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Favorite Reads of 2010

Wow, 60 books in 2010, not 50! I have to say it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, I could have probably done even better because there were definitely weeks of not reading at all. I’m happy I met my intention and went beyond, it really did demonstrate to myself that I could do something if I put my mind to it. Not only did I read those books, but I blogged about every single one. Hurray!

Top 10 Books in 2010 (in no order):

1.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

2. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

3. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

4. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

5. Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr

6. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

7.  The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

8. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma

9. The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate

10. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman



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The Heist Society

With the new year approaching, I decided to pick something fun to read as one of my last books of 2010. The Heist Society by Ally Carter was recommended to me on, my favorite book website.

Tired of her lifelong involvement in her family’s illicit dealings in art thievery, teenager Katarina Bishop enrolls herself in a prestigious boarding school.  After three months living there, unbeknownst to Kat, 16-year-old billionaire Hale arranges for her to get kicked out. He tells Kat that five paintings have been stolen from an important man and that her father is the only suspect. Kat becomes determined to save him by locating the real thief and stealing the paintings back. She composes a mismatched team of experienced teens for the heist to be pulled off before the two-week deadline. The plot thickens when she discovers the paintings are Nazi war spoils.

The ending leaves the reader open to a sequel, as the original thief is unknown. A fanciful, bewildering plot, however it kept me interested along the way. I would love to read more books and hope it becomes a series. I’m off to the Big Easy for the rest of the week, so I will probably read a few more books by the end of the year. Struggling between bringing my Kindle or a stack of books… maybe both?


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Humorous Essays

I’m a pretty big fan of memoirs and was open to the idea of reading a series of 22 essays by humorous author David Sedaris.  When You are Engulfed in Flames is his sixth installment that takes a darker approach to his life experiences.

What I learned from reading this book was that my old preferences still ring true. I like what I like, and this isn’t it. I’ve always had trouble reading from the male perspective, and I found this to be a difficulty again. Lighter topics also grab my attention more, as I read to be entertained and do not enjoy death, sadness, etc. in my reading. There are always exceptions of course, as I’ve reviewed plenty of books this year that are not fluff. But there is always something else appealing about them, such as the setting or variation in characters.

As 2010 comes to a close, I am faced with the decision as to if I will be continuing this blog in the coming year. I’ve recently began a new blog on wellness and want to dedicate some time to that. Also, I am unsure if my book ramblings serve purpose to myself or to the blog world at this time. I set a goal for 2010 and exceeded my expectations, with the help and support of all the readers! In the coming weeks I will make a decision regarding this predicament I find myself in. Merry Christmas!



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Top 10 Christmas Books

Yes, I am really into starting the Christmas season immediately following Thanksgiving dinner. Our tree is already up and we had a wreath on our door and lights put outside few weeks ago thanks to my loving husband. Much to his chagrin, one can also find me by the television nightly either watching ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas or on the Hallmark Channel. So for anyone else who likes to indulge in yuletide cheer, here is a list of wonderful Christmas goodies to cozy up by the fire (or space heater) with.

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Always a favorite, and I am guilty of watching all 25+ versions played on television during this time of year.

2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Another classic tale, keep your tissues nearby!

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

I always feel a sense of pure joy every time I see that the Grinch’s heart three sizes larger!

4. Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus by Francis P. Church

This response to eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897 is a great book with a little history.

5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Loved seeing this book cover as a child, still love it today.

6. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

Excellent illustrations bring the magical night to life.

7. Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

This was my favorite play growing up, and I loved seeing it performed at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

8. Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Treasury

The author of Little Women is always a good holiday choice when you’re in need of cheer!

9. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

I remember my elementary school librarian introducing us to this book and it’s beautiful illustrations.

10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

Exciting tales about the life of Santa by the Wizard of Oz author.

I hope seeing some of these titles brought you back to your own childhood!


