Wednesday, December 31, 2014

new year's eve.

I am so excited!!! I am ending this wonderful year at a Great Gatsby themed party with all of my very best friends! I have the perfect dress, the perfect date, and far too much champagne. Wishing you all a perfect ending to the year, as well as health and happiness in the year to come.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

an island in the sun.

Since cable is full of re-runs this week because no one feels like working. Here is a re-run for you of one of my favorite books of 2014.

I just finished up The House on Mermaid Point (the third novel in Wendy Wax's beachy series) and I have to say, it was SHOCKING. My favorite book of the series by far, but none the less, shocking. Maddie, Kyra, Nikki, Avery and Deirdre (as well as Dustin, of course) are headed to Key West for their second season of Do Over. They are to fix up a giant estate on a private island belonging to a celebrity and turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. The celebrity is former rock icon William Hightower who's music got Maddie through the angst of her teenage years. William is now washed up and just out of rehab for the umpteenth time, not wanting to have anything to do with the show or the ladies, but desperate because he's broke, and now sober, out of the music scene and has no other way of making any money at the moment.

Much of this novel revolves around Maddie who is a fifty-one year old ex-housewife. My mother LOVED this book best because she could relate to Maddie being that they are the same age. And even as a late-twenties girl, I loved the character of William (I mean, I didn't but I did). I loved how Maddie reacted to meeting her teenage rock star crush and how she grew as person during the course of this novel. I just hope there is a number four in the works, or I'm going to be real pissed.

Monday, December 29, 2014

inspiring travel stories from around the world.

The world's top travel writers share their best adventures in Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World, a collection of stories edited by Janna Graber, and it is my favorite book of the moment. I love to travel. It's in my spirit. A couple times a year I get the itch to take off to a place I've never been. It's how I find myself again. And thank God I have a husband who understands that because he can't always come along. I just booked a trip to Honolulu in February to see a friend who is stationed there as a traveling nurse. It's hard to believe I have to take an 11 hour plane ride to an American state, but I am beyond excited to see such an exotic part of my country. Anyways, enough about me, let's get back to the stories. Tales from Korea to Nepal to Turkey to Paris, exploring countries and cultures. There is a story based in Hawaii as well, and Finland and Berlin, and so many other wonderful places I would give my left pinky finger to visit, 23 countries in all. This collection of stories is about how chance encounters can add depth to a journey. How the people you meet can change you. It makes me anxious to see what my next adventure has in store.

Friday, December 26, 2014

fox & o'hare book #3.

Special Agent Kate O’Hare and the sexiest man on the FBI's Most Wanted list, Nicolas Fox are back for another extreme take-down in The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg when they get the gang together to go after a ruthless drug lord who likes to torture people for kicks among other gross things. Anyways, Kate, Fox, Jake and his war buddies along with Willie, Boyd, and a few new characters pull off one hell of a con when they convince this dangerous drug lord that they have found buried treasure and pull off a crazy scheme with movie effects to make it all seem real. Remember, no one but a few people in the FBI know that Fox is working the good side (sort of), so the drug lord take down cannot take down Fox. That's when things get complicated.

I read this novel during Christmas break, which is still happening and I'm still loving it. Anything with Evanovich and Goldberg teaming up, I'm gonna read within a few days. It's easy, fun, sexy and dangerous. But come on you two, let's get Kate and Fox naked, together, in the same room. Really though.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

love me some MHC!

Unsolved Mysteries, yikes. That show always freaked me out as a child. Why my dad would have it on while I was in the room is beyond me, but I still get some PTSD. The Under Suspicion Novels by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke go along with this theme, the only difference is that the unsolved mysteries get solved. Their latest book in the series, The Cinderella Murder uncovers the cold case murder of a nineteen-year-old UCLA student who was found murdered, missing one of her shoes which dubbed her Cinderella, after calling her parents and telling them of a movie audition she was going to go to. There were suspects, but no one was ever convicted. 

Television producer Laurie Moran who we met in the first installment of the series I've Got You Under My Skin which I reviewed earlier this year and you can find here is ecstatic that her reality drama, Under Suspicion is doing so well, and is excited for her next episode, The Cinderella Murder. Revisiting this case made for an excellent suspense novel which will leaving you waiting impatiently for the next installment. These two authors make a great team.

Monday, December 22, 2014

the classical world.

