Tuesday’s Title: Defending Jacob

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I recently shared with you how much I love my local library and, specifically, how much I love their e-book system!  We were on vacation with some friends, and I needed a book to read poolside.  I had my kindle with me, but all of my holds were still pending.  I logged onto Overdrive to start browsing.  I wanted a faster read: something that I could really dive into and potentially finish in a weekend. Luckily, Overdrive has a bunch of category suggestions.  One of these happened to be “books similar to The Girl On The Train.”  Now, The Girl On The Train has been on my “hold” list for months!  I was intrigued.  I read a couple summaries and decided to give one a try.  My choice:  Defending Jacob.

This book is considered a legal thriller, but I find that there is much more to the story than law and order.  This book will tug on your heartstrings.  And, now that I have a son of my own, I couldn’t help but imagine how I would handle such a situation.  A lot of internal struggle resulted, and then, a lot of relief flooded in when I remembered that we are far away from that possibility.  You see, the main character’s son is accused of a dreadful crime.  The evidence is damning and the town starts to turn against the boy.  What is a parent to do in this situation?  What is more important:  to protect one’s child or to bring justice?  Does one trust his or her child unquestionably or does one rely on physical evidence alone?  This book reminds us that there is more to every story than what appears on the surface.  And, for every accused criminal, there is a parent at home wondering what he or she did wrong and if he or she is to blame.  As I said, I experienced a lot of mom-guilt while reading this one.  But, I could not put it down!  Please, check out the e-book, find it the library, or buy it off amazon.  Such a suspenseful read with such a deep lesson.  This is much more than a who-done-it thriller.

My rating:  Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PM

As you can already see, I would totally recommend it.

I think I would put this on my list of re-reads in a couple years.  I think the lesson can be toned down to apply to more school playground altercations to be applicable to all age children.  As parents, we are often faced with a balancing act of protecting our children and teaching them to be self-sufficient in the ways of the world.  What happens when a playmate points his finger at your child:  do you automatically think your child did nothing wrong?  Do you automatically think your child is evil?  Or, do you first try to gather evidence as to how events actually occurred?  A balancing act, for sure.  You can find me answering “all of the above” on any given day!  For me, the takeaway was more of a parental lesson rather than how to create the perfect child.  Ultimately, we as parents are doing the best we can, and, at some point, our children will be required to take responsibility for their actions.  I do think this book has more to teach me about not only trusting my child, but trusting myself that I am doing the best I can.  

Defending Jacob 

Happy Reading!


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Tuesday’s Title: Book Ratings

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I’ve already shared how much I’m loving Goodreads these days!  It’s helping me stay on track with my reading goals so far this year simply because I want to update my progress and watch the slider move.  (This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  You already know how much I like to make lists, and especially, how much I like to check things off my lists. 😉 )  Each time I finish a book, I’m prompted to rate it and give a review.  That’s a lot of pressure!  I love to read, and I love to discuss the books I’ve read, but somehow putting a rating on it just seems so complicated.  It is really difficult for me to say I do not like a book.  Sure, there are books that I like more than others, but I think of books more as people who are coming in and out of my life:  they each have their place in time.  Some I may remember more strongly or more fondly, but just about every one has shaped me in some way. 

So, I figured if I’m going to start sharing books here, I should probably get more comfortable with rating them.  Part of the reason I started this blog in the first place was to get out of my comfort zone a bit.  Gotta keep pushing myself here.  When I mark a book as “finished” on Goodreads, the site prompts me to rate it and review it.  Goodreads uses a 5-star rating system:

   Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.32.52 PMDid not like it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.03 PMIt was ok

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.15 PMLiked it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.40 PMReally liked it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PMIt was amazing

Seems simple enough, but the tricky part with this generic rating system is that it doesn’t account for differences in literary style or subject.  It’s merely a factor of liking.  I guess that’s where the review comes into play, but I think there are a couple other classifications I would add to this rating system.  And, going forward on this blog, I will include them in my reviews. 

