Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (watch the trailer)

Published by HarperCollins

Rating: 4.5 stars

About the book :

Every gift has a price . . .

Every piece of lace has a secret . . .

My name is Towner Whitney. No, that’s not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time. . . .

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

My review:

Though I've been taking a break from blogging, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to read and review this book. The Lace Reader is one of those books that has received a lot of positive buzz and I kept meaning to read it but secretly feared it would not live up to its hype. After reading the first sentences though, I knew I would enjoy it since I'm a huge fan of the 'unreliable narrator' writing style. I do have to say that as the story progressed, I felt like Towner was letting me down a bit by her lack of deception. By the end, I was almost begging for her to lie to me and then when I least expected it - bam! - she went in for the kill. My jaw dropped and I had to stare at the page for a couple minutes to get over my shock. Kudos to Brunonia Barry for that thought-provoking ending (which you'll have to read to believe and even then..... it's still a shock)!

This is not a book that necessarily lends itself to being read in one sitting, and yet I literally could not put it down. What I had thought was a plot-driven book, turned out to be an insightful character study into the minds and hearts of some very strong women. It was the passion and dedication behind their stories that intrigued me most.

I also really loved the dialogue among the characters and the the different dynamics between them. I was even surprised to find a great deal of deadpan humor within their conversations, especially Towner and Rafferty. It was a refreshing break from the disturbing events and intense emotions that are weaved throughout the book.

Another wonderful aspect of the book is the lace reading itself. I tend to enjoy the incorporation of mystical elements when properly executed. The Lace Reader never left me feeling skeptical about the special powers the women in the book possess, almost like an intense case of women's intuition that tranformed into a powerful gift.

In short, The Lace Reader is a wonderful book. There is a little something for everyone within its pages and the ending will leave you breathless. I look forward to reading more from Brunonia in the future.

This post is part of the TLC Book Tours tour for The Lace Reader. Be sure to check out these past tour stops:

Monday, August 24th – books i done read

Wednesday, August 26th – Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Monday, August 31st - Savvy Verse & Wit

Tuesday, September 1st – Cindy’s Love of Books

Thursday, September 3rd - Eclectic Book Lover

Friday, September 4th – Shhh I’m Reading

Monday, September 7th – Literate Housewife

And upcoming stops:

Thursday, September 10th – The Book Lady’s Blog

Monday, September 14th – Biblioaddict

Tuesday, September 15th – Trish’s Reading Nook

Thursday, September 17th – Books and Movies

Brunonia Barry is on tour again - see if she is coming to your city:
  • 9/8 – Bellingham, WA – Village Books – Reading and Signing
  • 9/10 – Oakland – A Great Good Place for Books – Reading and Signing
  • 9/12 – San Mateo – M is for Mystery…and More – Reading and Signing
  • 9/14 – Los Angeles – Vroman’s Bookstore – Reading and Signing
  • 9/15—Edwards, CO – VIP Customer Book Club Event
  • 9/20—Andover, MA – Meet the Author Benefit for PATHS
  • 10/12 Mequon, WI Next Chapter Bookshop
  • 10/13 Dallas, TX Legacy Books
  • 10/20 – Lexington, MA Library
  • 10/22- Swampscott, MA Library
  • 10/27- Destination Salem Lunch, Hampton Falls Library
  • 11/18th 10 AM, Exeter Library, Exeter, NH.

Some more noteworthy news:
  • Soon, will also have a downloadable t-shirt iron-on design and printable signage for booksellers.
  • In the September issue of Book Page, there will be a sweepstakes in which the grand prize is a trip for two to Salem, two nights at The Hawthorne Hotel, and a guided Lace Reader tour of Salem with Brunonia.

Big thanks to Trish for organizing this great tour and HarperCollins for my review copy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Have I Been Up To?

I apologize for the hiatus - I've been very busy working as an intern .....

(which includes tasks like writing this, this, this and this AND mailing

books to some of you bloggers out there!!!)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review: Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 4 stars

Portia Nathan is an admissions officer at Princeton University but the endless hours and dedication to her job are starting to take a toll. As Portia's quiet life takes some unexpected turns, she is forced to reevaluate her priorities and come to terms with the changes.

Admission provides an interesting glimpse into the world of academia and the process of selecting the elite students that comprise an Ivy League university. It's clear that Jean Hanff Korelitz has done a great deal of research, in addition to her background as an outside reader for Princeton's Office of Admission. This was both an advantage and disadvantage in my reading of the novel. On one hand, I enjoyed hearing all about the intricate details and getting an insider's look into something I've always been curious about. The downside is that there were parts I felt I needed to skim through because they were a little too detailed for me and detracted from the bigger picture and overall storyline.

Though the narrative is somewhat detached and lacking in emotion, I still felt surprisingly connected to Portia and invested in her outcome. While reading the book it seemed like I was getting to know her pretty well and so when she makes a decision near the end of the book that seemed contrary to her character, I was really shocked. That particular choice was a life-altering one for Portia, even though it was still executed and narrated in a very subtle manner.

Admission is a very quiet novel. The primary focus is on Portia and her reflections on her life and the important choices she must make. This is not the type of book that features any action or huge plot twists, but it makes for enjoyable reading due to its subtlety and intelligence.

BIG THANKS to Miriam and Hachette for my review copy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: Follow Me by Joanna Scott

Follow Me by Joanna Scott [browse inside]

Published by Little, Brown and Company , a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's description of the book:

On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally's father--a man she has never known--enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history.

My review: (although I did participate in the Early Birds Blog Tour, I wasn't able to post a review in time for the tour)

What I found most interesting about this book is how Sally manages to reinvent herself, changing her last name and lifestyle to adapt to each new setting. There is something subtly suspenseful about her escapes and read on in anticipation . Even though I became frustrated with Sally at some points because I really wanted her to confront her past, I was still rooting for her until the very end.

What made it sometimes difficult to get into the story was the unique writing style. I'm not used to paragraphs of such literal writing, particularly with respect to thoughts in the characters' minds and even sounds.

Alhough I began to predict the major plot development before it occured, there was another surprise that came later. I'm not sure if I would have chosen for the storyline to veer in that direction, however I admire how it was all pieced together, nonetheless.

Though this book is not for everyone, I enjoyed the interesting narrative and unique characters, despite the unconventional writing style.

