Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: 'Shirley, I Jest!' by Cindy Williams

✰✰✰½ As a well-known actress and comedian, Cindy Williams has entertained generations of fans. While she is most notably known for her roles of Shirley Feeney in the hit TV series Laverne & Shirley and Laurie Henderson in the classic film, American Graffiti, Williams has had many other adventures in Hollywood. In her autobiography, Williams shares her journey from humble beginnings to stardom. Along the way she waited tables at the Whiskey a Go Go, traveled to Spain, and became a mother. Filled with humorous anecdotes, Williams takes the reader on a fun ride. 

The Bottom Line: Williams is charming, candid, and gracious as she shares stories filled with laughter and a few tears. Her personality shines through in the writing which is approachable and easy to read. While you won't find anything scandalous or outwardly negative in Williams' book, fans will find plenty of interesting tidbits and trivia.

This quick read is perfect for the beach. It's fun weekend reading for anyone interested in acting, comedy, and television. More stories and more information about Williams' personal life would have made this fun read even better. Includes several pages of black and white glossy photos.

Details: Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life by Cindy Williams. Hardcover published by Taylor Trade Publishing in 2015. 200 p. ISBN: 978-1-63076-012-0 NOTE: I received a free advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: 'The Queen of Katwe' by Tim Crothers

✰✰✰½ In the Ugandan slum of Katwe lives a young woman named Phiona Mutesi. With little food and no education, Phiona was destined for a life of poverty. Many expected her to become a teenaged mother like her sister and mother before her. However, Phiona wasn’t like other girls, she was born with pluck and determination that set her apart.

From the first day she followed her brother to Robert Katende’s chess program, Phiona was determined to find happiness. Day after day, she attended the chess program against her mother's wishes at first. Maybe it was for the free bowl of porridge, but Phiona continued her chess training and as the days and months passed, it became evident that Phiona had a gift. She was a chess prodigy. This is the inspirational true story of Phiona’s quest to become a Grandmaster.

The Bottom Line: Phiona’s story is really just beginning. This short biography of Phiona's childhood struggles also includes the stories of others influential in shaping her future. Additionally, information about Uganda and its history are included. Crothers did not sugarcoat anything. This book will not teach you how to play chess or improve your game, but this story of survival just may inspire readers to try their best. Recommended for readers of biographies and those interested in chess.

Book Club Notes: Although this was a quick read, the group did not exactly find it enjoyable. Ratings ranged from a low of 1 to a high of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. This averaged out to a group rating of 3. Several participants commented that the writing style was choppy. It was almost as if the book was pieced together from many articles. Others commented that the writing style did not capture the heart of Phiona. However, it is important to note that Crothers is a sports writer, which may have contributed to the writing style.

Also, book club members were interested in more information about Robert Katende. That being said, there is interest in watching the upcoming movie and keeping track of Phiona’s life. Due to the lukewarm reaction from the group, this book is recommended for groups interested in chess and sports. Discussion questions are available at Simon & Schuster.

Details: The Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion by Tim Crothers. Paperback published by Scribner in 2012. 240 p. ISBN: 978-1-4516-5782-1

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book Review: 'Here's the Bright Side' by Betty Rollin

✰✰✰½ Life is full of challenges, and author Betty Rollin has faced many. From being fired to divorcing to surviving cancer, Rollin has somehow managed to find the bright side of things and thrive. Through the use of humor and anecdotes, Rollin reveals how one can find the good within the bad.

The Bottom Line: This very quick read is for anyone who has ever found themselves in a dark place and searched for a way out. Rollin writes from experience about emotional recovery and making the most of a bad situation. Her writing style is upbeat and easy to read. Recommended reading for anyone facing adversity.

Details: Here's the Bright Side: Of Failure, Fear, Cancer, Divorce, and Other Bum Raps by Betty Rollin. Hardcover published by Random House in 2007. 128 p. ISBN: 978-1-4000-6565-3

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: 'Grace of Gratitude Journal' by Deborah Perdue

✰✰✰✰½ How many times do we overlook the simplest things in life? If you are like me, all too often. By learning to stop and record the ordinary things in life, journaling can bring about feelings of contentment, a sense of personal well-being, gratitude, and appreciation. Before you know it, recognizing and writing down gratitudes will become a natural part of your daily life.

