Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meg's 2016-2017 Book Awards

It's finally here: 

Meg's 2016-2017 Book Awards

Best Overall Book:
1. A Girl's Guide to Moving On - Debbie Macomber
2. The Inn at Rose Harbor - Debbie Macomber
3. Taking the Lead - Derek Hough
4. To Protect and Serve - Staci Stallings
5. Twelve Days of Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Honorable Mentions:
1. Tara Road - Maeve Binchy
2. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
3. 41: A Portrait of My Father - George W. Bush
4. Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
5. Mystic Summer - Hannah McKinnon

Worst Book Overall:
1. Kellie's Diary #1 - Thomas Jenner and Angeline Perkins
2. Murder in the South of France - Susan Kiernan-Lewis
3. Sinful Cinderella - Anita Valle
4. The Iron Heel - Jack London
5. Confessions of a Transformed Heart - Nancy D. Sheppard
6. The 7 Habits That Will Change Your Life Forever - Adam Gouge
7. Homicide By Hamlet - Lois Lavrisa

Best in Classics:
1. A Separate Peace - John Knowles
2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin
3. The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Best Celebrity Book:
1. Taking the Lead - Derek Hough
2. My Point...And I Do Have One - Ellen DeGeneres
3. Live Original - Sadie Robertson

Best Book by an Author I've Read Before:
1. The Inn at Rose Harbor - Debbie Macomber
2. Rose Harbor in Bloom - Debbie Macomber
3. Love Letters - Debbie Macomber
4. Silver Linings - Debbie Macomber
5. Last One Home - Debbie Macomber
6. A Girl's Guide to Moving On - Debbie Macomber
7. Twelve Days of Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Best Book by a New Author I've Read:
1. To Protect and Serve - Staci Stallings
2. Tara Road - Maeve Binchy
3. Behind Her Smile - Rosemary Hines
4. The Tour - Jean Grainger

Book That Surprised Me:
1. Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
2. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
3. 41: A Portrait of My Father - George W. Bush

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

54. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
      Topic/Theme: an autobiography

Few men could compare to Benjamin Franklin. Virtually self-taught, he excelled as an athlete, a man of letters, a printer, a scientist, a wit, an inventor, an editor, and a writer, and he was probably the most successful diplomat in American history. David Hume hailed him as the first great philosopher and great man of letters in the New World.
Written initially to guide his son, Franklin's autobiography is a lively, spellbinding account of his unique and eventful life. Stylistically his best work, it has become a classic in world literature, one to inspire and delight readers everywhere.

My Review:
Benjamin Franklin is known for being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a polymath, he was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. He is credited for laying or aiding in the foundation for several things including the first fire department in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania (then known as The Academy and College of Philadelphia), the first public library (Library Company of Philadelphia), and Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the United States.

Ben Franklin started writing his autobiography for his son William. He wrote about parts of his life and he referred to it as memoirs instead of an autobiography. He talks about growing up in Boston, before running away to Philadelphia when he was 17 - to start over in a new city. Growing up in Philly, it was interesting to get to know more about Philly back then. Trying to establish himself in Philly, he became involved in several different avenues, including the newspaper and printing business and the postal service. He talks about the different positions he had in politics, including the time spent in the UK and France. Ben also was involved in making some changes to the Declaration of Independence.

There is no question that this book is unfinished. The American Revolution isn't mentioned because he felt that he couldn't talk about it for whatever reason. It's possible that he just ran out of time to write about it or didn't have the time to write about it. Benjamin Franklin wrote much of his autobiography from memory, especially about his childhood and the early days in Philadelphia. 

One of my favorite qualities about Ben Franklin is that he's always thought he could do better than what he was doing and that includes writing these pages. In doing so, he kept making changes to it from when he started writing it in 1771 until his death in 1790.

To keep this from going further, I have done a follow-up post about his thirteen virtues he lived by, which will be posted later today.

I want to point out that the picture I posted above of the book is my own copy that my grandmother had in the house.

Fun Fact: Ben Franklin never intended for this to be published.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues Lived By

Benjamin Franklin lived his life according to thirteen virtues. It was like his own religion and what he believed in. For that reason, I thought it could be a good follow-up post.

Note: His virtues can be found in his autobiography, hence the quotes.

