Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! Word is we're getting a big snowstorm (20-30 cm) starting tomorrow, so you know what that means - tons of time to read!

What I read last week

After Tehran - Marina Nemat
How Not to Shop - Carmen Reid

What I'm reading now

Old School Ties - Kate Harrison

What I plan to read next

War Child - Emmanuel Jal
Hatteras Girl - Alice J. Wisler

How does your week look?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Blogger Hop

TGIF! I'm looking forward to a restful weekend full of reading! How about you?

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books. It is a great way to meet other book bloggers and find new books to read. The last hop had over 300 participants! This hop is growing like crazy and is so much fun.

This weeks question is: What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011? Why are you anticipating that book?

At the beginning of the year I posted a list of books I am looking forward to in 2011. It's hard for me to choose just one from that list! So I'm going to mention two from the list.

The first is The Kid by Sapphire and will be released in April. This is the sequel to Push, which was made into the movie Precious. This book will take place in the present and follows the story of Precious' son. I loved Push and am really interested to find out how her story continued.

The second book is If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White which will be released in May, because who doesn't love Betty White? What a great career and what an amazing 89 year old woman!

What books are you looking forward to this year?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed" by Marina Nemat

At the age of sixteen Marina Nemat was imprisoned in Iran's notorious Evin prison. She shared the story of her arrest, imprisonment and torture in the bestselling book Prisoner of Tehran. But her story did not end there.

In After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed Marina shares what life was like for her after she was released from Evin. She married, escaped Iran, immigrated to Canada, started a family and began to live what she had hoped would be a normal life. But despite living what seemed like a typical Canadian life, she struggled with the memories of Evin and her past life began to haunt her. At this point she decided to put her feelings down on paper.

After Tehran chronicles Marina's arrival in Canada, how her book came to be published, and the frenzy that was ignited following the release of her book. She soon found herself travelling the world to share her story and reaching out to others who had been prisoners in Iran. Through it all, she continued to struggle with survivor's guilt and tried desperately to understand the shape her life had taken.

Having read Prisoner of Tehran I was intrigued to read this and discover the process by which she wrote the first book. It's pretty cool to read a book about how a book came to be written. But this is so much more than that. It deals with confronting the past, post-traumatic stress and speaking out about your past even though it may threaten your current well-being.

Marina Nemat is incredibly brave for giving a voice to thousands of young men and women who have been imprisoned and tortured in Iran. She also addresses current examples of people who have been imprisoned and tortured and what the West needs to do to help them and others.

I highly recommend reading both Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran. These books will give you a better understanding of the history of Iran and what has led to the atmosphere of control and imprisonment in the past few decades. You will be moved by Marina's story and inspired by her courage.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Choosing to SEE" by Mary Beth Chapman

Mary Beth Chapman was living a life she had never planned for. Instead of the peaceful and stable life she had always dreamed of, she was living a pretty hectic one. With her husband, an award-winning singer/songwriter, she had a full house with three biological children and three children adopted from China, as well as a nonprofit organization to run.

But on May 21, 2008 their world was changed forever. One of their young daughters was hit by a car, driven by their 17-year-old son, in the driveway of their home. In the months that followed, Mary Beth struggled with understanding God's plan for her life and why their beautiful, full of life girl was taken from them.

In Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope Mary Beth Chapman shares the story of her life and her struggle to find a new normal following the death of her daughter. This is an open and honest book that is full of laughter, sadness, faithfulness and the promises of God.

Mary Beth's story is an inspiring and comforting one. She shares their adoption journey and how they brought home three young children from China and found homes for many, many more. She also shares how no matter how hard she tried to plan and control her life she ultimately had to give that up to God and allow Him direct her life.

Most importantly Mary Beth bravely shares the emotions and pain surrounding the loss of her daughter. She is honest in sharing how even famous Christian singers and speakers question God in the difficult times. Mary Beth invites the readers into the depths of her emotions to give them an understanding of how her family has journeyed through their pain.

A very touching part of the book is the honesty she shares in how her son felt following the accident and how he dealt with a pain that was different from the rest of the family's. The strength that they all found in God is incredibly inspiring. Anyone who is going through a difficult time will find comfort and solace in this book.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a great way to find out what others are reading and find books to add to your to read list!

