Adult Book Reviews

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Amulets Legacy: A Maggie McGill Mystery (Maggie McGill Mysteries #9) by Sharon Burch Toner

Danger pursues Maggie & Allie as they escort Syrian refugees.

Book Details: 

The Amulets Legacy: A Maggie McGill Mystery (Maggie McGill Mysteries Volume 9)
by Sharon Burch Toner
ISBN: 9781542856911
Published: February 22, 2017
Published by: CreateSpace
Trade paperback, 294 pages
Content rating: G

Book Description:

The Amulets Legacy by award-winning author, Sharon Burch Toner, begins with a young orphaned Bedouin girl in the nineteenth century. It moves to the present day Middle East where mother and daughter, Maggie and Allie McGill, dare everything to rescue a pair Syrian refugees who are pursued first by members of Isis and then by the Turkish police. Fleeing from these two dangers, they make their way across Turkey to a Greek island. But the danger continues to chase them, even to the British Isles.

My Review:
Reviewed by Sandra Olshaski

I feel honoured to have read and reviewed all of the Maggie McGill mysteries. And this latest novel is no exception. Once again, the author has succeeded in writing a story that is both exciting and relevant to the world in which we live. The plight of the Syrian refugees is compassionately told.

The prologue begins in the ancient mists of time that is the 5th century BC, continuing to 2017. The story revolves around two lapis and gold horse-head pendants (amulets) and is told in two parts. The first, covering the years 1818 in the Middle East to 1852 England, is interesting if somewhat slow moving. The second part, involving the present day is immediately suspenseful, fast-paced, reflecting current events in Syria. The author has creatively threaded the story of the amulets from the past to the refugee crisis of the present, to the wanton destruction of invaluable museum artifacts. Bravo!

The descriptions of the desert as well as the English countryside are captivating. The author has an elegance of style in her writing that I enjoy. "Each of us is a play unto himself with a long cast of characters buried inside."

The author lovingly maintains the personalities of both Maggie and her beloved daughter, Allie that we have come to know and love in the past 8 stories. Ever-resourceful, strong and independent, the two women find themselves in situations that would test the courage of any modern-day sleuth. And they do it in a believable, thoroughly modern fashion.

And, as usual, the author succeeds in telling a wonderful story without resorting to sex, sexual innuendo or expletives of any kind.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Sandra Olshaski's disclaimer: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate this book.

About the Author:

Sharon Burch Toner is the author of the Maggie McGill Mysteries, featuring a mother and daughter sleuth team. Her Irish grandmother gave her a lifelong appreciation for a story well-told. She pursued a career as a psychotherapist for nearly twenty years before she turned to writing as her ideal occupation. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula.

Visit Sharon Burch Toner's Amazon page and her Website to learn more about her books.

Just the Essentials by Adina Grigore (Review)

I like learning about naturopathy and the holistic lifestyle, so when I saw this title I knew I wanted to read it. Just the Essentials is the perfect starter book for those who want to learn more about essential oils.

Book Details:

Title: Just the Essentials: How Essential Oils Can Heal Your Skin, Improve Your Health, and Detox Your Life
Author: Adina Grigore
Publisher: Harper Wave
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 240 pages
Genre: Health, Wellness, Naturopathy Medicine
Published: March 7, 2017
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

The author of Skin Cleanse returns with a comprehensive guide to the ultimate ingredient for living an all-natural, plant-based lifestyle: essential oils.

For millennia, essential oils have played a key role in health and beauty rituals. From references in the Bible (frankincense and myrrh) to Hippocrates (who documented the effects of oils from over 300 plants) to Ancient Egypt (Cleopatra pioneered the use of fragrance), essential oils have been revered throughout human history for their healing powers and their unparalleled scent.

But in modern times, they’ve often been misunderstood, underappreciated, even cast as "dangerous"—and relegated to the dusty shelves of health food stores. That is, until recently. Today they’re back in the spotlight as increasing numbers of consumers are looking for all-natural alternatives to skincare products and opting for fragrance-free detergents and soaps, natural remedies for common ailments, and toxin-free home cleaning solutions.

Enter Adina Grigore, owner and founder of the wildly popular all-natural skincare line SW Basics. A former essential oil skeptic, Grigore learned everything she could about these potent plant-based compounds when she began formulating her products. And what she learned was that essential oils are some of the most powerful, healing, health-promoting compounds found in nature. That, and they smell pretty great too.

