Friday, January 31, 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

I haven't suffered this much emotional trauma from a book since I read John Green's "The Fault in our Stars." I bawled (the ugly, sobbing, gut wrenching kind of tears that hurt your face) and cried onto my terrified cat until she was able to squirm her now wet, furry body out of my ninja grip. It was awful, and by awful I mean you should read this book no matter what the emotional toll!!

I don't want to give any of this book away so I'm going to be vague here.  Just know this, this book won't just break your heart, it will rip out your beating heart and won't give it back. "We are all Completely Beside Ourselves" explores what truly makes a family a family. Even an "unconventional" family such as the one in this book has a place in the world and author Karen Joy Fowler sheds light on just how far love can go. Sisters Rosemary and Fern demonstrate that love can overcome any barrier, even language.

All that being said, this is not a love story, or a happy family story. This is a dark, probing story that will have you questioning things you may have never pondered, but... in a good way.

A must read for all, especially fans of animals or Jane Goodall.

Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride

This year I have the honor of being in TWO weddings! I have some very lucky lady friends and am delighted in helping them plan their dream weddings. One of my favorite parts of being a bridesmaid is planning the bachelorette party. Nothing says I love you like getting your best friends inebriated and covered in plastic penises :)

However, these two ladies are what you would call, classy, as in way classier than me, and have requested penis free bachelorette parties (no fun, I know, but I aim to please). Although they are months away (May and November) I figured I had better get a move on. My pinterest boards are coming along nicely and I'm starting to look at party favors. So far the online winners appear to be and

Both bachelorette parties have different themes (one is nautical and the other is ladies night out at the casino) so I have to acquire different types of gifts. Thankfully the bachelorette superstore has everything I need in one place. They have all the naughty funny gifts that I wish I could buy (penis candy, handcuffs, etc.) as well as classy gifts that I'll actually be able to use (martini glasses, drink charms, etc.). And for once it's actually affordable!

I plan on making little kits for all the ladies in attendance at each party and now I know where I'll be getting the party favors to fill the kits from! Stay tuned and I'll post the pictures in a few months!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Whistling Past the Graveyard

This book was adorable!! If you are a fan of "The Help" or "The Secret Life of Bees" then this is the book for you!!! Susan Crandall vividly brings to life the most remarkable, yet relate-able characters I've read in a long while.

Set in 1963 Mississippi, young, naive Starla runs away from her strict grandmother and heads to Nashville to reconnect with her mother whom she hasn't seen since she was young. Daddy's off working on an oil rig so Starla is set on finding and living with her momma, a famous singer by the name of Lulu.

Starla doesn't think through her runaway plan and is soon rescued from the sweltering heat by Eula, a nice black woman who is caring for a white baby. Together the three of them go on a journey that will radically change their lives and make them stronger than they ever thought possible.

The story is beautifully told through Starla's eyes and really helps illustrate the "separate but equal" unjustices that were plaguing the south. Starla comes to understand how unfair and unequal things are by traveling with Eula and her perception of the world is forever altered.

It's a beautiful story! I highly recommend!

For fans of historical fiction and southern literature.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


So... I initially picked up this book so I could stare at Joe Manganiello's amazingly ripped body. The full paged glossy photos of Joe shirtless had me hooked! But I will admit.. I actually found myself reading this! And it was fantastic!

Even though it is a workout book and lifestyle guide it reads really well. Not only does Joe have a great body and a killer acting career, he's a talented writer as well! He has a very no nonsense guide to changing your life, one workout and meal at a time. The biggest thing he stresses is the mental aspect. You can't give it your hardest, because that implies your body has a limit, you have to go way past that to achieve great results. Mental blocks are the biggest obstacle that you have to overcome. Once you can break past that barrier you can implement this heavy duty routine and dietary change to transform into a beast!

The first part of the book is a little bit of Joe's personal journey to becoming the king of fitness, then he follows it with a lot of motivation, then he launches into changing your diet, and a starting guide to weight lifting. At the end of the book he breaks down each move so that starting gym rats can learn techniques and even bona fida muscle men can perfect or improve theirs.

Overall, a fantastic book (not just for the crazy sexy photos) and I most definitely plan on buying my own copy!

PS it's not really geared toward women (which is understandable) but it can be easily adapted to meet the needs of novice female body builders.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Wow, all I can say is... what a stone cold bitch! Serena is like a magestic, powerful panther that will gobble you up first chance she gets! I can hardly imagine how Jennifer Lawrence is going to play such a vile and twisted woman later this year on the big screen, so obviously I'll have to go see the movie version as well.

