Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #51: Fabookulous December 30, 2010

Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey

Book description:

An Atlanta slum. A pod of whales off the coast of Alaska. The prisons of Peru and Chile. The plays of Shakespeare. A health club in Chicago. For those with eyes to see, traces of God can be found in the most unexpected places. Yet many Christians have not only missed seeing God, they’ve overlooked opportunities to make him visible to those most in need of hope.

In this enlightening book author Philip Yancey serves as an insightful tour guide for those willing to look beyond the obvious, pointing out glimpses of the eternal where few might think to look. Whether finding God among the newspaper headlines, within the church, or on the job, Yancey delves deeply into the commonplace and surfaces with rich spiritual insight.

Finding God in Unexpected Places takes readers from Ground Zero to the Horn of Africa, and each stop along the way reveals footprints of God, touches of his truth and grace that prompt readers to search deeper within their own lives for glimpses of transcendence.

I started branching into audiobooks late this year as a way to ensure I’d meet our goal of 52 by December 31st. Exploring the world of audiobooks has been a challenge for me. When it’s a fiction book it seems I’m picky about the narrator’s voice. After trying to start a couple fiction books, I’d stop listening not even an hour in– one narrator talked like everything was a question and I knew I couldn’t do that for 8 hours of listening! But what I have found is that nonfiction books are easier for me to listen to (maybe it’s that I like my own imagination to run wild with a fiction book.) Either way, Christian nonfiction just feels like listening to a long sermon, so I can handle those better.

And I think audiobooks might be the answer to Philip Yancey! I’ve read a couple of Yancey’s other books (What’s So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew) in the past yet it always seems to take me a while to get through them. Not because they aren’t good, rather the opposite. They are so good and have so much information packed into them that I want to read slower to absorb it all. I think listening to Finding God in Unexpected Places gave me the best of both worlds: another Yancey book on my “Read” shelf and it wasn’t as challenging to get through since it felt like a long sermon.

I appreciate Yancey’s journalism, world travels, experiences, and his drive to teach the message of the gospel. This book is such an eye-opener and will really make you think. Taking you all over the world and to different jobs and locations, Yancey will travel with you while opening your eyes to where God is (hint: everywhere.) But for me the most powerful chapter is the one on South American prisons and the love of Christ found there. The excitement among 60 convicts gathered together for a gospel message and worship is obvious when you read/listen to this book! You will definitely be surprised at the faith of those around the world. Despite their circumstances and the clear path before them, there are people in this world with far less, yet drastically more faith. We can miss seeing this in action as we don’t get the opportunities or abilities to travel and explore both nationally and internationally. Yancey even addresses this at one part talking about how easy it is for Christians to just “send money” for a need, rather than to go there themselves. Granted, not everyone CAN just GO, but many can yet choose to send a check instead. Shouldn’t giving be sacrificial and if so, what’s more of a sacrifice? Giving of your money or of yourselves?

I started listening to Finding God in Unexpected Places while I was reading Radical by David Platt and I think the two went hand in hand so perfectly! Giving the reader a world vision that can be missed as we focus on our day to day experiences, both of these book are well worth your time! Originally published in the 80s, Yancey printed a revised edition after the attacks of September 11. Our world had changed so much and chapters were added to include the terrorist attacks and to discuss God’s presence during times of trial and tribulation.

Parts of this book felt like a history lesson which, while dry at times, is valuable towards the moral of the story. Like I said, Yancey’s books are PACKED with information so you’ll need time to digest! All in all, this was fabulous and I think in the future if I find another Yancey book that strikes my fancy, I’ll get it in audio!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

Status update: Halfway through my 52nd book (wow!!!!!) and I have until 11:59pm tomorrow (New Year’s Eve) to finish! 😉 Look for my review sometime tomorrow and then we’ll have our joint interview posted revealing details of our challenge for 2011! We hope to see you in the new year 🙂

 

Book #50: Fabookulous December 26, 2010

Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

*Spoiler alert* This review will give away parts of Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn. If you haven’t already read that one, check out my review before reading further 🙂

Book description:

Miranda Carson can’t wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she’s sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.
But Miranda’s high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian’s father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda’s mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.
And yet . . . maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

Talk about perfect timing for a book! I finished this one the day after Christmas and it was such a cute and cozy little read during the holiday. The sequel to Finding Father Christmas, Engaging Father Christmas continues with Miranda’s journey as she heads back to Carlton Heath one year after her discovery of a family she never knew. Now happily involved with a special someone, Miranda feels sentimental as she travels back to the tiny town that welcomed her with open arms the first time she visited, which was the previous Christmas.

While very predictable (at a short 155 pages it doesn’t take a seasoned reader to know what’s coming), Gunn is still an excellent story teller. She’ll keep you engaged and make you feel right at home as you get to know the characters a bit more than last time. The reader will recognize several scenarios that were in the first novel (the Tea Cosy, the Christmas play, and the Whitcombe manor) that make you wish for variety.

But this is still a cozy (guess that’s the best word I keep coming up with!) little novel about the Christmas spirit, warm and friendly people, and the need all of us have for love in our lives. I recommend picking up a copy before the end of the year to appreciate the timing of the story!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night 🙂

3.5 out of 5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #49: Fabookulous December 22, 2010

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Book description:

WHAT IS JESUS WORTH TO YOU?

It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily…

BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple–then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a “successful” suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment –a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

Where to begin? This book was fantastic from start to finish! Highly recommended by my mom who just read it, I soaked up Radical the minute I read the first word. A pastor of what is known today as a “mega church”, Platt unapologetically, yet tenderly, points out what is wrong with today’s Christianity and reminds us what biblical Christianity actually looks like. Platt paints pictures that will make you think.

This is not to say this is true of every church in America (nor every mega church in America), but think about it. We put on hundreds of dollars worth of clothes, hop into our thousands of dollars worth of cars, drive to our million dollar church buildings, sit in our comfortable seats while we are entertained by bands, musicians, dancers, speakers, and guests, then turn around to return to our homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now picture this. Men, women, children, young and old, traveling by foot for miles and miles, sometimes even taking a whole day to arrive to the “secret church.” Upon arrival, cramming into a small room, lit by a single light hanging from the ceiling, and squeezing into a circle among 60 or more gathered, and all straining to see the single Bible sitting in the room. Discussion continues for up to eight hours a sitting before making the trek home, only to return shortly after to start all over.

I appreciate Platt’s world travels and understanding of Christianity in other countries and areas. And I appreciate him pointing out how much we take it for granted in this country that we can not only OWN Bibles but that we can read them and study them individually or in groups without feeling ashamed or fearful. (Not to say that’s true in every circumstance, rather generally speaking.)

The purpose of Radical is not to make Christians feel guilty, but rather to remind them of biblical Christianity. To remind them that Jesus called us to leave our possessions, belongings, sometimes even our families to follow Him. And Platt beckons the reader to remember it is all about God, not all about us. We’ve made things so comfortable and convenient to our own lives (what church works for us, what messages mean the most for our lives, what we like about the pastor, what programs work with our schedule) and doesn’t this enable us to be selfish? And that’s not what Christianity is about at all, yet it’s the confused message we’ve believed for so long.