1) Would I read it again?  There are plenty of books that I liked or thought were just ok that I would love to read again.  Many classics fall into this category, mainly because I think the reason these books are considered classics is that they speak in so many different ways.  There are many books that I read in my high school English classes that I didn’t really connect with, but I would love to give these books another chance to see what message they have for me now.  Likewise, there are many amazing books that I’m not sure I would read again.  For me, they may hold a special place in my heart that I don’t want to taint.  Kind of like the concept of overselling or going back to a place that holds a special memory.  You will never experience it in the same way, and so, it will always fall short of your expectations going forward.  Better to just let the memory live on unspoiled.

2) Would I recommend it to others?  Because reading is such a personal experience to me, there are books that I think are amazing simply because of where I was (in time or place) when I read them.  Maybe I learned something about myself while reading a book, but the book itself didn’t necessarily offer profound wisdom.  In this case, it’s not the book that I remember, but what my brain registered as a result of reading the book that I take away.  In this case, I would not expect the book to have the same effect on another reader, and so, I may or may not recommend it as a must-read.  I really do think that everyone can take away some piece of wisdom or experience from just about any book.  It has more to do with the reader’s relationship WITH the book, than the book’s causal effect on the reader.  In a way, reading a book is more of a conversation, albeit a silent one, between the reader and the characters because the reader is always coloring the characters as a result of his or her own personal experiences.  For me, reading is the greatest teacher of empathy and one of the reasons reading to young children is so important.

I can’t wait to share my first review of my 2016 reading list next week!  Until then, happy reading!


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Tuesday’s Title: At the Library

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I rarely buy books.  There are several reasons: 1) They’re expensive; 2) They take up space (that we don’t really have!); 3) After about a week, they’ll be sitting on a shelf.  Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of books.  I buy the occasional book; if it’s a favorite, or a classic, or if I know that I’m going to want to revisit it.  I’ve received many as gifts.  (A GREAT gift, if you ever need an idea 😉 )  I also have plenty of books sitting on the shelves that are technically “borrowed” from family.  My mom is an avid reader.  She could easily read a book a day.  She has passed along many to me.  Usually, I can just go shopping in her bookshelves without ever having to visit Barnes & Noble.  But, I forget what she has or what I’ve already read of hers.  We also both have Kindles, but they are surprisingly difficult to share books through.  (I think Amazon definitely needs to work on this system.)  So, in lieu of buying and borrowing, I’ve reverted to the time honored tradition of: The Library!

When was the last time you set foot in a library?  For many of you, I’m sure it was college.  There might even be a few of you who have managed to avoid the library since high school.  But, let me tell you, you are missing out!  I LOVE the library!  I actually got my library card many years ago.  It was one of our first budgeting efforts after we became homeowners.  You can find just about anything at the library:  movies, books, magazines.  Atlanta-Fulton Public Library has a huge selection and many locations so you should always be able to find a convenient branch.  The branch I typically frequent is a little smaller, which I happen to like, but sometimes I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for in the branch.  Enter my favorite library service:  the hold.  That’s right, I can log onto my account at home, add the titles I want to read (or watch), select the branch where I’d like to pick it up, and wait for an email notification telling me it’s ready.  It’s awesome!  I’ve always loved this service, but I have to say, I love it even more now that Munchkin is in the picture.  There is no way he’s going to let me browse through the fiction and nonfiction sections, or at least, not quietly.  So, now we can spend all of our library time in the children’s section, and I can pick up my selections on the way out.  Plus, I don’t have to hope that my selection will be at the branch (although the online catalog will tell you which branches have the title available.)  Holds are especially valuable when it comes to the hot titles.  I believe I was number 150 on the list when I added The Girl On The Train about a year ago.  I had forgotten all about it until I received my notification email that it was ready for pickup.  Awesome!

