Tuesday, April 21, 2015

[Book Review] Sweet Forgiveness by Lori Nelson Spielman

Sweet ForgivenessSweet Forgiveness by Lori Nelson Spielman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First To Read Program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From the book cover

#1 international bestselling author Lori Nelson Spielman follows The Life List with Sweet Forgiveness, in which a woman’s receipt of two “forgiveness stones” sends her searching for atonement

The Forgiveness Stones craze is sweeping the nation—instantly recognizable pouches of stones that come with a chain letter and two simple requests: to forgive, and then to seek forgiveness. But New Orleans' favorite talk show host, Hannah Farr, isn't biting. Intensely private and dating the city’s mayor, Hannah has kept her very own pouch of Forgiveness Stones hidden for two years—and her dark past concealed for nearly two decades. But when Fiona Knowles, creator of the Forgiveness Stones, appears on Hannah’s show, Hannah unwittingly reveals on air details of a decades-old falling out with her mother.

Spurned by her fans, doubted by her friends, and accused by her boyfriend of marring his political career, Hannah reluctantly embarks on a public journey of forgiveness. As events from her past become clearer, the truth she’s clung to since her teenage years has never felt murkier. Hannah must find the courage to right old wrongs, or risk losing her mother, and any glimmer of an authentic life, forever.

Part 2: Recommendation

The second book from the author of The Life List, Lori Nelson Spielman delivers yet another thought-provoking novel in Sweet Forgiveness. Do we have the courage to seek forgiveness as well as to grant forgiveness and be able to truly move on? Is it better to keep secrets buried or is it better to bring it up and be able to clear the air? These are just a few of the questions that readers will encounter as they join Hannah in her quest for truth, love and forgiveness.

I am not much of a nonfiction reader but the way Lori Nelson Spielman quotes parts of the Forgiveness Stones book throughout Sweet Forgiveness makes me want to read the fictitious book by fictitious author Fiona Knowles. As for Hannah, even though she's a year older than I am, in my head, she sounds a lot older like she's around fifty-ish and matronly, which was a bit disconcerting when she first meets RJ so throughout this mild flirtation, I had to mentally remind myself that Hannah is only 34 and physically attractive. I also enjoyed seeing Hannah grow a spine and stand up to Michael and Abby. I felt like cheering along with Jade when that happened. I am naturally a curious being and it bothers me that Sweet Forgiveness ended without really telling me what was inside Bob's red metal tackle box or if the same thing happened to Anne. Sure, there were a couple of scenes that somewhat implied Hannah was right all along but it could also mean, that Anne was referring to what happened to Hannah. Like Hannah, can I learn to live with ambiguity? I'm not entirely sure.

Overall, this is a good book but so far, my favorite from this lovely author is The Life List and I can't wait to read her next book.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

[Book Review] The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

The Life ListThe Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this signed paperback in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From the book cover

In this utterly charming debut — one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.

1. Go to Paris
2. Perform live, on a super big stage
3. Have a baby, maybe two
4. Fall in love

Brett Bohlinger has forgotten all about the list of life goals she’d written as a na├»ve teenager. In fact, at thirty-four, Brett seems to have it all—a plum job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. But when her beloved mother, Elizabeth, dies, Brett’s world is turned upside down. Rather than simply naming her daughter the new CEO of Bohlinger Cosmetics, Elizabeth’s will comes with one big stipulation: Brett must fulfill the list of childhood dreams she made so long ago.

Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision. Some of her old hopes seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other dreams (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. For each goal attempted, her mother has left behind a bittersweet letter, offering words of wisdom, warmth, and—just when Brett needs it—tough love.

As Brett struggles to complete her abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

Part 2: Recommendation

I absolutely adore this book! The plot is simple but such a page turner. The writing is absolutely lovely and definitely brought tears to my eyes several times throughout the book. There are definitely some hard lessons to learn in this book like: you can't force love, learn to forgive and work towards achieving goals that actually make you happy. Brett is so easy to fall in love with as well as Brad, Herbert and Garrett. It’s actually hard to decide which one is better for Brett and at some point in the book, I had wished that the “Burberry trench coat man” is the one Brett ends up with but it was even better! At this point in my review, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet. This book is one that you will definitely hug close to your heart at the end of it. I highly, highly recommend that you read this book!

