Friday, April 15, 2011

Making Your Own Living Trust (10th Ed.) by Denis Clifford

Make Your Own Living Trust
Make Your Own Living Trust by Denis Clifford

The blurb:
Unlike a will, a living trust lets you bypass probate court which saves your family money, delay, and hassle.  Whether you are single or part of a couple, Make Your Own Living Trust can help you make a living trust that's valid in your state. This new edition has been updated to reflect 2010 federal tax law changes.

Use this book to:
  • decide whether a living trust is right for your family
  • create a probate-avoiding trust
  • create an estate-tax-saving AB trust if needed
  • name beneficiaries to inherit your property
  • appoint someone to manage trust property inherited by children
  • keep control over trust property while you live
  • appoint someone to manage trust property if you become incapacitated
  • transfer all types of assets to your trust, including real estate, stocks jewelry, art or business assets
  • update your estate plan to reflect changed financial realities

Make Your Own Living Trust by Atty. Denis Clifford gives a careful introduction to living trusts, appropriate to most audiences.

I ordered the book for my own purposes and for a better understanding of living trusts as an attorney interested in branching into an estate planning practice. As a beginner in this area, I found the book helpful as an introduction.

Here are a few of things that the book covers:
  • the advantages of establishing a living trust, such as avoiding or simplifying probate. The discussion on the process of probate, it's cost and estimated time frame;
  • the record keeping requirements for a living trust;
  • which state's law governs your living trust (when you own property or work in more than 1 state or overseas;
  • transfer taxes involved when transferring property to a living trust;
  • the potential difficulty refinancing property that has been transferred to a living trust, and possible ways to solve this problem;
  • that a living trust doesn't establish a cutoff for creditors' claims as differentiated from when property goes through probate;
  • that it is recommended to separately prepare a will, a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy aside from a living trust;
  • that a basic living trust will not necessarily reduce federal estate taxes - you'll need to consult an attorney and tax expert;
  • the impact of the new federal estate tax law on AB trusts during 2011 and 2012;
  • property that shouldn't be included in a living trust; and
  • property you should consider including in a living trust;

The book helps you prepare your papers, plans, and thoughts beforehand. The forms in the book don't include a "survivorship period" on gifts made to primary or alternate beneficiaries. The book mentions other recommended steps and ways to prepare a comprehensive estate plan. There are "red flags" in the book that point out when it is advisable to seek professional advice. There is a chapter that goes over how to select advisers, how to work with an expert, and how to find helpful information. Overall, the book is a helpful introduction to living trusts and may be sufficient for most users.

Note: the book shouldn't be used by Louisiana residents because of their legal system which is based on the Napoleonic Code, a civil law system.

ISBN-10: 9781413313161 - Paperback $ 39.99
Publisher: NOLO; 10 edition (March 17, 2011), 360 pages.
Review copy provided through the Amazon Vine Program.

About the Author:
Denis Clifford is a practicing estate planning attorney who graduated from Columbia Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review.  He is the author of many Nolo titles, including Quick & Legal Will Book and Plan Your Estate, and is a co-author of A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples.  He has been interviewed by such major media as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Money Magazine. 

John Sanford's Buried Prey

Just a year ago Penguin and TLC organized the Days of Prey blog tour celebrating John Sanford's 20th Lucas Davenport novel.  It was my introduction to the unusual and endearing detective.  The 21st novel in the series, Buried Prey, comes out this May 10, 2011.

Buried Prey
Buried Prey by John Sanford

The blurb:
An entire block on the edge of the Minneapolis loop is being torn down for development, when an unpleasant surprise is unearthed: the bodies of two girls, wrapped in plastic, underneath an old house.  It looks like they've been down there a long time.  Lucas Davenport knows exactly how long.

in 1985, Davenport was a young cop just about to be promoted out of uniform, despite a reputation for playing fast and loose with regulations.  A local hockey hero, a womanizer, a superb undercover guy, he was part of a massive police effort that followed the kidnapping of two girls who were never found again, dead or alive.  Eventually, the case was closed.

