June 30, 2012

Dog on the Roof by Bruce Kluger and David Slavin

Dog on the Roof by Bruce Kluger and David Slavin is a humorous political satire about Mitt Romney’s infamous tale of the family vacation with their dog on the roof. Clever illustrations by Colleen Clapp make this a quick and very funny read during this election year.

Book Description
They were the typical American family on a typical American road trip—Dad behind the wheel, Mom in the passenger seat, their five adorable kids piled in the back. And, of course, their beloved dog strapped to the roof.

Wait . . . what?

Now for the first time, here is the completely true—and only mildly embellished— shaggy-dog story of Seamus Romney, the famously fetching Irish setter whose master, future presidential candidate Mitt Romney, plopped him atop the family station wagon for that infamous 1983 car trip. From the majesty of Mount Rushmore to the fabulousness of San Francisco, from the sacred temple of Salt Lake City to the hallowed halls of Washington, D.C., here at last is Seamus’s rooftop account of that headline-grabbing journey . . . unleashed.

Doggedly chronicled by satirists Bruce Kluger and David Slavin (NPR’s All Things Considered), and cleverly illustrated by Colleen Clapp (The Chris Matthews Show, NBC News), this American tale is more than just the story of a dog on a hot tin roof. It is the inside (well . . . overhead) look at the Man Who Would Be President and the wild ride that’s sweeping—and bewildering—the nation.” – Dog on the Roof

My Thoughts
Dog on the Roof is an enjoyable, fun, and short read. It is a book that pokes fun at one of the guys that might lead our country, but without freedom of speech, what does our country really have? I think if Mitt Romney reads it, he’d get at least a couple laughs out of it, too. I mean, I wonder what his dog Seamus thought the entire trip up there on that roof.

I think this was a smartly written book that is genuinely funny without demeaning one political party over the other. I enjoyed it and definitely recommend it for everyone to read, no matter which political party you are in.

* Thank you to the publisher of Dog on the Roof, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu

Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu is a revealing memoir by one of America’s best gymnasts to compete in the Olympics. At only fourteen years old she earned a gold medal, but her journey to get there was not as supportive as many may have been lead to believe. In this memoir, she is finally able to tell the truth about the world of competitive gymnastics, and also reveals a major life secret that her family kept from her until recently.

Book Description
At fourteen years old, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, the first and only American women’s team to take gold at the Olympics. Her pixyish appearance and ferocious competitive drive quickly earned her the status of media darling. But behind the fame, the flawless floor routines, and the million-dollar smile, her life was a series of challenges and hardships.

Off Balance vividly delineates each of the dominating characters who contributed to Moceanu’s rise to the top, from her stubborn father and long-suffering mother to her mercurial coach, Bela Karolyi. Here, Moceanu finally shares the haunting stories of competition, her years of hiding injuries and pain out of fear of retribution from her coaches, and how she hit rock bottom after a public battle with her parents.

But medals, murder plots, drugs, and daring escapes aside (all of which figure into Moceanu’s incredible journey), the most unique aspect of her life is the family secret that Moceanu discovers, opening a new and unexpected chapter in her adult life. A mysterious letter from a stranger reveals that she has a second sister—born with a physical disability and given away at birth—who has nonetheless followed in Moceanu’s footsteps in an astonishing way.

A multilayered memoir that transcends the world of sports, Off Balance will touch anyone who has ever dared to dream of a better life.” – Off Balance

My Thoughts
Off Balance is not your average memoir of an Olympic athlete about how they got to the top of their career and won the gold. Though Moceanu did in fact win the gold, this is not the main focus of her story. I applaud her for writing such an honest and revealing memoir about her life and the sport of gymnastics.

I found this to be a very easy to read memoir that was truly captivating enough to read rather quickly. Once I started reading the real story about one of my childhood heroes, I was hooked and couldn’t stop. Moceanu is by far one of my favorite gymnastics, and after reading her story, I am even more amazed by her today and consider her one of the top females I admire. She is a true inspiration and I hope that the young gymnasts starting out learn from her example, and can look up to the positive role model that she is.

This is an excellent memoir that I highly recommend for everyone to read that is involved in sports or enjoys watching the Olympics, especially gymnastics. The 2012 London Olympics starts in July and this would be a fantastic book to read before watching the gymnastics portion of the Olympics.

* Thank you to the publisher of Off Balance, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 29, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Launch Date Revealed

After five long years of waiting for the release date to be announced for Guild Wars 2, the launch date is set for August 28, 2012. I’m one of those hardcore gamers that pre-purchased the game so I would be included in the beta weekend events, stress tests, get the extra in-game items, and a three day head start access to the game before launch.

