Monday, May 31, 2010

Month In Review

Wow, I can't believe it's the end of the month already! The weather here is hot, hot, hot and I'm loving it! I am definitely looking forward to summer.

There are two books that stand out to me that I read in the month of May. The first is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. In the 1950's, Henrietta's cells were taken from her unknowingly, were found to be immortal and have been responsible for numerous vaccines and other medical discoveries. They were even sent into space and blown up by the atom bomb. And yet her family didn't know about it until decades later when their cells were taken from the unknowingly. The thing that stood out the most to me from the book is when her daughter states that while Henrietta's cells were being used to cure disease, her family couldn't even afford their own health insurance. It is an incredible story.

The other book that stood out for me was Locavore by Sarah Elton. I'm a big fan of eating organic and non-genetically modified foods, but when I'm at the grocery store I find that the selection of these foods from local sources is hard to come by. This book gives Canadians stories of people who are helping to change the way we eat and make these foods more accessible.

And of course I read some fabulously fluffy chick lit this month!

I'm already really looking forward to June. I just checked my library account and saw that Emily Giffin's Heart of the Matter and John Doyle's The World Is A Ball: The joy, madness, and meaning of soccer are currently on the shelf waiting for me. As well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Nomad is on it's way. I've been looking forward to these books for a while now!

I'm so happy to see so many people stopping by my blog. I hope you are all finding some goods read, and I love reading your comments.

Hope you all had a great May!

"Jesus Manifesto" by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Lately, it seems as though the gospel has become more about things - doctrines, strategies, rules, formulas - and less about Christ. In Jesus Manifesto, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola argue that we need to bring the gospel back to what it truly is - Jesus Christ. When we do this, we will have a much more profound experience and as a result, our lives will be transformed.

This book is well-written, concise and thoroughly thought out. The authors make great use of the Bible, history and modern ideas to prove their point. It is obvious that they are fully aware of their audience and the way we are influenced by society and culture.

The footnotes are numerous and the book definitely inspires further reading. The layout itself gives the book a feeling of a devotional. It is written in a way that doesn't just speak at the reader, but makes them an active participant. Most importantly, it is fully focused on Jesus Christ.

Jesus Manifesto is eye-opening and inspiring. It has convinced me to get back to the basics in my daily walk and will do the same for you.

I received this book courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishers through The above opinions are fully my own.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's Friday!

And it's time for the Hop! If you're stopping by for the first time, welcome! I hope you take the time to look around and find some good reads. I read a variety of books - fiction, chick-lit, biography, non-fiction, Christian, urban Christian....oh how I love reading!

Another busy weekend here. My wedding anniversary is tomorrow and then there is a big charity walk on Sunday, hopefully I'll be able to fit some reading time somewhere, I have so many books in my to read pile and some great ones coming into the library next week!

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Love Struck" by Chantel Simmons

When image consultant Poppy Ross discovers that her husband Parker is having an affair with a woman from work, she is devastated. She thought her marriage was perfect and could not understand how this happened. But before she can confront him about it Parker is struck by lightning. When he regains consciousness, he has lost his short-term memory and remembers nothing of his affair.

Poppy decides that the best way to save her marriage is not to tell him about the affair and instead make herself over in the image of the woman he was having the affair with. That way he will never be tempted to stray again. But the other woman couldn't be more different than Poppy.

Soon Poppy finds herself in the world of cosmetic dentistry, fake nails, spray tans, hair extensions and butt padding, all to save her marriage. But what Poppy thinks will work ends up having disastrous results on her career and her marriage.

Love Struck is a hilarious novel about having the perfect life, losing it, then finding a real one. The lengths Poppy goes to in order to save her marriage will have you laughing out loud and shaking your head at the same time. This is well-written chick lit with realistic characters, and this storyline with it's funny and endearing main character would make an excellent movie.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Til Debt Do Us Part" by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

If you have seen the television show Til Debt Do Us Part, you know that Gail Vaz-Oxlade is no holds barred when it comes to money and debt (if you haven't seen the show, check it out on Slice.) She is an expert at finance and a whiz at helping couples get themselves out of debt and saving money.

In Debt-Free Forever, Vaz-Oxlade shares all of the tips and ideas she gives to the people on her show. She covers topics such as budgeting, her jar system, credit, paying down debt and bankruptcy. She brings her no nonsense approach to the book, and is honest about the things people need to do to get out of debt.

