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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Books I Grew Up With

Christy at Southern Sassy Girl had a post like this a few days ago and it got me thinking of my own favorite childhood books.  I did a similar post last year about how I developed my love of reading.  I have loved books from birth.  I can't remember a time where I didn't love reading or didn't have a lot of books around.  We got books in our Christmas stockings and in our Easter baskets.  We got books for good behavior or special occasions. 

As a very small girl, I loved the Little Golden Book, Little Mommy.  I had it memorized before I could read.  It was out of print for many years and the only copy I had was a tattered, incomplete version.  Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago, when I found that it was reprinted!

These are books I checked out of the library over and over again.  (These will definitely date me.)

A Room for Cathy, by Catherine Wooley (the whole series)  I loved these as a girl.  Cathy was the oldest sister and so was I.  She always wanted to be a grown-up and she had an annoying little sister.

Don't Call Me Katie Rose, by Lenora Mattingly Weber.  I loved Katie Rose and I could understand her frustrations.

Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary.  I loved Jane.  Stan was just the perfect hero!  The Luckiest Girl was one of my other Cleary favorites. 

Double Date, Double Feature, and Double Wedding, by Rosamond Du Jardin.  I loved Pam and Penny.  I loved the descriptions of their dance dresses and dates!

Favorite books I had at home, to name a very few:

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Mine were the yellow books!

Heidi by Johanna Spyri and Heidi Grows Up and Heidi's Children by Charles Tritten.  I adored Heidi, and when I discovered the two "sequels" I was thrilled.  I enjoyed them just as much.  I loved seeing Heidi and Peter get married!


The Happy Hollisters and The Bobbsey Twins.  I had them all. I read them all over and over again. I can't quite part with them yet!  I wish my boys would like them, but they don't.

Little Women, by Lousia May Alcott.  I can't imagine any girl not liking Little Women.  I have three sisters and I adore books, so I completely related to Jo!

Nancy Drew, by Carolyn Keene. I had them all.  One of my best friends and I would call each other Nancy and George, and we'd even write letters in code, like Nancy did in one of her books.  I gave away all my Nancy Drew books to my girlfriend's daughter, because I don't have a daughter of my own. 

Piper to the Clan and The Iron Peacock, by Mary Stetson Clarke.  I still have all of her books, not just these two.  I still read them.  Loved the historical aspect, but loved Joanna and Ross too.

What about you?  What books did you grow up reading?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Simply from Scratch...Review

About the book:
A luminous, tender-hearted debut novel about a young widow, a nine-year-old girl, and a baking contest that will change both their lives.

Rose-Ellen “Zell” Carmichael Roy wears her late husband Nick’s camouflage apron even when she’s not in the kitchen. She can’t remember the last time she wore a bra, and she speaks to her dog in the voice of a pirate. That’s her widow style.

It’s been over a year since Nick died tragically during a post-Katrina relief mission in New Orleans. Long enough, according to the grief pamphlets, to have begun moving on with her life. But Zell is still unable to enter her attic, which is full of Nick memories. She hasn’t even turned on her oven because cooking was Nick’s chore. That is, until she decides to enter celebrity chef Polly Pinch’s first annual Desserts that Warm the Soul baking contest, hoping to win the $20,000 grand prize to donate to Katrina survivors in Nick’s honor.

Meanwhile, in the adjacent apartment of Zell’s two-family house, nine-year-old Ingrid Knox is learning to cope with the loneliness of growing up without a mother. With an imagination as big as her heart, Ingrid treasures her doting father but begins to plot how she will meet her mother, whom she fiercely believes is Polly Pinch.

When an embarrassing baking mishap brings Zell and Ingrid together, they form an unlikely friendship that will alter both of their lives forever. Together, and with the help of a lively and loveable cast of friends and family, they embark on winning the Desserts that Warm the Soul contest – and learn that through the many sorrows and joys of life, with a little bit of flour and a pinch of love, anything is possible.

I loved the cover and it was about cooking.  How could I go wrong?  I couldn't.  Quirky characters and a cooking contest add a bit of lightness to what could be a heavy, depressing topic of grief and recovery.  Instead, it's a sweet story about friendship and recreating a life after a devastating loss.  I liked Zell.  I loved Ingrid.

The story wraps up neatly, but wasn't completely predictable.  It's first person for Zell and present tense for everyone else, which is so awkward.  When I started it, I kept wondering where it was going to do and what the purpose was.  Once I let myself simply enjoy the ride and gave up trying to figure things out, I appreciated the story.

