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Rocky Rates It!

Rocky Rates It: Love Your Life by Cheryl Marks Young

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Love Your Life is a comprehensive workbook for discovering your passion and actually doing something productive if not profitable with it.  It is most decidedly not an “if you can dream it, you can be it” guide of feel-good psycho-babble.  The text hinges on the metaphor of a master gardener; a metaphor that is, if you’ll pardon the pun, cultivated methodically throughout the book.

Straightforward and no-nonsense, Love Your Life calls for significant introspection as well as identification and mobilization of support people to help you achieve your goals.  It proscribes a logical, measured process that is facilitated by the dedicated reader response space throughout the workbook.

Young engages readers with a practical voice that is never condescending. Furthermore, she does not pad the text with an exhausting litany of anecdotes/testimonials like many other books of this genre.  I found it both useful and refreshing.

Rocky Rates It:  5/5 Stars

Rocky Rates It: The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud

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The Emperor’s Children is the most “adult” book I’ve read this year.  Every character is mired in his/her own sense of inadequacies, be they real or imagined.  From the self-possessed Marina who strives for a name beyond that of her famous father to the hapless Bootie, whose idealism threatens his own destruction, Messud presents a cast of characters varied and beset with personal demons.

Messud blindsided me by incorporating national tragedy in the plot line.  I found myself hoping the characters would be able to shake themselves from their narcissistic stupor by the sheer force of history in the making.  I wanted them to transcend an agnosticism that seemed as pervasive in this novel as Sunday-go-to-meeting in my own life.

I found the characters rich, fraught with problems of their own making, and multi-dimensional.  The jacket calls this novel a “tour de force”.  I usually scoff at such, but in this case, Messud delivers.

Rocky Rates It:  5/5 Stars

Rocky Rates It: Bicycling Magazine’s 1000 All-Time Best Tips edited by Ben Hewitt

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This is a decent compendium of tips for cycling with a very useful glossary of lingo. I found some of the tips to be repetitive and several that were just plain common sense, but overall, I feel better educated about cycling. As a newbie, I would have appreciated a section on shoe selection and an explanation regarding clipping in. I would also have appreciated links and/or anecdotes involving racing at the amateur level as well. Some pacing charts would have also been helpful so that beginners can gauge their performance.

This book succeeded in getting me fired up about riding and piqued my curiosity about races that may be held in my region.

Rocky Rates It:  3 Stars

Rocky Rates It! Paisley Memories: The Beginning of Me by Zelle Andrews

 

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At times poignant and at times comical, Paisley Memories traces the angst and gaffes of a high school drop-out thrust into the hard-knock world of survival. With her only support system buried and a special needs baby on her hip, an unwed and virtually penniless Tess travels to Florida in a beat-up old Thunderbird to grasp at an “anywhere but here” future.

Andrews creates a totally believable teen, struggling for a toehold amidst regret and despair. Tess wrestles with the idea of giving up her baby, vacillating between her own egocentrism and her view of her less than perfect child as a reflection of her less than perfect life. She is not the most likable character-petulant, selfish, and awkward-, but I found myself rooting for her to recognize her own worth and accept the circle of people surrounding her who teach her that picking yourself up doesn’t mean everyone is trying to knock you down.

This is a coming of age story artfully told with a colorful cast of characters. The pacing is quick, but not hurried, and the depiction of the psyche of the protagonist is spot on.

Rocky Rates It…5 Stars!

Rocky Rates It! The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

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Philippa Gregory never disappoints! She is my go-to escape to the Tudor world author and I eagerly await each book. Having read several of her Plantagenet/Tudor novels, I am consistently drawn into the story and fascinated by the level of detail Gregory provides. Meticulously researched, Gregory’s work has the ring of authenticity without the dryness of textbook history.

The Taming of the Queen has readers immersed in the character of Kateryn Parr, last wife of Henry VIII. Any casual fan of Tudor history knows how this is going to go, but Gregory succeeds in creating a sense of urgency, intrigue, and struggle of conscience for Parr even in the clutches of a megalomaniac. I found Parr’s relationship with the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth most intriguing, as well as her devotion to theology in a most turbulent time.

I enjoyed this book immensely!

 

Rocky Rates It! The Wildflower Girls by Mullen Dale

wildflowerMullen Dale captures female adult friendship poignantly and effectively in her romantic thriller. Never campy, but always relatable, I found myself wanting to be admitted into the circle of Wildflower Girls. This is decidedly not the “it” crowd at the high school lunchroom table all grown up and vamping it through adulthood to be seen. This is a group of women tempered by experience facing both the best and worst life has to offer head on. From the imprudent Harlyn who fights for respect in a male-dominated career to the indomitable Chrysanthemum who powers through grief and a mother’s horror, the Wildflower Girls are multidimensional.

The banter between the Wildflower Girls and the men who claim them is authentic, at times either heartrending or hilarious, and quintessentially Southern. I am reminded of a darker, grittier version of the Steel Magnolias. The pacing of the novel is quick and the sequence deftly avoids the pitfall of miring up in backstory. I am very much looking forward to Dale’s next installment of The Wildflower Girls saga.

Rocky Rates It! Paula by Isabel Allende

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I expected Paula to be wrenching, but what I did not expect was the equivalent of a graduate course in both effective description and the melding of the personal and public. I stopped multiple times in the reading to just sit in awe of the literary skill on display. Allende is a true master who made me feel the anguish of a mother, both for a diseased daughter and a diseased nation. This memoir is a must-read, not just for the story itself, but for its artistic expertise.

I gave this book 5 stars!

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