April 30, 2013

The New Rules for Blondes by Selena Coppock

The New Rules for Blondes by Selena Coppock is a witty book about blondes. This isn’t a book that features a ton of dumb blonde jokes, instead it is about the life of the author, who is fortunate enough to be a blonde and know how to work it. Read this book for tips for blondes (and having good hair in general), and stories about the author’s life as a blonde.

Book Description
Writer, comedienne, and full-time Blonde, Selena Coppock offers up adventures, misadventures, and golden-hued nuggets of wisdom in a laugh-out-loud anthem for those of us who really do have more fun. . . .

The modern blonde is savvy, wise, confident, capable, and not afraid to laugh at herself when the occasion calls for it. She knows who she is and is prepared to subvert all stereotypes (although she's not above wielding her golden tresses to her advantage), and knows how to be both classy and a little brassy.

In the way only a Boston-bred New Yorker who once won "Best Hair" in her high school graduating class could, Coppock doles out tongue-in-cheek advice about avoiding hair disasters, the consequences of dating a man who cares a little too much about his own hair product, and so much more in an outrageous essay collection that will have even the staunchest of raven-haired beauties considering a trip to the nearest salon.” – The New Rules for Blondes

My Thoughts
The New Rules for Blondes is a fun read for blondes, wannabe blondes, and anyone with a sense of humor. It is a great pool-side or beach read, but can be read by anyone anywhere. The cover is also brilliantly blonde and will likely strike up a few conversations with people who see you reading it. Unless of course you are an e-reader kind of gal.

The book is divided into chapters, or rules for blondes to live by. These focus on blonde pride, blonde maintenance, blonde behavior, and blonde friendship. Stories about famous blondes, encouragement from blondes in history, and of course the author’s personal experiences of being blonde is weaved throughout.

As a person who has been some form for blonde for just about all of my life, I can honestly say that this is a truly great book about blondes for blondes. Some people (lifelong brunettes perhaps) may never understand what it feels like to be blonde. However, if they read this book, they may get a slight understanding about what it really means. Sure, some blondes may have more fun, but it is about much more than that.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and highly recommend it for all fellow blondes and wannabe blondes out there.

* Thank you to the publisher of The New Rules for Blondes, IT Books, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

April 29, 2013

Review of “The Sims 3: University Life”

The Sims 3: University Life expansion pack brings more fun to The Sims 3 game that focuses on the “young adult” stage of life. If you have wanted to send your Sims to a university, this is an expansion pack you won’t want to miss out on!

Game Description
Are your Sims ready for the time of their lives? Heading off to university opens up new opportunities, from social connections to career growth. From class activities to major-specific objects, your Sim will find new ways to learn! And university isn’t just about hitting the books. Join a protest, flirt at a bonfire party—there’s a lot to explore outside of lectures at the student union. With new locations like the bowling alley and SimBurger to visit, and new activities like juice pong and spray painting murals to enjoy, your Sims are sure to have the time of their lives!


o     Achieve Academic Excellence. Learning is more fun than ever with new major-specific objects, from broadcasting your own radio show as a Communications student to boning up on anatomy using the skeleton as a Science and Medicine major. Your Sims can also learn through class activities, lectures at the student union, and joining in social activities.

o     Get Ready to Party! Text books and study groups are a big part of university, but sometimes Sims just need to party! From hosting bonfires by the lake to doing juice keg stands at a dorm party, there are lots of ways to have a great time at university.

o     Make Connections and Network. Grow your social networking skill through texting, blogging, and streaming video. This builds your affiliation with the three social groups on campus—the nerds, the rebels, and the jocks.  Building your cred with these groups offers unique advantages, from earning dream jobs to a coveted extra trait.

o     Actions Matter. Just like in real life, your Sims’ decisions are deeply interconnected. For example, a Fine Arts student benefits from the Avant Garde trait, develops their Street Art skill and cred with the Rebels by tagging and spray painting. Just don’t get caught by the cops!

o     Reap Benefits After University too! Reach the top job in your career path more easily with faster promotions and a higher entry-level job for university grads. If your Sim becomes a legend with their social group, they may even land a dream job as an art appraiser, sports agent, or video game developer!

o     Explore the Campus and Town. From striking out at the bowling alley to flirting with the barista at the Roasted Toasted Beans to browsing comic books at Keith’s Komics, there’s a whole new town and campus full of places to explore.”– The Sims 3: University Life

My Thoughts
As a “University” student myself, I really love being able to send my Sims to the University, too. This is the area of the Young Adult lifestage that was really missing in the game, so I am very happy that it was added to the game.

