Monday, July 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday

(Photo credit from Staci at Life in the Thumb)

~Mailbox Monday~  
is hosted by A Sea of Books during the month of July.
We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

This is what I received in my mailbox last week:

What Alice ForgotRules of Civility: A NovelThe Sweet By and By: A NovelBedeviled Eggs (A Cackleberry Club Mystery)

What Alice Forgot  by Liane Moriarty (Kindle edition- I bought it with a gift card)

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles from Viking/Penguin 

The sweet by and by by Todd Johnson from Paperbackswap

Bedeviled Eggs by Laura Childs from Paperbackswap

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Review of Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

About (from Harper Collins)When Sheila McGann sets out to redeem her disgraced brother, a once-beloved Catholic priest in suburban Boston, her quest will force her to confront cataclysmic truths about her fractured Irish-American family, her beliefs, and, ultimately, herself. 

My Thoughts:

Faith is one of the most powerful books that I have read in a long time. The author's writing is spellbinding.  She weaves a tale that, as a reader, you think that you know where she is going and then she turns the story around and takes you to places you didn't expect. I just finished the book and must say that it touched me on so many levels that it left me feeling as if I personally knew these characters, this family. The author tells the story mainly through the voice of the sister of the accused priest and how each member of the family handles the allegations as the story unfolds. There are discoveries uncovered, truths revealed and challenges to the core of their beliefs in religion, faith, family loyalty and love.  We have all read the headlines, stories told, secrets whispered and what we really don't know is the truth. Who are we to judge when we don't know the truth on both sides? This novel brilliantly explores these issues and will make you question your own self on how easy we can judge others, even our own family members.  Faith by Jennifer Haigh is a family drama that is well-crafted, thoughtful and infused with emotions, secrets, regrets, sadness, love and forgiveness. This book is a page turner, one that will touch you deeply and you will think about these characters and this family long after you turn the last page. 

Recommend: Absolutely! I've read only one other book by Jennifer Haigh, Mrs. Kimble. Ms. Haigh has perfected her writing with Faith and could easily be her best novel yet. This would be an excellent book for a book club discussion. There are so many themes and topics to discuss. There is a reading guide for Faith, here.  You can read and browse inside Faith, here. You can visit Jennifer Haigh's website, here

Listen to Jennifer Haigh talk about her novel Faith with Writer's Voice, here

Thanks to Harper Collins for sending me an advance copy of the book for review. 

Here is a book trailer to view for Faith by Jennifer Haigh:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shelf Awareness for Readers Giveaway

The publication booksellers turn to for news on the book industry is now publishing a version for book lovers! Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers is a FREE emailed newsletter with reviews on the 25 best books publishing each week along with author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways and more. Right now they’re running a contest for new subscribers. Check out the widget on my website below to sign up for the new publication and to be entered for a chance to win a great book!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday


~Mailbox Monday~  
is hosted by A Sea of Books during the month of July.
We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

This is what I received in my mailbox last week:

Unraveled (A Knitting Mystery)The Winters in Bloom: A Novel

Reef by Romash Gunesekera autographed Literary Blog Hop win from Chasing Bawa. Thanks Sakura.

Unraveled by Maggie Sefton, win from Pudgy Penguin Perusals. Thanks Kaye!

The Winters In Bloom by Lisa Tucker from Atrias's Galley Alley promotion with Simon & Schuster.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Review of The Food Allergy Cookbook by Carmel Nelson and Amra Ibrisimovic


The Food Allergy Book
A Guide to Living with Allergies and Entertaining with Healthy, Delicious Meals
By Carmel Nelson and Amra Ibrisimovic
Skyhorse Publishing Hardcover
On Sale: July 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61608-297-0
Price: $17.95

A Guide to Living with Allergies
and Entertaining with Healthy, Delicious Meals
By Carmel Nelson and Amra Ibrisimovic

Are you turning down social gatherings that revolve around food? Skipping lunch with your co-workers to avoid an awkward explanation? Deserting the dinner table on holidays so you don’t have to reject Aunt Sally’s home-cooked meal? . . . Or are you the one playing host to your friends, some of whom may have food allergies? The husband who lit all the candles, and turned up the Barry White, but doesn’t know exactly what’s safe to cook for a romantic dinner? For all of you, here is your resource to make alternative dining easy and understandable!

