"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars, points of light and reason. ...And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason, for anything."

~ Edward Cullen

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Book Review #1: James and the Giant Peach

Title: James and the Giant Peach
Author: Roald Dahl
Pages: 126
Rating: 5/5

When poor James Henry Trotter loses his parents in a horrible rhinoceros accident, he is forced to live with his two wicked aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. After three years he becomes "the saddest and loneliest boy you could find." Then one day, a wizened old man in a dark-green suit gives James a bag of magic crystals that promise to reverse his misery forever. When James accidentally spills the crystals on his aunts' withered peach tree, he sets the adventure in motion. From the old tree a single peach grows, and grows, and grows some more, until finally James climbs inside the giant fruit and rolls away from his despicable aunts to a whole new life. James befriends an assortment of hilarious characters, including Grasshopper, Earthworm, Miss Spider, and Centipede--each with his or her own song to sing. Roald Dahl's rich imagery and amusing characters ensure that parents will not tire of reading this classic aloud, which they will no doubt be called to do over and over again! (goodreads.com)

James and the Giant Peach is a famous work by Roald Dahl. This book has been frequently challenged and banned for its content, including the abuse that James experiences. Others have claimed that the book promotes alcohol and drug use, that it contains inappropriate language, and that it encourages disobedience to parents.
I first heard the story of James and the Giant Peach when I was in kindergarten.  Each night my mom would read me a few chapters before bedtime.  In this way, I was introduced to great children's "classics" like Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  When I started looking into Banned Books Week, I was astonished to see JATGP on the list.  I immediately called my mom.  I asked her if she ever found anything "offensive" within the book.  Here response - "How can a children's book about a giant peach be considered offensive?"  My thoughts exactly.

At the beginning of the book we are introduced to James, a young boy who was orphaned when his parents were killed in a tragic accident.  He is sent to live with his horrible Aunts Spiker and Sponge.  James' aunts are lazy and treat him with little to no respect.  He is made to work hard jobs and when the giant peach appears he is locked in his room with no food.  It is this abuse that caused parents to try to ban the book.  However, in my mind, how is the abuse received by James any different than the abuse caused by the evil step mother in Cinderella - a fairy tale that almost all young girls in America know by heart.  What makes this book different?

Another compliant by parents was the use of offensive language.  I found two instances in the book where the centipede uses the term "ass."  Given the time period that the book was written and the context in which the term was used, I can pretty much infer that he was referring to a sense of stupidity like that of a donkey, not that of a human body part.  I'm also pretty sure that if talk to your children and explain the meaning behind the words, there are much worse things that can be said than the word "ass."

Despite the controversy, I still loved and enjoyed every bit of James and the Giant Peach.  Dahl's writing was smooth and flawless and, as always, his characters were wonderful.  I can't wait until my own son or daughter is old enough to enjoy this book and I get the chance to share the story of James with them.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What are you reading (16)?

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? is a weekly event now hosted by One Persons Journey Through a World Of Books. It's helpful way to take a look at what you have read and what you want to read!

I can't believe the weekend's over and its back to work.  We had a great week, and a super busy weekend.  Saturday night we spent the evening with friends, laughing, eating, and just talking.  It was great.  Then yesterday, we spent the day laying around watching TV and reading.  I'm certainly not ready to go back to work!

This past week, I finished two books:
  1. The Girls from Ames: Jeffrey Zaslow
  2. Night: Elie Wiesel (review to come)
I also blogged about my new reading plan, and Banned Books Week.

I'm looking forward to a slower week with lots of reading time.  The weather is starting to grow colder, perfect to wrap up in blankets and snuggle down for the evenings.  Also, Friday we find out if we are having a boy or a girl so I'm definitely looking forward to that!

Reading wise, this coming week, I have all sorts of books to choose from my TBR shelf, and I also have some great banned books picked out
  • James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl
  • Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene
  • Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred D Taylor
  • Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Giver - Lois Lowry
  • A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein
These are all books straight off my shelves that I read and enjoyed growing up and in recent years.  So that's my plan.  What's yours???

