Monday, March 31, 2014

our responsibility to daughters everywhere.

I totally understand and respect what Dr. Elayne Bennett is trying to do with her book titled Daughters in Danger: Helping Our Girls Thrive. It really does take a village to raise a daughter, especially in society today where sex is amplified and values are not. Growing up, I was pretty wild. I didn't like to be told what to do, and that led to meaningless sex on a picnic bench at sixteen, which then opened up a giant can of worms for most the rest of my teenage years and early twenties. I honestly don't regret anything from my past, because I don't see the point in it. But I would never want any of my students to follow my lead. What I want for them is to stop and think BEFORE something really terrible happens. Which is what Bennett's resource is all about.

Bennett is a Christian and pro abstinence rather than contraception. She came up with the program, Best Friends in the 90's which was a community-based abstinence program that the Obama  administration put the kibosh on in 2008. Best Friends went to urban and suburban schools focusing on teaching young girls their value physically, mentally and emotionally. I don't think that expecting girls to wait to have sex until marriage is totally realistic, but I do think that teaching abstinence should be a top priority in public education. Why in the world should a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year old girl be having sex? They won't even really be confident enough to do it right until their twenties anyway, making these teenage pregnancies totally not worth it. Anyways, Dr. Bennett goes on to explain the importance of programs like this and what EVERYONE in the community can do to save our daughters. Taking this information seriously could be the change you wish to see in the world.

Friday, March 28, 2014

a great president who you probably forgot about.

Author Amity Shlaes sets the record straight regarding President Calvin Coolidge and his not so positive reputation in her biography appropriately titled, Coolidge. For those of you who did not pay attention in history class, Calvin Coolidge was the thirtieth president of the United States and served during the 1920's, ending his term in 1929, just as the Great Depression was beginning. Coolidge was a quiet man, and people judged him for it. However, he worked behind the scenes to reduce federal debt and income taxes which favored middle class growth. Shlaes is adamant in her opinion that Coolidge was not responsible for the Depression, including statistics proving that the blame lay in the later presidents who prolonged the economic decline. 

Apparently Coolidge is most remembered for being cold and lazy, probably because he didn't babble on about everything he was planning on doing on live television, interrupting people's favorite television shows. I for one, would have appreciated him. There are some strong points of view, but I honestly believe that Shlaes has given us the most well-researched biography of Coolidge that anyone has ever read.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

crime novel.

Inspired by the Salsbury fraud scandal of the 1970s, After I'm Gone tells the story of Felix Brewer, a very successful (and shady) business man who prides himself on supporting his wife Bambi, three daughters AND stripper girlfriend, Julie. What a catch. Felix is living large, until he isn't, and forced to face jail time for racketeering. Like most successful and shady businessmen, he disappears. Everyone thinks that him and Julie are in on it together after she vanishes a decade after Felix, but when Julie's body is found everyone is just plain confused.

Now twenty-six years after Julie's body was found, retired detective, Sandy Sanchez takes on the cold case for some extra cash. The novel goes back and forth in time from the 1950's, when Felix and Bambi met, to the present, where we learn about Felix's three daughters through Sanchez's investigation, and the life that they and Bambi live after Felix left.

Author Laura Lippman really delivers with a novel filled with family secrets, characters full of emotion, and a plot that twists and turns.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"old bones are likely to have been powerful bones"

Beloved British author Penelope Lively has come out with a memoir of sorts, sharing what has shaped her life and her own personal reflection on aging. Dancing Fish and Ammonites, I did have to look up what an ammonite was, embarrassingly enough, and it's one of those fossils that looks like rams horns. I'm dumb, get over it. Moving on, Dancing Fish and Ammonites looks upon old age with gratitude, which is refreshing (says the twenty-eight year old).

In this collection of stories Lively looks back on her life, telling of the times and people that have influenced her most and the treasured belongings that have survived with her. Lively is known for writing children and adult fiction, so this intimacy is quite a treat. She shares the benefits of no longer being in "the thick of things" and her honesty will benefit any of you struggling with the aging process. I need to remember to reread this charming book when I enter my sunset years.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

turn of the 20th century, coney island.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman is a historical fiction novel that revolves around two very real events, The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911, and the Coney Island Dreamland fire of May 26, 1911.

