Monthly Archives: October 2013

Book Review: Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black: A Ghost StoryBellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really drawn into this book and I didn’t want it to end. That’s one of my yardsticks to decide if a book is good or not.

Bellman & Black is called a ghost story but I didn’t even realize that until I was halfway through the book. It didn’t strike me as a ghost story in the traditional sense but it was definitely a haunted story about a man named William Bellman.

When he was a child, he killed a rook with his catapult. That seemed to be the underlying theme throughout the story. William goes on to become the successful owner of a fabric mill and have a lovely family with four children and a wife he loved dearly. Then all of the family, except the oldest daughter Dora, died of fever which many people in the area did.

When it seemed as if Dora would die, too, Will runs into a dark man (whom he comes to refer to as Black) at the cemetery. It seems as if he makes a deal with the devil, Dora recovers, and he becomes successful as the owner of Bellman & Black an emporium where people go for all their needs brought on by a death in the family.

William loses himself into the business and it consumes him. I feel like there may have been a deeper message in this book that I missed but that’s surely not the author’s fault. The writing is beautiful, the descriptions are lovely and, although it’s a dark story subject, I really loved this book.

I look forward to reading Setterfield’s first book, The Thirteenth Tale.

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Book Review: Promote Yourself

Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career SuccessPromote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success by Dan Schawbel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a big fan of Dan Schwabel’s first book, Me 2.0 and I was looking forward to reading this new book.

Promote yourself is a book aimed at Millennials. This is a tough job market and the book gives great advice about how to get ahead in today’s marketplace. Although the title might suggest that the book is about how to be your own, loudest PR agent, it’s really more about how to put your best self forward and make yourself indispensable at your job.

For Millennials looking to get ahead at work, I highly recommend this book! 🙂

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Book Review: Starlet’s Web

Starlet's Web (The Starlet, #1)Starlet’s Web by Carla J. Hanna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked this book a lot. I am a fan of YA and was drawn into this story of a young actress in Hollywood.

17 year old Lianna Marie has been an actor since she was 14 and is ready to be finished being a product and just live a normal life as a wife and mother. She finally brings herself to tell her life long best friend, Manny, that she loves him and is thrilled to know he returns her feelings.

I wasn’t expecting the medical twist to the story when Marie finds out that she has been taking a chemotherapy drug since she was 14 so that she wouldn’t age. But the discovery answers a lot of questions for her.

I read this book straight through and would recommend it. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

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Book Review: First Date

First Date (The Dating Games #1)First Date by Melody Carlson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First Date is a fun YA read with a great friendship and learning story inside.

Five girls from a Christian high school are interested in starting to date but they are unsure about it. How will they like it? How will their parents like it? And how will they get the boys interested since it seems that that they aren’t.

The newest girl at their school, Devon, decides they should form a club called Dating Games. They develop rules and their goal is to get all of the girls a date for the Homecoming Dance.

The story is about the process they go through getting to and through their first dates. The girls come out stronger friends in the end and the DG Club is deemed a success.

I loved this book and its characters and highly recommend it. 🙂

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Book Review: Secrets of the Southern Belle

Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off MomentSecrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment by Phaedra Parks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great book full of great advice!

I’m a girl from the North but much of the advice Ms. Parks gives in this book was given to me by my mom and grandma as I was growing up. I believe if young women read and heed this advice, they can bring back a level of civility and self respect currently not in evidence.

I don’t have daughters but if I did, I would make sure they knew the information in this book. In a nutshell, Ms. Parks describes how to be class and not trashy.

I hope girls, who might not take this advice from their mother, will take it from Phaedra Parks! Awesome. 🙂

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Book Review: Derailed

DerailedDerailed by Neta Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am familiar with Neta Jacksons’ Yada Yada Prayer Club books and love them. This book, told from one of the Prayer Club’s husband’s was just as good.

These books take place in Rogers Park in Chicago, the neighborhood where I grew up. Every time I read one, I feel like I’m going home as I can picture the setting so well.

This story is about Henry and Estelle. They are newly married and having their grandson living with them. DaShawn’s dad is in jail but is released and comes to stay with them as they are just moving into a new Brownstone. Henry goes back to work as a detective with Amtrack and is assigned to the K9 unit with his partner, Corky. Corky is an awesome dog character, a spunky, smart black lab.

