Monday, August 31, 2009

New Book Arrival: Imagine: A Vagabond Story by Grant Lingel

The author, Grant Lingel, generously sent me a copy of Imagine: A Vagabond Story to review.



When Grant Lingel left Western New York in January of 2006, he had a bag of clothes, a few hundred dollars and a one-way ticket to Mexico. Like many at age twenty-two, Grant had no idea what to expect after school in the so-called ‘real world’. All he knew was that he needed to break free and do something extraordinary. The year that followed turned out to be an inspiring and eye-opening adventure through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.

When Grant moved to Mexico, he had no idea what was in store for him. However, the excitement of possibly finding a less trampled trail fueled his desire and the drive to make something happen. The beauty of such an endeavor is that no matter the result, overcoming the fear to step outside your comfort zone can lay out paths that never seemed possible to walk down. Comfort zones are abstract, created specifically to limit the actions of the individual. Overcoming the fear that lurks on its outer thresholds transforms dream worlds into reality. All it takes is an initial lunge in the right direction and the rest, given the right attitude, will snowball into place.

Grant was able to parlay a few hundred dollars and a one-way plane ticket into a year of travel and jungle trekking, caving, cliff jumping, scuba diving, volcano climbing and more in the Latin world. Initially, the lure of cheap drugs and easy sex led Grant to a play-all-day, party-all-night lifestyle, mixing the business of working at a resort with the pleasures of being on the beach with rich guests and adventurous friends. So when the opportunity to join a group of strangers in a van headed south presented itself Grant knew he had to take it. He spent two weeks across three countries with six new companions before staying behind in southwestern Guatemala to volunteer in a hostel. It was there, working as a server in a small corner of Central America, that Grant encountered a global subculture of backpackers from different countries, speaking different languages yet sharing two defining features: a backpack and an open mind.

Every day was exciting and fresh as he listened to countless stories from places that never existed in his world before the road. It was this long journey through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala that taught him it’s the people along the way who shape who you are and who you become. It is they who taught Grant about the world and more importantly, about himself.




Award: Let’s Be Friends Award


Wow! Ryan over at Wordsmithonia generously presented me with the lovely Let's Be Friends Award!

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.


I'm passing this wonderful award on to:

Isalys and Vanessa at Book Soulmates

Esme at Chocolate and Croissants



Mailbox Monday - August 23rd to 29th


Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page and is where we share all the books we received in the mail over the past week. I, personally, am no longer going to include books I receive for review, since they're already covered in their individual New Book Arrival posts.



Ever wished you could be as happy and carefree as a kitten? Smitten: A Kitten's Guide to Happiness will help point the way. Acclaimed photographer Rachael Hale uses her lens, her love of cats, and a great deal of patience, to create an enchanting perspective on how kittens see the world.

This latest collection in her bestselling book series features 60 brand new images of adorable kittens as they frolic, sleep, and explore. The heartwarming and amusing photographs are presented alongside memorable quotations that serve to remind us to remain curious, to revel in playtime, to appreciate fine food and friends, and to never underestimate the power of a good nap.

For my friend abroad, but I'm stealing it to read first before it goes on her shelf!





Norilana Books proudly presents the debut title of our new romantic fantasy imprint Leda...

Introducing LACE AND BLADE -- an original new anthology series of elegant romantic fantasy, edited by Deborah J. Ross, premiering on Valentine's Day 2008.

In the spirit of classic period swashbucklers, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and D'Artagnan, brimming with romantic courtly intrigue and dangerous liaisons, with cloak and dagger and perfumed handkerchiefs, the language of the fan and stolen glances, with the manners of Jane Austen and the sparkling rapier wit of Oscar Wilde, here are nine fantastic stories of adventure, derring-do, love, and glamorous yet subtle magic, by such stellar authors as Tanith Lee, Catherine Asaro, Diana L. Paxson, Madeleine E. Robins, Robin Wayne Bailey, Dave Smeds, Mary Rosenblum, Chaz Brenchley, and Sherwood Smith.

Don't hesitate another moment... step into a sophisticated other world where passion is a courtly mistress, mystery is moonlight on steel, and magic is the god of love.

En garde, mon amour!

For my friend abroad.





Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Book Arrival: $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner

The publisher, Hachette, generously sent me a copy of $20 Per Gallon to review.


Imagine an everyday world in which the price of gasoline (and oil) continues to go up, and up, and up. Think about the immediate impact that would have on our lives.

Of course, everybody already knows how about gasoline has affected our driving habits. People can't wait to junk their gas-guzzling SUVs for a new Prius. But there are more, not-so-obvious changes on the horizon that Chris Steiner tracks brilliantly in this provocative work.

Consider the following societal changes: people who own homes in far-off suburbs will soon realize that there's no longer any market for their houses (reason: nobody wants to live too far away because it's too expensive to commute to work). Telecommuting will begin to expand rapidly. Trains will become the mode of national transportation (as it used to be) as the price of flying becomes prohibitive. Families will begin to migrate southward as the price of heating northern homes in the winter is too pricey. Cheap everyday items that are comprised of plastic will go away because of the rising price to produce them (plastic is derived from oil). And this is just the beginning of a huge and overwhelming domino effect that our way of life will undergo in the years to come.

Steiner, an engineer by training before turning to journalism, sees how this simple but constant rise in oil and gas prices will totally re-structure our lifestyle. But what may be surprising to readers is that all of these changes may not be negative - but actually will usher in some new and very promising aspects of our society.

Steiner will probe how the liberation of technology and innovation, triggered by climbing gas prices, will change our lives. The book may start as an alarmist's exercise.... but don't be misled. The future will be exhilarating.



Guest Post: Carolyn Rubenstein author of Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors

Carolyn Rubenstein, author of the new book Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.




Five Rules for a Fully-Realized Life
Excerpted from Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors
by Carolyn Rubenstein

Too often, we’re so caught up in the day-to-day intricacies of attending school, making a living, raising children or worrying about our future that all we can see are our problems. We’re so focused on the minutia that we forget to look at the big picture.

We shouldn’t wait for a crisis to live life to the fullest. These are lessons we can all use to make our lives better today, tomorrow and every day.