Coralie Sardie is forced by her father to be the "human mermaid" in an actual tank in his Museum of Extraordinary Things located on Coney Island. This "museum" acts as a sort of freak show, and is filled with extraordinary humans. One day, a photographer named Eddie Cohen finds himself at Coralie's museum while searching for a missing girl, and love is found in the most unexpected circumstances (Hoffman's specialty).

I just loved the setting, early 1900's, New York. I mean, who doesn't love old, old school New York? And the novel was just so...real. And magical. I also enjoyed how each chapter began with a flash back to the childhood of either Coralie or Eddie, and then moved forward to the events of 1911, because we were able to learn much about each of these character's pasts as we read about the present. And the imagery created by Hoffman is just fantastic. I can't say enough good things about  this book.

Monday, March 24, 2014

my favorite kind of historical fiction.

I am a sucker for a good brother/sister story. I adore my brothers, especially my baby one who I honestly thought was God's gift to me. He's twenty-five now and I still feel that way. Jennifer Vanderbes' historical fiction novel titled The Secret of Raven Point tells the story of what a sister will do for her brother, and that's anything.

It's World War II and Juliet Dufresne's brother, Tuck is in the thick of it. When she receives a cryptic letter from him, and shortly after he is reported MIA, Juliet lies about her age so she can volunteer as a nurse, hoping to find herself near where he was stationed so that she can find him. While stationed just north of Rome, Juliet comes in contact with a patient named Christopher Barnaby who is on trial for desertion. When this extremely troubled man mentions Tuck, it gives Juliet just enough hope to keep going, even as she sees the destruction war can do to people mentally and physically.

Juliet does have brushes with romance here and there, but this novel is more about the love of a strong-willed sister for her brother and her determination to find him.

Friday, March 21, 2014

down in the bayou.

Inspired by her own life and family history, Natalie Baszile has created a captivating mother-daughter story about new beginnings in her novel, Queen Sugar.

When her father dies, Charley Bordelon is surprised to inherit an 800 acre sugarcane plantation. Charley decides to take advantage of this opportunity for a fresh start and moves her and her daughter from Los Angeles to Louisiana where her father was born and raised, with family still living there. The loophole in her inheritance is that she must make the plantation  succeed or it is to be sold and the money from the sale is to go to charity, leaving Charley with nothing.

Learning the sugarcane business isn't easy, as Charley didn't exactly grow up around sugarcane in LA and because none of her southern family wants to help her. Charley struggles against the odds of farm life and the desire to give up, but eventually she finds help, hope, and romance.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

sunday funny teasury.

I love comic strips. They are the perfect reading material for those who lack any real attention span, and the bestselling comic strip Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis never fails to amuse readers. His latest collection, Pearls Falls Fast continues to tell the story of the animal gang we have come to know and love (even the snarky rat) over the last two years. Pastis knack for witty one liners and shameless puns is what makes him one of the best comic strip writers ever.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

like the book, love the blog more.

Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez began blogging in 2006 with a fansite for the show Project Runway. They keep their website completely up to date with the life and times of celebrities. Due to popular demand and their gay hilarity, they have come out with a tell all celebrity guide titled Everyone Wants to Be Me Or Do Me: Tom and Lorenzo's Fabulous and Opinionated Guide to Celebrity Life and Style, that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but is super witty all the same.

These two are self proclaimed "bitchy fashion bloggers," but if you are a regular reader of their blog you know that they are far more charming than bitchy. However, their book is just plain bitchy. I prefer the visuals and the up-to-date information that their blog offers, but most of you will enjoy the honesty and funny TLo have to offer on paper.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

return to sugarcreek.

Bestselling author, Shelley Shepard Gray is back with her latest series, Return to Sugarcreek and Hopeful, is Book 1 of this Amish trilogy. Single lady Miriam Zehr wants more out of life than her job at the Sugarcreek Inn. She wants what her family wants for her, to get married and start a family, but she only has eyes from one man, Junior, and he doesn't even know she exists. You see, Miriam has always been a bit self conscious, and doesn't think herself as beautiful. Not like the other girls her age. So when Junior approaches her one day, Miriam's heart starts beating out of her chest only to find out that he's interested in her best friend, Mary Kate, a pretty little school teacher who has absolutely NO interest in Junior or anyone else. Gray has created a charming novel with these three characters who have universal issues, secrets, and dreams that seem just out of their reach.

Monday, March 17, 2014

what the hell?

