Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peace on Earth




Image courtesy of Rubino Card Co.

Book Review #35: MRS. CLAUS EXPLAINS IT ALL by Elsbeth Claus; illustrated by David Wenzel



by Elsbeth Claus
illustrated by David Wenzel

Pub. Date: November 2008
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Format: Hardcover, 32pp
Sales Rank: 175,583
Lexile: 1010L What’s This?
ISBN-13: 9781402211058
ISBN: 1402211058
 
Description (from the publisher):
Every year millions of letters to Santa reach the North Pole. Many are requests for presents. And many letters have questions about Santa, the elves and workshops, the reindeer, and, of course, the North Pole.

Now Mrs. Claus has her own gift for you - for the first time ever, she's taking a break from her very busy schedule to answer real questions from children of all ages. Join her on a tour of the North Pole and learn some of the best kept secrets of Christmas from the person who knows it all - Mrs. Claus!

* How does Santa get into my house if we don't have a chimney?

* What is Santa's favorite kind of cookie?

* Where do elves come from?

* Can all reindeer fly?

Beautifully illustrated by David Wenzel, bestselling illustrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this picture book reveals the answers to the questions children always ask - and they're all answered by the woman who knows the most: Mrs. Claus!

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars - Fun for the whole family!

My Thoughts:
"The North Pole: the warmest place on ice." That's a quote from the endpapers of Mrs. Claus Explains It All written by (who else?) Elsbeth Claus and illustrated by David Wenzel. It's a great description of this book as well. 

Everyone knows that eventually, the kids are going to ask questions about the mechanics of how all things Santa really work. How does Santa get into my house, keep all the kids straight, get all those packages delivered in just one night. The list is endless, and not everyone knows how to answer all those questions. That's why its a great idea to have a copy of Mrs. Clause Explains It All within easy reach! You could keep the book hidden and sneakily look up the answers as the questions pop up one by one. Or head 'em off at the pass by reading ahead of time and having the answers ready to impress the kids with just how much you know about Mr. Claus.

I suppose if you're so inclined, you could even share the book with a child, thereby letting them view the wonderfully detailed illustrations that include the heretofor unknown and very top secret multi-level underground workrooms and warehouses and miles and miles of greenhouses hiding under all that snow up at that the North Pole. What, you thought Santa made a worldful of toys in some little dinky back room? Yeah, right. And just where do you think all his food comes from? Personally, I most enjoyed reading about how the elves came to be Santa's helpers and how the reindeer got their names.

As you can guess, I think Mrs. Claus Explains It All is clever, imaginative, and fun and the perfect book to add to your holiday library. No home should be without one. So, be prepared! There's not telling what those kids will ask next!

About the author (from the publisher):
Christi Love created her list of questions for Santa by posing as Mrs. Claus at various events across the country. She firmly believes in the magic of Christmas and especially of the stories that involve Santa Claus. She frequently tours as Mrs. Claus, collecting more questions from children to answer.

Click here to visit the illustrator's website.
 
About the illustrator (from the publisher):
David Wenzel is an extraordinary illustrator and children's book artist, best known for illustrating the bestselling Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and his visualization of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, illustrated in graphic novel format.

Thank you to Liz at Sourcebooks, Inc.
for supplying my review copy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wonderful Wins: THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC and THE NUTCRACKER AND THE MOUSE KING


Just in time for Christmas, I was lucky enough to win two beautiful books in a giveaway sponsored by Scholastic, Inc. and hosted by Shauna at Book Giveaways. Though stylistically very different, both books have the most gorgeous illustrations. If I was reviewing these, they would each receive 5/5 Stars.

Thank you to Scholastic and Shauna!



by Lauren Thompson
illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Pub. Date: September 2009
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 40pp
Sales Rank: 945
Age Range: 4 to 7
ISBN-13: 9780439774970
ISBN: 0439774977

Description (from the publisher):
Far, far North, when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, the spirit of Christmas fills the air with Magic. Santa gathers his reindeer, feeds them parsnips and berries, and polishes his bells and his sled. Then with great care, he chooses toys for every child in the world. For Santa loves them all dearly — and he knows what each one desires more than anything.

Lauren Thompson, known for her extraordinary ability to touch the hearts of the very youngest children, has created an uplifting and beautiful Christmas experience.

