Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: The Laws of Harmony by Judith Hendricks


I am a fan of Judith Hendricks work and have read and enjoyed two of her previous novels, Bread Alone and Baker's Apprentice.
Ms. Hendricks writes novels that are rich in content, character driven and includes a foodie focus on food and cooking. I was thrilled when I learned that I was chosen as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program to review The Laws of Harmony. This novel definitely continues the pattern that I found in her other books and does not disappoint.


This is the story of Sunny Cooper who grew up in New Mexico on a commune. Her life was affected in many ways as she grew up in this environment both in positive and negative ways. A tragic event made a great impact on her life and as a reader you learn what this event is as Sunny confronts and faces this as an adult. As an adult, in her 30's, she is living in Albuquerque, and finds herself in a relationship with Michael and a best friend Betsy who both betray her in many different ways. Sunny makes a choice to pick up and start over somewhere else and ends up in the town of Harmony on San Miguel Island. She ends up with a new job, makes some wonderful new friends and even learns to ride a motorcycle. She learns she must confront her past to move forward and has an unexpected reunion with her estranged mother.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Laws of Harmony. I liked seeing how Sunny changes and grows as a character and reading about the details of her life growing up on a commune was very interesting. My favorite part of the book was Sunny's life in Harmony which sounds like a charming town with wonderful characters. Sunny made many friends that appear to be true and strong friends that truly care about her. Her mother, Gwen, is another interesting character and I liked how Ms. Hendricks explained why she chose to live her life and raise her family on a commune. It was very fascinating to read about this lifestyle and how it affected the whole family in many positive and negative ways. As a reader, it made me think about what a "normal" family is and that there really is not a "normal". It is different for everyone based on our experiences and what our family of origin and environment is like. I believe that it is what we make of those experiences that effect us as adults and how we choose to learn from them.


The Laws of Harmony would be a great book for a book club discussion. I am going to suggest it to my book club for over the summer. There is a readers guide (you can find a reading guide here) and an author interview (found here) at the end of the book. You can contact Ms.Hendricks to talk to your book group about any of her books for details, go here. Listen to a discussion with Judith Hendricks about The Laws of Harmony with Book Club Girl at Blogtalk Radio, here. This was a wonderful interview and discussion and I was thrilled to hear that Ms. Hendricks is considering a sequel to The Laws of Harmony. There is definitely much more to uncover in this story and to reveal about Sunny's future and her relationships with other characters in the book.


As I mentioned, Ms. Hendricks books have all had a foodie focus on food and cooking. I love reading books that have a culinary focus, fiction or nonfiction. The Laws of Harmony incorporates the southwestern themes of cooking on the mesa where Sunny grows up in the commune as well as in Sunny's adult life. Sunny has worked in several restaurants and enjoys cooking and baking and her character makes many delicious meals and desserts that sound delectable. The one that stands out is Sunny's Blue Ribbon Blackberry Brownies. These sound heavenly and Ms. Hendricks has created a recipe for them and it is featured on her website, you can find the recipe here. I am definitely going to make these, they would be great as a dessert at a book club discussion for The Laws of Harmony.


If you haven't read a book by Judith Hendricks, this would be a great book to start with. If you have already read books by Ms. Hendricks and enjoyed them, you will definitely enjoy The Laws of Harmony. Be sure to check out Judith Hendricks website, here. You can read an excerpt, here.






Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Giveaway: Follow Me by Joanna Scott





Yesterday, I reviewed Follow Me by Joanna Scott , you can read my review here. Hachette Books has given me the opportunity to give away one copy of Follow Me to one lucky reader.






To Enter:

  • For One Entry: Leave a comment and let me know if you enjoy reading a saga or epic style novel and why, what about this style of novel draws you in? Make sure that you include your email or that your email is in your blog profile. If I have no way of contacting you by email, your entry will automatically be withdrawn.
  • For a Second Entry, In a SEPARATE comment: tell me that you have Blogged about this giveaway and share a link(posting in your sidebar is fine).
  • For a Third Entry, In a SEPARATE comment: Tell me that you Follow My Blog or Subscribe in a Reader (let me know if you are already a follower or subscriber)
  • This giveaway is ONLY open to U.S. and Canada.

I'll use random.org to draw a winner and the contest will end on May 7th, 2009 at Midnight EST. Good Luck!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Review & Blog Tour : Follow Me by Joanna Scott


I read Follow Me by Joanna Scott as part of the April Blog Tour with Hachette Books. This is the story of a young woman's search for herself and as readers, we follow her along this journey through her life. Sally Werner was born and raised on a farm in Pennsylvania with her siblings and immigrant parents. She makes many impulsive decisions as a young girl and along the way into adulthood. She abandons her home and family and follows a path along a river that continues to be a focus throughout her life. She finally tells the truth of her life, six decades later, to her granddaughter and namesake. Sally, the granddaughter, then finds herself on a journey of uncovering the truth to her grandmothers secrets and past history.