BIG THANKS to Miriam and Hachette for my review copy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Review: Perfection by Julie Metz

Perfection by Julie Metz

Published by Voice, an imprint of Hyperion Books

Rating: 4.5 stars

Perfection is Julie Metz's intriguing memoir about coping with death and then betrayal. Her husband of twelve years, Henry, died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism leaving Julie and their six-year old daughter to deal with their grief. Just as Julie was coming to terms with his death and recovering from her loss, she finds out that her marriage to Henry had been filled with affairs, secrets and lies. Not only did Henry have multiple affairs with other women but he also had an ongoing relationship with one of Julie's good friends. After hearing about this, Julie let go of the perfect image she had of her husband and began investigating his past lovers to get to the truth.

Perfection reads like a work of fiction, with its complex characters navigating plot twists and tragedy. It is unfortunate that Julie had to live through such painful events however it is clear from this book that she has emerged a new woman. Just as a fictitious character grows and develops from a book's beginning to its end, Julie takes us from her naive and unsuspecting beginnings to grief, pain, anger, exploration, acceptance and finally renewal.

While I cannot even begin to imagine how it must have felt to be in her position, the way Julie narrates her own life story made me feel like I was right there with her. Though I couldn't relate to her predicament, I did relate to her passion, her depth and her strong sense of emotion throughout her journey to acceptance. I felt her anger and her pain and though I usually shy away from foul language in my reading, there were times when certain words were justified and even I relished in their usage!

Some of the greatest parts of this book are those that touch upon topics of friendship and family. Julie shows us the importance of supportive friendships and unfortunately, the detriment of having friends who betray you. There are also heartwarming chapters illustrating Julie's special relationship with her daughter that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

With its passionate writing and elaborate narrative, I'm sure this book will capture your attention and especially your heart, as it did mine.

BIG THANKS to Hyperion for my review copy

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

Published by HarperCollins Publishers

Rating: 3.5 stars

BROWSE INSIDE the beginning of this book!!

The Winner Stands Alone takes place at the Cannes Film Festival among the world of film and fashion. Igor, a misguided yet very successful businessman, is pursuing his ex-wife Ewa in the hope of rekindling their romance. Igor believes that he must "destroy whole worlds" to win back her affection and he is willing to do anything for her. The book also features the tales of of different characters weaved in together, who all serve a function amidst the film festival: producers, actors, designers and supermodels. This story shows us the dark side of what can become if everyone would give in to temptation and seek out hedonism at all costs.

Best known for his renowned book The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho is an extremely talented writer. I had high hopes for this latest novel and was intrigued by the exciting setting. The Cannes Film Festival is always filled with glamorous and important people and getting an inside glimpse into that world is a lot of fun. The problem for me was that none of the characters seemed very real or made any impression upon me. They felt a little two-dimensional and lacked any real authenticity.

The most interesting aspect of the book is that all of the action-filled plot occurs over twenty-four hours. There is a lot of action, not to mention murder, that transpires as each hour passes by. For the most part my attention was captured until the very end and even if I wasn't too invested in any of the characters, I needed to see how it would finish.

What strikes me most about the book is morality or rather the lack of morality coming into play. Igor feels justified in murdering innocent people to 'prove' his love for Ewa, despite that having no effect whatsoever. This blurring of ethics is the common thread throughout the novel and I would have liked to see it explored further and I especially longed for some sort of conclusion to have been drawn.

Overall, The Winner Stands Alone has an interesting storyline and plenty of adrenaline-filled action but in my opinion, the characters were not developed enough for a proper execution of the plot. What really saves this novel is Coelho's wonderful writing style and vivid descriptions of Cannes that capture just the right ambience.

BIG THANKS to Deanna and HarperCollins Canada for my review copy

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Rating: 4.5 stars

BROWSE INSIDE to read the beginning of the book!!

This book is the fascinating memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke in 1995. Once he regained consciousness after a three week coma, Bauby was left with an active mind trapped in a functionless body, known as Locked-in Syndrome. The only muscle that retained any movement was his left eyelid and so he spent most of 1996 dictating this book letter by letter by blinking as someone read out the alphabet to him. In 1997, three days after the book was published in France, Jean-Dominique Bauby died.

Bauby was a well-known journalist and author and editor of the French version of ELLE magazine. Though he must have had many interesting stories to recount about his days as an editor and journalist, he decided that the book's content would focus on the smaller joys of life. It's a much quieter and more subtle book than you'd expect from such a high-profile man but I think that is really where the beauty of this book resides. Day to day events and memories of spending time with his children fill the pages of this book. Focusing on the little tasks of everyday life after his stroke, it makes you realize just how much we take for granted by simply being able to move our muscles.

For this man to have lost his basic functioning and still maintain hope and the strength to transcribe this book LETTER BY LETTER in itself is quite remarkable. It was clearly important to him to pass on his insights to the world and make the most of his last days. With the insight he gained from his experience, this book makes for a powerful read that will stay with you for a long time.

This memoir was made into a film in 2007, with the same title as the book. As you can see, this cover is from the movie tie-in version (which I usually find pretty corny), but I really like this particular one. I haven't seen the movie yet but it has won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globes, plus it received four Oscar nominations.

The movie really does looks wonderful - here is the trailer:

As you may expect, given the unique form that this book was written, it is quite short. However I would certainly not equate brevity with a lack of substance, because this book is both inspirational and meaningful, in short - a very worthwhile read.

BIG THANKS to Deanna and HarperCollins Canada for my review copy

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review: Sixtyfive Roses by Heather Summerhayes Cariou

Published by McArthur & Company

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sixtyfive Roses is a memoir written by Heather Summerhayes Cariou, whose younger sister Pam was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at age four. The book is called "Sixtyfive Roses" after the way Pam was able to pronounce "Cystic Fibrosis" as a child. The doctors told the family that Pam would only have months to live but they were determined to save their daughter and did everything in their power to do so. With the help of their community and others' support, Heather's parents founded the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation which raised awareness and funds for further research and discovery of new treatments. With the encouragement of family, friends and the community at large, Pam lived until the age of twenty-six.

Though this book primarily focuses on the relationship between Heather and Pam, there is so much more to be found and discovered while reading this book. Heather's writing is beautiful and I really appreciated her inclusion of excerpts of family letters and writing, especially those from Pam's point of view. This book shows both the wonderful and difficult moments for the Summerhayes family, without glossing over any of the inevitable arguments and tension that arose over the years.

My experience reading this book was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Knowing this is a true story really heightened my emotions and made me ache for all that Pam and her family endured. Though Heather has done an excellent job in portraying the trials and tribulations they all went through, I still cannot begin to imagine how it must have felt.