No but really, what the hell Josh Miller and your The Very Hungry Parasite: It's Not What You're Eating, It's What's Eating You bathroom book with all of your frightening information. I find that I enjoy a more calming environment while doing my business, with reading material that doesn't include facts about a brain-eating amoeba that could be swimming around in my pool. But anyways, this "adult bathroom companion" is the absolute perfect gag gift for the clown in your life and definitely not your grandmother. Most of you will get a kick out of the pictures, and the many factoids Miller has clearly taken his time to research. He also believes in zombies, so there's that.

Friday, March 14, 2014

a turning point of violence in america.

Twelve-year-old Thomas Walker is pretty pumped when his traveling salesman dad takes him out of NYC and onto the road hoping to sell Samuel Colt’s recent invention, the first revolving gun. Ironically, three days into their adventure, Thomas's father is robbed and shot dead, leaving him orphaned and alone, and leaving me wondering where Robert Launter is going with this story. Then steps in Henry Stands, a former ranger who reluctantly takes on responsibility for Thomas as they make their way back East. Keep in mind that it's 1837, so it really is quite the journey, and both characters have anger inside of them. Road to Reckoning is narrated by an adult Thomas and his recollections from childhood, he tells his own coming of age story about revenge and civility.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

everything is perfect, until it isn't.

Well let me tell you something, Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse is NOT the novel you want to read 4 months before your wedding day. Here's why: Thirty-something Hannah has never been one for commitment. Watching her parents marriage fall apart turned her off to the whole idea of true love and that gushy stuff. Until she met Mark, fell in love, got married and moved back to London. After 6-months of marital bliss, Hannah finds herself at the arrivals gate at Heathrow to meet Mark after one of his business trips to New York and he fails to show up. After calling and emailing with no response, and discovering he's never checked into his usual hotel in New York, Hannah's terror turns to suspicion when she follows up with his office and they have been fed a different story about her husband's so called whereabouts.

The next day, Hannah gets a phone call from an apologetic Mark who explains the reasons he was detained and unable to call. Hannah doesn't let him know that she suspects he's a big fat liar. Instead, she spies, and rather than finding answers, she only comes up with more questions about the man she thought she knew.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

laws that aren't meant to be broken.

Many of you are familiar with Tony Horton and his fitness chain P90X. I'm more of an Insanity girl myself, but I can appreciate what Horton has to offer, especially when it comes to strength training. Anyways, this popular fitness pro has come out with a book titled The Big Picture: 11 Laws That Will Change Your Life which works as a guide to a more healthy lifestyle. This book is perfect for those of you who have considered purchasing the program, but haven't been able to take the plunge. It's a great introduction to Horton's philosophy on health and fitness, and his motivational words are contagious, even from the page.

The Big Picture is separated into 11 chapters or "laws" and appear as follows:
  • Do your best and forget the rest
  • Find your purpose
  • Have a plan
  • Variety is the spice of...everything
  • Consistency reigns supreme
  • Crank up the intensity
  • Love it or leave it
  • Get real
  • Find a balance
  • Stay flexible
  • The three R's: Recharge, Recover, Relax
The titles of these chapters really speak for themselves. Included is advice, practical strategies, and that Tony Horton charisma.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

even the horror lovers will be disturbed.

I actually enjoyed reading Lord of the Flies in high school. I mean, I thought it was a little wild, but it kept my attention more than Beowulf, so I wasn't complaining. Now take Lord of the Flies and turn it into a straight up horror story, then you have The Troop by Nick Cutter. This is some terrifying shit here people. Every year Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of five boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip. It's a nice tradition, bringing boys different backgrounds and personalities together. Tim is feeling good because all of the boys get along pretty well, and every one's having a nice time until a rabid animal of a man steps onto the scene. And the second the Tim came to this ill man's aide is the exact moment when that imaginary track & field shot gun fired and the entire troop's race with death began because what Tim didn't know is that the very island they were camping on was quarantined. What this troop is up against once their leader is gone is something you have to read to believe. Good luck going to sleep after this one.

Monday, March 10, 2014

what an adventure.

It never really occurred to me how other European countries, like Italy, were affected by the destruction of WWII until I read Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel. I mean, the happenings in Italy during this time period, especially in Naples, Milan, Florence and Monte Cassino are unknown to the average person, which is why Edsel's follow up to his previous book Monument Men is such a crowd pleaser with every reader, historian or not. Saving Italy is a true account of the allied effort to save valuable artwork in Italy from being destroyed in battle or seized by the Nazi's. Seriously, how greedy can a group of people be? Jeesh. Anyways, in May of 1944 an American artist named Deane Keller and scholar named Fred Hartt set off to track billions of dollars in missing Michelangelo's, Donatello's and other ninja turtles, I mean famous artist's work from history. They literally risk their lives to steal back what was stolen, and Edsel tells the story in such a suspenseful way that you'll be on edge until the very last page.

