Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How do you tuck in a Superhero?...Review

About the book:
When Rachel Balducci looks for material for her writing, she doesn't have to look far. Her subject matter can be found climbing through the window, hanging on to the edge of the roof, and always at the refrigerator. Here she chronicles the exuberant, awesome life of boys through conversations overheard, rules she's been forced to make, and the many episodes of boy behavior that continue to mystify mothers worldwide. From the care and feeding of her team, to travels out in public, to their wide-eyed adoration of Walker, Texas Ranger, this laugh-out-loud celebration joyfully explores the sweet and wild side of boyhood.

A lot of fun, both the book and the boys! I have two, very lively boys of my own and I grew up in a family of all girls. Boys are different, so very different!

This isn't a how to be a better parent book. It's a give yourself a break and laugh a little book. Rachel simply shares some delightful vignettes about her life raising boys. Some people will relate because they have many children, some will relate because they have boys, and some will relate simply because they know what it's like to be a parent. This is a short little book that can be read in one sitting, or it's something you can just pick up and read a bit or two.

It truly is a celebration of the joys of raising boys.

Available April 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 Rachel Balducci here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English...Review

About the book:
Organized alphabetically for easy reference,
A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" is an accessible lexicon of foreign words and phrases used in English, containing everything from aficionado (Spanish) to zeitgeist (German). Inside you'll find translations, definitions, origins, and a descriptive time line of each item's evolution. Entries include:

À la carte: from the card or of the menu (French)

Fiasco: complete failure (Italian)

Dungarees: thick cotton cloth/overalls (Hindi)

Diaspora: dispersion (Greek)

Smorgasbord: bread and butter (Swedish)

Cognoscenti: those who know (Italian)

Compos mentis: having mastery of one's mind; with it (Latin)

Attractively packaged with black and white illustrations, this whimsical yet authoritative book is a great gift for any etymologically fascinated individual. Use this book to reacquaint yourself with the English language, and you'll be compos mentis in no time.

A sheer delight. Like many readers, I love words. I love discovering the origins of words and phrases. Here, I discovered that the origin of paparazzi means mosquito. How appropriate is that? Or how we use the term Al Fresco to mean "in the fresh air" but in Italy it's slang for "in prison".

I was familiar with many of these words and phrases, but not how they came into such wide use. This is one of those fun books that you can just pick up on a whim and entertain yourself. It's a fast, easy read if you want to read it in one sitting. But, I see it placed on a shelf or end table for someone to pick up and peruse for an enlightening few minutes.

Thanks to Julie Harabedian at 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 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy...Review

About the book:
In this inspiring new book, Lidia Bastianich awakens in us a new respect for food and for the people who produce it in the little-known parts of Italy that she explores. All of the recipes reflect the regions from which they spring, and in translating them to our home kitchens, Lidia passes on time-honored techniques and wonderful, uncomplicated recipes for dishes bursting with different regional flavors -- the kind of elemental, good family cooking that is particularly appreciated today.

Penetrating the heart of Italy -- starting at the north, working down to the tip, and ending in Sardinia -- Lidia unearths a wealth of recipes:

