Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(8)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me
(and Other Concerns) 

Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Pages: 240

I have a major girl crush on Mindy Kaling.  I have never really paid much attention to her character on The Office (shhh, don't tell her I said that) but this Fall my husband & I started to watch The Mindy Project and it is one of our new favorite shows.  Mindy's character and the writing of the show really remind me of Bridget Jones.

Anyway, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) was an audiobook that I was listening to while on the treadmill, which is funny considering Mindy discusses her workout routine and her playlists in the book.  This book just seems to be a free flowing collection of stories about Mindy's life -from childhood to college to her time in New York City as an Au Pair and of course her time on The Office.  My favorite parts were when Mindy starts gushing pop culture references that we all of us (of a certain age) can relate to. Harry Potter, 80's movies, Chick Lit (and flicks) - her favorite comedy scenes on screen.   You name it and she covers it in her cute, witty way.

I love to "read" celebrity memoirs in audiobook form, especially when the author is the narrator.  It feels like this famous person is sitting down and PERSONALLY telling me the story of her life. I found it quite hilarious that she starts talking about her way of creating these horrible fantasies when working out WHILE I was letting the treadmill kick my butt.  Anyway - even if you aren't that familiar with my new BFF, Mindy Kaling, any "Child of the 80's" will get enjoyment for her memoir.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is a funny, witty book that will leave you smiling like you do after a few hours with your BFF.  I promise.

Monday, January 28, 2013

(7)Dwarf by Tiffanie DiDonato

by Tiffanie DiDonato

Publication Date: November 27,2012
Pages: 272

Tiffanie DiDonato was born a Dwarf.  Her parents were expecting a happy, healthy, "normal" baby. And instead they had a daughter with Dwarfism.  Tiffanie tried to be a "normal" kid - but she got discouraged often.  She wanted to be able to turn on a light switch without using a spatula.  She wanted to be able to touch her own ear.  So as a teenager she made the decision of having the controversial bone lengthening procedures that would add inches to her tiny frame.  When it was all said and done she hit 4'10".  Dwarf is the memoir of Tiffanie's childhood.  The pain she endured, both emotionally as someone who was "different" at school and physically as she gets very detailed about her surgeries and the healing process.  Her memoir continues on with attending college and meeting her husband, Eric. Tiffanie is pretty open with everything she went through.  From the embarrassing moment when she got her first period to having to deal with the suicide of her best friend, Tiffanie is refreshingly honest.

Here is where I get "refreshingly honest" - I have really mixed feelings about the novel and Tiffanie's decision at such a young age to surgically transforming her body.  From reading some of the reviews, a lot of people with Dwarfism also had mixed feelings about Tiffanie's decision. Everyone reads a book with their own experiences clouding their perception.  For that reason, my perception is likely to be different than someone else.

I was born without my left hand.  From birth I had to adapt to the world around me in order to perform daily functions. I have BEEN there. I DO get it.  Like tying my shoes.  Or shaving my armpits.  Or putting toothpaste on my toothbrush. Or the fact that I can not physically use fingernail clippers.  I have had to "MacGuyver" (a term Tiffanie uses in the book) my way through life.  Heck. to this very day I have to have help putting on a necklace that is not long enough to fit over my head.  But not once as a child was I allowed to use my hand as an excuse for not doing something. It was NEVER mentioned in my family.  But that doesn't mean I didn't endure some severe teasing as a child, because I did. Hell, the summer before I entered kindy, the Special Education teacher told my mom she was looking forward to having me in her class.  My mother, God Bless her, said "I think not."   Even as a child, if someone would have asked if I could replace my stump with a hand, would I?  The answer then, as it is now, is no.  I am who I am because of my hand, because of my childhood, because of my parents, and because of me.

In her book, Tiffanie herself mentioned that she got a lot of flack from the Little People community because of her surgeries.  And while I respect Tiffanie's decisions to do what she did - hey this is America - I can also see where some of her biggest critics are coming from.   When she hit the national media to tell HER story, a lot of people took it to mean that THEY were not "good enough" just the way they were. Was it right, maybe not, but I can certainly understand why they feel that way.

Bottom line, Tiffanie is a unique woman.  She has this huge personality that definitely came through in her writing. Did the surgeries give her the confidence she needed in order to let her personality shine, possibly? Would she have led a productive, happy life without the surgeries, probably.  What is done is done and Dwarf is her story.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

(6.)Arranged by Catherine McKenzie


Publication Date: May 15, 2012
Pages: 416

Anne Blythe is a thirty-three year old woman who just went through another rough break up.  She is nursing her wounds when her best friend announces her engagement and Anne feels like even more of a relationship failure.  In a moment of fate Anne discovers a business card that leads her to Blythe and Co.  Anne assumes it is a dating service, but it is during her first consultation that she discovers they arrange marriages, not dates.

