Wednesday, July 31, 2013

well if jodi picoult likes it, i like it.

Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt is dedicated to all you outsiders out there. It's the 1950's and Ava Lark is not only a single parent who works outside of the home because she is divorced, but she's also Jewish, and that apparently makes her a leper in the burbs of Boston where she moves her and her twelve-year-old son Lewis to. She's also pretty, heaven forbid, so the only people who treat her nicely are the husbands (of course).

When Lewis's closest and only friend, Jimmy goes missing, everyone blames the Jew (no surprise there), but as Ava thought of the boy as a second son, she is hit pretty hard by his disappearance. All the main characters feel guilty in their own ways, and the second half of Is This Tomorrow moves forward in time, following Ava, Lewis, and Jimmy's sister Rose, portraying how the loss of Jimmy affects them over the years.

"With characters so real they feel technicolor, a plot that beats like a racing pulse, and prose so lovely that sometimes I found myself repeating the words out loud, Is This Tomorrow is the novel you need to read today" - Jodi Picoult. Yeah, what she said, and more.

On a side note, the audio book is fantastic as well. The narrator has a nice reading voice, and I like that in a narrator.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

what makes a baby? uhh...well you see...umm...

When I decide to procreate, I'm not sure if I am terrified of or excited for the inevitable "Where do baby's come from?" question. You can go in a lot of different directions with your response. You can get super creative, you can get a little graphic, gets some diagrams out, you can show a crazy video that scars your child for's your choice, I like that.

For those of you who would like to remain politically correct in this crazy mixed up world of ours, I recommend What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg. It's a children's picture book that covers the whole baby making situation with an appropriate amount of vagueness when it comes to the people who actually make the baby. Focusing on the sperm and the egg individually and what their jobs are, not who has what part. It's designed for every kind of family, and every kind of kid, so no one is left out. It gives the traditional families a way to explain the baby making process without having their child think that a non-traditional kid in their class at school is a weirdo. And if you think that kids don't discuss this stuff with each other, you are crazy. No matter what the age, they talk.

I especially enjoyed the pages with the questions: "Who helped bring together the sperm and the egg that made you?" and "Who was happy that it was YOU who grew?" This gives parents a moment to discuss their individual situation, whatever that may be. I think it's extremely important for children to realize that not every child is born into this world the same way, with the same types of families. If you begin teaching your children these lessons at a young age, I truly believe that it will make them more tolerant of different people and less inclined to bully. Also, Silverberg made answering that inevitable question super easy and not even remotely uncomfortable.

Monday, July 29, 2013

shauna neiquist is just good company.

In Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, Shauna Niequist opens her heart to readers. The book is laid out in her characteristically short chapter/memoir style, chapters moving between childhood experiences to her current life as a wife and mother of two little boys. This memoir/cookbook is filled with essays on food, family, and friends, most chapters connecting to a recipe that the author herself loves and uses. Niequist has this way of turning the kitchen into a safe place where perfection is completely unnecessary and honestly, frowned upon. She takes the stress out of preparing a meal, encouraging readers to put on some music, get out the cutting board, and invite friends and family in. Pour the wine and fully involve yourself in the satisfaction of nourishing both body and spirit as you offer a meal at your table. It's really kind of beautiful.

I for one love Niequist's use of quotes at the beginning of every chapter, I am a sucker for a good quote. Her tales are touching, her anecdotes about life are witty and real, and her recipes are yummy, so no complaints here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

DIY therapy.

If you have a therapist, they have most likely advised you at one point to develop calming strategies to help deal with stress, anxiety, or whatever ails you. Now you owe Maggie Oman Shannon a hundred bucks because she created a collection of projects and practices for creativity and contemplation in her inspiring book titled, Crafting Calm. Now you have a DIY guide to peace of mind without having to sit on a high traffic couch with someone staring at you for an hour a week.

This book is divided into eight sections:

Crafting for Calm
Crafting for Clarity
Crafting for Comfort
Crafting for Contemplation
Crafting for Creation
Crafting for Community
Crafting for Connection with Others
Crafting for Connection with Spirit.

Some of these activities are a bit overly Zen for my taste, but many of you will find that putting together spiritual toolboxes, planting biblical gardens, writing in visual journals, and creating prayer arrows to be exactly what you need to calm your anxiety, clear your head, and connect with others and with God.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

7 books in 1...

