Thursday, December 31, 2009

One More Challenge -- South Asian Author Challenge

I have decided that 2010 is going to be a year where I participate in lot of challenges! It's like an addiction for me now -- I just can't resist them. Who knows how well I will do with all of these, but I think if I don't sign up, I won't even try! The latest one that I just "have" to sign up for is the South Asian Author Challenge hosted by S. Krishna's Books.

Here are the details straight from Swapna's Challenge Post:

What is the South Asian Author Challenge?

This challenge is to encourage people to read books by South Asian Authors – South Asia being India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Please not that it does not include the Middle East! The books can be from any time period, contemporary or classic. If you want to talk about the challenge on Twitter or tweet your reviews, use the hashtag #saac.

What books qualify for the South Asian Author Challenge?

There are two requirements for a book to qualify for the South Asian Author Challenge, both of which must be met:

1) The author must be of South Asian descent. It doesn’t matter if they’re third or fourth generation, or are only half South Asian – I’m pretty flexible on this issue.

2) The book must be about South Asia in some way. It doesn’t have to be set in South Asia, as long as it’s about the culture or history in some way. On the other hand, it can be set in South Asia and not be about South Asians.

What are the dates of this challenge?

January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010

How many books do I have to read for the South Asian Author Challenge?

There are four different commitment levels:

3 books
5 books
7 books
10 books

You can sign up at any of these levels, but please specify which level you’re participating at in your sign-up post.

Do you have a list of suggested authors or reads for this challenge?

Definitely. Here is a list of all the books I’ve read that will qualify for the challenge, and here is a list of South Asian authors (sorted by genre) that you might want to consider.

Do I have to make a list of books when I post my sign-up post?

No, definitely not. Part of the point of this challenge is to discover new authors through other’s reviews. Being forced to create a list at the beginning would be counterproductive!

Do I have to review every book I read for this challenge?

No, you don’t. I really hope you’ll choose to review the books you read, but it’s not a requirement!

Can I participate even if I don’t have a blog?

Absolutely!

Are there any prizes for this challenge?

YES! There will be a prize for those who sign up before January 1, and another for those who complete it. Additionally, I hope to host some South Asian Author Challenge-exclusive giveaways while the contest is going on. Unfortunately, I will be up front about the fact that most of these giveaways will be U.S. only, with some including Canada, because I can’t afford to send books internationally.

Can I use books I read for this challenge for other challenges? (Are crossovers allowed?)

Yes, definitely!

Can I change challenge levels after January 1?

You can’t move down (change from 10 to 7 – that defeats the purpose of it being a challenge!) but you can move up if you find you just love South Asian authors and want to read more of them than you expected!

Why are you hosting this challenge?

Because there are a lot of great Indian authors out there! While I love Salman Rushdie and Jhumpa Lahiri, some people don’t find their work accessible. I want to show people that Indian authors write every genre – non-fiction, YA, chick lit, historical fiction, as well as literary fiction!

Can the books I read be in translation?

Yup, definitely!

Do re-reads count?

Absolutely! The point of the challenge is to read South Asian authors – if you’re reading a book you’ve already read, you’re still reading a book by a South Asian author!

You’ve convinced me – how do I sign up?

I’ll be posting sign-ups later this week (hopefully tomorrow), so keep an eye out for it!
Update: Here's the sign up post!

I have decided to start small with the 3 book level. I already have a few books that will count towards this challenge sitting on my bookshelves. I am hoping to exceed that 3 book level, but I don't want to take on too much and set myself up for failure!

Book Club Exchange - Barbara Mead of Reading Group Choices

I am so glad to welcome Barbara Mead from Reading Group Choices to Book Club Exchange, a regular feature on Booking Mama which highlights anything and everything book club-related! I absolutely love getting the scoop on other book clubs, and I know many of you do too. I hope you enjoy this guest post about Barbara's book club experiences through the years. You might even get an idea or two for a future book club pick.

I haven’t thought about this until now -- my first “book club’ started many many years ago when I was growing up outside of Annapolis. The bookmobile visited our neighborhood every third Saturday in the month. So, on that Saturday, my two girlfriends and I would ride our bikes to the corner of Ridout and Holly Drive and wait for the library on wheels. We spent the next 2 hours pulling books from shelves, glancing though them, and talking about them before checking them out. After the bookmobile left, we would ride back to one of our houses and read a little and discuss our books the whole afternoon. After about a week reading our respective books, we’d swap! Just like a grown-up reading group, who knew!

Over the years, I have belonged to 2 reading groups (besides the Amberley Bookmobile Club!) in different locations. Each one has a distinct feel and flavor!


After college and working for 13 years in Annapolis, I got married and moved to Colorado -- knowing no one. Having to find some like-minded friends, I got a job at an independent bookstore – yea! I was in heaven and met so many people who loved books and reading. I joined a book group soon after my employment at Covered Treasures. This group had 12-15 members (women) who were mothers -- except one. Who do you think was the exception – me! The group discussed mostly fiction. We used the reading guides and other materials as a jump-off point – using themes or ideas that helped form our thoughts and conversation. Our conversation topics started with the book and open up to personal and general issues. Being close to the Air Force Academy, some members were married to military officers so book subjects involving war and all its ramification brought personal stories and ideas that I would not ever think about. One member would not read The Lovely Bones because of the opening scene. Due to hints about child abuse, two members had an awful time reading The Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Flavor and Feel! In 1998, we all went to the Steamboat Springs Literary Sojourn. A weekend with book loving friends that met and lunched with E. Anne Proulx, Pam Houston, Natalie Goldberg, and Robert Crais. What a blast!


