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Monday, September 1, 2014

August Book Review

It's funny because in my first trimester of pregnancy, all I wanted to do was lay around, sleep, and watch TV. I didn't care about anything else. As I've neared my 3rd trimester (and am now in the 3rd), TV hasn't interested me at all. All I've really wanted to do is read. So, I read a lot this month. Here's my thoughts on what I read.

Confessions of a Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella

Book Description:
Becky Bloomwood has what most twenty-five-year-olds only dream of: a flat in London's trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season's must-haves. The only trouble is, she can't actually afford it --- not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Saving magazine not only bores her to tears, it doesn't pay much at all. Still, how can she resist that perfect pair of shoes? Or the divine silk blouse in the window of that ultra-trendy boutique? But lately Becky's been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank --- letters with large red sums she can't bear to read --- and they're getting ever harder to ignore. She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money. But none of her efforts succeeds. Her only consolation is to buy herself something ... just a little something ...Finally, a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life --- and the lives of those around her --- forever
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:
Lately, I've been reading a lot of Sophie Kinsella books. Some are fun, easy reads while others just don't live up to the "fun" heading in my opinion. This is one that I wasn't crazy about, yet I'm reading through the whole series for some reason. I guess I'm hoping one of them will be more enjoyable than the others. I find Becky difficult to like. I naive and silly over shopping can you be? Maybe I just don't understand addictive behavior. Also, in my opinion, a relationship between her and Luke didn't bloom naturally. I enjoyed the movie better (and that's rare for me to say!).

I grade it a C.

The Preacher's Daughter by Beverly Lewis
Book Description: 
Paradise, Pennsylvania, is likened to a little slice of heaven on earth...but for Annie Zook--the preacher's eldest daughter--it seems like a dead-end street. She is expected to join the Amish church, but at 20 she is "still deciding." Because of the strict rules that guide the Plain community, she must continually squelch her artistic passion, although it has become her solace.
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:I knew this book was a series when I started reading it and I honestly didn't expect to continue with the series. The book was okay, but overall just not very exciting. Then, things picked up in the end and I decided I needed to see what would happen in the next two books.

I grade it a B.

One Thousand White Women: The Journal of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

Book Description: 
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. 
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:This book has an interesting premise and I like how it's written as if it's really someone's journal. It makes it all seem more realistic. I also enjoy seeing more books that show how Native Americans have been mistreated throughout our history. It's a sad reality that needs to be told. It didn't have the happily ever after ending I was hoping for, but I appreciate books that don't take the easy way out.
I grade it an A.

The Undomesticated Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Book Description: 
Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership. Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they’ve hired a lawyer–and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope–and finds love–is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake. But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:

This is a Sophie Kinsella novel that I enjoyed more. It was fun, although very unrealistic. But what fun is reality sometimes? I wish the ending had provided a little more closure, though. I did like how the character grew and changed throughout the story. I think that always makes a story more enjoyable when you get to watch the character grow and learn.

I grade it a B.

Shopoholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella

Book Description: 
With her shopping excesses (somewhat) in check and her career as a TV financial guru thriving, Becky's biggest problem seems to be tearing her entrepreneur boyfriend, Luke, away from work for a romantic country weekend. And worse, figuring out how to pack light. But packing takes on a whole new meaning when Luke announces he's moving to New York for business--and he asks Becky to go with him! Before you can say "Prada sample sale," Becky has landed in the Big Apple, home of Park Avenue penthouses and luxury boutiques. Surely it's only a matter of time until she becomes an American TV celebrity, and she and Luke are the toast of Gotham society. Nothing can stand in their way, especially with Becky's bills miles away in London. But then an unexpected disaster threatens her career prospects, her relationship with Luke, and her available credit line! Shopaholic Takes Manhattan--but will she have to return it?
Book description and image via Goodreads 

My Review:
After the end of Confessions of a Shopoholic, you would have thought Becky had learned her lesson, but no. She's up to her same old tricks. This is only the second book and I'm bored with her antics already. I hope things change up a bit in the rest of the series. How many times can she naively overspend? Why doesn't someone get this girl some professional help?

