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Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman- A Book Review

In Books on June 27, 2013 at 10:15 am

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When Alice Hoffman was diagnosed with cancer she had two young children and an ailing mother. One of her novels, Practical Magic was being made into a movie and another Here on Earth had been selected as part of Oprah’s Book Club- it seems cancer doesn’t care how busy, important or famous you are. So when Alice turned to books for advice on how to cope she ended up writing one herself- a letter to herself and a tribute to all survivors who have loved and lost.

” I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night. And to remind myself that, despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make.”

Survival Lessons is a guidebook for all of us -not just the ones suffering from a illness, trauma or loss, but also the ones slogging through a daily life that lacks contentment or joy. A lot of us are in a ‘survival mode’ that serves merely as a modus operandi for making it from one day to to the next, putting out one fire and looking out for the next. The simple pleasures of life are pushed aside for something more important.

Each chapter in Survival Lessons offers a choice- a chance to focus on yourself for a bit, to discover your needs and wants. You can Choose to Enjoy Yourself, Choose Whose Advice you Take, Choose to Be Yourself.

Survival Lessons is ideal for a quick, light read that anyone- even the most stressed- can find the time for, to read all at once and return to again and again. It’s simplicity is it’s greatest benefit, allowing the reader to use the book as an inspiration for your own meditations on what makes you happy-what brings you peace or joy, and what is healing to your soul- leading you beyond mere ‘survival’ to ‘truly living’.

Find out more about Survival Lessons at Algonquin Books and find out more about Alice Hoffman at her website

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The Erma Bombeck Collection- A Book Review

In Books on June 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

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This collection contains 3 books, all ‘ peeping through the kitchen window’ accounts of
domestic life written in Bombeck’s usual droll yet heartfelt style.

If you want to see what I though of If Life is a Bowl of Cherries Why Am I Always in the Pits, look at my post here

In Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession, Erma shows the ‘reality’ of Motherhood and sympathises with the aghast mother who has found parenting is not as easy as it looks to the child-free outsider. Learn from Erma valuable skills she has developed as a harried mum, such as;
Creative Nagging 101,Perfection: How to get it and how to convince your children you’ve got it. threats and promises and guilt the gift that keeps on giving.
But along with Bombeck’s usual wry style the heart message is clear,
“It is not until you become a mother that your judgement slowly turns to compassion and understanding.”

The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank reveals what life in the newly built and ever expanding suburbs is really like. The quest for a spot of lawn and a house with all the mod-cons in a kid-safe cul-de-sac has never been as truthful or as funny. Erma knows exactly what is like to have your husband wonder what you did all day, she has experienced the long wait for the reluctant repairman and knows firsthand how home improvement and decorating can cramp cash flow.

Find out more about this, and other ebooks by Erma Bombeck at Open Road Media

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook by Becky Johnson & Rachel Randolph- A Book Review.

In Books on May 17, 2013 at 11:47 am

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We laugh… As Jared’s 15 Alarm 3 Fire Truck Salsa sets Rachel’s dial to Steaming.

We cry … When Becky gives the gift of love and friendship in a bowl to Julie who sees joy in simplicity via the sharp lens of suffering.

We cook… Feasts of family love, banquets of support and nurturing and simple meals of togetherness.

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook is part cookbook, part memoir and part devotional. We are invited into the homes and kitchens of well-known Christian writer Becky Johnson and her daughter Rachel Randolph.

Rachel serves us a slice of her home life as a new parent and as a vegan. Her stories and recipe contributions will surely change any perceptions on the inconvenience and blandness of a vegan diet.

Becky is as down to earth as her cooking style- though she will admit her head is sometimes in the clouds! Yet Becky is revealed as a person that is endlessly generous to others, with a writing style that speaks to each reader as a lifelong friend.

