Saturday, December 19, 2009
Can't Stand the Heat is A Recipe For Love novel by Louisa Edwards, and her debut novel. In this steamy romance, Miranda Wake, a stubborn food critic who never has anything nice to say about any place she reviews, meets her match in restaurant owner Adam Temple. When the two of them meet at a special opening celebration for his new Manhattan restaurant, Market, things become sizzling hot both in the kitchen and out of it.
Adam challenges Miranda to come spend a day in his kitchen to see how tough it actually is. Next thing they both know, Miranda is spending a month in his kitchen, to work on a series about a critic in the kitchen. Ideas quickly come together for a book, but what exactly this tell-all confessional will contain keeps changing as relationships between characters keep evolving.
Adding to the plot are secrets about other workers at The Market, including a big one being hidden by Miranda's younger brother Jess. Miranda has been caring for him since their parents died when he was young. These secrets help add to the plot's twist and turns, test relationships, and keep the pages moving.
The strong attraction between Miranda and Adam is apparent from the very beginning, and let's face it - it wouldn't be a romance novel without a somewhat predictable relationship between the two main characters. Yet, reading of their exploits provides plenty of entertainment over a period of a few hours. Also enjoyable are the recipes and cooking tips that are included throughout the text. At the end are detailed recipes for a few of the highlights, including rose-infused vodka.
Intimate scenes between the two are quite detailed, and the associated language suddenly becomes vulgar. The language used to describe their encounters almost feels out of place with that of the rest of the story. Some people who would have otherwise greatly enjoyed this story are going to be turned off by these scenes.
Fortunately, I was able to get through those scenes and liked the book a lot. At the end is a preview chapter of the next book, On the Steamy Side, which I look forward to reading some day, as well!
Purchase Can't Stand The Heat (A Recipe for Love)
I received a review copy of this book through my association with BookPleasures.com.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
For those who have ever been curious about that paranormal phenomenon known as the poltergeist, then this book by Colin Wilson is for you. Poltergeist: A Classic Study in Destructive Haunting goes beyond simply telling a scary ghost story. It delves into centuries of stories and case studies, dating as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Romans and has some research to back it up. It answers many questions, and leaves others unanswered.
The stories he shares range from the typical ghost story of objects flying through the air, to some of the most truly bizarre, such as the girl who could see through her ear, or the talking mongoose. Some of them are famous, such as the story of the Bell witch, and the bizarre case of Uri Geller and his ability to make random objects move and appear. Other stories are lesser known.
What they tend to have in common is some sort of force that propels the movement of the objects, usually centering around a teenager, almost always a female. When she leaves a place that appears to be inhabited by a poltergeist, the events usually stop. Most poltergeists do not speak, but on occasion, they attempt to mimic speech. Most can be eventually driven away. All of them are creepy.
It's a book that is going to appeal to the more intellectual crowd, as the stories are written as case studies. Wilson attempts to use strong evidence for answering questions, such as the creation and impetus of poltergeist forces, and what tactics they seem to use for survival. It is well-researched, with documentation spanning the centuries, as well as scholarly studies and reports by other professionals in the field. Those stories that seem unlikely are exposed and challenged. Wilson has been chasing ghosts for years, and knows what he is talking about.
While the book doesn't read like a novel, it is still an entertaining look into a history that is shared by cultures all over the world. It's the kind of history that you are not going to get in a traditional classroom setting. And it's scary enough to give you chills when you read it before bed or to question those little bumps you hear in the night.
Purchase Poltergeist: A Classic Study in Destructive Hauntings
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via my association with BookPleasures.com.
One of the most important things that parents can do for their children is to establish a love for reading from the very beginning. Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read by Diane W. Frankenstein is a great foundational point for this.
In the introduction to this book, Diane outlines ways for parents to help their children find appropriate books to read, to turn them on to reading. Many times, the child's lack of desire to read simply stems from an inability to find anything that really turns them on and encourages them to keep on reading. She encourages rereading stories, focusing on the plotlines instead of only vocabulary, and performing conversational reading.
