Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review: The G-Free Diet by Elisabeth Hasselbeck

I have had The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Free Survival Guide by Elisabeth Hasselbeck on my bookshelf for several months and had to find the right time to read this book. Ms. Hasselbeck is well known as a co-host on The View and has been outspoken about her journey with celiac disease. Elisabeth found herself sick, starting in college and couldn't figure out what was the cause of her illness. She consulted numerous doctors and specialists but not one was able to help her determine the cause of her stomach problems and illness. She was a contestant on the TV show Survivor, with a very limited diet and was able to pinpoint her health problems to wheat and ultimately gluten. She had to be her own advocate and ended up diagnosing herself and finally found a specialist in Celiac Disease that did further testing to confirm the diagnosis.

In the G- Free Diet Hasselback shares how she learned to adjust her lifestyle to a gluten free life. She shares her experiences and suggestions throughout the book from what exactly gluten is to how to read food labels, finding gluten-free products, how to grocery shop effectively, adapt recipes, how to manage G-Free living with family and friends and more. This is a great book for the beginner and it includes extensive lists of products and restaurants that are G-Free.

The G- Free Diet focuses primarily on celiac disease but it also highlights other health conditions that may benefit from changing to a gluten free diet. Such conditions as arthritis, diabetes and even autism. There are many parents who have found significant improvement with their children with autism after changing their diets to a gluten and casein free diet. There is a chapter that discusses this in the book. I have several friends who have children with autism who follow this type of diet. They have found it has made a significant improvement in their children's lives.

I decided it was the perfect time to read this book as I am researching a gluten free diet for my son. I've mentioned here before that my son has major food allergies, with peanuts and tree nuts being the worst as they are life threatening. He also has many other food allergies and lactose intolerance. We are researching some changes in his diet as we believe he may be sensitive to gluten and feel that it may be beneficial to try a diet change. The G- Free Diet will be a good resource to use if we decide to go down this road of becoming gluten free. I found many suggestions that were familiar to me with already having a child with food allergies. I am constantly on alert and checking food labels, checking with manufacturers and careful about foods that my son eats at school and at restaurants.

The G- Free Diet would be a good resource to start with if you , your child or family member has been diagnosed with celiac disease or needs to follow a gluten free diet. Hasselback is a prime example to many that you often need to be your own advocate and research information yourself to get answers. This is not to say that anyone can self diagnose themselves accurately, you should always confirm this with a medical professional. I feel that the book is more geared toward the newly diagnosed and the person who has learned to live a G-free lifestyle may already be familiar with this information. I would have liked to have more information from a medical doctor added as an additional chapter or addendum to explain the medical issues. Also, the professional advice added from a nutritional point of view by a medical doctor and/or nutritionist would have been an added bonus.

For more information, check out the G-Free diet website . You can read an excerpt from the book, here.

Disclosure: Copy of book provided for review from Hachette. I am an Amazon associate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"To sit alone in the lamplight with a book..." by Yoshida Kenkō

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations-- such is a pleasure beyond compare.

~ Yoshida Kenkō ~

I found another wonderful quote about reading on facebook today posted by one of my favorite local indie bookstores, Joseph Beth Booksellers. Yoshida Kenkō was a Japanese poet and monk born in 1283. You can read more about him and read more of his quotes and poems here. I think Mr. Kenko had much wise wisdom to share and this quote is so very true. Is anyone familiar with the writings of this ancient Japanese Poet?

(Yosida Kenko)
From Wikipedia: Yoshida Kenkō (吉田兼好,c.1283?–1350?) was a Japanese author and Buddhist monk. This picture was drawn by Kikuchi Yosai(菊池容斎)who was a painter in Japan.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"The Greatest gift is the passion for reading..." by Elizabeth Hardwick

The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.

~ Elizabeth Hardwick ~

I found this wonderful quote about reading on facebook yesterday. It was posted by one of my favorite local indie bookstores, Joseph Beth Booksellers. I wanted to share it with my bookish friends and readers who would appreciate it. I was not familiar with the writer, Elizabeth Hardwick, so I did some research via google. I found that she was a " ... critic, essayist, fiction writer and co-founder of The New York Review of Books." (Information from her obituary in the New York Times, she died in 2007 at the age of 91). You can read more about Elizabeth Hardwick and some of her essays, here at The New York Review of Books.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Review: Cherries in Winter by Suzan Colón

Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colón is part memoir and part cookbook and the perfect book to read in the winter...or anytime for that matter. This is a beautiful book written in a narrative style by Suzan that emphasizes a warmth and gentleness in tone. I found it very inviting and easy to read. Suzan found herself laid off from her magazine job during the economic changes of 2008. She had to make adjustments and to cut back on expenses including expensive haircuts and even the basic necessities including the food budget, for herself and her husband. She found her Nana's recipes in a folder in the basement along with scraps of paper and envelopes filled with her grandmother's wisdom and family history.

