Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Kindle edition

At first when I heard about this book on Oprah's book club I thought, "Meh."  But then I ordered the sample (LOVE THIS FEATURE) on my kindle and found myself immediately drawn in.

Cheryl's journey both physical and emotional is a powerful and relatable one.  The death of her mother catapulted her into a reckless lifestyle that had she not found the Pacific Crest Trail, she may have ended up in jail, or dead.

Strayed is an incredibly talented writer who is able to paint vivid pictures with her words.  Her pain is palpable, and the day-to-day details of her trek is fascinating!  I would have never ever in a million years thought of taking a trip like hers, but I found myself going, "Yeah, yeah, YEAH!"  in agreement and googling and bookmarking every website and book on the PCT and long distance hiking, despite me having bad shoulders and various other "old lady" ailments that would make a trip like that problematic.

This book was hard to put down, and I was sad to see it end, and it left me wanting to read other books of similar tales.

I highly recommend this book to anyone!

RATING:  4/5

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
Kindle Edition

With the recent theatrical re-release of Titanic, there was a new surge in Titanic books being re-released as well.  And if not re-released, at the very least being brought from the back nether regions of the book store to the front shelves at the entrance.  This is where I saw this book by Walter Lord.  With a bit of research, it turns out that this is the "go to" book for Titanic enthusiasts, that retells the sinking in an extremely exciting novel format, and forgoes much of the science based details of the sinking that some books focus on.

Walter Lord's book was published in 1955, and is one of the most thrilled page turners you will ever read, that is, if you are a Titanic fan.  After interviewing many survivors of the disaster, and culling through the pages and pages of testimonials, Lord strings together these memories into a thrilling tale of suspense, heroism, and tragedy.  After I finished reading it, I wanted more.  I went on a Titanic frenzy!

Reaching the 100 anniversary of the sinking was a sad day.  I can't help but think about those that were trapped inside the unsinkable ship, and those that were on the stern when she went down.  The stories of husbands and fathers saying goodbye to their loved ones, and watching from the ship as the life boats sailed away, knowing they were probably not going to survive, is heart wrenching to read.

There were also stories I had never heard of before, for example the chef Charles Joughin, who started drinking when the sinking started, and basically got stinking drunk.  Whether it was his blood alcohol level, or some other unknown factor, Joughin managed to miraculously survive swimming in the freezing Altantic, while other perished.  You can read more about Joughin's incredible story here.  

What was great about reading this book, was that James Cameron had used many of the accounts in Lord's book in the making of his block buster film, Titanic, and being a HUGE fan of the film, it was fascinating to learn more of the back story of some of the survivors and victims depicted in the film.

All in all, a GREAT read, and the best Titanic book I have read thus far, though I haven't read many, truth be told.

RATING:  5/5

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantal
Now available!

First off I wanted to send a HUGE THANK YOU to  Christine Choe over at Henry Holt and Company Publishers for sending me a copy of this book!

The first thing I wanted to say is that I really enjoyed reading this novel.  I am a huge sucker for all things Tudor and I love that Wolf Hall has been continued with Bring Up the Bodies with the story through Thomas Cromwell's eyes is brilliant.

Mantel's writing style is unique, and not an easy grasp, in my opinion, but once I got the gist of it I rather liked her way around the words.  Now, I remember in Wolf Hall I was so confused by her use of the word "he" that I often times had no clue who was speaking, and it drove me nuts.  I didn't get, at the time, that the book was written solely from Cromwell's view.  So, when I was offered an ARC of the next book, I said "yes" and for some reason really grasped the concept well this time around.

I personally loved it when she would use "he, Cromwell, says"  or at the end of a sentence by Cromwell, "he said: he, Cromwell."  I don't know why, exactly, but it endeared the hell out of me.  As does Cromwell himself.  LOVE him.  Now that doesn't mean he is not self serving, I mean, let's face it, he has a pretty cushy life as the right-hand-man of the king.  But that does not mean he is without scruples.  And Mantel sprinkles examples of his scruples throughout, which make me like him more and more.  I now want to go back and finish Wolf Hall with this new appreciation for the point of view, and enjoy the relationship between himself and Wolsey, which as I remember had quite a humorous way about the two of them in the first book.

So, back to Bring Up the Bodies.  This book brings us to the point in Tudor history where Anne Boleyn is no longer in Henry's good books.  She has failed to produce an heir, and as it turns out is schtooping every able body in the county.  She is not liked by many, and her cunning and calculated ways are a strain on everyone who is near her.  Meanwhile, demure and tiny Jane Seymour is quietly making a place for herself in history, and when Henry finally has had enough... well, we all know what happens next.

In the telling of the story from Cromwell's point of view, we see the delicate politics that he faced in this time in Henry's court.  In order to carry out the king's wishes, Cromwell will have to ally with some of his enemies.  How will he handle himself in these instances?  To what lengths will he go to pay for Anne's head?

