Book Club Extravaganza!!

Last week we had our monthly book club and the book choice was The Litigators by John Grisham.

One of the reasons I love being in a book club is because I’m exposed to books that I wouldn’t normally read. However, that also means that I’m going to be introduced to some not so great books, like this month’s pick. Now a lot of people like Grisham novels, unfortunately I’m not one of them.  I don’t know if it’s because I feel like they’re all the same or what, but I’m not a fan.

 So this book centers on the lives of three lawyers. Two partners of a small law firm who are ethically questionable and, in addition to taking crap cases, they love chasing ambulances .  Literally, the firm is located on a dangerous corner where accidents are frequent and potential plaintiffs are plentiful.  By chance David, a third lawyer who has been slaving away for a big law firm, joins the small firm after he suffers a mental breakdown at work. David is soon sucked into their schemes to get rich quick by suing Big Pharma and from there the reader gets to watch the train wreck that these lawyers call practicing law.
There was nothing that could have saved this book for me so I’m just going to give the top three reasons why I didn’t enjoy it. First, Grisham took the easy road and pin holed these characters into the typical stereotype of a personal injury attorney. He described them as money grubbing men who felt no shame in lying to clients and posing as doctors to sign up plaintiffs lying bed ridden in hospital gurneys. I know personal injury attorneys and Grisham’s description caused offense. Second, the story was too predictable. Had the story been focused more on criminal law instead of torts I probably wouldn’t have minded it as much but no, the story was on one of my most hated subjects in law school ever, bloody torts. Lastly, being a lawyer I deal with laws and lawyers all day (Although the lawyers I work with are pretty awesome!) and the last thing I want to do is read about disenchanted and unethical lawyers on my off time.
 Bottom line if I were you I would skip this one.
Top Ten Tuesday
And onto more important things! The Broke and the Bookish host a weekly meme: Top Ten Tuesday, and each week we’re given topic or theme to list our top ten preferences. This week’s topic is:
Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks:
I love this topic and I’m glad that it’s my first “Top Ten” category. So here are my Top Ten:

1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. A true story of murder and the lives of eccentric Savannahians in the Old South written from the first hand knowledge of a Northerner. This book will draw anyone in and generate much discussion surrounding Who Dunn’it.

2. The Shadow of The Wind by  Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves. A story of love, a secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and destruction of one author’s books. This is a novel which is beautifully written and will have something for everyone.

3. The Harry Potter Series. Because who doesn’t want to talk with other people about the Boy Who Lived?

4. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein. I have yet to read this book but the author takes a look at negative implications surrounding girl power and         I would love to hear other people’s take on her perspective.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. A book which follows the adventures of our bodies after we’re dead and gone. I was particularly interested in a hill in Tennessee where bodies are left to rot in order to gain information on the time of death of murder victims. 

In the Woods by Tana French. A past crime and present crime eerily similar, both with one man in common. This book stumped the hell out me and I recommend it as a book club read if only to hear others’ theories.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. A short novel that will leave you intrigued days after you finish it.

Jubilee by Margaret Walker. A novel that took the author thirty years to research, it tells the story of one girl, daughter to a white slave owner and his black mistress, as she lives through slavery, the civil war, and the reconstruction.

The Dreams of Ada by Robert Mayer. A true story depicting the disappearance of a young girl in a small town. Reminiscent of Capote’s In Cold Blood.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. An inspiring story about one little boy’s life growing up in the racial filled country of South Africa.

And onto the next . . . I am currently enthralled in the third book of the Game of Thrones series (Well really the Fire and Ice Series but no one knows it's called that) A Storm of Swords by Geroge R.R. Martin. 

I Love This Book So Much I Would Marry It

Well I recently finished reading John Knowles’ A Separate Peace and it is easily one of my all time favorite books.

The story, set during World War II and taking place at a New England boy’s prep school, is a coming of age tale following the lives of Gene and Finny, two teenage boys. Think Catcher in The Rye. Gene is our narrator and we learn about his and Finny’s story from his perspective as he visits the school, and sites of a past tragedy, some 15 years later.

Our boys are as opposite as can be and yet they’re best friends. Gene is an intellectual, quiet student who needs to spend his days studying and following a schedule. While Finny is an athletic, charismatic, easy going charmer. Their relationship is extraordinary to follow, and Knowles makes their simple lives incredibly intriguing. This is especially true when a misfortune befalls one of the boys.

I do want to mention that while the story does take place during a war, that does not mean that this is a “war” story. Instead the author, beautifully I might add, uses the backdrop of the war to show how the world’s events affect people living their daily lives.

