Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ten Degrees of Reckoning by Hester Rumberg

Ten Degrees of Reckoning is the true story of a family's love and the will to survive. In it, the Sleavin family set out to sail around the world. While on the journey, a tragic event leaves Judith, the mother, injured and alone in the ocean, after the rest of her family perishes. The story focuses on her rescue and survival as well as the horrific circumstances surrounding the sinking of their sailing vessel, the Melinda Lee.

Overall, I liked this book. The story was compelling and interesting enough to make me want to keep reading. I had to find out what happened to the Sleavins and I didn't want to put the book down until I did. I'm not a sailor, nor have I ever been sailing, so parts of the book were a little foreign to me. It was an appealing read, though, and I loved reading about the different places they visited and the people they met. I also learned a little about sailing, being on the ocean and travelling around the world.

While I really liked the first part of the book, I got totally lost when it came to maritime law, the lawsuit and the specifics of the accident. It didn't come across as clear or concise and I had a hard time figuring out what exactly happened. There were too many acronyms of acts, groups, agencies etc. that I'd not heard of before and really meant nothing to me. After awhile, it all sounded like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and not very interesting.

Judith was amazing. Not everyone would act the way she did in those circumstances. I found it particularly interesting that she knew she had to tell her family's story, but didn't think she'd survive past that. Essentially, she survived because she didn't think she would.

The whole story was incredibly heartbreaking, but didn't move me to tears. I think had it been written by Judith, in the first person I may have found it more moving. As is, though, I felt detached, especially in the last part of the book. This is just an observation, not a criticism.

I loved that the author included some maps, especially since the family travelled to places I wasn't familiar with. I couldn't always find the locations talked about in the book, but I appreciated the maps nevertheless.

My second complaint is that the book made it appear as though Michael and the two children were saints and that the marriage between Judith and Michael was perfect. They had no disagreements or arguments. The children never cried, never acted inappropriately and never had to be disciplined. Some of that would have made this family more "normal". It also would have given me the sense that this could happen to me, my family or someone I know. It would made me care. I know that sounds really harsh, but as it was, I had a hard time imagining myself in their shoes.

Despite the problems I had with the book, I'd still recommend it to others, especially those looking for a true story or those who live near or on the water.

I borrowed this book from my friend, Karen.

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

Ten Degrees of Reckoning by Hester Rumberg, G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin), ©2007. ISBN 9780399155352(Hardcover), 254p.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Complete Painting and Drawing Handbook by DK Publishing

The Complete Painting and Drawing Handbook is divided into four distinct sections: drawing, watercolour, acrylics, and oil painting. Originally published as four separate titles, this book is a comprehensive guide to these art mediums.

I love this book. It's presented in a workshop format that allows the reader/artist to work on pieces dealing with certain fundamentals, techniques and methods. It uses excellent and varied examples when explaining certain art subjects. The step by step instructions for many of the pieces are taken from the blank page to completion. There are a dozen of these in each section. If you follow along (as I hope to) and work through the entire book, you'll have almost 50 completed pieces in your portfolio in four different mediums.

The book is geared towards adults or at least older teenagers (+16) and features many different subject matters in the workshop pieces themselves, There are still-lifes, landscapes, portraits, animals, floral arrangements and many more. If you were just interested in landscapes, you could possibly just do those projects, providing you read through the others. The lessons are presented in a logical progression, so it's important not to miss one. I like drawing various subjects, so I think I'd probably do (or try to do) them all.

Because the book is a compilation of 4 separate books, some of the subjects, like composition, are covered more than once. However, the information is presented a little differently each time, so it really doesn't come across as repetitive. Besides, I think some of the information and guidelines are important enough to go over again and again.

I love that each section has a part on materials. There is so much out there in terms of art supplies, it's nice to know what to look for when starting out and visiting the store. I really like that the book presents the reader/artist with options. Other topics covered include: techniques, composition, creating textures and using colours as well as many other items specific to each of the mediums. Each of these is interesting as well.

The book contains a comprehensive table of contents, index and glossary for all four sections of the book. All of these should aid in finding various items in the book.

Highly recommended.

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

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

Complete Painting and Drawing Handbook by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, ©2009. ISBN 9780756656423(Hardcover), 480p.

Don't forget about DK's What Did You Make on March Break Contest. It runs until the end of March. For more information, click on the photo on the left.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest post by M.J. Rose

I'd like to welcome M.J. Rose to my blog today. She's the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances (my review).

M.J. Rose: I've been fascinated with lost fragrances since long before I started writing The Book of Lost Fragrances... since I found a bottle of perfume on my great grandmother's dresser that had belonged to her mother in Russia. Here is one of those lost fragrances that stirs the senses and the imagination... (researched and described with the help of the perfume writer Dimitrios Dimitriadis)

SAUZÉ FRÈRES - PRESTIGE In 1947 French perfumers Sauzé released a perfume named "Prestige de Paris", however a rare, virtually unheard of perfume simply named Prestige has been uncovered that pre-dates this launch by a whopping 13 years! Prestige is a tender posy of powdery aldehydes and velvety florals… violet, jasmine and rose cartwheel on the air, painting an olfactory landscape of a spring garden using soft pastel hues. A perfume that is flirtatious and spirited, Prestige feels like a young European princess indulging in a game of hide-and-seek in an exquisitely-manicured garden labyrinth. A scent lost to time, all that remains now, is the memory of her perfume and her laughter on the wind.

SYNOPSIS: A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

AUTHOR BIO: M.J. Rose is the international bestselling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her next novel THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES (Atria/S&S) will be published in March 2012. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of and

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook.

For more information about the virtual tour and the other stops, please visit the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours website.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sew: Step by Step by Alison Smith

Sew: Step by Step offers advice on how to sew. It shows the basics and updates them for today's trends and fashion. It covers lots of different topics including: equipment and fabrics to sewing pockets, waistlines, facings, collars, sleeves and decorative techniques.

This is such an awesome book. It's geared toward the novice sewer, but those looking for a refresher or even a good reference book would benefit from reading this book. As with a lot of DK books, the book is wonderfully laid out with large, well-labelled and annotated photographs. The techniques are well explained in clear concise language. I loved that the book can be used for sewing new items as well as restyling old ones.

I learned how to sew in high school, many years ago, but don't really sew a whole lot now. I haven't made a garment in many years, but I do try to sew periodically to retain what I know and have made a few household items throughout the years. After looking at this book, though, I realize that there's so much I don't know about sewing. I love learning new things. I'm going to have so much fun going through the book and practicing new skills!

The book contained lots of different sections. I especially liked the one on equipment. It starts out with a list for a basic sewing kit, but also a list of items to "build up your sewing kit" when you get more experience and want to do more things. I also liked the one featuring the different types of fabric. I've heard of lots of them, but I didn't know what they looked like exactly. Now, I know.

The Table of Contents and index are both adequate for this type of book. The glossary lists terms and definitions used in basic sewing. It, too, is pretty good.

My only disappointment is that the book didn't have a section on small projects to complete. A clever and creative sewer could probably make up something to show off the new skills they just acquired (by reading this book and practicing), but not everyone can do that. Someone who are just beginning might not yet have the confidence to do so. A project section with simple easy to complete tasks could go a long way in instilling that confidence.

Highly recommended.

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

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

Sew: Step by Step by Alison Smith, Dorling Kindersley (DK) Publishing, ©2011. ISBN 9780756671648(Softcover), 224p.

Don't forget about DK's What Did You Make on March Break Contest. It runs until the end of March. For more information, click on the photo on the left.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

In The Book of Lost Fragrances, Jac L'Etoille and her brother Robbie have inherited their family's financial-strapped perfume business. Jac has been off doing her own thing, but Robbie has stayed involved. When Jac returns, Robbie suggests that he's found something vitally important handed down from previous generations. Before he can fully explain, he goes missing. Jac soon discovers that it was some Egyptian pottery shards found by Giles L'Etoille in 1799 and handed down through the family. The shards were thought to contain remnants of a memory tool - a fragrance that might reveal past lives and unlock the mystery surrounding reincarnation. It's up to Jac and her friend Griffin, to find Robbie, sort it all out and keep the shards from falling into the wrong hands.

I loved this book! It was suspenseful, mesmerizing and very well written. The story was fascinating and contained information about the perfume industry, Tibetan lamas, ancient Egypt's afterlife and reincarnation. All such interesting subjects and evidence of Rose's vast research efforts. I learned so much! I found the parts about reincarnation particularly fascinating. I've read a couple of other books (fiction) regarding this subject and found that it makes so much sense to me.

The main story is interjected with numerous side stories, from past lives in other time periods to the Chinese underworld tracking the pottery shards and the protagonists. The story jumps around amongst the sets of characters and between time periods quite a bit. The reader gets little bits and pieces of the story from all different angles. Even though the story does jump around a bit, it's very easy to follow and comes across as coherent and cohesive at the end. Perfect format for this type of story and it's storyline.

The book contained lots of characters. It wasn't too bad keeping them all straight, but after awhile I started writing them down to make sure I didn't get any of them mixed up. Speaking of characters, I liked them all, especially Jac. Her visions brought on my particular scents were particular interesting.

I found it was amazing that the Chinese government would attempt to regulate reincarnation. After reading the book and more about the subject, I realize now that there are much bigger implications than just attempting to control something that's largely uncontrollable.

This ARC starts off with an excellent glossary. It "offers a glimpse into the author's research and provides some factual information about some of the topics, locations, theories and legends discussed in the novel". It was extremely interesting and informative.

Favourite quotes:
Mythology is what we call someone else's religion. (page 225)
The no-mind not-thinks no-thoughts about no-things. (page 282)
I love learning new words. This book contained a few that I had to look up:
promulgated (page xii): broadcast
aegis (page 1): guidance
carnelian (page 5): reddish translucent gemstone
unguents (page 5): ointments
arrondissement (page 53): area of a French city
jejune (page 99): boring
incentivized (page 231): give incentive to
marcasites (page 204): yellow mineral
phalanx (page 314): tight group

I've read one other book by Rose, The Hypnotist (my review). I really enjoyed it.

Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading more works by Rose.

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

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit M.J. Rose's website.

For more information about the virtual tour and the other stops, please visit the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours website.

I'd like to thank the author and Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for this review copy.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2012. ISBN 9781451621303(ARC), 348p.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March Break, DK and You!

It's March, that means March Break! What are the kids going to be doing during their time off? Well, DK has some ideas for you. They have put together a fantastic selection of books to keep the kids (little ones, tweens, and teenagers) busy as bees on their break.

Next week, I'll be posting my reviews of two of those fantastic books.

Also, DK is holding a WHAT DID YOU MAKE ON MARCH BREAK Contest ( which runs until the end of March ). People can win signed Jane Bull books ( DK’s Craft Guru ) and a $150 DK Shopping Spree…! How cool is that?

If you click on the icon above, you'll find a list of fantastic books as well as a link to the contest.


HarperCollins Canada March Madness - 2012

It's time again for HarperCollins March Madness, which pits book against book in a fierce literary competition. 64 books are entered....only one book will be victorious. It's up to us to decide. By playing along, you can win all 64 books. Wouldn't that be fantastic? Who doesn't like free books?

I'm getting a late start this year, but I'm here and ready to go!!

There's an added bonus this year for those fans who want to "champion" a specific book. Check out the Savvy Reader website for details.

This year, I'm not going to make any predications or list my selections. I'm just going to encourage you to play along and vote for your favourites.

Ready, set, Vote!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen: Cookin' for Trouble by Nadia Giosia

Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen: Cookin' for Trouble is a cookbook featuring seventy-five recipes from Nadia Giosia, the star of Bitchin' Kitchen on Food Network Canada. Besides the recipes, there's also tons of "Nadvice" as well as snippets from the other Bitchin' crew members: The Spice Agent, Panos and Hans.

This is such a fun cookbook. The recipes are unique and beautifully presented. The photography is outstanding. The organization of the book is a little different from other cookbooks in that the recipes are grouped by outrageous themes (Student Shkoff-Fest, Bitchin' Booty Camp Xtreme, etc.) rather than conventional ones. If you are at all familiar with Nadia, this won't be unexpected.

Each chapter starts with an introduction and a photo of Nadia in some outrageous outfit. No doubt about it, she's hot. Each recipe has an ingredient list ("grocery list") and equipment ("gear") to complete the dish. It's also written in Nadia-speak, as in "Shkiaffing it together". Don't worry if you that word is foreign to you, the book also includes an Italian slang dictionary that should help decipher some of the terms used.

The last chapter of recipes is a community chapter featuring recipes from fans selected in a nationwide contest. I like this community involvement angle. I wouldn't buy the cookbook just because of it (unless it contained my recipe, of course), but I think it's interesting.

Both the index and table of contents look good and should be helpful in finding recipes.

Both my husband and I watch the Bitchin' Kitchen on Food Network Canada and enjoy it. I love that I recognize a few of the recipes from that show.

I do have a few complaints about the book. My one major complaint is the lack of page numbers on every page. I like using the index and it's considerably less helpful if it's hard to find the page it lists. That's not cool.

My second complaint is about one of the recipes. I was planning on making "Chana Dhansak" on pages 31-33 for the purposes of this review. As it so happens, the episode (Veg Head Extravaganza) featuring this recipe was on not too long ago and I decided to watch it to get some additional tips. However, the episode left me confused. For the dhansak spice blend, the recipe in the book calls for 1/2 teaspoon of 7 different seeds and spices (plus varying amounts of other ones). However, on the TV show, Nadia used 1 tablespoon of those 7 seeds and spices. That's a *huge* difference. I also noticed some slight variations in the procedure as well, but that's not as concerning as the ingredient amounts. [By the way, the recipe on the Food Network site, matches the cookbook.] Anyway, I decided against making the recipe for the time being because of this. I know I shouldn't fault the cookbook because of the show, but I find it all a bit troubling.

I also had some concerns with the "Back-of-the-Fridge Bachelorfest" chapter. This chapter is supposed to "conquer the challenge of the bachelor fridge! The good news is that some of the tastiest dishes in the world are peasant dishes, so you don't need fancy-pants ingredients to make a good meal." Sounds great, right? However, these recipes include ingredients like a vanilla bean, Crana Padano cheese, Scamorza cheese, and 7-year-old aged balsamic vinegar. Really? In a bachelor fridge? I cook all the time and I don't even have these ingredients...haven't even heard of the cheeses.

Despite my complaints above, I plan to make some of the recipes at some point. I'd still recommend this cookbook for fans of the show and for those looking for an unusual and fun cookbook.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

According to the book, there are two websites for Nadia G. and Bitchin' Kitchen. However, I couldn't access either of them when I was writing this review. The first one was active at one time and contained some great stuff, but I don't know about the second one. Anyway, I'll list them here in case they come back online at some point. They are: and

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

Bitchin' Kitchen Cookin' for Trouble by Nadia Giosia, Ballantine Books (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780345531827(Trade Paperback), 208p.