Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

another hit.

There is never a great time for a girl to go missing, but a Jewish girl going missing in 1940 was especially stressful. AlizĂ©e Benoit, a Jewish-American painter living in New York City randomly vanishes, and no one has any idea where she went. Not her parents, not her friends, and some seventy-years later, not her great-niece, Danielle who is dying to solve the mystery.

In The Muralist by B. A. Shapiro readers are able to meet TWO brilliant female artists, generations apart and watch as their stories intertwine, the past becomes the present, shedding new light on the future. I am pleased to say that The Muralist is just as good as The Art Forger which I reviewed exactly three years ago today, here. Both blend fact with fiction which make her stories extra interesting.

Now I am off to prepare my home for family and lots of wine this Christmas Eve. Happy holidays and happy reading!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

beauty and enlightenment.

We ALL want our beauty to be as timeless as the middle-aged (and older) supermodels we worship. I mean, get a load of Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley. WOW. Really wow. And speaking of Christie Brinkley, in her new book, Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great, she divulges it all along with personal stories and photos fans have never seen. If you want to look as beautiful as Brinkley does at 61, you are going to have to do a few things. Like change your eating habits and your attitude. I am not a huge believer in genetics. I truly think that the skinny adults in the world watch what they eat and just pretend they don't. Brinkley works for what she has. She exercises regularly, eats the rainbow, and has found her inner peace. Knowing how to de-stress can be half the battle. I was pleasantly surprised by the healthy recipes and how likable Brinkley is.

Monday, December 21, 2015

rooting for the underdog.

Lucky for us, Jerry Gladstone hangs out with some pretty cool people. Rappers, actors, sharks. Through his interaction with said people (Snoop Dogg, Quentin Tarantino, Mark Cuban, etc.), he has created some guidelines on how to be successful when facing extreme adversity. In The Common Thread of Overcoming Adversity and Living Your Dreams, Gladstone dedicates each chapter to a different celebrity who has made something of themselves when they had (next to) nothing to begin with. Each chapter also includes advice from the celeb him/herself, which I found to be super encouraging. It's all about being resilient, persistent, and hard work. You have to want it, like REALLY want it. Honestly, I didn't care for some of the celebs who were featured, but each one had something useful to contribute.

Friday, December 18, 2015

merry christmas gamers.

I review video game guides solely to impress my students. I read it, let them look through it, talk to them about it. I am the coolest, they know it. Everyone's a winner. They cannot say enough good things about the Assassin's Creed Syndicate Official Collector's Guide by Tim Bogenn, and they would know. Christmas is coming and this is a must have collectible. But the book won't only look good on their night stands (like boys even care about that kind of thing), it will prepare them for the latest series in the game, Syndicate. Which only came out a few months ago. This Assassin’s Creed takes place in 1868 London and follows the adventures of two siblings. As a teacher, I love the historical context and the real life monuments represented. AND THERE'S A FEMALE PROTAGONIST. WHAT?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

a gift for your bestie.

Day four of my foolproof book-lovers Christmas gift guide is all about your best girl(s). Your people. Your clique. You're the Best: A Celebration of Friendship by the Satellite Sisters is the PERFECT bestie gift and all that gushy stuff. This is a book filled with short essays dedicated to the special friendships only women can have. There is no funny like sisterhood funny, and the Satellite Sisters really capture the essence of those relationships. Pair it with a bottle of wine and you're done. Ya-ya!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

for the dog lover.

Everyone has an animal lover in their life. If you don't you should probably get some new friends. Me? I'm a cat lover. And absolutely believe in rescuing over pet shop buying. Gift idea #3 is My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts by journalist Laura T. Coffey who has finally said what everyone has been thinking. What is so good about puppies? They pee wherever they want and mess with your REM cycle. I honestly feel the same way about babies, but we can talk about that another time.

The point is. Older dogs have A LOT of love to give. And you will completely fall for the rescues you meet in this collection of stories (the photos are fabulous as well). A little warning, My Old Dog gets super emotional, even for a Grinch like me. But the sappy dog lover in your life is going to LOVE it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

travel bug.

Today we are going to chat about gifts for the wanderlust traveler in your life. I review a ton of Lonely Planet travel guides because I've used them, love them, and trust this company. These guides make the PERFECT gift for the person in your life who has a trip planned or needs a little push to make their dream a reality. Most recently I read the Lonely Planet Hawaii Travel Guide which covers The Big Island to Maui and everywhere in between. I've actually been to Oahu, which I've mentioned in previous posts. I loved Hawaii so much and cannot wait to go back to see more of it (and bring my husband this time).

One of the things I love about Lonely Planet travel guides is that they tell you EXACTLY what you need to see. In the Hawaii installment, they have a Top 20 which is super helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed about what to fit into your itinerary. Everyone has different goals when they travel and Lonely Planet is great at accommodating all types of travelers. I did Hawaii differently with my girlfriend who was living there at the time than I would had I been vacationing with my husband. We got up every morning at 5:30 (I was still on mainland time) and hiked something. I chose paddle boarding in Lanikai and sea turtle watching on the North Shore over paying for and traveling during rush hour to the most popular luau. There is no wrong way to do Hawaii, unless you pass on the Kuala pork, but Lonely Planet will help you plan whatever your version of the perfect trip is, wherever that may be.

Monday, December 14, 2015

blog to book.

It's the week before the week of Christmas, and all you procrastinators really need to get it together. Amazon Prime has two-day shipping, so this week I will be reviewing some fabulous gift giving books!

First. Sally's Candy Addiction: Tasty Truffles, Fudges & Treats for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix by Sally McKenney (who also wrote Sally's Baking Addiction) is the PERFECT gift for the sweet toothed DIY lover in your life. It's pretty (like Sally), and there's a recipe for everything you find at those specialty chocolate shops. But you can make it at home. Chocolate covered potato chips. Peanut butter balls. Cake pops. Fudge. TRUFFLES. The recipes are super easy and look festive enough for every occasion.

Friday, December 11, 2015

southern roots.

I LOVE southern food. My mom and I travel to Myrtle Beach once a year, half for the beach, half for the food. Only God knows what would happen to me if I ate biscuits and gravy for breakfast every morning, but for a week? I'll risk it.

Speaking of being risky, The Southerner's Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories is sitting on my kitchen counter right now. Instructions on how to make biscuits and gravy AND fried chicken right in my home? That is dangerous. I can't really stomach the whole pork situation yet, but I have loved attempting the baked goods and fried pickle chips. There's an entire section devoted to chicken that has my name all over it. But as a girl who loves to read (yes, even though I'm a Yankee), the essays are what make this cookbook special.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

1996 expedition.

I don't really get the draw of thrill hikes. And when I say thrill hikes, I mean climbing mountains. I have a friend who I visited in Hawaii, she took me to the top of this crazy mountain, and I literally almost fell off. Probably because getting to the top required a rope and my legs, none of which I trusted. But, I did it, it felt good, and when I called my mom after, she was all NO MORE THRILL HIKES. And I was all, OKAY. And meant it. Reading After the Wind: Tragedy on Everest - One Survivor's Story by Lou Kasischke definitely did not change my view on mountain climbing.

I love a good expedition narrative, I just wish it didn't involve the death of eight climbers. The year was 1996 when Lou witnessed the worst tragedy in Everest's history. Other survivors have written accounts (Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air), but Lou's definitely stands out. I did feel a little uncomfortable that leader, Rob Hall isn't here to defend himself. But Lou being a highly experienced climber made this story smart and his perspective important.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

just wow.

Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together written by Kara Tippetts and her bestie Jill Lynn Buteyn tells the story of friendship during tragedy. These two women somehow made such a beautiful book and tribute to friendship out of the heart wrenching situation of Kara's stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis. All through her treatments, and eventually hospice, chapter by chapter Kara and Jill tell their story one after the other. It's honest, and very much a memoir rather than just a self-help on how to be there for your friend during difficult times (but it is that, too). I just wish that Kara's life didn't have to end to help share this message.

Monday, December 7, 2015

therapy for everybody.

As I'm sure you know, adult coloring books are the new black. And I'm not mad about it. I've reviewed a few that I've enjoyed, but I definitely have a new favorite in the form of Thaneeya McArdle's Follow Your Bliss Coloring Book. Let me explain, so I've been getting my grandma into the whole adult coloring scene, and since she's had a stroke, her vision is off and she can't really focus on the novels she used to love, which makes me sad. She literally sits at home and watches daytime court shows, which is extra sad. When I gave her a coloring book that had a lot of different designs, but no real picture, she liked it, but what she really wanted was to color something less abstract. McArdle's coloring book was so perfect because there's a lot of detail, BUT you can see your subject clearly (like a tea cup or a cat). And grandma likes that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

if you want to live forever like on fame.

When I was younger and seemed to be always trying to lose weight in one way or another, it was all about how I looked, not how I felt. Since turning 30, things have changed. Like caring about what size jeans I am buying, and eating "healthy" (or nothing) for the sole purpose of losing weight. Now, I care about my heath. My heart. My blood pressure. Yes, losing weight is cool, but I want to put foods in my body that will make me healthy.

The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman, MD is totally advertised as a weight loss diet because that's what grabs people's attention, but I don't see it that way. I see it as a way for people to change their lives around. Those headed for diabetes town can turn that train right around (I've seen it happen). So instead of thinking of it as a diet, let's think about it as eating to NOT get sick. And Dr. Hyman tells you everything you need to eat to accomplish this goal in his six-week healthy-living program.

Yes. It's more work. You'll be going to the grocery store more frequently to stock up on veggies. Yes. supplements are expensive. But I guarantee all of your co-pays cost more.