The story unravels slowly and in the style of a saga or epic. It was a slow start for me, and I had trouble immersing myself fully into this long story. I found Sally and her impulsive decisions annoying at times but I certainly felt empathy for many of the situations she went through. She was a strong lady who persevered through many trials and tribulations. I enjoyed the parts told through the eyes of her granddaughter Sally and how she unwound the truth about her grandmother and unraveled many family secrets. Joanna Scott is a true storyteller and she weaves a strong and intense story. If you enjoy a saga or epic style novel rich in details and storytelling style you will enjoy Follow Me by Joanna Scott.


Published: April 22, 2009

Thank you to Miriam at Hachette Books for sending me this book.


Check back tomorrow for details on how you can enter the giveaway for your own copy of Follow Me by Joanna Scott.


Other Blog Participants:

http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/






Mailbox Monday (April 27) & Comment Moderation


Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. My mailbox wasn't as full last week. This is what I received:
What books came into your house last week?
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Comment Moderation
I've been spammed with comments in chinese and have had to add comment moderation for the time being. I know that other bloggers have had this happen to them. What have you done to get rid of this spamming?!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Salon (April 26)







We're having unusually warm weather here in the Midwest with temps in the mid 80's which is very unusual for April. The sunshine and warmth are nice and definitely lift the spirits. I had a busy week with only one review posted on Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, which was my book club book for this month. I hosted my book club this week at my house which always takes extra time to clean, prepare appetizers and dessert, etc. We had our first author chat with Joshua Henkin which was a wonderful experience. We weren't sure what to expect and how it would go but we all had a great time talking about the book, talking with Josh who was very funny and kind. You can read my post about it here.

I also served an amazing dessert at my book club, this recipe was recommended by my friend Mary at Bookfan-Mary for Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Yogurt Cake. It was fabulous and everyone loved it. It was the perfect spring dessert served along with blackberries and raspberries.








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I'll be hosting a Hachette Book Blog Tour tomorrow for Follow Me by Joanna Scott and will be posting a giveaway the next day, on Tuesday, so check back for both of these posts.

I'm currently reading:


The Laws of Harmony by Judith R. Hendricks


Esther: It's Tough Being A Woman by Beth Moore (Bible Study)




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~





Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit bestowed upon me the 2009 Friendly Blogger Award. I was so thrilled to receive this award. Thanks so much Serena! Make sure to visit Serena's wonderful blog! There are so many friendly bloggers out there and I will bestow this upon those who have been especially friendly and helpful to me as a blogger:


Bookfan-Mary

Peeking Between the Pages

Life in the Thumb

Thoughts of Joy

Janel's Jumble

Bermudaonion

At Home with Books

My Cozy Book Nook

Bella is Reading

Book Reviews by Bobbie



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review & Author Chat: Matrimony by Joshua Henkin


I won a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin through a giveaway at April's blog Cafe of Dreams last fall. I saved the book to read for when I was hosting my book club. After an unexpected rescheduling from last month, my book club finally met last night to discuss Matrimony. The added bonus was an author chat with Joshua Henkin via phone. Josh has been so wonderful to work with and understanding of our schedule glitches as well. This was our first author chat and Josh was very gracious and kind and we all enjoyed talking and laughing with him as we picked his brain a bit about the characters, writing Matrimony, and even his own life as a husband, author and professor. He has a great sense of humor and was very kind and patient and even answered a question my 10 year old son asked him about being an author. We all had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed talking with Josh.

Matrimony is the wonderful story of friendship, marriage, trust, betrayal and choices we make in life that effect our present and future. Matrimony follows the ever changing relationship between Julian and Mia from when they meet in college and are dating to their marriage and struggles into middle-age. Julian comes from a wealthy background, the only child growing up in New York City. He heads off to college to a small college in Massachusetts and his dream is to become a writer. He meets Carter in a writing class and a professor that has a great influence on them both. Julian and Carter become best friends even though they have little in common and come from very different backgrounds. Julian comes from a wealthy background who wants to distance himself from that lifestyle and world and Carter who comes from a poor background and envies and aspires for what Julian takes for granted.


They both find girlfriends, Julian meets Mia who is Jewish and he is not and both come from very different backgrounds as well. Carter meets Pilar and they all end up being housemates and the course of their relationships start to change. Life events alter things and Mia deals with a family crisis and follows with her and Julian marrying. They marry earlier than they had planned and this decision alters their relationship as they move forward towards the next chapters of their lives.


The course of events in their lives as they move forward in their futures effect change on them all within their marriages and friendships. I read the book in two days as I wanted to find out what would happen in Julian and Mia's lives. The college days had a slower start for me and then I was pulled in through to the end. I found Matrimony conveys the message that every marriage is full of complexities and is different and unique in it's own way. To me it also highlights how choices we make and how we manage those choices effect us all in different ways. If you enjoy a novel with strong insights and one that is character driven, make sure that you read Matrimony.



