Friday, May 30, 2014

i haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.

I haven't had much of an urge to travel to Scotland, until I watched Downton Abbey and then until I read Fodor's Scotland (Full-color Travel Guide). I mean, how gorgeous can a place be? Love at first sight (of these amazing photos in the book).

Knowing the history of a country is great and all, but I enjoy how Fodor also includes information on Scotland TODAY. Apparently European countries DO evolve (sort of), and you should be aware of that on your trip. Moving on... This guide tells you where everything is (noting the top sites) what to see, what to do, and how to get there. Also included are the basics on dining, lodging, and most importantly, how to save money on your trip. Everything about this guide is basic and straightforward. Fodor doesn't make a habit of wasting your time, all of the information you need is at your fingertips.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

don't judge a book by it's title.

Female health expert Stefani Ruper may have titled her excellent health resource, Sexy by Nature: The Whole Foods Solution to Radiant Health, Life-Long Sex Appeal, and Soaring Confidence to attract some attention. But being sexy is not what this book is all about. We live in a world that is anything but natural, and Ruper is challenging women to go back to the basics and achieve their health goals the natural way. Don't worry, she's here to help in a five-step program that compares her "natural" rules to the old rules that we are so used to. This program will lead to a naturally slim waistline; clear, radiant skin; vibrant energy; a pain-free menstrual cycle; a ravenous libido; lifelong youthfulness; fertility; birth control; self-love; sex appeal; and fearless confidence. I'll take a slim waistline with a side of sex appeal, please and thank you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

all in one guide to spain.

Ahh, Spain. I love Spain. It's so saucy, filled with 3pm siesta's, sangria, and tasty food. I have only visited briefly on a stint to Barcelona during one of my European adventures. I fell in love, and you will, too after you check out the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide which will prepare you for your own trip better than any guide I've read to date.

This resource just came out in March so it is fully updated and ready to help you explore this gorgeous country, wherever you decide to visit. DK even gives you sample two day trips (and longer) of different cities like Barcelona and Madrid, so that you can get the most out of your adventure, even if you are short on time. You also get a bit of a history lesson on architecture, agriculture, art, animals, environment, etc.. which is kind of nice because you'll be semi educated before your trip. There is A LOT of information so give yourself enough time beforehand to read through it all.

This guide is PERFECT for those of you who want to see everything and really experience the culture, but don't even know where to start.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

if it's not broke...

It has been stated time and time again that America has one of the poorer public education systems in the world. David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass don't agree, and are here to bust open all of the myths attached to public school's in this country in 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools.

The first myth is that America scores low on international tests, when really international test scores are poor indicators to use in ranking the quality of national education systems and even worse in predicting future national prosperity. Their words, not mine, but it makes sense. Poverty is an issue as well. America has a much higher poverty level than the country's that are scoring higher on these tests, so averaging out the scores, of course we are going to be lower.

The main idea of this resource is that the public education system is being accused of failing based on lies and myths that have nothing to do with the SYSTEM itself. It has to do with silly tests, parents who don't take the time to educate their children for whatever reason, WAY too much homework, among many others. A bunch of people in Albany, and other state capitals think they know best when it comes to America's public education system, when really they are trying to fix a system that's not even broken. Well, it wasn't anyway, until they got their hands on it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

there's no one quite like her.

Who doesn't love a rags to riches ballerina story? No one. Even if you don't enjoy the ballet (not sure how that's possible), you'll fall for the underdog and author of her story Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Misty Copeland.

Growing up one of six children in a family with barely enough money to feed and house all of its members was a reality for Misty. She began her dance career at a Boys and Girls Club, and with the help of a mentor she was able to train at a formal studio for nothing. Her dedication to her art and her school work is the main reason why so many scouts flocked to Misty which opened up many opportunities for her. This biracial beauty broke down ballet barriers like no one has seen in decades. She went on to study at the San Francisco Ballet School, and then worked her ass off to become an official member for the American Ballet Theatre, first in the corps de ballet, then as a soloist. And now look at her writing books. GOOD books to boot! Go girl.

Friday, May 23, 2014

a gift for your graduate.

Yeah, college may prepare you for the job world, but it definitely doesn't prepare you for the REAL world. Becky Blades was fully aware of this when she sent her oldest daughter off to Harvard with a kiss and an email filled with motherly advice. That email eventually turned into her book, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought Your Were Listening, which is the perfect resource to pack inside your graduates suitcase. They'll thank you later.

