The Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Good morning! I don't have a whole lot to update today. I am sad today because it is the end of a long weekend and I have to go back to worrrkkk tomorrow. =( Well, technically I'm working today too, doing my counseling internship, but that's different.

I didn't read as much this Thanksgiving weekend as I thought I would. Or rather, I did read, but it took me longer to finish the book I was on than I anticipated. I finished reading The Help last night and definitely enjoyed it, thought it roused some passionate feelings in me about race, prejudice, ignorance, and hypocrisy. I'll review that later! Today I'm focusing on work but am reading The Hunger Games... finally, right?

Also, in the near future, you'll be seeing reviews of some therapy and psychological books. There are many of these (non-fiction) books I've been wanting to read for a while for various reasons and have yet to get around to them. But now that I'm actually doing therapy and have thought of a couple I think would be good to go over with clients, I'm realizing I should have started reading them earlier, lol! I think these books will help me grow both personally and professionally too. There's this one theorist one of my teachers raves about, and I just realized the other day that one of fiction books on my TBR is by this author. In fact, it's one I put on my Fall Into Reading Challenge to read (though I've hardly done that at all, haha). So, anyway, I thought that was interesting.

That's it though. Everyone have a great week!

Bronte Challenge

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm joining the All About the Brontes Challenge hosted by Laura of Laura's Reviews
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is what I generally consider my favorite book, but it is the only one of the suggested books I have read. I've been wanting to read Jane Eyre since I read part of it in high school but never did read the entire thing... ;)

Challenge Details

1. The All About the Brontes challenge will run from January 1st to June 30, 2010. You can post a review before this date if you wish.

2. You can read a book, watch a movie, listen to an audiobook, anything Bronte related that you would like. Reading, watching, or listening to a favorite Bronte related item again for the second, third, or more time is also allowed.

3. The goal will be to read, watch, listen, to 3 to 6 (or beyond) anything Bronte items.

4. Please sign-up by posting your blog entry on the number of items and what items you would like to do for this challenge below in Mr. Linky (Don't just post your blog's URL). Don't worry, you can do different things than you have listed. I myself am not always good at sticking to lists!

5. On January 1st (or slightly before), I will have a post on this blog where reviews of each Bronte item can be linked in.

What Bronte items can you read/watch/listen to? There are plenty! Here are a few suggestions.

The Original Works
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
Villette by Charlotte Bronte*
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte*
The Professor by Charlotte Bronte*
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte*
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte*
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
Juvenilia by Charlotte Bronte
-The Secret
-Mina Laury
-Orgins of Angria
-Marian vs. Zenobia
-Mina Laury

Biographical Works/Literary Criticism
The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell*
Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life by Lyndall Gordon*
The Art of the Brontes by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars
Selected Letters of Charlotte Bronte edited by Margaret Smith
Charlotte Bronte: A Writer's Life by Rebecca Fraser
Charlotte Bronte: Unquiet Soul by Margot Peters
Bronte by Glyn Hughes
The Three Brontes by May Sinclair
The Brontes by Juliet Barker
The Brontes: A Beginner's Guide by Steve Eddy*
The Oxford Companion to the Brontes by Christine Alexander
The Bronte Myth by Lucasta Miller
In the Footsteps of the Brontes by Ellis Chadwick
Spin-offs/Modern Reworkings/Brontes as Fictional Characters/Etc.
Emma Brown: A Novel from the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Bronte by Clare Boylan*
The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford*
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman*
Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Bronte Sisters by Denise Giardina
Jane Eyre's Daughter by Elizabeth Newark
Jane Airhead by Kay Woodward
Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke
The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan
The Heights by Brian James
Becoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte by Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (an original work inspired by Jane Eyre)*
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier (an original work inspired by Wuthering Heights)*
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (definitely a gothic tale in the vein of Jane Eyre)*
The Brontes went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
Coldwater by Mardi Mcconnochie*
Being Emily by Anne Donovan
The Crimes of Charlotte Bronte by James Tully*
Heathcliff: The Return to Wuthering Heights by Lin Haire-Sargeant
Thornfield Hall: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant
Return to Wuthering Heights by Anna L'Estrange*
Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn
6. Enjoy!

Friday's Book to Movie: Precious

Friday, November 27, 2009

Before you read this review, make sure you read my review of the book Push, on which this movie is based, for both the summary and my thoughts on the book.

The book had me feeling somewhat, though not completely, let down after all the hype. It was good, and a difficult read, but not absolutely amazing like I'd hoped.

Oprah, who interviewed the actress who played the main character, said about Precious "It is a raw movie that will leave you breathless and crack you open". And I have to say that's a good summation of this movie.

