Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: Mistress Shakespeare

Author: Karen Harper
Rating: 4/5
Grade: C = Caution - 14 and up (sexual themes and mild language)
Publication Date: February 5, 2009
(Thank you to Christopher Nelson with G.P. Putman's Sons, and the Shelf Awareness program for the opportunity to recieve an Advance Review Copy of this book)

There are two different records filed within days of each other showing William Shakespeare's marriage. One of the records lists a marriage to an Anne Whateley, and the other to an Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway is known to be Shakespeare's wife, and the mother of his children, but the reason for the other record remains a mystery. Is it a misspelling, a misprint, or some other mistake? In Mistress Shakespeare Karen Harper puts forth a very convincing theory that Shakespeare actually had another woman, Anne Whateley, whom he married first, and then, upon finding Anne Hathaway pregnant, the first marriage was kept a secret.

Mistress Shakespeare is told through the eyes of the first, and unrecognized, Anne. From her meeting of Will near their homes as young teens, through his rise to fame and fortune, Anne is there. A very strong woman character, limited but not daunted by the restrictions put on women in her time, Anne pushes her way through life with incredible passion and compassion. William Shakespeare is her love and life, and much of the book covers his life, but Anne herself is not eclipsed by him, and feels just as real as does her non-fictional husband.

This book was very well written and researched. Especially enjoyable were the refrences to Shakespeare's sonnets and lines from his plays, and how they fit into that time in Shakespeare's life. So many things came to life for me while reading this book: the English countryside; London in all of its darkness and brilliance; the hardships of the times including sickening infant mortality rates, early old age, religious persecution, and the black plague. I very much appreciate historical fiction which does not idealize the past, or figures from history. Karen Harper manages a compelling novel, full of easily digestible and realistic history.

Visit Karen Harper's Webiste to learn more about this book, and to find places to pre-order.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: A Greener Christmas

Edited by: Sheherazade Goldsmith
Rating: 4.5/5
Grade: A - All ages

I was lucky enough to receive this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

This is a nice thick, colorful book full of wonderful and easy ideas on how to simplify Christmas. It has many great ways to get away from the consumerism and wasteful habits usually shown at Christmas-time. And in case you aren't convinced of the necessity of this, from the introduction:

Somehow this day that should be full of creativity, good will, and thoughtfulness has lost its way and has ended up as a symbol of our throw-away society, in which we buy products that have no real use, are not designed to last and, despite their huge, long-lasting polluting production costs, provide only a brief thrill. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are now widely recognized as the two most polluting days of the year: the equivalent of three weeks of carbon dioxide emissions and three billion tons of extra garbage are generated worldwide over this short period. Much of the extra trash collected contains discarded gifts, most of which will end up in landfill sites.

To combat this, the book is full of projects and ideas to make, grow, and recycle gifts for Christmas. Included are: recipes for homemade traditional holiday goodies; homemade lip balm; natural cards made from recycled paper and objects such as seeds and leaves; themes for decorating your tree with directions on how to have a - natural Christmas tree with dried fruit and other foraged materials, or a Fabric and paper Christmas tree made from eco-friendly material such as vintage fabric and discarded paper, or an Edible Christmas tree filled with homemade sweets. And the list could go on and on.

All of the projects in this book are accompanied by bright close-up pictures of the finished product, along with photo's of each step in the process. Great for someone, like myself, who has a hard time visualizing things and figuring out what something is supposed to look like. The projects are categorized into five different categories: Welcome - the front door decorations; Christmas Tree; Giving; Table; and finally, food. The back of the book has templates for many of the projects for those of us who cannot free-hand.

To sum up: love the look of the book, the lovely glossy pictures; love the layout of the book, well organized; love the creative and little house on the prairie-ish ideas = loved the book


Mailbox Monday

Here are the books I recieved in the mail this past week.Mailbox Monday hosted by The Printed Page

Paradise Fields by Katie Fforde (from paperbackswap)

Old Men at Midnight by Chaim Potok (paperbackswap)

A Greener Christmas edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith (LibraryThing Early Reviewers)

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shemas (from Miriam at Hatchette for blog tour)

Five things I can't live without by Holly Shumas (also from Miriam)

Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog by Barbara Gail Techel (from the author)


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog

Author: Barbara Gail Techel
Illustrator: Victoria Kay Lieffring
Rating: 5/5
Grade: A - All ages

(Thank you to Barbara Techel for sending me a copy of this delightful book for review.)

