Tag Archives: goodreads.com

The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick

Thanks to the “First Reads” program on Goodreads.com I was given an Advanced Readers Copy of The Bake-off by Beth Kendrick. This book is the subject of my next review.

The Bake-off book coverSuburban soccer mom Amy has always wanted to stand out from the crowd. Former child prodigy Linnie just wants to fit in. The two sisters have been estranged for years, but thanks to a series of personal crises and their wily grandmother, they’ve teamed up to enter a national bake-off in the hopes of winning some serious cash. Armed with the top-secret recipe for Grammy’s apple pie, they should be unstoppable. Sure, neither one of them has ever baked anything more complicated than brownie mix, but it’s just pie-how hard could it be?

I previously won and reviewed Second Time Around by this author, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. When I saw that The Bake-off was being given away on Goodreads.com, I made sure to enter. I was thrilled to find out a won a free copy of the book to review. My previous experience with the author meant I started the book with high expectations.

My first reaction to the book was to the cover. I appreciated how the cover image is very different and original. In my opinion this helps it really stand out amongst other books. In a row of new releases, I would pick up this book for a second look–I loved that!

I enjoyed the relationships that the author depicted in Second Time Around. I found myself loving those in The Bake-off even more. Like Amy and Linnie, I have a sister who is close in age. This enables me to relate to the different feelings that exist between siblings. Kendrick captures these emotions on the page, creating a story that I found myself easily identifying with.

The story told in this novel supports the great characters. The main theme of the plot–sisters competing in a bake-off–is as original as the cover. The situations they encounter made me want to continue reading. I couldn’t wait to see how the sisters worked their way out of some of the trouble they ended up in. The creative story kept my interest throughout. I was almost sorry to get to the last page!

Review: Great book!!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kendrick’s great storytelling created a page-turner that I hated to put down. I found the characters interesting and real. The story was funny and entertaining. I can’t wait until this book is released so others can enjoy it!

2011 Reading Goals

My goal for 2010 was to read 78 books. The plan was to average one and a half books a week. Some months–like April–it was easy to meet this goal; other months–such as June–it was tough to get through the pages. In the end the good and bad months evened out enough that I met my goal.

Last week I had to decide what my goal would be for 2011. I would normally aim to meet or surpass my previous target, but I don’t think that is possible this time. This year my usual distractions–and family–will welcome a new addition. I have no doubt that a new baby will reduce the time I want to spend reading. It’s hard to choose a book over a new baby! As a result I decided to drop down my target from 78 books to 52. I feel this is a realistic goal that I will be able to meet.

This year I have extra help as I aim to reach my target. The 2011 Reading Challenge on Goodreads.com is a neat tool to help me track my progress toward my goal. To start I inputted in how many books I was aiming to read this year. As I update the site when I finish a book, the tracker will automatically update my total. The Challenge page also allows you to see how your friends are doing as they aim to meet their goals. Another reason to sign up for Goodreads.com!

So I have set my reading goal for the year. I am interested to see how I do! If you want to see my progress, check out either Goodreads.com or here on the blog. Good luck to all as you try to meet your reading goals!

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

I have always enjoyed reading books about American History, yet very few history books make it into my “to-read” pile. I was excited when I won a copy of Countdown on goodreads as it allowed me to read a bit more about the history of the United States.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Countdown by Deborah Wiles It’s 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it’s going to be a formative year.

Before starting this book, I knew very little about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Throughout the story I found myself getting more familiar with the topic. The author conveyed the historical information in a way that made it feel like a conversation instead of a lecture. She did this by delivering the facts through the main character; a eleven year old. The details about this past event were seamlessly woven into the story between talks of the daily woes of a seventh grader. This style allowed the author to successfully convey the information she needed about the Missile Crisis and the main characters life in an interesting way.

