Saturday, June 30, 2012

REVIEW: The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry


The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jesús, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús.

Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

Paperback, 326 pages
Published September 2011 by AuthorHouse
ISBN 1456795856 (ISBN13: 9781456795856)

About the Author
bio from her website

Mary Pauline Lowry joined a Hotshot Crew of forest firefighters, traveling the American west with a band of 20 men, digging fireline alongside raging forest fires during the day, sleeping in the ash at night.

Working a night shift on the 20,000 acre Laid Low fire in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest, Mary looked at the fire moving over the mountains like lava, at the city of Los Angeles far below illuminated with the light of a million streetlamps. She looked around her at the strong, sweaty, beautiful, ash-covered men working beside her. And she decided then that she would write a book about these Gods of Fire.

Laid off with the rest of her crew after the end of her first fire season, she went to Costa Rica, river rafting through the rainforest outside of La Fortuna, sea kayaking in the Pacific Ocean outside of Montezuma, and diving off of waterfalls until the money ran out and she returned home to Austin to work at her local indie bookstore.

After her second fire season, she finished her first novel, The Gods of Fire. Mary threw her tent in her car and headed for southwest Colorado. She rented a basement room at the Desert Rose Horse Ranch. Before dawn she wrote her second novel, The Earthquake Machine. During the day she did trim carpentry, framed houses, and built fences with a giant, bearded Viking of a man named David who taught her to be a carpenter.

Next Mary found work at a domestic violence shelter, helping the women and children she came to think of as “the forgotten ones.” Fleeing violent men had left these women homeless and there were rarely enough resources to get them truly back on their feet.  Mary did what she could for the women and children, cried every time she finished a shift, and spent her days off work polishing The Earthquake Machine, sending The Gods of Fire to agents and editors in faraway New York City, and running on mountain trails.

When she moved back to Austin, she wrote during the day and worked the night shift on the National Domestic Violence Hotline where she helped over 25,000 survivors of domestic violence seek safe shelter and a better life.

The Gods of Fire didn’t sell. So Mary walked onto a plane and flew back to Los Angeles for the first time since that Laid Low Fire. But this time she went straight to Hollywood where she convinced Bill Mechanic (producer of films such as Fight Club, Braveheart, The Titanic, and Coraline) to option The Gods of Fire for film.

Mary then wrote the screenplay, which is currently out with directors.

Mary’s agent didn’t want to send out The Earthquake Machine to editors. The book was perhaps too edgy. Editors would be afraid to take a chance on such a wild ride. And so Mary decided to give readers a chance to find her. 

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My Thoughts
Everything in Rhonda's house was beige. Beige rooms, beige couch, beige table and chairs.
Rhonda lives a privileged, but very unhappy life, as a teenager in a home with two parents who have a chasm between them. Her father is thoughtless and self-absorbed, her mother teetering on the brink of insanity. After tragedy strikes, Rhonda throws herself into the Rio Grande and emerges in Mexico as a Mexican boy named Angel.

This is probably the toughest review I've ever done. That is because I really wanted to love this one. I really liked the author, aspects of the synopsis really intrigued me, and therefore I really wanted to love this story. But I just didn't.

The book used a very strange moth/sex metaphor to describe an encounter with an older man, and I don't think that I ever really got the metaphor.
She exploded and dissolved into the night and nothing remained but her musky moth smell. (p. 34)
And in a strange twist, after finishing this book I read another book for a book tour that was about a girl named Moth. What is it suddenly with moths??

But back to the story. Then her feelings toward this man Mansk turned violent, and I began to think she was a little nutty.
She imagined plunging the knifeblade into one of Mansk's eyes. Rhonda wanted the blade to sink through to the soft gray squiggles of his brain. More than that she wanted to be without a moth, or a traitorous moth's head. (p. 36)
 It began to appear that she hated her own "impending womanhood" and wanted to escape her doom.