1. Accentuate the positive

Studies show that having an optimistic or pessimistic attitude can affect the quality of your life, and even how long you live. Optimists’ positive expectations make them more likely to overcome pain and adversity. On the other hand, depression is just as significant a risk factor for coronary heart disease as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. While you may not be able to control the bad events in your life, you can control your mind. So don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t dwell on the negative and always look for the silver lining in every cloud.

2. Surround yourself with a support system

While being loved by your family is wonderful, it can be equally important to have a nurturing environment where you’re also supported by true friends and peers. Positive people. People who celebrate who you are, who champion your cause, who make you laugh and who make you feel good about yourself. The best way to get a good support system is to be a good supporter yourself, to appreciate what others provide for you and nurture those relationships.

3. Laugh—it really is the best medicine

The physical act of laughter stretches and loosens muscles throughout your face and body, clears your breathing passages and sends more oxygen to your tissues. Plus, it helps boost your heart rate and immune system, increases blood flow, decreases blood sugar levels and releases endorphins that decrease pain levels. Plainly, laughing makes you feel better. Ten minutes of giggling, chuckling or guffawing can make you feel better for hours, no matter what you’re going through.

4. Never give up

Everyone has days when they feel as if life is too tough, that it would be simpler to just give up, give in and stop the pain—whether physical or emotional. But people who do great things persevere. They don’t give in, they don’t give up, they don’t take the easy way out and they don’t let their dreams die. Instead, they remain true to their dreams and goals. Everyone faces obstacles all the time. We can either let them defeat us, or we can use the obstacles to spur us to greater resolve, to reach down deep inside ourselves and find a core of hidden strength to endure or to push our way through it.

5. Pay it forward

We’re all good at giving back to our family and friends, but the idea of foundations such as the Pay it Forward Foundation (www.payitforwardfoundation.org) and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (www.actsofkindness.org) is to give freely of yourself to strangers, or to people you don’t know well, without expecting anything back. Performing these random acts of kindness will reap benefits for you as well. Allan Luks, the executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City studied the effects of helping others and coined the phrase “helper’s high.” The study shows that helping others releases endorphins and reduces stress—and invaluable benefit in these days and times. When showing kindness to others, it’s difficult to feel depressed, sad or lonely and helps you find a sense of direction, enables you to heal from life-changing events and brings a sense of purpose to your life.



About the book:

Can you imagine being in high school or college and suddenly learning you have cancer? You thought you had a lifetime ahead of you and the whole world at your feet, but suddenly you're told... maybe not. How would you cope?

That's the question the twenty young people in this book had to answer when they were diagnosed with childhood cancer. Perseverance tells of their trials and tribulations, of their triumphs, and of the unique challenges that day-to-day college life brings them. Perseverance also provides an intimate look at the lives and journeys of these young people and how their courage and strength have affected the lives of others.

These honest, first-person accounts lend amazing depth to the inspiring stories of these young men and women. Inside, you'll meet Zac York, who tells of climbing Mount Whitney—on crutches—after battling brain cancer. You’ll meet Alex Oden, who—just days after brain surgery—gave his 8th grade peers a graduation speech called “A Day Well Spent,” in which he challenged them to make a difference in just one day. You’ll meet Kristen Jones, who, while battling leukemia, was able to pass the MCAT and pursue her dream of becoming a pediatric oncologist.

Twenty unique and fascinating stories, with one common theme: perseverance. The stories of these heroes demonstrate how anyone can learn to live with energy and passion, regardless of the obstacles to be faced, and will remind us all that now is everything.




About Carolyn:

Carolyn Rubenstein has spent most of her life working with children with cancer, in one form or another. She first met “kids with cancer” when she was six years old, and visited Camp Sunshine in Maine. Even at that young age, meeting these children affected her deeply—they were her peers, but considered “different”. But really, Carolyn realized, they weren’t different at all. She made dear friends at that camp, and it started her on a path.

That path has taken many turns. At 14, although still just a kid herself, Carolyn started “Carolyn’s Compassionate Children” (CCC) a non-profit organization that began as a pen-pal program for kids with cancer. As the years passed, Carolyn “grew up” with many of her friends with cancer, and saw the financial difficulties they were facing when it came to paying for college. Often, these young people had so much medical debt that paying for school seemed out of the question. To address this need, CCC changed focus from just a pen-pal organization to one that provides scholarships and support to childhood cancer survivors. In addition to providing its own scholarships, today CCC features on its website the “CCCpedia,” a database accessing information about more than 3,000 college scholarships for young adult cancer survivors.

A native of Boca Raton, Florida, in 2007 Carolyn graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Duke University with a BA in psychology. She began her PhD program in clinical psychology at Harvard University in the fall of 2008. She is a regular blogger for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Now age 24, in her free time she practices yoga, writes letters, and spends as much time as she can with her family, her friends, and her dog Lila Rose.



If you'd like to pick up a copy of Carolyn's book Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors click on the cover image below.




Library Loot - August 23rd to 29th


Here goes this week's Library Loot!



Meet Chick Best - a middle-aged, self-absorbed California dot.com millionaire. Other than his house and high-priced foreign cars, Chick's most expensive possession is his trophy wife, Evelyn. Evelyn is good at spending Chick's money, money that has pretty much run out. Another problem is his drug-addled sixteen-year-old daughter, Melissa. Though concerned about his family, Chick has resigned himself to a miserable state of acceptance. That is, until he, Evelyn, and Melissa take a Christmas vacation in Maui. With this, Chick's life changes...

Chick experiences unrequited love at first sight when he observes Paige Ellis emerging from the hotel swimming pool. His obsession, exceeded only by his need to possess her, isn't diminished when he learns that she is happily married. Instead, Chick's obsession compels him to drive to Paige's house, where he runs down and kills hwer husband. Chick's life begins to spiral homicidally out of control, resulting in the destruction of everything he holds dear. Will Paige learn the truth about Chick before it's too late?

Fast paced, filled with wry humor, murder, lust, and dead-on L.A. characterizations, Cannell has written his most explosive novel yet.

Unabridged audiobook on CD.





Never mix fire with magic!

Conn may only be a wizard's apprentice, but even he knows it's dangerous to play with fire . . . especially around magic. His master, Nevery, warns him that it could all blow up in his face. Besides, they have bigger problems to deal with. There is evil afoot in the city of Wellmet, an evil that isn't human.

