Friday, August 29, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a copy of The Hundred-Year House!!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 8/31!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

in honor of belated national dog day.

I am not NOT a dog person, I am just more of a cat person because they can wash themselves and the bathroom cleanup is easier. I can totally appreciate a book filled with true stories about man's best friend though, which is why I am pleased to review Man's Best Hero: True Stories of Great American Dogs by dog-lover and author Ace Collins.

Get ready for a feel-good-tear-fest folks because this collection tells 13 true stories of heroic actions by everyday dogs, and you WILL blubber like a baby, dog lover or not. A major crowd pleaser is the story of the guide dog leading his owner to safety on September 11th. I'm crying right now just writing that line. Ugh. Many of these stories include dogs that have saved lives, but Collins also included stories about dogs who have improved lives, which is kind of the same thing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

smart boss 101.

People have the tendency to say that you become like the people you spend the most time with, so surround yourself with the very best. I never knew who the people were who said this, but one of them is Claudio Fernández-Aráoz. He wrote It's Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best and insists this is the difference between failure and success in business. Can't argue with that.

This is a hiring resource which I passed over to my husband who owns his own chiropractic office and has the WORST luck finding secretaries that fit. He's on his third in less than two years and he still doesn't feel like she's his long-term solution. He was pretty thrilled and impressed with wifey over here when I handed him a book filled with CLEAR info on topics associated with personnel recruitment including how many candidates you should interview, the benefits and pitfalls of using consultants, how to ensure that new hires fit into your organization, how to deal with compensation, how to create teams that thrive, and more. Every boss needs to know how to assess people for the purpose of employment, and Claudio will get you there the fastest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai is not a novel for everyone, but really, what novel is? If you enjoy smart writing, an entrancing story, and characters just loath-able enough to keep you turning the page, then I suggest you grab a copy.

Makkai has created a pretty complex ghost story which takes place over 100 years. Readers get to meet the multiple characters that lived in the mansion (called Laurelfield) over this course of time. Part I focuses on Zee and her husband, Doug, in 1999. Part II focuses on Grace and her husband, George, in 1955, answering many questions from Part I. Part III focuses on a group of artists who were staying at Laurelfield in 1929. The novel moved along really well in my opinion, and if you don't like one set of characters, chances are you'll like another.

Monday, August 25, 2014

we used to be friends.

My mom and I are obsessed with Veronica Mars. The show, the fictional character, the movie. So when we heard that writer Rob Thomas was coming out with a series of V. Mars novels picking right up where the movie (which came out in March) left off, we almost had kittens! Or whatever that expression is. I knocked back the first installment in about 36 hours. It was like catching up with an old friend, one that you like a lot.

In The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Veronica gets her first high paying gig since her dad almost died in the hit and run that killed Deputy Sacks which happened at the end of the movie. She took over Mars Investigations while Keith has been recovering, and Keith isn't super pleased about her being back in the PI biz when she is one bar exam away from being a successful attorney in anywhere but Neptune. It's currently spring break and Veronica is approached by a big wig at the Chamber of Commerce to help find a girl who went missing after a night of drunken debauchery. The potential kidnapping of a teenage girl is killing business for local bars, hotels, restaurants and strip clubs in the coastal town and Sheriff Lamb is a fool, so Veronica takes the case basically so she can pay the electric bill and her newest employee, Mac. Once pretty teenage girl number two goes missing things start getting interesting, and Veronica learns once again that the past can never just stay in the past.

Friday, August 22, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

A chance to win a FREE copy of My Accidental Jihad!

Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 8/24!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

when god wants a piece of you.

Kasey Van Norman wrote about her journey with cancer and if being a Christian is all it's cracked up to be in her memoir Raw Faith: What Happens When God Picks a Fight. Back in May she came out with a Bible study based on that memoir titled Raw Faith Bible Study: What Happens When God Picks a Fight because she's not the only one who has experience the trials of life, leaving her to wonder why God would allow such a terrible thing to happen. She has helped scores of people with her memoir and now she can reach even more with this new study, and I highly recommend it.