I played in two of the beta weekends and two of the stress tests so far. Since they are releasing the game in August, there will be only one more beta weekend event, which I will (of course) be taking part in as well.

So far I’ve only played on the human race as an Elementalist and a Necromancer. Both were my mains in the original Guild Wars game. However, after I’m in the game for real, I plan on making at least one of each race offered: Human, Sylvari, Asura, Norn, and Charr. I’ll also be making at least one of each profession. I’ll likely have to buy a few extra character slots, but that is okay. I just hope they give us more than five character slots once Guild Wars 2 is live (in the beta, we only have five slots).

I’m really excited about the game being released finally and can’t wait to start playing! It is one of the best (if not THE best) MMO I’ve played, and it has no monthly subscription fee! If you don’t want to be stuck in the grind of games that make you play for weeks or days to gain a level, or years to obtain a piece of gear, seriously check out this game – it will have you stopping that paid subscription game quickly!

June 27, 2012

The Conviction by Robert Dugoni

The Conviction by Robert Dugoni is a thriller that shakes the reader to the core about what is being done in the justice system in this novel. When a lawyer finds out his son is being mistreated by the system, he takes action into his own hands to try and rescue his son, but will he be able to go far enough to do it?

Book Description
In this gripping, high-octane thriller by critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni, a father takes the law into his own hands to save his son, trapped in a juvenile detention center from hell.

Lawyer David Sloane is desperate to get through to his troubled teenage son Jake. Still reeling from the devastating loss of his mother in a brutal murder, Jake has spiraled out of control and Sloane has barely been able to keep him out of jail. So when his old friend, detective Tom Molia, suggests that they take their sons on a guys-only camping trip, Sloane gratefully accepts.

What Sloane imagines will be the perfect excursion turns into a horrifying nightmare when the boys are arrested for vandalizing a general store late at night while their fathers are asleep. The next morning, before Sloane and Molia even realize they’re gone, their sons are tried, convicted, and sentenced by the presiding judge to six months in the county wilderness detention camp, Fresh Start. For the teenagers, a grueling physical and psychological ordeal begins.

As Sloane fights the conviction against the boys, he discovers that local judge Earl Boykin’s authority seems to extend far beyond the confines of his courtroom. Meanwhile, on the inside, Jake is forced to grow up quickly and soon learns the hard way that this detention center has a very different purpose than rehabilitating troubled youths.

With their legal options exhausted, Sloane and Molia will do anything to save their sons—even mount a daring rescue operation that could win the boys their freedom . . . or cost all of them their lives.” – The Conviction

My Thoughts
The Conviction is a very different kind of thriller about parents and their rebellious teens. I’ve never read a book written with this kind of take on teenagers and how they could end up in a hellish detention center such as the one Jake ends up in. This is seriously the kind of place I hope doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, but I know that there are probably places like this somewhere, and that makes this book an even more of a page-turner and suspenseful read.

Dugoni does an excellent job portraying the characters with such realism that you feel like you know them and are genuinely hopeful for their best outcomes. He grabs your attention from the beginning and does a superb job plotting the story to make it an enjoyable read. I don’t want to give away the ending because that would ruin reading the book when you read it for yourself, I’ll just say that it is suspenseful up to the end and was a great read! I definitely recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Conviction, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 26, 2012

The Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley

The Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley is the latest novel as part of the author’s “Starvation Lake” mystery series. Mysteries and lies are ripping apart the small community in Michigan called Starvation Lake, but sometimes the truth is better left hidden.

Book Description
Mysterious break-ins are plaguing the small town of Starvation Lake. While elderly residents enjoy their weekly bingo night at St. Valentine’s Catholic Church, someone is slipping into their homes to rifle through financial and personal files. Oddly, the intruder takes nothing—yet the “Bingo Night Burglaries” leave the entire town uneasy.

Worry turns into panic when a break-in escalates to murder. Suddenly, Gus Carpenter, editor of the Pine County Pilot, is forced to investigate the most difficult story of his life. Not only is the victim his ex-girlfriend Darlene’s mother, but her body was found in the home of Bea Carpenter—Gus’s own mother. Suffering from worsening dementia and under the influence of sleeping pills, Bea remembers little of the break-in.

With the help of Luke Whistler, a former Detroit Free Press reporter who came north looking for slower days and some old-fashioned newspaper work, Gus sets out to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when the story leads him to a lockbox his mother has kept secret for years, Gus doesn’t realize that its contents could forever change his perception of Starvation Lake, his own family, and the value of the truth.” – The Skeleton Box

My Thoughts
The Skeleton Box is a good mystery novel set in a believable small town America community. It features Gus Carpenter, the editor for the “Pilot” as being the reporter to uncover the truth behind the mysterious break-ins going on in the town. The plot is good, and I don’t want to give away very much from it – but it is somewhat predictable.