Radical will challenge the reader (and Christian) to consider their brothers and sisters in distant parts of the world. Then you’ll be challenged to consider a year long “renovation”, if you will. Divided into five categories, Platt introduces a way to put into practice over the course of a year what you’ve just read:

  1. Pray for the entire world;
  2. read through the entire Word;
  3. sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
  4. spend your time in another context;
  5. commit your life to a multiplying community.

As he expounds upon each of these suggestions, the reader will be grateful for the opportunity and guidance toward life application. This book can be read by individuals or done as a small group study and I know you’ll enjoy it either way!

5/5 stars

Fabookulous

Coming into the finish line! Halfway through an audio book and only 2 more to read! Reviews to come. Thanks for your support this year!

 

Book #52: LibraryLove December 16, 2010

Oogy by Larry Levin

Book description~ In the bestselling tradition of Rescuing Sprite comes the story of a puppy brought back from the brink of death, and the family he adopted. — In 2002, Larry Levin and his twin sons, Dan and Noah, took their terminally ill cat to the Ardmore Animal Hospital outside Philadelphia to have the beloved pet put to sleep. What would begin as a terrible day suddenly got brighter as the ugliest dog they had ever seen–one who was missing an ear and had half his face covered in scar tissue–ran up to them and captured their hearts. The dog had been used as bait for fighting dogs when he was just a few months old. He had been thrown in a cage and left to die until the police rescued him and the staff at Ardmore Animal Hospital saved his life. The Levins, whose sons are themselves adopted, were unable to resist Oogy’s charms, and decided to take him home.

This book is a true-story of a Dogo, mistaken for a Pit Bull. Oogy was a throw-away bait dog used in a horrible street-fighting operation gone wrong. Oogy had been through a horrific ordeal and serendipitously ended up in the loving home of The Levin family. It just seemed the author kept mentioning how important his two adopted twin sons and his wife were yet he barely mentioned them or their role in Oogy’s development at all. For a lot of the book, I thought he would mention that he and his wife were separated or something of the sort because she was mentioned all of three times I believe.

I wanted to like this book. I really wanted to like this book. I did enjoy parts of Oogy and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely ADORE Oogy and the story of him but not Levin’s delivery. I was relieved the book ended happily while Oogy is still frolicking around the dog parks with his family. However, the choppy and overly detailed writing style left much to be desired. The flow of this book was wonky; it felt like an oversized essay.

Oogy’s struggle and his will to survive were amazing. But again, back to Levin’s writing style; I felt like he was going to pull the rug right out from under me because his pacing was off. Thus, I read most of this with a lump in my throat fearing what I’d read next. Again, thankfully Oogy’s story is one of redemption and a second chance and as a fellow-dog lover, owner and rescuer, I felt a connection with Oogy’s story because it paralleled so much of Zumo’s story. Zumo is a dog my husband and I adopted after having fostered him for over a year, helping him rehab from 3 surgeries, a horrific puppyhood in a horrible situation and turned his pain into happiness and contentment with our family. I also took him through obedience training, as Larry did in Oogy. Zumo won our hearts and we couldn’t help ourselves but adopt him so we could finally reap the rewards and happy times as Zumo deserves.

“I return to the family room and turn on both the front and rear sets of lights halfway. This time Oogy lifts his head and looks at me. He is still somewhat distant with sleep, but welcome shines in his eyes like candles. His tail thumps softly against the back of the couch. Smiling, I walk over for him and sit on the arm of the sofa, trace my fingers against the thickness of his neck. I touch the well of power just behind there, high on his back between his shoulders. His strength never ceases to amaze me. It seems almost incompatible with his gentle nature. “

All in all, I’m frustrated to end the year on a book that left much to be desired, although I’m SO thrilled that Oogy is with a loving family and he’s such a happy boy.

“I believe that Oogy will  be able to help those in need to understand that scarring, disfigurement, and trauma, whether physical or emotional, do not have to define who they are.”

3/5 stars

Wow. This is it huh? For 2010 anyway. I’m just glad I was able to successfully complete my first ever New Year’s Resolution and look forward to being able to relax with my reading a bit in 2011.

Stay tuned for our wrap-up review and we’ll share with you our next reading challenge for 2011.

PHEW.

52 books.

52 weeks.

SHAZAM!

I’m beat.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

See you in 2011…

 

Book #48: Fabookulous December 15, 2010

Burnt Toast by Teri Hatcher

Book description:

Like most women, Teri Hatcher learned her first lessons through her mother. And like many women, her mother had a hard time putting herself first. If a piece of toast got burned, she ate it herself, giving the better slices away. While this act of love and sacrifice was well intended, it also taught a lesson that is hard to unlearn: Your own satisfaction is not worth a slice of bread.

With Burnt Toast, a heartfelt, funny, poignant, and inspiring manifesto on this philosophy, Teri Hatcher reveals her life in unexpected ways, in the hopes of keeping other women from eating the burnt toast, and explaining why you’ll never get a second chance if you don’t open yourself up to the possibility.

If you’ve ever given up something good and taken the worst for yourself; if you’ve wondered if you’ll ever have sex again; if you’ve found yourself planning to fail rather than expecting to succeed, then you’ve eaten the burnt toast…and Teri Hatcher would like to have a word with you!

When I choose to read a book written by a celebrity author, it is usually because I am a fan and want to know more about them. But I wouldn’t necessarily say I am a “fan” of Teri Hatcher’s. Sure, I still tune into Desparate Housewives but for some reason I have a hard time separating the actor from the role and I think of Teri as Susan. Which is pretty much what I got out of this book too.

The amount of information she shares in this book is shocking; from no sex on her honeymoon to intimate massages to her favorite body parts, you’ll be surprised and almost feel like a voyeur. It’s so surprising because most celebrities spend so much time fighting for their privacy and hiding things about their personal lives, that to read the things this one penned almost feels absurd. And in the first 50 pages it is evident that this is someone who is VERY insecure. It’s a constant topic of discussion in this book. *sigh*

I have never before read a book that quoted the title so much. (She even recognizes this at one point and says “It is the title of the book” to which I thought of that childhood saying, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out!”) The idea is intriguing (moms and many women will sacrifice themselves to put others ahead) but to repeat the same thing the same way so many times gets tiring.

At times, the book is laugh out loud funny and that’s apparent when she offers stories of adventures with her daughter (who, clearly, and in a sweet way, is the love of her life.) Teri shares her challenges in being a single parent and how she had to overcome everything from getting all of the “intruders” (spiders to lizards) out of her home alone to her daughter’s first away trip with dad, leaving her home without her daughter. These stories made me reflect on my own childhood as my mom was a single parent as well. As children, you don’t realize your moms (or dads) have to deal with things they might not want to (bugs–eek!) but they do anyway to show you they are in control and able. That is really sweet 🙂 Teri has a lot of those stories about times she wanted to react a different way than she did because she knew her daughter’s eyes were on her.

