Tag Archives: To Be Read Pile

Worth Reading? Some of the Most Buzzed About Self Help Books

I’m a sucker for self help books. I admit it. Mostly because I don’t think anyone can read just one and magically fix their life. I think personal growth is something we work on our whole lives, and reading books with new ideas, processes, or tools are helpful reminders to focus our time and energy where we most want to.

So if you’re a self help junkie like myself, or you know someone who is, here are the latest ones I’ve read and recommend.

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Self Help Books Worth Buzzing About

51yfkzrjbsl-_sx316_bo1204203200_Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day
By Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky 

I checked this book out from the library and admittedly did not pick it up until it was almost due, and there were holds on it, so I couldn’t renew it. The irony of the fact I had to speed read a book about making time is not lost on me.

Still, this book was a great read with easily digestible sections intermixed with drawings and chart examples. The authors come from technology backgrounds at Google and YouTube. While they both enjoy and appreciate technology, they recognized that it was stealing much of their time away from family and other life goals. They offered practical ways to cut back on screen time and refocus your energy.

What I learned: By implementing some of their tactics, I reduced my mindless scrolling on my phone and how I use my social media by 40%. As someone who earned her nickname of “Wi-fi” from her spouse, I know my husband was impressed with this change.

Recommended for: people looking to reduce or better manage screen time in their lives, tech gurus, business minds

51vx2vhbp1l-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness
By Paula Poundstone

More of an experimental memoir than a self help book, Poundstone’s book chronicles her attempts at getting fit, organized, and learning new skills. Bonus selling point: while listening to the audiobook in the breakroom, one of our library volunteers listened in while washing some toys and both of us were laughing out loud.

Candid about her moderate celebrity status, Poundstone shares real troubles and issues that are identifiable to many. Her self deprecating humor is laugh out loud at moments, and poignant at others.

What I learned: Have a sense of humor about self help. Poundstone takes both martial arts and dance classes and sees strengths and weaknesses in her abilities with both, but that doesn’t prevent her from finding happiness in the trying.

Recommended for: humor fans, humor writers, parents, anyone looking for some motivation and courage to try new experiences/skills

220px-the_power_of_habitThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg

This book was one of my favorite reads of the year, and I probably annoyed a lot of people talking about it. Ha!

With examples covering everything from employee culture to drastic lifestyle changes, tragic accidents to court cases, Duhigg explains how habits play a key role in our lives. The book doesn’t view habits as good or bad, but they can certainly play to our successes or vices. And when you understand how habits work, you have more awareness of how to change them.

What I learned: Many of the examples shared were jaw dropping upon breakdown, especially how habits play a role in our marketing culture. Being aware of that, I felt I had more mindfulness around spending habits and company culture. I also understood what elements I needed to play if I wanted to change habits, and I reduced my fast food intake and diet using them.

Recommended for: goal setters, knowledge seekers, marketers, business minds, managers, those in customer service, teachers, coaches, mentors

95887Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
By Brian Tracy

An older read, but still very relevant. Tracy’s book emphasizes starting your day with the tasks that are the largest or most productive, the “frogs”. Many of us fall into productivity traps like checking emails, and we don’t get around to the larger projects we need to address in a timely fashion. Tackling the most crucial to do’s first ensure increased productivity and fulfillment.

What I learned: Eat That Frog is a short read and includes enough tips and tricks to help you re-channel your focus to make it worthwhile. While the tips didn’t seem new or unexpected, I found it to be a good reminder for anyone with procrastination problems, like myself.

Recommended for: procrastinators, office workers, writers, business minds, anyone interested in productivity boosters

41wibflfg2l-_sx323_bo1204203200_The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
By Eckhart Tolle 

If you’ve wondered what “living in the now” means, this book explains that. Broken into definitions, explanations, examples, and questions and answers, Tolle illustrates the power of the mind to live in the present. He discusses aspects of ego, listening, subconscious, and more.

What I learned: I’ll be honest, I struggled with this read. There were parts that made me think and I did some journaling around this topic. However, this book is not for everyone, and I admittedly wandered while listening because some of the ideas are very intellectual and I am not well practiced in “the now.” But don’t let me stop you, give it a try.

Recommended for: spiritual seekers, meditation lovers, those with an interest in self awareness

91reitnlplGirl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant To Be
By Rachel Hollis

With chapters broken up by the lies Hollis told herself, she goes on to portray how she challenged her own negative thinking and moved past it. Women will find Hollis’ book very identifiable as we all battle “trying to have it all.”

Hollis keeps it real, though. She does not pretend to have all the answers or have everything figured out. She advocates for therapy, faith, and family/friend support that keep her on the right track, and admits she’s still working on things. Written like a great coffee chat with your girlfriend, Hollis is honest, open, and at times very funny.

What I learned: We all spend more time in our own heads than in anyone else’s, so why not make that a pleasant place to be and stop beating yourself up. Get help where you need it, and take control back to follow your dreams.