Check out Joshua Henkin's website here, for further details about Matrimony. Go here for information to buy the book, available in hardcover and softcover.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mailbox Monday (April 20th)



Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. My mailbox was overflowing again last week. This is what I received:



The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Cooper Ramo ( Audiobook from Hachette)


Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer (Audiobook from Hachette)


Reunion by Therese Fowler (Pump up your Book Promotion Blog Tour & Random House)


Clara's War:One girl's Story of Survival by Clara Kramer(ARC)
The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar (ARC)
In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger


Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff (ARC)
The Locked Garden by Gloria Whelan (ARC)


The Blue Notebook by James Levine ( Spiegel& Grau)



The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir (Paperbackswap)

Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs (Paperbackswap)

The Angels Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (ARC Random House)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Sunday Salon (April 19)



I want to congratulate all of those who participated in the Read-a-thon, there was some impressive reading going on for 24 hours around the blogging world and in support of their charities. I was gone most of the day but attempted to check in later in the day showing my support to several bloggers that I knew were participating. I am going to consider doing this next year or whenever the next one comes around. My son may want to try doing this with me as he loves to read and would love the chance to attempt to stay up for 24 hours. This would be a good opportunity to support a food allergy charity as well. Hnmm....I'll have to give that some serious thought.






I announced the Winners of I Love, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti............ but sadly, I haven't heard back from 2 of the winners after several emails. So, I've had to choose 2 new lucky winners.




~Christina and Wanda~



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*Awards*


I've also been very fortunate to have been bestowed several awards. I've been remiss in posting them sooner.




I want to thank Bobbie for bestowing me with two awards:






First, is the Premio Dardas Award:


This award acknowledges the the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.
















The Second award is the beautiful, One Lovely Blog Award. Please make sure to visit Bobbie's lovely blog, Book Reviews by Bobbie.











Mary has also given me not one but two wonderful awards! Thanks Mary!


Mary has given me the Splash award:


This award is for blogs that inspire, awe, allure, amuse, bewitch or impress you.


What an honor! Thank you, Mary! Please make sure to visit Mary's wonderful blog at Bookfan-Mary.










The second award is the Zombie Chicken Award:



"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all..."




Please make sure to check out both Bobbie's andMary's wonderful Blogs, these are two great ladies! So, I don't incur the wrath of the zombie chicken....I am passing on all of these awards to my readers. Pick one or all and pass them along!!

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett


The Help is a wonderful story set in the deep south of Jackson, Mississippi and it is told through the eyes of three amazing women who join together to write stories of what it is like to be a maid in the 1960's during the civil rights movement. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, comes home after graduation from Ole Miss in 1962. She is different than other women during this time, she is not anxious to get married and she has a college degree. She wants to find a job and applies for one at a NYC publishing firm. She is encouraged by an editor there and finds a job at the local newspaper writing a weekly cleaning advice column. She enlists the help from a friends maid which opens up the door to another writing idea and the start of an amazing connection between Skeeter and two maids and incredible ladies, Aibileen and Minny.

Aibileen and Minny's characters portray the beauty and strength of black women who were maids in the south during this time of great difficulty. Their strength of character shined through the pages through their first person narratives. The reader could understand the fear and tension and discrimination that these women felt. We could also see the ignorance and arrogance of white people during this time and I disliked many of them for these traits. Sadly, this is the reality of this time but Aibileen and Minny were able to make changes in their own lives indirectly through these stories. They loved the white children that they raised and many white families treated them very well. They also had to endure their own hardships within their own families sacrificing much to make ends meet. I was struck by the depths and layers of honesty this book portrays. This is not an easy time to write about and there is much shame I felt as a white women reading this that these events or ones similar to them, actually occurred in our history and racism on so many levels continues to exist. The book does leave you with a great sense of hope and as the characters in this book stood up to make change, this reflects the reality of time that so many others did as well.

The Help is Kathryn Stockett's first novel and what a wise and powerful debut this book is. Ms. Stockett shares in the acknowledgements and on her website that she was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and was raised by a black maid. You can tell through her writing that this is a story close to her heart and one that she took great care in writing. One point that the author shares in her acknowledgement is that there was one line in the book that she prizes and it touched me as I read the book as well:

"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much seperates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought. "


The Help is definitely one that is on my list of Best Books for 2009. It is a powerful and engaging book that I could not put down and I continue to think about the characters and the story after I have finished it. Make sure to visit Kathryn Stockett's website to read more about The Help, find discussion questions, discussion with the author, read an excerpt and more. You can listen to a podcast with the author here.

Thank you to Amy Einhorn Books/Penguin Books for providing me with an ARC copy of this book.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Different Covers: Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs & A Giveaway!




Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs was originally published in hardback edition,which is the top cover with the black background and the gorgeous orange apricots. The trade paperback edition was just released on April 7th, it is the cover below, with the gorgeous cupcakes. Well, I read an advanced reading copy of Comfort Food and wrote a review last year and didn't realize that the trade paperback edition was the same book. This was one of my earlier reviews when I had just started my blog. It looked so different that it didn't register that it was the same book that I had already read. The new trade paperback edition includes two NEW recipes. One is for Homemade Buns, which is Kate Jacob's grandmothers secret recipe. The other recipe is for Gus's golden cupcakes. Both recipes are extra treats for her readers. There is also a readers guide at the end of the book.