The Thirteen Virtues are the following:

1. "Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."

2. "Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."

3. "Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."

4. "Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."

5. "Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."

6."Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."

7. "Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."

8. "Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."

9. "Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."

10. "Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation."

11. "Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."

12. "Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."

13. "Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

What do you think of Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues?

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kellie's Diary #1 (Thomas Jenner and Angeline Perkins) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

52. Kellie's Diary #1 by Thomas Jenner and Angeline Perkins
      Topic/Theme: graphic novel

A series of diary entries through the eyes of a little girl as she tries to survive the end of the world.
What if the early 1990's didn't happen as we remember it? What kind of world would we live in today?
This story is told from the viewpoint of 9-year-old Kellie, a typical third-grade girl living her life as anyone else would, and she shares her daily activities with her diary. When the world crumbles and the dead walk, Kellie struggles to survive and find her way home, all the while sharing her tale with her diary.
This is an account of our hypothetical past, present and future.

My Review:
This was more of a novella, but this was what came up when I was looking for graphic novels. In a series of diary entries, nine-year-old Kellie gives her perspective of trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Keep in mind, the writing style reflects that of a kid. She may not know that what she's seeing is zombies, but she is descriptive of her activities and what she sees. In this story, you have the option of reading it normally or as it's written in her diary (her own handwriting and diary pages).

This is book one in a series of Kellie's tales of living in a zombie apocalyptic world. I personally don't believe in a zombie apocalypse.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, February 10, 2017

Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

51. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman 
      Topic/Theme: book of poetry

Leaves of Grass collects dozens of poems that Whitman continuously revised over the last years of his life. As a whole, they explores themes of love, nature, spiritualism, and the soul, declaring that the body is one and the same as the soul.

My Review:
First off, I'm not someone who reads poetry that much. Throughout Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman wrote his poetry in free verse and used a lot of metaphors. He pretty much wrote about anything and everything, from his love of nature to his views on faith (well, what he believed in) and so much more. The book is categorized into each of his themes. Poetry, to me, is like life: there are parts you like and parts you don't. Or in the case of this book, there were some poems that I enjoyed and some that I did not.

I was only really familiar with the poem, O, Captain, My Captain, before reading this. If you don't know, it was written about the death of President Abraham Lincoln. In this poem, the captain refers to Lincoln's assassination. The ship represents the war-weathered nation after the Civil War. And the "prize won" was meant to capture America's confusion after the Civil War ended.

Another popular and famous poem is Song of Myself. It's a lengthy poem. Parts of it is featured in John Green's Paper Towns

Here is the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, PA:

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas (Debbie Macomber) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

50. Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
      Topic/Theme: first book you see in a bookstore

Friendly and bubbly, Julia Padden likes nearly everyone, but her standoffish neighbor, Cain Maddox, presents a particular challenge. No matter how hard she’s tried to be nice, Cain rudely rebuffs her at every turn, preferring to keep to himself. But when Julia catches Cain stealing her newspaper from the lobby of their apartment building, that’s the last straw. She’s going to break through Cain’s Scrooge-like exterior the only way she knows how: by killing him with kindness.
To track her progress, Julia starts a blog called The Twelve Days of Christmas. Her first attempts to humanize Cain are far from successful. Julia brings him homemade Christmas treats and the disagreeable grinch won’t even accept them. Meanwhile, Julie’s blog becomes an online sensation, as an astonishing number of people start following her adventures. Julia continues to find ways to express kindness and, little by little, chips away at Cain’s gruff fa├žade to reveal the caring man underneath. Unbelievably, Julia feels herself falling for Cain—and she suspects that he may be falling for her as well. But as the popularity of her blog continues to grow, Julia must decide if telling Cain the truth about having chronicled their relationship to the rest of the world is worth risking their chance at love.  