The young age of the narrator did concern me at first. The intended audience for this book–ages nine to twelve–is much younger than the YA books I usually read. I wondered if I would be able to relate to a character whose daily concerns involved things such as who to play with in the playground. In the end, these types of issues took up little of the story. Instead much of the plot focused on larger issues. I found I could relate to issues such as dealing with family dynamics. The author’s ability to put me in the character’s shoes quickly eased any concerns I had about the age difference between the protagonist and myself.

I was interested to find out that this book is the first in a trilogy. I am very curious to see what topics the remaining two books cover. I am hoping that the author chooses to focus on two historical events for the subjects of the remaining books. Her ability to make history entertaining has me excited for these releases.

Review: This book is one I would love to see any middle school aged student reading. It is a great book that many will find entertaining. The authors ability to keep the story interesting while still informing made for an enjoyable story. I can’t wait to see what topics Wiles tackles next!

Everything Christmas by David Bordon, Tom Winters

I am someone who firmly believes that Christmas celebration should not start until the day after (American) Thanksgiving. So why am I reviewing a Christmas book in October? I won Everything Christmas as a goodreads giveaway and wanted to review it ASAP.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Everything Christmas by David Bordon & Tom WintersOpening this book is like opening a box full of Christmas cheer.

Christmas is a time of celebration and wonder, a time to embrace longstanding traditions and establish new ones. It’s a time for meals made of memories and heartwarming stories shared around the fireplace. It’s a time for worship, reflection, and remembrance of God’s greatest gift.

Everything Christmas brings all the best ideas for the holiday season together in one volume. In this book, you’ll find your favorite classic Christmas stories and a few new ones destined to join them. You’ll discover the most delectable holiday recipes, enjoy the words to treasured hymns and carols, be encouraged by inspirational Christmas poems, and find renewed joy in the Nativity story. From decoration ideas to Christmas trivia and humor – it’s all here!

Growing up, Christmastime was a big celebration for my family. My younger sister and I spent the day after Thanksgiving decorating our parents house for Christmas. This was a massive all-day effort. The Christmas festivity continued on throughout the holiday season. These experiences have made me realize how important Christmas traditions are.

My husband and I will soon be starting our own family. This is a chance for us to start our own holiday rituals. We will borrow from our childhood for some customs, while also trying to incorporate new ones. I found Everything Christmas was a great place to start looking for new traditions.

It was impossible to read this book and not start to feel some holiday spirit. This book is set up to be used as an Advent Calendar. There are 24 chapters in this book, one for each day leading up to Christmas. The chapters each center on things such as holiday recipes, crafts, carols, poems, and holiday stories. The stories were so enjoyable that I had a hard time putting the book down.

The book served as both entertainment and a great Christmas resource. In its pages are the words to most of the classic Christmas Carols, as well as stories of their origins. If you are looking for a recipe for your holiday table, this book has you covered. The craft ideas had me itching for a trip to my local Michael’s to pick up supplies. After reading I was left wishing it was December!

Review: I was a bit uncertain about this book when I won it, but am now very glad I had the opportunity to read it. I enjoyed many of the stories, poems, and jokes found in its pages. My husband and I were inspired by the recipes and plan on trying some for the upcoming holidays. Everything Christmas is the perfect book to put you in the holiday mood.

Don’t Stop Believin’: The Unofficial Guide to Glee by Erin Balser, Suzanne Gardner

The next book I am going to review is Don’t Stop Believin’: The Unofficial Guide to Glee by Erin Balser and Suzanne Gardner. I won a free copy of this book through the goodreads.com giveaway program.

From goodreads.com

 Don't Stop Believin': The Unofficial Guide to Glee by Erin Balser, Suzanne Gardner The kids in McKinley’s high school’s glee club “New Directions” might not be the most popular in school. For every chart-topping song “New Directions” belts out at practice the glee kids are liable to get a slushie tossed in their face by a football player or harassed online by the creme-de-la-creme of the school, one of McKinley’s “Cheerio” cheerleaders. But fictional popularity aside, the television show Glee is unquestionably a runaway hit, and audiences can’t get enough of their story: from the songs to the students, and especially the wacky teachers.

