October 22, 2012

How Serial Rapists...

How Serial Rapists Target Their Victims
by Linda Fairstein
publisher Open Road Media
source:  NetGalley

Linda Fairstein's article  How Serial Rapists Target their Victims was originally written for Cosmopolitian in October 2010.   She describes a few cases of violent serial sex offenders.  Some were caught and convicted using DNA.  Others are still loose.   Fairstein, a prosecutor, gives some hints on how to prevent being a victim. 

Fairstein has also written a series of crime novels.  Her biography from the Open Road Media site says: 

Linda Fairstein is one of America's foremost legal experts on violent crimes against women and children, and a former chief of the Manhattan District Attorney's pioneering Special Victims Bureau. She developed many of the techniques that have revolutionized the prosecution of sexual predators, including her early introduction of DNA as a forensic tool.
 
Her articles are now available where ebooks are sold.  The link at the header will take you to Open Road Media.    I would have preferred reading a book rather than this article.  I felt some details were missing.

October 12, 2012

Luther: The Calling

Luther: The Calling
author:  Neil Cross
publisher:  Touchstone - Simon & Schuster
source:  publisher

People who watch BBC and BBC America are familiar with Luther, a detective with a hot temper.  Unfortunately our cable television doesn't offer BBC, so I didn't know who Luther was until I picked up the book.

What a character!  Neil  Cross is the creator of the BBC television series.   After two seasons, he wrote Luther: The Calling as a prequel to the first season's first show.   Cross uses the present tense which makes the story flow faster, almost like you are watching a fast-paced show.

The case in the book is about a baby being cut out of her mother.  Shudder. Such a dark tale with several things to make you shudder again and again.   Even though the novel is stand-alone, we are introduced to Luther, his wife Zoe, and his colleagues who are also in the television show.  We also meet the killer who stole the baby and other unsavory despicable characters.

Because I'm hooked on Facebook, my favorite part of the book is when Facebook is mentioned in a discussion between Luther and Benny.   Here's part of the conversation:
"What's the golden rule of social networking?"
"Don't do it?"
"No.  The golden rule is -- only put up information or images you're happy for everyone to see and are happy to put your name to ...."

Unfortunately, the victims (parents of the stolen baby) posted too much and anyone can see the posts.

My husband and I are now hooked on Luther.  We rent DVDs from Netflix, and watch it with popcorn.  I'm eager to read future books about Luther.

Incidentally, Idris Elba  won the 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Mini-Series for his portrayal of Luther.  Cross himself, the screenwriter and author, has been nominated and received many awards, including the Edgar Award.

October 11, 2012

Once Upon a Time Machine

Once Upon a Time Machine
editors:  Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens
publisher:  Dark Horse Comics
source:  NetGalley

We tend to think of fairy tales as set in the distant past, long before automobiles and computers were invented.  Some of us grew up reading Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book,   Lilac Fairy Book, the (name almost any color) Fairy Book.    Of course Grimm delighted and scared us.  Disney movies created before we were born or during our childhood introduced us to Cinderella, Snow White, and others.

Suppose fairy tales and fictional classics are set in the future.  Would they be any different?  If so, how?    Several writers and artists collaborate on stories featuring familiar and unfamiliar characters.  The publisher's page has a link to some preview pages.

Like most anthologies, some of the stories are good and some are horrid.   Maybe it was because I was trying to read it on my iPad, but some of the fonts or typefaces were very difficult to see-read.

Some characters have one full page, such as Santa Claus who is not in a sleigh, but in a bubble rocket pulled by a robotic red-nosed reindeer.  I liked Rapunzel's technical golden hair.  

I appreciated the opportunity to read this graphic anthology, but it wasn't the best I've ever read. 
Perhaps because my eyes are too old to focus upon an e-reader version of a galley.

October 10, 2012

Until We All Come Home

to be published November 6, 2012
publisher:  FaithWords, Hachette
source: publisher

Kim and Jahn de Blecourt with their daughter Jacey go to Ukraine to adopt a boy.  They visit two different boys in Ukranian orphanages.  They realize the boys would not fit in their family.  The third boy, Sasha, three years old, is the perfect one.  While Jahn and Kim go through the application and paperwork process,  Kim is attacked by an elderly woman before going into McDonald's.  The assault was for no reason at all.

This is only the beginning of Kim's problems.  Weeks go by. Jahn has to go back home to Michigan for work.  Kim's worst problem is that a prosecutor takes an intense dislike to her and sets up several barriers for her to jump through.   Even after the family legally adopts Sasha, now renamed Jake,  Kim and Jake cannot leave Ukraine.

