January 29, 2010

Unfinished Friday - January 29, 2010

Thanks to Marie at The Boston Bibliophile for this timely meme as well as Tutu from Tutu's Two Cents for leading me to Marie's site. 

Unfinished Friday is a place for bloggers to share unfinished reads and perhaps spark the interest of another reader to pick up that book. 

Here are two that I recently could not finish:

Letters to Rosy.  The story seemed good, the author is from my home state and I thought I would give it a try.  I just couldn't get into the story.  I felt it jumped around quite a bit and I wasn't connected to any of the characters.  It's entirely possible that I just wasn't in the frame of mind at the time I picked the book up to sink into the story and I plan on picking up the book again in the future and giving it another go.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.  Jane Austen sequel?  If you know me, I need to say no more.  Right up my alley.  Nothing wrong with the book as far as I could tell.  I just put the book down to start another on a deadline and haven't been able to pick it up again.  Another I plan on picking up again in the future.

How about you?  Any unfinished books this week you'd like to share? 

New Look on the Way!

The fantastic and lovely Rach (otherwise known as Parajunkee) did such a wonderful job with my header that I am asking her to revamp my blog in general.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions as to what would make my blog more user friendly, easier on the eye or just snazzier, here's your chance!  I welcome and appreciate any and all comments so please don't hesitate to share your experience, expertise and opinions with me.

Thanks for your input and thanks for continuing to support me!

Must Read Review: historical-fiction.com's review of "Signora da Vinci"

During the week I normally run across at least one book review that is so inspiring, so well-written and whets my appetite for the book so much so that it sends me scurrying to my Goodreads To-Be-Read list like Scrooge scurrying after a penny.  I thought it would be helpful to others to share in the wealth and spotlight these reviews.  So here we go . . .

Yesterday I came across Arleigh from historical-fiction.com's review of Robin Maxwell's Signora da Vinci.  I have only recently (within the last year or two) become interested in historical fiction of the non-Jane Austen sequel type and have not read anything by Ms. Maxwell but based on Arleigh's review, I need to change that.  Not only did Arleigh give the book 5 out of 5 stars but she claimed this was her favorite Robin Maxwell novel.

Enjoy these little snippets of her review:

". . .I’m so glad to have saved this one for last, and though I was on a tight schedule to get it read, I savored it for 2 more days than I had to . . .
. . .The characters in this book are very likeable, with the exception of the antagonists, who are not so evil as to be unbelievable. I’ve always found Robin Maxwell’s writing to be balanced in this respect and she gives a panoramic view of the setting and political and religious agendas. In other words, her stories do not revolve solely around the main character, but offer a look at life in general . . ."

For the full review, go HERE.   

Thank you, Arleigh, for the fantastic review.

Did anyone else come across a must read review this week?

January 28, 2010

In Memory of J. D. Salinger

J. D. SALINGER  (1919-2010)

J.D. Salinger left our world today at 91 years old.  He will be forever remembered as the creator of one of the greatest protagonists to be put to paper - - Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye

While Catcher in the Rye was Salinger's best known work, it was also his literary undoing, causing him scrutiny and unwanted attention.  He wrote few works after Catcher in the Rye, preferring instead to live in seclusion. 

Over the years, Catcher in the Rye was increasingly debated as both an important sociological work and deserving to be banned.  Despite the controvery, and perhaps aided by it, sales of Catcher in the Rye have topped 60 million copies worldwide to date. 

Rest in peace, J. D. Salinger, may you finally have the ultimate peace and solitude you craved.  Thanks for leaving your literary mark for the rest of us.

January 27, 2010

Guest Post by Author Abigail Reynolds

Today I am pleased to welcome Abigail Reynolds, author of the newly released Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, to Psychotic State.  Welcome, Abigail!

Why Austen sequels are so popular, or Regency NCIS
by Abigail Reynolds

You can’t walk into a bookstore these days without tripping over half a dozen sequels to Jane Austen’s novels. There’s a seemingly endless supply of them, and the readers seem to love following Darcy and Elizabeth through the future, even though all the futures are different. The books I write take these parallel universes a step farther. I start in the middle of Pride & Prejudice, change a key event, and write what unfolds. In my latest, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, Elizabeth is forced to accept Darcy’s first insulting proposal, and learns to love him after rather than before their wedding. Now, sequels are one thing, but why would anybody want to read a variation on the original? Jane Austen writes ten times better than I ever will, and certainly knew the historical period much better. So what gives me the nerve to mess with perfection, and why do so many people love to read it when I do? And what in heaven’s name does this have to do with NCIS?