Consumer Dummies has created the only resource on selling that you sales people will ever need. Selling All-in-One for Dummies is literally seven books in one and is designed for any type of sales you're into. Book One is "Laying the Foundation for Selling Success," which covers the basics. Book Two is "Prospecting for Gold," where the reader learns how to get prospects. Book Three is "Turning Prospects into Customers and Clients," which is what you want to do after finding the prospects. Book Four is "Closing Like a Champ and Getting Referrals," which not only helps sellers seal the deal but also helps in discovering the next round of prospects. Book Five is "Negotiating Skills Every Salesperson Should Have," an essential primer for every salesperson, no matter what is being sold. Book Six is "Selling in Specialized and Growing Fields," including Real Estate, Insurance, Financial Services, the Medical Field, and Biotechnology. Book Seven is "Becoming a Power Seller," which is something every good salesperson aspires to be.

In a nutshell, Selling covers finding your target audiences, selling, networking, basic sales technique, practices, and habits. It offers a set of fundamentals which can apply to anything from real estate or automobile sales, to business-to-business equipment sales or professional services sales. I told you it's jam packed. Have I sold ya yet?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

fill your home with love. or your bathroom. or your coffee table.

Allen Klein has a habit of collecting quotes and compiling them into small books for readers to enjoy. I like his style as I love quotes. Many of you, like me, spend hours on Pinterest looking through them. The theme of Klein's latest compilation is love, and the best things people have said on the subject. Words of Love is corny, sweet, deep, silly, all the the things that love should be.

I was nauseous and tingly all over.
I was either in love or I had smallpox.
- Woody Allen
(you can't really look inside, this is the only pic i could find of the cover online)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

a storyline that lingers.

The Child Thief by Dan Smith is the story of an ex-soldier now a farmer, named Luka and his search for the (you guessed it) "child thief" who has kidnapped his niece. After Dariya disappears, Luka sets out with his twin sons and Dariya's father Dmitri to find the culprit. Readers quickly discover that little Dariya is just part of a twisted game and instead of hunting for the person that took her, it is Luka, Dmitri and the boys that become the hunted. As the team moves deeper into the frozen countryside they become painfully aware that the child thief isn’t their only threat. The Bolsheviks are closing in, clearing villages and killing without mercy, steadily making their way towards the families Luka and Dmitri.

Smith has created an excellent thriller. However, parts of the novel get just as gruesome as your worst nightmares, just a little warning.


Monday, July 22, 2013

mom's the word.

I love when mothers are REAL about motherhood. The ones on Facebook who act like being a mom is the best thing in the whole world and only include status updates on the good stuff make me crazy. I know they are liars by omission because there is no way that their child hasn't pooped on them or someone else.

Mom's the Word: The Wit, Wisdom and Wonder of Motherhood is a tribute to moms including the best things anyone ever said about motherhood. Author Allen Klein included the heartfelt, but he also included the real life.

An example of heartfelt:
"It will be gone before you know it.
The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher.
Then suddenly they disappear."

An example of real life:
If pregnancy were a book, they would cut the last two chapters.

There are a lot of pleasant things said about mothers in this collection as well. I like that part. Mothers should have lovely things said about them. I know they aren't technically perfect beings floating around, but to their children they are. You see, I don't really remember the stuff that my mother did wrong. I do however, remember everything I did wrong. And even if she handled my disobedience in a way that went against every mothering handbook ever made, I still only remember what I did wrong, and that she cared enough to forgive me. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

a pirate novel.

In Cinnamon and Gunpowder, author Eli Brown has created quite the protagonist in renowned Chef Owen Wedgewood who goes from an arrogant man with a superior attitude to peg-legged pirate after he is kidnapped by the menace (and female) Captain Mad Hannah Mabbot. Set in 1819 and told from the perspective of Wedgewood himself, the story continues as he lives on the ship and is assigned to cook Captain Mabbot a fancy meal each Sunday, which he refuses as he plots his escape. Over time, as Wedgewood becomes acquainted with this motley crew, his negative view of pirates is challenged as he is confronted with the harsh realities of the opium trade, child prostitution, and slavery, all of which Captain Mabbot and her crew are working to abolish. Brown has created a humorous and adventurous pirate tale that makes his main character AND his readers question if good and evil is as clear as black and white.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

photography. what, like's it hard?

