"The Christmas Sweater" by Glenn Beck

Read this one.

Just do it!

I absolutely love Glenn Beck and this book is on our shelves at work, so I finally picked it up and started reading it one day. But eventually I got tired of only getting through a few pages or a chapter every a couple of days, so I bought a copy and took it home. And I have to say...

This story is beautiful and amazing. It's a story based on people and experiences from Glenn's life, but isn't a story of an actual experience. If that makes sense at all. Eddie (aka Glenn as a boy) just wants a red Huffy for Christmas, but instead receives a sweater from his mother. And from there he learns the true meaning of Christmas and why it is important to love those around us.

This book is a new favorite and I really wish everyone would take the time to read it. I was so touched and want to share this gift with all of you. You're welcome to borrow my copy - that's just how much I want you to read it!


"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

We read "Jane Eyre" for my Literary Criticism class this semester and even though I had already read it (a few years ago), I really enjoyed it the second time through.

I like to think of Charlotte Bronte in the same terms as Jane Austen. Their books come from the same time period and although I've only read this one Bronte in comparison to several of Austen's, they have so many similarities.

"Jane Eyre" is romantic and captivating. Jane plays the role of "every woman" which is what I think makes her so appealing to female readers. She's a classic heroine and has bits of wisdom that I think I should apply in my own life. Like striving to be honest at all times and living according to a clear conscience. It is also a love story and a pretty powerful one at that!

I will admit that the Old English writing style can be a bit boring at times. I had a hard time getting through the first 100 pages or so the first time I read this one, and struggled the entire way through the second time since I already knew the ending and wasn't driven forward by the suspense. But if you haven't read it, give it a try. And don't give up if you're a little bored in the beginning. It gets better and hopefully you'll love it!

"Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine

"Ella Enchanted" is another childhood favorite! Like "Walk Two Moons," I've probably read "Ella" about a dozen times. I will admit that I still haven't seen the movie so I can't tell you how it relates, but I can tell you how much I love the book.

Ella is a classic Cinderella character, but with a little twist to the original story. Ella is cursed. She was given the gift of obedience as an infant by a well-meaning but hapless fairy. The "gift" however, creates more trial than blessing for Ella. She has to be obedient when given a command, so if someone told her to jump off a cliff... well you get the idea.

This might be my very favorite Cinderella story ever. It makes the classic fairytale princess seem real and even flawed. Ella is wonderful and I love reading about her over and over again. I think I read this book every year for a long time. It's been a while, but I read it again about a month ago and fell in love with Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother all over again. Not to mention Ella!

"Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech

Let's see if I can catch up on my book reviews a bit. How about one of my all-time favorites first?

My childhood friend Katie Casteel gave me my first (and only) copy of "Walk Two Moons" when I was eight or nine. At first I thought it was a little strange that she gave me a book for my birthday, but read it anyway and absolutely loved it! I can't tell you how many times I've read it since then. In 13 or 14 years I have probably read it 13 or 14 times. It is beautiful beyond words.

The story of Salamanca Tree Hiddle (yes, that is her name) is mysterious, heartwarming, and hilarious. Sal is a young girl looking for truth and direction in her life, which I think everyone can relate to. And I'm always surprised by how anxious I am to get to the end - as if the words on those well-loved pages might have changed since my last reading. And I'm always touched when the end comes. It doesn't matter how well I know what's coming. I'm always moved.

If that doesn't tell you that Creech is a fantastic writer, then I don't know what will. Read this one. It will always be one of my favorites and one that I always want to share! Let's see how many more readings I can get through before my book falls apart...


"Left to Tell" by Immaculee Ilibagiza

This book, "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust," is one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read. Immaculee lived through one of the worst genocides in the history of the world and, in my opinion, the most heartbreaking.

The Rwandan Genocide took place in 1994 when one of the three tribes in Rwanda rose up against another. One million Tutsi citizens were killed by their Hutu neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Immaculee tells her story in this book and shares how she made it through the terror and tragedy of that event by relying on her faith in God.

This book is beautiful. It is very graphic and absolutely heartwrenching, but in its pages, I developed a great love and appreciation for Immaculee and her family. My sister Kelly tried to get me to read this for months and months and I'm so glad I finally did. Just to see such beautiful faith and to truly feel the connection that this incredible woman has with God. I hope to be able to hug her, and her brother Damascene, as well as the rest of her family someday. And to thank her for sharing her story with me.

A dear friend of mine always tells me that he has a list of people that he wants to see first when he gets to the other side. I want to see Immaculee Ilibagiza if I don't have a chance to meet her in this life!


"My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult

As this movie just came out and the theatrical trailer looked great, I decided I'd better read the book before I allow myself to watch the movie. Unfortunately, all the copies at the library were checked out. So...

I bought a copy for myself at Borders on Tuesday. And finished reading all 400+ pages this morning.

