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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Quilter's Holiday...Review

About the book:
For the Elm Creek Quilters, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the quilting season, a time to gather at Elm Creek Manor and spend the day stitching holiday gifts for loved ones. This year, in keeping with the season's spirit of gratitude, Master Quilter Sylvia Bergstrom Compson Cooper is eager to revive a cherished family tradition. A recent remodeling of the manor's kitchen unearthed a cornucopia that once served as the centerpiece of the Bergstrom family's holiday table. Into it, each Bergstrom would place an object that symbolized something he or she was especially thankful for that year. On this quilter's holiday, Sylvia has invited her friends to continue the tradition by sewing quilt blocks that represent their thankfulness and gratitude.

As each quilter explains the significance of her carefully chosen block, stories of love and longing for family and friends emerge -- feelings that are also expressed in the gifts they work on throughout the day. Diane is thankful for her two sons, who've outgrown their youthful troubles to become fine young men, but she wishes they revered their family's traditions as much as she does. Anna, in her first holiday season as an Elm Creek Quilter, creates a quilt for her best friend even as she begins to question her feelings for him, which may have grown beyond friendship. Sylvia reflects upon holidays past spent with her beloved, long-lost cousin Elizabeth and wonders whatever became of her. Sarah, pregnant with twins, determinedly sews a Christmas gift for her father-in-law, whose persistent suggestions that her husband, Matt, come to work for his construction company have created tension in their marriage. And as Gretchen pieces a quilt for a charity she has not yet chosen and Gwen completes a project begun by her graduate school mentor, both women lend their talents to those in need.

As an early winter storm blankets Elm Creek Manor in heavy snow, the quilters find new meanings in their best-loved traditions and new reasons to be thankful.
A Quilter's Holiday is a story of holiday spirit, in its truest, most generous sense.

I almost didn't pick up this book. I've liked most of the Elm Creek Quilt books I've read, but I think Jennifer Chiaverini needs to put the series to bed and write something else. There is a compelling element to these stories, however, and I'm sure that is what keeps people reading them. I have mixed feelings about this one. It's a shorter, holiday novella style book that takes place over the course of two days and is easily read in one sitting. This one shares viewpoints from each quilter, and we do learn a bit more about each one. However, there are still redundancies, just like there are in past books.

Diane is the character I like the least and she whines and snipes her way through this book. Yes, her issues are wrapped up neatly at the end, just like everyone else's, but to say she is annoying is an understatement. Sarah and Matt end the book with somewhat unresolved issues and Sylvia discovers more answers to her family history. So I have no doubt that at least one more Elm Creek Quilt book will be published: one that features a return to Elizabeth's story from The Quilter's Homecoming. Another one dealing with Sarah and Matt and the birth of their children is probably on its way as well.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. Because my library has them, I might pick up the next ones. I don't know. Like I said, there is a compelling element to these stories and kudos to Jennifer Chiaverini for capitalizing on it. If you've liked the rest of the series, you will probably enjoy this one.  You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 3/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Summer in Paris...Review

About the book:
Kenzie Williams feels like she has it all; wealth, friends, popularity and talent. But when her father tells her that he has declared bankruptcy, her whole world in New York City turns upside down. Her parents' solution while they sort through their financial and marital problems is to send Kenzie to live with her relatives in Paris...Idaho!
Feeling like she's been sentenced to three months in Hickville Prison, Kenzie arrives in Idaho feeling like a square peg with name brand clothes, in a round, horribly podunk, hole. Leaving everything she loves behind, Kenzie is forced to get up at the crack of dawn, do chores, and hang out with her cousin's loser friends. She feels like she's about to die until she meets Adam White, the town outcast, who's been accused of killing his best friend and is being blamed for some trouble that's been happening around town. Not only is Adam the best-looking guy she's ever seen, but he's also the most fascinating guy she's ever met and Kenzie is determined to get to know him and find out his secret. But, the longer she stays in Paris, the more she realizes, Adam isn't the only one keeping secrets.