A beautifully told version of a much told tale and a must read book for any fans of the Henry VIIIth era.

This book is also available in audio format by Macmillan Audio and the reading is done by the very talented Simon Vance.

And here is a video with Hilary Mantel about the book.

 RATING:  4/5

For more information about this book click here. 

Monday, June 18, 2012


Mailbox Monday is a weekly bookish meme currently being hosted by Burton Book Review.  

How much do I love Simon and Schuster Canada!  SCHWING!

Last week I received The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman.  (Release date July 31, 2012)

Here's the blurb:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

I was super excited to see that this book is set in Australia, and I am a sucker for books set around oceans.  It looks great, and I think it will be a great summer read!

And today I received:  

The Blessed by Tonya Hurley  Release date Sept 25, 2012         
(Gorgeous cover!)

Here is the blurb:

What if martyrs and saints lived among us? And what if you were told you were one of them?
Meet Agnes, Cecilia, and Lucy. Three lost girls, each searching for something. But what they find is Beyond Belief.

How about that for a nice concise blurb!

For more Mailbox Monday posts click here!


Friday, June 15, 2012

COOKBOOK REVIEW: The Looneyspoons Collection

The Looneyspoons Collection by Janet and Greta Podleski
Granet Publishing | November 1, 2011 | Trade Paperback

I have decided instead of starting a whole new blog for cookbooks and food, that I would just include a Foodie Friday post where I review a cookbook and share a recipe from it!

Today I am reviewing and sharing from the Looneyspoon gals, whom I adore.  They are a super fun sister duo that focus on healthy eating without sacrificing flavour.  Their recipes are easy and fun, and kids love the wacky names that they choose for them.  One of our old standbys around here is the Lord of the Wings recipe, I make it about once a month, and it is a huge HUGE hit.  

So far I have tried three recipes, they were all soup.   I am a huge fan of soup.  ANYway, the three that I tried were:

  • Thai One On -  Exotic sweet potato and coconut soup with shrimp  -  This soup was excellent and super easy to make.  What I loved about it was the coconut milk flavour.  I did not add the shrimp, but I can honestly say that with the shrimp it would have probably made a 9 instead of the 8.5 that I gave it out of 10.  Super tasty. 
  • Bean Me Up, Scotty Spicy, high-fiber black bean soup with a sour cream swirl-  This was rated a 10 by my finicky husband (especially in the soup department!) and by me, my oldest daughter gave it an 8 out of 10.  This was so super yummy I can't even articulate it well enough to describe.  The only thing I added was fried corn tortilla strips, super easy.  You slice up corn tortillas into 1/2 inch strips and then fry them in vegetable oil until slightly brown and crispy. 
  • The Squash Court - Silky butternut squash soup with pears and ginger - I was the only one that tried this soup and I gave it a 7.  I'm not sure about the "silky" part of this soup, but it was pretty tasty.  The only thing I might omit if I ever make it again is the 3/4 cup light cream, it doesn't really need it.  
Here is the recipe (credit - Janet and Greta Podleski Looneyspoons Collection) * if someone in book blog land knows if for some reason I am not allowed to publish recipes from books, can you let me know??!  Thanks!


2 tsp  olive oil or butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp  grated gingerroot
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable 
3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 cups peeled and chopped pears
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup 5 % cream or evaporated milk 2%

  • Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Cook and stir until onions begin to soften about 3 minutes.  Add gingerroot, curry powder and ground cumin.  Mix well and cook for 30 more seconds. (I asked a friend who is a chef why I always had to cook curry powder for a bit before adding broth and he said it was to keep the curry from being gritty)
  • Add broth, squash, pears, carrots, salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until squash and carrots are tender.  Stir occasionally.
  • Working in two batches, carefully transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth.  Soup will be very thick (mine wasn't).  Return pureed soup to pot and stir in cream.  Serve hot.  


So far I love this book, and there are over 300 recipes in it!  I highly recommend it!

RATING:  4 out of 5 spoons

Friday, June 8, 2012


Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This book was sent to me an embarrassingly long time ago by Michelle over at Simon and Schuster Canada, and I first wanted to shriek THANK YOU!  To her and them, as they have been very good to me despite my lollygagging.

Clockwork Prince is the much awaited sequel to Clockwork Angel and, although extremely excited that this book was coming out, I have to admit to being a wee bit nervous that it was not going to live up to book one.  Which makes me want to poke sticks in my eyes when that happens.

But, alas, it did not happen this time!  Clockwork Prince picks up where we left off in the story and is just as delightfully written as the first one.

We are taken back to the underworld of Victorian London Steampunk style, where Tessa Gray is still living safely among the Shadowhunters.  But not for long as it is soon discovered that the Magistrate will stop at nothing to obtain Tessa and her powers to use for his own evil purposes.  With the help of the dark and handsomely disturbed Will, and silvery glittery Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magistrates war on the Shadowhunters is a deeply personal one that is fueled by revenge.