Frankie, The Walk 'n Roll Dog is the true story a miniature dachshund who has an accident and is unable to use or feel her back legs. This is the inspiring story of her and her owners' courageous battle to overcome this challenge, and lead a normal, happy life.

The book is written in first person by Frankie. She tells the story of her life in delightful, descriptive language: from first meeting and going home with her 'mom'; to trips to the farmers market in the basket of mom's bicycle; through her recovery and fitting in a dog wheel-chair. Even though sad and scary things happen in the book and emotions are expressed, the overall feel of the book is one of hope and healing and fun.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. The textured cartoonish look takes up the whole page, and makes you feel that you are right there with Frankie and her family.

My seven and nine year old daughters read this book as soon as we got it in the mail. I have to admit that I had to intervene, because they were fighting over who got to read it first. They both very much enjoyed the book, as did my two year old and four year old. I think children of all ages, and adults also, will enjoy and feel inspired by reading Frankie's story.

More information about Frankie and the author Barbara Gail Techel:

National Best Book 2008 Awarded by USA Book News!
Nominated by Dog Writer's of America for Merial Human-Animal Bond Award!
Frankie nominated for Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame!
Watch Frankie's Inspirational Video here,
See Frankie's TV appearances & listen to radio interviews!
Follow Barbara on


Winners Announced: Flirting With Forty

Thanks to all who participated in the Flirting With Forty giveaway. The winners, as chosen by, are as follows: tetewa, Theresa N, and Carmen.
Congratulations! You will be contacted by e-mail.

Edited to add: A new winner has been chosen as Carmen is lucky enough to have already won the book on another blog. Jo-Jo is the new third winner.

Edited to add: Theresa N. already won the book, too. So, Anita Yancey has been chosen.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winners Announced: Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale

The winners have been selected for Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale. I used's random number generator, the numbers selected belonged to: shelburns and darbyscloset.

Congratulations! I will be contacting the winners by e-mail.


Winners Announced: The Flavor Bible

Sorry for the delay, but I am finally getting around to posting the winners for The Flavor Bible. Using's integer generator, the numbers drawn belonged to: nuttbutts, Elenadc, bookoholic, Jaclyn, , Renee G.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale

Author: Robert J. McCarty
Illustrator: Stella Mustanoja McCarty
Rating: 4/5
Grade: A - All ages (I would recommend for ages 5-12)

First of all I would like to thank the author, Robert McCarty, for sending me a copy of this delightful book. To find out more about the author and books visit the Planet of the Dogs website.For more information also visit their blog: Barking Planet Children's Books.

Snow Valley Heroes is the third volume of the Planet of The Dogs books. I have not read the first two books, but this book is able to stand on its own. The beginning of the book explains what the books are about:

"Long, Long ago there were no dogs on planet earth. In those days dogs lived on their own planet in peace and happiness.

The Planet of the Dogs series of books tells the stories of how dogs first came to our planet. They came to teach people about loyalty and love, and to help them find peace. "

In Snow Valley Heroes the dogs have a great and important challenge.
The King of the North, full of revenge and hatred for having been banished
to the ice castle, has stolen two of Santa's reindeer. His goal: ruin
Christmas for everyone. The dogs, on their own planet, are alerted to this near tragedy, and send down a group of dogs from their own Snow Valley, who are used to the snow and the cold, to deal with the situation.

This was a great story. It has much going for it: Christmas that needs saving; dog heroes working with humans to achieve a peaceful resolution to conflict; great names and customs of the northern tribe of people who live near Santa's village; an icy and cruel heart which is melted by the kindness, love, and companionship of dogs; wonderful soft drawings, capturing the spirit of the dogs and the landscape perfectly; and even a map in the beginning to help visualization of this land.

I very much enjoyed the adventure and spirit of this book, and plan on adding it to our list of Christmas books read each year to help us get in the spirit of the holidays. While this book had many great lessons to teach, they were so buried in the plot and excitement of the story, that they did not come out preachy or off putting. I recommend this book to children and dog lovers alike


Monday, December 15, 2008

Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Mondays is a meme hosted by The Printed Page . Participants share what came to their mailbox during the past week.