We laugh, We Cry, We Cook offers comfort food for the soul as well as comfort food food recipes that are also healthy and unusual. Find out more about at the blog We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

How Lucky You Are by Kristyn Kusek Lewis- A Book Review

In Books on May 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm

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Kristyn Kusek Lewis points out in the Author’s Note that the mission statement of How Lucky You Are is the warning “Comparison is the thief of joy” and the novels’ three main characters are surely guilty of spotting greener grass on their friends lawn.

Waverly narrates the story and we see how she judges her friends’ lives as less arduous than her own. Waverly owns a bakery, which is hard work and also business is not going so well, her long-time partner Larry is a great match but she suffers doubt and guilt over the question of marriage and children. Her friends look to her like they have it all together.

Kate is beautiful,confident,wealthy and on her way to becoming even more glamorous riding on the wave of her husbands political career. Amy is sweet, thoughtful and the ideal ‘white picket fence’ wife and mother who glows with contentment.

The three are long-time good friends and each one is just different enough to sometimes succumb to the temptation of measuring themselves against each other. As they find themselves in situations that threaten to reveal beneath the facade they begin to learn who they really are, who their friends really are- and their friendship has a chance to deepen.

Kristyn Kusek Lewis touches on more than just the tendency in our culture to compare ourselves to impossible ideals. The issue of self-worth is further explored when the ugliness of emotional and physical abuse is uncovered. Kusek Lewis deftly shows the pain and discombobulation it causes for the victim and the sorrow and helplessness that troubles the victims friends and family. It is a deep issue and one that touches all of us in some way, and one we really don’t talk about. How Lucky You Are is a great starting place for further dialogue and investigation that can only lead to helping more people out of this sorry state.

Yes, it’s a serious subject matter however it is dealt with in way that is not so disturbing that the novel is too hard to read- in this way I think Kusek Lewis was wise because instead of tuning out and turning off we can sit with the reality and maybe let the thought grow into action in our society even after we have finished the last page.

On a lighter note one point though I must mention is the fact that Kristyn features an item from Waverley’s bakery quite prominently in the novel and when I finally swiped the last e-page there was no recipe for the famous Donut Muffin?! ( at least not in my review copy?!- Kristyn if you are willing to share this recipe here let me know!)

You can view Kristyn’s website here.

The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon-A Book Review

In Books on April 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

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Fay Weldon’s 1983 novel has now been released by Open Road Media as an ebook and the novel has remained current enough to suit this new technology. Anyone who had watched the 1986 movie ‘She Devil’ (there was also a BBC miniseries in 1986) will find the novel The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil quite a bit more devilish and sinister.

The main premise remains the same, Ruth, an unattractive, clumsy, housewife who puts her all into her homemaking and husband Bobbo’s happiness is still unable to please him. She is cast aside for Mary Fisher, dainty, pretty, childless and wealthy romance novelist- the opposite of Ruth in every way. Ruth’s humiliation turns to anger and the drive for revenge turns bizarre as Ruth conducts a Frankensteinesque transformation of herself that she believes will ensure she is never hurt or humiliated again.

The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil is a little naughty, a bit dark and crazy and funny too but also provocative in it’s message of a woman’s value, of the betrayal of a wife for a ‘better model’ and the importance of beauty in our society is still present today- maybe even more so than it was when the novel was published.

Find out more or buy the book at
Open Road Media

Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain- A Book Review

In Books on January 29, 2013 at 10:55 am

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The secrets they keep at Kiss River are always just below the surface like the fractured lens of the lighthouse that lies beneath the sea there. There are secrets of the past told only to a young girl’s diary and the secrets of the present that cannot be kept much longer.

Gina has travelled to Kiss River on a single-minded mission to raise the lens but her motives are unclear and unnerving to the lighthouse caretaker Clay, who is wounded by the loss of his wife, and cannot face being hurt again. Gina and Clay may not be able to deny their attraction to each other but they can’t deny that keeping secrets from those you grow to love is painful and living with the fear of being discovered is just as agonising as the inevitable pain of betrayal.

