Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Howie Mandel is one of the most recognizable names in entertainment - you many know him from his stand-up, St. Elsewhere, Bobby's World, the Jay Leno show, but most likely you know him from his gig hosting Deal or No Deal.
If you have seen the game show you also know about Mandel's insistence on greeting people with a fist-bump rather than a handshake. This is because he struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and has an extreme case of "germophobia."
In Here's The Deal, Don't Touch Me Howie Mandel recounts his life - his childhood in Toronto, his entry into the stand-up world and the fame that followed. But most importantly he opens up about his struggle with OCD, as well as adult ADHD and a serious heart problem, and how they shaped both his personal life and his career.
The book is honestly written and refreshing. He is serious about the nature of his illnesses but also able to look at them with humour. Others who struggle with the same problems Mandel does will appreciate his way of dealing with the topic and be appreciative that he has spoken up to help others realize just what life is like for people who are living like him.
The book is laugh-out-loud funny in many parts. Mandel recounts some of the many pranks he has pulled over the years, which end with both hilarious and disastrous results. He describes his child self as "a lactose-intolerant, urinating outcast who fell into ditches and puddles, sometimes walked like Quasimodo, had a fear of laundry hampers, was a nesting ground for sand flies, and craved 100 per cent of the attention." (p.217) Don't worry, there is an explanation for each of those descriptions.
This is a book that is funny and serious at the same time, that deals with serious topics that affect many and deals with them with a warmth and humour that make the reader better understand the nature of the afflictions. Howie Mandel is as funny on paper as he is on television.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
At the age of 18, Jillian Lauren was a theatre school drop-out and sex worker. She had worked as both a stripper and escort when she got word of a job that would pay $20,000 for two weeks of spicing up the parties of a Singapore businessman. But when she arrived, she learned that the job was really to be a part of the harem of the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei.
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem is the story of Lauren's childhood, how she ended up as a sex worker, the 18 months she spent in the harem as one of the Prince's favourites, and what happened to her life after she left.
This book is frank and honest. There is strong language and Lauren is very open about her jobs in the sex industry. It is interesting to follow along on her journey, on a path that most women would not choose and in an industry that most people are not exposed to.
The details of her life in a harem are incredible. We've all heard stories and rumours about harems as well as about the indulgences of the Royal Family of Brunei, and now Lauren is giving us the real details about this life. However, when it comes to her life in the harem and the scandals, jealousies and fights that one would expect, there isn't much detail.
Some Girls is an okay story about life in a harem but a better story about a woman finding her place in the world, taking a path less chosen, and struggling to define who she is.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sylvie Woodruff is the ideal politician's wife. Her wardrobe is full of tailored suits, she considers it her job to stay twenty pound thinner than she really is and she spends her days giving talks and tending to her senator husband. But when news of her husband Richard's extramarital affair hits the airwaves, she is forced to reconsider who she is and where her purpose really lies.
Sylvie and Richard's daughters are also dealing with their own struggles when the scandal hits. Diana, the "perfect" daughter, is an ER physician with a husband and young son at home but she finds an escape from her loveless marriage through Doug, a hospital intern. Lizzie, the younger daughter, is a recovering addict trying to keep her life under control. But when she meets Jeff, a kind and caring man, she doesn't know how to handle having a relationship or the surprise that comes out of it.
Wanting to escape their troubles and the national spotlight, the three women leave everything behind and head to the family home in Connecticut. There they able to face their troubles and come to peace with what life has brought them and where it will take them.
Fly Away Home is the story of a mother and her two daughters who find themselves living lives they hadn't really expected. Jennifer Weiner has created characters who the reader will be drawn to, who will accept them flaws and all and hope for a positive outcome.
Unfortunately, Fly Away Home isn't one of Weiner's best. It is a great story and one that is current, but I personally felt that she could have done without the many references to real life cheating politicians and actors. To me, it cheapened the story. The beginning felt like it dragged a bit, however the story did pick up toward the end. More time is dedicated to the characters back stories rather than the healing and resolving of their situations.
While it may not be Weiner's best, it is still a good story and a good read. If you are a fan of Weiner's it is definitely worth picking up. If you have not read anything by her before, I recommend picking up one of her other novels first.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
About the Book
Faith, family, and friendship have always been top priority to lifelong friends Lawson, Reginell, Sullivan, Angel, and Kina, but each one is about to be put to the test during one turbulent year.
Lawson Kerry is a struggling single mother who has finally gotten her life together. Now, a fierce custody battle with her ex threatens to the tear apart everything she’s built. Reginell Kerry is a starry-eyed singer determined to make it to the top of the charts, but will she change her tune when a chance at fame means shedding her clothes and her self-respect?
