Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge - Update

It's time for an update on the 2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge. This challenge is hosted by Book Journey. I created a Google map for this challenge, and I place a marker for each book I've read this year. If it's a book that doesn't have a specific location, I mark where the author is from.
Here is where my reading has taken me so far in 2012:

Texas - Six Weeks to Yehidah
Imperial, Nebraska - Heaven Is For Real
Colorado Springs, Colorado - What a Son Needs From His Dad
Austin, Texas - Out of the Spin Cycle
Salt Lake City, Utah - Timepiece
Franklin, Tennessee - The Total Money Makeover
San Francisco, California - The Bonesetter's Daughter
London, England - Postcards From Berlin
Gibraltar - The Alchemist
Columbia, South Carolina - The Secret Life of Bees

Where has your reading taken you this year?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Dream Home

I made such an awesome discovery today, I just had to share!!!

When I was little I lived in Des Moines, near Drake University where my dad was a student. We always lived in old houses, old bungalows, probably because they were cheap and close to campus. I particularly remember the last house we lived in. It had a large front porch, a big kitchen (well, it was big to a five-year-old), and the staircase had its own doorway. I had lots of fun playing in that house. I remember helping my mom take the laundry from upstairs all the way down to the basement. She would put the laundry in pillowcases, and then my sister and I would pretend we were Santa, dragging the pillowcases down the stairs and saying "Ho, ho, ho!"

If I could choose the exact house I wanted to build and live in forever, it would be that house. I also loved my gramma's house, another old bungalow with lots of character, but my house was the best! So tonight I was playing around online, looking at bungalow floor plans (yes, I am quite weird). Suddenly, I came upon this picture:

THIS IS MY HOUSE!!!! I looked over the floorplan meticulously and was so amazed to find it was exactly the same! My house was painted white, the roof was red-shingled, and we didn't have a fireplace. We also didn't have flowers strewn all over the place, but I sure would have loved that. Isn't it just darling?? Someday, maybe in heaven, I will live in this house once again. I guess you could say this is my Gibbee house.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Decluttering The Clutter

So today I started Operation TBR Reduction by sorting through ALL of my books on my shelves. My 4-year-old loved "helping" me stack the books. He and Buzz Lightyear made lots of "houses" among the books strewn all over the living room floor.

I entered every single book I haven't read into Goodreads, and then restacked them on my shelves. I was stunned to find I have seventy-seven books to read on my shelves. Ack!!! I also have another 20 books to get rid of shortly. Yes, I am truly committing heresy here by getting rid of books I haven't read yet, but it's only twenty.

Next, I went through all my ebooks, and added those to Goodreads as well. That brought my total list of titles to 155. Holy shamoley!! At this point, I feel like reading 155 books is completely not do-able, but I will not give up. This is an elephant's worth of books to "eat", but it's possible, one book at a time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Operation: TBR Reduction

Operation TBR Reduction Button

I found this challenge at Once Upon A Chapter, and I decided it's time to start reducing my own pile. My weekly meme Piling Up on Fridays is all about my virtual TBR pile - book titles I have found during the week that I want to read someday, but hardly any of them are books I've actually acquired. After reading about this challenge, I realized I need a whole new list for my physical TBR pile! 

Last summer I purchased a LARGE cabinet, called a "schrank" (it's German) and I have stuffed the thing full of my books. Some of them are my Gibbees that are never going away, but most of them are books that I've never even read. I have squirreled away books into every corner I can reach, and I've still got a few boxes of books in the garage that I try to forget are there.

I was just telling my mother today that I have a problem getting rid of books I've never read. It's almost sacrilegious to do so! (Bookaholic? Yeah, that's me.) Well, here's where the problem lies. If I keep acquiring books, but NEVER read them, and ethically forbid myself to get rid of them until I HAVE read them, well, I'm just in a crapload of trouble, aren't I???

So I'm going to participate in this challenge to reduce my physical TBR pile. My ultimate goal is to only have Gibbee books on my shelves, all of them read, and nothing else! As for my virtual TBR pile, I have made a goal to read at least one title every month. It's a start, and maybe when my physical TBR pile is under control, I can start tackling my virtual TBR pile (and let's not even start with my ebooks!)

*sigh* One day, one book at a time....

Happy reading everyone!

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night 2012

Would you like a free book?

