and/or bible studies! She is such an inspirational teacher and  I am always encouraged by her. Her passionate relationship with Christ is contagious!

Praying God’s Word discusses several strongholds that can take control of one’s life and prevent them from living to their full potential. Understanding how you can pray Scripture to overcome them was very eye-opening and comforting. While I could relate to some better than others (as would anyone who reads this book), I got something out of each topic and the Scriptures that pertain to it. Of course the book is not comprehensive, as the Bible is the ultimate resource. I liked that at the end of the book Beth leaves space for the reader to look up their own Scriptures and practice on their own. It’s definitely a habit I hope to continue!

I feel peaceful when I am reading inspirational books and it feels good to return to my favorite genre, Christian non-fiction. I enjoy the teachings of others who are clearly better versed than me. Beth Moore remains one of my favorites. Definitely a must read for anyone struggling with anything…so basically, everyone! 😉

5/5 stars!

Closed the books on #6, 46 to go…

Happy Reading!



Breakout Author’s Spotlight:: Sarah Pekkanen:: February 20, 2010

Are you a fan of authors like Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin?

Do you love quick whitted and down to earth authors?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, you will ADORE Sarah Pekkanen! Major congratulations are in order for my friend’s brand new breakout novel, The Opposite of Me, in stores March 9th, 2010.

Please check out Sarah’s Website for more information on her book, tour dates, and to sign up for her hysterical monthly newsletter. Oh, and email Lorne Michels and tell him you want to see Sarah on Saturday Night Live 😉

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has been published in People, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, Reader’s Digest, and Washingtonian, among others. She writes a monthly Erma Bombeck type column for Bethesda Magazine, and has been an on-air contributor to NPR and E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show.” She is the winner of a Dateline award and the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and three young sons. ~Simon & Schuster

Other Sarah Pekkanen News:

Publisher’s Weekly Deals, 07/21/08
A first novel by Sarah Pekkanen titled The Opposite of Me; Victoria Sanders sold world English rights. Pekkanen, a monthly columnist for Bethesda magazine, will, tongue in cheek, explore low self-esteem, the hunger to succeed and have it all, and the grueling but rewarding bond of sisterhood. Pekannen’s work has been published in a host of newspapers and magazines. Pub date is early 2010.

Bethesda Magazine

Other clippings

“Rookie reporter scoops the big guys on Collins,” Detroit Journal

Xoxo, LibraryLove

PS- Special thanks to my dear friend PlanetBooks for introducing me to

Sarah, who is so whitty, our facebook conversations crack me up everytime!


Book #11: LibraryLove February 17, 2010

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriquez

Book description:  Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors, nurses, and therapists–seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers, overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families’ breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup. Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride sold into marriage to pay her family’s debts, the Taliban member’s wife who pursued her training despite her husband’s constant beatings. Through these and other stories, Rodriguez found the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style. Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the arts of perms, friendship, and freedom.

Beauty Without Borders- what an amazing concept? I love Rodriguez’ entrepreneurial spirit mixed with philanthropy. She was able to get donations/sponsorship from well-known names in beauty, like Paul Mitchell, to donate truckloads of products, getting her Kabul Beauty School up and running. I admire her for giving up the comforts of Westernized life, time with her children and her own safety to give the women of war-torn Kabul opportunities to make a new life for themselves and teach them a skill they can use after attending Rodriguez’ program learning the trade of cosmetology. Rodriguez is not the strongest writer but I appreciate her story and couldn’t put this book down. I wish Rodriguez chose a few of the girls who were just briefly introduced in her memoir and delved deeper into telling their stories, learning their struggles, along with some heartier dialogue between them. I like to give constructive criticism and I felt that although the concept of the book was great- telling her story of struggle and the fight to bring opportunity to these women, it also showcased just how HARD it is to change cultural ideologies and hegemony that’s been in place for hundreds of years. I just didn’t feel that the book was cohesive enough; the chapters were lengthy and could have been divided up in a more effective way possibly by student?  In the beginning, we’re so drawn in by Roshanna’s story and the heartache of her arranged marriage. Yet Roshanna’s story was really not expanded much more. I was disappointed when I invested myself into her character and I’m left wanting more.

I’m a very loyal person, and will do just about anything for those around me. Because I get so deeply invested in people and things, it’s natural that I get equally attached to characters in books I read. I’ve also found that on the surface, when a book is more than 350 pages, I tend to have more positive feedback towards it. The author takes the time necessary to truly develop the characters, plot, and bring the book to its logical dénoument.