This award winning novel takes place in the North Carolina mountains amidst the Great Depression and follows newlyweds Serena and George Pemberton as they build focus on building and improving their timber empire in the mountains. Serena has decided that nothing or no one will get in their way, she is a resourceful woman and all men lay in awe of her, even her husband. When she discovers that she can bear no children she decides that if she can't have an heir then neither can her husband and she uses her one handed servant to track down and kill the illegitimate son that George sired before they had met.

This is a dark and twisting tale that explores just how deep greed and lust can go. Violence ensues.

Great book, but not a light read.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Monuments Men

This book was super intriguing! I love learning about aspects of history that are overlooked or simply forgotten and this is a prime example of WWII material that was left out of most text books!

Robert Edsel sets the stage with an odd assortment of characters, a bunch of middle aged museum curators and art officials who have been assembled to become the Monuments Men, destined to save European art from nototiously bad looting Nazis during the second World War. They quickly discover that no one is in charge there is no budget, no supplies, few men, and a nearly impossible task to complete. It's chaos. But amidst all their hardships they work together to carry out one of the most amazing and under appreciated jobs in the war, saving priceless artifacts, artworks, archives, and monuments, from destruction, not only from the Germans but from the Allies as well.

The story is amazing, finding Rembrandts and Vermeers hidden in mines, thousands of works of art hidden in railcars, saving historic cities from Allied bombbings and more. It's just incredible. The monuments men saw and cared for more priceless works of art than most people even see or hear of in a lifetime of museum visits. They rescued and discovered works that most curators and art afficiandos would sell their souls to see.

It's an amazing story and I can't wait to see the movie version coming out this spring. My only complaint is that the story wasn't the most fluid reading ever. It was good, but lagged in the beginning and then some parts were confusing or overexplained. Still worth a read though!

Monday, January 20, 2014


Holy crap batman, this was one hell of a biography! Seriously, so good. This is hands down the best biography of a WWII soldier I have ever read. This heartbreaking and powerful odyssey will have turning pages faster than a torpedo. I dare you not to be completely hooked after page one!

This biography of Louis Zamperini is almost unbelievable. How a man could survive against such odds is astounding. Zamperini, a star athlete and Olympic runner, was flying in a B-24 when it crashed in the ocean and and killed all but three men. They starved, fried and languished in two lifeboats for a month and a half (a record at that time) eventually losing one man and finally getting rescued... by the Japanese. They thought starving on the sea was bad, but they soon learned that what the Japanese soldiers had in store for them was much worse. For years they suffered in horrific POW camps; getting beaten, degraded, starved, and killed. Louis and the surviving pilot were both declared dead by the US government after being missing for thirteen months. Their story of survival against such odds is truly inspiring.

I learned soo much about aircraft, the Pacific theater, the Japanese, POW camps, the US Air Force, and the end of the war through this biography. It was truly a fantastic read. It didn't even read like non-fiction; it was fluid and soo fantastic that I had to keep reminding myself that this all really happened.

An excellent read, recommended for everyone!

Also, Louis is still alive and well in his 90s.How amazing. I can't wait to see the movie version written by the Cohen brothers and directed by Angelina Jolie.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Long Trail Home

Long Trail Home is the third in the Texas Trails series which follows the Morgan family through different generations. I didn't feel that it added much historical and emotional appeal as the other two and it would serve better as a stand alone novel.

This inspirational romance follows Riley Morgan as he journey home from the Civil War. When he finally arrives in his hometown of Waco after years of bloody brutal battles, he discovers that his parents had been murdered by a tribe of Indians and his fiance married someone else. So clearly his life sucks. But this guy is a trooper. He cries for like a day and moves on. He can't bear to stay in his childhood home because there is nothing left for him there so he convinces the lady that runs the School for the Blind to let him room for free if he makes repairs around the place. While there he starts to fall for a young woman who has quite a sinister past as well.

Annie, took shelter at the school of the blind when she was just a young child. Her mother was dead and her father abandoned her in Waco so she faked blindness so she could seek refuge in the only place that would take her. For seven years she's lied to everyone in the community and the only one that knows her secret is Laura, the headmistress. As she starts to develop feelings for Riley she feels as if she needs to tell him of the deception but then they receive the news that the school is to be shut down, the timing is awful. Oh what will they do?!

For fans of breezy inspirational novels and light historical fiction.

I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in return for my honest, unbiased review.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Long Way Down

I wanted so hard to like this book. It was quirky, humorous, and inventive, but I truly, utterly hated the characters. Yes I sympathized with them on occasion, but at the end of the day... I still didn't care about them!

