Category Archives: Reviews

The Ultimate Mix CD Revealed + Giveaway Winners

I thought it was time I revealed the master playlists from the Phenomenal Woman and Cafe Mixes. Every year I create 2 mix cds as gifts for my mom and sister – a phenomenal woman mix full of upbeat dance tunes, and a cafe mix for relaxing at home. I’ve enlisted help from the blogosphere for the past several years in finding just the right tunes to add and I hosted a giveaway for those that shared ideas.

Thank you all so much for sharing your musical suggestions with me. To see all the recommendations, check out The Ultimate Mix CD Project.

Here are the winning contenders!

Phenomenal Woman Mix:

1. Shake It Off  by Taylor Swift

2. Hideaway by Kiesza

3. Mother and Father by Broods

4. His Gorgeousness by The Shoe

5. Tough Love by Jessie Ware

6. Ghost by Ella Henderson

7. My Silver Lining by First Aid Kit

8. The Chain by Brandi Carlile

9. Knots by Lisa Hannigan

10. Gun by CHVRCHES

11. Coffee by Sylvan Esso

12. Wings by Birdy

13. Safe & Sound by Savannah Berry

14. Pompeii by Jasmine Thompson

15. Wolf by First Aid Kit

16. Last Bus Out by Jillette Johnson

17. Spectrum by Florence + the Machine

18. Beating Heart by Ellie Goulding

19. Higher by Lia Ices

20. Rockstar by Emily Kinney

21. Enough by The Mrs.

*****

Cafe Mix:

1. Paper Cup by The Shoe

2. Long Way Off by Gungor

3. Fare Thee Well by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford

4. Kids by Emily Kinney

5. Stay With Me by Bernhoft

6. Michigan by The Milk Carton Kids

7. Li’l Red Riding Hood by Laura Gibson

8. Just Another Day by Stacey Earle

9. I See Fire by Ed Sheeran

10. Come Out Wherever You Are by Paul Cook & The Chronicles

11. Like a Dream by Francis and the Lights

12. Woodstock by Joni Mitchell

13. Somebody That I Used to Know by Madilyn Bailey & Jake Coco

14. Mull of Kintyre by Wings

15. Be Not So Fearful by A.C. Newman

16. Shadow on the Wall by Brandi Carlile

17. Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars

18. 18th of December by The Deep Dark Woods

19. You and Me by You + Me

20. Go To Sleep by The Avett Brothers

*****

There are the ultimate playlists! Happy listening.

And the winners of the cd giveaway are…

Lauralynn Elliott and Susan Dahlstrom

Congrats ladies!

***

What were your favorite tunes of the past year?
Find any new favorites from these playlists?

 

The Practical Person’s Reading Challenge, the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge Begins

The new year kicks off the start of many new year’s resolutions and challenges. Some of my favorites to participate in are reading challenges, and this will be my fourth year joining in the TBR Pile Challenge.

Adam from Roof Beam Reader is hosting the 6th annual To Be Read Pile Challenge of 2015!

Here’s the Scoop:

The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).

Specifics:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2014 or later (any book published in the year 2013 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

2. To be eligible, you must sign-up with Mr. Linky below – link to your list (so create it ahead of time!) and add updated links to each book’s review. Books must be read and must be reviewed (doesn’t have to be too fancy) in order to count as completed.

3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky below must be to your “master list”. This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge). See THIS LINK for an idea of what I mean. Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2015.

4. Leave comments on this post as you go along, to update us on your status. Come back here if/when you complete this challenge and leave a comment indicating that you CONQUERED YOUR 2015 TBR LIST! Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!

5. Crossovers from other challenges are totally acceptable, as long as you have never read the book before and it was published before 2014!

Isn’t that the smartest idea for a book challenge? To finally read all those books I know you bibliophiles like me keep buying and don’t get to?

You have until January 15th to post your 2015 TBR Pile list. Books can be read in any order. I like to do a mix of genres so I always have something I’m “in the mood” to read.

And this year, you can also stay connected to others doing the challenge via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #TBR2015RBR.

My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
  2. Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
  3. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1905)
  4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)
  5. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (1999)
  7. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012)
  8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
  9. Where’s My Wand? by Eric Poole (2010)
  10. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (2011)
  11. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004)
  12. Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2013)

Alternates:

  1. When Life Gives You Lemons…At Least You Won’t Get Scurvy! by Madge Madigan (2013)
  2. Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (2012)

Will you be participating? Do you do any other reading challenges?
What’s on your TBR pile list?