I fell in love with this novel, so much so that in the days after I finished it I kept thinking about. It was deep, insightful, and this will be a book that I reread often. Some of you may have been required to read this book during high school, I of course was not, but if you have yet to read it I urge you to pick it up. Immediately.

Note to Heather: I kind of took this book from your room a few years back and since it still had a bookmark embedded half way in it I’m not sure if you ever finished it. So my apologies, and I would be more than willing to mail the book to you in Paris. On the bright side, my book thievery just demonstrates how much I appreciate your taste in books. Love you!!

And onto the next . . . it's book club time!!! I'm reading John Grisham's The Litigators.

I'm Really Not A Serial Killer

I just finished reading I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells.

Not exactly a subtle cover
Bold title right? Let me tell you, I received some curious looks from my fellow train passengers and I felt slightly awkward carrying around a “blood stained” book proclaiming that I am in fact not a blood thirsty sociopath. I felt their judgey eyes all over me and my reading choice. But truth be told I’m a creeper too. I’m always staring at people on the train, trying to decipher what they’re reading and I have been tempted on more than one occasion to ask if they would recommend their current selection but I’ve held back. Let me remind you, I’m currently living in the North East, right outside of Philadelphia, and the people of the city of Brotherly Love are not exactly the type who are open to chatting with strangers on a train. So I hold my tongue and creep quietly.

Back to my book, the plot follows a 15 year old boy, John Wayne Cleaver, who believes he is likely to become a serial killer, that is unless he follows a series of strict rules he has set for himself. See John Wayne has been interested in death, his momma operates a morgue after all, and serial killers ever since he was eight when he first starting reading about murderers. The older he becomes the more his interest has turned into an obsession, landing him right on a psychiatrist’s couch where he's officially diagnosed as a sociopath. His rigid rules include not staring at people too long, forcing himself to give a compliment to a person whom he envisions murdering, and definitely no following or stalking anyone. Unfortunately for John Wayne a serial killer is murdering people in his town, forcing him to abandon many of his rules and letting his inner monster roam free in the process.

Crazy interesting right?! I came across this gem during one of my recent explorations of GoodReads and I am so glad I did. The book was well written and fun. I would say unique but it kind of reminded me, and everyone else I described it to, of Dexter. You know, good at heart serial killer who needs to satisfy his urge to kill. Dexter similarities aside, it was interesting to read about John’ Wayne's inner struggle with what he calls The Monster. I’m intrigued to see where else Wells takes this character.

Bottom line, I liked the book and if the word on the street is correct and more of John Wayne is coming, I will be reading the rest of this series.

And onto the next . . . I am currently reading John Knowles' A Separate Peace.

A Tear Jerker

     Well, this past weekend I took the first steps in completing my “Imagine the Impossibilities" challenge! As a reminder, I have undertaken to write my family history, although, after further review of the book, I realized it’s not so much a family history journal, as it is a “Story of a Lifetime” book. Either way this project is bookish . . . sort of.  

      So far my biggest hurdle to overcome is that I have to do all of the legwork for this challenge from across the country. Most of my family is on the west coast, while my husband, who recently retired from the military as a United States Navy Dog Handler (so bad ass!), and myself have been stationed in Pennsylvania for the past 4 years. So while I would love to get together with my family and pick their brains, I have been reduced to sending emails. Thank goodness my grandma is tech savvy. Go G-ma!

      Luckily, the organization for this task has been pretty much done for me. The book is broken down into sections and, logically, I decided to start with the first section which is aptly titled “Family Background.” The section contains a wide array of questions, some of which are very factually based such as: “Where did your family immigrate from?” (Let’s hear it for Poland!) and others which are more emotionally based like “Have your grandmother share her favorite memory of you” or “Share your family traditions.”

      I have already received some answers from my grandma, and even though I knew some of the answers already it’s nice to hear about them from her perspective. For instance, I didn’t realize that my grandparents started the tradition of giving their kids pajamas on Christmas Eve, something that my mom used to do and now something that my husband and I do. Just hearing little tidbits about my family is interesting I’m excited to learn more.

      As for my latest book, I just finished Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain and I’m split on whether I liked it or not.

     For starters, this isn’t the type of book that normally interests me. Not that I know exactly what type of book this was exactly . . . but it’s been out for awhile and I didn’t feel drawn to it. Instead, I bought the book as a stocking stuffer for my husband, and I can’t not read a book that’s just sitting around my house. So I read it and now I’m torn.