But Conn is drawn to the murmurs he hears every time he sets off an explosion—something is trying to talk to him, to warn him. When none of the wizards listen, Conn takes matters into his own hands. His quest to protect everything he loves brings him face-to-face with a powerful sorcerer-king and a treachery beyond even his vivid imagination.

Sarah Prineas works her own spells as she transports us to an extraordinary world where cities are run on living magic and even a thief can become a wizard's apprentice.




Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mini Review: The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan

Put your backyard to work! Enjoy fresher, organic, better-tasting food all the time. The solution is as close as your own backyard. Grow the vegetables and fruits your family loves; keep bees; raise chickens, goats, or even a cow. The Backyard Homestead shows you how it's done. And when the harvest is in, you'll learn how to cook, preserve, cure, brew, or pickle the fruits of your labor.

From a quarter of an acre, you can harvest 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork, 75 pounds of nuts.



This was such an awesome book! I read only the parts that interested me, hence the mini review, but it was still really, really good!

This book covers everything you've ever wanted to know about raising your own food in whatever form that may come in. From vegetables, fruits, and nuts to raising animals for meat, dairy, and eggs to keeping bees, this book has it all. It's so packed with information it's amazing!

So, if you are in the least bit interested in raising your own food you simply must check this book out!

Rating: Highly recommended!



Guest Post: Heather Gudenkauf author of The Weight of Silence

Heather Gudenkauf, author of the book The Weight of Silence, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote just for us!

I also must note here that Heather is an absolute sweetheart! She was a complete doll to work with!



I’m first and foremost a reader. I love to read – fiction, nonfiction, poetry. Nearly anything. I’d always thought one day I would write a novel, but my children were little and I worked as an elementary school teacher. Where would I find the time to write a novel? The idea for The Weight of Silence, the story of two young girls who vanish and the desperate hunt to find them, came about one day as I was hiking in the woods near my home. I was by myself and wondered what I would do if I fell and got hurt or if I somehow managed to get myself lost. Then I thought about how frightening it would be for a young child to be lost in those woods. There was a book in there somewhere.

As a mother of young children and an elementary teacher, I knew I would need to make the best use of my time and gave myself a year to write the book. I bought myself a beautiful journal and began writing the day after school was out for the summer. I climbed into the car with my husband and kids and wrote while we traveled across the state on our family vacation. I wrote early in the morning and late into the night while my children slept and finished the first draft just before school started that fall. I set the manuscript aside for a few months and returned to my work as a busy third grade teacher.

A few months later, during my winter break from school, I pulled the manuscript out of the drawer, reread what I had written, took a deep breath, and sent off the first fifty pages to a literary agency that represented authors that I respected. I tried not to think about my story out there in the world, being read by others to critique – or even worse – out there not being read at all. A few weeks into the new year came the request from the literary agent for the remainder of the manuscript. I sent off the rest of the story and waited with anticipation. Would she decide to take me on? Would she give my book, give me a chance? She did. After much collaboration and revision the novel was ready to send off to publishers. Eventually my story found its way to Mira Books and, thankfully, found its home there.

My advice to those of you who want to write? Write when you are able, write the best story you can and never, ever give up.

---Heather Gudenkauf




About
The Weight of Silence:

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.



About Heather:

Heather Gudenkauf was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent the last sixteen years working with students of all ages and is currently an Instructional Coach, an educator who provides curricular and professional development support to teachers. The Weight of Silence is her first novel.

Heather lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her second novel.

Visit Heather Gudenkauf’s website HERE.



Thank you so much to Heather for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of her book The Weight of Silence click on the cover image below.



Review: How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World by Jordan Christy

Though fashions may change, certain things never go out of style- like your favorite little black dress that can take you from a business meeting to a dinner party to a night on the town. But what makes it work is not the dress, it's how you present yourself while wearing it. A woman who is polite, well spoken, gracious, charming, and thoughtful is always welcome- though such women appear to be in short supply these days! Despite the headline- grabbing antics of certain flashy celebutantes, most of us would rather have respect- for ourselves and from our family, friends, and colleagues.


Received from the publisher for review.


I have to preface this review with the statement that I have zero problem with Playboy or Hugh Hefner, both of whom the author seemed to intensely dislike.

This was obviously for a certain kind of girl. Think Charlotte from Sex and the City. The author was really preaching to the choir on this one. I think the following quote from the book summarizes the author's entire world view perfectly. I think she really is Charlotte's long lost twin!

"It's no secret that we girls start fantasizing about a fairy-tale wedding and happily-ever-after around the same time we start teething (I still have a wedding book that I compiled at age six!)"

Um, seriously? Who's the vapid "stupid girl" now?

This one gets eight stars. While I did not necessarily agree with everything the author suggested she did present valuable information in a cohesive, charming manner. It was a refreshing, intelligently written book.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆




Friday, August 28, 2009

New Book Arrival: Daniel X: Watch the Skies by James Patterson and Ned Rust

The publisher, Hachette, generously sent me a copy of Daniel X: Watch the Skies to review.



All's quiet in the small town of Holliswood, the television sets a-glow in every home. But not all is as perfect as it seems. A terrifying outlaw has just arrived in town, with the goal of throwing it into chaos--and filming the pandemonium for the fellas back home. Only one person can stop him and his thugs from destroying the city and everyone living there. Daniel X assembles an all-star team of his own creation, but not even he could imagine the enormity of this made-for-TV-villain's powers.



Review: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by a tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice.


Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.


Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.


Received from the publicist for review
.

I was immediately drawn into the story. It was interesting to see the story develop from so many different viewpoints. It had almost a Twin Peaks effect on me in that I had no idea what the heck was going on at the beginning.

I didn't like any of the characters as people, and I certainly wouldn't want to know them in real life. Martin was clearly the most sane of the parents. Fielda and Antonia were obviously unbalanced for quite some time, even before the incident. I was completely disgusted by Antonia. That said, the characters were so well written that you understood the motivations behind their choices.

This one gets nine stars. It was beautifully written. While I sincerely disliked most of the characters as people, my intense dislike of them is a clear indication of how well written they were that they seemed so real. The book was an intricately woven tale, told in such a way to elicit a strong emotional response from the reader, and it succeeded mightily! This fast paced read is certainly strongly recommended.

