Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Review: Find Your Inner Ugly Betty by Tanner Stransky

BIG THANKS to Tanner, Michelle and Kaplan Publishing for getting me a copy of this book to review!

“Find Your Inner Ugly Betty” by Tanner Stransky

Published by Kaplan Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

It takes a lot of work to rise to the top of the corporate ladder, or even just to survive your first day on the job! Tanner Stransky, author of “Find Your Inner Ugly Betty”, should know. He has gotten himself writing jobs at a number of popular magazines and currently works as an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly, in addition to being part of the Ed2010 staff (a network group for young editors).

Taking his lead from popular and successful television series, such as Ugly Betty (hence the title!) and Grey’s Anatomy, Stransky outlines 25 career lessons needed to excel in any industry. The book consists of five sections that teach how to polish your image, build relationships, become irreplaceable, go beyond office hours and advance your career. Within each domain there are explanations, realistic pointers, advice from experts and anecdotes to further illustrate each chapter’s message.

Being a young professional myself, this book has a lot of relevant and helpful advice that I will certainly put to good use. While some of the tips seemed obvious, the majority of them are contemporary, carefully considered and creative. I especially enjoyed the chapters on embracing your individual style and the importance of knowing the people who really make things happen (such as the office manager and receptionist). What I really like about Stransky’s approach is how clearly each lesson is outlined and explained. Each chapter is very succinct and includes a quick list summarizing the key points at the end. Of course, the pop culture references included add an entertainment aspect to the book in addition to its educational value.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone entering the workforce or anyone returning to work after an extended period of time who needs to educate themselves about the modern workplace. I have a hunch that even seasoned career veterans could learn a thing or two from this book as well!

For more info, visit Tanner’s website

Monday, October 27, 2008

My first GIVEAWAY: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees-a favorite pastime of Apollo's-is sapping their vital reserves of strength.

Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?

Doesn't this book look like fun? Enter to win a copy of "Gods Behaving Badly" by leaving a comment here (with an email address so I can contact you if you win). For an additional two entries, either blog about this giveaway and link it back here OR if you don't have a blog then you can email three friends about the giveaway and cc me.

For every 10 entries, another copy of the book will be given away (for up to 5 copies in total)! The giveaway will end on November 10 at 11:59 pm eastern time.

Please note: To enter, you must have either a US or Canada mailing address, and P.O. Boxes are not allowed. Winners will be drawn randomly from randomizer.org.

BIG THANKS to Valerie from Hachette Book Group for making this amazing giveaway possible!!


To increase your chances of winning a copy of "Gods Behaving Badly", you can also enter at:

The Tome Traveller's Weblog here

Booklorn (as of Nov. 4) here

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Review: Off the Menu by Christine Son

BIG THANKS to Catherine and Penguin Group for sending me this book to review!

“Off the Menu” by Christine Son

Published by New American Library (NAL), a division of Penguin Group, Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

In Christine Son’s debut novel, “Off the Menu” follows the lives of three Asian-American women who have been close friends ever since they were all made Valedictorian of their graduating high school class. Whitney Lee, a hard-working lawyer, epitomizes success with a lucrative job and her loving boyfriend Scott, but things are not always as they seem because in reality Whitney has been ignoring her real passion and her dwindling relationship with Scott. Hercules Huang is a successful chef and businesswoman who gives off the illusion of happiness but inside struggles over her conflicting relationship with her father and her lack of any romantic connections. Audrey Henley, adopted into a billionaire dynasty, is on the road to completing her PhD while trying to come to terms with her heritage and her parents’ disapproval of her fiancé. Though their friendship has lasted for many years, these women have never shared with each other their inner feelings about culture, their hidden aspirations or the true nature of their relationships with their families. Their monthly ‘Valedictorian dinners’ typically involve bragging about their accomplishments, however after their first overnight trip together, everything changes.

“Off the Menu” deals with more than just the ‘typical’ issues that are often explored in novels, allowing for a deeper and more meaningful read. Culture and heritage play an important role in each of the women’s lives and their relationships with their family and friends. They are always trying to hide their true ambitions for fear of failure and disappointing their loved ones. In the conversation with Christine Son (located at the end of the book), she reveals that very few people even knew she was writing a novel because she wanted to avoid others’ pity that would inevitably arise if her novel wasn’t published. Reading that confirmed my intuition that Son had incorporated some of her real-life feelings and values into the novel. Having a part of the author weaved throughout the book enhanced the novel’s authenticity and really made the characters come alive.

