Sunday, December 28, 2008
“Entitlement” by Jonathan Bennett
Published by ECW Press
Rating: 5 stars
Andy Kronk is from a lower-class family with little chance of ever leading a privileged lifestyle until he is discovered by an elite private school for his hockey abilities. There he is quickly befriended by Colin Aspinall, who is a member of one of the wealthiest families in Canada. Andy is thrown into the lavish yet complicated life of the Aspinalls when he is taken under their wing and spends his summers living with them.
Years later, biographer Trudy Clarke is doing an expose book about the lives of the Aspinall family and is trying to her to uncover the secrets that lurk within their personal and professional lives. Andy thought he had severed his ties with the Aspinalls until Trudy comes knocking on his door and they embark upon an in-depth interview forcing him to confront the demons of his past.
That is all I choose to say about this book’s plot because I feel that revealing any more would ruin the reading experience. There are a number of twists and turns that arise and I found myself really surprised by the turn of events in this book.
After a few minutes into my reading, I completely forgot that this book was a fictional and became engrossed into the lives of the Aspinalls and the mesmerizing hold they had over Andy. I really liked that I got a glimpse into each one of the characters lives and that alternative perspectives were included because it helped give a well-rounded account of what was going on. Jonathan Bennett’s writing is so compelling and he paints such detailed pictures of his characters that I actually had to look them up just to be sure that they were merely a figment of his wonderful imagination!
This book has so many interesting facets to it and brings up meaningful issues such as greed, power, identity and sexuality in an insightful and almost poetic way.
I read this book in one sitting because I literally could not put the book down. This is one of the best books I’ve read all year and I cannot recommend it enough!!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"This One Is Mine" by Maria Semple
Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette book group
Rating: 4 stars
"This One Is Mine" completely took me by surprise and I mean that in a good way. Violet Parry has the successful husband, the adorable baby girl, a luxurious mansion in Los Angeles and staff who can cater to her every whim. Beyond the facade of a privileged lifestyle, Violet feels completely alone. Her husband David is a music producer who works all of time and doesn't understand her needs. She longs for a connection and is almost desperate for attention and love, when along comes Teddy Reyes, a scruffy bass player, who is wrong for her in every way. It is clear there is chemistry between them and so they begin a really unconventional affair. Then there is complicated and neurotic Sally, David's younger sister, who has her heart set on socially awkward Jeremy. These characters are all eccentric and lost in their own little way. It takes a number of difficult and often hilarious (but only for the reader) events to teach them the important lessons in life and where their priorities should lie. This book is so much more than a desperate housewife seeking an affair and a single woman seeking companionship. This is one of those dark comedies that forces you to read in between the lines and extract deeper meaning. The plot takes some strange turns but the ending seemed perfect and almost poetic to me.
This book is incredibly compelling in a quiet way. I enjoyed Semple's zany humor and vulgar language aside, it was an enjoyable read. Semple has such a vivid imagination enabling me to easily envision the characters’ peculiarities and find something relatable about each one of them. This is one of those off-beat books that is unexpected and can elicit laughter from even the most subtle humor. I loved how unique this book was and though some may find it too unconventional, it worked for me.
Check out the live interview with Maria Semple on Blog Talk Radio which took place on December 17th!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
“Time of My Life” by Allison Winn Scotch
Published by Shaye Areheart Books, a division of Random House
"Time of My Life" is the story of Jillian Westfield, who wakes up one morning only to find herself living in her former apartment with her former boyfriend from seven years earlier, before meeting her husband Henry and having their child. After coming to terms with this ‘second chance’ at her previous lifestyle, Jillian starts enjoying being involved with her former boyfriend Jackson, whom she never quite got over, and embraces the job she once gave up to start a family. Armed with newfound hindsight, Jillian navigates through her prior life with great ease until she realizes that the greener grass of this former life may just be an illusion. As time goes on, she misses her daughter and wonders if there could have been some way to save her deteriorating marriage with Henry. Is this old life really a better path or merely just a different one with its own set of consequences?
