Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Sally's Great Balloon Adventure by Stephen Huneck

When Sally’s family visits a hot air balloon field, the loyal black Labrador retriever is tempted by the smell of fresh chicken coming from one of the balloons. She follows the delicious scent to a balloon basket, and—whoops—the balloon takes flight! Soon she’s soaring above the ground, looking out at the tiny people below as they try to bring her back down. Beautiful panoramic scenes and Sally’s trademark witty thoughts accompany her latest adventure in the open skies, in a book that is sure to charm dog owners and fans of intrepid Sally.

 
Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets four stars. It was my first experience with this series of children's books and I was pleasantly surprised. The book was in a great format as an oversized hardcover and had adorable illustrations by the author. The charming story should go over very well with small children. This is definitely recommended!

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: Fearless by Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.D.

Fear can ruin relationships, harm careers, and destroy peace of mind. It holds us hostage to pain…but Dr. Brenda Shoshanna has the techniques to set us free. With Fearless, Dr. Shoshanna—a radio host, author of The Anger Diet: 30 Days to Stress-Free Living and a practicing psychologist for almost 30 years—has created a unique guide to understanding how fear works. Combining the teachings of East and West, and including real-life anecdotes and practical exercises, it provides the psychological, spiritual, and practical guidance for attaining a life of growth, fulfillment, creativity, and well-being.

No matter what your fears are: fear of success; love; loss; or confrontation, Dr. Shoshanna shows how to convert this constant sense of dread into peace of mind.



Received from the publicist for review.

My favorite quote from the book was:

Your life is a precious gift to you and the world. No person, no thought, no emotion is granted dominion over you. You have ultimate power to choose the direction in which you want to go.

This one gets four stars. While the text was on the small side it wasn't overly difficult to read. This was a nice, solid read with a great format. The inspiring and thought provoking quotes sprinkled throughout the text were a nice addition as well as the "Turning Point" portion at the end of each chapter which provided a nice reinforcement of the material presented. The messages in the book are valuable and should be heartily embraced by fans of authors such as Wayne Dyer.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: The Happy Stepmother by Rachelle Katz

You found the love of your life, and you vowed to have, to hold and to stepmother. You always thought that in time you'd grow to be the perfect, loving family. So why does it seem that the harder you try, the more unappreciated you feel?


As a stepmother, therapist and founder of the popular Web site stepsforstepmothers.com, Dr. Rachelle Katz knows all too well how challenging stepmotherhood can be. Based on thousands of in-depth interviews and the latest research, she's created a powerful program to help you:


* Alleviate stress and take care of yourself
* Bond with your new family
* Set and enforce clear boundaries
* Get the respect you deserve
* Strengthen your relationship


Received from the publicist for review.

Quite obviously I am not a stepmother, but I still found this intriguing.

While the print was eye strainingly small, the material presented was interesting. Actually, after reading this I'm tremendously relieved that I don't have stepchildren to contend with! Frankly, if more women read this before they got married to a man who already had children there would be far fewer divorces.

This one gets four stars. If you are one of the women regretting marrying into an established family, this is  probably a good first choice to consider before marriage counseling. If you are engaged to a man who has children, this would also be a wise resource to consult before you tie the knot and then have to go through a messy divorce before you're even finished paying off the wedding.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Review: Muffins & Mayhem by Suzanne Beecher

A reader's poignant letter to Suzanne Beecher inspired her to share her collection of loved ones' recipes and their wonderful memories in her life.


Received from the publicist for review.


My favorite quote from the book was:

Proud because I'm a little bit strange and I run with it.

My favorite bit was the story behind the "Almost" Beef with Broccoli recipe on page 53.

This one gets four stars.  I just knew this was going to be wonderful after I saw the adorable cover.  It has a charming, warm, friendly tone that makes you feel as if you're chatting with an old friend.  I absolutely love the idea of a "cookbook of memories".  There's just something so lovely about it.  The recipes at the end of each chapter all sound yummy and I can't wait to try several of them - especially the two chocolate chip cookie recipes.  I'm always up for testing out a new cookie!  This wonderful read settles around you like a warm blanket on a chilly night and is highly recommended.


★★★★ = Really Liked It



Monday, June 21, 2010

Q&A: Suzanne Beecher author of Muffins and Mayhem

Suzanne Beecher, author of the book Muffins and Mayhem, stopped by to share with us a Q&A she did with her publisher.



1. How did you come up with the idea for MUFFINS & MAYHEM? 

Hundreds of readers email every day after they read my column at DearReader.com and tell me their stories. One of those emails was the inspiration for this book.

Dear Suzanne,


I have been following your Dear Reader column for several years now. I am so grateful you are willing to share with your readers a glimpse of your life, whether it’s happy or sad. Let me introduce myself: I am a 43 –year-old mother of three children ages 8, 10, and 11. I have been diagnosed with late-stage metastasized lung cancer.

Knowing that I won’t have the privilege of walking my three young children through their tough teenage years and adulthood, I want to prepare a scrapbook for each of them to fall back on when they are down and have no one else to turn to. When I was reading your column about the “writing inspiration” folder you keep, it strikes me to the core—that’s exactly what I want to prepare for my kids. Something to inspire them to be the best person they possibly can, and to pick their spirits up on a rainy day when things feel out of control and they need to get themselves grounded again.

It would be greatly appreciated if you can share some pointers with me as to where to find these inspiring books, articles, quotes, etc. Thank you for your time!

Yours sincerely,
Priscilla
 


In my reply to Priscilla, I told her that some of the most precious things I own are the photo albums and recipe box that my Grandma Hale passed on to me. Whenever I thumb through the albums, or I’m following the recipe on one of Grandma’s recipe cards, I feel like she’s standing right beside me in the kitchen. It such a comfort, and the memories come flooding in. I suggested that Priscilla create recipe boxes for her children, including favorite recipes and stories. Write down on a recipe card the things from her life she’d like to pass along to them—recipes for their lives: how to make an impression on someone (give them an example of something she did)when it's okay to tell a fib and then tell them one of her little white lies. What’s the best gift anyone ever gave her? What were the things that really scared her in life? How did she feel when they were born, when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and she realized the outcome?

Priscilla did make recipe boxes for her children and unknowingly, she left behind a gift for me, too. I didn’t realize it until I wrote back to Priscilla, but for years I’d been creating my own recipe box, and the stories I discovered in it inspired me to write this book.




2. Which story in the book makes you happiest?

I reread this story when I need to get grounded. My mother told me the day before she died that what was really important in life was love. It was a strange sentiment to hear her convey because my mother had a hard time showing her love. But somehow at the end, she must have gotten a glimpse of what I saw and felt the other night.

It's four in the morning. Paul, my grandson, is in All Children's Hospital and I'm spending the night with him. There are four cribs in the room, each one has a baby in it, and there's a mom, dad, or grandparent like me sitting in the chair beside it. I've never been comfortable sharing a room with anyone, but this evening, even though we're all strangers, instantly there's a bond. Each one of us is hoping to hear good news when the doctors make their rounds in the morning. Each one of us is hoping nothing bad happens during the night.

