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Book Review: Beyond the Label by Maureen Chiquet

What labels do you wear? I’m not talking about Coach or Gucci or Channel, I’m talking about the labels others have given you. “Supermom” is one that’s been thrown around at me. “Wife,” “Mother,” “Type-A,” “Introvert,” “Neurotic,” are others. When we receive labels, it can be hard to break out of them. I know in graduate school, receiving the label “outstanding Ph.D. candidate” made me extremely anxious. I didn’t feel like such a label fit me. In Maureen Chiquet’s Beyond The Label, she takes a hard look at the labels women have received and how we can break through from them to lead a life that is our own. 

The way she does this, however, is unique. She tells her own story of how she left college and the path that she took to become a CEO. Through her journey, she had to break out of every and label that had been set for her.  At the end of one chapter, she writes:

Long story short: No opportunity is ever too small to show you what you can accomplish, and no boss is ever so mean that you can’t learn something, even if it’s only to show you how not to lead. If you keep your eyes open, if you’re willing to reframe and recast what you’re seeing–yes to go beyond the label–you’ll find plenty of raw material to help you make your case.

It’s way easy to miss opportunities because we choose not to see beyond the label or because we choose to focus only on the negative. If instead, we turn around such experiences and look for what we can learn from them, this can help us to move forward to higher levels of success. Here’s a little insight into the way I do things: After I finish a project for a client or customer, I create a brief project closing document. In this document, I list what was involved with the project, a photo of the finished product if applicable, and I list off any challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned that cropped up. This helps me to continually improve my work process. 

Chiquet’s point is an important one – we need to rise beyond the labels we give things – both in our own lives and when looking at the opportunities and challenges that come our way.

How will you go beyond the label?

About Beyond the Label

• Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperBusiness (April 18, 2017)

The former global CEO of Chanel charts her unlikely path from literature major to global chief executive, guiding readers to move beyond the confines of staid expectations and discover their own true paths, strengths, and leadership values.

Driven. Shy. Leader. Wife. Mother. We live in a world of categories — labels designed to tell the world, and ourselves, who we are and ought to be. Some we may covet, others we may fear or disdain; but creating a life that’s truly your own, means learning to define yourself on your own terms.

In Beyond the Label, Maureen Chiquet charts her unlikely path from literature major to global chief executive. Sharing the inklings, risks and (re)defining moments that have shaped her exemplary career, Chiquet seeks to inspire a new generation of women, liberal arts grads, and unconventional thinkers to cultivate a way of living and leading that is all their own.

Through vivid storytelling and provocative insights, Chiquet guides readers to consider the pressing questions and inherent paradoxes of creating a successful, fulfilling life in today’s increasingly complex and competitive world.

“Why should we separate art from business, feelings from logic, intuition from judgment?” Chiquet poses. “Who decided you can’t be determined and flexible, introspective and attuned, mother and top executive? And where does it state standing unflinchingly in your vulnerability, embracing your femininity, won’t make you stronger?”

Wise, inspiring, and deeply felt, Beyond the Label is for anyone who longs for a life without limits on who she is or who she will become.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Maureen Chiquet

Maureen Chiquet began her career in marketing at L’Oreal Paris in 1985. She has worked at The Gap, helped launch Old Navy, and was president of Banana Republic before becoming COO and President of US operations of Chanel in 2003. In 2007 she became its first Global CEO, where she oversaw the business and brand’s world-wide expansion. She left Chanel in 2016 to focus on writing, speaking, and developing new leadership initiatives. She is a Trustee to the Yale Corporation and fellow of Yale University, where she graduated in 1985.

Book Review: The Compassionate Achiever by Christopher L. Kukk, Ph.D.

One of my other projects is a blog called “Activism My Way.” It’s a project I’m passionate about and that I’d love to work on more. I use the blog to encourage others to get involved in their communities and help others. I feel that being engaged in a community and doing service work is one of the important things that makes an individual well-rounded and can really propel an individual to success. Dr. Christopher L. Kukk has dedicated an entire book, The Compassionate Achiever, to achieving new heights of success through helping others. 