Another great service the library offers is e-books.  These are available through the library’s Overdrive system.  Simply set up an account using your library card, and you have access to the library’s ebook catalog.  You can send them to your e-reader device.  Easy Peasy!   (Next week, I’m going to share with you a great e-book I recently finished!)  Now, similar to hard copies, the library has a set number of digital titles, so you may still have to wait for the newer titles.  But, again, you can set up a hold list for e-books, and you’ll be notified when it’s ready.  This service is great for traveling because I don’t have to guess how many books I’m going to read on vacation.  I can read either on my Kindle or my iPhone.  Definitely check it out if you like e-books!

Finally, the last reason I love the library applies to those of you with munchkins.  STORYTIME!  That’s right, our library offers a weekly Toddler Time.  The best part?  It’s FREE!  Most branches offer some sort of children’s activity.  Munchkin and I go every week to hear some stories, sing some songs, and make a craft.  Then, we hang out in the children’s section and flip through some more books before picking out one or two to bring home with us.  The librarians at our branch are amazing and love having the kiddos around.

If you’re looking for something fun to do this week, either with or without a little one in tow, check out your local library!  Or, at least visit the overdrive system!

Atlanta-Fulton public library system

Happy Reading!


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Tuesday’s Title: Goodreads

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In the theme of getting organized this year, I’ve returned to a great website that I used to use religiously to track books:  Goodreads.  I’m not sure why I let this one go, other than I just forgot.  It’s really a great resource, and I really wish it would expand to include movies and TV shows.  (Anyone want to develop that for me?!)

Goodreads is similar to other social media sites where you follow friends and share your own activity with your friends.  However, the best aspect in my opinion is simply being able to track books I want to read.  I’ve tried to keep track of so many handwritten lists over the years.  I started keeping a page in my bullet journal last year, but I could never seem to remember to write all the books down.  I’ve also been pinning plenty of suggested reads on my Pinterest board, but again, these just get lost.  I have SO MANY choices, and it’s just too difficult for me to organize them properly.  I just haven’t found anything better than Goodreads.

Other positives are being able to see what books your friends want to read and have read.  For the overachievers, there is also the option to rate and write reviews, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!  Goodreads also allows you to set a reading goal for the year.  I’ve been trying to carve out a little time at the end of the day for reading.  I used to be so good about this.  It really helps me sleep better to unplug for a bit before shuteye.  When I was pregnant, I used the time to read labor and delivery books, as well as get a jump start on parenting books.  But after Munchkin arrived, I used every ounce of free time to catch up on sleep.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love my sleep, so given the option between anything else, sleep always wins.  But, I’ve discovered that I just feel better when I make that little “me” time every day, and I’ve decided to make some fun reading a priority, too!  What a novel concept 😉

If you’re new to Goodreads, you can start by adding me as a friend!  You can get a sneak peak of what I’m reading. 😉


Happy Reading!


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Tuesday’s Title: Hubby in Colton’s Corner

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I didn’t intend to share children’s books two weeks in a row, but this post is too cute not to share.

One of my favorite parts of the day is listening to (sometimes paparazzi-stalking through the monitor) Hubby reading bedtime stories to Munchkin.  Our unofficial routine is for Hubby to handle bath and story time before I take over for the end of Munchkin’s bedtime routine.  I love that they get that one-on-one time at the end of the day.  (Munchkin much prefers Daddy for bath and story time; he’d play for hours if he could, but if I’m ever in charge, he just wants to rush through and get to bed.  Funny kid!)

Sometimes on the weekends, we’ll do family bath or story time.  This past weekend, we had Mémé and Far Far up for dinner.  We were a little later starting bedtime, so we decided to skip bath and have an abbreviated story time.  Usually, Hubby will read practically all of Munchkin’s books, but that night we opted for a “top four.”  These are the books Hubby chose.  😉

1. Llama Llama Hoppity-Hop

This book was gifted to us when Munchkin was first born.  It was a quick favorite and another one that was quickly committed to memory.  I would often go through the motions of the entire book, but even before Munchkin could clap his hands together, he would get excited about the last page.

