Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Is it really over?

It's that time of year. Time to rap up 2011. Is it really over? Where did the year go? 2011 started with the hope that I could find a better job and be more independent. wasn't meant to be. I was laid off and in the two weeks since I haven't really felt it yet.

I have had things to do in the last two weeks. Like finally cleaning up my cluttered room. It hadn't reached Hoarders territory, but I kept bumping into stuff. It's amazing how much larger this room seems without all the junk in it. Perhaps there is something to this cleaning thing. I tossed out eight bags of JUNK!!! It actually feels wonderful to have it gone. Sometimes you can't think with all the junk. Maybe I'll develop a better thought process now that all the crap is gone. I can start 2012 with a fresh perspective. Hopefully, I won't have to wait too long before I can find a new job.

Now, how have I done with my reading goals for 2011? I'm going to fall short of my re-organized goal. My original goal was 75 books, but as the year went on I realized that was a pipe dream. I reset it for 65 books, but I'm going to fall one short. I also wanted to read 20 YA books, but I clocked in at 13. Still I exceeded my reading total (60 books) from last year. Here is to higher numbers in 2012!!

Now, how will 2012 be different for me reading-wise?

What's with the Star Wars pic? Well......

Yes, I have crossed over to the dark side!! I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I know I have knocked Amazon in some prior posts. Yes I know I have said I don't like e-readers. But like with most technology, I have to adapt to the times. More publishers and authors are steering bloggers to e-ARCs. I'm not a totally convert. I still shop at bookstores. To justify my e-book purchases, I went to Books-a-Million recently and bought more physical books. I figured that would balance the scales. So far, I am sticking to e-books that are $3.99 or less. So if you're an author, publisher or publicist I will start accepting a limited amount of e-books. I'm just not a total convert to e-books. I still prefer physical books.

So now that 2011 is over how about a recap?

Highs and lows of 2011

Books: Faith by Jennifer Haigh and Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson were my favorites. Obviously some newspaper reviewers would disagree with me. Books that end up on the best of the year lists tend to be ones I've never heard of. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, 1Q84 (who came up with that title?) by Haruki Murakami, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell are just a few. I know there is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more.

Weather: If you live in the tri-state area, you had put up with A LOT OF SNOW.  It was just torture. One day it took me several hours to dig out my car. Our wonderful mayor, Mike Bloomberg, didn't see fit to have sanitation workers out plowing the snow. Perhaps if you shoveled every couple of hours it wouldn't have built up so much? No it makes much more sense to wait hours and hours after the snow has fallen and frozen to the ground before having it plowed. This dude even suggested New Yorkers to hit up Broadway and see a show. I swear I don't know what planet that man is from. It isn't Earth. But thanks to SNL we have this great skit...

Politics/News: Is it just me or is there a Republican debate every other day? What is there left for them to debate? Does the public like ketchup or mustard on their hot dog? I swear we aren't far off from a debate like that. And by the way it should be mustard!!

I'm totally disgusted by the Penn State scandal and all the others like it. To put a team above a child is 100% WRONG.

Entertainment/pop culture: I confess I saw the Royal Wedding. The day of the wedding I got up to go the bathroom and my mother was watching it. Hey curiosity got the best of me. Now, the other big "wedding" of the year....I've said it before and I'll say it again, I CAN'T STAND THE KARDASHIANS. A true mockery of marriage. What a family of media hounds. Everything for the almighty dollar. Mama Karsdashian is a true pimp. Everything that family does has to be photographed. But if not for Kim K's pending divorce we wouldn't have this gem....

Sports: The Cardinals won the World Series. Who saw that one coming?

I thought the Phillies had it locked up for sure. Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, how could the Phillies lose? And this is coming from a Mets fan. But obviously championships aren't won on paper.

The NBA went into a lockout. I didn't sympathize with either side. Sure I felt bad for rookies and fringe players, but for the most part this was a bunch of millionaires and billionaires fighting money. The NFL had a lockout, but they came to their sense before losing actual money.

Gone but not forgotten: On a serious note, many influential people passed in 2011. There are many, but here are the ones I remember (in no particular order). Elizabeth Taylor....

There are just a few Hollywood legends left. Some of today's "starlets" are just no competition.

Christopher Hitchens, Jane Russell, Mike Starr, Jeff Conway, Peter Falk, Amy Winehouse, Jani Lane, Nick Ashford, Andy Rooney, Patrice O'Neal, Steve Jobs, Andy Whitfield, Bubba Smith, Betty Ford,

Smokin' Joe Frazier (above)

Heavy D (above), and the wonderful Clarence Clemons....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My take on: Well With My Soul

I have been out of the blogging loop for a few days. I’m currently out of town, but I did finish another book.

I always enjoy a good family drama. There are so many layers to stories like that. Layers that I don’t think you can find in a fantasy book. Well With My Soul by Gregory G. Allen tackles the deep bond between brothers.

Jacob and Noah Garrett have lived most of their lives in a small Tennessee town, raised by their religious mother. Jacob is the favorite son. He gets whatever he wants. He can get away with whatever he wants. To his mother, Jacob can do no wrong. Despite his mother’s religious convictions, she has found a way to accept her son being gay. As long as he is in her house his “soul” is somehow protected. But Jacob wants more than a small-town life. He has dreams of being an actor. Dreams his mother would like to squash.