Suzan found stories of how her grandmother and great grandmother simplified menus and made do during the great depression. Suzan's mother also filled in some of the details along the way. Suzan shared some of these recipes that she modified to fit more modern times and the stories behind them, in the book. Recipes such as Beef Stew, Baked Pork Chops, Meatloaf and even desserts such as lemon meringue pie and butter cookies.

Suzan learns that she isn't the only one that has had to go through tough times and the three other strong women of her generation also had to do the same. She finds strength through the recipes and comfort food that she prepares for herself and her husband. She learns that there is wisdom to be learned from her family members that have faced similar challenges in their own past.

I found this book one that many women could relate to as we learn from our grandmothers and great grandmothers just how hard it was for them to survive during the depression and war times. I am very close to my paternal grandmother who is now 92 and in poor health. She was born and raised here in the USA and lived through the depression. I treasure the stories that she shared with me of how hard times were as her parents were immigrants and illiterate and her father was a junk man. He drove around a horse and buggy and sold rags and old things to make a dollar. They were a large family and she learned from her older brother how to line her shoes with cardboard when they had holes in them. He knew that their parents couldn't afford new shoes so he tried to help. My grandmother shared with me that there may not have been much money but there was a lot of love and that is what held them together. They learned to survive through hard times and that is a lesson that we can all benefit from. Suzan shares that lesson she learned from her family with us throughout Cherries in the Winter, and it is one we can all learn from.

I highly recommend this gem of a book that is inspiring, entertaining and will make you stop and think about the hardships in your own life and how to learn and treasure the wisdom from past generations. It makes me wonder about my own grandmothers recipes and where they ended up. I think that they may be in my aunts basement and I'm going to try and find them. This would make a great book to discuss with a book club and the recipes could be shared and served as there are a variety of recipes to choose from. There is also a readers guide for Cherries in the Winter that you can find here.

Here is a video that I found of Suzan making meatloaf with her mom and explaining the story behind the title of the book Cherries in Winter. I definitely want to make this meatloaf over the winter, it looks like a very hearty meal that my family would enjoy:


Here is another video of Suzan making butter cookies, the recipe is in the book on page 95. They sound delicious and easy to make. I am going to make these cookies this week.

Check out Suzan Colón's website Cherries in Winter, here. You can find much more information about the book and Suzan as well as some old photos of the family members she discusses in the book.

Disclosure: Thanks to Doubleday who sent me this Bound Galley copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Salon: After the Holidays

It's been a busy week as my son had to go to school until Wednesday as they had a later start to the school year due to construction. He also had an orchestra concert at school (he's in the 5th grade), he plays the bass and's taller than him, even though it's technically a junior bass! It's a heavy instrument and weighs close to 50 lbs. I dread carrying that thing as it is so heavy and awkward as it is so large. This is his second year playing the bass and we were all quite impressed at how much they've improved and have moved up to playing more serious music such as Russian Music Box and Bach. Last year, the highlight was jingle bells (which we were still very impressed with). We were very proud of him! He was also very happy as he had family (besides just his parents) at his concert for the first time. My brother and niece were here from Florida and my sister in law was able to make it. Here's a picture of the bass...the boy is not my son.

We had a nice and quiet Christmas but I didn't get any books under the tree. I did give my son the Guinness Book of World Records 2010 as he loves these kinds of books. To be honest, we are all trying to read through the books that we have so we cut back this year. My hubby did buy me a much needed Cuisinart coffee machine as my current coffee machine is not working very well. I can't wait to use it.

Books reviewed:

Currently reading:

Cherries in Winter:My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colon


My Off The Bookshelf Giveway ends on December 3oth. I am giving away 5 ARC copies and they include:

Go HERE, for details and to enter.

Review: The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

The Perfect Christmas was a quick , light read that I read in two hours. I am a fan of Debbie Macomber and this book was no exception. It was perfect to read around the holidays as it was not heavy or involved. Debbie's stories are focused on family, friendships and learning a lesson or two about life and love. That's what The Perfect Christmas shares in it's story.