Then at about 40 pages in, the story took a really strange twist and became like a psychedelic ride. And then soon after peyote entered the picture and things got really weird. The story maintained this very over-the-top and maniacal feel up to the town of Arrazola, like a three day peyote trip and vision quest. Once Arrazola is found, suddenly she is reborn again as a girl and a quiet peacefulness settles in.
...she remembered lying in her tent, watching Mansk clean up. She had wanted to eat his eyes like grapes, to crack his chest and roll around inside of him, to gobble him down. And the disappointment at not being able to do so had been part of what had driven her across the river. (p. 135) 
Angel could feel faith and belief settling down into the black hole in her heart. (p. 134)
A calm feeling, a sense that she didn't have to understand everything right at that moment passed through her. (p.135)
And after the story takes another tragic twist, she once again starts to sound a little crazy to me. Suddenly the man she was previously wanting to plunge her knife into and "eat his eyes like grapes" was her star-crossed lover.
She thought of Mansk and knew now that there was desire between them and a passion of agony; and also the age difference between them perhaps wasn't entirely insurmountable. (p. 172)
And then in the next paragraph she is talking about sinking her knife into his eye again. I swear the girl is psychotic!

Much of the story was disjointed and fragmented. Often ideas were linked together in a weird way and didn't flow fluid, leaving it feeling clunky and awkward. And the story was rampant with sexuality. Sex was a big focus of fascination and confusion for Rhonda/Angel, and in the end she determines it is her power. It was definitely too sexualized for the younger YA crowd, and should be strictly NC-17 for most kids.

Not all of it was bad or uncomfortable. There were moments I loved her descriptive writing. bleach out her wild lipstick-red daughter and the deep purple bruises of her sadness. (p. 7)
She followed the river, walking with its current, envying the cactus she passed for their thorns. (p. 44)
But then the ebook ended quite abruptly at 211 pages, although Goodreads shows that the paperback as 326 pages long. So I don't know what is up with that. But the ending was rather unexpected and odd.

My final word: So I wanted to be wowed by this story, and in the end I was left simply "blah". Not bad, not good. But many others are giving it quite good reviews, so perhaps it was just a poor fit for me, and maybe it would be the perfect fit for you!

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosure:I received an ebook version of this book for review from the author, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay


Following in the footsteps of The Birth House, her powerful debut novel, The Virgin Cure secures Ami McKay's place as one of our most beguiling storytellers. (Not that it has to… that is pretty much taken care of!)

"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart." So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. As a young child, Moth's father smiled, tipped his hat and walked away from his wife and daughter forever, and Moth has never stopped imagining that one day they may be reunited – despite knowing in her heart what he chose over them. Her hard mother is barely making a living with her fortune-telling, sometimes for well-heeled clients, yet Moth is all too aware of how she really pays the rent.

Life would be so much better, Moth knows, if fortune had gone the other way - if only she'd had the luxury of a good family and some station in life. The young Moth spends her days wandering the streets of her own and better neighbourhoods, imagining what days are like for the wealthy women whose grand yet forbidding gardens she slips through when no one's looking. Yet every night Moth must return to the disease- and grief-ridden tenements she calls home.

The summer Moth turns twelve, her mother puts a halt to her explorations by selling her boots to a local vendor, convinced that Moth was planning to run away. Wanting to make the most of her every asset, she also sells Moth to a wealthy woman as a servant, with no intention of ever seeing her again.

These betrayals lead Moth to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks and prostitutes, but also a locale frequented by New York's social elite. Their patronage supports the shadowy undersphere, where businesses can flourish if they truly understand the importance of wealth and social standing - and of keeping secrets. In that world Moth meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as an "infant school." There Moth finds the orderly solace she has always wanted, and begins to imagine herself embarking upon a new path.

Yet salvation does not come without its price: Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are "willing and clean," and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth. That's not the worst of the situation, though. In a time and place where mysterious illnesses ravage those who haven't been cautious, no matter their social station, diseased men yearn for a "virgin cure" - thinking that deflowering a "fresh maid" can heal the incurable and tainted.

Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician who works to help young women like her, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her. Moth's new friends are falling prey to fates both expected and forced upon them, yet she knows the law will not protect her, and that polite society ignores her. Still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There's a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Knopf Canada
ISBN 0676979564 (ISBN13: 9780676979565)

About the Author
from her website

Ami McKay’s debut novel, The Birth House was a # 1 bestseller in Canada, winner of three CBA Libris Awards, nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and a book club favourite around the world. Her new novel. The Virgin Cure, is inspired by the life of her great- great grandmother, Dr. Sarah Fonda Mackintosh, a female physician in nineteenth century New York. Born and raised in Indiana, Ami now lives in Nova Scotia.

