It is with GREAT pleasure that I announce I’ve succeeded in completing my goal of reading 100 books this year!  I’m a bit behind on posting my reviews, but I promise you within the next week I’ll complete them and get on track for the new year! Since I’ve completed my goal of 100 for the year I’ve thought about increasing my goal for 2012 and am thinking of upping the goal to 110.  I’ll post my definite plans tomorrow in my kick-off post, similar to what I did last year.

2011 has been a pretty amazing year of reading for me.  Looking back I’ve read some fascinating memoirs, heartbreaking fiction, and  suspenseful mysteries among other things.  My top ten for the year with links to their reviews are as follows:

  1. Jane Eyre
  2. One Day
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. Stardust
  6. The House At Riverton
  7. Lunch in Paris
  8. A Wife For Mr. Darcy
  9. Eat, Pray, Love
  10. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian/The Silent Governess

It was SO difficult to come up with a top ten for the year; I have to pat myself on the back for choosing such a wide array of excellent reads.  I do hope that you’ll tell me what you’ve enjoyed reading this year! There is no better recommendation to read a book than a recommendation from a fellow reader!

In terms of the challenges I signed up for this past year I completed the Historical Fiction Challenge and the Page to Screen Challenge with flying colors.  The Chunkster Challenge continues through January 31, 2012 so I still have a month to finish my last two “mega-chunkster” books.  My Austen challenges I did not do so well on.  I only completed 2 of the Jane Austen mystery novels, and completed 50% of the Sense and Sensibility Challenge.  I’m disappointed that I did so terribly on them, but I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is that I still completed my 100!  I’ve already begun to sign up for 2012 challenges, so make sure you head over to my challenge page to track my progress.

I hope that you will all enjoy the holiday today, checking back in tomorrow to join me on my journey of reading in 2012.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Eat, Pray, Love

Charlie’s on vacation this week, so I’m back with another edition of Adam’s Film Friday.  I decided to review a film about exploring where life takes you and getting to know yourself.  Eat, Pray, Love is based on the memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, (Kim’s book review is here) who after a particularly rough year decides to go on a year-long sabbatical to three different countries.  Her first stop was Italy, where she ate her way through the sites and learned the importance of food and not worrying about calories.  In India, she learned the importance of prayer and meditation, and in Bali she learned to love again.  This film will make you think about your own life, the choices we make, and how we get to certain places in our lives.

The film begins with Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) in Bali. She is writing an article about an old medicine man named Ketut.  Ketut tells her she is going to be involved in a marriage that ends in divorce.  When she comes back to New York, she realizes that this prophecy may come true as she finds herself drifting apart from her husband Steven (Billy Crudup).  After divorcing Steven and unsuccessfully rebounding with a young actor named David (James Franco), Gilbert realizes she needs to get away from everything and go on a trip.  She has lost all passion for life and realizes she’s in a serious rut.  She decides to go on a year long vacation, spending four months in Italy, four months in India, and finishing the year with four months in Bali.  While in these places she discovers new things about her personality and allows herself a new perspective on life.  For example, while in Italy she learns about food and friendship and in India she learns to take time to relax and meditate.  Each step of the way Gilbert faces struggles and takes time to adapt, but in the end she discovers new insight into her own life with every place she visits.

I’ll admit, I was extremely hesitant to watch this film.  It looked to me like the ultimate “poor girl has a rough break up, goes to find herself in a far off land, and comes out stronger and happier” type of film.  However, once I began watching it I realized that the film had so much truth and heart to it.  We all get lost in life; we get so set in our routines and our jobs that we sometime forget what living really is.  The heart of this film comes from seeing this woman’s journey, which was directed beautifully by Ryan Murphy.  Every scene in these exotic locales was so beautiful and really showcased the scenery that this woman saw.  You could see why she fell in love with these places.  In the Italy scenes I found my mouth watering from the heaping pasta dishes, in India I felt a weird sense of calm, and in Bali I fell in love with the serene environment.  Every part of the journey built upon the previous lessons learned and the made the viewer able to understand the lessons of the whole journey.

Murphy also makes you feel like you are going on the journey with Ms. Gilbert as well.  We see her struggles, but we’re also treated to her “a-ha” moment in every place.  I think the filmmakers did a great job bringing both of these things to life.  Additionally, although Julia Roberts did a fine job in the role, I think if you had taken any A-list celebrity actress she would have been able to play the character.  Gilmore is a great character, but didn’t seem like much of a stretch to play.