Don’t let restricted options consume the joys of cooking! Say “NO!” to cardboard-flavored daily sustenance and brick-hard bread that would be more useful in constructing a house than actually eating. If you or someone you love has food allergies but is passionate about the culinary arts, this is the book for you! The Food Allergy Cookbookcontains 101 delectable recipes tested to perfection. Each and every recipe is accompanied by an irresistible, full-length and in color photograph that will make you salivate before even whipping up the treat!

The joint authors, Carmel Nelson and Amra Ibrisimovic, are among the millions of people struggling with food allergies. Over the years, their friendship has fostered support for one another as they discover new ways to live and eat enjoyably. They were disappointed by the lack of resources available on food allergies when they needed it the most, only a few years ago. Now that they are both in the know, they want to share their knowledge with you!

The Food Allergy Cookbook caters to those with dairy, wheat, oats, barley, soy, and corn allergies. It shows that you don’t have to give up your favorites, just alter them! It even comes with a special recipe for a flour mixture to do just that. There are every-day recipes plus entire meal plans for holidays so you don’t have to forfeit entertaining or being a guest. Instead, prepare a to-die-for meal that everyone will love! Don’t be surprised if they ask for the recipe!

Recipes include:
  • BBQ dishes such as Chicken Legs and Sloppy Joes
  • Savory Stuffed Peppers for the Vegetarian or Bosnian Style
  • Comforting classics like Chicken Soup with Dumplings and Chicken Pot Pie
  • A full-course Thanksgiving meal consisting of Roasted Turkey with Gravy, a unique Holiday Stuffing, warm Harvest Soup, Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potato Puree, and for dessert—Pumpkin Pie!
  • Sweets for the adventurous eaters—Grand Marnier Cranberry Muffins and Apple Pear Quinoa Crisp—but also the staples— rich Fudge Brownies and Chocolate Chip Cookies!
  • Bread Sticks and corn-free Korn Bread
  • And many more!
 But The Food Allergy Cookbook is not merely a cookbook! It also serves up a list of restaurants with alternative menus, tips on working with your doctor and traveling safely, a lesson on deciphering food labels, and tons of helpful resources. Carmel and Amra will help you concoct healthy and flavorful recipes that finally prove…it IS possible to easily serve, eat and enjoy allergen-free fare. Now go play in the kitchen!

About the Authors:
CARMEL NELSON has worked as a substance abuse counselor and mental health therapist. She has been published in Living Without and Alaska Wellness magazines.

AMRA IBRISIMOVIC is a project manager and computer engineer. She emigrated from Bosnia during their civil war and became a U.S. citizen in 2000.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy getting new cookbooks and often like to try new allergy cookbooks as my son has food allergies. The Food Allergy Cookbook is written by two authors, Carmel & Amra who both have food allergies and intolerances. They developed these allergies as adults and share their stories in the first chapter. The Food Allergy Cookbook has many things going for it, it has bright and beautiful pictures that accompany every recipe which I appreciated. For me, a cookbook with lots of pictures is a plus as I like to see what the recipe will look like. Another thing that is important to me in a cookbook is a Table of Contents which this cookbook includes as well as chapters that focus on recipes for  Holiday Menus, Soups, Appetizers, Salads and Side Dishes, Entrees and Pastries and Desserts. Each chapter also has an index with page numbers corresponding to each recipe. I liked the organization and flow of this cookbook. There are a variety of recipes and most are not overly complicated. The desserts require more ingredients and steps which is typical for home baked desserts. The authors focus on those with dairy, wheat, oats, barley, soy and corn allergies. My son has dairy intolerance and soy allergies so most of these recipes I could make without adaptations. The authors have their own recipe for a Flour mixture that is a substitute for wheat flour and gluten free so this would be a good cookbook for those with gluten intolerance or celiac as well. It's important to check through each recipe to make sure that it is safe for those you are serving with allergies. I chose to try the Quirky Coleslaw recipe as I had many of the ingredients on hand. I did not add the optional chopped nuts due to my son's allergies.