Months pass.  Months!  Kim holds tightly to God, but suffers depression through a long cold winter.  The true story becomes similar to a spy story, complete with hiding in secret and attempts to cross a country's border even with warrants out for Kim's name.

I visited Ukraine in the summer of 2011.  The Ukraine airport is the only place where I've been "patted down."    I remember some places Kim mentions such as Independence Square.  In fact that square is where Kim was assaulted.

Several friends have adopted or are in the process of adopting. I pray they do not go through what Kim did.

Interesting book, suspenseful.  Towards the end, Kim tells us how God helped her through. Others might call it coincidences, but actually these events are God-led.




October 1, 2012

Mercury

Mercury:  An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury
author:  Lesley-Ann Jones
publisher:  Touchstone Books, Simon & Schuster
source:  publisher

Confession,  I had never heard of Queen or Freddie Mercury until I received this biography for review.   So I opened the cover without any pre-conceived notions about Mercury.   I was surprised to find out he died more than twenty years ago.

The author, Jones,  toured with Queen, and interviewed hundreds of people.  Therefore, she has insight into Mercury in the band.  She does a great job telling about Farrokh Bulsara's childhood.  Freddie was born in Zanzibar, and was sent to India for boarding school around the age of nine.  It broke my heart to see how rarely he saw his family -- only once a year.

For such a shy person,  Mercury had many loves and lovers.   He knew how to throw wild parties as shown in photographs.   He was one of the first rock stars to die of Aids.      I enjoyed reading the biography and learning about such a flamboyant, yet shy, character.

At the closing ceremony of the Olympics, Mercury made a digital appearance!  This goes to show how well known he is. even decades after his death.   A movie based on Mercury starring Sacha Baron Cohen is in the works.  Because of the biography written by Jones, I am eager to see the movie when it comes out.

August 29, 2012

The Twisted Window

The Twisted Window
by Lois Duncan
originally published 1987
e-book available August 28, 2012
publisher:  Open Road Integrated Media
source:  NetGalley

Aeons ago, I gobbled every Lois Duncan book I could find.   It was a delight to read The Twisted Window this month.  The story is focused on Tracy Lloyd, a new student in her high school.   One day, a boy who doesn't even go to this school approaches her in the school cafeteria.   Why? 

He follows her home through the park.   Creepy!   Again, why?  What is his motive?   Eventually, he tells Tracy what he wants from her.

The boy Brad and Tracy look through a warped window at something he wants -- ergo, the name The Twisted Window.  There are twists all-around, some caught me by surprise, some I suspected.   In addition, the word "twist" is frequently used, such as "She gave the knob a twist."   "... looking at life in a twisted way."    An enjoyable, easy-reading book. 

Even though this book was originally published in the late '80's, it has been updated to include today's items such as cellphones.    A new generation of readers will become hooked on Lois Duncan! 


August 11, 2012

The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper
author:  Mitch Albom
publisher Hyperion
to be published September 2012
source NetGalley

Long before Mitch Albom became a book author, he was a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press.  Every once in a while, my friend who lives near Detroit would email me to say, "Mitch wrote a good column today, grab a hankie for a good cry."   Then I'd go on-line to read his column.  

Albom's fingers on the keyboard turn out golden prose, whether a column or a book.  The Time Keeper is like a combination of precious metal.

The story opens with Dor who lives four thousand years ago.    Albom's explanation of Dor's thought processes in figuring out numbers and time is pure silver.   God watched Dor while the world changed.  One day, in order to stop time, Dor climbs the Tower of Babel and is punished.

The golden part of the novel is about a high-school girl named Sarah Lemon.  She is lonely and unloved.  She develops a crush on a classmate Ethan.   Sarah is eager for time to pass quickly for their first date.   Soon, though, her heart is broken, as happens to unpopular lonely high school girls.

Our platinum character is Victor, the fourteenth richest man.  Money, however, cannot cure him when he has terminal kidney cancer.    However,  he has come up with an alternative use for his money.

Dor, Sarah, Victor --- three very different, intertwined characters with different problems and needs and perspectives on Time.   Will they meet?  How, where, when?  How will they influence each other?   The answers to these questions are precious gems.

This novel doesn't mention Eccelesiates 3, but it does tell us there is a time for everything: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to ..........  I tell you, it is time to read this book!