This book was an incredibly fast read because I became so engrossed in the lives of all three women, whose stories were equally engaging and interesting to read about. It took a little while to become accustomed to the ‘southern twang’ (Y’all!) but once I did, I came to enjoy it! Son’s beautiful writing style is captivating and I really enjoyed this book. I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

Be sure to check out Christine Son’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 3rd: Literarily
First week of November: Estella’s Revenge e-zine
Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma
Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut
Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf
Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie
Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians
Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages
Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, November 17th: Planet Books
Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris
Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN
Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama
Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review
Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review
Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric

For more info you can also visit Christine Son’s website

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The "Queen of the Road" Sweepstakes

I will be posting my review for "Queen of the Road" by Doreen Orion in the next couple weeks but since this amazing sweepstakes ends soon, I wanted to notify everyone right away so you can all enter to win:

Sweepstakes #1: Celestial Seasonings Tea shop gift basket ($500 value)
Sweepstakes #2: Apple iPod touch 16Gb
Sweepstakes #3: Magellan Roadmate 1430 GPS unit

Here are the details from the website:

The Queen of the Road Sweepstakes
3 Sweepstakes, 3 Great Prizes

Click on one of the Queen of the Road Travelogues (Caution—there’s no accounting for taste!) Then take a short quiz — if you complete all the answers correctly, you can enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a gadget. Take each quiz as many times as you like. Winners will be randomly drawn on October 25, 2008

Book Review: We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee

BIG THANKS to Katie, Adria and Random House Canada for helping me get a copy of this book for review!

“We Bought A Zoo” by Benjamin Mee

Published by Weinstein Books and Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd.

Rating: 3.5 stars

In “We Bought A Zoo”, Benjamin Mee tells the story of how his family came to buy the Dartmoor Zoological Park and the great lengths it took to revitalize the zoo and prepare it for opening day. I think this book is particularly appealing because it is so hard to imagine most people purchasing a zoo or even entertaining the idea of doing so. Hence, the mystery of it all! I was intrigued by the book’s topic and I just had to find out what Mee’s thought process was and the reasoning behind his family’s extraordinary acquisition.

From the start, Mee provides an in-depth analysis into the zoo-keeping business and leaves no details unexplored. Some of the information about animal grooming and sterilization seemed a bit excessive to have included and tended to distract from the story. However I do understand that Mee wanted to provide readers all of the facts, even if they seemed trivial, in order to paint the complete picture of what he had to cope with on a daily basis. The most interesting parts about the animals were their interactions with each other and their keepers. I also really liked the scenes that depicted the animal runaways which really gave a glimpse into how stressful and sometimes exciting managing a zoo can be. There are even some beautiful color photos of Mee’s family and ones of the noteworthy animals mentioned in the book!

While most of the book is dedicated to details of the zoo and Mee’s formal responsibilities to the zoo, the parts that talk about his wife Katherine and her illness are really touching. I enjoyed reading about their special relationship and how much Mee too care of her. It was nice to see the Mee’s caretaking side because it came in contrast to his required business-like manner while running the zoo.

With all the anticipation that had been building up while reading the book, the ending was incredibly satisfying. It is one of those books where the ending can be nothing but expected, and nonetheless I felt an immense sense of relief when reading about the zoo’s successful opening. I also felt proud of the Mee family for how much they had all accomplished and how they grew closer as a family, despite the hardships encountered along the way.

For more information about the Mee’s Dartmoor Zoological Park visit its website

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: Almost Green by James Glave

BIG THANKS to Emiko and Douglas & McIntyre for sending me this book to review!

“Almost Green" by James Glave

Published by Greystone Books, a division of Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Rating: 4 stars

In an effort to make his life more eco-friendly, idealistic James Glave came up with the crazy notion of building an ecologically sound structure on his property, which he deemed the Eco-Shed. In “Almost Green”, Glave explains how the idea, planning and building of this ‘green’ haven came about. While the book primarily chronicles the construction of the Eco-Shed, it also details Glave’s struggle to reduce his carbon footprint within the limitations of practicality. As Glave puts it, this book is about “our natural instinct to flatten the protruding nail of personal sacrifice with the always handy hammers of convenience and denial”.

