Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!!!

Happy New Year to all of my fellow bloggers, my readers and those who stop by once in a while!!
I wish you all the best for the coming year. Health and happiness foremost. This is the time of year when we all swear off excesses, but books are the one excess I have no interest in swearing off! See you all next year!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Almost Archer Sisters - Lisa Gabriele

I knew I had a doctor's appointment after work the other day, so I quickly stuck The Almost Archer Sisters in my bag to take with me. My doctor is invariably behind, so an hour and a half later, it was my turn. But honestly, I was so engrossed in this book, I really didn't notice how much time had passed. (I was in a much better place than those stuck reading outdated Sports Illustrated)

Releasing tomorrow from Random House Canada, this second novel from Lisa Gabriele is one of those books that is a found gem - one you have to let your friends know about.

It tells the story of two sisters who were raised on a farm in Ontario. Beth is a wild child who pushed the boundaries of everything growing up and continues to do so as an adult. She fled the farm and moved to New York to pursue a successful career. The other sister Georgia, but known to all as Peachy, stayed at home. She got pregnant and married before she finished her social work degree. Her husband, Beau, was Beth's first lover. Their father, Lou, a draft dodging hairdresser, also lives on the farm in a trailer.

Beth's life seems be unravelling and she is coming home to the farm for more frequent visits. Peachy's life is stressful as well. Her son Sam has severe epilepsy. Her focus lately has been on his health, not on her other son and husband.

Things come to a head during one Beth's visits. Peachy gets up in the night and walks in on her sister and Beau - and they're not playing cards.

What could have precipitated such a betrayal? Can any relationship - the siblings, the husband and wife, the father and daughters - ever recover or be rebuilt after such perfidy?

Gabriele's writing is at turns funny and poignant but above all else it is real. I was captivated by the characters and could not put the book down. It was Peachy who captured my heart - she's someone you would love to really know. The ending isn't cut and dried, leaving you to form your own conclusions. This would be a great selection for a book club. And I have another wonderful Canadian author to put on my favourites list!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy, Merry, Joyful....

However you celebrate, I wish you all a wonderful, joyful time with family and friends!
Merry Christmas!!

The Spy Who came for Christmas - David Morrell

David Morrell is best know for thriller/suspense writing. He created the Rambo character and is the co founder of the International Thriller Writers Organization. Creepers and Scavenger were New York Times bestsellers.
Look closely at the cover - that is a hand holding a gun inside a Christmas ornament. Paul Kagan is an undercover agent for the US government. He has infiltrated the Russian mob and has become a trusted member. Their latest job involves kidnapping a baby. This baby is the son of a world leader who advocates peace. Kagan foils the kidnapping, takes the baby himself and goes on the run. He finds shelter at a home with a woman and her son - the bad guys hot on his heels. Kagan relates "the spy's version of Christmas" to the woman's son.
Lots of big name endorsements on the back cover. Myself - I found it to be another easy cheesy Christmas read - and the last one this year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Grace - Anne Perry

The second in my stash of Christmas tales is Anne Perry's A Christmas Grace. Perry is a very successful historical fiction writer. She has three series on the go. Charlotte and Thomas Pitt (25 books), the William Monk series (15 books) and A World War One series (5 books). I couldn't get into the World War One series, but love the Monk and Pitt series. All are set in England in the 1800's and are mysteries. Perry's dialogue,depiction of society and life and research is impeccable.

For the last 6 years she has put out a Christmas novella, featuring one of the series' characters in a mini mystery at Yuletime.

A Christmas Grace sees Charlotte Pitt's sister Emily off to Ireland to care for a dying aunt who has been shunned by her family. There is secrecy and an unsolved murder in the small village and Emily finds herself involved. Again, redemption is a theme - but hey it's the season. Another good read for a couple of hours on a snowy day.

Got one to add?

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season - Lorna Landvik

I usually stockpile a few Christmas books to read at this time of the season. None of them are heavy or deep or particularly long, but are perfect for an hour or two of escapist, feel good reading.

Lorna Landvik's best known novel is Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons chosen by many a book club. It's on my bookshelf, but I haven't read it yet.

'Tis the Season is written in a series of emails and gossip column articles. Rich girl Caroline Dixon's drinking is out of control and the gossip rags are having a field day with it. Can she find her way and who will help her? Totally cheesy but perfect for a couple of hours on a snowy day.

Anyone else have one to add?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flirting With Forty - The Movie

I just watched the movie of Jane Porter's Flirting With Forty. It's always interesting to see a movie after you've read the book. It's never quite the same....
I thought Heather Locklear was a good choice to play Jackie. (She looks wonderful and she's almost 50 - it wasn't a stretch to imagine her at 40 at all.) I found the kids a bit stilted. I really did not like the group of friends. Some changes from the book in this aspect. I did enjoy the movie, but one plotline that I thought was important in the book was completely left out of the movie. I know that it's hard to pare down an entire book into a two hour movie, but this is why I rarely watch a movie after reading the book. I find myself talking to the screen ... hey that's not right....she doesn't do that etc. I did enjoy it, but enjoyed the book more. What did you think?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blindspot - Jane Kamensky & Jill Lepore

Blindspot, just released from Spiegel and Grau, is an wonderful piece of historical fiction. Wonderful just isn't enough - it's ribald, witty, charming and oh, so much more.

Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore are both renowned history professors. They've joined together to produce this novel.