Whether it was a low-budget movie or was filmed in such a manner to reflect the main character's lot in life, this is not full of glitz or glamour. Just like the book, it is a very difficult movie to watch, and for this reason, I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. It is a story about this character and the abuse she endures. The film conveyed the abuse artistically. The sexual abuse was conveyed in only a couple ways but it got the point across. The physical and emotional abuse was more prominent in the movie and this was horrid. Another artful aspect was the manner in which the movie showed Precious "escape" while being abused; fantasy scenes, such as her being rich and famous and on tv would replace some scenes where we knew she was being abused. Mo'Nique plays the abusive mother, and wow... her character is so hateful! It was hard to imagine that she was this other person/celebrity that we know her as. But that means she did a great job as well. The main actress, Gabourey Sidibe, is new to the acting scene but
she was great. Mariah Carey plays the social worker and I have to say, I thought she did well too.

Precious followed the book almost exactly too, so that was nice to see. The small parts they did change were completely understandable and were done to enhance the movie. This was a movie where the entire theater laughed in parts, gasped in other parts, and definitely cried during parts. So, while the movie/storyline hit me the same as the book did -- being just alright -- I do have to say the movie was a good adaptation of the book and the actors were great.

Throwback Thursday

Thursday, November 26, 2009

**For those of you who do Throwback Thursday, if you could, please re-save the image you use as I have updated them with my new url. Thanks!!**

Throwback Thursday – this is a weekly event hosted by me! It is the time each week to recognize those older books… an older book you’ve always wanted to read, or one that you have read and love; maybe one from your childhood; or review an older book -- how about even a classic! Leave a comment here and feel free to take an icon and use it on your blog!

This week's throwback is:

Jemima J by Jane Green

From Publishers Weekly:
Yet another take on the singles scene, and from yet another British writer, this jaunty novel has one slightly new focus--the Internet as a dating device. "Bored, fat and unhappy" Jemima Jones is a hack writer on a small London paper, whose weight precludes both promotion (which she richly deserves, because she's smart) and getting together with the man of her dreams: kind, modest and gorgeous reporter Ben Williams. The Web opens a new world to Jemima, and when she begins an online correspondence with L.A. gym owner Brad, identifying herself as JJ, her friend Geraldine encourages her to send Brad a doctored photo of what she would look like if she were thin. Jemima joins a gym, goes on a diet and even becomes a blonde, preparing to accept Brad's invitation to come to L.A. Lucky JJ: Brad turns out to be a hunk, and the sex is great... but JJ senses that something is wrong. Meanwhile, Ben has become a celebrity "presenter" on British TV, but while the whole country goes gaga over his looks, he too feels that something is missing. By the time several coincidences produce a dreams-come-true ending, readers are fond of plucky Jemima, but somewhat tired out by her adventures. Green's determination to provide texture results in too many scenes that brim with London and L.A. local color, but fail to add verve to the narrative. Outside of Geraldine, who, surprisingly, is both beautiful and a true friend, the other characters tend to be stereotypes: Jemima's roommates, airheads on the make; the predatory female TV producer; the editor who offers Jemima a promotion once she is blonde and svelte. Though the concept is clever and nicely handled, the broad humor lacks true comic brio. (As the online initiated would say: it's not LOL.) Green does, however, capture the nuances and neuroses of the singles scene with a gimlet eye and an uninhibited voice. A bestseller in England, the book should also hook female readers here as they relate to Green's frank comments about body size and social acceptability.

I first read this book in college and loved it! In fact, it was one of my first forays into chick lit. I'm a little iffy with the other books by this author mainly because of her style. Her books are good but, for me, the writing style is different. Love this book though!

Waiting on Wednesday

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
Release date: February 2, 2010

Here is the most telling fact: you wish to possess me. Here is another fact: I loved you and let you think you could. When Irene America discovers that her husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, as much the truth about her life and her marriage as the Red Diary - hidden where he can find it - is a manipulative farce. Alternating between these two records, complemented by unflinching third-person narration, "Shadow Tag" is an eerily gripping read. When the novel opens, Irene is resuming work on her doctoral thesis about George Catlin, the nineteenth century painter whose Native American subjects often regarded his portraits with suspicious wonder. Gil, who gained notoriety as an artist through his emotionally revealing portraits of his wife - work that is adoring, sensual, and humiliating, even shocking - realises that his fear of losing Irene may force him to create the defining work of his career. Meanwhile, Irene and Gil fight to keep up appearances for their three children: fourteen-year-old genius Florian, who escapes his family's unravelling with joints and a stolen bottle of wine; Riel, their only daughter, an eleven-year-old feverishly planning to preserve her family, no matter what disaster strikes; and, sweet kindergartener Stoney, who was born, his parents come to realise, at the beginning of the end. As her home increasingly becomes a place of violence and secrets, and she drifts into alcoholism, Irene moves to end her marriage. But her attachment to Gil is filled with shadowy need and delicious ironies. In brilliantly controlled prose, "Shadow Tag" fearlessly explores the complex nature of love, the fluid boundaries of identity, and one family's struggle for survival and redemption.