I so wanted to love this book. It sounds cute, the cover is adorable, and so many of the preliminary reviews gave it high marks. I found the characterizations a bit stereotyped and I never really cared about Kenzie. She was a spoiled brat who predictably learned the necessary life lessons you expected from a storyline that wrapped up very neatly and happily.

Having said that, however, I do think that the intended YA/Teenage audience will love it. It has all the hallmarks of a successful teen novel: drama, a plucky little heroine and her mix of friendly and obnoxious girlfriends, the right amount of angst, a bit of suspense and a "bad boy" hero to fall in love with.

Michele Ashman Bell also shows us two distinct marriages: Kenzie's parents are separated and headed for divorce, while her aunt and uncle have a healthy, well communicative marriage, and while not perfect, a healthy family relationship with their two sons. I think the example, especially, of a healthy marriage is so important for today's teenage girls to read about. I also liked the fact that Kenzie stood her ground when the kids around her were drinking. Those examples are always good to see.

Thanks to Tristi Pinkston of Valor Publishing Group for the opportunity to preview this book. You can learn more about Michele Ashman Bell here. You can purchase your own copy here and here. To find out what other readers have said about this book, check out the other tour stops here.

Read 3/30

* * 
2/5 Stars

Monday, March 29, 2010

An Absence So Great...Review

About the book:
Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?
While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning. Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her life.

The second in the Portraits of the Heart series, this is a sequel to A Flickering Light, which I haven't read. The series is based on the story of Jessie Ann Gaebele, the author's grandmother. Jessie, now an eighteen-year old woman sets out to succeed, on her own, as a photographer. She leaves behind a forbidden romance with her married employer, Fred Bauer. Jessie truly wants to succeed as a photographer and own her own studio. She hones her skills working for other photographers as she tries to distance herself from Fred.

While I enjoyed the story, I believe it would have been beneficial to have read the first book. A Flickering Light would have set up the story of Jessie and Fred and probably would have given me more empathy for them. I liked Jessie. I didn't like Fred and I really didn't like his wife. A little backstory is given as the story moves along, but I think that reading the first book is necessary for enjoying this one. Towards the end of the story, we are given more explanations as to what ultimately drove Fred and his wife apart, which is good to know.

Jessie was a remarkable woman who, whether she intended to be or not, was a champion of women's rights. I would have liked to have known her.

The author includes actual photos taken by Jessie, many of whose subjects are mentioned in the story, as well as Jessie's original commentary about each photo. She also concludes with an account of how she came to write the story of Jessie's life.

A thought-provoking, interesting story. Easily recommended, although I would suggest reading the first book beforehand.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. You can learn more about the book here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dawn of the Dreadfuls...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
With more than one million copies in print, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the surprise publishing phenomenon of 2009. A best seller on three continents, PPZ has been translated into 21 languages and optioned to become a major motion picture.

In this terrifying and hilarious prequel, we witness the genesis of the zombie plague in early-nineteenth-century England. We watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a naïve young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. We laugh as she begins her first clumsy training with nunchucks and katana swords and cry when her first blush with romance goes tragically awry. Written by acclaimed novelist (and Edgar Award nominee) Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls invites Austen fans to step back into Regency England, Land of the Undead!

Yes, yes, yes. The boys who warped your mind with PPZ, and stole your sole with SSSM are proving the old axiom that ‘there’s no chicken you can’t get more eggs out of if you shake it hard enough’, with their latest offering from that warped world of Meryton society. Travel back in time with us to the earlier childhood of that blade wielding bombshell Elizabeth Bennett and find out how this all started, and where the dawn of the dreadfuls occurred. If you want one single reason to read this book, there’s a lot less of Lydia Bennett—which makes this reader very happy.

Learn more about the back story of Mr. Bennett’s life, and discover that Jane does have a spine, as well as a devastating smile and curves that could make a zombie smile. Find out how Elizabeth kills her first zombie, and takes her first steps into the greater world of life, love and zombie slaying.

A wonderful book—had me laughing out loud and wanting much, much more.

So what else could those nut-job writers at Quirk come up with? The spine tingles at the thought of what they’ll roll out next. I’m thinking an after PPZ with Elizabeth and Darcy taking over the countryside, and traveling to far flung corners of the earth in search of a cure, a sharp blade and a bloody good curry!!