Noah wants more out of life, too. But more than anything he wants to be acknowledged. He wants his mother to notice all of the hard work he has done, rather than fawning over Jacob all the time. Noah has a deep resentment for Jacob, one that he can’t share because it would upset his mother. It only grows when Jacob and his partner Gary leave for New York. Jacob’s departure could be a chance for Noah to finally grow a little closer to his mother. But it’s not meant to be as his mother constantly compares him to Jacob. His brother is brought up in every conversation. Jacob is no longer there physically but his presence will always be felt. It seemed a little selfish to me to hold one child in higher esteem. You can never measure up if you’re constantly compared to someone else.

Jacob eventually makes it big as a model. But it comes at a price. He’s no longer the fun-loving guy that Gary fell in love with. In his place is a big JERK!!! Everyone should kiss his feet because he is a big-time model. Jacob succumbs to the pressures of drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. His next high is what’s important. Family and friendships take a backseat. When Jacob finally comes out of the clouds, he changes again. It wasn’t a change I was expecting. I don’t want to give too much away, but it didn’t seem like the transformation was for the better. Yes he gets off drugs and alcohol, but Jacob makes such drastic changes you begin to wonder is this the same character from the beginning of the book. His transformation still comes at a cost.

Noah finds his own inner peace. He won’t always agree with his brother, but deep down they love each other. Remembering the happier times in their childhood help ease the pain for Noah. I will say that this book is not for everyone. If detailed descriptions of sex, drugs, and alcohol make you a little squeamish, you should pass on this one. If not read it because it will teach you that change isn't always for the better.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My take on: The Moment

Our lives are made up of a series of moments. For some, one incident can make or break you. Will you come to regret a decision you only had a moment to make? Or will it be the best decision you ever made?

"Though you might think, at the time, that this "something" is rooted in an obvious need (sex, romance, or other variations on an amorous theme), the truth is: you won't understand what the true meaning of the moment was until long after it has been stored in that cluttered room we litter with memory." Pg. 25

In The Moment by Douglas Kennedy travel writer Thomas Nesbitt has struggled internally with a decision he made 20-plus years ago. In a moment, Thomas focused more on his own hurt rather waiting for an explanation. He has moved on and formed a life, but is it the life he could have had?

He is now a middle-age man with a daughter in college and a long-dead marriage. He's content to let the divorce proceedings begin while he is locked away in a cabin working on his next book. Thomas' heart belongs to his daughter and his books, everything else is secondary. Growing up with parents who constantly fought taught Thomas to find an escape. But a package from a long-lost love throws Thomas for a loop. Rather than open the package, Thomas chooses to read a long-buried manuscript. The meat of the book is one long look at Thomas' past in 1980s Germany. A time when the Berlin Wall, separating East and West Germany, still existed. Trust and honesty seemed hard to come by as long as that wall was there.

While in staying in West Germany, Thomas falls in love with a beautiful translator, Petra Dussman. While looking into a job lead, he sees Petra. In that brief moment, Thomas knows there is something about Petra. Is it attraction? Is it love? Whatever it is he has to explore it despite her surly demeanor. He is determined to crack that shell. This is where I have a little problem. Almost instantly they fall in love. They have deep conversations and long loving looks at each other. It's just too good to be true. I have never believed in love at first sight. It's like Thomas and Petra are living in the clouds. They're the only two people in the world. Before long they're living together with Thomas and his eccentric roommate Alastair, a flamboyant gay artist. Do they ask him if she can move in? Not really.

But their romance brings both characters back to life. Thomas finally believes he can have a loving future despite the example his parents set forth. Petra is finally forgetting about the torture she suffered in East Germany. On her former side of the wall, Petra is considered a traitor. Her son is taken from her. After a year of freedom on the West side of the wall, Petra truly feels free. With Thomas, a future is possible and less painful. But after all the time that is taken to build this romance, Douglas Kennedy totally flips it. I was starting to believe in their romance, and then I start to question everything. I can't tell you what he does because that would spoil the book for you!!

The first half of the book feels a little slow. There is so much build up to the moment when Thomas and Petra finally meet. Clocking in at 535 pages, I think the book could have been cut down as some chapters are a little wordy. The second half is where the action picks up. You want to keep turning the pages because there are some moments that will pull at your heartstrings.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy from the publisher (Atria) at the request of the author's publicist (Lucinda Literary) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My take on: Elizabeth and Hazel

"In May 1957 school administrators set out to find the black trailblazers: children who were simultaneously old enough to attend  to cut it Central, close enough to get there easily, smart enough to cut it academically, strong enough to survive the ordeal, mild enough to make no waves, and stoic enough not to fight back. And, collectively, scarce enough to minimize white objections." Pg. 26

On Sept. 4, 1957 nine black teenagers tried to enter Central High School, an all-white school that had been ordered to integrate following the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case. But it would be an exercise in futility. For one of those teenagers in particular, Elizabeth Eckford, it would be an extremely emotional day. Hazel Bryan made sure Elizabeth knew she wasn't wanted at Central. That moment is forever immortalized in a photograph by Will Counts. A photo that Hazel has worked her entire life to move away from. For Elizabeth, that day and all of her experiences at Central would be much harder to move on from.