Blindspot tells the tale of young Fanny Easton, a 'fallen' woman from a good family. She has been working in the Manufactory in Boston in 1764, barely surviving. When she spies an advertisement for an artist's apprentice, she sees a slim chance to escape her life of poverty. She disguises herself as a boy and applies to Stewart Jameson as Francis Weston. She does possess artistic ability and is taken on. Unbeknownst to her, Stewart Jameson has fled to the colonies from Scotland, where he is wanted for debt evasion. His debt was incurred trying to buy the freedom of his friend, the brilliant, black Dr. Alexander. Boston in 1764 is resisting the heavy hand of England and it's taxes. Slavery is an issue being hotly debated and political unrest is rampant. When a death (or could it be murder) occurs, the three are deeply involved.

Kamensky and Lepore have skillfully woven historical fact with literary license to create an engrossing, clever tale. It is told in alternating viewpoints. Jameson is writing his take on things to "Dear Reader"in his journal, while Fanny (Weston) is writing letters to a childhood friend. I was captured by the language and tone of the book - the puns, plays on words, language used and the social fabric of Boston in 1764. The depth of historical fact woven in adds to an already rich story. Blindspot is a love story as well. Some readers may be offended by some of the sexual scenes, but they are integral to the book.

The authors have created an excellent website for the book as well, providing further insight. Although the book is 500 pages long, it never flagged for me. The storyline was compelling right to the last page. However, I wonder if there will be a sequel? The ending has been left open for one. I hope so!

Fans of Emma Donoghue would enjoy this book.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - Flirting with Forty

And the three lucky winners, chosen using, of a copy of Flirting With Forty, courtesy of Hachette Books are:

Stephanie , Ramya and Wrighty

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you by email for your mailing address.

A totally non book related post...

....and I know there aren't many of them... But I wanted to share the other thing I love (almost) as much as reading. And that is quilting.

Ignore the date on the photo - I did just finish it this week. (Apparently if you change the batteries in the camera you're expected to change the date and time as well...) And the colour is a bit off - it's actually darker. (Hint - do not shoot into direct sunlight)

So my dear husband complains that everyone else has been a beneficiary of a quilt but him. So this is his very own couch quilt and he'll be toasty when he falls asleep in front of the television. He totally avoids the sewing room, so it should be a surprise on Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - I Like You

And the lucky three winners (chosen using of a copy of Amy Sedaris's I Like You, courtesy of Hachette Books are:

Mo, Neverwithoutabook and Kalea_Kane

Congratulations! I will be contacting you via email for your mailing addresses.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bodies Left Behind - Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver is one of my favourite thriller/suspense authors.

He is the author of the successful Lincoln Rhyme series, about a paralyzed detective who solves crimes based on the evidence gathered by his protege Amelia Sachs. This was made into a successful movie staring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

But I digress. The Bodies Left Behind is a stand alone novel. Deputy Brynn McKenzie is just home for the night with her family when her boss asks her to check out a house on a sparsely populated lake. It could be nothing, but there was a 911 call that got cut off. Maybe it was a misdial. She heads up to the lake, finds the house and walks into a horrific crime scene - and the perpetrators haven't left the area yet. They're still looking for the female houseguest that escaped the carnage. Brynn finds her first and they're on the run into the State Forest that surrounds the lake with the killers hot on their trail. The killers have also called the 911 in as a false alarm. There will be no police help on the way for Brynn and Michelle.

This is a nail biter of a novel, with lots of twists and turns that you don't see coming. Deaver's characters are always more than two dimensional. The bad guys aren't cardboard cut outs - their personalities are developed as much as the protagonists. You'll be turning pages to get in just one more chapter before you turn off the light.

If you like Harlen Coben, John Sandford or Linwood Barclay you'll love Jeffery Deaver.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Customer is Always Wrong - Jeff Martin (Editor)

~~~~~~The Retail Chronicles~~~~~

Well this seems like an appropriate time to post this review. The countdown is on ...only twelve shopping days left until Christmas......

The Customer is Always Wrong, from Soft Skull Press, is an eclectic collection of essays penned by writers who have done time in the retail jungle. I think most of us have "served the public" in a retail capacity at some point in our lives - your first job, putting yourself through university or an extra part time job to make ends meet. For some people it's a fantastic fit, for others - well, it's not. As Jeff Martin says in his introduction, "If this book can help shed a little more light on the often-disregarded retail experience, then we have done our job and done it well."

I was hooked from the first story - a college age student's summer job in a large department store chain, the descriptions of the rah rah manager and the attitudes and antics of the staff had me laughing out loud. The tales cover the gamut - from an upscale spa, a video store, home improvement, coffee shop, porn warehouse plus more. One of the best was Wendy Spero's tale of door to door knife sales, preying on friends and family. The saddest was the porn store, though not for the reasons you might think. The most fascinating was Elaine Viets. She writes a series called The Dead-End Job Mysteries. She actually takes on retail jobs to research her characters.

Having worked in a large retail chain for many years myself, I could appreciate many of the crazy, imperious and downright odd demands made by customers. I often said to the staff that we could write a book based on the almost daily occurrences. However there was good as well, but there aren't that many of those kind of stories in The Customer is Always Wrong. My only complaint - it wasn't long enough! I devoured it in one sitting. Martin himself works in a bookstore - I'm sure that that's a book waiting to be written.......

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The As It Happens Files - Mary Lou Finlay