Cassie, a single woman in her thirties is looking to find the perfect man, the perfect family and the perfect Christmas. Her coworker and friend suggests she make an appointment with Simon a professional matchmaker who is a psychologist and claims to be able to find your "most suitable partner" or his very expensive fee will be returned. Simon who is very business like and difficult asks Cassie to complete three tasks before she meets the man he believes is her perfect mate. She completes these Christmas related tasks with some funny encounters and learning experiences along the way. Cassie is finally ready to meet the man of her dreams and she is surprised whom her perfect man ends up to be in the end.

Disclosure: My reading copy was borrowed from the library.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review: Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs

Knit the Season is the third book in the Friday Night Knitting Club series by Kate Jacobs. I've read and enjoyed the first two books in the series, Friday Night Knitting Club and Knit Two. This story begins a year after Knit Two and Dakota is struggling with figuring out what to do over the Christmas holidays. She is in culinary school to learn to be a pastry chef and has scored an interview for an internship over Christmas week. Her father, has secretly made plans to surprise her and planned a family trip to see Dakota's Gran in Scotland. Dakota is torn between this as well as other issues related to the knit shop Walker and Daughter. The story takes the reader through many holiday seasons including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and finally to New years.

Most of Knit the Season was focused on Dakota and her life and decisions including learning more about her mother, Georgia who is a beloved character for most fans of the Friday Night Knitting Club series. I found the story focus on family bonds and friendships weak and not in character with the strength of the previous books. The storyline was disjointed and it just didn't flow smoothly for me. I wanted more focus on the secondary characters and I felt Anita was portrayed as a weak woman and not the strong character she has shown to be in previous books. I preferred the last half of the book when the family went to Scotland to visit Gran as her character is very endearing and wise and the storyline was stronger. I didn't care for the flashbacks of memories of Georgia and her life. I found it didn't flow or fit into the story and boring at times.

I did like to see the knitting patterns in the back of the book including one for a knitted bookmark I'd like to try knitting. There are also recipes that sound delicious, especially the recipe for shortbread.

This is a tough review to write as I am a fan of this series but Knit the Season just didn't stand out as strong book in the series for me. I will not be giving up on the Friday Night Knitting Club and hope that the next book has a stronger plot and storyline.

For reviews with a different perspective:

*My copy was an Advanced Reading Copy and it had a multitude of typos that I found very distracting. I hope that they were all corrected in the final copy.

Disclosure: I won this book from Peeking Between the Pages.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Salon~ Holiday Themed Books

We weren't hit by the major nor'easter that hit the east coast but we do have snow, cold and ice here in Ohio. I was out yesterday and there were many car accidents and cars that had slid off the road. I have learned as I get older and as a parent having a child in the car that it is not worth rushing in this kind of weather. I take my time and go easy and hope and pray I get to and from home safely. My brother and niece drove up from the south yesterday and got stuck for 7 hours on the turnpike. I can't imagine how hard that must have been, especially with a young child. Fortunately, they had enough gas, food and provisions and a portable DVD player so my niece could watch movies. We will be seeing them today and my son is very excited to see his cousin as it's been a few years.

~Holiday Themed Books~

I've been reading several holiday themed books in the past few weeks. They have been perfect for me to read with so much going in with family issues and my grandmothers declining health. I find that for the most part they are light, inspirational and meaningful. So far, I've read and enjoyed Christmas Cake by Lynne Hinton (You can read my review, here) and Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb (You can read my review, here). I am currently reading Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs which I was thrilled to win an advanced copy at Peeking Between the Pages. I am a fan of the series. I don't enjoy reading these type of holiday themed books at other times of the year...what about you? Which holiday themed books are you reading or are your favorites?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book or DVD: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell is a classic and a book that I have wanted to read but haven't had the opportunity to yet. I've heard rave reviews of the BBC drama series adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell's classic novels. I recently received an email from Masterpiece which is on PBS and they are having "a special encore presentation December 20, 27 and January 3. On January 10th, fall in love again with Return to Cranford, the all-new sequel." I am planning to watch or tape the series even though I haven't read the book.

Here is a summary of the book Cranford from Goodreads:

A gently comic picture of life in an English country town in the mid-nineteenth
century, Cranford describes the small adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah,
two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Rich with humor and filled with vividly memorable characters including the dignified Lady Glenmire and the duplicitous showman Signor Brunoni—Cranford is a portrait of kindness, compassion, and hope.

I usually like to read the book before seeing a movie version but I am planning to watch or tape the series even though I haven't read the book. It sounds like the perfect thing to watch around this time of year. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have read Cranford and/or have seen the series.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Great Kindle Giveaway...Win a Free Kindle!