Conversational reading is the art of reading a book together and talking about it. Start by asking concrete questions about what happened within the story. Then, find ways to apply the book to the child's personal circumstances, so that he can really put himself into it. Encourage the child to think about other perspectives of the story. The possibilities are endless!
The first part of the book consists of 101 different books that parents and teachers can share with children. Within this part are three different sections. One is for picture books, one for grades 2-5, and those for grades 4-6+. Each book has a short story synopsis, key words, and sample questions that can be used to elicit conversation with the child. Then, there are recommended follow-up titles, if this one was of particular interest to the child.
Part two gets into subject questions, which are even more ways adults can deepen the conversation with the child. Instead of focusing on a particular book, these parts focus on general topics, such as popularity, bullies, manners, choices, and challenges.
Finally, Diane provides even more recommendations for books. Trying to choose only 101 when there are so many good books out there is a daunting task, indeed!
Purchase Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read
I received a copy of this book from the author for the purposes of reviewing it.
Soccer's Story & A Futbol Fable by Gil Sperry is a two-fold story. In the beginning of the book, Gil details the history of this beloved sport, including some fascinating facts. For example, the game has existed in one form or another for over 2500 years!
The second part of the book is dedicated to the story of a losing team of mostly Mexican kids and their unlikely gringo coach. Gil Sperry wasn't looking to coach the young soccer team. He had only agreed to do so if the school couldn't find anyone else to do it. As fate would have it, no one else claimed the job, so it became his.
He was faced with multiple challenges. At the young age of the participants, 4th, 5th and 6th graders, not all had previous experiences playing competitive sports, let alone soccer. Also, regulations for elementary school play had a range of size regulations for fields and goals, but there was no consistency amongst the schools. Other schools simply had dangerous fields. In the beginning, the principal of the school had less support for the team. Infractions of school rules cost the team players during certain games.
Nevertheless, he worked toward teaching the children not only the techniques involved in the sport, but also a new mental attitude toward playing.
The team had its share of ups and downs throughout the season, but with the guidance and persistence of their coach, they manage to come back from behind to secure a second place trophy at the end of the season.
The intensity of the games and practices described in this book seems more appropriate for older children, and you often forget that you are reading about children ages 9-11. Some are going to question Gil's techniques.
Coaches can probably learn from the techniques used in coaching the children, as well as commiserate with the roller coaster ride. Some kids may wish to read the book for inspiration.
Stay tuned for the movie version and for an interview with Gil Sperry.
Purchase Soccer's Story & A Futbol Fable. The Beautiful Game. A Beautiful Season
I requested and received a copy of this book from Gil Sperry for the purpose of reviewing it here on my blog.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Annie Wilder's Spirits Out of Time: True Family Ghost Stories and Weird Paranormal Experiences takes us through her family's history of paranormal experiences, which almost seem to be genetic for them. She outlines her family tree, in hopes of helping the reader keep track of all of the "characters" contained within her book. (And it is somewhat helpful.) The end also includes an appendix with pictures of these people, to which she refers throughout the book.
Each chapter focuses on a different location that is significant to the Wilder family. She talks about yellow eyes that followed her around in childhood and the death knock that her Irish family heard before someone passed away. Some family members had astral experiences, which are basically out-of-body experiences. Others were haunted by childish ghosts, who in reality were shadows of their former selves. There are the highly sensitive young ones and the cats, who always seem to see things that humans can't.
Particularly touching is a chapter dedicated to the spirit of her friend Dylan. After passing away, he reappeared to her as a white deer. He also appeared to her in dreams, when she needed him most. There is some comfort in believing in the possibility that our loved ones are still here even after they are gone.
Wilder also often refers to her previous work, a book called House of Spirits and Whispers, which is a true story of living in her haunted house.