     Most people are pulled into the story because it’s narrated by a dog, Enzo, and he is able to give us his unique doggie perspective on all things. Okay, so that’s kind of neat. Unfortunately, some of the things going on around him include an owner who is a race car driver, which means that I was bored silly with race car analogies throughout the book, and other incredibly sad events. The result was a good story (save most of the racing crud) which I enjoyed, but really dreaded reading because I knew it was going to pull a cloud of doom and gloom over me. This also meant it took me twice as long to read as any other book that size because I knew it was going to drag me down. Really this was the Debbie Downer of books, mostly because Stein makes you care about the characters and when their lives turn south you become distressed for them.

      On the bright side, this was a well written, unique, and beautiful story. It even had a happy ending but, for me, it didn’t make up for a mostly sad book. So I guess I would recommend the book to those who have a hankering to get all weepy eyed.

     And onto the next . . . I’m currently reading Dan Wells' I Am Not a Serial Killer.

An Appropriately Disturbing Kid's Read

I just finished Coraline by Neil Gaiman and I thought it was an appropriately disturbing children’s book.

I watched the movie this year during the Halloween season and since I really enjoyed it I wanted to read the book. So glad I did! Well worth the hour it took to read it.

For those of you who haven’t read the book or seen the movie the story goes something like this: Coraline is a little girl who loves to explore and loves adventure. Her family has recently moved into a large old house that they share with other tenants. Upstairs in the attic lives an old man who used to belong to a circus and is now attempting to train his pet mice to dance and sing. Downstairs in the basement lives two actresses, well past their prime, who yearn for the old days. The second half of the main house remains mysteriously empty.

One day after being cooped up too long, due to rain, and driving her parents mad, as children do, she discovers that the small door in the living room, which used to open onto a brick wall, now reveals a long corridor. The corridor leads to a home. This home is an exact replica to the home she just left and is occupied by her “other” parents, identical to her own parents save the black buttons sewn on their faces in lieu of eyes! If I were a kid that would freak me out, hell as an adult it does!! Alternate worlds are on my list of freakiness already soooo…

Bottom line: When I have kids they will be reading this book . . . around Halloween for maximum effect.

And onto the next . . . I am currently reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

A Must Read

I just finished reading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay and all I can say is, WOW!

In an attempt to strong arm my little sister into reading the Hunger Games, which she hated by the way, I promised her I would read The Power of One. She has been talking about this book for as long as I can remember and her vague description of the plot included “a little boy growing up in South Africa.” Really wants to make you read it, right? Well, I finally gave in for the sole reason that she would read about Katniss and fall in love with the series, never expecting I would actually fall for the book she was recommending. Strange things do happen though, and I honestly believe this book is one of the best books I have read in a very long time.

The story IS about a little English boy growing up in South Africa, but there is so much more to it and I am worried that my description won’t do it justice. The little boy, Peekay, is our narrator and we begin our story with him as a five year old being sent to a boarding school where he is teased and bullied mercilessly by the Boer children, who have been programmed since birth to resent the English.  From there we follow Peekay throughout his life as he meets people along the way who greatly influence him, for good or bad.

I want to go on and on about it but I’ve tried describing it to my husband and without reading it everything sounds flat. It is a book that must be read to truly enjoy. The story is so inspiring and smart, but not hoity toity, that I want to gush about it to everyone I know. I now completely understand why my sister continued to prattle on about this book, it’s that good. Go out and get it or if you live near me I will happily let you borrow my copy so that you too will be a gushing mess.

Bottom Line: I highly recommend this book!

Interested in Joining us?
In other news, I have signed up for another challenge. My husband thinks I have taken on too much, I think my husband is crazy as there is no such thing when it comes to reading. This challenge is called Around the World in 12 Months and Shannon puts it on over at Giraffe Days. I love the concept! We are to read one book a month that takes place in a specific country and is by a native author. I haven’t picked my books yet but here is the scheduled country list:

January: South Africa

FEBRUARY: Bangladesh

MARCH: Guatemala

APRIL: Tanzania

MAY: Cuba

JUNE: Germany

JULY: Iran

AUGUST: Mexico

SEPTEMBER: Philippines

OCTOBER: Denmark



I really need to do some research on which books will work so if you know of any books that fit please recommend away!

And on to the next . . . I am currently reading Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

UPDATE: I amaze myself sometimes at how completely oblivious I am. By complete coincidence, the first country of my Around the World in 12 Months challenge is South Africa. And wouldn’t you know it but my novel for this post meets the criteria. Bryce Courtenay, was born in South Africa in 1933 and The Power of One is loosely based on his life experiences; I’m glad I signed up for this challenge because had I not, I wouldn’t have realized this.