Sullivan Webb is the pampered wife of a charismatic pastor with political aspirations, but she just might destroy her husband’s campaign and their marriage if she can’t control her wandering eye. Angel King has dedicated her life to nursing following the destruction of her marriage. Can she maintain her professionalism when she discovers that her newest patient is the woman who stole her husband? Kina Battle has had enough of her husband’s verbal and physical abuse. When she’s pushed to the edge, the situation heads in a deadly direction, and there’s no turning back.
Nothing is sacred, all bets are off, and the lives of these ladies will never be the same. Will they have the strength to hold on to their friendships and put their trust in God?
Flaws and All is a powerful novel that deals with heavy issues honestly, openly, and spiritually. Readers will instantly be caught up with these five women, their stories, and their faith.
This novel surpassed my expectations. At first I thought it would be difficult to keep up with five characters, but Shana Burton has masterfully told their stories without cluttering the book or leaving anything out. Serious issues such as adultery, domestic violence, and deception are dealt with from the perspective of pain and loss but also forgiveness and triumph.
The Christian message in this book is simple - like all Christians these women are not perfect and still have their struggles but their trust is firmly placed in God as the One who can bring them the strength to get through it all.
After reading Flaws and All, Shana Burton has quickly given herself a place as one of my favourite Urban Christian authors.
About the Author
Shana Johnson Burton is the best-selling author of Suddenly Single, First Comes Love, and Flaws and All. She lives in Georgia with her family and is currently a high school English and Journalism teacher and the co-host of "The Lovely Magazine" radio show . She was a 2009 Georgia Author of the Year nominee for Best Fiction (First Comes Love). Her next novel, Catt Chasin’, will be released in 2011.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
If you have ever seen a "Stars, They're Just Like Us!" spread in a magazine, you've probably wondered what it's really like to be a celebrity, followed by the paparazzi wherever they go and photographed even when all they are doing is getting a coffee. Veronica Czaplicki is about to find out.
A single mother and cash-strapped substitute teacher, Veronica is often mistaken for Hollywood starlet Haley Rush. And when she is offered a well-paying job to act as Haley's double for the paparazzi, she jumps at the chance. Soon Veronica has been made over to look exactly like Haley and she spends her days on the town posing as her. But soon, sparks begin to fly between Veronica and Haley's ex-boyfriend, actor Brady Ellis. And Haley is beginning to pull away from the Hollywood scene. The job becomes more than Veronica had bargained for and things quickly fall apart.
Just Like Me, Only Better is a funny look at the Hollywood life from a new perspective, the Hollywood double. The writing is great, casual and honest. Readers who are into pop culture will enjoy this book and even those who don't follow it will still enjoy the story. It's a great commentary on the expectations and emphasis we put on movie and music stars and shows that stardom isn't all it seems to be.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
At age thirteen Nicola, Holly and Lexi were cabinmates at summer camp. Shy, plain Nicola and plump Holly were outsiders who formed a lasting bond with each other. Rich, spoiled Lexi was a part of the in crowd and quickly became the nemesis of Nicola and Holly. Then one night Nicola and Holly pulled off a daring act of vengeance against Lexi, one that would have repercussions for years.
Twenty years later the women have grown up, moved on, and are each facing a defining struggle in their lives. Nicola is an almost-famous actress who will do anything to be pretty, including plastic surgery. Holly is a successful art gallery owner who will do anything to be thin, including starving herself to lose weight at her boyfriend's request. Lexi has found herself suddenly broke and without a home and will do anything to be rich again.
Thin, Rich, Pretty is the story of three women who believe that happiness lies just beyond their reach and who will do what they can to grasp it. But it's also a story of finding contentment in our lives with who we are and how true friendships will help to reveal all.
The story of these women and how they grow into mature women is beautiful. At the age of thirteen we all have so many struggles with identity and so many ideas of what we want to become. But it is not until we are adults that we understand how these struggles shape our identities and how life can take unexpected turns so that we don't always arrive where we had planned.
Because the women each struggle with a different issue, all readers will be able to identify with them. Readers will also relate to the characters' journey of finding out who they really are, and wishing we knew then what we know now.
The storyline of Nicola and Holly's act of revenge at thirteen doesn't seem to play as a big a part of the story as one would think. While it does reveal some personal pains of the characters, as they grow older it becomes something that is pushed to the back of their minds and doesn't seem to influence who they have become. The resolving of the issue is lacklustre and doesn't seem to have much effect on the characters or readers in the way one would have expected.