The beauty of this story is two-fold.  One, it is set in the enticing Victorian era with a twist.  There are mechanical machines that are used as the Magistrates minions, and Clare's use of them is terrifying and reads like a movie script.  There is magic and demons, and Clare has an extremely imaginative mind that creates the creepiest of visions in your head.  Like the Warlock that comes to dinner with the 4th knuckle on each of his 6 fingers.  Ick.   Or the striking "woman" in the red dress with a long slit up the back to reveal her snake-like tail underneath.  There are so any more visuals like that but done in such a believable way that it only adds to the setting and the story in general.

The second, and possible the best part, is the ongoing love triangle between Tessa, hot hot HOT Will, and sweet and nice Jem.  Will is tortured, to be sure, and he vacillates between being a total dick to clutching her to him in a mad fever.  Huh?  No wonder she is so confused!   And Jem is the quintessential "nice" guy who is always loyally by her side, and Will's and well pretty much the loyal guy that everyone can count on.  Plus he has the hots for Tessa, and he's dying, so this all makes him pretty interesting.

The thing that I love about Cassandra Clare's writing, with this series anyway as I have not read the other one, is that the reason for Will's behaviour is a completely plausible one and an actually very satisfying one within the realm of the world that she created.  You know how when you read a book, and often times a YA one, that the author seems to pull a completely obscure and ridiculous answer to a mystery or reason for a person's behaviour out of their ass and you are yanked out of the story and so utterly pissed off that you feel like heaving the book into the nearest fire pit?

Okay, maybe that's just me.

ANYway, I loved it.  And since it was left as a relatively nice cliff hanger I can't WAIT for the next one to come out!  The next book will be called Clockwork Princess and it will be released March 19, 2013!!

Thank you Cassandra Clare for creating this amazing world and the creatures in it!

For more on The Infernal Devices series you can click here.

And for information on her other series, The Mortal Instruments you can click here. 


Thursday, June 7, 2012

In which I spend money on books.... again.

Okay, so I'm sure that many of you can relate to this story.  I have A LOT of books around my house.  I would guess that 97% of them I have not yet read.  And despite my yearly promise to myself that I will not buy another book until I have tackled the hundreds that are already crammed in every small space in my house, I cave in probably within two weeks of making said promise.  When I bought my Kindle I thought, "HA! Now I won't have to have book buying guilt as I won't have to add any physical books to my shelf!"


So, now do I not only have still hundreds of books unread that we are tripping over, used to stop a table from rocking, whatever... you get my meaning, I also have probably about twenty samples and maybe half a dozen books waiting on my Kindle, and some I started and will never finish.

Book buying diet... FAIL.

Not to mention cookbooks, I have a THING for them.  They also line shelves inside my kitchen, not in the hundreds but lets say there's more than two and less than thirty. (cough)

And while I was snooping around on the interwebs, always dangerous, I realized I had not stopped over at Pioneer Woman's abode in quite a few months, so I grabbed my Bailey's tainted coffee and knocked on her "www."

Well..... not only do I marvel in the force that her blog has become (a recent poll she took on one post about how young people feel took in over 46,000 comments.  Thaaaaat's right, not 46, not 460... FORTY SIX THOUSAND people commented.) I started to meander around her recipe index and then I saw that... GASP (and that's a REAL gasp, not the Christian Grey variety) SHE HAS A NEW COOKBOOK OUT!  

So there I was at Chapters this morning with my 5 year old in tow with every intention of just looking at it.  I picked it up and it was gorgeous in all its pioneer woman glory.  I took my daughter to the kids section so I could really give it the 'ol once over, and I looked once and it was over.  It literally took me about three seconds of flipping to know I wanted it, nay... MUST HAVE IT.  And then I looked up and saw a lovely display of YA novels just staring at me.  One may have been winking, but I'm not exactly sure.

Next thing I know a copy of Divergent AND the new Pioneer Woman Cookbook had somehow magically ended up in my hands and I was handing them to the cashier with a gamblers glee at the blackjack table.

Here I sit on my living room couch like a dieter who just went on a binge.  Even though it is just two books (I've done worse... much MUCH worse) I still feel like my house will actually be made of books someday, you know furniture, fridge, the whole thing.

Anyway, this is why I get very good at hiding Chapter's receipts like they are evidence of a crack habit from my husband.

Just like he hides receipts for his motorcycle doo-dads.  Right?  RIGHT?!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Should Be Reading, and anyone can play along!  I haven't done a TT in months and months, so here goes!

  • Grab your current read
  • Flip to a random page and select two teaser sentences from anywhere on that page. 
  • Try not to include any SPOILERS!
  • Make sure you let us know the name of the book and author so we can add it to our growing TBR pile!