Diane Chamberlain is the go-to author for novels with everyday characters facing danger or dilemma, yet finding healing or redemption through love. Kiss River’s purity defeated by time and a world at war into a now windswept coastline weather-beaten lighthouse show the attention to detail and thorough research Chamberlain applies to all her novels. She writes engaging novels that will have you eager to seek out all her works and eagerly await her future works.

For more information on Kiss River and her other novels visit Diane Chamberlain’s website .

If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? by Erma Bombeck

In Books on January 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm

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Oh happy days! Fans of humourist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) will be pleased with the news that Open Road Media have released a selection of her books as ebooks! No more musty library copies of Bombeck’s books for me! I have been lucky enough to revisit “If life is a Bowl of Cherries…” and would like to share some of Erma’a words to whet your appetite for a bowl of cherry-delicious humour as Erma finds the fun and beauty in domestic life.

“I worry about scientists discovering someday that lettuce has been fattening all along.”

“A woman can walk through the Louvre Museum in Paris and see 5,000 breathtaking paintings on the wall. A man can walk through the Louvre Museum in Paris and see 5,000 nails in the wall.”

“Now a fitting room to me has always been like a confessional…where my body and my contrition take up the entire room.”

” I’ve seen kids ride bicycles, run, play ball, set up a camp, and race for eight hours…yet have to be driven to the garbage can.”

“The last time my family laughed was when my oven caught fire and we had to eat out for a week.”

“The bad times I can handle. It’s the good times that drive me crazy. When is the other shoe going to drop?”

Oh Erma, I wish you were still with us… I would love to hear your take on mobile phones and texting each other when you are all in the same house, reality t.v and idol, teenage boys with the waist of their pants around their knees and botox foreheads and collagen lips. Somehow, I don’t think she would bat an eyelid.

Read more about Erma Bombeck and her recently re-released titles at Open Road Media- Erma Bombeck

Your Power as a Woman by Alma Archer- Part 1.

In Books on January 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

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In 1957 Alma Archer wrote the book Your Power as a Woman- How to Develop and Use it. It was a guide to ‘a happier and more rewarding life’. Her qualifications for writing such a book were based on her experience as a newspaper columnist with the New York Mirror, writing a column on style that was also carried by over 1,100 newspapers. She also ran a charm school-The Fifth Avenue School for Smartness. Some of the advice is still applicable and some is outdated and will even be found as politically incorrect to some readers, but it is still so entertaining for the ‘retro’ lovers. The blurb from the back cover enticingly promises;

“Have fun losing weight with an amazing new 14 Day Reducing Diet! 9 tested tips for getting and keeping the man you want most! How to get rid of ugly blackheads and pimples – have a lovely skin! 16 secrets of being more popular at home, at work and at play! 22 practical ways to get far more out of life after you pass 40! 19 ways to make sure you pick the right clothes – and wear them with assurance and chic!”

I don’t know if the book was sold in Australia, but there are some old copies for sale in the U.S., if anyone finds an inexpensive copy in Australia-let me know! An online copy of the book (which I have used when it is not checked out) is available to borrow from Open Library.org and a pdf copy is available to buy from PDF Classic Books (which I may decide to purchase).

The first excerpt I would like to show you in this blog is titled:

Do’s and Don’ts for Past Forties.

Alma says,” Follow these rules and you’ll still be lovely at seventy. Life can be beautiful even at eighty, if you don’t lose your power as a woman.”

Some of the do’s and don’ts;

Do make a career of being cheerful and well groomed.
Do avoid indigestible foods which irritate your skin and disposition.
Do put special creams around the eyes and on the neck.
Do develop new interests, whether it’s raising Siamese cats or learning to paint.
Don’t believe vicious scandalmongers about the dangers of forty.
Dont get rusty in looks or conversation.
Dont go out without being well-groomed from head to toe.

One ‘Don’t’ Alma does leave out is ‘Don’t smoke’, but looking at the advertisement featuring Alma and her ‘habit’ above, I see that she must have believed in only preaching what she practised, ahem. Alma did, however,write this book though when she was nearing 60 and continued to impart her wisdom on charm,beauty and style for many more years.

Free Kindle Ebook Alert! The Well Lived Laugh by Rachel St John Gilbert

In Books on December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

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It”s that time of year when people make New Years resolutions. Some people make too many and some set their sights too high. Some people give every effort and crash and burn by January 7th. Some people claim they will give up things they don’t even do- ” Smoking and drinking and bad women…”. A few people are adamant that they don’t make any resolutions at all.

Whatever you do, at some stage, and probably many times during this coming year, you will want something to change, you will want things different. Your weight, your commitments, your family-life or your job will start to seem like a struggle you just can’t handle anymore and you will have some thinking to do and changes to make.

Luckily, there is a book that can help guide you through the times when it is all too much and you are wondering if ‘it’ is worth the battle. The book is The Well Lived Laugh by Rachel St. John Gilbert, I reviewed it here earlier in the year and now I am happy to announce that the ebook version is FREE at Amazon.com today! (31/12/2012). If you have a Kindle or can download the Kindle app, you can start reading it today, but there is also a paperback version available (order online in Australia). It’s also a great time to share the free offer while it lasts with with your friends- I see another busy year ahead for all of us.

Below is my previously posted review, if you missed it.

Rachel St. John-Gilbert realised Oprah’s job was already taken and ” being a deep thinker and encourager by nature, I dabbled in the writing world to see if God might use these gifts in that field”.

Well Lived Laugh (Designing A Life That Keeps You Smiling) is one of her books written about ” some of the pressures that weighs on womens’ minds” and encourages the reader to ” decide for themselves how to view them”.

At the end of each chapter is a questionaire section designed to help you decide how seriously you feel pressured by that chapters topic. The questions are designed to determine whether you need to ‘ease up’ the pressure you may be putting on yourself.

Chapters deal with common pressures women face, such as weight ,youthfulness, doing it all and making something of yourself. St. John-Gilbert is know for her quirky, humourous style and the anecdotes in this book help illustrate each topic in a very low-pressure and relatable way. Yet, this is not a book about ‘giving up’ or avoiding pressure. St John-Gilbert acknowledges that ” not all pressures are bad-some are a catalyst to positive change.”

The main message is knowing your priorities. When we determine our priorities, rather than allowing outside pressures to govern us, we can live by our beliefs and actions with confidence and enthusiasm rather than burning out trying to live by standards that are imposed by society or our need to be perfect or liked.

The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society by Augusta Trobaugh- A Book Review.

In Books on December 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

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Tea-Olive is a southern town in the U.S.A. where the women are named after Christian hymns, where manners are paramount and men are expected to be gentlemen but the little town is about to be the setting for a murder.

The proposed victim is new-in-town Judge Hyson Breed who is, not only a yankee but also a bully with appalling manners. He soon marries Sweet, a naive, lovelorn member of the Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society, much to the other members’ puzzlement and dismay. If the bird watchers suspicions are right, the Judge has married Sweet only for her land and he also plans to urbanise the land willed to the Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society by their late member and friend, Love-Divine. As time wears on, the Judge’s real character begins to show through and it is decided by bird watchers, Beulah and Zion that something PERMANENT must be done to save the town.

Augusta Trobaugh has written a comic murder mystery where the real mystery is whether or not the murder will actually take place! Real issues of abuse and corruption are just beneath the surface of the humour in this novel, making the story and the characters very real and likeable. Any reader would want to join the Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society if it meant a having friendships that share troubles and sorrow with tireless support and care, and the bonus of southern hospitality, with the pleasure of meeting over high tea with generous helpings of sweet treats.

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