Hubby’s Favorite Part:  When we read “Big hug now,” Munchkin gets a huge smile on his face and runs over for a hug.  It’s adorable!

llama llama hoppity-hop

2.  Barnyard Dance

Another Boynton favorite, this was actually part of Munchkin’s first Valentine’s Day gift.  We already had a couple of Boynton’s books and Munchkin seemed to enjoy books about animals, so this seemed to be a good pick.  He often claps and stamps at the beginning, but for some reason, he started adding his own motion to the end.

Hubby’s Favorite Part:  When we read “we’ll be back,” Munchkin waves and says, “Bye Bye.”  This was the first time I had seen him do this (I think it had been awhile since I’d read that book to him), and my heart melted a little.

Barnyard Dance

3.  On the Night You Were Born

When my sister was pregnant with my niece, the teachers at the school where she taught threw her a book shower.  The media specialist did a reading of this book.  I hadn’t heard it before, but I instantly loved it.  I knew I wanted to give it to Munchkin for his first birthday since we didn’t have it, yet.  It quickly became one of Hubby’s favorites.  (Hubby liked it so much that we picked out another Nancy Tillman book for part of Munchkin’s Christmas gift).  This one is now on the nightly wind-down rotation (along with number four)!

Hubby’s Favorite Part: it’s such a sweet way to tell Munchkin how special he is.

On the Night You Were Born

4.  Who Loves Colton

Ah, Pinterest!  You get me every time with your great ideas and homemade gifts.  I first saw pins for personalized board books before Munchkin was even born.  For his first Christmas, when he was 3 months old, we knew he didn’t need a lot of gifts.  We decided this would be a perfect gift, and we decided to write a story about all of his family members.  We came up with a rhyming verse, and picked out pictures of our family.  It is definitely well loved, but Pint Size Productions did a great job with a quality product.

Hubby’s Favorite Part: The whole thing!  This is always the last book Hubby reads to Munchkin.


Happy Reading!

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Tuesday’s Title: Colton’s Corner

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Let’s be honest: I’d like to say that I get through at least a chapter of “fun” reading every night, but the reality is that most pages I’m turning these days are made of cardboard.  It’s safe to say that Munchkin, so far, has inherited my love for books.  And, I love finding new titles to share with him just about as much as he enjoys hearing them.

Any parent knows that there are certain favorites among the *many* book baskets.  Munchkin has lots of favorites, and they tend to rotate week by week.  But, today, I wanted to share with you his first go-to.  I was unfamiliar with Sandra Boynton before having Munchkin, but she is definitely a standard when it comes to baby books.  All of her titles have catchy rhymes and a degree of humor that assures they are remembered.

We received Moo, Baa, La La La as a gift just after Munchkin was born.  I began reading it to him right away, and I soon had it memorized.  (I believe all of my memory space is now used to house children’s books!)  Anytime Munchkin was upset, I could recite this book, and he would immediately calm down.  If he was tired or hungry, all I had to utter was “A cow says,” and he would quiet down to listen.  Magic.  We still love this book, and I have a feeling that as he begins to use more words of his own, we’ll be able to expand it into interactive story time very easily.  If you’re not familiar with Boynton, please check out this book!

Moo, Baa, La La La

Moo, Baa, La La La

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday’s Title: The Essential Montessori

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As Munchkin is quickly growing and now closer to age 2 than 1, I find myself getting caught up in the mom bubble:  that scary place where I constantly compare myself to other moms and Munchkin to other kiddos.  It’s an exhausting place!  We live in a great neighborhood – one full of lots of young families with plenty of kids around Munchkin’s age.  But, with all of these park dates and play groups come the unavoidable comparisons in child development and, more importantly, child activities.

