Friday, June 29, 2012

Bean There, Done That by Sandra Balzo

In Bean There, Done That, Maggy Thorsen becomes involved in the disappearance of her ex-husband's new wife, Rachel. Before she disappeared Rachel had asked Maggy to help her determine if Ted, that's Maggy's ex, was cheating before they got married. It's a little tricky because of course Ted was cheating. He was cheating on Maggy with Rachel. However, Rachel now suspects that there were other women and she's furious. She wants Maggy's help in confirming all of this. In the middle of it all, Rachel goes missing and Ted becomes the chief suspect. Since she's already somewhat involved anyway, Maggy decides to investigate the possibility of the other women as well as Rachel's disappearance.

I really enjoyed this one. This is the third book in the Maggy Thorsen Mystery series and the third one I've read. I don't always read a series in order, but in this case I'm glad to be doing so. This one had a little less to do with the coffee shop business itself, but nevertheless is was enjoyable. I especially loved the twists at the end. Devious, delicious and fun!

As I said in my other reviews, I love Balzo's characters, especially Maggy. I really felt sorry for her when she discovered that Ted could have been cheating on her with more than one woman. It was like opening up those wounds all over again. Somehow, I didn't quite feel the same way about Rachel, though. As for Ted, well, I didn't exactly feel sorry for him either. As with the other books, one of my favourite characters is Frank, Maggy's oversized dog, who rushes the door every time it's opened. That never gets old for me.

New Words:
proffering (page 15): offer
cadre (page 55): core group

Favourite Quote:
Me, I remembered the May blizzard that dropped eight inches of snow on southeastern Wisconsin well enough to be grateful for any day above freezing, regardless of season. I also didn't put the shovel away until the Fourth of July. In other words, I was a native Wisconsinite. (page 14)
Substitute Manitoba for Wisconsin and you have me to a "T".

I also read and really enjoyed the first one, Uncommon Grounds (my review) and second one, Grounds for Murder (my review). I also have Triple Shot on my virtual to-be-read shelf. I hope to get to it soon.

Highly recommended. I can't wait to read the others in the series.

For more information about this book, please visit

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

Many thanks to the author for sending me this eBook to review.

Bean There, Done That by Sandra Balzo, Severn House, ©2008. ISBN 9781847510730(e-book/PDF), 235p.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Knitting Book by Frederica Patmore and Vikki Haffenden

The Knitting Book is a reference book for knitters with 250 techniques, 120 stitch patterns and 40 projects. It can be used by those just starting to knit or seasoned knitters with years of experience. It contains materials, basic techniques, advanced techniques, projects and stitch patterns.

This book is fantastic! It contains tons of information about materials, techniques and patterns. The techniques section takes up the majority of the book and is quite extensive. It covers basics (casting on, casting off, knitting, purling, picking up a dropped stitch, ripping out, following a pattern, increasing/decreasing, etc.), more advanced techniques (cables, lace, colourwork, textures, structures, circular knitting, finishing details), and a whole lot more.

  Even though I've been knitting for years, I still learned a lot from this book. For example, I didn't realize how many different methods there were for casting on stitches. I only ever used one, the knit-on method. I had a little trouble deciphering some of the photographs and explanations to go with them because I'm left handed. It was not usually a problem, but for figuring out new stuff, it was a little confusing.

The tools and materials section featured large colourful photographs and clear explanations. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of yarns, needles and other equipment. It was definitely educational. I loved that the yarns and needles format included advantages and disadvantages for each of the items. While I had heard of both fair isle and intarsia before, I didn't really know what they were or how they differed. The book did a wonderful job of explaining both. Not that I'm going to be doing either of them soon, but it's always good to know these things. ;)

The pattern galley is really cool! I loved the large photos, which allow the knitter to see the stitches up close. However, I'm not sure why though they stuck the instructions for the patterns in the back of the book. I would have preferred to have the two of them together.

The book also featured several large photographs on double page spreads of various knitting techniques, like lace, beading, cables etc. I loved these. It was awesome to see them up close and in such a large size.

I was particularly interested in recycling yarn from old sweaters (page 267) or using unusual yarns for knitting (page 268-271). I loved the idea of cutting up rescued yarn into lengths, then knotting it together with other yarns to form a "new" variegated knotty yarn. That would make an unusual, yet wonderfully unique, scarf or other knitted item.

The book contains 40 projects of varying degrees of difficulty. The projects included scarves, toques, gloves, arm warmers, socks, bags, baby stuff, blankets, as well as novelties items like toys, pillows, and coasters. There were probably only a few that I would do, but I liked that they authors provided a wide selection of different items. A few of the chosen colours were a little too bright for my liking, but I suppose I could always pick a different colour. My favourite pattern was for a Campfire Blanket (page 348-349). The earthy colours and pattern were quite lovely. The pattern was written in chart form only, which I've never used before. If I decide to make project, I'll be learning another new thing from the book.

The table of contents is adequate, but I wish that they had listed the projects. The glossary is pretty good and defines some of the terms used in the book. The index is fairly extensive and should aid the knitter in finding items in the book.

Highly recommended for all levels of knitters.

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.

The Knitting Book by Frederica Patmore and Vikki Haffenden, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2011. ISBN 9780756682354 (Hardcover), 400p.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Human Body Coloring Book by DK Publishing

The Human Body Coloring Book is a learning tool and study aid for those studying anatomy. It contains more than 200 detailed line drawings for the student to color and label.

This is such an awesome book. If you are thinking kids coloring book, think again. The quality is outstanding and it's basically like any other anatomy textbook, except that the diagrams are not labeled or colored in. That's for the student to do. The organization is like many other DK anatomy books. That is, it's organized by body system (skeletal, muscular, nervous, etc.). Each of the sections starts with an overview of that system. It then launches into the various explanations and artworks for parts of the system.