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Friday, April 3, 2015

[Book Review] A Tale Of Two Besties by Sophia Rossi

A Tale of Two Besties (Hello Giggles)A Tale of Two Besties by Sophia Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First To Read Program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From the book cover

Best friends. BFFs. Soul twinsies. Whatever you want to call them, Harper and Lily were born to be besties. With high school just around the corner, casual-cool Cali girl Harper and awkward, always-costumed Lily make sure to text each other every day about their bond:

Harper: I love you so much that I am going to sneak out of detention to pay that guy from Craigslist $100 to cut off all your hair for my secret collection.
Lily: I love you so much I’m going destroy everyone in your life that matters and force you to depend and love only me.
Harper: That sounds beautiful. I love you.

Not even the threat of different high schools could throw this BFFship off-course, even if Lily begs her parents not to send her to the “dreaded Pathways," a special school for creative types, while effortlessly-popular Harper attends Beverly High with the rest of their class.

But in a city where fitting in means standing out and there’s nothing more uncool than being cool, it’s the naturally charismatic Harper--with her blond hair and perfect bone structure--who finds herself fighting the tide of American Apparel’d teens who rule the school. Meanwhile, it’s the perpetually “gawkward” Lily--who accessories every ensemble with a pair of tattered fairy wings--who finds herself flying alongside the queen bees of Pathways. Can BFF-ship survive the tidal wave of HS drama, or does growing up mean leaving some friends behind?

Inspired by the HelloGiggles community of likeminded best friends, founded by IRL besties Zooey Deschanel and Sophia Rossi, and set in a hilarious insider’s version of Los Angeles, A Tale of Two Besties will make you giggle and cry…and then tell you how cute you look with runny mascara.

“It's like my twins stepped out of the eighties and dropped down into today. Deliciously funny with heart.” – Francine Pascal, bestselling author and creator of the Sweet Valley High series

Part 2: Recommendation

Having the perspective of both Lily and Harper made me not hate nor did it not make me favor one over the other. Based on the synopsis, I was thinking I have to mentally prepare myself for all the teen drama in this book. Thankfully, I didn't need to. The writing is effortless and the pace is relatively smooth. The characters and the problems they're facing is quite realistic. I absolutely adore books that make me feel the emotions of the characters and this book made me feel alright. I was in tears by the time Lily and Harper finally cleared the air and made up. At first, I thought Nicole was this nice, cool girl but I ended up disliking Nicole the more I encountered her character in the book and I definitely agreed with Harper that Nicole is just a different kind of bully but a bully all the same. And of course, I always enjoy the part where everyone finally stands up to the bully and moved on with their merry lives, leaving Nicole shrieking and alone.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and anyone who loves a good contemporary YA novel should definitely get their hands on this one.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

[Book Review] The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase

The One That Got AwayThe One That Got Away by Bethany Chase
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First To Read Program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, this bright, funny debut from a fresh voice in fiction offers a delicious take on love, family, and what it means to build a home of one’s own.

Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer — and former flame — Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn.

Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices — and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life — and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind.

Part 2: Recommendation

"It was so blessedly effortless to be with him: he was seven years older, seven years kinder, and it was obvious from the moment I met him ... He would never dream of cheating on me at all ... I was certain that when the sun rose the next day, he'd want to spend it with me ... Just like that sunrise, he'd always be there." For every relationship, there should be a degree of trust and knowing that your partner is someone you can depend on makes for a stable relationship.

