Book Review: The Ambassador’s Wife

August 6, 2015 Book Review 3

I received this book for free from complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Ambassador’s WifeThe Ambassador's Wife: A Novel by Jennifer Steil
Published by Doubleday on July 28th 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy


I am such a champion for this book.  It has everything ~ a brutal kidnapping, a mother’s love, real-life marriage, female friendships, history, art and education on Muslim women.  What I so very much enjoyed is that the women portrayed, yes, are repressed by the male dominant society, but they also have beautiful friendships and happiness that is so difficult for us to see in our American culture.

I could not get enough of this book.  I’ve read some reviews that the book dragged in places and seemed too long, but for me, this was one of those books that could have continued on and on and on and I would have been quite content.

Miranda is an artist living in the fictional Mazrooq when she meets Finn, the EU Ambassador.  They fall in love, marry and have a child, Cressie.  Miranda’s very independent life changes dramatically when they marry.  And, Miranda keeps secrets from Finn that have devastating consequences.

Such a beautiful novel filled to the brim with action, reactions and consequences.  It’s a story about marriage and survival, secrets and revelations, love & friendship in all its forms ~ agápe, Éros, philia and familial.  One word of caution ~ there are references to bisexualism but those are dealt with in a matter of fact, yet light, touch. Highly recommended for those who enjoy Chris Bohjalian or Ann Patchett.

Learn more about Jennifer Steil Website | Facebook | Twitter


Book Review: Ana of California

July 24, 2015 Book Review 7

I received this book for free from complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Ana of CaliforniaAna of California by Andi Teran
Published by Penguin Books on June 30th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: complimentary review copy
Buy on Amazon

The re-telling of the timeless classic Anne of Green Gables, Ana of California is a lovely tribute to the L.M. Montgomery series.

Fifteen year old Ana Cortez is on her very last option for foster care.  She’s been to a group home and multiple foster homes since entering “the system” at age 7.  Ana has a fierce protective spirit of others who are being mistreated and she is both unable and unwilling to keep injustices to herself.

I was impressed with Teran’s creation of Ana.  She was both a bit of Anne but a whole lot of Ana {like fauna not banana}.  Ana is street-wise yet also still a child in need of adult love and protection.  She’s older than Anne Shirley and of a diverse background {as is her best friend, Rye}.  The Northern California town plays a distinct role while the supporting cast of characters are refreshingly their own persons. While Ana could be a much more tragic figure than Anne Shirley there is a lightness to the novel.  Yes, Ana’s circumstances are horrific.  Yes, the brother and sister duo have pain and grief of their own.  What Teran succeeds at most is telling their stories without any one character succumbing to the weight of the world.

Words of Wisdom from Ana

You know when we were leaving and Alder said he thought bees were really angels on earth?….Maybe they have stingers for that very purpose.  To give life, take it, and also to maybe keep the rest of us from realizing how good they can be.  And maybe when we see one, away from any others, nowhere near a hive, maybe it’s there to remind us that goodness in disguise is always buzzing around in the periphery. {p. 136}

Sent to the organic farm as a very last resort Ana brings as much to the brother and sister owners as they share with her.  Truly a sweet novel for fans of Anne of Green Gables. Lighthearted, hope-full and a lovely summer read.  Grab some fresh strawberries and cream, hot tea and a porch swing then sit awhile and enjoy Ana’s story.

Penguin has created a free book club kit resource full of recipes, additional reading and even a Spotify playlist.

Are you a fan of re-tellings or do you avoid them at all costs?

Congratulations to Katherine of Story Matters for winning the Classic + A Re-Telling Giveaway.  Hope you enjoy!




Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper Prize Pack Giveaway

July 21, 2015 Book Talk, Giveaway 1

Designed cover image_Movie Star

Thanks to Viking Press I have a fabulous gift package including ultimate beach read, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin.  Although I’m over halfway finished with the novel, my lips are sealed about the secrets revealed in Lizzie Pepper’s tell all 😉  Ok, you can probably twist my arm and get me to dish on which famous celebrity might have circumstances somewhat, um, similar to Lizzie’s. . .wink, wink.

Actress Lizzie Pepper was America’s Girl Next Door and her marriage to Hollywood mega-star Rob Mars was tabloid gold—a whirlwind romance and an elaborate celebrity-studded wedding landed them on the cover of every celebrity weekly. But fame, beauty, and wealth weren’t enough to keep their marriage together. Hollywood’s “It” couple are over—and now Lizzie is going to tell her side of the story.

Celebrity ghostwriter Hilary Liftin chronicles the tabloids’ favorite marriage as Lizzie Pepper realizes that, when the curtain falls, her romance isn’t what she and everyone else thought. From her lonely holidays in sumptuous villas to her husband’s deep commitment to a disconcertingly repressive mind-body group, Lizzie reveals a side of fame that her fans never get to see. Full of twists and turns, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is a breathless journey to the heights of Hollywood power and royalty and a life in the spotlight that is nearly impossible to escape.


Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Entries accepted through 11:59 pm July 28th. One winner to be selected at random will win  Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin, a pair of sunglasses, and popcorn all packaged in a gold envelope from Viking Press. Good luck my friends!  If you want to hurry to see for yourself what all the fuss is about go ahead and purchase the book here. Then hit me up on Twitter and let’s discuss!

Giveaway is over. Thank you for reading!




