Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What I Read This Month

This was a slow reading month for me - I was in charge of graduation at work and I'm also finishing up the semester for my own school. Luke and I are also in the process of buying a house, so our weekends have been busy. I looked back at my list from last year, and it seems like March was a slow month for reading last year as well. Hopefully April will be my comeback month!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (4/5)
Arts, Entertainment, and Christian Values by Kerby Anderson (3/5)
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (3/5)
The Smoking Gun's Book of Lists (3/5)
Sexy by Joyce Carol Oates (1/5)
New Times In The Old South (3/5)
Voices from S-21 (2/5)
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Anderson (4/5)
Museum of Bad Art by Marc Frank (4/5)
Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs (3/5)
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout (3/5)

11 total books read this month, 3676 pages this month
46 total books read this year, 12,758 pages this year

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's Talk Stephen King


I'm reading my first actual Stephen King horror book (IT) and I can tell you right now it is going to be a while till I can post a review (40 pages down, 1100 to go). However, I am loving it right now. I love the set up of IT as your childhood fear of the basement or what's underneath the bed. The first passage where George goes down into the basement just set the mood/theme/whatever you want to call it for the entire book. I love the way he introduces the idea right at the beginning before you even meet IT as a character.


Since I've only read his short stories and On Writing, I want to hear my readers' thoughts today. What do you think of Stephen King? Is he a one-note hack? An under-appreciated literary genius? Which of his books is your favorite and why? Or do you refuse to read him, and, if so, why?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinner with Dr. Henry Blackaby

So every now and then the fact that my daddy is the pastor of a fairly large church comes in very handy - old ladies take me out for lunch and gossip, tons of wedding presents, love and affection, all that (don't be too jealous, it also means everyone thinks my business is their business). Anyway, tonight it meant Luke and I got to go out with my parents for dinner with Dr. Henry Blackaby. Yes, THE Dr. Henry Blackaby of Experiencing God. Of course I know that not everyone is familiar with Dr. Blackaby (Luke was completely perplexed by my fangirl squealing on the way to Chiles), but he's a pretty big deal. If you aren't familiar with Experiencing God, I recommend that you make yourself familiar with it immediately!

We spent dinner hearing all his stories about his life and his relationships with other famous evangelists, as well as his experiences with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Luke had him telling all kinds of stories on politicians and evangelists and I pretty much just sat and basked in the knowledge that I was at dinner with Henry Blackaby. In case you are curious: here are pictures of my now-signed copy of Experiencing God and me with Dr. Blackaby. I told him I wanted a picture of us to remember dinner and also to put on my book blog and he told me AND I QUOTE: "You just made my day". I made Dr. Henry Blackaby's day. I almost passed out. Also, he did the cutest little bow thing when he shook my hand. Again, I was swooning.


















Finally, a bonus shot - one of my students had a baby over the weekend, a very difficult situation with lots of back drama, but the baby is beautiful.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

Yay Beth from the Nest! You were my lucky winner and I will be sending you copies of Travelling With Pomegranates; Eat, Pray, Love; and Under the Tuscan Sun! Email me at cla37619 at gmail dot com by Sunday - if I haven't heard anything by then, I'll choose another name. I also still have two copies of Book Crush and the other YA books, so that will most likely be my next giveaway!

Review: Here Burns My Candle


I typically don't read historical fiction and I typically don't read "inspirational" fiction, but this book could change my mind. I love the setting, I love the characters, and I love the story. Basically, it's a retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi. It's doesn't have the heavy focus on romance that typically turns me off. It reads more like women's fiction or even general fiction that focuses on the relationships between women. If you liked Redeeming Love, you'll really love this one.
The Scottish setting is really fun to read as well. There is some dialect, which typically annoys me, but it's done decently in this book. I won't say that it's not noticable at points and occasionally it seems to come and go - a character will say "no" half the time and "nae" half the time. It's the inconsistency that gets me, but it's not terribly noticable. I would say probably a three star read. It's not going to change my life or be a book I remember forever, but it is a great diversion and makes for awesome pleasure reading. A little bit heavier than straight up "brain candy" but by no means a difficult or serious read.
This book was provided for my review by the publisher.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Giveaway Reminder!


Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a travel grab bag or a YA grab bag! I'll be choosing a winner tomorrow and mailing the books out on Monday! See my post below to enter!


AND a blog award - this time from Chic Fit Geek! I'm supposed to say where I'll be in ten years. Hopefully, then years from now, I'll be a stay at home, homeschooling mom. I should probably start working on getting together a stash of denim jumpers so I'll be fully prepared, right?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Blog Award


Short post today - I'm trying to finish a few books that I'm looking forward to reviewing and getting ready to announce my giveaway winner on Friday! This is my favorite giveaway yet, and I'm excited to see who will win! If you haven't entered yet, scroll down and add a comment - you don't even have to be a follower!


Thank you to Alee over at Love Is... gave me the sweetest blog award today! I'm adding it to my sidebar and passing the love on to Jennifer, Kate, Pinkflipflops, and Rai!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: The Fixer Upper



My love of all things Southern is no secret, so it pretty much directly follows that Mary Kay Andrews would be my favorite chick lit author of all time. In an impressive show of control, I spent four long months on the wait list for this book at the library and of course finished it almost overnight. The book is about GA, so what can I say? Ms. Andrews even states in an interview at http://www.bookreporter.com/ that her inspiration for the town of Guthrie was Griffin, GA! I have family in Griffin and I'm very familiar with the area. I wasn't quite as excited about that though, as I was when I found out that the author has an entire book set on Tybee Island. I grew up spending summers on Tybee and my family owns property on the island. Getting to read references to Fannies on the Beach was pretty much the highlight of my reading career. (Definitely check out Ms. Andrews' books Savannah Blues and Savannah Breeze to read some awesome chick lit centered in my childhood stomping ground).

I'm not typically a chick lit fan, but I can't get enough of Mary Kay Andrews and The Fixer Upper was no different. Hilarious, sweet, charming, full of lovable, quirky characters and, although the plot can veer into the outrageous, the characters are always believable. I'm also almost never a fan of author's using dialect because so many do it so poorly, but Ms. Andrews is the exception to this rule. Ella Kate's voice was completely spot on - not only could I hear Ella Kate in my mind, I could identify her with some women I know - and some I'm related to! Andrews does an excellent job of writing a Southern voice without sounding like she's writing what she thinks a Southern voice sounds like.

I love it, I give it 5 stars for fun chick lit, and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys Southern humor or Southern fiction, or a really good chick lit read.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Review: The Red Letters Project


I have to admit that I had some concerns about this CD set and what I would say in my review. The "Project" from the title is an audio recording on CD of the "Red Letters" in the book of Matthew from the Bible. All of the words spoken by Jesus in this book are included as rock music or as the spoken word on these CDs. My thoughts were that the CDs would be either incredibly lame or awesome. My end decision is somewhere in the middle. There were parts of the CD, particularly the first song, that really turned me off. But as I kept listening, I realized that using the "rock" format really makes you think of some of the Bible verses in a completely different and unique way. I can't say that I picture myself singing along, but I think these would make awesome music for church videos, promotions, youth group, etc. Luke and I listened to them together and agreed that stylistically the songs reminded us a lot of DC Talk (the Jesus Freak album in particular), Plumb, POD, and other popular Christian "rock" music. As far as quality goes, the recording, instrumental, and vocal talent are on par with any album you would pick up at a music store. Very professional, high quality, obviously talented. It's not been released yet, but you can see more information at:
This copy was provided to me by the publisher for my review.

Friday, March 19, 2010

This Week's Lists

What I Read:

Sexy by Joyce Carol Oates - a solid 1/5 stars. I really, really hated it and if it hadn't been the easiest read ever I probably wouldn't have finished.