I grade it a C.

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson

Book Description: 
Courtney Robertson joined season 16 of The Bachelor looking for love. A working model and newly single, Courtney fit the casting call: She was young, beautiful, and a natural in front of the cameras. Although she may have been there for all the right reasons, as the season unfolded and sparks began to fly something else was clear: She was not there to make friends. Courtney quickly became one of the biggest villains in Bachelor franchise history. She unapologetically pursued her man, steamrolled her competition, and broke the rules—including partaking in an illicit skinny-dip that sealed her proposal. Now, after a very public breakup with her Bachelor, Ben Flajnik, Courtney opens up and tells her own story—from her first loves to her first moments in the limo. She dishes on life before, during, and after the Bachelor, including Ben's romantic proposal to her on a Swiss mountaintop and the tabloid frenzy that continued after the cameras stopped rolling. For the first time ever, a former Bachelor contestant takes us along on her journey to find love and reveals that “happily ever after” isn't always what it seems. Complete with stories, tips, tricks, and advice from your favorite Bachelor alumni, and filled with all the juicy details Courtney fans and foes alike want to know, I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends is a must-read for every member of Bachelor nation.
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:
I stopped watching The Bachelor around 2009 with the whole Jason, Melissa, Molly debacle. That was just too much for me! So, I knew nothing about this woman. Of course, I'd heard of Ben who was the Bachelor when she was on as a contestant. You can't help but see the pictures splashed across the magazines and most recently, he'd been connected to Kris Jenner. Anyway, I read the book because I wanted that "behind the scenes" look at a reality TV show. That part of the book was very interesting to me and helped me give this book a higher grade. On the other hand, I found this woman very annoying. She definitely has no problem kissing and telling. She loved to name drop all the celebrities she's dated or slept with. She also likes to tell what they're like in bed among other private things. I love how in the beginning, she brags that she can count on only 3 hands the number of men she's slept with. Um...that's a lot.... Read this for the look at how reality TV is made and just suffer through the rest of her tidbits.

I grade it a B.

The Englisher by Beverly Lewis

Book Description:
The artistic daughter of the preacher, Annie Zook finds herself at a crossroads struggling to find her place in the Plain community. Her life becomes strangely intertwined with two outsiders--one a longtime pen pal, the other a forbidden love. 
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:This book continues the series after The Preacher's Daughter. I enjoy getting a look into the Amish culture. There are definitely things about their culture I don't understand and I didn't realize that they don't believe in having a personal relationship with Christ. I felt the same way I did with the first one, that a lot of the writing was boring. However, I was just curious enough that I wanted to see how it all would end.

I grade it a B.

The Brethren by Beverly Lewis

Book Description: 
Annie Zook, the Amish preacher's daughter, is caught between two worlds. Living with shunned friend Esther, Annie longs to return to her forbidden art and the idyllic days spent with Englisher Ben Martin, before her father ordered her never to see him again. Stunned when family secrets come to light, Ben determines to solve the mystery of his past. Will his future include Annie--or will the Brethren always stand between them? 
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:
This is the last book in the series, so everything is coming together. Throughout the series there were actually a lot of sub plots to keep up with. I see where they all connect, but I feel like the author could have dialed those back more or executed them better. You were constantly switching back and forth amongst characters and plots. A lot of things were actually left hanging at the end of the series and I would have liked to have seen those wrapped up better.

I grade it a B. 

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

Book Description: 
From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled—by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in the ways of refined society, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs...and their hearts.
Book description and image via Goodreads

My Review:
This is probably my favorite book I've read this month. It takes place in Asheville and in the Biltmore which I recently visited, so it was fun to be able to visualize the house better. It's also my favorite genre-historical fiction. This is also a Christian fiction book, but unlike many books in that genre-it's not overly cheesy. It's still very realistic. There were elements of romance and helping others. I will definitely be looking into more books by this author.

I grade it an A.

You can follow along with what I'm reading through Goodreads or check out my Bookshelf for more information on my rating system and book challenges I'm participating in.