Recommended for: entrepreneurs, parents, couples, self help book junkies, lifestyle readers, feminists

7b3d72e4d3-baed-465d-b7cc-a413243b3a337dimg400Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life
By Gary John Bishop

Here’s the self help book for people who think they don’t like self help books. With no nonsense callouts, and a dash of humor too, Bishop provides the steps you need to take to, well, unfuck yourself.

Bishop points out the realistic fact that we’re all going to die someday, and you don’t want to get there and discover you have regrets about things you had the power to change. Offering tips to help you through the mental homework, this book asks you to consider both what you’re willing and what you’re unwilling (which can be just as important) to do.

What I learned: This book focuses on the stories we tell ourselves, so part of Bishop’s plan is for us to understand where our own stories come from. By knowing why we think the way do, we can prepare for the struggles that we’ll face in trying to change it, making that change more lasting.

Recommend for: anyone, but especially those facing transitions in their lives

3d-book-cover-image-gbGirl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment
By August McLaughlin 

Combining personal tribulations with a wealth of science to back it up, McLaughlin has created a guide for every woman. Finally, a no shame space for discussing sexual health that advocates whatever path works for you.

From the basic to the advanced, this book is written as if you’re talking with your girlfriends, but full of medically accurate information and body positive / sex positive language.

What I learned: Many women are raised to feel shame about their bodies and their sexuality. McLaughlin’s book is a welcome and much needed addition to the bookshelf. And as a former reproductive health advocate, I wish I’d had this book to refer to students and share with the women I encountered in classes.

Recommended for: all persons who identify as female, people with questions about their sexuality, fans of body positivity/sex positivity, feminists, those who work in healthcare/teach sex ed

51v4-xwstlOwn Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowning the Queen Within
By Latham Thomas

Own Your Glow is a beautiful combination of storytelling, self help guidance, journal prompts, and practices. Song lists and inspiring quotes are also sprinkled in.

Whether it’s overcoming hardships, dealing with change, or finding the courage to pursue your dreams, Thomas writes to the reader as if she’s a personal coach and mentor for each.

What I learned: I loved Thomas’ journal prompts to ponder the lessons more fully. The book is full of self love and self care practices. It is a total confidence boosting read.

Recommended for: women in need of a pep talk, journal writers, mothers, entrepreneurs

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Those are the self help books I’ve read so far this year.
What titles are on your must read list? 

 

 

 

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Top Ten Books On My Spring To Be Read List

What books are on your to read list right now?

The recent signs of spring have me extra energized to tackle my To Be Read Pile. I’m a pretty avid reader, and I recently discovered the blog, The Broke and the Bookish, who hosts a Top Ten list every Tuesday focused on various book themes. Today we’re talking about the Top Ten Books On Our Spring To Be Read List. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time whittling down what book to read next because I want to read All. The. Books!!^$?!

worlds largest latteIf I drink All. The. Coffee. I will never have to sleep again!
I can just read and read and read and read…

Hmm, maybe not.

But here are the Top Ten Books on my Spring To Be Read List: 

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen

The last of Jane Austen’s six novels I have yet to read. Once I finish the story of Anne Eliot I will have completed her most well known works and can move on to some of her novellas like Sandition and Lady Susan. Judging from the film versions I’ve seen (many times), Captain Wentworth is indeed worth waiting for.

2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Claimed as the new Eleanor & Park meets The Fault in our Stars, I’ve been hungry to read this book for awhile but busy finishing up some other titles. I even bought this one in hardcover. I don’t even really like hardcover. I’m a paperback girl. I just wanted to read this one that badly. It’s the story of two teens – one a total loner who contemplates death and looks to the future with a strict eye, the other a free spirit who lives in the moment and sees life as an adventure. Their worlds are about to collide. I want to find out what happens!

3. Cress by Marissa Meyer

The third book in The Lunar Chronicles; I’m committed now. I absolutely loved the first book, Cinder. I thought the second book, Scarlet, was ok. But friends assure me that Cress is worth the read. A futuristic spinoff of classic fairytales, this is the continuing adventure of a cyborg named Cinder who is on the run after the evil Lunar Queen, Levana, has a call out for her head and plans to marry the good-intentioned Emperor Kai. With the help of some fellow misfits, will Cinder overtake Levana before the Queen takes over their world?

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

It’s been too long since I’ve read any Neil Gaiman and I must remedy that. What’s more intriguing than a pond that becomes an ocean? As a middle-aged man returns home for a funeral, he is reminded of the people he grew up with and the stories they each told.

5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Bestseller in the early 2000’s, all my friends read this one, but I didn’t. I was afraid I couldn’t handle the subject matter. But this winter I happened upon the book in a Little Free Library near my house and decided it was time I checked it out. Despite its serious subject matter, I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Long before there was Christian Grey, the leading man with the wealth and power was Dorian Gray. A favorite old film of mine, the black and white version of course, I’m excited to read the novel for the first time. This title was selected by my book club as our classic this year and I’m really looking forward to our discussion.

7. The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless

Another book I had to get in hardcover because I couldn’t wait. I’m a huge fan of author Jon Krakauer, who wrote Into the Wild, the story of Chris McCandless. Now, Chris’s sister, Carine, has written her own telling of her family’s history and the days leading up to her brother’s nomadic life.