I think that with so much to discuss and expand upon, Rodriguez left me wanting more. I could discuss the practice of wearing the burqa for pages and I wish she would have possibly expounded on that. In fact,  I was actually hoping for it. She could have touched on the impact having to be completely covered took on these young woman. Where was their sense of self and confidence was pulled from? Personally, I love getting to “change my look” from day to day- glasses or contacts, straight or curly hair,makeup or none, \feminine dresses, skirts and open-toed shoes, accessories, hats and purses, or pjs and sweats. We’re so fortunate in Westernized cultures to have the freedom to express ourselves with our appearance. It’s something I appreciate more after having read this book.

So it’s understandable that Rodriguez faced some resistance, because as it is obvious, Middle Eastern cultural norms are very difference from Western culture.  But give us more than just surface descriptions. And please don’t introduce new characters on page 235 of 270! Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot? Sigh.

Moving on, I will say it many times over the course of this year– part of this challenge for me is to read books that fall well outside my typical genre or comfort zone, including books from other cultures and countries. Previously my understanding of Middle Eastern Culture was limited only from exposure to Iranian family ideologies through a friendship of over 12 years with one of my dearest. Other than what her family struggles have been, exposure to their food, music, and culture, I know little about that part of the world let alone what living in a war-torn place like Kabul would be like as a young woman wanting to make a life for herself. I take it for granted too often as an assertive modern and free thinking woman, that I have just that– the freedom to be so. If I want to take a class, learn a new trade, expand my horizons- I go for it without having to ask! When I go to my library, I don’t have to wonder if the armed guards will take me prisoner for reading about topics that are dubbed taboo in my culture. So, for all the soldiers who’ve lost their lives, and for everyone who continues to fight whether overseas or from behind a desk, thank you for giving me the freedom and opportunity to even blog about subjects such as these. Let freedom ring!!

3.5 stars for the composition of the book

5 stars for the strength Rodriguez had to bring to this country

11 down, 41 to go…!

In progress: Forever Lily, and Testimony (audiobook)

Xoxo, LibraryLove


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 #9: LibraryLove

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Book description~ January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb.
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends — and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island — boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

This is the first book, written in epistolary exchange format, I’ve ever read.  For those of you unfamiliar, epistolary means the book is written through an exchange of letters. Typically, a book is written in narrative form. TGLPPPS was such a fun and unique twist. Authors Shaffer and Barrows used the exchange of letters between characters involved in the story, to insert the reader smack dab into the psyche and inner most thoughts of the Guernsey Islanders. I’m sad the book ended because I want more! Especially with Dawsey’s new found outgoing personality which left me so curious to see what their lives together would hold. I laughed, I cried, and I was completely drawn into Juliet’s world. Her quick whit and charm cracked me UP! She’s just the kind of person I’d love to add to my social network and invite to dinner. I give her much credit for taking such initiative to even want to take on the beast of raising Kit as her own, much less leaving London behind, when she just planned to visit the Guernsey Island to get inspired for her second book.  I also loved what a homage to Elizabeth this story became. She was so integral in everyone’s lives~ of course she should be the focus of Juliet’s second work!

My one criticism is that I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see more of the Dawsey/Juliet relationship explored after the “big day”. But that’s just me being selfish isn’t it? =) I am looking forward to reading The Recipe Club, as it’s another selection written in epistolary format back and forth between friends who share recipes. I really enjoyed learning about Juliet, Sidney and Isola through their letters to one another and think it to be such a unique way to tell a story and hook the reader. My favorite scene is when Juliet’s boat arrives at the port, she in her red cape, about to embark on the rest of her life’s journey on the Island of Guernsey.

This is my 3rd historical fiction reading in a row. The Help took place in the 60s, Keeping the House took place in the 50s, and TGLPPPS took place in the post-WWII era of the late 40s. I’ve enjoyed going “back in time” and definitely caught the historical fiction bug.

Thanks to a very dear friend for “gently coercing” me to read this immediately. xoxo.

5/5 Stars

9 down, 43 to go…

On deck, Kabul Beauty School

Xoxo, LibraryLove


Book #5: Fabookulous February 7, 2010

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.

To describe my reaction to this book in one word: WOW. And this is the author’s DEBUT novel! She has such a gift for storytelling. I decided to read this book after seeing LibraryLove’s review of it last month.

My first historical fiction piece in a long time, this book had me so engrossed in every character. I love seeing the story from more than one view and empathized with every woman. I found myself in awe of Aibileen and Minny and their strength and perseverance to continue to put up with what they had to. And Skeeter, well she was very brave and honorable to use her talents to make a difference.

