Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book E: Fabookulous December 27, 2011

Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer by Harmony Dust

Book description:

Fear of being abandoned keeps nineteen-year-old Harmony Dust trapped in an abusive and cruel relationship. She thinks she has hit bottom-tens of thousands of dollars in debt, struggling to get by, and so controlled by her boyfriend that she doesn’t protest when he begins openly sleeping around. Things can’t get worse . . . until someone tells her how much money she can make as an exotic dancer. For the next three years, Harmony lives a double life as Monique, a dancer in a fully-nude strip club.
Ok, I didn’t plan my letters appropriately and needed to use “E” for this one, you know, EXOTIC dancer. A stretch? I think not…
Anyway, this may be my last review on here as I believe LibraryLove and I will be saying goodbye to our blogging days in 2012. Neither of us completed this year’s challenge, but hey, life got busy. And in case you forgot, we BOTH read 52 books EACH in 2010. I’ll pause for applause… HA!
Ok, back to the review. Scars and Stilettos is a true story of a friend of a friend of mine. Once consumed by her need of approval from her boyfriend, Harmony found herself misguided and caught up in a vicious, dark cycle. Having read this book after Shelley Lubben’s autobiography, this one is very G rated. Same messaging (Christ’s redeeming love and power), yet much gentler story telling. Surely, anyone can relate in the sense that we all find ourselves at times seeking validation from other people or things. Maybe it’s your spouse, partner, fiance; maybe you are married to your job, home, car, material things; maybe it’s an addiction you seek acceptance from. The fact is, we can all find something in our lives that hold us victim at one time or another.
For Harmony, it was her boyfriend who dominated her for YEARS. This cat even got another girl pregnant, moved her into the apartment Harmony was paying for (and they lived in together), and then had the audacity to ask her to get him his own place because “he needed more room as a father.” And all of this supported by her stripping career. Are you kidding me?! (Easy to say that as an outsider, but imagine the background and what gets one to that place of desperation) As I’ve read more than one memoir of those in the sex industry (Shelley Lubben, Jenna Jameson, etc) it’s a classic history of sexual abuse, neglect, rape, father issues, drug abuse, and/or abandonment. So it is with Harmony.
While very sad indeed, what is compelling, uplifting and encouraging is God’s faithfulness through the dark valleys. He remains committed to us even IN the dark places. I love when Harmony points out that we don’t have to “get our act together” before God loves us. He always has and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can get ourselves out of the muck and mire. Having been to Harmony’s church, Oasis, in LA, I understand how she felt God’s presence so powerfully. I attended a GodChicks conference there in 2007 when a friend of mine was living in LA. Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner have such an inviting presence to them that makes you feel loved, accepted and valued.
Which is precisely what Harmony is now doing with Treasures, her non-profit, faith-based support group and outreach for women in the sex industry. She is setting out to teach these women in the over 170 strip clubs they visit annually, that they are valued, loved and purposed. The Bible tells us that God never wastes a hurt. And Harmony’s testimony proves just that–she is an amazing woman of God doing wonderful things that she could only do having gone through her dark places.
Thank you for sharing your story and for committing to serve other women in the hopes of turning their lives around too.
5/5 stars

Book B: Fabookulous December 19, 2011

Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn: The Greatest Illusion on Earth by Shelley Lubben

Book description:

In Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn, former porn actress Shelley Lubben rips the seductive mask off of pornography and exposes the hardcore truth behind the “greatest illusion on earth”. Her spectacular journey from childhood to sexual abuse to prostitution to the deadly unglamorous realm of porn sets, Shelley is brutally honest about her past. But that’s not all. Having escaped the porn industry at 26, Shelley now shares her powerful story of redemption offering a message of hope to the entire world. The first ever book exposing the “secret” side of porn, Shelley wants you to know the hardcore truth. Pornography is modern day slavery for thousands of women and the millions of porn addicts who can’t stop clicking. But you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!

This book was an interesting and intriguing find for me. I discovered it when purchasing “Scars and Stilettos” by Harmony Dust on Harmony is a friend of a friend and I’d heard about her powerful testimony as a redeemed stripper. When I ordered a copy of her book, Amazon suggested I purchase Shelley Lubben’s book with it. A redeemed porn actress? Intriguing. And talk about humbling.

So I ordered my package deal and waited for my delivery. Once these books arrived, I did not put Lubben’s book down until I finished it yesterday on my birthday. (Parties can wait–I was in the middle of a good book…)

A stripper, prostitute, and porn star, Lubben lived years of her life in a deep, dark hole struggling with alcoholism, drugs, unwanted pregnancies, abuse, neglect and a sense of desperation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. In a nutshell? A classic porn star’s background. And I don’t mean that to be insensitive or cold. However, when women come from a past as broken as some of today’s porn stars and have this inner desire, inner NEED, to find validation from others (men or women) they can lose their sense of value and self and seek it anywhere they can. Shelley’s first “trick” paid her $35. And just like that, she began a destructive path of selling her body and trading her soul.

The star rating I gave this book is on the low side because to be perfectly honest, I’m still nauseous from the graphic detail of stories such as how she conceived her first daughter, her first filmed scene, and some of the rough abuse she and other porn actresses have suffered through. But similar to my thoughts on Precious (whether it’s true or not–that’s another story), maybe some stories can’t be told without the gritty detail. And I do mean grit. Like, eyes wide open, one eye closed maybe, holding the book away from you, wanting to take a shower and wash yourself from what you just read gritty. Like “women actually do this and suffer through this?” and “how does one get to this place–what must be going on in their mind?” Am I being too sensitive? I don’t think so…

The porn industry is a $70 BILLION DOLLARS a year industry. That is more than all professional sports combined. Is this for real?? This is our number one entertainment in today’s world? I don’t mean to get off on a soap box, but everytime you click on a porn site, buy a magazine, rent a video (gross–think of who else has “rented” them), you are contributing to the degradation of thousands of women stuck in a vicious cycle. What is hard to understand is how porn stars like Jenna Jameson can make no apologies for their career, show no signs of guilt, rather think they are quite the business women, and then there are others who are crying–literally crying. Crying in pain, crying in agony, crying for their souls, crying. Screaming. How do they deal with it? Drugs. Alcohol. Whatever numbs the pain to make it even a percent enjoyable so you can get through it and get your paycheck to cover your rent, or feed that unwanted baby, or, as sad as it may be, get that next high.