Don’t Stop Believin’: The Unofficial Guide to Glee is for Glee fans who demand more once the curtain falls. From information about the stars, the music, the trivia, and the in-jokes, to analysis of each relationship and fashion choice, Don’t Stop Believin’: The Unofficial Guide to Glee is the go-to guide for all things Glee. The book is thorough enough to satiate even the most dedicated of fans, yet accessible enough that a casual viewer can enjoy it.

Based on the description of this book, I gathered that it would be pages of large glossy pictures with small amounts of text, which made me hesitant to spend ten dollars on the book. The fact that I could sign up to win this book for free, however, was very appealing. The goodreads giveaway allowed me to not have to spend money on what I felt would be a glorified fan magazine, yet still get some Glee gossip to tide me over until the new season premiered.

Upon getting my hands on a copy of the book I was excited to find out my impression was way off. The text-to-picture ratio made me realize my fears of the book being mostly fluff were unfounded. I enjoyed the colored pictures featured in the insert. I found the rest of the pictures were used thoughtfully throughout the book.

Overall the guide was arranged very well. It started off with a background of how Glee came to be. There was great insight into the people who had a hand in the creation of the show. This section was followed by in-depth discussion of a good deal of the main and supporting cast of season one. I was afraid that this information would all just be recycled interviews and quotes with little new information; this was not the case. Although I have read many stories and articles about the cast, I still found much of the information in this section to be new and filled with many interesting facts.

The second half of the book was dedicated to an in-depth discussion of each episode. Each recap featured fourteen categories that were used to discuss the episode. I found that many of these small sections worked well. The summaries were useful in reminding me about some of the details of the episodes without being too long. The “Behind the Music,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “Center Stage” sections provided great information about the various song choices or Broadway references in each episode. I really enjoyed the great Sue Sylvester quotes that ended each recap, as these are often the highlight of an episode.

Two of the recap sections didn’t really work for me. As I had never previously watched Executive Producer Ryan Murphy’s TV show Popular, I had no use for the sections comparing that show and Glee. As a result I found myself skipping over these paragraphs. The “Low Note” section was also one I could have done without. This section felt too judgmental and critical of a show that should not be taken too seriously.

Review: I am not the type of person who would spend money on a unofficial guide to a TV series. The reasonable price of this book–$10 to $14 dollars depending on where you look–would help to change my mind. This book is full of new facts that even avid Glee fans will find interesting. Even the two small subsections I did not enjoy could not take away from my enjoyment of this book

Update: My 2010 Reading Challenge

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions for myself. This is mainly due to the fact that I never keep them. However this year I noticed many of my friends making resolutions about reading. I found myself very interested in this concept, as it was a goal I may strive to reach! I always read a lot of books so why not aim for a goal? I decided to aim for reading 78 books in 2010–a book an a half a week–and off I went.

As I have mentioned previously, Goodreads.com is a great way to keep track of what books I’ve read this year. With the ability to make lists, I can group all of my 2010 reads together. This functionality has been key in helping me count the number of books I’ve finished. I would be lost without this site!

Now, a great tracking tool isn’t the only thing I’ve needed as I head towards my goal. Motivation has been a necessary ingredient. In the beginning of the year I simply needed to buy a book, and it would be read within days. While I was in the high single digits for January and February, March through May saw double digit reading counts. I was on a roll!

My big news at the end of May brought my reading motivation to near nonexistent levels. While I was excited to find out I was pregnant, I had zero interest in reading. The pile of great books I had on my nightstand lay untouched. My June reading numbers dropped to a measly two. Time spent not at work was spent sleeping. I started to worry I wouldn’t hit my goal.

In the past week or so things have started to turn around. I found the desire to read appearing more frequently. While I’m not back to double digit numbers, I’m excited about my six books for the month. It’s nice to know that even though my desire to read may leave me for a bit, it will return!

