Book Review: Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

holly-madison-bookWhen I read that Holly Madison, former star of The Girls Next Door, had a book coming out, I must say that I was quite surprised. The 35-year old former Playboy Bunny has certainly had her share of opportunities to speak out about her life living in the Playboy Mansion as one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends, but she has been mostly mum on the topic.

In Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, Holly tells her story. (Note: This post contains an affiliate link.)

As someone who watched The Girls Next Door E! reality show, my perception of Holly was always that she was completely devoted to Hugh Hefner and wanted to become his wife. For whatever reason, they didn’t marry, she moved out of the house, and she went on to star in Peepshow in Las Vegas, which was all documented on her reality show Holly’s World. I wasn’t really sure what happened to her after that, but she seemed to be doing well enough. I just thought she stayed quiet about her Playboy Mansion experience because she was heartbroken over Hugh Hefner marrying someone else so soon after their break-up.

I was worried that Holly would come across as whiny, bitter, and sad. But, I was pleasantly surprised. Although she is clearly speaking her own truth, which doesn’t always paint others in the book in a positive light, she seemed to be self-reflective about the mistakes that she made and the way that her choice to associate with the Playboy brand has affected her life.

I think the fact that a number of years have gone by has allowed Holly to be more honest about her experience than others who have written about their time in the mansion. I read Kendra’s book, Sliding Into Home, a number of years ago, and although I really enjoyed it, I think Holly was a lot more honest about the ups and downs of living in the mansion. Holly also had some very interesting things to say about her relationship with Kendra, but I won’t post any spoilers here!

I downloaded the book for a road trip, thinking that it would be a quick read, but it was quite substantial and I really think that I got my money’s worth! (I paid $14.99 on my Nook. This was my first Nook purchase, and I will be writing more about my experience later.)

So, who would this book be good for? This book would be good for any person who actually watched the Girls Next Door reality show series and wants to know more about life behind the scenes in the mansion. It’s also good for any person who ever wondered about what motivated Holly to live in the mansion for 7 years, or any person who is curious about her true feelings about Hugh Hefner. Fans of Alice in Wonderland will enjoy the very relevant quotes scattered throughout the book that connect back to the book’s title.

Who is the book not good for? If you are a super-devoted fan of the Playboy brand or of Hugh Hefner, then this book will make you cringe. She is brutally honest about her good and her not-so-good experiences living in the mansion. In many of her stories, readers learn some no-so-nice things about the way she was treated by Hef. I must say, though, that Holly’s version of events is very believable, even if some people don’t want to read it.

Overall, it was a very well written book that kept me interested until the very end. I was happy to hear how Holly is doing now and it was enjoyable to read her reflections. Although her situation is highly unique, I think she shares valuable lessons about life, love, money, and fame, that any person can relate to.

Click to check this book out on Amazon: Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny

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Book Review | The Laptop Millionaire by Mark Anastasi

The Laptop Millionaire is a book that caught my eye in Barnes and Noble. I was actually searching for The 4-Hour Work Week, which is a classic book about making money online through entrepreneurship. The Laptop Millionaire is about the same thing, only it is more focused on the actual how to of making money on the internet rather than trying to sell the concept as a viable way to make a living.

The author opens with his own rags to riches story. He tells us enough to prove himself credible without harping for too long on the details of this own misfortune turned fortune. He keeps the dialogue moving and begins doling out specific tips on exactly how one can become a laptop millionaire. One of the first things that Anastasi discusses is the concept of exchanging creating value in order to get more money. This was eye-opening because it gets to the heart of how and what people pay for. People pay for things that are valuable to them, so all one has to do is begin to create value and the money will follow.

One of the reasons why I was interested in purchasing this book is because I have had an online presence via my blogging platform and on online forums for years, but I have never been able to effectively monetize my presence. Anastasi offers concrete, proven tips on how to create products, content, eBooks, and other solutions in order to generate revenue. A lot of this content is offered in bits and spurts online, but what I have discovered is that the bloggers who know the “secrets” to making money online only reveal bits an pieces. The Laptop Millionaire cost me $22.95 plus tax at Barnes and Noble and it offers enough specific tips that I don’t have to spend more time researching on the internet.

