Friday, March 29, 2013

it does take some work to be cheap.

Manfriend and I have been pinching our pennies for the past six months, saving for a house. We've been Grouponing our dinners and letting our mommy's feed us on a regular basis. Brad Wilson's Do More, Spend Less: The New Secrets of Living the Good Life for Less was an instant attraction to my current lifestyle.

Mr. Wilson is pretty fantastic at doing pretty much everything, for dirt cheap. The good news is that he shares his tips on travel, shopping and personal finance, with us po' folks. Wilson gives us all the dirty details on which airline credit cards get the best airline miles. He can get you to Paris and back for practically nothing, including entrance into the fancy airport lounges. Wilson is a bonafide credit card rewards program connoisseur, let me tell you. AND he will save you thousands when buying a car with cash incentives and discounts that I have never even heard of. I am still impressed.

Monday, March 25, 2013

pre-teen worthy reads.

Technically I am a high school English teacher, but I do get the occasional seventh and eighth grader assigned to my study halls, which is why I keep series' like The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow on hand for those little nuggets who straggle in. The Awesomely Awful Melodies of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang which is Book 5 of the series, is the perfect middle school read.

In this installment, Lydia and Julie are back from their summer road trip, gearing up for the seventh grade, and continuing their quest for popularity. Well, more Lydia's quest after she decides to start a band and reinvent herself as a rock star. For those of you who don't know, The Popularity Papers reads like a journal with multiple colors, fonts, blurbs, and pictures, including descriptions of teachers, friends, and family members. The series is very cute and very with the times. Highly recommended by this (sometimes) thirteen-year-old at heart.

Friday, March 22, 2013

spin the bottle.

Ahhhh, kissing games. I liked them so much during my adolescent days I would make new ones up and share them with any boy I had my eye on. Or sometimes I would just grab their faces and kiss them. I like to kiss. Still. Anyways...

Aidan Chambers has created a collection of sixteen short stories involving young people on the verge of adulthood titled The Kissing Game. I love myself some short fiction ALMOST as much as I love myself some kissing. This collection is not as romantic as the title suggests. These short works (I say works because some are more scenes than stories) describe the multiple sides of relationships. From the rush of meeting someone new to the struggle of living in your siblings shadow, each story brings a unique voice, both male and female. This collection is short and sweet, just like this review. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

duct tape sure has changed since i was a kid.

Dazzling Duct Tape Designs by Tamara Boykins is the new favorite book in my room come study hall time. After I've checked that all of my students have finished their homework, of course. This is such a creative crafty find. You only need seven things to complete close to all of the easy to follow crafts inside: duct tape rolls, scissors, cutting mat, hard, flat surface, craft knife, ruler, and a pen. Just make sure you get some flashy duct tape because you'd be surprised what kind of bitchin' stuff you can make.

Duct tape is the most multifaceted art supply I have seen since rhinestones were created. Boykins includes step-by-step instructions on how to make bracelets, headbands, party decorations, flower pens, belts, purses, school accessories, even canvas art. A great resource for the creative middle-high school kids in your life.

Duct tape is speaking as loud as it can.
***For a chance to win a FREE copy, follow this blog then email your name, address, and this book title to:!

Monday, March 18, 2013

who says?

I am a certifiable feminist, born and raised. I am totally woman here me roar, and all that. I was really excited to dive into Emily Bennington's Who Says It's a Man's World: The Girls' Guide to Corporate Domination, even though being a teacher isn't exactly the corporate world. Being a teacher isn't exactly a career that is dominated by men, either. However, I did find my own connections to Bennington's words.

The world we live in makes being a chick kind of tough in a lot of ways. Women have made significant gains in the workforce during the last century and we keep continuing to do so everyday. Bennington has created this guide on how to gain respect and credibility so that you can go the distance in your career. Reputation is key in any job. Bennington includes the measurable steps that you can take to enhance your reputation in five key areas including, self-awareness, social skills, personal effectiveness, team building and leadership, which I would consider the core of this book.

Bennington hits these five key areas throughout the various chapters, while also including other useful information, I only have time to cover a few bases. There is a section in the book that touches on women preferring men as bosses. In my experiences, I have had women bosses that I've hated and men bosses that I've hated, because I pretty much hate everyone, BUT I've never really cared for any woman with a boss or leadership role over me. Bennington doesn't enjoy this response, but I can't help it! Not enough women have read this book to change my skewed views.

As a first-year teacher, I don't have much of a leadership role in my workplace when it comes to my colleagues in the English department, however, I really wish our department head would have read Chapter 13 - which is designated for team leaders. I found Chapter 14: Solve the Freakin' Problem! to be the most relatable for every job. Bennington discusses workplace problems with co-workers, and how to really handle other people's crazy. Who Says It's a Man's World is the perfect guide for the current and aspiring professional woman.

***For a chance to win a copy of this book all you have to do follow my (hilarious) blog, and then email your name, address and this book title to:!

Friday, March 15, 2013

south park spoofed it best.

Society has been mocking Scientology for a while now. I am not here to mock anything, just review books, and be mildly inappropriate, but not mock. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill shows this religion for what it really is, no mocking necessary.


Jenna was born into Scientology being the niece of the Church of Scientology's leader, David Miscavige. Her parents were high school drop outs who revolved their entire lives around this religion. Jenna lived through a childhood of isolation and neglect, preparing her for a life of conformity, that leaves little room for error. Keep in mind that this book details the lives of people who are extremely involved with the organization, not outside people who simply pay (a lot) and practice. Jenna goes into detail (A LOT of detail) about the oppressive environment she lived in growing up until her escape when she was twenty-one. Jenna is now married and has two beautiful children. Such an inspiration considering one would  have to be pretty psychologically damaged after spending early childhood to adulthood in this alienating culture.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

why manage diabetes when you can simply get rid of it?

I don't have a lot of experience with diabetes. No one in my family has had to deal with it, minus my uncle who quickly got his shit together and maintains a healthy lifestyle so now he doesn't have to worry much about it, as diabetes is reversible. If only one night stands were as well.

Anyways. Dr. Joel Fuhrman has developed an eat to live plan that can help prevent and reverse diabetes in his book, The End of Diabetes. Chapter 1 involves really understanding the causes of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. There is more background information on the disease but I dove right into the types of foods I should be eating to prevent diabetes, as a healthy twenty-something, I would much rather prevent it than have to reverse it later. Dr. Fuhrman makes it all very simple. What to eat, what not to eat, he even includes real life cases involving real life people to help readers like me truly understand the disease, and to give readers who have diabetes someone to relate to.


It's a good thing that I already like beans because you'll need to learn to love 'em, folks.

Monday, March 11, 2013

your inner farming entrepreneur.

I teach in a very rural community where a lot of my students spend their afternoons working on local farms for extra cash. Many of the boys (although girls work on farms, too) are planning on making a career out of farming. I try to fill my classroom book shelves with books that everyone can enjoy so Farms with a Future by Rebecca Thistlethwaite, was a welcomed addition to my collection.


This book revolves around creating and growing a sustainable farm business. My students aren't exactly looking into starting up their own farms, but Farms absolutely solved the "Miss Hagen, you don't have anything interesting to read" problem that I have during study halls with a lot of my male students. Rebecca (her last name is too wild so we are on a first name basis), begins at the beginning. Using Chapter 1 to get you started then moves right on to the best practices used in starting your own small-to-midscale market farm. Market research, marketing and pricing strategies, soil and water management, accounting and finances (yawn, but necessary), right on to the products that will add to the value of your farm, and make it more profitable. Rebecca means business, and covers all of the business management aspects of running a farm, which many books leave out.

Now, all you need to do is decide whether or not you want to take the plunge and start your own farm. OR make your current farm more sustainable. OR you can just go to farmers market's, like me. The choice is yours.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

educate yourself in investing.

I know nothing about investing, don't you need money to do that? That's probably why it hasn't crossed my radar yet. When I came across Eric Tyson's Investing in your 20s & 30s for Dummies, I felt like maybe it was time to check out my options. God knows the whole retirement fund option our grandparents cashed in on is not exactly available to our generation.

Tyson begins with Investing 101 - making sense of your options and understanding the terms and concepts. Where to make smart investments and understanding the risks involved. You can potentially lose a lot of money, that's why you need to do your homework, dummie. As someone who is swimming in student loans and hoping to buy a house soon, Chapter 5: Laying Out Your Financial Plans showed me that it may be a better idea to use my extra cash to pay down my current debt before I jump into investing. Many of you twenty and thirty-somethings are ready to start investing your money in preparation for you and your family's future. Now is the time, so educate yourself.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

siri in your life.

For the most part I want to punch Siri in the face. Half of the time she doesn't understand what I'm saying, unless I'm asking her where to dump a dead body. She gets that.