  • From Trentino-Alto Adige: Delicious Dumplings with Speck (cured pork); apples accenting soup, pasta, salsa, and salad; local beer used to roast a chicken and to braise beef
  • From Lombardy: A world of rice -- baked in a frittata, with lentils, with butternut squash, with gorgonzola, with eggs and cheese, and the special treat of Risotto Milan-Style with Marrow and Saffron
  • From Valle D'Aosta: Polenta with Black Beans and Kale, and local fontina featured in fondue, in a roasted pepper salad, and embedded in veal chops
  • From Liguria: An array of Stuffed Vegetables, a bread salad, and elegant Veal Stuffed with a Mosaic of Vegetables
  • From Emilia-Romagna: An olive oil dough for making the traditional, versatile vegetable tart erbazzone, as well as the secrets of making tagliatelle and other pasta doughs, and an irresistible Veal Scaloppine Bolognese
  • From Le Marche: Farro with Roasted Pepper Sauce, Lamb Chunks with Olives, and Stuffed Quail in Parchment
  • From Umbria: A taste of the sweet Norcino black truffle, and seductive dishes such as Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils, Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes, and Chocolate Bread Parfait
  • From Abruzzo: Fresh scrippelle (crêpe) ribbons baked with spinach or garnishing a soup, fresh pasta made with a "guitar," Rabbit with Onions, and Lamb Chops with Olives
  • From Molise: Fried Ricotta; homemade cavatelli pasta in a variety of ways; Spaghetti with Calamari, Shrimp, and Scallops; and Braised Octopus
  • From Basilicata: Wedding Soup, Fiery Maccheroni, and Farro with Pork Ragù
  • From Calabria: Shepherd's Rigatoni, steamed swordfish, and Almond Biscottini
  • From Sardinia: Flatbread Lasagna, two lovely eggplant dishes, and Roast Lobster with Bread Crumb Topping
This is just a sampling of the many delight Lidia has uncovered. All the recipes she shares with us in this rich feast of a book represent the work of the local people and friends with whom she made intimate contact -- the farmers, shepherds, foragers, and artisans who produce regional cheeses, meats, olive oils, and wines. And in addition, her daughter, Tanya, takes us on side trips in each of the twelve regions to share her love of the country and its art.

I don't regularly watch cooking shows, but I love Lidia's show when I can catch it on PBS. She's an absolute delight to watch, and her cookbook is just as great. I love this book as much for the commentary as I do the recipes.

I have so many of them marked, it's going to take me awhile to get through all of them. But, my mouth waters just reading them. I love that each region is high-lighted, not only with recipes, but with lovely commentary about the area and the people. And each recipe isn't just written out with ingredients and instructions; Lidia shares definitions, explanations and anecdotes about how a dish or ingredient came to be created or used.

Like I do with every cookbook, I wish this had a photo for every recipe, but this is a lovely book, perfect for any cook who wants to learn a more authentic Italian way of cooking, and it would make a gorgeous gift. My first recipe: Spaghetti in Tomato-Apple Sauce, followed by Baked Penne & Mushrooms, followed by Almond Torta with Chocolate Chips, followed by Fresh Cavatelli with Eggs & Bacon, followed by...

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

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, April 25, 2010


About the book:
Annie is a college grad-student who is stumped about love. Her mom and dad are in the throes of a divorce, her teenage sister is obsessed with how her boyfriend makes her look, and her closest friend Jennah is on a continual ride of running off every guy she dates.

Friendships, dating, romance, and marriage; it's all confusing to Annie until the day a white-haired stranger appears in her life. Glaen is an unusual professor with an unusual name. Her white-haired unconventional mentor guides Annie on a path of discovery that unlocks the secrets of real relationships in a world gone phony. By abandoning herself to learn, Annie discovers the mystifying affect of how learning to tell the truth changes everything in friendship, family, and love.

The solutions Dr. Lybrand offers in this book will astound and free you to quit doing the very things that take away your ability to find the love and friendship you want. More importantly, you'll discover a fresh path to the possibility of greater connections with those you care most about. You'll want everyone you love to read this book...twice!

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Was it a self-help book? Was it a novel? I discovered that it's a bit of both. Wanting to write a book about real relationships, Annie finds herself the only student in an odd class with an interesting professor. As the course unfolds, and using biblical principles and scripture, Glaen mentors and guides Annie to important ideas, questions and answers to age old questions about dating and marriage. As Annie does a lot of observing of singles and couples, she discovers questions, lies and subsequent truths, all of which can cause honest, thought-provoking reactions to a reader.

While the ending is a bit contrived, I think there is something for everyone in this little story, whether you're single and dating or married. It's a fairly short book, but I think there are layers that will come out each time you read it.

Thanks to Audra Jennings at
The B&B Media Group and for the opportunity to tour this book. You can learn more about Fred Lybrand and the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Gift of an Ordinary Day...Review...DNF

About the book:
The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers--holding on, letting go.

Poised on the threshold between family life as she's always known it and her older son's departure for college, Kenison is surprised to find that the times she treasures most are the ordinary, unremarkable moments of everyday life, the very moments that she once took for granted, or rushed right through without noticing at all.