~~~Radio That May Contain Nuts~~~

I first got hooked on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)radio when I met my husband over twenty years ago. The wealth and diversity of programming provides something for every listener. The second longest running show - 4o years - is "As It Happens"; on five nights a week at 6:30 p.m. They are an outcall show, broadcasting interviews conducted by telephone, seeking out the 'story behind the story'. It runs the gamut - from talking with world leaders to offbeat human interest stories. Mary Lou Finlay was the co-host of the show from 1997-2005.
The human interest stories are the ones that stand out for Finlay - the 96 year old who took 75 years to get his university degree, brain surgery on pet goldfish or the man who spent twenty years building a bear proof suit. Human interest stories from England have been popular as well - the woman who has a garden gnome sanctuary with over 2000 restored gnomes generated lots of feedback.
But the serious touch us as well. 9/11, the Air India crash, natural disasters and inside interviews from Darfur and Iran to name a few.
The book includes transcripts from many of these interviews.
Reading and remembering some of the stories from over the years just reminds me why this show is a Canadian icon - and why I love it.
You can peek inside this new release from Random House here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - Katie Brown Celebrates

Just in time for seasonal celebrating! The three winners (picked using random. org) of a copy of Katie Brown Celebrates courtesy of Hachette Books are;

Julie, Anna and Jeanette J.

I'll be contacting you by email for mailing information. If I don't hear from you in 48 hours, I will go to the next name on the list. Sorry Stephanie you were one of the original three but you didn't leave an email address and your blog doesn't seem to list one either......

Congratulations! Check the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Dating da Vinci - Malena Lott

Thirty five year old Ramona Elise has been widowed for two years. Her two young sons have been the reason she keeps getting up every day. Ramona teaches English to new immigrants. She impetuously offers to rent the studio behind her home to a young new student from Italy named Leonardo da Vinci.

"La vita allegra. Joyful living. His eyes danced with excitement and awe and insatiable curiosity. Not just for America. For life. I ached to feel that again."

Lott's depiction and characterization of a grief stricken family still coming to terms with the loss of their husband/father is realistically written and sensitively portrayed.

Da Vinci becomes more than just a tenant. He becomes friends with the boys and closer and closer to Ramona. Is she ready to act on the attraction she feels towards this younger man? Or would it be a betrayal of her love for her husband Joel? She has unanwered questions about Joel's relationship with an old flame that still haunt her as well.

"I wished I could wear red lipstick, but much like the red suit, you have to have the red inside of you to wear it on the outside."

I had the idea that this would be a 'chick lit' book when I first picked it up. I found it to have more depth than just a beach read. Lott has also done her research - I found the origins of words and love fascinating as well as the details of an Indian wedding ceremony. As I interact with immigrants on a daily basis, I appreciated her positive outlook towards new citizens.

The book is populated with some fun supporting characters. I found the best friend Anh particularly appealing. The sister and mothers are a bit stereotypical and overdone, but fulfill their role in the book quite well. I did find that taking da Vinci into her bed when her boys home a bit rash. Quite honestly she put up with a bit more than I would have. (the new mattress story springs to mind)

Although the ending of the book is predictable and neatly wrapped up, it was an enjoyable journey to get there. I was happy to discover this new (for me) author. Check out Malena's website for contests, recipes and reading group guides. One of my favourite new authors, Jess Riley, just posted a great interview with Malena here.

Dating da Vinci was just released last month from Sourcebooks.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Flirting with Forty - Jane Porter

Flirting with Forty tells the story of Jackie. It's her second year as a divorced woman. Her two kids live with her and she loves them to death, but there's something definitely lacking in her life. It's bad enough that her husband left her for a younger woman, but her fortieth birthday is looming. Her friend Anne takes decisive action - she books them into a resort in Hawaii for a getaway. But when the time comes, Anne can't go. Jackie takes a deep breath and decides to going alone.

"I remember loving my husband and children. I remember loving them, and somewhere I must have stopped loving me... "

After sitting by the pool alone and watching movies in her room, she makes a decision.....

"I want more. More happiness. More love. More laughter. More sex. More of everything. I want to be everything I know I am.

It is at a surfboarding lesson that she meets Kai - a young, sexy, muscular, laid back, surfer kind of guy. She is very attracted to him, but he's younger and lives life to a different rhythm. What would he see in her?

Does she or doesn't she? Does she find happiness? Or answers with heartache? What about her ex?- after all the kids want them to get back together. And her friends - what would they think? I had to force myself not to flip to the back of the book and read the last chapter midway through.

Jane Porter has put to paper many questions I think a lot of women have asked themselves at some point in their lives. Written with humor and empathy, Jackie's character is true to life. The idea for this novel came when Porter was on holiday in Hawaii. (Did I mention she's dating a surfer?) It's a delicious read combining chick lit, romance and some thought provoking ideas all in one. I loved it and I'm sure you will too. You can enter a giveaway for a copy here. You can also join Grand Central Publish Blog Talk Radio for an interview with Jane on Friday, December 5th at 1pm/ET. Join in here.


You can watch the movie on Saturday December 6th at 9ET/8C on the Lifetime Channel. Yep - that's Heather Locklear as Jackie. Why not make it a girlfriend's movie night? With an island theme? Here's a recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from Amy Sedaris's book I Like You.(You can win a copy here!)

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
(reprinted with permission)

12 tbsp butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
5 whole pineapple rings
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt 4 tbsp of butter in the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch pan or ovenproof skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Take off burner and add your pineapple juice. Arrange the 5 whole pineapple rings in one layer in the pan. Set aside. Melt the rest of the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the ilk and egg, beating well. Add all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and add the milk mixture t that and beat until smooth. Pour overt the pineapple slices and bake for 35 minutes . Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and flip over onto a plate, pineapple side up. Serve with whipped cream.