The new campus town is where Sims that attends the university goes. It is beautifully created, and the buildings in it are fabulous for university life. I like to have my Sims live in a dorm because they can meet new people faster, and there are always people around to have fun with. If you buy stuff for the dorm though, it stays there, unless you take it with you when you leave.

The “Social Network” addition is also something that is actually really cool. Sims can use it when they aren’t in the university, too. If your Sims like to play games, they should join the Nerd group. In that group, they can also play video games online and get jobs in the video gaming industry. The Jock social group is for Sims who play sports, enjoy a good game of “juice pong” and party. There is also a Rebel social networking group that includes Sims who like to protest, push social boundaries, and spray paint buildings.

Sims that go to the university also have the chance to go to some fun parties that they can remember forever (if they take a picture for their scrapbook that is). Your Sims can now go to bonfire parties, keggers, and toga parties! If you are feeling really creative, you can always create your own type of party as well.

Overall, I think this expansion pack added a lot to the game, and is well worth adding to you’re the Sims 3 game. It adds a lot of new content and makes the game more fun. Who doesn’t love the whole university experience anyways? I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Sims 3: University Life, Electronic Arts, and Gamers Gate for providing me with a digital copy of this game and allowing me to review it. All experiences and opinions expressed are my own.

Logitech G500s Laser Gaming Mouse Review

Everyone plays games differently, but one thing that just about all types of PC gaming requires is a great mouse. When laser precision, speed, comfort, and a dry grip are important, the new “Logitech G500s Laser Gaming Mouse” is the one to turn to.

Logitech G500s Laser Gaming Mouse Features
Weight and Balance Tuning – Everyone plays differently. Tune G500s to your unique playstyle. Change its overall weight. Adjust its center of gravity. Rearrange the placements of two different size weights; you can adjust for feel and performance with up to 27 grams of extra weight.

Dual-Mode Scroll Wheel - Unlike standard scroll wheels, G500s features hyper-fast, dual-mode scrolling. When gaming, quickly and accurately select menu options with click-to-click precision. Or, zip through Web pages with a quick flick of the free-spinning hyper-fast scroll wheel.

Advanced Surface Materials - We used infrared imaging to determine strategic tactile zones where the hand meets the mouse surface. We applied advanced materials to each zone for improved comfort and durability. The hydrophobic coating on the palm area helps prevent your hand from sticking. For heavy contact zones, we added a fingerprint-resistant coating to the primary buttons. And, dry grip on the sides ensures a steady hand.

In-Game Sensitivity Switching - Make the right moves in any game situation. Shift through up to 10 DPI settings, from pixel-precise targeting (400 DPI) to lightning-fast maneuvers (up to 4000 DPI) with two buttons sitting in easy reach under your thumb.

10 Programmable Controls - Achieve great results with the default configuration straight out of the box. Or, set up one-button triggers for actions that typically require digging into menus. Put push-to-talk communications in easier reach. Temporarily down-shift DPI. Reassign any game command or multi-command macro to any one of 10 programmable buttons with optional Logitech Gaming Software (LGS).

Onboard Memory Profile - Configure your mouse once and have it remember. Every game requires its own unique setup, be it World of Tanks or League of Legends. Program all 10 buttons across so you can bring your setup to other PCs.

Ultra-Durable Build - Gaming conditions torture typical mice. G500s is designed to endure. Upgraded primary mechanical microswitches are rated to a 20 million-click lifespan. Low-friction polytetrafluoroethylene feet are tested to last an amazing 250 km. Whatever you can dish out, G500s will stand up to it.

Braided USB Cable - With a cloth wrapped, durable 2 m (6.5 ft) USB cord, your mouse comes with a hook-and-loop cable to keep things tidy and ready to play.

1 Millisecond Report Rate – Be confident your every command is executed as quickly as possible. Up to eight times faster than a standard USB mouse, G500s captures your moves as fast as you can make them.

Gaming-Grade Laser - When the difference between MVP and also-ran is measured in pixels, laser sharp sensitivity pays off. G500s uses a gaming-grade laser that delivers precision at any hand speed and works across a wide range of surfaces to register even the most subtle hand movements.

