Book Club Feature: The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang

The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang

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Can you believe it’s March already? I don’t know about you all, but I’m totally over winter. Thankfully with spring on the horizon and our new March book club picks, I can wait out the cold weather a little bit longer.

Our first March book club is The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang. It’s perfect timing because all the snow and below freezing weather does not motivate me to move my body. Kang doesn’t just offer concrete steps to become more fit, but her shares her no excuses philosophy to motivate us:

We all know that we should exercise and eat right, so why is it so hard to follow through? We make excuses for why we aren’t taking better care of ourselves, saying things like, “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” or “I’m just not built to look that way.” But Maria Kang, the mother of three behind the viral “What’s Your Excuse?” mom photos, is here to say that the excuses stop now.

The No More Excuses Diet combines short term goals with healthy habit-forming behaviors to create permanent lifestyle changes. Using a specially designed transformation calendar, readers set clear, personal goals and make an easy-to-follow plan for each day.  The program uses a balanced diet of 30% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fats, and includes a 10% flexible portion that can be customized depending on your goals— whether it’s extra protein for building muscles, or a sugary treat at the end of the day. The No More Excuses Diet also provides a completely customizable workout guide, with over 50 illustrated exercises designed to build strength, flexibility, endurance, and to shed fat. The program also includes 7 weeks of worth of exercise programs that can be done at home with no extra equipment. Packed with meal plans, grocery lists, lots of encouragement and a clear plan of action, The No More Excuses Diet is a must-read book for anyone who is ready to bust through the excuses the hold them back and take their health and fitness to the next level.

The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang

This is the first time we’re reading a fitness book for our book club, but I have no doubt we’ll have plenty to discuss!

Pre-order The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang and join us on March 12 as From Left to Write members discuss the book.

Learn more about Maria Kang on her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Review: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
I feel so behind on sharing reviews of my recent books. But I’m trying to catch up because I really enjoyed them.

While I’d rather not think about school shootings, the sad reality is that it’s a problem in our country. The fictional high school shooting in the novel Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon could easily occur in any school. This visceral novel punches its readers in the gut, but Reardon’s writing makes it impossible to stop turning the pages. You must read this book.

After receiving news of a shooting at his children’s high school,  Simon rushes to his children’s high school. His daughter Laney is safe, but Jake is missing. The police are on a manhunt for Jake, whom they believe is an accomplice.  At first Simon is positive that Jake is innocent, but as he discovers his son’s secrets, Simon’s belief wavers. The media coverage, the police searches, and the parents’ of his son’s dead classmates makes Simon question his role as a good father and his son’s innocence.

The novel alternates between the tragedy and its aftermath and Simon’s journey as stay-at-home father. Simon didn’t plan on becoming a stay-at-home father, but it made more sense economically. For seventeen years, he’s taken care of the daily childrearing while his wife heads to her law office each day. Simon revisits his past, trying to figure out where he went wrong during his years raising Jake.

My kids are still young, but reading this novel as a parent was hard. I  yo-yo’d between wanting to hide the book and reading to discover what really happened with Jake. No one wants to imagine what it would be like to be in any parents’ shoes, much less Simon’s role. Obviously, I kept reading and finished the novel.

As a work-at-home mother, I appreciated seeing the story through Simon’s eyes. While stay-at-home fathers are becoming more common, Simon was the unicorn of his neighborhood. His role was different from social norms, but any stay-at-home or work-at-home parent can empathize with his isolation and self-doubt as a parent.

Bryan Reardon tackles the nuances of a tragic situation that shows the many sides of the story.  The media is quick to point fingers, but the novel reminds us that in a situation like this, there’s no black and white.

Add Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon to your reading list. You’ll be glad you did.

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

As someone who found my world history textbooks lacking in strong women leaders, I’ve gravitated towards historical fiction to fill that gaps. Thanks to many novels, I’ve traveled to India and ancient Egypt and walked in the shoes of powerful queens. As soon as my review copy of Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran arrived, I eagerly dug in.  And finished the book in one sitting.

Set on the cusp of Britain’s colonization of India, Queen Lakshmi fights to keep her throne and preserve her people’s way of life. She gathers a powerful army of men and her trusted women warriors to keep the British empire at bay. In fact, Lakshmi’s actions earns her the name of Rebel Queen in England.  Her story is told through the eyes of Sita, one of her female bodyguards. Raised in a small town, Sita was raised in purdah. She was not allowed to leave her home or speak to other men without her father’s permission. With no dowry to speak of, Sita’s father trains her so that one day she may join the queen’s private army.

