Review: Little Princes

Why I picked it: I have been meaning to read/listen this book for a while, it’s been on my ipod for months.  I think I had it on my ipod when I traveled to Australia earlier this year….

Earlier this year I wrote a post explaining that I’m trying to find a way to pay it forward, this memoir makes me realize I can do more. I can’t pack up and move to Nepal but I can find a way to help. I will find a way.

Synopsis: One Person Can Make a Difference.  In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.

Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually become his wife and share his life’s work.

Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.

Type: Memoir

Quick Take: The author narrated the book and he made me want to keep walking/running, to hear more of his story. It’s amazing to hear how one person can make a difference.  Grennan starts the book explaining why he wanted to volunteer, he didn’t expect to have a connection to the children so quickly but they won him over.
This is a moving story about how one man is making a difference in the world.  Click here to learn more about Next Generation Nepal (photo source: NGN website).
It’s heartbreaking to read how the children become orphans but if you haven’t read this book, read it.  It’s an important story that everyone should read.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Audio (iTunes)
Country: Nepal
Challenge: Teresa’s Audiobook Challange, Devourer of Books Friday Audio Meme

Read more here at my website

Review: A Very Long Engagement

Why I picked it: I saw this novel listed on Ti’s (Book Chatter) book club list as an upcoming selection.  Her book club tends to read books that are much deeper/more serious than my book club so I was pleased to find a title that sounded interesting to me.

Synopsis: Set during and after the First World War, A Very Long Engagement tells the story of a young woman’s search for her fiancé, whom she believes might still be alive despite having officially been reported as “killed in the line of duty.” Unable to walk since childhood, fearless Mathilde Donnay is undeterred in her quest as she scours the country for information about five wounded French soldiers who were brutally abandoned by their own troops. A Very Long Engagement is a mystery, a love story, and an extraordinary portrait of life in France before and after the War.

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: A beautifully written story worth reading… just know that you will read the tale of a soldier’s last day about twenty times (letters from different soldiers).

I learned quite a bit while reading this book… how hard life was for families of the soldiers, the involvement of the French in WWI and the cruelty towards soldiers by their own countrymen. At the core of this story is a woman who is desperate to find out what happened to her fiance.  She’s been told he’s dead and sets out to discover exactly what happened to him.  She receives letters from men who claim to have witnessed the event, taking her on several journeys throughout the novel in hopes to discover what really happened.  This book is worth reading if you like historical fiction.  I didn’t see the ending coming, which is always a welcome surprise.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Audio (Library)
Country: France

Challenge: Teresa’s Audiobook Challenge

Read more

2011 – Paying it Forward

Until moving to New Jersey last summer my life had been in a state of flux for over two years. I didn’t know when I would moving or where I would be moving to but I knew I was moving somewhere.  I don’t have a sad story to share… but I can tell you that living life with the pause button pressed was mentally challenging at times.

With the move behind me and uncertainty gone I’m struggling to find the peace I was hoping for post move.  If I’m honest, I feel a little guilty to be lucky enough to live a blessed life and it’s time for me start giving back (even if it’s just a tiny step).

I have designated 2011 as my year to start paying it forward.  I have added a page to my blog where I will provide updates from time to time – don’t worry… I won’t preach/bore you with information but as 2010 comes to a close and my goal of running an Ultra Marathon is coming to an end I need to find a new focus.

After researching organizations to find the criteria important to me, I have found two that I want to support. The organizations below are grassroots/volunteer organizations – 90% of every dollar donated goes directly to the woman/community designated.

Women for Women International:  I am sponsoring a woman from Rwanda or the Diplomatic Republic of the Congo, I will introduce my ‘sister’ once I have her information. As part of this rewarding program I get to communicate with my sister after she learns to read and write – how exciting!

Mahila Partnership:  Angela (Mahila’s founder) is making the world a better place for women and children – I hope to start taking tiny steps in the same direction in 2011.

An example: while visiting Haiti shortly after the earthquake, Angela was told the local women didn’t have any personal hygiene items.  She delivered hygiene kits and coordinated the education needed to teach women how to turn a husk into a cloth type material.

Isn’t that amazing? Feel free to read more at my website at

Review: Hummingbirds

Why I picked it: Hummingbird’s is a TLC Book Tour selection.  This book sounded intriguing, a NYC prep school story that included the faculty and the secrets that surround an all girls school with a token male teacher.

