Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Studies Show: You + Self-Compassion = More Achievements

This week, I'm thrilled to be featured in this piece that Sarah W. Caron wrote on about the importance of self-compassion and how we can get some. It seems that studies show that if we can be compassionate to ourselves, we're apt to achieve more and accomplish more.

Accomplish more? Achieve more? Annnnnd, I'm in.

The question Caron proposed was, how?

If you're anything like me, and I dare to think a lot of women people are, most of the time you're too busy relentlessly driving yourself to be all self-compassionate. So I stopped and really considered: why? Why do we do this? And here's what I came up with: we relentlessly drive ourselves because we are raised to always focus outward and compare ourselves to some external hallmark of beauty/success/partnership/happiness.

Hmmm. And what's a certain thing I teach that's all about looking inward and not being competitive? Starts with a "y," ends with an "a" and is one middle letter off from that adorable little green jedi from Star Wars.

And that's when I also realized (yes, brilliance was high that day) that practicing yoga had actually correlated with caring a whole lot less about what everyone else was doing/thinking/being and being brave enough to leave my corporate life/career/identity and go after what I really wanted: teaching yoga and writing a book.

If you don't have time or access to yoga, you can also try the breathing, stress-relieving exercise in the article.

Chasing the Dream: Self-compassion helps you do more

Studies say those with self-compassion achieve more and accomplish more goals. Harness your own compassion for yourself in parenting, life and all your aspirations.

Have compassion...
for yourself

Jennifer Gaddis, creator of the site, was recently in a conference with her 9-year-old's teacher. Her son wasn't doing well in class. After the conference, she mentally beat herself up for not doing enough to help him — which just made everything worse.

She was lacking compassion for herself. "Finally I sat down and I thought, how can we make it better? To harness compassion for one's self, you must — and always — stop blaming yourself. Ask yourself how can you make it better? Tomorrow will be a new day," says Gaddis.

Experts say that self-compassion, a challenging goal, is important to achieving your goals since it allows you to roll with the punches and move ahead.

"My theory is this: Women are raised to constantly compare ourselves to something other than what we are — everything from how we look to our jobs, our parenting, our marriage, our 'success.' It's always about looking out, around us, and then never living up to that perceived better standard," says Sara DiVello, a registered yoga teacher who is certified with the Yoga Alliance. "The result is a combination of constant comparison which creates co-morbid anxiety — women are stressed about how they don't measure up and are also in a state of constant mental activity (anxiety) from all this comparing."

Gaining perspective

So, how do you de-stress and allow yourself that necessary self-compassion? DiVello suggests taking a step back. "Take a moment to sit down. Often, we're stressed but we don't take the time to sit down and deal with it — instead, we continue rushing around, absentmindedly stressing about how stressed we are... which only escalates our stress," says DiVello.

Then, give yourself a chance to focus. Think of what's stressing you out and take a deep breath. Exhale (extending it longer than your inhale) and flick your hands as though you're trying to get something off of them (you are — the stress!). Also known as the 'there's no paper towels in the restroom flick.' Repeat three to five times. Now, settle into extended exhale breathing (as described above) with the eyes closed for three to five minutes," says DiVello.

And guess what? I tried this... it really does help.

Achieving your goals

Having self-compassion makes embracing failure — the necessary things that we can all learn from — useful tools in our quests to reach our dreams. And as daunting as it may seem to skip the self-berating and learn from our mistakes, it is key to achieving your goals. "Self-compassion is kindness toward yourself and your mistakes. It helps you get up from failure, survive a divorce and be more joyful in the present. Yes, it can also help you be a better parent because you will have compassion for your kids when they make mistakes," says Maryann Reid, lifestyle expert at
Start with small changes that begin to free yourself from the negative talk that holds you back, says Kathryn Vercillo, author of Crochet Saved My Life. "It can be daunting to try to change that negative self-talk in those large areas of life since they are so ingrained into the way that we think. By starting small, in just one area like crafting, we can begin to learn to nip that negativity in the bud," says Vercillo.
For Vercillo, that's meant crocheting with abandon — and not taking a negative tone with the results. What will it mean for you?


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Writing Journey #2: Hiring a Professional Editor

As soon as I decided to go the indie route, I knew that hiring a professional editor was a must. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.

