April in Review

Saturday, April 30, 2011

April in Review

This month I participated for the first time "officially" in the Read-a-Thon. It was an interesting experience; one where I learned that it's actually hard on the eyes and the brain to read that much at once! My husband participated along with me and we did have a fun quality time so, just for that reason alone, we may both participate again in October.

April was also the UCF Orlando Book Festival where I had so much fun. I'm so happy I was able to attend (and participate as an "official blogger"). I met some awesome authors and got to meet in person some wonderful bloggers I've been following for a while. Can't wait for next year!

I didn't post about it before, but this month I was also interviewed over at The Gatekeeper's Post which is a website about the publishing industry. You can see that here.

As for books, I posted a review for Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea which I loved! Also non-fiction but on a completely different note, Bossypants by Tina Fey was as hilarious and wonderfully Tina Fey as expected. (She happens to be hosting SNL Saturday, May 7th!) My favorite fiction of the reviews I posted this month were Bent Road and Leaving Atlanta.

Other books I reviewed:
And for my throwback this month I featured a classic: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

I'm excited about a lot of the books I plan on reading and/or reviewing in May. I'm currently reading a non-fiction that I'm loving and can't wait to talk about!

Throwback Thursday: The Secret Garden

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Throwback Thursday – this is an event hosted by me! It used to take place weekly, but is now once a month on this blog. It is the time 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! Also feel free to do this on as many Thursdays as you like. =)

This month's throwback is: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

From bn.com:
In this beloved children's story, Mary Lennox, an ill-tempered orphan is sent to live in England with an uncle she has never met. While there, she discovers a spoiled cousin and a long-abandoned garden. Working to restore the garden, she finds she also cures her own ill temper and reforms her cousin as well.

I was given this book as a gift from my parents one year when I was little. My mom told me it had been her favorite book when she was little. I have the exact copy pictured above. It's a beautiful hardcover with thick, glossy pages and glorious illustrations throughout. I love it! And what a beautiful, sad, and hopeful story all in one. I also loved the 1993 movie version.

Such a classic!

Husband and Wife

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Title: Husband and Wife
Author: Leah Stewart
Pages: 344
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: May 4, 2010 (hardcover); April 19, 2011 (paperback)

Husband and Wife could have easily turned into a despairing book about the course of life and marriage. In fact, for the first quarter of the book, the first person narrative combined with what appeared (at the time) to be a long, monological whine led me to believe I would strongly dislike the book. Fortunately, that changed and I was able to enjoy this strong, yet still somewhat melancholy read that does, in fact, reflect on the course of life and marriage. And the more I've thought about this book since reading it the more I've appreciated it, and I've found that my mind focuses a lot on the things I really liked about it.

The book begins as Sarah and Nathan are getting ready to go to a wedding for friends -- one in which they're giving a joint toast on love and marriage. Nathan, caught up in some bad timing guilt, confesses that he cheated on Sarah two summers ago; that his soon-to-be-released book, Infidelity, is, in fact, based on truth. They go through the motions with attending the wedding, but things slowly unravel as Sarah reflects on why Nathan cheated, what it means about her, their marriage, who she has become, etc. And further, does she allow him to continue with publication of the book, even thought it means potentially sharing her defamatory secret with the world? All of Husband and Wife is essentially Sarah's introspection into her life and how she got to where she is from where she was, as well as a self-reflection as she processes what is happening to her in the moment. The storyline isn't necessarily the most original, but Sarah ultimately had some insightful and/or well-written thoughts that anyone in her situation can likely relate to. This first quote is Sarah thinking about the insomnia that hit her shortly after the marital crisis started.
"Of course I didn't know that this sleepless night would be the first of many. Even now it frightens me a little to talk about that time, my capital-I insomnia, because of the possibility that to invoke its name is to invite its return. Oh God, I hope that doesn't happen to me again, you think, and then, because you thought that, it will, and you'll wake once more into a bleak, remorseless stillness. You'll wander in a panic through the rooms of your mind and find them just emptied, as if your thoughts were bugs that scattered as soon as you entered." (pg. 95)
Although most of this book did have a more somber, reflecting tone, about three-quarters of the way through there was a surprisingly comical scene that fit so well into the story. That comic relief was a welcome change and, though short, added a lot to the characters and story.

Here is another metaphor that I liked. The quote is short but described the sentiment well:
"I checked the wall clock and saw that I'd been sitting in the cafeteria for two hours, when I was supposed to be at work. I didn't really care that I was absent, that I was irresponsible. Funny how the loosening of one commitment had loosened all the others, as if they'd all been tied by the same rope."
Ultimately, throughout Husband and Wife I mainly felt a deep sadness for the couple. Like so many couples, Sarah and Nathan are truly a great couple with such potential that basically succumb to the rigors and realities of life. Although it was largely reflective in nature, the writing was still engaging and don't let me make you think that the book was only Sarah thinking to herself. I was afraid of that initially, but there were other plot movements and character involvements that rounded out the story nicely.