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week 9-25 to 10-2

Yesterday marked the first day of banned books week for 2010. I had hoped to get this posted then, but with the way life is, I missed out. However, despite being late, I still find it extremely important to mention and acknowledge banned books and how important this week is to everyone within the United States. You can read more about banned books week here.

As a reader, banning books makes me sick to my stomach.  Not only is it a violation of our First Admendment rights, it is robbing our world of so many wonderful books and authors.  Many of the books listed on the complilations of banned books were books that I enjoyed over and over again as a young child.  I'm thankful to the fact that my parents never censored anything I read, and that they allowed me to form my own opinions and to create my own views on the books around me. 

To celebrate Banned Books Week, I'm going to take this week to read a few of my favorite books that I read growing up that have appeared on various banned books lists.  I want to review these books and get their information out there so that all readers can share in these wonderful titles!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Mid Day Blog...or How the Hell am I Going to Read All These Books!!

The Reading Room
So I stopped home today on my lunch, made myself something to eat and wandered into the reading room.  I immediately began to feel overwhelmed.  Within the room are four floor to ceiling bookcases double stacked with books.  This doesn't eve count the ones hiding in the close or the built-ins in the great room.

"Hello, my name is Emily and I have a problem."  My towering TBR is beginning to upset me.  I've gotten to the point where it's just easier to stare at the shelves rather than pick something out.  Also, I can't seem to stop adding too it!  So, I've come up with a plan.  I"m not sure how efficient it will be, or if it will even work but I'm going to give it a try.  I'm going to read through my books layer by layer - shelf by shelf.  Once I finish a layer on a shelf, I can either continue with the second layer or pick a whole new shelf.  Maybe by going this way, I'll be able to finish all these books before I grow old and feeble and have no eye site left.  Plus on top of it all, this eliminates standing in the center of the room, staring at titles trying to come up with something to read. 

I spent most of my lunch hour staring at the shelves, deciding which one I wanted to start with.  Did I want to read a shelf with more romance?  Maybe one with lots of mystery and adventure?  Oh, but what about the shelves chocked full of historical fiction?  And then there's the shelves of chick lit that I was obsessed with years ago.  So my solution was to stand in the middle of the room, close my eyes, and randomly point in any direction.  Whatever shelf I pointed out was what I was going to read.  Here's the winner:

The Shelf...
 So what's on this shelf you ask?  Actually a pretty good assortment of books, mainly a mix of modern and classic.  Here's the down-low:
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
  • The Nazi Officer's Wife - Edith Hahn Baer
  • Snow - Orphan Pamuk
  • Hullabaloo and the Guava Orchard - Kiran Desai
  • The Inheritance of Lose - Kiran Desai
  • Pope Joan - Donna Woolfolk Cross
  • Leonardo's Swans - Karen Essex
  • Second Honeymoon - Joanne Trollope
  • Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons - Robert Gellis
  • Night - Elie Wiesel
  • Dawn - Elie Wiesel
  • The Time of the Uprooted - Elie Wiesel
  • The Dogs of Babel - Carolyn Parkhurst
  • Lost and Found - Carolyn Parkhurst
  • The Good Earth - Pearl S Buck
  • Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  • Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  • My Cousin Rachael - Daphne Du Maurier
  • Rebecca's Tale - Sally Beauman
  • The Thorn Birds - Colleen McCullough
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
  • The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
  • Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  • Julie and Julia - Julie Powell
  • And Infamous Army - Georgette Heyer
  • The Alchemist's Daughter - Katherine McMahon
  • The Secret Lives of Fortunate Wives - Sarah Strohmeyer
  • Notting Hell - Rachel Johnson
  • Mating Rituals of the North American WASP - Lauren Lipton
  • The 6th Lamentation - William Broderick
  • To Hold the Crown - Jean Plaidy
  • Plum Wine - Angela Davis - Gardner
  • The Painted Veil - W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Book Borrower - Alice Mattison
  • Trust - Katie Veitch
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe - Fannie Flagg
  • Roses - Leila Meacham
Obviously the ones I've crossed out I've already read...a whole three!  So this should take me a while, but at least I know now what I have to read.  Has anyone out there read any of these (I'm sure you have ;))?  I'm always open to some good advice on what to read next!