Anne is so exhausted by the dating scene and continuously getting hurt that she decides to go through with the sessions with the hopes that Blythe and Co really will be able to find the perfect match for her. They choose writer Jack Harper to be her husband and after their week in paradise she decides that they got it right.  They have a lot in common and the chemistry between them is hard to deny.  They return home married and ready to start their life together.  They are a few months into their marriage when Anne has to leave for a business trip.  She returns home a day early, hoping to surprise Jack. Instead she finds his unfinished manuscript, which Anne cannot resist reading. What she reads shatters her to the core and she realizes that the last few months have been a complete sham.  Will her marriage to Jack survive the book he has written?

Arranged was suuuuuuuch a good book! It was as if the author took bits and pieces of my life and created Anne.  Now, I never had an arranged marriage, but I was a single thirty-three year old woman  (I got married at age 34) who had gone through break up after break up. I can relate to that exhaustive feeling of being DONE with the dating world.  I am sure that I am not the only woman, single or otherwise who has had those feelings at some point in their life. I got lucky. One of my past breakups came back into my life and made me the happiest woman on the planet.  I know how lucky I am and I thank God everyday.  - Anyway, I loved this book.  I loved all of the characters, from Anne to her best friend, to her relationship with her brother, and even the stuffy shrink provided by Blythe and Co. They are all unique, yet familiar.  If that make sense.

Bottom line, I gave Arranged a "Best of 2013" tag because I cried like a baby through the last fifty pages, and as you may know, that is one of my criteria for "Best of" - the emotions the novel evokes from me. I enjoyed everything about this  novel from start to finish.  If you are looking for a good, engrossing novel you must check out Arranged. Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 25, 2013

(5)Truth in Advertising by John Kenney

Truth in Advertising 

Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Pages: 320

We all know that our past has something to do with who we are today and where we go in the future.  As much as Finbar Dolan would like to believe that he was able to put his troubled blue-collar life behind him, the reality is that his childhood scars can be seen in every aspect of his life.

From the engagement he called off to a wonderful woman, to his using his witty sense of humor as a defense mechanism, Fin is far from over his childhood.   He was getting ready to head off on his solo honeymoon over Christmas break when he gets called back to the office to put together an ad for the Super Bowl.  He is in the process of making this career making spot (about diapers, no less) when he gets word that his father is dying.  The father that he hasn't seen in nearly twenty years.  It doesn't take long for Fin to realize that none of his siblings want anything to do with their dying father or his death, as he sits by his bedside he realizes that he might be more like his father than he realized.  Will this lesson be enough for him to admit that there is more to life than just work?  Like the beautiful Phoebe who matches him wit for wit?

I know I am only five books into the New Year, but I can easily say that Truth in Advertising is the best book that I have read this year. The writing was so witty and so enjoyable, I literally found myself laughing at Fin's one-liners.  Especially the banter between Fin and Phoebe.  Especially the banter between Fin and Phoebe.  Their banter reminded me A LOT of the banter between my husband.  I also enjoyed watching Fin grow - he learned a lot about his childhood, his parent's relationship, and mostly about himself as his father lay there dying.   It really made me love Fin even more, the way he handled everything that he learned.

Bottom line, Truth In Advertising is a really well written novel. The humor, the pain, the flow together so seamlessly. It made it really easy to like Fin and root for him to find the happiness that has been lacking in his life.  If you are looking for a good novel, look no further, John Kenney will not disappoint you with Truth in Advertising. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

(4)The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

The Drowning House

Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Pages: 288

Claire Porterfield is still reeling from the ultimate loss. Her young daughter was killed in a freak playground accident.  To say that Claire is a shadow of her former self is a gross understatement.  She hasn't been doing anything with her photography career and her marriage is crumbling into a million pieces. 

Things are spiraling out of control when Claire gets a job offer to run an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston.  The hometown she left so many years ago and has never returned.  She accepts the position and finds herself back in the community she left so long ago.  She sees her community and her parents through grown up eyes and she realizes that things are not always like they seemed.   Claire's own misspent youth, her parents relationship, and old community folklore are all looked at through fresh eyes and Claire realizes that maybe things really weren't what they seemed.  Will the old wounds of her childhood coupled with the recent wounds of the loss of her child be enough to finally send her over the edge?  Or will going home be enough for Claire to finally start to heal?