Sounds intriguing!

When She Flew

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is my first book by Jennie Shortridge, though she has written a total of 4 and I've heard wonderful things about her other books. While When She Flew didn't blow me away, it was a nice read and good story.

When She Flew, a fictional story based on true events, is told in alternating narratives by two of the main characters. The third person narrative is used to tell the story from the viewpoint of Officer Jessica Villareal. A divorced woman in her late 30's, with a sadly distant relationship with her daughter and grandson, "Jess" devotes herself to her work as a police officer.

The second narrative is that of the child, Lindy, and is told in first person. Lindy has a fascination with birds, and one day while observing a blue heron in the woods where she lives, she is observed by a fellow bird watcher. Up until that point, Lindy had been living with her father, an Iraq war vet, who saved her from the care of her unstable mother, in the woods. The bird watcher reports the girl and the police start a search to find the child in the woods.

Officer Villareal joins in on the search and helps find the father and child. The officials decide the father and child should be separated so the child, Lindy, can be provided with safe shelter in a foster home. But Officer Villareal is then touched by the love she sees between the father and child so she takes matters into her own hands, breaks the rules, all to stand up for what she believes is best. What follows is the story of what Villareal does and the subsequent consequences.

The writing was, in general, engaging. For the first 100 pages, I wasn't sure if I'd really get into the story, but around that point I became hooked and wanted to read more. I definitely liked the first person narration of the young girl better of the two; hers seemed more genuine and less forced. The situation the characters found themselves in was intriguing, but I was somewhat disappointed with the ending. It wasn't bad, but it just seemed anti-climactic.

What I believe the author aimed for is a story about two different "women" (one woman and one girl) and how they each "flew" and took on a challenge or experienced something different. In that sense, the author accomplished her task and provided good female role models. I do think I would have liked the book better if the first part was shorter and the story lasted longer on the end and included a little more. But, in all, it was an enjoyable read that touched on some serious topics that may induce some interesting, and possibly heated, book club discussions!

*educational sidenote on the child welfare system*
I did want to add, however, that there were a couple things I found very inaccurate. I don't think it took away from the story, but as a professional in the field of child abuse, I tend to be sensitive about inaccuracies of the system. Now, keep in mind I only really know how Florida works, but if other states do, in fact, do these things, then they are waaaaaay behind the times.

For one, children do not arbitrarily have physical exams done (down there) to prove whether or not they've been sexually abused. How traumatic and barbaric! And even IF that really was done, the lack of anything there doesn't mean anything! In the MAJORITY of sexual abuse exams of children who have been sexually abused, there are NO findings. There are a lot of reasons for that and I won't get into that, but just keep that in mind. When the characters were in that situation I was thinking, "what?!!??"

The second thing is that the author chose to leave out child protective services from the story though they were integral to the situation. Again, I'm restricted to the knowledge of my state, but here law enforcement has zero say in what happens to a child protection-wise. They deal with only the criminal aspect. I'd be interested in learning more if this is not the case in other states.
*end of sidenote*

100+ Reading Challenge 2010

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm joining J.Kaye's 100+ reading challenge!

1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

--Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post. To learn how to sign up without having a blog, click here.

2. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Library books, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.

3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Books started before the 1st do not count.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post where your books will be listed. Include the URL to this post so that other viewers can find this fun challenge. If you’d prefer to put your list in the sidebar of your blog, please leave your viewers the link to the sign up page. Again, so viewers can join the challenge too.

Interview: Bill Walker -- A Note From an Old Aquaintance

I'd like to welcome Bill Walker, author of A Note From an Old Aquaintance which I recently reviewed for a blog tour.

About the Author
Bill Walker is a graphic designer (and writer) specializing in book and dust jacket design, and has worked on projects by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Between his design work and his writing, he spends his spare time reading voraciously and playing very loud guitar, much to the chagrin of his lovely wife and two sons. Bill makes his home in Los Angeles.

