07.02.16

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam

Posted in Review at 8:28 am by Amber

Title: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home
Author: Laura Vanderkam
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Three powerful mini e-books about high productivity, now together in paperback

Laura Vanderkam has combined her three popular mini e-books into one comprehensive guide, with a new introduction. It will help readers build habits that lead to happier, more productive lives, despite the pressures of their busy schedules. Trough interviews and anecdotes, she reveals . . .

  • What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast—to jump-start the day productively.

  • What the Most Successful People Do On the Weekend—to recharge and prepare for a great week.

  • What the Most Successful People Do at Work—to accomplish more in less time.

I read this so you won’t have to! Just kidding. I was on a big self-help kick towards the end of last year and it petered out. I finally finished this a few weeks ago. Everyone is going to get something different out of this collection. I put post-its on items I wanted to remember.

From What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast… minimize the have-to-dos. The key thing with chores and weekends is not to focus so much on easily seen and measured goals, such as scratching everything off the grocery list, that you divert energy from your highest value projects: nurturing your relationships, nurturing your career, nurturing yourself.

One way to do this is to set aside time for small chores. You feel less guilty about not doing something right then because you know you’ll do it during the small chore time.

Schedule in hours for top work priorities like strategic thinking or creative work. This makes these priorities seem like a commitment. Do the same for leisure activities. If it’s written down it’s more likely to get done.

Schedule something fun or meaningful for Sunday night. It stretches out the weekend and gives you a good way to start off the week. This really hit home because so many people I know hate having something scheduled for Sunday; they want to set aside the entire day to gear up for the next week. To me that’s wasting an entire day being mopey.

From What the Most Successful People Do at Work one of the hardest things for me to do is to increase my capital with others. Your next opportunity can come from an unexpected place. For example, I told one friend I would want to volunteer for events at a mutual friend’s business. The next day I was helping Simon Mujamdar with a cooking demo.

Create a log for a week or so to find out what can be eliminated or cut down. This is one of the first things to do in the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo. It can show a better time to do a task. For example, taking a walk around the block or building every 45 minutes instead of working in 2 hour blocks is great! When powering through I can get restless. But taking a short walking break is refreshing. It clears the mind and lets me get in some steps.

The appendix includes 50 time management tips. A lot of these I can get behind such as: take naps, work from home a day or two a week, lower your housekeeping standards, and if you plan something fun go ahead and do it (even if you’re tired).

04.19.16

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

Posted in Review at 10:23 am by Amber

Bite Size Book Review

Why did I read this book?

It was a book club pick.

What did I think of this book?

I really enjoyed it. It’s a dense book so don’t expect it to be full of fluff. I was worried that I wouldn’t finish it in time.

Who should read this book?

Anyone who is willing to read a dense book which, on the surface, appears to be about women boxers set in 18th Century England.

09.30.15

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Posted in Review at 9:34 am by Amber

Bite Size Book ReviewWhy did I read this book? I saw the book cover, liked it and noticed the book was written by Holly Black.

What did I think of this book? I really liked it! It has female empowerment and is set in an alternate world where fairies and humans co-exist. Being a hero is sometimes scary and that’s okay. It has action, romance, and is a great example of sibling love.

Who should read this book? I actually told my friend her soon to be thirteen-year-old daughter would like it. It has teens living with the consequences of decisions made years before; while it acknowledges some of the trouble kids can get into I don’t recall anything sexually explicit. Recommended for anyone with an interest in adventures.

09.25.15

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Posted in Review at 9:24 am by Amber

Bite Size Book ReviewWhy did I read this book? I kept hearing good things about it without anyone giving anything away other than the title character is an unreliable witness to something.

What did I think of this book? I listened to this during my commute to and from work. The voice actresses were great and didn’t detract from the story one bit. I highly recommend it but with reservations. It has some violence which will turn off some readers.

Who should read this book? Fans of Rear Window or Gillian Flynn. It’s dark. It goes to unexpected places and though it involves more than one character they are all nicely tied together.

09.22.15

Bite Size Book Reviews

Posted in Review at 8:53 am by Amber

Bite Size Book Review

New this year is the Bite Size Book Review. Much smaller than my normal review it answers the three basic questions: Why did I read it? What did I think of it? Who should read it?