The Katrina tragedy was a terrific backdrop, revealing that service and help are still ongoing and needed in New Orleans.  I think this is a terrific debut novel.  I loved that Alicia Bessette included the contest recipe at the end of the book! 

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

Read 10/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Best Body Now: Look and Feel Fabulous at Any Age the Eat-Clean Way...Review

About the book:
Bestselling author Tosca Reno knows exactly how you feel. She went from being a flabby, 200+ pound woman to a slim and sexy fitness expert—all past the age of 40! Now, for the first time ever, she reveals her secrets to looking better every year. Using the simple, Eat-Clean principles that have helped millions lose weight and featuring all-new advice from Tosca and her team of top experts, discover how you, too, can:
· Boost your metabolism to burn fat fast
· Turn back the clock and age-proof your body
· Look and feel younger than you have in years
· Create your best body—now!

I can relate to much of what Tosca shares in her book, especially in regards to her story.  I'm probably in the worst shape I've ever been in, and at age 43, was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure.  This book is one that I will be rereading as I work to improve my own health.  It's a great guide including chapters on exercise, recipes, beauty and more.  I think there is something for everyone here, especially those of us over 40!

Thanks to Anna at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tosca Reno here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ice Cream Theory...Review

About the book:
The Theory was hatched when Steff Deschenes was trying to make sense of her first heartbreak.  In the midst of that grief, she realized that, in the same way humans have ice-cream preferences, humans have people preferences. Like ice cream flavors, social preferences shift based on age, experience, even mood. There are exotic flavors that one craves when feeling daring, comforting flavors to fall back on, flavors long-enjoyed that eventually wear out their welcome, and those unique flavors that require an acquired taste. Like people, no ice cream flavor is perfect every single time...and it is in this realization that the crux of Deschenes’s theory lies.

Deschenes neatly brings together anecdotes from her own adventures with broader-reaching social commentary to help others recognize the wisdom and joy inherent in a beloved dessert.

With its cheeky self-help slant, The Ice Cream Theory is an endearing and light-hearted addition to any bookshelf.  It's a must read for anyone bruised by life's tough lessons and in need of a cheerful pick me up!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a book like this.  Is it a memoir? Is it a self-help book?  It's simply a book of humor?  It's all of the above.  I love the idea of the Ice Cream Theory.  That just as we all have taste preferences for ice cream, we have people preferences for humans.  Some people you click with and some you don't.  Sometimes those preferences change with time and experience, sometimes they don't. 

Steff goes through different flavors and shares anecdotes and experiences with friends and people for each one.  It's a humorous and enlightening read about friendship.  Rather than trying to put myself and those around me into her flavors, I found myself assigning my own.  Which is what you should do.

I love ice cream.  I always have. I worked at Swensen's when I was in high school and I think I tried every ice cream flavor they had and nearly every topping/ice cream combination they had.  Funny how vanilla with hot fudge is still my favorite.  Simple, elegant and yummy.  My favorite flavor of ice cream is licorice.  Not many places have it.  Sub Zero does and it's phenomenal.  But, I digress.

Simply put, this is a fun book.  You'll laugh, you'll ponder and you'll come away wanting some ice cream!

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Steff Deschenes and The Ice Cream Theory here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Highland Blessings...Review

About the book:
Highland Blessings is the story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise he made to his dying father. Bryce MacPhearson, a highland warrior, kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. 

While Akira's strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment when he forces her to wed him, hoping to end a half-century-old feud between their clans. 

While Akira begins to forgive, and Bryce learns to trust, a series of murders leaves a trail of unanswered questions, confusion, and a legacy of hate that once again rises between their families. Clearly, a traitor is in their midst. Now the one man Akira loves no longer trusts her, and her own life is in danger. Can Bryce look beyond his pain and seek the truth? Will Akira discover the threat against her before it's too late? How will God turn a simple promise into bountiful Highland blessings?

I love historical novels set in Scotland.  I don't care which time period, I just love novels about Scotland!  And, for the most part, I enjoyed this one. It has feuding clans, kidnapped brides, heroes and villains.  The characters are a bit one-dimensional, but still likeable.  Akira is strong in her faith and in her belief that marriage to Bryce will unite their clans and end the feuding.

