Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Absolutely Chocolate by the editors of Fine Cooking Magazine

For years, most cooks only worried about choosing between semi-sweet and milk chocolate when whipping up chocolate creations. These days, however, its vital to know the origins, varieties, and unique characteristics of chocolates available. The experts at Fine Cooking magazine have taken the guesswork out of making more than 125 scrumptious sensations from layer cakes, tarts, and pies to muffins, cookies, and brownies to candies, sauces, and hot cocoa. Each recipe features must-know tips on choosing and buying just the right chocolate; step-by-step, cant-fail instructions; and authoritative advice from Americas most respected experts. In other words, Absolutely Chocolate is absolutely fabulous!


Ebook received from the publisher for review.

This one gets five stars. It was simply packed with recipes for everything from cookies to pudding and candies to brownies and cakes and everything in between. There were even instructions on how to cut brownies into perfect squares! Simply gorgeous photos illustrated each sumptuous offering and left me wanting to try out each. While the recipes are delicious, most aren't overly complicated and you most likely already have the majority of the ingredients in your pantry. This would make a lovely gift for a chocolate loving baker.

★★★★★ = Loved It



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Completed Challenge: 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

Completed in May 2010



J. Kaye is once again hosting the 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge!

This year I'm aiming for The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

The rules:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:

--The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

--Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

--Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

--Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

(Aim high. As long as you read 25 by the end of 2010, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.



Books Read:
  1. A Year With the Queen
  2. 101 Reasons to Dump Your Man and Get a Cat
  3. The Paris Vendetta
  4. The Lost Symbol
  5. The Cricket in Times Square
  6. The Cat in Art
  7. Tucker's Countryside
  8. Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius
  9. Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
  10. Oscar Lobster's Fair Exchange
  11. There Goes the Bride
  12. Chester Cricket's New Home
  13. The Old Meadow
  14. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
  15. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  16. Breathless
  17. Zero Limits
  18. Why Our Health Matters
  19. The Wisdom of Your Cells
  20. Food Rules
  21. Write It Down, Make It Happen
  22. The Kind Diet
  23. Heat Wave
  24. American Cheeses
  25. When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?



Review: The Edge of Forever by Jeff S. Chimenti

What would you do if you discovered that the most catastrophic event in human history was less than a week away, and nothing could stop it? Something that would make all previous bloody battles, natural disasters, famines, and plagues seem trivial in comparison; something that hadn't shown its ugly face for at least 65 million years; something that mankind was not meant to survive. Fortunately, when adversity is at its peak, true heroes surface, and the greatness in men shines through the darkness to light the way for the rest of us...but, remember that evil can surface as well, so be careful whom you choose to follow. After Michael Hanson saves a young woman from a violent encounter with her abusive husband in a small Nevada town, they attempt to find refuge in another city. But, as they flee, the couple doesn't realize that they're about to be pulled into a life-threatening adventure in an event that will change the course of human history in less than a week. Michael, his two brothers, and a brilliant scientist piece the puzzle together and realize that the bizarre and frightening changes occurring at Yellowstone National Park are simply the tip of the iceberg, and that man is now facing something that is truly beyond comprehension-something millions of times more powerful than anything the Earth has seen in 65 million years when the dinosaurs faced extinction. The three brothers and their families are caught in a desperate struggle to survive amidst a political cover-up and the panic that ensues when the details of the event are revealed to the world. The group must somehow summon the courage and intelligence to beat the ticking time bomb that will soon convert the United States into a wasteland and claim over a billion human lives worldwide.



Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars. Although it was well written and readable the author purports that the story is based on scientific evidence but I am a bit wary of his exertions. The possibility of it actually happening did make it a bit more interesting. The rather typical Doomsday predictions seemed rather far fetched and felt almost like a SyFy movie of the week. In general, it was intriguing but not spectacular.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Saturday, May 29, 2010

Guest Post: Steven Lourie author of The Pursuit

Steven Lourie, author of the book The Pursuit, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



The writing of The Pursuit is a story in and of itself. Writing has always been a passion of mine. I wrote a short story about a year or so prior to beginning work on The Pursuit. This short story, called Speak, was, at the time, hands down the best piece I had ever written, and not just in my opinion, in the opinion of many of my peers and mentors. It was the piece that taught me that I was good enough at writing to potentially do this for a living. As soon as I had written that, I could wait to write more. The thrill of the success of that first piece and the thrill of the approval of people whose opinion I cared about were great and I wanted to replicate that. So I tried and I tried and I tried.

I was coming up with ideas left and right, but something wasn’t right. I would either stop midway through writing the piece, not because I felt it was bad, but just because I didn’t have the pure inspiration, the pure creative inspiration necessary to complete it, or I would finish it, read it over, and be disappointed and at times even angry that I thought, while writing it, that it would be good. Of course no one knew any of this was happening inside of me.

All of this was confusing me. I had written something great, but I hadn’t written anything great since. Then I thought, what if those two things are related? What if one is causing this other? Maybe my success (or at least in relative terms) was causing my writers block. And out of those wonderings came The Pursuit. The Pursuit was formed by fusing those wonderings and those questions with a plot idea I had come up with in the past, a plot idea about the value of music and art and creativity, as compared to the value of money. Those confused wonderings and questions added a new depth to this once somewhat clich├ęd plot, and allowed me to create something that, in reading it back after its completion, I can call a masterpiece.

In the creation of this self proclaimed masterpiece, my love of writing grew even further. The Pursuit has taken my dream of becoming an author for a living and transformed it into a full on pursuit, and, in some ways, a reality. Indirectly through The Pursuit, I have come up with plenty of other ideas for things to write in the future, one of which is a short story that has already been written, and hopefully some day in the near future will be published in a book of my short fiction, along with Speak, the story that got everything started.




About the book:

All Adam Shepard wants is to get fame as a musician and the girl who lives down the hall. Or at least that's what he thinks. The story begins with Adam, the son of an insurance salesman and a woman whose only job is being a "mom," from a small town in Washington, recounting the story of his childhood, how he felt outcast and how he felt alive when he first picked up a guitar. 

Adam goes through a life changing and belief changing journey to claim his dreams. This journey starts with playing guitar in his bedroom with the door closed as a kid, distancing himself from his parents and their average lives, and takes him to the streets of Seattle as a street performer, while he was a student at the University of Washington, to the streets of San Francisco and Spokane, working crappy jobs to get by after flunking out of school, and eventually takes him to parts of the world he never imagined he would see, and teaches him things and challenges him in ways he could not possibly have imagined as a fourteen year old picking up a guitar.

In a side story, which is strongly related to Adam's quest for fame, is his quest for love, and the pursuit of the beautiful girl down the hall, Jill. With strong imagery, Adam's pursuit of Jill provides another strong example of the ups and downs of both life and our life's pursuits and ambitions and adds to the overall theme of the story.

The Pursuit can be purchased here for only $9.95



About Steven:

Steven Lourie is a young, aspiring, and passionate author looking to get established in the world of fiction, starting with self publishing. A student at Northeastern University, Steven is majoring in journalism and business, and may eventually end up in the field of marketing or as an entrepreneur. However, writing has always been his passion since he was 6 years old and started writing little stories for his family. Since then, his writing style has evolved and all through high school, his writing teachers gave him high praise and let him believe that he could make a living doing this. 

Writing for a living is his dream and he hopes his passion will someday allow him to achieve that. He has written several other short stories and poems, both for classes and in his free time, but "The Pursuit" is his first full length novel and he certainly hopes not his last (he has several ideas for other novels in the future). Several of his shorter works have been published in other places, including school literary publications, local literary publications, even national youth literary publications, as well as the internet. 

Steven also enjoys sports and to write about football and would also someday love to be a paid sports writer on the internet or have his own paying in print sports column in a major newspaper. For a lighter side of Steven’s writing, check out his football site.




Friday, May 28, 2010

Winner: 300 Follower ARC Giveaway!



And the winner is #47 Kelsey!

Thank you to everyone who entered and to all my followers!



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pre-Review: CSN Stores



You may remember that I reviewed a bookcase for CSN Stores back in August.  They offered me another great opportunity to review one of their awesome products!  Since they offer virtually everything (from bookcases and office furniture to cribs and bedroom furniture to cookware!) in their 200+ stores I'm still pondering my options.

I do need a new rug for my reading area (to put next to my lovely bookcase!) so I'm considering the Pinwheel Nursery Rug with its pretty blues and it's the perfect size for the area. 


I do have a cookware obsession as well so I swung by their cookware website and took a look around.  I've been meaning to start making dairy free yogurt for a while now so when I discovered they sold the Tribest Yolife Yogurt Maker I was thrilled!


Ah, the choices!  I'm going to spending quite a few hours fantasizing and choosing my item!  As soon as I make a decision and it arrives I'll be posting back about my experience!



Monday, May 24, 2010

Giveaway: The Knight Life by Keith Knight

The Knight Life is a hilariously twisted view of life through the eyes and pen of its creator, community-oriented urban hipster and award-winning cartoonist Keith Knight. The Knight Life deftly blends political insight and neurotic humor in a uniquely fluid and dynamic style, offering a comic strip that's fresh, sharp, topical and funny. Designed for daily newspapers, The Knight Life follows Knight's long-running, 2007 Harvey Award-winning weekly comic strip "The K Chronicles," which appears on salon.com.