But not for Davenport.  Now, with the bodies discovered, he has the chance to investigate the kidnappings all over again and the deeper he probes, one more thing becomes clear: It wasn't just the bodies that were buried.  It was the truth.

I love detective novels and gravitate towards those with characters that draw me in.  John Sanford's Detective Lucas Davenport is a memorable sort.
  • independently wealthy - he started designing computer games in college and the revenue stream from his game designs keeps him living well
  • impeccably dressed - a clothes horse with an appreciation for expensive suits
  • impressive physique - a lifelong athlete, he played varsity hockey and almost went professional
  • a natural - he has a feel for investigating and has the tenacity for it
This particular book, Buried Prey, is a good introduction to the series.  While the best way to get to know Lucas Davenport is by reading the books in order, I jumped into the series - reading from the middle.  This 21st novel in the series takes us to Davenport's first homicide case from its unsatisfying conclusion to the grisly discovery years later.   The flashbacks give us a fuller sense of Lucas as a young detective, one who nearly left the force for another career.

Fans of John Sanford's Lucas Davenport will surely enjoy Buried Prey while it'll serve as a fun introduction to readers discovering Davenport for the first time.

ISBN-10: 0399157387 - Hardcover
Publisher: Putnam Adult (May 10, 2011), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
John Sanford is the author of 21 Prey novels and ten other books, most recently the Virgil Flowers novel Bad Blood. He lives in Minnesota.  Learn more about at

John Sandford is actually the pseudonym of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp. Camp was born in 1944 and was raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He received his B.A. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, and received his first training as a journalist and reporter in the Army.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Isn't this gorgeous?

Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel
Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel by Susan Vreeland

The blurb:
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Louis Comfort Tiffany wants to honor his father and the family business with his innovative glass designs. But it is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women's division, who develops the iconic Tiffany lamp, with its leaded-glass shades and nature-based motifs, which earns Tiffany the critical acclaim and financial success he's long dreamed of. Yearning for recognition, balancing the glamorous world of the Gilded Age with the immigrant poverty of the Lower East Side, where some of her beloved girls live, and loving in different ways the five men in her life, Clara must decide what makes her most happy -the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.

In Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Susan Vreeland gives us a glimpse into New York City during the Gilded Age.  The novel centers on Clara Driscoll a critically important designer in Louis Comfort Tiffany's Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company.  Clara designed many of the mosaics and the iconic Tiffany lamps at a time when women were afforded very few employment opportunities.  Her work at Tiffany's gave her a chance to focus on art and appreciate beauty and gave her some financial independence but also required that she remain single.  Tiffany only hired unmarried women - and once a woman married she had to leave the company.

We learn much about what it meant to live and work in America during this time.  Vreeland weaves these facts in with such skill that the period and people become real.  We read about the Chicago World's Fair, the use of electricity on the grounds,  and the impact that Tiffany's stained glass windows had.   We can picture the world through Clara's eyes, as she lives on Gramercy Park sharing a house with artists and writers.  The Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, the construction of the Flatiron Building, even Stanford White are all part of the narrative. 

Clara and Mr. Tiffany combines art, history, American Studies and cultural history but more than anything it is a glimpse into the life of a brave, creative, and tenacious young woman.  A fascinating and satisfying read - highly recommended!

ISBN-10: 1400068169 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: Random House (January 11, 2011), 432 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Susan Vreeland is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, including Luncheon of the Boating Party, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Forest Lover, The Passion of Artemisia: A Novel,Life Studies: Stories, and What Love Sees.  She lives in San Diego.

The Bishop by Steven James

The Bishop (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 4)

The Bishop (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 4) by Steven James

The blurb:
FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers's cutting-edge geospatial investigative investigative techniques and impeccable logic have helped him track some of the country's most grisly killers.  But those skills are about to be pushed to the limit.