So I'm thinking minimalist is just a polite way of saying cheap? Because Steve Johnson's The Minimalist Photographer revolves around taking fantastic photographs with equipment that's on the cheaper side. I'm down with the frugal and all that but I'm thinking he should have just titled it "The Cheap Photographer," it would have caught my eye a little quicker.

Steve Johnson, painter turned photographer, gives readers an obvious starting line beginning with the question, WHY do you want to take photographs? Sounds simple, but many of us have never really considered why we take pictures, nor have we taken the time to notice what subjects attract us the most while behind the lens. Johnson's all for exploring the artistic world of photography, gaining a fresh eye on items we see every day, and helping us discover what type of photographer are we are now versus what type of photographer we'd like to become. The basics on shutter speed and camera types are addressed as well as a look into the photographs of others, both past and present.

As a girl who recently purchased a house and prefers to decorate with original photographs, this photography resource is exactly what I need for some inspiration.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

how cute is mike the knight?

I love a good children's book. More importantly I love a good children's series. Kids need consistency. If they decide that they love a character in a book, and then never see them again, it's very sad. What I love even more than all of these things is when a children's television series comes out with books. We all know that kids love watching TV, I think it's nice to have the option to bribe them with a book instead every once in a while. Mike the Knight, which airs on Nick Jr. has been made into a variety of reading books, as well as activity and sticker books.

Mike is a ten-year-old knight-in-training who constantly helping others always trying to be the best knight he can be. This collection of books spin off from the series, revolving around lessons such as sharing and sticking with your friends through thick and thin. Mike has a bit of a arch nemesis, Evie who unknowingly helps him learn important lessons about understanding people. Set in the medieval times in a world of magic and dragons makes this series and especially its books exciting for its fans. And Mike the Knight has proven to be an excellent role model to bring into your child infested household.

You can get to know our little hero in Meet Mike, then dive into the medieval world in Welcome to Mike's World which is filled with pages to color and activities to complete. Mike's lessons can be learned in Mike and the Dragons and Mike the Knight and the Good Deed which are filled with beautiful illustrations and one even has stickers.

**For a chance to win a free copy of Mike and the Dragons, Mike the Knight and the Good Deed, The Quest for the King's Crown, OR Adventures in Glendragon simply follow this blog then email you name, address, and the book title of your choice to:!

Monday, July 15, 2013

susan spungen’s best un-kept culinary secrets.

Since I recently purchased my first home (and by recent I mean we close at 3pm today), I am going to have to be a hostess for the first time. I’ve always been that friend that goes to all the gatherings, eats, drinks, and is very merry, yet rarely puts on parties myself because I’ve never had the space. In hopes that I do not completely suck at entertaining when the time comes, I recently read through Susan Spungen’s What’s a Hostess to Do?: 313 Ideas and Inspirations for Effortless Entertaining Including 121 Recipes for Spectacular Party Food. Whoa, that title is a mouthful, and so is this resource which is divided into the following eight chapters.  

The Gifted Hostess
Setting the Scene
The Cocktail Hour
The Buffet
The Dinner Party
Holidays and Other Special Days
Outdoor Parties
The Party’s Over

These are pretty self-explanatory beginning with how to put together a gathering including, what lists to make, invitations (even a DIY), and how to be a gracious hostess when handling guests, invited and uninvited. Spungen moves through the several different types of parties, giving tips and recipes on what to make. It’s the time of year for outdoor parties, which everyone loves to have. Spungen suggests what to grill, and gives tips on how to keep bugs away. She takes us to the finish line with The Party’s Over, so that the take down can be just as organized as the put up. A great resource for the hostess who wants to stress less and enjoy more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

some turkish lit for a little change of pace.

In Honor by Elif Shafak, Esma a young Kurdish woman in London is trying to come to terms with the terrible murder her brother has committed. After she scoops him up from his 14-year prison sentence, she is ready for revenge, but first, she has a story to tell.

Through the pages, Esma reminisces about her family, stretching back three generations to her grandmother and the births of her mother and aunt in a village on the edge of Euphrates. These twin girls were born into the world as a great disappointment, which was common in their village. In alternating chapters, Esma tells of her mother, Pembe who married her father, Adem and eventually moved to London with their three children. While her aunt Jamila remained behind becoming a virgin midwife. Time passes and Jamila has a premonition that her sister is in danger, but before it can be stopped, tragedy strikes and Pembe is murdered.

Shafak has created a dark, but wonderfully gripping novel.