My Review:
This was one of my favorite Christmas stories I have read. When Julia starts getting aggravated with a neighbor, she tries to come up with a way to handle the situation. With the help of a friend, they come up with the idea of killing him with kindness. At the same time, a company that Julia's applying for couldn't decide on whether to hire her or another person. The company decides that the position will go to whoever can get the most views and comments on his or her blog. Julia decides to call her blog, the Twelve Days of Christmas, as a way of recording how her twelve days of kindness campaign with Cain goes. Of course, it goes without saying that the twelve days are the twelve days leading up to and including Christmas. The kindness campaign doesn't get off to a great start, but she's determined to not give up. The blog, on the other hand, is a hit. Slowly and surely, Julia begins to crack his shell. She soon realizes that there's more to him than meets the eye. As much as they hate to admit it, they start to feel attracted to each other and they start having dates. As the blog continues to grow each day, Julia struggles to come clean about how she's been chronicling not only her kind acts, but their relationship as well. Once the media gets involved, Cain finds out by accident and everything that they have worked for comes crashing down, as Cain thinks she was only putting on an act. In Cain's defense, he has struggled with the hurt and pain of a past relationship in which he was taken advantage of, among other things, and has a hard time trusting others. He also has struggled to come to terms with his mom's death and I can't blame him. I can't imagine how much it hurts to lose a parent or a child. It's a grief that goes on and on. While they start fixing things, Cain's grandfather becomes the hero in salvaging their relationship. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas was another heartwarminging tale from Debbie Macomber. She has this way of keeping a truth of reality to her characters. It can be hard to capture the essence of real life situations and what people really go through. Debbie never fails to deliver. The overall theme was that people aren't always what they seem. We don't know what a person is going through and have no place to judge based on how they act or seem like on the outside. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Mystic Summer (Hannah McKinnon) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

49. Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon
      Theme/Topic: book that takes place during summer

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel.
Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for. But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

My Review:
Since this is about summer, don't we wish it was summer again? Okay, let's back to the review now. A light and easy read and you could even read this at the beach. At the beginning, Maggie has everything going for her. But in the drop of a hat, all that changes when she gets laid off from work. That one piece of news makes Maggie rethink everything else in her life and her thoughts of having a great summer goes out the window. It doesn't help that she's the only one who hasn't gotten married yet out of her close friends and she feels left behind in a way. While Maggie tries to take the time to deal with her situation, she runs into a former boyfriend, who just happens to be back in their old hometown as well. Cameron has his own issues to deal with and has no choice but to put his daughter first in his life. Just when they think they're back on good terms, Cameron's daughter's health problems get in the way, causing Maggie to question whether she's getting back together with him for all the wrong reasons, as her way of coping with losing her job. Maggie believes that they can recreate what once was, despite that they have grown and have had to face their own hardships. Sometimes fate can intervene, but only if you're willing to work at it, just like in every other relationship. A great read and it's good to see how much a person can change and grow in a short amount of time.

Throughout this story, Maggie struggles to come to terms with losing her job. She tried to find different ways of avoiding the situation and not trying to fix things. Going through hardships is a part of life. And it's okay to feel depressed and upset, as long as you don't let it control you. Did it take Maggie a little while to feel confident that she would find another job? Absolutely. I also wanted to say that it's okay to take a step back and reexamine your life every now and again. We learn, grow, and change everyday, every year and it's good to let go of what's not working anymore. 

After reading Mystic Summer, I now want to visit Mystic, Connecticut. I enjoyed how descriptive it was described.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The 7 Habits That Will Change Your Life Forever (Adam Houge) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

48. The 7 Habits That Will Change Your Life Forever by Adam Houge
      Theme/Topic: self-improvement book

Becoming a highly spiritual Christian needs to be the goal of every believer. Love in itself is an action and should be practiced habitually by everyone. We through love should be fervently seeking the Lord, and cherishing one another. We must be constantly portraying the heart of God toward one another on a habitual basis.
In this book we will distill the best habits down to the seven most productive ones. If practiced properly, they will carry over into every other category of life and drive you to become a highly spiritual Christian.

My Review:
As you can see from above, I chose this book as a self-improvement book. It seemed to have a great concept, but honestly, I was let down. The whole idea about this book is the best seven ways to become a better Christian. I have nothing against that as I was born and raised Catholic and Catholicism is a form of Christianity. While the seven habits are practical, the author made it sound like a lecture. It felt that most of the information was being forced on to me, making the book drag on in the process. In doing so, it lessened the effectiveness of what he was trying to say, the points he wanted to make. It didn't help that there was a lot of repetition of certain things throughout the whole book. Not to mention that some points he was trying to make contradicted each other. 