Check out what my fellow Early Bird Bloggers - Amy, Kathy, Sharon, Carey , Marcia, Sally , Deborah, Allison, S.Krishna, Shana, Julie , Cheryl, Cindy , Tamara , Bethany , Sheri S , Wendi , Tracee, Carrie , Sherri, Toni , Book Maniac , Lisa, Kalea and Alyce thought of the book and some other recipes!

Giveaway - Flirting with Forty - Jane Porter

Here's your chance to win one of three copies of Flirting with Forty courtesy of Hachette Books. A great book and movie! You can read my review here.

Open to both Canada and the US. No PO Boxes please. Simply comment to be entered. An extra entry for linking. And a third entry for becoming a follower of this blog. Giveaway runs until Thursday December 18th at 6 pm/EST.

Thanks for stopping by. Check the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Like You - Amy Sedaris

I had heard of this book when it spent twelve weeks on the New York Times non fiction bestseller list as a hardcover book in 2006. It has just been released as a softcover by Hachette Books in October this year.

I couldn't wait to open this one up and find the surprises inside that the cover seems to promise. I was not disappointed!

First - where did that title come from? Well, Amy's philosophy on hospitality is - "Hello, and I like you. This is what you're saying when you invite someone into your home."

I Like You is full of quirky, hilarious information couched in perfectly reasonable tones. The beginning of the book covers the basics - making invitations, accepting invitations, keeping a party log. It also covers the wacky - why not hold an indoor garage sale at your party to get rid of some stuff when you have a captive crowd? Put some marbles in your medicine cabinet so you know what guest is snooping when the marbles fall into the sink. Planning for auspicious occasions such as 'Blind Date', 'Rich Uncle Comes to Visit', and 'Lumberjack Lunch' (plus lots more) are all covered. Everything you need is provided - invitations, decorations, table setting and most important - a themed menu. All fun aside - the recipes are actually really good! (Loved the Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake!)

The book is chock full of kitschy photos using some funky dishes and props. Sedaris also has a predilection for googly eyes and they are featured throughout. A gift section at the end gives directions to duplicate many of her creations.

Amy Sedaris is a very funny woman, and so is this book! Want a chance to win a copy? Enter my giveaway here!

Giveaway - I Like You - Amy Sedaris

Here's a chance to win one of three copies of I Like You by Amy Sedaris courtesy of Hachette Books.
It's lots of fun - my review is here. Or you can have a peek inside here.
Contest is open to both Canada and the U.S., no PO Boxes please. Just leave a comment to be entered, an extra entry for a link. Contest closes Tuesday December 16th at 6 pm EST.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winners - Confetti Cakes for Kids - Elisa Strauss

And the three lucky winners of copies of Confetti Cakes for Kids courtesy of Hachette Books and chosen by are:

Christyjan, Allison and Trish

I'll be contacting you for your mailing information. Thanks for entering and check the sidebar for other giveaways!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Phraseology - Barbara Ann Kipfer

~The Definitive Compendium~
~Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections and Fascinating Facts about English's Best Expressions~

Oh, Phraseology is a trivia buff's dream. Or anyone who loves words and language. My son is of the first persuasion. He loves books like this and promptly snagged it.
Phraseology is one of those books you want to share. I had just as much fun listening to him quiz me on phrases as he did reading it. Some I knew, but some were complete surprises.

Here's a few to whet your appetite -

"To skin a cat" - comes from removing the tough skin from a catfish prior to cooking.

"Fit to be tied" - refers to being insane and bound, as in a straight jacket tied to the body.

This is a great book to leave on the coffee table - it can be picked up and read at whim.

I enjoyed the origin phrases, such as those listed above, the most. Some entries read more like dictionary entries that most people would already know, such as lie detector and celery seed. Some of the facts I found a bit uninspiring - "Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants". Based on the subtitle, I was looking for entries that were more 'bizarre', 'unexpected' and 'fascinating'. Still, this is a fun book to have around the house.

Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer has been a lexicographer and linguist for 25 years and is the author of more than 30 books. Word Nerd is also from Sourcebooks.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winners - Giveaway - Gods Behaving Badly- Marie Phillips

And without further ado, the five winners of copies of Gods Behaving Badly, courtesy of Hachette Books and chosen by are:

Anita Yancey

Annette - no response after 2 emails/48 hrs
Karen - you were originally drawn but left no contact information -sorry...
Cricket - your email bounced back 3X - sorry...

( really I hope I don't have to edit again....) ***Dec 2nd - yes I had to edit again!! - glad I kept the printout!!***

I'll be contacting you for your mailing information. Thanks for entering and enjoy your books! Check the sidebar for other great giveaways from Hachette!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sweetsmoke - David Fuller

~A Novel of the Civil War~

I've been anticipating reading David Fuller's first novel Sweetsmoke since it was released by Hyperion Books at the end of August.

I was captured by the cover image - work worn, lined, loosely clasped hands and I wondered the story behind them.

Fuller spent eight years researching this amazing novel. It tells the tale of Cassius, a slave and carpenter who lives on a tobacco plantation in Virginia. It is 1862 and the Civil War is in full swing. Interestingly Fuller found family connections to both sides of the War during his research.

After suffering a brutal punishment at the hands of his master Hoke Howard, Cassius is allowed to heal at the home of Emoline, a free black woman. Emoline secretly teaches Cassius to read and write. It is these secret lessons that ignite a need for knowledge, a want to know the world beyond the plantation.

