Reading Challenges.. Do you do them?

A new year brings a brand new crop of Reading Challenges.  There are so many and they all sound so enticing.  Except I haven’t had the greatest success in completing challenges in the past.  It’s always really fun to pick out titles but then when it comes time to read all those books I’ve lined up, I’m distracted by other shiny objects- reviews of new books, books in my TBR stack, books on display at Borders, books people are talking about on Twitter or at book club; and I think, why did I sign up for this??

Last year I completed the RIP IV Challenge but only with 2 books read.  The year before I completed the What’s In a Name Challenge.  I won’t list the many many challenges I didn’t bother to stick with.

So I got to thinking, why do so many bloggers do challenges?  What appeals to them about reading from a list?  I knew my blogging friends would have good reasons for this, and they did not disappoint.

I posed three questions to a somewhat random sampling of popular bloggers:

1.  Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

2.  Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

3.  Do you host any challenges yourself?

Here are the answers:

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From Toni at A Circle of Books

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I participate in the challenges.  I think it provides motivation, stimulates book discussion and it is fun.  It is kind of like a big big book club.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

E-book challenge, From my Shelves Project, Audio Challenge

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I have yet to host a challenge, but I’d really like to some day.

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From Ti at Book Chatter

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I have participated in a few in the past but have not been successful.  I find that it turns my reading into work and I want my reading to be for pure enjoyment.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

The only challenge that I am doing is J. Kaye’s 100+ Reading Challenge because all books count AND it’s a good way to keep track of what I’ve read.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I haven’t hosted a challenge, for same reason I noted above. I much prefer read-alongs which you can sort of consider a challenge depending on the book. I am hosting a read-along for Moby Dick right now and let me tell you, it’s a challenge!

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From Jill at Fizzy Thoughts

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Yes, I participate in challenges. But only a few each year. Otherwise, they start to feel like chores. I chose a few each year that I think will encourage and motivate me expand my reading horizons. I’m doing Women Unbound because I believe in the topic, and it’s also a way to challenge myself to read more non-fiction this year. The South Asian Authors Challenge will encourage me to read more non-US authors, which is always something I’m striving to do. I also like the community aspect of challenges, and seeing what other people choose to read…there’s such diversity in the challenges!

I’m also doing a few read-alongs, but I think of those as entirely separate from challenges.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

This year, I’m doing Women Unbound (which rocks!) and the South Asian Authors Challenge. And maybe Trish’s OATES, since I have most of the authors already on my shelves. And I might join RIP again, if Carl offers it, but that’s later in the year.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

Nope. Although I’d love to do something similar to the Armchair Traveler reading challenge that was the first challenge I ever joined. I just haven’t thought hard enough yet to make it a reality.

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From Care at Care’s Online Book Club:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

YES, I participate in reading challenges.   I like the shared discussion about books – when it happens and I like to be included in activities.    I like to experience books that I may not have chosen otherwise.     I also like to un-officially participate so I don’t have added stress of HAVING to read something so I do attempt to limit myself.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

That limiting concept gets harder every year!   I love making the lists but then hate the stress of actually reading what I have committed to.     I am participating in Women Unbound, What’s In a Name 3, Woolf in Winter, A Wrinkle in Time (not real name of challenge – I’ll have to go look that up…) LOTR readalong, Flashback, John Cusack, and unofficially Book to Movie, the Well Read Challenge, Global Challenge,  Twenty in 2010 (maybe – I might have signed and forgot), GLBT and…     This is one of my tasks this weekend – to clean up my challenges so I know what I’m doing this year.   I love read-alongs and have a few of these in line, too, with a few other bloggers.   Citizen Reader’s Book Menages are wonderful.   I prefer casual challenges that allow books from other challenges to count.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m co-hosting the Women Unbound Challenge.  This is a 13 month long challenge focussing on Women’s Issues in fiction AND in nonfiction.  This is my first challenge hosting attempt and it’s been nice to share duties and to share the discussion of duties, actually.  🙂

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From Florinda at 3R’s Blog:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I didn’t get involved in challenges until I’d been blogging for almost two years, and I still don’t sign on for very many of them. The challenges that have appealed to me address goals I already have in mind or are focused on a topic or genre I would have wanted to read anyway – they just help give me direction. I try to stay away from challenges that would require me to add much to my already exploding TBR collection!