Voices from S-21:Terror and History In Pol Pot's Secret Prison - 3/5. A hard read, very dry, but something I knew nothing about, so very informative. I'm really trying to teach myself more about contemporary history and this book taught me a lot about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, but I feel like I would have understood more if I had known more of the country's history before I started.

New Times In The Old South - 3/5. Didn't love it, didn't hate it. Fairly generic Southern humor, and certainly not the best there is out there. I consider myself a connoiseur of Southern humor, and with all the hilarious books out there I probably wouldn't recommend this one unless, like me, you are the person who reads them all.

What I Bought:
100 Most Infamous Criminal Cases (for the school)
Best American Short Stories '91, '94, '95
Best American Short Stories of the Century
Best American Non-Required Reading 2001
The Thorn of Lion CityIt Was A Dark and Stormy Night: The Best (?) From the Bulwer-Lytton Contest
Chocolat
Up The Down Staircase
Heartburn
Anil's Ghost
Ellen Foster
The Alienist
On The Street Where You Live
The Last Summer (of You and Me)
The Safety of Objects
While I Was Gone
Paper Towns
When the Emperor Was Divine
Emotionally Weird
I Was Told There'd Be Cake
Under the Tuscan Sun
Mysteries of the Unexplained
Sex Lives of Cannibals
The Literary Cat
I Hate Other People's Kids
Total cost: $42

I've had something of a bad week and since I'm on a diet, I binged on books instead of chocolate.

Don't forget my contest is still going on - check out the post below to enter!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March Giveaway!

For my March giveaway, I'm going with your choice of grab bags:


YA Grab bag:

Book Crush and two surprise YA books (good ones I promise!)









Travel Grab bag:




Eat, Pray, Love and Travelling with Pomegranates and a third surprise travel-related book!






All you have to do is leave a comment with your name and the grab bag you'd like to win!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Giveaway Winner

But first my review! This is a great (and short) read for teenagers interested in making a difference or for youth leaders, teachers, parents, or anyone else who wants to encourage young adults. The book is easy to read and is clearly intended for high school and possibly college students. One thing I appreciated about the book, as a person who works with and knows many students who don't like to read or can't read well, was the format of the book. The type isn't huge, but the font isn't so small that it's intimidating. The book is also frequently broken up with lists, real life stories, and separate sections. For my students, those kind of things often make a difference in what they will and won't read. I also appreciated that the authors avoided the cheesey photos, clip art images, etc that frequently plague teen non-fiction. It's got a grown up feel and format, but contains many of the features that I think keep young or inexperienced readers interested.

Check out the book at http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781601422705&ref=externallink_mlt_starthere_sec_0127_01

And the winner is....my favorite neighbor, Bradley! I'll send you a Twitter and see when is a good time to bring it over - or I can drop it off at the church - or I can stick it in my mailbox - or I can stick it in your mailbox. How convenient! Tomorrow I'll post for my actual March giveaway and you can choose between a travel grab bag and a YA grab bag!

Book was provided for my review by the publisher.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Few Pictures

Because I haven't read anything worth reviewing after I Know This Much Is True and I can't post my giveaway winner until tomorrow. A lot of you have heard in depth about my work situation, but just in case you don't know - I was in charge of planning and directing our school's first graduation.
Leah and Amanda did their best to help me, but apparently I had a brain spasm or something and chose to wear the ugliest/most unflattering clothes I own. I also spent about five hours before graduation carrying trees and drinks and degrees and whatever else from the school to my car to the graduation site in the pouring rain. Leah, Amanda, I obviously need a fashion intervention before the wedding I'm in!






















Random mid-rehearsal dance party - I throw these everywhere I go!












My first group of students, all grown up!













