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Book Review: “All That is Bitter & Sweet”

A lot has been said about Ashley Judd in the media.

An eighth-generation Kentuckian, she’s an accomplished actress with a racing star husband, a “cheerleader” for the UK basketball team (University of Kentucky is her alma mater), an activist and advocate for poor and disenfranchised people, and last, but certainly not least, the daughter and sister of one of country music’s royalties, The Judds.

But we’ve only scratched the surface of her life. That is until now or shall we say about a year ago when she published her memoir “All That is Bitter and Sweet”. I’ve only recently finished the book, which took me many months to read. But in the end, I came out with a sudden appreciation and gratitude for the actress not because of her way using her celebrity to help others, but she is, in fact, a true humanitarian.

The book is not exactly a page-turner, hence why it has taken me a while to finish it, but it really opens your eyes on the depth of poverty and injustice around the world.

Judd devotes most of the book on her visits to the slums and brothels in third-world countries through her work with Population Services International and its grassroots programs. It’s astonishing to know that there are many women in those countries who are forced into prostitution and sex slavery. They are exposed to so many diseases like HIV and can’t afford the proper treatments. Passion to help and educate the less fortunate people about safe sex and use of contraception and use of cleaning drinking water is what drives Judd to be the voice of the voiceless.

You really understand that her passion for helping those less fortunate stems from her own childhood. Judd expresses in detail her personal journey of overcoming depression and sexual abuse and her path to recovery, using her faith in the God of her understanding to suppress the negativities in her life. I really enjoyed reading about her personal struggles because it demonstrates that not all of us are perfect.

Ashley Judd has used her “celebrity” with such grace, poise and confidence that it’s endearing. Few celebrities have achieved that. She is a clear example that there is hope for those who are struggling as long as we have faith and the devotion to keep that faith strong.

This is not your typical memoir, but it’s a memoir worth reading.

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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Book Reviews


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A big novel about a small town

Don’t hate me, but I am not a Harry Potter fan … yet.

That’s because I haven’t read any of the acclaimed Harry Potter books, but when J.K. Rowling announced that she was writing a book for her adult audience, my attention peaked!

The hype got even bigger when Rowling’s publisher, Little, Brown & Company, unveiled the cover art for the new book entitled “The Casual Vacancy”. It’s set to hit bookstores on September 27. You can actually pre-order online by going on the Barnes & Noble website.

According to Barnes & Noble website, the overview of the book is:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

With the presidential election lurking around the corner, this book couldn’t come at a more opportune time. It’s been described as “blackly-comical, thought-provoking, and constantly surprising” by Barnes & Noble. I am very excited to read this book because the topic sounds interesting. I am very curious of her writing style. With all the big hype going around, it would not be surprising if “The Casual Vacancy” skyrockets to #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List before it even hits the shelves. It might even lure non-Harry Potter readers/aficionados (like myself) to read her signature hit series.

One thing’s for sure, we’ve seen, heard, or read the last of J.K. Rowling.

So the question remains: are you going to read her new book?

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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Cover Reveals


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Book Review (Summer Reading #1): “Come Home”

Reading “Come Home” is like going on a roller-coaster.

You do not know exactly what to expect at every twist and turn, but you know it’s going to be exhilarating and fun. In “Come Home”, Scottoline takes her readers on a ride of a lifetime at dizzying speeds. She packs quite a punch and keeps you hooked until the very last page.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Dr. Jill Farrow, a caring, nurturing suburban mother and pediatrician, who has finally gotten her and her young daughter Megan’s lives in order after a divorce. She’s engaged to a wonderful guy named Sam. Everything seems picture perfect until late one night Jill’s life turns upside down when her ex-stepdaughter, Abby, shows up on her doorstep and delivers shocking news that Jill’s ex-husband is dead. Abby insists that her father was murdered and pleads with Jill to help find his killer.

Jill reluctantly agrees to make a few inquiries and discovers that things don’t add up. As she digs deeper, her actions threaten to rip apart her new family, destroy their hard-earned happiness, and even endanger her own life. Yet Jill can’t turn her back on a child she loves and once called her own.

This book explores the definition of motherhood and examines the emotional repercussions in a family. Readers can find themselves asking several questions like when do you ever stop being a mother or a stepmother? Is there such a thing as an ex-child? Is there a limit to the love of a family?

Almost all the characters are well-developed and believable. Jill is at the center of this Venn Diagram of characters. She’s torn between helping her old family, which consists of Abby and her sister Victoria, and maintaining her soon-to-be new family with Megan and Sam. How can she possibly juggle those things as well as focus on her career as a pediatrician?