This is a book PACKED with friendly, motherly reminders to wash your laundry weekly, spit your gum out when you speak to people, be a kind person just in general, which may include taking your friends keys while she's drunk, even if she bitches. Becky sounds exactly like my mom, like ALL moms, and reading will give your graduate a little piece of his or her mommy. And that's just nice. Me? I still call my mom before I Google anything, so I agree with everything that Becky has to say.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

american literary history that you haven't read yet.

Some of you may not have heard of "The Bohemian" movement in San Francisco in the 1860's that produced some of the most important authors in American history. Ben Tarnoff paints a vivid picture of this era and the early writing careers of authors such as Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Ina Coolbrith and Charles Warren Stoddard in The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature.

This book is a bit of a bio of these four authors, but it's also a profile of the city of San Francisco and touches on the country's struggle after the Civil War. As you can imagine, many pages are devoted to Twain because of his eventual worldwide fame. But let me tell you, it's not always pleasant.  Readers gets some major insight into how much an ass Twain actually was. As much as I like reading about Twain's dirty laundry, the best part of this book was each author's journey to a new style of writing and the detailed accounts of this city in this time period. It's as if San Francisco is Tarnoff's fifth main character.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

love me some shutterfly photo books.

Click here to view this photo book larger
I've been making a habit of creating a Shutterfly photo book for the special events in my life. I made one for our engagement photos, my bridal shower/bachelorette weekend, and now our trip to PR! I always love how they turn out, and today is the last day you can get 50% off! Worth every penny.

10 pounds in 4 weeks.

I'm a HUGE Lisa Lillien fan! I have all of her Hungry Girl cookbooks as I am the epitome of a hungry girl, and her recipes are super easy and tasty, and usually include cheese. Recently Lillien has come out with The Hungry Girl Diet book where she worked with a registered dietitian to create a painless weight loss plan. This is the perfect resource to jumpstart any hungry girl's diet, and can help you achieve a 10 pound loss in only 4 short weeks. The program is step-by-step, super easy to follow, and not even remotely overwhelming (especially if you are familiar with her cookbooks or get her awesome emails regularly). Also included are good tips and tricks to help you stay on track (& organized) and recipes that you have never seen before in her previous books. I call that a win.

A review I did of one of Lillien's cookbooks back in the day, here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

book thief, life thief, soul thief.

I JUST finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (I know, where have I been, right?), and I am still getting over it, haven't been able to move on to my next novel since. I miss Hans.

Let me give a little premise for those of you who haven't read the book, and are interested in doing so. Especially since the movie is now sitting at your local Red Box. The first thing you should know is that the novel is narrated by death. Or the angel of death. A spirit of sorts that takes the souls of the dead and brings them to...Heaven it appears but doesn't specifically state. So yeah, death narrates the story of young Liesel Meminger, a German girl who becomes the foster daughter of Hans and Rosa Hubermann after her mother delivers her to their home for reasons Liesel does not understand at the time. The story is set mostly in Munich, and takes us to other parts of Europe as WWII erupts and Hitler takes control.. There is so much to say about this story, I don't know where to begin. When Liesel first sets foot into the home of Hans and Rosa, we instantly see the kindness of Hans, who stays up with the girl after every nightly nightmare. Since she wasn't properly educated before this point, it is Hans to teaches her to read in the basement of their home in the middle of the night. He is the one who read the very first book she "stole" with her, and their relationship is so beautiful. And then there's Rudy, Liesel's best buddy and stealing (books, apples, etc.) partner in crime. And Rosa, who is so horrid, yet will do anything for her family. And Max, the Jew hidden in the Hubermann's basement who wrote a book for Liesel to read as she always longed for a new book in a time where no one could afford anything. I loved these characters. As death narrates, he is kind enough to warn us of some of the tragedy before it happens, to soften the blow. But honestly, nothing could have prepared me for how this story ended.

Monday, May 19, 2014

well that was eloquent.

There is much to say about the government and religion, whether they should be kept separate or the idea that one cannot be without the other. Our country was founded on a belief in God. And that's all that I'm going to say about that. Robert Boston has more to say in his book Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do.

Boston covers all of the major controversies facing our world today: birth control, same-sex marriage, religion in public schools, Christmas, etc. and he's super nice about it. The main idea is that you should worry about yourself and no one else. If you don't want to kiss a girl (and like it), then by all means, don't kiss a girl. If you don't believe in birth control then don't take it, girlfriend. It's actually really simple. Respect other people and what they believe, and they will respect you.