Review: The Girls from Ames

Title: The Girls from Ames - A Story of Women and a Forty Year Friendship
Author: Jeffrey Zaslow
Pages: 326
Rating: 4.5/5

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

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

The Girls from Ames is the story of a group of ordinary women who built an extraordinary friendship. With both universal insights and deeply personal moments, it is a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by (girlsfromames.com).

This book wasn't on my plan to read. In fact I didn't even own it before Friday, but last week was a horrible week for me. Work was treacherous, and it made me emotional and irritable when I was at home. Plus hubby had a horrible week also, so the two of us combined were quite the picture. Because of all this, I took a half day off on Friday and found myself browsing the shelves at Borders, looking around and hoping to push away the blues. All the books I had started at home were dark and weren't helping my mood so I was looking for something a bit more uplifting. I had seen The Girls from Ames when it was originally published. At that time, Borders had named it their summer book club choice and it was hailed as one of the top ten reads of 2009 by People magazine. Still I just wasn't interested enough to pick it up. However, on Friday it was on the BOGO 50% off table, so I grabbed it with another book I really wanted.

I've never been a huge fan of memoirs...I think something about them scares me, so I tend to shy away from them. It's ridiculous that I do because once I start them I normally find myself very much enjoying them. This one was no exception. Once I made it home, I started flipping through the pages, intrigued by the pictures of this group of women. I wanted to know what made them so special, and how they had managed to remain friends for so long. I settled in on the couch, and soon found myself surrounded by the world of Ames, and a friendship that started so long ago.

I must confess, I've never had a lot of girlfriends. Growing up on a farm, I was pretty isolated from neighbors so I found myself spending all my time with my brother and my mom and dad. We had a close knit family, and I never really learned to relate to girls as well ( I was very much a tomboy). Once school started, I found girls to be petty and selfish and always played with the boys. Even as I got older, some of my best friends were males. I didn't develop a really strong "girl friendship" until I got to college. We spent four years being roommates and she was my maid of honor in my wedding. But once life got involved, we found ourselves living miles apart, each creating our own families and soon lost touch. I still think of her but the idea of trying to reconcile what was there, just makes me tired. Now as a married woman, I find myself being a friend to a couple rather than just one person. All of our friends now are married with children, and all of the husbands grew up together. Its a close knit group that I've easily been absorbed into and a place in the world where I feel very comfortable. However, after reading The Girls from Ames, I've wondered if I missed out on something wonderful and satisfying in these lifelong friendships.

Despite my lack of friends (now I just sound like a loser...lol), I still found it easy to relate to these women, and could see how they had managed to stay friends for so long. They were a group that worked at staying friends, never broke communications - even when times were at their worse, and created life long bonds with each other. Each chapter opened up a new "leaf on their tree of life." Zaslow didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know about women's friendship, but he certainly showed me the benefits that lasting relationships can have on a woman's life. By the last page, I felt as though I had spent days with these women and my heart broke when there's broke, and I laughed as they laughed. It was certainly the kind of book I need to lift my spirits at a time when I was feeling so down and out.

I did a bit of research on the book too and saw that it's being developed into a movie for Lifetime. I'm rather excited for this development and look forward to the finished product. I think all women should sit down and spend an afternoon or two with these girls. I believe we'll all walk away feeling a bit better!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What are you reading (15)?

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? is a weekly event now hosted by One Persons Journey Through a World Of Books. It's helpful way to take a look at what you have read and what you want to read!

Work was rough this week, and then Thursday night I woke up with really bad pressure in my abdomen. I called the Dr first thing in the morning, and went in Friday afternoon. Baby's fine, I just have a really painful bladder infection. This is the second one I've had this pregnancy and the Nurse Practitioner said they will probably become more common the further along I am. However, I'm 20 weeks today so halfway there!! We find out what we are having October 1st and I'm really excited!!

