Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

This was one of those series/books that left me satisfied.  You know how some books either end it wrong or stupid or really not at all and you're left with that unsatisfied feeling? Suzanne Collins does not have that effect.  She chose the perfect ending.

I have to say, though, this book was a teensy bit slow-going at first... but I can see how it had to lead one into what was really going to be good at the end.  Also, I couldn't help but make a comparison to a certain vampire series - the oh-woe-is-me girl and two guys who differ greatly in personalities who want her... hmm...  In my last review, I said she should end up with Gale.  I'm so glad she didn't.  The way she and Peeta "warmed back up to each other" at the end was perfect.  Not too mushy, but realistic (according to the story) since she was anti-relationship and not sure who she wanted, anyway.  

Ok, onto the good stuff.  Can you believe she killed Coin?? I kind of saw it coming, but after her little "meeting" with Snow at the end, when he tells her what really happened with the bombs, I knew something had to happen.  I have to say, though, I totally saw Boggs taking the role as leader... up until he DIED! I hate when a movie or book sacrifices key characters... but it only made me wondering who would get it, so it was a nice twist.  I hate that Prim had to die, too, but again, had to happen to make the ending more workable.  I have to admit I was a little disbelieving when I read it... I had to keep rereading to make sure I read it right and that she really was dead, then rushed ahead to see if she magically reappeared.  Finnick's another I wouldn't have minded seeing live till the end, especially with a new baby, but that just made that whole chase even more intense.  I was also seriously beginning to wonder if it would end with Katniss's suicide, leaving behind a her legacy and a better world, but I'm glad Peeta stopped her and that she never really had another chance to succeed.  As I read about her struggling after (and even before) killing Coin, I wondered why the author would make her heroine appear so weak... but then I realized it just added to the reality of her character, having dealt with so much death and tragedy.  Very well done.

What a great bunch of books, so well-written, keeping one turning page after page and then making it near impossible to wait patiently for the next book to see what happens next. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In the Dark Streets Shineth, as told by David McCullough

This was a sweet little Christmas book.  It took me all of 10 minutes (or something like that) to read, but it was really nice.

What I especially liked about this book is the message given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Christmas Eve 1942, right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He spoke of hope and faith and Christ and prayer and God.  He said we have to pull together as a country.  He said we have to rely on this season, the Christmas season, and Christ and our Heavenly Father to get us through this tough time of war and turmoil....words Obama will never utter.  Words he should read and take an example from.  A message our country sorely needs now, more than ever.  We may not be at war with the world in the usual sense of the term, but we're at war with ourselves, in our very own country.  Everyone fighting for the right to be who they are but not being able to do so without "offending" someone else.  A reminder of why we have this country in the first place, why it was fought for time and time again.  A message about values that are all too quickly being forgotten. 

Anywho, that's my opinion, I loved the book.

Let's remember today the people who, once upon a time, fought and died for our freedom.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Oh.  My.  Gosh.

Could this book BE any better?? I think Stephanie Meyers might just have a rival... although I'm sure there are those that would have me hanged for even thinking such nonsense.  lol

If you haven't read this book, READ IT.  But make sure you read the first one, first.  

I knew it! I knew there were people in the Capitol secretly on her side! DUDE! I can't believe Peeta was captured, and why can't this girl just figure out her emotions already?? Gale or Peeta - make up your mind, woman! Who would you have her choose? I can totally relate to her not wanting to have kids to avoid the reaping every year but not at the cost of my own happiness with someone as great as either of them! I'm thinking Gale is the one she should ultimately choose.  Yes, Peeta rocks, but I have to wonder if she REALLY wants him... I don't think so.  If you've read the third one, PLEASE don't give ANYthing away... I have to borrow it from a friend because I'm sure the library won't have it for a while... but I haven't even checked yet, so who knows.

I just love the rebellion and intrigue in this book! I love how intricately woven the little details that make up the plot are and the twists that are clearly there but not fully realized until you get to the end.  Oh, I just love it! I so can't wait to read the next one! I'm just giddy with excitement and impatience!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, by C. W. Gortner

Wow.  Another great book! I really do like historical fiction novels, they really bring what could've happened to life and leave me wanting to learn more about what really DID happen.

Besides the few parts where the author was a little too detailed on the love scenes, he told this story so well.  I kept thinking, first of all, that it had to have been written by a female, but also that it was so much like Michelle Moran's books.  The style, as well as the theme (royalty) was similar and all so fun to read!

The author's note at the end of this book leads one to believe that Catherine de Medici was not a favored queen, or one with happy memories tied to her story, but he writes it so that one can feel her pain, sympathize with her, but still see how others may not have liked her.  The trials she had to face in life and the decisions she had to make - all of which are similar to any woman of royal descent - make me so glad I live in the world as it is today, and that I'm just some nobody living in a free country.  I never knew much about this time when Rome was full of itself in power, and religion was either you're Catholic, or you're a heretic.  To be a queen and to promote tolerance of those of other faiths, is something I am glad I have the pleasure of reading about, and not living.  What a brave woman she was, to face what she did, to strive for power when she had to fight with everything she had to obtain it.  Amazing.

Next I want to learn about Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

I just wanted to tell a little about why I love this book.  I want to see if I can do it in short sentences, while still getting the point across.

  • It's charming.
  • It sounds like something I would write and how I would write it.
  • I can relate to the main character's personality.
  • Some parts are funny, some are romantic, some are wonderfully descriptive.
  • It's a simple, quick, easy read.
  • It goes well with the fall weather.  (Yes, that's when I usually read it.)
  • The story never gets old or boring.
  • Every time I read it, I "feel" it differently.
Love it.  Can't wait to read it again some autumnal season when I'm waiting for another good book to arrive.  :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

All about the three books I've read in the last three weeks...