For those interested, Book Club Girl will be doing a live interview with Leah Stewart on May 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Click on this link to bookmark where you can go to listen.

Follow the rest of the tour:
Tuesday, April 19th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Wednesday, April 20th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Friday, April 22nd: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, April 26th: Colloquium
Wednesday, April 27th: Take Me Away
Thursday, April 28th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, May 4th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Monday, May 9th: Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, May 10th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, May 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, May 13th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Book


Monday, April 25, 2011

Title: Lowboy
Author: John Wray
Pages: 258
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Picador (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: March 3, 2009 (hardcover); February 2, 2010 (paperback)

I so wanted to love this book. The premise sounded so intriguing. A 16-year-old teenager with Schizophrenia, Will Heller, rides the NYC subway all day long in an effort to save the world. By having sex. Which will cool off his body. So, yeah, that last part is strange, but the mental health aspect combined with the NYC aspect piqued my interests.

First, the goods. No one can accuse the author of not being a good writer. Because the writing was engaging and otherwise well done. I also thought his depiction of the Schizophrenic experience (for the person himself and for others looking in) was authentic. I haven't had too much experience working with people with Schizophrenia, but I've had some, and combined with the little else I know about it, it felt very true.

So, the bads. I really felt a lack of connection to the characters. It may have been the difficulty I had in understanding really what the significance was of the story except to convey the mental health issue. I felt as though I slogged through much of the book waiting for the big thing to happen. And then it never really did. And then there was apparently supposed to be a surprise of sorts at the end. The only problem was it was something I knew almost all along and actually thought I was supposed to until it played itself out as this big secret being revealed.

I will say that there may have been some more insights that I just failed to pick up on, but it lacked, for me, the psychological depth I thought I might find.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Title: Pox
Author: Michael Willrich
Pages: 345
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Pub. Date: March 31, 2011

I think I've been spoiled by narrative non-fiction. Many of you know that for the most part, non-fiction has been a fairly new genre of book enjoyment for me. I've been reading more of it lately but am finding that what I really like is the inclusion of the personal stories throughout and the feeling of learning extraneous topics through the telling of a person's experiences, in some manner.

For that reason, I feel it may be somewhat unfair of me to be reviewing this book. Because truly, this book was fantastic; well put-together, well-written, and thoroughly researched. I imagine that non-fiction enthusiasts, those who consistently read non-fiction of all kinds, will relish this book. While I appreciated much of it, I wasn't constantly drawn to read more like I am with most of my reading. But that could also be a reflection of my workload at the time of this reading and how much extra my brain was able to then process.

However, while some parts of the book lost my interest over the course of the pages, I found other parts fascinating. In some ways, the topic was very relevant to today. I never realized the controversy over vaccinations went back to the 1800's! Currently, I'm a proponent of vaccinations. But the thought of, back then, being forced to have immunizations was scary. (Especially since it was adults, too, that they were forcing the immunizations on). Pox provided a lot of food for thought on the line between civil rights and government imposed health sanctions, even when they're imposed for the benefit of the community at large. Pox also brought up things I never thought of before. You know those indented scars that many people have on their arms as a result of vaccinations? Well, at one point this proof of vaccination was even used as that specific categorical identification.
"Watching with dismay as smallpox spread across the American heartland in 1901, Dr. James Hyde of Chicago's Rush Medical School urged state and local governments to use their full police powers to eradicate this affront to modern civilization. Like many of his professional peers, Hyde found the metaphor of the vaccine scar as passport irresistible. He urged that American governments require this medical mark for entry into the country's civic spaces.... In one respect, vaccination seemed superior to a printed identity document; this government-certified ticket of immunity was stamped indelibly upon the body. Seasoned health officials did not trust the paper vaccination certificates issued by private physicians; they always asked to see the scar." (pg. 227-228)
Surprisingly, this chapter goes on to describe how people did, in fact, try to "forge" vaccination scars by creating fake ones onto their bodies.

So in summary, I imagine those in the medical or legal fields will thoroughly enjoy Pox. More casual readers of non-fiction, like me, may find that Pox is a book to be read in small increments when the interest hits and will find varying pieces of the book better than others. There's definitely a lot of fascinating information to learn but may be overwhelming at the same time.

Follow the rest of the tour:

Thursday, March 31st: Man of La Book
Monday, April 4th: Aetiology
Wednesday, April 6th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, April 7th: Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, April 13th: Superbug
Thursday, April 14th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, April 18th: Bookworm’s Dinner
Tuesday, April 19th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, April 20th: Rhapsody In Books
Thursday, April 21st: Take Me Away
Monday, April 25th: Mommypotamus
Tuesday, April 26th: Eclectic/Eccentric
Wednesday, April 27th: Life Is A Patchwork Quilt
Thursday, April 28th: PhD in Parenting
Monday, May 2nd: Amy Reads
Date TBD: Ruby Slippers

Shutter Island

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Title: Shutter Island
Author: Dennis Lehane
Pages: 369
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: March 26, 2003 (hardcover); August 25, 2009 (movie tie-in)

My reaction to this book isn't quite fair. A friend of mine accidentally spoiled the ending (of the movie) before I read the book. She didn't directly tell me how it ended. She just, forgetting I hadn't seen the movie yet, made a random comment about it that led me to take a pretty good guess about it. Turns out I wasn't quite right in guessing the ending, but this tidbit of information beforehand left me spending the entire reading experience thinking about it rather than focusing on the story itself.