Slick Feet - Low-friction polytetrafluoroethylene feet reduce drag for faster motions, smoother cursor movements, and improved accuracy.

Easy to Use Setup Software - Use the optional Logitech Gaming Software to perfectly match its commands to your favorite games. Simple drag-and-drop settings allow you to customize button and tracking profiles for any game you play. Or, use pre-configured customizations with automatic game detection. ” – Logitech G500s Laser Gaming Mouse

My Thoughts
Let me start off by saying that I am a female gamer that loves gadgets, and I use and abuse my equipment when playing MMOs. I really put my gaming gear through the tests. I play for long hours, go into PvP areas, high-end dungeons, and areas that are not for casual players. I need precision, comfort, and durability in the gaming accessories I use because I don’t see the point of playing with anything less than that. If you are a serious gamer, I’m sure you agree, too.

The “Logitech G500s Laser Gaming Mouse” is an upgrade from the Logitech Gaming Mouse G500. It is similar, but has some important features that make it worthy of an upgrade. For instance, the advanced surface materials allow you to easily grip the mouse, and the hydrophobic coating prevents your hand from sticking. Put simply, your hand won’t get all sweaty on the mouse and cause you to over jump or do something else leading to a catastrophe when playing. This is my favorite feature on the mouse because while it won’t prevent you from sweating, it does make it less of an issue, at least for me.

The option of using the wheel in two different settings is also very nice. It can be super-fast, or slower for a click through option, which for some games and instances, is also very nice. For just doing normal things on a computer, such as browsing the web, the super-fast speed on the wheel is superb.

I like my mouse light, so I am not one to use the extra weights for the mouse. However, if that is something you need for your gaming style, this model comes with an extra 27 grams of weight to help adjust it to suit your needs.

This mouse is also nicely designed. It is comfortable to hold, and fits my hand perfectly. As a female gamer, sometimes the mice out there just look way too large for my hand. This one is seriously a perfect fit. It is also a good looking mouse. It has interesting features on the outside of it that makes it look like serious gaming gear. The DPI setting is also shown on the mouse with the blue lighting, which I think looks great with this line of products.

Overall, I really like this mouse. It works for everything I need it to, and fits my hand and playstyle perfectly. If you are looking for a new gaming mouse, this is definitely one that you want to check out.

Disclosure: Thank you to Logitech for providing me with the product for review. All opinions, experiences, and thoughts about the product being reviewed are my own.

April 28, 2013

Bouncing Back by Linda Graham

Bouncing Back by Linda Graham is a book to help the reader get back their power. Sometimes life hands us challenges that seem hard to bounce back from, but this book definitely can help you bounce back to the life you want to live.

Book Description
Resilience is the ability to face and handle life’s challenges, whether everyday disappointments or extraordinary disasters. While resilience is innate in the brain, over time we learn unhelpful patterns, which then become fixed in our neural circuitry. But science is now revealing that what previously seemed hardwired can be rewired, and Bouncing Back shows us how. With powerful, time-tested exercises, Linda Graham guides us in rebuilding our core well-being and disaster-proofing our brains.” – Bouncing Back

My Thoughts
Bouncing Back is written to give hope and inspiration to those of us who need a little help bouncing back from the challenges life throws at us. It is well-written and well researched, so it makes for a very helpful read that isn’t too big of an idea to really grasp.

The exercises and skills used throughout the book are very helpful and easy to use in everyday life. Try them out for yourself and find out which ones work best for you. Trust me, they aren’t hard to incorporate into your life, and can be very helpful in calming you down to better handle situations.

If you are crunched for time, and don’t have the time to fully read the entire book, check out the end of each chapter for the “Putting It All Together” section. This section is very helpful on getting that bigger picture and helps to remember what you just read (or should have read). If that section points out areas you need to focus on, start there and read that chapter (in full) first.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and found many of the exercises to be very helpful. It is a book I will look back on as a reference for many things in life, and I definitely recommend it.

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

April 27, 2013

Making Your Creative Mark by Eric Maisel

Making Your Creative Mark by Eric Maisel is a book for people to use to help guide them on their creative or professional path. The advice contained helps the reader to follow through with their aspirations, and stop the negative self-talk that plagues many of us.