The Cage, by Ruth Minsky Sender - Another excellent memoir from a Holocaust survivor, always a good category to choose from while waiting for another book in a series to BE RETURNED.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (book 1) - Totally just read this because other people said it was so good.  And it was.  Really good.  Can't wait for whoever has it checked out from my library to RETURN IT SO I CAN HAVE A TURN.

Actually, I don't think there was a third before that... so, there.  I'm caught up.  ;)

I'm currently reading my OH!!! I totally just remembered what the third book was!!! DUDE! How could I forget?

Promise Me, by Richard Paul Evans - You know, I was sort of like, what? As I read this and finished it... truthfully, not one of his best novels.  It was still well-written but the plot was so unlike anything he's written - I guess I'm just holding him to his normally higher standard.  Huh.  Next April will bring another good one, I'm sure!

As I was saying, I'm currently reading my go-to book for Fall, absolutely one of my faves:

One of the greatest books ever.  I'm on my fourth time reading it.  It's basically written as the journal of a 17 year old girl who's family lives in an old ruined castle.  Her father was a famous author at one point but has seemed to lose his fire, her mother is dead, her stepmother is a former model, her sister complains of their situation a lot, her friend is in love with her and then two men come into their lives and change everything... that's all I'm going to tell you because I really think it's an enjoyable book that must be read by everyone.  Go on, read it.  I dare you.  ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

3 books later...

Or was it only two... huh.  Yeah, I don't know but I'm thinking about not doing this blog anymore... I think there are only three followers and I just want to read.  ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

I attempted to read this, only getting through a small section of the second "chapter".  I was left wondering, "Was William Faulkner on drugs when he wrote this??"

I read "The Catcher in the Rye" cover to cover simply to be able to say I've read it.  It's a classic, right? It was the biggest waste of my time.  This book was right up there with it, so I decided not to finish this one.  I was better able to understand it here, but still didn't have the desire to read the whole thing.  It was boring, confusing (due to the author's "technique known as stream of consciousness"), and didn't have much of a plot.  Again, how did this become a classic?? I should seriously write a book and send it to either of these publishers - apparently they're desperate for writers.  ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Heretic Queen, by Michelle Moran

I cannot get enough of this author! I'm so bummed that I've read all of her books already. 

This book happens after the last book I read of hers, being told my Nefertari, the daughter of Mutny, who's point of view was the focus of the last book.  A lot more of this book was fiction, but still based on a lot of historical facts and characters.  The Pharaoh of this story is Ramsses II, husband to Nefertari.  It tells of his reign, Nefertari's love for him and his love for her, the birth of their first two sons, his other wife's jealousy, his famous war in Kadesh and so much more! There's even a touch of mystery linking everything at the end, creating an unforgettable ending.  I'm thinking this one was slightly better than the last two, but not by much.  The web of plots this author weaves is so well-done and creates quite the page-turner.  It's one of those books that causes you to have a love/hate relationship with the ending in that you love how it ends, but hate that it's over.  She paints such a romantic picture of Egypt and its rulers, and writes so well what very well may have happened.  Her knowledge of the time is impeccable, which is made obvious throughout the book. 

I sincerely hope this author comes out with more books as she has become one of my favorites.  I highly recommend all three that I've come across.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nefertiti, by Michelle Moran

More applause for Michelle Moran!

This book is so well-written and so informative all wrapped up in intrigue and just a whole bunch of goodness.  I've not known much about anything Egyptian but have become highly fascinated by it because of these books! The way she portrays their customs and mannerisms is amazing!
When I was a kid, I had the opportunity to visit our local history museum while King Tut was on display... I wish I had known then what I know now, I would've felt a higher reverence for him and his life.  Nefertiti was the Queen to King Tut's father, a heretic king who attempts to overthrow Egypt's god and introduce another for worship.  Nefertiti is brought into the marriage in hopes to quell his desires.  Instead, she builds him up and eventually makes herself Pharoah along with him.  The story is told by Nefertiti's sister, who eventually is entrusted in the raising of King Tut because of his mother dying shortly after giving birth.  It's a story of love, herecy, tragedy, power... and so much more! I really enjoy reading her novels and learning more than a bit about the past.  I highly, highly recommend reading them! In fact, my next book is one she wrote, as well.  Love them!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Finally! For some reason, this book takes me forEVER to read! It's a good book but the language is a little intense.  I love it, though.  I've read it before, but it's been a while.  One thing I note in books from this era that I've read is how the women are so ... I don't even know what word I'd use.  They see something they want, but because of unwritten rules of whatever, society or what-have-you, they hold back.  They keep to themselves and prefer suffering in misery.  I hate that.  I do.  I'm a if-you-want-something-do-what-you-can-to-get-it kind of girl.  None of this suffering in silence garbage.  (lol)  It's good this book ends well, I suppose.  ;) It truly is a book for the romantic at heart, though, so if you're one of those type and haven't read it yet, do. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cleopatra's Daugher, by Michelle Moran

This book was excellent! I am truly surprised I haven't fallen behind on my laundry because it seems all I've been doing is reading this wonderful, very informative book.

I've been fascinated by Cleopatra lately and found this book, thinking it would give me some insight to what things were like during that time period.  I was so right! When I read the back cover and some other notes from the author at the end of the book, she says this book is a work of fiction, but is based on a lot of recorded history about what took place.  Most of the characters, their personalities, the places and events, the food they ate, the way they dressed, and even a map that's included at the beginning are all most accurate depictions of what really happened.  I've decided I really love reading historical fiction... it proves to be very informative as well as capturing the reader's attention and not reading like a history book.

