October 28, 2009

It begins... My first 2010 challenge

With just one book left to complete my last pending 2009 challenge I've started checking out the new 2010 challenges. The first one that caught my eye is over at At Home With Books.
FROM ALYCE: The idea behind this challenge is to read works by authors who have been recommended to you time and again, yet somehow you haven't managed to read any books by those authors. These are the authors that everyone else tells you are awesome, thus the "Awesome Author Challenge" title.

I've selected the "moderate" challenge which is 6 books to be read from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010. I'll dig through my TBR pile in the next week or so to figure out which authors I'm going to select.

Over the next few weeks I'll also be posting a few more challenges and I'm thinking that a lot will be repeats from last year. I've had so much fun with them this year that I'm looking forward to pushing myself further next year. Wish me luck!

  1. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  4. Room by Emma Donoghue
  5. Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

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October 27, 2009

Review: Elfs in a Conquered Realm by Anna del C. Dye

In this third and final installment of The Silent Warrior trilogy, Anna del C. Dye completes the story of Adren, her women warriors and her family told in three different parts covering many years.

The story begins with Paletin’s kingdom of Renil in trouble financially. He approaches Adren and Dellin about the possibility of securing the riches of the long deserted city of Menarm where Adren grew up and a new quest is planned for the elfs to help Paletin.

Once the mission is complete Adren and her family visit the Woodland elfs and meet Dellin’s paternal family for the first time and once again adventures ensue with some very near potential disasters.

Finally back in Menarm, Paletin has decided to reestablish the lost city of Menarm and Adren, Dellin and many others return to provide the assistance needed to bring Menarm back as a thriving sister city of Renil. But greed brings out the worst in mankind and soon Adren and her family are in danger again.

My brief synopsis makes the book seem like it was a tale about non-stop trouble for Adren and others but that is not case. Throughout the book there are conflicts and resolutions but each one is integrated with the revolving storylines.

There are so many wonderful components to the book. Elfs in a Conquered Realm is action, adventure, fantasy, romance and family loyalty all rolled up into one incredible story. Adren is up to her match making tricks again and in this book a few more children are introduced to the elf population which is a very rare occurrence.

Similar to my thoughts on going from book one to book two, Anna del C. Dye has progressed in character development and dialogue. The interactions flow much better in this third book and I sincerely hope to read more from this author. The entire trilogy is a must read for fantasy lovers.

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October 25, 2009

Review: Petite Sweets by Beatrice Ojakangas

In Petite Sweets Ojakangas shows us how to make miniature versions of some of the most decadent and sinful desserts and sweets around. From planning the dessert menu and equipment basics to tips on ingredients it’s all covered with large full color photos.

Cooking and baking have always been hit or miss with me. I love to do it but even if I follow the recipe exactly I don’t always get the best results. Some of my more memorable dishes have been my Lemon Meringue Soup when trying to make my favorite pie and most recently when following my grandma’s light and fluffy gordita recipe I ended up with what my husband called “biscuits with meat”. LOL My son even nicknamed me “burner girl” because he was always scraping the burnt parts off his favorite grilled cheese sandwiches.

Petite Sweets has plenty of easy to follow recipes and for my review I tried the Mini Cream Puffs. There were just a few basic ingredients and I filled mine with vanilla pudding so in no time flat I had a tiny version of one of my favorite treats with almost no mess to clean up afterwards. My cream puffs were light, fluffy, golden brown and perfectly flaky and I actually surprised myself at how good they tasted.

One major plus is that since I’ve been dieting I’ve cut all sweets and goodies out of my diet. With Petite Sweets I was able to satisfy my sweet tooth without all the guilt that I would have had with the full size version.

In each of the categories below there are many more great recipes that have caught my eye and next up for me will be the Fresh Lime Pies made in mini muffin tins which will be just big enough to satisfy my craving while still being good.

Petite Sweets Categories
  • Little Cakes

  • Petite Pies and Tarts

  • Fruit and Berry Desserts

  • Mouses and Chilled Desserts

  • Creams, Custards and Frozen Desserts

  • Pastries and Sweets

Any of the sweet treats found in the book would be the hit of your party and your friends will all think you’re a master pastry chef. I highly recommend Petite Sweets for bakers of any skill level because as my family knows I’m not the best cook and my Mini Cream Puffs were a little bit of heaven.

*I received a copy of Petite Sweets from the publisher in exchange for a review.

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October 21, 2009

Review: Book Cover from Reading Comfort

Two weeks ago I received my Trade Size fabric book cover from Reading Comfort. I’ve had other fabric book covers in the past so I can share my honest comparison of the two.

Right as soon as I took my new cover out of the envelope I noticed two things that already had me loving the cover. One, there is a small metal embellishment on the cover. This is not only a good looking accent it lets me quickly identify the front of the book. No more flipping the book up and/or over before I can start reading.