In Just the Essentials, Grigore offers a 21st-century guide to these ancient oils, offering a fresh, fun, and authoritative overview of what they are and how they can be easily incorporated into anyone’s life. From plant-based medicine to all-natural skincare to safer and cleaner household products to aromatherapy, this handy and entertaining guide provides detailed advice for a wide array of oils, safety guidelines, and a range of do-it-yourself recipes to get started. Inside you'll discover such fun facts as:
  • Tea tree oil is a powerful antibacterial that is proven to be as effective for treating acne as benzoyl peroxide; it also kills oral bacteria and is a life-saver for tooth infections.
  • Cinnamon oil is a circulation-booster that helps to ease everyday aches and pains as well as headaches (even migraines).
  • Peppermint oil is brimming with antimicrobial properties; peppermint oil can be used for everything from alleviating digestive problems to cleaning your kitchen counters.
With lists of the best oils for beginners; instructions for diffusing and safe handling; and DIY recipes from dish soap to toothpaste to facial masks, Just the Essentials makes it easy and enjoyable to reap the many benefits of these pure plant extracts.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I like learning about naturopathy and the holistic lifestyle, so when I saw this title I knew I wanted to read it. I don't know as much about essential oils as I would like to. I have been reading some articles on it but I wanted to know more. So not only did this book come at the right time but it was also just the kind of book I wanted to read.

Just the Essentials is divided into two parts. Part I: The 101 is a crash course on why essential oils are so great (because of the healing power of plants), how essential oils have been used in history (which I found quite interesting), and the business of essential oils (how the industry is using them) which was even more interesting and eye-opening.

The second part of the book is all about how to benefit from essential oils. It starts with an explanation of the nitty gritty of essential oils or its components, so it's a quick science lesson that helped me understand how the properties in essential oils make them so good for us. For example, which oils are antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory. Then the author explains how you can use essential oils and provides DIY recipes for skincare products, perfume, household cleaners and others.

I learned so much reading this book! The author's tone is friendly (as more and more non-fiction books are today) and she includes safety precautions and what not to do. This book is packed with useful info such as the different types of diffusers and how to choose one for your needs, the beginner's top ten essential oils and easy recipes on how to use them, a section on FAQ and a handy index. I felt the author was very knowledgeable on the topic. She is the founder of S.W Basics, a skincare company that uses natural ingredients that are certified organic, fair trade, or sourced from family farms.

I have used tea tree oil in the past and I also found sweet orange, sunflower and lavender oil in my cabinet, but now am determined to expand my little collection and make use of essential oils. If you have skin sensitivities and cannot use commercial products, this book will give you hope and help you make your own. The recipes are easy. You just need to get the ingredients. I made the Quick Tea Tree Mouthwash in 5 minutes and used it. It's less expensive than the commercial brands and a lot safer and doesn't leave a burning sensation in your mouth like most mouthwash.

 Just the Essentials is the perfect starter book for those who want to learn more about essential oils. It's easy to read and the author's own story about how she started on her journey to explore essential oils is motivating and will be revelatory for many on how you can break free from toxic skincare and other personal products.

To read more reviews, please visit Adina Grigore's page on TLC Book Tours.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Here is a great interview with Adina Grigore as she talks about essential oils:

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

About Adina Grigore

Photo by Liz Andrien
Adina Grigore is the founder and CEO of the all-natural, sustainable skin-care line S.W. Basics, which she started out of her kitchen in 2011. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Adina has worked in the wellness industry since 2007 as a private holistic nutritionist, a personal trainer, and a workshop coordinator teaching people about the DIY nature of wellness. S.W. Basics products are now sold internationally and have been featured in Vogue, O Magazine, W Magazine, the New York Times, InStyle, Real Simple, and Martha Stewart Living, among others.

Follow Adina on Instagram.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Spring Book Festival (March 27 - 29) with Giveaway!

Welcome spring 2017 by attending:
MARCH 27-29

Find your new favorite books and authors. Fiction of every genre, from Children's Literature to Fantasy, Romance to Horror will be represented by a diverse list of Indie authors at discount prices; many are free. You say you like Non-fiction, too? Don't worry, we've got that.

Enter the $150 giveaway in prizes!
Come join us and tell your book-loving friends!

Season of Hope by Sara Jane Jacobs (Book Spotlight and Giveaway!)

Today I'm happy to be kicking off the spotlight tour for Sara Jane Jacobs' debut novel, the first book in The Seasons series. It's clean inspirational romance. You can also enter the giveaway. The author is giving away 5X$10 Amazon gift cards!