When Munchkin was born, I cannot tell you how many people commented on how lucky his birth date was in terms of the public school cut off date in Georgia.  I have not studied extensively in childhood education, but I keep coming across articles discussing boys slower development in comparison to girls.  Also, I have heard numerous times from “boy parents” how they wish they had held their sons back early in their education.  So, I’ve been of the mindset that I’m not in a huge rush to start Munchkin in any formal education program.  But, that was before I entered the mom bubble.

Starting probably around the time Munchkin turned 6 months, I began to get questions about Munchkin’s activity schedule.  While we are on the go a lot and are busy everyday, some days I do find myself wondering exactly WHAT we did to keep ourselves busy and have the day go by so quickly.  (Then, I look at our living room floor covered in toys, and I don’t have to wonder anymore 😉 )  The more I debated about activities and school programs, the more I realized how much Munchkin learns every day just by living and playing.  For now, I’ve decided that there will plenty of school days and performance tests in his future.  Right now, I just want to enjoy him learning about his world in a more informal setting.  I did decide to stay home with him for a reason, so I may as well soak up every minute before he grows up too quickly!

In all of the talk about activities and preschools with neighborhood moms, I kept hearing about the different options around us.  Most of the preschools around are more “play” focused, which I think is great.  One in particular is well known for its Montessori foundation, even going so far as sending its teachers to Italy for training.  For all I know, this is just a rumor going through mom circles, but I did become even more curious about this method.  I’ve heard a little about it from my mom here and there, but I wasn’t really familiar with the basics.  So, I decided to look into it to see if there was anything worth incorporating into our day-to-day routine.

I started my Montessori education with The Essential Montessori.  From the reviews, I gathered it to be a good starting point.  It did not disappoint.  Hainstock did a great job of summarizing Maria Montessori’s work and ideas.  This book does not give a lot of specific guidelines on how to incorporate the method into school or home life, but rather a good overview of why one would want to.  Along with the evolution of the method, Hainstock also includes a whole section of Montessori’s own writing, translated from Italian.  Unfortunately, Montessori is extremely verbose in her descriptions, and I found it difficult to get through.  I probably read the first part of the book in a day, but then I spent the rest of the week making my way through that one section.  Still, I’m excited to see how her methodology transfers to implementation.  I have a couple more Montessori books checked out from the library, and I can’t wait to crack them open.  If you’re at all curious about this education philosophy, I would highly recommend this book as an introduction.

The Essential Montessori

The Essential Montessori

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday’s Title: Heart of the Matter

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I have a confession to make.  I LOVE “chick lit.”  I know, I know.  You’re probably wondering how I could waste my time on such superficial content, but I much prefer a good beach read, which is another way I like to classify my quick-read books, over just about any reality TV show currently airing.  (I also love a good chick flick 😉 )  I always like to end my day with a chapter or two.  Hubby and I usually enjoy a show after Munchkin goes to bed, and then I’m ready to get in bed myself.  I’m sure my whole going-to-bed routine is awfully confusing to Hubby.  After confirming that we’re both ready to call it a night, he shuffles to the bedroom, slips under the covers and is usually out for the count in about five minutes.  I, on the other hand, get a glass of water on the way from the couch to the bed and go through my bathroom routine of washing my face, brushing my teeth, and taking my contacts out.  Then, I snuggle under the covers and open a good book.  

I have another confession to make.  I may be SLIGHTLY obsessed with Emily Giffin.  I read her first novel, Something Borrowed, years ago.  I remember my mom actually started reading it first and couldn’t get past the first chapter due to the premise of the entire novel.  I wondered what in the world could make my mom, who probably devours a book a night, put one down without finishing it, so I checked it out.  I ended up really enjoying the novel and told my mom she should give it another go.  But, I stopped there.  I meant to pick up another one of Giffin’s books, but somehow they kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.

Until. . . 