I've also put in a little bit of my art. At Macaroni Grill on Friday night, Luke and I had a turtle drawing contest. The manager gave me a free dessert, which I like to think was either based on my good looks OR my super art skills. If you're thinking "wow Julie, it looks like you drew an entire ecosystem and all Luke drew was a turtle with a canon on its back" you're right. I won.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review: I Know This Much Is True

I usually don't post book summaries because, let's face it, this isn't a book report blog and I'm lazy. Plus there are a million summaries out there on Goodreads and Amanzon and everywhere else, so I don't feel the need to summarize here. This blog is all about me (of course) and what I think (which you should care about becauste its Very Important). However, in order to tell you my thoughts on this book I'm going to have to say some things that happen in the book. So beware of spoilers!

Ok, the book was entertaining and I enjoyed it through about the 600th page. At that point it started to fall apart for me. The writing wasn't bad and I was interested in the plot, but the different plot spinoffs were just too much for me. It was like he tried to fit every possible "relevant" issue into the book. Here's just a sampling of some themes explored (look away if you haven't read the book!):
Mental illness (schizophrenia)
Gulf War
Horrific chid abuse
Domestic abuse (towards pretty much every woman in the book at some point)
Murder of a husband by his wife and her lesbian lover
Fugitives from the law
Two amputations (one performed voluntarily by the amputee)
Suicide
SIDS
Attempted murder of a child by a parent
Drugs
Psychopharmacology
Potential incest (finally disproved at the end)
Child pornography
Regulary pornography with an unwilling subject
Anal rape
Regular rape of multiple people
Infidelity
Daddy and mommy issues
Divorce
AIDS (twice)
Politics (local, national, and international)
Insinuated though never proven bestiality (man with monkey)
And my personal favorite: a woman who is living with her boyfriend but allows her other lover (who also happens to be her half-uncle) secretly watch them having sex from her closet.

By the end of the book I was just thinking "seriously?" As I was reading whenever I got to a new issue I'd tell Luke. By the end of the book we were both cracking up. And this is all about ONE PERSON's family. Sure it covers a grandfather, stepfather, and twin sons, but holy moly. I really think I would have enjoyed the book more had the author cut out a few hundred pages of side issues. Or even left the book the same length and chosen just a few issues to explore. Like do we really really need the whole side plot with the live in girlfriend who happens to be cheating with her step uncle and gets pregnant with his baby but then it turns out he's gay and gave her AIDS? Really? What did that add?

Although I guess it did help the end wrap up nicely, with the main character and his ex-wife falling back in love and getting the have a child since their child had died. I'm not making this up. Do I recommend the book...hm...I'm not really sure. There were parts that were laughable and unbelievable (LOTS) but all the drama was entertaining. If you don't mind reading a book that is reminiscent of a soap opera, this book is for you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Giveaway #1: Last post

I had planned to wait until I finished I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb to start reading Start Here since I won't be posting my review until Monday. However, I Know This Much Is True is taking me for.ev.er to read. Don't get me wrong I'm loving it and anxious to post my review, but I've been reading it for three days and I'm only halfway through, which is really odd for me. Anyway, Start Here is a great book for parents, teachers, youth leaders, or anyone who works with young people to use as a resource for involving students in social justice from a Christian perspective. Post here or in the original post for a chance to win it! Expect a review of I Know This Much Is True within the week!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Giveaway

I promised a fun giveaway when I reached 50 followers, so March's giveaway (and feel free to enter this one and the one below) is going to be decided on by my readers. Leave a comment saying which you'd prefer:

A. YA grab-bag: Book Crush by Nancy Pearl and a book featured in Book Crush
B. Travel grab-bag: Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I'll announce the contest next week!

