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Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling

Source: Jeryl Brunner
Paperback, 123 pgs.
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Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling offers an inside look at designer’s creative process in creating timeless dresses for brides over age 50.  Gigi Schilling says that brides of this age who are marrying for the first time or are embarking on a new marriage often view their wedding as a more sedate affair, but she says that these women should live out their fantasy wedding because it will be a time they will always cherish and remember.  Part of that is the dress, and designers are holding nothing back for these brides, who know who they are and are less insecure.

From Isaac Mizrahi and Zac Posen to Betsey Johnson and Ines di Santo, the dress designs run the gamut of whimsical to sophisticated.  Each has a special take on these ageless brides and how they want their dresses to look and feel.  Schilling does a fantastic job of asking just the right questions of these designers.  It will give brides and others a sense of what an ageless bride is looking for and how she wants to feel on her wedding day.  One thing I noted from the sketches was that the male designers (not all) tend to either leave off the heads in their sketches or use faceless heads, while the female designers’ sketches are more whimsical and detailed in the features of the bride.

Schilling also includes five different wedding ceremony scenarios, including one for the first time bridge who is over age 50.  There are ceremonies for the encore bride, the remarriage, the city hall ceremony, and the elopement as well.  Each of these has a central message, do not deny yourself the wedding of your dreams.  There is no reason to.  The final section of the book discusses the veil and whether ageless brides will use them and why or why not.  From the traditional veil to the veil attached to a fashionable hat, Schilling offers insight into all of them with help from various brides and designers.

Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling is a look at how romance can happen at any age, and for those brides over age 50, it can help you overcome those out-dated traditions for older brides.  A romantic wedding of your dreams awaits.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Gigi Schilling is the Founder of SoAgeless. She aspires to inspire you to Act your Ageless! Gigi is 58 and considers herself ageless. She loves to laugh, wear high heels, and be a curvaceous size 10.

Born in Brazil to European parents, she views herself as nomad living in multiple cultures. Gigi has lived in many places: Miami, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, the Bahamas, Buenos Aires, and Patagonia. Educated in Rio de Janeiro, she received a Bachelors of Science in Journalism. Her greatest legacy is her 19-year-old son Alexander.

In 2010, Gigi created a community on Facebook called, Over 50 & Irresistible, based on the paradox she coined, “Too old to live at 50 – yet, too young to die at 50?” In 2016, she decided to do away with the number and SoAgeless was born.

In 2017, Gigi published her first book, Ageless Bride, to inspire the over 50 woman to shed outdated rules and allow herself to enjoy the magic and romance of being a bride. Visit her website.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A Coloring Book by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, Walter Crane

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Beauty and the Beast: A Coloring Book by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, with illustrations by Walter Crane, is a beautifully appointed coloring book for children and adults alike.  Kids may have trouble staying in the lines, but the story is beautifully rendered in these pages.  The illustrations are intricate and easily hide the spying Beast among the roses and the forest, but Beauty has little fear as she makes her way to the mysterious palace.

While there are many pages to color inside the book, there are several pages of patterns that repeat, with swirls or birds or roses.  There are few lines of text from the original story, which we had expected to be a bit more of.  It’s hard for a younger reader to grasp the scope of this beloved story with so few lines from the original tale.  However, my daughter really enjoyed creating her own rose gardens and painting the birds with her crayons and other materials.

Beauty and the Beast: A Coloring Book by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, with illustrations by Walter Crane, is a delightful book for coloring to calm the mind.

RATING: Quatrain

This Book Stinks by Sarah Wassner Flynn

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn provides facts in a bright and engaging way for younger readers and adults. The book is chock full of infographics, quizzes, stats, and so much more, including activities for kids to help them tackle the waste in their own homes and communities.

The United States has about 2 million tons of trash that ends up in landfills, and e-waste — old electronics — is an increasing source of that waste, as Americans like to have the next best gadget. It’s disheartening to see how much the United States has fallen behind other developed nations in terms of reducing waste to become the top country in terms of trash. If more people read this book and share it with their children, perhaps the United States can reduce its trash output and get in line with other conserving nations.

There are some really engaging activities for kids on learning how to upcycle some of their older things, and there are other topics covered that include organizing community cleanups and reducing your own household waste. One of our favorites (which we already did with lettuce) is using vegetable scraps to regrow vegetables. It can be a fun learning activity for kids on how to not only reduce waste but learn about the life cycle of plants.

This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn is a book I’m going to donate to my daughter’s classroom because you never can be too engaged in children’s education. This book will provide a great many opportunities for her class to learn about waste and recycling and things they can do at their own homes to make the planet a better place to live.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a fitness and sports writer, a children’s book author, a runner, and a mother.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy (audio)

Source: Giveaway Win
Audible, 8+ hrs.
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The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, begins with a whodunit — who killed Lt. George Wickham?  Was it Mr. Darcy? A man he owed money to, or something far more sinister?

