Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Cooking - CSN Product Review

Weekend Cooking 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. For more information, see the Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads.

I don't have a recipe this time. Instead I'm going to review a kitchen product which I purchased from the CSN Stores website. The last time I wrote about CSN Stores, I mentioned that I needed furniture or accessories for our newly finished basement. Well, I had a wonderful new bookcase picked out and was going to wait until after the holidays to order it. However, when I received an email from CSN (one of their newsletters), featuring some specials, something else caught my eye and I knew the bookcase was going to have to wait. The item I picked out is whimsical, fun and functional. I love it! Here it is:

Isn't it great? It looks fabulous in my kitchen, too. It's perfect for a mystery/thriller/true crime lover with a sense of humour and a love of food and cooking. That's me!

The whole thing is sturdy enough to hold the knives securely, but not too heavy to move if necessary. The protective holders (which are firmly attached to the holder) keep the sharp blades covered. The quality is really good for the sale price. Had I paid the full price, though, I would have expected to see something a bit more substantial and a bit more finely milled. As it is, I'm very happy.

As for the knives, they look great. As with all stainless steel, fingerprints are a nuisance. At least they wipe off fairly easily. The slots are nice because they are magnetic. The knives can slide in and out easily, but the magnet holds them in place while in the holder. I'm a bit of a knife snob and was afraid that at this price the knives would look good, but would not be that functional. While the weight is a little light for me, the balance is great. On initial tests, they have performed excellently. The knives will definitely be put to good use.

I can see this becoming a great conversation piece. Right now, I have it placed so it's almost the first thing you see when you come in the kitchen door. Sure, some people are going to think it's a little macabre, but it will definitely get noticed.

For me information about this knife set, please visit the CSN Stores website.

Disclaimer: I received a coupon/gift certificate from those nice people at CSN Stores that partly covered the cost of this item. I tried to present an honest review despite that fact.

For other food-related posts this week, click here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper

In The Tenth Chamber, a heavily-damaged fourteenth century script is found behind a bookcase in an abbey. The map inside points at a cave with primitive, but astounding, paintings on its walls. The book is sent to Paris for restoration and that's where Hugo Pineau, a literary historian, first sees the book. He enlists the help of archaeologist, Luc Simard, to find the cave and decipher its secrets. Soon after the team assembles at the cave and the work begins, it's apparent that this discovery is extraordinary. However, all is not well as one accidental death becomes two and the team is put in harm's way. As the bodies pile up, it's up to the survivors to race against time to save the cave, preserve its secret while trying to stay alive.

I really enjoyed this book. The story is engaging, extremely interesting and mostly plausible. Like his other books, Cooper jumps around to different time periods to tell the whole story. In this one, the story mainly takes place in the 12th century, 30,000 BP, and the present, with little forays into 1307 and 1899. While he doesn't present the story chronologically, it's pretty easy to follow. I love how the little clues add up to one stunning conclusion revealing the ancient secrets.

The characters in this book were excellent. I really liked Luc, Hugo and Sara (from the present), but my favourites were from 30,000 BP. I don't think I've ever read a book where the characters were from that long ago. Cooper did a great job of depicting them and their lives. I did have a little trouble keeping track of some of the minor characters in the story, but after I made a list of them, it was much easier.

My only complaint is that in a couple of places the book sometimes read like a history textbook rather than a novel. I know getting the background and history information in is necessary, but for me it doesn't make interesting reading. Remembering dates and events for those dates reminds me too much of school where history was not my forte. That didn't stop me from really enjoying the book.

New words:
scapular (page 6): a loose sleeveless garment worn by Christian monks
caldarium (page 11): Roman hot bath
sibilant (page 45): producing a hissing sound
propitious (page 107): favourable
desiccating (page 133): remove the moisture from something
comity (page 142): courteous behavior
BP (240): used in archaeology it means years before the present as in 30,000 BP. Much like BC or BCE.
maquisard (page 291): same as maquis, which is the French Resistance in WWII

I've also read Cooper's two other books:
Library of the Dead(my review) and Book of Souls(my review). I'd highly recommended both of these books. I think this is the weakest of the three, but still very entertaining and readable.

