31. Quest, Inc.

Blog Tour:

Quest, Inc. by Justin Cohen for Tribute Books

A journey made in search of something or a long and difficult effort to do something are common definitions for a quest and that’s what this book is about.  When I was asked to review this book I was intrigued because I couldn’t see how anybody could make an interesting story about a bunch of personal development experts.  Boy was I wrong!

Robert Rivera is an obese, washed up weight loss coach.  He was the Flatten your Fat guy – six-pack stomach, trim and muscular. He made losing weight look easy.  Now, the fat is flattening him.  The story begins with Robert trying to commit suicide and being saved by an ex-colleague, Carter; after his wife leaving him and being evicted from his home.  Carter, realizing the desperate condition of  Robert, reunites the dynamic personal development team from the Living Well Campaign to guide him back to health mentally, physically, and financially – Jay, Alexia, and Mickey .  This leads to the five experts creating Quest, Inc.  Can five personal development coaches with their own problems steer their clients with various complexities on the road to a better life?  And for that matter, what is considered a better life?  Moreover, they must do it while being scrutinized by a dubious Huffington Post journalist, Victoria Holt.  “I’m Victoria
Holt and I believe it’s time to put all that self-help hype on trial. Let’s see if the gurus really can
change a life. Or not. With more than a bit of arm-twisting, I’ve convinced five leading personal
development experts to put their powers to the test.”(Quest, Inc. p.12)

I enjoyed reading this book because there was humor, a bit of mystery, and it was all framed up with a bit of interesting personal development psychology.  I can tell the book was written by someone who is a personal development expert because he goes through various concepts with the introduction of each new client at Quest, Inc.  I learned some things and found the book uplifting.  I also appreciated the mystery that runs through the story(will keep you reading) and that continues right to the end, which leaves us on a cliffhanger.  Can’t wait to read what happens in book two.  Although you know I’m not a fan of trilogies and series. 

I rate this book three and a half stars.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading a book with a twist and that’s out of the ordinary.  Although I wouldn’t recommend it for those of you who don’t accept the philosophy of personal development coaches or life coaches.  You may find it too preachy.  It’s well worth the read though for its originality.  So, check it out!!!  Happy reading…..

Justin Cohen’s Bio:
Justin Cohen is the author of four books and seven audiobooks. He produced and hosted a television talk show in which he interviewed some of the world’s top experts on success. As a leading authority on personal development, with an honors degree in Psychology, Justin speaks, trains and writes in the fields of motivation, sales, service and leadership. Having spoken professionally for nearly fourteen years, Justin has presented in twelve different countries, and in virtually every industry, to an average of ten thousand people annually.

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Paperback & eBook
Publisher: Telemachus Press
Price: $9.99 paperback, $0.99 ebook
ISBN: 9781937387303
Pages: 284
Release: March 20, 2012

Amazon buy link: ($9.99)

Barnes & Noble buy link: ($9.99)

Kindle buy link ($0.99)

Mirepoix and Carcassonne

Mirepoix is one of the prettiest villages in south-west France.  Mirepoix is located near Carcassonne in Ariège Pyrenees.  It has beautiful, colorful, colombage façades and has about 3100 permanent residents.


Carcassonne is a fortified medieval town founded by the Visigoths in the 5th century.  It’s located in Aude department in Languedoc-Roussillon.  It’s beautiful to see but unfortunately there are loads of tourists.  It’s a must see all the same.

29./30. Divergent and Insurgent

Another story about a dystopian world.  This world is divided into five factions:  Amity-quality of being friendly, Candor-quality of being open and honest, Erudite-quality of having or showing great knowledge or learning, Abenegation-quality of self-denial, and Dauntless-quality of fearlessness, determination, and bravery.  When teenagers are 16 they must take an orientation test which determines the faction they have an aptitude for.  They must then decide in the Choosing ceremony if they will remain in the faction where they were raised or will they forsake their family and friends for another faction.  Factions are thicker than blood in this world.  As it says on the cover: “One choice can transform you.”

