Thursday, March 26, 2015

Introducing... Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don't know where I am, how I came to be here. I don't know how I'm going to get home.

-- Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mailbox Monday (3/2/15 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Received from publisher

The hilarious, heart-breaking new novel by the author of the international bestseller A MAN CALLED OVE.

'Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny's secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can't quite put her finger on...'

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother's stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

So when Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa's greatest adventure. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman's bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

I received an ARC of this book, and it has My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry shown as the title, but while the ebook on Goodreads is listed under that title, the paperback is listed as My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises.

The Great Grammar Book by Marsha Sramek

I received this book from the author. Loving grammar as I do, I thought this would be a good fit. It is a workbook, and I'm learning a lot. I even dreamed about grammar last night!

The Man Who Loved Too Much by John Rachel
Received from the author

This is the story of Billy Green. When he was just turning four, his father tried to throw him in the trash. He was a smart kid but that just seemed to create enemies.

His mom did everything to protect him. But this was Detroit, armpit of the wasteland! Catholic school didn’t help much, except the time he got his first kiss from an atheist nun. Home life was dismal. Was his father capable of anything but drinking beer and farting? And what was with that neighbor who made puppets and tried to molest Billy? Golly! Detroit was sucking the life out of him. At such a young age!

Then adolescence swirled around him. Like water in a toilet bowl. High school was a B movie. Only without a plot. So finally he did something about it. Billy ran away… to college. Cornell University. That was a good move for sure! He studied hard, lost his virginity, met the love of his life. Things were definitely looking up! What could possibly go wrong? Isn’t that what we always ask?

Received through Netgalley:

Normal by Graeme Cameron

This is a love story. No, really.

He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you as you pass him and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving to let you into the lane ahead of him.

What you don't know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he's carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he's holding there against her will--one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.

This is how it's been for a long time. It's normal...and it works. Perfectly.

Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room...the others. He doesn't need any of them anymore. He needs only her. One small problem--he still has someone trapped in his garage.

Discovering his humanity couldn't have come at a worse time.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus' surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature: and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

Sy Montgomery's popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, "Deep Intellect"; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?

The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.

I love octopi! They are intelligent and fascinating creatures! 

QUICK REVIEW: Shaggy Dog Eats by Christy Bright


Now you can make your own healthy dog treats without spending a fortune. All the recipes in this book have been developed and made in my very own kitchen. There is a recipe for every special taste and sensitivity. Also, most of the ingredients can be modified. Have some fun and play around. Your four-legged friends will thank you.

Most of these recipes are fast and easy to make. They also make great gifts and are perfect for bake sales raising money for animal rescue organizations.

A portion from every sale of this book will support animal rescue.

Hardcover, 56 pages
Published December 1st 2014 by Beachbrights Publishing (first published November 19th 2014)
ISBN 0990985601 (ISBN13: 9780990985600)

My Thoughts

This is a brief book of only 56 pages. There is no introduction, no text aside from the recipes, and few photos.

The recipes are very simple to follow. Some are super easy, like "No Bake Treats", which only has three easy-to-find ingredients and no baking required. Some may be more complicated, like the "Celebration Cake" for special canine celebrations, and some may have harder-to-find ingredients, like rice flour.

I made the No Bake Treats, which are just peanut butter, milk (I used almond milk) and oats. The pups love them!

This is a good book for simple homemade dog treats. Nothing fancy and wholesome ingredients.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:



I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

QUICK REVIEW: Poole's Paradise by John Vorhaus


WHEN YOU'RE ALEXANDER POOLE, EVERYONE'S YOUR TEACHER A skeevy stereo salesman, master of the bait and switch. A flaky folk singer and his dog that reads Tolkien. A drug dealer loan shark with a passion for trees. A ballsy townie chick who turns you on to Springsteen. Your wiseass roommate whose favorite pastime is smoking your dope. Your first college girlfriend who has sex with you to confirm that she's gay. Even your one true love. Together they point you to paradise - Poole's Paradise - but what will it cost to get in?

Paperback, 212 pages
Published October 4th 2014 by Createspace
ISBN 1500222097 (ISBN13: 9781500222093)

About the Author

John Vorhaus is known to one and all as the man who brought Radar Hoverlander – con artist extraordinaire – to life in the “sunshine noir” mystery novel, The California Roll, and its acclaimed sequel, The Albuquerque Turkey.

John is also well known as the author of The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You're Not, and its acclaimed sequel, The Little Book of SITCOM, which continue to be definitive sources of information and inspiration for writers from Santa Monica to Scandinavia.

An international consultant in television and film script development, Vorhaus has worked for television networks, film schools, production companies and film funding bodies in 28 countries on four continents. He recently worked in Bulgaria, recruiting and training writers for that country’s adaptation of Married… with Children, and in Tel Aviv, consulting on the Israeli version of The Golden Girls. He also travels regularly to Nicaragua, where he co-created the social action drama Contracorriente to provide positive role modeling for the poor, young and disenfranchised of that embattled country.

And oh by the way, he has written more than three million words on poker, just in his spare time.

Vorhaus is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a member of the Writers Guild of America. He has taught at such institutions as Northwestern University, the American Film Institute and the Writers Program of the UCLA Extension. He is the author of a dozen books, including Creativity Rules! A Writer's Workbook, the novel Under the Gun, the Killer Poker series and, with Annie Duke, the bestselling Decide to Play Great Poker.

He sells everything but his soul through his Amazon author page,, tweets for no apparent reason @TrueFactBarFact, and secretly rules the world from

My Thoughts
"Shut up! At the end of the day, can you not just shut the hell up?"  
I accepted this book based on the simple fact that I've read a couple of other books by this author, and really enjoyed both. I've found him to be a fun read, and I was happy to give his latest a try. The last two were part of a series with a fun-to-read con artist as the main character.

This time around finds a college student by the name of Alexander Poole who, like so many others, is always happy to make an easy buck, never one to turn down a warm body, and not afraid to get his hands a little dirty.

Well, this time around I just had a hard time getting into the story. At one point I thought to myself that this book felt like driving down a country road and spotting a sign for a corn maze. You think, “What fun!” So you pull over and pay $2 and begin winding around in the maze. But then an hour later you’re still wandering around in a maze of corn, lost and uncertain why you stopped in the first place.

Then about ⅔ of the way into the book, I started to feel a shift and was able to get into it a little more. But it still never really grabbed me and fell sort of flat. Author Vorhaus still has his talent for colorful, bantering characters, and he's always quick with a clever turn of phrase.
 “Oh, Dawk, the train of your stupidity glides upon the rails of my indifference…” 
But having read his previous work and knowing what a fun ride he's capable of taking me on, I was just a bit disappointed.

My final word: The author is a fine writer of entertaining characters and unusual angles, but certain moments got a little preposterous, and this story felt as if it were written for a younger crowd. It almost had a YA feel to it.There is a niche group for it, like the How To Build a Girl crowd who absolutely loved that novel while I just couldn’t get into it. The reviews on this have been quite good, so this may very well be an issue with a book just not clicking with me. I still remain a Vorhaus fan!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review from the author, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

REVIEW: Real Food for Everyone: Vegan-Friendly Meals for Meat-Lovers, Vegetarians and Vegans by Ann Gentry


This is the cookbook for everyone who wants to eat a little healthier these days by incorporating more real foods into your diet, whether you're a true vegan, vegetarian, or meatlover.

Hollywood's go-to vegan chef, mom, and founder of Los Angeles' most popular and chic vegan restaurant Real Food Daily, Ann Gentry shares her secret recipes in Real Food for Everyone. You don't have to be a vegan to enjoy Real Food for Everyone. Moms, chefs, foodies, and families can all enjoy expanding their cooking repertoire with this book filled with easy to prepare, scrumptious, healthy recipes and tips for the real food pantry.

Whether you're a time-strapped cook or a seasoned pro in the kitchen, Real Food for Everyone demystifies vegetarian and vegan cooking by offering more than 100 deliciously fresh and simple to prepare recipes, many of which are gluten free, and all of which are satisfying and healthy dishes for everyone to enjoy. In addition, the many useful pantry sections provide information on cooking ingredients that might be unfamiliar. From breakfast favorites such as Sesame-Shiitake Tofu Frittata to simple homemade soups such as Black-Eyed Pea and Red Pepper Soup, adn from everyday favorites like Lasagna Rolls to decadent desserts like Chocolate Silk Pie, you'll find something satisfying and healthy to cook for everyone.

This is an updated and paperback edition of Ann's book, Vegan Family Meals.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 10th 2015 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN 1449466532 (ISBN13: 9781449466534)

About the Author

Ann Gentry is the creator, founder, and operating owner of Real Food Daily, the only restaurant in the Los Angeles area that serves a 100% vegan menu using zero animal by-products and foods grown exclusively with organic farming methods. She is the author of The Real Food Daily Cookbook. She lives in Los Angeles with her family."

My Thoughts 

I quit eating meat five years ago over ethical concerns, but I haven't been the best at it. What I mean by that is that while I am good at not eating meat (no beef, poultry or pork), I do eat fish and seafood, but more importantly (and detrimentally), I do eat lots of junk and stuff that is just not so good for me. (By the way, don't let anyone tell you that you have to worry about not getting enough protein if you don't eat animals. I only eat fish or seafood every perhaps 7-10 days, and yet my protein levels are on the high side. I do eat yogurt, so I get some protein there. And I eat beans, quinoa, nuts, and other protein sources.)

This means I'm always eager for a cookbook that helps me focus on eating healthy vegetarian food that also tastes good, and is quick and easy to make. So when I saw this cookbook offered up vegan-friendly meals that even meat-lovers would love, I had to give it a gander.

The author offers an introduction that explains why you would want to eat vegan (e.g. the health benefits, the environmental benefits, the ethical benefits, etc.), and then starts right in with the recipes.

First come the breakfasts, full of granolas and porridges and smoothies. Next up is snacks and sandwiches, with recipes like Mango Salsa and BLT Tartines. Then comes soups with little tasties like Rich Dark Onion Soup with Cashew Cream and Herbed Croutons, and Black-Eyed Pea and Red Pepper Soup. Then it is family-style salads like Harvest Kale Salad with Sweet Mustard Tempeh and Saffron-Orange Tahini Dressing and Mixed Oak and Green Leaf Salad with Sesame-Hiziki Croquettes, Garbanzo Beans, and Ginger-Tahini Dressing. Next you can set the table with simple meals like One-Pot Vegetables and Tofu with Sesame Rice and Lasagna Rolls with Tofu Ricotta and Everyday Tomato Sauce. Add on some hearty grains and vegetables like Barley Risotto with Spring Peas, Aspragus, and Leeks and Spicy Kimpira. And round it all out with desserts like Summer Blueberry Crumble and Peaches and Nectarines with Sweet Almond-Cashew Cream.

There is a source guide at the end of the book that lists "Natural Foods Companies", "Kitchen Tools and Small Wares", "Education", and "Organizations and Initiatives", and then a handy metric conversion chart.

The book has some beautiful photography, but not nearly as many photographs as I would have preferred. The chapters are interspersed with brief articles introducing things like superfoods or kitchen tips and informative bits about cooking techniques or equipment.

The author also touches on more focused practices, such as macrobiotics, and offers up sources for obtaining more information.

I decided to try making guacamole for the first time, utilizing a recipe from the cookbook.

Cherry Tomato Guacamole

1 (4 oz) basket cherry tomatoes, halved if small, quartered if large
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbs fresh lime or lemon juice
3/4 tsp fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 firm but ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and coarsely diced

Toss the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, the 3/4 tsp salt, cumin, and garlic in a medium bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Mash one-half of the diced avocados in a large bowl. Gently stir the mashed avocados and the remaining diced avocados into the tomato mixture, keeping the diced avocados intact. Season the guacamole to taste with more salt, if desired.

It was pretty darn good! It's definitely a keeper!

My final word: This cookbook is beautiful, and it is a great concept. My biggest complaint would probably be that it doesn't have as many really simple weekday meals as I'd like, and sometimes calls for less common ingredients. But it is great for the vegetarian/vegan who is looking to get a little more ambitious with their food prep.

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.