The best feature of the book is that it is a step-by-step tour of your finances. You start out looking at your spending and figuring out where your money goes and then you create a budget. She also includes charts and worksheets in the book to make this easier for you. Once this is done, Vaz-Oxlade gives you tips and tools to balance your budget, get out of debt and save money. Her tips include how to make more money, how to shop consciously, how to save for the long-term, how to build an emergency fund and what to do when trouble hits.

While the book is primarily aimed at people who are in debt, if you are starting a budget, wanting to save money or just looking to learn more about personal finance you will still find a lot of useful information in the book. Vaz-Oxlade walks you through your personal finances and will help you find ways to get the most out of your money.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In My Mailbox #3

No matter how hard I try, I can never seem to control my library requests! My branch is small so almost all of my books are requested online and transferred from another branch. I have the maximum amount of books in queue and I'm trying to space out when they come, but I always seem to end up with more than I can read in a week! Here's what I picked up this week:

Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran by Roxana Saberi
On the morning of January 31, 2009, Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist working in Iran, was forced from her home by four men and secretly detained in Iran's notorious Evin Prison. The intelligence agents who captured her accused her of espionage - a charge she denied. For several days, Saberi was held in solitary confinement, ruthlessly interrogated, and cut off from the outside world. For weeks, neither her family nor her friends knew her whereabouts. In this gripping and inspirational true story, Saberi writes movingly of her imprisonment, her trial, her eventual release and the faith that helped her through it all. Her recollections are interwoven with insights into Iranian society, the Islamic regime, and U.S.-Iran relations, as well as stories of her fellow prisoners - many of whom were jailed for their pursuit of human rights, including freedom of speech, association, and religion.

Goodbye Jimmy Choo by Annie Sanders
Self-confessed bohemian Izzie Stock prefers cargo pants to Donna Karan and has never seen a coffee shop she didn't like. Private-schooled and privileged, Maddy Hoare can name the best boutiques in Paris and is convinced proper English civilization ends at the London city limits. These two women couldn't seem more different until, forced to move to the English countryside for their respective husbands' careers, they meet at a luncheon with the local Stepford wives contingent - and immediately recognize their shared longing for the city streets they left behind. In this bizarro world of parish fairs and cow crossings, Izzie and Maddy may just by each other's last hope. But a tragedy is brewing...and together with a secret stash of French beauty secrets, some foul-smelling weeds, and a lot of excellent wine, the bonds of this unique friendship are about to turn the world they got stuck with into one they wouldn't trade for anything.

I am Hutterite: The fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage by Mary-Ann Kirkby
In 1969, Ann-Marie Dornn's parents did the unthinkable. They left a Hutterite colony near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba with seven children and little else, to start a new life. Overnight, the family was thrust into a society they did not understand and which knew little of their unique culture. The transition was overwhelming. Desperate to be accepted, ten-year-old Ann-Marie is forced to deny her heritage in order to fit in with her peers. I am Hutterite chronicles her quest to reinvent herself as she comes to terms with the painful circumstances that led her family to leave community life. Rich with memorable characters and vivid descriptions, this ground-breaking narrative shines a light on intolerance, illuminating the simple truth that beneath every human exterior beats a heart longing for understanding and acceptance.

The Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty
Makeup artist Emma Hamilton is thirty-three when she and her husband James decide it's time to start a family. She has it all mapped out: Go off the pill in December, have sex, get pregnant by January, have the baby in September. With the help of a personal trainer, she figures she'll be back to her fighting weight in time for Christmas. But when three months of candle-scented sex fails to produce the desired result, Emma decides that maybe Mother Nature needs a helping hand. Soon her life is a roller coaster of post-coital handstands (you can't argue with gravity), hormone-inducing (sanity-reducing!) drugs, and a veritable army of probing specialists (torturers more like). It's out with alcohol and spontaneous sex, in with green tea and ovulation kits. Emma and James try everything from fertility drugs to in vitro, but all their carefully laid plans seem to go south - along with Emma's rapidly plummeting self-esteem. But just when Emma feels as if her obsession may have alienated all of her loved ones, including James, events take a ninety-degree turn that will have unforeseen consequences for everyone.

I also received one book in the mail for review:

The Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
Christians have made the gospel about so many things - things other than Christ. Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, and formulas have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself. On the whole, Christians today are starved for a real experience of the living Christ. We know a lot about our Lord, but we don't know Him very well. We know a lot about trying to be like Jesus, but very little about living by His indwelling life. Jesus Manifesto presents a fresh unveiling of Jesus as not only Savior and Lord, but as so much more. It is a prophetic call to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ in a world - and a church - that has lost sight of Him. Every revival and restoration in the church has been a rediscovery of some aspect of Christ in the process of answering the ultimate question that Jesus put to His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" Read this book and see your Lord like you've never seen Him before.

In My Mailbox is hosted each week by The Story Siren. Check her out for many more wonderful blogs and see what others received this week.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Living Oprah" by Robyn Okrant

On January 1, 2008, Robyn Okrant began a yearlong experiment in which she followed every piece of advice dispensed by televisions most popular and influential personality, Oprah Winfrey. Taking on every suggestion made through The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, The Oprah Magazine and, Robyn set out to discover if one can really live their "Best Life Ever" by following someone else's ideal.

Over the year Okrant blogged about her experience of taking Oprah's advice on everything. Along the way she discovered just how far-reaching Oprah's words are. Whether you love or hate her, Oprah has the potential to influence our buying habits, our diets and even our politics, and she is a force who cannot be ignored.

Living Oprah is a funny and thought-provoking, not to mention costly, experiment. Throughout her journey, Okrant learned many valuable things about herself, but also found herself doing some silly and often contradictory things. For example, a few weeks after she signed the Best Life Diet contract, she found herself being told to try a bunch of diet wrecking treats.

Over the year, she found herself not just following Oprah's advice but asking questions like "What does it mean to be a real woman?", "What is one's Best Life?", and "Can Oprah actually answer these questions?" But she also recognizes Oprah's determination and hard work to build up her brand and make it thrive. People may not find every answer they are looking for in Oprah, but they may find some.

Living Oprah was an interesting book. It is more of a commentary on the influence that Oprah has on us as viewers and as consumers, less about the individual tasks she set out to do as given by Oprah. The charts at the end of each month are handy to show exactly how much time and money Oprah's suggestions take up.

If you are wanting to follow along with the tasks of the experiment it is better to read the blog, as the book is Okrant's reflections and commentary on the year. At the beginning of the book there is more of a feeling that this is just another attempt at becoming famous through a blog, but as it goes on that does change and you see that there are lessons that can be learned from such an experiment.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Happy Friday! It's time for the Book Blogger Hop. Check out Jennifer at Crazy For Books and all of the wonderful bloggers who have signed up. I'm sure you'll find some great blogs to follow.

It's the long weekend here in Canada, Monday is Victoria Day. I'm looking forward to having my husband home an extra day, the warm weather and lots of reading!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"The Finishing Touches" by Hester Browne

Twenty-seven years ago, a newborn baby was left on the steps of the esteemed Phillimore Academy for Young Ladies and taken in by the owners and staff, raised as their own daughter. Now, Betsy returns to the Academy on the sad occasion of the memorial of Lady Frances Phillimore.

Upon her return Betsy finds that the school is struggling and about to close. She is asked to use her business skills to help turn around the school and keep it open. Betsy views this as an opportunity to help save the legacy of the Phillimore's and also to do some snooping and discover who it was that left her on the doorstep all those years ago.

But turning the Academy into a modern Finishing School for the twenty first century girl isn't going to be easy. Throw in a couple of potential suitors, a scandal and a long list of girls who could possibly be her mother and Betsy wonders if she has gotten herself in over her head.

The Finishing Touches is a fun read with a unique setting - the Finishing School. Complete with etiquette tips, the book takes you into a world of fashion, entertaining, and good manners. There is a whole cast of well-written characters and personalities. This book is good, entertaining chick lit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot

In the 1950's a black woman named Henrietta Lacks arrived at John Hopkins Hospital suffering from cervical cancer. Without her knowledge doctors took a sample of her cells which ended up becoming the first "immortal" human cells grown in culture. Though Henrietta has been dead for decades, her cells still live today in laboratories around the world.

The cells, known as HeLa, have been instrumental in developing medicine and vaccines, have led to in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping, and have even been sent up into space. HeLa cells have created a billion dollar industry, and yet Henrietta's family still cannot afford their own health insurance and drug coverage. They did not learn about Henrietta's cells until more than twenty years after her death when their own cells were taken without informed consent and used in research.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the complete story of Henrietta's life, her illness, her cells and the industry they have created. It took Rebecca Skloot a decade to uncover the story, as she worked to uncover who Henrietta was and why scientists were so interested in her cells.

This is an incredible story. It deals with poverty, racism, illness, greed, science, and spirituality. It will open your eyes to secrecy within the medical industry and how scientific advancement can harm so many. It is heartbreaking to see how work that has done so much good for everyone around the world has hurt one family so much.

Skloot does an excellent job of making the story accessible. Even though there is a lot of science, it is explained in a way that everyone can understand. Her passion to uncover the story and give a name and voice to the woman behind HeLa shines through the entire book.

I highly recommend this book. It will raise questions in the readers mind as to what we really know about science and its role in our lives, the use and misuse of medical authority, and who really owns our bodies.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books hosts a weekly book blogger hop where you can go and find some cool blogs and share your own. This is only my second time participating but already I've found some great blogs to follow, and to help me increase my always-growing to read list.

I haven't had a chance to get through many yet, but two from this week that I've already signed up to follow are:

Hope you all enjoy the hop!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go" by Lucille O'Neal

Lucille O'Neal is probably best known as NBA star Shaquille O'Neal's mom. In Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go she shares the story of her life, from being a rebellious teen and single teenage mom to a forty-something college student and confident woman. She overcame heartbreak, financial difficulties, alcohol addiction and abuse to become an assured woman and stronger than ever. In this book she shares her journey in the hopes of guiding other young women down a different path.

Lucille O'Neal definitely has a story to share. Many women will see themselves in Lucille in some way. The book is written through the voice of a proud woman and mother. She is honest about her trials and she recognizes her responsibility in them. She shows women that it is never too late to make a change and bring forth a new beginning.

The book is a quick read. It's a simple telling of her story, and feels very much like a motivational speech. A great feature of the book is the epilogue in which she shares forty memorable pieces of Scripture and what she learned from them. Many women will find that they can relate to Lucille's story and this book can be an inspiration to any woman who is struggling in her life and looking to make a change.

I received this book to review courtesy of Thomas Nelson as a part of their program. Everything above is my own opinion and I am under no obligation to give the book a positive review.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Black Mamba Boy" by Nadifa Mohamed

In the summer of 1935 Jama is a ten-year-old Somali boy living in the slums of Aden, Yemen. He learns to survive with other young boys in the street. But when Jama loses everything, his whole life changes. He realizes that his only hope of survival is to find his father, who years before left the family to go to Sudan in hopes of a better life.

Jama's journey takes him far from home, through Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt and Palestine and finally to Britain. Along the way, World War 2 comes to Africa and Jama ends up on a journey he had not planned for.

Black Mamba Boy, though a work of fiction, is based on the story of Nadifa Mohamed's father. It is an incredible story of family, love, war, occupation, resilience, friendship and hope. The story of what happened in Africa during World War 2 is something that is not often seen in fiction. It is a reminder of how much the war affected everyone around the world.

The book is well-written and incredibly descriptive. However, at times it feels as though something is lacking. While Mohamed does an excellent job of recording the many small details, it does feel as though some of the emotion is missing. While the reader may notice this, the incredible story that is being told does make up for it.

Black Mamba Boy is an amazing story of survival and perseverance. Readers will be taken in by Jama's journey, hoping for a happy outcome in the face of adversity. Mohamed is an excellent story-teller and this is a wonderful debut novel. She has given a voice to those in Africa who have been displaced by war, who are fighting for their survival and who will do what it takes to provide for their family.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In My Mailbox #2

Well, I had such a busy weekend that I ended up not reading at all. That rarely happens to me! So I've fallen about two weeks behind on my library books, but since they only hold books for me for one week, I had to go and pick up more! Here is what I brought home this week:

Late Night Shopping by Carmen Reid (2008)
As ultra stylish personal shopper Annie Valentine is about to learn there are some things the man in your life doesn't need to know: The price of your delicious new handbag (...and shoes.) The fact that you've reached the limit on all your credit cards. You're planning to start a retail business of your own (and there are 500 imported accessories in the spare room.) Then there are a few things you may have to mention: You've booked a 'surprise!' romantic holiday to Italy (but your relatives are coming too). You seem to have put the house up for sale. A gorgeous Italian has fallen madly in love with you. Could this be one challenge too many for Annie and Ed?

The Long Song by Andrea Levy (2010)
Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas, The Long Song is at once defiant, funny and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation in Jamaica, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great house and rename her "Marguerite." Resourceful and mischievous, July soon becomes indispensable to her mistress. Together they live through the bloody Baptist War and through the violent and chaotic end of slavery. Taught to read and write so she can help her mistress run the business, July remains bound to the plantation despite her "freedom." It is the arrival of a young English overseer, Robert Goodwin, that will dramatically change life in the great house for both July and her mistress. Prompted and provoked by her son's persistent questioning, July's heartache and resilience are gradually revealed in this extraordinarily powerful story of slavery, revolution, freedom and love.

The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah (2008)
Sally is watching the news with her husband when she hears a name she ought not to recognise: Mark Bretherick. Last year, a business trip Sally had planned was cancelled at the last minute. Desperate for a break from her busy life juggling her career and a young family, Sally didn't tell her husband that the trip had fallen through. Instead, she booked a week off and treated herself to a secret holiday. All she wanted was a bit of peace - some time to herself - but it didn't work out that way. Because Sally met a man - Mark Bretherick. All the details are the same: where he lives, his job, his wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy. Except that the man on the news is a man Sally has never seen before. And Geraldine and Lucy Bretherick are both dead.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren. Check out her wonderful blog and many others participating in IMM.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"In the Midst of it All" by Tiffany L. Warren

Seventeen-year-old Zenovia Sinclair has spent her life caring for her schizophrenic mother and trying to get by in her tough neighbourhood. When the Brethren of the Sacrifice Church come knocking on their door offering them acceptance, they jump at the chance.

As Zenovia and her mother find stability with the Brethren, she finds herself caught up with thoughts of Tristan, a fervent young member who acts like he wants her, Jason, Tristan's older brother who is more into her than he pretends, and Emil who is associated with the Brethren but is not allowed to be a part of it.

But Zenovia soon finds out that life in the Brethren is not what it is made out to be. She finds herself at odds with them, and loses out not just on being a part of the community but her relationships with Tristan, Jason and Emil. Can Zenovia put the pieces of her life back together and find her way back to God? And will she ever be able to mend her relationships? It's a rough road, but Zenovia discovers that with God's guidance she can find her way to forgiveness and back to love.

In the Midst of it All is a powerful book about the forgiveness and grace of God. Right from the start you are hooked on Zenovia's story. It is a realistic portrayal of how man can corrupt God's Word and the church, and how people can follow such men. As well, the book addresses the difficulties faced by people who have left or been made to leave such a group. But the most important thing the book shows is that with faith, you don't have to let your past dictate your future.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Locavore" by Sarah Elton

Our local grocery stores are like a United Nations of produce all year round. Carrots from Venezuela, broccoli from Mexico, lettuce from China, potatoes from the US. Yet these are crops that can all be grown right here in Canada. So why are we passing over locally grown produce in favour of imported, and what can we do to change that?

Locavore looks at a growing food movement in Canada, one that is bringing local food to the forefront. From family farms on the East Coast to year round farms in Ontario to a city farm in British Columbia, farms are changing the way our produce is grown and bringing the freshest possible foods to people all across Canada. Add to this the local cheese industry in Quebec, organic wheat farmers in Saskatchewan and chefs using local foods in their restaurants and Canadians are being offered more and more ways to support the local food system.

The book takes you across Canada, introduces you to various players in our food system, gives expert testimony to the importance of a local food system and provides you with many resources to find your own place within that system.

Eating healthy and locally is a growing movement and one that is easy to join. I highly recommend this book as a way to understand where you food comes from and how you can vote with your fork and be the one in control of the food on your plate.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. Book bloggers post what books have arrived in their home each week. I love reading other bloggers IMM posts, I get so many great titles to add to my to read list. So I figure I may as well start posting myself! Tuesday is library day at my house, so I'll try to post each Tuesday (except for today.)

Today I picked up 4 books at the library:

The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne (2009)
Twenty-seven years ago, an infant turned up on the doorstep of the esteemed Phillimore Academy for Young Ladies. Loved by Lady Frances Phillimore and her kindhearted staff, Betsy grew up aspiring to be an academy girl. But Franny and her husband, Lord Phillimore, advised Betsy to hone her considerable math skills at college. Now, on the sad occasion of Lady France's memorial, Betsy finds the school in disrepair, enrollment down, and Lord P. desperate to save his legacy. Enter Betsy, the numbers genius, and her business plan...

Love Struck by Chantel Simmons (2010)
When twenty-seven-year-old image consultant Poppy Ross discovers her handsome and seemingly devoted husband Parker is having an affair, she is dumbfounded. But before she has a chance to confront him, he is struck by lightning. When he regains consciousness, he has lost his short-term memory - including that of the affair. Given a chance to erase history and possibly save her marriage, Poppy decides to remake herself in the mistress's image, so that Parker might never be tempted to stray again. Her quest to become the perfect woman has disastrous results, however, and just might turn out to be the worst thing possible for her marriage.

Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant (2010)
On January 1, 2008, Robyn Okrant kicked off a yearlong experiment, determined to find out what would happen if she put her life in the hands of television's most influential personality, Oprah Winfrey. Wondering if it was possible to discover one's authentic self by following someone else's ideal, this average, thirty-five-year-old woman looked to The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, The Oprah Magazine and to provide the road map for her journey. The author redesigned her entire life - from her wardrobe to her marriage to her diet to her spiritual life, her finances, her home, and beyond - all according to Winfrey's "best life" advice. Whether the results were fulfilling or frustrating, they were always thought-provoking and highly entertaining.

Debt-Free Forever: Take Control of Your Money and Your Life by Gail Vaz-Oxlade (2009)
Tired of getting to the end of the money before you get to the end of the month? Wish you were in control? If you're afraid to open your bills, if you've never added up how much you owe, if you can't even imagine being debt-free, it's time to join the thousands of Canadians Gail Vaz-Oxlade has helped. Her straightforward approach to money management is based on self-control, hard work, and prioritizing what's really important. Make no mistake, getting out of debt isn't easy. But in Debt-Free Forever, Gail gives you a clear strategy and the steps needed to implement it. So if you're finished with excuses, overdue notices and maxed-out credit cards, pick up this book, follow Gail's advice and start becoming Debt-Free Forever.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore

Tassie Keltjin, a college student, has taken a job as a part time nanny for a mysterious and glamourous family. She cares for their adopted biracial daughter as though she is her own as she navigates her way through life. But over the year her life goes through dramatic changes. And then she discovers that the family she has become a part of has a secret that could change everything.

A Gate at the Stairs is a tale of family and love. There are many additional themes woven throughout the novel and the US preparations for war in the Middle East following 9/11 serves as a backdrop to the story. The book also examines the idea of family and what makes up one including biological families, adoptive families, biracial families.

The characters seem a little under-developed as do some relationships in the novel. Tassie's life is broken up into different parts and the connection between them does not seem to be that strong. The ending of the book as well is not very strong. However, the imagery in the novel is beautiful and the main plot of the book is an interesting one that has the reader knowing something tragic is going to happen and wondering exactly what it will be.

A Gate at the Stairs is a quick read and one that touches upon the nature of families and love. It is a little under-whelming but overall is still worth reading.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"A Week In December" by Sebastian Faulks

Over the course of a week in December 2007, lives collide in London and they don't even know it. A Polish footballer, a hedge-fund manager, a book critic, a young student led astray by Islamic theory, his father a chutney magnate, a teenage boy hooked on skunk, a schoolteacher, a young lawyer with little work, a tube driver and others. They all go about their daily lives not realizing how closely their lives are related or in what ways their paths are going to collide.

A Week in December is a fascinating look at modern urban life. In cities populated with millions of people, we pass by so many people not knowing the complications of their lives, their hopes and fears, and how they may possibly affect our own lives.

Sebastian Faulks weaves many themes into the book - greed, loneliness, disillusionment, love - to show us the nature of this world.

It is obvious that Faulks has done an incredible amount of research for the book on the financial world as well as football, the internet, the London underground, teaching, and Islam. This is impressive and obvious as the characters and events in the book are so real you feel as though you are reading about actual people. Though the characters may inhabit a world the reader is not familiar with, one cannot help but form attachments and sympathies for the characters through their realistic portrayal.

A Week in December is entertaining and will keep you gripped until the end, wanting to find out how the characters' worlds will collide and if they realize the part they are playing in other's lives.