Beatrice Prior is the heroine of this fast paced story, Divergent.  She and her brother were raised in Abnegation.  The people in the Abnegation faction wear grey colored clothes and are meant to think of others before themselves.  Beatrice feels that this is really difficult and not natural for her.  She sees her brother Caleb as an ideal Abnegation member  because he appears to do everything perfectly and willingly.  Everything really begins with the Choosing Ceremony.  Will Beatrice and Caleb choose to stay in Abnegation or will they choose another faction?  You’ll just have to read and find out.

The Divergent trilogy is Veronica Roth’s first publication.  She is a twenty-two year old successful American writer.  She is a graduate from Northwestern University where she earned a diploma in creative writing.  Lucky for some, she wrote Divergent when she should have been doing her homework.   Both Divergent (2011) and Insurgent (2012) were bestsellers and I suspect the third part of this trilogy will be too.  It is due to be released at some point in 2013.  There should also be a film adaptation of Divergent coming out soon (estimation date is 2015), since the film rights were sold in April 2012.  Unfortunately, Veronica Roth isn’t participating in the screenplay writing.  Only her agent will be there to oversee that things don’t go too wrong.  Check out Veronica Roth’s website here http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.fr/

People will probably say that these books are too violent and even compare them to The Hunger Games trilogy but that’s not the case.  Yes it does have elements of violence, but that’s not the essential point of the novel.  I predict that the movie adaptation will make Divergent just as popular as The Hunger Games if not more.  Unfortunately, I have some problems with this trilogy.  Divergent was interesting, read well, and kept me reading.  Insurgent otherwise wasn’t the case.  I began Insurgent looking for answers that don’t seem to come up.  What is given as an explanation at the end of Insurgent is unacceptable and frankly boring.  Roth’s writing becomes very predictable because she always leaves the end of each chapter with new questions and action.  While reading Insurgent, I felt as if I was being manipulated to keep reading, basically baited from beginning to end.  I hate when that happens!  I get the feeling that Roth wrote Divergent as one book and her editors asked her to write a trilogy.  It’s like trying to stretch gravy when we don’t have enough to go around.  You add water.  I rate Divergent four stars and Insurgent two stars.  Of course I’ll read the third book when it comes out because I want to a. see how things turn out and b. see if Veronica Roth can redeem herself.  The idea of the story is good but I don’t think she went about it the right way.  I just watched Total Recall at the cinema two nights ago and there were things that made me think about this trilogy.

I can only suggest to read this trilogy at your own risk.  This seems to be the problem with YA novels is that they are often in trilogies or series.  Moreover, a lot of them tend to be dystopian now and contain similar characteristics in themes.  I’m really surprised they continue to be so popular.  I’ll be looking to read more YA but I’ll be steering away from the dystopian theme for the moment.  Happy reading….

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.”

                                                           ___ Benjamin Disraeli

The Australian Park

Who would have thought we would find a little down under flair in south-west France.  We headed out to The Australian Park which is located just outside of Carcassonne.  It was created in 2003 by one of the first ostrich breeders in France.  This is a perfect visit to do as a family.  Not only will you learn about kangaroos, ostriches, emus, and camels but also about the Aborigines.

Kangaroos are really cute!!! The wallabies look like stuffed animals that you want to take home as a pet.  That idea quickly goes out of your head when you see how much they crap all over the place.  The Australians sometimes have kangaroos as pets and they often put diapers on them as a solution to this problem.  I think that would be one too many diaper changes for me.

Other interesting facts that I learned:  The red kangaroo and the emus are unofficial emblems of Australia because they are animals that can’t back up.  That seems logical since the Australian national anthem is called “Advance Australian Fair”.  Another learned fact is that ostriches copulate twenty-five times a day during mating season, to the point where the poor females don’t have many feathers left on their butts. During this time they lay an egg every other day.