1. What was your inspiration for this book?

The inspiration for my novel was the desire to tell an intense love story where the characters and their emotions drive the story. My previous books hung on unique premises and the plot was more dominant. For me, the real inspiration and challenge was to create a story where real things happen between people, where situations have drama and gravity, but are not hinged on a ticking clock or some other suspenseful gimmick. That's not to say I want a book that languishes, either. I like a book with a decent pace, and instilling that has become almost instinctive for me. Here, we have a story of two young people who meet and fall in love in that hopelessly romantic way so many of us dream about, yet life gets in the way, as it has a habit of doing. Obviously, in a love story like this everyone wants to see it end well, and I like to think I served the needs of readers in that respect.

2. What message do you hope readers take from it?

That true love does exist and that it can last a lifetime. There is so much cynicism in the world, and I fall prey to it myself. I wanted to write a book that made the reader feel good at the end, that all can be right with the world, if only for a little while.

3. What made you decide to take Brian’s wife and son out of the story

the way you did?

I needed to establish that Brian had a life without Joanna. Although she had a tremendous effect on him, emotionally and creatively, because he had to leave her, he moved on with his life and found someone else to love, marry and have a family with.

I took them out of the story, as you put it, because for 2006 portion of the story to work Brian couldn't have any emotional encumbrances, such as a wife and child, if he was going to re-unite with Joanna. I also wanted the reader to feel sympathy for Brian right away, as well as to show readers the kind of man he is with regard to his dedication to keeping his wife alive in spite of the odds.

4. What character did you enjoy writing the most?

That's a tough one. All of the characters in A Note from an Old Acquaintance are my favorites--even the minor ones--like Cary Mosley, the private investigator. It would have been easy to fall back on stereotypes for that one, but as I fashioned his character, he seemed to take on a genuine life of his own. I really love it when things fall together that way. It's one of those moments in writing for which I live. Every character I create is a reflection of the different facets of my personality. In many ways, authors are the ultimate actors because we inhabit each character as we write them, thinking as they think, doing what they do. In our minds we become those characters for that scene or chapter. It's both exhilarating and draining, and there is really no other way to do it, at least for me.

5. Some reviewers have expressed a dislike for Joanna. What are your thoughts about this? Was this intended?

Of all the characters in this novel, Joanna was the toughest one to write. She literally has to walk an emotional tightrope. When we meet her, she is engaged to a man she has loved for nearly six years, yet when she meets Brian it is a cataclysmic moment for her. In that one instant, she knows in the deepest regions of her soul that Brian is "the one." Yet, she still has feelings for Erik. What is she to do, abandon the one man who is her soul mate or break it off with Erik, something she cannot bear to do, either. I'm sad that some readers don't see this about her, as others do. What I wanted were readers to feel for her and wonder: "what would I do in that situation?" and not just pass outright judgment on her. I guess the bottom line is one cannot please everyone. I tried to tell an honest story as honestly as possible, and I hope most of the readers will feel the same way I do about the characters.

6. Tell us about your writing routine.

When I'm in the midst of a book, I will awaken very early, throw on some coffee, eat a quick breakfast and then get cracking. My goal is three finished pages in a day. If I do more than that--and sometimes I'll do a lot more--that still does not let me off the hook for the next day. I feel I'm freshest in the morning, but will write at any time if inspiration strikes me.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I hope readers enjoy the book.

Great answers! Thanks again for stopping by!

The Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How's everyone doing? I just finished reading While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty and will be posting the review sometime soon. Today I'm working on reading When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge. I haven't read any of her books before but have heard great things about her past books.

I've noticed I've become very picky and critical when it comes to writing style in books. I'm not all too sure why, but it's probably because I'm trying to learn how to write well so I see "common mistakes" that some authors use and it irritates me. But some of these are authors who have written many books so I think I need to chill a little on critiquing a little, lol! Or at least I've written a ton of super successful books. ;)

Just to warn you, I'm joining a bunch of challenges for the new year (I'm sure you've seen them around) so I will be posting challenge posts somewhat frequently. I am trying very hard to make challenges fun and not work. So I have some from the past year that I may delete because I don't see myself doing them. For instance, I'm currently a part of the James Patterson challenge, and I really don't have any intention of reading a bunch of his books, lol! The other challenges I haven't done hardly at all and still plan to, but it's fun to not pressure myself at all. It's almost funny how little to none I've completed on them, haha. For all my challenges you can click on "my current challenges" on the links on the upper left.

Oh! I forgot to mention that I saw the movie Precious this weekend. It followed the book very closely. I'll post the review on that coming up soon too!

2009 Holiday Reading Challenge!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I joined a challenge for the holidays!! It's hosted by Nely at All about {n}.

Challenge Requirements:

1- Challenge will start Friday, November 20 and will end Thursday, December 31.