Have you read any of these books? Have you read anything good lately that I should add to my to read list?

Friday, August 29, 2014

#SCSBC14 Recap

This challenge ends in a few days, so I thought I'd recap the books I read for it. Last summer,  I participated in and was one of the first finishers of the Semi Charmed Summer Book Challenge 2013. Then, I attempted to participate in the Autumn Book Challenge and failed miserably. These challenges are hosted by Megan at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. I like some of the changes that she recently made to the challenges. She now hosts less of them in a year and she has extended the time to complete the challenge.

When I set out on this challenge, I honestly didn't think I'd get this far. I didn't actually finish the challenge because I could never figure out a book to read that was published before I was born. The thing I liked about doing this challenge this year is that I didn't read anything I wasn't already planning to read. I just made the things I was reading fit into the categories. I also didn't let the challenge keep me from reading anything else that I wanted to read. So, these are not the only books I've read between May and August.  

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella (464 pages, 3 stars)
I didn't like this book as much as some other Sophie Kinsella novels I've read. I didn't find it as funny as it was promised to be. Longer review can be found here

10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
This is the one category I didn't find a book for. 

10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around. (You must have at least 150 pages left in the book to use it for this category.)
 Confessions of a Shopoholic by Sophie Kinsella (312 pages, 3 stars)
This is another category that I didn't think I'd find a book for. I have very few books I haven't finished and if I haven't finished them, I really have no desire to. Then, I remembered I started this book in college after seeing the movie, but couldn't get into it. After reading it, I enjoyed the movie better, but I'm still trying to get through the whole series. It's an easy read. Longer review coming up on Monday.

10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore.  
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (725 pages, 3 stars)
This was the final book in the Mortal Instruments series and overall I was disappointed. Instead of just focusing on ending this series, the author was trying to get you interested in reading her next series. Longer review can be found here

15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times' Best Sellers List when you begin reading it.
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (384 pages, 4 stars)
I have seen so many bloggers rage over Jojo Moyes, so I finally read one of her books and loved it. I will definitely be reading more. Longer review can be found here

15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus (434 pages, 4 stars)
I had seen a few bloggers who really enjoyed this book so I decided to read it too. It definitely was an interesting story and unlike anything I'd ever read before. Longer review coming Monday. 

15 points: Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge.  
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (349 pages, 4 stars)
I liked this one better than Gone Girl. The way the chapters are divided into different people's point of view and the past and present make it VERY hard to put down. Longer review here.

20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title.  
The Preacher's Daughter by Beverly Lewis (349 pages, 3 stars)
This book is a part of a series and at first I wasn't sure if I was going to finish the series. Then, something happened at the end that made it impossible for me not to see what would happen next. Longer review coming Monday. 

20 points: Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014. (Here are 16 ideas to get you started, but I know there are plenty more options.)  
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (333 pages, 2 stars)
I'm not really sure what to think of this book. It's definitely not one I'd go around recommending to people, but it wasn't awful either. Longer review here.

25 points: Read a book written by a blogger. 
Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel (289 pages, 2 stars) (blogs here)
I found the concept of this book very intriguing which is why I picked it up to read. However, I was disappointed with the execution. It was not what I thought it would be. Longer review here

25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson (262 pages, 3 stars)
I haven't watched the Bachelor or Bachelorette since about 2009, so I wasn't familiar with this person or her season on the Bachelor. Mainly, I read it because I was interested in getting a look at the making of a reality show. I liked that aspect of the book. Longer review coming Monday.
30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles.  
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella (435 pages, 4 stars) 
 I enjoyed this Kinsella novel better than the other ones I read for this challenge. It was silly and unrealistic, but it was fun. Longer review here.

and About a Boy by Nick Hornby (307 pages, 3 stars)
This book was more depressing that I had expected. I read it, but it wasn't really enjoyable. It was more that I just wanted to finish the book. Longer review here.

I'm also trying to complete a 50 State Challenge and A-Z Challenge. You can read more about my challenges here or you can follow me on Goodreads here.

