Tag Archives: reading challenge

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Book number one in my Summer Reading Challenge was Mindfulness in Plain English by Mindfulness in Plain EnglishBhante Henepola Gunaratana, a book recommended by a friend.

Earlier this year I started practicing mindfulness meditation. I was telling my friend Sue about it and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she had started meditating as well. I use an app called Headspace which is a series of guided meditations designed to teach you about the practice. Sue takes a class and also started reading a book which she recommended to me, Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.

It turns out that this book is exactly what I had been looking for. With chapters like “Meditation: Why Bother?” and “Structuring Your Meditation” and “Meditation in Everyday Life” Gunaratana clearly explains the principals of meditation, the benefits and how it is done. It’s a great resource for someone who is just starting out their practice.

I started out reading this in big chunks like I would with any book. While I did enjoy the book, I found that reading too much of it at a time was overwhelming. Therefore I took Sue’s suggestion which was to read just small sections every day. It took a few months to get through this way but it worked out better for me. I was able to get more out of the book and incorporate Gunaratana’s guidance and many suggestions.

Mindfulness meditation is in fact a Buddhist practice. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a Buddhist monk who was ordained at the age of 12. While he does get somewhat into the spiritual aspects of the practice, I did not find him preachy.

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness meditation or would like to develop and existing practice I highly recommend this book. It is currently back on my shelf but I plan to go back to it again and again. Because of this I give this book a Shrimp Coma Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating shrimp coma

Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell

Reporting in with Book Number 3 on my Summer Reading Challenge, a book I read a long time ago and don’t remember. But first a confession: the reason why I don’t remember this book is because I never finished it in the first place.

I purchased Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell over ten years ago when I noticed the Oprah’sBack Roads Book Club sticker. When I read it last week I realized I never got past page 30 the first time around. I stopped because the storyline was too dark and tragic for me at the time. I’m glad I finally picked it up again because I thought the book was great.

The main character and narrator of Back Roads is Harley Altmyer, a 19 year old man who is left to raise his three younger sisters after their mother is convicted of murdering their abusive father. Cheery right? That is exactly why I put it down the first time.

Harley’s life is not easy. He’s overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising his sisters with no time or money to be a regular teenager. He’s also saddled down with the tragedy of his family’s past and present. His sisters, Amber, Misty and Jody have issues of their own as well. Harley’s only solace is the MILF next door, Callie Mercer who provides him with the comfort and escape he needs.

It’s clear that life handed Harley a bad hand. He deals with it through a snarky and sarcastic attitude. This is one of the strong elements of this book and why I found it so enjoyable. In spite of his darkness, or perhaps because of it, Harley is a likable character. As the first person narrator of the story, we are subjected to all his thoughts including the very dark ones that make us question Harley’s fate. However we also see that he is a sensitive young man who cares about his sisters and others around him. As the story progresses we learn more about the Altmyer family dynamics as well as the murder of Harley’s father and the result is an even deeper dive into Harley’s character.

I enjoyed this book very much. The premise had me hooked from the beginning and about 100 pages in I became extremely close to all the characters with a genuine interest in what became of them.

I also have another confession to make about this book: I skipped ahead. (I know! I’m sorry Tawni O’Dell!) I partly blame the foreshadowing in the first few pages. They haunted me and I just had to know how it all ended. I’ll admit I learned my lesson on this one because knowing the ended ruined the mood O’Dell worked so hard to create. I promise I will never read ahead again!

If you are looking for a good family drama I recommend Back Roads. I will warn you, the book hits on some pretty sensitive subject matters including abuse and incest. There’s also some pretty hot MILF scenes.

I give this book a Relaxed Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating relaxed

Educating Caroline by Patricia Cabot

Choice number two of the Summer Reading Challenge hosted by Little Miss Drama Queen, a book that had been sitting on your shelf for over a year, was one of the more difficult choices for me since it described most of the books on my bookshelf. I narrowed the choice down by choosing a Meg Cabot novel and then narrowed those down by choosing one of Cabot’s old regency romance novels written under her pen name, Patricia Cabot. TheEducating Caroline result was Educating Caroline.