Ancient Greece is everything! Did you see Hercules this summer? The Rock? Loved it. I adore all things Greek so this new Odysseus series by Valerio Massimo Manfredi is right in my wheelhouse (and the story of Hercules is tied in). The Oath, which is the first installment, re-introduces Odysseus the Greek hero who you may have met in The Illiad and The Odyssey by Homer. It's a retelling in the best possible way. And those of you who are a little less scholarly and opted out of Homer's books will get to experience them in a really fun way. Manfredi begins at the beginning, with Odysseus's younger years and his very first quest to find truth in the stories he has been told. Manfredi does such a great job bringing readers deep into the world of Ancient Greece, the time and place just shoots off the pages.

Friday, December 19, 2014

make your dream life a reality.

As I've gotten older, I have found it more difficult to live my life with purpose. When you get older you have more responsibilities. You have less time to focus on what's really important and are more distracted by the things that are not. This is that very special time of year when we actually start to care. We want to focus on being healthy and happy. We make resolutions for ourselves. We put things in perspective. This year, I challenge you to pick up a copy of Live It!: Achieve Success by Living with Purpose by Jairek Robbins because becoming the happiest, healthiest, and most fulfilled version of yourself is right there on the pages. And that's pretty much the best resolution ever.

This is what I got out of the book: We would all love to make our dream life a reality, but it's more realistic to start planning for your dream day, so Robbins starts with that. Think about your ideal day, and make yourself some goals to get there. We have all heard of the saying, "choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Chapter 5 touches on falling in love with hard work. It's not as if we are running away from hard work by wanting to change our jobs or other aspects of our lives that bring us down, we simply want to work hard at something we feel passionate about. Chapter 7 reminds us that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. Death creates clarity and makes you face what you really should be doing with your life. If death doesn't put things in perspective, I don't know what will. So many of the chapters grabbed my attention and made me realize that it's never too late to change things up and create a life you love.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

people tools two.

"Mastering the art of working well with others is the key to success." Oh. So this is where I've been going wrong all these years. This is the philosophy behind Alan C. Fox's People Tools for Business books, I am reviewing his latest today, People Tool's for Business: 50 Strategies for Building Success, Creating Wealth, and Finding Happiness which is actually filled with tools for people in general, not only those in a traditional business setting. This book is a follow up to Fox's People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity. If you found value in his first book, then I know you will find value in this one as well.

Let's be honest, we could all use a life coach. Someone's who's been where we are, who made the same mistakes we are about to make, but stops us right before because they know better. Well, that's pretty much Alan C. Fox in a nutshell. He's your life coach, full of insight. He runs an extremely successful real estate company. He has advanced degrees in accounting, law, education, and professional writing. His personal life is ridiculously put together. Yeah, he's made a ton of mistakes getting here, but he also owns a billion dollar company, so I'd listen and learn if I were you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

cannabis for christmas.

I'm not going to get into the whole marijuana debate right now, should it be legalized, should it be available in the form of your favorite treat at the corner cafĂ©. Everybody has an opinion. But marijuana is everything right now, so if you feel uncomfortable about it, think of it as a folk remedy and get educated OR move along.

Marijuana for Everybody!: The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to Getting High, Feeling Good, and Having Fun by Elise McDonough is extremely informative, even for those of you who have been hitting the volcano bong for decades. Because let's be honest, you STILL don't know how to manage your high, and Elise can help. She's of the smoke 'em if you got 'em philosophy and shares an interesting history, cooking and rolling tips, along with new research on the kushy stuff. This IS the marijuana book right now, it has everything you could ever want to know included, no stoner unturned.

Monday, December 15, 2014

the engineering revolution.

I don't know much about the engineering education crisis our country is facing today, I'm too overwhelmed with my own Common Core crisis, and being a teacher in general is just fricken hard right now. But the struggle is real for these engineering programs at the high school and college level, and reform is on the rise thanks to educators, David E. Goldberg and Mark Somerville, and their book A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education.

Transforming engineering education is a must because of the change of times. Curriculum needs to be updated to roll with the punches of the 21st century. We are doing no favors to future engineers or their employers if we don't make a change, and that is what this book is all about. Whether you're a parent of a child interested in engineering, a student, an educator at BOCES or college, it is your responsibility to acquire the tools needed to get students ready for the real world of engineering. A Whole New Engineer includes pilot programs, five pillars of engineering educational transformation: joy; trust; courage; openness; and, connectedness, collaboration and community, and other strategies that will unleash student potential. This resource will improve undergraduate education in engineering if you'll only let it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

being a parent just got a whole lot more fun.