On the other hand, I think that what Pam would have wanted readers to take away from her story is a sense of triumph, rather than pain. In the moments leading up to her death, it was Pam who asked Heather to write down their story. Though Pam did ultimately pass away at a young age, it is important to remember that she lived TWENTY-TWO years longer than the doctors had predicted. She lived life to the fullest and refused to be bound by her illness. Pam's story is a lesson in courage and strength that is truly inspirational.

Currently, Eva Longoria and her production company have optioned the film rights to Sixtyfive Roses and I certainly hope that this moving story will be put on screen to further raise awareness about Cystic Fibrosis and this powerful story.

This is an incredibly touching story that will stay with you long after you finish the book. I encourage everone to buy a copy of this book - it is highly recommended and as an added incentive, McArthur & Company publishers will donate 5% of proceeds from book sales to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

BIG THANKS to Sarah of Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. for my review copy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book Review: Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg

Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg

Published by Hyperion Books

Rating: 4 stars

Annie's Ghosts is a real-life mystery about Beth Luxenberg (the author's mother), who always claimed to be an only child until one day at almost eight years old, she casually revealed the existence of a disabled sister. After Beth's death in 1999, more information about a secret sister was discovered, and Steve Luxenberg used his journalism skills to find out more. He tracked down old acquaintances and friends and persuaded people to offer records about his mother sister, Annie, who it turned out was hospitalized at age twenty-one and remained in a mental institution until her death many years later.

This book is incredibly interesting and rare, being a true account of a family's secrets and a mystery that the author set out to solve. The events that are uncovered as just as intriguing as one might imagine they would be.

Though there were some instances when the narrative was bogged down by too much detail, for the most part I enjoyed reading about the intricacies of the story. The most fascinating thing about this story is how each detail discovered led to another revelation and helped Luxenberg get one step closer to the truth. As such, this book also contains information about Beth and Annie's ancestry and provides a very well-rounded account of all that transpired in these women's lives.

This book also features information about the state of mental institutions years ago and provides an insider's look into how someone can fall through the cracks of the system. The terrible treatment of Annie and her physical and mental health is truly unfortunate, but the fact that Steve Luxenberg has searched for meaning and answers about his aunt, pays tribute to her name and respect for the life she lived.

For a wonderful combination of mystery and history, this book comes highly recommended.

BIG THANKS to Julie of FSB Associates for my review copy

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Book Review: Shotgun Shopping by Sheevaun Moran

Shotgun Shopping by Sheevaun Moran

Published by Master Your Life Publishing

Rating: 3 stars

Shotgun Shopping is about educating consumers and providing tools to shop better and more efficiently. Sheevaun Moran explains how she has always hated shopping so she eventually came to create the "shotgun shopping" method to avoid spending too much time and money shopping. According to Sheevaun, though we are always shopping, we are doing so unconsciously without giving enough thought to each purchase. As a result, we are left with many items that we don't need or want. Throughout the book there are little anecdotes and personal examples of the shotgun shopping method.

When I heard of the premise for this book, I was intrigued. Especially in economically difficult times, I was excited to learn about some great tips that I could apply to my everyday life. Unfortunately for me, much of the practical tips offered seemed like common sense. I don't consider myself an expert shopper, but advice such as avoiding salespeople who will persuade you to buy anything, is something I already do. There were some interesting tips regarding the best and worst times to shop which I will keep in mind in the future.

What I did really enjoy reading were the little stories and personal experiences shared throughout each chapter. Though there wasn't much explanation as to how specifically people got amazing shopping deals, I still liked reading about them.

This book teaches the "shotgun shopping" and though I did learn a bit from some of the tips, I was left feeling a little disappointed by what seemed to me like a lack of substance. It's possible that I'm not the right target for a book like this though, and those who feel overwhelmed when entering a shopping mall and detest shopping, could stand to benefit a lot more from this book.

BIG THANKS to Lorain of Energetic Solutions for my review copy

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Tour - Review & Giveaway: House of Ghosts by Lawrence Kaplan

Published by Westfield Press
Rating: 4 stars

Book synopsis:

Imagine that Raymond Chandler wrote The Winds of War and you can begin to understand why House of Ghosts is such different and compelling detective story. Detective Joe Henderson is the modern incarnation of Philip Marlowe--hard boiled, hard drinking, hard loving, delightfully cynical, offering wry observations of life in the age of Starbucks.

The tale begins in the sweltering summer of 2000 when Preston Swedge, an alcoholic recluse and World War II veteran, has died in Westfield, New Jersey. At his estate sale, retired local police detective Joe Henderson discovers a 1944 diary describing a rogue attempt by a Jewish-American pilot named Paul Rothstein to drop his bombs on Auschwitz's killing complex where nearly 300,000 captives were about to be murdered.

With the fortitude of a Maccabean zealot and the patriotism of an American freedom fighter Rothstein had set out to defy his commanders who had prohibited any attempt to save Jewish lives. Joe Henderson's curiosity launches him on a crusade for the truth and a shocking revelation when he tracks down the last living witness who can solve the mystery of why the raid never happened.

Epic in its breadth, House of Ghosts sweeps effortlessly from contemporary Westfield, New Jersey to the Princeton University of 1939, and on to the aerial battle above Italy and Poland in 1944. Along the way you'll meet up with notables such as Charles Lindbergh, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., General Fulgencio Batista, and Alina Gilbert, the exotic dancer who helps to make this the hottest summer on record.

My review:

As I began reading House of Ghosts, I wasn't sure if it would be my cup of tea since it starts off like a traditional mystery book and I usually like mysteries that have a unique slant to them. However, as I continued reading further, I realized how intricate the storyline is and found myself fascinated with the descriptions of the war and how it affected each character in different ways.

The book is a compelling novel that combines elements of mystery with historical fiction. The inclusion of the historicals aspects adds depth and authenticity to the story and allowed me to become increasingly invested in the story. The shift in narrative from the different characters from the past, as well as the present allow for a wide range of perspectives and interesting sub-plots.

My one small issue was that one of the characters included in the book is an exotic dancer and while that may have been incorporated to spice up the book, for me that sexual content was unnecessary and detracted from the story. Nonetheless I really enjoyed my reading of the book and was intrigued by all that transpires. Not only does the book have an interesting storyline, it is also well-written and features great characters that I got to know very well.