There's a curtain in-between each baby's crib, but there's really no privacy. You can't help but overhear. Across the room a husky man is leaning over a crib whispering to his four month old daughter, "Don't worry honey, Daddy will always take care of you." And then he rings for the nurse, because Daddy's trying to figure out how to safely give his baby girl a hug. She just had a tumor removed from her brain and he doesn't want to hurt her. It's hard not to hear and it's even harder to hold back the tears. A doctor is trying to help the mother next to me understand why her newborn baby's brain didn't develop like it should and so her daughter will need a lot of special assistance when she's growing up. Then a nurse wheels the baby's crib out of the room, they need to do more tests. And the mother is left alone. I hear her crying.

Across the room from my grandson a mother is trying to sleep in the reclining chair next to her baby's crib. She brought her baby here from Michigan, because the doctors at the hospital where she lives kept telling her nothing was wrong. But she knew something wasn't right. And now she's been told that her new baby boy can't hear or see, and won't be able to do much of anything except "be." But simply "being" is plenty for this mother to love. She's hoping to be able to take her son home in a few days so his brothers and sisters can get to know him.

My grandson is finally asleep and I lay him back in his crib. I'm tired. The days and nights are long in the hospital. But tonight I'm at ease. The doctor says in a couple more days we'll be taking home a healthy boy. I felt a little guilty hearing such good news.

I've always thought my job, my purpose here on earth, certainly must be something more dramatic than simply loving and taking care of the people around me. So I've strived to be clever, artistic and talented in business. But as I sit here at four in the morning looking around the room and looking at my grandson, I realize I've been looking at life all wrong. It's not complicated, there's nothing to prove. My mother was right. It's really very simple. What's really important is love.




3. Which recipe is most comforting?

Not only does my Hot ‘n’ Sour soup bring comfort to me, it’s my husband’s all-time favorite. Even though I’d been making this soup for my husband ever since we were married almost 33 years ago, I never actually tried the soup until about five years ago. A friend of mind from Oregon came to visit and I knew his favorite soup was “Hot ‘n’ Sour, so to look polite at the table, I sampled some of my own creation. It was delicious! All those years I was afraid to try this strange-looking soup. Now I double the recipe because it keeps great all week long in the refrigerator.



4. Where is your favorite place to write?

I should never, ever, go to the market when I'm hungry. It can be disastrous. Everything looks so inviting to a hungry woman. When I walk into the market (my stomach growling) the first place I head for is the deli counter where they slice the meat and cheese to order. I take a number and wait patiently, but I don’t mind because I’ll be rewarded with the first slice.

“Is this thin enough for you, ma'am?" The clerk gently raises the corner of the sliced ham for my inspection and then the question my stomach’s been waiting to hear, "Would you like to try a slice?"

It's a repeat performance when he slices my cheese and other deli requests. By the time I move on to another department, I've pretty much curbed my appetite and I can shop without fear of any hunger-induced impulse buys.

Another thing I should never ever do is go to the market without my notebook and pen. While I was waiting for my deli order to be filled, I felt the urge to start writing a column. But I didn't have anything to write on, except the butcher paper wrapped around my thinly sliced Baby Swiss. No complaints though, it was the perfect palette, quite inspiring really—a big wide open white space to write on. But when I went to check out and handed over the baby Swiss package to be scanned, I realized from the cashier's look that I'd better give her an explanation and fast!

"Don't worry, it's not a stick-up note,” trying to smile and hold my hands where she could clearly see them, “I’m just a writer who forgot to bring her notebook and this is tomorrow's column."

When inspiration strikes it doesn’t matter where I am. I need to find a way to start writing. I’ve even written copy with a tube of lipstick, when I couldn’t find a pen. I do most of my writing in my sunroom where I’m surrounded by windows. I love it because I can look out at my flower gardens and my new wooden fence. The old fence was falling apart, so when author friends suggested I should buy something to celebrate and acknowledge the sale of my book, a new fence was my “Hip, hip, hooray! I sold my book,” gift to myself.

I’m the kind of girl who needs a lot of variety, so sometimes I write in my screened in front porch, or sitting on top of my bed, or standing at the kitchen counter (because I’m baking while I’m writing). When it’s an emergency writing situation—my mind doesn’t want to work—or maybe the problem is Suzanne is simply being lazy, then I trick myself into thinking I’m not really working, just writing for fun. Emergency writing is done while sitting on the bathroom floor. Lucky me, I live in an historical home and my bathroom is pretty interesting.


5. You write a daily column for DearReader.com. How is writing a column different from writing a book?

When I’m writing the daily column, everything has to be wrapped up in 350-460 words—the ideal length. The DearReader.com online book clubs are designed to be a short 5-minute read, including my daily column. It’s a challenge sometimes to write about something, hopefully make folks laugh or cry, pass along a heartfelt thought and wrap it all up neat and tidy in just a few words. Writing for a book—I can wander as long as the wandering is interesting.


6. How did you start DearReader.com?


It was the summer of 1999. My husband and I were working together in his software company. Most of the people who worked for him were stay-at-home moms, working part time from their homes, so they could be with their children. Frequently one of the moms would comment, that when her children were old enough she wanted to go back to college.

So one afternoon, when I heard the frustration in Cathy’s voice about wishing she could go back to school, I asked, “Why wait? Your kids might not be going to school for three or four years, but you could start reading about whatever subject you’re interested in right now.”

Cathy was not amused. “Look Suzanne, I cook, clean, do school activities, take care of my children, and work part time for you. I don’t even have time to shave my legs and you expect me to sit down and read a book!”

Good point. I guess I’d forgotten how little free time my husband and I had when our kids were young. In-between managing our businesses, trying to get kids off to school in the morning and then transport them to music lessons and sports afterwards, it was a real juggling act. So that evening when I was preparing our daily company email, on a whim I started typing in the first few pages of Tuesdays with Morrie, a book I’d just finished reading. The next evening I typed in a little more, continuing to send short installments with each company email.

Four days later, No Time to Shave My Legs Woman called. “I’m embarrassed to admit it, Suzanne, but I’ve been sneaking over to my computer late at night to see if company email showed up yet, because I’m hooked on the book.”

So if sending part of a book, to a busy stay-at-home mom, could inspire her to add reading to her “to-do” list, what would happen if I sent daily book club emails to millions of people? And that’s how my online book clubs at DearReader.com were born. (By the way, before I continue, I need to tell you that taking copyrighted material out of a book is illegal, which my loving husband pointed out to me at the time. I assured him it was for a small group of women and that’s how creative ideas are born. But that still doesn’t make it legal. Not to worry, I have permission for all of the books I use at my online book clubs today.)

