Tuesday, 29 April 2014

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

Dewey Read-a-thon Update: (Yes I know I'm giving my update two days later. lol) I read this book from 8:30 pm to 10 pm and 12:15 am to 3:50 am.

Book Description from Amazon
This is the story of Charley, a child of divorce who is always forced to choose between his mother and his father. He grows into a man and starts a family of his own. But one fateful weekend, he leaves his mother to secretly be with his father--and she dies while he is gone. This haunts him for years. It unravels his own young family. It leads him to depression and drunkenness. One night, he decides to take his life. But somewhere between this world and the next, he encounters his mother again, in their hometown, and gets to spend one last day with her--the day he missed and always wished he'd had. He asks the questions many of us yearn to ask, the questions we never ask while our parents are alive. By the end of this magical day, Charley discovers how little he really knew about his mother, the secret of how her love saved their family, and how deeply he wants the second chance to save his own.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is one of my favorite books of all time. Just when I thought one guy could only have on vision of the afterlife, he comes up with For One More Day.

Charles "Chick" Benetto is grief stricken after his mother Pauline dies. Not only does he miss her but he also feels immense guilt for favoring his father for most of his life. It's not entirely Charles' fault. His father told him, "You can be a mama's boy or daddy's boy but you can't be both." He spent his whole life not understanding why his parents divorced, why his father disappeared, and why neither of the them are willing to talk about it.
He deals with his pain by drinking but after alcoholism destroys his life and his only daughter refuses to invite him to her wedding, he feels he has nothing live for. He decides to attempt suicide. However, you are told from the beginning of the story that he lived. So after jumping off a water tower to his death, you aren't sure if he's dreaming, in a coma, or just why he's seeing his dead mother.
Not only does he see her, it's as if she never died and is carrying on her daily life. Charles decides to accompany her throughout her day and he learns things about her that he never understood when he was younger. Throughout the story he also tells in flashbacks what happened when is parents divorced and how it has affected him his entire life.
Throughout the story you are given clues on just why his dead mother has appeared. Don't worry I won't be giving any spoilers here. The book is ultimately about self forgiveness and how as children (even adult children) we don't always understand our parents.
I only have one complaint about the book. Quotes like the following are throughout the book:

The character of Charles naively assumes that everyone has the same sort of relationship with their mother that he did. I found quotes like these to extremely triggering. I didn't grow up with my mother and have a rather difficult (but not unloving) relationship with her. I was raised by my grandparents so many of the quotes triggered that anger and sadness of not having a mother around growing up.

Still I found the book addressed the parent-child relationship in a unique way. I think it is especially a great read for anyone with father issues, who recently lost their mother, that is an alcoholic, or a recovering alcholic.

My rating Photobucket

I'm going to watch the movie and will have a review of the movie up soon.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Secret Circle: The Initiation by L.J. Smith (Spoiler Warning)

Dewey's Read-a-thon Check-in: I read The Initiation which was an ebook and had 268 pages. I started at 12;45 pm and ended at 6:20 pm.(Note this ebook also has book two titled The Captive Part 1) Oh and I loved reading it as an ebook! I thought I would hate it but I have carpal tunnel and I didn't have to grip the book. I could just rest it on my thighs and have both hands free.

My Review
I hate to write reviews that have spoilers but with this book it's hard to review it without giving some away. So if you don't want any spoilers, please turn back now.

While at her summer home in Cape Cod, Cassie meets a strange boy who can read minds and whom she falls instantly in love with and believes she is destined to be with. She also spontaneously remembers a spell from her memory or a past life while out on pier. Did the boy set off her newfound powers or is just a really contrived coincidence?

Cassie then learns that she is not going to be returning home but her mother is taking her to stay with her grandmother in a town called...wait for it...New Salem. She can't stop thinking about how much her crone of a grandmother looks like an ugly witch. Come on L.J. Smith! Was the cliche of an old ugly witch, wart and all really necessary? You lost a bit of credibility there with that cliche. (Actually the entire novel reeks of cheese.)

There she meets a gang of nasty girls that are led by a girl name Faye that bully her but is saved by a girl she has admired from afar and wants to get to know named Diana. This girl befriends her and she discovers that the bullies and Diana are all actually part of a mysterious "Club." The girls show off their strange powers and Cassie soon suspects that they are witches. There is an opening in "The Club" aka The Secret Circle and Cassie wants nothing more to be chosen to join. There's an opening because the girl who was supposed to be chosen is murdered. Dun dun dunnn! The witches suspect it was done by an Outsider aka a Muggle. (L.J. Smith does not actually use the term "muggle." Cassie is also half muggle so I wonder if that plays a part in the series.) All the adults in the town think the girl's death was just an unfortunate accident.