Kukk starts with the premise that compassion must be taught, and then outlines how to learn compassion. His book serves both as a study of compassion and how to develop it and a workbook with exercises that will help you to cultivate compassion within yourself.  For example, Kukk spends a section on open questions vs. closed questions to help develop your communication – and listening – skills. He gives a list of examples of each – and then asks that readers then convert their own closed questions into open questions. 

The Compassionate Achiever is a must-read for anyone who would like to expand his or her repertoire of success skills. In 2017, one of the best things we can do is help others. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who would like to cultivate compassion in themselves and in their team members. 

About The Compassionate Achiever

• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: HarperOne (March 7, 2017)

A powerful, practical guide for cultivating compassion—the scientifically proven foundation for personal achievement and success at work, at home, and in the community.

For decades, we’ve been told the key to prosperity is to look out for number one. But recent science shows that to achieve durable success, we need to be more than just achievers; we need to be compassionate achievers.

New research in biology, neuroscience, and economics have found that compassion—recognizing a problem or caring about another’s pain and making a commitment to help—not only improves others’ lives; it can transform our own. Based on the most recent studies from a wide range of fields, The Compassionate Achiever reveals the profound benefits of practicing compassion including more constructive relationships, improved intelligence, and increased resiliency. To help us achieve these benefits, Christopher L. Kukk, the founding Director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation, shares his unique 4-step program for cultivating compassion.

Kukk makes clear that practicing compassion isn’t about being a martyr or a paragon of virtue; it’s about rejecting rage and indifference and choosing instead to be a thoughtful, caring problem-solver. He identifies the skills every compassionate achiever should master—listening, understanding, connecting, and acting—and outlines how to develop each, with clear explanations, easy-to-implement strategies, actionable exercises, and real-world examples.

With the The Compassionate Achiever everyone wins—we can each achieve success in our own lives and create more productive workplaces, and healthier, less violent communities.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Christopher L. Kukk

Christopher L. Kukk, Ph.D., is a professor of political science and social science at Western Connecticut State University; founding director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation; and faculty advisor for the University and City of Compassion initiatives. He is also cofounder and CEO of InnovOwl LLC, a research and consulting start-up for solving micro and macro problems through innovative education. He was an international security fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a counterintelligence agent for the United States Army, and a research associate for Cambridge Energy Research Associates. He lives in Brookfield, Connecticut.

Find out more about Dr. Kukk at his website, and connect with him on Twitter.

Book Review: Extreme You

When you want to be successful, it’s important to find mentors and those you can learn from. Sarah Robb O’Hagan is one such person. She worked hard to get where she is, and she wants to help others climb the ladder of success. She talks about taking chances, letting go of pride, and proper planning. The great thing about her book, Extreme You is that she writes as though she’s talking to you over coffee or cocktails. This separates Extreme You from other books in this genre.  

The other thing I appreciate about Extreme You is that O’Hagan isn’t just some woman with a high-earning career. She’s also a mom, she’s someone who failed before she climbed the ladder, she’s a friend. It can be easy to dismiss women who are successful when you are a mother because you can say “but I can’t do that while I have young children” or “women can’t have it all.” Here’s someone who appears to have it all – at least from what I’ve read in the book and in the backstory. 

I recommend this to anyone who wants to get ahead and who is willing to put in the work necessary to be successful. 

About Extreme You

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: HarperBusiness (April 4, 2017)

“Every once in a while, you need someone standing by your shoulder, inspiring you, cheering you on, pushing you to go further. Sarah might be just the coach you’re looking for.”—Seth Godin, author of Linchpin

As a child, Sarah Robb O’Hagan dreamed she could be a champion. Her early efforts failed to reveal a natural superstar, but she refused to settle for average. Through dramatic successes and epic fails, she studied how extraordinary people in sports, entertainment and business set and achieve extremely personal goals. Sarah became an executive at Virgin Atlantic and Nike, and despite being fired twice in her twenties, she went on to become the global president of Gatorade and of Equinox—as well as a wife, mother, and endurance athlete.