Book Description
Writers, painters, singers, filmmakers, musicians, craftspeople, and actors confront daunting challenges every day. It is hard to produce new work, find success in the marketplace, manage relationships, and keep spirits up. Many doubt that solutions to these very real problems exist, but they do, and world-famous creativity coach Eric Maisel has compiled them in this book. You will learn how to:

• make sense of the challenges of your personality, the challenges inherent in creative work, and the challenges of culture and marketplace
• quiet your overactive mind 
• increase motivation and avoid blocks 
• engage in practices that create and reinforce meaning
• align self-talk with goals, avoiding negative loops that block creativity
• identify stressors and implement stress-management techniques designed specifically for artists
• maintain emotional intimacy and healthy relationships in the midst of the creative process
• claim your identity as an artist
• rekindle passion for your art and feed that flame during dark days and dry spells

Intended for professional artists and those aspiring toward professional status, this book offers the nuts and bolts of sticking to a successful and fulfilling life in the arts.” – Making Your Creative Mark

My Thoughts
Making Your Creative Mark is the type of self-help book that creative people need to give them a kick in the butt to accomplish their goals. This isn’t a book that helps you decide what you want to do in life or give you amazing ideas to go create something. This book does give you the self-confidence and motivation to turn what you already love doing, or are already doing, into something more.

The book is divided into nine “Keys” that help you with various aspects of creativity including: the mind, confidence, passion, freedom, stress, empathy, relationship, identity, and societal keys. The advice contained in each one is written to help creative people, but it can be used for everyone to accomplish their goals, too.

Eric Maisel helps you to become what you want to be, and do what you want to do. One of the big things you have to do for this to work though is to stop making excuses, and stop bad mouthing yourself mentally (or verbally). This can be hard at times because many of us (including myself) sometimes have that negative self-talk that is just not helpful with anything.

This is an excellent book to help push people in the right direction of their dreams. The advice can honestly be used by a wide variety of people or professions, and has some really good suggestions. I definitely recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of Making Your Creative Mark, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberly Freeman

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberly Freeman is the perfect book to read in a weekend or on vacation. Set in Australia, and spanning centuries, this novel is one you won’t soon forget.

Book Description
In 1901, a ship sinks off the coast of Lighthouse Bay in Australia. The only survivor is Isabella Winterbourne—escaping her loveless marriage and the devastating loss of her son—who clutches a priceless gift meant for the Australian Parliament. Suddenly, this gift could be her ticket to a new life, free from the bonds of her husband and his overbearing family.

One hundred years later, Libby Slater leaves her life in Paris to return to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay. Living in the cottage that was purchased by her recently passed lover, she hopes to heal her broken heart and reconcile with her sister, Juliet. Libby did something so unforgivable twenty years ago, Juliet is unsure if she can ever trust her sister again.

In this adventurous love story spanning centuries, both Isabella and Libby must learn that letting go of the past is the only way to move into the future.” – Lighthouse Bay

My Thoughts
Lighthouse Bay is a novel set in Australia that features love stories from 1901 to present day. The women in it are each unique in their own way, and each want to be free to do what their heart desires – even if it means something a little unconventional.

This seaside town has its own secrets, mysteries, and heartbreaking love stories. The scenery is written so vividly that it feels alive within the pages. It also makes me want to visit Australia even more though.

I enjoyed how the novel jumps between storylines. Kimberley Freeman is able to work them together in a truly marvelous way. It is easy to read, and is really very enjoyable. If you are looking for a good summer book, this is one you’ll want to read.

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

The Power of Peace in You by Marlise Karlin

The Power of Peace in You by Marlise Karlin is a self-help, spiritual book that is truly for everyday living. When you learn how to be still and cherish the present moment, your life changes in fascinating ways.

Book Description
The Power of Peace in You delivers a revolutionary method for accessing a universal Life-force Energy of peace to attain clarity, inspiration and calm, even in the midst of chaos, stress and anxiety.

Synthesizing evolutionary schools of thought with ancient wisdom and healing traditions The Simplicity of Stillness teaches you how to integrate this profound intelligence into the practical of everyday. With illustrative stories, daily exercises, and a Stillness Session CD, a unique new form of meditation, this new process for higher learning will change how you see and do just about everything.

Kids dealing with the trauma of bullying have discovered their self-worth, teens healed their eating disorders, and adults found self-love after years of chronic depression. From Maasai warriors in Kenya to CEOs in Amsterdam, from hospitals and healing professionals, to parents around the globe - people find the courage needed to face life's many setbacks and the inspiration to empower a future filled with possibility.

As Wade Davis writes in the Foreword, “Marlise's words carry a spark that resonates deeply in the heart of all of us, and her stories of people who embraced these truths will, I believe, inspire you as they did me.”

The Power of Peace in You ignites an Energy stream of hope and healing into your life, taking you on a journey that leads to the heart of your soul.
This is a book you will return to again and again in your life's journey.” – The Power of Peace in You

My Thoughts
The Power of Peace in You is a book and CD combo that features what Marlise Karlin calls “The Simplicity of Stillness Method.” When used together, it offers us the peace within ourselves that was there all along, just waiting to be tapped into.

Marlise Karlin writes in an easy to follow way that shows her passion for the subject on every page. She truly has compassion for us as a whole, and wants the best for us the world has to offer. With this book, we learn some everyday techniques to put us in the moment and be truly peaceful – which opens up so much for all of us to experience.

If you are feeling like you are in a rut, or stuck spiritually, this is just the type of book to get you out of your funk. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of The Power of Peace in You, Watkins, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

April 24, 2013

The Druid Magic Handbook by John Michael Greer

The Druid Magic Handbook by John Michael Greer is an excellent resource for those wanting to pursue a Druid path, or just learn more about it. Learn about the path of Druidry, and also how to use Druid magic in your life with this book.

Book Description
The Druid Magic Handbook is the first manual of magical practice in Druidry, one of the fastest growing branches of the Pagan movement. The book breaks new ground, teaching Druids how to practice ritual magic for practical and spiritual goals within their own tradition.

What sets The Druid Magic Handbook apart is that it does not require the reader to use a particular pantheon or set of symbols. Although it presents one drawn from Welsh Druid tradition, it also shows the reader how to adapt rites and other practices to fit the deities and symbols most meaningful to them. This cutting edge system of ritual magic can be used by Druids, Pagans, Christians, and Thelemites alike!” – The Druid Magic Handbook

My Thoughts
The Druid Magic Handbook is a guide to using Druid magic that focuses on what Druidry has become. The author doesn’t go into what ancient Druids “maybe” did, which is quite nice. Instead, he focuses on the revival of Druidry, and how it is used in modern times.

The handbook is laid out in three main parts: “The Foundation of Druid Magic,” “The Practice of Druid Magic,” and “The Way of Druid Magic.” Each part builds upon the knowledge of the previous parts, so it would be wise to read them in order.

A lot of information is contained within these pages, so be prepared to make notes and re-read things a few times to fully grasp what is being taught to you. It may not be an easy thing to grasp, but it is written with an ease that makes it easy to read.

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a Druid, I do find this whole concept to be exceptionally interesting and I love learning more about it. If you want to learn more about Druidry or practice it, this is definitely a book that you want to read!

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

Wild Mind by Bill Plotkin

Wild Mind by Bill Plotkin is “a field guide to the human psyche” that can promote lasting change to those who read it. Plotkin makes us think harder about the real questions in life, and more importantly, gets us to really take a look at ourselves as who we really are as a human.

Book Description
Our human psyches possess astonishing resources that wait within us, but we might not even know they exist until we discover how to access them and cultivate their powers, their untapped potentials and depths. Wild Mind identifies these resources — which Bill Plotkin calls the four facets of the Self, or the four dimensions of our innate human wholeness — and also the four sets of fragmented or wounded subpersonalities that form during childhood. Rather than proposing ways to eliminate our subpersonalities (which is not possible) or to beat them into submission, Plotkin describes how to cultivate the four facets of the Self and discover the gifts of our subpersonalities. The key to reclaiming our original wholeness is not merely to suppress psychological symptoms, recover from addictions and trauma, or manage stress but rather to fully embody our multifaceted wild minds, commit ourselves to the largest, soul-infused story we’re capable of living, and serve the greater Earth community.” – Wild Mind

My Thoughts
Wild Mind helps us to revision and reshape our lives. So much is going on in the world today, and we are living at such fast paced speeds, that it is so easy to get lost in the middle of all of it. Bill Plotkin helps us to find ourselves again, and gives us the tools to revision what it means to be human, and truly change our experience here on Earth.

Focusing on our “whole” selves, Plotkin guides us to discover that our “wounded” sides are important parts of our sub-personalities, and they can be healed to make us our best “whole” selves. These wounded parts of ourselves never fully goes away, but we can learn how to embrace them and keep them in check.

