Monday, October 31, 2011

Mailbox Monday: October 31, 2011

Mailbox Monday is on tour and being hosted this month by Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit Here is my mailbox for this week:

 Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire - unsolicited from William Morrow.  This is not a book I will likely read - if you would like to, please leave a comment (with way to reach you) below and I will select a winner next Monday

The World We Found by Thrity Urmigar
Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson
A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger for an upcoming TLC Book Tour

My #indiethursday purchases from Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
Comfort and Joy by India Knight
Clash of Innocents by Sue Guiney

What came into your home this week?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Picks

I like to give my niece and nephew books at Halloween - they get so much candy everywhere else that books are a nice way to acknowledge the day and give them something special without endangering their teeth! Here are a few of books I have selected over the years: 
The Monster Who Ate My Peas by Danny Schnitzlein
The Monster Who Did My Math by Danny Schnitzlein

These books are perfect for my 7 year-old nephew - the words are complex so they expand vocabulary but the text rhymes and the illustrations are vivid which keeps his interest. My sister in law is taking The Monster Who Did My Math to my nephew's school to read to the class this week.

The Bear Who Loves Halloween by Jennifer Karin Sidford - This book is a good pick for my 3 year old niece - it is a sweet introduction to Halloween through the eyes of the bear
Pinkalicious and the Pink Pumpkin My niece is in a pink phase so this is sure to be a hit!  

What are your favorite books for Halloween?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Falling for Me by Anna David

Falling For Me by Anna David: In this memoir, the single thirty-five year old author endeavors to follow the advice of legendary Helen Gurley Brown (longtime editor of Cosmo) as presented in her 1960's book Sex and the Single Girl. From learning to roast a chicken to decorating her apartment so that it is a comfortable "nest" for a man, the author acquires skills ostensibly to help in the jungle that is dating; however, she learns more than mere skills - she gains insight into what has prevented her from finding love in the past and the importance of truly valuing herself before she can expect a man to do the same.

One day the author wakes up and realizes she is in the latter half of her thirties, childless and without any viable relationship prospects on the horizon. As she describes it at the beginning of the book:
Now it all feels like it's too late - like while I was off screwing around and building a career, the men I'd want to partner off with went and married younger girls who were happy to put their work lives second or possibly not even have them at all so that they could focus on a relationship. It's like coming out of a blackout and discovering that you're in the process of losing a game of musical chairs you didn't even know you wanted to play.
(My thought at this point in the book - Hmmm . . . this musical chairs game sounds hauntingly familiar). With this realization in hand, the author sets out to change the path she is on and discovers Helen Gurley Brown's book. She decides to spend a year following the icon's advice since her own attempts at finding a lasting relationship have not panned out. In an effort to expand her interests and skills, she takes pottery and cooking courses, she receives expert hair and makeup intervention, she "feathers the nest" by warmly decorating her apartment and moving out the post college temporary furniture. With each new experience, the author gains unexpected insight and begins to feel empowered. For example, she realizes the reason she hasn't taken much care with her clothes and hair over the years is that she hadn't wanted to seem like she was trying thereby revealing her vulnerability. That leads her to consider if her reluctance to reveal vulnerability has kept her from doing other things and taking chances in general. She takes one of her biggest chances when she follows Gurley Brown's advice to travel. Despite being outwardly confident and seemingly worldly, the author has traveled little outside the country. Remembering she was most happy when she spent time abroad in Spain, she rather impulsively sets up a house exchange for one month with a woman from Seville. She has many second thoughts as she starts her trip but she is determined to push outside her boundaries and forges forward.

Sprinkled throughout all these personal enrichment exercises are a series of dates and relatively short-lived relationships. She meets these men via online dating sites, speed-dating events and random set-ups. The dates serve to allow her to test out her many new skills but more importantly to see how her new approach changes her previously destructive behavior in relationships - they become a barometer for the progress she is making in her project. Obviously, she doesn't look at them this way - she hopes one of these dates will result in her finding the partner she desires. After all, she is still surrounded by friends and acquaintances whose lives are moving through the major life milestones like marriage and babies. She describes learning that one of her friends is pregnant:
A familiar ache rises in me - the feeling that someone close to me has something I am scared I am never going to get. . . . . but my own anguish disappears as quickly as it came on and I feel genuinely happy for her
Falling For Me is well written with the right balance of wit and true insight so that it is neither heavy and morose nor shallow and fluffy. Although the construct of selecting a book or philosophy and following for it one year ( think Julie and Julia) has been done and seemed an unlikely endeavor for most of us, you quickly get over that as Anna David shares the real trials of recognizing that you have almost let something pass you by and now realize you really want it. She writes with feeling and authenticity while knowing when to lighten things up.   Some of Gurley Brown's advice seems anachronistic to the modern western woman but the following quote show how timeless her advice really was and it sums up the entire spirit of Falling For Me:
Her [Gurley Brown] overall message seemed to be that all single woman need to do is see what a glorious position they're in and then, if they want the next stage- the ring and ceremony, the mother-in-law and nursing children - do everything in their power to reach it.
I recommend this book and if you would like to read it yourself, please participate in the giveaway. Thanks to Julia Drake PR, one lucky US winner will receive a copy of Falling For Me.  Just fill out the form below and winners will be selected Friday, November Nov 4th.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Readathon - Wrap Up

