Monthly Archives: January 2014

Book Review: “Hero” (The Secret #4)

Just a day or two late on posting this review… the kids and I took a little vacation this weekend, to visit my husband (who’s a Marine away at training) in Maryland. There was a few inches of snow on the ground, and we got the opportunity to stay with some wonderful friends we haven’t seen in four years, so it was a really exciting weekend. My computer, which I brought with me, never made it’s way out of my car – we were just so busy!

So, again… a day or two late in posting this review, but here it is!

This week, in keeping with our “New” theme for January, we tackled a new book, and a New Age book, Hero by Rhonda Byrne.

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This book is the fourth in The Secret series. The first book, The Secret, was a huge success, inspiring audiences to use positive thinking and affirmations to change their lives. It even inspired a documentary (which can be found on Netflix, for anyone interested).

In Hero, Byrne uses interviews and stories from successful people around the world who have used positive thinking and affirmations to become the hero in their own epic. Byrne outlines the idea that we are each a hero in our own story, and we need to live the “heroic” life to be successful. She suggests that we each have the ability to be that hero, we just need to know how – and then proposes to tell us how.

Basically, the process of becoming our own hero includes visualizing yourself as successful in something, and not doubting that positive outcome. While I am naturally skeptical about this, I have actually seen it in play. A friend of mine was inspired by The Secret, and began making vision boards. She puts up pictures of things she wants to achieve, and the idea is that, by looking at these images multiple times a day, you are sending positive energy out into the Universe (and into your own subconscious) to help these things come true. I watched her husband’s career advance, a rocky relationship with her stepson’s mother get smoothed over, and (after a long bout of trying), she finally got pregnant. While all of these things might just seem coincidental, it has been interesting to see her have positive change after positive change after positive change in her life, right after she started visualization.

This book came along in a really important time in my life. In the next six months, I will be graduating from college, looking for a job, and – oh yea – moving directly across the United States to California. With all of these things happening at the same time, my natural skeptic has taken over, and I’ve been having a rather negative attitude about the whole thing. I’ll be far away from my family. I’ll never get a job. We’ll never sell or rent our house. The drive across country is going to be miserable. No one will want to hire a “recent grad” despite my experience. But opening Hero has enabled me to realize that I cannot control the situation, but I can control how I think about it.

So I’ve started picturing myself as a working professional at some undisclosed sunny San Diego location. I’ve started picturing someone moving into our house. I’ve started picturing how beautiful and exciting our road trip is going to be. And while I haven’t seen a change in my situation (we’re still a few months away from any of this actually happening), I have seen pieces falling into place. By changing my attitude, and using visualization and positive affirmation, I now have a totally positive attitude about the next 6 months – and I know that will encourage things to work out for me.

Before reading Hero, I always felt that the “successful” people of the world either had luck, or money. The people in this story had neither – all they had was a “can do” attitude, and the ability to see a better future for themselves. It seems that our biggest road block on the way to being our own hero is our self doubt – maybe not in our abilities or knowledge, but in what we feel that we deserve. And it doesn’t have to be about material things. It doesn’t have to be about the bigger house, or the paycheck, or the job… it can be about deserving love, deserving appreciation, deserving opportunities. Once we all understand what we deserve, we will open ourselves up to that opportunity.

Okay, while I was clearly inspired by Hero, I do have a few negative criticisms. First, it was too closely related to The Secret (and presumably all the other The Secret books). It seemed to be using the exact same ideas, with different words behind it. While I’m all for “driving home” a message, are four books about the same thing really necessary? Secondly, the book seems to have been written to be an easy translation to a documentary. There’s a format that would make that easy transition – introduction to an idea, quotes from people who have been successful using that idea, and then encouragement to try that idea. This format is exactly how The Secret documentary is laid out. I haven’t read the other The Secret books, but I think it is safe to assume they are using the same format. It’s a little distracting, and, in my opinion, takes away from the point trying to be made in each chapter. I keep flipping back to the beginning of the book to remember who all these people were (the successful people from different parts of the world, and different industries).

That being said, Hero is a good book. It is a good book for anyone undergoing a major change in their life – I would recommend getting it for someone going away to college, looking for a new job, or anyone you see struggling with making a major decision. Sometimes, we all need a little reminder at how we have all the tools necessary to make ourselves successful, right inside of us! We just have to find them, and use them!

So – have you read Hero? Have you read any of The Secret books? Do you use, or have you ever used, visualization to help you? Any positive outcomes to share?? Or does it all sound like hocus pocus?