It’s amazing what women can do when they push past stereotypes and what society says and come together for a mutual cause. The Help is a wonderful example of women keeping the faith and fighting together, no matter what. I definitely recommend this book and will be looking forward to seeing what Kathryn Stockett writes next!

5/5 stars.

5 down. 47 more. Steady does it…



Book #8: LibraryLove

Keeping The House by Ellen Baker

Set in the conformist 1950s and reaching back to span two world wars, Ellen Baker’s superb novel is the story of a newlywed who falls in love with a grand abandoned house and begins to unravel dark secrets woven through the generations of a family. Like Whitney Otto’s How to Make an American Quilt in its intimate portrayal of women’s lives, and reminiscent of novels by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, Keeping the House is a rich tapestry of a novel that introduces a wonderful new fiction writer.

When Dolly Magnuson moves to Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, in 1950, she discovers all too soon that making marriage work is harder than it looks in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Dolly tries to adapt to her new life by keeping the house, supporting her husband’s career, and fretting about dinner menus. She even gives up her dream of flying an airplane, trying instead to fit in at the stuffy Ladies Aid quilting circle. Soon, though, her loneliness and restless imagination are seized by the vacant house on the hill. As Dolly’s life and marriage become increasingly difficult, she begins to lose herself in piecing together the story of three generations of Mickelson men and women: Wilma Mickelson, who came to Pine Rapids as a new bride in 1896 and fell in love with a man who was not her husband; her oldest son, Jack, who fought as a Marine in the trenches of World War I; and Jack’s son, JJ, a troubled veteran of World War II, who returns home to discover Dolly in his grandparents’ house.

Beautifully written and atmospheric, Keeping the House illuminates the courage it takes to shape and reshape a life, and the difficulty of ever knowing the truth about another person’s desires. Keeping the House is an unforgettable novel about small-town life and big matters of the heart.

What makes a house a home and a marriage a bond of trust, love and safety? Both of these ideologies are challenged in Ellen Baker’s Keeping the House. Set in the 1950s, we are introduced to the multigenerational Mickelson Family as we are taken on a kaleidescope journey through pre-war, war time, and post-war eras. Baker takes us on travels through time and generation, delving into the hearts and souls of the epic family’s skeletons through Dolly and her new “pal”
JJ as Dolly helps “keep the house” for JJ. It becomes her getaway, safe haven.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I think it’s absolutely worth reading for yourself to read as all the fun intricacies unfold before your eyes like you’re watching a movie as the words fly across the pages and into life. What I really appreciated about this book is how artfully and gently Baker crafts the relationship between Dolly and JJ, both there for each other in a time of loneliness, yet eventually realizing that they can’t solve each other’s problems by running away or running to each other, or somewhere else. Yet, somehow, simultaneously, Baker reconnects Byron and Dolly to a place even better than they probably could have hoped for- a place where they can be open, free, and communicate to each other their expectations, hopes and dreams.

The epilogue left me with a big content grin. I laughed out loud as this image came to my mind after I shut the last page on this amazing novel:

5/5 stars

8 down, 44 to go!

On deck- Olive Kitteridge: Audiobook (in progress) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Xoxo, LibraryLove


Book #7: LibraryLove January 30, 2010

unSweetined by Jodie Sweetin

Book description: Once Danny Tanner’s bubbly daughter on America’s favorite family sitcom, Jodie Sweetin takes readers behind the scenes of Full House and shares her terrifying — and uplifting — real-life story of addiction and recovery. Jodie Sweetin grew up in front of America, melting our hearts and making us laugh for eight years as the cherub-faced middle child on Full House. Her ups and downs seemed not so different from our own, but more than a decade after the popular television show ended, the star we knew as goody-two-shoes Stephanie Tanner publicly revealed her shocking recovery from methamphetamine addiction. Even then, Jodie still kept a painful secret — one that could not be solved in thirty minutes with a hug, a stern talking-to, or a bowl of ice cream around the family table. The harrowing battle she swore she had won was really just beginning. In her deeply personal, utterly raw, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Jodie comes clean about the double life she led — the crippling identity crisis that began at her birth, the hidden anguish of juggling a regular childhood with her Hollywood life, and the vicious cycle of abuse and recovery that led to a relapse even as she wrote this book. Jodie traveled the country speaking to college kids about her triumph over substance abuse, yet she partied nightly, spending tens of thousands of dollars on her habit. Her addiction tore her family apart and alienated her from her former Full House cast mates until becoming a mother gave her the determination and the courage to get sober.