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I’m participating in the Read Your Own Books Challenge this year for the second time – it helps keep me from getting too caught up in review books. It will also overlap with most of the other challenges I’m doing.

I joined two challenges in the fall that are continuing into this year:

Women Unbound Challenge (women’s studies, requires both fiction and nonfiction – I have a surprising amount in TBR that qualifies)
Shelf Discovery Challenge (an excuse to re-read some YA favorites from my own YA days)

I joined the Memorable Memoirs Challenge since that’s my preferred nonfiction genre

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m on the verge of announcing my first hosted challenge, but I’m going to call it a “reading project” since so many people have sworn they’re not joining any more challenges this year :-)! I’ll also be co-hosting a read-along in March and April with two other bloggers. However, since I haven’t officially posted about either of these activities yet, I can’t say any more about them now.

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From Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Reading challenges are a lot of fun. Even though some people feel pressure to finish the challenge, I just enjoy giving myself a list and seeing if I can do it. No pressure – if I don’t finish it’s really no big deal. I don’t think there are reading challenge police out there! 🙂 In fact, last year I only finished two challenges – Carl’s RIP and my own Everything Austen.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I’m currently participating in The Vampire Diaries challenge hosted by My Friend Amy, The Shelf Discovery Challenge by Booking Mama and All About the Brontes hosted by Laura’s Reviews. I am super excited about the Bronte challenge as I’ve never read any Bronte before!

Lastly, I ALWAYS participate in Carl’s two big reading challenges each year and will do so again in 2010. I love his Once Upon a Time challenge in the spring and RIP challenge in the fall. They are both great!!

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I hosted the Everything Austen challenge that ran from July 1st to December 31st, 2009. You can read my wrap up post here.   I had over 200 participants and almost 600 reviews were credited to Everything Austen. Overall I gave away 17 different Austen-ish books and had numerous guest posts by authors. It was a lot of work but a ton of fun! It was my first reading challenge that I hosted but probably won’t be my last!

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From Lenore at Presenting Lenore:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I have participated in a couple over the past few years, but for 2010 I am only participating in one official challenge (so far).  I have a hard time keeping up with all the requirements and getting the books read in time if I join too many.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I am participating in the YA debut author challenge hosted by The Story Siren because I love to support debut authors and it looks like Kristi is going to be a active host who has the support of the debut author community.  I may also join in to some mini-challenges like the Kidlitosphere comment more challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I do not host any official challenges, but I have some personal ones such as reading more books in the German language and more classics.

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From Nicole at Linus’s Blanket:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I do! Though I am far from the ideal challenge participant.  I love making lists and thinking about books with the same authors or the same themes, and researching titles that will fit into my challenges, and I just love reading other lists and meeting new bloggers in the same challenges as me.  Challenges are like mixers or bars where you can meet new people!  They really appeal to both the curious and organizer aspects of my personality as well as the social part.  I love perusing the linkies and reading reviews.  I am good at joining challenges, but not so good at posting my own reviews and horrid at wrap-up posts.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

Which challenges aren’t I doing this year might be more easily answered.  So far I have signed up for:

The African Diaspora Challenge, Our Mutual Read, The TBR Challenge, South Asian Author Challenge, 451 Fridays Challenge, Audio Book Challenge, Read The Book See The Movie Challenge, Shelf Discovery Challenge, The Chunkster Challenge, The Debutante Ball Challenge, The What’s In A Name Challenge, The Winter Reading Challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m hosting That’s How I Blog’s Twenty Minute Book Club Challenge. I host a Blog Talk Radio Show on Tuesday nights called That’s How I Blog! where I chat with bloggers about their blogging experiences and the books that they enjoy reading.  We have a twenty minute discussion (okay so often it’s a 40 minute discussion) on a book we have chosen to read together.  This challenge is a little different from other challenges because the books are already chosen for you. I really love that you get to chat about the same books with other readers and to participate in the book club at the end of the show, but that you also have the flexibility to read the books out of sync and at your own pace.

I have another challenge in the works for finishing half-read books, but I won’t be starting that til next month.

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From Sandy at You’ve GOTTA Read This!