In This House, We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life by Courtney DeFeo is filled with parenting wisdom that can easily be applied to your everyday life. No tricky concepts, just twelve straightforward chapters, one for every month, that highlight a virtue to teach your child. Along with the twelve virtues are Bible verses and activities to help easily implement them in your household, and GIGGLE ideas, which both kids and parents will love. Virtues include: joy, love, faith, patience, perseverance, respect, responsibility, service, humility, gratitude and generosity. Courtney proves that teaching children Christian values does not have to be drab, no lectures are necessary, just as much fun needed to get the job done.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

make hosting as enoyable as possible.

I adore Martina McBride, but I mean, who doesn't?  Like most female country music stars, she seems so genuine and sweet because she IS genuine and sweet. She shares her sweetness and her passion for entertaining with us in her very first book titled Around the Table: Recipe and Inspiration for Gatherings Throughout the Year where readers are invited to make themselves at home right in her kitchen as she shares her family traditions.

In another life, Martina says she would be a party planner. Well, that's pretty obvious in the beautiful themed gatherings, delicious recipes, and menu planning advice she inspires readers with, and the photographs are just gorgeous. I for one am going to take a whack at the Spring Brunch Outdoors once the weather improves, and maybe even throw together a Mistletoe and Martinis during this wonderful time of the year. Her themed nights are festive, fun and organized in such a way that it will be no trouble at all pulling them off.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

well this is fun.

I am always looking for a solid outlet for creativity, emotions, whatever I need at the time. Sometimes journaling is just too overwhelming, filling the pages with whatever you're feeling at the time. Words can stress me out. And I am not much of a drawer, seeing as I can't draw. I found that Adam J. Kurtz has found the perfect fit for me with his book titled 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion, filled with 365 of prompts that are not just for writing. Sometimes life is not about being deep or profound, it's about getting through the fricken day. And that's what this book is about.

This is one of my favorite prompts. Write that message you just can't send to someone for whatever the reason. Get it out of your system and it will either allow you to get the courage to write it for real, or move on. 1 Page at a Time is filled with gems like this one. Oh, oh, I also really like the one where you write your bad habits on a page and then cut them out. You are able to get things out of your system, off your chest, LAUGH, whatever you need, Adam gives you permission to make this book whatever you want it to be.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

homemaker chic.

Madame Chic is my spirit animal. I am not chic by nature, but Jennifer L. Scott makes me feel like it's possible with her latest At Home with Madam Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life. Even though I'm all, hellllp meeeee I'm poor. Chic is a state of mind. It's your attitude about the mundane things that even chic people must get done. Being chic is about running your household smoothly and effortlessly, not because you have a fairy godmother or mice that braid your hair in the morning, but because you are organized and make the best use of your time. Being chic is about inner peace and charisma. It's working on your inner self which will reflect your outer self. There are two parts to this book. The first is how to get your home in order and love it again. The second is how to find pleasure in everyday life from afternoon pick-me-ups to making every family meal special. There are recipes, beauty routines, style tips, basically you will learn how to get your shit together as eloquently as possible.

Monday, December 8, 2014

find your cat's mojo.

My hubby and I are obsessed with our cats, Bruce Smith and Atticus. Like, we kiss them on the mouth. It's really disturbing, but whatever. As a cat fanatic, Catification by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin was right up our wheelhouse. The first half of the book is devoted to learning about your feline so that you can give them what they need in an indoor-only setting, which is technically not natural for them. Included is basic information about your cat, their vision, touch, certain sensitivities, and also what their body language says about them and how they are feeling. This information will also help you handle any behavior issues you are experiencing. The second half of the book includes everything you need to know about creating cat-friendly home environment with design tips and DIY projects. If you view your cats as family, this is the book for you.

I can't wait to improve the everyday lives of my boys with all of these great ideas. Oh, you are wondering about their personalities? Sure, I'll tell you about them. Atticus is a pretty average cat, he can usually be found trotting next to us around the house with his tail up, ready to party, or on the couch napping. Bruce on the other hand is a bit neurotic. And his tail curls, like, in a Curly-Q, so he doesn't really follow the normal cat tail rules. I can assume that 80% of the time he is agitated, the other 20% of the time he cries by my feet and wants me to hold him like a baby.

(when they were little ones)

Friday, December 5, 2014

review & giveaway in one!