Friday, July 12, 2013

i think we can all agree that the gecko should be president.

The time has finally come, the Gecko has come out with his very first (and soon to be bestselling, I’m sure) book about the important things in life. You’re Only Human: A Guide to Life addresses topics of interest to the popular British icon, including tattoos, flossing, fedoras and my personal favorite, haikus.

In the 164-page paperback, the Gecko shares advice, life lessons if you will. His first being that you should never take life lessons from a gecko. At the end of the day, you need to go with your gut, not that gecko’s shouldn’t be trusted; it’s just that, as with humans, some can’t be.  I did enjoy his Dream Big analogy, stating that dreams are like a pair of trousers, they should be a size or two larger than you need so that you can grow into them. The Gecko does go off on the occasional tangent, which will make you smile while you begin to realize that no one has ever made more sense than the Gecko has to you in that moment. Cheers.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

something for the veterans and something for the novices.

When I say that the manual Becoming a Personal Trainer for Dummies has something for everyone, I mean it. Authors Melyssa St. Michael and Linda Formichelli include the process to become an actual certified personal trainer for those of you who are just starting off on this little adventure, and also include how to begin your own personal training business for those of you who are ready to take your career to the next level. Make that money, honey.

Many exercisers are not very self-motivated and seek out the assistance and guidance of a personal trainer to help them reach their health and fitness goals. That being said, personal trainers will never be without a job. There will always be someone fat or lazy who needs to be motivated. Keep in mind that this resource is very business oriented, so I recommend it to those of you who are considering building your own personal training business in the future as it is geared more toward the personal trainer professionals. These authors give you all the details on how to write a business plan, market yourself, and how to be a better personal trainer than your competitors. It’s a very small investment for a much bigger pay off.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

dark and twisted.

In The Burning Air by Erin Kelly, Rowan and Lydia MacBride appear to have the perfect life. They have a strong marriage, healthy children, great careers, they live in a beautiful house, but everyone has their secrets and no one is ever safe from that. Lydia, who has a tumor and expects to die soon, begins writing her last confessions in her journal. Rowan, who is a head master at a prestigious school is targeted by an obsessed mother and son over the rejection of a scholarship.

The Burning Air, told from several different viewpoints and time periods, takes the reader through the intertwining lives of members of the MacBride family and the young Darcy Kellaway. It begins in the present as Lydia writes her darkest secrets in her journal, with all the intent of destroying it, but death claims her before she can. Then enters Darcy, whose story begins in 1996 when he is rejected by Rowan for a spot at the prestigious school, leaving him and his mentally unstable mother devastated. Darcy begins to plot his revenge on the family...and I'll leave the rest up to your imaginations because it gets pretty intense. Erin Kelly makes the reader feel all of the pain, suffering, and psychological trauma that each character suffers.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

my mom's been saying this for years.

I am twenty-seven-years-old, and excluding a year stint living in Myrtle Beach, I have been living at home my entire life. I only recently purchased a house which I move into next week, so When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? by Jeffrey Jensen, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Fishel speaks to me, and my poor mother.

This parenting guide focuses on loving and understanding your emerging adult (or man child, in other words). "Children" ages 18-29 fill their parents with a certain amount of worry. There comes a point when mom and dad start asking themselves: Will my twenty-something child ever leave home? Will they find love? Will they find the right job? Will they keep that job? Will they stop needing money from us and quit stealing our toliet paper? So many questions, folks, and if you start badgering your child with these questions, all you're going to do is stress them out, which will stress you out, and you'll potentially ruin your relationship. So Dr. Jensen and Fishel are here to guide parents through this process.
The DO's and DON'T's include:
  • DO insist that your freeloading kid has a plan, a REAL LIFE plan.
  • DON'T get involved in your kid's love life, say very little, when they are making an horrendous decision, simply encourage them to involve themselves with people who help them be the best person they can be.
  • DO have the money talk with your kids after high school and college.
  • DON'T contact potential employers for your kids, but be available to help them with resumes, cover letters, etc.
  • DO take care of your own life
  • DON'T worry about your kids' lives more than they do. You are only human.

Monday, July 8, 2013

double double boozey trouble.

Martha Grimes and her son Ken have combined their issues with cocktails (which tends to run in the family) in a double memoir titled Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism. Very clever title, and extremely clever take on the disease that affects more people than you'd think.