Rating: ★★★★★★




Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blog Tour: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.




About Heather:

Heather Gudenkauf was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent the last sixteen years working with students of all ages and is currently an Instructional Coach, an educator who provides curricular and professional development support to teachers. The Weight of Silence is her first novel.

Heather lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her second novel.

Visit Heather Gudenkauf’s website HERE.



If you'd like to pick up a copy of The Weight of Silence click on the cover image below.




Visit Heather at her other blog tour stops:

Monday, August 17th: Book, Line, and Sinker

Wednesday, August 19th: Virtual Wordsmith

Thursday, August 20th: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Monday, August 24th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, August 26th: Bookstack

Monday, August 31st: Sophisticated Dorkiness

Tuesday, September 1st: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness

Thursday, September 3rd: Word Lily

Monday, September 7th: Jenn’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, September 8th: Book-a-Rama

Thursday, September 10th: Write Meg




As a special bonus eHarlequin is offering Heather's readers an extra 10% off their entire collection of print and digitalbooks!

Use the code SILENCE10 before September 15th to take advantage of the deal.





New Book Arrival: Laced with Magic by Barbara Bretton

The author, Barbara Bretton, generously sent me a copy of Laced with Magic for review for her upcoming blog tour.


From "a master storyteller"(Booklist (starred review) comes more magic, knitting, and love in the delightful follow-up to Casting Spells.

Knit shop owner and sorcerer's daughter Chloe Hobbs felt the Fates finally got it right when she met Luke MacKenzie. And no one could have convinced her otherwise—including the trolls, selkies, or spirits who also call Sugar Maple, Vermont, home. But then out of nowhere Luke's ex-wife suddenly shows up, claiming to see the spirit of their daughter, Steffie—a daughter Chloe knows nothing about.

Steffie's spirit is being held hostage by a certain Fae leader. And if Chloe weaves a spell to free her spirit, her nemesis will also be free—free to destroy her yarn shop and all of Sugar Maple. But if she doesn't, Steffie won't be the only one spending eternity in hell. Chloe'll be joining her, cursed with a broken heart.



Guest Post: Jill Jepson author of Writing as a Sacred Path


Today I'd like to welcome Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path, who will be doing a guest post for us as part of her blog tour!



From Jill:

Becoming the Writer-Warrior

One of the things I explore in my book, Writing as a Sacred Path, is how writers are like warriors—and why they must be. It’s a topic that intrigues some people and upsets others. When you think of bloodshed and violence, you don’t want to be anything like a warrior. But the highest, most honorable features of the warrior are qualities every writer has to have.

For one thing, there’s courage. If you don’t think it takes courage to write, it’s probably because you haven’t stared at a blank computer screen for three days. Or shared your deepest fears, darkest memories, and most far-fetched fantasies with strangers. Writers do that every time they write authentically and with depth. They write with their life blood and then send it out for the world to read. It takes guts to do that—the guts of the warrior.

An honorable warrior doesn’t fight just for pay, but for truth—whatever form that truth takes. The writer has to have the same commitment to truth. Even for the fiction writer and the poet, ones who are playing with reality, inventing characters and events, truth is still essential. That doesn’t mean sticking to facts, but sticking to your values, to what you believe in the deepest part of yourself. When you read a very good short story, you know the people you’re reading about never existed outside the page, but you can still feel the ring of truth in the work. That’s because the writer has written with complete honesty and candor, with a commitment to what she believes in her soul.

Warriors and writers must both show unfailing discipline. There is no room for excuses when you are training for battle. You can’t decide you’re too tired or busy that day or just don’t feel like getting out and practicing. You do it regardless. When someone truly commits to writing—going beyond simply wanting to write, experimenting with it, or trying it out—this discipline comes naturally. You don’t tell yourself you’ll get to work once you have the time or after you get over your cold. You make time. You summon the energy. You get out there and write because, like the warrior preparing for battle, you have no choice.

The writer at the keyboard needs to have the focus of the warrior on the battlefield. In combat, the warrior needs to be completely there, utterly aware of what is happening in the moment. It can make the difference between victory and defeat, life and death. The writer needs to have the same type of focus, an awareness in which the rest of the world falls away, and the only thing that exists is the universe you are creating on the page. Writers don’t die if they lack it, but their work does.

The qualities of the warrior can apply other pursuits in the same way. When you see yourself as a warrior, whether a writer-warrior or a nurse-warrior, a parent-warrior or a student-warrior, you raise your work to a higher level. You challenge yourself to reach your highest potential, and you accept no excuses for not doing your best. Courage, discipline, focus, and a commitment to truth become the way you live your life. It is a way to be in the world. It can be life-changing.



About Writing as a Sacred Path:

In this inspiring guide, writing teacher and anthropologist Jepson draws on her worldwide travels and studies of spiritual traditions to present a refreshing approach to the art of writing. Through rituals, exercises, dream analysis, and more, writers will find fresh techniques for honing their skills, overcoming creative blocks, and finding their authentic voices, while writing bravely, honestly, and with true vision.












About Jill:

Jill Jepson is a traveler, professor, and transformational life coach, and the author of three books and over 60 articles. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Chicago as well as degrees in writing, psychology, social science, and Asian studies. Using her extensive travels to places as diverse as Guatemala, Syria, Siberia, and Afghanistan, her writing explores spiritual traditions, history, culture, personal growth, and the writing process. Through her business, Writing the Whirlwind, she offers coaching and online workshops for writers, activists, and others. You can visit her website at www.writingthewhirlwind.net.










Thank you so much to Jill for joining us today! If you'd like to pick up a copy of her book Writing as a Sacred Path click on the cover image below.



Review: There's More to Life Than the Corner Office by Lamar Smith and Tammy Kling

A business parable that strikes the balance between personal fulfillment and career success

Many people equate prosperity solely with financial wealth and business success. However, total life prosperity involves success in all areas of life, not just one. There’s More to Life Than the Corner Office shows readers how to find intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and financial balance in their lives.

Written as a business parable, the book recounts the story of a young, rising executive and his mentor, a wise CEO who teaches him the true meaning of success. Filled with insights and advice, There’s More to Life Than the Corner Office will motivate readers to make important changes that transform their lives in order to find joy, purpose, and lasting significance.