The relationships, hopes, and dreams that Kenison illuminates will touch women's hearts, and her words will inspire mothers everywhere as they try to make peace with the inevitable changes in store.

This was one I really looked forward to reading. It sounds like something I normally would enjoy. However, I've gone back to it several times over the past couple of months and I just can't get into it. There were bits of wisdom and insight here and there, but it's just not a book I connected with. The writing is good, but circuitous and rambling. Perhaps my children are too young, perhaps it's just me and where I am in life. I don't know. There are many other good reviews out there, and I have no doubt that many women will find this inspirational and uplifting.

Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hatchette Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Katrina Kenison here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 3/10

1/5 Stars

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hiking Through...Review

About the book:
After losing his wife to breast cancer, Paul Stutzman decided to make some big changes. He quit his job of seventeen years and embarked upon a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,176-mile stretch of varying terrain spanning fourteen states. During his nearly five-month-long hike, he battled brutal trail conditions and overwhelming loneliness, but also enjoyed spectacular scenery and trail camaraderie. With breathtaking descriptions and humorous anecdotes from his travels, Stutzman reveals how immersing himself in nature and befriending fellow hikers helped him recover from a devastating loss. Somewhere between Georgia and Maine, he realized that God had been with him every step of the way, and on a famous path through the wilderness, he found his own path to peace and freedom.

Normally when I discover that a book has no negative reviews, I'm very skeptical. I know how unrealistic it is to think that every reader will adore every book the same way. When it comes to Hiking Through, however, I can understand why every review I've seen, so far, has been 4 or 5 stars. It's terrific.

I'm not an outdoorsy person. I hate camping and I hyperventilate at the thought of aerobic exercise, although I do enjoy walking. I've done, and mostly enjoyed, short hikes here and there over the course of my life, and I walked all over Rome and Florence and Paris, but I cannot fathom hiking 2,220 arduous miles over mountainous terrain. Yet, Paul's account of his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail makes me want to go hiking myself. (My boys will be so happy!)

I could not put this book down. To say it was engrossing is an understatement. It was absolutely enthralling. Reading Hiking Through was like sitting with Paul and listening to him tell his story. He's a captivating, articulate, storyteller and his writing style is easy and comfortable. There are no pretenses, no airs. He's straight-forward about his experiences, he's honest in sharing his grief over losing his wife, he's open about his faith in God, and he paints a fascinating picture with his words. I enjoyed his ability to weave his life experiences into the account; they weren't digressions, they were natural additions to the flow of the story.

Paul is honest about his regrets and realization that he needed something to help him move past his grief and find himself and his purpose again. On the trail, he realized that his purpose is to share his story and to remind people that God is very much aware of them and not to take their wives and families for granted. This is such an important message and one that is easy to overlook.

I loved the commentary, I loved the descriptions. I found hope in so many ways, one of which was in the assurance that there are so many, many good people in this world and that when we judge others from appearance or first impressions, we often miss the opportunity to know wonderful, kind people. Paul shares his experiences with those he met and traveled with on the trail, their camaraderie and friendship, and the joy in finding trail magic. I think that if we could apply the concept of trail magic and helping others, into our own lives, we would be so much richer and happier.

I wish that I'd read this with a high-lighter. There were so many times I read a passage or thought that I wanted to mark and remember. I know that I will definitely reread this and next time I will have that high-lighter handy. I just have to wait until my 11-year old son finishes reading it first!

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

Read 4/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show...Review..DNF

About the book:
“She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then smiled and took a bow.” And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of Ireland and Shannon.

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.

Interweaving historical figures including W. B. Yeats, and a host of unforgettable creations—“King” Kelly, Venetia’s violent, Mephistophelean grandfather; Sarah Kelly, Venetia’s mysterious, amoral mother; and even a truth-telling ventriloquist’s dummy named Blarney—Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous, eventful decade.

Teeming with intrigue, pathos, and humor, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show explores two of Ireland’s great national passions: theater and politics. Writing with his signature mastery and lyrical prose, Frank Delaney once again delivers an unforgettable story as big and boisterous as the people and events it chronicles.

Another one where my review is in the minority!

I really struggled with this one. I made it well over half way through the book. I just couldn't finish it. I think that Frank Delaney is probably a terrific storyteller, and I love a great story. His prose is certainly lyrical and definitely Irish, which is normally something I enjoy reading. But, ultimately here, I didn't care for the characters. The set up for this story took too long and there were lots of characters to keep track of and way too many politics. All of his digressions, which many people loved, I found annoying. I wanted to find out what happened next, but unfortunately the rambling, circuitous route it took to get there was just a bit too windy for me.

There are certainly many glowing reviews out there for this book, and if you've enjoyed Frank Delaney in the past, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one too. I had great expectations for this one, but unfortunately it didn't move me enough to warrant finishing it.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Frank Delaney here. You can check out more reviews/stops on the blog tour here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read (DNF) 4/10

* * * *
1/5 Stars

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Good Medicine...Review

About the book:
Attain a Healthier You-Naturally-With this Breakthrough and Doctor-Proven Guide
Filled with the latest thinking on traditional, holistic and alternative care, Good Medicine: A Return to Common Sense represents a sea change in approaching illness and attaining optimal health. This authoritative and easy-to-understand book from renowned Dr. Carol L. Roberts offers a new perspective on how human beings are put together, integrating the physical body and the spirit within. Comprehensive chapters on nutrition, digestion, toxins, heart health and even sex make it easy to customize your own wellness plan. You'll learn:
  • How to break the habit of foods that can literally kill you, and replace them with nutrient-rich superfoods (it's easier than you think)
  • Why your digestive system is the gateway to optimal health, and how to give it a preventive tune-up
  • The man-made toxins that are causing millions to suffer from diseases like asthma and liver damage, and how to get them out of your life
  • Secrets to boosting energy and sexual performance that don't require an expensive prescription
  • -Straight talk on vitamins-what works, why, and how much you should (or shouldn't) be taking
  • Why spirituality is as important as traditional medicine, and how to implement the right balance in your own wellness goals
If you're tired of being sick, tired of taking expensive drugs-or just plain tired-this book will show you how to shape your well being with proven, practical techniques.

This would be a great book for someone who is just getting interested in holistic, alternative healing. Dr. Roberts provides a terrific base from which to start and gives us a basic understanding of the human body and not only how it works, but how it responds to both good and poor care. Good health habits and food choices are important in staying healthy and that is reiterated here.

Dr. Roberts really advocates making wise choices in our health care and discusses different forms of alternative healing and provides additional resources and recommended reading.

I firmly believe that all medicine needs to work together. I don't think that Western medicine has all the answers, just as I don't think that holistic remedies work for every condition. For instance, my husband is a chiropractor, but our son has a cardiologist. However, for someone who is interested in holistic alternatives, this is a wonderful starting point.

Thanks to the author and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Carol Roberts, M.D. here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Harm's Way...Review

About the book:
FBI special agent Nick Bradley has seen his share of kooks during his fifteen years with the Bureau. But Rachel Sutton is an enigma. She seems normal when she shows up at the FBI office in St. Louis--until she produces a tattered Raggedy Ann doll she found and tells him she thinks something is wrong because of a strange feeling of terror it gives her when she touches it. Nick dismisses her, only to stumble across a link between the doll and an abducted child, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers startling connections--and puts Rachel's life on the line. Filled with palpable suspense and a touch of romance, In Harm's Way is the final installment of the thrilling Heroes of Quantico series.

The third and final book in the Heroes of Quantico series, I think this one was my favorite. When Rachel shows up in his office with an account of her strange experience with a worn, lost doll she found in a parking lot, Nick is ready to dismiss her. But, something stops him and he listens. From that point, the ride is thrilling and suspenseful. Rachel and Nick are likeable, endearing characters you care about. Coop and Mark, the other Heroes of Quantico appear and aid Nick in his search for answers.

Like the others, I read it in an evening. It's fast-paced, thrilling and not completely predictable. Irene's gift of character repartee and conversation is again apparent. Nick is a strong Christian and Rachel, not so much, although she finds her faith renewed. A terrific conclusion to the trilogy and definitely recommended. Each book stands alone, although reading them in order does bring a extra depth of understanding.

Available April 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 Irene Hannon here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plain Paradise...Review

About the book:
Linda's Amish life seemed like paradise. Until she found out her family had been hiding a secret since the day of her birth.