The author does a very good job with bringing the characters in the novel to life. You get a feel for them rather quickly, and are involved in their story as the novel progresses. The setting captures the feel for the area remarkably well, and both of these elements give the reader a good overall impression of the story without too much extra prose describing everything in minute detail.

I enjoyed this story, but not as much as I could have. Something was just missing from it, and I’m not sure what exactly it was. I didn’t read the previous two novels in the series (Starvation Lake and The Hanging Tree), so perhaps that was it. Regardless of that though, I do recommend it for mystery novel fans to read, as I’m sure you’d likely enjoy the story.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Skeleton Box, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore is a marvelously written story about mothers, daughters, and how chance encounters can change the life of people, even if only meeting through the pages of a diary a century after it was written.

Book Description
Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents' ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O'Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family. The catch? Bridget lives only in the pages of a dusty old 1920s diary Natalie unearthed in her mother's basement. But the life she describes is as troubling - and mysterious - as the one Natalie is trying to navigate herself, almost a century later. 

I am writing this down because this is my story. There were only ever two people who knew my secret, and both are gone before me.

Who was Bridget, and what became of her? 

Natalie escapes into the diary, eager to unlock its secrets, and reluctantly accepts the help of library archivist Kathleen Lynch, a widow with her own painful secret: she's estranged from her only daughter. Kathleen sees in Natalie traces of the daughter she has lost, and in Bridget, another spirited young woman at risk. 

What could an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? As the troubles of a very modern world close in around them, and Natalie's torments at school escalate, the faded pages of Bridget's journal unite the lonely girl and the unhappy widow - and might even change their lives forever.” – So Far Away

My Thoughts
So Far Away is a brilliantly woven story told through the two main characters of Kathleen and Natalie. Kathleen is the mother figure whose own daughter wants nothing to do with her. However, when Natalie comes into the archives where she works, she finds the chance to help this young teen with her troubles, and an unlikely friendship begins.

This novel also describes how cyber-bullying and real life bullying can have a devastating effect on those involved, and the message on this is one not to be missed. The character Natalie is a very realistic teen that struggles with being bullied in school, and her source of courage is found through the diary that she finds in her basement.

I really enjoyed this novel, and found it to be a touching story about the struggles of life and how we can find the courage to overcome them, even if from unlikely sources. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of So Far Away, Reagan Arthur Books, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson

Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson is an enjoyable summer read of historical fiction set during World War II. Unlike many other novels set during this period, this one offers a new perspective of what it was like for female singers entertaining the troops during the war.

Book Description

At twenty-three, Saba Tarcan knows her only hope of escaping the clamor of Cardiff Bay, Wales, lies in her voice. While traveling Britain, singing for wounded soldiers, Saba meets handsome fighter pilot Dom Benson, recovering from burns after a crash. When Saba auditions to entertain troops in far-off lands, Dom follows her to London. Just as their relationship begins to take root, Saba is sent to sing in Africa, and Dom is assigned a new mission in the Middle East. As Saba explores Cairo’s bazaars, finding friendship among the troupe’s acrobats and dancers, Dom returns to the cockpit once again, both thrilled and terrified to be flying above the desert floor. In spite of great danger, the two resolve to reunite.

When Saba learns that her position makes her uniquely qualified for a secret mission of international importance, she agrees to help the British Secret Service, concealing her role from Dom. Her decision will jeopardize not only her safety but also the love of her life.

Based on true accounts of female entertainers used as spies during World War II, Jasmine Nights is a powerful story of danger, secrets, and love, filled with the colors and sounds of the Middle East’s most beautiful cities.” – Jasmine Nights

My Thoughts
Jasmine Nights is historical fiction that keeps you entertained. Once I started reading it, I felt the characters come to life, especially Saba who is a singer that joined ENSA to entertain troops during the war in North Africa. While she is away from home, she falls in love with Dom, who I found to be a great character that I personally would have liked to have seen more of in the story. Their love story isn’t a hot and steamy romance read; it is more on a young love and cute side, which I think worked out well for this book.

I really loved the settings in the book that surrounded Egypt, such as the Bosphorus at night, the Nile River, and the pyramids at Giza. As a reader, it made me want to visit there (not during wartime of course) even more.

This is the type of book that you can get lost in on a warm summer night. I definitely recommend this novel for anyone that enjoys historical fiction, enjoys a good love story, and likes reading about an extraordinary female character.

* Thank you to the publisher of Jasmine Nights, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 25, 2012

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes is a psychological thriller that is probably unlike any you’ve read or seen before. Her portrayal of OCD and love gone very, very wrong is gripping, and might even leave you wanting to check and re-check things over and over again, too.