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We the Children...Review

About the book:
One secret mission. One secret Society. Once chance to save their school from total destruction.

Benjamin Pratt's harbor-side school is going to be bulldozed to make room for an amusement park. It sounds like a dream come true ... or is it more like a nightmare? Something about the plan seems fishy, and Lyman, the new assistant janitor, seems even fishier. When Ben and his friend, Jill, start digging for answers, they find things that the people with money and power don't want them to see. Could the history hidden deep within an old school building actually overthrow a thirty-million-dollar real-estate deal? and how far will the developers go to keep that from happening? Ben and Jill are about to discover just how dangerous a little knowledge can be.

The first of the Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series, for ages 9-12.

An appealing story. Ben is not only a great kid you can really like, but he's smart and kind too. And, despite the fact that his parents have separated, he's trying to understand and not let their pending divorce get to him.

When the school janitor entrusts Ben with a secret and gives him a mysterious warning about defending his school, the curious sixth grader decides to investigate his school's history. He and his friend Jill solve some mysteries and uncover more.

This is definitely the first of a series, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I did wish for a little more substance. However, it sets up the premise very well and I loved the 18th century seafaring origins of the school and the mysterious Keepers of the School. I have no idea how many books are planned, but I anxiously await the next one!

I think upper elementary and middle school kids would love this. If the boy reads it, I'll have him review it as well.

To be released April 2010. Thanks to Simon & Shuster for the opportunity to review this delightful book. You can learn more about the book here. You can learn more about Andrew Clements here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Girl Who Chased the Moon...Review

About the book:
Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth—but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

As Emily comes to Mullaby for the first time, she discovers her unknown grandfather and a town full of secrets. As some of those secrets are revealed and as Emily comes to understand her roots, she finds more than she ever hoped she could: friendship and family and love.

These are characters who grow on you. I loved Emily. I loved Julia. The descriptions are so vibrant and vivid: I could just picture the magical cake scents that would drift out of Julia's window as she baked. In my mind, they sparkled and left a trail, just like fairy dust. I'd have a hard time not following them back to their origin, too! And, I want wallpaper that changes with my moods.

Enchanting is an adjective that I have used to describe each Sarah Addison Allen book, and this one is no different. Charming, delightful, captivating, and endearing all come to mind as well. I love that each of her books has a mystical aspect, and I love that it is so easy to accept those magical elements as normal!

Here, just as in Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen, we find that ordinary people possess extraordinary gifts, and that honesty in our relationships is something to treasure.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow!  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, March 19, 2010


About the book:
The story of a girl unsparingly plunged into heartache and chaos, who would save a nation … of Esther, who would be queen.

Wrenched from a simple life for her beauty, Esther finds herself at the mercy of King Xerxes. Leaving behind her only relative, her cousin Mordecai, and her first true love, Cyrus, she is thrown headlong into the unrestrained extravagance of palace living. Quick of mind and strong in spirit, she refuses to suffer the fate of her harem sisters and boldly challenges Xerxes to give of his heart before taking his pleasure, thus sealing her place beside him a queen. While conspiracy spins its diabolical web, Esther’s mind and spirit waver, and she is forced to confront the past in order to save her future—and that of an entire nation.

A fictionalized account of the story of Queen Esther, presented from the premise that her lost "diaries" have been recovered, sold to a museum and translated for the world to read. News reports and commentaries are included to solidify this premise.

Writing about a historical figure when little is actually known about her is always risky. But, overall, I found the story engaging. My knowledge of this time period is scant at best and I enjoyed the descriptions about palace life, the harems and the cultural details of the time period. The experiences Esther had during her year of preparation were curious, yet I could picture it all.

So much of Esther's story is speculation and imagination. The biblical account leads you to believe that Esther and the King had a great love for each other. Here, Esther is unwillingly taken away from her home and the young man she wishes to marry. For most of her year in the harem, she pines for Cyrus and, even after her marriage to the king, thinks about him. I realize that adding Cyrus to the mix makes for a more dramatic story, but I wish he'd been left out.

