GG Reads – What Alice Forgot

July 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

What Would Your 2002 Past Self Think of Your 2012 Present Self?!


We all need at least one just-for-fun, “beach read” included in our summer reading list; I’m glad I chose this one as one of mine!

This book really had me contemplating! What if I fell off a cardio machine at the gym (I’m there almost every day!), woke up and thought I was back in 2002? There are so many beautiful events and significant changes that occurred in the last 10 years that I would be shocked! In 2002 at this time, I would be anxiously anticipating to begin my dream job teaching within the district I’ve always wanted to teach (this year marked my 10 year anniversary there!).  I’d be ecstatic and literally bursting with pride that my daughter not only is flourishing at her dream university but landed a full-ride as well.  Whoa – talk about a dream come true!  I’m in a different, completely newly furnished home (I’d say my old self would be happy with the new style), I’m at the gym much more than I ever was (my old self would be thrilled with the leaner muscles but want to stock the fridge with more carbs).  Finally, ten years ago, I was newly divorced – I’ve been loved and have loved but apparently haven’t found my last love yet (my old self would be surprised at this yet it would be sad if I didn’t remember the many beautiful experiences, moments and feelings I’ve gained).  Yes, the person I am today is different from the person I was then . . . but it doesn’t hurt to take a step back sometimes . . . Interested?  . . . Here’s the premise of the book:

Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she hates the gym!) and discovers that she’s actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.

A knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn’t sure she likes who she’s become. It turns out, though, that forgetting might be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to Alice.

Moriarty did a fabulous job of bringing everything together from Alice’s past and present. For me it was hard to put this book down because I wanted to see Alice overcome her present and take the joys from her past and bring them with her to her present time. I think that somehow as we go through the trials of life we forget the joys. It was wonderful to be reminded to remember the good times even better than the bad, and use those good times to overcome the pain of loss and mistakes.  The side stories of her sister, mother and grandmother continue to carry the lesson that the pain we are in now does not influence the joy we can truly have in life. The format in which these side stories are presented worked seamlessly as well.  Moriarty has a way of holding suspense – Alice’s small spurts of memory hint at the mysteries she’s forgotten.  Everything about this book was fun and heartwarming – it was interesting to watch Alice watch her own life from an objective point of view.  There are some serious messages here mixed in with at times very comedic delivery.  I’ll eat my new summer hat if you don’t delight in this read!!

GG gives What Alice Forgot an A+ for a delightful protagonist trying to overcome believable obstacles in this crazy, busy, busy world.


A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. ~Henry David Thoreau


GG Summer Reads

July 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

What I’m Reading This Summer

At the beginning of every school year, I sit down with my reading students, forming a circle – either with our desks or on the floor – and I share every single book I read over the summer.  I lug every single book in and give a little book talk on each one.  Regardless of whether every book is interesting and/or appropriate for them is irrelevant.  My goal is simply for them to understand right away just how much I enjoy reading – yes, I practice what I preach.  If one of the books I describe happens to catch their fancy, wonderful! – They have a book idea for the coming semester!  If not, I’ve hopefully at least motivated them to choose a book they enjoy as much as I’ve enjoyed mine.

Why is summer the most fun time to read?!

WHAT I’VE READ SO FAR (in this order):

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult A:  Jodi does it again – the author’s known for her surprising twists and shocking connections.  This story of a man wrongly accused of statutory rape is a page-turner.  It was a good one for me to kick off my summer reading, and it is definitely in my Top 5 Jodi Picoult books (along with My Sister’s Keeper, 19 Minutes, and Change of Heart).

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hussein A+:  I should have read this a loooong time ago.  Let me tell you, it left an impression.  It is the story of a young boy from the a district of Kabul, who befriends the son of his father’s servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afganistan’s monarchy through the Soviet invasion.  As a side note, the dirt imagery fascinated me all along.  Men, women, young and old will find this story of redemption so endearing!!!!