Received from the publicist for review.

The type of person who really needs this sort of book probably would have an assistant read and summarize it for him and completely miss the point of it entirely.

I found Patrick to be a complete ass and, unfortunately, was reminded of many people just like him that I have worked with and for. Al was actually annoying as well - he was the stereotypical CEO. I also found it disturbing that all the subordinates (waitresses, assistants, etc.), with the exception of the waiter at "the club", were women.

This one gets seven stars for the quality of the message presented. It was very readable and was reminiscent of Who Moved My Cheese and The One Minute Manager. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys business books, or Spencer Johnson or Ken Blanchard's work.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆




Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Book Arrival: Collision of Evil by John J. Le Beau

The publisher, Oceanview Publishing, generously sent me a copy of Collision of Evil for review.


As evening falls against the majestic backdrop of the Bavarian Alps, Charles Hirter, an American tourist, is savagely murdered. In the peace, quiet and pastoral splendor of this magnificent setting, Charles Hirter draws his last breath. Was Charles simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Kommissar Franz Waldbaer, the German detective in charge of the case, faces an investigation that yields neither clues nor suspects nor motives. A gruff, go-it alone detective, Waldbaer is dismayed by the arrival of Robert Hirter, the victim's brother, who insists on joining the investigation. But there is more to Robert than meets the eye.

As Robert and the Kommissar uncover a nefarious nexus of evil past and evil present, they find themselves probing dark, long-forgotten episodes from the Third Reich in order to identify the present threat.

Thrust into a violent world of fanatic passions, malevolent intentions and excruciating urgency, Robert Hirter and Kommissar Waldbaer must race against the clock to stop a sophisticated, covert, and deadly plot.




Review: Writing as a Sacred Path by Jill Jepson

A supportive guide to approaching writing as a sacred art and to discovering spirituality through the process of writing.

In this inspiring guide, writing teacher and anthropologist Jepson draws on her worldwide travels and studies of spiritual traditions to present a refreshing approach to the art of writing. Through rituals, exercises, dream analysis, and more, writers will find fresh techniques for honing their skills, overcoming creative blocks, and finding their authentic voices, while writing bravely, honestly, and with true vision.



Received from the author for review.

There were some lovely quotes from the book that I'd like to share:

"Here is a shocking truth: few people write because it is fun."

"What is so threatening about writing? Many things are. You face the blank page knowing only you can fill it - and only if you slice into your soul. You open the deepest regions of your heart to strangers who have no reason to care. You offer the fruits of your labor, love, and struggle to agents, editors, publishers, and reviewers who will often tell you it is unworthy, feeble, pathetic. You ask those agents, editors, and publishers to risk their careers for your ideas. You face the fact that you may work for years and years without external successes."

I usually make an effort not to read overly religious material, but this wasn't of the "trying to convert you to a specific religion" group, but rather more about spirituality in a variety of forms.

Not being a writer myself, I didn't fully connect with the book as a writer would, but I still found it interesting and gleaned some valuable insights from it. I think it has changed my view of authors and books from a reviewer's standpoint. The book really illustrated for me how you must truly love to write to be a writer. It is tough work!

This one gets eight stars. It is quite readable and immediately draws you in, which is quite remarkable for a non-fiction book! It is stuffed with all varieties of exercises to get your creative juices flowing and improve your writing. True writers will certainly appreciate its thoroughness and ideas.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Book Arrival: NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

The publisher, Hachette, generously sent me a copy of NurtureShock for review.



In a world of modern, involved, caring parents, why are so many kids aggressive and cruel? Where is intelligence hidden in the brain, and why does that matter? Why do cross-racial friendships decrease in schools that are more integrated? If 98% of kids think lying is morally wrong, then why do 98% of kids lie? What's the single most important thing that helps infants learn language? NurtureShock is a groundbreaking collaboration between award-winning science journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They argue that when it comes to children, we've mistaken good intentions for good ideas. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, they demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring--because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, the authors' work is an insightful exploration of themes and issues that transcend children's (and adults') lives.



Review: Doing It Right by MaryJanice Davidson

In these two wickedly funny, sexy novellas, MaryJanice Davidson introduces the sort of lovers who’ll steal everything -- your wallet, your keys, your inhibitions, and sometimes even your heart.

Thief Of Hearts

There’s never a dull night in the ER for Dr. Jared Dean, especially when he sees the woman of his fantasies beating the crud out of the city’s biggest, toughest mobster. It’s enough to get a guy all hot and bothered. Not that it matters when SuperHotButtKickingChick gets away without giving her name. The name’s Kara, aka The Avenging Angel, sort of a Robin Hood with better shoes. But now her latest revenge stunt has just landed the gorgeous doc on a mobster’s hit list. There’s only one thing to do: guard Dr. Jared’s extremely fine bod until she can figure a way out of this mess for both of them. Jared’s only too happy to accommodate. Anything to have her close at hand -- and in his bed. As for her closed heart? He’s got a plan for that, too...

Wild Hearts

Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. Too bad he was trying to steal her car. Kat Wechter has no intention of letting that happen. Not one to ever play it safe, it’s amazing what an irresistible bad boy can drive a woman to do (pun intended). But Chester "Chess" McNamara is not your typical car thief. Seems he’s fueled (ouch) by more complicated motives. And to find out what they are, Kat is more than willing to go along for the ride -- (couldn’t resist).


I just wasn't feeling this as much as the usual MaryJanice Davidsons. I liked the characters and all, but they just didn't do much for me.

This one gets six stars. I've read better MaryJanice Davidsons, but this was still light and cute. MaryJanice Davidson fans, and general contemporary romance lovers alike, will enjoy it.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆



Bored Now: 3 Willows by Ann Brashares


Bored Now

Bored Now is my new quickie posts about which books I just couldn't finish. I get a ton of books from the library and half of them I don't make it through. So, in case you're wondering "What ever happened to the review for ...?" after seeing my Library Loot posts, this might help. :)

And, in case you didn't already know, "Bored now." is a quote from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Doppelgangland, spoken by the Vampire Willow from an alternate universe. Hence, the picture above.



