Goodreads | And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed Book Review_0043You guys. I'm reading The Goldfinch right now and I am loving it! I can't wait to review it on the blog, but it's huge so it might take me awhile. (Yep, I'm definitely over my intimidation of big books.)

For now, I'm continuing on with my book list from the past year. I hope December is brining you lots of time to read!

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini I really love everything Hosseini writes, so I knew I would like his newest novel. This one is again set in the Middle East (although it kind of takes you around the globe) and follows a little boy and his sister as they grow up separated. It's heartbreaking and uplifting in the way Hosseini has mastered, and I really can't say enough good things about it. I will read everything this author writes! (****)

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle Wow! This book surprised me. First of all, the work that Boyle has done in inner-city Los Angeles is just mind-blowing. His experiences, and how transformative they've been for himself and the kids he serves, were just begging to be written down, and I'm so glad he published Tattoos on the Heart. The theme of unconditional love was evident in every chapter and that mixed with Boyle's quick wit makes this book irresistible. (****)

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom This book brings me right back to our little bed and breakfast in Doolin, Ireland. I finished this book on our big trip, and while it was the perfect light, entertaining read for vacation, it left me feeling a little corny. I'm not sure that's the right word--the story really did have me wanting to keep reading (a handful of people in Michigan get phone calls from heaven)--but at the end I felt like I had just watched a Hallmark movie. Uplifted but contrived. (***)

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang Factory Girls opened my eyes to a part of the world I've never really explored. It follows a couple girls who have left their rural Chinese homes to start factory work in southern China. Called migrant workers, these teens are part of a huge population that is continuously growing, right along with the factories that employ them. The story is almost unbelievable and SO incredibly different than any life I've ever known. Note: Chang's style of writing is a bit more journalistic than a typical non-fiction book. It took me a little while to get used to it. (****)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon This is a beautifully imagined story (no pun intended!) about three people being brought together in the most unusual, but necessary, circumstances. Like The First Phone Call from Heaven, it was a bit contrived for me, but still an entertaining read. (***)

Goodreads | 25 in 12 + Reviews

Goodreads_book reviews Happy Monday, friends! I had the most wonderful and relaxing weekend, which included lots of time to read—one of the goals included my New Year's Resolution for better balance in 2014. I realized last year that I was turning on the TV way more often than picking up a book, and half of the stuff I was watching was just plain stupid. I knew I would feel more accomplished and relaxed if I chose reading over TV, so I'm taking on a challenge: Read 25 books in 12 months. And guess what? I've already finished one book! It feels so good to fill my mind with meaningful and poignant stories instead of ridiculous stuff on TV. (This is not to say I'm not watching any TV. Of course I still have my favorite shows that I can't give up. :) )

So, I'd LOVE to hear your very favorite book recommendations to add to my list for 2014. Here's what I've got so far (taking care to mix fiction with non-fiction with spiritual with business, etc., for a well-rounded, book-filled year!):

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott
  3. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  4. Film is Not Dead by Jonathan Canlas
  5. Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
  6. Blog, Inc. by Joy Deangdeelert Cho
  7. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
  8. Emma by Jane Austen
  9. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
  10. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter
  11. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
  12. Boundaries by Henry Cloud
  13. The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
  14. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
  15. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner
  16. Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
  17. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  18. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

As a thank you for helping me complete my list, I have some reviews for you on my recent reads. Some are great! Some are not so great. Did you read any of these? What did you think?

The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe. I'll start with my least favorite and work my way on up. This book was just a little too corny? Unbelievable? Annoying? I can't quite put my finger on it, but I just couldn't get into it. The gist of the story is that Luz, who is recently left alone when her grandmother guardian passes away, goes on this journey to Mexico to follow the monarch butterflies as they migrate south. The butterflies symbolize her grandmother, which is beautiful and all, but the whole thing was just a little too much for me. (**)

Weird by Craig Groeschel. I really enjoyed the premise of this book—that we should try to be more than normal in a society that's all about fitting in—and the two sections on time and money were right up my alley (especially because I read this towards the end of the year when I was feeling out of sync). But then I realized I had some major ideological differences than Groeschel and I just couldn't get over them as I finished the book. Hint: He rags on Ellen. ELLEN! (**)

The Sisters by Nancy Jensen. This is good old-fashioned fiction at it's finest. The Sisters really surprised me. The story is intricately woven through multiple generations of women, all stemming from two sisters in the late 1920s. After a complete misunderstanding, the sisters are separated and start very different lives of their own. Their daughters and granddaughters add to the story that's not as black-and-white as it seems. (****)

Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. For some reason, I tend to avoid reading classic novels. That sounds pretty terrible for a reader like me, but I think it's because it reminds me of school and I don't want to be reminded of school when I'm reading for fun. Anyways, after reading Their Eyes were Watching God, I realized I need to read more classics now that I'm older and can appreciate them. What a beautifully written love story that stems from complete bitterness and despair. I loved the redemption after all Janie Crawford, the main character, went through. A must read! (****)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Oh my goodness, this book. I told my mom (who gave me this book!) just a few days ago that I couldn't get over how every character in this book talks (totally unrealistic! I obviously have a problem with using my imagination!), but after finishing it three days later, I don't even care. John Green weaves the most breathtaking and heartbreaking story, and I couldn't get enough. Hazel, who is the heroic narrator, suffers from terminal cancer, which doesn't define her necessarily but obviously greatly affects the way she sees the world and lives her life. When she meets Augustus, a fellow cancer survivor, her world is turned around. I really can't do the book justice with my words, so you'll just have to go pick it up! (*****)

Goodreads | Life of Pi

When I was in first grade, we were asked to draw ourselves as what we wanted to be when we grew up. I'm happy to report that my neon-colored picture won top prize. The reason my drawing was so colorful was because I had to differentiate all the books in my library. Yes, my library. I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. That was the only possible profession that I imagined got to read for a living. And that's what I wanted to do. These last few weeks, I've had a lot of downtime to read. My inner 6-year-old bookworm self is jumping up and down. And she wants to share two awesome stories with you. :)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This book sat on my shelf for years. Everyone raved about it but for some reason I kept putting it off. Then the movie came out and I knew I had to read it before watching the movie (because books are almost always better!). Let me start off by saying it's not at all what I thought it was going to be. The quick synopsis is that a boy gets lost out to sea after his family's ship, headed from India to Canada, sinks. This is basically his story of more than 200 days at sea ... with the company of exotic animals that were being ferried to Canada and ended up on the lifeboat with him. At the end, however, there's a twist and everything is not as it seems. Life of Pi definitely makes you ponder religion, humanity and the will to survive. (**** [That's 4 out of 5 stars. Follow me on Goodreads to check out all my books.])

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Oh, this book! It's so smart. That's truly the best word to describe it. It's narrated by Bee, a 15-year-old, who goes on a wild adventure to Antarctica to find her mother who has vanished into thin air. The story is interrupted by letters, e-mails and faxes from and to Bee's mother—Bernadette, neighbors, a virtual assistant in India, faculty members at Bee's school, and Bee's father/Bernadette's husband. This story is funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. A must read! (****)

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