This story is ultimately one about second chances and begs the question of "what if". What if you decide to take the road not taken? What if you had another chance at love with a former flame? What if you kept your former job and got that big promotion? What ends up happening to Jillian? You’ll just have to pick up a copy to find out!
I really enjoyed this book and devoured it in a single night. There is something very familiar and comforting about Scotch's writing and the characters she has created. I like that the concept of the novel is simple and yet holds so much possibility which Scotch took full advantage of by exploring Jillian's feelings and inner thoughts. I found myself very curious about where Scotch would decide to take this book until the very end. My only one wish is for the ending to have been more developed because I felt the conclusion was too abrupt.
While this book makes for a light read, there is much to take away from in terms of life lessons. People should make the best of their lives instead of wishing for other ones and there is really no 'right' direction in life but it is what you make of the one you chose that makes all the difference!
Be sure to check out Allison’s great advice for aspiring writers on her blog: http://www.allisonwinnscotch.blogspot.com/
Friday, December 19, 2008
Passive Aggressive Notes by Kerry Miller
Published by Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Rating: 4.5 stars
This book was originally inspired by passiveaggressivenotes.com, a popular website started by Kerry Miller, where people were asked to upload passive-aggressive notes that they have received or have found from any place imaginable. As the website states, the criteria for what constitutes a ‘passive-aggressive’ note is taken from the New York times definition: “the classic description of the behavior captures a stubborn malcontent, someone who passively resists fulfilling routine tasks, complains of being misunderstood and underappreciated, unreasonably scorns authority and voices exaggerated complaints of personal misfortune.”
In my opinion, it really means a note with sarcastic politeness and sometimes some harsh words thrown in. Many of these notes were written in response to noisy neighbors, stolen lunches, messy roommates and my favorite ones between lovers, family and friends.
I absolutely LOVE these kinds of books that reveal other people’s notes and letters. I find it so interesting to read and this book is filled with some hilarious (and some just plain creepy) notes. The amount of hostility generated by such simple acts really makes me wonder about some people. Some of these notes must have been written by some seemingly crazy people because their comments to others are things I wouldn’t catch myself even thinking about, let alone telling someone else. Therein lies the beauty of a book like this: lots of fun without actually ever having to encounter these people or get these types of notes addressed to me (not yet at least but should that day come, you know where you'll find them ;)
This book is a fast read and a fun one to pass around with your friends and family, who will surely get a laugh from these crazy notes.
Here are some examples:
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Kosher By Design Lightens Up by Susie Fishbein
Published by Mesorah Publications
Rating: 4.5 stars
I am already a big fan of Susie Fishbein’s cookbooks and I’m glad to say that her latest one, Kosher By Design Lightens Up, does not disappoint. You definitely don’t need to be kosher to appreciate these recipes however I do keep a kosher home so this book was especially practical for me.
For starters, the colorful photographs alone are beautiful and looked very appetizing! The recipes are all very healthy, as promised, but most importantly their taste is not compromised because of it. All recipes that were attempted turned out really well, such as the wheat germ crusted chicken cutlets and the teriyaki butternut squash rounds.
The book includes a great deal of helpful information about nutrition. There is a section that explains supermarket labels, another with clear definitions of food-related items and even a chart listing superfoods with their properties and health benefits. I also really liked the section describing gadgets for healthy cooking. There was clearly a lot of research done for this book which I really appreciated. Another fun part of the book is the ideas provided for entertaining, such as hosting a tasting party and having a spritzer bar.
My mom also loved the cookbook and here are some of her thoughts on it:
“The informational and educational aspects of this cookbook are astounding!”