I don’t watch much TV, but every Tuesday night, my teenage daughter and I have a date to watch NCIS, the police procedural show about a team of investigators working to solve murders of naval personnel. The mystery isn’t why we watch it. We enjoy the interactions between the individual, often quirky, team members. The characters are like familiar friends, yet it’s always entertaining to watch how they react to things. It’s like a Jane Austen sequel or variation. Familiar loveable characters in different situations. It’s even a parallel universe in some ways, in that it has to be fictional because I certainly hope there aren’t navy members murdered every week!

Jane Austen sequels are popular for the same reasons NCIS is, and for the same reason lots of book series are. It’s relaxing to slip into the skin of characters we already know well and love. It’s less work than learning completely new characters and situations, so we can focus more on the interactions. Because we love the characters, it’s fun to see how they interact in a new scenario.

But why Jane Austen? Why aren’t the bookstores stuffed with sequels to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre? It’s a combination of things. First of all, Jane Austen’s books are happy. The characters are happy most of the time, and the endings are happy. Terrible things don’t tend to happen in Jane Austen novels. Because of Victorian propaganda, modern readers tend to perceive the Regency as a very proper time, and that lends an air of simplicity to society as Jane Austen portrays it. In truth, the Regency was a decadent time of lax morals, but what we don’t know won’t hurt us. That’s a whole subject in itself, and I won’t try to touch on it now.

But escapism, familiarity, happiness and simplicity aren’t enough by themselves. Why do I think we have so many Pride & Prejudice sequels and variations? Because we love Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and Jane Austen didn’t write anywhere near enough to saturate our longing for one of the greatest love stories ever written. Modern writers can’t hope to write them as Jane Austen did, but we can’t resist them anyway.

Thanks for inviting me!

Abigail, many thanks for stopping by my blog today and helping to keep Jane Austen alive and well.   Best of luck with your blog tour!



In this sexy Jane Austen sequel, Elizabeth Bennet accepts Mr. Darcy's first marriage proposal, answering the "What if...?" question fans everywhere have pondered

" I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."

Famous last words indeed! Elizabeth Bennet's furious response to Mr. Darcy's marriage proposal has resonated for generations of readers. But what if she had never said it? Would she have learned to recognize Mr. Darcy's admirable qualities on her own? Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy follows Elizabeth and Darcy as they struggle to find their way through the maze of their prejudices after Elizabeth, against her better judgment, agrees to marry Darcy instead of refusing his proposal.

Two of the most beloved characters in English literature explore the meaning of true love in a tumultuous and passionate attempt to make a success of their marriage.

About Author Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing The Pemberley Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking “What if…?” She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit Abigail's blog


Thanks to the lovely Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have 2 brand new copies of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World to give away to lucky readers. To enter, simply leave me a comment about Abigail's guest post with your email address.  The contest will end on February 14 and I will draw the two lucky winners' names on February 15.  U.S. and Canada only please. 

January 26, 2010

Review: Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda

Synopsis: When Sandy Saavedra lands her dream job with the popular website ¡Latino Now!, she can't wait to write hard-hitting pieces to combat all those stupid Latino stereotypes. While visions of Pulitzers dance in her head, her editor in chief is suddenly laid off, replaced by the infamous Angelica Villanueva O'Sullivan. Angelica has one mission: make ¡Latino Now! an internet phenomenon, no matter how many pandering puff pieces she has to pack onto its pages. Sandy doesn't see how she can keep this job without losing her soul, especially when she's sent to Middle-of-Nowhere Texas to investigate the dumbest legend her people ever created, the Chupacabra. She fears she's about to fail an assignment-and lose her job-until she meets Tío Jaime, a grandfatherly hermit who might be crazy, or might be the best thing that ever happened to Sandy's career.

As a blogger, Lone Star Legend appealed to me from the get go. What blogger wouldn’t want to read about a fictional blogger who made it to the “big time” of working as a reporter on an internet gossip site? This storyline alone would have been enough, in my opinion , to make the book an enjoyable read. Lone Star Legend, however, surpassed my expectations and I found it hard to put the book down.

Heroine Sandy Saavedra, otherwise known as “Sandy S.” to her internet audience is witty, ambitious and, deep down, cursed with a conscience that conflicts with her job at Nacho Papi. She is also a secret blogger, writing about her personal life, using her screen name as a pseudonym. While Sandy yearns for success as a writer, hoping that her internet job will lead her to greener pastures, she doesn’t expect the overnight celebrity that comes with it - - exposing her and her academic boyfriend to the spotlight.