Pride & Prejudice is beloved by many, and many more have written spinoffs or re-imaginings or continuations of Austen’s work.  Joy’s version is part re-imagining and part mystery, with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet playing amateur detectives to uncover the truth, especially when they both know that Mr. Darcy did not do it.

Joy’s characters stick to their conventional roles in society for the most part, with a bit of leeway, but what’s most interesting is how Elizabeth uses her position in Meryton and as a woman to learn more about those she suspects are involved in the murder of Lt. Wickham.  Mr. Darcy finds that his role as detective is suddenly hampered when he’s arrested for the crime.  As the two work together to solve the crime, prejudices are washed away and pride is worn down.

Nancy Peterson is a wonderful narrator of both men and women in this tale, and it is clear that she has a love for Austen’s work as well.  The Honorable Mr. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, is a wonderful addition to this Austenesque world, and readers will be hard pressed to see how Darcy can remain honorable and protect the honor of Elizabeth Bennet at the same time.  Joy has crafted a whodunit that will keep readers guessing until the very end, and there are even more secrets to be hand than just the unveiling of the real killer.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite characters, she is teaching English, reading, perfecting her doughnut recipe, or going to the park with her family. She currently lives in Ecuador with her husband and 2 beautiful kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish.  Visit her Website.

New Authors Challenge

New York City Haiku illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock

Source: Library of Clean Reads
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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New York City Haiku illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock is a compilation of haiku from readers that were solicited by The New York Times in 2014 during National Poetry Month.  Haiku were guided by the terms “island,” “strangers,” “solitude,” “commuting,” “6 a.m.,” and “kindness.”  Respondents wrote poems on the subjects of living, commuting, working, and enjoying New York City.  This is just 150 of the more than 2,800 submissions and, no, not all of the haiku are from only residents of New York City.  Some come from as far away as Ireland.

(I will caution that I, too, submitted haiku to the Times, but none of mine appear in this collection)

As we leave for work
Youngsters head home from parties.
Eras intersect. — Amparo Pikarsky, Edison, N.J.

These haiku are by turns serious and humorous about life in the city from a sketch artist on the subway willing sleeping commuters to remain sleeping to people jammed together and yet alone on the train.

Hidden among the
sleepwalking, caffeine zombies.
A morning person. — Aimee Estrada, Hyde Park, N.Y.

These writers clearly know the city and all of its nuances, as well as the rote behavior of commuters. It’s wonderful to visit the city in haiku form and see it from a variety of perspectives, including those who have a sense of humor about it all.

Dollar pizza joint
An oasis in New York’s
Harsh desert of cost. — Dennis Francis, Manhattan, N.Y.

New York City Haiku illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock provides a wide view of the city and commuting. Some seem to express personal experience, while others are more social in commentary. Each haiku displays a sense of humor and love for the Big Apple. Such a fun collection of poems, which would be easy to dip in and out of on a commute into the city or sitting in a good chair.

RATING: Quatrain

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Build A … T-Rex and Build A … Butterfly by Kiki Ljung

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 12 pgs.
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Build A … T-Rex and Build A … Butterfly by Kiki Ljung are geared toward children ages 5-8 and aim to teach children about the anatomy of the T-Rex, as we know it, and the Butterfly by engaging them in a fun activity.  Each book contains a set of parts children can use to build their own 3D model.

The directions are fairly simple, but the T-Rex head was a bit confusing for my kindergartner, and we had to tape his head back together.  She folded him the wrong way.  And one of the legs on the butterfly got ripped when she tried to pull it from the book.  If anything, some of these pieces in each book were secured inside the pages a little too well, making it harder for little kids to pull them out without causing some damage to certain pieces.

The Build A … T-Rex includes some of the latest information about the dinosaur, including his lizard-like hips and posture.  It offers a guide to kids about what the dino ate, how it ran, and whether it had a loud roar like in the movies.  It contains a great deal of information, alongside colorful (but not gory) illustrations of the T-Rex in action.

Build A … Butterfly illustrates the life cycle of the painted lady butterfly and how long it takes them to transform from an egg into a butterfly, as well as how long they actually live.  There’s a great deal of information about each body part and how it functions, what they eat, and where they migrant.  And so much more alongside the colorful illustrations.

Build A … T-Rex and Build A … Butterfly by Kiki Ljung both allow children to put back the parts of their 3D models, but we chose not to do that and she’s planning to display them in her room.

