April 30, 2015

Born to Blog by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith

Born to Blog by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith
ISBN: 9780071811163
Trade Paperback

Launch a business and ignite a movement with a powerhouse blog! "Born to Blog" is filled with practical, street-smart techniques and ideas to help you create and manage a winning business blog. Learn how to attract a loyal following, promote your blog, and write powerful content that generates new business.

This book had some helpful tips for bloggers. Although I did enjoy this book and made a few notes for the future, it was not quite what I was expecting it to be. It was geared more towards business blogging and I was hoping for more about personal blogging. If you are looking for a book to help you build your business's blog then this is the book for you. I plan on re-reading this book in the future and make some more notes.  

Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay

Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay
Library Lover's Mystery #2
ISBN: 9780425246689
Mass Market Paperback

What is the original meaning of the word clue?

Answering tricky reference questions like this one is more than enough excitement for library director Lindsey Norris. That is, until another murder is committed in her cozy hometown of Briar Creek, Connecticut, and the question of who did it must be answered before someone else is check out - for good. 

Carrie Rushton, the president of the Friends of the Library, has been accused of murdering her husband. The evidence is stacking up against Carrie, but neither Lindsey nor the Briar Creek crafternoon club is buying it. 

When a nor'easter buries the small coastal town, the police are too busy digging out the locals to investigate the murder. With the help of her crafternoon friends and an abandoned puppy they nae Heathcliff, Lindsey has to solve the question of who murdered Mr. Rushton before the killer closes the book on Carrie. 

This was another great book by Jenn McKinlay. I enjoyed reading about the next adventure of Lindsey in her cozy town of Briar Creek.  Carrie is elected as the president of the Friends of the Library and while the election was going on her husband is killed. Now Lindsey is out to try and help her friend by figuring out who the killer is. In the process things happen to Lindsey and now it seems the killer is out to get her as well. Then the storm of the year hits but that does not stop anything. I won't say anything about the book as I do not want to give anything away. I am looking forward to the next book in this series. 

The Artisan's Star by Gabriella Contestablie - Review/Interview and Giveaway

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

The Artisan's Star by Gabriella Contestablie
ISBN: 9780996058506

Book Description:
Elio Barati’s perfumery shop in Florence marks its entrance with a mosaic star. This shop immerses Elio in the artisanal world he loves, but he harbors a regret. As a young man he created a full-fledged perfume of jasmine, iris, and cypress at the renowned Ecole des Parfumeurs in Grasse—a fragrance his idealism and stubbornness boxed away before ever bringing it to light.

A second star now brightens Elio’s life, his daughter Romina, an artist. She has her father’s unrealized talent, a precise and intuitive sense of smell. She's also inherited more challenging traits of Elio's: unbridled ambition and an insatiable wonder for the world.

But changes ripple through modern-day Florence. Artisan traditions wane; and when Romina tells her father she has no intention of running the family business Elio fights to hold on to the Florence he cherishes. Confronting the lost opportunities of his youth, Elio is thrust into this journey by five spirited women: his Greek mother, Elena; his mentor Palma; his soul mate, Marina; his astronomer wife, Sofia; and finally his beautiful artist daughter, who like the city of her birth, shows him how tradition and modernity can and must co-exist.

Now he must alter his own path by harnessing the transformative powers of the fine and artisanal arts.

I enjoyed this book about a family and their perfume business. I have to say that I am a sucker for books set in Italy. Since I can’t travel there right now I can use a book to help me transport myself there. The author’s writing style made me feel as if I was a part of this book. She also did a good job with the character development and the descriptions of the scenes. I could feel as if I was a part of this story, smell each smell walking down the streets of Florence, see all the shops and taste all the food. I could tell the author did her research in the perfume making business as you could feel as if you were a part of it.  I enjoyed hearing about Elio’s story. One other thing I liked was how it went from the characters childhood to old age with no trouble at all. If you are looking for a book that will take you on a virtual journey then I suggest picking this book up. 

Author's Bio:
Gabriella Contestabile is an author, educator, and owner of SU MISURA JOURNEYS, a boutique travel company connecting people to the artisans of Florence. She emigrated, with her parents, from Italy to New York City in 1959. In her pre-writer life, she worked as a foreign language teacher, management development specialist, and fragrance/cosmetics executive. Gabriella is a strong advocate of the arts, of multiculturalism, and of social justice—a passion inspired by reading Dickens and Dante at a very young age. She has been an active volunteer with Dress for Success for over eight years and is a member of the Slow Food NYC Food and Farm Policy Task Force. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, her daughter, her mom, and a furry Shih–Tzu named Oreo. ‘ The Artisan’s Star’ is her first novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, also set in Italy, and a screenplay.