Reading the novel, I was struck by how little I actually know about South Africa in general. I mean, prior to law school, I majored in History but that prepared me little on the social tensions that existed in and the past of South Africa. I have read, briefly, about the existing racism against the black population of the country, but prior to reading the book I was unaware of the great power struggle between the Boers and the English, both of Caucasian descent. It was amazing really to learn about the relationships between these two societies and I feel as though I really have learned something about the country.

For those of you who are unaware, my little sister is taking a break from college and working as an au pair in Europe. She wanted to experience the world and she’s doing it! Before she embarked on this adventure she was debating on attending college in South Africa, and after reading this book I can understand why. Courtenay does a remarkable job of detailing the beauty of a country that I always believed to be just desert and lions (very stereotypical, I know) and he has convinced me to add South Africa to my wish list of places to explore. So glad I read this book.

Challenge Accepted

Well, it’s a new year and while I typically shy away from making any type of resolution, this year I have been inspired by my friend Sara (check out her amazing blog here: Gals&Wine Blog) to push myself. Sara is semi-following a challenge put forth by Karah and others over at The Space Between which has asked readers and bloggers to imagine an impossible task and then do it. HA! Better said than done, am I right?! I mean, I have a ton of great plans, just ask my husband, but I always get overwhelmed and end up packing my ideas and supplies up for another day. And then another day turns into another year. Seriously, I have ticket stubs, post cards, and other “memories” from the past 7 years saved in a box awaiting their rightful place in a scrapbook. Well, they’re going to be waiting a long time because the last event I scrap booked was my husband’s proposal 8 years ago. Yikes! Don’t even get me started on the wine that I’m making that has been fermenting for two and a half weeks too long. So yeah, I’m not much of a doer.
But like I said I have been inspired and this year I plan to push myself probably off a cliff outside my comfort zone and start doing things I normally wouldn’t do. My slacker-ass-ness aside, I am off to a great start this year, never you mind that it’s only the 10th day of the year.
My goals thus far:
 Compete in the Poconos Tough Mudder Competition in May.
I have always wanted to train and run a triathlon but I really suck at running. I’ve always heard of runner’s praising the concept of the runner’s high but it eludes me, lucky me. So I have avoided entering into any event, which requires me to pick up a pace quicker than a brisk stroll. But then I heard about an event called the Tough Mudder, a grueling 11 mile military style obstacle course complete with jumps into ice water, electric shocks, and fire. Now while you may hear electric shocks, I hear that I don’t have to run non-stop, score! Not only are there “fun” obstacles, but the Tough Mudder, which supports the Wounded Warrior charity, is also not meant to be a race. Instead, the creators want people to challenge themselves and help one another throughout the event. That’s right; if you have trouble getting over one of the 8 12ft high walls a random stranger will be there to give you a hand. 
Those are live wires Ladies and Gentlemen.

If you're feeling real crazy: Sign up here

2         Read One Classic Book a Month.
I am going to continue and stick to my goal of reading one classic novel a month, even though most of the ones I’ve read have bored me to tears. So far one month down.
3     Read 100 Books in 2012.
I’m addicted to GoodReads, and every year they host a book challenge to encourage more people to read, wherein thousands of readers pledge the number of books they will read in 2012. I signed up last week and my pledge is to read 100 books before 2012 is done and over. While I do read a lot, I have a feeling 100 books may have been ambitious even for me. Alas, I have signed up and I fully plan to squeeze that many books into my schedule. 

Explore for yourself

Feel free to follow me on GoodReads, my profile name is Bmiche, but only if you want access to even more amazing great reads.
Now for my Imagine the Impossibilities Challenge: I Plan to Write My Family’s History. 
Whoa crazy, I know.
 My husband and I have always stuck to giving one another traditional anniversary gifts. Some years are great and others are downright hard, I’m looking at you year 7! Let me tell you it is hard to buy someone a gift made of copper that isn’t a healing bracelet of some sort. Well, the third year of marriage is leather and my wonderful, thoughtful husband bought me a leather bound family history book to record the craziness miracle that is my family. Remember me saying that I’m a complete slacker and that I’ve been married nearly 8 years? That means that this beautiful book has been sitting around for years waiting for me to fill it with family stories. Unacceptable, and I have now decided to get to work. Wish me luck!
Have your own seemingly impossible challenge in mind?

Join us!