In every challenging situation, personal or professional, individuals face the pressure to play it safe and conform to the accepted norms. But doing so comes with heavy costs: passions stifled, talents ignored, and opportunities squelched. The bolder choice is to embrace what Sarah calls Extreme You: to confidently bring all that is distinctive and relevant about yourself to everything you do.

Inspiring, surprising, and practical, Extreme You is her training program for becoming the best version of yourself.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Sarah Robb O’Hagan

Sarah Robb O’Hagan is an executive, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founder of Extreme You, a movement to unleash high performance. As the global president of Gatorade, she led its reinvention and turnaround, and she is the former president of Equinox Fitness Clubs. Named one of Forbes’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” she has also held leadership positions at Nike and Virgin Atlantic Airways.  She is now the CEO of the fitness company Flywheel Sports. A sought-after expert on innovation, brand reinvention, health, fitness, and inspiring human performance, Sarah lives with her family in New York.

Follow Sarah on Twitter, and check out the website for Extreme You.

Book Review: Head Strong by Dave Asprey

Years ago, in a galaxy far-far away known as junior college, I took a biological psychology class. In that class, we studied a lot of different things, but primarily focused on the brain and how its chemicals affected our personalities. It’s where I learned an overview of how to tell from a drawing if a child has been physically abused, and it was where I learned another tip that would serve me through my college years:

  • For optimal academic performance, be sure you’re in the same brain-state when you’re taking a test as you were when studying the material. If you had coffee while studying, be sure to have coffee while taking the test. If you were having a beer while studying, have a beer while taking the test. 

Now, it’s been some odd years since I took that class, so I don’t really remember the source of that advice – I can tell you that when it came to coffee, my favorite vice, I followed the advice. It appeared to hold true, but whether that is because of the coffee brain state or just because I studied well remains to be proven.

All that said, when I was offered the opportunity to review Head Strong by Dave Asprey, I was excited to take advantage of the opportunity. I am always looking for good ways to boost my brain power and be more productive, and Asprey promises results in two weeks. 

In the chapter on brain fuel, I was happy to see that my beloved coffee made the top of the list. I do kind of worry about the section on ketosis. During that alternate life in junior college, I also took a nutrition class. Ketosis is not a good thing, it’s a malnourished state. I know ketogenic diets and carb-cutting diets are very popular here in the United States, but it’s important to note that whether it is safe to induce this state is something that is highly debated among medical professionals. Taking ketosis too far can cause the breakdown of organs and muscle tissue, coma, and even death. Now, Asprey does mention that ketones can cause muscle damage. My advice? I’ve taken just one class on nutrition. It was years ago. I’m not up on the latest research. If you plan on inducing ketosis in order to create more brain energy, PLEASE check with your family doctor first.

He also has a chapter on foods to avoid. MSG, GMOs, Flouride, and other things I avoid because of their affects on my body and brain are in this chapter. For some people, they may call pseudoscience, but I have found if I avoid the things he talks about in this chapter, I do indeed feel better. 

The book is worth checking out and reading. I’m even more curious about trying bulletproof coffee (Apsrey happens to be the creator of the stuff) after reading it. I recommend it with the caveat that you may want to check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to diet. The book does have some great recipes and some good exercise routines for those without a lot of time. 

About Head Strong

• Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper Wave (April 4, 2017)

From the creator of Bulletproof Coffee and author of the bestselling The Bulletproof Diet comes a revolutionary plan to upgrade your brainpower—in two weeks or less.

For the last decade, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey has worked with world-renowned doctors and scientists to uncover the latest, most innovative methods for making humans perform better—a process known as “biohacking.” In his first book, The Bulletproof Diet, he shared his biohacking tips for taking control of your own biology. Now, in Head Strong, Asprey shows readers how to biohack their way to a sharper, smarter, faster, more resilient brain.

