Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast.

When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer—Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore — a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.



Received from the publisher for review.

I've read a couple of the author's books before (Plum Island was fantastic), and so was eagerly anticipating this although I've never read The Gold Coast. Granted, had I read the first book this would have been better, but it worked equally as well as a stand alone book.

This one gets four stars. It was a bit lengthy at 786 pages, but that just comes with the DeMille territory, and the story is well worthy of all those pages - it is engaging, real, infinitely well written, and quite readable. Although I'd didn't particularly like, or care about, the characters as people they felt real and were well developed. This is a must read for DeMille fans and certainly recommended for Sopranos fans as well.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Review: How It Ends by Laura Wiess

All Hanna's wanted since sophomore year is Seth. She's gone out with other guys, even gained a rep for being a flirt, all the while hoping cool, guitar-playing Seth will choose her. Then she gets him — but their relationship is hurtful, stormy and critical, not at all what Hanna thinks a perfect love should be. Bewildered by Seth's treatment of her and in need of understanding, Hanna decides to fulfill her school's community service requirement by spending time with Helen, her terminally ill neighbor, who she's turned to for comfort and wisdom throughout her life. But illness has changed Helen into someone Hanna hardly knows, and her home is not the refuge it once was. Feeling more alone than ever, Hanna gets drawn into an audiobook the older woman is listening to, a fierce, unsettling love story of passion, sacrifice, and devotion. Hanna's fascinated by the idea that such all-encompassing love can truly exist, and without her even realizing it, the story begins to change her.


Until the day when the story becomes all too real...and Hanna's world is spun off its axis by its shattering, irrevocable conclusion.



Received from the publisher for review.

This had annoyingly small, eye-straining print which did not start me off in a good mood for reading the book.

This was an incredibly inventive story. You really did, like the characters, yearn to "hear" what was next in the "audiobook". The format was very well done and the writing captured the characters perfectly.

This one gets three stars. I can't say it's my new favorite book, but it was a nice, solid, compelling read that left you at the end of each chapter wanting to dive right into the next.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Saturday, January 30, 2010

Review: What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell (Audiobook)

What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard-but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?

In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell has written three books that have radically changed how we understand our world and ourselves: The Tipping Point; Blink; and Outliers. Now, in What the Dog Saw, he brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from The New Yorker over the same period.

Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and "hindsight bias" and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.

"Good writing," Gladwell says in his preface, "does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else's head."What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.



Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars. While the information presented was interesting, the author read the material, which severely hampered the enjoyment (this would have been four stars in print). He is a prime example of those authors who should never, ever read their own material. I have listened the author read some of his other books so I knew what to expect, but he was still snooze inducing. It was nice that the audiobook was made up of essays so that made for nice breaking points. If you're a Malcolm Gladwell fan, this is a must read, but try to get it in print to avoid the snooze factor.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Review: Penguin Luck by Kay Mupetson

In the novel Penguin Luck, Doreen Lowe is a young, sophisticated junior associate in a small Manhattan law firm that primarily serves the lower echelons of society. Regularly visited by three ghosts, Doreen is forced to listen to their pleas that she "carry on for them"- after the Holocaust- all while balancing the demands of her career and personal life.

After Doreen marries a banker with an entrepreneurial spirit, he achieves his dream of establishing a telecommunications company. Within a few years, Doreen is serving as the company's legal counsel while simultaneously raising a son, but is still being tormented by her spirits. As the young couple rides out the tech boom of the late 1990s, Doreen must reconcile her unorthodox personal choices with her widowed father, her friends, and her large conscience.

Penguin Luck is a compelling tale about one woman's emotional journey as she learns to cope with a burdensome family history, a trio of determined ghosts, and the power of luck.



Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets four stars. It was extremely well written with full-bodied characters and very real life situations. It wasn't a particularly cheerful book, but I did find it quite nicely done. The nicely sized chapters made for easy breaking as well. Overall it was very interesting and drew you in and was certainly not your ordinary Chick Lit.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: I Drink for a Reason by David Cross (Audiobook)

After a decade spent in isolation in the Ugandan jungles thinking about stuff, David Cross has written his first book. Known for roles on the small screen such as "never-nude" Tobias Funke on Arrested Development and the role of "David" in Mr. Show With Bob And David, as well as a hugely successful stand-up routine full of sharp-tongued rants and rages, Cross has carved out his place in American comedy. Whether deflating the pomposity of religious figures, calling out the pathetic symbiosis of pseudo-celebrity and its leaching fandom, or merely pushing the buttons of the way-too-easily offended P.C. left or the caustic, double-standard of the callous (but funnier) right, Cross has something to say about everyone, including his own ridiculous self.

Now, for the first time, Cross is weaving his media mockery, celebrity denunciation, religious commentary and sheer madness into book form, revealing the true story behind his almost existential distaste of Jim Belushi ("The Belush"), disclosing the up-to-now unpublished minutes to a meeting of Fox television network executives, and offering up a brutally grotesque run-in with Bill O'Reilly. And as if this wasn't enough for your laughing pleasure in these troubled times, some of the pieces splinter off with additional material being created online in exclusive video and animated web content created solely for the book-a historical first (presumably)!

With a mix of personal essays, satirical fiction posing as truth, advice for rich people, information from America's least favorite Rabbi and a top-ten list of top-ten lists, I DRINK FOR A REASON is as unique as the comedian himself, and cannot be missed.



Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets two stars. While the essay format made for extremely easy listening and convenient pausing places I didn't particularly enjoy it. The author read the book as well, which severely hampered my enjoyment. It was not for the faint of heart as it is amusing in a rather coarse way. The preface was infinitely annoying and yet another reason why the author should not have read his own book. There were several laugh out loud moments, but overall I found it grating. Perhaps with a professional reader it would have been better.

☆☆= Didn't Like It



Guest Post: Pamela Samuels Young author of Buying Time

Pamela Samuels Young, author of the book Buying Time, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



Pursue Your Passion!
by Pamela Samuels Young

You can hardly believe it! The new year is already here and last year’s resolutions are still undone. Don’t fret. Today is a new day, which means you have a fresh opportunity to pursue your passion.

Have you been thinking about changing careers? Perhaps you’d like to go back to school or start your own consulting firm. Maybe being a stay-at-home mom is your dream job. Unfortunately, every time you think about taking the first step, the fear of leaving the virtual security of your current job floods your head with dozens of sound reasons why you should stay put.

Whether your dream is to write a novel, become an interior decorator or start your own catering business, you can make it happen. Here are five tips that will help you begin your journey.

1. Find Time To Plan Your Career Move

With the demands of work, family, church and community activities, you may think you don’t have a spare moment to even think about, much less pursue, your dream career. You’re wrong.

If someone had told me I could’ve published four novels in four years while still practicing law, I would’ve said, “No way.” The key is having a passion and a plan.

It won’t be easy, but you can find free time where you least expect it. The next time you’re taking a neighborhood jog or walking on the treadmill, use the time to think about possible locations for the day spa you’ve dreamed of opening or mull over the plot for that book you’ve wanted to write. Instead of listening to your favorite CD during your morning and evening commute, use the time to work on the business plan for your jewelry-making business. A Dictaphone can be a pretty handy tool in that situation. Your lunch break and the two to three hours you spend in the beauty shop can also be put to good use. With your family’s support, you might even find an evening or two to run off to your local library or a nearby Starbucks for some business-planning time. Even if it’s only an hour a week, use it.

2. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel

You may not realize it, but you have a multitude of resources all around you -- family, friends, colleagues, church members, sorority sisters, and even strangers. Don’t be afraid to request an informational interview. If you want to run a bed ‘n breakfast, call up the owners of a similar establishment in another community, invite them to lunch and tap their brain. People love to talk about themselves and many will be flattered that you want to ask them for advice. The Internet is also a valuable resource. You can enter a few key words on Google and thousands of helpful articles will appear right before your eyes. Just remember: research, research, research!

3. Join Professional Organizations

It’s a good idea to surround yourself with others who share your interests and passion. There are hundreds of professional groups whose sole function is to help their members develop their creative talents and realize their business goals. As a writer, I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America. I rarely make many of the meetings, but when I do, I always learn something or make some contact that helps me along in my writing career. No matter what your passion is, there’s bound to be a networking group you can join.

Organizations like Minority and Women Business Owners, Women Entrepreneurs, Inc., and BizyMoms.com, just to name a few, provide information, support and networking opportunities. Find the organizations that can be most helpful to you and join them.

4. Understand That It Won’t Happen Overnight

Unfortunately, entrepreneurial ventures don’t come with the guarantee of a regular paycheck. I assumed that after releasing my first novel in 2006, Oprah would call and the rest would be history. That has yet to happen. Somehow, I’m still balancing both my legal practice and my passion: writing legal thrillers. It can sometimes be quite stressful, but each time I have a new book that hits the stores, I’m re-energized and more committed than ever about reaching my goal of becoming a full-time writer.

There will no doubt be disappointments when things don’t happen in accordance with your time schedule. But if you remain faithful and focused on your goal, it will happen.

5. Ignore The Naysayers

We all know people who believe you should find a good job, work as hard as you can for 30 years, then retire at 65 and enjoy life. For them, the thought of leaving a secure, well-paying position for the uncertainties of entrepreneurial life is unthinkable. That kind of limited thinking won’t help you realize your dream.

When I proudly tell people I hope to one day give up practicing law to become a full-time novelist, they smile and look as if they want to pat me on top of my head and say, “That’s nice. Now run along back to your briefs.”

You have to decide what you want to do and go for it. And don’t be surprised if you turn out to be your biggest obstacle. When that happens, just look your self-doubt squarely in the face and command it to go away. The same degree of preparation and persistence that helped you land your current position will also help you smoothly transition into your dream career.

So don’t just dream about pursuing your passion, make it happen!




About the book:

Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer. But just when he's about to hit rock bottom, he stumbles upon a business with the potential to solve all of his problems.

In Waverly's new line of work, he comes to the aid of people in desperate need of cash. But there's a catch. His clients must be terminally ill and willing to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. Waverly then finds investors eager to advance them thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker's fee for himself—in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath.

The stakes get higher when Waverly brokers the policy of the cancer-stricken wife of Lawrence Erickson, a high-powered lawyer who's bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General. When Waverly's clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly and Erickson—who has some skeletons of his own to hide—are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.



About Pamela:

Pamela Samuels Young is a Los Angeles attorney and the author of four legal thrillers. Her most recent release, Buying Time, is a fast-paced tale of a down-on-his-luck lawyer who’s unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder. A former television news writer, Pamela is the Fiction Expert for BizyMoms.com and is on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. To contact Pamela or to read an excerpt of her books, visit her website at www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com.




Thursday, January 28, 2010

Challenge: 2010 A Buck a Book Reading Challenge


Ryan over at Wordsmithonia clued me into this one and I simply had to join. If I'd done this for 2009 I would have had $181 by the end of the year. :)

Here's what DelGal's Book Review has to say about the challenge:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all could get paid to simply read books endlessly?

Wish you could some how be rewarded for all the time and effort you put in completing reading challenges, (of course other than your own personal satisfaction, which be no means should be devalued!)

Well, why not read a plethora of books, and just pay yourself for a job well done?!


Welcome to DelGal's “A-Buck-A-Book” Challenge

Here's a great way to reward yourself for reading persistence and save money at the same time. Read as many books as you'd like, there is no minimum, and there is no maximum. BUT, here's the "catch", you MUST physically take a dollar and save it somewhere safe where it won't be spent, every time you complete a book. At the end of the year, your total money saved will be the total amount of books read, ideally the more book read, the more money saved.

Now, once Dec 31 comes, you're must spend this saved money on something fun just for yourself (no paying bills, no buying gifts for someone else!), to begin the next year... Maybe more books for the new year? A nice dinner out to celebrate reading? The possibilities are endless! Finally, once this challenge completes on Dec 31st, please let your blog fans, and fellow challenge participants, know what you decided to spend your money on by posting whatever it may be. If it's $5 or if it's $100, we want to know what you rewarded yourself with for a year of hard yet enjoyable fun reading!

In short - put aside a dollar for each book you read. Post in the comment section your progress if you don't have a blog, or a link to your blog. At the end of the year update us as to what you did with your saved money. That's it!



My Progress:

  144 books/$144


My Purchases:

iTunes:

Doctor Who Season 5 - $34.33

Girls Next Door Season 1 - $7.06

Doctor Who Individual Episodes:
Rose - $2.01
New Earth - $2.01
The End of the World - $2.01
The Parting of Ways - $2.01
The End of Time - Part 2 - $3.02
Bad Wolf - $2.01
The Next Doctor - $2.01
The Unquiet Dead - $1.00
Aliens of London - $1.00
World War Three - $1.00
Dalek - $1.00
The Long Game - $1.00
Father's Day - $1.00
The Empty Child - $1.00
The Doctor Dances - $1.00
Boom Town - $1.00

Secret Diary of a Call Girl Individual Episodes:
Season 1 - Episode 1 - $3.02


DVDs:
The O.C. - The Complete First Season (used) - $7.98
The O.C. - The Complete First Season (used) - $6.00
Friends - The Complete Eighth Season (used) - $3.99
Sex and the City - The Complete First Season (used) - $2.64
Sex and the City - The Complete Second Season (used) - $2.64
Beverly Hills 90210 - The Complete First Season (used) - $5.00


200 Vinyl CD/DVD Sleeves - $21.99

Total: $118.73



Review: Points of Power by Yolanda Adams

Over five million listeners tune in to hear Yolanda Adams's Points of Power, a segment in her daily radio show that inspires people by applying biblical truths to present-day realities. In her first book, Yolanda Adams transfers that winning segment into a reader's delight. In this highly accessible manual for daily living, she shares stories from her and others's personal experiences, showing readers how to access God's love and grace in their modern world and troubles. By revealing how Yolanda and other human beings have transcended the world's difficulties, POINTS OF POWER empowers readers to face trouble with confidence in the God who never fails.


Received from the publisher for review.

This was very well presented. Each Point of Power has its own section which includes a description of the Point as well as two Power Passages (relevant quotes from the bible), a Point of Practice, a Point of Prayer, and 10 Pensive Points which are items to ponder regarding the Point in question.

This one gets three stars. I must say that the book would most likely receive four stars from a fellow member of the author's faith. The book was well written, and well organized, with an upbeat, encouraging feel. You truly felt as if the author is trying to spread her joy of living to her readers.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review: Hearing From God Each Morning by Joyce Meyer

In the hustle and bustle of today's busy world, sometimes it's hard enough to hear yourself think, much less take a minute to stop and listen for the voice of God. But learning to recognize God's voice and the many ways in which He speaks is vital for following His plan. This devotional; drawing from How to Hear From God, Knowing God Intimately, and The Power Of Simple Prayer shows the reader through a daily reminder, how God speaks through their own thoughts and feelings, their dreams, and the words of other people. Joyce Meyer reveals the ways in which God delivers His word and the benefits of asking God for the sensitivity to hear His voice. Joyce asks the question, "Are you listening?" and shares how to do just that...on a daily basis.


Received from the publisher for review.

While I don't like the author personally, I did appreciate how well written the book was. The daily messages are the perfect size to consume during breakfast to start your day off nicely, or during a quite minute in the day.

This one gets three stars. For someone who ascribes to the author's beliefs this would certainly be a wonderful resource and would make an excellent gift. I will be passing my review copy on to a friend who enjoys the author's message.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review: Run for Your Life by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Audiobook)

A calculating killer who calls himself The Teacher is taking on New York City, killing the powerful, the arrogant, the don't-give-a-darnst-about-anyone rich. For some New Yorkers it seems that the rich were getting what they deserve at last. For New York's social elite, it is a call to chaos and terror. The Teacher's message to the wealthy is clear: remember your manners or suffer the consequences!


Detective Mike Bennett is assigned the case. Managing the pressure from his Commissioner, the Mayor, and the New York media would be enough for anyone, but Mike also has to care for his 10 children-who are all under 12 and who all have the flu!

Detective Bennett discovers a secret pattern in the Teacher's lessons-and realizes he has just hours to save New York from the greatest disaster in its history. From the #1 bestselling author who introduced readers to Alex Cross and the Women's Murder Club-comes the continuation of his newest, electrifying series.
Run for Your Life is his most heart-stopping thriller yet.


Received from the publisher for review.

I can't recall ever nodding off during a so-called thriller before, but my eyes simply would not say open for this! The readers were infinitely boring and seemed as if they were bored by the material themselves. The story was beyond boring and held not a bit of thrill for me. I tuned out at about chapter one where it is discussed how the main character's children were puking into a bathtub. No, seriously. I mean, how can you continue to listen after crap like that?

This one gets a weak two stars. I felt no need to continue to listen and called it a bust after half a disc. I simply could not be bothered to waste my time on trash like that. Perhaps had I continued it may have improved, but I seriously doubt it.

☆☆= Didn't Like It



Review: The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate

IS THE HALF SISTER THAT REBECCA STRANDHAS NEVER MET SHORT? TALL? RICH? POOR? PRETTY?
FUNNY? MARRIED? LONELY? HAPPY?...


Rebecca is about to find out. The New York City paralegal thought nothing could shake her life off its fast track — which includes her handsome lawyer boyfriend and their extravagant condo. The shocking revelation that she even has a half sister comes from her dying father, in a hospital bed confession of a long-past summer affair...and now the dad she adores has one last wish: would Rebecca deliver a cache of letters he never sent to his other daughter, Joy Jayhawk, in a tiny coastal Maine town?

But when Rebecca arrives in Wiscasset, with the life-changing letters stashed in a leather box, nothing goes as she imagined — and Joy Jayhawk is less than thrilled to meet her. Joy already has her own life, her own family, and her own business: she runs a bus tour for singles, a matchmaking excursion that's brought lovers together, healed broken hearts, and changed lives. Rebecca joins the singles tour in the hopes of unlocking a door into Joy's life and forming a relationship with the only family she has left. But as she spends more and more time with Joy and the women who dub themselves The Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset — and starts a flirtation with a seriously hunky local carpenter — Rebecca realizes it's her life and heart that are ready for healing and change...and that sometimes, you just have to go along for the ride.


Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets four stars. It was a bit lengthy, but still worth the time investment and it does move along rather quickly. It had a warm, friendly feel that makes it an equally good read for both winter and on the beach in summer. This would be great for Debbie Macomber fans.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Review: Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young

Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer. But just when he's about to hit rock bottom, he stumbles upon a business with the potential to solve all of his problems.

In Waverly's new line of work, he comes to the aid of people in desperate need of cash. But there's a catch. His clients must be terminally ill and willing to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. Waverly then finds investors eager to advance them thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker's fee for himself—in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath.

The stakes get higher when Waverly brokers the policy of the cancer-stricken wife of Lawrence Erickson, a high-powered lawyer who's bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General. When Waverly's clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly and Erickson—who has some skeletons of his own to hide—are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.


Received from the publicist for review.

This was extremely well written and very readable. The chapters were also a nice length which made for great pausing points, not that you really wanted to stop reading since the story was so engrossing.

This one gets four stars. I didn't personally care for the characters as people, but they were very well written. It was quite enjoyable with a great pace and a nice level of action. I'd certainly recommend this, and will look for the author's previous books.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world's most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling—a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths . . . all under the watchful eye of Brown's most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object —artfully encoded with five symbols—is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon—a prominent Mason and philanthropist —is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations—all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

As the world discovered in
The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown's novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histories, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readerswith an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown's fans have been waiting for . . . his most thrilling novel yet.


From the library.

This one gets four stars. While this was rather slow to start and it did drag on in parts it was quite nice to revisit Robert Langdon. I did not enjoy it quite as much as The DaVinci Code, but it was still entertaining and quite fascinating at points. I didn't love it, but it was a good, solid read. The reader, Paul Michael, was excellent as always, lending his wonderful voice to the text.

★★★★ = Really Liked It


2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

2010 Audiobook Reading Challenge



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: How to Get the Man You Want/How to Get the Woman You Want by Paul Morris Segal and Katia Loisel-Furey

Have you ever wondered what the opposite sex really thinks? What do they look for in a prospective partner? What gets their attention, what turns them on and what turns them off?

Flirting, Dating, Sex and Love

When it comes to flirting, dating, sex and love, what do they really want? As if the world of dating wasn’t confusing enough, every time you turn on the TV, read a magazine or hop online you get different advice.

Girls, should you play hard to get or shouldn’t you? Is making the first move taking away the thrill of the chase? What do guys really think about paying for the first date and do you owe him one if you accept? Is it ok to have sex on the first date or will he see you as nothing but a booty call?

Guys, what are women really looking for in a guy, do looks really matter or is it the size of your wallet they’re after? Do they really judge you based on your size or is it your experience that counts? How do you find your soulmate and receive the love and respect you deserve?

Global Study into the Dating & Mating Patterns of Singles

Inundated with questions from singles about flirting, dating, sex and love we decided to find out the truth about what men and women really want once and for all. To get real answers we went straight to the horse’s mouth, conducting a global study into the dating and mating patterns of over 1500 men and women. The study consisted of online surveys, focus groups, seminars, interviews and field research (not to mention a little research of our own).

Real People - Real Answers: Surprising Results

The results even surprised us. Some of the responses left us speechless, others had us rolling in tears of laughter, and a few had us scratching our heads wondering how on earth men and women ever got together.

In this book you’ll find real answers and real stories from real people. We’ll blast open those old wives tales and myths and tell you the truth about what men and women and really want and the secrets they don’t want you to know.

What will you gain?

Are we wetting your appetite? Want some more? Here’s a taste of what’s to come:
We’ll tell you how to:

• Avoid the dating pitfalls
• Take their breath away without breaking your bank account
• Make yourself instantly more attractive to the opposite sex
• Decipher if they're flirting or just being friendly
• Tell if you’re too much hard work or just too picky
• Be an instant hit, anywhere, anytime
• Meet sexy singles
• Conquer your fears, get over rejection and make your move
• Knock their socks off
• 150 ideas of where to go on a date
• Take them on a date they’ll never forget
• The number one thing that will get their attention
• Get them to say “yes” when she’d normally say no
• Make a fabulous impression on your first date
• Make them want you
• Heat things up in less than a minute
• Avoid the fifteen things that will kill a date

Salivating? That’s just for starters. The best is yet to come.

We’ll reveal:

• Their top 10 sexual turnoffs
• Their top 10 sexual turn-ons
• What they'd really want you to do to them in the bedroom
• What they'd like to do to you
• And how to get them coming back for more


Sound hot?

Read on, we’ve taken the guesswork out of getting the one you want. Because dating is a game best played with two. Like men and women, the two sides of this book compliment each other perfectly, so you need to read one side in conjunction with the other to have maximum impact on the opposite sex.

Bon Apetit!!



Received from the author for review.

This was a dual sided book, one side each for Men and Women, which was fun format. The personal stories included in each side were enlightening.

The global study results were truly interesting. It really made me realize just how skewed our perceptions are here in the US and just how shallow we really are here. Obviously here in the US the findings that ranked personality at #1 and looks at #5 would probably be reversed. Perhaps the results that ranked intelligence over looks would hold, but I'm not too sure about that. Perhaps for women choosing men, at least.

The book certainly has numerous answers to the question it poses:

We can't all be Angelina Jolie, so how do you attract the man you want if you weren't hit with the pretty stick?

Other gems include:

Did you know that 88% of the people we polled admitted that when they first meet someone they're attracted to more often than not they assume that the other person doesn't like them back?

The only time you should ever ask a woman if she's put on weight is if you're keen to break up with her, but haven't got the guts to do it. Ask at your own peril!

This one gets four stars. It was fun, informative, and nicely written. It gets the information across without being snooze worthy. While it is very nicely done, perhaps it isn't quite as much for the US crowd as we're so darn shallow here, but still quite intriguing.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Tales Of Priut Almus by Robert Belenky Ph.D.

