Welcome to Ivory Owl Reviews

Just browsing?
Click on any of the above photos to jump to one of my popular posts (on desktop version)

Want to see what's new?
Scroll down for my most recent posts (desktop and mobile versions)

Looking for something?
Use the search box in the right hand column (desktop) or at the bottom of the page (mobile)

My Trip to the Spring Detox at the Mandarin Oriental Spa Atlanta

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Tammy Stokes Spring Detox at the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Spa in Atlanta. A group of 10 women experienced workouts, seminars, and spa treatments to prepare ourselves for spring. In full disclosure, I was extremely skeptical. I had concerns about not eating "real food" for an entire day. I like to know what my next meal is at all times. That being said, I was not only not hungry during the event...I was FULL! Tammy's drinks were delicious and really did keep me full all day. I will be ordering some to integrate into my regular diet as soon as she updates her website with a new order form. (She outgrew her old distributor!) The workouts were grueling but she was awesome. No woman with a headset screaming "Pick up the pace, ladies" here. Thank God! Tammy emphasized personal tempo and growth. I was especially thankful that she took some time to describe a proper push-up and to show us her signature West Coast Push-Up, which I believe I equally love and hate ;)

Here are some photos from the event: 

We met in the Tei Pei room for mini- workshops and lunch between our workouts and spa treatments. 

The view behind our table looked out at the English Gardens. 

A beautiful green covered arbor in the English Gardens.

Perfectly cultivated plant beds.

Immaculate landscaping.

A relaxing area around the reflecting pool.

A few rams to graze...

Plentiful covered outdoor patio

Covered outdoor (more formal) seating 

A quick photo of the relaxation room in the spa. Wanting to respect the privacy of the other guests, this is the only photo I took inside the spa area. (These ladies were with my group and didn't mind this quick pic.)

For more information on the next events contact:
Vildana Kurtović
Public Relations Manager

address     3376 Peachtree Road NE
                   Atlanta, Georgia 30326
telephone  (404) 995 7524
mobile        (770) 329 2213
facsimile    (404) 995 7502
email          vkurtovic@mohg.com
website      www.mandarinoriental.com

The Top 5 May Releases I'm Excited About

Like most of you, my TBR is massive but that doesn't stop me from adding more. Here are the top five releases I'm most excited about for May:

I Take You by Eliza Kennedy

Meet Lily Wilder: New Yorker, lawyer extraordinaire, blushing bride. And totally incapable of being faithful to one man. Lily’s fiancé Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist. Lily is sassy, impulsive, fond of a good drink (or five) and has no business getting married. Lily likes Will, but does she love him? Will loves Lily, but does he know her? As the wedding approaches, Lily’s nights—and mornings, and afternoons—of booze, laughter and questionable decisions become a growing reminder that the happiest day of her life might turn out to be her worst mistake yet.

Love and Miss Communication 

by Elyssa Friedland 

This unforgettable debut novel asks us to look up from our screens and out at the world...and to imagine what life would be like with no searches, no status updates, no texts, no Tweets, no pins, and no posts
Evie Rosen has had enough. She's tired of the partners at her law firm e-mailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She's over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it's time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear--she's done that too!) And that's when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie just may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn't mean you can unplug from life.

Death in the Shape of a Young 


by Patricia Melzer

Death in the Shape of a Young Girl questions this separation of political violence from feminist politics and offers a new understanding of left-wing female terrorists’ actions as feminist practices that challenged existing gender ideologies. Patricia Melzer draws on archival sources, unpublished letters, and interviews with former activists to paint a fresh and interdisciplinary picture of West Germany’s most notorious political group, from feminist responses to sexist media coverage of female terrorists to the gendered nature of their infamous hunger strikes while in prison. Placing the controversial actions of the Red Army Faction into the context of feminist politics, Death in the Shape of a Young Girl offers an innovative and engaging cultural history that foregrounds how gender shapes our perception of women’s political choices and of any kind of political violence.