8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

A few years ago I had a year of comedy, where half of the books I read were humorous memoirs. I think this year may be my year of YA. I’ve got so many young adult books on my list. And one of them is Eleanor & Park. Even the colored pencil sketch cover looks like spring to me. How could I possibly say no to a love story between two misfit teens when the leading lady has red hair?

9. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

I’m not shy about admitting the fact that I disliked Jane Eyre. I know, I know, such sacrilege from an English major! What can I say? I’m more of a Heathcliffe/Wuthering Heights kinda girl. However, I really enjoyed This House is Haunted which is an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and Wildalone has some notes of Eyre as well. I do enjoy a good paranormal read and this one seems intriguing!

10. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry 

I’m embarrassed to admit how long this beautiful book has sat on my TBR shelf. It’s been an alternate in the TBR Challenge for 2 years and since I never had to use my alternates I didn’t get to it. This year I made it part of my challenge, determined to finally read it. I love the idea that the lead character can see ghosts by cooking up recipes from them. And this is what sets her off on a journey of family secrets.

*****

That’s my Top 10 books to read this spring.
What titles are on your spring list? 

Insurgent: When Reading Interferes With All Your Other Plans

I’m one book into my 2015 To Be Read Pile Challenge already. I finished reading book 2 of the Divergent series, Insurgent, by Veronica Roth.

And I can’t wait to pick up the 3rd book, Allegiant. Alas, I’ll have to because I borrowed all these books from my sister and she hasn’t finished reading it yet.

Insurgent is the continuing tale of a dystopian society that has had its infrastructure broken apart. War is on the verge.

In Divergent, we learn about Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a sixteen year old girl born into the Abnegation faction. There are five factions in the world she lives in. Abnegation – the selfless. Amity – the peacemakers. Candor – the honest. Erudite – the scholars. And Dauntless – the brave.

Every year, the sixteen year olds attend the choosing ceremony, where they select the faction they will belong to the rest of their lives. Beatrice has a duty to her family to uphold her abnegation birthright. But Beatrice doesn’t choose abnegation.

She chooses Dauntless. And that’s not all that’s unique about Beatrice.

She is also Divergent – a person who doesn’t belong to any one faction, but has aptitude for multiple ones. They can’t be controlled, and they are viewed as threats.

*****

This is why I stayed up late at night and read all morning on the weekends. Why I’ve got barely any writing done. Why I missed mealtimes. And why I didn’t bother to shower every day.

I was too busy reading Insurgent.

I was totally hooked. Someone get me a copy of Allegiant STAT!

Even my Instagram account is being taken over by Divergent and Insurgent…

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What am I going to do in the meantime???

Have you ever been this hooked on a series?
Have you read any of the Divergent books?
What should I read in the meantime???

 

 

What’s the Best Book You Read in 2014?

With December here, the 2014 To Be Read Pile Challenge is coming to a close. This is my favorite reading challenge as it stresses reading books you already own. Like so many writers, I have a book buying problem. I love bookstores and even when I’m shopping in a place like Target, I have to peruse the book aisles. I just love books!

What that leads to is multiple shelves of books that I haven’t read yet because I’m always buying more or renting some from the library or listening to ones on audiobook.

Unread books

The To Be Read Pile Challenge focuses on reading 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for more than a year in one year’s time. You’re also allowed to pick 2 alternates in case one of the books you choose is impossible to get through.

This year I read all my 12 and one alternate! (And I just looked at my Goodreads shelves – I read 40 books total this year! Hoping to finish the two in my sidebar before 2015 as well.)

What were the final 2 books I completed for the TBR Pile?

*****

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

I hate to admit I did not really like this one. But here’s the honest scoop. I think Jen Lancaster is a great writer! She is funny and witty and has a great writer’s voice.

I think the problem for me was that I could not identify with her in this book. Bitter is the New Black is Jen’s memoir about having it all – six figure salary, name brand clothes, posh apartment, all the witty comebacks and snide comments one can muster. Then she loses everything, and has to learn how to budget, shop less, and live less extravagantly.

I didn’t grow up or ever achieve a six figure lifestyle, so I’ll be honest and say the most bitter person in this book, was ME, the reader. I had a poor attitude reading Jen’s story because I couldn’t handle her complaining about loss when it seemed she didn’t appreciate what she had for so long.

Bitter party of one! I admit I wasn’t in a mindset to appreciate this book like I could. Sorry Jen!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Bookworms will love this paranormal read by Deborah Harkness! Diana Bishop is a researcher at Oxford, who haphazardly uncovers a book that is filled with all the secrets of the magic world – vampires, demons, and witches. Now, all those creatures are showing up in the library and everywhere else Diana roams.

With the help of a tall, dark and handsome vampire named Matthew, Diana must discover the secrets of the book before the others do.

I liked this one. It’s an interesting spin on how the worlds of paranormal creatures intertwine. And there’s a historical element to it because Diana is descendant from Elizabeth Bishop of the Salem Witch Trials.