Please visit Kate Jacob's website here, for additional information. Also, visit the website for the book Comfort Food, here. There is a reading guide, excerpt of the first chapter, recipes and more.


The publisher sent me a trade paperback copy and since I had already read this book I have decided to offer this brand new copy of Comfort Food to one of my readers via a giveaway.







To Enter:


  • For One Entry: Please leave a comment, let me know which cover you prefer and why. Make sure that you include your email or that your email is in your blog profile. If I have no way of contacting you by email, your entry will automatically be withdrawn.
  • For a Second Entry, In a SEPARATE comment: tell me that you have Blogged about this giveaway and share a link(posting in your sidebar is fine).
  • For a Third Entry, In a SEPARATE comment: Tell me that you Follow My Blog or Subscribe in a Reader (let me know if you are already a follower or subscriber)
  • This giveaway is ONLY open to U.S. and Canada.


I'll use random.org to draw a winner and the contest will end on April 24th, 2009 at Midnight EST. Good Luck!!



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review: 10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea by Suzy Welch


10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea is an amazing book, chock full of great ideas, anecdotes and humor and it is written by best-selling author Suzy Welch, a mother of four and a columnist for Business Week and O, The Oprah Magazine. Suzy developed this 10-10-10 principle from her own experience as a mom and businesswoman. The 10-10-10 principle is a wonderful tool to help you think through choices and determine how a decision would impact your life immediately (10 Minutes), in the short term (10 Months), and over a longer stretch of time (10 Years). This approach is similar to looking at things with a pro and con viewpoint but it takes it much further. It allows you to look at things over time and think through how a decision may effect you. It is not always wise to go with that first gut reaction that we often do, myself included, it really is important to think things through before reacting. When we go by the gut only, it's often emotional based and we also need to engage our brains and think about our values and beliefs to make some of those more serious decisions. We can use our gut instinct but also challenge ourselves to think beyond the here and now. I believe that this approach can blend with a person's religious beliefs and faith. Here is a quote that Suzy mentions in the book:


"You can consider 10-10-10 another approach in that it's powerful means to make sure you are living in accordance with your values, no matter what their source"


Suzy shares her own story and others and how they have used the 10-10-10 method to make choices and decisions that are big and small and how using this method has transformed their lives. The 10-10-10 approach has helped everyday people make decisions about buying a house, career choices, changing jobs, having more children, staying in a marriage, ending a friendship, etc. I enjoyed reading the real life stories and how they applied this approach. Suzy shares through different chapters how to apply the 10-10-10 method to motherhood, working and stay-at-home moms, marriage, friendship, jobs and career changes. I really enjoyed the practical nature of this book and it was easy to read and understand. I believe that this approach and style promotes ease in trying to apply this method as it is not an overwhelming process. In the chapter where she explains the brain and science behind 10-10-10, she quotes Fyodor Dostoevsky:

"It is not the brain that matters, but that which guides it--the character, the heart, the generosity, the new ideas."


I used the 10-10-10 approach with my husband when we were having to make a recent major decision. It allowed us to look closely at the short term and long term possibilities and opened up a dialogue where we shared feelings, concerns and possibilities on both sides. We haven't resolved this issue completely yet but it helped us to move closer to a final decision. I look forward to using this as a tool in my own life and I encourage you to explore this as well. I think that this will be a great tool for moms to apply to their own lives, share with your children and use in your families.


10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea will be available for purchase today, April 14th. You can find out more information about the book, view an an Author video and even listen to an Audio Excerpt with the author Suzy Welch at her 10-10-10 website here.



Thank you to Mothertalk for choosing me to participate in this book blog tour.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mailbox Monday (April 13th)



Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. My mailbox was overflowing last week, bear with me as this is a long list and I won't be able to post all of the bookcovers as I normally do.




The Wish Maker by Ali Sethi (ARC from Penguin)

10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea by Suzy Welch (Upcoming Blog Tour for MotherTalk)


Follow Me by Joanna Scott ( Upcoming Hachette blog tour)

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (This was a surprise from Random House, it is the paperback edition which will be released April 14th. It arrived with a few candy treats that coordinated with the cover which was a nice touch. I loved Garden Spells and this has been on my wishlist so it was a pleasant surprise!)

Sonata for Miriam by Linda Olsson (Won from Book Club Buzz-This was a wonderful surprise as well as this has been high on my wishlist since I knew it came out. I loved the authors first book Astrid & Veronika and can't wait to read this one. )

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel (From BookClubGirl)

Angels of Destruction by Keith Donoghue (ARC from Random House)

Precious by Sandra Novack (Upcoming TLC Book Tour)

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This list of books came from Paperbackswap:

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Finding Calm in Life's Chaos by Becky Harling

Knitting for Dummies by Pam Allen

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Latte Trouble (Coffeehouse Mystery) by Cleo Coyle

Through the Grinder (Coffeehouse Mystery) by Cleo Coyle

Gunpowder Green (A Teashop Mystery)by Laura Childs
I also got the first bookmark from The Literate Housewife’s BookmarkIt Club. It's beautiful and I'm already using it.

What books came into your house last week?