Book Description
Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.

But what begins as flattering attentiveness and passionate sex turns into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon learns there is a darker side to Lee. His increasingly erratic, controlling behavior becomes frightening, but no one believes her when she shares her fears. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.

Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine—now Cathy—compulsively checks the locks and doors in her apartment, trusting no one. But when an attractive upstairs neighbor, Stuart, comes into her life, Cathy dares to hope that happiness and love may still be possible . . . until she receives a phone call informing her of Lee’s impending release. Soon after, Cathy thinks she catches a glimpse of the former best friend who testified against her in the trial; she begins to return home to find objects subtly rearranged in her apartment, one of Lee’s old tricks. Convinced she is back in her former lover’s sights, Cathy prepares to wrestle with the demons of her past for the last time.

Utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, Into the Darkest corner is an ingeniously structured and plotted tour de force of suspense that marks the arrival of a major new talent.” – Into the Darkest Corner

My Thoughts
Into the Darkest Corner is an intense book that was written with such thought and detail, it will leave you thinking about things in a new perspective. The main character, Catherine (also known as Cathy) is captivating and her fears about her ex-boyfriend, Lee is so intense it made me as a reader look at people much differently.

The book is told from Catherine’s perspective in two time frames of her life. In one she is a carefree party girl that falls in love with Lee. Her present-day life isn’t as carefree, as she is now haunted by her past and is struggling with her very real fears about her ex, and her OCD is taking over her life. I don’t always enjoy reading books with a split timeline, but this one is done in a very clever way, and I think it added to the suspense in the story.

I enjoyed this book right up to the very end, and I can’t wait to see it if it is turned into a movie. I highly recommend this as one of your summer reads, just make sure you check the locks a few times before reading.

* Thank you to the publisher of Into the Darkest Corner, Harper, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 21, 2012

The Unseen by Katherine Webb

The Unseen by Katherine Webb is a captivating tale of love, deception, and illusion that takes place in the early 1900s in England. This piece of historical fiction is a real page turner that will surprise you and leave you wanting more at the end.

Book Description
From Katherine Webb, the author of the acclaimed international bestseller The Legacy, comes a compelling tale of love, deception, and illusion.

A vicar with a passion for nature, the Reverend Albert Canning leads a happy existence with his naive wife, Hester, in their sleepy Berkshire village in the year 1911. But as the English summer dawns, the Cannings' lives are forever changed by two new arrivals: Cat, their new maid, a disaffected, free-spirited young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law; and Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby.

Quickly finding a place for herself in the underbelly of local society, Cat secretly plots her escape. Meanwhile, Robin, a young man of considerable magnetic charm and beauty, soon becomes an object of fascination and desire. Sweltering in the oppressive summer heat, the peaceful rectory turns into a hotbed of dangerous ambition, forbidden love, and jealousy—a potent mixture of emotions that ultimately leads to murder.” – The Unseen

My Thoughts
The Unseen is a very well written book that had me totally immersed in it for a weekend. It is hard to write much about the plot without giving anything away to the storyline surprises you’ll uncover along the way. So, I won’t go there with this review. If you are looking for spoilers, read another review.

The story is set in 1911 and 2011, which I found a unique way to show the perspective of the story. Katherine Webb writes so well that these two very different time periods flowed perfectly and didn’t feel like two different books. Not an easy accomplishment for the subject matter, but she did it flawlessly.

The characters are all well-formed and memorable. Cat, Hester, and Leah are the females we root for in the story, and sometimes wish they’d stop allowing themselves to be used by the males. Even in a 100 year difference of time, that is still a recurring theme throughout the book.

I really enjoyed this book and found it to be a fascinating piece of historical fiction. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Unseen, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 20, 2012

Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss

Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss takes you on a shamanic dream journey that you won’t soon forget. Using your dreams to look deeper into your own spiritual path, you’ll uncover things you may have forgotten about yourself.

Book Description
In this extraordinary book, shamanic dream teacher Robert Moss shows us how to become shamans of our own souls and healers of our own lives.

The greatest contribution of the ancient shamans to modern healing is the understanding that in the course of any life we are liable to suffer soul loss — the loss of parts of our vital energy and identity — and that in order to be whole and well, we must find the means of soul recovery. Moss teaches us that our dreams give us maps we can use to travel to the places where we can find and bring home our lost or stolen soul parts. He shows us how to recover our animal spirits and ride the windhorse of spirit to places of healing and adventure in the larger reality. We discover how we can heal ancestral wounds and open the way for cultural soul recovery.

