Review of It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort


About It’s Okay to Laugh

Twenty-seven-year-old Nora McInerny Purmort bounced from boyfriend to dopey “boyfriend” until she met Aaron—a charismatic art director and comic-book nerd who once made Nora laugh so hard she pulled a muscle. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and had a baby boy while he was on chemo. In the period that followed, Nora and Aaron packed fifty years of marriage into the three they got, spending their time on what really matters: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, each other, and Beyoncé. A few months later, Aaron died in Nora’s arms. The obituary they wrote during Aaron’s hospice care revealing his true identity as Spider-Man touched the nation. With It’s Okay to Laugh, Nora puts a young, fresh twist on the subjects of mortality and resilience. What does it actually mean to live your “one wild and precious life” to the fullest? How can a joyful marriage contain more sickness than health? How do you keep going when life kicks you in the junk? In this deeply felt and deeply funny memoir, Nora gives her readers a true gift—permission to struggle, permission to laugh, permission to tell the truth and know that everything will be okay. It’s Okay to Laugh is a love letter to life, in all its messy glory; it reads like a conversation with a close friend, and leaves a trail of glitter in its wake.

This book is for people who have been through some shit.

This is for people who aren’t sure if they’re saying or doing the right thing (you’re not, but nobody is). This is for people who had their life turned upside down and just learned to live that way. For people who have laughed at a funeral or cried in a grocery store. This is for everyone who wondered what exactly they’re supposed to be doing with their one wild and precious life. I don’t actually have the answer, but if you find out, will you text me?

My Review

One strong woman’s journey through loss and life. Purmort shares her life openly along with views, lessons, relationships, parenting, leaving you chuckling and teary eyed.

Purmort isn’t afraid to expose her vulnerability, she’s raw and brutally honest. I admire her candor and ability to express emotions with ease. Nothing was sugar coated, Purmort struggled and stumbled yet she found her way. Questioning her decisions and choices while trying her best, other times applauding her decisions. Life isn’t easy, no handbook given as Purmort emphasizes in her book, no doubt you will find yourself identifying with her many times throughout her story.

My only gripe, to many F-bombs and GD’s. So tired of constantly hearing and reading the imfamous four letter word, whip out a thersaurs people.

Inspiring story of life and survival when blindsided. Honest, funny, most of all shared from the heart.

About Nora McInerny PurmortNora-McInerny-Purmort-AP

Nora McInerny Purmort was voted Most Humorous by the Annunciation Catholic School Class of 1998. It was mostly downhill after that, but she did get to spend three glorious years married to Aaron Joseph Purmort (aka Spider-Man). Her work has appeared on,, and the Huffington Post, and in the Star Tribune. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her son, Ralph. They really like it there.

Find out more about Nora at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Publisher: Dey Street Books (May 24, 2016)


Review of A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles by Mary Elizabeth Williams

A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles cover

About A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles

A wry, witty account of what it is like to face death—and be restored to life.

After being diagnosed in her early 40s with metastatic melanoma—a “rapidly fatal” form of cancer—journalist and mother of two Mary Elizabeth Williams finds herself in a race against the clock. She takes a once-in-a-lifetime chance and joins a clinical trial for immunotherapy, a revolutionary drug regimen that trains the body to vanquish malignant cells. Astonishingly, her cancer disappears entirely in just a few weeks. But at the same time, her best friend embarks on a cancer journey of her own—with very different results. Williams’s experiences as a patient and a medical test subject reveal with stark honesty what it takes to weather disease, the extraordinary new developments that are rewriting the rules of science—and the healing power of human connection.

My Review

Williams gives great detail in telling her own story of cancer along with opening the door wide in regards to her very intimate thoughts and emotions, love, family, caregiver, friend, medical and science. Whether you have been touched by cancer directly or indirectly you’ll find Williams’ journey, experience and insight a wealth of information, educational. Her journalistic gift allows her to delve into clinical trials and cancer research without the explanation being complex or boring, she breaks it down for civilians to easily grasp. Williams participates in a clinical trial drilling the importance of breakthroughs and all the challenges associated with trials. Her positive attitude, humor, and determination helped her along the way with her survival and the profound losses she personally experienced along the way while fighting for her life. I appreciated her candor and openness. Bittersweet story with a wonderful uplifting ending for Williams.