Beautiful. I was so impressed by the reality of this novel. At times I forgot that it was a novel at all. Jodi Picoult did her research to make sure that all the medical lingo and situations were very true to real life. It was phenomenally written and even though EVERY book I read lately seems to have too much cursing in it, I would still recommend this one. I wonder what it is. Media, in every form, is becoming more and more corrupt. Regardless, this story is fantastic.

I'm looking forward to the movie. I want to see how it is presented on the big screen and I really, really hope they stay true to the book. I loved it, even if it was a little on the slow side. It's a very serious story, so I guess slow is the way to be. Slow, but beautiful. Laughter and tears. Thanks, Jodi Picoult!


"The Secret Life of Bees" on my TV

Good news, everyone. I finally indulged in the film version of "The Secret Life of Bees" and was very pleased with how the interpreted the book and played it out on my screen. They chose really great actors for each of the parts (except Neil, who was described as "the tallest black man I'd ever seen" in the book, but wasn't that tall in the movie) and they stayed true to so many important details. Like any other movie based on a book, there were various changes made to the story, but overall . . . great job, Hollywood!

Read the book first. Then watch the movie. Thanks, thanks, goodnight!


"The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch

This is one of the most moving books I have ever read. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon and was asked to give a "Last Lecture" to the students there. These lectures are meant to be an opportunity for the speaker to reflect on their life and to say what they might say if they were preparing for their own death. For Randy Pausch, though, this really was a final speech.

He was dying of cancer. And gave his Last Lecture with that in mind, but spoke of optimism and joy and accomplishing hopes and dreams. This book was compiled after his lecture and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. He presents so many little gems of wisdom and his positive attitude was an inspiration to me as I read about his life and the love he had for his family.

It's a quick read, so don't hesitate to pick it up. I've found that ALL I want to read lately is memoirs. I wonder if that means I should write mine someday... but I hope you enjoy this one!


"The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan

If I was going to recommend one book this year, Kelly Corrigan's memoir would be IT. It has been a long time since I have so completely fallen in love with not only the people in a story, but the way the story was written.

Kelly Corrigan is a breast cancer survivor and "The Middle Place" is her collection of memories from that battle, as well as from her childhood, adult years, and motherhood. I was completely hooked by the end of the first page and couldn't put it down until I finished - a very short time later.

Corrigan presents her story in such a real way. And it was so easy to become attached to each "character" and to laugh and cry along with them as they went through good times and bad. I was in tears through the story of her husband's proposal, couldn't stop laughing at her father's antics, and truly felt like I knew those people as if they were my own friends and family. I know I read this in March and that there is a lot more 2009 to come, but I really think that this will be my book of the year. If I could be as brilliant a storyteller as Kelly Corrigan... well then my work would be cut out for me, wouldn't it?

Word of warning to the rest of you: There is quite a lot of strong language in this book. I recommended it to my mother and she said, "I wish she didn't use the F word so much!" but I think next time I read it I'll go through with a black marker. And I really wouldn't let that drawback stop me from experiencing this wonderful story.

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

This was my first Sue Monk Kidd novel and I loved it! Now a "major motion picture" starring four amazing actresses, this is one of the most wonderful stories I have ever read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a moving and thought-provoking read.

I think the reason I loved it the most is because it shows that race should not be a barrier to love or companionship. A young, white girl born and raised in South Carolina (I think that's right... correct me if I mixed up my North and South!) finds herself living with four wonderful black women, each of whom is unique and special in their own way.

Just like any other story that truly takes me away, this one made me laugh and cry and love the characters for who they were and for what they were going through. I still haven't watched the movie (I wanted to read the book first), but I'm excited to see it, especially since Sophie Okonedo is in it. Kelly and I saw her on the London Underground last summer and she's one of my favorite actresses anywhere.

Read it first. Then come watch the movie with me!


Coming Soon

I know I'm behind, but I promise I'll soon be posting reviews for the following books:
  • "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd
  • "The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan
  • "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch
And I recently picked up several books that I want to read as soon as possible... in addition to the seventy zillion titles already on my "To Read" list. Don't worry. It'll happen. And I'll review.


"Dean & Me (A Love Story)" by Jerry Lewis

If I wasn't a fan of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis before, I definitely am now!

I just discovered that my boss had this book and was totally sucked in by the very first page. It changed my entire view of the comedic duo, but only for the better! There's something about getting to know the people playing characters in a play that makes the act just that much more enjoyable to watch.

Their story is an interesting one and I love the way that Jerry writes - as if he's having a conversation with you and telling you exactly what happened and how he felt about it. It's a very honest, down-to-earth representation of a pretty incredible journey. If you're a fan at all, I'd definitely recommend reading this one. Except for one thing...

There is a lot of swearing in this book. Not surprising coming from an Italian (Dean), a Jew (Jerry), all of New York and Hollywood, the mafia, and everything in between being thrown into the mix. Jerry writes things exactly as they happened - and exactly as they were spoken. If you can't handle reading that kind of language (it's pretty frequent), then you might just want to ask for a more extensive review of this one. But other than that!

Top notch! Five stars! Or at least four and three quarters . . . a quarter off for strong language. I think Jerry would approve!


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