Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Giveaways in Blogworld (09-23-11 edition)

NOTE: A reminder that you are free to email me about any giveaways that you are having, if you want me to blog them, and I'll be happy to try to post them even if I am not entering them. Just include a link to the giveaway, what you are giving away, how many copies are being given away, and the deadline in order to assure being included. Email me at nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com.

Here is a list of some giveaways going on in Blogworld*. Please note that new giveaways that were added this week are indented in Blockquotes:
Fantastic Book Review is giving away The unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Deadline is September 27. US/Canada only.
Bookish in a Box is giving away your choice of a number of ARCs (plus a few extra!) Deadline is September 28. US only.
The Book Swarm is giving away 2 $15 Amazon gift cards as part of Banned Book Week. Deadline is October 1. International!
Darkangel88 is giving away Bloodlines and Marked as part of Banned Book Week. Deadline is October 1. International!
All I Ever Read is giving away your choice out of eight books as part of Banned Book Week. Deadline is October 1.  International!
Peeking Between the Pages is giving away a copy of The Gendarme. Deadline is October 1. US only.
Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Primacy. Deadline is October 8. US/Canada only.
Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Falling Together. Deadline is October 8. US/Canada only.
Addicted 2 Novels is giving away 2 boxes of ARCs. Deadline is October 10. US only.
Peeking Between the Pages is giving away The Legacy. Deadline is October 15. International!
Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Salvage the Bones. Deadline is October 22. US/Canada only.
Book Whore is giving away her 1st edition Nook! Deadline is November 14. I couldn't find a note of whether it was US or International.
*Courtesy Note: Please keep in mind the many, many hours of work that goes into me compiling this list each week. Please be courteous and thoughtful, and do not steal my text. Either recreate your own list, or link to this list and direct your readers here for giveaway information. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mailbox Monday (09-19-11 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is now hosted monthly by a different blog. Here is the official blog of Mailbox Monday.  Here is what I received over the last number of weeks:

Dug Down Deep: Building Your Life on Truths That Last by Joshua Harris
Received for review through Blogging for Books

What are you going to build your life on? Dug Down Deep is systematic theology like you’ve never seen it before. Readable. Relevant. Powerful. As best-selling author Joshua Harris shares his own journey from apathetic church-kid to student with a burning passion to truly know God, you’ll be challenged to dig deep into the truths of God’s word.   With humor, conviction and compelling insight Dug Down Deep covers the basics of faith—God, scripture, Jesus, the cross, salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit and the church. Don’t settle for superficial faith, dig deep. 

The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff
Won from Starting Fresh

Pam Jenoff, whose first novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, was a Quill Award finalist, a Book Sense pick, and a finalist for the ALA Sophie Brody Award, joins the Doubleday list with a suspenseful story of love and betrayal set during the Holocaust. 

An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Harrington, two fiercely independent attor­neys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working to defend the brother of a Holocaust hero against allegations of World War II–era war crimes.

The defendant, wealthy financier Roger Dykmans, mysteri­ously refuses to help in his own defense, revealing only that proof of his innocence lies within an intricate timepiece last seen in Nazi Germany. As the narrative moves from Philadelphia to Germany, Poland, and Italy, we are given glimpses of the lives that the anniversary clock has touched over the past century, and learn about the love affair that turned a brother into a traitor.

Rich in historical detail, Jenoff’s astonishing new work is a testament to true love under the worst of circumstances.

Books Bought:

End of Days by Robert Gleason

Lydia Lozen Magruder—the great-granddaughter of a female Apache war-shaman—has seen visions of the End since childhood. She has constructed a massive ranch-fortress in the American Southwest, stocked with everything necessary to rebuild civilization.

Now her visions are coming true. John Stone, once a baseball star and now a famous gonzo journalist, stumbled across a plan to blast humanity back to the stone age. Then he vanished. Lydia’s only hope of tracking him down lies with her stubborn, globe-trotting daughter, Kate, Stone’s former lover.

Kate is about to step right into the plotters’ crosshairs. Stone has been captured by a pair of twin Middle Eastern princesses, hell-bent on torturing him until he reveals all he knows.

Meanwhile, a Russian general obsessed with nuclear Armageddon has also have eight or more of his Russian subs, armed with nuclear-tipped missiles.

The world is armed for self-destruction.

