July 31, 2013

Hungry by Darlene Barnes

Hungry by Darlene Barnes is the type of honest memoir that is truly an enjoyable read. She shares not just the story of her experiences as a cook at a fraternity house, but also about herself, and how she was able to truly become herself through this experience.

Book Description
Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to "Asian Surprise" and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: "I was the new girl and didn't know or care about the rules." 

Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent--but also funny and sensitive--guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners. 

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman's determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.” – Hungry

My Thoughts
Hungry is a book that I honestly enjoyed more than I thought I would going into it. The author writes with such a passion and very real account of her experiences, that it feels like she is sharing her life story with you over a cup of coffee. I laughed, I cried, and I am inspired by her story. She gets the meaning that jobs and people you meet along the way aren’t just random people or acquaintances, but become an extended family to you, even many years after you have seen them.

If you have ever felt like the career you are in is not for you, but are afraid to take a leap of faith and try to pursue your real passion in life, this is the book you need to read for inspiration. I highly recommend it.

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

There Is No God And He Is Always With You by Brad Warner

There Is No God And He Is Always With You by Brad Warner is a book about Warner’s perspective on God. Read it with an open mind, and you may discover that some of his theories and beliefs on the topic are similar to your own, or change your perspective a little bit to go with his.

Book Description
Can you be an atheist and still believe in God?
Can you be a true believer and still doubt?
Can Zen give us a way past our constant fighting about God?

Brad Warner was initially interested in Buddhism because he wanted to find God, but Buddhism is usually thought of as godless. In the three decades since Warner began studying Zen, he has grappled with paradoxical questions about God and managed to come up with some answers. In this fascinating search for a way beyond the usual arguments between fundamentalists and skeptics, Warner offers a profoundly engaging and idiosyncratic take on the ineffable power of the “ground of all being.” There Is No God And He Is Always With You

My Thoughts
There Is No God And He Is Always With You is an interesting discussion of the author’s theory of God, religion, and our connection with it all. If you enjoy reading about someone’s theoretical view of spirituality and religion, this is a book you would most likely enjoy reading and discussing with others. However, if you are very set in your religion, this is probably not going to be a book for you.

I’ve been interested in the universe, God, metaphysics, the supernatural, and everything in-between. As a spiritual person who does very much believe in God, but finds it hard to just blindly believe in something, I could relate to a lot of the topics and questions covered in this book. I’m not saying that I agreed with them all. This is a book that does focus on religion, spirituality, and of course, God. So, what I say about how I feel about it shouldn’t matter to you. Spirituality is a personal thing, and I wouldn’t try to sway someone one way or another. That being said, I did personally enjoy reading this book, and I think if you are interested in any of the topics mentioned above, you will too.

* Thank you to the publisher of There Is No God And He Is Always With You, New World Library, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

July 28, 2013

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory features Elizabeth of York in this “Cousins’ War” series of books by the author. Filled with political intrigue, drama, and real historical facts, this novel is one that fans of historical fiction should definitely check out!

Book Description
Philippa Gregory, #1 New York Times best­selling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA Today), presents the latest Cousins’ War novel, the remarkable story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of the White Queen.

When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last.” – The White Princess

My Thoughts
The White Princess is another fine addition the “Cousins’ War” series of books based on the historical events of the royals in England during the late 1400s. Philippa Gregory is one of the best authors of this time period that I have read, and she does not disappoint with this novel.

This is the story of Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the “White Queen” who is forced to marry Henry Tudor to end the civil war that had been going on for almost two decades. She seems to be one of the pawns in the story, and a bit clueless on how things work around her. However, she is still an important person in the series who should not be forgotten.

Historical fact and fiction is weaved together to make this story (and all of Gregory’s novels in the series) extremely interesting and real page turners. You can really see the passion and love of this time period when reading her novels, and that to me is a huge bonus to her works of art. If history classes were this interesting, I’m sure people would have learned more, and gotten better grades! I definitely recommend it.

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

July 27, 2013

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

The Registry by Shannon Stoker is a debut novel that shows a dystopian American society that sells pretty young women to the highest bidder. Not all is as it seems, and for one young woman, we see that getting out of the cycle is not as easy as it may seem.

Book Description
Welcome to a safe and secure new world, where beauty is bought and sold, and freedom is the ultimate crime.

The Registry saved the country from collapse, but stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained to fight and never question orders.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous questions. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.” – The Registry

My Thoughts
The Registry is a fictional novel that has a very intriguing story that shows how the world could be, and thankfully isn’t – at least not yet. As a woman, I would never want to be bought and sold, or have my freedom taken away from me. The main character, Mia, also doesn’t want to see her future like this, and so she wants to escape to Mexico.

