[Book Review] Gables Court

I was emailed by the author to review his book yesterday — I read it in one night. Let me just start off with stating that this is the first review request where I’m compelled to give a rating of 5 out of 5 stars! The book is that good!

Gables Court, by Alan S. Kessler (available on Amazon.com) is a very well written novel. I am usually not so generous with my criticism (even when I always try to be “nice” to every novice author who requests an Amazon review from me); but this book really has the makings of being a potential hit or even a NYT Best Seller.

I admit, at first, I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I mean, Kessler started his novel with one-page chapters and a rather odd fixation on Van Gogh that seemed all over the place, all of a sudden jumping from childhood to adult in a matter of less than 5 pages into the novel — but the novel redeems itself relatively fast, so that even though you’re not quite sure if you’re interested, you are engaged quickly once Samuel actually starts having a real dialogue in the book.

Samuel is a wealthy secular Jewish lawyer, during the Vietnam War era, when the draft was in full force. He’s from the New England area, and moves down to Miami to get some work experience as a newbie lawyer. He starts off with eviction cases. He moves to an apartment complex call the Gables Court, where he meets characters that develop his life (even though he’s already 24 by the time this all happens — so he’s no naive “little boy”).

You feel kind of bad for the poor schmuck! He can’t get a break in love, it seems. Kate reminds me of Ginger (Sharon Stone) from that mob movie Casino (the one with Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro). I mean, even though it doesn’t really go into any details, you kind of just assume she’s a woman who has lost her looks as the years go by, and it was something that she had depended on heavily… you also assume she’s some kind of druggie too (at least I did).

I was disappointed by the abrupt ending though, kind of a non-ending almost. All of a sudden he feels there’s a chance of hope in love when he’s at a diner and sees some Russian waitress who references Van Gogh — a bit too Hollywood-ish in my opinion, but even the lacking of an ending doesn’t take away from the overall appeal of the bulk of the novel.

I highly recommend this book as a “good read” — I wish Mr. Kessler huge success with it.


[Product Reviews] Makeup Haul… part II

My second makeup haul arrived yesterday and today from Amazon… I did not get to use two of the Cover Girl products, so I’ll have to do a review for them at a later time.

I am wearing Neutrogena Retinol Daily Face Moisturizer with SPF 30, and Neutrogena Skin Clearing concealer; CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Stay Fabulous foundation… I put it on with a Real Techniques makeup blender and with Start Makers makeup brushes, and finally e.l.f. lip stain in Pink Petal. (My daughter asked where I was going with all this makeup on — I told her I was going to get the mail, ha!)

I LOVE the Neutrogena moisturizer! It is very fast absorbing and light. Does not feel greasy at all, and your face definitely feels smoother. Plus, it has SPF 30, and something everyone should do daily is wash your face, brush your teeth, wear sunscreen and moisturizer, ha! (The only con is that it is kind of expensive. It cost $20 for a 1 oz. bottle.)

I’m wearing CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Stay Fabulous (#855 — this is my “summer color”, in winter I wear #845, but since I’m in GA right now, there’s no such thing as winter). This really is my go-to foundation because it works as a primer, concealer, and foundation all in one; and it also has SPF 20. The foundation is matte, so you don’t get the shine that you do from wear with other foundations.

On top of the foundation I am wearing Neutrogena Skin Clearing concealer in medium. It’s a twist-pen with a brush top. It works really well and the color tone is excellent for blending and very well matched for my skin color. The brush top is excellent for blending if you don’t want to use your fingers or a blender to blend it in. Looks absolutely flawless (much better than the concealers that come in the lipstick-style formats).

Finally, to finish off my look, I am wearing e.l.f. lip stain in Pink Petal. I am not sure if I am a fan of lip stains or not. It does give the lips a natural look… but it kind of reminds me of when you eat a cherry ice in the summer and then get that red lip stain (right!?); I used it with lip-liner and lip color, but maybe I should have just used it with lipstick instead — or by itself. It’s like a felt-tip marker, and it is hard to get it at an angle to get the ink to flow continuously. (I like the color though because I only wear rose lip colors for a “natural” look if I put anything on my lips.)

I used one of my new Start Makers brushes to put the foundation on. (It comes with 11 brushes with different head sizes, a mini makeup blender, and a drawstring pouch to keep the brushes in.) I also used another brush for my blush, and a third one for my eyeshadow. I used the Real Techniques makeup blender to blend everything in.

