Friday, April 18, 2014

REVIEW: THE RED LILY CROWN BY ELIZABETH LOUPAS

The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas
Kaye Publicity
Pub date:  April 1st, 2014

First of all I wanted to send a huge THANK YOU to Anne from Kaye Publicity for emailing me about this book, and sending me a copy for review.

I do not take many review copies nowadays as I am just too busy to read, sadly, but this one is just right up my alley as it is historical fiction and the premise sounded too good to pass up:


Florence Italy, 1574; Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

This is Loupas's third historical fiction novel, and I will be checking out her others after reading this one.  First of all, I just love all of the alchemist stuff throughout.  I have always been fascinated with the topic and I learned quite a bit about the origins of alchemy and a little more about The Philosopher Stone, which was doubly cool because I am a true Potterhead through and through.

The story opens with Chiara Nerini, who at a tender age of teenage-hood, is desperate to feed her family.  She tries to sell off her late father's treasured alchemical equipment to the soon-to-be Duke, and in the effort is taken by force into his household and recruited as his soror mystica, the female counterpart in his alchemical team of himself, Chiara and the handsome and rugged Englishman  Ruan dell'Inghilterra, in his quest to create The Philosopher's Stone.  Chiara is soon drawn into alchemy with the passion that her father had, and realizes that in creating The Philosopher's Stone she could heal herself once and for all of the searing headaches and strange voices she hears in her head.  But this passion comes at a price.  As she is drawn deeper and deeper into the Duke's court, she uncovers murder, and mysteries, and vengeance, even in her own heart.  As she tries to stay one step ahead of the sadistic Duke, she is drawn closer to Ruan, who becomes her only trusted ally in the twisted Medici court.  

This book will have you literally turning pages late into the night.  There are not many books that I will shut the TV off for, but this one I shut everything off, and by the soft glow of my bedroom nightstand light I read and read until my eyes could no longer stay open.  I love how this book was based on a little known family and based on real events of infidelity, murder and mystery . The back drop of alchemy was fascinating, and you could easily see how this would be the solidifying force between the three main characters:  Chiara, the Duke and Ruan.  

LOVED IT!

For more information on this book or any others written by Elizabeth Loupas, you can visit her website here. 

And for an interesting article about the Medici's portrayed in the story click here.

RATING:  4.5/5 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

REVIEW: THE CUCKOO'S CALLING BY (eh hem) ROBERT GALBRAITH

I bought and downloaded this book the day it was released last summer, and dove in immediately.  I have to admit being a bit gun shy, as I bought A Casual Vacancy on release day too, and was sadly disappointed in that book.  Interesting note about The Cuckoo's Calling, when "somebody" leaked that it was in fact
J.K. Rowling wrote the book, sales exploded to gargantuan proportions and increased over 156,000% in 24 hours.  Yup, you read that right ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX THOUSAND PERCENT.  

So, I started it.  Now this was back in July of last year, and I just finished it today, so clearly it would appear that something is amiss.  Well, it's not.  Here's what happened.  I was reading a lot of business books, and books on coaching etc.  I am no longer going that route and now a great part of my brain power can revel in the juiciness that are novels... YAY!  Oh literary yumminess how I have missed you! I sat down to do some knitting and watched a documentary I have seen a few times before, though not for awhile, it is called J.K. Rowling:  A Year in the Life (which you can watch online for free here).  It is a fascinating doc that follows Rowling for a year while she is writing the final book in The Series.  And it got me thinking about The Cuckoo, and I picked up my kindle and continued where I left off about 50% in.

I have never read a mystery before in my life, though I have always wanted to, I just didn't know where to start.  I am glad that this was my first one!

What I LOVED LOVED LOVED about this book are the characters.  I absolutely fell in love with Cormoran Strike, the loveable yet mildly grizzled war vet who's now a detective.  ADORE!  She has made him come to life in the most appealing way.  He actually exists in my literary bank vault of characters, right along side Harry, Jamie and Claire, Laura Ingalls, etc.  Not to mention his assistant Robin.  Both are very real and  both are very loveable warts and all.

The story begins with the death of a super model, who happens to be a black girl adopted into a white family.  This adds a whole other dimension to the case as in she had just discovered members of her birth family just before she plummeted to her death from her penthouse suite balcony.