Who will survive?

Dies the Fire (Emberverse Series #1) by S.M. Stirling

The Change occurred when an electrical storm centered over the island of Nantucket produced a blinding white flash that rendered all electronic devices and fuels inoperable. What follows is the most terrible global catastrophe in the history of the human race-and a Dark Age more universal and complete than could possibly be imagined.

Joy Bauer's Food Cures: Eat Right to Get Healthier, Look Younger, and Add Years to Your Life by Joy Bauer

Comprehensively updated with cutting-edge research and expertise from one of the country’s foremost nutritionists, Joy Bauer’s Food Cures shows you how common health concerns- from beauty issues to life-threatening diseases- can be managed, treated, and sometimes even cured by the foods you eat. Inside you will find easy-to-follow 4-step food prescriptions, customizable and convenient meal plans, and delicious recipes for your favorite meals and snacks. With Joy’s wisdom and practical, medically sound advice, you will learn how to use food as nature’s ultimate medicine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Books for Soldiers

I received a newsletter today from Reader Views asking for books for military personnel:


Art Mills, award winner author of The Empty Lot Next Door, is stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan and requesting print books for himself and his fellow troop members. He tells me most of the books are old and worn-out, indicating people read them and hand them to others.

I sent him a box of 12 books and he wrote me:

I placed the books on a book shelf and people rushed right to them. It's nice to know people back home still care after ten years. Thanks!!!!

Yes, we do care! Please donate a copy of your book (or ARC) so Art can put it on their barren shelves. If you send more than one copy it will be donated to another troop through Books for Soldiers.

And, it's okay to enclose a letter of thanks, or if you have a child have her or him draw a picture or write a letter. It is a lonely world in Afghanistan and if we can bring a smile or tear to our soldiers it will be a reminder to them that we do care.

Please send your donation to:

Reader Views
Books for Soldiers
3267 Bee Cave Road, Ste 107-380
Austin, TX 78746

We use candy for packing so if you'd like to donate a bag of candy as well, that would be terrific. The candy should be something that is wrapped individually, e.g. tootsie rolls, mints. (Not chocolate - it melts while sitting on the tarmac.)

Thanks! I know your book will be well received!

PS - if you have any military/war themed books, either your own or those you have read, please send them as well. Surprisingly those themes are well received.
So if you've got any used books to get rid of, maybe you'll consider sharing them with our military personnel in the middle east? It's got me thinking!

Guest Blog: Gabrielle Bernstein, author of Spirit Junkie

I'm happy to welcome author Gabrielle Bernstein, whose new book Spirit Junkie releases today...

By Gabrielle Bernstein

For twenty years I kept a journal. I wrote about heartbreak, anxiety, and eating disorders. I wrote about trying to quit drugs while high on drugs. Pages and pages are filled with self-loathing and self-doubt. My journal was my only outlet from the turmoil and deep-rooted pain I felt every day. I’d release my fears onto the page and get honest about my sadness as I scribbled over my tears.

Today my journal entries are much different. They reflect an empowered woman who is happy and bleeds authenticity. The words on the page are tinged with pride and compassion. I’ve overcome my addictions to love, drugs, food, work, and fear. I worked hard, and man, was it worth it. My journal shows a deep desire to continue growing from the inside out.

My primary guide on my journey to self-love has been the metaphysical text A Course in Miracles. The Course is a self-study curriculum emphasizing practical applications for relinquishing fear in all areas of life. The Course’s unique thought system uses forgiveness as the road to inner peace and happiness.

Admittedly, when I first began reading the Course, the language and many of the concepts were extremely foreign to me. But, ultimately, I realized that getting bogged down in semantics was a silly distraction. What really mattered was how relevant the Course’s teachings were to my life, and my absolute willingness to be guided to change.

It was with that burning desire for change that I set out to purchase the Course to begin with. Upon entering the bookstore, I noticed the dark blue hardback with the title A Course in Miracles scrawled in illuminating gold print across the cover. I found the thickness of the volume inviting and reassuring, and as I grabbed the book off the shelf I smiled as if I had received a wink from the Universe. Then the most auspicious thing happened—the book literally dragged me to the counter. It felt strange and yet, oddly comforting. Intuitively, I knew I was in for something good.