Friday, March 7, 2014

you're only 3 steps away from a healthier you. + givewaway!

Chris Kresser has got a plan, a three step plan to be exact. This plan is going to help you lose weight, reverse disease, and help you stay fit and healthy for life. Going along with the heart healthy, paleo style of eating, Kresser has created a realistic program to help us conquer sickness and obesity, which we know is a huge problem in our country.

Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life specifies the three steps you must be willing to follow to achieve your health goals. Reset, Rebuild, and Revive. Reset consists of a thirty-day diet that eliminates modern foods that human's digestive systems were never supposed to eat in the first place. Rebuild allows you to reintroduce foods like dairy, that may not have been around when the cavemen wandered the earth but still have their health benefits when made properly, to your diet. And finally, Revive involves tweaking your unique paleo code to fit your lifestyle and your body. This includes deciding how many meals you should be eating and what they should consist of, based on what makes your body feel its best. The Revive section introduces the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you follow your paleo code, and 20% of the time you eat what you like. This will help you make this a lifestyle change, rather than a fad diet you will soon give up.

Kresser teaches us to trust ourselves, our bodies, our instincts, so that we can truly understand what makes our bodies run the way they are intended to.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

a children's historical narrative.

The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Willem van Loon was written in 1921 as a way of sharing human history with his grandchildren. Back in December, Robert Sullivan updated and reintroduced this extremely readable resource of world history. And as the title states, this is the literal story of mankind, beginning with the earliest stages of earth and man's earliest ancestors and ending it's 800 pages with a chapter on friendships and communication.

The Story of Mankind is a classic and its length might appear daunting to your 11-14 year old child at first glance. But flipping through the pages with their layman's terms and illustrations will take much of the dullness out of the history of humanity for this overly stimulated generation.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

this bleeping book.

Following Blood Oranges, Red Delicious is the second installment in Kathleen Tierney's urban fantasy series continuing the story of Quinn, former heroine junkie who managed to be turned into not only a vampire, but a werewolf as well. Quinn and her dirty mouth narrates her tale on a missing person's case she is hoping to crack with her usual amount of ass kicking. There are some major dark powers at work here, and Quinn's not exactly the type of main character you fall in love with as she's pretty terrifying and vulgar. But if the undead are your thing, this series will be right up your alley.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Americana: The Kinks, the Riff, the Road: The Story

In his memoir Americana, the Kinks former front man Ray Davies opens up to audiences, revealing much more than 1994's X-Ray autobiography, which is such a treat for fans. Keep in mind that being a memoir, Davies writes about his personal life more so than the band. It's a kind of scrapbook, blending diary entries and slabs of lyrics by the now 69-year-old singer. Americana carries on about two significant time periods: The post-’60s rise of the Kinks in the States and the bizarre circumstances that led to Davies being shot by a mugger in New Orleans in 2004, but there are pieces of his childhood mixed in along with his other experiences in the States as well. Although Davies has some dark history, he has a way of lightening any mood with his surprisingly good sense of humor that makes him impossible NOT to like. That being said, his writing makes it impossible not to like this book, regardless of your generation or your musical tastes.

Monday, March 3, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a FREE copy of My Inappropriate Life!
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3. Contest ends 3/7

fearless and funny.

Funny girl and writer for Chelsea Lately, Heather McDonald has come out with a sort of memoir about her inappropriate life and questionable morals. Something I am still planning on doing eventually, when the time is right, and motivation strikes, and we get a new president.

My Inappropriate Life is McDonald's second book and I'd say it trumps her first. She is Chelsea Handler funny, but she's married with children, so her stories are a bit more hilarious to you mommy's out there. However, I still found myself LOLing pretty often. I especially love McDonald's vent sesh on an obnoxious mom from her social circle who drives everyone crazy with her views on parenting the most brilliant child known to man. And when she brings her kids to a raunchy Vegas pool party. McDonald is a fabulous storyteller who's not afraid to air her own dirty laundry when it comes to being a working mom in the real world.