Great Reads, Great Gifts, and a GIVEAWAY!

It is officially the Holiday Season. It seemed to sneak up on me this year, but I say that every year. One thing I’ve learned over the years is nothing stays the same forever. I’m not just talking about my high cheek bones turning into jowls either.

Once your children grow up and start their own families they create their own traditions. It took me a while to embrace those changes but you have to go with the flow.

The holidays mean it’s Gift Giving Season. I love giving gifts. We’ve shifted more toward giving gifts of time, meaning gifts that involve spending time with the recipient. Last year we gave our sons and their wives tickets to the Van Gogh exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sharing fabulous art with loved ones is so inspiring!

We enjoy getting tickets to the circus for the kids. They look forward to it and so do we. Not sure how many more years we have until they’re too grown-up for the circus so we grab the chance while we can.

One gift everyone enjoys is a good book. I’ve read a few this year that I’d like to recommend to you for your gift list. They are quite different, these recommendations, but I like variety.

The one thing these books have in common is each author has a blog. Some you may know and some you may not, yet, but will want to. Not only are these women excellent bloggers but their books encourage the rest of us to keep pushing to be better writers so, perhaps, next year our book may be on the list.


The blogger/ author I’ve known the longest is Sonia Marsh of Gutsy Living. She is the master of gutsy living, believe me. Her book, Freeways to Flip-Flops, is an amazing story of the year she and her husband moved their family from the cushy life in Southern California to the third world country of Belize. Those of us who’ve raised children understand sometimes you’d like show them what it’s like out in the real world without the ‘comforts of home’ so to speak. She actually did it.


Karen C.L.Anderson’s book, After the Before and After, is her personal journey through weight loss, gain, loss, and what it’s taught her about life. Her self titled blog continues that story. Her honesty about the struggle for self-acceptance is a story most every woman can relate to whether your problem is weight or not. She has helped many women learn to love themselves for who they truly are and stop the negativity. I applaud that.


Bristol Boyz Stomp, by Doreen Mcgettigan, is so compelling I literally couldn’t put it down. It takes you through the night her brother was beaten to death in their small town by boys he knew and how the ensuing trial divided the community. It’s real life and death with an honest look at our justice system. Despite the pain of her personal tragedy she is the most upbeat and giving person you’d ever want to know. You can find her blog at


The most well-known book (do date) would probably be Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess). If you haven’t read this yet I highly recommend it and if you have please buy it for someone else. If you know her blog you know how hilarious she is. Her book takes you into her life and shares the poignant moments as well. I laughed out loud so many times I can’t count, but I also cried. She is a really good soul.


Last, but by no means least, is True Vines, by Diana Strinati Bauer. I don’t recall how I found Diana’s blog,, but I know I immediately told everyone I knew they should read it. Her writing is exquisite and the fact that she has a Bed & Breakfast in Italy was totally intriguing to me. I love Italy! She’s also an artist and is originally from the Philadelphia area. Over time she let it be known she was birthing a book. I couldn’t wait to read her first novel. It surpassed my greatest expectations. Unlike most books that I rush through this was different. It needed to be savored. I’m looking forward to her American book tour this winter!

You can find my reviews of these books on


Oh…I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a sweet little book for a child on your list… The Duffy Chronicles! It’s a sweet story (for 7-10yr.olds) of a pound puppy searching for his true home and his purpose in life. I donate all profits to no-kill shelters. This is the book that gives back.


So my friends these are my reading suggestions to give this Giving Season. Buy two of each so you can keep one for yourself! 

In the spirit of the season I am giving away one copy of True Vines. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what book you’ve read recently that you would recommend as a gift. I will randomly choose one winner on 12/10 and contact you for shipping info.

Happy reading!


Leave a Reply



  1. That book tree is such a clever idea! I just finished “The Child Whisperer” by Carol Tuttle. This is a must have book for parents to help you understand your child’s true nature and parent them based on that. I learned so much about how different each of my boys really are from one another and how better to connect with each.

    • Barbara

      I think I could have used that book a few years back Catherine. I love the book tree too! It’s not my design but I may steal it.
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lately I’ve read books on Reiki healing & Chakras, but for “fun” I also recently read Barbara Corcoran’s Shark Tales – and LOVED it — she is a very engaging – and interesting woman.

    • Barbara

      I love her on Shark Tank! I’ll have to read that one. Thanks Lee!