Esther has always been a wonderful example of a strong woman of faith, one I enjoyed reading about and someone to admire. And while she was faithful to her God and did what she was asked, even at the risk of death, I felt that, at times, her faith was secondary to the rest of the story.

Overall, an enthralling story and one I can easily recommend. After I finished it, I found myself picking up my Bible and rereading Esther's account there.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Audra Jennings at The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Ginger Garrett here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Distant Melody...Review

About the book:
Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval--even marry a man she doesn't love. Lt. Walter Novak--fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women--takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

A Distant Melody is the first book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

I enjoy historical romances and I enjoy historical war romances. That love blossomed during such difficult times always fills me with hope. I loved A Distant Melody, absolutely loved it. Allie and Walt are characters who you will grow to care about. They are flawed and real. You will neglect dinner and household responsibilities because you can't put the book down.

It took a few chapters for me to get all the characters straight in my head, but everyone found his place and the story drew me in completely. I cheered when Allie stood up for herself and I wanted to slap her parents silly for their complete and utter inability to love their daughter for who she was. It's difficult for me to believe that parents could honestly be so cruel. I hope that more of their story is explained in future books. However, both Walt and Allie discover that being obedient to God and faithful to their values is the only way to be truly happy.

Allie and Walt's letters to each other were a wonderful touch and so realistic to the time. The air battles and Walt's flight experiences with his crew are thrilling and believable. I also loved the Northern California setting: Walt's hometown of Antioch, California is 20 miles from my hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thrilling and heartbreaking but also charming and tender. Sarah Sundin has written a terrific debut novel, and I cannot wait for the next books in this series.

Available March 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Sundin here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Postmistress...Review

About the book:
What would happen if a postmistress chose not to deliver the mail?

It is 1940. While the war is raging in Europe, President Roosevelt promises he won't send American boys over to fight.

Iris James is the postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts a small town at the end of Cape Cod. She firmly believes her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Faithfully she stamps and sends the letters between people such as the newlyweds Emma and Will Fitch, who has gone to London to help out during the Blitz. But one day she slips a letter into her pocket, and leaves it there.

Meanwhile, seemingly fearless radio gal, Frankie Bard is reporting the Blitz from London, her dispatches crinkling across the Atlantic, imploring listeners to pay attention. Then in the last desperate days of the summer of 1941, she rides the trains out of Germany, reporting on what is happening to the refugees there.

Alternating between an America on the eve of entering into World War II, still safe and snug in its inability to grasp the danger at hand, an a Europe being torn apart by war, the two stories collide in a letter, bringing the war finally home to Franklin.

I wanted to love this story. The premise sounded engrossing, the cover is gorgeous and advance reviews offer nothing but praise. The story for me, however, fell short of whatever expectation I had. Was it tragic? Yes. Was it engrossing? To a point. Was it something I can recommend? Only with reservations.

The perspective is fascinating: a postmaster, especially in the mid 20th century, really could have his or her pulse on the entire community. And, in small-town America, people really did look out for each other.

Frankie's perspective was intriguing: a war-time viewpoint first from blitzed-out London and then from France among the displaced Jews. The American perspective of the war was accurate: World War 2 started several years before America finally got involved, but from our viewpoint, it all really got started in 1941.

All the pieces for a great story are here, but those pieces don't quite all fit together. It was a slow starter for me and one that ultimately tried too hard to be something special.

Mild profanity, although one could say it was accurate to the wartime situations.

Thanks to Lydia Hirt of G.P. Putnam's Sons/Riverhead for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Blake here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Right Call...Review

About the book:
It’s summer in Sophie Trace, the setting of Kathy Herman’s latest page turner, The Right Call. Based on 2 Peter 2:19b: “For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him,” The Right Call demonstrates how we’re all slaves to something—either to God and righteousness or to the flesh and its pitfalls.

Ethan Langley is home from college for the summer, eager to renew his friendship with Vanessa Jessup (Police Chief Brill Jessup’s daughter) and her infant son, Carter. Before Ethan is even settled, his world is rocked by a random shooting that leaves four people dead, including someone close to him. Ethan tries to deal with his grief by staying busy and concentrating on his growing love for Vanessa. When a coworker from the previous summer, Stedman Reeves, seems somewhat obsessed with the shooting—but also sympathetic to Ethan’s deep loss—the two seem to connect.