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen A:  I already knew that elephants understood emotions but this story helped me appreciate just how smart they truly can be.  This fictional novel focuses on one man’s adventures with a traveling circus he runs away with after his parents’ sudden deaths.  The most poignant piece of this is the narration as flashback:  the protagonist, Jacob Jankowski, is a 93-year old man living in an assisted living facility; the reader catches a glimpse into the agonizing frustration one goes through as faculties fade away.  As he deals with the tribulations around him, Jacob flashbacks to his young self’s adventures.  I’m very much looking forward to the movie starring Robert Pattinson.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer  B-:   I finished this over-600 page book in 2 days!!  While I appreciated the passion and romance, I quickly grew weary of Bella’s whining. Parts were predictable as well.  The most fun part was shouting out turning points to my daughter as I approached them in my reading.  She finished the series long ago but still holds a passion as she just saw the movie (twice.)  I’m going next week and looking forward to it in spite of Bella’s inevitable drawn-out laments.  I’ll read Breaking Dawn soon before that movie comes out . . . but I can wait.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer B+:   The book’s narrator is a nine-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who lost his father on 9/11 two years before the story began.  In the story, Oskar discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father.  He is determined to find what that key opens; his determination takes him through all of New York’s burroughs.  What is so uniquely interesting about this book that will keep you on your toes as you read is that the author brings a multimedia sense to the book.  He uses type settings, spaces and even blank pages to give the book a visual dimension beyond the narrative.  Additionally, this brought back all my nightmarish thoughts about 9/11.

Complications by Atul Gawande A: This is a fascinating peak into the very human side of medicine.  I never was one to put all my faith into every single thing my doctors say – now I won’t for sure!!!  Dr. Gawande, who teaches at Harvard Medical School and is a general surgeon at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, is very VERY candid in his behind-the-scenes portrayals of hospital life.  Very thought provoking.  I may read his other book, Better, as well.

One Day by David Nicholls A-:  Dexter and Emma met on their college graduation day in 1988.  The book depicts a day in their lives (the same calendar day) over the next 20 years.  Dramatic irony takes great form here as the reader watches these two run circles around each other but never quite getting in synce in spite of their apparent strong affection for one another.  I actually exclaimed out loud at one point when reading – and I was outside at the pool.  Books rarely make me do that.  The movie version is already in production.  Run to the bookstore before the movie; you won’t regret it.

Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert B+:  My favorite line from this book talks about our power of thinking – we can choose our way of thinking just as we choose our wardrobes.  It’s up to us how we perceive situations occuring in our lives.  The author takes the reader on her mental and spiritual journey as she travels to Italy, India and Indonesia .  Her revelations are inspiring and endearing.  Plus, her sensory-detailed depictions of the Italian food she feasts on made me want to grab a deep-dish pizza that very second.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick B:  This is a darker novel than I normally pick up but it came highly recommended by two colleagues.  This is definitely NOT a recommendation for students.  Set in Wisconsin in 1907, Ralph Truitt places an ad for a wife.  Catherine Land, a woman with a scandalous past, answers the ad.  She secretly invents a plan to benefit from his riches; but, Ralph is more knowing than he seems.  The twists are shocking, the illustrations are sensual, and the characters are colorful.  The ending, however, was disappointing.  After the preceeding tumultuous events, I was left with an emptiness. 

The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer A+:  This is one of those books that changes your life after you read it!  Some may be familiar with Dr. Dyer as he appears frequently on PBS.  This book emphasizes the belief that we can find spiritual solutions to problems by “living at higher levels and calling upon faster energies.”  This may sound like The Law of Attraction, but Dr. Dyer takes the belief much further with practical, every day steps to take along with fascinating research to back up the claims.

Boundaries – When to Say Yes & How to Say No by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend A: Physical boundaries are usually easy to discern (fences, walls, signs, etc) but emotional and spiritual boundaries are not.  This book illustrates how boundaries such as skin, words, time, geographical distance, emotional distance, etc. defines us.  It is up to us to make those definitions clear, understand what is within our boundaries (or responsibilities) and what is not.  I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read this.  Well worth the read!!

WHAT I WILL READ BEFORE SUMMER IS OVER (also in this order):  I better get busy . . . . these books are all piled and waiting for me →

House Rules by Jodi Picoult – this is her latest, a story of a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome.

 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Kholed Hosseini – another one I should have read long ago – many told me they enjoyed this more than The Kite Runner.  We shall see . . . it has much to live up to.

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD. – can’t wait!  I heard this offers stunning insights into the “hormonal roller coasters” that seem to rule our lives sometimes.

The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD. – this book promises to show how and why every phase of a man’s life is vastly different from a woman’s.  I’m looking forward to the new understanding. 🙂

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – the story of lost love and the journey to find it.  Every woman needs to read at least one great love story over the summer.

comeback by Claire Fontaine & Mia Fontaine – a memoir recounting a mother and daughter’s journey through hell and back. I read a great review on this so I am anxious to see if it lives up to its critique.