Mary Elizabeth Williams APAbout Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior staff writer for award-winning whose columns are regularly among the top viewed, commented on, shared, and cited as the best of the week. The “Lab Rat” series on her clinical trial was nominated for the 2012 Online Journalism Award for Commentary, and her essay on receiving a melanoma diagnosis is in the Harper anthology The Moment, an Entertainment Weekly “Must List” pick—alongside essays by Elizabeth Gilbert, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers. She is the author of Gimme Shelter: Ugly Houses, Cruddy Neighborhoods, Fast Talking Brokers, and Toxic Mortgages: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream. A starred Booklist selection,Gimme Shelter was called “poignant and funny” (Kirkus), “a must-read” (New York Daily News), “hilariously evocative” (Time Out Kids) and “compelling” (Publisher’s Weekly). She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Find out more about her at her website.

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Publisher: National Geographic; 1 edition (April 26, 2016)

Review of The Art of Calm by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh


About The Art of Calm

Let’s face it: the more we rush around, the shorter the days can seem. Packed with page after page of inspirational ideas to help you bring your life back to center, this is the perfect antidote to reducing the chaos of everyday life. Filled with exquisite photographs and insightful quotations, this elegant book offers an opportunity to enjoy guilt-free “me” time, as well as easy suggestions for a more peaceful existence—from keeping a bud vase on your desk to tucking yourself into bed an hour early with a book you love. The brilliant images are a reminder to savor the world’s natural beauty—and ease the mind in an instant. This enriching, beautifully illustrated book is an inspiring guide to relaxation and harmony. Simple tips for how to unwind, ideas for spending quality time with loved ones, and illuminating quotes offer ideas on how to slow down and savor life’s simple moments.

My Review

Let me start by saying this is an absolutely exquisite book. The stunning images, the simple yet inspiring and encouraging words indeed create a calming balm.

I have been dealing with very challenging issues lately in which I find myself overwhelmed at times requiring a recharge of my battery but..with responsbililites and limited time along with my high stress level I have failed at renewing myself until this beautiful book came my way.

No such thing as accidents, so it seems in my situation. I have enjoyed perusing the pages, absorbing the images and taking a few minutes to calm myself despite the various serious issues on my plate. A few minutes is all it takes to lose yourself in the illustrations paired with the wise words gently nudging, granting permission for respite from life’s grueling demands. Sitting on my nightstand, I simply reach over to start and end my day with a moment of calm, believe me it works!

I enjoyed all the illustrations and words, I found this particular pearl of wisdom striking –

Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives
when we are paying attention: mangos, grand nieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectations as possible…Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time.
Let it be. Unto us, so much is given.
We just have to be open for business.

This would make a fantastic gift for any woman encouraging her to find mere minutes in her life to feel a moment of calm, after all, WE can all use a dose in this chaotic, hectic world.

I love this book and I know you will too. I look forward to more from Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, no doubt she helped improve my life with her generous gift and art of calm. Simply lovely!

About Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a journalist who covers celebrities and lifestyle. She contributes to many newspapers and magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journaland The L.A. Times.

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Publisher: National Geographic (March 29, 2016)

Review & Giveaway: French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow

French Illusions

Release date: October 3, 2012
at Dreamland Press
275 pages
ISBN: 978-0988464018

Website | Goodreads


About French Illusions:My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley

French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, is the first of two books based on the author’s diaries.

It’s 1979 and Linda needs to learn a language fast in order to fulfill her dream of becoming a flight attendant. Broke yet determined, she chooses French immersion and contracts to become an au pair for a wealthy family in the Loire Valley. Yielding to poor judgment, she lies on her application and claims to speak basic French, confident she’ll be forgiven once she arrives at the Château de Montclair.

As she struggles to adapt to her challenging new environment with the hard-to-please Madame Dubois and her two incomprehensible children, Linda signs up and attends language classes at the local university. When she encounters Adam, a handsome young student, her life becomes more complicated—much more complicated—adding fuel to her internal battle for independence. Join Linda on her adventure of discovery and romance in an extraordinary part of the world.

My Review

I never realized how vulnerable an au pair is until I read Linda’s story. You travel to a foreign country, most likely unfamiliar, you have no idea what the family employing you is like except for what you’ve discovered through minimal correspondence via paper and phone and of course the contract which needs to be crystal clear as we gather from Linda’s woes. You are completely at your patrons mercy unless you have financial freedom and alternate housing, employment arranged. Pretty scary, rewarding if all goes well.