“The side dishes are especially unique and tasty”
“Some recipes have an international flare to them and they combine ingredients that you wouldn’t have thought of pairing together but the results are wonderful”
The only problem that I had with the recipes was that many of them have nuts, which I needed to try to find substitutes for because there is a nut allergy in the family. Asides from that I really enjoyed this book’s recipes and all of the valuable nutritional information provided.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
“Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual: For Everyone from Beginner to Pro” by Bobbi Brown
Published by Springboard Press, a division of Hachette Book Group
Rating: 4.5 stars
Bobbi Brown’s latest book is said to be the book that her fans have been waiting years for and I can see why. This book is incredibly comprehensive not to mention aesthetically pleasing, with its vivid, colorful and sometimes artistic photographs.
The chapters start off very basic by outlining the fundamental makeup tools and their maintenance, as well as helpful shopping tips. I liked how everything is laid out very clearly and explained in great detail. Even someone who is quite familiar with makeup and its equipment can benefit from this section. There are also sections on skin analysis which teach skincare basics and even discuss healthy lifestyle and nutrition.
The next sections feature step-by-step makeup applications for the face, lips and eyes, which take great care to educate readers about the right shades, right application and troubleshooting recommendations.
The sections start becoming more advanced which I would recommend reading after the basics are mastered or at least familiar. Bobbi Brown also includes advice for those seeking a professional career as a makeup artist which was interesting, although I imagine not incredibly relevant for the average consumer.
Above all, my favorite section of the book is on makeup for magazines, television and film because it offers a rare glimpse into the ideas behind makeup choices and really highlights the power of makeup. At the end of the book there are some more interesting sections that rarely get included into a makeup manual, such as a history of makeup and a guide to the big names in the makeup industry.
This book is a fun, beautiful and informative makeup guide, which as the title states, is “for everyone from beginner to pro”.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
“Where Am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes” by Kelsey Timmerman
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Rating: 4 stars
“Where Am I Wearing” is about Kelsey Timmerman's quest to become a more informed consumer by visiting the factories that have manufactured his underwear, jeans, flip-flops and shorts. The book’s sections are divided up by country: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and the Unites States.
Timmerman's writing style is personal, like a deep yet informal conversation with a good friend about the consequences of globalization. It is clear he is passionate about the cause and yet I didn't find him overly preachy about what readers should or should not buy. It was interesting to read about his experiences with the factory workers and what they had to teach. Featuring their pictures throughout the book added a nice touch and helped put a face to a name, which is reminiscent of the greater purpose of Timmerman’s journey, to get to know the faces behind the clothing. It is evident that the factory workers, including Arifa, Nari, Ai, Zhu Vhun and Dewan, had a great impact upon Timmerman by the way he conveyed their stories and as a result, I was touched as well.
This book gave me greater insight into the true meaning of ‘sweatshop’ and showed that there is no black and white when deciding which companies to purchase clothing from. I was surprised to learn that the factory workers themselves protest American boycotts and not only want but need us to buy the clothing they make. Often times it is the teenagers and young adults who work so that they can send a large portion of their earnings back to their families in the countryside and they need these jobs to support them. Some of them have even paid just to have the ‘luxury’ of obtaining a factory job, while others use any connections they have to get them. It can be tough to know what the right course of action is when trying to shop in an ethical manner. Timmerman does a good job of outlining the issues and then offers some advice and great websites to help determine which companies deserve our business.
“Where Am I Wearing” is an insightful and informative book. I like that Timmerman included personal anecdotes from his own life and tied in all of his experiences coherently and concisely. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about globalization and factory workers without the feeling of being stuck in a classroom.
Monday, December 15, 2008
"The Darcys & the Bingleys: Pride and Prejudice continues" by Marsha Altman
Published by Sourcebooks
Rating: 4 stars
“The Darcys & the Bingleys” is a Pride and Prejudice sequel, which starts off with the preparations for the double wedding of Fitzwilliam Darcy to Elizabeth Bennett and his best friend Charles Bingley to Elizabeth's sister, Jane Bennett. The book is composed of two different books in one, with the first describing the wedding and their lives as newlyweds, and the second one about raising children and focuses a great deal on Charles’ sister Caroline and her future engagement.