Despite some extraneous material included throughout the novel, House of Ghosts makes for a very interesting and appealing mystery book that expertly combines historical fiction into its plot.

Author bio:

Lawrence Kaplan is a 1979 graduate of New York University School of Dentistry, runs a dental practice in New Jersey, and lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and menagerie. House of Ghosts is his first novel. For more information, visit his website.

Now for the giveaway details .......

Larry Kaplan is giving away a signed copy of his book, House of Ghosts, to one lucky tour visitor. Go to Larry’s book tour page,, enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 7975, for your chance to win. Entries from Bookopolis will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on Larry’s book tour page next week.

Be sure to visit Larry's book tour page for more reviews, author interviews and guest posts!

BIG THANKS to Lance of Omnimystery for arranging this great tour.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review: The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

Published by Shaye Areheart Books, a division of Random House

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Story Sisters opens with three sisters who are the closest of friends, and then as time goes on, their common bond begins to unravel. The book spans many years and we follow the girls from teenagers to grown adults and witness love, heartache, despair and hope. With the inclusion of magical and mystical elements weaved in throughout the novel, this family saga makes for an engaging and certainly unconventional reading experience.

I think Alice Hoffman has succeeded in writing another wonderful story with its own unique mystical undertones, that can inspire both awe and even a little fear. This story is by no means a horror, however certain parts are pretty creepy and somewhat disturbing. The plot fluctuates from warm and heartfelt to dark and sinister, but the majority of the book seems to slant towards oldest daughter, Elv, who appears to be haunted by her own demons and is constantly engaging in self-destructive behavior. There is so much more to say about the other characters as well but I think it's best to read about them without any pre-conceived notions and to judge for yourself.

Despite the melancholy feel that the book tends to elicit, there is an overall message of hope and triumph that takes shape as the book nears its end. Many tragedies have taken place, certainly more than any typical family, but each character attempts to find peace with themselves, even if it takes years to do so.

Though it sometimes feels like there is too much taking place and the plot gets a little chaotic, that is also what makes the book so intriguing. From the first chapter, I was pulled into the world of the Story sisters and was engaged and ultimately moved by them and their tale.

Alice Hoffman is a magnificent writer and I think both fans and newcomers will enjoy this latest novel.

BIG THANKS to Jessica and Random House of Canada for my review copy

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Review: Happily Ever After Divorce by Jessica Bram

Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey by Jessica Bram

Published by HCI Books

Rating: 4 stars

This book is Jessica Bram's memoir about her life in the aftermath of divorce and its repercussions on the family and most of all herself. This book takes a complex and serious subject, and tries to look at it from a lighter and more positive point of view. Through the use of short chapters and vignettes, Bram lets readers inside her private life so that she can impart some of the wisdom she has gained over the years.

Although this book can be seen as a "self-help book" because there is some practical advice as well as lessons discussed, it feels more like an old friend discussing the tough times she has gone through and what she learned from it all. The book explores topics such as appreciating time spent alone, how to help children cope with the divorce, and my favorite (and funniest part of the book) - getting back onto the dating scene.

Some sections of the book were more serious and other more humorous, but the general feel of the book is towards the lighter side. Some of the chapters or sections did include some repetition and I think that had they been combined together into fewer, yet longer chapters, the reading experience could have been more enjoyable. I also would have liked for the chapters to have been in chronological order or at least grouped together better by topic.

Although the target audience for this book is those who have experienced or are currently going through a divorce (i.e. not me - I'm not even married yet...), there are certainly life lessons throughout its pages that can apply to anyone at any stage of life. Positive thinking and cherishing a sense of independence are examples of universal messages that can benefit anyone.

BIG THANKS to Sarah of Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. for my review copy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Published by Dial Press, a Random House imprint

Rating: 5 stars

In 1946, author Juliet Ashton receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, who found her name in a used book. From then on, they begin an interesting correspondence and Juliet learns about Dawsey's small town of Guernsey and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Other members of this society begin writing to Juliet and recounting their war stories in the hopes that she will be able to write a book about their experiences. Narrated solely through letters between all the characters, readers learn all about the small island of Guernsey and its interesting inhabitants.

This book has been incredibly well-received by so many and I'm happy to say that I am certainly among those who loved it. While it did take me a little while to become accustomed to a whole novel being written in letter format, I really enjoyed its uniqueness. There is something really charming about each of the letters and in particular, Juliet's witty banter and playful writing were such a joy to read. Not to mention the funny telegrams that Juliet sends, showing us her great sense of humour and spunk.

It's amazing that all it takes is a series of short letters to fall in love with a whole town. Each one of the characters touched my heart and I really felt connected to them. They each have their own idiosyncrasies and tales of hardship, but together they represent the best of humanity and show us the power of friendship.

Annie Barrows is Mary Ann Shaffer's niece, who was asked to help finish writing the book after Mary Ann's health began to worsen. Unfortunately, Mary Ann Shaffer has since passed away and though she wasn't able to see the final product or the book's impact on its fans, her dream to "write a book that someone would like enough to publish" was certainly realized.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has recently been released in trade paperback, so now there's even more reason to go out and buy a copy of this book!

BIG THANKS to Jessica and Random House of Canada for my review copy

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Review: The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

Published by Random House of Canada

Rating: 5 stars

Hattie's sister Min has just been checked into a psychiatric hospital and now it is up to Hattie to make sure that Min's kids, Logan and Thebes, are looked after. In a fit of desperation Hattie decides to go on a road trip in search of the children's father, who has been estranged from them for years. Along the way, they encounter a cast of colorful characters and get into a number of interesting predicaments, which helps they become allies and band together. The reader also gets an occasional glimpse into Hattie's own childhood memories with Min, as she reflects back on Min's unstable mental history and their own fractured relationship.

I think the real testament to Miriam Toews' talent as a writer is that even though I couldn't really relate to any of the characters, I truly fell in love with each of them. As I kept reading, I grew attached to them and learned their mannerisms and all I would have to do is read the dialogue to know who said what, without it being explicitly written. Thebes, in particular, captured my heart with her hilarious expressions and unique sense of self. How can you not love an eleven-year-old who conducts art classes from the backseat, considers bathing optional and sports purple hair and fake tattoos?

It doesn't surprise me that book has won a number of awards and prizes, given the way it spoke to me and engaged me until the very end without any tricks of suspense or drama. This novel is purely character-driven and thrives on its unique dialogue and humour. There is also a more profound side to this book, that teaches us about the nature of family and how that definition can sometimes be a malleable one.