Shelley will take you through her dark experiences (and she’s got some dark ones– she contracted herpes, a non-curable disease that resulted in early cervical cancer where half of her cervix was removed), to the rejection of her parents, and her near deadly experience in a Mexican brothel.

But what is ASTOUNDING (and I mean ASTOUNDING–what word is better than that, I’m not sure), is how God proved faithful to Shelley even on set. Even in the dark alleys, even when prostituting herself. God was there. Whispering to her, protecting her from even WORSE consequences (and yes, there were some–wait until she recalls in hindsight toward the end of the book). God kept her near Him and proved the promise in the Bible when it tells us to raise a child in the way he/she is to go and when he/she is older they will not depart from it. Praise God that Shelley had childhood church experiences where she fell in love with Jesus early on! But hey, any Christian will tell you it’s easy to wander and stray as we get older, gain freedom, seek acceptance among our peers, etc. Some just take it a lot farther than others.

Shelley is herpes-free (can you attribute that to anything other than God?!), married and with 3 daughters. Her first-born (who was conceived during one of her nights prostituting) writes a chapter in the book as well about her pain from porn– including her mother’s boyfriends molesting her and attempts at suicide.

Devastating most of the time, readers cannot deny the power of God in Shelley’s life. And the biggest takeaway message for me? If God can prove faithful to Shelley during her years stripping for strangers, sleeping with strangers for money, and engaging in rough sex acts on film that will stay forever, and then redeem her and give her a powerful ministry because of it… well, then God is faithful to ALL of us and can use ALL of us. How could anybody read this book and NOT take that message away? However, if this isn’t the message you hope to receive, I’d advise to tread lightly–this book is not for sensitive readers.

Sometimes the very thing we work hardest to escape is the very thing God can heal us from and call us BACK to to minister to others still trapped in the vicious cycle. And that’s exactly what He did and is still doing in Shelley’s life. Bravo, Shelley, for sharing your painful story. I know that couldn’t have been easy, but God is the perfect Healer and Redeemer. Praise Him for rescuing you and keeping you near! Praying for you and your family this holiday season to know a joy and peace you’ve never felt as you bask in the glory of His presence.

3/5 stars



Book M: Fabookulous November 26, 2011

My Life, Deleted by Scott Bolzan

Book description:

Scott Bolzan went to work on December 17, 2008, like any other Wednesday. By that afternoon, he’d lost every memory of his past.

Awakening in a hospital with no memory of who he was or how he got there, the forty-six-year-old didn’t know that the petite blonde at his side was his wife of twenty-four years, Joan—or even what a wife was. He couldn’t remember the births of his two young-adult children, the daughter he’d lost, his time as an offensive lineman for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, or his flourishing aviation career.

Scott’s life and the lives of everyone who loved him were forever changed when he slipped, hit his head, and lost consciousness in his office bathroom, suffering one of the most severe cases of permanent retrograde amnesia on record. With heartrending honesty and no shortage of humor, the Bolzans share their remarkable journey as Scott navigates his way through a now-unfamiliar world. The challenges are initially overwhelming: Scott’s debilitating headaches, his relearning of social etiquette (taking cues from The Sopranos!), Joan’s grief over the loss of the man she married and their shared history, the financial burden of Scott’s lost income, his mounting medical bills, and the agony of their twenty-year-old son’s struggles with drug addiction.

But remarkably, My Life, Deleted is above all else a celebration of extraordinary perseverance, and of the enduring love that emerges when we are most tested. Scott learns to trust his intuition in a way few people ever will, while Joan taps into a well of patience and resourcefulness she didn’t know she had. Throughout it all, what unfolds—against all odds—is an enviable romance as Scott and Joan fall in love all over again.

Both gut-wrenching and brimming with optimism, the Bolzans’ captivating story makes a powerful statement about commitment—and the possibility of finding extraordinary opportunity in life’s greatest challenges.

On a recent flight to Florida, I opened my guilty pleasure for my in-flight entertainment. Yep, I was ready to go armed with the latest edition of People magazine. One of my favorite sections of People has always been the Book Reviews and that is where I discovered My Life, Deleted. Once on the ground, it wasn’t long before I made my way to the nearest bookstore to purchase my copy because I was too impatient to wait until I got home to get to the library and I figured I’d have that in-flight time on my return trip to relish this story that fascinated me for some reason.

Can you EVEN imagine? To lose ALL of your memories– both happy and sad, painful and exhilirating, times of growth and times of weeping. To forget what you do for a living, what you’ve done in the past, who your family is and how you fell in love to begin with, where you live, historical events, your role as a human. That’s where Bolzan finds himself after a mere accident of slipping, falling, and suffering a severe brain injury. What is most endearing (in my humble opinion) in this story is Bolzan’s DRIVE, his desire to remember himself, to relearn what he knew and to make a comeback, if you will. In a situation where it could be so easy to become bitter and suffer through your pain, both physical and emotional, Bolzan has a will to not only survive, but to thrive.

Once a successful business owner, Bolzan was enjoying a luxurious lifestyle prior to the accident. It’s refreshing to read of his selling big-ticket items, such as numerous watches that earned the family over $20,000 to apply toward medical bills. Frugal at my core, I rolled my eyes at some of the name dropping such as labels, brands of cars, and other expensive frocks the family had. I kept looking for the epiphany where Bolzan would mention how his brain injury made him realize the important things in life rather than the collection of material goods. While glimpses of that realization were apparent in the story, it seemed more out of necessity rather than a change of heart.

Then can you even imagine on the OTHER side of the story? Joan, Taylor and  Grant. Wife, daughter and son, respectively. Joan is an amazing woman who stood by her husband, familiarized herself with his situation and medicines, and talk about the patience of a saint! What an incredible load she carried as the matriarch of her family during this world-flipped-upside-down season. Thank goodness she had the support of a loving, courageous and faithful daughter, Taylor, who baked Christmas cookies with her dad and taught him all over again how to share in one of their  holiday traditions.

A heartbreaking twist in this story is the drug addiction their son Grant battles, before and through his dad’s recovery. How frustrating for the family! Grant exhausts his resources: financially, emotionally, physically, while he seeks out his next high and drains his parents’ strength one by one. Understandably, Bolzan is beyond frustrated because not only is he fighting his own battle, he doesn’t remember the stress of Grant’s addiction and can’t share in Joan’s pain, and now he is dealing with it firsthand. And Joan…words can’t even express how phenomenal she is to stand by her husband, support her son, and stick with her family.

