Monday, August 9, 2010

The Girls from Ames

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and FriendshipThe Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:
Meet the Ames Girls: eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa.  As young women, they moved to eight different states yet managed to maintain an enduring friendship that would carry them trhough college and careers, marrage, and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child's illness, and the mysterious death of one member of the group.  Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames  is a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life's joys and challenges - and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.

The girls, now in their forties, have a lfetime of memories in common, some evocavative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend.  Photograph by photograph, recollection by recollection, occasionally with tears and often with great laughter, their sweeping and moving story is shared by Jeffey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal columnist, as he attempts to define the matchless bonds of female friendship.  It demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women's lives - their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters - and reveals how much friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them.

My Review:
This is the story of Karla, Kelly, Marilyn, Jane, Jenny, Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana, and Sheila.  I was so moved by this book.  I haven't read a book in a long time that just consumed me like this one did.  It made me sit and ponder past friendships and relationships that molded who I am.  To some extent, aren't we who we are because of those childhood friendships?  As I read, I kept recalling old stories from my own childhood.  Ones I hadn't thought of in years... 

For the most part, I liked how the book what broken up.  However, there were entire chapters devoted to four of the girls, then the rest were stories and highlights of all the girls.  I would have liked to have seen individual chapters on all the girls.  Yes, I'm nosy.  What about the dirt on the others?  Their stories made me laugh and cry, envy that their relationships are still strong today.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Look Again

Look AgainLook Again by Lisa Scottoline

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About the Book:
When Ellen Gleeson gets a "Have You Seen This Child?" flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away.  But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops.  The child in the photo looks exactly like her adopted son, Will.

Everything inside her tells her to deny the similarity between her son and the boy in the photo, because she knows her adoption was lawful.  But she's a journalist and won't be able to stop thinking about the photo until she gets to the truth.  And she can't shake the question: If Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up?  Ellen makes the wrenching decision to investigate, uncovering clues no one was meant to uncover.  And when she digs too deep, she risks losing her life-and that of the son she loves.

My Review:
What would you do?  That's what the author is asking the reader through the entire book.  I'm glad the storyline (a) is about a boy and (b) about an adopted child.  To be honest, I had a hard time even imagining that I would ask myself, "What would I do?"  I can't imagine have a feeling that my child isn't really mine.  I liked the premise of the storyline.  It kept me interested and I really liked Ellen, the main character.  Then about 3/4 of the way through, the storyline got a little "out there" and all of a sudden, the book became a murder mystery.  HUH?  Up until that point, I was really enjoying the emotionally charged book I was reading.  The ending was far fetched and predictable for me.  Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but not as much as I would have with a completely different ending!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily PonderThe Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder
by Rebecca Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About the Book:
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder is the sweet, sexy, funny journey of Calla Lily's life set in Wells' expanding fictional Louisiana landscape.  In the small river town of La Luna,  Calla bursts into being, a force of nature as luminous as the flower she is named for.  Under the loving light of the Moon Lady, the feminine force that will guide and protect her throughout her life, Calla enjoys a blissful childhood-until it is cut short.  Her mother, M'Dear, a woman of rapture and love, teaches Calla compassion, and passes on to her the art of healing through the humble womanly art of "fixing hair."  At her mother's side, Calla further learns that this same touch of hands on the human body can quiet her own soul.  It is also on the banks of the La Luna River that Calla encournters sweet, succulent first love, with a boy named Tuck.

But when Tuck leaves Calla with a broken heart, she transorms hurt into inspiration and heads for the wild and colorful cit of New Orleans to study at L'Academie de Beaute de Crescent.  In that extravagant big river city, she finds her destiny-and comes to understand fully the power of her "healing hands," to change lies and soothe pain, including her own.  When Tuck reappears years later, he presents her with an offer that is colored by the memories of lost love.  But who know how Calla Lily, a "daughter of the Moon Lady," will repond?

A tale of family and friendship, tragedy and triumph, loss and love. 