August 5, 2012

Touched

Touched by Cyn Balog
to be published August 14, 2012
source NetGalley

Would you like to foresee the future?    Nick Cross, AKA Crazy Cross, in Touched would warn you that this is not a gift, but a curse.

Some facts about Nick:
  • he is in high school
  • ultra-sensitive to smells
  • was raised by his grandmother because his anxious mother spends all her time in her bedroom
  • has much anxiety
  • feels like a freak
  • has only a few friends he can talk to.  Therefore, he talks mostly in his head to himself. 
What Nick's schoolmates don't know about Nick is he can foresee the future.  "You Will..." which frequently go through his head is a premonition of what will happen in the next few seconds.   If Nick manages to avoid that "You Will" step,  his long-term future changes.  

I thought SLEEPLESS was marvelous and that Cyn Balog couldn't write a better book, but she outdid herself with TOUCHED. Towards the end I kept reading faster and faster and faster.   At one point, I had a question in my mind about "the powers" and what exactly they did.  She answered that question to my relief.  The end took me by surprise too.

In one of Balog's blog posts, she described her insecurity (she's one of the contributors to Dear Bully.)  This makes me realize that's how the fictional character Nick Cross felt.  As the saying goes:  like mother, like son  OR  like author, like character. 

August 4, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Memoirs of an Imagainary Friend 
author Matthew Dicks
to be published late August 2012
source NetGalley
audio clip at Macmillan Audio

When I read the opening excerpt, I was instantly hooked!

Budo, our narrator, is an imaginary friend.   No one can see or talk to him except Max who imagined him in the first place five years ago, and other imaginary friends.    Max has Aspergers and difficulty making decisions.   Budo helps him,  so Max has kept him around.  Therefore Budo is  ancient at age five.

While Max is asleep, Budo goes places near the house.  One of his favorite places is the gas station.  One night there is a hold-up robbery and someone is shot.  Gasp!

Another night, a boy two grades ahead of Max, throws a rock through Max's bedroom window. This causes Max to "freeze."

One day Max disappears from school!  Budo knows how he left, but he doesn't know where Max went.  Neither do we.   There's a mad search for Max, where is he?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although at times some of Budo's thoughts and narration are simplistic.  But of course, he's an imaginary friend who has a difficult time figuring out the "real" world.  

August 3, 2012

Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl
publisher Abingdon Press
to be published September 2012
source NetGalley

Pearl's mother is Barrie, a high-school guidance counselor.   Guidance counselors, as you know, see teenagers at their best and their worst, all the while working with them for their best possible future.

Barrie's daughter Pearl is seventeen-years-old.  She is betrayed by her boyfriend.  Then she withdraws from her family.  Barrie says "Mothering is not for cowards."   I chuckled,  how true!

Barrie also rationalizes "Teenagers are supposed to begin withdrawing from their parents at this age.  It's all part of the march of independence that will move her away from home..."   In addition to troubles with Pearl, Barrie copes with a prying mother,  a workaholic husband, and colleagues at her high school.  

One day, her world turns upside down and changes the lives of her family.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and read it in a two-day span which is unusual for me.  Recommended.

June 26, 2012

Digital Winter


Digital Winter
by Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky
publisher Harvest House
to be published August 2012
source:  NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:  a suspenseful and fast-moving story of life after a massive cyber attack.
Twenty-two-year-old savant Donny Elton can't tie his shoes, but his computer skills are unsurpassed. Egged on by a shadowy figure only he can see and hear, Donny creates an evolving computer virus that knocks out satellites, power grids, and communication systems. The world is thrown back into a lifestyle it hasn't known for a hundred years.

My perspectives:  Initially I was disappointed that the whole book didn't focus on Donny, the savant.    But then, if it had, we wouldn't have seen how the rest of the nation and the world was affected by the cyberattack.   Other characters we meet are:
  • Donny's father Stanley lives in a $3.5 million dollar condo and works for OPM Accounting (OPM stands for Other People's Money)
  • Dr. Roni Matisse works in a hospital in Washington, D.C.  
  • Her husband is Colonel Matisse who specializes in cyber security and is stationed at USCYBERCOM in Fort Meade. 
  • Plus many more minor characters.
The lights flicker, the lights go out, they come back on.  Finally all power goes off around the world.  Automobiles and planes are affected.   The world is DARK.   Is this an act of terrorism?  But it is impossible to control 100% of the power grids at the same time.  Colonel Matisse  is called to an underground site where the US government officials go in times of dire emergency.  Dr. Matisse has to perform surgery without electricity. 