Jon J Muth's warm, enchanting artwork thrums with the kind of magic that makes reindeer fly!




by E.T.A. Hoffman
illustrated by Gail De Marcken

Pub. Date: September 2009
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 56pp
Sales Rank: 12,374
Age Range: 4 to 8
ISBN-13: 9780545037730
ISBN: 0545037735

Description (from the publisher):
On Christmas Eve, Godfather Drosselmeier has arrived with gifts of marvel and enchantment for his young godchildren. Delicious dancing figurines, a wonder-tree, beautiful books, an enticing castle, and a handsome Nutcracker doll. Goddaughther Marie falls in love with this bewitching doll and claims him as her own.

Yet when the clock strikes midnight, something terribly amazing happens to these handcrafted toys...they come alive. Marie is swept off her feet on an incredible journey with her Nutcracker in this astonishing classic story by E.T. A. Hoffman. Critically acclaimed artist Gail deMarcken's stunning and gorgeous illustrations capture this spellbinding tale of adventure, honor, and family.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review #34: BEAR PORTRAITS by Jill Greenberg




Publisher:  Little, Brown & Company
Category:  Photography
Format:  Hardcover Book
Publish Date:  11/3/2009
Price:  $26.99/$32.99
ISBN:  9780316031882
Pages:  104
Size:  8" x 10"

Description (from the publisher):
A top celebrity portrait photographer, Jill Greenberg has a unique ability to coax powerful emotions out of her subjects -whether human or animal. Her portraits of bears, collected here for the first time, surprise and engage. We encounter cubs as cute as a child's Teddy, grizzlies that look like they might swallow you whole, and Polar bears seated in Sphinx-like tranquility.

Full-grown brown bears, grizzlies, black bears, Polar bears, and bear cubs are photographed on location against a portrait backdrop. The poses and facial expressions are at turns oddly comedic, pensive, terrifying, and sometimes unexpectedly human. Alive with Greenberg's signature lighting and seen through the unique perspective of her lens, these startling bear portraits bring us face to face with our fears and fantasies.

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars; Highly recommended.

MY THOUGHTS:


I'll be honest and say that when I first flipped though this book, I was downright horrified! All I saw were jaws and claws, and they were terrifying. I'd never seen such detailed closeups of a grizzly's mouth before. I shut the book quickly and thought, there's something odd about those photos - are those bears stuffed? I didn't want to think about it, and I was very disappointed. I'd been thrilled to have the opportunity to review this collection of bear portraits by Jill Greenberg. I wasn't familiar with her work, but who doesn't like a giant cuddly teddy bear?  I was reluctant to look at the book again, but I had committed to post a review so I knew I'd eventually need to take a closer look.


A couple of days later, I sat down and braced myself, literally, to look into the jaws of death. Fully prepared to be able to count cavities, I reminded myself that these were only pictures and they couldn't bite! I started with the introduction and was pleased to find out that, contrary to my previous thought, these bears were all alive and well and not taxidermied specimens. As it turns out, Greenberg herself thought that the bears didn't look alive when she first examined her initial polaroids. Many of the portraits have that effect because Greenberg photographed the bears indoors using artificial light and a portrait backdrop. Once you settle down with the book, the illusion of unreality falls away and the bears "come to life" as their personalities are showcased. As I slowly turned the pages on my second perusal, I wondered, where are all those really scary shots I saw the first time I looked at this book?

Well, they were still there, but they weren't nearly as numerous as I had first thought. This time around, I found much more to charm, delight, and intrigue me.  Pictures of the cubs are just adorable. What I hadn't expected was the playfulness and range of emotion displayed by the adult bears.
On this second and closer examination of the portraits, the bears took on a quality of humaness as the photos captured looks and poses of coyness, flirtatiousness, brooding, and calculation. Charmed as I was, I came to appreciate the inclusion of the more ferocious photos. As much as I wanted to humanize these bears and think that I could relate to them, they are dangerous, carnivorous creatures. I think you have to look at the bears in all their grand magnificence to appreciate what a gift it is to have this glimpse at their existence.


Jill Greenberg has done an outstanding job with this collection. I highly recommended it. Photographers will appreciate the quality of the photos and the techniques that define Greenberg's signature style. Bear and nature lovers will enjoy the range of moods captured forever of these wild creatures. And any thoughtful group of people would surely enjoy conversations on art, environmentalism, or animal conservation that would be sparked by these provocative photographs. I've enjoyed this book immensely, and I'm so glad to have taken a long second look at it.

