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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Novel Review | Just Too Good to Be True by E. Lynn Harris

too good to be trueE. Lynn Harris’ novel, Just Too Good to Be True, covers several important, and highly relevant, themes in American life today, from sports and gold-diggers to chastity and single parenthood; everyone will find something to relate to in this novel.

I initially picked up the book at the airport from Hudson Booksellers. The words New York Times Bestseller caught my eye. I had wanted to read a title by E. Lynn Harris, for quite some time and with a long flight ahead of me, I was glad that I had this book to keep me company. It held my attention through delays, rain, and turbulence.

What Was Good

The main character is Brady Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a promising young football star who looks like he is headed for a career in the NFL and a shot at the Heisman trophy. On top of that, he is a great role model as team captain, a devoted son, and has vowed to remain chaste until marriage. Brady’s mother Carmyn has raised him well, teaching him the virtues of waiting until marriage, working hard in school, and staying focused on football rather than girls in order to achieve his goals.

As the title implies, all of this sounds just a little “too good to be true.” Carmyn, Brady’s devoted mother is hiding serious secrets about her past, and about Brady’s father. Brady is struggling to maintain his “pure” image while making a series of secret choices that could devastate his future. When a young woman named Barrett enters his life, Brady finds it more and more difficult to maintain his clean image and even more difficult to maintain his close-knit relationship with his mother.

By the end of this book, everyone learns something about being true to who you really are, the importance of family ties, and just how difficult it is to keep from suffering a fall. Most of the struggles faced by the characters were realistic; the pressure on athletes and single moms are easy to relate to.

What Was Not So Good

I would have liked to know more about the future of some of the secondary characters, like Barrett, but I guess Harris is saving the rest of their stories for a different novel.

My criticism of this book is that, like many urban novels, the book is riddled with graphic sexual images. The author does a great job of “show, not tell,” and intimately describing what physical interactions take place between characters; but, sometimes, it’s just a little too much. Describing exactly how who-did-what seemed out of place in a book with such strong themes of chastity and family. It almost seemed as if the author was ridiculing people who make celibacy vows, by implying that they aren’t ever really being kept.

Looking back, it seemed strange to me that Carmyn was able to keep secrets about Brady’s father for so long. Why didn’t Brady notice that he never met his grandparents? Why didn’t he ever ask his father’s name? I found some parts of the plot unbelieveable and a little too strange to be true.

If you don’t want to read about characters who are homosexual, or men who are GP, “gay for pay,” then, this may not be the book for you. The one character in this book who was uber-masculine was quite suspect in his sexual practices. Again, there seemed to be a hidden message in making the male character who was the most active with women, and the most macho, the one who was most likely to be engaged in questionable acts with men.

While I enjoyed E. Lynn Harris’ writing style, I would rather read a bestseller that is less sexually graphic. It will be a long time, if ever, that I read another one of his titles.  You can find this book just anywhere, including local bookstores and Amazon. After this title, I think I’m going to go back to reading Urban Christian Fiction, and non-fiction titles.

Update! Only days after I read my first book by E. Lynn Harris, the literary legend passed away. I wrote about it here. I send my condolences to his family and fans.

Novel Review | The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

the-street-lawyer1Traveling means reading! I love to read when flying, but I forgot to pick up a book. Luckily, they have convenient little bookstores in the airport! Well, I was being cheap so I picked up a less expensive paperback- The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. It cost me $7.99 and it was a very good read, which I guess one would expect from John Grisham.

It was originally published in 1998, but the themes of law, life as a lawyer, poverty, and public interest are still hot topic issues today. The main character, Michael Brock, is a well-paid associate at a top law firm, who has a failing marriage and very little purpose to his life. After a life-threatening event, he begins to re-assess his career and his life in general. This leads to some drastic career decisions and an inspiring story about change. This story rings true in a day and age when there is so much talk about changing the world. However you feel about politics, this book proves that change starts with self. Michael Brock is seeking to correct injustices and right wrongs, but he must first start with righting some of the wrongs in his own life and career.

This book will especially appeal to anyone interested in the legal justice, as with many of Grisham’s novels. I also learned a lot about homelessness and poverty, two issues that are very seldomly discussed. If you like Grisham’s more popular titles, or even if you have never read any of his works, you should pick this one up!