This is a very interesting and thought provoking look at the human psyche that should be explored by everyone. I really enjoyed reading it, and found it to be highly engaging. I definitely recommend this book.

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

The Soulmate Experience by Mali Apple & Joe Dunn

The Soulmate Experience by Mali Apple & Joe Dunn is a book that helps the reader to change their beliefs, which leads to changing their life experience. This is focused on relationships, but it can be used with all types of relationships and for other aspects of your life, too.

Book Description
Whether you’re on a quest for your soulmate or are looking for deeper connection in the relationship you have right now, The Soulmate Experience will be your guide and your inspiration. The life-changing ideas in this book – and the stories of real people putting them into practice – will help you create your own soulmate experience: a relationship that is a continual source of love, inspiration, and joy.” – The Soulmate Experience

My Thoughts
The Soulmate Experience is a book that helps you to have better relationships of all kinds in life. It isn’t a sure-bet to finding your soulmate or next fling though, so if that is what you expect, maybe you should just go to a dating website or something. However, if you are looking to find more meaning to your life and inspiration to become a better person, this is the book for you!

The authors include tips and guidelines on how to really connect with the other people in your life to create lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. Nothing is too hard to understand, and can be used in real life. It is written with a good flow that makes it an easy read.

If you want to change yourself and your relationships for the better, read this book!

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

April 23, 2013

Cascadian Farm Crunchy Granola Bars at Publix

Cascadian Farm’s new crunchy granola bars are made with 9 or less pantry ingredients per bar. This means there aren’t as many of those “other things” in it that other companies add to their products to give a natural flavor or color, that isn’t actually natural at all.

Granola bars are one of the things that my family loves to grab and go to eat. I can’t personally eat them because they aren’t gluten-free, but they sure enjoyed these Cascadian Farm granola bars (and are probably glad I can’t eat them, because now they can eat them all). The “Oats & Honey” and the “Peanut Butter” flavors were enjoyed, and will be something I continue to buy for the family.

Pick these up at your local Publix store, and check out some of the other amazing products that Cascadian Farm sells. My family also really loves their cereals, so this may be something you want to try, too.

Do you like Cascadian Farm foods? If so, which are your favorites?

Disclosure: "The information, products and General Mills gift pack were provided by General Mills and Publix® through MyBlogSpark."

Learning to Fly by Steph Davis

Learning to Fly by Steph Davis is “an uncommon memoir of human flight, unexpected love, and one amazing dog.” Step into Steph’s world of adrenaline and love, and learn how to soar to your own new heights in the process.

Book Description
Steph Davis is a superstar in the climbing community and has ascended some of the world’s most awe-inspiring peaks. But when her husband makes a controversial climb in a national park, the media fallout—and the toll it takes on her marriage—suddenly leaves her without a partner, a career, a source of income . . . or a purpose.

In the company of only her beloved dog, Fletch, Davis sets off on a search for a new identity and discovers skydiving. Though falling out of an airplane is completely antithetical to the climber’s control she’d practiced for so long, she turns each daring jump into an opportunity to fly, first as a skydiver, then as a base jumper, and finds herself indelibly changed. As she opens herself to falling, she also finds the strength to open herself to love again, even in the wake of heartbreak. And before too long, she fortuitously meets someone who shares her passions.

 is Davis’s fascinating account of her transformation. From her early tentative skydives, to zipping into her first wingsuit, to surviving devastating accidents against the background of breathtaking cliffs, to soaring beyond her past limits, she discovers new hope and joy in letting go. Learning to Fly isn’t just an adventure but a woman’s story of risk-taking and self-discovery, with love at its heart.” – Learning to Fly

My Thoughts
Learning to Fly is the type of memoir that is perfect for the thrill-seeking, kick-butt woman who has some spare time to read. It shows Steph Davis as a skydiver, base jumper, and passionate woman who loves life deeply.

As someone who doesn’t like heights, I have an envious awe for people like Steph Davis who have the ability to climb high, and soar through the clouds skydiving. Personally, I could never do these things, but this well written memoir makes me feel like I can experience the thrills of doing so by living vicariously through her daredevil spirit.

This is the type of book that makes you want to try something new, and let go of your need to control what is going to happen next. It is inspiring, uplifting, and a very good read. I highly recommend it.

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

The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda

The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda is a look at eight fiercely fascinating women in history. Medieval women are much more interesting than you may have thought, and this book is just the step into history to see how much so.