Here are some female ostriches waiting to be fed by tourists.  They gave us rubber cups on long wooden sticks that we held out to the ostriches or leaned on the red wooden barrier.  Boy did they pick our cups to death for the food.  It was obviously a ritual for them because as soon as they saw us line up they did too.  Funny animals!

There are other activities to do in the park like learning to throw a boomerang, looking for “gold”, trying the mechanical rodeo, and  reading all the interesting information posted around.  Another unusual opportunity is seeing the ostrich eggs.  People can buy them there for cooking.  The content of the egg is comparative to 24 chicken eggs.  Ostrich eggs are 15 centimetres long, 13 centimetres wide, and weigh about 1.4 kilograms, which is over 20 times the weight of a chicken’s egg.  The guide told us that the egg yolk is a slightly brighter yellow than a chicken egg and the taste is almost the same as a chicken egg although there is something different about the taste that isn’t easy to describe.  The egg-shell is impressive!  Click the following link to see a cute kangaroo being fed.  MVI_1575.MOV


Chateaux Lastours

Chateaux Lastours are four Cathar castles of Lastours.  They dominate the little village of Lastours and were built at an altitude of 300m along a rock wall which is 400m by 50m wide. Cabaret, Surdespine and la Tour Régine stand in line. Quertinheux was built on a separate pinnacle close by.  The views are absolutely spectacular!!! Needless to say, the climb was grueling to say the least.  It was two hours to ascend and descend.  It doesn’t seem very long in time but the terrain is really rough – from sharp rocks to sliding pebbles to uneven stone stairs.  The lady selling tickets said that we were fast.  It didn’t feel fast.  I suggest you wear good walking shoes if you do this.  I saw a lot of people doing the “Medieval walk” as I call it, which means wearing flat sandals for a rugged climb.  All I can say is “Ouch!!!”  When we were a quarter of the way up my youngest daughter who is 13 said, “We had to pay to walk up this thing.  That’s messed up.”  We certainly earned our dinner last night and were very glad to all have made it to the top.


Yesterday we strolled along the quiet, breezy streets of Montolieu looking for a deal.  What kind you ask? A book deal.  Montolieu is a village in the south-west of France in the Aude department.  It’s known as the village of books.  It’s one bookshop after another.  Rare, manga, comic, dictionaries, historical, literary, classics……  There is one English bookshop but unfortunately it was closed.  In spite of that disappointment, we found some other shops that were selling English books along with French ones, but nothing interested me.  My husband and daughter got two deals though: 1. My daughter bought two mangas for 6€ and 2. My husband bought a Stephen King novel in French called Ça, which is It in English, for 2€ and it’s an enormous book.  I think it around 600 pages.  It just wasn’t my day for deals but I did enjoy visiting the shops and sucking up the atmosphere of this relaxing village.

28. The Senator's Wife

This is the very first novel that I’ve read by Sue Miller.   I think she’s known for writing about women and relationships.  I was really surprised to say the least.  There was a scene that knocked me off my seat.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I would have never thought of it.  In spite of everything, the first half of the book was a bit of a bore.  There was a lot of character development, which was useful but slowed the story down.  Around the middle of the story I became more interested.  I didn’t like any of the characters because they are all extremely flawed.  Meri is a snoop and very unsure of herself.  Delia is overly confident but naive in love.  Nathan is insensitive and arrogant.  Tom the senator is self-centered, egotistical philanderer.

Meri and Nathan are a young couple house hunting for their new home.  They decide to buy the old house that they are looking at and it happens to be connected to Delia’s house who is the senator’s wife.  From the moment the couple moves in, their lives connect with  Delia’s to transform each other forever.

I’m not sure I understand what Sue Miller is trying to say in this book but it’s not very feminist if she is.  Actually, I suspect she is just trying to give a point of view about relationships.  For one thing, the novel is very well written.  I learned a few new vocabulary words.  I’ll be cautious to choose another Sue Miller book though.  I’ll ask my avid reader friends to steer me to a really good one or just read The Good Mother (the one that’s often mentioned).