The whole idea behind Andrew Wommack's Don't Limit God: Imagine Yourself Successful is that one way or another, all of us have limited God at some point in our lives, and in return did not live up to our full potential. Wommack believes (and he has Bible verses to back him up) that God has made you the leader of your own life, giving you giant purpose no matter who you are. If you squander that purpose by being afraid or ignoring Him, whatever your personality is, well, it's going to be super sad. Because God has a plan for your life, but that plan can't happen without your permission.

Maybe instead of seeing the bigger picture and all the possibilities having God in your life can bring, you simply think too small. You think to yourself, I can't do this, I can't do that, That will never happen. If you'd like to think differently, be lifted up, find success or whatever it is you're missing, Don't Limit God is exactly the book for you, so enter to win a FREE copy!

Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog
2. email your name and this book title to:
3. Contest ends on 12/8 at midnight!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

what a nickname.

I learned many interesting things about Gary (or Igor) Shteyngart while reading his memoir, Little Failure, one being that he thinks of himself as an unreliable narrator of his own life, and that he was high throughout most of high school and college. I always just drunkenly wrote emails to myself, I bet Gary wishes he did that.

In Little Failure, we follow Igor/Gary through his childhood in Russia. His immigration to America in 1979, although he grew up being taught that America was the enemy. Through adolescence, youth, and his family dynamics. On to college and beyond. There are romances, school, jobs, family secrets, all the things that make for an interesting life story. I thought Gary was pretty hilarious, his use of satire first rate, his commentary on Russia and America honest, but he's not for everyone. The memoir ends with a visit to St. Petersburg, with what I'm sure at the time changed Gary's view on his humorless Russian parents because it sure changed mine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

timeless interior design.

I love a good coffee table book. More than a lot of things. There's nothing like having a pretty book on an end table to make you look fancy. Especially if it's Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life by Erin Gates. Firstly, anybody who gives me permission to decorate my home with books is a friend of mine, and Gates is all about it in this ahh-mazing interior design resource which is divided into sections, all organized and stuff.

Elements of Style begins with the entry way, then moves onto the living room, the kitchen, the dining room, family room, bedroom, bathroom, a short stint in the nursery, the office, closet, sunroom and outdoor spaces. Phew, that's a lot packed into 300+ pages, and also includes a resource guide where Gates likes to shop, so many gorgeous photos, tips on how to make the best use of your space, AND PAINT COLORS for you to copy! It is so hard to find the right paint color let me tell you. I loved this book so much, and am now keeping it on an end table in my guestroom for my guests to enjoy as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

four ladies, four problems, one solution.

I mentioned a few months ago how I was gobbling up all of Jennifer Weiner's old stuff. The latest oldie I snagged from the library (FOR FREEEE) was Then Came You. At first I was a little up in the air about it because Weiner had FOUR narrators, and that can be a bit much. But honestly, it was seamless. She could have written a spin off novel about any of the four characters, I liked them all. Some more than others. Annie and India were definitely my favorite, but all around it was a great cast. These four women have very different problems. Jules is about to graduate from college and has been spending the last four years working towards a career that she doesn't really love, but will make her the money to help her dad recover and stay recovered from addiction. Bettina is the same age, however her dad is one of the wealthiest men in NYC. Her mother bailed on them when she was a teenager, leaving her and her father brokenhearted. Annie is an early twenties mother with two young sons who is constantly struggling to make ends meet with only her husband working. And now India. India is definitely the most complex character of the bunch. A product of a teenage pregnancy and a mother who never cared to love her, India made a life for herself by using older men for financial (and personal) security. Shit hits the fan when she meets Bettina's father, Marcus, they marry, and Bettina hires and investigator to dig up India's dirty past.

Monday, December 1, 2014

ma'am, i'm going to need to see your library card.

I actually got a library card a few weeks ago. I found myself buying older books written by my favorite authors on Amazon, and it started costing me a fortune, so I traveled back in time to 1990 and got myself a library card. My five-year-old self is thanking me.

The first (mildly strange smelling) book I read was Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly's Love in a Nutshell following a girl named Kate who recently moved to a seaside town in Michigan year round after growing up spending summers there. Her life was pretty much falling apart all around her, she needed a change, so she decided to fix up her parent's rundown lake house and turn it into a Bed and Breakfast. When trying to find a job to support her renovation she meets Matt, a handsome brewery owner (among other things), who hires her to help him figure out who is sabotaging his business. Since everyone loves Matt in this very townie town, it's pretty shocking that anyone would try to ruin him. Kate and Matt get closer and closer, especially after a few threats on Kate's life. It's a cutesy novel, but sometimes I need a little cutesy in my life.