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February Reading List

Hey there, friends! I just finished off the February reading list, and wanted to release it so you had time to request books from the library, find books at the used book store, or get your ebook copies! February’s theme is “Month of Romance” (in honor of Valentine’s Day), and I think I’ve put together a great selection of books to get us in the romantic mood!

Feb. 2 – 8 – I Love You, Ronnie – by Nancy Reagan

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We’re going to kick off this romantic month with a recommendation. My amazing friend Haley recommended this book, which includes letters written by Ronald Reagan to his wife, Nancy. The book covers the breadth of their relationship – from the acting days, to the presidency, and beyond. Haley claims Ronald Reagan is “the most romantic man ever.” It will be fascinating to see more into this historic American’s life, as well as his long relationship with his wife. I can’t wait to tackle this book, and I hope you’ll read it with me! This bit of biographical literature will be a wonderful way to get us in the romantic mood!

 

Feb. 9 – 15 – Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

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This book is another recommendation, from my lovely friend Alyssa. I have, to my shame, never read Anne of Green Gables, although I was a very big reader as a child. This book is considered a youth fiction, but also falls under the category of romance – and I can’t wait to find out why. With two daughters, I’m always on the search for youth-appropriate, classic literature, and Anne of Green Gables could possibly be a winner. Add to that that Alyssa and I have always had the same taste in books, and this is bound to be a great selection for this month!

 

Feb. 16 – 22 – Forgiven – Rebecca Brooke

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Well, you might have a hard time finding this book. I was actually given this book along with the opportunity to have my review shared on a book promotions Web site (time to broaden my reading horizons), but you may be able to find an e-copy of it on the Web (try Amazon). This is a contemporary romance, and seems to be a promising addition to our reading list. I hope you’ll find a copy and read along!!

 

Feb. 23 – March 1 – Justine – Lawrence Durrell

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I have a little confession to make… my mom (HI MOM) got me this book, and the other Alexandria Quartet books, for Christmas about two years ago, and they have been sitting on my shelves, unread. I normally read everything my mom hands me, and I trust her judgment 100%, so I finally dug this one out! This blog has given me an excuse to tackle books that have been collecting dust for a while! Justine is the first in the Alexandria Quartet, and is our historical fiction novel for the month. From the brief research I’ve done about it, I’ve found the words “romance,” “erotic,” and “religious following” thrown around on more than one occasion… sounds promising! I hope you’ll pick this one up, and read with me!

Well, there you have it! Our reading list for February, our “Month of Romance.” It’s going to be a great month of reading, and I hope you’ll join me. You’ll notice I avoided the “trashy romance novel” genre for this month… and you’re probably surprised. I thought it was just a little obvious and… well… you know I hate them. I hope you’ll read at least one (and hopefully more) of these books with me! Remember, we’re looking for a “book club” feel, and I want to know what you think!!

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Week 21 Reading: “Hero”

This week’s reading sticks to our “New” theme for January in two ways – it is both “New Age,” and the newest part of The Secret books (book #4). This week we are reading Hero by Rhonda Byrne.

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This book intrigues me. I have heard lots of good things about The Secret, a book and documentary that has inspired people around the world, showing how the power of positive thinking and daily affirmations can change your life. Hero uses the same formula as The Secret, using the experiences of people who are successful in various fields – people who have brought themselves up from bad circumstances, using nothing but their positive attitudes. 

Hero explores the idea that we are each the hero in our own epic (our lives). I tend to be a bit of a skeptical person, and have a hard time thinking anything more than motivation, dedication, and a lot of elbow grease can get me anywhere. This book might be good for me, and is certainly coming along in an important time of my life. I just started my last semester of college, and am looking into jobs. I want to be successful, and maybe it’s time to change my attitude to achieve that. Hero promises to show me that I have all I need already inside of me.

We’ll see how this one goes. Like I said, it’s coming along at an important time in my life, and I sure could use an attitude adjustment!

Are you reading along? Have you read any of The Secret books, or seen the documentary (it’s on Netflix if you’re interested!)?

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Book Review: “How To Kill a Rock Star”

This week, we tackled a “new” book keeping with our January themeHow to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo.

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I actually was gifted this book from an online drawing at The Book Bosses, one of my favorite book blogs out there. After winning the online drawing (I was shocked because I never win ANYTHING), I received this book, signed with a message from the author. Check it out!!!

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When I was told I won, The Book Bosses told me “I’m so jealous.” Vote of confidence #1. When I opened up the package, my amazing friend Anna was there. She snatched the book out of my hand, and explained how much she loved this book and this author. Vote of confidence #2.