From what I gather, Sarina is roughly 31 years old and Eamon is about 29 years old but then the way Sarina acts outside of work, is that of a 25 year old when it comes to drinking and partying and even worse, she acts like an over dramatic 18 year old when it comes to Eamon which I find highly unrealistic because the 30 year old women that I know don't act anywhere near how the author portrayed Sarina. I did admire her sexual self-restrain and fighting her growing attraction to Eamon while she was still in a relationship with Noah and I definitely appreciated the fact that Sarina has shown mostly good work ethic again, except around Eamon.

I also don't like the fact that Sarina is still in a relationship with Noah and yet she snuggles up with Eamon during a wedding weekend and to make matters complicated, Eamon is quickly becoming a friend and is also a client. I feel that Serena should've acted more professional despite her growing attraction towards Eamon because that is what 30-year-old adult, mature women do.

"Kind, loving, loyal Noah, who I've spent the last 4 years building a life with, apparently doesn't mean a thing to me when Eamon Roy tells me he wants me. The realization makes my chest constrict with panic, and it is this more than anything that makes me say no." It was good to see Sarina struggle and eventually decline Eamon's invitation to go back into bed that morning she stayed over to nurse him back to health.

Overall, this is a well-written, sweet fiction that tells every woman struggling with building their own business that persistence and hard work pays off. There's enough drama and character struggle to keep the story moving forward and interesting. But other than that, it's an okay book. I might have been able to enjoy it more if I wasn't so bothered by Sarina's actions around Eamon.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

[Book Review] The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The Fair FightThe Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of Penguin's First to Read program, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.

Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.

Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.

Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.

After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.

A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.

Part 2: Recommendation

"In our house, a girl's worth could be counted out in pounds, shillings, and pence, and that was all the worth that mattered... It's the same choice children are given the world over: be of service or be gone." This line I found to be true for both rich and poor kids. For the rich it is to prepare their children to take over the family business one day and grow the business and for the poor, it is to help bring in money to feed the family.

Ma's character is a shrew but a very good business woman as proven by the line "Ma charged a good rate... The cullies paid it, because Ma never would stand to see a cull robbed at the convent...There were houses like ours where a fellow had to keep an eye on his coat and boots, never mind his pocket-watch, but Ma wouldn't stomach it and all the neighborhood knew it." which is good business practice.

I found Dora to be quite cruel when she said, "But no one will pay you, Ruth, to sleep or otherwise."

"Mine wasn't a mug any young lad would find to make sheep-eyes at. And yet—there he was. I hated him, and yet I looked for him too." This line from Ruth made me smile because eventually, she falls in love with Tom's goodness and kindness.

"I had often felt great annoyance toward Perry, but never as pure a hatred as I felt then. It was so powerful that I could not hold still." Normally, a person could not hate their sibling but Perry is beyond cruel and I can understand why Charlotte feels this way towards her only living brother.

Anna Freeman efficiently sums up Perry character in this quote. "I am master of this house and you will obey me... You are willing to see me left heartbroken; I will see you left with nothing... Leave George be, or we shall all be miserable. I will never allow you to be otherwise." After reading this line, my dislike for Perry intensified and thankfully towards the second half of the book, Perry didn't speak much because most of the time he is too inebriated to talk or do anything.

"I ain't returned. I have been left. I've not had a crumb to eat for days. They've left me here." I felt bad for Ruth, for the desperation to survive that drove her to beg a man she dislikes to take her with him.

With three narrators, each telling their story that somehow continues where the other left off feels quite strange but somehow makes sense to me. I wonder if by reading all the sections from one narrator from start to finish then doing the same for the other two will make for a more enjoyable experience? I must admit that I don't care much for Ruth's voice and I don't trust George and I'm very fascinated by Charlotte because there's two sides to her personality and it was getting to Charlotte's section that kept me turning the pages because I wanted to know what happens to her and when or how she'll finally show everyone who she really is.