Sandy has a strained relationship with her mother and a disjointed one with her father. Such flaws make Sandy more human, as does her relationship with Tio Jaime - - her late great aunt’s neighbor and the kind old man who brings clarity to Sandy’s life.

As likable and down to earth as Sandy was, Tio Jaime was my favorite character in the book. His warm grandfatherly figure was as comforting as a bowl of chiciken noodle soup and his no nonsense advice made me wish I could drive out to Texas to spend a pleasant afternoon with him and his dog over a glass of lemonade.

Ms. Zepeda’s writing style was light, breezy and humorous. I particularly enjoyed how every other chapter began with an entry to Sandy’s personal blog, along with the sometimes comical reader responses. Changes in Sandy’s professional and personal life are reflected in not only her blog entries but in the number and content of reader responses.

Lone Star Legend gives an interesting spotlight to Texas and the Latino community, not only through Sandy’s voice but also through Tio Jaime’s, her great aunt Linda’s through a journal and even the Nacho Papi website, where the focus is on Latino celebrities.

While the ending may have been a bit predictable or even pat, it was justly satisfying, sprinkled with a bit of romance and leaving me content with Sandy’s fate.

Overall, I would recommend Lone Star Legend to anyone looking for a fun, entertaining read. Lone Star Legend may not change your life but it is a pleasant diversion.

Lone Star Legend can be purchased at major booksellers, as well as author Gwendolyn Zepeda's website.  Ms. Zepeda's blog is here.  Please visit Ms. Zepeda's Facebook page and Twitter page.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

January 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday: January 25, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week.

Here are the goodies that arrived for me last week:

Sent by the publisher:

Venom by Joan Brady

Physicist Helen Freyl owns a colony of bees with unique venom given to her as a childhood present. When her lover dies she accepts a job offer from a giant pharmaceutical company who are close to finding a cure for radiation poisoning. But when the mysteriously sudden death of a colleague is followed by another, Helen begins to doubt her employer’s motives and realises that her own life is in danger too.

Recently released from prison, David Marion doesn’t expect to find a hitman at his door. Their meeting is lethal – for the hitman! Warned that a secret organisation is after him, David disappears – presumed dead - until the moment comes for him to strike back.

As their worlds collide, David and Helen are reunited as they fight for survival against a backdrop of industrial espionage, corporate greed and human tragedy. Will they win through, or will the combined force of two multinational companies bent on securing the precious Venom prove too much. An exhilarating tour de force, Venom is a gripping novel that leaves you desperate for more.

Love in Mid-Air by Kim Wright

A chance encounter with a stranger in an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly, Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the church. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. In the end it will take an extraordinary leap of faith for Elyse to find--and follow--her own path to happiness.

So, what books came into your house last week? 

January 21, 2010

Interview with Author Sharon Lathan

I am delighted to welcome Sharon Lathan, author of My Dearest Mr. Darcy, to Psychotic State.  She has graciously agreed to answer some questions for me and my readers.

Hi Sharon, welcome to Psychotic State and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.

Thank you, Lori! It is my pleasure to be here and I appreciate your willingness to share your blog with me today. Interviews are so fun.

First and foremost, can you tell us the background on how you started writing The Darcy Saga?

It began with a dream. Seriously! Well, technically it began when I saw the 2005 movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Joe Wright starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. But after that my passion for everything Austen took root and I started to dream of their life together as a married couple. Complete scenes and conversations played in my head over and over, eventually invading my waking hours until I was forced to write them down. One short story led to another, than another, with the saga evolving organically as the ideas continued to pour into my brain.

Having not read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice beforehand, did you find it difficult to pen your take on what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy after the wedding?

Not at all. I had not read the novel before I saw the movie, but I did read it before I began writing. I also read a massive quantity of Jane Austen fan fiction. What I adore about fan fiction is that each writer is moved to approach Austen’s tale in a unique way. There isn’t a right or wrong to it as it is the artist’s interpretation. These stories are not meant to defame Austen. They are a fan’s way of paying homage.

For me, I knew the kind of life I would wish for Darcy and Lizzy. It is the same life I would want for any literary couple: happily ever after. How I interpret that is an amalgamation based on my vision of a good marriage, historical fact, Austen’s written words, and the emotions from the movie.

If you could address the Jane Austen purists and critics who take issue with Austen sequels, what would you say?

Pretty much what I said above. Austen-related novels, for the most part, are intended as an homage and inspired by positive emotions. They all point back to the original source, and that is certainly a great thing. Her legacy is more alive today than ever before.