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My Thoughts
I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.
Moth, an unusual and mystical-sounding name given her by an errant father, is one of the unfortunate born into poverty and misfortune, and yet she is...gifted. She is special.

Moth is smart and adaptable and almost fearless. A twelve-year-old girl, she is forsaken by her mother, a local mystic and fortune-teller, but she determinedly finds her way, via a path to an "infant school". An infant school would be considered very upsetting and disturbing to any woman of this generation, but for a young girl on her own in the late 1800s of Manhattan, it could be her only saving grace. Some of these girls came to the "school" of their own accord, others were sold to them by poverty-stricken relatives.

In "infant schools", young girls were taught all about how to charm a man, how to intrigue him and entice him, and hold his interest. How to drive up her own worth in his eyes, so that he would be willing to pay a large sum for her "innocence". Then her virginity would be sold for a pretty penny, and the girl could then opt to leave the school to fend for herself, or to become a professional prostitute.

Believe it or not, these girls were the lucky ones. They had a chance at security, food in their bellies and a warm place to sleep at night. They were well-fed, well-dressed, but in return they were exploited for financial gain. They were essentially sexual slaves. But the alternative was unthinkable. Begging on the streets, attacked in alleys. The name of the book comes from the idea that men had of the "Virgin Cure". Men believed that if they were sick (perhaps with syphilis or gonorrhea), that having sex with a young virgin would cure them. This idea is still prevalent in areas of Africa today, and is one of the reasons that AIDS has a stranglehold on that country, as men rape young girls in hopes of curing themselves of AIDS. The girls in the infant schools were supposed to be safe from this atrocity, as the men that came to the schools and "courted" the girls were men of means, and were supposed to be clean and uninfected.

But Moth won't be restrained. She has her wings. And, with the help of some well-placed friends, she is able to rise up and fly under her own power.

I loved this story, and I found author Ami McKay's writing to be very effective and moving.  Normally I don't quote from ARCs, as I know that the publishers ask that you don't. However her writing was so beautiful, I feel driven to share a few small tastes, and I don't have access to an official release to check against. So let me preface this by saying that these brief quotes have not been checked against a release copy, so what you see here may differ from the actual release. 
“You a beggar-- go away.”
Her voice was throaty and mean, as if she meant for the words to stick in my ears. (p.83)
My heartbreak that night was terribly polite. It let me know it was coming for me, even when I insisted on ignoring it. (p. 88)
The book also has little tidbits and notes in the margins that give you a glimpse into the era and at times explain a little about a topic in the story. One of things you learn from one of these tips is the disturbing reality of life for young girls in the 1800s.
In 1871, under common law, the age of consent was ten years of age. (In Delaware it was seven.) (p. 123)
The one complaint that I have is that sometimes it was hard to discern the transition from the story to a news article or a "diary entry" or letter by the doctor. Perhaps they could have used different typeface and margins and such to make it easier to indicate the switch?

My final word: At times shocking and disturbing, but overall a very moving and satisfying read, I highly recommend this book. Perhaps it is my logical techy mind that allows me to detach and think that these "infant schools" (although the name really sticks in my craw!) really makes sense, and could be a good move for a young girl that otherwise had no other offers in life. At least it gave her a chance. But on the other hand, I fume that there was such a demand for a young girl's exploitation to begin with! This story isn't for the faint of heart, but this rare gem is perfect for someone looking for a new kind of heroine-- a heroine perhaps not as delicate and fancy as one of those frilly butterflies, but a Moth gritty and spunky enough to knock the dust off her wings and take flight once again...

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of this tour.

Check out the master schedule for the book tour: 

Tuesday, June 26th: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, June 27th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, June 28th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Friday, June 29th: Bookworm with a View
Monday, July 2nd: Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, July 4th: Book Him Danno!
Thursday, July 5th: nomadreader
Monday, July 9th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, July 10th: Raging Bibliomania
Wednesday, July 11th: Bookworm’s Dinner
Thursday, July 12th: A Novel Source
Monday, July 16th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, July 17th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, July 18th: Twisting the Lens
Thursday, July 19th: “That’s Swell!”
Monday, July 23rd: Just Joanna
Wednesday, July 25th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, July 26th: Peeking Between the Pages
TBD: Into the Hall of Books

Cover: 8 out of 10
Writing Style: 8.5 out of 10
Characters: 8 out of 10
Storyline/Plot: 8.5 out of 10
Interest/Uniqueness: 8.5 out of 10

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and Knopf Canada, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and any quotes could differ from the actual release copy.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This makes me wish I had stairs...