This was a story from the point of view of Cleopatra Selene, Queen Cleopatra's daughter.  It tells of her capture by Octavian, soon to be Emperor of Rome, after he concurred Egypt, her mother and father's suicides, her life in Rome, the friends she makes, her brothers' deaths, her marriage to Juba II, her education as an architect and so many other things that happened during her coming-of-age years.  It's a love story, a story of tragic losses, and definitely a story I will always remember.  I'm definitely going to be checking out some of this author's other books.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Emily's Ghost, by Denise Giardina

This was a fun book to read.  Just nice, really.  I'm a big fan of the Bronte sisters, owning and having read all of their books.  It was nice to read a story of what their lives may have been like.  I wonder, as I read this, how much of it was fact, like certain instances that occurred or certain characters they came in contact with...

Although, like most books of theirs, the ending wasn't as one would hope, a bit of happiness tinged with mostly sadness.  But, it was just nice to lose myself in a time period I would've been most happy in.  I love how these girls wanted love, and not just to be married for money or convenience.  I love their strength in character, how they didn't fit what society deemed "proper" and how they embraced that.  I love how they dared to be individuals.

Like Jane Austen or even Louisa May Alcott, the Bronte's are some of my favorite long-since-gone authors.  To see how each of their individual novels may have been inspired just adds to the general romantic feel of their stories.

It really was just a nice book to read.  (Now I want to read Jane Eyre again!)  :) 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Order now!

Check out RPE's new book coming out this October!

Now we can have something to look forward to EVERY SIX MONTHS from him! He'll be having book two of his new series coming out in April of 2011!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

So, I read a quick paragraph on Wikipedia about this book, and part of it said, " was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.". 


This was by far one of the worst books I have ever read.  Ever.  And I've even read Lord of the Flies.

Wasn't this book supposedly banned once? I can guess why - some of my brain cells jumped ship as I forced my way through it.  They didn't want to add to society's decline in intelligence by exposing its future generations to this book.  Seriously, after reading this, it makes me want to write a book because apparently they'll publish anything these days.

The whole time I was reading it, I kept waiting for this major plot or climax to appear.  The way the author has the guy telling the story talk, it seems like he's always building up to something.  But it never builds up to anything.  Nothing.  It was the most pointless, plotless book I've ever read.

This whole time, this guy who's telling the story, is telling about a period of several days from the point he finds out he's been kicked out of school to the day he decides to go home.  He leaves school, spends a few days in New York, gets drunk a time or two, runs into people he knows, meets up with his sister, then it ends.  That's it.  I'd seriously like to know what the big deal is about this book.  There's swearing all over the place (Normally, I put down a book that has this much swearing without finishing it, but I wanted to say I've read this book.  So not worth it, let me tell ya.), there's a lot of talk about sex but nothing too detailed (thank goodness), and he keeps digressing from the point he's trying to make.  It's funny, he even makes a point to say how the main character likes it when people digress.

If you want waste your time BIG time, read it.  If you want to take my word for it that it's lame, by all means, do yourself a favor and go with this option.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cleopatra, by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema

I know this is a book for young readers but I found it at the library yesterday and decided I wanted to read it.  It's a brief story of the life of Cleopatra, something I've been interested in as of late.  It gave key details, and listed the source the authors obtained most of their information from.

What I found most interesting is that it's not really known how she committed suicide.  I was always under the impression it was done via the bite of an asp, but there's no proof that this is the case.

It was obviously a super quick read but gave me the quick info I was looking for.  (The pictures were great, too! lol)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Swiss Family Robinson, told by Steve Frazee

This is another book that my mother-in-law inherited to us that I've never actually read before in my whole entire life.  I know, can you believe it?

So, I read it today.  And it was good.  Now I want to see the movie.  (I saw it as a kid - I used to think Fritz was a hottie.)


Monday, July 12, 2010

Helen Keller, by George Sullivan

I read this real quick-like today... it was a good quick read.

I've known the story of Helen Keller, like anyone else, but learned something I didn't know from reading this book.  She had a marriage proposal! Her mother got in the way of that, so it never came to fruition, but I didn't know that!

I remember seeing The Miracle Worker performed excellently at my high school and think I may have read a shortish book about her in the past, but found this book in the number of books my mother-in-law inherited to us so I thought I'd kill some time and read it today.

It was good.  ;)

Hannah's List, by Debbie Macomber

I was supposed to be reading a book about Cleopatra, but the way the author chose to write it made it ultra boring and hard to be interested in... SO, I chose this book, instead.

I've read several of Debbie's books before and loved them, so I didn't see why I wouldn't love this one. 

It was ok, not one I loved... but I think it was more of her writing style than anything.  She writes well, don't get me wrong, but it just wasn't what I've been used to lately, I guess.  Too predictable?? Who knows...

I also found the plot maybe a far stretch - as if she's starting to run out of ideas.  It's based upon a man who loses his wife to cancer and after a year, is given a letter from her through her brother.  She tells him to get on with his life and to marry again so he can be the good father she knows he can be... she even goes as far as including a list of women she wants him to date. 

He meets with and dates these women, the third one being the obvious one he'll end up with simply because she made them such opposites to begin with.  The others all end up with the spouses/boyfriends they were with but had seperated from in the beginning. 

It was a simple read, a good one, but not one I loved.  The story line seemed weak or too obvious or I don't know... it just wasn't what I remember reading from her. 

Oh, well, on to the next.  ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Madman, by Tracy Groot

To say this book was good would be a huge understatement.  Good just doesn't cover it.

By the cover, you'd think it was dark.  It had dark parts, but not so dark that I had to put it down.  It was intriguing... interesting... thought-provoking.  It was so well-written, there weren't any dull parts.  Usually in books I read, it seems there are parts where the author feels the need to describe the scenery, or what someone's wearing... this author did this while telling the story so as not to lose the attention of her audience.