Fair Isn’t Always Equal – by Rick Wormeli – this year’s summer read for my English department.  I am particularly interested to read the sections on grades and assessments.

**WHAT I READ EVERY DAY:  Until Today!  Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind by Iyanla Vanzant A:  I  bought this at the beginning of the summer and it now sits on my nightstand as the first thing I read each morning.  It is filled with devotionals for each day of the year.  Each month focuses on a different spiritual principle:  June focuses on forgiveness, July on understanding, August on faith, and so on.  It’s a wonderful tool to ponder over aspects of ourselves and what we can do to transform to help us grow and learn.    GG side note:  I started reading this on June 21st and have already discovered four grammar goofs.  While the words inspire, the English teacher in me cringes when I read such lines as written for yesterday’s devotional:  “When you spend time honoring the dreams of one who has changed, when you continuing standing up for the things they believed in and when you. . . ”  Oops!!


Delivering Happiness Delivers!

June 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

I was honored and excited when the good folks at Zappos sent me free advanced copies of CEO Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose to review.  I have been a completely satisfied customer of Zappos (major online shoe and clothing commerce company) for quite a few years.  I previously read of the uniquely people-pleasant, family culture that Hsieh creates for his employees and was curious about his philosophies.  Hsieh’s new book sets out to reveal how this young executive created such a phenomenal success – not only is the online retailer achieving over $1 billion in merchandise sales each year but it is one of Fortune magazine’s top companies to work for.  From my experience, the company’s success certainly shines through every single time I talk to a customer service representative . . . Zappos has the only service department in which patrons can actually hear representatives’ smiles over the phone.

Tony Hsieh - CEO of

Delivering Happiness is NOT another quick how-to-improve-your-business book.  This book reveals secrets and ideas about (as the sub-title hints) increasing profits, igniting passion, and identifying purpose in personal life as well as work.  Anyone looking to create or build upon current business or personal goals would benefit from this book.  Through Hsieh’s anecdotes and quirky thought-processes, the reader gets into the head of someone who’s been there, someone who’s taken a dream and turned it into reality.

Hsieh begins by illustrating his work experiences – from grade school worm selling to creating and selling study guides in college to his first major success with co-founding LinkExchange – an internet advertising cooperative.  He provides snippets from old letters, journal-like recollections and lists that illustrate the thinking behind the success.   

 You know you are in the right field when you go to work and it doesn’t feel like work; that’s the impression I get of the Zappos employees’ attitudes toward their jobs.  Hsieh intriguingly reveals how he brought the company from start-up to last year’s acquisition by Amazon valued at over $1.2 billion.  Some interesting strategies along the way include creating a company “culture” book, a very interactive weekly employee newsletter, and the WOW factor (a new verb part of the company’s everyday vocabulary!).    Read this book and some of that WOW factor just may rub off into your own way of thinking.  Indeed, the 10 core values of the Zappos culture apply to conducting life along with conducting a business . . . you may be surprised what some of those 10 values are! 

Delivering Happiness can be purchased on Amazon today as today is the official launch of the book!!! 

**These are my honest opinions after reading this book!!  Grading Girl gives Tony Hsieh an A+ for unabashedly honest thoughts, unique ways of looking at the world of work, and a frankly fun read!**

Delivering Happiness Challenge & Giveaway!

May 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Giveaway Contests!, Reviews

Watch for GG’s review of Delivering Happiness on its release date, June 7th 2010!!

I am honored to be selected to review the new, yet-to-be released book by Tony Hsieh, the successful, young CEO of!  The Zappos team generously sent me two advanced copies of Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.  I’m busy reading my first copy and can’t wait to post the review.  In the meantime, I’d like to give away the second copy to one lucky GG follower.

This book will not be released until June 7th.  I would like YOU to receive an advanced copy!

Tony Hsieh - CEO of

I’m almost halfway through the book and can tell you that Hsieh shares insightful, interesting and humorous anecdotes about his plight through entrepreneurship.  He doesn’t use a ghostwriter and writes authentically.  This read is useful for all in its illustration of how Hsieh uses happiness as a framework (imagine!!) to produce results in business and personal life.