The Drowning House is one of those stores with a real dark, Gothic feel. My heart ached for Claire from almost the very beginning of the book when we first learn that she lost her daughter.  Then as the chapters go buy and you start to see the layers of her past peeled away and you feel even more for her.  Her life has been far from easy and it isn't until she returns to Galveston that some of the truths of her childhood start to come to light.  It was very tough to read at times, I will warn you. 

Bottom line, The Drowning House is very much a "hometown" kind of novel.  Residents or even visitors of Galveston are likely to recognize the landscape and maybe even some of the landmarks mentioned in the book.  While Claire's story is one of heartbreak and tragedy, it is also a story of survival and even redemption. Certainly one not to be missed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

(3)The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly

The House on Willow Street 

Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 496

Oh Ireland... why must you be so far away?

I recently read a collection of short stories by Cathy Kelly, Christmas Magic and was just reminded of how my heart longs for Ireland. When I saw that Cathy Kelly had another novel coming out so soon I got excited to be transported back to Ireland.

A House on Willow Street takes us to the small village of Avalon.  We get to meet the good people of Avalon, specifically Danae, the beloved Postmistress of Avalon - she has led a long and interesting life that she likes to keep to herself.  All of those old memories come to the surface when Danae's niece, Mara comes to stay with her.   We also get to meet Tess Power, the onetime heir to the Avalon House, the mansion that sits at the end of Willow Street and had been in Tess's family for many generations before the family fell on hard times and lost the house.  Even though she grew up in an aristocratic family, Tess now barely scrapes by with her antiques shop and she discovers that her and her husband's "trial separation" is about to become permanent because he got his new girlfriend pregnant.  And to top it all off Cashel, Tess's first love is back in Avalon and has purchased the Avalon house.  Will these women be able to overcome the challenges in their lives and find happiness again?

Once again Cathy Kelly allows the reader to immerse themselves in the charm of a quaint little Irish village while meeting unique and wonderful characters. The story takes us between four characters, Danae, Mara, Tess and Tess's sister, Sukki.  They are various ages at various stages in their lives and I think all readers will find something to relate to in each character.  Of course my favorite part of the book was the picture that Cathy Kelly painted of Avalon.  The charming little village with the quaint little shops and the eclectic cast of characters really did nothing more than make me long for Ireland... *sigh*... maybe someday.

Bottom line, for fans of Irish literature, Cathy Kelly needs no introduction.  You are already familiar with her ability to transport her readers to Ireland.  The characters in The House on Willow Street   are exactly what I have come to expect from the author, unique yet familiar. If you are looking for a good novel to read, keep Cathy Kelly in mind, you won't regret it, I promise!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I am gonna gush for a minute.....

I am gonna gush for a minute about a product that I got for Christmas.  I want to give you the disclaimer that I am NOT getting anything as compensation for this gushing post, about ---> that wonderful product.  I just love it THAT MUCH! (Okay I take that back - I get something for referring friends - details at the bottom)

If you have been reading my blog for a while then you know that I have been "trying" to lose weight for the last year.  Not too long before Thanksgiving the battery in my Heart Rate Monitor finally gave out after two years.  Rather than just replace the battery my husband and I did some extensive research on what was on the market.  I wanted something that gave me as much data as possible.  Not only am I a data nerd, but I am a gadget nerd. So I wanted something that would satisfy both of my nerdy needs.  Like I said we did extensive research, like hours and hours.  I saw the BodyMedia and was very impressed by what I saw.  My husband on the other hand was very skeptical because of the monthly subscription fee - a whole $6 a month.   So life got crazy in November and we just kind of dropped the subject.

Fast forward to Christmas morning and guess what was sitting under the tree???  I got the exact one that is shown in the picture and it came with three months worth of subscription.  I have religiously been wearing the armband since Christmas day, (it is easy to forget that you have it on) when I set up my account and my goals.  The armband goes on your upper arm (for me my left arm) and it  tracks everything. Using your smartphone you can track everything throughout the day. Your calories burned, consumed, minutes of activity, steps taken and the amount of sleep you got the night before.  (It is pretty freaking awesome). Every couple of days or so you need to plug it in to your computer to download all of the data and charge the battery, but it doesn't take long.

It is just today that I am fully realizing how awesome the app really is.  While you can log your food intake using the BodyMedia app - you can also sync your My Fitness Pal account (we all know they have the most extensive database for calorie tracking) to the BodyMedia .  Both apps will sync up and track your food/exercise.  Here is the super awesome thing -  the App also has the workout tab.  You can choose your workout goal - whether it be steps, calories burned, time, etc..  and you can watch your progress real-time on the app.  I used it this afternoon on the treadmill and was so surprised at how big of a difference there was between the BodyMedia and the digital display on the treadmill.

I know the New Year is notorious for the "lose weight and get in shape" resolutions, but for me this year is different.  I am tired of being fat and I am tired of the half-hearted attempts at losing weight.  This is it. I am doing it this year and the BodyMedia is going to help me get there.  -- OH and it is the tracking system that they are using this season on the Biggest Loser!  That kind of endorsement was another reason why it was so attractive to me during the research stage.

Now here is where the compensation comes in - as I was poking around the website I saw that there is compensation for referrals.  Three months of subscription ($18 value) for anyone that I refer to BodyMedia. So if you are interested, send me your email and I will send you the information.   I am not one to use my blog to "pimp" anything other than books - but I really and truly am so impressed by this product that I just wanted to share my experience so far with the BodyMedia.   If you have any questions or want more info, please don't hesitate to ask!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

(2)Shadowlands by Kate Brian

by Kate Brian 

Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Pages: 336

Rory Miller has survived the unthinkable.  A serial killer that  preys on young girls chose Rory to be his next victim. What is even worse is that Mr. Nell, the teacher known for whistling Beatles songs in the hall is that serial killer.  But, Rory did escape.  While the FBI is busy trying to track down the monster, they send Rory, her sister, Darcy and their father into the Witness Protection program where the girls find themselves struggling to fit in with the other kids.   Even though it feels like they are on vacation Rory is haunted by nightmares and the thought that a madman may still be after her.  Will the FBI catch Mr.Nell in time or will her worst nightmares come true?

While Shadowlands is a Young Adult novel, I really think that anyone who loves a good heart pounding suspense movie is going to love this book.  In fact, I think the novel would translate really well to the big screen.  I can see even see it as Summer blockbuster in the theaters.  The characters are typical to any teen movie. It is full of all of your typical teen stereotypes - but the nightmares that plague Rory are really chilling, not to mention the fact that she sees and hears Mr.Nell around every corner.  It is really frightening.   I am still not sure if the end was pure genius or a twist of a popular movie that we all have seen.  Either way, it still has me thinking about it a day later.

Bottom line, Shadowlands was a great thriller no matter what your age.  I enjoyed Rory and the terrifying situation she found herself in really got my blood racing. I found myself tearing through the pages trying to find out if Rory stays safe and the evil Mr. Nell was caught.  If you are one who enjoys being scared, then you might enjoy Shadowlands.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

(1)Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Pages: 336

Buy it Here!

Here we are - a New Year.  The year 2012 flew by so fast that I still find it hard to believe it is over.  I did not hit my reading goals much to my dismay, but hopefully 2013 will be a little more settled, which will mean more time to read. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a book that is hitting all of the "Best of 2012" lists this year - and I can totally see why!  Where'd You Go, Bernadette is one of the most unique books I have read all year.  

The book is set in Seattle and follows Bernadette Fox and her family.  Her husband is a big wig at Microsoft allowing Bernadette to stay home with their brilliant daughter, Bee.  Bernadette is not your typical suburban housewife, though.  To say she is eccentric is a bit of an understatement.  She is a bit of a recluse and has very little to do with the other moms at Bee's elite prep school, in fact she has very little to do with anyone who is not her daughter or husband.  In fact, when Bee hits a goal with the understanding that her reward is a cruise to Antarctica, Bernadette hires an overseas personal assistant to help her make the preparations.  As their trip draws near Bernadette's anxieties hit an all time high and before you know it, the FBI are involved and Bernadette goes missing. With Bernadette missing everything falls apart for Bee and her father.  Will they go to all ends of the earth to find her and bring "normalcy" back to their lives?

I really, really enjoyed Where'd You Go, Bernadette. It was funny and quirky and surprising in so many ways. I enjoyed how the author showed all the characters viewpoints in different ways.  Like through emails, faxes, or just in the first person narrative.  It kept things fresh and unique, really the whole book was fresh and unique.  I really liked how all of the characters had an opinion about Bernadette, right or wrong and those opinions were either proven or dispelled as the story progresses.

Bottom line, the Fox family puts the "fun" back in dysfunctional family dynamics. If you are looking for a fresh new book with unique and quirky characters, then you must pick up Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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