Friday, April 11, 2014

The Medici Boy by John L’Heureux

Donatello: Art, Pain, Passion, Murder
Renowned Literary Writer Renders Controversial Life of
Mysterious Renaissance Genius

“John L’Heureux has built a gripping story of love, genius and betrayal.”
--JM Coetzee, Nobel Prize for Literature, Booker Prize Winner

“Deeply enjoyable, The Medici Boy soars like an operatic aria, before breaking our hearts.”
--David Henry Hwang, playwright, M. Butterfly, Chinglish

“L’Heureux’s is certainly one of America’s greatest living writers. I’d put him in the top ten...And now he’s come out with his first new novel in ten years, The Medici Boy, and it’s a masterpiece, the most ambitious, beautiful, and complex novel I’ve read this year…”
--David Vann, Financial Times of London

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to release perhaps the most passionate work of master storyteller, John L’Heureux, in The Medici Boy [ISBN:  978-1-938231-50-6 (Hard Cover); ISBN: 978-1-938231-48-3 (E-book); US $25.95; Historical / Literary Fiction; 346 Pages, April, 2014].  Described as “one of America’s greatest living writers” by the Financial Times of London, L’Heureux returns with a long-awaited new historical fiction novel; the result of years of research—backed by a Guggenheim Grant—on location in Europe.

In this well-conceived, historically accurate rendering, the Renaissance worlds of art, politics and passion collide. With his distinct style and rich, sinewy narrative, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant.

While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save Donatello, even his master’s friend—the great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.

John L’Heureux’s long-awaited hardcover delivers both a monumental and intimate narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers. With incisive detail, L’Heureux artfully renders the master sculptor’s forbidden homosexual passions, and the artistry that enthralled the leading—and competing—powerbrokers of Renaissance Florence: the Medici and Albizzi families. The finished work is a sumptuously detailed narrative that entertains while it delves deeply into both the sacred and the profane within one of the Italian Renaissance’s most consequential cities, fifteenth century Florence.

Award-winning poet, novelist, and short story writer, John L’Heureux has taught at Georgetown University, Tufts, Harvard, and (for more than 35 years) in the English Department of Stanford University where he was Lane Professor of Humanities.  There he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and earned it again in 1998.

A prolific writer, L’Heureux has written more than twenty books of fiction, short fiction and poetry.  His works have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have been included in dozens of anthologies including Best American Stories and Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards.

John L’Heureux has twice received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2006 he was awarded a Guggenheim Grant to do research for The Medici Boy, his new novel.

He is retired and lives in Palo Alto with his wife Joan.

The Medici Boy may be purchased from the following:

Barnes & Noble:

My Thoughts:
I am having a difficult time with this review and have put if off a bit trying to decide how to write it. First let me say that The Medici Boy is very well written and comes from the first person point of view of Luca Mattei, Donatello's assistant. 
The opening of the book was captivating, but soon went downhill for me with the description of Luca's life as a child/monk. I know that there needs to be a certain opening, but the discussion of his frequent masturbation was a true turn-off for me. The first few chapters made me want to stop reading, but because of my curiosity about Donatello, I persevered.
I know this has been researched by a well know and respected professor, however, I had somewhat of a hard time swallowing all that was written about Donatello's homosexuality. I had hoped this would be more in tuned with the times and not so much a passionate love affair. It may have been historically accurate, but it wasn't what I had learned in art history.
I found the book itself to be captivating after the first few chapters. It is well written and gets one caught up in the passion and the affairs of the heart and what can happen when one is too dedicated to another.

Although this book wasn't for me because of the sexual nature, it probably will appeal to art history fans, those that like a well written book or just one that wants something captivating and not the normal "run of the mill" type reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions that are expressed here are my own. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight by Will Clower - Review

Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight
Author: Will Clower
Publisher: Rodale Books

About the Book:
Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight is a game-changing look at the world’s most surprising (and luscious) health food: chocolate.

Based on new groundbreaking research and the amazing results of his clients, who have lost more than 100 pounds, nutritionist and neuroscientist Dr. Will Clower dispels the myth that chocolate is just a "junk food" by revealing how this succulent food contains healthy antioxidants that can actually help you lose weight.