Dystopia fiction is one of my favorite genres, however I had never read end-times novels until this one.   Some characters in the novel are Christian, some are non-believers.  I came to care for most of the characters and couldn't put this book down until the very end  and I plan to search for others by the authors.

Sidenote:   way back in the mid-1970's I discovered a short story The Waveries written in 1945 by Fredric Brown.   Some "aliens" eat all electrical and radio waves.  The humans in that time era (1950's) have to go back to the way they lived 50 years before.  Horses become valuable again.   Every time a lightning storm causes the power to go out, I think of The Waveries.    It is my top favorite short story, no longer available free on the Internet, alas.  However it is in several anthologies.   Therefore, I was interested to compare this short story written in 1945 with Digital Winter written almost 70 years later.

June 2, 2012

The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles
author:  Karen Thompson Walker
publishing date June 2012
publisher Random House
source:  NetGalley

Have you ever said, "I need more time in the day?"
I have, especially when deadlines loom.
Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

The Age of Miracles opens with people not noticing the extra time in their day.   Some night-workers did, but they thought it was because of the loneliness and darkness.  At the beginning, the disaster was invisible.

Then it is announced on television ---  the days had grown by 56 minutes.   Panic in the world ensues.  Time to stock up.   Or move. 

Our narrator, Julia, is only eleven years old.  She states "we kids were not as afraid as we should have been.  We were too young."  She describes her parents' reactions -- mother pours more Scotch, dad goes to work delivering babies. 

The world changes, not just the people.   Climate, animals, plants are affected.     People divide into two camps:  those who live in 24-hour-time according to the clock and those who behave according to day-and-dark.  Rarely the twain shall meet.

Julia grows.  She has a crush on a boy at the school bus stop.  She enters middle school, "the age of miracles," a time of change, when kids shot up and regarded their parents differently.  Her life is slow-moving, which is true for kids that age -- we know time drags for kids (as opposed to us older people).   Because of the Slowing of Time,  her narration is perfect.

Highly recommended.    Unusual to read dystopia in the eyes of a 11-year-old.   Poignant.  I would have loved to read more.

May 26, 2012

The Twitter Diaries

The Twitter Diaries
authors:  Georgie Thompson and Imogen Lloyd Webber  
publisher:  Bloomsbury Reader
published:  May 2011
source:  NetGalley

The premise of The Twitter Diaries sounds intriguing ... as Goodreads summarizes:
The Twitter Diaries tells the story of pen pals for the 21st century. Two parallel lives separated by an ocean but united over a social network.

Tuesday (@Tuesday Fields), a sports reporter and Stella (@StellaCavill), a men's shoe designer, are Brit 30-somethings who are introduced in NYC on NYE by a mutual friend, a notorious transatlantic TV presenter. They strike up an instant bond.

Over the next 365 days, @TuesdayFields and @StellaCavill put the world to rights, one tweet at a time. 
Alas and alack, I had a difficult time diving into this book.  The British-isms were difficult to understand.  The tweets were difficult to follow changing from one topic to another.  Younger readers would enjoy this book more because they grew up with texts, IMs, and tweets.

May 2, 2012

A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose - A Novel for Humans
author W. Bruce Cameron
publisher  Forge Books
source: publisher

Goodreads summary:   A Dog’s Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?

Sometimes we are asked, "If you are reincarnated as another person, who would you come back as?"    Now, what if you were a dog?  What breed?  What kind of life?  What dog activities would you relish?

Even though I'm a cat person, I'm a sucker for well-written dog books.   This one rates better than Marley and Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain, both of which I adored.  

I lent the book to my daughter for her trip to the beach.  She cried reading.  Then she asked her friend at the beach if she wanted to read it.  "No way!  You cried."    But one afternoon, it was raining and they couldn't go to the ocean, so Marian read it.  Marian cried too.

Did I cry?  No, but came very close to it.   After I finished, I immediately passed it on to a friend, Pat, to read.   That same night, I discovered there is a sequel coming out.  Click-click go my computer keys, now A Dog's Journey has been pre-ordered, due to arrive next week.

I typed out a paragraph about A Dog's Purpose, but deleted it.  Simply grab your copy of the book and meet Toby/Bailey and enjoy getting into the mind of a dog.  It's okay if you cry too.



April 27, 2012

The Red Book

The Red Book
by Deborah Copaken Kogan
publisher:  Voice, Hyperion
published:  April 2012
source:  publisher

Have you ever filled out a questionnaire before a reunion at your high school or college?   You are asked your new address,  occupation,  spouse,  children, and possibly a paragraph or two more about your life.