 

What’s the Best Book You Read in 2014?

With December here, the 2014 To Be Read Pile Challenge is coming to a close. This is my favorite reading challenge as it stresses reading books you already own. Like so many writers, I have a book buying problem. I love bookstores and even when I’m shopping in a place like Target, I have to peruse the book aisles. I just love books!

What that leads to is multiple shelves of books that I haven’t read yet because I’m always buying more or renting some from the library or listening to ones on audiobook.

Unread books

The To Be Read Pile Challenge focuses on reading 12 books that have been sitting on your shelf for more than a year in one year’s time. You’re also allowed to pick 2 alternates in case one of the books you choose is impossible to get through.

This year I read all my 12 and one alternate! (And I just looked at my Goodreads shelves – I read 40 books total this year! Hoping to finish the two in my sidebar before 2015 as well.)

What were the final 2 books I completed for the TBR Pile?

*****

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

I hate to admit I did not really like this one. But here’s the honest scoop. I think Jen Lancaster is a great writer! She is funny and witty and has a great writer’s voice.

I think the problem for me was that I could not identify with her in this book. Bitter is the New Black is Jen’s memoir about having it all – six figure salary, name brand clothes, posh apartment, all the witty comebacks and snide comments one can muster. Then she loses everything, and has to learn how to budget, shop less, and live less extravagantly.

I didn’t grow up or ever achieve a six figure lifestyle, so I’ll be honest and say the most bitter person in this book, was ME, the reader. I had a poor attitude reading Jen’s story because I couldn’t handle her complaining about loss when it seemed she didn’t appreciate what she had for so long.

Bitter party of one! I admit I wasn’t in a mindset to appreciate this book like I could. Sorry Jen!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Bookworms will love this paranormal read by Deborah Harkness! Diana Bishop is a researcher at Oxford, who haphazardly uncovers a book that is filled with all the secrets of the magic world – vampires, demons, and witches. Now, all those creatures are showing up in the library and everywhere else Diana roams.

With the help of a tall, dark and handsome vampire named Matthew, Diana must discover the secrets of the book before the others do.

I liked this one. It’s an interesting spin on how the worlds of paranormal creatures intertwine. And there’s a historical element to it because Diana is descendant from Elizabeth Bishop of the Salem Witch Trials.

Anyone read the next one in this series?

*****

I want to know what your favorite book(s) you read this year was!

When I look back at my list, I had books that I hated (One Thousand White Women), I had a few classics I completed (Anne of Green Gables, Mansfield Park, Rebecca), and I had books I loved (The Night Circus, Official Book Club Selection, Love With a Chance of Drowning).

But my favorite book I read this year was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

A young adult novel by genre, this book is phenomenal for any audience. It won the National Book Award – and BONUS* it’s one of the most banned books of all time! (Shhh – it talks about masturbation. hehehehe)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is the story of Junior, an American Indian growing up on a reservation who takes a risk and attends the all white school in the next town.

I learned so much from this book. I think it should be required reading for students. It talks about race – yes – but it does it from the voice of a high school student – with honesty about both sides.

It talks about poverty and the downward spirals that poverty fosters – alcoholism, abuse, depression. Still, Junior is able to show us these things with some sense of humor and humility.

Get the book if you can. I read this one via audiobook which I loved, because the author reads it and I so appreciate hearing any story about a different culture in the voice of a native speaker, but if you get the book there are really fun cartoon drawings in it because that’s how Junior makes sense of his world, through drawing.

I cannot speak highly enough about this book. I didn’t want it to end. It was so good. And I learned so much.

*****

What was the best book(s) you read in 2014?
What titles will you be putting on your 2015 To Read Pile list?

Exciting news! Adam from Roof Beam Reader has kicked off the sign up for the 6th annual To Be Read Pile Challenge this 2015, so be sure to create your must read list and sign up!

When Murder and Mr. Darcy Mix: Top 5 Reasons to Watch Death Comes to Pemberley

Last night, like so many Jane Austen fans across the country, I tuned in to watch Masterpiece’s mini-series version of Death Comes to Pemberley.

Ok, I did a little more than “tune in.”

Death Comes to Pemberley

 

Yes. Yes, that is me watching the show, following the live tweet stream,
and texting my sister about it all at the same time. 