If you're looking for a truly terrifying tale, this book isn't going to scare you as much as others might, though it helps to read it late at night. It reads more like a family history then a scary book. Nevertheless, it is interesting to hear how one family has shared in supernatural experiences throughout time. And it kind of makes you want to call up your relatives to find out their stories, as well.
Purchase Spirits Out of Time: True Family Ghost Stories and Weird Paranormal Experiences
I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher, Llewellyn Worldwide, as a part of my association with BookPleasures.com.
Nature has long been known to have a calming effect on the human psyche. But in this day and age of technology and constant movement, we have forgotten what it is like to go outside and relax. Joe H. Slate, Ph.D. aims to help us reconnect with ourselves by Connecting to the Power of Nature.
Throughout his book, he shares anecdotes about the power of various aspects of nature, such as stars, trees, stones, and more. Many of the experiences are his own, but he also shares those of people he has met throughout his life and work. He then outlines a plan of action to connect to the power of each natural object. These plans tend to consist of six steps, including choosing the item, stating your goal, connecting with the object, affirming your goal, and concluding the exercise to cement it into being.
This may sound like a bunch of New Age hocus-pocus to some people. And in some ways, I can agree with that. But, haven't you ever sat outside on a clear starry night, staring up at the sky, and felt a sense of wonderment and empowerment? Haven't you ever played with sand on the beach, mindlessly letting it fall through your fingers, and feel all of your cares melt away with the dirt? The exercises in this book are essentially the same thing. There are just fancier words and phrases used to explain them all.
No one says that you have to perform all of the exercises within the book, either. Perhaps you have an affinity for trees, but not so much for stones. So, use the tree and leaf exercises. Live close to the beach? Use the sand and water exercises. Meditation and goal setting cannot work if you are not comfortable with your muse of choice.
Also included in the book is a seven day Discovery and Empowerment plan. Each day you connect with a different piece of nature: leaf, cloud, sand, pebble, seed. Then you get in touch with your universal consciousness.
He also includes an appendix with a brief introduction to numerology, to assist you on your journey.
Exercises within this book can be easily adapted for use within families or the workplace, as each group works toward a communal goal of success and peace. Again, pick and choose what works for you within your given situation. And keep an open mind as you reengage with that foreign world known as the Outside.
Purchase Connecting to the Power of Nature
I received a copy of this book from the publishers, Llewellyn Worldwide, via my association with BookPleasures.com.
Torn by Amber Lehman is the story of fourteen year-old Krista McKinley, who has transferred from Catholic school in Ohio to public school in California. Talk about culture shock! But she quickly finds friends in Carrie and Brandon and makes her place in the school society.
Those early teenage years are already confusing enough as it is. But add sexual ambiguity and experimentation to the mix, and welcome to a scary spiral of self-doubt and questioning.
Krista's first bout with confusion comes when she realizes that Brandon is actually gay, even though every girl in school seems to want him. He throws men and boys away as easily as he throws his money around, seeming to not care what damage is created. Yet, she is highly devoted to him.
Then comes an intoxicated experiment with Carrie, that brings their relationship to a new level for them both. How should it really be defined now? What do they really owe each other? What is normal?
Seeking answers is difficult, as her father has long disappeared, her mother is doing missionary work overseas. Her brothers are wrapped up in their own worlds, and would freak out if they knew what she was really doing. And then she is highly attracted to her virginal almost-30 year-old Bible Study leader, who is also the older brother of one of her other friends.
Relationships between the friends become increasingly complex as they struggle to answer these and many other questions about life, love, and lust. Their predicaments, while possibly extreme in the wealthy California setting, can probably found in just about any town in America, though it used to not be at such a young age. These types of games and experiments used to only happen during the freedom of college.
Amber Lehman herself said that though the characters in this book are in high school, it is actually written for the 17 and older crowd. The topics presented within are quite mature and would probably be better for a slightly younger crowd if read with a trusted adult.
