AdviceSisters Reviews: 7 Books for July 4th Weekend and Beyond #BookReviews, #Books, #reading

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July 4th weekend is coming. A great book and a cold drink are true delights!  Here are 7 books The Advice Sisters think are worth your time to order or download–not just for the end of June, not just for July 4th weekend, but way beyond. Your comments are always welcome!


Book the harm in asking

Oddly weird and witty, I couldn’t help but smirk and snicker all the way through The Harm in Asking: My Clumsy Encounters With The Human Race by Sara Barron (Three Rivers Press, 2014) .  Sara Barron is naturally comedic, a writer whose work has appeared on two of my favorite radio shows and podcasts, This American Life and The Moth: True Stories Told Live Events. She’s got that Joan Rivers kind of humor–the kind where nothing is relaly off limits and she can laugh at herself and gives you permission to laugh at her humiliation as well. The book is a bunch of little personal essays about all the crazy, stupid and embarrassing things she and her family has done.  I’m guessing some of this is embellished but there is always a kernel of truth in every hysterical story. I don’t want to conjure up a favorite, because there are so many, but if you think you had an awkward childhood, read about Sara’s and suddenly nothing you’ve ever suffered will seem so bad. Her description of her characters, her sharp use of dialogue…..your mouth will curve into a smile, then a snicker…it’s unavoidable. True, some of what she writes about is so awkward you kind of want to squirm, but it’s her embarrassment, not yours. This is the perfect book to read when you are stuck waiting someplace you really don’t want to be. Or when you’re feeling frustrated. Oh heck…it’s a fun read, any time.   You have to like this kind of humor but if you do…well, I loved it and I laughed all the way through it. Feeling down today? Download The Harm in Asking: My Clumsy Encounters with the Human Race  to your Kindle!


partners in passion

Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-Term Love by. Mark A. Michaels, Patricia Johnson and Tammy Nelson ( / Cleis Press 2014).  There is a lot to digest in this book, but sometimes I wonder with books like this if the authors are trying to hard to do too much.  The authors’ background in tantra, and personal experiences as teachers and as a couple give them a wide view of sex and intimacy, and that’s a good thing, but there are  426 pages broken up into 13 chapters with so many sub sections that each can only have a few paragraphs to perhaps a few pages devoted to topics that could take an entire chapter, or perhaps an entire book, to properly cover on their own.  The authors might have been better off expanding the chapters on tantra and exploring more adventurous forms of sex, and eliminating those on sexual concepts and anatomy which one can get from other resources.  For someone stuck in a “vanilla” relationship seeking something new, something more, partners in passion might be a good place to start and get some ideas, just not a great place to end.  I’m not saying that the book is poorly written (it isn’t) or that the material covered is bad (that’s not true either) but I was left wanting more….You can find Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love .

buttercream dreams book

Buttercream Dreams?  If you are remotely savvy about baking and decorating, you’ll salivate over Sensational Buttercream Decorating: 50 projects for luscious cakes, mini-cakes & cupcakes by Carey Madden (Robert Rose Publishers, 2014), The book has so many gorgeous photos, even little children will want to just turn the pages to see the pretty photos. But reality might strike you when you actually start to create the cakes and cupcakes. Baking and decorating is an art, and one that is best done with patience and trial and error.  While there is a ton of information in the front of the book about everything a would-be cake decorator would need to know, from selecting and blending colors, choosing tools, and techniques, these are skills and they look easier than they often are to execute. That isn’t the fault of the book, it’s simply a fact. Start with simple project, and if you are confident, move up to more complicated ones. You might not be able to make a gorgeous Hydrangea festooned cake or mini cake on the first try, but learning how to use a pastry bag and tip to decorate a cake with dots, not so difficult.  Entertaining this Summer?  Add panache to your pastries, store-bought or not, with a few little tools and tips and you might get hooked on decorating for a lifetime!   Sensational Buttercream Decorating: 50 Projects for Luscious Cakes, Mini-Cakes and Cupcakes is one to get in the hardcover, spiral bound version, and keep in your cookbook cabinet or shelf for a lifetime.

book decades of hats

Who doesn’t love looking at pretty things?  It just lifts your spirits.  And so I was excited to receive a book called Decades of Hats: 1900s to the 1970’s by Sue Nightingale  (Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. 2014).   Sue Nightingale is a buyer and collection of antiques and vintage items and I’m guessing a lot of the photos in the book have come from paper items she has collected. This book is basically a scrap-book with tons of mostly sepia and black and white photos of hats (duh!), Many appear to be from newspapers ads. I was a bit disappointed in the photos however. Most of them are small and many of them are not really of the highest resolution or quality. But on the plus side, you really get a sense from looking at the photos, just how tastes (and prices) have changed.  I would have enjoyed it a bit more if the photos were larger, but it takes nothing away from the delight one gets from oogling hundreds of hats from decades gone by.  If you love hats, you have to have this book in your collection.Wearing a hat this Summer, or thinking you should?  You’ll get a lot of inspiration in  Decades of Hats: 1900s to the 1970s .


I can’t think of anything that gives me more pleasure than to open a jar of home-made jam or jelly, especially if I’ve grown and picked the ingredients, myself. But even if you don’t have a garden, you can make mouth watering preserves that taste so much better than anything you will buy at any price.  It’s not really difficult and the rewards are great. Although I have been “canning” jam and jelly for decades, I started with just an old pot and some new mason jars, plus barbeque tongs with which to lift the jars. I did my home preserving in a tiny, urban kitchen, too!.  Over the years, I’ve tried numerous recipes for the types of jams and jellies, pickles and preserves I prefer.  Now I’ve come across a new book which brings together 120 easy and effective recipes that can motivate even the most reluctant beginner to give canning a try. Best of Bridge Home Preserving: 120 Recipes for Jams, Jellies, Marmalades, Pickles and More edited by Sue Sumeraj (Robert Rose,  June 2014) is a newly-minted collection not just of spread-ables, but also salsas, pickles, chutneys, relishes and fruit butters, plus some additional recipes that give you ideas to use these (e.g. chocolate strawberry torte, leg of lamb with red currant sauce, peachy cheese dip…)   Most of the recipes are very easy, although experience has taught me that even the most simple recipe can be deceptive, and experience is the best teacher.  The instructions are extremely easy to follow and complete, which isn’t always the case with these types of canning guides (they usually just assume you will know how long to process the jars, or how to use a jelly bag, etc.). The Basics section includes food safety and general processing information, along with altitude and produce purchasing charts, and if you aren’t sure about what you need, there is information about canning equipment and  preserving techniques, too. The photos are full color and will make you instantly want to go to work and make something delicious!  The only issue I really have with this book is the typeface, a “cutes-y” faux hand-writing type that I find hard on the eyes when trying to quickly follow instructions. But it’s “home-y” and looks like “momma: wrote down the recipes, and I’m sure that was the idea.  In any case, this book is a bit of a dream collection for those who already can, and for those who think they want to try.

master of o
Master of O by Ernest Greene (Daedalus Publishing (May 1, 2014) offers a whopping 917 pages of sizzingly, can’t take your eyes off it, hard-core erotic BDSM reading.  For those who appreciate this type of literature, you will find distinct parallels to the classic “Story of O,” by Pauline Reage.  However, in this book, “O” is thoroughly modern, and the author’s take on erotic submission is framed by the worlds of publishing and law in modern day Los Angeles. In addition, while in the original, the story really was all about the slave called “O,”  this story is not just about the Dominant/submissive relationship between master and slave, but also about the relationship between the brothers who love and share her (and whom she serves).  “There are two sides to every story. Master of O is a re-imagination of the characters as seen from a dominant man’s point of view, rather than the submissive O’s,” said Greene. “I drew reality-based composites of people I’ve known from the BDSM culture and incorporated them into these rich characters.””Master of O”  has a lot of very detailed depictions of BDSM techniques that might offend or upset some readers (e.g. bondage, flogging, electrical stimulation — just the tip of the iceberg).  In all honesty, I found it fascinating, and also disturbing.  To me, that kind of sadism and pain would be unthinkable. But I also realized as I read it, that for other people, this might be  pleasurable, with the slave serving the master and even the sharing of the slave, a viable and work-able arrangement.  BDSM is not all that it appears on the surface, and the author makes it very clear that he understands appreciates all the facets of the exceptional consensual  interaction and intimacy, not to mention trust and pleasure, that slave and master derive from this lifestyle.  The writing is well executed, and  the characters are detailed enough so that you can understand their motivations (and this is critical in a book about BDSM relationships).    This is not a  shallow. “50 Shades of Gray” romance.  Master of O is certainly a revealing look into what a  BDSM master/slave situation can be at a more extreme level.  You can download Master of O for your Kindle, now (but I would suggest you be an adult reader to do so–i’ts not a book for the kids).


Did you think porn stars had just one talent? Well, think again.  There is a truth that everyone has at least one book in them, dying to be written. In the case of porn star Jenna Jameson, who is a mom, and already a bestselling author for her bookHow to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale , there apparently were also romantic novels in her brain that needed to be put down on paper, as well. The first book (in her “Fate”) series (“Fate” being the name of a theoretical support group for people who used to be in the adult industry), was written with the help of Hope Tarr, a veteran 25 historical and contemporary romance titles. The result of their first collaboration was  SUGAR (about a former porn star fleeing her past and finding romance)  And now there’s HONEY  by Jenna Jameson and Hope Tarr (Skyhorse Publishing June 2014).  I want to be encouraging, but careful with how I word this. Honey isn’t really all that like-able. She’s a gullible girl who left her home town for the bright lights of New York City, only to find herself in the clutches of a “bad man.”  Beautiful, and apparently tempting to men, she fashions herself as a modern day Audrey Hepburn, using Holly Golightly as her muse, but ends up first as an escort and then as a kept woman to an abusive man. It’s only when she ends up severely beaten and in the emergency room that she finds herself being protected by a young ER doctor who somehow can’t get her out of his mind.  It sounds romantic and even somewhat plausible, but from there, I honestly feel the plot starts to lose credibility. Dr. Marcus Samuels desire to “save” Honey and his relationship with her not only would be deemed unethical and unprofessional, the relationship really doesn’t seem to develop realistically, and the ending left me scratching my head and feeling cheated of a more plausible resolution.  HONEY could have been a really good book about domestic violence and the world of escorts and mistresses, but I wish those facets had been more fully developed and not just the basic love story.  That said, the story isn’t a bad one at all, and the “happy ending” will leave romance fans sighing with pleasure, but I was left feeling a little bit like the famous orange tabby in “Breakfast at Tiffany;s…a little bit out in the cold.

About Advicesisters

Alison Blackman Dunham aka. “Advice Sister Alison” and “The Advice Sisters” is a writer, photographer, online advisor, and lifestyles consultant. She has built her reputation offering readers a unique perspective on life, in print, in person and through the camera lens. Her focus is on advice, beauty, fashion, lifestyles, relationships and things that help make life easier, more successful and more fun. Please follow Alison on Twitter @advicesisters and check out her other web (advice-related) sites: &

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