Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

self improvement

Better Than Before

BETTER THAN BEFORE, by Gretchen Rubin, is her third self-help book. She’s a NYT best-selling author for a reason: she’s s damn good at what she does!

Rubin’s new book is about creating habits. How they are made and how to decide what habits you even want to have. Rubin creates a practical structure so you can understand and pinpoint what habits you want to create and why. Even making a good habit of something you love doing can be challenging in our everyday lives of chaos and change.

“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.” 

I found myself pulling our my highlighter and going to town on page after page. And then flagging pages, one after the other. This is an exciting book for anyone seeking change. Rubin asks us to identify a few habits we’d like to adopt, or make changes to.  She’s packed BETTER THAN BEFORE with individual examples of habit changes. Often, we can learn by hearing of others’ trials and errors. I know I do.


Gretchen Rubin

At the beginning of BETTER THAN BEFORE, Gretchen lists what she calls THE HABIT MANIFESTO!

  • What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
  • Make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong.
  • Focus on actions, not outcomes.
  • By giving something up, we may gain.
  • Things often get harder before they get easier.
  • When we give more of ourselves, we can ask more from ourselves.
  • We’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
  • It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.
  • We can’t make people change, but when we change, others may change.
  • We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.
  • We manage what we monitor.
  • Once we’re ready to begin, begin now.

This manifesto speaks to me. I am a huge procrastinator. Not as much now that I am older, however, still more than I would like. I found page after page, chapter after chapter, and word after word to be life-changing. I am still going over the pages in this book. And I have a feeling it will be pretty worn out and tattered  pretty soon.

My review copy of BETTER THAN BEFORE, by Gretchen Rubin, came from Crown publishing. I am sending a huge shout out of thanks to these so-generous people!

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Erik Larson

Dead Wake

DEAD WAKE, by Erik Larson, is by far his best book to date! I do not say that lightly as he is the author of more than one blockbuster. THE GARDEN OF BEASTS and THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY found him much notoriety, and well-deserved, at that. But, I discovered Larson many years ago when he penned ISAAC’S STORM. What a page-turner!

DEAD WAKE, is the story of THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA. My heart is pounding just thinking about this story. The repercussions of a “bad” decision to go ahead and cross the Atlantic “even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic,” were vast and horrific, and could have been avoided.

Told in the voices of the hunter and the hunted. The hunted: Captain Turner was the captain of the Lusitania, one of the greatest ships on the seas. And the hunter: Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, the U-boat that ultimately brought the Lusitania down.

May 1, 1915, the Lusitania, a luxury ocean liner, carrying a record number of children and infants, sailed from  NYC harbor, bound for Liverpool. The passengers were anxious. Of course they were; after all, they were about to sail right through a live war zone, for God’s sake. I can not help but wonder why anyone would go through with this, especially those with children. But, on they went. And, six days later, the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. The sinking was complete in 18 minutes. Devastating.  Out of 1959 passenger and crew, only 764 survived, 123 Americans.

Erik Larson has done scads and scads of astonishing research. He says he decided to take on this project because he discovered so much that had never been published. He used personal logs from both captains which enabled him to get inside the heads of these men. He unearthed telegrams to and from the Germans that were intercepted and decoded by the British. Which brings up yet another topic: did the British know what was going on here? I think they did. Larson also came up with a huge German codebook. What a coup! Even more evidence that Winston Churchill and the British had cracked the code, yet, still did nothing to prevent this disaster. Amazing. Makes for a suspenseful and anxiety-riddled read.

This thrilling book told with vivid description is bound to be one of the hottest books of this year. Maybe the hottest.  So much to speculate about. Was this a conspiracy theory to force America into WWI? Even though America did not officially enter the war for two more years. And why were there no escorts sent to accompany the Lusitania? All this and much, much more.

Dead Wake

Erik Larson

Larson throws in the glamour of the Progressive Era. And I loved hearing about President Woodrow Wilson, who was dealing with the loss of his wife, and then later with a new love.

We learn about the lives of both captains. They are beloved by their crews and families. They are both capable. And they are both looking out for themselves.

After watching TITANIC again, recently, I can’t help but wonder at the quick sinking of the Lusitania.  After all, many of these passengers were already constantly on alert for some sign of trouble. Some even sleeping on the decks dressed and with life  jackets.

I think you will find DEAD WAKE both entertaining and enlightening. And unforgettable! I know I did.

My review copy came from Crown Publishing Group. Thanks so much!

Announcing The Winner of One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes

One Plus One

My winner of ONE PLUS ONE, by Jojo Moyes, is…Carol Starman! Congratulations, Carol. You are in for such a treat. You will just adore this story.

Thank you to all of you who left a comment.  And a big shout-out to the very generous publishing people at Penguin!

Don’t forget, Jojo’s prequel to ME BEFORE YOU will be available this summer. Can’t wait.

Jojo Moyes

After You

Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff


Shadows Over Paradise

SHADOWS OVER PARADISE, by Isabel Wolff, is the type of novel about The Second World War that I am always on the hunt for. Even though there are myriad books about this war, there is always room for one more, as long as it’s unique and well-written. Yes, and Yes! This is just that.

Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter; she writes stories for other people. The assignment she’s working on now takes place in Cornwall, on the coast of England. It’s present day. And Jenni is actually returning to the vacation site she has not been back to in 25 years, not since a tragic accident changed her life forever.

Klara is in her 80’s with quite the story to tell. You see, she’s decided it’s time to write her memoir. She is ready to tell her family things about her life that they do not know. She’s kept all this bottled up for years, never sharing a tidbit. Now it’s time to face the demons. Jenni is there to help her through.