Maryland called to us again and now we are living in Chester on the Eastern Shore. I joined The Kent Island Book Babes. 14 women – 7 married no children, 1 single, 6 with children. Our ages range from 34-60. We read mostly fiction with a classic and nonfiction thrown in sometimes to push the envelope. Meetings are held once a month at the hostess’ house that picked the book. There is a social hour, then discussion, and then, social again until everyone goes home – sometimes 10 pm, sometimes 1:30 am! As with the Colorado group, we use guides and materials to spark the conversation. And, more than not, the book discussion opens up to personal and world issues. Because of our backgrounds, age, and experiences, the book conversation is always lively. Again, the flavor and feel of each group. Some books we discussed: Atonement by Ian McEwan, Personal History by Katherine Graham, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer, The Sea by John Banville, Ireland by Frank Delaney, Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, Sleeping with Shubert by Bonnie Marson, Mudbound by Hilary Jordan, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, The Way the Crows Flies by Anne-Marie MacDonald, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Mister Pip by James Lloyd, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, etc. Because of my job at Reading Group Choices, many authors have called in to discuss their book with us. The Babes are serious about their books but have fun, as well. We have a Happy Hour every June at a bar on the Chesapeake, we have Smut Month (October – not really smut but the book has to be a little racy) and the best event is the Kibbies Award Night. At the holiday party, we award the year’s Best/Worst Book, Best (most liked/Worse (least-liked) Character, Best Discussion, and Best/Worst Sex Scene. A talented and creative member creates statues and gives them out to the members who pick the winners. Three years ago, I got a special award for the Worst Book Ever -- won’t say the title in public. This year, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein picked up:

Best Book










Best Character










Best Discussion









I enjoy my reading group and delight in the friendship and community it brings me. It is so refreshing to know that there still people who find pleasure, adventure, knowledge, self-awareness, and even solace between the covers of a book and who want to share that joy of reading. Happy New Year!

*****

Reading is Barbara's life -- she was born reciting Pat the Bunny! Having worked at a small publisher and three independent bookstores, she decided that she wanted to work for HERSELF! In 2004, Barbara took responsibility for Reading Group Choices and is still having a blast! Working with publishers, authors, reading groups, book stores, libraries – what more can a book-lover ask! She loves her job! When not reading, she watches trash TV. Barbara lives with her husband and cat, Aspen Leif, on an island in the Chesapeake Bay. It sounds fancy but it's not. She just likes saying it!

Make sure you check out Barbara's blog!

Thanks to Barbara for sharing some of her book club experiences with us. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

The Beth Kephart Reading Challenge 2010

I am very excited about about My Friend Amy's Beth Kephart Reading Challenge 2010. I have loved Beth and her books ever since Amy turned me on to her, and I can't wait to read some more in 2010. I was lucky enough to have the chance to meet Beth at the Lititz KidLit Festival last month, and she truly is a remarkable woman!

Since I have already read and reviewed two of Beth's YA books, I have decided to sign up for the Mix 'n' Match Level -- Read any 4 books off the list.

Here are the specifics of the challenge straight from Amy:


Dates: Jan 1, 2010--June 30th, 2010.

Levels:
Beth Kephart Newbie
-- Read one book out of any category. This level is not eligible for the prize.
YA Fan
--Read all the books categorized as YA. This level is eligible for the prize.
Memoir Fan
--Read all the books categorized as memoir. This level is eligible for the prize. Mix'n'match--Read any 4 books off the list. This level is eligible for the prize.
Entire Backlist
-- Read the entire backlist. Definitely eligible for the prize.

The prize is an ARC of
Dangerous Neighbors not due out until the fall!

In order to be eligible for the prize, you must complete the level you choose and link all of your reviews in the review linky that will go up on January 1st.

List of Beth Kephart's Books:

A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage, W.W. Norton, 1998 (Memoir)
Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things that Matter, Houghton Mifflin, 2000 (Memoir)
Still Love in Strange Places: A Memoir, W.W. Norton, 2002 (Memoir)
Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World, W.W. Norton, 2004 (Memoir)
Ghosts in the Garden: Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self, New World Library, 2005 (Memoir)
Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, Temple University Press, 2007 (History)
House of Dance, Laura Geringer Books: HarperTeen, May 2008 (YA)
Undercover, Laura Geringer Books: HarperTeen, 2007 (YA)
Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business, Berrett-Kohler, January 2008 (YA)
"The Longest Distance," in No Such Thing as The Real World, HarperTeen, May 2009 (YA--short story)
Nothing But Ghosts, Laura Geringer Books: HarperTeen June 2009 (YA)
The Heart is Not a Size, HarperTeen, forthcoming, February 2010 (YA)
Dangerous Neighbors, Egmont, Fall 2010

Sounds great huh? Please help me spread the word about one of my favorite authors and join me in this challenge. I'll be reading the entire backlist. If you want to join, please write a post or mention this challenge in some way on your blog and put the link into Mister Linky. If you don't have a blog, please leave a comment with your level of participation. Once you choose a level of participation, you are expected to stick with it!

This is sure to be a wonderful challenge. I can assure you that Beth is a fantastic writer, and you will love her writing!

Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Summary: "Renée Michel is the dumpy, nondescript, 54-year-old concierge of a small and exclusive Paris apartment building.... "Paloma Josse also lives in the building. Acutely intelligent, introspective and philosophical, this 12-year-old views the world as absurd and records her observations about it in her journal... "These two characters provide the double narrative of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and you will -- this is going to sound corny -- fall in love with both.... -- Europa Editions

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to complete a challenge! I think I squeaked in by a day for The Fifty Books for our Times Reading Project hosted by My Friend Amy. I was on Twitter (big surprise) at the same time Amy was deciding to host this challenge, and I thought it was a great idea! Here's the deal: Newsweek came up with a list of 50 Books for our Times, and Amy opened it up so 50 bloggers (or more) could sign up to read and review a book from the list. I scooped up THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by Muriel Barbery because I had been wanting to read it for awhile, and I thought this challenge was a good reason.

I purchased the book right away but didn't start reading it until the end of December. THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG was not an easy read for me. I became a little frustrated with the book because I felt as if I weren't intelligent enough to "get" the characters' intellectual commentaries on life. After reading the first 100 pages or so, I wasn't thrilled with the book in the slightest, and I actually wasn't sure what all of the fuss was about. I decided to put the book down since the holidays were approaching and I was overwhelmed with life in general -- not an ideal time to read a book like this one. When I picked up the book a few days after Christmas, I had a totally different view of it. I read the last 200 plus pages in just a day (I couldn't put it down), and I can now say that I understand why THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG made Newsweek's 50 Books for our Times!