Quirky Coleslaw

1 Bag Shredded Cabbage/ or shred 1 head of Cabbage finely
(I used a bag of Coleslaw mix with shredded cabbage, carrots, red cabbage)
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, pineapple, cranberries, currants, etc)
(I used a small box of raisins and small 1 oz bag craisins)
1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped (optional) 
(I skipped nuts as my son is allergic to nuts)


1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds
(I didn't have poppy seeds so I substituted caraway seeds)
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
(I didn't have this so I added salt)

1. Mix together salad ingredients.
2. Whip together dressing and blend with salad until everything is evenly coated with dressing.
3. Serve Cold.

Serves 8-10

* I made some substitutions that worked nicely. I think that this may taste better with poppy seed as caraway seeds are a bit larger and more dominant tasting. My husband and I liked this but my son did not care for it. He didn't like the dried fruit in the coleslaw or the caraway seeds. I think that it's more of a personal preference than that the dish didn't work. I love carrot and raisin salad and this reminded me of that dish. I would make this again and use poppy seeds instead. This would make a nice cold summer salad to accompany any meal.

Would I recommend this cookbook? Yes! I found it had a variety of practical menus that families with or without allergies could make as well as holiday menus and a variety of simple to more complex recipes to choose from. I liked the color and photography and that there were pictures of the recipes throughout the book, it was also easy to find recipes. I liked the Hot tips, scattered throughout the cookbook intermixed with the recipes. There was some good advice for Kitchen tips, Doctors and medical tips and traveling while eating out. Some of it was a bit basic for me as I have been dealing with food allergies since my son was a year old but I did learn some new ideas for traveling. Also, the price is reasonable for a hardback cookbook with over 100 recipes to choose from.

Thanks to Skyhorse Publishing for sending me a copy of The Food Allergy Cookbook for review.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, go to Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook

Claire Cook is a writer that can weave a story with wit and wisdom and touch on topics that are true to a woman's heart. Best Staged Plans is Claire's 8th book and is definitely another winner. It has become a welcome tradition  for me to read a Claire Cook novel every summer. The main character is Sandy who has reached a crossroads of sorts in her own life. Professionally, she is a home stager, changing and re-arranging others homes to draw the perfect buyer to close a sale. She realizes that her own life needs change as her children are grown, her own Victorian historical home that she has loving restored is now over-sized for their life and she'd like to downsize and have less responsibility. Her husband is dragging his feet a bit and is not quite ready for this change in their life and their adult son is living in a bat cave in their basement. Sandy is offered a chance to stage a boutique hotel in Atlanta, recently purchased sight unseen by her best friend's boyfriend. She jumps at the chance, her daughter and son-in-law live there so it's an added bonus to spend time with them. She is hoping that this will push her husband into action to ready their home for sale so that they can move onto the next stage of their life together. Not every plan is perfect as Sandy ends up having to turn things around at the hotel quickly while learning secrets about her best friend's boyfriend.  Sandy's friendship with a homeless woman named Naomi steals the show and for me, is the heart of the novel.  Sandy demonstrates that others hardship can make you realize and appreciate what you are blessed with in your own life. She is able to help Naomi make a positive change and in doing so realizes that what is best for us isn't always staged.

Best Staged Plans is perfect summer reading, light-hearted and fun but with a meaningful message. This will also grab the interest of those who love HGTV decorating shows with the added bonus of some decorating ideas and tips. This is one that you will want to share with your girlfriends. It would make a great summer (or anytime of year) book club  pick. You can read an excerpt of Best Staged Plans and find a list of Book Club Conversation Starters, here.

Check out this sneak peek video excerpt of Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook: 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Excerpt & Giveaway for The Gin & Chowder Club by Nan Rossiter

Yesterday, I reviewed a wonderful novel, The Gin & Chowder Club by Nan Rossiter (read my review, here). It's the perfect summer read where you'll be swept away to the beaches of Cape Cod. It's definitely at the top of the list of my favorite books that I've read this summer. I'm thrilled to be able to share an excerpt from the book and a giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of The Gin & Chowder Club. 