What I love most about Scottoline’s main female characters, including Jill, are that they’re so strong, relatable and determined to get to the bottom of a problem or crisis. They risk their lives just to protect the ones they love.

Scottoline is an expert of “writing what you know.” There’s a wonderful consistency in all of her books where the setting is in the Philadelphia area, which is where she was born, raised, and still lives. From Route 202 to Broad Street, she is passionate about her community and exudes that in all her stories. As a former lawyer, Scottoline does a great job in researching and writing the medical jargon and details.

I jumped on the Lisa Scottoline roller-coaster about two years ago when “Look Again” came out, and I’m glad I did. Each new book she’s published has been brilliantly written and received rave reviews. When her latest thriller “Come Home” came out several months ago, my attention peaked but I wondered how a New York Times best-selling author could continue top her other 17 novels!! I am happy to say that she did not let me down!

I think this is the best book Scottoline has written so far because it’s a compelling novel that’s filled with heart, thrills, chills, and full of life.

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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Book Review: “Bared to You”

They say if you love the Fifty Shades trilogy, you’ll love this book.

I’m here to say that you didn’t love the writing of the Fifty Shades trilogy, you’ll love this book.

I’m a newcomer to New York Times bestselling author Sylvia Day. I’m not very familiar with her stories, but when I found out that “Bared to You” (the first installment in the Crossfire series) is similar to E.L. James’s recent works, I immediately downloaded it on my Nook. After reading the book, I can honestly characterize it as Fifty Shades without the BDSM.

The book is about two coworkers who eventually become lovers. Eva Tramell is a smart, assertive advertising assistant who falls head over heels in love with Gideon Cross, a John F. Kennedy Jr’esque billionaire tycoon who owns the firm Eva works at.

Sound familiar?

Eva and Gideon’s chemistry and connection are volcanic and very consensual. Their first exchange caught me off-guard of the things that Gideon says to Eva. If it was a real situation, the words “sexual harassment” would be branded on the walls, but I digress. At first, their relationship becomes very physical, but then as you begin to learn more about the two lovestrong characters, their relationship becomes more emotional and deep.

Eva and Gideon carry a lot of baggage from their past, albeit both of them being abuse survivors. We know how Eva was abused, but we don’t get a clear picture into Gideon’s abusive past. All we know is that Gideon can’t stand to be in his mother’s home for some unknown reason, which can leave the reader in suspense.

Like Fifty Shades, there are some hooks to this book that draws you into the chemistry of Eva and Gideon. Like Christian is to Ana, Gideon is very possessive to Eva that one would think a restraining order is long overdue. The main characters are rich, beautiful, and successful — almost too good to be true. In that sense, it lacks realism, but then again it’s fiction.

I do have to say that Sylvia Day’s writing is better than E.L James for a romance novel. Day is very detailed and her writing flows in almost every scene. You don’t get a sense of constant repetition of certain words like in the Fifty Shades trilogy. Her vocabulary is broad, which is a good thing for an author. Day is also very knowledgeable of the story’s upscale setting in New York City.

For those of you who have read the book and is wanting more, I’m happy to inform you that the second installment of the trilogy called “Deeper in You” comes out this October.

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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Book Review: “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver”

The English language is corrupted by superlatives.

What I mean by that is whenever we try to explain or characterize things or people in the  best way possible, we sometimes use words that overemphasize the positivity of said people and things. We don’t necessarily use words in the simplest forms like “good” or “nice” as much because they may seem bland and doesn’t accentuate the value of certain things like if we would say “excellent” or “fantastic” or “awesome”. 

In Mark Shriver’s touching memoir about his father, Sargent Shriver, I learned that the power of being good is an enormous quality. We probably are familiar with Robert Sargent Shriver as the Kennedy in-law, who married President Kennedy’s sister Eunice, had five kids (one of whom is a famous award-winning journalist who’s currently separated from the former governor of California), and started the Peace Corps and Head Start and other public service programs.

Sargent Shriver, who died in 2011 from a long battle with Alzheimer’s, was a good man, and Mark Shriver illustrates just how good of a man he was by his personality and actions. Sargent Shriver was a man committed to his Catholic faith, his family, and helping others. He wore his faith on his sleeves. He was never overwhelmed by the Kennedy family legacy. He wasn’t seducted by the power and prestige of the limelight, even though the things that he did prompted press coverage. He handled defeats (political runs for office in the 1970s) and controversy (his son Bobby getting busted for pot) with such grace, poise, and courage. He doted on his family, calling himself, his wife of 56 years, and his children the “Lucky 7” because they were the most precious to him. In his later years, he embraced being a grandparent until his dying day. Sargent Shriver always looked at the positive rather than the negative. He saw the good in people who were mentally challenged or who were poor, and he never let us forget about that.

