Tuesday, August 26, 2008

They're Taking Over My Nightstand

To be quite honest, I've gotten a little book-happy lately. Part of it may be that I'm saving up for a new camera, so I've been staying busy by reading more therefore to curb my shopping cravings. I tend to get the same kind of spending buzz by just going to the library to return my books and then walking out with 3 or 4 more...free. The library is a beautiful thing my friends.

I've decided this month to participate in What's On Your Nightstand by 5minutesforbooks.
So here goes:

I'm currently reading Sister's Choice by Emilie Richards. I came across it at the library and so far after reading the first 40 pages, I'm really enjoying it! I think its gonna be a good one even though its a bit hefty, but I'm excited to finish it.
The other book I'm reading right now is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I downloaded the PDF version at work and read it when things start to get slow. So far I'm getting flashbacks of Pride & Prejudice, which if you'll remember wasn't one of my favorites. Hmmm....but I'll press on!
Through the month of August, I read the below books:

Then the books I've managed to accumulate on my nightstand either through the library, Bookmooch, bought on sale at B&N or receiving as advanced reading copies - I'm hoping to tackle the majority of these through the month of September:

My goal this year was to read 20 books...ahem. I read 8 in August alone. Ok, so I misjudged myself. I've never set a reading goal before and by next year, I'll have a much better idea of how to challenge myself!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where The River Ends by Charles Martin

I have read a number of touching and beautiful love stories, but "Where The River Ends" is in a class all of its own. A friend of mine had recommended I try one of Charles Martin's books after finding out how much I love Nicholas Sparks. His style was similar but also distinct. I found myself marking page after page of quotes I didn't want to forget - but in reality, I'd quote the entire book here because the whole thing was so deeply moving. I found myself wiping tears away long after I turned the last page - this one will stay with me for a while.

The premise of the book is of a couple, deeply devoted to each other who face a battle with cancer. And together they're tested to walk out their vows down to the very last promise. Abbie, a Senator's daughter made herself a life as a famous model and her husband of 14 years Doss is an artist. Once Abbie is diagnosed with cancer she makes a list of ten things she would like to accomplish by the end of her life, but this list in no way overshadows their deep love or commitment to face future obstacles as one.

There is one quote from the book that I have to include here where Abbie is talking to Doss about his paintings:

"If you want to make great art, something that can reach beyond time and space, find someone who isn't [beautiful] and show them that they are. Paint the broken, the unlovely...and make them believe."

You can find many stories of individuals who have had to face cancer and disease alone, but this story stands out to me because it shows how to married people choose to fight this disease as one and the toll it takes on each of them.

Every element that makes a good story can be found within these pages; love, sorrow, fear, courage, weakness, strength, adventure, suspense and serenity. If I was asked today by anyone what book I would say is a must read, I would say this one. It has made me grateful for every precious moment I have to love and be loved by an amazing man.

Charles Martin made a lasting impression with me and places himself at the top of my favorite authors. I'm also excited to say that this Wednesday, he will be at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills doing a book signing!

For more info on Charles Martin and the six other novels he's written, you can visit his website by clicking here.

Description: A powerfully emotional and beautifully written story of heartbreaking loss and undying love.

He was a fishing guide and struggling artist from a south George trailer park. She was the beautiful only child of South Carolina’s most powerful senator. Yet once Doss Michaels and Abigail Grace Coleman met by accident, they each felt they’d found their true soul mate.

Ten years into their marriage, when Abbie faces a life-threatening illness, Doss battles it with her every step of the way. And when she makes a list of ten things she hopes to accomplish before she loses the fight for good, Doss is there, too, supporting her and making everything possible. Together they steal away in the middle of the night to embark upon a 130-mile trip down the St. Mary’s River—a voyage Doss promised Abbie in the early days of their courtship.

Where the River Ends chronicles their love-filled, tragedy-tinged journey and a bond that transcends all.

Rating: *****

Recommend: Without a second thought!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

Our small group from church picked The Irresistible Revolution as our next study book. Every week we would discuss our thoughts on the next chapter and it was amazing how many opposing and also unifying opinions came out of our discussions. I think it is very important to take a teaching book and break it down into bite size pieces and then compare it against the word of God. I'm blessed to be in a small group where everyone is comfortable to speak freely whether it be in agreement or disagreement to the status quo. We challenge ourselves and each other to know God in a greater way and how we can live out our lives demonstrating this.