My favorite part is when Joan and Scott take Taylor to college to begin pursuing her dream. I won’t even dive into the details but let’s just say this is a heartwarming scene that would be impossible to read without a smile on one’s face and maybe a tear falling down your cheek. This family is an incredible example of unconditional love and one who believes their marriage vows through thick and thin, for better or for worse.

Thanks to Scott for opening up and sharing his story. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty anymore for buying this book rather than waiting patiently for the library. Why not? Because at the end of the book it says “A portion of the authors’ earned royalties from sales of this book will be donated to the Brain Injury Association of Arizona and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital: Neuro-NICU Department.” And what good are these life experiences if they can’t be used together for good and to benefit others?

4.5/5 stars



Book K: Fabookulous June 6, 2011

King of the Road by Alex Debogorski

Book description:

Between bear hunting, drag racing, doughnut spinning, cattle rustling, gold prospecting, and too many near-death experiences, it’s amazing that Alex Debogorski ever found time (or lived long enough) to spend twenty-five years hauling freight over frozen lakes to the most remote ouposts of the arctic. In King of the Road, Alex jams his storytelling into overdrive for a memoir that’s equal parts action-packed, outrageous, tender, and hilarious. You’ll find out how he once caught fire in the middle of a brawl, how easy it is to get killed driving a coal truck, how the sound of cracking ice is something you can never get accustomed to hearing, and what it’s like being the improbable star of a hit TV show. The true tales of this larger-than-life ice road trucker are not to be missed.

Having never watched the show Ice Road Truckers I came across this book when it was advertised in People magazine. I kicked back at the pool, opened up to page one, and all I can say is “Wow” from the first word. Alex Debogorski has lived quite a life and has many a tales to share about the hair raising ways of his youth through life as a family man. I could have done without the stories of life on the farm and the rough treatment of some of the animals. Sure those things happen, and it’s part of farm life, but I am a sensitive reader and love the animals, so personally could have done without those stories.

My dad has owned and operated his own trucking company for 25+ years and I used to work for him full time (though now it’s just a few nights a week). I’ve always been fascinated by the Peterbilts, all the buttons, knobs, controllers. I’ve enjoyed learning about the permit process, the heavy loads, weight requirements, DOT requirements, etc. And while reading Debogorski’s stories, I can just imagine riding along the highway listening on the CB radio as he tells crazy tales, some sad, some funny, some mind-blowing, and some heartwarming. In fact, after reading about some crazy driving escapades of a teenage Alex, I could hear the hootin’ and hollerin’, I felt the wind blowing and I thought I was watching a movie screen. I caught myself afterwards and even read the story again because it felt so real. Debogorski is quite the story teller and I enjoyed every minute of his wild days.

Stories of sleeping behind the wheel, speeding, and not paying attention are careless and dangerous. But thankfully Alex points out he is not glorifying irresponsible driving (particularly if young audiences are paying attention) but he is just telling it like it happened. But when he talks about a trip to visit Louise (his high school sweetheart and now wife and mother of their 11 children), he was tired and closes his eyes for a few minutes. Upon opening them, he is moments away from running into the train up ahead and sure enough, he hits the train. With all the danger Debogorski has faced and all of the “mishaps” that he’s endured, it really is a wonder (by the grace of God) that he is alive to tell about them.

With a new season of Ice Road Truckers just beginning, I spent time this weekend watching some episodes of the show to see what it was all about. I’m pretty sure it’s my new favorite show. It’s unbelievable the conditions these drivers haul through and deal with. But one of the more striking things is that they probably just view it as all in a day’s work. A dangerous day’s work. The banter between Alex and his rival, Hugh “the Polar Bear” Rowland, is comical and after researching more into the show and merchandise available, I realized Hugh has a book as well: On Thin Ice. Is it a coincidence that the two drivers on the series who have books out are rivals on the show, in constant competition? HA! Fine by me, I’m already in line wishing for a copy of Hugh’s book on 🙂

Thoroughly enjoyable, King of the Road will keep your interest from start to finish. Cheers to Alex for surviving himself and sharing about it!

5/5 stars



Book H: LibraryLove April 23, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Book description~ All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua’s iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way-the Chinese way-and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin. Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene:
“According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:

1. Oh my God, you’re just getting worse and worse.

2. I’m going to count to three, then I want musicality.

3. If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!”

But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices-the exacting attention spent studying her daughters’ performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons-the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting- and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another.

Question 1- when did “doing what’s best for your children” equate to “forcing your kids to be what you want them to be”??? Question 2- what ever happened to unstructured free time to let kids just BE KIDS?!?!? Question 3- where was Jed the father throughout this story? He basically took a backseat. I believe parenting should be shared between a mother and father when a couple is married.

For starters, I did not like this book. This book was chosen by the book club I am in and our discussion next week should be extremely controversial and interesting to say the least. This book made me cringe and get very upset. However, because this is a memoir and because parenting is an EXTREMELY hot button topic, I’m going to keep my review as brief as possible. I don’t blog to ruffle feathers, incite a riot, or hurt loved ones. This blog is just something fun and lighthearted for Fabookulous and I to journal our adventures through books. Furthermore, it’s not my place to tell anyone how to parent or not parent their own children. The beauty of our country is the freedom to live your dreams and raise a family according to your beliefs. At the same time, we know many of you turn to this blog for book suggestions. At first, I was not going to write a review at all, but that defeats the point of only reviewing books I really liked.

Amy Chua (the Tiger Mother), believes in the extreme practice of Chinese Parenting. Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:

-Have a playdate
-Be in a school play
-Complain about not being in a school play
-Not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
-Play any instrument other than the piano or violin
 -Not play the piano or violin

Shocked yet? Yeah, that’s only the beginning.

One thing that scares me most about the Chinese Model of extreme parenting is that I believe it raises codependent children. Codependency is a disorder that will affect you later on in life, and in your interpersonal relationships. Have you ever met someone that apologized profusely for the slightest thing? Or was overly timid and needed approval of others to feel confident? I believe this model is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This model illustrates individuals who want people think their children are so smart and talented that they are forced into the rigors of unhealthiness in their hobbies, studies and extra-curricular activities. Codependency can manifest later in life through anxiety disorders, alcoholism and drug use because over 18 years of this model, children grow into adults that have only known how to put their own feelings/thoughts/desires/wants secondary to appease/please others. When finally they are out on their own, they have no idea how to navigate a life that makes THEM happy; they’re completely out of touch with their own drive in life.