John Grisham’s website

Buy this book on Amazon

Novel Review | Twisted by Tracy Brown

I enjoyed Tracy Brown’s novel White Lines so much that I decided to pick up another title by her to see if it was just a fluke! Nope, it wasn’t. Twisted was a great read as well. In Twisted, we get a more intricate look at the money, glitter, and glam, that pulls people into a life in the drug game. Why risk your life, breaking the law? Well, easy money seems to be the answer. However, Tracy Brown breaks down the motivation behind the men and women whose lives are intertwined in the drug game. Instead of portraying them as one-dimensional criminals, Tracy Brown somehow manages to tell their story with fairness and criticism.

By the end of the book, we care about what happens to the novel’s lead character Celeste, even if we don’t agree with all of her choices. Brown’s characters have misadventures in both New York and “Hotlanta” as Celseste’s past affiliations with powerful men catch up to her. This book has an ending that I never saw coming & just like her previous novels, this story is more than a regular urban drama- it has a plot that gives substance to the trials and errors of the characters. The only flaw that I found in this book was that some of the actions of the characters were unbelieveable at times, but I would tell the reader to stick with it because the novel is definitely a shocker at the end.

Bye Twisted on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Tracy-Brown/dp/0312336500

Visit Tracy Brown’s official website: http://www.tracy-brown.com/

Novel Review | White Lines by Tracy Brown

I don’t normally read urban novels that are, well, overly urban because I can’t relate to them & I often feel like they are glorifying the street life. However, I was in the airport waiting on a flight, looking for  a way to kill time & I happened to pick up a novel called “White Lines” by Tracy Brown. As slow as I am, I didn’t immediately catch what “white lines” meant.

What did catch my eye was the author’s word from the author on the inside of the book:

“….I’ve grieved with friends who lost loved ones to AIDS and other drug-related illnesses…” She goes on to describe her experiences growing up aroung the drug game in the eighties and nineties, then continues, “….In telling the story in White Lines, I want to shed light on every aspect of the drug game to show that no one ever wins in this game. There are only losers….”

Okay, so this peaked my interest! An urban novel about the drug game that told the truth about the drug game? That sounded good to me and the book was thick enough to occupy my waiting time and my flight to my destination and back, or so I thought. The 497-page novel was a true page-turned that I ended up reading in two days & had nothing to read on the way back! Tracy Brown’s story about troubled Jada who goes from “crack addict and prostitute to survivor” is eye-opening. The book is a little bit love story, a little bit tragedy, and full of surprises and truths woven into an intricate plot. This is not your shallow book about a ghetto love story. It’s a true novel that celebrates the urban tradition while exposing the hardships that people go through, how they end up caught up in the game, and what happens when they try to get out of it.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, especially someone like myself who loves to support urban novels, but gets tired of books about sex and drugs with no plot. You won’t be disappointed with this one.

Purchase the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/White-Lines-Tracy-Brown/dp/0312336489

Visit Tracy Brown’s official website: http://www.tracy-brown.com/

Book Review | Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone

After beginning my adventures in blogging and becoming much more serious about producing a novel, I found myself stuck in a rut. During this time, I turned to my first love (reading) and began this blog to record my thoughts and reactions to my readings.

Browsing along the shelves in Barnes & Noble, I found the book Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone, which served as a catalyst to renew my writing spirit. Time to Write does not serve as a “how to write” this or that piece kind of book; Ms. Stone instead focuses on the reason that many writers have trouble writing; they simply can’t find the time to.

The book is a small size, very handy for throwing in a purse, bag, or briefcase and it covers topics ranging from how to find & schedule time to write daily, in writing blocks, or in other schedules of time that are detailed in the book, along with how to find inspiration in everything from conversations on the street to past experiences. Ms. Stone discusses how to turn children into “idea machines” rather than distractions and the importance of having your own “writing space” set aside and designated as your time to write.

Whether your reason for writing is personal, to become published, or to boost your business, Time to Write can serve as an excellent guide to help you learn how fit time into your busy schedule to write. Stone also enhances her commentary with quotes and advice from published writers, many of whom maintained families and/or professional careers when they became writers.