As is evidenced by the long and financially burdensome process of producing the Eco-Shed, Glave knows firsthand that it’s not easy being green. While reading the book it is clear how much time, energy and money was being poured into the Eco-Shed, notwithstanding all of the hope, heart and faith. Reading about all the times Glave's project came close to failing and draining all of his resources, he was the epitome of the underdog and had me rooting for him until the very end.

I learned a lot about our environment from the book because it is packed with practical and interesting information. It is apparent that Glave did quite a bit of research to come up with the intermittent statistics and eco-friendly facts located throughout the book. There is also a great deal of information on each of each step in the construction of the Eco-Shed. While much of these details were necessary in recounting the story, I felt that at times there was simply too much detail to absorb. I wish there had been a few more anecdotes about Glave’s wife and small children, because I found those parts of the book extremely touching and they showed just how much Glave cares for his family.

Not only is this book educational, it is also extremely comical. After reading “Almost Green” I can safely conclude that Mr. Glave is a very funny man and I really appreciated his self-deprecating and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor. Another obstacle Glave had to overcome was his father-in-law, Padre, who is the kind of guy who forwards emails that joke about the existence of global warming. The pages dedicated to Padre were some of the funniest and most enjoyable parts of the book. There is even a hilarious ‘quote’ by Padre on the book’s back cover that reads: “Almost Green is a BOONDOGGLE from start to finish. Save your money; go out and get yourself a Costco membership instead” (Note: I have to disagree with this quote. Sorry Padre!)

“Almost Green” is an inspirational story about a regular guy who sought to become a little more eco-friendly and in the process learned and passed on some very valuable lessons. (And true to his message, this book is even printed on forest-friendly paper!)

For more info, check out James Glave’s website
To see more pictures of the infamous Eco-Shed click here

To reserve your stay in the Eco-Shed visit its website OR enter Douglas & McIntyre’s Eco-Shed contest to WIN a night in the Eco-Shed!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Book Review: The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style by Kim France and Andrea Linett

BIG THANKS to Tala and Penguin Group for sending me this book to review!

“The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style” by Kim France and Andrea Linett

Published by Gotham Books, a division of Penguin Group, Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

A veritable adult picture book for fashion lovers, “The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style” is filled with glossy colorful photos of clothing, accessories and fashion icons. Written by the notable editors of Lucky shopping magazine, this book is the highly anticipated follow up to “The Lucky Shopping Manual” which was released in 2003. The new book takes style to the next level by focusing on ten unique iconic looks and teaching readers how to achieve them. You don’t have to be a trendy fashionista to appreciate this book’s style advice and helpful hints. Rather, it is a guide that will help you identify which styles you like best as well as aid in achieving the appropriate balance between the different looks. Each section showcases a different ‘iconic look’ along with essential clothing pieces and accessories, Lucky Girl profiles of women who embody the particular look and suggested stores to visit. There is also a mix and match section (modeled by Lucky magazine’s staff members – ‘lucky’ them!) that shows you how to combine the looks while remaining true to your own style. In the spirit of the Lucky magazine tradition, the book also offers exclusive discounts and giveaways for its readers in the last few pages.

My only complaint about the book is that it does not provide specific brand information for the clothes and accessories it includes, making it a challenge to find a particular item that one might want to purchase. Granted this book is a style guide and not a catalogue and thus the intentions are not necessarily to sell its contents, I would have still liked for product information to have been included nonetheless. Although I would assume that most of the designer items would be too expensive for the average consumer, myself included, I still think the inclusion of the specific labels would have been beneficial.

This book makes for a really fun addition to anyone’s library, even those who consider themselves fashion-challenged (or perhaps, especially those who consider themselves fashion-challenged). It is a great resource that can be pulled out at any time and practically incorporated into one’s daily style choices.

