Wednesday, September 30, 2015

October Blogger Challenge: 31 posts in 31 days

Hello everyone! As you've noticed, I haven't really had any personal posts up because right now my work is getting ready to go into what we call Overtime season. Last year, OT season started at the end of September so we're all basically waiting for the bomb to drop because it's been quiet...too quiet. 

ANYWAY. I've got a decent amount of reviews scheduled to last just until the end of October, so that means in October I can focus on more personal posts and things to help you all get to know me.

I very much want to thank The Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Herding Cats & Burning Soup for dreaming up this fantastic challenge.

So here is the lowdown:
  • Purpose: Increase the number of scheduled blog posts you have ready to publish by 31 posts during the month of October. (You can set your own goal) All post will be scheduled from November 1st or later.
  • Who Can Join: Any blogger or author can join. Brand new, been around for years.Blogger, WordPress or other platform. Any heat level, genre or theme, etc. If you blog…you’re welcome to join!
  • Types of Posts that Count: Any finished posts count! Meme, review, guest post, interview, discussion. Top Ten Posts, Favorites posts, Shopping Guide Posts, Cooking posts, pet posts, photo posts, etc. Posts do NOT have to be book related.
  • Required: The post must be complete and scheduled from November 1, 2015 onward. (So not just blurb, buy links, etc for a review post. The review needs to be complete for the post to count.)

And I know it says to get ahead by 31 posts but I'll just tally up everything I have and see where we're at for my goal here:

--At least 20 reviews (20)
--Top Ten Tuesdays through January (12)
--Personal book related posts (3)
------Now this one is like my favorite booktubers, tips for new bloggers, finding time to read, etc
--Book tags! (3?) I'll have to find two more tags to do because I only have one listed on my planner but I like these sooo I'll find some.

And I know I'll WANT to do more, like some 15 and 30 day challenges but I think this is good to start. So my official goal is


Posts written so far: 0

Review: Academy Girls

Jane Milton—divorced and deeply in debt—has reluctantly returned to the remote boarding school of her youth, this time to teach, but the long-buried secrets of her past will not be easy to escape.
During their senior year, Jane and her friends Kat and Lissa obsessed over their English teacher, Miss Pymstead, convinced of her involvement in an unsolved murder. As the obsession escalated, it took a tragic turn. The only record of their misdeeds was a secret manuscript that disappeared without a trace—until the story resurfaces in an assignment turned in by Jane’s least favorite student.
Jane scrambles to unravel the mysteries, but can she keep her own secrets buried as she unearths even darker, long-hidden truths?
Revised edition: This edition of Academy Girls includes editorial revisions.

My Review:

Dead poets society goes horribly wrong--in a good way--in Academy girls. I first started getting interested in private school stories from the usual; I read the Gallagher girls series, spy goddess series, and Looking for Alaska. What I found most interesting about this book is that, when the main character was a student, there wasn't any happy ending like there was in the other books, meant for younger readers. This was the story of what happens After. I found myself completely engrossed by the writing style and plot, and the characters were well developed. I especially appreciate how seamless the transition between past and present was.

Overall: I'd read it in a library and buy a kindle version, and while I'd love a print copy as a gift, I wouldn't go out and buy it myself.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Emitown

From the whimsical to the tragic, Emi Lenox (PLUTONA, TADAIMA) brings you into her world with superb cartooning, a brilliant cast of characters and an innocent perspective often left on the cutting room floor of other diary comics. Emi proves that life is never dull in her first annual collection of EMITOWN! Introduction by Jamie S. Rich (MADAME FRANKENSTEIN, Lady Killer). 

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

The Good: Emi has a fantastic talent for drawing. I'm super impressed and jealous. Emi is raw and honest and has a really cute style even when it comes to her words.

What could be better: While I appreciate the candor of this book, letting us see every bit of detail, I'm not sure we really...needed so much detail. Gosh, there was a lot. I don't really mind long works--my favorite book is the Poisonwood Bible. But I wish there had been more of a story element, at least in the first few pages where it matters most.

I lost interest before I could get a tenth of the way through. I pushed until page 50 and still didn't really feel like I had met Ocean Girl, White Heart or Black Heart. I'm sure, according to their profiles on the first page, I had seen them. But according to their descriptions I couldn't really be sure. 