Books I finished last week

Rhythms of Grace by Marilynn Griffith
Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman

What I'm reading now

After Tehran by Marina Nemat

What I plan to read next

How Not to Shop by Carmen Reid

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Rhythms of Grace" by Marilynn Griffith

As a teenager, Grace Okoye was a promising dancer. But a brutal assault ended her career and changed her life forever. Twenty years later she returns to the small town of Testimony, Ohio to teach at a school for at-risk kids and hopefully come to terms with the incident that shaped her life in the hopes of eventually being set free.

But Grace isn't the only one in Testimony who needs to be set free. Her childhood friends Zeely, Ron, Brian and Jeremiah are all keeping secrets that are threatening to blow their lives apart. As they all work at the same school, teaching kids who are in the same situations they once were, the five of them find that they won't be able to hold their secrets much longer, and only through the grace of God will they truly be set free.

Rhythms of Grace is an emotional and soulful novel about redemption and forgiveness. As the lives of the five characters intersect, we learn along with them that we aren't the only ones who are hurting and that keeping it to ourselves never fixes the problem. This novel is a wonderful lesson in the power of friendships, forgiveness and faith.

The book is a bit longer and deeper than other Urban Christian novels. There is a lot more time devoted to setting up the stories and exploring the past. At times the writing seems a little disjointed, making the backstory hard to follow. But as the book goes on it smoothes itself out eventually lending the mystery to the backstory that it was attempting to achieve.

Griffith's characters are easy to become attached to and this is the kind of book that you don't want to put down because you need to know what is going to happen next. I look forward to reading the sequel Songs of Deliverance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Great House" by Nicole Krauss

An American novelist who for twenty-five years has held on to the furniture and memory of young Chilean poet who has disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police. An elderly Israeli man who has just lost his wife and has reconnected with his estranged son. A professor in London who has just lost his wife and discovered a secret that she hid for fifty years. An antiques dealer who is slowly putting back together his father's study which was plundered by the Nazis.

All of these people are connected by one solitary item - an enormous wooden desk with nineteen drawers. But for those whose lives it has passed through it is more than just a piece of furniture, it is a symbol of the memories and loss that has permeated their lives.

Great House by Nicole Krauss explores the ways in which we attempt to hold on to the past and how it affects our present. Each characters story is written in the form of a short story with the desk tying them all together.

The reviews on this book are mixed, people seem to either really love it or hate it. As I write this, I'm still not sure how I feel about the book. This book is the first of Krauss' that I have read and I was very impressed with her writing. There were so many times that I was struck by the beauty of the words that I was reading.

But the book felt more like a collection of short stories. Each story on its own could have held up beautifully and powerfully. They didn't need to be tied together, and the way in which they are, well I personally felt like it was working against the reader until the very end. I think I was busy looking deeper into the relationship than I needed to be and ended up missing some of the more important themes.

What encouraged me to move past the negatives of this book was the beauty of Krauss' writing. She painted incredible pictures with her words and the writing flowed well. For me this is enough to make the book worth the read.

Thank you to Penguin Books for providing me with a copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are purely my own and I received no compensation for them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children" by Romeo Dallaire

Of all the horrifying aspects of war, one of the worst is the use of child soldiers which has become a regular occurrence in conflicts around the world. There are currently an estimated 250,000 child soldiers worldwide. Boys and girls as young as 10 on the front lines, carrying weapons, killing and maiming.

Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire was first confronted with the use of child soldiers when he was the head of the UN Mission during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Since then, in addition to sitting on the Canadian Senate, he has made it his mission to end the use of child soldiers.

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children is an in-depth look at child soldiers, why they are used, how they are used and how to care for them after they have left the conflict. There is no easy to way to put a stop to this.

This is a hard book to read but it is also a necessary book. Young children are being stolen from their families and communities, brainwashed and drugged, and sent off to fight. Most adults have trouble dealing emotionally with the atrocities of war, imagine how a child fares. 40 per cent of child soldiers are female and sexual abuse is prevalent. Becoming a child soldier is rarely a choice.

