...never judge a book by its movie

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses - Sorghaghtani of Mongolia and Isabella of Castile - BOOK REVIEW (Holiday Gift Guide)

Holiday Gift Guide

Isabella of Castile
Sorghaghtani of Mongolia












Isabella of Castile and Sorgaghtani of Mongolia by Shirim Yim Bridges, Albert Nguyen (The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses)
Publisher:  Goosebottom Books
Published:  2010
Hardcover
ISBN (Sorghaghtani of Mongolia) - 0984509828 (ISBN13: 9780984509829)
ISBN (Isabella of Castile) - 0984509844 (ISBN13: 9780984509843)

Descriptions:

Sorghaghtani:

On the wind-swept steppes of Mongolia in the 13th century, a princess was given the chance to rule. She took lands that had been ruined by war and made them wealthy again, brought mutual respect and cooperation to a down-trodden and distrustful people, and in a battle of wits that was like a giant chess game, won for her sons the imperial throne. Her name was Sorghaghtani.

Richly illustrated and narrated with touches of irreverent humor, this book brings to life the story of a real and remarkable princess who handed her sons the largest empire in the world.


Isabella:

In a twist on the classic fairy tale, a princess in 15th century Spain refused to wait to be rescued by a prince but instead chose one for herself. Even then, she would not marry him until they'd reached an agreement that was revolutionary for her time. The partnership she made was a happy and successful one. Her name was Isabella, and without her, both Spain and America would not exist as we know them.

Richly illustrated and narrated with touches of irreverent humor, this book brings to life the story of a real and remarkable princess who insisted on the equal partnership captured in the motto: To stand as high, as high to stand, Isabella and Ferdinand.


My Take:  These are wonderful middle-readers (ages 9-13) for the real princesses in your life.  Wonderfully illustrated, including photos of related items as well as real portraits of each princess and her prince. There are special pages that illustrate even more interesting facts -  "What She Ate", "What She Wore", "Where She Lived" - these add so much because they put the period of each princess' life into more context.

The front of each book is a sort of glossary, explaining some of the unfamiliar words and how to pronounce them.

As I read about Isabella, I wondered if her part in the Spanish Inquisition would be glossed over (it wasn't; the last page of the book tells of her role in that horrible period and lets you know that not all princesses are all good all of the time).

I'd never heard of Sorghaghtani, who at age 11 married Genghis Khan's son Tolui (who was 10 at the time), so you don't have to be a youngster to learn something.

Although the books don't have a lot of pages (one has 24), there is so much of interest bundled into each page that they are well worth having.   

These are part of a series of books titled "The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses", which also includes: Hatshepsut of Egypt, Artemisia of Caria, Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, and Nur Jahan of India.

All of these books introduce princesses who were able to wield considerable influence, even when women weren't "supposed" to have any power or authority.

If you have a middle-reader, these are definitely books to have on hand.  I really really recommend them.

QUOTES:

If it weren't for Isabella, Spain would not be the country it is today, and America would not exist as we know it!

Just like any nomadic group, when it came time to find better pasture for their animals, the whole court packed up and moved.  Sorghaghtani's household alone needed more than 100 carts to move all their gers and possessions - the gers perched fully assembled on top of the carts, the Mongolian version of mobile homes.

BOOK RATING:  5 out of 5 stars

About the authors: Shirin Yim Bridges first picture book, Ruby's Wish, was named one of the Best Children's Books of 2002 by Publishers Weekly, and won the Ezra Jack Keats award for 2003. It is on several state reading lists and has been translated into six languages. The Umbrella Queen, Shirin's second book, was named one of the Best Children's Books of 2009 by TIME/CNN and the Bank Street College of Education. Both books are about girls who manage to do what few think possible. Now, The Thinking Girls Treasury of Real Princesses brings Shirin's lyrical storytelling to some of the most inspiring tales in history about girls who really did manage to do what few thought possible.

