top 9 of '09

Top 9 reads of the year... in no particular order:

1. The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller
2. The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog by Bruce D. Perry, PhD
3. Love In The Asylum by Lisa Carey
4. The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
5. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
6. Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy
7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
8. The Center Will Not Hold by Elyn Saks
9. The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


2010 Challenges

I am not much a challenge person, mainly because I start them and never finish.  So I am planning on starting the year off on the right foot- joining 2 challenges that I know I can do.  I figure this will encourage me, and maybe I will join others as the year progresses.

The first challenge I want to introduce is the Buy One Book and Read It Challenge hosted by Amy.  The challenge started when Amy heard that 50% of Americans did not read a book in a single year - her hope was to inspire people to READ.  I agree that the statistic is shocking (especially to a book lover and a teacher)... but I realize that American households are flooded with technology (TV, playstations, Wii, etc etc) and therefore reading sits on the backburner.  Unfortunately I also see it first hand - I teach adolescents between 10 - 13 and they aren't exactly the biggest readers... however, every day I am working on it!
I apologize, I have side tracked... I will step off of the soapbox now.
The challenge has 3 levels, and since I am an avid book buyer, I am going to pick Level 3.  Level 3 consists of buying 12 books and reading them before 12.31.10.  Last night I picked up 2 books, so I am already on my way!

The second challenge that I am going to join is the Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge hosted by Melissa.  I picked this challenge because memoirs are one of my favorite genres- therefore it just fits!  The goal is to read at least 4 memoirs between 1.1.10 and 12.31.10.  I just got a great memoir from Joe for Christmas, so I am going to begin with that.  The rules are very chill, to allow more readers to find a love in memoir reading.  The books can overlap with other challenges, the description of memoir is loose, both audio and e-books are allowed.

There you have it!  Here is to ringing in 2010 and making some goals for myself with these reading challenges!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Shakespeare Sunday & some catching up

Hello blog world!  I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays... I spent mine visitng with family & friends and driving all around the great state of New York.  It was a wonderful holiday and I was spoiled with lots of goodness and was able to share my own gifts and love with those closest to me.  I made homemade gifts (which, I never took pictures of because I was so damn busy) - hot cocoa jars and candles. 

Also, I gave my nephews books of course!  Kiernan is almost a year and Anthony will be a year in 2 weeks.  I gave them both books that they can bring to church - one each of Ezra Jack Keats Snowy Day (the board book version).  I also got them both "finger puppet" books - Kiernan got Little Reindeer and Anthony got Little Polar Bear.  The finger puppets were a hit!

Speaking of books... I got some under my tree!  Plus, a B&N gift card, which of course is my favorite gift ever.  I also had a happy surprise this morning when I was reconnecting with the blog world- Susan over at Bloggin Bout Books announced the winners of The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere and I was one of the lucky winners!  I am so excited to get this book and gobble it up.

I finished some books, and I will be writing reviews ASAP!

And now, some Shakespeare:

"Nature teaches beasts to know their friends"

Act II, Scene I


write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Shakespeare Sunday

"My love's more richer than my tounge"

King Lear
Act I, Scene I

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


A Non Review: Let It Snow

Last night I just updated my "I'm Reading" sidebar with a new book- Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.  I figured from the blurb on the back that it was going to be an interesting and sweet romantic novel with some Christmas spirit.  Also, I did enjoy reading the young adult novel, TTYL and the other 'Internet Girl Series' by one of the authors (Lauren Myracle) when some of my students were reading them.  However, I was BEYOND disappointed within the first 40 pages.  I rarely ever put a book away after starting, but this was one of those books.  I was immediately bored and the writing was sub-par.  There was no hook to pull me in, and even by page 5, I was ready to give up.  I stuck it out until page 40ish and then just decided that it wasn't worth my time.

Has anyone else read this book?  I would love to hear other opinions if you have... maybe it would make me want to give it another try...