This was my opening line tonight as I talked with a couple dozen people tonight for World Book Night. I stood outside the main entrance of my local mall, approaching total strangers as they left to go to their cars. Tonight I gave away 20 copies of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (a totally awesome book btw!) A couple people actually declined receiving a free book. No doubt they thought I was giving away some religious publication. A couple people who did take a copy of the book thought for a moment I was giving them a King James Bible! No, I told them, this is a New York Times bestselling novel. One lady I talked to said her mom was actually doing the same thing tonight in Washington D.C.  How awesome is that!
One thing that was interesting to see is most of the people who accepted the books were women. If I approached a family or a man & woman, it was the woman who stepped up to take the book. Maybe since I'm a woman, it was more socially comfortable for the men to step back and let the women talk with me. And since it is the mall, I naturally saw more women exiting the building than men, because who loves shopping more?
It took me just over ten minutes to give away 12 books at the mall. Wow! The rest of the 20 books I gave away earlier this evening at a Zumba class. Lots more women there too. I just put the books on the table, told everyone about World Book Night, and everyone flocked to the table.
I look forward to doing this again next year. I hope to find some other book givers in my area, because it would be more fun to give books away with friends.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Piling Up on Friday 4/20

This weekly meme is hosted here at Finding Your Gibbee. Feel free to play along, and post a link to your blog in the comments below. List all the books you have added to your To Be Read List this week. (These don't have to be titles you have actually purchased.)

This past week I've been trolling through Amazon's best seller list, looking for some free treasure. I was so happy to find two titles from my TBR list - Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner, and The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus. This week's Piling Up list includes some other free titles I found at Amazon.

The Witch Who Made Adjustments by Vera Nazarian
A humorous and deeply heartwarming fantasy novelette of a witch who may not be as "terrible" as she seems -- a witch who came into a turn-of-the-century town, just a few days before Halloween, and changed the lives of the entire populace, and especially young Tommy, a hardworking boy, and his impoverished family.

Blue Fall by B.B. Griffith
A routine investigation throws a hapless insurance agent down the rabbit hole, into a world where the rich and powerful place wagers on the greatest game on earth. They call it the Tournament. It offers competition without limits. It is beholden to no man, and constrained by no law, and it is extremely dangerous. But where does the true power lie in this World Cup of warfare? With those who place the bets, or with the deadly players themselves? And can one man expose the secret before they find him?

The Island of Ted by Jason Cunningham
Would you give up everything you know to find paradise? That's the question facing movie producer, Ted LaSalle. After a string of personal tragedies, Ted decides to leave it all behind and purchase his own island off the Philippine coast to escape from the evil and violence in the world around him. With technology as his only companion, will Ted find what he's looking for, or will his past follow him to paradise?

Malaika by Van Heerling
A middle-aged man with the crushing weight of his American past seeks peace and a simpler life in rural Kenya. Armed with only his smokes and coffee he discovers a friendship with the most unlikely of friends- a lioness he rightfully names Malaika (Angel in Swahili). But she is no ordinary lion nor is he an ordinary man. Between them they share a gift.  But not all embrace their bond and some seek to sever it. Discover this new world rich in human truth and sensibility.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

My current reads are —

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.     When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone
Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant
Fred and Elly Bulkington, newly arrived from Vermont having won a pub in a contest, encounter a wild, strange land shaped by the pounding storms of the North Atlantic, as well as the native resistance to strangers. As Fred revels in the life of a new pubowner, Elly takes the ferry out to a nearby island where anyone not born there is called a “blow-in.” To the disbelief of the locals, Elly devotes herself to open-water swimming, pushing herself to the limit and crossing unseen boundaries that drive her into the heart of the island’s troubles—the mysterious tragedy that shrouds its inhabitants and the dangerous feud between an enigmatic farmer and a powerful clan that has no use for outsiders. The poignant unraveling of a marriage, the fierce beauty of the natural world, the mysterious power of Irish lore, and the gripping story of strangers in a strange land rife with intrigue and violence—The Night Swimmer is a novel of myriad enchantments by a writer of extraordinary talent.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Secret Life of Bees book review

My rating = 5 stars - Gibbee!

From the book cover:
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina - a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I would like it much. It seemed like just another story about an abusive father and his rebellious daughter. But it soon turned into so much more than that. The heart of this story lies in the relationship between Lily Owens and August Boatwright, a beekeeper who takes Lily and Rosaleen in. August is the embodiment of pure love. She is nonjudgmental and very patient with Lily, and becomes a second mother to the girl. Lily has a lot of anger towards her father she needs to resolve in her heart, and unanswered questions about her mother she needs to face. August gives her the time and space to do this, wrapping Lily in a sweet blanket of acceptance, kindness and love. Within this "nest" August creates for Lily, the girl is able to successfully accept difficult lessons for any teenager to understand, and evolves into a more mature character by the book's end.

The one part of the book that was a little - well, weird for me - was the character of Black Mary. She's not a person in the story, but a statue that represents the Virgin Mary, and comes to be the embodiment of motherhood and personal strength to Lily. This statue is something of a religious idol for August, her sisters, and their circle of friends called the Daughters of Mary. Every Sunday August holds religious services in her home for this group of women, and the services center around the statue, with singing, dancing and touching the statue in very worshipful ways. It was hard at times for me to see more into these scenes than plain physical idol worshiping, which I am personally against. Throughout the book, Lily comes to find great personal meaning in Black Mary, which helps her character evolve into a more mature, accepting and forgiving young woman. But the physical worshiping of the statue was, again, just weird.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter book giveaway winner and some freebies!