This book is clearly a son’s point of view of his father. Each chapter is filled with little snippets of poignant stories, especially how Sargent would leave little handwritten notes under his son’s door telling him how much he was loved by his family and God and his passion for the Baltimore Orioles. This beautifully-written book is a clear evidence that his son still idolizes his father.

One passage in the book that stuck out for me was when Mark compared Jesus dying on a cross to his father’s Alzheimer’s. Before Jesus died, he carried the cross, and it was an immense torture for him because of its weight. He was crowned with thorns, was whipped, and kept falling down, only to be helped by Simon and had his face wiped by Veronica. He experienced agony all over until his death. Alzheimer’s was Sargent Shriver’s cross. He labored with its weight and carried it until his very last day. His family and friends tried to lift that weight off by praying and supporting him. Yet he, like Jesus, knew what he was dealing with and what he was carrying.

Reading this metaphorical passage definitely hit home for me. As the niece of a loved one who’s died of Alzheimer’s and another who’s currently battling acute dementia, it’s difficult to see that person slipping away a little at a time. They are carrying that burden, that weight that they cannot control. You just have to stand by them in the good and the bad and give them the best care possible.

I strongly encourage everyone to read this book. Beneath the Alzheimer’s, Sargent Shriver was a devoted man, a family man, and a hard-working man.

He was definitely a good man — a quality that we should all strive to be.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Book Reviews


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Cover Reveal: “The Watcher” by Lisa Voisin

My fellow readers and bloggers, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Here’s the cover and blurb about YA author Lisa Voisin’s new book “The Watcher”.

                 Millennia ago, he fell from heaven for her.

Can he face her without falling again?

Fascinated with ancient civilizations, seventeen-year-old Mia Crawford dreams of becoming an archaeologist. She also dreams of wings—soft and silent like snow—and somebody trying to steal them.

When a horrible creature appears out of thin air and attacks her, she knows Michael Fontaine is involved, though he claims to know nothing about it. Secretive and aloof, Michael evokes feelings in Mia that she doesn’t understand. Images of another time and place haunt her. She recognizes them—but not from any textbook.

In search of the truth, Mia discovers a past life of forbidden love, jealousy and revenge that tore an angel from Heaven and sent her to an early grave. Now that her soul has returned, does she have a chance at loving that angel again? Or will an age-old nemesis destroy them both?

Ancient history is only the beginning.

This romantic thriller for young adults will be released in March 4, 2013. For more information about Lisa or her new book, visit her blog at Info courtesy of Inkspell Publishing.


Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Cover Reveals


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Book Review: “Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir”

“I want to live my life, not record it.” ~ Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

I have to unleash a big secret. I adore Jackie Kennedy.

I love reading about her. In fact, I’ve probably read over 20 books about the former First Lady and each time I finish reading her biographies, I keep yearning for more. Metaphorically speaking, it’s like opening a box within a box and so forth until I find that golden ticket on the intimate accounts of her life.

I guess that’s why I’m nosey, but I give credit to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis because she taught us to never be afraid to have a hunger for knowledge. Thanks to former Secret Service agent Clint Hill, I’ve found the golden ticket in his book “Mrs Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir.”

Co-written by Lisa McCubbin, the book is a beautifully written account of Hill’s time as Mrs. Kennedy’s Secret Service agent and a wonderful tribute to Jackie. From the time when he first met her in Hyannisport in 1960 to when she moved out of the White House and began a new life chapter in 1964, Clint Hill was more than just Jackie’s protector. They shared a beautiful, fairy-tale friendship.

Jackie desperately craved for privacy after having been thrown in the international spotlight, thanks to her husband’s presidency. Hill understood her mantra. He allowed her to have as much privacy as possible when the paparazzi and her White House duties took her away from that.

His accounts of the weeks leading up to and after President Kennedy’s assassination and his interaction with Jackie are candid and heartbreaking. Hill was the agent who climbed on the back of the motorcade and urged Jackie to stay in her seat.

This is truly one of my favorite books about Jackie Kennedy because it’s honest, poignant, and refreshing. Page by page, it is evident that Hill’s purpose of writing the book was not to expose Jackie in a dim light but to honor her life and legacy that continues to brightly shine.


Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Book Reviews


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