This past week I read and finished one book. And what an amazing book it was. I'm also really proud of the review I wrote for it:
  • To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee: Probably one of the absolute best books I have ever read in my entire life!! If you haven't read it yet, definitely check it out.

This coming week I'm hoping to finish up We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, which is really a phenomenal read. I also want to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. However, before starting that I'll probably read Ape House by Sara Gruen. I've been waiting for this book to come out since last year. I'm really hoping I enjoy it as much as Water for Elephants, a book I've read three times now.

This week while looking around at the different book blogs and their "what are you reading posts" I found a few books I can't wait to get my hands on:

I love finding new reads and browsing this post is an awesome way to do it!

Hope everyone has a great week and happy reading!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Pages: 323
Rating: 5/5

Growing up, Friday nights were always family movie night. Up until I started high school and football and basketball games became the norm, my mom, dad, brother and I would pile into the family room with blankets, popcorn and high expectations for the movie ahead. It was on these Fridays that my love for old movies began. Watching the likes of Jane Eyre, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Gone With the Wind, I was introduced to amazing worlds and unforgettable stories. I can remember one particular Friday night that mom was more excited than usual about the movie she had selected for the evening. It was one that she had loved growing up and when she saw it during her shopping she had to get it. Looking at the VHS cover, I wasn't particularly thrilled - the movie was black and white and showed a picture of lawyer. How good could it really be? However, as the opening credits began to play, and a soft voice began to talk about the town of Maycomb I was enthralled. This was my first encounter with the classic story To Kill a Mockingbird.

Over the years, I fell more and more in love with the movie, often watching our worn VHS when I was home sick from school, or on particularly cold winter nights. When I got married 4 and a half years ago, I asked mom for my own copy of the movie that first year for Christmas. To Kill a Mockingbird was always a comfort to me. A gentle reminder of quieter times. However, despite my connections with the movie, I had never once picked up the book. I'd looked at it a few times at the bookstore, and even went as far as buying it a year or two ago, but on my shelves it sat. I'd flip through the pages every so often, but the words "modern classic" would make my head hurt. So many other classics have been started then put away because of their lack of readability and headache inducing. Would To Kill a Mockingbird be any different? In one word, YES.

After reading Sheila's review, and seeing how much she enjoyed the book, I had to give it a try. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, To Kill a Mockingbird was first published in 1960 and quickly became a modern American classic. After doing a bit of research, I found that author Harper Lee loosely based the story on her own family and neighbors as well as a crime that had taken place in a nearby town when Lee was growing up.

Told through the voice of Scout, the young daughter of local lawyer, Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird pulls at the heart strings and leaves the reader in awe. Telling the story of racial injustice in small southern town, the novel also illustrates the loss of innocence among children.
The story centers around the young lives of Scout and Jem Finch, and their widowed father, Atticus. The Finch family resides in the small southern town of Macomb, where they live peacefully among their neighbors including the infamous "Boo" Radley. Rumored to have stabbed his father with a pair of kitchen scissors, Boo never leaves his home, allowing him to become the source of neighborhood gossip and children's wild imaginations. Jem and Scout, along with their friend Dill fill their summers with games of truth and dare, normally involving the Radley house and its occupants but slowly things begin to change. Atticus is appointed to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a young white women. Soon, Jem and Scout begin to feel the repercussions of this decision by not only children but a few adults.
Scout, simply by the nature of work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his life that affects him personally. This one's mine, I guess. You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will; you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't let 'em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change...it's a good one even if it does resist learning.

~ To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 9

To tell anymore would simply ruin the essence of the story and would rob the reader of too many emotions.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a compelling, intense and emotionally riddled read. I strongly believe that everyone should take the time to read and enjoy every part of this great American novel. I think this novel needs to be required reading in every high school in the US (banned book or not...don't even get me started). I wish that I would have been encouraged to read this when I was younger, as opposed to waiting until I was almost 30 to experience such a rare and special gift. There's not many books that touch me in the same way that this novel has. This will be one that I will read and cherish over and over again. Don't be like me and let the fact that it is a classic scare you away. Take a few minutes, get comfortable in a chair, and let Lee take you away to a warm summer in Alabama. Run the streets with Jem and Scout, and listen to what Atticus has to say.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What are you reading (14)?

