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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Amazing Reads: Powerful Books

My lovely friend Nichole of Butterscotch Sundae tagged me on Facebook asking me to share a list of ten books that have stuck with me or meant something to me. So I wrote a FB post that was kind of like a novel and decided that the best thing to do with it was to share it with my readers, as well.

So, if we're friends on Facebook, forgive me, but if we're not - I've got something new for you!

Some of these will be no surprise if you've been reading me for a while. I've reviewed a handful and some have shown up on lists before. It was really difficult to whittle the never-ending list of books I love down to just ten, and at the same time it was a little bit easier than I expected it to be. It might have been harder to get it down to my top four reads when I did that a few weeks ago.

Anyway, here goes. My top ten most powerful or touching or impactful reads of ever.

1. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

If you have not read this I really can't describe for you why it's impacted me so. It's one of the first books I recommend when someone asks for a new read.

2. Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
Amazing. Just absolutely amazing. Such powerful writing and story. You'll never forget it once you read it. The impact of this one has stayed with me over the years since I read it.

3. Still Alice, Lisa Genova
Lisa Genova has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Everything she has written that I have read I have loved. She might show up again down this list. This book is a fictional account of a woman with early onset Alzheimer's. If you've ever known someone with Alzheimer's you should read it. It's really spot on.

4. Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess
I've never laughed as hard as I have when reading this book. It's my go-to rec when someone wants something funny. Jenny's real - and her words take over - giving you an experience, not just a good read.

5. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

One of the few books I've read more than once. And have plans to read again. When I graduated from college I went through a classics phase. This was my first pick. It is just a story that sticks with you. I have not seen the movie and really don't have an interest in doing so. Also? Something about this cover has stayed with me for years. (And I do mean years!)

6. Handle With Care, Jodi Picoult
I'm a fan of her books, and honestly, it'd be easy for me to go with My Sister's Keeper here, which I did love (and did see the movie - a long time later, but I was curious!), but Handle With Care is a book where the ending freaking sticks with me and comes back to make me think about it at the most random times. So while that's Picoult's norm, an ending with a twist, this was beyond that.

7. Room, Emma Donoghue
This is sometimes called a controversial read. But it was such a great one. I read it in one day. Almost one sitting, because I couldn't put it down. I want to say it might be remembered as one of the best books of our "generation," but I don't know if I can take it that far.

8. The Pocket Therapist, Therese J. Borchard
I've read this book several times. It's a fantastic reminder of how we need to take care of ourselves. Some of the points made are truly obvious, but having them on paper in front of me makes them more real. I'm definitely a fan.

9. The Passage, Justin Cronin

This book is over 1000 pages. Yes. You read that right. One. Thousand. And guess what? It's part one of three. Damn it. I don't do trilogies. But I finished these thousand+ pages before I knew it was part one. GAH! It stuck with me enough that I have part two at the ready, I just haven't started it yet (I only bought it a few months ago - cut me some slack, eh?).

And now - number ten. It's too hard. I can't decide between Dan Brown or Kahled Hosseini (probably incomparable - and yet) or Sarah Addison Allen (I read ALL of her books). I also contemplated adding Kelly Corrigan, because The Middle Place deserves a spot here, as well.

10. The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown
Why did I pick this one? I don't know. I mean, I do, but I don't. I think it's because it was the big winner of all of his books. The one that introduced me to him. The one I kind of quote and make references to sometimes. The one that made me read Angels & Demons. And so, there you have it.

So - what do you think, my reading friends? Do you have a list of your own? Feel free to leave me some suggestions in the comments!

* There are affiliate links scattered throughout this post (and below!). *

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Help Light The Night For Kids with Cancer! #LLSLTN

* This post is a part of the Light The Night campaign. I have been hired as an ambassador for this campaign. All expressed content in this post is strictly my own. * 

Have you heard of Light The Night? It's an event that is coordinated by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in support of raising money to help eradicate cancer. More specifically, blood cancers.