Do you want a chance to win a Free Kindle? I sure would...this contest ends very soon, tomorrow December 18th. Click on the banner above or click on this link to The Great Kindle Giveway here. Please use my links as it gives me an extra entry to the contest. Thanks and good luck!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

Wishin' and Hopin' is a Christmas story that is heartwarming and funny. It's the story of Felix Funicello a 10 year old boy who is in the fifth grade in a Catholic elementary school in 1964. Felix narrates the story and is a boy who is innocent and a bit naive but he can also find himself in trouble by his own doing. His parents own a lunch counter at the bus station in Three Rivers, Connecticut and their cousin is the famous actress Annette Funicello. The fifth grade class has a substitute teacher for the first part of the year that is a layperson and not a nun. Madame Marguerite brings an interesting perspective with her focus on all things French. The class is full of interesting characters and antics that will make you chuckle at times and at others feel sympathy for those in many embarrassing situations.

The book ends with the hilarious school Christmas pageant where almost everything seems to go wrong. It is truly laugh out loud funny. There is a poignant end to the story for Felix's family that binds them together and is a highlight of their family memories. I especially enjoyed the epilogue at the end of the book where Wally Lamb lets us know what happens to the characters in the story. That was a nice touch as we don't often know what happens to the characters in a story and this was a fun way to end the book.

I'm a fan of Lamb's work and this was no exception. It was quite different than his previous novels but I enjoyed it immensely. If you are looking for a light and fun Christmas book to read or give as a gift, this is the perfect choice.

Disclosure: Thanks to Kyle from Harper Collins for sending me this copy to review. I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel

For me, this is the perfect time of year to read books about women's friendships. I am a fan of these types of novels as well as the epistolary style novel of a story told through letters. I enjoyed reading The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel which fits both of my favorites as it is a story of women's friendship told through emails and letters and an added bonus is the focus on food with more than 80 recipes included. Food and friendships always seem to go hand in hand in most women's lives.

Lilly and Val are lifelong friends and the book opens after they reconnect through emails after a falling out 26 years earlier. As young girls, they write to each other as pen pals after one has moved farther away. They form a Recipe Club between them and share favorite recipes along with intimate letters in which they share their hopes, dreams and deepest secrets. The two girls continue to write letters and share recipes from their younger school years through to college. They are both very different, Lilly is dramatic, confident and quite the adventurer and risk taker. Her parents are both distant and are often fighting and she craves their attention. Val is plain, shy and idealistic. She struggles with the emotional baggage of a mother who is housebound and demanding and a father who is a dreamer.

Their lives take different paths and these differences and misunderstanding may often keep them apart. They always seem to reconnect along the way through their recipe club until one day when an act of concern is perceived as a betrayal. Decades later they try to reconnect and recapture that lost trust only to uncover a shocking secret.

I connected to this story in many ways as I am the same age as Lilly and Val and had a best friend who moved away and I wrote letters to. She returned in high school and we remained close friends. We didn't have a recipe club but she often sent me the poetry she was writing and we shared many secrets and dreams. We had a falling out as adults and I had to make the painful decision to disconnect from her. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and I still miss her but know that the chaos in her life was just too much for me to manage anymore.

The recipes are a nice addition to this book and makes it a cookbook as well as a novel about friendship. It is printed beautifully with artwork and drawings that are a nice touch. The feel of the book is like a cookbook as well, nice and solid and thicker pages. I look forward to trying some of the recipes in the book.

This book would definitely make an excellent book to discuss with a book club. It would be great to pair food and drinks around recipes from the book at a book club meeting. You could even have a recipe swap or start a recipe club. My book club has our own cookbook where we share favorite recipes from our book club meetings and favorite family recipes. We have an organizer who compiles and prints out the recipes each December that we submit and she passes them out for us to add to our cookbooks. We all look forward to this every year so I would say we do have our own recipe book club.

Check out the authors website The Recipe Club, here.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to Caitlin from FSB Media, for sending me a copy of this book. I am an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Review: Christmas Cake by Lynne Hinton

In Hope Springs, North Carolina there is a group of friends that have a deep and enduring friendship. Margaret, Jessie, Beatrice and Louise have been friends for years and they are all members of the Women's Guild of the Hope Springs Community Church. When they all find out that Margaret's cancer has returned, they will do anything to support her. Beatrice is the one who usually takes charge of the projects and fundraising activities and this time she has come up with the idea of a Christmas Cake cookbook and recipe contest in hopes of cheering up Margaret. Beatrice has promised a big prize but is having trouble with the final details.

Margaret realizes that her final wish is to visit her mother's hometown in Texas and visit her grave. Her friends rally around her and arrange to travel to Texas where their good friend and former Pastor Charlotte will join them. Charlotte left Hope Springs to run a battered women's shelter in New Mexico. They have some adventures along the way as they travel to Texas and when they get there they are in for more surprises and adventures. This journey teaches the women that no matter what happens in life their friendship is eternal and a foundation to rely on.