The Grimes' have extremely different points of view on their personal addictions to alcohol as you can imagine seeing as they are different genders and different generations. The mother and son share their own personal stories of struggles with drinking, recovery and relapse. Including chapters (identified by their initials) on relationships with others, successes and multiple failures. What makes this memoir so real is the sharing of conversations with each other. It's in an interview kind of format, but it's just a conversation between the two authors. The unique way in which they let readers in is what sets them apart from others in this genre.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

if you’d like one of those marriages that last, consider this…

In honor of my recent ENGAGEMENT, I thought this would be the perfect book to review today :)

We are all painfully aware of the divorce rate in this country. Half of us will mate for life, like penguins, and the other half will throw in the towel like praying mantises. No judgment here. It is said that the couples that pray together, stay together. This brings me to my next review…

Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth have created a new couples devotional that features forty couples found in Scripture appropriately titled Couples of the Bible. These couples in history faced many trials and tribulations as husband and wife, and also as parents. While reading through these stories from the Bible together, the authors hope that modern day married couples find comfort in their own trials, and grow in their faith and love for each other.
In this devotional, each week highlights one couple in five different ways (for the five weekdays in the week). It pretty much goes down like this:

Monday: Meet the couple; learn about their relationship, the good and the bad.

Tuesday: Gain an understanding of the couple’s cultural surroundings and its influence on them.

Wednesday: Take some time to walk in the couple’s shoes, and discuss how you can act similar, displaying godly character.

Thursday: Questions are offered to help you apply Scripture to your own marriage.

Friday: A guided time for couples to reflect on what they’ve learned, listen to God and pray.

Manfriend and I are not super religious, but we do believe in God, and what the Bible says. I think this devotional will benefit the ‘honk if you love Jesus’ couples as well as the couples who only have a spiritual side. Let’s be honest, in this day and age, marriages need all the help they can get.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

we've gotta fight for our right...

Former Senator, Olympia Snowe presents a strong case for the trouble with the current Congress in her political memoir titled Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress. In a nutshell, Snowe is fed up with Congress. After 18 years in the U.S. Senate, the Maine Republican called it quits. When she announced she would not seek re-election in 2012, she cited increasingly partisan politics as a major factor. In Fighting for Common Ground, Snowe shares of how she went from being an orphan at the age of nine, to a GOP lawmaker known for reaching across the aisle. The main premise of the book is her take on what’s wrong with Congress today and how to fix it. She says she's "confident in the truism that there is nothing we can't accomplish together. Including making our government work again." Let's hope so.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

spice up your next baby shower gift.

"If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won't. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgement." -Mark Twain

There is more where that came from in Advice to Little Girls by Mark Twain (illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky). It is an adorable little picture book filled with the proper ways little girls should act according to Mark Twain. Very charming. I would have liked the book to be a bit longer, but that could be because I am an adult. Sort of.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the beloved sheriff longmire is back.

Walt Longmire and his cohorts are back for a ninth round in Craig Johnson's A Serpent's Tooth. It baffles me how authors like Johnson can write so many books in a series without it getting dull. Such imagination is just plain impressive. In this installment, Walt and Vic's relationship is progressing which I love because the interactions between these two characters is one of my favorite aspects of this series.

For those of you who don't know, Walt is an old school cowboy type Sheriff in the rural wilderness of Absaroka County, Wyoming who solves whatever underlying mystery each book revolves around. In A Serpent's Tooth, when a teenage runaway is found, Walt and his team begin searching for the boy’s mother. It appears he has been forced off a nearby polygamist compound for not complying to their crazy, and the deeper the crew investigates, the more complex and dangerous the case becomes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

making more of the everyday life.

I love when novelists come out with a collection of personal essays, they should do so more often. When I love the way an author writes, I want them to be my friend. Friends have to know things about each other, so a personal essay is a nice treat. Elinor Lipman's I Can't Complain is a collection of (all too) personal essays that her avid readers will eat right up. Some of these essays will look familiar to you as they have been published in newspapers and magazines over the years, but they were all brand new to me.

I Can't Complain was split into four sections, Meet the Family, On Writing, Coupling Columns, and Since Then. The sections are filled with stories from her childhood, anecdotes about her family members, her quirks as a writer, and her column originally written for the Boston Globe. It's not like Lipman's life has been terribly more extraordinary than the rest of ours, she simply finds more meaning in the little things, and that's what makes her a great writer.