This book was not just about a man gone mad, but how he got there, the man who wanted to find out how he got there, the woman that mad fell in love with who happened to be the madman's sister, several scholars who tried logic to help the madman find himself again, the madman's son, the mother of his child who happened to aid in his madness and a very surprising ending that I certainly was not expecting.  Once you get to the end, if you're a Christian, or anyone who knows the Bible at all, there's this moment where you literally find yourself with your jaw hanging open because it all fits together but you never saw it coming and you know exactly what is happening from that point on.  Not that you're ever left wondering what's going on... Though the author weaves a bit of mystery into her story, she artfully brings the pieces together all throughout so everything makes sense.  She doesn't leave her readers hanging till the very end... although, like I said, the ending is completely unexpected.

I'm not going to spoil the ending, because really, if you're a reader, this is totally worth your time.

For anyone who is Christian, finds Greek mythology fascinating, or just wants a very good book to read, I highly recommend this one. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Shadow of Your Smile, by Mary Higgins Clark

I waited for what seemed like forever for my library's copy of this book to finally become available. 

It was well worth the wait, too!

Mary Higgins Clark is the best in my book when it comes to weaving tales of mystery and suspence, who-dunnits and even a smidge of romance.

Her latest was good from the get-go, as usual, with her usual way of adding pieces to the puzzle through her plethora of characters, all well written and thought out.  I love how she makes things seem a little obvious at times, then adds yet another piece to the puzzle and throws you for a loop till the very end when it all comes together and you have the ah-ha moment she intended.

In this novel, she included everything from a nun's beatification to murder, from charity foundations to scandal.  It was definitely a good read and is right up there with all of her other books.  Keep 'em comin', Mary!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The End of Overeating, by David A. Kessler, M.D.

Holy life-changing-book, Batman!

This book took me FOR.EV.ER. to read.  Well, at first, it was sitting at the bottom of a stack of library books for literally weeks while I read all the other books I wanted to read... this was maybe 3 months ago... seriously.  Then, I finally started it.  I think the reason I needed to read this book is the reason it took me so long to start it in the first place and the reason it took me so long to get it read.  Because I knew it would do me some good. 

I have struggled with my weight since about two years after I graduated high school.  I've tried everything from the grapefruit diet to the Atkins diet to any get-slim-quick work-out video I could find.  One thing I've come to realize is the word "diet" is synonymous with failure or temporary or deprivation.  Also, the only thing that will EVER get someone thin and healthy for life is exercise and a healthy way of eating.  I know I have some serious bad habits when it comes to food.  I know it's a weakness for me.  I know it's something I can conquer.  How this would be done was yet out of my grasp.

Until I read this book.

This book has changed the way I look at food and will stick with me for as long as I live.  I hope to obtain my very own copy of it so I can refer to it often.  It's empowering.  It's filled with common sense.  It's easy to relate to and it's easy to read.  The author of this book tells how he, himself, has had the same struggle that millions struggle with and basically recorded his mission in finding out why and how to fix it in this book.  He's included so much information, I had to read a little at a time to really digest it.  But it's information that he made easy to understand and relate to and put into practice in one's own life.

In a nutshell, he talks about how certain combinations of food, the very same combinations the food industry uses against us for their gain, affects the brain the same way cocaine and heroin would.  He talks about how the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle is something many battle but all can overcome.  He provides proof that this is happening inside our heads and why and how we can break this vicious cycle.  It really is an eye-opener.

I feel I can finally accomplish something I've been trying to accomplish for what seems like my whole life.

If you struggle with your weight or even feel food is something that occupies your thoughts more than it should, please do yourself a favor and read this book.  It really will change your life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Walk, by Richard Paul Evans

I read this in 3.5 hours yesterday.  Well, last night, rather.  It was excellent.  (RPE usually is.)

This book is the story about a man, Alan Christoffersen, who has the career of his dreams, the perfect house, expensive cars, and best of all, the love of his life.  Things couldn't be better.  Then the worst happens and he manages to lose it all within a short amount of time.  On the verge of suicide, he hears a voice that tells him that life is not his to take, and he remembers a promise he made to his wife right before she dies to live.  So, he sells everything he can and starts a journey.  He walks, bringing only what he can carry on his back.  Along his path so far, he meets several people who change the way he sees life, people who were put in his path for a reason.  Angry with God, he tries to find it in himself to make sense of what happened.  His journey started in Seattle, Washington and will take him to Key West, Florida.  This is the first of five in a series, so naturally, it just ends, leaving a person hanging... till next April!! I learned a lot from this book, it was truly inspiring and thought provoking.  I love how one of the messages it teaches is that life is full of trials, it's what we do with those trials that defines who we are.  Richard Paul Evans must be a well of wisdom, that's all I can say.  :)

I read this in one evening, if that tells you how good it was, and I'm sure to read it again before the next one comes out.  I would seriously recommend it.  If you've never read RPE, it's worth your time (and money, if you choose to buy it - I would!) (Oh, wait, I already did!). And if you have read RPE before, this book is true to form and will keep you an RPE fan for life, I'm sure.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Life for the Poor, by Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I have never read a book that was so short but took me so long that I enjoyed so much.  I think it took me so long because as I read it, I tried to absorb what I was reading in attempt to make it part of myself.  In reality, it's only 107 pages long, so it could possibly be a quick read for somebody.

I never knew much about Mother Teresa, other than probably what the rest of the world knows about her.  After reading this book, I have half a mind to model my life after hers.  She truly was a wonderful, most unselfish, spiritual person.  The things she did for so many people and her beliefs are so incredible! As I read this, my mind began to grasp what it truly means to be Christ-like.  This woman was such an example of Christian behavior.  She truly believed that the things she was doing to and for others, she was doing to and for Jesus Christ.  She often quoted the scripture that says "If ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  She had such a clear perception on what true poverty is, what true hunger is.  She encourages us all to help the poor around us, first in our homes, then in our neighborhoods, and so on.  She says the worst disease on earth is that of loneliness, feeling unwanted, feeling unloved and teaches how we as God's children can cure this disease by reaching out to those around us.  Her mission, her life, was devoted to helping people come to the realization that God loves them, that they are His children.  She never asked for money.  She had such great faith that if the Lord wanted it done, He would provide, and He always did.  So many people have welcomed her and her "co-workers" into their lives and their countries and provided so much for her work.  She has been joined so willingly by so many "sisters" who have the desire to serve and live their lives as she does, as the poor does.  She literally gave up everything she had for this sacred calling.  Other religions and non-Christians have helped her work progress.  It was amazing to read her story, her thoughts, her firm beliefs, and to be influenced by such greatness.