"Cassius drove himself toward his journey in a step-by-step fashion, willing to risk everything, to know. To know."

When Emoline is murdered and it appears that no one cares to find the killer, Cassius vows he will find the killer and seek justice for Emoline.

This is a story with many threads, all of then engrossing. Life on the plantation, attitudes and the War are all portrayed with accuracy and detail, bringing to life this period in history. Fuller has also brought to life the lot of a slave, humanizing historical fact, in all it's shame. Although all the characters evoke strong emotions, it is the character of Cassius that kept me reading non stop. His journey towards knowledge and justice, combined with the mystery of Emoline's death is a gripping tale.

Sweetsmoke will be joining another similar book - "Rush Home Road" by Canadian Lori Lansens on my favourites list.

Many thanks to Mini Book Expo for the opportunity to read and review this fantastic book!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giveaway - Katie Brown Celebrates

Here's your chance to win a one of three copies of Katie Brown Celebrates courtesy of Hachette Books!

Did I enjoy it? I sure did and you can read my review here.

This giveaway is open to both Canada and the US, no PO boxes please. Please make sure I have a way to contact you, either through your blog or by email. Leave me a comment to be entered and an extra entry for blogging about this giveaway. Closes December 9th at 6 pm EST.

Make sure you stop by next Wednesday for yet another fantastic cooking/entertaining giveaway!

Katie Brown Celebrates - Katie Brown

~Simple and Spectacular Parties All Year Round~

This is Katie Brown's fifth book, newly released from Hachette Books. This latest book is all about celebration.

" After all, the art of celebration is what makes life fun - it is what creates tradition and memories."

Brown provides us with the tools and ideas to make our own celebrations and memories. There are monthly ideas including graduations, birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and many more. Each month is introduced by an anecdote from Brown's life. There are decorations, favours, table settings and of course recipes for every occasion.

There are some great quick ideas - try using different colours and widths of duct tape to give a picnic table a new tablecloth. There are more involved ideas to create elegant tableaus as well.

What I enjoyed most were the recipes. There are some basics that are sure to become family traditions - Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast Roll Ups has been tried and enjoyed in my kitchen. And some new twists on old standbys - Whole Grain Potato Salad, Apple Brownies. As well, there are some recipes that are completely new that I cannot wait to try - Parmesan Soup with Swiss Chard Dumplings is on my list. But my sweet tooth rules - there are some totally decadent desserts featured that had my mouth watering.

The entire book is filled with glossy, colour photographs detailing everything. There is also a section with the recipes broken down into categories - soups, main, desserts etc. Brown has also combined the recipes into new occasions - garden lunch, candlelight dinner and more.

This is a great book to follow or use as inspiration as you create your own celebrations. Want a copy of your own? Enter the giveaway for three copies here!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where Am I Wearing - Kelsey Timmerman

Well, it seems kind of appropriate that Where Am I Wearing is being released today from John Wiley & Sons. After all it's Black Friday this week in the U.S. and Christmas shopping is well under way in Canada.
(... trust me - the mall is packed ...)

Many of us will be buying clothes for gifts or ourselves. But do you ever really wonder where the item is made? Do you look at the tag as part of your decision or are you just happy to get a good deal?

Kelsey Timmerman did a little bit more that wonder. He decided to find the factory in Bangladesh that produced his favourite 'Jingle These' boxers. And his jeans, tee-shirt and flip flops.

And so off he treks to the other side of the world to discover the origins of his clothes.

In Bangladesh, he poses as an underwear buyer to gain entrance to view the factories. While most of us will speak out against sweatshop labour, Kelsey finds that nothing is as cut and dried when faced with actual people and their lives.

"My own conclusion, after visiting Bangladesh, is that we should not be ashamed that our clothes are made by children so much as ashamed that we live in a world where child labor is often necessary for survival."

He has great fun with some street kids, taking twenty of them to an amusement park for the same price it would take to get one American kid into Disney World.

It is this aspect that I enjoyed the most in Timmerman's book - the personal level of interaction - meeting with and talking to the actual workers of the garment industries he visited in their own environments.

Timmerman's writing style is entertaining and candid, but still explores the history of the garment industry and what is being done to reform it.

In Cambodia, home to his treasured pair of blue jeans, he discovers that 75% of the country's exports are garments. Again, it is the personal stories of the eight female workers sharing a 96 sq. ft. room that grabbed me.

It is in China that he has the most difficulty accessing a factory. But he connects with a married couple working in the flip flop factory. They provide for family back in their rural village and have not seen their son in three years. Kelsey decides to go to the village to visit.

Back in the US he visits a garment factory that made his oldest and still wearable shorts.

Timmerman provides no black and white answers but instead gives us much food for thought. Where am I Wearing is a fascinating, eye-opening, thought provoking read that will have you reading tags just to see where your favourite piece of clothing was made. Perhaps it will make you think a little bit longer before you get out the wallet and help you become an informed consumer.

"When I walk into my closet, I think about the hundreds - if not thousands- of people around the world who had a hand in making my clothes. Jeans are no longer just jeans, shirts no longer just shirts, shoes no longer just shoes, clothes are no longer just clothes. Each is an untold story."

(So far - Canada, US, Bangladesh, Taiwan and China - what about yours?)

I hope Timmerman continues to explore and write about his journeys. What's next? Well - you can follow along on his website.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Mercy - Toni Morrison

Newly released, A Mercy takes place in the 1680's - the early days of the slave trade in the Americas.

