Monday, June 30, 2014

quite the journey.

An ordinary,  not super scholarly college drop out was attacked by a mugger resulting in a severe head injury which turned him into a mathematical genius is the basic premise of Jason Padgett's true narrative of his experience cleverly titled Struck by Genius. Violent blows to the head outside of a karaoke bar that should have resulted in his death, completely altered Padgett's brain function, giving him unique gifts and an interest and understanding of geometry he never had before. It's really a fascinating story, and Padgett tells it well, as well as any math genius can anyway. He touches on his past, his personal experience recovering from his head injury, going from an extrovert to an introvert. He also touches on the science behind his injury and the amazing results of his recovery. Of course, not all good things come from such a traumatic experience. Padgett now suffers from OCD, depression, and PTSD. Which is stressful, but better than the alternative. Struck by Genius is a memoir like no other because miracles like this one don't happen at every karaoke bar.

Friday, June 27, 2014

a sad tale of fortune.

Bill Dedman and Paul Clarck Newell, Jr.'s Empty Mansions, the story of Huguette Clark, heir to an enormous fortune and mistress of several empty mansions, who after her mother's death, withdrew from the world and descended into an unhealthy existence, locked away in her darkened apartment is honestly kind of invasive. OR well-researched, whatever side you'd like to choose. With over 400 pages, these authors crossed all of their t's and dotted every i regarding Huguette Clark's life, and somehow made it interesting which was pretty difficult considering this is a woman who spent years only communicating through letters or the telephone, shunned the limelight and preferred to be alone. I did particularly enjoy the section dedicated to Huguette Clark's father, W.A. Clark, a self-made billionaire-equivalent of the 1800's who's first investment was eggs for eggnog, eventually making his real fortune in copper. There could be a book written on him alone. But since Huguette is more relevant in our world today, seeing as she only died several years ago, the authors did a great job making this book about her.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

what a treat.

I've had some of the best food of my life during my many travels. In-N-Out Burger for one was a like euphoria in my mouth. But really though, the best pasta I've ever eaten was in Rome. The best fish and chips I've ever tasted was at a pub in London. The BEST gyro's and taziki in Santorini, so fricken good. I do have a point. My next review is on food expert Kim Sunee's A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes from My World Travels which carries recipes of her favorite eats from all around the globe. Each recipe has a story or a memory shared of the place where it originated. Some countries included are North Africa, India, Mexico, Italy. There's a chapter dedicated to Paris. And finally a list of recipes so that you can try to recreate traditional meals from these faraway places. I love the narrations of cities toured, food eaten, champagne tasted, this is absolutely the book for me and any travel enthusiast and foodie rolled into one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

for indy fans old and new.

Well, well, well. Look what we have here. A book on racing that WON'T bore you to tears courtesy of Jade Gurss titled Beast: The Top Secret Illmor-Penske Engine that Shocked the Racing World at the Indy 500.

Most books on racing, I've noticed, are heavy on the facts and light on the narrative aspect. Gurss has done Beast a bit differently mixing important facts into a narrative about one of the greatest achievements in Indianapolis 500 history. And he draws readers in deeper with each page. I don't know how this guy does it, but Gurss has managed to create a read about an ENGINE that is both gripping and engaging, says everyone who's read it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

for those of you who are a little lost.

I wish I was one of those eat to live people, but I'm more along the lines of the person who is thinking about lunch while eating breakfast. I love food. Which is why Eat What You Love Everyday by Marlene Koch is right up my alley. This is the third cookbook in Koch's collection with 200 NEW tasty recipes that just so happen to be low in sugar, fat and calories (because you know you're limiting at least one of those things in your diet).

Let's be honest, we hate counting anything, especially calories. I know I do. But counting calories is the only way I lose that excess weight that creeps up after too many late night quesadillas. Having a book filled with super easy recipes using food I enjoy eating normally is pretty much the best thing ever. Koch includes dishes like soups, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and desserts. And who wouldn't want some extra crispy oven baked fries added to their meal? She also gives tips on meal planning, prep, what to freeze, and what to staples to keep on hand so that you can easily fix these yummy meals. She does not include anything crazy fancy, this cookbook is more designed to aide those of you who are trying to cut back on certain things, like sugar for example, and need some ideas to get started, or you'd starve.

Win a FREE copy!
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3. Contest ends 6/28

Monday, June 23, 2014

kick ass giveaway.