Musing Mondays: Blog Comments





Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about blog comments:




How do you respond to the comments on your blog? Do you try to email individually or comment on post yourself answering the comments above? What do you think is the best way to respond to comments and do you respond to all of them? Do you feel slighted if you don't receive a response back from the blog owner?



This is my second Musing Mondays post and it's an interesting topic. I try to answer comments to my posts either in the comments directly or by private email. I need to be more consistent with this and could certainly do a better job as I haven't answered all of my comments. I think that some are ones that don't need a reply but there are many that I do like to comment back and it generates some nice discussion. I know that it's a time issue for most of us bloggers, myself included, to consistently reply to comments. With that said, I am trying to make more of an effort to respond to my comments and comment on other blogs. So, if you've commented and I haven't acknowledged it, please give me a gentle nudge and let me know. I really do appreciate those that leave comments, whether you agree with me or not, I appreciate your opinions. I have to be honest here, I do feel slighted sometimes when I don't receive a response back but that is usually only when I've commented fairly consistently on someones blog and I don't get any acknowledgement at all via comments or commenting on my blog. For me, If I don't get a response and I like the blog, I will still continue reading the blog but may choose not to comment often. For many of us, it can often be a time issue, and I understand that as well. I am trying to balance my own time as if I spend it all on reading blogs, I won't have enough time to read my books. On the other hand, if I ignore my visitors to my blog and their comments I may not have anybody reading my blog! I would love to hear how other bloggers have found a balance between reading , blogging and comments.
I'm really interested in how others will answer this question as I would love to hear how other bloggers handle blog comments.




For other Musing Monday posts go here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Happy Easter & Happy Passover




I want to wish those that celebrate Easter a joyous day of celebration and those that celebrate Passover a Happy Pesach.

This is my second Sunday Salon post and I want to recap my week and share a few things with you. I posted a review of Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek, a captivating read and one of my favorites of the year. I joined my first challenge that I plan to complete, The Cozy Mystery Challenge 2009. I had joined one challenge when I started my blog last summer and never completed it. I have decided to try a few challenges so that I don't get too overwhelmed with completing them. I posted about Hardback books and Dust Jackets which generated some great discussions.







National Library Week - Celebrate April 12-18, 2009

National Library Week is an annual celebration of the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians. All types of libraries - school, public, academic and special - participate.

Check out your local library to find out what they are doing in celebration of this week and support our libraries.









Have a great week,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hardback books and Dust Jackets?




Do you mind getting books without their original dust jackets?


I have a thing about books having their dust jackets on them. For me, it seems that a book isn't complete without it. It almost feels naked. I swap books at Paperbackswap and Bookmooch and have gotten a few hardback books without their dust jackets. I just got one recently and it's just an ugly black book without the dust jacket. It makes me wonder where the cover is and what happened to it and what did the cover art look like? I know that some people don't like the dust jackets and actually....throw them away!!! You may be one of those readers, it's your choice, and your books. I could never throw out a dust jacket, to me it's like defacing a book. I think that the dustjacket is part of the book. It's probably just a pet peeve for me and my preference. I understand that some people find the covers annoying and they get in the way. I've found some a bit cumbersome and they slip as I'm reading them. I can understand taking them off while you're reading a book but putting it back on when you are done with it, especially if you will be passing the book on. My son even takes off the dust jackets of his hardback books, he's only 10. I found a pile of them in his desk drawer once when he was younger and asked him about them. I was curious....he told me that they got in the way while he was reading and they just weren't important to him. I did tell him that they are part of the book and should go back on when he is done reading them.

Tell me, what are your preferences with dust jackets? Even if you throw them out, it's your opinion and I want to hear it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek

Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek was so captivating that I could not put it down and read it in two days. The story is told through the eyes of Ellie Sanders, the main character who is an eleven year old girl. Ellie is forced into adulthood way too soon due to her parents behaviors. He mother has emotional troubles that are unpredictable and sometimes frightening for Ellie. She adores her mother and has taken on more of a caretaker role to her. There are moments and memories of wonderful times with her mother and Ellie treasures them. She realizes after spending time at her best friends Mary's house, that mothers are supposed to make lemonade and take care of you, not the other way around. Ellie clings to her father for solidity and strength hoping for a normal life as other children have. Her father takes care of her and her mother and they learn to hide some of the things that her mother does. This all changes for Ellie when her father becomes smitten with a young girl who raises and sells tomatoes to the general store that Ellie's father manages. Ellie calls Tessa the Tomato Girl and blames her for disrupting her home and luring her father away from their family.


Ellie has to watch as her mother's sanity gradually slips away. The story takes place in the 60's in the south and includes racial elements respective of that time. There are many wonderful people that take Ellie under their wing and I especially enjoyed reading about Clara-The magic lady and Jericho, Mr Morgan and her teachers that watched out for Ellie and loved her. Ellie creates a secret world to save herself behind the chalk door. Here's a passage that I loved that shows the power of our hearts and minds:


"The Chalk door is good magic to shut out cruel deeds and words from others. That was a gift from Mr. Morgan, something he wanted you to use to protect yourself from rumors and name calling. But you use the chalk door to hide. To learn real magic, you have to face things that scare you. You have to face the hurt inside here," she says pointing to my heart, "if you are ever to be rid of it."


