Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rambo and Me: The Story Behind the Story by David Morrell



David Morrell discloses how he came to create Rambo in the book, First Blood in his essay, Rambo and Me: The Story Behind the Story.  Morrell's honesty about the inspiration behind First Blood and the Rambo character is inspiring and may be surprising to some, especially those who have only seen the Rambo movies. He also explains the journey First Blood took from book to movie without romanticizing the process. This essay is well worth the read for any fan of David Morrell and/or Rambo!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Heroes for My Daughter by Brad Meltzer



Brad Meltzer's Heroes for My Daughter is an excellent book for girls and boys alike! His short biographies of each person in the book spark the imagination, inspire confidence, and uplift spirits. He includes famous people and people from his own life giving all equal weight thereby demonstrating that everyone has the potential for greatness inside them. Heroes for My Daughter often made me want to know more about the people Meltzer included. His way of writing directly to his daughter makes the book feel intimate, sweet, and, perhaps, a tad like looking in on a private moment between father and daughter. About a third of the way through the book, I started making a mental list of all the girls I'd like to buy a copy of Heroes for My Daughter if I could afford it. I also realized there are a few boys I'd like to buy it for as well, so it's more a book of heroes whose life stories will benefit all children and even adults!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Golf Rules Explained by Peter Dobereiner



Golf Rules Explained (11th Edition) by Peter Dobereiner makes a good reference book for golfers. While a bit of a dry read, it clarifies some points of the game and even points out some of the more confusing aspects of the game. At times, my enthusiasm for the game suffered while reading Golf Rules Explained but never for long. There are a few sections that are confusing, but the author blames that on confusion within the rules yet also points out that the rules state exactly what they mean and mean exactly what they say. Even with that, the rules are open to interpretation. The interesting thing is that there are times when being "nice" in penalized and when doing the commonsense thing doesn't follow the rules. All in all, Golf Rules Explained gives golfers a clearer understanding of the rules, especially for those interested in playing more than the occasional casual game. On the other hand, Golf Rules Explained can create undue tension in the casual player, so beware if your goal is pleasure rather than tournament play.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

If Cooks Could Kill by Joanne Pence



In If Cooks Could Kill, Joanne Pence continues the story of Angie Amalfi and her love interest, Inspector Paavo Smith. Angie is so enthralled with her engagement, she's pushing all her friends into love connections and embarrassing Paavo with romantic gift after gift at his work. Angie's behavior seems a little sophomoric, but then again Angie tends to not think things through. When Angie's best friend, Connie, is framed for murder, Angie jumps into the investigation determined to clear Connie. Angie and Connie find themselves running from dangerous situation to dangerous situation all the while Paavo is busy solving the murder and a series of crimes related to it. Coincidences in his investigation lead Paavo to Angie's rescue more than once. Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy the fun and humor Pence dispenses in If Cooks Could Kill.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts by Regena Thomashauer


Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts by Regena Thomashauer strives to empower and liberate women. Parts of it are fun and entertaining, but there are moments when it feels a little too heavy on shock value. I kept waiting for Thomashauer to tell me something I haven't discovered on my own. The exercises felt contrived and designed to shock the reader. Perhaps there are women who find that motivating, but I'm not one of of them. I did several of the exercises just to do them even though some of them I've done for years on my own. Thomashauer writes in an engaging way that keeps the reader interested even when doubting her suggestions. I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of the suggestions are fun, intriguing, and perhaps even helpful, but some of them just sound like manipulation. I'm not a huge fan of manipulation, especially in relationships. Still, the idea of women taking control of their own lives and the pleasure in their lives appeals to me. On the other hand, Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts suffers from the same problem many self-empowerment books suffer from. They encourage self-empowerment but then proceed to explain that the author's path to self-empowerment is the one the reader should follow, and that's more "follow me" than "empower thyself" creating an odd dychotomy. Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts is and entertaining read that may serve to inspire some women to go after their pleasure in life, so it's worth a read.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer


Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer is an excellent examination of the creative process. I started this book with more than a little hesitancy. As a writer, I felt concerned it would negatively affect my creativity kind of like how seeing how special effects are done tends to ruin a movie for me. Instead, my creativity sparked almost every time I read it.  Imagine sparked my creativity to the point that I mentioned it in a blog post, Nudges From the Law of Attraction, while I was still reading it. Lehrer explains how creativity works by studying its effects on real creative people. While he talks about the chemical processes in the brain and the parts of the brain that are directly involved in creative endeavors, he focuses most of his attention on expressions of creativity. The book examines everything from why solitude can help or hurt creativity to why people use drugs to free their creative urges. Imagine goes into the minds of creative people like Bob Dylan and Shakespeare but also talks about building creative atmospheres such as the ones at Pixar Studios and 3M. He explains why talking to people outside our "circles" can spark our creativity while hours spent talking to those within our circles only seem to revolve around the same thoughts. Lehrer makes imagination and creativity accessible to all. Imagine is a book for anyone who is interested in the creative process or even anyone who knows someone interested in the creative process.

NOTE: Since I wrote this review, it has come to light that Jonah Lehrer fabricated the Dylan quotes and plagiarized his own work in writing this book. I am thoroughly disappointed to read this as I found the book quite interesting and now have to doubt it in its entirety. See Jonah Lehrer Resigns From The New Yorker After Making Up Dylan Quotes for His Book

A Death in Munich by David L. Hoof


A Death in Munich by David Hoof disturbed me to the point of making me squirm but kept me entrenched in the story. Hoof creates a spy novel that investigates the real life suicide Hitler’s niece, Geli Raubal, which may have been a murder. He places the reader inside the mind of the spy investigating the suicide/murder and its links to Hitler. As the spy goes about his business, the reader feels immersed in his hesitation to trust even those who are supposed to be on his side. The reader is so inside the mind of the spy, the reader feels the spy’s desire whether for comfortable shoes, a warm meal, or the desire to bed an attractive woman. Whether the reader believes history’s version of the suicide of Geli Raubal or thinks she was murdered and it was staged as a suicide, the investigation Hoof concocts is a ride that will have the reader second-guessing their belief about Raubal’s death. Novels based on historical events, including A Death in Munich, often leave the reader feeling a little discombobulated as their beliefs are challenged. A Death in Munich instills fear that Hitler is around every corner not only awaiting the spy investigating the suicide of Geli Raubal but also the reader for daring to read this possible alternative history…

The Writer's Workout by Christina Katz


Christina Katz's latest book, The Writer's Workout, encourages writers to strengthen their skills, increase their endurance, and stretch their limitations as they train for the marathon that is the writing life. Like fitness in life, a writer's career is only healthy if the writer devotes proper time and attention to developing strength, endurance, and flexibility. Katz provides 366 short essays that inspire, educate, and encourage writers to keep their writing careers in shape no matter where they're at in their career. Katz pours her years of experience writing and teaching into the pages of The Writer's Workout. Each essay reminds the writer to nurture his/her career with growth and prosperity in mind. Katz remains consistent with her teachings throughout the book expanding on the teachings as they need to grow in a writer's career. The Writer's Workout is a workout every writer needs to do to keep his/her career healthy, productive, and prosperous.

Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues by Robert Fate


Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues by Robert Fate pulls the reader into the world P. I. Kristin Van Dijk confronts on a daily basis as she and her partner, Otis Millett, strive to set right the wrongs of the world with their own brand of justice. Never quite vigilantes but never quite angels either, Kristin and Otis confront dangerous criminals and rescue the damsel in distress even as they wonder just how much distress the damsel is actually experiencing. Injuries, love interests, police investigations, and gangsters all attempt to get in the way of Kristin and Otis saving the girl. Even the lawyer who hired them to find her becomes an obstacle to their success as they are distracted by the need to save him. With millions of dollars at stake, the safety of the young but hated heiress is important to a multitude of people. Though the pages are riddled with dead bodies - I lost count at some point - somehow the violence never feels gratuitous. After all, Kristin and Otis have a policy to only kill those who deserve it. Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues is an exciting read filled characters that make the reader want to know them better. Fate balances Kristin's stuggle to balance her strength and feminity in a way that captures the reader's imagination leaving the reader desperate to find out what happens to Kristin Van Dijk next.
           

