April 2008

For April we read The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Personally, I had a difficult time getting through this book, despite it being only about 180 pages long. The problem wasn’t the content but that I’d already read Hirsi Ali’s memoir, Infidel, and had pretty much stalked her after that (this is a common thing I do when an author peaks my interest). What I mean is, I googled her and read everything and anything I could about her. I watched her short film, Submission, and learned as much as I could about what she’s doing now that she’s had death threats against her.

When I chose The Caged Virgin I expected it to be more of a documentary about women in Islam, but in actuality it is a collection of essays, speeches and interviews by or with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. So pretty much I was reading a bunch of stuff I’d already read in her other book or through my online stalking. However, after meeting with Chason last week to discuss the book, I learned that he appreciated the book and the new perspective it gave him. Perhaps if I had read it before reading Hirsi Ali’s other book I wouldn’t have been so critical.

On the plus side, the essay format makes it easy to read this book in pieces. Since it isn’t one long story you don’t have to worry about having forgotten something in between reads. I definitely preferred her memoir to this though because it was a story and it made the struggles of Islamic women more real to me. This woman has an amazing life and she’s very brave to have put it in writing, considering the consequences she faces for having done so.

For those of you who have read this book, what do you think?

Also, I’m still taking suggestions for next month’s book club, so if you have any great ideas leave them in the comments sections below. I’ll post the selection tomorrow.


Dewey, over at The Hidden Side of a Leaf started the Weekly Geeks this week, giving us book bloggers something new and interesting to either do or write about each week. I like this because it helps me to keep my blog update regularly (the same reason I love Booking Through Thursday). I have been better about keeping my blog updated lately, but I still haven’t reached “daily” status yet and that’s what I’m really shooting for (and only managed to do for the first week of this blog).

So this week, the assignment was to discover new blogs – five of them! This kept me busy because I wanted to list blogs that I really liked rather than just listing any old blog. I figure listing blogs that I enjoy and learn from will be more beneficial for people who read my blog as well, yes? Yes.

And here they are:

Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-Holic
– I like that Stephanie lets her personality our in her blogs and I love that she covers some book news as well as writing reviews. Oh, and she loves the library which makes me heart her even more.

Everyday Reads – From what I’ve read of Lighthearted’s blogs, I think we have similar tastes in books. I’ll definitely be checking back to get book suggestions from her.

The Literate Kitten – This is a fun blog and also has interesting news bits about books which makes my heart smile in a big way.

Passion for the Page – This blogger is super organized with her challenges. I’m only doing two and I’m not doing so hot on completing them. Also, I like her review style, giving the book stats at the beginning. It’s a great feature.

Reading Reflections – Laura is another fun book blogger with an interesting selection of books. I’ve found lots of new books for my reading list on her page.

The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik is a great resource for new runners and even for experienced runners. I began running in October 2006 when my best friend convinced me to run a 5K with her. I’ve competed in about 10 races since them, including several 10Ks and a half marthon. However, I’ve never taken my training very seriously. I basically sign up for a race and hope for my best. But when I did a half marathon last year and ended up walking a good six miles of it, I decided it was time to take my training more seriously or quit trying.

Since that time I’ve been looking for training schedules and information to help me become a better runner. Kowalchik’s book was the first one I actually picked up and read – cover to cover. I even read the chapters on running through pregnancy and running through menopause, even though they don’t apply to me yet. I found the book to be incredibly informative and actually ended up buying it after I returned it to the library because I think it will be such a great reference for my running future. I have to admit that the thing I liked most about this book was that it was written by a woman. I’ve seen plenty of women’s running guides out there, but they were all written by men and that really bothered me. I felt like a woman would know more about what it takes to be a woman runner. And I also thought a woman would cover the problems we face with more empathy. I think I was right on both counts.

This book includes information on everything from nutrition, to safety tips on the road. It has a whole chapter on how to pick your running shoes and another about how to prevent common injuries. All of the charts and graphs are extremely helpful too, giving great workout plans and tons of help for beginning runners.

For you slower, new runners out there though, be aware that you may feel a little defeated at the outset of this book. Kowalchik talks about how when she first began running she wasn’t very athletic, but I think 8 years as the editor of Runner’s World magazine and 13 years as a runner has managed to help her forget that not everyone was born running 25 miles a week. In one chapter she talks about what to do if you just don’t feel like running, a common symptom in beginning runners (at least for me). Her solution: well just go out for a short 3- to 6-mile run so you feel you’ve at least given it a try. And who knows? You may end up running 10 or 12 miles once you get started. Um, not this runner. I’m lucky if I can even finish 2 miles daily at this point in my running career. Also, in the appendix at back, there’s a chart that gives you recommended paces for training for a 5K, 10K, etc. It starts at a 32-minute 5K. My fasted 5K to date was 35:30. Seeing that I wasn’t even fast enough for the chart was a little bit defeating, but hopefully one day I’ll get there.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. I plan to use it’s advice to train for my half-marathon in October, and maybe I’ll even be able to work myself up to a full marathon in the coming year or two …

P.S. I’m taking suggestions right now for next month’s book club. I have a few books in mind but none of them really stand out as a great selection. If you have any suggestions and you want to join in, leave a comment below or email me at bexadler at yahoo dot com. I hope to see more of you participate next month. And look forward to the review/discussion of The Caged Virgin on April 30.

Since I gave away all of my books late last year, I don’t have anything available to have free giveaways like some of the other book bloggers out there (but once I finish my freebies, I’ll for sure pass them on). SO I thought I’d share this blog with you to give you a chance for your own free books. You can click on the link or the picture below and it will take you to a list of books you can enter to win. Good luck!

P.S. I found out about this site at Dewey’s blog yesterday. Just want to give credit where it’s due.

QUESTION: Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack? Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

ANSWER: This is actually the first time I’ve really thought about how the seasons might effect my reading habits. I’m not sure I read more or less during the warmer months, but I do think I read lighter fair during the spring/summer because I get major spring fever. We may not have huge changes in temperatures here in California, but I for sure am happy once the rain really stops and the days get longer. Longer days for me though mean a shorter attention span. I’d prefer to be out hiking or laying by the pool, which usually gets me to read more fiction because I can get through it quickly without too much concentration. Does this happen to anyone else during the warmer months?

Today I received my first two review copies of books! I can’t even begin to tell you how super excited I am about this. There really isn’t anything a book blogger loves more than free books. The only bad news is, now I have even more reading to do, and I should probably get it done sooner than later, considering the two books are coming out soon.

In case you’re wondering, the two books are first, He Loves Me, He loves Me Not by Trish Ryan. I won this book from her blog, which you can read here. The book will be released for sale on April 30. I’ll certainly try my best to get the review done by then. I think I’ll take it with me on my plane ride to Utah. That should make the time pass quickly. Oh, and here’s a short description of the book from Publisher’s Weekly: “Ryan’s winsome memoir and writing debut traces her desperate search for a man — specifically a husband — and for a spirituality that works for her… Ryan is eminently likeable and vulnerable, and her sharp writing will appeal to faithful and irreverent readers alike.”

The second book I received is Why the Wind Blows: A History of Weather and Global Warming by Matthys Levy. I think the title does a pretty good job of describing what this book is about. One thing I already like about the book is the graphs and pictures I saw as I was flipping through the book. Too often I get these nonfiction books with tons of scientific references that go WAY over my head without any graphics for me to reference and help me better understand what the heck they’re talking about. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

Oh, and the best news of all is I might finally do my first author interviews as a book blogger! I’m so excited that this is all really starting to come together … Now if I could just get more people interested in my online book club I’d be totally stoked (Ahem!).

My first ever love affair with an author happened in 4th grade when I read Matilda by Roald Dahl. I had always loved reading prior to this, but Roald Dahl’s imaginitive tales set me over the top. I devoured each and every one of his books within weeks of discovering him. His books are also the only books I can ever remember reading time and time again. Most books get read once and set on the shelf never to be looked through again (this is why I’m such a firm believer in the library, but that’s for another blog).

So today when I read that Sophie Dahl, Roald Dahl’s granddaughter has just released her first novel, I nearly peed my pants with excitement. Granted, she’s not the master himself, but having something new from the Dahl family makes my heart smile in a big way. It brings back all those days of reading when I was a kid, and the excitement of having a new book to read. I’m not sure how much I’ll love her book, but I still plan to read it in the near future. I have to give her a try at least.

So, from Amazon, this is the description of Playing With the Grown-ups:

“The full-length debut by the granddaughter of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal centers on a dreamy, romantic English woman who hasn’t quite escaped the thrall of her fabulous mother, Marina. When Kitty, now married, pregnant, and living cozily in New York City with her financier husband, receives the call that her mother has been hospitalized after a breakdown, Kitty flashes back to her magical youth, revolving around her Swedish grandparents’ Never-Neverland of a country home, Hay House, shared by her mother and aunts.

“When Marina’s guru insists Marina move to New York City to pursue her painting, Kitty eventually joins her on Park Avenue, and her mixed-up adolescence begins. Wearing her mother’s clothes, flirting with her handsome boyfriends and swept into parties where her mother chops the cocaine, Kitty comes through a number of charming yet troubling moments, as well as foreshadowings of Marina’s future breakdown. There’s plenty of texture to Kitty’s remembrances, but the result reads more like a fictional memoir than fully plotted novel.”

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