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THE ART OF CALM: Photographs and Wisdom to Balance Your Life ~ Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Just in time for Mother’s Day TLC Book Tours  and National Geographic Society Books sent me THE ART OF CALM for review.  It is absolutely beautiful and would make a lovely gift for the women in your life, and how about just for you?

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh has chosen stunning photographs to accompany each page of her writing wisdoms.  There are lovely quotes from famous women about finding the calm in one’s life, and there are even recipes for special treats and delightful bath soakers.    My absolute favorite parts of the book are the wee exercises that change the mind in a matter of moments and truly bring on the calm and the centering that pulls one back from an unpleasant trajectory.

I learned later in life to start each day with a poem, which allowed me to set my pace in a more thoughtful, positive direction.  This little gem would do that too.  Small enough to keep in the car, a little read before car pool, a deep breath and a picture study when the kids are fighting, or just the right touch before falling asleep THE ART OF CALM is a delight and 5 minutes of peace.

I highly recommend THE ART OF CALM as a lovely gift, for busy women even for one’s self.  A fabulous thank – you gift for someone who did something special.

“Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a New York-based journalist who has written for outlets including Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Huffington Post.  The author of Devoted and founder of the Deja Foundation, she lives with her husband, twin daughters, and beloved rescue dog, Buddy.” (Cover)

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh Facebook

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THE LAST GOOD PARADISE: A Novel ~Tatjana Soli

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

“Everyone encouraged one to ‘live the dream,’ but no one talked about how to pay for it.”   “He was learning the hard way that even divine cooking didn’t make one immune to being unloved.  Sadly, food wasn’t always enough.”  (Unproofed copy at 25% of Kindle reader)

Ever dream about living on an isolated island in the South Pacific?  THE LAST GOOD PARADISE is about that very concept of escaping to a remote island, having no fancy amenities handed to you and relaxing to a happiness of self-discovery.  Soli has put in more twists and turns than you can imagine including such amazing back stories of each of the characters that it is very difficult to put this book down.

I recommend this book to folks who like to read about how a character reaches their best potential and wants to ameliorate the back-story into the reality that is surfacing into the story now.  This is a study in responsibility and relationships between individuals and commitments and how they are going to play out their own happiness and future.  I found the writing compelling and the words kept me reading in the few draggy/ redundant moments; I was not actually on a sunny atoli in the South Pacific having nothing to do and gourmet food arriving on time!

THE LAST GOOD PARADISE introduces us to Ann and Richard a Los Angeles power couple that is attempting to become pregnant and about to open their own restaurant.   Ann is an attorney who has been making the money and saving for this big adventure of Richard’s when their plans become a train wreck and they hurriedly gather their savings and race out of L.A.   They travel lite, taking only a backpack and a tourist bag full of cash; and a brown one-piece bathing suit!

When they get to the remote resort, they meet Loren, a Frenchman, who won the resort in a poker game; he has chosen this remote lifestyle for his own.  A most interesting fellow, who has brought Titi, of the Royal family, and her childhood betrothed, Cooked to help him run the resort, reclaim their heritage, and become the owners upon Loren’s death.

Dex and Wende are aging rock star and his young muse, both are attempting to escape from the pressure of the public and move forward onto new pathways and adventures.  After 2 months of being isolated, the events on the island assist Dex in writing new songs for the band and Wende has found her own passion and not just being the muse and “hottie”.

There is an underlying environmental issue, which begs for some responsible re-action and recovery in that it has truly affected lives and the way of life,  also the whole problem of the  huge resorts for the wealthy including the theft of the land and lifestyle from the original people.

I have read all of Tatjana Soli’s novels and enjoyed them all.  This is the first one I have been sent for review.  I liked this story very much and think others would also as it required me to take a look at the choices I had made and my responsibilities over my life.  Was I a follower or a “wild-child”?

I think book groups would enjoy this read, as there is a lot to discuss.  I think a study guide would very much enhance this book.

About the author from the TLC Book Tour page:

“TATJANA SOLI is a novelist and short story writer. Her New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, was the winner of the James Tait Black Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. Her critically acclaimed second novel The Forgetting Tree was also a New York Times Notable book . Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun, and have been listed in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.”