It's 1954 and U.S. Marshalls Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule head to a remote island to investigate a missing patient at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. There they learn about the sordid past of the patient and of the hospital. During their visit, a hurricane imposes itself on the island, adding to the overall creepy, dark, and ominous factor throughout this book. And then, of course, they learn there's a whole lot more to the hospital and island than they could have ever known. And soon it's questionable whether they can even leave without going crazy themselves! This book had so many great aspects:

  • Atmosphere: Super creepy. Surrounds the story and the reader. Adds a whole layer to the story.

  • Mystery: So what is it with this crazy patient? And the hospital? And the Island? And with all the strange people?

  • Thrills: Speaks for itself.

  • Surprise: Don't get too comfortable. Things get Crazy!
This is sort of a short review for me, but I don't have much else to say. Shutter Island is definitely a thrilling read full of atmosphere and one of those that I can't wait to see the movie version of!

Wrap up Post: UCF Orlando Book Festival

Saturday, April 16, 2011

As I mentioned yesterday, today was the 2nd annual UCF Orlando Book Festival. What a fun event it was! They really did a great job with it! My husband and I got up bright and early (okay, not so early but early for it being my one sleep-in day of the week) and headed down to UCF. We had breakfast at Chick-Fil-A and then got there just after 9:00 am. We met up with the other two "official festival bloggers" Heather and Sandy at the Blogger's Suite (!!) in the arena. Our suite was next to the author's suite (our plan had been to interview them throughout the day but that didn't end up working out). Our suite overlooked the arena, though, so it was neat to look out over the entire event. The exhibition floor was full of booths, and the characters from The Wizard of Oz (and later Star Wars characters) were walking all around. This other picture is of me holding up the blogger page in the program. If you look closely you'll see the info for our blogs!

We pretty much dropped our stuff off in the suite and then explored the exhibition floor for about an hour. I bought MANY books. The admission to this event was free and the books for each author there were on sale in the middle of the exhibition. I was super excited to see the artwork of Pamela Miller and her husband, George Miller, who are Florida artists. Pamela was commissioned to create the artwork for this year's event. The print chosen by the festival is this one to the right. Do you see the books? I loved their art because not only was it beautiful, but they incorporated books and reading into a lot of their work. (Pamela also had the winning art for the upcoming Jacksonville Jazz Festival and I love it!) I bought two of her prints to hang in my "reading room" (aka computer room, work room, storage room, but one day I'll have an actual reading room...) One of the prints is called "Read to Me" and that one's below. The other one is called "The Book of Love" and that's the one that she and I are standing next to in the other picture.

Okay, so after some hanging out it was time for lunch already. Jason and I went to lunch with Heather and Sandy right outside the arena at a college-y place called Tailgaters. (Which by the way, did I mention I graduated from UCF only 6 years ago and NONE of that was there then... the new arena, the little community on campus with all those restaurants and stores??? It's so nice!!)

After that we had an afternoon full of panels. At 12:20 pm Jason and I attended one called Capturing American Life with Leonard Pitts Jr. (Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald), Tayari Jones (Leaving Atlanta), and Jeff Zaslow (The Girls from Ames). Tayari Jones told a funny story about meeting Judy Blume without realizing it was her. Her path to publication for her newest book, Silver Sparrow, was so interesting and the message at the end was to finish your book, and don't give up! She also made the point to do it at least for yourself. I was excited to see that her newest book was available for this event (since the publication date isn't until the end of May). Apparently, Tayari had even been told the books wouldn't be ready for today's event and was surprised to see them there. I had the honor of having the first Silver Sparrow book signed by her, and we laughed about her excitement at seeing the finished book for the first time. (She even date/time "stamped" the book to commemorate, haha!) She was so sweet and wonderful. It's so awesome when you enjoy someone's book and then find out they're so great in person too! I can't wait to read this!