Basically, codependent children live to make their parents happy and for their parents’ approval. This is an extremely tough concept for people to wrap their minds around but it happens daily as you bargain with your children. In my heart, I genuinely believe the Chinese Model of parenting raises generations of codependency, low self-esteem and subservience. No, I don’t have a degree in psychology but this is an area I have much life experience with.

Take my review with a grain of salt and read the book for yourself so you can decide. Then take some time and reflect back on the relationships you have or have had in the past, and the way you were brought up and you may begin to draw some seriously scary parallels. I freely admit that I have no answers or a magic bullet on how to raise children. This is something my husband and I will define for ourselves over a lifetime of trial and error. However, what I believe to be a helpful model is to expose your children to lots of different things and eventually they will find a niche that will build confidence instead of expecting them to find confidence because you told them so. I hope to find the wisdom and practice that will enable my children to be strong, independent people who make up their own minds.

I’m not going to say anymore; I’ll let you be your own judge. =)

2/5 stars

8 down, 18 to go!

Up next, A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel




Book G: LibraryLove March 16, 2011

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Book description~ Jeannette Walls’s father always called her “Mountain Goat” and there’s perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents – Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls’s childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets.

Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls’ removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents’ knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them — despite their overwhelming self-absorption — resonates from cover to cover.

When you’re hungry, you reach for the pantry. When you’re tired, you crawl into your soft bed. When you feel dirty, you take a shower. When you’re thirsty, you open the fridge for refreshment. When you’re cold you reach for a blanket…well…not if your Jeannette, Lori, Brian, Maureen, Rose Mary or Rex Walls you don’t…

Never have I felt more humbled than when I closed the book on this unbelievable account of the Wall’s family struggles throughout the decades. Sure, we’ve all had our ups and downs and family struggles; I’ve definitely had more than my fair share. But after The Glass Castle, you too will completely rethink the simple pleasures and niceties your life has bestowed upon you and be truly in awe at the human ability to overcome.

The Glass Castle is written from Jeannette’s first person point of view and she so candidly shares her family’s past riddled with alcoholism, abandonment all colored as “liberalism” from her parent’s eyes. Some of the scenes are down right painful while others are astonishing, but I urge you to pick this up and read it; you won’t be able to put it down.  I wanted to scream through the pages at Jeannette’s mother at times, shocked at how ignorant some people can truly be.  I could relate to Jeannette on so many levels, especially her inner drive and ability to focus on what was ahead of her, rather than dwell in self-pity over what could have been. This book has been on my TBR for sometime now, after a friend and her fiancée attended Walls’ book signing event last year in Walls’ now nearby hometown of Culpeper, VA.

I’d forgotten about this book until it was chosen as this month’s discussion selection for book club. Although it’s pretty unfair to critique someone’s life story, I can certainly critique Walls’ writing style, which I thought was delightful and so optimistic despite the hardships Jeannette and her family faced. I can’t wait to pick up Walls’ other book, Half Broke Horses, about the life of her grandparents.

“Dad was lighting his cigarette. I waved, and he waved back. Then he shoved his hands in his pockets, the cigarette dangling from his mouth, and stood there, slightly stoop-shouldered and distracted looking. I wondered if he was remembering how he, too, had left Welch full of vinegar at age seventeen just as convinced as I was now that he’d never return.  I wondered if he was hoping that his favorite girl would come back, or if he was hoping that, unlike him, she would make it out for good.”

Discussing the idea of how awesomely this memoir would translate to film, one of the book club babes and I came up with a few Hollywood celebs that we think would perfectly fit some of the main characters. Who do you think could best play the Walls’ family?

Billy Bob Thornton as Rex Walls

Juliette Lewis as Rose Mary

Abigail Breslan as the young Jeannette

Dakota Fanning as the older Maureen (think Cherie Curry from The Runaways)

Maybe Thora Burch for Lori although Lori is a bit of a ? for me…

Channing Tatum possibly as Brian??

5/5 stars

4 down, 22 to go!




Book H: Fabookulous January 31, 2011

Heaven is for Real (A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back) by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Book description:

A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.

Told by the father, but often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.

Recommended to me by a friend, this is the story of young Colton’s visit to heaven, as described to his parents. For those familiar with similar stories, it’s reminiscent of 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. I’ve not read that one (I was skeptical of it) but this one is a similar concept. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this book. Let me try to explain.

On one hand I don’t think I believe the story and there are a few reasons why. First, Colton was a young three years old when this experience happened and kids like to tell stories. They’ll improvise and make up scenarios while they play and they’ll create ideas in their heads. I’m skeptical about believing one could actually GO to heaven and then come back to this Earth. Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that no eye has seen? That it’s a beauty our minds can’t imagine? Wouldn’t that be anti-climactic to see heaven in all its glory at a young three years of age, and then have the rest of your life here on this Earth? The concept is a tough sell on me.

On the other hand, we ARE called to have minds like children. And to be frank, people didn’t believe Jesus in his day either. The things Colton describes (the gates of heaven, who he saw while there, what God looks like and that Jesus sits on the right side of Him) are all things in the Bible, but things Colton hadn’t learned yet in his Sunday school class. It’s an interesting concept, this idea of a young boy seeing heaven, and one you have to choose to believe or not…

As for the way the story was written, I got kind of frustrated. When remembering another detail Colton would share about heaven, author Burpo always had to describe the next reaction. For example, Colton says something to the effect of “I saw Pop there” (Colton’s late grandfather) and Burpo would say something about how he had a hard time driving on the road after that and he could hear the hum of the tires. I’m actually laughing out loud because I realize I’m not describing this very well. But the way Burpo explained his reactions to Colton’s revelations kind of got old after a while, making the story feel like it was dragging out (and it’s a short book!)

After all is said in done, this was book H for the year and it’s time to move on to another letter of the alphabet…

2/5 stars


Up next: Decision Points by George W. Bush (at a whopping 518 pages, I’ll be taking my time through this one…stay tuned!)


Book U: Fabookulous January 18, 2011

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

“I didn’t decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude. Being as thin as possible was a way to make the job of being an actress easier . . .”

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn’t enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.

Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet, Portia makes transparent as never before the behaviors and emotions of someone living with an eating disorder.

From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues.

In this remarkable and beautifully written work, Portia shines a bright light on a dark subject. A crucial book for all those who might sometimes feel at war with themselves or their bodies, Unbearable Lightness is a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.

