Ok, let’s talk photography. You love taking pictures right?

That digital camera is awesome and you get instant satisfaction on seeing the thousands of photos right away. I know, I know me too.

This book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photography Essentials by Mark Jenkinson is a necessary read for anyone who loves taking pictures.

What I loved the most is how basic (well, I guess the fact that it’s an idiots guide should have been my first clue) and fundamental this book is.

I must admit, I hate reading well, non-novel (heck, is that even a word) books . I hate reading about how something works or how to learn something, self help books kill me. I just want to jump in and use, do, learn. I don’t want to read about it.

I read this book from cover to cover. Why? Because not only do you get basic knowledge like understanding the basic science behind how a camera works but you get tips on everything from editing your images, to shooting in any kind of light and everything in between.

Things like:

  • Use of light and shadow
  • The difference between shooting in film and shooting digital
  • Angle
  • The difference between JPEG’s and RAW files
  • Vantage points
  • Composition (the rule of 3rds – I am totally using this rule when I shoot these days)
  • Adjusting depth of field
  • Shooting moving objects
  • and more

My favorite part of the book, were all the pictures 150 total. Using pictures with a description is a great learning tool.

Reading this book is like taking a photography class. This is a must have for anyone who wants to take amazing pictures.

It also made me want to return to my beloved expensive 35mm sitting in a protective bag in the closet. As Mark states, can you really

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Sam Feels Better Now by Jill Osborne and illustrated by Kevin Collier, is a wonderful book about a little boy who is going to a “special” therapist for the first time.

Sam and his mom head into a therapist office because Sam “was scared by something” his mother tells the therapist.

The therapist then helps Sam by having him draw pictures, (someone who is scared, something that is scary, people that Sam loves and who love him, etc.) The drawing pages are interactive. This is where the child reading the book will fill in what is pertinent to their situation.

The book is a wonderful tool to help children and their therapist or parent, deal with the child’s feelings. We don’t know what scared Sam because it will be different for each child.

Sam Feels Better Now is a safe, non threatening way for children to talk about their feelings and how to deal with them. A great way to empower your child to take control of their feelings and deal with them in a healthy way.

I believe this is a great book for ages 4-14 even though the book is geared toward 4-7. The characters are sweet, colorful, non-threatening with big caring eyes.

The purpose of the book is to help children who have experienced traumatic events to be able to learn how to cope, and reduce the effects of traumatic stress.

Great book for a child about to enter therapy or for a parent trying to find out more about their child. Also, a great resource for therapists.

Dating Makes You Want to Die – but you have to do it anyway.

I absolutely love this funny, entertaining book! Daniel Holloway and Dorothy Robinson have created the perfect opposite of such books as Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. The reader will totally appreciate mentions of current media attention hogs like: Lost, George Clooney, Bill O’Reilly, Jeremy Priven, The Hills, and more.

Reading this book is like listening to your cooler, older cousin tell you without the b/s, how to approach the dating world with balls and finesse. “Alcohol will turn the path of your bedroom into a slip n slide.”

The sarcastic banter of the authors is hysterical as they navigate you though all stages of the dating process like:

  • First Impressions
  • Places to meet potential dates and whether it should be for lunch or dinner.
  • Surfing the internet dating sites like eHarmony and Match.com, “like real
  • life but faker.”
  • How to dress “Bohemian chic costs more than your life, It takes more money than you ever thought possible to spend on items that were made for seven cents by child laborers”.
  • The reasons you are not having sex and the remedies. I can think of about 8 people off the top of my head that really need to read and underline all pertinent parts of this chapter. “You got laid back in college but now the life police have pulled up in their responsibility paddy wagon”
  • Alcohol has a place in dating. “With booze, your flaws are as hidden as Cameron Diaz’s acne.”
  • Preparing for liftoff, “Clean the dishes, clean the toilet, the litter box and anything else that smells like poop.”
  • Talking you down when you realize that you just might be in a relationship, “changing your MySpace profile from single to in a relationship.”
  • How to move in together successfully and the pros and cons of “the great shared bed hoax.”
  • Knowing when it is time to break up and how to do it, “(bullet-proof line) I slept with someone else.”
  • And so much more……

I personally love the He Says/She Says Sections and the Anti-Cosmopolitan like quizzes. God, how I used to hate the Cosmopolitan quizzes.

This quick, easy read has enough really good points to be considered a self book with humor or enough humor to be considered a self help book on humor. You decide.

You will not be disappointed. Great read for a friend, sibling, family member going off to college, someone entering the dating world again, or even someone already in a relationship who could use a good laugh.


The Secret Lives of Bees – by Sue Monk Kidd – Great book. I just heard that will will be a movie starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo (who I love from Hotel Rwanda) and Jennifer Hudson. Pretty exciting that it will be an all star cast.

Back to the book. The book takes place in the 60’s and deals with racial tensions of the time. That is not why I wanted to read the book. The reason I wanted to read it was because the main character Lily’s mom has died and she is on a mission to find out who her mom was. She is hungry for information about her mother which I can totally relate to.

In the story Lily she has a few saved mementos of her mom’s and one of them, a piece of wood with a label on it featuring s a Black Madonna with the words Tiburon, South Carolina on the back. She and her maid/nanny (outspoken Rosaleen) get in a little trouble and Lily takes the opportunity to break free from her dad. She and Rosaleen head to South Carolina where they run into three black bee keeper sisters.

For me the story is about sisterhood, friends, and bravery. I adored the religion that the sisterhood made up to honor the Black Madonna along with a wonderfully poetic description of the times, an the nature of bee keeping.

