Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monthly Wrap Up: November 2011

Another month has flown by my friends! I can hardly believe that tomorrow is December! I'm super excited for Decemeber ... the holidays are my favorite time of year and I love all the excitement and joy that abounds in December. It can be a bit stressful, but I find that everyone is much happier this month than in other months and much more giving. I don't know about you, but my Christmas shopping is just about done! I try to finish as early as possible but waited until the last minute last year, and it was disasterous! Lesson learned! So I have been working on buying everyone's gifts for the past few months now, so all I really have left to do is wrap them! How about you? How's your shopping going?

Well, enough about me and my love for the holidays. Let's see my reading stats for this month:

Number of Books Read: 8

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
A Lost Argument by Therese Doucet
Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
Tabloid City by Pete Hamill
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Favorite Book of the Month: The Very Thought of You

Least Favorite Book of the Month: The Lantern

Well, not my best reading month, but here's hoping that I can squeeze in a few more books before the year is over! I have really been slacking in my blogging this month as well, and it seems to be taking me a long time to get around to writing reviews. Even though this next month will be busy with all the festivites, I'm going to try and get back on track!

So, how was your November? Read anything great? Let me know ... and I hope that everyone has a magical and wonderful December!

Waiting On Wednesday (11-30-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba (expected publication date: March 13, 2012).

Synopsis (from This is the story of the American divorcee notorious for allegedly seducing a British king off his throne.  “That woman,” so called by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was born Bessie Wallis Warfield in 1896 in Baltimore.  Neither beautiful nor brilliant, she endured an impoverished childhood, which fostered in her a burning desire to rise above her circumstances.

Acclaimed biographer Anne Sebba offers an eye-opening account of one of the most talked about women of her generation.  It explores the obsessive nature of Simpson’s relationship with Prince Edward, the suggestion that she may have had a Disorder of Sexual Development, and new evidence showing she may never have wanted to marry Edward at all.

Since her death, Simpson has become a symbol of female empowerment as well as a style icon.  But her psychology remains an enigma.  Drawing from interviews and newly discovered letters, That Woman shines a light on this captivating and complex woman, an object of fascination that has only grown with the years.

Since watching The King's Speech (which, if you haven't seen, you must! Seriously, it won't disappoint!), my interest in Wallis Simpson has grown. I wonder how amazing she was to lure a man away from his throne as the king of England. This is something that I will definitely be anxiously awaiting! So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (11-29-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. This week's topic:

Books on My TBR List for Winter

1) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - I read this back in high school and really want to reread it now that I am little older. I'm hoping to squeeze it in before the end of the year!

2) Before Versailles by Karleen Koen - I think this sounds like a great book and will help me get my fill of French aristocracy.

3) The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes - I keep on forgetting that this book is in my TBR pile and I think it's something that I would really like. Set during World War II, it's something that it is right up my alley.

4) My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe - I have wanted to read this memoir for what seems like forever! Definitely going to have to make time for it this winter!

5) The Submission by Amy Waldman - this sounds like such a great book and even though it's a work of fiction, it's based in the real world (the Twin Towers memorial). I asked Santa for it, so I hope that I find a copy under the tree!

6) The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides - even though I haven't read Middlesex (yet), I cannot wait to read Eugenides latest novel. It seems like something that I can relate to (who doesn't long for a relationship like those found in Austen novels?!?) and would hold my interest. Another book that I asked Santa for.

7) Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah - I love Kristin Hannah and think she's a great writer, and it only makes sense to read this book during winter!

8) Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris - I have to read this one before Christmas!

9) The First Husband by Laura Dave - I actually plan on reading this one within the next 2 weeks. I need something light to read.

10) If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster - I have been wanting to read Jen Lancaster forever (I haven't read any of her books ... I know, how have I not read any of her books?!?), and I really want to get this one sometime in the next few months.

So, what books are in your TBR pile for the winter? Let me know!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Becoming Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey
Published: August 9, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Paperback: 453 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon. Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must changeeverything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

My Thoughts: I find Marie Antoinette to be an interesting person and I often look for books about her life. When I heard about Juliet Grey's new trilogy about her, I was intrigued. After finishing this book, I can say that this is such a thorough explanation of Marie's life, with so much detail, that I was astounded and drawn into the story! This novel focuses on the time from Marie first learning of her engagement to the day that she becomes queen of France. Grey goes into so much detail about Marie's life, from her life in the Austrian palace to her preparations to become the dauphine, and yet the story never drags. I found it to be interesting and Grey's writing to be light, which, given the subject matter and knowing Marie's eventual fate, is quite nice.

