Monday, October 24, 2016

Nourishing Meals Delivers

This book is a godsend to folks who have dietary concerns which affect their health. Many people are looking for options which include dairy-free, gluten-free or soy-free dishes to provide optimal nutrition for their families.

This book is FULL of helpful tips, background information, and research. The best part is that it doesn't simply offer readers a small handful of recipes. We are talking about 484 pages filled with 365 easy-to-follow, delicious recipes you can start using on day one! And good news . . . you can find most of the ingredients at your local grocery store without having to find any specialty shops or mail-order sources. (Although on the off-chance you live on a secluded island accessible only by sea plane, online shopping sources are also included among the inclusive appendix at the back of the book.)

My thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review. From the Publisher . . .

It can be daunting to live a whole foods lifestyle in today’s busy world—even more so to prepare plant-rich, allergen-free meals that’ll get the whole family around the table. Popular blogger Ali Segersten and functional medicine expert Tom Malttere are a team devoted to teaching their children—and readers—the importance of living a whole foods lifestyle. Nourishing Meals makes it easy and fun with dishes that burst with flavor, such as their Cherry Pecan Salad, Butternut Squash and Pinto Bean Enchiladas, Chipotle-Lime Roasted Chicken, and Banana Coconut Cream Pie.

Every recipe in the book is free of the most common allergens: gluten, soy, eggs, and dairy, as well as refined sugar. And these dishes are designed to appeal to everyone, including vegan, vegetarian, seafood, and meat-eaters. In addition to wonderful food, Ali and Tom offer easy, doable steps to help you change your family’s health, tips for making the transition easier, and ways to get the kids excited about wholesome foods. They map out the best foods and recipes for every stage of having a family, from pre-conception and pregnancy through each year of a child’s life. And they explain in accessible terms what makes their recipes so effective for achieving optimal health. Originally self-published with an avid following, this edition will feature more than 30 new recipes, and many of the original recipes have been updated. This new edition will also include 100 beautiful all-new food photos featured in two inserts.

With an easy, tasty recipe for every day of the year, it’s never been simpler to adopt a healthy, whole foods lifestyle!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Natural Color Is Amazing

As someone who loves working with fiber via spinning and knitting, I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of Sasha Duerr's Natural Color. What an invaluable resource for anyone who loves natural products, color, and care of the environment!

Duerr provides readers with a great introduction to the world of natural dying. The book is structured around the seasons, which makes sense since the plants used to make the dye come into their prime at different times throughout the growing season. I find it interesting also that natural dye colors will vary depending on the specific soil and climate so that different regions and areas will have different color pallets.

I learned several things from reading this book. I really had very little sense of just how many natural plant sources provide such an array of color! I did not realize that one could, in several cases, alter the color outcome of the dye pot by adding different ingredients into the pot. I found it amazing that there are several sources of natural color that don't need anything added to the dye pot to make them colorfast. Nature is amazing!

Along with the various plants to gather seasonally, Duerr offers readers preparation instructions for getting your fabrics and fibers ready to be dyed. In each seasonal section of the book, there are a handful of "recipes"--hands on projects with instructions for dying anything from place mats and napkins to curtains, shirts and even a hat! Duerr provides tips within the recipes and in the introduction to each section's natural dye materials as to which will work the best for dying plant based fibers (cotton, linen, etc.) versus animal fibers (wool, alpaca, silk, etc.).

As someone who plans to keep this book and reference it often for upcoming fun with natural dying of yarns for truly unique projects, the one thing I recognize I am going to need by way of additional reading material to make the best use of Natural Color, is a field guide to plants in my area. Duerr's book does not offer a lot of help in identifying the specific plants by sight if you want to go out and gather some materials. It is important to have said guide so that you can avoid any "look alike" plants which may be poisonous. (For instance, where I live there is a plant which resembles Queen Anne's Lace which can leave blisters where it comes into contact with skin.)

If you are interested in natural dying and the colors produced by nature's pallet, you will definitely want to get a copy of Natural Color. My thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

A beautiful book of seasonal projects for using the brilliant spectrum of colors derived from plants to naturally dye your clothing and home textiles.

Organized by season, Natural Color is a beautifully photographed guide to the full range of plant dyes available, drawn from commonly found fruits, flowers, trees, and herbs, with accompanying projects. Using sustainable methods and artisanal techniques, designer, artist, and professor Sasha Duerr details achievable ways to apply these limitless color possibilties to your home and wardrobe. Whether you are new to dyeing or more practiced, Duerr’s clear and simple ingredients lists, step-by-step instructions, and detailed breakouts on techniques such as shibori, dip-dye, and block printing will ensure beautiful results. With recipes to dye everything from dresses and sweaters to rugs and napkins, Natural Color will inspire fashion enthusiasts, home decorators, textile lovers, and everyone else who wants to bring more color into their life.

About the Author . . .

SASHA DUERR is an artist, designer, and advocate for the slow fashion movement who works with organic dyes, alternative fibers, and the creative reuse of materials. She is a professor at the California College of the Arts with a joint appointment in textiles and fine arts. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums across the United States and abroad. In 2007 Duerr founded the Permacouture Institute with the Trust for Conservation Innovation to encourage the exploration of fashion and textiles from the ground up. Her extensive work with plant-based dyes and ecological principles through local land-based sources and community has been featured in the New York Times, American Craft Magazine, Selvedge, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper

I loved this charming, intimate story of life in the wake of the loss of a spouse and coming to terms with memories of your loved one versus new-found facts of the life lived before you. Wonderful!

You can find a bit more details about the plot of this delightful tome below in the "From the Publisher" section. I found it to be a fresh and surprising tale which was surprisingly easy to identify with. You live with an intimate partner for all of your adult life, but may never know fully who that person was before they met you. You may have inklings, snapshots, and traces...but not having been a part of that time/place, you will always have only the perspective of an outsider looking in.

The writing is so well done, I had complete visions of each character drawn in detail in my mind's eye. How I chuckled when Arthur was dodging his neighbor's knock on the door! And the sight of him stuffed into the back of the neighbor kid's car zooming along on a trip he's not sure he really wanted to be on! These genuinely funny moments are matched by more serious, contemplative, even poignant moments of reflection, grief, and personal growth which are all a part of Arthur's journey in the book. It is truly excellent!

From the Publisher . . .

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same grey slacks and mustard tank top, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the story behind each of the charms – and the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met. It’s a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

About the Author . . .

Phaedra qualified firstly as a stained glass artist before gaining her professional Marketing qualifications. She has worked as a waitress, stained glass designer, film festival organiser and communications manager.

She enjoyed her first real writing success when she entered and won several short story competitions, and she now writes full time.

Phaedra lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son, where she enjoys walking, eating chocolate, and arts and crafts. Her idea for The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper emerged as she showed her own childhood charm bracelet to her young son and told him the stories behind each of the charms.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Women In Science Is Awesome!

This book is awesome! For all those who are working to get girls into STEM, this is a valuable aid. Women In Science contains concise yet thorough introductions to 50 women who made a difference in a variety of scientific fields gathered together in one, fun and funky book.

Younger readers will be amazed at the rich and diverse history of women who have been at the forefront in various scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematics fields. Heck, this 50 year old reader was astounded to learn of some of these ladies! This will undoubtedly push these readers to dive in deeper either to specific types of science that will pique their curiosity or to learn more about the lives and times of these fascinating pioneers.

For older readers, this book is an invaluable reference tool which provides quick and concise overviews of the woman and her accomplishments....a perfect jumping off point sure to instigate further research.

Let me add that I love the layouts, the font, and really EVERYTHING about this book!! It should be a part of every elementary and middle school library and every teacher's classroom collection. If you have a daughter, granddaughter, niece or other girl in your life, please get her a copy of this book! If you are raising boys to celebrate the girls and women in their lives, get them a copy of this book!

My thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

A charmingly illustrated and educational book, Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!

About the Author . . .