This book was NOT what I was expecting… and I mean that in all good ways!

The story line is rather simple: Eliza, young woman in her mid-20s, needs to start a new life for herself. Driven by her deep, inspired love of rock n’roll, she scores a lucky interview with one of the world’s leading rock stars (and her hero). With his help, she moves from the suburbs to New York City to start her job at a huge music magazine. There she meets her brother’s bandmate (and her roommate) Paul, an aspiring rocker with more than enough talent, good looks, and passion. Their budding romance is coupled by Paul’s rise to fame – but can their love handle the riggers of the music industry?

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! I cannot say it enough. You all know (because I’ve said it time and again) that I am NOT a fan of romances, but this book has just enough love, heartache, redemption, and rock n’ roll to keep me interested. The story is actually pretty basic, but it was DeBartolo’s writing style that kept me hooked. I really felt like I was Eliza, suffering her pains and fears, enjoying her elation and successes. DeBartolo has a way of really implanting into the heart and mind of her reader, inviting us to share in the shared experiences of love, loss, and the balm music is to the soul.

DeBartolo’s underlying theme of music really makes the novel a winner as far as I’m concerned. Regardless of a person’s taste in music, I think we can all agree that music has a way of speaking to us, a way of reaching us as nothing else can. We can truly find our emotions in music, and music is one way we can share those emotions with others. The melancholy of minor keys, the passion behind lyrics, the way we are able to connect with a perfect stranger because we know exactly how they were feeling when they wrote the song… DeBartolo uses that shared experience to make us fall in love with her characters. DeBartolo speaks to my inner music lover (music worshiper?) – something which made me feel 100 times more connected to her characters than I have ever felt about book characters before.

This was a book I had a hard time putting down! I really found myself thinking about the characters during the day – wondering what they were going to do next, how they were feeling, sympathizing with their pleasures and pains. It was as if Eliza and Paul were my friends who were experiencing this story, and that, to me, is the sign of a well written book!!

The last few chapters of the book are quite a shock, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching for the tissue box more than once. DeBartolo’s words are honest, raw, emotion-filled, and absolutely breathtaking! Really, folks – this is a MUST READ!!! You will NOT be disappointed that you picked this one up (and you can thank me later)!!

You need to buy this book now!! While you’re at it, buy a copy for a friend! I cannot stop singing DeBartolo’s praises. This might possibly be my favorite book of the book challenge so far (this is book #20 for those of you who haven’t been following along). I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to spread the word about this novel or this author, and I am everlastingly grateful to The Book Bosses for introducing me to both!

Any thoughts? Have you read this book, or any other by DeBartolo? Do you believe in rock n’ roll? Can music save your mortal soul? Are you inspired to pick up DeBartolo’s novel?

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Week 20 Reading: “How to Kill a Rock Star”

This week we’re tackling our 20th book – I can’t believe we’ve gotten so far in a few short months! Keeping with January’s “New” theme, I chose a book that is “new to me,” and also falls under the genre “contemporary” (meaning modern, or new). This week we’re tackling How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo.

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You might have a hard time finding this one. Libraries might not have it yet, but it can be found at book stores. If you’re anxious to read along, you can find the eBook of How to Kill a Rock Star by clicking on the link. I hope you’ll read along, because I’m very excited about this book.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for about a month, and have been anxious to read it. I won it in an online drawing from a great book blog, The Book Bosses. A HUGE thank you to the ladies over there, who hooked me up with a personalized, autographed copy of this book, direct from Tiffanie DeBartolo herself. I felt so honored that I wanted to read it right away, but I couldn’t quite make it fit with the “Holiday” themed reading of December.

The description on this book is rather vague, but it looks like it will contain romance and rock n’ roll – two very good things. I’m not usually a fan of romance (as I’m sure you are well aware of by now), and I usually go more for classics than contemporary, but I’m so excited to read this book (in case you haven’t gotten that by me saying it 100 times in this blog post already)! I hope you’ll be able to find it – try checking used book stores, your local book retailer, or if you have an eReader, you should be able to find a compatible eBook version of it.

Happy Reading.

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Book Review: “The White Queen”

Well, normally I take the whole week to read a book, but this week I had a few things working in my favor. Firstly, I’m still on school break (until Monday, when “The Aurthurian Legend” class begins); secondly, my husband is finally back at work – meaning I’m back into a daily routine of housework, schoolwork (with the pre-K munchkins), and downtime (from having no homework to do). Add that to a book I had a hard time putting down, and the book got finished very quickly.