I've never had a hero before, but I do believe I have found one in Mother Teresa. 

***Now I can FINALLY start my new RPE book!***

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Seven more days...

So, I got my RPE book in the mail a couple weeks ago BUT I HAVEN'T READ IT YET. 

My darling husband said I had to wait till my bday.  Which is fine because I generally don't get much for my birthday so I'm keeping it as an extra special birthday treat.  I'll start it right after I eat half of my Tres Leche cake.  YUMMMMM.

I did, however, take it out of the package and look at it and take a picture of it as sort of a teaser: 


I could always start reading it and just keep it in the opened package so my husband thinks I'm still waiting.... ha ha!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Hands Came Away Red, by Lisa McKay

This was an amazing book, I'm sad it's fiction.

Six Christian teenagers find themselves on the same team for a mission trip to Seram, Indonesia to build a church for a small village on the island.  After a week of being there, a holy war breaks out among the Muslims and the Christians.  The teenagers witness as the pastor and his wife are killed from the hidden safety of the jungle.  Along with the pastor's two children, they hike with what food and goods they can carry for two weeks through the jungle, facing malaria, hunger, massive fatigue, animal attacks, a voyage to another island resulting in a shipwreck and near drowning, among other things.  Their faith is tested as they see the horrors of war and escape near execution themselves in a Muslim village.  When they're finally rescued by the very same army that is causing some of the chaos and death and taken back home, they use the photos they took and the interviews they performed and notes they kept as well as their haunting story to let the world know what is happening in an attempt to stop the terrifying acts of inhumanity.  They build bonds that nothing can break and begin the journey to healing by the end of this captivating tale.  I couldn't put it down once I began.  I can't imagine what it would be like to face such trials... the author definitely did her research when she put this story together.  The details she relays sound so real it's almost like she got them from real survivors who had to face something like this.  It was a wonderful book and I recommend it highly.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tomorrow just rocks!

Not only is tomorrow my daughter's birthday, but it's the day that RICHARD PAUL EVANS' NEW BOOK IS BEING RELEASED!!!

Ahem.  I'm better now.  ;)

(I pre-ordered mine from, did you?)

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This was a charming book, to say the least.  It takes place shortly after WWII on a Channel Island named Guernsey.  Well, most of the story takes place there, anyway.  The whole book is basically letters sent back and forth between the characters, which tells the story of a young author discovering the island and it's people.  She falls in love with the island and the people on it and ends up marrying one of them.  (That's the shortest review EVER, I think.) I'd buy this book, it was such a joy to read! The story itself is simple and talks of the effect the war had on the island and it's people.  The characters are so well portrayed that I felt I was getting to know them myself, or was the main character herself, experiencing the beauty of life and coming to love these simply islanders.  The story wasn't one of suspense or a heady romance, but I found myself not wanting it to end, just the same.  I would definitely read it again and hope it crosses my path again in the future.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Unraveled, by Maria Housden

I finished this yesterday, but due to a new goal, I had to wait till today to post my review.

This was a hard book for me to read.  I wrote out a review for it yesterday while my thoughts were still in my head, but even now, I find myself abandoning even those thoughts to record new ones. 

First, what the book was about.  Maria Housden writes a memoir, basically, telling of her choice to abandon her role as a stay-at-home mom while turning over full custody of her kids to her husband.  She faces objection from her friends and eventually loses them all when she decides to move across the country from her kids to live with the man she had an affair with.  Her path is one of self-discovery, of being honest about who she is and what she wants out of life.  That, in a nutshell, is what the book was about.

Now, my thoughts.  A quick disclaimer, though.  If you're easily offended by other's opinions, read no further.  If you can appreciate my opinion for what it is while still standing firm in your own, by all means, keep reading.  I'm a stay-at-home mom.  I chose this.  I'm a firm believer that if you're going to have children, you should be the one to raise them.  I do my best to not condemn the choices of others when they go against my own beliefs.  This is hard for me, I'm very opinionated.  If anything, I pity this woman.  It almost sounds as if she has to keep re-convincing herself that she's done the right thing, that adultery isn't bad (ha), and that by doing what she's doing, she's becoming closer to God.  I cannot judge someone's relationship with the Almighty, nor is it my place to judge her for her decisions, hard as they may have been.  Her marriage was falling apart, and from the things she says her husband said, I can imagine why.  So, they get a divorce, which is hard enough for children.  But children need their mother.  She had them every other weekend, and during the summer.  She wasn't there for several milestones of their life.  She claims that her decision to be selfish (my way of putting it) and "live a simpler life" was for the benefit of not only her, but for her children as well.  I think she's been diluted in to thinking these things.