Afterward, as I stood on a busy New York City street corner, I flipped the book open to its Introduction and read, “This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take is voluntary. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.” This passage sent chills down my spine. In that moment I made a commitment to myself to become a student and a teacher of the Course—a sacred contract that would change my life.

One year later, I went to a lecture by the renowned spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson, who first introduced me to the Course. Afterward, I asked her advice on how I could spread the Course’s message to my generation. She said, “Read the Text, do the Workbook and study the Manual for Teachers. Then get on your knees and ask God how you should share this work with your generation.” I did just that.

Through reading the Text I was guided to understand the Course’s mission. Simply and succinctly, the Course states that “its goal for you is happiness and peace.” The Text also gave me a deep understanding of the basis for my fear and guilt, and how I could overcome them. Finally, it taught me the meaning of “the miracle,” which is the shift in perception from fear to love.

Then I embarked on the Workbook for Students, which consists of an exercise for each day of the year. The Workbook guided me to know a relationship with what I call my ~ing, an inner guide. This relationship with my ~ing became my primary tool for restoring my mind. When I was ready, I began to practice the Manual for Teachers. This section of the Course prepared me to share its lessons in a way that was authentic to me. My dedication blasted me open to reconnect with my true inner spirit, which is love.

The Course teaches that each time we shift our perception from fear to love we create a miracle. Your internal shifts enhance your external experiences and all your relationships. Serenity kicks in, fear subsides and once and for all you’ll know that all the love you need is inside you.

Sounds like I’ve got the keys to heaven, doesn’t it? That’s right, I do! And I can testify to these tools because I work them like a full-time job. The Course suggests that to teach is to learn, so I’m here to
guide and inspire others to turn inward for happiness. If you’re looking for direction and guidance on your own spiritual journey, I’m here to help! I’ve just launched my new book, Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles. With this book I can act as a container for you to take right actions to grow a spiritual relationship of your own understanding. Trust, breathe, be willing and show up for the suggestions along the way. Even if fear has you in a headlock, I’m here to remind you that happiness always wins. You too can be a Spirit Junkie!


Congratulations on your new release, Gabrielle! And you, readers, can get your copy now! Spirit Junkie releases today!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Barnes and Noble Sale-- Today Only!

Barnes and Noble has some special deals going on TODAY ONLY! 50% off New & Bestselling Fiction, Kids' & Teens award winners, NookBooks for under $5, 50% off Blu-ray hits, and sales on toys, games, decorative items and electronics! Check it out! Time is limited!

Introducing...Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein


How does a New York City publicist and party girl turn into a guru for the next generation? In her new book, SPIRIT JUNKIE: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, Gabrielle Bernstein shares the story of how she transformed her life, offering her spiritual journey as a guidebook for overcoming fear, changing perceptions, and creating a life you’re psyched to wake up for. Bernstein has traded self-doubt and addiction for a new kind of high. In 2005 she became a student of A Course in Miracles and since then she has been guided to teach  those spiritual principles to the next generation of seekers.

About Gabby
from her website

“So long, Carrie Bradshaw—there’s a new role model for go-getting thirty-somethings. Gabrielle Bernstein is doling out inner peace and self-love for the post-modern spiritual set.”
—Elle magazine 

Featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles section as “a new role model”, motivational speaker, life coach and author Gabrielle Bernstein is making her mark. Expanding the lexicon for the next generation spiritual seekers, Gabrielle is a #1 bestselling author of the book Add More ~ing to Your Life – A hip guide to happiness. September 2011 Gabrielle launches her second book, Spirit Junkie, A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles. In 2008 she launched her social networking site for young women to find mentors. HerFuture’s growing community exceeds 11,000 members.
Gabrielle was just one year out of college, when she co-founded the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network, a non-profit professional organization that connects female entrepreneurs. WEN started a local mentor program for young women, WEN Mentors, and is best known for its signature Gift of Service Exchange events. That same year, Gabrielle incorporated her own boutique public relations company, SparkPlug Communications.

In 2003 Gabrielle was the president of the Young Professionals Council for NARAL Pro Choice New York. Her brainchild event Strut Your Choice became a YPCC yearly fundraiser.

Since 2004 Gabrielle, who has a degree in theater from Syracuse University, has been on the speaking circuit. Gabrielle has presented lectures at the Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Houston Conferences for Women, Seattle Center for Women in Democracy, Nobel Women, Integral Yoga, Kripalu, Universities nationwide, The Step Up Women’s Network, The Junior Leauges and many other venues.

