Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Splendid Concubine

Richard Hart, the main character of Lloyd Lofthouse's new work, has become the most powerful Westerner in China. His love of "modernism" has led to the creation of China's infrastructure including railroads and schools. Hart, however, has one true love - Ayaou, a Chinese concubine. As China changes, Hart must learn to love a different country and a re-born woman in order to survive and become a true leader.

The Five Lost Days

Pearhouse Press (2008)
William Petrick, an award-winning producer, takes the reader into the life of Michael Burns, a documentary producer who travels to the remote mountains of Belize to capture footage of a surviving Mayan healer. As civil war in Guatemala spills into the forests of Belize, Burns is soon caught up in an adventure of a that he may not be able to withstand.
Petrick writes sparingly and with a truly unique voice that captures the wilds of Belize and the dangers that occur when one becomes enraptured by a life different than one's own. The characters and location are fully developed; allowing for a visual imagery that aids the building plot. Petrick has written a truly wonderful first book.

Nella Last's Peace

Nella Last's Peace: The Post-War Diaries of Housewife 49. Edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson (Profile Books, 2008)
The diaries of Nella Last, a housewife and mother from Barrow-in-Furness, have been a favorite of British readers since the first book, Nella Last's War, was made into the television drama Housewife 49. In this second book, Nella continues her diary and describes how the people of Britain rebuilt their lives after the Allies' victory. Last, possibly because she never dreamed that people would be reading her work, wrote daily of her trials and tribulations as a wife and mother in wartime England. Honest to a fault, she does not mince her emotions or words in telling her story - one that every person can find a relatable element in.

Scattered Leaves by Richard E. Roach

Scattered Leaves (Crystal Dreams Publishing, 2008)
In an ambitious and suspenseful novel, author and everyman Richard E. Roach combines some of the most important issues facing our country; illegal drug trafficking and illegal immigration. Unfortunately for main character Ben McCord, life turns dark after the murder and rape of his young wife. Determined to right this horrific tragedy, McCord sets out through the dark roads of Texas, Colorado and the Mexican border in a search for justice. Along the way, he meets a beautiful and mysterious doctor who is on a similar journey.
Roach brings the reader on a edge of your seat journey for the majority of the work. The only place where the book is lacking is in character development - McCord's choices and decision making is unbelievable at times and his seemingly head on movement towards death leads one to question who he is. Otherwise, Roach delivers a interesting read.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jacoby is a Genius!

Sometimes you pick up a book and simply can't put it end up staying up late reading and get up for work the next day exhausted. That was the case with M. Ann Jacoby's Life After Genius (Grand Central Publishing), a beautiful look at family through the eyes of a young male genius. When Teddy "Mead" Fegley enters college at the age of 15, he is ill-equipped to deal with the social aspects although he excels at academics. As he attempts to solve a mathematical quandary with the help of his brilliant but eccentric professor, Mead must resolve a problematic relationship with a dorm-mate and his difficult family life. Ultimately, Mead flees college for home; a place that only proves to hold harsh memories and realities which must be faced. There can be no more running away - Mead must finally and fully grow up before he can actually graduate.

Jacoby has written a book that is filled with quirkiness and brilliance. Her writing has a sense of ease and honesty that allows the reader to actually enter the world of the characters. This is a place we want to be, a boy we want to succeed and a world we are sad to leave.

Non-Fiction Books, Continued...

How Not to be a Domestic Goddess (Profile Books) by Deborah Ross: Ross, an award-winning columnist for numerous British papers, is the European equivalent of Norah Ephron. In this exceptionally funny book, Ross acknowledges that the majority of us are not perfect women; that we leave dirty dishes in the sink, fight with our significant others and wear no make-up and sweats to the supermarket.

Amazing Grays: A Woman's Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50 by Maggie Rose Crane: Okay I admit it --- underneath this brown hair coloring are a ton of gray hairs. Some days I am ready to commit to going gray and others I simply can not. Crane honors life after menopause with an informative and positive look at getting older. She gives us tips on reinvigorating our passions, redefining aging and navigating the future.

The Real Office: All the Office Questions You Never Dared to Ask (Profile Books) by Lucy Kellaway: Kellaway, the management consultant to the Financial Times is known for her commentaries on modern corporate culture and life. In this honest and sharp book, Kellaway answers readers' questions with a sense of practicality and humor; how do you tell your boss what you really think of them? How do you fire a friend? Can you lead your office and still be a nice person?

Non-Fiction Books for Your Collection

Here are some non-fiction must reads this winter:

Battles Between Somebodies and Nobodies: Combat Abuse of Rank at Work and at Home (Brookside Press) by Julie Ann Wambach, PhD: As someone who has worked for many "bully" bosses, I found this book to be a helpful tool in my journey to move forward and away for the work power plays. With a step-by-step plan to stop "rankism," Wambach gives the reader practical details on changing one's life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Travel with Sheryl Kayne


BEST IMMERSION TRAVEL USA (Countryman Press, W.W. Norton & Company, Fall 2008) is an extensive listing of IMMERSION TRAVELER trips within the United States. • Would you consider vacationing on an organic farm and working in exchange for room and board? • Do you want to be a bus driver and wildlife tour guide in a National Park? • How about volunteering with The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project providing adaptive sporting events for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans?
BEST IMMERSION TRAVEL USA is organized in categories of interests and locations for you to plan the trip that meets your needs. Many entries begin with a personal story from someone who has experienced the activity or one very similar to it.

Check out the website at for more information.


Ok, I admit that I read all of the Twilight series in one week and saw the movie already (is Edward Cullen hot or what?). Well, there's a new, literary vampire in town and it's Jacques Chessex's The Vampire of Ropaz (Bitter Lemon Press, 2008). Chessex, one of the most important living authors in Switzerland and winner of the Goncourt Prize, bases this extraordinary book on a true story that occurred in in the Jura Mountains in 1903.

While the story could be considered a crime novel, the reality is that the book is much more of a moral tale that focuses on a community's fear of the unknown and strange. A beautifully and sparsely written book (less than 110 pages), this is a story that will leave you with more questions than answers - who has committed the horrendous crimes outlined in the novel? Is the accused truly criminal or simply a product of a life filled with abuse at the hands of others? Chessex is a first class writer who turns the notion of the vampire on its head...and there is no Bella or Edward involved.

Kelly Epperson's Columns Don't Stink!

In her regular columns, author Kelly Epperson tells the truth about life's imperfections and the dirt that we sometimes have to wash down the drain. Finally, her readers (and those of us who don't get the opportunity to read her weekly) can read all of her funny, honest and heartfelt columns in her work, When Life Stinks It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes (Rockford Writer's Guild, 2008). A great holiday present for the person in your life who looks at things with a bit of humor and wit!

Gift Idea Number Two

Amy Sedaris rocks...and cooks! In her bestselling cookbook and comic masterpiece, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (Grand Central Publishing, 2008), Sedaris gives us all some great "Southern" tips for throwing a great party with some yummy food. Your foodie will love it!

Some Ideas for Holiday Gifts

Holiday season is just around the corner, so it's time for Literature Chick's picks for great holiday gifts for those important folks in your family.

Wouldn't we all love to look ten pounds lighter, ten years younger and ten times better? Pick up a copy of Charla Krupp's How Not to Look Old (Springboard, 2008) for the women in your life who need some helpful tips (or should we say hints?).