Book Details:

Book Title: Season of Hope by Sara Jane Jacobs
​Category: Adult fiction, 186 pages
Genre: Inspirational Romance
Publisher: Clean Reads
Release date: March 28, 2017
Tour dates: March 27 to April 14, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M for physical abuse scene (husband and wife) and three kissing scenes (two of those between husband and wife) The rest of the book aligns with the G rating.

Book Description:

When Amanda Jarvis prays that a special friend will move into the vacant house near her isolated mountain home, she isn't upset when God sends a boy instead of a girl. But Amanda's not the only one receiving unexpected answers to her prayers. After fleeing with his mother from an abusive father, Tyler Armstrong finds much-needed love and acceptance with Amanda’s family over the next ten years.

​As high school graduation nears, Tyler is shocked when one carefree afternoon with Amanda churns up an inner turmoil he would have never imagined; he’s crushing on his best friend. And for the first time in his life he’s hiding a secret from Amanda. Convinced the timing is all wrong, Tyler pushes his feelings aside as he and Amanda prepare for the future. He will soon begin training to pursue his dream of becoming a Navy Seal, while Amanda makes plans to spend the summer in Manhattan with her aunt and then return home to the community college.

​When Amanda’s summer job catapults her into a modeling career, she readily accepts the much-needed distraction. Tyler’s impending deployment is turning her world upside down. Along with the fact that she’s falling for her best friend. And, for the first time in her relationship with Tyler, she’s hiding a secret, too.

​Phoebe Garrison, Amanda’s controlling aunt, is thrilled when she is given the power to act on behalf of her underage niece. Bored with her Fortune 500 advertising agency, becoming Amanda’s manager is just what she's been looking for to rekindle her aspirations. But as Tyler becomes aware of Phoebe’s obsession to push Amanda into supermodel status, tensions rise. As the three of them become entangled in a mass of concealed ambition and desire, each will make decisions that will send ripples of turbulence across their futures.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet the Author:

I began writing as a hobby while raising my two children. In 2015, I dusted off my stories and my dreams to see if I could turn my hobby into a career. My first story, Season of Hope, was inspired by summer vacations which always included a trip to Franklin, North Carolina, to visit family and explore The Smoky Mountains. When I'm not writing, I enjoy spending time with family and most anything that involves being outdoors, especially camping and hiking. I currently live along the Emerald Coast of Florida and never complain about the hot, humid summers, because that's exactly how I like them! ​

Connect with the author: 

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends April 22

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Wolves Return: A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park by Celia Godkin (Review)

We are always amazed at how much we learn from children's non-fiction books. This one is an educational and excellent portrayal of the value of wolves in maintaining a healthy wildlife and ecosystem.

Book Details:

Title: The Wolves Return: A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park by Celia Godkin
ISBN: 9781772780116
Category: Children's Non-Fiction, 32 pages
Published: March 23, 2017
Published by: Pajama Press
For ages 6-9
Content rating: G

Book Description:

In 1995–96 twenty-three grey wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park where, due to over-hunting, there had been no wolves at all for almost seventy years. This reintroduction project was an overwhelming success. Over twenty years later we can still see the changes the grey wolves brought to Yellowstone National Park. Now that the elk graze higher ground, seedlings are growing tall, rivers are getting deeper as beavers return, and a lively pond ecosystem is developing. This true story offers an important lesson about the difference one creature can make in creating a healthy, thriving world.

Buy the Book:

Our Review:

Reviewed by Sandra Olshaski

Who couldn't love this book about the value of wolves? From the pencil crayon and watercolour illustrations to the beautiful text, it's an amazing book for both adults and children. It highlights how very important are all creatures and how one animal alone contributes to a thriving natural world.

This is an educational tool, both for teaching children geography, as Yellowstone National Park is featured, but as well, enabling them to learn the names of birds, animals, fish, and flies, as illustrated on the inside covers, front and back. I learned that the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone has resulted in the elk grazing on higher ground to escape the wolves, which has resulted in tree seedlings in the valley to grow tall, which has allowed the beavers to use the trees to build dams, which has resulted in the establishment of thriving wetlands.

The colourful illustrations will certainly appeal to children, especially those who are already animal lovers. I appreciate the information pages regarding the history of wolves in North America. I can't say enough about this beautiful book that contains such important life lessons. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Laura Fabiani and Son

It's a sad reality that most city children have never seen live wild animals (except perhaps at the zoo) or know much about them. Both my son and I were surprised by how much we enjoyed and learned from reading this book. With clear informative text and beautiful illustrations, the author has succeeded in teaching us that large predators play a vital role in the health of the ecosystems where they live.