As an example, after reading the first couple of chapters of the book, I came home and wrote the first 20 pages of the eBook that I plan to sell about a niche topic. Since Anastasi tells readers what websites to utilize to generate revenue online, I don’t have to spend any more precious time searching online forums and blogs for solutions. If you are SERIOUS about making money online and turning your passion into profit,  I highly suggest that you check out The Laptop Millionaire.

Book Review | Unplanned by Abby Johnson

It’s been quite a while since I posted a book review! I started a new job in December of last year and I’ve been too busy to post, but I’m back! I hope to read a book a week until the end of the year. This is very doable if I cut back on TV time! I have 3 hardback books and 4 e-books on my Kindle waiting for me to read them. But, Unplanned by Abby Johnson is a book that I read back in December.

Little did I know in December of 2011 that the topics of healthcare and abortion would come together and cause turmoil throughout the ranks of the Komen Foundation and other high-ranking organizations. Unplanned is a book that tells a riveting behind-the-scenes story of a conservative working at Planned Parenthood. Abby Johnson started out as a young volunteer and rose to rank of executive, leading a Planned Parenthood location in Texas. Her unusual participation in an abortion procedure forces her to face her internal conflicts. As a devout Christian, her job (working in a clinic that provided abortions among and other healthcare services) conflicted with her moral beliefs.

Many young women can relate to Abby’s conflict whether they have performed similar work or not.Like Abby’s real-life character in this book, I have been conflicted about my moral beliefs versus my support and patronage of Planned Parenthood. This book presents both sides.

What I enjoyed most was Abby’s candid discussion about not only her experience working at Planned Parenthood, but also her own past. She reveals some ugly truths about abortion clinics and also discusses the value of the other healthcare services provided by Planned Parenthood. In addition, she shares her own story of not one, but two, unplanned pregnancies and why she  made the choices that she did.

Lastly, Abby talks about why and how she changed her mind about working for Planned Parenthood. If I have a criticism of this book, it would be the slightly dramatized chapters in the book following Abby’s choice to walk away. Although it was a heart-wrenching decision, people quit their jobs every day. It is also fascinating that she ran away from one extreme to the other, seemingly without considering a middle ground. She went from being a staunch supporter and worker at Planned Parenthood to being strongly anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood. I would have liked to see some talk about a middle-ground, an area of compromise where we can support the rights of women and the unborn at the same time…is that possible? I’m not sure, but when I put this book down, I felt inspired…of course, my beliefs align pretty strongly with Abby’s. Abby introduces readers to pro-life organizations that are less divisive. She could have simply walked away from Planned Parenthood and found another job, but instead, she chose to share her story and to use her experience as a platform to help change the lives of others.

For those looking to better understand the perspective of individuals, particularly, Christians, who work at Planned Parenthood, this would be an interesting book to read. Be fair-warned that this book is not pro-Choice. The author advocates an end to abortion because of her religious beliefs and because of the detrimental effect that abortion has on women and families. But, the way she wrote this book provides a fair perspective of both sides because, unlike many people, she has “fought the war,” from both sides. If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think! If you wouldn’t read it, let me know why not!

Book Review | Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson

As a huge fan of the show The Girls Next Door that ran on E! for a few seasons, I was looking forward to reading Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson. It was a great memoir from an interesting TV personality, but I learned a lot more about the woman behind the image. Kendra was a troubled teen, turned girlfriend to Hugh Hefner. She is now a wife and mother who successfully nabbed her own spin-off show entitled Kendra after The Girls Next Door ended.

Although Kendra has settled into a pretty calm existence, it was a long and bumpy road to get there. The book chronicles her story, beginning with her younger years growing up as a rebellious child in San Diego. Her parents broke-up when she was very young and she struggled to overcome her daddy issues. Those issues, along with a lack of supervision, allowed her to get into a world of trouble. She began partying, sleeping around, and drinking at a very early age. Despite her mother and grandmother’s efforts to keep her grounded in sports and other worthwhile activities, Kendra drifted away from school and into a world of drug use and promiscuity. I won’t give away everything, but her story was very interesting. I think it was key that she tackle the roots of her insecurities and issues because that helps the reader to understand how she ended up at the Playboy Mansion.

Kendra is candid about her time there, yet she is very respectful of Hugh Hefner and the other girls. She talks about the things we all want to know about life as Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend – she discusses the crazy rumors about wild parties and bedroom romps, the many do’s and don’ts, as well as the fighting between she and the other girls. All in all, it was her experience at the Playboy Mansion that prepared her for her life today. She broke a lot of the rules to spend time with Hank Baskett, the NFL player whom she would eventually wed. Although Kendra only shared tidbits of Hank’s story, I would love to hear more about it. He seems like a genuinely interesting person who has been through a lot. His own background is what allowed him to care for Kendra and overlook her past.

For all of its great parts, there were one or two disappointments about the book. Namely, it’s not gritty enough. If you’ve seen any episodes of Kendra’s show, you know that Hank likes to keep the past in the past. Kendra was known as a party girl and he wasn’t happy about her writing such a candid book about her past exploits and drug use. I think it is because of this that she leaves out some key details about life at the Mansion as well as the truth about about an explicit tape of her and an old boyfriend that was released before the book came out. On the show she implicated that the whole issue would be discussed in the book, but it was not.

All in all, I think this is a great read for anyone who is a fan of either of her shows. There were a few surprises as far as life at the Mansion and even a few insights into the lives of Bridget and Holly, Kendra’s co-stars on The Girls Next Door. I have more respect now for Hugh Hefner, even if I don’t completely understand or agree with his lifestyle. It sure makes for great entertainment. Check out the book and let me know what you think!

Article Review | NY Times ‘Going Natural’ Requires Lots of Help

Debra's Hair (Braidout)

It’s time for me to confess! Hair care blogs are my guilty pleasure. I discovered the world of healthy hair care three years ago, right before I started law school. Shortly after that time, there was a steady, rapid increase in the number of African-American women “going natural.”

Apparently, the NY Times has yet again decided to write about this phenomenon. A new article in today’s issue features several popular bloggers/YouTubers on the natural hair scene. I’m familiar with all three of these women and I’ve followed their work carefully over the years, although I am not natural. (I have grown out my relaxed hair.) The article discusses how naturals need “lots of help” going natural. I would imagine that some naturals will take issue with those sentiments because they once again re-enforce the notion that natural hair is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. While it is true that many new naturals spend a lot of time and money on hair care, some do not. Many African-American women have never had relaxers, so they have managed their natural hair without “lots of help” for many years.

For the most part, the article was well-written. The author could have left out the reference to “Good Hair” because that movie was more of a mockumentary of the black hair experience than a documentary. The movie didn’t really discuss natural hair at all. It focused more on weaves and relaxers. Chris Rock also failed to acknowledge the healthy hair scene which was already in rapid bloom at the time the movie was developed.

Back to the NY Times article, one interesting angle covered in the article was money. While the love of natural kinks and coils is surely motivation for bloggers and vloggers to help other women, money is a big motivating factor as well. There’s money in beauty and when it comes to natural hair, women and companies are willing to pay up. Women are looking for the next best product. Companies are looking for the next best blogger to help them advertise.

All in all, the article was interesting. As an African-American woman with relaxed hair, I’ve moved away from the now natural-hair dominated hair blogs and forums, but I think they are a great resource. I didn’t care for the description of relaxers as “caustic paste” – more propganda, in my opinion. But, you can be the judge. Check out the article for yourself.

Book Alert! How To Get Out of Your Own Way by Tyrese Gibson

Actor/singer Tyrese Gibson has written a book entitled How To Get Out of Your Own Way. Normally, my eyes would gloss over at the thought of yet another entertainer writing an autobiographical how-to for the rest of us. But, after hearing Tyrese speak about this book on The Mo’Nique show, my interest was piqued. Tyrese lived the hard-knock life growing up in Watts, California. Despite his strained relationship with his family, this talented young man was able to hit it big in the recording industry thanks to his exceptional talent and a couple of lucky breaks.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride. His divorce and a few other events have been bumps along the way. In this book, Tyrese discusses how he successfully overcame these obstacles. He also shares relationship advice as he reflects on his recent divorce. The book has mostly 5-star reviews on Amazon, so I downloaded it on my Kindle. I’m studying for the bar exam, so I haven’t read it yet. While you’re waiting on my review, check the book out and let me know what you think!