Highly Recommended. Despite the fact that at times I felt like I was reading a text book, the rest of the book more than makes up for that.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Glenn Cooper's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper, HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9781554688050(Trade Paperback), 345p.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Children of Witches by Sherri Smith

In The Children of Witches, it's seventeenth century Germany. Anna is married to a drunk, but has two children, both of whom she adores. Konrad is the hard-working one while Manfred is the one with the beautiful singing voice. There's something else about Manfred that Anna wants to keep secret. He's different. He doesn't make eye contact or communicate, he barely talks and spends his days collecting stuff. When the Church learns of him, they take him away and use him for their own purposes. Because of his singing voice, they think he's some kind of talisman against witchcraft, which supposedly is running rampant in the community. Things get out of control when accusations abound and innocent people are put to death. Anna must find a way to put an end to the madness and reclaim her son.

I absolutely adored this book. It sat on my shelf for awhile because I wasn't sure I was going to like it. First of all, the cover didn't jump out at me. Secondly, based on the back cover, I was worried that the mother/son angle was going to be dominate the story and I thought it might get a little sappy. However, that's so not the case. I'm still not fond of the cover, but the story was so much more than a woman's fight for her son. It's also about life in Germany in 1664, witch hunts (literally), mob mentality, abuse of power, sexuality, false accusations and more. The writing was easy to read and the subject matter was enlightening. I'm so glad I finally picked it up and read it. It was fantastic.

Nowadays, Manfred would probably be diagnosed with a type of autism. However, back then, it probably could have gone either way. Either he was labelled a witch and dealt with or idolized for his special talent. At first, I was worried that it was going to be the former, but in a way it turned out to be much worse. It must have been so hard for Anna, trying to keep Manfred's secret. Highlighting his talent so that people wouldn't notice his condition backfired on her and caused her to lose her son. It was a bad situation for everyone.

There are a couple of sexual scenes which might offend sensitive readers. The scenes are in no way gratuitous. They help portray the atmosphere of the times and fit in well with the story. However, the scenes are quite descriptive and might cause concern for some readers.

New words:
gulden (page 56): old coin
libidinous (page 64): expressing sexual desire
enfeebled (page 103): weakened
thurible (page 112): container for burning incense
puerile (page 121): immature
somnolent (page 167): sleepy
aspergillum (page 300): holy-water sprinkler

This book would make an great book club book. There are plenty of hot topics to discuss, which should provide for a lively discussion.

I was very excited to learn that Smith is from my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Highly recommended. I'd love to read Smith's first book, The Virgin's Tale and any other book she writes.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Children of Witches by Sherri Smith, Simon & Schuster, ©2010. ISBN 9781847371874(Trade Paperback), 316p.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Needlework Tuesday

It's time for another instalment of "Needlework Tuesday", which I first saw over at Heather's blog, Books and Quits. Well, It's been over a month since I checked in. Really, I didn't forget about this. Despite having said last time that I've been procrastinating more than crafting, I managed to get quite a lot done (for me at least).

I finished the afghan from Bernat's Mystery Afghan Knit-Along. Here it is finished:

Heather finished hers quite awhile ago. You can see her beautiful afghan here.

I also finished knitting the shrug from the Lion Brand website. It's such a simple pattern, but I managed to mess it up in a couple of places. You can't really see it, so I left it rather than rip it out. Also, I had a little trouble with the yarn. It's basically two different strands of yarn, which are twisted together. Neither of the yarns is smooth (they have little bumps on them) and I think that resulted in some split stitches, which snowballed into more stitches in the end than I started with. Sheesh! I don't think that's happened to me in a long, long time. Perhaps 20 years. I have a lot of this yarn left, so I'll have to remember that with the next project.