Anyone read the next one in this series?

*****

I want to know what your favorite book(s) you read this year was!

When I look back at my list, I had books that I hated (One Thousand White Women), I had a few classics I completed (Anne of Green Gables, Mansfield Park, Rebecca), and I had books I loved (The Night Circus, Official Book Club Selection, Love With a Chance of Drowning).

But my favorite book I read this year was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

A young adult novel by genre, this book is phenomenal for any audience. It won the National Book Award – and BONUS* it’s one of the most banned books of all time! (Shhh – it talks about masturbation. hehehehe)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the story of Junior, an American Indian growing up on a reservation who takes a risk and attends the all white school in the next town.

I learned so much from this book. I think it should be required reading for students. It talks about race – yes – but it does it from the voice of a high school student – with honesty about both sides.

It talks about poverty and the downward spirals that poverty fosters – alcoholism, abuse, depression. Still, Junior is able to show us these things with some sense of humor and humility.

Get the book if you can. I read this one via audiobook which I loved, because the author reads it and I so appreciate hearing any story about a different culture in the voice of a native speaker, but if you get the book there are really fun cartoon drawings in it because that’s how Junior makes sense of his world, through drawing.

I cannot speak highly enough about this book. I didn’t want it to end. It was so good. And I learned so much.

*****

What was the best book(s) you read in 2014?
What titles will you be putting on your 2015 To Read Pile list?

Exciting news! Adam from Roof Beam Reader has kicked off the sign up for the 6th annual To Be Read Pile Challenge this 2015, so be sure to create your must read list and sign up!

Write Strong Women and Marry Your Best Friend: An Interview About Romance With Author Roni Loren

As part of my To Be Read Challenge, I included a (signed – squeee!) copy of Crash Into You by erotic romance author, Roni Loren (@RoniLoren). I met Roni at DFWcon 3 years ago and have attended her sessions on writing realistic romance scenes. She is fabulous.

So are her books.

*****

Crash Into You

Sometimes the past can bring you to your knees…

Brynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat—a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn’s past…

 

 I am very pleased to welcome Roni to the Happiness Project!

*****

Describe yourself in three words.

Perfectionistic, Introverted, Curious

What drew you to writing erotica? What do you love about your genre?

It was a genre I loved to read, of course. But I was really drawn to the fact that it had very few boundaries. Like I could write suspense in my story but it didn’t have to fit the restrictions of a romantic suspense. And it could be contemporary but the romance didn’t have to be light and airy. All I needed to make sure I had was a happy ending and a lot of steam (which is fun to write.) So it allows for a lot of freedom in my stories, which makes my muse happy. 🙂

I write nonfiction about my family and they all want pseudonyms. 😉 How did your friends and family respond when your first book came out?
I’ve been lucky. My family is hugely supportive and not hung up on the fact that I write the sexy stuff. My mom even reads my books (even when I told her not to, lol) and tells her friends to buy my books. I don’t hide what I write from anyone because I’m not ashamed of it. If they ask, I’ll tell them. Though, people are usually surprised when they find out because I’m the quiet, mom-next-door type. I think some people expect erotic writers to fit some outrageous image. But the people writing it (and reading it!) are every day women (and men, for that matter.)

That’s awesome! What are you reading right now?

I just finished Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland because I’m a pantser with plotter envy (and am obsessed with writing craft books.) But fiction wise, I’m reading Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (YA Steampunk Paranormal) and rereading The Shining by Stephen King.

Oooh, nice picks!
Settled in for the night after conferencing, reading Roni's book

Settled in for the night after conferencing, reading Roni’s book

I read Fifty Shades of Gray, and hated it. The main character is pretty flat – quite literally, actually, she’s tied down and having sex so much. Your lead female in Crash Into You (Brynn) is really 3-dimensional. Her mother works in the sex industry, Brynn is a sexual assault survivor, she works in a social work setting with other domestic violence victims, and she struggles to claim her own sexual identity despite her past. In what ways do you think Brynn is a champion for women, and what do you think are her shortcomings?

It’s important to me to write really strong women, particularly because of the power dynamic I use between the hero and heroine. In Brynn’s case, I wanted to show how tough and smart she is because even though she has this urge to be sexually submissive in the bedroom, she’s an independent, brave woman in her every day life. She’s driven to help others, and ultimately, she learns to help herself. The theme in all my books usually comes back to healing and self-acceptance, so I think Brynn is a prime example of that. No one fixes her problems for her. She has to learn to move through her fear, heal, and then embrace who she is.

I’m getting married in 2 months. What’s your advice for keeping the passion alive?

Yay, congrats! 🙂 I’ve been married for almost 13 years, and it still feels like we just got married (so I guess that’s good!)

 

That’s wonderful! Congrats to you, lovebirds!