Book Review: Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps

July 14, 2015 Book Review, Life Well Lived 5

I received this book for free from complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Conquer Your Pain in 9 StepsConquer Your Pain in 9 Steps by Carole Staveley
Published by Influence Publishing on May 1st 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 220
Format: Paperback
Source: complimentary review copy
Buy on Amazon


Chronic Pain.  Everything from chronic back pain to chronic toe fungus is like a debilitating descent into Hell.  When first approached about reviewing Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps I knew I had to get on the blog tour {even though I really try to stay away from tours because of my crazy schedule}.  But, I knew this was a book I needed to read.

At age 18 I was in an auto accident that left me in ICU for three weeks, hospital for three months with a traumatic brain injury,  my entire face reconstructed with titanium plates; I needed a new cornea and eye socket and subsequently required cataract surgery; my left hand and wrist were crushed and had to be re-built and 5 thoracic vertebra were crushed as well as 2 cranial vertebra {I went from 5’2 to 5’1 in an instant – talk about fast un-growth!}.  Although the doctors were incredible miracle workers, there was nothing they could do to prevent the lifetime of chronic pain I was now prescribed.  It’s just something I’ve dealt with.

Fast forward 10 years and a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.  The simple explanation of what is MS?  Multiple scarring of the myelin sheath of the brain which leads to a host of problems, including, but oh so not limited to, chronic pain.

Finally, one of the effects from the accident that I talk about here is chronic migraines.  Did I mention chronic pain is a debilitating descent into Hell?

With all that depressing gunk out of the way, on to the hope-full stuff!  I wanted to summarize how I know what I’m talking about when I talk about chronic pain.

So, there was nothing Carole Staveley could have thrown at me that I didn’t already know.  For the most part, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I”m a relatively positive, easy-going kind-of gal.  I have to be in order to keep those pesky triggers away, like stress and pessimism and depression and frustration and anger and, well, you get the picture, right?

It was refreshing to read a real account of overcoming chronic pain.  Her struggles with diagnosis, treatments and doctors were all completely relatable, especially “it must be in your head.”  Well for me, yeah, it literally is!  I’ve had fun making a joke out of it for years ~ yeah, my brain has been bounced around in my skull and it has a few scars so yes Dr., it IS in my head. 😉

Beginning with “discovering your why,” we learn that developing our ultimate life purpose helps to focus our efforts externally rather than internally.  And on to the chapter to “Never, Ever Give Up” that reminds us it is in overcoming adversity where we find our strength.  The quotes included along with the action steps are both motivating and encouraging.

In my thirties I came to the realization that self-worth is at the heart of so many human behaviors, particularly those behaviors affecting our health and wellness.  If you don’t value yourself, then why would you take on behaviors that are good for your health and self-esteem? (p. 19)

A couple of issues I have with the book is that not everyone has a history of physical activity to fall back on as did Staveley.  She talks about growing up participating in sports and of playing tennis through her twenties.  While it is partially an excuse and partially a handicap, it is difficult to put that first foot forward.  Also, her tips on healthcare professionals to engage with is, while fantastic in that it encourages natural methods as well as western medicine, there’s really no magic wand of how in the world one can afford an acupuncturist, massage therapist, yoga teacher, nutritionist, etc.  The recommendation is to make healthy living a priority and weighing the value of missed work versus the value of a service.

For the most part, Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps is filled with positive actions to take in order to move from feeling sorry for yourself to making the most of the life you have been given. Staveley has an engaging voice, the book is easy-to-read and broken up into bite-sized pieces.  And there really are great action steps for chronic pain-ers to incorporate into their lives.  I’m not certain the IronMan is for me, but a 5k is in my sights!  Recommended for anyone who suffers from chronic pain.

To learn more about Carole Staveley visit her Website | Facebook | Twitter.

Many thanks to iRead Book Tours for inclusion in this Book Tour!

For additional thoughts on Conquer Pain please visit the blogs on the Tour Schedule.

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Last 10 Books I’ve Acquired

July 14, 2015 Book Talk 12


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Not included are the review books on my iPad, only the books I have laid hands upon.  There’s just something so wonderful about holding an actual physical copy, turning real pages, and smelling that lovely bookish aroma! I imagine you know exactly what I’m talking about, dear Lovely Readers, yes?

Purchased {from an Indie Bookstore}


The Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford  Have you tried one of these adult coloring books yet?  The utmost in relaxation.  While meditation has gained popularity I’ve found coloring allows me to meditate without sitting on the cushion with my eyes closed. There’s something so calming about creating art {especially for this girl who cannot even draw a stick figure!}

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter  Although my career working with abused children was cut short by the Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, my heart and volunteer efforts remain devoted to those without a voice.  I’ve seen Ashley speak a couple of times and am awed by her ability to overcome what the adults in her life threw at Ashley as she grew up.


Puffin in Bloom Classics including:

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery I purchased this one about a month before I was approached to review Ana of California – the re-telling of Anne of Green Gables.  Timely purchase and a beloved classic!
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl Do you remember the movie with the perfect re-imagining of Mrs. Trunchbull? My girls loved it and watched it 100+ times growing up – meaning, I’ve seen it at least as many times! – But. . .I’ve never read the book. Finally, it is in my possession and on the short list of to be reads.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett  side note ~ after this favorite childhood classic, The Secret Garden is my 2nd most favorite and one in which I wanted to live ~ just let me dive right into the pages of the book to my very own Secret Garden. Oh, if only!

For Review


Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold (St. Martin’s Press)

Ana of California by Andi Teran (From Penguin)

Subscription Boxes


The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell (Muse Monthly Box)

Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson (Book Riot Quarterly Box)

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon (Book Riot Quarterly Box)

That wraps up the last several books I’ve acquired, although I haven’t checked the mail today.  What books have come into your hands over the past few days?  Any you are more excited to read than others?