After that we rushed to the next panel, Conflicting Loyalties: Cross-Racial Relationships, which I have to say may have been the most interesting one because it's a topic that interests me but also because the conversation definitely had the potential to be heated, LOL! The members of the panel were Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Wench), Susan Gregg Gilmore (The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove), and Nina Revoyr (Wingshooters). There was discussion of experiences of being different based on where you're from as well as some discussion on how biracial individuals choose to identify with one ethnicity/race over the other. I can 100% relate. I had a giggly star struck moment at the beginning of this panel... back in the first panel I mentioned, I was sitting next to a nice woman. She leaned over and cracked a joke about something that was said and we laughed. So imagine my surprise when we go to the next panel and she walks up to the table to take her place as author, LOL! That was Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench! I did a blog tour back in January and really enjoyed the book. I've read tons of other blogger reviews that loved it too. Also on the panel was Nina Revoyr whose book, Wingshooters, I had really hoped to read prior to the festival but I hadn't been able to yet. (I will fix that soon!) Wingshooters is about a young half-Japanese girl who lives with her white grandparents in Wisconsin. I have a feeling I'll really relate to this novel, as I did to a lot of what Nina said during the panel about her experiences being half-Asian. Then when I talked to her afterwards I learned that we also have in common our field of work: child welfare! She works for an agency that provides services in this field (including forensic interviews which I do) so that was so cool to learn about her. In looking at her website once I got home I realized she's the Executive Vice President of said agency, LOL! I'm very excited to read her book!

Then the last panel of the day was Family Secrets with Lori Roy (Bent Road), Susan Hubbard (The Season of Risks), and Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters). They had a fun discussion about their favorite villains from their novels. Lori Roy's book has a villain of sorts that you might find yourself starting to feel for.... I did, but then I'd have to remind myself why I didn't like him! As I mentioned in my post yesterday, Heather, Sandy, and I had the opportunity to meet Lori and Eleanor at the author reception the night before. Both of them remembered me from then which was so nice. They are both awesome people, friendly, and funny, and great authors! I truly can't wait to see what each of them writes next... but considering they're both new releases (Lori's especially which was just released earlier this month), I might have to wait a bit. Doesn't mean I can't make you go read their current books! ;)

Then it was the end of the day. Heather, Sandy, my husband, and I spent some time in the suite while Sandy did some blogging, and then we headed to Macaroni Grill in Waterford Lakes for our first official Florida blogger get-together! There were six of us bloggers total (and two husbands). We had a blast and there was never a lull in the conversation. And the conversation didn't just stick to books. That was lots of fun and I hope we do something like that more often! Clockwise from the left is my husband, Jason, me, Sandy (You GOTTA Read This), Liz (Cleverly Inked), Heather (Book Addiction), Heather (Raging Bibliomania), Michelle (My Books.My Life), and Michelle's husband, Ben.

Make sure you put next year's UCF Book Festival on your calendars... it's March 31, 2012!

Author Reception: UCF Orlando Book Festival

Friday, April 15, 2011

Saturday is the 2nd annual UCF Orlando Book Festival in Orlando, Florida! It'll be a lot of fun with author panels and book signings, a children's zone, a book fair, and entertainment. It's free, so if you're local, head on down there!

I was fortunate to be able to attend an author reception held Friday at the Barnes and Noble on campus. I managed to not take many pictures, unfortunately, but I will make sure to on Saturday. I did finally get to meet in person Heather (Raging Bibliomania) and Sandy (You GOTTA Read This) who are both awesome!

I also was very fortunate to meet two amazing authors, Lori Roy (Bent Road) and Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters). Read my reviews, and then go read their books!!

I met some other wonderful authors whose books I have, unfortunately, not yet read but hope to soon! They include Mary Beth Whalen, Susan Gregg Gilmore, Shellie Thomlinson, and Bill Eggers.

The presentation at the reception included a show by a group of middle school children who did a skit/musical about books and reading. It was hilarious and adorable. Hopefully I'll get a picture to share tomorrow, and I know among Heather, Sandy, or I, you will definitely get to see a video!

Stay tuned for my wrap up post on Sunday. There are a few other authors whose books I have read and enjoyed so I'd definitely like to meet them AND we are having a get-together after the event with some local bloggers so I'm excited!

Bent Road

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Title: Bent Road
Author: Lori Roy
Pages: 352
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Pub. Date: March 31, 2011

It may be a debut novel, but Lori Roy's Bent Road is a masterpiece. Her storytelling, characters, setting and atmosphere -- everything was just fantastic. Bent Road takes place in 1967 when the Scott family moves from Detroit back to Kansas where the father/husband, Arthur, grew up. He hasn't been back in the twenty years since he moved; too many deep-seated feelings abound for him regarding his past and the death of his sister, Eve. He's never discussed this with his wife, Celia, nor ever taken his family back to meet his mother, Reesa, or his other sister, Ruth. Even after the eventual move to Kansas, the situation regarding Eve remains a mystery of which no one will speak. Shortly after the Scott's arrive in Kansas a little girl goes missing and impacts the community and their own family. And a situation between Arthur's sister, Ruth, and her husband, Ray, puts the entire family in danger.