This is a fantastic book and a really quick read. 4 out of 5 stars.


Last week I finished My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. This was my first Jodi book and had no expectations going in. I liked it a lot, reading it in 5 days, not a record but for a mom with two kids, a husband who I work for, a freelance job, 5 blogs, MySpace and 2 therapists to work my schedule around not too bad.

My girlfriend (my personal book club bud) didn’t love the book and had a hard time getting through it until the end hence the late review. I really wanted her to finish before I wrote about it.

The book is about Anna, a 13 year old girl who was the product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, who has spent her life giving blood, marrow, platelets and more in order to keep her sister Kate alive. The book is about love, sisterhood, family, and controversial medical science. For those who love a court room story, there is a little of that there although as someone who isn’t into those kind of reads, it worked for this story.

Anna decides to hire an attorney to fight her parents for emancipation and keep the kidney that they have scheduled to remove, or Kate will die.

The story was great and one that will hit a nerve with most readers. What do you do if your child is sick and dying but you are told that by having another, you could save her life. I chose not to have a tubaligation for this reason. Before kids I probably wouldn’t have thought this was something that was morally correct. After having my babies, I knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for them, including having another baby.

My girlfriend and I had a wonderful conversation about morals and what we would do in this situation. We had very different opinions along with one of her daughters who chimed in that she would never want to hear that she was born to save a sibling.

I think that depending on which character you are sympathizing with at the moment your morals will change. You can sympathize with the father, the mother, the dying sister, the ignored brother, or 13 year old Anna and understand why they do what they do.

My biggest problem and it wasn’t so much a problem well into the book was that each character had their own chapters, making them the primary character. I found that I had to keep going back to find out who was who.

I enjoyed the book and felt a connection to Anna, her father and to her brother Jesse all for different reasons. My heart ached at the end and I think the ending will stay with me longer than I want it to.

While trying to find a picture of the book cover, I found out that the movie will be out in 2009 starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin and Jason Patric. I am so psyched. I love seeing movies that I have already read.


I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!—Anne Frank, April 5, 1944

I was fortunate enough to receive a beautifully written book by Samara O’Shea called NOTE TO SELF: ON KEEPING A JOURNAL AND OTHER DANGEROUS PURSUITS – Don’t be put off by the obscure title. When I first opened the package I thought that the book looked adorable but what is this book about? I couldn’t tell by the title. Reading the book I realized that it was a book about keeping a journal.
In the first chapter she references Anne Frank. What girl who loved reading and writing didn’t fall in love with the idea of writing a journal? The journal/diary industry has been helping people keeping memories alive for those who come after or just to remember specific moments for oneself.

As a young girl I received my first diary when I was 9. I still have it and wish I had written more. There were too many days between entries to really get a feel of what I was thinking then. The diary I received the year that my mom was sick, my eleventh year is just as empty. Sometimes I wonder if this is really a bad thing. To have the ability to relive such a devastating time in my life in black and white may have been too much for me at certain times in my life.

Back to Samara O’Shea’s NOTE TO SELF: ON KEEPING A JOURNAL AND OTHER DANGEROUS PURSUITS. This is a great read for everyone. Not just people who love writing but others who want to document their lives or need a reason to take pen to paper. I dare you to not want to run out and buy yourself a new journal after reading this.

Some journal writing guidelines from the book:

* Write in a stream of consciousness: Forget everything you ever learned about writing and just write. Let it all out: the good, bad, mad, angry, boring, and ugly.

* Ask yourself questions: What do I want to change about myself? What would I never change about myself? (The book gives some to get you started).

* Copy quotes: Other people’s words can help you figure out where you are in life, or where you’d like to be. (Something I have just started doing).

* It takes time: Don’t lose faith if you don’t imme­diately feel better after writing in your journal. Think of each entry as part of a collection that will eventually reveal its meaning to you.

Another thing that Samara does that I have not seen before is show the difference in writing as we mature. She was an avid writer and has journals/diary’s from her youngest years until now and shares them.

I believe I will keep going back to this book for many years to come for guidance, almost like my bible for journaling.

Unlike Samara I loved the thought of a new book and feel that same feeling even now when I open a brand new journal with clean pages that I know will house my thoughts and memories. I love the idea of all the possibilities that will fill it as I run my hand over the pages like Vanna White. Samara, upon starting a book, felt a sense of pressure to fill that first page with something profound setting a precedence for the rest of the book.

What I loved more than anything I read is that as a blogaholic I have given up actually writing in the many books that I have.

-A Gratitude Journal where I was naming 5 things I was grateful for each day.

-Love Letter Journals to each of my kids that were started in the hospital and written in every birthday or holiday or when an important, profound milestone, profound met.

-A Personal Journal where I wrote something everyday no matter how significant or insignificant.

Reading Samara’s entries were like getting to be a fly on the wall in someone’s home. Some were deep, profound, funny, emotional and very private. I have read journals by others that I have found at garage sales, antique sales, or estate sales and seeing her journal entries were so much more easier and interesting to read.

To learn more about this stunning writer head over to her LetterLover site where you will also find information about her MySpace Page and Facebook Page.

Looking for a gift for a gift to give along with a new journal or diary? This is the one.

Important Note:
Samara, although I love her personality that shines through in the pages; has a very no nonsense approach and does have entries that may not be suitable to younger writers. She does talk about substance abuse and cheating on her comedian boyfriend (who by the way, I have seen and uses the cheating story in his act). So use your discretion when purchasing for a teen.

I will be running out to get her first book For the Love of Letters.