Have you read any good books lately? I'm always looking to add to my to-read list.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Journey to Motherhood

A little over a year ago, I came across the blog Adoption Love and started following along. In that year, their family has adopted an adorable little girl and I've enjoyed reading their journey.

I even made two adorable ornaments for them last year during Ornaments for Adoption.

Kristen decided to host an Adoption link up so that adoptive families can "meet" and connect with one another.

Adoption Love

So, I know adoption is something I've written about on here a lot. However, I thought I'd give a recap or our journey and throughout, I'll link other posts I've written if anyone is interested in reading more details. 

Where did it begin?
I'd say it was early 2012, when God really began to work in my life and show me that there are a lot of hurting people in this world and I have the means to help them. Not only did I want to help them, but I learned that Scripture instructed me to help them. In March of that year, I read a book (Kisses from Katie) that really changed my life. Shortly after that while browsing on Pinterest, I was lead to a blog post about orphans and adoption. (I can't link the blog post because it is now private.) I remember sitting on my couch crying at the thought of all these children without families. God broke my heart and I wanted to do something to help. At the time, I was trying to start an Etsy business and decided to try and sell headbands to help an adoptive family raise money. This was very unsuccessful and I took it kind of hard, but it didn't stop me from wanting to help. I almost became obsessed with reading about adoptive families and orphans. I was donating money left and right to adopting families or buying the items they were selling to raise money.

Did we feel called to adopt?
For a while, I just focused on helping other families who were adopting. I didn't give it too much thought as something we would do. At this time, my husband was a part time youth pastor at a church that was about an hour drive from where we were living. Every Sunday, we did a lot of driving and had a lot of time to talk. I can remember driving to church and just kind of blurting out "I think we should adopt." I think I even surprised myself in saying this. Unknowingly, God had been working in both of our hearts through my new-found passion for adoption to lead us to consider adopting. We decided that we would adopt regardless of whether or not we were able to have biological children. Throughout the next year, God continued to work out this desire in our hearts and I have shared in the past why adoption is important to me and how adoption plays into my testimony.

As I mentioned, in early 2012 I had a failed attempt to raise money for an adopting family. Later that year, this idea hit me. I could make ornaments to sell and raise money for an adopting family. I liked this idea because it was a seasonal thing, so it wouldn't be overwhelming to take on. Plus, ornaments are something people are always buying. I first presented the idea in September 2012. I also decided to share an adoption related post every Monday while I was selling ornaments. Overall, the first year was a success. I revamped some things to make it better in 2013 and OFA 2013 was also successful. I'm not sure what will happen this year. I'm still thinking it through. 

When did we begin the adoption process?  
In summer 2013, my husband and I began discussing starting the adoption process ourselves. I admit, it took me a while to get started because I didn't really know where to start. We told our families in September what we were doing and we started the process in October by applying to the Children's Home Society. Our application was approved and we met our social worker within the next month. We had a few more paperwork things we could do, but due to the holidays coming up we wouldn't be able to do much else until early 2014. During that waiting time, we took care of some paperwork things. The CHS requires people adopting from foster care to take about 30 hours worth of classes as well as being CPR/1st aid certified. So, in February we began these classes and they pretty much consumed every Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as a few Saturdays. We were very busy. On top of that, we moved to a new apartment in order to have a second bedroom for our future child (or children). There was also a lot of snow this past winter, so school for me kept getting cancelled and some of our classes had to be cancelled and rescheduled.

Where are we now?
Along with everything else we were doing in February, we also conceived a child. After our classes at CHS were through, I noticed my period was late and took a pregnancy test at the very beginning of March. It was positive and I couldn't believe it. So, we had to put our adoption on hold for now. It is still something we hope to do one day. We also have begun talking about not only adopting, but becoming foster parents as well. For now, we're focusing on the November arrival of our little girl. Until the time is right for us, I will continue to be an advocate for orphans, children in foster care, and adoption. I hope once things settle down, we can go back to doing some volunteer work for a local organization that focuses on foster care adoption. I also want to continue to support adopting families through our own giving and through Ornaments for Adoption.

I'm also linking up here:

Leslyn's Lovely Life