Albert Nguyen grew up in Minnesota before moving to San Francisco. He received his MFA from the Academy of Art in 2006. In addition to being fond of drawing, painting, comics, and cartoons, Albert has a special affection for chubby animals. This is his first children's book.


BUY THEM:  At Amazon, through the publisher's website, and at other on and off-line booksellers.


Disclosure:  I was provided with complimentary galleys of these titles to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review.
Julie



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Teaser Tuesdays - November 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along; you don't have to be a blogger! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week: 

In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer
"Just think, Mr. Holloway . . . someday, there could be a criminal-prevention program named in honor of the man who guarded Oscar Leidig.  The Holloway Plan."

- page 209, In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer

I really like this book; it's a wonderful, interesting, clean read!

Feel free to leave the link to YOUR Teaser Tuesday post in your comments!  If you don't have a blog, just leave your teaser!  (Don't worry if they don't show up right away, all links go into moderation for me to approve them before they get posted).

Julie
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Narcissistic Predicaments by Sister Renee Pittelli - BOOK REVIEW


Narcissistic Predicaments by Sister Renee PittelliTitle:  Narcissistic Predicaments

Author: Sister Renee Pittelli
Publisher:  Outskirts Press
Publish Date:  April, 2010
Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN 10: 1432750445
ISBN13:  9781432750442

Description:

Pleasing God While Protecting Yourself

Adult Children of narcissistic families often find themselves stuck in predicaments that people with normal families never have to face. Featuring The 21 Rules of No Contact and 102 Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Whether to End an Abusive Relationship, Narcissistic Predicaments has the answers you’ve been looking for.

When you try to set boundaries, do your abusive relatives accuse you of not being a “good Christian” because:

•You are not honoring your father and mother?

•You have to “forgive and forget,” even though your abusers have not apologized or agreed to stop their abuse?

•You must forgive unrepentant evildoers because Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

•You are taking revenge by enforcing consequences, and vengeance is supposed to be the Lord’s?

•The Bible says “Love your enemies”?

In this book, you will learn effective strategies for protecting yourself and find out what the Bible really says about dilemmas such as:

•Should you let your estranged relatives have contact with your children?

•Dealing with the family meddler who tries to intervene between you and your abusive relative

•Working in the family business with narcissists and sociopaths

•What to do about holidays, parties, and family celebrations, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

•Does your abuser’s apology automatically cover the other relatives who took his side?

•What to expect from estranged relatives who want to drag you back into their web

•Reconciling on your terms, not theirs

•If you don’t stick around, who will take care of your abusive parents in their old age?

•Visiting a dying abuser

•When your abuser or estranged relative dies- condolences, funerals, and obituaries

God does not want you to “live in peace” with evil people. A breath of fresh air for Adult Children of abusive families, this compelling book will help you find the peace our heavenly Father promised you, because you are His beloved child.


My Take: 

What it's about:  It's about how to deal with abusive families, whether they are parents, siblings, or even extended family like aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

It spells out the abusive methods that family members may use to control you, and provides you with coping strategies coupled with Biblical scripture to support those strategies,  It also provides counter-arguments against such sayings as "Forgive and forget", "patience is a virtue", "honor thy mother and father" when those are thrown at you in an effort to get you to "go along"  It is broken down into a number of chapters, each focusing on one aspect of abusive families and how to deal with them.  It provides the Biblical definition of "honoring one's parents", and lets you know that forgiveness does not necessarily equal reconciliation.  Step by step, it guides you through things that may be necessary in order for you to live your life free of the strive and stress caused by emotionally abusive families.

There are real-life examples, many taken from the author's own personal experience.

Pros:  Although this is about dealing with an abusive family or family member, many of the strategies provided could also be used in dealing with an abusive partner, including "No Contact".  All of the steps it spells out as well as the concrete examples of what constitutes emotional abuse are detailed and backed up by Scripture.