Jane Austen was unique. All writers are unique. So expecting anyone to write just like her is a high expectation! I bring my voice, my inspiration, my desires, and so on to the life I give these characters. In doing so they become mine. I do not anticipate that everyone will like my novels or agree with my version. Why should they? I don’t like every novel written in the world so it makes sense that the whole world isn’t going to universally like mine! Heck, some people do not even like Austen, as shocking as that may seem! But I do believe and will defend each writer’s earned respect in accomplishing something that is so difficult.

Did you originally have a series in mind, or did it just evolve as you began writing?

Utterly beyond my control! I took me by surprise every step of the way. I think I was on about my tenth chapter before I realized there wasn’t an end in sight. At that point I gave the whole story a title, Two Shall Become One (published as Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sourcebooks in 2009) and fully embraced the joy of writing. But it was still many months and 3 books later before I acknowledged that my “hobby” was a possible alternative career! The series came about because I so love these characters and did not want to let them go. I needed to see all of them complete their individual arcs, and that can only be accomplished in the course of several books.

How much research goes into writing a series like The Darcy Saga?

Extensive. I have never taken the accuracy aspects for granted, even when it was just a fun diversion for my online readers. I love history. Learning about the Regency Era during my early months of just reading about Austen inspired me to write as much as the love story itself. As time has gone on, my constant research has led me down story pathways I never imagined. I truly do go to extremes to make sure I have every fact correct and even hunt down proper words and phrases. Occasionally creative license takes over and I am cognizant that I am writing for a modern audience, but I never blatantly ignore the facts.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No! I have always wanted to be a nurse! Since I was 9 years old that is all I dreamed of and nursing is still my main profession. I work in a neonatal ICU, have done so for 25 years, and probably always will. No one was more surprised that me when this “gift” hit me. I guess decades of reading thousands of books have paid off.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

Right now I am hard at work on the first round of edits for the fourth novel in the series, tentatively titled Romancing Mr. Darcy. It will be released in October. I will probably just get that finished when my fabulous editor, Deb Werksman, will be sending me the edits for the novella I wrote as part of a Darcy Christmas anthology that is to be released mid-November.

After that I will be immersing myself into the fifth novel that is scheduled for a spring of 2011 release. I still have to finish it! Gah!!

My Dearest Mr. Darcy was released this month. What can you tell us about it?

My Dearest Mr. Darcy is the third novel in the series and covers the final four months of the Darcys' first year of marriage. The novels should be read in sequence, this one taking up precisely where Loving Mr. Darcy ended. The first portion follows the couple on their travels to a seaside resort where dozens of fun activities and some drama ensue. Then they return to Pemberley for the autumn into winter. It is a study in life on an estate with family and friends interacting as the Darcys prepare for the birth of their first child. That event does happen, the novel ending with the family now three members.

My story is unabashedly romantic with a strong emphasis on the intimate aspects of the Darcys' marriage. It is upbeat, positive, and intended to be a pleasant read. It is the tale of life, pure and simple, with some action and drama thrown in amid the historical entertainments.

If you could use one word to describe My Dearest Mr. Darcy, what would it be?

Oh man, I can think of so many! After much thought: Hopeful


My main aspiration in writing this saga is to show a life and marriage as perfectly realized. I believe in true love and the bonding of two people. I think the world needs more messages of hope, positive emotions, respect, devotion, and so on. I believe in a good marriage, know it is possible, and will always do my best to hold true to that vision.

Are there any particular authors that inspire you or that you enjoy reading?

I have many and for differing reasons. JRR Tolkien, for writing the best fantasy ever, for introducing me to the genre, and for teaching me the beauty of prose and poetry. Serial and saga writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Michener, John Jakes, David Eddings, Diana Gabaldon, and so many others who proved that novels can be thematic and contain more than one conflict/resolution plot. Stephen King for his brilliant, vivid use of language and fearlessness to write whatever the heck he feels like! Karen Marie Moning for writing ultimate alpha men who are also compassionate and loving.

I really could keep going on this topic!

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Sharon Lathan?

Not really! My days vary greatly, primarily because I work 12-hour night shifts at the hospital, so a “normal” schedule isn’t something I have had for over 20 years! I will say that I spend a great portion of my non-work time on the computer at a writing-related task of some kind. But I also make time for my husband and kids, and try to fit in escapist fun here and there. Oh yeah, I also have a house to maintain!

If you could offer one piece of advice to an unpublished author, what would it be?

I’ll give two: Trust in yourself and persevere. Don’t give up if writing and being published is what you really want. Secondly, start thinking of yourself as published now. Get a jump start on your website, marketing your image, and planning for the future. Being prepared is so important.

And lastly, if you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would it be?

I wouldn’t ask her anything. I would just share a pot of tea and some scones, and listen to her talk about her world. If she revealed her thoughts on romance, marriage, sequels, vampires, who is the best Mr. Darcy, or any of the other hot button topics, fine and dandy. But I really think it would be cool to merely hear her speak of the life she lived.

Thank you, Sharon, for taking the time to stop and chat with us today.  I wish you the best of success with My Dearest Mr. Darcy and your blog tour!


Married life is bringing out the best in the Darcys. Their mutual attentiveness brings readers into a magical world of love and wedded bliss.

Elizabeth is growing into her role as Mistress of Pemberley, and Darcy has mellowed under her gentle teasing and light-heartedness. Pemberley becomes a true home and a welcoming environment for loving family and friends. The Darcys travel to the seaside, welcome their firstborn, celebrate their anniversary and second Christmas, and at every moment embrace the love gifted to them.

“I love you, my Elizabeth. You are my soul, my blood and bone, my very life.”


Sharon Lathan is the author of the bestselling Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, and Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley. In addition to her writing, she works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. For more information on Sharon and her saga, come to her website at: http://www.darcysaga.net/

And now for the GIVEAWAY!  The lovely Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks has offered a lucky reader a set of Sharon's books (Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Loving Mr. Darcy and My Dearest Mr. Darcy). This is a terrific giveaway, so don't miss out!  All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment, with your email address.  The contest will end on January 31 and I will draw a winner on February 1.  US and Canada only, please. 

Good luck!

January 17, 2010

Mailbox Monday: January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week.

Here is my stash from last week:

Sent by the publisher:

The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

FBI Special agent Brad Raines is facing his toughest case yet. A Denver serial killer has killed four beautiful young women, leaving a bridal veil at each crime scene, and he's picking up his pace. Unable to crack the case, Raines appeals for help from a most unusual source: residents of the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private psychiatric institution for mentally ill individuals whose are extraordinarily gifted.

It's there that he meets Paradise, a young woman who witnessed her father murder her family and barely escaped his hand. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Paradise may also have an extrasensory gift: the ability to experience the final moments of a person's life when she touches the dead body.

In a desperate attempt to find the killer, Raines enlists Paradise's help. In an effort to win her trust, he befriends this strange young woman and begins to see in her qualities that most 'sane people' sorely lack. Gradually, he starts to question whether sanity resides outside the hospital walls...or inside.

As the Bride Collector picks up the pace-and volume-of his gruesome crucifixions, the case becomes even more personal to Raines when his friend and colleague, a beautiful young forensic psychologist, becomes the Bride Collector's next target.

The FBI believes that the killer plans to murder seven women. Can Paradise help before it's too late?

My Own Personal Soap Opera by Libby Malin

Frankie McNally doesn't just write for a soap opera, her life resembles one. Head writer for the soap opera, Lust for Life, Frankie is being courted by both Victor Pendergrast, a dashing older man sent in to save the show's sagging ratings, and Luke Blades, the soap's totally hot leading man. Just when she thinks life can't get more complicated, a jewel thief starts copying the show's storyline—a development that could send the show's ratings soaring if it doesn't get Frankie and Victor arrested first. Can Frankie write her way out of this one? And can she put make-believe aside long enough to discover the truth of her own heart?

The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview

One might reasonably expect that a young lady dispatched in disgrace across the Atlantic to England would strive to behave with decorum, but Mr. Darcy's incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning! And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin. And Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her "keeper," Mrs. Jenkinson, simply… vanishes.

In this tale of friendship, rebellion, and love, two young women entering Society forge a strong connection. A connection that is sorely tested when they both set out to win the heart of a most dashing—and dangerous— gentleman.

The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood

Which is the safest seat on an airplane? Where is the best place to have a heart attack? Why does religious observance add years to your life? How can birthdays be hazardous to your health?

Each second of the day, someone in America faces a crisis, whether it's a car accident, violent crime, serious illness, or financial trouble. Given the inevitability of adversity, we all wonder: Who beats the odds and who surrenders? Why do some people bound back and others give up? How can I become the kind of person who survives and thrives?

The fascinating, hopeful answers to these questions are found in THE SURVIVORS CLUB. In the tradition of Freakonomics and The Tipping Point, this book reveals the hidden side of survival by combining astonishing true stories, gripping scientific research, and the author's adventures inside the U.S. military's elite survival schools and the government's airplane crash evacuation course.