2- You can read anywhere from 1 to 5 books for the challenge and, of course, if you're like me, you are more than welcome to surpass that number.

3- And now, here's the clincher... they must be holiday related books. That's right, the holiday doesn't really matter, but it would be more "jolly" if your choices were Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.

4- The size of the book does not matter, nor does the genre. It is also okay for the book to overlap with other challenges. The only thing I ask is that they are not children's books. YA is okay. And so are re-reads. I for one tend to read the same books every Christmas - they are tradition.

5- To sign up - leave a link back to your challenge post. There will also be a post for review links as well as one for challenge wrap-ups.

6- And.... there will be goodies. That's right, we'll call them presents. At the end of every week that the challenge is running I will choose one winner from the review links and I will allow them to pick a book of their choosing (of course, I will provide a list). Meaning the more books you read, review and link up, the more chances you have at winning a "present".

Here are the books I'll be reading for this challenge:
  1. The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
  2. The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans
  3. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
  4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Most of these are fairly short too, so this shouldn't be difficult. And how odd that they're all written by men! I usually read books by women authors so this is interesting...

A Note from an Old Aquaintance (Blog Tour)

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Note From an Old Acquaintance by Bill Walker tells the story of a man and a woman and their long ago love affair. Brian is an author who hasn't made much progress in his current novel when he receives an e-mail from a woman with whom he had an affair 15 years ago. With his wife in a long-term coma, Brian begins to converse with this woman, Joanna, again. Brian then schedules a book tour in Boston and goes off to visit with her again.

The book starts off in the "current" year 2006 and shortly thereafter moves back to 1991 when Brian and Joanna first meet. In 2006 Joanne is married to Erik, and we learn that in 1991 she was engaged to him. What follows is a fairly typical boy-meets-girl love story with the addition of a love triangle involving a significant other. I did feel that the story was somewhat "plain" on its own. I'm not sure if it was that it lacked the more elaborate plots elements that I often read now or if it was that I didn't care too much for the characters. In fact, my favorite character may have been Erik, the significant other. Brian and Joanna both irritated me. Some of you may also know that I am very picky about writing style. I'm very finicky when it comes to the "show don't tell" of story telling. There were moments when I felt I was being told rather than shown about the characters. But the writing was good enough that those who aren't especially picky about this may not notice it. The author did move the story along at a steady and engaging pace appropriate to the nature of the story. Here is a teaser and you can decide if it entices you to read more or not.

They were being followed.
Brian was sure of it. He'd had inklings of it from almost the moment he'd met Joanna at the school, but had shoved them to the back of his mind, only wanting to revel in the joy of seeing her again. Now, as they made their way past the lagoon where the swan boats plied the waters of spring, he knew someone was behind them dogging their every move. (pg. 289)

I will say I am very interested in the author's motivations behind this book. Stay tuned and we'll find out more about this on Monday when he stops by for an interview!

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent this book for an honest review as part of a blog tour with Tracee of Pump Up Your Book Promotions.

Throwback Thursday

Thursday, November 19, 2009

**For those of you who do Throwback Thursday, if you could, please re-save the image you use as I have updated them with my new url. Thanks!!**

Throwback Thursday – this is a weekly event hosted by me! It is the time each week to recognize those older books… an older book you’ve always wanted to read, or one that you have read and love; maybe one from your childhood; or review an older book -- how about even a classic! Leave a comment here and feel free to take an icon and use it on your blog!

This week's throwback is: (following the theme of yesterday's WoW book....)

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

"I'm not particularly qualified by profession or education to give advice and counsel," confesses author Anna Quindlen, as she begins this tender little instruction book. "It's widely known in a small circle that I make a mean tomato sauce, and I know many inventive ways to hold a baby while nursing, although I haven't had the opportunity to use any of them in years."

It is precisely this commonplace form of wisdom that make readers trust and respect Quindlen. She uses her candid, heart-to-heart narrative voice along with her novel-writer descriptive skills to show readers how good we have it: "Life is made up of moments, small pieces of mica in a long stretch of glittering gray cement." Later she urges readers to "Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face." The format smacks of "gift book," with an abundance of pleasing, artsy photographs. Don't be ashamed to fall for the packaging, though. This is one of those books that could remain in the living room for years or in the family for generations.

I looooved this book when it came out. I thought it was so inspirational. I have given this book as a gift to some of my close friends and family because it meant a lot to me and hoped it would to them too. Now I don't even remember it though, lol. I should pull it off the shelf and read it. (It's real quick). I thought this would be a good throwback considering I used The Happiness Project as yesterday's Waiting on Wednesday post.