Imagine feeling like your mind is operating at its clearest and sharpest, and being able—possibly for the first time in your life—to do more in less time? What it suddenly became easier to do the very hardest things you do? Or if you could feel 100% confident about your intellect, and never again fear being the person in the room who just isn’t smart enough, or can’t remember something important? How would you treat people if the mood swings, short temper, and food cravings that disrupt your day could simply disappear?

In Head Strong, Asprey shows us that all of this is possible—and more. Using his simple lifestyle modifications (or “hacks”) to take advantage of how the structure of your brain works, readers will learn how to take their mental performance to the next level. Combining the latest findings in neuroscience and neurobiology with a hacker-inspired “get it done now” perspective, Asprey offers a program structured around key areas of brain performance that will help you:

  • Power the brain with exactly what it needs to perform at its best all day long
  • Eliminate the sources of “kryptonite,” both nutritional and environmental, that make the brain slower.
  • Supercharge the cellular powerhouses of our brains, the mitochondria, to eliminate cravings and turn up mental focus.
  • Reverse inflammation to perform better right now, then stay sharp and energized well into your golden years.
  • Promote neuron growth to enhance processing speed and reinforce new learning—hotwiring your brain for success.

Asprey’s easy to follow, two-week program offers a detailed plan to supercharge brain performance, including: which foods to eat and which ones to avoid, how to incorporate the right kinds of physical activity into your day, a detox protocol for your home and body; meditation and breathing for performance, recommended brain-boosting supplements; and how to adjust the lighting in your home and work space to give your brain the quality light it thrives on.

A better brain—and a happier, easier, more productive life—is within reach. You just need to get Head Strong.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Dave Asprey

DAVE ASPREY, founder of the Bulletproof Executive blog, is a Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur who spent fifteen years and over $300,000 learning to hack his own biology. Dave lost one hundred pounds without counting calories or doing excessive exercise; upgraded his IQ by more than twenty points; and lowered his biological age–all the while learning to sleep better in less time. Mastering these seemingly impossible things transformed him into a better entrepreneur, a better husband and a better father. Dave’s blog reaches 1.5 million unique monthly visitors, and his #1 ranked podcast has been downloaded 5 million times.

You can also connect with Dave on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Book Review: 1001 Ways to Slow Down by Barbara Ann Kipfer

#73 “Look at beautiful photography.”

#235 “Remember, life is funny.”

#551 “If you are always ahead of schedule, then there is no need to rush.”

#831 “Take control of the information overload. What do you really want to read, reply to, or watch on TV?”

#900 “Sit quietly with a blank canvas or notebook. Wait until you are moved to act, then paint or write, guided by your soul.” 

What do the above quotes have in common? They are all pulled from Barbara Ann Kipfer’s latest list book, 1001 Ways to Slow Down. Let’s face it, we could all use a little more downtime. At least, I know I can. There are always things coming at me at 40,000 miles an hour (or so) from every direction. I figured, when offered the opportunity to review this book, that it would be a good book for me to look at. I could definitely use ideas for ways to slow down.

Oddly enough, just before reading this book, Wining Husband and I were having a conversation about how different life seems for us than it seemed looking at our parents growing up. Perhaps some of that was that we were kids, and our parents were parents, but it feels like life has sped up a whole lot since the 80s and 90s. There are more expectations and more obligations. There seems to be less leisure time – even for kids and teenagers. It’s like the bar was raised so that no matter how high you reach, it’s just out of reach. It’s like being on a hamster wheel.

Granted, some of this is brought on by ourselves. We have high expectations for ourselves. We choose to do a lot of things outside of the house to expose our kids to a lot of different experiences. We chose to have me work as well so we could afford to support a more flexible lifestyle. There is a lot of juggling involved, I’ve had to do my best at becoming a master of schedules, time management, and multi-tasking. 

That’s why books like 1001 Ways to Slow Down are so important! When you’re constantly moving at the speed of light, you’re going to get burnout. And nobody likes burnout. It can wreak havoc on a life, career, and family.  Kipfer’s book provides nice reminders and good tips for slowing down long enough to actually smell the roses we’ve planted in our yards. 

#662 “Take your time. It is your time, and it is up to you what you do with it.”