Well actually Cassie does want something more. She wants to meet the strange boy she fell in love with who turns out to be her new best friend's boyfriend! This was sooo obvious the moment Diana said her boyfriend "was away." Cassie spends all her time feeling sorry for herself and neurotically obsessing about needing to belong. She latches herself onto Diana in a way that makes me cringe. Diana will protect me! I can get through anything as long as Diana is there! It's not healthy. Not at all.

All the girls (the nasty ones and Diana and her friends) in the Circle know that Cassie is actually a hereditary witch and spend about 5 seconds mourning the death of their friend (And sister. Two boys in the Circle were her older brothers.) before deciding to initiate Cassie. They are so grateful that she has moved there so the Circle can be completed. Isn't it just a contrived...I mean amazing coincidence that there's a spare witch when one gets offed? Lucky them. They then explain Cassie's heritage and how the original witches of Salem escaped and moved to a town where they would be safe. Outsiders only live there because witches allow them to.

After the initiation Adam suddenly returns and Cassie realizes who he is and is devastated. She decides to keep her crush a secret. David has finally found one of the original Salem witches tools called the lost Master Tools. It's a crystal skull that was used by an evil witch named Black John who was a leader of the original coven. Faye wants to "activate" the skull but Diana the temporary leader refuses because it's too dangerous. However, Faye wants to be the permanent leader of the Circle and blackmails her into doing a ritual with the skull. The ritual accidentally releases an evil entity (hello, setup for the antagonist in the next book) and causes the group to disagree about how to handle what has happened.

Worried that an Outsider might attempt to kill them too, they all travel in pairs and Adam is told by Diana to walk Cassie home after the ritual. Cassie has been avoiding Adam because she feels pretty guilty about being in love with her best friends guy (whom she's known for what, two days?) Now Cassie and Adam are unable to avoid each other. One thing leads to another...then yada yada yada...Adam realizes he's in love with Cassie too and makes out with her. Both decide they don't want to betray Diana and vow never to be involved again.

But this just isn't any vow. They make a blood pact with the Powers (elements) that if they break their vow that they will be cursed. The curse says "fire burn me, air smother me, earth swallow me, and water cover my grave." Oh for goodness sakes, I've never found the melodramatic death of Romeo and Juliet believable and that was written by Shakespeare! This is quite possibly the most melodramatic guilt trip I have ever read in my life. I know they're teenagers but may the universe strike me dead if I kiss my best friend's boyfriend? Come on now!

Cassie goes home thinking her secret is safe but then discovers that the nasty Faye knows what has happened and now is making Cassie do whatever she wants or will tell Diana about what happened. Faye calls it holding her "captive" which is the title of book two and three in the series.

I suppose maybe I'm being way to hard on this book. It's a YA supernatural romance and meant to be fun, right? I am willing to chalk it up to a cheesy but somewhat entertaining read up until the "universe strike me dead if I kiss my best friend's boyfriend" part. That was just over the top and utterly ridiculous. Still it kept me reading to the end and in one sitting so despite the melodramtic cheese it wasn't all bad. My rating Photobucket

It does make me want to watch the tv show but I've read the book is different than the show. That's disappointing because I would love to see that melodramatic universe strike me down scene. Yeah, you got me. It's so I can make fun of it.

Friday, 25 April 2014

My Dewey's Read-a-thon Warm Up Post

Today I spent time picking out the books I want to read for the 2014 Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I especially like YA books because they are short so I can get more books done in a 24 hr period. 

This year I'm going to do something different and read some of the books on Kindle for iPad. I've been adament about keeping it old school and reading my books on paper, but I discovered my library lets me borrow ebooks using Overdrive. I'm using my 13 yr old son's school iPad so I don't have to spent a cent. I can't keep claiming I don't like ebooks if I don't actually try reading some. If I really enjoy reading ebooks I think I'll finally invest in a Kindle. Although I can use my iPhone and laptop.

The books I have in my read-a-thon TBR pile include:

The Secret Circle: The Initiation by L.J. Smith (ebook)
The Secret Circle: The Captive Part 1 by L.J. Smith (I really only wanted book 1 but the ebook has both.)
The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith (ebook)
Sweep: The Coven (Book 2) by Cate Tiernan (paperback)
Emily the Strange: The Lost Days by Rob Reger, Jessica Gruner and Buzz Parker (hardcover)

I was all excited to start at midnight but then I remembered something about Dewey having really weird start times. According to Dewey's Start Times my region (Chicago, Houston) starts as 7am. (Not until 7 am!? I'm a night person not a morning person. Ugh!) I understand why he does these weird start times though because there's mini-challenges and prizes every hour.

I'm also going to try and participate in some of the mini-challenges. Every year I kind of ignore those so I don't really even know what the entail. I'd kind of like to know.

Oh and I discovered something I also never knew when I read the Warm Up post. Dewey was female! I've been following this event for a few years now and always assumed Dewey was a guy. The warm up post is a touching tribute to who Dewey was. She died 6 years ago but her friend Ana has been hosting the read-a-thon ever since. That is really cool!

This year I will be Facebooking and tweeting all throughout the read-a-thon. Follow me on my Books Are Portable Magic Facebook page and on my Twitter.

I guess in the meantime I will watch the movies I got from Netflix. One of them is The Sound of Music. Can you believe I've never seen it? Well I probably did as a kid but I don't remember it. I decided to finally watch it after coming across a Facebook post that asked "What is a movie everyone else has seen but you never have?" The Sound of Music was one and so is The Godfather. But I want to read the book first before watching that one. Maybe I should probably also get some sleep.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon

April 28, 2014 – May 4, 2014

Seasons of Reading is hosting a Spring Into Horror Read-a-thon! This is perfect for me to work on my Stephen King Reading Challenge!

The Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon is almost here! It's coming to put some scare in your Spring on Monday, April 28 at 12:00am CST through Sunday, May 4 at 11:59pm CST (adjust times according to your time zone). Now don't let the word 'horror' scare you away. You only have to read one scary book during the duration of the read-a-thon. However, that book can be horror, paranormal, thriller, mystery, etc. The rest of the read-a-thon, you can read whatever you want. More horror/scary stuff or just your regular reading repertoire. As always, this is a week long read-a-thon, but you can join in and read whenever it's convenient for you. It's all about being laid back and getting some reading done...with a little bit of scary thrown in.

As with all of my read-a-thons, I will not be hosting any mini-challenges. We like to focus on the reading here. However, if anyone else would like to host a mini-challenge, you are more than welcome...just let me know. If you know someone who would like to donate a prize, or authors, if you would like to promote your book through the read-a-thon, please contact me via the contact form in the menu above. We will also have some scheduled Twitter chats. I will announce the times in the starting line post. Our Twitter hashtag is #SpringHorrorRAT

You do not have to have a blog. You can sign up using your Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook accounts.

If you are planning on joining me, please sign up in the linky here. You don't have to do a post now, but if you would like to help me spread the word, that would be great. (Don't forget that this is just the sign-up linky. There will be starting line sign-in and wrap-up linkies during the read-a-thon and doing both is required to be eligible for the giveaway). You can start any time during the week up until Friday night at midnight CST.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

Book Description from Amazon
Calling the super busy, the stressed out, the overtired.

You know you're made for a more fulfilling life. With this book, you’ll know where to start.

You wake up tired. Your to-do list is too long. The commitments—and the laundry—are piling up, but your energy keeps dwindling. You feel like you're simply making it through the days, not living or enjoying any part of them.

In Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, you'll find both practical ideas and big-picture perspective that will inspire you to live life on purpose. As a wife, mother of three, and founder of the wildly successful blog MoneySavingMom.com, Crystal Paine has walked the road from barely surviving to living with intention. With the warmth and candor of a dear friend, she shares what she's learned along the way, helping you:
  • feel healthier and more energetic by setting priorities and boundaries
  • eliminate stress with savvy management of your time, money, and home
  • get more done by setting realistic goals and embracing discipline
  • rediscover your passions—and the confidence to pursue them
Packed with straightforward solutions you'll use today and inspirational stories you'll remember for years, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is a must for any woman who's ever longed for the freedom to enjoy life, not just survive it.

I love Crystal Paine's book The Money Saving Mom's Budget so I looked forward to reading this one. I wasn't disappointed. The book starts off giving you advice about time management but it ended up being so much more than that. It was like a time management and self-help book for moms all rolled into one.

The advice Crystal gives about time management read like she knew the best parts of my favorite time management books and put them all in her book. Sometimes she gives these books credit and sometimes she doesn't. I thought that was kind of weird. She even quotes Steven Covey at the beginning of the book but never mentions his book on time management. Many of the ideas are great but can be found in other time management books which aren't listed in the Recommended Resources. 

There were a few times that I wondered if Crystal Paine could actually schedule my life. She explains that she doesn't have a lot of hobbies, any pets, and has a wonderful husband that helps her. She prefers to keep her life simple and has very specific interests. Well it's easy to manage your life when things are that simple! 