Anyway, back to the shrug. As I suspected because it's so unstructured, it doesn't look good on me at all. Basically it's a large square and I'm still deciding what to do with it. Here's a photo of it folded up on my craft table:

I also started one other project. Not having learned my lesson with the other shrug, I started another one from Lion Brand. This one is basically sleeves that are joined at the upper back around the shoulders. (Again, I think you have to join the website to see the pattern). I didn't have enough of this yarn, so I added some stripes in a coordinating yarn. The whole thing was supposed to be done in garter stitch (knitting every row), but I decided to do the stripes in stocking stitch (knit a row, purl a row). Here's a photo of my progress so far:

It's knitting up very quickly because it's chunky yarn on 10mm needles. So far, I like how it's turning out. I hope this one works out better than the last one.

I have one more knitting project in the wings. If I have the yarn for it, I'm going to be making yoga socks. I've been knitting for 30 years, but I've never made socks. These ones have no toes and no heels so they shouldn't be too complicated. I'll post an update when/if I've made some progress.

That's it for this week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

In A Room Swept White, Fliss Benson is a documentary film maker, who's just been given a project. For personal reasons, she doesn't want to work on the film, but she doesn't feel she has a choice. The project deals with SIDS babies where the mothers were accused (wrongly, as it turns out) of murdering their children. The doctor who testified at the trials is under suspicion for pointing the finger at the mothers in the first place. When Fliss receives a card with 16 numbers on it, she's stumped as to its meaning. Then one the of accused mothers (Helen Yardley) is found dead and in her pocket the investigators find a similar card. The investigators have their hands full solving the mysteries while Fliss has to come to terms with finishing the project.

I loved this book. The story is engaging and a little quirky in that it's made up of narratives, interviews, articles and book excerpts. It's multi-layered with lots of different little storylines going on. It not only kept me on my toes trying to keep track of everything, but it also had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. Just as I settled into a section, Hannah would throw in a twist or skip to another part of the story. I did wonder a few times where the story was going, but it didn't take long for me to figure it out. It was so well done.

I really loved how Hannah brought in some of the past events through excerpts of Helen's (one of the accused mothers) book. Brilliant! Another thing she did really well was writing two parts of the story in the first person (Fliss's narrative and Helen's book). This could have been confusing. However, it really wasn't. Hannah did a great job of creating two distinct voices so that it was easy to tell which character was which.

I loved Fliss and couldn't wait to find out her secret, why she didn't want to make the film. I couldn't really get a handle on Laurie, so I didn't care for him that much. He just seemed flighty. As for the accused mothers, I went from feeling sorry for them to wondering if they all were really guilty; or even if one of them was guilty. This happened several times throughout the book. I wonder if that was what the author intended.

I haven't read any books by Hannah, but I did manage to read one of her short stories which appeared in The Penguin Book of Crime Stories: Volume II. It was great. I'd gladly read another book by this author.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Sophie Hannah's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah, Penguin, ©2010. ISBN 9780143177333(Trade paperback), 456p.

Bloggiesta - The Finish Line

The Finish line! I made it, but just barely. Somehow I was out of steam when Sunday morning came along. I still got a bit done, but I had lost my Bloggiesta mojo.

Yesterday, I added about 40 old reviews to my review pages. This took a surprisingly long time. I was doing one at a time and checking the links before moving on to the next. I guess I could have done a bunch at a time, but I tried that once and missed a HTML tag. It was hell to find. One at a time might take longer but it was sure better for my sanity. I also fixed some formatting and tags on the old reviews as I was accessing them. I didn't visit very many blogs, but I did find a few wonderful ones to follow. All in all, I spent about 4 sporadic hours on blogging before calling it quits.

Total time spent this weekend: about 14 hours.

I have a number of outstanding tasks that I didn't get to. I'll try to work on these in the next few weeks/months. If not, there's always the next Bloggiesta in June! I also have started a list of other tasks to take a look at that other bloggers had on their to-do lists. I'll be taking a closer look at these and deciding how/when to tackle them.

