Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review-The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner

Title: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Author: CW Gortner
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton-division of Hachette Books
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-340-96296-1
Pages: 389

Book Synopsis from the publisher:
The sixteenth century: the era of queens. Catherine de Medici is an impressionable, mystical girl. She is orphaned and taken hostage by her enemies, and manipulated by her advisors; yet she is to become France's most powerful regent.

History will make her name synonymous with evil, but she is all too human. Humiliated at the hands of her husband and his mistress, and haunted by her gift of second sight, she must rise above her troubles and fight to save her dynasty and adopted country.

From the splendours of the Loire palaces to the blood-soaked battles of the Wars of Religion and haunted halls of the Louvre, this is the story of Catherine's dramatic life, told by the queen herself.

About the Author:
Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. GORTNER was raised in southern Spain, where he developed a lifelong fascination with history. After holding various jobs in the fashion industry, he earned a MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. He has taught university seminars on the 16th century and women in history, as well as workshops on writing, historical research, and marketing.

Acclaimed for his insight into his characters, he travels extensively to research his books. He has slept in a medieval Spanish castle, danced in a Tudor great hall, and explored library archives all over Europe. His debut historical novel The Last Queen gained international praise and has been sold in ten countries to date. His new novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, is now available. He is currently at work on The Princess Isabella, his third historical novel, and The Tudor Secret, the first book in his new Tudor suspense series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.

C.W. lives with his partner in Northern California.

My review:
Catherine de Medici is often remembered as a witch and one that used her skills to attain what she wanted. Gortner's book includes those themes, yet he shows a strong woman that often did what she had to do in order to survive and keep her family alive. Her life was one of triumph at times, yet great suffering was most often the case. In this book, Catherine is the narrator and it has the feel that you are sitting by her side as she tells you the story of her life. I liked this about it as it made her more human and made me feel as if I was a part of the story that took place in the sixteenth century, instead of sitting on my couch in the new millenium reading about an historical figure. Some may hesitate as the book is long at 389 pages but the non-stop action keeps it moving at a good pace and leaves the reader wanting more when it is over. I highly recommend this book.

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the second book I have read by CW Gortner and he has quickly become one of my favorite writers. The writing is superb and he captures my attention with the first sentence and holds it until the last one of the book. I minored in History in college and have a high interest in historical reads. However, Gortner's writing and story telling abilities propels me to seek out more on each of his characters. I can't just read the book and be done with it, the stories of the characters stay with me and urge me to dig into their lives on my own. Gortner is an author that should be writing our history books as he brings to life the inner workings and details that would leave a student craving more instead of claiming that this history stuff is boring.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Nights Giveaway

I receive most of the my review and giveaway copies from Hachette books and I can't begin to say enough about how great they are to work with. Just when I think that I have seen the best contest yet, along comes another one to top it. Anna at Hachette has chosen 20 blogs to participate in a fantastic giveaway for August and my blog was lucky enough to be able to host this. Thank you Anna!

Now, to the contest. I have 3 full sets of the following to giveaway! Please leave a comment below telling me what book from Hachette has been your favorite. The contest is open to US and Canada and the winners will be chosen on August 31.

By Rita Herron
Price: US$6.99/CAN$8.99
ISBN: 9780446199490

By Cynthia Eden
Price: US$6.99/CAN$8.99
ISBN: 9780446559249

By Lili Feisty
Price: US$6.99/CAN$8.99
ISBN: 9780446541930

By Cara Elliott
Price: US$6.99/CAN$8.99
ISBN: 9780446541312

By Paula Quinn
Price: US$6.99/CAN$8.99
ISBN: 9780446552387

Q&A with Tim Wendel

I have a blog tour today with author Tim Wendel featuring his book entitled Red Rain. Tim answered some questions for this tour so the readers can get to know him better. Be sure to check out my other post for information on the book and a giveaway.

Red Rain/Tim Wendel

I was fascinated by the idea of the Japanese balloons. How did you
decide on that as your subject?
When I go to a party, especially in the Washington, D.C. area, where I live, I really listen to what the buzz is about. In a roundabout way, that’s what led me to writing RED RAIN. It was in the last few months of Bill Clinton’s administration and several us were discussing how jaded things had become, how may be it wasn’t best that all the secrets were out, so to speak. That’s when a complete stranger asked if we knew about the best-kept secret of World War II – the Japanese fire balloons. He was with the Smithsonian and he told us a bit about the balloons. How close to 10,000 were launched from Japan. How they started forest fires throughout the West. I couldn’t get the story out of my head and a few days later I was at the National Archives and then the Library of Congress beginning to research the novel.

Describe your research process for this book.
I’m lucky to live near Washington with all of its great research facilities. That said I like to research and write at the same time. I’ve seen some great projects by some friends of mine be researched for years and not much gets down on paper. So, I’ll write and when I hit a dead end or need to really underscore a scene that’s when I’ll hit the library again. Try to figure out what kind of car they were driving. Perhaps what that room would have looked like.

Are any of the characters based on actual people that you know or have
encountered in your life? If yes, why did you think they were
interesting enough to include in your book?
The Neal Starling character is based on several of the guys I fought fires with as a member of a Hot Shot crew in the early 1980s. Away from a fire, we had great debates about politics and such. But on a fire-line, I trusted those guys with my life. If they said, we’re heading in this direction and doing this, my reaction was, OK.

Tell about your publishing process? How long did it take from writing
your book until the time of publication? Was the process a struggle
or was your book picked up quickly by a publisher?
The novel was shopped around for a time and several publishers passed because they couldn’t see the main character, a person of action, being a woman. In fact, one publisher said if I rewrote the Yoshi character as a male lead, they’d give it strong consideration. I couldn’t see that and that’s why I went with Shana Johnson and the good folks at Writers Lair.
Ultimately, I wanted a character that was really torn by the war. Of course, Yoshi is Japanese-American and that portion of the population, especially along the West Coast really had a hard time of it. Too many were driven off their land and relocated to internment camps like Manzanar, which is featured in RED RAIN. Often your best characters have the most at stake. They are really at the crossroads of their lives and even their times. That’s what Yoshi ultimately is.

Favorite books? Favorite authors?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ve had the good fortune to study under Richard Ford, Oakley Hall, Carolyn Doty, Alice McDermott, Marita Golden, Margot Livesey, John Casey and Nicholas Delbanco. I’ve learned so much from all of their works. Perhaps I should give you the titles I tend to come back to while teaching my grad-level classes at Johns Hopkins.
Topping the list would THE GREAT GATSBY by Fitzgerald. To me, it’s perhaps the best use of first-person narration. Recently in my fiction workshops, I’ve been assigning WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL? by Lorrie Moore and CITIES OF THE PLAIN by Cormac McCarthy. Two very different works, but both employ similar plotting devices. I love the voice in Bob Dylan’s CHRONICLES. And, finally, I return to Michael Ondaatje’s IN THE SKIN OF A LION every few years. Of course, he wrote THE ENGLISH PATIENT, but I really enjoy this one.

Background info-short bio.
I always enjoyed reading as a kid. My family grew up in the country, between Buffalo and Rochester in Western New York. Of course, this well before cable television and the Internet, so reading was what you had. My parents were big readers and going to the local library was a huge deal. We went every weekend during the winter. Richard Ford, who I’ve had the good fortune to do a workshop with, once said that if you love reading then it’s only natural to try writing yourself. That’s what I started to do by junior high school. I wasn’t particularly good back then. I was a lousy speller, for example. But I worked on several newspapers in college and then after graduation. They were a great proving ground. I covered everything from fires and murders to sports events and concerts. That period really improved my ability to write and do it on deadline. Later on in my career, I wanted to learn more about writing and that first took me to conferences at Squaw Valley and then to do graduate work at Johns Hopkins University.
In total, I’ve published eight books, novels and narrative nonfiction.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What jobs/careers have you
had in your life?
I decided at the age of 15 or 16 that I wanted to be a writer. I haven’t looked back.

What one item can you not live without?
A good book to read and a spiral notebook. You have to be open to the things that come your way. I wrote my first novel, CASTRO’S CURVEBALL, on the D.C. Metro, the local subway here. At the time, I had an intense day job with USA Today. I didn’t have much free time, but I tried to write at least a page in my spiral notebook every day on the Metro going to work. One day I almost didn’t write. It seemed to be pointless. But with my stop only minutes away, I got out my notebook and started to write in a voice that I like to think is more desperate and innocent than my own. I ended up rewriting my first novel in that voice, the voice of Billy Bryan, the washed-up ballplayer in Havana. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t picked up my pen that day, that voice/character would have moved on to some other writer.

What are you working on now? Anything to be published in the near
future? Do you plan on staying within the historical fiction genre?
I’ve also been promoting a new nonfiction release, HIGH HEAT: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE FASTBALL AND THE IMPROBABLE SEARCH FOR THE FASTEST PITCHER OF ALL TIME (Da Capo). That’s been a lot of fun, too.
I just finished a new novel set near Niagara Falls, where I grew up. It’s entitled OVER THE FALLS, and the characters and setting are all somewhat star-crossed. My next project will probably be nonfiction, perhaps set in the 1960s. Things seem so divisive today, so I found myself wondering when were things as or even more divisive. That’s the ’60s for me, so I think there are some lessons and great stories to be found there.

Any guilty pleasures? Such as food, candy, etc.
A bowl of ice cream and sitting in front of the tube to watch the late movie. I’m an old school guy.

Anything else you would like to share.
In closing, I’d urge readers to check out the YouTube book trailers for RED RAIN and HIGH HEAT. These days a writer has to be part promoter, too. Both of these are short and can be found at:
And people can always reach me through my web site,

Thanks for your time, Tim

Book Review and Giveaway-Red Rain by Tim Wendel

Title: Red Rain
Author: Tim Wendel
Publisher: The Writer's Lair Books
Published: 2008
ISBN: 978-0-9754402-1-6
Pages: 251

From the Publisher:
As the B-29 bommbers began to pound Tokyo and most of the other major Japanese cities to rubble, the Japanese military became desperate to find a way to once again instill fear in its enemies. Out of such eforts was born the greatest secret of WWII-the fire ballon. Yoshi, camouflaging her identity, is sent to uncover these delicate but deadly creations.

My review:
Tim Wendel takes a true story of the secret of the Japanese fire balloons and weaves a story of fictional characters around it. Yoshi, who is born an American, yet is placed in an internment camp with her family due to being from Japanese descent, is the central character of the story. She is recruited by the military to become a spy and travel to Japan to find out about the balloons and help America fight against this weapon. The story is filled with intrigue and romance and I could not put it down until I had read every single page. The writing is good, although at times, I would have liked more details and/or background information on certain characters. Yet, that did not detract from the story. I felt my heart race and my body gain excitement as I traveled along with the characters in their search for the balloons and the quest to stop them. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in historical fiction or just in need of reading a really good story.

About the Author:
Time Wendel is the author of a half-dozen books, including Castro's Curveball: A Novel; and The New Face of Baseball: The One Hundred-Year Rise and Triumph of Latino's Favorite Pastime, which was named the Top History Book for 2004 by the Latino Literary Awards. His stories have appeared in Gargoyle and The Potomac Review, and his articles in The New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Washingtonian and USA Today, where he is on the Forum's op-ed Board of Contributors.

Wendel received a Master's Degree in Writing from Johns Hopkins University, and has worked on both coasts, covering everything from the Olympics to the America's Cup. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife and their two children. More of his stories can be found at

I have one copy of this book to giveaway. Please leave a comment below with your email address to enter. This is open to US only. The winner will be chosen on August 3.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Giveaway-Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton

Ifyou have a job in the corporate world, chances are you have a boss. Indeed, pretty much everybody has a boss, whether it's someone at the supervisory, managerial, or executive level.

And if you're like everybody else, you know that keeping your boss happy with your performance is a major focus of your daily corporate life and career.

Problem is -- and as Bob Sutton made clear in his classic THE NO ASSHOLE RULE - too many of us work for bosses who are jerks. And that's the starting point of BOSS.

Based upon the thousands of letters, emails, and conversations Sutton has received since the publication of THE NO ASSHOLE RULE, he now focuses his common sense approach on what it is that truly distinguishes the great bosses in our world from the ones who are just good, so-so, or even worse.

Using real-life case studies, the latest psychological research, and a thorough scan of the pertinent literature, Sutton delivers a pinpoint accounting of what the best bosses do on a daily basis. In short, Sutton delivers the first blueprint manifesto for anyone who has ever been elevated into a position of authority -- or for those who have to suffer because of those bosses who just don't get it.

I have one copy of this book for giveaway. Please leave a comment below with your email address to win. The contest is open to US and Canada and the winner will be chosen on August 28.

Book Giveaway-She's Gone Country by Jane Porter

Jane Porter has returned with the type of bestselling novel that she writes best, featuring an almost-forty protagonist finding a second chance in life. SHE’S GONE COUNTRY is an entertaining tale of a modern-day woman, Shey, who has led a charmed life in New York City, gracing the covers of Vogue, and is now forced to reinvent herself by moving back to her hometown in Texas after her marriage falls apart. Shey soon realizes that in order to reinvent herself, she must let go of an uncertain future and a broken past, and allow for the possibility of new love in the present.

I have three copies to giveaway. Please leave a comment below with the title of your favorite country song. Be sure to leave an email so I can contact you if you are a winner. The contest is open to US and Canada and winners will be chosen on August 29.

Book Giveaway-The Recessionistas by Alexandra Lebenthal

Alexandra Lebenthal, who is active on the New York social scene, has written THE RECESSIONISTAS, a debut novel about four socialites whose perfect Upper East Side lives get turned upside down when the economic collapse wreaks havoc on their pampered existences.

In a tale that is ripped from the headlines, a group of powerful New Yorkers suddenly encounter social upheaval, deception, and scandal. Some will find their way out of disaster while others, after making dangerous choices, dig their own graves. This story of expulsion from a modern-day Garden of Eden captures what happens when lives that were only designed to acquire more suddenly face the prospect of a great deal less.

I have three copies of this book to giveaway. The contest is open to US and Canada and winners will be chosen on August 15. Don't forget to leave an email in the comments so I can contact you if you are a winner.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway-Shiva's Arms by Cheryl Snell

Title: Shiva's Arms
Author: Cheryl Snell
Publisher: The Writer's Lair Books
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 9780615340814
Pages: 193
Genre: Fiction
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

When Alice marries Ramesh, she is plunged into a battle of wills with her mother-in-law. And when a family secret is revealed that costs the old woman everything, it is up to Alice to heal the rift between them, as Shiva’s Arms evolves into an exploration of cultural identity, the power of reconciliation, and the meaning of home.

About the Author:
Cheryl Snell has published over four hundred poems and stories online and in print. Her books include both fiction and poetry, and Prisoner’s Dilemma, her recent volume of poetry and art, won the Lopside Press Competition. Snell has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net four times, and her poem "Fire on the Cuyahoga" was chosen by Dorianne Laux for inclusion in the Sundress' Best of the Net Anthology last year. Follow her author's blog about all things Indian at

My review:
Shiva's Arms is a book about the struggle between husband and wife, son and mother, and daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. The plot not only follows these conflicts but adds cultural differences in the mix to make it more complicated. Alice is American and she married the Indian born Ramesh, only to face a life she didn't know was coming. The book explores the cultural difference and the difficulties that these marriages often face. I liked that the author took on a new take in having the character of Ramesh being torn between his wife and mother to show the cultural differences and difficulties. I think it gave the story more substance, rather than just allowing for a story of conflict between husband and wife only. There were a few areas that I thought could have flowed better as I was reading about the couple being in India and suddenly they were in America without any transitions and it left me confused in spots. I think that perhaps it was also because I am not familiar with Indian customs and they weren't explained in the detail I would have liked to have seen. The book does contain a short glossary of terms for the reader and also some recipes for food items that are mentioned in the book. I think that someone who is familiar with Indian customs will really enjoy this book and I think if I had known more about the customs, I would have enjoyed this book more. However, it really opened my eyes to a different culture that I knew nothing about and the differences that occur between families of different cultures when they become intertwined.

I have one copy of this book for giveaway. Please leave a comment below with your email. The winner will be chosen on July 29.

The author was so gracious to grant an interview and answer the questions I had for her about the book and her life.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

The idea for the book took hold as I witnessed conflicts between immigrants and the family members they leave behind. What is lost and what is gained? Stories my husband told me about his childhood in India and my own position as an “unsuitable bride” provided both setting and emotional center.

It’s the threshold, not the center, that holds the most fascination for me, as it does for the characters in my novel who have divided loyalties. My desire to create this particular story focusing on cultural identity came about because I wanted to understand the protocols of another culture, and convey the complexity that is at the heart of the momentous act of immigration. These are my themes, and I keep returning to them.

Have you always been interested in the Indian culture and how did that start?

My interest began with my marriage, and the fact that an Indian family moved in next door to us. Suddenly I was immersed in the culture, from both sides. I had a bird's eye view of the neighbors' lives as immigrants, and the walls between our townhouses were thin enough so I could even hear what they argued about. Remember when Wonderland’s Alice said, “What if I should fall right through the center of the earth…oh, and come out the other side, where people walk upside down?” I thought they must feel like that, even more than I did in my new situation.

Before I knew it, I had been pulled into samsara, the important householder stage.Armed with the basics of acceptable behavior—don’t touch the men, no shoes in the house, have a fry pan uncontaminated by meat handy-- there were still an overwhelming number of ambiguities to sift through, from the comic head-shaking that looked like No but meant Yes, to the serious conflict between freedom and family. I began to imagine a novel built on the swirl of relationships around me.

Always drawn to the stories with characters belonging to two cultures—think of the work of Narayan, Desai, Mukerjee— I wanted to know which part of a divided self goes and which part stays.

People ask me how I can write about a culture not truly mine. The answer is I can write about it because I do not completely belong. I'm neither behind a closed door nor in the thick of things, but rather in the archway, a good place from which to observe and to have a conversation with my own divided heart.

What got you started writing?

Like most writers, my love of reading lead to it. I wrote for my own pleasure while I developed my career as a classical pianist, and I only began to take writing seriously when I retired from concertizing and married. I began to write both short stories and poetry.

Writing poetry transcends the personal, for me, whereas fiction relies on empathy. For both forms, I start with an image, a phrase, or an idea. Both forms distill language and meaning–in a poem every word counts, sound and syllable. In fiction, the sentences must advance plot, reveal character, and build up resonance in readers' minds through symbolism, motif, and theme. With a novel, revisions are more rigorous, more of a juggle.

With so much to take into consideration—characters, scenes, and points of view—it seems counter-intuitive that a novel is more forgiving. But I find that its sprawl makes it more tolerant . “In the novel or short story you get the journey. In a poem you get the arrival,” May Sarton once wrote.

That’s not to say that it’s an orderly progression. When characters run amok, and suddenly have their own plans, it’s hard to force them back into the author’s. Mary Lee Settle advised that empathy without identity is one way to keep control of a character, but it’s difficult to maintain that distance.

Transformation, the way the characters change, what conclusion the narrator comes to, are born out of writing one’s way into the piece again and again, trying on different plots, tone, voice. I feel my way.

What genre do you normally read? Favorite books? Favorite authors?

I read and review literary fiction and contemporary poetry, which is what I write. On my nightstand right now are Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift, Roth’s Dying Animal, and Making Good Use of August, by Sherry O'Keefe. Flaubert is always where I can grab him, in case of emergency. Sentimental Education is a favorite of mine.

Tell about your background. Education, family, etc.

My father was a doctor and my mother and artist. My husband is a mathematical engineer and a professor. I have brothers who are scientists and a sister whose expressionist art is well known in certain circles, and with whom I often collaborate. We have several books of poetry and art, and we keep a blog called Scattered Light at

Describe yourself in three words.

Worth the wait (courtesy of my husband)

What item can you not live without?

Reading glasses.

Any interesting fact about yourself you would like to share.

I've been making videopoems lately at

Further book plans? What are you working on now? Anything to be
published in the near future?

After ten books, I sometimes think I've used up all the words there are. But I'm always working on several things at the same time - it's my hedge against writer's block. I have another collaboration of poems and art with my sister, another short story collection, and a third volume about another member of the fictional Sambashivan family taking shape now.
Thanks for asking!

Author Guest Post-Cynthia Eden

Today I am hosting a blog tour for author Cynthia Eden and featuring her book Deadly Fear. I would like to thank her for a guest post that she has provided for the readers. You can check out her site for more info at

It’s All About the Books

It’s great to be at the Book Tree today. Yes, it’s great to be here—and to be talking books!
Oh, books, my life-long love. My bookshelves are currently overflowing, but I am eager to grab more new releases. My favorite genre of choice is romance. I figure there is so much negativity already out there in the world—well, I want a guaranteed happy ending when I read. And romances give me that guarantee.
Within the romance sub-genre, I have two favorite areas for reading pleasure: romantic suspense novels and paranormal romances. While I like my happy endings, I also like a dark and gritty read. I like stories that take me in deep. Stories that grab hold of me and just won’t let go.
Some of my favorite romantic suspense authors are: Anne Stuart, Shannon McKenna, and Linda Howard. These ladies balance suspense and sensuality so well in their stories. How could I not be hooked?
When it comes to paranormal romance, I am a huge fan of Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. A powerful supernatural world, characters with painful histories, and a romance that just won’t quit—great stories. I also adore Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark, Jayne Castle’s fantastic futuristics, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s sexy Dark Hunters. Oh, I could go on listing books for hours.
My to-be-read stack is currently about two feet high, but, I am afraid that I’ve been making that stack wait lately. Sure, those new titles do tempt me. But, often, something else tempts me more. You see, I’m a re-reader. A very avid re-reader. I keep my favorite books, and as the fancy strikes me, I pull them off the shelves and read them again and again. That would be why my copy of Linda Howard’s Dream Man (a nice blend of paranormal and suspense) is so dog-eared!
But what about you? Are there other re-readers out there? Or are you a one-book-one-time reader? And which authors are your favorites?
Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Have a good day and happy reading!
Cynthia Eden

Blog Tour and Giveaway-Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden

FBI Special Agent Monica Davenport has made a career out of profiling serial killers. But getting inside the twisted minds of the cruel and the sadistic has taken its toll: She's walled herself off from the world. Yet Monica can't ignore fellow agent Luke Dante, the only man who ever broke through her defenses.

Luke has the unique ability to put victims at ease . . . professionally, he and Monica made a perfect team. Now they're reunited to catch a murderer who uses his victims' deepest, darkest fears for sport - but their investigative skills aren't enough. Luke and Monica will have to face the secrets from their past, the ones that terrify them the most, if they are to have a future together.
But can they catch a killer whose weapon is . . .DEADLY FEAR

Five Fun Facts about the Book and Cynthia:
1. Cynthia incorporated many of her own fears in Deadly Fear. Was it therapeutic for her? No, now she has more fears!

2. Cynthia has tried to face her ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) by visiting zoos and petting snakes. No, that hasn’t worked so well for her, either. Though, oddly, one of her favorite movies is Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. She thinks snakes are best from a very nice distance.

3. If you ask her, Cynthia can instantly tell you at least five ways to get rid of a body — without leaving evidence behind. It makes for fun dinner conversation.

4. Cynthia has several shelves full of books that tell you how to commit the perfect crime. These books make her husband very nervous.

5. More information about Cynthia may be found at her website:

I have one copy of this book to giveaway. Please leave a comment below to enter. The contest is open to US and Canada only. The winner will be chosen on July 29.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

25 Books Every Lost Fan Should Read

I am always interested in books being incorporated into other mediums such as television and movies and wonder at the significance. Although it is usually subtle, I enjoy this as it seems to garner enthusiasm for reading and even if it only influences one person to pick up a book, I am all for it. I came across this list today and wanted to share it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy

Title: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy
Edited by: Willaim Irwin, Series Editor and Richard Brian Davis, Editor
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-470-55836-2
Pages: 211
Price: 17.95
I received a free copy of this book from FSB Associates for my honest review.

Book Synopsis from the publisher:
*Should the Cheshire Cat's grin make us reconsider the nature of reality?
*Can Humpty Dumpty makes words mean whatever he says they mean?
*Can drugs take us down the rabbit-hole?
*Is Alice a feminist icon?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has fascinated children and adults alike for generations. Why does Lewis Caroll introduce us to such oddities as a blue caterpillar who smoks a hookah, a cat whose grin remains after its head has faded away, and a White Queen who lives baackward and remembers forward? Is it all just nonsense? Was Carroll under the influence? This book probes the deeper underlying meaning in the Alice books and reveals a world rish with philosophical life lessons. Tapping into some of the greatest philosophical minds that ever lived-Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, ad Nietzsche-Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy explores life's ultimate questions through the eyes of perhaps the most endearing heroine in all of literature.

About the Editors:
Richard Brian Davis is an associate professor of philosophy at Tyndale University College and the coeditor of 24 and Philosophy.

William Irwin is a professor of philsophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen rcent titles, including Batman and Philosophy, House and Philosophy, and Watchmen and Philosophy.

To learn more about the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series:

My review:
Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy is a book comprised of short essays by various authors. Each essay contains how Alice in Wonderland relates to philosophy in some way. The authors of the essays are all in the academic field and the essays read as such. The book was something I would not normally read for pleasure. In just taking an English Lit Criticism class, it reminded me of the selections I had to read for class. This is a great book for those doing academic research in the fields of English and/or Philosophy but I don't think that the average reader will find this as their typical read.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: Latin Grill by Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano

Title: Latin Grill: Sultry and Simple Food for Red-Hot Dinners and Parties
Author: Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano; photographs by Dan Goldberg
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6660-6
Pages: 160
Price: 19.95
Genre: Cooking
I received a free copy of this book from FSB Associated for my honest review.

Book Synopsis from the publiser:
More than 80 recipes for easy to make grilled dishes, cooling ceviches, and cocktails such as Blueberry-Pisco Sours and Grilled Pineapple Mojitos to make an occasion of any meal. Grilling and relaxing at home has never been more of a pleasure!

Inspired by the traditional foods of Rafael Palomino's native Colombia and his travels, you, too are a worldly adventurer who brings the fiesta to the table with uncomplicated recipes for everything from marinades and dipping sauces to appetizers, grilled meats, and desserts. A meal couldn't be simpler or more satifsying than Crisp Tortillas Topped with Prosciutto and Shaved Manchego Cheese or the signature Palomino burger, oozing with melted cheese and avocado. Roasted Muscovy Duck in a Honey-Black Pepper-Pineapple Glaze or Grilled Sea Scallops with a Cumin and Garlic Rub make an easy, yet sophisticated mid week dinner. Round out the meal with sides such as Grilled Caesar Salad, grilled asparagus, or sweet plantains.

For a dessert with unanimous appeal, dip homemade Churros into Dulce de Leche, Mora, or Chocolate Sauce or pull out all the stops for your favorite chocoholic with the unforgettble Semisweet Chocolate and Coffee Brioche Bread Pudding. Whether it's a hot afternoon when grilling is the perfect dinner solution or a winter Sunday that needs to be picked up...this food is no sweat. Enjoy!

About the Authors:
Rafael Palomino, born in Bogota, Colombia, and rased in Queens, is the proprietor and executive chef of Sonora in Port Chester, New York, Pacifico in New Haven, Connecticut, and Center Valley, Pennsylvania, and Greenwich Tavern in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is the author of Nueva Salsa, Viva la Vida, Fiestra Latina (all from Chronicle Books) and Bistro Latino. Chef Palomino, founder of and, lives iwth his wife and two children in Bedford, New York.

Arlen Gargagliano is the coauthor of Nueva Salsa, Viva la Vida, and Fiesta Latina, as well as several other books related to Latin-style entertaining. She has lived and traveled in Spain and Latin America, and currently resides with her family in New Rochelle, New York.

Dan Goldberg is a Chicago based photographer. His work for Chronicle Books includes Anna Getty's Easy Green Organic.

My review:
Latin Grill is a great cookbook. It starts out by describing charcoal and gas grills and what the best option for your grilling would be. It then moves on to the essential tools you need to grill successfully and gives a short "How to Use this Book" section. I liked these little extras as it is a beginning point that sets out the basics and gets the cook started. For many readers of this book, it may be their first adventure into grilling and I found this to be very helpful. The book contains recipes from drinks, appetizers, main dishes, and desserts that will please every pallette. Simple ingredients to more unusual concoctions are included as well. I liked that it contained both as at times I want something fast and simple and at other times, I want to venture out and try something new. I love the section that contains recipes for the sauces you use. I enjoy making items from scratch and now I can add sauces to the repertoire. The recipes are great for a simple at home meal for the family, yet it includes dishes that would wow anyone you had over for a dinner party. I have tried a couple of items from this book and enjoyed them and can't wait to try every offering in between these covers.

Since summer is in full swing, I thought I would post one of the great drink recipes here for you all to try.

Mango Lemonade
*4 lemon wedges
*2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
*3 teaspoons Simple Syrup
*1 ounce Sour Mix
*4 teaspoons mango puree
*1 cup ice

In a large bar shaker, combine the lemon wedges, sugar, simple syrup, and sour mix. Using a pestle, muddle them together. Add the mango puree, the 1 cup ice, and water to fill up the shaker. Cover and shake.

Fill a bar glass with ice. Strain the mixture into the glass and serve.

You can serve this to kids and adults and add some rum to spice it up for the adults.

To make your own simple syrup for this drink:
*1 cup water
*1 cup sugar
Makes about 1 cup.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let syrup cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To make your own sour mix.
*3/4 cup water
*3/4 cup sugar
*1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
*1/2 cup fresh lime juice
Makes about 2 cups.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Add the lemon and lime jiuces and transfer to a container for the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Giveaway-The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark

Early in the history of English, the words "grammar" and "glamour" meant the same thing: the power to charm. Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools, aims to put the glamour back in grammar with this fun, engaging alternative to stuffy instructionals. In this practical guide, readers will learn everything from the different parts of speech to why effective writers prefer concrete nouns and active verbs. THE GLAMOUR OF GRAMMAR gives readers all the tools they need to"live inside the language"--to take advantage of grammar to perfect their use of English, to instill meaning, and to charm through their writing. With this indispensable book, readers will come to see just how glamorous grammar can be.

I have three copies to giveaway. Please leave a comment with your email to enter. The contest is open to US and Canada and winners will be chosen on August 17.

Book Review: Easy as Pi by Jamie Buchan

Title: Easy as Pi: The Countless Ways We Use Numbers Every Day
Author: Jamie Buchan
Publisher: Reader's Digest
Pub Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60652-134-2
Pages: 174
Genre: Reference
Price: 14.95

I received a free copy of this book from FSB Associates for my honest review.

Synopsis from the publisher:
Have you ever stopped to think how many countless ways we use numbers? From the ring of the alarm clock in the morning to the numbers triggering our cell phones, our world is designed with numbers in mind. With Easy As Pi, you'll get the 411 on the fascinating origin of many of the numbers we use or read about every day:

*What makes cloud nine and seventh heaven so blissful?
*Why is number 7 so lucky and 13 so unlucky?
*Is fourth-dimensional thinking really out of this world?
*What prompted Ray Bradbury to call his novel Fahrenheit 451?
*How did 007 become James Bond's number?

For the math averse: Be not afraid. Easy As Pi is not a textbook but rather a lively book at the derivation of numerical expressions and their inescapable influence on our culture-from book titles to bus schedules. To sum it up, Easy As Pi equals one clever and often hilarious collection.

About the Author:
Jamie Buchan was educated at Westminster School and is completing a Master of Arts degree in Architectural Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Many of his family members are involved in books: his great-grandfather John Buchan is the prolific novelist famous for The Thirty-Nine Steps; his grandfather D.J. Enright is a well-known Movement poet; and his uncle James Buchan is an award winning novelist and historical writer. Both of his parents work in publishing.

My review:
Let me start out by saying that I am not a math person at all. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book is divided in sections to include: Numbers in Language, Numbers in Fiction, Numbers in Culture, Numbers in Mythology and Religion, and Numbers in Math and Science. Each of these sections has numerous short stories about topics included in each heading. I love trivia and fun facts and this book was stocked full of them. I recommend this to everyone, not just those that like trivia. I think all will find it intriguing and enjoy how phrases with numbers came about.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Giveaway-Katie Up and Down the Hall by Glenn Plaskin

A personal memoir by bestselling author and celebrity journalist Glenn Plaskin, KATIE is a moving story about a man who discovers the true meaning of family after adopting a cocker spaniel puppy. Through the magnetic personality of his mischievous dog, the author soon makes powerful connections with several of his down-the-hall neighbors in a high-rise located in the unique Battery Park City neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. First, Katie trots into the lives of Pearl and Arthur, a warm-hearted elderly couple just a few doors down from Glenn. Later, John, a single Dad, and his rambunctious young son, Ryan, also move in and are seduced by Katie's charms.

All of their lives are profoundly changed as they are transformed from neighbors to friends to family, with Pearl as matriarch. The motherless boy finds a "Granny"; his Dad inherits a mother, Glenn discovers a confidante. Set in New York City, we witness nearly sixteen years of antics and family adventures spanning Hollywood high times, bad health, accidents, blustery winters, even the terrors of 9/11. Through it all, the family clings to each other, sharing a deep bond that give each comfort, support and security.

Based upon a widely-read article in Family Circle, here is an unforgettable story about the love that makes a family-one that transcends the hard realities of time, tragedy, and inevitable loss.

I have one copy of this to giveaway. Please leave a comment with your email to enter. The contest is open to US and Canada. The winner will be chosen on August 19.

Giveaway-Ravens by George Dawes Green

The Boatwrights just won 318 million dollars in the Georgia State lottery. It's going to be the worst day of their lives.

When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to be the store from which a 318,000,000 million dollar Jackpot ticket has just been sold -- and when a pretty clerk accidentally reveals to Shaw the identity of the winning family, he hatches a ferociously audacious scheme: He and Romeo will squeeze the family for half their prize.

That night, he visits the Boatwright home and takes the family hostage, while Romeo patrols the streets nearby, prepared to murder the Boatwrights' loved ones at any sign of resistance. At first, the family offers none. But Shaw's plot depends on maintaining constant fear-merciless, unfaltering terror-and soon, under the pressure, everyone's sanity begins to unravel . . .

At once frightening, comic, and suspenseful, RAVENS is a wholly original and utterly compelling novel from one of our most talented writers.

I have three copies of this book to giveaway. Please leave a comment with your email to enter. The contest is open to US and Canada. Winners will be chosen on August 31.

Reading Group Guide:

Giveaway-Follow Me by Joanna Scott

Reading Group Guide:

I have three copies of this book to giveaway. Please leave a comment with your email address to enter. This contest is open to US and Canada. Winners will be chosen on August 24.

Giveaway-Secrets To Happiness by Sarah Dunn

Holly Frick has just endured the worst kind of breakup: the kind where you're still in love with the person leaving you. While her wounds are still dangerously close to the surface, her happily married best friend confesses over a bottle of wine that she is this close to having an affair. And another woman comes to Holly for advice about her love life--with Holly's ex!

Holly decides that if everyone around her can take pleasure wherever they find it, so will she. As any self-respecting 30ish New York woman would do, she brings two males into her life: a flawed but endearing dog, and a good natured, much younger lover. She's soon entangled in a web of emails, chance meetings, and misguided good intentions and must forge an entirely new path to Nirvana.

From the author of The Big Love, Secrets to Happiness is a big-hearted, knife-sharp, and hilariously entertaining story about the perils of love and friendship, sex and betrayal--and a thoroughly modern take on our struggle to be happy.

Reading Group Guide

Giveaway-Off Season by Anne River Siddons

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly--happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past--to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety-- to try to figure out her future.

It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

I have three copies to giveaway. Please leave a comment with your email to enter. The contest is open to US and Canada. The winners will be chosen on August 25.

Audiobook Giveaway-The Island by Elin Hilderbrand

THE ISLAND (Unabridged)
by Elin Hilderbrand
read by Denice Hicks

Four women — a mother, her sister, two grown daughters — head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Intead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.

I have three copies of this audiobook to giveaway. Please leave a comment with your email below to enter. This is open to US and Canada. Winners will be chosen on August 11.

Book Review-Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella

Title: Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict
Author: Avis Cardella
Publisher: Hachette
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-03560-6
Genre: Memoir
I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher to post my honest review.

Synopsis from the publisher:
What happens when someone is consumed by the desire to consume? In this candid and visceral memoir, Avis Cardella details the shopping addiction that over her life-and writes about her road to recovery.

From an early age, Avis Cardella was entranced by the transformative powers of clothing, and shopping. Her rold model was her dazzling mother, who always seemed dressed for a party. As a teenager, Cardella obsessed over fashion magazines. She memorized the names of models and the styles of fashion photographers. The images held the allure and promise of a glamorous life.

Later, Cardella would become a model herself and then a fashion journalist. But what was once glamorous changed in tenor after her mother's unexpected death left her shopping away countless afternoons in order to avoid her gried.

Set to the tom-tom beat of New York City in the 1990's, Spent follows Cardella through a decade long shopping odyssy that took her from fabulous luxury boutiques to sample sales. Her wardrobe was brimming with designer fashions: Prada, Armani, and Jil Sander. But as the millennium drew to a close, so did her grand lifestyle. As her credit card debt grew like the pile of unworn clothing in the back of her closet, she had to confront the real reason behind her compulsion to buy, and the truth about this thoroughly modern addiction.

Written in gorgeous, jewel-like prose, Spent is an incisive exploration of our cultural need to spend and a timely, deeply personal, and shockingly dramatic story of addiction and recovery.

About the Author:
After spending her formative years reading fashion magazines voraciously, Avis Cardella found her calling writing about photography, fashion, and culture. She has written for British Vogue, American Photo, and Surface, among other publications. She lives in Paris with her husband.

My review:
I really liked this book. I think it let me live vicariously through the author as I read about her shopping trips and the items she bought and left me thinking that I would have liked that lifestyle. If only I could have afforded it. I thought the writing was really good and the author was very candid about her shopping, spending, and addiction. I can see how the addiction could start and build, as I have a slight book addiction. Yet it gives credence to the world of today and what fashion magazines and the media say that women should wear and look like. I highly recommend this book.

Check out the authors website at:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review-Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Title: Admission
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing-A division of Hachette
Pub Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-446-54071-1
Pages: 449
Genre: Fiction
I received a free copy of this book for my honest review.

For years, thirty-eight-year-old Portia Nathan has hidden behind her busy-and sometimes punishing-career as a Princeton University admissions officer and her less than passionate relationship. Then suddenly, the piece of her past that she has tried so hard to bury resurfaces, catapulting her on an extraordinary journey of the heart that challenges everything she ever thought seh believed. Soon, just as Portia must decide on the fates of thousands of bright students regarding their admission to Princeton, so too must she confront the life-altering decision she made long ago.

About the Author:
Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of The White Rose, The Sabbathday River, and A Jury of Her Peers, as well as a children's novel and a poetry collection. She was a part-time reader for Princeton's Office of Admission during the 2006 and 2007 admissions season.

My review:
When I first saw information about this book, I knew I had to read it. Some time passed and I still hadn't gotten a copy yet and then it became available for review through Hachette. I am disappointed at myself for waiting so long to have gotten my hands on this book. The writing is fantastic and I couldn't put it down. It would be late and I would need to get to bed for work the next morning and I would think, after this chapter I am done reading for the night. I would get to the end of that chapter and think, well, just one more. Korelitz entwines a story of work, love, and difficult decisions to reveal her current life and a past life that she had tried to forget. I recommend this book to everyone and I can't wait to get my hands on the other books she has written. I work in academia and I love to read books that include details of that career field. I would love to hear comments on what others thought about this book and please give me suggestions of other books like this to read.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review-The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken

Title: The I Hate to Cook Book: Updated and Revised
Author: Peg Bracken with a new foreword by Jo Bracken
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing-Division of Hachette
Publishing Date: Original-1960, 50th Anniversary Edition-2010
ISBN: 978-0-446-54592-1
Pages: 195
Genre: Cooking
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher to post my honest opinion on the book.

Fifty years ago, Peg Bracken wrote The I Hate to Cook Book-and helped change women's lives forever. At that time her message was a revolutionary one for housewives: You don't need to spend all day in the kitchen to host parties or feed your family. Cooking can be easy and, more important, its okay if you'd rather be doing something else!

Now this updated and revised edition introduces Peg's delicious recipes-along with her wry sense of humor-to a whole new generation of women. While we're no longer expected to slave away in the kitchen, more than ever, women (and men) still need meals that taste like great home cooking and cen be prepared with minimal effort. Peg's mouthwatering recipes are quick and easy-and many dishes, like her "Stayabed Stew," can be popped into the oven and ignored for an hour or so while you take a nap. Best of all, they all come salted with Peg's side-splitting and timeless humor.

Updated for today's pantries and with a touching foreword from Peg's daughter Jo, The I Hate to Cook Book is sure to fill your kitchen with wonderful smells and even more wonderful laughter-whether you hate to cook or not!

About the Authors:
Peg Bracken spent her life writing shen she could, cooking when she had to, and seeing the world as only she could see it. In her passing, she leaves behind nine books, a multitude of articles, columns, pieces of light verse, and a family whom she loved..and who loved her.

Johanna Bracken is a retired entrpreneur who devotes considerable time and resources to various charities, including working with incarcerated men and women, supporting primate sanctuaries, and serving on the board of her local chapter of the American Red Cross. She and her husband live in Long Beach, California, with their growing brood of dogs and cats.

My review:
This is a great book that I think every kitchen needs. Bracken is humorous and talented in the way she wrote and the recipes she devised. The recipes contain common ingredients that most will have in their kitchen and if not, they are easy to go to the local grocery and buy. The book contains recipes for all occassions and a good variety so that you will not get bored eating the same things over and over. I commute an hour to and from work each day and it seems that when I get home, I spend my time cooking dinner, I eat, and then it is time for bed. I can't wait to try all these recipes to make my day a little easier and so that I will have more time after work for things I enjoy. I would love to get your comments on what you thought about this book and the recipes you have tried from it.
Congrats to Lethea in Alabama and Mickey in Kentucky for winning a copy of this book on my blog.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Feature: The Gardener and The Vine by Andrew McDonough

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

Andrew McDonough

and the book:

The Gardener and the Vine

Zondervan (January 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***


Andrew is the creator, writer, and illustrator of the Lost Sheep series. Way back in 1989 as a young Bible college student, Andrew was asked to give the dreaded “children’s talk” at a large church. Andrew possessed one talent: he could draw sheep. He bought some overheard projector sheets and drew up the story of Cecil and the Lost Sheep. The congregation loved it, so Andrew continued to draw stories to use with kids and adults. Other student, pastors, and teachers started borrowing the stories.

Product Details:

List Price: $4.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (January 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310719461
ISBN-13: 978-0310719465


CSN Product Review

A few weeks ago I received a $60 gift card from CSN so that I could review one of their products. Although CSN has over 200 stores, I wanted to choose something that was book related. I perused their sites and came across an outside lounge chair. You may be asking, "How is that book related?" Well, this chair makes it very easy and comfortable to read while you are laying out in the summmer. I always find it difficult and uncomfortable when I lay on my stomach to get in a position that is conducive to reading and this chair allows that. It has a great pillow for when you are laying on your back, but once you turn over, the pillow folds over to reveal a face cavity. You are able to put your face in this cavity, like you would on a massage table, place your book underneath the chair, put your arms through the convenient arm holes and read comfortably. The chair is easily folded with straps for easily carrying it around. I would highly recommend this chair as you can use it at home and easily take it on vacation to the beach or local pool.

You can check out the product here:

The details:
*Constructed of heavy duty polyester and annodized steel
*Ostrich patented open/closeable face cavity with face cushion and arm slots
*Soft head pillow for resting on your back or side
*Allow for hours of comfortable tanning or reading when laying on ones' stomach
*5 Reclining positions
*Easy access and egress with extra seat height
*Height of 12+" allows for easy access/egress from chair
*Carry strap for ease of transport
*No assembly required-foldable for easy storage
*Overall dimensions: 12"H x 22"W x 28.5"D
*Available in Blue only
*Cost-$57.89 with free shipping

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review-Babushka's Beauty Secrets by Raisa Ruder and Susan Campos

Title: Babushka's Beauty Secrets
Author: Raisa Ruder and Susan Campos
Publisher: Wellness Central-A division of Hachette Books
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-446-55586-9
Pages: 183
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Don't spend a fortune to look flawless. Esthetician to the stars Raisa Ruder learned her time-tested beauty techniques from her Ukrainian grandmother (or babushka, as they say in the old country). Now everyone can discover the all-natural, better-than-Botox secrets the Hollywood stars use to shine on the red carpet! Ruder reveals her sought-after beauty recipes that can fight wrinkles, give you plump lips, and eliminate crow's feet and acne-all by using inexpensive, everyday grocery items like eggs, honey, vegetable oil, and strawberries (and a splash of vodka for freshness!). At last, by popular demand, Raisa Ruder opens up her babushka's secret pantry and shares her most amazing and effective beauty advice.

*Skin saving souffles-whipped up wonders that shrink pores, brighten skin, and diminish lines.
*Must have mustard wrap-an invigorating treatment that smoothes the thighs and reduces the appearance of cellulite.
*Hot hair-a cayenne pepper blend that leaves locks silky, soft, and full.
*Pedi pure-a soothing, smoothing foot scrub made with vitamine E and lavender oil.
*Lustrous lashes-a simple castor oil serum that thickens and lengthens.
*Perfect pucker-a moisturizing mask to light up your lips.

About the Authors:
As a child in the Ukraine, Raisa Ruder would whip up natural recipes with her grandmother and marvel at the results they'd produce. After noticing all the preservatives in products in America, she decided to introduce her recipes to the States and has quickly become the go-to girl in Hollywood. On any given day, Raisa Ruder's Beverly Hills salon reveals the ecofriendly glamour so sought out in Tinseltown today. Wrapped in a chic white organic cotton apron, she throws together ingredients with the confidence and passion reminiscent of Julia Child. Only in this case, Ruder is cooking up souffles for the skin, rather then the dinner table.

Susan Campos met Raisa Ruder when she was writing a story about green beauty. She immediately loved Raya's beauty regime and a few years later they decided to do a book together. Susan worked as an anchor/reporter in a number of television markets throughout the United States. She then joined NBC News, where she anchored the national weekend edition of The Today Show, reported for NBC, and hosted a number of enterainment shows for MSNBC. She now lives in Los Angeles with her son and writes trend stories for The ew York Times, The Hiffington Post, as well as a number of other publications. Susan also has a blog called Beauty Undercover.

My review:
I really liked this book. It was a quick read and gave insight into how to take care of your skin and hair without spending a fortune. Ruder covers everything from acne, fine lines, adding body to your hair, to whipping up your own self tanner. It was refreshing to read about homemade remedies that came from her grandmother and the "old country" as there were ingredients I would have never thought of using on my skin or hair. The book not only contains recipes but old wisdom passed down from her grandmother. I recommend this book to everyone and thinkn that all will find it is a great tool in revigorating their skin, hair, and bodies.

I wanted to include one of the recipes in the book to give all a taste of what they were like. I decided on this one as it is summer and everyone wants to look good in that bathing suit.

This is the perfect body scrub to use before getting into a bathing suit.

Oat Couture
*2 tablespoons rolled oats, ground
*2 teaspoons brown sugar
*2 tablespoons aloe vera
*1 teaspoon lemon juice

Put the rolled oats in the blender and grind into a very fine powder. Place the powder in a small mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and lemon juice. Mix well. Now add the aloe vera and stir to form a paste. Be sure there are no lumps. Dampen the skin and massage the paste onto it. Rinse with warm water.

I would love to hear from anyone that tries this or any of the other recipes in the book to see what they think. I know I can't wait to try them all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blog Tour and Review-Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Title: Shades of Morning
Author: Marlo Schalesky
Publisher: Multnomah
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60142-025-1
Pages: 323
Genre: Christian Fiction

Book Synopsis:
Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness.

Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed. And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned. As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?

About the Author:
Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Stanford University, Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California.

My review:
Shades of Morning was a quick read for me as I couldn't put it down once I started reading the first page. The story is touching, emotionally wrought, and at times heart wrenching, yet with an uplifting overall message. I could identify with the characters, even though I have never been faced with the situations in the book. I think many will find that to be true as the extraordinary situations in the plot bring about a feeling of hope and connection and that all will be right in the end. I think at this point with so much going on in our world, a story like this is what is needed to uplift and show there is hope and how to find it. The writing was very good and kept me craving more-I finished this book in two days. Yet, it kept me wanting more after the last page. I thought about this book, the characters, and the "moral of the story" for days after I finished. I think even if you don't normally read in the Christian fiction genre, that you will enjoy this book. It isn't preachy or condemning but shows the compassion that humans can have and what good can come out of that. On a final note, the book was worth reading just for the ending, just when I thought I had it all figured out, there was a twist that I did not see coming and filled me with the unexpected and joy of what can happen when you believe and have faith.

For more information, check out the authors site at:

To purchase a copy of this book: You can buy by clicking on the Amazon link below that features the book or by going directly to the publisher's site.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Guest Post-C.W. Gortner

C.W. Gortner sent me a copy of his historical fiction novel entitled The Last Queen to review and has agreed to a guest post. Be sure to check out my review post for information on the book and author and my review. Now, to the good part-Mr. Gortner's post.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve written stories but I didn’t start out wanting to be a professional writer. Though writing was always an integral part of my life, I embarked on a career in fashion marketing and then worked in social services before I wrote my first historical novel in my late twenties. With that book, I got my first agent and was submitted to several publishers but no one made an offer. A few years later I took a trip to Spain, where I was raised, and I visited Granada, where the Catholic monarchs are entombed. I’d been to Granada before as a child, and as I gazed upon Juana of Castile’s effigy, I remembered how utterly fascinated I’d been by her story. I thought, wouldn’t she be interesting to write about? That is how my first published novel, The Last Queen, began. Still, even after it was finished, no one wanted the book. I had three subsequent agents and over 200 rejections before my current agent found me. She successfully sold The Last Queen and my new novel The Confessions of Catherine de Medici to Ballantine Books via auction. It was one of the most exciting and unexpected experiences I’d ever had— for a writer who has struggled as much as I did, it was a dream come true.

I write historical fiction because I believe the past is very much part of our present and by understanding where we come from we can help guide where we’ll go. Readers have written to me to tell me how much they enjoy my books and how it opened them up to the possibility that history can be exciting; many also mention how much they disliked studying history in school. The truth is, often the way history is taught in the classroom can be tedious; what we should remember is that history is made by people like you and me, with emotions and triumphs and tragedies— their stories are what makes history compelling. I believe historical fiction is popular because it gives us a sensory glimpse into the past, beyond the dry recitation of facts, into lives both vastly different and yet also similar to our own.

I read voraciously in my spare time, and of course my favorite genre is historical fiction. I read between 20 and 40 novels a year. I enjoy novels set in periods different from those I write about, but not exclusively; and I enjoy novels that take a unique approach to characters. I don’t mind reading about the ever-popular characters— Elizabeth I, for example, can always be interesting— as long as the story offers a fresh perspective. I have too many favorite authors to list here!

Thank you for spending this time with me! If you want to find out more about me and my work, or invite me to chat in person, via Skype, or speaker phone with your reader group, please visit my website at: You can also visit my blog at:

Upcoming Appearances:

Thursday, June 10 at 7:00 p.m.
Bookshop West Portal
80 W Portal Ave., San Francisco, CA, 94127

Launch party for The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. Open to the public. Wine, cheese and cake will be served.

Wednesday, June 30 at 7:00 p.m.
A Great Good Place for Books
86120 LaSalle Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 339-8210

Talk and Signing for The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. Open to the public.

Saturday, August 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA, 94925
(800) 999-7909

Talk and Signing for The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. Open to the public.

Book Review-The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner

Title: The Last Queen
Author: C.W. Gortner
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-345-50185-1
Pages: 368
I received a free copy of this book from the author for an honest review to be posted on this blog.

Book Synopsis:
In this stunning novel, C.W. Gortner brings to life Juana of Castile, the third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, who would become the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country's throne. Along the way, Gortner takes the reader from the somber majesty of Spain to the glittering and lethal courts of Flanders, France, and Tudor England.

Born amid her parents' ruthless struggle to unify and strengthen their kingdom, Juana, at the age of sixteen, is sent to wed Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire. Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her dashing young husband, and at first she is content with her children and her married life. But when tragedy strikes and she becomes heir to the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it costs her everything.

About the Author:
Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. GORTNER was raised in southern Spain, where he developed a lifelong fascination with history. After holding various jobs in the fashion industry, he earned a MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. He has taught university seminars on the 16th century and women in history, as well as workshops on writing, historical research, and marketing.

Acclaimed for his insight into his characters, he travels extensively to research his books. He has slept in a medieval Spanish castle, danced in a Tudor great hall, and explored library archives all over Europe. His debut historical novel The Last Queen gained international praise and has been sold in ten countries to date. His new novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, is now available. He is currently at work on The Princess Isabella, his third historical novel, and The Tudor Secret, the first book in his new Tudor suspense series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.

C.W. lives with his partner in Northern California.

My review:
The Last Queen is the best book I have read so far this summer. The writing is superb and I have to admit I was very shocked to find out that the author had a hard time finding a publisher for it. The story grabbed me from the beginning and I was sad for the last page to appear. Gortner entwines the world of European royalty with flair as he gives an inside look to arranged marriages and the intrigue of the ruling royal families. I had no prior knowledge of Spanish history or the characters contained in this book (besides a small knowledge of Tudor England) and I have become utterly fascinated with their stories. As I was reading through the pages, I found myself fascinated, excited, saddened, and at times wanting to throw the book across the room from the actions of certain characters. Yet, I had to hold to the cover tightly as I couldn't waste a minute of reading time in having to go retrieve the book if I had done that. I finished the book about five days ago and I am still yearning to be involved in the lives of these characters. The book ends with what I particularly liked-an inclusion of an afterword that gave more detailed information about the characters. I recommend this book to all, even if you aren't a fan of historical fiction, Gortner's writing is so good, I think you will quickly become a fan of his and the genre.