While Chief Jessup is scrambling to find a suspect in the shootings, Ethan gets a late-night call from Stedman, who sounds panicked and needs to see him right away. Stedman confesses shocking details: due to a series of bad choices, he is going to be framed for the murders. All the evidence points to Stedman’s guilt, and he knows that there is no way he can prove his innocence. Stedman implores Ethan to go to Vanessa’s mother with this information.

When the wrong people find out that Ethan knows too much, those around him are placed in danger. What should he do? Going to Chief Jessup with the truth could save Stedman from doing life in prison—but it could be a death sentence for and Vanessa and Carter. He’s been dealt an impossible hand, but it’s his move. Will he make the right call?

Best-selling suspense novelist Kathy Herman brings this vivid story to life in her new book, The Right Call, the third book in the acclaimed Sophie Trace Trilogy. Filled with heart-pounding suspense that delivers heart-changing truth, The Right Call uses the perilous story of a young college student to reinforce the importance of walking closely with God, to be armed with wisdom and strength in order to face the toughest of circumstances.

I enjoyed this one a lot more than its predecessor, The Last Word. The third in the Sophie Trace Trilogy, this story is from Ethan's viewpoint. We met him at the beginning of the previous book, and he's returned for the summer to work and save money, as well as spend time with Vanessa and her baby, Carter. Their romance is sweet, and Vanessa has certainly grown up since the last book.

While there are references to the previous two books, this one stands alone just fine. The premise was a bit implausible and certainly predictable. However, it was also enthralling and captured my attention. The typical small-town drama is there, as well as the familiar faces at the restaurant lunch counter who discuss the latest criminal events and add an interesting subplot. But it's a fast read and perfect for an afternoon escape.

Thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Kathy Herman here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
From the publisher of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes a new tale of romance, heartbreak, and tentacled mayhem. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters expands the original text of the beloved Jane Austen novel with all-new scenes of giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities. As our story opens, the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels? This masterful portrait of Regency England blends Jane Austen’s biting social commentary with ultraviolent depictions of sea monsters biting. It’s survival of the fittest—and only the swiftest swimmers will find true love!

Time for more madness, mayhem and insanity from the wonderful folks over at Quirk books. That fact that they managed to churn out another recreation (well, destruction, devastation and re-imagination would probably be a more descriptive phrase) of a beloved Jane Austin classic makes my spine tingle. This time we see those poor Dashwood sisters trying to survive life, love and misfortune in the glory days of England, while trying not to get gored to death by all manner of vicious creatures that hail from the deep beyond. The plot additions add more substance to what was originally a rather more boring book than Pride and Prejudice, and the maritime flavor leaves a nice aftertaste when the original story has grown stale. I think they were rather unkind to poor Colonel Brandon, but he still wins out with Marianne so all’s well that ends well (Yes, I’m trying to goad the Quirk team into going after the Bard next – so many wonderful possibilities there).

If you loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, then you’ll love this. If you hated PPZ, probably best steer clear of this one. If you need a good book for your next genteel, conservative, high maintenance, over 30’s, ‘we all live in the same neighborhood’ women’s book club this will certainly get you noticed, and removed from the group’s mailing list. But lets face it – they’ve been boring you to death for years and this will allow you to quote the immortal line “I’ve be thrown out of much nicer places than this”.

Buy this book – you need it in your life.

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here.You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/10

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Devil's Food Cake...Review

About the book:
It's been years since author Thom Mortenson has been back to Garrison, Colorado. As part of the library fundraising committee, who invited him to speak, Sadie Hoffmiller wants everything to be perfect—right down to the homemade Devil’s Food Cake she made herself. Murder, however, was not on the menu.