Christmas Cake is an endearing, light hearted and humorous story of women's friendship. It has it's sad moments where you may find yourself reaching for the tissue box but it also has moments where you will find yourself giggling over the antics the ladies get themselves into.

Christmas Cake is actually a sequel to Friendship Cake which I read several years ago. It was refreshing to revisit life with these wonderful ladies and to see that their friendship lives on stronger than ever. Christmas Cake can be read apart from Friendship cake as it reads as its own novel. There are also cake recipes at the beginning of each chapter and many of the cakes sound very tasty.

This would be a great book to discuss with a book club around Christmas time. There is a reading guide at the back of the book as well.

Lynne Hinton is the pastor of a church in New Mexico and she has written several books about Hope Springs. Book Club Girl will be having a discussion with Lynne Hinton about Christmas Cake on Blog Talk Radio Tuesday, December 15 at 7 PM EST.

FTC Disclosure: Review copy provided by Book Club Girl . I am an Amazon Associate.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December Book Club Meeting

My book club met for our December meeting a few nights ago. We discussed Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen (which I borrowed a copy from the library). I did not read the book which is a first for me for book club. Actually, I read about 25 pages and the book just didn't hold my interest. I've been focusing on my grandmother who is at the end stage of her life and my son has had some health issues so I've been distracted from reading. We did have an interesting discussion about the book and Anna Quindlen as an author.

We always have a Holiday book exchange in December and each of us brings a wrapped new or used book and draw numbers. It's always fun to see what each other gets and it also gives us new ideas for book club choices. I received a copy of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and was thrilled as it is a book that I've been interested in reading and do not own a copy.

We will be reading and discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett for January. I read and reviewed this book earlier in the year and loved it. It is one of my favorite books of 2009 and I'm so excited to discuss it with my book club. I'm going to try and reread it if I can. This is the perfect book to discuss at the start of a new year.

FTC Disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunday Salon: Catching up on a Monday...

It's been quiet around here and I wanted to post an update. I've been distracted from reading and blogging due to some family issues. My grandmother is very ill and it looks like she is at the end stage of her life. It's very sad, she just turned 92 and has had a full and wonderful life. She's very special to me and our family and she's given much love to us all. Family are in from out of town and we are all surrounding her with love.

I haven't been reading or visiting blogs much and I hope for that to change when things settle down here. I did finish The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel and I liked it a lot. I am a fan of epistolary style novels, books about friendships and foodie books so this book fit the bill for me. It even has recipes, ones that I'd like to try. I will post a review soon. Thanks to Caitlin at FSB for sending me a copy of this book.

My book club is meeting this week and I wasn't able to finish the December book. I read about 25 pages and it was either my mood and/or the superficiality of the book that I just couldn't take at the moment. This is the first book that I've ditched since I've been in my book club, which has been about 7 years. We are having a book swap at the book club and I have my book picked out and ready to be wrapped. I hope to be able to make it to the book club meeting.

I did send out my Book Blogger Holiday Swap package and hope that my secret santa enjoys the gifts that I sent.

I've had to add comment moderation here as I've been getting a ton of spam the past few weeks...what is up with that?! Is anyone else being bombarded with this...posts in foreign languages and ads for medicine and websites?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Salon- November 29

This has been a quiet week on the book front as I only reviewed one book this past week, The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. I'm passing the book on to my book friend and occasional guest reviewer here, Bonnie F. I've been clearing off my bookshelves and passing on books to friends, putting some aside for book giveaways here and some are being donated to the library. I've gotten swamped with books in my overzealousness and love for books. I am way behind on book reviews and apologize to those who have graciously sent books for me to review. I've realized that I cannot keep up with my current pace and have decided that I must limit the books that I accept for review. I need to focus on reading and enjoying the books that I own as well as those that I have stacked up waiting to be read and reviewed.

I've also updated my reviews on Amazon, you can check out my reviews and add me as a friend there. My profile name is redlady at Amazon. I also need to get my reviews added to Goodreads (Redlady there as well) and have to decide if I want to update my LibraryThing membership (Redlady's Books there) to a paid one. For those who have opted for the paid membership upgrade at LibraryThing...have you found it beneficial?