My Review:
I liked it.  I liked the characters and the setting.  I was a bit thrown of by the Moon Lady exerpts (could have done without that).  Experiencing a young girl as a teenager in loved made me relate back to my own childhood and first love.  Once Calla moves away to experience life, I loved her new gay friends in New Orleans.  Really, they made the book for me.  Being someone obsessed about my own hair, the book made me want to be a hairdresser too.  There was one unexpected twist in the book, but otherwise, it was a tad bit predictable for me.  It is hard for me to imagine having my childhood friends in my day to day life, but maybe that's how a small town in the south would be.  I would have like to have seen the book end differently, but I enjoyed it.  It kept me reading and I loved the character development throughout.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

God's Dream

God's DreamGod's Dream by Desmond Tutu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Review:
I picked this book out at the local library.  The title intrigued me.  The first time I read it to my daughters, I experienced a feeling of ahhh.  Someone gets it.  This book is what being a believer is all about.  If only adults would pick this book up and read it.  And yes, it is mostly the adults.  Everytime I read this book, my daugter gives me a hug and kiss, because even at 5, she GETS IT.  Have you ever thought about what God dreams about for you?  What kind of person does he want you to be?  For me and my children, we ponder this daily...

As easy as sharing, loving, caring.
As easy as holding, playing, laughing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Torn Thread

Torn ThreadTorn Thread by Anne Isaacs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book: 
It is June 1943, and for four years the Nazi armies have occupied the Polish town of Bedzin.  Twelve-year old Eva, along with her father and her sister, have been forced to leave their comfortable home and move into a tiny attic in the Jewish ghetto.

But for Eva's life takes an even more terrifying turn when she and her sister are torn from their father and imprisoned in a Nazi work camp.  There, Eva is forced to spin thread to make blankets and uniforms for the German army.  As she struggles amid ever-worsening dangers to save her life and that of her sick sister, Eva's world tears apart like the weak threads on her spinning machine...

My Review:
As usual, I am a sucker for anything about the Holocaust and WWII.  I have been intrigued by this time period since I was in high school and college.  I am mostly of German descent, so it intrigues me.  It seems like I was always studying this time period every chance I got.  I was always asking the same question over and over.  WHY?  To be honest, no one ever quite knew or was bold enough to just put it out there.  The following excerpt from the Afterword of the book really hit home for me:

"Under Nazi rule, Germany conquered most of the nations of Eastern Europe, and proceeded to institute a reign of terror and mass extermination of the Jewish people in each country.  The Nazis also imprisoned or murdered members of other ethnic or political groups, including anyone they deemed undersirable to their plan for a "racially pure" Europe."  

So how does one justify in their mind that a race of people considered to be "God's chosen people" could be racially unpure?  I just don't get it and will never get it.  The book captures Eva's journey through the prison camp, trying to care for herself and her sister.  What popped out at me through this short book was the hunger.  They were so hungry and had to work so hard just to survive.  It is a story of love and devotion to family and faith. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Purpose Driven Life

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here for? The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here for? by Rick Warren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my third time reading this book.  I read it the first time back in 2004.  We had been trying to conceive and it just wasn't happening.  I was frustrated and confused.  This book helped me to put my life in focus.  Shortly thereafter, I was pregnant.  Coincidence?  It's hard to say.

My husband and I read the book together this time around.  We were facing a "life decision" and needed some clarity.  One of the reasons I enjoy this book so much is because depending on where you are in your life, you can take what you are in need of from the book.  Some of my favorite snipets this time around were:

**If you can't get it all done, it means you're trying to do more than God intended for you to do.
**Worship is a lifestyle of enjoying God, loving him, and giving ourselves to be used for his purposes.
**Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God's wisdom and sovereignty in creating you.
**Surrendered hearts show up best in relationships.
**You are as close to God as you choose to be.
**Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.  Humility is thinking more of others.  Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don't think of themselves. 
**Life is supposed to be difficult!  It's what enables us to grow.
**We become whatever we are committed to.
**The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act.
**Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth.
**God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.
**When you don't have a heart for what you're doing, you are easily discouraged.
**Small tasks often show a big heart.
**Become friends with God.