The Knockoff 

by Lucy Sykes

When Imogen returns to work at Glossy after six months away, she can barely recognize her own magazine. Eve, fresh out of Harvard Business School, has fired “the gray hairs,” put the managing editor in a supply closet, stopped using the landlines, and hired a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings. Imogen, darling of the fashion world, may have Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but she can’t tell Facebook from Foursquare and once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days. Under Eve’s reign, Glossy is rapidly becoming a digital sweatshop—hackathons rage all night, girls who sleep get fired, and “fun” means mandatory, company-wide coordinated dances to Beyoncé. Wildly out of her depth, Imogen faces a choice—pack up her Smythson notebooks and quit, or channel her inner geek and take on Eve to save both the magazine and her career. A glittering, uproarious, sharply drawn story filled with thinly veiled fashion personalities, The Knockoff is an insider’s look at the ever-changing world of fashion and a fabulous romp for our Internet-addicted age.

The Ice Twins 

by S.K. Tremayne

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives. But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity--that she, in fact, is Lydia--their world comes crashing down once again.As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, they are forced to confront what really happened on that fateful day.

Will you be reading any of these? 

What are you excited to read this May? 

(all summaries provided by Goodreads)

Foodie Friday: Picture Perfect Parties by Annette Joseph

Title: Picture Perfect Parties
Author: Annette Joseph
Publisher: Rizzoli
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
ISBN: 9780847841035
Number of Pages: 224
How I Got It: from author
Format: Hardcover

My Review:
Annette Joseph's Picture Perfect Parties combines menus, recipes, and party planning in one gorgeous place. After years of friends suggesting she write a book to share her talents, she did just that and we should all be thankful. In her introduction she states what she wishes this book to accomplish:
"With this book, I want to share with you what I have learned styling and hosting hundreds of dinner parties--my 'tricks of the trade' for planning and setting the stage for a party, choosing the tastiest (and easiest) dishes to serve, and giving parties that are as fun and lovely for you as they are for your guests."
From suggestions on pantry essentials to styling secrets for each of the sixteen seasonal parties she features, Joseph will help you create a lovely event for you and your guests. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet but I only just received this book. I'm going to try my hand at a few and I'll be sure to add to this post when I do. This book has also greatly inspired me to begin taking my photography a bit more seriously. I love to snap photos on my iPhone and post to Instagram, etc., but I don't ever use my "real" camera...except today! The photo above is by yours truly, not too bad for a beginner if I do say so myself. Picture Perfect Parties is bound to inspire you as well, whether it be to try a new recipe, a new centerpiece, or invite over a few friends and try one of the great party themes Joseph suggests. Just don't forget to send me my invite!

Author info:

** Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review **

Review and Giveaway **CLOSED**:: The Cruel Country by Judith Ortiz Cofer

** Disclaimer :: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review **

Title: The Cruel Country
Author: Judith Ortiz Cofer
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2015
ISBN: 9780820347639
Number of Pages: 240
How I Got It: Lindsey Harding
Format: Hardcover
Inside Flap: 
“I am learning the alchemy of grief—how it must be carefully measured and doled out, inflicted—but I have not yet mastered this art,” writes Judith Ortiz Cofer in The Cruel Country. This richly textured, deeply moving, lyrical memoir centers on Cofer’s return to her native Puerto Rico after her mother has been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.
Cofer’s work has always drawn strength from her life’s contradictions and dualities, such as the necessities and demands of both English and Spanish, her travels between and within various mainland and island subcultures, and the challenges of being a Latina living in the U.S. South. Interlaced with these far-from-common tensions are dualities we all share: our lives as both sacred and profane, our negotiation of both child and adult roles, our desires to be the person who belongs and also the person who is different.
What we discover in The Cruel Country is how much Cofer has heretofore held back in her vivid and compelling writing. This journey to her mother’s deathbed has released her to tell the truth within the truth. She arrives at her mother’s bedside as a daughter overcome by grief, but she navigates this cruel country as a writer—an acute observer of detail, a relentless and insistent questioner.
My Review: As a UGA graduate, it didn't take me longer than a second to agree to review this release. This memoir is written in the style of a personal journal with each entry numbered but not dated. Cofer's memoir is as touching and crushing as any child documenting their parent's death but is more haunting and lyrical than any I have read before. With a majority of this type of memoir written by white women in the United States, Cofer's Latin heritage and her return to Puerto Rico provides diverse insight to a generally inevitable life experience. These women's differences and similarities may be specific to themselves but are relatable to mothers and daughter everywhere. The cultural divide that the women experienced in their lives is especially interesting making this a vital addition to the memoir genre.  
Be sure to visit her Facebook author page and enter my giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Addressing the Bloggy Blahs and 4 Books I Loved During the Slump

