Source: complimentary review copy


Book Review: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

November 19, 2015 Book Review 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Magic Strings of Frankie PrestoThe Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
Published by Harper on November 10th 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 512
Source: complimentary review copy


Having read all of Mitch Albom’s books, I was looking forward to his newest release, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.  Mitch Albom has a way with storytelling that can completely immerse one into the lives of his characters.  His novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven I still hand out to friends and loved ones. It’s one of those books I’m an immense champion for and believe everyone should read.  along with Have a Little Faith. oh, and Tuesdays With Morrie. Haha! can you tell I love his books?


The secret is not to make your music louder, but to make the world quieter.

World-renowned musician, Frankie Presto, has just passed away in the most public of fashions – was it murder? or something else entirely?  “Music,” as the narrator, takes the opportunity to interview several important guests to Frankie Presto’s funeral {and influential in his life} sharing the story of Frankie’s life – how he became the musician and the man.

The book is filled with music references to both the actual playing of music and the musicians beloved by many. If you play music or just enjoy listening to music, especially classical, then you’ll feel right at home amongst the pages.  The entire book is a metaphor as to how music has the ability to heal.

Do not let go of your own music, chava. Or you will let go of yourself.

The storytelling aspect of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is in typical Albom genius.  Each chapter leaves you wanting to learn more. Albom has the ability to reveal the motivations and inner recesses of the mind in a way that keeps you quickly turning the pages; however……personally, I did not like the narrator.  Music as the narrator was a bit confusing and frustrating and the music references went right over my head.  The story is great. The life lessons are superb. It’s simply the narrator did not work for me.

Have you read a book you expected to love but found the narrator to be annoying or obtrusive?

To see what other bloggers had to say about The Magic Strings follow along the blog tour.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for inclusion in the Book Tour!

tlc tour host


What does The Shining Have to do with The Night Sister?

October 2, 2015 Book Review 2

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

What does The Shining Have to do with The Night Sister?The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Doubleday on August 4th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 322
Format: Hardcover
Source: complimentary review copy


The first and only time I saw the movie “The Shining” I got to the part with the little kid on the tricycle and had to leave the room. . .I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to horror.  Add a creepy hotel and Jack Nicholson and to this day I have nightmares of “Red Rum!”

But. I’m human enough to thoroughly enjoy scaring myself to death. Having read The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon I knew I had to read her latest, The Night Sister.  Set in a creepy motel in rural Vermont with a replica of the London Tower at the entrance, The Night Sister has location, location, location in spades.  The setting drew me in and swept me along even more so than the characters.  Jennifer McMahon is a master at setting up an atmosphere of spooky without depending on blood and gore.

I was reminded of the old “Dark Shadows” episodes while I was reading The Night Sister – well, “Dark Shadows” and “The Shining!”  The book gives you that sense of dark and foreboding.  The characters were lightly drawn but engaging.  At times it was a little difficult to keep up with who was who but the plot kept me flipping pages as fast as I could.

If you’re looking for a creepy, atmospheric, plot-driven novel for your October reads, definitely pick up The Night Sister.  Then come back and tell me at one point you figured out who killed the family in the opening pages!

Linking up to Jenn’s Bookshelves for Murder, Monsters, Mayhem and the R.I.P. X challenge.

R.I.P. X

Many thanks to Doubleday Books for the review copy.

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Secrets Revealed in The Admissions

September 7, 2015 Book Review 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Secrets Revealed in The AdmissionsThe Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore
Published by Doubleday on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy


The Admissions reveals the inner-workings of an upscale family living in a prized suburb of San Francisco.  Seventeen year old Angela is the beloved first-born to Nora and Gabe.  She’s been groomed since the age of two for a college career at Harvard.  When the story begins Angela has just begun her senior year of high school.  She is the anticipated valedictorian, runs competitive cross-country, participates in a myriad of extra-curricular activities and is getting her college application ready to submit.  Ten year old Cecily is a talented Irish dance competitor and the peacemaker of the family.  Eight year old Maya is in second grade, but she still cannot read, much to her family’s chagrin.

With each chapter focusing on a different character, The Admissions slowly builds to a denouement that leaves no one in the family unscathed.  Thoroughly enjoyable, shocking on some accounts ~ did you know that some high school students and their parents hire summer overseers to plan the best use of the student’s summer? To the point of recommending a student bypass family vacation so he or she can squeeze in one more activity that will look good on college applications?