Win a FREE copy of Quiet New York!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 6/26

Friday, June 20, 2014

ciao bella!

I adore Italy. It was by far my favorite country to visit during my European excursions. I was able to see Venice in the winter, and Rome and Florence in the summer. I loved the culture, the food, the sights, and being able to bring a bottle of Chianti with me everywhere I went. I would love to travel back to revisit Rome and see to Naples, Tuscany, and spend some time on the coast with Manfriend, so Rick Steves’ Italy 2014 was exactly the book I wanted to be dropped on my doorstep. And so the planning begins…after the wedding.

Italy’s best travel months are May, June, September and October. I traveled to the country in January and August because I am nothing if not a bargain shopper. Of course, Venice in January was cold and Italy in August was super-hot, but I wasn’t bothered. It was much less busy than going in those peak months. Steves’ guide is filled with the information you’d expect, he breaks up all different aspects of the country into different sections, giving travel tips along the way. What I like is that he is super specific, especially when it comes to the best way to travel to each hot spot and what to expect when you get there, also where to sleep and where to eat. ALWAYS go where the locals go. He includes what to see and how to plan your time, for example how long should you stay in Venice? I only fit in one full day, but Steves’ says give it two, and I agree. I was smart and did my first time out of country traveling with a college tour group. Honestly though, if you organize yourself before you go, Rick Steves’ is just as helpful, and he can fit in your purse.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

"i won't eat anything that casts a shadow."

I have reviewed more than one vegan cookbook on here and I enjoy mixing things up with some of the recipes I have found in said cookbooks, but going full on vegan, that's extremely overwhelming. I mean, right? Give me all the recipes you want, but I need to know how I am going to eat on the road, out to dinner, while living a normal human being life. Elizabeth Castoria gets all sorts of realistic in her book titled How to Be Vegan: Tips, Tricks and Strategies for Cruelty Free Eating, Living, Dating, Travel, Decorating, and More!

Castoria somehow makes becoming a vegan sound fun as she goes through the motions in a nonjudgmental way, explaining her 159 strategies to living a life without animal products. She does begin by saying that it is impossible to live in today's world and not come in contact with animal products in some fashion. So don't waste your time being a crazy person, and focus on the changes that will make the biggest impact in your life, and those changes will help change our world. Every little bit helps. Still skeptical? Watch any factory farm video on YouTube and you'll have no issues dropping meat from your plate, and your life, and you'll probably begin having nightmares. OR you could just keep reading through the book and discover that you don't have to go full vegan to make a difference in your health and the planet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

short and hysterical.

Funny man/musician/author Todd Snider and I have a few things in common, We are both hilarious, we both sing like angels, and neither of us have met a story we didn't like. He even wrote a book about that last one. I Never Met A Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales by Todd Snider where he uses his gift of storytelling (is there anything this guy can't do?) to share tidbits about his life. Readers are taken behind the scenes into Snider's life as a musician. The drugs, the song writing, the concerts, and the hilariousness. It's honestly impossible to not be entertained, no matter who you are. Those who are familiar with Snider, this book reads like his between song banter. Those who aren't familiar with Snider, I assure you, you do not need to be on drugs to enjoy this read. Unless you want to. I'm not here to judge.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

we could all use a little psychotherapy.

I could read about human behavior all day everyday. Whatever I can get my hands on, I devour it. My most recent gem is psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz's first book titled The Examined Life which is drawn from his day-to-day practice with real life patients. Every chapter is titled with a truth or a subject such as hate (for example) and every truth or subject is backed up by specific case histories. More examples, why parents envy their children and how the fear of loss can cause us to lose everything. And the most interesting one in my opinion, how praise can cause a loss of confidence. Whoa. I kind of feel like that one had a little bit of me in it.  

I enjoyed Grosz's storytelling about his patients and their unique situations. I've always been curious about why people do what they do. For example, why have I been eating like a savage two and a half weeks before my wedding when I know I have to fit into my wedding dress? Well because I'm an idiot, obviously. But there must be more to it than that. I need a therapist.

Monday, June 16, 2014

middle school smarts.

For those of you who's kids were huge fans of A.K.A. Genius, Marilee Haynes recently came out with the sequel to the popular faith-based middle school series, titled Genius Under Construction.

Gabe Carpenter is now in the eighth grade, moving past most of his problems as a seventh grader in the previous book and jumping right into new ones. His with relationship with one of his best friends, Maya is changing as most boy/girl friendships do at this age. He's having the worst luck with his community service project, a hyper 4th grader who is impossible to tutor. And Gabe's also trying to work his butt off to get into a special high school designed for students who excel in math and science, but is having second thoughts because the idea of a new high school with none of his friends by his side is a bit daunting.

What I love about Haynes is that each character she develops is different, and may have some quirks, but she always brings to the forefront their special gifts, showing middle schoolers that being different isn't always a bad thing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

another gift for your female grad.

Girls. When you turn 18, it's all over for you. Okay, not really. But you do have some choices to make. Like where to go to college and what passions to pursue. Finding your purpose can be a little overwhelming. Your life is no longer mommy and daddy's responsibility, it's your own.  And that can be fricken terrifying.

In 2008 Alexis Jones co-founded the National non-profit organization I AM THAT GIRL to address the growing need for community for girls and young women by helping to build self-esteem and realize their full potential. That is what her book, I Am That Girl: How to Speak Your Truth, Discover Your Purpose, and #bethatgirl is all about. I wish a book like this was around 10 years ago, I could have used it as I still don't really know what I want to be when I grow up, and I'm too scared to pursue my bigger dreams for real at this stage in the game. Alexis throws some tough love into this helpful guide revolved around discovering your purpose, and gives the type of advice that many high school grads NEED to hear.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

finding peace in the city that never sleeps.

I love NY. I know, everyone says that, and wears t-shirts about it. But I really, really do. It's one of my favorite places to visit as manfriend and I have so many memories together there earlier on in our relationship doing the whole long distance thing. If you have to do long distance, one of you should be in NYC. It's common knowledge that NY is busy, busy. That's why so many people love it. There are times though when a little peace and quiet would be nice. Siobhan Wall has created a resource of over 120 quiet places to spend your time in Quiet New York.

Quiet New York could be useful to tourists, but it was really made for the frazzled New Yorkers who can't find a quiet place to just think, or read, or meet a friend, or have a date. Included are quiet museums, peaceful gardens, waterfront parks, libraries, cafes, etc. Places you wouldn't think to look to just sit and relax. Because, who relaxes in the liveliest city in the world? Siobhan Wall apparently, and her "travel resource" is such a treasure, and the photography is just gorgeous.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

i just fell in love.

I am just going to come right out and say it. I fell in love with The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry and I don't care who knows it! No but really, author Gabrielle Zevin writes for readers, you can tell right away. And I adore an author who writes for me.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a narrative about the love and life of books, and the magical story about a man who tended to them. A grumpy but lovable widower named A. J. Fikry who owns a bookstore called Island Books on Alice Island in New England. His life has been quite empty since the death of his wife, his sales are dwindling, but life is about to change for the man when his prized copy of a rare Poe book is stolen, a baby is abandoned in the store, and he is befriended by a publishing agent. All three of these events drastically turn a sad life into an enchanting one. The titles that A. J.  carries in his shop alone will result in a personal connection to you and this story. Promise.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

so many piggy banks.

America's Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse by Bill White is a must read for anyone  invested in the U.S. government. I'm talking voters, politicians, pretty much everybody. We didn't just become a nation of severe debt overnight. There is a history behind it, and White tells about our past in foreign policy and political agendas in such an engaging way, even I wasn't bored, and that says a lot as I have the attention span of a small child. White begins at the beginning. Once his introduction is complete, he jumps into the narrative, starting with the Founding Fathers being unable to pay the bill for George Washington's retirement party for four months because the pre-Constitutional Convention federal government was so broke. Hmm, it's all starting to make sense now. We were never good at this.

White also shared his own theories on the subject. One theory being that raising taxes will not reduce deficits, so if the government were to cut taxes, it will fuel economic growth and energize the nation's economy. I choose that one.

Monday, June 9, 2014

less is more.

There are not enough hours in a day to do everything that needs to be done, period, but Ari Meisel can help. Productivity systems are his specialty and he shares alllll of his secrets in his tiny but mighty book titled, Less Doing, More Living.

This book is a technology centric approach to becoming more efficient and Meisel shares with readers the tools he uses to help him on a daily basis. He focuses on Optimizing, Automating, and Outsourcing tasks, and keeping things simple. Implement Meisel's advice and watch your stress disappear.

Small book, small review, what can I say?

Friday, June 6, 2014

all in one resource for grief.

Not to be the barer of bad news. But nothing lasts forever, people included. Many of you have dealt with the loss of loved ones. My grandpa died over two years ago and my grandma still cries when she walks into her empty house. When the person who you love most in this life dies, you die too. Author Melissa Dalton-Bradford writes honestly about the loss of her son, Parker in On Loss and Living Onward: Collected Voices for the Grieving and Those Who Would Mourn with Them. She doesn't get into the right or wrong way to mourn, or really try to give you much advice on how you should be handling your loss. This book includes her personal essays about HER loss. In a way, it feels like she is mourning with you. If that makes any sense. As you read you will feel her pain from the loss of her child, and it's as if you're moving through the grieving process with Melissa. Included are quotes and scripture that you will be able to relate to regardless of the relationship between you and your lost loved one. This resource is sure to comfort you in times of sorrow, and I sure hope it helps the ache in your heart lessen and eventually disappear.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

our worth.

Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are is the newest book by Robin Jones Gunn, author of the Christy Miller Series that I absolutely adored growing up and read cover to cover. Gunn does have a co-author this time around in popular blogger, Alyssa Joy Bethke, and what a team they make. The basic premise of this book is to help you discover your true identity in Christ, and every chapter represents God's feelings about his children and our worth to Him (specific scripture included). Gunn and Bethke share their own stories, yet still manage to invite you to embrace your own relationship with God. It's super encouraging and will make you feel all warm inside.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

lessons from yo mama.

Growing up, how my mother didn't sell me to the highest bidder is beyond me. I was totally the child who said "I HATE YOU" when things stopped going my way, and tried to run away multiple times, and as a teenager, I lied through my teeth about EVERYTHING. How I didn't end up in a ditch is beyond me as well.

I was actually able to get inside my mom's head and see her perspective when I read through Deliberate Motherhood: 12 Key Powers of Peace, Purpose, Order & Joy by The Power of Moms, because honestly, you have to be someone special to love me sometimes, and that's what this book is (sort of) about. Finding joy in motherhood, especially when your children do really dumb things, loving them when they are unlovable, and all that. This is a mindset that you will need to survive motherhood.

The authors have included 12 "Powers" (Power of Fun, Power of Optimism, Power of Priorities, you get the picture) to help you in your motherhood journey. Throughout these pages you will find encouragement from other women who have BEEN there when it comes to motherhood drama. You will laugh at their stories, relate to their ups and downs, and be reminded that you are not alone.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

light, shallow, and mildly inappropriate.

After reading The Book Thief, I needed a recovery novel. Something light, shallow, and mildly inappropriate. I absolutely found what I was looking for in Great-Aunt Sophia's Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach, which is a story about a twenty-six year old woman named Grace who is currently working on her dissertation for her PhD in Women's Studies. Grace has been invited to visit/look after her great-aunt Sophia for the summer while she undergoes a hip replacement. She doesn't know much about this aunt, and hasn't seen her since she was ten, and it wasn't a great first impression. However, she is looking for a quiet place to work on her thesis, and thinks great-aunt Sophia's home in Pebble Beach California will be just right. Silly girl. The former B-list actress, Sophia has much more up her sleeve, and it has nothing to do with a hip replacement. Sophia introduces Grace to two very different men, and changes Grace's very jaded view of beautiful people by turning Grace into the beautiful, confident woman she was always supposed to be. This easy breezy chic lit is exactly the kind of book you read in the sun while sipping a cocktail. I wouldn't recommend bringing it to school and reading it during a study hall you advise. My mistake.

Monday, June 2, 2014

turn your suffering around.

Feeling discouraged? Overwhelmed? Hopeless? Just slip You'll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times by Max Lucado into your car's CD player and exhale. There's nothing like a solid motivational audiobook to pick you up when you're feeling down, let me tell you. Lucado gives readers hope straight out of the Word of God, inspirational hope that will encourage you during any difficulty you may be having. Lucado pulls heavily from the story of Joseph, which is perfect because what better story shows the full capacity of God's ultimate plan for our lives? Lucado makes Joseph's story relatable to readers who have also experienced awful situations and uses other scripture to help readers work through whatever unfairness life throws at them.