There is a lot of depth in this book, with several pages talking about Marie Antoinette having braces placed on her teeth (can you imagine having braces put on during the 18th century?!? I couldn't even begin to imagine how primative they much have looked!) I really liked the pace of the novel and the depth. You are able to learn a lot about Marie and Louis. While it is a work of fiction, Grey has done a lot of research on her subject and it shines through.

I cannot wait until the second book in this series comes out (sometime in summer 2012). And even though I know what happens to Marie, reading Grey's take on it is refreshing. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially that during the French Revolution, then this is definitely a book that you should read! Just be careful ... it will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this series!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: The Girl In the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason

The Girl In the Blue Beret
Author: Bobbie Ann Mason
Published: June 28, 2011
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover: 368 pages
Source: borrowed from library

My Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from When Marshall Stone returns to his crash site decades later, he finds himself drawn back in time to the brave people who helped him escape from the Nazis. He especially recalls one intrepid girl guide who risked her life to help him—the girl in the blue beret. At twenty-three, Marshall Stone was a U.S. flyboy stationed in England. Headstrong and cocksure, he had nine exhilarating bombing raids under his belt when enemy fighters forced his B-17 to crash-land in a Belgian field near the border of France. The memories of what happened next—the frantic moments right after the fiery crash, the guilt of leaving his wounded crewmates and fleeing into the woods to escape German troops, the terror of being alone in a foreign country—all come rushing back when Marshall sets foot on that Belgian field again. Marshall was saved only by the kindness of ordinary citizens who, as part of the Resistance, moved downed Allied airmen through clandestine, often outrageous routes (over the Pyrenees to Spain) to get them back to their bases in England. Even though Marshall shared a close bond with several of the Resistance members who risked their lives for him, after the war he did not look back. But now he wants to find them again—to thank them and renew their ties. Most of all, Marshall wants to find the courageous woman who guided him through Paris. She was a mere teenager at the time, one link in the underground line to freedom. Marshall’s search becomes a wrenching odyssey of discovery that threatens to break his heart—and also sets him on a new course for the rest of his life. In his journey, he finds astonishing revelations about the people he knew during the war—none more electrifying and inspiring than the story of the girl in the blue beret.

My Thoughts: I typically read WWII books from female points of view, so this one caught my eye when I saw that it was narrated by Marshall Stone, a pilot during the war. He decided to return to the place where his plane was shot down and try to find the families that housed him and helped get him back to the US. Unfortunately, I just couldn't connect with this book. I found the storyline interesting, but Mason's writing didn't pull me into the story. Marshall is the main character, but he wasn't likeable in anyway. He talks about how he cheated on his wife while he was still alive, which really made me dislike him. I felt that there was a distance between Marshall and the reader. It was interesting to read about his experience, from being shot down to hiding in French barns, to hiking across the Pyrenees to escape the Nazis. I don't think that I will be reading any more of Mason's work based on her writing style.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow Friday and TGIF! (11-25-11)

Happy Friday, everyone! For you Americans, I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with lots of turkey, pumpkin pie, and family and friends to share it with. And hopefully, you have started on your Christmas shopping and didn't have to camp out all day yesterday to get a great deal at some store (some people here had been camping outside of Best Buy for DAYS! Seriously, people?!?) I had a great holiday and am super excited that it's now the official start of the Christmas season. I have been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks now and am almost done with my shopping, but now that it's the official holiday season, it just makes me even more excited! Now, onto the Friday fun ...

Parajunkee asks:

It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. so we want to know what you are thankful for - blogging related of course!

I'm thankful that I finally had the courage to make this blog! This is something far outside my comfort zone, so giving myself that push I needed to do it is something that I am thankful for. I'm also thankful for the people who have stuck with my blog from the beginning, even when I had no idea what I was doing (actually, I'm still clueless!)

GReads asks:

When You're Not Reading: What occupies your time 
when your nose isn't stuck in a book?

When I'm not reading, I'm working. I wish that was a joke, but it's not. I work between 50-55 hours a week, so that's what I do with the majority of my time. I really enjoy baking too, so I like to experiment and try out new recipes. And sadly, that's my life. Haha.