I need 2 more hands and maybe a Go Pro to capture the real magic of this moment. 

Anyway…

The PBS movie is based on the bestselling book, Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James. And it’s written as a sequel to the happily ever after ending in Pride and Prejudice by my girl, Jane Austen.

Lizzie Bennett is now married and mistress of Pemberley. She and Darcy have one son. And the day before they are to throw a grand ball, Lizzie’s compulsive little sister, Lydia, shows up screaming bloody murder. A search party finds the body of one former militia man, Denny, DEAD in the woods. And the leading suspect? None other than Derbyshire’s King cad, George Wickham.

Much to their disappointment, Lizzie and Darcy now find themselves pulled back into the reckless life of Wickham.

It’s murder and mayhem with a dash of Mr. Darcy! 

Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy 

The Twitter feed following the first episode was alive with comparisons of P.D. James’s book and Jane Austen’s. Everything from the cast to the costumes was scrutinized, and for the most part applauded. I did laugh out loud when for a brief minute, the hashtag #FreeWickham started trending.

Five Reasons to Watch Death Comes to Pemberley

1) Reunite With All Your Favorite Characters

They’re all back. Lizzie. Mr. Darcy. Lizzie’s parents. Jane.

2) Reunite With All Your LEAST Favorite Characters

Lydia is a big part of this murder mystery, as it is her husband, the sleazy George Wickham who is suspected of committing the crime. Twitter fans raved over Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of the selfish, whiney Lydia. She is still selfish beyond compare. And Wickham is still deceitful and anything but a gentleman. But, is he a murderer?

3) Return to Pemberley 

The set of Pemberley and the rooms inside were well constructed to match that of the previous books and films we’ve come to adore. An English manor set in the countryside full of the finest china and most beautiful sunrooms. The costumes are exquisite. Darcy is still strapping as ever. Lizzie is handsome in egg shell blue gowns. Even Wickham, in his redcoat regimentals, has the ladies of Twitter still swooning – it helps that he’s played by Matthew Goode.

4) Experience the Gothic Version of Pride and Prejudice

The cinematography of the show is quite stunning. From wide open green spaces to haunted woods with scraggly trees, to mist covered mansions, and ghost stories! P.D. James’s version of Pemberley seems to be taking a nod from the Bronte sisters’ love for gothic literature. Or from Ms. Austen herself, with her earlier work, Northanger Abbey.

5) Find out MORE about the Lizzie and Darcy love story!

Yes, there’s a happily ever after, but that isn’t the end of the tale. Both Lizzie and Mr. Darcy still struggle with their pride and prejudice. And there are secrets Darcy hasn’t yet told. Can Lizzie reconcile the damage her family has once again caused their social standing? So many new questions!

The second, and final, episode of Death Comes to Pemberley is set to air on November 2nd, 8pm CST. Join in to witness how Wickham’s trial for murder goes. If he’s found guilty, he will hang.

Did you tune in this week?

What I’ve Been Reading About – Sex, Lies, and Murder

Hey Dudes and Dudettes,

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about my progress with the To Be Read Pile Challenge, so I thought I’d better “update my status.” You see I’ve been reading a lot about relationships lately, so I have three titles of love advice for anyone to enjoy.

And as a refresher, if you’re unfamiliar with the TBR Pile Challenge, it’s a reading contest hosted by Adam over at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to complete in 12 months time 12 books that have been sitting on your bookshelf for a year or more. You know the ones, they linger in the ever-looming “to be read” pile. At nine months in, I’m just two books away from completing the challenge this year. Holla!

What have I recently crossed off my list?

TBR book collageBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Roach - BonkLittle known fact about me, or maybe it’s no secret, I love learning about sex and sexuality. I minored – and only because it wasn’t offered as a major at the time – in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’m passionate about women’s issues and rights, and I’m thrilled to be working at a reproductive health clinic in my town. Reading about the history and science of sex research was right up my alley.

The author, Mary Roach, is quite possibly the queen of nonfiction exposition on risque topics. Her other books dive into the worlds of human cadavers, the digestive track, and what happens when we die. For Bonk, the woman volunteered herself and her husband to be lab rats for sex research on orgasms. That’s dedication.

In Bonk, not only will you learn about the doctors and scientists behind the “G-spot,” the infamous Kinsey “attic sessions,” or just how artificial insemination happens in a pig, but so much more!

