Books · How To · Reviews

SRP Non-Fiction Review: Organize for a Fresh Start by Susan Fay West

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For March, I decided to tackle organizing.

I really enjoyed Organize for A Fresh Start: Embrace Your Next Chapter in Life and how it focuses on organizing … from belongings, to finances, to time … after a person enters a new stage of life. It addresses how once a new stage of life is entered (marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren), the way we’ve done things in the past might no longer work. There are lists at the back of the book to help with decluttering projects.

I really liked how the book separates dealing with inherited items and those belongings of a deceased loved one, from regular accumulated stuff. The author acknowledges that it will be harder to make decisions on possessions passed down and those that had belonged to a loved one who has passed away. She is respectful about the feelings and memories associated with these special type of belongings and encourages people to take their time, even if it means a few years.

I found the book to be written in a very practical and encouraging style.  As I was reading, I kept nodding and started to understand why some of my organizing systems no longer worked. I have added more obligations and projects to my life over the last two years, and never took a look to make sure the old set-up for my office still worked for me now. Also, now that my children are teenagers, we need a new system in place with them to keep track of sports, work, and social schedules. Sometimes I walk away from books like this feeling discouraged and guilty for not having been able to keep everything maintained. This time I could see why our system doesn’t work and have some plans on what could work. No guilt, just helpful ideas.

Books · Reviews · Self-Rescue Princess · Uncategorized · Writing

SRP Review: The Victorian Scoundrel by Stephanie Burkhart

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve done a Self Rescue Princess heroine review. I’ve been so caught up in writing, and learning (reading how-to books), that I’ve allowed fiction reading to take a distant back seat. No more, I say. No more. I miss my pleasure reading … especially getting to know new ‘self-rescuing princess’ heroines.

After a long time of not taking time to read a book just for enjoyment, I started Victorian Scoundrel by Stephanie Burkhart (a fellow Desert Breeze author).

Alice Windsor. Princess of York, was born in present day and travels back to 1857 with her cousin to keep an eye on him. She’s a little suspicious of what he is up to and we come to find out her hunch was right. Alice has a very understanding and protective nature. She is a young woman who won’t stand by and allow those she cares about make bad decisions and wait for them to suffer the consequences … even if helping means stepping in and risking getting in trouble herself.

I loved that Alice remained true to her beliefs, but also respected the time she was in. Alice would get a little annoyed by some people’s behavior but  instead of getting angry, she reminded herself it was the custom and way of the time period she entered.

This is the type of self-rescuing princess I strive to be, one who stands up for herself without being disrespectful to others. And also one who is able to recognize when a situation is more about the customs rather than it being a personal insult or attack. I can’t wait for the second book in this series and spend some more time with Alice (and Edmund her trouble-seeking cousin).

NOTE: Just wanted to let readers know that this book does have some steam (heat)  to it.

Books · Contests · How To · Reviews

SRP Non-Fiction Review: Debt-Free Forever by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For February, I decided to tackle finances.

Now on to the review:

Debt-Free Forever is a finance book written in a style that sounds like a knowledgable friend employing the tough-love approach to getting you back on track money wise. Since my husband and I have been working on going and staying debt free, we’ve taken a few classes (Dave Ramsey, Ron Blue) on personal finances. And, I’ve also been reading different approaches to personal finances as books just seem to speak to me better.

Most ideas and suggestions are pretty standard and found across the board in classes and books, but occasionally I’ll find a new tidbit. Sometimes it’s not quite what was said more like the way it’s said that grabs my attention and makes a big impression. I sit back and take notice. One tip was to actually save the money ‘saved’ by using coupons or when I find the item I intended to purchase is on sale. It does make me wonder why I never really considered doing that before. I really save the money when I put it in our saving account and not just spend that amount on something else. Usually something else I don’t even really need at the time. Those good deals aren’t such good deals if the only reason for the purchase is to get the large percentage off (like clothes and book purchases).

What I really liked about the book, was that while it encouraged people to become debt-free and be responsible for their choices, it didn’t produce a lot of guilt or shame. I was proud of the changes we had made, confident in the direction we were heading, and had a few new ways to keep us on the right road.

Books · Reviews

SRP Review (Non-fiction) – The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For January, I decided to tackle writing.

Now on to the review:

 

After reading The of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, I closed my eyes and hit delete, eliminating the prologue in my novel Safe and Sound. (After highlighting it which I did with my eyes opened.) I got that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought about it doing it, but the voice saying “laying the groundwork for the big reveal takes away from the conflict and leave them gasping effect when it is announced” won. I’m glad.

It has been awhile since a writing craft book, and I do love to collect and read them, has forced me to change my mind about a part of my story I held near and dear. I thought long and hard before I wrote the prologue because there is a mindset in the author community that prologues are bad writing. I worked hard to overcome the objections some writers have of prologues by making sure there was a valid reason for mine and that it worked for the story.

In Chapter 50, Mr. Bell writes that “Success may be found in 3 great scenes, and no weak ones.” The keys words for great scenes are Conflict, Emotion and Surprise. When I wrote the prologue, I felt it was necessary to set up the story, the romance, but in doing so I took away two of my writing tools for creating a great scene. The prologue gave the story emotion. Intense emotion. Tugging at the heart-strings, possibly making the reader teary emotion, but it took away surprise. And while the suspense conflict was there in those 2,000 plus words, removing the prologue created a bigger romantic conflict. Now all the scenes following Chapter 1, the  new beginning of the book, have an increased level of conflict, emotion and surprise as the readers wonder what lead to the revelation in chapter one … since the prologue is no longer explaining it.

More than having me look at my work in progress in another way, Mr. Bell had me realizing my worries about one aspect (promoting books) of my writing career was shaping all of it and the heart of it in a negative way.  The one sentence I highlighted in the book says, “Meaning, the more anxious you are about forcing success through self-promotional effort, the less creative energy you have for the writing itself.”

I’ve had some ups and down over the last year with my writing, or at least my attitude and joy of creating books. Those over-the-top dreams of sales didn’t match the reality at all so I figured if I tried harder (which means more time spent promoting and less writing) I’d see the results. And discovered that’s not the case. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t it working for me. It had to be I wasn’t doing it right. Getting it. Then, I’d ‘scold’ myself for the time wasted. Moan and berate the writer on how many more books would be completed if only they’d put their time and energy in a more productive pursuit. Not a very good way for a writer to treat another writer — especially themselves.

This year I will give myself a break. Treat myself the way I would my friends who write and come to me discouraged and doubting. I’d say words to build them up. Encourage them. Most of all, remind them their writing means something to me.

Books · Reviews

SRP Review: Holiday Edition IV: Santa’s Present, Carol’s Christmas, A Christmas Carol

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

During this month, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

This will be my last Holiday Edition of Self-Rescue Princess Reviews for 2011. I hope everyone has enjoyed these reviews and I will feature a new set of holiday reviews next year. I’ll be resuming the heroine based SRP reviews in 2012 and also plan to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month.

Now, on to the reviews:

Santa’s Present by Sue Perkins. This story is a lovely, historical short story set on Christmas day. Velma spends Christmas Day with her family, while she understands why her beau can’t be with her, she longs for his presence. He has given her a present to open but she must wait until that night to open it. I love the warmth and love shining from Velma’s family. Even the stricter sister is shown as a loving person with just a more formal way of interaction with people. The holiday spirit comes through in the way the family treats each other and does their best to make the day bright for everyone. I love the sweet romance between Velma and Jack and want to read their longer story so I can watch it progress.

 

Carol’s Christmas by Jackie Leigh Allen is a contemporary short story taking place on Christmas Day. For me, the holiday spirit is Carol herself. I love how she is willing to put aside her sadness on not being able to go home for the holiday and focus on doing what she can to make someone’s day brighter. She has a giving spirit which is a characteristic the Christmas season brings out in all. 

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This is one of my favorite Christmas stories and is a re-read. The narrator style of telling the story gives me the feeling as if I’m being read to and is what I love most about this book. The voice used always has me ‘falling’ into the story and I find myself at the edge of my seat, and find myself eager to be ‘told’ the next part of the tale. When I read the story, I always find a line or an ‘image’ I don’t recall and I find myself thinking about and reading that section one more time so I can just soak in the words. This story itself is about holiday spirit, looking past one’s self to others and using what you have to make people’s lives brighter … including your own.

Books · Reviews · Writing

SRP Review: Holiday Edition III – The Christmas Train, A Married Man’s Guide to Christmas, Orphaned Hearts

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

During this month, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci is about a reporter Tom Langdon traveling across the country by train during the Christmas season. Tom meets some interesting people on his journey and also re-establishes a connection with someone from his past. It’s a lovely story of redemption, understanding and a community (the people on the train) pulling together to get through a stressful and could-turn-tragic event. Many sweet moments, a few stretching believability but that’s to be expected with a ‘classic’ feel-good Christmas tale.

 

A Married Man’s Guide to Christmas by Robert Henry is a non-fiction book of humorous essays dealing with the different areas of holiday madness and how guy’s can get through … or muddle through … them. I found some of the stories very funny and some that I’d label as having a little ‘wicked’ humor that didn’t quite work for me … but I know others will love those stories. It was a quick read and a very unusual and funny take on a Christmas how-to/self-help book.

Orphaned Hearts by Shawna K. Williams is one of my favorite books I have read this year, not just the holiday season but during all of 2011. If I was going to put together a list of my Top 10 it would be up there … like 2 or 3.  This is an unusual holiday story as it starts long before the  season, but does wrap-up at Christmas and the heart of this story is the Christmas spirit displayed through the year. It’s a lovely book filled with love, compassion and hope. In Orphaned Hearts,  a young orphan boy who is fostered by the town ‘spinster’ when his soon-to-be adopted parents cannot care for him. The pastor knows the loving heart Sadie has and asks for to care for the boy for a short while other parents can be found. I don’t want to give away to much of the story but I will say this is a ‘heart-melting’ book. I’m not a crier, especially when it comes to books or movies, but this one got me a little teary at the end. I loved the ending. Orphaned Hearts will be a book that I’ll read again. (as of this posting this e-book published by Desert Breeze is on sale for the incredible price of .99 cents)

Books · Reviews · Writing

SRP Review: Holiday Edition II – On Strike for Christmas, The Gift of Hope, A Christmas Jar for Santa

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

During this month, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts is one of my favorite types of Christmas theme novels. It’s where the hustle and bustle, the self-inflicted craziness we put ourselves through is challenged and ceased … at least for a period of time. This story follows the lives of some women — and their husbands — who have gotten feed up with being the only one in the household supplying the Christmas magic. After years of feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, they go on strike and hand over the holiday reins of planning, cooking, shopping and decorating to their spouses. There is one character, a widow, who plays the role of the holiday spirit, so to speak. She helps the women keep perspective and also reminds them of their role in the way Christmases of the past played out. I really enjoyed the humor, the bittersweet moments, and the way everyone learned a lesson from the strike.

The Gift of Hope by Pam Andrews Hanson. This is a sweet, contemporary romance novella set during the Christmas season. It’s a of a young woman and a widowed pastor learning to open up to love. Hope lost her mother at a young age and saw the pain her father went through and how hard it was for him to love anyone else. Noah lost his wife and finds the holidays a struggle to get through as he raises his young daughter alone. Hope and Noah find themselves thrown … and drawn … together during the church’s preparations for the Christmas season. While the warmth and love of Christmas is in the air, both try hard not to open themselves up to the season in order to keep their hearts protected. Hope’s grandmother takes on a key role as the ‘holiday spirit’ as she opens her arms and home to others in the community and encourages not only falling in love but ‘falling into friendships’.

A Christmas Jar for Santa by is a short story told in a narrative style by an older gentleman recounting his time as a Santa Claus. It is a warm story told in an engaging voice as a man explains his reason for being Santa for decades. At this point in time, the gentleman is considering hanging up his Santa hat at the end of the season.  I don’t want to give away the ending, but a gift given to Santa has him reconsidering and remembering what the holiday is about.

Books · Holiday · Reviews

SRP Review: Holiday Edition I- The Killer Wore Cranberry, The Perfect Christmas and Christmas in Bayeux

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

During this month, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

Now on the reviews:

The Killer Wore Cranberry is a short-story anthology published by Untreed Reads. These mystery stories are centered around Thanksgiving, food, the wonderful and not so wonderful family moments that make up the cherished time of year we call the holiday season. Every story brought me to another family’s dinner table and I experienced their holiday drama with them. The stories were also clearly set during Thanksgiving and added to the atmosphere. It was a great book to read during Thanksgiving as the length allowed me to finish a complete story during the small amount of time I had for a ‘reading break’ during the dinner prep. I got my anticipated reading time in and didn’t lose track of the story. Mysteries and suspense are my favorite types of books to read and I really enjoyed the humorous tone of this collection. I prefer my  holiday reading to be heartwarming rather than heart-wrenching and the voices used for the stories fit that bill. A delightful collection that I know I’ll be reading again next year.

My next choice was The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber. This was a romance story set during the Christmas season. A woman in her thirties is longing for marriage, children and the perfect Christmas, decides to take the drastic step of using a professional matchmaker to have her dream come true. This was a sweet story with some laughs and many heart-warming moments. The matchmaker has the heroine complete different holiday tasks and through them, the heroine learns a lot about herself. The holiday spirit was alive in well in the book, not just with the holiday tasks featured, but in seeing how the heroine grew during the story. I won’t be surprised if this is another Debbie Macomber book that’s turned into a movie. And if it is, I’ll be watching.

 

After that, I chose Christmas in Bayeux by Stephanie Burkhart. This was another holiday story set during the Christmas season. Our hero, an Iraqi war veteran, goes to France to heal after the death of his parents. He decided to travel abroad to reconnect with a friend he had in high school. This story was a lovely portrait of the holiday season being part of the reason for two lonely people to explore their feelings for each other. The way the couple involved each other in their holiday customs was heart warming and brought home the spirit of the holidays — love, sharing, and extending kindness. This romance does have some steamy moments.

Books · Reviews · Writing

SRP Review: Conception by Jennifer Hartz (Book 1 in Future Savior Series)

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

Christina (the heroine in Conception … not me) is trying not to throw too much of a pity party over turning 30 when her life is altered. Not altered as in an incident  changes the course of her life, but she lands up in a different world and learns she is prophesized as their savior.

What I loved about Christina was how she jumped into her role as savior and how serious she took it, even though she doubted it was true. She learns new skills in order to protect the people and doesn’t back down from battles, even though she is given many outs. Her friends and protectors actually encourage –even try to order her– to stay back and protected. They try to convince her that the world depends on her survival so needs to stay safe.

This self-rescue princess believes that the best way to help the people, to give them hope, is for them to witness their savior actively helping them. Christina does takes risks but makes sure they are necessary and not just a way to show off her powers. She always keeps in mind that others will put her safety above theirs, so she balances their need to protect with her need to act.

Books · Reviews

SRP Review: Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

And now to the review:

I am so glad a blog reader recommended this book (and series) to me. I absolutely loved Princess Cimorene. She was a strong-willed heroine who refused to allow anyone to order her about. Much to the annoyance and shame of her parents. She wasn’t content to be just a princess and well-behaved. She wanted adventure. She wanted a challenge. So, Princess Cimorene (with a little encouragement) set off to find her adventure before she was forced into an ill-suited marriage. After making a brash proclamation about what she’d rather face than marriage, Cimorene finds herself facing that scenario but instead lands up a princess to a dragon.

To dragons, princesses are their housekeepers and cooks. They are revered for their skills of organization, housekeeping, cooking, and the bragging rights of having a princess of your very own. Princess Cimorene takes on her role whole-heartedly. She is content and happy to be a princess to dragon. I found it interesting … and funny … that a ‘traditional’ woman’s role that is usually seen as a negative was a job that Cimorene enjoyed. She liked having a job and not just being taken care of. Cimorene also befriends others that are in the caves and helps them find their strength and fulfill their purpose.

What I loved most about the book, and Princess Cimorene, is showing that it’s okay to have different plans for your life. What is good for one person isn’t always best for another but that doesn’t make one choice right and the other wrong. I can’t wait to read the next adventure of Princess Cimorene.