This week’s reading was the first of our “New” reading of January (note: this book is “new to me”), The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

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What a great book! I have never read a book by Gregory, and I am so pleased I picked this one up – and am fully inspired to pick up another of her novels. The White Queen follows one of England’s most fascinating monarchs – Elizabeth Woodville – in one of England’s most trying times – The Cousin’s War of the late 15th Century. Elizabeth, a commoner who captures the heart of a usurper king on his ascent to power, helps shape a country in trouble, and forever changes the face of the Royal Family.

I loved this read! I had a really hard time putting it down (just as my husband, who had to suffer through the light being on in our bedroom until midnight). Gregory has a very strong voice, and tells a fascinating story through the eyes of Elizabeth, a passionate lover, powerful queen, desperate mother, and “daughter” of a legendary water goddess. Readers follow Elizabeth through her secret marriage, the ebb and flow of her rule, and her many heartaches over the 20+ years this story covers.

Gregory certainly did her historical research when preparing for this book! Her “Author’s Notes” are just as interesting as the story, and outline her research process and how she pieced her story together. She throws in a delicate balance of fact, fiction, mystery, and magic – a cocktail for a successful, intriguing, and inspiring story. While reading the book, I found myself putting it down, opening up my laptop, and researching the Cousin’s War, and Elizabeth’s family. I realized I had no idea how little I knew about the monarchs of Renaissance England. Elizabeth was grandmother to the infamous Henry VIII, great-grandmother to the “Virgin Queen,” Queen Elizabeth I, and grandmother to the scandalous “9 Day Queen,” Lady Jane Grey (her grandmother through her son, Thomas Grey, from her first marriage).

Gregory helped me pinpoint exactly what it is I love about historical fiction – the opportunity to learn the facts and legends surrounding people and times I know very little about. Historical fiction inspires me to learn more about history, and allows me to do that in a way that is more exciting and interesting than simply reading a text book. To feel a connection with the characters, and to history, is, in my opinion, the sign of a well written piece of literature.

The book started a little slowly, and seemed to be more of a glorified romance novel, following the standard structure of the genre (which you know I’m not a huge fan of)- unhappy, desperate widow meets a rising king with a reputation for enjoying the ladies… she tries to resist him, but she can’t… and he can’t resist loving her, despite her being stations below him… blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes and thinking “this is just a 408 page romance.” I’m glad I kept reading, because the story became much more interesting once Elizabeth becomes the “White Queen,” and raises herself, and her family, to power. I wish the beginning of the book didn’t seem like the stereotypical romance novel, but I can easily forgive Gregory when the rest of her novel turns out to be exceptionally interesting.

The White Queen is a great piece of historical fiction, and contains a little something for everyone – a glimpse at the monarchs of the Renaissance for the historian, a beautiful love story for the romantic, terrifying battles for the warrior, magic for the fantasy fans, and a great female lead who will open your heart to her family and her country. I can’t wait to pass this beautiful book on to a friend or loved one, who can enjoy it as much as I have.

Your turn. Did you enjoy The White Queen? Have you read any of Gregory’s books (and if you did, do you have any recommendations for me)? What did you think about Elizabeth Woodville (York), the White Queen? Was she brave in the face of adversity, or was she power hungry?!

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Week 19 Reading: “The White Queen”

January’s reading theme is “New,” and this week we are picking up a book that is “new to me” – The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

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Okay, this book isn’t technically “new,” but before you point the accusatory finger, the book is exceptionally new to me. My sister received it as a gift on Christmas morning, and having already read it, she immediately handed it to me so I could read it for my book challenge. So the book is brand-spanking-new – and there are few things I love more than cracking a book open for the first time… feeling the binding bend and that glue snap a little… carefully removing the cover because there’s nothing worse than a wrinkled book cover (YES – I know it’s meant to protect the book, but in my opinion it is meant to look pretty on the shelves!). But I digress…

I have heard a lot of great things about The White Queen. It has been recommended to me by my sister and my friend Dee (Hi Tanya, Hi Dee!). It has also been made into a TV show this past year, and gotten rave reviews (I’ll have to look for it after I read the book). Lastly, it is written by the same author who wrote another wonderful piece of regency historical fiction, The Other Boleyn Girl

I’m really looking forward to this week’s reading! I’m a huge historical fiction fan, and I always love a good, strong female lead! I hope you’ll read along with me, and kick off the new year with a great new book!

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