Thirteen-year-old Serogia was thrown out of his house by his drunken mother after his father died. Eleven-year-old Anya doesn't have many friends and is always sad; when she looks in the mirror she sees an ugly girl. Her ten-year-old sister Sashinka is shy, tough and fun loving. Their only living relative is their drunken father.

These are just three of the children who were living at Priut Almus, a children's shelter in St. Petersburg, Russia, when author Robert Belenky began his visits in 1998. He returned many times during the next ten years. In Tales of Priut Almus he presents his interviews with children and staff as he participates in this humane and innovative shelter unusual in that it focused on preparing children to create and live in a democracy. Finally, we meet Almus' founding director, enigmatic man of the theater, Mikhail Markarievich, who provided the courageous vision.

The fifth in a series of books focusing on raising children whose lives have not been easy, Tales of Priut Almus describes how this home has become a monument to the spirited and humane ways to raise children who are in need. Priut Almus is a model of what may be possible for the United States in the realm of education and child care.


Received from the publicist for review.

This was an interesting book written in an interesting journal type format and printed in a nice font. The stories themselves were really rather depressing. Even the portraits of the children were sad. The History of Priut Almus as the final section of the book was enlightening, but no more cheerful.

This one gets three stars. While it was well written, in an interesting manner, the stories just had a pervasive sense of darkness and depression. I found it more of a downer than hopeful and uplifting.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Post: The Basic Book of Digital Photography by Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm

Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of the book The Basic Book of Digital Photography, stopped by to share with us a piece they wrote.



Simple Ways to Make Better Pictures with Your Camera Phone
By Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm,
Authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures


As camera phones become more prevalent, they are expected to become as popular for casual photography as regular point-and-shoot digital cameras. Unfortunately, camera phone photos are often poor or mediocre. But that is usually the fault of careless shooters, not the quality of the phone's camera.

Here are five simple ways to instantly help you make better pictures with your camera phone. Professional photographers Michele and Tom Grimm offer these and many more tips in their brand-new handbook, The Basic Book of Digital Photography.

1) Keep the Camera Phone Steady. Many cell phones are small, lightweight, and awkward to hold for shooting. In order to prevent blurred pictures, use both hands and brace your arms against your body. For additional support, lean against something solid, such as a tree or a wall. A common problem is the delay after you press the shutter release until the camera fires, so remember to remain motionless until you are certain the shutter has opened and closed.

2) Get Close to Your Subjects. Move closer physically, or adjust an optical zoom lens (if available) toward its telephoto setting. Note that shooting close up at a wide-angle setting can distort your subjects, which is particularly unflattering for people. Do not use a digital zoom function; it only enlarges the pixels in a picture, which degrades the image.

3) Make Sure Your Subjects are in Good Light. That way your pictures will show the most detail. Beware of harsh sunlight that creates dark shadows and high contrast in phone photos. If available, use the built-in light or flash even in daylight to give more clarity to your subject. Or, when indoors, turn on more lights if you can. Try to avoid backlighted subjects, unless you want them to turn out as silhouettes.

4) Keep the Lens Clean. Most lenses are protected only by a see-through plastic or glass cover, which can quickly get dirty when carrying your camera phone in a pocket or purse. Also, the lens is quite small, so dust or finger smudges will be more evident in your pictures. Wipe the lens gently with a microfiber cleaning cloth designed for regular camera lenses or eyeglasses.

5) Always Shoot at the Highest Image Quality. The names of the quality settings vary with the phone manufacturer. For example, the choices might be called: high, medium, low; or super fine, fine, normal; check your phone's user guide. Image files are automatically compressed to save space in the phone's internal memory or on a removable memory card; the higher the image quality you set, the less compression.

You'll also find settings for image resolution, which may be called image size. We recommend you always select the highest resolution, especially if you expect to print your photos. The higher the resolution, the larger the picture will be displayed on a computer or television screen. Also, more detail will show in the image. Image resolution/image size in some camera phones ranges from 320x240 pixels (low) to 1600x1200 pixels (high).

By the way, do not confuse image resolution with the resolution of the image sensor in a camera phone, which is expressed in megapixels, abbreviated MP. Little attention is paid to image sensors and their maximum megapixels (MP) in camera phones, but higher-end models range from 5 MP to as many as 10 MP.

If you are serious about getting quality photos and are buying a new camera phone, look for a model with high-resolution capability, autofocus, an optical zoom lens, built-in flash, and a large LCD screen to compose and review the images. For the most versatility, the camera phone should also have a slot that accepts a removable memory card. As you might expect, top-end camera phones can be expensive and often cost more than regular non-SLR digital cameras.

Most user guides for mobile phones have minimal information and instructions for the camera, but read carefully to learn as much as you can about its various features, as well as any limitations. For example, most camera phones can be set to shoot in black-and-white or old-time sepia tones rather than color.

Try out all the different settings by shooting practice photos, and then analyze the results. It is worth the time to become familiar with the camera operation so you won't be fumbling with the phone and pressing the wrong buttons when a photo opportunity suddenly appears.

Photos you make with a camera phone are automatically saved in the JPEG (.jpg) image file format. They can be viewed on the phone's LCD screen as a group of thumbnail photos or as larger individual images. On the screen, you can select images to delete, or to send to another mobile phone, a Web site, desktop printer, photo kiosk, or computer.

Camera phones with WiFi, Bluetooth or IrDA (infrared) technology make it easy to download images to a wireless-enabled computer or printer, or to a photo kiosk that makes prints. Some phones have a port to plug in a cable that connects to your computer to download the image files. Of course, if your camera phone has a removable memory card, it can be inserted into a memory card reader that is built in or connected to your computer.

However, you probably will be sending most images from your camera phone directly to another mobile phone or to a Web site or in E-mails. The fees to transmit image data from a camera phone can add up quickly. If you shoot and send many photos, we suggest you buy an unlimited media package from your mobile phone service provider in order to save money.

Finally, as with any camera you use, remember to be respectful of your photographic subjects and situations. Despite the temptation, don't take voyeuristic photos or use your camera phone in places where photography is prohibited, as in health club dressing rooms, and many museums, theaters and concert halls.

©2009 Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures




About the book:

The ultimate, up-to-the-minute digital photography handbook-from the authors of the bestselling Basic Book of Photography.

The Basic Book of Digital Photography is the definitive guide to the expansive world of digital photography from two of the field's most established authorities. The Grimms' classic guide, The Basic Book of Photography, has sold over 400,000 copies since the first edition was published in 1974. Now they are steering photographers through the new era of digital imaging.

This comprehensive handbook covers how to compose the best shots with cameras from point-and-shoot to the increasingly popular SLR (single lens reflex) models-and even cell phone cameras- and takes readers through the steps to improve, display, and preserve their images. The guide includes over 400 photos and illustrations, an extensive glossary and addresses everything from choosing a digital camera to storing files and printing photos. An indispensable accessory for amateur shutterbugs or dedicated professionals, this is the one handbook no digital photographer will want to do without.



About Tom and Michele:

Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures, are a husband-and-wife photojournalism team who have spent nearly four decades traveling the globe; the couple has visited every continent and more than 130 countries in search of the perfect photographic image. Their photographs and articles have been published worldwide in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet. The Grimms are authors and illustrators of thirteen adult and children's books.

For more information, please visit www.TomGrimm.com and www.amazon.com.




Giveaway: The Imposter by Kip Kreiling

Read The Imposter

LEARN the secret to Benjamin Franklin's success

DISCOVER how Abraham Lincoln turned enemies into friends

SEE the evidence that proves human beings are not primarily driven by instincts - that we can change

LEARN how Hernan Cortez launched one of the most successful military conquests in history and how that insight can help you

DISCOVER the real reason why the Iron Curtain fell

SEE why rats weaned themselves off of heroine - on their own!

FIND out how a hardened, modern-day Juvenile Criminal found lasting happiness


Read The Imposter

Do you have loved ones that are trapped behind locked gates - either real or imaginary?

Are they looking for a way out - a path around the obstacles that are keeping them from their full potential?


Are Illusions of Inadequacy™ keeping you from reaching your greatest desires?

Do you sometimes feel like you are being held back by barriers you have created in your own mind?

Have you wondered if people can really change? If they can, are there steps or methods that can propel the change?

Kip Kreiling transformed from a hardened juvenile criminal, with a long rap sheet, to a highly successful global executive. Through his journey, he discovered 8 principles of human transformation that will help anyone achieve their dreams.

Read The Imposter and discover how those 8 principles can transform your life.



Thanks to the author I have five copies to give away!

Contest runs from January 22, 2010 to 11:59 PM EST February 5, 2010. Open to residents of US and Canada only. PO boxes are okay.

To enter:

Required Entry:

You must be a Google Friend connect follower of this blog and visit Kip's website, and leave me a comment on this post that says "I'm a Google Friend Connect Follower" and tell me something you learned at Kip's website. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.

Extra Entries:
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  2. Tweet this, by clicking the Tweet This button and come back here and leave me a comment with the link to the tweet. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on. You can do this up to five times for five additional entries.
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Post one comment for each entry.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Gringa in a Strange Land by Linda Dahl

Gringa in a Strange Land brings back the 'counterculture' of the early 70's, an exhilarating and confusing time for so many young people then. Erica Mason, an American woman living in Mexico, is torn between working to become an artist and the lure of the drug culture. Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the story then moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches and the cities of Belize and Oaxaca. A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans, and the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-American, that culminates in an unexpected resolution.


Received from the publicist for review.

The overview at the beginning beautifully illustrated for the reader where the characters and locations are at that time in history (1973). It really does give you a nice introduction to the book.

This one gets three stars. It was interesting, but rather on the intellectual side. This is not light reading. It was beautifully written to brilliantly capture the people and the texture of the time. The italicized Spanish/Mayan words could be annoying but they weren't used excessively so they didn't become overwhelming. I also did not particularly care for Erica as a person, but she was nicely written nonetheless. Overall this was a nice, solid read with an enjoyable story and well written characters, but nothing particularly spectacular.

★★☆☆ = Liked It




Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seriously?: On Being Offended

I very rarely do Seriously? posts, but this required one.


I was slogging through my Google Reader backlog and came across this post from My Friend Amy. This was another teeth grinding experience to get to the end of the post. It is yet another manifesto on how white people are the cause of all evil and how "white privilege" exists, blah, blah. Seriously? Seriously?

The so-called "white privilege" is for upper middle class WASPs which I certainly am not (although, I will say that I am white - well, more pink but I won't go there). Said WASPs should stop blaming all of society's problems on the entirety of the white population. Not all problems are caused by white people.

I will say it once. Just once.
  • Not all white people owned slaves.
  • There is no "white privilege" for anyone who has actually has to work for a living (at a real job, and not for Daddy at one of his companies, and modeling does not count as "working").
  • Other races can be racist, white people are not the only ones.
  • Yes, it is still racist if a non-white person says something racist about a white person.
No one should ever be made to feel guilty or bad about the color of their skin. It is just as racist to made disparaging comments about white people as it is any other group. Shocking, I know, but I don't feel guilty for being white no matter the pressure to conform to the "white guilt" propaganda. I'm okay with it. If anyone else has a problem with the color of my skin, it is their problem, not mine.

If you want to blast me for not having enough white guilt so be it, but I am not going to feel bad about being white. I'm just not.

Also, why the hell should I be told as a white person to read more from authors of other races? You don't see other races being hounded to read books based on the author's color. Why can't we all just read what we want? This is still a semi-free country after all.

Everyone is equal whether they are black, white, green, purple, polka dot, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, atheist, gay, straight, whatever. Stop blaming each other for everything. Just get over yourselves already and treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.

That's it. I'm over it. Yell at me all you want. Back to the regularly scheduled programming...



Announcement: The Demo Tapes Royalties Donation to Haiti

Just wanted to let you all know that our friend Susan Helene Gottfried is offering a wonderful opportunity to score a copy of her book The Demo Tapes, and help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Through at least January 31st Susan will donate a portion of the royalties from each sale of her book to the Red Cross. You can check out all the details here, as well as score a coupon good for 10% off!



Guest Post: Linda Dahl author of Gringa in a Strange Land


Linda Dahl, author of the book Gringa in a Strange Land, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



Why I Like my Minor Characters in Gringa in a Strange Land

A problem I can have when writing fiction is that the major characters can easily become tyrants, demanding attention all the time. Anyone who has raised or been around children knows what I mean: the querulous toddler, the narcissist who invades the teen years. Or perhaps a too-needy parent or spouse. My main character wants control. During the process of writing my new novel, Gringa in a Strange Land, my protagonist, Erica Mason, often veered towards becoming, in a wonderful phrase of the entertainment business, the actress who “eats the scenery.” And what’s where the supporting cast comes in, to pull the attention away from this would-be diva.

I confess I have fun with my “minor” characters, at least most of the time. I don’t have to obsess about them the way I must about the heroine. These players are all about business, they walk on, say their lines and leave, mostly without fuss. Few of them demand such constant care and feeding as Erica.

Not to say that I didn’t empathize with Erica,a twenty-something middle-class, middle-American woman living in Mexico in the countercultural early 70’s. It’s fatal for a writer not to feel something for her characters; they become cardboard if the author does not feel, somehow, their humanity. Of course, it’s Erica story, her series of obstacles, triumphs and adventures, but the bit players in Gringa add ballast and color to Erica’s odyssey. In this novel, these are mostly foreigners (at least, to American readers. I don’t think they would be to Mexican readers.) There’s the upper-class Merida widow who morphs into a kind of lonely princess in a tower of privilege, a prisoner of class and status who plans her mild escape: a shopping trip to Miami. A peasant mother and her son who Erica meets on a train are transformed by serious illness into living examples of the daily “emergency” that deep poverty can impose. For comic relief (dark comedy), there is a small cast of the kind of personalities who abound in a somewhat isolated colonial setting: The local “author” with illusions of grandeur; the speed-addled disc jockey whose world revolves around his local radio program; the pot-smoking chicken farmer who dreams of life on the road as a guitar player. And many more, grifters and dreamers, scoundrels and decent people, hippies and housewives. All of them add to the melting pot that is Gringa in a Strange Land.




About the book:

Gringa in a Strange Land brings back the exhilarating and confusing time of the “counterculture” in the early 1970’s.

Erica Mason, an American woman living in Mexico, is torn between working to become an artist and the lure of the drug culture.

Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the story also moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches and the cities of Belize and Oaxaca.

A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans, and the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-American, culminating in an unexpected resolution.




About Linda:

I have always loved to write about characters, usually edgy, little-known folks with wonderful stories and talents. I love places too and music, above all jazz. As a girl, I dreamed of traveling around the world and as soon as I could, I took to the road. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of Latin American countries. After college (Latin American Studies, University of Wisconsin), I moved to the Yucatan in Mexico, and then made the pilgrimage to another foreign country called New York with a suitcase and several hundred dollars. This was in the mid-l970’s.

Finding the requisite cheap, shabby apartment (you could still do so in those days), I started writing in earnest. I had a number of ridiculous jobs to pay the rent, such as writing reviews of C- movies I never actually saw (no one else seemed to be watching them either), driving an ice-cream truck in Central park for just one day until I had a fender-bender, and writing a history of all the world’s cheese with a two-week deadline for a manic food editor. I managed also to produce novels, biographies and essays about women in jazz, and quirky travel articles about such topics as the Carmen Miranda Museum in Rio, a priestess of Candomble, a.k.a. voodoo (interview in rudimentary Portuguese), and a Mayan folk healer.

I am happy to say that most of my writing efforts have been published, well-reviewed and are still in print. My latest novel, a love-child, is “Gringa in a Strange Land,” available in January 2010.

You can visit Linda Dahl’s website at http://www.lindadahl.com/.




Giveaway: 100 UPrinting.com Postcards


My blog sponsor, UPrinting.com, is allowing me to do the most fabulous giveaway! One winner will receive a set of 100 custom printed postcards!

UPrinting's postcards can be customized and used as personal postcards for your baby shower announcement, invitations, note cards, thank you cards and a lot more!


Contest ends 11:59 PM EST January 25, 2010. Open to residents of US. No PO boxes.

The winner will receive: 100 custom printed postcards
Size: 4x6; Paper: 14pt Cardstock Gloss; Printing: Full color both sides
Winner will need to pay for shipping!


To enter:
  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what you'll use the postcards for. Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.
  2. Follow or subscribe to this blog, and leave me a comment on this post telling me you're a subscriber. If you're already a follower or subscriber, comment telling me that.
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, Mailbox Monday, Library Loot, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on. You can do this up to five times for five additional entries.
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Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.

Disclosure: As a gift for hosting this giveaway, UPrinting.com will be sending me a set of 100 postcards as well.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Giveaway: Absolute Power by David Baldacci (Audiobook)

The first of the blockbuster thrillers by New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci. The book that changed the way you thought about Washington - and power – is now available in digital audio.

Listen to an Excerpt
Read an Excerpt
Grab the OpenBook™ Widget
Visit DavidBaldacci.com
Available in CD, cassette, and digital download formats.





Thanks to Hachette Book Group I have three copies to give away!

Contest ends 11:59 PM EST February 6, 2010. Open to residents of US and Canada only. No PO boxes.

To enter:

Required Entry:

You must be a Google Friend connect follower of this blog, and leave me a comment on this post that says "I'm a Google Friend Connect Follower". Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.

Extra Entries:
  1. Follow me on Twitter, and leave me a comment on this post that says "Twitter Follower".
  2. Tweet this, by clicking the Tweet This button and come back here and leave me a comment with the link to the tweet. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on. You can do this up to five times for five additional entries.
  5. Grab my button (in sidebar), post it on your blog, and leave me a comment with a link to your blog. If you already have my button, leave a comment telling me that.
  6. Visit The Animal Rescue Site, click the Click Here to Give - It's Free! button and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you clicked. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)
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Post one comment for each entry.
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Giveaway: I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Ozbourn (Audiobook)

The final word in sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, I AM OZZY is the heavy metal pioneer's unbelievable story in his own words, for the very first time.

Listen to an Excerpt
Read an Excerpt
Grab the OpenBook™ Widget
Visit Ozzy.com





Thanks to Hachette Book Group I have three copies to give away!

Contest ends 11:59 PM EST February 6, 2010. Open to residents of US and Canada only. No PO boxes.

To enter:

Required Entry:

You must be a Google Friend connect follower of this blog, and leave me a comment on this post that says "I'm a Google Friend Connect Follower". Please include your e-mail address so I can contact you.

Extra Entries:
  1. Follow me on Twitter, and leave me a comment on this post that says "Twitter Follower".
  2. Tweet this, by clicking the Tweet This button and come back here and leave me a comment with the link to the tweet. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)
  3. Blog about this contest and include a link to this post. Leave a comment with a link to your blog entry.
  4. Leave a comment on any other post (anything except another giveaway, i.e. reviews, interviews, Bored Now, etc.) and leave a comment here telling me which post you commented on. You can do this up to five times for five additional entries.
  5. Grab my button (in sidebar), post it on your blog, and leave me a comment with a link to your blog. If you already have my button, leave a comment telling me that.
  6. Visit The Animal Rescue Site, click the Click Here to Give - It's Free! button and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you clicked. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)
  7. Visit The Rainforest Site, click the Click Here to Give - It's Free! button and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you clicked. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)
  8. Visit The Hunger Site, click the Click Here to Give - It's Free! button and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you clicked. (once daily, leave a new comment each time)

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Guest Post: Mary Ann Esposito author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

Mary Ann Esposito, author of the book Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



Three Wise Winter Wine Desserts
By Mary Ann Esposito,
Author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen

Our diets are in peril! Like clockwork, as soon as the New Year begins, so do all those ads telling us how unfit we are. There are so many diet plans that would have us beat the battle of the bulge as we enter a new year. But while we all scramble in the grocery store to find something healthy to cook, my sweet tooth has kicked in and I am craving something sinfully sweet and succulent to help ward off the winter blues. That nagging feeling leads me right to the produce department. Aha, caught you! Maybe you thought that I was going to recommend some cake, pie, cookies or ice cream. Not a chance. I am thinking sweets that are good for you like baked apples with walnuts and figs, or pears baked in wine. All the ingredients to make them are readily available and the recipes are easy to make. But the best part is how surprisingly good they taste, leaving you not caring a wit if you ever eat pie, cake or cookies again. Your diet, if you stay on it, will thank you.

Baked Apples with Dried Figs and Honey

SERVES 4

4 large Golden Delicious or Cortland apples, washed and cored
5 dried figs
4 dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, in bits
1/2 cup white wine or fresh orange juice

Put the figs in a small bowl and cover them with hot water; allow them to stand for 30 minutes to soften them. Drain them, cut off the stems and discard them. Cut the figs into small pieces and place them in a bowl with the apricots and walnuts. Stir in the honey and coat the fruits well.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Divide and stuff the mixture in the cored apples.

Dot the apples with the butter and place them in a baking dish.

Pour the orange juice in the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the apples are just soft but not collapsed.

Serve warm with some of the pan juices.

Note: The apples can also be cooked in a microwave oven on high power for 4 to 5 minutes. Microwaves vary, so check your settings.


Dried Figs in Red Wine

SERVES 4

1 tablespoon butter
12 large dried whole figs (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 350°F

Lightly grease an 8 inch casserole dish with the butter.

Make a slit with a small knife near the stem of each fig just large enough to form a small hole with your finger. Stuff some of the walnuts into each fig and place them stem side up in the casserole side by side.

Heat the wine and honey in a small saucepan just until the mixture is smooth. Pour over the figs.

Sprinkle them with the zest and cover the casserole tightly with foil or oven proof cover.

Bake 30 minutes.

Cool the casserole to room temperature.

Place 3 figs on each of the 4 dessert bowls and pour some of the wine sauce over each.


Pears in Wine Sauce

SERVES 6

6 ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears, washed
6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberry or pomegranate juice
3 cups dry red wine
Confectioners sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.

With a small knife remove a small slice from the bottom of each pear to make it stand upright. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 4 or 5 long narrow strips of skin from each pear to make a striped look. Place the pears upright in a deep 3 inch baking dish just large enough to hold them snugly.

Separately combine the juice and wine together and pour over the pears.

Sprinkle each pear with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake the pears uncovered for about 35 minutes, basting them occasionally with the wine sauce.

The pears are done when a knife is easily inserted into them; do not overbake them or they will collapse. When cooked, transfer the pears with a slotted spoon to a serving dish.

Pour the wine sauce into a small saucepan and add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Bring the mixture to boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid is reduced by half and is syrupy looking.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Baste the pears with the syrup frequently and refrigerate them at least one hour before serving.

To serve, place the pears on individual dessert dishes and spoon some of the sauce over each one.

With a small sieve sprinkle confectioners sugar over each pear for a beautiful striped effect.

©2010 Mary Ann Esposito, author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen




About the book:

In Mary Ann Esposito's new book, Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, she shows home cooks how to turn just five ingredients into an easy, delicious and economical Italian dish for the family dinner table. Mary Ann Esposito knows that the genius behind great Italian cooking is the simple philosophy of using just a few quality ingredients to create something delicious. In Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, she shows home cooks how to make that philosophy work for them so that they can save time and money without sacrificing flavor. With seventy five authentic Italian recipes--from antipasti to pastas, main courses and desserts -Esposito draws on the Italian culinary tradition of simplicity in the kitchen to create such effortless and tasty dishes as:

- Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina and Fig Wraps
- Spicy Soppressata Tartlets
- Cheesy Stuffed Meatballs
- Pistachio Dusted Pork Chops
- Oven-Poached Halibut with Shallots and Fennel
- Escarole Salad with Mustard Dressing
- Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Banana Tartlets
- Buttermilk Panna Cotta Infused with Vanilla

With Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, Mary Ann Esposito serves up a surefire way to please family and friends with easy recipes that are quick and delicious.



About Mary Ann:

Mary Ann Esposito, author of Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen, is the creator and host of the long-running PBS seriesCiao Italia, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2010. She is the author of eleven successful cookbooks, including Ciao Italia Slow and Easy and Ciao Italia Pronto! She lives in Durham, New Hampshire.

For more information, please visit www.CiaoItalia.com.