This is the first Jane Austen sequel that I’ve read and it was very enjoyable. The storylines make it a nice and light read. While there are some dramatic scenes (and a swordfight!), the majority of the book is very sweet and subtle. Altman's writing is very poetic and she captures the 'Jane Austen' time period quite well with the right tone and use of language. I found that the characters remained just as charming and likable despite their obvious flaws as Jane Austen had intended. I especially appreciated reading the witty banter between Darcy and Elizabeth and their feisty yet incredibly loving relationship, which continued nicely from Pride and Prejudice.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
(gift bag may vary slightly from that shown in the picture)
How to enter: Please leave a comment on this post telling me which item from BijouxDesignsForYou's shop is your favorite
Deadline: December 21st at 11:59 PM
Open to: U.S. and Canadian residents
Winners will be chosen by random.org
GOOD LUCK !!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
“Queen of the Road” by Doreen Orion
Published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House
Rating: 4 stars
Doreen Orion refers to herself as a Long Island princess, which isn’t too hard to believe given her affinity for designer shoes and her love affair with mixed drinks. Just in case you weren’t completely convinced of Doreen’s ‘princess’ status, she explains how she tricked her husband into being responsible for all of the household chores by mixing whites and colors in the washing machine and inefficiently loading the dishwasher in the beginning of their marriage.
While I realize that this description of Doreen doesn’t make her sound too appealing, you just have to read the book to understand why she is so endearing, not to mention hilarious. How can you not find the humor in someone who boasts going a record 118 hours without leaving the house? She loves her home and her television but her husband Tim, craved more adventure and proposed the somewhat crazy idea of taking a year-long bus trip across the United States. With a lot of convincing on Tim’s behalf and some ridiculous amounts of alcohol on Doreen’s behalf, they set off on their year-long adventure, visiting friends and family, renewing their wedding vows in Vegas and even stopping by a nudist colony!!
This book was really enjoyable because of Doreen’s funny way of recounting their journey and the amazing characters they encountered along the way. It also gave me a nice overview of some parts of the United States that I’m not too familiar with (I am Canadian after all)! I also liked that Doreen decided to include a nice amount of historical information whenever she talked about a certain landmark or destination.
Hilarious adventures aside, there is a great message to take away from this book. Doreen and her husband felt incredibly renewed and experienced a greater appreciation for life after taking the time to explore and travel. They also strengthened their marriage by eliminating the usual distractions that can often get in the way of quality time with loved ones. Although not anyone can just decide to take a year off, I think Doreen’s story inspires a sense of appreciation for all that life has to offer and teaches us to put the iPod down and shut the computer off, if only for a little while.
Be sure to visit Doreen’s hilarious website detailing her adventure with travelogues and podcasts.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
“The Green Beauty Guide” by Julie Gabriel
Published by HCI Books
“The Green Beauty Guide” is a must-have book for anyone who wants to become more environmentally conscious and learn about organic beauty products. Even those who already know a lot about green beauty will inevitably learn something new from this incredibly comprehensive guide. From green product recommendations to money-saving tips to a beauty detox regimen, this book has it all.
After delving into “The Green Beauty Guide” it is clear that Julie Gabriel is an expert in the field and has done a tremendous amount of research. All of the information is supported by data and scientific facts, which really proves Ms. Gabriel’s points and makes the book as credible as it is educational. There are some excellent chapters on the nature of skin and the dangers of certain toxins found in commonly used products, which I’ll admit was pretty alarming! I am glad that I now have this invaluable resource that will be put to good use. In the back of the book there is even a list of recommended resources, as well as 100 toxic cosmetic ingredients to avoid (talk about thorough!)
Certainly the most fun parts of this book are the ‘do-it-yourself green beauty’ that provide some really great recipes for cleansers, toners, facials, moisturizers, lip balms, fragrances and much more.
“The Green Beauty Guide” is an informative and practical guide with fun recipes, product recommendations, and important information that has educated me on how to be a smarter, safer and more environmentally conscious consumer.