Jill Greenberg regularly shoots advertising and celebrity portrait photography for clients such as Dreamworks, Sony Pictures, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Time, and Entertainment Weekly. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, children, and dog, Scooter.

Jill Greenberg also has published the book MONKEY PORTRAITS.

Audiobook Giveaway: HOLLYWOOD MOON by Joseph Wambaugh; read by Christian Rummell


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 give away three (3) audiobook copies of
HOLLYWOOD MOON
by Joseph Wambaugh
read by Christian Rummell

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.



read by Christian Rummell

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Category: Fiction
Format: Audio Book
Subformat: CD (Audio)
Edition: Unabridged
Publish Date: 11/24/2009
Price: $39.98/$49.98
ISBN: 9781600247743
Pages: 0

Description (from the publisher):
There's a saying at Hollywood station that the full moon brings out the beast--rather than the best--in the precinct's citizens. One moonlit night, LAPD veteran Dana Vaughn and "Hollywood" Nate Weiss, a struggling-actor-turned cop, get a call about a young man who's been attacking women. Meanwhile, two surfer cops known as Flotsam and Jetsam keep bumping into an odd, suspicious duo--a smooth-talking player in dreads and a crazy-eyed, tattooed biker. No one suspects that all three dubious characters might be involved in something bigger, more high-tech, and much more illegal. After a dizzying series of twists, turns, and chases, the cops will find they've stumbled upon a complex web of crime where even the criminals can't be sure who's conning whom.

Wambaugh once again masterfully gets inside the hearts and minds of the cops whose jobs have them constantly on the brink of danger. By turns heart-wrenching, exhilarating, and laugh-out-loud funny, Hollywood Moon is his most thrilling and deeply affecting ride yet through the singular streets of LA.

RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.

• Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.

• Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, January 13, 2010.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

Thank you to Anna
at Hachette Book Group
for making this giveaway possible.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Audiobook Giveaway: I, ALEX CROSS by James Patterson; read by Tim Cain, Michael Cerveris


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 give away three (3) audiobook copies of
I, ALEX CROSS
by James Patterson
read by Tim Cain, Michael Cerveris

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.





read by Tim Cain, Michael Cerveris

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Category: Fiction, Suspense & Thrillers
Format: Audio Book
Subformat: CD (Audio)
Edition: Unabridged
Publish Date: 11/16/2009
Price: $39.98/$49.98
ISBN: 9781600247682
Pages: 0

Description (from the publisher):

You can't run.


Detective Alex Cross is pulled out of a family celebration and given the awful news that a beloved relative has been found brutally murdered. Alex vows to hunt down the killer, and soon learns that she was mixed up in one of Washington's wildest scenes. And she was not this killer's only victim.

You can't hide.

The hunt for her murderer leads Alex and his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, to a place where every fantasy is possible, if you have the credentials to get in. Alex and Bree are soon facing down some very important, very protected, very dangerous people in levels of society where only one thing is certain--they will do anything to keep their secrets safe.

Alex Cross is your only hope to stay alive

As Alex closes in on the killer, he discovers evidence that points to the unimaginable--a revelation that could rock the entire world. With the unstoppable action, unforeseeable twists, and edge-of-your-seat suspense that only a James Patterson thriller delivers, I, Alex Cross is the master of suspense at his sharpest and best.

RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.

• Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.

• Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 10, 2010.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

Thank you to Anna
at Hachette Book Group
for making this giveaway possible.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Audiobook Giveaway: THE IMPERIAL CRUISE by James Bradley; Read by Richard Poe


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 give away three (3) audiobook copies of
THE IMPERIAL CRUISE
by James Bradley
Read by Richard Poe

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.



Read by Richard Poe

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Category: History
Format: Audio Book
Subformat: CD (Audio)
Edition: Unabridged
Publish Date:11/24/2009
Price: $39.98/$49.98
ISBN: 9781600243950
Pages: 0

Description (from the publisher):
In 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt dispatched Secretary of War William Taft, his gun-toting daughter Alice and a gaggle of congressmen on a mission to Japan, the Philippines, China, and Korea. There, they would quietly forge a series of agreements that divided up Asia. At the time, Roosevelt was bully-confident about America's future on the continent. But these secret pacts lit the fuse that would-decades later-result in a number of devastating wars: WWII, the Korean War, the communist revolution in China.