Book Giveaways:

Fashion and Fab Giveaways ending tomorrow November 30th:

Click on pictures for details and to enter or see links on sidebar to the left.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

My Summary:

The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a dual love story. A love story between a young couple, Bess and Tom and Tom's love for Niagara Falls. It's historical fiction, set between 1915-1923 and is set in Niagara Falls, Canada and during the early days of hydroelectric power. Bess is an upper class young girl of seventeen attending a boarding school when she is smitten with Tom from a lower class. Things change swiftly for Bess when tragedy strikes her family in many ways. Bess rejects a suitor of her own class to start a life with Tom.

Tom follows in the footsteps of his grandfather who had a connection and understanding to the Niagara River and became known as the river man. He has an innate ability to predict what will happen in the river and falls and becomes a local hero with his daring rescues.

My Thoughts:

I found the beginning of the book interesting, engaging and well written but the plot dragged out for me as the story unfolds. I found the accompanying black and white photographs and reference to real stories related to the Niagara interesting. I appreciate the beauty and nature of the falls and the effect hydroelectric power plants had on the falls and our environment. I found that the back and forth writing between the details of the hydroelectric power and other details just didn't flow smoothly within the major storyline. It felt forced and technical and took away some of the flow of the drama related to the characters in the story. I am one concerned with our environment and this story relates to our own world currently focused on environmental concerns. I am in awe of Niagara Falls and it's beauty and splendor. What I found lacking was the blending of this vital part of history with the human drama story between Bess, Tom and other characters. I found the ending predictable and expected the way it unfolded. I wanted to like this book so much more than I did.

For a different perspective of The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, please check out these reviews at:

FTC Disclosure: This is an Advanced Reading Copy that was sent to me as part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I am an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Book Club & A Book Review: Blame by Michelle Huneven

I recently read Blame by Michelle Huneven with my book club this month. It's the story of Patsy, a young woman who has just received her PhD and is teaching History at a local college. She drinks too much and awakens in jail one day after a night of heavy drinking and blackout. She has been arrested for driving with a revoked license and for running over and killing a mother and daughter who are Jehovah's Witnesses, in her driveway. Patsy has no recollection of the incident and takes full blame for the crime and pleads guilty. She is convicted and sent to prison for four years. In prison, she becomes sober and becomes active in the AA group there. She also develops a friendship with the man whose wife and daughter she killed after he visits her. I found this part of the story to be implausible and unlikely in reality that someone would develop a friendship with anyone who killed their family.

I found the first part of this book to hold my interest and I liked the character development and to see how Patsy accepted responsibility for her actions and attempted to change her life. The last half of the book was a bit drawn out. Patsy is released from prison but never feels worthy of any happiness even though she tries to redeem herself in her involvement in helping others in AA. There were some funny and interesting characters but overall the book was just okay for me. There was a twist at the end that was surprising but seemed far fetched and it just fell flat for me.

We had an interesting discussion about Blame at my book club. We had varying viewpoints and opinions on the book. Nobody loved it, a few liked it and several found it just okay. We did have an interesting discussion about alcoholism, which characters we liked and didn't like, how plausible or implausible situations were that occurred in the book and what we would do in these situations.

Next month we are reading Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlan and we are having our annual book exchange. We each bring a wrapped book and number them and then we each pick a number out of a hat. It's always a lot of fun. In January we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I've read this book already but I look forward to re-reading it as it was one of my favorite books that I have read in 2009.

FTC Disclosure: This was a library copy. I am an Amazon associate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Sunflowers; A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Sheramy Bundrick

When I heard about the book Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick I knew that I had to read it. I am a fan of historical fiction novels and am familiar with Vincent Van Gogh's work. The beautiful cover of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflower painting is eye catching and stunning. It is an integral part of the story and connects the characters deeply. I was most familiar with the story of Vincent Van Gogh's cutting his ear off for love and his questionable mental status. I was also familiar with his brilliance as an artist and especially with paintings such as Starry Night.

Sunflowers is told in the first person perspective of Rachel, a young girl whose parents had died and her only option was to live with her spinster aunt. Instead, she ended up on a train to Arles, France and forced into the life of prostitutution. Rachel develops a friendship with Van Gogh after she finds him sketching her when she seeks refuge from the brothel in a public garden. Their friendship quickly turns into love and romance. Rachel, unrealistically believes she can eventually marry Van Gogh her customer and lover and leave the brothel. There is a deep connection between Rachel and Vincent but his madness interferes. He is frequently hospitalized and then moves away from Arles and Rachel to be near his brother in Paris. I liked how the author used letters between Vincent and Rachel when he left Arles as a way to continue the first person perspective and add in Vincent's perspective. Rachel has many moments of naivete and obsessiveness towards Vincent that was at times annoying. She was deeply in love and dedicated to Vincent and he was the only person she felt connected to since she lost her parents. He became the main focus of her life. I think that most who are familiar with the history of Vincent Van Gogh's life know the tragic end it takes. I knew this and when I got to that part in the story it touched me deeply as I was rooting for Rachel and Vincent to have more happiness in their tragic lives.