**Disclaimer:  I received a copies of these books in exchange for honest reviews **
I had a bit of a bloggy slump in March. Between the weather and family sicknesses, I got a bit behind and overwhelmed with "promised" reviews. I've learned from this experience to be clear in each of my review requests received from publishers to state that I will "consider the release for review." That important word: consider. I can't do them all. I am also going to only request releases that I am truly interested in. No more "being nice." I was getting too far from the original reason why I began blogging...because I love reading! When I started dreading reading I knew something was wrong. I really wanted to get to some books in my TBR and would drag my feet because I didn't want to have to read books A, B, and C so I could get to it. I got behind and then I was frustrated with being behind (can you see the cycle here?) So here are four releases that I loved and want to make sure to share with my book and bloggy buddies. They deserve longer reviews but I'm afraid that if I don't recognize them now they are going to slip off my radar and I don't want that to happen. I added links to their Goodreads pages so be sure to check them out for more information. 

Title: The Half-Brother
Author: Holly Lecraw
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
ISBN: 9780385531955
Number of Pages: 288
How I Got It: from publisher
Format: Kindle and paperback
I loved/hated the stream of consciousness writing and masculine tone but was intrigued throughout the novel with the detailed dynamics of the narrator's family, friends, and students. The academic setting made me wish I would have read this in the autumn but I really can't stop thinking about the prose. I will probably be dissecting this one in my mind for quite a while.

Title: Splinters of Light
Author: Rachael Herron
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
ISBN: 9780451468611
Number of Pages: 464
How I Got It: Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity
Format: paperback 
Single mom finds out she's dying? I wasn't ready for another FIVE DAYS LEFT (that book ripped my heart out!) This novel wasn't as emotional (still some heart-wrenching scenes) as it was thought provoking. I found myself often drifting off (like the main character but a little different) thinking about how I would want particulars handled if I were in the same situation. It would be a great "ice breaker" or book club selection to discuss bucket lists, end of life wishes, etc. 

Title: Migratory Animals
Author: Mary Helen Specht
Publisher: Harper Perennial 
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
ISBN: 9780062346032
Number of Pages: 320
How I Got It: Requested from author
Format: Kindle and paperback
This book caught my attention last autumn and I was so excited to read it that I skipped over others in my TBR. Totally not like me at all but I loved every page of this novel. A female scientist returns to the States from Nigeria and faces the impending loss of her sister. She believes herself to be one woman in Nigeria but quickly digresses to her previous self when returning to her family. I related with this schism of others' expectations and your true self. This novel was beautiful and I would label it as a non-traditional "chick-lit" book with an intelligent main character and diverse cast of characters.

Title: The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows
Author: Marjorie Sandor
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
ISBN: 9781250041715
Number of Pages: 576
How I Got It: from publisher
Format: paperback
This is another book that I felt I would have loved reading at a different time of year.  I think I will revisit it this October when I'm ready for a little "scary" since I don't really read horror but want a little something unsettling.  This collection is massive but perfect for a nightly short story. This will be on my nightstand all of October.