The second thing I noticed was the nifty attached book mark. Other covers I’ve used didn’t have this or if there was one it was too short. With the length of the attached bookmark extending past the bottom of the book all I had to do was pull it up and out to open the book. No more losing my place with a paper bookmark that falls out.

The cover fits snuggly over the book without bending, wrinkling or creasing the book in any way. This was a big deal for me because I participate in a lot of book rings and always stress if I get even the tiniest crease on a book since they are borrowed. The cover allows me to drop the book into my house on straps, otherwise known as my purse, without worrying about it. In the two weeks since receiving the cover I’ve used it on three books of varying lengths and all have come out of the cover in the same shape they went in.

And just so you don’t think this is a fluff piece, I do have one con to share. My cat sat on the cover, which if you have cats you know their favorite thing is to sit on anything you have laying out LOL, and the cover picked up a lot of cat hair. But it did brush right off so no harm done.

The covers come in several colors and three sizes to fit mass market, trade size and hard back books or a gift set in a box with gold ribbon. Reading Comfort is an eco-friendly company that also offers the Book Buddy (read my review), lap blankets, book weights and book marks. Any one of these beautiful products would be a great anytime gift for the book lover in your life.

*I received a free book cover in exchange for this review.

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October 20, 2009

Review: Hannah: Daughters Of The Sea by Kathryn Lasky

At the age of fourteen Hannah Albury has reached the day where she transitions from old the Little Wanderer orphanage that she grew up in into the real world. After a miserable month in Kansas where she became deathly ill, Hannah was sent back to Boston and placed in the home of the wealthy Hawley family to work as a scullery maid.

There she befriends the family’s youngest daughter Ettie and delights in talking with the young girl even though contact between the family and household help is frowned upon. When Hannah catches the attention of a young painter, Stannish Wheeler, hired to paint the Hawley girls she unknowingly made an enemy of the older daughter Lila and her mysterious cat Jade. It quickly becomes obvious that Lila is not completely mentally stable and she soon has more to contend with than the unnatural attraction she has to the sea.

Resisting the call of the water is getting harder and harder to do especially when Stannish seems to have many of the answers she’s been looking for.

This was a great young adult read. It’s geared towards 9-12 year olds and I think it’s perfect. The story is mysterious enough to hold anyone’s attention and I know younger girls would love reading about Hannah’s adventures.

The only reason this book isn’t a full five stars is the major cliff hanger at the end. I’m all for leaving us hanging when there are more books in the series but this one has a very abrupt ending. So much so that I had to double check no pages were missing. Other than that I highly recommend this one for tween girls or anyone who loves to read YA fantasy books. I will definitely be reading the next in the series.

*Free copy provided by the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my review.

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October 18, 2009

Review: Dragons Prefer Blondes by Candace Havens

When dragon warrior Ginjin approaches the Alex Caruthers with a proposition of marriage she has to think fast. As a Guardian whose job it is to hunt down and kill the dragons that disobey the law and come to earth to harm humans, Alex has to be diplomatic in turning down Ginjin or risk starting a war between our world and the dragons’.

Her solution is simple. She lies and says she’s already in a relationship with Jake, the head of the Caruthers family security team. Not only does this give Alex an easy out but it also means that she gets to spend just a little more time with Jake which is never a hardship.

The more time she spends with Jake the more she realizes that her feelings toward him aren’t all friendly. But soon Alex learns that Jake lost his wife to illness four years ago and as many sparks fly between them Jake won’t open himself to falling in love for real. He just can’t take the risk of losing another person he loves and being a Guardian puts Alex’s life in danger constantly. Will the two overcome this fear as the tension between them grows?

I love that Havens writes such strong ass-kicking characters with a soft side. A lot of times heroines that kick ass are a little rough around the edges but the Caruthers sisters all have big warm caring hearts that balance the ass kickers and Alex is no exception. I do wish that there was a little more heat in her interactions with Jake but considering how he needs to detach himself from falling for Alex it makes sense.

This was another great paranormal romance from Candace Havens. It’s book two in the series but definitely stands alone and if you haven’t read any of her books yet I suggest you correct that immediately and start yourself on the super fun Bronwyn the witch books beginning with Charmed & Dangerous. She’s still my favorite Havens character and as much as I love the Caruthers sisters I would love to see Bronwyn return.

Be sure to visit my giveaway page to win an autographed copy of Dragons Prefer Blondes and read my review of Book 1 The Demon King and I.

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October 11, 2009

Review: Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

What do you get when a country dairy farmer and a city librarian meet on a bench in the middle of a cemetery? You get the adorable story, Benny & Shrimp.