Excerpt from The Gin & Chowder Club

To Asa’s surprise, the days passed quickly...and even though each day seemed to blend into all the rest, there was one daily occurrence that gave him something to look forward to: the delivery of mail. Taking two granite steps at a time into the school post office, Asa would quickly scan the rows of mail slots with small combination locks on their doors. With a tightening in his chest, he would peer through the tiny glass window to see if there were any envelopes leaning up against the inside wall. Noelle had proven true to her word and, after her first letter, Asa had forgiven her for not meeting him that last night. She wrote often...two or three times a week. Asa would slip her envelope into a book and find a seat on the grass under the reaching boughs of an old oak tree or at a worn secluded table by the window in the library. There, with the sun casting light across the pages, he would slowly read...running his fingers over the pale stationary and thinking of the slender hands that had touched it last...the hands that had touched him...and given him such pleasure. 
Noelle’s letters were warm and funny and spoke of life at home and at work. She wrote about the changing weather and the ocean and the stars. She wrote about Nate finding a bottle of champagne by the pool... where in the world had that come from??? And she always closed with thoughts of him...she missed him...every part of him...her thoughts stirred his fire and kept the embers burning. Asa clung to her words and they sustained him...more than food or drink or air...he lived for these...elegant lines linked together to give him hope... 


I have one copy of The Gin & Chowder Club (compliments of the author Nan Rossiter)to give away to one lucky reader.

For 1 Entry: All you have to do is leave a comment here about my review and what you found interesting about The Gin & Chowder Club by Nana Rossiter or the Excerpt above. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry)

For a 2nd Entry (Separate Comment):  Follow my blog, you can follow through Google Friend Connect to the left in my side column. If you already do, thank you, and please  make sure to let me know in your comment so I can pass the entry on to you as well. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry).

For a 3rd Entry (Separate Comment): Spread the word about this giveaway and Retweet, retweet button below my name at the end of this post. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry).

*Open to US  only.

Enter by July 31 , 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: The Gin & Chowder Club by Nan Rossiter

I was totally drawn to The Gin & Chowder Club for several reasons, first the gorgeous cover art, second the name and third is the review I read by Ti at Book Chatter which totally sold me on this book. There are many more reasons to tell you why I loved The Gin & Chowder Club. It includes the total package for me on what is a good book...cover art,  title, solid story that sweeps me away to the setting, engaging characters, food...I swear, I could smell the chowder simmering and the salt air on the beach of Cape Cod. That is another reason I was drawn to this book. I love Cape Cod and have been there many times on vacation as a teenager and adult and every time I fall in love. The accents of those who live there and their welcoming nature, the ocean, the ferry that I took to Martha's Vineyard and the food! Gosh, I wish that I was there now...I would love to be on the sandy beaches looking at a lighthouse. You see, this book truly took me to Cape Cod!

This is a tender story of two families and their friendship and connection to one another. The Coleman and Shepherd families have been friends for several generations. The men were childhood friends as were their fathers and they each took over their father's family business in the city (Boston) and have summer homes on Cape Cod. A family tradition started with their father's who started having get-togethers enjoying a  good gin & tonic and homemade clam chowder. The novel is set in the 60's which gives the story its gentle pace and rhythm.  If it was set in the current time period it would not have the same gentleness and flow and would have been much more fast paced due to our electronic age.  I grew up in the 60's so I am showing my age a bit, it was a time that was a bit more carefree and less fast paced. 

The Coleman's are raising their sons Isaac and Asa and the summer this story is told, Isaac is returning to college and Asa is set to go off to his first year of college. Nate Shepherd lost his first wife a few years ago and she was like an aunt to both Isaac and Asa as they did not have children of their own. Nate found new love with a much younger wife Noelle who has been welcomed into the fold of the Gin & Chowder club. There is a growing attraction between Noelle and Asa which ends in a secret relationship that results in great yearning, guilt and passion that unfolds as they both realize the consequences of their actions. The author did a wonderful job in describing the emotions and feelings of both Noelle and Asa as well as the guilt and remorse that can wreak havoc on their lives. There are strong elements of faith that challenge them both, the love and bond of family that can be strong and help us to survive. The elements of faith and the storyline of forbidden love may appear contradictory but it is written in such a realistic way that makes one realize that we are all human, flawed and not perfect.  There are repercussions to our actions and love does not heal all...we can make mistakes that will stay with us, effect those around us and we must learn from them and take responsibility for those actions. This is a book that will raise questions and it would be a great book to discuss with a book club. There is a reading group guide at the end of the book (you can find it online, here) that will stir up some great conversation, add some gin & tonic and some chowder and you'll be all set to have a heated discussion!

You can read the first chapter of The Gin & Chowder Club at the publisher, Kensington Books website, here.

Thank to the author, Nan Rossiter for sending me this book to review. You can check out Nan's website, here