As far as the book goes, it was well-written, portrayed her thoughts well, and kept me turning pages till the very end.  It's a book that I'm sure many modern women can relate to.  I'm a modern mother, yet I cling to old fashioned ideas.  In reading this book, I've learned that I really do choose this (being a mother).  I truly appreciate her example in being honest with oneself and being "unapologetically" who you really are instead of trying to please others and fitting the mold other people think you should fit.  I am grateful to have read this book for this very reason.  I've been insecure as a mother, to say the least, but this book helped me realize that I can be my own version of what I think a good mother is, that I don't need to compare myself to others or be the kind of mother others think I should be.  I think it's very important for mothers to take time for themselves in order to preserve who they are as a person, but I think she should also be committed to her children.  My own mom always told me you need to feel 100% if you're to have anything to give to anyone else.  Being a full time mom is a selfless job, but that doesn't mean you have to keep yourself on the back burner or abandon it altogether to "find yourself".  I know who I am, and I'm grateful for that.  I'm a mother.  I chose this.  I'm going to be there for my children until they don't need me anymore.  I choose to be here when they get home from school.  I choose to be the one to teach them their first words, see them take their first step, and be the last one they see at night when they go to bed.  But, that doesn't mean I don't do things for myself or that interest me.  I'm going to make sure my life is what I choose it to be and that I'm always honest with myself and others and be true to who I am.  I'm thinking that was more for me than for you.  ;)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hannah's Gift, by Maria Housden

Maria Housden tells the story of the short but profound life of her daughter, Hannah, who dies at the age of three after battling cancer for about a year.  She tells of her daughter's sweet example of faith and the happiness that can come from the simple things in life.  Her daughter's brief but significant time on this earth touched the lives of so many and continued to touch lives after her death.  She talks of her grief and of coming to terms with it.  She talks about the struggles in her marriage, of her thoughts on ending her own life, of the affect it had on her son, her beliefs as a Christian and the questioning of those beliefs.  She talks of her struggles with miscarriages and her role as a mother and all the imperfections and insecurities that come with one of the most challenging paths a woman can take.  In the end, she's able to accept life for what it is, do what she can with what she has and knows, and realizes her potential as a person.

This book, along with the other book on losing a loved one I've read, was foreign to me.  I've only lost one grandparent my whole life.  I, too, have had a miscarriage, but my own religious beliefs were a great comfort to me during both of these losses.  Maria questions a lot of things that I feel I have the answers too.  I don't know how I'd react to my own child's death after watching her (or him) suffer for a year.  This little girl was amazing.  She's said to have only been barely three when she dies, yet she talks like she's much older.  She (I believe) must've had a strong connection with "the other side", as she knew she was going to die, but knew she was going to live with God and was actually excited about that.  Knowing what I know, I have to wonder if I would have the same struggles with grief as this woman did.  I would hope not, but then again, I'm only human.  (And Heaven forbid I should ever find out first hand!) I have to admit, though, I was really growing tired of hearing about her daughter and how she was reminded of her in everything and wanted her to be a part of her "new life".  I wanted to say, "Get over it already."  But, having never been through that, I know that my ignorance of the matter is what is fueling those words, so please don't be offended if you've suffered a loss and know what she's going through.  I don't and hope to never know. 

This book and the last book I read talked a lot of breaking out of one's shell, embracing the unknown - about the world and about oneself.  They both talk of daring to break free of the stereotype we, as women, are expected to fulfill.  I found this author from an article I read online about mothers who willingly turn custody of their children over to their ex's after a divorce.  Her next book I'm going to start today is about that journey.  I'm anxious to see her point of view on the matter, as I'm very old fashioned in that I strongly believe the mother should be at home with her kids as God intended it to be.  Though, I can't help but read these things and wonder, "What if...?".

I've been finding quotes in a few of these books that I like to make a note of, quotes that might as well be coming from me.  Here are some from this book:

"Truth is fierce and unrelenting.... When we are willing to do the best we can with what we know, to be honest with ourselves and others about who we are and what really matters to us, only then are the lives we live and the love we receive truly our own."

"There was a part of me, I realized, that was overly critical of everything, that wanted to teach people, especially my children, about the "right" way to do things."

"I longed to bring the same attention to the busy-ness in my every day, to do something simply for the joy of doing it, without worrying whether people noticed or liked it."

"If I was serious about living life more fully, I was going to have to let go of my need for everything, including myself and others, to be perfect."

"I also knew that I had to start living my life.... I no longer felt willing for life to continue on without me."

This was a very good book, a quick read, and something that I think those who have lost a loved one would love to relate to.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Girl in a Blue Dress, by Gaynor Arnold

I love writing book reviews but I find it particularly taxing when the book invoked so many feelings and thoughts that I can't seem to keep them all straight, let alone remember them.  I had to take notes as I was reading it! I apologize if my thoughts are scattered and confusing.

On the cover of this book, it says "A Novel Inspired by the Life & Marriage of Charles Dickens".  Before the story begins, there is a note by the author.  She says that this is a work of fiction, that she's added conversations, characters, places and events that she has added of her own accord.  This makes me wonder what was real about her story, how much of it was what she got from learning of Charles Dickens and his marriage.  If I were to go by the gist of this story, I'd say Charles Dickens is not a man I would like. 

The story is told by the main character, Mrs. Dorothy Gibson, estranged wife of the famous author Alfred Gibson.  It's the time of her husband's funeral and she has not been invited.  She goes back through her memories of being wooed and courted by this man, and how her parents were against them getting married but she does it anyway.  As the years go by, she bears one child after another, totalling eight, yet her husband's affections towards her become less and less.  She has fits of jealousy, understandably so, as her husband has always been drawn to and is flirtatious with the younger of her sex.  After she loses her last child to death, her husband sends her away to a spa in hopes of her regaining her health.  But when she returns, she finds she is not needed and finds her husband has moved out of their bedroom.  She believes he's having an affair with her sister, who's basically taken over as mistress of the house and he denies it and says he feels they should live apart because their marriage has failed.  So she moves out.  He blames her for this.  He publishes a notice in the paper stating that it's her fault, that she was an unfit mother and a bad wife.  She then learns gradually of a young actress he's shown particular interest in and puts the pieces together in her mind.  After 10 years of banishment, her husband dies.  The will is read and she receives less than this actress, even though technically she is still his wife.  She now learns that her children were told they could contact her, but would never be welcome in their father's home again if they did so, which is why she never heard from them over the 10 years.  She faces the mistress, who claims she was a victim of her husband's influence, which, after getting to know his character, one can easily believe.  She also claims there was never any physical relationship between them, but that they did love each other.  Dorothy meets the Queen and finds they have much in common.  She ventures out into the world after 10 years of seclusion and finds she has the will to live, to be herself, to rely on her own intelligence and abilities.