So, what are you thankful for this year? And what do you do when you aren't reading? Let me know and have a happy holiday weekend!

PS - if you are going out this weekend to shop/eat, be nice to those of us who are working. Believe me, my idea of fun isn't serving hundreds of people when I could still be hanging out with my family, but we have to be there. Just show us a little compassion since many of us are working very long hours this weekend. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (11-23-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson (expected publication date: April 17, 2012).

Summary (from 
For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris-Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.
When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.
Lawson's long-suffering husband and sweet daughter are the perfect comedic foils to her absurdities, and help her to uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments-the ones we want to pretend never happened-are the very same moments that make us the people we are today.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened is a poignantly disturbing, yet darkly hysterical tome for every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud. Like laughing at a funeral, this book is both irreverent and impossible to hold back once you get started.

So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (11-22-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. This week's topic:

Authors I Want at My Thanksgiving Dinner

1) Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) - I would just love to meet her. She was such a private person that not much is known about her. Just being able to sit and talk with her would be fascinating.

2) David Sedaris (When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Barrell Fever) - I LOVE Sedaris's work. He is a genius and I would have to make sure that he had a place at my imaginary Thanksgiving table.

3) Pete Hamill (Forever, Snow In August, Tabloid City) - the epitome of New York City, Hamill is a living legend. I would love to discuss with him where he gets his ideas.

4) Bill Bryson (Walk In the Woods) - another funny man who would most definitely have a place reserved for him at my table. The way he can comment on those simple occurrances with his trademark wit and humor would be the highlight of my day. Plus, I would get to hear all of his amazing travel stories!

5) JK Rowling (the Harry Potter series) - seriously, who wouldn't invite her?!?

6) Tina Fey (Bossypants) - okay, she's actually an actress/comedienne, but she is a writer. She's such a strong woman and someone who I look up to, who lets me know that it's okay to be a sarcastic, smart woman.

7) Kristin Hannah (Firefly Lane, True Colors) - she just seems like such a nice person that I would love to just sit and talk about life with her.

8) J. Courtney Sullivan (Commencement, Maine) - she is an amazing writer and the only author I have encountered who has tapped into the early to mid-twenties girl like nobody else. She just seems like she would be really cool to have over.

9 ) F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) - I have always thought Fitzgerald just seemed like a fun guy to have around. Plus, I would love to hear about his expat days of living in Paris during the 1920s. I can only imagine the things that happened then!

10) Erik Larson (In the Garden of Beasts) - a master of narrative nonfiction, I would love to hear how to finds such amazing stories to tell. Plus, I bet he's been able to see some pretty cool things while researching his books.

There are so many authors that I would love to invite to Thanksgiving! Who would you invite?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Audiobook Review: Escape by Barbara Delinsky

Author: Barbara Delinsky
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published: July 12, 2011
Genre: chick lit
Audiobook: 10 CDs
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from Emily Aulenbach is thirty, a lawyer married to a lawyer, working in Manhattan. An idealist, she had once dreamed of representing victims of corporate abuse, but she spends her days in a cubicle talking on the phone with vic­tims of tainted bottled water—and she is on the bottler’s side. And it isn’t only work. It’s her sister, her friends, even her husband, Tim, with whom she doesn’t connect the way she used to. She doesn’t connect to much in her life, period, with the exception of three things—her computer, her BlackBerry, and her watch. Acting on impulse, Emily leaves work early one day, goes home, packs her bag, and takes off. Groping toward the future, uncharacteristically following her gut rather than her mind, she heads north toward a New Hampshire town tucked between mountains. She knows this town. During her college years, she spent a watershed summer here. Painful as it is to return, she knows that if she is to right her life, she has to start here.

My Thoughts: The description of this book really appealed to me. I'm young, but I'm also continually amazed at how work rules peoples' lives. People sleep with their Blackberries in bed! So, this book definitely appealed to me. Barbara Delinsky explores the relationship that we have with work and our careers, the people that we are drawn to, and the people that impact us more than we ever thought possible. Emily, the main character, is so likeable. I couldn't help but immediately identify with her story. Within minutes of the book starting, I wanted Emily to leave her job. Delinsky wastes to time in pulling you into the story. Emily is struggling with so much in her life, so the only logical escape choice that she has is to run away to Bell Valley, New Hampshire, where she spent her last summer before law school with her best friend, Vicky. Emily rediscovers what she is missing in her life, what she can do without, and what she should do in terms of her career. I think it's something that a lot of people can identify with, and with so many relatable characters, it's very easy to enjoy listening to this book.