Waiting on Wednesday

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Here's my pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Release Date: December 29, 2009

What if you could change your life without really changing your life? On the outside, Gretchen Rubin had it all—a good marriage, healthy children and a successful career— but she knew something was missing. Determined to end that nagging feeling, she set out on a year-long quest to learn how to better enjoy the life she already had.
Each month, Gretchen pursued a different set of resolutions—go to sleep earlier, tackle a nagging task, bring people together, take time to be silly—along with dozens of other goals. She read everything from classical philosophy to cutting-edge scientific studies, from Winston Churchill to Oprah, developing her own definition of happiness and a plan for how to achieve it. She kept track of which resolutions worked and which didn’t, sharing her stories and collecting those of others through her blog (created to fulfill one of March’s resolutions). Bit by bit, she began to appreciate and amplify the happiness in her life.
The Happiness Project is the engaging, relatable and inspiring result of the author’s twelve-month adventure in becoming a happier person. Written with a wicked sense of humour and sharp insight, Gretchen Rubin’s story will inspire readers to embrace the pleasure in their lives and remind them how to have fun.

Sounds promising!

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I had heard amazing things about this book for some time before I finally picked it up! Even then, I picked it up only because my sister was reading it for an online book club and I thought I'd join in. I'm so glad I did!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a story told from the viewpoint of the family dog, Enzo. Enzo observes and remarks on the idiosyncrasies of human life and hopes to be reincarnated as a human after he dies. (This is something he believes because of a documentary he once watched). But this book isn't solely about a dog telling a story. It's about a family, and a father, and the trauma that affects the family -- which is then narrated by the dog.

For the first 50 or so pages I wondered what everyone thought was so great. Sure, it was a cute idea, but the surprisingly somber tone of the book had me questioning it. I envisioned Enzo as cynical and the human equivalent of a "grumpy old man". I also was unsure about the large amount of NASCAR talk because this is an event (sport?) that does not interest me. At all.

I will say, though, that the inclusion of the life/NASCAR comparisons were thought provoking. "The art of racing in the rain" is after all a skill that takes work as is making it through difficult life events. In addition to these comparisons, Enzo, throughout the book, talked about different famous race car drivers and what qualities of theirs he admired. I did find all this interesting enough and enjoyed the useage of it. What I also liked was that this not just about the dog; rather, there was a completely unrelated (to the dog) story that was taking place around him. I don't have anything against dogs... I have a dog who I loooove (check out the about me section of my blog) but the book was more intricate than just that. This story was absolutely heartrending and emotional. I consider a book great when it is able to elicit such strong emotions from me, and this did!

One other thing I wanted to mention was the writing. It was simple, yet powerful, which makes sense as it was narrated by the dog. And it's sort of off-topic, but it sort of showed me how to be a good writer... I read and review a lot of books, and I hope to write a book(s) one day, so I pay a large amount of attention to sentence structure, "show don't tell", etc. And what I noticed was that Enzo seemed to have a grasp on the "show don't tell" because as a dog, he doesn't know to "tell" -- he just says what he observes. He used fairly simple sentence structure, yet had an impressive vocabulary. The method of writing worked so well and can be applied to other narrators too!

I want to leave you with a couple passages that I really liked.

I marveled at them both; how difficult it must be to be a person. To constantly subvert your desires. To worry about doing the right thing, rather than doing what is most expedient. At that moment, honestly, I had grave doubts as to my ability to interact on such a level. I wondered if I could ever become the human I hoped to be. (pg. 122)

Enzo's human observations are so true too..

I felt strangely anxious that day, in a very human way. People are always worried about what's happening next. They often find it difficult to stand still, to occupy the now without worrying about the future. People are not generally satisfied with what they have; they are very concerned wtih what they are
going to have. A dog can almost power down his psyche and slow his anticipatory metabolism, like David Blaine attempting to set the record for holding his breath at the bottom of a swimming pool -- the tempo of the world around him simply changes. On a normal dog day, I can sit still for hours on end with no effort. But that day I was anxious. I was nervous and worried, uneasy and distracted. I paced around and never felt settled. I didn't care for the sensation, yet I realized it was possibly a natural progression of my evolving soul, and therefore I tried my best to embrace it. (pg. 188)

I highly recommend this book to BOTH dog-lovers and not. Anyone can find something they like, relate to, or enjoy reading in this book.

Marriage 101 (Blog Tour and Giveaway)

Monday, November 16, 2009

First things first:


  • At the end of the week, One Winner (Randomly chosen from all blogs - see schedule at will receive a $30 DATE NIGHT certificate to the restaurant of their choice (Applebees, Chili's, Ruby Tuesday or Red Lobster) and a gift pack of books (includes Marriage 101, I Don't Want a Divorce, and Have a New Husband by Friday.)
To enter, you MUST leave an email address in the comments AND answer the question posted (see end of post).