RATING: Quatrain

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 12+ hrs.
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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes, imagines a world not too far removed from where we are now — with the lack of cash and electronic transfers and the nuclear proliferation and antibiotic resistant diseases — but in this new United States known as Gilead, women are prohibited from holding jobs, having money, reading, and forming friendships. They are merely vessels through which children can be created, carried, and born, only to then be given to the households in which these handmaid’s reside. The handmaid’s are merely the vessels through which wives of the elite are able to have children following the devastating disease that renders many women infertile. Yes, it is only the women who are to blame for the infertility, which is why the men are permitted handmaidens with which to procreate.

Offred tells us this tale from the handmaid’s point of view, and none of the characters we meet have their own names, merely names that are adapted from the husband’s leading the households. To bear a child that is not deformed and is healthy is an honor for these women, but they also have very little freedom — forced to live inside the house, not form bonds with other women or men, and required to eat only prescribed foods and avoid all vices.

Engaging from the start, readers are thrust into this new world and forced to review their own freedoms. How could you become accustom to such a life and not fight it? Offred explains how it comes to pass and why the women remain in their assigned roles, but even in the darkness, there is a light — dim as it may be. Atwood’s Offred is a woman who is resigned to her role because she fears that harm will come to the connections from her previous life. She fails to take action many times because she views her inaction as protecting those she loves. But she also is hampered by her lack of knowledge and her inability to creep about and learn things when the house is asleep.

Danes narration of the book is spot on, and we can feel the emotions pour out of her words. She becomes Offred, she breathes her world, forcing readers right down into the darkness with her. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, narrated by Claire Danes, is a cautionary tale about extreme measures, but it also serves to remind us that when we are not looking extremes can become reality. It is our duty to be vigilant and stand up and fight before things go too far.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 384 pgs.
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Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson (available for purchase at HarperCollins) is the story of “green” American journalist Ruby Sutton who is hand-picked to cover WWII in England by her editor at The American.  Splitting the costs of her employment, The American and Picture Weekly will get double the amount of stories from Sutton as she strives to report on the effects of war.  Her journalism colleagues in America seemed pleased that they were not picked to go, but when she gets to England, she realizes there are far more hoops to go through in order to get a story to print.  Across the Atlantic, she finds life in London agreeable and she makes friends quickly.

“It was a stomach-emptying, life-draining thing, her entire body trying to turn itself inside out, her world reduced to the bunk on which she was marooned and the bucket sitting next to it.” (pg. 14, ARC)

However, the reality of war is not far away, as she must endure the bombings from the Blitz and the hefty losses that surround her every day.  She may not have family back in America, but she certainly has an adopted family that she clings to and watches endure war with little complaint.  From her editor, Kaz, to the photographer she’s assigned, Ruby become part of a journalistic family that will soon face some tough roads ahead.  Her life becomes even fuller with Bennet, though he appears and disappears from her life constantly.  But the war leaves her little time to reflect as she becomes more integral to the paper’s success.

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson is a wonderful historical fiction novel that touches not only on the tribulations of war, but also the relationships that can form quickly between strangers.  With a bit of intrigue and suspense as it pertains to the Blitz, Robson’s novel offers a glimpse into the lives of the British during a precarious time in history.  Plucky Sutton will win readers’ hearts with her resolve and her ability to navigate the choppy waters when secrets come to the surface that she expected to remain buried in the deep sea.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight Over Paris. She holds a doctorate from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto with her husband and young children.

Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 371 pgs.
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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which was our April book club selection, is a novel that satirizes the aftermath of the Vietnam war, but it also is a serious examination of identity from the point of view of someone who is a subversive and a mole within the South Vietnamese military at the time of the war. The Captain, who remains unnamed, is in the South Vietnamese military but feeding information to the People’s Army of Vietnam (communists) through his childhood friend, Man. Meanwhile, their third childhood friend, Bon, has been trained as an assassin by the CIA. Balancing his friendship with his duty to the communists becomes a balance that the Captain often loses, but as he has so few real connections with others, it is his friend Bon who pays the highest cost.

“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess.” (pg. 1)

In many ways the opening of the novel will signal to the reader that everything told by the Captain may be untrue or at least partly. But he also seeks to set himself up as a sympathetic character who is torn not only by his heritage — the son of a Vietnamese mother and French priest — but also by his knowledge of America from being abroad at school and his communist leanings. After fleeing Vietnam with the General when the Americans lost the war to the communists, the Captain longs to return, but he is repeatedly told that he must remain a mole among those exiled to America to ensure they are not planning a return. He is forced to swallow more of the bitter pill that his life is not his own, even in America.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen provides a deep look at issues of mixed cultures and races, how they are treated in Vietnam and America during this time period, and how difficult it was to reconcile defeat on either side. It also asks the bigger questions about revolution and the disillusionment of passionate idealists. Corruption of any revolution can occur, and that can be the most devastating for the passionate idealist, but how does it affect those who can see both sides of the equation? And is the real crime to have done nothing or to not have truly chosen a side to be on — right or wrong?