This is my first time participating in this meme. Last week these books came to my mailbox/doorstep:

Audrey Wait by Robin Benway (won from a giveaway on Presenting Lenore
Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper (Shelf Awareness)
The Change Your Life Challenge by Brook Noel (from Danielle Jackson with Sourcebooks)
Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Story by Robert J. McCarty (from the author)
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (Shelf Awareness)
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson (Shelf Awareness)
I'm Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph (Shelf Awareness)


Review: The Magician's Book: A skeptics Adventures in Narnia

Author: Laura Miller
Genre: Literary criticism
Rating: 4/5
Grade: C - 14 and up (sexual themes)

When Laura Miller was in second grade, her teacher lent her a personal copy of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Laura was immediately pulled into the world of Narnia, and belonged to that world until she was thirteen - when she discovered the christian themes in the books. Feeling very betrayed, for by this time she had turned away from her catholic faith, she abandoned the books. Years later, in college, she returned to the books for an essay on the most influential books of childhood, and this book, The Magician's Book, is a continuation and expansion of that essay.

In the first section of the book (Songs of Innocence), Laura explores the draw of the books, apart from the christian themes: what it is that has captivated so many children, and herself; why there is not just an enjoyment of the books, but a longing to inhabit the world of Narnia.

The second section of the book (Trouble in Paradise) describes her disenchantment with the Chronicles, first as a child when she discovered the christian themes in the book, and second, as an adult when she recognized other (to her) less than ideal themes including: sexism, racism, elitism, and etc. At the end of this section, she becomes reconciled to overlooking these flaws by finding in the words of Philip Pullman "another way in", by looking at the Chronicles in a different way.

In the final section of the book (Songs of Experience), Laura explores Lewis as a person, and the many influences on his writing of the Chronicles. She includes his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, and how they helped and influenced each other, the affect of the scenery around him, both in his boyhood in Ireland, and his later years in Oxford, as well as many other factors.

Throughout the book, Miller tries to take the books and the man away from their Christan roots, and see what is left. The book was well written, well researched, and definitely explores the depths of Lewis and his writing, and everything else imaginable.

One area I feel that she did not achieve her desired goal, though, was in impartiality. She calls attention to the Christian critics and biographers for this failing, for idealising Lewis and his works. And undoubtedly this is true, yet she has her own agenda, which swings, at times, in the other direction, instead of balancing this out. To me, at points, she seems to be saying that she can understand and solve the riddle of Lewis' motivators in life much better than he or any of his other biographers. She seems to be playing the all knowing psychiatrist, even if her points make sense, and could very possibly be true, I like to draw my own conclusions.

Also, at one point in the book, she seems to leave Lewis entirely, and goes on and on about Tolkien, not just their relationship, or how their writings were affected by each other. It was very interesting, and well written, but felt a bit out of place.

That having been said, this was a very interesting book. So many themes are covered that it would take a review the size of the book itself to even begin discussing them. I would recommend this book to Narnia and C.S. Lewis fans. It is always good to look at things from a different point of view. Even for those unfamiliar with the Chronicles, this could be an interesting read, as there is so much of other books, and life and reading in general. While understanding and insight will be added from having read the books, Laura Miller does a great job a describing the passages that she discusses, so that it isn't neccasary to have read the Narnia books to understand.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sorry for the mess!

I was trying to change my template today and managed to erase all of my widgets. I thought I saved them, but they cannot be found. Still looking for a template that has everything I want, and messing around with the view. I will try and get this done soon! I am looking for a three column template with tabbed headers, simple, which uses all available space well. Let me know if you know of any free templates that sound like this. Thanks.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blog Advent Tour

I have the pleasure of being a participant in the 'Blog Advent Tour'. I had intended to have my post up last night, but the date snuck up on me. Luckily I visited Things Mean A Lot this morning, and saw her Christmas post, which reminded me that it was my day for the tour also.

I am finding this much more difficult to write than I had anticipated. Not because I can't think of anything, but because I can think of too many things. My mind is flooded with Christmas' past. Christmas has always been so LARGE in my life, as I am sure it is to many, many people. When I was a child it all began on the weekend after Thanksgiving with a trip to the mountains on our snowmobiles to search for and cut down the perfect tree. The tree, of course, was never really perfect. It always looked better in the forest than it did once it was cut down, the snow brushed off of it, hauled on top of the mini-van for miles, and put up in the living room. Then the large gaps and crooked trunk became apparent. But it never mattered, it was our tree, and we saw it as perfect.

After we decorated the tree, it was time to decorate the house, outside. My dad went a little crazy -think Griswold - with our outdoor decorations, but it was always tastefully done. Not only was the house perfectly outlined, but the barn and the trees were also. It looked like a storybook gingerbread house (a very large gingerbread house since it was two-story and over 3500 square feet). We lived out of town, but once the sun went down, the corner by our house was filled with traffic, some of the cars even turned around in our driveway, so it was pretty clear that they had come to enjoy the lights. My bedroom was on the second story, and the Christmas lights outlined my bay window. I still feel so happy and peaceful imagining the soft, colorful glow of those lights as I drifted off to sleep.
Then there was the long string of Christmas Parties. Church Christmas parties with ham, cheesy potatoes and candy; family Christmas parties with ham, cheesy potatoes and candy; parties my parents hosted for their friends, which we spied on from the banister; the party at the fire station (my dad's work) where Santa Claus rode into the station on a fire truck, and then magically passed out to each child just the present he/she was wishing for (I am pretty sure now that our parents had a hand in that); and the list goes on.
On the fourteenth of December we always began 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', where we would pick a family to adopt and drop something on their doorstep each night. Something that vaguely corresponded with the song, my mom was very creative with this. We usually picked someone going through a hard time, and my brothers and I would take turns running to the door, ringing the doorbell, and then running away as fast as we could to avoid being seen.

And then finally, on Christmas Eve, the real celebration began. I always looked forward to Christmas Eve even more than Christmas morning, that was when we exchanged our 'name' gifts, which I guess you would call secret Santa. Early in the month we drew out a name of someone else in the family to secretly buy a present for, though we always ended up knowing who was buying our present, because we had to split up when we went to the mall together to buy these gifts. It was always a task trying to figure out who could shop together, without seeing their own present. Before we got to open this one gift on Christmas Eve, we always acted out the nativity story. My dad read from Luke, and we dressed up in robes and towels. I was always Mary, being the only girl until my little sis came along ten years later, then she was baby Jesus. When I was small, my dad was the camel, and I rode in on his back. Unfortunately all of these wonderful pictures are at my mom's house, I really need to get copies so that I have them too.
Many of these traditions I have carried on with my own little family. More than anything that is what Christmas is to me, family. Which is why, with five children of my own, we still pack up all of our presents, and goodies and blankets and sleeping bags, and five kids, and go to my mom's house for Christmas. Since my dad died of colon cancer six years ago, at the age of fifty-two, Christmas has never been quite the same. Christmas was so much his thing, and it has been dialed down a notch with him gone, but now we have a new tradition: on Christmas Eve, when we have a big fancy dinner, we light a candle and take a silent moment to remember him. If anyone loved Christmas and exhibited the spirit of Christmas all year long, it was my father. Never does he seem as close to us than he does at Christmas time. We'll be thinking of you, dad.

Click HERE to see the list of other participants on this tour.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday Question of the week

Today at Booking Through Thursday:

1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?(I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone?)

I don't think that I could ever actually get to read as much as I want to read, I mean I do have to sleep, but for the most part I do read when I want to, and much more than I should. Yes, I have a serious problem, I start hyperventilating if there is not a book within reach. My house looks like a tornado rushes through it each day, and little kids at home rarely get their hair brushed unless we leave the house. My life is rather unbalanced, with reading heavying out things that should be more important.

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

Hmm. That really depends on what I am in the mood for reading. I do already get most of the comfort reading in that I wish to. I think that if I had unlimited time, I would read more of the educational and classic books that I sometimes don't get to.

I have just started heavily into reading books that are sent me for my reviews, so this changes my reading patterns a bit. But I still get to choose what I am sent, and it hasn't started to feel like a chore yet.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Book Bloggers Christmas Swap

It wasn't until I saw someone else's post about what they received from the 'Book Bloggers Christmas Swap', that I realized I had not blogged about what I got. I also lost the card with the e-mail address of the person who sent me my lovely box, so have not even said thank you, though I am planning to send a card. Thank you, Debi!

So, inside my lovely unexpected box (unexpected because it came so quickly, it was around the first of December) were a number of fun Christmas items, including: two Christmas books; a very nice scrap booked notebook; a cute snowman candle; packets of hot cocoa; and some delicious chocolates - dark chocolate and hazelnut which happens to be my favorite combo.

Humorous quote from one of the books titled Christmas Hugs:

"People really act weird at Christmas-time! What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree in the living room and eat nuts and sweets out of your socks?"

And from the other book, Christmas Blessings:

"Anyone who believes that men are the equal of women has never seen a man trying to wrap a Christmas present."