I snapped this one up at the library the moment it became available since I'd really enjoyed the Sisterhood books, but I made it to chapter six of this unabridged audiobook edition when I abandoned it. I just didn't care about the characters, the story, any of it. At all. I started it while putting together a cube of drawers a la Ikea, but I reached a point where it was better to just put them together without listening to anything than to continue with the book! It just became background noise, and not even good background noise at that. Part of the problem was the reader, who had an almost nasal voice and spoke so oddly it made me wonder if English were not her first language. It was all just very odd.


summer is a time to grow

seeds
Polly has an idea that she can't stop thinking about, one that involves changing a few things about herself. She's setting her sights on a more glamorous life, but it's going to take all of her focus. At least that way she won't have to watch her friends moving so far ahead.


roots

Jo is spending the summer at her family's beach house, working as a busgirl and bonding with the older, cooler girls she'll see at high school come September. She didn't count on a brief fling with a cute boy changing her entire summer. Or feeling embarrassed by her middle school friends. And she didn't count on her family at all. . .


leaves

Ama is not an outdoorsy girl. She wanted to be at an academic camp, doing research in an air-conditioned library, earning A's. Instead her summer scholarship lands her on a wilderness trip full of flirting teenagers, blisters, impossible hiking trails, and a sad lack of hair products.
It is a new summer. And a new sisterhood.

Come grow with them.



Monday, August 24, 2009

Award: The Lemonade Award!!

Ryan at Wordsmithonia generously awarded me with the Lemonade Award! What a lovely surprise! Thank you so much!

If you haven't swung by his blog yet, do check it out.


The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows great attitude or gratitude.

I'm passing this on to two more of my favorite bloggers:




New Book Arrival: Gifts From the Child Within by Barbara Sinor, Ph.D.

The author, Barbara Sinor, generously sent me a copy of Gifts From the Child Within for review.


Gifts From the Child Within brings a refreshing approach to guiding its reader to understanding the initial or underlying basis to their emotional suffering due to past childhood trauma. This recovery book is geared toward both professional and layperson. Its pages are filled with offerings from psychological, physiological, and spiritual perspectives which takes the reader on a journey into the soul. It is written with sensitivity and clarity inviting the reader to search within for healing.

As the author shares her own journey of childhood abuse, the reader is asked to address issues surrounding physical, mental, spiritual, and sexual abuse. Instructions are captured to guide one toward reaching for their own child within; releasing negative emotions; re-creating outdated childhood beliefs; and, to recognize the gifts the inner child has for us.

The process of Re-Creation Therapy(tm) is introduced by the author allowing the reader who follows its guidance to reap the effects of gradual changes in self-awareness which lead to a greater understanding of the psychodynamics the child within plays in the adult life. Included are a series of healing visualizations and autohypnosis suggestions; blank journal pages; and sample affirmations following each chapter.



Winners: The Lost Dog

The winners of The Lost Dog are:

  1. SunnyView
  2. Wanda
  3. Anita Yancey
  4. MoziEsme
  5. Jessica
Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

The winners have been e-mailed for mailing information.

Thank you to all who entered!



Guest Post: Linda Weaver Clarke on Writing Your Family Legacy

Today Linda Weaver Clarke, author of David and the Bear Lake Monster and instructor of the Family Legacy Writing Workshops, stopped by for the second day of her two day visit to tell us a bit about writing a book about your family and her workshops.



WRITING YOUR FAMILY LEGACY

Turn your family history into a variety of interesting stories. Make your ancestors come alive on paper. The importance of family legacy can never be over emphasized. Do your children know their heritage? Who are your ancestors? What were their traditions? Did they fight for a cause and what was it about? Each of us has a story from our ancestors or even our very own story to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then how are your children going to know of their parentage or even family traditions of the past? It’s up to us to write these experiences down.

Remember, conflict is part of our lives and makes for an interesting story. You want your children to be proud of who their ancestors are. We must record and share these stories with them.

First, collect your thoughts; write down any experiences that you remember. Talk to family members and discuss memories. You can make several short stories, making the history into segments. Or you can write the whole history as a continuous flow. Your children will want to know their heritage, what their ancestors stood for. Make your Family Legacy something your children will remember, something they will be proud of.

Research—an Intricate Part of Writing

Research is an intricate part of writing. Learn everything you can about the area your story takes place, the time period, and any historical facts that you would like to add. Sometimes what the country went through has to do with the circumstances of your ancestors. If they lived during the depression or war times, it helps your children understand why their grandparents had such tough times, why they barely made ends meet, or why they had to flee a certain country.

You must research:
1. The area your story takes place
2. Any non-fictional characters
3. The time period

First, find out everything you can about the area to both educate your readers and to make the setting feel real. Since the reader can’t be there physically, then perhaps they can be there mentally. If possible, go to the area you want to write about, walk around, find specific places of importance, where your ancestors lived, went to school, and played. If you can’t go there, then do research and find pictures of that area. Study books at the library or search the Internet.

My first book, “Melinda and the Wild West: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho” is set in Paris, Idaho where my ancestors settled. When I researched the area, I found a lot of intriguing history. In 1896, Butch Cassidy robbed the bank in the Bear Lake Valley. I wanted to include this in my novel, so after much research, I found that the town of Montpelier had recorded the incident with every little detail. I was thrilled. But before I could include this in my novel, I had to do more research. Butch Cassidy was a non-fictional character. I had to find out what kind of person Cassidy was. I couldn’t portray him as something he wasn’t. Was he a mean and ornery cuss or a kind and warm-hearted soul? I found that he had a great sense of humor, a quick wit, and was admired by many. He had a charming personality and was a great leader. It didn’t take long before he had a bunch of loyal followers, which were called “The Wild Bunch.”

If your ancestor met Sam Houston or Martin Luther King, then you would need to research what they looked like and what their personality was like. This will help you to better describe the meeting between your ancestor and this great man.

Time Period is another important part of research. During the roaring twenties, bobbed hair was the rage. If your grandmother bobbed her hair and went to the dance marathons, write about it. If your ancestor loved reading books in the evening before retiring, it would be interesting to add what kind of light he used. Little details like this warms a story up and can bring your ancestor to life. Did he use electricity or candlelight, or even an oil lantern? It sounds more interesting to say, “Grandfather sat in his overstuffed chair and read for hours with an oil lantern at his side.” Rather than just saying, “Grandfather read extensively before retiring.”

Character Emotion

Emotion is the secret of holding a reader, the difference between a slow or a dynamic recounting of a story. When you feel the emotion inside, so will your readers. By giving descriptions of emotion, it helps the reader feel part of the story as if he were actually there himself. Emotions of a character can help us feel satisfied because we can feel what the character feels.

When emotion and feelings are left out of a story, we can feel let down. Emotion is part of our lives, so why ignore such an important element in a story? But remember: Show, don’t tell.

If an ancestor had to defend her home from marauders, how did she feel? If an outlaw challenged your great grandfather, what were his feelings deep down inside? If your grandfather was faced with a grizzly bear in the wild, how did he react? These are questions that you must research. Read about other people’s accounts, so you can adequately describe your ancestor’s feelings during a given situation.

Imagine what it would be like to see a grizzly bear coming toward you, forcing you to quickly hide behind a boulder. Surely you wouldn’t feel calm in a situation like this. The last thing you want is to be discovered. Maybe your chest constricts as fear overtakes you and beads of sweat begin trickling down your back or forehead. Perhaps you begin trembling and your face turns pale.

When you describe the effects of intense emotion, it helps the reader feel as if he were a part of the story, as if he were actually there himself. It can be difficult, however, for an author to know exactly how the character felt unless he or she had been in a similar situation, and that’s where research comes in. After researching stories about people who have been faced with a similar situation, the author can describe the emotions and feelings of a character and thereby make the reader feel as if he were experiencing the event himself.

In my first novel, Melinda is faced with danger when she startles a grizzly in the wild. If I had written that she screamed and ran for her life, that would be an accurate description, but it does not “show” the reader her innermost feelings. How did she feel when the grizzly growled and began to lunge toward her? Would she be coherent? I doubt it. An author must show how she felt, describe her quickening pulse, rather than say she was frightened.

After much research, I found that some people who had been faced with a grizzly bear froze when the grizzly stood on its two hind legs, and some shook for half an hour after shooting the grizzly in self-defense. Others, who were used to the wild and had had experience defending themselves from grizzlies, did not react the same way. Many described what the grizzly looked like just before they turned and ran. That helped me describe Melinda’s frightening situation since I had never been faced with a grizzly before.

After reading my description at a Family Legacy lecture, there was someone present that had been faced with this same situation. She said that I had adequately described that terrifying experience as if she had relived that day once again. If I had not done my research, then she would have said to me, “You don’t know the half of it.” This was how Melinda’s experience turned out from Melinda and the Wild West:

“Melinda heard an irritated grunt as the grizzly raised its head and saw her standing off in the distance. The grizzly snarled with anger as if warning her to leave. Then, almost immediately, it let out a hideous growl and leapt clumsily toward her. Its enormous jaws were spread wide and its eyes were flashing fire. She had never seen anything so frightening in her life.

“Fear overtook her and Melinda could not retain adequate presence of mind. Her chest tightened and her face drained as she tried to catch her breath. She panicked and quickly turned and ran as fast as she could go. Her heart was pounding rapidly with each step she took. She felt as if she were running in slow motion. Surely this was a dream. No, it was more like a nightmare. Suddenly, to her horror, she lost her balance as she tripped over a rock and fell face down on the ground in a cushion of soft weeds and mud.

“Melinda began to scream. She had never seen such a hideous sight before and she became paralyzed with fear. The feeling of terror that rose in her throat made it hard to breathe and she began to shake uncontrollably.”

I did not simply tell the reader about an incident, but I showed the feelings inside her soul. Emotions of a character can help us feel satisfied because we can feel what the character feels.

For those writing their own autobiography or a fictional story, don’t forget descriptions of love. You know what it feels like to be in love or to be loved, so describe it. Our hearts swell within, sending a warm feeling down our spine, and making us feel as if life was worth living. If we can adequately describe the feelings of love, then perhaps we can awaken that remembrance in others who have forgotten what it was like to be in love. These descriptions can remind readers of the love they once had for their mate, awakening those feelings once again. After the reader puts down the book, he or she will have a feeling of satisfaction. Remember, emotions are part of life and can be an essential part of your story.



About Linda's Workshops:

WHAT IS FAMILY LEGACY?

Linda teaches a workshop that helps others to put their family history into a variety of interesting stories. The importance of family legacy can never be over emphasized. Do your children know their heritage? Who are your ancestors? What were their traditions? What did they celebrate? What religion were they? What beliefs did they have? Did they fight for a cause and what was it about? Each of us has a story from our ancestors or even our very own story to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then how are your children going to know of their ancestry, of their parentage, or even family traditions of the past? It's up to us to write these experiences down. Conflict is part of our lives and makes for an interesting story. The secret of holding a reader is using emotion; it's the difference between a slow or a lively recounting of a story.

For a sample of what you can do with your family histories, read the short stories on my site.

TWO-HOUR WORKSHOP

Turn your family history into a variety of interesting stories or write your own story. Make your ancestors come alive on paper. Learn the most important elements of writing. Discuss setup, characters, plot, the importance of conflict and emotion. Conflict is part of our lives and makes for an interesting story. The secret of holding a reader is using emotion; it's the difference between a dull or a lively recounting of a story. Make your family legacy something your children will remember.

To contact me, you may e-mail -- linda@lindaweaverclarke.com

COMMENTS ABOUT LINDA'S WORKSHOP

"Ms Clarke is terrific. She appeals to genealogists and aspiring authors. I was terribly impressed! She instructs for two hours; the people were genuinely attuned to what she presents. She just impressed the heck out of me. She KNOWS her subject and can present it wonderfully. As I say, she is terrific, thorough, professional, yet strikes just the right chord with her audience." -- Mary Jo Gohlke - Adult Programming, Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library, California

"I went to a 2-hr-seminar put on by Broadmoor Library. It was so interesting and I wish I had a video of the lady speaking; telling stories of her parents, grandparents, family, etc. What a great writer of fiction, which has family incorporated in her books. She will continue to write as the Lord gives her wisdom and knowledge on how to captivate the interest of the reader. . . I read long ago that you should write for the reader and she has done just that, as she knows how to capture the attention of the reader. What a brilliant lady who knows how to speak, write, motivate and bless people in all walks of life. I could listen to her all day. It is just so uplifting." -- Shirley from Shreveport, Louisiana

Two professors from different universities have told Ms. Clarke that they learned more from her two hour workshop than from other writing classes they had attended.