Now, after glowing about what a relevant book it is, you might be wondering why I only gave it three stars. For me, the book was too long. It just seemed to be never ending and at times, it became a bit too repetitive. Emily constantly wondered what to do about her old flame, Jude, who didn't really factor into the story. I felt like she just spent too much time thinking about everything, and it made the story drag at times.

I really enjoyed the story and the narrator told the story perfectly. For me, it was the perfect audiobook: something easy to listen to without being very heavy. I will definitely be looking for more of Delinsky's audiobooks in the future.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: The Foremost Good Fortune by Susan Conley

The Foremost Good Fortune
Author: Susan Conley
Published: February 8, 2011
Genre: memoir
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: provided by Knopf

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from In 2007, American writer Susan Conley moves to Beijing with her husband and two young sons. Six months later, she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Set against the fascinating backdrop of modern China and full of insight into the trickiest questions of motherhood, this wry and poignant memoir is a celebration of family and a candid exploration of mortality and belonging.

My Thoughts: Susan Conley's memoir chroncling her family's time in China creates a beautiful travelogue, but it's her battle with breast cancer in a foreign land that make this book a great one. Mother to two young boys, Susan follows her husband all the way to China for a two year stint. Leaving behind their family and friends in Maine, they pack up their belongings and board their flight, unsure of what they are going to encounter. While her husband, Tony, has been to China before and is fluent in the language, but Susan is not. It creates for an amusing and sometimes heartbreaking story. Less than one year into their stay, Susan discovers lumps right by her collarbone. A Chinese doctor tells her to wait three months, but after talking to her doctor back in the US, she goes back. Turns out, she has breast cancer. She then spends sometime in Boston, goes back to Beijing, back to Boston with the whole faimly, then back.

I loved the timespan of this book. You truly see Susan grow throughout their stay in China. At the beginning of the trip, she is shy, timid, unsure of what to do or say. By the end of their time in China, she still maybe unsure of what to do, but she is confident in her actions and behaves as if she has lived in Beijing her whole life. The other thing that I really loved about this book was the writing. I felt as if I was with the Conley family, playing badmition in their apartment, driving to the Great Wall, trying new Chinese cuisine. Susan writes with great clarity, which is especially evident when talking about her need for friendships in this foreign country. There is a large expat community, but it consists of people from all over the world, who may not speak English. I felt for Susan, her need to find friends, people that she could talk with. She writes so clearly, it hurt sometimes hearing her speak about how alone she felt.

This is one of the best memoirs I have read. It's insightful, funny (at times), heartbreaking, and uplifting. It's a great read and I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Conley's work in the future.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Follow Friday and TGIF (11-18-11)

Happy Friday, everybody! I hope that you are having a great November so far and getting everything ready so that you can have a stress free Thanksgiving next weekend! I plan to do a little baking today (pumpkin bars ... mmm!) and catching up on laundry (I'm pretty sure it multiplied while I wasn't looking this week). Now, onto the Friday fun!

Parajunkee asks:

Letter to Santa: Tell Santa What Books You Want for Christmas!

Too many! Haha, but seriously, there a lot of books that I want for Christmas. It would take hours for me to list them all, so these are the two books that I really want to find under the tree:

A Dublin Student Doctor by Patrick Taylor (the only series that I really keep up with. Such a nice, enjoyable read!)

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (I have a feeling there are lots of people who hope to find this under the tree!)

Ginger at GReads asks:

Giving Thanks: Which books are you most thankful for receiving from other bloggers, friends, family members, or publishers?

Whenever someone gives me a book, I'm always thankful. The best book that someone ever gave me was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. My dad gave it to me my senior year of high school. It is a long book but such a good one. If you haven't read it, then put it on your list for books that you must read during 2012!

