Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Review: All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane

All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane
All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book brought me back to Austen and I am so thankful for that.

The author is a professor in California, and goes on a trip through Latin America to host Austen book clubs and see how they resonate in different cultures. It's fun to hear of the people she meets along the way, who are very different from one another but are still open to sharing time and meals with her. She also finds love along the way. In some parts, it dragged a bit, but still I learned a lot about the different cultures through her travels and remembered the things I love about Austen's books: the relationships, the personalities, the slow themes that weave through her novels that can still be seen in families today.

If you are a fan of Jane Austen or of traveling new countries, you'll find a friend in "All Roads Lead to Austen."

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After beginning "All Roads Lead to Austen," I was reminded of my love for Jane Austen novels when I was a preteen and teen leading me to pick up the book a reread it before even finishing the book that led me to it (which I am now almost done with).
What I learned from my rereading was that this classic, while lacking any real action, is still able to keep me reading from beginning to end without wanting to move onto anything else.
In its characters, I could see family members, friends and others.
The theme, of course, is what the title implies, spouting the major characteristics which keeps our hero and heroine apart for much of the novel.
Mr. Darcy's reservedness and his pride misjudges Elizabeth right away. And his snubbing her followed by a quiet, observed personality makes her assume that his pride is such that he is cruel and uncaring and judges carelessly.
Throughout the novel they misjudge one another, all the while a bit of matchmaking with Elizabeth's sisters moves one drama to another of the ways of marriage, especially in those days, but even relating to today's society in that making a good match can be factored on many things—false charms, real riches, character, one's place in society, relations and any number of things people deem important or unimportant in a spouse.
While a seemingly simple story, with a few surprises, this novel has inspired many 'copy cat' books, including "Bridget Jones' Diary" and "Clueless."
I now want to obsessively dive deeper into any and all things related to Jane Austen and shall be caught up in the obsession for a while perhaps.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Who Could That Be At This Hour?
Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never read a Lemony Snicket book before, but was intrigued when a friend showed it to me at a Halloween party last night. The questions on the back cover were interesting and she said it was a quick read and I could borrow it. Less than a day later, I have finished it and can say I enjoyed the cleverness of the book and hope to finish the series when it comes out. While written for youth, I enjoyed the book and its way of introducing large words—known and unknown to myself and defining them without having it disrupt the flow of the book. The accompanying illustrations were done well and complemented the book well. If you aren't familiar with the series either, it is a mystery series with the main character Snicket, who chose the worst chaperone available on purpose. Snicket finds himself with a sleuth who is bad at her job, but is able to spend his time looking for answers to puzzles himself. I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys Nancy Drew books.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Review: Love Beyond Reason: Moving God's Love from Your Head to Your Heart

Love Beyond Reason: Moving God's Love from Your Head to Your Heart
Love Beyond Reason: Moving God's Love from Your Head to Your Heart by John Ortberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book more the second time around than even the first. I am the first to admit, it is difficult to understand God's love. It's not like He is there in the flesh bending over to hug you when you are in tears. But somehow he loves each person just the same more than we can imagine. John Ortberg's book spells out, as well as it seems you can, God's love to someone. The hard part is accepting his love, because I know I am not worthy of it, yet I must receive it to become His. It's also a good reminder that we are all 'ragdolls' with our own problems, struggles and blemishes and we are here to show God's love to everyone—not just those easy to love.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: The Last Page

The Last Page
The Last Page by Lacy Camey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a cute story, but it just wasn't all that well written. I would have definitely given it a 3 or 4 star if there had been a little more editing to it. There are a lot of places where text should have been cut because the main character was just saying the obvious over and over again. Even so, it was a free book and quick read.


The plot is cute—A girl has been broken up with by her boyfriend because he is marrying a girl he got pregnant while cheating on her, so she goes to therapy. She meets a guy near her family's summer home, where she, her sister and her best friend are staying. She is supposed to be churning out a fashion line, but can't because she is depressed and later because she sprains her wrist. Somehow, however, she's able to make a line for dogs, which goes over splendidly in the rich neighborhood she is living in. The guy she meets ends up being her therapist's grandson and, after a bit of a mix up in which her ex comes back to her, she and the guy end up together and her doggy couture line goes national.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-Taking at Work and in Life

You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-Taking at Work and in Life
You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-Taking at Work and in Life by Libby Gill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had a lot of good ideas to get yourself "Unstuck" in a variety of areas including money, relationships and careers. The main idea of the book is that people get stuck through fear and that to get past that fear you must make small accomplishments toward your goal, therefore gaining confidence in that area and making the big goal easier and more attainable. I definitely gained some easy actions to take when something feels overwhelming to me. If you feel stuck or would like to improve in facing your fears, I would recommend this book.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice
The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice by Todd Henry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many people believe that you're either creative or you're not, but Todd Henry's "The Accidental Creative" will challenge those beliefs.

In this book, not only does Henry argue that one can become more creative, he also says that building more structure in one's life will bring more creativity to those who are already creative.

Those of us who are creative would rather not hear those things as we usually identify ourselves as creative, as in it's a thing you are or aren't (although we really know that everyone can be creative). Also, hose of us who have creative-type jobs enjoy being messy and waiting for the ideas to just come to us.

However, I have to admit that Henry's ideas of adding more structure probably does allow you to come up with more ideas. After all, we all know our best ideas come when we are working on something else, so wouldn't it make sense that we'd need to schedule some of that time to "something else?"

Many of the concepts he uses is similar to the concepts in "Getting Things Done" by David Allen, such as having reviews, carrying a notebook for ideas, but he goes further in that he suggests we eliminate or "prune" some of our projects and activities so that we can focus on others.

I like the idea he has of setting up your year by quarters and deciding which projects should be focused on during each, even planning your reading activities by what you are focusing on to ensure the greatest ideas.

For someone who has a lot of ideas, this narrowing down ideas can prove a wonderful way to finally finish some projects and move on to others. I've noticed this in writing a children's book with friends. The further along we go, the more book ideas we have, but if we stopped and started on the other ideas right away we wouldn't be nearing the end of the process. Instead we each write down and tell each other the basic premise and then when we are done with this first book we will decide on our next two to three we would like to focus on in the next year and decide on one to actually write and illustrate next.

Some of the things I'd like to incorporate are meeting more often with creative friends to purposely discuss creative ideas, setting aside an hour a week to devote to new ideas and weeding out some of the ideas I don't yet have time to focus on. I'd also like to do some more long-term planning for my life, so I can determine which projects are most important.

If you're struggling to maintain the creative ideas you need to manifest in your career or daily life, then this book will inspire you to come up with the structure to ensure the ideas continue throughout your life.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant

The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant
The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant by Robert Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Music is the sound of the circulation in nature's veins." —Thoreau in Walden

Few associate Henry David Thoreau as a lover of music and dancing, but if you read "The Thoreau You Don't Know," you'll learn a lot about the man who wrote "Walden" that you don't yet know about him. Rather than the recluse that some are often want to painting him as, Robert Sullivan sets out an argument for Thoreau as someone who knew his neighbors and often had visitors even while at Walden Pond.

I learned so much about Thoreau and those he was friends with at the time, including Emerson and Walt Whitman. It's hard to imagine what his life was like, though he writes about it often, since Thoreau had many odd jobs, many well-known author friends and seemed to have tons of free time in between to write, walk and be to himself.

I can definitely relate to Thoreau as a person who not only enjoys being around others, but also likes being alone and observing life. A minimalist at heart, I find his time at Walden very romantic and exciting.

The depth of the insight in this book should not be missed by anyone who wants to learn more about Thoreau, or even the time period and area he lived in.

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Review: Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love

Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love
Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love by Barbara Winter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An extension of Dan Miller's "No More Mondays," Barbara Winter's "Making a Living Without a Job" extends this knowledge to go beyond the basics to show you examples of what a life without a full-time job might actually be like. Not only has she created several different money-making endeavors throughout her career, but she trains many others to do the same.

My favorite portion of the book is where she talks about creating multiple streams of income. She has you picturing a juggler, who begins spinning one plate and once that plate is going, to start spinning another plate. Basically, she is describing her process for creating many ways of bringing income in at the same time. Instead of starting everything at once, though, Winter encourages you to start one project for 90 days, then begin the next. She explains that if you create many ways to make money you'll never rely solely on one income stream, which makes it easier to survive.

Much of the book also focuses on increasing your self-esteem and easy ways to do that; coming up with creative money-making ideas and why you should never stop that process; and how to take care of yourself along the way.

It is an easy, quick read with tons of ideas for new businesses that can be started immediately.

If you are looking to bring in money, this book will show you where ideas for self-employment comes from.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work

No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work
No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work by Dan Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're questioning your line of work, Dan Miller does a great job at giving you options for your future.
In this book, he gives ideas for starting your own business or becoming a freelancer or contractor, but he doesn't ever tell you exactly what you should do. He makes it clear that everyone's answer to "what should I do for a living?" will be a little different depending on their wants, desires, skills and passions.
There are plenty of ideas throughout the book for passion seekers to explore their ideas and at the end of each chapter their is a list of things you should have learned from the chapter and some questions to ask yourself.

Miller also explains that while many people believe being an employee is the safest route, it, in fact, is not. Some of the reasons he gives is that many businesses are using cost-cutting measures to eliminate giving some of the benefits people are used to in a position, that many businesses are eliminating employee positions to save money and that if you lose your job you must replace 100 percent of your income, rather than losing one client of many, where you would only be losing a percentage of your profits.

I think even those who are not thinking about leaving a job in the next year or so should look into this book and begin exploring ideas in the future about what measures they could take to rely less on their 9-to-5 job. I think it's a great career exploration book as well as get you thinking about alternate ideas and using your imagination to find a passionate career that is likely to bring in more money than what you are making working for someone else.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: "Organized Simplicity" aimed at families

By Tiffany Young

While their were portions of "Organized Simplicity" that someone single could glean from this book, it was very much geared towards those with more than one bedroom and more than one person in their life.
(I have a significant other, but since we don't live together many of the discussions we might have about our home goals are moot.)

A few times, the author says if you are single just reframe the question, but for the most part, I felt it was difficult to do.

All that to say, there were some takeaways that could be gained from reading the book even if I wasn't the target audience. If you have debt, she goes into detail on how she and her family got out of debt so they could live the life they wanted to live. She also goes room by room and has the reader clean and organize each one. I just have a single bedroom, so this, too was not incredibly useful, but if you are overwhelmed with scheduling time to organize, she has you go through each room on a daily schedule for 10 days.

I would say that this book is aimed at a beginner to simplifying as many of the concepts are fairly general.
I did enjoy the reference pages and the appendix, which had checklists to fill out.

Her use of a notebook was a bit more detailed than many of the other concepts, and I am going to try using one, although I am very much an out-of-sight out-of-mind kind of gal, so putting something away in a notebook rarely works for me, since I forget it is even there. The only way I've found to avoid this is by leaving the notebook out, which is clutter in and of itself.

I would recommend this book to parents who want to make goals with their children for having a happier, simpler home.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: "Winning the Clutter War" is a great book for 'messies'

By Tiffany Young

Unlike many organizing books, "Winning the Clutter War" is made for those of us with a real clutter problem. Some of the books on the market tend to be talking to people who already have it all together.

This book is not like that! It gives step-by-step directions on how to change your behavior from procrastination and disorganization to living in a clean, organized home. And she's not unrealistic either.

The author admits that if you are a natural 'messie,' you likely won't have a spotless home in the near future. But having a home that people can drop in at and you won't be horribly embarrassed is a real possibility by following a few key points.

One of those points I enjoyed was the strategy to work circularly around your home giving yourself ample time to complete a drawer or area. Unlike some books, there is no stress to tackle any area in a given amount of time or to merely tell you about the 2 or 3 boxes to carry around for throw away, donation and keep. Although she does use this as part of an overall strategy, it is not the only advice she has.

She also goes into detail about how to set up chores to ensure that one the home is clean and organized it stays that way.

I especially enjoy that she has lots of other resources listed in case you need more help and that she gives real examples of problem areas and how to solve them. It is much less general than the organization books I usually find and I believe her when she says that she had to learn to live this way rather than it coming naturally.

If you tend to have messy home, I would highly recommend this as your first read to overcoming clutter and living an organized life!

"Frumpy to Fabulous Flaunting It" mostly on-mark

"Frumpy to Fabulous Flaunting It" is a pretty extensive book on how to choose a personal style for yourself. It does not have a ton of visuals to see examples, but it does go through different body types, how to choose colors and styles depending on skin tone and body shape and the psychology behind wearing something and flaunting it. I'd say about half of the book discusses things like body issues over what to actually wear, but Natalie Jobity does a pretty good job of describing what should and shouldn't be in your closet as well. 
I will say she emphasized that everyone should try to look tall, encouraging high heels for short women, which I can't say I necessarily agree with. I think high heels on a daily basis is terrible for your body. See these articles for more on that: What health dangers lurk in your closet and High Heels: Worth the Health Risk?
Otherwise, I enjoyed her advice and took the opportunity to re-evaluate my closet. A lot of the advice you have probably heard before, but it is a pretty new book, so unlike some fashion books it is not yet outdated in its advice. 
I'd say this is a good read for you if you are stuck in a rut and need to re-evaluate your closet to meet a certain goal, such as feeling confident in your clothes, having your clothes match your job or just to make sure you have all the necessities in your closet.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Urban Venus

Urban Venus
Urban Venus by Sara Downing

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story begins with a sort of flashback from the 14th century of someone throwing herself from a carriage to take her life. This follows by present-day Lydia moving into her study abroad apartment in Italy. Lydia finds herself in a fairytale-like apartment, with fairy-tale, lovely friends all willing to show her the sights.

The only thing that isn't going well is her playboy tutor who keeps breaking all the girls' hearts who he is tutoring.

Lydia, an art student, dives into her studies at the art museums and finds that each time she visits the Venus of Urbino painting, she falls asleep and falls into a dream world where she takes on the role of another woman in another era.

Throughout the book Lydia goes back and forth from the world she lives in to the world she is dreaming about. When she begins dating one of her friends and tells him about the dreams he makes her choose between the real world and her fantasy world.

Spoiler alert!

While I enjoyed this book enough, a few things bothered me about this book. For one thing, there seemed to be a whole issue going on with her tutor loving and leaving his students, but eventually she decides this is all OK, because he loves her. No real resolve happens, besides her ending up with him because he is all of a sudden handsome and perfect, even though the first time she told him about the dreams on their first date he was rude about them, while the boyfriend she leaves for being jealous about the paintings was supportive of the dreams in the beginning. At some point her roommate has a miscarriage and the book lingers there, but then she feels better and the book never comes back to the character really besides her continuing to be a supportive friend of Lydia.

Overall, I like the idea of the book, but several times it feels like there will be parts of the book that will be picked up and explained further later that never seems to be resolved. I think it could be edited quite a bit more and become a really strong romantic comedy–type of book.

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