As Jenni and Klara become close, we begin to realize that they both have secrets. And when Jenni discovers that one of Klara’s secrets is like her own, well, the story raises to a high level of suspense.

This story of memory, of war, of family, and of love, is such a breath of fresh air. Taking place in Holland, on the island of Java which sits in the Pacific between Sumatra and Bali, and finally in England on the Cornish Coast, I could not tear myself away from this amazing tale of fortitude and love.

The prologue of SHADOWS OVER PARADISE will draw you in and capture you until the end. I dare you to try to put it down after reading! The writing is fabulous. And I loved learning yet another aspect of World War Two. Oh, the atrocities.  But the sense of resilience that the human soul is capable of shines to the max on these pages.

Shadows Over Paradise

Isabel Wolff

I loved the characters of Jenni and Klara and kept rooting for them throughout. I also loved the sense of mystery that abounds from page to page and chapter to chapter.

Isabel Wolff is the author of A VINTAGE AFFAIR and THE VERY PICTURE OF YOU.

My lovely book arrived as requested from Bantam Publishers. I can not thank them enough.

Vrska’s Passing

My mother was rushed to the ER in Naples, Florida last Wednesday. She is a resident at Lakeside Pavilion in Naples. The DR. there could not get her heart beat stable. So off she went. I got the call on my way home from work. I had just been to the printer to have programs printed for the lecture I was giving on Thursday. I battled awful traffic driving to Naples at the height of the season, something I had promised I would not do this year. The bottom line is that I was in the ER almost all night with mom. My son Craig drove from his home on Pine Island, two hours away, to be with us. Mom was admitted and yet not taken up to her real room until Friday at noon. Nightmare. No beds. Mom kept deteriorating daily. At times she just did not make sense. I told the nurses and doctors that mom was not herself. She’s always been very sharp. Her hearing got so bad that she was almost deaf. They found a blood clot on her lung. And diagnosed her with a lung virus. She just did not have the strength to fight the pneumonia that appeared. Finally, late last night, mom passed at Avow Hospice. I am grateful to the nursing staff at NCH for all the nurturing and loving care they showered on my mom. Six days and nights have taken an emotional toll on me. Even though my mom was 89, and I thought I was prepared, I was not.

We are picturing my mom being welcomed into her new world by her mother and grandmother, and, the host of our family kitties that have gone before her.

Mom 80th BD

Mom 80th BD

I am taking some time off work to recover. I am hoping to be able to read again soon.

We will have a private celebration of life for mom in April. Rest well, mom. Now you can finally breathe easy again.

Photo was taken nine years ago on mom’s 80th BD.

This is how we wish to remember her.

One Plus One By Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes

One Plus One

ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes, is coming out soon in trade paperback. Viking has offered me one for giveaway. Hurray! Please leave me a comment after my review in order to be entered in my giveaway. Good luck! The giveaway will end Monday, March 23. Only U.S. addresses, please. And no P.O. boxes.

It’s really difficult to write about a serious subject, yet make it ring with laughter. Moyes is just about the only author writing today who is the master of this.

Jess Thomas is living alone with her teenage step-son and her daughter when the story begins. Her ” arsehole” of a husband has been gone for two years. Still, Jess, good person that she is, still awaits his return. She’s working two jobs and still not able to make ends meet. Her step-son is Goth boy. He’s being bullied up one side and down the other by the Fisher kids in the neighborhood. Her young daughter is a math wizard whose shadow is her lug of a dog named Norman.

When Jess’s daughter is given a once in a lifetime chance at a stupendous prize, off the family go on a journey like no other. You see, Jess has forgotten how to drive, and the car they take off in has been moldering away in their garage and is full of cobwebs. It belongs to her lost husband. It’s a Rolls Royce, albeit one that is in horrible shape.  Finding themselves quickly on the side of the road and in big trouble, their night in shining armor appears ,seemingly from nowhere: Ed.

Ed Nichols is a brilliant tech millionaire whose life is not quite so bright at the moment. In fact, it’s coming apart at the seams, and then some. He’s gotten himself involved in what is called “insider trading.”

Jess is part of a cleaning company who has been cleaning Ed’s condo. So when he sees her on the side of the road, he pulls over to see what’s up. When he discovers they are on their way to Scotland for Tanzie (the daughter) to take part in the Maths Olympiad, he offers to drive them. Little does he know he will be forced to drive at the speed of a turtle because Tanzie gets car sick when you drive over 40 mph. And he also has no idea Norman the dog is so flatulent.  And this is not even the half of it.

There is a scene where they are driving in the countryside and come upon a herd of cattle. The cattle are being moved down the middle of the road by the farmer. And they are not stopping for cars. When they encounter the Audi  they just part around the car and continue on their way. Meanwhile. Norman, who has never seen a cow, is lunging and slobbering at the window like a wild animal.  It all reminds me of an experience my daughter and her family had a few months ago when they moved to North Carolina. They were out motoring on a Saturday morning and met up with a herd of cattle being moved. They were stopped in the middle of the road and told to stay put. And around the curve came the herder with the cows. They were thundering along at a fast clip, quickly surrounded the car with kids and grownups staring with mouths gaping open, and then were gone as quickly as they appeared.


Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes has put a bunch of the most unlikely people together in a story that is full and rewarding. She tackles insider trading, divorce, trust, love, and hardship. And she shows us that bullying is alive and kicking in England.

Can you say road trip? Just remembering the picture of the two kids and the big wooly dog, taking off in the shiny new car, makes me smile. And then the vomiting begins.

Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming a household name. She’s written many books, but is mostly known for ME BEFORE YOU, one of my all-time favorite books, ever. I just want her to keep on writing forever. She is a sure thing.

I received a lovely trade paper copy of ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes. Thanks go out to Viking.