While this isn’t my all time favorite memoir (but who said it had to be?) parts of it offered a smile and some chuckles. Would I recommend it? Only if you are a Teri Hatcher fan. Few books have been jointly reviewed by both LibraryLove and myself this year and this is one of them. Check out LibraryLove’s review of Burnt Toast  if you haven’t already seen it!

3/5 stars

Fabookulous

Status update for the year: As I kick into high gear to finish this challenge, I’ve now got an audio book going (you know, driving/getting ready/anything that keeps progress progressing ;)) as well as another book. Stay tuned for some reviews to spit out from Fabookulous!

 

Book #51: LibraryLove December 11, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Book description~ Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship – and innocent love – that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice – words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.  Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

Wow. In a powerful blend of historical fact AND fiction, Jamie Ford churns out a most moving read centered around a Romeo & Juliet-type story of a young Chinese boy who falls in love with a young Japanese girl on the brink of cultural shift. You know the way a warm towel feels on your shoulders fresh from the dryer? Or the way a cool drink of water feels when you’ve been thirsty for an hour? Or the way it feels to crawl into bed after a most exhausting day? This is how Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet felt to me as I finished the last word; both bitter and sweet. You know that towel will cool down; that drink will end; that alarm will sound. It’s so sweet yet fleeting. Ford did an UH-mazing job pacing this novel just so. Shifting between war-time Seattle in the 40s and more ‘modern day’ life in the late 80s, Ford was so tender and artful in his gradual build-up in character, plot, and subplot. Henry and Keiko’s story of young love unfolded in the foreground while Henry and Marty’s once frail father-son connection flourished in the background.

“They arrested more people last night. Japanese, all over the city. All over Puget Sound. All over the state, maybe. People are getting rid of anything that might connect them to the war with Japan. Letters from Nippon. Clothing. It all must go. People are burning photos of their parents, of their families.”

Despite having no prior knowledge or understanding of the Japanese Internment camps during WWII in Seattle or the cultural divide for that matter, I couldn’t help but be immersed in Henry’s world. When people think of genocide, they instantly think of the Holocaust for the Jews. But how many would think of the Japanese Internment ? I most certainly will from now on. I was drawn in with subtlety; Ford’s writing style made it easy to get lost in Henry’s world.

I usually loathe the idea of movies being adapted from novels but in this case, if done well like Memoirs of a Geisha, this novel would translate quite beautifully on-screen. At times I drew parallels to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas , during  scenes of Keiko and Henry’s clandestine meetings in the camp. Henry and Keiko seemed so mature beyond their years and I loved how devoted Henry was, I just wish Ford had written this in first-person when the narration shifted to Henry’s story; as the reader I felt slightly removed from Henry and would have prefered to be inside his head.

My heart DROPPED as the clerk shared the ‘news’ with Henry that life-altering day at the corner of The Panama Hotel and felt my mouth agape and my eyes water; I had to read those lines a few times before they sunk in. I found myself slowing my reading pace because I realized I was almost to the end yet I wanted so much more story and knew I would have to suffice with what was left.

My only criticism is that the editor should have probably done a bit better job of fact checking; I don’t believe the internet was advanced enough for the “search” to have taken place in the late 80s for Marty to have found Keiko so easily.

I must thank Sarrina for letting me borrow this book from her; I am truly changed and wish everyone would read this book AND take their time with it.

6/5 stars (watch me!)

51 down, 1 left …wait did I really just type that?! Holy cannoli.

On deck, Oogy!

xoxo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #47: Fabookulous December 8, 2010

The Overcoming Life by D.L. Moody

Book description:

What does it mean to overcome the world? D.L. Moody answers the question by posing more: “Are you more patient than you were five years ago? Are you more amiable? If you are not, the world is overcoming you.”

Ever practical in style, Moody cuts right to the heart–if we are not progressing in holiness, in Christlikeness, in obedience to the Savior, we are failing to live the overcoming life.

With salvation as the starting point, The Overcoming Life reminds us of the war we must fight against sin and the rewards that are ours when we do. Moody’s approachable words and insightful illustrations equip us to defeat the enemy wherever he is found– both inside and out.

I’ve wanted to read D.L. Moody’s writings for a while. I’ve heard Moody quoted in sermons for years and it’s always something interesting that makes me pause and think. It’s no surprise to me that once finishing this book my first thought was “D.L. Moody is a very quotable author.” Gee, I wonder where that thought come from…

The Overcoming Life is an excellent guide for those seeking to follow Scriptural instructions in living their lives for the glory of Christ and for their own peace among others while hear. For those that have a fear of death, Moody will give you a new view point and help you find comfort in God’s promises.

I really enjoyed this novel (a part of the Moody Classics collection.) To our faithful followers, subscribers, and other readers of this blog, you know that I’m picking some very short books these days! Must get to 52 before the end of the month! In true form, this book is a quick 165 pages filled with rich insight, advice, examples, and encouragement.

For all the D.L. Moody fans and supporters, you won’t want to miss this one. For those who haven’t read his writings before, I suggest you start here. Moody’s faith is very uplifting and, considering his upbringing, sort of astounding.

Taken from the biographical introduction at the start of the book:

“D.L. (Dwight Lyman) Moody, 1837-1899…was only four years old when his father died unexpectedly in May 1841. Edwin Moody was a good-natured man, and loved dearly by his family, but he drank too much. His premature death left his wife, Betsey, with nine children, including twins born just a month after he died. To ease the financial strain left on the family, Betsey sent several of her children, including Dwight, away to work for their room and board.

The next few major decisions Moody made were influenced by his childhood experience with poverty. By the time he was seventeen, he had wearied of trying to eke out a living on the farm. So the Northfield, Massachusetts, native packed a few things into a carpetbag and hopped a train to Boston, where he went to work as a salesman in his uncle’s shoe store.

As a condition of his employment, Moody’s uncle insisted that he attend church with him…In 1860, Moody abandoned his pursuit of fortune, quit his job, and began to focus on his ministry full time…The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the YMCA, Moody’s church, and his home.

D.L. Moody wrote The Overcoming Life in 1896, just three years before his death, to encourage Christians in their spiritual warfare against sin, self, and the world…Fortunately we have a guide in the fight–a man who rose from poverty to international stardom, all the while humbly preaching the simple message that it is in Christ alone that we have the victory.”

How very inspiring! I really enjoyed this and will continue to pursue more Moody writings in the New Year. Until then, I’m off to start my next short book!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

P.S. Stay tuned for details on our brand new book challenge for 2011! We’ll update you once we get through this one 🙂

 

Book #50: LibraryLove

Life of Pi: The Unabridged Audiobook by Yann Martel

Book description~ Pi Patel, a God-loving boy and the son of a zookeeper, had a fervent love of stories and practices not only within his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family and their zoo animals emigrate from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship. Alas, the ship sinks–and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi. Can Pi and the tiger find their way to land? Can Pi’s fear, knowledge, and cunning keep him alive until they do?