Cons:  I was sometimes taken aback at what I perceived as "bitterness" when the author provided her own examples of familial abuse.  At times, I personally just thought to myself, "Oh, my gosh; I understand that they were horrible to you, but that doesn't make it OK to wallow in it."  Having my own emotionally abusive family members, I understand how traumatizing and long-lasting the effects can be, but I don't dwell on it, and when providing examples, I just state the facts and don't go into a diatribe about how terrible this or that person was.  For me, the facts are enough that the person I'm talking to can get the picture without letting myself get upset all over again. .

Wrap-up: In spite of the few times when the author appears to be caught up in reliving the upsets of her own personal struggles, this book would be a valuable resource for anyone dealing with an abusive family or family member.  I know that I could have used something like this when I was struggling to figure out what to do, and I have acquaintances that could definitely benefit or could have benefited from this as well.

It would especially be helpful for Christians, who, in an effort to be "Christ-like", forget that it is not in God's plan for us to associate with evil doers.  We are to rebuke twice, then wipe the dust off.
                                                             
QUOTES:

People who do everything BUT take responsibility for the damage they have caused, admit that their victim was right to be hurt of offended, and do their best to make amends are NOT CHRISTIANS - even if they claim to be.
There is no time limit on how long it should take for you to feel comfortable trusting a former abuser.  If it takes ten years, then so be it.  Feel free to insist on as much time as you need.  Those who try to pressure or rush you have their own agendas, and you should take this as a red flag.

Even a junk-yard dog will eventually show love for you if you treat it with love.  But not an abuser.  Abusers use our feelings for them against us, take advantage of our kindness, and see our patience with their offensive behavior as a weakness to be exploited.  Our love for them makes us vulnerable, desperate and pathetic in their eyes.  It causes them to regard us with scorn and contempt.

Book Rating:   3.0 out of 5 stars

About the Author:  

Sister Renee Pittelli is an Adult Child Recovery Mentor, a victim's advocate, author of The Family Freeloader, and the Founder and Director of Luke 17:3 Ministries for Adult Daughters of Abusive, Controlling or Abandoning Birth-Families. She has written extensively about family abusers, narcissists, sociopaths, their Silent Partners, the Biblical perspective on abuse, setting and enforcing boundaries, Godly confrontation, the myth of forgiveness without repentance, cutting ties with reprobate relatives, maintaining no-contact, and living the life of freedom and peace that the Lord intended for you.

BUY IT:  Through Amazon and other on-and-off-line booksellers

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this title through Bostick Communications to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received, and I was not required to write positive review.
Julie
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Winners! Gratitude Giveaway Winners!

Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Thanks to all of you who took part in this giveaway!  With almost 400 entries, it was the most popular giveaway ever here on Knitting and Sundries.  Big thanks go to I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for hosting this event!


There were TWO prizes!  One for International followers, and one for US and Canada:
The Book Depository


Amazon


A $25 gift certificate for Amazon for US/Canada goes to:

Belle Decouverte

Gratitude giveaway winner pick USA

(my commenting system breaks the comments numbering into 200 per page; this is from the second page) - Congrats Belle Decouverte!

A $25 gift certificate for The Book Depository for International visitors goes to:


Gratitude giveaway winner international

FreakChiq


(again, from the second page) - Congrats, FreakChiq!


PLEASE - when entering blog giveaways, follow the directions for entry.  It took 45 minutes for me to get to these two because the initial ones that Random.org picked did NOT follow the entry guidelines!  Don't say you follow when you don't, because it's easy to find, don't enter under other names, and include the information that's asked.  Your chances go up SO much when you follow the directions.  


So, congratulations to the winners!  I will be shooting off an email in a minute or two for verification.  Please reply within 72 hours, because I really don't want to have to pick alternate winners!  :)
Julie



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My Cyber Monday

cyber monday


....will not be.  I'm so sad because I lost my debit card yesterday, and neither of the other accounts have any money in them to speak of ... so ... sob ...

I only have one credit card for emergency use, and I don't think this really counts as an emergency.

I was getting ready to print postage and send a couple of winners their gift certificates and buy a USB cable for my camera, and after two hours yesterday spent tearing up the house, I had to admit defeat and call to have the card canceled and a new one sent out.