What a cool idea! I wish that I had stairs, so that I could do something like this. Awesome!

(Unfortunately I have no idea where this image originated, as there was no notation where I found it.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SHARING: Pictures of people reading on the subway

I love this! As explained on the blog:
The Underground New York Public Library is a visual library featuring the Reading-Riders of the NYC subways.
Pictures of subway patrons engrossed in books, and the titles of the books they are reading, is listed on the blog. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SHARING: "Things To Do With a Book Besides Read It"

Iris Blasi has pinned on Pinterest "Things To Do With a Book Besides Read It". There are some great, ingenious things listed there including...

A book birdhouse

A book table
A broom
A book bed
 Check it out!

Monday, June 18, 2012

SHARING: Creative library counter

I loved this use of books to construct a counter at a library...

REVIEW: One Moment by Kristina McBride


This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?

The latest novel from the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you.

Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: June 26th 2012 by EgmontUSA
ISBN 160684086X (ISBN13: 9781606840863)

About the Author

Kristina McBride, a former English teacher and yearbook advisor, dreamed of being a published author since she was a child and lived across the street from a library. Kristina has published two novels for young adults - The Tension of Opposites (May 2010) and One Moment (June 2012). She lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children.

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My Thoughts
"So you're gonna do it?" Adam looked at me, his sun-blazed cheeks aglow with a daring smile.
Maggie is anticipating a great summer vacation. It's the summer before her senior year of high school, she and her friends are breaking loose and having fun, and she has plans for a special surprise for her steady boyfriend Joey of two years when his parents go out of town and leave him home alone. But then everything changes with the sudden death of the boyfriend that is like a bright light in a dark sky-- full of life and intense energy and recklessness.

Helping Maggie through these trying days are her best friend Adam and girlfriends Shannon and Tanna.
But questions arise surrounding Joey's death and the weeks leading up to it, and Maggie begins to wonder whether she really knew Joey at all.
If I had one more moment with Joey, I’d ask what part of it all he regretted most in that last moment of his life. (p. 195)
I really enjoyed this lovely little YA novel.This was my introduction to author Kristina McBride, and I found the writing very effective, bringing scenes to life for me. The author does a wonderful job of beautifully capturing the fresh passion of new love...
...he smiled, his fingers stroking my chin, trailing slowly down my neck, lighting my entire body on fire.

“That was nice,” he said.

I nodded, unable to find my voice.

“I want to gulp you down.”

I loved the smoky sound of his voice as he whispered to me.

“But I have to take sips. Or else this thing could be dangerous.” (p. 76)
At times gritty and spirited, other times emotional and sentimental, the story grabbed me and held me throughout. I don't recall a moment when I was bored or wishing it would end. The characters were well-developed. I wanted to comfort Maggie, shake Adam, at times even slap Shannon. But most of all you will find yourself becoming Maggie's cheerleader.

My final word: In a word, how did this book make me feel in the end? Hopeful...

Cover: 8.5 out of 10
Writing Style:
8 out of 10
7.5 out of 10
7.5 out of 10
8 out of 10

My Rating: 8 out of 10


I received a copy of this e-book to review through Egmont USA and Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and I did not have access to an actual release to check the quotes in the published novel.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

GIVEAWAY HOP: "Clear Your Shelf" Giveaway Hop

Today I am joining in on the "Clear Your Shelf" Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.

I decided that this would be a good time to try and find new homes for some books I had committed to reviewing, but haven't gotten to for one reason or another. The only requirements to win are that you:
  • Need to be an active book blogger. This is because these are books that need to be reviewed, and I need to do what I can to assure that is what will happen to them.  
  • Need to have a US shipping address.
So please only enter if you have a current book blog, and you will be able to review the book you win in a reasonable amount of time. 

Now on to the books that I have up for grabs:

Hunter by Campbell Jeffreys

Did the Australian government really bring known Nazi party members to Australia and protected them until their deaths? Having survived the horrors of the Eastern Front, Peter Fischer leaves post-war Germany behind and moves to Australia. 40 years later, Eric Messer is struggling to find his place at a new high school south of Perth. The two meet just before the Gulf War, sparking a strange friendship tainted by mistrust and half-truths, and complicated by a mysterious and overly friendly Austrian named Baum. Of Germany descent himself, Eric becomes fascinated by the men and the stories they tell. Are they possibly wanted Nazi war criminals?

Why have I not reviewed it?  I think it sounds like a fine book, but for some reason I have just been completely unable to get into the mindset to sit down with this book. It has been on my TBR shelf much, much too long, and it needs to get reviewed!

Kea's Flight by Erika Hammerschmidt and John C. Ricker

It's the 25th century, and humans have learned how to end unwanted pregnancies by removing and cryogenically freezing the embryos to save for later. But they never planned for how many there would be, or how much control people would want over their offspring's genetic makeup.

Kea was an exile before she was born. Grown from an embryo that was rejected for having autism-spectrum genes, she has been raised on a starship full of Earth's unwanted children. When a sudden discovery threatens their plan to find a home, Kea must join with other rejects to save the ship from its own insane government.

For more info about this book, go to:

Why have I not reviewed it? This is one of those books that I simply should not have accepted to review. I was intrigued by the autism angle, but sci-fi really is not my bent. 

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.

As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves. Using her past, present, and future to explore what matters most to women at different ages, Quindlen talks about
Marriage: “A safety net of small white lies can be the bedrock of a successful marriage. You wouldn’t believe how cheaply I can do a kitchen renovation.”

Girlfriends: “Ask any woman how she makes it through the day, and she may mention her calendar, her to-do lists, her babysitter. But if you push her on how she really makes it through her day, she will mention her girlfriends. Sometimes I will see a photo of an actress in an unflattering dress or a blouse too young for her or with a heavy-handed makeup job, and I mutter, ‘She must not have any girlfriends.’ ”

Stuff: “Here’s what it comes down to, really: there is now so much stuff in my head, so many years, so many memories, that it’s taken the place of primacy away from the things in the bedrooms, on the porch. My doctor says that, contrary to conventional wisdom, she doesn’t believe our memories flag because of a drop in estrogen but because of how crowded it is in the drawers of our minds. Between the stuff at work and the stuff at home, the appointments and the news and the gossip and the rest, the past and the present and the plans for the future, the filing cabinets in our heads are not only full, they’re overflowing.”

Our bodies: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come. It’s like a car, and while I like a red convertible or even a Bentley as well as the next person, what I really need are four tires and an engine.”

Parenting: “Being a parent is not transactional. We do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us.”

From childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, Quindlen uses the events of her own life to illuminate our own. Along with the downsides of age, she says, can come wisdom, a perspective on life that makes it satisfying and even joyful. Candid, funny, moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.

Why I have not reviewed it: I received this book unsolicited, and I started reading it and found I really enjoyed the writing style. The trouble was that I could not really identify with the subject matter. I'm not 50 (yet!), not married and have no children. I just couldn't identify.

The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success On Your Own Terms by Danielle Laporte

The Fire Starter Sessions is an apathy-kicking, integrity-infusing guide to defining success on your own terms.

As the creator of “the best place online for kick-ass spirituality,” Danielle LaPorte’s straight-talk life-and-livelihood sermons have been read by over one million people. Bold but empathetic, she reframes popular self-help and success concepts:

  • Life balance is a myth, and the pursuit of it is causing us more stress then the craving for balance itself.
  • Being well-rounded is over-rated. When you focus on developing your true strengths, you enter your mastery zone.
  • Screw your principles (they might be holding you back).
  • We have ambition backwards. Getting clear on how you want to feel in your life + work is more important than setting goals. It's the most potent form of clarity that you can have, and it's what leads to true fulfillment.
Why I have not reviewed it:  I was offered this book for review or giveaway. Knowing that "self-help" is not really my thing, I intended to give it away. However after receiving it I found it visually and tactilely very appealing. So I gave it a go, and I confirmed (once again) that self-help is not my thing! But I am sure there are tons of people out there who could really enjoy this one!

To enter, just complete the Rafflecopter form below...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be chosen 6/21/12, or thereabouts! And now head on to the other blogs who have books to give away from their shelves. Good luck everyone!

Introducing...One Moment by

Introducing books through the first chapter or so... 

"So you're gonna do it?" Adam looked at me, his sun-blazed cheeks aglow with a daring smile.

-- One Moment by Kristina McBride

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

ARTICLE SHARING: Summer Reading Flowchart

Are you stymied, trying to figure out what to read this summer? Well TEACH may have just the thing for you! They have created a flowchart to help you pick your next summer read. Do you want Classic Fiction or Contemporary? High Society or Social Issues? Historical Fiction or Mystery? Go check it out, and go with the flow!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mailbox Monday (06-11-12 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is now hosted monthly by a different blog. Here is the official blog of Mailbox Monday.  Here's what I've received over the last few weeks:

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall
Won through Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property.

On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--- some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris?

The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home?

Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom.

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey
Won through Random House Reader's Circle

A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
Received from Henry Holt and Company for review

A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium—a compulsive read that's like "spending a day with your new best friend" (Bookforum)

Reeling from a failed marriage, Sheila, a twentysomething playwright, finds herself unsure of how to live and create. When Margaux, a talented painter and free spirit, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, enter her life, Sheila hopes that through close—sometimes too close—observation of her new friend, her new lover, and herself, she might regain her footing in art and life.

Using transcribed conversations, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, the brilliant and always innovative Sheila Heti crafts a work that is part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part bawdy confessional. It's a totally shameless and dynamic exploration into the way we live now, which breathes fresh wisdom into the eternal questions: What is the sincerest way to love? What kind of person should you be?

Bought from Barnes and Noble:

The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

A thriller with echoes of William Faulkner and Harper Lee, The Bottoms is classic American storytelling in its truest, darkest, and more affecting form.

Its 1933 in East Texas and the Depression lingers in the air like a slow moving storm. When a young Harry Collins and his little sister stumble across the body of a black woman who has been savagely mutilated and left to die in the bottoms of the Sabine River, their small town is instantly charged with tension. When a second body turns up, this time of a white woman, there is little Harry can do from stopping his Klan neighbors from lynching an innocent black man. Together with his younger sister, Harry sets out to discover who the real killer is, and to do so they will search for a truth that resides far deeper than any river or skin color.

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

From a childhood survivor of Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime comes an unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit.

Until the age of five, Lounge Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. While her beautiful mother worried that Loung was a troublemaker--that she stomped around like a thirsty cow--her beloved father knew Lounge was a clever girl.

When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family fled their home and moved from village to village to hide their identity, their education, their former life of privilege. Eventually, the family dispersed in order to survive.

Because Lounge was resilient and determined, she was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, while other siblings were sent to labor camps. As the Vietnamese penetrated Cambodia, destroying the Khmer Rouge, Loung and her surviving siblings were slowly reunited.

Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother, the vision of the others--and sustained be her sister's gentle kindness amid brutality--Loung forged on to create for herself a courageous new life.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real...a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages...A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP).  A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.
Months before publication, One Second After has already been cited on the floor of Congress as a book all Americans should read, a book already being discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at a weapon and its awesome power to destroy the entire United States, literally within one second. It is a weapon that the Wall Street Journal warns could shatter America. In the tradition of On the Beach, Fail Safe and Testament, this book, set in a typical American town, is a dire warning of what might be our future...and our end.

 In the Rogue Blood by James Carlos Blake

Now in trade paperback, James Carlos Blake's remarkable award-winning novel provides a savage and unforgettable vision of the old American West that explodes idealized myths. Separate journeys of twin brothers ultimately lead to a disputed Texas and to a family bond tested by war and conscience.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

REVIEW: Overseas by Beatriz Williams


A passionate, sweeping novel of a love that transcends time.

When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire—Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor—pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?

The answer is beyond imagining . . . at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.

Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.

About the Author
from the author's website

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons. She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry.

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Check out a Q&A done with the author by the Philadelphia Examiner

My Thoughts
The rain beat steadily through the night and into the meager dawn.
 This story takes place in New York City and Amiens, France.
Amiens quartier saint leu canaux. Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.
Kate Wilson finds herself wrapped up in a whirlwind romance with millionaire hedge fund bigwig Julian Lawrence. As their romance unwinds, the reader learns that their love story transcends the decades. Kate tries to understand her attraction and immediate connection to this man who quickly professes his love for her. Julian spends his time trying to convince Kate that what they feel is real and lasting and true. It is only when Kate discovers Julian's secret that she finally gives in to their love wholly, and later finds herself in a battle for him and their love.