As I mentioned this book is a tough read, but it is a good one. The book includes a fictional account of a child soldier and the peacekeeper who encounters them. Through this we are given a real understanding of what the child goes through and how it affects everyone, not just them. The book is educational but not academic or boring. This is an issue that will not go away on its own, nor will it be easily solved but it is something that we all need to open our eyes to and Dallaire will do that for you.

I also highly recommend Romeo Dallaire's book Shake Hands With the Devil for an in depth look at the Rwandan Genocide.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Another Monday! They seem to come faster and faster. I did however have a good reading weekend, thanks in part to the snow.

What I finished reading

Great House - Nicole Krauss

What I'm reading now

Rhythms of Grace - Marilyn Griffith

What I plan to read next

After Tehran - Marina Nemat

How was your weekend?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Another exciting challenge!

I just signed up for the Nonfiction Challenge 2011 and I'm inviting you to do the same! It is being hosted by Past as Prologue and is a great way to read more non-fiction and find some great books!

Here's the deal - between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011 read a whole bunch of non-fiction books! The person who reads the most will win a $25 Barnes and Noble giftcard. There are three levels to the challenge:

The Non-Fiction Amateur - read 1-3 books
The Non-Fiction Buff - read 4-6 books
The Non-Fiction Expert - 7+ books

Head over to Past as Prologue and sign up for this great challenge!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

Happy Friday! Last weekend I had planned to do a lot of reading but it didn't happen. So I'm planning that again for this weekend. We're supposed to get a lot of snow so if that's true then I'll have nothing to do but stay in and read!

It's time for the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books. Each week over 200 book bloggers participate, so it's a great way to meet new people and find new books to read. This weeks question:

Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?

I read a few different genres. I like non-fiction because I'm interested in everything that goes on in our world and learning about different ways that people live. I like chick lit because it's light, good fluffy fun. I like contemporary fiction because it tells stories of lives I wouldn't otherwise know about.

One genre that I really enjoy but doesn't get a lot of attention is Urban Christian fiction. It's real, edgy and doesn't shy away from drama. Though these characters are Christian they are not perfect, but the message remains that if we stay faithful to God we can get through the tough times. I was initially drawn to this genre because of the similarities to the church and culture that I live in.

What genres do you typically read?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"How To Read The Air" by Dinaw Mengistu

After spending most of their marriage apart Yosef and Mariam Woldemariam, Ethiopian immigrants, have set out on a road trip from Illinois to Tennessee hoping to create a new identity for themselves as an American couple. Along the way, their relationship takes a turn that will forever affect the family dynamic.

Thirty years later, their son Jonas has left his marriage and job in New York City to retrace his parents road trip, hoping to make sense of the troubles that permeated his childhood and shaped his personality. Jonas believes that through this road trip he will be able to better understand who his parents were and who he is to become.

How To Read the Air is a beautiful story of familial relationships and how deeply we are affected by them. It is a journey of reconciliation and discovery and of how stories, both real and fiction, create and sustain the world around us.

This is a touching novel that gets deep into the soul. It is both American and African at the same time. Dinaw Mengistu's writing is absolutely beautiful. The book alternates between Jonas' life and his parents' road trip seamlessly. The book presents one story in many different lights, which truly enriches the entire novel.

How To Read The Air is an African story from an American viewpoint which gives it a wonderful perspective on the immigrant experience. There has been much praise for the book and it is certainly well-deserved.

Thanks to Penguin Group for providing me with a copy of this book. All of the opinions above are my own and I received no compensation for this review.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The Hole In Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns

As President of World Vision US, Richard Stearns has seen first hand the unimaginable poverty and sickness that faces millions of people around the world. And as a Christian he has found himself looking into the eyes of these people and asking the question "What does God expect of us?"

In the book The Hole in Our Gospel Stearns sets out to answer this question. Through personal anecdotes and Scripture, he attempts to show other Christians that we are lacking in an important part of Jesus' teaching - helping the poor. If people worldwide could do what they are truly capable of, then a lot of the suffering around the world could be ended.