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick not only breaks down that iconic photo, it also examines the culture of Little Rock, Arkansas, before and after that day.

Elizabeth always had her nose in a book. At the time, segregation was still in full-swing and Elizabeth longed to a person who was more than her circumstances. There were dreams of going college. But those dreams were derailed by her experiences at Central.

Hazel was very outgoing as a child. She liked to perform. She even played with black children as a child. Which makes me believe her behavior on Sept. 4 1957 was learned. I don't believe people just wake up one day and decide they're a racist or have some racist beliefs. It's a learned behavior. Her family didn't believe in integration. To them, white people should stay with white people. Black people should stay with black people.

Sept. 4 1957 was a special day for both girls. Elizabeth and her sister labored over her dress. She wanted to look good. Hazel also wanted to look good, she wore a rather tight and "classy" dress.

On that day, Elizabeth had to walk alone. The intention of organizers was to have all nine walk together, but Elizabeth's family didn't have a telephone, so she didn't get the message. Despite all the hateful words, Elizabeth showed extreme grace on that day. Hazel did not, forgetting about that day soon after. At the time, Hazel didn't believe she did anything wrong. It was just another day to Hazel.

Denied entry on that day, Elizabeth and the eight other students were eventually allowed in months later. All of them were subjected too hateful taunts and violence. But the worst treatment was saved for Elizabeth. If they could break the strongest of the bunch, then the rest would leave with her. Elizabeth came close to her breaking point several times, but continued to attend Central. Many prominent black figures, including Jackie Robinson, were in awe of these students.

It's hard to wrap my brain around this era. How can you treat another human being with such hate? Why? What do you gain from it? Hazel Bryan came to question her own past. She didn't want to be known as that girl in the photograph? A few years later, she sought out Elizabeth and apologized -- something the media overlooked for decades. Why? It was probably easier to have a hateful image of Hazel than a redemptive one.

While, Hazel eventually found happiness as a wife and mother, Elizabeth's life took a different turn. She struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and with being a single parent. All of it can be traced to her experiences at Central. There is so much detail in this book. I could go on and on, it's very well researched. What struck me the most is that decades later Hazel and Elizabeth were able to form a friendship. A friendship that both questioned. Is Hazel doing it to look good in the media? Why does it seem Hazel is only around at media events? Has Elizabeth truly forgiven Hazel? Even the media questioned the friendship. Given their history, how can they possible be friends?

This book paints a full picture of a pretty awful part of history. But it's a part of history that everyone should read. Please, please, please read this book!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from Authors on the Web in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best of 2011: Books

I've read a lot of books this year, some good and some bad. These are the books that stood out to me the most.

1. Faith by Jennifer Haigh: I loved this one. It's a take on the priest abuse scandals in Boston. It made me sad and mad at the same time. The main character didn't fight for himself as much as I thought he should.

2. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson: I seriously can't wait until this one is made into a movie. A woman wakes up every day not knowing who she is. Her husband is forced to remind her of her past. The ending is extremely creepy!!

3. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan: A dystopian society where "criminals" are branded by color. The woman in this book had an abortion and was branded red.

4. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones: Having a father who is a bigamist isn't what everyone dreams of. But that's what two girls are faced with in Silver Sparrow.

5. Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: I read several romance novels this year, but this one was my favorite. It was very addictive. At times, I was speedreading just to get to the next chapter.

6. Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart: Who knew a book about bugs could be so good? It's funny and informative.

7. Coming up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry: I love family dramas. The death of Ellie's mom forces Ellie to re-examine her life. 

8. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer: The ending for this one just wasn't fair. I believe this one is supposed to be a five-part series. I really can't wait for the next one.

Honorable mention: Jane Fonda by Patricia Bosworth (yes I'm still reading this one, but it is very well researched); Elizabeth and Hazel by David Margolick (ditto!!); Until there was You by Kristan Higgins (her books are awesome); Wherever you go by Joan Leegant (it's always good to learn about other cultures); and Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt (learning how to forgive isn't easy).

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

It's Monday, and I am officially unemployed. It's weird knowing that I don't have to get ready for work later. After seven years, I have to find a new career path. Until I do, I'm going to focus on my blog as much as possible. I've been reading some books for a long time, and my personal situation has something to do with that. Also, book reviews that had a set date, I had to put before others. My next reading choice, The Moment by Douglas Kennedy, has a set date (Friday). I have to get moving on that.

So, what's on that cover? When the book arrived I thought the cover was damaged. See those creases? I thought something was wrong with the book. But that's a snapshot of some woman on the cover. I'm not quite sure who she is. The book is told from the male perspective, so I'm wondering why put a woman on the cover? What does she want? Is she longing for someone? The paperback cover is so far removed from the hardcover....

This cover looks old. The paperback looks a little more modern, which is why I like it. What does everyone else think?

Friday, December 16, 2011

My take on: Airel

I tend to stick to the real world when it comes to the books I read. But occasionally, I will step outside my comfort zone. Angels and demons just aren't things I can relate to. When I said say yes to reading and reviewing Airel by Aaron Patterson and Christ White, I did it purely based on the cover.