I believe that everyone has a chalk door that they can choose to hide behind and this was such a powerful analogy. This is just one example of the beautiful writing of Jayne Pupek's novel Tomato Girl.

I enjoyed reading each chapter and looked forward to the chapter titles to give me an idea of what was ahead. One of my favorite chaper titles was "Chalk Doors, Chocolates and a Kiss". When I finished the book, I did return to the prologue and re-read it and gained a further understanding of the book.

This is a powerful book in so many ways. The subject matter can be difficult to read but it is written in such a way that pulls you in and you are drawn to Ellie and the other characters in the book. There is a sense of hopefulness that draws you along through Ellies voice to the end. It is hard to imagine that a child would have to endure some of these experiences that Ellie goes through but there is a reality and truth to this story that children do experience these things and can endure. There is a positive note to the sadness told in this story with a bittersweet ending. I highly recommend this debut novel by Jayne Pupek for the depth of emotion and truth it shares, that we can endure a childhood that presents so many challenges. This is one of my favorite books that I have read this year and I look forward to more books written by Jayne Pupek.

To read more about the author Jayne Pupek and her other work and projects, please check out her website here. There is Readers Guide for Tomato Girl available here.

Thank you to Jayne Pupek and Algonquin Books for this book.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Giveaway: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giullia Melucci



I am hosting a Hachette Book Giveaway, they are allowing me to giveaway 5 copies of I Loved, I Lost, I made Spaghetti by Giullia Melucci, a Memoir. I love reading foodie books and this definitely fits into that category and isn't that a great title?!
Here is a description of the book:

From failure to fusilli, this deliciously hilarious read tells the story of Giulia Melucci's fizzled romances and the mouth-watering recipes she used to seduce her men, smooth over the lumps, and console herself when the relationships flamed out.

From an affectionate alcoholic, to the classic New York City commitment-phobe, to a hipster aged past his sell date, and not one, but two novelists with Peter Pan complexes, Giulia has cooked for them all. She suffers each disappointment with resolute cheer (after a few tears) and a bowl of pastina (recipe included) and has lived to tell the tale so that other women may go out, hopefully with greater success, and if that's not possible, at least have something good to eat.

Peppered throughout Giulia's delightful and often poignant remembrances are fond recollections of her mother's cooking, the recipes she learned from her, and many she invented on her own inspired by the men in her life. Readers will howl at Giulia's boyfriend-littered past and swoon over her irresistable culinary creations.


I haven't read this book yet as it just arrived in my mailbox
. I will be reading it soon and writing a review.

To Enter:


  • For One Entry: Please leave a comment, let me know if you enjoy foodie books and why. Make sure that you include your email or that your email is in your blog profile. If I have no way of contacting you by email, your entry will automatically be withdrawn.
  • For a Second Entry, In a SEPARATE comment: tell me that you have Blogged about this giveaway and share a link(posting in your sidebar is fine).
  • For a Third Entry, In a SEPARATE comment: Tell me that you Follow My Blog or Subscribe in a Reader (let me know if you are already a follower or subscriber)

  • This giveaway is ONLY open to U.S. and Canada.
  • No P.O. Boxes, Giveaway copies will be sent directly to winners from Hachette.

I'll use random.org to draw a winner and the contest will end Monday, April 13th, 2009 at Midnight EST. Good Luck!!




Mailbox Monday




Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. I had another full mailbox last week. Here is what I got:





























I loved, I lost, I made spaghetti by Giulia Melucci (Hachette)
One False Note (The 39 Clues book 2) by Gordon Korman (Paperbackswap)-This is for my son.
With Violets by Elizabeth Robards (Paperbackswap)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 1) by Joanne Fluke (Paperbackswap)
Strawberry Shortcake Murder (Hannah Swensen, Bk 2) by Joanne Fluke (Paperbackswap)
The Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young (Paperbackswap)
The Physick book of Deliverance Dane by Katherin Howe ( Hyperion )
The Household guide to Dying: A Novel about Life by Debra Adelaide (Penguin)


What books came into your house last week?


Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Sunday Salon: My First Salon Post

The Sunday Salon.com

I've been reading the Sunday Salon posts on other blogs and have enjoyed the variety and style of each individual post. I've decided to join this vast group of bloggers and become one of the Salonist's. Books and reading have always been a passion for me. I believe that my love of books was inspired by my first grade teacher. I had moved mid-year and was a new student in the class. She taught us how to read and I fondly recall learning to read with Dick & Jane books. She had a reading contest for the class and whoever read the most books would get to have lunch at Mrs. Ishay's house. That was very exciting, we all went home for lunch in those days and nothing like this would likely happen these days. Guess who won?! I was bound and determined to win that contest and I did. I don't remember how many books I read but I do remember that I got to have lunch with Mrs. Ishay and another teacher. She bought McDonald's for lunch which was only the golden arches in carryout and a real treat. I am definitely showing my age, this was the latter part of the 1960's. I recall how wonderful it was to read all of those wonderful books ,win the contest and spend a wonderful lunch with my teacher. I learned that books can take you to so many different places through the turn of a page and how much I loved to read.