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Mystery Awaits

A fan of Kate Morton, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the publication of her recent novel The Distant Hours. This book follows the same themes as her others: crisscrossing back and forth throughout time, a wealthy family, a palace, and terrible secrets enveloped in mystery. Although this is what I have come to expect, each of her stories are very different and stand out in their own right.

The book begins with a letter posted in 1941 finally reaching its destination in 1992 with invoking a mystery for the main character, Edie. She learns of elderly twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger half-sister, Juniper, the three spinster daughters of the late author Raymond Blythe.  The letter is addressed to Meredith, Edie’s mother, then a young girl who was evacuated to their home, Milderhurst Castle, during the Blitz of WWII. Edie, who’s later invited to write an introduction to a reprint of Raymond’s most famous story, visits the three women in search of answers.

This was definitely not my favorite of Kate Morton’s novels, in fact it probably scores last out of the three. It dragged at the beginning and quite frankly the storyline wasn’t as interesting as the others. The ending did provide a surprise though, which was a saving grace. I do admire this author’s descriptive writing skill and ability to weave intricate stories within the main plot. Definitely pick up The Forgotten Garden (one of my all time favorite books) and leave this one for later.


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Scrumptious Meal

Apparently I am unconsciously attracted to books with recipes in them, because yet another random choice of mine has led me to a book with an Italian cooking theme. The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate is a newbie, and one of a long list of goodies by this author. I can always count on this writer to deliver a cute story with a decent plot, usually set in New England.

This novel was set on Blue Crab Island in Maine. The protagonist is 30-year-old Holly Maguire who inherits her grandmother’s house and business, Camilla’s Cucinotta, when she suddenly passes away. Camilla is not only famous on the island for her home-made pasta, sauces, and cooking classes, but she was also a revered fortune-teller who could tell women who their love interests would be. Holly finds herself over her head when she begins to take over her grandmother’s responsibilities, but decides to keep her memory alive by continuing the cooking classes despite her less than perfect abilities in the kitchen. Armed with her grandmother’s recipes, Holly begins teaching her class of four students: a recently divorced father who wants to impress his daughter by making her favorite dish, a single woman who was signed up for the class to meet men by her overbearing mother, Holly’s old childhood friend who is mending a broken heart, and 12 year-old Mia, Holly’s apprentice whose main goal is to rid her father of a terrible girlfriend. It’s an unlikely group but within the main story line weaves their own tales of wishes, dreams, and happy and sad memories which are all important ingredients in all of Camilla’s recipes.

This was truly a heart-warming story set with a lovely back-drop of coastal Maine. It wasn’t my all time favorite of this author, but definitely worth the read, as I am a long-standing fan. Disclaimer: Don’t read this book if you’re hungry because the detailed descriptions of yummy Italian food will have your mouth watering!


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Civil War Tale

My last post introduced one of my favorite historical fiction authors, and I expressed a little disappointment with one of her latest books  I chose to read. But my past experiences with her wonderful novels brought me back for more when I picked up Girl in Blue .  Now here is the Ann Rinaldi I love! She brought me right back to what I love best about good historical fiction, which is a familiar plot taken to another level by the creative writing process.

As a self-professed American history nerd and a middle school social studies teacher, I have a confession. I really dislike the Civil War era. And by dislike I mean HATE. It could be that I shudder hearing the southern accent in my head. Or it could be that I envision a lot of heat and dirt in Georgia. Or, maybe it’s my tiny prejudice against (or ignorance about) southern people.  However my love for women’s history trumps my inherent dislike of the Civil War. This book was awesome because it chronicles the life of a 16 year old Michigan girl who masquerades as a Union soldier and then becomes a Pinkerton spy. I don’t want to give too much away, so just know that this book not only has a historical backdrop but it also has elements of incredible excitement, fear, and a teensy bit of romance.

In other news, I currently have five books checked out from the library and one in transit. I am curious to see how this plays out. I have a well documented habit of checking out books, letting them collect dust, and then bringing them back to their home. Hopefully I can reverse this pattern, get through them at a decent pace, and won’t lose interest only to bring them back to their home in the stacks!


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