 

I think the key is to marry someone you have a deep friendship with, who gets you, and who makes you laugh. That takes care of a lot of things. But with keeping the passion alive specifically, I think it’s important to develop a level of trust that you literally can talk about anything (including fantasies, likes/dislikes, etc.) with no judgment or expectations, so that you can keep things fresh. When I hear that some husbands don’t like their wives reading romance novels, I want to bonk them on the head because—hello, that’s just going to give her new ideas of what she wants to do with/to you, lol. Buy her stacks!

 

Great advice! I know you love to watch Reality TV, what are your guilty pleasures right now?

 

I just finished American Idol, of which I’m a faithful follower. And now I am so ready for Big Brother. It’s the one reality show that I can convince myself I’d have a shot at winning (ha!) unlike shows like Survivor or Amazing Race where I’d last 3.2 seconds. But there’s something about watching all those intricate human dynamics that I can’t look away from.

 

If you could host a Romance Award ceremony, who would you bestow a trophy to for the following:

 

Hottest Big Screen Actor: Oh, so many. Bradley Cooper is always a fave. And recently I’ve developed a crush on Jimmy Fallon (though, not technically a big screen actor) because funny is hot.
Best Couples Getaway: I like cold places since I live in TX, so a mountain cabin in Lake Tahoe maybe.
Most Decadent Dessert: Cheesecake

Sexiest Thing About Women: Our brains.

What’s next for you? What can readers watch out for?

In August, I’m releasing a novella called BLURRING THE LINES that is separate from my Berkley series. It will be sexy contemporary romance with a paranormal twist and is part of a multi-author continuity series called Invitation to Eden. (I’m thinking of it like the show Lost but with more sex and happily ever afters, lol.) Then in September I’m releasing a novella, FOREVER STARTS TONIGHT, and in November, my serial novel, NOT UNTIL YOU, is being put into an omnibus edition. So lots of things coming up! (In other news, I won’t be sleeping until next February, lol.)

We’ll be watching! Thanks Roni for joining us. Always a pleasure learning from you and I love your advice (and characters) about being strong, independent women with PASSION!

RoniLorenAuthorHeadshot2

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that’s it. She is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat. Website: www.roniloren.com

*****

E-BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

One lucky commenter will be receiving an e-copy (Nook or Kindle U.S.)
of Roni’s book Still Into You!

Random drawing will be held on Wednesday @ 5pm CST,
winner announced on Thursday’s blog!

She Got Up Off the Couch: A Seriously Funny Read

I just finished reading Haven Kimmel’s book, She Got Up Off the Couch, which was part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge list.

I was first introduced to Haven Kimmel’s books by a local librarian at a book club discussion about memoirs. I immediately read her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and it’s quite possibly one of my favorite books ever.

Ever.

In one of my FAVORITE parts, Haven (Zippy) believes her family when they tell her she was born in a gypsy tribe and found abandoned in a wagon. Also, she had a tail. For weeks, she rides around town on her bike believing she is the renegade daughter of nomadic gypsies and that her adoptive family had her tail surgically removed.

This is just genius.

In She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven’s story continues, growing up in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana. The person who gets up off the couch, is her mother, Delonda Jarvis. Haven is pretty open about the fact that her family was a bit broken, though she didn’t know it at the time. Her mother spent all hours on the couch reading books or talking on the phone, until one day, she decided to go to college.

The thing is, Delonda didn’t know how to drive. So she bummed rides to the neighboring town for awhile before buying a cheap, rundown Volkswagon and learned to drive it. She graduated with a degree in English and went on to become a teacher. But the story of how she got there and how this shift in the routine impacted the Jarvis family is a page turner.

Here’s a quote about her mother:

“She had done all these things and she was going to graduate summa cum laude, which meant Good But Loud, from the Honors College, and she had done it all in twenty-three months. It takes some people more time to hang a curtain.” She Got Up Off the Couch

While the title of Haven’s book refers to her mother, it is just as much Haven’s story too. She grew up in a Quaker home, and went on to attend Seminary School, where she ended up writing her first memoir, Zippy. In this second glimpse, we meet Haven when she’s entering her early teen years. Her older siblings have moved out of the house, leaving her and her estranged parents to deal with another.

Her natural curiosity makes her a loveable character. Haven is a girl who never wears shoes, or skirts, and occasionally puts rocks in her mouth – cause she likes the way they taste. Her father is a charismatic factory worker who doesn’t work in a factory, and her mother is about to turn their worlds upside down. This is a coming of age story for all three family members, and right or wrong, each is going to make drastic changes and question everything they knew to be true before.

Author Haven Kimmel

Looking for something to read? Definitely pick up one of Haven Kimmel’s books. I’ve purchased multiple copies of A Girl Named Zippy as gifts for friends and family. It is that good.

Happy reading!
What book(s) have you recently finished that you loved?

Announcing the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge and other ROW News

(amazon.com)

Hey ROW80 friends!  I hope all of you enjoyed your Thanksgiving!  Mine was short but sweet since my parents came up for the holiday and spent it with my honey’s family.  Everyone hit it off splendidly and I was happy to have a bit of home before starting my midnight shift for Black Friday.  I did an 11 hour shift that day and worked through the weekend, which equaled about 7 days in a row.  Today was my first day off, and I admit it, I didn’t write on my novel.  I had a Downton Abbey marathon.  It felt good to be a bum for a day.  Real good.

