Wednesday, April 23, 2014

World Book Night 2014 - Shakespeare's 450th birthday & a celebration of reading

WBN2014 logo 672x652            
1 million books and 27,500 givers come together on April 23.  Going out of our comfort zones, approaching strangers, offering copies of books that we've read and loved, hoping to share our love of reading.

wbn2014 hashtag                

Saturday, April 19, 2014

NOLO's Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide (10th Ed.) by Stephen Fishman

The blurb:
If you own residential rental properties, you will want to know all about the valuable deductions you are entitled to take as landlord.  Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide is the only book that focuses exclusively on tax deductions for landlords.

Find out how to:
deduct casualty and theft losses
deduct rental losses
deduct home office, car, travel and meals
keep proper tax records - and much more

The book also explains how to fill out the Schedule E and clarifies the complicated new IRS rules on repairs and improvements.  Filled with practical advice and real-world examples, Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide will save you money by making sure you owe less to the IRS at tax time.

As a small landlord, I'm always looking for helpful and practical advice, particularly if it helps with taxes, expenses or property management.  I had planned to share this review before April 15, in the hope that it would prove helpful to other small landlords.  Unfortunately, as it got closer to April 15, I ran out of time! 

So for those of you who did get extensions or are looking into help for the next tax season, I'm hoping that you'll have time to read Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide.

I've been summarizing particularly helpful chapters for myself and my partners.  But it's the sort of book that's helpful to read through once and keep on hand as specific incidents occur.  
Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide is divided into 20 chapters.  The Guide begins with an explanation of how landlords are taxed and list which taxes specifically apply to landlord investors and those that actively manage their properties ("business owner").  The guide then discusses the requirements that must be met before operating expenses can be considered deductible and a discussion of the operating expenses that are not deductible.  The next chapters discuss how the IRS treats repairs to the property and compares their tax treatment to that of improvements to the property.  Subsequent chapters discuss in detail the more complicated deduction of depreciation, interest, start-up expenses, travel expenses, car and transportation expenses, labor expenses (differentiating between employees and independent contractors), as well as casualty and theft losses.  What I particularly appreciated about The Guide is that it flags the IRS forms and publications that are relevant to specific complicated situations, such that I know what to research and I need to file when specific situations occur.  

Also much appreciated are the chapters on record keeping and accounting as well as the final chapter which covers information from the IRS and various online resources.  

Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide is well worth the $35 that I'd paid for it. I am encouraging my landlord friends to get copies for themselves. 

  • ISBN-10: 1413319270 - Paperback $35
  • Publisher: NOLO; Tenth Edition edition (November 29, 2013), 536 pages.

About the Author:
  • Stephen Fishman has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and other self-employed people, as well as books on copyright law and the public domain. He is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles, and has been quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. He lives in Alameda, California with his wife.
    His website is at

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blog Tour - Children of the Revolution: An Inspector Banks Novel by Peter Robinson

Welcome to the blog tour of Peter Robinson's latest Alan Banks novel, "Children of the Revolution."

The blurb:
The body of disgraced college lecturer Gavin Miller is found on an abandoned railway line by a woman out walking her dog early one winter morning. In the four years since Miller's dismissal for sexual misconduct, he's been living like a hermit, listening to music from his college days and existing as frugally as possible on the outskirts of a small village.  So where did he get the five thousand pounds found in his pocket?

Leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks begins to suspect that the victim's past may be connected to his death.  Forty years earlier the dead man attended a university that was a hotbed of militant protest and divisive, bitter politics.  And as the seasoned detective well knows, some grudges are never forgotten-- or forgiven.

Just as Banks is about to break the case open, his superior warns him to back off or risk losing the promotion he has been promised.  Yet Banks isn't about to stop, even if it means risking his career altogether.  He's certain that there's more to the mystery that meets the eye, and more skeletons to uncover before the case can finally be closed.

Inspector Alan Banks is gifted investigator who doesn't always follow the proper procedure.  He doesn't look for clues or take the traditional detective's route to piece together the story behind a death.    When he's called in to look at Gavin Miller's broken body,  Banks can't tell whether Gavin jumped to his death or was thrown - suicide, accident or murder? 

Banks goes beyond the cash found on the victim and his isolated, hermit like existence.  By exploring Miller's tastes in books and music, his old friends and his youth, Banks finds another side of Gavin Miller, one long hidden.   His team of women detectives have their own skills and weaknesses and the diverse personalities give the book another layer of humor, tension, and personality.  There's DI Annie Cabot, forceful, often angry, more apt to confront a witness than to tease out the truth.  But for all of Annie's emotional and aggressive approach, she has a gift of being able to sift through lies to the truth.  Gerry Masterson, the beautiful, young researcher who is willing to go beyond the usual boundaries for Inspector Banks, trusting his integrity and instincts.  DS Winsome Jackman,  who has put up with all sorts of prejudice and hurdles as a large black woman in the police force and is still gentle, patient, willing to listen until an unlikely witness shares a painful secret.

It's the willingness to dig, to listen, to search for unlikely secrets that makes this team unusual.  Their digging takes them to a time of upheaval, of striking miners, of rebellious students, of hope for the revolution.  Peter Robinson gives us a complicated mystery, complex characters, and a satisfying read. 

  • ISBN-10: 0062240501- Hardcover $25.99
  • Publisher: William Morrow (March 25, 2014), 352 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Peter Robinson's award-winning Inspector Banks novels have been named a "Best Book of the Year" by Publishers Weekly, a "Notable Book" by the New York Times, and a "Page Turner of the Week" by People.  Robinson was born and brought up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between North America and the U.K.

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION is available now at Amazon | B&N IndieBound 

Enter the contest for a chance to win a hard cover of Children of the Revolution!" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The blurb:
With her poet’s eye and naturalist’s affinity for wild places, Kathleen Jamie reports from the field in this enthralling collection of fourteen essays whose power derives from the stubborn attention she pays to everything around her. Jamie roams her native Scottish “byways and hills” and sails north to encounter whalebones and icebergs. Interweaving personal history with her scrutiny of landscape, Jamie dissects whatever her gaze falls upon—from vistas of cells beneath a hospital microscope, to orcas rounding a headland, to the aurora borealis lighting up the frozen sea. Written with precision, subtlety, and wry humor, Sightlines urges us to “Keep looking. Keep looking, even when there’s nothing much to see.”

This is my first exposure to Kathleen James and her writing reminded me of Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams. She's a poet and writes with an economy of words. Descriptions are simple, stark and very effective as she conveys the discomfort, the beauty, and the isolation of her boat trip with other North Americans and Europeans along the fjords of Greenland.

The fourteen essays cover nature broadly and include the visit with a pathologist. Jamie's chapter on medical pathology was fascinating to me as my husband is a pathologist and teaches medical students. I look forward to sharing her perspective with him and his colleagues.

Overall, Sightlines, is an enjoyable read - carefully crafted and beautifully written.

  • ISBN-10: 161519083X - Paperback $14.95
  • Publisher: The Experiment (September 10, 2013), 256 pages. 
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Prime Reviewers Program.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

The blurb:
They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks—one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale—of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

I do enjoy narrative nonfiction and detective mysteries and found The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress right up my alley!

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is fiction but largely based upon the mysterious disappearance of justice Joseph Crator in 1930, the heyday of the Jazz Age.  A New York state judge, Joseph Crator had a socialite wife but was known to frequent speakeasies and have ties to the known gangster Owney Madden.  One August night, Joseph Madden leaves the popular speakeasy Club Abbey and disappears without a trace.
The story is told from the point of view of three women whose lives intersect with that of Joseph Crator.  Crator's  socialite wife Stella spends much of her time in their vacation home in Maine and it takes her weeks to report his disappearance.  Crator's mistress Ritzi is a popular Broadway showgirl and one of Owney Madden's proteges.  It's Ritzi's bad luck that she's there the night that Judge Crator disappears.  The Crator's maid, Maria,  is juggling two jobs and struggling to keep her life in order.  It doesn't help that Maria keeps bumping into Ritzi and that Maria's husband is a detective assigned to Joseph Crator disappearance.    Maria must keep deadly secrets - hers and other peoples' - and keep from attracting the attention of powerful and dangerous men.

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress takes us to society penthouses and popular speakeasies and gives a peek into the glamour and squalor of the1930s Jazz Age.   The novel starts slow but grips you once you get to know Ritzi and Maria.  If you're looking for a fun, historical mystery, The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress won't disappoint!

  • ISBN-10: 038553762X - Hardcover 
  • Publisher: Doubleday (January 28, 2014), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley.

About the Author:
Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress (Doubleday, 2014) is centered around the still-unsolved disappearance of New York State Supreme Court Judge, Joseph Crater. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The blurb:
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes for beauty--the opposite of the life she's left behind in New York.  She marries a local widower and becomes a stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.  

A wicked stepmother us a creature Bit never imagined she'd become, but elements of the familiar aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy's daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned expose the Whitmans as light-skinned African-Americans passing for white.  Among them Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.

In Boy, Snow, Bird  we read a subversive reversal of sorts of the story of Snow White.  Told from the point of view of Snow's stepmother, we learn of her marginalized status growing up, the humiliation and exclusion that came with her poverty.  Oyeyemi describes with sympathy and humor what Boy went through as she nervously faced the socially superior and wealthy family of her suitor.  It is easy to sympathize with her sense of isolation and social discomfort and somehow Boy becomes very different from the Disney stepmother that we'd grown up with.

In small ways, through stories of Boy's friends and acquaintances, Oyeyemi gently discusses beauty, how quickly it passes, and how we allow or don't allow ourselves to be defined by our beauty.   Also woven into the story are anecdotes and reminders of what it was like to be African American during that time - the physical violence, the subtle prejudices, and sympathy for the struggle to be seen beyond one's color or race.  

Snow in Boy, Snow Bird is very different from the Disney sweet princess.  She's very aware of her beauty, of how her lightness/whiteness makes her desirable and valued in her family and of how she subtly dismisses and hurts the darker members of her family.   As we see Snow from Boy's point of view, it's harder to like this version of the girl.  Her dark half-sister, Bird, is a much more sympathetic character and there is considerable tension from not knowing what sort of mischief Snow might play on her younger sister.  

  • ISBN-10: 1594631395 - Hardcover $27.95
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (March 6, 2014), 320 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Reviewer Program and the publisher.

About the Author:
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of five novels, most recently, White is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award, and Mr. Fox, which won a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.  In 2013, she was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quickbooks 2014: The Missing Manual, The Official Inuit Guide to QuickBooks by Bonnie Biafore

The blurb:
How can you make your bookkeeping workflow smoother and faster? Simple. With this Missing Manual, you’re in control of QuickBooks 2014 for Windows. You get step-by-step instructions on how and when to use specific features, along with basic accounting advice to guide you through the learning process. That’s why this book is the Official Intuit Guide to QuickBooks 2014.
The important stuff you need to know:
  • Get started. Quickly set up your accounts, customers, jobs, and invoice items.
  • Learn new features. Get up to speed on the Bank Feed Center, Income Tracker, and other improvements.
  • Follow the money. Track everything from billable time and expenses to income and profit.
  • Spend less time on bookkeeping. Use QuickBooks to create and reuse bills, invoices, sales receipts, and timesheets.
  • Keep your company financially fit. Examine budgets and actual spending, income, inventory, assets, and liabilities.
  • Find key info fast. Rely on QuickBooks’ Search and Find features, as well as the Vendor, Customer, Inventory, and Employee Centers.
While this QuickBooks 2014: The Missing Manual is for Windows and not Mac, I still found it helpful. I'm new to book keeping and manage residential real estate, so I purchased QuickBooks to help keep the different accounts in order and to make the annual tax reports manageable.
While QuickBooks doesn't require a background in accounting, the book points out the terms that help one navigate the program.

The book doesn't contain a CD but does have links which allow you to access websites mentioned in the book.

The book carefully goes step by step, explaining how to set up a company account and touches on the questions that I invariably had as I tried to figure out how to record assets, balances, etc.

I'd used the Dummy's Guide to QuickBooks but found QuickBooks 2014: The Missing Manual much more detailed and helpful.

ISBN-10: 1449341756 - Paperback $34.99
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (November 7, 2013), 804 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Bonnie Biafore is a Project Management Professional (PMP) with more than 25 years' experience helping clients, large and small, make project management excellence part of their business strategies. She is the author of 26 books about project management, investing, personal finance, Microsoft Project, QuickBooks, and other software programs.