I knew how to build a website and I could envision what the book clubs would look like, but how was I going to get permission to use material from published books? Silly, na├»ve me, I thought if I called a publisher they would call me back. When they didn’t, I tried sending a fax and then an overnight letter. Finally it was my persistent dialing that reached a Random House executive. She decided to take a chance on my online book club idea. But a week later, when we were supposed to finalize things, my contact was gone—literally. The recording on her phone said she didn’t work at Random House any longer, “Press one if you need further assistance.”

So I had no choice but to begin again. Eventually I connected with someone else at Random House and I started getting permissions. I figured I could name-drop and easily get other publishers on board, too.
When that didn’t work, I baked chocolate chip cookies and sent them overnight with a one-page letter. I realize a business letter and chocolate chip cookies might seem like strange bedfellows. But I loved to bake, and I needed to stand out, and who doesn’t love a homemade chocolate chip cookie—like the kind Grandma used to make?

What a difference when I’d call a publisher the day after my package arrived, “Oh, you’re the cookie woman! I’m sorry we didn’t get back to you yet.”

Today, eleven years later, over 375,000 people read at my Dear Reader online book clubs every day. I’m still baking cookies for publishers—because it’s fun—and I bake for readers, too. Every month there’s a Chocolate Chip Cookie Giveaway at the book clubs. Stop by, if you’re name is drawn I’ll bake and overnight two-dozen homemade cookies to your front door.

Sound a little crazy? Yes, but a little crazy means we have a lot of fun. When you sign up at one of my free online book clubs, in addition to test-driving great books (every Monday through Friday you receive an email with a 5-minute read) I write a daily column, and I give away other “crazy” items: bubble machines, heating pads for kitties that live in cold climates, vintage aprons, garage sale goodies, measuring cups, journals, and I’ve even shopped for socks for book club readers.

I invite you to join the fun at www.DearReader.com and if you like my style, you’ll love my new book, Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if disorderly) Life. Read a sample at www.MuffinsandMayhem.com get a signed book plate, and discover my “goodies” for book clubs that meet in person.


7. What makes a great book-club book?

Great books and variety. Every week, in each of our 11 genres we feature a new book for readers to sample. Also I think it’s important for readers to have the opportunity to share feelings and ideas. Even at my DearReader.com online book clubs hundreds of people email in each day talking about the book or my column. Frequently I run an Email Bag—replies from readers that I share will all of the readers.


8. You had a tumultuous childhood and experienced many challenges – how did you not let it keep you down?


Even though my mother and I weren’t close, one of the things that I got from watching her was the attitude that I could make it through anything. Somehow I picked up on that and held on tight to that belief.




9. What do you do when you’re having a bad day?

When I’m having a bad day, it’s time to do something for somebody else. I admit if it’s a crummy day, I probably moan and groan and feel sorry for Suzanne—maybe even a little angry that something didn’t go my way. But eventually I realize that if I’m going to “move-on” I need to get off my behind and do something. Do something for someone else, spend time with my grandchildren, or work in my flower gardens. 



10. You’ve done it all – owned a restaurant, founded and published a business magazine, established a non-profit program to feed the homeless, home-schooled her youngest son, and created DearReader.com (just to name a few) – which accomplishment are you most proud of?

Homeschooling our son, Brian. He was and is a smart guy, (now 31 years old and very successful and happy with his life). But he’s also bipolar and fitting into the school system’s routine and ways to take tests and study didn’t work for Brian. Homeschooling, and the one-on-one was just what Brian needed to succeed. I taught Brian at home from the fourth grade through high school. Reading was a challenge for Brian, so one of the first things we did was cuddle together on the sofa and I would read to him. We checked out so many books from the library at a time—so many that my husband would hide around the corner until we were out the door. Day after day, book after book, I would read to Brian, and finally one day, he wanted start reading to me. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about the time Brian and I spent together. 



11. What do you hope readers will take away from MUFFINS & MAYHEM?

It’s a memoir that makes you laugh and cry and cook. My hope is that as people are reading the recipes and stories in my book, that they’ll be reliving some of their own. People write books for all sorts of reasons, but I had two: I’d been writing a daily column for seven years (at the time) and I wanted to learn how to do something different—to challenge myself. And the other reason was that it had taken me such a very long time to finally learn to like myself and feel comfortable with Suzanne. From “Muffins and Mayhem” Chapter 20: Writing the Recipe for My Life: “I have just enough confidence in myself and just enough doubt to write about my worries and fears, to make fun of myself, and invite people to laugh along with me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all feel comfortable enough to laugh at ourselves when we screw up? A laughter that stays with us, tucked away inside, instead of feeling shame? Hopefully when people read the words I write they’ll go easier on themselves and find that soft place to fall.”


12. If you were a recipe, which recipe would you be?


Skunk Beans

Why?


Because people are always curious about the name and find the recipe a little strange-sounding, but once they taste the Skunk Beans, it becomes their favorite recipe, too. I think I’m a little strange, in a fun sort of way and I think once people get to know me, most enjoy my company. At least I hope they do. 



13. For your online book club (DearReader.com), you’re known for not giving away books, but other fun items – what is the craziest thing you’ve given away?

In the middle of winter (burr. . .) I gave away heating pads to cats that lived in cold climates. My 18 year old cat, Rudy, loves to sleep on my computer or anything a little warm (he’s an old guy who need to warm up his bones). I wrote a column about Rudy and invited kitties around the country to enter. Hundreds of cats wrote in. I’ve also shopped for cozy socks for readers. To enter, readers specified color, style and size and I went shopping for readers. I guess you’d say I was their own personal sock shopper. Bubble machines, garage-sale “finds” and of course I bake homemade chocolate chip cookies every month for readers and overnight them to their doors.




About the book and Suzanne:

Pull up a chair and dig into this delicious dish of confessions and reminiscences from an everyday person who had big dreams. In Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy – if Disorderly – Life (Touchstone; June 1, 2010), Suzanne Beecher, beloved creator of the hugely successful online book club DearReader.com, rediscovers her path to the present through a recipe box and opens her heart to her readers.

Raised in Cuba City, Wisconsin, boasting 2,000 people, with a firm appreciation for hard work, Suzanne recalls her own arduous childhood years followed by her evolution from single, drug addicted, teenage mother to successful businesswoman, mother, grandmother, and wife of her best friend – the man of her dreams. Tracing memories evoked by the recipes she loves to cook, Suzanne reassures us that with love and dedication even the most challenging obstacles will be overcome.

Muffins and Mayhem was inspired by a reader who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was wondering how to leave a legacy to her children. Suzanne suggested a recipe box filled with memories and family stories. Helping this reader turned out to be a gift to Suzanne as well, and she decided to share the stories and recipes that help keep her grounded in today’s unpredictable world.

Dished up with a healthy portion of hilarity; whether she’s ironing the clothing her mother deliberately froze solid, being the only girl in an auto mechanics course, or getting her pearl chandelier earring stuck between her teeth while driving, Suzanne’s personal tales remind us to take life lightly and enjoy our time with those we love.