Oh, well!  (shaking it off)  Could be worse!  I COULD have lost it and someone else found it and started charging up a storm before I found out. 

And, well, I really do have almost every bit of my shopping done.  I have only about 5 presents left to buy, so I'm ahead of schedule!
Julie
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Sunday! Link up YOUR blog giveaways! Sunday Giveaway Linky!

Yay!  It's still Sunday, and I remembered to post this on time (sort of).

If you're a blog owner, don't forget to add your giveaways to the Giveaway Linky!  Don't forget to add an end date, since I clean it up every Sunday (this week it will be Monday), and if there's no end date, it won't stay up! It would also be great if you added country eligibility!

Don't forget the current giveaways right here either!

Happy Haulidays from Chronicle Books - Win $500 worth of books!




Happy Haulidays from Chronicle Books - Win $500!!!! worth of books!!! US through 12/13 - Last day for blogger list submissions is 12/10






You Already Know How To Be Great by Alan Fine with Rebecca Merrill




You Already Know How To Be Great by Alan Fine w/Rebecca Merrill - 5 winners! - US/CAN through 11/30







To Nourish and Consume by Ryan O'Reilly





To Nourish and Consume by Ryan O'Reilly - International through 12/4






I am Santa by Kristy Haile
I am Santa by Kristy Haile - US through 12/10/2010
Julie
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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - November 29, 2010

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?

"What Are You Reading?" is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Click over to see what other readers are into this week and add to your TBR pile!

READ AND REVIEWED:

The Book of Eli by sam Moffie





The Book of Eli by Sam Moffie - Review Link - Author Guest Post Link






Other Goose by J.otto Seibold






Other Goose by J.otto Seibold - Review Link






I am Santa by Kristy Haile





I am Santa by Kristy Haile - Review Link







Thunder and Ashes by Z. A. Recht




Thunder and Ashes by Z. A. Recht - Review Link








The One Year Choose Your Own Ending Devotions by Pioneer Clubs




The One Year Choose Your Own Ending Devotions - Review Link








READ (Reviews upcoming this week):

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans




The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans








READ:

The Christmas Chronicles by Tim Slover





The Christmas Chronicles by Tim Slover - Review scheduled for 12/9






Pearls of the Stone Man by Edward Mooney, Jr.




The Pearls of the Stone Man by Edward Mooney, Jr.








UPCOMING:

Narcissistic Predicaments by Sister Renee Pittelli



Narcissistic Predicaments by Sister Renee Pittelli






The Bootlegger's Secret by Michael Springer




The Bootlegger's Secret by Michael Springer








In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer





In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer








I will read and/or review a couple more books; however, this week is rather clear of scheduled reviews, which will give me a chance to do more as I choose, depending on my reading mood!

Feel free to link up your own What Are You Reading post so I can swing by for a visit!
Julie
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The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans - BOOK REVIEW (Holiday Gift Guide)

Holiday Gift Guide


The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans
Title:  The Christmas List
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster
Publish Date:  October, 2009
Hardback, 352 pages
ISBN 10:  1439150001
ISBN13: 9781439150009

Description:

Dear Reader,

When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, gave our class the intriguing (if somewhat macabre) assignment of writing our own obituaries. Oddly, I don't remember much of what I wrote about my life, but I do remember how I died: in first place on the final lap of the Daytona 500. At the time, I hadn't considered writing as an occupation, a field with a remarkably low on-the-job casualty rate.

What intrigues me most about Mrs. Johnson's assignment is the opportunity she gave us to confront our own legacy. How do we want to be remembered? That question has motivated our species since the beginning of time: from building pyramids to putting our names on skyscrapers.

As I began to write this book, I had two objectives: First, I wanted to explore what could happen if someone read their obituary before they died and saw, firsthand, what the world really thought of them. Their legacy.