I obviously can't really go too much into detail in terms of a synopsis, but those of you that have read my reviews before know that I rarely if ever type up a synopsis.  I like to give a general feeling or vibe that I got from reading it, and then give a thumbs up or down.

General vibe:  struggling loveable detective who lives in a back room in his office;  new assistant/secretary who though is a temp, is proving valuable beyond measure, not to mention the super awesome Moonlighting kind of sexual tension;  the glamourous yet seedy underbelly of the entertainment industry in London; and murder.  Or is it suicide?  I guess you'll have to read it to find out!  ()  

Here's also why I love it.  It turns out that J.K. as Galbraith is a brilliant writer!  Here is just a little snippet from when Strike, after getting some personal devastating news, goes on a bender, and Robin decides to join him.  Strike has just lit a cigarette in a pub, where it clearly is a nonsmoking environment:

    "You need to go outside to do that," he told Strike loudly.
Strike peered up at the boy, bleary-eyed, surprised.
    "It's all right," Robin told the barman gathering up her handbag.  "Come on, Cormoran."
He stood, massive, ungainly, swaying, unfolding himself out of the cramped space behind the table and glaring at the barman, whom Robin could not blame for stepping backwards.  
    "There'z no need," Strike told him, "t'shout.  No need. Fuckin' rude."  

And then:

Strike wound his way back on to the street, bouncing off the door frame as he emerged.  He planted himself firmly against the window and tried to light another cigarette. 
     "R'bin," he said, giving up and gazing down at her.  "R'bin, d'you know wadda kairos mo..." He hiccoughed.  "Mo...moment is?"
     "A kairos moment?" she repeated, hoping against hope it was not something sexual, something that she would not be able to forget afterwards, especially as the kebab shop owner was listening in and smirking behind them.  "No, I don't. Shall we go back to the office?"
     "You don't know whadditis?" he asked peering at her.
     "No."
     "'SGreek," he told her.  "Kairos.  Kairos moment.  An' it means," and from somewhere in his soused brain he dredged up words of surprising clarity, "the telling moment. The special moment. The supreme moment."
     Oh please, thought Robin, please don't tell me we're having one

Now after getting to know him for over half of the book, and knowing that he really doesn't drink that much, this scene was actually endearing.  Poor guy.

The writing is VERY VERY GOOD.  Like crazy good.  She has successfully entered into a middle aged man's head, and made it incredibly pleasant to live there!

The next in the series, The Silkworm, (at the moment it is listed as a trilogy, but one can only hope that Strike will b around for many more books to come!) is coming out in June and I already have it on pre-order.  I.  LOVED.  IT.

RATING:  5/5 STARS.









Monday, February 10, 2014

REVIEW: A HOUSE IN THE SKY BY AMANDA LINDHOUT

Sorry for the long delay between posts!  I am off on reading business/personal development books for awhile, and back to reading fiction and such.  This particular book has been on my radar for a few months, and after giving it to my Mom for Christmas, she said she loved it and passed it on to me.
Amanda Lindhout is a fellow Canadian, who was a budding journalist with a penchant for travel.  She went from avid backpacker serving drinks in Calgary (my home town) to raise money between trips, to buying a camera and trying her hand at photojournalism.  Through a few turns of events she travelled to Somalia to cover the life of the people there.  Within three days of arriving, she was violently kidnapped by masked men along with her ex-boyfriend and fellow photographer Nigel.  What follows is an unbelievably riveting tale that will have you flipping pages well into the night, but I caution you that it is not light reading and some people are unable to read it before they go to sleep.

What Amanda went through is truly unimaginable.  Even as as I was reading her accounts, I felt like throwing up half the time from the true brutality and savagery of the way that she, in particular, was treated.  I can't believe she didn't kill herself a million times over in the 463 days that she was held captive.  FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY THREE DAYS.

You will be inspired by her story, and how she has chosen to live it afterward.  You will be sickened by the depravity of humanity.  You will be humbled by your complaints in your own life such as traffic jams, your debt load, or whatever.   What I'm saying is this.... after reading this book,  you will have perspective, as stories like this tend to give you.