I researched independent editors, culling a list of 10. I narrowed it down to five that I interviewed by phone. I took notes on each conversation. I made lists of their previous clients and researched each book they had worked on. Then I researched the reviews that each one got. I asked for references; I checked references. I reached out to past clients who they hadn't given as references (because OF COURSE they're going to give me the clients who loved them--duh!). Then, after a lot of mental and physical pacing, I made a decision.

Then I stressed about my decision. Was this the right choice? Was she the best fit for me? What if her references and past clients had lied? What if this was all a farce? What if I'd just sent a big, fat check to a hustler?

I waited six weeks for my turn in the editorial queue. Then I waited four weeks for my manuscript to be sent back to me.

During this time, I thought of very little else. How could I when my professional editor was editing my book? (My book! Holy crap!)

My editor let me know that it's her policy not to comment while she works. Which kind of made sense except the fact that I'm totally freaking out and dying to know what she thinks!

One of my reasons for going the indie route was because it was the expedited route. But it seems that patience--lots of it--is required, even on the expedited route!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quoted in USA Today Article on Yoga and Travel!

Whoa! I’m so thrilled to be part* of this awesome article, “How to maintain your yoga routine while traveling” featured in USA Today’s Travel Section! It was written by journalist Nancy Trejos, as part of her "Thriving on the Road" series, which is all about staying healthy while traveling.

This is such an important article because often it's when we are traveling that healthy habits (such as...oh, I don't know, yoga?) fall by the wayside, somewhere between the all-you-can-eat buffet and the post-buffet trip to the bar. So before your next trip, check out these tips--and the tips from the rest of the series!

*I've highlighted my part for your reading ease :)

How to maintain your yoga routine while traveling
Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY

October 24. 2012 – Roseann Day can’t go without yoga, especially when she’s traveling. That’s when she says she needs it most, what with cramped seats on airplanes and luggage to haul.
“Yoga’s a wonderful exercise that doesn’t require any special equipment yet helps with strength and flexibility,” she says.

If she can’t find the time to take a class, the Massachusetts-based information technology consultant will do yoga in her hotel room in the morning.

Now, more than ever, yoga enthusiasts have plenty of options for maintaining their routines on the road, yoga instructors and hospitality industry experts say. A number of hotels offer classes or in-room equipment. And if they don’t, yoga instructors say, there are many ways to practice the craft even on a plane, in a hotel room or outdoors at a park or beach.

“Yoga is one of the most feasible ways to exercise while on the road — limited amount of equipment: You lay down a towel if you don’t have a mat. (It) can be practiced indoors or outdoors,” says Marshall Sanders, a registered yoga teacher at VIDA Fitness and EPIC Yoga in Washington, D.C. “And you don’t have to worry about bringing multiple pairs of shoes because you practice barefoot.”

Interest in yoga has grown over the years. A 2012 study by Yoga Journal, a national yoga publication, indicated that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, up from 15.8 million in 2008. And they spend $2 billion a year on yoga retreats, up from $630,000 in 2008.

In an Omni Hotels and Resorts survey last year, 26% of respondents said they wished their hotel would help them find nearby yoga or spinning studios.

Equipment to go
Many hotels are doing better than that by offering classes or equipment.
Kimpton Hotel guests can request a yoga bag at the front desk that contains mats, straps and exercise bands.

In Washington, the Mandarin Oriental offers yoga mats and videos upon request. The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, a Marriott property, has Saturday-morning yoga classes in its Urban Garden when weather permits. In Boston, the Liberty Hotel offers “Yoga in the Yard” with instructors from the Equinox gym.

Omni Amelia Island Plantation in Northeast Florida has a yoga treehouse, where guests can practice yoga while overlooking the water.

Hilton Worldwide is testing a dedicated “Yoga Room.” The guestroom, available at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia and the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, has a designated space to practice yoga, a full-length mirror to check poses and yoga accessories.

“It’s yet another way to empower our guests and motivate them to maintain their healthy lifestyle on the road,” says Jodi Sullivan, senior director of global fitness for Hilton Worldwide. “We’re seeing more and more travelers, individuals, guests, consumers realizing the importance of yoga as far as breathing, meditation, stretching.”

Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, says hotels are trying to appeal to both younger and older guests.