It is difficult for me to express just what I loved about this book. I think, first and foremost, that I was attracted to the main characters -- Renee and Paloma. Both were just so interesting, and I really felt as if I got to know them and even understand them throughout the course of the novel. Renee and Paloma were extremely intellectual and insightful (despite their attempts to hide this), and I thought the author did a marvelous job of telling their stories by alternating their voices in different chapters. So much of their commentary on life and other people was brilliant, and I often times found myself thinking about what they had said.

It almost goes without saying that this is just a beautiful story. The writing is nothing short of amazing (I think there should probably be some credit to the translator here too.) Ms. Barbery managed to create two memorable characters that will remain with me for a very long time. In addition, she brought forth many philosophical ideas about life that will actually cause readers to look at their lives and the people in them differently. While this book was definitely thought-provoking, Ms. Barbery also managed to have the perfect amount of satire and wit in this novel.

I was just blown away by how much I "felt" while reading this book. Both Renee and Paloma had experienced a great deal of pain in their lives, and my heart just ached for both of them. As I read this story, I was so happy that the author eventually allowed these characters to have a sense of hope. They had finally found some happiness in their lives and discovered people who really understood them. No spoilers here, but I can say that this book left me in tears quite a few times. The ending was a bittersweet one, but I thought it was just perfect.

I don't think THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG is for everyone, but I'm going to highly recommend it anyway. It is not an "easy" read for a variety of reasons, but I do think it is well worth the effort to read it. I am so glad that I didn't abandon it based on my initial impressions because I truly think this novel is a gem!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Big Baby-Sitters Club News!

Check out this New York Times article by Motoko Rich about the plans for a revival of The Baby-sitters Club books! Make sure you read the entire article because you might see some familiar names. My Friend Amy is featured because of the Baby-Sitters Club Week that she hosted back in November. And Booking Daughter and I are mentioned in the last few paragraphs!!!

While I'm extremely flattered to be in the article, I just knew that my age would be mentioned! After I was interviewed, I was joking with my sister-in-law that the article would say "Julie P., a 40 year old mom, who was too old to read the books when they first came out." I wasn't too far off, was I?

Booking Daughter and I are going to head out first thing in the morning to see if we can get our hands on a copy!

That's How I Blog with Me!

I survived the That’s How I Blog! Blog Talk Radio show with Nicole of Linus's Blanket!!! I'm just kidding. I had a fantastic time (although I tried to listen back and can't do it -- I hate how I sound!) You can listen to the entire show here.

I want to thank Nicole for the awesome opportunity to talk about my books, blogging, and my family -- she is such a terrific host! Thanks to all of you who were in the chatroom and participated in the discussion of 31 HOURS by Masha Hamilton!

The Nancy Drew Challenge

I am signing up for Deborah's (Books, Movies, and Chinese Food) new challenge - The Nancy Drew Challenge. I was a huge fan of the original Nancy Drew books when I was growing up, and I'd love to say that I've read all of them. This challenge is just what I need to get started!

I've been a little hesitant to sign up for this challenge because it requires that I read all 56 of the books (I've only read one as an adult for mother-daughter book club.) I actually do have all of the books -- I bought them for Booking Daughter for her 9th birthday, but 56 books overwhelming to say the least. I'm just glad that 56 reviews aren't required!


Here are the details straight from Deborah:

Goal
: To read Books 1-56 in the Nancy Drew series that have the yellow spines in 2010. A list of the books can be found here

I realize that 56 books sound like a lot, but Nancy Drew books are really quick reads...and there are pictures!

FAQ
(thanks to S.Krishna's Books for this tip)

What are the dates for the challenge?
The dates for the challenge are January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

Are audiobooks and ebooks allowed?
Yes! Any format will be allowed for this challenge.

Can I read any version of Nancy Drew books?
For this challenge, only the yellow hardback versions will be counted.

Do I need to buy the books for the challenge?
You don't HAVE to buy them unless you want to. You can get them from the library, borrow from friends, use your own copies.

What if I've already read some of the books? Do I have to reread? Can I skip those? Re-reads can count. If you've already read some and want to skip to those you haven't read, that is allowed as well. The goal is to be able to say you've read ALL the books.

Do I have to write any reviews?
Reviews are not required.

Is there an age restriction for this challenge?
Nope! Anyone any age can join! Whether you've been reading Nancy Drew for years or are just starting to discover the books.

Can these books be used for other challenges?
These books can be used as crossovers in other challenges.

What if I don't have a blog? Can I still participate?
Yes! leave a comment on this post with the information for the challenge, along with an e-mail address. Use the link to the comment (hover over the date/time of the comment and copy that link) as your URL for Mr. Linky. (Borrowed with permission from S.Krishna's Books)

Will there be prizes for the challenge?
YES, there will be chances to win prizes! Click here to read about it.

Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Summary: The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale -- the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating -- has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year's pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever. -- Harper Collins

I think THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson is my all-time favorite Christmas book. If you've been following my blog, you know that over the past month I have read quite a few Christmas-themed books. While I enjoyed most of them very must, not a one comes close to evoking the feelings that I have each and every time I read THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER!

I started reading THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT when I was just a kid, and I absolutely adored it. I think I read it a few times each Christmas season until I considered myself too old! I remember the paperback version sitting out on our end table as a decoration of sorts. I fondly recall laughing a lot when reading this story, but I don't think I truly appreciated the real meaning of the book until I was an adult.

A few years ago, I was so excited that Booking Daughter was ready to read this book on her own. In fact, I was so "into" this story that I even bought the 2002 DVD version with Loretta Swit. She enjoyed the book a great deal although I admit that she wasn't quite as obsessed as I was (that could just be a personality thing.) I had never seen the movie version before purchasing it, but I highly recommend it in addition to the book! Every time I watch the DVD version, I end up bawling like a baby because this story truly captures the meaning of Christmas!

This year, I read a chapter each night to Booking Daughter and Booking Son before bedtime. I've decided that we will be instituting this family tradition each year from now on (even when they are "too old" for the story.) As we gathered in bed for the last chapter on December 23rd, I could barely finish the story because I began crying so much (so was Booking Daughter!)
I think that's what makes it the perfect family holiday read. It is a classic story for any age that really makes you see the original Christmas story in a new light.

I have personally recommended this book to everyone I know, and I now I'm recommending it to all of you! I just love this story, and to me, it symbolizes the spirit of Christmas like no other!

Note: The cover that I pictured above is the same as the one that I personally own -- it's not the most recent!

Wondrous Words Wednesday - December 30, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

I probably could have listed dozens of new-to-me words from THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG by Muriel Barbery, but here are a few:

eructation - There he stood, the most recent eructation of the ruling corporate elite -- a class that reproduces itself solely by means of virtuous and proper hiccups -- beaming at his discovery, sharing it with me without thinking or ever dreaming for a moment that I might actually understand what he was referring to. (p.17)

eructation: The act or an instance of belching.

opprobrium - In rich people's apartments everything is clean, smooth, healthy and consequently safe from the tyranny of flyswatters and public opprobrium. (p.62)

opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy.

abnegation - I have always been fascinated by the abnegation with which we human beings are capable of devoting a great deal of energy to the quest for nothing and to the rehashing of useless and absurd ideas. (p.247)

abnegation: to refuse or deny oneself (some rights, conveniences, etc.); reject; renounce.

What new words did you discover this week?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

That's How I Blog Tonight!

Just a reminder that Nicole of Linus's Blanket will be interviewing me tonight on her Blog Talk Radio show, That’s How I Blog!, at 7:00 pm ET. I have to admit that I am absolutely terrified!

You can listen live or to the archived version later when you have a few minutes. If you listen live, make sure you register so you can join in the conversation in the chat room. It's always a lot of fun! If you have any questions or comments, you can send them to: nicole AT linussblanket DOT com before the show, ask in the chat room or call 646-381-4606 to ask yourself. At the end of the show, stick around for the "Twenty Minute Book Club." If you’ve read the book or don’t mind spoilers, we will be discussing 31 HOURS by Masha Hamilton (my review.)

Guest Review: My Paper Chase

Summary: In My Paper Chase, Harold Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of newspapering life. His story stretches from the 1930s to his service in WWII, through towns big and off the map. He discusses his passion for the crusading style of reportage he championed, his clashes with Rupert Murdoch, and his struggle to use journalism to better the lives of those less fortunate. There's a star-studded cast and a tremendously vivid sense of what once was: the lead type, the smell of the presses, eccentrics throughout, and angry editors screaming over the intercoms. My Paper Chase tells the story of Evans's great loves: newspapers and Tina Brown, the bright, young journalist who became his wife.

In an age when newspapers everywhere are under threat,
My Paper Chase is not just a glorious recounting of an amazing life, but a nostalgic journey in black and white. -- Little, Brown & Company

It's been awhile, but Booking Pap Pap is back with another great guest review. This time, he's talking about MY PAPER CHASE: TRUE STORIES OF VANISHED TIMES by Harold Evans. I just knew when I read this description that this book sounded like on that he'd appreciate. Here are his thoughts:

MY PAPER CHASE is the memoirs of Harold Evans, one of the most recognized newspaper editors of the twentieth century.

Mr. Evans takes the reader through his childhood in a war-torn England, into his newspaper career culminating as editor of the Sunday Times and The Times of London and finally into a brief account of his more than two decades in the United States.

The author describes his youth in significant detail and gives a good understanding of his humble beginnings. Nothing came easy for Evans as his yearning for an education took him through grammar school and passing the Matriculation Boards, through Business College where he learned typing and shorthand, and later through university life at Durham, the third oldest university in England. The stories of a young Harold Evans recount in vivid detail his memories of school, friends and home life. His descriptions of bombing raids and food rationing give a glimpse of the bleak grey life in England during World War II.

The centerpiece of this autobiography is Evans’ newspaper career. Eva’s first newspaper job in 1944 at age 16 was as a junior reporter for a small newspaper. Except for three years in the Royal Air Force and three years to attend university, Evans worked continually in the newspaper industry finally reaching the pinnacle of his career in 1966 becoming editor of the Sunday Times. Evans was probably best known for his investigative reporting and grassroots journalism, newspaper practices he identified as important while briefly traveling and studying journalism in the U.S. in the mid-1950s. Evans gives the reader a picture of the U.S. in the 1950s as he describes his experiences in New York after arriving, his time in Chicago living at the International House at the University of Chicago and observing the Suez crisis and the McCarthy hearings and his time in the Deep South and West observing the strife of the Native Indians and Blacks.

Harold Evans generated a powerful list of investigative stories and editorial crusades during his tenure in the newspaper industry. Amazingly, he did this in an environment where British law could be a deterrent to this style of reporting. Among those described in great detail in the book were: pollution in North East England, the thalidomide and pap-smear controversies with the English Minister of Health, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the atrocities in East Pakistan, the crimes of Uganda leader Idi Amin and the murder of David Holden, foreign correspondent and suspected spy.

Evans goes to great length in discussing the thuggish trade unions and their role in the decline of the Sunday Times and the Times and there sale to Rupert Murdock in1981. After the acquisition of the Sunday Times and the Times by Rupert Murdock, Harold Evans was named editor of the Times only to be fired by Murdock one year later.

Evans moved to the U.S. with his second wife and had a successful U.S. career, albeit not in the newspaper industry, culminating as president and publisher of the Random House. There he had the opportunity to associate with influential people such as Marlon Brando, Richard Nixon, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately Evans does not discuss his career in the U.S. in the same detail as his life in England and misses the opportunity to share with the reader his impressions of these unique individuals.

In MY PAPER CHASE, Harold Evans illustrates his love of the newspaper business and gives the reader his insights into the world of journalism in a very entertaining way. He gives his account of what responsible journalism really is and describes a time in the history of newspapers when they were really important. Even though it took me a while to adjust to Evans’ writing style, MY PAPER CHASE is well worth the time it takes to read it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of MY PAPER CHASE and to Booking Pap Pap for his interesting review.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Words Move Me

As a book lover, there are few things more rewarding to me that reading an amazing book. You probably know exactly what I'm talking about -- a book that evokes intense feelings in you, perhaps even changes how you perceive your life in some way. A book that you just have to discuss with someone and see if they had a similar reaction.