Gabrielle has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times Sunday Styles, Oprah Radio, Marie Claire, Health, SELF, Women’s Health, Forbes List: 20 Best Branded Women, Featured on the Cover Self-Made Magazine (top 50 Women in Business), CNN, NBC, WPIX11, CBS, Fox & Friends, PBS “To The Contrary”, Fox Strategy Room, Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, Sirius Satellite Radio, Am-NY and New York Moves Magazine. Gabrielle is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post, Beliefnet, and She can also be seen riding around the East Village on a unicycle.

HERFUTURE.COM, the rapidly expanding mentoring network for women founded by Gabrielle, offers a platform for empowerment and guidance for young women. Topics on the site range from reproductive rights, politics, wellness, addiction, self-help, body-image, in addition to the standard topics like career, love and fashion. ‘Power Posses’ (groups) are formed by members who wish to create discussions dedicated to topics of interest. Using the popular social network platform,, Gabrielle has planted a seed of irresistible positive thinking at a time when it is needed most — and the women on the site have responded by creating a loving community of support, encouragement and opportunity. Join today.

The Buzz:

“I came to one of Bernstein’s monthly lectures and got my first look at the woman I’d one day unabashedly refer to as “my guru.” —ELLE Magazine

“Gabrielle is one of my most treasured soul sisters and a TRUE ‘Spirit Junkie’ in the MOST fun and exhilarating ways imaginable! I read Gabby’s books for spiritual life lessons on how to love myself and others more deeply and with authentic honesty. Open your hearts to this beautiful-goddess-diva and most importantly discover the one that lives inside you!” —Eliza Dushku

“A decade ago, young women like Ms. Bernstein might have been expected to chase the lifestyle of high heels and pink drinks…But now there is a new role model for New York’s former Carrie Bradshaws…well versed in self-help and New Age spirituality…Ms. Bernstein is one of a circle of such figures, influenced less by the oeuvre of Candace Bushnell than that of Marianne Williamson.”
—The New York Times

Gabby on Facebook
Gabby on Twitter
Gabby on YouTube

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Resource for Book Fairs and Festivals

I was doing a little Googling to try and find local book fairs and such, and came across this great resource:

It lists a bunch of festivals/fairs by state. Enjoy!

REVIEW: The Story of Moses by Jennifer Talbot Ross


From surviving the wilds of the Texas Hill Country to a devastating battle with cancer, this is the story of Moses -- a beautiful, big, white dog who, from all indications, began his life as a livestock guard dog on a ranch in Texas (as do many dogs of his breed, the Great Pyrenees). Moses was taken in by a pet rescue group after having wandered onto a ranch in central Texas...homeless. After a few short months in foster care, Moses found his forever family and the road to immortality through their love and devotion. 

In an authentic voice, the author tells the story of her beloved dog, Moses. Fate brought them together and something terrible ended their story far too soon. The Story of Moses recounts how Moses gained celebrity with friends, neighbors and strangers and earned the love and trust of both his human and four-legged family. As Moses illness is discovered and advances, life unravels like a loose thread in a well-worn sweater.

But, Moses' story is much, much more. It is the story of joy and hope and sorrow. It is the story of the wonderful dogs that came before, opening the door for Moses to walk through. It is the story of those left to remember and cherish. It is the story of survival in the midst of great loss-- of loving again, sheltering again, and living in the moment. It is knowing that, however painful, love remains and is the ultimate blessing.

The cast is a rich tableau of canine characters. There's Cleopatra, the first matriarch who won the author's heart and whose story is one of intelligence and grace and love. The story continues to unfold with Odin -- a fiercely loyal and protective dog whose will could not be broken and who loved Cleo immeasurably and grieved deeply and hauntingly through her loss. Odin was a mountain of a dog whose passing left a big hole in the lives of his owners and provided the impetus behind the search that led to Moses. Moses and his 'siblings' Bess, Samantha and Pax provide the next generation of antics and challenges in which Moses shines through with strength, willfulness and gentleness unmatched - a true, gentle giant. Though Moses' life ended tragically, his loving spirit lives on.