Rachel Ignotofsky is an illustrator and author based in beautiful Kansas City, MO. She grew up in New Jersey on a healthy diet of cartoons and pudding. She graduated with honors from Tyler School of Art's graphic design program in 2011. Now Rachel works for herself and spends all day and night drawing, writing and learning as much as she can. Her work is inspired by history and science. She believes that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting. Rachel hopes to use her work to spread her message about education, gender equality and scientific literacy.

Rachel is always available to answer questions or comments. email her at:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Two-fer: Super Heroes & Strange Bedfellows

Wouldn'the it be great to have a super power? What would you pick? Superhuman strength? Invisibility? X-ray vision?

Now just imagine your whole family has super powers! And they fight crimes! And you somehow get the lamest super power EVER!

Kids will easily slip into the fantasy of the story and will, undoubtedly, identify with Peter in his dilemma of feeling awkward and inadequate. I think they will also soak up the positive message this book offers!

From the Publisher . . .

Everyone in Peter Powers' family has super awesome superpowers. His dad controls fire with his mind, and his mom can fly. His big brother makes copies of himself, and his little sister is super-strong. And his baby brother even turns invisible! But all Peter can do is--this is really embarrassing--make ice cubes with his fingertips.

When Captain Tornado comes to town and begins robbing banks, will Peter Powers and his totally lame abilities step up to save the day--or will he get cold feet? Join Peter Powers and his fantastic family for their first action-packed and fun-filled adventure to find out!

Peter Powers and His Not-So-Super Powers is the first in a new chapter book series of exciting stories about a young boy who has the worst superpower ever. Each story is full of humor, action, and fun, but the charm can be found in the heartfelt message about the power of family, friends, and having confidence.

About the Authors . . .

KENT CLARK is a superhero by day, and a writer by night. When he's not getting cats out of trees or saving the world from monstrous alien supervillains, he's reading a book. He also has a terrible weakness-he can't say no to tacos, comic books, or video games.

BRANDON T. SNIDER writes books about Transformers, Minions and even Batman! When he's not writing superhero stories, he's either on TV or eating as much cheese as possible in order to unlock cheese-related superpowers-which is not working.

DAVE BARDIN is an illustrator by day and, well, night too. When he's not drawing in his Stronghold of Seclusion he patrols the streets, protecting the innocent and vanquishing evil. Strangely, the source of his powers is also his one weakness-MASHED POTATOES!

This book was hard to put down!

Unfortunately, instances of child abductions make big news and most everyone is familiar with at least one case....and for many people and communities, the familiarity hits much too close to home. Too often the news stories end in tragedy (the discovery of a body) or leave everyone in heartbreaking limbo. But what happens when the child is found, whether in days, weeks, or years?

Mathieu takes readers on the journey of recovery from such trauma through the eyes of Ethan, who was kidnapped at age 11, four years ago,--and Caroline, who's brother Dylan, was taken several days ago by the same man. The questions, the experiences, the conversations, and the visceral reactions triggered by PTSD are heartbreakingly real and so well written!

Written for a YA audience, I believe the book appeals to a wider audience as I found it quite compelling!

From the Publisher . . .

A tragic kidnapping leads to an unlikely friendship in this novel about finding light in the midst of darkness from the author of The Truth About Alice.

When eleven-year-old Dylan Anderson is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of fifteen-year-old Ethan Jorgensen, who had gone on a bike ride four years earlier and had never been seen again. Dylan's older sister, Caroline, can't help but wonder what happened to her brother, who has nonverbal autism and is not adjusting well to life back home. There's only one person who knows the truth: Ethan. But Ethan isn't sure how he can help Caroline when he is fighting traumatic memories of his own captivity. Both Caroline and Ethan need a friend, however, and their best option just might be each other.

About the Author . . .

Hi! I’m young adult author Jennifer Mathieu (pronounced Muh-two, but if you speak French you can pronounce it better than that. Sadly, I don’t speak French.) I’m a writer and English teacher who lives in Texas with my family. A native of the East Coast and a former journalist, I enjoy writing contemporary young adult fiction that treats teenagers like real people. I love to eat and hate to cook.

My thanks to the publishers for the complimentary copies I received in exchange for honest reviews.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mixing Up Drinks & Danger

It seems appropriate that Quirk books publishes this novel with a plot like nothing else with which I am familiar with. Imagine: the real guardians of your neighborhood are the local bartenders who use their special talents of mixology to keep the supernatural beasts and demons at bay, thus protecting humanity and those particularly vulnerable folks who imbibe, make merry or drown their sorrows.

The idea was so novel, it drew me right in. Paul Krueger's book, Last Call At the Nightshade Lounge, has been deemed "a novel for new adults"--which is to say it is intended to bridge the gap between YA readers and "adult" readers. Think millennials I guess.

You can read the plot synopsis form the publisher below. As a work of paranormal fantasy, I enjoyed Kruger's lot as something new and fresh. The bar scene is not, and never really has been, a part of my life, so I had to rely on the pop culture images of neighborhood pubs and local watering holes one gathers from television and movies to imagine many of the settings in the book.

I tried to figure out how I would feel about the characters if I were the 20-something age of Bailey, Zane, and their fellow barkeeps. From the perspective of a 50 year old, they seem like the worst cliches attributed to their generation: at best, not ambitious, at worst, lazy; unsure of what to do with their education yet having some sense of entitlement; unable to leave behind their college or even high school days and meet the adult expectations of society (so looking a bit spoiled).

I really enjoyed the bartender notes and drink recipes interspersed throughout. It was fun information and added to the sense that different liquors provide different magical properties. The inclusion of this material added depth to the plot that this magical know-how could perhaps be the ancient knowledge of a secret fellowship passed down through the centuries.

My thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

In this sharp and funny urban fantasy novel, booze is magic, demons are real, and millennial Bailey Chen joins a band of monster-fighting Chicago bartenders instead of finding a “real” post-college job.

Bailey Chen is fresh out of college with all the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and an awkward relationship with Zane, the old friend she kinda-sorta hooked up with during high school.

But when Zane introduces Bailey to his monster-fighting bartender friends, her demons become a lot more literal. It turns out that evil creatures stalk the city streets after hours, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and rum lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will all these powers be enough for Bailey to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? And what will she do when the safety of a “real world” job beckons?

This sharp and funny urban fantasy is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and grown-up readers of Harry Potter. Includes 14 recipes from a book of ancient cocktail lore.

About the Author . . .

Paul Krueger is, down to the very bottom of his black little heart, a city rat. Raised in and around Chicago, he got his learning on in New York before scuttling off to Los Angeles, where he lives now.

His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies SWORD & LASER and NOIR RIOT. His debut novel, LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE, is due out in June of 2016 from Quirk Books. It’s about a secret society of bartenders who fight demons with alcohol-magic, and yes, it’s very much autobiographical.*

His non-writing hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, Pathfinder, and boring strangers with long, involved stories about his cat. He’s also a musician, singing lead for the Adventure Time-themed punk band Lemonbadd.

If found, Paul should be returned to Ms. Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, who is very patient with him.

*for a very loose/nonexistent value of “autobiographical”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tales From the Scaremaster

If your middle grade reader likes a mystery or books with a frightful edge, they are going to enjoy the latest from B. A. Frade (great pen name, no?). Werewolf Weekend introduces readers to Emma and Sam, twelve year old besties. Sam is about to have the best weekend ever with her parents away and her 16 year old cousin, Cassie, in charge. Emma, on the other hand, is about to have the worst weekend ever, staying with her elderly neighbor while her mom is away for work.

When a mysterious librarian gives Emma a new journal, however, things magically fall into place for a weekend like none other!

Werewolf Weekend is a quick read. Middle grade readers will likely find the characters easy to relate to. The plot moves right along, keeping interest levels high. I felt there was good resolution to the various story lines too. The epilogue was, I assume, standard protocol for the series and a great teaser. I will be happy to recommend this book to the younger readers I know!

My thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

Twelve-year-old Emma is excited to spend a weekend away at best friend Samantha's house for an epic sleepover with Sam and her out-of-town cousins. But things take a turn for the spooky when Emma's peculiar new book, Tales from the Scaremaster, shows it has a mind of its own-and weaves a story starring Emma and some cousins hiding a very creepy secret!

When the story from the book starts coming to life, and with only hours before the full moon rises, it's up to Emma to figure out the secrets of the Scaremaster. Can she solve this wolfish mystery, find a way to outwit the Scaremaster, and stop a werewolf in its tracks...or will she end up as wolf bait?

Frightfully funny tales come to life in this thrilling new series, perfect for fans of Goosebumps.

About the Author . . .

Growing up on the edge of a graveyard, in a house rumored to be haunted, B.A. Frade seemed destined to write spooky stories. B.A. spent years investigating haunted attics, mysterious creatures, and things that go "boo" in the night to become an authority on all things creepy and scary. B.A. lives and writes in a location we promised to keep a secret (in case any ghouls come asking with mischief in mind).

New York Times bestselling author Stacia Deutsch has written more than a hundred children's books. In addition to her award-winning chapter book series Blast to the Past, Stacia ghostwrites stories in many popular series and has written junior movie novels for blockbusters such as Batman and Ghostbusters. She has an MFA from Western State Colorado University, where she currently teaches fiction writing. Stacia promises that no werewolves or books were harmed (or caused harm) in the writing of this book.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Solve the Mystery Alongside The Nocturnals

A fox, a sugar glider, and a pangolin are "The Brigade"--a group of friends pledged to stick together through thick and thin in order to protect and defend the animals of the valley in which they live. Younger readers will be enthralled by the story of friendship, bravery, and determination when the gang is called into action at the sign and mention of a great beast who's movements shake the earth and spread ash on everything. Older readers will be challenged to make inferences and piece the puzzle together as the three friends sniff out and unearth clues about the true identity of the mysterious beast terrifying the animals all around them.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I found myself coming up with all sorts of discussion questions and I think this book would make a great resource for reading groups or classroom use. Dawn, the fox, shows many examples of restraint which are worthy of further examination. Polyphema's so-called visions and proclamations (and Dawn's skepticism of them) could lead to some interesting discussion. The book asks readers to consider what makes them afraid, why someone might descriminate, the nature of loyalty and friendship, why it is important to get all the facts before jumping to conclusions, etc.

My thanks to the publisher, Fabled Films, for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

When a violent jolt fractures the earth, the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate its source. Along their journey, Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin meet an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. The tuatara, with her special insights, is the only one who can help them stop this fearsome predator… but can she be trusted? With help from an owl, the jerboas and a few kiwis, a trap is set since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.

Lexile Level 580L — Fountas & Pinnell Level T

About the Author . . .

Tracey Hecht is a writer and entrepreneur who has written, directed and produced for film. When she isn’t writing she can be found hiking, reading or spending time with her family. Tracey currently splits her time between New York City and Oquossoc, Maine with her husband, four children and three pets—none of which are a sugar glider.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mammoth Fun In the Stone Age

This book is a fun read which will engage both girls (they are going to love Lucy's plucky determination and brilliant ideas) and boys (who will get a chuckle from the gross bodily functions that make most elementary lads chortle). It is bound to engage the natural curiosity of elementary learners. The graphic novel has modern day anthropologists interspersed throughout offering readers the latest up-to-date theories based on the latest finds and research. Every kid who enjoys thinking about what life was like in another time or place will find this thought-provoking. Parents beware: if your elementary reader gets their hands on this, you are going to be asked to take them to a museum for further learning!

From the Publisher . . .

For fans of the New York Times bestselling Jedi Academy books comes a hilarious new graphic novel series about two young cave kids living 40,000 years ago.

The laugh-out-loud adventure features Lucy and her goofball brother Andy, as the duo take on a wandering baby sibling, bossy teens, cave paintings, and a mammoth hunt. But what will happen when they encounter a group of humans?

Humorous and entertaining, Jeffrey Brown’s signature comical touch enlivens the scientific and historical content, including a special paleontologist section that helps to dispel common Neanderthal myths.

About the Author . . .

Jeffrey Brown is the author/illustrator of the bestselling Jedi Academy series and Chronicle’s Darth Vader series. He resides in Chicago with his wife and two sons. You can visit him at

Friday, August 5, 2016

Vinegar Girl Breathes New Life Into Shakespearian Classic

One of the reasons I love reading Anne Tyler is her penchant for strong character development and character driven narrative. Vinegar Girl does not disappoint!

Vinegar Girl is Tyler take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew . This is one of my favorite Shakespearian plays since learning in the 6th grade my grandmother had once won a jingle contest for her entry for the movie Kiss Me Kate . (We were an odd family that spent Saturday nights watching black and white films on PBS.) Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I appreciated the feminist slant and strong female protagonist. Tyler maintains this in Kate Battista, eldest daughter of Dr. Louis Battista, research fellow for Johns Hopkins. I will let you read below the story synopsis provided by the publisher if you happen to be unfamiliar with this classic work.

Just 237 pages long, the novel is compact and a delightful afternoon read. I enjoy reading a modernization of Shakespeare’s works as it is always interesting to see what settings authors will choose to place the characters into as well as how the writer might tweak the character/s to fit. If you aren’t familiar with the original play, you may not even recognize this is a make-over. (I mean that as a compliment, not a criticism!) I loved the dramatic climax in the final chapter where Kate speaks her mind to the guests present at her wedding feast. She makes such growth throughout the book, I almost stood up to cheer when the classic moment arose.

Fans of Tyler will, I believe, enjoy this latest offering. If you’ve never read Anne Tyler, this is a fun way to discover her writing and style. Your book club will enjoy this too, (especially if you have chance to read the original or see one of the films based on it) there is quite a bit of fodder for discussion!

My thanks to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies.

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

About the Author . . .

ANNE TYLER was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her twentieth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I had to.

While I didn't get in line at midnight to get my hands on a copy of the eight Harry Potter book, I did pick one up the first day it was out. I have read (and own) a copy of all the other books and simply couldn't pass up adding this one to my collection.

The first thing readers need to understand is that this is not another Harry Potter novel. It is a rehearsal script for the play which opened in London on Harry's birthday, July 31 (the traditional launch day for all things Potter.) As an English major who enjoys Shakespeare and Ibsen (among other playwrights), I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to read a script. But this format may be a challenge for some readers, especially those not used to reading dialogue with a few stage instructions interspersed.

After reading it I went on-line to check out what others were saying about it. If you are the type of Harry Potter fan who disliked the Epilogue of the final book, I suspect you are going to be among those readers who object to this story. Many suggest that it reads like a piece of fan fiction. I can totally understand this. Although J. K. Rowling is listed among the collaborators on the piece, it is clearly heavily influenced by other writers and does not measure up to the same caliber of writing as her novels.

As a reader who was satisfied with the Epilogue I must say that, although I was sad to say good-bye to characters, it felt like a good ending to the story. In that spirit, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was a disappointment. I didn't need to be exposed to the foibles and shortcomings of Harry and the gang as 40-year-old parents. It lead me to wonder about the fact that for me, Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Draco still functioned as the main characters while perhaps for younger readers/watchers it might be their offspring--Albus and Scorpius--who serve as the main protagonists. That idea makes the whole thing seem muddled and unclear to me.

I found it to be a quick read, so I don't feel bad about the time I spent reading it. If the play is ever made into a film, I am sure that I will see it. I would be curious to know how some of the staging is pulled off and will, no doubt, read reviews of the play. I wonder if this production will become something used in theater classes? With Harry Potter being such a world-wide phenomenon, I can see this play being a production that could serve that purpose well. In the meantime, I can't wait to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

From the Publisher . . .

"The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later."

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places."

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sherlock Sam's Skills Save the Day

Plucky determination, astute observation and deduction skills, courage under pressure, and a robot side-kick named Watson combine to make Sherlock Sam (Sam Tan Cher Lock) a fun hero for elementary readers in search of a mystery to solve.

In Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong , Sam's Auntie Kim Liang discovers that her cookbook filled with family recipes from several generations has gone missing. Sam and his friend Jimmy, along with Sam's sister Wendy and the robot Sam has built and affectionately named Watson, are happy to take the case and find Auntie'so priceless treasure.

This book is great fun! Aimed at readers in the 7 to 12 year old range, kids will enjoy looking for clues throughout the pages. I enjoyed the fact that readers will also be introduced to elements of a culture that may be different from their own. I love it when books help to expand a reader's perspective and raising their tolerance for diversity! It is great to have a book to recommend to elementary boys with a hero they can aspire to be like.

My thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review!

From the Publisher . . .

An exciting new update of the classic Sherlock Holmes detective stories in which Sherlock is a 10-year-old kid living in Singapore and Watson is his trusty robot companion!

Introducing the Sherlock Sam series by A.J. Low—a fresh, cross-cultural twist on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, tailored for middle-grade readers. Set in iconic Singapore locations, the series follows the mystery-solving exploits of smart, observant, food-loving 10-year-old Samuel Tan Cher Lock (a.k.a. Sherlock Sam), Watson, his reluctant robot sidekick, and the rest of the Supper Club (a “Scooby Doo gang,” of sorts) as they prove that mysteries are best solved through teamwork.

In Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong, Auntie Kim Lian’s precious Peranakan cookbook disappears, and Sherlock Sam cannot eat her delicious ayam buah keluak anymore! Will Sherlock Sam be able to use his super detective powers to find this lost treasure?

About the Authors . . .

A.J. Low is a multicultural husband-and-wife writing team. Adan Jimenez was born in California to Mexican immigrant parents, then became an immigrant himself when he moved from New York City to Singapore. Felicia Low-Jimenez is a native of Singapore who has worked with books most of her adult life, as a bookseller, book buyer, book marketer, and now, with the Sherlock Sam series, book writer!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Enter the Paradox: The More of Less

Did you love Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up? Do you have a certain fascination with the tiny house movement? Are you seeking to simplify your life and surroundings? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to get your hands on a copy of Joshua Becker’s little tome, The More of Less.

I can’t rave enough about this book! Our youngest child just graduated from university and will be moving in a few weeks to the neighboring state to start his career. As true empty-nesters, we will be reclaiming spaces in our house that have been dedicated to kids, and repurposing them. This is most definitely our time to declutter, down-size the “stuff” and take stock of what is actually necessary.

Becker sums up the goal of his book by saying, “This book is about living with less so that you can get more out of your days. It’s been about having a smaller material lifestyle so that you can experience a bigger life, full of passion and purpose. Own less to live more. That’s paradoxical.” (p. 212) Who wouldn’t want to get on board with that?

Full of practical tips and stories of real people, The More of Lessis not only inspiring but will help you make the plan and take the steps to getting out from under the stuff that prevents you from getting the most out of your days. Much thanks goes out to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

Don’t Settle for More

Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the weight and burden of our clutter, and we tire of cleaning and managing and organizing.

While excess consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, fancier technology, and cluttered homes, it never brings happiness. Rather, it results in a desire for more. It redirects our greatest passions to things that can never fulfill. And it distracts us from the very life we wish we were living.

Live a better life with less.

In The More of Less, Joshua Becker, helps you….

• recognize the life-giving benefits of owning less
• realize how all the stuff you own is keeping you from pursuing your dreams
• craft a personal, practical approach to decluttering your home and life
• experience the joys of generosity
• learn why the best part of minimalism isn’t a clean house, it’s a full life

The beauty of minimalism isn’t in what it takes away. It’s in what it gives.

Make Room in Your Life for What You Really Want

“Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff.” After a casual conversation with his neighbor on Memorial Day 2008, Joshua Becker realized he needed a change. He was spending far too much time organizing possessions, cleaning up messes, and looking for more to buy.

So Joshua and his wife decided to remove the nonessential possessions from their home and life. Eventually, they sold, donated, or discarded over 60 percent of what they owned. In exchange, they found a life of more freedom, more contentment, more generosity, and more opportunity to pursue the things that mattered most.

The More of Less delivers an empowering plan for living more by owning less. With practical suggestions and encouragement to personalize your own minimalist style, Joshua Becker shows you why minimizing possessions is the best way to maximize life.

Are you ready for less cleaning, less anxiety, and less stress in your life? Simplicity isn’t as complicated as you think.

About the Author . . .

JOSHUA BECKER is the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website that inspires millions around the world to own fewer possessions and find greater fulfillment in life. As one of the leading voices in the modern simplicity movement, Joshua speaks both nationwide and internationally. He has contributed to articles in Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Christianity Today. He is a frequent guest on HuffPost Live and has appeared on numerous television programs, including the CBS Evening News. He and his young family live in Peoria, Arizona.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let Your Mind Help You Lose Weight!

This book is life-changing!

I started a meditation practice two years ago which has had a huge, positive impact on my life. Meditate Your Weight: A 21-Day Retreat To Optimize Your Metabolism and Feel Great is THE tool I have been looking for to tie my meditation practice to my goal of losing weight for an important family event later this year.

Author Tiffany Cruikshank breaks the book into 3 parts. Part One includes a quick introduction to mindfulness meditation, including the science behind meditation, its affect on the brain and other body systems, and the “how-to” mechanics of sitting. I found it a helpful review and suspect that folks who are new to meditation may go through the opening materials slower than I did.

Part Two is made up of the 21 days of specific practice. Each day includes a reading which sets the stage for the daily topic and provides inspiration; instructions for the 3 to 7 minutes of sitting meditation; a couple of thought provoking questions to journal about immediately following the meditation time; a daily mantra to focus on throughout your day; and final suggestions for thoughts and feelings to be aware of as your day unfolds. In the week I have been doing, I find the process works well! I really like the combination of reading, setting it aside to meditate, and writing. I find my mind floating back to the ideas and themes several times through my day. I appreciate the encouragement to take a look at what happens during my meditation too!

In Part Three of the book, Cruikshank includes a “tool kit” which offers reader ways to meditate during movement/exercise, yoga poses that promote weight loss, and thoughts on mindful eating. (If you haven’t heard of mindful eating and are working on weight loss goals, you must do some reading on it. It is shocking how mindlessly most of us eat!!)

I intend to keep this book and go through the program more than once. I believe it will be a tool for positive change in my life. If you have struggled with losing weight, I would encourage you to get a copy of this book! Thank you to Blogging For Books for the free copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .


Hundreds of medical studies have shown the spectacular health benefits of meditation. Now Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine, puts that scientific research to good, practical use by incorporating easy-to-use, targeted meditations into a unique weight-loss program. This 21-day plan optimizes health as well as body image by tapping the hidden strength of the mind. We learn a whole new way to lose weight; and it takes just a few relaxing and energizing minutes a day.

Learn: • How to get started: advice for new meditators (no weird positions or chants required)
• 3, 5, 7, and 10 minute meditations that bust cravings, break self-defeating habits, stress-proof the body, and reboot the brain
• What to eat—and the top 5 foods to consider avoiding
• How to continue your success after your 21-day retreat
• Bonus: 10 stress-relieving, cardio-revving yoga exercises to complement the plan

Each day of the plan in Meditate Your Weight helps you explore and release what's weighing you down physically, emotionally, and mentally—the mental blocks, thoughts, habits, and behaviors that stand in your way—to make it easier to think more clearly, make better choices, and maximize metabolism. As you lighten up on the inside, you’ll lighten up on the outside.

Less stress=less belly fat. More calm + more balance = a healthier you.

About the Author . . .

Tiffany Cruikshank, Lac, MAOM, an internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, author, meditation, health and wellness expert, has a pre-med bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Plant Biology and Nutrition and a master’s degree in acupuncture an Oriental medicine with a specialization in sports medicine and orthopedics. She is the founder of Yoga Medicine and has treated more than 25,000 patients from around the world using yoga, acupuncture, nutrition, meditation and holistic health. Tiffany has been featured in Yoga Journal, Self, Marie Claire, Prevention, Forbes, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Redbook and on Fox News among many others.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fowl Language

If you are a parent, or about to become a parent, or want to know what may be going through your own parents' heads, this is the book for you!

It was a hoot sitting on the deck with my husband who picked up the book first. He laughed out loud several times! And just as when we watch the ABC program, The Middle, he exclaimed several times, "This is too true!"

Fowl Language is so easy to relate to! Neither of us was familiar with the online cartoon world of Fowl Language, but I can assure you, the situations are real, as are the reactions! If you want a quick, fun read about the trials and tribulations--and the humorous parts too!--of parenting, you must read this book!

My thanks to the publisher from whom I received a free copy of the book in exchange for this honest review!

From the Publisher . . .

The popular parenting webcomic featured on HuffPost, Buzzfeed, and Upworthy is now a book! The perfect gift for baby showers and for those already in the throes of parenting, Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting is here to let you know that you're not alone. Parenting is hard and often gross. Laughing about it helps. If you liked Toddlers Are A**holes, you'll love Fowl Language!

Parenting can be a magical journey full of bliss and wonder . . . if you're on the right meds. For the rest of us, it's another thing altogether. Fowl Language Comics takes an unvarnished look at the tedium and aggravation of parenting, while never forgetting that the reason we put up with those little jerks is that we love them so damn much. By poking fun at the daily struggles parents face, these cartoons help all of us feel less alone in our continual struggle to stay sane.

Brian Gordon, creator of Fowl Language Comics, has two small children of his own and knows well the trials and tribulations that go along with raising them. With more than eighteen years of experience in humorous illustration, writing, and cartooning, Brian's visual point of view is memorable, authentic, and instantly recognizable. From Brian: "They say 'write what you know.' Well, I don’t know much, but I do know what it’s like to be the father of two brilliant, beautiful, bat-shit-crazy kids."

Launched in July 2013, the relatable humor of Fowl Language broke out on HuffPost Parents, Pop Sugar Moms, Bored Panda, Awkward Family Photos, and countless other humor and parenting blogs. Thanks to more than 200,000 fans on social media, including Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram, it continues to grow in popularity at a rapid pace.

About the Author . . .

"A million years ago, Brian Gordon spent his time staying out late, hitting the clubs and eating at fancy restaurants.

And then suddenly ... CHILDREN. While he loved being a dad more than anything else, he also noticed that at times, parenting can be a total crap-fest.

In the summer of 2013, Brian began drawing Fowl Language as a fun (and often profane) way to vent his frustrations. After getting laid off from his job as a greeting card artist, he decided to pursue the comic full-time. His work quickly became an Internet viral sensation, and is shared regularly by millions of people all over the world."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hang On, It's A Doozie!

If I had been a "troubled" teen rather than a nerdy band geek back in high school, I might think My Best Friend's Exorcism was an actual flashback. Hendrix sets this novel firmly in the 1980's, and although I graduated a few years before Abby & Gretchen, all the cultural references from music to television and movies hit me full-on. What a ride!

I admit it. I really enjoyed this book! The characters were well developed and so easy to empathize with. Hendrix fully captures the angst of female teens and the strange dance that is friendships among them. He clearly evokes that teenage sense that no adults are listening or capable of understanding or sympathizing with what is going on in their lives.

And lets be frank: what is going on in Abby and Gretchen's lives is quite a lot more than normal teen issues! I've read a couple reviews that were disappointed by the lack of details on the demon possession. That, I think, is the point. Sometimes being possessed is a matter of small changes that end up, down the road, in very dark places. Beguiling. Starting to change the people around them in small ways. Cajoling. It's not all turning green, head spinning around 360 degrees and spewing pea soup like Linda Blair. I appreciated how only Gretchen's BEST friend could see the small things that were adding up to something BIG.

If you like YA paranormal stories or YA horror, you are going to enjoy My Best Friend's Exorcism. My thanks to the publisher, Quirk Books, for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

About the Author . . .

Grady Hendrix is a writer and journalist and one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival. A former film critic for the New York Sun, Grady has written for Slate, the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Playboy, and Variety.

Also by Grady Hendrix: Horrorstor

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds—clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-firstcentury economy.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I Missed This Floor At MOA!

I loved, Loved, LOVED this book! It's kinda paranormal given that all the main characters are dead and currently residing on a special floor of the Mall of America. (Next time I'm there, I'm going to have to put my ghost sensing radar on high alert! Ha!) I love the idea of taking a look at the place and happenings where dead people go to get acclimated to death, process the life they just left, take care of unfinished business, and then "move on" to whatever comes next.

I enjoyed the characters SO much! I think it is fun and refreshing to read something intended for a YA audience and this book certainly was both fun and refreshing. (Even though everyone is dead. Go figure.) In addition to Sarah and her fellow recent arrivals, I really found it fun and a great addition that Sheehan included Alice, one of the mall walkers who has been there for decades and wakes up to join the newbies. Alice lends a certain historical depth to the story which I appreciated.

I enjoyed the inclusion of Harry too. Although he was "killed," his death by euthanasia was different than the experience of outright murder experienced by all the others. This lent a different note to the story as well and gave Harry's unfinished business a different note than his comrades. I would like to ask Sheehan if in this book's universe only those who sustained traumatic death situations come to this location after death? Or if there might also have been people who simply died from illness or age? I guess it just made me curious.

I have to say, I love the idea that in the after life you can eat whatever you want and it has no effect on weight or health! The mall food court setting is perfect for that!

If you've been to the MoA, then you know that you can find anything and everything there. So it would seem there is no better place to hang out while "processing" things following life. I giggled numerous times at the interaction between the main characters and the living mall visitors. I have been to the amusement park and have been on the rides. I've sat in Lego land while my kids played with the Legos. I've eaten there. Seen shows there. Walked countless laps around every floor. I've seen the mall walkers. The struggling, tired parents. The teens out socializing. The people on dates. Even a Klingon or two. If you have ever been there, you will get an extra kick out of the snippets of humor Sheehan includes that are part of the story simply thanks to the setting.

I hope you will grab a copy of this fun, refreshing book and enjoy it as much as I did! Thank you to Sheehan and Delacorte Press for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

When Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America, she learns that not only was she murdered, her killer is still on the loose. I WOKE UP DEAD AT THE MALL is a terrifically fun & voicey YA novel that tackles some of life’s – and the afterlife’s – biggest questions.

When you’re sixteen, you have your whole life ahead of you. Unless you’re Sarah. Not to give anything away, but . . . she’s dead. Murdered, in fact. Sarah’s murder is shocking because she couldn’t be any more average. No enemies. No risky behavior. She’s just the girl on the sidelines.

It looks like her afterlife, on the other hand, will be pretty exciting. Sarah has woken up dead at the Mall of America—where the universe sends teens who are murdered—and with the help of her death coach, she must learn to move on or she could meet a fate totally worse than death: becoming a mall walker.

As she tries to finish her unfinished business alongside her fellow dead teens, Sarah falls hard for a cute boy named Nick. And she discovers an uncanny ability to haunt the living. While she has no idea who killed her, or why, someone she loves is in grave danger. Sarah can’t lose focus or she’ll be doomed to relive her final moments again and again forever. But can she live with herself if she doesn’t make her death matter?

About the Author . . .

The first thing to know about Judy is that she is the tenth of twelve children. Upon learning this fun fact, many people need or want to know certain statistics about her family of origin, so here goes: The age range of the children is twenty-one years from oldest to youngest. There are eight boys and four girls. There is one set of twins. There is one mother and one father. The family house had seven bedrooms, but only one bathroom. Today, Judy has one child, and is actively considering the installation of a second bathroom in her home.

Judy started life wanting to be a writer, but found herself distracted by the fun and drama of local theater. She studied acting and made a brief, but valiant effort to be an actress. She was one of the original cast member/creators of the long-running hit, TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING. This adventure led to a handful of commercials, a few other projects and the revelation that she was simply not meant to be an actress. Full stop.

Playwright was the next logical role for Judy, who was lucky enough to serve as the playwright-in-residence at New York’s prestigious Looking Glass Theatre, which produced her plays every season. Productions have included WHAT TO DO ABOUT NOTHING, A CAROLE CHRISTMAS and APHRODITE’S DUNGEON, among many others. She collaborated with Kenneth Nowell to create a series of musicals for children: I WAS A 9-YEAR OLD BLUES DIVA, I HATE SPINACH, as well as the work-in-progress, I’M SO INCREDIBLY BORED.

Meanwhile, Judy managed to reach beyond Manhattan to infiltrate the heartland with her play, ALICE IN IRELAND. It has been produced all over the United States, winning the Reva Shiner Full-Length Play Contest, and the Siena College International Playwrights’ Competition. The play was also chosen by the Kalamazoo Gazette as the #1 Critics’ Pick for 1999. Her play, BRIGHT GIRLS, STUPID LIVES, was a critical and popular success in Portland, OR where it was nominated for a Drammy Award. Judy wrote the popular MURDER AT WATERLOO for historic Waterloo Village. The initial run proved so successful, the play has returned for three subsequent productions.In September, 2000, Judy traveled to China and adopted a baby girl. Along with motherhood, came sleep deprivation and a drastic reduction in Judy’s ability to attend rehearsals in the city or anywhere else. By all common sense, the overwhelming task of raising a child should have brought an end to Judy’s ability to write anything at all. But if you’ve been reading closely, you’ll see that common sense hasn’t applied very well so far. Judy found herself writing more than ever—she just had to wait until the baby was asleep.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cook Healthier Foods

I happen to be one of the millions of Americans who teeter on the verge of cholesterol numbers that concern my doctor. The American Heart Association's Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook arrived just in time for my final round of "please let me try diet and exercise" rather than medication plea to my doctor.

I am so thrilled with this cookbook, I cannot tell you!

The subtitle, Delicious Recipes To Help Reduce Bad Fats and Lower Your Cholesterol is spot on. These are some delicious recipes! We had already lowered the amount of red meats in our diet a couple of years ago, so I was very happy to have new poultry and fish/seafood recipes to try. One key, it seems to me, that runs throughout the book is the addition of spices that you might not have used or considered before which take away any and all sense of "missing out" where the fat content has been reduced or eliminated. For example, the recipe for Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken adds a bit of ginger along with the paprika when seasoning your meat. (p. 144) This is brilliant and we both enjoyed this little addition immensely.

You are going to find recipes for any and all times of day, types of foods, and diets. Yes, there are vegetarian dishes included. There are also breads, breakfast, and desserts!

What I found myself turning to and really using were the Appendixes at the back of the book. These include helpful tips and strategies for healthy shopping, healthy cooking, healthy dining out, and the science behind all recommendations. There are even sections of risk factors for heart disease and warning signs of heart attacks and stroke. This could potentially be some life saving information!!

I have had the wonderful opportunity to review many cookbooks. I love cookbooks, cooking, and eating! Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook will be my main go-to cookbook for the foreseeable future. (Even when using others, I will have it open to the tips on making other recipes healthier and more heart friendly!) Thank you to Blogging For Books for the review copy I received in exchange for this honest review. You have helped to change our lives for the better!

From the Publisher . . .

The classic cookbook for achieving heart health and wellbeing through a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat--updated and revised with 200 recipes (including 50 new to this edition)

Lose the bad fats, but not the flavor.

Now in its fifth edition, American Heart Association Healthy Fats, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook provides the most up-to-date information on heart health and nutrition. Good-for-you food should also be satisfying, and the American Heart Association reveals how easy it is to replace the bad fats in your diet with healthier ones. This classic cookbook offers more than 200 tempting dishes, 50 of which are new, including:

· Fresh Basil and Kalamata Hummus · Triple-Pepper and White Bean Soup with Rotini · Taco Salad · Hearty Fish Chowder · Chicken Pot Pie with Mashed Potato Topping · Balsamic Braised Beef with Exotic Mushrooms · Grilled Pizza with Grilled Vegetables · Stovetop Scalloped Tomatoes · Puffed Pancake with Apple-Cranberry Sauce · Mango Brûlée with Pine Nuts

The perfect companion for today’s healthy cook, this indispensable collection of recipes proves you can eat deliciously and nutritiously.

About the Author . . .

The AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION is the nation’s premier authority on heart health. Its bestselling library of cookbooks and guides includes American Heart Association Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook, Fourth Edition; The New American Heart Association Cookbook, Seventh Edition; American Heart Association No-Fad Diet; American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook, Third Edition; American Heart Association Meals in Minutes Cookbook; American Heart Association Low-Calorie Cookbook; and American Heart Association Quick & Easy Cookbook.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Discover What Happens After the Woods

I enjoy reading YA material from time to time. Kim Savage's debut novel, After the Woods, is a YA thriller about two high school aged girls who met with a psychopath one day as they ran through the local forest preserve on a routine training practice for their track team. Julia threw herself in harms way to protect her best friend, Liv who managed to escape her would-be abductor. Liv ran away to safety, leaving Julia to face the worst on her own.

The bulk of the story is Julia's recovery from the trauma she endured in the woods as she pieces together exactly what happened during the hours she was held captive and escaped only to be hunted by her captor. In the process, Julia gains new insight into her herself, and more importantly into best friend, Liv. Julia gains a bigger vision of the events that conspired to bring them to this point in their lives.

I enjoyed the story! It was a quick read for me as the narrative compelled me to keep reading to discover the puzzle pieces and put them together along with Julia. I felt the characters were believable and easy to relate to, even those a bit more on the periphery. There is just enough tension throughout the various levels of the story to make a reader want to know more.

Issues of how victims and survivors react to trauma were enlightened with a variety of examples from Julia to Liv and their respective mothers as well. Questions of how to best assist the girls to get them to redefine "normal life" and how to best get them back into the swing of "normal life" are at the heart of the story. The role of the media and the public's right to information that is in the interest of public safety and the sensitivities (or lack thereof) add another layer to the story as well. It was interesting to see how therapists, the church, friends, the police and the local reporter who is counting on the case to keep her career afloat are all interwoven into the heart of the story.

I will be looking forward to more from this author! And my thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review!

From the Publisher . . .

"Statistically speaking, girls like me don't come back when guys like Donald Jessup take us."

Julia knows she beat the odds. She escaped the kidnapper who hunted her in the woods for two terrifying nights that she can't fully remember. Now it's one year later, and a dead girl turns up in those same woods. The terrible memories resurface, leaving Julia in a stupor at awkward moments-in front of gorgeous Kellan MacDougall, for example.

At least Julia's not alone. Her best friend, Liv, was in the woods, too. When Julia got caught, Liv ran away. Is Liv's guilt over leaving Julia the reason she's starving herself? Is hooking up with Shane Cuthbert, an addict with an explosive temper, Liv's way of punishing herself for not having Julia's back? As the devastating truth about Liv becomes clear, Julia realizes the one person she thinks she knows best-Liv-is the person she knows least of all. And that after the woods was just the beginning.

About the Author . . .

Kim Savage was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, and received her degree in English from Stonehill College. She lives with her husband and three children north of Boston, Massachusetts. After the Woods is her debut novel.

On her website, Savage writes:

I was born and raised in Massachusetts, on the South Shore, which sounds beachy, even luxe. Think Winnebagos and chicken coops. My three brothers, 16, 10, and 8 years older, were teens by the time I became a person. Happiest around adults, who often forgot I was there, I spent days eavesdropping on gossipy moms in lawn chairs and nights listening under the table during tipsy Scrabble parties.

My dad read to me nightly. Eventually and early, I read to myself, everywhere. On top of an enormous freezer chest stuffed with meat. On drives until I grew nauseous. In bed until my eyes gave out. I read anything I could get my hands on. V.C. Andrews and Dickens. Black Beauty and the Bible. The Economist. Madeline L’Engle and Margaret Atwood. National Geographic.

I got a bachelor’s degree in English from Stonehill College and a Master’s in Journalism from Northeastern University. For a while, I worked as a business journalist. Instead of waiting for the Federal Reserve to release the Beige Book, I pitched story ideas along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You see where things were headed.

Today, I live with my family northwest of Boston in a town a lot like Shiverton, near the real Fells reservation of AFTER THE WOODS. Born with dysgeographica—I’m directionally challenged—the fear of getting lost in that lovely, dark forest lives close to my skin.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Meet Lucy Barton

I have read two of Elizabeth Strout’s other novels. I value the depth of her characters. Her newest book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, did not disappoint!

The thing I most enjoy about reading Strout’s work is the amount of story you find by reading between the lines and listening to the silent spaces. It’s there that my soul and heart connect to these characters and their experiences, as I imagine is true for the vast majority of Strout’s readers—giving each of us the opportunity to be, on some small, yet meaningful way, co-creators with her in the weaving of the story.

Lucy Barton is the teller of this tale, which is an exercise in piecing together the moments and memories that make a life. The story reminded me of my own moments of nostalgia and flashback to the instances that have led me to this precise moment on my own life’s journey--poignant recollections of the people, places, and events that shape a person.

There is rich fodder here for book club discussions. Anyone who enjoys reading novels focused on character studies must read My Name Is Lucy Barton. This book left me pondering the nature of familial relationships, the lasting and generational effects that poverty, neglect, and abuse have on people, the bond between mothers and daughters, and the meaning of “home” to name just a few. This book will linger with me, as did Strout’s others.

From the Publisher . . .

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

About the Author . . .

Elizabeth Strout is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge, as well as The Burgess Boys, a New York Times bestseller; Abide with Me, a national bestseller; and Amy and Isabelle, which won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in England. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker and O: The Oprah Magazine. Elizabeth Strout lives in New York City.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Getting Your Collage On

Being an avid journal keeper and scrapbooker, I am thrilled to have received a copy of Eleanor Shakespeare’s Collage This Journal. It is a great tool to help you collect and record the moments in life you’d like to hold onto and pass on to others for posterity.

What I love about this journal are the wide variety of prompts to spark your creativity. "Redesign the cover of your favorite book(s). How did you see the world as a child? How do you see it now?" The idea is to respond with a collage of items, though sketching and writing are encouraged as well.

The page size is plenty to allow for some fun. It is also great because you could easily tuck it in your bag and work on it while on the go. (This would have been a great way to fill some time on my 18 hour Astral ride!) The color scheme on the pages is mostly neutral, allowing you to take the prompt in any direction you like.

Seasoned collage artists may find the journal restrictive only in that the pages and binding realistically only allow for flat items to be included in the collage. You’re not likely to find it handy to incorporate bulky items like tiles, beads, flora, stones, etc. (Not a problem for me.) I am carrying the journal with me and looking at all kinds of paper ephemera (printed napkins, advertising flyers, even cereal boxes!) in new ways!

Many thanks to Blogging For Books for the review copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

This irrisistibly iteractive journal is filled with dozens of clever ideas for recording your life, such as “Make balloons out of photos from special and happy occasions” or ”Fill the genie’s lamp with wishes.” The author/illustrator’s wonderfully layered photo-illustration montages invite readers to mix media, too, and make this keepsake truly their own.

About the Author . . .

ELEANOR SHAKESPEARE is an illustrator and designer based in London known for her photomontage imagery. She combines found ephemera with hand-lettering and texture with color to create unique illustrations. She has illustrated for The Telegraph Magazine, Therapy Today, Times Higher Education, The Baffler, BoneshakerMagazine, and Noble Rot Magazine.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tagging Along With Bill Through Britain

Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island is a fun romp around Britain through the eyes of an American ex-pat. If you enjoy PBS travel programs and/or British comedies, or frequently find yourself watching BBC America from your satellite provider but haven’t read this book, you jolly well better hoof off to the nearest book store or library and procure a copy for heaven’s sake!

Bryson lived in England for a number of years, having married a British nurse. One day after 20 years or so of being a part of the British landscape, Bryson and his family decided to move back to the United States. Notes from a Small Island is a memoir of the seven-week “farewell” trek through England, Wales, and Scotland Bryson made before departing. If you have read A Walk in the Woods (recently made into a film starring Robert Redford), then you know that Bryson is a walker. It is a habit he perfected during his years in Britain. Much of the journey he takes readers on is a walkabout through the countryside.

“I picked a mercifully level footpath and followed it for two miles through woods and fields along the crest of a secluded hanging Valley to rejoin the coast path at a lonely and dramatic eminence called Houns-tout Cliff. The view once again was stunning: whale-back hills and radiant white cliffs, dotted with small coves and hidden beaches washed by a blue and infinite sea. I could see all the way to Lulworth, my destination for the day, some ten miles and many daunting whale-back to the west.”

In addition to rich descriptions of the landscape, villages, and people Bryson encounters on his journey, there is also a good smattering of the irreverent humor one expects while reading anything by this author. I had many good laughs aloud (much to the consternation of my husband seated at the opposite end of the couch trying to make his way through the latest George R. R. Martin epic, A Dance With Dragons) as I joined Bryson’s farewell tour.

As an example, Bryson begins chapter 20 with: “I took a train to Liverpool. They were having a festival of litter when I arrived. Citizens had taken time off from their busy activities to add ice cream wrappers, empty cigarette boxes, and plastic carrier bags to the otherwise bland and neglected landscape. They fluttered gaily in the bushes and brought color and texture to pavements and gutters. And to think that elsewhere we stick these objects in trashbags.”

His tale of the sign he found where a grumpy landowner did not want anyone turning around in their driveway, or the elderly train enthusiast he encountered on the train to Llandudno in Wales were a hoot! I can easily imagine that travelling with Bryson would make for a fun time. And indeed, it has each and every moment I have spent reading his books. The book should come with a warning that you may get some funny looks from people around you when you break into laughter in public. That being said, I would encourage you to read it--especially with a pint in hand and a marathon of British documentaries playing in the background.

From the Publisher . . .

Before New York Times bestselling author Bill Bryson wrote The Road to Little Dribbling, he took this delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation of Great Britain, which has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie’s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey.

About the Author . . .

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa. For twenty years he lived in England, where he worked for the Times and the Independent, and wrote for most major British and American publications. His books include travel memoirs (Neither Here Nor There; The Lost Continent; Notes from a Small Island) and books on language (The Mother Tongue; Made in America). His account of his attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods, was a huge New York Times bestseller. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and his four children.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Eleanor Will Haunt Your Thoughts (In a Good Way!)

Eleanor, by Jason Gurley, is an emotionally charged and gripping tale of family trauma, dysfunction, and reclamation. I was hooked from the get-go! (For a plot synopsis, please see the “From the Publisher” section below.)

Gurley’s characters are well-developed and immediately drew me into the storyline. The tragic circumstances that hang like an invisible pall over each of them added to the urgency of identifying with each character from the main protagonist, young Eleanor, to Aunt Gerry and Jack, Eleanor’s best friend and love interest.

While the main tragedies that befall the Witt family are events we witness on the news any given day, I really enjoyed the fact that Gurley adds a “paranormal” twist to the disappearances Eleanor experiences. This twist was the added traction that kept me up past bedtime reading “just one more section” after another!

I think book clubs would find much to discuss in this book. The perils of motherhood. Issues of mental illness and addiction. How tragedy and trauma unfold in lives and through generations. What happens after death. What is the purpose and nature of our hopes and dreams (both waking and the dream world’s we weave in our unconscious minds/sleep).