Visit www.kellylstone.com for more details on the author and her books.

Novel Review | Steve the Penguin by Mahlena Rae Johnson

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of a funny new novel entitled Steve the Penguinby Mahlena-Rae Johnson. I related to the book so well and found it so interesting that I did something that I haven’t done in quite a while; I finished the 189-page book in less than 24 hours! The heroine of Steve the Penguin is the likable, yet sarcastic 27-year-old single gal Bianca. Johnson manages to balance light-hearted comedy, romance, and social commentary in a refreshingly interesting way. Bianca’s thoughts on ethnicity, love, work, and sex mirror many of the things that people want to say, but, like Bianca, don’t always say aloud. Bianca is socially conscious yet socially insecure, full of ambition but at times full of self-doubt, and just like every other single twenty-something woman waiting for her Steve the Penguin to come along.

The main character, Bianca, travels back home to St. Thomas from LA for her high school reunion, where she meets up with old acquaintance, relieves the past, and asks herself what the 17-year old Bianca would think about the now 27-year old Bianca.

Steve the Penguin is definitely a witty, charming, must-read. I recommend this book to anyone out there searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right, or anyone who has enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, Sex in the City reruns, Girlfriends, pop culture or “pop politics” in general, and anyone out there who has ever “dreaded their high school reunion.”

An added feature to this book is the you get to stay connected to the main character, Bianca, through her blog.For more information on this great new novel or to purchase a copy, visit www.stevethepenguin.com.

Book Review | The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama

Whew! It’s difficult to find a lot of time to read lately, but I have picked up a copy of Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. For anyone who may not be aware, Illinois Senator Barack Obama is currently vying for a chance to become the Democratic Candidate for the 2008 Presidential Election. I decided to read the book after Senator Obama won a Grammy this year for reading the book on tape. The most interesting detail about this book is the fact that Obama seems surprisingly aware of the negative perceptions that people do and will express about him and his political career. In the same way that he is able to critique himself, he is also able to see the world around him quite clearly, in a way that many people who have traveled the world and who come from a unique background are able to do.

So…who should read this book? Anyone who is not sure who they want to vote for should definitely read this book- not so that they will end up supporting Obama, but so that they may get a better sense of just how wide of a scope of issues there are out there to read and think about, from the tense, distrustful relationships between politicians, to raising a family, the America dream, foreign relations, and gay rights. Whether you agree with the positions set forth in the book or not, they are certainly worth discussing.

Who will not enjoy this book? Anyone who believes that there is too much focus on “the working man” and the “underprivileged” will find it difficult to tolerate the extremely liberal positions and the focus on unity and giving someone a “hand up.” Also, after reading this book it will be difficult for one to make the argument that there is no substance in Obama’s hope message when, in fact, the whole book covers the topic in substantial detail.

I suggest picking up a copy or borrowing one from someone and reading a chapter or two, or even reading the prologue right there in the bookstore. It is not necessary to read the entire book in order to get a sense of the main thesis of the book.

Novel Review: One L The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School

My take on  One L The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turlow

 One L is a popular book among entering law school students about the experiences of a One L (a first year law student) at Harvard University. Scott Turlow is an excellent writer and the book is certainly a page turner. This book DOES NOT read like a “how to” guide to law school. Instead, it is written as a memoir as Turlow looks back at his journal entries from his first year, which was many years ago. Although the law school experience has certainly changed (for example, Turlow had the choice of writing his exams on paper or using a typewriter, whereas now most law school students take their exams on computers) but the general spirit of competition, the anxiety felt by the students, the stress, and the rigor are still the same today. Any entering law school student who wants to understand the law school “experience” will greatly enjoy this book, but do not assume that law school is just as Turlow describes them. The main drawback is that the book is melodramatic, so do not take every word too seriously. Also, Turlow was married during law school, so he did not have to struggle financially and his dating life and social life only suffered slightly, which is not typical.

If you are looking for a law school “how to” try Insider’s Guide to Your First Year of Law School A Student-to-Student Handbook from a Law School Survivorby Justin Spiezman. It also read like a novel, but it is packed with lots of information about how to study, network, and look for a job.