With THE SURVIVORS CLUB, you can also discover your own Survivor IQ through a powerful Internet-based test called the Survivor Profiler. Developed exclusively for this book, the test analyzes your personality and generates a customized report on your top survivor strengths.

There is no escaping life's inevitable struggles. But THE SURVIVORS CLUB can give you an edge when adversity strikes.

Who Owns the World:  The Suprising Truth About Every Piece of Land on the Planet by Kevin Cahill and Rob McMahon

You don't have to be a student of geography or cartography to have an interest in the world around you, especially with globalization making our planet seem smaller than ever. Now you can IM someone in Alaska, purchase coffee beans from Timor-Leste, and visit Dubai. But what do we really know about these lands?

WHO OWNS THE WORLD presents the results of the first-ever landownership survey of all 197 states and 66 territories of the world, and reveals facts both startling and eye-opening. You'll learn that:

--Only 15% of the world's population lays claim to landownership, and that landownership in too few hands is probably the single greatest cause of poverty.

--Queen Elizabeth II owns 1/6 of the entire land surface on earth (nearly 3 times the size of the U.S.).

--The Lichtenstein royal family is wealthier than the Grimaldis of Monaco.

--80% of the American population is crammed in urban areas.

--The least crowded state is Alaska, with 670 acres per person. The most crowded is New Jersey, with .7 acres per person. --60% of America's population are property owners. That's behind the UK (69% homeownership).

--And much, much more!

So, what books came into your house last week?


January 15, 2010

Giveaway: Eat Your Way to Happiness

Many thanks to Julie Harabedian and FSB Media for providing me with a giveaway copy of Eat Your Way to Happiness to give to a lucky reader.

To read my review of this great little "how to" food book, go here

Here is all you need to do if you'd like to pick up this copy:

* Leave me a comment with an email address to contact you (worth 1 entry)

For 2 extra entries:

* Become a follower or subscriber of my blog (if you already are, thank you; let me know if you already are, and let me know if you become one) (Just click on the "Follow" or "Subscribe" buttons located on the left side of my blog)

For 3 extra entries:

* Add me to your blogroll and/or mention my giveaway on your blog, mention it on Facebook or Twitter it (and leave a link)

That's all! You can get up to 6 entries! This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. No P.O. boxes.

The contest ends on Monday, February 1 and I will draw the winner (using Randomizer) on Tuesday, February 2, emailing the lucky reader.

Good luck!

January 13, 2010

Review of "Eat Your Way to Happiness" by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.

Synopsis:  Are you satisfied with your weight? Do you have enough energy to make it through the day? Do you consider yourself a happy person? All of these things are related, and your energy, mental clarity, mood and, of course, waistline are all directly connected to what you eat.

In Eat Your Way to Happiness, you'll learn that healthy eating is a lot easier than you may think, and that making a few simple changes to your diet can have amazing results. Discover:

- The 1, 2, 3 combination of breakfast foods that will keep you energized all day.
- Which carbs and fats to eat and why the right ones will help elevate your mood and decrease your weight.
- The 12 super foods that pack an added punch for boosting mood and slimming your waistline.
- Nutritious foods that have been scientifically shown to tweak brain chemistry so you feel calmer, happier and more energetic and more likely to stick to your diet.
- The amazing studies showing that chocolate and wine can help you live longer and more happily.

And much more!  (from Amazon)

I have generally had a love/hate relationship with self-help or improvement books.  Some of them are tedious, some are preachy, some are downright boring and others reek with the obvious intent to make a buck (and make that buck alone).  I was pleasantly surprised with Eat Your Way to Happiness

I found the writing fresh and easy to take in, without an ounce of preachiness or self-righteousness.   The book is broken into easy to follow and read chapters, complete with accounts of "real people" that Ms. Somer has counseled and advised. 

The main proponent to Eat Your Way to Happiness is the old adage "Your are what you eat".  Ms. Somer takes this saying and runs with it - - encouraging readers to cut processed foods, fast foods, foods heavy in sodium and soft drinks out of our diets, replacing them with natural, whole foods, the right kind of carbs and fats, and a better combination of foods that will keep you energized and work with your brain chemistry to keep you calmer and happier (and therefore more likely to stick with the diet).  And yes, chocolate and wine can be good for you! 

Eat Your Way to Happiness not only mentions several different types of diets, such as Mediterranean and Vegetarian, but also includes suggested menus, recipes and a shopping list.  It also encourages the reader to combine better eating with exercise, shaking off the notion that any diet alone will successfully instigate weight loss. 