Josie was just a frightened teenager when she left her baby in the care of an Old Order Amish couple in Lancaster County. Since then, seventeen years have passed and while much has changed, one thing hasn't. Josie still longs to reconnect with her daughter Linda.

But Linda is unaware of Josie--and living an idyllic life within the Amish community. The bishop's grandson, Stephen, is courting her and she hopes that he will propose soon. When her birth mother comes to Paradise, Linda finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Josie's world. Meanwhile, her adoptive parents--and her Amish beau--are trying to understand how this interruption in Linda's life could possibly be God's will.

As new relationships begin and old ones are tested, no one's life will remain the same. In the process of losing and letting go--Linda realizes whose daughter she really is. And as only God can do, something more powerful and far more beautiful is forged within the Daughters of the Promise community...hope.

I haven't read Beth Wiseman before and this is the fourth installment in her Daughters of Promise series. While it can stand alone, I think it would be better for a reader to have read the previous books. There are many characters who are apparently recurring from the earlier books and their appearance would have more impact if one understood their significance to Linda and her family.

I normally enjoy Amish fiction, but there wasn't much about this book that stood out or was special. Even though it touches upon serious subjects like adoption and cancer, it was light reading. In short, if you've read Beth Wiseman before and liked her, you will most likely enjoy this book as well.

Thanks to the Thomas Nelson Book Blogger program for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here.  You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 4/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Stranger's Wish...Review

About the book:
Englischer Kristie Matthews’ move to an Amish family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, starts on a bad note as the young schoolteacher is bitten by a dog. A trip to the local ER leads to an encounter with an old man who hands her a key and swears her to silence.

But when Kristie’s life is endangered, she suspects there’s a connection to the mysterious key. While solving the mystery (and staying alive), Kristie must decide whether her lawyer boyfriend, Todd Reasoner, is really right for her....or if Jon Clarke Griffin, the new local man she’s met, is all he seems to be.

Mystery, romance, and a beautiful Amish settling....just the thing readers are clamoring for.

A bit different take on traditional Amish stories, this was a fast, easy read. While I found much of the premise implausible, this was still an appealing story. I would have thought that Kristie could have made connections between the robbery/attacks sooner, and I kept wondering why she never reported any of it to the police. Her new boyfriend, however, saves the day in true heroic fashion.

I would have loved more character development but these characters still kind of grow on you. What I did enjoy were the conversations, especially between Kristie and Jake, the disabled son of the Amish family with whom she boarded. The discussions about the differences between the Amish faith and Christianity were fascinating.

A light, escapist read. Easily recommended. This is a reprint/update of The Key, originally published in 1998.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Gayle Roper here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, April 5, 2010

Disaster Status...Review

About the book:
Charge nurse Erin Quinn escaped personal turmoil to work on the peaceful California coast. But when a hazardous material spill places Pacific Mercy Hospital on disaster status and stresses staff, she’s put to the test. And thrown into conflict with the fire department’s handsome incident commander, who thinks her strategy is out of line. Fire Captain Scott McKenna has felt the toxic effects of tragedy; he’s learned to go strictly by the book to advance his career, heal his family, and protect his wounded heart. When he’s forced to team with the passionately determined ER charge nurse, sparks fly. As they work to save lives, can they handle the attraction kindled between them . . . without getting burned?

Erin and Scott each have their own set of baggage to bring to their new relationship and, predictably, work through that baggage. What I appreciated was the realistic portrayal of very human feelings. Erin can't forgive her father and Scott has lost his faith in God, after the tragic deaths of his father and sister. As in most Christian fiction, lost faith is rediscovered and relationships mended.

Candace's knowledge and experience of the inner workings of an ER and hospital are apparent and I found the portrayal of the effects of a hazardous material spill particularly fascinating.

The second in the Mercy Hospital series, this one stands alone well. Erin has a minor role in the first book and references are made to Claire, the heroine of that book, but it's not necessary to have read the first one before reading this one.

Another light, easy and enjoyable read from Candace Calvert.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Mavis Sanders of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for the opportunity to review this book. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * *
3/5 Stars