I also have fond memories of library time in elementary school as well and recall our wonderful librarian who read amazing stories to us in her accented English. One particular book, I recall fondly was Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. This is a favorite 1970's children's classic story and is a re-creation of an ancient Chinese folktale in which children learn about the danger of having such an honorable name as:

Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-

chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo

I recall repeating that name in chanting rhythm in a read aloud story time. It was such a fun story to read and be part of. I took the book out of the library to share with my son who enjoyed reading it with me but he just did not have the same experience or cherished memories as I do.



My love of reading continued as I grew older and I have fond memories of spending time at the library in the summers. I wrote about this in a recent Booking Through Thursday post about Library Week, and shared some pictures of my favorite library I went to when I was younger. I continued to read a lot and in high school English class I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith which remains one of my favorite books today.





I continued to read in early adulthood and into college and my interests always changed. I always had bookshelves full of books and many books loaned out from the libraries. I married and my husband also loved books which made it especially nice as we always enjoy searching out a new bookstore and browsing for hours there. We would often find a bookstore along the way in our travels and would always stop in and visit whether it was in Rockport, Massachusetts or Paris, France. We would always seem to find a bookstore or library to visit.

When I was in my late 20's I needed to have surgery to have my tonsils out. I had to take some time off from work and knew that I would need to be prepared with books by my side as I recovered. A coworker and avid reader highly suggested a mystery series that she enjoyed and I decided to read them. She suggested the Alphabet series by Sue Grafton which I thoroughly enjoyed reading while I recovered at home. I have read them all and even wrote a fan letter to Sue Grafton and have been on her mailing list ever since. I have a collection of goodies that she used to send out in the mail promoting her books, now it is only a postcard. She also send out a yearly Christmas photo card from Kinsey and Sue. Through being on her mailing list, I was also able to purchase Kinsey and Me: A Collection of Short Stories by Sue Grafton a signed, First edition, rare copy as only 300 were printed in 1991. This is considered a very scarce book and was designed by Sue and her husband and was never in stores, sold only by mail order to Grafton fans. The book is maroon cloth backed, in a maroon cloth slipcase, gilt-stamped leather spine label with marbled end pages and is one of the most beautiful books that I own. It is also the most valuable books as a few copies are currently listed at Abebooks between $800-$2000. I don't read as many mysteries as I once did but I do still read all of the books in this series.


When we had our son, I started collecting books early for him and received many special books as gifts. I have saved some of the early ones as we have such special memories reading them together. My son is now 10 and loves to read and collect books as much as his father and I do. He especially enjoys finding old, vintage books at the library book sales we go to together and has acquired an interesting collection of his own. He is fascinated by the old, musty books and their histories filled with thoughts and ideas scribbled with fountain pens. This picture is one of the books that he has which was published in 1902. He wanted me to share that this book has a personal inscription, "To Charlie, From Uncle George" written with a fountain pen in fancy writing with perfect handwriting.




I started a neighborhood book club several years ago and that has opened my world to reading more books that I normally wouldn't choose to read. I have enjoyed dissecting a book and sharing thoughts and opinions with others and hashing it out when we have differences of opinions. I've also learned something interesting about being in a book club and being able to discuss a book with others. The benefit for me has been to hear others thoughts and opinions and different viewpoints as it opens my mind to different perspectives. Even when I may not care for a book I come away with a different attitude about the book after discussing it. Also, we always have delicious appetizers,wines and dessert to enjoy. This is a must in our book club...good books, good wine, good food, good friends...who could ask for more?!

I wanted to share a few highlights from the past week here. I was thrilled to have Erica Bauermeister, author of The School of Essential Ingredients (and one of my favorite books that I've read this year) write a very special guest post about Fondue and Magic. I read and reviewed Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber, the 5th book in the wonderful Blossom Street Series. I also wrote a review of the third book in my son's favorite Wimpy Kid Series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney. I also have a giveaway ending tonight, April 5th at Midnight EST for a copy of Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews, to enter, go here for details.

I need to stop rambling here but I wanted to share some more personal thoughts about my life and books with those who regularly read my blog. I don't always share much personal information as I get a bit nervous about sharing pictures on the Internet, especially of my son, and other personal details.

To read more Sunday Salon Posts, go here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid-The Last Straw


Diary of a Wimpy kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney is the 3rd book in the series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I've read all of the books in the series now. To be honest, I understand why kids are drawn to them but as an adult reading them all back to back they got a bit old. As I've shared in my reviews of the other books in the series, this is one of my son's favorite book series. My son AJ who is 10, was so happy that I read the first book and when I finished it, he lined up book 2 and 3 in the series on my nightstand. It was nice to know what he was reading and talk about the books with him. I'll definitely do this again with other books and of course, I will read the 4th book in the Wimpy Kid series which according to the Wimpy Kid website, it will be out on October 12, 2009. My son will be sure to mark the calendar for that one.