The American Heiress

american heiressAlright, let’s tame things down a bit. For all you Downton Abbey diehards and regency era wannabees, I suggest you give Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress a try. My book club read this one and it was well enjoyed.

Cora Cash is an American debutante. She is wealthy, beautiful, and definitely high society. Her mother, opinionated at her core, has high plans of wedding her daughter to an English Duke, which would grant Cora the one thing she doesn’t have…a title.

It won’t surprise readers to learn that Cora is soon wed in the novel, however can Cora’s marriage last when she comes from a different world than her husband? So many unknowns!

Escape on a whirlwind love affair in Europe, walk the halls of the great English mansions, and go galloping with the finest – or are they – members of society.

Rebecca

rebeccaBy and far one of my favorite reads this year! I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner! After all, the film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock is tied for first place (with North by Northwest) as my favorite film of his.

Be very aware, young lovers, when falling head over heels into this tale. A young woman of unfortunate circumstance believes her luck has turned around when she meets and marries millionaire, Maxim De Winter, owner of the luscious estate, Manderley. But all is not well inside these walls. The great rooms of the house, the garden with its roses, and the forgotten cottage down by the beach – they are all haunted by Rebecca – the first Mrs. De Winter.

A shocking truth brings the honeymoon to a miserable end in this chilling story by Daphne Du Maurier. I can’t tell you what happens, just read it for yourself!

*****

What have you been reading? Are you participating in the TBR Pile Challenge? How’s it going? Got any recommendations for me?

 

 

 

I’m Addicted to Stitch Fix

Have you tried or heard of Stitch Fix?

It’s a personal styling business for women based out of San Francisco, CA. I first heard about them on Twitter and started ogling all the cute pictures people were taking of the new clothes they received. I had to check this out.

The Scoop:

Sign up for an account, which is free, and fill out your style profile. It’s an in depth assessment of what YOU want and like, but it’s not too time consuming. I promise. It shows you pictures and lets you enter your sizes and comfort level with showing off various body parts. You input budget guidelines. You can also link to your Twitter and Pinterest accounts so the stylists can better get to know you when they select items for your fix.

Which is honestly why I started a pinterest account…but there’s writing stuff on there too!

The Cost:

$20.

For $20 a personal stylist will select 5 items for you and mail them to your house.

That’s right. To your house. No driving in circles for a parking spot at the mall, clothes shopping in places where it smells like big pretzels. You get five items personally selected for you to try on in the comfort of your own home. No shipping fee.

If you buy the whole fix, you get 25% off everything, but otherwise keep what you want, and send the rest back. Again, no shipping. Stitch Fix boxes come with a prepaid envelope inside. And that $20? Goes towards your purchase!

Stitch Fix 1This was my first Stitch Fix box. I asked for fun summer outfits to wear on my honeymoon, and the stylist wrote the sweetest personalized note to me.

style card note

The Deal-io:

Stitch Fix Founder and CEO, Katrina Lake, has always worked in some capacity with retail, but she always dreamed of starting up her own project. Her passion was in the potential for digital fashion sales. She partnered with tech wizards in Silicon Valley to create style algorithms based on people’s responses and worked with up and coming fashion designers to lower expenses of the clothes while still granting mass exposure of their labels.

Here’s a quick interview with Katrina – this woman knows her stuff.

A common thread she kept hearing from clients was how busy each woman was. Stitch Fix to the rescue! When you can try clothes on in your own home, you have your entire closet with you to see if that new top really does pair well those paisley gaucho pants you bought two years ago and have yet to match anything to. 😀

The Fun:

Photo-ops! Take one look at the twitter hashtag #StitchFix, and you’ll see women all over the country gleefully unpacking their Stick Fix box, which by the way is packed adorably and professionally and comes with style cards for your new potential wardrobe items.

style cardsI’m Addicted:

This is fun! And you should Stitch Fix with me. The most you have to lose is $20. But I’m betting you’re gonna like it!

Stitch Fix 2Stitch Fix box #2. I kept the skinny jeans and the black top.

Still curious? Try it yourself!

*****

And, the winner of Roni Loren’s e-book, Still Into You, is… brickhousechick!!! Congratulations!
Your summer just got more sizzlin’!

Write Strong Women and Marry Your Best Friend: An Interview About Romance With Author Roni Loren

As part of my To Be Read Challenge, I included a (signed – squeee!) copy of Crash Into You by erotic romance author, Roni Loren (@RoniLoren). I met Roni at DFWcon 3 years ago and have attended her sessions on writing realistic romance scenes. She is fabulous.