But…exciting things are happening!

ROWmodel Awards are back!

ROWmodel of the week goes to Jessica Fritsche and her post, Know When To Fold Em.  After struggling with her WIP finding hole after hole, she set it aside to go back to a different project and is a busy writer bee using this new project for her NaNo novel.  She cracked out 4,000 words in one day and sounds like she’ll keep going strong!  Go Jessica, we’re all rooting for you!

Honorary ROWmodel of the week also goes to Myndi Shafer for Making It Happen:  Work How You Can, When You Can.  You’ll never guess where Myndi sometimes goes to get her writing done.  This girl’s got gumption; and she’s using it to make her dreams come true!

The 2013 TBR Pile Challenge has kicked off!

So exciting!!!!  Adam at Roof Beam Reader has launched the 2013 To Be Read Pile Challenge!  Haven’t participated before?  You must!  I love it!  The challenge, should you choose to accept it, involves picking 10 books (plus 2 alternates) off your bookshelf that have been sitting there for at least a year.  Books with a publication date of 12/31/11 or before all qualify.  You have the course of 2013 to read your 10 books and link back a review of the book along the way.  Complete the challenge and you could win a $50 Amazon gift card!  I’m working on my book list now!

What titles would be on your list?

A Reggae CD Giveaway!

Looking for some new jams?  I’m hosting a music giveaway with Wisconsin Reggae band, TUGG, for a FREE copy of their full cd, Come Sunrise.  All you need to do to enter is comment or tweet one of the interview posts I did with the lead singer, Andrew Hughes.  Part 1 is about the changing music industry and Part 2 is about social media and the music business.  Chime in!  We’d love to hear your voice!

Last, but not least, The Redhots are back!

Tune in this Friday for another FIERY edition of The Redhots!  Marcia Richards and I are back introducing you to two REDHOT ladies you’ll want to know on Twitter!  Want a hint for who it’ll be?

  • The first is going to tell you how to feng shui your house!
  • And the other is the founder of the largest book club in the world!

Two Redheads.  Two Opinions.  Keeping it REDHOT.

Share with me, my pretties!  How was your holiday?  How is ROW80 going?  What books are on your TBR list?  Could you use a new reggae cd?  And who do you think our Twitter guests will be?

The Red Tent: A Review of the Retelling of Dinah’s Story

How’s everyone doing on their To Be Read Pile Challenge?  Whether you officially participated in Roof Beam Reader’s challenge or are just picking away at your own pile of books by the nightstand, tell me how you’re doing?  What books are you currently reading and what is left to complete by the end of the year?

I just finished reading two more books on my list, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and now The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  What’s left?

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave is next up!
  • and I have to finish Geek Love by Katherine Dunn – which I stopped halfway through…

The Red Tent

Anita Diamant’s book, The Red Tent, is beautiful and one I wish I’d read a long time ago.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4989.The_Red_Tent

I’m a big fan of historical fiction.  I think writing it is a labor of love for the author.  You’re depicting someone’s life, trying to sound like them, make them whole – and all that takes great patience.  Imagine trying to know a character who lived in the time before Christ.

I was drawn to retell the biblical story of Dinah in large part because of her silence.  In Genesis 34, Dinah’s experience is described and characterized by the men in her family, who treat her as a rape victim, which in that historical setting meant that she was irredeemably ruined and degraded.  Because she does not say a word (and because of the extraordinary loving actions taken by her accused assailant), I found it easy to imagine an alternative telling to the story, in which Dinah is not a passive victim but a young woman who makes choices and acts on her own initiative.  Not only did I find it easy, I found it necessary.”

-Anita Diamant (September, 2007)

Growing up a Catholic School girl, our role models in the church were quiet, benevolent women who spent their days soothing others and baking bread.  Of course I think women who exemplify these behaviors are necessary to the humanity of our people, but it cannot be the whole story.

My childhood Bible – the cool one with the pictures in it – told the story of Dinah as a rape victim, an event which led to her humiliation and degradation within the community.  The story goes on to say that her brothers avenged their sister by ransacking and killing almost an entire town.  What Diamant did was give voice to Dinah, and an alternative thought process to the events which happened.

In Diamant’s version, Dinah falls in love with a man, is married even, to this man who is a noble and of great fortune.  It behooves Jacob’s family to separate with their daughter in this advantageous outcome, but it is Dinah’s brothers who fear power greater than their own and convince their father to ask for grotesquely large dowry payments and obscene actions of obedience .  Still not satisfied, the brothers unleash a silent killing spree through the village, leaving Dinah widowed, alone, and in mourning.

That’s really nothing new for Dinah’s brothers, think “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and you’ll recall the cruelties they also inflicted on their brother, Joseph.  Although he gets a lot more written about him in the Bible.  And subsequently a Broadway Musical, which I saw when I was younger, starring Donny Osmond. 