So, how am I doing with my challenge? At just-past the halfway mark of the year, I have read 55 books, and am 70% completed. I was surprised to find that despite my off month, I’m ahead of my target. My fears of not reaching my goal have been put aside for now. It is nice to know that even though I have had some temporary setbacks, my goal is very much within reach.

The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler

The next book up for review is The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me by Bruce Feiler. This book was another first-read from goodreads.com.

From Goodreads.com

The Council Of Dads book coverBestselling author Bruce Feiler was a young father when he was diagnosed with cancer. He instantly worried what his daughters’ lives would be like without him. “Would they wonder who I was? Would they wonder what I thought? Would they yearn for my approval, my love, my voice?”

Three days later he came up with a stirring idea of how he might give them that voice. He would reach out to six men from all the passages in his life, and ask them to be present in the passages in his daughters’ lives. And he would call this group “The Council of Dads.”

“I believe my daughters will have plenty of opportunities in their lives,” he wrote to these men. “They’ll have loving families. They’ll have each other. But they may not have me. They may not have their dad. Will you help be their dad?”

The Council of Dads is the inspiring story of what happened next. Feiler introduces the men in his Council and captures the life lesson he wants each to convey to his daughters–how to see, how to travel, how to question, how to dream. He mixes these with an intimate, highly personal chronicle of his experience battling cancer while raising young children, along with vivid portraits of his father, his two grandfathers, and various father figures in his life that explore the changing role of fathers in America.

This is the work of a master storyteller confronting the most difficult experience of his life and emerging with wisdom and hope. The Council of Dads is a touching, funny, and ultimately deeply moving book on how to live life, how the human spirit can respond to adversity, and how to deepen and cherish the friendships that enrich our lives.

Just by reading the description of this story I knew it was going to be a tearjerker. The book did not disappoint. Right from the first chapter, I found myself emotionally attached the the author and his family. I needed to read more to find out how they survived during the author’s year-long ordeal.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the chapter layout. The first chapter in this pattern was a letter written by the author to his friends and family. This was followed by a chapter introducing one of the “dads” to the reader. The last chapter was one in which the “dad” and Feiler discussed what that dad would pass along to the author’s children if he passed. While it was possible for these chapters to feel disjointed, each worked well together to tell a complete story.

The chapters consisting of the letters were my favorite. One of the reasons I enjoyed these so much is that they were able to give an update about the author’s condition with a human touch. They discussed things such as Feiler’s heath and how his family had been coping with his illness. I found these chapters were a a great tool to help pace the story. They were a great way to quickly cover several months worth of time while still keeping the reader informed.

As the author was telling a very personal story, I could of easily felt like an outsider throughout the book. The lack of experience I have with dealing with cancer in my family could of made it hard to relate to the journey told. Neither of these things was a problem. The author does such a fantastic job telling his story that you feel like you are right there with him. You celebrate his highs as if they are your own. When he is suffering you wish that you were there to support him. The author’s ability to make his journey your own helps make this book a must read.

Review: This was a fantastic read that was impossible to put down. The author had my interest and I was riveted throughout his year long battle. Despite the fact I had little in common with the author, I found myself often relating to his situation and enjoying his story.

An Education by Lynn Barber

I’ve been lucky recently and won a few goodreads.com giveaways recently. This review of An Education by Lynn Barber is another such book. As is the case with Lay the Favorite, I would not have read this book had I not won it on goodreads.

From Goodreads.com

Book cover of "An Education" by Lynn BarberLynn Barber’s true story is now a major film of the same name scripted by Nick Hornby. At 16, Lynn Barber was an ambitious schoolgirl working towards a place at Oxford, when she was picked up at a bus-stop by an attractive older man in a sports car. So began a relationship that almost wrecked her life. Barber’s fascinating memoir takes us beyond this bizarre episode, revealing how it left her with an abiding mistrust of men which paradoxically led her to a promiscuous life-style at university until she met her husband-to-be. “An Education” tells how she went on to work for seven years at daring (for the times) men’s magazine “Penthouse’ before beginning her starry days as the Demon Barber – Britain’s most entertaining and most feared interviewer. The book ends with an extraordinarily moving account of the early death of her husband. Her writing is refreshingly frank and funny.