I've read quite a few books over the past 20 years or so that made me feel this way. Probably the one that sticks with me the most for some very many reasons is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It is without a doubt my very favorite book -- ever! I have read it numerous times starting when I was in high school; and each and every time, this novel just blows me away.

If you are nodding your head right now and thinking of the book (or books) that made you feel this way, then I know of a great new site launched by Sony that will appeal to you. It's called Words Move Me: Connecting readers around the literary moments they love, and it is really a terrific way to see how readers like you have been affected by the books they've read.

It's very simple to get started on Words Move Me. All you have to do is register on the site -- you need a user name and password. You can also add a profile picture, a short bio, some of your favorite books, and genres of books you enjoy. Then you can start submitting "words that move you" by creating "literary moments" from some of your favorite books. These moments can not exceed 255 characters (including spaces) -- kind of like book love tweets but with a few more characters! You can also add up to three relevant emotional tags (i.e. inspiration, humor, empathy, etc.) for additional searchability options.

I have already started entering some of my "literary moments." I have to say that I had a great time reflecting on some of the books I've read and how they affected my life. Whether it be a book that I read years ago that has still managed to stay in my mind, or one that I read with my children over and over again, I think Words Move Me is a wonderful way for me to capture how much books mean to me.




Besides entering some of my favorite books, I have also thoroughly enjoyed browsing the site and reading others' literary moments. It is so amazing to see the power that books have had on so many people! I think Words Move Me is just a fantastic way for the book community to come together and share the importance of the written word in all of our lives!

I highly encourage you to check out the new site Words Move Me. I know you'll have a wonderful time both sharing your thoughts and feelings as well as reading about how "words have moved" other readers!

And, now for the big news! To help promote the new site Words Move Me, Sony wants to giveaway a Sony Reader Pocket Edition (valued at $199.99) to one very lucky Booking Mama reader. I am so excited that I can barely stand it!!!!
Here's how you can enter to win:

1. Leave a comment telling me about a book you read when you were growing up that has stayed with you and why it was memorable. Make sure you leave an email address or a way to contact you in case you win.

2. This is not an entirely random giveaway -- I will be reviewing each entry for originality and content. I will select the top five entries and randomly choose a winner from these.

2. No purchase necessary to enter or win. Odds of winning are not increased by a purchase.

3. Sorry, but this giveaway is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only.

4. Contest will be open until Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST. The winner will be announced on this blog on Monday, January 4, 2010.

5. Good luck to everyone!

Sony has empowered me to participate in this campaign, and I have been compensated with a Sony Reader Pocket Edition valued at $199.99. A huge thanks to Digital Influence Group and Sony for providing the two Sony Reader Pocket Editions!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Summary: A hilarious and moving memoir—in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron—about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin—he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.Written with wry humor and huge personality—and tackling faith, love, family, and aging—Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is an immensely moving memoir of healing, certain to touch anyone who has ever had to look homeward in order to move ahead. -- Henry Holt

I had high hopes for MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS: A MEMOIR OF GOING HOME by Rhoda Janzen. I'm not sure what I was hoping for, but this book was just "awright" for me. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it - there were certainly parts of it that I found very entertaining, it's just that I wanted this memoir to really stand out; and it didn't quite do that for me.

I think I might be an exception with my reaction to this book because I have seen some terrific reviews for it. The advance praise on the back cover alone makes me question my feelings, and the book also received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. It could just be that MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS wasn't the book that I was in the mood for this week!

I can't put my finger on why I didn't love this book because it was certainly well written. I also found it very funny at times. Ms. Janzen has a very unique voice that is filled with lots of insight and wit, and I did find myself cracking up over her self-deprecating humor. As I read this novel, I honestly asked myself how much one person could go through. Not only was the author was in a major car wreck, but her husband left her for a man all within a very short period of time.

Maybe my reaction was because I couldn't really relate to the author's story (thank goodness for that.) One thing I did appreciate about this book, though, was Ms. Janzen's honesty and how she was willing to share her story. I think many women will be able to relate to some of her experiences and her emotions, and I hope they can take away something from Ms. Janzen's powerful story of healing. If nothing else, all readers will see how essential the author's sense of humor was to her well-being.

I'm pretty sure that many book groups will appreciate MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS, and I honestly think it would be a very interesting book to discuss. There is a reading guide available with some great questions. Some of the topics that you could further explore include religion, childhood, parent/child relationships, marriage, friendships, hope and healing.

I wanted to share with you a video from the author of MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS:



Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this memoir.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review: When You Reach Me

Summary: Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. -- Wendy Lamb Books

If you haven't read WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead, then you are definitely missing out on a fantastic middle grade book! The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and the book has already been awarded as the 2009 winner of: Kid's Indie Next List Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers, New York Times Notable Book, Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books, Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of the Year, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Booklist Children's Editors' Choice, Horn Book Fanfare, National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award, Parents' Choice Gold Award, and Book Links Lasting Connection. Whew -- that's a lot of praise, and it's all well deserved.

I actually read this book back in August when I first received it. I was so excited to get my hands on a copy, but for some reason, I didn't ever sit down and write a review. I think I enjoyed the book so much that I didn't know how to articulate my feelings. Boy am I kicking myself now. Four months later the book is no longer fresh in my mind, but I can say that it has remained in my thoughts the entire time. I think that is perhaps the most powerful statement I can make about this book!

I am having a hard time describing this book, because I know I can't do it justice! I have a feeling that this book is going to mean different things to different readers. I can't decide what I enjoyed more about this book -- the character development or the mystery aspect. I absolutely adored Miranda, and she is one of those characters that just stays with you. I think children are going to not only love her, but they are also going to like putting together the pieces of the puzzle in this story. As for me, I especially appreciated how the story unfolded and how the author brought everything together by the end of the novel.

I only had one regret when I read this story. I wish I were more familiar with the novel A WRINKLE IN TIME. There were many tie-ins and references to the classic novel, and I think I might have appreciated the book even more if I was actually "getting" all of them! I definitely intend to read A WRINKLE IN TIME for The Shelf Discovery Challenge, so it's possible that I will re-read WHEN YOU REACH ME at that time.

I would absolutely love for our mother-daughter book club to read this novel together. I think both moms and girls alike would love the book. There is a little bit of everything in this story -- mystery, fantasy, and adventure; and I also consider it a coming-of-age story (which if you read are familiar with my blog, you know I love those types of books.) There is a great deal to discuss from the mystery/fantasy angle as well as the character development.

If you can't tell, I highly recommend WHEN YOU REACH ME for both middle graders as well as adults! It's a beautifully written story that is guaranteed to keep you hooked from the first few pages.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a signed ARC of this novel.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

After taking over 80 pictures during our official family "photo shoot," I managed to get a pretty cute picture of my kiddos if I do say so myself! I wanted to wait until I got my early Christmas present -- a Canon EOS Rebel XSI -- so I was actually a little later than normal getting my Christmas cards out.

In keeping with our "challenging" past few weeks, my poor son actually had terrible asthma and even threw up 15 minutes before this picture. He looks pretty good all things considered, right?

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Club Exchange - Sam of Aaron's Books

I am so excited to welcome Sam from Aaron's Books to Book Club Exchange, a regular feature on Booking Mama which highlights anything and everything book club-related! I discovered Aaron's Books in Lititz, PA, last summer when I went to an author reading/signing, and I instantly fell in love with the store. Besides finding my favorite new bookstore, I was also fortunate enough to become friends with the owners -- Sam and her husband Todd!

Your Indie Bookstore, Your Book Club, and You

As a bookstore owner and book club member this post is two fold… a plea of sorts to support indie bookstores, especially with your book group, and a how-to guide.

First the quick plea…indie bookstores are a part of your community, the same community in which your book club members live, work, play and read. Indie bookstores can be an integral part of your book club, if you’ll let them… and here’s how!

5 Ways to work with your local bookstore

1) Communicate! When shopping (even if not for your book club selection) let them know you are in a book club, what your upcoming reads are, what types of books you read, etc. We often have someone come in and ask for a book their club is reading, we don’t have it, they leave… had we known a book club in the area was reading a particular book, we’d have made sure to have it on the shelf… which leads to #2

2) Have the club order in bulk together from your indie. Many stores will offer book club discounts, it never hurts to ask…. Which leads to #3

3) Ask for suggestions. As your club is planning out the your calendar of readings, stop in and talk to your indie bookstore folks. We can tell you what other clubs have been reading and enjoying. Indies that belong to the ABA (American Booksellers Association) get quarterly guides to book club suggestions, with recommendations from indie booksellers… pick up a few, share them with your book club …. Which leads to #4

4) You love your local indie, and we love you… but have you told the rest of your book club about us? Maybe they don’t know that there is an indie bookstore less than a mile from where they work… maybe they don’t know we have a website they can order books from in the comfort of their home… maybe they don’t know about the 5 author events we have next month… helping spread the word about your indie to your club can only strengthen us….. which leads to #5 (sort of)

5) Get involved with your indie… did your club just read a book by a semi-local author? Let your indie know, maybe they can bring that author in. Is your club looking for a place to meet? Ask your indie… many of us would welcome a book club with open arms…. Help your indie start a new book club, talk to your indie about creating displays for book clubs, write “shelf talkers” for your indie…. We value customer input and help… we love to work with groups not just for them… at a n indie bookstore is really is about building a community of readers and NOT just selling a book for profit.

Happy reading!

*****

Sam Droke-Dickinson is Co-Owner of Aaron’s Books with her husband and 7 year old son. She’s been a bookstore owner for 5 years, but in her prior life she was a middle school teacher and arts administrator. Her love of reading started early on cross-country road trips where they’d have to pull off the highway to find a bookstore each day to replenish Sam’s reading stack. Aaron’s Books hosts two book clubs: Books and Brunch which reads new and popular women authors, and Crazy for Cozies which reads the “lighter” mysteries.

I am so grateful to Sam for sharing her some information about the importance of your local independent bookstores. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review: The Christmas Clock

Summary: Sylvia Winters just found a job and an apartment in her hometown of Dreyerville, Michigan, but she is hesitant to return. Eight years ago, she jilted her fiancé, Joe Dixon, telling him that she was moving to Chicago because small-town living was not for her. But she was lying. Syl was headed to Chicago to be treated for cervical cancer. Sadly, Joe never knew the real reason she left him. Confused and distraught, he turned to drinking to heal the pain, until he accidentally killed a man and served years in jail. Now Syl and Joe are both back in town, but it will take a miracle to bring them back into each other’s arms. Also in town is Lottie Sparks and her grandson, Teddy. Ever since Lottie’s daughter was killed in a drunk-driving accident, Lottie’s been in charge of Teddy. He appreciates her love more than she knows, so much so that the industrious eight-year-old hits up Joe’s auto body shop, so he can save enough money by Christmas to buy his grandmother a Victorian clock she adores—one that vividly reminds her of her childhood, even as the rest of her memories are slipping away with the onset of advanced Alzheimer’s. As spring turns to summer and summer to fall, matters in the Sparks’ household take a turn for the worse. And with winter approaching, will a little hope and a big dose of Christmas magic be enough to make everything all right again? -- Vanguard Press

A few weeks ago, I was checking out with some library books and DVDs for my son when I saw a big stash of Christmas books. You know by now that I love holiday-themed books so I grabbed a few and placed them on the counter. Much to my surprise, the library worker told me it would be $4! I thought they were library holdings so I was a little embarrassed, but I figured a $4 donation to the library was a worthwhile cause. One of the books that I picked up was a novella called THE CHRISTMAS CLOCK by Kat Martin.

Maybe it's because I'm overloading on Christmas books, but I thought this one was just okay. I'm glad I read it because it does encompass all the sweet emotions of the season, but it really didn't stand out to me. It tugged a wee bit at my heartstrings, but because it was so predictable, I didn't find myself really caught up in the story.

I did like all of the characters in this book, and as I read this novel, I was hoping that things would work out for all of them. Of course, for the most part, everything was wrapped up in a nice little bow by the end of the story. After I finished this quick little read, I felt a sense of hope for the characters, and it definitely warmed my heart.

I wasn't aware that Kat Martin was a New York Times bestselling romance author but that really makes a lot of sense to me now after reading THE CHRISTMAS CLOCK. There were a few ongoing story lines in the book, but two that stood out were about couples who had damaged relationships. Throughout the course of the story, both couples found ways to forgive, heal and work on their relationships. I am not a huge romance fan, but every once in awhile, a clean book about love and relationships is nice to read.

I recommend THE CHRISTMAS CLOCK if you are looking for a quick, sweet read during the holiday season. It's also a beautiful book that would make a nice gift for someone special.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: Moving Windows - Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Santa's Surprise

Summary: Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are! Join this merry group of children for a fun, nighttime camping adventure under the stars. With just the touch of a button, they can listen to childhood favorite Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star while they participate in the story. Includes an amazing die-cut cover with a moving illustration, button-activated music, playful illustrations throughout, and a grand, full-spread pop-up finale. Grab a sleeping bag--this book is sure to become a bedtime favorite.-- Silver Dolphin

Summary: Teddy, Dolly and all of their friends are getting ready for Santa's arrival. Even as they dance and cheer, they know that Santa's almost here! Help the toys put out milk and cookies in Santa's Surprise, a festive new holiday title from the always fun Moving Windows series. Kick off the season with a ho-ho-ho, starting with this adorable book's amazing cover showcasing an innovative 3-D moving illustration of Santa and his sleigh, flashing holiday lights, and music. With the touch of a button, kids can launch into “Jingle Bells” for a merry Christmas Eve sing-along. The book is a visual treat, with sweet illustrations and a giant pop-up surprise at the end that kids will love. After story time, visions of sugarplums will be dancing in their heads. -- Silver Dolphin

A few months ago, I reviewed a book that my little guy just loved called MOVING WINDOWS: MONSTER MADNESS. I was just thrilled when we found that there are additional books in this series -- there are currently five Moving Windows books available. The two most recent ones that we read together are called MOVING WINDOWS: TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR illustrated by Christiane Ingel and SANTA'S SURPRISE illustrated by Liz Conrad. The novelty of the "moving window" didn't wear off for Booking Son -- he loved these books too.

TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR is very cute book for the young reader. The button on the front cover plays Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star -- no shock there, but the story did have a little surprise for me. I assumed that the words in the book would be the lyrics of the song; however, after the first two pages, the words were actually a different story. The book tells about a group of children who go camping, and how the stars give them light. The last page is a big pop-up picture of the children and the campground. I especially liked the front cover which has a moving window where the kids actually do a little dance and the stars light up and blink!

SANTA'S SURPRISE was probably Booking Son's favorite although he is like his mom when it comes to holiday books this time of year! The moving window on the cover of this book shows Santa and his reindeer flying through the sky along with flashing lights on a Christmas tree. The song that plays when you push the button is Jingle Bells (in our house, it's the Batman smells version this year.) This book tells the story of Santa and how he gets ready for his big night. It has extremely cute and colorful pictures; and like all the Moving Window books, the last page is a big pop-up picture!

Both books are absolutely adorable and little kids are sure to love them! Thanks to Media Masters Publicity for providing us with a copy of the book.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: The Christmas Pearl

Summary: Still spry at ninety-three, Theodora has lived long enough to see her family grow into an insufferable bunch of truculent knuckleheads. Having finally gathered the whole bickering brood together for the holidays at her South Carolina home, the grand matriarch pines wistfully for those extravagant, homey Christmases of her childhood. How she misses the tables groaning with home-cooked goodies, the over-the-top decorations, those long, lovely fireside chats with Pearl, her grandmother's beloved housekeeper and closest confidante. These days, where is the love and the joy . . . and the peace?

But this is, after all, a magical time. Someone very special has heard Theodora's plea—and is about to arrive at her door with pockets full of Gullah magic and enough common sense to transform this Christmas into the miracle it's truly meant to be. -- Avon

A few months ago, I opened a package to find a copy of
THE CHRISTMAS PEARL by Dorothea Benton Frank along with a cute little jingle bell. I thought it was a very cute marketing idea, but I just wasn't ready for holiday books back then. Well, you know that I've been reading a ton of Christmas books the past few weeks, and I finally got around to taking a look at this one. It was a cute, heart-warming read that I think resonated with me because of the holiday season. I'm not sure had I read it any other time of the year, I would have appreciated it as much.

The mass market paperback version of the book is a perfect little stocking stuffer. THE CHRISTMAS PEARL is actually a very quick read -- you can read it pretty easily in a sitting or two. When I started reading the book, I was surprised to see that although the book looks to be a "normal-sized" paperback, it is actually more like a novella -- around 150 pages. I was thrilled to see that the rest of the book was filled with tons of terrific sounding recipes. This sweet little book is actually a Christmas story and cookbook in one!

THE CHRISTMAS PEARL tells the story of Theodora, a 93 year old woman whose family is just a mess. They are all completely self-absorbed and just plain miserable people. Theodora's entire family (her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren) come to spend Christmas in the family home with her, and things quickly take a turn for the worst on Christmas Eve when everyone gets into a shouting fest. I was really shocked how cruel the family members were to each other.

A "special" person from Theodora's past makes a very surprising visit and helps make Christmas magical for the entire family. I think my favorite parts of this story were the scenes with Pearl and Theodora. I thought the author did a nice job of showing the women's love and respect for each other. I also loved it when they reminisced about their past together, when Christmas was much simpler. As I read this book, I found myself shaking my head at how commercial we (myself included) have made this holiday; and I think this book gives a gentle nudge about keeping things in perspective during this very hectic time of the year.

Of course, THE CHRISTMAS PEARL is a holiday book and eventually there is a happy ending! The characters all see the errors of their ways and realize what truly is important in their lives. The story is rather predictable, but it's Christmas and I know I want the story to be wrapped up in a neat little bow and for everything to work out for the characters. That's really all I ask for holiday book -- to touch my heart and make me feel good!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Review: Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Summary: From the authors of the groundbreaking, hugely popular Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day comes a new cookbook filled with quick and easy recipes for healthy bread. Their first book was called “stupendous,” “genius,” and “the holy grail of bread making.” Now, in their much-anticipated second book, Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François have taken their super-fast method and adapted it for the health-conscious baker, focusing on whole grains and other healthier ingredients.