I do not do this book justice, there is simply too much to tell.  If you want to know the whole story, you must read it yourself.  I highly recommend it.  What I can tell you, are the feelings it brought to mind while reading it.  How unfair to be treated the way she was.  She finds in the end he never really loved her, that she was basically a rebound from his last failed relationship, yet he stuck with her to "do his duty".  She was made to look like she was not right in her mind because of the lies he told people, lies he came to believe were true in his own mind.  Even her children were more or less forced to stay away from her because of the things their father said.  She had to go 10 years alone, without contact of her friends, save one, and all of her children, all because of her husband, who always blamed her and said she was at fault.  She's stuck all this time in a marriage that she is the only one willing to fight for.  She sticks by him and always is made to feel like she's the one in err when she questions him about the young ladies he flirts with.  Everyone thinks he is so great, but in the end, after he dies, they all come forth to voice how they saw his faults, too, and that they felt bad for her and that he treated her wrongly.  I don't like how she's made to question her own part in this tragedy of a marriage, how she wonders if it really was her fault, if she really had gone mad, all because of how good this man was at twisting words.  I love how she faces the mistress.  I have to wonder, though, being in that situation, who would I be more angry with? The mistress? Or my loser husband? I'd say loser husband.  What I find really interesting, is how, even in the end, after going over everything he's done to her and how miserable she was, she never denies her love for him.  Wow.  The author says at the beginning that Charles Dickens wife wanted all of his letters to her kept to prove to the world that he really did love her once. 

If you want to read a story that makes you feel things and see things differently, or even help you realize things about yourself, as it has for me, I say read it.  It's a very good book.

My favorite quote, that sums up what I got out of it:  "Is it so singularly amusing for a woman to have ideas of her own? To wish to be a person as well as a mother?"  All too often I feel like that.  She was talking with the Queen in part of this book and it said something along the lines of a woman is basically stripped of herself when she becomes a wife and mother, that we live for the man and the children and not for ourselves.  I say we have to live for ourselves first, if we are to have anything to even offer those we love most.  How sad that this woman bore so much grief before her husband died, and only upon his death realized that she was capable of happiness without him.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This saddle sure is slippery

I think I've hit an all time record for myself in the slacking department as far as reading goes.  I've started the book I'm reading (on the right) and read it once in a while, but just don't sit and read like I've done in the past.  But I think I've overcoming this slump... I've gotten the itch again and will hopefully be scratching very soon.  I have a list of books from the library that I've checked out and even another on hold, so I best get reading, right? :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

I've started reading again... was in a funk for a while.  Well, a person does need to do other things...

Anyway, I've started this book... which, so far, is very interesting.  I attached the link so you could see what it's about.  I like how the main character goes back and forth between the present and her past memories that lead up to the events now taking place in her life.  I have to wonder how much of it is true to form as far as what really happened between Dickens and his wife... guess I'd have to learn more about Dickens to find out, huh?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Might As Well Laugh About It Now, by Marie Osmond

Never did I ever think I'd read a book written by Marie Osmond.  It's not that I don't like her, I just never really knew much about her other than who she is.  I never thought I'd be interested in her life, but, then again, I never knew much about her life.  When I think of the name Osmond, I think of the classic Christmas album my dad would play for us every year and my sister and I doing our dance routine (cartwheels included) to "Sleigh Ride".  (Good times.)

My mother-in-law called me one day and told me I had to read this book.  So, I got it from the library and it sat on my shelf, patiently waiting it's turn.  This is a book I'll never regret reading.  I loved it! After reading it, I felt like I was able to sit down with Marie, herself, and have her tell me this story from her own mouth.  It's a compilation of her memories of life growing up as an entertainer, being the daughter of her wonderful parents, the sister to her awesome brothers, the mother to her amazing children, the wife of not one, but two different husbands.  She talks about her divorces, a house fire that devoured her memories and journals and things handed down to her from her mother when she passed away, issues with her weight and therefore her perception of herself, traveling, her career.  She shares lessons learned from other people, sharing moments of triumph and defeat with friends and family, and even laughs about fainting on national television.  She talks about her charity work, her doll collections and all the while keeping her faith and focus on what's most important.

I learned so much about her, about life, love, and happiness, about not sweating the small things, about determination, and about being human and accepting yourself.  She always remembered to laugh!

This book had me laughing, tearing up, sympathizing, and determining to see my life differently.  If you are a fan of Marie or just want an uplifting book to read and make you feel good, I recommend reading this one! 

Check it out HERE!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

I love Holocaust books, if you couldn't tell, but this is the first fiction one I read... and I have to say, I'm so glad it's fiction.

This book is from the point of view of a nine year old little boy who happens to be the son of a Nazi Commandant.  They move from their house and life in Berlin to live in a place he knows as "Out-with".  He's incredibly bored to begin with and can't understand the purpose of the large fenced area he can see outside his bedroom where all are men or boys and wearing the same striped pajamas.  It's so interesting to see, from what a child's point of view would be, the things that really did happen.  One day, he ends up walking along the fence and finds a boy who soon becomes his best friend.  Everyday they meet and talk but are always seperated by the fence.  They compare their lives and the things they like and don't like and soon find they actually have a lot in common when it comes to not liking where they live and things that go on in their lives.  Well, one day the german boy's mother decides she's had enough of the place and wants to go back home to Berlin.  So, as a final goodbye, they german boy dresses in some striped pajamas his friend acquired for him and crawls under the fence to have "an exploration" and some time to play with his friend whom he will greatly miss.  After over an hour of exploring, the german boy (who's name is Bruno, by the way) decides he better be getting back home.  At that moment, soldiers start rounding up hundreds of people in the area they're standing in and marching them.  Bruno doesn't like this but is trapped in the middle of this crowd.  They are then marched into a building where it is so crammed no one can hardly move.  He tells his friend (who's name is Shmuel) that he's his best friend for life, and holds his hand, not knowing what's about to happen next.  The story ends with one more chapter saying Bruno was never heard from again.