It's clear that I loved this book, but I can however acknowledge that it is not for everyone. I happen to relish this type of quirky dialogue among the characters that has the potential for deeper meaning. Instead of being bothered by the zany plot and crazy characters, I was intrigued and amused. Though this book may be too unconventional for some, for me it really got to the heart of families and relationships with the just the right blend of wit and humour.

BIG THANKS to Jessica and Random House of Canada for my review copy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Early Birds Blog Tour: Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn

Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn [click HERE to browse inside]

Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group

Publisher's description of the book:

Holly Frick has just endured the worst kind of breakup: the kind where you're still in love with the person leaving you. While her wounds are still dangerously close to the surface, her happily married best friend confesses over a bottle of wine that she is this close to having an affair. And another woman comes to Holly for advice about her love life--with Holly's ex!

Holly decides that if everyone around her can take pleasure wherever they find it, so will she. As any self-respecting 30ish New York woman would do, she brings two males into her life: a flawed but endearing dog, and a good natured, much younger lover. She's soon entangled in a web of emails, chance meetings, and misguided good intentions and must forge an entirely new path to Nirvana.

My review:

Secrets to Happiness is an interesting book that fluctuates between the discussion of superficial subject matters and deeper issues. The inclusion of more profound topics such as religion and fidelity is what really kept my interest and enhanced the overall reading experience. Although I didn't find any of the main characters particularly likeable, I still had to know what would happen to them next (despite being frustrated by their poor choices!).

This book provides an interesting look at relationships and explores them through the eyes of very different characters who ultimately just want to be happy. It was interesting to see how the plot unfolds and to read about how the characters respond when provoked and challenged.

Although the storyline didn't follow the progression that I had expected or even wanted it to, I felt satisfied in knowing that even the most shallow of characters gained some insight in the end. This book may not be for everyone, however for me, its concluding message makes it a really worthwhile read.

Author Bio:

Sarah Dunn has moved from Los Angeles to New York five times, and from New York back to Los Angeles four times, which means, at the moment, she is happily residing in New York. Her first novel, The Big Love, has been translated into 23 languages.

BIG THANKS to Miriam for organizing this fun tour and for sending along my review copy.

Here are the wonderful blogs who are also participating in this tour:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: Willow by Julia Hoban

Willow by Julia Hoban

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Group

Rating: 5 stars

It has been seven months since Willow's parents died in a terrible car accident and she is still flooded with grief and especially guilt, because she was the one driving. Blaming herself for their deaths has taken its toll and without any comfort from her older brother and now guardian, she turns to cutting herself to numb the pain. When Willow's secret is discovered by another student named Guy, she must face the consequences of her actions, even if it means making herself vulnerable. Little does Willow realize, that Guy has the potential to save her from her own worst enemy, herself.

Because Willow has generated so much buzz around the blogosphere, I had really high expectations for the book. I even let it sit on my nighttable for a few weeks because I wanted to make sure that I'd have enough uninterrupted reading time over a number of days to finish it and ironically enough, I ended up reading it all in one sitting. I literally could NOT put the book down. In one sentence: The writing is powerful and genuine, the characters are complex and despite the depressing and painful subject matter of the book, the storyline was uplifting and inspirational.

Willow is filled with raw emotion and truly gets to the heart of the pain we all experience at some point in our lives. Although magnified, Willow represents the hurt people can feel and their need for comfort and compassion. The book shows us that all it takes is one person to change someone's life, in the same way that Guy looks beyond the surface and refuses to give up hope.

Although Willow's primary storyline is about cutting, there is so much more that can be taken away from the book. Even in this wonderful interview on The Story Siren, Julia says that she doesn't consider the book to necessarily be about cutting. The act of cutting can easily be replaced with any other self-desctructive behavior (drugs, alcohol, gambling addiction) or even self-destructive thinking (low self-esteem..etc.), which are all defense mechanisms that mask something deeper inside. I believe that anyone can relate to at least part of what Willow experiences throughout the book, no matter how old they are.

This book really spoke to me and I was touched by Willow's story. Willow is NOT just for young adults - I am positive that even someone who has never read any YA books will love this book!

BIG THANKS to Julia who kindly set aside an ARC of Willow and sent it to me for review.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: American Eve by Paula Uruburu

American Eve : Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White: The Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu

Published by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Group

Rating: 3.5 stars

American Eve chronicles the life of Evelyn Nesbit, the original "it" girl, whose popularity soared after being photographed to sell many different products, using her innocent sexuality to their advantage. Evelyn was known to be the most photographed woman of her era and was pursued by many men. The two most important men in her life, Stanford White, and her millionaire husband Harry K. Thaw, mistreated her and then ultimately fought over her until their demise. This "crime of the century" initiated a nation's fascination with celebrity and beauty that has continued on into the next century.

This book provides a wonderful look into the world of the rich and powerful during the early 1900s. However, having been written by a professor, it is to be expected that it reads more like an academic text then a regular work of non-fiction. Although someone looking for a casual biography could be very interested by this book, there is a lot of well-researched information in it for those who want a more scholarly approach.

The book itself is very well-written and captures the tone and feel of life at the turn of the century quite nicely. There is extensive detail about the inner workings of both Evelyn's personal and professional life, leaving no stone unturned. This is both a disadvantage and a benefit. On the one hand, there is a great amount of detail which can seem unneccesary in certain instances, but alternatively it provides an extremely close look at every detail of Evelyn's life and the lives of those around her.

Having never heard of this scandal, it was intriguing to read about, while simultaneously hard to hear about the horrible way Evelyn was treated. From exploitation to rape, there is no shortage of brutal acts and scandalous behavior to read about. Despite the amount of detail though, I never felt very connected to Evelyn. Perhaps this is the consequence of the book's biographical nature, as opposed to memoirs, which I generally read. Regardless, I realize that the point is not to sympathize with the main character, which is probably why I had some trouble with it.

Overall, American Eve is very well-researched and perfectly written for its subject matter. Although I myself found some parts to be too detailed and would have liked a more personal slant to the narrative, I am certain that others who read more of this type of biography will enjoy it very much.