Nevertheless, I found it to be a very good read. I had a hard time putting it down once I got started. And I am sure I will read it again some day.
I received a copy of this book for the purposes of reviewing it, from the author, Amber Lehman.
The Christmas Clock is the latest book by bestselling author Kat Martin. It's the story of a young boy named Teddy Winters, who at the age of eight lives with his grandmother, Lottie Sparks. Unbeknownst to him and many others in their small Michigan town, Lottie is suffering from a very rapidly progressing form of Alzheimer's disease. She is seeking to find him a permanent home before she becomes too disabled. At the same time, Teddy is trying to earn money to by his beloved grandmother a mantel clock that reminds her of her childhood.
Teddy goes to work doing odd jobs around the mechanic shop owned by Joe Dixon. Joe has been trying to rebuild his life after doing time for accidentally killing a man in a bar fight many years ago. His rage had been sparked by the love of his life, Sylvia Winters, suddenly taking off, claiming she had never loved him, which he felt in his heart of hearts wasn't true.
Sylvia has recently returned to town, carefully guarding the secret that had caused her to flee all of those years ago. She is also looking to start over, but is finding it difficult, as she keeps running into Joe, and realizes that her feelings haven't changed.
At the same time, Sylvia is becoming close friends with Doris Culver, her landlord. Doris and her husband Floyd have been married forever, but lost the spark years ago. They dance around wanting to revive the relationship, but neither will be the first to admit it or to make the first move.
All of these people are interconnected, and every choice that they make somehow affects all of the others. Though highly predictable, as most romance novels are, each of these choices eventually leads to a Christmas miracle of sorts for everyone involved. A few lessons in life and love can also be gleaned from these pages if you pause for a second to reflect.
It's an extremely easy read, designed to allow you to relax for a couple of hours during this hectic holiday season. It's not written to change the world, but to entertain. Those with families touched by Alzheimer's will feel a sort of kinship with the characters dealing with it, even though Lottie's descent into the depths of dementia feel a little too fast for reality.
Purchase The Christmas Clock
I received a review galley copy of this book via my association with BookPleasures.com.
Just call me...Rita: Book 1984 was one of the first books I ever tried to request via PRWeb. The plot sounded somewhat interesting: transplant from Canada now living in LA, getting sucked into the sex, drugs, and rock & roll life back in the 1980s. The story is told via diary entries, which should allow for some really in-depth views and opinions.
When I received my copy, it kept looking at me, begging to be read. I wanted to devote some good attention to it, so I delayed starting it for a little while. And then, I wish I hadn't.
The book is literally a daily entry, as in 365 days, spanning from January 1, 1984 through December 31st. And while I admit that my life tends to be a lot of the same thing from day to day, so was this. And that did not make for entertaining reading.
Also detracting from a potentially good story is a lot of "ghetto talk" for lack of a better descriptive phrase. I have been known to swear like a sailor, but there is a time and place for everything. I know that it was part of the character, but it was a little much. Though, I did learn some colorful new phrases.
I had a lot of difficulty reading about everyone screwing each other, taking different drugs, and drinking as much as possible. It made my liver and certain orifices hurt just thinking about it all. There just didn't seem to be much of a plot, other than Rita's frustration with her rock star-wannabe hubby and doing anything she could to get back at him, while simultaneously getting tanked up as often as possible and literally screwing anything. (I will never be able to eat Jimmy Dean again.)
For some people, this book is going to be a treat. I think of those who enjoy the trashier side of reality TV, such as Real Housewives and all of those other ones that have catty, bitchy bleached blondes with horrific manicures, making up reasons to scream at and cat fight with each other. It has just never been my style of entertainment, and I couldn't even complete the book. I did sneak peeks at the last few pages, to see if anything changes throughout the story, but really it doesn't. I fear that there will be a follow-up for the year 1985, but I will leave that to the rest of you to read and review.