Although I’m a huge fan of long books, this one came in at only 320 pages but felt longish.  Normally the longer the better, but in this case, I wanted to know what happened to the family.  The introduction is shocking and left me anxious to discover what happened, but it took about 3/4 of the novel to get to the point where I learned the outcome.  So, while not necessarily a bad thing, I kept getting impatient.  BUT I resisted reading the ending first.  I sure wanted to though!

One side note that I very much loved about The Admissions ~ Angela is in an AP Honors Lit class and is constantly using SAT words to replace cliched phrases and average words.  I learned a few new words just reading The Admissions; words like piquantengagingly provocative; indefatigableincapable of being fatigued; ignominydeep, personal humiliation and disgrace. {definitions from Merriam-Webster}

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Recommended for readers who enjoyed Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford or Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple or warm, humorous, modern-day family dramas.  The Admissions will have you looking at your own family problems in a whole new way.   It will also have you reminding family members that the fall out from any secret kept is much worse than the fallout from admitting something up front.  The takeaways from this novel are spot on!  I know I was thankful to a. not live in an upscale suburb of San Francisco, b. not be a teenager ever. ever. again. and c. that all families have problems, just different ones.

Learn more about the author at

The Admissions is included in the She Reads “Books of Fall.”  Visit to read what other bloggers are saying.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me a copy to review.




Book Review: Rising Strong

September 3, 2015 Book Review 4

Book Review: Rising StrongRising Strong by Brené Brown
Published by Spiegel & Grau on August 25th 2015
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy


To say that I am awed by Brene Brown would be an understatement.  Her compassion, knowledge and sheer storytelling ability have me captivated.  I’ve seen her TED talks on shame and vulnerability at least a dozen times; taken her online wholeheartedness workshop; and read all of her books, most recently, Rising Strong.  

The genius of Brene’s book is her ability to weave stories through the teaching of critical new information.  She has her ‘writing voice’ down and it’s so relatable, so humble and at times so raw.  The personal stories she shares in Rising Strong to illustrate the process of becoming wholehearted are the epitome of vulnerability.  She practices what she preaches.

Having read The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, I knew Rising Strong would be filled with valuable insight. Although I learn best by reading, the new concepts have taken lots and lots of practice to implement.  I still have to go back and re-read sections to be sure I truly understand.  I’m big on lists and steps so having the steps written out for me would have made learning the rising strong concept much easier {I think}.

Reckoning is HOW we walk into our story.

Rumble is to get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness. Rumbling with these topics and moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts and feelings, and behaviors gives birth to key learning about who we are and how we engage with others. The rumble is where wholeheartedness is cultivated and change begins.

Brene uses the quote below as an analogy throughout Rising Strong.  If we allow ourselves that moment when we are face down in the ring to rumble, to get real with the stories we tell ourselves; to silence the self-talk we inflict upon ourselves then we shall be on our way to becoming wholehearted.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Wow.  Reading those words out loud to yourself is like a pep talk from the greatest coach of all time!  Makes me want to dare greatly more!

As the self-proclaimed queen of disengaging and blocking things out practicing this process has been quite eye-opening to me.  Below is the list I made to satisfy my list-making craze:

Rising Strong Steps
1.  Recognize that something is going on within ~ I’m feeling wonky ~ sad, angry, resentful, etc.
2.  What story am I making up about the situation? What conspiracy or confabulation have I invented about the situation? {isn’t that the best word ever? confabulation!}
3.  Figure out what my key learnings are by analyzing the story I make up.
4.  Moving from process to practice = revolution.

I can see Rising Strong becoming an integral course for psychology, sociology and social work majors. It truly would be revolutionary if as individuals, families, employees and leaders we would internalize the process and change the stories we tell ourselves to what is actually true and real. I may be telling myself that you are angry because you’re being quiet and withdrawn when in actuality you are thinking in your head about building a deck. If I had acted on the story in my head and gotten angry or upset because I thought you were angry or upset then the day would have been ruined. may or may not be based on an actual recent occurrence 😉

This book, in fact, all three books should be required reading.
Do yourself a favor and read it. and share it. and do it. revolutionize your life.

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Book Review: The Ambassador’s Wife

August 6, 2015 Book Review 3

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

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


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

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

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

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

Learn more about Jennifer Steil Website | Facebook | Twitter

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