Friday, May 28, 2010

the horrors of street life in california.

Imagine yourself, thirteen or fourteen years old. Home is such a terrible place that you run away to the one place where you think your dreams will come true, Hollywood. Once you are there you have no friends and no home. You are taken advantage of and disrespected worse than you could ever imagine. But you stay because you have no where else to go, you stay because being taken advantage of by strangers is better than by your own family. You stay because home is even worse than the streets.

Now go out and get a copy of Boulevard, a novel by Bill Guttentag. It is based on the true story of a girl named Casey who ran away to Sunset Boulevard. You think you imagined the worst possible scenario? You are dead wrong. Casey's story is unlike anything you have ever heard in your life. It is filled with teenagers leaving home because they were being molested by a family member, they were kicked out by their parents for being gay or because they got addicted to meth after they tried it once at a party. Teenagers selling their bodies on the streets for cash to survive. It's disturbing, a train wreck really. You cannot help but keep turning those pages.

This book is filled with horrible things, so if you are really sensitive, I do not recommend you reading it. I have never been to California, and I don't know if this is going on still today. I am sure it is, and there has to be something we can do to help.

BookExpo America 2010!

I just got back from NYC where I attended this years BookExpo America. I met a lot of really great authors and publishers who gave me lots of books to read and review! I cannot wait to get started :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


First sunburn of the year today! On that note, I decided it would be a splendid idea to review the best backyard idea book I have found this year bar none. Coincidentally it is called New Backyard Idea Book, pretty easy to find people. Natalie Ermann Russell has filled this book with amazing ideas, from porches and patios to decks and pools, so that you can make your backyard as fabulous as possible.

Oh my god. I just got to the garden rooms on page 100. OH MY GOD. I am in love.

Taking one glance inside this book, you will absolutely die (figure of speech, freaks). Everything is beyond gorgeous. Russell even makes a shed look like it's set in an enchanted forest. If you are honestly looking to upgrade your backyard, you have no choice but to pick up a copy of this. It has everything you need to make your neighbors and extended family green with envy, because YOU have a backyard that doubles as an oasis.

Lets not be selfish now, I know you broads are urning for a backyard spa and most of you guys would kill for an outdoor kitchen. Chill for a second and also check out the tree house designs, your kids will FLIP.

a book filled with twists.

If you are like me, and you read hundreds of books a year - it is refreshing to open a book with a plot that is new and a story that draws you in with every sentence. Emily St. John Mandel impressed many (bust most importantly, ME) with her debut novel, Last Night in Montreal.

Lilia has the tendency to run. Ever since she was a little girl she has put on her very own disappearing act. Now, twenty-something Lilia steps out for a coffee leaving her boyfriend, Eli at the apartment that they share working on his thesis, and never comes back. A little mystery in a woman is alluring, but come on Lilia, let's get it together. So, Eli freaks out and begins looking for her. While searching, he is contacted by Michaela, who is a main source of outside information regarding Lilia's unusual life. It makes you wonder, has Lilia ever actually disappeared on her own, or was it something she was forced to do?

This book is unlike anything I have ever read before. In a good way.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

political thriller.

Henry Porter is an amazing suspense writer. He's fast moving, yet gradual, if that makes any sense. That being said, it is really easy for me to write a favorable review of his latest thriller, The Bell Ringers, which came out in February. Apparently it came out in the UK under the title, The Dying Light. Don't be fooled by the title change.

Here's the deal: David Eyam (a British government official) is randomly killed by a terrorist bomb in Columbia. His ex-girlfriend, Kate is named the beneficiary of his estate, and has no idea why because they haven't even seen each other for two years. Of course, Kate's life cannot just be easy or normal. She uses her brilliant lawyer ways to unravel the clues David has left behind and uncover the truth behind British government attempts to remove the last iota of privacy from its citizens in the name of security. Ha, Security? Their "security" was built on dangerously flawed computer programs administered by politicians and their cronies who are able to manipulate that system in pursuit of power and profits. Gotta love corrupt governments.

If you like political thrillers, you will love this book. Porter does suspense like no other.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

lauren oliver debut.

While reading synopsis of this book, I thought about not even bothering to read it. A story about a popular girl who dies and then keeps reliving the day over and over? Sounds relatively lame to me...

I am really glad that I have the tendency to give every book a fair shot, because I truly fell in love with this story, Before I Fall. 26-year-old Lauren Oliver totally kicked ass in her first novel, if I do say so myself. Our dead girl walking, Sam Kingston lives the life of the popular girl strictly by chance. She was pretty much picked on until the most popular girl in school, Lindsay decided one day to befriend her at a party in middle school. Lindsay is an uber-bitch, unless of course she likes you. Sam, Lindsay and their two other best friends Ally and Elody are seniors in high school and live a pretty care-free and privileged life. They hate people when Lindsay says so, and are the girls everybody loves (to hate). The day that keeps repeating itself is called "Cupid Day" in their school, where everyone buys their friends flower-grams and the more flowers you get the more popular you are.

Sounds very juvenile, but this book is rather juvenile. (But I still don't recommend it for anyone younger than high school age).

Anyways, the four girls head to a party at this boy Kent's house (Kent has been in love with Sam since they were kids, they used to be friends until Sam became popular). He basically has this party because he thinks Sam will show up. The girls get drunk, and when Lindsay drives them home they get into a car accident and Sam feels as though she died. Her alarm wakes her up and she wakes up on Cupid Day....again. I am not really doing this book justice in my explanation, there is so much more to it than simply repeating the day you die. Sam repeats the day seven times in all, and each day she does something different, each night has a different outcome, and the next day she wakes up to Cupid Day all over again. Through this experience she discovers different things about the different people in her life. By the seventh day she is an entirely different person, a changed person, a BETTER person.

I don't want to give any of it away, and I am sorry for sucking at trying to explain, there is just so much going on. You really need to read it and feel it for yourself. It might break your heart a little.


Anyone who has ready anything by Peter Hedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape) knows that he does not write about ordinary people. They appear ordinary to everyone else, but as the reader, you get the inside scoop on how they really think and feel. The inside scoop on their personal relationships. His characters have these quirks that people do have in real life, but no one really talks about. He writes about awkward situations that are in a lot of ways relate-able but we would never admit it.

Peter Hedges newest book The Heights, is rather strange, but addicting. He calls it a human comedy. I was so curious about how Hedges would end things, that I read it every second I got. Each character, (mostly married couple, Tim and Kate) told a portion of the story. I like it when characters have their own personal voice. Tim and Kate do not live extraordinary lives. Kate is a stay at home mom, raising their two boys. Tim is a teacher. Eventually Kate gets a great job offer and takes it so Tim takes the role as stay at home dad, while finishing his dissertation. Through the story our main characters are forced to prove their character and their love for each other. Just because you may not be rich, travel the world and live an extraordinary life, does not mean your life is not interesting. Tom and Kate are a great example of this.

The ending will definitely make you wonder.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

the forgotten father.

Out of all of our country's founding fathers, James Monroe is the one I know the LEAST about. This book was more interesting to me because of that. The author of The Last Founding Father, Harlow Unger obviously thought that James Monroe is grossly overlooked in this country, because he took it upon himself to write such an fascinating book revolving around this presidents life.

I just want to give a little overview of the book, though it includes much more information about James Monroe and his family than this simple excerpt: As a young man Monroe joined the revolutionary cause and fought bravely for this country, surviving a life threatening wound. Following in Washington's footsteps he didn't accept payment for his service. This would set the stage for a lifetime of financial sacrifice in his country's service. His political career included serving as a foreign diplomat, senator, and as a governor that forever changed the role of Governor of Virginia, and finally President of the United States.

I believe that Unger really wants readers to take away from this book the idea that just because a man is quiet does not make him any less bold than a man who is loud. Monroe was just as important as any other founding father, and this biography will let you explore the reasons why.

yum yummmm.

I love chinese food! What's a step farther than love? Because I am that with chinese food. Helen's Asian Kitchen, Easy Chinese Stir-fries is such a great cook book. Author, Helen Chen has created a great instructional book to help us all make Chinese restaurant style food at home.

The book is filled with all of the basic stir-fries: beef, pork, chicken, shrimp & veggie. There are non-stir-fry recipes as well and there is something for every taste. Helen even includes lettuce wraps recipes, so outragiously delicious. Just looking at the pictures will make your mouth water. The recipes really get us thinking outside the box when it comes to Chinese food. Take a chance, and try something you never have had the courage to order before (you know who you are).

It's super easy to follow the recipes and hand to God it really does taste like Chinese food from a restaurant. I highly recommend 'Shrimp in Tomato Sauce.' Mmmm...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

this one hits home.

Corey, Jeff and Susan each have different stories, they tell these stories as they live their lives and slowly their lives intertwine.

Corey is an eleven year old boy who has been legally acquitted of setting a fire that destroyed his home and killed his older brother. Susan, 62 years old, and happily married to her husband Christopher who is ten years older than her and has rapidly progressing Alzheimer's disease. Jeff Herdman, 40 years old is unhappily married to Leanne, who is twenty years his junior and leaves him for a younger man.