Also wearing, but not included in this haul are: blush (L’Oreal), eyeliner (Maybelline), mascara (L’Oreal), eyebrow-liner (Maybelline) and eyeshadow (Urban Decay).

[Book Review] My Light

Tonight, I received a late-night review request, and I figured I get right into it… since sometimes my emails go ignored for months (I still have not replied back to one of the CNN producers from the summer on doing a short video segment for their Salute to Troop program) — but I digress!

My Light, by E Darkwood (pen name??? — available on Amazon.com), is a coming of age novel about two twin sisters. First, I am not sure why it’s deemed “mature content” — it’s not. I was expecting some sort of erotic novel or even some trashy romance, it’s neither. At the most there’s some very mild cursing during heated arguments. Also, the title could have been better (having done marketing in corporate America for six years in NYC before becoming a history teacher — the editor/publisher should have given better input for category content and working title, as that’s what readers notices first).

The story is about the coming of age of twin sisters, Penny and Cass, from Kansas. They lost their parents due to a plane crash and end up being raised by their grandparents. The novel transitions from their early school years to college, to eventual full-fledged adulthood.

You read the story from Penny’s perspective, and she lets you know within the first sentence that she misses Cass, so you automatically assume she’s dead (which is what I did). The story is easy to read, the narratives easy to follow, and the dialogue natural to the reader.

I am not sure what Darkwood’s intended targeted audience is, but this would work best for teenagers, as I’m not sure adults would be as engaged. This book reminds me of a few novels I read in junior high school actually. It focuses on things that are socially more important to high school teenagers than any other demographic — specifically: career goals, friendship, sisterhood, what to do with your life, etc. (Think of it as the PG-13 version of Elsa and Anna.)

Penny seems like the protagonist to her sister Cass, wanting to always do the right thing by her, and feeling like she’s being shut out by her cold sister instead (again, think Elsa/Anna). The story ends with Cass dying just like her parents, in a plane crash — kind of surreal until you think of JFK and all his family’s bad luck with death, it doesn’t seem so unrealistic when you compare it to history.

This was an easy to read novel. I appreciate Mr./Ms. (???) Darkwood for the opportunity to review his/her book, and wish him/her success with it.

[Book Review] Megan’s Pet Sitting Adventure

I was emailed sometime at the end of last year to review the follow-up to Ms. Foland’s first book in the Megan’s World book series — which follows the learning curves of a young teen girl in Texas, and her adventures in being a mom to furbaby kittens.

As stated in my review of her first book, this is definitely targeted towards a young children’s demographic; I’d say below Middle School age, so a girl below the age of 13 would be the best audience for this book series.

Megan’s Pet Sitting Adventure, by Pamela Foland (available on Amazon.com) happens only a month after the last book, which I felt was not enough of a time gap. Ms. Foland should have at least made the setting during the summer school break. The whole story actually takes place over a short weekend.

Also, as a cat and dog owner, I can relate to some anecdotes of the book with my own personal experiences; but cats are actually very solitary animals, even kittens are way more independent than puppies. The kind of needy sentiment to always be with her kittens seems a bit amateur-ish… like in the first book, the idea that she would be able to keep the kittens a secret; anyone that has ever owned a cat knows there’s no way of keeping an inside cat a secret when it goes in the litter-box (and I just had one cat!).

This book follows Megan and her friend Jill over a short weekend as they pet-sit for the local librarian. The woman has a dog, cat, and bird. Over the weekend, Megan learns that it’s not as easy as she thought it would be to be a pet sitter. She finds a lot of comfort and pride on achievement during payday and after talking to her older brother Kevin, who reveals to her the struggles of his first job mowing lawns for the neighborhood.

It’s a cute story. Four out of five stars — Ms. Foland still needs some improvement in her creative writing, but overall young girls will enjoy reading it. I appreciate the opportunity to review her book and wish her continue success with the series.

[Book Review] Thank God I’m Here

In the beginning of December I had received a request for a book review: Thank God I’m Here, by Raymond Dale (sorry for the late review).

The marketing manager for Mr. Dale’s book had emailed me and asked if I would review the book; I replied I would, and that I prefer PDF formats via email rather than a physical book be mailed to me. Today I finally read Mr. Dale’s book.