“Yoga cuts across all age groups and many demographics, so it’s kind of universal,” he says. “Yoga and other types of exercise and fitness and health are all good messages for hotels because people feel stressed traveling.”

Start your trip off right
Yoga instructors recommend practicing some moves as soon as you arrive at the airport.
San Francisco International Airport recently opened a dedicated yoga room. Other airports have fitness centers on-site that offer day passes.

But there’s much you can do even while sitting in your seat at the gate or on the plane. Try an Eagle Arm pose while sitting, says Gabrielle Benoit, a yoga and pilates instructor and founder of Core Club LA in Los Angeles. All that is required is positioning your right arm under your left arm, then vice versa.

“If you are stuck on an airplane or in the airport, there are many different yoga poses you can practice in a chair to keep the blood flowing and get a little workout in as well,” Benoit says.

If you arrive at your destination and discover that your hotel doesn’t offer yoga amenities, there are other ways to get in your workout.

Many travel mats are now lighter than the ones you typically get at a studio.

If you can’t remember all your poses, online classes are available at such websites as Pay an $18 monthly fee, and you can get instruction anywhere you go. Some websites allow you to download classes onto your iPod. Many instructors offer free instruction in YouTube videos.

If you prefer the physical company of an instructor and classmates, there are plenty of studios that let people drop in for about $15 to $20.

Sanders recommends calling the studio ahead. “Confirm the style, time and request feedback on the instructor and find out if a reservation is necessary,” he says.

Fresh air is refreshing
For a cheaper alternative, take your mat to a local park or a towel to the beach and practice while getting some fresh air, he says.

Sara DiVello, a registered teacher with classes in Boston, recommends travelers develop a routine for the road. Ask your favorite instructor for a private lesson, and have him or her customize a travel routine, she says.

DiVello says traveling yogis shouldn’t push themselves too hard when on the road. 

“You don’t have to do a full 90 or even 60 minutes,” she says. “If you’re crunched on time, you can do an abbreviated practice.”

The best strategy, Sanders says, is to practice your routine first thing in the morning.

“Travel schedules tend to throw us off our routines, so doing your practice first thing in the morning will ground you (and) help reinvigorate normal body functions,” he says.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Food: Autumnal Vegetables

We're transitioning to fall weather (on the east coast at least), which means an end to summer fruit and veggies and fruit who masquerade as veggies (you know who you are, tomatoes!). Out with the old and in with autumnal root veggies and colder-weather greens like kale and swiss chard and even lettuces. So...what to do with these?

I just got my CSA box and here's what's on my menu tonight:

Main Course: Cheesy Kale
Sides: Roasted sweet potatos, leeks, and fennel and a crisp salad with cold weather greens and olive oil vinegarette.

HOW TO: Cheesy Kale
Start the rice (I use brown) in a pot by bringing the water to a boil, adding the rice, reducing to a simmer and letting it cook. The rule is twice the water to rice ratio.

Meanwhile, rinse the kale and strip the leave from the stalk. Some people cut them with knives or kitchen shears; I hold and rip because it's faster. Then roll the kale leaves up in a big cigar shape and slice into thin slices. Put aside.

Dice a large onion and saute it in a large frying pan in olive oil or a little bit of broth until the onions start to turn see-through. Add salt, pepper, and kale and continue cooking until the kale turns bright green and wilts. Remove from heat promptly.

Add the rice to the kale-onions mix and stir it all together, adding more salt and pepper to taste. You can also substitute soy sauce for salt--I love the flavor it adds.

Optional: Add diced kalamata olives (can you tell I'm a salt-lover) and/or grated cheddar cheese. YUM!

HOW TO: Roasted sweet potatos, leeks, and fennel.

Rinse all the veggies. Dice all--making sure that the sweet potato pieces are significantly smaller (about half the size). They are more dense and therefore the pieces have to be smaller or you will end of with over-cooked leeks and fennel (aka "mush") and raw sweet potatoes.

Spread out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Roast in the oven at 425-degrees for 20-25 minutes, stirring with a spatula at the 10-minute mark.

Serve it all with a fresh salad and alone everyone to dress their own salad by drizzling olive oil and vinegar (I like apple cider this time of year and it's supposed to be really good for you), salt and pepper.

Bon apetit!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Writing Journey: 5 Reasons Why I've Decided to Self-Publish

When I found myself starting to write a book three and a half years ago, I didn't think beyond the actual writing. All I knew is, I wanted to tell my story, get it out, get it down on paper (or rather on a screen for several months and then, after much ado, eventually out onto paper). Then I was focused on making it the best story it could be...editing, re-editing, having trusted hubby and critique partners read it. Then I'd edit it some more.

(Note to self: for the good of your partnership, Do Not Ask Spouse to Read Drafts. Ever!)

Eventually, I felt like it was as good as I could get it on my know, without professional help. (Professional help from an editor, I should clarify, though "professional help" in its more traditional sense--aka mental help--may be in order soon!) So without a lot of thought about what I was doing or why, I started researching agents. I undertook this task with meticulous care--researching their sales history, the reviews of the books they repped, their preferences, their blogs, what the writing community thought of them...I cross-referenced at least five sources for every single agent.

I created a spreadsheet. And eventually I sent a few queries out. Again, I have to stress, I did this without a lot any thought as to why I was doing it, why I was pursuing the traditional path, or what my other options (aka self-pub) were. You know, sort of like a lemming.

Then several friends sent me Jessica Park's extremely honest, wonderfully straight-talking piece on IndieReader about all the reasons that she self-publishes and the issues she takes with the traditional path. As she says, 

"I spent months thinking that I needed a big publisher in order to be a writer, to legitimately carry that “author” title. To validate me, and to validate Flat-Out Love. I needed a publisher to print my books and stick a silly publishing house emblem on the side of a hard copy. They were the only way to give my books mass distribution, and having them back me would mean that readers would know my book was good.

I also, apparently, thought that I needed to be taken advantage of, paid inexcusably poorly, and chained to idiotic pricing and covers that I had no control over

I was, it seems, deluded."

I laughed. Then I re-read her article several times. I researched the data she cites. (If you haven't read it yet, you MUST. Click over! Right now!) She raises valid, irrefutable points. I debated internally (and externally). And finally, after a lot of mental gymnastics, I made my decision: I'm going to self-publish.

My reasons are pretty much:
  1. Creative control.
    We've all heard the horror stories about the author whose cover was all wrong but he had no choice or input, or the author who had to re-write her plot in a way that she never imagined it. Maybe some people would be OK with this. I'm not one of them. I want to retain creative control of my book (my baby!). I want to be an active participant in its flight to public life.
  2. I'm new, but I don't want to be treated as "next to nothing."
    Again, Jessica Parks said it best: "Publishers pay terribly and infrequently. They are shockingly dumb when it comes to pricing, and if I see one more friend’s NY-pubbed ebook priced at $12.99, I’m going to scream. They do minimal marketing and leave the vast majority of work up to the author. Unless, of course, you are already a big name author. Then they fly you around the country for signings and treat you like the precious moneymaking gem that you are. The rest of us get next to nothing in terms of promotion. If your book takes off, they get the credit. If it tanks, you get the blame."
  3. I'm impatient.
    It can take many months (maybe even years) to find the right agent. Once you finally make that match, the agent has to begin the lengthy and usually laborious task of trying to sell it to a publisher. This is called being "on submission." The wonderful author/blogger Natalie Whipple, whose blog I devotedly follow, wrote very openly and courageously about being on sub for 15 months, and what that was like. In a word: tough.

    Finally, Natalie's book did sell! Eureka!! {confetti!} {celebration} {cupcakes!} Then the publisher said it would be come two years.

    I understand that publishing is a process and patience is a virtue. I understand that newbies have to wait their turn and get in line and who the hell do these debut authors think they are anyway?! And I also understand that there are many, many reasons for wanting to take the traditional path (the honor! the validation! the wonderful fact that you--YOU!--have made it! you're in an exclusive club and you have the publisher's emblem on your book's spine to prove it!) and trust me, I wanted all those things too...but to me, personally, it wasn't worth the tradeoff. So since there IS another option, I'm choosing to take it.
  4. I have a bit of pioneer mentality.
    Yes, it's scary to be stepping off the paved path of traditional publishing. And it kind of feels like instead of a paved path, I'm hitching up the ox and pointing my wagon into the wild west of indie/self-pub. BUT I've always had a spark of pioneering energy in me anyway. Yee-ha!
  5. I'm willing to do the downside work.
    Every so often, Natalie holds Q&A days, when she generously and honestly answers any question you pose. (I've never met her, but I think she must be one of the nicest people ever.) On one of them, I asked her if she'd considered the indie/self-pub path and she said that it wasn't a good fit for her personally. She said, "Going that route requires a savvy marketing mind, being willing to promote yourself and get out there in ways that I don't feel I'm good at. For me, while the traditional route is marked with lots of gates, it felt more comfortable to me to get the support of an agent and publisher. They can do things for me that I really don't want to do felt like the right choice for me. For other writers, self-publishing feels right for them. It's certainly not any easier, just different, and I really admire writers who venture out on their own like that."  

    Listen, the idea of self-promotion is just as cringe-inducing to me as it is to everyone else. I dread it. I loathe it. I want to stick my head in the sand or induce an "Inception"-like coma where I'll wake when it's over. BUT this is the work of it. THIS is the trade-off for the upsides of creative control and speed and immediacy and better royalties. So, for me personally, it's a trade-off I'm willing to try and a path I'm willing to take.
Westward on! Giddy up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to Relieve Stress at Work

Lately, there's been lots of talk about anxiety and stress lately. (Gee, the holidays aren't approaching, are they?)

First there was the Today piece about why we're such a nervous nation, which zipped all over the blog and Twitter-sphere and generated hundreds of comments and retweets. (And here are some ways this Inadvertent Yogini suggested yoga might help). Apartment Therapy posted tips to steal for how to get a good night's rest. And there's been all sorts of talk about stress at work and while traveling. To that end, here are a few tips you can implement at the office.

Three Things You Can Do at Work to Relieve Stress:

Yes, it sounds simple, but it really works. Here's why: When we become stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is activated (the good ol' fight or flight response), which was helpful back in the days of eluding saber toothed tigers, but in 2012 when the figurative banshee is your boss, it's actually harmful to the body-brain complex. Breath shortens and quickens, heartrate accelerates, and a series of other physiological responses occur. The bottom line is, you can't do your best strategic thinking in this state and prolonged experience can actually decrease the body's immunity. The act of taking a long, slow, deep breath brings you out of that fight or flight response and calms your brain.

You can also try one of these yoga breathwork practices for anxiety:
Extended-exhale breathwork. Breathe in for a count of 4 and extend the exhale for a count
of 5, 6, or 7...even 8. (Just make sure you aren't getting anxious about not having enough air. Stick to a lower-count exhale at first.) OR make a "mudra" with your right hand: Thumb over your right nostril, two middle fingers over your left nostril. Block the right nostril with your thumb and
breathe in ONLY through the left nostril for a count of 4. Block the left and exhale only out just the right for an extended count of 5, 6, or 7. Repeat for 10 rounds. This stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and triggers the relax-rest-digest response.

2. Walk--around your floor or outside, around the building if possible.
Similar to #1, the act of getting away from your desk, the email, or the person who is stressing you out will bring you out of the fight or flight stress mode that you automatically clicked into. With that distance, you can gain the perspective to better deal with the situation.

3. Stretch.
The jaw, neck, and shoulders are the first places in your body to hold and accumulate stress. When you're stressed, you clench the jaw and tense up in the neck-shoulders area. Here are two simple yoga tools you can use to help. If you're in a meeting and can't do something obvious, try utilizing the "fire point": Press the tip of your tongue to the little mound right behind your top two front teeth. You'll feel your jaw relax and your whole face melt and your shoulders drop.

If you're at your desk and CAN do something more obvious, try modified Eagle Pose: Bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for the shoulders/upper back, stay here. If you need more of s stretch, drop the left elbow below the right and twine the forearms, pressing the back of the palms together. The key to releasing the upper back muscles is to keep the elbows lifted--equal height to the shoulders--and the shoulders as relaxed and low as possible. Take a few deep breaths and switch sides.

Voila! Feeling better already aren't ya? AREN'T YA?!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What I'm Reading: "Vlad All Over" by Beth Orsoff

I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to read an ARC of "Vlad All Over." I'm not going to lie--receiving a book without its final cover and with the disclaimer, "NOT FINAL/UNCORRECTED COPY," was swoon-inducing for a book geek like me. I felt like I needed to read it in highly public, prominently displayed areas, hoping that someone would ask me, "What is that extremely interesting book you're reading?" And then I could pretend to be super cool as I nonchalantly rubbed my nails against my lapels (not that I wear anything with lapels in my post-corporate current life) and say, "Oh this? Why it's an ARC of course...let me tell you alllllllll about it."