It is heartbreakingly un-put-down-able.

Below is a photo of Amanda and Nigel the day they were rescued:

And here is where you can visit the nonprofit, The Global Enrichment Foundation, she founded six months after returning from Somalia.

 RATING:  5/5

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

REVIEW: THE ALCHEMIST BY PAULO COELHO

Okay, so basically this has been the longest I have neglected my blog E-V-E-R, and I wanted to thank all of you so much who still have checked in from time to time!

I have been busy reading business and spiritual books, and am about to start Life Coach training with Martha Beck in January, and figured that you all probably didn't want to read reviews of this kind of thing, SO, when I actually get novels read I will review them but not sure what frequency that will be!

Last month I went on an incredible retreat with my mentor and friend Laura Gates at the gorgeous Ratna Ling Centre just north of San Francisco.


It was a life transforming experience, and just before I went my husband said, "You have to read The Alchemist."  A book I've had for YEARS and still had not read, but gave it to him several years ago and he read and LOVED it.  So, I was like, "Yes, yes, I know I will read it."  And he looked at me and said, "No, hon, you have to read this book right now, at exactly this time in your life."  And once I did, I completely understood what he meant.

What a book!

I think this book will resonate with pretty much anyone, unless you have no heart or soul or have never felt any yearning of any kind, and if that's you, then you are probably a rock and cannot read this text anyway.  But it will especially resonate with people, like me, who are actively in search of your
purpose, or purposes, in life at this moment.  In the book, Coelho refers to it as being on a quest to find your Personal Legend.  How beautiful is that?

We open with a young shepherd named Santiago who has a recurring dream that he must travel to a nearby town, where he meets a gypsy who tell him there is a treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt.  On his way he encounters may people and teachers and, yes, even a hotsy totsy girl with whom he falls in love.

It is such a beautiful story and has so many layers of meaning that there is no way I can delve into it with any great skill here, but I will say this... there is one part in the book where the Alchemist tells him to listen to his heart.  Like really listen to it.  To walk and listen to it beat, and listen to the messages that it is trying to convey all of the time to him.  This was just beautiful.  You know how now-a-days there is this thing to follow your dreams, your heart, courses, workshops, retreat... but when someone simply says, "Really listen to your heart.  Be still.  Be quiet and listen."  There is something restful and peaceful about that.  Cutting out all of the noise.  And just BEING STILL.  Like I was able to do at Ratna Ling.

Here are some fun facts about this book:


  • Coelho wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks in 1987. He explained he was able to write at this pace because the story was "already written in [his] soul"
  • According to The New York TimesThe Alchemist has been translated into 67 distinct different languages. This gave Coelho the position as the world's most translated living author, according to the 2009 Guinness World Records.[7]
  • Paulo Coelho is a strong advocate of spreading his books through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. He put his own books on file-sharing networks like BitTorrent, and noted that The Alchemist received a boost in sales due to this.[10] He stated that "I do think that when a reader has the possibility to read some chapters, he or she can always decide to buy the book later."[10] Currently, chapters from The Alchemist can be found on Google Books and Coelho's agency Sant Jordi Associados.[11][12] Entire copies of his books, including translations, can also be found on Pirate Coelho, a blog off Coelho's main blog. (No longer available. Only Audio versions are still open for download.) [13] Also available on YouTube.[14]
The moral of the story is this:

An old king tells Santiago, "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true". 

And that, my friends, I believe is truth. 

:0)

RATING:  5 STARS

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The power of the name J.K. Rowling...

Hi all!
Oh my god, I cannot BELIEVE how long it has been since I have posted her!  What the F??!!  ANYway, mostly it is because I have been reading a lot, but business, coach-y, and entrepreneurial books and let's face it, that's not why people stop by here.  You all stop by here to see what books I'm into, what's good, what sucks, you know, bookish stuff!

But in case any of you are like me and love business, and are starting or well into your own business ventures, here is a list of some of the best ones I have read in the last couple of months:

Steering by Starlight by Martha Beck

Can I just say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way Martha Beck writes?  She is hilarious, and she
breaks stuff down in a super digestible way.  This is my all time favourite of her books, and if you are stuck and not sure what you want to do with your life, this is a great book to get some traction in that department.