This is a very inspiring book for both Christians and non-Christians. In addition to his own personal story, Stearns shares the stories of people involved in all aspects of World Vision, donors and recipients alike, who have made a difference in our world. At times it may seem like the problems are too large for one person, but if everyone comes together and does what they can, then a big change could take place.

One thing that I appreciated about the book is that it's not just a way to get the reader to donate to World Vision. It's not a fundraising appeal. It's about looking at our world and the suffering that exists and seeing what role we can play in ending that. As well, while the message can seem harsh and judgmental at times, it's not. We can do better than we are doing right now and we owe it to others to do better.

This is a book that should be read by everyone. The stories will move you to think about what you can do in your own life. Though it is heavy on Scripture and the teachings of Jesus, I think non-Christians will still enjoy the book and find inspiration in it. Christians will be motivated to look at their lives and ask themselves the question "what does God expect of me?" I'm sure that many of us will be surprised at the answer when we realize what we are called to do and the difference that we can really make in this world.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday again! Every time I plan to have a nice, relaxing weekend where all I do is read, it never turns out that way!

It's Monday, What are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She has a fantastic blog, and you'll find lots of great blogs and books to read through this fun meme.

What I read last week

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengistu (finally, and I'm so glad I did!)

What I'm reading now

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire (a look at the use of child soldiers)

What I plan to read next

Great House by Nicole Krauss
Rhythms of Grace by Marilyn Griffith

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Getting Over Mr. Right" by Chrissie Manby

What do you do when you've been dumped by Mr. Right? Do you cry over a pint of ice cream? Watch a bunch of sappy movies? Maybe you throw out everything that reminds you of him, then get back to the dating world. Most people would find ways such as these to cope. But not Ashleigh Prince.

Instead Ashleigh resorts to cyber-stalking and showing up at his work to propose marriage after being dumped by her boyfriend Michael. And when that doesn't work she turns to phone psychics and casting spells to get him back. Ashleigh refuses to listen to the advice of family and friends to move on with her life. After all, Michael was her Mr. Right…even if he did dump her over Facebook and then defriend her.

Getting Over Mr. Right is a downright hilarious story of a woman who will stop at nothing to get back her Mr. Right. Ashleigh's story of finding true love then losing it over Facebook will pull you in right away. And as her antics grow more and more out of control, you will not be able to put the book down.

What is fantastic about this book is that even though Ashleigh's behaviour is crazy, somewhere we will all be able to relate to the story. If you've ever experienced the loss of who you thought was the one you will see your wildest fantasies played out. And seeing what happens to Ashleigh, you'll be thankful they remained just fantasies.

If you like chick lit, I highly recommend this book.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

Welcome to my stop on the Book Blogger Hop! It's a great way to meet fellow book bloggers and find more great books to read (because isn't that what we all need - more books on our to read list?)

This weeks question is: What book influenced or changed your life? How did it influence or change you?

I have to pick two books for this but they go hand in hand. The first is Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza and the second is Faith Under Fire by Antoine Rutayisire.

In the mid-90's a minister came to my church from Rwanda. He shared the story of the genocide with us and how he was personally affected by it. That was the first time my eyes were truly opened to the devastation that occurs in our world.

These two books are inspiring stories of people who survived the Rwandan Genocide and after it all were able to forgive. These books have shown me that no matter how difficult our situations are we can get through them and more importantly learn from them. They are also incredible stories of faith and have greatly influenced my Christian walk.

I highly recommend Left To Tell. She has an amazing story, of spending 3 months in a small bathroom with other women while the genocide raged on just outside their door.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Is It Just Me? Or is it nuts out there?" by Whoopi Goldberg

We've all been there. You're at a movie theatre and someone talking loudly on their cell phone is ruining the movie. You've just been cut off in traffic by someone who didn't say thank you because they were too busy texting. You're at your child's soccer game and a parent is bullying their child, the coach and the ref. And you find yourself wondering "whatever happened to manners?" Whoopi Goldberg is right there with you.

In Is It Just Me?: Or Is It Nuts Out There? Whoopi calls out all those people who are ruining our days. She takes on drunk drivers, texting drivers, bad parents, bullies and many others and lets them know exactly what she thinks of them. If you've ever wondered what happened to a little bit of courtesy, you'll find yourself agreeing with Whoopi at every turn of the page.