I was out for a dear friend’s bachelorette party in Atlanta.  One of HER friends is a huge Giffin fan and follows her on Facebook.  Turns out Giffin is an Atlanta resident!  Giffin posted a status update that day stating that she had plans to be at the very same restaurant where we would celebrating.  On a whim, this friend-of-my-friend commented about our festivities.  Long story short, she ended up taking a picture with the bachelorette group.  So cool!

I very quickly liked her Facebook page and decided to make my way through her novels – FINALLY!  And, the more I read her status updates, the more I became a fan.  While she moves in very different circles than I do in Atlanta, she seems so “real.”  I mean, I did meet her for about five minutes, so I can say that, right?  But, really, she has chickens, y’all.  In her backyard.  In Buckhead.  (Hubby and I joke about raising chickens in our backyard, but I’m afraid our fur baby would never allow that.)  She also shares a lot of her writing experience, which is fascinating to read.  Check out her page!

I started out by reading Something Borrowed again and have since been reading in chronological written order.  I just finished reading her fourth book:  Heart of the Matter.  I’ll be honest: this wasn’t my favorite Giffin novel.  While I was just a tad disappointed that the main theme of the book was another incident of infidelity (and even more disappointed in myself for actually rooting for “the other woman”), I still couldn’t put it down.  I did find myself identifying with the main character, Tess.  She’s my age. (GASP! Does anyone still watch Friends thinking that the characters are a good 10+ years older and then get really discouraged after realizing that they are the SAME AGE?  I feel the same way about book characters, no matter how old they are!)  She recently quit her job to stay home with her kids.  She is surrounded by neighborhood moms to whom she is constantly comparing herself.  I think this personal identification led me to like this particular novel more than I would have.  I also enjoyed how Giffin alternated chapters between the two main female characters, although I found it a little distracting that one character was shown through first person and the other third person view point.  It was an enjoyable, quick read, but I wouldn’t put it on my repeat list.

Heart of the Matter

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Most Memorable Books

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Have y’all seen the latest Facebook chain status update – the one asking for your top ten books? One of my friends tagged me in hers, which meant I had to come up with the ten books that have affected me or stayed with me through the years. This was so tough! I finally narrowed my list down to ten, but I wanted to share with you the reasons I chose them along with the other finalists that made the short list.

1. Eat, Pray, Love

It’s been a few years since I read Eat, Pray, Love, but I still vividly remember sitting in the front passenger seat in my jeep, probably on the way to the lake, reading as fast as I could.  I gobbled this book up!  There was something so intensely personal about this memoir.  While I couldn’t relate to the marital strife that precipitated her journey to eat, pray, and love her way around the world, I did feel a certain empathy with her identity crisis.  Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut and wish we could venture outside of our shells and the little bubbles of life we create for ourselves.  Hubby and I do love to travel, and it would be amazing to just hit pause on reality for an extended time to experience another life of sorts.  I can’t bear the thought of leaving behind our little fur baby for that long of a time, though, and a world tour would certainly be an adventure with our little munchkin in tow!  I think I’ll wait until I have that private jet fueled up.  Do I have any friends with a hook up?  😀


2. Pride and Prejudice

This has to be my favorite of the classics.  I re-read it all the time!  I have the eBook on my Kindle, and I always pick up in a different spot.  (The Kindle version is FREE on amazon!) Often, I’ll just read a chapter or two in between reading other books.  It’s nice to have that one familiar book that has a way of taking you home.  I always enjoy strong female characters, especially ones who speak their minds freely and eloquently.  (Maybe because I always wish I could say just what I mean in an instant.  I constantly replay situations and can always come up with 10 things I wish I had said!) I absolutely LOVE the film version featuring Keira Knightley, including the music.  I honestly have never seen the miniseries featuring Colin Firth, but I have it on my Amazon Instant Video Watchlist!


3. Jane Eyre

Another classic featuring a strong female protagonist.  I love the unusual storyline, with just a hint of mystery.  I’m a sucker for descriptive narratives.  I love to be able to envision the complete scene – what it looks and feels like, and how the particular situation came to be.  (If you know me, you know that’s exactly how I tell a story.  Some may call it long-winded; I call it setting the scene! 😉 )


4. Le Temps d’un Ouragan (Nights in Rodanthe)

This one has a special place in my heart.  I read this while on foreign study in Versailles.  I remember perusing the local bookstore for a “fun” read compared to the classical French literature we had been reading for class.  This was a shorter read, which was perfect since most of my free time was spent exploring.  But, we did spend a lot of time on trains and buses, so a book was a great way to pass the time.  And, a book en français, no less!  At this point in time, I was really missing Hubby.  This was by far the longest we had been apart since we started dating 6 years prior.  What better time to read a Nicholas Sparks novel in the City of Lights?!  (Afterthought:  Hubby knew I had read this book on foreign study and that it was special to me, although I’m sure he didn’t exactly understand why.  He surprised me with a movie night on Valentine’s Day just after it was released on DVD.  Yes, he’s a keeper!)


5. The Art of Racing in the Rain

I. Love. This. Book.  It’s an unexpected gem of a novel.  Written from the viewpoint of a dog, it just pulls at your heartstrings!  (My mom and I both started leaving the TV on for our dogs after reading it.)  Any dog lover will tell you that each dog has its own personality, but to consider that a dog has such complicated thoughts and emotions epitomizes the idea that a dog is man’s best friend.  It also reminded me that life is short, especially for our canine family members, so make the most of it!


6.  The Boxcar Children

I was a late reader.  I remember my mom hired a tutor for me before kindergarten (I think it was kindergarten?)  We sat out on the screened-in porch with workbook pages, and I flat out refused to read.  The next thing I remember is going to the library the summer after kindergarten.  I believe we were in the children’s section looking at picture books, and somehow I stumbled upon The Boxcar Children.  I think my mom looked at me with a little concern; “But, there are no pictures in this one.”  (There may be a couple of sketch drawings, but it is definitely NOT a picture book.)  Sure enough, I read it on my own and was instantly hooked!  It also became a fast-favorite with many of my friends, and we would definitely “play” Boxcar Children on the playground.  Is there any better compliment for a children’s writer than for your readers to imagine they are your characters?


7. A Cry in the Night

This was my first “real” book, as in adult fiction. If I remember correctly, I was having trouble sleeping and asked my mom for a “real book.” I remember her browsing through our built-in bookcases, trying to find something age-appropriate. (We were still living in Mountain Brook, so I hadn’t yet turned 10. Am I remembering this correctly? Those are definitely the bookcases I am picturing.)

Irrelevant details aside, this novel started a love affair with anything Mary Higgins Clark! (While A Cry In The Night is my most memorable MHC novel, All Around The Town is probably my favorite.) It also marked the beginning of sharing books with my mom.


8.  The Happiness Project

I actually read this book around the same time as Eat, Pray, Love.  I said before that I could empathize with Elizabeth Gilbert’s identity crisis.  In truth, I was going through somewhat of an identity crisis myself.  (I still have on my list to read Quarterlife Crisis; maybe I’ll get to it before I enter my own midlife crisis!)  I believe Gretchen Rubin said it best in this book: “I had everything I could possibly want – yet I was failing to appreciate it.”  That’s exactly what I was feeling.  Just like Rubin, I wasn’t depressed, but I was failing to notice all the everyday highs that make up a happy life.  I didn’t have to be falling apart to want to make myself better.  She inspired me to stop going through the motions per sé, and the book inspired me to do something I had always thought about:  start a blog!


9. In Defense of Food

I read this “manifesto” by accident.  I had ordered it for my boss at the time by his instruction.  I remember opening the package when it arrived at the office and being intrigued by the cover.  I had really just recently become interested in health and nutrition.  I had always been interested in food and eating well, but I was oblivious to the industry of food.  I knew that vegetables were healthy and cokes (yes, I’m from Atlanta; all sodas are cokes) were bad, but I didn’t know exactly why.  This book opened up a whole new world of eating to me.  I was fascinated to learn the history of how our food is marketed in this country; I was even more fascinated to learn how to see through these marketing ploys.  I spent one night devouring this book, and it literally changed the way I look at food.  For me, this is a definite must-read for anyone interested in controlling what goes into our bodies.