The winner of the Easter Gibbee Giveaway is Robin Ford.  Congratulations!

To help celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior this Easter season, here are two wonderful freebies I want to share with you.

The Holy Bible - King James Version
Click here to request a free copy

The Holy Bible testifies of Jesus Christ and has influenced and sustained millions of His followers. It is a collection of sacred writings containing God’s revelations and accounts of His dealings with His children.

The Book of Mormon - another testament of Jesus Christ
Click here to request a free copy

The Book of Mormon is the word of God, like the Bible. It is Holy Scripture, with form and content similar to that of the Bible. Both books contain God's guidance as revealed to prophets as well as religious histories of different civilizations. While the Bible is written by and about the people in the land of Israel and surrounding areas, and takes place from the creation of the world until shortly after the death of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon contains the history and God’s dealings with the people who lived in the Americas between approximately 600 BC and 400 AD. The prophets in the Book of Mormon recorded God's dealings with His people, which were compiled by a prophet named Mormon onto gold plates. The Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, testifies that Jesus Christ is our divine Redeemer and that by living according to His gospel we can find peace in this life and eternal happiness in the life to come.

"And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever."
— Book of Mormon, Ether chapter 12 verse 41

Happy reading, everyone, and have a blessed Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Piling Up on Friday 4/6

This weekly meme is hosted here at Finding Your Gibbee. Feel free to play along, and post a link to your blog in the comments below. List all the books you have added to your To Be Read List this week. (These don't have to be titles you have actually purchased.)


It's April, and it's already starting to feel like summertime here in South Texas. Last month I finally got some garden bed frames made and put them in the backyard. I filled them with lots of dirt and compost and planted lots of different veggies. This morning it was so wonderful to see everything sprouting! Corn, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and watermelon all reaching up out of the ground towards the sunlight. Beautiful shades of green dazzling my eyes. Love it!

I also started some seedlings in February, and those are doing well in my garden too. Tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers and currant tomatoes are all thriving in their bed. Now I just have to wait and see what the Texas summer weather does. So far it looks like we're going to have a good amount of rain this season, but the temps are already getting to 90 degrees, so I think the hot, steamy summer may come early. Some of the heat/drought resistant varieties I plant always do well, like the tomatoes, but not everything. It's always a gamble when you plant a garden, especially down here.

And now for the books! I found lots of great treasures this week —

The Good Father by Noah Hawley
As the Chief of Rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian, Dr. Paul Allen's specialty is diagnosing patients with conflicting symptoms, patients other doctors have given up on. He lives a contented life in Westport with his second wife and their twin sons—hard won after a failed marriage earlier in his career that produced a son named Daniel. In the harrowing opening scene of this provocative and affecting novel, Dr. Allen is home with his family when a televised news report announces that the Democratic candidate for president has been shot at a rally, and his son Daniel is caught on video as the assassin.

The Tenth Saint by D.J. Nico
Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston makes an unusual discovery in the ancient Ethiopian mountain kingdom of Aksum—a sealed tomb with inscriptions in an obscure dialect. Along with her colleague, American anthropologist Daniel Madigan, she tries to identify the entombed man and translate the inscriptions. Tracking down clues in Addis Ababa and the monasteries of Lalibela, Sarah and Daniel uncover a codex in the subterranean library revealing the secret of the tomb—a set of prophecies about Earth’s final hours, written by a man hailed by Ethiopian mystics as Coptic Christianity’s 10th saint. Faced with violent opposition and left for dead in the heart of the Simien Mountains, Sarah and Daniel survive to journey to Paris, where they’re given a 14th-century letter describing the catastrophic events that will lead to the planet’s demise. Connecting the two discoveries, Sarah faces a deadly conspiracy to keep the secret buried in order to promote technological advances presently leading toward the prophesied end of the Earth.
Eye Lake by Tristan Hughes
Welcome to Crooked River, population 2,851 and falling.
Eli has lived in Crooked River his whole life, ever since he was born in the dead of winter with the cord wrapped around his neck nearly thirty years ago, and he knows better than anyone about that shrinking number. His father, uncle, and grandmother have all died, he didn't know his mother, and his grandfather, Clarence, founder of the town and eccentric builder of hotels and a now-underwater castle, walked to the river one day and never returned. Eli's childhood best friend, George, went missing, too, when they were kids, around the time his dad started going a little bonkers, and George was never seen again. Eli's always been obsessed with Clarence and George's disappearances. Now, while the town half-heartedly celebrates its centennial and the river, long ago diverted to make way for a mine, reclaims its original path, Eye Lake is vanishing day by day. As new tensions in town rise and the lake's water level drops, Clarence's castle—and his many secrets—begin to surface. But when another young boy goes missing, Eli's past and present collide.

