Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reading Challenges 2010

I've been reading a lot of book blogs lately where people are involved in reading challenges. And it got me thinking about how I've always had my own personal reading challenges (for example, the BBC Big Read) but I've never really put much into them. Now that I have the accountability of this blog, I plan to attack a few reading challenges in 2010.

1. 100 Books

Easy enough, read 100 books in one year.

2. A-Z Book Challenge

Read 26 titles, each one starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

3. Read 20 Canadian books

So many great Canadian books and authors.

4. Read 3 Classics

I have an entire bookshelf of classics just waiting to be read. And yet, I never read them.

5. Read 5 titles from the BBC Big Read Top 200 List

In April 2003, the BBC wanted to find the nation's best-loved novel. In the end they combined the top 200 into the Big Read List. So far, I have read 17.

Halfway through the year, I'll check in and see where I am, then at the end of the year I will post a final tally.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Every year, at least two million girls disappear worldwide because of gender discrimination. Three million women and girls worldwide can be fairly termed enslaved in the sex trade. 2.7 billion people (40 per cent of the world's population) live on less than $2 a day.

Those are the facts. In 2010 the oppression of women and girls in the developing world is still a frightening reality. Women and girls throughout the world are sold into sex slavery, have no access to maternal health care and suffer devastating injuries in childbirth, are denied access to education and live in fear of violence.

But there is hope. Half the Sky shows how investing in women not only improves their lives, but improves their families, communities and countries. With stories of women who have stood up against oppression, whether in their own lives or the lives of others, this book will show you how fighting poverty begins with helping women.

The stories of these women are horrifying. For those of us in the developed world, it is difficult to understand the conditions other women live in. It is hard to believe that these conditions still exist. But these stories, of women who are changing their lives, are also inspiring! Not only because they have changed their circumstances, but in every case their success has spread throughout their communities. Cultural norms, attitudes, and laws are changing because of these women.

This is a book that every man and woman needs to read. Understand what is going on in our world, how women and girls are exploited and threatened, and then be inspired to change lives. You cannot read this book and not want to find your own way to help. A great feature of this book is it shows you how easy it is to get involved.

Women carry our world on their shoulders. And yet they are still treated as second class citizens as the world looks on. As Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary General, said, "would the world stand by if it were men who were dying just for completing their reproductive functions?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Me To We: Finding Meaning in a Material World" by Craig and Marc Kielburger

I remember back when I was in high school, the newspaper was publishing articles about a local kid who had taken up the fight against child labour. He was 12 years old and upset after reading an article about the murder of a 12 year old boy in Pakistan who broke free of his own enslavement and crusaded against child labour.

The local boy then started a group at school that would fight for children's rights. Today that organization, Free The Children, is the world's largest network of children helping children with more than one million youth involved in over 45 countries.

Me to We is more than a book, it's a philosophy. It is the idea that one person and one change can make a big difference in our world. When we begin to look beyond "me" and work together as "we" big things can happen.

With personal stories from celebrities and everyday people who are working to make a difference, this book will inspire you to look out at the world and see how you can get involved to make a change. Whether it's right there in your neighbourhood or halfway across the world, it is easier to make a difference than you think. As Craig and Marc write in this book, once you begin the work to make the world better, you will find happiness and fulfillment in your own life.

I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to kids and their parents. Our children have the most potential for changing our world for the better. This book will show them that they don't have to let their age stand in the way of making a difference and that they can use their passions for good in this world.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Official Book Club Selection" by Kathy Griffin

Life on the D-List is anything but boring. In Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin the comedian holds nothing back and gives readers an intimate look at life in Hollywood from the perspective of a D-lister.

I must admit, I was a little worried going into the book that I would be offended by the content or language. And of course, her language does get a little colourful at times. But using her trademark wit, Kathy gives readers a hilarious look at her childhood, her attempt to break into the comedy circuit, her plastic surgeries and what happened when fame finally came. No one is spared from Kathy, and some juicy Hollywood gossip is spilled (even if some of it is speculation.) Reading this book will give you an understanding of who and what has shaped Kathy and her brand of comedy.

Think of this book as your guilty pleasure reading. You'll laugh, you'll shake your head, and you may even be offended at times, but you will also find Kathy endearing and hilarious.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan

If you have read The Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food, you are already a fan of Michael Pollan. As a journalist he has set out to discover the truth behind nutrition and what we should really eat, and in the process become an expert on this issue. If you have not read anything by Michael Pollan then Food Rules: An Eater's Manual is the place for you to start.