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas 'Classics'

There are so many really great children's Christmas picture books out there. There are an equal number of not so great books, too. Here are a few of the books that we like to read each year:

I must, of course, begin with the book that has made Christmas feel like Christmas to me since i was small, How the Grinch stole Christmas. I am not even going to write a review of this, I think we all know how wonderful it is. (Besides, I am holding a sleeping baby and typing with one hand)

Another, that is considered a classic to my children, since it was written before they were born, is The Very First Christmas written by Paul L. Mair and illustrated by Frank Ordaz. We love all of the fun Santa Claus and snowman Christmas books out there, but it is also nice to have a book that is in celebration of the birth of Christ. The author is a historian, and included many facts that help explain the Christmas story from the bible. This is done as an eight year old boy listens to his mother read from the bible, and asks her lots of questions. Best for older children -6 to 10 - but younger children will enjoy the absolutely stunning, lifelike artwork.

Letters from Father Christmas is a book that I enjoy more than my children do, I bought it for myself. But the kids also find it interesting. It is a series of letters written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Every year he wrote to his children as Santa Claus, it also includes his original artwork that goes along with the letters.

This vesion of The Night Before Christmas contains the unadulterated classic poem, and the familiar wonderful artwork that I remember as a child. We actually have a couple of copies of this, as Santa Claus gave it out at the library two years ago. (Much better than a sticky candy cane)

Angel Pig and the hidden Christmas is one of my children's favorites. It has a very familiar theme: that the point of Christmas is not the gifts that we receive. The pigs in this story find this out when they realize they have no money to buy all of the Christmas stuff with, they begin to despair, and then angel pig appears and helps them to have a wonderful Christmas after all. I especially love the illustrations by David McPhail, and the rhyming verse is very funny and well done.


Teaser Tuesday

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.
Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!
My Teaser:

Kleist leaves the possibility of finding an alternate entrance up in the air, but Pullman believes that it is attainable. Having lost our innocence, we must pursue understanding, knowledge and experience to its furthest reaches."

From The Magician's Book: A skeptics Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller


Monday, December 8, 2008

Giveaway: Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale

Thanks to the generosity of the author, Robert McCarty, I have two copies of his new book Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale to give away. The books are written and illustrated by Robert and his wife Stella. To find out more about their books, or to read a sample chapter, visit the Planet of the Dogs website.

The authors are also involved with promoting a very unique reading program for children. To find out more about this visit the Barking Planet Children's Books blog.

Description from the publisher:

"It was a few weeks after Christmas when all the troubles began. It had been a lovely day in Santa Claus Village with the winter sun sparkling on the snow. Most of the elves, after enjoying a fine dinner cooked by Mrs. Claus, had gone to the workshop to continue cleaning up and to begin making plans for next year.
Santa, sitting in his favorite chair, had dozed off to dreamland when he was suddenly awakened by Tulip, the elf lady. “Santa! Santa! Wake up! Two of the reindeer are gone!”
This was how the troubles began. And they continued to grow -- missing reindeer, stolen sleds, winter storms – until it seemed there could be no more Christmas. It was then that Daisy, Bean, and the dogs who would become known as the Snow Valley Heroes arrived in Santa Claus Village…"

To enter this giveaway:

1. Visit Barking Planet Children's Books then come back and leave a comment letting me know what you think of the reading program. Is it something you would want to see in your community?
2. For an extra entry, become a follower of this blog, blog about this contest, or twitter this. Please leave a separate comment for any of these you may chose to do.
3. Contest is open to address' in the US, UK, Canada, or Ireland.
4. The contest will end Tuesday, December 16, 2008, Midnight, MST.

Visit Amazon to read the glowing reviews of this book:

Good Luck


Winners Annonced: Confetti Cakes for Kids

Congratulations to the winners of this fun book:
nuttbutts, Sarah, Grateful Gramma, MonieG, and cpullum.

An e-mail has been sent to the winners. If I do not hear back from them within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn.

Thanks to all those who participated. Please join me for future giveaways.


Musing Mondays

How long do you wait after finishing a book before you pick/start another one? How many books do you have planned ahead or do you pick up random books from your tbr pile (if you have one)? Do you review right away or keep reading and come back to it later?
I do not wait to finish one book before I begin another. I am usually reading a number of books at the same time. I keep a 'currently reading' book in each part of the house, so that I always have something on hand while: waiting for the computer to load; washing dishes; nursing the baby (and, yes, there is always one of those - I have five kids ages nine and under); waiting for the kids to brush their teeth; and etc.
I have a general idea of what I will be reading next, but it is often disrupted by mood, and new books that I find. On the top of my pile are the books I have been sent review copies of.
Lately I have been trying to review the books I have read right away. Otherwise I get a discouraging stack of books to be reviewed, and none of them get reviewed. I also tend to forget things rather quickly - which is one of the reasons I started my blog, so that I can remember what I have read and what I thought of it.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review: Video Game Play and Addiction: A Guide for Parents

Rating: 4/5

This book is a brief and useful guide to video games for parents. Written by a child psychiatrist, Kourosh Dini, MD, it explores many of the psychological aspects of video games. Within the book are guides to the different kinds of video games out there; an explanation of the rating guide by which games are rated, and how to use these as a parent; in depth questions to help you know if your child is exhibiting problematic play patterns; and discussions on the pro's and con's of video games - where they can help and teach, and where they can harm, and how to see the signs of each.