Jacob is a trader who takes a small slave girl- Florens - in partial payment for a debt. The mother of the child begs him to take the girl, not herself. It is this act that has consequences for all the lives that are intertwined with that of Florens'. Florens joins Jacob's wife Rebekka, Lina, a servant and Sorrow, an indentured young woman, at their hardscrabble farm. Scully and Willard are also hoping to buy their freedom. Florens yearns for the blacksmith, an African who has never been enslaved.

Life at this time in history is defined and described from the viewpoint of each of these characters. Each character is enslaved to something in this new world - an owner, religion, wealth, desire and memory. The most poignant voice is that of Floren's mother. The last chapter of the book belongs to her and it ends on a powerful note.

Toni Morrison has a gift with words. Although it is tempting to read straight through to the end, I always take the time to savour and enjoy the language she uses.

..."especially here where tobacco and slaves were married, each currency clutching it's partner's elbow".

Toni Morrison is an amazingly gifted writer, having won both a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize. If you haven't experienced her yet, I encourage you to pick up any of her books.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Giveaway - Confetti Cakes for Kids - Elisa Strauss

*** This giveaway is now closed - check the sidebar for other giveaways!***

Here's your chance to win a one of three copies of Confetti Cakes for Kids courtesy of Hachette Books!

Did I enjoy it? I sure did and you can read my review here.

This giveaway is open to both Canada and the US, no PO boxes please. Please make sure I have a way to contact you, either through your blog or by email. Leave me a comment to be entered and an extra entry for blogging about this giveaway. Closes December 2nd at 6 pm EST.

Make sure you stop by next Wednesday for yet another fantasitc cooking/entertaining giveaway!

Confetti Cakes for Kids - Elisa Strauss

Okay that's a cake! Can you believe it?? I was immediately grabbed by this bright, bold cover - and the fact that that's a cake!

My children were subjected to many of my efforts that consisted of more desire than skill when they were younger. This book actually makes it quite simple. It's broken down in chapters covering the Basics - the equipment and tools needed. Techniques - icing techniques, how to use a pastry bag and more. And the best for me - Recipes - foolproof, tried and true, guaranteed to taste good recipes for cookies and cakes. I'm definitely using some of them this Christmas -the gingerbread cake and cookies and a great basic vanilla sugar cookie. All of them are straight forward, using ingredients you already have on hand.

And icing recipes! Okay put your hand up if you've ever added too much milk, then a little more icing sugar, oops a little more milk...... Again foolproof recipes for different buttercream icings and fondants. Decorated cupcakes and mini cakes are featured as well.

Have you ever bought a cookie bouquet before? I have, but don't think I will ever again - Strauss's directions make it easy to do yourself.

The cakes pictured are amazing and fantastical, but doable. This book will spark your creative juices and imagination!

Elisa Strauss owns the Confetti Cakes Bakery in New York City. Check out this video of Strauss discussing her baking.

Confetti Cakes for Kids was just released last week from Hachette Books and they are kindly sponsoring a giveaway for three copies!! You can enter here!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Divine Justice - David Baldacci

I have read many of David Baldacci's earlier novels, but haven't read him in awhile. Big mistake - I forgot how good he is!

Divine Justice is newly released from Hachette Books. It picks up the story of Oliver Stone, aka John Carr - one of the most deadly assasins the U.S. government ever produced. But when Carr wanted out and they killed his family, they made a terrible mistake. Stone retaliates and Macklin Hayes, a high ranking spy, is determined to find him and make him disappear for good. Stone ends up in the small mining town of Divine, Virgina hoping to lie low for awhile. But trouble seems to go hand in hand with Oliver Stone. All is not fine in Divine. Stone's sense of justice will not let him walk away. At the same time his friends from the Camel Club are trying to find him to help him.

As I had not read the Camel Club, The Collectors or Stone Cold, the other novels featuring these characters, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't understand the plot in Divine Justice. But it wasn't a problem. A few pages in I was up to speed. Most of the action takes place in the Divine setting.

If you're looking for a fast paced, thrilling novel - this is it! The characters are larger than life and the action never stops. Good and evil are clearly defined and you'll find yourself rooting for John Carr.

Having just discovered the Camel Club, I'm curious if there will be another? I'd put it on my list. If you have enjoyed the Jack Reacher character by Lee Child, then this is a series you would enjoy. You can read the first chapter here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bookworm Award - Meme

Avisannschild at She Reads and Reads has given me the Bookworm Award! Thank you!

Here are the rules:Open the closest book to you—not your favourite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment—to page 56.Write out the fifth sentence as well as the next two to five sentences.Pass this on to five blogging friends.

I'm currently reading A Mercy by Toni Morrison, so it's the closest to me right now.

"Your son, John Jacob. He died after Sorrow came"
"Stay, Lina. Don't feed old misery. My baby died of fever."
"But Patrician sickened too and did not--"
"I said stay. That he died in my arms is enough without adding savage nonsense."

If you've been tagged before, sorry, and just ignore me if you’re not into this kind of thing. I hereby tag:

Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books
Wrighty at WrightysReads

Winner- Giveaway - Lost and Found

And without further ado, the five winners of a copy of Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst, chosen by, are:

Pam, Yan, T.J. Baff, Sara and E.Mitchell.

Congratulations and many thanks to Hachette Books for the opportunity to host this giveaway!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Giveaway - Gods Behaving Badly

** This giveaway is now closed. Check at the top of the sidebar for current giveaways!***
Here's your chance to win one of five (!) copies of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips courtesy of Hachette Books.

What's it about?

"Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees-a favorite pastime of Apollo's-is sapping their vital reserves of strength.Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?

You can join Miriam from Hachette Books for a Blog Talk Radio interview with Marie on December 1st at 1PM ET. If you have a question for Marie, please email it to Then call into (646) 378-0040 on December 1st at 1PM. If you’d like to listen online or sign up for a reminder, visit here.

Simply comment to be entered. Giveaway closes on November 29 at midnight EST. Open to both Canada and the US, no po boxes please. Make sure I have a way to contact you and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Book of Nonsense - David Michael Slater

~~Sacred Books - Volume One~~

Hmm, you're saying to yourself - that looks like a kid's book. And you'd be right - the first one I've reviewed.

The Book of Nonsense is newly released from CBAY Books /Blooming Tree Press and is the first in what is planned to be a five book series. David Michael Slater has written many children's books and has plans for quite a few more.

Daphna and her twin brother Dexter are about to turn thirteen. They live with their older father Milton, who is a book scout - hunting down old and valuable books. Daphna is very excited when a huge bookstore - the Antiquarian Book Centre (ABC) opens up. The funny thing is that it only stocks magic books.

When their father sells a very old book that seems to be filled with nonsense words to the ancient, blind man who runs the ABC, their lives take a decided turn for the strange. The red eyed giant boy who is the store assistant is after Dexter and their Dad is acting funny - he has promised that Daphna will help the old man. Daphna is frightened of the old man and rightly so. It all seems to centre around this mysterious book. Instead of fighting with each other Daphna and Dex will have to join forces to find out what is going on.

This tale has all the necessary elements to capture and hold a child's attention. A battle between good and evil, danger, mysteries and lots of questions to keep them guessing until the end.

The only thing I took exception to was the reference to God in regards to a mysterious book detailing a language called the First Tongue. This language "moves people's minds." One character tells how there is a myth "that God himself read from a book containing this language when he created the world." This is a fantasy book and I think it would have been just as effective to delete the God reference. I think this may offend some readers and their parents.

This book is listed as for ages 10+. I wondered about some of the words - unprecedented, formidable and incensed to name a few and wondered if they were age appropriate. As Slater is a middle school teacher I will assume he knows the level he's writing for.

The Book of Nonsense was a finalist for the Association of Booksellers for Children's Best Books 2008 and was a Cybil Award nominee.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who Lied and Said We Left the Garden of Eden

~Memoirs of a Homeless Man~

I initially chose to read this book based on the subtitle. I am in awe of anyone who can turn their life around so radically and wanted to read about his journey.

I found the first chapter, Dreams and Visions, a little off-putting. One of them involves a dying young boy in a glass tank, but no one can see him to rescue him. Martin has described his childhood as "raised in a broken, abusive and religiously fanatic home." It is my opinion that earlier intervention may have spared Martin some of the hard life he has lived. But Daniel embraces his life as a learning and growing experience that has made him the man he is today. It was the promise of the introduction that kept me reading. "This book is mainly about how I changed my life."

Martin's spiral towards homelessness included dropping out of school, using any and all drugs including intravenous use, burglary, robberies and prostituting himself. Many stints in rehab did the job for a little while but none really 'took'.

Martin seems to be trying to reconcile his early religious teachings with his emerging vision of what shape his faith will take.

"I didn't know how to tell him that I was tired of trying to swallow so many doubts simply because others told me that it was the truth. It wasn't my truth and I couldn't take it any longer."

"I was tired of being so afraid where I felt we were heading, thanks to all of the crazy fanatic religions and greedy governments."

Stints of sobriety usually end with a fall back into old ways. But he perseveres in his search for peace within himself.

"I asked the Sacred Creator to show me truth here in heaven. What I learned is that we're all sacred, programmable and connected on a higher level of truth, love and tolerance." Daniel believes that heaven is here on earth and that "this is the will of our Greatest Mystery and Sacred Creator, that we should love this world and each other, as though we were all one."

I found the word programmable an odd choice, although I understand Daniel is using the word to indicate that we can all change our thinking.

Later chapters involving Martin's history of religion and fanatics fell a bit short for this reader. I was much more interested in his goal of promoting harmony and tolerance towards all, but was disturbed by the following qoute that I found personally a bit fanatical.

"Without a doubt, those of us who don't share that way of thinking will have to be mightier, wittier, better educated and more secretive if we are to win this war being raged over the minds of humanity and ultimately the safety of our mother planet."

I applaud Daniel Martin for finding his way out of drugs and homelessness. I admire his goal of a better life and a better world. He is married with two sons now and the owner of a plumbing contracting company.

This book was written "to do something in a creative way that might change, comfort and correct the hearts and minds of people." I would like to have perhaps heard how else he was giving back or helping those living the same life he crawled out of. He does credit many people for the help he received. Has he ever gone back and tried to help some of the people from his past?

I hope that he is still clean and happy and commend his efforts to make the world a better place to live.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Winner - Life After Genius Giveaway

Wow, what a fun week this was with the Book Giveway Carnival ! It was so great to discover and visit so many new (to me) blogs. Thanks to everyone for all their giveaways. And with no further ado, picked using, the winner of my giveaway for a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, courtesy of Hachette Books is......................
Janelle! from Brimful Curiosities! Yay!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Your Roots are Showing - Elise Chidley

It's always a thrill to discover a new author that you want to tell others about. Elise Chidley's debut fiction novel, Your Roots are Showing, is newly released from Hachette Books.