Second, I wanted to write a Christmas story of true redemption. One of my family's holiday traditions is to see a local production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I don't know how many times I've seen it (perhaps a dozen), but it still thrills me to see the change that comes over Ebenezer Scrooge as he transforms from a dull, tight-fisted miser into a penitent, "giddy-as-aschoolboy" man with love in his heart. I always leave the show with a smile on my face and a resolve to be a better person. That's what I wanted to share with you, my dear readers, this Christmas -- a holiday tale to warm your season, your homes, and your hearts.

Merry Christmas --Richard Paul Evans

My Take:  I read this book in one sitting .. really .. well, except for getting up to refill the java, making plates up for dinner, going to the restroom, resolving a sibling squabble .. the usual territory of moms trying to just get a couple of hours of quiet time for reading.

This is the tale of a modern-day Scrooge named James Kier, a real-estate mogul who forbids Christmas decorations in his office and who rejoices with every new ill-gotten gain he receives at someone else's loss.
Separated from his wife of almost 25 years, Sara, and estranged from his only son Jimmy (who stopped talking to him after Sara was served with divorce papers as she arrived home from her first round of chemotherapy treatments), Kier reads his death notice while on a mini vacay in Park City as he waits for his fiancee Traci (whom he met one week after separating from his wife) to join him.

He telephones his only friend, Lincoln (also his heartless attorney), to let him know that he's still alive.  He decides to "play this out" for a couple of days and see what happens. Against Lincoln's advice, he goes online and views the comments that accompany his death notice, where he is surprised at the venom directed against him, including comments that he can tell come from a long-term employee named Tim.  
He comes home and finds out how torn up his fiancee is about his supposed death.  Uneasy at the legacy he's left, he enlists the help of his long-term secretary, Linda, to formulate a Christmas list of all of the people he's hurt or offended and he resolves to make amends.
This is a great Christmas story, quick and fun to read.  Four of Richard Paul Evans' books have already been made into television movies, and as I read, I could easily envision this book as one of them.  It IS rather black and white in places, and Jim's villainy is a bit over the top.  It also could have used a bit more development in what feelings made Jim decide to attempt to change, but that's the nature of the story - it's not meant to be a huge character study.

Illustrating that it's not too late to change, and also that sometimes you CAN'T make amends for the hurts you've caused, I think that this would make a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys holiday stories, or even stories about family and redemption.  Although the book is set during Christmas season, it can definitely be enjoyed any time of year.

QUOTES:

When he first moved in, he had a carpenter cut nearly two inches off the legs of his guest chairs as well as an additional half inch off the front so the occupant was not only forced to look up to him but always felt a little off balance.  One one occasion, when negotiating a multimillion-dollar real estate purchase, he had slipped Dramamine into his client's coffee to make him drowsy.  To Kier, all was fair in business.

Lincoln started to laugh.  "It's really you.  I've been freaking out here.  I thought you were dead.  Or do they have pay phones in hell?"
"No, they have cell phones, they just drop the call every five seconds."

"As fortune would have it, in 1888, Nobel's brother Emil died.  A French newspaper mistook his brother for him and ran an article with the headline, Le marchand de lat mort est mort, 'The merchant of death is dead.'  It went on to say that Dr. Alfred Nobel became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.  That was the first of many such articles.  Nobel was so upset by what he read about himself that he decided to change his legacy.  He left his fortune to the establishment of the Nobel Peace Prize."

Book Rating:  4.0 out of 5 stars

About the Author:

Richard Paul Evans
RICHARD PAUL EVANS is the #1 best-selling author of The Christmas Box. His fourteen novels have each appeared on the New York Times bestseller list; there are more than thirteen million copies of his books in print. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers. He is the winner of the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards for his children’s books, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award.  Evans received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award for his work helping abused children. Evans lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children.

Visit the author's website

Buy the book:  At Amazon, and other on-and-off-line booksellers.