Synopsis: A wonderfully compelling novel about the intertwining—and darkly surprising—relationships between the teachers and students at an all-girl prep school, Hummingbirds marks the debut of author Joshua Gaylord, a prep school teacher himself on New York City’s Upper East Side. Spanning a year at the Carmine-Casey School for Girls, this intimate private school community becomes tempestuous and dangerously incestuous as the rivalries and secrets of teachers and students interact, intersect, and eventually collide. Ultimately, Hummingbirds poses a fascinating question: who are the adults and who are the children?

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend – This may sound odd but this story reminded me of Glee, the storyline cirlces around Mr. Leo Binhammer and his female student Dixie Doyle but stops there. Dixie is the popular girl in school, has a crush on Binhammer and is a bit of snob.  Leo revels in knowing he is an icon at school (everyone loves him).  This book is hard to discuss without sharing plot twists (good twists) but I will tell you there are plenty of twists in the book to keep you wanting to know what will happen.

The story is mostly told from the adult/teachers vantage but with a good mix of teen girl mixed in for good measure.  It’s a story of many messed up lives but I confess I did enjoy reading it.

Click here to read an author Q&A with Helen’s Book Blog

Source: Thank you TLC Book Tours for supplying my review copy.  Click here for details of the Hummingbird’s book tour and to read more reviews.

Review: One Day

Why I picked it: I was looking for something new to listen to last week, after reading a blog that mentioned this book moved her to tears (supported by many comments) I thought this would be a good choice.

Synopsis: It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. They both know that the next day, after college graduation, they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. As the years go by, Dex and Em begin to lead separate lives lives very different from the people they once dreamed they’d become. And yet, unable to let go of that special something that grabbed onto them that first night, an extraordinary relationship develops between the two.

Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day July 15th of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

Quick Take: I’m just going to say it, here’s another book that I didn’t love/didn’t hate.  There are so many great books to read that I know I wouldn’t think to recommend this one to a busy friend.  This doesn’t mean its a bad book.

It’s a sad/lonely story about two people who have a strong connection but are not willing to take a risk.  Emma lacks self confidence and Dex is a bit of a creep, how they stay connected over two decades escapes me. Dex isn’t Emma’s type and she defines the relationship quickly, deciding to be friends.  There was a point in the story where I started to fall for the characters, when they go on vacation together, but the story took a different turn.  One I expected would happen in the book, just not that quickly.

I think the struggle I had was that the book takes place on/near July 15th over a twenty year time frame.  I just read a book following this format a month ago and I didn’t love that one either… so maybe it’s me (which is a fair observation).

Below you will find a few other bloggers reading this one:
Everyday I write the Book
Gerbera Daisy Diaries

Have you read this book?  Did you like it?

Source: Personal copy (iTunes audio)

Review: Goldengrove

Why I Picked It: I didn’t, actually. Young adult stories rarely appeal to me, which is quite ironic because I am a young adult. I don’t know, YA fiction stories usually seem to me as unrealistic, exaggerated, or overly dramatic. And I’m not even talking about the dystopian subgenre! Anyway, this book was recommended to me by a good friend, Camille, who loves YA fiction.

Synopsis: After the sudden death of her beloved older sister, thirteen-year-old Nico finds her life on New England’s idyllic Mirror Lake irrevocably altered. Left alone to grope toward understanding, she falls into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister’s boyfriend. Over one haunted summer, Nico faces that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them as she experiences the mystery of loss and recovery. Still, for all the darkness at its heart, Goldengrove is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of adolescence.

Type: Fiction, young adult

Quick Take: Well, it isn’t dystopian/science fiction, so I gave it a chance without really expecting anything. I love how it didn’t only revolve on Nico’s romance and the raging hormones surrounding adolescence. Many other themes were also touched, including grief and how to deal with it. I think this is a good read for teenagers.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Audiobook

Review: The Girls from Ames

About a month ago I was listening their interview with the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (Wiseman), the book behind the movie ‘Mean Girls’, and for some reason the thought that came to me was ‘I really need to read The Girls from Ames’. Just a random thought… a few hours later Lisa from TLC Book Tours emailed me to ask if I wanted to read this book for an upcoming book tour…. strange, but true.

This the second book I have read by Jeffrey Zaslow, I loved The Last Lecture and had high expectations for The Girls from Ames. Click through to the website for The Girls from Ames to watch a video clip, meet the girls and much more.

Type: Biography, 330 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis: As children, they formed a special bond, growing up in the small town of Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eighth different states, yet they managed to maintain an extraordinary friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, the death of a child, and the mysterious death of the eleventh member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the enduring, deep bonds of women as they experience life’s challenges, and the power of friendship to overcome even the most daunting odds.