My TT is from Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Prince which I got as an ARC back in November.  THANK YOU MICHELLE FROM SIMON AND SCHUSTER CANADA!  I am, obviously, waaaay behind on my ARC reading, but now that I have been spending more time with this one I am LOVING IT as much as the first one, which I LOVED.

Here is today's teaser:

"Starkweather's eyes swept over Tessa again, one last time, before he turned and stalked out of the room, his cloak flapping behind him.  Tessa couldn't get the image of a great black bird of prey - a vulture, perhaps - out of her mind."

For more teasers click here. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Here's the thing, people, I realize that I will probably get hung up from the rafters by a large member of the +35 female Christian Grey club, but I just have to comment on the inexplicable phenom that is this book.  I will say that this is not a review as I could not finish this book, I got around 1/3 in and just couldn't do it.  But before I go any further I do want to say...

YAY FOR THE AUTHOR!  Even though I personally think her book is a step below most erotica you can find in the used book store shelves, I think it is stupendous that she has become a total runaway success!  Here she is a mom of two, and she decides to write some fan fiction, and literally within weeks she is a wealthy famous author.  KUDOS TO HER!  I love it.

Now, on to the negatives.  This book is just not written well... AT ALL.  And I know most people who are obsessed with it will argue that "It's escape reading!  Just have fun with it!" Well, good for you if you can, but it is no only dreadful to read, it is chock full of complete an utter mistakes in story that pull you out of the story.

Example:  Early on in the story Anastasia (barf, nice name) is waking up from being hungover in Christian Grey's (double barf on the name) apartment.  He exits the shower in nothing but a towel, where she remarks in her head that he's got nothing on David the statue, meaning, NICE NAKED CHEST.  Then skip ahead after their first virginal romp, because before he takes her down the road of dominance and S & M he, being such a GOOD GUY, decides he has to "take care of" her virginity first, like its a surf board he has to wax down before he takes it in the big waves.  This part made me want to hurl, personally.  ANYway, after their romp she finds Mr. Billionaire playing at the piano in nothing but a pair of flannel pants and she thinks, "Gee, I have never even seen his naked chest before!"  HELLO, YES YOU DID, IT WAS ONLY ABOUT 20 PAGES AGO, MORON!

This kind of thing.

There is actually so much more I could say about how this book is thoroughly annoying and difficult to read, but I am not going to waste any more time on it.  You can visit and read almost 1600 1 star reviews that will echo pretty much exactly my sentiments on the subject.

What I am trying to figure out is what makes THIS BOOK so popular compared to say... any other  erotic harlequin type of book?  I mean, she is selling  one every THIRTY SECONDS! And like I said, good for her, and this is not really a comment on her, she just wrote it, it's the folks that are buying it by the millions that I am directing this question to.

As I was racking my brain to try to figure it out, I thought, well, lots of people are probably buying it to satisfy their curiosity, like I did.  And some are getting sucked in and some, like me,  are not.  The hype is totally out of control which is creating a kind of reading frenzy.  As I was reading it I realized what it was that was irritating me about the writing.  It is clearly written in a YOUNG ADULT style, and BADLY, and not edited well.  It is basically a poorly written YA novel with graphic sex.  Which makes sense since a large portion of the YA market is actually women between the ages of 35 and 45.  There are hundreds of fan fic stories with more raunchy sex with Edward and Bella, or Harry and Hermoine, for example.

When I searched the interwebs for other reviews, I was kind of relieved to see other scathing reviews of 50.  

Here's my final word on the subject:  The argument that this book is escape reading and that you just have to let go of shitty writing is flimsy.  The reason is because there is PLENTY of fabulously written escape fiction out there that you don't have to use too many brain cells to enjoy.  Case in point:  The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  And when I have to use TOO MANY brain cells TO READ a book because the writing is not good or the plot is full of mistakes and holes and inconsistencies then it is no longer feels like escape... it's TOO MUCH WORK.

And here's where I hoist a glass to my favourite escape reading heroes Jamie and Claire, where there is enough brilliance and heat to keep you satisfied for years!

For more reviews of this book you can visit 

Monday, May 14, 2012


The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon
KINDLE edition

It started out great, and what I learned overall about the plight of women during the time the Taliban ruled is huge.  The author really had a way of helping me to feel and see through the five sister's senses, and for that I am grateful.

And I get that it is a true story, so it's not like she could create drama that wasn't there.

The thing is, once the sewing business was up and running, about half way through the book the story just went no where.  They were successful, and they were fearful of being caught, and then nothing.

She did describe their fear very well, and I cannot even imagine living in those circumstances.

And the most startling thing was the ending, if you could call it that.  There really wasn't one.  It just kind of stopped.  And then there was an "epilogue", and I use that word loosely, which was more or less just a very short summary of "where are they now" kind of thing.