Full House was one of my all time favorite shows growing up. Jodie Sweetin, who played Stephanie Tanner, was my favorite character of the show. Being the same age, I felt like I was growing up with her and could relate to the situations she was in on the show, eventhough my life didn’t just tie itself up in a little bow after 30 minutes a week.

Like many child actors, throughout her teens and 20s, Jodie continues the life-long struggle with purpose, managing the neverending cashflow and party scene. Jodie’s blunt and honest memoir, unSweetined, shockingly detailed her still ongoing battle with drug addiction and alcoholism, in and out of various SoCal rehab centers, and her struggle for acceptance, power, and identity.  I had no idea she fought as much as she did with substance abuse, nor did the media until recently. In her book she writes about how she “flew under the radar”, even showing up to motivational speaking engagements at various universities high as a kite on methanphetamine, after a 4-day bender, spouting empty rhetoric about her quest for sobriety. She even fell off the sobriety wagon while writing her book. This memoir was eye-opening and gave me in-depth look into the life of someone my own age, who walked a very different path than I have.

It’s easy to watch TV and envy the fame, fortune, and neverending “free pass” to behave however you chose like celebrities often do. It’s times like those embarrassing and humbling ones Jodie describes in her book that make me appreciate my (fairly) anonymous life compared to being a child star like she was. Although she still battles sobriety on a daily basis, I’m glad for Sweetin that she has the strength of her family to get her through each day and look to the next with optimism and she hopes to give her daughter the life she never had. Although this book wasn’t lifechanging, I give Sweetin so much credit for opening up and coming to terms with her struggle. I recommend this book as a quick read for any Gen Y’ers who grew up with shows like Full House.

7 down, 45 to go!

4/5 stars

On deck…Olive Kitteridge (Audiobook) and Keeping the House

Xoxo,  LibraryLove


Book #4: Fabookulous January 29, 2010

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Book description: Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. 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.

A short fable and a very quick read, The Alchemist follows Santiago on his pursuit of his Personal Legend. As we all know, life experiences are changed and shaped based on who we meet, what we experience, how we learn, and how we apply the new information to our lives and our realities.  Each person Santiago meets shares new wisdom with him that change and add value to his Personal Legend. As he learns to listen to his heart, his quest becomes more endearing as he fights struggles within himself.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while because of so many others telling me how amazing it was and that I should definitely read it. I suppose it’s just that kind of build up that can set you up for disappointment. Though I wouldn’t say I was disappointed in the book, I don’t feel it changed my life in any dramatic way. Most of the wisdom Santiago’s new friends shared with him based on ‘ancient history’ or a ‘man who lived long ago’ came from familiar Bible stories. And in that regard, I believe there is much to learn from stories of those in the Bible. Which is probably why the end of the book was meaningful to me. Santiago used that wisdom and learned to follow his heart and use prayer to achieve his dreams. And isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

4/5 stars.

That makes 4 books read, 48 to go!

Happy reading,



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 #5: LibraryLove January 26, 2010

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

Book description:
For the second time in her marriage, Mariah White catches her husband with another woman, and Faith, their seven-year-old daughter, witnesses every painful minute. In the aftermath of a sudden divorce, Mariah struggles with depression and Faith seeks solace in a new friend — a friend who may or may not be imaginary. Faith talks to her “Guard” constantly and begins to recite passages from the Bible — a book she’s never read. Fearful for her daughter’s sanity, Mariah sends her to several psychiatrists. Yet when Faith develops stigmata and begins to perform miraculous healings, Mariah wonders if her daughter — a girl with no religious background — might indeed be seeing God. As word spreads and controversy heightens, Mariah and Faith are besieged by believers and disbelievers alike; they are caught in a media circus that threatens what little stability they have left. What are you willing to believe? Is Faith a prophet or a troubled little girl? Is Mariah a good mother facing an impossible crisis…or a charlatan using her daughter to reclaim the attention her unfaithful husband withheld? As the story builds to a climactic battle for custody, Mariah must discover that spirit is not necessarily something that comes from religion but from inside oneself. Fascinating, thoughtful, and suspenseful, Keeping Faith explores a family plagued by the media, the medical profession, and organized religion in a world where everyone has an opinion but no one knows the truth. At her controversial and compelling best, Jodi Picoult masterfully explores the moment when boundaries break down, when illusions become reality, and when the only step left to take is a leap of faith.