No star rating (read: not a zero, just declining to rate). I'm sure many others would love this book but it wasn't for me.

Monday, September 28, 2015

review: The plans I have for you

The Plans I Have for You combines playful rhyming text written by bestselling children s book author Amy Parker with whimsical illustrations by award-winning artist Vanessa Brantley-Newton to create a book that inspires readers of all ages to dream about their future. God has great plans for each and every one of us, and this book encourages children to think about the talents that make them special and will help them imagine how God may use our unique traits to make the world a better place."

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I got to share this marvelous book with my daughter for free, courtesy of the BookLook Bloggers program.

First glance:
This book follows one of the most assuring verses in the bible for people who worry or are ever anxious about their futures:

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.:-- Jer. 29:11

This is a book geared towards young children of toddler to grade school age.

My thoughts:
Parker uses bright and simple illustrations and an easy cadence that kept my one year old's attention. She not only enjoyed it, but I loved it too. I'm not sure if it's possible to spoil a picture book, so I'll only say that I really liked the creative interpretation of how god plans for each of us on one of the pages. This is a book I can see reading again and again, for the great message that everything will be okay no matter what you choose to be in life, and for the sheer enjoyment of reading this. Honestly, I would love to read this book 10 times in a row far over reading 'animals on the farm' 10 times in a row.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Review: Baby Poop

Eat, sleep, and poop. That’s what babies do. Every parent has challenges and questions about these activities and there is an abundance of information on eating and sleeping, but poop? The appearance and behavior of a child’s stools can give more information about the child’s health than any other factor, but we just don’t seem to like to talk about it.
From an award-winning, three-time author—and a mother—Baby Poop brings the hard-to-find facts that equip parents to help their babies be happier and healthier, head off the occasional dire situation, and to optimize their child’s lifelong health. 
Baby Poop is about child health dilemmas faced in industrialized nations. These are distinctly different from the challenges in less developed countries, as most of these challenges are caused directly by modernization. Infectious disease rates are high in many less developed parts of the world, with high infant and child mortality rates—but industrialization, medicine, and money are not the end-all answers to optimal child survival. Baby Poop illuminates how a much larger portion of children in developed nations suffer from colic, reflux, food allergies, asthma, autism, and diabetes than those in the developing world—and how modern practices are encouraging these.
Buy on Amazon

My Review:

While my daughter has cleared the infant stage and we no longer obsess over stools, I still like reading baby books. I can't definitively tell you why, but maybe something to do with the Mommy Forums where it's poop this, spitup that, and pictures of wrinkly, tiny humans all day long.

I admired the author's teacher-like approach, giving us a brief biology and anatomy lesson, then moving on to possible danger signs, when to call your doctor, and why.

What I appreciate is that this book is not just babies and their poop. She goes over various diseases, general health changes for all ages in the u.s, and things like home births, c-sections, and breastfeeding as they relate to GI health in babies.

I would definitely buy this book for any new or anxious mom, or ones like my own mother that believe in research study-based child development.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Misadventures of a Playground Mother

New term. New dramas. New friendships. And that’s just the parents…
After a year of country living, Rachel Young is finally getting into the swing of things. Her four kids are happy and content at the village school, and she’s managed to navigate the choppy (shark-infested) waters of the playground mafia. 
Or… so she thought. 
When playground mum Penelope Kensington moves herself and her kids into Rachel’s home, after discovering husband Rupert has been having an affair, Rachel knows she must ask them politely to leave. The problem is, Penelope never takes no for an answer. 
As Rachel tries to deal with Penelope, she also meets new school mum Melanie. Melanie is a breath of fresh air, but her arrival sends ripples of gossip through the playground. Melanie has a few secrets in her closet, and it seems she’s not the only one… 
Hilarious and entertaining, with characters you won't forget in a hurry, fans of Fiona Gibson, Kerry Fisher and Tracy Bloom will love this book.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:
Misadventures of a playground mother gives "mommy wars" a whole new meaning. The author perfectly describes the world of girl speak and frenemies, a thing I had to explain to my husband doesn't necessarily stop in high school. The cast of characters introduced in this book are varied and imaginative--and certainly humorous. I'd love to see this hilarious story on screen(preferably starring Catherine Tate), but if that doesn't happen soon I'll definitely still read it on Red Nose day.

I couldn't believe this was the second installment in a series. It works so amazingly well as a standalone and made me want to go back and read the first one.

As funny as the characters were, I had drawn so close to rachel and had so many feelings about this book--I shared her joy and anger and worry and if that wasn't enough for the mark of an amazing author, the ending left me wanting more. I simply cannot wait to see if there will be a third installment.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Science of Parenthood

Just when you thought you couldn’t laugh any more at the follies, foibles and faux pas of modern parenting, along comes Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, to set you laughing all over again. Based on the authors’ popular blog, which uses real scientific principles to lampoon parenting SNAFUs, this illustrated gift book drills deeper into biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics to offer up tongue-in-cheek “explanations” for the ludicrous situations otherwise capable adults find themselves in as a result of reproducing. Utilizing flow charts, diagrams, infographics and their signature cartoons, the ladies of Science of Parenthood endeavor to answer such mystifying questions as Why do children grow up so fast, yet Candy Land drags on so slowly? Why must children sleep perpendicular to any adults laying down with them? How many tequila shots does it take to get through an episode of Caillou? It’s been said (by Norine and Jessica actually) that raising kids defies all reason, logic and most of the laws of the universe. Anyone who’s despaired of showering, sleeping or excavating their living room from layers of plastic toys will find Science of Parenthood a hilariously enlightening read.    
Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I got this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for a review. Positive reviews are never required--just honest ones.

This book is SO funny. It's light and easy to read and even on a cellphone screen the images are easy enough to see on the Kindle app that it doesn't take away from the experience. I kept laughing at work, leading my coworkers to wonder if I was crazy. But then I showed them whatever image I was looking at and if they were a parent they would laugh too. Going (and I quote) "Yup! That happens!" and "That's SO true!"

This is a great book to give and receive as a gift, especially if you're a little stressed out as a parent or have gotten Mommy War hate (you moms know what I'm talking about) that makes you feel Less Than. Dworkin takes every kind of parent and shows them through a Lens of Different Perspective, sounding at times like an alien undercover doing research on Moms in their Natural Habitat.

This was a really great book to brighten up my work day and I fully recommend it for anyone who has ever spent even an hour around kids--it doesn't matter what age.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Feature and Follow Friday

Quoth Alison from Alison can read
"Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.
The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!"

Question of the Week: If you could have any job, what would you do? – Suggested by Peace Love Books.

My answer:

Well honestly I never saw this coming, but I really love my job as a Financial Services supervisor. Ideally, I would get paid to get books for free and read and judge them, but you know.

Or you could go political, like ebook vs physical bookm bloggers vs. booktubers, etc

To follow me:

Bloglovin! Click here!

I really love bloglovin because it's easy and simple to use but if you really really want to you can follow me on GFC or on Facebook

Review: Dream on!

Imagination and motivation are key to young children’s happiness and health. Thinking about dreams and goals can help children cope with challenges when they arise and view life through a hopeful lens. With this encouraging book, nurture children’s imaginations and help them enjoy taking responsibility for their choices and goals. Back matter includes advice for motivating kids and teaching about goal setting at home, at school, and in childcare.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:
I received an e-arc, and I'm not sure if the pictures translated correctly. There was a lot of black in the illustrations that gave it a somewhat ominous feel.

Aside from the black spots, the illustrations were enjoyable and the story had a great message. I'm so happy to be reading books lately that feature diverse characters, so our kids can continue to learn different lessons than the racism of the recent past.

The "adult portion " of the book is a valuable resource for parents and teachers, to implement new vocabulary words and encourage positive development.

Most of the activities asked to focus on one dream. This seems like a tall order for a 4-8 year old, but would be interesting to see if done yearly with one child to see how their dreams evolve.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Intuitive Parent

The scientific case for parents to put down the flashcards and follow their instinct
Parents are constantly overwhelmed with advice on how to raise smarter babies. All too often, fear is used to promote a particular cause (such as the vaccine-autism scare) or to market worthless products (such as “Baby Einstein” videos) that promise to make a child smarter or speed up development.
Now Stephen Camarata proves that educational fads and public health scares aren’t just stressful—they prevent parents from doing the things that would actually protect their child and promote learning and healthy brain development.
Camarata draws on research, case studies, and experiences with his own patients to argue for a return to instinct-driven parenting. Developmental milestones are misleading, and earlier is not necessarily better. He shows why the best things parents can do are almost always low-cost, routine activities such as playing “peek-a-boo”, reading books aloud, and simply paying attention to their child and responding naturally. This is the true “magic” that ultimately leads to intelligent, confident, curious adults.
This book will empower parents to recognize irrational fears and incredible claims that increase worry, steal their cash, and diminish their enjoyment of parenting.