You’ll learn how to enter past lives, future lives, and the life experiences of parallel selves and how to bring back lessons and gifts. “It’s not just about keeping soul in the body,” Moss writes. “It’s about growing soul, becoming more than we ever were before, embodying more of the Greater Self.” With fierce joy, he incites us to take the creator’s leap and bring something new into our world.” – Dreaming the Soul Back Home

My Thoughts
Dreaming the Soul Back Home is a truly fascinating and spiritual book that I extremely enjoyed reading and experiencing. The closest thing that I can relate it to is the “ah-ha… ooooh” feeling I had after watching the movie “Inception” which is also about dreams.

Robert Moss wrote this book exceptionally well and is a very easy to read book. I read it rather quickly, but I am also very interested in the topic. There is a large amount of cultural references and stories from many different cultures, which I especially enjoyed reading about. There are also many stories from participants from the author’s workshops and events about their dreams and soul recoveries. Moss also includes many different exercises that the reader can use to help with their dreaming and also help with their own soul recovery.

Overall, I found this book to be one of the best books about dreaming, and it effectively illustrates how to use those dreams to help with our own journeys in life. I highly recommend this book for everyone to read that dreams, so that makes all of us. Grab the book, get comfy and start dreaming your soul back home!

* Thank you to the publisher of Dreaming the Soul Back Home, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Redemption by Bryan Clay

Redemption by Bryan Clay with Joel Kilpatrick is an inspiring story about how a life can be completely changed with faith. Bryan may not have had the Olympic life he is now living without it, and this story about his journey is moving and highly motivational.

Book Description
The inspiring and gritty story of the World's Greatest Athlete.
 Redemption tells the story of Bryan Clay, winner of the 2008 Olympic gold medal and the 2004 Olympic silver medal in the decathlon. By the grace of God, Bryan went from being a fist-fighting, drug-using, presuicidal kid in Hawaii to world champion in the toughest Olympic sport. His secret? A dramatically rediscovered faith and his mother’s relentless prayers.

Redemption goes beyond standard sports memoirs, giving a clear storyline of an athlete’s misspent youth, his desperate Christian conversion at a time of utter personal defeat, and his mother’s fervent prayers that helped transform him into a top athlete, family man, and loving father. Bryan’s story will inspire mothers, fathers, and young readers alike as they experience the rise of a champion from obscurity and failure to the pinnacle of athletic achievement.

The world will be watching Bryan, at the age of 32, defend his gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.” – Redemption
My Thoughts
Redemption is such a motivational read for people of all types, but especially athletes and people that could end up going in the wrong direction in life. Those little choices that we all make each and every day can lead to a life that is not one that is faith-based. However, as Bryan’s journey shows, things can be changed and turned around for the better – thanks to love, faith and prayers.
I found this to be a very uplifting book that was very easy to read. It is well written and relatable to people, even us non-Olympians. I recommend it for everyone to read that wants to know more about this superstar Olympic athlete, and especially for those people who need some inspiration and courage to change the direction of their life for the better. Who knows, this book might inspire future Olympians to get out there and run (or do their other favorite sport).

* Thank you to the publisher of Redemption, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this book for review as part of their Book Sneeze program. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 15, 2012

Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook

Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook is a perfect example of fun chic-lit that is perfect for the summer sun in a nice vacation spot. It is also fun and sassy with the author’s sense of humor, so it makes it that much more entertaining to read.

Book Description
From the acclaimed bestselling author of Must Love Dogs comes a winning and witty new novel about a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself “dancing with the stars.”

Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the around-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound.

Then Deirdre’s sometime boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows in Tag’s expensive vodka, Deirdre decides to use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute Dancing with the Stars replacement. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre’s fifteen minutes of fame have begun.

Irresistible and offbeat, Wallflower in Bloom is an original and deeply satisfying story of having the courage to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where you land.” – Wallflower in Bloom

My Thoughts
Wallflower in Bloom is an entertaining summer relaxing read. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is high literature or anything, but it is fun and breezy. The author is humorous and sassy, which is just what I enjoyed most about this novel.

The main character Deirdre often made me want to shake her for some of the choices she made, but you want to cheer her on and see her succeed nonetheless. Having this character be a Dancing with the Stars replacement “celebrity” is very unrealistic, as she wasn’t a celebrity, her brother was. Fans of this show will more than likely really enjoy this book because of the focus of this in the novel. I’m not a fan, so I can’t say I really enjoyed this being in the novel.

Overall, I found this novel to be entertaining and sassy, thanks to the author. I think it would make for an excellent beach read or summer read in general. I recommend it to all those needing a relaxing and funny read to pass the time this summer.

* Thank you to the publisher of Wallflower in Bloom, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

The Cottage at Glass Beach by Barbieri is a truly great summer or beach read about woman who finds refuge with her daughters on an island off the Maine coast. Her story is one that many women could relate to (at least to some degree), but it has an underlying fantasy side to it which makes it that much more interesting.

Book Description
Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm.

Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke's Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades—not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt's friend Polly suggests, a selkie—a mythical being of island legend—summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles?

Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own—a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.” – The Cottage at Glass Beach

My Thoughts
The Cottage at Glass Beach is centered on Nora, who escaped to Burke’s Island with her daughters after she found out about her husband’s infidelity. He is a politician, so she wasn’t able to deal with this in private, unless she got away. Sounds realistic, right?

As someone who has never been to Maine, I can’t tell you if the portrayal of the town or people in it would be accurate, but I loved how she wrote about it, and she made me want to go visit somewhere in Maine one day. The fantasy aspect to the island is one of my favorite parts of the story, and without it – I don’t think this would have been such a good book. While on this island, Nora is searching for clues to the mysteries in her past, as well as discovering herself and deciding what to do in the future.

The only thing I didn’t like about the novel was how the author wrote the ending in too abruptly. Not everything was explained or tied up, so to me, it would have been better if she could have spent at least 10-20 more pages with the ending. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it for others to read.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Cottage at Glass Beach, Harper, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Magical Gardens by Patricia Monaghan

Magical Gardens by Patricia Monaghan is a fun to read book about gardening and the mythology that has been weaved into it since history was recorded. If you have a garden or want to start a garden, no matter how big or how small, this is a book that you must read!

Book Description
Nurture your love of the earth with a garden rooted in your spirituality. In this updated 15th anniversary edition of the beloved classic, Patricia Monaghan offers fresh advice and guidance for creating a magical garden that will nourish your soul. Bursting with ideas and inspiration, this guidebook shows you how to plan, grow, and tend an enchanting garden that is sown with your unique spirituality.

Along with gardening advice for every climate and season, Magical Gardens weaves together myth and ritual to help you bring added power and meaning to your garden space. Discover the best plants for your site—being mindful of sun exposure, soil type, and climate zone—and learn about composting, controlling pests and weeds, gardening organically, and caring for plants at all growth stages. Perform meditations based on the year’s gardening cycle, and celebrate each season and every milestone in your life with rituals, prayers, and ceremonies.

This book features more than a dozen themed designs for sacred perennial gardens that you can re-create in your own backyard or out on your patio. Easy-to-follow designs will show you how to create a garden in honor of:

—The Sun . . . and more” – Magical Gardens

My Thoughts
Magical Gardens is one of my top favorite books on gardening. Honestly, I’m not much of a gardener, but I would like to be. Books like this really inspire and give passion, which is just what I needed to start gardening.

The book itself is very easy and fun to read. Throughout it there are black and white drawings of gardens and flowers, which I found fun to color in with colored pencils. I don’t usually (ever) write or draw in my books, so again, this book inspired me to go outside of the box (or book in this case) and do something different. I also enjoyed reading about the mythology, rituals, and the basics of planning and caring for a garden.

Monaghan is able to connect the gardener’s spirit with the spirit of the garden in an amazing way. No two gardens are exactly alike, so I’ll be coming up with some of my own ideas on my little garden in the near future. This book serves as a tremendous amount of inspiration and is beautifully written.

For further reading, or perhaps use as an intro to invite you into reading this book, check out the author’s article “Inviting Fairies Into Your Garden” found on the Llewellyn website.

* Thank you to the publisher of Magical Gardens, Llewellyn, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 14, 2012

Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross

Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross is a chilling story with some truly evil characters that will make this psychological thriller a story you won’t soon forget. This one will keep the pages moving quickly, so jump right in and start reading it!

Book Description
Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay—a tragic suicide, it appears, until secrets from the past rear up again.

Years ago, Jay's older brother, Charlie, a wayward child of the sixties, fell under the sway of a charismatic but deeply disturbed cult leader in California—a mesmerizing human monster who set a nightmare of violence into motion. Charlie moved on and raised a family, but the demons that nearly destroyed him never completely disappeared.

Heading west to help his grieving brother, Jay finds himself being pulled back into Charlie's dark history. In a story of two brothers—one successful, the other outcast and troubled—Jay must put his family and life on the line to uncover the truth behind his brother's son's death, a dark and dangerous quest that threatens to bring up the secrets of the past once again . . . and plunge him over the edge into the depths of evil.” – Eyes Wide Open

My Thoughts
Eyes Wide Open is written without all of the extra details and flowery descriptions, which is something I quite like. Andrew Gross writes his fiction to the point, and in a story such as this, that is really more than enough to do the job. He has mastered psychological suspense, and although this is the first book of his I have read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be reading more of his novels in the future.