Though this book was written toward parents, and regarding children, I believe it could be helpful to anyone who wants to better understand video games and their draw. I know it was helpful to me in understanding my husband's seeming addiction to video games, and the questions about problematic game play were very useful. The bibliography for this book is extensive, and gives plenty of resources for further study on this subject.

To read more about the book, or purchase from the publisher, click here.
Find out more about this author here. In the book the author talks briefly about the music he preforms in an online game, read more about this and listen to his incredible music described as "minimalist piano with slashes of ambient electronics" HERE.


Giveaway: The Flavor Bible

Thanks to Anna at Hatchette Book Group I have three copies of this wonderful resource to give away. See my review of the book here.

To Enter the Giveaway:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me about your most creative cooking experiments. Or you can e-mail your entry to:

2. For a second entry, become a follower of my blog. If you are already a follower that counts.

3. Sorry, as the book ships from the publisher, only US and Canada mailing address' are accepted. No PO Boxes.

4. Contest ends Monday, December, 15, 2008, Midnight, MST.

Good Luck


Review: The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide To Culinary Creativity, Based On The Wisdon Of America's Most Imaginative Chefs

Rating: 4/5
Grade: A-All ages

(This book was generously provided for my review by Anna with Hatchette Book Group .)

This book is not your usual recipe book. In fact, there are not any recipes in the book. The book, instead, explains the components of taste: Flavor = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + "The X Factor". The first chapters explain these terms, and how the great cook uses them together also remembering the pleasures we get through body, mind, heart, and spirit, to get succulent results.

About recipes the book says:

Slavish followers of recipes, who treat them as gospel instead of guidelines, make the mistake of putting more faith in someone else's instructions than they do in themselves. Many people would do better in the kitchen if the didn't blindly follow recipes. In fact, following recipes may be holding you back from achieving you potential as a cook."

After the introduction and first few chapters, the body of the book is a list of ingredients, and the foods and spices that have flavors which complement this food. As well, as the foods season, best cooking methods, incompatible flavors, etc. The cook then uses these guidelines and their imagination to create new and creative dishes.

Since I have a hard time getting consistent results from recipes, and tend to rely too much on recipes, as the book warned against; I decided to give this a try:

Sweet potatoes was the ingredient I chose. Flipping to the section on sweet potatoes, I looked for compatible foods that I had on hand, and found apples and cranberries. I decided to simmer/steam them on the stove top in a small amount of Olive Oil

I then consulted the book for herbs/spices that were compatible and that I had on hand. The seasonings I chose were: allspice, and tarragon. I added these along with some salt and pepper,
and drizzled honey over it for sweetness. This simmered on low until the apples and potatoes were tender.

And here is the finished result. It wasn't so bad. And from this I learned some things: 1. apples and cranberries are both tart, and made the dish too sour, next time I will use one or the other; 2. don't add the cranberries until the sweet potatoes and apples are starting to get tender, because they turned to mush; 3. If I had used only enough ingredients to cover the bottom of the pan, there would have been less stirring and less mashing of food, and then all of it would have had the lovely caramelizing on the bottom.


Review: Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems

Rating: 5/5
Grade: A-All ages

If any of you have somehow missed out on reading the Knuffle bunny books, you should definitely remedy the omission. This is one of the books that, as an adult, I can stand to read over and over again. And it is one of those that my children request again and again. The art work is wonderful, simple, childish painting set on a background of real black and white photos. The expressions on the faces are hilarious, which I think is one of the most important criteria in a children's book: can you feel the story, the emotions, through the pictures.

In Knuffle Bunny Too the little girl has grown up and is in preschool, but still as attached to her bunny as ever. When she brings her bunny to school, horror of horrors, another girl has a bunny that looks just like hers. They are both very upset by this, and arguing ensues, which leads to the teacher taking away the bunnies, and a hilarious mix-up with consequences all parents can relate to.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day of Kid's Books

Title: The Shelf Elf
Author: Jackie Mims Hopkins
Illustrated by: Rebecca McKillup Thornburgh

Because of the comment the illustrator left on this review, I have decided to reserve my rating of it until I have seen the book up close, as opposed to being read it by the librarian.

Grade: A-All ages

Yesterday we had a great day full of children's books. First we (myself and my three youngest) went to the library story time. The Librarian read The Shelf Elf, which, while not a Christmas story, at least referred to the shelf elf's cousin who made toys and lived up north. The main emphasis of this story is library etiquette. The shelf elf is in charge of making sure that there is order in the library, that the books are shelved correctly, and that they are put back were they belong, this by the patrons using shelf markers to keep the place of the book. The kids then got to color and laminate their very own shelf elves to use as shelf markers.

I'm sure the librarians would be happy if this little elf really existed. Though maybe he does, I had the most wonderful Christmas present from the library this week. They called me and told me that a Christmas book that I had checked out and returned last year, but that had shown up missing, and I had eventually paid for, had resurfaced, and that they had a check waiting for me. Nine months ago my eyeballs nearly popped out of my head when I had to pay $30 for a book I knew I had returned, but it was a nice little bonus now, this close to Christmas. Thanks Shelf Elf!

In the afternoon I hauled the three little ones to big sister's 'Read-In'. This is the monthly reward her teacher has devised for the children who complete their at-home reading minutes(200+ minutes for the month, Elisabeth had nearly 800).The children get to bring parents, favorite people, or well behaved little brothers and sisters, blankets, pillows, favorite books and stuffed animals and they all...yes, read.
I brought some Christmas books that we checked out from the library earlier in the day. We only got through three of them, because the little girls in the class congregated around Annabelle, my eight month old, and fought over who got to hold her. So I had to mediate by trading who got to hold the baby after so many pages. Anyhow, the books we read:

Rating: 5/5
Grade: A-All ages

This was definitely the favorite of all in the group. I enjoyed it myself. Even older kids, six and seven years old, seem to like very simple as far as picture books go. Minerva Louise is a hen who misconstrues all of the Christmas things she sees. such as the goats with fancy horns on the roof top; and the farmer with the red hat who falls down the well. In the end she figures out that this Christmas thing is OK. The children actually chose for me to read this one again rather than one of the other books I had brought.

Title: The Wild Christmas Reindeer
Written and Illustrated by: Jan Brett
Rating: 4/5 (five for the illustrations, three for the text)
Grade: A-All ages

Teeka has the weighty responsibility of getting Santa's reindeer ready for Christmas. They have been wandering free since last Christmas, and things don't go as well as she had planned. She yells at them and tries to force them to do what she wants, but they will not cooperate. As the days go by, and Christmas gets closer, Teeka learns the best way for a leader to lead is not by force.

As always, the illustrations in the Jan Brett book were gorgeous. I especially love the details of the Christmas countdown on the side of each page. The story itself, or the way it was written seemed a bit stiff and contrived: listing unfamiliar names for all of the reindeer, and then telling responses from each was rather confusing. The kids didn't really listen to this at all, but it could have been because they were distracted by the baby. (Ironically enough that same baby just got a hold of this very book from the desk where I have them stacked, and is trying to eat the pages)

Rating: 4/5

Grade: A-All ages

This was a cute book, done in bright watercolors. Simple and great for preschoolers. With each number the girl in the story does something to prepare for Christmas. We see her projects: cutting, stirring, writing, and the last numbers show the finished projects: cookies for Santa, pine cone and birdseed ornaments for the animals, etc.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Flirting with Forty Blog Tour, Review and Giveaway.

Descripton from the publisher:
"He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and staring down her upcoming birthday-alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and the wild passionate fling they have becomes the biggest surprise of Jackie's life.Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood...and memories of Kai. He hasn't forgotten her. Yet thousands of miles of ocean-not to mention an age difference that feels even wider-separate them. And, of course, her friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?"

(For your chance to win a copy of this book, keep reading to the bottom of the post. Yes, all the way to the bottom.)

I have the privilege of being part of the book tour for Jane Porter's Flirting with Forty, hosted by Miriam at Hatchette Book Group.

Rating: 4.5/5
Grade: D - 18 and up (sexual themes)

When I signed up for this tour I had not read any of Jane Porter's books, but thought that this would be a fun beach read sort of book. Well, it was definitely that, but also much, much more. I was actually surprised by this depth of the book. I do like to read chick-lit - I enjoy reading about women that I can relate to, and it is always fun to have a romance thrown in - but I never expect certain things that I found myself doing as I read this book, such as: crying, laughing, grabbing my highlighter and underlining great passages, raising my fist to the sky and yelling "yes, we can do it" (metaphorically, of course).