While there are many gratitude journals out there, this one is different from others. With a unique blend of Deborah Perdue's personal gratitudes and Tara Thelen's beautiful and bold watercolor illustrations, even beginning journalers will find ample inspiration. Let the spiritual practice of expressing gratitude bring feelings of peace and contentment into your life.

The Bottom Line: Whether you are new to journaling or have be keeping one for years, the beautiful illustrations will inspire you to commit to jotting down as many gratitudes per day as you notice. There is plenty of space to include several days on one page, especially if you write small like I do. All it takes is a few moments per day, and you, too, can discover the power of gratitude. This journal has broad appeal and would make a great gift for just about anyone including new graduates. Highly recommended for anyone interested in journaling. More pages to write on (or blank pages to include my own drawings and doodles) would be appreciated.

Details: Grace of Gratitude Journal by Deborah Perdue & illustrated by Tara Thelen. Hardcover published by Applegate Valley Publishing in 2015. 112 p. ISBN: 978-0-9827759-5-0 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: 'Hollow City' by Ransom Riggs

✰✰✰✰½ The most peculiar children you have ever met are back in the next installment of the series. As Jacob Portman struggles to understand and control his newfound peculiar ability, the group continues to London on a quest to restore Miss Peregrine to human form. With time running out, the group makes their way through the war-torn city in search of another time loop that will take them to the last free ymbryne. Only Miss Wren can help them save their beloved headmistress. Along the way the peculiar kids encounter other peculiars and fantastical beasts while trying to stay clear of hollowgasts and wights. The second adventure will leave you wanting more as Jacob comes face-to-face with the most difficult decision of his young life.

The Bottom Line: The second novel picks up exactly where the first novel left off. Once again the intriguing vintage photos and text work well together to provide the reader with a unique experience. This book is a fantastically dark page-turner. The peculiar children demonstrate teamwork, friendship, and loyalty. Enthusiastically recommended for teens and adults who enjoy books with supernatural and time travel twists. For the best reading experience, be sure to pick up and read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children first.

Details: Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Paperback published by Quirk Books in 2015. 416 p. ISBN: 978-1-59474-735-9 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: 'The Pierced Heart' by Lynn Shepherd

✰✰✰✰ After an Austrian nobleman offers a sizable donation to the University of Oxford, private investigator, Charles Maddox, is sent on a quest to vet the mysterious benefactor. Maddox soon discovers that the Viennese countryside is steeped with superstitious tales about the baron and his castle. As the days go by, disturbing dreams and incidents haunt Maddox. After nearly dying, Maddox returns to London where a series of horrific murders have taken place. The deaths are rumored to be the work of a vampire, but Maddox suspects his nemesis, the baron. With another young woman missing, Maddox must race against time to find her before another innocent dies.

The Bottom Line: This is the third book in a series; each book pays homage to a literary classic. This dark installment plays off Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although I have not read the previous books, Shepherd includes plenty of back story so the reader does not feel lost.

This book got off to a slow, smoldering start as I adjusted to the writing style. The story jumps back and forth between different points of view and times. However, the book is full of mystery and intrigue. Shepherd has braided together the elements of superstition, science, and classic literature to create a gripping suspense that I couldn't put down. With the paranormal twist and Gothic mood, this book will appeal to fans of historical fiction. A word of caution though...this tale is not for squeamish readers.

Details: The Pierced Heart: A Novel by Lynn Shepherd. Hardcover published by Delacorte Press in 2014. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-345-54543-5 NOTE: I received a free copy from Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: 'The Easter Bunny That Overslept' by Priscilla & Otto Friedrich

✰✰✰ Children everywhere expect the Easter Bunny to deliver brightly painted eggs every year on Easter Sunday. But one year the Easter Bunny overslept. Upon waking he wondered what to do with all the colored eggs. As the months went by, the Easter Bunny tried delivering the eggs on Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Halloween. None of the children were interested. The poor bunny was very discouraged by the time Christmas arrived. Fortunately, Santa always knows the best way to set things right again.

The Bottom Line: This classic children’s book has been enjoyed and shared by several generations since it was first published in 1957. As the Easter Bunny tries again and again to deliver the eggs, children will learn the importance of never giving up. It’s also a great story for kids who tend to oversleep. The charming, retro illustrations will interest kids and adults alike. Recommended for kids in grades K – 3.

Details: The Easter Bunny That Overslept written by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich & illustrated by Adrienne Adams. Hardcover picture book published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books in 1983. 33 p. ISBN: 0-688-01540-9