#882 “Pausing means expanding into the moment instead of feeling cramped by it.” 

#667 “Do not needlessly occupy your mind. Just be.”

About 1,001 Ways to Slow Down

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 28, 2017)

This irresistible list book from National Geographic provides lighthearted quick hits of inspiration for those of us who feel overwhelmed—which is to say, all of us. Musings, activity suggestions, and illuminating quotes are paired with whimsical art on themes such as living in the moment, achieving balance, relieving stress, developing patience, and appreciating the world around us. “Slow living” sidebars, such as “Foods to Cook Slowly” and “Things to Do the Old-Fashioned Way,” are interspersed throughout the book.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Barbara Ann Kipfer

Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is the author of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About and the Page-a-Day calendars based on it. She has written more than 60 books, including 1,001 Ways to Live Wild, The Order of Things, Self-Meditation, Instant Karma, 8,789 Words of Wisdom, The Wish List, and 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone, and she edited Roget’s International Thesaurus. She holds PhDs in linguistics, archaeology, and Buddhist studies. Dr. Kipfer is the Chief Lexicographer of Temnos and has worked for such companies as Answers.com, Ask Jeeves, and Dictionary.com.

Book Review: May Cause Love

In 1997, on New Years Eve, I found myself staring at a second line on a pregnancy test. I was 20 years old, living with a schmuck, not quite divorced from the other schmuck I’d left after a enduring lot of abuse in our on again-off-again high school relationship, working part time at a bookstore, and taking time off from college, which I had started at 17.  Life had moved pretty fast since I’d turned 17, and it wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down. 

I knew immediately what my choice was, looking at that stick. I’d been told a couple years earlier that I’d probably never have children (HA! I know). I’d never had a positive test before. I took a deep breath, looked at schmuck number 2, and said “Well, it looks like we’re having a baby.” He looked back at me, and promptly replied “You’re having an abortion.”  The next day, we went to Planned Parenthood. I took another test there to confirm that I was pregnant.  It was most certainly confirmed. They gave me a bunch of prenatal vitamins to take and told me to make sure to sign up for WIC, so that as my next step. Schmuck was not happy.

Two weeks later, after my first OBGYN appointment, after hearing the fetal heartbeat, he still insisted that my choice ought to be to end the pregnancy. When I refused, he picked me up, and threw me into a wall, trying to cause me to have a miscarriage. Needless to say, I left him. I was much stronger then than I was with schmuck number 1. I had made my decision, and that was to carry that fetus to term. That fetus is now 18 years old, is graduating high school, and will  be attending a private college on multiple scholarships in the fall. 

That was my choice. My choice isn’t for everyone. I chose to be a single mom. I chose to have a baby that would be raised without the presence of a father-figure.

Pregnancy transforms you, whether you wind up staying pregnant or not. In 2000, I sat staring at a second positive test. I was in the middle of a semester after having finally returned to college. I was in a decent relationship with someone who probably values-wise was not the best match, but that wasn’t really apparent at the time. I made the same decision – to continue the pregnancy. I was torn. It was very emotional for me. I was embarrassed that I once again wasn’t married and that I was pregnant.  However, I did not wind up carrying that fetus to term. Instead, I went through the heart-wrenching experience of miscarriage when a pregnancy isn’t exactly being celebrated.  

Both experiences changed me. Two children and a fifth pregnancy later, I still wonder “What if” when it comes to the miscarriage. 

Kassi Underwood was faced with a similar decision when she was nineteen. She was in a much different situation. She was struggling with alcoholism, she did not live close to family. She did not have a good support system. She was lost and afraid and struggling. She chose to go to the abortion clinic and end her pregnancy. Once she went through it, she too was transformed. 