BIG THANKS to Jennifer and Penguin for my review copy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Book Review: Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster

Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart Ass Phase by Jen Lancaster

Published by NAL, a division of Penguin Group

Rating: 4.5 stars

With the guidance of fashion to narrate her stories, Jen Lancaster's Pretty in Plaid is about her childhood, teenage years and transition into adulthood, serving as a "prequel" to her first book, Bitter is the New Black. From tales of Junior Girl Scouts to sorority mayhem, this latest memoir offers readers an invaluable glimpse into how Jen Lancaster came to be who she is today. True to her signature writing style, Jen includes letters and memos as visual aids, illustrating all the embarassing, triumphant and especially hilarious moments of her youth up until her first entry-level position.

It is important to note that Jen Lancaster's books are not your garden variety memoirs. There is a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about her writing and most importantly the woman behind the writing that have mass appeal and keep readers coming back for more (including myself!). Yes, she is funny and yes, she is quirky. She is also not afraid to speak her mind. These are all part of the reason why she has such a huge fanbase (8665 fans on Facebook and counting...not to mention reaching the bestsellers list multiple times)but there is also so much more that can only be discovered after reading her books because once you do, you instantly feel like her very best friend.

After waiting what felt like an eternity for my next Jen Lancaster fix, I was really excited to delve in Pretty in Plaid and hear about Jen's earlier years. While I didn't find this book to be as "laugh-out-loud funny" as her previous ones, there was a different kind of magic to it that can only come from a flashback to the past and all the accompanying nostalgia.

I realize that I'm not necessarily the target readership for this particular Jen Lancaster book, (considering I was born in the eighties, rather than having been a teenager at that time), however I still found myself relating to different experiences and events, which really says a lot about how universal the book is. Common themes of longing for acceptance, facing those who tease us, dating dilemmas, new schools, new jobs, and um of course fashion and shopping are relevant to everyone. I may not have known what each piece of clothing looked like but I could appreciate its message and how it affected Jen's life for better or worse.

If you are new to the writing of Jen Lancaster, I'd suggest reading her earlier works first to better appreciate this latest look into her life. (For a feel of her writing style and quirky personality, check out her popular website, but be prepared to laugh until you cry). For those who are already Jen Lancaster converts, you will not be disappointed with all that is offered in Pretty in Plaid!

Watch the following trailer for Pretty in Plaid - it's hilarious:

BIG THANKS to Melissa and Penguin Group for my review copy

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Published by Random House

Rating: 4.5 stars

Shanghai Girls begins in the late 1930s, amidst a frenzy of glamour, excitement and a vibrant nightlife where beautiful sisters, Pearl and May Chin, are leading extravagant lives. They have everything they could ever desire and they take advantage of their abundant means, until their father gambles away his fortune and must pay off his debt by turning over the girls as wives. They are forced to abandon their comfortable lives and as they take the harrowing journey towards Los Angeles to marry strangers, the girls encounter many obstacles and endure much strife. Once in Los Angeles, they must navigate the treacherous waters of their new lives and fight to stay afloat in a city that constantly discriminates and has the potential to bring out the worst in people. This book spans many years and readers have the chance to follow Pearl and May from teenaged girls into adulthood and beyond.

Since I know Lisa See is a very talented writer, I had high expectations for Shanghai Girls and thankfully I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed reading about both Chin girls and their family saga, especially about how far they travelled to get to where they ended up, in both the literal and figurative sense. Despite their flaws, these girls are passionate and driven people who had to overcome so much and I really respect them for that. From the way I'm writing about them, it's easy to tell just how real they became for me and how vivid the whole book became, which is certainly a direct reflection of Lisa See's powerful writing.

Not only is the writing itself wonderful, but the plot is really well-crafted and I'm always a fan of twists and turns in the storyline, especially when secrets are revealed later on. It's amazing that so much happens throughout its pages and yet I never felt like the story was dragging on or the book was too long.

I'm not sure if there will be a sequel to Shanghai Girls in the future but I hope so because the ending is left open for one and I'm dying to find out what happens next to the Chin women.

BIG THANKS to Random House for my review copy

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 4.5 stars

Frankie is spunky and outgoing, while Anna is studious and reserved but despite their differences, the two teenagers are best friends. Along with Frankie's older brother, Matt, they spend all of their free time together but for weeks Anna and Matt have been keeping a secret. Anna's crush on Matt finally turned into something more but Matt insists on keeping it from Frankie because he thinks it will hurt her. Before Matt can tell Frankie the truth, he is killed in a horrific car accident, leaving everyone shocked and heartbroken. The next year Frankie's family decides to return to their annual summer vacation spot with Anna in tow but nothing will ever be the same. Frankie convinces Anna that they should have a string of summer flings - a twenty boy summer -but Anna is still deeply in love with Matt.

Twenty Boy Summer has something for everyone. For those who enjoy a great summer read this book is a perfect combination of summer romances, close friendship and beautiful beaches. Those who seek a more profound read will also be pleasantly surprised because within the book's pages, there is much depth if you look beyond the surface.

Anna not only has to handle her own grief over losing Matt, but she also must come to terms with the guilt she feels from keeping such an important secret from Frankie. If only Frankie understood just how much Matt meant to Anna, they could grieve together. The dynamics of Frankie's family is also suffering and Frankie's parents are dealing with their pain in their own way. This book clearly deals with the sensitive and difficult issue of death and although I sympathized with the characters, I never felt overwhelmed.

Teen sexuality is also explored throughout the book but always in good taste. There were times when I was just appalled by Frankie's attitude towards losing her virginity and sex, as if it was something you need to get over with and move on. However, you soon learn that nothing everything is as it seems and much of that attitude stems from the loss of her brother and the grieving process. There are important lessons to be learned and eventually the right message is conveyed.

This story is perfect for reading in one sitting and even those who don't typically read YA books will enjoy and benefit from reading this book. Much to my surprise, this is Sarah Ockler's first novel and I really look forward to seeing (and reading!) what she comes up with next.

Become a fan of Twenty Boy Summer on Facebook

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BIG THANKS to Caitlin of FSB Associates for my review copy

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Buddy Review: from by Amanda Crawford Designs

For the past couple of months I have been using's Book Buddy and I have to say that I'm very impressed. Like many others I often struggle trying to find a comfortable position to read in and thanks to the Book Buddy I no longer have that problem. Especially those who have arthritic pains will certainly benefit from a hands-free reading experience. It is perfect for holding both hardcover and paperback books in place with its adjustable ribbons and the pillow is very comfy on my lap. Mass market paperbacks are a little harder to get in the right position but it's not too much of an issue.