The book celebrates the individuality, intelligence and unconditional love of man's best friend. The book also dispels the myth of shelter and rescue dogs being undesirables while frankly exploring the pain and sorrow of loss and the soothing balm of trusted companions.

Animal lovers will delight in the stories of the amazing dogs that grace the pages and empathize over the ruthless destruction of canine cancer. Readers looking from the outside in who have not yet experienced the joy of pet ownership may well find themselves moved to do so.

About the Author

Jennifer Ross is a professional in the hospitality technology industry. she has been a dog owner and lover all her life and comes from a family that bread and raised German Shepherd show dogs. This is her first literary work. Currently she lives near Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband and three dogs-- Bess, Samantha and Pax.

10% of the Author's royalties are donated to pet rescue.

My Thoughts

This book is all heart. Author Jennifer Ross introduces us to her canine companions, one by one, sharing all of their little quirks and idiosyncrasies-- the full breadth of their individual personalities. When all is said and done, we are carried on an emotional journey of animal ownership and companionship, and the heartbreak of loss.

Anyone who has had a dog can identify with the laughter, frustration, heartbreak and pure bliss that they bring to your life, and this book is full of it all. Charming!

My Rating: 8 out of 10

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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

REVIEW: The Vegetarian Bible by Publications International Staff


Whether you are a long-time vegetarian or vegan, or you just want to add more meatless meals to your diet, The Vegetarian Bible can help you in the kitchen. The 256-page cookbook offers more than 130 recipes that provide flavor, variety, and satisfaction without meat. Here is a closer look at the various sections in The Vegetarian Bible:

• Soups. Includes recipes for Zesty Vegetarian Chili, Oven-Roasted Beet Soup with Orange Cream, and White Bean and Escarole Soup

• Pasta and Noodles. Includes recipes for Cheese Ravioli with Wild Mushroom Sauce, Tofu Rigatoni Casserole, and Three-Pepper Fettuccine

• Grains and Legumes. Includes recipes for Barley and Swiss Chard Skillet Casserole, Lentil Stew over Couscous and Barley, and Bean and Corn Frittata

• Additional chapters for salad and sandwich recipes, and party and special occasion recipes, including light and lively party dishes like tortes, hummus dishes, and wheat gluten skewers

The Vegetarian Bible starts with a 24-page introduction to vegetarian cooking. A color photograph of the completed dish accompanies most of the recipes.

My Thoughts

This book begins by talking about vegetarianism: what it is, the different variations (ovo-lacto), how it's gone mainstream.Then there is a list of pantry ingredients you should keep on hand in a vegetarian kitchen:
  • Asian noodles: rice noodles, soba
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Cornmeal
  • Lentils
  • Pasta
  • Rice: long grain, brown, basmati, jasmine
  • tomatoes: canned whole and diced
  • Beans: a variety of canned or dried
  • Chickpeas
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Oils: extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Quinoa
  • soy sauce
  • Vegetable broth
The book then discusses some special concerns to vegetarians, and how to ensure that they get the nutrients they need that may be difficult to obtain when not taking in animal products. This is followed by info on keeping produce fresh, how to store produce and for how long, an introduction to less common produce, grains and beans, and an intro to soy.

Then come the recipes. There's super soups like White Bean & Escarole Soup and French Lentil Soup. "Small Plate" dishes like Veggie-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms and Spinach Souffle. "Asian Influence" entrees like Buddha's Delight and Thai Seitan Stir-Fry. Pasta dishes including Lasagna Florentine with Provolone & Portobello Mushrooms and Cheese Ravioli with Wild Mushroom Sauce. Good grains like Barley & Swiss Chard Skillet Casserole and Wheat Berry Apple Salad. "Hot & Hearty" dishes like Eggplant Parmigiana and 7-Layer Meatless Tortilla Pie. "Salads & Sandwiches" including Portobello Provolone Panini and Quinoa & Mango Salad. "Party Perfect" delights like Eggplant Crepes with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Barbecue Seitan Skewers.

Here is a "Party Perfect" recipe for Layered Mexican-Style Casserole:

2 cans (about 15 ounces each) hominy, drained*
1 can (about 15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (about 14 ounces) diced tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano
1 cup thick and chunky salsa
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 (9-inch) flour tortillas
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1/4 cup black olives

*Hominy is corn that has been treated to remove the germ and hull. It can be found with the canned vegetables or beans in most supermarkets.