Because the European settlers who came to America in the 1800s found it difficult to grow crops and raise livestock in wolf territory, there ensued a wolf hunt that practically obliterated the wolves. This disrupted nature's balance, so in 1995, thirteen wolves that were captured in Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park. And what a difference this has made. This is what this book is about. 

Children who are animal lovers will especially enjoy the depictions of the various animals such as the beavers, elk, birds, hawks, ducks and others, as they experience the healthy changes that the return of the wolves has created. The lesson is that wildlife is to be respected and we need to learn to co-exist with them. My son and I enjoyed this book and we especially liked that on the front and back inside covers are the names and illustrations of all the plants and animals in the book. 

This book should be included in all school libraries and can be used when teaching science and nature in elementary schools. An excellent addition to a home library too.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher for sending us this book for review. We were not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

About the Author:

Celia Godkin’s career has included work in biology, scientific illustration, and teaching adult art classes at both the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto, where achieved the rank of Associate Professor and received two teaching awards. As an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books, she is best known for debut book, Wolf Island, which won the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award. Celia has continued to write and illustrate children’s books with environmental themes including Fire! which was shortlisted for the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non- Fiction. Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World was nominated for the Green Earth Book Award, the Rainforest of Reading Award, and the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. Born in England, Celia lives in Eastern Ontario.

Find out more by visiting the author's website.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Personalized Books for Kids from I SEE ME!

When I was asked to review a personalized book from I SEE ME! I decided to gift it to my two nephews Fabrizio and Stefano. They were thrilled to get a book that featured them in it!

Book Details:

Title: We Go Together Like...
Company: I See Me!
Publisher: Chronicle Books Personalized gifts
Hardcover, 24 pages
Boys and girls ages 0-6
Size: 9" X 9"
Content rating: G

Book Description:

Sisters, brothers, and best friends will cherish this personalized storybook that features them on every spread. Children will delight in the way their twosome is compared to popular word pairs — hello and goodbye, peanut butter and jelly, thunder and lightning, sunshine and rainbows, and more — throughout the text. And in the charming illustrations by Sally Garland, you can customize both children’s appearance by selecting their gender, skin tone, and hair color. Personalize your own special dedication to the dynamic duo, and this storybook is sure to be treasured by both children for years to come.

Our Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani and Family

When I was asked to review a personalized book from I SEE ME! I decided to gift it to my two nephews Fabrizio and Stefano. I was asked to send in a photo of both of them and some details, such as their names, skin tone, hair color and gender. A week later the book was delivered by courier to my doorstep.

My 13 year-old son was the first to open the package and he was both surprised and elated to see it. He thought it was cool and he couldn't wait for us to give it to his cousins. When we presented the book to my nephews, they were thrilled that it featured them in it! The older one who is now able to read, was surprised and delighted to see himself and his brother and their names in the book. The look on his face was priceless. 

The book opens to a first page that includes my nephews' photos with the statement that this book was made especially for them. It also includes my dedication to them and the year, which I thought was smart.

Every page thereafter shows the two brothers together comparing them to popular duos like peanut butter and jelly, hello and goodbye, and happy and sad. Also, I noticed that every page shows their names. The illustrations are colorful, filling every page spread with activities that children do, such as going on a picnic, drawing, playing, and even fighting, making this a book young children can relate to.

In our family, books are a daily part of our lives and I used to read to my kids every night when they were younger. Gifting a book with your kids in it, whether it's sibling, cousins or best friends, is a unique and refreshing idea, seeing that we live in such a technologically-drenched world. It's a lasting way to boost children's self confidence and to make them feel how much they are loved. Such a book becomes a special keepsake that creates memorable moments in a child's life. What a wonderful gift idea!

To find out more about personalized books, visit I See Me! To learn more about this book, visit the page for We Go Together Like...

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and Pitch Public Relations for sending us this book for review. We were not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Monday, March 20, 2017

One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane (Review)

Reading this cookbook made me realize that slowly I have become part of the plant-based movement. If you are looking to make some dietary changes for better health, then I strongly recommend cookbooks like this one.

Book Details:

Title: One Part Plant: A Simple Guide to Eating Real, One Meal at a Time by Jessica Murnane
Publisher: Harper Wave
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 256 pages
Genre: Cookbook, Health, Wellness
Published: February 21, 2017
Content Rating: PG (for some language)

Book Description:

Wellness advocate and podcaster Jessica Murnane is the friend you never knew you had. And she’s here with a cookbook to help you make a change you never thought was possible.