I enjoyed and appreciated this book so much that I began following some of its tenants (not all of them . . .yet).  I have noticed a difference in my general demeanor - - less tired, more energy and less stressed - - which is perhaps the best recommendation a self-help book can get. 

To anyone who is interested in changing their diet in order to lose weight, or simply to improve the way they feel, and especially for those who dislike any type of dieting, Eat Your Way to Happiness is an excellent choice and I would highly recommend it. 

Eat Your Way to Happiness is available now at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For more information please visit http://www.eatyourwaytohappiness.com/.  To read an excerpt of this book, go here

Many thanks to Julie Harabedian and FSB Media for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

January 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday: January 11, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week.

Here is my stash from last week: 
Sent by the publisher:

Searching for Tina Turner by Jacqueline E. Luckett

On the surface, Lena Spencer appears to have it all. She and her wealthy husband Randall have two wonderful children, and they live a life of luxury. In reality, however, Lena finds that happiness is elusive. Randall is emotionally distant, her son has developed a drug habit, and her daughter is disgusted by her mother's "overbearing behavior." When Randall decides that he's had enough of marriage counseling, he offers his wife an ultimatum: "Be grateful for all I've done for you or leave." Lena, realizing that money can't solve her problems and that her husband is no longer the man she married, decides to choose the latter. Drawing strength from Tina Turner's life story, SEARCHING FOR TINA TURNER is Lena's struggle to find herself after 25 years of being a wife and mother.

Books I won:

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone

So, what books came into your house last week? 

January 6, 2010

Sneak Peek: "Eat Your Way to Happiness" by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.

I am wrapping up my reading of "Eat Your Way to Happiness" by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D. and thought you might enjoy a little taste of the book (pun intended) before I get my review up. 


10 Steps for a Carb Makeover

by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., Author of Eat Your Way to Happiness

If you are a carb craver, you need to treat yourself with a little kindness. It's not your fault you can't keep your fingers out of the cookie jar or the bag of chips. You can't "will away" those cravings. They are hardwired in your head.

So work with your carb cravings. Make sure each meal contains at least one whole grain. Plan a quality-carb snack at your most craving-prone time of the day (typically midafternoon or late evening). To maximize your mood and minimize your weight, you need to take this quality-carb message seriously. That means tackling the issue with a 10-step plan.

Step #1. Purge the kitchen of all white flour. Open the cupboards and toss the junk. Throw out the obvious: the white rice, the instant mashed potatoes, any cracker or cookie made with anything but 100% whole grain (you are pretty much down to Triscuits and 100% Whole Wheat Fig Newtons), all potato chips, Pop-Tarts, boxes of bread crumbs, Pasta Roni, Hamburger Helper, cans of Chef Boyardi Ravioli, Costco muffins and such. Search the freezer for French fries, hash browns, breakfast foods made from processed grains or other high-calorie/low-quality items like Marie Callender's frozen pasta entrees or pot pies.

Definitely toss your carb triggers, junk foods that you are powerless to resist. Remember, if you have to drive to the store to get ice cream, you will be much less likely to binge.

Then read labels on the rest. If wheat flour or enriched flour is in the top three ingredients on a label, you are holding a poor-quality carb. Toss it.

Okay, okay, if this cold-turkey approach is a bit over the top, then keep two or three junk carbs and toss the rest. But beware: these items may be "trigger" foods that tempt you to indulge. Also, keep in mind that this is not so much about "giving up" as it is giving to" your health, your mood, and your belly and thighs.

Step #2. Restock the kitchen with the 100% whole grains you like, such as 100% whole-wheat bread, old-fashioned oatmeal, Kashi Autumn Wheat Cereal or GoLean Cereal, Zoom hot cereal or instant brown rice. Experiment with new grains, like barley, millet, amaranth, whole-wheat couscous or bulgur.

If you can't imagine your spouse or kids loving whole-wheat pasta or whole-wheat tortillas, then choose the next best thing. For example, try Aunt Jemima frozen Pancakes with Whole Grains, or tortillas or pastas made from blends of whole wheat and refined wheat, such as Ronzoni or Barilla whole-wheat blend pastas.

Step #3. Switch to quality carbs in recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for white rice: use instant brown or wild rice, bulgur, millet or other whole grains;  flour: use at least half whole-wheat flour;  bread (such as French toast): use whole-grain bread; potatoes: use sweet potatoes, yams, squash and/or corn

Step #4. Plan snacks and bring grains with you. When packing your lunch and snacks for the day, make sandwiches with 100% whole-grain bread, use low-fat cheeses such as Cabot Vermont 50% Reduced Fat Cheese, and include other grains like 100% whole-grain crackers or air-popped popcorn.