I feel like she was up against a deadline or something?  I would have loved to have had the story fleshed out more towards the end, and then a nice thorough epilogue.

All in all, I did learn a lot and have even more empathy for the Afghan people, and in particular the women, but I don't think I will be recommending it anytime soon.

RATING:  2/5

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Farewell Titanic: Her Final Legacy by Charles Pellegrino
Hard cover
352 pages
Published March 6, 2012

Can anyone say obsessed?  I mean me -- although Mr. Pellegrino probably admittedly qualifies as well!

This book was fascinating.  Charles Pellegrino has been studying the Titanic wreck for years, and is on the team of advisors for James Cameron's movie as well as his expedition dives -- all 13 of them!

Pellegrino also was friends with Walter Lord, who wrote the 1955 classic "A Night To Remember" based on all eye witness accounts of the sinking.  This I now have downloaded on my Kindle and plan on reading it soon.  Many of the accounts in Farewell are gleaned from over two thousand pages of interviews and correspondence between the two men, so these were my favourite parts of this book.

Although I also thoroughly enjoyed the science-ey parts of it, I got a bit tired of the whole "rusticle" thing.  But that's just ME.  Oh, and the 9/11 stuff, although extremely significant to the author and the expedition team on the day of the attacks (they were at sea at the wreck at the time), it did go on a bit too long in that vein.

I had just watched Ghosts of the Abyss the documentary that James Cameron did of his 2001 dive to the wreck, (which you can watch in its entirety on youtube) and this book was centered around this particular dive, so that made it probably more interesting than if I had NOT just seen the film.

All in all a good solid read, but not in my top recommendations for Titanic reads.  What I really wanted was more of the accounts, which I had really not known, and Walter Lord's book will deliver them.

What was neat was the reference to some of the accounts and then directly referencing them with the 1997 film.  Other than the personal accounts, that was the most enjoyable for me.

RATING:  3/5

Monday, April 23, 2012


Hello all!
I haven't done a MM in a very VERY long time.  I actually DID receive an exciting ARC in the mail today!  I got the newest Hilary Mantel book that will be released in May!!!  "Bring Up the Bodies" is the sequel to Wolf Hall and is all very Ann Boleyn.  HUGE THANK YOU to Christine over at Henry Holt and Company!

I also bought a couple of books on my Kindle.  After seeing Titanic in the theatre two weeks in a row, and with all of the info on it recently, I have become fairly obsessed and bought the 1955 classic A Night To Remember by Walter Lord, and Life Boat No. 8 by Elizabeth Kaye ( for 1.99!) today.

For more Mailbox Monday click here. 

Monday, April 2, 2012


Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith
by Martha Beck
Kindle version

I have long been a fan of Martha Beck's writing, she has a great way of reaching her reader, and her wicked sense of humour is what I most adore about her.  I am currently reading her latest book "Finding Your Way in a Wild New World" and it is just as great as the other ones I have read some of, Finding your North Star and Steering by Starlight.  She is a trained sociologist and a Harvard graduate, so combining her scholarly training with her humanness and humour, makes for a very delightful read.

I stumbled across this book somehow online, and since I have always had a fascination with the Mormon religion and the mysteries surrounding it, I knew I would like it.  And I did.

Here many of the bizarre dogma of the religion are blatantly published, and not from lack of fear of reprisal.  Any ex-mormon who outs their secrets, like the one where they believe that God lives in a planet called Kolob (however, if you try to research this online you will come up with a he-said/she-said scenario - which is very frustrating).  And that Joseph Smith translated ancient egyptian hieroglyphics  into what is now known as the Book of Abraham.  (this was later disputed when the Rosetti Stone was discovered, and after decades of studying it, the code for deciphering hieroglyphs was revealed). It turns out that what Joseph Smith claimed to translate into the mormon text, is a version of the book of the dead. Again, this is a fact, but I am pretty sure that any devout mormons reading this might have a thing or two to say about this unfolding of events.

I could go on and on, but will not, because this is what I found most fascinating about this book and I don't want to give too much away.

Martha's father, as it turns out, was a high ranking apologist in the church and much revered by its members.  In her book, her claims of abuse at his hands was widely poo-pooed and she was made out by her family and other church members to be a raving lunatic.  Well, who wouldn't be?  Raised in that house!