Throughout this whole review the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to the forefront of my mind.  I based what I thought the film would be like on a 2 and half-minute trailer with funky chick flick music in the background.  The one line in the trailer that especially bothered me was the,“this is my no carb left behind” experiment.  However, when the line was said in the film it made perfect sense.  Truth be told, I really did enjoy this film.  I ended up liking the funky chick flick soundtrack, and really enjoyed viewing this woman’s story.  Like always, I will leave you with a question: what would be your 3 places to visit, and what would you do in these 3 places? Leave them in the comments below and I will tell you my choices!

4 out of 5 stars

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Columbia Pictures
PG-13, 133 Minutes

#38 A Review of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


With my Europe trip rapidly approaching, I began to ponder what books I would be bringing with me to keep me entertained when we were not sightseeing.  Since I was going to Italy, the obvious choice was Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Having seen the movie a few weeks earlier with Todd, I really wanted to read Gilbert’s own thoughts on love, spirituality, and food.  Never have I been more jealous of a person’s life than after reading this book!  The way she finds peace and serenity in this hectic thing we call life is admirable.

After going through a tumultuous divorce, a heartbreaking rebound relationship, struggles with work, and life in general, Gilbert finds herself at a crossroads.  Either commit suicide (which she thankfully talks herself out of), or take a year away from everybody and everything and find herself: as a person, as a lover, and as a spiritual being.  Obviously she chooses the second choice and convinces a publisher to pay for her year abroad in exchange for what will later become Eat Pray Love.  Her plan is this: spend four months in Italy to learn Italian and to also appreciate life, food, and friendship.  After Italy, she goes for four months to an Ashram (a place of spiritual learning in India), where she learns meditation, sacrifice, and devotion towards a higher power.  Finally, she travels to the Indonesian isle of Bali, where she learns the secret to a happy life from an old medicine man named Ketut.  Over the course of the year, Gilbert must face her horrifying bout with depression, loneliness, and dependency on men.  Will she ever think herself whole enough to love and live again?

As soon as I began reading Eat Pray Love I knew I would wind up loving it.  Gilbert’s effervescent personality shines through in her writing, allowing her readers to instantly connect with her and her plight and find themselves in her writing.  I’ve spoken with so many people who have read this book and have said the exact same thing.  Gilbert struggles with issues that aren’t uncommon to everyday people: the loss of spirituality, hard breakups, losing one’s way, and feeling helpless.  When reading about her dark times you really do get a sense of how deep her depression was, and after completing the whole book a reader definitely can find hope that even in the darkest times, if you put your mind and heart into it, you can overcome anything. 

Not only did I love the overwhelming message of hope found in the book, I also fell in love with the people and places that Liz introduces us to.  Seeing parts of Italy through her eyes, and then being able to experience them myself was an amazing experience.  I don’t get the chance very often to go to the places that authors write about, so it was a totally new experience for me, one that I hope to repeat soon.

Note:  For those of you planning a trip to Italy, India, or Bali, I suggest reading Liz’s chapters on those locations prior to going, as she does talk about great sites and eats that could be worthwhile for your visit!

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my tenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Penguin Group (2007)
Paperback 352 pages

New Year; New Challenges

January 1, 2011.  It’s the official beginning of my new challenge!!  I have 365 days to read 100 books.  I’m partaking in two reading challenges this year (that I’ve signed up for so far) so 11 of those books are the Jane Austen mystery series and 20 of them will be historical fiction novels. I’m excited that I’m mixing it up this year and doing some reading challenges as well.  I think it will help keep me motivated throughout the year. 

I’m really looking forward to some of the titles that I’ve decided to read this year.  I have a very eclectic group to read so far.  Some of the titles include:

  1. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (It’s the 200 year anniversary of the book this year!)
  3. Little Children by Tom Perrotta
  4. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
  5. V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
  6. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  7. You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
  8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  10. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson
  11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  12. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  13. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  14. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

I have a much bigger list than this, but I’m really looking forward to the specific books above!

So now that my new challenge has begun I would like to encourage you guys to do your own challenges.  You don’t have to read 100 books like I do, but you can do something similar to Todd and try for between 25 and 50.  You are always welcome to post on the blog thoughts about your own reading challenges or about specific books.

If you decide to do a challenge: Good Luck and Happy Reading!