In my opinion, the cover is quite striking. Is this a dark story? Romantic? After reading the book, it really captures the main character Airel. The girl on that cover is longing for something. What or whom is she longing for? I wanted to find out the answer to that question.

Airel is your typical teenager. She lives in the suburbs of Boise, Idaho with her parents. She has a talkative best friend Kim. But something is missing from her life. She didn't know what it was until she met Michael Alexander. For Airel, it was love at first sight. Why? The first time she saw him it was very briefly. How can you find love so quickly? That's the problem I have with some books. I can believe in an instant attraction, but love? Michael is fawning over everything about Airel. He says over and over how beautiful she is. Romantic to some, but I found it to be a little sappy. Despite my doubts, they do have some sweet moments. She worries about how she looks to  Michael. Is she pretty enough for him? Is she talking too much? Is she not talking enough. It doesn't matter because Michael loves the whole package.

But Airel's own body is fighting against her new found love. She often feels queasy. Like only a best friend can, Kim chimes in with her two cents, asking Airel if she was pregnant. Well there is no chance of that. But what is it? Could it be Michael? Just the sight of him makes Airel nervous.

The story shifts back and forth from present day to 1250 BC Arabia. My first thought was why? I was invested with Airel's story. Why are you taking me back to the past? How does this relate to Airel? Kreios has just lost his wife and is left to protect his infant daughter. Kreios is no ordinary man. He has special powers. He can fly. Kreios is after the Seer, who seems like he is out to destroy the world. Kreios' storyline seemed like it could be a book on its own. Why mix the past with the present? I didn't get why until the last 100 pages.

In the present day, Airel just wants to be a normal teen. But she realizes that isn't possible. She witnesses a murder and is convinced the murderer is after her. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Airel's body is going through some serious changes. She has the power to heal and read minds. Is this a gift or a curse? How can she use this? A mysterious man shows her the way. Is this what she wants or is it destiny?

"I always had to buy a book, even if I wasn't done with the one I was currently reading. I loved to read. I felt like the turn of each page echoed inside the world between the book's covers -- and each book had its own rules. There, within the mystique of that connection, was something special, and it was addictive." Pg. 161

In a figurative sense, Airel is writing her own book. How will it end? I can't tell you, but the book ended in a way I wasn't expecting. The ending is very action-filled, but not all of the questions are answered. It leaves you wanting more.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Stonehouse Ink) as part of a blog tour.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My take on: Wanna Get Lucky?

Don't let that suggestive title fool you, Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts is a murder mystery with a dash of romance.

Lucky O' Toole is the problem solver for the Babylon hotel -- a well-known hotel on the Vegas strip. No problem is too big or too small for Lucky, just as long as she has her trusty Nextel on her hip. Whether it's a naked man in the stair well or a frequent guest who hides wild animals in his room or the shenanigans when the annual sex trade show hits the hotel.

Lucky is witty and cool. She has always dealt with challenges head on. She left her mother's home at 15. She felt her mother Mona was more interested in running her whorehouse than raising a child. Little does she know Mona was looking after her the whole time. Lucky convinced the Big Boss to give her a low level job. Years later Lucky is at the top of her game as the head of customer relations. Her assistant Miss Patterson keeps everything in order. Her best friend Teddie is always there to help her wind down at the end of the day. But now Teddie wants to be more than just friends. Did I also mention that he makes a living dressing up as woman and headlining one of the best shows on the strip? She hasn't been lucky in love in the past. Will a romantic relationship spoil everything Lucky and Teddie have built?

Can a dead body slow Lucky's cool?  Especially one that feel out of a helicopter and landed in the lagoon. To Lucky, a dead body is just another little ripple in the water. She just has to figure out a way to minimize the damage to not just the hotel but the Big Boss. She doesn't believe Lyda Sue jumped from the helicopter. There is something bigger going on. Is the Big Boss in on it? He was in the helicopter.

Lucky seems to be more perceptive, sometimes a bit too much, than even the cops. She thinks two or three steps ahead. She gives tips to local reporters in exchange for a little patience. Paxton Dane, a new member of the security staff, is asking a lot of questions. Paxton seems to have an ulterior motive. Nothing he says rings true to Lucky. Is he out to bring down the Big Boss? Lucky will do anything for the Big Boss. She will protect him at all costs. He gave Lucky her first shot, she owes him a lot.

Watching Lucky break down the mystery is a fun ride, but I found her personal relationships way more interesting. How can a woman form a relationship with a man who makes a living dressing up as a woman? I initially thought Teddie was the token gay friend that a lot of women have. He helps Lucky with her wardrobe. That doesn't spell romantic relationship to me. But there is another side to Teddie, one that has a deep passion for Lucky. At the end of the day, Lucky and Teddie only want each other. Her mother is eccentric, but at the end of the day she wants the best for Lucky. Despite not knowing who her father is, he has been around in his own way. I loved finding about the inner workings of hotel management. Those people must have lots of patience. If you like mysteries, pick this one up because I intend to read and review the next adventure in the series (Lucky Stiff).

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author's publicist (FSB Associates) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's my Bookprint?