The only criticism I have of this particular book of hers is that she had a tendency to use a lot of REALLY HARD WORDS.  I know this may sound kind of childish, but what I mean is I thank God I had a dictionary in my kindle, or I would have probably given up on it already.  The thing is she must have mentioned about 87 times that she went to Harvard, and she used these unbelievably difficult words that even in the context of the sentence I still had no idea what the hell they meant.  And what was most annoying was that she COULD have used a more common word easily in its place, and save me the clicking.  Let me give you some examples:

  • filial - Of, relating to, or befitting a son or daughter (she used this one a lot)
  • ignominious - deserving or causing public disgrace
  • noblesse oblige - nobility obliges
  • ostensibly- apparently or purportedly but perhaps not actually.
  • vociferous - vehement (okay, seriously, WHY could she just not say VEHEMENT - she says vehemently)
  • amorphous - having no definite form
  • obstreperous - noisy; difficult to control.  
  • amanuenses - a literary or artistic assistant
  • stentorian - basically means someone in ther 70's.
  • lugubrious - looking or sounding sad or dismal
  • commodious - roomy and comfortable (I guess "roomy" was just to NOT HARVARD enough)
  • perspicacity- keenness of mental perception (okay, this word just look impossible to pronounce, AM I RIGHT??!!)
  • vertiginous - causing vertigo
Wow, seeing them all listed like that makes me realize that that IS a lot of big words, and maybe I'm not really just an idiot.  

And not to mention Greek Mythology references up the ying-yang, like "Damocles' Sword of Mormon".

So, all in all, a very interesting account of a daughter of a famous mormon leaving the church, and a bit of the history of mormonism to boot. 

RATING:  3/5

For more about Martha Beck, her books and her coaching visit Martha

Friday, March 23, 2012


SOLD by Patricia McCormick
Young Adult

I read this book in three hours.  This is not to say that I am some super human speed reader, it's to say that the book is that good and a fast read due to the almost poem-like format that the author uses.

In a giving circle I attend, our very first meeting we donated our dining out dollars to a charity called Nepal Youth Foundation.  Here we learned about how NYF has rescued over 4000 girls, thus far, from indentured servitude.  In other words, these girls, some as young as 6 years old, were sold by their poverty stricken parents, to what they thought were rich people who they then would work for as maids.  In some cases, this was partially true, in that the girls worked as maid slaves working in horrible conditions, with very little, if any, money going back to their families.  Some were sold to brothels.

And this is the story of Lakshmi.  She is a thirteen year old Nepali girl who loves her family, but maybe not her gambling stepfather.  She enjoys the simple pleasures of rural life in Nepal; taking care of her pet goat, talking with her loving mother, and eyeing the boy with the slanted eyes that she has been betrothed to.  Her future looks bright ahead, full of love and babies and family.  She even is allowed to go to school.

Suddenly the monsoon season comes and devastates their rice paddy, and her stepfather announces that she must go to the city to get a job.

What happens next is not hard to guess, but the way that Patricia McCormick has written this story is powerful and heart wrenching in its innocence.

The opening pages plainly spell out what I believe so passionately.  It is not just the burdens of women in the developing world, but the power you give to women, their families, and the community when you empower women in the world.
"Let me go to the city,"  I say.  "I can work for a rich family like Gita does, and send my wages home to you."
Ama strokes my cheek, the skin of her work worn hand as rough as the tongue of a newborn goat.  "Lakshmi, my child," she says.  "You must stay in school, no matter what your stepfather says."
Lately, I want to tell her, my stepfather looks at me the same way he looks at the cucumbers I'm growing in front of our hut.  He flicks the ash from his cigarette and squints.  "You better get a good price for them."  He says.
When he looks, he sees cigarettes and rice beer, a new vest for himself.
I see a tin roof.  

RATING:  5/5

For more information about the rescuing of girls in Nepal, you can visit Maiti Nepal (where the author did many interviews for research for this book) the winner of last year's CNN Hero Award, and Nepal youth Foundation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Stories I Only Tell My Friends 
by Rob Lowe (Kindle Version)

Okay, so normally I would never have picked this book up, let alone read it.  But, a friend of mine said it was awesome, and because I work in the film business, she thought I would appreciate it on that level.

She was right.

Rob Lowe can actually write, as it turns out, and I literally could not put this book down.  Basically there are no big surprises here, but one thing that I really appreciated about this book was the way he handled certain... shall we say... more colourful areas of his life.  Rob Lowe is classy, or at least he writes his memoirs with candor and discretion.  Where some other celebs would dive right in to every meaty and pornographic detail of every aspect of their life, Rob Lowe does none of that.  Oh, he covers all of the bases, even the hugely popular video romp he had with a couple of underage girls, but he glosses over things in a way that at the same time leaves you actually wanting the meat and porn, but being relieved and kind of satisfied that he has left you not feeling dirty after you have read it.

The book starts with his childhood and moves up through to his life as it stands today.  I have to respect the fact that although he did veer off the highway of life down the road of has-been child actor a la Gary Coleman, he managed to course correct and create a great and memorable career in the drama world and, who knew, comedy of all things!

There is only one criticism I have of his book, and really it's a very minor one and actually made me kind of laugh in a way.  Okay, well maybe there was two.