What a curious and fun book! Sharing a life boat with a Bengal Tiger? No problem! Learning how to fend for himself? No problem! In a more modern version of Noah’s Ark-meets-Jungle Book-meets-Madagascar-meets Castaway, Life of Pi marks the second Man Booker Award Winner that I’ve read, er listened to, this year (Room, the first). If you are an animal lover, you’ll be fascinated by all the zoological (no, it’s not pronounced ZOO, it’s pronounced ZOE-uh-logical) references and whimsy of this novel. Son of the Pondicherry zookeeper, Pi comes of age as he learns from his family just how truly wonderful zoos can be, if run properly. He learns an appreciation and understanding for animals unlike most young boys, AND an appreciation and understanding of many religions that prepares him for his life’s journey.

“Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.”

The Patel family pack up their zoo animals on a Japanese Cargo Ship to emigrate from India to North America. When the boat sinks, Pi the castaway is left to fend for himself and you won’t believe what happens! I found myself laughing out loud throughout my morning commute listening to this audiobook. This is one of those books that everyone should read before they die, it’s very existential…IF you can get past some of the more graphic survival scenes midway through the book. Martel’s writing style is both artful and humorous.

Although this book is told in a non-linear way which I normally like, because I listened to this one, I’d want to go back and re-read this again in 2011 when I have time to read the print novel. The author’s structure was a bit distracting on audiobook whereas in print I think it’d be a nice palette cleanser in between Pi’s adventures. This audiobook also took me longer to finish so I would have enjoyed it a bit more having more solid time to devote to it. If you’re going to listen to this audiobook, I recommend you save it for a roadtrip so you can listen to it without interruption to keep the momentum going.

The elements of fantasy make Life of Pi really fun for all ages, yet also make you appreciate and view your world in a more detail-oriented way. I highly recommend this book for both young and old if you need a stocking stuffer for your young adult or friend, and look forward to revisiting this again next year. From friends of mine who have also enjoyed this novel, it’s even better the second time around.

4/5 stars

Almost finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet; stay tuned for my review later this week!

50 down, 2 to go! Hallelujahhhhhhhhhhh!

xoxo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #46: Fabookulous December 3, 2010

Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Book description:

Bestselling author Robin Jones Gunn brings readers a poignant Christmas novella about a woman, desperate for a place to belong, who finds herself in London a few days before Christmas, looking for the father she never knew.

In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson’s search for her father takes a turn she never expected when she finds herself in London with only a few feeble clues to who he might be. Unexpectedly welcomed into a family that doesn’t recognize her, and whom she’s quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can’t bear to leave. Robin Jones Gunn brilliantly combines lyrical writing and unforgettable characters to craft a story of longing and belonging that will stay with readers long after they close the pages of this book.

If you’re looking for a Christmas story for this time of year, look no further. I didn’t look further than my mom’s bookshelf where this little gem was hiding. As I mentioned before, my mom loves a good Christmas story and some can still be found around her home. In my efforts to continue with shorter books to reach this year’s 52-book challenge, Finding Father Christmas struck my fancy immediately. 🙂

Finding Father Christmas is an excellent blend of cozy, warm, comforting, and inviting. Set in England, this is a story of Miranda Carson’s search for her father with just a few clues left to her. When she stumbles upon the Tea Cosy in England, she can’t expect the turn her fate will take. The characters are inviting and hospitable and welcome Miranda with open arms from the start of the story. For readers who can’t relate to Miranda’s sense of longing and search for a parent she never knew, your curiosity will pique and you will be interested to see how she handles herself. Going off of just a few clues she has, she longs to find her father or at least to hear of him. What she doesn’t expect is, well… guess you’ll have to read it to find out 🙂

This story is told at that perfect pace that keeps the readers engaged while not dragging on too long. While Miranda’s personality leaves some to be desired, the true stars that shine in this novella are the characters with whom she encounters and the family they have. This would be a wonderful Christmas movie, if it’s not already…? Robin Jones Gunn does a fantastic job with this story that will just warm your heart during a cold time of the year. And I’m looking forward to reading more of Gunn’s novels; I’ll probably start with the sequel, Engaging Father Christmas.

I encourage you to check this one out and get yourself in that Christmas spirit of love, hospitality, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #49: LibraryLove November 28, 2010

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June by Robin Benway

Book description~ I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn’t imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself. Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose? April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds—everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other. Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

Phew. After FOUR, yes, FOUR Thanksgivings meals shared with both family and friends over the last few days, I finally had this morning and afternoon COMPLETELY unscheduled and uninterrupted to read, read, read like the wind! Although I enjoyed every moment of spending time with friends, families, and babies this weekend, I’ve felt the pressure of this challenge now more than ever. Back in the summer, I was inundated with books to read and review and unfortunately didn’t get to them all. This book fell by the wayside and I finally got around to it this week. Special thanks to Penguin Books and Young Adult (YA) author Robin Benway for sending me this galley copy of April, May & June to review. What a fun and unexpected read! Although I do enjoy the YA genre from time to time, this story was really well-written and could be enjoyed by adults and not just young readers.

“No thanks. I know smoking kills and all that but also, you get these really weird pucker lines around your mouth. And I haven’t been using moisturizer every night since I was ten for no reason. “

The story is focused around the three sisters, named sequentially after the months in which they were each born, each with unique abilities (think Jedi mind tricks!). Dealing with the emotions of being a teenager is more than enough for these three girls. Add on to that a painful divorce for the girls’ mother and you have yourself the starting threads for this fun, suspenseful tale of love, sisterhood, and teen angst. The girls are trying to navigate through high school while missing their father, who now lives states away. The girls’ mother starts to date and so too, do the girls. However, as I was trying to sink my teeth into this quick read, my main criticism is that the mysterious and suspenseful juicy rising action of the plot line didn’t unfurl until almost 200 pages in, then the book suddenly halts and leaves the reader wanting more. I loved April & her love interest Julian’s storyline; I would have much preferred more of them than some of the other extraneous half-developed characters. What is it with most YA novels these days? YOUNG kids are reading 600+ pages of Harry Potter and/or Lord of the Rings; why can’t YA books go a little more in-depth too??

This was a fun and for the most part lighthearted book. Although rated as Young Adult, many of the “party scenes” in this book, to me, wouldn’t be what I’d want my teenager reading. Alright, off I go to enjoy the afternoon with my hubby and puppies in front of the fireplace and excited to crack open of my friends’ suggested reading of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Off I go….stay tuned!

3/5 stars

49 down, 3 to go!

xoxo,

LibraryLove


 

Book #45: Fabookulous November 26, 2010

The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll

Book description:

“Bound and shackled by legalists’ lists of do’s and don’ts, intimidated and immobilized by others’ demands and expectations, far too many in God’s family merely exist in the tight radius of bondage, dictated by those who have appointed themselves our judge and jury.”-Chuck Swindoll [from the Introduction]

The Grace Awakening calls all Christians to wake up and reject living in such legalistic, performance-oriented bondage. The God of the universe has given us an amazing, revolutionary gift of grace and freedom. This freedom and grace set us apart from every other “religion” on the face of the earth.