Friday, November 28, 2014

kick ass giveway!

Just making your holiday dreams come true over here. Win a FREE copy of Hugs and Misses OR Stars and Swipes!

Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 12/1 at midnight!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a FREE copy of The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock !
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 12/1 at midnight!

Monday, November 24, 2014

if you're a sarah dessen fan.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan is a novel just as powerful as the title it carries. Leila is an Iranian-American high school junior just trying to make it through high school (and all its dating rituals), get good grades, and please her very traditional Middle Eastern parents. It's tough enough being one of the very few brown students at Armstead Academy, let alone being the only openly gay one, so she's been keeping that little detail to herself for years. Until a beautiful new student enrolls in the Academy, and Leila begins to think Saskia may be worth the risk. Seeking help from unlikely characters, Leila realizes that she is not the only student at Armstead Academy with a secret, but will this give her the courage to come out to her closest friends and family?

If you're a Sarah Dessen fan (which I whole-heartedly am!) I absolutely recommend this book, plus she recommends it.  It's a touchy subject, but I do think it will be good for your teen (no matter what their sexual orientation) to read Leila's story. At this age so many teenagers are struggling with personal identity, many finding it terrifying to be themselves. This is a novel about embracing who you are, even if it's different from the status quo.

And always remember kids, it's okay to be different but it's never okay to be an asshole :)

Friday, November 21, 2014

holidays and homicide.

This is the time of year when we are supposed to share what we are thankful for. Well, today I am thankful for Susan Ericksen and her lovely reading voice which made J. D. Robb's futuristic cop thriller, Festival in Death extra amazing, even in audio form.

Set during the Christmas season of the year 2060, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is looking for the person responsible for the murder of personal trainer, Trey Ziegler. The suspect list is growing as long as Santa's seeing as Trey and his abs left behind many a woman scorned, making him a not particularly likable dead guy. I personally enjoyed how this installment of the In Death series was not as dark as others. It's a nice holiday read as Eve and Roarke have their annual holiday bash.  Festive and fun, if you don't mind some murder with your figgy pudding. While not as violent as past novels, the plot has some clever twists and turns that shock the characters as well as the reader.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

heavy snow, light reading.

It is officially the third consecutive day that the Buffalo area has been snowed in. I'm not complaining, I've just been drinking a lot and reading. Wilhelm Staehle has definitely made it more fun with his quirky postcard books that are set to be released December 3rd, just in the time for the holidays, which are coming fast judging by the 2343242 feet of snow in my backyard. Both postcard books will make the perfect stocking stuffer, grab bag or secret Santa gifts, especially for that creepy co-worker or goofy family member you always have a hard time buying for.

Stars and Swipes: 30 Postcards of Awkward Americana is definitely for the All-American man or woman in your life who has a good sense of humor. Staehle highlights less popular and more awkward moments in history, my favorite kind. I even learned a few things, like Lewis and Clark were a originally a trio. Lewis, Clark and Dwayne. Because you know there is always that one guy complaining the whole time you're trying to get a job done.


Hugs and Misses: 30 Postcards of Awkward Romance has some of the worst pick up lines I've ever heard. I absolutely loved it. Staehle has created silly silhouettes and one-liners of romances gone wrong. As someone with a tardy history who also thinks of awkward moments as a high, I appreciated all of the failed or inappropriate attempts at love.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

beautiful graphics, great themes.

The Hockey Saint is the second installment in the Forever Friends trilogy by Howard Shapiro, following the extremely popular, The Stereotypical Freaks. Graphic novels are all my middle grade boys want to read at this point, so Shapiro has been a real lifesaver. This sports-oriented graphic novel revolves around world renowned Canadian hockey player Jeramiah Jacobson and his huge fan, an ordinary college kid named Tom Leonard who is still grieving the loss of his parents. The two meet by chance, become friends, and Tom learns that celebrities really don't have it all. The fame and spotlight is slowly eating away at Jeramiah, and although Tom has a lot of his own stuff to deal with, he realizes that by putting forth the effort to save others, you can also save yourself.

Shapiro has a huge win here. A graphic novel carrying themes such as depression, helping others, the meaning of true friendship, and addiction. The Hockey Saint carries with it a moral compass and takeaway values for an age group that desperately needs both.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

dark and funny, just like your teenager.