I first became aware of An Education during the last Academy Awards ceremony. I found the clips and description of the movie very interesting, and made a mental note to watch the movie someday. I didn’t think of the movie again until noticing a book titled An Education listed as a goodreads.com giveaway. After a bit of research, I found that the movie had been based on this book Remembering that the movie had caught my attention, I checked out the book’s description. The description and my previous interest in the movie after the Oscars led me to sign up for the giveaway.

While I don’t usually discuss the book covers in my blogs, the publishers did such a great job designing the cover for this book that I can’t help but mention it. I felt as if this cover was a good representation of the book. The publishing company could have gone with a glossy cover with a photo-shopped model, but they didn’t. While this that kind of cover may have had more “shelf-appeal,” it would not have matched the story that’s being told. The simple cover featuring a younger image of the author was quite fitting. In my opinion this cover represented the story about Barber’s life very well.

At first I was unable to get into this book. The first chapter was necessary to give me background information on the author’s life, but it felt a bit slow. I did find myself getting more interested as I read., and I soon was unable to put the book down. Barber lead an interesting life and it translates into a engaging book.

I did feel a bit of a handicap as a US reader as opposed to someone from Barber’s native country. Some things like the discussion of England’s school system were confusing to me. The mention of certain prominent figures in the United Kingdom were lost on me as well since I did not know who they were. As a result, I felt that I was unable to grasp the importance of her interaction with these people. While this did take away my ability to relate to the character in some parts, it did not have much of an impact on my overall enjoyment or the story.

Review: I found this book interesting and engaging. It was a quick read that entertained me for an afternoon. I especially appreciated the way the author described her feelings and relationships with her family, and showed how those feelings educated her in her life.

Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer

Next up is Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling by Beth Raymer. I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the Goodreads.com First Reads program.

From Goodreads.com

Lay The Favorite Book Cover

Lay The Favorite Book Cover

An eye-popping and hilarious joyride through the underworld of sports betting

Beth Raymer arrived in Las Vegas in 2001, hoping to land a job as a cocktail waitress at one of the big casinos. In the meantime, she lived in a $17-a-night motel with her dog, Otis, and waited tables at a low-rent Thai restaurant. One day, one of her regular customers told her about a job she thought Beth would be perfect for and sent her to see Dink, of Dink Inc. Dink was a professional sports gambler—one of the biggest in Vegas. He was looking for a right-hand man—someone who would show up on time, who had a head for numbers, and who didn’t steal. She got the job.

Lay the Favorite is the story of Beth Raymer’s years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting—a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the rise of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture. As the business explodes, Beth rises—from assistant to expert, trusted and seasoned enough to open an offshore booking office in the Caribbean with a few associates, men who leave their families up north to make a quick killing, while donning new tropical personas fueled by abundant drugs and local girlfriends, and who one by one succumb to their vices. They lie, cheat, steal, and run, until Beth is the last man standing.

Beth Raymer is a natural storyteller: funny, charming, and fully awake to the ironies around her. But she is also a keen and compassionate observer of the adrenaline-addicted, rougish types who become her mentors, her enemies, her family. Raymer brings to life a world that teems with pathos and ecstasy in this wild picaresque that also tells the story of a young woman’s crazy, sexy, most unlikely coming-of-age.

Although this book is not one I would normally pick up, the description caught my eye. I entered for the giveaway on goodreads.com and won! Naturally, I was excited I won–I always get excited about free books!–but I was also a little apprehensive. This wasn’t a book I would normally read, and I was a bit nervous that I might not like it.