The method is still quick and simple, producing professional-quality results with each warm, fragrant, hearty loaf. In just five minutes a day of active preparation time, you can create delectable, healthy treats such as 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Whole Grain Garlic Knots with Olive Oil and Parsley, Black-and-White Braided Pumpernickel and Rye Loaf, Black Pepper Focaccia, Pumpkin Pie Brioche, Chocolate Tangerine Bars, and a variety of gluten-free breads. About a dozen of the recipes are 100% whole grain.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day will show you that there is time enough for home-baked bread, and that it can be part of a healthy diet. Calling all bread lovers: Whether you are looking for more whole grains, watching your weight, trying to reduce your cholesterol, or just care about what goes into your body, this book is a must-have. Visit
www.HealthyBreadInFive.com for more information. -- Thomas Dunne Books

Remember how I said that I love cookbooks? Well, I have another one that I can't rave enough about. It's called HEALTHY BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY: 100 NEW RECIPES FEATURING WHOLE GRAINS, FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND GLUTEN-FREE INGREDIENTS by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois. Prior to this cookbook, I never even tried to make homemade bread. It's all Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and French Loaf for this family. But now that I've discovered this cookbook, I have made bread for my family almost every day!

I love this cookbook so much! There are 100 bread recipes in it, and almost all of them appeal to me. So far, I have only made the
100% Whole Wheat Bread Plain and Simple loaf; but I intend to try a lot more. I have to admit that my first attempt wasn't quite right. For some reason, the bread just didn't rise like it should have. It still looked and tasted good, but it was just a little bit flat. One thing I really appreciated about this book is that it has a trouble-shooting section. I think it's terrific that the book includes something like this, and it made me feel "okay" for not having perfect bread on my first try. My second attempt making The Master Recipe turned out much better.

My son is truly obsessed with this "mommy homemade" bread. He has eaten an entire loaf in three days. I can't even believe it (but I'm loving it) since he's never really liked wheat bread before. I'm just happy that he's not allergic to it! He enjoyed eating the 100% Whole Wheat Bread Plain and Simple, but he also loves the less wheat-y Master Recipe. The Master Recipe is made with whole wheat and some unbleached white flour.

Believe it or not, my kids only eat homemade/fresh bread. They eat bread or toast every morning for breakfast, so I end up buying baguettes about three times a week. Often times it goes stale before they can even eat it all. Their fresh bread habit costs us about $10 a week. I love that each bread recipe in HEALTHY BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES costs around $.40 a loaf! Plus, I don't have to go to the store every few days. Just think of how many cookbooks I can buy with the savings!

I loved this cookbook so much that I've decided that I have to have the first one -- ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY. While Booking Son can't get enough of the whole wheat bread, Booking Daughter wants her bread a little less "wheat-y" (although she really likes the Master Recipe). My husband is actually the same way, so this prior cookbook might have some potentially "better" recipes for them!

Besides being extremely easy to make (no kneading required), I love that you can make the dough ahead of time and just refrigerate it up to 10 days or so. When my son wants hot, fresh bread, I can just pull the dough out of the frig, sit it on the counter, let it rise and bake it. It is so easy I can't believe it! If you don't believe me, check out this video! It really does work just like this:



Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thanks to FSB Associates for sending me a review copy of this book.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Secret Santa Came to Town!


Well, I must have been an awfully good girl this year because Santa came a little early and brought lots of goodies!

A few days ago, my Secret Santa was revealed -- it was Kim from Page After Page. Ironically enough, guess whose Secret Santa I was? She sent loads of wonderful gifts including a Borders Gift Card, a snowflake ornament, a Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark bar, and an adorable metal bookmark.

A huge thanks to Kim for sending such wonderful (and thoughtful) gifts!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: My Life in France

Summary: Julia Child single handedly awakened America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France. Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as as a cook and teacher and writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years. -- Anchor

My book club decided to read MY LIFE IN FRANCE by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme for our December meeting. You can read more about our discussion here. I was thrilled when the book was chosen because I had already read JULIE & JULIA and I had even seen the movie (and I never see movies) with two members of our group. I absolutely adored the movie, and I especially enjoyed the Julia Child/Meryl Streep parts. It was a natural extension that I wanted to learn more about the woman -- Julia Child.

I vaguely remember seeing Julia Child on television when I was a young girl, but I don't remember much beyond her very distinctive voice. While many households owned copies of Julia Child's cookbooks, ours was not one of them! I really knew little, if anything, about her before picking up JULIE AND JULIA. But once I saw the movie, I was definitely charmed by her vibrant, larger-than-life personality.

This book was such a treat to read! I loved it each and every page! I found the book to be very interesting, and I even liked seeing how the movie portrayed Julia versus how she appeared to me in the book. This book really had to so much to offer the senses -- from the food and wine details to the descriptions of France. In addition, it also touched my heart because it gave some insight into the relationship between Julia and her husband Paul.

I really can sum up this book by calling it a love story! But it was a love story on so many levels. Not only did Julia realize that she "belonged" in France and she really did appreciate almost everything about the country, but she also discovered that cooking and writing cookbooks was what she was destined to do. In addition, she found her true love in her husband Paul. They had a very special relationship built on mutual respect! How very fortunate Julia was to get to live out her passions each and every day.

I have to admit that I was much more interested in getting to know Julia Child that I was with all of the French recipes. I felt the same way when I read Julie and Julia! I just don't think I have "an appreciation" of French food. Most of the meat recipes sounded absolutely disgusting to me; however, the dessert and bread recipes sounded wonderful! I guess that tells you what I like to eat.

I wasn't sure how MY LIFE IN FRANCE would translate into a book club discussion, but it did. I'm not going to say that it was our best, most thought-provoking meeting of the year; however, I think we were all excited by the book and did manage to talk about the book (and the recipes) for quite awhile. There is no doubt that we all enjoyed the book, and I actually think we caught some of Julia's joie de vivre! The publisher doesn't have a reading guide, but we did find some questions here.

I'm not entirely sure you can tell how much I enjoyed this book! Needless to say, I highly recommend MY LIFE IN FRANCE! It would make a wonderful gift too!