When Thom's manager ends up dead on stage, Sadie does what any woman with a history of solving murders does--jumps right in to offer her guidance and expertise. The police, however, are not very appreciative. In fact, they’d rather she just go home. But can Sadie help it if she keeps stumbling over information? Can she help it if the people intricately woven into the deception keep crossing her path? The more she learns, the broader the spectrum becomes and when the police refuse to take her seriously, Sadie has no choice but to sidestep them altogether in the pursuit of justice.

With her son Shawn at her side, her reputation on the line, and a full cast of suspicious characters, Sadie Hoffmiller is once again cooking her way through a case that offers far more questions than answers.

I love Sadie Hoffmiller. She's a kick and she's eccentric. But, she's also loyal. Josi Kilpack has created a charming character who just continues to grow on you as you read each successive story.

Sadie imagines herself an amateur, yet very experienced sleuth and since the police aren't listening to her, she decides to investigate things on her own. What follows is an intricate comedy of errors as Sadie uncovers layer upon layer of deception and secrets. If she's not tracking down potential criminals, she's cooking for them. And in this story, we meet her son Shawn, who's just like his mother at getting into trouble and tracking down criminals. He seems to have inherited her cooking skills too.

The story and Sadie's shenanigans are completely implausible, but hysterically funny. I wish Jane's character was better developed and that she got more of a comeuppance, but I also think that she will make a return appearance at some point.

Baking and cooking are as important to Sadie as breathing. So, just as in the first two novels, Lemon Tart and English Trifle, Josi includes the recipes that are relevant to the story. I can't wait to try several.

A delightful book, and easily recommended. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series, Key Lime Pie.

Thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Josi Kilpack here. You can find additional tour stops and reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here and here.

Read 2/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Serotonin Power Diet...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Putting more than 30 years of groundbreaking research to work, renowned scientist Judith Wurtman, PhD, and her colleague, Nina T. Frusztajer, MD, present a clinically proven 12-week program that uses the power of carbohydrates to help you to:

* Activate the appetite-suppressant function of serotonin to stop weight gain
* Regain control over emotional overeating and cravings
* Lose up to 2 pounds of real weight—not water—per week
* Maintain a healthy lifestyle

The Serotonin Power Diet is the only weight loss plan that will help you lose weight while being treated with the antidepressants and related medications that provoke overeating.

Easy and economical, with more than 75 delicious recipes, The Serotonin Power Diet is the natural solution to weight loss and maintenance for everyone who has ever thought their cravings could never be satisfied.

Have you ever heard the joke about ‘Paxil’ – which is one of the original antidepressants that came out with Prozac? It’s not really a joke, more of a truth in jest. Most MDs that I know don’t call it ‘Paxil’ – they call it “Packs-On”, because when someone starts taking Paxil there is often a tendency to put on weight, and a lot of it.

If you knew the number of people in America who are taking one of these “SSRI” drugs, you’d probably be shocked and surprised. Chances are that you know several – if they admitted it. Well, these drugs have a tendency to make people eat, eat and eat even more.

The authors of this book have recognized this, and show the way to avoid ‘packing on’ while taking these drugs. More than that, they’ll show how that weight that has been gained can be lost.

The plan outlined in this book is not a ‘miracle cure’. It takes effort, patience and a little bit of discipline, but it’s worth it. If you, or someone you know, is taking an antidepressant and is starting to notice some weight gain, this book is the intervention needed to reverse that tide, and get you on a healthier life path.

Great book, great research and great timing – it’s never been more needed.

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about The Serotonin Power Diet here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.' So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Can she vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.

When I first saw the title I laughed, then groaned thinking that whoever tried to do this could only screw it up – that it was impossible for something this strange to be worth reading.

Oh, love being wrong. In a strange way, this book gives me hope. The fact that there is someone out there who is as twisted as I am, and would actually find this funny, makes me realize that I’m not alone in the universe. The fact that this book has actually sold a number of copies makes me laugh hysterically, because it seems I’m less alone than even I realized.

Look, this isn’t great literature, it was, but it’s not now. It’s funny – very, very funny. If you ever watched Monty Python and though “why is this funny” then honestly don’t buy this book – you’ll only end up hating it. If however, you have ever had to be brought back from a near death experience when laughing too hard at the parrot sketch, then get this book. It’s just the right blend of romance, classic history and brain devouring zombies that you’ve been waiting for. Elizabeth Bennett, long admired as a classic romance heroine now becomes an action hero with her shaolin skills, cutting wit and slashing sword.