By mistake Lizzie sends an email to her husband James that was meant for her sister Janie. Unfortunately it details how fed up and frustrated she is with her marriage. It was just venting to her sister, but James takes it to heart and before she knows it, Lizzie is separated. She rents a rundown cottage in a small village with her three year old twins and then...Well what is next? She still loves James, but it seems he's ready to move on. Maybe it's time to love herself.

Lizzie Indigo is a wonderful, warm, lovable character. The journey to reclaim her life and herself is by turns funny, sad and inspiring. Chidley has perfectly captured the trials and tribulations of life after children. Lizzie's world is filled out by an eclectic group of supporting characters (I'm quite taken with the meddling neighbour Ingrid)

Chidley is very funny. I actually found myself laughing out loud as she recounts a tale involving the idea that wrapping one's self in saran wrap will drive your husband mad. Or the self tanning fiasco....

If you've read the Shopaholic/Bridget Jones books, you'll love this great feel good chick lit read. I'll be watching and waiting for Elise Chidley's next novel! You can read an excerpt below!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bones - Johnathan Kellerman

One of the best pairings in detective/suspense novels returns in the 23nd (!) novel in this series from Jonathan Kellerman.

Psychologist and police consultant Alex Delaware and LA police Lieutenant Milo Sturgis are back together to solve one of their darkest cases yet.

A young volunteer at a marsh sanctuary receives an anonymous call telling him to look for something dead in the marsh. The call is dismissed as a prank. That changes when a young woman's body is found - in plain view. A search dog discovers three more bodies, submerged in the marsh. These women are all prostitutes, but the first body found is that of a piano teacher. Are they connected? Is the marsh the dumping ground of a serial killer? Will he kill again? Can they find him before he does? Milo and Alex's investigation leads to unexpected places.

Lots of plot twists and turns will keep you turning pages. The banter between Milo and Alex is always witty and entertaining. A new character is introduced, Moses, a young rookie Homicide detective. I found him to be an engaging addition and hope he returns in future books. In the past Alex's girlfriend Robin played a more significant role. She seems to have been relegated to deciding dinner selections. Milo's boyfriend Rick is another character I'd like to see more of. Kellerman is a clinical psychologist and his character's insight and dialogue have the ring of authenticity.

Jonathan Kellerman is on my list of favourite authors and I was not disappointed with Bones. My only disappointment was finishing it too quickly! I'll be waiting for #24!

The Brass Verdict - Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller first appeared in Connelly's 2005 novel The Lincoln Lawyer. I had followed the Harry Bosch detective series ( 13 up to now ) since 1993 and wasn't too sure about a 'new' character, but was happily proven wrong. Haller is back in The Brass Verdict. The best part? Harry Bosch is featured as well!

Defense lawyer Mickey Haller inherits a dead colleague's law practice and with it what could be his biggest case ever. His client, Walter Elliot, wants the case to proceed quickly, so Haller is playing catchup. But is his client holding something back? The dead colleague, Jerry Vincent, was murdered and Detective Harry Bosch is on the case. Can Vincent's murder and Elliot's case be tied together? Haller and Bosch may have to put their heads together for this one. The ending was fantastic setting up what I hope will be many more books where both characters are featured.

Connelly's writing skillfully captures both courtroom and police investigation scenes and dialogue. The legal aspect is never dry and the investigation side always keeps you guessing. His characters are believable and human. The personal lives and relationships of the main and supporting characters greatly enhance the whole storyline. It was interesting to see Harry Bosch through Haller's eyes. It was a bit of a different Bosch than I have become accustomed to. But that too is part of Connelly's skill - keeping us on our toes and never, never letting us become bored of his writing!

I always anticipate starting a new book by one of my favourite authors and try to stretch it out and 'make it last'. But yet again it didn't work - I burned through this new release in just over a day. Sigh.....another year till the next one.

Michael Connelly has a great website though - games, lists, trailers and much more. Hachette Books did a great Blog Talk Radio interview with Connelly - you can listen to it here. (My question is around the seventeen minute mark)

Highly recommended!

Book Giveaway Carnival!!

***** This giveaway is now closed****
Winner announced here.
Visit over 70 bloggers participating in
The Book Giveaway Carnival!

Here at A Bookworm's World I am giving away a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby courtesy of Hachette Books. It was a wonderful read - you can see my review here.

Giveaway open to both US and Canada - no P.O. Boxes please. Please make sure I have a way to contact you. Closes November 8th at midnight. Just comment on this post to enter! Thanks for stopping by!

( By the way - there's another giveaway here for 5 copies of Lost and found by Carolyn Parkhust!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Giveaway - Lost and Found - Carolyn Parkhurst

***This giveaway now closed, but there's another one here!***

Here's your chance to win a copy of Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst courtesy of Hachette Books!

There are 5 copies to be won! Open to both US and Canada. No post office boxes please. Contest ends November 15th at midnight. Please make sure I have a way to contact you. Simply comment to be entered. An extra entry for mentioning it on your blog.

About the book:

A suburban mom, her troubled daughter, divorced brothers, former child stars, born-again Christians, and some young millionaires have all been selected to compete on LOST AND FOUND, a daring new reality show. In pairs of two, they will race across the world to compete for a million-dollar prize.The only question is not only who will capture the big jackpot, but at what price."
Good luck!

Friday, October 31, 2008

7 Random Facts - Book Edition

Monie over at Reading with Monie tagged me for the "Random Facts" tag - Book Edition.

Unfortunately today is crazy on the home front, so I can't play. I think it's a fun idea though, so click back to her site and join in!