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.