Of course you wouldn't air your dirty laundry in what you write.  Or would you?

The Red Book is printed every five years after graduation from Harvard.   This novel has pages from the twentieth anniversary report of the class of 1989.    After a few of these pages, we meet the four main characters,  some spouses, and kids.   Then more alumni pages pop up throughout the book to give us an opportunity to meet other characters.

There's so much between the lines in the alumni pages, and even more behind the scenes.   I felt like a voyeur reading the book.  So much sex!  So many secrets!   This is a perfect beach book.  

I'm so glad I didn't read the reviews before picking up this book --- other reviewers complained about the heartless characters, complained about not being able to remember all the many names.  It wasn't that hard to remember everyone.  Sometimes when I read other books, I have to make a list of character's names ... but not this one.  All I had to do was turn back a few pages to find the alumnus' report.

Humor while watching children in a bounce house:
"Wouldn't it be great if there were a moon bounce for grown-ups?"
Clover laughs.  "Its called sex, Jane."
Two pages include an IM conversation.   There's a letter from someone's mom.    Oh there's so much more, more, more.   It all ties together.    These characters are people-types I don't know down here in the South.  They're elite, rich, jet setters, brilliant.

After I finished the book, I checked for more information about the author.  Deborah Copaken Kogan herself  went to Harvard,  was a photojournalist in France and Afghanistan, and juggled work and kids.   She knows wherfore what she writes. 

April 26, 2012

The Sausage Maker's Daughters

The Sausage Maker's Daughters
by AGS Johnson
published February 2012
source NetGalley

A murder.   Inability to remember.  A jail cell.  Flashbacks.  Court.  What a novel!

Kip (born Knavere Priestley Czermanski -- no wonder she changed it legally) finds herself in a jail cell.  A man has been murdered, naked, in her bed of all places.  She is found standing next to the bed.  This dead man used to be her college professor-and-lover, and now (gasp) her brother-in-law.   Kip is accused and soon to stand trial.

It is 1972.  Kip is the youngest of four daughters of a prominent business man.   She is the rebellious sister who was often in trouble while growing up.    A  lawyer says to her in her jail cell:  "You clearly represent dissidence, rebellion, the general undermining of all authority -- both the church and state -- of piety.  And let's not forget your feminism--"

Another lawyer comes from California to Wausaukeesha, Wisconsin, to defend Kip. 

This is more than a mystery, more than a courtroom drama,  more than a story of a young woman's life, more than historical fiction of the turbulent years of 1966-72.    All these add up to a great book.

April 15, 2012

It's So Easy


Title:  It's So Easy (and other lies)
Author:  Duff McKagan
Publisher:  Touchstone, Simon and Schuster
Source:  publisher

Guns N'Roses was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yesterday.  To celebrate the occasion, I read Duff McKagan's It's So Easy (and Other Lies).

 McKagan is an intelligent man who was caught up in the rock and roll cyclic scene of drugs, rehab,  alcohol, drugs, rehab again.   Add music and more music giving him fame and fortune.

My favorite parts  were when McKagan talks about his family --- his childhood family and his family today.   He almost died in an accident as a child.  It amazed me that he went to college years after Guns N'Roses.   It was a struggle to be admitted to college.    McKagan talks about his writing experiences.   This man CAN write!

The ending makes one laugh ...  Duff had just played in a stadium out of the country, been given a police escort, and fans were chanting his name in the streets.  He phoned a professor to ask about an assignment.   The professor responds "Duff who?"    That's how I was before I read the book, "Duff who?"    Now I'm glad to know who he is.

I hope to read more by McKagan.

April 12, 2012

Comeback Love - review and tour

 Crazy Book Tours Blog Tour of

Comeback Love

author:  Peter Golden
publisher: Washington Square Press/Atria Books
source:  Simon and Schuster and Netgalley

one line summary:  A debut novel about a man and his romantic quest to find the woman he loved and lost years before.

Comeback Love is a sweet story, without being syrupy sweet.   The time frame alternates between 1968-69 and today, with a few years in between.

I especially enjoyed reading about the 1968 year ... this is the year the United States politcal and social made a huge shift.   That is the same year when the characters Glenna and Gordon meet each other, fall in love and move in together.   They come of age.  Eventually, though, Gordon leaves.