Working alone fifteen hours out of each day Benny scarcely has time to handle the farm’s dwindling finances much less clean house or change the sheets. Now that he’s lost his mother he needs someone domestic to take care of him and he has fears that his “smarmy Benny” act is never going to land him the right woman. When he accidentally shares a smile with Desiree (who he later nicknames Shrimp) he’s jolted by her and can’t get her pale beige looks out of his head.

As a librarian Desiree lives for order and organization. Initially she thought she found the perfect spouse in Orjan but when he dies in a bike accident she comes to the realization that the spark in their short marriage was already dying out. The last person she would have thought to be her true soul mate would be the humble dairy farmer wearing a grungy “Forest Owners’ Alliance” hat but her heart had other ideas.

After that first shocking jolt they tried to avoid each other but when Benny finally has the courage to seek Desiree out, magic happens. Can people from such different lives make it work?

Benny & Shrimp is my new favorite book of 2009. It is an amazing story of love and compromise. I instantly fell in love with Benny and although Desiree seemed a little to hard-headed for me at first she also became a cherished character for me.

This is one of those books where I found myself wanting to slap the characters silly and tell them exactly how I think they should act. This fact alone makes it a great book because it shows how much the story drew me in.

The story is narrated by both Benny and Desiree and it added so much more to the narrative because I was able to more clearly understand both sides and the feelings involved. As I was reading Benny’s words I was totally on his side but then I read what Desiree was thinking and I’d switch to her side.

I highly encourage you to pick up your own copy of this book and fall in love with their story and surprise ending just like I did.

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October 9, 2009

Review: Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom

Sexy witch, Blair Fitzpatrick and her roommate Staci were part of a group of 13 witches that were banned from the Witches’ Academy in 1313. Since then they’ve made a nice home for themselves in the town of Moonstone Lake. Blair owns the vintage shop Blast from the Past and Staci owns the lingerie shop Isn’t It Romantic. Together they own a fair amount of land around the lake and the town itself.

Now that Staci has made her love match with Trevor. It’s Blair’s turn to meet the man of her dreams and she has a serious crush on the devilishly handsome carpenter Jake Harrison despite the fact that he’s a Were who turns into a border collie instead of a wolf.

As first born Jake was next in line to become his pack’s Alpha but when his family discovered his border collie deficiency he was shunned and frequently beaten by his father. For this very reason Jake abandoned his pack many years ago.

When his family shows up in Moonstone Lake it can only mean trouble. His brother Roan, the new Alpha, purchased the town’s ski resort and is looking to buy out Blair and Staci’s land for the pack to relocate but Blair and Staci refuse. This angers Roan and Jake’s mother who refuse to let Jake, Blair and Staci stand in their way.

This was such a fun book! It is book four in the Jazz Tremaine series but definitely stands alone as I haven’t read any of the others. Jazz does make a quick cameo in this book and she’s intriguing enough to put the other books at the top of my TBR pile. I can’t wait to find out what’s going on with the talking bunny slippers who have now become the a tattoo that zapped itself onto Blair’s ankle.

One thing that surprised me about the book was the well written love scenes. The book was light and humorous and then bam! there’s a hot and heavy connection with Blair and Jake and I loved it. Hex in High Heels puts a spicy spin the paranormal romance genre and I highly recommend it.

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October 5, 2009

Giveaway: Five books from Hispanic authors and My Review of Zumba

WINNERS: Glen in Pennsylvania, Jo Anne in Texas, Adayla in South Dakota, Julia in Minnesota and Kristi in Illinois

ACK!! I'm so excited to offer this giveaway!! FIVE winners will each receive the Five books listed below. THANK YOU HACHETTE BOOK GROUP.

Here is my review of Zumba and be sure to watch for my reviews of the other books in the coming weeks.

In August I stopped eating fast food, gave up Cokes and started watching my diet. Since then I've lost 11 lbs and my goal is to lose 19 more. In September I joined a women's gym and have actually taken 3 Zumba classes.

As the tagline says, "Ditch the workout and join the party!" Zumba is so much fun. The class is pretty much 50 minutes of dancing and 5-10 minutes of stretching to hot Latin beats. I have two left feet and let me tell you it took me a few tries to get the steps down right but my friend who really has rhythm picked up the moves instantly.

With the detailed pictures in the book I have been able to master the moves we do in class and read inspirational stories about people who have joined in the Zumba craze. Also included in the book is a jump start and maintenance diet. I haven't tried them yet but will do so soon and let you know my results. And I almost forgot! There is also a DVD which shows you a few of the basic moves and a couple of work outs to try at home. This book is great and I highly recommend for anyone looking to shed a few pounds or just have fun.




Created by celebrity fitness trainer Beto Perez, Zumba® combines fun, easy-to-follow dance steps with hot Latin beats to help you shed pounds and inches fast. Now the DVD and classes that have hooked millions are available in book format, with a complete workout program, fat-burning diet, and an exclusive instructional DVD with 60 minutes worth of music to help you Zumba your way to the perfect body.