Wrap - Up 
 It feels like the readathon went very quickly this year - before I knew it, it was past midnight and I was fighting to stay awake.  I finally gave in and went to bed in Hour 18 (2 am my time).  All in all, I read:

Pages Read 333
Comments so far: 22
At $.10/pg read and $.25 per comment, I have raised 38.80 for the Brooke Jackman Foundation

I will add in $$ for any additional comments on this post to bring my total up a bit.

End of Event Survey:
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? 17/18 - I was really dragging by then
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Read my first YA during this event - 13 Little Blue Envelopes and highly recommend YA for this event - the books move quickly
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Everyone did a great job in organizing the event - keep up the good work!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? As always, the cheerleaders are always my favorite part.  Also, the hourly hosts on the blog kept me going towards the end.
  5. How many books did you read? 2.5
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Finished The Next 15 Minutes by Kim Kircher which I had started pre-readathon; Falling for Me by Anna David
  7. >>
  8. Which book did you enjoy most? 13 Little Blue Envelopes
  9. Which did you enjoy least? Falling for Me started to drag for me but I think it was just the time spent in one place and not the book.
  10. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? NA
  11. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Will definitely participate again and will sign up to cheer next time

Halfway Mark Update

Darkness has fallen and we are into the 2nd half of the Readathon!  I took an unplanned nap so am a little behind in my reading but have turned on lots of lights to keep me awake tonight.

Pages so far: 213
Comments so far: 13

At $.10/pg read and $.25 per comment, I have raised 24.55 for the Brooke Jackman Foundation

Here is the mid-event survey:

1. What are you reading right now? Falling for Me by Anna David
2. How many books have you read so far? 1.5
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? 13 Little Blue Envelopes (it will be my first YA)
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Sadly, no
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Other than my nap, not too many interruptions.  I literally completely gave into the nap
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? All the twitter action - its great!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? None - everyone is doing a great job!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? So far, I am happy with how things are going
9. Are you getting tired yet? Now that I have had the nap, no
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I keep planning little markers or breakers - snack, a drink, a quick errand, time to check the blogs - it is breaking it up for me and keeping me going!

I am so excited to be starting Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon! I am fairly sure I won't make it for whole 24 hours but I am looking forward to so much dedicated reading time on this cold, crisp morning. I am reading to support the Brooke Jackman Foundation . I featured this charity in my 9/11 post - Brooke Jackman was killed in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and her family started this foundation in her memory. Because Brooke was an avid reader, the foundation supports literacy or underprivileged children. Can't think of a better charity for the Readathon! I will donate $.10 for every page read during the readathon and $.25 for every comment received during the readathon (so stop by often!)

Now for the introduction meme:

1) Where are you reading from today? I am reading from crisp and cool NYC! 
2)Three random facts about me…
a) I have a passion for handbags that started young - I was lost in a department store at the age of 3 and they found me in the handbag department!
b) I once got lost on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa 
c) I have run 8 marathons but the last one was over 6 years ago
3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I have a very fluid pile but about 6 books on deck (I won't get through them all!)
4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? I want to read at least 2 full books
5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Have fun and take part in the community (its the best part)  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Salon: Where Have I Been?

The Sunday

 My blogging (and commenting on other's blogs) has been remarkably light for the past two months - I even missed Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Unfortunately, I have been fighting this overwhelming fatigue that has left me with very little energy and even activities of daily living have been a struggle. The fatigue came on slowly in the beginning but by late July, I couldn't walk home from the subway stop (less than 5 blocks). At that point, I decided something was definitely wrong and I saw my doctor who ran a series of tests and called a few days later to tell me my TSH (a measure of thyroid function) was 12 (the upper limit of normal of 3 and mine had previously been between 1 and 2). The higher the TSH, the lower your thyroid function or circulating thyroid hormone so I was profoundly hypothyroid.