So are her books.

*****

Crash Into You

Sometimes the past can bring you to your knees…

Brynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat—a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn’s past…

 

 I am very pleased to welcome Roni to the Happiness Project!

*****

Describe yourself in three words.

Perfectionistic, Introverted, Curious

What drew you to writing erotica? What do you love about your genre?

It was a genre I loved to read, of course. But I was really drawn to the fact that it had very few boundaries. Like I could write suspense in my story but it didn’t have to fit the restrictions of a romantic suspense. And it could be contemporary but the romance didn’t have to be light and airy. All I needed to make sure I had was a happy ending and a lot of steam (which is fun to write.) So it allows for a lot of freedom in my stories, which makes my muse happy. 🙂

I write nonfiction about my family and they all want pseudonyms. 😉 How did your friends and family respond when your first book came out?
I’ve been lucky. My family is hugely supportive and not hung up on the fact that I write the sexy stuff. My mom even reads my books (even when I told her not to, lol) and tells her friends to buy my books. I don’t hide what I write from anyone because I’m not ashamed of it. If they ask, I’ll tell them. Though, people are usually surprised when they find out because I’m the quiet, mom-next-door type. I think some people expect erotic writers to fit some outrageous image. But the people writing it (and reading it!) are every day women (and men, for that matter.)

That’s awesome! What are you reading right now?

I just finished Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland because I’m a pantser with plotter envy (and am obsessed with writing craft books.) But fiction wise, I’m reading Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (YA Steampunk Paranormal) and rereading The Shining by Stephen King.

Oooh, nice picks!
Settled in for the night after conferencing, reading Roni's book

Settled in for the night after conferencing, reading Roni’s book

I read Fifty Shades of Gray, and hated it. The main character is pretty flat – quite literally, actually, she’s tied down and having sex so much. Your lead female in Crash Into You (Brynn) is really 3-dimensional. Her mother works in the sex industry, Brynn is a sexual assault survivor, she works in a social work setting with other domestic violence victims, and she struggles to claim her own sexual identity despite her past. In what ways do you think Brynn is a champion for women, and what do you think are her shortcomings?

It’s important to me to write really strong women, particularly because of the power dynamic I use between the hero and heroine. In Brynn’s case, I wanted to show how tough and smart she is because even though she has this urge to be sexually submissive in the bedroom, she’s an independent, brave woman in her every day life. She’s driven to help others, and ultimately, she learns to help herself. The theme in all my books usually comes back to healing and self-acceptance, so I think Brynn is a prime example of that. No one fixes her problems for her. She has to learn to move through her fear, heal, and then embrace who she is.

I’m getting married in 2 months. What’s your advice for keeping the passion alive?

Yay, congrats! 🙂 I’ve been married for almost 13 years, and it still feels like we just got married (so I guess that’s good!)

 

That’s wonderful! Congrats to you, lovebirds!

 

I think the key is to marry someone you have a deep friendship with, who gets you, and who makes you laugh. That takes care of a lot of things. But with keeping the passion alive specifically, I think it’s important to develop a level of trust that you literally can talk about anything (including fantasies, likes/dislikes, etc.) with no judgment or expectations, so that you can keep things fresh. When I hear that some husbands don’t like their wives reading romance novels, I want to bonk them on the head because—hello, that’s just going to give her new ideas of what she wants to do with/to you, lol. Buy her stacks!

 

Great advice! I know you love to watch Reality TV, what are your guilty pleasures right now?

 

I just finished American Idol, of which I’m a faithful follower. And now I am so ready for Big Brother. It’s the one reality show that I can convince myself I’d have a shot at winning (ha!) unlike shows like Survivor or Amazing Race where I’d last 3.2 seconds. But there’s something about watching all those intricate human dynamics that I can’t look away from.

 

If you could host a Romance Award ceremony, who would you bestow a trophy to for the following:

 

Hottest Big Screen Actor: Oh, so many. Bradley Cooper is always a fave. And recently I’ve developed a crush on Jimmy Fallon (though, not technically a big screen actor) because funny is hot.
Best Couples Getaway: I like cold places since I live in TX, so a mountain cabin in Lake Tahoe maybe.
Most Decadent Dessert: Cheesecake

Sexiest Thing About Women: Our brains.

What’s next for you? What can readers watch out for?