All you have to do is take the Chocolate Challenge: an 8-week plan that reveals which type of chocolate is the healthiest and exactly how you should be eating it to maximize all of its surprising health benefits, including:

Weight loss of up to 20 pounds in 8 weeks

Reduced food cravings and appetite

Prevention and reversal of diabetes

Improved dental health

Significant improvement in blood pressure

Enhanced energy levels (up to 50%!)

Increased skin moisture and UV protection

And more!

With Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, Dr. Clower is finally bringing his incredibly successful—and delicious—plan to chocolate lovers everywhere!

My Thoughts:

Since I decided to start eating better, I have been doing research on which foods will help and which will harm my body. One thing that I LOVE is chocolate, but I have been avoiding it because of the sugars that many candy bars contain. In my searches, I found that cocoa is an antioxidant, and is healthy for you, but how does one use it? I mean, chocolate and sugar have to go together, right?

When I discovered Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, I HAD to read it. It had claims that I just couldn't fathom to be true, so my idea was to mark this one off as a hoax. Ahhhh, that was before I read and tried it. Since then, I've become a believer!

Yes, chocolate is an amazing food! It does help the body and raise metabolism. It is, in my book, a wonder-food! How can I say that? I've been using the book for more than 2 months now and I am so very pleased to report that I am losing weight (even over the holidays!) and I am NOT sacrificing, but instead taking care of my chocolate craving. When I went for my check-up, I was worried because the last time my blood pressure was higher than it should be and I was told we'd probably be looking at blood pressure meds next visit. Well, my BP was down to NORMAL!! And that's just the start.

My husband is diabetic, so he's limited - very limited. He decided to try chocolate for his diabetes and his last check-up was so good that they cut his meds in HALF and have said if it continues that he will be off meds soon!

Am I a believer? YOU BET! This book explains everything from the science behind chocolate to how much to use, etc. It's long and detailed, and very well written. Although there are times I felt that things were repeated more than I'd like, but overall, that is just a small irritant on my end.

This book is worth its weight in gold (in my opinion), but don't take my word for it. Get your hands on a copy and try it out. It will make a believer out of you - and make you more healthy. What do you have to lose?!

  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of Rodale Books. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci - Review

Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 9781596437753
Hardcover: 240 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi

About the Book:
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.
My Thoughts:

Wow! This book was a surprise and not at all what I had expected. Being a YA Sci-Fi novel, I had expected a lot of space battling and more of a"Star Wars" type story. I was thrilled to find that this story was so much more. It had a wonderful, strong female main character, Tula, who was someone that I came to love. She was tough, smart, and learned how to survive in a place where humans were not wanted. Under all that toughness she had a vulnerability that ended up putting her in a situation that changed everything.

A fast paced, must read, "Tin Star" is one of my favorite YA Sci-Fi's of all time! I has an appeal that will please both the YA as well as the adult audience and is sure to entrance the reader up to the last word. Make sure to add this one to your reading list - you'll be happy you did! Perfect for those that enjoy stories in space as well as those that enjoy a good YA story.

  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seams Unlikely by Nancy Ziemann

Seams Unlikely:
The Inspiring True Life Story of Nancy Zieman
Author: Nancy Zieman with Marjorie L. Russell
Publisher: Glass Roads Media
ISBN: 9780988478961
320 pages
Biography, Memoir

About the Book:
In an age when hard-working women don't know if we should lean in, lean out, or lean on someone, Nancy Zieman's voice of calm, experienced authority is welcome. The lessons she shares are ones every businesswoman should take to heart.

In Seams Unlikely, Nancy:
  • Shares her life story for the first time
  • Gives details of the onset of Bell's Palsy and how it played a part during school
  • Reveals the intricate involvement of 4-H in her development
  • Tells, step-by-step, how she grew Nancy's Notions from a basement in her home into a multi-million dollar business
  • Includes behind-the-scenes information on the growth of Sewing with Nancy from filming in her living room to a long-term partnership with Wisconsin Public Television
  • Shows pictures of the people, buildings, and places that played key roles along the path of her life
Reading of the growth of Nancy's family (she is a married mother of two, one son by birth, one by adoption) alongside the growth of her show and business is both familiar and instructive to working moms. Nancy created solutions in both the workplace and at home, to carve a niche uniquely suited to her situation and talents. It's a goal to which many of us aspire. And Nancy Zieman's story gives us key insight.

About the Author:

Nancy Zieman is host of Sewing with Nancy, TV's longest-running sewing show, which she co-produces with Wisconsin Public Television. It has been on-air since 1982. She is the author of over 40 books, which have sold millions of copies and instructed numerous individuals on the finer points of sewing everything from clothing to quilts to home décor.

Nancy has been married to Richard Zieman for 36 years and they have two sons, Ted and Tom. She continues to host Sewing with Nancy, which her fans loyally tune in to public television to watch. Learn more at

My Thoughts:

Nancy Zieman taught me how to sew. Out of all the sewing books I have, I find myself reaching for her books the most. I've watched her show for years and I am always amazed at all the new things I learn every time I watch one of her shows! I have the deepest respect for Nancy and was thrilled when I had the opportunity to join in the tour for her new biography!

"Seams Unlikely" is a captivating and well written book about Nancy's life. Starting from before she was born up to present time, this book has an in-depth look at her life - and not only from her point of view! In the sidebars of the book, one will find short comments about Nancy or about an important part of her life from those most important to her. This is extremely personal and truly inspirational as Nancy tells things like they are. She's openly discusses her struggle with Bell's Palsy and shares how it both affected her attitude and inspired her to become what she is today.

This book is a true inspiration for anyone that struggles with being different. It shows how Nancy overcame something that could have crippled her if she allowed it to. Her book shows that one doesn't have to be perfect to accomplish those things that seem at times impossible.

Nancy is an amazing woman and this book would be a perfect those that love sewing, enjoy biographies/autobiographies or enjoys reading inspirational works. Make sure to add it to your reading list and consider giving a copy or two away as gifts to your special friends or loved ones.

I highly recommend "Seams Unlikely"!!!!

I received a copy of Seams Unlikely from Glass Road PR for me to review. I was not required to write a favorable review, but instead, one that reflects my honest opinion.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Merlin's Blade By Robert Treskillard

Merlin's Blade
Book 1 of The Merlin Spiral Series
Author: Robert Treskillard
ISBN: 9780310735076
Paperback: 432 pages

About the Book:
When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow---a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur’s kingdom, as well as the new Christian faith. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith’s son named Merlin.

As his family, village, and even the young Arthur, are placed in danger, Merlin must face his fears and his blindness to take hold of the role God ordained for him. But when he is surrounded by adversaries, armed only by a sword he’s named Excalibur, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil ... without losing his life?

Book includes location map and detailed character index.

My Thoughts:

If you are a long time follower of my blog, you know how much I love a good Arthurian tale. I haven't decided if it's the magic or the story line that centers around Arthur an/or Merlin, but I just know that when I see a book that involves these characters, I MUST read it!

I was thrilled to have the chance to read "Merlin's Blade". It's a fantastic story that centers around an almost blind Merlin and has quite a different take on the Arthurian tale. With fascinating characters, a captivating story, and a different religious focus, this story held a twist I was not expecting.

Robert Treskillard created a refreshing tale that kept me up long past bedtime and reading more than I should during the day. Although created for the young adult audience, I know that without a doubt that this novel (and series) will be welcomed and embraced by all ages! The only thing I really disliked about this series is having to wait to get my hands on the next book.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy as soon as possible! Highly recommended!!!!

I received this book through the Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

I review for BookSneeze®

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Free ONE YEAR Subscription to Ladies' Home Journal

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

FREE!! Waiting for Summer's Return by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Free for Kindle today on Amazon "Waiting for Summer's Return" by Kim Vogel Sawyer.

Book Description:

All alone on the Kansas prairie, Summer Steadman has few options. With her husband and children lost to illness, she has no desire to continue on farther west to where she and her husband planned to build their future. Instead, she seeks employment in a small Mennonite community in order to be near the graves of her family.

Widower Peter Ollenburger, the local gristmill owner, needs someone to teach his young son. When he hears of a "learned woman" in town, he believes she is the answer to his prayers. He soon discovers, however, that helping this outsider may have troublesome consequences.

There is little this father will not do for his son, but as the boy begins to look at Summer as more than a teacher, Peter must make a choice. Does he marry this woman to give his son a new mother, or does he marry only for love? 

Will Summer's broken heart ever be able to love again?
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