Underwood chronicles her transformation in the book, May Cause Love. She endures a downward spiral – drinking more alcohol and talking about her pregnancy with anyone who would listen. She wound up falling into a depression sparked by guilt and the birth of her ex-boyfriend’s baby with someone else.  She does so with a frankness that I think is important in a story like this. As I read, I could really feel how her decision affected her, every day, through re-living it as she went about her daily business, through her attempts to move past it, through her interactions with those having babies. She talks about the hard stuff – the stuff people tend to veer away from in conversations about choice. She writes about what it’s like to both know that she made the decision she felt was best for the situation she was in and to be deeply affected by that decision long after the fact.

And then, she sets out to do something, anything, to change how she feels and to move past the abortion and pregnancy. Her story is gritty, it is real, and it shows the depth for healing that we have as humans. It “goes there.” At times, the book was hard for me to read, but I kept reading. The voice and style she uses to communicate her transformation is engaging and rich.

And I suggest this book to all – even if her decision was one you may not feel was the right decision. We learn empathy and about the inner stories of others through listening to them tell us their stories. And while her choice was not my choice, it was a choice that transformed her – and it was a choice that ultimately led to love. And it’s a story told as if you are sitting across from the author in a cafe. 

About May Cause Love

• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: HarperOne (February 14, 2017)

In this powerful memoir, a fiercely honest and surprisingly funny testament to healing after abortion, a young woman travels across the United States to meet a motley crew of spiritual teachers and a caravan of new friends.

At age nineteen, Kassi Underwood discovered she was pregnant. Broke, unwed, struggling with alcohol, and living a thousand miles away from home, she checked into an abortion clinic.

While her abortion sparked her “feminist awakening,” she also felt lost and lawless, drinking to oblivion and talking about her pregnancy with her parents, her friends, strangers-anyone.

Three years later, just when she had settled into a sober life at her dream job, the ex-boyfriend with whom she had become pregnant had a baby with someone else. She shattered. In the depths of a blinding depression, Kassi refused to believe that she would “never get over” her abortion. Inspired by rebellious women in history who used spiritual practices to attain emotional freedom, Kassi embarked on a journey of recovery after abortion-a road trip with pit stops at a Buddhist “water baby” ritual, where she learns a new way to think about lost pregnancies; a Roman Catholic retreat for abortion that turns out to be staffed with clinic picketers; a crash course in grief from a Planned Parenthood counselor; a night in a motel with a “Midwife for the Soul” who teaches her how to take up space; and a Jewish “wild woman” celebration led by a wise and zany rabbi.

Dazzling with warmth and leavened by humor, May Cause Love captures one woman’s journey of self-discovery that enraged her, changed her, and ultimately enlightened her.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Kassi Underwood

Kassi Underwood grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. Her work has been published in the New York Times, The Atlantic online, The Rumpus, and Refinery29. She holds an MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University, where she taught on the faculty of the Undergraduate Writing Program. She has been a guest on MSNBC and HuffPost Live, and a speaker at colleges, comedy shows, and faith communities nationwide. Kassi lectures about personal transformation, social justice, and the spirituality of abortion. She is a student at Harvard Divinity School and cohost of the podcast Spiritually Blonde.

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

TLC Tours Book Review: All Summer Long by Dorothea Benton Frank

As long-time blog readers know, two years ago come July, we moved from Northern California to Southeastern Kansas. What a transition that has been! While I do get homesick, I also really enjoy how family-friendly Wichita has been and how much further a dollar goes here than in California. Life is also not quite so fast-paced, kids are kids longer, and since we came from a small college town to a city, there’s no shortage of things to do on the weekends. In Dorothea Benton Frank’s All Summer Long, main character Olivia Ritchie also makes a big moving transition.

Olivia’s move, however is even more of a contrast than California to Kansas. She follows her husband from Manhattan to Charleston, South Carolina. Naturally, it takes some time for Olivia to adjust to life in the south. One of the great things about Dorothea Benton Frank’s storytelling ability is that she puts you right into the scene with the characters through the way she paints pictures with her words. The author was born in Sullivans Island, South Carolina and now resides in New York – meaning that she has special authority for the places she writes about in this novel. As we progress with Olivia and her husband, Nick, through the novel, we learn more about their marriage, their wealthy friends, and how a perspective can change once you leave your comfort zone. 