I don’t know very much about this time period of India, but the colorful world of the India court leapt off the page. Some novels set in pre-colonial India focuses on the jewels and riches, but Rebel Queen gives a glimpse into the aristocracy and the lower castes, like Sita. Telling Queen Lakshmi from Sita’s perspective was perfect because as she learned about the world around her, so does the reader.

At the beginning, I found Sita’s explanation of the caste system and Indian mythology a little too obvious and simplified. However, it works in the context of Sita’s story–she’s been asked to write a memoir for the British about her former life in Queen Lakshmi’s court. In the early 1900s, I doubt very many British truly understood the people that they forcibly colonized. Once I turned that last page I was simultaneously sad that the story was over and excited because I wanted to learn more about Queen Lakshmi.

I highly recommend Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran. If you enjoy reading novels about strong female characters, this book is overflowing with independent women who were not afraid to take control of their destiny.

While you wait for Rebel Queen to release on March 3, you should read Michelle Moran’s other novels about female rulers. I suggest you start with Nefertiti.

READ MORE: 7 Books About Inspiring Women Rulers From History

Book Club Discussion: Trapped Under the Sea

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I lost an entire night’s sleep reading  Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey  (Broadway Books) because I couldn’t put it down. Even though I cheated and Googled the ending of the true events that Swidey retells, I had to read it until the end. Boston Globe Magazine journalist Swidey made me feel as if I was right in the middle of everything. Meticulously researched, the book retells “harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean.” 

I know many From Left to Write book club members also felt the same way I did when they read it. Though they probably didn’t lose as much sleep as I did. Today they discuss Trapped Under the Sea on their sites with personal stories inspired by this true story of the men who saved Boston’s harbor, formerly the dirtiest one in the United States.

Take a look at our book club discussion of Trapped Under the Sea:

Have we convinced you to pick up a copy of Trapped Under the Sea yet?

Learn more about Neil Swidey on his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  I tweeted him about my lost sleep and he actually apologized!

New Book Club: Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey

Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey

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Our next book club pick is a gripping page turner. The events in Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey  (Broadway Books) seem so fantastical that I kept turning to the front to make sure it was a true story. And it all really happened:

The harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job—with deadly results

A quarter-century ago, Boston had the dirtiest harbor in America. The city had been dumping sewage into it for generations, coating the seafloor with a layer of “black mayonnaise.” Fisheries collapsed, wildlife fled, and locals referred to floating tampon applicators as “beach whistles.”

In the 1990s, work began on a state-of-the-art treatment plant and a 10-mile-long tunnel—its endpoint stretching farther from civilization than the earth’s deepest ocean trench—to carry waste out of the harbor. With this impressive feat of engineering, Boston was poised to show the country how to rebound from environmental ruin. But when bad decisions and clashing corporations endangered the project, a team of commercial divers was sent on a perilous mission to rescue the stymied cleanup effort. Five divers went in; not all of them came out alive.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents collected over five years of reporting, award-winning writer Neil Swidey takes us deep into the lives of the divers, engineers, politicians, lawyers, and investigators involved in the tragedy and its aftermath, creating a taut, action-packed narrative. The climax comes just after the hard-partying DJ Gillis and his friend Billy Juse trade assignments as they head into the tunnel, sentencing one of them to death.

An intimate portrait of the wreckage left in the wake of lives lost, the book—which Dennis Lehane calls “extraordinary” and compares with The Perfect Storm—is also a morality tale. What is the true cost of these large-scale construction projects, as designers and builders, emboldened by new technology and pressured to address a growing population’s rapacious needs, push the limits of the possible? This is a story about human risk—how it is calculated, discounted, and transferred—and the institutional failures that can lead to catastrophe.

Sounds intense, doesn’t it?

Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey


The paperback releases tomorrow, February 17th and From Left to Write members will share their discussion of  Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey this Thursday, February 19th. You’ll definitely want to grab a copy to find out what happened to those men.

Learn more about Neil Swidey on his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Then come back and join our discussion later this week!

Fifty Shades Isn’t The Only Romance With Bad Grammar

Fifty Shades of Grammar by Grammarly

Since the Fifty Shades movie releases today, it might be fun to take a look the book’s grammar. The folks at Grammarly actually reviewed E.L. James’ erotica spelling and grammar and learned that these errors were common in other celebrated romances.

They created a hilarious infographic detailing grammar mistakes in romance favorites such as The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Take a look (and enjoy your weekend!) at Grammarly’s Fifty Shades of Grammar:

Fifty Shades of Grammar by Grammarly