I am all about religious freedom, but imposing your beliefs on other people is just annoying. Christian's get SUCH a bad rap for that. I once took an afternoon to volunteer for a religious nonprofit and had this other volunteer damning me to hell if I didn't believe exactly the way he did. It made me embarrassed to be a Christian, and when I see him from time to time, I hide. Bullying people into believing what you believe or their "going to hell" is not being a Christian, it's being an asshole. I'm going to start dropping Boston's book anonymously around town.

Friday, May 16, 2014

when harry got mail and met sally in seatle.

Like many thirty-something women, Molly Hallberg uses Nora Ephron's romances as a resource for finding a relationship that lasts in Linda Yellin's latest novel titled, What Nora Knew. Molly is a divorced writer living in New York City and dying to do more with her career than work at her current online magazine. She's also romantically challenged and when she bombs her next assignment on "finding one's soul mate" she realizes that she might me settling with her current chiropractic boyfriend. The novel has funny on every page, is borderline raunchy and introduces you to characters you can't help but love.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

historical murder.

Harold Schechter is known for his true crime books. I don't know much about them because true crime freaks me out. Since his latest, The Mad Sculptor took place in the 1930's, I figured enough time had passed, and I do like how Schechter writes a lot about the time period in general, not just about brutal murders. Mind you, I still haven't slept for days, but it was worth it.

In The Mad Sculptor, Schechter takes his all of his research and examines the New York tabloid press' escalating coverage of a series of murders in and around the Beckman Place neighborhood in the early 1930s Manhattan. It is the Easter Sunday Slayings of 1937 which included model Veronica "Ronnie" Gedeon, her mother Mary, and their tenant that shook the nation, sparked a manhunt, and is the basis of this crime book, making it the page-turner that you expect from Schechter.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

just in time for spring cleaning.

It's that time of year, and my first year in my own house so spring cleaning means a little more to me than it once did. I am always calling my grandma asking her how to get stains out, or how to clean my curtains (can't I just Lysol them?) etc. etc. Jolie Kerr, author of the popular column, Ask a Clean Person has come out with a book titled My Boyfriend Barfed in my Handbag: And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha. And it's hilariously done. I loved the explanation every tid bit and trick.

This cleaning resource is a perfect bridal shower, house warming, or birthday gift for anyone who isn't my grandma's age, because honestly, no one knows what they're doing anymore unless their my grandma. Inside there are so many tips, including how to clean a ceiling fan without getting dust all over the room, how Scrubbing Bubbles will make cleaning your bathroom a joy, how to really eliminate odors from the crotch of your gym shorts (I was using Lysol for that, too), and SO much more. My Boyfriend Barked in my Handbag IS the new cleaning manual. Get with it people.

1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 5/22!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Dollanganger's hit the medium sized screen.

FICTION INTO FILM: Pick up Petals on the Wind May 20th and watch the movie May 26th!
WATCH: The movie trailer, and tune in to Lifetime on  Monday, May 26th, 9:00 pm ET to watch the World Premier of Petals on the Wind!
ENTER TO WIN: Go to the Pocket Books Facebook page beginning May 20th to enter the sweepstakes for a prize pack of Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind, and the Flowers in the Attic DVD.  Visit right before tuning into Petals on the Wind late May for the sweepstakes giveaway (date to be announced)!
Petals on the Wind cast:
Heather Graham              as Corrine
Ellen Burstyn                      as Olivia
Dylan Bruce                        as Bart
Rose McIver                       as Young Cathy (played by Kiernan Shipka in Flowers in the Attic)
Wyatt Nash                        as Christopher (played by Mason Dye in Flowers in the Attic)
I can't wait!!! My personal review of Petals in the Wind can be found here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

lots of laughs.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has created a super relatable and hilarious collection of essays revolving around the mishaps of ordinary life (yes, she's just like you) titled The Amazing Thing About the Way it Goes.

Life IS funny in so many ways. Even when it's disastrous, you either find the funny, or you cry. MchPhee's short essays on the awkward and uncomfortable moments of being a mother, wife, and human are sure to make you look at your own life and realize how amazing (and funny) it actually is. The only complaint I can think of is wanting more.

Friday, May 9, 2014

pirate fan must read.

I am not a huge Pirates fan by any stretch of the imagination, Yankees all the way. But I have always had a special place in my heart for the Pirates ever since my older brother was on their little league team and in his baseball photo he looked exactly like Napoleon Dynamite. It doesn't get much better than that.