One hundred years later, James Bradley retraces that epic voyage and discovers the remarkable truth about America's vast imperial past-and its world-shaking consequences. Full of fascinating characters and brilliantly told, THE IMPERIAL CRUISE will forever reshape the way we understand U.S. history.

Click here to visit the author's website.

RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.

• Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.

• Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, January 8, 2010.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

Thank you to Anna
at Hachette Book Group
for making this giveaway possible.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lookalikes

Ah, Summer! Winter is barely upon us, but summer is never far from my thoughts.  Both of these books have summer themes and will be on my reading list for 2010. SUMMER HOUSE was published in June of 2009. The finished book in the U.S. has a different cover, but this is the cover I fell in love with. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE was published in January of 2009, but I only just heard of it by way of Mary at Bookfan's latest Mailbox Monday post. Has anyone out there read either one?


LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
by Liza Gyllenhaal

About the book (from the publisher): From an exciting debut author—a novel about three people haunted by the mistakes of their past and their plunge into an uncertain future.

Maddie Alden has always longed for more than her small town could offer. Now that it’s being overrun by wealthy New Yorkers looking for a respite from the city, Maddie has gotten herself a lucrative new job in real estate. And her first sale brings her a charismatic new friend who is everything Maddie longs to be. Little does Maddie realize that the glamorous Anne will shake up her quiet marriage— and will force Maddie to face the truth about the past, and the terrible secret she shares with her husband and his best friend…

SUMMER HOUSE
by Nancy Thayer

About the book (from the publisher):After years of wandering from whim to whim, thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche. The free spirit enjoys running an organic gardening business on the island of Nantucket, thanks in large part to her spry grandmother Nona, who donated a portion of land on the family’s seaside compound to get Charlotte started. Though Charlotte’s skill with plants is bringing her success, cultivating something deeper with people–particularly her handsome neighbor Coop–might be more of a challenge.

Nona’s generosity to Charlotte, secretly her favorite grandchild, doesn’t sit well with the rest of the Wheelwright clan, however, as they worry that Charlotte may be positioning herself to inherit the entire estate. With summer upon them, everyone is making their annual pilgrimage to the homestead–some with hopes of thwarting Charlotte’s dreams, others in anticipation of Nona’s latest pronouncements at the annual family meeting, and still others with surprising news of their own. Charlotte’s mother, Helen, a Wheelwright by marriage, brings a heavy heart. She once set aside her own ambitions to fit in with the Wheelwrights, but now she must confront a betrayal that threatens both her sense of place and her sense of self.

As summer progresses, these three women–Charlotte, Nona, and Helen–come to terms with the decisions they have made. Revisiting the lives and loves that have crossed their paths and the possibilities of the roads not taken, they may just discover that what they’ve always sought was right in front of them all along.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giveaway and Book Review #33: SIMON'S CAT by Simon Tofield


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 giveaway five (5) copies of
SIMON'S CAT
by Simon Tofield.

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.




Category: Humor
Format: Trade Paperback
Publish Date: 9/24/2009
Price: $12.99/$0.00
ISBN: 9780446560061
Pages: 240
Size: 8-1/2" x 6"

About the book (from the publisher):
Simon Tofield's animations have taken YouTube by storm. Now, the feline Internet phenomenon makes his way onto the page in this first-ever book based on the popular animated series. SIMON'S CAT depicts and exaggerates the hilarious relationship between a man and his cat. The daily escapades of this adorable pet, which always involve demanding more food, and his exasperated but doting owner come to life through Tofield's charming and hilarious illustrations.

My Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars

My Thoughts: 
Fun! Fun! Fun! I laughed and giggled my way through this collection of cat cartoons and had to fight to keep it out of the hands of my family so I could finish it. They kept hanging around wanting to know what was so funny. But I couldn't spoil it for them -- they just had to wait their turns. And everybody loved it. Whether you're a cat lover or a cat hater, you'll find plenty in this book to support your position.

SIMON'S CAT is by turns endearingly, sweetly, naive and then downright irritating and aggravating. But he's always funny. Tofield's simple line drawings depict the daily agenda of a cat's life from surveillance of a miniscule (non-existent?) bug to stalking, subduing, and shredding the living room couch. I think the funniest panels are the ones which prove true every paranoid thought you've ever had about cats being in charge of humans.