Passionate, convincing, logical and rational– these are all words to describe a person who is trying to sway you to drink the kool-aid you’re not buying. When I truly believe in something or someone, I tell everyone in my network, and with gusto. Now, those that know me would agree , even probably citing a few examples of products, places, things, ideas that I’ve been so passionate about, I’ve gotten them to drink that kool-aid as well, and they were thankful for it. Likewise, I have a minimal BS tolerance policy and consider myself a pretty good judge of character.

Imagine for a moment that someone you trust and love completely, told you they were communicating directly with God, just as you’d sit and talk over coffee with a friend or a co-worker, free flowing and back and forth. What would you say?

What then, if they started mysteriously healing people of HIV, resurrecting people, at the drain of their own health? Or suddenly experiencing stigmata for the first time in history since St. Francis of Assisi to the sheer and utter confusion of any/all medical professionals and modern scientific journals accessible? Oh wait, also try to imagine that said individual is seven years old and their parents are in the thick of a heated divorce and no one will listen to them…herein lies the plot for Jodi Picoult’s (pronounced Pee-KOE) Keeping Faith.

She paints yet another amazing work of art craftfully and gently, with the assistance from rabbinicals, Catholic priests and theologians of many spiritual walks so we may look inside ourselves and for once consider the following; “what if what you believed wasn’t as important as that you believed? What if we were all able to entertain someone else’s point of view about God?” Personally? I think the world would be a better place. We’d have a lot less war and killing and genocide. We could coexist, as Ghandi intended, freely practicing our beliefs, while compartmentalizing so as to not throw off the delicate balance of peace. Sounds simple right? Ha, think again.

Picoult’s thorough novel begs the question, in a thought-provoking yet socially responsible way– “Why can’t we be spiritual without being religious?” And why is keeping our own faith so damn difficult? This is now my 3rd Picoult novel and I’d recommend you try Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, giving yourself a few weeks to read something else to cleanse your “reader’s palate”.

5/5 Stars
On deck: UnSweetined and The Alchemist (iPod Audiobook)
5 down, 47 to go…




Book #3: Fabookulous

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

Book description: You might know her as a Tony Award-winning Broadway star, who originated the role of Galinda the Good Witch in the smash musical ‘Wicked’ and won a Tony for 1999’s ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’. Or you may recognize her from her starring roles on TV- ‘The West Wing’, ‘Pushing Daisies’, ‘Sesame Street’…oh, and her Huge Hit Sitcom ‘Kristin’ on NBC. (Huge hit. L.A. breast-implant huge. Ask either of the people who watched it.) Or maybe you saw her sexy spread in FHM magazine? Or her appearance on Pat Robertson’s ‘The 700 Club’? Kristin is a wonderful collection of contradictions- but everyone who’s ever met her remembers her as the little girl with the big voice. At four foot eleven, Kristin Chenoweth is an immense talent in a petite but powerful package.
In this lively, laugh-out-loud book, Kristin shares her journey from Oklahoma beauty queen to Broadway leading lady, reflecting on how faith and family have kept her grounded in the dysfunctional rodeo of show biz. The daughter of an engineer and a nurse, Kristin was singing in front of thousands at Baptist conventions by age twelve and winning beauty pageants by age twenty-two. (Well, actually she was second runner-up almost every freaking time. But, hey, she’s not bitter.) On her way to a career as a professional opera singer, she stopped in New York to visit a friend and went on a whim to an audition. Through a combination of talent, hard work, and (she’s quick to add) the grace of God, Kristin took Broadway by storm. But of course, into every storm, the occassional drizzle of disaster must fall.
Filled with wit, wisdom, and backstage insight, A Little Bit Wicked is long on love and short on sleep; it’s essential reading for Kristin’s legions of fans and an uplifting story for anyone seeking motivation to follow his or her dreams- over the rainbow and beyond.

Ok, this book was fantastic! Kristin Chenoweth is hilarious and this book was a laugh out loud read the entire time. Not a full fledged autobiography, this book tells stories of her life and career and how her faith and finding love played into it thus far. She is proud to be from Oklahoma and proud to be a Christian in Hollywood, though not everyone agrees with her views; this is detailed further in the book.
I loved this book, I loved Kristin’s stories, I loved her attitude and positive outlook, I love her friendship with her best friend Denny (who I’d like to meet now), and I recommend this book to anyone looking to get to know a laid back, dedicated, very talented, ambitious woman in Hollywood. She might only stand 4 feet and 11 inches tall but she is a talent powerhouse that has no limits.

5 out of 5 stars.

Closin’ the books on #3…49 to go for me!