If you've already read this, try picking up his newest book:

Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans
Promise Me - The bestselling Evans is back with another earnest tale set around a certain holiday in December, but this time he's got something up his sleeve. Beth has everything, a loving husband, an adorable daughter ("a joyful combination of lunacy and grace"), and a great job where she works with friends. But when her daughter becomes mysteriously ill, and she discovers that her husband is dying, her perfect life falls apart. She is soon impoverished and embittered, and still can't discern the source of her daughter's illness. Then she meets a handsome stranger, who diagnoses the illness and convinces the wary Beth to trust again, only to disappear with the home equity loan he pushed her into getting. Devastated once again, Beth's resolve is tested when he returns with a truly unbelievable story. Believing him means altering the entire course of her life. Evans combines his usual holiday themes with a bizarre twist lifted straight from science fiction. Readers will undoubtedly feel attached to Beth, even as they struggle to understand the bizarre relationship she finds herself entering into. - Publishers Weekly 
2010 Holiday Reading Challenge
This book is part of my 2010 Holiday Reading Challenge list
Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge
This book is part of my Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge List
Disclosure:  This is a review of my own personal copy of this title.  I was not compensated in any way for this post.
Julie




 
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Mailbox Monday and In My Mailbox- November 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday
"Mailbox Monday" is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page.

Mailbox Monday is now on a blog tour. Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month's host is ME!   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!

December's host will be Lady Q at Let Them Read Books!  So be certain to stop by her blog and show her some love! I will also be offering a different giveaway every week throughout November to encourage participation!

Last week's winner:

Mailbox Monday winner november 22

Mailbox monday random.org pick for november 22
Congrats, Jonita!  Look for the email from me requesting your mailing address!

This week's giveaway:

Amazon

The Book Depository
A $10 gift certificate to either Amazon or The Book Depository (to open it up internationally) to use towards a book or two of your choice! 

Already won?  Enter again! (I have no control of how Random.org picks winners).  How to enter?  Simply link up YOUR Mailbox Monday post and then add a comment stating that you'd like to enter (if you have the URL for your book of choice, enter that in your comments too)!  If you don't have a blog, leave a comment letting me know what you got in your mailbox and that you'd like to enter!   You have until the following Monday to link up and enter!

In My Mailbox
"In My Mailbox" is hosted by The Story Siren

Every week we'll post about what books we have that week (via your mailbox/library/store bought)! Everyone that agrees to participate will try to visit each other's list and leave comments!  Everyone is welcome to join! You can join at anytime and you DO NOT have to participate every week. 

*********************************************

I can't believe how quickly this month has flown by!  I totally enjoyed hosting and I'm happy to have had so many of you join in!

Let's all make it a point to visit Lady Q in December and link up as well!

Yes, I have stuck to my pledge of not requesting any more review books.  There are still plenty of good ones here to review and my personal TBR shelves are toppling!  (So many awesome books, so little time!)  Here is my mailbox for the week:

MONDAY:

365 Thank Yous by John Kralik
365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik - ARC for Review from Hyperion Books through Shelf Awareness - One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams--including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge--seemed to have slipped beyond his reach. Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year's Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn't have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had. 

Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal--come what may--of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year. 

One by one, day after day, he began to handwrite thank yous--for gifts or kindnesses he'd received from loved ones and coworkers, from past business associates and current foes, from college friends and doctors and store clerks and handymen and neighbors, and anyone, really, absolutely anyone, who'd done him a good turn, however large or small. Immediately after he'd sent his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John's way--from financial gain to true friendship, from weight loss to inner peace. While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John's whole life turned around. 

365 Thank Yous is a rare memoir: its touching, immediately accessible message--and benefits--come to readers from the plainspoken storytelling of an ordinary man. Kralik sets a believable, doable example of how to live a miraculously good life. To read 365 Thank Yous is to be changed.

Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West
Blind Your Ponies; A Novel by Stanley Gordon West - ARC for Review from Algonquin Books through Shelf Awareness - Hope is hard to come by in the hard-luck town of Willow Creek. Sam Pickett and five young men are about to change that.