Buy On Amazon

My Review:

I got this book for free through the GoodReads FirstReads program in exchange for an honest review.

Camarata chimed well with me for several reasons. First and foremost, he assured me that I'm a good parent--using science. I come from a family of overachievers so you can see why I would really, really, REALLY want my daughter to have a great head start. Everything from carrying her a couple extra days and delaying the cord cutting to breastfeeding and taking many, many walks were all for the development of her precious little brain.

I know. I sound like one of THOSE parents. I would swear I'm not crazy but I really don't know anymore.

Anyway, Camarata also had a good mix of assuming his audience is smart, but not so smart that some things need to be explained. At no point did I feel patronized or talked (written?) down to. I understood the things that weren't explained and it was a nice surprise to find things that were explained.

Mixing in personal examples as well as leaving detailed source notes only served to make the book interesting as well as credible. It bugs me SO much when a book says "According to a study...." and then doesn't tell me which study. Makes it seem made up.

Last but not least: Would I buy it? I would buy this for myself, and then my sister. And then any time someone at work gets pregnant I'm buying a copy for their baby shower.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Never, Never

James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.
When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.
But grow up he does. 
And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.
This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.
Except one.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

this book is not the Disney version you expect it to be, and maybe for good reason. While I haven't had the personal pleasure of reading 'A Whole New World', word around the blogosphere is that it fell flat despite the promising premise. But never fear, dear readers, this book is almost certain to wash any disappointing novel taste out of your mouth. We start the book by meeting the infamous James Hook, who is slowly lured by Peter Pan into Neverland, where he proceeds to spread nightmares about the one thing Hook wants to be the most: a pirate.
I found myself craving this book, waiting for the clock to turn to my scheduled reading time and taking advantage of my daughter's naps to read just a little more. This book made me read way past my bedtime.
A warning: this is not your mother's Peter Pan, who had fun and saved kids from their droll lives. This is your Great Grandmother's Pan. The dark angel of death that kidnaps children who (in Hook's case, at least) had every intention of going back home and growing up.
This book is a combination of the Brothers Grimm and Lord of the Flies on steroids--parents should ready themselves for questions, nightmares, and serious discussion if recommending this book to those under 18. 
Many Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review

Review: Louder than words, or, the Saddest Review I've ever had to Write

There has never been a better time to build an audience around your idea or product. But with so many people and companies clamoring for attention, it’s also more challenging than ever to do work that deeply resonates with the marketplace and creates true and lasting impact.
According to Todd Henry, the key to standing apart from the noise is to find your unique voice. Those who identify and develop their voices will gain more attention and wield more influence. But first they have to identify what they truly stand for, develop a compelling vision, and become masters of expressing their ideas in whatever media they choose. Henry offers strategies, exercises, and true stories that illustrate the five attributes of resonant work:
• Authenticity: Uncover the narratives that are at the core of your personal and professional identity.• Uniqueness: Identify what makes your work distinct from that of others, and learn to creatively package and present your message.• Consonance: Cultivate internal consistency and harmony in your work.• Empathy: Listen to your audience’s aspirations and struggles to make your message more compelling.• Timing: Learn how to coordinate your work with ideas that already have cultural momentum.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I might as well rename my blog "cover first, blurb later" because for whatever reason I thought this was a self help book for introverts when I initially won it from Goodreads.
Well, it is self help, just for business type people like bloggers and writers and the like.
Obviously this book applies to me as a former writer and current blogger, so I was interested. There was a little repetition, but not so much that it was cumbersome or patronizing. 
Did it change my life? no. Was I picking it up every spare second to read it? No. But I didn't exactly hate it either, and I think that's the real tragedy here-- this book was simply unremarkable. And unfortunately, despite being "willing to offend" like the book advises, not everyone is ready to find out that their authentic voice is forgettable.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: how to draw everything

A playful book by renowned illustrator and artist Gillian Johnson, How to Draw Everything encourages readers to overcome their fear of the blank page and inspire their inner artist. The book is not about drawing realistically; it's about taking your line for a walk and seeing where you end up!

Inside are exercises and easy projects prompting you to draw literally everything around you--from mugs and bugs to cars and stars. A wide variety of drawing projects will teach you how to drop your artistic inhibitions and sketch what you see using step-by-step techniques. Delightful full-color illustrations accompany each lesson to ensure your drawing journey is both educational and filled with plenty of whimsical fun

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I got this book for free through the Goodreads Firstreads giveaways program.

This book is fun. It takes well to pen. It's a little big and won't fit in my purse, but considering your average sketchbook size, isn't that big a deal.

I'd definitely give this book to an aspiring art student, or a kid who wants to raw, or anyone just to have something to do. This book is not a become-da vinci-instantly book. This is a book that, essentially, teaches you techniques and exercises and practices that will help you draw anything (or everything). 

Did I walk away with a new passion for drawing? No. But, had I received this book in middle or early high school when I was interested in art, I'd probably be really into it.

Overall: A great gift, not necessarily for me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: Fangasm

Once upon a time not long ago, two responsible college professors, Lynn the psychologist and Kathy the literary scholar, fell in love with the television show Supernatural and turned their oh-so-practical lives upside down. Plunging headlong into the hidden realms of fandom, they scoured the Internet for pictures of stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki and secretly penned racy fan fiction. And then they hit the road—crisscrossing the country, racking up frequent flyer miles with alarming ease, standing in convention lines at 4 A.M.
And yet even as they reveled in their fandom, the authors were asking themselves whether it’s okay to be a fan, especially for grown women with careers and kids. “Crazystalkerchicks”—that’s what they heard fromSupernatural crew members, security guards, airport immigration officials, even sometimes their fellow fans. But what Kathy and Lynn found was that most fans were very much like themselves: smart, capable women looking for something of their own that engages their brains and their libidos.
Fangasm pulls back the curtain on the secret worlds of fans and famous alike, revealing Supernatural behind the scenes and discovering just how much the cast and crew know about what the fans are up to. Anyone who’s been tempted to throw off the constraints of respectability and indulge a secret passion—or hit the road with a best friend—will want to come along

Buy on Amazon

My Review:

I liked Supernatural. That's not necessarily why I requested this book from Netgalley. I requested it because I am a 

Fangirl. Like, "I watched Doctor Who and proceeded to name my firstborn Rover Song" level Fangirl. Because of real life 

struggles, I've never been to a convention. I live vicariously through experiences like those of the authors of this book.

It was kind of interesting to see a casual research question turn into a full out obsession. And hey--if I could call going to conventions 'research', I would jump at the chance too. There was a recurring theme of "being a hardcore fan is shameful" And you know, maybe it is to the babyboomer generation. But in the same breath that they cited documentaries that made fandoms look ridiculous, they in turn made fandoms in general look, well, crazy. But that's what can happen when your research gets personal.

Verdict: wouldn't even borrow.

Friday, September 18, 2015

review: It aint over til it's over

One of the greatest strategies of the enemy is to convince you to give up on your faith. If he can’t succeed at that, then his objective is to persuade you to
settle for less than what God has planned for you. Don’t give up when victory is just around the corner! For anyone who has ever felt like throwing in the towel, Dr. R. T. Kendall brings divine encouragement. Don’t lose hope! Keep running the race. Not only can you finish, but you can also finish well. It’s not over!

Miracles that you never thought possible
Restoration for the most seemingly unmendable marriages
The return of prodigal sons and daughters
Healing of bodies, hearts and minds
Financial provision, blessing and much more!

Buy on Amazon

My Review: 
I got this book for free through a FirstReads Giveaway and was encouraged, but not required to post a review.

The Good: As a person who constantly has questions about things (particularly religion and prayer), this book was very helpful. More helpful, at least, than my Sunday School teacher when I asked why we prayed the Rosary in honor of Mary when God can heal the sick and we're not supposed to pray to anyone but Him. (She said, by the way, "Because. Ask your Mother.") Kendall not only answered questions, but then brought up more questions and followed up with even more answers backed up with Scripture and anecdotes. I felt like I was learning, and loved it.

The Questionable: Kendall was not shy in name dropping his own books. That's not so much a problem but then he'd hit me with something like "The people passing by may have said a sinner's prayer". The Emphasis is original. Kendall wrote it like that and then just kept going without telling me what a sinner's prayer was or where to find out.

The Bad: The whole thing is written like a sermon. I understand why, and I understand that adding lines that say [to paraphrase] "Have I mentioned It ain't over Til it's Over?" When he has already mentioned it about 20 times and we're only on page 30. Repetition is a strong tool to use when speaking orally. But it doesn't translate well for the same reason some people have trouble reading the bible: It's meant to be heard, not read. It got annoying after a while.

Overall: A great book, if you can get past reading the title over and over and over again.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: Waiting on God

We have all experienced a disconnect between God's promises to us and our everyday reality. We wait, without understanding why. We want to know God's plan so that we can trust it--but God so often hides his plan so that we will trust "him." What can we do in the meantime as we are waiting for an answer, a change, or a miracle? 
With deep compassion, Wayne Stiles helps readers understand why God makes them wait. Unpacking the Old Testament story of Joseph, Stiles shows readers how to find comfort and opportunity in the time between God's promises and his answers, revealing the perspective-altering truth that sometimes when we think we are waiting on God, he is actually waiting on us. 
Anyone who has felt a disconnect between God's promises and their reality, who doesn't know what God wants them to do next, or who struggles with the brokenness of their world will find in Wayne Stiles a wise and trustworthy guide to finding peace in the pauses.
Buy on Amazon

My Review: 
There's something special about a book on God written by a student of theology. Wayne Stiles wrote this book that answers the question "If God love me, then why___?"

In this work, Stiles uses the story of Joseph. You know Joseph--the one with the coat? The one that has both a Veggie Tales movie AND a musical about him? We all know that story forwards and back, right?
Strangely, no. Stiles breaks down the story with commentary and interpretations that make you rethink what you think you know. And like any teacher, Stiles takes his time getting to the point sometimes. He'll go off on something that SEEMS unrelated. But every word is significant and intentional.

With all this information and insight I've read, with Stiles clearly being an expert in his field yet somehow remaining humble throughout his writing, not only would I recommend and buy this for a friend, but I would seek out everything else by this author to do the same.

I'm glad I received this through a Firstreads giveaway.

My Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fire the Pretty Girl

If John had just studied for the LSAT, none of this would have happened. He wouldn’t have had to fire the prettiest girl and the scariest bouncer at the bars he managed, wouldn’t have faked his way through business school, wouldn’t have stumbled into a career writing speeches for the CEOs of some of the world’s biggest companies. Chances are, he would have never been arrested on his way to work, faced down that deranged transvestite in New Orleans, or drunkenly told Ross Perot to “take it easy.” But John didn’t study. He winged it, and time and again in this tragicomic romp, he learns that winging it can lead to some pretty awkward adventures.

Funny, revealing, and occasionally heartbreaking, Morton spares nothing—including his own ego—as he guides readers through the vicissitudes and moral quandaries of business life.

Buy on Amazon

My Review:
Honestly I had no idea what this book was about when I requested it from netgalley. My cover-first, blurb-rarely system of requesting books to review is sometimes hit or miss. This book was definitely a hit. John's fun style of writing paired with his unfiltered confessions made for a fun read about his journey from college pub busboy to speechwriter for CEOs. He shows that while there is a good amount of luck involved, the real secret to success is still and always will be talent and hard work. Even if you're not interested in business, this book will ring with you and entertain you for the couple of hours it takes to read.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Review: unlocking minds in lockup

In Unlocking Minds in Lockup Jan Walker candidly describes her reactions to prison realities, belief in education as a door-opener for offenders and their responses to the programs she developed and taught. She gives readers an honest look at the rhythms of working inside, seeing inmates as students, and helping them prepare for reentry to society. Through the years she confronted negative attitudes and behaviors with honesty and options for even those who committed the most serious crimes to change their lives through critical thinking, open discussion in class and reaching out to their families and communities. Unlocking Minds in Lockup answers the nationwide call for criminal justice reform with an inside view of prison education making a difference. Mass incarceration led to over 2 million adults inside prison. Current cost to taxpayers is estimated at over $70 Billion dollars per year. The reader is invited to step inside adult men's and women's prison classrooms to see and hear incarcerated students work to change their attitudes, behaviors and choices. There are 2.7 million children in the US with a parent in prison and millions more with a parent under court supervision. The best way to stop the incarceration cycle in families is through educating adults inside prison now and preparing them to return to their families and communities as productive citizens.
Buy on Amazon