In this Bible study, Kasey draws from scripture and her personal story to help us understand why God let's bad things happen to good people. Also included are questions you can either personally reflect on or use in a group discussion, whichever you prefer. There is also a leader's guide included for facilitators. It can get super emotional in this study, especially for those of you who have been hit hard with tragedy. I don't know how well I'd do in a group setting with the weight of the grief on my shoulders, so don't feel like you have to join a group if you're not ready. Read through the days yourself first if you need to. A lot of comfort comes along with the sadness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

is america still the hope of the world?

It's pretty common knowledge today that America is not where it should be. There is far too much debt, a lack of jobs, and I won't even get started on the healthcare. In America: Imagine a World without Her, Dinesh D'Souza attempts to answers the questions of what needs to be done to get our lady back on track. Let it be noted, that despite all of its problems, D'Souza believes that America is still great and worth defending. And another note, I received the audiobook for review as I find it much more interesting to listen to a book on tape on this subject rather than read it myself. Just my personal preference.

D'souza starts out strong with three indicators that prove America is on the decline “First, the American economy is stagnant and shrinking relative to the economies of China. Russia, India and Brazil…Second, America is drowning in debt. While China is the world’s largest creditor nation, America is the world’s largest debtor nation. At $17 trillion, the national debt is now bigger than the total sum of goods and services that America produces in a year…Finally, America is losing it’s position in the world.” Well if that isn't a wake up call, I don't know what is. D'souza has also packed this book with America's history (slavery, the Constitution, Capitalism, etc.) and his ability to reason, spur debate, and provoke thought, which is what an extremely intelligent person is supposed to do with such a book.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

if i stay spoiler!

When I finished If I Stay, I had no idea that there was a sequel. I complained on Facebook how short I thought the novel was, and how I wanted more, and one of my former students was like, relax Miss Hagen there's another one. Oh.  Where She Went by Gayle Forman picks up three and a half years later and is narrated by Mia's high school boyfriend (from the first novel) Adam Wilde. The reason why these two very different teenagers fell in love in high school was because of their shared love of music. Now, at age twenty-one, Adam's dreams have come true, he is still the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for his band Shooting Star, but they have made it BIG, like Grammy big. Double Platinum record big. Paparazzi big. But something major is missing. Mia. She recovered from the accident and left for Julliard three years earlier and he hasn't seen her since, without any real explanation from her. He let it go. Became depressed and wrote songs. His band's record Collateral Damage was a complete result of Mia breaking his heart into a million pieces, and it turned him into a total rock star. But he is still left without Mia.

While in New York tying up some loose ends before heading on a plane to London to begin his second giant tour, Adam needed some space (he actually has a lot of issues that you'll read about). He decided to stay an extra day in New York to get his barring's and while walking around the city saw Mia's face plastered on Carnegie Hall. She was playing, and twenty-five bucks bought him a ticket and a shot at a second chance.

Monday, August 18, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Back in September of last year I reviewed The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker here. Now the book is back in paperback and I get to hold another kick ass giveaway!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 8/21!

stay, he says.

The book to movie If I Stay comes out this weekend, so I decided to dive right into the novel because seeing a movie before reading the book is blasphemy. I am one of those weird people who enjoys going to the movies by myself, and I NEVER have the time to justify doing it, so I made a pact with myself to go on Sunday. Just me, a big bucket of over buttered heart attack popcorn, and any number of strangers. Life is beautiful, and so was this novel by Gayle Foreman.

If I Stay is narrated by main character seventeen-year-old Mia Hall who has to make an impossible decision after her family is killed in a car accident on an ordinary snow day in Oregon and she is the only survivor. Her body sits in a coma for most of the novel, but her spirit roams around, watching the doctors, nurses, her other family members, friends and boyfriend of two years, Adam deal with the stress of the accident and worry of whether she is ever going to wake up. Mia narrates back and forth between life with her family (who she is freakishly close with), growing up with two punk rock parents and a little brother a decade younger than her, and her relationship with Adam, how they met, when they fell in love, special the present day as she lays in the hospital, deciding whether or not she should leave and go with her family, or stay and face the devastation, but also a life. You see, Mia is a cellist prodigy and is pretty certain she has been accepted to Julliard, so it is quite a life she will leave behind. It's all up to her.