Even as I read through this list, it gives me hope.  This book lifted me up and gave me a sense of peace in my busy mom life.  This book is encouraging and uplifting.  Even if you don't generally read this type of book, it is easy to read and understand.  If you find that you are missing something in your life and can't quite put your finger on it, give this book a try.  It has certainly given me direction.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Irresistible Henry House

The Irresistible Henry House The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you looked at this blog, you'd think I fell off the face of the earth.  The problem is reading too many books at one time, and then there is that mothering thing and wife thing.  So little time for my favorite pass time!

This book was selected as our next book club book.  It was a fast read indeed for me.  Many of our book club selections this past year have been fiction based on real life events.  This happens to be one of them.  The book is based on the use of "practice babies" which began at Cornell University back in 1919.  Infants were loaned out to universities to be used as practice babies in practice houses (a.k.a. home economics) to be used to teach young women how to mother.  Can you believe it?  Gives you a whole new outlook on home ec, eh?  A set number of practice mothers would take turns caring for the baby throughout the year.  Believe it or not, this practice continued until 1969.  It draws the question of how this affected these young infants.  Did they grow up to have normal lives or disfunctional ones?

The book is definitely a fictional story, but follows the life of one practice baby, Henry.  Henry comes to the practice house as a young infant and ends up being raised in this environment his entire childhood.  He is loved by so many, yet lives a life desperately seeking love.  The author does a good job at allowing you to feel what he feels.  My heart ached for him.  I could only imagine how he must have felt.  Coming from a divorced family myself, I could relate to many aspects of this book.

What amazes me most about this book is that I had no idea practice houses even existed at one time.  How can this be?  How screwed up was this?  It is no wonder the women's liberty movement took place.  They were groomed to be mothers and nothing else.  It is hard for me to fathom that this was the only choice for women of this time period.  How far we have come!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Moloka'i Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is our book club book for March.  It was very different from the other books we've read.  It takes place in and around Honolulu.  It is the story about a girl named Rachel who contracts Leprocy in the late 1800s.  At the age of seven, she is shipped off to the island of Moloka'i in order to quarantine her from the rest of her family.  She lives a life of seclusion away from her family and learns to live independently.  As lonely as it was, she learns to live a life full of meaningful relationships and trials.  The story kept my interest and felt so much compassion for the people who contracted this dreadful disease.

The interesting thing about this book as that it is based on historical information.  That many of these events actually happened.  Can you imagine shipping you off to an island if you contracted a disease that couldn't be cured?  Discovering facts like these, makes me feel like I live under a rock in my content little life.  What struggles people had to endure.  And how blessed are we to live freely??  Very.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Wednesday Letters

The Wednesday Letters The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had seen this book pop up on Goodreads a couple of times, so I Bookmooched it.  It was a delightful book.  Yes, I said delightful.  For the third book in a row, I couldn't put it down.  There isn't a greater feeling when reading.  It was a light read, but full of so much character.  It is a book about love, forgiveness, loyalty, redemption, and life.

The book is about a couple who peacefully die in each other's arms.  Shortly after their death, they find letters from their father written to their mother.  Every Wednesday, since their wedding, he would right his wife a letter.  The letters reveal his love for his wife and his family, yet open the door to a hidden family secret.  I'll leave it at that.  I don't want to spoil it.

For me, the book shows us that yes you can have love, yes you can have moments along the way that a blissful, wonderful.  However, life is never going to be perfect.  Life is hard, life is worth living everyday.  Love your spouse.  Love them for them, they will love you back.  Marriage is made up of many trials, happiness, struggle, and most importantly, love.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Language of Secrets

The Language of Secrets The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book landed in my lap.  I was contacted by a Advertising Director of a publishing company.  She had seen was I was reading through GoodReads (my all-time favorite website) and thought I might like this new book.  She mailed it to me.  I read it.  It was great! 