Step #5. Create nonfood rewards. Praise yourself with a manicure, flowers, a game of golf on Saturday or a Netflix movie. Follow the "if . . . then" rule: if you steer clear of the junk, then you get the back rub, hour of alone time or bubble bath.

Step #6. Take time. Often we grab food before we even know whether we really want it. That knee-jerk reaction gets us into trouble. Take a 10-minute pause before diving into any snack, from popcorn to leftover doughnuts.

Step #7. Identify the craving. Is it for something crunchy or chewy? Cold, sweet or creamy? Once you have pinpointed exactly what you want, then find a low-calorie food that satisfies that craving. Luckily, the better you eat, the more your cravings for fatty or overly sweet carbs will dwindle.

Step #8. Eat breakfast. As discussed in Chapter 2, eat a nutritious breakfast and you are much more likely to resist junk-food temptations throughout the day.

Step #9. Keep hunger at bay. Eat small meals and snacks evenly distributed throughout the day. This helps keep serotonin levels (and other nerve chemicals like NPY) in the normal range.

Step #10. Out of sight, out of mind. Put another way, seeing is craving. Watch out for temptations at the mall, restaurants and friends' houses. It is easy to overdo carbs when most of the ones offered to you are the low-quality ones. For example, studies at the University of Illinois found that people ate 45% more calories when there was a bread basket placed on the table in restaurants than when the waiter came by and offered them a slice from a basket. Ask that the tortilla chips be removed when dining at a Mexican restaurant and you will save yourself 300 unnecessary calories. Avoid the coffee shop with the display of muffins, scones and croissants.

The above is an excerpt from the book Eat Your Way to Happiness by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Eat Your Way to Happiness


Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, is a registered dietitian and author of several books, including 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet, Food & Mood and Age-Proof Your Body. She is a member of the editorial advisory board of Shape magazine and editor in chief of Nutrition Alert, a newsletter that summarizes the current research from more than 6,000 journals. She appears frequently on NBC's Today and other national television shows.

For more information please visit http://www.eatyourwaytohappiness.com/.

Stay tuned this week for my review of Eat Your Way to Happiness!

January 4, 2010

Review of "Death in the Stocks" by Georgette Heyer

Synopsis:   A bobby on his night rounds discovers a corpse in evening dress locked in the stocks on the village green. Inspector Hannasyde is called in, but sorting out the suspects proves a challenge. Anyone in the eccentric, exceedingly uncooperative Vereker family had the motive and means to kill Andrew Vereker, who seemed to have been universally disliked. One cousin allies himself with the inspector, while the victim's half-brother and sister, each of whom suspects the other, markedly try to set him off the scent. To readers' delight, the killer is so cunning (not to mention the author), that the mystery remains until the very end…  (from Amazon)

This was my first Georgette Heyer novel and my first impression is that Ms. Heyer's mysteries read very similarly to Agatha Christie's.  And as a fan of Ms. Christie's stories, such a comparison is a compliment from this reader.

Ms. Heyer weaves an interesting and complex murder mystery, with a relatively small cast of characters, plenty of clues and, naturally, the obligatory red herring.  The victim is presented as a non-pleasant sort of man, with an excess of girlfriends and with plenty of reasons for someone to murder him.  Amid twists and turns, we are introduced to his half-brother, Kenneth, a somewhat lazy man who is most interested in the family fortune, half-sister Antonia who collects engagements and freely speaks her mind, cousin Giles Carrington, the Vereker family's solicitor, Violet Williams, Kenneth's fiancee, Leslie Rivers, who would be interested in being Kenneth's fiancee, Rudolph Mesurier, Antonia's latest fiancee and business colleague of the victim and faithful servant, Mergatroyd, who is always looking out for Kenneth and Antonia.

The best part of this mystery novel is the mystery.  No punches pulled, it's simply a good old fashioned mystery.  The author doesn't take the cheap or easy way out and no character does anything so outlandish or stupid that it ruins the story for you (a large pet peeve of mine).  "Death in the Stocks" has no offensive language.  No sex.  And while the story is about a murder, the violence level is fairly low, with nothing graphic or over the top. 

If you are an Agatha Christie fan, or a discriminating reader who chooses substance over froth, and are looking for more than just a flimsy beach read, Georgette Heyer and "Death in the Stocks"  is for you.  I would recommend this fun 1930s romp to mystery lovers alike. 

"Death in the Stocks" is available for purchase at all major bookssellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as from Sourcebooks' website. 

For information on author Georgette Heyer, go here

Many thanks to Danielle Jackson and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review