Bookshelf

Readathon: Countdown to Summer 2016

Well, according to the countdown app on my phone, I have 9.5 weeks left of school before I am free for the summer. (Hallelujah!) You see, that is one of the wonderful things about teaching–in addition to all the rewarding moments and molding of young minds, of course. After 9 months of working yourself crazy, you get to spend an extended period of time in the summer exhaling. What the students probably don’t know is that the teachers are itching for summer just as much as they are!

To help get myself through the next 9 weeks, and to distract myself from focusing too much on the finish line, June 2 (the students’ last day; my last day is June 3), I’m going to try to read as many books as possible. Now, this is quite a task I am setting for myself, considering my job as a teacher leaves me with very little free time to read. I guess that will be the fun part of the whole thing, challenging myself to do something I really don’t have time to do. I think it would be pretty neat if I could knock out 9 books over the next 9 weeks, but to be completely honest with you, completing ONE book in the midst of my current schedule would be quite a feat.

Update: I was so incredibly busy with work during this time that I did not finish a single book.

Bookshelf | Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk (2010) | An Old Hollywood tale with a dark twist

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This novel is dripping with Old Hollywood, and if you love that kind of stuff—as do I—you will enjoy this book. The story transported me back to that glamorous era where inimitable stars like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis reigned over Tinseltown and gossip mongers like Hedda Hopper and Lillian Hellman had the power to either enhance or tarnish a star’s reputation.

The star of the book is Hazie Coogan, who really isn’t a star at all but the trusty maid servant and companion to excessively glamorous and untouchable former film star Katherine Kenton. For decades, Hazie has spent her life not only catering to every need and want of her “Miss Kathie” but also protecting her and–most importantly–her glittering star from harm. Now, Hazie’s focus is protecting Miss Kathie from the loving arms and machinations of one Webster Carlton Westward III—a handsome, young, smooth-talking gentleman caller who is finding it quite easy to cozy up to the older and vulnerable Miss Kathie. (more…)

Bookshelf | Married Lovers by Jackie Collins (2008)

Married Lovers

When beautiful Cameron Paradise flees her abusive surfer husband in Australia, she lands in Los Angeles, where she starts a new life as a personal trainer at a posh gym facility. Determined to sustain her newly-gained independence, her main objective is working hard and saving money, so she can fulfill her dream of one day opening her own gym. While the men she encounters can’t seem to resist her stunning beauty and perfect physique, she blocks all their advances with a steely determination. (more…)

Bookshelf | Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011) | You might bust your pants… From laughing!

This book is hilarious! I listened to it on audiobook, and it made me laugh so much that I want to listen to it again. That’s how much I loved it.

As a comedy writer, actress, producer, mother, and wife, Tina Fey plays many roles, and she candidly reflects on all of them in this funny, well-crafted memoir. (more…)

Bookshelf | Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (2011) | If everyone’s hanging out without you, then at least you have time to read this book

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I came late to The Mindy Project  (that’s what Netflix/Amazon Instant Watch binges are for), but I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be one of the funniest sitcoms I’d seen in years. That show serves up joke after joke after joke–and good ones. The show’s creator and star, Mindy Kaling, has infused the Mindy Project with her own brand of insanely witty humor. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? provides plenty of insight into the woman behind the show. (more…)

Bookshelf | I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron (2006)

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In this collection of essays, Nora Ephron gives us the gift of her signature candor as she presents her thoughts on a range of topics such as aging, body maintenance, the sport of cooking, life in New York City, apartment-separation anxiety, parenting, and more. She even tells her story of being overlooked by JFK as a potential paramour, when she was a White House intern during his administration. Whether they be on milestones or the events of everyday life, the reflections she shares in these essays are funny, poignant, and rife with her trademark wit.

Great Quotes from the Book

“What failure of imagination had caused me to forget life was full of other possibilities?”

Bookshelf | I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron (2010) | I will always remember how much I loved this book

Memory loss. Teflon. Journalism. Salt. Broken marriages. Hollywood. Hated-on holiday pies. Aging. Chicken soup. Inheritances. Lillian Hellman. Egg-white omelettes. Email… These are just some of the wide range of subjects on which the brilliant Nora Ephron reflects in this entertaining collection of essays—and not necessarily in that order.

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Bookshelf | Always Wear Joy by Susan Fales-Hill (2003) | How to be an original diva

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In this beautifully-written memoir, Susan Fales-Hill paints a comprehensive portrait of her late mother, the inimitable Haitian-American performer Josephine Premice.

A triple threat, Premice sang, danced, acted, and wowed on the stages of Broadway and Paris in the 1940s and ’50s. However, despite her showstopping presence, Josephine’s career never rose to the heights of her white contemporaries. In an entertainment industry that did not favor her type of beauty, Josephine was always deemed either “too much” or “not enough” of something. In spite of the ever-present adversity she endured, Josephine Premice always faced her challenges and naysayers head on, and she was ever the consummate performer and the epitome of glamour. (more…)

Bookshelf | French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (2004) | Mastering the art of guilt-free indulgence

French Women Don't Get Fat

Having observed the American tendency toward extremist diet and exercise programs, French-American Mireille Guiliano makes a convincing case for the French approach toward maintaining one’s figure.

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Bookshelf | Dare Me by Megan Abbott (2012) | The dark side of cheerleading…

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As captain and lieutenant of the varsity cheerleading squad, sassy BFFs Beth and Addy are at the peak of their high-school careers. When “perfect” new cheer coach Colette French arrives on the scene, she quickly wins the respect of Addy and everyone else on the squad—except Beth, who finds her queen-bee status threatened by everyone’s idolization of Coach. When a suicide prompts a police investigation into the lives of Coach and the girls, the plot takes a dark turn. This peek into the world of cheerleaderdom is full of secrets, lies, and twisted stunts.

Bookshelf | The Partner by John Grisham (1997) | How to run away from your problems

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When attorney Patrick Lanigan discovers his fellow partners at his law firm are involved in a fraudulent scheme from which they stand to gain millions, Patrick fakes his own car-accident death and successfully steals $90 million dollars from the firm’s off-shore bank account.

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Bookshelf | Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse (1906) | Can one really find love among the chickens?

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This humorous and delightfully absurd story is told from the point-of-view of Jeremy Garnet, a writer who longs for some peace and quiet so he can plan his next novel. When Garnet runs into the boisterous Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, an old acquaintance with a penchant for concocting wild schemes, Ukridge convinces Garnet to assist him and his new wife Millie in running their new chicken farm in Dorset, England.

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Bookshelf |The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969) | And you thought your family had issues…

The Godfather

Does your family have some serious drama? Odds are, not nearly as much drama as the Corleones. This iconic tale centers on the Sicilian-American Corleone family, a tight-knit clan knuckles-deep in New York City organized crime. The patriarch of the family is Don Corleone, reverentially referred to as The Don.

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Bookshelf | Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan (2010) | 15 years later… Where are Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin now?

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In this sequel to Waiting to Exhale, we find our girls Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin dealing with the never-ending issues of life fifteen years after the original story ended.

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Bookshelf | My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours by Kristina Springer (2010) | How to cope when you best friend’s boyfriend is just too marvelous for words

On the first day of seventh grade, twelve-year-old Tori is crushed when her longtime BFF Sienna returns from her extended vacation in Florida looking all kinds of good and attracting all sorts of new attention.

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Bookshelf | Be Different by John Elder Robison (2011) |The power of embracing your individuality

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John Elder Robison discusses various aspects of his life as an Aspergian, including his professional and romantic experiences.

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Bookshelf | Thrill! by Jackie Collins (1998) | And oh what a thrill this book is

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Lara Ivory is a beautiful movie star with a seemingly perfect life. Joey Lorenzo is a handsome actor trying to make his way in Hollywood. When the two meet, sparks fly, and they embark on a steamy love affair. However, both Lara and Joey have skeletons in their closets which threaten to destroy not only their relationship but also their lives. A juicy tale of Hollywood drama and suspense!

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan (1992) | That’s what friends are for…

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In this entertaining story, four 30-something African-American women find support in female friendships while enduring the ups and (mostly) downs of their romantic relationships.

What I love most about Terry McMillan’s writing is her realism. She puts her characters in true-to-life situations, and they struggle the same way we do in real life. When this novel came out in 1992, it caused a publishing sensation, because its depiction of modern, dynamic, African-American women drew readers of all colors to the bookstores to grab a copy.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea (2007) | Love and marriage in Saudi Arabia

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Waiting to Exhale meets The Real Housewives of Saudi Arabia.

The women in this juicy novel have 99 problems—all relating to men. Through a series of emails, an undisclosed narrator recounts the tumultuous love stories of four upper-class Muslim twenty-somethings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At a time in their lives when marriage seems to be the most important goal, the characters discover all that glitters is certainly not gold. I’m telling you, some of the characters in the story experience the kind of man-drama that could make someone catch a case. This entertaining novel is filled with drama and unexpected turns.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank by Barbara Sinatra (2011)

Lady Blue Eyes

Barbara Sinatra, Frank Sinatra’s fourth and final wife, tells the story of her life as a former model and Vegas showgirl turned entrepreneur and philanthropist, as well as her endearing relationship with one of music’s most beloved icons, Frank Sinatra.

As Frank Sinatra is one of my favorite singers of all time, I enjoyed this peek into his later years. I also enjoyed Barbara Sinatra’s account of their romantic love story and celebrity escapades.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (1997) | You’ll never look at money the same way again

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Robert Kiyosaki discusses the importance of financial literacy as well as the differences between how the rich and the poor earn and spend money. This book changed the way I look at money.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Open by Andre Agassi (2009) | Playing in the game of life

Book Recommendation: Open by Andre Agassi (2009)

Tennis icon Andre Agassi tells the story of his tumultuous life both on and off the tennis court. With open honesty, he reveals the profound unhappiness and frustration he experienced devoting his life to a sport he hated from an early age. He also speaks candidly about his relationships with Brooke Shields and Steffie Graf as well as his longtime battle with his own personal demons. You don’t have to be a tennis fan to appreciate this book!

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2008) | You’re only 10,000 hours away from success

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When it comes to success, why do some people surpass others in leaps and bounds? In this book, Malcolm Gladwell explores the backgrounds of certain high-achievers and reveals how the idiosyncrasies of their upbringing and life experiences contribute to their phenomenal success. He also explains how a 10,000-hour investment in developing a skill can make you an expert. Very interesting reading.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (2008) | A great book for running writers (Or writing runners)

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Novelist Haruki Murakami writes about training for the New York City Marathon and reflects on the role running has played in his life as a writer. This book is inspiring for both runners and writers.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers by John Elder Robison (2007)

Book Recommendation: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers by John Elder Robison (2007)

John Elder Robison talks about growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder on the Autism spectrum. While Robison discusses how having the disorder made him socially awkward and negatively affected his personal relationships, he also acknowledges how his condition influenced the creativity and focus that led to his career success.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith (1961) | The Ex from H-E-Double-Hockey Sticks

Book Recommendation: This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith (1961)

Psychopathic loner David Kelsey has resolved to rekindle his relationship with his beloved Annabelle and make her his wife.  In David’s eyes, the fact that Annabelle is now married to someone else presents only a small obstacle…

In true Highsmith fashion, in David Kelsey, she has masterfully created a layered character who is absolutely detestable yet for whom the reader can sympathize. This novel is thick with psychological suspense and a darkly entertaining read.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955) | How not to go about transforming yourself

Book Recommendation: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)

When self-hating Tom Ripley meets handsome, carefree Dickie Greenleaf in Italy, Tom begins to obsess over Dickie and his enviable lifestyle–to the point of madness.

My favorite thing about this novel is Highsmith’s characterization of Tom Ripley. She masterfully creates a layered character the reader both despises and sympathizes for. While Tom Ripley is a despicable person, he represents some of humankind’s deepest longings and darkest urges, and he struggles with one of the most difficult emotions one can experience in life: unrequited love.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937) | The life and loves of a hopeless romantic

Book Recommendation: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

In this beautifully written novel, Janie Crawford, a passionate, Southern, African-American woman, tells the story of her tumultuous journey of finding true love and her own true self. In Janie, Hurston has created a heroine whose hunger for experience resonates with every dreamer and whose desire for love touches every romantic. I am both a dreamer and a romantic, so I truly enjoyed this story. The richness of Hurston’s prose is mesmerizing and breathtaking, and she proves she is truly a master of lyricism. Hers is the kind of writing that seeps into your bones. Reading this book changed the way I look at words on a page. It’s the kind of book that, after finishing it, you want to flip back to the very first page and start all over again.

Bookshelf Favorite!

Bookshelf | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2007) | A nerdy, overweight outsider’s search for love and happiness

Dominican-American Oscar Wao dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien as much as he dreams of finding love.

Unfortunately, the world–including his family and friends–sees him as nothing more than a nerdy, overweight loser. As if Oscar didn’t have enough obstacles in his way to becoming one of New Jersey’s finest, there is also the devastating curse that has plagued his family for generations…

What I love most about this book is Junot Diaz’s writing style. It’s raw, entertaining, and exhilarating. In addition to the captivating tale of Oscar Wao and his various family members, Diaz injects plenty of interesting information about the history of the Dominican Republic under the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo into the story. A fantastic read!

Bookshelf Favorite!