Sue Miller published her first novel in 1986, The Good Mother.  Since she was a single mother, she didn’t have much time to devote to writing; although now she’s made up for that after publishing ten books and two of them have been adapted to film – The Good Mother (1988) and Inventing the Abbotts (1997).  She is now a professor teaching creative writing classes at Smith College.

To eBook or not?

I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember.  I loved the summer because I could spend hours exploring the rooms and shelves and smelling the odor of old used books in an old-fashioned, cozy, cool library.  As I grew older, this feeling accentuated with the love I going to bookstores.  It didn’t matter if it was a big chain or a small independent bookstore, as long as it was filled with books to explore I could pass hours inside.  So when eBooks arrived on the scene I was very critical of them. Actually I swore I’d never read on one and surely never spend my hard-earned money on one either.  Never say never.

I decided three weeks ago to buy myself a Kindle.  OMG!!!  What was I thinking ?  How could I have done it?  Well I took a good look around my cramped house one day and realized that my book consumption was consuming me, my family, and the house; so much so that I’ve resorted to storing some of them in the garage.  Yes, I’m a woman with a bad habit that I can’t break and it’s never going to get better.  So, I decided to invest in a Kindle.  I figured like this I could really control my book acquisitions, by not necessarily having to always have a physical book.  That way I could concentrate on buying the ones that I really want to own.  All of this was decided before I’d even bought one and tested out reading on it.  What a risk!  I kept telling myself it’s the 21st century for God sake and this may become the next wave of the future.  You don’t want to be one of those old people who can’t and won’t work an eBook.  Although, deep down inside I was feeling like a traitor to literary buffs like myself who adore bookstores and the ever sacred beautiful books.

When the Kindle arrived and I read my first book, I was amazed how comfortable it was reading on it.  Since the Kindle has the E Ink display function, it’s as if you’re really reading a book, which means you can read for hours and in sunlight.  Not to mention, it’s lightweight, so comfy no matter where you hold it to read and it fits inside your purse like any paperback because it’s small.  It’s also easy to get access to the built-in dictionary while reading and you can highlight, make notes, and bookmark pages as well.  However, there are some disadvantages to keep in mind, especially for those that love holding a book: 1. missing physically seeing how far I am into the book.  That was a slight psychological battle for me (still not over it yet).  Kindle has marked the percentage read in the bottom right hand side of the page, even though, I think it’s possible to regulate it so it counts pages too,  2. buying books on Amazon is as easy as a click, but the prices are sometimes the same as paperbacks and hardbacks or are only just 30% less than the orignal physical copy.  Luckily, there are some free books (usually classics) and some inexpensive ones (around $2) but, you’ll have to search for them, unless you load up the new Kindle Free Apps(don’t know its validity).  Just be careful for sites that want you to pay a flat fee for so-called free access to books, magazines, and newspapers for life because there are some major scams going on with them.  I just learned about that yesterday.  I’ve already done some browsing on Amazon and bought  a few books on my Kindle.  My first buy was The Complete Works of Jane Austen.  I bought it for $1.09. You can’t beat that price.  I then started to load up on a few more classics that either I’ve read and want to reread or haven’t read yet and want to.  All in all I’ve only spent about $20.00 and I have 24 books on my Kindle.

In my opinion using an eBook is just a convenience, but I’ll never switch over to primarily reading on my Kindle.  I love books much too much for that!   I rate my Kindle a thumbs up, but at the same time will always promote the small independent bookstores when and wherever  I am on holiday in the States and in Paris when I go to get cultured and to do some retail therapy.  Don’t knock eBooks before you try them.  My Kindle is going to save me loads of room in my suitcase on holiday next week.  Drop me a line below and tell me what you think.  Kindle, Nook, iPad, Cybook, BeBook,PocketBook, Skiff Reader, Papyrus, Zebook, Libré,…. Which do you prefer?  If you do, why?  Comment below and happy reading….