The whole premise of this book is that four completely opposite and radically different people all ran into each other on top of Topper House as they attempted to off themselves on New Year's Eve. Each of these four individuals had different reasons for wanting to jump off the roof and end their miserable lives. Over the course of the night they discover why they're each so ready to die and decide to hold off on the suiciding until Valentine's Day where they can re-evaluate if they're ready to leave this world or not. 

There is Martin, a fresh out of jail former newscaster, who had an affair with a fifteen year old and lost his wife and daughters in the process. Little old Maureen, a devout Christian who can no longer bear the thought of never going anywhere and only caring for her severely disabled son who is little more than a vegetable. JJ, a down and out musician who just broke up with his band and his girlfriend. And finally Jess, a punk ass little eighteen year old who is always in trouble and takes it out on everyone around her.

This diverse group decide that if they can hold off on jumping to their death for one night and find something to live for then maybe there is still something to look forward to after all. The story is broken into short sections each narrated by a different character.

It was unique, I'll give it that. But like I said, I couldn't relate with any of the characters. They were almost too flawed for me. Which is, I guess, the point.

Food Triggers: End Your Cravings, Eat Well and Live Better

I for one, can overeat. I mean obviously, I'm giant (or really a "glamazon" as mother calls me) I'm 6 foot one and built like a brick shit house. I can pack the food away if I'm in a really bad mood (or good one, depending on the situation). But thankfully, I'm not a chronic binger like author, Rhona Epstein, and thousands of others that can't control sugary foods are or have been. I'm not saying that to slam them, no way. That's just tough is all. I know some people have a real problem saying no and can't stop until they finish that whole crave case or tub of cookie dough. 

Author and certified psychologist, addictions counselor, and therapist, Rhona, talks about the very really problem of binge eating and how some people are wired to NOT STOP. Food addiction isn't a joke and she takes the first first few chapters outlining the scientific studies and giving a dumbed down version of how your brain works and in some cases, doesn't work. Studies with rats have proven that sugar has the same effects as heroin and cocaine. Too much sugar chemically alters your brain and makes you crave it more and reject healthier food in favor of sweeter options (p. 20). It was quite interesting, I wish she had included more studies. But never fear there was still plenty more useful information in this book!

There were success stories, real life solutions, scientific explanations, written exercises, group questions, and biblical insight to whet the appetite of anyone wishing to make a change to their binge eating life style or their loved one's food addiction. 

I appreciated that this wasn't just a run of the mill diet book, because it's not a diet book! It's a lifestyle change. If you suffer from serious food addiction you have to cut sugar and flour out of your life forever. Addicts can't have just a little, a little taste will send them careening back into binging. Food addiction is very much like alcohol or drug addictions in the treatment and application. You need loving support from others, God, professional help (a nutritionist, I appreciate there are no recipes in this book), and knowledge.

This was an inspiring read, and I can see many getting help from this.

I received this book for free from First Look in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Oh and to all my loyal readers out there! I have an additional copy to raffle off!! Just comment on this blog post and on Sunday I will randomly draw a winner. Thanks for reading!!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

American Dervish

This was a beautifully crafted masterpiece. The eloquence of the words, the power of the plot, and the wonderfully developed and flawed characters come together to form a twenty-first century literary marvel.

Told through the naive eyes of a young Pakistani American boy, Hayat recounts his youth and the summer that changed his life forever, the summer when his mother's best friend, Mina, came to America with her five year old son to seek refuge from her ex-husband. Through Mina, Hayat learns about his religious roots (something his parents never bothered with) and slowly falls in love with the Quran and Mina herself. But when Mina starts to fall for Nathan, a young Jewish man, Hayat finds himself at a crossroads and the decisions he makes will haunt him forever.

Pakistani and Muslim culture shines brightly in this novel. It's a real eye opener. A must read.

Side note, I listened to the audiobook version which is narrated by the author and I HIGHLY recommend it. Ayad Akhtar can switch in between accents seamlessly and bring to life Muslim culture with his Quranic recitations and chants.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey

I would never have even heard of this book had it not been for Buzzfeed's 16 books to read before they hit the theaters in 2014. Apparently this is going to be a movie starring Helen Mirren and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

This is a great book if you're a foodie. This book is a homage to French classical cuisine and Indian and Pakistani food. As far as stories go there isn't a whole lot of plot. Young Hassan tells his journey of food in four stages: as a child in Mumbai, a teen in London, a student in Lumiere, and a master in Paris. In terms of food, the story is gorgeous and descriptive and made me horribly hungry. I wanted to sample all of the concoctions that Hassan describes!