Taking place in 1870 London, Lady Caroline Linford is engaged to Hurst Devenmore Slater, the Marquis of Winchilsea. She’s pretty happy about it until she catches him cheating on her with another aristocrat, Lady Jacquelyn Seldon. Not wanting to disgrace her family by calling off the wedding Caroline decides to instead engage the services of notorious lady’s man Braden Granville to teach her how to entice her betrothed away from the slutty Lady Jacquelyn. It sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? Not to mention scandalous. But Caroline’s own mother plants the seed for the idea when she says that in order to hold on to a man Caroline should use her body…

“…which, if I do say so myself, is the spitting image of the one I had at your age, and which I used to excellent advantage…”

Braden Granville is not only a womanizer with a horrible reputation, he is not even titled (gasp!) and has made his fortune on his new fangled gun company. His appearance is secondary, possessing the self-made confidence and logic we all love in Cabot’s leading men. (In fact, based on his dominant traits I would not be surprised if he is an ancestor if Michael Moscovitz.) Caroline shocks him with her unusual request for lessons but seeing as it is a romance novel, passionate sparks fly throughout.  (Code for: there’s a lot of sex.)

In addition to the love triangle Caroline finds herself in, there is also a mystery involving the Marquis and Caroline’s brother which is quite intriguing.

While I did enjoy Educating Caroline, I did have a hard time getting into it mostly because I’m getting a little bored with the regency romance genre. That said, the novel is still quite delightful especially given Cabot’s humor which is the basis for this story. She even throws in a few references to the always pregnant Lady Rawlings who hardcore and keen eyed Meg Cabot fans know is in fact Pegeen MacDougal who married Lord Edward Rawlings in her first published book, Where Roses Grow Wild.

If you are looking for an old school regency romance with humor and a fun storyline I highly recommend Educating Caroline. I give it a Classic Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating classic

Summer Reading Challenge


Ever since I finished my Princess Diaries binge read I’ve been feeling a little lost and disorganized in my reading choices. I keep asking myself “what next?” Getting no good answers, I end up grabbing something off my bookshelf that I give little or no attention to.

Last week I came across a summer reading challenge proposed by Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen. I’ve never participated in a reading challenge but in light of my need to focus my reading I decided this would be a good one to try. Diana has a list of 10 types of books to read by September 13, 2015. It’s a pretty lofty goal for me but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Here are the books I’ve chosen:

1. A book recommended by a friend – Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana

My friend Sue is always recommending books to me and they are usually good picks. She is currently reading Mindfulness In Plain English so I thought I’d give it a shot as well.

2. A book that has been sitting on your shelf for over a year – Educating Caroline by Meg Cabot

You didn’t think I’d get by without listing a Meg Cabot book did you? Educating Caroline is one of her old regency romances that I still haven’t read.

3. A book you read a long time ago and don’t remember – Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell

I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find something for this category since I tend to have a good memory of the books I read. I was going to cheat and pick a book I really liked and wanted to read again. However, when I looked at my bookshelf I found Back Roads and realized it would fit the bill perfectly. I have a vague recollection reading this book and do remember the snarky tone of the narrator. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what the heck the book is about. The synopsis seems interesting so I’m looking forward to the (re)-read.

4. A book from your to be read list – Shrinkage by Bryan Bishop

I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about it on the Adam Carolla podcast.

5. A book you never heard of – Hello I Love You by Katie M. Stout

So much to choose from for this category! In order to avoid getting overwhelmed I decided to be quick and choose the first book that grabbed my attention. The premise of this one did the trick: a super rich girl runs away to boarding school and falls in love with a Korean rock star. MJ at Howdy YAL, where I first saw the book, gave it a “meh” review, as did others as I found out, but I’m going to go for it anyway.

6. A classic – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’m embarrassed to admit how many classics I have not read. This is one of them.

7. A book you started but never finished – Work as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond

I enjoyed this book when I first started it years ago and have been wanting to finish it for a long time.

8. A new release – Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I’ve been following Matt on Twitter for quite a while and have been wanting to read his memoir which came out earlier this year.

9. A book outside of your typical genre – A Good Marriage by Stephen King

Thrillers are typically not my thing, too stressful, but I’ve been wanting to try Stephen King for years so here goes!

10. A chunkster (400+ pages) – The Rebels by John Jakes

This is the next volume in the Kent Family Chronicles which has been on my list for a while. It’s 467 pages so qualifies as a short chunkster. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone but I’m going to read the e-book version to save my wrists.

As you can see from the date on the banner I am already late with this challenge, eeeek! Time to get reading.