COMMENTS FROM CHOLLA BRANCH LIBRARY, PHOENIX, ARIZONA

"Super sweet, genuine, gave informative account of her own experience"

"Clearly Linda knows her stuff"

"I liked how the speaker was very detailed"

"I liked: Professional presentation, informative, thorough and interesting, well organized"

COMMENTS FROM THOUSAND OAKS LIBRARY, THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA

"I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a program so much."

"I learned as much as a full-blown writing class."

"She made everything so interesting and understandable by using her stories, books, and other examples."

For Linda's upcoming Family Legacy Writing Workshop events, visit her website HERE.



Thank you so much to Linda for joining us for this awesome two day event!



Review: Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton (Hamish Macbeth #25)

Returning from a foreign holiday, Hamish Macbeth is worried because he senses a dark cloud of evil hanging over the Highland village of Lochdubh. He learns that a newcomer, Catriona Beldame, is regarded as a witch and various men have been seen visiting her. Hamish himself is charmed by her until he finds out she has been supplying dangerous potions. At first the villagers won't listen to him, saying that the loveless Hamish has turned against all women. He threatens to kill her so that when she is found murdered, he must clear his name and then work to solve yet another murder to bring peace and quiet back to his beloved village. His investigations are complicated by a romance with a female forensic expert. Perhaps he'll get married at last!


This was the unabridged audiobook on CD edition (5 CDs/5.5 hours).

This one gets seven stars. It was another enjoyable visit to Lochdubh. It was interesting to see Priscilla and Elspeth's interactions. I loved Elspeth's evil horoscopes! Perry was an interesting addition as a guest character. Graeme Malcolm did a nice job, as usual, with the reading.

I'm having withdrawal already as the next Hamish Macbeth won't be published until 2010! I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆




Mailbox Monday - August 16th - 22nd


Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page and is where we share all the books we received in the mail over the past week. I, personally, am no longer going to include books I receive for review, since they're already covered in their individual New Book Arrival posts.



Game over? Belle is starting to wonder if she should call time on the call girl business: get a day job, a life free from secrets and have a 'normal' relationship with the Boy. But will Belle cope with the nine-to-five, a staggering decline in her underwear budget and no more paid sex? As Belle explores life and love after the game, her story is frank, smart and refreshingly honest. Punctuated with advice, anecdotes and reflections in her inimitable voice, this is a novel of secrets and lies, scabrous wit and more than a little lust.

Received as a lovely early birthday gift from my friend abroad!







There must have been a Civilization One: a highly advanced precursor to what is currently the earliest recognized civilization. That’s the astounding revelation from a powerful duo of writers that includes the author of the bestselling The Hiram Key. Christopher Knight and Alan Butler’s startling conclusion comes from their quest to crack the mystery of the ancient "megalithic yard"—an incredibly precise unit of measurement that’s based on a deep understanding of the solar system. It seems beyond the comprehension of the supposedly unsophisticated people of Stone Age Britain, and yet not only is it visible in the thousands of megalithic structures built in Britain and France, but this measurement keeps recurring throughout nature and science.

The implications of the authors’ breakthrough discovery go far beyond the idea of a super-science or prehistory: they indicate a grand plan that will have far-reading theological ramifications.

Received from my wonderful friend abroad as an early birthday gift!





Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father's life when she was eleven years old. She's buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be — compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the Sign Seer.

Because Kara has a gift — one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about — until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?

From PaperBackSwap for my friend abroad.





This is an astonishingly candid insight into the world of Billie Piper. Famous since the age of 15 – first as the face of Smash Hits, then as a pop singer with three No.1 hits in less than three years – Billie Piper has won over the critics and the British public for a second time by re-inventing herself as an actress in BBC productions of Much Ado About Nothing, The Canterbury Tales and, of course, Doctor Who.

And that's just the professional Billie. In this book, for the first time, she talks honestly about her whirwind romance and marriage to Chris Evans, about her battles with anorexia and the dark side of teen fame. Moving, funny and honest, this is a page-turning read by one of the nation's favourite stars.

Received as an early birthday gift from my wonderful friend abroad!










The perfect cookie for every occasion.

Cookies are the treat that never disappoints. Whether you’re baking for a party or a picnic, a formal dinner or a family supper–or if you simply want something on hand for snacking–there is a cookie that’s just right. In Martha Stewart’s Cookies, the editors of Martha Stewart Living give you 175 recipes and variations that showcase all kinds of flavors and fancies. Besides perennial pleasers like traditional chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, there are other sweet surprises, including Rum Raisin Shortbread, Peppermint Meringue Sandwiches with Chocolate Filling, and Lime Meltaways.

Cleverly organized by texture, the recipes in Martha Stewart’s Cookies inspire you to think of a classic, nostalgic treat with more nuance. Chapters include all types of treasures: Light and Delicate (Cherry Tuiles, Hazelnut Cookies, Chocolate Meringues); Rich and Dense (Key Lime Bars, Chocolate Mint Sandwiches, Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies); Chunky and Nutty (Magic Blondies, Turtle Brownies, White Chocolate-Chunk Cookies); Soft and Chewy (Snickerdoodles, Fig Bars, Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies); Crisp and Crunchy (ANZAC Biscuits, Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti, Almond Spice Wafers); Crumbly and Sandy (Cappuccino-Chocolate Bites, Maple-Pecan Shortbread, Lemon-Apricot Sandwiches); and Cakey and Tender (Lemon Madeleines, Carrot Cake Cookies, Pumpkin Cookies with Brown-Butter Icing).

Each tantalizing recipe is accompanied by a lush, full-color photograph, so you never have to wonder how the cookie will look. Beautifully designed and a joy to read, Martha Stewart’s Cookiesis rich with helpful tips and techniques for baking, decorating, and storing, as well as lovely gift-packaging ideas in standout Martha Stewart style.

Received as an early birthday gift from my wonderful friend abroad!