The first one was that he had a tendency to end chapters with a BIG REVEAL, which started to become extremely annoying and contrived and had me eye rolling a few times.  Okay, Rob, I GET IT, you are describing something that happened, and describing the person it happened with and low-and-behold the paragraph/chapter ends with..."so, I turned to her as she walked away and said, 'Nice to meet you too, Daryl Hannah!'"  Or, after talking about how much he wanted to meet his buddy Charlie's Dad, who was a famous movie star and then fatefully one Halloween night Charlie, Emilio, Chad and Rob were out creating shinanigans and a crazy man in camouflage make-up and fatigues jumps out of the bushes yelling about how he is "on patrol tonight!  And there will be no monkey business!"  And the paragraph ends with "Hey, Lowe, you said you wanted to meet Martin Sheen?  Well, now you have."

I guess you have to read it to see what I mean, I could list about a dozen examples like this.  I'm not saying that none of these events ever happened, I'm just saying that a little variation in delivery would have been nice.

The other thing is how Rob managed to stumble across people and points in the history of the entertainment business where, although they probably did happen the way he describes, are so numerous in number and he just casually happens to be in certain places, that I have to admit it makes me want to call foul.

For example:  He was at a baseball game with his brother, who was getting harangued by another fan.  An older guy steps in to help out, and it turns out he just happens to be the head puppeteer of the Muppets.  Okay... it could happen.  But then he invites them, kids he has JUST MET, to visit the set of a "little known film" (as he is always refers to in these such situations) called The Muppet Movie.  It just so happens that he just coincidentally managed to stroll onto the set when they were filming the most famous scene in the entire film, the part where Kermit sings "The Rainbow Connection".  Once again, leaving the name of the film to THE END, like I didn't see it coming like a parade float down the #1 highway with police lights flashing.

And then the time when he was in England and Sting invited him and his wife to visit, which they did, which I think is completely believable.  And as they were hanging around at his house, Pavarotti "dropped" by and him and Sting started recording their duet "Panis Angelicus" for a new album.  Sting and Rob weep openly as Pavarotti hits the high notes.  Beautiful image.  And then after Pavarotti leaves Rob says that him and his wife Sheryl are once again wowed as Sting records "If I ever Lose My Faith in You".  Not some other obscure song from any other album, but one of his most famous ones.

There are a million of these.


But then again, I have a few stories that I no longer really share unless someone asks that involve famous people and visiting them in LA etc, that I am quite sure nobody believes, but they actually did happen exactly as I tell it.  No lie.  And I am not a celebrity.

I have to tell you there is one brilliant bit that still has me laughing.  Rob worked with Christopher Walken and writes how Christopher talks in a way that I could have never imagined doing, but it WORKS.  It goes like this...

"I saw.  Your name.  It's good.  It was on a list.  Of the cast.  I'm ...glad it was you.  I wasn't sure. If it was true."

Seeeriously!  Is that not the best?  I love Christopher Walken, like HUGE love, like if I worked with him I think I would pee every single day, kind of love.

I am going to give this a 4/5 because I think it is a great fast read that, if you knew anything about Rob Lowe in the 80's, or even if you know him from his recent work, it is a very honest look into how fame is lusted after like a porn star, and once claimed, it can have the same affect.  It is ellusive, and can disappear as quickly as it showed up, and leave you feeling used and abused and taken advantage of.  But once someone like Rob Lowe has the right perspective, life just seems all the more sweeter.  I loved the arch he painted with his words, the arch of his dream, and how now he is living the dream he never knew was his to begin with.

RATING:  4/5

Sunday, March 18, 2012

REVIEW: INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I have wanted to read this book for ages, and I am so glad that I did.  This is a perfect example of me not knowing much about a subject and then learning A LOT by reading a book about it.  In this case, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's life was a window into the muslim world from a woman's perspective;  although I know that this is not necessarily atypical of a muslim woman's life.  I get that.  But the opening of this book is just riveting.  It starts out with the violent murder of Theo Van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam.  The killer shot him numerous times, and then plunged two knives into his chest pinning a note to his victim's body.  The note threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali along with western countries, among other things.

Now THAT got my attention.

Ayaan's life was filled with spiritual questions that at times had her re-embracing Islam and at other times questioning the very existence of Allah.  Having been there in my own life, I related to her on this very basic level.  As a young adult I imagine many people question the faith that they were raised in, and some embark on their own way, and others cling to the religion of their youth.

One area that I felt I learned the most about was in female genital mutilation, which she talks about a fair amount, and being a chapter leader with Dining for Women and an activist for women's rights all over the world, I was fascinated to have an insiders look into this practice.  Many women in cultures that still practice FGM actually take it as an honor and a right of passage.  Some women hold it as proud badge that they have been cut, and worried that if they were not, that no man would ever marry them because they would be seen as "unclean".  After reading "Half the Sky", Nicholas Kristof also alluded to this fact, and wrote that in order for this practice to end, it would take many years of undoing the traditional, religious and cultural beliefs of the people with which this is an everyday occurrence.  It reminded me that when trying to fight for women's rights in other countries, that we must also look at how certain barbaric practices in our culture, may have other meanings for women in those areas.  It reminded me how complicated these issues are.  And I needed reminding.