Purchase "Just call me...Rita" Book 1984
The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit & What I Learned by Stephen Schettini is a well-written memoir that almost seems like a version of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, but overseas, and with a more religious theme.
Schettini's religious road began at a young age, when he was attending a Catholic school. Even then, he was questioning the philosophy of Christianity, and was able to expose some of the hypocrisy contained within, and the problem of rote memorization of doctrine without thinking of how to apply it to daily situations.
When a little older, at the age of 11, he developed a knack for shoplifting various items from stores. At his preparatory school, he was considered to be lazy, untidy, careless, and erratic. Being a teenager of the 60s, he grew his hair long, listened to Bob Dylan and the Beatles, drank a lot, and had deep discussions about what really mattered.
When someone finally gave him a copy of the I Ching for his 21st birthday, the foundation was laid for a life-changing trip to Asia, in search of the lesser known Eastern philosophies, usually ignored by those in the West.
Leaving Gloucester to Dover, then continuing to hitchhike across Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, counting on the I Ching to help him make his decisions. Along the way, he tries different drugs that don't agree with him, meets many people who do, and has amazing black-and-white photographs to document the places. He describes these people and places, so often almost demonized on the recent news, in a vivid fashion that puts you right there with him. The behaviors of the people seem to be on par with other memoirs of the area, such as Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea.
Following an almost fatal illness, Schettini finally makes his way to India and Tibet, and is inducted into the practices of Buddhism. He finds a new peace in his new perspective, and order in his previously cluttered mind and manners. He then spends the majority of the next couple of decades as a leader and instructor, before finally deciding to leave to apply what he has learned elsewhere.
This memoir is well-written and easy to read. It is filled with a great deal of honesty, which is the best way to portray emotion in its purest form. It is inspirational, as the reader cannot help but question her own ideals in comparison to Schettini's. And it's simply a good story.
Purchase The Novice: Why I Became a Buddhist Monk, Why I Quit, and What I Learned
I received this book to review as a part of my association with BookPleasures.com
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Second Chance: The Story of a Father's Faith, a Mother's Strength, and a Child's Will to Live by Kip Moore is a heart-wrenching story of one family's struggle with E.coli illness in their young eighteen-month-old son, named Chance. Mr. Moore has chosen to share their story, in the hopes of promoting awareness of the problem, and to help families in similar situations to keep the faith.
It all started when the Moore family was on vacation, spending a day at Mount Rushmore. After a random TV interview at the historic site, they decide to go to a local restaurant.
Soon after, Kip found himself feeling quite ill, with flu-like symptoms, lack of appetite, and diarrhea that lasted for ten days. His doctors told him he probably had a small case of food poisoning. Chance became ill the same evening, vomiting repeatedly. The next day, he began to have massive amounts of diarrhea, and even started to pass bloody stools.
The first trip to the pediatrician simply gave Chance some fluids to rehydrate him. When symptoms didn't improve the next day, the Moore family was instructed to take him directly to the Children's Hospital. And thus began a month-long roller coaster ride.
Tense moments, close calls, amazing people, and medical miracles fill the following 100+ pages. Even those who do not have their own children cannot help but feel the pain of a family waiting with baited breath to see if their precious baby is going to live or die. Their unwavering faith and devotion to each other, as well as reengaging with a higher power is inspirational.
This is a book that parents should read, especially as problems with E.coli and other forms of contamination are running rampant today. Chance's parents were not educated on the symptoms of E.coli infection and the outcome could have been quite different. The book also teaches parents how to find faith and to believe in miracles, while also fighting for the rights of their children. No one knows a child better than his parents, and parents need to be their child's biggest advocate.
The book also provides up-to-date information about E.coli, with links to the latest research and organizations. Again, the goal of the book is to arm readers with information, in the hopes that other families don't have to go through the same horror story that the Moore family faced back in the summer of 2005.
Andrea Coventry received this book as part of her affiliation with Bookpleasures.com.
Purchase Second Chance