 While I was relieved to hear that it was "only" my thyroid and not something more serious (my mind had started to hatch all kinds of crazy theories), I was definitely perplexed. Issues with my thyroid are not new to me - I had my thyroid removed three years ago after I developed a large mass on my thyroid. I was led to believe that life after surgery would be virtually unchanged except I would take a small pill every morning to replace my thyroid hormone. Well - it has not proven to be quite so simple. I have struggled to get my Synthroid dose at a level that will keep my metabolism humming and when I run up against a TSH of 12 I just want to throw my hands up in frustration. So I have started seeing an integrative physician that is willing to look at this problem a little differently and have really begun to consider the quality of food I choose to eat and seeing if I can heal myself from the inside out. On the upside, I am starting to feel better and am returning to life as normal -so I am back blogging! Have any of you seen an integrative physician or used alternative therapies to treat illness? 

Although my activity on the blogs has been light, I have been reading a lot so I have many reviews to write which should keep the blog busy in the coming weeks. Fortunately, Alita of Alita Reads hosted a Reviewathon this week which has prompted me to catch up on my backlog. I got 3 of the 8 pending reviews finished which is at least a little dent in the workload. I posted one of the 8 reviews - An Accidental Mother by Katherine Kindred. This small book is a memoir by a woman who became a mother-figure to her boyfriend's young son only to have her boyfriend cut off all contact after their relationship dissolved. Definitely gives you something to think about in terms of the different people that can assume a mother role and the complications of post-divorce relationships.

I hope you all enjoyed a lovely fall day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: An Accidental Mother by Katherine Anne Kindred

An Accidental Mother by Katherine Anne Kindred is a memoir in which the author recounts the relationship she developed with her boyfriend's young son, Michael, and the devastation she felt when he was taken from her. This short (225 pages) but powerful book shows the reader the relationship that developed between Michael and Katherine which makes the removal of Michael from Katherine so painful. When Katherine began dating Jim she knew he had a son from a prior relationship; he had full custody of the boy since Michael's mother had some issues with drugs and was not involved in their son's life. Jim also had a daughter, Elizabeth, from another relationship but he shared custody of Elizabeth with the girl's mother.

Initially, Katherine was merely Michael's father's girlfriend and Jim really performed all the parenting and caretaking duties for Michael. As Jim and Katherine's relationship continued and they moved in together, Katherine began doing more and more with and for Michael. It is clear he depended on her as a son would a mother and she provided the motherly love that he was sorely missing from his own mother. Despite the fact that Katherine had not wanted children, she began to care deeply for Michael and felt her life was enriched by his presence.

Unfortunately, as Katherine's love for Michael deepened, her relationship with Jim soured and they decided to separate. Initially, Jim agreed that Katherine would remain in Michael's life and they carefully explained to the boy that although they would no longer be together it did not change Katherine's love for Michael. Somewhat abruptly, however, Jim decided to move out taking Michael with him. Katherine was devastated - she felt betrayed by Jim but mostly mourned the huge loss of the child to whom she had become a mother. She was able to see Michael a few times once he and Jim moved out but ultimately Jim blocked her from seeing the boy altogether claiming it was in his son's best interest and would be confusing for him to still see Katherine. He completely ignored the fact of how difficult it could be for Michael to lose yet another Mother.

Katherine tells her story in a very matter of fact way - there is little flowery language - just plainly stated facts. The style increases the impact of the book and makes her loss that much more raw. Between chapters, the author includes quotes from both Elizabeth and Michael which were sweet and funny observations on life that only children, in their innocence, can make. Which brings me to the one thing that bothered me about the book - Katherine's relationship with Elizabeth - or lack thereof. Katherine's story focuses almost exclusively on Michael even though Elizabeth spent 50% of her time at Jim and Katherine's house. Katherine talked about taking care of her as she did Michael - doing the bedtime routine, going on outings and preparing for school. However, she seemed emotionally disconnected from the young girl; she tried to explain the difference in her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael by the fact that Elizabeth had a mother with whom she had a relationship and she only spent half-time at their house while Michael lived with them full-time and had essentially been abandoned by his birth mother. Both explanations make perfect sense but somehow the author's disconnect from Elizabeth still seemed out of place for me.

Regardless of her relationship with Elizabeth, her relationship with Michael was touching and it was devastating to see him taken from her. I can't imagine how Jim could so hurt and betray Katherine not to mention what it might have done to his son. Read this book if you want to see the many ways in which motherhood can be defined. It would also be a great gift to anyone that is an "unofficial" mother in your or someone's life.

Thank you to Caitlin at Unbridled Books for sending me a review copy of this book. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Winner of Chocolate Buddhas

In conjunction with my review of Priscilla Warner's Learning to Breathe , I hosted a giveaway for the chocolate Buddhas pictured below:

 And the winner is Gayle Lin! Congratulations!