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Hooked on phonics worked for me.

Ok, so I don't remember ever using hooked on phonics. But that's not the point. Right now I’ve fully immersed myself in the renown James Baldwin’s book Giovanni’s Room. I ordered the book prior to my departure from the US but it didn't arrive in a timely manner. So when I spent my afternoon lollygagging this past weekend in a used/new bookstore downtown with international books, I was delighted to see it and immediately purchased it.

For those of you who know me, you know that I like to read. For those of you who know me well, you'll know that I love to read so much that I don't typically pick up a novel during the school year for fear that I will neglect my textbooks more than I normally do. So therein lies the problem. Since my departure on January 3rd, I have read five books. And while I have been "lucky" - as some may call it - to not have a heavy course load up until now, I can no longer say this is the case. As of this week, I pretty much have at least one class everyday; and here, one class equals two 1½ hour sessions. And at least two of the courses I am taking are reading intensive. While I spent my weekend getting off to a good start for my classes (meanwhile neglecting to finish reading Giovanni's Room), it is easy to fall behind.

Another thing that I should take into consideration is that I am in France. I kinda almost maybe came here to immerse myself in the French culture. The whole passion for reading thing I've got going on can take the place of watching French TV or listening to the radio - which as you can imagine should be done frequently for those like myself who wish to become fluent in the language.

But I've made up my mind. I'll simply go with the flow. I'll figure out the "school work-life" balance as each day passes and as the pressure on my shoulder intensifies. I made a pact with myself at the bookstore. For each couple of books I read in English, I will read one in French. In that way, I satisfy both my love for French and reading at the same time. You know, "killing two birds with one stone." So I bought a simple detective novel for 1.50€ at the bookstore. When I finish Giovanni's Room I'll start it. Or maybe after Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood. Who knows...

So for now, I don’t need anyone to remind me of the glorious stack textbooks on my desk like International Business Law and International Marketing beginning to collect dust. Just keep thoughts to yourself unless it is a wonderfully passionate thought about a book. Thanks ;)

So here are the books I've read since the start of the new year. If you have read any of them already, share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten
by Robert Fulgham

I had this book on my http://www.half.com/ wishlist for ages. Sidebar: on this website I keep track of all the books I want to read and purchase them really cheaply when I'm ready. Okay, so I had heard so much positive feedback about the book that I was excited to read it. However, because I had such high expectations, I was really disappointed. While it was an okay book, I felt like each of the short essays lacked ummph - for lack of a better word. Some of them had such weak messages I wondered what his purpose was in writing the essay. But this is just my opinion. Read it for yourself and let me know.

The Celestine Prophecy
by James Redfield

This was a book recommended to me by my dear sister Lesia. She told me that it is one of her favorite books, so much that she has reread it several times. While I was reading this book, I felt as though it should be classified with the Da Vinci Codes of the world. I though that the ideas proposed in the book seemed so proposterous and far-fetched and I became curious as to how in the world he thought to write this book. However, after finishing it, I began to enjoy the book the more I thought of it. While I still believe the ideas are as far-fetched as those proposed by Dan Brown (in the Da Vinci Code), there were many ideas that are more relevant to our lives than I initially thought. It's not that I believe them, it is just nice to use a brain cell or two while thinking about the proposed what-ifs. I am willing to bet there are many people against this book because it can definitely play with minds just as Dan Brown succeeded in doing. I say you should read it anyway.

Here on Earth
by Alice Hoffman

My mother gave me this one before I left for France. I was on a mission to collect books because I didn't want to risk running out of books to read - at least not for the first couple of weeks! I must say that I am in love with this book. While it may not be added to the list of "my favorite books in the whole-wide world," it does make it to the top of my must read list. I have read a lot of reviews online of the book (there are tons since it was an Oprah Book Club selection). I realized that many comparisons are made between this book and Wuthering Heights by Emile Brontë. Let me just say that I read it in highschool and strongly disliked it - its not nice to say hated, you know. I must admit it seems like Hoffman stole some of her basic plot from Brontë but that doesn't mean that the two books are truly similar. So for those of you who have some time on your hands, pick this book up. And if you have read the "classic" Wuthering Heights let me know if you think they both have the same appeal. If you haven't read it, don't waste your time.

The Brethren
by John Grisham

One of my favorite people in the entire world - I call her Diamond ;) - left this book with me as a gift out of her love for John Grisham. Funnily, I hadn't realized at the time that I had read two of his works, Runaway Jury and The Firm, a couple years ago. This was apparently too late because my dear friend was already appalled at the thought that I hadn't read anything by him. So I brought it with me to France. There's isn't much to say about it actually. It was an excellent read, typical of the author. Definitely very suspensful/thrilling with an interesting ending. Check it out if you get some time and you are looking for an easy and exciting book.

by the great Toni Morrison

I don't know about you, but after I read a book by this woman, I have a dire need to talk to her - and nobody else - about it. It always seems like I'm missing something. Or maybe they are just above my head. I believe that her books often require a second and third reading to be fully grasped. I felt that way for both The Bluest Eye and Beloved. The former I read twice - once for pleasure and once for Howard - but the latter I struggled so hard to read the first time that I didn't even consider a second. And that is almost how I feel about Sula. While it definitely wasn't anywhere near as difficult as Beloved, I have no desire to pick it up again. Nonetheless, it is a wonderful novel about two strong - in complete different ways - black women. That in and of itself makes it a must read. Let me know what you think.

By the way, I picked this book up off the shelf of my home-stay in France. She has so many great books in English that I almost didn't know where to start. I knew that I wouldn't go wrong with a Toni Morrison choice. *pat myself on the back*
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