Linda’s story was interesting, I’m sorry it didn’t turn out as planned. She certainly handled herself well and was far more patient and tolerant than I would have been. Despite not being fluent in French and embellishing her fluency to Madame Dubois, doesn’t excuse Madame’s horrible behavior and treatment. The way things ended could have put Linda in danger, luckily this wasn’t the case. Madame Dubois issue with Linda’s personal life during her off hours was ridiculous. In my opinion a few of the tasks requested of Linda were a bit much, Madame was clearly taking advantage of Linda and her white lie.

I am happy Linda moved forward and enjoyed her stay in France once out of the clutches of virulent Madame. Linda found love, friends and became more comfortable with the language making leaps and bounds. Thankfully she encountered many kind people lending a hand.

I wasn’t a fan of the ending, clearly leaving the reader hanging only to have resolve in the sequel. Not a fan when authors do this.

A story of one young womans experience as an au pair as she finds her place in the world, stumbles upon love and enjoys meandering through France. A great story for those curious about life as an au pair or those considering.

 About Linda Kovic-Skow

Linda Kovic-SkowLinda Kovic-Skow is a best-selling author in travel in France.
Originally from Seattle, she currently winters in Gilbert, Arizona
and spends summers on a boat in the Pacific Northwest Waters
of Washington and British Columbia.

She earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978
from North Seattle Community College
and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration
from Seattle University in 1985. She has been married for 30 years and has two daughters.

An enthusiastic traveler, Linda also enjoys hiking, boating, gardening and socializing with friends. French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, was her debut memoir. The sequel, French Illusions: From Tours to Paris, recounts the rest of her adventure in France.


Follow Linda Kovic-Skow on Twitter | on Facebook


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for more chances to win

Enter here

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Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway: Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff


Bach #1

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Bach, Casals & The Six Suites for ‘Cello Solo: Volumes 1-4 by Steven Hancoff
Publisher: iTunes
Release date: June 2015

Book Description:



A Totally Immersive Multimedia ExperienceRichly Detailed Text Embedded with More Than 1,000 Illustrations Illuminating Bach’s Masterpiece, from Its Creation to Its LegacyBach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo and 3-CD set Audio Recording of ’Cello Suites to be Released June 23rd

Exclusively on iTunes and CD Baby

Includes Hancoff’s Complete Recording Of His Acoustic Guitar Transcription of Bach’s ’Cello Suites

From tragedy to transcendence is the theme that embodies the essence of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach. “This man, ‘the miracle of Bach,’ as Pablo Casals once put it, led a life of unfathomable creativity and giftedness on the one hand and neglect and immense tragedy on the other,” says Hancoff.

Bach’s life was rife with hardship and tragedy from the start. By the time he was nine years old, he had witnessed the deaths of three siblings and then, within a year, his father and mother also passed away.

For all his education and talent, however, his first job was serving as a lackey for a drunkard duke. Subsequently, he spent the next fifteen years in the employ of Weimar’s harshly ascetic Duke Wilhelm Ernst, who cared little for music. When he was twenty-two, he married the love of his live, his distant cousin, Maria Barbara Bach. During the thirteen years they were married, she bore him seven children, three of whom died at birth.

In 1717, Prince Leopold of Cöthen offered Bach a position as the musical director for Cöthen. Bach jumped at the chance. The officials of Weimar, however, threw him in jail for “the crime” of daring to resign his present position. Still, Bach was on the verge of a career breakthrough.

Three years into his happy and contented tenure in Cothen, Prince Leopold and Bach visited the spa town of Carlsbad for a month of vacationing and music-making. Unfortunately, upon his return Bach learned of the death of his wife and then only when he entered into his home. Imagine the shock, the impact. He never even discovered the cause of death.

Yet this tragic setback in Bach’s life was a major turning point because he came to grips with his personal tragedy by unleashing a flood of masterpieces for which he is and will be forever revered. First came the Six Violin Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo and then the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo.