Book Description
In an epic drama of love, death, and betrayal, Leonie Frieda charts the rise and fall of the Italian Renaissance through the lives of the princesses who helped shape it.

Mothers of popes and wives of princes, the women who feature in The Deadly Sisterhood were joined by birth, marriage, or friendship, and all ruled for a time in the place of their dead or absent menfolk. An intricate network of blood ties bound them together even as passion, treachery, and greed set sister against sister. These were women who were not afraid to wield the sword against their enemies in the murderous struggles that dominated the Italian Peninsula in the fifteenth century. Each experienced great riches, power, and the warm smile of fortune, but each also knew banishment, imprisonment, poverty, attempts on her life, and the loss of a husband or child.

Leonie Frieda brilliantly reassesses the reputations of celebrated figures such as Isabella d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia, while exposing the influence of neglected characters such as Isabella d'Aragona and Clarice Orsini on the brutal dynastic conflicts of the fifteenth century.

From sleeping with the enemy to leading troops into battle, The Deadly Sisterhood explodes the myth that Renaissance women were passive bystanders. Far from being confined to patronage and piety, these women proved that as rulers, politicians, warriors, and lovers they equaled—if not overshadowed—the men whose power they shared.” – The Deadly Sisterhood

My Thoughts
The Deadly Sisterhood is a well-researched and written book about some very interesting women in history. Each of the eight women featured have their strengths and weaknesses that as a woman, I was able to relate with (even if only in a very small way). Women’s roles were a lot different back then, but if you thought that the women in history were all just submissive and fragile people, you are quite wrong! These women were strong, powerful and very intelligent.

If you have an interest in history, in particular women’s history, this is a book that you seriously need to read. It will give you a different perspective of a woman’s role in medieval times, and perhaps appreciate everything that we have gained since then.

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

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is the type of book that can change how you view a part of history, one that you probably knew very little about, if at all. Based on factual parts of America’s history, Kline tells the story of how two orphaned girls from different eras are able to find peace and help each other.

Book Description
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Trainis a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.” – Orphan Train

My Thoughts
Orphan Train is an extremely well written book that captures the reader right away. It is written with alternating chapters that take place in Vivian’s past and the current time of 2011. Kline merges the storylines flawlessly in a truly memorable way that will leave you wanting to know more about the actual history of orphan trains and America’s not so happy past.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction that is based on actual facts, this is a book that I think you will truly enjoy. It is an excellent read that should be shared with others, and I definitely recommend this book for everyone to read.

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

April 22, 2013

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer is an uplifting coming of age story that shows you can in fact go home, and sometimes that is the only place to go. This is a truly character driven story that will have the reader relating to the characters and cheering them on along the way.

Book Description
The strategy on the gridiron of Friday Night Lights is nothing compared to the savagery of coming home.

Queenie Wake has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup . . . again. Now the only place she has to go is North Star, Texas, the hometown she left in disgrace. Maybe things will be different this time around. After all, her mother—notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money—has been dead for years. And Queenie's sister, once the local teenage harlot who fooled around with the town golden boy, is now the mother of the high school football captain.

Queenie's new job, cooking last meals at the nearby prison, is going well . . . at least the inmates don't complain! But apparently small-town Texas has a long memory for bad reputations. And when Queenie bumps into Everett Coburn, the high school sweetheart who broke her heart, she wishes her own memory was a little spottier. But before Queenie takes another chance on love, she'll have to take an even bigger risk: finding a place to call home once and for all.” – Nowhere but Home

My Thoughts
Nowhere but Home is a fun read about how going home is never quite like what you expect it to be. After being fired from her job in Manhattan (where everyone wants to go to make it big and get away from small cities), Queenie must return home to her hometown in Texas. Not only does she not have a fabulous job as a chef anymore, now she is serving meals at a prison. Quite a drastic difference!

Not only is her job different, but she soon realizes that the people she left behind are there, but different, too. On a quest to find herself and place in life, Queenie finally beings to realize that maybe her hometown was where she belonged after all.

Liza Palmer writes with a witty wisdom that is truly captivating for the reader to be drawn in to reading. If you plan on just reading a few chapters, be prepared to stay for much longer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good summer novel to read.

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

The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer

The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer is a guidebook for “spiritual practice in the living Earth.” If you have ever been interested in Celtic culture or Druids, this is a book you’ll want to read!