In One Part Plant, Jessica has a friendly request: that you eat just one meal plant-based meal each day. There’s no crazy diet plan with an anxiety-inducing list of forbidden foods. Or pages filled with unattainable goals based on an eating philosophy that leaves you feeling hungry and deprived. Instead, Jessica offers you the tools to easily and deliciously make plants the star of your plate–no matter how much junk food occupies it now.

Jessica knows what it’s like to have less than healthy eating habits. Just a few short years ago, her diet consisted of three major food groups: Sour Patch Kids, Diet Coke, and whatever Lean Cuisine had the most cheese. But when her endometriosis — a chronic and painful condition — left her depressed and desperate for help, she took the advice of a friend and radically overhauled her diet. Within months, her life dramatically changed — her pain started to fade and she felt like herself again.

With a unique style and playful tone, Jessica shares what she’s learned on her way to healing her body through food. She keeps it simple and, most importantly, delicious — with 100 allergy-friendly recipes like Creamy Mushroom Lasagna, Easy Vegetable Curry Bowls, Triple Berry Skillet Cobbler, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

Featuring her top ten pantry basics, practical advice, and colorful and bold photography, One Part Plant is an inspiring and educational guide to eating real and feeling your best.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I was introduced to plant-based eating by my parents. Growing up, we ate the produce from our large vegetable garden. But I first came across the idea of plant-based foods in a cookbook six years ago when I read Whole Foods to Thrive: Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health by Brendan Brazier. So of course, I was instantly taken in by One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane. First off, it's got a great cover. That tote straw basket filled with carrots and asparagus (my favorite veggies) and flowers being held by someone wearing a gorgeous bead-embroidered black and gold just appealed to me on so many levels.

Jessica Murnane begins by explaining her journey to health and wellness when she made changes to her diet and discovered it was healing her from endometriosis. I had the same experience when I changed my diet to heal from fibromyalgia. Her tone is friendly and she is non-judgemental and encouraging. Her advice is to start with one plant-based meal at a time. I'm beyond that, but I still appreciated this cookbook because her recipes are easy and inspiring. And she reminds me of There is a section where she is open about adjusting to the dietary changes that have helped her become pain-free and full of energy and how she is still adjusting. That's exactly how I feel.

The cookbook includes pantry essentials such as gluten-free grains, beans and lentils, coconut, nuts and seeds and something I've not heard of: nutritional yeast. This is a vegetarian cookbook, so no dairy or meat. It also includes a section of resources and a handy index at the back of the book. I loved the gorgeous photographs of the recipes and they inspired me to keep experimenting. I'm good at getting ideas from recipes or adapting them if I don't have the exact ingredients, like using walnuts instead of pecans. My only complaint is that the cookbook was not created to stay opened while following a recipe. I think this is a feature publishers of cookbooks should consider. I had the same issue with another cookbook published by Harper Wave.

I'm used to making an avocado/spinach/mango and nut butter smoothie in the mornings, so when I saw the recipe for the Orange Basil Shot I knew I had to try it. And wow, that drink gave me a kick! It's made with orange, raw honey, basil leaves, fresh ginger and cayenne pepper. My kind of drink. From now on I'm going to make it especially when I feel a cold coming on or just when I feel lethargic and need a pick-me-up.

Reading this cookbook made me realize that slowly I have become part of the plant-based movement without knowing it. If you are looking to make some dietary changes for better health, then I strongly recommend cookbooks like this one, where the author eases you into the changes and encourages you because she was once in your place and didn't even know how to cook. If she could do it, so can you.

To read more reviews, please visit Jessica Murnane's page on TLC Book Tours.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

I found this video of the author speaking about her new book. Worth watching if you're interested in learning more about plant-based cooking.

About Jessica Murnane

Jessica Murnane is a wellness advocate, podcast host, and creator of the One Part Plant movement. She has a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and works to raise awareness for endometriosis and women’s health issues. Jessica has contributed to and appeared in countless magazines and websites, including Mind Body Green, The Coveteur, Food 52, PopSugar, and Chalkboard Magazine and has spoken at Apple and Taste Talks. She interviews some of the biggest names in food, lifestyle, and design on the popular One Part Podcast. Through her website (, classes, and restaurant partnerships, she’s working to get everyone on this planet to start eating one plant-based meal each day. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, son, and lots of palm trees.

Connect with Jessica on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Post, Mailbox Monday and It's Monday What Are You Reading? March 20 Edition

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

Well now that the big storm is past, I'm enjoying the sun and longer days. I've got Spring fever and started cleaning and decluttering. I'm planning on doing this thoroughly for every room in my house. It will be awhile before I get it all done. Feels good.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Mailbox Monday now has a permanent home on its blog. Link up to share your MM.