Tatjana Soli Twitter

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THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS: A Novel ~Elizabeth Gilbert (New York Times Bestselling author of EAT PRAY LOVE)

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014


On Facebook, Audible.com offered me a free copy of THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS.   I was delighted because I wanted to read this book even before it was published as I truly relish Gilbert’s writing voice.  The precision and language usage I always find awesome, it transports me, my reading skills improve and I find challenge which pushes me to better analysis and understanding.
I have been reading Gilbert’s stories for a long time, as a friend of mine discovered her cowboy stories in a men’s magazine and he passed them along as he knew I would like her style.   I have not been disappointed.  I am sure I could write 500 words about the writing.  I will say Ms. Stevenson the reader of this audible book was just so skilled also and it allowed me to recover from a small surgery while keeping my eyes closed and my ears attentive.    The book is over 500 pages, and that was a perfect recovery time.

Alma Whittaker was born in Philadelphia on her father’s estate just a few days into the 1800s.  Her father Henry Whittaker began life as a poor man in England who worked in a garden as a tree pruner.  He had a business sense and he learned Botany from the earth and the plants and the skills of others. He was determined to be wealthy and was quite an entrepreneurial fellow.   He found a strict Dutch wife who would have this newly wealthy man who was also a Botanist and together they forged a path into the Age of Enlightenment with determination.  Alma’s father began one of the first Pharmaceutical companies based on plant medicinals.  Their home was a laboratory for guests and wisdom and all the new found science and knowledge.  The education of Alma was rigorous and futuristic.  Alma became a Botanist in her own rights, delving into the norms of evolution and changing minds.

The story reveals all the changing mores of this time period.  The Quaker Movement against slavery and their new schools, the beginning fight for women’s rights, the preparation for the industrial revolution, the rise of public education, the changing religious traditions, and the scientific exploration and explosion of ideas are all explored.  Books were more readily available and more printers established publishing houses.  Because Alma was isolated on her family’s estate, she showed us how the world was changing with each venture forth with fresh vision and appealing analysis.  We are taken to Peru, South Seas islands, and then back to Europe; the end of the story finds Alma about 95 and living in Amsterdam with her Mother’s younger brother.  An historic saga, or an adventure story I am not sure if I need to classify this work as anything more than a great reminder of history and discovery.  THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS was a marvelous read and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes exquisite writing and complete story telling with lots of details.

This novel was the perfect way to start a year of reading and reviewing.  The history provided the historic back story to 4 more books on my review list. I was better prepared to read these other stories and understand the context of the shared time periods and appreciate what the 19th Century provided to the global evolution of human kind, opened the door to medical breakthroughs and paved the technological outreach of today.   The format of an audible book was perfect for me to use while driving or healing, although I was frustrated with not being able to go back and make notes, underline, and find a beginning quote for this review. I hope all of my daughters will read this book and maybe I can persuade one of my book groups; the length makes it prohibitive.

Thank you to Audible.com  for sharing this book with me.  THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is an excellent read.

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THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT ~Phoebe Baker Hyde

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

“How I skipped lipstick, ditched fashion, faced the world without concealer, and learned to love the real me.”

When TLC online book tours contacted me about reviewing THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT they asked for something a bit different.  The agent asked me if I was willing to practice some of the exercises in the book for about 2 weeks before I wrote my review.  “Definitely!” I replied because that sounded like something fun to experiment with in the New Year. I also requested that the book be sent early so that I could have adequate time to do the experiment.  THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT came very early and I read it from cover to cover and began my changes and workout- journaling my thought processes.

Just a few days ago an email arrived with the Possible Activities and Inner Voice Activities the author was suggesting.  I shaped my experiment results into the suggestions and will write a bit longer review. Ms. Hyde did a large survey group for the book and the answers to the questions were quite informative.

THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT was a delightful read and I was so pleased that a 30+ year old was discovering things I had learned in my lifetime also; she added the bigger cultural expectations and had a perspective from living in Hong Kong that was not available to me when I was in High School.   I  do not shop and I do not find anything fun or relaxing in going to stores.  In my work career, I have only received a living wage and benefits for 4 years and my family could not get health insurance coverage for most of my life (my partner and 2 of my 3 children were able to have coverage if we independently paid full rates and fees) I have never had the privilege of shopping for “wants”.  I have always eaten and cooked with “clean” food because it cut our medical expenses and we were rarely ill, and we all had beautiful skin.   My youngest child loves fashion and makeup and I hope someday she will try THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT herself.