Thanks once again to Natasha at Maw Books for hosting this event, guiding us through the process, and tweeting her butt off. I don't know how you do it.

For my readers who were not participating in Bloggiesta, thanks for your patience. I should have regular content (i.e. reviews) posted sometime today or tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bloggiesta Update #2

I spent about 6 hours yesterday (Saturday) working on my blog.

Here's what I got done:
• wrote 3 reviews, which will be posted sometime this week.
• visited a bunch of other blogs (lost count).
• Answered emails from those who visited my blog. Visited those blogs and commented.
• Answered emails from cheerleaders. Thanks guys!
• Followed Twitter WAY TOO MUCH! It was mostly Bloggiesta stuff with links that I got caught up in. I followed the links, skimmed the material, but because I was supposed to be doing something else, I put the tasks on a to-do list rather than complete them. Uggg... Anyway, this coming week, I'll revisit the links and hopefully accomplish some of these tasks.

Today, I'm going to be writing a couple more reviews. I'm still five behind and hope to get a few of these done. I honestly didn't want to be writing reviews during Bloggiesta. I should have had these done already. I wanted to work on my blog as a whole or items that make my blog better, not just individual posts. But I guess it needs to be done. I'm also going to be adding more old reviews to my review pages. Again, I hope to visit some other blogs.

Good luck to all the other participates! I hope you all get a lot done.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Oven-Baked French Fillets

Weekend Cooking 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.

For more information, see the Welcome Post on Beth Fish Reads.

I should be posting a recipe that's fit for Bloggiesta, but I already had this one typed in and formatted. I won't post a photo this time, because it's doesn't photograph well. After you read the recipe you'll see that it's white fish with a whiteish sauce and a whiteish topping. To top it off, I usually serve fish with rice, which is white. That is, unless I remember to put brown rice on an hour before I want supper ready, then it's beige...close to white. And for some reason that I have yet to discover, I've made cauliflower (more white) with this dish more often than not. I usually realize my "error" when we serve and everything on the plate is white. Since cauliflower is considered a green leafy vegetable and really, really good for you, I try not to stress about it too much. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Oven-Baked French Fillets (adapted from recipe sheet from my local fish store)
1 pound fish fillets (I use tilapia or basa)
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4-1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

Place fish in a large oven dish. Loosely cover with foil.

Bake at 450ºF for 7 minutes (12 minutes if fish is frozen). It should be somewhat cooked, but not completely. Some translucency in the middle is good. I usually check after 5 minutes, then at 2 minutes intervals until it's done.

Drain off liquid.

Mix sour cream, mustard and tarragon together. Spread over fish and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake, uncovered, until cooked through and golden. About 8-10 minutes.

For other food-related posts this week, click here.


Bloggiesta Update

I spent about 4 hours yesterday (Friday) working on my blog.

Here's what I got done:
• visited 10 blogs/commented on 10 blogs. At first, I was thinking I was going to visit all blogging participates and leave a comment. HA! I know now that there are just too many. I will, however, make time to visit more today and hopefully many more tomorrow.

• cleaned up old tags. I looked at the one tag that was driving me nuts, but I'm still undecided what to do about it. So I did nothing. :(

• cleaned up several broken links. I don't know if I caught them all, but it's a start.

• added a few tags to reviews as I was added them to review pages.

• Added 22 old reviews to review pages (title and author). There are lots more to do.

• create a Facebook page for my blog. I'm not sure if I'm done, but here's what I did for this:
- Created a FB fan page and added it to Networked Blogs.
- Added Networked Blog box to my blog.
- Syndicated blog to my personal Facebook page, blog Fan page and my personal Twitter account.
- Added a FB badge to blog
- invited some friends to "like" me. A HUGE thanks to those who already have.

That's it for now. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but today I'm going to be writing reviews. I'm still haven't written reviews for the books I read when I had a cold at Christmas time. I'm not even sure I remember that much about them. Wish me luck.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Bloggiesta - The Starting Line

It's Bloggiesta time. Olé.

