Book Review

Book Review: The Road Home by Kathleen Shoops

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Title: The Road Home
Author: Kathleen Shoop
Published: June, 2015

Find your way home…

1891—Living separately for three years, fourteen-year-old twins, Katherine and Tommy Arthur, have done their best to make each boarding house feel like home. But unrest grows as they are driven to questionable actions just to survive. Meanwhile their desperate mother is confronted with breaking yet another promise to her children. Then a miracle descends. Hope rises on a cold, rainy night and changes everything. If Jeanie could just get word to Katherine and Tommy, she knows she can set their lives right again. Agitators, angels, and dangerous “saviors” illuminate the Arthurs’ unmatched determination and smarts.

1905—Though she tries to forget the awful years that hurt so much, the memories still haunt Katherine. Now, tearful mourners at her mother’s funeral force her to revisit a time in her life that both harmed and saved her in the most unexpected ways. Tommy grieves his mother’s passing as well. He too is thrust backward, compelled to rediscover the events in his life that shaped the man he has become. Will he commit to reconstructing his broken life? The Arthurs come to understand that forgiveness is the only way back to hope, the only way to find all that was good in the misfortune that transformed their lives forever.

About the Author:

I have a PhD in Reading Education and have worked in schools for over twenty years. I work with teachers and their students in grades k-8 and am lucky to learn something new from them every time I walk through their doors. This experience was a huge help in writing LOVE AND OTHER SUBJECTS–a quirky, post-college coming of age story with a splash of fun romance.

My first novel, The Last Letter (2011 IPPY Gold Medal–Regional Fiction, Midwest, 2011 Indie Excellence Finalist Award for Historical Fiction and Regional Fiction, 2011 International Book Awards Finalist for Historical Fiction and Best New Fiction), was a fascinating trip through history, punctuated with fictional characters and events. The idea for the story grew from my great-great grandmother’s letters (see My Dear Frank for the complete set of letters!) written during the year of her engagement to Frank Arthur. The beautiful letters are the inspiration for the novel, the seed from which The Last Letter’s characters and their voices grew.

I’ve also written women’s fiction–LOVE AND OTHER SUBJECTS– and have written another historical fiction novel, AFTER THE FOG, set in 1948 in Donora, PA. AFTER THE FOG is also an award winning book–A finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards, a silver IPPY and WINNER in the literary category of the National Indie Excellence Awards.

I adore writing historical fiction (The Letter series, After the Fog) but am having a blast writing romance like Home Again and Return to Love (Endless Love series) Thank you so much for the time you take to read.

My Review:

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Audio Book Review: I’m in No Mood for Love by Rachel Gibson

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Title: I’m in No Mood for Love (Unabridged)
Series: The Writer Friends (Book 2)
Written by: Rachel Gibson
Narrated by : Kathleen Early
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Pub Date: 8/4/2015
Length: 8 hrs and 36 mins

Synopsis from Goodreads.com:

What is Clare Wingate doing? One minute she’s suffering in a pretty-in-pink gown she’ll never wear again, and the next thing she knows it’s morning…and she has the nastiest hangover of her life.

To make matters worse, she’s wearing nothing but a spritz of Escada and lying next to Sebastian Vaughan…her girlhood crush turned sexy, globe-hopping journalist. Somewhere between the toast and the toss of the bouquet she’d gotten herself into a whole lot of trouble.

Clare had the right to go wild – after all, she’d been knocked off her dyed-to-match shoes after finding her own fiance in a compromising position with the washing machine repairman. Clearly her society wedding is off.

But Sebastian pushed all the wrong buttons – and some of the right ones, too. Clare is in no mood for love – not even for lust – and wants to forget about Sebastian and his six-pack abs ASAP. But he isn’t in the mood to go away, and his kiss is impossible to forget.

My Review:

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Book Review: Just The Facts by Ellen Sherman

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Title: Just the Facts
Author: Ellen Sherman
ISBN: 978-1-63152-993-1
Publisher: She Writes/BookSparks
Pub Date: Sept, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads.com:

When English major Nora Plowright finds herself staring at college graduation as if at the edge of a cliff, she decides to become a newspaper reporter—and right away, she manages to get a job at a local paper (which you could still do in 1978). Although fearful by nature, Nora pursues a tip from a stranger and soon is investigating corruption at the Maryland State Highway Authority regarding the controversial placement of a major freeway. The developing scandal, with its shady “players,” tests both her budding reportorial skills and her appetite for danger. Also, her passion for storytelling makes it increasingly difficult for her to stick to the facts.

Honest and humorous, Just the Facts is a coming-of-age novel about finding one’s way in the real world that will resonate with anyone who has struggled with figuring out what to do when she or he grows up.

My Review:

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Book Review: The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

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Title: The Knockoff: a novel
Authors: Lucy Skykes and Jo Piazza
Publisher: Doubleday
ebook ISBN: 978-0-385-53958-6 (Hardcover)
Pages: 310

Description From NetGalley.com:

An outrageously stylish, wickedly funny novel of fashion in the digital age, The Knockoff is the story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twenty-something former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app.

When Imogen returns to work at Glossy after six months away, she can barely recognize her own magazine. Eve, fresh out of Harvard Business School, has fired “the gray hairs,” put the managing editor in a supply closet, stopped using the landlines, and hired a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings. Imogen, darling of the fashion world, may have Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but she can’t tell Facebook from Foursquare and once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days. Under Eve’s reign,Glossy is rapidly becoming a digital sweatshop—hackathons rage all night, girls who sleep get fired, and “fun” means mandatory, company-wide coordinated dances to Beyoncé. Wildly out of her depth, Imogen faces a choice—pack up her Smythson notebooks and quit, or channel her inner geek and take on Eve to save both the magazine and her career. A glittering, uproarious, sharply drawn story filled with thinly veiled fashion personalities, The Knockoff is an insider’s look at the ever-changing world of fashion and a fabulous romp for our Internet-addicted age.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Book Review: Modern Manners Tools to Take You to the Top by Dorothea Johnson and Liv Tyler

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When I say Liv Tyler, most people would recognize I am talking about the actress who portrayed Arwen undomiel in The Lord of the Rings but do they know she also has an etiquette expert grandmother, Dorothea Johnson.  Liv and her grandmother have come together to write an amazing manners reference book recently.

The book is divided by six major contents: Meetings & Greetings, On the Job, Electronic Communications, Out and About, Dining Skills and The savvy Host.  It covers from the most basic handshake, interview, on the job, party to table manners.  At the end of each major topic, there are two list to summarize the topic: the DO and DON’T lists.  Other the cute cover picture, the one thing I like most about this manners book is the funny little side stories or facts.  I actually laughed out loud several times.

Etiquette can be very subjective due to culture, region even within the states, generation.   There is no 100% right answer to any rules but there is definitely some big NO NOs one should never do whether in a formal or causal setting.  There is one rule I disagree with authors; turn your chopsticks around and use the handle ends to pick up your potions from a communal platter.  I think a better way to do it is to ask for an extra pair of chopsticks, most Asian restaurants provide communal chopsticks without asking now a day so asking should not be a problem.  The reason why I don’t like to turn the chopsticks to pick up food is because some people like to hold their chopsticks higher (there is nothing wrong with that).  If that person were to use the other end to pick up food, it is like using his/her hands on the communal platter.

I would recommend this book to everyone especially young adults who are looking or just started their careers.

4 out of 5 Stars

Received a free copy through Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: A memoir of the End of the War and Beginning of Peace by Tei Fujiwara

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Synopsis from the back cover:

Almost seventy years ago, in a nation devastated by World War II,  Tei Fujiwara wrote her memoir 流れる星は生きている (Nagareru Hoshiwa Ikiteiru) about her harrowing journey home with her three young children. But the story of her story is what every reader needs to know.
Tei’s memoir begins in August 1945 in Manchuria. At that time, Tei and her family fled from the invading Soviets who declared war on Japan a few days after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After reaching her home in Japan, Tei wrote what she thought would be a last testament to her young children, who wouldn’t remember their journey and who might be comforted by their mother’s words as they faced an unknown future in post-war Japan.
But several miracles took place after she wrote the memoir. Tei survived and her memoir, originally published in Showa Era 24 [1949] became a best seller in a country still in ruins. Over the following decades, millions of Japanese became familiar with her story through forty-six print runs, the movie version, and a television drama. To understand the war experience, Empress Michiko urged young Japanese to read Tei’s story.
Now English readers will have the chance to read her amazing story of survival and hope, and understand how she influenced an entire generation and a nation
Tei Fujiwwara was born in Japan in 1918 and moved with her family to Manchuria, China in 1943.  As of the printing of this English translation, she is 96 years old and living in a senior home in Tokyo, Japan.

My Review: (more…)

Book Review: I Take You: A Novel by Eliza Kennedy

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Synopsis from Goodreads.com:

Brilliantly executed and endlessly funny, this page-turning debut showcases one of the most winning, irrepressible voices since Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones.
“I’m getting married.”
“He’s perfect!”
“It’s a disaster.”
Meet Lily Wilder–New Yorker, lawyer and the luckiest woman in the world. She has a dream job, friends who adore her, a family full of charismatic and loving women, and a total catch of a fiance.
Also? She has “no” business getting married.
Lily’s fiance Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist. Lily is sassy, impulsive, fond of a good drink (or five) and completely incapable of being faithful to just one man. Lily likes Will, but does she love him? Will loves Lily, but does he really know her? As the wedding approaches, Lily’s nights–and mornings, and afternoons–of booze, laughter and questionable decisions become a growing reminder that the happiest day of her life might turn out to be her worst mistake yet.
“Bridget Jones’s Diary” meets “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” in this joyous and ribald debut, introducing a fabulously self-assured protagonist whose choices raise fresh questions about gender politics, monogamy and the true meaning of fidelity.

My Review: (more…)

Book Review: Bread Revolution by Peter Reinhart

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This bread book goes against the norms of normal bread baking books.  Standard flour will not cut it for the majority of recipes.  I found myself utilizing the internet to provide the required types of grain, which sadly increased the cost of my at home experiments.  Darn those boring normal grocery stores all around me.

Furthermore, I am no expert baker or even a novice bake at that.  All this seemed to quite intimidating to me at first: creating yeast culture from scratch, sprouting wheat berries, and let’s not forget the long prep times to get everything ready.  However, the book handles this well, and managed to keep me from feeling a little in over my head.  It provides a list of useful toots, some history and most thankfully a tutorial of everything you will need to know to perform the recipes.  This was enough to allow me to produce rather edible concoctions.  With more time and experience, I will probably get better at it since this is an art form after all.

The numerous recipes are easy to follow, and most included additional variations as well.  The explanations in the tutorial cover the thought process of the author, which I found really helpful as a newbie bread maker.  This images of the recipes were quite lovely, however I had little luck achieving the same glamour; maybe with time.  One strange aspect about this cook book is the fact it was rather enjoyable to read.

4 out of 5 stars

Review by P.S.

Received a free copy through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – Beijing Bastard by Val Wang

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Synopsis from back book cover:

A humorous and moving coming-of-age story that brings a unique, not-quite-outsider’s perspective to China’s shift from ancient empire to modern superpower

Raised in a strict Chinese-American household in the suburbs, Val Wang dutifully got good grades, took piano lessons, and performed in a Chinese dance troupe—until she shaved her head and became a leftist, the stuff of many teenage rebellions. But Val’s true mutiny was when she moved to China, the land her parents had fled before the Communist takeover in 1949.

Val arrives in Beijing in 1998 expecting to find freedom but instead lives in the old city with her traditional relatives, who wake her at dawn with the sound of a state-run television program playing next to her cot, make a running joke of how much she eats, and monitor her every move. But outside, she soon discovers a city rebelling against its roots just as she is, struggling too to find a new, modern identity. Rickshaws make way for taxicabs, skyscrapers replace hutong courtyard houses, and Beijing prepares to make its debut on the world stage with the 2008 Olympics. And in the gritty outskirts of the city where she moves, a thriving avant-garde subculture is making art out of the chaos. Val plunges into the city’s dizzying culture and nightlife and begins shooting a documentary, about a Peking Opera family who is witnessing the death of their traditional art.

Brilliantly observed and winningly told, Beijing Bastard is a compelling story of a young woman finding her place in the world and of China, as its ancient past gives way to a dazzling but uncertain future.

My Review: (more…)

Book Review: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose your Own Autobiography

This is one of the first choose your own adventure style of books I have ever read, and I was not disappointed.  Although I do not know much about Neil Patrick Harris, I found this genre matched perfectly with some of the characters he has portrayed over the years.  If you are familiar with Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother) or his on screen version of himself (Harold & Kumar), you will find yourself at home with his writing style.  Much of this book reads like a weird challenge concocted by Barney himself.

 The book takes the absurd approach of letting you be NPH.  You will attempt to take a journey through his life from freshly born baby, child actor, and adult acting career to family man.  There are even random pages dedicated to mixed drinks, and magic tricks.  Maybe there is even a super secrete hidden page, but that is for you to find out.  Although there are many fun and silly moments throughout this autobiography, NPH does cover serious topics in his life such as his sexual orientation or his struggles to escape his childhood character Doogie Howser.

 All in all this autobiography gives you a glimpse of the man behind the characters he plays.  Although sometimes the real NPH is hard to decipher from the character that is NPH, this is one of the more creative and enjoyable autobiographies you will probably ever read.

Reviewed by my boyfriend