Category Archives: Non-fiction

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino

The Magnolia Story
by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino
Published by Thomas Nelson

I have a confession – I never heard of Chip and Joanna Gaines, or their HGTV show Fixer Upper, until they were well into their 4th season.

In the early days of HGTV I was an avid viewer, it was a fun network that was all about what their network call letters stood for – Home and Garden. But then it got into the reality TV mode, and shows started to become more about flipping homes, and other formats that focused on home owners, and not the home. The decorating shows that I loved were gone – so I stopped watching. Second confession – I really, really don’t like reality TV!

But then I kept hearing about this married couple who had a show called Fixer Upper; and apparently they had quite a following. My curiosity was piqued, so when HGTV ran a marathon one Saturday afternoon, I decided to give it a shot. Confession number three – I fell in love! The show is just that good! Chip and Joanna Gaines are smart, talented, and obviously have a wonderful relationship.

Watching the show, you get a pretty good sense of who they are – but how did they get there? This book tells the story of how Chip and Joanna fell in love, married, started flipping houses, started a family, and built their business and their brand. Their story is an inspiration – not on how they became savvy business owners, they’ve had their ups and downs on that front; and not on how they became TV stars, because that almost didn’t happen.

What’s so inspirational about this couple is how they believe in each other, how they prop each other up when the chips are down (no pun intended), and how they work through their problems knowing that whatever happens, they are stronger together. At first they appear to be complete polar opposites, but as you read their story, you realize that they aren’t that different. They have the same drive and work ethic to get things done and to succeed. They just seem to go about a little bit differently. Chip is comical and outgoing; Joanna is quiet and an introvert – for them, it was a match made in heaven. I loved reading about their early days, and how Joanna explains that she herself couldn’t even explain the attraction that she had for someone so boisterous.

I really enjoyed this little peek into their lives; their lows – how Chip’s dogs caused him to be arrested; Joanna telling the story of coming home after their idyllic honeymoon, only to find herself sleeping on the floor with a carpet stinking of dog urine; and how they almost lost everything. And their highs – how they rebounded back from the brink of bankruptcy; and how a houseboat gave them the opportunity to have their own TV show.

This book is a pretty quick read, narrated by Joanna (with Chip jumping in), as they each tell their story in the same funny and heartwarming way that they display on Fixer Upper. If you’re a fan of the show, this book is a must!

Next up on my Chip and Joanna Gaines reading list – Chip’s new book “Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff”, and Joanna’s new design book, which isn’t out yet, but I certainly plan on getting a copy.

If you’re interested in learning more about Chip and Joanna Gaines, check out their website: and their TV show on HGTV, which is about to go into its 5th season,



84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Published by Penguin Books

For such a tiny little book, at only 97 pages, this book packs a nice little punch. It’s such a sweet collection of letters, chronicling the friendship between Hanff and Frank Doel, a bookseller for Marks & Co., at 84 Charing Cross Road.

Hanff, best known for this book and as a writer for some early television, writes her first letter in 1949. She’s quite a collector of books, and has heard that Marks & Co. specializes in out of print books. She encloses a list, with instructions that they should be no more than $5 each.

She receives a reply, with a few books and an invoice. The enclosed letter is signed Yours faithfully, FPD For Marks & Co. And the friendship begins.

Hanff, writing from New York to London, continues her funny and acerbic correspondence with Frank, and others from the bookshop, until 1969. During that time we learn a little about the fondness and kindness that builds between Hanff and her new friends in England. From Hanff sending a ham and a carton of eggs to the shop – which were still rationed in England; to the shop employees sending her a hand embroidered linen cloth for Christmas.

The correspondence in the book tells more than just the story of a woman searching for books, it tells the story of how the lives of people from across the ocean can be entwined in friendship, even so far away.

I could not recommend a book more. This one is so sweet and touching, and I wish it had gone on forever.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments below.

Helene Hanff Wikipedia page:

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
Published by Penguin Publishing Group
Audio narrated by Drew Barrymore

I don’t listen to a lot of audio books; I find it difficult to follow an intricate plot while working or driving.  But there are some books that I prefer in audio – and this is definitely one of them.

I actually have a signed hardcover edition; but I like to keep my signed copies in pristine condition, so when I saw that it was out on audio, and narrated by the author herself, it was a no-brainer.

This is the first half of the story of a young woman, who you may think had the world on a silver platter, but that was very far from the truth.  She really didn’t have the fairy tale life that might be assumed based on her famous name, and her early successful career in movies.  Her story is much more complicated, heartbreaking, and eventually joyful. As Drew Barrymore tells the story of her life thus far, she’s brutally honest about her own mistakes – and she tells it with so must honesty and humor that you can’t help but be charmed by her.