This is my official starting post. I'm super excited to be participating, but I'm not off to a great start. I was out of town for 3 days this week (mostly unplanned), arriving home yesterday to a house that needs cleaning and laundry that needs doing and an empty fridge. I'm going to participate, but I may take more breaks and not get everything done.

Anyway, here's what I have planned:
• write reviews
• clean up old tags (there's one in particular that been driving me nuts)
• clean up some broken links
• add tags to old reviews
• add old review to newish review pages
• rewrite/add-to my "about me" page
• add book cover photos to older reviews (low priority)
• clean up my templates
• create a few new templates
• write some "rainy day" posts
• create a Facebook page for my blog
• complete some mini-challenges (to be determined)
• create a list of outstanding items that didn't get done/items others are doing that I wished I'd done

That's a good list to start with. I'm most likely going to add to it once I get into it and see what others are doing.

Thanks to Natasha at Maw Books for once again hosting this event. You're the best!

Let's get this party started!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Children's Book of Music by DK Publishing

Children's Book of Music presents an introduction to music by featuring musicians, instruments, musical styles and performances. Using large photographs and descriptive text, the book takes young (and old) readers on a tour from ancient world music to today's new sounds.

This is a terrific book. The page layouts are wonderful. They feature large photographs and illustrations as well as easy to understand text. I especially love that the book doesn't centre around one part of the world or one genre of music. I also love that it's presented chronologically. The four different types of pages in the book allow the authors to include different parts of the music world. These pages are: musician profiles, music styles, performance, instrument profiles.

The musician profile pages have sidebars that feature timelines and musical influences. These are great. I love learning about the person behind the sound.

The music style pages offer details about all kinds of music. It was great to see about how the various styles developed. My favourite pages are the ones I know virtually nothing about: reggae, hip-hop and the blues. While none of these genres is my favourite, I appreciate the information on how the music evolved into these forms. It's really quite interesting.

The performance pages feature a variety of things: groups of instruments, musical gatherings, types of performances and more. I love reading about all of the operas and great conductors.

The instrument profiles pages feature stunning photographs that are well labelled. Well, most of them anyway. The pages have timelines, range of notes played as well as numerous other tidbits of information. It was nice to learn about the different parts of the instruments. One of my favourites is the profile on the sitar, tabla and tambura (page 32-33). While it doesn't feature large labelled photographs, the information is very interesting. Another favourite is definitely the Map of the Orchestra (page 52-53). I've been to the symphony many, many times, but I never get tired of seeing all of the instruments.

As I flipped through the book, I found lots of interesting facts about music and its makers. Here are some of my favourites:

  • J.S. Bach had 20 children. (page 40)
  • Wagner was Hitler's favourite musician. (page 61)
  • Frank Sinatra learned "a sneaky sideways circular breathing technique so he could hold a note for ages". (page 103).
  • Elvis's natural hair colour was sandy blonde. (page 105) (Can you imagine a blonde Elvis?)
  • Jimi Hendrix was left-handed, but played a right-handed guitar, which he held upside down. (page 113)

My favourite quote comes from Claude Debussy:

It is unnecessary for music to make people think...It would be enough if it made them listen. (page 80)

The accompanying 1 hour-long CD has 35 tracks of world music in varying styles. The book instructs the reader when to listen to each of the tracks. For example, there's an instrument profile on the didgeridoo on pages 16-17. The instructions say:
Listen to Track 2. Find two sticks to wooden spoons and join in the tapping rhythm of the clapsticks accompanying this piece of didgeridoo music.
I think that's one of the coolest parts of the book. Even though the tracks are just snippets of the original work, the CD makes a fantastic accompaniment to the book. The design of the CD sleeve is superb. Even though it's plastic and tends to be a bit sticky, the large flap makes it very easy to remove and replace the CD.