In this best-selling classic, Charles Swindoll urges you not to miss living a grace-filled life. Freedom and joy-not lists and demands and duties-await all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

With his characteristic style and gentle authority, Swindoll disarms the counter-attack of all those who would not preach grace-filled living and who would claim that focusing on grace would fill our churches with wild, undisciplined people with no godliness in evidence. Yes, Swindoll says, teaching and preaching grace is risky. Some may push the limits and misuse their freedom. But grace is the message of the gospel…the good news of salvation. As Christians, we sing about God’s amazing grace. We understand that we are saved by grace. Let’s learn to live by grace! Discover how in The Grace Awakening.

While Christian non-fiction tends to be my favorite genre, an audiobook of that genre feels like a very long sermon. Which is okay, but just needs to be taken in a little at a time. Which is why I took almost a week to get through this audiobook. I love Charles Swindoll’s books and have been making my way through his Great Lives series. This is the first book of his I’ve read (er, listened to) out of that series; he certainly has a lot to offer in the way of Biblical teaching!

Swindoll shares some valuable insights regarding grace and our ability to abuse it or misuse it. While it is offered freely to us, we tend to abuse that privilege and view it as a right or as permission to keep doing what we want. But what I appreciated most from this book is the discussion on legalism in Christianity. So many Christians follow a list of rules or regulations and then stand in judgment of others who do not do the same. (This isn’t even necessarily restricted to Christians) I love a good discussion on legalism in the Christian faith because among the many denominations, folks really do get caught up in the rules of it all. Swindoll gently reminds us (in a nutshell) to do as we see fit and allow others the same freedom. Isn’t it all about freedom anyway? Why do we put ourselves in a box most of the time and limit our ability? Ah yes–because rules are restrictive.

Swindoll is a mature and seasoned Christian who offers wonderful insight and wisdom. I will probably want to read the rest of his books rather than listen to them and save my audiobook experiences for fiction. But I think I got enough take away from this one to make it worth it anyway!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #44: Fabookulous

Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen

Book description:

“The life of a good dog is like the life of a good person, only shorter and more compressed,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Quindlen about her beloved black Labrador retriever, Beau. With her trademark wisdom and humor, Quindlen reflects on how her life has unfolded in tandem with Beau’s, and on the lessons she’s learned by watching him: to roll with the punches, to take things as they come, to measure herself not in terms of the past or the future but of the present, to raise her nose in the air from time to time and, at least metaphorically, holler, “I smell bacon!”

Of the dog that once possessed a catcher’s mitt of a mouth, Quindlen reminisces, “There came a time when a scrap thrown in his direction usually bounced unseen off his head. Yet put a pork roast in the oven, and the guy still breathed as audibly as an obscene caller. The eyes and ears may have gone, but the nose was eternal. And the tail. The tail still wagged, albeit at half-staff. When it stops, I thought more than once, then we’ll know.”

Heartening and bittersweet, Good Dog. Stay. honors the life of a cherished and loyal friend and offers us a valuable lesson on our four-legged family members: Sometimes an old dog can teach us new tricks.

Earlier this week, while at a lunch with co-workers, someone asked how many books I had left in this year’s 52-book challenge. When I told them and said I needed short books so I could read a few during the long holiday weekend (in between the turkey-induced naps), two of them said Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen. The next day, I was lent a copy and it jumped to the top of my “power mode finish” for the year.

I was excited to read this book, and if I’m completely honest, it was for the sole reason that it was a quick read. I’ve realized over this year that you tend to get what you expect when it comes to books. I don’t know if it’s because you’ve already made up your mind or what, but this one was exactly what I expected: a short book.

I’ve read memoirs on dogs before, as well as fiction about dogs and their meaning to our lives, and they’ve all left me satisfied and smiling. While I’m sure Beau was a very special dog, it’s not displayed often in this short read. The book is full of pictures (they are all very cute!) but when reading about a dog, one can appreciate him more when one can read about the dog’s special personality. (Think Oogy or A Dog’s Purpose)

That being said, this was cute, VERY quick to read (think one-sitting actually) yet left me wanting so much more.

2.5/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #43: Fabookulous November 24, 2010

The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson

Book description:

It’s only two weeks before Christmas, and Edith Ryan is disappointed to learn that none of her children are coming home for the holidays. Her large house, which doubles as The Shepherd’s Inn the rest of the year, will feel so empty without them. And it’s too late to open the inn for Christmas reservations-surely everyone else has their plans made by now. In a town where Christmas is a way of life all year long, going through the holidays alone is just about enough to bring her to tears.

Suddently Edith knows what she has to do- she’ll invite strangers to book those rooms usually reserved for family during the week of Christmas. When the guest list shapes up to include a cantankerous old woman and a mysterious young couple with a broken-down hippie bus and a baby on the way, Edith wonders if she made the right choice. Will it blow up in her face? Or could she be entertaining angels unaware?

During the Christmas season my mom reads a lot of Christmas themed books. She just loves a good Christmas story. Years ago she bought The Christmas Bus and thought of my paternal grandmother, who drove a school bus. After passing it around the family, it’s been sitting on my desk for a while waiting for me to get to it. And I’m glad I finally did; it is such a cozy little read!

This is a quick read, but it’s a great kick off to the holiday season! With Thanksgiving tomorrow, Christmas is just around the corner and it’s that time of year to watch Christmas movies and read the stories and just smile and be thankful. The Christmas Bus offers valuable lessons about how we treat others during the frenzied holiday season. Things aren’t always what they seem, and while a predictable story, this was still a good book. Simple and to the point, the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed with the details of several side stories.

When the bus rolls into town, folks in the small town setting get riled up about it’s taking up space in the streets. Lonely widows, young couples, new moms, and a crotchety older woman are among the strangers that Edith invites to the inn for Christmas. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, a fuzzy blanket, and read this short novel as we begin to prepare for the most wonderful time of year!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #48: LibraryLove

The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh

Book description~ Etiquette is In. A new generation of FGs (Fabulous Girls) are coming up with a personal style that includes grace under fire and consideration for others. This detailed guide includes modern advice on timeless situations (birthdays, marriage, funerals) as well as more contemporary conundrums, such as office gossip and living together.

With the holiday season in full swing, I have even LESS time to devote to reading than I would like. I’ve come too far and I simply will not rest until I’ve met my goal of 52 books. This review will be short and sweet because I need to jump right in to the next book.

I stumbled upon this title at a little tea shop I visited with friends months ago. In sorting through my books to find the most manageable (no chunksters!), I decided it was short and just what I needed. I put down the 600+ pager5 I was reading and will save that for January because I’m in the homestretch!

“People are rude and inconsiderate to each other every day and in every circumstance, and what’s worse, they don’t seem to realize it. Perhaps they just don’t know any better. As every well-mannered person knows, to correct someone else’s breach of etiquette is itself an infraction. Manners are an integral part of good citizenship. Consideration for others and not only for one’s own wants and needs is necessary if a person is to be a valuable member of her world. When people of varying cultures and economic brackets must, increasingly, live side by side, etiquette becomes a modern requisite. Pleasant manners are just plain more appealing than bad manners. Behaving in a thoughtful way helps both morally and aesthetically to make the world a better place.”

Watch out Miss Manners, Izzo and Marsh are your Canadian competition! Cornering the ‘etiquette market’ with their series of fun and funky books, Izzo and Marsh have a great thing going! What perfect timing to brush up on your manners, as the party and social landscape ramps up for another holiday season. The holidays mean traveling or attending gatherings with inlaws, mixed families, friends, co-workers, and a possible run-in with someone you aren’t so fond of. With alcohol usually a factor, things can get a bit dicey at times if you aren’t on your best behavior. No better time to head into this year’s party season with this quick reference guide. A wonderfully cheeky and light-hearted palette-cleaner,  Decorum is a fun read that definitely puts you in the spirit of socializing, even if just to observe others’ manners or even lack therof!

Miss Manners is still a classic, but Izzo and Marsh do a great job of bringing the idea of navigating the social and professional landscape to our generation’s more modern sensibility. The book is quite broad in scope, covering the following general topics, just to name a few: society, friendship, couples, intimacy, weddings, divorce, home, entertaining. The book then goes into more detail on such areas as coping with an office backstabber, taxi and door-holding protocol, hosting the perfect dinner party, top 10 things to always carry in your purse, and saving face when a male buddy has become too attached. Sure, most of these things apply more to a bit younger of an audience, ladies who are just getting themselves out there and starting to date as adults. But, we can all use a little Manners 101. Rudeness is everywhere and wouldn’t it be nice to make a little effort to try and be a little nicer, especially to strangers? Or if you’re out holiday shopping with crowds and long lines? It’s easy to get pressurized and be short or snub the salesperson while on your phone chatting. But if the roles were reversed, wouldn’t you appreciate someone giving you 2 minutes of their attention while cashing out at a store? I know I would and now it’s one of the things I always make sure I do, end my phone call before I get inline at a store.

One criticism is that I wish they’d come out with an updated edition, as many things that plague our social scene now were left out. How rude is it to see a couple at a romantic dinner and one of them is on their crackberry the entire time? Or when someone comes to talk to you at your desk, and you continue to click away typing an email giving them only half your attention? Maybe including a chapter on etiquette in using technology would be nice to see in the next edition. But, I’m loving these girls’ wit and charm and hope to get my hands on the other books in their series, entitled The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Life and The Fabulous Girl’s Code Red: Grace Under Pressure

 

 

4/5 stars

Feeling the pressure….48 down 4 to go!

In progress, The Extraodinary Secrets of April, May & June

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


 

Book #47: LibraryLove November 19, 2010

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Book description~ Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world. Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird-her name is Rebecca-could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca wil only see his autism and not who Jason really is. By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this is the breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy’s struggles-and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in…

As if the teenage-angst years weren’t hard enough, imagine how frustrated and confused you’d feel if you struggled with Asperger’s Syndrome as well as being a typical teenager? For Jason, his life is “Anything But Typical”. If you may recall from my earlier review of House Rules by Jodi Picoult, we met a teenage boy with the same disease, a mild form on the autism spectrum that affects social behaviors and the way you view and articulate your world. In Typical, Baskin’s latest novel, the main character and budding young teen author Jason Blake, also struggles with Asperger’s, living in a wo rld that is a confusing one that he can’t quite seem to grip. His two major outlets- writing and surfing the online writer’s forum he joins, help him make sense of the world as he knows it.

“There are only seven plots in the whole world: Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Environment, Man vs. Machine, Man vs The Supernatural, Man vs Self, Man vs Religion”.

Jason uses writing as an outlet for his creativity and along the way builds his confidence independently while having other members of the online writer’s forum critique his works. One day a girl named “PhoenixBird” stumbles upon his writing. Through providing feedback to each other, they develop a friendship where they correspond through email about writing.

“I click on one from PhoenixBird, the one I was saving until I got home. Now I am home. [“I feel I could have written your story. It is so beautiful. I have to go to cheerleading practice but I can’t wait for your next story”.] I think this girl has just said something nice to me.”

As the rising action develops, a writer’s convention comes up in a nearby town. As a surprise, Jason’s mom springs him with tickets to the convention. He and PhoenixBird have a chance to meet but of course, Jason is so socially awkward, the story unfolds into a heartwarming, sad, and uplifting tale about coming of age and acceptance.  Teen angst mixed with more social awkwardness than any one teenager should bear, and you’ll finish this book in a day or two. It brings me back to that “interesting time” where as teens, we overanalyzed every action and reaction, word, movement, etc.

“Truthfully, language arts is my best class, but not because I have a good grade in it. I like it because there are no right answers, even if the teachers says there are. Even when they mark something wrong on your test or book report, it’s really just their opinion and in my opinion they could be wrong. It’s like when you read the directions on the back of a package of brownie mix. Chewy or cake like? There is not wrong answers. Books are like brownies. “

I haven’t read a young adult novel in a while, but to quote Jason in the phrase above, one of my favorites from the book,  sums up why I just love the genre. Thanks to Sarrina for recommending I pick up this book from my library. I couldn’t put it down. I laughed and cried and wanted to give Jason a hug. He dreams of meeting his mother’s expectations, but by the end of the novel, Jason’s mother realizes how much he actually teaches her every day.

I would have liked to see another 100 pages fleshed out of this story, but as a young adult novel, I have to keep the author’s audience in mind….but dang you, oh good book for making me want more!

I would write more, but I’m exhausted from a recent week-long business trip and I need to move on to the next book which is quite a chunkster, at 600+ pages! The year is almost over. Eeek!

4/5 stars

Happy Thanksgiving one and all 🙂

47 down 5 to go!

In progress- True Colors

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove



 

Book #46: LibraryLove November 12, 2010

ROOM by Emma Donoghue

Book description~ To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

First, I want to say a special thank you to both Little Brown & Hachette Book Companies for sending me a complimentary copy of Emma Donoghue’s ROOM to read and review on the blog. Shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, I had a gut feeling that this book be such an amazing read, I selected it for December book club discussion sight unseen. I couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to discuss this book at length. This year is all about reading outside my comfort zone and for someone who isn’t particularly fond of small spaces, this book fit the bill.

For Jack’s 21-year-old ‘Ma’, ROOM is a story about survival; for Jack, ROOM is his whole world and he is content with the 11×11 space he’s be confined to, up until his 5th birthday, when his life is turned upside down. Kidnapped when she was 19 years old, Ma’s incredible story of a mother’s love is so strong, she puts everything aside to create a safe world for her son, her only reason for living, with what little she has. Ma loves her son and holds strong to hope.

Without spoiling the awesome plot twists, ROOM will shock you, but you will keep on reading because the idea alone, is gripping and enthralling. I don’t know about you, but I cannot even wrap my MIND around the idea of being held captive for 7 years, from 19-26, then to mother a child from my captor, and be forced to raise him in captivity?? And the implications if we ever got out? Emotionally? Developmentally? Psychologically? What would life be like? How would I explain the grass, the sky, the rain, a barking dog to my son? For Ma, love for her son propelled her to do the impossible; plot escape…

“Jack, he’d never give us a phone or a window. We’re like people in a book, and he won’t let anybody else read it.”

ROOM is officially on my short list of life-changing novels. No matter who you are, I can guarantee you will feel changed by this book. I literally could not put this book down. I was so consumed by it, which conveniently created an awesome diversion from my reality of the last 3 weeks. Sidebar: My mom is still in the hospital, although finally on the upswing. Being by her bedside brought such comfort so when she slept, I would read. My husband and Mom love to hear the synopsis of the books I read, so of course, they were both so intrigued because this is loosely adapted from a true story, they kept joking with me to hurry up and finish because they too, wanted to know Jack and Ma’s fate.

“I drove myself crazy looking at my watch and counting the seconds. Things spooked me, they seemed to get bigger or smaller while I was watching them, but if I looked away they started sliding. When he finally brought the TV, I left it on twenty-four/seven, stupid stuff, commercials for food I remembered, my mouth hurt watching it all. Sometimes I heard voices from the TV telling me things. “

Even halfway through this book, before I’d gotten to the twist, I was so engaged and haunted. I’ve been texting back and forth with some of the book club babes who have already stepped into ROOM; this is definitely a book you’ll want to discuss with friends immediately after!

“I keep messing up. I know you need me to be your Ma but I’m having to remember how to be me as well at the same time and it’s…”

I love the choices Donoghue made, and she is truly an artist of the written word. I felt like I was with Jack the entire time. Her ability to believably create a world where as the reader, we are seeing the world through Jack’s 5-year-old naive eyes, was done is such a genuine way. The first 20 pages or so, I was a bit thrown off by the ‘child-speak’ tone, I had to get my bearings. ROOM reminded me of Flowers for Algernon a bit. But once I sunk my teeth into the story, I didn’t notice the choppy language because it added so much depth to the story.

“I mean of course when I woke up in that shed, I thought nobody’d every had it as bad as me. But the thing is, slavery’s not a new invention. And solitary confinement- did you know, in America we’ve got more than twenty-five thousand prisoners in isolation cells? Some of them for more than twenty years. As for kids, there are places where babies lie in orphanages five to a cot with pacifiers taped into their mouths, kids getting raped by Daddy every night. Kids in prisons, whatever, making carpets till they go blind. “

Rich in intensity and naivete, the book is paced perfectly. Although I definitely finished ROOM wanting to know more and wanting to keep reading, Donoghue does such a perfect job of tying up the novel giving it a truly satisfying ending.  I want to write so much more but a) I simply WILL not give anything away because I really want you to read ROOM!, and b) I’m so beyond exhausted and now must go pack for a week-long business trip.

Aye carumba!

5/5 stars

46 down, 6 to go!

In progress- Anything But Typical

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #41: Fabookulous

When God Winks on New Beginnings by SQuire Rushnell

Book description:

Whether you’re starting out or starting over, it’s comforting to know that you’re never alone- God is watching and guiding your every step. Oftentimes He sends little assurances to you through so-called “coincidences” or suddenly opens a door of opportunity and encouragement at just the right time- little “godwinks” letting you know He’s there.

If you’re standing at a new threshold in life and need a boast of reassurance, When God Winks on New Beginnings will ignite your spirit with powerful, true stories of people just like you who have followed the “signposts of encouragement,” and watched how godwinks mapped their paths to destiny.

I’ve read and loved all of the “When God Winks” books by SQuire Rushnell (and yes, the Q is supposed to be capitalized.) These books are filled with stories about “coincidences”, which SQuire refers to as little “godwinks” in your life which are God’s way of letting you know you’re on the right track or something is meant to be. These books appealed to me a couple of years ago with the first one because I do not believe in coincidence. I do, however, wholeheartedly believe in what I now know to be “godwinks” and I love hearing others’ stories of these little (or big) experiences.

From a long lost couple who turn out to be soul mates, to that “sign” (godwink) that this is the right job/career path; from knowing when to buy a home (and which one), to flying cross country for a vacation, God is guiding us all the way. When God Winks on New Beginnings focuses on those times where you may be “starting over” in a particular area of life. Whether it be love, career, relationships, or finances, this little book will inspire you and make your heart smile. If you read this book, you will probably relate to one or two (if not several) of the stories and may begin to notice the godwinks you’ve experienced.

I’ll share one and this is actually a godwink on behalf of another. I sent this in to SQuire’s website, where he asks for godwink stories for future books. Here’s the following story I sent in (and I’d LOVE a Godwinks book about pets and animals, but alas I am not the author) 🙂

My aunt suddenly and tragically lost her dog a few years ago. His name was originally Bear but the people she adopted him from had renamed him Tyler. She had lost her previous dog to cancer and a little while later, Tyler was a 40th birthday present from her sister and brother-in-law. He was a lab mix and he brought such joy to her life after going through the pain of losing her longtime pet before him. Tyler was just four years old when he was struck with Lymes disease. While taking him on his normal 3.2. mile walk that he loved, I was by myself with him one day and he started to lay down during the walk and just couldn’t take it anymore. That was highly unusual for Tyler and he was always so full of energy, it was an immediate tip off that something was wrong. When we got home, he had no appetite and couldn’t do much but lay on the carport and mope. It was only a few days later that he passed and my aunt, family, and myself were devastated. We missed him so much and couldn’t understand why he’d be taken so soon from us.

My family members have always had dogs in their homes and it wasn’t long before my aunt began to crave that companionship and love from another pet. So she began her search for another dog that needed a home. After looking at a few, she found one that looked JUST like Tyler! It reminded her of him and she wanted to meet him. It was love at first sight! And his name was….wait for it….Bear! (Tyler’s original name before it was changed) As my aunt went through the adoption procedure with the animal rescue, all of the paperwork and information was exchanged just in time for her to pick Bear up and bring him home. And of all days, she brought him home on her birthday! (Just like Tyler was a birthday present) The fact that his name was also Bear, he looked just like Tyler, and that it all happened on her birthday was enough to convince my aunt this was the dog for her. God was winking the whole time He led her to Bear.

One week after Bear came home, my aunt adopted another dog named Mona and the two of them are the best of friends. And now my aunt has double the unconditional love pets bring to a home!

Whether you like love stories, funny stories about “chance” (godwinks), or to feel inspired and warm and fuzzy, I recommend the When God Winks series to you! You’ll enjoy them all, so just pick one and enjoy. And then stop by to let me know what you thought and if YOU have any godwink stories!