Sam Pickett never expected to settle in this dried-up shell of a town on the western edge of the world. He's come here to hide from the violence and madness that have shattered his life, but what he finds is what he least expects. There's a spirit that endures in Willow Cree, Montana. It seems that every inhabitant of this forgotten outpost has a story, a reason for taking a detour to this place--or a reason for staying.

As the coach of the hapless high school basketball team (zero wins, ninety-three losses), Sam can't help but be moved by the bravery he witnesses in the everyday lives of people--including his own young players--bearing their sorrows and broken dreams. How do they carry on, believing in a future that seems to be based on the flimsiest of promises? Drawing on the strength of the boys on the team, sharing the hope they display despite insurmountable odds, Sam finally begins to see a future worth living.

Author Stanley Gordon West has filled the town of Willow Creek with characters so vividly cast that they become real as relatives, and their stories--so full of humor and passion, loss and determination--illuminate a path into the human heart. 


Thr3e by Ted Dekker
Thr3e by Ted Dekker - For Review from Hachette Books - Enter a world where nothing is what it seems. Where your closest friend could be your greatest enemy.

Kevin Parson is driving his car late one summer day when, suddenly, his cell phone rings. A man who identifies himself as Slater speaks in a breathy voice: You have exactly three minutes to confess your sin to the world. Refuse, and the car you're driving will blow sky high.

Kevin panics. Who would make such a call? What sin? Kevin ditches the car. Precisely three minutes later, a massive explosion sets his world on a collision course with madness.

From the #1 best-selling fiction author comes a powerful story of good, evil, and all that lies between.


The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - through GoodReads bookswap - In 12th-century England, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral signals the dawn of a new age. This majestic creation will bond clergy and kings, knights and peasants together in a story of toil, faith, ambition and rivalry. A sweeping tale of the turbulent middle ages, The Pillars of the Earth is a masterpiece from one of the world's most popular authors.

An enjoyable historic thriller, well told. A mystifying puzzle involving the execution of an innocent man, the erection of a magnificent cathedral, romance, rivalry, murder, arson, lust, and love. Set in 1135 England.

Tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known... of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul...of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame...and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state and brother against brother.
 

TUESDAY: 

Actually, these were already waiting for me; I just finally downloaded them on Tuesday:

Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Choker by Elizabeth Woods - Galley for Review through Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab - What if the only friend you could trust turned out to be dangerous? A new thriller from debut author Elizabeth Woods! 

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann - Galley for Review through Simon and Schuster Galley Grab -  The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton - Galley for Review through Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab -  Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.


Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark DowellTen Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell - Galley for Review through Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab - Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation--and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much. It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment. Frances O’Roark Dowell’s fierce humor and keen eye make her YA debut literary and wise. In the spirit of John Green and E. Lockhart, Dowell’s relatable, quirky characters and clever, fluid writing prove that growing up gets complicated…and normal is WAY overrated.
 

SATURDAY:


Cross Fire by James Patterson
Cross Fire by James Patterson - WON from Rhodes ReviewWedding bells ring
Detective Alex Cross and Bree's wedding plans are put on hold when Alex is called to the scene of the perfectly executed assassination of two of Washington D.C.'s most corrupt: a dirty congressmen and an underhanded lobbyist. Next, the elusive gunman begins picking off other crooked politicians, sparking a blaze of theories--is the marksman a hero or a vigilante?

A murderer returns

The case explodes, and the FBI assigns agent Max Siegel to the investigation. As Alex and Siegel battle over jurisdiction, the murders continue. It becomes clear that they are the work of a professional who has detailed knowledge of his victims' movements--information that only a Washington insider could possess.

Caught in a lethal cross fire

As Alex contends with the sniper, Siegel, and the wedding, he receives a call from his deadliest adversary, Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in D.C. and will not relent until he has eliminated Cross and his family for good. With a supercharged blend of action, deception, and suspense, Cross Fire is James Patterson's most visceral and exciting Alex Cross novel ever.


As we head into the holiday season, let us give thanks for our blessings and do what we can to help those in need, even if it's taking a batch of cookies to the elderly person down the street.
Julie

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