So bake up some of Suzanne’s blueberry muffins, pour a tall glass of tea and take some time to savor the days when all food was slow food and people came together to enrich the quality of each other’s lives.

Muffins and Mayhem is a ticket back home.




Review: Let Your Innate Sing by Dr. William A. Kriva

This inspirational book was written for any person who is contemplating a major life change, but is either trapped by fear or unclear on how to proceed. This is the compelling story of Dr. William Kriva, an aspiring astronaut who ended up miserable as a successful engineer. This is the story of his personal journey and eventual triumph as he left the comfortable confines of his engineering career, and with his wife and four children, went back to school to become a chiropractor. Along the way, Dr. Kriva discovered universal principles that apply to any person seeking their true path in life. Dr. Kriva expands on these principles and provides the reader with a step by step system to find their own unique path to the life of their dreams. This book is appropriate for any person, young or old, who is not happy with their current life circumstances and who needs help discerning the next step on their journey.





Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars. I really liked the happy cover, and the upbeat, friendly feel continued inside the book. This was a well told, interesting story. The religious aspect was unfortunate, but as the author wasn't preachy it was tolerable. This would be well received by those who follow the teachings in The Secret. It would also make a nice gift for a friend who is unhappy in his or her current work or life situation.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: Practical English Level 365 Volume 1 by Kaakyire Akosomo Nyantakyi

Language acquisition does not take a day off. That is the thinking behind Practical English Level 365. This powerful and easy-to-use text book is designed to boost the English Skills of any level speaker of English.The method behind author and teacher Kaakyire Akosomo Nyantakyi’s unique system is simple. Complete two assignments per day: one in class, the other as homework. Because practice makes perfect, this intensive schedule ensures that learning doesn’t fall off during weekends, holidays and breaks. In fact, after completing both volumes of Practical English within a year or so, students should be able to communicate in English with sophisticated precision, be it speech or writing.In this volume, students will encounter: • Hundreds of must know words to broaden their vocabulary. • How to put these words together : the elements of written and spoken English from sentences to paragraphs. • The basics of grammar: understanding subjects, predicates and all the other mechanics of the English Language. • Proper punctuations: using commas, colons, semicolons and much much more. • Tenses: applying the right tenses to express varying senses of time. • Quizzes: word searches and fun exercises to boost comprehension and much much more.All exercises are carefully structured to help students gain a high level of competency that will help them know what to say, how to organize it and how to write it-quickly, effectively and correctly. There’s even a motivational message from the author designed to keep students hungry for success.


Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars. The author obviously cares about the subject and is quite well versed. The manual is certainly comprehensive as well. It does read like the instructional text that it is. More advanced students with at least intermediate English language skills should find this helpful.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Saturday, June 19, 2010

Guest Post: Rachelle Katz author of The Happy Stepmother

Rachelle Katz, author of the book The Happy Stepmother, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



How Stepmothers Can Find a Good Therapist
By Rachelle Katz, Ed.D., LMFT,
Author of The Happy Stepmother: Stay Sane, Empower Yourself and Thrive in Your New Family

At least three times a week, stepmothers email me requesting a recommendation for good therapist where they live. Usually, I don't know anyone in their area but I give them a list of questions to ask therapists before they finally select one with whom to work. Finding a good therapist requires some detective work. You need to find out some basic information to make sure you and a therapist share similar philosophies and goals. This will ensure that your experience in therapy helps rather than harms you.

Particularly with regard to stepmothers, many mental health professionals hold outdated ideas about stepfamilies, the most prevalent one being that "blending" is the ideal goal. If a stepmother complains that she feel like an outsider in her family despite numerous attempts to bond with her stepchildren, too many therapists will suggest that she keep trying to establish a relationship with them. This can be an exercise in frustration and futility as "blending" does not occur for most stepfamilies, and is not a necessary requirement for their overall happiness.

Other therapists unconsciously accept as true the cultural stereotype that stepmothers are to blame for all the family's problems. They lack an understanding of the real challenges faced by stepmothers, and their ignorance and insensitivity may influence how they work with you. More than likely, you will waste your time and money. A bad experience in therapy may taint you from trying another therapist, and prevent you from getting the help you need and deserve.

I have been appalled by the bad experiences some stepmothers have had with therapists. In one of the monthly support groups I run, one* of the stepmothers shared that she, her husband, and 21 year old stepdaughter went to a family therapist for help. They were struggling to get along in her small one bedroom apartment. The stepdaughter was thrown out of her dorm for physically assaulting her roommate and needed to move in with them while attending college, and was sleeping on the living room couch. She was asked to not play the TV or radio after 1AM to prevent awakening her father and stepmother. She refused to, or was unable to abide by this request and repeatedly disturbed her father and stepmother in the middle of the night. When they would politely ask her to turn off the TV or radio, she would have a tantrum (that would last for hours). When the family discussed this in therapy, the therapist felt that the stepmother was being unreasonable by asking for some peace and quiet, and should be more understanding of her stepdaughter who was still affected by her parent's divorce, more than 15 years ago. This trauma, the therapist explained, prevented her from channeling her emotions maturely.

The belief that children are victims of divorce is both common and completely accurate. It is true that many children are traumatized by divorce, but this is an explanation rather than an excuse for their misbehavior. It is unacceptable for a 21 year old to have a temper tantrum when she doesn't get her way. Adult temper tantrums are indicative of a bigger problem, one that was being ignored by both the therapist and her father. As long as his daughter was doing well in school and abstained from alcohol and drugs, he was satisfied with her behavior. He wasn't concerned by the fact his daughter could not keep friends, got into physical altercations with them, and was fired from all of her jobs. His passivity regarding his daughter's problems prevented him from acknowledging his wife's frustrations and taking them seriously.

Not only was the stepmother disturbed by her husband's stance, she was astonished that the therapist did not support her need to get a good night's sleep since she was the only one in the family with a job. If she lost it, all of them would be homeless. The therapist did share with the family that she was a stepchild and never had a good relationship with her own stepmother. This factor probably contributed to her over identifying with the stepdaughter to the detriment of the stepmother. At her wit's end, the stepmother was considering divorce; the only viable option in an otherwise untenable situation. This situation did not have to escalate to this crisis level if the family therapist was more sensitive to the stepmother's needs.

To get the most out of therapy, you can screen for a stepmother savvy therapist by asking a few key questions, such as:

  • What kind of, and how much experience have you had working with stepfamilies?
  • What training have you had that is specifically related to stepfamily issues?
  • Are you a stepmother? If the therapist feels this question is too personal, explain that you are experiencing challenges as a stepmother, and prefer to work with someone who truly understands the dynamic.
  • Have you been a stepchild? Do you have a stepmother? If so, what kind of relationship do you have with her? If the therapist shares that she has had a negative one, ask the therapist if she can separate her own experiences when working with you.
  • Do you believe that it's necessary and desirable for stepfamilies to "blend" over time? If a therapist upholds that "blending" is customary in stepfamilies and is the ideal objective, ask what he or she recommends if it doesn't happen. If they recommend that you continue to try to achieve this goal, call someone else.
  • Don't forget to ask the basic questions: are you licensed, what is your fee, and if the therapist is covered by insurance.
Unfortunately, you are not guaranteed to find the right therapist by just asking these questions. Only a consultation will give you the information you need to determine if you feel comfortable collaborating with the therapist to help you achieve greater happiness and contentment.