Eleanor is a book that will appeals to a variety of readers. I am happy to tell my friends and family about this great read!

Thanks to Blogging For Books for the ARC I received in exchange for this honest review of the book.

From the Publisher . . .

Eleanor and Esmerelda are identical twins with a secret language all their own, inseparable until a terrible accident claims Esme’s life. Eleanor’s family is left in tatters: her mother retreats inward, seeking comfort in bottles; her father reluctantly abandons ship. Eleanor is forced to grow up more quickly than a child should, and becomes the target of her mother’s growing rage.

Years pass, and Eleanor’s painful reality begins to unravel in strange ways. The first time it happens, she walks through a school doorway, and finds herself in a cornfield, beneath wide blue skies. When she stumbles back into her own world, time has flown by without her. Again and again, against her will, she falls out of her world and into other, stranger ones, leaving behind empty rooms and worried loved ones.

One fateful day, Eleanor leaps from a cliff and is torn from her world altogether. She meets a mysterious stranger, Mea, who reveals to Eleanor the weight of her family’s loss. To save her broken parents, and rescue herself, Eleanor must learn how deep the well of her mother’s grief and her father’s heartbreak truly goes. Esmerelda’s death was not the only tragic loss in her family’s fragmented history, and unless Eleanor can master her strange new abilities, it may not be the last.

About the Author . . .

JASON GURLEY is the author of Greatfall, The Man Who Ended the World, and the fiction collection Deep Breath Hold Tight, among other works. His stories have appeared in the anthologies Loosed Upon the World and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! He was raised in Alaska and Texas, and now lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Get Locally Laid

I like chicken, both meat and eggs. I might as well get that confession out of the way at the outset.

My grandparents on both sides were born to farm families and spent some of their lives working farms as well. My parents were the first exception to this, and I am a city girl, through-and-through. Luckily for me, my maternal grandparents still farmed during my childhood years so that I was privy to the knowledge of from whence my food came. I helped my grandma turn the earth for the chicks to eat the grubs and worms, gather eggs in the hen house, and took part in the autumn slaughter and cleaning of chickens to be put up in the freezer and turned into stews and casseroles over the winter months to follow. (I’m still haunted by images of headless chickens flopping around the butchering yard until their nervous system’s electrical impulses were spent. Just the idea of the smell of burning pin feathers during plucking can turn my stomach to this day.)

Thus I found Lucie Amundsen’s book, Locally Laid, thoroughly engaging with it’s sometimes humorous and always educational story of her family’s adventure into sustainable, middle agriculture egg production.

The fact that Locally Laid is a company from neighboring Minnesota added to the pleasure of this read for me. I lived in the Twin Cities for a few years and have visited Duluth numerous times. Familiarity with the landscape, the weather, and the ethos of the area makes Amundsen’s words ring all the louder and truer.

I have a lot of admiration for Amundsen and her husband. He had a vision and they both sacrificed and worked (you could say struggled!) to bring the dream to fruition. The stories she relays of the making of their farm and brand are harrowing and humorous, full of pain and triumph and plenty of school-of-hard-knocks learning. The insights gained and shared will benefit everyone who has a vision of something better which takes grit and true determination to bring to life. (That is to say, there is something here for ALL of us!)

Locally Laid is a quick, delightful, and thought-provoking read. I feel I learned a great deal not only about the egg and chicken producing business in the United States, but also about food sources, sustainability, and the true cost of the food choices before me every time I open my wallet to pay. For this insight I am truly grateful! If you have even the slightest inkling to stop and think about the food you eat and feed your family with, I highly suggest you read this book! (Besides, who doesn’t love the idea of free-range chickens happily roaming the prairie of northern Minnesota?)

My thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

How a Midwestern family with no agriculture experience went from a few backyard chickens to a full-fledged farm—and discovered why local chicks are better.

When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.

To create this pastured poultry ranch, the couple scrambles to acquire nearly two thousand chickens—all named Lola. These hens, purchased commercially, arrive bereft of basic chicken-y instincts, such as the evening urge to roost. The newbie farmers also deal with their own shortcomings, making for a failed inspection and intense struggles to keep livestock alive (much less laying) during a brutal winter. But with a heavy dose of humor, they learn to negotiate the highly stressed no-man’s-land known as Middle Agriculture. Amundsen sees firsthand how these midsized farms, situated between small-scale operations and mammoth factory farms, are vital to rebuilding America’s local food system.

With an unexpected passion for this dubious enterprise, Amundsen shares a messy, wry, and entirely educational story of the unforeseen payoffs (and frequent pitfalls) of one couple’s ag adventure—and many, many hours spent wrangling chickens.

About the Author . . .

Lucie Amundsen is a writer, marketer, and reluctant farmer. She co-owns Locally Laid Egg Company, a farm that provides pasture-raised eggs in Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana. She sits on the Hartley Nature Center board and is an active volunteer with Duluth Community Gardening Program. Amundsen also holds a master’s of fine arts in writing from Hamline University. A former contributor to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and former editor at Reader’s Digest Association, Amundsen has written for scores of publications during her freelance career. She lives with her husband and two children in Duluth, Minnesota.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Path To the Good Life

Who among us has not wondered whether or not there might be something more to life than our current circumstances have to offer? I would venture to guess that it is part of life to look at the world around us every now and then and ask the age-old questons: Why am I here? How did the world and my life get to be this way? How can I be happy?

Michael Pruett and Christine Gross-Loh softer some answers to these questions from Chinese philosophers in their new book, The Path.

It's been a while since I was in school. The basis for this book is Puett's popular class at Harvard on Chinese philosophy. It turns out students were flocking to Puett'so class in droves, making it one of the most popular courses at the university. Something in these ancient texts and teaching was resonating with the questions so many young people harbored about the direction of their lives and our world today. They were hungry to find a way to have a good life.

The Path introduces readers to the overarching concepts developed through the ages by Chinese philosophers and works such as Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Inward Training, and others. Puett lays out the general concepts of each school of thought and weaves that thinking together with examples of modern-day scenarios which provide examples of how such philosophy would play out in our lives today. It is, in a word, brilliant!

I would encourage everyone to get a copy of this book! Great discussion will come from reading it, and you may find yourself looking to delve deeper into some of the writings of these wise teachers from the past. The Path will be joining a select group of books on my shelf which I reread every year. My thanks to the publisher for the free ARE I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

For the first time an award-winning Harvard professor shares his wildly popular course on classical Chinese philosophy, showing you how these ancient ideas can guide you on the path to a good life today.

Why is a course on ancient Chinese philosophers one of the most popular at Harvard?

It’s because the course challenges all our modern assumptions about what it takes to flourish. This is why Professor Michael Puett says to his students, “The encounter with these ideas will change your life.” As one of them told his collaborator, author Christine Gross-Loh, “You can open yourself up to possibilities you never imagined were even possible.”

These astonishing teachings emerged two thousand years ago through the work of a succession of Chinese scholars exploring how humans can improve themselves and their society. And what are these counterintuitive ideas? Good relationships come not from being sincere and authentic, but from the rituals we perform within them. Influence comes not from wielding power but from holding back. Excellence comes from what we choose to do, not our natural abilities. A good life emerges not from planning it out, but through training ourselves to respond well to small moments. Transformation comes not from looking within for a true self, but from creating conditions that produce new possibilities.

In other words, The Path upends everything we are told about how to lead a good life. Above all, unlike most books on the subject, its most radical idea is that there is no path to follow in the first place—just a journey we create anew at every moment by seeing and doing things differently.

Sometimes voices from the past can offer possibilities for thinking afresh about the future.

About the Author . . .

Michael Puett is the Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. He is the recipient of a Harvard College Professorship for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Christine Gross-Loh is a freelance journalist and author. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and the Huffington Post. She has a PhD from Harvard University in East Asian history.