The Seven Habits are:
1. Love
2. Self-awareness
3. Pursuit of wisdom
4. Pursuit of truth
5. Avid listener
6. Tasteful tongue
7. Committed to a life of good

Once again, all seven habits are good concepts. It was just the way they were explained and broken down that was the problem.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


The Thorn (Beverly Lewis) Book Review

2016 Reading Challenge

47. The Thorn by Beverly Lewis
      Theme/Topic: book set in your home state
Lancaster County, with its rolling meadows and secret byways, may seem idyllic, but it is not without its thorns. THE ROSE TRILOGY is the stirring saga of two Amish sisters on the fringes of the church, and the unforeseen discoveries that change their lives.
Rose Kauffman, a spirited young woman, has a close friendship with the bishop's foster son. Nick dresses Plain and works hard but stirs up plenty of trouble too. Rose's sister cautions her against becoming too involved, but Rose is being courted by a good, Amish fellow, so dismisses the warnings. Meanwhile, Rose keeps house for an English widower but is startled when he forbids her to ever go upstairs. What is the man hiding?
Rose's older sister, Hen, knows more than she should about falling for the wrong man. Unable to abandon her Amish ways, Hen is soon separated from her very modern husband. Mattie, their young daughter, must visit her father regularly, but Hen demands she wear Amish attire--and speak Pennsylvania Dutch, despite her husband's wishes. Will Hen be able to reestablish her place among the People she abandoned? And will she be able to convince Rose to steer clear of rogue neighbor Nick?

My Review:
Every rose has its thorn. I think everyone's familiar with this old adage that means that despite how perfect something may seem, it still has its flaws. The Thorn is based on exactly that. 

In case anyone doesn't know, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is known for its Amish population. The Amish, like everybody else, have their secrets and flaws and people make mistakes. And then there are those who struggle with that lifestyle and faith. In this story, Hen was one of those. She felt too secluded and grew tired of the ways of the Amish. Doing so, she fell for the wrong man and married an Englishman. After marriage and having a daughter, Hen feels drawn back to the lifestyle that she wanted to get away from. 

On the other side of this, Rose has always stayed true to the Amish lifestyle. This was especially true after Hen abandoned her family. Rose didn't want to see her parents disappointed again. Although Rose is courted by an Amish male, she can't help but feel a growing attraction to the town's rebel. Nick is the bishop's foster son, who feels like he has been forced into the Amish instead of being born into it. And feels like he doesn't belong and has no problem showing it. As much as Rose tries to avoid Nick to prevent herself from going down the wrong road, he keeps showing up in times of need. 

Troubles arise for both sisters and they both try to figure out where they belong in society: either within the Amish or away from it. They both want to please their parents, but also be happy with their own needs and wants, their own lives.

In Amish, "Pennsylvania Dutch", the time of figuring out who they want to be is called rumspringa. By definition, rumspringa means a period of adolescence in which boys and girls are given greater personal freedom and allowed to form romantic relationships, usually ending with the choice of baptism into the church or leaving the community.

The Thorn depicted a more truer reality to what people go through. Who hasn't questioned who they are, what they believe in, what makes them happy? And which family doesn't have their problems and secrets? Perfection doesn't exist and this book proved just that. Sometimes it takes being away from something to realize how much you miss it and how much you cherish it. I mentioned above how Hen and Rose wanted to please their parents. Most of us want to do just that. The realization is all the same and I'm going to give you this gentle reminder. Parents just want their children to be happy, no matter what path they choose, what they believe in, etc. 

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Friday, February 3, 2017

National Wear Red Day and Special Announcement

Today is National Wear Red Day for 2017. It's a day to support heart disease and stroke awareness for women by wearing red. I will always red on this day because, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have Long QT Syndrome. It's a congenital heart condition that affects the electrical system of the heart. It's similar to an arrhythmia, but slightly different. I also wear red because heart disease runs in my family.

I am currently revamping my other blog, Writing With Meg. Starting next week, I will be posting once a week with a getting to know me series until the beginning of March.

This brings me to my special announcement. I am pleased to announce that I'll be starting my writing series, Meg's Long QT Journey, on March 10 on Writing With Meg. I have chosen that date for a reason, but you'll have to tune in then to find out why.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!