In my life I am the single mom of five kids, have a dog and a varying number of cats, no significant other to help me, and I have a lot of interests and hobbies. The variety in my life keeps me interested and happy. Does it make me a little crazy sometimes? Yes but I would be miserable with Crystal's life. Her simple, uncomplicated life seems great for her, but I felt like at times she was trying to tell me to give up some of the things I love just for the sake of simplifying my life. She didn't seem to understand us bohemian free spirits.

Despite that, the advice on choosing only four goals was great. It helped me choose what matters most in my life and figure out how to set mini-goals on a daily and weekly basis to reach those goals. I like the advice about setting goals and routines that is realistic for your particular time and situation in life. That is something I have never seen in a time management book before. It was awesome that Crystal understood that mothers have different time management needs when their kids are younger.

The chapter on managing your bank account was a summary of some of her ideas from The Money Saving Mom's Budget. I like the other book a lot better though. Some of the advice here feels like its more for well off married people and not single mothers living pay check to pay check like me. I laughed out loud at "increasing my emergency fund to cover three to six weeks of expenses." This seems incredibly out of touch with how much money most people are making in this economy. Crystal also talked far too much about herself in this chapter.

The chapter on managing your home has some great advice but it seemed rushed. I wish Crystal would have done far more here. This part would have been better if was expanded to a few chapters not all crammed into one. She could have done so much here. I expected it to be the bulk of the book not one measly chapter. 

And like in the earlier chapters on time management, Crystal uses ideas from other people but doesn't give them any credit. In the part about making a "homemaking binder" she says she gets the idea from "bloggers who are very organized women." Why isn't she naming names? I know exactly who she is talking about and it seems pretty low to use their ideas but not give them proper credit.

The chapter on feeling like a failure was great. While there wasn't anything earth shattering in the advice, just that fact that Crystal included it and even told her own story about how her first financial blog flopped made me feel better as a person. Her encouragement to use failure as a teachable moment and that it often leads to bigger and better things was great.

That is until she included a story about how another blogger she admired wrote a post about how she wanted to be just like another woman...and that woman just happened to be her! Are you freaking kidding me? There are many parts in the book where Crystal toots her own horn about how disciplined and well managed her life is, but this was just too much! 

I loved the idea of the chapter about how to help others and make a difference in others lives through charity or volunteering. Crystal gives some great ideas on how to help other people that doesn't always involve money. But she starts tooting that horn again. Crystal writes about all the charitable things she's done and her family has done and it comes off a little bit like "Look at how giving I am!" I loved the parts where she wrote "Here's some ideas that you can do" but when she says "Here's what I did" it comes off a little like bragging. She then talks about how she was so happy to be writing a financial book that would help so many people. It's pretty ironic that she says how "humbling" it all is. 

The last chapter is about taking care of yourself and has some ideas on how to nurture yourself, relax and find joy. Crystal gives suggestions like finding your spirituality (although she specifcally suggests Christianity), spending time on your marriage, cultivating friendship, eating healthy and exercising. 

Overall this book had some great advice for improving every area of your life. I liked that it covered so many different topics that contribute to living in "survival mode." My complaint is that sometimes the topic was discussed thoroughly while other times some tips were given but it wasn't dealt with too in depth. My biggest complaint is that overall the book included far too much about "how Crystal did it." Those stories are more suited for her blog than for a how to book.

My Rating Photobucket

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

Book Description from Barnes and Noble
This is a book for parents who spend more time texting than chatting with their children and for college-age kids who substitute Snapshot and tweets for real-life encounters. Author/mom Rachel Macy Stafford learned the hard way that the things that really matter often get gradually elbowed out of lives unless we stop, think, and prioritize. Her Hands Free Mama describes how she replaced her digital imperatives with simple ways to grasp simple joys. This trade paperback and NOOK Book original belongs in the purse or knapsack of every American who has ever felt that he or she is a captive of their to-do list.

I couldn't wait to get this book. My kids keep complaining often about how I'm always on the computer, my phone, or just otherwise distracted. I needed this book, so I must start by saying my expectations were very high.

The premise of this book is great. It is full of useful suggestions and ideas about how to be a more engaged mother in everyday situations. There is some great advice in this book about different ways you can interact with your younger children (I explain why I say younger in a bit), ideas for creating more quality family time in moments where we usually are disengaged, how to slow down and enjoy life more.

The book isn't just about how to be a good mother but to be an engaged mother. Much of what is written goes along with attachment theory so I found a lot of it relevant too my own parenting philosophy.

The three "weekly interventions" in each chapter were great and the part I found the most helpful but sometimes they weren't even related even though they were in the same chapter. Sometimes the book needed better organization. The useful advice was peppered among family anecdotes and it felt more like a memoir than a how to book at times.

The plus side is that each section really stands alone so if one part doesn't apply to you (for me it was the section on connecting with your spouse) you can skip it.

But here's where I felt a book based on brilliant idea goes horribly wrong. I feel bad being so critical of this book because I want to truly love it. 

She writes as though she just had this revelation and within only a few weeks time became a completely different parent. No one changes that quickly. No one. Addictions don't work that way. If you are truly addicted to something it takes real work to wean yourself from it. Even if you go cold turkey there are withdrawals. Rachel writes as if all of this happened effortlessly in an extremely short time.

On page 131 she finally writes about a bad day. She writes about how everything she had scheduled ended up being the same day that her family got the stomach flu and a host of other things went wrong. Everything she lists was beyond her control.

But then she does the most unhealthy, disturbing thing she could possibly do. She blames herself! She beats herself up for not being Hands Free (even though everything that happened really had nothing to do with her.) She claims the reason everything fell apart was because of her overcommitment. The stomach flu and toilet overflowing happened because of overcommitment? She says she thought "Why do you do this to yourself? How did you allow this to happen?" Instead of letting a bad day just be a bad day she uses it to tear herself down and blames herself for things that are in no way her fault. Pretty ironic considering the subtitle of the book includes the phrase "letting go of perfection."

But it gets even more ironic. The next chapter is about Silencing the Inner Critic. I wish I was joking.

In one part she tells how she gives her children journals so they can write about how she can improve being a mother which I think is a great idea. Some of the journal entries by her daughter do talk about ways she can improve but some are positive and say how much she loves her mother. What I want to know is why didn't she write anything herself in this journal to her daughter? She never writes anything back. Not I love you too or compliments about her daughter. The journal is just all about her.

The part where her daughter is willing to help with the laundry and dishes was sweet. My 9 year old daughter is the same way. All kids usually are...when they are little. Then they become adolescents and are only willing to do chores if they get paid. The only connection is fighting with them about getting whatever needs done.

Overall the book is rather repetitive. It almost feels like a Hallmark card sometimes because it's so sweet and sentimental. Each story ends up being a picture perfect memory. The books tone was far too saccharine for me. Her kids just seem a little too...perfect. They never argue, are in cranky moods, act out, and break the rules. Again wasn't this book about "letting go of perfection?"

This mother is so devoted to her children it sometimes seems to border on co-dependency. She explains that the reason she was so disengaged as a parent was because she was committed to so many volunteer activities. She was unable to say no. But it seems as if her inability to say no to volunteer activities has turned into being unable to say no to her children. In fact, Rachel says she justified her many commitments by arguing that her involvement was needed. I'm sorry to say, but it seems like she's doing the exact same thing with her kids. It's like she feel this need to make every minute of the day with them special. She feels a need to constantly be involved.

The way the book reads she is engaged with them from morning to bedtime. Does she ever take time for herself? I worry that she is so into being their playmate and companion that she no longer has interests of her own. I wonder how much the kids do on their own.

What will happen when they are older and they don't want mommy around playing with them constantly? What will she do then? Preteens and teenagers don't want in your face connection. They want their parents to be interested and care but at an arm's length. Their favorite thing to do is be alone in their room or spend time with friends. And they don't want mom hanging around in either of those situations. The advice in this book simply won't work as well with older children.

Rachel's Life List consists of only two things. How she wants to be a constant presence and source of love and support in her family's lives and how she wants to use her talents to help people grasp what really matters in life. She explains that she scaled her big projects down to only one or two yearly projects that directly involved her family.

Where are Rachel's goals for herself? Why is every moment about what she wants to do for other people? She wrote that the reason she did the volunteer activities was because she wanted an identity that was more than just a mom. There's nothing wrong with wanting to feel like more than just a mom. Rachel never outright says this but it seems almost like she feels guilty for ever wanting to have any other kind of role.

The book has some great advice that I will use with my children and for using technology less in my life, but overall her suggested approach just isn't balanced. It's just not healthy to give and give and give like that. It's not healthy to blame yourself when a bad day is just a bad day. It's not healthy to feel guilty about sometimes wanting to be more than just a mom.

I feel bad about writing this somewhat scathing review. I really truly do. There is some great advice in the book but everything in moderation is not it. My rating  PhotobucketFollow my blog with Bloglovin