One of the reasons I was nervous I wouldn’t like this book is that most of the book discusses gambling. Specifically, it discusses betting on sports. As someone with limited gambling experience, I was afraid I wouldn’t understand the story points involving gambling. It turned out I didn’t need to worry. The author did a great job describing any gambling terminology throughout the story, and I never felt lost or confused.

The thing I enjoyed the most about this book was how it allowed me to escape my own life for a while. As someone who has lived a nice orderly life, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to just pick up and do whatever I wanted. Beth, the author and focus of this memoir, does just that. For example, she moves to New York city on a whim with no job or place to live. While the thought of doing that terrifies me, it was great to read of her experience. Another decision she makes–deciding to try and become a Golden Glove boxing champion–is something I would never do, but enjoyed reading about. These are just some of the interesting twists and turns her life takes in the book. All of these twists make up a story that is very interesting, in part because it is so different from my every day life.

This book was a quick read because I had a hard time putting it down. The need to know what happened to Beth next kept my attention. The constant surprises made up of various twists and turns made this story enjoyable. The only complaint I had was that the book had to end!

Review: Fantastic book for anyone to read. Great tale by a fantastic storyteller. The need to know what happened next kept me turning the pages. I often tried to put the book down but I couldn’t. Although I could not relate to the main character, I still enjoyed the story she told. I recommend you pick this book up once it is released June 2nd.

Goodreads.com

Goodreads.com is a website I rely on heavily as an avid book reader. This website helps me in all stages of book-reading. Goodreads.com has tools to help me find books and track the books I have read. Since finding this site, keeping track of the books I read, as well as picking out what to read next, is so much easier!

Goodreads logoBefore I found Goodreads.com, I had no system for keeping track read books. As a result, I occasionally forgot which books I had read. Goodreads.com has completely changed this. I now am able to easily manage a list of books I have read. The list feature also allows me to organize books by the year or genre. As books can be in as many categories as you want, I am able to organize my books many different ways. These are just a few reasons why this website has been really helpful to me in managing the books I have read.

Another Goodreads.com feature that is helpful is its rating and review area. The star system on the site allows you to easily convey to others how much–or how little–you liked the book.
Also available is a place to leave a review of a book. You can use this section to talk in more deatail about your thoughts on the book. I like this section because it allows me to remember my thoughts about a book. Reading other people’s reviews can help you decide whether or not that book is for you, and what to read next. Reviews are great for making an informed decision when buying a new book!

Other than reading reviews, there are many great ways to find new books to read. My favorite way to find new reads is by checking out the giveaways section of the site. This is a great place to find information on books that will be released in the coming months. I always make sure to sign up for a few giveaways, and I put these books on my to-read shelf to pick up if I don’t win a copy. Checking out this section of the website has lead me to find many enjoyable book selections.

Looking for a book in a specific genre? Goodreads.com has lists available for every genre to be found. Lists available include historical fiction and upcoming YA book. I often use this area of the site when I’m looking for something specific. The list section always helps me find something!

Another great feature of Goodreads.com is the ability to “friend” people. By simply sending or accepting a friend request, you have instant access to your friend’s book lists. Checking out the lists of books friends have read is a great way to find a new book. As my friends have great taste in books, I usually find something here that I need to check out. The same is true if I finish a book I think a friend will enjoy. I can use a notification system to send recommendations to friends. Then they have the option to add that book to their “to-read” list. I often find the best book recommendations come from friends, so this feature is one of my favorites!

Authors have their own sections. These sections contain information about their published works. If an author has a blog connected to his profile on Goodreads.com, then this section will include the latest posts.This information really helps you keep up with what your favorite authors are writing. Some authors are even Goodreads.com members themselves. If this is the case, this section will also help you find out what your favorite author is reading. A lot of great information can be found here.

Those are just some of my favorite areas on Goodreads.com. This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything on the site. I urge you to go ahead and check out this website if you haven’t previously. I hope you will find it as helpful as I have. Already on the site? Feel free to add me!