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Mini Review: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

Okay, so I picked this book up because I've read Tucker Max on the internet... he blogs and shares all sorts of raunchy stories about his bachelor life. First let me say that I let my boyfriend read it before me (I was busy reading another book) and his first reaction was "Jenna, this is hilarious but it is completely disgusting and I don't want you to read it". Of course, I read it anyways. And let me tell you- it IS awful. Not awful like it is the worst book ever written, but awful because it is so incredibly dirty and demeaning towards women. Basically, I would ONLY recommend this book to my friends that I know VERY well and who I KNOW could handle the topics. The book is so X-rated with its content that I can't really share more than that. In short, only read this if you hate men and want some justification for that or you have the greatest man in your life and want to be reminded of how great he is. Or of course, read this if you just want to torture yourself.... or, if there are any men out there who read this blog, go ahead and read it and remind yourself that Tucker Max is totally disgraceful (and insanely funny)... :)

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


The sweetest giveaway ever

This evening I happened upon a really cool blog called Park Avenue Princess.  Not only an AMAZING book blog with fabulous books to look into, but also plenty of out-of-this world contests.  Im posting this to let everyone know that Park Avenus Princess is giving away an eBook reader.. of YOUR choice!  How cool is that?!  Check our the links to learn more!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Review: The Professors' Wives' Club

I just finished reading The Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell and must admit that I enjoyed it. It started out like a "typical" chick-lit novel (or so I thought) with its small introductions into the lives of four women who were battling their own demons. However, it quickly turned into a fast-paced mystery/scandal with a literary theme running strong throughout that kept me on the edge of my seat. Very rarely does fiction of this sort hold me captivated.

The novel opens up in a beautiful garden nestled in between faculty housing at Manhattan University (basically, a fictional NYU) where we begin meeting the four strong women in the novel. All four are tied to the University through their partners and live in the faculty housing, allowing them access to the garden. As we meet the women, we learn that each is battling some sort of demon in her life, and all seem to be strikingly different. It is the bond that the garden forms that holds these women together and produces a friendship between them.

The women learn of a project set to demolish their beloved garden- where they come to think and just be themselves. Each independently decides that this is a terrible idea and before you know it, waves and courteous 'hellos' become heartwarming conversations that lead to the unanimous decision that the garden demolition must stop. As the story unfolds and the reader becomes invested in the garden and the women themselves, a literary plot begins to shimmer in the light of the novel. Edgar Allen Poe becomes a central part of the novel, the garden, Manhattan U, and the women. Will they be able to stop the demolition? Will Poe become a great player in Manhattan U's decision? Will the women triumph over their personal battles?

The Professors' Wives' Club offers humor, resistance, resilience, friendships, bonds, and a little bit of scandal and mystery- there really is a bit of everything for every type of reader. While the book is fiction, there are striking resemblances to NYU, historical Poe, and academia as a whole.

This novel put an interesting spin on the "female friendships" that so often show up in chick-lit. I say interesting because the friendships are not what you see normally portrayed. Normally we see women as backstabbing catty bitches (not only in literature), but in The Professors' Wives' Club we see women who are all at very different points in their lives but find a common bond to connect them. They do not back-stab, they do not bitch and whine, and they certainly aren't catty with one another. Instead we see female friendships as they should be- caring, supportive, and judgment free.

Overall, I found this book to be a good read. I would recommend it as a light read in-between classics or mind benders. Personally, I wouldn't offer it up to a book club- as interesting as it was, I think it would be talked-out very quickly. It may be a good read, but it isn't exactly what I would consider "deep". Many women can relate, and there are things worth discussing (cheating, abuse, unaccepted relationships, and unrequited love) but Rendell didn't take them as deep as she could have.

In short: drink some coffee and read the book, but don't expect it to change your life.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Shakespeare Sunday

So here begins a new Sunday ritual... every Sunday will be deemed 'Shakespeare Sunday' with a quote from one of his works.  Maybe I will discuss it, maybe I won't.  Maybe I will add a picture to it, maybe I won't... but I will faithfully add a Shakespearean quote every Sunday from here on out.

"if you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh?
if you poison us, do we not die?
and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

The Merchant of Venice
Act III, Scene I

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


I'm back!