Well, I’m not a big romance reader, and I am a bit skeptical of love. I know that love exists, and have even experienced it myself on more than one occasion. But I believe that true, deep love is rare, and usually people are more consumed with lust than love, or it is a result of a co-dependent personality finding someone to enable or someone to enable them. So I find the light fluff of romance novels to be something a bit too unrealistic for me to be able to deal with most often. It’s the dialogue in romance novels that kills me most. It’s so flowery and effusive. People don’t really talk like that, do they? Am I just cold-hearted? Because once that starts, I just sort of roll my eyes and tune out. And it's funny. I used to enjoy a good romance novel by Kathleen Woodiwiss or Danielle Steele back in the day, but since then I haven't found one that I could really lose myself in. Have I changed? Or is it just those authors that can really speak to me?

So there were quite a few times when I thought about just putting this book down, as the romance was a little over the top for me and hard to swallow. However it was the “mystery” that kept me hanging on. I wanted to understand what was really going on here. I wanted to see how this all panned out, and whether all the loose ends would be neatly tied up.

And they pretty much were.

The characters were pretty well developed, but certain things would bug me. Like the way that Julian would speak. Hey, maybe that's how good English gents really speak, calling their loves "minx" all of the time, and the whole "pip, pip, cheerio" kinda thing. I mean, what do I know. The author spent time in London and presumably knows the Brits better than I do, so maybe that really is how they speak. But it lacked a little realism for me.

I don't want to delve too deeply into the plot and give anything away, but suffice to say that it is one of those plots that keeps you guessing a bit. Have you ever seen them explain string theory? Well, that's what this reminded me of. Everything all twisted up together, the ability to just hop from one loop in the string to another. A little hokey plot, but also a little clever.

The cover is attractive, being a deep blue and black depicting the night sky over New York City, but something about it just made me think of the TV show "Bewitched"!

And I must warn that there is periodic vulgarity and there are some sexual situations.

My final word: Overall I found this to be a unique twist on the traditional romance plot. It was original and restrained, sentimental and intriguing. However I found the dialogue at times to be too fussy, and even redundant and superfluous. It was a bit on the dull side at times, but overall a good effort and worth my time.

Cover: 7/10
Writing Style: 7.5/10
Characters: 7.5/10
Storyline/Plot: 8/10
Interest/Uniqueness: 9/10

My Rating: 7.5 out of 10


I received a copy of this e-book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof.

Monday, June 4, 2012

AUTHOR NEWS: Last day to enter Ocean Beach giveaway by Wendy Wax

Today is the last day to enter author Wendy Wax's giveaway for three advance copies of her upcoming sequel to her novel Ten Beach Road.Just head on over to Writerspace and scroll down to the author's name for your chance at winning one of the three available ARCs! Good luck!

Synopsis for Ocean Beach:

Unlikely friends Madeline, Avery and Nicole have hit some speed bumps in their lives, but when they arrive in Miami’s South Beach neighborhood, they are all hoping for a do-over. Literally. They’ve been hired to bring a once-grand historic house back to its former glory on a new television show called Do-Over. If they can just get this show off the ground, Nikki would get back on her feet financially, Avery could restart her ruined career, and Maddie would have a shot at keeping her family together.

At least, that’s the plan – until the women realize that having their work broadcast is one thing, having their personal lives play out on TV is another thing entirely. Soon they are struggling to hold themselves, and the project, together. With a decades-old mystery—and the hurricane season—looming, the women are forced to figure out just how they’ll weather life’s storms…

Friday, June 1, 2012

ARTICLE SHARING: "11 Cakes Based on Kids' Books, Movies and TV Shows"

On a more upbeat note, mental_floss posted about some very impressive cakes based on children's books...

Very cool! Check it out!

ARTICLE SHARING: "Terrifying French children's books- in pictures"

I found a great post on theguardian of creepy French children's books. From lost little girls...
"Where is my Mommy?"
...and bitter disappointment...
"The Weight of Disappointment" a little girl visited by death and, yes, killed...

I can't translate it. Something like "Visit the Little Death"

...there were lots of "What were they thinking?" moments to be found! Check it out!