Friday, August 30, 2013

who wants to turn on an oven in the summer? NOT ME.

Don't like to cook? Well do I have the cookbook for you! Just kidding, it's The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes for When it's Too Hot to Cook by Matt Kadey, which still requires the preparing aspect of cooking, just no ovens. Pretty much designed for you disenfranchised people with no central air.

There are literally 101 oven-free meals in this collection. including Breakfast and Brunch, Starters and Sides, Main Dishes, and Desserts, also featuring more than 80 beautiful photographs. Keep in mind that t’s not all salads and sandwiches, either, there are soups, pasta dishes, and pizza recipes. Kadey even has an overnight oats recipe that does not require you to cook the steel-cut oats, because you know ain't nobody got time for that in the morning. And let me tell you something about the Shrimp and Noodles with Sweet and Sour Sauce made with rice noodles on page 72, a MUST.  As a chick who recently became the lady of her own house, I believe this collection kicks ass, and I do have AC.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

not as light and fluffy as one might expect from the prairie.

Prairie Song by Mona Hodgson is the start of a brand new historical fiction series which is set in 1866 on a wagon train. The novel instantly becomes a "can't put it down" type read as we follow eighteen-year-old Anna Goben, Caleb Reger, and a fabulous cast of characters as they travel on the Boone's Lick Company Wagon Train from St. Charles, Missouri to Sacramento, California.

After the Civil War killed her brother and turned her family's world upside down, Anna has decided to make a change not only for her, but for her mother and grandfather who are still heavily grieving the death of Dedrick. As the Goben family heads to Califironia via wagon train, Anna can't help but worry that the trip will kill them before it brings her family closer together. And then we have trail hand Caleb Reger, who bears secrets that keep him from settling down or releasing his heart to be loved again. I don't need to tell you where THAT is heading. To sum it all up, Hodgson is an excellent historical fiction writer, the story has a lot of spunk, and I highly recommend it.

*For a chance to win a FREE copy of Prairie Song, simply follow this blog and enter the contest by emailing your name, address, and this book title to:! Giveaway closes 9/6/13!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“Hi, I’m Ang Lee, and if I don’t make movies I’m going to die.”

After watching Life of Pi, I have become wildly intrigued with Ang Lee, who directed the film. It was so damn fantastic, not all thanks to Lee, but he did bring the novel to life. A few Lee lovers have put together a biography titled The Philosophy of Ang Lee (edited by Robert Arp, Adam Barkman, and James McRae), which examines this director's infamous works.

Lee is one of the most talented and diverse directors in world cinema. This cinematic bio is divided into two sections, The Eastern Philosophy of Ang Lee, and The Western Philosophy of Ang Lee, and covers films from Sense and Sensibility (1994), to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), to Brokeback Mountain (2005), to present day Life of Pi. Lee has a reputation of pushing cultural boundaries in his films, the editors of his bio leave nothing out.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

become the best version of yourself.

I still don't know my life's purpose, honestly. Not that I am super old and I should know, but I'm also not a baby anymore, so maybe I better get on top of this. Enter my personal life coach, Aila Accad and her new book, The Call of the Soul: A Path to Knowing Your True Self and Your Life's Purpose.

Accad explains that there are a number of chances each of us has for radical change in our lives. These changes can evolve during adolescence, at midlife or again in retirement. Don't look at me, I am not in adolescence or midlife, but if we can choose to live a joyous, passionate, purposeful, loving life at any stage, why wouldn't we? That's where this book and its tools come in to play. Accad lays out clear instructions on how to hear the call of your soul, so that you can begin to lie a life of authenticity and become who you really are.

Monday, August 26, 2013

we are all the authors of our personal stories.

I don't even know where to begin with N. D. Wilson's latest Death by Living: Life is Meant to be Spent. I laughed, I cried, and I still have no idea what genre to label it under. A major emphasis in this book is the idea that from the very second we are born into the world, we begin to die. Therefore we must pause and truly live this life we are blessed enough to be given. Once we accept nothing but God is permanent, we can open our hands and give of ourselves freely to the people and causes in our life that mean something. We all have a unique story to tell and a legacy we are leaving behind to future generations. Wilson shares stories from his own life in a memoir-type style, in his usual witty fashion. However, this book is absolutely not all about him. What will actually happen as you read is you will find yourself taking a look at your own personal experiences, and whether or not you are spending your life on others more than yourself. Already gotcha thinking, hm?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

when raising your son, look to this.

Being a parent is the most important job in the world. Hands down, no one can really refute this, which is why it is super important that we access the right tools to help raise our children, or future children in my childless case. A Man in the Making: Strategies to Help Your Son Succeed in Life by Rick Johnson is exactly the type of manual parents with boys should pick up. Because God knows, we don't want your son to grow up to be a complete booger. So get it together mom and dad.

What I love about this book the most is that each chapter represents a character or trait or two that you hope your son will obtain. Along with that character trait includes a man in history who has lived that specific trait throughout his life. For example, Chapter 1 is titled Courage: Martin Luther King Jr. Chapter 8 is titled Common Sense and Wisdom: Benjamin Franklin. The layout is fantastic and every chapter holds a level of inspiration that will blow you away.

Friday, August 23, 2013

a title with a double meaning.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes is a novel with a two-part setting that intertwines two love stories 100 years apart. The first part of the novel takes us back to 1916 in St Peronne, a small French town occupied by the Germans. It is the middle of WWI, and the close-knit community of St Peronne are having to cope with the presence of the enemy amongst them. Our main character Sophie Lefevre's artist husband Edouard fighting in the war, so she has returned from Paris to help her family run their small hotel, where they are forced to feed the German's. Sophie's most treasured possession is The Girl You Left Behind which is a portrait of her, painted by her husband before he went away. And Moyes leaves us with a bit of a cliff hanger when one of the German Kommandant becomes strangely obsessed with the painting.

Part two transfers us forward 100 years to present day where thirty-year old widow, Liz Halston now owns The Girl You Left Behind, a wedding present from her late husband, David who bought it because the pictured Sophie reminded him of Liv. Liv still mourns her loss, and like Sophie she feels that the painting is the only real link she has to David, and she would do anything to keep it. Sophie and Liv's stories inevitably become intertwined as Liv fights to keep the painting, and Sophie's story is continued through the diaries and letters that she and her family members wrote all those years ago. An absolutely fantastic read.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

a novel by ursula (no, not the sea witch).

Every one of us has been on a family vacation that sounded like a great idea at the time, but after a few days, quarters become a little too close and crazy starts coming out of everyone. This is the basis of Ursula DeYoung's young adult novel, Shorecliff as Richard Killing's large family spends the summer together on the coast of Maine in 1928.

Looking back from an older point-of-view, at thirteen, a very lonely Richard loves the idea of spending the summer with his ten older cousins and all of his aunts and uncles until he begins to notice the obvious jealousy and rivalries amongst them, similar to many families today. Our main character recalls his fascination with his cousins different personalities, and how he developed his own possessive feelings for one cousin in particular, which leads to a regret of a lifetime. Whoa, I think I'll stop there.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

i'm a lover, i'm a sinner.

Hanna Pylvainen's novel We Sinners is more than just your average fiction. It reflects this author's own childhood as she tells the story of the Rovaniemi family which consists of parents, Warren and Pirjo, and their nine children who are members of an extremely conservative church, and adheres firmly to its restrictive beliefs. The Rovaniemi children are forbidden to have any contact with modern entertainment, no World of Warcraft raid nights, no Honey Boo Boo, nada. The kids of the house must share clothing, bath water, and beds, leaving no room for individuality. Women are expected to marry and have large families and as you can imagine, birth control is prohibited (ain't nobody got time for that). As with most hardcore conservative families, the Rovaniemi's walls of Jericho come tumbling down when different members begin asserting themselves, resulting in a bit of a rebellion. We are talkin' all the good sins; sexual promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse, running away from home, and questioning everything that they have ever been told to believe. All the Rovaniemi's who independent, throw your hands up at me!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

a novel about writing a novel. or something.

I adored the novel HHhH, which technically had two authors, the narrator of the text we read, and Laurent Binet, the author on the front cover of the book. HHhH is the story of the 1942 attack in Prague on Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most dangerous men in the Hitler's inner circle, if not in all of Nazi Germany, and one of the main architects of the Holocaust. It was this guys idea to start up the whole gas chamber thing, what an asshole.

HHhH is a fast-paced part novel of the Second World War, part historical documentation and part autobiographical, and I assure you, unlike anything you have ever read before. Including you, history buffs.

Monday, August 19, 2013

three generations of women, one novel.

In Brenda Janowitz's latest novel, Recipe for a Happy Life, main character Hannah Goodman's seemingly perfect life goes to shit. It really does, but let's begin at the beginning. Hannah grew up with an anything but snuggly famous photojournalist as a mother who always wanted her daughter to make her own way in the world, rather than ride on anyone's coat tails, or trust fund tails. Hannah grows up and becomes a successful lawyer in the big apple, and THEN her life goes to shit. Seeking solace in the one place her mother would not approve, her extremely wealthy grandmother's Hamptons estate, Hannah begins to lick her wounds and find her happy place.

Janowitz's gives us an extremely realistic look into high society, which is a place, that let's be honest, none of us will ever experience, but it's extra fun to read about. Following Hannah around as she has a summer she will never forget, Recipe for a Happy Life easily becomes the best read to end your own summer.

Friday, August 16, 2013

let's talk about hallucinations.

Either I have an impeccable imagination or I have been having hallucinations for most of my life. I mean really, as a child, I saw a lot of things. No one really thought much of it until I couldn't sleep for most of 1993 due to "seeing" someone outside my door. I still can't sleep with my door open, is that strange? Enough about my crazy, let's hear from Dr. Oliver Sacks who has researched these "sensory deceptions" to find that they are much more common than you might think. And not only in the sixties.

Dr. Sacks wrote Hallucinations with the goal to de-stigmatize those who experience them, proving with first hand experiences that those who hallucinate more often times than not, do not have psychiatric issues.  That makes childhood me feel better. In the book, Sacks tells us the story of hallucinations, covering every base with historical background, scientific research, and a large number of clinical cases he has consulted on, following up with how hallucinations have impacted that specific person's life. As usual, Sacks is the king of covering a subject, and he doesn't let you down with hallucinations, keeping everything entertaining AND fascinating.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

letting go of the past to live in the present and move on to the future.

We are all a little screwed up from our past and the things we have left behind, which is why Patti Callahan Henry's main character in her novel And Then I Found You is so relatable to readers. Kate Vaughan currently has a pretty sweet life. She has a successful business and a fabulous boyfriend who is about to purpose to her. So why did she get all Carrie Bradshaw vomit in the mouth when she accidently found the ring? Because she is legit screwed up, just like the rest of us. But really, the novel is about a woman with a secret big enough to affect her future, so in hopes to find a way to move on, she goes off to confront the past. We've got a tear jerker on our hands here, folks. Keep in mind that this plot is based on the author's sister's real life adoption story. That line just made things a lot more intriguing, hm?

Monday, August 12, 2013

three words: crazy, rich, asians.

The best thing about reading a novel titled Crazy Rich Asians was walking around in public with it. The looks were fantastic, and I may have mildly offended some folks at the Chinese Buffet. Honestly, I didn't know how I'd feel about reading a book solely dedicated to the lives of seriously traditional Asians, but I fell in love with Kevin Kwan's crazy Singaporean characters, which consisted of mostly prominent families. Kwan's story was extremely authentic right down to the footnotes. There were multiple main characters, with chapters portraying the personal lives of each, but the mainest characters of them all were Nick and Rachel, both professors in NYC and were about to travel to Singapore together on holiday for Nick's best buddies wedding. Rachel, not coming from a prominent background in China, had no idea who Nick's family really was and was completely unprepared for the lavish lifestyle they experienced arriving in the foreign (to her) country. Nick and Rachel had been dating for two years back in the States and meeting his family for the first time, finding out he's completely loaded, and that his family is completely insane, changed their relationship a great deal. There were other characters who I really liked, Nick's cousin Astrid for one, but you'll have to read about her for yourself. Totally worth it, just don't read it in any popular tourist destinations, people might get the wrong idea ;)

Friday, August 9, 2013

sad people being funny.

In The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, thirty-nine year old Ben Benjamin was a husband, a father and a stay-at-home dad, before he lost everything. His children's lives were taken from him, him and his wife are currently estranged, and being that he stayed at home with his children rather than work a 9-5, he feels unqualified for any positions. Feeling lost, Ben decides to register for a twenty-eight-hour program called, "The Fundamentals of Caregiving" which as you can imagine, teaches the art of caregiving. His first assignment on the job is looking after Trevor, a nineteen-year-old with muscular dystrophy. They form a bond, as most men do, talking about sex and women, and the rest of the novel follows the two as they embark on a road trip in Ben's van to visit Trevor's estranged father. It's a truly nice story where the main character slowly realizes that by caring for others he can begin to find the strength to care for himself. A lesson we can all benefit from at some point. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

the REAL game of throwns.

Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel's latest novel Bringing up the Bodies is the sequel to her very popular novel, Wolf Hall, continuing the story of Thomas Cromwell; a self made man who rose from common beginnings to become a close advisor to King Henry VIII.

Mantel has turned Anne Boleyn's downfall into a third person narrative, following Cromwell. Everyone is aware that King Henry VIII was a hot mess, and in this story it is Cromwell's job as advisor to the king to clean up his messes. Bodies covers the all-too familiar saga of how Henry falls out of love with Anne and turns to the faithful Cromwell to rid him of her so that he can marry his new love, Jane Seymour. Set in a time and place where the King is all-powerful and can not be contradicted, Cromwell dances with the devil pretty often. Cromwell is characterized in such an interesting way, as a man who sought to serve his King, yet still had his own interests at heart. And HELLO? Everyone is obviously unaware that the lack of heirs is actually the King's fault.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The more children's books I read, the more I realize that I got into the wrong profession. I have about eighty picture books stuck up in my head. I could make millions! I mean, you are basically paid to be a tad corny and silly. I am already those things. Move over Deborah Lee Rose, I'm coming through! Ha, just kidding I have zero follow through. Moving on...

As I was saying, Deborah Lee Rose's Someone's Sleepy was published last month. It is illustrated in a soft and adorable fashion by Dan Andreasen, and is basically a right before you go to sleep kind of story. Our little main character is playing, and gets a bit sleepy. She goes through the process of getting ready for bed; taking a bath, putting on pj's, brushing teeth, being tucked in, getting kisses from mommy, and snuggling with favorite stuffed animals, before she drifts off to dream land. It's much sweeter than Adam and Ricardo's Go the F*ck to Sleep. However, I highly recommend both as there is a time and place for everything.

Friday, August 2, 2013

not healthy, not cheap, a special occasion type of cookbook.

If you buy a cookbook and find one great recipe that you will make over and over again, it is worth the investment. That is exactly what you will get in Caroline Wright's Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals *for 4 people. It is impossible not to find a recipe that is enjoyable in this collection. Keep in mind that these are not the everyday staple kind of recipes, for the average person, they are on the special side, which is why they are twenty-dollar recipes. I'm sure many of you are thinking that you can cook for four for much less, and you can. These recipes are for special occasions, when you're having company over, etc. A favorite recipe of mine is the California Style Salmon Burger, and all of the pasta recipes are unique and delicious. I recommend this cookbook to those of you who would like to prepare a small dinner party that stands out.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

not about vampires.

David Freed's latest novel, Fangs Out is the sequel to his Flat Spin and I assure you, it does not disappoint. This second installment features the same "inspector" Cordell Logan, who is still hard at work trying to find some balance in his life as a Buddhist, rebuilding the relationship with his ex-wife, and not go completely bankrupt from his sinking business. A rich man’s daughter died years ago but the murderer’s final words implicate someone else. In desperate need of the cash, Logan agrees to investigate Ruth Walker's death, and now author Freed's story really begins. Annnnd since this is a mystery novel, I'll leave it at that.