Albany, Oregon - Vault 244

I've eaten at Vault 244, located at 244 W 1st Ave, several times, and I've always been pleased with the experience. Their vegetarian selection is a bit limited but always tastes delicious. The drink menu by itself is interesting enough to draw me back over and over. My last trip to Vault 244, I ordered the handmade vegetarian ravioli, which was simple but delicious. My dinner companion ordered the chicken quesdilla which he liked. I ordered a drink called Fire & Ice which combined a thai chile infused vodka with cucumber juice. It was incredible. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of heat and cool. For dessert we split the flourless chocolate torte which was quite good. I also ordered a hot buttered rum which tasted excellent. It was sweet enough to serve as dessert all by itself. We sat at the bar this time, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching bartenders work; however, I loved being seated by the fireplace on other visits. Vault 244 provides great energy, fabulous drinks, and delicious food, but it is a bit pricey. I thoroughly enjoy the restaurant but with the limited vegetarian options for entrees and the prices, I only eat there occasionally. Still, I'd love to work my way through their drink menu.

Corvallis, Oregon - Les Caves Bier & Kitchen

Les Caves Bier & Kitchen is located at 308 SW 3rd Street in downtown Corvallis, Oregon. I've eaten there three times now. The decor has a homey bar feeling. It made me smileand feel relaxed all three times as I entered. It has a certain elegance while maintaining an inviting, laid back feel. The wait staff is attentive without being intrusive. They are helpful and willing to accommodate guests dietary needs.
My first meal at Les Caves Bier & Kitchen was breakfast. I ordered French Toast served with I. P. A. (India Pale Ale) syrup. It was delicious and perfectly cooked. My husband had the Chicken & Waffles. He enjoyed his breakfast as well. I tasted his waffle and found it very tasty. Even the coffee, River Mudd by Pacifica Organic Coffee, was quite good.
My second meal at Les Caves was brunch. I ordered the Orchard Waffle, scrambled eggs, and a drink called the French Toasted. The delicious and perfectly cooked waffle was served with cooked apples. The scrambled eggs were nothing special, but were cooked well. The French Toasted consisted of Stoli Vanilla Vodka, coffee, maple whipped cream, and a dusting of cinnamon. While I normally don't like to have alcohol with brunch, this drink was worth breaking my rule. My husband ate the hot pastrami  sandwich. He cleaned his plate without a complaint.
My third meal at Les Caves was dinner on Valentine's Day. They were running a Valentine's special. Order three courses, and get dessert free from their Valentine's Day menu. We split a bier bread pretzel that was quite delicious. It was served with a beer cheese sauce and spicy mustard. The beer cheese was was good, and my husband enjoyed the mustard. I'm not a mustard fan, so I didn't try it. We both had the mushroom tartlet as first course. It was quite tasty. The crust was puffed pastry. The mushroom filling was cooked nicely and tasted good. The arugula salad was simple but not particularly outstanding; however, neither of us finished it. I wish I had ordered the dressing on the side as I usually do. The dressing was a little overwhelming for my personal taste, but my husband seemed okay with it. I ordered the handrolled gnocchi served in a browned butter sauce for my entree. It was supposed to be served with beets and blue cheese, but I don't like either so I requested a change. They left out the beets but substituted parmesan cheese for the blue cheese. The gnocchi was well prepared and tasted good but was a little much without a vegetable or something to break the monotony. I think the gnocchi with mushrooms from the regular menu would've been much better. Perhaps those who like beets even liked this version. My husband's entree, Roasted Afton Farms Breast of Chicken was a little dry. He described the creamed leeks as having a slimy texture at first. He also thought the entree included too many potatoes. For the dessert course, I ordered the Warm Triple Chocolate Brownie served with blood orange ice cream and toffee topping. My husband ordered the Belgian Chocolate Torte served with poached cherries. The brownie was a little dry and had so many nuts cutting it was difficult. The ice cream was quite tasty and toffee topping was good. The torte was a dark, bitter chocolate that tasted good, but my husband thought the cherries were pickled instead of poached after tasting them. Overall, the dining experience was good but not great.
The atmosphere and the staff at Les Caves create a very enjoyable dining experience. The food is good but could be better. I applaud them for using local produce and products as much as possible to create a dining experience that is healthy, environmentally friendly, and varied. The menu could be a little friendlier to the vegetarian diner, but overall I like the idea of this restaurant. Les Caves is definitely worth giving a try. I particularly enjoy their breakfast, and I want to give their dinner a second try.
 

The Sentry by Robert Crais


Robert Crais kidnaps the reader once again in The Sentry, but the reader doesn't wish to be rescued, well unless Joe Pike and Elvis Cole are the rescuers. The reader feels like they are protected from the injustices of the world while visiting with old friends, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole, in this adventure filled with twists and turns. Crais lets the reader see just enough of Pike to want more but not enough to solve the mystery of Pike. The mystery of Pike and the humor of Cole are much of what keep me coming back for more from Crais with each book. In The Sentry, Pike's integrity won't allow him to turn his back on a woman he perceives in need of saving. Once in motion, Pike can't be stopped. His sense of right and wrong drives him to find the truth, save the girl, solve the crime, and make things right even if it puts him in danger in ways that go beyond the physical. Crais deftly balances Pike's stoicism with Cole's humor while letting the reader get to know Pike a little better and yet, Pike remains a mystery. As usual, Crais delivers a story so engrossing when it ends the reader only has one question. When do I get more of Joe Pike and Elvis Cole?
           

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a gripping story filled with both the sadness and the joy of life. Hope and regret thread through the pages gripping the reader in a heartrending but mesmerizing journey. Filled with characters struggling to choose right over wrong as well as those who are selfish and greedy, the reader will alternately lament their choices, feel their pain, sympathize with their struggles, and cheer their successes. Animal lovers beware there are some fairly graphic depictions of the way circus animals have been treated over the years. Gruen's unapologetic descriptions of circus life for all involved, the workers, the performers, and the animals strips away the romanticized idea that running away with the circus could ever be the answers to one's troubles in life. All the while, Water for Elephants also grounds us in the reality of aging and reminds us that perhaps we should listen a little and "do" a little less. Gruen's writing immerses the reader in a world so real the reader feels compelled to remind one's self it's fiction.

Corvallis, Oregon - Spice & Ice Asian Grill~Gelato

A friend and I had lunch at Spice & Ice Asian Grill~Gelato located at 215 SW 3rd Street in Corvallis, the recently opened second location for this restaurant on Saturday. This casual, Asian fusion restaurant shows a lot of promise! The murals on the wall were fun and created a feeling of relaxed cheerfulness. The staff is still finding their way but handled things well. The appetizers and entrees were served a little closer together than I would've liked. The staff was attentive to the needs of the customers. My friend and I split an order of salad rolls and an order of spring rolls. Both were delicious. I would return just for these two menu items. The salad rolls were cold and soothing. I think they'd be great on a hot afternoon when one is just looking for a light snack. The peanut sauce served with them complements them very nicely. The spring rolls were fried delightfully crisp and the vegetables inside the perfect texture to offset the crispiness. They were tasty with the chili sauce served with them, but just as good dipped in the peanut sauce served with the salad rolls. I wish I'd dipped a salad roll in the chili sauce to see how well that would work together... Oh, well, next time. We both ordered the mandarin tempeh. It was served with white rice. I enjoyed this dish. The portions were generous. I ordered the small size and brought home close to half of it. My friend also liked the entree. My Thai iced coffee tasted fine. We split the fried banana gelato, vanilla gelato topped with deep-fried wonton wrapped bananas..  It came without sauce though we were told a caramel sauce is usually served with it, but that there's been a snafu with ordering. It tasted good, but the texture needed a little contrast element, and I thought a sprinkle of fresh basil or mint over the top would've complemented it nicely. It was also quite sweet. This is a large dessert. Order to share! Overall, it's a restaurant worth giving a try, especially if you enjoy Asian fusion food.

Slash and Burn by Matt Hilton


Slash and Burn by Matt Hilton is an action packed thriller that takes the reader from Florida to Kentucky to Texas and back to Florida. Slash and Burn is filled with action and violence.  Hilton creates a main character, Joe Hunter, whose sense of justice may not always fit inside the law but is based on his own code of right and wrong. The pages are littered with dead bodies as Hunter strives to save two sisters from criminals. Sibling love, friendship, and loyalty are all tested and reaffirmed in Slash and Burn. Driven by greed, Robert Huffman will do anything to protect his criminal empire including murder anyone who dares try to expose him or stand in his way. Though he uses the resources at his disposal, he's willing to get his hands dirty, enjoys it, in fact. Though there are moments in the story that seem a bit incredulous, the story is compelling enough for the reader to overlook them. Hilton's detailed fight scenes paint a picture that will make the reader feel as if they've been dropped in the middle of the action feeling the heat of the blaze burning, the impact of a punch, the slice of a knife, and the bullet tearing through skin and flesh.

Hot to Get What You Want Without Having to Ask by Richard Templar


How to Get What You Want Without Having to Ask by Richard Templar is a simple examination of the techniques to get people give you what you want. I didn't learn anything new from this book, but that's probably not a fair way to judge the book. I tend to usually get what I want anyway. The techniques described are simple and easy to understand even if a few do seem to contradict others. He sometimes points this out and explains why there are two approaches listed. It may serve someone who struggles to get what they want with some simple techniques to make their desires known. Even though Templar stressses that manipulation isn't the way to get what you want, some of the techniques described certainly border on manipulation. Others though are simply about learning to express one's wants in a more effective way. How to Get What You Want Without Having to Ask is well written with a bit of humor thrown in from time to time.

Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff


Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff discusses yoga's effect on the body and the body's effect on yoga. Kaminoff starts by explaining the dynamics of breathing and of yoga breath. This section alone is worth the cost of the book! I noticed an immediate improvement in my breathing during yoga poses and therefore an improvement in the poses after reading the section on breathing. Yoga Anatomy then goes on to show yoga poses from an anatomical view highlighting the parts of the body that should be working and/or that are affected by the pose. The yoga name and a translation for each pose is provided. Each pose is classified and given a level. The joints that are active, the work the body is doing, the muscles being lengthened, the obstacles for each pose, notes to help with the pose, and breathing are all discussed in relationship to each pose. There are moments when the descriptions for the poses have so much in common, the reader feels a sense of de ja vu while reading. I even felt like there were times when I wasn't actually internalizing what I was reading until I was moving into a pose the next day or even a few days later and would suddenly remember reading about the pose and realize why the pose hadn't been working for me and how to correct my stance, my breathing, or my focus. Yoga Anatomy is easy to read and understand, but a reader should be prepared to take some time, especially if the goal is to use the book to improve one's yoga practice.  I read it a little at a time over several months in order to internalize what I read about each pose. Yoga Anatomy is a great book for anyone interested in practicing yoga or for anyone who practices yoga but struggles from time to time with a pose or yoga breath. Yoga Anatomy has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf as a reference book! After all, it's already proven beneficial to my yoga practice.

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr


Anthony Doerr takes the reader into the complex role memory places in life in Memory Wall, his latest book of short stories. In stories that capture the reader's imagination, Doerr also makes the reader feel grateful for the memories of one's own life. In sharing the memories of his characters, Doerr examines the role memories play in making us who we are. All the stories examine the importance of memory to the characters and show the extremes to which people will go to hold on to the memories that make them recognize who they are when they look in the mirror. Doerr creates characters the reader will want to know more about even if they aren't always necessarily likeable. Memory Wall is a collection of short stories, the reader will savor from the first word of the first story to the last word of the last story.

The Conduit by Stacey Rourke

Stacey Rourke's intriguing debut young adult (YA) novel, The Conduit, introduces readers to the Garrett siblings, Celeste, Kendall, and Gabe, who have been chosen to save the world from a mystical creature called Barnabus who is in a fight with another mystical creature called the Gryphon. Rourke uses humor to demonstrate the reluctance of her characters, especially Celest, to embrace being superheroes. The bond between siblings and, in turn, their bond with their feisty Grandmother keep the reader smiling even during the intense scenes that make the reader feel like striking out at the demons to help the siblings. As the siblings learn about their powers including where they came from and how to control them, they struggle with how their new powers and responsibilities will affect their lives. Their guide, Alaina, imparts the history behind their powers and responsibilities as well as how to use their powers. They alternately listen to her and rebel against her just as teens are prone to doing. Rourke develops an interesting cast of characters in an engaging story that will leave the reader wanting more! The good news is, there is more of the Garrett siblings' adventures on the way!
           

D. R.T.: Dead Right There by Ray Ellis



D. R. T.: Dead Right There is Ray Ellis's intriguing second book in the Nate Richards series. Ellis once again grabs hold of the reader and won't let go in this intense book. A serial killer is targeting registered sex offenders in the Treasure Valley. Richards and his partner, Mac, must stop him before he completes his list. Ellis takes the reader into the killer's mindset where he believes God is directing him to take out the registered sex offenders. Ellis draws from his own experience as a detective to illustrate the difficulties of life in law enforcement. Richards and Mac miss Thanksgiving dinner with their families because they're called out to a crime scene. Richards love life becomes complicated when he finally decides to start dating again, and Amber, the woman he professed his love to just before she left town, returns. Richards again feels his faith being tested in both his professional life and his personal life. Ellis gives the reader enough insight into the murderer to remind the reader that there is a human being who was once hurt himself somewhere inside the monster committing the crimes. With characters who are multilayered rather than caricatures of good and evil, D. R. T.: Dead Right There exposes the raw truth that even the most righteous have sinned and that it is human nature to see one sin, especially someone else's, as worse than others.

The Well Meaning Killer by Miranda Phillips Walker


Miranda Phillips Walker introduces FBI Agent Megan McKenna in The Well Meaning Killer. Walker draws a parallel between McKenna's background and a serial killer's background that is eerie while still portraying that people with similar backgrounds can have very different responses to those events. As McKenna hunts a serial killer who puts his victims in wells, her physical, emotional, and mental strength are challenged. Her tough exterior hides her vulnerability.  Walker delves into the killer's psyche including what created the monster he has become. Walker interweaves a love story that borders on becoming a love triangle into the storyline that leaves the reader unsure where their loyalties lie. She creates characters that the reader wants to know better and characters that will make the reader squirm while reading. There are moments when the reader will be torn between feeling sympathy for the abused little boy and wishing for the death of the monster he becomes. Though at moments the reader will feel frustrated by the decisions of the characters involved and may question the actions of those characters, Walker keeps the reader engaged and longing for justice to be served. The Well Meaning Killer entertains while delving into the cruelty and greed that drive people to criminal activity while exposing the vulnerabilities of their victims. Walker creates a character in McKenna that makes readers anxious for the next book.

Corvallis, Oregon - Big River

Big River, located at 101 NW Jackson Street, provides an atmosphere that is at once casual and elegant lending itself to a nice dinner out or a quick bite just as easily. I've eaten there several times and the food has never disappointed. For my latest dining experience at Big River, I ate the cavatelli along with a salad while my husband ate the River Salad. My salad was, well, a salad. It was fresh enough, but nothing particulary exciting. The cavatelli was so delicious, I ate every last morsel! The corn included in the dish gave it a nice surprise and really completed the dish, and this from someone who doesn't particularly like corn. My husband enjoyed his salad as well. For dessert, I ordered the Chocolate Tier and a cappuccino and my husband ordered the Tiramisu. The Chocolate Tier was fabulous and the cappuccino a nice accompaniment to its sweetness. My husband liked the Tiramisu. Both desserts were so big, we got boxes and brought them home to have after dinner the next night! Our server was excellent! He was very accommodating about moving us inside when the temperature dropped even though we'd requested to eat on the patio. It was a delightful dining experience as is typical of Big River! One thing to keep in mind, Big River is a restaurant to go to for special occasions as it can be rather spendy!

21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter by Cherie Burbach



In 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter, Cherie Burbach introduces the readers to the importance of Twitter in a book marketing campaign. She explains how Twitter works, debunks some common negative perceptions of Twitter and outlines some of Twitter's best practices. In discussing incorporating Twitter into one's marketing campaign, she alleviates fear that Twitter will be too time consuming by explaining how Twitter can be useful in only twenty minutes a day. Throughout 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter, Burbach gives concrete and short examples of authors, includinng herself, using Twitter to promote their books and other work. Burbach's tips for using Twitter to promote one's book are easy to understand and easy to follow. She also includes a list of resources to help the author make Twitter work better for them. 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter is conversational in tone and a quick read filled with information to make one think about the best way to incorporate Burbach's ideas or use them as a launching pad for one's own ideas for promoting one's book.

Sharpshooter by David Hoof



Sharpshooter by David L. Hoof brought one word to mind repeatedly as I read it: unflinching. The characters were bold, brash, and at times almost too real. The setting was harsh and cold yet beautiful. The story was unapologetic in its examination of human behavior and attitudes. And, all this lead me back to the word unflinching. Hoof's characters' words were often far from politically correct and often made this reader flinch or squirm in her seat yet it depicted the characters' attitudes without question. The characters in the book are deeply flawed but likeable on some level.  As the investigation into the murder of Jeb Holloway, political candidate, evolves, the reader is left to wonder if they really care who killed him even as curiosity drives them to find out. When two seemingly less important citizens are killed, the reader must wonder why their deaths are more disturbing than that of the politician's. The reader will also be torn between wanting the rekindled romance between the Red, the deputy, and Molly, the reporter, to work and to disintegrate even while wanting to know more about it. While, at times, the characters in Sharpshooter seem almost like caricatures even to one another, at other times, they seem like old friends the reader wishes to invite over for a nice leisurely dinner. Sharpshooter's unflinching examination of the prejudices people hold in their hearts, the wrongs remembered for generations, and the ambivalence that permeates people's daily lives grabs the reader and won't let go in an intriguing and layered murder mystery.

Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work by Dinah Miller, M.D., Annette Hanson, M. D., and Steven Roy Daviss, M. D.


Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work by Dinah Miller, M.D., Annette Hanson, M. D., and Steven Roy Daviss, M. D. explains the way psychiatrists perform their jobs. They give detailed explanations of the process and example of possible scenarios to illustrate the various aspects of psychiatry. Written for the layman to understand the process, the book still calls for the reader to pay close attention in order to internalize all the nuances included. While the psychiatrists don't always agree, they reflect the myriad differences throughout the psychiatric community. They discuss talk therapy, medicinal treatment, hospitalization, outpatient care, and treatment within the legal system in enough depth to demystify psychiatry for most readers. Still, the book does require a certain level of knowledge to fully assimilate the material. Shrink Rap is a book the reader should plan to spend some time reading and studying. It is filled with a lot of useful information. Shrink Rap will make a terrific reference book for anyone who needs mental health care or knows someone who needs mental health as it seeks to remove the stigma often attached to mental illness that keeps people from seeking the care they need. The authors provide a well-written, well-informed, and interesting look at the mental health care system in Shrink Rap.

Killer Instinct by Robert W. Walker


Robert W. Walker introduces Dr. Jessica Coran, pathologist, to readers in Killer Instinct, the first in his Instinct Thrillers. Dr. Coran is an easy to like character who is intelligent and ambitious. While at times, the reader will want to smack her for decisions she makes, she always justifies her decisions, at least to herself. She is strong, quick witted, and intense while remaining feminine. Walker exposes a vampire story that isn't a vampire story in the usual sense. He introduces us to a character who is vampiristic in thought and behavior but all too human complete with frailties. Killer Instinct is populated with characters who will draw the reader in, upset the reader, and confuse the reader all the time keeping the reader fully engaged. As the investigation progresses into a series of murders resulting from blood being slowly drained from the victims and the crime scenes providing little to go on, the skills of Dr. Coran and FBI agent, Otto Boutine, who is dealing with personal issues and the growing attraction between him and Dr. Coran, uncover overlooked evidence, hidden evidence, and previously unnoticed links between other unsolved murders. They, along with a team at the FBI, seek the killer with an almost obsessive need. Killer Instinct never lacks intensity or the details to keep the reader reading. Walker leaves the reader wanting to spend more time with Dr. Jessica Coran.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Depoe Bay, Oregon - Tidal Raves

Some of you may remember that I've reviewed Tidal Raves , located at 279 NW Highway 101, before, but sometimes a restaurant earns a second review...
Last Friday after a long walk on the beach - a walk that felt more like a hike, on the Oregon coast, we decided to eat dinner at Tidal Raves, one of our favorite restaurants, before driving home. We called and got put on the walk-in list as we neared the end of our walk, but we missed the estimated time by about ten or fifteen minutes. The hostess was very nice and put us back in the queue but not at the very end. The place was crowded as usual. The views of the cliffs and the ocean were as spectacular as always.  The food was delicious and beautifully served. My Vegetable Stir Fry was so filling I couldn't finish it, so my husband did. My husband really enjoyed his Green Curry Halibut. My Spicy Margarita was a nice change of pace of a regular margarita but I don't know if I would order it again. My husband ordered a Rouge Dead Guy's Ale and said it was good. The Chocolate Caramel-Nut Truffle we shared for dessert was divine. The menu describes it as "sinfully decadent" - believe it. Sevice on the other hand was lacking. Our waiter didn't smile as he approached our table. He took our order in quick businesslike fashion without ever giving off the slightest of a friendly vibe. We watched other tables receive baskets of bread as we sipped our drinks and waited on our entrees. Our waiter never showed with ours. We finally asked for one when he brought our entrees. He returned to the table while we ate our entrees and inquired how my husband's meal was but didn't ask about mine. He never smiled and his attitude left us feeling like he didn't want to serve us. This is the first time I've had bad service in Tidal Raves. I hope it was simply a bad night for our waiter and not an indication service is on the decline.

Yoga Zone - Yoga for a Strong and Healthy Back


Yoga Zone Yoga for a Strong and Healthy Back contains two programs that could easily be done one right after the other for a longer workout. The instructions are calm, clear and understandable, but the instructors keep talking directly to the other person on the DVD. I found this distracting. I prefer DVDs where the instructor talks directly to the person watching the DVD, the audience, per se. The instructors demonstate and illustrate the poses very well making it easy to follow along. The workouts themselves are appropriate for beginners and perhaps those progressing from beginner level to intermediate. I consider myself intermediate and find the workouts a little too easy. The DVD is excellent for its purpose, focusing on the back. It lengthens, relaxes, and stengthens the back muscles.

Yoga for Stress Relief


Yoga for Stress Relief is a DVD of yoga routines designed to address particular symptoms related to stress. The DVD is divided into four sections: Beginning & Ending Your Day, Neck, Shoulder, & Back Issues, Easing Your Mind, and Stomach & Digestion Issues. Many of the routines are geared to specific stress related symptoms like tension headaches, insomnia, neck pain, back pain and breathing. There's even one called "Mood Uplift" for when you just feel a little less than enthused. In all, there are twenty routines of varying intensity and length leaving one little to no excuse for skipping a workout. The length of each routine is clearly noted on the menu, so one knows exactly how long the routine will take. The poses in all the routines are clearly demonstrated and described in a calm, soothing voice. Some props are required to do the poses correctly. The routines contain many of the same elements combined in different sequences allowing the body and the mind to find familiarity and newness in each routine. The DVD is great for beginners and intermediate levels but likely wouldn't be enough challenge for someone who is advanced in practicing yoga. This is a yoga DVD one can turn to repeatedly to deal with the stress of daily life. I know I do.

Golf Girl's Little Tartan Book by Patricia Harrington



Golf Girl's Little Tartan Book by Patricia Hannigan has me gushing over it. I don't usually gush over books, but you'll have to indulge me this one. Patricia's short, well-written book addresses all those silly concerns women tend to give themselves over the game of golf with a great sense of humor and gentle reassures that it's perfectly fine to be the woman you are when on the course. I couldn't believe how many times I caught myself going "Oh, darn, I do that." or "Shoot, I worry about that." I laughed out loud through the entire "Squeeze and Swing" chapter. Best advice ever for women golfers!! The book inspired me to finally get up the courage to go play the local par 3 course, and I kept remembering that chapter all day!! Fabulous little book for all women golfers if for no other reason than Hannigan encourages and reminds us that it's okay to just play for fun and to stop worrying about all the nonsense. I love the way she incorporates anecdotes with the tips and inserts tips into the anecdotes. This book is a keeper. I will refer to it again and again for tips, encouragement, and that little reminder that it's all about having fun!!

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

 
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a spiritual memoir. While at times engaging and interesting, it also tends to be whiny and annoying at times. It is always well written though. If one can get past the first half to two-thirds of the book, the end does pick up a bit. The descriptions of place, food, and moments in time are enticing. Gilbert's honesty about her struggles with meditation and silence will resonate with many readers. Her struggles with indulgences and her vows to herself are honest and raw almost to the point of leaving the reader feeling like a voyeuer.

Orlando, Florida - The Greek Corner Restaurant - 2011 Trip

The Greek Corner Restaurant, located at 1600 N. Orange Avenue, has casual outdoor seating as well as indoor seating. We chose to eat outside even though it started to rain as we arrived. Luckily, there were seats under the canopy. I ordered the pita pizza with mushroom and onion as the other vegetarian options looked like they'd been too much food. I wasn't very hungry. The pizza had some hits and misses. It was a little heavy on the onions, and the mushrooms tasted like canned mushrooms. The sauce was delicious, the feta chees was abundant, and the crust was nicely crisped . My husband had a Grilled Designer Chicken sandwish which he described at good but not great. We split a dessert, Galaktoboureko. We found it a little plain, but the pastry added a nice texture to the custard. Our waiter was efficient but not exactly friendly but not really unfriendly either. Apparently, we arrived as they were preparing to close, which surprised us as it was quite early; however, we heard another waiter tell another table that that area of town is usually pretty quiet on Sunday evenings. Whether this affected our service or not, I don't know. While the food was good, I'm not sure if I would eat at The Greek Corner again.

Lakeland, Florida - Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille - 2011 Trip

Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille, located at 101 North Kentucky Avenue (they scored a half point with this Kentucky girl just based on their choice of address), gives off a combination homey and hometown bar vibe. The decor has a musical influence that definitely speaks to jazz. From the moment we arrived, the staff strove to make sure we were comfortable and taken care of. They inquired as to what we needed and when. When I told the waitress we were waiting on friends, she actually smiled and asked if we needed anything while we waited. Her smiling attitude lasted through our very long lunch. By the time we left, it was practically time to order dinner!! When I asked if I could have the Pasta Chicken Louisianne sans the chicken, she smiled and said "of course" without missing a beat!  My pasta tasted excellent and was very filling. I couldn't finish it, especially since I'd already picked out the dessert I wanted. I also ordered a Harry's Hurricane which was tasty and very fruity. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his fish dish. Our friends very much enjoyed their dishes as well and told us time and again Harry's is one of their favorite restaurants. My husband and I split Lulu's Mud Pie for dessert. It was very large, definitely a dessert to split with someone else, perhaps more than one someone else. It is layered with texture and flavor giving each bite both uniqueness and familiarity. Throughout the afternoon, the wait staff checked back with us to see if we needed anything and even volunteered to take photos of our group so everyone could be in the shot. We ordered another round of drinks later in the afternoon. I had to try the Mudtini. It was a nice chocolate martini though I think my recipe might be a tad bit better. They made our visit with not-often-seen friends as delightful and comfortable as sitting in one's own kitchen. All in all, Harry's provided a delightful, inviting, welcoming, invigorating atmosphere. I would definitely eat at Harry's again.

Orlando, Florida - Ethos Vegan Kitchen - 2011 Trip

Ethos Vegan Kitchen, 1235 N. Orange Avenue, Suite 101, concentrates on serving healthy and filling vegan cuisine. Patrons order at the counter before finding seating in a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere. There's a bit of a cafe vibe.While waiting on the food to be served, we enjoyed looking at the nice selection of artwork on the walls.  The staff answered questions and showed patience as we perused the menu taking our time to decide what to order.   My "What's the Dilly, Philly?" sandwich tasted really good and filled me up quickly. They readily accommodated my request for no veganaise. I accompanied my meal with a glass of organic white wine, Xarello, that was also delicious. My husband thoroughly enjoyed the Coconut Curry Wrap and a beer, Peak. We left the restaurant full and happy even though neither of us is vegan. I'm a vegetarian, and my husband is a meat eater. Our only complaint with this restaurant was when we returned on Sunday night for another dinner, they were closed.

Cocoa Beach, Florida - Coconuts on the Beach - 2011 Trip

Coconuts on the Beach, located at 2 Minutemen Causeway, has one thing going for it. It is on the beach and view of the water is spectacular. Service was among the worst I've ever seen. Our waitress seemed angry and defensive. When I inquired about getting a pasta dish without chicken because the menu was sadly lacking in anything for the vegetarian, she couldn't hide her irritation as she told me they didn't serve that for lunch. Okay, perhaps, I should've looked at the menu more closely, but she could've at least been polite about it. When my husband couldn't find our waitress and called over another waitress to send back his undercooked tuna, she came to the table and started arguing that he got what he ordered. I couldn't believe it. My husband later joked that if she thought her cleavage display was going to make up for bad service and earn her a good tip, she was sadly mistaken. We felt like our presence was an inconvenience to the waitress and therefore the restaurant. My salad was mediocre at best and drenched in dressing. It reminded me why I started ordering my dressing on the side or my salad without dressing years ago. My mango daquiri reminded me of baby aspirin dissolved in water. I can't imagine returning to Coconuts on the Beach unless I had no other option whatsoever.

Orlando, Florida - Le Rouge - 201 Trip

Le Rouge, located at 7730 West Sand Lake Road, is a wine and tapas bar. We took seats outdoors to enjoy the Florida night air. Our table ordered espresso, cappachino, and hot tea. The coffee was fine but not outstanding. Hot tea is well hot tea. The outdoor seating provides a nice, comfortable atmosphere conducive to chatting and relaxing together even though it overlooks the parking lot. We were entertained by the occasional sounds of singing coming from indoors. I'm guessing karoake. Service was efficient and our server made it known she was available if we needed anything but didn't interfere with our conversation.

Orlando, Florida - Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant - 2011 Trip

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant, located at 7760 West Sand Lake Road, provides an inviting, vibrant atmosphere that brings a little extra energy to diners. The servers are very friendly and helpful. The menu doesn't provide much information in regards to vegetarian dishes, so diners must ask the server. The server, however, was more than happy to provide vegetarian options when asked. Our table split the vegetable spring rolls, and everyone enjoyed them. I ordered the mango mojito. While it tasted okay, it would've benefited from a little more mango puree. My entree was the portobello mushrrooms with vegetables. The chef opted without prompting to add greens to my entree as I'd requested it without the cheese that normally accompanied it. The dish including the greens was excellent.  My husband had a fish dish that he said was tasty though he wished he'd realized it came with bacon, so he could've requested the bacon be omitted.  The table split the chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream. It was quite delicious. The restaurant became a bit too loud for comfortable conversation as the evening progressed. The temperature seemed to drop steadily from the time we arrived until we finally left. I was shivering by this point. I understand the need for air conditioning in Florida, but this was excessive. The manager inquired about our satisfaction with the meal toward the end of it. Overall, in spite of the cold and the loud moments, Roy's served food that I would enjoy eating again.

Orlando, Florida - Cedars Restaurant - 2011 Trip

 Cedars Restaurant, located at 7732 W. Sand Lake Road, serves Lebanese cuisine. Our waitress was attentive and helpful. She spoke Arabic with my husband but was always careful to then include me by saying something in English. Little did she know that it didn't bother me, but the effort was appreciated. When I inquired about vegetarian fare, she recommended the vegetarian sampler of appetizers. My husband ordered the Kibbeh Bi Laban. My vegetarian sampler came with hummus, falafel, tabouleh, and fatayer (spinach pies). It usually comes with baba ghanouj, but I'm not a fan so she substituted extra falafel. My sampler was good even thought I don't really like cooked spinach. The fatayer was well cooked though ,and my husband enjoyed it. He liked his Kibbeh Bi Laban. We split an order of knafe for dessert. It tasted good. The temperature in the restaurant was quite cold, but the patio is their smoking section. We didn't move. Cold versus cigarette smoke is an easy decision for me - cold. While the general atmosphere is nice with white table cloths and a slightly formal feel, no one balked at our casual shorts. Dining at Cedars left a smile on my face.

Vero Beach, Florida - Cravings - 2011 Trip

Cravings, located 3149 Ocean Drive, is a little shop that serves cookies, coffee, and a number of other things including some smoothies that sounded delicious. I'm still kicking myself for not trying one. The coffee hit the spot and the cookies were quite tasty though my husband complained that the oatmeal cookie wasn't chewy. It wasn't fancy, but the place was full. And, apparently, they have some kind of refill deal as I saw several people bring in their cups and get refills without paying while I debated what I wanted to order. The service was quite friendly but this isn't the place to go if you're in a rush. The atmosphere of the staff and the customers is very laid back. If I'm ever in Vero Beach again, I'm going back to try one of the Greek yogurt smoothies and get another cookie.

Lake Park, Florida - The Pelican Cafe - 2011 Trip

The Pelican Cafe, 612 US Highway, brings a smile to one's face before one even enters the door. Guests, okay customers, are greeted with a light, natural floral smell - jasmine, I think - upon exiting their vehicles in the parking lot. The entrance looks like the front porch to a home where everyone is always welcome. Stepping inside, we were greeted by a hostess, who I later learned is one of the restaurant's owners. She took the time to ask about our day and chitchat a minute about the weather before showing us to our seats. Her smile and her interest were genuine. Service was friendly and bustling as well as attentive without being intrusive. As locals wandered in to the restaurant, we got a feel for the homey atmostphere enjoyed by patrons. It wasn't only the decor, it was the way the staff interacted with people - like they were family or at least good friends stopping by for a visit. We ordered the Egg White Frittata and the Blueberry Pancakes along with cappachinos. The Egg White Fittata tasted really good but be prepared for a hearty serving of spinach in it. The Blueberry Pancakes were excellent. As we left, the co-owner who'd greeted us as we entered invited us back with a large smile. It felt more like leaving a party than a restaurant. I love places that make you smile whenever you think of them, and The Pelican Cafe is certainly that. Southern hospitality at its best permeates this inviting restaurant.

Key Biscayne, Florida - Linda B Steakhouse - 2011 Trip

When we ate dinner at Linda B Steakhouse, located at 320 Crandon Boulevard, there were few patrons. It was early evening, so I can't say if that's the norm. They seated us near a window overlooking the parking lot. The decor was rather homey and inviting. I ordered ravioli and my husband ordered a chicken dish. The ravioli tasted fine but wasn't exactly memorable. My husband said his chicken tasted good. The service was quick and efficient if not exactly friendly. I don't think our waiter smiled even once. We skipped dessert because we... well, just wanted to leave. We also felt the meal was overpriced for what it was. As we left I noticed a piano, so I would assume there's live music at some time or the other. The restaurant seemed to hold promise that it just didn't quite fulfill.

Miami Beach, Florida - David's Cafe - 2011 Trip

We went to David's Cafe , located at 1058 Collins Avenue, on recommendation from a couple we chatted with at breakfast while in Miami Beach. They recommended we have pastry and Cuban coffee, but we were still too full from breakfast to even contemplate the pastry. When we arrived, large men seemed to be standing guard at the entrance to David's Cafe. They opened the door for us as we entered. I giggled. I couldn't help it. I'm not sure why they were there, but they reminded me of bouncers at a nightclub. We wandered in to a dining/bar area and sat at the bar. We ordered Cuban coffee. It's dark, rich, and very sweet. I loved it. My husband on the other hand thought it was too sweet. He asked the waiter if he could get one without sugar. The waiter explained that Cuban coffee is typically sweet as he replaced it with an unsweetened one for which we weren't charged. I looked around the room as I sipped my coffee. The atmosphere was at once relaxing and energizing though I couldn't figure out the source of the vibe I felt. Looking back toward the area where we entered I noticed framed photos covering two small walls on a bumpout in the room (the place where the coffee was made and served to people on the street) and spilling on to a third wall. A quick examination of the wall showed it was filled with celebrities, politicians, and some faces I didn't recognize. After I finished my coffee, I looked at the bottom of the cup and frowned. The only problem with the Cuban coffee at David's Cafe is that it leaves you wanting more...

Miami Beach, Florida - The Front Porch Cafe - 2011 Trip

Aptly named, The Front Porch Cafe, located at 1458 Ocean Drive, is on the front porch! Thank goodness it's a covered porch because it was raining when we ate there. I found this restaurant on the Internet and wanted to go there for one reason. They reeled me in with the description of their granola pancake. They seated us, and I immediately realized private conversation wasn't going to happen. The couple next to us could hear every word we said and vice versa. We looked the menu over. I ordered the granola pancakes with fruit and a latte. My husband ordered the Mediterranean Omelette and a latte. The couple next to us smiled at each other when we placed our order. Then they proceeded to tell us how good the granola pancake is and how filling. According to them, if you can eat the whole thing you won't need another meal until dinner! When my pancakes arrived, I stared at the plate in disbelief. The serving was huge. My husband and I split his omelette and the pancakes. The omelette tasted good but needed a little more goat cheese that was more evenly distribution. The pancake tasted great and was definitely filling. We left more on the plate than I would've liked, but we were both just too full to eat any more of it. The lattes were tasty but not outstanding. The service was very slow and nonintrusive while remaining polite enough if not necessarily friendly. I would return here for breakfast if for no other reason than to have that granola pancake again.

NoVe Kitchen & Bar

The receptionist at the hotel front desk directed us to NoVe Kitchen & Bar, located at 1750 N. Bayshore Drive, for "nightlife". I'm not sure she understood what we wanted. We were looking for live music or something along those lines. NoVe is a sidewalk restaurant is great views of... the street. There was no live music that night. Apparently that's reserved for weekends. A quick browse of the menu made me wish we'd eaten dinner there instead of at the Chinese restaurant we'd just left. We wanted dessert and ordered the panqueque with dulce de leche flambee and vanilla ice cream, a cappachino, and an espresso. We shared the panqueque with dulce de leche flambee and vanilla ice cream. I drank the cappachino and my husband drank the espresso. The panqueque with dulce de leche flambee and vanilla ice cream was delicious and the presentation of the flambee aspect was nicely done even though the wind made it difficult for the waiter to get it started. Flaming desserts are always fun! The coffee was also very tasty. We sat for a long time enjoying the weather, watching traffic and people, and chatting with the waiter. My husband also took several photos of the street. No one rushed us or hinted it was time to go. If in Miami, I would definitely go to NoVe again.

Opposites Attract: A Haiku Tete-A-Tete by Mary Braun and Adam Kupka



Opposites Attract: A Haiku Tete-A-Tete by Mary Braun and Adam Kupka is a delightful read. The back and forth of the haiku on each topic makes the reader think, laugh, or nod but always smile just a little or a lot. I played with reading the topic in the middle of the page before the haiku and after the haiku just for the fun of it. I wanted to see if I could guess the topic without knowing. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. The occasional haiku will give the reader pause and demand a re-read for clarity or just for enjoyment. Overall, Opposites Attract is a fun, quick, inspiring read. I actually felt inspired to write a haiku - three actually - as I read this book, and while I'm a poet, I generally steer clear of writing haiku. Even for those who aren't normally poetry readers, this book is an excellent introduction into the idea that poetry can be fun to read!

Miami, Florida - Tony Chan's Water Club - 2011 Trip

Someone at the reception desk at the Miami Hilton Downtown recommended Tony Chan's Water Club, 1717 N Bayshore Drive inside the DoubleTree Grand Hotel, for dinner. On the plus side, it was a short walk. Supposedly, it also had a view of the bay - maybe in daylight... And the overall decor just didn't feel inviting. I took a look at the menu and quickly realized my options were limited as a vegetarian. They also had a sushi menu. I ordered a glass of sparkling wine, but somehow in my exhchange with the waiter my sparkling wine turned into a white zinfidel. By the time I realized it, it felt like too much trouble to attempt to make a correction. We ordered miso soup. When I realized it was made with chicken broth, my husband signaled the waiter. He promptly and without pause exchanged it for a cup of miso made with water instead. I ordered the vegetarian maki, which tasted fine but not outstanding. My husband said the same about his Dynamite Roll and Sake Maki. Overall, Tony Chan's Water Club fell short of our expectations on service, food, and ambiance.

Be a Dividend Millionaire by Paul Rubillo


Be a Dividend Millionaire by Paul Rubillo strives to simplify investing in the stock market. Rubillo shares his own story with trading and investing as a way to demonstrate how dividend investing makes more sense than trading. He also delves into why some of most encouraged ways of investing lead to mistakes. He encourages people to take control of their money and to pay attention to the market. Rubillo steers people away from dollar cost averaging and more toward creating an investing strategy that works for them. At times engaging, at times very dry, Be a Dividend Millionaire provides information to pique one's interest in a strategy of investing in dividend paying stocks that's more a combination of trading and investing than what is often thought of when people say they are investing their money, especially in dividend stocks. He refers to his website so often in the book that it borders on sounding like an ad for his website services at times. While Be a Dividend Millionaire is an interesting read, don't expect it to contain all the answers to investing well and actually becoming that dividend millinaire.

Miami, Florida - Hilton Miami Downtown - 2011 Trip

I booked our room at the Hilton Miami Downtown, located at 1601 Biscayne Blvd, through Expedia's Unpublished Rate program. We arrived at the Hilton Miami Downtown in early evening. As the name indicates it is in downtown Miami, so be prepared to pay for parking, $25.00 per day for self parking in the parking lot and $28.00 for valet parking. Honestly, the extra $3.00 for valet parking is worth it, and I rarely advocate using valet parking. The reception staff and the valet staff were both very accomodating and did their best to keep guests happy. Our room was clean and comfortable. There was no safe for valuables in the room. The safes provided through the reception desk weren't large enough to hold a laptop. In today's world where people carry a lot of technology with them when travelling, a hotel of this caliber in a city as large as Miami should provide safes in the rooms for guests' valuables. Our room was clean upon arrival and we asked for it not to be cleaned during our stay, so I can't judge the cleaning staff beyond our arrival. We ordered fresh towels our second night though and were disappointed we had to call back multiple times before they were delivered at least three hours after our initial request. Room service, though, was delivered promptly and the key lime pie was quite tasty. Overall, the room was comfortable and quiet enough for a good night's sleep. The view from our room of the city and the bay were beautiful! Even given the irritants of no room safe and slow fresh towel delivery, I would stay in the Hilton Miami Downtown again should the opportunity arise.