About All Summer Long

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 7, 2017)

Filled with her trademark wit, poignant themes, and rich characters, the perennial New York Times bestselling author returns with a sensational novel that follows the travels of one couple though a tumultuous summer.

Dorothea Benton Frank’s magical stories take us deep into the heart of her beloved Carolina Lowcountry. In her novels, this lush landscape comes alive in all its vibrancy and color. She ignites all of our senses with her vivid descriptions of landscape and atmosphere. In her novels you hear the ocean washing the shore on different islands so profoundly that you can nearly hear the sea gulls squawking, too.

This is a story of people whose lives are changing—a southern gentleman returning home to lead a more peaceful life and his talented New York wife who is not quite sure she is ready to make the transition. They are moving north to south, fast pace versus slow pace, downsizing. And while they are doing this, they are getting glimpses into other people’s lives over the course of a summer, holidays that will amuse, shock and transform them.

This irresistible story is home to captivating characters as funny, complicated, and real as our best friends—husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, friends and family who wrestle with the complexities, pain, and joys familiar to us all.

Finally, we’ll come to recognize the face of love, the kind that deepens and endures but only because one woman makes a tremendous leap of faith. That leap changes them all.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Dorothea Benton Frank

New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Find her on the web at www.dotfrank.com, or like her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

Book Blitz: Darkstorm

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Blitz~ Darkstorm
Author: M.L. Spencer
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Dates: 24th of March
Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours

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Blurb:

Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages resolves to open the gateway to Hell. The only mages who stand a chance of opposing them are Sephana Clemley and her acolyte, Merris Bryar, along with their protectors, Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship.

Will Braden and Quin be able to protect Sephana and Merris long enough to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to manipulation and become darkmages themselves?

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↓Buy Links↓
https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

Author Bio:

M.L. SPENCER
M.L. Spencer grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen. Her debut novel Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy. She was also awarded 1st Place Prose in in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration.

Ms. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. She is now in the process of expanding the Rhenwars Saga into a trilogy.
Visit her at:

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Book Review: All the News I Need by Joan Frank

My favorite thing about reading is when an author weaves his or her words together to create a movie in my mind. Joan Frank does this exact thing in All the News I Need. Even within the first few pages of this novel, the verisimilitude she creates with her words woven together is quite poetic:

Opens his eyes. Eucalyptus branches. Pearl mist evaporating as he watches, apertures of baby blue. Brine-breath from the beach. Medicine tang of leaves, acorns.

Rubs his cold hands. Should’ve used more lotion this morning. (p.4)

The language in All The News I Need isn’t the only reason that one should pick up a copy of this novel. The tight-knit story delves into the emotions of loss and loneliness while one is surrounded by people. We all have had those times where we’re in a city full of people but still feel like the only ones there. (Or at least, I have had times when I feel like I’m the only person in a room full of talkative people. I just assume others have too!) 

In the midst of their pain, the main characters Frances Ferguson, a snarky widow, and Oliver Gaffney, a seriously introverted gay guy, decide to head to Paris together. This results in a crazy adventure that challenges both of them at their core – especially since they are each so dedicated to their own lives and rituals. 

If you’re looking for a beautifully written novel that gets to the core of some of the deeper questions we experience as people living in a world filled with other people, this book comes highly recommended. Get inside the heads of her characters, enjoy the beautiful word-music, and indulge yourself in this literary work. 

About All the News I Need

• Paperback: 210 pages
• Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (January 17, 2017)

All The News I Need probes the modern American response to inevitable, ancient riddles—of love and sex and mortality.

Frances Ferguson is a lonely, sharp-tongued widow who lives in the wine country. Oliver Gaffney is a painfully shy gay man who guards a secret and lives out equally lonely days in San Francisco. Friends by default, Fran and Ollie nurse the deep anomie of loss and the creeping, animal betrayal of aging. Each loves routine but is anxious that life might be passing by. To crack open this stalemate, Fran insists the two travel together to Paris. The aftermath of their funny, bittersweet journey suggests those small changes, within our reach, that may help us save ourselves—somewhere toward the end.