Overall, this is a quick and easy read. I was able to read the book in one day and stayed up late because I wanted to finish it. The story jumps between the past and present creating the right amount of suspense that makes you want to keep turning the pages to find how everything plays out.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Is it possible for one person to make a difference in this world? This is one of the many questions Lawrence Scanlan set out to answer when he began a year-long journey into the world of philanthropy.
Scanlan chose twelve different charitable organizations - some local, some international - and spent one month with each to find out exactly what they do, the challenges they face and if we the people can truly be a part of the solution.
The result of this journey is A Year of Living Generously: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Philanthropy. Scanlan spends his year with a soup kitchen, hospice drop-in, First Nations high school, Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, a women's radio station in Senegal, an HIV/AIDS shelter in Costa Rica, a horse riding camp for the disabled, a prison outreach program, a street outreach program, an immigrant centre, an environmental group and a program for people with developmental disabilities. This wide range of programs shows not only the many ways that a person can become involved but the many, many needs that exist in our society.
This is a truly inspiring book. Partway through the second chapter I had signed up my family with an organization in our neighbourhood. A couple of chapters later I made the mental note to find out the needs of another neighbourhood organization. This book will show readers that there are many small ways to become involved that make big differences in the lives of others. There are needs everywhere in the world and everyone has a talent that can be put to use.
What is great about this book is that it's not a tale of "look at all the good I am doing." It tells the story of the front line workers, the people who work long and hard hours making little or no money and who don't do it for the recognition, but because of the desire to make this world a better place. And it tells the many stories of the people who receive that help, how they got where they are and their hopes and dreams for the future. The difference between the two groups is circumstances, but beyond that we are all the same.
There is no magic wand that can be waved to end poverty and solve the worlds problems but there is something we can all do. As Lawrence Scanlan says - Keep on volunteering, keep on giving. Do not stop, and in fact do more. Weave generosity into your daily life. But marry that individual giving with political engagement. Show empathy as a volunteer, show passion as an activist. Get angry, get informed (p.324). If each and every person can follow this, then we'll see change happen in this world, and we will all be richer for it.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. Prepare to be inspired to reach out.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
While motherhood has been everything Becky dreamed it would be-Baby Dior, Little Marc Jacobs, and Dolce & Gabbana for toddlers-adorable Minnie is wreaking havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is "MINE!" and her penchant for Balenciaga bags, Chanel sunglasses, and online purchases has no rival under age five.
Becky is at her wits end. On top of this, she and her husband Luke are still living with her parents. Thankfully it appears house buying attempt number four is a go! Until a huge financial crisis causes panic everywhere, and nobody wants to shop-not Becky's personal shopping clientele, not her friends, nobody. And with Luke in the doldrums, it's time for Becky to step in-with a party: A surprise birthday party for Luke (on a budget) is the perfect antidote to everyone's woes. At first.
Will Becky manage to keep the party of the year a surprise? Can she hire jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats at a discount? Will enlisting the help of Luke's unflappable assistant to convince him to have another baby realize her dream of matching pom-poms? Will Minnie find a new outlet for her energetic and spirited nature (perhaps one with sixty percent markdowns)? She is, after all, a chip off the old shopping block. And everyone knows a committed shopper always finds a way.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Corduroy Mansions is the name of an apartment block set in London's Pimlico area, and it is in Corduroy Mansions that we find a cast of colourful characters.
William is a widowed wine merchant with a grown son who refuses to leave home and a female friend who is all too eager to move in. Dee is a vitamin sales girl who offers to perform colonic irrigation for those she knows. Her flatmate, Jenny, is an assistant to a nasty MP named Oedipus Snark, a man whose own mother is writing a very unflattering biography about him. Their other flatmate, Caroline is an art history student who is in love with a fellow student who thought he was gay but isn't so sure now. Throw in the MP's lover, a man who practices "sacred dancing" and a vegetarian, seatbelt-wearing dog and you have a group of quirky characters that only Alexander McCall Smith can create.
Corduroy Mansions was originally an online serial for the Daily Telegraph and now all 100 episodes have been put together in this book. It is obvious as every chapter in this book is very short, no more than 3 or 4 pages, which makes the book an easy and pleasant read.
The book is a humorous commentary on modern life and the relationships that bind us all together. What it shows is that even in large cities where people seem to always be on the go and keep to themselves, it is possible to form friendships with the people you share your space with.