Scholastic has launched a new campaign. ONE MILLION BOOKPRINTS FOR ONE MILLION BOOKS, invites readers of all ages to create a “Bookprint” at the online community, You Are What You Read.  For every Bookprint created, Scholastic Book Clubs will donate a new book to a child in need (up to one million books).  Books will be distributed through the national school readiness initiative Reach Out and Read.

What’s a “Bookprint”?  The five books that most impact someone’s life comprise their Bookprint.  They can be children’s or adult books and Bookprints can change over time.  On the “You Are What You Read” website, more than 200 “Names You Know” from entertainers to authors to journalists and even two U.S. presidents have shared their Bookprints.  The donation launches with 20,000 books – one book for each of the 20,000 Bookprints created by users already on You Are What You Read.

The One Million Bookprints for One Million Books campaign is part of Scholastic Book Clubs annual ClassroomsCare program which helps teachers engage their students around the importance of reading and giving.  

So what's my Bookprint? Have a look....

Everyone is different, but I think any of these books, especially The Glass Castle, will make you appreciate what you have. 

Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.

Reach Out and Read builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning at 6 months of age. The more than 3.9 million children served annually by Reach Out and Read read together more often, and they enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed, with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills, and a six-month developmental edge over their peers.

Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses distribute more than 6.4 million books to children at 4,779 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics, and health centers in all 50 states, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities.

For more information on the Read Every Day campaign, visit
For more information about Scholastic, visit our Media Room at
So what is your Bookprint? Head over to You Are What You Read  and find out!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

The first time I saw the cover of Airel by Aaron Patterson and Chris White, I was pulled in. I was thinking, what is that book about? This is one of those times when I let the cover influence me. Is the girl on the cover an angel? I'm not sure yet. There is definitely something supernatural going on. Airel seems to have the power to heal herself. How I'm not sure yet. There seems to be two books going on at once. A review will be posted on Friday, stay tuned!!!

P.S.: The end of 2011 is fast approaching. Wow, where did the year go? Starting next week I hope to start my end of the year posts. Please come back for that. Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My take on: Poisoned Love

I must have missed the Snapped episode on Kristin Rossum. Whenever Oxygen airs a marathon, I'm right there. So it was quite easy for me to get sucked into Poisoned Love by Caitlin Rother.

The book opens with the death of Kristin Rossum's husband Greg de Villers. Before Rother even delves into the details of his death, I was suspicious of Kristin's "story." She alleges Greg must of have committed suicide. He was also covered in roses. Which sounded very strange. What guy is going to kill himself that way? He also didn't leave a note, while not extremely suspicious, but why be so dramatic and not leave a note? Plus the grieving widow was also a toxicologist. Hmmmmmm. No way she would know what can kill a person.

Rother then details how Kristin and Greg found each other. Kristin seemed to have it all. She came from an affluent family. It was also a family that seemed to obsessed with social standing and appearances, especially her mother. But in her late teens she went off the path. She became addicted to crystal meth, maybe that was her way to take some control away from her parents. I wondered if the details of her addiction were supposed to make readers feel sorry for Kristin? I tried to have sympathy for her, but I just couldn't. She just comes off as a spoiled brat. Her parents were no better. They were in such deep denial. They seemed to feel that an education and a career would fix everything. Those are certainly great goals, but they didn't solve Kristin's problems.

In addition to her meth addiction, she seemed to have an addiction to men also. She used a lot of men to get what she wanted. Whether it be housing, food, money or drugs she found a way to get it.

In the beginning, she used Greg. It wasn't love that drew Kristin to Greg. He had an apartment and she needed a place to live. But as the relationship grew, he helped her get off drugs -- something her parents were grateful for. Just before they got married Kristin tried to call off the wedding. If she did, her husband would still be alive.

She tried the marriage route for awhile, but Kristin was tempted once again. Not just by drugs, but also by another man. She had an affair with her boss Michael Robertson. An affair they didn't try to hide very well even after Greg's death. People who knew Greg refused to believe the suicide story, especially his brother Jerome. Greg was the type who didn't even like to aspirin. For him to commit suicide with, fentanyl -- a drug generally used in surgical settings and for cancer patients, didn't make sense. But it makes a lot of sense for a toxicologist for the Medical Examiner's Office with ample access to drugs could kill her husband. I don't understand people like this. Why is murder the answer? Why is divorce off the table? Is it really worth your freedom?

Overall, I must admit there is reasonable doubt. There is no proof that Kristin stole drugs from her office, but it's just too big of a coincidence. Most of the true crime books I've read have been by Ann Rule (Dead by Sunset, Small Sacrifices and If You Really Loved Me), so it's nice read another author's take on the genre. The book is very detailed. Kristin's side is told and Greg's side is told. Her parents talked a lot to the press, perhaps too much. Greg's family, especially his brother, refused to let the police give up. Fans of true crime should definitely pick this one up.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from (Pump up Your Book) as part of a blog tour

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Monday, What's on the cover?

I have always been fascinated by true crime stories. If there is a Snapped marathon, I'm usually watch it. I was glad to have the opportunity to read Poisoned Love by Caitlin Rother. The woman, Kristin Rossum, in this book killed her husband. From what I read so far, her initial story was a bunch of bull!!