The story is wonderful and watching the faith of the characters grow, heartwarming. I highly recommend this book and Neta Jackson’s other books if you haven’t read them! 🙂

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Book Review: Last Train to Istanbul

Last Train to IstanbulLast Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was originally attracted to this book because Istanbul is the number one spot in the world I want to visit. I don’t think I knew that it was about World War II. I do love reading stories set in WWII and this book is EXCELLENT!

The story tells of two sisters and a family in Turkey. The older sister marries a diplomat who is extremely involved in trying to keep Turkey out of WWII. The younger sister falls in love and marries a Jewish man. They then leave their families to live in France where they don’t feel the negative reaction of their families.

As Hitler’s SS starts pervading their lives in France, Selva’s husband is taken by them and put on a train full of other Jews that are saved and returned. But they are then caught up in the resistance to eventually brings a trainful of Jewish people to safety in Istanbul.

I loved this story. The family relationships, the friendships that were formed, the way the tale wove through the era. I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down and was even reading it in the check out at the grocery! 🙂

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Molly Ringwald, Ruby Wax and me…

I recently read Newton Neighbors by Suzy Duffy. I really enjoyed this book and am honored to have a Suzy’s guest post today about tending to your bucket list. With my own list of over 100 things I plan to accomplish, I’m fully behind this idea.  Enjoy! 🙂


How’s your bucket list looking these days? Do you still have a wish-list of things you want to do?

Or did you dump it along the way with work, family and funding pressure? As autumn rolls in and kids head back to school, I think it’s a great time to remind you how precious your list really is. Haul it out and let’s think about this.

Ask any seven year old worth their salt about their wish-list and they’ll happily regale you with their  plans to become a pop star, then an astronaut – maybe a spell in the white house before  curing cancer and achieving world peace.  While they’re a tad over-optimistic, I think as we get older we become a bit over-pessimistic.  Somewhere in the middle is a good flight path.

Here’s my suggestion.  Get a pen and paper and list ten things you’d like to do in your life.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds because we’ve become so darn good at building excuses – reasons why things can’t be done.  For now try to ignore all those excuses and write down the top ten things you really want.  When you’ve got that done, list them in order of priority – one being your top ambition and ten, the least important.  If we don’t have goals, how are we ever going to reach them?  Here’s the funny thing, sometimes when we’re aiming for one thing, we get a totally unexpected bonus that wasn’t even on our radar.

Top of my list for the last five years has been to get to No. 1 in the New York Times bestseller list. This is practically unheard of for a new writer.  I don’t know any mothers-of-five who have done it (except Debbie Macomber, and she has a thirty year head start on me) but that’s not the point.  The point is the mountain is there and I want to climb it, page by page and book by book.  Wellesley Wives got into the top one hundred in the Amazon Bestsellers list so I’m hopeful Newton Neighbors will climb even higher and so far so good, because reviews are excellent.  Nowhere on my wish-list did I have plans to visit Australia.  That didn’t even enter my mind but thanks to the success of Wellesley Wives in the USA, my publisher, The Writers Coffee Shop flew me to Australia – to speak at The Sydney Writers Festival on how to write romantic comedy.  That was four months ago and I’m still flying high on the endorphins.  Sydney was everything I imagined it to be and more.  I was familiar with the landmarks of the city but to see them up close was just amazing.  Sydney was an unbelievable fringe benefit of aiming for No. 1 in the bestsellers list.  The same could happen to you.  Aiming for goals puts you in the way of other fantastic adventures and experiences that might never have come your way if you ignore that bucket list.


I’ve been a huge fan of Ruby Wax for years.  She’s American, living in the UK and did a hilarious TV series a few years back – interviewing some of the most colorful characters on the planet; Imelda Marcos, Pamela Anderson and the like.  There was nothing Ruby wouldn’t say. She was wildly inappropriate and even wildlier funny!  Imagine my thrill when I discovered she was staying at the same hotel as us in Sydney. She was Down-under to promote her new book too. I was rubbing shoulders with my idols.  Another major celeb who checked in was Molly Ringwald. Yep, she has a book out too.

It kinda makes me wonder how in the heck I’m ever going to get to the top of the bestsellers list with so many people writing books.  Then again look at the fun I’m having along the way.

This is a really good time of year to get your list back out and think about what you want.  I’m sure your days are already full with family and work but we’ve got to squeeze as much fun into life as we can.  Don’t ignore your bucket list – you owe it to yourself and who knows, it might be you I meet in Sydney next time.  Wishing you good luck with your list and get connected through the links below to let me know how you’re doing.

Lots of love,

Suzy xx