Having read many books on this subject before, it's sad to realize what happened to him, how he was marched into a gas chamber and, of course, the rest is history.  Bruno never knows what was going on in the camp, or that it was even a camp for prisoners.  He's envious of Shmuel because, from his point of view, he has lots of friends to play with, where he has none.  He sees and dislikes the soldiers that come in and out of his house.  He definitely doesn't like being in the camp once he's there, and even feels fear seeing the things he sees there.  He doesn't understand that "the Fury" who came to dinner and gave his father this important job at "Out-with" is Hitler, nor does he know why his mother doesn't like him or his grandmother, for that matter.  The innocence of a child is greatly portrayed in this touching story, and it opened my eyes to yet another point of view of this horrific time in history.

Reading this, I'd like to find a book from a Nazi's point of view, or even a german's point of view who went along with all of this to avoid death themselves. 

I can't tell you why I'm so fascinated with this, but I am just the same.  This book was definitely a good one, and, even though it's fiction, still gives an accurate account of what happened to so many people.  I love that it was from the view of a child, of innocence.  It was written well and reads quickly.  If you're interested in the Holocaust, this is definitely one I'd add to your mind's library.

For a different review and perspective, click the link above or here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My, oh, my! Christmas in April!

April 6, that is!!!

Richard Paul Evans is releasing his newest book, The Walk, this April 6th and I am just giddy! Usually, we RPE fans have to wait till October, give or take... but not this year, baby! Woohoo!

Check it out, here.  You can even read the first chapter.  And what's even more exciting, is that's it's the first of a series.  That is just so fantastically awesome!

Ahem.  Now back to life.  ;)

You've probably noticed...

I sort of abandoned the idea of finishing The Worst Hard Time.... it was due back at the library, anyway. 

It wasn't that it wasn't good, it truly was, I just got to reading other books and the zest for what happened next just left me. 

If you didn't know, it's about the Great American Dust Bowl, something I didn't care to learn about in school when I had the opportunity.  This book is a great way to learn about it because not only does it give the facts, it gives real people's perspective on what happened and how it affected them.  What I did read was so very shocking.  The way people basically robbed the land of all it's goodness then wondered why the severe dust storms were happening just blows me away.  Some of the dust storms started in OK and KS and blew as far as New York and even out to ships 400 yards into the sea.  Amazing, really.  What also baffled my brain is how this country suffered.  What it all boiled down to was someone was too greedy to lower their prices until no one had money to spend and all suffered greatly.  I fear that's where this country is headed even now, but to those who are prepared, no worries, I guess.  I found it interesting that banks took people's savings money and invested it, losing it all, of course, in the stock market crash.  It really was the worst hard time for America... a time I see us heading into again, if things don't start changing for the better.  *sigh*

One thing's for sure, my family and I are going to get some food into storage, money in our own safe keeping, and stay close to the Lord.  I don't want to be unprepared, that's for sure.

It's a very fascinating book... I hope no one uses the fact that I didn't finish against it.  In fact, now that I'm typing this, I'm going to put it on my list to re-check out and finish, because it really was a good read.  It didn't read like a history book, as it was the story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl. 

My mom used to say that those who don't learn their history are doomed to repeat it... this book is something we all should learn from, in my opinion.

On to the next!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

This book was nothing short of amazing.  I loved it so much, I'm going to obtain my very own copy - and I don't do that with just any book.  I'm a library girl unless the book is RPE or something worth reading more than once.  This is definitely one of those books. 

As a Christian myself, this book meant a lot to me.  I have read several Holocaust survivor books before, but none of them came close to this one.  Yes, they were sad and it's unimaginable that someone could be filled with such hate and do such horrific things to other humans and it's beyond incredible that someone could actually survive that, but this woman and her family, her sister, especially, gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "triumphing over evil".  The most recent survivor book I read, the man turned his back on God.  This woman's faith and the faith of her family is so awesome.  She managed to see the smallest and sometimes most ugly things as blessings.  I'd like to think I have the ability to see the good in the bad, but going through what this woman and so many others went through, I wonder if I would still be able to come out of it with as strong a spirit? This woman did, and so much more did she accomplish in her life, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all.

Corrie ten Boom's story takes place in Haarlam, Holland, where she and her family live and own/run a watch/clock repair shop.  As the germans start to take over parts of Europe, including her part, she finds herself becoming the hub of an underground operation aiding the flight and hiding of many Jews.  She and her family have a special love for God's "chosen people" and have no hesitation in doing this great and dangerous work.  After a while, they're found out and are arrested.  She goes from prison to prison, somehow never being seperated from her sister, and finally ends up in a concentration camp.  She experiences the direst of circumstances but meets and befriends many along the way while sharing the word of God.  The miracles she encounters and the prayers she's been answered can only strengthen one's testimony that God's hand truly is in all things.  Even when Corrie fails to see Divine intervention (which was rare), her sister never fails to remind her.  I loved how things weren't so much a matter of faith with them, but a matter of fact.  It truly is an inspirational book and will stick with you and perhaps even strengthen your own spirit while giving you a strong dose of perspective.

If you haven't read it, do.  It's worth it.  You'll not regret it, I promise.