One aspect of this campaign is maintaining a focus on children's cancers. LLS states that Leukemia is the most common cancer impacting children and adolescents aged 20 and younger. Think of the children in your family. At this time in their lives many of them are getting ready to start a new school year. They're looking forward to meet the teacher events and packing up their school supplies.

The children battling blood cancers don't have that same somewhat seamless transition from summer camp to the school year. Their months, their days, minutes - all of these are focused on treatment and fighting the illness that is attacking them from within.

This year Sylvan Learning is partnering with LLS through Light The Night, with a commitment to raising over $250K for the cause. That's TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! Amazing!

Sylvan Learning has also committed to contribute more than 12,000 hours of free tutoring services for children with blood cancer as they transition back to school after (and during) treatment.

Unfortunately I know too many people whose children have battled Leukemia and fought a strong and hearty fight. The impact that this illness has on families is beyond description. Simply beyond words. I've seen children have their heads shaved as they faced treatment. Children who were alienated from friends to keep them safe from possible infection or other illness. Siblings who watched as parents and brothers, sisters, fought an exhausting fight.

This effort by Sylvan is a tremendous one. The assistance that will be provided to these kids (sorry, adolescents, to me you guys are kids, too!) is going to be such a huge help.

But Sylvan and LLS want us to help, too. There are many Light The Night events happening across the map. I know in the Triangle area alone there are Raleigh/Durham events scheduled for September and October. There are several more scattered across North Carolina and the entire US, stretching into Canada, as well.

Please consider registering for an event near you today. It's family-friendly, so you can bring the kids along, invite the neighbors to join you and create an incredible combined effort to put an end to this horrible illness. Sylvan's efforts are incredible. Amazing. Inspiring. But they cannot do this alone. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society needs our help. Your help. Please spread the word.

* Disclaimer reminder: This post is a part of the Light The Night campaign. I have been hired as an ambassador for this campaign. All expressed content in this post is strictly my own. * 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Butternut Summer, Mary McNear ~ Book review

* I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review. 
I was not compensated in any way for publishing this review.  
Please note that there are affiliate links throughout this post. *

Butternut Summer was the perfect summer read. 

Not too intense. Not too heavy. Not too flaky (yes, I know, sometimes a flaky beach read is just what you want - other times - not so much).

The story slipped back and forth between Daisy - a twenty-something on summer break from college - to her mom, Caroline - a forty-something trying to keep her head above water. 

It's interesting, because as I started reading I thought, oh, cute. Daisy. In her 20s. It's probably been a while since I've read a book about a young character. And then I kept reading and I met her mom. And I was thinking, hmmn. I think I can relate to the mom more than I can to the daughter, although my daughter is only seven. But still ...

And how well I could tell, as Caroline is about my age. 

So I could totally relate. But I also couldn't. Her daughter was in her 20s. Mine is 7. She's a divorced single mom. I'm a married mom. She runs her family restaurant full time and lives right upstairs. I'm a SAHM/part-time social worker who lives and works in my home. 

And yet. 

I still enjoyed getting to know these two characters. I also enjoyed meeting Caroline's ex, Daisy's father Jack. It was nice to meet him through both of these women's eyes, and then on his own, as well. That was part of what I truly enjoyed about this book. That we got to see the story and learn about everyone through each character's perspective. 

That aspect was most clear when we met Will, Daisy's eventual like/love interest. *This is where I would insert the wink!* Getting to know Will from his own words and watching as he shared his connection with Daisy while hearing hers, as well, was something that worked for me. 

I love those kinds of books, as a rule. So this was no exception. 

I'll admit that the way the story wrapped up was kind of predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. 

So consider ordering your Kindle copy of Butternut Summer today. 

Or order Butternut Summer in paperback for a few dollars more.

* Thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy of this book to facilitate my review. 
I was not compensated in any way and all opinions expressed here are completely my own. 
Please note that there are affiliate links throughout this post. *

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Conquering Shame and Codependency, Darlene Lancer ~ book review

* I received this book from TLC Book Tours to facilitate my review. I was not compensated for this post in any way and all expressed opinions are strictly my own. *

Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You was an interesting title that grabbed my attention. While I don't find that I have many issues, personally, with shame or codependency, I do feel that when books like this one cross my path I should read it to assist me on my own journey of helping others through their lives.

That probably sounds a little bit jumbled.

Basically, as a social worker I look to others to share their research, experience and understanding of things that impact people I might have as future clients.

And so, I volunteered to read Ms. Lancer's book.

Ms. Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and no doubt has seen many an individual impacted by both, shame and codependency, and seen their relationships affected by both, as well. I looked forward to hearing her take on all of this.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the comparison between healthy relationships and codependent ones. This information is displayed in a table that is titled, Progression of Love. And how true that is. You can watch the issues start from the get-go in a codependent relationship. It's so easy to say things have changed and made things "this way," but often reflection will show that there was some anxiety or detail there that was overlooked until it escalated.

I think one of the most important things to remember is that while we frequently determine just how we value ourselves based on our relationships and whether or not they succeed, it's critical that we take care of and remember to value ourselves first.

The indicated eight steps inside this book are a great way to get moving on the path to recognizing who we are and how to stay true to that.

1. Find your true self.

2. Uncover your shame.

3. Find your shame's roots.

4. Disarm your shame.

5. Confront your shame.

6. Share your shame.

7. Build your self-esteem.

8. Love yourself.

I probably could have simply posted these eight steps and encouraged you to pick up the book, but I hope that my insight and intro was enough. This book is a self-help book, a resource for clinicians and a good reminder to take care of ourselves.

This review is a bit choppy, I'm aware. I had to make some edits because my words just sort of jumbled in regards to mental health in recent news. So, I remind you, on today, of all days, it's important to remember that we matter. And we deserve love. To be loved. To love ourselves. So take the time to do that. Unleash the shame and move forward.

* I received this book from TLC Book Tours to facilitate my review. I was not compensated for this post in any way and all expressed opinions are strictly my own. *

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lacking. And yet ...

My motivation is lacking.

I just don't feel like I have anything to write.

And yet. I'm slightly motivated when it comes to anywhere but here.

I've submitted to Scary Mommy and been - wait for it - ACCEPTED.

Wait, wait again ...


The first post was a bit controversial.

I wrote about letting my daughter wear a bikini. At age 7. And yes. I mean a bikini. Not a tankini.

So, the bikini question was hoppin' over at Jill's site. And on Facebook. And over and over again.

My second post over there was more laid back. More easy-going, I guess.

I wrote about prepping for back-to-school. Some tips on how to survive your before school mornings. A nice list that, if I do say so myself, was kind of funny in some places. It was a hit, too. Honestly, I think anything Scary Mommy touches succeeds. Or it seems so. Fortunately she also comes across as a real person and THAT? I LOVE!

I've also been pretty busy over at SITS.

My most recent post gives you recommendations on what you need to pack for a blog conference.

And if you've never been, or even if you have, trust me, you'll want to read it. It's a straightforward look at some of the important items. Critical ones, even.

Another post I'm really proud of that went live on SITS a few weeks back covers why supporting your fellow bloggers is good for you.  And it is. Really.

So while I normally do my amazing reads post, I also try to do social media shares for friends and find the posts and reads that resonate the most with me that I just must pass along.

Anyway, that's pretty much where I am right now. So I'm here, of course, writing about life and loss and love ... and books (new review coming tomorrow), of course! Oh, and speaking of, you can enter to win a copy of The Virtues of Oxygen on my review post. That giveaway will be live for the next few days. All you have to do is leave me a comment. And it's worth an entry. Promise. It was a really good read.

Oh! And stay tuned for a post on the Light the Night Walk that will update you with loads of info on how you can participate to raise funds to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.