As I mentioned there isn't much of a plot, food is central to the story and it moves forward as Hassan masters more in the kitchen. The characters however, are quite intriguing and I really enjoyed Madame Mallory, the two star chef that is appalled by the new Indian restaurant in town but still begrudgingly takes on the Indian boy, Hassan anyways, because she realizes that one day his talent will surpass hers in the kitchen.

An alright read. I'd really only recommend it to foodies though.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

This book is an empowering and emotional read. Cheryl Strayed's feat of hiking almost the entire Pacific Crest Trail is one hell of an accomplishment as is her heartfelt retelling of her experience. At the age of twenty-six Cheryl had already suffered a tough life. Her mother had died four years prior and she divorced the love of her life months prior due to her infidelity. In need of a serious change and some soul searching, Cheryl decides to devote three months to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, despite the fact that she has no backpacking or survival skills experience.

Her memoir is a beautiful recounting of the struggles she faced, the inner turmoil at the loss of her mother and failure of her marriage, the friends she met along the way, the sights she saw, and the strengthening of her body and soul.

While Cheryl might not have been the type of person I ever would have hung out with, I absolutely admire her spunk and relentless drive forward. It's a fast and encouraging read.

For fans of outdoorsy books, soul searching, and memoirs.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Vampire Academy

You know... I didn't hate this book nearly as much as I thought I would. In fact, I think I enjoyed it?! Crazy I know. As I mentioned in my last book review (The Coldest Girl In Coldtown) Twilight pretty much ruined vampire books for me. I thought the genre was doomed. But I've already been proven wrong twice this year, there are good young adult vampire books!!

The title of this book (and the cover) is a little off putting, but never fear it's actually quite good. The only reason I picked it up is because I saw that it was getting turned into a movie this year and I love to read books before seeing the movies.

Lissa is a mortal vampire (a Moroi Princess) and her guardian is her best friend, Rose (a Dhampir). Together they must battle a prep school for mortal vampires and guardians without breaking too many hearts, getting into too many fights, and figuring out what Lissa's growing power means. It's full of suspense, witty dialogue, and teenage drama. A win all around.

For fans of teen literature and vampires.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

I've shied away from teen vampire novels ever since Twilight came and ruined it all. Suffice to say, this is one hell of an exception. This book restored my faith in the "vampire genre" by proving there are strong female characters and new story lines to be had.

Tana is at a house party and wakes up passed out in a bath tub. When she walks amongst the littered beer cans and old pizza she discovers a ghastly scene. All the teenagers she had been partying with had been brutally ripped apart by vampires. When she goes to find her phone in a back room she discovers her ex-boyfriend who has been infected with "the cold") chained to a bed and a crazed looking vampire chained in a corner. She decides to save them both and take them to the nearest coldtown (i.e. a quarantine where vampires, infected people, and wannabees go but can never come out). Along the way they meet a pair of sibling twins Midnight and Winter who decide that they want to be bitten so they too can enjoy the fabulous vampire life that they see on tv. Together they all journey to coldtown and Tana must decide if she is going in with the beasties (in case she has accidentally contracted the cold) or if she will ditch them all and go back to her boring ho hum life. Decisions, decisions.

The characters are complex and realistic. The story line fast and unpredictable. It's a great thrill ride and you won't regret reading it. I forsee this being turned into a movie. It would be a shame not to!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stop whatever you're doing and GO GET THIS BOOK!!! Hands down the most intriguing, morbid, hilarious, insightful, and absorbing nonfiction book I may have ever read!!!! This book was impossible to put down. I never thought I would have any interest in reading about human remains, but holy hell, now I know everything there is to know about them. Who knew cadavers could be soo interesting?

Mary Roach takes a seemingly dull and morbid topic and spins it into the most intriguing journey imaginable. Mary researched the many uses and functions of cadavers, and fills you in on everything you ever wanted to know about what really happens to our bodies when we die. Embalming, decomposing, cremating, organ transplants, crucifixion, cannibalism, donating your body to science, composing, melting, and soo much more.

Mary Roach has a great sense of humor and I was often laughing out loud at her witty stories. Some of my favorite parts were: the debate on whether you die when your heart stops or your brain stops, the fact that men are more likely to survive a plane crash, heads that still twitch up to 10 seconds of being guillotined, eating butt-cheeks, that's just to name a few. I really loved it all!

I'm a very squeamish person but I was able to handle this book pretty well there were a few parts I cringed (all the animal testing stories and the embalming process got to me) but overall I was too intrigued to be grossed out.