So . . . here is my challenge to you.  Too many times people see the glass half empty instead of half full; too many times people don’t see the fun in life; too many times people don’t feel the joy in their journeys.  I challenge you to deliver happiness to someone and share just how you did it:

1.  Follow me on Twitter:

2.  Perform an act of kindness to someone you know or to a complete stranger.  Your act of kindness can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

3.  Come back to this post and, in the comments, describe that act of kindness.  What did you do?  What was the reaction and result of your delivered happiness?

4.  Respond by Friday, May 14th 11:59pm.  You can post as many delivered happiness descriptions as you like.

5.  One winner will be chosen based on the genuineness of the delivered happiness.

6.  I will mail the book anywhere in the United States.  SPAM comments will be deleted if deemed appropriate.  Make sure you have a valid email address when commenting so I can contact you for a shipping address. (your email address will be kept private)

Enjoy delivering happiness!!!

**GG does NOT endorse or giveaway products I do not stand behind.  As an English teacher, a self-proclaimed reviewer of “all things worth grading,” and a life-long reader of many books, I can give this away with confidence that the recipient will not be disappointed.**

An Amazing Young Author!!

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

Once in a while, we meet someone who truly leaves an impression.  I met such a person this past Sunday after being invited to a book signing.  This was no ordinary book signing, however, because the author is an incredible 12-year old girl!!!

Amanda R. Dell’Aringa wrote, illustrated, and published Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail at the tender age of 11 after being inspired by her friend’s two guinea pigs.  What started as a “small little story that popped” into her head turned into a beautifully illustrated and professionally published book.  Amanda’s mother was impressed with the moral Amanda attached to the story so she encouraged her daughter to bring it to life.

An Inspiring 'Tail!'

Just picking up this book at the bookstore, one cannot guess such a mature message came from such a young mind.  Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail is the story of a young guinea pig who is not too happy with her short, seemingly useless tail.  She soon dreams that she’s turned into other tail-equipped animals and discovers what their tails are for.  In the end, she learns just how special her own tail is and she contently accepts it for all its squiggly charm.   What a wonderful message that all children need to hear!

Besides her creativity and discipline in creating this book, what impresses me so much about Amanda is her articulation and poise.  She spoke to a crowd of about 35 adults and children, quite eloquently explaining her inspiration for the book, proudly retelling the disciplined process she took on to see her dream through, and impressingly illiustrating how she brought Gertie to life through a drawing demonstration on  a whiteboard.  Not only did Amanda draw each illustration in the book, she learned how to color each drawing in Adobe Photoshop herself. Amanda said she worked 1 – 2 hours almost every day for a few months.  She claims she has trouble finishing projects (which I find hard to believe!), but with the support of her father (an artist himself) she did it.  What an accomplishment for a young, ambitious girl!

Amanda is truly an inspiration for young and old alike.  I am giving a signed copy of this book to my soon-to-be-born niece; this will certainly provide a role model and inspiration for her.  And of course . . . I’m keeping a copy myself.  🙂  Grading Girl gives Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail by Amanda R. Dell’Aringa an A+ for a valuable moral, adorable illustrations (what a cute little stuffed doll Gertie would make!), and off-the-charts effort. This was an easy one to grade!!

→ → → Amanda’s book is currently available on Amazon.  Click here to order your own copy!  While you are at it, please feel free to review Amanda’s book on Amazon – this aspiring author will appreciate your words of support.  Amanda’s book is also on sale at Books at Sunset.

For a peek at some of Amanda’s other drawings, visit her website at Prepare to be dazzled when you glance through the mythical characters Amanda has created . . . and she’s only just begun!  Accomplishing so much by age 12, imagine where she will be later on.  This girl is well on her way!!

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Grading Girl would like to give a shout out to the adorable bookstore holding Amanda’s book signing.  I’ve never been to Books at Sunset in Elgin before, but I think I’ll be back.  Nestled among a quaint residential neighborhood, Books at Sunset carries an impressive variety of new and gently used books.  For much more personal service (think Meg Ryan’s store Shop around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail), check out this wonderful store that is always hosting a variety of local events as well as children’s activities.  Amanda’s book is also on sale at this bookstore!!

GG Reads – Wesley The Owl

November 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

Did you know that barn owls mate for life?  Are you aware that they are extremely emotional creatures and have many ways to express their feelings?  Could you guess that they practice birth control and will breed only when they perceive an excess of available mice for food?  These are some of the many intriguing facts about owls that readers learn in this little gem of a book.

This book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law.  I enjoyed its message so much that I am recommending this for my school’s next summer reading list.