I’m hoping it will help me knock out a bunch of reviews between now and the end of the year. The feedback I get is more immediate from people in my neighborhood and book club but hopefully you will find something that appeals to you. Look for the first Bite Size Book Review later this week.

03.19.15

Hellfire & Damnation III by Connie Corcoran Wilson

Posted in Review at 8:50 am by Amber

Title: Hellfire & Damnation III
Author: Connie Corcoran Wilson
Publisher: Quad Cities’ Press
Source: The author in exchange for an honest review

Hellfire & Damnation III

As evidenced by the title, this book is the third short story collection in the Hellfire and Damnation series by Connie Corcoran Wilson. The unifying theme for the series is Dante’s nine circles of hell. It’s been a while since I had a chance to read a short story collection and this was a nice change of pace.

The not so good: A few of the stories have abrupt endings as though the author was trying to stay within a word goal. At least one seemed to have excessive repetitiveness which kept jarring me out of the story.

The good: The stories have an element of reality or truth as the starting point. This will give the reader a slight chill of recognition. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of gore and this was perfect to read during my lunch hour. These stories aren’t overly long but aren’t too short either. The characters are varied in ages, backgrounds and circumstances. Some short story collections suffer from similar stories and each has enough differences to set them apart. I’m willing to read more by this author.

Thank you to the author and Virtual Author Book Tours for arranging this stop on the book tour. Tomorrow’s tour stop is at Lisa’s Writopia which will include her own thoughts on this short story collection.

 

About The Author

Award winning author, Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (MS + 30) graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Yahoo, which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year. She is a member of ITW (International Thriller Writers), where she is a writer for their online newsletter, and a member of IWPA (Illinois Women’s Press Association, Chicago chapter), which awarded her its Silver Feather Award in 2012 and 2014, MWA (Midwest Writers Association), AWP (American Writing Program) and MWC (Midwest Writing Center), which named her its Writer of the Year in 2010. She has won numerous E-Lit awards, a NABE Pinnacle award, an ALMA (American Literary Merit Award), Lucky Cinda competition and two IWPA Silver Feather Awards (2012, 2014). Connie’s third book in “The Color of Evil” series, ‘Khaki=Killer’ was just named a Page-turner of the Year 2014 by “Shelf Unbound” and Writer’s Digest magazine in its December/January 2014-2015 issue!

 

03.04.15

Lock In by John Scalzi

Posted in Review at 8:11 pm by Amber

Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Lock In by John Scalzi

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four per cent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

New technologies emerge to help those who suffer from the condition—a virtual reality network and a system of “riding” in the bodies of other individuals—which are quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

I read this for my Geek Girls Book Club and I really enjoyed it. I started reading it on a Sunday and had it completely read in time for book club on Tuesday. It starts with a prologue disguised as a web site entry. I’m not a fan of prologues in general but in this case it worked. It setup the world and answered questions the reader would have without dragging down the action.

One of the questions posed to the group: “Was Scalzi trying to make a point or statement with this book?” Some of the answers were really serious and tied into the other book discussed that night (The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker). I felt really inadequate when I said I thought there was some kind of bet between Scalzi and Joe Hill and this was the result. As a nod to Hill, Scalzi even incorporated a mention of Corgis near the end.

Overall, it’s an entertaining book. It has a mystery to solve in a future that has enough in common with the present that everything seems plausible.

01.05.15

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Posted in Review at 10:14 am by Amber

Title: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Graphia
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Graceling

 

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

One of my resolutions for 2015 is to write my reviews within a week of finishing a book. So far I’m doing well! I started Graceling around the Christmas holiday and finished it a few days ago. If I keep this up, you should have lots of reviews to read this year.

If I had a grace it would be the ability to find something nice to say about anyone (with the exception of myself). What would your grace be?

Katsa is a strong female protagonist who I really enjoyed reading about. During the course of the novel she gains friends, learns to stand up for herself when it really matters, and faces the unknown.

Katsa and Prince Greening Grandemalion, nicknamed Po, spend quite a bit of time in hand to hand combat. This could’ve been really boring but Cashore knows just the right amount of details to give to keep the reader engaged. The pacing is right whether Katsa is riding a horse to make sure an alibi stays intact or Katsa is sitting with a weakened old man.