SIMON'S CAT is a very funny little book, and it would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone who has ever encountered a cat!

If you'd like to take your chances on winning a copy, just keep reading.



Click here to watch the Simon's Cat videos.

Click here to visit SimonsCat.com

Simon Tofield is an award-winning animator who lives in London.

RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.

• Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.

• Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 30 2009.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

Thank you to Anna
at Hachette Book Group
for supplying my review copy and
for making this giveaway possible.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Book Review #32: THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCESSES by Virginie Hanna; illustrated by Cathy Delanssay




by Virginie Hanna
illustrated by Cathy Delanssay

Pub. Date: October 2009
Publisher: Langenscheidt Publishers, Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 26pp
Sales Rank: 269,623
Age Range: 4 to 8
ISBN-13: 9780843714760
ISBN: 084371476X

About the book (from the publisher):
Come discover what the fairy tales left out! Peek behind foldouts and flaps to uncover a treasure of royal secrets from some of your favorite fairy tale princesses. The life of a Princess is one of diamonds, ball gowns, and handsome Princes . . . but it’s also filled with little secrets. How did the Princess feel the pea? What lies in Sleeping Beauty’s spell book?

In The Secret Life of Princesses you’ll find out incredible secrets from some of your favorite Princesses, such as Cinderella, Thumbelina, and Snow White, and many more. Full of intriguing secrets and tidbits, this book takes children beyond the happily-ever-after ending of their favorite fairy tales, giving them the rest of the story. Beautiful full-page illustrations bring these princesses to life. Secret flaps and hidden envelopes reveal tongue-twisting magic spells, hidden messages, and more to keep your little princess endlessly entertained. There’s even a hidden pocket for her to write down her own secret!

Features:
  • Fully interactive! Secret envelops and flaps invite children to hunt for secrets.
  • Tongue twisters and rhymes make this a blast!
  • Featuring popular princesses that everyone knows and loves (Cinderella, Thumbelina, Sleeping Beauty) and some new ones for American children (Scheherazade, Donkey Skin). There is no other book like this that takes little readers beyond the fairy tales they know so well, giving them more material for the imagination – every kid wants to know what happened after the end of the story, and now they can!
  • Stunning full page illustrations, glitter and foil make this a truly beautiful book.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

My Thoughts:
I bought this book for my six-year-old niece and had it delivered to my office. When I showed it to my (female) co-workers they literally gasped at its beauty! There was a chorus of "Oh, she'll love it!" and "I want one!" It's definitely a book to treasure.

Twelve classic princesses, all gorgeously illustrated, reveal their secrets in little fold-outs and secret envelopes. If you've ever finished a fairy tale and thought, "But how did . . . " or "What about . . ." this book offers the chance to fill in the blanks.

The pages of the book are a lightweight cardboard and should stand up well to multiple readings and investigations of little hands.

My only complaint about THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCESSES is that I would have liked to see more variations of skin tone. Of 12 princesses, only Scheherazade is not light-skinned. The Snow Queen might possibly be Asian, and Snow White is, of course, a brunette. One princess is a redhead. Thumbelina has masses of dark hair. That leaves 7 pale-skinned and fair-haired beauties to rule the pages of this book. I've seen more variation in this illustrator's work. I wish it had been represented in this book. However, the publisher has also released a book called PRINCESSES OF THE WORLD which I have on order. I think it will make a lovely companion book.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCESSES is a seriously enchanting collection of artwork and whimsey. Too bad I have to turn it over to a six-year-old!

About the Authors (from the publisher)
Virginie Hanna was born in 1971 in Maine et Loire, France. From a very young age, she would invent stories and always dreamed of being a children’s storybook writer. She studied and practiced psychology for many years, and incorporates this knowledge of and sensitivity to children’s issues into her writing. She now divides time between her writing and her family.

Cathy Delanssay was born in 1976 in Nord à Douai, France. She’s illustrated many popular children’s books in France including: Give Me the Moon, Mieux que dix fees (Better than Ten Fairies), Le Bal des fees (The Fairy Ball), Le Murmure des dieux (The Whisper of the Gods) and many more.


Click here to visit the website of the illustrator.


Back in the saddle again!




Well, howdy! How y'all doin'? Hope everyone is O.K. I've missed you!