In August, I’m releasing a novella called BLURRING THE LINES that is separate from my Berkley series. It will be sexy contemporary romance with a paranormal twist and is part of a multi-author continuity series called Invitation to Eden. (I’m thinking of it like the show Lost but with more sex and happily ever afters, lol.) Then in September I’m releasing a novella, FOREVER STARTS TONIGHT, and in November, my serial novel, NOT UNTIL YOU, is being put into an omnibus edition. So lots of things coming up! (In other news, I won’t be sleeping until next February, lol.)

We’ll be watching! Thanks Roni for joining us. Always a pleasure learning from you and I love your advice (and characters) about being strong, independent women with PASSION!

RoniLorenAuthorHeadshot2

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son.

If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that’s it. She is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat. Website: www.roniloren.com

*****

E-BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

One lucky commenter will be receiving an e-copy (Nook or Kindle U.S.)
of Roni’s book Still Into You!

Random drawing will be held on Wednesday @ 5pm CST,
winner announced on Thursday’s blog!

The Art of Eating Rice Cake, Or Mistakes Made While Traveling Abroad

I’m a little over halfway in my To Be Read Pile Challenge. Which is saying a lot since last year, I think I only finished 4 books? This year I was more strategic with what I planned to read. I made my list a mix of humor books, book club books, and ones that have sat on my bookshelf too long.

My 2014 To Be Read Pile

  1. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
  2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  3. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
  4. Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
  5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  7. Crash Into You by Roni Loren
  8. She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  10. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  11. Bonk by Mary Roach
  12. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

I have some reviews to get up here yet, but I’ve finished reading 8 books already!

One of my favorite authors to read is David Sedaris, and I recently finished When You Are Engulfed in Flames on audiobook, which in my opinion, is the BEST way to read a Sedaris book. He has the greatest voice and often reads his work aloud – even drafts – which I think is fascinating. He is then able to tell his agent what lines got the biggest laughs by the audience. Very cool.

In this book, Sedaris talks a lot about living abroad and his relationship with his partner, Hugh, as well as the eclectic group of neighbors they’ve had over the years.

Over the course of their lives together, David and Hugh have lived in New York, France, and Japan. When I visited my friend Amy in South Korea, I spent hours practicing basic Korean phrases out of a language book I’d checked out from the library, only to arrive and find out I’d memorized them with the totally wrong pronunciation. Certain consonants sound very different in the Korean alphabet than they do in English. The letter ‘G’ for example, often takes on the sound of a ‘K’ in Korean.

I greatly sympathized and heartily laughed while reading David’s recount of being the dumbest kid in Japanese class. I loved that his teachers were still kind and encouraging to him, patting him on the head for being the dunce that he was, surrounded by a class much younger than he.

One day I was shopping in Insadong Market by myself and I stopped in a beautiful second floor tea shop to journal about my trip and watch the crowds of people traverse the street market below. I ordered a Green Tea Latte and what I thought was a delicious pastry of fried dough with cinnamon and sugar inside. Amy and her boyfriend, Lin, had bought one for me earlier in the week and it was a yummy treat.

100_2000I thought THIS is what I ordered.

Instead, what appeared on a plate before me was what I would describe as a melted patty of rice cake. Now, to be quite clear, rice cake is NOT cake. And it’s consistency is pretty chewy even at room temperature. The tea shop attendant also gave me the tiniest fork I had ever seen.

Not wanting to be rude, I picked up the fork made for fairies and tried to cut a piece of the rice cake off. It was so gooey, I ended up wrapping it around my fork like a spaghetti noodle, making giant rolling waves with my arm. It just kept winding…and winding!

Once inside my mouth, the rice cake coated my teeth so that my jaw was sealed tight by this taffy-like food. I ate about half of…whatever it was I ordered. When I later described the food to Amy and Lin, neither one had a clue.

Much like David Sedaris, I live life in an experimental manner, a sort of “well, this is what I said I  wanted so best to make everyone think I’m an expert at eating it.” But as the rice cake cooled, it stuck to the plate and I had to use my fairy fork to drag the stuff across it and wind it still. There was no grace or expertise about it.

I highly recommend David Sedaris’s book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It is a fantastic read for anyone who adores humor books and for lovers of wanderlust everywhere. The best part about travel is that you accept adventures. You could end up like David, sitting in a French hospital waiting room – naked. Or you might just accidentally order rice cake. 😉

*****

Thanks to all who left loving comments for my friend, Cat, last week. Your encouragement warms our spirits.