This isn't a deep read, there isn't much drama or major events to the story. Serious topics are dealt with in a way that the reader knows they have affected the characters lives but aren't at the forefront of the story. As a big fan of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency I had high hopes for this book and was slightly disappointed. I was expecting more of a story and to get to know the characters better, but it is still a nice light read and it has great potential for another enjoyable series.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Is it possible for a woman to be the Ideal Wife? Jessica Wild-Wainwright is about to find out.
The third instalment of Gemma Townley's hilarious Jessica Wild series is An Ideal Wife, following up The Importance of Getting Married and A Wild Affair. Jessica is married to her wonderful husband Max and everything is perfect. Except for one thing: she never confessed that she kissed Max's rival right before their wedding. Jessica decides that the best way to make up for this is to become doting, devoted and domestic - everything she thinks Max wants and a lot of what she lacks.
Unfortunately, as usually happens to Jessica, things don't go as planned. Before she knows it Max is in the hospital with a broken leg and a sexy nurse to care for him, Jessica is running Max's company just as they undergoing an "ethical audit", there is a mystery man in her soon-to-be-married mother's life, her semiretired Russian stripper friend has asked her to hide a mysterious trunk and there are two men in sunglasses and a Black Hummer following her around. Can Jessica continue to be the Ideal Wife with all of this on her plate?
An Ideal Wife is an easy and fun to read novel. Jessica Wild is a great character who is funny and realistic in the most wild and entertaining situations. Even though the book is the third in a series, it does stand alone. You do not need to read the first two books as Townley does a good job of catching the reader up without spending too much time on the past. However, if you are a fan of chick lit I recommend reading the entire series as you won't be disappointed.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
One Day is the story of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, or "Dex and Em", two friends who met at university and spent a drunken night together after their graduation. But after that one day, they know must go their separate ways and begin their adult lives. The book checks in with them every year on the anniversary of that date, July 15th, and for twenty years we watch them grow, love, learn and lose, both together and apart.
The concept of this book, the one day, is brilliant. Dex and Em have an on and off, up and down friendship and in visiting them on only one day a year, there is a suspense created as to where their friendship has gone. In addition to this, their stories are an example of how life doesn't always go how we hope or plan.
At the end of each chapter, the reader can only want to turn the page to find out what the next year has brought them. You will root for Dex and Em, understanding how life can bring about the worst timing, hoping that they can get their relationship and lives to where they both want it to be.
If you finished your teens in the late 80's as they did, you will relate to the cultural and political changes that occurred throughout their lives and the changes that Dex and Em went through in relation to them. Even if that isn't your generation you will still relate to the way we all grow and mature over time and the way of our relationships do the same.
One Day is a beautiful love story wrapped up in so many emotions. It is well-written, relatable, and engaging. It is a must-read and a book you won't be able to put down.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Now, McMillan revisits Savannah, Gloria, Bernadine, and Robin fifteen years later. Each is at her own midlife crossroads: Savannah has awakened to the fact that she's made too many concessions in her marriage, and decides to face life single again-at fifty-one. Bernadine has watched her megadivorce settlement dwindle, been swindled by her husband number two, and conned herself into thinking that a few pills will help distract her from her pain. Robin has an all-American case of shopaholism, while the big dream of her life-to wear a wedding dress- has gone unrealized. And for years, Gloria has taken happiness and security for granted. But being at the wrong place at the wrong time can change everything. All four are learning to heal past hurts and to reclaim their joy and their dreams; but they return to us full of spirit, sass, and faith in one another. They've exhaled: now they are learning to breathe. (From Fantastic Fiction)
Sunday, August 1, 2010
"I think I'm having a nervous breakdown, and no one's noticed." Ever wished you could just leave it all behind? Emily Barr's unputdownable new novel is about a mother of two with a seemingly perfect life who's cracking up and longing to get away from it all. But when she finally gets to go away, to India, things are far from what she expects...She has to go away to come home to what she loves again.
Successful media mogul Abraham Martin has great wealth, an elegant wife, Saralyn, and a rebellious son, Isaac. He also has a secret: a second family that no one knows about. Now, after thirty years-driven by the urging of his long dormant conscience-Abraham is determined to do the right thing by finally bringing his illegitimate children into the light...and into the family fold.
But beautiful, manipulative Saralyn will never accept the proof of her husband's indiscretions. Isaac, the heir, shaken by his father's revelations, will fight mercilessly when his world is threatened, and may lose everything that matters as a result. And while Abraham's forgotten daughter, Deborah, is open to the undreamed-of possibilities suddenly awaiting her, his son, Michael, cannot forgive the man who cruelly abandoned them to near poverty. And he's driven by only one desire: revenge!