A sense of foreboding manifested throughout the entire novel. That underlying chill contributed so much to the atmosphere of the story. The mystery surrounding Eve revealed itself slowly and managed to equally remain a large part of the plot while simultaneously taking a backseat to the characters current dynamics. Roy's writing was very deliberate; every word and every sentence had a purpose. The character development was superb. The fragility of each of the characters, and of the family as a whole, was remarkably portrayed. The fourteen-year-old son, Daniel, wants nothing more than to be a man and earn his father's pride. And I think he managed to achieve this by the end, but in a surprising way. Nine-year-old Evie, her aunt's namesake, wants nothing more than to know her aunt, wants everyone in the family to love each other. But her extreme naivete is also hurtful to the family. Celia, an incredibly supportive wife, tries to make the best out of the move to the country despite her trouble adjusting, and struggles with the unsuspected dangers lurking in the community.

I've heard Roy's writing compared to that of Tana French's, but since I've yet to read any of French's, I can't comment on that. I found myself reminded initially, however, of Nancy Pickard's novels (The Virgin of Small Plains, The Scent of Rain and Lightning). But really, to compare to anyone isn't too fair because Roy's writing has a distinct quality of its own. The narration was interesting; it's written in third person but moves at times to various perspectives. There aren't any chapter divisions, just whatever perspective should be told for that page or that paragraph. The first time the narration switched characters it sort of caught me off guard, but after that I hardly noticed it and I really liked the way we had a glimpse (only as much as necessary) into another person's thoughts.

The execution of Bent Road was wonderful and I absolutely recommend it. It's one of my favorites of 2011 so far!

And on a side note, I'm so happy I squeezed this book in before the UCF Orlando Book Festival on Saturday because Ms. Roy will be there! She is a resident of west Central Florida. I love having great authors in Florida, and I didn't realize that until I got to the "About the Author" on the last page, so that was a pleasant surprise!

Codependent No More Workbook

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Title: Codependent No More Workbook
Author: Melody Beattie
Pages: 182
Genre: Mental Health, Psychology
Publisher: Hazeldon
Pub. Date: April 1, 2011 (2nd ed.)

I asked to be on this book tour because of its potential usefulness in my work as a therapist. I'll admit I haven't read the original Codependent No More straight through, but I have read various parts of it and am aware of its huge impact in the world of mental health and, specifically, substance abuse. Codependent is a term that is often misused, but it was originally coined to describe the individuals involved in some type of an unhealthy relationship with an addict. What Beattie found was that oftentimes, the "healthy" person in the relationship, or the "non-addict", was actually suffering from their own mental health issues. These individuals often were "codependent" or in need of feeling needed by that other person. They felt the need to care for the unhealthy individuals in their lives to their own demise. They forwent their own needs consistently by being overly sensitive to the other person's needs. In some cases, these codependent individuals would sabotage their partner's (or whomever's) progress due to their fear that without that ability to take care of the other they were no longer needed.

Now, co-dependence can actually be used in a more broad sense to define individuals in these types of unhealthy situations even if the other person in the relationship is not an addict. It could be any other mentally unhealthy situation. But the underlying theme is that the person has weak boundaries and is unable to separate their needs from that of the other person. Without necessarily meaning to or realizing it, their whole reason for being ends up being catering to that person or to others in general. There is an underlying feeling of low self-worth that leads to this or can be caused by this type of situation. There can also be an element of control in that codependent individuals have difficulty letting go and just allowing the other person to be as they are without letting it affect them. It's a very intense and complex psychological issue.

I sort of expected this workbook to be more of an accompaniment for the actual book with mainly activities and questions to process. What it turned out to be, instead, is a very thorough book all on its own. Each chapter contains long discussions about that step. Stories to illustrate that concept are included as well as many journaling activities. (You will need a journal or a word document to go along with this book). The book and activities create a very thorough process of increasing self-awareness and getting to know yourself. Not until you learn and process these things can you really take care of and focus on yourself. For some individuals, this book may be too much for them to do on their own and they may need the assistance of a therapist. But for some individuals, this book will be a very helpful tool for them to use on their own.

One of the treatment methods available for codependents is codependents anonymous which follows the same twelve step program as alcoholics/narcotics/etc. anonymous. Being only vaguely familiar with substance abuse issues (which is the most comment twelve step program), I was a little uncomfortable with it, and this workbook basically follows that program and emphasizes its benefit throughout. Part of the twelve step program focuses largely on submitting to a higher power and creating a spiritual path, whomever that higher spiritual power is for you. I could see this being difficult for me personally or even if using with a client because it's something I struggle with and am far from really understanding on my own personal level. The only other issue I see some people struggling with is the lack of concrete answers/help/insight. Not that I think the "answers" should be readily available, but I know people often seek out that kind of help and that is not what you'll find here which is one reason I think maybe someone who truly suffers from codependence would benefit best from utilizing this along with psychotherapy.

This workbook is not a fun and easy book of activities. No, it's intense and requires dedication and work that will likely need to be completed over an extended period of time. It's not something I would rush through. But if you're willing to put forth that effort, this well put-together and thorough workbook has the potential to help you achieve tremendous results and insight.

Follow the rest of the tour for more thoughts:
Monday, April 11th: Guinevere Gets Sober
Wednesday, April 13th: Take Me Away
Thursday, April 28th: Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Monday, May 2nd: A Room of Mama’s Own
Wednesday, May 4th: Bookshipper


Monday, April 11, 2011

Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Pages: 275
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (Little, Brown)
Pub. Date: April 5, 2011

Tina Fey is absolutely hilarious! She's also, in my opinion, one of the most authentic people out there, especially in celebrity-ville. Her memoir, Bossypants, touches on various moments of her life from her childhood, her time with the Second City Theater in Chicago, writing for Saturday Night Live, later acting on SNL (including those Sarah Palin sketches), creating and writing the show 30 Rock, (and the time she tried to and did get Oprah on the show), and being a mother.

If you already love Tina Fey and/or her show, 30 Rock, you'll for sure love her book. Her sarcastic and sometimes dry sense of humor permeates through Bossypants. And I loved it! I really wanted to post a picture on this post of me in my "I'm Lizzing" shirt (30 Rock reference) but I couldn't find it!! Blurgh!! (another reference). It's not uncommon in my household to hear the phrases, "I want to go to there" or "What the What?" So as you can tell, we're big fans.

The memoir doesn't really focus too much on any one topic. We get glimpses here and there into the different parts of her life and thoughts on those parts. I love that through her book I was able to get a look into her as the real person she is behind all the humor too -- someone any of us can relate to. Like the fact that she has cried in her office from being overwhelmed. Or reading the observations she's made about the treatment of women in her industry as opposed to men. Even her experiences and thoughts about playing Sarah Palin were interesting. Especially her reactions to the things that were said about that or the ways in which she wasn't quite accurately quoted in interviews. It was so funny to me to read about the family she came from, and the "strong father figure" and "fear thereof" that made her into the person she is today. And the thoughts of being a working mother. And on breastfeeding, even.

As I've probably established at this point, fans of Tina Fey will really appreciate this book. Those who aren't already fans might become fans. The only people I think might not appreciate this book are those who specifically don't like her sense of humor. Not that it overwhelms the book, but she did write it, after all. Otherwise, it's a quick and fun read that made me laugh and made me think.

And apparently Tina Fey will be on Oprah tomorrow (Tuesday) so set your DVR!

Read-a-Thon Wrap Up and Giveaway Winners

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I've officially experienced my first official read-a-thon all the way through. What an interesting experience. It was definitely harder than I expected! In all it was fun, though, and my husband enjoyed playing along as well. And I've learned things about what to do differently next time. I didn't keep track of each of hour this time but might do that next time.

I ended up finishing two books, Bossypants by Tina Fey and The Good Psychologist by Noam Shpancer. I was about a third of the way through The Night Season by Chelsea Cain when I decided it was time to go to bed! Jason finished reading Separation of Power by Vince Flynn which he was maybe a third through when this started, and he finished about half of Moonwalking with Einstein. He fit in other things (episodes of Dexter, some video games) too and had a great time. Now, I tend to go a little stir crazy when I'm home all day so I had that not going for me, and I had a headache for a lot of the day.

What I learned: in terms of books to have on my pile to choose from, focus not just on short books but on ones that will go fast for other reasons too. Maybe a funny book, or something light. I tend to fly through celebrity memoir-type books, mystery/thrillers, funny reads, and maybe some YA. This time after I finished Bossypants I could not get into anything because even though they were short, the topics for almost everything else on my pile were dark! The other thing I learned is I MUST take a break between books... like at least half an hour, maybe more.

Okay, now on to the giveaway winners! Winners have been chosen by the lovely random.org

The TWO winners of an advanced copy of Caleb's Crossing are...


The winner of The Four Ms. Bradwells is...


Congrats to the winners and thanks everyone for entering!

Read-a-Thon Update #1: Halfway there!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hello everyone!

I know this is my first update for today and we're already halfway through! I have to say I just haven't been that inspired yet to post anything. I decided to forego the hourly challenges and just focus on reading. I did okay at first. I officially started at 8:15 am and around 12:30 pm I finished my first book, Bossypants by Tina Fey. I took a few other 10-15 minute breaks here or there. Bossypants was hilarious!

But then. I've struggled since then. I started a couple different books and just couldn't get into anything. I finally settled on one that I've essentially been working on ever since. It's a short book, even, but I am trudging through. Ick. And even though I have like 20 books on a pile to choose from that I thought would work well, I'm not interested in any at the moment! So, I'm almost done with only my second book but then hope to get to something really good after that.

In the meantime, I'm tired and I have a headache. And I'm slightly sunburned but that's okay. I've taken breaks for a short nap, for dinner, and for some tv. But I'm back at it now and will hopefully finish this novel-wannabe-but-more-like-a-discussion-of-theoretical-and-philosophical-sorts book soon and read something really fun after that!

Hope all you other read-a-thon-ers are doing well!

Read-a-Thon Spring 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

I'm finally getting to participate in my first official read-a-thon. For those of you who aren't aware (readers of this blog who aren't fellow bloggers), the read-a-thon is a blogging community event where everyone spends 24 hours reading. The read-a-thon site has mini-challenges posted every hour and people manning the site, cheering readers on, etc. for the entire time. As of the writing of this post, there are 435 people officially signed up. I say this is my first official time because for the last 4-5 that I've been aware of, I had too much going on (school, internship, etc.) to be able to justify a straight 24 hours of reading for fun. PLUS, I couldn't afford to take a day off the following day which would, of course, be necessary. So I always just did what I could and read as much as I could. But I always had other commitments, even on top of just schoolwork.

But it worked out this time. I did have to take Sunday off from my therapy job, but it worked out anyway because our partial season ticket plan for the Orlando Magic has us going to our last regular game of the season on Sunday in the middle of the day. So I needed the day off anyway. (I just need to make sure I wake up in time!) Oh, and did I mention my wonderful husband will be participating with me! He's warned me though he will likely spend part of the day playing video games and another part catching up on some shows.

The read-a-thon starts at 8:00 am EST. Now, I do plan at this point of allowing myself to sleep in. But I don't sleep that late anyway. Then I'll be up and at it. I have read tips from other read-a-thon-ers. I have an immense pile of short-ish books to choose from. I have lots of snacks. And coffee, but that's a given read-a-thon or no. I plan on spending the day alternately lounging in my pj's or in my bathing suit at the pool! And we'll see how it goes! I'll try to keep the posts here minimal... probably edit and add on to one post rather than continuously creating more posts.

Leaving Atlanta

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Title: Leaving Atlanta
Author: Tayari Jones
Pages: 255
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Pub. Date: August 21, 2002 (hardcover); April 2, 2009 (paperback)

Leaving Atlanta is a story that definitely left its mark on me. Even as I moved on to reading other books, I found my mind returning to the characters in this book, wondering about them as if they were real people I interacted with in my life. Maybe it's because the main characters were children, naive to the world, that I wanted to reach out and protect. Whatever the reason, I was thoroughly impressed with this novel, and probably even more so because of the depth of the story despite its simplicity.

Leaving Atlanta is told against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979. This true event involved the kidnapping and murder of over twenty African American children in Atlanta, Georgia between 1979 and 1981. Childhood can be difficult enough, fitting in at school, trying to make friends, without having to worry that you'll be the next child snatched off the street and murdered. Yet, such was the reality for the children of fictional Oglethorpe Elementary. They were faced with trying to understand the frenzy their parents were placed in, worrying about their children coming straight home after school. Worrying about who the murderer could be. Told in three parts (each focusing on a different child), Jones worries less about a specific plot and more about bringing the reader into the mind and daily life of a child caught in this scary situation. And although the murders are the main thing on everyone's minds, the children are also learning about the world around them and dealing with issues such as race, poverty, abuse, peer groups, and bullying.

Jones's character development was superb. The writing was told from a child's perspective (first in third person, then in second, then in first) but didn't revert to childlike language. I thought it was such an astute manner of writing because other than the use of the child's language in dialogue, the only other "childish" part was the perception of the child. I was able to appreciate the writing while still feeling as though I was in the child's thoughts. I became so attached to the character of Tasha in the first part of the book that I was devastated when I realized the second part was told from the point of view of another character. But just like part one, I grew to care about the second and third characters immensely. The ending of the second part gave me chills. The significance of what life meant for that child, and the decision he makes... it's one I won't forget. I wish I knew someone else who read this just so I can discuss that one part!

Leaving Atlanta is a book about children and about the big bad world. Its quiet subtlety masks a surprising intensity that will leave you thinking about it for a long time after turning that last page.

Looking forward to reading more by this author!

Where She Went

Monday, April 4, 2011

Title: Where She Went (If I Stay #2)
Author: Gayle Forman
Pages: 258
Genre: Fiction; Young Adult
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Pub. Date: April 5, 2011

This review is meant to be as non-spoilery as possible for both this book and the first in the series, but in order to discuss anything about this one, I have to assume you have an idea about or don't care about knowing the likely ending to the first book.

As I mentioned yesterday, I found the first book in this series, If I Stay, to be good but, for me, not living up to the hype that I expected. As opposed to my expectations for that first book, I didn't have too much going into this one since I've only seen a spattering of reviews. So, I'm happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I felt more connected to Where She Went and felt it was a little more grown up and maybe more authentic than If I Stay.

Where She Went is told from the point of view of Adam, Mia's boyfriend. The story picks up three years later when Adam is 21-years-old, a rock star, and dating a famous actress. He's living the quintessential celebrity lifestyle but isn't happy. He misses Mia and still doesn't really understand why they're not together. Mia, meanwhile, is living on the opposite coast in New York City and is successfully touring as a cellist. She and Adam run in to each other and finally have the opportunity to hash out the issues between them.

I loved this one! Despite If I Stay clearly having its own specific plot, for me it sort of felt like the set up for this book. Sure, there was some teen angst, but isn't that what young adult books are almost all about? And this one felt easy for me to relate to because I too wanted to know, why aren't they still together??? I felt that the aforementioned hashing was very genuine, as were the emotions. And as I also mentioned, this one felt much more grown up to me.

Definitely a great sequel that really wraps up the whole Adam Mia thing that readers of If I Stay were left to only wonder about!

If I Stay

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gale Forman
Pages: 234
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Pub. Date: April 2, 2009 (hardcover); April 6, 2010 (paperback)

I think I got caught up in the hype monster with this one. Not to say I didn't like it, because I did, but I expected this one to blow me out of the water, float me on a materialized surfboard on the highest wave, and then leave me floating indefinitely up in the clouds. LOL. So maybe my expectations weren't realistic. But from the heaps of ebullient reviews I read in the past couple years, I was sure this would be an over-the-top, amazing, unforgettable read. Bad hype, bad. Because while I wasn't astounded with the book, I did enjoy it. I was satisfied, you could say. But I had to consciously be aware of this and overcome any hypothetical comparisons.

If I Stay tells the story of Mia and her perfect family (cool parents and an adorable little brother). In a tragic accident, Mia loses the rest of her family and is on the verge of losing herself. Mia watches while doctors rush to save her life and her body lays lifeless in a hospital bed. She doesn't know why she has this opportunity to stand by invisibly and watch everyone, but she does. She watches as others react to the situation, waits patiently for her devoted boyfriend to make his appearance at her side, and has to decide if she can bear to return to life knowing that her family is gone and she'll, essentially, be all alone.

The story is told through Mia's current observations interspersed with memories from the past. In that way we learn about her family, her boyfriend, her hobbies, her extreme talent, and her immense potential. The story was overall very well put-together. I, personally, found that the writing style was somewhat simple and at an easier reading level than much of the other young adult books I've read. In that sense, I felt this book would be a good one for those younger readers, maybe 12/13ish. (This is as opposed to some "young adult" books that I feel are more appropriate for the 15-17 age group). I'm almost certain that if I had read this book at a younger age, I really would have found myself surfing the highest wave, touching the clouds. ;) So yes, a great book, fun read (ironically, the somber subject does not make this too sad of a read), but it wasn't my favorite read either.

Nevertheless, the highly anticipated sequel, Where She Went, comes out in a couple days. Stay tuned for my review of that tomorrow. You may be surprised with my reaction to that one!

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Friday, April 1, 2011

Title: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Author: Barbara Demick
Pages: 296
Genre: Non-Fiction (narrative)
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
Pub. Date: December 29, 2009 (hardcover); September 21, 2010 (paperback)

Wow! What an amazing book!! I don't know where my interest and fascination for North Korea has come from lately. It may be that I'm half-Korean (South) but I think it's more just that I'm horribly fascinated by the real-life dystopian society that North Korea is. It's so mind boggling to know that there is a part of our world that is so oppressed, so like what we can only read about in the most outlandish novels (or see at the movies) that we can't fathom there actually being any truth to it, that people in this world are actually forced to live in that way. A real life 1984 (which terrified me, by the way).

Despite being told in a narrative fashion, this book is actually non-fiction. But you would be surprised to realize how fictional it all seems and how many elements of a great story can be found in this book. I found it to be such a morally ambiguous dichotomy -- on the one hand, I was so enthralled in the stories of the people that I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it and itching to get back to it as soon as I could. But then I'd remember that these were real people I was reading about who truly had these experiences in their lives, and then I'd feel a sort of guilt for finding any level of "entertainment" in the reading. But in reality, I became so engaged in the people this book was about and their stories.

Demick spent years visiting the country and interviewing defectors -- those who have illegally escaped from North Korea. She told about the history of North Korea from the 50's, around the Korean War, to the present through the life stories of six North Korean defectors. The basis is told chronologically and we check in with each of these characters at different times as the time moves along. We're first introduced to Mi-Ran who depicts teen love in a society where public affection is unheard, much less teen love in itself. We meet "the true believer" Mrs. Song who is so ultimately dedicated to her country and its leader, Kim Il-Sung, and would never even fathom doing anything against her country because it is the best in the world. She never would have expected to have a daughter like Oak-Hee, a rebellious child with her own mind and her own thoughts about the government. We meet Dr. Kim who is an independent thinker but who owes her free medical education to the government. But also along with these characters and others, we learn how in their communist regime, they're made to go to work even when salaries aren't available. We learn about the rules they have to follow in daily life and about how they survived during the famine that could have easily been prevented had the country passed on the humanitarian aid provided by other countries. We read and see all this from a place of such privilege and freedom. The difference is absurd!

As I said earlier, the six defectors whose lives are followed are just that: defectors. So there was a suspense, of sorts, to learn what happened to lead each of these individuals (some, very patriotic) to leave their countries. And then the experiences and realizations they had once they did leave the country were both poignant and hopeful. Despite the differences in culture and understanding of the world, the citizens of North Korea are people just like us who share wants, desires, and plain human nature. This is a must read!!