It is a Christian testimonial book. I, being of the non-practicing Catholic faith, still gave it a fair critic from an author’s standpoint. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

The book is not very long, and it could be read in one day if you have the time. Mr. Dale writes in a very easy way, as if talking to a friend, so the sentences flows freely and naturally. There are black-and-white photos that are included in each chapter to correspond with the chapter’s theme.

It starts off with the death of Mr. Dale’s son, and his stated forgiveness for those he felt responsible for the death. Although the story does get personal, it is not personal enough. The chapters always starts with a story from his past and then moves on to the next awakening or enlightenment by God through Jesus Christ — in that aspect, the author could have improved his creative writing skills to follow through with his stories.

For example, there was no deeper details about the death of his son; or the other anecdotes of his revelations, including the last chapters of his business dealing and how he felt cheated or wronged — instead, it reminded me of when someone says: I have a secret, but I can’t tell… well, why are you telling me you have a secret then?

The book would be more captivating if Mr. Dale’s story-telling writing was better sharpened; but as a Christian-faith book, those devoted to the faith will probably enjoy it the most. He talks about the different ways Christ has entered his life, the constant battle with Satan, and the power of forgiveness.

I appreciate the opportunity to review Mr. Dale’s book, and I wish him success with it.

[Book Review] Megan’s Munchkins

Today I received an email to review a new children’s book series Megan’s Munchkins, by Pamela Foland.

It is the first book in a series of thirteen year-old Megan, who lives in Texas. The book starts off with Megan finding a box of stray kittens. She manages to hide her kittens in her room for five weeks, without her parents knowing. The book ends with her coming clean to her parents after she comes home during the day to realize her mom and sister-in-law are at the home too; her parents decide to let her keep her kittens.

Reading it as an adult, it was hard for me to be excited about it (even as a teacher, I am NOT an elementary teacher); however, it reminded me of book series that I read as a kid in like sixth grade — books like Sweet Valley Twins, The Baby-Sitters Club, etc. The book is corny as an adult, but cute as a kid’s book… but I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Judy Blume though, or other classics like the Betsy-Tacy series (or my favorite classics like Little Women or Charlotte’s Web).

I felt the whole bit of calling the kittens “munchkins” was a bit cheesy. It reminded me of my high school students going around calling their friends “babe” in the hallway between classes. I also found it too convenient and unrealistic that Meg’s parents were oblivious to cats living in their home for over a month — I had a cat that I loved very much, and he was just one cat… there’s no way of disguising the smell of a litter box.

However, I am sure there will be middle school kids out there that will enjoy. I appreciate Ms. Foland for the opportunity to read and review her new book, and I wish her success with her series.

[Book Review] Puppy Training

Today I received a book to review: Puppy Training: A Step-by-Step Guide to Crate Training, Potty Training, Obedience Training, and Behavior Training — by Julia Chandler.

It’s a good instruction book that is best suited for a first-time dog owner. It has beautiful photos of various dogs which helps the book a lot visually. It’s an easy read with some great tips. The paragraphs are broken up very neatly instead of being long and compact. There’s some really good info in the book like poisonous plants, the kind of collar to choose, click training, etc. I highly recommend for someone who is getting a puppy for the first time.

Thanks to Ms. Chandler for the opportunity to review her book, and the best of luck for her success with it.

[Book Review] Your Breakup, Your Blessing

A few days ago I received an email to review a new book: Your Breakup, Your Blessing: Breakup Self-Help — How to Live Before, During and After Divorce, by Karen R. Rivera.

This is a self-help book for women going through a divorce. On Amazon, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It is very straight forward and offers some good advice and insights. However, I find that most of the info in the book can be found by just using Google, where there are thousands of articles written about this subject. I, myself, have written lots of posts on my blog on dealing with a breakup.

With self-help books like these, on relationship advices, I find that most women are seeking answers to questions that their common senses already are telling them — but breakups, especially a divorce situation, is hard to deal with, and sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else instead.

The main criticism I have on this book is that it starts off its first chapter with different types of abuses in relationships. I don’t think this is a good self-help book for general breakups or divorces, automatically assuming that relationships are always caused by some sort of an abusive relationship is not accurate.

Like most self-help books, this one is targeted towards a female demographic, but I think it is best suited for someone in a relationship like Kourtney Kardashian, dealing with an alcoholic womanizing baby daddy relationship… or Nicole Simpson, who was actually in a physically abusive relationship.

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to review her book, and I wish her lots of success with it.