Connect with Gabriella: Website  Twitter  Amazon Author Page  ~  Su Misura  ~  Facebook

Where to buy the book:
Barnes & Noble

1.What made you write a book about Florence, perfume?
My journey was not unlike Elio’s. It was a confluence of experiences; reading “The Passionate Sightseer” at a young age, childhood trips to Florence with my parents, all the books on Michelangelo, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Leonardo Da Vinci given to me by my parents and my teachers, and finally a career that celebrated the artisanship and quality of life inherent in Florence and in Grasse, the art of perfumery, and the relevance of art in shaping human insight and compassion. While I’d always dreamed of being a writer I chose other careers (language teacher, business executive) to pay the bills. But they were all related in some way. I was still able to explore, imagine, and write about the places, people and ideas that inspired me. All those experiences were like the rays in the artisan’s star, with Florence in the center. I wish I could say I went about this, Sofia style, with a pragmatic plan and great organizational skills. I didn’t. I just went where my curiosity took me and for some strange reason it all came together in the end.

2. You categorize your book as ‘general fiction’ or ‘women’s fiction’. If it’s women’s fiction why did you choose a male protagonist?
While Elio is the central character his past, present and future are very much shaped by the multiple female influences in his life, from Elena, his mother to Romina, his daughter. Women are multi-faceted, always growing and re-inventing themselves, and they are key influencers, not only in their family and in community circles, but in the larger societal order. Think Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s superb book,“Half the Sky”, where we learn how women, once empowered, change entire villages.

Each of the women in Elio’s world has a defined vision of her own, and it’s just that clarity and determination that break Elio’s stubbornness. Women are tremendously powerful because of their insights, because they problem-solve differently than men and, in many respects, because they are less afraid of change.

3. If you could go back in time, where would you go?

  • Paris in the 20s with Josephine Baker, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Matisse, Bunuel. I loved Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It reminded me of all the reasons I chose to major in French in college.
  • The late 1800s in New York or London
  • And of course Renaissance Florence

4. What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you?
This felt like a dream. My husband and I were in Venice in winter. It was a foggy, snowy night and we got on the boat to go back to our hotel. Suddenly the boat swerved away from the canal towards a dock. Two people stepped in, a man with blonde hair and very high cheekbones, wearing a tuxedo, and a black cape. A stylish, regal woman in red taffeta, also wearing a black cape sat in front of us, the hood of her cape fluttering in the very harsh wind. The man stood, rested his leg on the hull of the boat and looked out over the canal. They didn’t seem fazed by the cold. They looked as if they’d just stepped out of a movie set.

To make it even more surreal, the boat driver eventually veered away from the canal, deeper into the fog, towards another dock. I heard music; the fog in front of us cleared and out of it rose the façade of a palazzo. There were lights from chandeliers, voices, more music, maybe glasses clinking. The boat stopped. The beautiful cinematic couple got off, their capes swirling in the wind, and disappeared into the fog. That night I went to sleep wondering if I’d dreamt it all. But my pragmatic husband confirms it to this day. What a glorious way to experience Venice. But then, every time I visit Venice something mystical happens.

5. If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I’m passionate about the arts and arts education for every individual child and for the future of our planet. Today, as societies become more divisive we need the arts to enlighten and unite us. We live many lives when we read. Virginia Woolf wrote, “As a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”

So many of my life’s choices and perspective were informed by literature, and travels, connecting with people in different time zones, fresh settings, running into the unexpected, wandering without purpose until the purpose revealed itself. Art, in all its forms, lifts us to a level of understanding more so than anything else. When I read the newspaper I form opinions. When I read about the same issue in a novel or a work of non-fiction I engage, I feel, I see with new and wide-open eyes. There is an intimacy one achieves through reading one doesn’t find anywhere else. Like tentacles or rays of a rainbow the words, images, emotions, draw you into the prism that is the story and the story takes over.