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I absolutely do participate in challenges.  I love them for several reasons.  First, they keep me focused on books that I have made a priority to read.  If not, I meander all over the place, and don’t end up reading half of what I wanted.  Second, they push me to read genres that are new to me.  Last year, my big stretch was classics, of which I am shamefully ignorant. This year, its graphic novels.  Third, I just thrive on achieving goals – they make me accountable.  (Challenges also seem to work for me in the areas of fitness as well!) Plus, I hate to fail at things.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I still have three challenges continuing from 2009:  Harry Potter Challenge,
Japanese Reading Challenge and Random Reading Challenge.

For 2010, I’ve signed up for ten challenges:

Audio Books
E-Books
100+
Read and Review
Vietnam War Through the Generations
Read from your Shelves
Read the Book/See the Movie
TBR
Support Your Library
Graphic Novels

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I have never hosted any challenges before.  I know it sounds sophomoric, but I’m a little shy about it since I consider myself to be somewhat new.  Maybe next year!   I did consider hosting one where you read all of Entertainment
Weekly’s top books.

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From Teddy at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time:

Do you participate in reading challenges?

Yes, there are many reasons.  Challenges help me get organized for my year of reading.  They don’t dictate everything I’m going to read but they guide me.  There are several challenges that fit into what I plan to read anyway.  For example, I know I am going to read ARCs and a lot of historical fiction.  There are challenge the those both fit into nicely.  I am addicted to challenges.  They are fun.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I’m doing a lot!
O.A.T.E.S.
ARC
Books Won
What an Animal II
China
Year of the Historical
Pub
TBR Lite
Books to Read Before I Die
RYOB
Woman Unbound
New Authors
Audio Book
Hisorical Fiction
Chunkster
Global

I also am doing two perpetual challenges that I have been doing for a couple years:
Books Around the World
Books Around the States

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I currently host 2:

The ARC Reading Challenge is to read ARC’s.  I use the term ARC loosely, any book that is sent to the participant that a review is expected qualifys.  There are 3 levels.

The Books Won Challenge is to read books that you have won in giveaways.  There are four levels.

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From Natalie at Book, Line, and Sinker:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I have yet to participate in any reading challenges.  I’ve been book blogging since March and just haven’t signed up for one.  There are a bunch of great ones out there but I’m reticent to join and don’t know why!  Fear of committment, maybe?  Lol.

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From Mari at Bookworm with a View:

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I haven’t participated in Challenges in the past.  Would you believe me if I told you I didn’t know exactly what a Challenge was or that so many existed until last fall?  The ones I am participating in for 2010 are simple in nature (ie: Read’n Review: where you post a review for every book you read). I read about 2-3 books a month and being in two book clubs I fear I would
be over-committing.  Once Spring comes around and I’m busy running outside, I will try to listen to some audio books, which might increase my volume read a bit.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I have signed up for four challenges, two focused on reading books from my book shelves, one to review what I read and the last one focuses on reading a novel by an upcoming/new author (from a set list).

Details:
http://bwavchallenges.blogspot.com/

I missed list another challenge that I am in:  The Canadian Book Challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

No, but I like to think I’m cheerleading from the sidelines, for all of you hosting challenges and for those who read so much, I look up to you – you amaze me!

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From Trish at Hey, Lady!  Whatcha’ Readin’?

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Not anymore. I did when I first started blogging, but I found I’m not disciplined enough to finish a challenge.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

Actually, I’m hosting two challenges, but they’re specifically geared towards the books I want to read this year. They are the O.A.T.E.S. Challenge and the Laura Lippman Challenge (which will be announced on Monday 1/11/).

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I’m hosting two challenges: the O.A.T.E.S. Challenge, which was inspired by Joyce Carol Oates. The idea is to read authors whose last name begin with A, T, E, or S. Joyce Carol Oates is obviously the author you’d read for O. My goal is to read a few JCO books this year, as well as two books by Margaret Atwood, a book by Tolstoy, a book by Steinbeck, and something by Ernest Hemingway. The goal is to challenge my reading this year. The other challenge I’m hosting is the Laura Lippman Challenge. Laura Lippman has written quite a few books, most of them crime fiction, many of which have been nominated for or won awards. While she’s not a particularly challenging author, her books fit in with my reading plan this year.

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From Dar at Peeking Between the Pages

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Yes I participate in reading challenges.  I really enjoy them because they allow you to step out of your comfort zone and read something different; something you may not have read otherwise.  Also I think challenges bring about a great sense of community in the blogging world.  We all get excited about joining the challenges and figuring out what books we’ll read and then updating throughout the year.  It’s fun and I think it brings us all together in a way.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

Lots!  lol!  Here’s the list of my challenges this year:

Vietnam Reading Challenge
Young Adult Reading Challenge
ARC Reading Challenge
Romance Reading Challenge
Chunkster Challenge
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
eBook Reading Challenge
Reading From my Shelves Project
100+ Reading Challenge
Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge
Outlander Challenge
Random Reading Challenge
Sookie Stackhouse Challenge

Yikes, that’s 13.  Looks like I’m going to have to find myself one more challenge. Can’t be staying at the number 13.  lol.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I don’t host any challenges but I’m still thinking about doing one if not this year then next year for sure.

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From Lisa at Lit and Life

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

When I first started blogging last June, I didn’t really know much about the challenges and wasn’t sure it was something I would be interested in.  Then Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word started the Everything Austen challenge.  As a person that has read every Austen book and seen at least one movie version of each of them, I felt like this was the perfect challenge for me to jump in on.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that not only were challenges a great way to encourage me to read certain books, but that they were also a great way to meet new people and to drive traffic to my blog.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

This year I’ve become something of a challenge addict.  In addition to continuing with the Random Reading Challenge, I’ve added eleven new challenges: What’s In A Name 3, The Michener Challenge, Our Mutual Read, 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge, 451 Challenge, 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project, 2010 Flashback Reading Challenge, You’ve Got Mail Reading Challenge, O.A.T.E.S., All About The Brontes 2010 Challenge, and the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge which I’m hosting.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

The idea for the Gilmore Girls challenge came about, as so many ideas do, when I was talking with another blogger who mentioned that she had come across a list of all of the books ever shown or discussed on the t.v. show The Gilmore Girls.  I loved that show and when I saw how many books and the wide variety of books were included, I knew it was the perfect idea for the challenge I’d been thinking about putting together.  You can check out the Gilmore Girl Challenge HERE.

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From Susan at Suko’s Notebook

Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

I love to participate in challenges, but I only join the ones which don’t require a great number of books be read, because I’m busy and I like to choose what I’ll read. I also don’t like challenges with too many rules and regulations. But reading challenges are fun to join, and bring more visitors to your site.

Which reading challenges are you doing this year?

I am participating in a few reading challenges this year, The Aussie Author Challenge, The Typically British Challenge, and the All About the Brontes Challenge.

Do you host any challenges yourself?

I would love to host a reading challenge on my blog. If I can think up a good one then I will!
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From Anna at Diary of an Eccentric

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Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

Yes!  I enjoy participating in reading challenges because they motivate me to read books I’ve wanted to read for a long time or open myself to new authors, books, and genres.  It’s fun to see what other participants are reading for the same challenge.  I’m always adding titles to the long list of books I’d like to read some day.
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Which reading challenges are you doing this year?
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So far, I’ve only signed up for two:  the Vietnam War Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations and the Jane Austen Challenge at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object.  If the Everything Austen Challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word happens again this year, I’ll join that one, too.
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Do you host any challenges yourself?

I co-host annual war-related reading challenges with Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) at War Through the Generations.  Last year, we hosted the WWII Reading Challenge, and this year, we’ve switched gears to Vietnam.  We are very interested in the impact of war on people and society, and our participants are encouraged to read fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and even watch a couple of movies if they desire, with whatever war we’re covering as the primary or secondary theme.  We compile related book reviews and recommended reading lists on the challenge blog.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to provide a useful resource to readers interested in war-related books.  And it’s why I limit myself to only a few reading challenges per year.
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Do you participate in reading challenges?  Why or why not?

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The Sunday Salon – January 10, 2009

Happy Sunday, everybody.  I’m sitting in my family room that is flooded with bright sunlight trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is January.  We’ve had blue skies and temps in the mid to upper 70s for over a week.  While it’s not unusual to have a day like that in January in Southern California, an entire week is weird, even for us.  We are enjoying it by getting out to ride bikes, visiting the beach, etc.  Typical January activities, right?  (I apologize to all you frozen-over mid-westerners for rubbing it in!)

This past week has been a whirlwind for us, trying to get back into a normal routine after the loosey-goosey schedule of winter break.  The Hub’s been in Vegas for a convention since Tuesday so the girls and I have been on our own.  I’ve gotten back to work and it’s a good thing because things had really piled up while I was off playing with the kids.  School mornings have been crazy (nobody wants to get up) and the homework battles have begun anew.  The kids have also taken to fighting over who gets to sleep with me each night while Dad’s away.  Tonight is the last night before he comes home and I think I’m going to demand that everyone sleep in their own bed.

The kids and I have been reading in the evenings.  My youngest and I are reading Fablehaven by Brandon Mull together for our mother/child book club and really enjoying it.  (My oldest is already on Book 4 of the series).  It’s the story of a brother and sister who go to their reclusive grandparents’ home for 2 weeks while their parents are on a cruise.  The home and property turn out to be a centuries-old refuge for mystical creatures (fairies, etc.) that can only be seen by drinking special milk.  Reading Fablehaven has been a great way for me to get my kids to drink their milk!!

I’m currently reading an old favorite author, Sue Grafton, and her latest, U is for Undertow.  I’d stopped reading this series a few years ago (the last one I read was M is for Malice) but I have no idea why… I LOVE Sue Grafton’s sense of humor, and this book is really fun.  My kids have caught me laughing out loud several times (it’s a mystery but her humor shines throughout).  Her sarcasm and wit just kill me and the way she intersects the various characters is really clever.  Now I’ll have to go back and read N, O, P, Q, R, S, and T to see what I’ve missed!

Tonight is book club night and it’s my turn to host our meeting.  I had my servants kids dusting and vacuuming in preparation yesterday.  The whining and complaining could be heard for miles around.  I decided to go super easy with the food and order out- Pizza Hut makes an awesome chicken fettucini alfredo so that’s what I’m serving.  No cooking!  Tonight we will discuss The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  We’re also going to watch the movie.  This is something new for us and I’m looking forward to discussing the book vs. movie.  It was such a powerful book and I can’t wait to see Hollywood’s interpretation of it.

Well I’m off to rouse the troops- the bathrooms need attention, the dog needs her pills, the front porch needs to be hosed off, the dishwasher needs emptying, clothes need to be  put away.. the list goes on.  It’s not easy being a taskmaster but someone has to do it!

Thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain.  Leave me a note and tell me what you’re up to this weekend.

Have a great week!

Review: How To Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates Gill

I’m a sucker for lists. “Best of” lists are big this time of year and I love looking at them, but I also enjoy any type of round up. Boil something down to a few essential elements and give me the bullet points! “5 Easy Ways to Get Organized” or “8 Steps to a Better Sex Life” on a magazine cover immediately gets my attention. So when How To Save Your Own Life, with the subtitle 15 Lessons on Finding Hope in Unexpected Places, came up on tour over at TLC, I was all over it, even though it didn’t promise to get me organized or teach me how to be sexy(er). <— Those who know me can now stop laughing.

Author Michael Gates Gill writes about what it was like to go from being a high powered, highly paid advertising executive with a privileged lifestyle to a guy who lost everything later in life; the job he’d held for 25 years, his decades-long marriage, and his health. His world was in turmoil and seemed to be crashing down around his ears. Change was forced upon him yet that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. At his lowest point, he walked into a Starbucks on a day they were recruiting new employees and met a young woman named Crystal who turned his life around by offering him a job (even though he wasn’t there looking for one); a job in which serving others is priority #1. He surprised himself by accepting the offer. Learning to serve others was pivotal in fundamentally changing who he was on the inside, and now he is a much better and happier human being for it.

This is a short little memoir-ish book (about 200 pages), yet it took me more than two weeks to read it. I kept it on my nightstand and read one “lesson” per day, savoring the lessons and ‘saving my life’ in bite sized chunks. Gill writes plainly and simply about his experiences and what he learned from them, and offers others ways in which they can apply these lessons to their own lives.

None of this is rocket science and I didn’t encounter any earth shattering new ideas or experience any Aha! moments. However.. this book came at a good time for me. Basic ideas like being grateful, simplifying and letting go of material things, unplugging (from cell phones, pda’s, watches, computers, etc.), laughing more, leaping with faith (rather than over-thinking everything), following your heart, etc. are things I’ve been giving quite a lot of thought to lately as I do my annual resolution making for the incoming year and reflection on the outgoing one.

Leaping with faith and not over-thinking is something I’ve always struggled with. I tend to over-analyze and worry things to death. However, leaping with faith was one of the best things I ever did when, in 2008, I asked someone I trust and consider a friend to start a business with me, even though we’d never actually met in person (we’ve since remedied that). Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first!) but sometimes you just have to go with your gut. I’m so glad I did.

This charming book full of inspiring thoughts and good reminders will have a permanent spot in my nightstand. I’ll take it out whenever I need a pick-me-up of positivity or a little nudge of courage because let’s face it, change can be scary. It can also be great.

Here are the rest of the stops on this TLC Book Tour:

Monday, January 4th: MidLifeBloggers

Tuesday, January 5th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker

Wednesday, January 6th: Books on the Brain

Thursday, January 7th: The Written World

Tuesday, January 12th: TexasRed’s Books

Wednesday, January 13th: It’s All A Matter of Perspective

Thursday, January 14th: A Novel Menagerie

Tuesday, January 19th: Confessions of a Book a Holic

Wednesday, January 20th: Thoughts of an Evil Overlord

Monday, January 25th: Silver and Grace

Tuesday, January 26th: Inventing My Life

Wednesday, January 27th: Write for a Reader

A big “Thank You” to Anne at Penguin for sending me this book to review.

Keeping the Feast – Readers!

Wow!

We had a great response for the Keeping the Feast Winter Reading Series!

All 20 copies have been claimed and the following readers will be receiving their copies of the book very soon.

1.  Mari from Bookworm with a View

2.  Nicole from Linus’s Blanket

3.  Kathy from Bermuda Onion

4.  Lisa from Lit and Life

5.  Megan from Po(sey) Sessions

6.  Kristina from The Cajun Book Lady

7.  Robin from My Two Blessings

8. Emily Smith

9. Eleanor Alston

10.  Eileen Kunstman

11.  Jennifer from Mrs. Q: Book Addict, Book Lover, Avid Reader

12.  Robbie Alba- Estrada

13.  Susan from Suko’s Notebook

14.  Jane Shoppell

15.  Heather from Raging Bibliomania

16.  Janel from Janel’s Jumbles

17.  Anne Paluck

18.  Jill from Fizzy Thoughts

19.  Sharon Walling

20.  Debbie from Reader Buzz

What a great group!  Can’t wait to discuss it with all of you in February!  I’ll let everyone know the specific time and date for the discussion with the author as it gets closer.

And I’m so sorry if you were interested in reading with us and missed out this time.. we’ll be doing this again in the future, so stay tuned!

Keeping the Feast – Winter Reading Series Announcement!

Ah, winter.  For me it is the most perfect time of year for reading.  Something about cold weather and short days makes me all snugglish, and then add to that a warm mug of something yummy, a fuzzy sweater, a cozy chair.  What else completes that idyllic mental picture better than a book, right?

Have I got one for you…

I’ve teamed up again with Mari from Bookworm with a View for a Winter Reading Series!  We had so much fun with our Summer Series that we thought we’d do it again.

Our first selection is a perfect winter read called Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food and Healing in Italy by Paula Butturini.  Love?  Food?  Italy?? If you’re anything like me, that sounds really good, and vaguely familiar.. but wait, there’s more to it..

From the author’s website, here is the synopsis:

Keeping the Feast traces the path of a single bullet that upended the lives of an American couple reporting on the fall of Communism in 1989. Ultimately, though, it is a memoir that celebrates the healing to be found in the sharing of food, three times a day, among friends and family in Italy and France.

A bullet?  NOT exactly what you were expecting, eh?  Well, it is the time of year for surprises!

Ok, so here’s the deal.  I have 20 COPIES  of Keeping the Feast available for our reading series, compliments of Riverhead Books!  We’ll get the books out to everyone who’s interested in participating. Then 20 of us can discuss it here, and Paula will join in!  Think of it as a book club of sorts, except without the wine.  Well, you can have wine in front of your computer if you like.  Who’s gonna stop you?

E-mail me with your address (even if you think I have it!) to enter the drawing for a free copy of the book.  Put “Keeping the Feast” in the subject line, but please only request the book if you are interested in coming back for the  discussion.  Be sure it sounds like a book you’d enjoy.

Click here to read a full description of the book. Keeping the Feast will be in stores on February 18th, 2010, and the discussion will take place here in February – with the author participating ‘live’ for an hour!  I will post details for the discussion about a week before along with an email reminder to those who’ve won the book.

(Oh, and thank you to Sasha & the Silver Fish for reminding me to say that this is open to US/Canada residents only.  I apologize to our friends in other countries.)

I hope you’ll join us!

Book Review: When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a book I accidentally read twice.  Has anyone else ever had that kind of lightbulb moment, when things start to sound vaguely familiar?

For me that rarely happens because I generally get rid of my books after I’ve read them.  They go to friends or off to the library; I keep very few.  But for some reason I kept this one, and it only took 11 pages for that reading lighbulb to go on with a scene so vivid and visual and unforgettable that at first I wasn’t sure if I’d seen it in a movie or read it in a book (this book).  I had to read a little bit further to realize that yes, I’d read this before, probably when it first came out in 2002.

It is spring of 1942, in the early days of WWII.  Evacuation orders for over 100,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast have been posted.  Japanese AMERICANS who’ve done nothing wrong; who love baseball and school, who own stores and homes and little white dogs, whose only crime is their ancestry, are suddenly enemy aliens and ordered to leave their homes to reside in internment camps far away.

This book is about one family’s experiences.  Told in sparse, simple prose, it focuses on the small things, the quiet details.  It feels bare.  Direct.  Subtle.  Sad.

The first chapter is told from the mother’s perspective.  The father has been taken away for questioning late at night, months before.  Taken away in his slippers and his bathrobe, with the neighbors peering out from behind their curtains.

Now the mother (never named) is making careful and necessary preparations for the rest of the family to leave their home in Berkley, California, not to join the father but to be taken to a different place. She’s packing up the house, making painful decisions about the pets, waiting for the children to come home from school.  She doesn’t know where they are going or how long they’ll be gone or who will live in their home while they are away; she only knows that they have to go and can only bring what they can carry.

The next chapter is from the perspective of the eleven year old daughter, on the train and then later on a bus toward their destination in Utah.  It’s hot and they are bored, cranky, sad.  Their minds drift to other places.

The next two chapters are told by the 8 year old son/brother during the family’s time at camp and are filled with a kids view of the heat, the white dust, the cold, the hunger, the boredom, the thin walls, the cramped quarters, the lines, the barbed wire, the armed guards, the censored letters, the longing for old times, the wondering about friends at home.  Finally they do return home but things are not the same, will never be the same.

The very end of the book, after the father’s homecoming, is a political tirade that seemed unnecessary and tacked on.  The stark realities of the family’s experience and the injustice of it all is a potent enough political statement all by itself.

At 144 pages, When the Emperor Was Divine is an understated, extremely well written book with a poetic feel that pays close attention to detail and focuses more on feelings than on actual events during this painful and ugly period in our country’s history.

I loved this book and highly recommend it for anyone over the age of 12.  It’s a keeper.

Teaser Tuesday- November 24, 2009

Miz B and Teaser Tuesdays asks you to: Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page. Share with us two (2) sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

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My teaser comes from page 51 of When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka.  At 144 pages this is a minimalist story told by a young boy about his Japanese American family during WWII, when they are split up and sent to the internment camps.

My (step) grandparents were children during WWII and went to the camps with their families, so I have a personal interest in these kinds of stories.  I’m pre-reading this one to see if it would be ok for my 12 year old daughter to read.  So far, so good.  Here’s the teaser, from page 51:

“There was a window above the boy’s bed, and outside were the stars and the moon and the endless rows of black barracks all lined up in the sand.  In the distance, a wide empty field where nothing but sagebrush grew, then the fence and the high wooden towers.”