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Review: The Thursday Night Club by Steven Manchester

[ 6 ] February 2, 2015

thursday night club book coverReviewed by Amanda Schafer

Five college friends get together each Thursday evening to play cards, chat, and relax in the middle of their busy schedules as students. One evening they come up with a silly bet where the winner receives the prize of a handful of quarters. When one of them is struck by a car and killed, their worlds are rocked and they just don’t know how to move forward. As they are coming to terms with it all, they come up with the idea of honoring their friend’s life by betting a handful of quarters on who can do the best anonymous deed before Christmas. They decide to come back at Christmas and share their deeds and vote to see who wins.

Throughout the course of this short story, we are reminded that the best part of any act of kindness is not the reward or the thanks you receive after the fact, but the genuine joy and satisfaction you feel in knowing you’ve helped someone who couldn’t help themselves. A couple of the young students discover they wanted to do some acts of service and not even share with the group at all. They didn’t want the glory. They just wanted to do it because it was the right thing to do.

In the beginning of The Thursday Night Club, it was really hard to keep track of five major characters so rapidly shoved at us. However, the more the book went on, the less it became about the characters and more about what they were doing. There were aspects of the story that seemed a little odd in how they played out compared to real life, but the point of the story is to do what we can do to serve others. Step out of our comfort zones to see how we can honor someone else while finding joy in service, and then encourage others to pay it forward.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Steven Manchester. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Giveaway: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

[ 21 ] February 2, 2015

rebel queen book coverI have a treat for all Luxury Reading readers, courtesy of one of my favorite authors, Michelle Moran! One lucky reader will not only receive a signed hardcover copy of her new book, Rebel Queen, but also a set of beautiful bangles from Michelle’s recent trip to India!

Open worldwide

About the book

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi—India’s Joan of Arc—who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.

Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita—Queen Lakshmi’s most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army—Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life.

Read our reviews of Michelle Moran’s: The Second Empress | Madame Tussaud | Cleopatra’s Daughter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

[ 1 ] February 2, 2015

the jewel book coverReviewed by Christen Krumm

Set in a world where slavery is posh, women suppress women, and death teases the corners of every platitude, Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is a smart story of one girl’s struggle to survive. Violet Lasting has been taken from her family in The Marsh as a young girl for the sole fact that she is able to bear children.  In The Lone City royal families are no longer able to produce a legitimate bloodline, so they rely on surrogates who have been nurtured to be incubators. Nothing more. After their training in the Auguries—gifts of augmentation—they are sent to auction. Each girl is ranked according to their talents and abilities. Violet, being highly ranked, went to the Duchess of one of the four founding families.

The Duchess initiates Violet into her new role as a silent slave. She is brutal and conniving, but if Violet will just obey and make her daughter perfect, then she will dote upon her. Violet is watching as her fellow surrogates are murdered, and she is trying to find a way to escape the same fate before it is to late.

Violet is a character that we can love for her smarts and her unwillingness to give up. At times, however, she overlooks her conscious and it causes her trouble. She meets Ash, who is also employed by the royalty, and they fall quickly for each other. Almost t00 quickly. The romantic development is sweeping and fun, but it seems to be underdeveloped. However, Ewing keeps us interested with a dark political dance.

Ewing’s plot is well shaped and keeps the reader unaware of her final plan. In the last pages she draws the reader into a beautiful panic, wondering “what will happen now?” As she closes she gives us cliffhanger that will launch readers into book two because they will be itching to know what happens. The Jewel helps us explore what we really think about surrogacy and women’s rights. This book will transport you to a different society, and stir your thoughts on the human condition while entertaining as well.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Christen is a ravenous reader, wanna be author, Litfuse Nester, and slightly addicted to coffee. Lives in Arkansas with her husband and three mini people. Connect with her at her blog: http://ChristenKrumm.com or Twitter @ChristenKrumm.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 14 ] February 1, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday are hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

Paper Review Copies

lucy ann lobdell book covergirl before a mirror book coverrebound by august book coverwin friends and customers book cover

Additions to Personal Kindle Library

fortune's children book cover

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Review: Working Memory Advantage by Tracy & Ross Alloway

[ 3 ] February 1, 2015

working memory advantage book coverReviewed by Poppy Johnson

A person’s working memory is the recall that is necessary to use on a daily basis to solve most of life’s pressing problems. The human brain possesses too much information today and does most of the tasks well when forced to multi-task. However, if we make an effort to consciously process information slowly, our brains only become more proficient at what they need to do.

The authors start with explaining the purpose of the brain and how it functions (beginning with the prefrontal cortex and highlighting each area of the brain). The Working Memory Advantage: Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster gives tips for prioritizing information better, adapting easily to new situations, staying motivated to achieve long term goals, remaining positive in trying times, and even tips to help a person become a better athlete.

The book has three parts, and 13 full chapters. Part I covers the working memory and the person, Part II reviews growing and improving the working memory, and Part III discusses the past and future of working memory. The book uses real life case scenarios to describe how one can manage thinking in new ways in order to problem solve more effectively. There are short reviews of the materials, informal examples and quizzes, and solutions to help the reader manage the information and use it later in real life situations. I especially liked the example of the loci method which described how to best remember a laundry list of items. In order to improve recall, it is best to link the characters and information with familiar places or create a story around whatever needs to be remembered. These techniques work to show how to manage information and develop a working memory.

I would highly recommended this book to readers who need to problem solve and to manage large amounts of information creatively in order to develop solutions quickly and efficiently. The book can also be used to help managers train others to be more productive in their jobs.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis by Carole P. Roman

[ 1 ] January 31, 2015

captain no beard book coverReviewed by Alyssa Katanic

My two year old’s favorite song right now is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, though he calls it “Up Above”, thus, anything about stars is a hit around our house. Combine stars with Captain No Beard and his crew and you really can’t loose! So, you can imagine how excited my kids were to receive Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis by Carole P. Roman.

The crew has set out on a new mission! The captain, however, is the only one who knows exactly what that mission is all about. Why is he being so secretive? The crew doesn’t know. All they know is that they are headed north and conditions are getting very cold. They encounter snowflakes, spot icebergs, and shiver their timbers! Why is the captain taking them so far north?

Soon, they spot the northern star, Polaris, and come a bit closer to the truth of their mission. Finally, Captain No Beard admits that their piratey mission is to take something from the north and bring it home with them – they are pirates, after all, and pirates are known to… well… to take things without permission.

As the crew tries to remind their captain that stealing is wrong, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, appears in the sky. It is amazingly beautiful, and the exact thing that the captain has in mind to take home. “I want to look at it all the time!” the captain tells his crew.

As the crew explains what the Aurora Borealis is and why their colors shine, they are able to convince their captain that stealing is not a good choice. They enjoy the lights while they are there and come home to design some colorful views of their own.

Again, Roman has created an engaging story that perks children’s interest in the world around them, exemplifies good choices, and encourages them to respond in a creative way, such as painting their own versions of the Aurora Borealis. I highly recommend Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis as a fun story packed with learning and creativity.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Carole P. Roman. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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