This book is just funny. The plot twists are actually more satisfying than the original (you know you hated Mr. Collins and secretly longed for something bad to happen to him – it does) and somehow Elizabeth in full on attack mode just adds a whole new level of delight to a beloved literary figure.

The questions at the back of the book are wonderful – the greatest being “Does Mrs. Bennett have a single redeeming quality” – for which we already know the answer.

Buy it, love it, lend it (but make sure you get it back).

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/10

Friday, March 5, 2010

Taking Charge of Your Own Health...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
The realities of American health care, 2009:

* Less personal medical attention due to cost-cutting and regulation
* A 40 percent national misdiagnosis rate, per recent surveys
* A critical need for people to take responsibility for their own care

Targeting these issues, author Lisa Hall—whose debilitating condition took nearly ten years to properly diagnose—offers a wide variety of practical resources to empower patients. Hall’s experience is buttressed by the expertise of internal-medicine doctor Ronald Wyatt, a fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Readers will find valuable guidance on how to

* find the right kind of doctor, check physician credentials, and increase benefits of office visits
* maximize Internet research
* navigate medical insurance, Medicare, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability
* reduce vulnerability to hospital mistakes
* organize medical records

The author encourages readers to move forward step by step—and to look back and see God’s plan taking shape through the difficulties.

Lisa Hall underwent 9 years of neurological hell before she found a way through the nightmare, thanks to some very dedicated physicians who did what so very few of us Doctors do anymore – they listened. During that 9-year battle she became very skilled in the ways of our health care system, and of the need for everyone to be their own ‘health advocate’.

As a Doctor, and someone who grew up in a country that has socialized medicine and now thankfully lives in America, I think this book should be taught in schools and higher education. It should be given to everyone who buys their own health insurance, or given by the employer to the employee for whom they purchase health insurance. I tell patients all the time, “You have to be in charge of your health care. You hire me as an expert, but I’m not in charge of this, you are”. This book is full of so many great tips, ideas and suggestions that everyone should read it at least once, and then again before you even think of going to a Doctor. My favorite paragraph is this:

“Alternative or Allopathic, internal medicine or family medicine, surgeon or chiropractor – so many decisions. What should you do? Arm yourself with as much information as possible. Weigh the benefits and risks of all your options. Assume your right and your responsibility to find the best practitioner and the best treatment plan available. Release your inner proactive patient, and wield that power.”

Amen, amen, amen. We cannot hand over the responsibility of our health to others; we have to be our own advocate, expert and mentor when it comes to our health.

This book is wonderful, and I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Scott Lorenz and Westwind Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Lisa Hall here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/10

Holes...Review by the Boy

About the book:
Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, "You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake." Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.

And so, Stanley Yelnats seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime. It is a place that once held "the largest lake in Texas," but today it is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug by the boys who live at the camp.

The trouble started when Stanley was accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated by basketball great Clyde "Sweetfeet" Livingston to a celebrity auction. In court, the judge doesn't believe Stanley's claim that the shoes fell from the sky onto his head. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Oddly, though, Stanley doesn't blame the judge for falsely convicting him. Instead, he blames the whole misadventure on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." Thanks to this benighted distant relative, the Yelnats family had been cursed for generations. For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats.

At Camp Green Lake, the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the treacherous warden is searching for something, and before long Stanley begins his own search—for the truth.

Fate conspires to resolve it all—the family curse, the mystery of the holes, the drought that destroyed Green Lake, and also, the legend of Kissing Kate Barlow, an infamous outlaw of the Wild West. The great wheel of justice has ground slowly for generations, but now it is about to reveal its verdict.

Not recommended at all. All it is about, is a kid who gets arrested for a false crime and then gets sent to a camp. Every day, the kids in camp have to dig a hole to build character. All the counselors want to do is find is a very old case of jewels. At end of the book, the author fills up five pages of basically nothing at all. Half a star.