Pollan takes his mantra, "Eat food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants" and puts it into 64 easy rules for you to follow. For anyone who wants to make a change in their diet, but doesn't know where to start, this is the only place to go. Pollan doesn't buy into fad diets, or food industry marketing ploys. Rather he takes us back to a time when our food was natural and free from industry strongholds, and shows us how we can continue to eat this way even in this time. Turns out, it's not as hard or expensive as people think it is.

Some of my favourite rules include:
#18 - Don't ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap
#20 - It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car
#36 - Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of the milk

Some of the rules I'm trying hard to follow:
#41 - Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
#49 - Eat slowly
#56 - Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods

One of the best features about Pollan's writing is that it is not preachy. He doesn't make you feel bad for making the food choices you currently make. He just wants to educate you on what you are really eating and help you make better choices at the supermarket. By following a new set of rules we can reduce illness, our weight and our health care costs. And don't worry about rigidity - rule number 64 states "Break the rules once in a while."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: "The Book of Tomorrow" by Cecelia Ahern

When Tamara Goodwin is forced to move to the country following the death of her father, she thinks that her life is over. But when a travelling library arrives in the small village she comes across a book that will change her life.

The Book of Tomorrow is an excellent novel that weaves together grief, family secrets, magic, mystery and curiosity. There is just enough suspense to have you guessing what the secrets can be, but not enough to drive you crazy!

I have never read any of Cecelia Ahern's books before and have never been very interested in them based on the descriptions. But this was an excellent book, well-written with a wonderfully told story that keeps you hooked through every page. Readers will instantly connect with the main character and will be captivated by the magic that occurs through the book she has discovered.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review: "Permission Slips" by Sherri Shepherd

On her second day as co-host of The View Sherri Shepherd gave the answer she will forever be remembered for (thanks mostly in part to YouTube.) When asked if she thought the world was round or flat she responded "Is the world flat? I never thought about it." Of course she knows the world is round, and if you watch the video you see a woman who was nervous, excited and unsure of what was going on around her in that moment.

Most people would have just got up and left the stage. But Sherri continues to come back to that table everyday. Why? Because she wrote herself a permission slip to say the dumbest thing in the world, then move on.

Permission Slips is a funny look at Sherri's life, the mistakes she has made and the lessons she has learned. She takes on her childhood as a Jehovah's Witness, her time spent in jail for unpaid parking tickets, her jump into stand-up comedy, diabetes and her time now as a mother and comedy star. She shows women that rather than trying to be perfect 24/7, they should write themselves permission slips to move on when mistakes are made (even if it's the same mistake made over and over.)

Permission Slips is a funny and honest read. If we could all look at life the way Sherri does, we would be much more stress-free.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review: "Nanny Returns" by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Fans of the first novel, The Nanny Diaries, will be happy for Nan's return and to find out what happened after she left the Grayer and the Xes. Twelve years later Nan and her husband have lived all over the world, are renovating a house and trying to decide if they are ready to start a family when 16 year old Grayer appears on her doorstep one night. Nan is swiftly pulled back into the world she thought she had left behind, but this time the economic downturn has hit and everyone is not quite the same as she remembers them.

While Nanny Returns is a good read it doesn't quite live up to the first novel. It is definitely wonderful to return to characters you remember, however I found myself not quite remembering all of the details from the first novel, and this one doesn't quite give you the back story the way some sequels do. It can fit in the new growing trend in chick lit known as recession-lit, where we see upper class characters experiencing the downturn and trying to find their place in a new economy. It is worth a read, but don't expect the same as the first novel.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Review: "Mom's Bible: God's Wisdom For Mothers (NCV)

Mom's Bible: God's Wisdom for Mothers (New Century Version) is a wonderful tool for mothers who are looking to delve deeper into God's Word and understand the precious role they play in the lives of their children and families. The New Century Version makes it easy to read and the extra content covers a wide of range of topics and issues, giving women encouragement in each aspect of their daily lives.

The layout is great, the pages do not feel cluttered and it is easy to navigate. It is hardcover but is not heavy or large. The content is perfect for moms who do not have a lot of time to spend each day reading. The most outstanding feature for me is the "Answer to Questions Kids Ask" section. It gives you scripture and guides for when your kids ask questions like "where is Noah's ark now?"

While this would not be my first choice for a study bible, it will definitely be used for daily devotions and topical studies. I highly recommend this Bible for all moms who are seeking to understand God's plan for their lives.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.