Through her character "Jackie", Jane Porter explores many of the challenges, guilt trips, and emotional upheavals that we as women face. One of my favorite parts of the book which so clearly illustrates what it is all about happens on Jackie's fortieth birthday, as she is celebrating with her two children:

"Dining room light back on, I cut the cake, making sure Jessica and William both have good pieces while I take the first piece I cut, the piece that comes out messy and broken. It's so second nature to take the piece that isn't pretty, that doesn't have all the icing, that I don't even think twice until I take a bite. And then suddenly I look at the beautiful cake and then down at my plate with the mashed top layer and the naked bottom layer, and I don't want this piece. I want a pretty piece. It's my birthday cake. My fortieth birthday cake. Can't I have a good piece on my own birthday?

I cut another slice of cake, this one with a rose, and put it on the plate with all the candles."

Her children's response to this action, and her reply are hilarious, but I don't want to spoil too much of the read. And while I laughed at this, it is so true, and not so funny after all. We as women - mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters - give our all to those around us. It is second nature for us to put everyone and everything ahead of ourselves, even when there is no just cause for doing so, such as Jackie with her own birthday cake. We take what is left, maybe we think it is all we deserve. Flirting with Forty, and Jane's other novels, to me, are all about empowering women. Not in an 'I hate men' sort of way, but the women take responsibility for their actions, and realize all that they are capable of, despite what life has thrown them, and without leaning on crutches of circumstance.

This tour is in celebration of the movie debut of Flirting with Forty on Lifetime Television premiering Saturday, December 6Th, 9pm/8central. Watch the trailer at Lifetime

Found this great recipe I plan on drinking while watching the movie:
(as I am off of sugar and alcohol, this is about as wild as I can go.)

Banana Mango Smoothie
by John Fisher,

A refreshing and flavorful non-alcoholic treat for the whole family made with fresh bananas and mangoes.
4-6 ripe bananas
2 ripe mangoes
1 tablespoon honey
3 ice cubes
1/4 cup apple juice or coconut milk (depending on personal choice)
Preparation:Blend all ingredients together until smooth.Serve in a tall glass.

Jane Porter on location with the cast (dosen't she look gorgeous in that bikini, she should have starred in the movie herself!):

About the Author :

A UCLA grad with an MA in Writing, I am one of those original book geeks, the girl with the coke bottle glasses that sat with a novel next to the classroom door rather than play during recess. I wrote my first story in first grade, my first picture book in second grade and my first novel in 4th, and I've just continued to write from there—bad poetry, passionate essays, romance rich novels and poignant, bittersweet contemporary fiction.

But writing doesn't always come easy to me. I have to work at it. To go below the surface and find the real story in each story, the heart of the novel, the one the reader will hopefully remember long after the story is through. Writing makes me a bit mad which is why I work very hard to have good hair.

When not writing, what do I do for fun? Travel. I don’t know if it's from growing up in a small Central California town, or living abroad with my family when I was 13, but I crave change, travel, adventure. Put me in a car, a ship, a plane and send me off. I subscribe to countless travel magazines, have a library of travel books, and am always interested in where people have been.

Then of course, there are my kids. Being the mom of two boys I watch a lot of sports, and do goofy boy things with them like create slug habitats and nurture baby geckos. It's not the life I expected—I was such a Barbie doll girl—but its full of Tom Sawyer moments that surprise, delight and absolutely exasperate me but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The boys and I live in Bellevue, Washington, six miles from downtown Seattle, and with the plethora of pro sport teams, rugged mountains, coffee houses and bookstores, it's the perfect place for a writer to call home

Visit Jane at her website:

Jane's Books:

Other stops on the blog tour:

The Giveaway:
Hatchette Book Group is providing three books for me to give away to readers of this blog. To enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post (if you have trouble or are unable to comment, send the entry to my e-mail:

2. For another entry, become a follower of my blog (if you are a follower already, it counts, too), or blog about this giveaway. Let me know this in a separate comment, remind me in a separate comment if you are already a follower.

3. For another entry, watch the movie on Saturday and tell me what your favorite part was.

4. Sorry, contest is only available to U.S. and Canadian shipping address'. No PO boxes.

5. Contest ends Thursday, December 18th, 2008, Midnight, MST.


About This Blog

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP