Review: Poems of Awakening

Why I picked it:  When I was offered a chance to read this book (an anthology of poems), focusing on healing, yoga and finding peace within ourselves... I had to read it.

Synopsis: Poems of Awakening is a gift to yourself and all those you love and serve. Betsy Small has chosen poems that take us through the portal of the body (Chapter One) into a deepening quiet within (Chapter Two) from which the true nature of Self is revealed (Chapter Three). From the remembering of true Self, healing on all levels arises (Chapter Four) - the heart trusts and unfolds (Chapter Five), we deeply connect in Yoga-union (Chapter Six) and grace abounds (Chapter Seven).

The poems touch the heart, invite self-examination and welcome profound emotional response. Betsy has organized her anthology in sets of poems that reflect her own spiritual journey, summoning the reader to travel a poetic path of deep awareness and personal growth.

Quick Take: Let me start my review with a poem about opening one's heart (Chapter 5: May my heart always be open)

Hope (by N. Mazza)
is the belief
that one hand
reaching to another
can eventually
touch the moon,
allowing the light
to guide us
through the night.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I have had a tough year. The challenges keep coming, to avoid reaching the tipping point I turn to yoga to find balance/peace.

This collection of poems held my interest, the message was well thought out and is a good companion to my yoga practice. It's a book that I will share with a friend who teaches yoga, I can't wait to listen to her recite one of the poems I highlighted.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review Copy

Review: Rules of Civility

Why I picked it: New York City in the 30's, what's not to love?! My family calls NYC home, dating back to the early 1900's. I love reading books set in this time period, I feel a connection to my grandparents and love reading about what life was like in the thirties.

Synopsis: A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose. Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year's Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss. Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye...

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: This is a wonderful story. The writing is amazing and the pace of the story is quick. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it, wanting to read on to see how the story would end for Tinker, Kate and Eve.

Kate and Eve's story starts like many I've read, two young women who move to NYC to be part of the NY lifestyle, find work and build a better life for themselves. The rest of the story was a new/interesting twist on life, decisions and circumstance (the rise/fall of many) in the late 1930's.

I don't want to write about Kate and Eve's relationship with Tinker, or share how the story unfolds, discussing it here would mean telling much of the plot, which should be left for the reader to discover. Just know I adored this one.

This novel would make for a wonderful movie.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

Why I picked it: Winner of the Pulitzer for Fiction, 2011.  The Omaha Bookworm's read Pulitzer every year, well almost always... 

Synopsis: Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Have you read this book? I would love for you to share your comments and challenge me to rethink my opinion. I sorry to report that I struggled to appreciate this novel, and am left wondering if my experience would have been different if I read the book (rather than listening).

I wasn't invested in the characters but kept listening in hopes that something big would happen at the end.

The best part of the entire book was when the fish was left in Bennie's office... it's hard for me to review this book without thinking about the other books on the short list. I would like to hear from the judges to understand why the picked it.

Rating: 2/5 stars
Source: Audio (iTunes)

Review: The Violets of March

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club - I would have read this book even if we didn't select if for the MMBC.  I love reading stories about self discovery.

We will be discussing this book with author Sarah Jio tomorrow night (Wed, July 20), at 8PM EST.  I hope you can join us! 

Do you have a question for the author? Please email me or feel free to leave a comment.

July 23rd Update: Click here to listen (or download) to our discussion

Synopsis: A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Everyone is raving about this book, I have read so many wonderful reviews and I'm happy to say I loved it to.  I have read a few books this year with storytelling inside a novel, this is the first time I have enjoyed both stories equally!  I adored Esther's story from the start and Emily is so likable. 

Part romance, part mystery... I didn't want Emily's story to end and would love to find out what happens five years later.

I can't wait to discuss this book with the author on Wednesday! 

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review Copy

Review: The Love Goddess' Cooking School

Why I picked it: After receiving a few requests for a recipe novel from MMBC readers we selected this book for our June book selection.

I read this book while on vacation, in Italy!  A cute idea right? Well this vegetarian started questioning my food options - did I dare ask the waiter if bone marrow was in the red sauce?  Something I haven't thought about before reading this book.  I'm happy to say everywhere I went I was able to pick the cold marinara (seasonal for summer), which is basically tomato, basil and garlic.  YUM!

Click the button below to listen online (or download the discussion on iTunes, searching for Manic Mommies Book Club) 

Synopsis: Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy. 

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I loved this book.  A perfect selection for summer, and we had so much to discuss with the author (mother/daughter relationships, family, friendships, cooking, self discovery, food, and more).

Mia was delightful and I enjoyed reading her quest to bring her parents back together and how she hoped Holly's cooking school could help her.  Holly is a sweet character, someone trying to find happiness and along the way she gets more than she hoped for. 

I was surprised to learn that this is Senate's tenth novel.  I will check out a few other books by the author.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review Copy

Review: Little Princes

Why I picked it: I have been meaning to read/listen this book for a while, it's been on my ipod for months.  I think I had it on my ipod when I traveled to Australia earlier this year....

Earlier this year I wrote a post explaining that I'm trying to find a way to pay it forward, this memoir makes me realize I can do more. I can't pack up and move to Nepal but I can find a way to help. I will find a way.

Synopsis: One Person Can Make a Difference.  In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.

Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually become his wife and share his life’s work.

Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.

Type: Memoir

Quick Take: The author narrated the book and he made me want to keep walking/running, to hear more of his story. It's amazing to hear how one person can make a difference.  Grennan starts the book explaining why he wanted to volunteer, he didn't expect to have a connection to the children so quickly but they won him over.

This is a moving story about how one man is making a difference in the world.  Click here to learn more about Next Generation Nepal (photo source: NGN website).

It's heartbreaking to read how the children become orphans but if you haven't read this book, read it.  It's an important story that everyone should read.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Audio (iTunes)
Country: Nepal
Challenge: Teresa's Audiobook Challange, Devourer of Books Friday Audio Meme

Review: Here Home Hope

Why I picked it:  I hate to admit this but the cover grabbed my attention.  Then I read the synopsis, read a few good reviews AND the book was just $2.99 on (for the Nook).  How could I pass this one up?

Synopsis: Kelly Mills Johnson becomes restless in her thirty-ninth year. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her middling middle-American existence and her neighbors' seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding. But Kelly's own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife makeover plan. 

From page one, Kelly's witty reflections, self-deprecating humor, and clever tactics in executing that plan—she places Post-it notes all over her house and car—will have readers laughing out loud. The next instant, however, they might rant right along with Kelly as her commitment to a sullen, anorexic teenager left on her doorstep tries her patience or as she deflects the boozy advances of a divorced neighbor. Readers will need to keep the tissue box handy, too, as Kelly repairs the damage she inflicted on a high school friend; realizes how deeply her husband, Patrick, understands and loves her; and ultimately grows into a woman empowered by her own blend of home and career.

Type: Fiction (chick-lit)

Quick Take: This is a really quick read, a smart light book.  I really enjoyed that the main character's life was happy and healthy.  Kelly is about to turn forty, feels a little lost and is watching her friends lives begin to crumble.  Just as all of this is going on, an opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap and her life changes forever.

I adore books like this, light but with a message.  The book does cover some tough topics but as a woman in my forties I thought everything was relevant.  I loved that the author talked about being an emotional hoarder (love this concept).

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Personal Copy

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