One morning, Susan goes for a short walk and when she returns, Christopher is gone, lost. She searches for him unsuccessfully so calls in the search and rescue team. Jeff is the liaison between the Susan and the searchers. Corey is the one who finds Christopher, and is coincidentally one of the missing people the search and rescue team is searching for.

Lost is the perfect title for this novel by Alice Lichtenstein. You will be touched, you will cry, and you will undoubtedly see beauty through the pain.

it's because i'm white isn't it?

The History of White People, yeah that's a random title. Even more random, the author of this book, Nell Irvin Painter is a black woman. Painter is pretty ballsy if you ask me, and I have to say I am impressed. This book is a history on the construct of the white race; the who, what, where, when, why and how of its origins, its evolution and change over time. It was so interesting, and I found the idea of Painter being black rather compelling.

Painter guides us through the entire history of white people, and she doesn't overly focus on slavery because so many different races and cultures were discriminated against. As we all know, there was a time when the Irish, Italians, Jews, and "others" were denigrated for their otherness; for not fitting the Anglo-Saxon ideal of whiteness. This book is a bit controversial, which I don't understand. White people write about different cultures and races ALL THE TIME. Why can't a black woman write about white people? YOU GO GIRL. I am so over this whole race thing.

Just keep an open mind while reading.

a taste of africa.

Whenever an author has personal experience with a place or culture, you can see it so vividly in their writing. That is exactly how Lisa Harris portrays African people and their lives in Blood Ransom. You may recognize Harris as a Christian mystery author, but those of you who are not religious, don't let the Christian part scare you away from this thriller.

A little background: Natalie Sinclair is working to help with diseases in the African village of Republic of Shambizao. Joseph, a local teenage boy witnesses and photographs the abduction of almost everyone in his home village, plus several murders. He turns to Natalie for help in exposing the supposedly mythical "ghost soldiers." When Natalie took him to the medical center to clean his wounds, she runs into Dr. Chad Talcott, an American doctor whom she had known in high school. While trying to help Joseph, Natalie and Chad come across many disturbing things. Clearly someone is purposely trying to keep them from finding out the truth of what's really happening in this third world country.

This suspense novel is fast-paced and exciting, you will love it.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I think it goes with out saying that writing an 11th book in a series that is still just as amazing as books 1-10 is pretty bad ass. The Double Comfort Safari Club, by Alexander McCall Smith is the 11th book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and it STILL keeps us waiting impatiently for the next installment. I seriously am sitting here wondering how that is possible. 11 books? McCall is flawless.

Four revolving plot lines keep the reader involved and often amused. The structure is very similar to others in the series, with the familiar cast of characters appearing. Precious Ramotswe is on the case of a mystery guide who has been left a large legacy by a grateful American tourist who remembers their kindness. The only trouble the now 'late' tourist can not remember the name, or the name of the company they worked for. Precious and Mma Makutsi must travel to the area to discover this man.

You will love this addition to the series. The adventures are always entertaining.

perfect book club book.

The Wives of Henry Oades, by Johanna Moran is based on the true story of Henry Oades, a principled man whose first wife and children are abducted by the native Maori. His wife, Margaret endures six heinous years of slavery and emotional abuse being in captivity. Henry's life sucks pretty bad as well, and he is convinced his family is dead. After deeply grieving for many years, he eventually leaves their home in New Zealand and travels to Berkeley, California, where life gives him a second chance through his marriage to an attractive young widow named Nancy Foreland. Just when Henry's life starts getting back to normal, with his new wife and her baby, his first wife and their children show up. Seriously? How outrageous is that?

So here Henry is with his first wife, who of course he cannot turn away. But he really likes his new wife, what's a guy to do? Keep them both. They all begin living under the same roof, and of course the community freaks out. I think it's pretty lame, give the guy a chance to figure things out. It's such a tough situation. They end up taking it to court, and it turns into this insane trial.

There is SO much to discuss in this book. Perfect for book clubs, or solo reads. You cannot help but talk about it. Moran did such a great job portraying this story.

gilmore's second book.

If you enjoyed Jennifer Gilmore's debut novel, Golden Country, you will absolutely love her latest, Something Red. The story revolves around a jewish family circa 1979 living in Washington D.C. Gilmore tells the story of each member of the Goldstein family through alternating chapters. I really enjoy this format in a novel because you get to learn about each character individually.

The novel is incredibly well-researched and effectively captures the paranoia and fear that occupied the American psyche at the height of the Cold War. Gilmore includes the politics in a refreshing way and blends the culture of the time nicely. It's very coming of age AND funny. You will really enjoy this read.