In addition to its usefulness when reading books, the Book Buddy also comes with an acrylic desktop that fits right on top of it and comes in handy as a mini-writing desk. Since I have a laptop that desktop really comes in handy because it is the perfect way to prop up my laptop and use it comfortably. I actually took the Book Buddy travelling and it served an extra function of being a pillow on the airplane.

Overall, the Book Buddy is a really wonderful product with multiple functions (and pretty patterns) and would also make a really great gift!

To see the many Book Buddy patterns and/or to order the Book Buddy online click here

In addition to the Book Buddy, also carries lap blankets in matching fabrics, elegant paperweights to hold books open, classy book covers to spruce up the look of your books, elastic 4-ribbon bookmarks, and glittermarks.

Become a fan of on Facebook!

To find a retail store that sells these products near you click here

BIG THANKS to Amanda Crawford Designs for sending me a wonderful Book Buddy to review

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review: Drawers & Booths by Ara 13

Drawers & Booths by Ara 13

Published by CovingtonMoore, Inc.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Drawers & Booths is the type of novel that cannot be properly summarized. Ara 13 has used a literary device called metafiction1 throughout the book, eliciting conscious awareness of the fact that this is a book and includes himself in the plot. What begins as a story about the military transforms into a completely different one through the use of an alternative narrator in search of a criminal (and then keeps switching to different "scenes" as the book progresses). Once the characters realize they are actually in a novel, there is rebellion and confusion culminating into a courtroom drama when even the author himself is called to the stand.

I can honestly say that this is one of the most unique books I've ever read. The concept of metafiction is what intrigued me and most interested me in this book. I'm usually up for any unique or unconventional plot twists or literary devices employed by an author as long as there is some purpose to it. That is definitely the case in Drawers & Booths, which goes a lot deeper than the surface and explores topics of philosophy and religion throughout its pages.

Ara 13 does do a great job of bringing the reader into the narrative, which is necessary for any work of metafiction. There were many parts that I found myself laughing out loud at the author's inclusion in the story and the characters' attitudes and personalities coming to life. Let's just say they're an opinionated bunch.

Here is a small excerpt to get a feel for the metafiction:

"Well reader, you might as well follow me since you've come this far. I'm not quite sure what you expect to get out of all this. Maybe you're just killing time. But you'll have to excuse me if I don't analyze your motives any further. I've got a job to do."

There were a few times when I was confused by the author's intent and felt a little lost amongst all of the plots and characters. The military jargon was also a little hard to follow as well. However once I pulled through some of the stranger pages, the overall reading experience was worthwhile. Overall, I think Ara 13 has succeeded in producing an excellent example of metafiction, even if that required some disorientation for its readers in certain parts.

While Drawers & Booths is not for everyone, there is much to be appreciated about a book that tackles such a difficult genre and especially does it with such humor and intellect. I look forward to checking out Ara 13's next book entitled Fiction.

1 According to Wikipedia, metafiction is defined as: "a type of fiction that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction. It is the literary term describing fictional writing that self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in posing questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, usually, irony and self-reflection".

Be sure to watch the following interview with Ara 13 on ShelfLifeTV

BIG THANKS to Ara 13 for my review copy

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Book Review: Miranda's Big Mistake by Jill Mansell

Miranda's Big Mistake by Jill Mansell

Published by Sourcebooks

Rating: 4 stars

After meeting Greg at a party, Miranda thinks he is a great catch and they eventually begin to date. Little does she know that he has just left his newly pregnant wife without looking back. Once Miranda discovers the truth, her friends help execute revenge on Greg but Miranda is still left feeling heartbroken. It will take some disappointments, tragedy and a little encouragement for Miranda to realize that the potential for love was right beside her all along.

This is another fun book by Jill Mansell, where the quirky characters come to life and get themselves involved in all sorts of crazy situations. I found myself laughing out loud during some parts from the series of misunderstandings and drama that transpire. Without revealing too much (hint: it involves race car driving), there is a plot twist that I did not see coming and though I'm still confused as to its place in the story, it did makes things more interesting.

Although Jill Mansell's books are considerably longer than most other chick-lit, there is never a dull moment. The plots are always multi-faceted and she provides a little something for everyone with all the different personalities and Miranda's Big Mistake is certainly no exception!

BIG THANKS to Danielle and Sourcebooks for my review copy

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: Living a Charmed Life by Victoria Moran

Living a Charmed Life: Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day by Victoria Moran

* BROWSE INSIDE for a glimpse into the book!

Published by HarperOne, a division of HarperCollins Publishers

Rating: 4.5 stars

Living a Charmed Life is an adorable little book that is filled with 50 short essays that are meant to empower and inspire to live the best life possible. At the end of each lesson there is a 'lucky charm' that outlines a specific action we can take to fulfill the given message. For example, cutting your to-do list in half in order to slow down or getting rid of clothing that doesn't make you feel special. Victoria Moran often applies each message to her own life giving clear examples of how to apply these lessons and the what can happen if you don't try to follow the enlightening advice. These essays have the ability to change attitudes, and improve every aspect of daily life.

What first appears to be a cute and light book (complete with adorable cover) is really so much more. There is a lot of insight to each message and so much to gain from applying them to everyday life. I would recommend reading one or two essays each day as I did to fully grasp their meaning and take them in.

What I really appreciate about this book is that its goal is not only to benefit the self but also to help others and the world we live in. Some examples of this include the idea of giving something away each day (can be big, small, tangible, your time or kind words ...etc.) and making one change a week that brings the way you live more into harmony with what the earth can accommodate.

This is the type of inspiring resource that can and should be re-read and consulted to enhance daily life and truly work towards a "charmed life". I have bookmarked my favorite ones that I will be returning to and reminding myself of in the future. Although it's probably difficult to follow each and every one of the 50 lessons, it is easy to find ones that relate to your life and follow those that speak to you. Some of them are little things that make a big difference, such as bringing back chivalry (open doors for people and give up your seat on the bus) or add a splash of red, either as an accesory or even flowers in your home can brighten up your day.

The following is written by Victoria Moran and is a great example of what is included in the book:

Lucky Charms Aren't Just for Breakfast Anymore -- Use These Lucky Charms and Find Yourself Living a Charmed Life
By Victoria Moran,
Author of Living a Charmed Life:Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day

Sometimes all it takes to shift the direction of your life is to start the one day differently. You set the tone for your day first thing in the morning. Each of the actions that follow is an a.m. lucky charm to help you to a totally glorious day. Put a string of days like this together, and you’ve got yourself a charmed life.