One review book in my mailbox this week:


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organise yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

What I read and/or featured last week:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Nigel Tetley's Two Fat Cows and When Bees Flew in for Breakfast (Reviews)

Today I'm highlighting two books from UK author Nigel Tetley whose writing is imaginative, diverse and humourous. The first one is a children's book and the second a poetry book for teens.

Book Details:

Title: Two Fat Cows by Nigel Tetley
Illustrator: Simon Goodway
Publisher: The Choir Press
Category: Children's Fiction, 20 pages
Genre: Humor
Published: Nov 1, 2016
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Meet two very greedy cows, Marigold and Petal, and follow them in their madcap plan to eat every blade of grass they can get their hooves on. A new laugh-out-loud rhyming story for young readers.

Buy the Book: Amazon UK ~ Amazon  ~  Add to Goodreads

Our Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani and Son

The first thing that struck me about this book was the cover. The cow on the right has that look on her face. Mischievous and secretive, while the other looks deceivingly innocent. That in itself told me this book would be funny.

Told in rhyme, this is the story of two fat cows stuck in their pen where there is no more grass. They long to get out to eat the long green grass on the other side of the pen but can't get past the gate. So they look for a way to get out. How they finally get out is funny and silly. 

My son was curious at to what the moral of the story was and after reading it several times we came to the conclusion that it's a cute way to use a funny situation to learn new words and build a vocabulary. Overall, this is a fun story to read out loud to young children who will be entertained at the antics of these two fat cows.

Book Details:

Title: When Bees Flew in for Breakfast: Forty Original Poems for Teenage Readers
Author: Nigel Tetley
Publisher: The Choir Press
Category: YA Fiction,  pages
Genre: Poetry
Published: June 10, 2016
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

When Bees Flew in for Breakfast is a collection of forty original poems written specifically for the 11-16 age group. The poems cover a wide range of themes, from nonsense humour to Gothic horror to logical puzzles to the Natural World. The poems are playful, surprising, thought-provoking and intriguing. This is a book that young people will want to read.

Our Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I used to love poetry when I was a teen, so knowing this poetry book was written especially for teens intrigued me. To begin with, I love the title. It's a phrase that can conjure up different emotions: fear at having bees fly in during one's breakfast; comfort that bees provide honey which has been a staple for breakfast for many years; and humor when picturing bees eating their version of breakfast. I think you get what I mean. Like poetry, the title can be viewed or interpreted in different ways.

This book is filled with a varied selection of poetry, from simple (A Year and a Day) to more complex (Trewyn Subtropical Gardens, St. Ives Cornwall), from short (Summer Moment) to long (The Mystery of Inglebrough Mill), from fun (Colour Contest) to sad (On the Death of a Friend) to reflective (The Wind). I truly enjoyed reading these poems, with their vivid imagery, diversity and myriad of topics. Each poem had a different feel to it. Here is a stanza from the poem The Wind, one of my favorites from this book:

The wind rushes onward from nowhere,
To an end-point that reaches no rest
As it swells like the turbulent ocean,
But its waves have no trough and no crest.

I have two teen kids and neither said they would read this book, primarily because they are both reluctant readers and poetry is not their thing. Having said that, I think that teen kids who love to write poetry or songs will appreciate this book. Furthermore, teachers can use this book in the classroom for reading assignments or poetry discussion. I think the poems are diverse enough that they can interest kids with varied reading tastes. And I think it a great way to build appreciation for poetry. This is a unique poetry book that can be inspiring for young minds attracted to words, songwriting and poetry.

Buy the Book:  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon  ~  Add to Goodreads

About the Author:

Since qualifying as a Religious Studies teacher in 1989, Nigel Tetley has worked in a variety of schools, spanning middle and secondary age groups in both the State and independent sectors. At the beginning of his teaching career, he also spent a year in Greece teaching English as a second language. In 2001, he started writing children's poetry at the suggestion of a colleague. Since then he has also written the texts for three carols: 'Alchemy,' 'Snow,' and 'The Way of Paradox.' (Encore Publications, 2006.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (Review)

This novel is the fictionalized life story of Christina Olson, the woman depicted in the famous painting Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth.

Book Details:

Title: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: William Morrow
Category: Adult Fiction, 320 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction / Historical
Published: February 21, 2017
Content Rating: G
Book Description:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

"Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden."

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

This edition includes a four-color reproduction of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World.