It always excites me when the first book of a trilogy comes out. I just love trilogies, there's always something to look forward to. I especially love a good YA novel trilogy, like Edward Carey's Heap House: The Iremonger Trilogy: Book One, because it's amazing, completely odd and will keep my kiddos reading!

When it comes to anything YA, the stranger the better, and Carey totally has that covered with his main character, Clod Iremonger. For generations, the Iremonger family have been responsible for “the Heaps,” a tremendous sea of trash and discarded items outside an alternate-universe London. Clod is an outcast of the family because of his strange ability to hear objects talk. For example, his uncle lost his safety pin, and Clod was the only one able to find it again because he could hear it. Anyways, both Clod and a feisty orphan named Lucy Pennant alternate narrating as they begin to uncover dark secrets of the Iremonger family.

Monday, November 17, 2014

the art of the english murder.

I have gotten pretty into the new TV series, Forever that revolves around an English Medical Examiner who has been alive since the early 1800's because when he dies,  he doesn't actually die. He turns up, stark naked, in the Hudson River. Anyways, he used to be a doctor a hundred or so years ago and now he helps solve murders because being alive for so long makes you seriously smart. A Jack the Ripper type episode aired a few weeks ago....which leads me to my next review...

The English (and Americans, okay everybody really) have always had a fascination with crime. The more dark and twisted, the better. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley retells the stories of famous murders, trials, and horrid creatures who have turned into legends for their crimes. Worsley is quite the storyteller and historian, covering the letter of the law before police forces were created in England, and so on. This book includes both fact and fiction, murder in real life and in literature, and murder based on literature so vividly, you'll forget which is which.

Friday, November 14, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a FREE copy of The Carnival at Bray!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 11/25 at midnight!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

become a strength training genius.

I'm a cardio girl. I will run around in a circle for hours with the right music, but try to get me to pick up a weight and I'll look at you like you stole my last brownie. I recently began working with the T25 Focus DVD's which include strength training in some of the workouts. It's been working really well for me. I mean my arms get sore when Shaun T makes me punch the air, but whatever.

I know that lifting a couple ten pound dumbbells during a workout DVD isn't going to make my arms lose fat as quickly as I would like, so I decided to get a second opinion. Jim Stoppani's Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength (2nd Edition) is seriously kick ass. It's a great manual for those of you just getting into strength training as Stoppani begins at the beginning with the basics and all the vocabulary. However, with 381 exercises and 116 specific strength training programs, this book will also benefit you gym rats looking for a change. A major thing I learned? How long I'm supposed to rest in between sets. Depending on the exercise that the answer ranges from 1-5 minutes. I was definitely doing that wrong. But hey, lesson learned. And that's the whole point of Stoppani's book, to learn what to do and what not to do in the world of strength training.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

a secret only a mother could love.

I reviewed Liane Moriarty's Little Big Lies back in August and realized I never reviewed one of her earlier novels, The Husband's Secret, which is fantastic, and also a perfect example of why you should not give up on a novel that you think is not for you after only reading the first few chapters. Moriarty begins her first three chapters with three different storylines, and sometimes that can be a bit much for me. I was thinking how am I going to keep track of all these people? Cecilia and her damned Berlin Wall, Tess and her involuntary love triangle, Rachel and the loss of her daughter. Three completely different women. What could they possibly have in common? Well, a fricken lot let me tell ya.

Set in mostly Sydney, Australia, readers are transported into a world of mum's, their responsibilities, and how they will do literally anything for their children. A world where husbands have deep dark secrets that can completely change everything you ever thought you knew. Secrets, that when spilled, can alter life as you know it. Moriarty expertly laced these three lives together, and created moments that will honestly shock you. My mouth fell open more that twice (especially at the end, wink).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

YA novel set in the 90's, my favorite decade.

Jessie Ann Foley is an English teacher turned author (and still English teacher), which is exactly what I want to be when I grow up. Her very first YA novel has been winning prizes and fabulous reviews all over the place, and that won't stop here. The Carnival at Bray is set in 1993 Ireland. Main character Maggie Lynch has just left her home (and the only stable adult in her life, her grandmother) in Chicago to move to Ireland as her mother decided to marry a man who appears to have it together more than her past dozen boyfriends, and move her and her little sister to his hometown of Bray, outside of Dublin.