Once I started the book, I had a hard time putting it down.  I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened.  The book is about a young boy who is caught up in a family of secrets and regret and throughout the process, becomes a lost child.  As an adult, he starts looking for answers as to what happened to him as a child, which he has no memory of.  The book if full of many unexpected twists and turns.  It is what keeps you reading.  I wanted to know more, more, more. 

I fell in love with so many of the characters in this book.  I found that as I read, I was trying to put myself in their situation.  What what I have done?  Made me look at the consequences of our decisions and how they not only effect me, but those I love.  Towards the end of the book, it gave me insight as to how parents really feel when their kids are grown and move away.  Do we ever really know what our parents experienced as young parents?  As children, do we really now our mother or father?  And as parents, we try to protect our children and make a good life for them.  Then perhaps you raise your children and be the everything in their life and then all of sudden, you are in the shadow of their own lives.  They've moved on and without you?  Does life really go by that fast that before you know it, it has passed you by?  Looking back, will I regret the wife that I was?  The mother I was?  The daughter I was?

I loved this book.  It is though provoking and intriguing to say the least.  Read it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Alchemist

The Alchemist The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is about a boy named Santiago who travels from his home in Spain to travel to Egypt to follow treasure.  On his journey, he meets a gypsy, a man who claims to be a kind, an Alchemist, and his future wife.  He endures many obstacles and questions his journey along the way.  It is a book about following our dreams and never settling for the easy path.  Trust God and trust in your strength.

The Help

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was our February book club book.  Oh, how I loved this book. It takes place in the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have read about this period of time, but never from a black maid's perspective. 

The book takes place in the south at a time where white families were cared for by black maids.  Not only did they take care of cooking the meals and cleaning the house, they helped (and mostly) raise their employer's children as well.  It was a time when black people were required to use separate entrances, use a black bathroom, etc.  I was very moved by this book and gave me an entirely new view of how they must have felt living through this and how strong their faith was that things would eventually change.

Great book!!!!!

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a good writer, this is the one!  The writing style of this book is what keeps you coming back.  The setting of the story takes place on an old farm, which makes you fall in love with this story.  Throughout the book, I could picture in my mind what the farm looked like and the sense of peace that existed there. 

The main character is either Edgar, a mute boy, or his dog, Almondine.  The author makes you fall in love with Almondine.  She is loving, faithful, compassionate, and Edgar's protector.  The book is not only about Edgars life, but about a series of events that take place that makes Edgar forced to make heavy decisions about the direction of his life and the safety of his family.

The book is intertwined with story after story.  Loved it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

She's Come Undone

She's Come Undone She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is our January book club selection and what a book!  This is actually the second time around for me.  I read this book for the first time when I was in my third year at college.  I remember enjoying it, but thinking the main character, Dolores, was whack!  Reading it the second time, I felt like I really didn't remember the last two sections of the book at all, so it was like reading it for the first time.  And Dolores, well she didn't seem so whack afterall, well kind of!

The book captures the life of Dolores from the time she is around 12 up until she is 40.  Being in my 30's reading the book this time around, I felt like I could better relate to Dolores and all she went through in her life.  Dolores was the product of a divorced family, which many of us are.  However, Dolores sprials out of control and is put into difficult situations in which she isn't equipped to deal with.  To be honest, I don't really care for Dolores from the time she is 17 until she is about 24.  After that point, I get her and I want her to do well.  It's almost as if she becomes a different person.  It is such an empowering time and a time of self discovery.  As young adolescents, we certainly become self absorbed and feel like we can conquer the world, don't we?  I find it amazing that there are times in our life when we feel lost and depleted, then something just clicks and we get our act together and our life takes a completely different path.  This book is about accepting our journey and who we become along the way.  I highly recommend this book.  Great read.