Well, after a few month hiatus, I am officially back to the blogging world.  Balancing life and work has been difficult lately, which is why I took a break from blogging.  I didn't stop reading though.  Nor did I stop taking photographs.  I have a few books I would like to share, some new photography, and a new book club I am running at my school.  There is a lot to update on, and I will get to all that eventually.  Knwoing me, it will be a slow dip back into blogging- hopefully I will get back to posting daily.  I may start a "weekly" format type thing- Im thinking of rekindling my romance with Shakespeare... so maybe "Shakespeare Sunday" and another one focused on my photography.  Books are not being reading near as fast as they were before- work is VERY demanding right now.  I also have a book club to run with high schoolers.  Slowly but surely, I plan to get back to sharing my ramblings with the world.

You may notice I deleted most of my posts- I kept only the ones that were strictly reviews.  I also changed my blog look, and added some snow since it IS December (and upstate NY hasn't had any snow yet!!)  How do you like it??

I will be updating soon!  xoxo



I love making bread.  I made 3 mini zucchini bread loaves - all made with applesauce to replace the oil.  The last one is infused with chocolate and topped with chocolate chips.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



The traffic in Jersey was bad. But at least there weren't any large animals in it.

Confessions is a hilarious account of Susan McCorkindale's adventure in becoming a farm girl. Complete city girl through and through, Susan allowed her husband to convince her to move to the middle of nowhere to help out his brother and to get away from the scary fast paced city life. After much convincing, Susan gives in and goes for the much sought after country life. Unfortunately for her, there isn't a Starbucks in site, DSW, salon worth a blowout, or anywhere to wear her brand new stilettos. Adjusting to living on a farm is hard enough - going from a top exec job in the heart of NYC to the backwoods of farm country.. well hard doesn't even describe the transition.

Well written and humorous throughout, this book left me laughing and begging to have a chicken coop and some cows. Wait- maybe I should slow down... Susan did warn me that the only grass thats greener is the stuff you're smoking.

Not only is every chapter full of parallels to my life (Irish Italian? You betcha! Sounds like Carmella Soprano when angry? Check! Big Italian ass? Uh huh! Slightly crazy? Yep!) but also they are full of great information and tidbits about farm life. In between chapters she has nifty little charts and lists, complete with a "glossary" of farm speak at the end, and footnotes scattered throughout the book. All which make the book even more comical.

Originally beginning as a side project stemming from her need to contact the "real world" of her past life, emails and blog posts began to form this memoir. Throw in a dash of her side splitting column in the local news, and you've got the recipe for a great memoir! Well worth looking at - whether you're a farm girl already or a city girl thinking about moving to the farm... or just in need of a good laugh - grab Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl, sit back and laugh out loud! Just try not to scare the cows.


The Bell Jar

From the back: "The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood; brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under- maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic."

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a "semi-autobiography", originally written under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Plath is know for her poetry. The Bell Jar is her one novel (all other compilations of her letters and journals were published posthumously). Shortly after its publication, Plat committed suicide by blocking off the doors and window frames in her kitchen and turning on the gas stove. It is under great debate whether she intended to fully go through with the suicide; a note stating "call Dr Gordon" suggests she wanted someone to find her before the very end, yet the autopsy reveals that Sylvia actually stuck her head inside the oven. Sylvia's suicide will always be under speculation. Literature lost an amazing artist that fateful day.

The novel is beautifully written and thrusts the reader deep into the madness of Esther. Esther describes her predicament as living under a bell jar- where the air is stale and she can't break free. Falling deeper and deeper into her own despair, Esther's trials mirror those of Sylvia. Interning at a magazine in NYC, breaking down and suicide attempts were all a part of Sylvia's life- which to me is why the novel is so well written- it boarders on memoir. Much of the novel is obviously embellished for literary reasons, but the backbones are built around the truth of Sylvia's life.

..from page 77.... "I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one they plopped to the ground at my feet."

I feel that that passage might be the most inspiring and well written piece of the book. It just makes sense - especially to me - someone who not too long ago was coming off of a time wondering what to do with my career, where to move and generally wanting it all. Esther was so unsure of herself, and with so many expectations put upon her from her mother, they began to smother her and the bell jar was slowly closing in around her, leaving her gasping for breath.

Overall, I LOVED this book. I read it fairly quick (for me) while enjoying the last bit of sunshine that New York has to offer. (I swear it rained every single day at one point or another)

Coming up:
I've begun Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by former city slicker Susan McCorkindale. So far, I love it. I can relate and it is laugh out loud funny.