Quick Review: The Money Class by Suze Orman

I’ve been reading up a storm, but I haven’t had much time for reviews. I had to take the time to write a quick review on Suze Orman’s latest title Money Class.

I was looking forward to this book and even pre-ordered a hard copy from Amazon. Once it arrived, I eagerly jumped into it. I was not able to get past the first couple of chapters, however, because this book so preachy. Suze goes on and on about how these days are not the good old days. She states that people need to stop spoiling their kids, stop pining for the easy jobs and easy credit of the past, and so forth.

For me, this was useless advice. I’m not a frivolous spender, I don’t spoil my kids, and I have already accepted that I’m living in a recession (despite the recession “officially” being over).  As far as wasting money, this book was a waste. When I finish reading all of the books I have on my Kindle and finish the bar exam, and any other thing that I need to do, I will probably re-visit this book and write a full review.

For now, I find this title so boring and un-helpful that I simply cannot recommend it. If I can add one positive note, the book comes with an online subscription to the Money Class on Suze’s websites which has money resources, such as links and forms that Suze mentions in her book. Some people may find this site helpful. I logged in once and I haven’t re-visited it. It’s nothing that you can’t find on Dave Ramsey’s page for free.

If you’re a huge Suze fan, I’d say wait a while and see what others have to say about this book before purchasing it. If you are really struggling to get your finances together after taking some serious hits in the recession, then this book may help you. It’s Suze’s standard advice, only updated for the current times. If you can’t stand Suze’s advice, then this book certainly won’t convert you.

Hopefully, I’ll be posting more financial book reviews soon. As always, happy reading!

Book Review | His Needs Her Needs by Willard E. Harley, Jr.

His Needs Her Needs is an unusual read for me because it’s a book about marriage, and I’m not married! The book was introduced to me by a very good friend who was nice enough to provide me with a copy of it. It took me a while to work through the book because of my busy schedule. But, when I finally sat down to read it, I flew right through the book.

The book is about how to make your marriage “affair-proof” as well as how to save a marriage that’s already suffered from an affair. Even though this is a marriage book, it’s also a good book for those who have been in a long-term relationship that may be lagging. The basic premise is that you have to meet your spouse’s needs, and he or she has to meet yours in order to keep your relationship affair-proof. The scary thing about this book is that it makes you realize how easy it is for one mate to kind of “fall into” an affair, as well as how difficult it is to let a lover go. Although that’s not the focus of the book, it’s something for couples to take seriously. The scenarios that are given thoughout the book are really helpful in visualizing the concepts that the author describes.

The hopeful part is that, with hard work and the dedication of both parties, each can meet the other’s needs and stay together. The author says that in a real relationship, each partner’s needs might be different, but he does generalize the 5 basic needs of each partner. For women, he lists the needs as affection, conversation, honesty, financial support, and family commitment. For men, he lists the needs at sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration. Clearly, we can think of examples when the other partner of the opposite sex needs the same thing as the other partner. But, the author bases his lists of needs on his work with couples over many years.

One of the most surprising sections of the book was the “attractive spouse” section. Many partners may not want to believe that “attractiveness” is a need that their mate has, but the author is truthful, basically telling you to stay in shape, or at least try to stay as attractive as you were when your mate met you. This is especially true for women, who often times let themselves go. He says that attractiveness is not as important to women, but you must, again, assess the needs of your mate.

One important note that I’d like to make is that you should try to read this book with your mate BEFORE an affair to try to avoid one. If you learn about how to keep each other’s “love bank” (read the book for more info on that) full, then you won’t have to worry about trying to overcome an affair!

This was a good read, and I hope to put this author’s suggestions into practice in my relationships in the future.

Book Review | 12 Steps to Raw Foods by Victoria Boutenko

I read this book based on a suggestion from a co-worker. She’s a new raw foodist, and she seemed extremely enthusiastic about the lifestyle. After I and a few other interns purchased her a raw food cookbook, she graciously made us a raw breakfast and a raw lunch the next day! She even brought in her Vita-Mix and a ton of supplies from Whole Foods.

I greatly enjoyed the spread that she prepared for us, so a couple of days later, I purchased 12 Steps to Raw Foods. My co-worker said that this was the first raw foods book that she and her daughter read. It started them off on their raw food journey. In effect, it started me off as well. (Though, I have not committed to the raw food lifestyle! I’m still experimenting. I was enthusiastic at first, but now…not so much.)