Book Description
A living tradition of nature spirituality rooted in Celtic antiquity and revived to meet the challenges of contemporary life, Druidry offers people a path of harmony through reconnection with the green Earth.

The Druidry Handbook is the first hands-on manual of traditional British Druid practice that explores the Sun Path of seasonal celebration, the Moon Path of meditation, and the Earth Path of living in harmony with nature as tools for crafting an earth-honoring life here and now. From ritual and meditation to nature awareness and ecological action, John Michael Greer opens the door to a spirituality rooted in the living Earth.

Featuring a mix of philosophy, rituals, spiritual practice, and lifestyle issues, The Druidry Handbook is one-stop shopping for those seriously interested in practicing a traditional form of Druidry. It offers equal value to eclectics and solitary practitioners eager to incorporate more earth-spirituality into their own belief system; it also appeals to the merely curious.The Druidry Handbook

My Thoughts
The Druidry Handbook is a handbook for this tradition that is relevant for people in this era. It is written with such honesty and helpful guidance that it doesn’t put you to sleep or confuse you into just giving up on it. This book teaches you about the path and also how to use it in your modern life. It is really a perfect first book for someone who wants to explore or learn about Druidry.

As someone who is very interested and captivated by Celtic culture and Druidry, I found this book to be extremely informative, interesting, and readable. If you find yourself drawn to this Earth-based spirituality, this is definitely one of the books you’ll want to read and study. I highly recommend it.

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

Fabric Surface Design by Cheryl Rezendes

Fabric Surface Design by Cheryl Rezendes is the type of craft book that inspires you to create marvelous pieces of art you can display, or even wear. Using fabric, you can create many different looks, and some may be easier than you think.

Book Description
Sensational sewing projects demand fabulous fabrics! Fiber artist Cheryl Rezendes shows you how to create an astonishing array of surface designs, simply and safely, using textile paints and printing ink. She covers a wide variety of techniques: stamping, ancient Japanese Shibori, silkscreen, soy wax and flour resist, image transfer, marbling, nature printing, foils and metal leaf, and more. Step-by-step photos illustrate every technique, and Rezendes shows you lots of innovative ways to combine and layer techniques for stunning results.” – Fabric Surface Design

My Thoughts
Fabric Surface Design is a fabulous design reference and how-to book on fabric design. So many different styles are covered; it is truly perfect for the beginner to the expert artist.

The only problem I saw when reading this book was finding the time to create all of the fun projects included. Some of the fabric designs I want to try include: stamping, nature printing, silk-screen printing, image transfer, and marbling. I haven’t done anything like this, so I’ll need to start small. Thankfully, Cheryl Rezendes writes in a very helpful format that makes me comfortable enough to try, even if it takes many tries to get it right. That is what art is all about anyways, right?

If you want to try doing some fabric printing, this is the perfect book to get you started. I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the publisher of Fabric Surface Design, Storey, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn

The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn is a story that fully explores life’s ups and downs, struggles, parenthood, love, and everything in between the cracks. If you’re looking for a good summer read, this is one you seriously need to check out.

Book Description

Formerly an up-and-coming magazine editor, Jenny Lipkin is now your average, stretched-too-thin Brooklyn mom, tackling the challenges of raising two children in a cramped Park Slope walk-up. All she really wants is to survive the sweltering New York summer with a shred of sanity intact. But when her husband, Harry, vanishes one evening, Jenny reaches her breaking point. And in a moment of despair, a split-second decision changes her life forever.

Pulled from the brink by an unexpected ally, Jenny is forced to rethink her ideas about success, motherhood, romance, and relationships. But confronting her inner demons is no easy task.” – The Mermaid of Brooklyn

My Thoughts
The Mermaid of Brooklyn is a book that may look like a “chick lit” type of book on the surface, but trust me – it is so much more than that! Sure, women will like it, and quite likely relate to it in some way, especially if you have ever been a single mother (not that I have been, but I can imagine).

The mermaid isn’t the typical type of mermaid that one would think of when it comes to mermaids. Instead, it is actually a “rusalka” from Slavic myth, which isn’t as nice as “The Little Mermaid” but not exactly evil either. I like paranormal twists in books, and this one was a very welcome addition the story.

Amy Shearn writes for the reader to really experience the story as a whole. She details the characters, the surroundings, and the feeling of it all – which isn’t an easy task. She magically blends it all together to create a memorable tale that is truly worth reading. I highly recommend it.

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