This is why writers write, artists paint, dancers dance, and composers create music. And why future generations need music, art, literature, science, and the humanities. I wrote “The Artisan’s Star” to celebrate my Italian heritage and to highlight the way art enriches and transforms our lives on so many levels, and always for the better. The Florentines, purveyors of the Renaissance, which extinguished the Dark Ages and changed the Western world, have always known this.

Prizes: ​ 5 winners will each receive
 one print or ebook copy of The Artisan's Star, a $10 Amazon gift card and a perfume sample. (Open to USA & Canada) Ends May 16

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

April 20 - Library of Clean Reads - review / interview / giveaway
April 20 - Sarah Rehmatullah - review
April 21 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
April 21 - Book Stop Corner - review / author interview / giveaway
April 22 - allthingsbookie - review
April 22 - Packabook Travel Novels - review / author interview
April 23 - Girl With Camera - review
April 24 - Young in Rome - review
April 27 - Il Mio Tesoro - review
April 28 - Studentessa Matta - review
April 29 - Roughseasinthemed - review
April 30 - Griperang's Bookmarks - review / author interview / giveaway
May 1 - Hello, my name is Alice - review / guest post
May 4 - Italophilia - review / guest post
May 5 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review / giveaway
May 6 - Svetlana's Reads and Views - review
May 7 - Musings from Sri Lanka - review
May 8 - The Discerning Reader - review / giveaway

April 29, 2015

Books that caught our eye

This is a meme by Mailbox Monday that talks about books that caught their eye on the Mailbox Monday threads. I am going to do a little twist on mine and tell you about books that I have found I would like to read. 

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

A fiction debut that will leave you wanting seconds, from an award-winning cookbook author.

Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself. - provided by Amazon

Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter

The preeminent expat writer on Paris and author of The Most Beautiful Walk in the World takes you on an unforgettable nocturnal stroll through five iconic Parisian neighborhoods and his own memories.
John Baxter enchanted readers with his literary tour of Paris in The Most Beautiful Walk in the World.Now, this expat who has lived in the City of Light for more than twenty years introduces you to the city’s streets after dark, revealing hidden treasures and unexpected delights.
As he takes you through five of the city’s greatest neighborhoods—Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Marais, and more—Baxter shares pithy anecdotes about his life in France, as well as fascinating knowledge he has gleaned from leading literary tours of the city by dark. With Baxter as your guide, you will discover the City of Light as never before, walking in the ghostly footsteps of Marcel Proust, the quintessential night owl for whom memory was more vivid than reality; Hungarian photographer Gyula Halász, known as Brassai, who prowled the midnight streets, camera in hand, with his friend Henry Miller; Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault, who shared the Surrealists’ taste for the city’s shadowed, secret world; and Josephine Baker and other African-American performers who dazzled adventurous Parisians at late-night jazz clubs.
A feast for the mind and the senses, Five Nights in Paris takes you through the haunts of Paris’s most storied artists and writers to the scenes of its most infamous crimes in a lively off-the-beaten-path tour not found in any guidebook. - provided by Amazon

The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene

The Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they've been searching for. Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain's best tea rooms. She knows she's found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the 'Seafront', convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind ...Full of romance, tea and cake, The Seafront Tea Rooms is a heart-warming tale about the strength found in true friendship. - Provided by Amazon

Renewable by Eileen Flanagan

At age forty-nine, Eileen Flanagan had an aching feeling that she wasn’t living up to her potential—or her youthful ideals. A former Peace Corps volunteer who’d once loved the simplicity of living in a mud hut in Botswana, she now had too many e-mails in her inbox and a basement full of stuff she didn’t need. Increasingly worried about her children’s future on a warming planet, she felt unable to make a difference—until she joined a band of singing Quaker activists who helped her find her voice and her power. Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope is the story of a spiritual writer and mother of two who, while trying to change the world, unexpectedly finds the courage to change her life. With wit and wisdom, Eileen Flanagan shares the engaging journey that brings her from midlife spiritual crisis to fulfillment and hope—and, briefly, to jail. - provided by Amazon

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

In the tradition of Jennifer Robson, comes this compelling debut that weaves the fascinating story of a young woman who must risk her life as a spy to help stop Napoleon’s invasion of Great Britain in the winter of 1803.
Though the daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth has defied convention by eloping to France with her new husband. But when he breaks her heart by abandoning her, she has nowhere to turn and must work in a local tavern. Her only hope for the future is to be reunited with her young son who is being raised by her mother-in law.
A seasoned spy known by his operatives as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to watch over his mentor’s only daughter while he searches the Channel region for evidence that Bonaparte has built a fleet to invade Britain. But unpredictable Lisbeth challenges his lifelong habit of distance.
Eccentric, brilliant American inventor Robert Fulton is working on David Bushnell’s “turtle”—the first fully submersible ship—when he creates brand-new torpedo technology, which he plans to sell to the French Navy. But when his relationship with Bonaparte sours, he accepts Tidewatcher’s help to relocate to the French side of the Channel, but he refuses to share his invention. With an entire army encamped in the region, blocking off all access, Tidewatcher must get that submersible, along with someone who knows how to use it, to uncover Bonaparte’s great secret.
When Lisbeth is asked to pose as a housekeeper and charm Fulton so she can learn to use the submersible before the invasion fleet sails, she will be forced to sacrifice herself for her country—but is she willing to sacrifice her heart when she’s already lost it to another…?
A fast-paced, deeply-researched, and richly imagined novel, The Tide Watchers explores a long-hidden, chapter of Bonaparte’s history. - Provided by Amazon

The Shepherdess of Siena by Linda Lafferty

Raised by her aunt and uncle amidst the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, young orphan Virginia Tacci has always harbored a deep love for horses—though she knows she may never have the chance to ride. As a shepherdess in sixteenth-century Italy, Virginia’s possibilities are doubly limited by her peasant class and her gender. Yet while she tends her flock, Virginia is captivated by the daring equestrian feats of the high-spirited Isabella de’ Medici, who rides with the strength and courage of any man, much to the horror of her brother, the tyrannical Gran Duca Francesco de’ Medici.
Inspired, the young shepherdess keeps one dream close to her heart: to race in Siena’s Palio. Twenty-six years after Florence captured Siena, Virginia’s defiance will rally the broken spirit of the Senese people and threaten the pernicious reign of the Gran Duca. Bringing alive the rich history of one of Tuscany’s most famed cities, this lush, captivating saga draws an illuminating portrait of one girl with an unbreakable spirit. - Provided by Amazon 

What books are on your list to read?

Beyond Believing by D.D. Marx - Review/Interview and Giveaway

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Beyond Believing by D.D. Marx
ISBN: 9781629038148

Book Description:
When Olivia gets news of her best friend Dan’s fatal car accident, her life is shattered. Consumed with grief and struggling to find any meaning or purpose to life, she trudges along with a gaping void in her heart. Finally, when her frustration reaches its peak, Olivia decides to put her trust in the depth of friendship the two of them shared. That trust finally allows him to breakthrough to her, and Dan begins to guide Olivia through the twists and turns of her life, leading to something new and entirely unexpected.

When Olivia exposes a gigantic internal scandal at work, her career implodes. With no job and nowhere to turn, she escapes to Palm Springs for the sympathy and care of her beloved cousin, Garrett. However, with only weeks left before the opening of his newest store, “Gin and Tonic,” Garrett isn’t quite the comfort Olivia had expected. She yet again tries to find her way, and in the process meets someone who begins to fill that void in her heart. She’s never before experienced a love like this; it heals her soul and rekindles her spirit – and just may have been the design of her dearly departed friend all along.

Beyond Believing is a sweet, funny, and romantic story that touches the heart, serves up delicious twists and turns, and shows the reader that there’s no such thing as “coincidence.” Author D.D. Marx regards this book as her “love letter to friendship,” written in memory of her best friend, Dan.


This was the first book that I have read by this author and it was enjoyable. It is a story about love and friendship. The character development was very good as the author created some strong characters who could be someone you know. This is one of those books that you could not put down as you did not want to stop reading about your friends. There are some sad parts to this book as well but they have to be there to tell the story. But do not fret there is also some humor to this story. I think this would be a good quick beach read. A bit of trivia about this book is that it was written in memory of the author’s best friend Dan and she calls this book a “love letter to friendship”. If you like romance or chick-lit then you will enjoy this book. This book is a part of a trilogy so I can’t wait to read the next book to see what happens. 

Author Bio:
D.D. Marx is a contemporary romantic fiction writer and blogger, as well as a lover of all things social. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton, as well as the Second City program in Chicago, where she currently resides. A proud aunt and self-described hopeless romantic, Marx has always has a knack for humorous and engaging storytelling. Her pen name is a dedication to her beloved friend Dan, who continues to guide and inspire her in her daily life.

Connect with D.D.: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Pinterest

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I was in search of a major change in my life due to some unforeseen events in my career. I watched a movie called “The Legend of Bagger Vance” which really resonated with me. It talks about how we are all born with an “authentic swing” but the world breaks it down and we lose our way. It’s a metaphor for staying true to who you are and why you are here in this life to do and story-telling has always been a passion, so I finally sat down and started writing. 

2. What do you do to help you get over writer's block?
I actually leverage some tools and games I learned in my Improvisation Training at Second City. There is a process called “branching” where you open a book, to any page and write down the first word you see. From there you write down three words that remind you of that word. For example: if you see the word “School”, three words that remind you of school could be students, tests, friends…and you continue to branch on each of those words.  It’s a great brainstorming exercise that helps you clear your mind and think totally outside the box.

3. Do you have scheduled writing time or a certain amount of words you write each day?
No, I actually write in spurts. I will write for days straight then take a few weeks off.  You really have to be in the right mind send for it to just flow otherwise it feels like work.

4. Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The current series is loosely based on my life and experiences so it was very easy to write. I always keep a notebook with me. I travel quite a bit so love to people watch and imagine their story to create characters. I also document funny moments that happen around me to incorporate into future story lines. I saw a shirt recently that said “Be Nice or you might be a character in my next book”.

5. When you are not writing what do you like to do?
I absolutely LOVE to travel, it is my biggest passion and take several mini-trips a year.  I wish I could pick up and travel the world and write along the way. Maybe someday!

6. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Throughout this process I have met so many people that are in such different stages of their writing process.  My biggest piece of advice is to just GO FOR IT! Write it down, share it, put it out there and follow your heart.  There is a great quote from Jim Carey at a recent commencement speech.  He said, “If you can fail at what you don’t want, why don’t you go after what you DO want!” Powerful message.

7. Who is your favorite author or book that you would like to recommend to your readers?
My favorite book of all time is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  It is about a boy on a journey who stops at nothing until he finds it.  Again another metaphor for removing all the noise and distraction around you that is preventing you from pursuing your dreams.

8. If you could meet any famous person dead or alive who would it be and why?
Jesus because I have A LOT of questions – haha!

9. If you could visit anywhere in the world where would you like to visit?Australia is definitely on my bucket list 

10. 5 interesting facts about yourself
·         I am afraid of heights
·         I could eat Mexican Food for every meal for the rest of my life
·         I don’t have my own kids but have 4 Godchildren that I adore
·         I am a huge animal lover
·         I am obsessed with celebrity gossip and need to get a life!

Where to buy the book:
Author's Website
Barnes & Noble


​Prizes: ​ Win one of 3 Swag Bags. Each bag contains: a print copy of Beyond Believing, a necklace (like on book cover), a pen and a compact mirror (Open to USA & Canada) Ends May 23 (I have included a pic of the prize swag bag)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

April 27 - StoreyBook Reviews - review / giveaway
April 27 - The Autistic Gamer - review
April 27 - Coffee, Books & Art - book spotlight / giveaway
April 28 - Readers' Muse - review / author interview
April 28 - Elizabeth McKenna Romance Author - book spotlight 
April 29 - Souls Readers - guest post / giveaway / book spotlight 
April 29 - Griperang's Bookmarks - review / author interview / giveaway
April 30 - The Things We Read - review
May 1 - Book Loving Hippo - review / giveaway / author interview
May 4 - Girl With Camera - review / giveaway
May 4 - Sarah Rehmatullah - review
May 5 - Christa Reads and Writes - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 5 - Geeks in High School - book spotlight / author interview
May 6 - Romance Novels for the Beach - review
May 7 - Rockin’ Book Reviews -  review / giveaway / author interview
May 8 - Bound for Escape - review / giveaway
May 11 - 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! -  review / giveaway
May 12 - A Blue Million Books - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 12 - Allthingsbookie - review 
May 13 - Deal Sharing Aunt - review
May 13 – Walking with Nora - review / giveaway
May 14 - Library of Clean Reads - review
May 15 - The Phantom Paragrapher - review
May 15 - Did YOU Hear About the Morgans? - review
May 15 - Seaside Book Nook - review / giveaway
May 15 - Jessica Cassidy - review / author interview / giveaway