The following are the 10 iconic looks featured in the book:

1. Euro Chic (think Catherine Deneuve and silk blouses)

2. California Casual (think Farah Fawcett and denim cutoffs)

3. Rock and Roll (think Debbie Harry and leather jackets)

4. Posh Eclectic (think Helena Christensen and pink ruffled skirts)

5. Mod (think Twiggy and A-line mini dresses)

6. American Classic (think Jackie O and the little black dress)

7. Bombshell (think Marilyn Monroe and fitted red dresses)

8. Arty Slick (think Bjork and asymmetrical tops)

9. Bohemian (think Stevie Nicks and peasant tops)

10. Gamine (think Audrey Hepburn and trench coats)

Personally, I think my style is a combination of Euro Chic and American Classic.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book Review: The Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell

BIG THANKS to Mary Ann and Penguin Group for sending me this book to review!

“The Professors’ Wives’ Club” by Joanne Rendell

Published by New American Library (NAL), a division of Penguin Group, Inc.

Rating: 4 stars

“The Professors’ Wives’ Club” tells the story of four strong yet very different women, in alternating chapters and perspectives. These women start off as strangers but their common appreciation for their faculty housing’s garden unites them in a mission to save it from the hands of the ‘evil’ Dean Jack Havemeyer. At the start of the book we learn that the dean’s wife Mary is an outspoken author and professor who transforms into a shrinking violet in the presence of her husband. Sofia, once a successful Hollywood agent, is dealing with the consequences of leaving her career to raise her children fulltime. Hannah has left her modeling career to pursue her artwork but much to her frustration, her husband refuses to take her new passion seriously. Ashleigh is working hard in her family’s law firm while trying to keep her true identity a secret from them.

What I loved most about the book was that Joanne Rendell created characters who, despite some mistakes made along the way, still remained great role models until the very end. These women devote their lives to their families and careers and yet always strive to remain true to themselves and what they believe in. Women’s fiction too often features women who obsess too much over their materialistic woes and triumphs and so this story was quite refreshing. There are a number of complex issues that the women must face throughout the novel, such as spousal abuse and infidelity, which test the women’s strength and will power. As individuals, their stories are equally enjoyable to read about, however I would have loved for the women’s friendships and connections to have been examined further. The amount of intimate interaction among the women is relatively minimal, although this does give readers the opportunity to peer into their respective lives more thoroughly.

This was my first time reading a novel that explored the inner workings of university life and the lives of the professors’ wives. The unique subject matter made this book an interesting read right off the bat. Though this book revolves around a fictitious Manhattan University, I enjoyed seeing the politics of academia play out and much of the action was easy to envision. This is probably largely due to the fact that Joanne Rendell is the recipient of a PhD and a professor’s wife herself, making her story as credible as it is entertaining!

Look out for Joanne Rendell’s next book “Crossing Washington Square”, to be released in summer 2009, which explores the inner world of Manhattan University and academia in greater detail!

For more info, visit Joanne Rendell’s website and her FOOTNOTES blog

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Review: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

BIG THANKS to Josh for sending me his book to review! (and personalizing it too : )

“Matrimony” by Joshua Henkin

Published by Vintage Contemporaries, a division of Random House, Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

With all of the book blog buzz that has been generated about “Matrimony” in the past couple of months, I just had to read and review the book for myself. I was a bit worried that the book would not live up to its hype, as is often the case, but after reading the first few pages I knew I would not be disappointed.

“Matrimony” takes place over the course of twenty years, primarily following the lives of Julian and Mia, whose relationship blossoms in college and subsequently leads to matrimony. While it can be said that “Matrimony” is indeed a love story, I think it is really so much more. Relationships with family and friends are equally important elements of the storyline and shape who Julian and Mia are, as well as who they become. And as with any story that centers on relationships, themes of betrayal, greed, jealousy and death rear their ugly heads. However despite all the drama, there was never a point in the story when I felt like I was stuck in a contrived soap opera world. I did not need to be convinced of the plot’s credibility because I was already picturing it all unfolding right before my very eyes.

The true test of an author’s ability to depict believable characters is whether those fictional people are able to elicit genuine feeling from the reader. Regardless of whether a character inspires my compassion, admiration or even indignation, all that matters is that they are real to me. Henkin has succeeded in this respect, as Julian and Mia, along with most of the supporting characters, jump out of the pages and come alive.