This book, continues the story of Gregory, a middle schooler who started writing a diary one summer when his mother bought him one. He's continued writing his stories and complementing them with comics. The comics definitely add a lighter, fun feel to the book and kids seem to love this part. Gregory continues to get himself into embarrassing situations and learns lessons the hard way. This book starts off on New Year's Day where he tries to help other people improve and then it ends at the start of summer vacation. His father seems to be a bit disappointed in his son's and the antics they get into. He decides that they need to learn how to be "men" and threatens to send Gregory to military school. Gregory ends up doing all he can to "bond" with his father and of course, ends up in many precarious situations and not at all what he intended in the first place. The book also details ways that Greg tries to get along with his brothers, his attempts to impress a girl named Holly in his class, and how Greg attempts to get through being placed on a soccer team he doesn't like. It's obvious in the book that Greg is doing all he can as a kid to get through life. He tends to be self centered and socially awkward and kids can definitely relate to that as well as the theme that grown ups really don't get it. I think that is a universal rule in childhood...Kids don't think that their parents or any grown ups "get it"!

The reading level for these books are ages 9-12 but they are fun for adults to read as well. These are great books for boys and girls, well read and reluctant readers as it will draw them in through humor and the comics. According to the author, Jeff Kinney's website, the series started off as a web comic online at Funbrain.com . This book mentions at the end that Jeff Kinney is also the creator of Poptropica , a fun kid's game website.


  • The first book in the series is: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you can read my review here.
  • The second book is: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick rules, you can read my review here.
  • Another book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do- it-yourself Book(an interactive journal).


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Review: Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber


Summer on Blossom Street is part of a wonderful series by Debbie Macomber called the Blossom Street Series. This is book five and I've read them all and they are one of my favorite series. Blossom Street is a friendly neighborhood in Seattle and the series centers on A Good Yarn, a cozy yarn shop owned by Lydia who also teaches many knitting classes. There are other shops along Blossom Street that are featured in the books and they include the French CafĂ©, Susannah’s Garden and Blossom Street Books.


The main character of the series is Lydia, who owns and runs A Good Yarn. She is a cancer survivor, married and a stepmother to a young boy. She runs the shop with the help of her often critical but supportive sister Margaret. Lydia decides to start a new class called Knit to Quit. It's for those who want to quit something or someone and start a new page in life. The members of the class include a few new characters and a familiar one. The new members include Phoebe who just ended an engagement to an unfaithful man and wants to get over him. A familiar character from previous books joins the class as well, Alix . Alix and her husband want to start a family but she needs to quit smoking. Another new member is Hutch, who needs to deal with stress in his life caused by running his family chocolate factory business as well as deal with an impending lawsuit brought about by a greedy and unsavory lawyer. His health has been affected and his doctor suggests he learn how to knit. Hutch decides to give it a try and finds he likes learning to knit and has more than one reason to stick with the knitting class.


Life is complicated on Blossom Street as it can be in "real" life and as it can be to learn to knit. I consider myself a newbie knitter as I have just made a few scarves and basically taught myself to knit as the knit shop I went to had a very impatient owner try to teach me how to knit. It was in no way like A Good Yarn. I ended up teaching myself with my mother-in-law's help. The members of the class learn to knit a Cable Sampler Scarf and there is even a pattern included at the end of the book.


Some other complications develop in the book among other characters such as Ann Marie, who owns and runs Blossom Street Books. Ann Marie recently adopted a daughter, Ellen and things are going along well in their family which includes their cute Yorkie named Baxter. I assume that may be him on the cover. Things change when a handsome stranger stops by the bookstore one day and starts to ask some questions about Ellen. Also, things are challenging for Lydia as she is helping her aging mother who they are helping adjust to a recent move to an assisted living facility. Then, Lydia and her husband Brad unexpectedly become foster parents to an angry and defiant 12 year old girl. She has a lot of uncertainty in her own life being shuffled from home to home while in the foster system. What she really wants is a family and a home but is uncertain that this will ever happen for her.


I savored this story when I read it. Debbie Macomber has a style of writing that for me, just pulls me right into the pages and I feel as if I know the characters on Blossom Street. They have become so familiar to me that they feel like old friends. These books are comfort reading at it's best. They lift you up and touch your heart and they make you yearn for more. As soon as I finished this book, I wanted more. I cannot wait for the next book in the Blossom Street Series. While I wait, I am going to work on catching up in another favorite Debbie Macomber series called The Cedar Cove Series. That will have to hold me for awhile. If you are a fan of this series, you will certainly enjoy this book. If you've never read a Blossom Street novel, dive in and start at the beginning with The Shop on Blossom Street. If you want you can even start with Summer on Blossom Street or any of the others in the series. Each book gives you enough background to follow the story and you can go back and catch up on the rest.


Summer on Blossom Street will be released on April 28, 2009. Check out the Debbie Macomber website here. You will find information about all of Debbie Macomber's books, readers guides, Knitters club including knitting & crochet patterns from her books, recipes, contests and more.




Thanks to Kim from Nancy Berland Public Relations for this ARC copy.