Book Reviews: All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

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Beth has done a bad, bad thing. And while she ruminates about the tragedy she brought on herself while paying the ultimate price, she goes on a journey of healing and redemption.

In Clare Fisher’s novel All the Good Things, Beth is seeing a counselor while serving a prison term. Convinced she is completely worthless, Beth’s counselor, with both compassion and wisdom, tells her to write a list of all the good things that have to her.

This is pretty difficult for Beth. In her young life, Beth has dealt with tragedy, abandonment, and heartbreak. Among these include being deserted by her mother, mental health issues, abusive relationships, one crappy job after another, and a series of dreadful foster homes.

But as she looks back on her life, Beth remembers the things. She’s very creative, she has a network of supportive friends, she’s felt the embrace of true love, and her sweet baby girl who she loves with great intensity.

Beth writes this list in a journal form that comes across like a series of letters to her daughter. And as he writes these letters she comes to terms with the lowest moments in her life, the moments that gave her life purpose, and one horrible mistake that altered her life. Now she’s asking herself is she can be forgiven and can she be redeemed?

All the Good Things kept me riveted, page after page. Beth’s story both broke my heat and uplifted my spirits.

Fisher’s debut novel is written with a great deal of clarity that fulfills all the senses. Beth is written as a fully-dimensional character, as are the tertiary characters.

Obviously I’m not going to reveal why Beth is being punished and in prison. But you just might gasp out loud when she admits her crime…like I did.

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Book Review: Edith Head-The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer by Michael Chierichetti

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When you think of Hollywood’s golden age you probably think of the movies, stars, and directors of that glittering era. I know I do. But I also think of Edith Head, costume designer extrodinaire.

Edith Head’s career began in the silent era and ended in the early 1980s.

Some of the movies she worked in include All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and several films by Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the most Oscar nominated people in show business, she won eight of those golden boys.

Head also designed for television productions, often working with Bob Mackie and Nolan Miller. She even designed costumes for the Muppets!

Head had one heck of a career, which deserves one heck of a biography. Is Michael Chierichetti’s book Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer up to such a daunting task? I should think so considering Chierichetti is a film historian, costumer, and was a confidant of the legendary Head.

After an opening chapter recalling Head’s early life, Chierichetti quickly moves onto Head’s lengthy and impressive career, starting out as a lowly apprenticeship, her commitment to getting costumes just right, her strong work ethic, her talented design staff, and the relationships she had with the stars she fitted with her costumes.

But Chierichetti isn’t shy about revealing low moments in Head’s life and career. He also gossips about some of her unsavory personality quirks.

Head made sure her costume were true to the time period the movies’ reflected. She had a gift for highlighting a star’s figure assets while hiding his or her faults. And like many of the stars she outfitted, Head was often a media sensation.

As a fan of film and fashion, I thought I knew a lot about Head. But my knowledge wouldn’t fill up a thimble. Fortunately Chierichetti’s research and commitment to telling Head’s life story as thoroughly as possible helped me sew up some loose threads. I have to admit I was overwhelmed by the names of film, dates, studios, colleagues, and movie stars named in this book.

Interspersed throughout Edith Head are pictures of her actual sketches, film stills, screen tests, professional and candid photos, and glossies that do a wonderful job illustrating Head’s exemplary career. Chierichetti also divulges some secrets about her creative process.

Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer sews things up for film lovers and fashionistas alike.

 

The New Me by Halle Butler

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Meet 30 year old Millie. Millie works as a temporary receptionist at an interior design firm located in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. She’s addicted to homicide forensic TV shows. Her basic hygiene and housekeeping habits are less than ideal. Her love life is non-existent. Her friend Sarah is more is more frenemy than true blue pal.

Millie is one messed up millennial. She’s pitiful, anti-social, unproductive. But she’s also bright, funny, self-aware.

In otherwords, Millie is absolutely fascinating and she’s portrayed in Halle Butler’s expertly observed and written novel The New Me.

Millie’s job is a complete bore. The phone rarely rings and when she works up a smidge of ambition she asks for additional tasks. She’d given only one, shredding documents, not exactly challenging or exciting.

Millie’s homelife is a treadmill of bingewatching TV and ignoring basic household chores. And her social life consists of mostly dealing with Sarah’s condescending attitude and all-around bitchiness.

Millie is stuck in neutral and it is implied she’s suffering from depression.

Despite all of this Millie is self aware enough to realize she has to make some positive changes in her even though they seem insurmountable. Thus, the title of this book.

A big part of The New Me consists of Millie attempting making these improvements, some that work in her favor and others are utter failures.

I kept cheering Millie on, wanting her to succeed. Sure, she’s completely pathetic but she’s also bright, funny, good-hearted, and completely relatable.

Butler is an innovative writer who has a clever way of unfurling characters and a plot that kept me riveted. I really like how she combined Millie written using first person while two of Millie’s co-workers are written in third person.

Butler is relatively new to the writing, but she’s definitely an author to watch.

We Interrupt This Blog For This Special Announcement

If you have a child in your life who adores animals and loves reading then this child is going to be over the moon over author Pop Jamison’s Skwerdlock series. Skwerdlock is a whimsical character who delights and encourages young readers. The latest book in the Skwerdlock series is Never Take a Skwerdlock to the Doctor.

“The Skwerdlock is always fun to be with, and is always curious and excited to try new things. The Skerdlock watches everything you do and then likes to try it all. Because of that, the Skwerdlock is a great friend to have around.

The Skwerdlock would never do anything to hurt anyone or to cause any problems. But sometimes, just being a Skwerdlock means that strange things can happen when a Skwerdlock is nearby. This little story is a friendly reminder of what can happen when a Skwerdlock is around.

But, mostly, the Skwerdlock is just an excuse to curl up in the recliner or sofa with your favorite early reader or listener and smile together.

And, if the illustrations seem a bit “amateurish”, that’s something Pops and the Skwerdlock have done intentionally. They both love really nice illustrations, but they also want to remind your young storytellers they don’t have to be “perfect” to create a really good story.

Just remember, ‘Never Take A Skwerdlock to the Doctor!'”

Pops Jamison’s first name is John and he’s been writing for children for nearly sixty years, much of it inspired by his daughter Tricia.

As a writer, Pop’s goals include making kids laugh, love reading and tell “just good stories.” Ultimately, Skwerdlock is a true blue friend to everyone he meets.

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JKS Communications – Literary Publicity

ellen@jkscommunications.com

“Author! Author!” An Interview with Rotaru Arthur Cristian

Author Bio

“My name is Rotaru Arthur Cristian and I am a 20 years old student at the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania.

I was always very fond of writing and especially reading a lot of stuff on a lot of topics, which allowed me to deepen my knowledge in many different areas of life. One of my favorites was the self-improvement one and this was the beginning of ‘How to get the most out of life’.”

  1. What inspired you to write a book?

The main thing that inspired me to write this book was primarily… reading other books. After reading many self-improvement manuscripts and taking notes after each one of them, I realized that even most of them had very good content (especially older ones), none of them was “complete”. Each dived into one aspect or another of this whole “improvement” area, but if you wanted the whole package you had to read the whole library.

  1. Please describe your book.

“How To Get the Most Out of Life: The ABC of a Negotiator” is a self-improvement book which has the purpose of helping anyone who wants a positive change in his/her life.

The first thing that should be clarified about it is probably the title, more precisely the word “negotiator”. This book is giving a new meaning to this word, and this is probably the first thing that differentiates it from other books in the same area.

The manuscript goes through the main strategies of negotiation, and then it dives into a bit more advanced topics like body language and specific phrasing and signals.

As stated in the book, it is the maximum amount of useful information in the least amount of pages possible.

My goal while writing this book was to put together all the essential subjects of all the books that I read, thus creating a “beginner guide” to a better life.

Of course, after reading it you may want to deepen your knowledge in one of the subjects treated in my book by reading others which are more concentrated on that specific subject, but nevertheless I think that “How to get the most out of life” is the best starting point in being a better “you”.

  1. What is your writing background and experience?

I was fond of writing ever since I was a kid, when I was creating small pieces of poetry and stories, but choosing a math/informatics high school and then following the courses of a cybernetics university didn’t give me the chance to truly cultivate this passion. However, it allowed me to better understand economy and people in general which lead me to write this specific book.

  1. What challenges did you face writing this book? How did you deal with them?

I tried to get some feedback on my manuscript but because I am not famous yet it proved pretty hard to find people willing to read it. However, I managed to convince some people (including some directors and university teachers) and their response was very positive. It really boosted my confidence because apart from some minor constructive feedback, most of them were very fascinated.

Probably as any other author, I had my personal challenges while writing my manuscript, but probably the one that took me the most time to solve was the riddle. Yes, this book contains a well thought riddle that is for the smart and curious ones.

  1. What has been the response to your book? What do want people to get from your book?

Being a relatively short book, I would love if people could get everything out of it. However, I know that is unlikely to happen, so I guess the core idea that I want people to be stuck with after reading my book is that every person can improve his/her life, no matter their background and social/financial status.

Even if some readers may consider that the things I taught in the book are not suited for their lifestyle (which is highly unlikely), I want them to know that there is always a way to get better. Maybe not my way, but a way.

  1. What advice would you give to other writers? What advice were you given?

I think the most important advice that I can give to other writers is to never tell anyone about your manuscript until it is finished. People usually try to come up with new ideas which “fits better” and that is natural, but this is why you want to shape it the way you want, and after that you can ask others for opinions. Personally, I wasn’t given any -personal- advice before writing, because nobody knew I was doing it.

  1. What are your future writing plans?

In the future I want to write a few more books on topics that I love and to get my book in front of as many people as possible.

Book Review: Man Mission-Four Men, Fifteen Years, One Epic Journey by Eytan Uliel

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“The pick-up truck hurtles down a dirt road in rural New Zealand. In the back it’s just me, four loaded guns, and some kilo of drugs. I’m going to die, I think. And not for the first time today.”

Well, that’s one way to grab my attention. It’s also the opening of the book Man Mission-Four Men, Fifteen Years, One Epic Journey-a bloke version of Eat, Pray, Love, but also a complete anti-thesis.

Written by seasoned traveler and writer Eytan Uliel, Man Mission is an exotic stew with hearty heapings of fiction, travel guide and possible memoir. And it’s also an eye-opener for anyone whose idea of roughing it is no room service and believes a week of adventure is a vacation at the local water park.

Man Mission is about four young men, still in college and about to start life in the “real world.” Because of their friendship and their love of travel, these four mates will get together to travel to one country per year and will deal with the good, bad, and ugly as only they can (or think they can). They continue to do this even as they embark on careers, marriage and family life. All four friends find challenge in both the humdrum of domesticity and the excitement of their “Man  Mission.”

Man Mission is divided into three parts, simply called part one, part two, and part three; and it packs it up at the end with an epilogue called Home.

Some of the countries these mates traverse include Vietnam, Thailand, Fiji, South Africa, Iceland, Spain, Peru, and the good, old US of A. Included with the Man Mission is their manifesto, which includes such gems like going beyond one’s limits and no luxuries allowed.

A certain pink bracelet also is part of the Man Mission, a dude’s version of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

Over the course of 15 years these mates straddle a high wire of challenges of their vacations with the challenges of careers and domesticity (and like I mentioned, often the last two seem more challenging than the actual adventures).

The travels are definitely crazy and audacious. And the dialogue among the men is very rich and detailed, filled with both macho bluster and candid vulnerability. It certainly gave me a look into the male mind. Men, are both simple and complex (in other words, human).

If I have one quibble when it comes to Man Mission, I do wish Uliel would have painted the women in Man Mission with a more colorful brush. To me, they came across with all the depth as a shot of tequila when I would have preferred a full margarita (FYI-raspberry margaritas are my fave).

But at the end, Man Mission is a fast-paced, comical, and riveting book. I think it would make one heck of a movie. Hugh Jackman, call your agent!

 

 

Book Review: The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Every once in a while I really need to escape to the fun and fluff of what might be called chick lit.. But sadly, a majority of these books leave me less than sated. The plots are wafer thin and characters are one dimensional.

So thank the twinkly stars above for Teri Wilson’s gem of a novel The Accidental Beauty Queen.

Charlotte Gorman is a bookish lass who adores her job as a elementary school librarian. Her identical twin sister, Ginny, is a stunning beauty and Instagram star.

As The Accidental Beauty Queen begins, Ginny is hell bent on winning the Miss American Treasure pageant. However, her hopes are nearly dashed when she has an allergic reaction and her looks are severely compromised. She convinces Charlotte to go as her replacement, which Charlotte begrudgingly agrees to do even though it compromises her sense of right and wrong. In The Accidental Beauty Queen the Gorman sisters travel a twist and turn journey that opens both their minds and their hearts about the very different worlds they live in.

The premise interested me and thank goodness the novel did not  disappoint. Both Charlotte and Ginny, along with the stable of supporting characters, are multi-dimensional and Gorman girls convey the complexities of sisterhood in a way that is very relatable. They are more than they seem.

Speaking of sisterhood, the contestants are not bimbos or bitches, but funny, bright, accomplished and fully supportive of each other.

And then there is a certain mystery gentleman, Gray, who enters Charlotte’s life. Is he a Prince Charming who will sweep Charlotte off her platform stilletoed feet or a callow playboy who will break her heart into a million little shards? Like I mentioned, I really adored The Accidental Beauty Queen. Wilson can actually write and she keeps you guessing as a reader. She doesn’t rely on tired old clichés that lazy writers often do. She has a clever way with dialogue that is contemporary but wouldn’t seem out of place in a 1930s’ screwball motion picture.

The plot is funny and vibrant, but at times heartbreaking and profound. And her sexscenes are actually sexy, not sleazy.

In other words, Wilson writes chick lit for those who aren’t into chick lit. I can’t recommend The Accidental Beauty Queen enough.