What I loved most about the book is the way events from the past are so intricately weaved throughout the story and never detract from the main plot. It is the fluidity of the narrative that makes “Matrimony” such an effortless read and Henkin’s beautiful writing that makes it such an enjoyable one.

For more info, visit Joshua Henkin’s website and blog

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book Cover Faux-Pas

I came across a New York Times article written back in 2005 about book covers. The article does not talk about lookalikes but rather covers with the EXACT same photo, which apparently has been quite the problem. According to the article, this phenomenon is "the publishing equivalent of arriving at a party wearing the same dress as the hostess." I've never really thought about it like that. It does bring up some interesting issues.....

What do you think?

Pictured here are two examples of duplicate cover photos that are mentioned in the article.

Friday, October 10, 2008


A little while ago I came across a great post on She reads and reads , where Avis wrote about similar book titles and mentioned her past post on similar book covers . She also listed other blogs that feature or mention similar findings:

Since reading those posts, I've been on a "similar book cover" hunt and today, I finally came across similar book covers!

The Debs by Susan McBride

The Prairie Bridesmaid by Daria Salamon

If anyone else comes across any others, I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Book Review: Cool Jew by Lisa Alcalay Klug

BIG THANKS to Shelly and Andrew McMeel Publishing for sending me this book to review!

“Cool Jew” by Lisa Alcalay Klug
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC

Rating: 4 stars

From the book’s website:

Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $12.99) by award-winning journalist Lisa Alcalay Klug is a field manual for the 21st century Jew and the people who love them. This book decodes contemporary Judaism and its hippest forms of cultural and creative expression. Spanning 250 pages and nearly 400 images, it covers everything from identity, rituals, clothing and cuisine, to holidays, spirituality, diversity, and language. Cool Jew combines original illustrations by artist Amos Goldbaum with historical pieces, album covers, Kabbalistic paintings, pop Judaica and more. Jew got questions? Jew got answers! Imagine an updated combination of the beloved Jewish Catalog meets the Joys of Yiddish with a hip-hop spin that captures the spirit of the times. A hallmark of the current Pan-Jewish cultural revival, Cool Jew does for matzah balls and gefilte fish what The Official Preppy Handbook did for plaid and polo, only with much more chutzpah!

Upon first glance, “Cool Jew” may seem to you like a humorous parody for entertainment purposes. And, you’d be right. However, amongst the cheeky writing and amusing games, there happens to also be a lot of handy and educational information. For example, there are sections outlining each major Judaica item, such as the Kiddush cup and the Chanukah menorah. Also, you can find a detailed description of traditional foods associated with each Jewish holiday (because food is after all, very important in Judaism!) and explanations of the various head coverings worn for men and women. Look out for interesting historical information and tidbits on famous Jews, as well.

The humor ranges from the witty to the outrageous. There are definitely sections of the book that have the potential to offend the more devout among us but that is exactly why some of the content shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It is all in good fun and Klug, being a proud member of the Jewish faith herself, would not intentionally insult anyone. Some ideas however, may not be for the faint of heart, such as the idea to take yarmulkes/kippas (Jewish head covering) and “sew leather shoelaces on a matching leather pair to create a sexy string bikini top”. Talk about risqué religious humor!

Funny highlights include:
- Letterman-like Top Ten lists
- ‘Recycle, Reuse, Reschmooze’ sections that offer other uses for common Jewish objects
- ‘FYI for the Yiddish impaired’

Other great features are the hilarious and sometimes wacky drawings, photographs and comics located throughout the book.

On the cover of the book is says that the book is not just for Jews, which is absolutely true. Non-Jews may not understand all of the humor, but it would probably a very enjoyable way to learn more about another religion and pick up the ‘Jewish slang’!

“Cool Jew” is a fun read and especially recommended as great entertainment when read with friends and family (which I did, and it really is!)

For more info visit the COOL JEW website
Check out if the Cool Jew book tour is coming to a town near you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Power of Books

While I'm sure all of us avid readers have had connections to many of the books we've read, but here is actual proof that sometimes books really can change lives. As reported by literary agent Kristin Nelson on her blog Pub Rants, author Shanna Swendson got an email from a social worker about her ENCHANTED INC. book series. The social worker told her that she received a call from a woman who had been reading the series to her mother, a recent stroke victim. While the caller's mother had become depressed and unresponsive after her stroke, she became increasingly alert and animated as her daughter read the stories to her. Her mother has since developed a more positive outlook! In Shanna's words, “it's not exactly a miracle cure, but it's still touching to realize you've had that kind of impact on someone.”