Happy Anniversary to Me ♡

*Update: Just wanted to share my anniversary flowers with my readers — it’s been two weeks since I’ve received them, and they are still alive! They still smell fragrant and look beautiful — I’ve received lots of flowers before, but these are definitely the longest lasting ones I’ve ever gotten! ♡

It’s been TWO WEEKS and they still look absolutely beautiful (they’re my anniversary flowers from the last week of March). ♡

In my maddening day yesterday (consisting of me fighting with WordPress over $26 — and typing in CAPLOCKS… I don’t even want to get into it…) — I had a happy moment in my gloomy day. My anniversary was a few days ago, and my flowers came in the afternoon. ♡

When I got them out of the box yesterday afternoon (it’s almost 2AM right now)… excuse my messy table!

My favorite — a sunflower mixed bouquet. (I was hoping for sunflowers as my wedding flowers, but since my mom-in-law is buying the flowers, we are going with traditional red roses) — I could tell her that she would save a lot of money on sunflowers instead of roses… but she’d probably say something like yellow doesn’t match any of my wedding colors.

They are on my bookcase now (I’m lying in bed, typing this on my Samsung Note with one finger), and the bouquet smells lovely. When I wake up in the morning, the sunflowers will have opened up more, and they will look beautiful. (I will update with a picture!) My daughter calls me the “sunflower queen”, ha!

I love sunflowers, but a lot of people are disappointed by them as cut flowers. I always see bad reviews for them — and I can only conclude that most women aren’t used to getting flowers from a commerical florist, or the only flowers they’ve ever gotten are from the buckets at the local supermarket by the checkout aisles. I, the so-named “sunflower queen”, need to defend my namesake.

The flowers in the dirty water buckets at Walmart and grocery stores die the next day and have no scent. Fresh cut flowers smells lovely, they are very fragrant. Commercial florists and suppliers ship cut flowers while they are still budding, that way the customers gets the maximum time out of the blooms.

I get so irritated when I see someone write a bad review about my favorite flowers, because they usually complain that they’ve received “wilted” or “dying” flowers — I supposed if you never grew flowers or aren’t used to getting flowers from an actual florist, they might look like that, especially with sunflowers… but I grow them every summer, and florists cut them when the petals are still closed around the head, because once they open they usually die in about a week, so you definitely don’t want sunflowers given to you that are already fully bloomed, because that means it’ll probably be dead by the morning!

I knew my guy was the one when he sent me sunflowers last MarchValentine’s Day had passed, and I had gotten a lot of flowers, but no one had ever gotten my favorite (including him, who got me this ridiculously humongous bouquet of red roses, the first time any guy ever had flowers shipped to me instead of delivered, ha!) — later he told me he saw a picture of my sunflowers on my blog, so he took a shot. He’s the only guy to get it right (and to think, all those men could have saved hundreds of dollars if they had gotten sunflowers instead of roses).

Even though my flowers arrived after our anniversary, I’m actually happy they came when they did because the day was kind of in the toilet. Thanks for my beautiful bouquet, hubby! ♡

(I also finally finished our birdcage cardholder for our wedding — I am quite crafty, if I do say so myself… and I do say so!) — red roses and sunflowers, ha!

Happy anniversary to me. ♡

[Review] Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency

I was given a digital copy (PDF) of a self-help type book, learning a new language, for review: Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency. The book is available on Amazon.com for purchase as a digital copy (Kindle), and it’s free for those that have the subscription service Kindle Unlimited. The book is authored by Janina Klimas.

The book starts off with the usual self-help books, especially with language learning, which is basically that you can do it. You can do it if you put the time into it.

It’s not a learning book in the sense of an actual language book. It’s not teaching you a new language, but gives you tips and advice on how you can learn a language. A lot of the things are common sense knowledge; and as a teacher, a lot of it is common core knowledge.

As someone who speaks conversational Cantonese, and have an elementary understanding of French, being a native speaker of English; here’s my advice — submersion is key. Especially with today’s technological society, even being in a place far removed by my beloved NYC, I can still find ways to “submerged” myself in rural Buddha-land Iowa somewhere. Movies, music, books… I spent a whole summer about two years ago watching French movies, listening to French music, and flirting with French military pilots while my ex-fiancé was sleeping.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s worth the read. Otherwise, it’s $6.99 for the digital copy. I’m not sure if there’s an actual physical copy of the book though, there wasn’t a format option on Amazon.com for it.

I wish Ms. Klimas the best of luck in her continued success in writing and teaching (and learning). Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to review your book! ♡