If you are a fan of Whoopi's from The View, then you will really enjoy this book. In fact, you'll have heard a lot of this before, though now she has the space to expand her thoughts. But if you're looking for the loud-mouthed, no holds barred Whoopi to have you laughing the whole way through, you won't find her here. The book definitely has it's points and is an excellent commentary on today's "me" society, but it is not as funny as I thought it would be.

The book is a quick and easy read. Chances are you are reading the book because you agree with Whoopi's views and because of that you will find the book enjoyable. There are definitely some great ideas in there on how to handle people who are making you mad, and I look forward to trying them. But unless you are a die-hard Whoopi Goldberg fan, I recommend waiting until this one is in paperback.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"The Debba" by Avner Mandelman

David Starkman is living in Canada, having renounced his Israeli citizenship after leaving a top-secret assassination unit of the military and is estranged from his family. When he finds out his father has been murdered he returns to Israel to take care of the will. Once there, he discovers a catch in the will that will change his life.

His father has requested that David stage a play he wrote known as "The Debba." His father tried to stage it once before but a riot prevented it from ever being shown in full. This is because the Debba is a mythical Arab hyena that turns into a man and lures Jewish children away from their family. Rumours and anger surround the legend of the Debba.

When David decides that he will stage the play, he is drawn into the investigation into his fathers murder and back into the intricacies and realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He quickly discovers things about this father and family that many tried desperately to keep secret. And he discovers that in the end, he can't run away from who he really is.

The Debba is an interesting look at Middle East tensions through a fictional story. There is a lot to the book - David's self-discovery, politics, relationships and of course the myth of the Debba itself.

It took me a while to get into the book. The first half seemed very slow to me, I wasn't sure exactly where it was going to go or if it was going to pick up. But it did pick up in the second half and became a very interesting mystery and thriller. There are definitely a lot of twists and enough players to keep you guessing as to what is going to happen and who really is responsible for what.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book. I know the basics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this book was able to give me a more personal insight into the conflict itself and how attitudes are shaped.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's the first Monday of 2011! My daughter is very excited that she can go back to school now, my husband...not so much. The holidays seem to fly by way too quick.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Here is what my week looks like.

Reading Now

The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard E. Stearns - he is the US President of World Vision. In the book he shares his journey as his position took him all over the world, as well as what we can and should do to help others.

Up Next

How To Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu - I never managed to finish this one before I was sick so I'm going to finish it now.

Great House by Nicole Krauss - same as above

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Look Ahead at 2011

Happy New Year everyone! I'm definitely looking forward to 2011. After getting sick at the end of the year I'm going into the new year healthy which feels great. This year is also my 30th birthday and my 5th wedding anniversary, so lots to celebrate this year. I have also been blogging about books for one year now! I've had a great time doing it, met so many fabulous book bloggers and read some pretty amazing books. Let's look at ahead at my 2011 in books!


Last year I set challenges for myself. This year, in addition to aiming for 100 books again, I'm participating in 3 blogger challenges.

The Canadian Book Challenge 4 is hosted by The Book Mine Set. It runs from July 1 2010 to July 1 2011. The purpose is to read and promote Canadian literature and the goal is to read 13 Canadians books in the year. So far, I have read 12!

The Persons of Colour Reading Challenge highlights authors and characters of colour. It's hosted here. I am aiming for level 4 which is to read 10-15 POC books.

The 2011 Christian Fiction Reading Challenge is hosted by The Book Junkie's Bookshelf. The goal is to read 12 Christian Fiction novels in 2011.

Books I'm Looking Forward To

This is my favourite part of the new year, finding out all the books that are scheduled for release. Here is a list of some of the books I have seen so far.

Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah (Feb)
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith (Mar)
A Good Man is Hard to Find by ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Mar)
Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal (Mar)
The Baby Planner by Josie Brown (Apr)
The Kid by Sapphire (Apr)
Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell (Apr)
If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) by Betty White (May)
The Deal, The Dance and the Devil by Victoria Christopher Murray (June)
Escape by Barbara Delinsky (July)

How does 2011 look for you? What book releases are you looking forward to?