It must be inredibly rewarding for an author to get feedback like that! On that note, I think we should all think of the authors whose books have had profound meaning for our own lives and let them know! It just might make their day!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Book Review: Colin & Justin’s HOME HEIST STYLE GUIDE by Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan

BIG THANKS to Bronwyn and Penguin Canada for sending me this book to review!

by Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan
Published by the Penguin Group

Rating: 5 stars

Talented designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan have had their own popular home design shows in the UK, US and Canada. Based on HGTV Canada’s hit show “Colin & Justin’s Home Heist”, Colin & Justin have come out with their own decorating book for Canadians called “Colin & Justin’s Home Heist Style Guide”.

In this fun book, there is a room-by-room guide to home renovation that features many case studies detailing the transformation steps along with before and after pictures for living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, family rooms, and bathrooms. (My favorite room makeover would have to be their conversion of a dreary spare room in the basement into a beautiful spa bathroom!) There are also sections dedicated to home offices, hallways, porches and decks. They discuss how to establish focal points in each room and include a great deal of practical information about important topics such as storage and lighting. Colin & Justin also teach readers how to accommodate for multi-purpose rooms, small spaces and tight budgets. At the end of the book, the primary topics of color, wallpaper and paint, lighting, flooring and accessories are explored in further detail.

Here is an example of one of their bedroom makeovers:

Also, look out for C & J’s tips which are located throughout the book and highlight their quirky style and personalities! For example: C & J’s tip for bedrooms, “When dressing a bed, make it a tactile feast for the fingers as well as the eye. Mix soft satin with a luxurious cashmere throw. Then and only then, will you discover the true meaning of being ‘good in bed'!” Wow!

Their book emphasizes finding your own unique style based on who you are and what you want from your home, as opposed to preaching what should and shouldn’t be done. Inside you will find all the typical elements of home decoration but what makes this book special is the blend of Colin and Justin’s wacky sense of humor and eclectic style. Colin & Justin’s style combines traditional and contemporary looks with bold color choices and unique accent details. Their writing is as fresh and bold as the colors they use in their décor. Additionally, the vibrant pictures of the homes are beautiful and enhance the aesthetic of the book making it an even more enjoyable read!

In addition to their wicked humor and bold style, what I appreciated most about “Colin & Justin’s Home Heist Style Guide” was their realistic tips and suggestions. Some of my favorite hints include: Top 12 Ideas for a Small Space and Top 5 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Look More Expensive.
This isn’t a book you will read only once, but rather it is a useful resource that can be referred to anytime depending on your styling needs. Even if your home does not need renovation, it has a lot of helpful information about how to add accessories and touches of color to update and beautify existing rooms.

Check out Colin and Justin’s website here

For more info about their TV show visit: Colin & Justin’s Home Heist and be sure to watch them on HGTV Canada – Tuesdays @ 10 PM ET (check out past episodes also!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Book Review: Hide & Seek by Wendy Aron

BIG THANKS to Wendy for sending me her book to review!

“Hide & Seek” by Wendy Aron
Published by Kunati, Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

After years of suffering from depression and low self-esteem, Wendy Aron finally worked up the courage to sign up for a self-help course. It was called ‘Winning Ways’ and its goal was to teach participants how to present themselves in social and business situations to get what they want. What may appear to be a small step to some, ended up being the stepping stone Aron needed to take control of her life and conquer her battle with depression. With some newfound confidence, Aron is propelled into action and sets off to learn how to relax, lose weight, cure her smoking addiction and become more optimistic. “Hide & Seek” chronicles Aron’s year-long foray into the self-help realm and the lessons she learned along the way. Chock-full of hilarious flashbacks and amusing anecdotes, Aron’s humor does not disappoint.