It took Diamant 4 years to write The Red Tent.  Much of her research was on living conditions, types of foods, etc. that would have grown, thereby creating a realistic world for Dinah and her mothers to live in.  Much of women’s history is lost from that time period because it was never written down.  A woman’s worth was portrayed in the bread she baked, the clothing she wore, and the children she gave birth to.

Over the years, The Red Tent has become a book of controversy.  With religious groups on both sides of the spectrum, its readers range from thinking it sacrilegious to a spectacular teaching tool.  The subjects in the book contain historically accurate depictions of plural marriage, religious beliefs, midwifery, famine, social class, genealogy, and gender divides.

I highly recommend this book.  If it’s not in your To Read Pile, add it!  It’s been described as a luminous read by more than one critic, and I think that’s a fitting depiction as the book does shed light on one woman’s story and what might have been.  This is a fantastic book for book clubs or to share with your female friends.  My own book club spent much time discussing the various advancements in medicine, cooking, etc. we’re thankful for after reading about the daily lives of biblical women.  We contemplated what worked and didn’t work in the marriages of these characters, and what it meant to have a woman from the Bible who was portrayed as strong and intelligent.

Since many of you are writers yourselves, I found this clip of the author sharing her best tips for writers too!

What do you think?  Have you read The Red Tent?  What did it mean to you to hear Dinah’s story told in such a different way?  Have any other books had a profound impact on you?

And what’s left in that TBR Pile of yours?  Inquiring minds are always looking for more titles!  😉

A Review of Anna Quindlen’s Blessings

(goodreads.com)

I just finished reading Blessings by Anna Quindlen.  My mom bought me this book for Christmas, and I admit, I wasn’t so sure I’d like it.  I had recently read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and I was afraid the stories sounded too similar.  But I was way wrong.

I picked up the title again as part of this year’s To Be Read Pile Challenge, and I ended up loving Blessings.  If I had to describe the book as a food, I’d call it a soup book.  It’s a feel good kind of story.  It’s a tale of friendships, unlikely ones, and the bizarre and unplanned events that take place in our lives.

The Goodreads synopsis:

Late one night, a teenage couple drives up to the big white clapboard home on the Blessing estate and leaves a box. In that instant, the lives of those who live and work there are changed forever. Skip Cuddy, the caretaker, finds a baby girl asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep the child . . . while Lydia Blessing, the matriarch of the estate, for her own reasons, agrees to help him. “Blessings” explores how the secrets of the past affect decisions and lives in the present; what makes a person or a life legitimate or illegitimate and who decides; and the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community. This is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer about whom “The Washington Post Book World” said, “Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family.”

Anna Quindlen (goodreads.com)

Author Anna Quindlen is no slouch to the publication world.  With five bestselling novels, seven nonfiction books, and a Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times column, “Public and Private,” she’s achieved every writer’s dream.

If there was a stand out thing about this book, it’s Quindlen’s voice.  She writes characters the way someone you just met shares an intimate secret with you.  You immediately feel a bond to them.  You know they’re flawed, you may not agree with their actions, but you’ll defend them anyway.

The unlikely partnership of Skip Cuddy, a hired hand, with Southern Estate owner and matriarch, Lydia Blessing, is at the core of this book.  What could a man with calloused hands and no family have in common with an 80-something year old woman who never leaves the house?  If there’s a child involved, it turns out quite a bit.

I’m not a fan of spoilers, so I can’t give anything away, but there are some incredibly honest and moving scenes in this story regarding the raising of that baby.  Quindlen will make you redefine family and look at alternatives in a whole new light.

Plus the ending will surprise you!  I was sensing something was up, but didn’t know when we’d get any answers.

Overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a hearty, comforting read.

What about you?  Did you read Blessings and enjoy it?  What else from your TBR Pile have you been reading now?  Or if you’re like me, what did you buy that you’ll be getting around to for 2013’s TBR Pile Challenge?  

The To Be Read Pile Challenge

It never stops! (photo from endlessbookshelf.net)

I know you all have one, that looming pile next to your nightstand, the sinking bookshelf that can’t hold anymore, the stacks creeping up on your desk, and the ones you borrowed or were given months ago and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

It’s the dreaded To Be Read Pile!

*Cue the high-pitched horror flick scream!*
Fear not, dear Readers!  Adam, from Roof Beam Reader, has made a fun and cost effective contest for all of you looking to hit that stack of TBR’s!
The 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge is your quest to complete 12 books that have been looming on your list for at least 1 year.  That means the book does need to have been published in 2010 or before.  You are also allowed to list 2 alternative books to your 12 in case you have one that is simply unfinishable.  And yes, unfinishable is a word now.  Every writer fears it.  That, and clowns.  Nobody writes about clowns.  They’re plain creepy.
Anyone is welcome to join the challenge and make their TBR list!  If you care to officially join, and enter for the chance to win a $50 Gift Card to either Amazon.com or The Book Depository, then sign up at Adam’s blog!  He’s also listed for you all the participants’ links to their TBR lists, so it’s an amazing place to browse new titles and connect with those reading the same ones as you!