Ah yes, and now for my brief thoughts on David Moody’s Hater, the latest book I’ve read.

Let me start by saying that I am incredibly freaked out by post-apocalyptic scenarios. However, I do get some perverse enjoyment out of scaring myself silly. Enter Hater. The plot doesn’t differ widely from most books of the same genre, and if you enjoy zombie-esque situations or the like, you’ll enjoy this book. Moody captures the fall of the world as certain people in the population simply go mad and begin to attack anyone around them. Our perspective comes from the eyes of an average, married government worker who helplessly watches society descend into chaos. As an added treat, Moody gives us multiple first person accounts from either Haters or their victims near and at the times of the attacks.

This was an easy read and since it’s only one out of a series, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of them shortly. And once again my picker is on target because. . . it’s going to be made into a movie! Mind blown.
And onto the next . . . Currently reading The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

Time for the Classics

I recently finished Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage & “The Veteran

I’m a reader. However, I’m not a reader of the classics and this really bothers me, like a lot. I blame my high school, more specifically my English teachers, for this failure. What I remember most about English classes was sitting around, talking, and once a week taking a weekly vocabulary test. Real trying, right? I can’t really remember ever reading any books for class or having a summer reading list. Now maybe this is because I wasn’t with the cool kids in the AP English classes, but still.

Okay enough with the pity party because I have decided to challenge myself! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I am going to start reading one classic a month, I know, whoa crazy. But I feel like this is a good way to ease myself into reading books that are out of my comfort zone and y'all should help me out! Seriously, leave me a comment recommending which classic I should read next month so that I can actually start enjoying these books. I trust you. 

I decided to start with The Red Badge of Courage because I bought it oh, about 5 years ago (Yikes!) and it’s just been chillin’ on my shelves ever since. I have a lot of books like that; it’s just so hard because so many new amazing books come out that it’s hard to keep up.


Side Note: Apparently my husband does not take any interest in the plethora of books I have around the house because when I told him how long I’ve had this book he was shocked. How does one not know what books they have in their own house?!

Aaron: Oh my god Brittany! Five years?

Me: Well, since Italy so maybe more.

Aaron: And I bet you have a ton more just like that.

Me: I mean a few, but obviously I’m reading them now, so….

10 minutes later…

Aaron: Really? Five years?!

So obviously my husband does not understand that some books are meant to be saved for a later date. Crikey! They’re books, they don’t go bad.


Since I know y’all are dying to know what I thought of my first classic, well my first classic I consciously read because of its’ status, let me tell you: I don’t think I liked it! 

It’s difficult for me to say for sure that I didn’t like it because there were so many parts of the book that were incredibly profound, (ha! “insight” that’s what you get when you read classics. Apparently.) But then the parts that weren’t, were kind of boring.

The premise of the book centers on a young soldier who is about to fight in his first battle shortly after he heard the call of duty (Eh? Get it? COD?) and enlisted in the military during the Civil War. What follows is an in depth look at the soldier’s inner battle with his fears that he may not be courageous enough to stand on the front lines. His fear is so deep that often throughout the book he longingly wishes that he’ll be maimed or killed in one of the battles, if only so that he’ll have outward proof of his courage, hence the title: the red badge of courage.

The good: There were some parts of the book that I related to. For instance, I believe that the many people look at past conflicts with some disdain and with the belief that had the actions that conspired to create those wars then occurred now we, as a more intelligent and evolved society, would not have engaged the hostilities. Or at least we would have done so with more grace. Crane showed me that we are not unique in this way of thinking, for the young soldier often reflected that battles were supposed to be regarded as the “crimson blotches on the pages of the past” and only belonging to a world of “heavy crowns and high castles”; after all “men were better” now. I was floored to read my exact thoughts in the pages of a book that was written a hundred years ago on a war which I regard as one of those crimson blotches. To have that connection was amazing.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciated was the short story, The Veteran, which came at the end of my copy of the book. We meet again with our young soldier, who is now quite along in his years, and we are given the opportunity to see how the war shaped his character. Best part of the whole bloody book and technically its not even part of the book, go figure.

The Bad: Truthfully, so much time is spent on following the young soldier around as he walks from battle to battle that I lost interest for huge chunks of pages. And I mean huge chunks.

So would I recommend the book? Well, if you’re like me and haven’t read many classics then I would pick another, because there must be better ones out there. But if you read classics like a maniac give this one a go, just be prepared to work for the truly wonderful nuggets that are hidden in all the muck.

And onto the next…Started David Moody’s Hater series and it’s super good!