There are many terrific therapists; it just takes a little work to find the right one for you.

*Some information has been altered to protect the confidentiality of this stepmother.




About the book:

If you're frustrated by having all the responsibilities of motherhood, with none of the recognition or reward, or worried that stepfamily issues are driving a wedge between you and your husband, then you're not alone -- and you can do something about it.

You found the love of your life, and you vowed to have, to hold and to stepmother. You always thought that in time you'd grow to be the perfect, loving family. So why does it seem that the harder you try, the more unappreciated you feel?

As a stepmother, therapist and founder of the popular Web site stepsforstepmothers.com, Dr. Rachelle Katz knows all too well how challenging stepmotherhood can be. Based on thousands of in-depth interviews and the latest research, she's created a powerful program to help you:
  • Alleviate stress and take care of yourself
  • Bond with your new family
  • Set and enforce clear boundaries
  • Get the respect you deserve
  • Strengthen your relationship



About Rachelle:

Rachelle Katz, Ed.D, LMFT, writes from a place of both personal experience -- she's been a stepmother for nineteen years -- and professional expertise. A psychotherapist with twenty-five years of experience in private practice, since 2004 she has empowered thousands of women through her Web site, www.stepsforstepmothers.com.




Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: The Best Sex of Your Life by Jennifer Hunt and Dan Raritchi

In this book, noted sex experts Jennifer and Dan reveal 101 salacious secrets for delightful encounters between the sheets. You have sex; and sure, it's okay, maybe occasionally even good. But with this new guide they help you kick it up a notch to have the best sex every time.

Featuring plenty of tips guaranteed to make you blush, you'll learn to get in touch with your inner seductress for orgasmic results. Among the secrets revealed—why you should . . .

* Have sex in front of a mirror
* Learn to use all four phases of the female orgasm
* Watch porn with your man
* Try some new positions—like the deck chair
* Use household items (hello spatula and rolling pin!) during foreplay

If you're tired of bland, predictable sex, this insider's roadmap to a more satisfying ride will have you screaming, squirting, and spending the day (or week . . . or month!) in bed.



Received from the publicist for review.

My favorite quotes from the book were:

Always make sure to wear clothes that fit properly, are free from excessive wear and tear, and make you feel good when you're wearing them. [well duh!]

Think about it. How on earth can you have a satisfying and enjoyable sex life if you don't even know what you like? How can you tell your partner how to please you if you don't know what gets you off?  Remember, he's not psychic.

Be open to your sexuality. As long as it involves consenting adults, there's nothing wrong with whatever turns you on.

Reading this really made me realize how I'm so not one of the repressed women who should be reading this. No wonder Oprah needs Dr. Laura Berman on constantly to tell women about their own bodies. In this age of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Queer as Folk, and Sex and the City it is shocking that some women don't know if they've ever had an orgasm. Seriously?

I did almost puke at the their suggestion of oral sex during your period. (shiver)

This one gets four stars. This was quite readable with a great, frank style. It felt like a fun discussion with Sex and the City's Samantha. Every woman who reads this will take away at least one tidbit to implement.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Poppy & Rye by Avi

Heartbroken over the loss of her beloved fiance, Ragweed, Poppy is making the long journey west to bring the sad news to his family, whom she's never met. There is no way Poppy can know that Ragweed's brother Rye is traveling east on his own quest for answers....

Coming across a beautiful green meadow in the forest, Poppy closes her eyes and begins to dance. Suddenly, she opens her eyes and, for one indescribable moment, thinks she sees Ragweed standing before her. Without a word, the strange new mouse takes her paws and the two dance in a graceful, magical duet. And then he is gone.

Has it all been a dream? Or has something truly extraordinary occurred? Poppy isn't sure. But when she finally reaches Ragweed's family, she discovers great trouble. Beavers are constructing a giant dam and flooding the home of the mouse family. The mice have turned for help to Rye, who has always lived in the shadow of his older brother. Now, Rye longs to prove himself to his family...and to the beautiful deer mouse who captured his heart in the meadow.

Before the battle is over, Poppy and Rye are drawn together in a dangerous showdown with the cruel and relentless dam builders. Braving kidnap, imprisonment, and a daring rescue, they carry out a brilliant plan, and with Poppy by his side, Rye dares rise to meet the expectations of his family and the mouse he loves.


Borrowed from my aunt.

After forcing myself to slog through Poppy at my aunt's urging, and finding it distinctly distasteful I agreed to give the author another chance. Let's just say that I'm glad this was short.

This one gets two stars. While it was better than Poppy, the main character Poppy annoyed the hell out of me. Ereth's "bad" language was really overboard and completely unnecessary. The story wasn't even that good either. Overall, despite the good quality illustrations by Brian Floca, I'd give this one a pass. If I had kids I wouldn't let them read this crap either.  It's just not worth the time investment unless you really liked the others from the series.

☆☆= Just Okay



Review: The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Reading this book will make you less sure of yourself—and that’s a good thing. In The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments, use remarkable stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do. We think we see ourselves and the world as they really are, but we’re actually missing a whole lot.

Chabris and Simons combine the work of other researchers with their own findings on attention, perception, memory, and reasoning to reveal how faulty intuitions often get us into trouble. In the process, they explain:

• Why a company would spend billions to launch a product that its own analysts know will fail
• How a police officer could run right past a brutal assault without seeing it
• Why award-winning movies are full of editing mistakes
• What criminals have in common with chess masters
• Why measles and other childhood diseases are making a comeback
• Why money managers could learn a lot from weather forecasters

Again and again, we think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know where we were on 9/11, falsely believing that vivid memories are seared into our minds with perfect fidelity. And as a society, we spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.

The Invisible Gorilla reveals the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us, but it’s much more than a catalog of human failings. Chabris and Simons explain why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects. Ultimately, the book provides a kind of x-ray vision into our own minds, making it possible to pierce the veil of illusions that clouds our thoughts and to think clearly for perhaps the first time.




Received from the publicist for review.

My favorite quote from the book was:

We experience far less of our visual world than we think we do.

This one gets four stars. It was quite readable with a great flow and friendly style. It was genuinely fascinating, but rather depressing at times, into how our minds work. This was nicely divided for easy reading. This amusing yet educational book will be a good match for Malcolm Gladwell fans, despite the dismissal by the authors of his work's veracity.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Eat the Cookies...Buy the Shoes by Joyce Meyer

Engrained in our culture is the belief that unbending discipline is the only sure way to success. You must go to the gym five times a week, never order the dessert, and don't even think about buying that dress you keep staring at in the store window. Breaking from such a regimented lifestyle is a sign of weakness, right? Wrong!-and Joyce wants to tell us why...