But instead, I settled for voraciously devouring author Beth Orsoff's latest creation, due out Nov. 20. In all, there is much to like in this unexpected tale of identity, relationships, Romania, and titillating historical tidbits woven seamlessly into a plot that will most definitely surprise you (several times). Allow me to, in the parlance of hip-hop culture, break it down for you. I'll studiously avoid plot spoilers.

"Vlad All Over" is the story of LA-dwelling, first grade teacher Gwen Andersen. The father of one of her students offers her the opportunity to go to Romania for six weeks as her student/his daughter's nanny. Being of sound mind and on a teacher's salary, Gwen accepts. Over the course of the next six weeks, she's swept up in a very unexpected relationship, magnetized by the legends of one of Romanian history's shockingly violent, legend-spawning despot rulers (you will be too), starts to piece together her possible/probable connection to this very foreign (to her) land, and wrestles with questions about whether we are who we are born as or who we are raised to be (nature v. nurture), which feeds into her personal history and future possibilities. Phew! That's about as much as I can say about this deeply involved, deliciously tangled web Orsoff wove without giving anything away. You'll have to order one to learn more (I recommend you do).

In general, I like my "chick lit*" on the upmarket side. To me, that means great writing (sharp, tight, descriptive), great plot (believable and relate-able), strong female characters (no shrinking violets, por favor) and plenty of humor. Orsoff meets and exceeds all these items on my wish list. From the first page, I wanted to be friends with Gwen and her best friend Zoe. Sometimes, I didn't fully identify with Gwen--she's a singular character and the reasons why become clear toward the end--but that's why we read books: to immerse ourselves in a world that's not ours as seen and experienced through someone who's not us. Otherwise, we'd re-read our own journals (zzzz). Obviously, this is fiction, but the interactions between Gwen and Zoe are so real and believable, it felt like my friends and me (if we were always super funny, fabulous, and off on adventures) (uh...which we are, natch). 

Orsoff is a very funny, very smart, very witty writer with a dry sense of humor. You can get a sense of this simply by perusing her author website. To me, there's almost a classic Spencer-Hepburn witty repartee kind of quality to her writing. Or if you're not a fan of old movies (I am), then a more-modern example might be "True Lies" with Arnold Swarchenegger, Jaime Lee Curtis, and Tom Arnold. Watch that movie and really pay attention to the writing and the comedic timing. Hubby and I re-watched the beginning last week as I was clicking through the channels and randomly stumbled upon it, and it's really, really good. "Vlad" has that same quality. And I will always gobble that witty, back-and-forth parlance up with a giant spoon and ask for more.

Orsoff is also very adept at keeping you engaged and reading...even past the point you planned to stop. For instance, "Oh, I'll just read a chapter before I head to bed," turns into many more chapters and 2:30 a.m.

Yes, that actually happened.

More than once.

I also like historical fiction. I enjoy learning obscure (and not obscure) facts as well as reading an author's speculation about what a real-life character might have been thinking back then. It was an unexpected bonus to learn a bit about Romania and the history of Vlad Tepes (known as Vlad the Impaler), who is the real-life Dracula (!).

I may have minored in European history, but I didn't know anything about Dracula (real or ficticious versions), and definitely didn't know that this was a real historical figure who lived in the real-world place of Transylvania from 1431-1476. Whoa! I love learning fun little things like that. And I also love mysteries and legends (who doesn't?)..."Da Vinci Code" sort of stuff. So, without giving anything away, I'll just say that are strong elements of these sorts of legends and secrets in Orsoff's book, woven artfully in with real-life news (a real-life Prince Charles media announcement even made an appearance) and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel--I've got to know where this story goes and where Gwen ends up (and with whom!).

Bottom line: An engrossing read that will keep you flipping the pages even after you planned to stop reading.
Best for: Upmarket chick-lit lovers and historical fiction fans
Stars: 4.5, baby!

(*Note: I do not like the term "chick-lit," but I'll use it for clarity's sake.)