She talks about being raised by a single mother – her father, from the famed Barrymore family, not involved in her early years at all; and how, at only 14 years old, she went to court to become emancipated from her mother.  I love her stories of how unprepared she was for some of the most basic things that she never learned to do – like laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking. And how she had to find a “real” job when she couldn’t get an acting gig, and having absolutely no other skills. You can hear the wonder in her voice as she herself seems surprised that she was able to survive.

And that’s what  I love about the audio.  Listening to her voice break as she talks about  connecting with her father, and then being with him through his illness and eventual death.  The admiration and love in her voice when she talks about Steven Spielberg, who she thinks of as a father; even after he sent her a blanket and a note to “cover up” in response to her posing in Playboy! And the absolute joy and happiness in her voice when she talks about her children. She narrates her way through her life like she’s sitting right next to you, having a cup of coffee and a chat, and it’s lovely to feel like a trusted friend that she’s confiding in.

Drew Barrymore is only 41 years old, and you might think it’s too early in her life to write a memoir – but I don’t think of it that way. This is just the first half, and she wanted to tell the beginning part of her life, maybe set the record straight in some instances, but one thing I do know – she’s a fascinating and talented woman with a lot of heart and courage.  I look forward to her someday completing her memoir of the second half of her life.

If you’re not familiar with Drew Barrymore I highly recommend listening to the audio, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten to know her pretty well in no time.

Update – There was something that I wanted to put in this post, but I actually forgot until a commenter reminded me – thanks Night Train Books!  I was not a big Drew Barrymore fan when she was younger. I saw the tabloid headlines, and saw some of her antics on TV, so she didn’t really impress me.  It wasn’t until I saw her in the movie “Ever After” that I started to watch her movies.  She explains in her book how she comes to the realization that she needed to grow up, and how she felt embarrassed by some of the things that she did to gain attention. It’s at this point in her life that she decides to make more wholesome, family friendly movies.

Because of that change in her life, I believe that she’s made some really nice movies, so I thought I’d share my favorites:

  • Ever After: A Cinderalla Story
  • Never Been Kissed
  • 50 First Dates
  • Music and Lyrics (my favorite of the bunch)
  • Big Miracle
  • Blended (my second favorite)

If you’ve read the book, or listened to the audio, I’d like to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below.




You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost)
By Felicia Day
Published by Touchstone

So, first off I have to say that my husband and I are big Felicia Day fans. We’ve purchased DVDs of “The Guild”; downloaded the episodes of “Dr Horrible” from iTunes; and her appearances on “Supernatural” stayed on the DVR far longer than any other episodes. I follow her on “Geek and Sundry” and on her Twitter feed, (and let’s not forget the Vaginal Fantasy book club), so yes, BIG fans here. To say that I was excited about her memoir is an understatement.

I pre-ordered the book In December 2014, and around mid July of this year I started to count down the days to the release. But, as these things tend to happen, the book was scheduled to arrive on a weekday and I was working. I didn’t want to wait to dig in to the book, so early that morning I also purchased the audio version. I was able to listen in the car and at work; and over three days I let Felicia Day read her story to me. By the way, Joss Whedon wrote and reads the foreword. Bonus!

Her story is fascinating, and even a little scary as she frankly and honestly talks about her health issues, and how horribly mean and threatening people have been to her over the Internet. As someone who admires her work I was never aware of how some of the things in her personal life had seriously affected her health, and how she was at times even afraid for her own safety. She speaks so openly and talks about how hard she’s worked to overcome these issues. I think I admire her even more.

This book was a huge surprise and I highly recommend that you give the audio a try. As she rapidly goes through each chapter – she can speak rather quickly – you feel like she’s right there in the room with you chatting as a friend. Also a plus with the audio are the sound effects that she uses and the inflection in her voice as she tells some pretty funny stories. And just so you don’t think that you’re missing anything, a pdf file comes with the audio so that you can check out some of the hilarious photos that go with the stories.

This book is funny and heartwarming, but most of all a positive outlook on her life. If you’re a fan of Felicia Day, this book is a must have. If you’re not a fan, read the book! You’ll be a fan before you’re through. She’s had an interesting life, and not the easy ride that some people may think.

Oh, and on a side note, the cover is awesome.

I’d love to hear from other Felicia Day fans, so feel free to leave a comment.