The characters in the story are believable and memorable. The attachment you have towards them makes it that much more chilling as you read through the story – again, something I really enjoyed. I haven’t known any cult leaders in real life, and stories like this make me steer clear of anything resembling such (even remotely).

Overall, this is a suspenseful and chilling story that fans of this type of novels will enjoy. So if you like mystery, suspense, and thriller stories that can leave you sleeping uneasy at night, this is the book for you!

* Thank you to the publisher of Eyes Wide Open, Harper, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 12, 2012

Stress Point by Sarah Francis Martin

Stress Point by Sarah Francis Martin is a devotional and journal for women in their twenties. It focuses on some of the main stress points in a woman’s life, including their body image, money, love life, career, and other things that women tend to stress out over. We don’t have to let those stressors control our lives though, and Martin explains how through God, we can stop focusing on those issues and live a more fulfilling life.

Book Description
Want to ditch the drama and thrive through your twenties?
Body image. Friendships. Career. Money. Dating. All these issues and more serve as points of stress for the 20-something woman, and combined they can make for a decade of drama in a girl's life. Sarah Francis Martin is the slightly older girlfriend who’s been there, done that, and got the not-so-cute t-shirt. Through this interactive Bible study, Sarah helps young adult women address each stress point by encouraging them to wait on the Lord, worship Him, and make Him the focus of their lives.
In Stress Point you will:
·         Find interactive chapters covering ten stress points for the 20-something woman
·         Dig through Scripture to apply truth to each stress point
·         Engage with real, raw, and relevant stories from girlfriends just like you
·         Journal through each chapter to engage with God in a meaningful way
·         Interact with Sarah through her video blogs for each chapter
·         Connect with your girlfriends in a Stress Point Survival Group; leader guide included

My Thoughts
Stress Point takes the things that stress out women in their twenties most, and reflects on how these issues can be turned around to God and made into something less stressful. I think that she did a good job with this, and many women will definitely benefit from this book.

She uses examples on each chapter (or issue) that explains how a certain person (real or fictional) dealt with the stressor at hand. For many of these issues, I just didn’t connect with the message of the people described. The author also liked to use a lot of personal examples of her struggles with these issues when she was in her twenties. For me, this made the book seem more of a blog follow along devotional journal, which was not what I was interested in reading.

Overall, I think that this book will certainly help some women. I wouldn’t read it again, but it isn’t not worth reading either.

* Thank you to the publisher of Stress Point, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this book for review as part of their Book Sneeze program. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 8, 2012

Most Wanted by Thomas J. Foley

Most Wanted by Thomas J. Foley is a highly interesting read about the mob, the FBI, corrupt agents, and the former head of the Massachusetts state police. Crime sprees, murders, and more await you with this telling story about a real life mobster.

Book Description
June 23, 2011. The news of the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger’s capture—after sixteen years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list—swept the nation. Many breathed a sigh of relief. But for Thomas J. Foley, a former Massachusetts state police colonel and the investigator who sparked Bulger’s flight from Boston, the moment was bittersweet. The FBI may have caught Bulger, but as Foley had painfully discovered almost two decades before, they were also responsible for his escape. 

It has been known that Whitey Bulger was a secret informant for the FBI, but it has never been revealed—until now—that the FBI was actually actively protecting Bulger from Foley, effectively derailing Foley’s efforts to stop Bulger’s horrific crime sprees time and again. At one point, the FBI even presented Foley with a plaque at a holiday party that read “the Most Hated Man in Law Enforcement,” a not-so-subtle suggestion that he and his team should lay off their investigation. 

Most Wanted is a true-life thriller, and Foley is the hero at its center. His investigative efforts resulted in criminal convictions of a half-dozen of Boston’s most notorious thugs and also led to the conviction of John Connolly, one of the FBI agents who abetted Bulger; Connolly is now serving a forty-year prison sentence. In this book, Foley, a cop’s cop, honestly recounts how his wide-eyed admiration for the nation’s top law enforcement agency was gradually transformed by dark realities he didn’t want to believe. ” – Most Wanted

My Thoughts
Most Wanted will pull you in and make you continue to read it, almost as if you had a gangster forcing you to read it until late into the night. Of course, it is much more pleasant than that, which you’ll read about in many details throughout the book about how mobsters do work.

I never heard about Whitey Bulger or Thomas Foley until reading this book. According to this book, his neighborhood may have thought of him as a local hero, but he was a criminal who made money through extortion, intimidation, and even murder. He was #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list on June 23, 2011. Heroes shouldn’t be on this list, should they?