You can learn more about the book and Louis Sachar here.  If you'd like, you can purchase your own copy here.

School copy.

Read 2/10

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Superstress Solution...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
We manage (or at least we think we do) with less sleep, less exercise, and more work, eating junk and processed foods on the run, fueling up with caffeine and sugar. Toss in 24/7 news and addictive devices that give us "screen sickness," and is it any wonder that anxious is the new normal?

Our bodies have been hardwired to cope with stress since prehistoric times, but we are biologically ill-equipped to handle the kind of stress that accumulates in our lives today.

The brain, in all its majesty, can't distinguish true physical emergencies from daily hassles, deadlines, information and technology overload, difficult decisions, guilt, and worries. The physiological reaction is the same: a chronic hormonal surge born of our instinctive fight-or-flight response. The result is a cluster of dangerous symptoms: immune deficiencies, high blood pressure, obesity, insomnia, and a wide range of other ailments. This is what world-renowned integrative physician Dr. Roberta Lee has defined as the SuperStress syndrome, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and an emerging pandemic caused by our overstimulated, undernourished lifestyle. But she has the solution.

In this empowering, life-changing book, Dr. Lee shows you how to build crucial stress resistance and resilience back into your hectic life with a unique prescription for recognizing, rebalancing, and protecting against stresses small and large. Starting with a comprehensive, informative quiz to determine your stress level and stress personality type, The SuperStress Solution then guides you through a 4-week healing program to reset your rattled nervous system to a default state of rest instead of high alert. Discover how to:
  • NOURISH your body with nutrient-rich foods, herbs, and supplements that repair stress damage and fight off new stress
  • DETOX your system and jump-start your body's healing with an easy-to-follow eating plan
  • SYNCHRONIZE your life and bring harmony to your daily routine by restructuring your priorities
  • SLEEP well again by following simple steps to protect and promote the rest your body needs
  • MOVE to simple, low-impact exercises that can be done in five-minute to one-hour increments
  • RETRAIN your mind so that you can access a sense of peace and calm even in your most stressed-out moments
The SuperStress Solution will do more than help you beat back the overload that is making you sick; it will restore physical harmony and balance. More than a program that makes you feel better, it is a program that will make you truly well.

As a Doctor, whenever I get a chance to read a book like this I think about what I can take from it for my patients. The funny thing is, reading this book, I started to realize that there was a lot in this book that I could apply to me! It’s rather illuminating to recognize yourself in the list of symptoms, and realize that in order to have any credibility with patients in recommending this book, I needed to be doing it myself.

I don’t often say this when reading a book by a medical Doctor, but I really like this book. As the world around us gets more and more intense, and we are exposed to more stressors every day, we need to be spending some time unplugged from the world, and focusing on ourselves.

This book has a lot to offer. Dr. Lee covers not just the nutritional aspects of what she calls Superstress’, but also the physical and emotional aspects of the healing that needs to take place. If you follow just some of the guidelines she offers, you’ll find help with living longer and happier. Follow all of the guidelines, and you’ll probably find someone you’ve been missing for a while—a happy, healthy, energetic and fulfilled you.

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Dr. Roberta Lee and the Superstress Solution here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/10

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Scentsy Party, 2

I am hosting another Scentsy party this week. I realize that I can't invite all of my blogging friends, mostly due to lack of proximity. However, in a case of shameless self-promotion, I can tell you that if you're interested in Scentsy or in ordering some product, you can still order from my party. My consultant's website has a link where you can order product and I get the credit. Isn't that cool? Just click here. On the front page, you'll see "My Open Parties" and click on my name!

If you don't want to order, but just want to check out the products, you can do that too. They're cool. I love candles and was always buying them. When I went to my first Scentsy party, I was hooked. These are wickless candles and have no flame. The wax just melts. And there are tons of neat scents. The new spring scents are out now too, along with these neat new sports warmers.

Clean Breeze is awesome and makes your house smell like you've just cleaned it! Sweet Pea and Vanilla is one of my favorite spring and summer scents. Thunderstorm is one of my son's favorite scents.

So there you go. Shameless self-promotion. But, then again, it's my blog, so I can do that!