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? is a weekly event now hosted by One Persons Journey Through a World Of Books. It's helpful way to take a look at what you have read and what you want to read!

Reading wise, I only finished one book this week; however, productive wise this week was phenomenal. I managed to clean out the front bedroom and get it re-arranged. This included cleaning out the closet, moving around two bookcases, an oversized chair and making room for the computer and desk. However, when I went to move the computer desk from the back office, it decided to completely collaspe on me. I wasn't surpised. Hubby and I knew when it bought it five years ago it probably wouldn't survive much of a move. I ended up going to Target (love that store) and getting a smaller Mission style desk that actually fits much better in the front room and is the perfect size for the computer.

All I have left to do in the nursery is to take down the day bed and clean out the closet. I'm going to take care of the bed tomorrow, and just clean up in there. The sweeper needs run and I'll finally have a central location for all the baby stuff that's been taking up the other rooms in the house. I'll tackle the closet next weekend and then we'll be ready to paint...finally. I feel like a huge burdeon has been lifted from my shoulders!

Now back to the books. This week I read one book:
  • A Bend in the Road - Nicholas Sparks: I wasn't too thrilled with it, and it is probably one of my least favorite Sparks' books

This week I'm looking to finishing To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was inspired by Sheila's review to pick this classic up and give it a try and I'm really sad I waited this long to read it. It truly is an amazing, amazing book. I look forward to finishing it and reviewing it for everyone. Plus, it give me an excuse to watch the movie (again...lol).

I also picked up We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver after reading such amazing reviews of it all over the blogosphere. I'm really looking forward to this one, and can already tell it will definitely be a powerful read that will stick with me for a long time.

Other than those two, I pulled Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks. We'll see if I'm able to get to these two. I'm hoping now that some of the re-arranging stress is gone I might be able to read more!!

Hope everyone has a wonderful reading week!

Review: A Bend in the Road

Title: A Bend in the Road
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Pages: 368
Rating: 3/5

Miles Ryan's life seemed to end the day his wife was killed in a hit-and-run accident two years ago. Missy had been his first love, and Miles fervently believes she will be his last. As a deputy in the North Carolina town of New Bern, Miles Ryan not only grieves for Missy, but also longs to bring the unknown driver to justice. Then Miles meets Sarah Andrews. The second grade teacher of his son, Jonah, Sarah had left Baltimore after a difficult divorce to start over in the gentler surroundings of New Bern. Perhaps it's her own emotional wounds that make her sensitive to the hurt she first sees in Jonah's eyes, and then his father's.

Tentatively, Sarah and Miles reach out to each other. Soon they are both laughing for the first time in years . . . and falling in love. Neither will be able to guess how closely linked they are to a shocking secret -- one that will force them to question everything they ever believed in . . . and make a heartbreaking choice that will change their lives forever (nicholassparks.com).

This was probably one of my least favorite Nicholas Sparks books. I had a hard time really connecting with any of the characters, and really despised the main character Miles Ryan. I think part of the problem was that I hated his name immensly. Plus, he seemed to suffer from horrible mood swings going from Mr Nice Guy to Mr Nasty Pants in a matter of minutes. I also thought Sarah's character in general was weak. She just didn't seem to have much of a backbone which I found odd for a character of Sparks, but there's a first time for everything.

The one character in the book I did find endearing was Mile's son Jonah. I thought he was a very sweet little boy, and felt horrible for all the trauma he had to suffer in his young life. I really wanted to see things work out in a way that would be good for him.

One of my biggest pet peeves about this book were the intertwined narrations by Missy Ryans "killer." It certainly ruined the mystery for me, as I was able to figure out who the person was by about page 50. I wish Sparks would have approached this aspect of the novel in a different way and somehow lead into that mystery differently.

I'm not going to let this one bad experience keep me from reading more of Spark's back list, but it did slow me down a bit. I had to give myself a bit of break but will probably continue to pick up his books throughout the month.

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