Review and Giveaway: The Seeds of a Daisy by Alison Caiola

**Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review **

Title: The Seeds of a Daisy (The Lily Lockwood Series: Book 1)
Author: Alison Caiola
Publisher: ?
Publication Date: December 19, 2012 / February 24, 2015
ISBN: 9781481159623
Number of Pages: 250
How I Got It: from author
Back Cover:
From the outside looking in, Lily Lockwood--popular star of the hit TV show "St. Joes"--seems to have it all. She has recently been nominated for an Emmy and her star is on the rise. Lily shares her beachfront Malibu home with her gorgeous actor-boyfriend Jamie. Perfect? Not so fast. Within a microcosmically short period of time, the whole thing falls apart when she learns that this boyfriend, on location shooting a Western, is riding horses all day and his curvy co-star all night. Then, before Lily can catch her breath, she gets words that her beloved mother, bestselling author Daisy Lockwood, has had a near-fatal car crash and is in intensive care in New York.
Lily flies from Los Angeles to be with Daisy. Once there, she must make critical life-and-death decisions. While sorting through her mother's papers, Lily makes a shocking discovery about her mother that threatens to shake Lily's very foundation. This sets Lily on a journey as she seeks to unlock the riddle of her mother's past.

My Review:
I love Lily Lockwood! Sassy, smart, and determined, she finds out what she's really made of when her world crashes down. Always able to count on her mother for advice, Lily has to make a lot of tough decisions on her own when her mother is in a terrible car wreck and her personal life is in shambles. Her filthy mouth and a heart of gold will have readers cheering her on whether she's holding her mother's hand or telling her slimeball of a boyfriend off. Author Alison Caiola has created a wonderful character with Lily Lockwood and luckily this isn't the last we will hear of her, two more books are included in the Lily Lockwood series and will be releasing this year. 

Be sure to check out the website and keep your eyes peeled for the next releases in the series. 
Until then, enter my giveaway to win a copy of THE SEEDS OF A DAISY (below)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Masterpiece Monday:: Turner's Sketchbooks by Ian Warrell

Disclaimer: ** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review **

Title: Turner's Sketchbooks
Author: Ian Warrell
Publisher: Tate Publishing
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781849762953
Number of Pages: 240
How I Got It: from publisher
Format: Hardcover

Publisher Supplied Summary:
One of the most popular painters of all time, J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) created a remarkable collection of sketchbooks over the course of his career. Thoughtful, revealing, and beautifully rendered, Turner’s sketchbooks offer an unparalleled window into his creative process. In the absence of detailed written accounts of his extensive travels, the notebooks also contain his impressions of the many places he visited across Britain and Europe. In this book, the first full survey of the artist’s sketchbooks, readers are invited to take a privileged look over Turner’s shoulder, witnessing the creation and development of ideas that can be traced through to his major paintings. Beginning with his teenage efforts and culminating in the atmospheric color studies of his last years, Turner’s Sketchbooks is a unique opportunity to explore the mind of a beloved artist.

My Review:
As the first book to survey the full range of J.M.W. Turner's sketchbooks compiled by one of the world's leading experts on Turner, this is the perfect introduction for anyone not familiar with the artist. I had actually never heard of J.M.W. Turner before reading this book but found that I loved the artist's works. The monochromatic color schemes and natural subjects make this the exact type of artwork I would display in my home. As for the text within the book, I am always interested in artist's lives. An artist's daily activities, relationships, and travels affect their production and I especially like the voyeuristic aspect of a journal, or in this case, sketchbook. Each page transports the viewer to the location of the sketch: the sea, Stonehenge, light houses, Venice... Formatted with tons of sketches accompanied by text strips of descriptions and scene backgrounds, this hardback collection is a beautiful addition to a coffee table or any artist's personal book collection. 

A Note About the Author:
Ian Warrell is an independent curator specializing in British art of the 19th century. He was a curator at Tate for more than 25 years and is the leading authority on the life and work of Turner.