This year as LibraryLove and I trek our way through the alphabet in books, it would be hard to go in order from A to Z. I say this because sometimes books are available at the library out of order, such as Unbearable Lightness. Therefore, I’m starting off 2011 with Book U! That’s right– sometimes I march to the beat of my own drum.

 First of all, I have to say how good it felt to take my time with a book and slow the pace down from 2010’s challenge. I had fun reading 52 books, but I am looking forward to longer selections in 2011 as we have more time for each book. I think it will bring some of the fun back into reading that may have felt like an obligation last year.

Portia de Rossi’s memoir is, well in a word, shocking. She details a 20 year battle with eating disorders (both anorexia and bulimia) that makes it almost impossible to believe she is alive to tell this story. Getting to her lowest weight of 82 pounds, Portia did this by eating just 300 calories a day and taking up to 20 laxatives a day. This, combined with hours of relentless exercise and obsession with working out, caused her to eventually pass out and be forced to deal with things.

I chose this book after seeing it featured on (of course) The Ellen DeGeneres Show and having my curiosity piqued. A family friend’s daughter has struggled with anorexia but I do not know much of her struggle. I’ve not been up close with an eating disorder (that I know of) and I can’t imagine what pain and suffering that feels like. Eating disorders lead to an obsession of not only calories, foods in versus foods out, and obsessing over exercise. It consumes your every thought, move, meal, and minute of everyday as you find yourself hiding from those closest to you. Of course, this is only what I’ve been told based on reading Portia’s story.

In addition to Portia’s struggle with eating disorders and self image issues, she was hiding another very real part of her life while in the Hollywood eye. Her sexuality remained hidden for years as she struggled with finding herself and her confidence to live life unashamed. I can’t imagine keeping not one, but TWO huge secrets like that all while being filmed, followed, photographed, and watched constantly. Unbearable Lightness will make the reader feel compassionate yet hopeful as you are taken deep into the darkness that used to be de Rossi’s life. I admire her openness with this story, not because people want to know in the sick way that give papparazi jobs, but because I am confident her story will help countless others. If another girl, woman, boy, or man struggling with eating disorders and/or their sexual identity can feel liberated and encouraged with this story, it would make it all worth Portia’s sharing.

Bravo to Portia for finding herself, staying true to herself, and for having the heart to share it with others that may still be in the darkness. A beautifully written memoir, Unbearable Lightness is not to be missed! For those who don’t know about eating disorders and haven’t experienced it either first hand or through a loved one, let yourself be opened to this very real struggle going on all over the world.

4/5 stars.


Up next: Book H! (Like I said, going out of order when the opportunity arises… Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo is in the queue!)


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


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 #44: Fabookulous November 26, 2010

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



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…




Book #35: Fabookulous October 11, 2010

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White

Book description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To Judge Walter Gex for holding me accountable.”

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

4.5/5 stars



Book #37 LibraryLove July 25, 2010

Book description~ Jen, Holly, and Amanda are at a crossroads. They’re feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones—scoring a big promotion, finding a soul mate, having 2.2 kids—before they reach their early thirties. When personal challenges force them to reevaluate their lives, they decide it’s now or never to do something daring. Unable to gain perspective in fast-paced Manhattan, the three twentysomethings quit their coveted media jobs and leave behind their friends, boyfriends, and everything familiar to travel the globe. Dubbing themselves the Lost Girls, they embark on an epic yearlong search for inspiration and direction. As they journey 60,000 miles across four continents and more than a dozen countries, Jen, Holly, and Amanda step far outside of their comfort zones, embracing every adventure and experience the world has to offer—shooting blowguns with Yagua elders in the Amazon, learning capoeira on the beaches of Brazil, volunteering with preteen girls at a school in rural Kenya, hiking with Hmong villagers in Vietnam, and driving through Australia in a psychedelic camper van. Along the way, the Lost Girls find not only themselves but also a lifelong friendship. Ultimately, theirs is a story of true sisterhood—a bond forged by sharing beds and backpacks, enduring exotic illnesses, fending off aggressive street vendors, trekking across rivers and over mountains, and standing by one another through heartaches, whirlwind romances, and everything in the world in between.

Could you drop everything and travel the world? Who would you take along for the ride? How long would you go? More importantly, could three twenty-something friends leave their posh upper-west side lives for a year of adventure away from the “Lipstick Jungle” and survive the REAL wilderness for an entire year? Read on to find out!

I stumbled upon this book in one of the daily editions of Shelf Awareness, and I have to say, I’ve found some fantastic new indie reads out of it! The Lost Girls, will probably be one of my stand-out favorite summer read this year. This SERIOUS chunkster is 600 pages of adventure, excitement, and world discovery (which probably could be pared down to about 450), but it was a fun ride nonetheless. I really took my time wanting to savor all the excitement and wonder the girls chronicled through their encounters. Struggling to find perspective while living in Manhattan, three friends in their late 20s, Jennifer, Holly, and Amanda, embarked on an unconventional detour. A 60,000 mile round- the-world journey lead the girls across four continents and more than a dozen countries. As the title suggests, they dubbed themselves “The Lost Girls” – a term describing both their own uncertainties about the future and an emotional state they felt represented many of their peers. This book chronicled these three friends’ commitment to spending one entire year wandering the globe.

The structure of this book flowed nicely as each chapter covered about 4-6 weeks of the trip from Jennifer’s point of view , the next 4-6 weeks from Holly, and then Amanda, (then lather, rinse, repeat) the entire course of the book covering a year’s time. I’ve never seen a memoir written this way and it worked so well. As the reader, I felt like I was making three new friends and reading their journal or blog along the way. I could really pick up on their different personalities and conversation styles yet it still maintained a cohesive feel.  One quote really summed up their personalities:

“I knew Holly needed to go running daily and embark on frequent missions to the markets. Amanda would get antsy if a few days went by without going online, writing, and blogging. As for me, well I just wanted to get involved in any hedonistic pleasure that didn’t require technology. Much of the time, our interests intersected, but we were totally fine with a two-to-one group split when they didn’t.” ~ Jennifer