I feel like I've been gone for a year, and my fingers are just itching to unleash everything my brain has been hoarding these last few weeks. I've got a lot of reviews to post as well as a bunch of new giveaways to announce. I probably won't ever really catch up, but I'm just going to jump on it and get to it. It's good to be "home"!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Giveaway Winners -- ANGELS: A Pop-Up Book and A SEPARATE COUNTRY (audiobook)


!! CONGRATULATIONS !!
We have some winners!



The winner of ANGELS: A Pop-Up Book is:

#33  Jaime






The winners of audiobook copies of A SEPARATE COUNTRY are:

#1 Zibilee
#39 Sue
#47 Barb




All winners have been confirmed.

Thank to everyone who entered.
Be sure to check out Hachette's Contest Page
for links to more giveaways.

Thank you to Hachette Book Group
for sponsoring both of these contests.

Monday, November 30, 2009

FYI: I am temporarily AWOL


Sorry to do this, everyone! I am temporarily unable to blog (and it's killing me!). My home computer is being repaired, and I'm so completely snowed under at the office that I feel as though I could work 24/7 and never dig myself out.  O.K., I know it's not quite that bad, but I can't really be in the office doing personal stuff if what I'm paid to do isn't yet done. 

I will be sending out emails to the winners of the 5 copies of SEVEN by Jacqueline Leo. 

I will continue to monitor comments, and they will post whenever I am able to access my email. 

I'm estimating that I will be back to posting by Thursday or Friday of this week.

I'll miss you!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Virtual Cookie Swap: Chocolate Cookie Recipe




Here is my offering of a chocolate cookie recipe for the Virtual Cookie Swap hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog and Julie at Booking Mama. I don't know how anyone will be able to choose from among the myriad of yumilicious recipes these women have been tossing around. And today's the day that all of us get to chime in with our own family favorites. Check out these posts . . . if you dare!

Chocolate Chip Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
(with Secret Ingredient)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (you can omit this if you use salted butter)
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup finely chopped pecans (you can use walnuts but I prefer pecan)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
 
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees 
2. Cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth.
3. Beat in eggs one at a time.
4. Add vanilla.
4. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and stir into the creamed mixture until just blended.
5. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts and chocolate chips.
6. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
7. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven.
8. Cool and eat. Or don't cool and eat.
9. Serve with ice-cold milk.

Pssst: What about the Secret Ingredient? Well, there's no measurement for this, but I like to sprinkle in some cinnamon and an itsy-bitsy dash of nutmeg. Once I started adding that, I repeatedly got the comment that these were the best cookies ever eaten!
 
Enjoy!

Virtual Cookie Swap: Traditional Cookie Recipe




I've been following the posts of both Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog and Julie at Booking Mama as they post their favorite recipes for cookies for the holiday season. Today's the day we get to post our own favorites and link up for a Virtual Cookie Swap. Kathy and Julie posted so many wonderful recipes that I want to try, it's hard to imagine that there's room for more. But here's my offering for a traditional cookie. Betcha can't eat just one!

Peanut Butter Thumbprints
 (makes about 3 dozen)

1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth - your preference)
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (if you use salted butter, you can leave this out)

Additional sugar (for rolling in -- tee hee!)
Favorite jam (I usually go for raspberry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Mix the first 6 ingredients at medium speed until fluffy.

2. Add the next 4 ingredients and beat in at a low speed.

3. Chill for several hours (both you and the dough!)

4. Form dough into balls about 1 inch and roll in extra sugar.

5. Place onto greased cookie sheet and indent centers with thumb.

6. Fill indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon of jam.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

8. Cool.

9. Eat (especially good with milk!)

Friday Finds: Bernice L. McFadden, Literary Novelist



FRIDAY FINDS is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading.
What great books did you hear about / discover this past week?
Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!



Today for Friday Finds, I'd like to spotlight the literary novels of Bernice L. McFadden. I'm currently reading Ms. McFadden's debut novel, SUGAR, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on January 9, 2010. Unfortunately, Ms. McFadden's books, like those of many other African-American literary novelists, are in danger of being allowed to go out of print.

In an open e-mail to book lovers, Ms. McFadden discusses what she believes is the common practice of publishers marketing the work of African-American novelists only to African-Americans. Ms. McFadden's email has been published in full on several blogs, and you can read it by clicking here. My intention right now is to bring your attention directly to her literary novels and to SUGAR in particular. In an effort to propel SUGAR back into the limelight, Ms. McFadden is asking that booklovers band together and purchase a copies for ourselves and/or as gifts. It is her goal to sell 10,000 copies before the anniversary date of 01/09/10. Buy it. Read it. Give it. It's good!