First of all, I loved sixteen-year-old Maggie the second I met her. A girl with a flighty mother who has to play grown up to her younger sister more than any teenager should, she is wiser than her years and super likable. The novel is filled with typical teenage angst. Trying to fit in, in a new school (in a different COUNTRY), growing up, young love, all the good stuff. And Foley writes like an English teacher, amazing character development, imagery, and enough swear words and drama to keep any teenager interested.

Monday, November 10, 2014

a novel unlike any other.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, is a truly fantastic novel about a man of God who takes the opportunity to be a missionary on a planet called Oasis, and leaves his wife and former life behind. Yes, a minister taking the Bible to an alien race, and leaving his wife on earth, you read correctly. This novel is very different from what Faber has ever written, or anyone for that matter.

Peter is not your average pastor (or maybe he is, I've met a few). A former drug addict and alcoholic reformed preacher is eager to begin his work spreading the good news to the Oasis inhabitants. Surprisingly, many of these natives are already converted and hungry for the Word. Peter is having the time of his life, restoring his own faith while saving all of these people. However, Bea is stranded on earth where natural disasters and food shortages are happening around her and her (rather neglectful) husband is a billion miles away. Now the big question is, who does Peter choose to save?

Friday, November 7, 2014

well that was nice.

I have always been a fan of Melody Carlson, she's one of my favorite Christian authors because she's so REAL. She writes about real things, doesn't shove the gospel down reader's throats, and some of her novels could change your life. I'm serious. Well, her latest little novel, Love Gently Falling, which comes out in January (I received a digital copy early) is not going to change your life. But it does show you that Carlson is capable of a light and easy read, which is nice.

Twenty-eight-year old Rita prides herself on escaping the freezing Midwest and becoming a fancy hairdresser in Beverly Hills. When she receives a call that her mother has had a stroke, she hops on the first plane to Chicago to help out with her recovery and at her mother's hair salon. However, when she sees how her mom's place has turned to blah, she comes up with the idea to renovate it as a surprise, hoping to generate more business. While Rita's home she gets reacquainted with some high school friends, one being a super sweet guy, Johnny, and a romance starts a brewing just in time for Valentines Day. The road to love is never easy, even when Carlson is trying to be light and fluffy, so you can bet there will be bumps. I give it 4 stars, which is pretty good because I'm picky.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

all the reviews are true.

I needed to cleanse my pallet after a summer of reading fiction novels (although they were wonderful), so I picked up a historical fiction to help me get out of my reading rut. Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim was the PERFECT choice. This is the story about a slave named Mattie and how she became the wet nurse to a little white baby girl name Elizabeth, and their relationship as Elizabeth (or Lisbeth, as Mattie called her) got older. Set in the late 1830's-1850's Virginia, the abolition and underground railroad were in the works. Although Mattie never thought she would ever be free, her husband Emmanuel who worked on a different plantation always had that dream for their family.

As Lisbeth grew up, she never lost her attachment to Mattie. Mattie went from wet nurse to maid who dressed the girl, and cared for her like a mother would. Lisbeth was different than her family, although her parents were not horrible slave owners, Lisbeth always knew that the way slaves were treated was wrong. But when it came time to decide who she should marry, Lisbeth knew she could never marry for love while still making her parents happy. But if she followed her heart, she could lose everything she's ever known.

Yellow Crocus is an extremely realistic depiction of the era, with two wonderful heroines who always had the strength to save themselves.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

first love in the real world.

First love. It's the perfect combination of pain and pleasure, one that I remember well. You think your love was written in the stars, it's destiny, and then life happens. Very much like the book I am reviewing today.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle is the story of two eighteen-year-olds who are from very different sides of the track and fell in love after high school, because that's just how it happens sometimes when there is no one around to judge who is holding hands with who in the hallway. When Wren Gray and Charlie Parker have their first real conversation, they feel it instantly, a spark. Wren, who's been too busy trying to please her parents her entire life to ever think about boys. And Charlie, who has been in and out of foster homes his entire life, just trying to love and be loved. They are quite the pair, and this is quite the love story for the high school and college-aged kids out there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

daisy goes out with a bang.

The third and final installment of the urban fantasy Agent of Hel series by Jacqueline Carey does focus more on the main characters and their relationships, which we have seen progressing over the past few books, than readers are used to, but there is a kick ass plot going on as well. And boy do I love a good love triangle, especially between a half demon, a werewolf, and a zombie, all who are extremely attractive, of course.