Marc Saltzman was kind enough to write Siri for Dummies, which has helped my relationship with Siri greatly. I've decided to give her another chance, and try to speak more clearly during our conversations. Saltzman gives advice on how to make the most of her skills, which she does have a lot of. Siri can basically organize your life if you'll let her. I still have trust issues, but I'm working through them.

Siri for Dummies includes step-by-step instructions on how to utilize all that Siri has to offer. Using your voice, Siri can add important dates and meetings to your calendar, she can take notes for you to look at later, she can tell you were the closest gas station is, she can type and send text messages for you. There is a lot Siri can do to make your life easier. She is basically a really fast lady Google that you can talk to. If you have an iPhone 4S or 5, Siri is already fully available to you. Those of you who are still using flip phones, Siri has standards.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

pinterest obsession.

Pinterest has become this fantastic phenomena over the past few years. You can put a ton of other peoples awesome cooking, crafting, fashion, fitness, photography (etc.) ideas on personal boards, all nice and organized in one place to return to whenever you need inspiration. I am obsessed. I especially love how you can have secret boards now that no one can see. That way you can plan your future wedding when you're not even engaged (or dating anyone) and not feel silly. Brilliant I tell you.

My next for Dummies book is about how to market your own products or whatever you've got going on, ON Pinterest. You know, so that every girl in the world who is constantly pinning (which all of us are) can easily run into it. Kelby Carr created Pinterest Marketing for Dummies, so that you can build your brand and market your products. I mostly just pin, but I do occasionally buy the products I come across (like the Smash Book I just ordered off Amazon today, saw it on Pinterest). Carr begins the book with instructions on how to use Pinterest, which a lot of us think we already know, but there is always something new to learn. The pinning and repinning process is a little different when you want to market your own product. You want your pin to lead readers right to your website with no issues. Carr also shows how to include price tags (SO necessary) on your pins.

Getting fans, customers and clients to follow you is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of this book. How can you attract followers and spread the word about your product? All covered in Chapter 7.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

a week of dummies.

I love anything for Dummies, and I hope you do too because that's what I've got going on here at Kick Ass Book Reviews this week.

First to bat is a crowd favorite, Wine for Dummies by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan. Many of you, like me, enjoy the occasional glass of wine - or seven. However, rarely do we take the time to really appreciate the wine we are drinking. This recently updated, 5th edition has everything you want or need to know about your favorite pastime. These authors take your love of wine and turn you into a wine enthusiast, rather than a mild alcoholic.

McCarthy and Mulligan begin with a little Wine 101, where the only prerequisite required is knowledge in bottle opening (just kidding they cover this in Chapter 8). They touch on the differences between red, white and pink wines - stating that you will probably never meet one that is bad, you just need to find your preference. I did find the serving temperatures very helpful, as well as the marrying wine with food chapter. The second half of the book covers where the best wine and champagne comes from all over the world. When I was in Italy, I carried a bottle of Chianti with me everywhere I went. Classy American, party of one. Since I am more of a white wine kind of girl, it was nice to fall in love with a red.

Fishing for money to throw into the Trevi fountain, Chianti in hand.

Wine for Dummies has all of the information you need to make turn wining into a hobby, or just impress your friends at the next dinner party.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

where are the four big ideas?

Contrary to popular belief, there are a few smart kids strolling around farm schools like the one I work at, so when a few students in my study hall told me they were looking to ace the AP Bio exam, I knew I had to work my magic. I am the queen of resources, a kid at school is cramming for a final or a crazy hard exam? I've got a book for that.

I typically look to the Princeton Review for help in the book department because they never EVER let me down, but there were a few issues with Cracking the AP Biology Exam, 2013 Edition (Revised) (College Test Preparation). To be honest, this book is missing some key components of the NEW AP Bio exam. It's a great Biology resource, but without the updates, a kid may not get much out of it for the actual exam. Sorry Princeton Review, I have high hopes for the 2014 model!

Friday, March 1, 2013

wait, okay, i think i get it now.

When it comes to computer programming I'm at about a fifth grade level, maybe lower. I'm thinkin' Warren and Carter Sande (father/son combo) had me in mind when they titled their manual Hello World!: Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners. The book may be designed for a young audience, but that doesn't mean it has been dumbed down too far to be useful for us computer illiterate adults. The depth and pace of the material is appropriate for anyone who is starting from scratch, and the Sande team teaches programming with A LOT of examples. I love examples, and as a teacher, I love this book. I'm thinking the Sande's worked together to keep the language nice and simple, covering everything from memory, modules, and variables to input, data, and graphics. You'll be thinking and creating like a Python programmer in no time!