Meet Jewell Powell, author of Marriage 101

In July of 1992, Jewell met her Prince Charming at a Roy Rogers restaurant. When the couple decided to marry four years later, both were aware of the latest marriage statistics and the legacy of divorce that lay between them. Her parents divorced when she was four, after moving the family to Maryland, leaving her to be raised by a single mother. To circumvent the odds, they went through pre-marital counseling, attended church regularly and felt a strong love for one another. They believed they were ready for marriage.

While desiring to have a happily ever after, Jewell found life after marriage anything but a fairy tale. In 2001, she and her husband, Lewis, had been married for five years but were growing apart, after experiencing problems with infertility, sleeping in separate bedrooms and Lewis’s increasing disinterest in going to church. As she searched for answers to her marital troubles, Jewell found herself on a journey, seeking answers to save her marriage.

Despite a shaky beginning, the Powells now have a relationship with a strong foundation. After successfully resolving their marital problems, they started the Happily Ever After Marriage Ministry to help others do the same. Her new book, Marriage 101: Building a Life Together by Faith (Revell Books February 2009, ISBN 978-0-8007-3332-2, $13.99), offers hope and guidance to help transform broken relationships through the use of biblical wisdom in a simple workbook format.

Jewell serves as co-owner of Antiok Holdings, an emerging full-service management consulting firm, which she owns with her husband. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business from the University of Maryland and is pursuing a Master of Divinity. The Powells reside in southern Maryland with their two daughters. For more information, please visit


Your marriage can be strong, healthy, happy, and blessed. Marriage coach Jewell Powell shows you how in this 8-week plan for marital success. She reveals how God’s truths can transform two individuals into the union he desires. Laying a spiritual foundation is crucial to your marriage. In Marriage 101: Building a Life Together by Faith, you will discover God’s purpose for marriage, how to develop godly character, how to communicate effectively, and much more. With biblical examples, study questions, and Scripture meditations perfect for individuals or couples, you will be challenged to examine areas in your life that may need change so that your marriage can thrive.


I was thoroughly impressed with Jewell Powell's Marriage 101 and am so glad I had the opportunity to review this book. This book combines multiple elements that together create a very well-rounded, thorough, and engaging guide for couples on marriage. All this is fit in less than 250 pages which makes the guide very manageable. Powell begins the book by summing up the goals of marriage in an easy and fitting word -- Altruism. The book is broken up into the words that make up this acronym -- Act, Love, Talk, Repent, Uite, Identify, Submit, and Minister. Each of these 8 chapters utilizes some combination of elements that work together to make the point of that chapter's word. These elements include the author's personal story. She and her husband have a wonderful marriage now but this is only after experiencing some major difficulties. The manner in which she shares this vulnerability makes her more personable and the marriage advice more significant. She also utilizes the story of Sleeping Beauty as a parable for living a biblical marriage and bits of these are in each chapter. Also in each chapter are several scriptures on marriage to reflect on and then some self-examination questions to help you further process where you are in reaching or working toward these goals. Another great aspect of this book is the different biblical examples of marriage the author is able to relate to current day marriage.

The use of all these components helps get the message across thoroughly and in an engaging manner. This is a work book/ bible study that can be done together or alone. For those of you who are not Christian, if you've read this far, there is definitely the potential that this may not be for you. As you would expect in a marriage book based on living biblically, there are references to the bible, God, holy spirit, etc. everywhere. However, if you can get past that, the lessons can still be related to marriage in general. In that case, you might skip the scripture and go straight to the self-examination questions. For those that are Christian, you'll find this book to be immensely helpful in helping you live a more godly marriage which, of course, equals a strong, love-filled marriage.

To read an excerpt:

Follow the blog tour at

For more information about, visit Jewell at

Don't forget about the giveaway hosted by Tywebbin Creations!!

Answer the following question AND leave your e-mail for a chance to win a date night and pack of books (listed at the top of this post).

What can a husband or wife do to show love and appreciation for their spouse on a regular basis?

The Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I almost forgot to do my Sunday Salon post today! I'm currently reading While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty. Her other book, The Rest of Her Life, was the first audio book I ever listened to. It was a different experience for me and took me just over 4 months to finish, lol! I only listen in the car, and then, only during certain car trips or parts of the trip. But I did enjoy that book. This one's going good so far. Maybe I can finish tonight.... but only if I get my work work done first, haha.