Purchase Links

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This novel is the fictionalized life story of Christina Olson, the woman depicted in the famous painting Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth. I love books that educate me, teach me about art and immerse me into a world wholly different than mine. The author certainly succeeded in doing this. I'm unaware of how much of what is true about Christina is explored in the novel but it's easy to see that the author must have well-researched the real people she writes about, in particular the artist Andrew Wyeth and his muse Christina Olson.

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth, 1948

The author uses a dual timeline starting from when Christina, aged forty-six, first meets Wyeth in 1939 when he was twenty-two, and then going back to 1896 to Christina's childhood. The story moves back and forth until we get to the point when he paints the above painting in 1948. Although we get to see the warm relationship that Wyeth shared with Christina as he pretty much used her house as his painting studio, most of the story is about Christina herself, told in the first person. It almost feels like I was reading her memoir.

What is striking about this novel is that the author truly grasps and brings alive the rural farm life Christina led in Cushing, Maine. And she creates a portrait of Christina as a strong-willed self-sacrificing woman who suffered a debilitating illness. Christina was stubborn enough never to use a wheelchair even if that meant she had to crawl and drag herself both indoors and outdoors to move around. By using the first person POV, we truly become immersed in Christina's world and how she saw her own life. We get to see her struggles with her illness, her duty to family and her heartbreak with her first love. Rural farm life, especially harsh in the winter, is already isolating enough but Christina lived with the added difficulty of no electricity or running water.

I was in awe of this woman who was content with this life even as she stubbornly refused to better her life and had to deal with its hardships. Several times I found myself doing research on the Internet to learn more about Christina, the painting and Andrew Wyeth. This is very much a character-driven novel and at times the mundane aspects of her simple life were depressing. Overall, this is a beautifully written novel that honors the life of the mysterious woman that seems to haunt one of America's famous twentieth century paintings.

Andrew Wyeth with Christina Olson, photo taken by Richard Meryman, author of
Andrew Wyeth: A Spoken Self- Portrait

To read more reviews, visit Christina Baker Kline's page on TLC Book Tours.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

About the Author:

Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives outside of New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to Find Your Dream Dog by Dixie Tenny (Review and Giveaway!)

Today both Sandra and I are posting our reviews of How to Find Your Dream Dog. Although there are many books out there about how to train and take care of your dog, this one is all about the preliminary stage and how to find the right dog for you. If you are thinking of getting a dog, you should read this book. Be sure to enter to win one of 5 Dream Dog prize packages!

Book Details:

Book Title: How to FInd Your Dream Dog by Dixie Tenny
Category: Adult Non Fiction, 139 pages
Genre: Pets & Animal Care
Publisher: Authors Unite
Release date: October 2016
Tour dates: Feb 27 to March 31, 2017
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Bringing a new dog into the household should be one of life’s happiest events. The process always starts with excitement and high expectations. Too often, though, it ends in disappointment. The new puppy wakes everyone three times a night, gnaws on furniture, piddles everywhere, knocks the children down. The new adolescent dog is too wild. The new adult dog growls at your neighbors. And where did all this dog hair come from?

Most people spend hours researching a new mattress, days researching a new car, and weeks researching a new home or job. Yet for a new dog, a companion for the next 10-15 years, the most they do is visit the nearest shelter or pet shop and buy whatever looks cute and appealing. It’s no wonder they end up disappointed.

Whether you are looking for a purebred puppy or a charming mixed-breed, the type of dog you bring into your home matters. A quiet owner will struggle to keep up with a high-energy labrador mix, for instance, while an active outdoor family will be impatient with a snoozy bulldog. And finding the right kind of dog means becoming the right kind of owner—a task that takes some forethought and planning.

How To Find Your Dream Dog is here to fix the disconnect of dog ownership. It walks you step-by-step through the process of choosing the right type of dog for you—not only exploring the canine qualities that can determine your perfect puppy, adolescent, or adult dog, but also assessing your lifestyle to make sure you’re a good match for the dog, too. The book also looks at good (and bad) sources for finding healthy and sound pet dogs, gives guidelines for evaluating individual puppies, and warns of some red flags to watch out for during your dog search. With this guidebook in hand, you can be confident that the next puppy or dog you bring home will be the right companion and friend for you for the rest of its days.