I found myself wanting to research the artwork that Ms. Bundrick refers to in each chapter. The author has a reference at the back of the book that listed the paintings referred to in each chapter. I could go online and view the paintings as well which made me feel more connected to the story. The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery was a wonderful resource.

This is a debut novel for Sheramy Bundrick who is an art historian and professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Her passion for art and the artist is evident in her writing and style. There is also very strong character development in Sunflowers and I like how the author took factual information about Vincent Van Gogh's life and added the fictional elements. I look forward to more books by Ms. Bundrick and hope that she continues on her journey of writing Historical fiction related to art and artists.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick is definitely Book Club Worthy! This would make an excellent book to discuss with a book club as there is so much to discuss including the meaning of the title, the historical vs. fictional elements, mental illness, prostitution etc. There is a reading guide at the back of the book to guide the discussion. Sheramy Bundrick has a wonderful page at her website on suggestions for reading group meetings. She even has ideas for food, drink and music to make a fun themed discussion. Ms. Bundrick recommends listening to Josh Groban's version of Don McClean's song "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)". I found this video on YouTube and am sharing it here, it really is touching and meaningful to listen to after you read Sunflowers.

Thank you to Book Club Girl for sending me a copy of this book as part of the On Air book discusssion. You can listen to the discussion of Sunflowers with Sheramy Bundrick , here.

I am an Amazon associate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Saving Sammy by Beth Alison Maloney

Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD is a powerful journey of one mother's strength and tenacity to literally save her son's life. Beth Maloney is a single mother raising three young boys in Maine. Her middle son, Sammy, had a sudden and drastic change in behavior and his ability to function normally when he was 12 years old. He was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette Syndrome. Sammy was a bright, gifted math student who was an active and happy boy. His behavior continued to decline rapidly and their family life was centered around Sammy's compulsions and behaviors. Sammy and the family were suffering and Sammy could not function on a day to day basis or even to attend school regularly. Beth would not give up and was a tireless advocate for her son to find the answers to his illness. She finally learned that Sammy's illness was caused by a strep infection, a disorder known as PANDAS. With much determination and tapping into any and all resources, Beth found two doctors that helped to cure Sammy.

Saving Sammy is a deeply touching and moving memoir of one mother's strength to never give up and an amazing boy who suffered through great pain to come through it all. This story hit home with me as I have a son who has struggled with and continues to struggle with health issues. I have had to be an advocate for my son and push to get answers. I understand that depth of feeling Beth had to find answers and the heartfelt pain in seeing your child suffer. I am still in the process of finding answers and solutions and hope to one day feel that relief that Beth has in seeing your child turn the corner and fly away from the ties that bind them in a world that others do not quite understand.

This is a video of Beth & Sam Maloney on the Today Show:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Check out the Saving Sammy website, here.

For more information on PANDAS ( Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), go to the PANDAS Foundation.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.

I am an Amazon Associate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review: Oprah Book Club "Luxurious Hearses" by Uwem Akpan

Luxurious Hearses is the fourth story of the short story collection in Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

This is the longest story in the book and one that I did have to push myself to get through as it is so drawn out. I have to say that the end was a shocker so you must push yourself through this one to read to the end. This is about a long wait for a bus ride where a Muslim boy is trying to hide that he is Muslim as the bus is filled with Christians. They are all fleeing northern Nigeria to the south. This story makes you look at how prejudice can cloud judgements of one another especially in war times. It made me think about conflicts within people and how they justify them as they have been taught certain ideologies and beliefs that consume them. The ending was unexpected and shocking. As in the other stories, it reflects the reality of the situation and time it is referencing. It's very hard for me to imagine living life like this and allows me a look into a world that I am unfamiliar with.

This is an Oprah Book Club Selection , there was an Oprah's Book Club Live Webcast with Oprah, Anderson Cooper from CNN and the author Uwem Akpan last night. I was able to finish the book and listened to the Webcast which had some technical difficulties but was a fantastic discussion with people from all over the world participating. You can watch the webcast, I'm not sure if it's up and running yet but you can get the details here at

Here is a video with some thoughts Oprah shares about Luxurious Hearses:

*This book is my own personal copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Oprah Book Club "What Language Is That" by Uwem Akpan

What Language Is That is the third story of the short story collection in Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

This story is quite short at eleven pages in length compared to the other stories in this book. For me, this was an endearing story of the power of unspoken language and connection between two young kindergarten girls of different faiths and backgrounds in Ethiopia. It reminded me of my very first best friend around that age and the connection that we had. When you are connected to someone at a deep level you can communicate without words and understand one another.