An unabashedly provocative political and social satire, The Knight Life tackles contemporary issues like consumer culture, bacon, the media, race, family and everything else, gently mocking the minutiae of daily life with self-deprecating humor, honesty and goofiness-a combination that's perfect for the comics. And The Knight Life's energetic style reminds readers that comics can look funny as well as read funny. The result is accessible yet edgy, compassionate and political-and never preachy. Cartoonist and comic historian R.C. Harvey said, "The Knight Life is undeniably the best new laugh- and thought-provoker on the comics page. Not since Calvin and Hobbes has there been so novel an entertainment in the funnies."

Visit KnightLifeComic.com
Check out Keith's blog on KChronicles.com
"Like" The Knight Life on Facebook
Follow @KeefKnight on Twitter



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

Contest ends 11:59 PM EST June 12, 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)

Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.



Sunday, May 23, 2010

Giveaway: Alibi by Terri Woods

Two men think they've found the perfect opportunity--a chance to rob the stash house of Simon Shuller, one of Philadelphia's biggest drug lords. But their plans are spoiled when one of Shuller's men catches them as they break into the stash house. Temperatures flare as the men capture Shuller's worker, Poncho, and force him to show them the goods. What they didn't expect was for Poncho's partner to be armed and very dangerous. An altercation breaks out and when the smoke clears, Nard, Poncho's accomplice, is the only one left standing. Thinking quickly, Nard cleans shop and makes his escape, but not before being spotted by a few neighbors. Not wanting to kill anyone else, he makes a mad dash for the streets but wonders if the witnesses will give up his identity. What he needs now is a plausible alibi. If he doesn't come up with one fast, it could mean life in prison, or death on the streets.



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

Contest ends 11:59 PM EST June 12, 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)

Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giveaway: The Secrets of Newberry by Victor McGothin

For Ivory Bones Arcineaux and Julian Bynote, life in 1950s New Orleans couldn't be sweeter. Friends since they met in an illegal gambling house in Newberry, Louisiana, they have their pick of all the fine women, good food, and hot nights they can handle. They seem to have it made-especially Julian who begins to make a new life for himself after meeting the beautiful, classy Magnolia Garbo at a social. But both men are about to find out that letting the good times roll can be deadly when a simple robbery goes wrong and Julian witnesses Bones murdering a man in cold blood. The victim was a white city councilman with all the right connections-and if the two are discovered, it will mean the end to everything they've built together. With the New Orleans police hot on their trail, Julian must decide whether rolling in the fast lane is worth losing his freedom and his life.



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

Contest ends 11:59 PM EST June 12, 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)

Post one comment for each entry.
Each comment must include your e-mail address.



Meme: If...

I cam across this super fun meme over at Wordsmithonia and just had to try it for myself. Darned if it didn't take longer than I'd thought to come up with answers!

If you do the meme on your blog, leave a link here so I can come check it out!

If I was...
a month I'd be September
a day of the week I'd be Saturday
a time of the day I'd be just before dawn

If I was...
a sea animal I'd be a starfish
a direction I'd be East
a piece of furniture I'd be a club chair
a liquid I'd be mulled cider

If I was...
a gemstone I'd be cubic zirconium
a tree I'd be a Willow
a tool I'd be a Swiss Army knife
a kind of weather I'd be a rain storm

If I was...
a musical instrument I'd be a piano
a color I'd be Hello Kitty pink
an emotion I'd be bewilderment
a fruit I'd be a kiwi

If I was...
a food I'd be croissant
a material I'd be cotton t-shirt
a scent I'd be cinnamon
a flavor I'd be hot apple pie (not in the American Pie sense!)

If I was...
a sound I'd be a keening wail
an element I'd be fire
a mammal I'd be a wildcat
a phase of the moon I'd be new

If I was...
a berry I'd be a blackberry
a bird I'd be a sparrow
a book I'd be Wind in the Willows
a place I'd be Maine shore beach



FYI: Barnes & Noble Free eBooks

I was just surfing the Barnes & Noble website and came across this great promotion they're running in store. Each week for five weeks, they're giving away a free eBook when you come in to the store and show them your eReader with the Barnes & Noble eReader app on it! How cool is that? My iPad and I will definitely be swinging over to my local Barnes & Noble weekly!

Until May 23rd the eBook is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.


Just click either image for the details (I've also pasted them below).



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Giveaway Update: 300 Follower ARC Giveaway

Although I still have yet to reach 300 followers, I will be ending my 300 Follower ARC Giveaway on May 31st and will choose a winner on June 1st.


Get your final entries in now!

Thank you to all my followers!



Review: God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, described in the London Observer as "one of the most prolific, as well as brilliant, journalists of our time "takes on his biggest subject yet--the increasingly dangerous role of religion in the world.

With his unique brand of erudition and wit, Hitchens describes the ways in which religion is man-made. "God did not make us," he says. "We made God." He explains the ways in which religion is immoral: We damage our children by indoctrinating them. It is a cause of sexual repression, violence, and ignorance. It is a distortion of our origins and the cosmos. In the place of religion, Hitchens offers the promise of a new enlightenment through science and reason, a realm in which hope and wonder can be found through a strand of DNA or a gaze through the Hubble Telescope. As Hitchens sees it, you needn't get the blues once you discover the heavens are empty.


From my personal collection.

I was hesitant to review this personal reading choice out of concern for how it might be received and the backlash involved, then I decided that it is my blog and I can review whatever I damn well please!

I'd actually listened to this in 2007 as an audiobook, but the format didn't do the material the justice it deserved. It really must be read slowly and fully digested to be entirely appreciated.

This one gets four stars. I was quite impressed by the author's thoroughness and dedication to his task. His arguments and systematic dismantling of propaganda were genuinely enlightening. This really intelligently discussed the issues at hand and leaves you a better person for the knowledge. If you enjoyed Religulous you'll find this an interesting complement and expansion on the themes discussed in the movie.

★★★★ = Really Liked It




Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

In The Kind Diet, actress, activist, and committed conservationist Alicia Silverstone shares the insights that encouraged her to swear off meat and dairy forever, and outlines the spectacular benefits of adopting a plant-based diet, from effortless weight loss to clear skin, off-the-chart energy, and smooth digestion. She explains how meat, fish, milk, and cheese—the very foods we’ve been taught to regard as the cornerstone of good nutrition—are actually the culprits behind escalating rates of disease and the cause of dire, potentially permanent damage to our ecology.

Yet going meat- and dairy-free doesn’t mean suffering deprivation; to the contrary, The Kind Diet introduces irresistibly delicious food that satisfies on every level—it even includes amazing desserts to keep the most stubborn sweet tooth happy. Alicia also addresses the nutritional concerns faced by many who are new to a plant-based diet, and shows how to cover every nutritional base, from protein to calcium and beyond.

Alicia knows that changing life-long dietary habits is a process, and that each person progresses at a different pace. For that reason, The Kind Diet encompasses 3 separate levels, from Flirting to Superhero. Flirts learn to dip a toe into the vegan pool, reducing their meat-eating and swapping out a few key foods for plant-based substitutes to see quickly how even small changes can reap big results. Vegans get to experience the life-altering effects of forgoing animal-products entirely, while still enjoying many convenience foods and meat substitutes in addition to the wonderful grains, vegetables and fruits that form the core of that diet. True enlightenment comes with the Superhero program, based on the principles of macrobiotics and built on a foundation of whole grains, vegetables, and other yummy foods that Alicia describes in detail.

Whether your goal is to drop a few pounds, boost your energy and metabolism, or simply save the world, Alicia provides the encouragement, the information, and the tools you need to make the transition to a plant-based diet deliciously empowering.


From the library.

While I'm a huge fan of Michael Pollan's common sense attitude to food I still love to read about other viewpoints. After I saw Oprah's show with both Michael Pollan and Alicia Silverstone I simply had to (literally) check out Alicia's book.

This had a great layout and was packed with tons of fascinating information. The author's enthusiasm really shines through and you genuinely feel her desire to share her story. The entire book is suffused with her sunny personality, friendliness, and joie de vivre.

This one gets four stars. I found it genuinely enlightening without being at all preachy. Anyone flirting with a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle should find his a valuable resource designed for real life.

★★★★ = Really Liked It




Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand

Carey, Beth, and Pam had succeeded at work but failed at romance, and each resolved to have a baby before time ran out. Just one problem: no men. Carey took the first bold step towards single motherhood, searching anonymous donor banks until she found the perfect match.

What she found was not a father in a vial, but a sort of magic potion. She met a man, fell in love, and got pregnant the old-fashioned way. She passed the vials to Beth, and it happened again. Beth met man, Beth got pregnant. Beth passed the vials to Pam, and the magic struck again. There were setbacks and disappointments, but three women became three families, reveling in the shared joy of love, friendship, and never losing hope.



Received from the publisher for review.

I really didn't like the idea that all three women considered their lives incomplete, or somehow "less than", without a husband. It was also grating that they felt the need to become pregnant to complete themselves. The fact that these women were all presumably sane, successful, otherwise competent women made it even more intolerable.

I felt absolutely no connection to the authors. They actually left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Their stories were interesting, but grated on me beyond belief since they were true stories and not just fiction.

This one gets two stars. It is for every Charlotte (from Sex and the City) out there who "needs" a husband and children to feel complete. For everyone else, especially any educated woman, give it a pass.

☆☆= Just Okay




Review: My Sister's Voice by Mary Carter

Every love leaves an echo...

What do you do when you discover your whole life was a lie? In Mary Carter's unforgettable new novel, one woman is about to find out...


At twenty-eight, Lacey Gears is exactly where she wants to be. An up-and-coming, proudly Deaf artist in Philadelphia, she's in a relationship with a wonderful man and rarely thinks about her difficult childhood in a home for disabled orphans. That is, until Lacey receives a letter that begins, "You have a sister. A twin to be exact..."


Learning that her identical, hearing twin, Monica, experienced the normal childhood she was denied resurrects all of Lacey's grief, and she angrily sets out to find Monica and her biological parents. But the truth about Monica's life, their brief shared past, and the reason for the twins' separation is far from simple. And for every one of Lacey's questions that's answered, others are raised, more baffling and profound.


Complex, moving, and beautifully told, My Sister's Voice is a novel about sisterhood, love of every shape, and the stories we cling to until real life comes crashing in...




Received from the publicist for review.

Thus one gets four stars. It had a fun premise that became a truly fascinating story as it unfolded. It was well written and told the story nicely from each sister's perspective. The introduction of a deaf character was intriguing and a nice departure from the norm. This is certainly recommended for Chick Lit lovers who will be reaching for their hankies. Think Beaches worthy sniffling.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Guest Post: Mary Carter author of My Sister's Voice

Mary Carter, author of the book My Sister's Voice, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.



My Sister’s Voice is my fourth novel with Kensington. The characters grabbed me right away, led me sometimes gently, sometimes bumping-me-into-furniture, into their lives, revealing their secrets, their dreams, and their desires to me as I brought them to life on the page. The book is about sisters, identical twins who are raised apart and only learn of each other’s existence when they are twenty-eight-years-old. One is hearing and the other is Deaf. Unlike many books or movies that portray deafness as a defect, or a handicapped to be pitied or fixed, Lacey is proud to be a Deaf woman, she doesn’t view herself as handicapped, and she doesn’t want to be “fixed”. I’ve worked the past twelve years as a sign language interpreter, so I didn’t need to spend a lot of time researching Deaf Culture, I was in familiar territory. But I didn’t want Lacey to be a stock character of any type, which is why I had to let her show me who she was, apart from her deafness, her talents, her past. Characters are unique, like us, like spools of thread.

I’ve never worked with needlepoint. But I can see the similarities to writing. Attention to details. Concentration. Working section by section. I would assume as you get into it, you ease into a meditative state that relaxes you. Then, as your work progresses and you can see the tiny details start to form a larger image, you are filled with a sense of excitement and satisfaction that drives you to the next project. I am currently working on my fifth novel for Kensington. Each book feels like starting over. Of course you learn things along the way. How to lay out a pattern, or in my case an outline, what spools of thread will you weave this time, the varieties of colors you have at your disposal, the tiny tricks of the trade you need to have on the ready. It’s the same thing whether it’s thimbles or a thesaurus. Passions are what life is all about. Anything worth doing has its own set of challenges. The thread will come out of the needle, you will prick your fingers over and over again, you might even drop your needle into a haystack and waste all day looking for it. Maybe you haven’t even finished your apple in a bowl yet, whereas your neighbor has just completed a life-size needlepoint of the Sistine Chapel. Don’t despair. The key to improving is to pour everything you have into your apple, and measure your progress without comparing yourself to anyone else. At the same time, go ahead and marvel over your neighbor’s creation, rejoice in someone else’s success, and learn something from their technique that will help you with your next project. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of a book it’s hard to remember the original vision, I might be off track, I might need to pull back and see the whole picture. I used to never finish my pieces of writing. They sat abandoned in drawers. I was afraid to keep going, I was afraid of failure, I would lose sight of what the final picture was supposed to look like. There are so many excuses not to get something done. Time. Kids. Work. Bills. Errands. Blogs. The key to success lies in the step-by-step work, the nitty-gritty, the day-by-day details. Fall in love with your picture, your project, work section by section, work a little every day. Keep the final picture in mind. In the end you’ll have something to be proud of, something worth looking at, and something you can finally take out of the drawer and hold up to the light.



About the book:

Every love leaves an echo...

What do you do when you discover your whole life was a lie? In Mary Carter's unforgettable new novel, one woman is about to find out...

At twenty-eight, Lacey Gears is exactly where she wants to be. An up-and-coming, proudly Deaf artist in Philadelphia, she's in a relationship with a wonderful man and rarely thinks about her difficult childhood in a home for disabled orphans. That is, until Lacey receives a letter that begins, "You have a sister. A twin to be exact..."

Learning that her identical, hearing twin, Monica, experienced the normal childhood she was denied resurrects all of Lacey's grief, and she angrily sets out to find Monica and her biological parents. But the truth about Monica's life, their brief shared past, and the reason for the twins' separation is far from simple. And for every one of Lacey's questions that's answered, others are raised, more baffling and profound.

Complex, moving, and beautifully told, My Sister's Voice is a novel about sisterhood, love of every shape, and the stories we cling to until real life comes crashing in...



About Mary:

MARY CARTER is a freelance writer and novelist.  My Sister’s Voice is her fourth novel with Kensington. Her other works include:  She’ll Take It, Accidentally Engaged, Sunnyside Blues, and The Honeymoon House in the best selling anthology Almost Home. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology. She has just completed A Very Maui Christmas, a new novella for Kensington that will be included in a Christmas of 2010 anthology. She is currently working on a new novel, The Pub Across the Pond, about an American woman who swears off all Irish men only to learn she’s won a pub in Ireland. Readers are welcome to visit her at marycarterbooks.com.
 



Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: Stealing Lumby by Gail Fraser

Just a dot on the map of the northwest, Lumby looms big in the hearts of its residents. The townsfolk consider each other family as well as friends. And though the annual cow race can bring out the competitiveness in people, when times get tough, there is no better person to turn to than your nearest neighbor.

Lumby is thrown into the spotlight when one of the most important paintings of the twentieth century, The Barns of Lumby, is stolen. Town matriarch Charlotte Ross has a very personal connection to the painting-and to the artist, Dana Porter. And as a media frenzy descends on the little town, one of the actual barns disappears overnight from the rural landscape-and pieces of it begin showing up in the strangest places.



Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets three stars. Although it is part of a series, this charming addition works equally wells a stand alone book. The characters were fun, and the text had a nice flow and friendly feel. I enjoyed the reappearance of the clips from the town paper, The Lumby Lines. The yummy sounding recipes at the end of the book were also a nice find. This is a cute, lighter read, perfect for summer reading.

★★☆☆ = Liked It




Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

Scott Turow's #1 runaway bestseller comes to theaters everywhere as a major motion picture from Warner Bros., starring Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, and Bonnie Bedelia, directed by Alan Pakula, best known for his award-winning work in "Klute".

Scott Turow's novel of betrayal, murder and corruption tells the story of a man who puts everything he loves on trial--including his own life.



Received from the publisher for review.

I'd read is ages ago, but it was a great re-read since I didn't remember most of the details of the plots twists and turns. It still left me with a "damn that was freaking awesome" feeling, even the second time around.

This one gets five stars. The story is awesome, the writing fantastic, and the characters extremely well rounded. Anyone who enjoys legal suspense will love, love, love this book. You simply cannot go wrong with it!

★★★★★ = Loved It




Saturday, May 15, 2010

Guest Post: Lisa Quinn author of Life is Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide To Domestic Liberation

Lisa Quinn, author of the book Life is Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide To Domestic Liberation, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.


What else is life too short for?

1) Life is Too Short to Plant an organic garden of heirloom vegetables and flowers in the form of P for perfect.

Here's the brutal truth, Ladies, you can't have it all. Why would you even want it all? Consider the alternative for a moment. Consider a life without all this pressure, imagine having happiness, order, peace, and success in your life without all the drama.  It begins by stepping away from perfectionism.

2) Life is Too Short to Judge Yourself by Other Mom's Opinions of You.

I met a busy mom of three the other day who in the midst of our conversation admitted that she sometimes skips out on playdates because she feels her clothes and the clothes of her kids don't measure up. I had a similar story to share. I bought a fake Chanel bag once, for certain occasions. I was always terrified that someone with a real Chanel bag was going to out me. It wasn't enough that I was outgoing and personable: I apparently needed a $2500 purse, too.

It's not just fashion, it's everything. You've got to love the little zingers you get from the other moms who just want to help. "Oh...so you send Gillian to preschool...Well, I'm sure that makes it so much easier for you" or "Wow, you let him eat that?" or "Bless your heart, you're working so hard. It's no wonder you can't keep the house up." My favorite is, "You Look So Tired." How do you even respond to that? Should you apologize?  

BTW, I still have that fake purse.  It sits on a shelf in my closet stuffed with plastic bags to help keep its shape. I hang on to it to remind myself what a knucklehead I can be.

3) Life is Too Short to Say Yes.

Are you a yes-woman? Do you consent without even processing the request? Do you agree to volunteer (again) then instantly dread the whole process? Do you feel guilty when you say no?
Thinking you are a bad person for saying no is a symptom of the 'disease to please.'  I say take care of the ones you love and shamelessly deny the rest.  It may be difficult at first, but after a while, you'll see the payoff: more time and less dread.  Just say no. And when you do say no, keep your answer short. Lengthy justifications just make it seem like you are lying. A drawn-out response might also give you time to start feeling guilty and say yes--especially if you are lying.

4) Life is too Short to Multi-Task.

Technology has ruined everything. There's no place to hide anymore. Everyone knows you have email, instant messaging, social networks, and Bluetooth, and they all expect instant replies at any hour. In an effort to keep up, we end up multitasking all the time. It's absurd how much we try to cram into a day.
There have been numerous studies on how multitasking really just means you're doing a crappy job in a bunch of different areas. They say the brain has trouble giving 100 percent to more than one task at a time. I'm no doctor but I can tell you from my own personal experience that trying to juggle too much all the time will make you bat-shit crazy. Just ask my family. 

Its my belief that a lot of this overactivity is simply an addiction to drama. I hear so many people complain endlessly about how busy they are. They bitch and moan about it so much that I'm certain they're secretly proud of it. All that hustling around can give a person a false sense of importance. Could it be that you are only busy for busy-ness sake? If so, maybe it's time to check in with yourself. Are there activities you could erase from your schedule that would relieve some of the stress? Can you be okay with the fact that you don't have to be occupied all the time? Really?




About the book:


In the tradition of Erma Bombeck and Peg Bracken, author Lisa Quinn Emmy Award-winning television host and recovering Marthaholic gets real on the follies of housekeeping. Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets is a crash course in Slacker Chic 101 that will have over-extended women everywhere laughing out loud and throwing in the towel the dishtowel, that is. Full of shortcuts and tricks for cleaning, decor, and entertaining, such as: the top 10 things you have to clean if you have company coming in 30 minutes; interior finishes that hide the most dirt; 17 meals made from a deli chicken; and much more, this wickedly funny guide helps women create the life they want without all the hard labor and without compromising style.



About Lisa:


Lisa Quinn is an Emmy award-winning TV host, set dresser, author, and busy mom of Scarlett Elizabeth and Silas Cash. She is a contributor to Better Homes and Gardens, Redbook, Life, and PARADE magazines; has appeared on Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, HGTV, and Oprah; designed sets for the National Geographic Society and the Discovery Channel; and starred in her own one-hour special for the Fine Living Network.

She can be seen in the Bay Area on ABC-7's The View from the Bay. Home with Lisa Quinn is nationally syndicated on the Live Well HD Network.

Look for her latest book, Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets on Amazon.com.

Lisa lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.




Review: Happiness at Work by Srikumar S. Rao, Ph.D.

In these tough times, there are few people who are completely happy with the current conditions. From business executives to the everyday Joe or Jane, everyone seems to be going through a rough economic and personal crunch. But acclaimed business school Professor Srikumar Rao says that we can learn to create joy no matter what else may be going on around us.

Rao shows you that it isn't the negative thing that happens to you that causes your unhappiness, it's how you see it. Happiness at Work is a thought-provoking new title that moves the mind away from negativity and forces you to resist labeling situations as "bad", but rather seeing them as neutral.


The Happiness Choice provides:


* Surprising ways of looking at change and problem-solving


* Exercises that shift one’s perspective


Learn the vital wisdom necessary to achieving a joyful, successful life as you define it through greater resilience and a strong inner core. Get it now with The Happiness Choice.



Received from the publicist for review.

"Happiness at work" sounds like an oxymoron to many, but according to the book it can be done. Try not to faint from the shock!

This one gets four stars. It had a great flow with a friendly style which made it very readable. The chapters were a nice, short length which made them easy to consume. This was a great guide filled with all sorts of wisdom and thought provoking discussions. This would make a great gift for anyone suffering at a job they hate (and who has ever had the feeling that they are working inside a Dilbert comic), or for the new graduate just entering the workforce to help head off any issues before they start

★★★★ = Really Liked It




Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training by Tom Jokinen

At forty-four Tom Jokinen began to seriously question the secular funeral rites that are taking over the industry: is this really the way we want to say our final goodbyes? The question had such a hard grip on his Finnish soul that he decided to quit his job in order to become an apprentice undertaker. Curtains is about what he found, from the mundane to the macabre. Among the things he learned: in cremation, the heart and head are the last parts to burn; purple lipstick looks best on a dead man; funeral directors have been known to dance during the service - out of sight of funeral goers, of course, and with the utmost respect for the dead. For anyone who's secretly wondered why they paid $2000 for a 5-lb bag of dust - or questioned whether that dust was really the person they loved - Curtains lifts the veil on the funeral industry in the 21st century.


Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets four stars. It was a genuinely fascinating look into rarely seen world. It was very well written and infinitely readable with a great style and flow to the narrative. Certainly it was necessarily graphic at points, but it was not done to shock, but rather to illustrate and educate. This thought provoking book is definitely recommended for those with stronger stomachs.

★★★★ = Really Liked It




Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: The Gnawing Thoughts by Hida Jessie Piersma

In this eye-opening and moving memoir, Hida Jessie Piersma provides a rare, first-person glimpse of growing up in Uganda during the regime of Idi Amin-and the incredible fortitude that gave her a fighting chance at a better life, in Europe and America.

Born in 1964 in Awach Division of Northern Uganda's Gulu District-the African bush-Hida learns early the value of hard work and a good education. But the direction of her country threatens to ruin everything that she's worked for as the rise of Amin and wars that follow take the lives of those around her. Hunger, a lack of medicine, ethnic hatred and daily indignities are the norm. Yet Hida's story is not just one of the horrible deprivation and injustice that overtook Uganda. With help from her brother, Hida immigrates to Europe in the early 1990s, where she endeavors to improve her and her child's lives. It's a journey that ends up taking her to America, where the cultural adjustment continues as she enters school to become a nurse. Through it all, Hida is constantly focused on education and the future-and remembering and honoring the people, places and events that shaped her back in Africa.


Frank, poignant and in the end hopeful, The Gnawing Thoughts is one woman's incredible story of inspiration and faith. And it's a reminder to all of us about the unstoppable power of the human spirit.



Received from the publisher for review.

This was an interesting, yet profoundly disturbing account of life in Uganda. The situation is simply inhumane. Apparently their ignorance (burning people with chicken pox alive, and breeding like rabbits because they refuse to use birth control) is even more horrendous than you see on CNN. I was simply disgusted by the abuses discussed.

This one gets two stars. Obviously English was not the author's first language which made for rather stilted reading. It was certainly not bad, but the flow was odd and I did not resonate with the author. I just couldn't understand her motives. The discussions of life in Uganda were educational, if horrifying, as I said before.

☆☆= Just Okay




Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Winners: Green Like God

The winners are:

  1. Kelsey
  2. Karen in TN
  3. Dawn M.
Because I'm super late on choosing the winners, I've e-mailed the winners for their addresses.

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Winners: Iron Man 2

The winners are:

  1. afineday
  2. roswell
  3. Dawn M.
Because I'm super late on choosing the winners, I've e-mailed the winners for their addresses.

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Winners: Eat the Cookie ... Buy the Shoes

The winners are:

  1. Christine H
  2. Kelsey
  3. The Canuck-American
Because I'm super late on choosing the winners, I've e-mailed the winners for their addresses.

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Winners: Sexaholics

The winners are:

  1. Bodice Ripper Novels
  2. Simply Stacie
  3. Kelsey
  4. nel
  5. CinciMom11
Because I'm super late on choosing the winners, I've e-mailed the winners for their addresses.

Congratulations and I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Thank you to all who entered!



Review: Ribbon Falls by Brad Anderson

THEY'VE WAITED DECADES TO GO AFTER BURIED TREASURE. NOW, IT MIGHT BURY THEM.

On a boat in the Gulf of Mexico in 1977, Jeff, Chuck and David happened across the scene of a grisly murder and nearly get killed for their discovery. Yet in a remarkable twist of fate, the men outsmart their assassin and learn of hidden riches beyond their imagination. Still, one man stood in the way of their cashing in, and for decades, what happened in this chance encounter remained a secret as the men bided their time, waiting for Pablo Padilla to die. Finally, an obituary in The New York Times means the men can claim what has remained buried for twenty-six years. But doing so will be harder than they imagined when an interloper gets wind of the cache. Now, it's a race against time to put the pieces together and determine where the riches are stashed. In the process, these very different men will confront the question of how far they'll go for money even if it means killing for it. Ribbon Falls reveals profound insights into the human condition, our darkest urges and basest needs. Part buried-treasure mystery, part psychological thriller, it will keep you guessing right up to the thrilling finale.


Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars. It was extremely well written and very readable with a nice pace. I can't say that I particularly liked the characters as people, but they were well done. It was a really nice adventure story with an interesting premise that was carried out very well. This is definitely highly recommended for adventure and suspense fans. I'm looking forward to future books by the author.


★★☆☆ = Liked It




Saturday, May 1, 2010

Review: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Is Discworld ready for educated rats?

Set in the Discworld, a brand new and marvellously eccentric fantasy tale for young readers.

Maurice, an amazing cat, who has survived four years on the toughest streets in the whole of the Discworld, reckons that rats are dumb. Clever, OK, but dumb. Maurice, however, is smart — smart enough to recognize that there’s a new kind of rat around; rats that have been eating wizards’ rubbish and can now talk. And Maurice is also smart enough to get a pretty amazing idea when he spots a kid playing the flute. Now he has his very own Pied Piper to go with his “plague of rats”. And Maurice’s money-bags are getting fuller and fuller. That is, until the group reaches the far flung village of Bad Blintz.


From the library.

This was my first experience with the author. The book was actually recommended by a friend who immediately insisted that I read it as part of my 2010 Cat Book Challenge. She was so enthusiastic about it that I decided to give it a go even though it was totally different from what I'd usually read. And heck, it's a challenge, so it's meant to expand your reading horizons!

My favorite quote from the book was:

A good motto in life, he'd reckoned, was: Don't eat anything that glows.

I especially loved the quotes from Mr. Bunnsy Has an Adventure at the beginning of each chapter.

This one gets three stars. Alternately sad and sweet, it was a nice story with important messages, and was extremely well done. I'm so glad I read it for the challenge, otherwise I never would have been exposed to it and discovered another great new to me author to investigate other works from. Pratchett fans will certainly enjoy this, but general fiction fans with an animal friendly bent will enjoy it as well.