Slow Cooker Directions
  1.  Prepare foil handles (see below). Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine hominy, beans, tomatoes, salsa, tomato paste and cumin in large bowl.
  3. Press 1 tortilla in bottom of slow cook. (Edges of tortilla may turn up slightly.) Top with one third of hominy mixture and one third of cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining tortilla and hominy mixture; set aside remaining cheese.
  4. Cover; cook on LOW 6-8 hours. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and olives. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Pull out tortilla stack with foil handles.
 Makes 6 servings

Foil Handles:  Tear off three (18x2-inch) strips of heavy-duty foil or use regular foil folded to double thickness. Crisscross foil strips in spoke design and place into slow cooker to make lifting of tortilla stack easier.

I love pictures in cookbooks, and this one has a picture for nearly every recipe in it. Simple recipes with simple ingredients, many of which I would normally have on hand in my pantry. This is a decent cookbook, and a good addition to the vegetarian kitchen.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 

Friday, September 9, 2011

REVIEW: Organic Kitchen: making the most of fresh and seasonal products by Ysanne Spevack

From the back of the book:
  • Over 140 irresistible recipes that make the most of seasonal cooking, with soups and salads, tempting main courses and superb desserts.
  • Featuring a comprehensive survey of organic ingredients, from fabulous fruit and vegetables to tender meat and poultry, hearty breads and handy pantry items
  • A practical and straightforward guide to understanding the issues surrounding organically produced food and drink

About the Author

Ysanne Spevack is a leading light in the international organic movement. A writer and broadcaster, she has chaired organic food festivals and debates, and is the editor of an online organic website magazine.

My Thoughts

We live in a time of consciousness, and many more people are trying to eat organic produce and are challenging themselves to eat locally produced food. What I love about this book is that it groups recipes by season, assisting striving locavores in eating well while eating local.

The book begins with an introduction to organic food, expounding on things like "Agrochemical Farming" (prevalent farming using pesticides), uses for hemp, and the benefits of going organic.

It then moves into the "Organic Kitchen" and covers where to get organic produce, different storage and preparation methods, and farming methods used in our meat industry and with fish farming.

The book then shows you how to build your organic pantry with things like natural sweeteners as opposed to refined sugars.

The cookbook then has recipes broken up by seasons. Each recipe includes a beautiful photograph of the completed dish, as well as one or more photos of the preparation.

Spring leaves me yearning for Fillets of Sea Bream in Filo Dough, Seared Scallops with Chive Sauce on Leek and Carrot Rice, and Citrus and Caramel Custards. Summer has me dreaming of Zucchini Fritters with Pistou, Tabbouleh, and Watermelon Granita. Fall has me hankering for Roasted Garlic and Squash Soup, Red Onion and Mushroom Tartlets with Goat Cheese, and Sticky Pear Pudding. And winter has me wanting to wrap myself in the comfort of Winter Farmhouse Soup, Peppers Filled with Spiced Vegetables, and Spicy Pumpkin and Orange Bombe. (You may note that I don't list any meat or poultry dishes. That is because I am a pescatarian, but the cookbook does have plenty of both!)

The recipes are rounded out by those for "Sauces, Salsas, Chutneys, and Breads" with recipes for things like Onion Sauce, Peanut Sauce, Garlic Mayonnaise, and Cheese and Onion Cornbread.

The cookbook ends with a Glossary and Suppliers and Information Sources.

Here is a recipe for Onion Sauce, which reminds me of the vegetarian Mushroom Gravy that I made last Thanksgiving, which was delicious!

Onion Sauce
Serves 4

3 tbs olive oil
1 lb onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 tbs all-purpose or whole-wheat flour
1 2/3-2 cups vegetable stock
1 fresh thyme sprig
2 tsp dark soy sauce
sea salt and ground black pepper
  1. Put the oil in a small, heavy saucepan and heat gently. Add the onions and fry, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.
  2. Increase the heat slightly and cook for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a dark, golden brown.
  3. Stir in the flour, then cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Gradually stir in 1 2/3 cups of the hot stock. Simmer, stirring, for a few minutes, until thickened, adding a little more stock if the gravy is too thick.
  4. Add the thyme, season with salt and pepper, then cook very slowly, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the soy sauce and a little more seasoning, if necessary. Add a little more stock if the gravy is too thick, remove the thyme, and serve immediately.
I thought this was a lovely little cookbook, which I picked up on clearance at Barnes and Noble for just a few bucks.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

REVIEW: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin


In her national bestseller Alice I Have Been, Melanie Benjamin imagined the life of the woman who inspired Alice in Wonderland. Now, in this jubilant new novel, Benjamin shines a dazzling spotlight on another fascinating female figure whose story has never fully been told: a woman who became a nineteenth century icon and inspiration—and whose most daunting limitation became her greatest strength.

“Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I would define it.”
She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.

Here, in Vinnie’s singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure—from a showboat “freak” revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. But Vinnie’s fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight.

A barnstorming novel of the Gilded Age, and of a woman’s public triumphs and personal tragedies, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is the irresistible epic of a heroine who conquered the country with a heart as big as her dreams—and whose story will surely win over yours.

  • Pub. Date: July 2011
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Format: Hardcover , 448pp
  • ISBN-13: 9780385344159
  • ISBN: 0385344155

About the Author
from her website

Melanie Benjamin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. An avid reader all her life—as a child, she was the proud winner, several years running, of the summer reading program at her local library—she still firmly believes that a lifetime of reading is the best education a writer can have.

While attending Indiana University—Purdue University at Indianapolis, Melanie performed in many community theater productions before meeting her husband, moving to the Chicago area and raising two sons. Writing was always beckoning, however, and soon she began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing into her first love, fiction. As Melanie Hauser, she published two contemporary novels.

By incorporating her passion for history and biography, Melanie, now writing as Melanie Benjamin, has finally found her niche writing historical fiction, concentrating on the "stories behind the stories." ALICE I HAVE BEEN is her first historical novel; THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB is her second, published in July 2011. Having recently signed a contract with Random House for two more historical novels, she is currently at work on her third.

She and her family still live in the Chicago area; when she's not writing, she's gardening, taking long walks, rooting for the Cubs—

And reading, of course. 

Read an excerpt of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
View the book trailer

Check out Melanie's website
Follow her on Twitter
Follow her on Facebook
Follow her on GoodReads

My Thoughts
I suppose it would be fashionable to admit to some reservations as I undertake to write the History of My Life.
I guess this book would qualify as historical fiction, right? Author Melanie Benjamin immersed herself in autobiographies of Lavinia Warren Bump Scratton and P.T. Barnum, and created a fictional biography based on lots of truth and fact.

Lavinia was born normal-sized, but quit growing (or drastically slowed her growth) around one-year of age, and at her full height she stood only 32 inches high. She may have been small in stature, but she was not small in personality. Never content to remain at home and lead a quiet, simple life, Lavinia always dreamed of seeing the world. And thanks to showman P.T. Barnum, that's exactly what she does over her roller-coaster career of ups and downs.

During her years with Barnum, a friendship builds (maybe more?), and sometimes it is for him that does things of which she may not agree with or be proud. Eventually she marries General Tom Thumb (aka Charles Stratton), taking on what becomes her most famous role as "Mrs. Tom Thumb".

Her husband Charles Stratton was for me perhaps the most real and believable character in the book, although at times quite unlikable given his "weak" personality. Raised by Barnum from childhood, he was molded into a character that he himself began to believe, never quite recognizing he didn't fit into society and was always something of a farce.

P.T. Barnum is always a showman, and always looking for a way to turn something into a headline, even if it means exploiting friends. However there is a genuine friendship between him and both Lavinia and Charles.

Lavinia's little sister (and when I say "little", I mean both in age and height. Minnie was only 27 inches tall) seems weak and simple and perpetually frightened through most of the book. It isn't until later that you begin to question whether perhaps she was actually the strongest of them all.

Five "words" to describe this book: friendship, loss, determination, worldwide adventure, Greatest Show on Earth

Content Rating: No vulgarity that I can recall, merely alludes to sex and violence

My final word: Well-written and engaging, this book was able to hold me to the end and get me through it much quicker than the average book. However there was something about it that bugged me. I've tried to figure it out, and the only word that continually comes to mind is "pretentious" in regards to Lavinia. But despite this being a little unsettling and off-putting for me, I still enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a "novel" novel!

My Rating: 8 out of 10


I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, 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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, but I confirmed that the quotes mentioned were included in the actual published version.