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?