Seriously a must read. I loved this!!!!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Everyday Confetti

I'm not going to lie this was a pretty adorable book. I initially thought that there were just recipes in here, but there is soo soo much more. There are lots of ideas on how to celebrate the little things in life and start new traditions.

This book is mainly for Christian families (i.e. mothers and grandmothers) but never fear there is something for everyone in here. Someday far in the future when I have kids I would love to implement some of the "family traditions" she outlines (scavenger hunts on Christmas, random acts of kindness, half birthday celebrations, etc).

The recipes included also sound delightful. I really want to try out the Christmas Pistachio-Cherry Muffins, Eggnog Stuffed French Toast and Creamy Gratin of Winter Root Vegetables. They all sound so good! Each section has three or four recipes (there's probably around 50 in the book, maybe more).

Like I said this isn't just a cookbook. It's a guide for bringing families closer together and closer to God through traditions, religion, and good cooking.

I received this book for free from Revell Books in return for my honest unbiased opinion.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Christmas Hope

Calling this a Christmas story is a bit of a stretch. It's pretty much a little Victorian murder mystery novel that just so happens to take place during the holiday season.

Claudine and her husband (he's awful, a total wanker) attend an ill fated Christmas party where an un-virtuous young lady (i.e. prostitute) is murdered on the terrace . Things like this simply do not happen at high society parties. Three young man who were on the terrace claim that the drunken welch poet beat her to death, but Claudine thinks otherwise. She briefly talked to the poet earlier in the evening and although he may have been drunk he certainly didn't seem like a killer. Claudine vows to get to the bottom of this and discover who really murdered the girl. Quite a Christmas story eh?

For fans of historical mystery novels.

I received this book for free from Library Thing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

All in Good Time

Sigh, I had high hopes for this book, even though it was a Christian romance (admittedly not my favorite genre). In 1887 a young woman opens a safe house for former prostitutes in Denver, sounds promising right!?! Wrong, it fell just short of the mark. It took a lot of will power for me to finish this bad boy.

The whole theme of "all in good time" is POUNDED into your skull throughout the novel. We get it! God works in His own time and you need to be patient! For example:

* Dessa is eager to open up "Pierson House" a safe place for former prostitutes and women who want to turn their lives around. Instead of waiting for enough donations to buy a house, Dessa rushes ahead to get a loan so she can buy a house she's had her eye on. She quickly realizes that she should have waited, what if she can't make the loan payments?

* Dessa rushes into an agreement with Turk Foster, a slick businessman who owns the theater (i.e. illegal gambling hall and saloon) in the bad part of town to tost a benefit for Pierson House. She realizes to late that her donors will be upset by this collaboration and will stop donating to her cause.

* Dessa is quick to judge Henry Hawkins, the bank manager. She quickly writes him off as a mean ol' Scrooge who cares only for money. She and Henry are surprised when they both start to fall for each other.

*Dessa offers to help two young Chinese immigrants who are going to be sold into prostitution without asking anyone for help and without thinking about the consequences. As a result there is rioting and Pierson House is at stake.

Basically, Dessa is far too hopeful about everything and always gets into trouble. After a while, you just stop caring. The only characters I really enjoyed in this novel were the women and girls that stayed at Pierson House, Remee (the older haughty former prostitute), Jane (the sixteen year old that attempted to hold up a bank to get money), Nadette (a ragamuffin who keeps bringing people for Dessa to save, but won't stay herself), and the Chinese sisters Liling and Mei Mei.

It's a decent story line but I was more invested in the minor characters than I was in Dessa or Henry. Not to say it was badly written, it was just a bit repetitive in the problems.

For fans of historical and inspirational fiction.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Press in return for my honest and unbiased opinion.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Finally, a sci-fi novel that's actually fantastic!! I first read this bad boy in sixth grade and re-reading it WASN'T a disappointment, it was actually even better than I remembered it!

I will admit the first 100 pages can be kind of tiring and hard to get through, but once everything starts to click you can't put the book down. It gets so wildly imaginative and exciting that you can't stop turning the pages!

If you aren't at all familiar with the book, here's a quick run down:
Duke Leto Atriedes and his family (Lady Jessica and son Paul) have been sent to Arrakis (the desert planet) to govern and increase the Spice flow (the most valuable commodity in the universe, found only in the deserts of Arrakis). An ancient legend, sandworms thousands of feet long, "witches," noble houses fighting, and the fall of House Atriedes are just some of the many things that follow.

Trust me, this is a must read. Also, both movie versions are great (the one with Sting is a classic!).