With that said, this book brought some fascinating and yet challenging discussions between us. Shane Claiborne does not mince words by any means whatsoever. At times, that's the way I would prefer it, just say what you mean and don't come up with some fancy over-analyzed theory on your viewpoint. And boy did he say what he meant. I found myself agreeing with how he challenges the church to truly act as Christians are called to by getting to know the poor and showing love to our neighbors. But then I would strongly disagree with how he believes we should not be fighting this war we're in but instead showing love. I know that God is love and his greatest command is to love our neighbors as ourselves. But at the same time, though we serve a God who forgives and heals, He is also a jealous God who can show wrath. I don't believe that God sending His Son Jesus in the New Testament, completely changes God's character from the Old Testament. God is the same yesterday, today and forever, therefore His character has not changed. It's just that now because of the New Testament we have been allowed a place to find forgiveness and communing directly with the Father through His spirit, finally giving us the free choice of accepting eternal salvation.

Shane is extremely passionate about the poor, the needy and loving others within the community he is a part of The Simple Way. I believe, unlike many of us Christians today, what makes him stand out, is that he actually has the courage to walk out the destiny God has called him to. I was awed by the time he spent with Mother Teresa and the lepers, but does that mean that all Christians are meant to go to Calcutta? No some of us are called to witness to those sitting in the cube next to us, at the table we're waiting on, the elderly man across the street - and that does not make him a better Christian or any of us less of one.

I was taken aback by Shane Claiborne's view on the church, and was left more with the impression than rather him supporting the idea of an actual building where people come together to worship, he believes the church can be anyone meeting anywhere and giving their 10% tithe to anyone. Hmmm...this brought up a lot of heated discussion and we really contemplated on both ideas.

In the end, I'm glad I read it. At times I found myself on the verge of tears convicted by my selfishness and other times I wanted to throw the book across the room in complete disagreement with him. But when its all said and done, not all of us as Christians are going to see everything the same way, and that's really ok. One church or even denomination is not more important or more enlightened or more loved by God than another, the body consists of hands, feet, arms and legs and they each have a different role and view from their place on that body.

So would I recommend this? Yes, because we all need to get out of our boxes and be challenged to see things from another Christian's viewpoint and allow God to be the one that shows you where you need to go from there. And to Shane, thank you for having the courage to write what God has so passionately laid on your heart to share and not being afraid to offend us Christians by writing it. We need more believers like that!

Description: Using unconventional examples from his own life, Shane Claiborne stirs up questions about the church and the world, and challenges readers to truly live out their Christian faith.

Rating: ****

Recommend: yes for everyone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

A friend of mine had suggested I try out one of Sophie Kinsella's books, because she is a huge fan of the Shopaholic series. And after page one I realized I was into the story of Lexi who finds herself tired and fed up with where she's at in her life and wishing she had the life she'd always dreamed of. You know the saying, "the grass is always greener on the other side?" - well this story is a great example of what happens when you wish your life was completely different, you then get your wish and realize that what you originally had wasn't really so bad after all.

I rarely find myself actually laughing out loud from a book, but there were times I found myself laughing so hard that I was wiping the tears from eyes. Some of the humor in that book, reminded me of the intimate and yet hilarious conversations you have with your best girl friends that bring you to the verge of almost peeing your pants. With that said, yes, there was some adult humor in there that I would say is more appropriate for married women, but holy cow was it ever so funny!! I loved the storyline and humor throughout, and if it wasn't for these darn Olympics that have me glued to the television at all hours, I would have finished it in a couple of days.

I look forward to checking out some of her other novels from the Shopaholic Series. If you ever need a fun, light read for the beach, Sophie Kinsella's your girl!

Description: Lexi wakes up in a hospital bed after a car accident, thinking it's 2004 and she's a twenty-five-year old with crooked teeth and a disastrous love life. But, to her disbelief, she learns it's actually 2007 - she's twenty-eight, her teeth are straight, she's the boss of her department - and she's married! To a good-looking millionaire! How on earth did she land the dream life??! She can't believe her luck - especially when she sees her stunning new home. She's sure she'll have a fantastic marriage once she gets to know her husband again. He's drawn up a 'manual of our marriage,' which should help. But as she learns more about her new self, chinks start to appear in the perfect life. All her old colleagues hate her. A rival is after her job. Then a dishevelled, sexy guy turns up...and lands a new bombshell. What happened to her? Will she ever remember? And what will happen if she does?

Rating: ****

Recommend: For those who enjoy chick-lit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I decided to give the classic genre another shot and download To Kill A Mockingbird from this website. Since my job has a tendency to have lulls throughout the day, I needed something other than surfing the Internet to keep my attention. My sister Kati had recommended this as a good one for me to try after she had recently read it during our family vacation in July.

I admit, it was definitely a lot better than Pride & Prejudice or Alice In Wonderland for me. I followed the story much easier and the author's messages came through loud and clear. Wow, to imagine a society where black men and women were treated with such disrespect, it just sickened me to read about it, but at the same time I really needed to hear it. Even though I know there are still places in our country where equality is not practiced, we have definitely come a long way from what I read in that book. I loved the relationship between Atticus and his son and daughter and what he teaches them. I would probably say that Calpurnia was one of my favorite characters in the entire book. There is something for everyone to learn in this story, even beyond the obvious of treating everyone with respect and as how you would want to be treated.

I'm glad I read it and toward the end I couldn't manage to put it down. I highly recommend to anyone no matter where you are in your life or where you come from. Oh! And now when someone mentions Boo Radley, I understand who they're talking about! (ie. my husband!)

At the age of eight, Scout Finch is an entrenched free-thinker. She can accept her father's warning that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, because mockingbirds harm no one and give great pleasure. The benefits said to be gained from going to school and keeping her temper elude her.

The place of this enchanting, intensely moving story is Maycomb, Alabama. The time is the Depression, but Scout and her brother, Jem, are seldom depressed. They have appalling gifts for entertaining themselves—appalling, that is, to almost everyone except their wise lawyer father, Atticus.

Atticus is a man of unfaltering good will and humor, and partly because of this, the children become involved in some disturbing adult mysteries: fascinating Boo Radley, who never leaves his house; the terrible temper of Mrs. Dubose down the street; the fine distinctions that make the Finch family "quality"; the forces that cause the people of Maycomb to show compassion in one crisis and unreasoning cruelty in another.

Also because Atticus is what he is, and because he lives where he does, he and his children are plunged into a conflict that indelibly marks their lives—and gives Scout some basis for thinking she knows just about as much about the world as she needs to.

Rating: ****

Recommend: Absolutely! After all, it is a classic!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week September 15-19

A book blogger that I've been following for the last couples months and absolutely adore is Amy from My Friend Amy. And she has come up with an idea of hosting a Book Blogger Appreciation Week during September 15th - 19th. I'm not fully clear on what all is going to take place, but it sounds like fun and I've never done anything like this, so I thought I'd give it a shot and maybe meet some more great people out there who share the passion of reading as I do!

Here's how Amy describes the event:

"Book Bloggers: You work hard. You read books, you write reviews, you maintain relationships with your readers, publicists, and authors. You are constantly running to the post office to mail your giveaways and participating in carnivals to help boost traffic. You sometimes want to faint when you see the size of your TBR pile, but faithfully you read. And you do it because you love it. Book blogging is for most a hobby. But it's a hobby that takes a lot of work and time. It's a labor of love.

I've been blogging for three years but only really got into book blogging in the last year. I have found, without a doubt, that book bloggers are the kindest, most open minded, and supportive group of bloggers on the internet. With book blogging, it's about community and a love for the written word.

The Readers: We love you! You don't have a blog, but you read our reviews and share your thoughts with us. You enter our giveaways and click on our Amazon associates link. We do this for you and appreciate your readership. We hope you'll join in the fun and festivities of BBAW! (we'll have a special contest just for you!)

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Register: In order to experience the maximum impact of the week, I invite you to register your participation (just like a retreat)!To register, just send an email to bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom with your blog url and what you consider your niche...i.e, general book blog, classics blog, personal blog with a healthy dose of books, YA books blog, etc. Then, add one of the two buttons at the bottom of this post to your sidebar. If you are a reader (no blog) just send an email announcing your plans to follow along.Why bother? If you register, you will be added to a book blog directory which will exist long after this week is over. Additionally, you will receive one raffle entry into the daily giveaways during BBAW here at My Friend Amy.

Awards: Oh yes, there will be awards. The Oscars of Book Blogging. :) Nominations start next week.

Spread the Word: If you are excited about this idea like I am and the other book bloggers who are helping, please consider writing a post on your blog announcing this event and inviting other book bloggers and readers to join.

Help Wanted: If you have a talent for designing buttons (like those below) and would like to donate some of your time and skill to me, please email me personally at mypalamyATgmailDOTcom"

The Buttons:

It's only a week and sounds like a lot of fun, so I'm looking foward to it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh

I stumbled across Splitting Harriet at the library in the new fiction section. It sounded like a fun, light, chick-lit read and being Christian fiction, I counted that as a bonus too.

But I was disappointed to find that this fits right in with many other Christian fiction I've read - which is downright cheesy. Seriously, the characters just didn't work for me. Even though I'm a Christian, I wouldn't say I'm religiously-minded, I would say I'm relationship-minded. And this was WAY TOO religious for me. Ick.

Sorry, I felt I was being generous by giving this two stars.

Description: Once upon a time, I was a rebel. And I have the tattoo to prove it.

Then there was the spiked hair–the shade of which changed monthly–“colorful” language that can’t be found in your everyday sixteen-count crayon box, a pack-a-day habit, less-than-modest wardrobe, and an obsession with guitar-trashing, drum-bashing music.

Did I mention I’m also a preacher’s kid? That’s right. And like the prodigal son after whom I modeled myself, I finally saw the error of my ways and returned to the fold.

Today my life is all about “lead me not into temptation.” When I’m not serving as Women’s Ministry Director at my father’s church, I’m working at Gloria’s Morning Café. I even have worthy goals, like saving enough money to buy the café, keep my Jelly Belly habit under control, and to never again hurt the people I love. No more parties. No more unsavory activities. And no more motorcycles! You’d think I was finally on the right track.

But since my dad’s replacement hired a hotshot church consultant to revive our “dying” church, things aren’t working out as planned. And now this “consultant” says I’m in need of a little reviving myself. Just who does this Maddox McCray think he is anyway? With his curly hair that could use a good clipping, tattoo that he makes no attempt to hide, and black leather pants, the man is downright dangerous. In fact, all that’s missing is a motorcycle. Or so I thought… But if he thinks he’s going to take me for a ride on that 1298cc machine of his, he can think again. Harriet Bisset is a reformed woman, and she’s going to stay that way. Even if it kills me!

Rating: **

Recommend: Only if you enjoy cheesy Christian fiction.

* Update: It seems I wasn't the only book blog reviewer who disliked the preachiness and was disappointed by this Christian book. Amy over at The Friendly Book Nook, also a fellow Christian book reviewer, had a very similar review as mine written back in March 2008. You can read it by clicking here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

1. You know you're old when you start plucking hairs out of your chin! Yes, I'm old.

2. My heart is divided between Joshua and Twitch on So You Think You Can Dance!

3. A pedicure is what I need RIGHT NOW!

4. I have felt the need for ice cream, I have known the depths of my sugar cravings.

5. Gah, won't these people ever leave for the day!!???

6. Hug someone as soon as you can!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to watching the Olympics Opening Ceremonies , tomorrow my plans include reading and watching more Olympics and Sunday, I want to spend the entire day with my husband, yippeee!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Last Dance At Jitterbug Lounge by Pamela Morsi

What book wouldn't draw you in with a cover such as this?? This beautiful fiction novel caught my eye as I was skimming the library shelves on my way to pick up a book on hold. And thankfully, for just stumbling upon this book with no prior recommendation, I was so pleasantly surprised that it was better than I had hoped! I enjoyed everything about this story! It was so sweet, touching and realistic and I couldn't put it down and finished it within two days.

The story parallels two couples in two different time periods as they struggle through their marriages, dreams and lives together. It was beautifully written and very honest. The author, Pamela Morsi, really reminded me of why I first fell in love with Nicholas Sparks. I can't wait to check out more of Pamela Morsi's other books!!

Description: Jack and Claire Crabtree were once happily married, but separate interests have left each one dancing to their own tune. She refuses to move into the brand-new house he built for the family. He spends too much time at work with a colleague whom she considers a threat to any man's fidelity. When Jack is summoned back to Oklahoma to see his ailing grandpa Bud, Claire only makes the trip at the last minute.

Bud and Geri Crabtree danced through life together for seventy years as friends, lovers and devoted spouses. They always knew what mattered most in life—and the laughter and tears come naturally when their family gathers together. And if Jack and Claire can remember the bond they once shared, they might be able to rediscover what's wonderful about love.…

Rating: *****

Recommend: To those who love Nicholas Spark and a clean, sweet love story.

Friday, August 1, 2008

This week's Friday Fill-In's!

1. If I could travel back in time, I'd go to the hobby shops with my dad.

2. Give me a cozy blanket with a good book or give me a night off with a husband out to dinner. (I couldn't go with what was expected.)

3. I am listening to my space heater. (I am at work you know.)

4. Somewhere, someone is thinking about leaving me a comment! Ha!

5. I'll always be true.

6. My idea of a good time includes spending money - ok, maybe not ALL the time, but I do love it!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to starting a new book, tomorrow my plans include staying out of the ridiculous hot heat and Sunday, I want to hang out at the pool with Angela!