Julie Gabriel is a registered nutrition specialist (RHN) educated at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She launched a series of workshops titled 'New Mom's Diet' in Toronto. She is in the process of launching her own organic skincare line called Petite Marie Organics. This line is being released April 2008.
She has been writing and editing fashion and beauty for about 15 years. In 1992 she worked in production at CNN's Style with Elsa Klensch. She was the associate beauty editor in Harper's Bazaar (Eastern European editions, 1998-2000), beauty editor in Atmospheres (2001-2001) and has written over five hundred articles and features on fashion, beauty and lifestyle.
Visit Julie Gabriel’s The Green Beauty website for green beauty tips, recipes and much more!
Be sure to check out the last tour stop tomorrow, Thursday, December 11th at B & B ex libris!
Monday, November 17th: Allie’s Answers
Tuesday, November 18th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Wednesday, November 19th: Nature Moms Blog
Thursday, November 20th: Books and Cooks
Monday, November 24th: Green Phone Booth and Going Green
Tuesday, November 25th: The Good Human
Wednesday, November 26th: OrganicBeautySource.com
Friday, November 28th: Crunchy Chicken
Monday, December 1st: Surely You Nest
Tuesday, December 2nd: Greenstylemom
Wednesday, December 3rd: Rawdorable
Thursday, December 4th: She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, December 5th: Presenting Lenore
Monday, December 8th: Red Lady’s Reading Room
Tuesday, December 9th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
“The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti” by Annie Vanderbilt
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group
Rating: 4.5 stars
“The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti” is a wonderfully written novel about Lily Crisp, who takes her typewriter, also known as Madame Olivetti, to her vacation home in southern France to put her past on paper and heal after the death of her husband. What I thought would be a cute book about an older woman and a younger man, turned out to be a fascinating story filled with rich family history and intricately woven flashbacks.
I loved reading about Lily Crisp and her adventures of the past and the present. Annie Vanderbilt’s writing makes each memory, each relationship and each landscape come alive. Many passages from the book are so beautifully written they sound like poetry.
Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:
“But if life was a process – and surely it was not a static arrangement – then change was the perpetually evolving fabric, not the outcome of living. Change had not happened to Lily; she had simply introduced new patterns and colors into the weave of her destiny”
This book is definitely a worthwhile read that will take you through a whirlwind of emotions, ending off with a smile.
Monday, December 8, 2008
“The Devil, The Lovers & Me” by Kimberlee Auerbach
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group
Rating: 4.5 stars
“The Devil, The Lovers & Me” is Kimberlee Auerbach’s memoir about her journey towards eventual self acceptance and the hilarious and touching moments along the way and was originally developed from Auerbach’s comedic performances in New York. The book begins with Auerbach going to visit to a tarot card reader in the hopes of gaining insight into her past and direction for the future. The session Auerbach has with the tarot card reader spans the whole novel and each chapter is brilliantly centered on a different tarot card. Within each chapter, there are flashbacks to Auerbach’s life events according to the tarot card’s theme, which I really loved because it helped weave her story together. I have read my fair share of memoirs, but oftentimes there isn’t enough structure or purpose to which events the author has chosen to share. “The Devil, The Lovers & Me” is unique in that it reads like a novel and has just the right combination of depth and humor.
What really drew me into this book was Auerbach’s amazing storytelling ability and her insightful observations about her past. There is something about the way she tells her story that was both fascinating and incredibly hilarious. Despite some tough issues that are dealt with, Auerbach manages to find the humor in every situation and proves to be wiser than she originally realizes. With every story, there is something that anyone can relate to, from trouble with family to relationship drama and everything in between. While we may not all have fathers who’d buy an engagement ring for our boyfriend to propose with (before he even knows he wants to propose) or have felt jealous over our own mother’s sex appeal, there is something familiar about Auerbach’s stories that will make you feel like she is a close friend. This book is highly recommended!
Friday, December 5, 2008
BIG THANKS to Miriam and Hachette Book Group for sending me this book to review!
Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter
Published by 5 Spot, a division of Hachette Book Group
About the book: He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and staring down her upcoming birthday-alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and the wild passionate fling they have becomes the biggest surprise of Jackie's life.Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood...and memories of Kai. He hasn't forgotten her. Yet thousands of miles of ocean-not to mention an age difference that feels even wider-separate them. And, of course, her friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?
What I think: This book was an incredibly fast read for me. I would describe it as the ideal beach read because it is light and fun, plus half of the book does take place in Hawaii! As I was reading the book, I could easily envision Jackie and her irrational and yet powerful feelings for Kai. Jane’s writing style made Jackie’s character seem incredibly real and I found myself rooting for her until the very end.
My only real issue with this book is the ending itself. I don’t want to give anything away but I just didn’t find the book’s conclusion sufficiently realistic.
Nonetheless, I found Flirting with Forty is a fun and breezy read. I look forward to delving into the other books by Jane Porter in the future!
Flirting with Forty has been made into a Lifetime movie that will air December 6th at 9 PM/8c starring Heather Locklear and Robert Buckley. This seems like perfect casting to me and I really can’t wait to see the movie. This is the type of book that I anticipate will translate very well into film! The trailer also makes it look really good...........check it out!
Be sure to visit the other stops on The Early Birds Blog Tour of Flirting with Forty:
At Home With Books, My Friend Amy, Bermudaonion's Weblog, Book Critiques, Sharon Loves Books and Cats, The Tome Traveller's Weblog, The Printed Page, A Bookworm's World, Books, Movies, and Chinese Food, Allison's Attic, S. Krishna's Books, Literarily, Booking Mama, Cheryl's Book Nook, Cindy's Love of Books, Books By TJ Baff, B&b Ex Libris, Marjolein Book Blog, A Novel Menagerie, Wendi's Book Corner, The Book Czar, The Book Girl, A Circle of Books, Books In Every Room, A Blog of Books for You, Book Ahoy!, Enroute to Life
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Published by RWG Press
Kelly Epperson’s first book is a compilation of articles that she has written since 2001 for her a weekly newspaper column. There are a wide range of topics covered, from reality television to IQ tests to New Year’s resolutions.
I enjoyed reading the laugh-out-loud columns. Each chapter makes for some nice light reading that can be picked up and read over and over again. The writing style is very personal and straight forward, Ms. Epperson tells it like it is! My favorite article by far is called “Becoming Bilingual In France, But Not In French”, which discusses the intricacies of the English language and how ‘British’ English has such a different vocabulary. As Kelly writes, “I’m not daft, I can figure out the lingo. So now I’ll get off my bum, grab my rucksack and go queue at the post. Cheerio.” This is a fun book that most anyone can relate to in some way because the articles are about real life. Even the most mundane events and facts seem funny when Kelly is the one describing them!
Here are some fun facts about Kelly from her website:
Former IRS agent
Taught English as a Second Language
Never could do a cartwheel
Been married a LONG time (to the same guy)
Have 2 teenage sons who I still adore (most of the time)
No longer drive a minivan
Recently lived one year in the south of France!
Mon francais - c'est mauvais!
Loved loved loved Europe!
As part of Kelly Epperson's Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour, I will be interviewing her in the near future. Stay tuned!!
BIG THANKS to Kelly for sending me her book to review and Dorothy for organizing this great tour!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Joshua Henkin is generously offering a SIGNED copy of his latest book, Matrimony to one lucky winner just in time for the holiday season! Matrimony is a New York Times Notable book and also one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year – click here for my review.
This giveaway is open to anyone WORLDWIDE and ends December 10th at 11:59 PM. To enter simply leave a comment on this post telling me why you want to read Matrimony.
For other reviews on Matrimony check out these posts:
Here are some of Josh’s guest posts that may be of interest:
The Elegant Variation (several posts - just scroll down a bit)