Here is my 2012 TBR List:

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  3. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
  6. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  8. The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
  9. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
  12. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen

Alternates:

  1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Part of the challenge is to also write up a short review of the books you’ve read, and so I’m going to share with you a few titles I’ve recently finished both on the list and off!

(photo from starvingwritersbooks.com)

Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag:  I picked this one up for my library’s book club and sadly only 5 of us showed up for the discussion that night.  Even more sad was the fact that I was the only one who liked the book.  For those of you who religiously read murder mysteries, I guess Deeper Than the Dead might not mesmerize, but I hadn’t read a creeper book in sometime.

The premise for DTTD begins when three school children discover a dead body in the park one day.  Their teacher, Anne Navarre is struggling to both interrogate and comfort her class about the serial murders that are happening.  The chapters move from the point of view of Anne, the lead detective following the case, the mind of the next victim, and also the killer.

Tami Hoag, a 15 consecutive time New York Times Bestselling author, set the book in the 1980’s.  At first, she thought how fun it would be to reminisce about leg warmers and big earrings, but as she got into the book’s research, she realized how little we had in DNA testing, even in 1985.  The book took a whole new interest as she discovered what detectives had to deal with in order to solve a crime then.

I for one, give this book a thumb’s up!  It was interesting to think about in terms of the advanced technology and testing we have now, and it was a super creepy read!  Don’t read this book before bed!  Or listen to it in the car!  I mean it, it was eerie!

(photo from barnesandnoble.com)

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee:   I just couldn’t get into this one.  I read this title with my other book club group and I think all of us would vote it our least favorite read so far.  It does have some interesting historical value, but the pace was slower and I didn’t like many of the characters.

The Piano Teacher is set in the 1940’s and 50’s, and webs together multiple stories from both during the war and after it.  At that time period, the British who lived in Hong Kong were somewhat of an elite society, and we are thus introduced to Claire Pendleton, bored housewife who begins an affair with the driver of the family she teaches piano for.

Though I didn’t care for this particular novel, that isn’t to say I don’t admire Ms. Lee.  Janice Y. K. Lee is an incredibly accomplished and intelligent woman.  Born in Hong Kong to Korean parents, she attended college at Harvard University.  Her first writing job was as beauty editor for Elle Magazine.  While there, she sought out her true passion, the features section.  She later wrote for Mirabella Magazine, and completed the Hunter College MFA program.  I appreciate her dedication to her work immensely.  Lee spent 5 years working on this book, setting it down here and there to raise a family of 4 (including twins).

The Piano Teacher is another New York Times Bestseller and Lee’s only book so far.  I have no doubt we’ll see her name in print again.

(photo from wikimedia.org)

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer:  I LOVED THIS BOOK!  I couldn’t stop reading this book!  It’s quite possibly one of THE best written books I’ve ever read!

Into Thin Air recounts the firsthand telling of the Mount Everest Disaster of 1995 by Jon Krakauer, who was solicited to go along and write an article for Outdoors Magazine.  While Krakauer’s book is illuminated with terminology definitions and historical background of the world’s highest peak, I do recommend making yourself a cheat sheet of names and what team they belong to as there are many tourists and sherpas traveling at the same time.

Into Thin Air will excite the adventurer in you; you’ll want to climb Everest.  However, as you read further into his journey, it becomes all too clear how little we are in control with the force of nature.  It is extremely tragic what happened on this expedition and my heart and condolences go out to the victims’ families.  But there were many heroes on that mountain too, who risked their lives to ensure the safety of others.

As for Krakauer, he is a well known name for writing stories of great adventure and adversarial topic.  Checking out his wikipedia page, you’ll see lots of retorts toward every one of his works.  I’m definitely interested in reading more of his works.

(photo from goodreads.com)

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson:  Chris is a woman who wakes up every day believing herself to be 20 years younger, single, and certainly not a mother.  The reality is far different.  Suffering serious damage from an accident, Chris has severe amnesia.  Every night when she sleeps, she forgets all that happened the day before and can’t remember much past her childhood.  Except, each morning a doctor calls her and reminds her where to look for her diary, the only place where Chris can piece together her life and know who she can and can’t trust.

The beginning of this book is a slower start, which is to be expected because as you read and learn clues with Chris, much of the information is repetitive.  This would be the case for you if you had to start over from scratch each day.  As the book progresses though, you become more and more on edge wondering who’s telling Chris the truth about her life.

I’d give this book a sideways thumb, if that makes sense, because it has a lot of potential and is thought provoking.  It is the first book published by S. J. Watson, an English writer and now international bestseller.  He wrote the book while taking a writing course at Faber University, and based it upon several accounts of amnesiac patients and their families.

There you have it folks!  Adding these in, I’ve completed 7 out of my 12 TBR books so far!  How far are you on the reading challenges you’ve set for yourself?  What is your reading goal?  I’m shooting for at least 2 books a month.  You can check out what I read here.  What titles are you reading right now?

And don’t forget!  We’re trying to help Jillian Dodd convince author CJ West to participate in her MANday blog.  Find out how you can help here!

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