Decades later,  Gordon surprises Glenna in her office.  After dinner, she asks him why he came.  He evades answering,  this causes us to wonder too.  Why?  What happened in the years in between?

That was why I kept on reading ...  the ending was quite satisfying.

Author biography:  Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, biographer, and historian. The author of several works of nonfiction, including Quiet Diplomat, about U.S. diplomacy with Israel, Comeback Love is his first novel. He lives outside Albany, New York.

Other blogs in the Comeback Love tour are listed here.


March 24, 2012

The Happiness Blog Tour and Giveaway

Welcome to the Happiness Blog Tour!    Our guest today is Bryan Cohen, and he has some wonderful goodies to make you happy!
First is a post is by Bryan then ways to win wonderful prizes (hint: leave a comment)  ...  read on .....


Bryan Cohen here, guest poster and author, promoting my new book Post-College-Guide-Happiness for The Happiness Blog Tour. I'm giving away free digital review copies of the book and doing a giveaway for paperback copies, audio copies and even a Kindle Fire! Read on and check out the info below the post.

"The happiest people don't worry too much about whether life is fair or not, they just get on with it."
- Andrew Matthews

Cheese and Whine

Oh, how we like to whine! I used to love to whine to anyone and everyone who would listen to me. In high school, it was frequently about women. In college, it was about acting (and women). When I left school, it was about money (and...you get the point). Whining was like a national past time for me. I was able to commiserate with a ton of other people with similar qualms, because it wasn't hard at all to find someone else who wanted to whine about the same stuff.

Did any of this whining do me and my other whining buddies any good? No. It did no good at all.

Sure, there's this belief that whining helps you to "let it out" but in actuality you're trapping all those feelings of lack and unhappiness back in by continuing to talk about it. Let me ask you this. Do you think that the happiness and most successful people in the world whine a lot? No, they don't whine. You might counter this by saying that they have perfect stuff and perfect lives so they don't need to whine. Which came first? The perfect life or turning off the "whine faucet"?

One of the reasons these select few people are happier is because they decided to stop whining a long time ago. They left complaining if something was fair or not on the playground and like Matthews says, "They just get on with it."

If you want to be happier and healthier, make every effort to cut whining and complaining out of your life. Even about the little things! At first, try to replace your complaints with, "At least..." phrases.

"Even if we're not on time, at least we're here."
"Even though the food isn't perfect, at least we have food to eat."
"Even though she stayed out late, at least she's safe."

At least is a great bridge to gratitude. Replacing whining and complaining with gratitude as often as you can is a surefire way to improve your happiness levels. It will be difficult at first to replace whining in your life because you might be really used to it and a ton of people around you might try to goad you into whining. Don't let yourself slip up. Imagine you're on a staircase to happiness. Every time you whine you take a step down. Every time you express gratitude you take a step up.

Trust me when I say that walking up that staircase and passing by all those people eating cheese and drinking whine, can lead to a much better existence.
--
Bryan Cohen is giving away 61 paperback and audio copies of The Post-College Guide to Happiness and a Kindle Fire between now and May 7th, 2012 on The Happiness Blog Tour. All entrants receive a free digital review copy of The Post-College Guide to Happiness. Bryan hopes to give away at least 1,000 copies during the blog tour. To enter, post a comment with your e-mail address or send an e-mail to postcollegehappiness (at) gmail.com. Bryan will draw the names at the end of the tour. Entries will be counted through Sunday, May 6th.

Bryan Cohen is a writer, actor and comedian from Dresher, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 with degrees in English and Dramatic Art and a minor in Creative Writing. He has written nine books including
1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More,  
500 Writing Prompts for Kids: First Grade through Fifth Grade,
Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job and his new book,
1,000 Character Writing Prompts: Villains, Heroes and Hams for Scripts, Stories and More.

His website Build Creative Writing Ideas helps over 25,000 visitors a month to push past writer's block and stay motivated.

Feel free to follow along with the tour at  The Happiness Blog Tour Hub Page or on the book's Facebook Page.

March 22, 2012

The God Box - review

The God Box
by Mary Lou Quinlan
to be published April 17
source:  NetGalley

summary:   When Mary Lou Quinlan’s beloved mother, Mary Finlayson, dies, her family is bereft—until Mary Lou finds her mother’s “God Box,” or rather, boxes. These simple containers are stuffed with tiny notes written by Mary, praying for everything from the right flooring for her daughter’s new home to a cure for her own blood cancer. 

my perspectives:    My mother, just like the author's mother, prayed daily.   She kept calendars of birthdays of all her nieces, nephews,  their children, and grandchildren.    Mother didn't keep a God Box, but she had shelves full of journals year-by-year.   Therefore, I was delighted to run across this sweet little book.  So other mothers did the same thing.......

Mary Lou Quinlan had an extremely close relationship with her mom, Mary Finlayson.  Her book shows assorted notes Mary F. wrote along with issues facing the family throughout the years.   Any scrap piece of paper would do ... it didn't have to be fancy.  It was her way to send pleas and gratitude to God, then letting go.

I felt several tinges of regret while reading the book.  My relationship with my own mother was not as "perfect" as Mary and Mary Lou's relationship with each other.   I loved my  mother, and I miss her terribly.   It reassured me to find the Reading Group Guide on the God Box Project website (below)   that questioned how the reader felt about this perfection.    

We all should take Mary F's habit to heart.    Mary Lou has created The God Box Project for the rest of us.  You can find a sample chapter here along with a copy of  Mary's note, "I love you.  You will always be in my God Box."   

That's how I felt about my grandmother.   I knew I was in her prayers.  Before she died at age 106, she lay in bed praying every night for each one of her descendants (there were around 100) by name.   How I miss these prayers!   But now that I'm in the "older" generation,  I will start a God Box.  Maybe I can accumulate ten little boxes like Mary F.  What a legacy Mary F. left!

February 26, 2012

Wonder - review

Wonder
author:  RJ Palacio
publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
published:  February 2012
source: Netgalley

Wonder is a great creative story of a ten-year-old boy named August who was born with severe facial deformities.  He needed many surgeries and has been home-schooled.  Now it is time to start Middle School.  Should he be mainstreamed?   His parents disagree. 

How severe are his facial deformities?  Auggie says:  “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”  He becomes expert in knowing the exact milli-second a person notices him in the room, even when the person attempts to cover up the shock at seeing such a face.  We get several clues in mid-point of the book as to what he looks like. 

Auggie ends up entering fifth grade.   His favorite holiday is Halloween, because then he can wear a mask and no one knows who he is.  But something happens on this Halloween Day ....

At first, I thought the whole book would be the P.O.V. (point of view) of this ten-year-old.    I was pleased to come to Part Two, and find out the author switched to his older sister's voice.  Via is starting high school and has problems of her own, including squabbling with her mom.   Palacio did a great job writing differently for these two siblings.    The other Parts include additional characters in the book.   In sum, this is one of the most excellent books that give different P.O.V.'s in assorted styles of writing.

Natalie Merchant's song Wonder has this chorus:
They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god's own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation 

The author RJ Palacio stated in an interview about seeing  a girl with facial deformities and being ashamed of her own reaction.  She was afraid her younger son would say something rude so she rushed out of the ice-cream shop.   This scene is in her book.   On the way home, she heard Merchant's song, thus the idea for Wonder was born.

Wonder is geared toward middle schoolers, but will appeal to YAs and adults too.  It should be nominated for and even win the Newbery Award. 

February 18, 2012

Life-Changing Conversations - review

Life-Changing Conversations
by Sarah Rozenthuler
to be published March 2012
source:  Netgalley

Goodreads summary:  So much in life hinges on the ability to say the right thing, at the right time, to the right person, in the right way. Now expert psychologist and coach Sarah Rozenthuler provides a practical guide to having the kinds of conversations that will turn your life around, from negotiating with difficult neighbors to asking for a raise to ending a long-term relationship

Sarah Rozenthuler is a British psychologist specializing in organizations.   While reading her book, I had two perspectives.   
1.  Lots of name-dropping of "well-known" psychologists -- most of whom I never heard of.   I felt like I was reading a text-book for a psychology class.
2.  The personal antecdotes or examples about conversations were interesting to read.

Two sentences I especially liked, great food for thought:
"Our relationships -- in our personal, professional and intimate lives -- are the ultimate arenas of growth."  
So true!   Life is an arena.
  "Technology is changing the way we communicate and while it means that we can more easily be in contact, it doesn't always mean that we're in touch, soul to soul." 
We text, tweet, Facebook,  Pinterest,  email.  But are we really in touch?   Rozenthuler explains in detail problems with technology.

 Rozenthuler also gives seven strategies for talking and examples of people using these strategies. 

I was glad to have the opportunity to read this book, however I do not believe I came away with a better ability to be a conversationalist or more courage to ask for difficult items such as a raise.

February 7, 2012

Erebos -

Erebos
by Ursula Poznanski
translated by Judith Pattinson
publisher Annick Press
source:  Netgalley

Confession time.  I'm thoroughly addicted to computer games.  It all started with Zork.  My kids and I sat at the dinner table discussing how to get rid of the troll, while my mother sat there wide-eyed.   Hatchlings on Facebook caused me to miss Sunday School a few times.  

So it was easy for me to understand Nick's problem with Erebos.

The story starts off with Nick, a high-school student in London,  wondering why his best friend is skipping basketball practice.  Why are some students in his school cutting classes and whispering to each other?  What is this square package that is being passed from one person to another?  Finally!  Ta-da, someone gives Nick a package.  It is a DVD of a computer game, Erebos.

The issue with Erebos: 
1. you have to play the game alone  
2. you are forbidden to talk about the game. 
Nick is hooked.   He doesn't want to leave the game to even go to the bathroom.  It is "a game that talks to you.  A game that watches you, that rewards you, threatens you, gives you tasks."  Tasks  in real life, tasks that cause problems,  major problems!  Life and death problems.

The best book so far in 2012.

The book Erebos picked up the Youth Literature Prize in Germany, and is translated into several languages.   I'd love to see this filmed!

February 2, 2012

Delivering Hope - blog tour

Delivering Hope
author:  Jennifer Ann Holt
publisher:  Cedar Fort, Inc.
release date:  February 8, 2012
source:  author

summary:  Infertility.  If it doesn't affect us, it affects someone near us.  An unexpected pregnancy. We all know someone who has been a surprise baby or had one.   

Jennifer Ann Holt has written a novel about these two issues.  Olivia wants to be a mom and Allison is shocked to have a positive pregnancy test.

My perspective: At first I had difficulties enjoying the first few chapters because I'm not familiar with the LDS  terms.  I was reminded of the Biblical stories of Hannah who had to deal with watching Peninnah and of Sarah and Hagar.  The novel picked up when Olivia read her great-aunt's journal.  The best part of the whole book is the Author's Note telling about her own struggle with infertility and joys of adoption.   When I finished the book, I found myself wishing she had told more about herself rather than writing a fictional novel. 

Giveaway:  Jennifer is giving away two signed copies of Delivering Hope as well as magnets and bookmarks.  There are three ways you can enter:
1.  Follow Jennifer's blog and leave a comment there to let her know.

2.  Like the Delivering Hope facebook page.
3.  Watch the trailer and leave a comment about the book trailer on her facebook page.


An adoption attorney and adoptive father, Wesley D. Hutchins, says it perfectly:  "Somewhere in the world a pregnancy test is negative...and a woman weeps. Somewhere else in the world a pregnancy test is positive...and another woman weeps. In Delivering Hope, the miracle of adoption brings them together" 

Other stops on the Delivering Hope Blog Tour are here.

January 25, 2012

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit
author:  Charles Duhigg
Publisher: Random House
to be published:  March 2012
source:  Publisher

Even though The Power of Habit is subtitled Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It, it is not a how-to self-help book.  

Duhigg gives us several tales about habits and how they affect individuals and organizations.  He talks about a few people with short-term memory loss.  One had to be institutionalized, another was able to live at home because of his power of habit.   

1929 ad source
 In the early 1900's, only 7 per cent of Americans owned a tube of toothpaste.  A man who invented Pepsodent  asked his old friend to help sell it.  They came up with a "gimmick" and a craving which immediately changed the habits of the nation.  Within a decade, 65 per cent had a tube of toothpaste in their medicine cabinet!

Duhigg goes on to explain why Febreze became so popular,  tells how Tony Dunghy changed his football team, and gives us many more interesting stories about the power of habit and how it works.

One tip is more than just a cue, routine, craving, and reward.  That is why I'm  doing Zumba -- the accountability of the Get Moving Fitness Challenge (see sidebar).

A fabulous read!  If you cannot wait until it is published, check out Duhigg's website with other stories of habits.

January 15, 2012

Non-fiction short list

These are the five books I'll be reading the next several weeks.  They're the short list books on the Indie Lit Awards.  Reviews won't be posted until after we have selected the winning book!

  • Berlin 1961 by Frederick Kempe (Putnam Adult)
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Crown)
  • Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff (Harper)
  • Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku (Doubleday)
  • The Social Animal by David Brooks (Random House)
Books in other genres can be found on the Indie Lit Awards website.

Now 'scuse me while I go cuddle with my cat and read, read, read.