Friday, August 15, 2014

from the mouth of capitalists.

I'm not going to waste your time pretending I am an expert on capitalism, but I do know about corruption and a few guys who are experts on the subject, John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and Raj Sisodia, business professor at Babson College, and co-founder of the Conscious Capitalism Institute. They shed some real light on the subject in his book titled Conscious Capitalism, With a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. As leaders of the Conscious Capitalism movement, Mackey and Sisodia defend free-market capitalism and argue that aspiring leaders and business builders need to continue on this path of transformation—for the good of both business and society as a whole.

I can't prove that all of Mackey and Sisodia's information is correct, but they're clear and concise, and when at the end of the day a couple of guys work this hard to improve my thinking? I'll give them chance, every time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

change your relationship with stress.

Harvard Business Review is known for offering a couple handfuls of guides to help you get it right at work. Today I am going to review the HBR Guide to Managing Stress at Work because let's be honest, we are all a little too hard on ourselves when it comes to our roles in the office. During my first year of teaching my blood pressure was as high as it's ever been. Shit happens and it's our (other) job to figure out how to reduce the stress we feel on the job. This guide even begins with 9 ways successful people defeat stress...right to the point, I like that in a resource.

Chapters include, understanding how you're wired so that you can perform at your best, how to renew your energy so you stop slugging along, how to balance you're work and personal life because you cannot have it all and not lose your mind, and lastly this resource gives you the proper tools so that you can figure out what works for you, specifically when you feel overwhelmed and need a break. Now, go ahead, grab a copy and make stress your bitch.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

life in the 2050's London underground.

Young adult science fiction novels are all the rage right now, and keep 'em coming people! I have some really difficult readers that I'm working with and it takes a little super-humanness to catch their interest. My latest YA read worth reviewing is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon which centers around 19-year-old Paige, a girl with supernatural powers who lives in an authoritarian future London where "voyants" like her are hunted, imprisoned, and executed because they are considered unnatural. A little gruesome of a storyline for my taste but hey, the kids love it. Moving on, Paige works for the criminal underground but is captured and sent to the Rephaim prison city where she is chosen to be the ward of a Rephaim named Warden whose behaviors and actions are quite unlike the other Rephaim...DUM DUM DUM.

Shannon went into great depth building this alternate reality universe in the London underground with characters teens can easily connect with. I'm looking forward to number two.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ray bradberry's world has come.

I am trying so hard to become more tech savvy, but it's so hard, and I'm SO lazy, even though the whole point of jumping on the hardware bandwagon is to make our lives easier. I have to say though, Make: Sensors: A Hands-On Primer for Monitoring the Real World with Arduino and Raspberry Pi by Tero and Kimmo Karvinen is a great book for beginners, even me.
Arduino, a microcontroller board, and Raspberry Pi, a fully functional mini-computer, are both cheap and very good at reading the world around them. They both include plenty of inputs and outputs for sensory add-ons to test light, temperature, humidity, amongst other things. Now, this book shows you how to easily use these DIY sensors all while retaining total control of your connected devices, so you can double down on security measures to your heart’s content. And this is just a little taste.

Monday, August 11, 2014

for the more sophisticated young adult.

There once was a girl named Rose who liked dark things. Her mother died when she was five and ever since she's been traveling around in a mobile home with her alcoholic father who just can't seem to make it work anywhere permanent. When they arrive at a small coastal town Rose   meets Pearl, who is a ray of light through the dark clouds of her soul. It was then that Rose's life changed. She herself started finding light in other aspects of her life, even without Pearl to guide her with her brightness. This is what the young adult novel set on the coast of Australia titled The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee is about, among a million other things. It can be dark and rather tragic, but I would say it's a bit of a love story as it includes young love, unrequited love, forbidden love, and the unbreakable bond that forms when you meet your kindred spirit. There is the occasional f-bomb, but your more mature high school girl will definitely get something out of Foxlee's unique characters, captivating imagery, and unique storyline.

kickass giveaway

Win a FREE copy of Lake/Flato Houses!

Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: to enter!
3. Contest ends 8/14!