This is the first in a series and I’m looking forward to reading the others.

01.01.15

Black Lake: A Novel by Johanna Lane

Posted in Review at 9:36 pm by Amber

Title: Black Lake: A Novel
Author: Johanna Lane
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: ARC from the publisher

Black Lake by Johanna Lane

A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough–an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside–for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker’s cottage. The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family and, when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings Both hasurface.

As each character is given a turn to speak, their voices tell a complicated, fascinating story about what happens when the upstairs becomes the downstairs, and what legacy is left when family secrets are revealed.

I was asked to review this by the publication date (end of May) and I had read it by then but froze up when trying to think of what to say about this book. It’s one that deserves reflection and pieces of it will stay with the reader for a long time.

Have you heard of the Piatt Castles? They’re in a serene part of Ohio and one of the castles was opened up for tours in 1912 while the family was still living in it. The Piatt family certainly had its ups and downs. If there were any tragedies like the Campbell family, the Piatt’s have kept them hidden from public view and prying eyes. While I recently walked through these castles from the 1800s it was easy to reflect on the differences and similarities between the real and fictional families.

Both families have intertwined fates with their estates. Both have been faced with how much of their home should be turned over to the public and what improvements/updates should be made to retain the integrity of the original build while adding to the comfort of the residents.

This was one of my memorable reads of 2014.

04.30.14

Her Loving Husband’s Curse by Meredith Allard

Posted in Review at 4:00 am by Amber

Title: Her Loving Husband’s Curse
Author: Meredith Allard
Publisher: Copperfield Press
Source: Premier Virtual Author Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Premier Virtual Author Book Tours

Her Loving Husband’s Curse is the second book in Meredith Allard’s Loving Husband Trilogy. It’s not necessary to have read the first book as Allard is adept at sprinkling bits and pieces of the backstory in this novel.

And then, as if he could read her mind, he said, “We’ll be all right, Sarah. Just the two of us. I’ll never leave you ever.”

Finally, after many long and lonely years, James Wentworth’s life is falling into place. With his wife, Sarah, the only woman he has ever loved, he has found the meaning behind her nightmares about the Salem Witch Trials, and now they are rebuilding the life they began together so long ago.

But the past is never far away for the Wentworths. While Sarah is haunted by new visions, now about the baby she carried over three hundred years before, James is confronted with painful memories about his time with the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. Through it all, the persistent reporter Kenneth Hempel reappears, still determined to prove that the undead walk the earth. If Hempel succeeds in his quest, James and Sarah will suffer. Will the curse of the vampire prevent James and Sarah from living their happily ever after?

Her Loving Husband's Curse

What happens when you mix historical fiction, romance, and the supernatural? In this case, a book I kept finding an excuse not to keep reading. It has a lot going for it but I couldn’t connect to the characters.

Allard picks a historical event (The Trail of Tears) to parallel the storyline in which James is forced to leave his home and family behind. It’s a famous event but I can’t recall off the top of my head any fiction that uses it as a backdrop. This was smart as the reader wouldn’t be tied to points of historical accuracy and gave Allard room to fictionalize events along the march.

The vampires aren’t exactly stereotypical – sure, they have strong bodies without a pulse but they also shed bloody tears. And they aren’t superhuman. The reader won’t find any vampires carrying humans long distances in hopes of keeping the human from harm’s way.

The book tour for Her Loving Husband’s Curse continues until May 2nd. Check out the other stops (and a chance or two to win a copy of your own) at the Premier Virtual Author Book Tours site.

Meredith Allard

About The Author

Meredith Allard has taught creative writing and writing historical fiction workshops at Learning Tree University, UNLV, and the Las Vegas Writers Conference. Her short fiction and articles have appeared in journals such as The Paumanok Review, Wild Mind, Moondance, Muse Apprentice Guild, The Maxwell Digest, CarbLite, Writer’s Weekly, and ViewsHound. She is the author of the Loving Husband Trilogy, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle (Copperfield Press). She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit Meredith online at www.meredithallard.com.

Meredith on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authormeredithallard
Meredith on Twitter: https://twitter.com/copperfield101
Meredith on Google+: https://plus.google.com/101687256587444508026/posts?hl=en 
Meredith on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/meredithallard/

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