​Dixie Tenny is a Certified Training Partner with the Karen Pryor Academy of Animal Training and Behavior. During her 30+ years spent working with people and their pets, she has seen again and again how mismatches between dog and owner can create “behavior problems” that never would have happened if the right dog had been matched to the right owner in the first place. She wrote this book to help puppy buyers and dog adopters start out on the best possible foot with their new pet dogs, and stay on that path for years to come.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Add on Goodreads

My Review:
Reviewed by Sandra Olshaski

I thoroughly enjoyed this short-chaptered book that is full of highly practical tips on how to choose the right dog for you. Happy owner – contented dog; unhappy owner – frustrated dog. It is as a much about how dogs will prosper as it is about how owners will fare. In the words of the author "your dream dog is the one who is right for you, who will enhance your life and make you wonder how you ever lived without him or her."

The author, with 30 plus years of experience with dogs and owners sets out in a clear, understandable way how to proceed in finding the perfect dog. Step 1 is self-examination. Find out why that cute puppy might not be right for you. See how to avoid creating a dangerous dog. Do you want an "aloof" or a "Velcro" dog?

The author has included dog FAQs and Resource pages as well as a companion website that should be checked out if you are on the search for your dream dog.

This is an excellent guide for those who want to successfully bring a canine into their life.

Sandra Olshaski's disclaimer: I received this book from the author. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate this product.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

How to Find Your Dream Dog by Dixie Tenny is an excellent guide book for anyone contemplating getting a dog. It is easy and quick to read (no sludging through excessive info) but packed with all the right questions and issues one must seriously consider when looking to find the right dog.

The book is divided into 4 parts. The first part helps a person or family prepare for a dog by stating exactly what it means to own a pet dog: the time, energy, patience and attention needed to properly care for a dog. The author even included a chapter that goes through a day in the life of puppy. I thought that was smart and a good way to help new owners understand normal puppy behaviour and not be shocked by how little sleep they (the owners) will get through this training period.

The second part helps the reader understand the different types of dogs in terms of energy level, attachment, protection, sociability and grooming needs. The third part is all about where to find a pet dog (definitely not at a pet store!) and the author goes into detail about how to recognize if that breeder website belongs to a legitimate hobby breeder or a disguised puppy mill.

Finally, the last section is all about getting an adult dog versus a puppy. There is also a FAQ section and resources at the back of the book. The only information I thought should have been included is how to choose a dog if you already have another pet, such as a cat. This was our case last year when we adopted a dog and brought him home much to the chagrin of our senior cat. We had searched for over a year for a dog and our cat did not like him one bit. A dog trainer warned us to be careful she did not scratch his eyes.

After two months of our cat hissing and swiping at our dog, hiding in closed rooms and being just plain miserable that a new large pet had taken over her territory, we knew we had to give the dog back. It was one of the hardest decisions we had to do and wished we had known more about this aspect of choosing a dog.

Although there are many books out there about how to train and take care of your dog, this one is all about the preliminary stage, how to find the right dog for you, which most future dog owners ignore or don’t think about. If you are thinking of getting a dog, you should read this book. It will make you understand that there is a big responsibility that comes with pet ownership and that if you choose right, it will make a big difference in your lifelong relationship with your new friend.

Disclosure: I received this book from the author. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate this product.

To read more reviews, please visit Dixie Tenny's page on iRead Book Tours.

About the Author:

Dixie Tenny has been helping people and their dogs find each other and form successful partnerships since the early 1980s. She founded two rescue organizations: Purebred Dog Rescue of Saint Louis in 1984, and Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, Inc. in 1987. Dixie was the Director of Training for the Greater St. Louis Training Club, Inc., for five years, creating classes and overseeing the work of 40 head and assistant trainers. In 2003 she and another experienced trainer created Dogs Unleashed, LLC. They traveled to clients’ homes and worked with behavior and training issues.

Dixie’s professional credentials include trainer certifications from the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior, and the Association for Pet Dog Trainers. Dixie formed her own business, Human-Animal Learning Opportunities, LLC (HALO) in 2013. HALO hosts continuing education seminars for dog trainers.

Dixie has lived with a wide range of dogs over the years including mixed breeds, Australian Shepherds, Welsh and Cairn terriers, and more. While in Seattle, Dixie raised a Labrador puppy for Canine Companions for Independence, Inc. (CCI). Currently Dixie lives with a Beauceron and an elderly Papillon, as well as four cats. When not doing things related to animals, she reads widely, enjoys the company of her three grown children, follows baseball and English Premier League football, and travels the world.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!

Win one of 5 Dream Dog prize packages! Each package includes a copy of How to Find Your Dream Dog, a $15 Amazon Gift Card and Outward Hound Slow Feeder Dog Bowl) Open to USA & Canada

Ends April 8

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