“Hide & Seek” provides a guided tour of many of the self-help outlets available, from the mundane to the outrageous. Some of the highlights include a Speed Dating adventure, a creativity retreat, aromatherapy and the exploration of her chakras (‘energy centers of the soul') and a 'humor and learned optimism' class.

While Aron was the one who embarked upon the life-altering journey, I couldn’t help but feel like I was along for the ride as well. Even though this book is a memoir, I think it speaks to each and everyone of us and has much to offer. I must admit I learned a great deal from Aron’s experiences and somehow felt a lot more positive after reading it. Aron uses her sarcastic humor as a means of entertaining her readers, instead of what was probably once used as a defense mechanism. Her witty humor is also what made me feel attached to her and by the end of the book, I felt like she was a close friend.

Aron is an inspiration, not only for those who have dealt with depression, but for anyone who has ever had obstacles to overcome. She set out to improve her quality of life and in the process, stopped the dependent relationship she had with her therapist, became more optimistic, and ultimately learned to accept herself. I only wish the book would have continued further and filled in the blanks between then and her life now as a married woman. Kudos to Wendy Aron for opening up about her journey and writing such a humorous and inspirational memoir!!

For more info visit: http://www.wendyaron.com/ and for some more humor visit Wendy Aron's blog

Friday, October 3, 2008

Book Review: Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen

BIG THANKS to Deanna and HarperCollinsCanada (The Reading Group) for sending me this book!

“Inside Out Girl” by Tish Cohen
Published by HarperCollins

Rating: 4 stars

Rachel is an uptight single mother of Janie and Dustin, who is trying to save her family’s parenting magazine from going under. Len is a widowed father, who is trying his best to raise his daughter in spite of her non-verbal learning disorder, which prevents her from finding meaning in people’s body language. Due to Olivia’s inability to understand social cues, she always wears her mismatched clothes inside out and is consequently deemed ‘inside out girl’ by her schoolmates.

Throughout the novel, readers get an intimate glimpse into the thoughts and lives of Rachel, Janie, Len and Olivia. My only criticism is that Rachel’s son, Dustin, and her mother, Piper, were always involved in the plot and yet never get the proper attention by the narrative that I would have liked to see. The reader does not get the chance to hear their perspectives on the events that transpire, which could have made for a more complete story.

What I really enjoyed about the book was its fresh approach to childhood disorders. Cohen was always sensitive with her description of non-verbal learning disorder and took care to inform readers, while also showing the difficulties and worries that often arise for affected children and their parents. I was incredibly moved by Cohen’s portrayal of Olivia, which I believe effectively conveys her true talents as a writer and a storyteller.

While there were instances when the fine line between heartwarming and cliché was blurred, the characters were still able to evoke genuine emotion out of me. I felt most connected to Olivia and I found myself wishing she was real just so I could give her a big hug! The bullying that she endured really angered me and the touching things she said never failed to elicit a smile or a tear. It is Olivia that truly carries the storyline and it is evident that she has a profound effect on the book’s characters and I’m sure an equally profound effect upon the book’s readers.

“Inside Out Girl” tells the story of two families who endure hardship and tragedy, but also gain important insight and self-discovery along the way. It is a story that contains romance, love and family but can by no means be described only as such. It is a much deeper look into life and what really matters once the trappings of daily life are shaved away.

For more info, visit: http://www.tishcohen.com

Book Review: Rocket Man by William Elliot Hazelgrove

I was asked to review this book for Front Street Reviews

"Rocket Man" by William Elliot Hazelgrove
Published by Pantonne Press

Rating: 4 stars

It’s not just any author that has the opportunity to write in the attic of the white Victorian where the legendary Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899. However, for William Elliot Hazelgrove, Hemingway writer in residence for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, this writer’s fantasy became a reality. The Hemingway residence became his studio and ultimately the muse for his writing.