Cut by Patricia McCormick

Blurb from the back: Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak. But Callie can only stay silent for so long...

Cut is a young adult novel about a girl at a residential treatment facility- what landed her there and her life within the walls of an institution. I picked it up because I work at a RTF and a lot of my residents cut. I wanted to understand from their perspective, from inside the mind of a teenage girl who feels so much pain she knows no other way to deal with it. Granted, this is fiction, but I see it every single day and I must say- Patricia McCormick really did do her homework.
Callie runs. Callie cuts. Callie refuses to speak. Throughout the book you have to ponder why. What is she running from? What pain is she releasing from her superficial cuts? What is she hiding and how long can she hide behind her own wall of silence? Slowly we peel back the layers to find a troubled girl with a heavy burden on her shoulders. Understanding where she is coming from is easy- we all have troubles and we all have suffering in our lives. But why does she address this pain with self injurious behaviors?
Cutting releases pain for many people. Feeling the burn of skin opening and revealing the crimson color of blood. The pain of cutting relieves the internal pain because it brings that person back to reality- the reality of physical pain to numb the emotional pain taking over the mind.
Callie doesn't speak. Refusing to talk is a form of control and power. If you refuse to discuss a topic, then it can't be brought out and waved in front of your face. You don't have to face an issue if you won't talk about it... it is almost like out of sight out of mind. If i ignore the topic long enough, it will just go away. Refusing to speak is also a dissociative trait. Becoming so wrapped up in your own sorrow and pain, reliving experiences and thoughts in your mind, silence is the barrier that needs to be broken to remove yourself from the overpowering intrusive thoughts.
As readers, we struggle with Callie. We feel her pain and understand her thoughts. We feel empathy for her broken soul. Callie learns lessons throughout the book, but also teaches her audience. She teaches us to let go and move on. She teaches us about relationships and how human contact, no matter how small, can help us through our toughest times. And for those of us who have never before experienced life in a residential treatment facility, you see both the good and evil. We get a glimpse at how the population receiving treatment feels and how it looks from the inside.
All in all, I liked this book. I thought it showed cutting and pain in a new light- the protagonist takes us along for a ride. I also enjoyed how Callie experienced the RTF alone and how she experienced it with her peers. Cut is an easy read (literally speaking) but emotionally difficult, especially if you have any sort of tie to the subject. My biggest issue with the book is that it somewhat glamorizes cutting. Many books on the subject do. The blurb on the back says it all - "...never enough to die." Yes, maybe so, but I think the approach - cutting as a way to relieve the pain - is too much for young adults. Young adults are influenced by everything around them- I would hate to see this book end up in the hands of a depressed teen with little comfort and support from her family. While the book does not suggest cutting as a means to get through the pain, it does imply that cutting will release the hurt. Even with Callie landing in an RTF, a young adult going through pain and with nowhere to put it, the implied concept of cutting may be too much.
I recommend this book, but with caution. If you are allowing your teen to read it, kudos! I think they should. But make sure you take time to read it also, and discuss the book. Dig deep into the theme of pain and suffering finding a release. Communication is key.


The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton is an excellent book. It got rave reviews when it came out, and continues to have people talking. Anyone who knows me, knows that I never pick up girlie girl books. The last time I read any chick-lit was when I was in high school. Not to say that this brand of literature doesn't have its place- I just don't love reading these types of books. So, imagine my own surprise when I decided I needed a break from all of my mind benders and non-fiction novels and ended up picking up a book from the "hot summer reads" table at B&N. The tag line was what intrigued me - a story about friendship, motherhood, and writing. And it was set in the 1960s. Without giving the story away... it is a beautiful novel about friends who meet every week to grow and learn from one another. Their kids play together, their husbands work together, and they write together. It is a story about sisterhood - the bond formed between women. The book made me feel excited, enraged, happy, empathetic, disappointed, relieved, strong and a whole host of other things. I laughed, cried, and sang their praises. It was a great ride of emotions and the more I read, the more I was pulled in. I also loved the book because it discusses many notable novels and authors in literature. Books that I believe every person should read before they die (especially Jane Austen). I suggest this book to any woman - young or old, single or married, mother or not. The general pull on emotions will reach any type of woman.