So, what are you asking Santa for this year? Which books are you most thankful for receiving? Let me know, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: A Lost Argument by Therese Doucet

A Lost Argument
Author: Therese Doucet
Published: September 3, 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction
Paperback: 260 pages
Source: received from the author

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): The summer after her freshman year at all-Mormon Brigham Young University, Marguerite Farnsworth falls in love with philosophy by way of falling in love with an atheist philosophy student. Her search for Truth (with a capital T), God, the meaning of life, and a boyfriend leads her away from religious belief, but along the way she learns there are things even atheists can have faith in.

My Thoughts: Therese Doucet writes an interesting look at a young woman, raised in the Mormon faith, who goes off to college and struggles with her spirituality. Raised in such a strict faith and attending Brigham Young University, founded by the Mormon church, Marguerite struggles with faith, God, and morals while trying to find herself. Marguerite is a smart girl, pushing herself in her studies and trying to learn as much about philospohy and religion as she can. The novel takes place over the course of a few years, where we start at the end of Marguerite's freshman year and following her through to her starting her PhD. Over the course of the novel, Marguerite encounters a slew of people, some trying to help her stay strong in her Mormon faith, some encouraging her to take a step back in order to see if she truly agrees with her religion, and other wanting her to completely abandon faith. All of these people affect Marguerite in different ways and some affect her more than others.

I felt like Marguerite was a likeable character but she seemed melodramatic at times. There were times when she seemed to be going through a funk and her reaction was wanting to end her life. I mean, everyone goes through funks, but I don't think most of us contemplate suicide. Marguerite was very relatable and I found myself identifying with her at times. While I'm not, nor have I ever been, a part of the Mormon faith, I remember struggling with my own faith when I went to college. I think that everyone struggles with the concept of faith and God during their late teens/early twenties and I haven't read any piece of literature that details so clearly the struggle that many people go through quite like Doucet does in this novel. 

My one negative about this book is that Marguerite is so introverted that as she deals with her struggles, she seems to repeat herself in her thoughts. I felt like I was rereading a previous chapter at times. It was just a little too much at times. Also, her constant longing for a boyfriend got to be exhausting. I had several friends in high school who belonged to the Mormon church and I understand the strong push to marry, especially to another Mormon. I can understand how Marguerite felt like she was alone and would she ever find her soul mate, but it just got to be too much. I have also felt the same way as Marguertie, feeling like everyone was paired off except for me, but I never dwelled on it quite as much. I wanted to scream at her, "Get a grip! Live your life and enjoy it instead of worrying about finding a man!"

If you have ever struggled with your faith, then I would definitely recommend this book. It highlights so well the struggles that people go through when trying to discover their spirituality, whether it was with a specific religion or not. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (11-16-11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Each week, you highlight an upcoming release that you are eagerly awaiting. This week, my pick is: The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay (expected publication date: February 14, 2012).

Paris, France: 1860’s. Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes. By order of Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussman has set into motion a series of large-scale renovations that will permanently alter the face of old Paris, moulding it into a “modern city.” The reforms will erase generations of history—but in the midst of the tumult, one woman will take a stand.
 Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband. And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years. The House I Loved is both a poignant story of one woman’s indelible strength, and an ode to Paris, where houses harbor the joys and sorrows of their inhabitants, and secrets endure in the very walls ...

I'm so in love with this cover! I want to read it based on that alone, and the description makes me even more anxious to read it! So, what are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (11-15-11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. This week's topic:

Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I've Never Read

1) Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler - I'm a HUGE Disney fan. I love everything Disney, constantly research all about the company, it's history, basically everything. My mom gave me this book for Christmas a few years ago, since I've already read a few Disney biographies, thinking I would devour this one just like the others. Alas, there it sits on my bookshelf, just waiting to be picked up. I want to read it, but for some reason, just don't get around to it.

2) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I tried to read this one last year but after my carpal tunnel kicked in about 10 minutes after picking it up, back down it went. I know, lame excuse.

3) The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown - I keep on meaning to read this book! But that I forget that it's there and read something else instead. I really want to read it before the year is out, though. 

4) Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson - another one that I forget about. 

5) Naked by David Sedaris - I really want to read this book. I love Sedaris's work. I just devour his books and then don't like the next two books I read afterwards. Sedaris just jades me towards other writers (anyone else experience this with their favorite author?)

6) The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff - a great WWII fiction writer. I have read her other books and enjoyed them, but I'm trying to read so many other works of WWII fiction that I forget about this book. Maybe next year I can fit it in.