Hazelgrove’s fourth novel, entitled "Rocket Man", is a satire about the search for the American Dream and all the devastating and sometimes hilarious consequences that accompany it. The narrative focuses on middle-aged Dale Hammer, who has moved his family out of the city and left a life of culture and diversity for the suburban countryside. The move creates a strain between Dale and his wife Wendy, because she is content living amongst their all-American White neighbors, while Dale is constantly feeling regret. Dale is in a state of suburban angst and cannot relate to his new lifestyle of homeowners association meetings and Boy Scouts of America outings. Once a successful author, Dale can only bask in his past glory and is now struggling to pay the bills. His relationship with his nine-year-old son is steadily deteriorating as his son gets older and he finds himself having a hard time being the role model he knows he should be. It is hard enough trying to be the perfect husband and father, not to mention avoiding confrontation with the conservative yuppies in the community, but there is yet another hurdle Dale must overcome. Dale’s father, D.T. Senior, always absent when he was growing up, has arrived on his doorstep to come and live with him. D.T. Senior’s colorful personality and foul mouth exacerbate Dale’s already tumultuous daily life.

The book’s title, "Rocket Man", is inspired by the title that is bestowed upon Dale by his son’s Scout troops. This means that Dale is accountable for leading the Rocket Day ceremony and is a highly anticipated day for all of the Scouts and their leaders. However, Dale does not seem to be up to the challenge. Instead, he represents that childish part of each and every one of us that initiates a flight response at any mention of responsibility and is the kind of guy who causes a high speed chase between him and his son’s school crossing guard. It was the juvenile behavior that drew me to Dale and kept me reading but ironically enough, it was also what infuriated me about him. Why won’t this guy just grow up, I kept thinking to myself. Hazelgrove, however, carefully outlined his novel and I saw soon enough that Dale would learn how to fuel his immaturity towards challenging authority in a positive way. Rocket Day is the culmination of the book and will make readers proud of Dale at last, well sort of.

The book’s subject matter is perfectly suited for the everyday American male trying to achieve the perfect harmony between family life and personal contentment, but Hazelgrove has offered something for everyone in "Rocket Man". I found myself relating to the suburban community’s antics and the wild family drama. The novel’s ending did seem a bit too contrived for my liking but upon further reflection, I don’t think I would have wanted things to end up any differently!

While "Rocket Man" is a deeply exaggerated portrait of the typical American family, it is at the same time, a very relatable story. The characterization is real and the strong-willed personalities make them come alive and easily engage readers. Hazelgrove’s humor is subtly infused throughout the book and is unbelievably witty. I suggest reading the last paragraph of the book carefully, because I’m still laughing….

For more info, visit: http://www.billhazelgrove.com/

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Six Weird/Random Things About Me

I was tagged by Cindy in my first meme!! You can check out Cindy's blog here.

Here are the rules:

Link to the person who tagged you
Post the rules on your blog
Write six random things/unspectacular quirks about yourself
Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog
Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

Well here goes....

1. While I LOVE LOVE reading (obviously!), I am also a reality TV junkie. For some reason, I am drawn to those really bad reality TV shows. I guess it's kind of like a train wreck that is a disaster but you're just so fascinated that you can't look away.......

2. Everyone seems to have their signature favorite color but my favorite color changes daily. One day I'll be really into lilac but the next I'll be obsessed with aquamarine or kelly green. I don't think I'll ever make up my mind! (Have you ever seen those huge Crayola boxes ....too many choices!)

3. Speaking of color...... one day I had this urge to color-code my closet so now everything that is hanging up is in order of the color spectrum. It sounds absolutely insane (I've gotten much laughter as a response) but it looks so pretty - just like a rainbow!

4. Whenever I leave the house I always like to triple-check to make sure that the door is locked. Wait, I'm not sure if that's weird or not? Do you do that too?

5. I hate the cold. Seriously. The reason why this is weird is because I live in Quebec where the temperatures tend to reaching a blistering -40 degrees in the dead of winter. I have been living in this climate for all of my life but I have still not gotten used to the cold and each year I forget just how cold it gets.

6. I'm a HUGE list-maker. I love the feeling of crossing something of my "to-do list" even if it's something so small like making a phone call or writing an email. I also make tons of other lists for everything imaginable, such as pros and cons.

Well, that was fun!

Here are my six taggers (sorry if you've already been tagged or if you find the idea of this incredibly annoying :)

April at http://understimulatedmind.blogspot.com
Jonita at http://book-chic.blogspot.com
Lisa at http://aliveontheshelves.blogspot.com
Marie at http://understimulatedmind.blogspot.com
Sarah M. at http://libraryhospital.blogspot.com
Becky at http://blbooks.blogspot.com