The author, Victoria Boutenko is very well known in the raw food world. She popularized the dynamic Green Smoothie (a smoothie made of veggies and fruit), and she and her family have published several raw food books. In 12 Steps, Boutenko describes how she and her family were suffering from various illnesses and ailments. Out of desperation, they went raw cold-turkey. Victoria and her family’s health improved immediately. They had more energy, no longer needed medicine, and they felt better than they had in years.

A large majority of the book is devoted to convincing the reader why the raw foods lifestyle is best. In the original text, Victoria takes somewhat of a fundamentalist approach, advocating a 100% raw food lifestyle. In the expanded, updated edition (the one I have), she softens her approach, admitting that a 100% raw food lifestyle may not be best for everyone. This change may be because, as of today, Victoria is not 100% herself. She is what is known as a high-raw foodist.

My main criticism of the book is the fantastical claims about the health benefits of raw foods. Of course, vegetables and fruits are full of essential nutrients that many are missing in the Standard American Diet (SAD). So, adding these items into one’s diet almost guarantees short-term physical improvements. I didn’t find myself convinced that raw is the reason for the improvements, versus a healthier diet in general.

There was also a lot of spiritual talk in the book. As someone of faith, I wasn’t completely bothered by it. I just don’t think that raw food should be so deeply linked with the raw food movement/diet.

Lastly, I was very disappointed with the recipes in this book. They were overly simplistic. For example, the “I Can’t Believe It’s Just Cabbage,” recipe was ridiculous. Basically, Victoria suggested tossing cabbage with oil and salt…wow, creative. I think anyone could have thought to toss a veggie with oil and salt. There are a lot of raw foods out there with really great recipes, but this is not one.

If you are looking to turn to raw foods as a completely lifestyle change, versus just a diet, then this is probably the book for you. If you are simply looking to loose a few pounds, you may want to try The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose. If you want simple raw food recipes, I would suggest Raw Food: A Complete Guide to Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcratz and Irmela Lilja. A review of Palmcratz’s book will be posted soon!

Diet Book Review | The Calorie King 2009 Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter 2009

Calorie King 2009Last week, I posted my review on The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron, in which Cameron encourages people to write down what they eat to aid in losing weight. Well, as I started utilizing the technique, I realized that I knew very little about the nutritional value, or lack of, in the foods that I was eating. I had seen Eat This, Not That at Target, so that is the book that I planned to pick up.

Instead, I ended up getting The Calorie King 2009 Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate counter 2009 (Large Print Edition). It’s pocket-sized, and includes more than just calorie counts. As the title indicates, it also has the overall nutritional content of foods at popular restaurants. The best part is that it includes thousands of grocery items and non-grocery items that you prepare at home. For instance, it’s hard to tell how many calories are in a sandwich that you make at home. However, by adding together the calorie count for a two slices of bread,  a slice of bacon, a piece of lettuce, and a teaspoon of mayo, you can calculate the nutritional content of your favorite BLT easily.

It’s full of graphics, too, which keep you from becoming bored with it too quickly. The Biggest Loser Complete Calorie Counter guide was a few dollars cheaper, but I went with this one because the BLCCC was black and white, while this one was glossy and full of color. Basically, I like shiny things.

I can’t say that I actually count all of my calories every single day. That would be a little too much for me, but I do grab the guide on my way out to eat. It has helped me make better choices at my favorite restaurants like Chilli’s where the fried chicken crispers, with corn and fries are a whopping 1880 calories! Needless to say, I haven’t ordered them since buying this book.

It works well as a handy guide to add up calories and nutritional content, and in the beginning of the book, it has practical advice on dieting, cutting down on sugar and saturated fat, and ways to effectively lose weight.

Unfortunately, not every single restaurant that I frequent is included – and for some restaurants, many of my favorite dishes are not listed. There is usually a way to work-around by using the grocery items as a comparison.

The biggest downside to this book is the price. If you don’t want to pay $10 or more for a little book, lots of the same information is available online for free, either directly at the restaurant’s website or on thedailyplate.com.

What are some of your favorite free, online sources for nutrition information?