I was doing better with reading but I've slowed down a little again. I started to read South of Broad by Pat Conroy. The writing was really good but I was having a little difficulty really getting into it. I truly believe it's just because I have had a LOT on my mind lately and lots going on so I just couldn't concentrate as much and that book requires a little more of a commitment, I think. Don't let me dissuade those of you who were interested in reading it, though, because what I read (50ish pags) was good and I've read great things about it.

I do have two blog tours this week -- one Monday and one Friday. Tuesday I'll be posting a review for the other book I finished recently, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I had heard so many amazing things about this so I was really excited to read it, but I still had it on TBR forever before I finally picked it up! And then I picked it up because my sister was reading it for a magazine book club and I thought I'd join. So glad I finally read this one. My Monday blog tour is a marriage book. For those of you who didn't know, one of my big career goals is to be a marriage counselor so I have been collecting books on marriage and relationships (plus I think they're good to have anyway) so I jumped at the chance to do that blog tour.

And in somewhat related news, there is the possibility that I may be able to make some changes coming up in the job/school arena -- changes that may include me moving forward in my career goals a little and also freeing up some more time for me. But we (husband and I) aren't completely sure yet on our decision because there are a lot of pros and cons that should be considered. So it's an exciting possibility but also very scary at the same time. But one pro is more time for me and I think that's important. I will update on that when I know more!


Friday, November 13, 2009

I only recently learned of the book Push (1996) when I saw a theater preview for the movie, Precious, based on it. I, of course, knew I wanted to read it right away. It was a short book and I thought it was good. Not great but not awful either. But it was a very difficult read -- in more than one way.

One difficulty was the abuse issue. It's put right out there from the beginning that Precious is sexually abused by her father consistently. At the beginning of the book, Precious is pregnant with her second child by her father. Throughout the book, Precious gives some description of the abuse. Though brief, these descriptions are vivid. To make it increasingly worse, Precious is abused by her mother physically, emotionally, and sexually as well.

*Sidenote* In my "real life" outside of blogging, I interview children who have been sexually abused to get all the details and facts regarding the abuse for law enforcement and/or child protective services to do their investigations. Despite hearing about these details in real life, I tend to get more disturbed when I read about it in fiction. A well-known author commented on one of my reviews, when I complained about the use of too vivid descriptions of abuse, by saying I chose to view their (the girls') world with "frosty lenses". It's possible that I do, but I think it's almost necessary when working with this specific job. If I had the disgusted, emotional reactions I have when I read fiction with every child I interview, how unhealthy would that be?! Anyway, when it comes to reading, I guess I let my guard down and connect with the characters, and the descriptions are difficult. There were things described, however briefly, that yes, were difficult to read.

Another difficulty was the method of narration. Push is narrated by the main character, Clareece Precious Jones, aka Precious. The story is told using her manner of speech which takes some getting used to. A main event in the story is when the characters learn to read and write. At that point in the story, Precious starts narrating using her knowledge of letters, as though she is writing a letter. Initially it was very confusing (and was translated into what she meant). As her writing improved, the translation went away but it was still difficult to figure out. Then it got to a point where you could more easily understand what she was saying. It was a unique method but was somewhat frustrating as well. It wasn't every page that was narrated in this way but, rather, certain parts. I'd like to post a couple examples. Below is the first paragraph of the book:

I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver. That was in 1983. I was out of school for a year. This gonna be my second baby. My daughter got Down Sinder. She's retarded. I had got left back in the second grade too, when I was seven, 'cause I couldn't read (and I still peed on myself). I should be in the eleventh grade, getting ready to go into the twelf' grade so I can gone 'n graduate. But I'm not. I'm in the ninfe grade.

This next part is from later in the book in one of her journal entries:

For a monf it bin like this. I feel daze. Ms Rain see it say you not same girl i kno. is tru. I am a difrent persn anybuddy wood be don't u think? dont u think.

Part of me wonders if my lack of outright amazement at the book is because in the 13 years since this book has come out we, readers, have seen so many other stories along the same lines and stories that utilize similarly unique methods of narration (though the 2 I think of off the top of my head are actually much older than this book). Anyhow, it is a short, quick read. (I read it in one night/ almost one sitting). I look forward to seeing the movie, but expect I will like the movie better than the book mainly because I think we will gain a more well-rounded understanding of Precious than we have in the book. Push is most definitely a sad but triumphant book.

I would like to share a link that I found recently on another blog. I totally blanked on whose blog I got this from, so I'm sorry!! If it's you, please let me know and I'll edit this to give you credit. The link is to an interview with the author, Sapphire, discussing how Push became a movie. It's actually very interesting. The end of the article also has a longer excerpt from the first chapter.

Click here to go to the interview with Sapphire