Though setting rules in our lives are important, it's just as important that we break them from time-to-time. Structure is a powerful tool, but when diverging from your own goals is seen as catastrophic, it can have a hugely negative effect on us. Balance is a core value in life and every once in awhile we deserve to indulge in a guilty pleasure or two. So don't feel bad about straying from your goals every once-in-awhile and in fact, embrace it: eat the cookie and buy the shoes!


Received from the publisher for review.

Despite my intense dislike of the author as a person due to my experience with her other books, I decided to give this a try.

This one gets two stars. While the message itself is a valuable one, they way in which it is presented is nauseatingly condescending. The author stated that about 80% of her audiences feel guilty when taking time for themselves. Well, duh! That's the message she preaches! Of course they'd feel guilty! If you share the author's viewpoints then this may be valuable, otherwise, pass on it and find another "inspirational" book on the topic to consult.

☆☆= Just Okay



Bored Now: The Healing of America by T.R. Reid


Bored Now

Bored Now will be 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.



From the library.

I saw this and it looked fascinating, but it is really preaching to the choir. The people who actually live without health insurance or are crippled by insurance premiums or prescription prices already know that we need a universal health care system here in the United States. Granted, very few to any of the people reading this actually have to think about such issues in their McMansions since they have excellent health insurance, but for the 45 million of your fellow citizens that have to weigh the price of a doctor's visit against feeding their family it is vitally important.

Do I believe, even after suffering through almost half the book before abandoning it, that we'll ever have universal care in our once great nation? No. Frankly, the rich just don't care about those who go without. And the upper middle class are too self absorbed to even consider anyone outside themselves for even a  nanosecond. The people who desperately need the universal system simply don't have the money to lobby to get what they need and deserve as a basic human right. Here in the United States money talks and it is quoting Animal Farm - everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

So, if you can manage to make it through without becoming too disgusted with the state of our nation, give this one a try. I just couldn't tolerate the horrificness enough to finish.


In The Healing of America, New York Times bestselling author T. R. Reid shows how all the other industrialized democracies have achieved something the United States can't seem to do: provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost.

In his global quest to find a possible prescription, Reid visits wealthy, free market, industrialized democracies like our own-including France, Germany, Japan, the U.K., and Canada-where he finds inspiration in example. Reid shares evidence from doctors, government officials, health care experts, and patients the world over, finding that foreign health care systems give everybody quality care at an affordable cost. And that dreaded monster "socialized medicine" turns out to be a myth. Many developed countries provide universal coverage with private doctors, private hospitals, and private insurance.

In addition to long-established systems, Reid also studies countries that have carried out major health care reform. The first question facing these countries-and the United States, for that matter-is an ethical issue: Is health care a human right? Most countries have already answered with a resolute yes, leaving the United States in the murky moral backwater with nations we typically think of as far less just than our own.

The Healing of America lays bare the moral question at the heart of our troubled system, dissecting the misleading rhetoric surrounding the health care debate. Reid sees problems elsewhere, too: He finds poorly paid doctors in Japan, endless lines in Canada, mistreated patients in Britain, spartan facilities in France. Still, all the other rich countries operate at a lower cost, produce better health statistics, and cover everybody. In the end, The Healing of America is a good news book: It finds models around the world that Americans can borrow to guarantee health care for everybody who needs it.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Rolling with the Punches by Jamie Kerrick

Rolling With The Punches is what Joey Doulgas's dad always told him when things got rough. He explained that the punches in life were something you always had to deal with. Joey grew to understand once he got older, but it was a life long lesson. We start with a young Joey feeling he was different due to his sexual feelings toward men. Living in a small town in Kentucky only made it worse. There were three things Joey didn't want to be:gay, alone, and alcoholic. He was all three. This is his story, which can only be described as a dramedy for gay recovering alcoholics and addicts because it's both funny and tragic. We follow him as he grows up, goes to summer stock in Virginia, to study in Europe, New York, California, and finally back home. At one time alcohol was his answer to life. But it took over his life and he had to ask for help. But Joey is a slow learner. It takes him nearly 21 years before he found Alcoholics Anonymous and a new way of life. But the punches continued to come. The only difference is, he became aware of how to handle them. Find out how in this entertaining novel. You'll find yourself rooting for him, while identifying with him as well.


Received from the publisher for review.

From this beginning I just knew it would be good:

I didn't want to be born at all. I put my mom through twenty-four hours of labor. The doctor had to force me out. I was clasping onto an artery with both hands screaming. "I don't want to go! I don't want to go! I've been listening. It's not safe out there."

Granted, the gay priest episode was a bit disturbing for obvious reasons. For the author's sake hopefully the line between fact and fiction was drawn a bit closer to the fiction side for this.

This one gets four stars. It was genuinely absorbing and felt very real. It was a fascinating look at growing up as a gay male in the pre Queer as Folk era. Obviously I'm neither gay nor a man, so I can't fully empathize with the main character, but the author brings you as close as you can.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: Spent by Avis Cardella

As a child, Avis Cardella devoured the glamorous images in her mother's fashion magazines. She grew up to be one of the people in them, living a life that seemed to be filled with labels and luxury. But shopping had become a dangerous addiction. She forwent food for Prada. Credit card debt blossomed like the ever-increasing pile of unworn shoes and clothing in the back of her closet. She defined herself by the things she owned and also lost herself in the mad hunt for the perfect pair of pants or purse that might make her feel whole.

Spent is Avis Cardella's timely, deeply personal, and shockingly dramatic exploration of our cultural need to spend, and of what happens when someone is consumed by the desire to consume. 



Received from the publisher for review.

This is for all the Carrie Bradshaws out there with too much money. It was very difficult to care about the author's self-indulgent lifestyle. Who really cares if some rich bitch has a shopping addiction? And a rich model to boot. Oh poor baby!

This one gets two stars. I obviously did not like the author at all. She was beyond annoying. However, the frankness of her story and discussion of how she recovered may be helpful to some, and as such saved this from a single star. I still can't recommend it to the average reader though.

☆☆= Just Okay



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Street Boners by Gavin McInnes

Fifteen years after founding Vice, Gavin McInnes has poured his creative juices into a new endeavor: StreetCarnage.com. Growing in size and influence at an alarming rate, the site's main feature is the new and improved version of Gavin's "DOs and DON'Ts," now tantalizingly called Street Boners.

These Boners have been polished and compounded into a book that takes the best of the site and adds hundreds more gems! With 1,312 photos, hilarious captions, and a harsh new rating system-from one to 10 kitten faces-STREET BONERS makes sure no glorious fashion statement goes unnoticed. Innocent citizens are either damned to hell or relentlessly exalted into heaven. Chloe Sevigny, Debbie Harry, Fred Armisen, and Tim & Eric also contribute their scathing wit to the book, and the end result is a New York fashion bible no bathroom should be without.


Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets two stars. It was mildly amusing at points but quickly became repetitive. The language could accurately be referred to as coarse and is certainly not for everyone. Some of the pictures themselves were intriguing, but the commentary didn't do much for me. This is an acquired taste so unless you are already a fan of the author I'd recommend either a quick skim or a pass.

☆☆= Just Okay 



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: P.A.C.E. The 12 Minute Fitness Revolution by Al Sears, M.D.

PACE is the ONLY doctor-designed program proven to help you reclaim a young, lean and effortlessly energetic body in as little as twelve minutes—guaranteed! PACE is a growing revolution. It’s already practiced by thousands of people in dozens of countries around the world. PACE overturns years of failed ideas and exercise advice. PACE upends current exercise trends by revealing their flaws and offering a more effective, more natural way of moving our bodies. This book will show you how to replace the flawed and ineffective theories the have been mistakenly accepted without proof with what really works. Join the PACE revolution and your body will soon become naturally strong and resilient. You’ll join the cutting-edge group of thousands who now feel energized, motivated, and ready to take on any challenge. And the best news is that joining the PACE revolution takes on average only twelve minutes per day.




Received from the publicist for review.

The book started off well with a nice introduction detailing the author and his qualifications. The quality  remains high throughout the remainder of the book with lots of helpful graphs and images to help illustrate the text.

This one gets four stars. This is a completely different workout and eating plan. It does seem from the case studies and such that it is quite effective. This plan does require a level of dedication that some may not be willing to sustain. You also need to eat large quantities of protein, so be prepared for that. That said, I highly recommend this for people who are looking for a new solution to an old problem.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: Life After College

Life After College offers fresh college graduates the experience, advice, and wisdom of hundreds of others who have survived their first year (or more) of post-college life and have something interesting to say about it. Based on interviews with hundreds of recent college graduates — and experts — across the country, the book offers insights on moving and settling into s new life, what kind of job to pursue and how to find it, interviewing, getting off on the right foot at work and dealing with co-workers, graduate school, adult and technology survival skills, money matters, romance, and much more. Highly readable and largely consisting of short snippets of insight and advice, Life After College is the perfect gift for the college graduate.



Received from the publicist for review.


This one gets four stars. It is a comprehensive volume covering everything from moving, job interviews, work environment, and grad school options to money matters. It frankly discusses all the available options and their potential pitfalls. This is certainly a must read for recent graduates, and would make an excellent graduation gift.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Higher Education: On LIfe, Landing a Job, and Everything They Didn't Teach You in College by Kenneth Jedding

Today’s college grads face a new set of challenges brought on by a sluggish job market, changing technology, and staggering amounts of debt. The rules have changed since their parents were in school, leaving young adults at a loss for advice that addresses their immediate concerns as well as the big-picture questions with which each generation of young adults must contend.

Life coach Ken Jedding has spent the past decade talking one-on-one with college students and graduates across the country in his workshops and lectures. In Higher Education, he provides a fresh, modern guidebook to postcollegiate life that addresses the issues and concerns he hears voiced most often. From the lofty What is my purpose in life? to the practical How can I land my dream job? to the increasingly common (if somewhat terrifying) How did I wind up back in my parents’ house?, Jedding’s valuable insight, wisdom, and humor provide a much-needed roadmap for the journey that is only just beginning.



Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets four stars. The author's straightforward style makes you feel that he genuinely cares about his readers and wants them to be their best. That sincerity lends a quality rarely found in in career advice books. This is truly a valuable resource for recent grads in that it answers the very real questions they have about jobs,
careers, etc. This is highly recommended and would make an excellent gift for the college grad in your life.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: The Sky Rained Heroes by Frederick E. Lacroix

While Japanese and American forces fight mercilessly for control of the Philippines in 1945, two men, a Japanese infantry officer and an American P-51 fighter pilot, meet in a fearsome battle that leaves the Japanese officer dead. Half a century later, the fighter pilot's son, Frederick E. LaCroix, inherits the officer's bloodied, Kanji-inscribed Imperial battle flag, which was given to his father as a memento of his victory. The flag, coupled with his father's wartime correspondence, propels LaCroix on a six-year journey across eastern Asia to find the dead officer's family and return the flag.

The Sky Rained Heroes details the emotional true stories of two soldiers from vastly different cultures, their families, and the diverse paths that led them to their fatal meeting. Drawing from their actual wartime experiences, LaCroix crafts a unique and powerful narrative that brings the dramatic events of World War II to life and honors those who fought so bravely.

 

Received from the publicist for review.

The language in this could be a bit trying as the author was clearly expensively educated as evidenced by this tidbit:

Spurred by my father's wish and navigating by his letters and the flag, I traveled to Japan to unearth the identity and the surviving family of the last Japanese soldier.

This one gets two stars. Had the author tamed down the language and cut out a bit of the extraneous information, this could have been even better at 100 pages shorter. It was an interesting story, but really rather slow going at times when slogging through the letters which were typed in their entirety. This tediousness took quite a bit away from the quality of the work. The end result was a nice story, made even more touching since it was true. History buffs should find this intriguing.

☆☆= Just Okay



Review: David Cornerstone: A Story of Faith by Faye Hunter

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole Armour of God...

I had heard so much about the church disapproval of the Harry Potter series of books, so I considered writing a christian book for children and youth with a message that is AGELESS. You don't need a wizard or sorcerer... ALL YOU NEED IS JESUS!!!


Received from the publisher for review.

As you know, I simply do not do Christian books (and have no issues with the Harry Potter books) so this wasn't the best option for me, but I figured I could handle it since it was a children's book.

This one gets one star. The religious aspect was completely overwhelming. The illustrations were nicely done, although I still cannot fathom the reason why humans were pictured alongside dinosaurs. This was clearly not for me, but if you ascribe to the author's beliefs and aren't bothered by historical accuracy, this may be a good choice for you.

☆☆ = Didn't Like It



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

From the coauthor of the million-copy bestseller The Last Lecture comes a moving tribute to female friendships, with the inspiring story of eleven girls and the ten women they became.


Meet the Ames Girls: eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to eight different states, yet managed to maintain an enduring friendship that would carry them through college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child's illness and the mysterious death of one member of their group. Capturing their remarkable story, The Girls from Ames is a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life's joys and challenges — and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.


The girls, now in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some evocative of their generation and some that will resonate with any woman who has ever had a friend. Photograph by photograph, recollection by recollection, occasionally with tears and often with great laughter, their sweeping and moving story is shared by Jeffrey Zaslow, Wall Street Journal columnist, as he attempts to define the matchless bonds of female friendship. It demonstrates how close female relationships can shape every aspect of women's lives - their sense of themselves, their choice of men, their need for validation, their relationships with their mothers, their dreams for their daughters - and reveals how such friendships thrive, rewarding those who have committed to them.