The table of contents in the book is nicely laid out into sections. The glossary is also nicely laid out with clear, concise definitions for terms used in music. Unfortunately, the book does not have an all-encompassing index. Not so handy when you want to look up trumpet, for example. It does, however, have a rather extensive "Index of Musicians".

Highly recommended. This book is for children ages 7-17. Despite being quite a bit older than that, I really enjoyed it. I bet most adults would learn something new from this book. Unless of course that adult happens to have a major in music and has studied world music history. Even then, you never know.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK Canada's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Children's Book of Music by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9780756667344(Hardcover), 142p.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Cooking - Sunburgers

Weekend Cooking 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.

For more information, see the
Welcome post on Beth Fish Reads. For other food-related posts this week, click here.

This is my first entry for Weekend Cooking. I haven't made these in awhile, but they are one of our favourites.

Sunburgers (adapted from Winnipeg Free Press 1/23/2008)

1 1/2 cups TVP (textured vegetable protein)
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup sunflower seeds (hulled)
1 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
4-5 tbsp finely diced and sautéed sweet pepper (red, yellow or green)
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
Warm water (about 1 cup)

Lime dill garlic sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp dill - dried (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tsp garlic - minced

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare pan (cookie sheet) with either oil or baking spray.

Mix TVP with boiling water in a bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the rest of the ingredients. After the allotted time give the TVP a quick stir, then mix in the remaining patty ingredients, gradually adding warm water at the end until the mixture is sticky enough to form solid patties. The mixture will be quite messy. Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop the mixture onto a prepared pan. Use the back of the measuring cup to slightly flatten. The patties should be 3-4 inches wide. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Flip and bake for 10-15 more minutes. The longer bake time will result in firmer/crispier burgers.

To make the lime dill garlic sauce: mix the ingredients together adjusting the amounts to taste.

Serve the patties on toasted bagels spread with the sauce and your choice of accompaniments. In the photo, I used fresh spinach, cucumber slices, avocado, mozzarella cheese, and a cheddar-jalapeno bagel.

The above recipe will make 8-10 patties. They freeze well. To use after freezing: thaw burgers then lightly sauté until heated through. Serve as above.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Look Now by DK Publishing

Look Now: The World in Facts, Stats, and Graphics, takes a look at the world using various graphics and statistics. The book is divided into five sections: Earth, People, Power, Industry, Connections. In addition, there's a reference section at the back of the book listing various stats about the countries in the world.

I loved this book. Really loved it! However, I'm having a hard time writing this review. I swear there's some weird time manipulator imbedded in the book. Every time I open it I get sucked in and 20 minutes go by in a flash. There's so much information in this book, I find something new to look at or read about each time I open it.

The graphics and materials are truly outstanding. The information is bright, colourful and written in easy to understand language. It's presented in such a fun, unique way, it makes you forget you are learning something new. I'm a visual learner so all of the photographs, charts and what not really make the material more interesting for me. The book is a bit hard to describe as it contains a little bit about everything in the world. If you can quantify it or represent it pictorially, it's probably in this book.

My favourite parts were the "The World in One Day" pages, which detail what happens in one day around the world. For example:
Earth (page 46): A single tree releases enough oxygen to support two people.
People (page 100): 77 million elementary-school children don't have a place to go to school.
Power (page 146): Giant stone disks are still recognized as legal currency in Yap, Micronesia.
Industry (page 192): 298,944 bicycles are produced.
Connections (page 224): 2753 books are published every day.

Some other fascinating facts:
At 33.8 million people, Tokyo's population is bigger than Canada's entire population. (page 53)
The literacy rate in Afghanistan is 28%. (page 233)
In every catch of prawns, up to 10 times their weight in other species is also caught in the net and then discarded, often already dead. (page 174)
A total of 52 computers control all the systems on board the International Space Station. (page 220)
An estimated 2500 earthquakes happen every day! (page 19)

The round images on the cover are very cool. The pictures change as you tilt the book. I don't know what this is called, but I'm sure it has a name. I like it!