In the ’Cello Suites we hear Bach expressing his own seeking, yearning, love, loss, sorrow, grief and determination and their overtones of surrender, resolution affirmation and transcendence. He aspired to articulate an ultimate personal confession, a revelation, entirely unique, entirely sublime, as an ultimate act of artistic and creative testimony, a heavenly statement about his own life and even of life itself—as a final gift and an enduring, heavenly send-off for his beloved wife.

Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo invites readers and music lovers into a unique experience, contained in an immersive four-volume e-book from Steven Hancoff – a virtuoso musician’s restless, passionate, multimedia exploration of a musical masterpiece that only grows in stature almost three centuries after it was written.

The many fascinating and inspiring aspects of the book include:

• How Bach struggled and overcame adversity and the lessons his example offer us today.

• The ultimate meaning of the Six Suites for ’Cello.

• How almost all of Bach’s works would have nearly sunk into oblivion were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Sara Levy, the great aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, to rescue them.

• How Felix Mendelssohn singlehandedly created with the performance of the St. Matthew Passion a Bach renaissance and a legacy that continues to be enjoyed to the present day.

• The miraculous discovery of the six ’Cello Suites by Pablo Casals in a Barcelona thrift shop and why he studied them for twelve years before performing them in public.

• What Pablo Casals meant when he spoke of “the miracle of Bach.” Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello Solo promises to be an adventure for anyone fascinated by the enduring power of music, art and why they matter.

Buy the music & ebooks: iTunes

Excerpt 1 – Volume One: Cöthen: Contentment and Despair

The personal relationship between Sebastian and his Prince must have been extremely convivial, and there is every indication that the Prince treated Sebastian as a revered and cherished friend. His 400-thaler salary (about $28,800) was equal to that of the Court Marshall, the second highest official at the court. Surely Bach and the Prince must have shared plenty of good times playing music together at Leopold’s palace, the keyboard virtuoso accompanying the violinist and gambist, who was playing music composed especially for him!

The very first official piece of business Bach concluded immediately upon his arrival in Cöthen was to present to his new sovereign a secular song, Durchlauchtster Leopold (“Serene Leopold”). And far more meaningful, in 1718, when Maria Barbara gave birth to their only child born in Cöthen, not only did he name the infant Leopold after the Prince, but Prince Leopold accepted the responsibility and honor as godfather to the child. Bach being no stranger to tragedy, baby Leopold was the third Bach child to die before his first birthday.

Always a practical man, Bach made an early decision to move rehearsals to his own home so that he could augment his salary by collecting an extra stipend — 12 thalers per year (about $864) — for rental of rehearsal space.

And the terms of his employment prove the high estimation in which the “Prince held him, for it was dated, and the salary paid, from August 1, 1717, “hough Bach cannot have entered his service before the end of November. This, with a few other meager notices, is all that is known to us concerning his official position in Cöthen. Time has effaced or overgrown almost every trace of his labours, as the grass has overgrown the castle-yard which the master must have so often crossed; and his name has died out among the people of the place almost as completely as the sounds with which he once roused the echoes of the now empty and
deserted halls. [Bib. 3]

As for Bach’s creative output in Cöthen:

… the accounts of the bookbinders who bound the parts copied from Bach’s scores attest the new conductor’s frenzy of productivity…. A great part of Bach’s output in these years is lost; but what has been preserved works like the suites for orchestra and the Brandenburg Concertos [and I must include these “wondrous Cello Suites] reflect the exuberance of an artist discovering new means of expression, and the peace of mind of the composer who had found real understanding and appreciation in his new patron. [Bib. 8]

Pic for Excerpt 1



Meet Steve Hancoff

Steve Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old, captivated by the folk music craze of the 1960s. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

For nearly 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States of America. His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, and The Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar and New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. He is a graduate of St. John’s College, home of the “100 Great Books of the Western World” program and has a Masters degree in clinical social work. He is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi. An avid hiker, he is also a member of the Grand Canyon River Guides Associations.

Connect with Steve Hancoff: Website   ~  Twitter  ~   Facebook

Subscribe to Steven’s Hancoff’s work on YouTube


Enter to win Win 1 of 50 2-disc CDs “The Six Suites for ’Cello Solo” (open to USA & Canada). See entry form for complete details

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Review & Giveaway: Last Night in the OR: A Transplant Surgeon’s Odyssey by Bud Shaw


The 1980s marked a revolution in the field of organ transplants, and Bud Shaw, M.D., who studied under Tom Starzl in Pittsburgh, was on the front lines. Now retired from active practice, Dr. Shaw relays gripping moments of anguish and elation, frustration and reward, despair and hope in his struggle to save patients. He reveals harshly intimate moments of his medical career.