Overall, this is a very interesting, well-written piece of literary fiction that may or may not read the same way.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

[Product Review] STM Linear Bag, 11" MacBook Air, Kindle Fire HDX

Product Reviews
  • STM Linear Bag (Laptops & Tablets) - After searching for the perfect laptop bag
    ©️STM Bags
    to safely transport my brand new 11” MacBook Air, I found on Amazon this awesome Linear Bag from STM. It has tons of pockets to carry pens, external hard drives, chargers & cables, travel & work documents and it also has a slot for tablets. The size I got was the small size which could fit 11” up to 13” laptops and it fits my 11” MacBook Air with enough room to spare if I decide to get a hard shell for my MacBook Air. My iPad Air with it’s current case fits nicely in the tablet pocket. The inside smaller pockets house my stylus pen, a regular pen, my external hard drive and USB cable and my MacBook Air charger & cable. Car keys can be attached to a key strap/key holder for easy access and so that you’re not digging around in the bag forever. The flap pocket can be used to store your phone since it is also fleece lined. When traveling with a rolling suitcase, you can slide the bag over the suitcase handle with the luggage pass-through strap which I think will be very convenient. It also has a hand strap on the top of the bag if you don’t want to use the shoulder strap. The shoulder strap is very comfortable to use and freely swivels so you’re not stuck with twisted straps. The fabric and the bag is very well designed and it looks and feels sturdy. My only wish is that the interior pockets for accessories has more room so that it could also be a combination gadget and daily work purse for women. Overall, I am definitely loving this bag and I highly recommend it whether it is for a short trip to the coffeeshop, library or the office and especially for domestic and international trips. 
  • 11” MacBook Air - For the longest time, I have been putting off buying my own 
    ©️Apple, Inc.
    computer mainly because my iPad is capable of doing most of the things I need to do and my husband was finally done with his masters so that means I get more time to borrow his MacBook Pro and I was trying to wait for the Retina MacBook Air. Long story short, I finally bought my MacBook Air online on Nov. 21, 2014 and picked it up at the Apple Store on Nov. 26, 2014 because the College I work for is being sold to a Non-Profit group and that means, I will soon lose my education discount on computers. It took awhile for me to bring home my MacBook Air because I bumped up the following specs: RAM to 8GB, Processor to 1.7Ghz and Flash Storage to 256GB to make sure that any future OS X updates can be installed on this machine as I plan to keep this machine for a minimum of 5 years. I really love this little machine (compared to my iPad Air, it is 1.5 inches longer) and the magsafe adapter on the charging port. Even without the retina display, I find that it doesn’t bother me because I don’t really work with graphics. I mainly work with text (writing books, blog posts). The keyboard is very responsive and feels full-sized and the trackpad is just amazing. With iCloud + Handoff/Continuity I can start a blogpost using Pages or Notes app on my iPad Air while on break at work, add additional thoughts discretely (aka stealth mode) using my iPhone 5 while at my work desk and finish off my blogpost on my MacBook Air during the weekend. I just love how convenient that is. So for my writing life, my MacBook Air + Scrivener = writing & publishing heaven. Talk about stress-free! As for my iPad Air, I still use it a lot for first drafts, first edits, reading eBooks, social media, journaling, painting, emails, text messaging, web browsing, games and a lot more to mention. Even with my MacBook Air in the picture, I don’t think my iPad Air will be going anywhere.
  • Kindle Fire HDX - I won a Kindle Fire HDX 7” tablet recently for attending a Rich Dad
    Education workshop/seminar. I opened the box and turned on the Kindle to make sure it is working and it is. As much as I would love a Kindle, I have no use for it seeing as I already have an iPad. Based on the Kindle website, I am pretty sure it is a great product and deserves a better home than I could give it. It has 16GB storage, Wifi, Dolby Audio, Quad-Core 2.2Ghz processor, battery life of 11 hours mixed use,  front-facing HD camera. It’s very lightweight, user-friendly and the Amazon app store content is growing daily not to mention the awesome collection of Kindle Books and Audible library and Amazon Prime video & music library at your fingertips. If I didn’t have an iPad, I would definitely keep this. So, if anyone in the Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Denver area is interested, I’m selling this brand new Kindle Fire HDX 7” for $199.00 cash or Paypal. Send me an email and we can discuss where to meet in person for payment and delivery.