RATING: Cinquain

What the Book Club Thought:

The discussion compared the novel to 1984 and to Catch-22 for its satire, but mostly, we were engrossed in the plight of the Captain and his identity issues. We found it hard for him as a European-Vietnamese man with communist and American-leaning tendencies to reconcile all that he was and commit himself to one cause. Overall, most of the members at the meeting “enjoyed” the book, though one or two members were less than thrilled by the disembodied scenes in the interrogation room, which they felt took them out of the story.

About the Author:

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Other honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. His other books are Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction) and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His next book is a short story collection, The Refugees, forthcoming in February 2017 from Grove Press.

Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 60 pgs.
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Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman is a small book of stories about enigmatic cats and their owners. The introduction talks about how many people fail to understand the behaviors of cats, especially when they act erratically. It talks about creating an environment that appeals to their wild instincts as part of an effort to avoid problems that can occur with cat ownership.

Many of these stories are a testament to the bond between cats and their owners, like Holly who was spooked while on vacation in Florida with her owners and disappeared. After a good Samaritan found the cat and had the ID chip scanned, it was discovered that Holly had walked 190 miles in 62 days, trying to return home from Florida. This collection includes not only stories about cats and their owners, but statistics about perceptions of cats and expert explanations about certain behaviors. In Holly’s case, she used her hunting instincts to find her family, and her tenaciousness kept her going even when she was near starving.

For younger readers, there’s even information on cartoon cats and why and how they became famous, such as Grumpy Cat. Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties by Aline Alexander Newman is for ages 8+, but if read together, it can be a good night times story book for kids who love cats and are younger than age 8. My daughter is fascinated with cats, even tough our dog is no friend to cats. This was a perfect book for us to read together.

RATING: Quatrain

National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 112 pgs.
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National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues includes some engaging stories about rescued pets from cats and dogs to rabbits and so many more. There is even a section at the end about celebrity rescues. Some celebrity animals have famous parents, while others are famous through social media and charity fundraising ventures.

These stories are engaging for kids between ages 8 and 12. Some of these animals are very talented, with some even learning to surf. My daughter loved the colorful pages and the animal stories we read, and one of her favorites was Kuli who learned to surf in Hawaii, and she’s a cat. She loves surfing so much that she just jumps in her owner’s bag every time they head out to the beach.

There’s also some adoptions of older animals included, which was good to see. Many times shelters have dogs and cats that are in their older years and they are not the ones people come in looking to adopt.

National Geographic Kids: 125 Pet Rescues best feature comes at the end with tips on how to make a difference. Besides adopting animals — especially if you can’t — people should consider donating items that animal shelters may need from food and blankets to toys and leashes. Other options include becoming an advocate for shelter animals or spaying and neutering pets to keep populations on the street low. Volunteering is another big help to shelters, especially those with little funding. Parents should consider reading this book with their child to explain why some animals are left at shelters and how they too can help these animals find the best homes.

RATING: Quatrain

One Good Thing by Wendy Wax

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 360 pgs.
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One Good Thing by Wendy Wax is the next installment (#5) in the Ten Beach Road series in which women duped by the Ponzi scheme of Malcolm Dyer find friendship through renovation.  For those who have yet to read this series, what on earth are you waiting for?  I do recommend reading these in order.

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki have grown closer, though Maddie is still viewed as the mother who takes care of everyone, including her ex-husband and their daughter, Kyra.  She’s still finding it hard to let go of her caretaker role and lead her own life, but she’s making some changes, even as Nikki’s time grows near and her nervousness about motherhood strengthens. Meanwhile, their television series Do Over is still in the hands of the network, and they seem to be holding all of the cards, which means the ladies need to find another source of income and fast or they may lose the home, Bella Flora, that brought them together.

As fear creeps in and takes some of them over, it is harder and harder to find just One Good Thing to share at sunset — a tradition that has helped them stay positive and keep things in perspective.  Wax’s ladies are strong, but never too far from their insecurities.  They flourish under pressure, and they must make hard decisions, even if they need a little push from their friends.

One Good Thing by Wendy Wax is another summer read that will make living on the beach sound less than idyllic, but you’ll still want to grab your blended drinks and head down to the beach to catch that sunset with these ladies.

RATING: Quatrain

Also Reviewed:

About the Author:

Award-winning author Wendy Wax has written eight novels, including Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, the Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist The Accidental Bestseller, Leave It to Cleavage, Single in Suburbia and 7 Days and 7 Nights, which was honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award. Her work has sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club, and her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A St. Pete Beach, Florida native, Wendy has lived in Atlanta for fifteen years. A voracious reader, her enjoyment of language and storytelling led her to study journalism at the University of Georgia. She also studied in Italy through Florida State University, is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and worked at WEDU-TV and WDAE-Radio in Tampa.