One minor pet peeve was that there was never any mention nor implication of the marriage finally being consummated.  We understand in the beginning that Akira refuses to consummate the marriage because she was married by proxy.  At the end of the story, she is pregnant.  Now, I don't expect, nor do I want a sex scene in a novel like this. However, I do think it would have been a good idea to let the reader know the relationship had changed between the Akira and Bryce.

Still, this is a great debut novel.  I think that Jennifer Hudson Taylor is only going to get better and I look forward to reading more.  I enjoyed the fascinating Author's Note at the end of the book which talked about kilts and plaids. 

Thanks to First Wildcard and the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jennifer Hudson Taylor here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Miracle of Mercy Land...Review

About the book:
What if you had the power to amend choices you made in the past? Would you do it even if it changed everything?
Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensible to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mystery from Mercy’s past arrives by train, she begins to understand that she will have to make choices that will deeply affect everyone she loves—forever.

A beautifully written story about choices and their consequences on others.  But, while the writing is very lyrical and evocative and the characters are memorable, it just never clicked for me.  It's a slow moving story and I found myself impatient for it to be finished.  Magical realism is used in fiction to help the characters and readers see a deeper meaning to something.  Magical elements are portrayed as normal and, here, the book is just that: a magical book that suddenly appears and seems to have knowledge about people's lives, paths and choices.  For me, it was hard to accept the magical elements as anything but implausible.  Normally that is not the case for me, because I adore Sarah Addison Allen who incorporates magical realism so well into her books.

I believe the book is actually classified as Christian Fiction, but the Christian elements are very subtle, nothing overt.  This seems to be a story that resonates with many, it just didn't resonate with me.  You can find more positive reviews at Reading to Know, Reviews from the Heart, and From the Heart of a Bookworm.

Thanks to Kelly Blewett of KBK Public Relations for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about River Jordan here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Monday, October 25, 2010

Uncertain Heart...Review

About the book:
The year is 1866, and Sarah McCabe has wanderlust. In an effort to become independent of her family back in Missouri, she accepts a governess position in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, giving her a firsthand taste of the life she has always desired—a life of luxury, culture, and social privilege.

Richard Navis is a man determined to finish his indentureship to Captain Brian Sinclair and take over his family’s farm. But when he falls in love with Sarah, his homesteading goals blur. She doesn’t seem interested in settling down. What’s more, Richard fears she’s fallen victim to the captain’s charm and persuasion.

When Sarah’s reputation is questioned, Richard devises a bold plan in hopes of protecting her. But is he too late? Has Sarah already made her choice?

A simply charming book. In her quest for freedom and independence from her family, Sarah McCabe accepts a position as governess for a wealthy widower.  Captain Sinclair is a domineering man used to getting his own way.  Richard Navis is Captain Sinclair's assistant; a man indentured, but anxious to finish his term and return to farming.  Sarah finds herself drawn to both men, and she certainly enjoys the wealth and privilege that comes from working for the captain.

Sarah's character is delightful.  She's charming and funny and strong in her Christian faith.  The captain is an annoying, proud man who neglects his children and is intent on simply getting his own way.  Richard is a hero:  charming and considerate.

This was a story I completely enjoyed.  It's a sequel to Unwilling Warrior, but it stands alone just fine.  I liked it even better than the first one.  There's a bit of a teaser for the third book, Unexpected Love, and I'm anxiously awaiting it!

Thanks to First Wildcard and  Strang Book Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Andrea Boeshaar here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Mailbox Monday 10/25

It's time for another Mailbox Monday, which was created by Marcia at the Printed Page, and this month is hosted by Avis at she reads and reads.
Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week... Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This is what arrived at my home last week.

Coming Home, by Mariah Stewart (giveaway win from Reading at the Beach)
Home Again, by Mariah Stewart (giveaway win from Reading at the Beach)
Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pajamas, by Judy Parkinson (from FSB Associates)
The Love Goddess' Cooking School, by Melissa Senate (for review from Simon & Shuster)
A Woman and Her Workplace, by Rosemary Flaaten (for review from KCWC)
Almost Heaven, by Chris Fabry (for review from Glass Road PR)
Winter Bloom, by Tara Heavey (for review from Simon & Shuster)
The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton (ARC from Atria Books through Shelf Awareness)
City of Tranquil Light, by Bo Caldwell (for First Wildcard from The B&B Media Group)
A Secret Gift, by Ted Gup (for review from TLC Book Tours)

What new books did you receive last week?
For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out she reads and reads.