The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. The Girls from Ames demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women’s lives-their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters-and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them. With both universal events and deeply personal moments, it’s a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.

Quick Take: Recommend – Be patient when you start this book.  There are eleven characters to meet and this takes a little bit of time.  It took about 50 pages for me to feel a connection to the women. Once I reached page 50 I started wishing that I had friends from my childhood in my life today, a group of women who knew me from the cry room at church.

When I finished reading this book I was a little sad, a good sad.  I don’t have a group of friends like this and found myself a little jealous from time to time.  Being from Minneapolis may have helped me connect to parts of the story, I am familiar with the cities mentioned, demographics and more.

Have you read this book?  Do you have any 20+ year friendships (are they acquaintances or close friends today)?

Source: Review Copy

Review: Men and Dogs

Why I picked it: I’ve always loved dogs, and while I don’t like men just as much (lol!) I decided to grab a copy of this book because of the mystery theme surrounding the story.

Synopsis: When Hannah Legare was eleven, her father went on a fishing trip in Charleston Harbor and never came back. And while most of the town and her family accepted Buzz’s disappearance, Hannah remained steadfastly convinced of his imminent return.

More than twenty years later, Hannah’s new life in San Francisco is unraveling. Her marriage is on the rocks; her business is bankrupt. After a disastrous attempt to win back her husband, she is shipped to her mother’s home to “rest up,” and she is once again sucked into the mystery of her missing father. Suspecting that those closest to her are keeping secrets — including Palmer, her emotionally closed, well-mannered brother, and Warren, the beautiful boyfriend she left behind — Hannah sets out on an uproarious, dangerous quest that will test the whole family’s concept of loyalty and faith.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I didn’t like this book. The protagonist, Hannah, is very unlikeable. I wasn’t able to find myself rooting for her, considering all the bad things she has done (including cheating on her husband!). The writing style is okay, but the story is disappointing. I ended up loving the supporting characters and hating the main character. One of the things that interested me in the beginning was the title of the book – and the cover, too – but after finishing the story, I realized how much of a let-down this was. I wouldn’t recommend it.


Rating: 1/5 star
Source: Library, audiobook

Review: Come Sunday

Come Sunday will be released in paperback late summer (August 2010). If you liked Change of Altitude (written by Anita Shreve) you will enjoy this book.

From authors website: Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.

By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California. For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.

She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.

Synopsis from Publishers Weekly: In her poignant first novel, former South African magazine editor Morley explores a mother’s grief. Abbe Deighton, part-time journalist and full-time wife and mother, finds herself living in Hawaii with her preacher husband, Greg, and precocious three-year-old daughter, Cleo, thousands of miles from her South African birthplace. Her flight from an abusive father and complicit mother is not accidental-her poet brother also fled to America-and when Cleo is killed in a car accident, Abbe re-examines the choices that have brought her so far from home. She and her husband become estranged as he turns to God and forgives the man who killed their daughter while Abbe descends into self-pity and anger at the unfairness of life. Their marriage suffers and Greg loses his job, forcing Abbe to turn homeward for financial help. Upon returning to South Africa, she confronts the ghosts of her family’s past and the reality of her homeland’s future. Morley convincingly depicts a grief-stricken woman without resorting to clichés, and though she telegraphs the resolution of Abbe’s plight early on, the storytelling, line by line, is rather beautiful. (June)

Type: Fiction, 336 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: This is a beautifully written story, written with such care. Abby is a sad woman who loses her daughter in the second chapter of this novel. Paralyzed with grief, her life begins to change and depending on the ‘situation’ she may or may not care to participate – she simply can’t function. The story is written with flashbacks which help Abby discover a family secret. The book leaves you satisfied and the end to perfect for this book.

Click here to watch a brief author video, read interviews and discussion questions.

Source: Review copy

Review: The Space Between Us

Why I Picked It: I had the sudden interest about Indian art and literature after seeing the Hindi film 3 Idiots. I chose this book because the characters appealed to me.

Synopsis: Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years.

Quick Take: Think, The Joy Luck Club, but set in India, and instead of mother-daughter relationships, this book tackles the differences between two women, not only in the socio-economical aspect, but also how that aspect has affected their personalities and outlook in life. I like how the book explored gender and class issues, and also enlightening the reader about the cultures being practiced in another country. It’s really a good read; I found myself having a hard time putting the book down once I got started. Although there are some flaws, it lies within the characters, and not with the story nor the writing style. I recommend it to you so you will understand, and appreciate on your own. I promise your time will be worth it.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Audiobook

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