The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth PhD

This book is incredible, I am about 3/4 through it and
it has already started to transform my life.  It is not just about money, but Maria speaks a lot about "monkey mind" which goes by many names, some call it your Inner Critic, Martha Beck calls it your Inner Lizard, I like to call mine "Liz".  Basically, it is that voice inside your head that never lets up.  It is constantly telling you why you are not good enough, why you shouldn't do stuff, it's the panic button in your brain that basically stops you from living your biggest best life, and it is totally manageable!  You will never get rid of your lizard, but you can learn tool to turn it down.  Super powerful.  Everyone should read it, and it should be required reading in high school fo sho.





Now, onto J.K.  AKA:  Money Bags Rowling and The Cuckoo's Calling.  She very successfully wrote and published a book under a pen name, Robert Galbraith, and sold 1500 copies.  1500.  That's it.  That's all.  Then somebody "leaked" who the real author was and within 24 hours sales of that books went up 156,000%.

156, 886 % to be exact.  

I'm not making this up, you can read all about it here. 

And you know what?  Within about a nanosecond of hearing that she actually wrote it, I, who had never even heard of the book before but coincidentally had been sniffing around for a mystery kind of book, downloaded it on my Kindle.  I, who actually really did not like A Casual Vacancy.

BUT, I am happy to report that I am about 14% in, which I have no idea what that translates into actual
physical realish pages, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Like really really enjoying, as in I love the main guy, and his assistant chick, and I love the story so far.

Here is the blurb, which I have not even read, and even though I am copying and pasting it here from Amazon.com, I still have not read it.  I want to go in fresh!


The Cuckoo's Calling is a 2013 crime fiction novel by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

All in all I am super happy with it so far, because I still have some lingering sadness that I did not like her last book.  I am a Harry Potter Rowling total Potterhead, in fact my daughter and I were just in Portland for Leakycon!  So, I go in with some pretty big expectations of wanting to love every word she writes. 


What are you guys reading this summer, I am dying to know!








Friday, May 10, 2013

Write a book? Why not?

Hey all,

Like many of you fab bloggers out there who have already or always wanted to write a book, I have wanted to be an author since I was about 8 years old, and have written a bit of this and that.  I even signed up for NanoWrimo once!  Anyway, Danielle LaPorte is an amazing coach-y motivational goddess and as it turns out she co-created this amazing thing called Your Big Beautiful Book Plan.  This thing is so chock full of great info, much of it super valuable, and plenty of actual examples of query letters, hook pages, and book plan content that it is worth every single penny and then some.  In fact, it's a steal at the price.

Your Big Beautiful Book Plan also has a multi-media platform with plenty of video and audio recordings of Danielle and her co-creator Linda interviewing top hot authors like Jonathan Fields of Uncertainty:  Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.  There are worksheets, and over 400 pages of utter yumminess to get you inspired to finally write and get your book out into the world!

This is an affiliate link and I am super proud to be an affiliate, truly.

Here is the blurb from the gals themselves:


Your Big Beautiful Book Plan is a digital program for people who want to get their word into the world — where it belongs. If you are on the prowl for a literary agent, ripe ‘n ready for publication, and secretly yearning to incite a bidding war for your prose…or stepping into the writing & publishing game for the sheer love of it, Your Big Beautiful Book Plan is a companion, a roadmap, a Bible for your book’s entire life cycle — from the blinking cursor to your first book signing tour date.
Creators Danielle LaPorte + Linda Sivertsen have landed six-figure book deals, independently authored + co-authored over a dozen titles (including several NY Times bestsellers), and helped thousands of writers devote themselves to DONE. We’re talking life’s work, in print and pixels. Decade-long dreams, on the shelf and on screen. The big Why, poured into words. These ladies love this stuff. And you’re going to feel the love.
















Monday, April 29, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY - APRIL 29, 2013

Mailbox Monday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by various peeps and this month it is being hosted over at Mari Reads.  

It was my birthday last week, so my lovely daughter bought me the 3rd in the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare!




So far it is as fabulous as I would have hoped, and I had forgotten where the last book left off, but it gets you up to speed in a nice subtle way. 

What was in your mailbox this week??