Update: I had another idea - why don't I just let the winner choose which grab bag they want? Ok be watching next week for my giveaway post to enter!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New Look and Lists

What do you think? I decided to try out something new and thanks to Shabby Blogs got a new background. I'm pretty thrilled and the site is awesome, so if you're looking for a new background you should check it out. It was easy enough that I was able to do it on my own with no help from Luke! Also, here are my lists from this week:

Books Bought:

The Dog Dialed 911: A Book of Lists From the Smoking Gun
Grendel
Defining Moments in Books
Book by Book
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
Southern Ladies and Gentlemen
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (for the school library)
The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc
The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death
I Love You Ronnie (a gift for my sister)
Dear Diary
Everybody in the Pool
Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler

Total Cost: $30

Books Read:

The Book Thief
Arts, Entertainment, and Christian Culture

I want to say I finished I Know This Much Is True, but I still haven't.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Giveaway!


I've got an extra giveaway this month, thanks to Random House! I haven't finished my own copy yet, so I won't be posting a review until next week, but that is when I plan to announce the winner. This isn't a book that everyone will be interested in, but I recommend it to anyone who works with a youth group. Check out the link above to its page on Random House and leave a comment if you're interested in having me send you a free copy! I'll do a random drawing next week when I finish the book and post my review!

Completely not book related

I'm just going to have to show of my hot husband for a few minutes. This has nothing to do with books, but it does have to do with how awesome Luke is. Watch and enjoy as Luke breaks boards for his fifth degree blackbelt.

video

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I got tagged - and awarded!

I got tagged by Jennifer at Books, Recipes, and Life, Oh My! Thanks Jennifer - something to fill the time on my sick day!

Question 1: Where were you 5 years ago?
Let's see - halfway through my junior year of college (seriously? it doesn't seem that long!), had been dating Luke for about 3 months, and spent a month living on my parents couch with mono.

Question 2: What is(was) on your to-do list today?
I'll answer for tomorrow, since my to-do list today contained nothing
1. Finish mailing graduation invitations
2. Mail CDs to my elf, book to my blog winner, and book cds
3. Order cake for graduation
4. Finish homework that is already late
5. Go with my bestie to look at flowers for her wedding

Question 3: What five snacks do you enjoy?
1. M&Ms
2. Kraft 100 calorie cheese packets
3. dry Cheerios
4. peaches
5. bananas

Question 4: What five places have you lived?
1. Chattanooga, TN
2. Little Rock, AR
3. Arkadelphia, AR
4. Roanoke Rapids, NC
5. Salisbury, NC

Question 5: What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Buy a house
2. Fill a room in the house with built-in book cases
3. Pay off student loans
4. Tithe to the church and give to Voice of the Martyrs, Campus Crusade, and Feminists for Life
5. Save!

Also, thanks to Alee at Love Is for the Sunshine Award - take a look at my sidebar to see it! Now for the fun part - my nominees for Sunshine Award/Tag game:

Ashley T at That's Life
Courtney at ...and that's more than everything
Angie Eats Peace

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: The Book Thief

The story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who finds comfort in words. That's a terrible way to sum up the story, but I'm not writing a book report here, it's a review, ok? I just feel like I can't adequately describe how hauntingly beautiful this book is. It's one that I simultaneously didn't want to pick up and couldn't put down. It's definitely a tear-jerker, so read it with a box of tissues handy.

When I originally heard that the story if narrated by Death, I worried that it was merely a plot contrivance that the author was using to do something "different". If there is one thing I can't stand it's an author who writes something that is obviously trying to be "different" or "edgy". But Zusak managed to pull it off well. The narration felt natural and Death made for a believable and sympathetic character. It worked well with the book and never felt like the author was using a device just for the sake of using it.

Another aspect of the book I appreciated was the German setting. Most of the books I've read surrounding World War II that include Germany show the rise of Nazism, the nationalism, the propaganda, and the way the German people were led into Hitler's web of genocide. This book showed a different side of the German people, the every day people, who were wounded by the war and lost loved ones for reasons they didn't understand.

For me, The Book Thief ranks with The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom for absolutely breath-taking and heart-breaking beauty and grief. Have you read it? What did you think?