My Review:

Walker combines personal anecdotes with statistical facts to shed light on and suggest solutions for a problem in American prison. While I've never been in prison, I have been to an extended stay at a hospital. I was surprised at the similarities in educational supplies: the books are ancient, and any other supplies tend to mysteriously misplace themselves. I feel bad for taking the light off of prisons, but it's the only relatable experience I have. As far as the general and voting public are concerned, I recommend this to anyone who appreciates the candor of Orange is the new Black, and doesn't mind less drama and sex scenes. After speaking with the students, Walker took it upon herself to find information useful to them-things like how to arrange guardianship to help their children while they were away--a process no one had been told before. I certainly don't envy Walker's position. As teacher, she was the one closest to the students, who spent the most time with them, and was most likely to empathize. Really, she had no choice but become an advocate. This is a valuable resource, even if it isn't implemented in prisons, it would remain valuable as an addition to a prison library.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Untraceable

16-year-old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.
When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.
One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.
Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.

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My Review:

Untraceable starts with suspense you can't ignore. I like that each chapter starts as a survival skill. It gives the book a unique trait while making chapter names low maintenance enough for the author to focus on the actual story. I've seen a lot of criticism about the naiveté of Grace's search, but I think that's what makes her a believable, well rounded character. 

Because we know Grace has grown up in the woods and that makes her confident about her search. But her search is very clearly emotionally driven, which we see as she tears up every time she sees a photo of her dad or talks about him. And even though she grew up in the woods, she's still young and hasn't really gone through the professional training that the Fish/wildlife preserve and the police department had. 

So emotions+young ambition=naive recklessness.

I very much enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to several people, but I would much sooner buy it from a library than buy it for myself.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Book Review: The Ciphers of Muirwood

From the moment she was banished by her father, the king, Princess Maia journeyed to seek sanctuary at Muirwood Abbey, the epicenter of magic and good in the land. Now safe for the first time since her cruel abandonment, Maia must foster uneasy friendships with other girls training to be Ciphers: women who learn to read and engrave tomes of ancient power, despite the laws forbidding them to do so.

As Maia tries to judge whom to trust, she makes a shocking discovery: her destiny is to open the Apse Veil and release trapped spirits from her world. Then she learns that her father is coming to Muirwood Abbey to celebrate the Whitsunday festival—and Maia’s estranged husband, whom she was forced to abandon, will join him. Torn between deadly political machinations and unstoppable spiritual forces, Maia must channel unknown powers within herself to save her friends, the abbey, and the entire kingdom of Muirwood.

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My Review:

I read the first installment of this series in graphic novel form, which has its merits. The last time I read a series in split formats was when I read Spy Goddess. I don't believe reading just one format for an entire series makes the experience any more or less enjoyable, but that's just me. Anyway, I got this version from NetGalley after reading the first book. In this installment, Maia finds a for of freedom from her father, and meets other powerful women like her training to be ciphers. Of course, in this world everyone is scared of the power a woman can wield, so her father and ex husband have plans to pass a law that would give her father far too much power. I really liked watching Maia develop as a person and seeing her deal with the sudden information that she needs to basically save the world with powers she doesn't have a complete hold on just yet. Pair this with the fact that nearly everyone she meets seems to not like her at all, it's inevitable that we get to see her find inner strength.
It takes talent and guts to release books so closely together as Wheeler is doing. It's not a bad thing--the previous book is fresh in our mind, we're still excited--but what a deadline! this book is set to release just a few months after the last one. Will we be reading the last one before Christmas? Luckily, Wheeler's prowess at writing keeps readers at the edge of their seats anyway, so he's doing a public service releasing these so close together.
Overall: I'd get it a library, and recommend it to friends. I wouldn't quite buy it for myself, but I would get a print version for my sister and then my daughter when she's old enough, so it still counts. 5/5