A young woman is found brutally murdered in Washington D.C. as her killers conduct a spree of perfect crimes in the Northeast. With nothing to link the crimes to each other, Agent Bowers faces his most difficult case yet--even as his personal life begins to crumble around him.

Known for his intricately woven, masterfully plotted novels of high-octane action and spine-tingling suspense, Steven James delivers once again.  The Bishop is a gripping, adrenaline-laced story that dives deep into the question of what makes us human.  Strap on your next belt and get ready for a wild ride.  The game is on.

I discovered Steven James's writing through ThrillerFest 2010.  A friend swears by his books and I was excited to meet him and glad for the chance to review his latest book, The Bishop.  

James' lead detective is very much a hero.  He has extraordinary skills, exceptional intellect, a sense of humor, a good heart - and is not so smart at love.  He is drawn to beautiful, driven women but gets into these tricky situations as he tries to see "how things go." He has a stepdaughter whose intelligence and logic surpasses most adults and she adds a certain something to the narrative as well.

The crimes, crime scenes and detective aspects of the novel are carefully crafted and keep you in suspense.  It's the characters and their interaction that made me want to read the others in the series.   FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers is one of those lead characters that you grow to care for. I intend to find out more about him. 

ISBN-10: 0800733029 - Paperback
Publisher: Revell (July 1, 2010), 523 pages.
Review copy provided by the author and publisher.

About the Author:
Critically acclaimed author Steven James has written more than twenty books, including the bestselling thriller series The Bower Files.  One of the nation's most innovative storytellers, Steven developed his skill as a performer at East Tennessee State University (MA in storytelling).  He lives in Tennessee with his wife and three daughters.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love
Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin

The blurb:
In 2002, Larry Levin and his twin sons, Dan and Noah, took their terminally ill cat to the Ardmore Animal Hospital outside Philadelphia to have the beloved pet put to sleep. What would begin as a terrible day suddenly got brighter as the ugliest dog they had ever seen--one who was missing an ear and had half his face covered in scar tissue--ran up to them and captured their hearts. The dog had been used as bait for fighting dogs when he was just a few months old. He had been thrown in a cage and left to die until the police rescued him and the staff at Ardmore Animal Hospital saved his life. The Levins, whose sons are themselves adopted, were unable to resist Oogy's charms, and decided to take him home.

Heartwarming and redemptive, OOGY is the story of the people who were determined to rescue this dog against all odds, and of the family who took him home, named him "Oogy" (an affectionate derivative of ugly), and made him one of their own.

Oogy is the fourth book that I've read about dogs and humane treatment of animals  recently.  More than anything, Oogy is a book about the friendship and love between a dog and his person.  Larry Levin talks about how Oogy was first discovered and how he came into their lives. It's hard to imagine how a puppy at 2 months was used as bait and left for dead - and then survived without losing his warm, caring nature. 

That's what happened to Oogy. Mistaken for a pitbull mix, Oogy was treated as "bait" and left for dead.  When he was found,  the doctors didn't expect him to survive and he was lucky that he received the lifesaving surgery he did.  Had he been brought to a regular shelter,  a dog that had suffered such trauma would have been put down.  But I'm not here to write about the economics of it all.  Just to share a little about Oogy's story and the book that is a celebration of his friendship with the Levin family.

If you enjoy books about doglovers and their pets - Oogy is a heartwarming and touching read.  Although there aren't much twists and turns, the book has drama of its own.

ISBN-10: 9780446546317 - Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 12, 2010), 224 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Larry Levin was born in Philadelphia and has lived in various parts of the country, including New England and the Pacific Northwest, before returning to the Philadelphia area.  He ha s been a lawyer for 30 years and is now in private practice.  In 1982, he married Jennifer Berke, an attorney.  Their sons, Noah and Dan, were born in 1990. This is Larry's first book.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Giveaway of Christine Feehan's Dark Prince

Dark Prince: Author's Cut Special Edition

Harper Collins is generously sponsoring a giveaway of 5 copies of Christine Feehan's Dark Prince.   I reviewed the book recently.

Check out the review here and leave a comment.

If you'd like to enter the contest for Dark Prince, fill out this form.   The contest is limited to U.S. residents.  One entry per household please.  Contest ends on May 15, 2011.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

The blurb:
In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.

Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually become his wife and share his life’s work.

Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.

One of my favorite people and best friends is from Nepal.  I visited him and his family in 1989, while the country was still a constitutional monarchy and the King and his family were quite beloved.  I'd loved Nepal and its other world charm; you could walk around Katmandu and suddenly come across an ancient stupa.  The place was tranquil with Tibetan monks and cheerful and gentle locals.   There was just so much to see.

The Little Princes opens in 2004, just 5 years later, and introduces us to a very different Nepal.   Conor Grennan captures so well the political events of Nepal and he makes the country and its people come so alive and he does so with humor and sympathy.

He talks about how he came to volunteer to help orphans in Nepal when he was 29:

The brochures for volunteering in Nepal had said civil war.  Being an American, I assumed the writers of the brochure were doing what I did all the time--exaggerating.  No organizations were going to send volunteers into a conflict zone.
Still, I made sure to point out that particular line to everyone I knew. "An orphanage in Nepal, for two months," I would tell women I'd met in bars.  "Sure, there's a civil war going on.  And yes, it might be dangerous. But I can't think of that," I would shout over the noise of the bar, trying to appear misty-eyed.  "I have to think about the children."
Conor  arrived in Nepal ready for adventure and a sense of humor and ready for the adventure albeit with little experience with children.  He tells the story of his culture shock, adjustment, friendship with the children and other volunteers, and life in Nepal with such wit, humor, and sympathy that I couldn't put the book down.  I read Little Princes on my way back from the Philippines - and the book kept me occupied and entertained during the long flights and the many lines.

The story is part adventure, thriller, love story and one with an important message.   Grennan's account of helping orphans in Nepal and reuniting families in the midst of a Civil War is one of the most engrossing and satisfying books I've read in a long time.

ISBN-10: 0061930059 - Hardcover $25.99
Publisher: William Morrow (January 25, 2011), 340 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Conor Grennan, author of the memoir Little Princes spent eight years at the EastWest Institute (EWI), both in Prague and the EU Office in Brussels, where he served as Deputy Director for the Security and Governance Program.

At EWI, Conor developed and managed a wide variety of projects focusing on issues such as peace and reconciliation in the Balkans, community development in Central Eastern Europe, and harmonizing anti-trafficking policy at the highest levels government in the European Union and the former Yugoslavia.

Conor left EWI in 2004 to travel the world and volunteer in Nepal. He would eventually return to Nepal and found Next Generation Nepal, an organization dedicated to reconnecting trafficked children with their families and combating the root causes of child trafficking in rural villages in Nepal. He was based in the capital of Kathmandu until September 2007 where he was the Executive Director of Next Generation Nepal.

To Donate to NGN, visit

Conor now serves on the Board of Next Generation Nepal, together with his wife Liz. He is a 2010 graduate of the NYU Stern School of Business, where he was the President of the Student Body. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son, Finn, and a soon-to-be baby girl.

Watch Conor talk about Next Generation Nepal and his experience in Nepal at

Closing sales at Borders

I remember being so excited when Borders opened and I do feel bad that they've gone under.   Since Borders is closing stores, they've been selling off their remaining stock. Have you been to any of the closing sales?

In February, the Wall Street Journal circulated this list of all the stores that are closing.  In NYC, the Kips Bay Plaza,  Park Avenue, and 100 Broadway branches are closing. In Boston, the Boylston Street branch is closing as well.

I haven't checked out the Manhattan stores to see what their remaining stock is like - but I plan to this week.