Orlando, Florida - Aashirwad Indian Cuisine - 2011 Trip

We stumbled on Aashirwad Indian Cuisine, a little gem of a restaurant located at 5748 International Drive, Orlando, Florida, quite by accident. We were looking for another restaurant that had come up on a Google search, not even Indian. I spotted a sign that said Indian Cuisine and read it aloud. The name of the restaurant wasn't even listed, but we pulled into the parking lot of the little strip mall anyway.  As soon as we stepped inside the restaurant, the tension in my shoulders drained away. I don't know why. I wanted a shower and sleep more than I wanted food. After all we'd flown overnight and spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center. Suddenly, I didn't care so much about either sleep or a shower. I picked up the menu and discovered a very nice selection of vegetarian food. I decided to start off with a mango lassi. Most of the time, I find the mango lassies in Indian restaurants too sweet or not sweet enough. This one was perfect. I ordered Malai Kofta, mixed vegetable balls in a rich and creamy sauce, for my entree. It was cooked to perfection and it was just spicy enough. My husband ordered the Lamb Korma and raved about it. He also liked my dish though I didn't try his. The garlic naan was excellent. For dessert we ordered Pistachio Kulfi, a kind of Indian ice cream with pistachio nuts. It was tasty and cooling after the spicy meal. The staff was attentive without being intrusive, answered questions easily, and served the food promptly without ever making us feel rushed. We talked about this restaurant for the rest of our stay and would've returned if I hadn't been determined to eat at as many different restaurants as possible while there - all for reviewing purposes. I'd happily return to Aashirwad Indian Cuisine any time.

Orlando, Florida - Wyndham Orlando Resort - 2011 Trip

I booked us into the Wyndham Orlando Resort located at 8001 International Drive for two different stays during our recent Florida trip. The first was for one night. The second stay was for four nights. I booked the rooms through Expedia's Unpublished Rates Program. It was a risk, but it paid off.

The reception staff at the Wyndham Orlando Resort was polite and helpful. The rooms were clean and the beds were comfortable. Each room includes a safe if you need to store valuables. I was a little bummed there were no refridgerators in the rooms.

The grounds can be a little confusing, so it's important to pay attention to the staff when they tell you where your room is. And, to orient yourself well before trying to walk from one place to another. It wasn't terribly frustrating but if one was in a hurry could be.

While we didn't have an opportunity to try out the pools, they looked clean and inviting.
We were awakened a couple of times by people outside the room talking and walking, but still managed to get a good night's sleep.

 Housekeeping starts early, so it's wise to put out the do not disturb sign if you don't plan to wake up early.

There is a business center offering paid computer time and printing. When this service charged us double after messing up our print job, the hotel refunded us not only the doubled charge but the full about of the printing job.

Overall, I found the Wyndham Orlando Resort comfortable, clean, welcoming, and relaxing. I would stay there again.

Out of Character by David DeSteno and PIercarlo Valdesolo


Out of Character: Suprising Truths about the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us by David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo is a fascinating examination of what creates character, how we define character, and what it means to act "out of character". DeStano and Valdesolo give examples from recent (and not so recent) news stories where public figures seem to act in ways that don't make sense given what we know of their character - or public persona anyway.  They intersperse experiments done as part of college classes to demonstrate how environment and circumstances affect people's behavior. The authors use the famous parable of the grasshopper and the ant to illustrate how human beings minds are either in a "pleasure right now" or a "prepare for later" mode when making decisions about life. They explain how this works better than the often seen "devil" and "angel" on the shoulders story. By using the grasshopper and ant versus the angel and devil, they offer evidence to demonstrate that the decisions are less about morality and more about survival in a given moment. While the average person may find the results of some of the experiments hard to accept, the authors present the material in a convincing manner. Out of Character presents a compelling case for the theory that all people have the capacity for good and evil inside them, and that each person chooses what aspect to embrace based on the set of circumstances presented. Whether this leads the reader to lean toward compassion or cynicism will likely depend on the reader's frame of mind. Out of Character can be dry at times especially for readers who don't enjoy reading about scientific experimentation. Overall, the writers keep the reader engaged and interested in their research which appears to be ongoing. A very interesting book for anyone who is fascinated by what makes people choose the actions they choose in life.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Maine and Augustana Concert (June 2011)

Austin Gibbs opened for The Maine and Augustana at their concert at Wonder Ballroom in Portland, Oregon on June 12, 2011. We attended the concert because we really like Augustana. We knew little of the other two bands. The Wonder Ballroom is a nice facility. There was a section set aside for those over twenty-one as many of those attending this concert weren't twenty-one. We sat in the balcony with a terrific view of the stage. While Austin Gibbs and The Maine performed well, the highlight of the concert for us was Augustana. The acoustics in the Wonder Ballroom were great. The songs sounded fabulous. This concert in this venue ranks among the top performances I've attended!

Habibi Restaurant

We stopped in for an early dinner Habibi Restaurant, 1012 SW Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon, on June 12, 2011 between touring the Portland Art Museum and going to the Augustana concert. Due to the hour we dined, it wasn't surprising there were few customers in the restaurant. I ordered the Veggie Kibbeh while my husband ordered the Lamb Shank. The kibbeh was tasty but not outstanding. My husband seemed to enjoy his lamb shank. We split an order of knafe for dessert. Finding this Middle Eastern dessert is always a treat because many Middle Eastern restaurants don't make it. The serving was definitely big enough to split. The arabic coffee we ordered was the perfect accompaniment to this sweet, cheesy, desssert.  The staff was friendly without being intrusive. The atmosphere was welcoming and comfortable.

Note: For those unfamiliar with Arabic, Habibi is a term of endearment directed toward a male.

Portland Art Museum (June 12, 2011 Visit)

Portland Art Museum, located at 1219 SW Park Avenue, Portland Oregon, provides a welcoming environment that encourages leisurely touring the exhibits. There's no feeling of being rushed or having one's experience invaded. Security is present but not intrusive.
Currently, there is a special exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, The Allure of the Automobile. The exhibit includes cars such as the Bentley, the Corvett Stingray, the Jaguar Roadster, the Astin Martin, and several others. Each car is displayed to show off the artistry of car design. The cars were all designed and built between the 1930s and the mid-1960s. A few cars create an air of "look but don't touch" while others dare you to give in to your desire and sit in it just a a second. Whether you love cars or just love art, these cars are well worth viewing. They will be on display at the Portland Art Museum until September 11, 2011.
The museum also houses a nice collection of painting, sculptures, photography, and other pieces. Pieces by Monet, Renoir, Ansel Adams, and many other artists are displayed throughout the museum. On particularly disturbing but captivating piece is The Gift by Richard Notkin. The piece is constructed of deliberately random repeating tile structure to create a larger image. Touring the museum will take some time, so plan on spending several hours there or splitting the tour into multiple visits. A leisurely walk through the exhibits will tantalize the senses and stimulate one's own creativity.
The small portion of the Portland Art Museum I toured during my visit has me anxious to return to see more and maybe visit a favorite or two.

Motion to Kill by Joel Goldman


Joel Goldman introduces us to Lou Mason, a corporate lawyer turned reluctant detective, in Motion to Kill. Mason is thrust in to the midst of the murder investigation of a senior partner at his law firm after that partner asks him to compromise his ethics. The first murder leads to more murder, attempted murder, beatings, job loss, uncovered secrets, and vandalism among other things. Mason is forced to face a position he'd never dreamed possible - deciding in a split second if he can take another life to save his own. Goldman weaves twists and turns through Motion to Kill that at times leaves the reader wondering if the book is about to end and who can be trusted. Then he jerks, in an engaging way,  the reader in another direction opening a whole new line of possibilities for the story to go. Mason's friend, Blue, has a tendency to steal scenes with a quiet, unfaltering ease and confidence that is the perfect counterpoint to Lou's insecurity and tendency to flounder. Goldman leaves the leader satisfied that justice is served but wanting more of Mason and Blue in Motion to Kill.

Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham


Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham explores the use of herbs in magic and wicca, but more than that he demystifies the origins of of our common beliefs regarding the effectiveness of certain herbs. Cunningham explains how to gather herbs and avoid poisons in the process. He explains the effectiveness and general acceptance of herbal use in magic. He lists a variety of herbs including their properties and what magic they are most useful in performing. He even gives guided instructions for planting a magical herbal garden. Magical Herbalism contains a thread of the importance of being respectful and thankful for the plants that surround us and what they can do for us throughout the entire book. Cunningham's appreciation for the natural world shines through in this informative book. For anyone who has ever wondered about herbs and the mystic surrounding them, Magical Herbalism provides a practical, easy to understand origin of the beliefs surrounding the power of herbs. If nothing else, the reader will come away appreciating herbs in a new way.

Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Portobello Vegan Trattoria, located at 1125 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon, opens for dinner at 5:30pm. We arived at 5:50 to find it packed. That looked promising, so we took a place at the bar rather than wait an hour and fifteen minutes for a table to become available. The bartender/waitress was great. She served us, chatted amicably, and seemed to sense when it wasn't the time to interrupt our conversation while keeping us up to date on the progress of our meal. My husband ordered a beer called Hair of the Dog Adam and I ordered a glass of Prosecco sparkling wine. I tasted my husband's beer, and for beer it wasn't bad (I'm not a fan of beer.). He really enjoyed it. My sparkling wine was delicious, and the serving was generous. We ordered a White Truffle, Mushroom & Nut Pate served with bread and accroutrements as an appetizer. While not our favorite item of the evening, we ate it all. My husband ordered the Mushroom Ravioli and I had the Pan Roasted Portobello Steak. I asked them to substitute asparagus for the kale because I don't like kale and gladly paid the dollar extra for the substitution. I tasted my husband's ravioli, and may have to order it next time we eat there. My portobello steak was delicious served on top of the asparagus and both were on top of olive oil whipped potatoes. For dessert we ordered the Chocolate Rosemary Torte. The texture was perfect and the taste superb. I had a hard time believing it was vegan.  The people eating next to us ordered a pizza that smelled scrumptious... Maybe that's what we'll order next time... Full disclosure: I'm vegetarian not vegan and my husband is a meat eater, but we came away from Portobello Vegan Trattoria satisfied, full, and discussing our next visit! The food, service, and atmosphere make Portobello Vegan Trattoria (FB page) a must try restaurant and one that makes our short list for restaurants to visit again!

Old Loves Die Hard by Lauren Carr



In Old Loves Die Hard, Lauren Carr continues the adventure of Mac Faraday, retired detective and heir to a fortune, with a story that weaves together past and present. Carr crashes Mac's past into his future just as he's getting comfortable with his new role in life. Carr explores how the past created the present and how one can never run from one's own life experience in this murder mystery where Mac finds himself a suspect in the murders of his ex-wife and her former lover. Threads of identity theft, deception, betrayal, ambition, and a warped sense of justice drive the characters in Old Loves Die Hard. Carr creates characters who are neither all bad nor all good causing the reader to be unsure whom to trust and whom to suspect. In one moment the reader may find themselves rooting for someone's innocence and in the next hoping that same someone is guilty.  She creates interpersonal dynamics that are at once complicated and simple. Old Loves Die Hard draws the reader into the characters, their motivations for their actions, and their ability to seemingly not see what they don't want to see. In an investigation that on the surface seems simple, the motivation behind the murders in Old Loves Die Hard complicates the investigation and keeps the reader wanting to know more. 

Big Sex Little Death by Susie Bright



Susie Bright tells her life story in the memoir, Big Sex Little Death. Big Sex Little Death details the events of Bright's life well but provides very little insight into the motivation behind her actions. Often it reads as if Brigh just became involved in whatever cause happened to come her way. Even her passion for her causes seems muted and a bit fleeting throughout the book. The book is written to leave the impression of a girl longing to belong but never actually explores this with any emotional depth or insight. Bright is blatantly honest about her life but leaves gaps creating questions in the reader's mind, especially the question of how Bright became a sex expert. It seems the trajectory of Bright's life and vast sexual experience has lead her to her "expertise" in all matters sexual leading the reader to ask is that enough? Big Sex Little Death has moments that draw the reader in and moments the reader just wants to skim due to writing that is at times rich and engaging and at other times dry and evasive. 

The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton


Meg Waite Clayton immerses the reader in the murky water that surrounds the secrets women keep to not appear less than their male counterparts in The Four Ms. Bradwells. Clayton's characters, four friends from law school brought back together to delve into a secret they fear could destroy all they've worked for - a secret they hid to give those futures a fair chance in the first place. As they try to figure out how to handle their secret being made public, they are forced to face the secrets they kept from one another and the misjudgments they made about one another. Hurtful mistakes are uncovered causing emotions to run high. Clayton never shies away from the contradictory emotions or the struggles women feel to define their place in the world. For anyone who has had friends they couldn't bear to lose or who has kept a secret from a friend to protect the friend, this book will be both heartwrenching and uplifting. Readers will connect to the characters who seem all too real even in the moments when the reader wants to shout that they are making mistakes that will make things worse. Clayton unfolds the characters' lives, secrets, and innermost feelings in a way that capitivates the reader while also making the reader question his/her own misconceptions and biases.

Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen


Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read & Write Poetry examines poetry's role in life. Cohen discusses how we use poetry to define life and life to define poetry. She makes poetry accessible to everyone no matter what their background. Topics cover a wide gambit including finding inspiration to write poetry, submitting one's work, and how to read poetry without feeling intimidated. Most chapters contain exercises to help aspiring poets find their voices and create poems. Writing the Life Poetic manages to educate the reader about poetry while remaining interesting and fun. Cohen's writing is engaging and inspiring for anyone who's interested in poetry.

Faith by Jennifer Haigh


Jennifer Haigh's Faith touches nerves that leave the reader squirming a bit. Haigh's examination of family dynamics and dysfunction reaches into that place in our minds where we hold our family secrets, the secrets that perhaps no one else would even care about but are there nonetheless because we cover them with the shame we've been told we should feel. She examines the McGann family's journey through life including their family secrets and the secrets they keep from one another in the name of protecting the family while drawing an interesting parallel to the secrets that are kept to protect people's faith. The parallel between the main character's brother's unwillingness to defend himself against accusations in order to keep another secret seem both sacrificial and selfish at the same time. While at times the reader may want to stop reading due to the subject matter, Haigh draws the reader into the lives of the McGanns so much the reader has to know what happens next. The McGann family is so real in their struggles, their secrets, their faith, and their dysfunction, they could be the family next door or the reader's own if the reader is brave enough to admit it.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcoom Gladwell



Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell interestingly enough is a book that will make you think about thinking. The idea that most of our decisions are made in the blink of an eye and that we can't even explain the reasoning behind them is intriguing and sometimes a little scary. Readers may find themselves pausing while going about their everyday activities to question a decision they made without realizing they made it. Gladwell describes the concept in a way that leaves the reader wondering why they never thought of the points he makes. His examples give a deeper understanding of the idea of making a decision without knowing why even if the examples are sometimes experiments that make the reader squirm a little as they read. The section where Gladwell discusses a military exercise gives a moment's pause about the inflexibility of military thinking but could also be applied to any situation that pits two groups against one another. Gladwell also spends quite a bit of time talking about the results of testing that examine our preconceived and possibly subconscious thoughts about others. He explains the benefits and the pitfalls of thinking without thinking. Blink is a simple but powerful and fascinating look into the way our brain works often without our knowledge to make split-second decisions.

Lost and Found: Three by Shaun Tan



Lost & Found: Three by Shaun Tan contains three stories: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits (John Marsden). The illustrations throughout the book are a bit dark but beautifully done.
The Red Tree follows the story of a bad day leading to a discovery. This simply but beautifully worded story would be an excellent way to help a child understand a family or friend suffering from depression. Or even to help a child understand that every bad day passes. It demonstrates the need for hope.
The Lost Thing follows the journey of a child finding a "lost thing" and then trying to find a home for it. The story contains  subtle threads of childhood wonder and a child's ability to accept things that are different without judgment. The natural instinct to help shines through in this story. The reader must smile along the journey even if at times reluctantly. The Lost Thing lifts one's mood in its simplicity while demonstrating that sometimes it's not possible or necessary to know everything in order to be helpful.
The Rabbits (John Marsden) is an analogy of what happens when one group, The Rabbits, invade, colonize, and destroy the resources of the natives. It achieves its goal if the goal is to make the reader uncomfortable. It is difficult to discern whether this story is a lesson to invaders to respect the natives or a message to natives to eject any immigrants. Nonetheless, The Rabbits is certainly a conversation starter. The original author, John Marsden, felt it necessary to add an explanation for why he wrote this story, which leads me to believe he realized it left room for interpretation.
All three stories pull the reader in and make the reader want to read the words again and examine the illustrations more closely. The stories have a genuineness that will relate to readers in a surprising manner. Lost & Found: Three proves that children's stories don't have to be silly, sweet, or light to work.