I know many of you ARE Pirates fans, which is why I wanted to spice up my life a bit and read Steve Ziants' 100 Things Pirates Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die so that I could review it for you. You're welcome. 100 Things opens with a favorite memory of many who were alive in 1960 and a history lesson for fans who weren't, Game 7 in the 1960 World Series vs. the Yankees. My grandpa was probably super pissed about it, but what a game for Pirates fans. Sunday sports editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ziants takes many a walk down memory lane in this book, his stories are short and sweet and absolutely worth the read for any Pirates fan or baseball buff in general.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

all the single ladies, all the single ladies.

Otherhood has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. You know, the opposite of motherhood. Doing anything OTHER than having children. Yeah, those were the days. And then I fell in love. I still appreciate the whole childless by choice woman, and if it's something you are considering, living, or don't understand, check out Melanie Notkin's Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness.

Otherhood is a collection of stories about modern women. It's very Carrie Bradshaw and friends as much of the book talks about the Manhattan dating scene and women deciding that they are not going to settle for a lesser love just to make babies. Some may call living life for yourself and no one else shallow and selfish. I think of it as a dream come true. This collection will absolutely resonate with those of you who are in your thirties and unattached. Notkin is happy to give you all a look into her life and all that goes into being the coolest aunt instead of the mom who is honestly never cool.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

the power of friendship.

Shari Shattuck has created a novel that is both uplifting and funny in Invisible Ellen, about a twenty-four year old woman named Ellen Homes who grew up in the foster care system and perfected the art of being invisible to others, until fate brought her a friend in a twenty-three year old blind violinist named Temerity. The two develop an unlikely friendship, Temerity giving Ellen the human connection she always needed, but always shied away from because of her abusive childhood. This is a novel about personal transformation. Through Temerity and her brother, Ellen's walls come crumbling down and she finally decides to take control of her life. Readers get to sit back and cheer as Ellen develops into the woman she was always meant to be.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

what aren't we capable of?

The "runner's high," or "flow," the term for our optimal state of consciousness, is real. And this "high" isn't something that can only be achieved by running or physical activity, it can happen in the workplace, you can get a "creative high". Whatever makes you feel invincible, and capable of doing more than you ever thought possible. That's flow. And that's what bestselling author Steven Kotler's The Rise of Superman is all about. How to achieve this flow in normal activities (not just the Olympics).

Flow happens when you're in a state of intense creativity and high mental energy. Kotler explains the science behind how flow happens, and provides some tips for activating flow (he has more on his blog as well). So that you can get the most out of whatever you throw yourself into. The Rise of Superman is very athletic oriented with a ton of research, which will interest many of you. I do hope that Kotler comes out with another book emphasizing more on how to activate flow in business and everyday life.

Monday, May 5, 2014

try to find one page in this book that doesn't describe you.

I love a good parody, and making (good natured) fun of parents who are a bit over the top is just a bonus. Authors Jen Nessel, Lizzy Ratner, and illustrator Sara Pinto have created a hilarious satire titled Goodnight Nanny-Cam based on the beloved children's book (that was never read to me, by the way) Goodnight Moon.

Each page depicts the lives of many modern parents. With their environmentally friendly homes, French flashcards and baby Mozart playing on their iHome docs. Their baby gates taking over their entire house making it look like a prison. A quick jab at the weird names that are so common today. It's super funny, especially if you are one of those parents who are obsessed with Baby Einstein and are determined to make sure that your child is a genius. Okay, maybe it won't be that funny to you, but it will be funny to your parents who undoubtedly think you're insane.

Friday, May 2, 2014

row, row, row your boat.

Daniel Brown's The Boys in the Boat is the account of the nine man University of Washington rowing crew that won gold in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Through loads of research Brown managed to create a narrative story told mostly from the perspective of one of the rowers, Joe Rantz, who had the type of childhood that would of lead most people to an early grave. This is a tale about young men from different backgrounds learning to work as a team and overcome tremendous obstacles, and that in and of itself makes it a must read. However, Brown's description of the current world events of this time period, the Great Depression and the rise of Nazi Germany, makes this a story about much more than rowing.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

mad men era manhattan.

I loved Beatriz Williams' novel A Hundred Summers so I was super pumped when I received The Secret Life of Violet Grant to read and review, especially since Lily and Nick had a bit of a cameo in this new novel. Williams writes about 1960's Manhattan as if it still exists (I mean, it kind of does through Don Draper), and her heroine's family secrets always shock readers as much as the characters themselves. Her latest novel is packed full of dark family secrets as Vivian Schuler of the Park Avenue Schuler's learns about her great aunt Violet Schuler Grant who must have does something terrible to be excommunicated from the family tree. Williams travels between 1964 New York and 1914 Europe telling the story of these two women, living cocktail-filled heartbreaking lives decades apart.