Phoebe Baker Hyde took a year off from makeup, haircuts, shaving, waxing, looking in mirrors, jewelry, impulse purchases, or purchasing any shoes or clothing. She did have to get a new bathing suit as her old one disintegrated during the year.  She set aside money for charity when she was going to make an impulse purchase.  She also cleaned her closets and threw out things that she did not wish to wear any more or did not even have the tags removed.  She was not working and had just had a baby girl and wanted to truly discover what she desired to teach her child.  She did cut her long beautiful red hair to begin the experiment.

Here is my experiment and the thinking that I worked on during the reading of the book:  First it was my mother’s voice in my head every morning asking me if I could not find something to do with my hair and then she dressed me until I was 12; it was expected that I would  work to pay for clothing, shoes and college savings.  Even when she was dying at age 94, my mum was wishing I would go get a perm and do something about my hair and clothes.  Now that she is gone I can still hear the voice in my head about my hair and my clothing.  I never had enough money from my work for college and for fashionable clothing – I just bought a few things each year to refresh my wardrobe, shoes and save for college. Nylon stockings nearly broke the bank every month they were so expensive and fragile.  I was allergic to most perfumes and makeup and so I did not try to use them.  I thought I was homely, plain and a “brain”.

A professional model at my youth group was my mentor for 2 years.  She found me make up and classes to train me in decorum and the art or facial applications, and for 2 years of my life I was the highest paid teen model in Cleveland, Ohio. I worked for a number of stores, companies, and agencies during that time.  I felt beautiful and it was also helpful that I was not expected to do my hair as that was done for me each event.  Also when I sang professionally, the agency arranged clothing, makeup and hair; someone else was making the decisions about my beauty and I was making enough money for 2 full years of college. (Not enough for travel home for holidays and still not enough to keep me in stockings)

Full dress was required at my college – no slacks, jeans, or sports clothing in any classroom.  When I could not afford stockings, I just started wearing my required raincoat and boots over my pajamas to class. I stopped shaving and for the first time in my life I let my hair grow.   The inner voice still says,” Can’t you do something about how you look?”   I find it impossible to pick out what to wear in the mornings; I feel dissatisfied with my post Cancer body and my heavy legs and upper arms.  My thin, wispy baby fine hair is still a problem for me.  I have stopped perming, cutting and just decided to see how long it will grow this past year.  I spent 2 weeks after reading the book, looking in the mirror and admiring my hair every day.  I have to admit I now like it and do not feel like a huge body with no hair on the top!  I like brushing it dry and seeing the silver streaks and how it frames my beautiful face, how it shines and moves. I no longer purchase any product to make it do anything!

One might look in my closet and say I am a uniform dresser.  It is all variations on the same theme of comfort.  I only have 6 pair of shoes at a time.  I usually get a new pair every three years.  I have 4 pair of slacks and 2 pair of jeans, the latter I purchase every other year.  I bought a lovely and very expensive afternoon outfit at Harrods in London because I was in the UK and had planned to do it. I am not the typical shopper or make up person now and I do so worry about all the hype, bling and pressure that young girls are exposed to these days.  The expectations which go unchallenged and are constant reminders of women’s dirty – ugliness just persists in perpetuating the inferiority because they are female.   When I became pregnant the first time, I really researched and stopped using toxic materials of any kind on my body or in my body.  I do not use products which are politically toxic either.  It takes a lot of research and care of self to make this kind of commitment.  THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT is very helpful in taking a very good look at what you believe about yourself and your looks; finding what is most important to you.

Would you be willing to give up all your beauty aids for year? Would you want to research all the products you use?  How about not shopping for a year?  How about not having conversations about shopping or deals you discovered?  What do you want your daughters to know about beauty? What will you demonstrate and how will you share your love of self with others?  You might be very surprised about what you believe, about what is beauty and what is just a money maker for someone else.

This book has a worthy message and will make you think and I guarantee this even if you are not a shopper or a beauty whiz kid.  It is a deeper look at how we truly think about and express our self-love.  Worth it – THE BEAUTY EXPERIMENT.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

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