Friday, August 8, 2014

beautiful living spaces.

The absolute best coffee table books are those that show more and say less. I'm not exactly sure if San Antonians David Lake, Ted Flato and gang meant for their gorgeous architectural book, Lake/Flato Houses: Embracing the Landscape to land on someone's coffee table, but it's just too perfect to NOT be displayed for everyone who enters your house to see. These fellas make Texas look absolutely stunning, which I hear isn't the easiest task. For the last 30 years Lake & Flato have been crafting these perfect houses (they are modest about it, referring to them as simple designs) in Texas's countryside. They are also aware that times are a changing and technology is forever advancing so they include the new technology and science of building into their houses all while keeping their "simple designs" - I mean, if it's not broke...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

bad guys, shoot outs, and narrow escapes.

The Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries are similar to the Stephanie Plum novels in the sense that you can't expect me to review all of them because there are just too many, that's pretty much where the similarities end, other than the fact that both series are fantastic. Craig Johnson is back with his tenth installment titled Any Other Name, and I'm here to rave about it just like I did last summer with number nine.

The third season of A&E's "Longmire" premiered in June, so coming out with Any Other Name in May was pretty smart, I wish I would have thought to read it then, would have made much more sense, but when you're planning a wedding you just hope the people in your life let things slide. Anyways, in this modern day western Longmire travels to a neighboring county to investigate the alleged suicide of a police inspector. We have our typical gang of Lucien, Vic, Henry, and Dog plus some new characters from the Campbell County Sheriff's department, and other places traveled to in the book. Included are some hilarious one liners, and a storyline that is fresh and original.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

if you don't know rodney walther, you should.

I am constantly picking up books by authors that I've never heard of because let's be honest, I read too much (and drink too much, and eat too much, etc.). About 50% of the time an unknown writes something that I truly enjoy, and Rodney Walther is one of them. His latest, with the very clever double meaning title, Space in the Heart, begins and ends with real life difficulties humans can face in a lifetime, making the book not only relatable, but a major page turner.

Former astronaut, Garrison Sterling lost his wife and his young daughter ended up in a wheelchair in one fell swoop, along with his dreams of going to space. Zoey is now an extremely misunderstood teenager unable to live like normal kids her age. Life is hard. Then Garrison meets Danica Cortez, a vivacious television news anchor who is his first real attraction since his wife died, and almost as dysfunctional in love as he is. These three characters are the perfect mix of comedy and drama.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

a memoir about not losing yourself in love.

As a recently married woman, it is hard enough making a relationship work with a natural born American man, six years older than me who grew up 20 minutes outside of the city I grew up in, let alone if he was fifteen years my senior, Muslim, and grew up in an impoverished Libyan village. Confused? I just read Krista Bremer's memoir titled My Accidental Jihad where she shares how she met her husband (while jogging), who reflects the second characteristics I mentioned in my intro, and how they make their bi-everything relationship work, with kids, in-laws, and their very different cultures IN the dirty south (North Carolina). Bremer is a great storyteller, I loved the way she wrote about her daughters so honestly, allowing them to decide for themselves what part of their American and Muslim cultures they would embrace, and then worrying when Aliya decided to cover her head like so many other modest Muslim women. Definitely one of the more interesting memoirs I have ever read.

Friday, August 1, 2014

jackson keeps you reading.

Shandi Pierce is a young, single mother just trying to finish college and raise her kid at the same time. Sounds pretty normal right? Well, she also thinks her three-year-old is the product of immaculate conception, but let's not judge a character by their crazy. Now that she has her degree, Shandi has packed her car with her son Natty, her best friend, and all her worldly belongings to move to Atlanta to be closer to family. On the road trip, she crosses paths with William Ashe at a highway convenience store just as a gunman holds the place up, and William steps between the robber and her son. Shandi is beyond grateful for this act of heroism, as you can imagine, and falls in love with the man. William is a scientist, on the autism spectrum, and didn't think that he was being brave so much as he thought it was his destiny. Basically, Joshilyn Jackson's Someone Else's Love Story is a love story revolving around people who are a bit outside the norm, which are always my favorite people.