Merely Dee by Marian Cheatham
The 1915 Western Electric Employee Picnic is the social highlight of the year in Cicero, Illinois. Five steamers wait to ferry seven thousand passengers to the picnic grounds in Michigan City, Indiana. As teenager Dee Pageau packs her picnic basket and prepares to board the SS Eastland, she anticipates this will be the best day of her life. Dee hopes to spend time with her best friend, Mae Koznecki-but she also wants to get to know Mae's handsome brother, Karel, a little better. Dee has no idea that in a matter of hours, tragedy will strike. Despite her mother's dark premonition that death awaits her if she boards the SS Eastland, Dee decides the risk is worth a chance for more time with Karel. Dee's excitement quickly turns to terror, though, when the ship capsizes at the dock, threatening the lives of everyone on board. Rescued from certain death-not once, but twice-by Karel and a mysterious stranger, Dee soon discovers that Mae is nowhere to be found. Dee can only sit back and wait to hear if she is trapped in the flooding bowels of the capsized ship or worse yet, dead. In this captivating historical tale, Dee takes a coming-of-age journey like no other as she soon realizes that surviving the disaster is only the beginning.

Growing Up Country by Carol Bodensteiner
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl delivers a treat as delicious as oatmeal cookies hot out of the oven - a memoir of a happy childhood. In charming and memorable vignettes, Carol Bodensteiner captures rural life in middle America, in the middle of the 20th Century. Bodensteiner grew up on a family-owned dairy farm in the 1950s, a time when a family could make a good living on 180 acres. In these pages you can step back and relish a time simple but not easy, a time innocent yet challenging. If you grew up in rural America, these stories will trigger your memories and your senses, releasing a wealth of stories of your own. If the rural Midwest is foreign territory to you, Carol s stories will invite you into a fascinating and disappearing world.

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a strong-willed, young Venetian woman, has followed her father in the path of medicine. She possesses a singleminded passion for the art of physick, even though, in 1590, the male-dominated establishment is reluctant to accept a woman doctor. So when her father disappears on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's own status in the Venetian medical society is threatened. Her father has left clues--beautiful, thoughtful, sometimes torrid, and often enigmatic letters from his travels as he researches his vast encyclopedia, The Book of DiseasesAfter ten years of missing his kindness, insight, and guidance, Gabriella decides to set off on a quest to find him--a daunting journey that will take her through great university cities, centers of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. Despite setbacks, wary strangers, and the menaces of the road, the young doctor bravely follows the clues to her lost father, all while taking notes on maladies and treating the ill to supplement her own work. Gorgeous and brilliantly written, and filled with details about science, medicine, food, and madness, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is an unforgettable debut.

My current read is:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd's ravishing debut novel has stolen the hearts of reviewers and readers alike with its strong, assured voice. Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the town's fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love--a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Alchemist book review

My rating = 4 stars

From  the cover –
An Andalusian shepherd boy dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the exotic markets of Tangiers and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him.

This book surprised me. I was expecting an adventure story, and while I did get that, I also got a book about becoming one with the earth, never giving up on your dreams and destiny, and the evolution of human character. The book is not divided up into chapters. Instead, it is told as one long narrative. It felt like I was reading a folk tale or something to that effect. There's quite a funny twist of events at the end too!

Postcards From Berlin book review

My rating = 4 stars

Catriona Lydgate is concerned because her daughter Daisy is sick - and isn't getting better. It doesn't help when letters start arriving from Berlin, stirring up memories of Cat's childhood that she would rather leave buried. Month after month, Cat takes her daughter to see several doctors, and none of them can figure out why Daisy is sick - unless her mother is making her sick. Suddenly Cat finds herself fighting the doctors and even her husband as she desperately tries to keep her daughter safe, find an answer to her illness, and hide her own childhood secrets that no one should know about.

Anyone who has ever had a child will love reading this book. The agony, fear, and suspense Cat Lydgate goes through for her daughter are so real and tangible. I enjoyed watching Cat's journey of accepting her past and who she was through her painting. At first she only draws and paints flowers, but as she confronts her past, her artwork begins to change too. I will say, I thought Cat's husband Richard was a jerk. Throughout the entire book, he just goes along with whatever the doctors say and think and never has a single independent thought about what could truly help his daughter get well. I don't think he ever suspects Cat of harming Daisy, but he sure doesn't help Cat get the answers she's looking for. Altogether, this is a fantastic book, a great story about a devoted mother, love and reconciliation.