The other thing that struck me, was how Ayaan was living a cloaked life as a muslim, she was covered, she was following all of the rules of Islam, yet at the same time was reading American romance novels and watching North American television shows.  She was seeing how women in the west had much more freedom, they talked back to their husbands, they had jobs.  This was all very appealing to her, and planted a seed that would stubbornly grow, until she could not reject the desire to be free any longer.  It made me realize that countries that suppress the female population, would feel the need to censor their lives, because once the women see how other women are living, some would be like Ayaan and want to escape to another area where they could live free, or more free.

Ayaan was severely abused by her mother, I mean like "Mommy Dearest" kind of abused.  But what is interesting is that she doesn't really realize it, I don't think.  This made me very sad for her.

The first 3/4 of the book was excellent, but once she entered school and politics, I felt it just lost its personal touch and was just a list of accomplishments and more of an autobiographical list of events.  In fact, after her first relationship, which she presented in such interesting detail, and her fears of intimacy with a man etc, when she finally did fall in love with a European, there was no mention of anything that after almost 1/2 of the book spent on her cultural differences and religious issues surrounding relationships and men.  That was frustrating.  It was just plainly put, we met, we fell in love.

Ayaan's tireless and relentless call to action to give more rights and freedoms to muslim women all over the world must be applauded, but it does not come without controversy and threat to her personal safety at all times.  She started a foundation called AHA Foundation that works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

So, all in all, I'm glad I read it.  I have no plans to read Nomad, because quite frankly, I can't imagine what else could have happened since Infidel that could fill an entire other book, but maybe I'm wrong.  Anybody out there read both books?  Is it worth reading?

Love to hear your thoughts...

RATING:  3/5

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Please help my friend's niece 15 year old LEXI!

Lexi is a beautiful 15 year old girl who lives in Calgary, Alberta Canada.  She has an EXTREMELY rare disease and desperately needs your help!  Read her story:

                                      Lexi is a beautiful 15 year old girl with a                             bone tumor in her skull. It causes her incredible pain. We are     here to support her and her family to get the care Lexi needs.

Lexi is a stunningly gorgeous 15 year old ballerina. Who loves nothing more than to spread her wings on stage. One of the most gentle souls I know Lexi always puts everyone before her.. Her outlook and smile are an inspiration to all.

Lexi has a rare bone tumor in her skull (5cmx7cm) that has caused an even more rare nerve dystrophy in her head called CRPS or RSD. Usually found in the arm or leg CRPS causes excruciating debilitating pain that is untouched by narcotics. With intense physio this can be treated in the arm or leg however there is no treatment for CRPS of the cranial nerves.

Lexi has multi system issues.. She is believed to have an undiagnosed mutation of the cyropyrin gene that has left her allergic to her internal organs. She becomes covered in painful rashes and struggles to take breaths. Her body spasms, her jaw locks. Her skin splits and bleeds. Every movement or trauma causes more pain.Because of the cryopyrin issue drugs like morphine and 90 percent of the drugs that would help her suffering cannot be given as they compound the problem. Her lips swell so much they split open. Her hearing is so sensitive breathing around her makes her cry. She can no longer eat and is tube fed...even with the tube feed she continued to lose weight and at 102 lbs she is now on intravenous feeds running the risk of liver damage. No one in alberta knows how to diagnose or treat Lexi so we have spent a year trying to get help and really only putting out fires or what we call symptom chasing. She is so complex we are left just trying to keep her alive. We have exhausted ALL options at Alberta Children's Hospital. We are currently awaiting a transfer to toronto sick kids to meet with the specialists and genetic immunologists who might be able to help her. In the meantime she suffers incredibly. I have not really been able to work since may and her insurance provider removed her. She does not qualify for health insurance as she has been deemed critical. Since when I am working I do quite well she does not qualify for govt assistance. The govt drug programs do not cover most of her drugs and now even the hospital doesn't cover some of them. I have exhausted my savings and the bills keep coming. We aren't even sure what the bill for the transfer to toronto will be as her testing flights nurses etc may not even be covered. With med bills well into the thousands each month I am running out of options. I hear everyday what can I do to me save her. Even the comforts she needs like the softest of blankets and massage therapists that will come to the hosp ...all add up. Even trying to pay our reg bills with no income is becoming a struggle. Childrens cancer is the most funded area... Millions upon millions are donated each year. Diseases like lexi's get nothing...the rest of the hosp gets nothing. These kids die. This is a kid that would do anything and everything to make someone smile or ease their pain for a minute...please help me to continue to do it for her.

Please visit her Facebook page right now and donate as much as you can!  She is fighting for her life!