One of my other favorite parts of the book happened during a quick stop back in Manhattan to obtain Visas for the second leg of their journey, when Amanda crashed with college friend Sarah. Although Sarah was two years younger than Amanda, Sarah had always been the more mature friend of their circle. Giving Amanda a tour of her very own grown-up, and couple-y new place, Amanda began to realize just how divergent their lives were. While Amanda spent her early years in the city jump-starting her career, falling for (and subsequently disentangling herself from ) her first very serious boyfriend, whirling through a handful of Mr. Wrongs, and eventually abandoning city life to go traveling, Sarah had lived more deliberately. After college she’d moved to Manhattan, become an interior designer at an Upper Easter Side firm, met the love of her life and the rest is history. Meanwhile, Amanda rolled into Sarah’s apartment with a full pack of stinky laundry from two months spent in the wilderness. I love that through reading, we can re-examine our life choices and live vicariously through characters. I can relate to BOTH Amanda AND Sarah, but particularly Sarah in this scene. I knew what I wanted out of life from an early age and fought my way toward it. I never had a lackadaisical attitude toward really anything in life so the idea of just dropping everything for an entire year to go explore was never and will never be on my radar. I love the structure, yet spontaneity of my life. I would never want to walk away from it. But I can understand that if you didn’t have a sense of contentment and direction, taking a life-changing trip like this one could propel you into finding your passion. I admire Jennifer, Holly, and Amanda’s courageous spirit and adventurous nature. I embrace trying new things and traveling to new places, but long-term travel is nowhere on my list. I crave the comforts of home, bug-free sleeping quarters, my wonderful husband and our lives.

Whether  you’re a world traveler or a casual sight-seer, I recommend everyone read this book! It might even help you plan your next excursion abroad…

If nothing else, you can live vicariously through “The Lost Girls”.

Where’s the most interesting place you’ve traveled to?

4/5 stars

37 down, 15 to go!

In progress- Nineteen Minutes

xo♥xo, LibraryLove


Book #23: Fabookulous & Book #36: LibraryLove July 11, 2010

uncharted terriTORI by Tori Spelling

Book description: It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can’t exactly take a break.

Tori finally has everything she thought she wanted- a loving family and a successful career- but trying to live a normal life in Hollywood is a little weird. With the irresistible wit, attitude, and humor that fans have come to love, the New York Times best selling author of sTORI telling and Mommywood is back with more hilarious, heartwarming, and candid stories of juggling work, marriage, motherhood, and reality television cameras.

Tori comes clean about doing her time on jury duty, stalking herself on Twitter, discovering her former 90210 castmates’ “I Hate Tori” club, contracting swine flu, and contacting Farrah Fawcett from the dead. Like many mothers, she struggles to find balance (Stars, they’re just like us!)- only most women don’t have to battle it out with the paparazzi at the grocery store. She talks openly about the darker side of life in the spotlight: media scrutiny over her weight and her marriage to Dean McDermott, her controversial relationship with Dean’s ex-wife, and her unfolding reconciliation with her mother.

Having it all isn’t always easy- especially when you’re a perfectionist- but with the help of her unconventional family and friends, an underwear-clad spiritual cleansing or two, and faith in herself, she’s learning to find her happy ending. Because when you’re Tori Spelling, every day brings uncharted terriTORI.


It took me a while to hop on the Tori Spelling bandwagon. I was never a fan of hers during 90210 and didn’t care to see her movies or give her a second thought, really. Then her reality show came out and two of my girlfriends (LibraryLove being one of them) talked about how much they loved her and how funny she was on her show with her family. So I sighed heavily and watched an episode of the show. I was surprised to find I actually liked her! Tori’s wit and humor cracked me up and her sweet relationship with Dean was endearing and cute to watch.

So naturally I stayed on the bandwagon and read (and loved) both of her first two books, sTORI telling and Mommywood. I loved how candid she was and how much she shared. My mouth dropped while reading of her mothers’ neuroses at her first wedding, and I couldn’t imagine having a mother as neurotic as Candy Spelling.

While the show has fallen down my favorite list, I still wanted to read the newest Tori book. But I was so disappointed with this one. More than one chapter detailed events that have aired on the show (stale material, anyone?) and I felt like the book makes Tori Spelling look like a freak-show. I mean, really. The woman is afraid of EVERYTHING and quite frankly, that’s exhausting to read about over and over. She (admittedly) lives her life in fear of anything and everything that could happen in a given day. I rolled my eyes more than once, thinking “Get a hold of yourself, woman.”

Tori’s obsession with other world mediums is out there. She consults psychics (even gifting visits with them for loved ones) and has voodoos performed in her home and on her person. Feeling she had an evil spirit within her, “Mama Lola…combined cornmeal, dried beans, vegetables, and chopped-up yams. She added gin and Florida water, a cologne from the nineteenth century that’s still popular in South American and Caribbean cultures…chanted…slashed my clothing into strips.” She goes on for an entire chapter about this experience and it leaves me (the reader) wondering why this wasn’t a “private” event that she refrained from publishing?

Reading about her going to her mother’s for a Christmas party convinced me she is JUST like her mother. Once portrayed to be a loony tune, Candy Spelling raised a daughter just like her. Communicating through Candy’s assistant, Tori plans to attend a Christmas party at “The Manor”, the obscene Spelling private residence. Reading about Tori getting ready for this was unreal. She went to Papyrus to get their fanciest gift wrap paper for the hostess gift she was giving her mother.  When curling her hair, she writes, “How would my mother react? Would she think I was too old for long, loose curls? Would wearing it up be more lady-like?” While picking out her outfit, she writes “I started with red…but then I got nervous about wearing red because I didn’t want my mother or anyone else to think I was trying to steal the show. I must have tried on a total of eight dresses.” I mean, listen, I get that there are perfectionists out there, but this is exhausting. No wonder Tori winds up in the hospital, literally sick to her stomach with stress and migraines on more than one occasion. She drives herself crazy!

I am disappointed to post a negative review because I’ve been a fan for a while. But this book paints Tori Spelling as a self-obsessed, neurotic, spoiled and materialistic wack-a-doodle. Definitely not my favorite of her books. Though she was still funny in her writing, the craziness far outweighed the comedy. Maybe next time?

2.5/5 stars

Happy Reading,


Note: In order to properly review this book, I have not read Fabookulous’ review and will do so only after I hit ‘publish’. We’ve never done a simultaneous read/review before. One of my besties, Planet Books, is also reading this book as we speak. Can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts…here goes.

Driven, Type-A, quirky multitasker who loves her busy life and to entertain with flair while surrounded by family and friends. These are a few personality traits that Tori and I both share. She is so misunderstood and I wish more people would stop judging her solely on her role as Donna Martin on 90210. Despite the fact that we have VERY different views on a LOT of things, I’ve found common ground with her just in reading her 3 novels, let alone watching her show Tori & Dean which chronicles she and her husband’s lives. uncharted terriTORI is her best book so far, in my humble opinion. In uncharted terriTORI, Spelling’s 3rd and latest installment of her autobiography series, she continues to allow the public in to her life with no holds barred. Spelling’s most endearing quality? She is literally and figuratively an open book. You’d think after dealing with all the media scrutiny, failed marriage, unsuccessful pilots , movies and business ventures, she’d become a hermit and keep a life outside the public eye. But instead, she takes her reputation seriously and wanted a chance to show the public the real Tori, crazy VooDoo cleanses and all.

In her first novel, sTori Telling, Spelling opened up mostly about her childhood, family struggles, and about her show so noTORIous. Her second novel, Mommywood, was mostly about how to balance the ever-dynamic terrain of being a new mother, when she didn’t have a positive one to model her ‘motherliness’ after. In uncharted terriTORI, Spelling is learning how to juggle TWO children, a husband who wants her attention, more successful businesses than I can count on my hands and toes, AND executive producing a hugely successful reality show on the Oxygen network. I’ve been Team Tori from the beginning and couldn’t care less whether you like her or not. I couldn’t care less about who saw me reading this book at the pool and judging me thinking I’m shallow, vapid or any of the other words you may be thinking. If you know me, or have been following along with this blog, you know I have depth and I guarantee you if you read any one of her books, you will change your opinion of her. What makes uncharted terriTORI such a great ‘palette- cleansing’ read,  is that being a loyal Tori fan, I’ve watched Tori & Dean since the first season when she was pregnant with first son, Liam while The McDermott’s managed to open a Bed & Breakfast. I’ve watched her grow on so many levels right before my, and America’s, eyes.  Her books basically summarize her life events that unfold on the shows, but it’s like we’re getting to read her commentary from each episode in the book. I do think she has a serious anxiety disorder (cluster C) that she needs assistance and counseling to offer her better coping mechanisms, none of us are perfect. This past season, she really struggled to find a balance between all the hats she wears in her life and most of all, to keep the passion alive in her marriage, keeping Dean a priority which, to her credit, she is shockingly candid about. It’s refreshing to see how Tori’s communication style continues to grow and mature. She’s finally getting to a place where she can openly confront issues rather than harboring them and blowing a gasket…although she does that too QUITE a few times and sending herself straight into the hospital all year-long because of the stress during last season’s taping of Tori & Dean.

Bottom line, if you need a fun and quick read (I read this book in two days), I recommend you pick up uncharted terriTORI or at least one of her other books.

4/5 stars

36 down, 16 to go!

In progress-The Lost Girls and the Wander Year: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World.




Book#34: LibraryLove June 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5/5 stars

34 down, 18 to go!

In progress, Bitter is the new Black




Book #20: Fabookulous June 16, 2010

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

Book description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 stars!

Happy Reading,


Book #17: Fabookulous May 29, 2010

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush

Book description~

In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of our most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.

Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland’s brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day. For the first time, in heart-wrenching detail, she writes about the devastating high school car accident that left her friend Mike Douglas dead and about her decades of unspoken grief.

When Laura Welch first left West Texas in 1964, she never imagined that her journey would lead her to the world stage and the White House. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1968, in the thick of student rebellions across the country and at the dawn of the women’s movement, she became an elementary school teacher, working in inner-city schools, then trained to be a librarian. At age thirty, she met George W. Bush, whom she had last passed in the hallway in seventh grade. Three months later, “the old maid of Midland married Midland’s most eligible bachelor.” With rare intimacy and candor, Laura Bush writes about her early married life as she was thrust into one of America’s most prominent political families, as well as her deep longing for children and her husband’s decision to give up drinking. By 1993, she found herself in the full glare of the political spotlight. But just as her husband won the Texas governorship in a stunning upset victory, her father, Harold Welch, was dying in Midland.

In 2001, after one of the closest elections in American history, Laura Bush moved into the White House. Here she captures presidential life in the harrowing days and weeks after 9/11, when fighter-jet cover echoed through the walls and security scares sent the family to an underground shelter. She writes openly about the White House during wartime, the withering and relentless media spotlight, and the transformation of her role as she began to understand the power of the first lady. One of the first U.S. officials to visit war-torn Afghanistan, she also reached out to disease-stricken African nations and tirelessly advocated for women in the Middle East and dissidents in Burma. She championed programs to get kids out of gangs and to stop urban violence. And she was a major force in rebuilding Gulf Coast schools and libraries post-Katrina. Movingly, she writes of her visits with U.S. troops and their loved ones, and of her empathy for and immense gratitude to military families.

With deft humor and a sharp eye, Laura Bush lifts the curtain on what really happens inside the White House, from presidential finances to the 175-year-old tradition of separate bedrooms for presidents and their wives to the antics of some White House guests and even a few members of Congress. She writes with honesty and eloquence about her family, her public triumphs, and her personal tribulations. Laura Bush’s compassion, her sense of humor, her grace, and her uncommon willingness to bare her heart make this story revelatory, beautifully rendered, and unlike any other first lady’s memoir ever written.

It became clear to me early on while reading this memoir that it was going to be a beautiful read. From cover to cover, Laura Bush’s personal and deeply touching story is beautifully written and a delight to read. I closed the book with a smile on my face and yet sadness that it was the end. Taking three weeks to read it (due partly to the fact that I was on business travel one of those weeks and by the time my head hit the pillow I could hardly read a single paragraph), I feel I spent enough time to soak up every word.

Laura Bush is to be admired, respected, and an example to follow. Not only has she always been (and remains to be) committed to her husband and family, she has a heart for people that stretches to the corners of the world. She used her platform as First Lady to serve others and bring attention and aid to some of the most devastating circumstances around the globe.

Spoken from the Heart discusses painful topics for the former First Lady, from the tragic accident that took a friend’s life and the grief-stricken years to follow, to the challenging decisions her husband was faced with every single day and her admiration for him to persevere in tough times. She does a marvelous job “humanizing” the former First Family. The Bush family respected each other and remained committed despite all the negative circumstance and attention surrounding them. They stayed true to themselves and served our country with honor and integrity.

Something that came to mind frequently while reading Spoken from the Heart was a quote from the Book of Esther. When Esther is called to become Queen, her uncle tells her she was called, “…for such a time as this.” I truly believe President Bush was called for his time. He brought with him a beautiful family and a strong, caring, loving and gracious wife.

Laura Bush is a genuine soul who continues work for many of the initiatives she began in the White House. As a fellow lover of books and literacy, she has inspired me to consider where I can lend my hand and support. To share books with others, to encourage education and literacy, to meet authors and enrich our understandings, all of this is a gift to be shared.

What more can I say other than I respect, admire, and appreciate Laura Bush. I thank her for opening up to the world and writing a memoir, despite her preference for privacy. I thank her for her efforts and her faith in the human people to help one another. And I recommend this memoir to anyone who admires the Bush family, enjoys autobiographies and memoirs, or just wants to be inspired to make a difference in their world.

Without a doubt, 5/5 stars.

Happy Reading,


Book #28: LibraryLove May 24, 2010

Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Taylor Kidd

Book description~ Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann traveled together to sacred sites throughout Greece and France. Sue, feeling her years and longing to reconnect with her daughter, struggles to find the wherewithal to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel, that will become her bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and facing her future, grapples with a painful depression.

I’ve recently read a number of novels that flip back and forth from one character, in first person, to the next. It’s an interesting literary choice done EXTREMELY well by authors like Jodi Picoult (think My Sister’s Keeper, House Rules) and Jennifer Weiner (think Little Earthquakes). This book is the first memoir I’ve read where, as the reader, we hear both first-hand accounts of the two main characters. Usually, authors select to write one character in first-person narrative and the rest in third-person.
This memoir tells the story of a very tumultuous time for mother and daughter, Sue & Ann. Both ladies allow us direct access into the eye of their most vulnerable storms. The mother and daughter pair venture on a fantastic trip to Greece and through Europe after Ann’s graduation. We are introduced to Sue who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose, now that her daughter is graduating. Sue feels all alone. Then we are introduced to her daughter, Ann, who is struggling with getting older and finding purpose now that she is graduating and moving on in her life. Dramatic irony- most certainly! 😉 In the beginning, Ann is very silent about her depression. She doesn’t get accepted to the Graduate school she wanted to and is sent into a tailspin to figure out what direction her life should go in.

She eventually decides she has such a passion for writing that she cannot deny. Sue struggles to find the inspiration she needs for her idea to write a novel about bees. I was initially drawn to this book because of my enjoyment of her bestselling novel, The Secret Life of Bees. I saw this was a memoir and was curious to learn about Sue’s impetus behind writing that novel, which was written as a result of this life-changing and inspiring trip Sue took with Ann back in 1998. The parts of this book that I enjoyed the most were about how Sue’s creative process grew so organically, to form one of my all time favorite pieces of southern fiction.

Along their journey through Greece and Europe, Sue and Ann discover a new found appreciation for each other. They confide in each other and draw strength from the other’s struggle.

“At times it seemed beyond weird that we’d lived in the same house during those years- I’d known so little about what she’d struggled with inside. There had been hints- bits of conversation, or the piles of feminist theology books that were suddenly in the house. But mostly I knew her as my mother- the one who stayed up to decorate my Raggedy Ann birthday cake, who helped me pick out my cotillion dress, who taught me how to parallel park. I glimpsed her, for the first time, as a woman, like one of those beautiful Caryatids she’s standing with now,”~ Ann, speaking of her mother, Sue.

“For one elongated minute we sit there and listen to rain pelt the roof. The closeness we discovered in Greece seemed to solidify during the fall. We talked endlessly about the experiences we’d had, pored over our trip photographs, and picked up the conversations we started over there,”~ Sue, speaking of her daughter, Ann.

Unfortunately, I found myself wanting to rush through many of Sue’s chapters because she insisted upon including numerous Greek mythological tangents. I found the self-indulgence unnecessary to the story, lecture-ish and along the lines of a historical textbook, not a memoir. Sue’s writing style in this particular selection didn’t keep my interest as much. It was harder for me to relate to a menopausal woman’s struggles, something I’ve yet to experience, whereas Ann’s story I really enjoyed, as she is closer to my age.  I enjoyed the beautiful imagery of Greece and to hear the development of The Secret Life of Bees’ plotline. It’s also a nice reminder that we should be kinder, sweeter, and more understanding of the silent struggles we, our friends, and our mothers face on a daily basis. It is a good reminder to maybe check in with the women in your life in a different way- refocus conversations to real matters of the heart rather than just getting caught up in the minutiae of daily life. For Ann especially, their trip to Europe was a gift- the opportunity to re-acquaint herself with the person who baked her birthday cakes and sewed her buttons back on…

3/5 stars

28 down, 24 to go!




Author Spotlight:: Laura Bush:: May 7, 2010

Last night I had the privilege of attending Laura Bush’s Author Interview and Q&A at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. Currently on a 22 city book tour, Laura Bush began her journey with a few stops in the DC-area. After book signings in McLean and Arlington, her last stop in Virginia was an interview with journalist Cokie Roberts. On May 6, 2010 at Lisner Auditorium before heading to Dallas to continue her book tour, Mrs. Bush opened up about her story and memories in the public eye.

My aunt and I attended and were able to get signed copies of her memoir, Spoken from the Heart. Regardless of one’s politicial views, it was fascinating to sit in the same room with and listen to the woman who previously served as First Lady of the United States for 8 years. She read an excerpt from her book describing when she met George W. Bush and about their wedding. The audience laughed, applauded, and listened intently to every word. Theirs is truly a story of romance and endurance. Congrats to the Bushes for celebrating 33 years together this year!

Cokie Roberts asked insightful questions that allowed Mrs. Bush to open up candidly. From her family’s suffering in trying to have a large family, to the tragic car accident that took the life of her friend; from her journey as a part of one of America’s most prominent political families to her tireless efforts for causes such as education and literacy, Mrs. Bush was honest, endearing, and engaging. 

I am thrilled I found out about this event when tickets were still available and I started reading her book as soon as I got home. At 432 pages, I don’t know I will get through it in a week to stay on track for this year’s challenge. But I’m very excited to take my time, read it and learn her fascinating story.

Thanks to Laura for founding the Texas Book Festival 15 years ago and the National Book Festival. I can’t imagine a life without books and thank you for sharing a love of reading with all of us. And most of all, thank you for sharing your story.

Happy reading,


(Book review on Spoken from the Heart to follow)