This is the author’s debut novel, so I’m not going to be too harsh on the writing style. It wasn’t my favorite; she could have left more things open, and not so bland and overtly obvious for the reader to understand. However, I did enjoy the story and think that this writer has big potential on future novels, which I would definitely like to read to see her progression.

Overall, this is just an “okay” book. It isn’t one that I would want to read again, and not one that made me want to stay up all night to finish. If you like the idea of the story, try it out, you may enjoy it.

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

July 24, 2013

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani is a historical novel based on real people from history. Set in Iran in 1576, political power struggles play out, and history, is literally made.

Book Description
Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protégée, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but her maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent. Pari and her closest adviser, Javaher, a eunuch able to navigate the harem as well as the world beyond the palace walls, possess an incredible tapestry of secrets that explode in a power struggle of epic proportions. 

Legendary women—from Anne Boleyn to Queen Elizabeth I to Mary, Queen of Scots—changed the course of history in the royal courts of England. While they are celebrated, few people know of the powerful and charismatic women in the Muslim world. Based loosely on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, Equal of the Sun is a riveting story of political intrigue that brings one extraordinary woman to light. Anita Amirrezvani is a master storyteller, and her lustrous prose breathes life into this rich and labyrinthine world with a stunning cast of characters—passionate and brave men and women who defy or embrace their destiny in a Machiavellian game played by those who lust for power and will do anything to attain it.” – Equal of the Sun

My Thoughts
Equal of the Sun is a brilliantly written political novel set in Iran in 1576. It is based loosely on real people in history, during a period of time many of us know very little about.

What I enjoy about Princess Pari is that she isn’t perfect, but she does have the qualities to make her a good leader, if given the chance. She is confident, ambitious, and knows more than she lets on. I liked reading about this character, and am glad that I know about her as a real person from history thanks to having read this book.

This book is filled with a lot of political intrigue, which I quite liked. I am a fan of such series as “A Game of Thrones” as well, so if you also enjoy books with great characters and political struggles, I think you’ll enjoy this book, too. I definitely recommend it.

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

July 14, 2013

Hoopnotica Review

Workouts shouldn’t be boring. They should make you motivated and want to do it again. If you are looking for a fun workout that feels more like playtime, check out the Hoopnotica hula hoop.

Hoopnotica Dance
When was the last time you laughed on a treadmill? Turn up the fun on your workout with one of the hottest new ways to burn fat, build muscle, and improve balance and coordination. 

HoopnoticaDance provides a low-impact, fat-blasting cardio experience that will leave you feeling strong, inspired, and incredibly sexy. Build your best body and engaage your mind with HoopnoticaDance which pairs elements of belly dance, hip hop, and rhythmic movement with the resistance training only a hula hoop can provide!
Come out to play!” – Hoopnotica.com

My Thoughts
Hula Hooping is a really fun workout. As a kid, I would listen to music in the garage and hula hoop for hours. I never considered it exercise. It was fun. As an adult, I do admit, I do not exercise as much as I should. I find treadmills to be boring hamster wheels, and don’t even get me started with crazy looking workout equipment that should really just be called torture devices.

When I saw that hula hooping could be considered a workout, a light bulb went off in my head. I instantly remembered being the hula hoop champion in my subdivision, and thought that this would be a fun workout that I could do. To be fair, I haven’t picked up a hula hoop for probably over 15 years, but I thought it would be just like riding a bike – you don’t forget, right?

Well, it isn’t quite as easy as remembering how to ride a bike. Bodies change with age, if you know what I mean. However, it can be done, even if you aren’t as skinny as you were as a kid.

 I was really excited to try out the Hoopnotica hoop when I got it, so I put it together and tested it out. I tried out the Total Knockout Starter Kit, which is really a great kit for beginners to start out with. It didn’t stay up for long at first, but I kept trying. Eventually, with the help of the DVD, I was able to re-learn how to hula hoop and keep it up to effectively workout with.

The hula hoop itself is pretty, and lightweight without being too light. It has an extra weight to it which helps it to stay up, but it doesn’t hurt you when you are using it either. The tape on it looks good, but more importantly, it is functional. It helps the user keep the hoop up, too.

Not only is hula hooping fun, it is also a great workout! Just doing a basic hula hoop stance can burn some serious calories per hour – about 400! The Hoopnotica DVDs show you how to hula hoop with some flair, which will also make this workout fun, and never like a boring hamster wheel.

I used the Hoopnotica hula hoop for 15-45 minutes per day for 2 weeks, and I lost 2-3 lbs. I didn’t change my diet in any way; I just added this in to my routine. Not everyone will have these results, so I can’t guarantee it will work for you. I would however, place my bets on this being one of the most fun workouts you have had.

So, get off your hamster wheel, and start exercising the fun way with Hoopnotica! I highly recommend it.

* Thank you to the amazing people at Hoopnotica.com for providing me with the total knockout starter kit for review. All opinions expressed are my own.