SUGAR
Description (from the publisher):
In a debut novel that blends the rich, earthy atmosphere of the deep South and a voice imbued with spiritual grace, Bernice L. McFadden tells the story of two women: a modest, churchgoing wife and mother, and the young prostitute she befriends.. "When Sugar arrives in 1950s Bigelow - waltzing down the main square of the sweltering tiny Arkansas town as if she has every right to be there - no one tosses out the welcome mat or invites her in for a Coke. The Bigelow women hate her from the minute they lay eyes on her - on the bouncing blond wig and red-painted lips that tell them she has never known a hard day's work. All they know is they want her gone, out of their town, and away from their men.. "But Sugar has traveled too far and survived too much to back down now. She parks herself in the house at #10 Grove Street, even though she feels there is something about Bigelow that is calling up the past she prayed she'd left behind.. "Deep in her soul, Pearl Taylor knows what it is that Sugar feels, because it happened to her. It was the day her world shut down, the day the devil himself murdered her young daughter, Jude. It wasn't that Pearl stopped believing in God, exactly; she just couldn't trust him the way she used to. Then Sugar moves in next door, and Pearl's life irrevocably changes. Over sweet potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, transforming the lives of two women - and an entire community.

THIS BITTER EARTH
Description (from the publisher):
In This Bitter Earth, Sugar Lacey is on her way out of Bigelow, Arkansas, where she’d come to break with the past. With her worn leopard-print suitcase and her head held high, she walks past the prying eyes of its small-minded, cruel-hearted townsfolk, praying for the strength to keep going. She doesn’t stop until she arrives at her childhood home in Short Junction. Here she learns the truth about her parentage: a terrible tale of unrequited love, of one man’s enduring hatred, and of the black magic that has cursed generations of Lacey women. A powerfully realized novel that brings back the unforgettable characters from Sugar, McFadden’s bestselling debut, This Bitter Earth is a testament to the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

CAMILLA'S ROSES
Description (from the publisher):
The poignant tale of a woman who discovers the fragility of life and thestrength of a family's love, from an author praised by Toni Morrison for “searing, expertly imagined scenes”

Known for bringing to life a host of endearing characters who reveal tender truths about humanity, Bernice L. McFadden now turns her storytelling talents to an unforgettable and deeply troubled woman named Camilla.

Unfolding in a progression of stirring and powerful chapters, Camilla's Roses presents a life haunted by the past. Camilla's childhood was immersed in chaos and love, and steeped in the myth of perfection. As an adult, she never looked back, refusing to acknowledge the people and places that had scarred her so many years ago. But a legacy of cancer proves inescapable, forcing Camilla to embrace the past—no matter how painful it may be—and to salvage what is left of her love in order to save her daughter. As Camilla discovers the bittersweet limitations of motherhood and reconciliation, she also awakens an inspiring message about the mortality issues we all must face.

NOWHERE IS A PLACE
Description (from the publisher):
Sherry has struggled all her life to understand who she is, where she comes from, and most important, why her mother slapped her cheek one summer afternoon. The incident has haunted Sherry, and it causes her to dig into her family's past. Like many family histories, it is fractured and stubbornly reluctant to reveal its secrets; but Sherry is determined to know the full story. In just a few days' time her extended family will gather for a reunion, and Sherry sets off across the country with her mother, Dumpling, to join them. What Sherry and Dumpling find on their trip is far more important than a scenic site here and there - it is the assorted pieces of their family's past. Pulled together, they reveal a history of amazing survival and abundant joy.

Descripton (from the publisher):
Despite being born to a broken-hearted mother and a faithless father, Campbell still believes in the power of love…if she can ever find it. Living in the same neighborhood, but unknown to Campbell until a chance meeting brings them together, is Donovan, the “little man” of a shattered home—a family torn apart by anger and bitterness. In the face of these daunting obstacles, Donovan dreams of someday marrying, raising a family, and playing for the NBA. But, deep inside Campbell and Donovan live the histories that have shaped their lives. What they discover—together and apart—forms the basis of this compelling, sensual, and surprising novel.