10.  Number the Stars

This book is another nostalgic pick.  I can’t remember what grade I was in (shocking, I know! I’m actually now guessing 4th grade. . .), but I read it for a book report.  We had to present symbolic items, and I remember practicing in our family room (the same one that housed the built-in bookshelves I mentioned above).  I was still dressed in my short-sleeved black leotard, having just gotten home from dance class, and I was wearing a gold necklace.  (Maybe the Samantha locket?  Seriously – do not ask me HOW I remember such trivial details.)  In this memory, I am pulling out objects from a brown grocery bag, and one of these objects is the Star of David.  I believe this is THE BOOK that started my obsession with the Holocaust.  Do not let the fact that this is juvenile fiction undermine its importance as an historical account.  Lois Lowry is an amazing writer!


And, now, the short list.  These are the titles that ALMOST made the cut 🙂

1. The Giver

As I said above, Lois Lowry is an amazing writer!  We read The Giver in my 8th grade English class.  This novel was so controversial at the time.  It is definitely a great read for any age!


2. Fifteen

This is purely a sentimental read.  I remember buying (rather, my parents buying) this book at a used bookstore we used to frequent when I was younger.  I can still picture this cover.  (I actually scrolled down on Amazon until I found the exact cover I remembered!)  I think it captures every young girl’s ideal of first love, as stereotypical as it may be.


3. Little Women

This was a hard one to cut from my final list.  I have always loved this story, and I loved reading Jo’s Boys and Little Men as well.  (I love a story that doesn’t seem to end!)  I received it as a Christmas gift, and I remember having it read to me before bed.  It continued to be a favorite of mine as I got older.  I was also a tiny bit obsessed with the movie version featuring Wynona Ryder and (gasp!) Christian Bale!  I feel this story evokes the young, optimistic girl in all of us.


4. A Wrinkle In Time

I’m really not into science fiction.  At all.  But, I was obsessed with A Wrinkle In Time!  There was something so realistic about this story that I could really picture myself in it.  Honestly, if I don’t feel like I’ve been a part of a story, it’s a waste of my time!  This also reminds me of Middle School English, and, for some reason, I always picture the school library when I think of it.


5. Crime and Punishment

I honestly don’t know why I like this book so much, but I always think of it when I think of favorite books.  There is a sadness to the writing of this novel, I think, that for some reason spoke to me.  I really should read it again as an adult.  (I really should read all of these again!)


6. A Tale of Two Cities

This has to be my favorite Dickens novel.  I think it’s the fact that it’s set in France.  Once again, I love the descriptions in Dickens’ writing.  I’m aware he’s not for everyone, but he is one of my favorites.  Great Expectations is a close second.


7. As Nature Made Him

I read this on summer break from Furman.  I want to say it was after my Freshman year.  I was pretty sure Sociology would be my major, and I wanted to read everything I could related to the idea of nature vs. nurture.  I found this book on the shelf at my local bookstore and decided to give it a try.  On a societal level, I very much believe in the role popular culture plays upon individuals.  However, the idea that a person could be trapped inside the wrong body is still very intriguing.  While I can’t say how I would handle such a situation with a child of my own, I’m still reminded of this book when I think of approaching gender stereotypes with children.


8. Night

If you haven’t read this account by Elie Wiesel, you must.  No question.  The small size of the book physically disguises the intensity of its message.  I gave face to Number the Stars because I believe it was the impetus behind my interest in World War II, but this book will change you.  (I’m suddenly remembering another book I read in Middle School related to World War II and the Holocaust.  If I can come up with the title, I’ll have to share that one as well.)


Happy Reading!






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