I found myself laughing aloud reading this book!

I found myself laughing aloud reading this book!

Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien is a book about love and devotion.  It is a true love story about a woman and her owl.  Stacey O’Brien is a Southern California biologist who adopts a baby barn owl with an injured wing.  He could not survive in the wild so she selflessly takes him in, oblivious to the joy that stands before her in raising this creature.  Through the trials and triumphs Stacey experiences with this bird, the reader realizes just what a significant role a pet plays in our lives.  As Stacy states in her book, “When humans and animals understand, love, and trust each other, the animals flourish and we humans are enlightened and enriched by the relationship.”  (O’Brien 202)  Animals are more intelligent than we may give them credit for; this book reminds us of that intriguing reality.

The story chronologically follows O’Brien’s 19 years with Wesley from owl infancy when she weaned him into his “nest box” in her bedroom through the end of his long life with his battle with cancer.   She gives both her scientific, factual views and tender-hearted observations about Wesley.  O’Brien even shares the insides of Caltech and some of her interestingly eccentric colleagues.  I laughed when Stacey brought Wesley to the grocery store wrapped in a blanket as a baby, I gagged when she described how she killed endless amounts of mice for Wesley’s diets (yes, as much as I have much more respect for owls, I won’t be raising one any time soon), I melted when Wesley “held” Stacey with his wings, and I cried when Wesley tried to console Stacey through a horrible dehabilitating disease she contracted during Wesley’s later years.  I could sit here and let my fingers ecstatically fly off the keyboard with all of my favorite tidbits from the book . . . but that would take out the fun of reading this book.  You can definitely read this within a day or two; O’Brien writes her observations and feelings with fervor.  As a bonus, she includes “Some Things You May Not Know About Barn Owls” at the conclusion of the book.

We humans can learn from owls about devotion, trust and love.  I am inspired by Stacey O’Brien’s life philosophies and the devotion she returns to Wesley.  As she proclaims, she made a vow when she was very young to live life not by wading in the shallow water but by diving into the deep end as much as possible, no matter how dangerous.  The way she raised Wesley attests to her commitment to that vow.  As of the book’s print, she was contemplating raising another owl and beginning the whole process again!  If I am ever lucky enough to have a chance encounter with one of these magnificent feathered friends, I will stop and admire this feathered friend and be very grateful for the opportunity.  GG gives Wesley the Owl an A for the heartwarming lessons and touching account of this love story.  Extra credit for the wonderful photographs spattered throughout the book – most of which O’Brien took herself while raising Wesley.  They help illustrate just how funny, complex and beautiful Wesley was.

Color Your World!

August 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

There’s something to this.  I was shopping in Francesca’s boutique, flipping through Michele Bernhardt’s Colorstrology book, and discovered that my personal color is Jaffa Orange.  There is something to this because the cotton tank I already had in my hand to purchase matched the color exactly.   Hmmm . . . Colorstrology tells us that our birthday carries a numerological value and meaning.  That value corresponds to a color palette from which we can draw insight about our personalities.  Wearing, decorating and surrounding ourselveswith this specific color is supposed to bring out our true selves, our best selves.  We are not to confuse our personal color with our favorite color – Bernhardt says that our favorite color can change as we evolve or change our surroundings.  Our personal color, on the other hand, remains constant.

There is something to this!

There is something to this!

This fun book rests on my coffee table.  There is a page for every day of the year.  There are even color swatches in the back to take with you when shopping for your color.  🙂 In addition, each color has its PANTONE® Color identification to help find the perfect match.  I like the suggestions Bernhardt gives for using your personal color. 

Want to send an ecard telling the bday person what his/her color is?!  It’s completely free – here’s the link for the ecards!

 Grading Girl gives Colorstrology an A+ for an interesting alternative to traditional zodiac and astrology readings.

I’d say this is pretty accurate . . .

My Personal Color ~ JAFFA ORANGE

Analytical, Responsible, Sensitive

If you were born on this day:  “You love to use your mind.  Your ability to analyze problems and situations is exceptional.  You never really know just how good or talented you are due to your yearning for perfection.  Many of you cover your sensitivity with facts and a composed exterior.  You actually have a very sensitive spirt that needs to be nurtured and recognized.” (Bernhardt)

Colorstrology says that wearing or surrounding myself “with Jaffa Orange helps you live life more freely by integrating your intellect with your emotions and your passion with self-control.” (Bernhardt)