The table of contents is nicely laid out with an easy to read font and clear concise sections. The index is adequate and should aid in finding items in the book. In addition to these two items, the book also sports a "Data Sources" section, which lists the sources from which the information was taken. It contains many websites so the keen reader can investigate further.

Highly recommended. The website lists the book for 10-17 year-olds. However, there's plenty of information for adults, like me, to enjoy. I think it would be perfect for the statistics or graphics lover.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK Canada's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Look Now: The World in Fact, Stats, and Graphics by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2010. ISBN 9780756662868(Hardcover), 256p.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Attention Book Groups

Do you belong to a book group? Are you willing to share your group's selections? Would you like to win some books for your book group? If so, you might be interested in an email I received recently.

Let me share some of its contents:

" is compiling a list from book clubs of The 2010 Most Discussed Books of the Year.

To gauge the year's most popular book club picks, is asking book club members to share the books that their groups read each month in 2010. Groups who submit their lists are automatically entered in a contest to win 12 copies of one of the 33 featured titles we are giving away, which include both recently published titles and upcoming 2011 books. You can see the list of prize titles here. The 2010 Most Discussed Books of the Year feature and contest will be open through January 31, 2011."

Don't forget to read the rules (click on one of the links above) to ensure you are eligible. The contest is only open to those in the U.S. and Canada. However, entries from groups outside of the U.S. and Canada will still be counted in the collection of the Most Discussed Books of 2010 feature.

Well, what do you think? I think it's fantastic. That's a whole lot of books to be won just for filling out a form. Off you go. Let them know about the great books you've read and maybe win some others!

Happy Reading.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy

In Buffalo West Wing, Olivia Paras (Ollie) is the White House chef and oversees all food preparations that take place there. A new President has just been elected and the first family is moving into their new residence while getting used to the place and procedures. All of a sudden, a box of take-out chicken wings mysteriously appears in the kitchen for the children. However, since no one knows how they got there, Ollie wisely sets them aside until she can determine their origins and if they are safe for the children to eat. Before she has a chance to do so, though, several staff members are rushed to the hospital after consuming the wings. The first family isn't told the whole story. All they know is that Ollie denied the children their treat and this doesn't exactly make her endearing. If that's not bad enough, the first family brings in another chef to cook their personal meals. Ollie fears her job is at stake, yet she tries her best be accommodating.

This is the fourth book in the "White House Chef Mystery" series. However, it is the first one I read. I absolutely loved it! It's one of the best cozy mysteries I've read in awhile. Each time I picked it up to continue reading, I felt an instant connection with the story. I loved the details about inner workings of the White House food preparations as well as the food itself. It made me hungry; all of it sounded delicious. I was also delighted by the details about the secret service. I don't know if I'd like them hanging around all the time.

I just loved Ollie. She was a strong, confident, caring woman with an important job, which she took seriously. She didn't let anyone push her around and remained polite and dignified even when facing frustrating circumstances. I guess that's imperative with a job like hers. I've read a few cozy mysteries where the female amateur detective came across as flighty, snivelling and self-centred, which I didn't like at all. I'm so glad Ollie was different from that. The supporting cast, was wonderful, especially Bucky, Cyan and Gav. Virgil, the arrogant new chef, was also a great character. Hyzy made him so easy to dislike.

I loved the yummy recipes that the author included with this mystery. I haven't made any of them yet, but I hope to try one the following soon:
Tzatziki (p. 287)
Creamed Spinach with Olive Oil and Shallots(p. 304)
Mixed Berry Cobbler (p. 305)

I've also read Grace Under Pressure by Hyzy. It was great.

Highly recommended. I have one other book from this series (State of the Onion) on my to-be-read shelf and I can't wait to read it.

For more information about this book, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Julie Hyzy's website.