This is an Oprah Book Club Selection , there is an Oprah's Book Club Webcast Live Tonight with the author Uwem Akpan. It starts at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, go to for more details. I haven't finished the book yet but I plan to listen to the Webcast tonight.

Here is a video with some thoughts Oprah shares about What Language Is That :

*This book is my own personal copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Review: Oprah Book Club "Fattening For Gabon Say" by Uwem Akpan.

Fattening For Gabon is the second story of the short story collection in Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

This is the story of two young children, a brother and sister who are being raised by their uncle as their parents have AIDS and are dying. You learn as you read this story the deceit on the part of the uncle who tries to sell the children. I assume it is for sex trafficking but it is not said straight out in the story. This is a story that allows you to connect to the experiences and feelings of the children, a brother and sister taken away from their loving parents, brothers and sisters and extended family. It's gut wrenching at times although the language and dialect added to the dialogue is confusing at times and makes it hard to follow. I found myself guessing as to what was being said and reading between the lines. The last line at the end left me hanging a bit as I was unsure as to what really happens to the children.

This is an Oprah Book Club Selection , there is an Oprah's Book Club Webcast Live Tonight with the author Uwem Akpan. It starts at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, go to for more details. I haven't finished the book yet but I plan to listen to the Webcast tonight.

Here is a video with some thoughts Oprah shares about Fattening For Gabon:

*This book is my own personal copy. I am an Amazon Associate.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is the last book in the Millenium trilogy by Swedish Author Stieg Larsson . This final book in the trilogy picks up where the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire leaves off. It's over 600 pages and gets bogged down in details now and then but it's still a very gripping novel. We are able to follow Salander as she faces her past head on and ends up barely holding on to her own life. Mikael puts the pieces together and helps solve a mystery related to a hidden group that has protected one man and themselves amongst high government security. Larsson's writing style is rich and detailed and is strongly character driven. There are definitely disturbing parts to this novel as in the others that are graphic and violent in nature, so be forewarned if this is something that bothers you. From what I've read about Larsson, I believe it was his intent to bring attention to the issues of violence against women that he must have believed was a societal issue as well as government corruption. This was a common thread throughout the Millenium Trilogy. Wikipedia shares some interesting information about the books where it states Larsson's literary influences:

"However, one of the strongest influences originates from his own
country -
Pippi Longstocking by Sweden's much-loved children's author, Astrid
. Larsson explained that one of his main recurring characters in the Millennium series, Lisbeth Salander, is actually based on Pippi Longstocking and in his books is reimagined as a grown up version of her"

I found Lisbeth Salander to be the most interesting character in the series. She was a strong, quirky, unique and feisty character. She endured a childhood of abuse and tragedy that was horrific and continued into her adulthood. In the toughest situations she endured and fought and never gave up her fight for truth. She was resilient and intelligent and even referred to as possibly having Aspergers Syndrome which would explain some of her social challenges and genius level abilities with computers.

Sadly, Stieg Larsson was a Swedish writer and journalist and died before the Millenium Trilogy was published. You can read more about Stieg Larsson here. This is the last book in the Millenium series and I will miss reading more about the characters and some storylines that were left hanging and we will never know the answers especially is what happened to Lisbeth's twin sister Camilla. We are left to our imaginations now.

*My wonderful friend Ginny who I know from an online book group read the series ahead of me and sent me her copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. She was so anxious to read it and couldn't wait until the US version would be published and available in 2010. She ordered a copy through Book Depository UK which is the hardback edition. I passed it along to another friend Marie-Louise who is also in our book group, it's being shared among friends! Thanks Ginny!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Salon: November 1st

Today is my son Andrew's 11th, I can't believe that he's growing up so fast! He's looking forward to celebrating and of course, his gifts. I'll be giving Andrew the card I won this summer in a custom card contest at ...DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW?.

Ginny made me a beautiful card for Andrew's 11th birthday. You can see more details here. Make sure to stop by Ginny's blog, ...DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW?. she is a very talented lady and has a beautiful blog, lots of crafty ideas on making cards, bookmarks and other goodies. Thanks Ginny!
I'm also back in the reading and blogging groove! I've caught up on reading and writing several book reviews. I need to catch up on more reading now!
Reviews and Giveaways posted this week:

  • Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
  • Review & Giveaway: Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy by Mary Tomer

    Current Giveaways: Fashion & Fab Giveaways sponsored by Hachettte