7) North River by Pete Hamill - another book that is just chilling in my TBR pile, waiting to be picked up and read. And I love Hamill's books, so not sure why I haven't made time for this one yet.

8) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - I have every intention of reading this book before 2012 is over! I have gone long enough without reading it!

9) Amsterdam by Ian McEwan - I have been avoiding this book for one specific reason: I loved Atonement so much that I doubt this book (or any of his other books) will come close and I will feel disappointed.

So, which books have been on your shelf the longest?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Published: August 23, 2011
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. "The Language of Flowers" is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.

My Thoughts: Simply put, this is a lovely book. Following Victoria's journey from foster care to a group home through her emancipation, Vanessa Diffenbaugh tells a beautiful story of a young girl coming of age and finding her way, truly alone in the world. She almost had a parent when she went to stay with a woman named Elizabeth, but following a fire, she is removed from the foster home and placed into group homes. Seeing Victoria's struggle to grow up in the foster system is heartbreaking, but Diffenbaugh never makes you feel sorry for her. Instead, you are some how assured that Victoria will be fine, even as she is living in the park as a homeless person.

The characters in this book were simple and straighforward. There was no alterior motives, no secrets brought forth. Even when learning about Victoria's last moments in Elizabeth's home, it's not as if this is a different side that we are seeing from Victoria. She is honest and true, as are all the characters in this novel. There is also little dialogue, reflecting Victoria's internal struggle with herself. The dialogue that is there is simple, moving the story along and not weighing it down with unnecessary information.

I really enjoyed this book and found that the Victorian language of flowers is very interesting. At the end of the book, Diffenbaugh includes a flower dictionary. It was so interesting to read about what each flower means! This is one of the few books that I think would appeal to people who enjoy fiction and YA. It was a great coming of age story with a great set of characters, and it lived up to my expectations (chosen as a Waiting on Wednesday pick back in August).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review: Save Me by Lisa Scottoline

Save Me
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Published: April 12, 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 384 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from Rose McKenna volunteers as a lunch mom in her daughter Melly’s school in order to keep an eye on Amanda, a mean girl who’s been bullying her daughter. Her fears come true when the bullying begins, sending Melly to the bathroom in tears. Just as Rose is about to follow after her daughter, a massive explosion goes off in the kitchen, sending the room into chaos. Rose finds herself faced with the horrifying decision of whether or not to run to the bathroom to rescue her daughter or usher Amanda to safety. She believes she has accomplished both, only to discover that Amanda, for an unknown reason, ran back into the school once out of Rose's sight. In an instance, Rose goes from hero to villain as the small community blames Amanda’s injuries on her. In the days that follow, Rose's life starts to fall to pieces, Amanda’s mother decides to sue, her marriage is put to the test, and worse, when her daughter returns to school, the bullying only intensifies. Rose must take matters into her own hands and get down to the truth of what really happened that fateful day in order to save herself, her marriage and her family.

My Thoughts: There were so many things that I loved about this book! As I was sitting there reading it, I found it difficult to put down and was already starting to plan my review in my head. One of my favorite things about this book is that Lisa Scottoline jumps right into the action. There isn't a big build-up, no slow reveal of all the characters and their histories. Nope, she just puts you in that school moments before the explosion occurs. I LOVED it! She wasted no time in pulling you into this story! I loved the characters and found them to be interesting people. Rose is a woman who has finally found contentment in her life and is trying to find that peace for her daughter, Melly, who has port wine birthmark on part of her face. She is bullied about it, causing them to move to this new school district that was committed to anti-bullying. Rose is a real person. If I had a child, I would do the exact same things that Rose did to help Melly. 

You may be wondering why I'm saying that I loved this book but only gave it 3.5 stars. Well, let me explain: as I was reading this novel, I knew it was going to be a 4 star book. The last one hundred or so pages really changed my mind, though. Instead of progressing through the issues that were already presented, Rose decides she is going to solve this crime and learn why the school was blown up. And it's amazing how quickly she does it: in about a week. I mean, come on. It was just a little too unrealistic for me. I wish that Scottoline had stayed with the course her book was on, because I would have found that so much more interesting. I still really liked the book, especially the ending, but where Rose goes to solve the crime, I was turned off just a little from the book.

I will definitely be checking out more of Scottoline's work. It was fast-paced, interesting, and something that I couldn't put down! I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good legal thriller (which part of this book was).