Now how about you? What are your favorite funny books or travel moments?

 

 

That’s Anne with an E: Who Are Your Book Idols?

I grew up watching all the Anne of the Green Gables movies.

I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables.

I kind of dressed like her.

Anne of Green Gables Look

If I’d have had access to a dory, you would’ve seen my Lady of Shalott corpse impersonation floating down the Rock River.

So can you believe I had never actually read the book?!

I know. I chastised myself.

So for this year’s To Be Read Pile Challenge I picked up the beautifully illustrated, hardcover edition my mother had purchased for me many years ago.

I can’t even find this edition on Amazon now.

It felt wonderful to get sucked back into the world of Anne Shirley, a redheaded little girl whose imagination rivals my own.

The whole book, to me, feels like it’s written in Anne’s flowery way of speaking. I was often laughing out loud. I love when she is asked to introduce herself and she says, “Won’t you call me Cordelia?” At this, everyone always questions her, for they’ve been told her name is Anne. Plain and simple, Anne Shirley.

Admitting defeat, she adds, “But if you must call me Anne, please spell it Anne with an ‘E’. It sounds so much nicer, don’t you think? I can always tell when someone spells it just A-N-N and it’s positively dreadful!”

Even the Chapter titles are fantastic.

Reading Anne of Green GablesChapter 9: Mrs. Rachel Lynde is Properly Horrified

At its heart, the story of Anne of Green Gables is about finding one’s home. Anne starts out as an orphan, and with her imagination creates a home with family and friends she dreams of every night. Then through a fortunate accident, she finds herself in a new, real home with people who love her and push her to be her best more than any dream she could have imagined. She is definitely a perseverance expert! Some might say, “a kindred spirit.”

Who are the characters in books you loved growing up?
Why did they inspire you?

Is there a classic still on your list you’ve been meaning to read?

Love and Green Gables,

Cordelia

Jess

She Got Up Off the Couch: A Seriously Funny Read

I just finished reading Haven Kimmel’s book, She Got Up Off the Couch, which was part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge list.

I was first introduced to Haven Kimmel’s books by a local librarian at a book club discussion about memoirs. I immediately read her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and it’s quite possibly one of my favorite books ever.

Ever.

In one of my FAVORITE parts, Haven (Zippy) believes her family when they tell her she was born in a gypsy tribe and found abandoned in a wagon. Also, she had a tail. For weeks, she rides around town on her bike believing she is the renegade daughter of nomadic gypsies and that her adoptive family had her tail surgically removed.

This is just genius.

In She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven’s story continues, growing up in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana. The person who gets up off the couch, is her mother, Delonda Jarvis. Haven is pretty open about the fact that her family was a bit broken, though she didn’t know it at the time. Her mother spent all hours on the couch reading books or talking on the phone, until one day, she decided to go to college.

The thing is, Delonda didn’t know how to drive. So she bummed rides to the neighboring town for awhile before buying a cheap, rundown Volkswagon and learned to drive it. She graduated with a degree in English and went on to become a teacher. But the story of how she got there and how this shift in the routine impacted the Jarvis family is a page turner.

Here’s a quote about her mother:

“She had done all these things and she was going to graduate summa cum laude, which meant Good But Loud, from the Honors College, and she had done it all in twenty-three months. It takes some people more time to hang a curtain.” She Got Up Off the Couch

While the title of Haven’s book refers to her mother, it is just as much Haven’s story too. She grew up in a Quaker home, and went on to attend Seminary School, where she ended up writing her first memoir, Zippy. In this second glimpse, we meet Haven when she’s entering her early teen years. Her older siblings have moved out of the house, leaving her and her estranged parents to deal with another.

Her natural curiosity makes her a loveable character. Haven is a girl who never wears shoes, or skirts, and occasionally puts rocks in her mouth – cause she likes the way they taste. Her father is a charismatic factory worker who doesn’t work in a factory, and her mother is about to turn their worlds upside down. This is a coming of age story for all three family members, and right or wrong, each is going to make drastic changes and question everything they knew to be true before.

Author Haven Kimmel

Looking for something to read? Definitely pick up one of Haven Kimmel’s books. I’ve purchased multiple copies of A Girl Named Zippy as gifts for friends and family. It is that good.

Happy reading!
What book(s) have you recently finished that you loved?

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