Using the principles of interval and resistance training, the simple dance and sculpting moves (inspired by the traditional cumbia, salsa, samba, and merengue) tone and shape your body. And because it burns 600 to 1,000 calories per hour, you don't have to restrict your meals to boring or bland-tasting diet foods. The Zumba diet begins with a 5-Day Express Diet to jump start weight loss (lose up to 9 lbs in 5 days) and then offers 14-day meal plans and recipes that target weight loss in the stomach and thighs. You'll find:

· Hot moves that make you feel like you're on the dance floor-not on the elliptical machine!

· Recipes for mouthwatering meals that boost your metabolism

· Dozens of workout combinations so you never get bored

· An exclusive jump-start program to get you ready for that big event next weekend

· An easy plan to help you keep up your progress and maintain the weight loss

So start moving, grooving and losing with Zumba today!

Victor and Jaqueline Torres imagined moving to the U.S. would bring happiness and prosperity-instead they found a world of frustration. While Victor put long hours into his restaurant business, Jaqui devoted her life to her daughters, until they grew up and moved on. Even their eldest, Victoria, is torn trying to reconcile being the perfect Argentine daughter and an independent American woman. Antonio and Lucia Orteli face the same realities, especially when their only son Eric leaves their close-knit Argentine community in pursuit of his own dreams.

All Ana Ruiz wanted was to have a traditional quinceaƱera for her daughter, Carmen. She wanted a nice way to mark this milestone year in her daughter's life. But Carmen was not interested in celebrating. Hurt and bitter over her father Esteban's departure, she blamed Ana for destroying their happy family, as did everyone else. A good man is hard to find, especially at your age Ana was told. Why not forgive his one indiscretion? Despite everything, Ana didn't want to tarnish Carmen's childlike devotion to her beloved father. But Ana knows that growing up sometimes means facing hard truths. In the end, Ana discovers that if she's going to teach Carmen anything about what it means to be a woman, it will take more than simply a fancy party to do it...

Gabriella always loved the picture of her mother kneeling in front of a bed of roses, smiling, beautiful and impossibly happy. But then she learns that her late mother hated gardening; that she had never wanted the house in the Hollywood hills, the successful movie producer husband, and possibly, her only daughter. When Gabriella discovers a journal--a book that begins as a new mother's letters to her baby girl, but becomes a secret diary--the final entry leaves one question unanswered: the night her mother died, was she returning to Colombia to end an affair, or was she abandoning her family for good?

In a small town on the Mexican border live two brothers, Don Fidencio and Don Celestino. Stubborn and independent, they now must face the facts: they are old, and they have let a family argument stand between them for too long. Don Celestino's good-natured housekeeper encourages him to make amends--while he still can. They secretly liberate Don Fidencio from his nursing home and travel into Mexico to solve the mystery at the heart of their dispute: the family legend of their grandfather's kidnapping. As the unlikely trio travels, the brothers learn it's never too late for a new beginning.

To enter to win your own set of FIVE BOOKS!! just tell me who your favorite Hispanic author is. Mine would have to be Mario Acevedo. He writes the AWESOME series featuring the vampire Felix Gomez. If you don't have a favorite Hispanic author then just tell me which book out of the five you are most looking forward to reading. Zumba was my favorite and now that I'm almost done with that one next up for me is going to be Amigoland.

For extra entries Tweet about the giveaway using the "ShareThis" link at the end of this post or Tweet your own message. Twitter entries can be done once a day, just be sure to leave me the link to your Tweet each time you do.

Giveaway open to US and Canada only. Please, no PO Boxes. Winners will be selected October 15th and will have 48 hours to respond to the winning email. Please be sure to leave me an email address in your comment if it's not in your profile or your post using anonymous.

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October 3, 2009

Review: My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Reviewed for I Just Finished

Sixteen-year-old Kaylee Cavanaugh has a strange ability. She can sense when someone is about to die. And when this happens she has uncontrollable bouts of screaming at the top of her lungs. Her guardians, her aunt Valerie and uncle Brandon, even went so far as to hospitalize her over a screaming incident.

Now back in school and no recent incidents, things are getting back to normal for Kaylee but that all changes when teens start mysteriously dropping dead around Kaylee. With the help of a hot looking senior, Nash, Kaylee learns some interesting facts about her “disorder” and turns to her family for answers to startling new questions.

I really like the way this was a little bit paranormal but a refreshing change from the usual stories about vampires or werewolves. This was a completely new twist on the genre that involved a little bit of mystery, suspense and intrigue all rolled into the start of a great new series. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, My Soul to Save in 2010 and recommend this one to anyone who loves reading paranormal YA books.

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