Here's a little background: Daisy Johanssen lives in the strange town of Pemkowet, populated by both mortal people and creatures of the fairytale variety. She is the child of both demon and human, raised by a loving mortal mother, and is now Pemkowet’s liason to the Goddess Hel. Daisy's job is to keep her town safe, and she's been doing it well until a new threat appears. People are being attacked in their nightmares, and that isn't even Daisy's biggest problem. Her biggest problem is the possible end of Pemkowet all together, and then there's her love triangle to think about...

Monday, November 3, 2014

catholic bios.

I never really paid much attention to Catholics until I began traveling around Europe. You can't go to mass in Notre Dame and not appreciate Catholicism, and you especially can't go to the Vatican City while in Roma and NOT appreciate the Pope. It's sacrilegious. I am still not Catholic, but I've got respect. People of God is a brand new series of inspiring biographies published by Liturgical Press. Each volume offers a compelling and honest narrative of the life of an important twentieth or twenty-first century Catholic. First up is Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out by Kevin Clarke.

Oscar Romero was one of the great prophets of the 20th century. While acting as Archbishop of San Salvador in the 1970's, Romero began to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of repression, which caused A LOT of conflicts. He became the "Voice of the Voiceless" which is most likely what lead to his assassination in 1980. Kevin Clarke does an excellent (and credible) job of relaying the background behind such a remarkable life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

hi, i'm olaf and i like warm hugs.

Happy Halloween from Elsa & Olaf!

My baby brother and I are Elsa & Olaf this evening and it's been a real treat so far! While on the topic of our lookalikes, I just wanted to let everyone know that Little Golden Book's came out with a variation of Frozen last year. What a great addition to the collection.  I love Little Golden Books!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

learn how to use your DSLR.

I love photography. It is definitely my true calling. One I have been ignoring for years and years because I just can't stand that everyone with a camera is becoming a photographer these days. I'll just keep taking photos of my best friend's baby and my all of my brother's weddings (he's had 2 so far, I have photographed both - I wish I was kidding) and call it a day.

I recently received the ahhhmazing Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos by Susan Tuttle and she basically just taught me how to use all of my Rebel "scene modes" which I have never really figured out even though I've had the camera for over a year. Thanks girl, that was a big help. Moving on to lenses. My Rebel can use multiple lenses, but I still use the one it came with because I am cheap and extremely ordinary. Well Tuttle has really opened my eyes in this book by sharing her own personal photos while also including the lens she used, along with the focal length, ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings. With the right DSLR camera, you can shoot photos just as fabulous as hers, and it's so easy! Like, I never realized how easy until I read this book. Tuttle even shares her favorite apps so you can create amazing photographs on your smart phone. This lady is speaking all of my languages.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

for the parent, teacher, poet, and reader.

Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole by Irene Latham is EXACTLY the kind of children's book I want my future little ones to read. It is SO good, unlike any other collection of children's poems I have ever read kind of good. The poems are rather deep for a K-4 picture book revolving around animals in the wild, and are written in both free verse and rhyme. The giraffes for instance have a poem describing thirst with such imagery, I felt my own tongue swelling and in need for a drink of water. What a wonderful way to teach children about imagery and to expand their vocabulary. The zebras and rhinos have their share of whimsical poetry as well. This is an elementary teacher's DREAM book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

gone girl though...

OMG Gone Girl. I only just read it (snatched up a mass paperback from Target for 8 bucks, worth every penny). Sometimes it takes a bestseller becoming a movie to finally get me to sit down and read it. What a fricken ride, which I can't really tell you about because it will totally give everything away and ruin your lives. But WHOA. Okay, okay, let me digress...

Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott were two New York City writers who met, fell in love, and did what most of us do when we first get into a relationship, don't act anything like our real selves. Oh you know you've done it. You live to impress in a new relationship. You become "cool boy" or "cool girl" - whoever that person wants you to be, you are. Well after a couple years of marriage their true colors started to show and their marriage hit some bumps. They lost their jobs, got a little broke, moved to Nick's hometown in Missouri to take care of his ailing parents, stopped loving each other, etc. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary (on July FIFTH, ahem that's MY wedding anniversary, creepy) Amy disappears leaving signs of struggle that seem to be a little staged and a husband who has a dirty secret making him look super guilty. And I am SO sorry but I can't say anything else. It will be too spoily and I assure you, will ruin your life. But you have got to read the novel because it is unreal.