THE WARMEST DECEMBER
Description (from the publisher):
Now and then I forget things, small things that would not otherwise alter my life. Things like milk in my coffee, setting my alarm clock, or Oprah at four. Tiny things. One day last week I forgot that I hated my father, forgot that I had even thought of him as a monster, and woke up early one cold winter morning, boarded two buses traveling over an hour to sit by his bedside in Kings County Hospital...

Childhood can be rough. But for Kenzie, growing up in the Lowe home means opening the bottom drawer of her father's dresser to choose which of the three belts, coiled, waiting like snakes, she will get whipped with; trips to Beehive Liquors for her father's vodka; and dreaming of the day she can escape Apartment A5. Eventually, Kenzie does grow up and leave A5. She goes to school, she holds odd jobs, and develops her own craving for the bottle. Twenty years have passed-it's now the nineties-but not everything has changed for Kenzie. She is still haunted by her childhood, and learning that her father is dying she is shocked by her own desire to be with him during his final hours. Returning to his bedside day after day in search of a way to heal her pain, she comes to discover in her visits that some of us, like her father, have stories that "started out bad, curdled and soured in the middle, and ended up worse," but for many, there is still hope for change.

Click here to visit the author's website.

Click here to visit Naki, the author's blog.

Click here to read and/or participate in the ongoing discussion about Seg-Book-Gation in publishing on Galleycat.

Click here to visit the blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors.

Click here to visit the I Read In Color Web Ring.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Challenge: TwentyTen Challenge


 I'm signing up for the TwentyTen Challenge hosted by Bart's Bookshelf. This is a fun little challenge with specific categories of books from which to read. Twenty books from 10 different categories. It might sound like a lot, but if you read the details (click here), I think you'll agree that this challenge will be a snap -- and fun, too! I'll be posting the titles of the books here on this post as I complete each book. Click here to sign up!

Challenge begins on January 1st and ends on December 31, 2010.

Young Adult
1.
2.

TBR
1. BAD BLOOD by Lorna Sage
2.

Shiny & New
1. SAFFRON DREAMS
2.

Bad Bloggers
1.
2.

Charity
1.
2.

New in 2010
1. ONE AMAZING THING by
2.

Older Than You
1.
2.

Win! Win!
1.
2.

Who Are You Again?
1.
2.

Up to You
1.
2.

Challenge: 2010 South Asian Author Challenge




I read quite a few books by Asian authors this year, so when I saw that Swapna would be hosting the 2010 South Asian Author Challenge, I knew I wanted to sign up. The tough decision was choosing a button! She offers three on her blog, S. Krishna's Books, and they are all beautiful. In this challenge, you choose books to read that are written by South Asian Authors – South Asia being India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. This is a very specific geographic region, so be careful when making your selections. You don't have to list your choices at the start of the challenge, but you do have to pick a level (number of books). I looked over Swapna's SAAC reviews and realized that so many are on my TBR list, and some even on my own shelves, that I could commit to the full 10 books.  Click here to read over the rules in more detail. If you're ready to take the plunge, you can sign up here.

Challenge begins January 1st and ends December 31, 2010.

These are some books I'm considering, but I'm free to change my mind about titles (but not the number 10!)

1. FIRST DARLING OF THE MORNING by Thrity Umriger
2. SAFFRON DREAMS by Shaila Abdullah
3. THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER by Shobhan Bantwal
4. BURNT SHADOWS by Kamila Shamsie
5. THE GIRL FROM FOREIGN by Sadia Shepard
6. IN THE CONVENT OF LITTLE FLOWERS by Indu Sundareson
7. THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE by Salman Rushdie
8. BITTER SWEETS by Roopa Farooki
9. SEA OF POPPIES by Amitav Ghosh
10. SECRET DAUGHTER by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

ONE AMAZING THING by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Challenge - 2010 Read Your Own Books



I'm joining this the Read Your Own Books 2010 Challenge hosted by MizBiz. This is a pretty straight-forward challenge. All you have to do is, um, well, just read your own books! No bookstores, libraries, or even swapping required. Just pick a number of books from your own shelves that you haven't read yet, and get to it! I haven't picked a number yet, but I'll be listing what I read here on this post. Head on over to the challenge post at MizBiz's place, and check out all the details. She'll set up a Mr. Linky on January 1st for those who want to sign up.

Challenge begins on January 1st and ends on December 31, 2010.

1.