There are two ways the reader can use this book. The first way is to color in and label the various parts using the keys/legends. The second way is to cover up the keys/legends and do it from memory. I think the second way would be particularly helpful when studying for exams.

Like many DK books the artwork is wonderful. Most of it in this book is in its line drawing, pre-coloured stage, but it's spectacular nevertheless.

The whole book is wonderful, but I particularly loved two parts. First, the cross-references at the bottom of many of the pages. This allows the reader to go to other parts of the book with similar material without having to reference the table of contents or index. Very handy, I think. Second, the 360-degree view of the system in the body. The illustrations are small, but extremely interesting. It lets the reader see at a glance the whole system in context.

Books like this make me wish that books didn't have spines. It's a shame that parts of some of the diagrams disappear into that area where the pages attach to the spine. I'm sure it has a technical name, but I don't know what it is. The publishers have done a good job keeping it to a minimum, but it's too bad it had to happen at all.

Books without spines...Hmmm... That got me thinking. This book would make an awesome iPad or tablet app. The reader could color in and label the items for learning purposes, then later erase it all and do it from memory to study for exams. How cool would that be!!!!

Anyway, back to this book. The table of content is excellent. It lists the major sections as well as the items within each section. The index is extensive and spans many pages. This should be helpful in finding items in the book.

Highly recommended for students of anatomy. I should clarify that I am not a student, nor have I ever studied anatomy. I do, however, think this subject is fascinating. I have read quite a few anatomy books to better my understanding of it.

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.

The Human Body Coloring Book by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2011. ISBN 9780756682347(Large Paperback), 256p.

The Secret Me Book by Rachel Kempster and Meg Leder

The Secret Me Book is a journal-type book that prompts you to think about what makes you the person that you are. Through activities, prompts and ideas, the authors will guide you to self-recognition.

I really enjoyed this book. I haven't filled it all in yet, but I've made a good start. I love that there are no rules to filling out this book. You can fill it out in order or randomly. You can use a pen, pencil or crayon if you want. You can even type of the responses on your computer, print them out and tape them in the book. Because this is your book of your secret self, you can even skip, ignore or change the ones you don't like. Don't be too hasty with that, though. You might just discover something wonderful about yourself that you didn't know existed.

Some of the prompts seemed pretty easy until I really started thinking about them. All of a sudden a few of them became overwhelmingly hard. It's all good, though. I loved having to think about some of my answers. At times I found the space to record my response way too small; I wanted to write and write and write. Other times, I found the space too large; I only had a few words to say.

My one complaint about the book is the "Secret Survey" pages. On these, a question is asked and answers from various people are listed. I'm not sure why this was including in the book. Perhaps it's to show how others would answer the question. It was okay, I guess, as some of the answers were amusing, but otherwise, I would have omitted these pages altogether.

The authors do a bit of reminiscing in the book, usually to illustrate a point and further explain a prompt. I quite enjoyed reading those passages. Besides the remembrances by the authors, there are also some famous quotes or quotes by famous people, a few of which I've quoted below.

Favourite quotes:
It's not about self-help or self-improvement-- rather it's about self-recognition... (page viii)
I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering. Steven Wright (page 12)
There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. Sylvia Plath (page 70)
Rachel and Meg have also authored The Happy Book, which allows you to journal about things that make you happy. It sounds delightful. I'll be keeping my eye out for that one, too.


Heather from Book and Quilts has also reviewed this book. Click here to see what she had to say.

If you liked this book, there are tons of other journal-type books out there. Two of my favourites are by Keri Smith: How to Be an Explorer of the World and Wreck This Journal. I'd highly recommend both.

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

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

The Secret Me Book by Rachel Kempster and Meg Leder, Sourcebooks, ©2012. ISBN 9781402265709(Trade Paperback), 196p.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In The Night Circus, Marco and Celia were selected as children to take part in a competition that tests their magical abilities. They were trained separately by two old magicians, but neither knows who their opponent is, what the rules are, or even what the game is. As time goes on, they discover one another and fall in love. They then start treating the game as a collaboration rather than a competition. All of this is going to make the endgame a little more complicated.

I enjoyed this book, but didn't love it. When I first heard that this book dealt with magic, I was so excited. I love magic! I know I'm being fooled, but I love it anyway. Once I discovered, though, that the magic Marco and Celia were doing was real and not illusions, it sort of lost its draw for me. I still liked the premise and the story, but the magic (pun intended) was gone.

Scattered throughout the book was little vignettes describing the different aspects of the circus. Because they are written in the second person (using "you"), it made me feel like I was actually at this circus. I quite enjoyed that.

Now that I think about it, I think maybe I put too much stake in the magic aspect of this book. Perhaps if I hadn't been so excited about that part I might have enjoyed the story more when it didn't work out as I hoped. Also, the story may have just been beyond me (too complicated or something) for me to truly get. I'm saying that because I don't really think I fully understood this book.

For example, I was quite bewildered by the section called "Intersections". It contained various chapters with dates one year apart. Alternating between the two time periods that were so close didn't make sense to me. I bet there were some subtleties in the story that I missed that might have cleared up my confusion over this section.

Favourite quote:
There is more to it than you think. ...Everything you do, every moment of the day and night is a move. You carry your chessboard with you, it is not contained within canvas and stripes. Though you and your opponent do not have the luxury of polite squares to stay upon. (page 306)
New words:
proscenium (page 73): front of the stage
eiswein (page 123): sweet white wine

Even though I didn't love the book like I thought I would, I'd still highly recommend this book.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.
For more information about the author, please visit Erin Morgenstern's website.
I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House for this review copy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday Canada (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780385671612(Hardcover), 387p.