  3. I love the book tree with lights… such a smart idea. As for what is sitting on my desk right now: D.I.Y. Magic by Anthony Alvarado and Volumes I & II of Conversations With Angels by Dror Ashuah. I’ll check out the selections you offered soon. TY! 🙂

    • Barbara

      D.I.Y. Magic? How intriguing Elizabeth. Thanks for the share!

  4. WOW. Thank you so much Barbara. I wasn’t expecting the mention. I am so happy you enjoyed “Freeways to Flip-Flops.” It did take me 7 years to write. I have to ask you, is that your tree? I love the idea of turning all our books into a tree with lights, especially as my husband and I argue over whether to use an artificial tree or a live tree,every year. The book tree would solve out problem, as we both love books. Thanks for the other recommendations, including “The Duffy Chronicles.” Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    • Barbara

      I’m afraid it’s not my tree Sonia. I stole it.
      As for taking 7 years to write… I have a feeling my journey will be similar. Everything in its own good time.
      Thanks and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  5. I am happy to give away a copy of “Freeways to Flip-Flops” on your next blog post if you’d like. Please e-mail me if you’d like me to send one to you as a giveaway prize.

    • Barbara

      You’re very welcome Karen!

  6. WOW! Thank you so much, Barbara, for your wonderful review of my book and for the giveaway. I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season!!!!

    • Barbara

      You are so welcome Diana! I’m going to speak to our local book store about getting it in, too.

  7. I have been following Diana’s blog for a quite a few years, I love her blog posts and so I am sure her book has the same feeling as you read it.

    I would give a gift of this book …. This time Next year, written by another blogger Liz Hinds , from Wales UK … Liz’s blog is sooo funny, full of everyday snippets and her family the dog George and church .. full of fun and so is this book , it is written like her blog 🙂

    • Barbara

      Thank you Anne for sharing that link. I look forward to checking it out.

  8. Hmmm a book that I would give as a gift, well of course ‘True Vines’ to a dear friend of mine Rose who has been through thick and thin but still always offers a calm supportive and very wise ear and heart to those who need it.

    I would also pick ‘Chasing a Dream’ by Carla Coulson, it was her first book ‘Italian Joy” that had me start on my own dream to one day write a book….Diana has been the most recent inspiration to me and both these ladies have given something so special…the proof that it not only can be done, but done with soul!

    thanks for the other recommendations and great to meet you,
    ciao lisa x

    • Barbara

      So nice to meet you Lisa. I will be checking out your blog and your book suggestion.

  9. I think it’s a very good thought of you that you give Christmas presents that involve time with your children and their families.

    • Barbara

      It is more fun Ella. They’re at a point where they don’t really need anything and we love doing things together so it’s a win/win!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. That Bristol Boyz book sounds compelling and I will definitelu give it a look. I know what you mean about Christmas. You just have to go with the flow. It has always been one of my most precious annual events

    • Barbara

      I always manage to find time to enjoy Christmas, it just isn’t always the same. I hope you do get Doreen Mcgettigan’s book Peter. It is truly compelling!

  11. I will check out all these blogs, Barbara. I’m happy to learn of them and their books. A person can’t have too many books. The book I find myself recommending time and again is Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love – a beautiful book. And if there is anyone who hasn’t read The Life of Pi – do it – and then see the film. Remarkable on both fronts. I’m sure I’ll talk to you again soon, but I wish you a very merry holiday season!

    • Barbara

      Thanks Steph! I’m glad you suggested reading The Life of Pi before seeing the movie. I am going to try and do both. Probably won’t be until the new year but I will.
      So glad you contributed to this feed! So much to read…so little time…love it!

  12. I’ve just read “Precipice, Write on Edge.” It is a wonderful book w/ 17 essays by women. I would def. give this away as a gift.

    —popped over to see Diana Strinati Bauer’s blog.

    I’m hooked! She is exquisite.

    Xxx kiss

    • Barbara

      She is Kim, and I think she’s going to like your blog too!

  13. That’s an awesome tree! It’s certainly different, and after learning the story behind it, I think it’s an inspiring tree. I love that the authors of those books are all bloggers.

    • Barbara

      Thanks for contributing here! I didn’t design the tree but I might borrow the design!

  14. Oh I love this Bloggers’ Book List! You are right, it does inspire us all to see this list and what these ladies have done.

    And that book tree — brilliant!

    • Barbara

      We all need some inspiration Doreen. I find these women very inspiring.