  • Set your clock for 15 minutes earlier than usual. This will put extra room in your morning so there's a bit more time for tending to your own needs before the world starts putting demands on you.
    Start with a little quiet. Instead of blasting into your day like being shot from a cannon, take five or ten of those extra minutes to be still with yourself and compose your day. You can use this time for prayer, meditation, journal writing, or just being and breathing and deciding that, for the next twenty-four hours, you're going to seize opportunities, shine like the dickens, and make a difference in the world.
  • Have a keynote thought, one positive idea to set the tone for your day. You might try. "It's wonderful to be alive," or "I fully intend to make this a great day." This thought is independent of circumstances. It isn't wonderful to be alive because you just got the raise or the last 38-C on the sale table, but because you've been given a day which is, by definition, filled with possibility.
  • Get to the gym. "No matter who you are or how much money you have, you can't buy muscle," says New York City trainer Sasha Lodi. "The only way to get it is to build it yourself." And knowing you've done it, you'll feel terrific about yourself.
  • Wear something you love. It may not be new (it may very well be old) and it probably won't be the most expensive thing you own, but choose today to wear something that makes you feel like a million bucks.
  • Have some fresh juice in the morning. Whether you like breakfast light or substantial, try starting with fresh juice (try apple, kale, lemon is yummy). This gives your body an infusion of vitality since you're ingesting vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in their most easily assimilable form.
  • Cut today's to-do list in half. And trust that it won't cause the world to end. Prioritize the thousand things you "ought" to do so that you get the important tasks for work, family, and yourself taken care of. Everything else can take a number.
  • Tend to the intimidating assignments first. When you've tackled what's scary or overwhelming first, you're won out over procrastination. And you've already succeeded today, even if it's only 9 a.m.
  • Be completely, utterly yourself. From the moment you open your eyes. Nobody can do "you" the way you can. All sorts of great stuff is heading your way, but it can't find you when you're impersonating someone else. Cherish your individuality and relish your authenticity.
  • Make a point that today you'll remember your own worth. Nothing will give you a better shot at having your best day ever than remembering your own innate worth. Choose a common action (like looking in a mirror or walking through a door), and every time you do it today, remind yourself that you are worthy. Because that's the truth.
©2009 Victoria Moran, author of Living a Charmed Life:Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day

Author Bio
Victoria Moran, author of Living a Charmed Life:Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day, is an inspirational speaker, a certified life coach, and the author of ten books including The Love-Powered Diet, Lit from Within; Fat, Broke & Lonely No More; and the international bestseller Creating a Charmed Life. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including Body + Soul, Natural Health, and Yoga Journal. Her blog, "Your Charmed Life," is published daily on She lives a charmed life in New York City.

Visit Victoria Moran online at

BIG THANKS to Caitlin of FSB Associates for my review copy

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review: Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

Best Intentions by Emily Listfield

Published by Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster

Rating: 4.5 stars

Best Intentions follows narrator, Lisa Barkley's life, as she struggles with her marriage, her teenaged daughters and her career. After suspecting her husband Sam of having an affair, Lisa listens to his voicemail and hears a woman's mysterious message. As the story progresses, more red flags are raised regarding Sam's suspected affair and other obstacles and misunderstandings arise. When Lisa's best friend Deirdre gets involved, things become even more complicated until the second part of the book, when a murder takes place.

Although the book starts off relatively slow, it more than makes up for it with all of the secrets and mysteries that unravel throughout the story. The first part of the book reads more like a women's fiction book, when we get an insider's glimpse of Lisa's life and her worries and complex relationships. Emily Listfield does a wonderful job of capturing Lisa's middle-aged angst. I felt connected to Lisa and her inner circle and hoped that she would pull through despite all of the complications in her life.

Since the second part of the book is mostly devoted to the murder mystery, it seemed like a somewhat abrupt transition from the first part. Nonetheless, thinking about the suspects and trying to determine who the killer was kept me intrigued. There is a noticeable shift in narrative tone, as the plot centers around the murder and all the potential suspects, leaving you guessing until the very end.

The combination of women's fiction and mystery seems to be an emerging new genre, as can also be seen in books like The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks and The House on Tradd Street by Karen White. Although I would have appreciated a more gradual transition and combination of women's fiction and mystery in Best Intentions, it is a worthy addition to this new type of novel and one that I truly enjoyed reading. I hope this trend of combining women's fiction and mystery continues!

Be sure to check out this website for more information about the book and the murder suspects!

BIG THANKS to Lauren for my review copy

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Book Review: Do-Over! by Robin Hemley

Do-Over! by Robin Hemley

Published by Little, Brown and Company , a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book is about precisely what its sub-titles states: "In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments". Robin Hemley decides to re-visit his past of embarassing and shameful moments so that he can 're-do' them all over again with the additional benefit of perspective and wisdom from decades of life experience. Given the strange nature of his adventures, (what other kindergarten student has their wife pick them up from school?) Robin receives some interesting feedback from his fellow classmates, campers, and teachers. Thankfully though, for the most part Robin is supported in his quest and given ample opportunity to improve upon his past 'failures'.

I think that what initially started out as a unique opportunity for Robin's self-exploration and journey to his past, transformed into an experience that has proved insightful to many others as well. Though this book is focused on Robin's past, it can easily be translated to anyone with regrets or those who wonder what would happen if they could 're-do' a past experience. The book's idea and writing style, along with witty humor, reminded me a lot of A. J. Jacobs' work, including The Year of Living Biblically, which was a plus for me.

I only wish that each chapter could have been a little longer so that I could have read more about each experience. In particular, my favorite do-over by far, the kindergarten chapter seemed to go by too quickly. I longed to hear more of the dialogue exchanged between Robin and the children, who seemed to conclude that Robin had a 'bad time' when he was a kid and he wanted to back so he could have a 'better time'.

Though not many would jump at the chance to re-do experiences that humiliated them in the past, there is a fascination with someone who would have the courage to do so and share his experiences with everyone (photographs included!). It is often other people's reactions to Robin's endeavor that were most interesting to me and were also able to elicit the most laughter.

The underlying self-deprecative attitude translates into a humorous book where a grown-man can poke fun at himself while re-living past embarassments and come out a little wiser and insightful than he started out in the beginning. Do-Over! is not only a hilarious journey of flashbacks and re-dos, but also insightful in its implications and I certainly enjoyed accompanying Robin on his trip down memory lane.

BIG THANKS to Anna and Hachette Book Group for my review copy