The hero of this book is the author, Col. Thomas J. Foley, the former head of the Massachusetts State Police. He spent twenty years investigating and forming a case against Whitey Bulger. The resistance he faced with the FBI led him to uncover the FBI’s protection of this criminal and also led to the arrest of an FBI agent that helped Bulger.

This book and real life story is better than some movies about the mafia, so I really hope that this is turned into a movie. If it does, I predict that it will be a box office hit!

* Thank you to the publisher of Most Wanted, Touchstone, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 7, 2012

Quantum Affirmations by Monte Farber

Quantum Affirmations by Monte Farber is the type of book that helps you to get what you want by not just having a positive attitude, but by changing yourself in the process of visualizing what it is that you want. If there is something that you want, but haven’t attained it yet, this is a book that you must read!

Book Description
When life lets us down, there’s only one reason: it’s all in our heads! We are what we affirm, positive and negative.

Quantum Affirmations offers an integrative approach to manifesting the love, happiness, prosperity, and success you want in your life. Renowned psychic and bestselling author Monte Farber teaches readers how to visualize and create the future they desire with simple and fun techniques to tunnel through any and all obstacles.

Quantum Affirmations is the revolutionary new method for harnessing your mind’s power based on quantum physics. Farber has researched intriguing scientific principles and their complementary metaphysical laws that support that affirmations work. In Quantum Affirmations, he applied those principles to formulate a simple 5-step process that anyone can use to create the future they want.

Farber includes in-depth interviews with people he has guided step-bystep through the process, and shows readers how to create their own Quantum Affirmations. When the world seems to be falling apart and things are getting out of control, this book offers an easy-to-use tool to take matters into your own hands.” – Quantum Affirmations

My Thoughts
Quantum Affirmations is one of my personal favorite books on affirmations. I’ve always been interested in the theory of quantum mechanics and “law of attraction” material.

When actually using affirmations in my daily life though, I wasn’t actually that good at it. As Monte points out, we all practice it negatively with the things we think or say about ourselves, such as “I’m not good at (insert what you aren’t good at here).” When thinking about that very negative affirmation, if we are in fact bad at it, that affirmation is actually working.

Earlier this year, I took Pre-Calculus in college (it was one of the pre-requisites for the program I’m going into). I saved this as one of my last classes because I always believed “I wasn’t good at math.” Before the class started though, I never said that, and I tried my hardest not to think that. Instead, I said, “I’m going to get an A in this class and do my best.” I ended up earning a 105 average in that class!

Positive affirmations work just as well as those negative ones, and the key to doing this is having a set goal and affirmation system worked out for yourself. Mine was rather simple, but Monte Farber’s Quantum Affirmations makes this whole process so much more fun and easy, especially for someone just starting out with this process. If there is any goal that you want to obtain and haven’t been meeting it, I highly recommend you to read this book and try some of these affirmations.

* Thank you to the publisher of Quantum Affirmations, Weiser Books, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

June 3, 2012

City of Style by Melissa Magsaysay

City of Style by Melissa Magsaysay is a look at personal style in a city that has a very cool, edgy, and always fabulous fashion scene: Los Angeles, California. Home of a fun variety of styles, this city inspires not just fashion designers, but also the people who live and visit there.

Book Description
Los Angeles harbors its own canon of styles: Romantic Bohemian, Glamour, Skater and Surfer, Rocker, Chola-Style, Indie-Eclectic, and Casual Chic—each shaped by the unique mix of subcultures, climates, geography, history, and personalities that have coexisted in different pockets of the greater LA area. These signature looks continue to inspire celebrities, clothing designers, and stylists the world over. In City of Style, Melissa Magsaysay, style editor for the Los Angeles Times, draws on decades of the best, most iconic examples of LA-style and explores the trends, tastes, and fashion innovations of today's Angelenos—while offering a taste of the retail landscape, a guide to stores and shops, and helpful tips on how to buy and wear key pieces for each different style.” – City of Style

My Thoughts
City of Style is a unique fashion book that blends the history of L.A. style and modern versions of those famous trends. This book focuses on the Bohemian, Glamour, Skater and Surfer, Casual Chic, Indie-Eclectic, and Chola looks. No matter where you live, you can probably use at least some of the fashion trends in L.A. in your personal style.

I found the history of the fashions in L.A. interesting, but a little bit too in-depth for the book. The pictures in the book were great and really showed the styles for each look, but there should have been more included in a book of this type.

The author is a very good writer who clearly has a passion for L.A. fashion, so it was a fun and easy summer read that will also give some fashion inspiration to people looking to buy new looks for their wardrobe. This is a perfect book for all fashionistas and people who just love fashion in general. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of City of Style, Harper Collins, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.