An exhilarating, fast-paced, and beautifully written memoir, one that will captivate readers with its courage, intimacy, and honesty.

Bud Shaw opens the door to his life wide open. He shares his personal life along with his stellar professional career. The sacrifices transplant surgery demands is unforgiving, it takes a different breed altogether to take on this intense speciality, only an elite few possess the skill, talent required and even fewer can handle the grueling demands mentally, physically, emotionally, their personal life, family and loved ones put through tests as well. A naked glimpse into the making of a transplant surgeon.

Shaw’s story is nothing short of candid. He tells of his entry into medicine, his awkward learning curve, the politics, near firings, mistakes, yes, he shares himself openly, appears nothing is held back. His also reflects on his childhood with stories of his family and his boyhood losses and shenanigans. A comprehensive overview of his career and personal struggles and successes is presented.

If you’ve ever wanted to walk in the shoes of a transplant surgeon privy to what transpires behind the curtain this story will appeal to you as well as a strained personal life filled with numerous ups and downs, health scares and tragedy.

Enlightening, educational and raw. I respect Shaw for opening himself up to show his human side and not just the role of esteemed clinician. I have a better understanding of a physicians ego, power trip, need for adrenaline, and of course God complex. Such intimate and honest insight explains so much about the role, life and behaviors of physicians. Extremely interesting, fascinating to say the least.


Enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Last Night in the OR, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 10/7/15


Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Plume
ISBN13: 9780147515339

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: 9 1/2 Narrow: My Life in Shoes by Patricia Morrisroe


A funny, poignant coming-of-age memoir told through the shoes that she wore.

As I read the chapters in this book I couldn’t help but reminisce on my own escapades. Morrisroe certainly provided plenty of moments for me to step back in time as I read of her experiences. Parochial school days, wearing Stride Rites to my own beloved pair of patent leather Maryjanes in black, my first love, yes I smiled and laughed as I journey along with Morrisroe.

Morrisroe cleverly addresses the issue of shoe marketing pertaining to the high-end designer brands. Lots of tidbits on shoes in general along with history added interest. Love the way she breaks down her life from childhood to adulthood through her shoes. She discovered her first love while wearing her granny boots in England, Beatle Boots purchased for a school performance etc.

An original memoir of an ordinary woman (sporting a shoe fetish, yes she owns Louboutin, Blahnik, Choo, – a girl after my own heart) blending shoes with memorable moments and milestones in her life, family and love. Fun read, especially for self-proclaimed shoe divas such as myself. Plenty of humor will thoroughly entertain you.

READ 9 1/2 Narrow EXCERPT

About Patricia Morrisroeimage

Patricia Morrisroe grew up in Andover, Massachusetts and graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in English. After spending a year as a reporter and film critic at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, she received an M.A. in Cinema Studies at NYU. As a contributing editor at New York magazine, she wrote over fifty features, many of them cover stories. Patricia’s work has also appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, Departures, Travel & Leisure, and the London Sunday Times Magazine.

In 1988, the noted photographer Robert Mapplethorpe selected her to write his biography. A year later, several months after he died of AIDS, the Corcoran Gallery of Art cancelled the photographer’s “The Perfect Moment” exhibit. This spurred a heated nationwide debate about pornography as art and called into question the extent to which Congress and the NEA should be funding that art. When Mapplethorpe: A Biography was published in 1995, the art critic Arthur C. Danto, in The Nation, called it “utterly admirable… The clarity and honesty of Morrisroe’s portrait are worthy of its’ subject.” The Washington Post declared the book as “mesmerizing as Mapplethorpe’s stare in his self-portraits.”

In 2010, Patricia wrote Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia, which blended science, culture and personal insight to tell the story of why she – and 40 million other Americans – can’t sleep at night. Janet Maslin in the New York Times praised her “deadpan funny” sense of humor, describing the book as a “fine firsthand look at insomniac eccentricities.”


Enter for a chance to win a copy of 9 1/2 Narrow, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 8/3/15


•Hardcover, 256 pages
•Published April 14th 2015 by Gotham
•ISBN13: 9781592409242