Thanks to Dana Kaye from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy, The Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin), ©2011. ISBN 9780425239230(Mass Market), 305p (includes recipes).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Daisy's Best of 2010

It's fun reading all of the "best of" lists each year, so once again I've decided to create my own. I was really hoping to jazz it up a bit this year, but since I've had a cold since Christmas I've decided to keep it simple. Note that these are books I read this year and not necessarily published this year.

In no particular order, here's Daisy's Best of 2010:

Historical Fiction
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan (This book is one of my all-time favourites.)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Juliet by Anne Fortier
The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning
The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine: A Novel by Lauren Willig

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
Suddenly by Bonnie Burnard
Cool Water by Dianne Warren
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay
Think of a Numb3r by John Verdon

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training by Tom Jokinen
The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients by DK Publishing
The Practical Naturalist by Chris Packham

In addtion, there were a few great books that just missed the above list, but deserve to be mentioned.
The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark
Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith
The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale
Do Not Open by John Farndon

That's it. I can't wait to see what 2011 has in store for me as far as reading goes. If it's anything like 2010, it should be exciting and wonderful.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

In My Name is Mary Sutter, it's the dawn of the American Civil War and Mary Sutter is a midwife, just like her mother, Amelia. However, Mary really wants to become a surgeon. There are many prejudices against women, though, and she is turned away by everyone she approaches about it. After her heart is broken by a young man, she runs off to Washington D.C. and offers her services in the war effort. She's met with more resistance, but eventually is able to pursue her medical career.

This is such a wonderful book. It really is a fascinating look at certain aspects of the American Civil War. Rather than take us to the front lines of the war, the book shows us the back rooms, where decisions are made, and the make shift hospitals and morgues, where the doctors and nurses help the injured and comfort the dying. The story gets a little gory at times, but that just enhances the story and highlights the horror of war, the deplorable conditions and the archaic medical procedures of the time.

I loved that the book featured some real life characters who played a part in the American Civil War. These include: Abraham Lincoln, Dorothea Dix, John Hay and General McClellan. Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about the American Civil War and Lincoln was the name that was familiar to me. I should have studied up a little so that I'd know who some of the players were and knew a little more about the war itself. No doubt that would have enhanced my reading experience. I enjoyed the book nevertheless.

Mary Sutter was such a great character. Her determination to be a surgeon was commendable. Even when she was turned away time after time, she persevered and didn't let it deter her. The decisions she had to make were gut wrenching and I didn't once envy her position. I also loved the scenes depicting Lincoln at work. According to the author, she "stayed true to the public record" of his activities. I found it all very interesting.

The "Acknowledgements" section at the beginning of the book is well worth the read. Besides thanking others, Oliveira writes a little about her research methods, which I always find fascinating. I admit that I sometimes skip these sections, but I'm glad I took the time to read this one.

This book contained quite a few new-to-me words. Here's the list:
monaural (page 1): hearing with just one ear
comported (page 15): to behave or be consistent
munificence (page 30): very generous
groggery (page 52): saloon
freshet (page 69): sudden flood
quixotic (page 147): idealistic
peripatetic (page 162): drifting
haversack (page 164): bag, backpack
suppuration (page 170): ooze pus
abstemiousness (page 181): sobriety
abattoirs (page 236): slaughterhouse
ameliorated (page 270): improved
temerity (page 286): nerve, boldness
perspicacious (page 319): insightful

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author, please visit Robin Oliveira's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

My Name is Mary Sutter: A Novel by Robin Oliveira, Viking (Penguin), ©2010. ISBN 9780670021673(Hardcover), 364p.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New stuff is around the corner.

I just wanted to let you know that I should have some new reviews and such up later this week. Also, my Best of 2010 list is coming along so you should see that sometime soon.

Both my husband and I have been fighting nasty colds since Christmas. In fact, this is the first time we've ever been sick at the same time. (We've been together 12 years). Anyway, I've been at the computer a few times since then, but not well enough to post or review anything. On the bright side, I managed to read 6 books in one week. For me that's a lot! You can look forward to those reviews in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I hope you are all well, safe and happy.

Happy 2011!