5/5 stars

Fabookulous

 


 

Book #45: LibraryLove November 5, 2010

Burnt Toast and Other Philosphies of Life by Teri Hatcher

Book description~From America’s most beloved comedic actress and the star of Desperate Housewives comes a personal, heartfelt, and often very funny manifesto on life, love, and the lessons we all need to learn — and unlearn — on the road to happiness. Teri Hatcher secured her place in America’s heart when she stood up to accept her Golden Globe for Best Actress and declared herself a “has-been” on national television. That moment showcased her down-to-earth, self-deprecating style — and her frank openness about the ups and downs she’s experienced in life and work. But what the world might not have seen that night is that Teri’s self-acceptance is the hard-won effort of a single mother with all the same struggles most women have to juggle — life, love, bake sale cookies, and dying cats. Now, in the hope that her foibles and insights might inspire and motivate other women, Teri opens up about the little moments that have sustained her through good times and bad. From the everyday (like the importance of letting your daughter spill her macaroni so she knows it’s okay to make mistakes) to the rare (a rendezvous with a humpback whale — and no, he was not a suitor), the message at the heart of Burnt Toast — that happiness and success are choices that we owe it to ourselves to make — is sure to resonate with women everywhere.

This book definitely found me at just the right time. Burnt Toast has been taking space in my bookshelf for about a year although I’ve been wanting to read it since it was published in 2006;  I never got around to it. Then, I decided I needed a quick and lighthearted read and picked it up…

Since October 25th (12 days and counting), after complications from back surgery, my mother has been in the hospital in critical condition. My dad and I have taken turns everyday being there to advocate for her when she couldn’t speak for herself and to make sure we were there for her comfort. Thanks to free Wi Fi and VPN access to share drives, I’ve got ample time to work and read from mom’s bedside while she rests. Last week was probably the scariest week I’ve ever lived through; not knowing if my mom would survive a 7-day spinal fluid leak, blood clots, and a laundry list of issues.

“It’s so hard to let things sit messy. To let life be messy. To live in and with the mess. But sometimes you can’t figure everything out on your timetable. SO you have to look for the moments when it’s not so hard to tell what your coice should be. Shooting stars or aspirin? Mysteries of the galaxy or dental floss? Those are the easy ones. It’s not always that simple. It takes work to not try and fix things all the time.  Sometimes you just have to let it sit. “

Anyway, the point of all of this is that times like these really make me thankful to have my amazing network of support. Life, mobility, and our health are all things we each take for granted everyday. Reading Hatcher’s memoir was just what I needed to keep my spirits up and keep me motivated so I could be the rock my family needs me to be right now.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve taken the broken piece of pie or the less perfect cut of lasagna or, as the book suggests, the burnt toast, so others could have the better, more perfect serving while you ‘took one for the team’. But there comes a time that you realize that doesn’t quite set the right example to your children or loved ones when through your actions, you  don’t feel you deserve good things in life.

“What you see in the tabloids is not what you and I have in common. Buying coffee. Pumping gas. Who cares about that stuff? It has nothing to do with who you are. The real story of what we have in common is emotional , truthful, and human. It’s how we try to live and love and find happiness, and work toward finding peace in ourselves and in the world.”

If you’ve ever seen Hatcher do an interview, you too would see how down-to-earth, relatable and humble she is; it’s shocking to think she’s an award winning actress on a prime-time hit TV show (among other accolades). This book was such a refreshing and great read this week and something that helped me get through a very frightening time. She shares her heartache, the joys of raising her daughter Emerson, and her practical and insightful parenting tips that I hope to apply someday, along with hilarious follies of dating and motherhood. I bet when you think of Hatcher and her glamorous days on Seinfeld, Lois & Clark or Desperate Housewives, you wouldn’t imagine her and her 7-year-old daughter roadtripping up the Pacific Coast Highway in a Scooby-Doo 70s VW van with no heat or a/c.  Or could you imagine Hatcher and Emerson taking freezing cold showers at campsites and laughing hysterically?  Pick up this book to read what I mean; Burnt Toast is a quick, fun, and uplifting book; I couldn’t help but smile throughout it and I know you will too.

“Remember to give and take. Society is so good at asking us to give. Drive the carpool. Lead the Girl Scouts. Hand make a costume for the school play. Cook dinner for your husband. Everyone’s asking something from you. Teach your child that you deserve adult time. You need to teach them how to put a slide of bread in the toaster, wait for it to brown to perfection, pull it out, and enjoy it. You need to show them that if you’re distracted and the toast gets burnt, you’ll try it again because you’re worth it. You value yourself. You need to show them that you know how to take what you deserve. That’s the best way to teach your children to value themselves.”

5/5 stars

45 down, 7 to go.

In progress, ROOM by Emma Donoghue…

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #40: Fabookulous November 2, 2010

It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado

Book description:

There really is more to this life than you’ve been told. We’ve been demanding our way since day one…”I want a spouse that makes me happy and co-workers that always ask my opinion.”

“I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me.”

Self-promotion. Self-preservation. Selfcenteredness…

“It’s All About Me.” They all told us it was, didn’t they? And we took them up on it. We thought self-celebration would make us happy…

But believing that has created chaos- noisy homes, stress-filled businesses, cutthroat relationships. We’ve chased so many skinny rabbits, says Max Lucado, that we’ve missed the fat one: the God-centered life.

If you want to shift into high gear with purpose, this is it: Life makes sense when we accept our place! Our pleasures, our problems, our gifts and talents…when they’re all for the One who created us, we suddenly gain what we’ve been missing and find what we’ve been seeking.

This is a book that I started reading a couple of years ago, then saw a study guide that goes along with it in a bookstore. I then purchased the study guide with the intention of starting over and really getting into it. I never did. Until now.

Starting at the beginning again, this book is so refreshing! It seems a regular topic lately is how self centered we all are. Everyone struggles with this; after all we are human. We want, want, want, then we take credit when we receive. We hurt others to make ourselves look better, we pat our own backs when we are successful, the more we have the more we want, and so on and so forth. Of course I’m speaking generally and some folks probably are worse than others (as with anything).

This book is a great reminder WHY we don’t deserve the credit. Why God deserves glory, why He is so amazing and awesome, why we were created. After all, if it were all about us, wouldn’t everything God did be to please us? Wouldn’t we have more say in what happens? But it’s not and we don’t. How comforting!

Max Lucado remains one of my favorite bible teachers, and he speaks so clearly. It’s Not About Me is a great reminder to get off of our high horses. It’s NOT all about us. (Shocker!) This is a very short read yet will provide principles and ideas that will stick with you. I do want to go back to the study guide one day, but for now I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Christian non-fiction as much as I do. May you be better for it!

5/5 stars

Fabookulous

I’m feeling the crunch as I have 11 more books to read by the end of the year! This has been a fun challenge, but it is a CHALLENGE. If you see a review of “Goodnight, Moon” you’ll understand the pressure got to me. 😉 I kid, I kid. Thanks for following our blog all year- we are in the last two month stretch!

 

Book #39: Fabookulous October 30, 2010

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

Book description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 stars.

Fabookulous