Looking at the cover I wasn't sure what to make of it. It is striking. A rose falling into a splash of water. Can't be good right? Roses are normally a symbol of romance, but in this case not so much. Rossum's husband was found surround by roses, "allegedly" because he committed suicide. I already know the outcome of the case, but I'm curious what led up to the fatal moment. Look for a review to be posted on Friday.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My take on: Bunheads

Hannah Ward gave up her teenage years to pursue her dreams of being a ballet soloist. Is all the hard work worth it? Is it worth it to give up her social life? Is it worth it to live in a bubble? Those are the questions facing Hannah Ward in Bunheads by Sophie Flack.

Hannah's life is all about the ballet. All of her friends are members of the Manhattan Ballet company. Most of their discussions revolve around ballet. Should they eat? How much should they eat? If they do socialize it's mostly with people who know about the life? People outside of ballet are "pedestrians." Why would a ballerina want to socialize with a pedestrian? They wouldn't understand the time and dedication it takes. Hannah's friends, Bea and Zoe, understand what it takes. Zoe a little more so.

At times, Zoe seems more like and adversary than a friend. Zoe wants to be a soloist just as badly as Hannah. To me Zoe was a little cutthroat, she knows what words and actions can hurt. But Zoe can also be sweet. Welcoming Hannah and Bea into her home life. A life with an absentee mother.

Hannah's world is thrown for a loop when she meets Jacob, a handsome musician/college student. He can have a conversation that doesn't involve ballet. He likes to explore the city, something that's foreign to Hannah. For Hannah much of life doesn't exist too far outside of the Manhattan Ballet company. At just 19, life has passed her by. Jacob tries to change all of this. The few moments they have together are very sweet. You pull for Hannah to have a sense of normalcy. Hannah feels free on the dance floor, it's everywhere else that's a problem.

Finding time for Jacob proves difficult. Plans are constantly cancelled, phone calls are missed. Is this a relationship worth salvaging? Can she make him understand? She wants to be with him, but it's hard to be in two places at once.

The world of ballet is both fascinating and sad at times. Fascinating in the amount of work it takes for a ballet to come together. Those ballet shoes also seem to take a beating before they even make it on a pair of feet. Sad because of the weight issues that surround the ballet world. Hannah is told to lose weight simply because her body is going through normal changes. She develops breasts like all normal women, but instead of embracing her curves Hannah starts to hate them. A boyish figure is ideal for someone in Hannah's position.

There is no right or wrong answer to Hannah's problems. Either way there is some happiness out there. Choosing Jacob means she can finally have a life. Choosing ballet means she can eventually achieve her dream. Hannah just has to find her own path to it. If you're interested in another way of life, pick up this one.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Little Brown, and Company) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My take on: Food Rules

After reading Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan I will never look at a bowl of cereal the same way. Why is this? It has to do with rule No. 39, "Don't Eat Breakfast Cereals That Change the Color of the Milk." Come on who of us is thinking that when we're eating in the morning? Most of the time when we eat breakfast, we're in a hurry. Who has time to take examine their food? But I have to admit, this book is full of a lot of common sense. Perhaps if we follow just a few of these rules, society would be much healthier. This new edition of the book comes with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman.

"Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."


Sounds like good advice, but just a  few days ago I ate roasted turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, yams, cranberry sauce, quiche, peas and rice, banana pudding, blueberry pie and...I'm probably forgetting something. I'll probably have to wait until after the holidays to follow any of these rules.

The book is a short and practical guide on how to eat. Eat mostly plants and vegetables. Cook the food yourself because you're in control of the salt and pepper in the food. If you cook, you're also less likely to put riboflavin or niacin in your food. What are those things? I have no idea, but I see those ingredients in a lot of things. Ever look at what goes into a twinkie? It's not pretty.

Rule No. 26, "Treat Meat as a Flavoring or Special Occasion Food." I'm in trouble because it's a special occasion for me five days out of seven when it comes to meat. How about I change that to "beef" instead of "meat?" I haven't eaten beef in nearly eight years it's pretty easy for me to treat that as a "special occasion food."

Rule No. 7, "Avoid Food Products Containing Ingredients That a Third-Grader Cannot Pronounce." Does this mean I'm not smarter than a third-grader? I decided to take a look at the ingredients on this package of Little Debbie Donut Sticks (I just happened to be eating one). "Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Mono- and Diglycerides)" Baking Soda, Ok. Sodium Acid P - R - O - P...Oh I give up. I have no idea what those last couple of things are. I guess Donut Sticks are off the list, but they taste so good.

I could go on forever. This is so much good stuff in this book. If you've got a couple of hours, sit down and read it.

Rating: O.M.G!!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Penguin) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

The woman on that cover looks happy and ready to have a picnic in the park. Not someone about to dish out rules on eating and cooking. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan is making me think differently about food. This new edition of the book comes with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman. I won't go into full details today because a review will be posted on Thursday. But one rule that sticks out at me is, "Don't eat cereals that change the color of the milk." Darn!!! I used to like Froot Loops as a kid. Now, I like Special K Red Berries. The strawberries in that cereal change the color of the milk!! But at one time those strawberries were fresh so it's Ok right? Who knows. In the meantime take a look at this....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where have I been lately?

Normally, this blog is all about books and book-related content. But today I feel I have to get something off my chest. I'm going to unload a little personal information right now. I haven't posted in a while? If you look at that picture, I think you can guess why. If blogging could be my full-time job, I would be the happiest person alive. Who knows maybe it will one day. But presently my mind has been running a mile a minute with life issues. I was laid off from my job, and I've been left wondering what next?

I have three more weeks before my last day. After the initial shock, I'm Ok with it. In the short term, it's a problem. How am I going to pay bills? I need new glasses, how am I going to pay for those? Christmas is coming, how am I going to afford gifts? How long does unemployment last? That last part is weighing on my mind the most. I don't know much about the unemployment world. It's uncharted territory for me. Given the economy, I'm not sure what the future holds.

Reading books and writing about them on my blog has always been a happy experience for me. The past week, reading and writing hasn't been my top priority. I'm trying to get my stuff in order before my last day.

Don't worry authors and publicists, all reviews that were arranged with a set date will be honored. Book reviews without a set date will be posted, but it just might take me a little while.

Hopefully, 2012 will start off better than 2011 is ending!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

Agatha Christie looks a little crowded in that picture, don't you think? Did you know she wrote 87 novels? I sure didn't. No wonder she looks so haggard in that shot. I don't know much about her. I am fascinated by the imagination she had. I know about Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. I'm ashamed to admit, I've never read any of her books. I have seen three of the movies based on her books (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun), and that's it. Now thanks to HarperCollins, I can learn a little more. But this is a little long, so a review will probably be posted next month (fingers crossed).

I can tell Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick will be powerful. In 1957, a young girl named Elizabeth was just trying to enter school when she was accosted by racial epithets for another young woman named Hazel. Now, decades later the two women have reconciled. I had never heard of this story, so it's always great to learn new things.

Yes, I have started several books. Most of them non-fiction, but I need a little escapism, too. Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts is a mystery novel. I love mysteries. Look a little deeper and you can see Sin City in the background. A lot goes down in Vegas. The title is very suggestive, but the main character's name is Lucky.

 Ballerinas, what do I know about them? Absolutely nothing. I used to take ballet, but I hardly remember anything about it. Bunheads by Sophie Flack is about a young girl trying to rise in the ranks. I'm not sure what to make of the cover. The girls all seem very united, but the book tells another story. In the meantime how about a little background on the book from Sophie Flack...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My take on: When She Woke

Look, I finished a book!! I know it took me two months to finish When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, but that's not because the book was boring. The book was great, it's just that my reading pace goes in peaks and valleys. Sometimes, I tend to put some books ahead of others. This didn't have a set date, so it kind of fell off to the side. I read the first 60 pages, then I kind of stalled for a little bit.

When I finally read the last 270+ pages, I found that this book was awesome.

Hannah Payne is red. She woke up with red skin, after committing a crime against society and God. What was her crime? She had an abortion. She refused to name the father or the abortionist. Hannah went against everything she was taught. She fell in love, and had sex outside of marriage. Worst of all she fell in love with charismatic pastor Aidan Dale, who also happens to be married.

In this dystopian society, God is the center of everything. You're not supposed to question things. The path is marriage, children, and devoting your lives to God. Hannah's parents followed that path, and so did Hannah's sister Becca. Only Hannah wishes Becca would get away from her abusive husband Cole. Hannah wants more out of life than being the dutiful daughter. She rebels in her own way. Hannah wears flashy dresses in secret. Her relationship with Aidan is Hannah's biggest act of defiance. She followed her heart rather that what was expected of her. Female authority and sexuality is taboo in this society. Pregnancy brings all her of her secrets and fears out in the open.

Her punishment for abortion is 16 years as a Red. A process called chroming. Although I never read The Scarlett Letter, that's what Hannah's punishment will remind you of. She's branded in the worst way. Forced to live and face her crime every day she looks in the mirror. The place where it's done is reminiscent of a torture chamber. Hannah is isolated in a white room and left to her thoughts. Left to wonder was it all worth it? How long can she live like this? Will her family forgive her? Will others accept her?

Hannah struggles when she is back in society. Her father and Aidan find a church program that will accept her. That place was more about humiliation and submission than redemption. This point in the book reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Women forced to live by certain set of rules, if you don't then you're cast out. The only saving grace of this place is that Hannah finds a friend in Kayla, another Red like her. There reaches a point when neither can take the humiliation anymore. Their odyssey together is not without its struggles. Kayla makes Hannah realize the huge bubble she had lived in. Kayla is more "worldly," she knows about music and pop culture. Hannah is finally realizing it's time to go against everything she's been taught. They begin to wonder if a path together is right or wrong. What does the future hold? Does fear help?

"She'd been taught that free will was an illusion; that God had a plan for her and for everyone, a pre-mapped destiny. But if that were true, then He'd meant for her to get pregnant and have an abortion, to be chromed, to be despised and humiliated, kidnapped and almost raped. She saw suddenly that this was at the core of her loss of faith: a reluctance to believe in a God who was that indifferent or that cruel." Pg. 320-321

What I got out of the book overall is that once you let go of all the fear and propaganda, you can truly be free. It's disturbing to think that someone could be branded simply for having an abortion. Of course it sounds like an excellent idea for murderers and pedophiles, but once you start that where is the line drawn? This is a unique and interesting read, pick it up!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin Books) in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: The Cobwebs are forming

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish. This week's list is right up my alley. What are the top 10 book that have been on my shelf for the longest time? This could easily be the top 100 books on my shelf that are sporting cobwebs. I have sooooooooo many books that I want to read, but there just aren't enough hours in the day.

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Ok, I know this is seven books, but an exception has to be made. I ordered the hardcover boxset nearly a year ago. I have long felt like I was out of the loop when it comes to Harry Potter ... and I still feel out of the loop. The books and the fancy box it came in are collecting dust in my closet. I have no idea when I'm going to get to them. The day will come.

2. Room by Emma Donoghue: I know this one is rather lonesome. I bought this book and a couple others as a birthday present to myself. It's about a mother who has managed to create a world for her 5-year-old son Jack in one room. I ordered it as soon as I could, but I have never cracked the spine. The book looks brand new.

3. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult: I went to her book signing earlier this year. I did read the first 60 pages while I waited for the start. I managed to read the first 60 pages, but the book signing was in March and I haven't been back to the book since. I'm a huge fan, and I will get to it.

4. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin: I went to her reading at BookExpo America and it was heavily hyped at another panel at BEA. The story sounds awesome. A girl who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who she is and has to glue the pieces of her past back together.

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: This was another heavily hyped book at BEA. I made sure to get on the line early for a copy of her book. But BEA was in May, and it's now the middle of November. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

6. Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: When the last book came out I saw a flurry of talk about it on Twitter. Just like with Harry Potter, I felt out of the loop. See #2, this set of books was also apart of that order from SEPTEMBER of 2010!!

7. Annabel by Kathleen Winter: I saw a review of this one on another blog. I was intrigued. A young boy is raised male despite being born with female genitalia. It takes place during the late 1960s. It sounds like a great book. I believe I bought it last April when a Long Island Borders went out of business. I got it on sale, so that was the great part.

8. Delirium by Lauren Oliver: I loved Before I Fall. I bought Delirium without even knowing what the book was about. I got another copy at BEA, which she signed.

9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I had no idea this was a YA book until I found it in the YA section.

10. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson: Seriously, this list could go on. I love Joshilyn Jackson's books. They are full of Southern sassy humor. I'm sure this one is no different.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My take on: Chosen

I was a little torn with Chosen by Chandra Hoffman. I was all set to say this was an awesome book, but then I got to the last 20 pages. The way the author chose to end it threw me for a little loop. The topic was certainly interesting -- infertility, adoption and what makes a family.

Chloe Pinter is a hardworking caseworker. She has the tough task of managing birth parents and adoptive families. It's something I don't think I could ever do. How do you convince someone to give up their child without coming off as insensitive? How do you reassure the adoptive families that everything will work out? To me she's a psychiatrist without the large salary. Chloe is in a relationship, but isn't sure of where it's going. And now Chloe has work her cut out for her with her latest case.

Francie and John McAdoo have been through it all, fertility treatments and a long drawn out adoption process. Their friends, Paul and Eva Nova know how they feel. The Novas were all set to adopt before the birth mother changed her mind. But with Eva ready to give birth, the Novas have a sense of security that the McAdoos don't. This baby is theirs, no one can take him away. The Novas know their is light at the end of the tunnel. But a case of mistaken identity nearly ends in disaster for them.

Francie came off as a little wackadoo!! She wants a family more than her husband. John is older and has had children, another child isn't a priority. Francie isn't missing the signs, she just doesn't want everyone else to notice -- especially Chloe. Francie has also built an entire world for herself on the adoption message boards. She's like the Queen Bee.

Penny and Jason have chosen the McAdoos for their son, but their reasoning isn't without ulterior motives. The give the baby up, but feel their has to be something more in it for them. What about money? Who is going to pull them out of poverty? Jason is an ex-con, how can he get a job? They deserve a better apartment too. In their world, the McAdoos and Chloe owe everything to Penny and Jason. The McAdoos represent everything that Penny and Jason are not. The McAdoos are intelligent, they have money, a house and a car. While Jason and Penny are left to their own demons.

This one is definitely a page-turner. If you're a new parent or you're thinking of adoption, you might want to skip this one. This book will pull at your heartstrings. It's not all sunshine and roses on both sides of the coin. Eva and Paul finally have the baby that they want, but is this what they truly want? You can get wrapped up in the dream and forget about the all the hard work that comes with it. Paul is overtaxed at home and work. He looks for an escape in the wrong direction. Eva is so tired she starts to forget things. The McAdoos have the baby, but not the sense of family that Francie was searching for. At first Penny seems like a grieving mother, but she turns evil very quickly. Jason could care less one way or the other as long as he gets some money out of the situation.

Hoffman knocks it out of the park on the high and lows of the birth/adoption process. Now, towards the end is where she lost me a little bit. Each chapter is told from the point of view of the main characters, a style that I like. But the resolution to the story is told from an anonymous character, which left me a little confused. Why take this way out? I have an idea who the character is, but perhaps I'm wrong. You have to read it to know what I'm talking about. But as a debut novel, this one is worth checking out.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours