Friday, September 30, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

SpeakSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Product Description: When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.

My take: How have I missed reading this book? This is a fantastic book on sexual assault, depression, anxiety and healing. The book is rich with symbolism which enhances the book's ability to reach the reader. I loved the tree analogy and the way the beauty of a tree lies in the scars, the new growth, and resilience. I also loved the way the conflict is not magically resolved but a process taking time and effort is used. Although I did love the use of the mirror.

Very empowering and affirming in the process.

View all my reviews

Where Am I Going? by Michelle Cromer (Giveaway)

Where Am I Going front cover.jpg

Through October 4, U.S. residents may be entered to win a signed paperback of Michelle Cromer’s  Where Am I Going?  Moving From Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorerby commenting with the name of the nonprofit that the author started.   For extra points, subscribe to this blog through FeedBurner.  Hint:  The name of the nonprofit has a color in it.
Michelle Cromer is the author of “Exit Strategy” and a children’s book. She conducts workshops in which participants learn how to tap into a deep well of spirituality, serenity, and purpose. A woman of contradictions, Michelle believes that spirituality and capitalism can co-exist, that you have to sit still to get somewhere, and that – despite her best efforts – there are some questions for which the answers only come when you stop asking. .  She lives with her family in El Paso, where her nonprofit works to bring justice for the missing and murdered in Juarez.
Part travel guide, part memoir, Where Am I Going? Moving From Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer takes the reader on a journey to finding this meaning in the same way that Michelle Cromer did for herself, through seven stages that connect each of us to the deepest part of our souls. This inspiring story of Michelle’s own quest for meaning in her life is a welcome departure from the typical preachy self-help book. Always spiritual, sometimes dangerous, often exotic, her search–as told by this funny, complex woman is a powerful lesson for anyone who also finally asks the Big Questions and begins their own spiritual journey and quest for purpose.
 Excerpt from
Turn on your TV on any Sunday morning and listen to some of the sermons launched from “pop Christianity” pulpits across the United States. According to these preachers, all we need to do is pray for what we want—to have faith—and all of our prayers will be answered when we want them, how we want them, and where we want them. Put your dollar in the slot, push a button, and wait for the answer to your prayers to roll down the chute.
Such preachers don’t corner the market on entitlement. The New Age movement, with its “law of attraction,” is yet another way of treating the universe like a cosmic Coke machine. The law of attraction tells us that if we simply think hard enough about it, “the universe,” aka God (by whatever name), will bring us health, wealth, success, and love. The law of attraction argues that thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) can affect things outside of the mind. Essentially, if you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it. (So . . . we’ll all win the lottery.) But be careful; according to the law, putting a lot of attention and thought into something you don’t really want means that you’ll probably get that too. So stop worrying about that piano falling out of the sky . . . because it will.
All of these people who preach entitlement are under the vulnerable and dangerous illusion that you can manipulate reason and, by extension, God. In an attempt to make sense of our complicated lives, we desperately try to make sense of what happens. So we take a law of science and manipulate it to fit our beliefs and superstitions. But why? Did I miss something? Why would anyone assume any of those things about God? Just because we have found a way to light a match doesn’t mean we can see through all of the darkness. Why pretend that we can?
Life may be easier to deal with if we believe that there is a reason why bad things happen, but this expectation is also a recipe for potential disaster. Those who seek this easy way out may find themselves confronted with greater despair and sorrow when their illusions crumble. Surviving pain and disappointment in life will require more than just letting go of the consoling belief that the universe is a reasonable place; it will require that we create a new and meaningful life. As we surrender our overreliance on the world of reason and its false security blanket, we emerge understanding that all the things we pretended to know never did satisfy our thirst for understanding the world around us.
But what will guide us though the rough waters of life? How will we make it through the unprecedented transition from having it all mapped out for us to starting over completely?
If God isn’t a cosmic Coke machine, and we kick reason to the curb, what’s left?

A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling

Cover: A Heart for Freedom

Title: A Heart for Freedom 
Author:  Chai Ling
Publisher: Tyndale

The dramatic and fascinating story of Chai Ling, commander-in-chief of the student protesters at Tiananmen Square and witness to the massacre of thousands of Chinese civilians. Risking imprisonment and possible death for her leadership role in the student democracy movement, she was on the run in China for ten months while being hunted by the authorities. She eventually escaped to the U.S., completed her education at Princeton and Harvard, found true love, and became a highly successful entrepreneur. But her desperate quest for freedom, purpose, and peace—which she had sought in turn through academic achievement, romantic love, political activism, and career success—was never satisfied until she had an unexpected encounter with a formerly forbidden faith. Her newfound passion for God led to her life’s greatest mission: Fighting for the lives and rights of young girls in China.

My take: Who can forget the dark days of Tiananmen Square as the students organized themselves in demonstrations to encourage continued economic reform and liberalization of China. The students requested democracy, increased funding for education, a more open government and information, among other requests already in place in democratic societies. The non-violent protests continued then escalated outside the gates of the square and then the government sent in tanks and weapons of war.  The students and intellectuals were then fired upon, leaving many dead and wounded.  The world watched in horror and fascination as the wall of communism cracked because a few brave students organized a simple protest. And one lone student bravely walked up to a line of tanks and stood. He would either die a violent death or history would be made that day. 

Chai Ling, a student at a university at the time, was one of the organizers of the protests. Once resolved, she spent the next ten months in hiding and eventually escaping the communist country to the United States where she has spent her time furthering her education, finding love and discovering God. Her story is moving and provides and inside look of history in the making. Amazing read.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Halloween or Dress-Up Super-Hero Cape Kit

Help your child discover their superpowers with this awesome deal from Sew Plain Jane!  


Kit comes with your choice of color in plain cape PLUS all the supplies your kiddo needs to make an awesome cape!
Supplies include: 

1 cape (you choose the color!)
1 large star and a piece of self adhesive felt to cut out your own initial 
1 glitter glue stick for decorating various smaller adhesive backed felt shapes (stars, glitter stars, hearts, lightning bolts, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, flowers, and any other fun shapes we can get our hands on!)

This kit makes a wonderful gift and a SUPER party activity! 

Click HERE to order.
Offer ends September 30th.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn Review and GIVEAWAY!

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home CooksThe Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn

Product Description: The author of The Sharper Your Knife tells the inspiring story of how she helped nine others find their inner cook.

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn's "chefternal" instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for healthy, easy meals.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School includes practical, healthy tips that boost readers' culinary self-confidence, and strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar, and simple recipes that get readers cooking.

My take: Kathleen begins the book by stalking a woman in the grocery store. Maybe a little creepy but her heart is pure. She notices a woman with an inordinate amount of boxed and canned goods. Having recently graduated from the prestigious culinary arts institute in France, she could not, in good conscience, allow this woman to believe MSG and high doses of sodium were part of the food pyramid. She intervened. She took the woman to the butcher and asked him to demonstrate how to debone a whole chicken. She explained how to cook with fruits and vegetables in season. This continued for 30 minutes and saved the woman money. From that interaction an idea was born and so was her cooking school.

Although the chapters are written in story-form, I read the first chapter, skimmed the book then went straight to breads and pastas. Not because I'm Italian but because I love bread and my tomatoes are ripe on the vine.

What Kathleen does is teach technique then hands the ingredients to the students. With the Pomodoro sauce, Kathleen put out ingredients, demonstrated the technique then encouraged her students to be creative. Turns out it's not as much like Chemistry lab as I might have thought. Nothing exploded when I dropped a few garlic cloves in the olive oil, smushed up my Roma tomatoes, added Anneheim peppers and fresh basil from my sister's garden. The Italian cooking police did not arrest me when I added frozen Parmasan cheese. My husband loved it, two of my four children refused to eat it which is 25% better than usual and they had to get their own cold cereal and missed out on a culinary party in the mouth. Ha.

Technique, demonstration, ingredients, add your own flair. It works.

Try it for yourself! Enter to win your very own copy! See if your kitchen explodes or your taste buds explode with pleasure!

Fill out form below.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Good Graces by Lesley Kagen

Good GracesGood Graces by Lesley Kagen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lesley Kagen returns with the sequel to her national bestselling debut, Whistling in the Dark.

Whistling in the Dark captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee's summer of 1959. The novel became a New York Times bestseller and was named a Midwest Honor Award winner.

In Good Graces, it's one year later, and a heat wave has everyone in the close-knit Milwaukee neighborhood on edge. None more so than Sally O'Malley, who remains deeply traumatized by the sudden death of her daddy and her near escape from a murderer and molester the previous summer. Although outwardly she and her sister, Troo, are more secure, Sally's confidence in her own judgment and much of her faith have been whittled away. When a series of disquieting events unfold in the neighborhood-a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan, crimes that may involve the increasingly rebellious Troo-Sally is called upon to rise above her inner demons. She made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, a promise she can't break, even if her life depends on it. But when events reach a crisis point, will Sally have the courage and discernment to make the right choices? Or will her false assumptions lead her and those she loves into danger once again?

Lesley Kagen's gift for imbuing her child narrators with compelling authenticity shines as never before in Good Graces, a novel told with sensitivity, wit, and warmth.

My take: Unpredictable and an awful lot like a fun time. Sally is the narrator and Sally is telling the story in her 12 year old voice. She captures the time period, the tone, and the innocence so well! Absolutely loved the Point of view, each character and the way Sally describes each character. Politically incorrect language of the 1970's, it is not offensive but consistent with the way people talked.

I loved every single character and the way they presented themselves to Sally. I loved the Pollacks, Black Irish, Negroes, Mongoloids, and even the way Sally no longer believed in God, being a bad Catholic now and the way He answers her prayers.

Fun, fun read. It reminds me of the movie, Sandlot only in a different setting with the protagonist a 12 year old girl instead of a boy.

There is swearing with a few strategic "f" bombs.

Dialogue contains innuendo but fairly clean.

Violence is what you would expect on a playground.

Themes are appropriate for a teen but it is clearly written for the woman who has ever had a bad Toni perm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

A Beautiful Dark
Goodreads: On the night of Skye’s seventeenth birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites—like fire and ice—Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye’s life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move—only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth about her own past.

In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who she can’t help falling for, and Devin, who she can’t stay away from, the consequences of Skye’s choice will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.

A Beautiful Dark is the first book in a captivating trilogy by debut author Jocelyn Davies.

This was a very well set up first book to a trilogy that I will actually read. The premise is intriguing and theologically different. It's the Angels vs. Fallen Angels bit except that the peaceful and calm ones are those without free will which adds a layer of not knowing how it will end. 

My take: The story starts with Skye's 17th birthday party where things get weird. Introduction to two new (hot) boys at school. One is serene and controlled while the other is chaotic and edgy. A ski trip yields a legend of the difference between angels, the powers given up by the Fallen Ones and a forbidden romance and then a child. It doesn't take Einstein to figure out what's going on.Two sides battle it out for the unknown powers and Skye's free will. 

The most difficult part to a love triangle is writing all three parts so the reader likes them all. Jocelyn does a fantastic job with this. I liked Devin because of the characteristics he possesses and the way he seems to evolve. I liked Asher because he is written as the more volatile and more emotional. I liked Sky because she has a strong personality and is not easily swayed. 

The ending definitely surprised me. I can't wait for the next book. 

4.5 Stars

Wounded Heart GIVEAWAY

The Wounded Heart: An Amish Quilt NovelDid I forget to mention I have a copy to give to you? Well, I don't. But my dear friends at Hatchette Book Group do!

Fill out the form below.

The Wounded Heart by Adina Senft

The Wounded Heart: An Amish Quilt Novel

When a business offer turns into something more personal, Amelia is torn between what logic tells her is right, and the desire of her heart.

A widow with two small children, Amelia Beiler is struggling to make ends meet. She is running her late husband's business, but it's not what she was raised to do, which is run a home. When she gets an offer for the business from Eli Fischer, she's only too relieved to consider it-especially when it looks like Eli's interest might include more than just the shop. But when she begins to experience strange physical symptoms and is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it's difficult not to question God's will. If she pursues the treatment she believes in, she risks going under the bann. But how can she allow Eli to court her when she can't promise him a future?

Includes instructions to make the quilt block featured in the novel.

My take: The story tackles some important and relevant issues. Obviously, grief and healing are the mainstay as Amelia has lost her husband within the past year to a tragic accident. Along with grief is single parenting, starting over, and Multiple Sclerosis. Of course, the major healing has Christian overtones, but healing through God is a universal component. 

Ever the romantic, I can't discount the finding-new-love factor. Love does not conquer all but it certainly makes life worth living and sacrifices worth it. Sharing the burdens of life and the whole being greater than the sum of its part and all that mushy, good stuff about love. Uplifting, realistically presented. Great read.

The Wounded Heart Blog Tour Schedule

September 26

September 27

September 28

Monday, September 26, 2011

You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown


Today is the day the exuberant Lucy is going to make a new friend! But she finds it's harder than she had thought—she accidentally ruins the giraffe's breakfast and is much too big for the frogs' pond. Just when she's about to give up, an unexpected friend finds her, and loves her just the way she is.

This heartwarming story offers a unique and humor-filled spin on the all-important themes of persistence and friendship.

YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND is a heartwarming tale about friendship, and is a companion to last year's Children Make Terrible Pets, also a New York Times bestseller and E.B. White Read Aloud winner!

Watch a darling video right here!

Speaking of winners, want to be one? Fill out the form below for your chance to win a copy of your very own. 5 copies available.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and BoneDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? 

My take: There are angels and demons and a plethora of books about them. This is not one of them. This is about angels and chimera. Not Beefalo (mix between cow and buffalo) but more similar to the creatures atop Notre Dame with the gargoyles only with more imagination.

There are angels whose origin is different according to the source, the Chimaera who are in the same world as the angels and then the humans who live in Prague. That's where the story begins, anyway. This is an interesting choice as Prague was directly impacted by both World War I and World War II. In fact, there are references to both wars within the story. There are also similarities to the human wars and the angel vs. chimera war which has been going on for eons. Although the creatures in question come from a vivid imagination, the concept is universal; war sprouts from fear.

In this case, the war is between the chimaera and angels. The angels were the dominant race see themselves as saviors to the lesser race. The chimaera see themselves as enslaved and beaten down. Tired of being the underdog, they united and rose up to fight while the angels were unaware of their intelligence and unity.

But again, the story starts in Prague with Karou who is a... ? That is the question. She was raised by a kindly and grumpy chimaera who carries the world on his shoulders and keeps his secrets close to his chest. There are three other chimaera in the shop that Karou loves like family. Meanwhile, Karou is attending an art school in Prague. She has experienced a unique childhood and possesses the gift of tongues. She collects languages and uses them to fit into whatever country or culture she is currently inhabiting.

The imagination of the author is astounding. In order to visit her "family," Karou must knock on the portal door and wait for it to be opened from the inside. If she opens the door, she is greeted by a human inhabitant of the building. If it is opened from the inside, it is Issa, a beautiful Chimaera that ushers her into an airtight foyer. The door behind her closes and then the second door opens and she enters Elsewhere which is not of the human realm.

I can't begin to explain the imaginative and literary liberties without spoiling the story. All I can say is that the book is original, the story executed in perfect increments, description swallows up the reader into the world of Elsewhere, and of course, star-crossed-lovers.

I would rate the book as PG:
Sex is implied but not graphic in any way.
Language is mild.
Swearing is non-existent.
Violence is part of the story. It's war.

Want it? Fill out the form below and dance the Hokey Pokey. Really. It will make you feel happy inside.

Or kind of stupid. Whatever.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

IMM (9/25/11)

Thanks to The Story Siren, I will share my stash - at least the information -

Begin tirade:
and a HUGE SHOUT to AMAZON ASSOCIATES for being pigheaded about a tax issue with California which, I'm sure, really IS a big deal BUT, would it kill you resolve this issue enough to hire a computer programmer to fix the stinkin' button so I don't have to download EVERY. SINGLE. IMAGE. and then try to format?!
End tirade.

Books I have been sent to review, publicize, stolen or borrowed:
The Christmas Wedding

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo FREEBIE

Cover Image

Product Description: The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby's four children have drifted apart, each consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven't celebrated Christmas together since their father's death, but when Gaby announces that she's getting married—and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day—she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays.

But the wedding isn't Gaby's only surprise—she has one more gift for her children, and it could change all their lives forever. With deeply affecting characters and the emotional twists of a James Patterson thriller, The Christmas Wedding is a fresh look at family and the magic of the season.

Coming October 17, 2011

If you are still reading this, here's your prize - The first 24 chapters are available online, right now for FREE! It doesn't require you to give any information about yourself. You don't have to promise your first born child. Just click and read.


Review coming...

The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent Review and Giveaway

o   Prizes: 3 copies of THE TRAITOR'S WIFE, one copy of which will be paired with THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER.

This novel was originally published under the title The Wolves of Andover.
In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and his mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of the role he played in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves-in many forms-who hunt for blood. At once a love story and a tale of courage, The Traitor's Wife confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories from the dramatic background of America's earliest days.

About Kathleen Kent and her obsession with Salem Witch Trials

I grew up hearing the stories of Martha Carrier, my grandmother 9 generations back, from my mother and grandmother who was one of the 19 men and women hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692. After five years of research, I wove these family stories, along with historical facts of the witch trials, into my first novel, "The Heretic's Daughter." This book is a love story to my family as well as a tribute to the accused witches who chose death above embracing the lie that they were accomplices to the Devil.
Kent is also the author of The Heretic's Daughter, another look at the Salem witch trials:

Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in SalemMassachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. 

Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.

Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

And for the GIVEAWAY -
Fill out the form below.
Tell me something wonderful in the comment section.
Be happy! You're not being charged as a witch!