Praise

“Joan Frank has gifted us with two unforgettable characters in a novel filled to bursting with hard truths and shimmering beauty.” —Bob Wake, Cambridge Book Review

Joan Frank is a human insight machine.” —Carolyn Cooke

“I will be quoting her ‘rules for aging’ at many dinner parties!” —Natalie Serber

Purchase Links

University of Massachusetts Press | Amazon*

Joan FrankAbout Joan Frank

Joan Frank is the author of five books of fiction and a collection of essays on the writing life. She lives in Northern California with her husband, playwright Bob Duxbury. Visit her at www.joanfrank.org.

*This is an affiliate link; making a purchase using this link will give me a small commission at no additional cost to yourself. Such purchases help me to support my family and keep this blog running. 

Eat More Pie! Ideas for a Spectacular Pi Day

National Pi Day PiesIt’s National Pi Day y’all, and if you sit around and talk to my husband enough about pie, he is likely to tell you about the time he tried to teach a Furby to say “Eat more pie.” Today is a great day to follow that suggestion. Whole Foods is offering $3.14 off the costs of pies from their bakery and their take and bake pizzas. We’ll be picking up one of their pies…and taking advantage of a local Italian restaurant’s $3.14 Pi Day special. 

Meanwhile, there are lots of good pie recipes out there for those who want to make their own pie (something I’d totally be doing if I didn’t know in advance today was going to be crazy busy). Here are some of my favorite recipes – for National Pi Day – or any day.

Cooking Light’s Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Image courtesy of Cooking Light

I made this pie for the first time this past Thanksgiving. Cooking Light’s Peanut Butter Pie recipe was, I think, my second-favorite pie that I’d made. This pie was light, fluffy, and delivered that peanut-butter flavor that we all love to find in the middle of chocolate-peanut butter cups.

I did make some adjustments when making this pie. Every ingredient was organic, including the whipped topping substitute (they have a really tasty coconut-based whipped topping.) 

This pie is really quick to make – and the recipe makes two – so you can have one today for Pi Day and another in a few days (if your pie makes it that long). 

Coconut Cream Pie 

Coconut Cream Pie

Image courtesy of Cooking Light

Anyone who knows me knows that coconut cream is my absolute favorite pie. Why not make a coconut cream pie, like this one from Cooking Light, for your Pi Day enjoyment? I LOVE this recipe – especially since it uses a vanilla bean rather than vanilla extract.

You can leave off the meringue, if desired I did because I’m pregnant and in addition to avoiding wine, I should be avoiding meringue (and, well, puddings and custards if we’re honest – BUT – I figured the meringue was pushing it more.) 

Because many of the commercial brands of coconut have added preservatives, I chose to use an unsweetened brand that I soaked in a simple syrup before toasting. Let me tell you, that was delicious!

Yogurt Pie with Grape and Black-Pepper Compote

Yogurt Pie with Grape and Black Pepper Compote

Image courtesy of Bon Appetite

Before you write this off, stay with me for a moment. This pie was delicious. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say this is a great ending for a meal that is delicate – like a whitefish main dish. It also would be great paired with a Riesling or even a Gewurztraminer or Ice Wine.

This yogurt pie from Bon Appetite is both unique and delicious. It comes highly recommended. I used Mi-Del’s organic ginger snaps for the crust, and they worked really well!

Strawberry Pie

Strawberry Pie

Image courtesy of Inspired Taste

I haven’t tried this pie yet, but it looks amazing and I saw that organic strawberries are coming into the store now. I have some strawberries. I also have pre-made pie crusts and some of that coconut whipped topping I mentioned. This just may get made today. 

While Inspired Taste’s strawberry pie uses a homemade pie crust, I don’t see why you can’t use a pre-made one if you have one available. That way, you can focus only on making the inside of the pie – and that looks delicious!

What’s Your Favorite Pie for National Pi Day?

Please share your favorite National Pi Day pie recipes in the comments. I’m always looking for pies to pin to my Pinterest boards!

 

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