The Girls from Ames is the story of a group of ordinary women who built an extraordinary friendship. With both universal insights and deeply personal moments, it is a book that every woman will relate to and be inspired by.


Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets four stars. The nice photos throughout really helped to put faces to the many names. The text itself was charming. It was very well presented and quite readable. You'll smile, you'll tear up, but you'll fall in love with these women. This testament to friendship between women is the Iowa equivalent of Sex and the City's relationships between Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha. This would definitely make a lovely gift for a special friend.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Review: The World I Imagine by Debbie Jordan

Peace Breeds Prosperity; Poverty Hinders Peace

Peace and poverty cannot coexist. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Establishing and maintaining peace will take far more creativity, dedication, and hard work than war ever did. True peace would be much cheaper and far less traumatic than any war, but, to date, no one has been able to pull it off.

The essays in this collection introduce creative ideas for ending poverty everywhere, in the hope that humans can finally build a truly peaceful society where everyone enjoys at least the basic benefits of prosperity, for the first time in history.


Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets three stars. The short chapters made for easy reading breaks. I found it a bit odd that Universal Healthcare was shoved back to chapter 9 - behind elections and education. While I did not necessarily agree with all the author's suggestions, such as compulsory community service, the book was interesting and presented some intriguing ideas. The author was certainly comprehensive in her description of the world she would like to see.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Queen of Your Own Life by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff

Discover the Seven Best Gifts You Can Give Yourself


Queen of Your Own Life is a philosophy, a decision and an invitation to happiness for women who have made the tough but rewarding journey to the midpoint in their lives. Kathy Kinney (best known as Mimi on The Drew Carey Show) and Cindy Ratzlaff (marketing genius behind the launch of The South Beach Diet) have been best friends for more than thirty years, and have helped each other navigate the ups and downs of their lives with humor and grace.


In this entertaining and inspiring book, they share the tried-and-true techniques they call "the seven best gifts a woman can give herself." They reveal how they learned to value themselves just the way they are—women in full bloom, sensual, vibrant, wise and more beautiful than ever—and they'll show you how you can, too.


With these seven gifts you'll discover how to:
• Claim your beauty and feel your power
• Clean your mental closet and find your queen voice
• Admire yourself for who you've become
• Build deep, fulfilling friendships with other women
• Establish firm boundaries that will strengthen all your relationships
• Learn the simple trick to finally being happy
• Place the crown firmly on your head


With humor, comfort and inspiration, Queen of Your Own Life offers easy step-by-step actions to blast away at the societal tall tale that young is beautiful and old is just old. If you've been feeling that the best part of your life may be behind you, then this book will prove to you just how untrue that is, and that the door to being happy is not only never closed, but just waiting for you to fling it open. Remember, you don't have to be twenty to have your whole life ahead of you. Now is the time to become Queen of Your Own Life!


Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets four stars. This lovely, smaller sized hardcover was a great little book with a powerful message. It had a funny, friendly tone which made it incredibly readable. The "Crown Jewel" quotes and "Royal Proclamation" affirmations were nice bullet points of sorts to the main text. Each chapter detailed how the authors changed their lives and views and how you can make similar adjustments to your own life. The entire book felt very real and as if the authors truly cared about their readers which really brought you closer to them. This would make a lovely gift for yourself or a friend.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Guest Post: J.P. White author of Every Boat Turns South


J.P. White, author of the book Every Boat Turns South, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



The Hazards of the Sailing Away Fantasy

There are few fantasies more compelling in American life than sailing away and leaving the rat race behind. Yet less than half the couples who embark on the "booze, cruise and snooze" life in the islands find the adventure bliss they are seeking. The other half routinely find trouble and lots of it including theft, infidelity, drugs, divorce, loss of boat and sometimes murder. The sailing life -- which is the setting for my debut novel Every Boat Turns South -- provides more than enough fodder for the mystery/crime genre because unsavory characters linger on every dock, beach and fishing pier. And it turns how sailing away is hard work. You
need to navigation, engine repair, be reasonably fit and nimble, and have enormous reserves of good cheer and resilience because things will go wrong, the weather will turn foul, and will run aground somewhere. What else?

We don't have to look very far to see that pirates are alive and well in our world. Wherever there is water, there are men and women on boats with guns who know those waters better than anyone else. The Bahamas, where my story travels to, have always been used for drug smuggling because of their proximity to the States. In the 1980s, there were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine coming into Florida through the islands. Now, there is both human and drug smuggling. If nothing else, the law of the universe tells us opposites always attract. Where there is great beauty and peacefulness there is also the worm of its undoing.

In my novel, a boat delivery from West Palm Beach to St. Thomas in the B.V.I. gets sidetracked by the Trade Winds shifting. The Trades blow from the northeast from November to April then switch around to the
southeast starting in April. Matt Younger, my protagonist, is a skipper on a forty-foot trimaran that pulls into South Caicos on April Fool's Day. Problem is, Matt is heading south and he gets caught there. While he's
waiting for a front to push back against the Trades, he gets mixed up with a drug pilot and makes a reckless decision to steal a cocaine drop out from under the pilot's nose. When the weather turns foul, sailors make bad decisions all the time. In fact, they've been doing this for thousands of years. Every Boat Turns South is a sailing adventure retold to a dying father. Bad decisions are the standing rigging of this tale, but then one
good decision arrives, but it's not one that anyone expects.




About the book:

Every Boat Turns South mixes memoir-like adventure with a moving coming-home tale. The book opens and closes in Florida, but its sultry and terror-filled center is set in the Turks & Caicos Islands and in the Dominican Republic. By interweaving the Florida bedside scenes with Matt’s confessional account of his wild life in the Caribbean, White subtly builds sympathy for his ne'er-do-well drifter, as Matt slowly reveals the truth about Hale by coming to understand his own impulses and needs and by cherishing, through memory, all that his father had taught him. The writing in both sections forcefully lyrical and full of maritime detail (sailors will love this book) suggests an autobiographical prompt, but clearly the author is in command of a style that effectively serves his complex plot. The flashbacks pulse with sensuality, the take on island natives and tourists is nothing less than superb: The hotel swarms with interracial couples strung together like rosary beads . . . white women, pale as chalk, lean into black men like they've found the Rosetta stone. White men pull at strings of mulatto women like taffy. Meringue and rum, greed and sex rule. Everything. Everyone. As one of the novel's shrewd and exotic characters says, we all have our weaknesses once we get to the islands.



About J.P.:

J.P. White has published essays, articles, fiction, reviews, interviews and poetry in over a hundred publications including The Nation, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, American Poetry Review, and Poetry (Chicago). He is a graduate of New College in Sarasota, Florida, Colorado State University and Vermont College in Fine Arts. He is the author of five books of poems and a novel, Every Boat Turns South. www.jpwwhite.net.