Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THE M WORD: The Money Talk Every Family Needs To Have About Wealth And Their Financial Future, by Lori R. Sackler

The Money Talk
Author: Lori R. Sackler, Toddi Gutner
Released Date: February 19, 2013
Published by McGraw-Hill
Genre: non-fiction, self-help, guide, psychology, business
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Add it on Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

"We confess everything else in our society—sex, crime, illness. But no one wants to reveal  what they earn and how they got it.” - Barbara Ehrenreich

In our tightly interconnected social media culture, where nearly everybody tweets, instagrams, and posts what they eat, drink and wear, very few things are still a taboo. Money is one of them.  It amazes how we are always ready to share connections, selfies, pictures of kids and pets with our Facebook ‘friends’, while within our own very  families some subjects are still a thorny and difficult issue. The M word is a regular source of conflict and mystery: the money talk every family should have about wealth and their financial future is one of the most persistently avoided topic of conversation between spouses, parents and their children.

Lack of communication is a pathology of its own and, unfortunately, more problems stem from it. Where there is lack of communication, in fact, poor or non-existent financial planning will ensue, creating the basis for a disruption of family bonds and relationships. Lack of trust and honesty about money can be the mirror of a fundamental lack of honesty between partners: lies or hidden truths about the cost of a new wardrobe, vacations, purchases of electronic gadgets, as well as the state of personal finances before and during the marriage, is an alarming sign. And this is not all. There are several reasons why family members do not communicate enough about their financial health: beside the most basic elements of control and trust, some less obvious factors (gender, age, cultural/social traits, anthropological/instinctual, psychological, and even neurological  issues) need to be addressed and overcome. 

It was interesting to read how the epitome of the material world has a deep and strong connection with our emotional world. That connection explains why sometimes talking about wealth, or lack of it, is so painful. 

According to the evolutionary perspective of clinical and organizational psychologist Dr. Hendric Weisinger, “humans have been hardwired to see money as an object of threat and control, and the conversation is difficult because it is tied to the sexual exchanges that were part of money transfers in primitive societies.”  In this light, we tend to consider money as an extremely intimate and embarrassing topic and, consequently, we try to avoid it. From a psychological standpoint, “money is tied up with our personal sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and even familial love.” When we use money as a control mechanism or a way to show familial love, an unequal distribution of it (through gifts and inheritances) can cause dramatic psychological fallouts. Unfortunately, many of us will associate a social stigma with a change in financial circumstances. Loss of self-esteem weighs in when we are not able to maintain our former life-style. Historically, the Founding Fathers of America brought with them the belief typical of the British society who considered the 'money talk' vulgar and impolite, a belief apparently still existing and hindering a full disclosure of financial matters. The author goes on exploring also a set of neurological and gender factors that might explain the way we handle and talk about money: our brain and  gender play a role in the economic decisions we make on a daily basis. “Men are typically more focused on the bottom line of an investment and less interested in the long-term goals of providing for security of the family  and the community.  […] women typically focus on long-term rather than short-term gains and have a greater commitment to planning around children and life events.” Interestingly, generational differences between baby boomers and new millennials affect not only our 'money-style', but also our philanthropic desicions and our motivations for charitable giving.

The 'money talk' is important and emotionally charged, now more than ever before. We are experiencing the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. Changes in the  financial circumstances of several families, misalignment between incomes and expenses are at the roots of anxiety problems that will inevitably reverberate from a generation of adults to their children. Unfortunately, in the face of uncertainty and concerns for the future of our kids, we tend to shut down emotionally and avoid the conversation, tout court.

As if the thought of investment strategies, allowances for kids, family budget and cash flow, college funding, medical insurance, health issues and retirement were not enough to give your head a good spin, financial planning becomes a mind-boggling business when some major life changes happen and catch us unprepared. Death of a family member, a divorce, remarriage, extended families, a health challenge, new living and household arrangements can trigger emotional upheavals and a sense of loss—not a good premise for carefully crafted decisions.

The goal of The M Word is to show that, if communication and trust are part of the family culture, dispassionate and intelligent choices can be made during life transitions that involve money.  Lori R.  Sackler, a financial advisor and Senior Vice President of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, leads a team (the Sackler Group) dedicated to successfully guiding individuals and families through life’s transitions. Sackler, creator and former host of the radio show The M Word, pairs her personal experience as a counselor with the knowledge gathered during over three years of discussions and interviews. The problem is common among high-net-worth families as well as low-income ones, each with their unique sets of conflicts. Drawing from a plethora of real-life examples,  Sackler’s book offers an insightful and useful management guidance to families and individuals facing  different financial challenges.

***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return for an unbiased and honest opinion


Monday, October 28, 2013



Release Date: November 5, 2013
Sourcebooks Fire, Kindle 336 pages, pre-order $ 4.99
Young adults, Thriller, Realistic Fiction

New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does. 



Sunday, October 27, 2013

RASPUTIN'S SHADOW by Raymond Khoury : Author Q&A

Raymond Khoury
Dutton Books (Penguin); October 8, 2013
Hardcover, 416 pages; ISBN-978-0-525-95313-5
Genre: mystery, suspense, thriller, contemporary, historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"Unrelenting action." - Publisher's Weekly 

"On a cold, bleak day in 1916, all hell breaks loose in a mining pit in the Ural Mountains. Overcome by a strange paranoia, the miners attack one another, savagely and ferociously. Minutes later, two men—a horrified scientist and Grigory Rasputin, trusted confidant of the tsar—hit a detonator, blowing up the mine to conceal all evidence of the carnage.

In the present day, FBI agent Sean Reilly’s search for Reed Corrigan, the CIA mindcontrol spook who brainwashed Reilly’s son, takes a backseat to a new, disturbing case. A Russian embassy attaché seems to have committed suicide by jumping out of a fourth-floor window in Queens. The apartment’s owners, a retired physics teacher from Russia and his wife, have gone missing, and further investigation reveals that the former may not be who the FBI believe him to be.

Joined by Russian Federal Security Service agent Larisa Tchoumitcheva, Reilly’s investigation of the old man’s identity will uncover a desperate search for a small, mysterious device, with consequences that reach back in time and which, in the wrong hands, could have a devastating impact on the modern world.

Packed with the twists, intrigue, and excitement that Khoury’s many fans have come to expect, Rasputin’s Shadow will keep readers turning pages long into the night."
(From the cover)

My thoughts  
Hooked line and sinker on this one! A break-neck pace and a clever, very well executed relay of shifting POVs - a narrating formula not that common and most of all not so easy to master. Kudos to the author for breezing his way through it without unsettling the flow of the narration. The action driven plot and the intriguing historical premises pinned me down to my seat and kept me on the edge, relentlessly. From cover to cover. No good news for my sleep deprivation problem... Be on the look out for an extended review on this blog.
***Review copy graciously offered by the publicist in return for an unbiased and honest opinion.

                                            Q&A with author Raymond Khoury

Q. The real-life Grigori Rasputin was a ladies’ man, mystic, and advisor to the Romanovs, who some say manipulated his way from a mere peasant to a trusted confidant in a place of power in the Russian imperial family. Is there anyone in real-life present day who reminds you of Rasputin?

A. Hah! Thankfully, no one that uber-powerful (or deviant). And though we really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in the uppermost corridors of power, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the possibility of Rasputin-like figures in places like North Korea or Russia. Closer to home, there have certainly been many vastly influential men behind the leaders of our times, people like Karl Rove for President Bush, or Alastair Campbell for Tony Blair, but they’re far from what we’re talking about. That said, history is riddled with curious quirks: Nancy Reagan placed a lot of faith in her astrologer after the Hinckley assassination attempt, and Isabel Peron held séances at the grave of Evita in an effort to absorb some of her strength. Stranger than fiction?

Q. What authors have had an impact on your writing style and your decision to become a writer?

A. I was lucky enough to take courses in high school where we studied Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, even Raymond Chandler, but at that time, I never imagined I’d become a writer. I can think of several books that triggered something inside me when I first read them: William Goldman’s “Marathon Man,” John Grisham’s “The Firm,” James Ellroy’s “American Tabloid,” even James Patterson’s (yes) “Along Came a Spider” which I thought was a great book when it first came out. The decision to become a writer was actually a decision to make movies (as a director), and the route I chose to get there was by becoming a screenwriter. The books came as a happy accident along the way…

Q. If RASPUTIN’S SHADOW were to be turned into a movie, who would you cast as Sean Reilly and as Leo Sokolov?

A. Hmmm. I’m always asked that, and it’s really tough. I don’t picture anyone while writing the books; it’s weird, I know, but they’re these ‘real’ people that I have in my head, not actors playing them. My top picks, if pressed? How about Bradley Cooper as Reilly? And Alan Arkin as Leo?

Q. How did growing up in Beirut during a time of civil war impact your writing?

A. A huge impact. First of all, visceral. Being around gun battles (not actively, I must add), car bombs, aerial and canon shelling, seeing people gunned down, watching aircraft dropping massive bombs or ground-to-ground missiles streaking across the night from the surrounding mountains… these things never leave you, and it probably comes across the heightened urgency and visceral intensity on my pages. I can’t watch a well-made movie about a war situation, like anything from Oliver Stone who was probably the first to craft a very ‘real’ movie like that with “Salvador”, without it generating a deep reaction inside me. I guess watching the war firsthand, and the troubles across the region as a whole, gave me an understanding of the dynamics of politics, religion, power and greed that I’m sure permeates my stories.

Q. Amongst other careers, you worked for a time as an investment banker. Being a very creative person, how did you give yourself a creative outlet, outside of the office?

A. I only lasted 3 years there! It was so not for me. But it was a time when I remember watching tons of movies, reading a lot of books, and I guess the mindless atmosphere there, solely focused on generating fake money on screens, allowed my mind to roam and eventually led to all the ideas I’m putting down on paper now.


Friday, October 25, 2013


Author: Doug "Ten" Rose
Release Date: November 8, 2010
Published by Doug Rose
Edition: paperback, pages
Genre: road journal, travel journal, autobiography, non-fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"Happy people do not kill each other. Human life may always contain illness, old age, and death - but the way we train ourselves to view these things can reduce much of the actual suffering that accompanies those experiences. It can also decrease the production of circumstances that might lead to future sufferings. [...] The main purpose of my life is to help create positive counterparts to existing evil."

Blurb - Fearlessness begins when the author is 15 years old, hitchhiking away from a drug-dealing adolescence in Brooklyn. True stories from Doug Rose's 35 years on the road encountering heavenly Hells Angels, oxygen orgasms, transcendent Buddhist wisdom, lesbian musicians playing a rock concert for the deaf, martial artists battling Neo-Nazis, a modern-day Robin Hood, and other unforgettable events. Wisdom woven throughout hilarious adventure.

My review - "The way is not [on the road]. The way is in the heart." I found Buddha's words to be quite fitting to give you a sense of what this memoir by Doug "Ten" Rose stands for. I would assume the author applied a light coat of fictional sheen to his remembrance of that portion of life spent on the road in search of his true self. But, whether realistic fiction or travel log, Fearless Puppy On American Road is an open "manifesto" of personal views and social commentaries, loaded with emotional authenticity and clarity of vision. The fact that Rose's narrative is so well paced, so well written, pleasant to read and engaging at all times is just the icing on the cake. Not only a vivid portrait of an era (1960s and 1970s) painted through the eyes of a true child of that culture, but first and foremost an honest picture of the stupidity and saving graces of our human nature. 

Read my review of REINCARNATION THROUGH COMMON SENSE by Doug Ten Rose.

About the author - "If you put the writings of Kerouac, Chopra, Hunter S. Thompson, Castaneda, Black Elk, Will Rogers, Gandhi, and a clown in a blender with 500 lbs. of additional hallucinogens and a time machine, you would have the writings of Doug Rose." Doug "Ten" Rose is the author of two books - Fearless Puppy On American Road, and the recently released Reincarnation Through Common Sense. He has organized charity projects involving governors, senators, rock stars, and major league sports teams. "Ten" has also been a heroin addict and drug dealer, worked as a juvenile and psychiatric outpatient counselor, in factories, construction, and environmental outreach. All author profits from book sales are donated to sponsor Tibetan Monks, Nuns, Lamas, and their causes. To know more about this author, his books, and his philanthropy, please visit his website

***Review copy generously offered by the author in return for an unbiased and honest opinion


Thursday, October 24, 2013

FALL INTO FICTION : Book Picks For The Season

Autumn, glowing with the splendor of bright shades of earthy colors. Brown, the combination of red, yellow, and black, chromatic reflection of a mystical mood. This season and its colors are the epitome of material security and frugal stability. Earth. Wood. Stone. Comforting and stabilizing. More than any other season, Fall has inspired writers' musings and attempts to describe it or borrow from its peculiarity to render a state of the soul, and work, with their words, their story-teller magic. These are some of the most notable and memorable narrative forays into that symbol of harmonious and peaceful decline. Dim shadows and cheerful tones. It's Fall according to wordsmiths Stephen King, P.D. James, J. K. Rowling, Samuel Butler,  Lauren DeStefano, Thomas Wolfe, and  Sarah Dunn. 
"It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. The rich colours of grass and earth were intensified by the mellow light of a sun almost warm enough for spring..." ~P.D. James, A Taste for Death
"Then summer fades and passes, and October comes. Will smell smoke then, and feel an unsuspected sharpness, a thrill of nervous, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure." ~Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
"I'm dreading fall. It is a terrifying season," he says... "Everything shriveling up and dying." I don't know how to answer. Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had
been saving up all year for the grand finale. I've never thought to be frightened of it." ~Lauren DeStefano, Wither
"And if there are no cars or planes, and if no one's Uncle John is out in the wood lot west of town banging away at a quail or pheasant; if the only sound is the slow beat of your own heart, you can hear another sound, and that is the sound of life winding down to its cyclic close, waiting for the first winter snow to perform last rites." ~Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot  
"Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits." ~Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh
"Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first of September was crisp and golden as an apple..." ~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
"It was one of those perfect New York October afternoons, when the explosion of oranges and yellows against the bright blue sky makes you feel like your life is passing through your fingers, that you've felt this autumn-feeling before and you'll probably get to feel it again, but one day you won't anymore, because you'll be dead." ~Sarah Dunn, Secrets to Happiness 

My book picks for the season 

Mad About The Boy (Bridget Jones #3) by Helen Fielding

The Theory Of Opposites by Allison Winn-Scotch

Thursdays In The Park by Hilary Boyd

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

 Teatime For The Firefly by Shona Patel

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson


50 Things To Do With Preschoolers
Authors: Sally and Phill Featherstone
Release Date: June 1, 2013
Publisher: Gryphon House
Edition: paperback, 88 pages
Genre: parenting guide, self-help, children
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Buy it on Amazon

"There's plenty of research to show that babies and children who enjoy a stimulating home environment learn better and more quickly. So what parents and caregivers do to lay the groundwork for learning early on is an investment that pays back throughout their child's life."

Blurb--Explore, inquire, and experiment alongside young learners using the 50 simple ideas offered in this engaging series. Written specifically for parents, the activities in the books will lead to infectious excitement and enthusiasm for learning. Each activity features easy-to-follow instructions with plenty of tips and suggestions for extending the learning. Using objects easily found in most homes, this collection of purposeful play experiences will help children ages three to five develop key skills at their own pace and to make unhurried, important discoveries. Activities for preschoolers include finger painting, fun with animal sounds, and simple crafting.

My review--50 Things To Do With Preschoolers by Sally and Phill Featherstone is an excellent parenting guide and a valuable source of ideas for caregivers and workers in childcare settings. Not only does the book offer a wide range of suggestions on how interact with pre-schoolers (age 36-50 months and, in some cases, even beyond) in a stimulating home/daycare environment; it also provides parents with precious insights into children' s psychology, motor skills and emotional development. All in a very approachable manner. This guide is part of a trilogy. Look for Book 1 (50 Fantastic Things To Do With Babies) and Book 2 (50 Fantastic Things To Do With Toddlers) on Amazon

To know more about Sally and Phill Featherstone, please visit their website and Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cover Reveal & Excerpt: LIVING SEPARATE LIVES by Paulette Harper