Book Blogger Hop: April 30 - May 6, 2010

Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books hosts the fabulous Friday Book Blogger Hop! The BBH is about connecting with other book bloggers and offering each other encouragement and support while learning about new books.

Here are a few of my recent reviews:
If you haven't visited Bons Vivants, my non-book blog, here is a taste:

Enjoy the blog hop! Thank you for hopping by!



Love's Alchemy transated by David & Sabrineh Fideler

Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition translated from the Persian by David and Sabrineh Fideler is the perfect anthology of poems to honor National Poetry month. The collection features a range of Sufi poems, including the most notable Sufi poets, Rūmī and Hāfiz. If you are not familiar with Sufi poetry, one could say that you haven't really lived. The words of these poets drip with romanticism. Even after translated into English, much of the poems are written in a code, which
"provides the reader with an ongoing source of delight -- for as the reader's understanding continues to expand, the same poems can continue to reveal deeper levels of meaning over the course of many years."

After a thorough introduction to Sufi poetry, the translators include close to 175 poems which exude passion, love and an exuberance for life. Each poem lingers in the soul, provoking a mysterious connection to the poets of another culture. Each poem captures a very specific sentiment that cannot be described, but only felt. At the conclusion of the book, the translators offer an introductory course on understanding Persian poems. Additionally, a glossary of common Sufi metaphors is provided to assist in the reader's appreciation of the poems.

"It would be me," by Pūr Bahā Jāmī is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy this Sufi poem as much as I do.

It would be me
Drunk on love's wine?
That would be me.

Broke a thousand vows?
That would be me.

Crazy yet learned--
Scoundrel yes saint--

If anyone is like that
it would be me.

Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition translated by David and Sabrineh Fideler is now available in paperback. This anthology of Sufi poems is unforgettable, earning it three out of three stars. Reminder List highly recommends Love's Alchemy for every poetry lovers library.


Waiting on Wednesday: Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine.  Each week, a pre-publication book is spotlighted.

This week, I am eagerly anticipating the June 2010 release of Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson, MD.
From Tyndale Publishers: Do you want to improve your relationships and experience lasting personal change? Join Curt Thompson, M.D., on an amazing journey to discover the surprising pathways for transformation hidden inside your own mind. Integrating new findings in neuroscience and attachment with Christian spirituality, Dr. Thompson reveals how it is possible to rewire your mind, altering your brain patterns and literally making you more like the person God intended you to be. Explaining discoveries about the brain in layman’s terms, he shows how you can be mentally transformed through spiritual practices, interaction with Scripture, and connections with other people.

Have you missed a recent review? Check out these great books:
How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World by Jordan Christy

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer



Teaser Tuesday: April 27, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  •  Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!
  • Leave a comment with the link to your TT post. If you don't have a blog, leave your teaser in the comments. 
"Rick was tired of arguing with her about this. He knew she needed professional therapy but there just didn't seem to be any way to convince her of it's importance."

Title: Questionable Therapy
Author: Steve Godofsky

 Recently reviewed by Reminder List:
The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyers
Obedience by Will Lavender
Wow: A Handbook for Living by Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono



Wow: A Handbook for Living by Ohaski & Kurazono

The brilliant red and crisp white on the cover of Wow: A Handbook for Living by Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono projects the zen undertones of the book. Red is the feng shui color representing fire and passion. White is symbolic of clarity and precision. The pages within the handbook are filled with exercises and photographs in a stark black and white. The graphic design of Wow: A Handbook for Living cannot be a mistake, as the blend of red, white, and black -- a feng shui color of ease and purity -- combine to compliment the inspiring lessons which will bring harmony to the reader's life.

Within the pages of the book, there are thirty one questions for the reader to contemplate.  The questions are not rhetorical.  The authors encourage the reader to complete each exercise slowly, going so far as to write in the preface, "Whatever you do, don't be in a hurry. Don't try to master this book in three weeks."  Many of the exercises in Wow: A Handbook for Living can be completed in a few minutes. To reap the maximum benefit of the lesson, it is best to digest the question before responding.

In one hundred and fifty pages, authors Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono act as the reader's life coach.  Each page provides questions and commentary to be contemplated over before progressing to the next lesson. Having begun the lessons, I can testify to the positive outcome of the thought provoking questions. Question number one of Wow: A Handbook for Living is "What's working for you?" After days of pondering the question, my response was simple -- there is a lot working in my life to smile about.  Ohashi and Kurazono's first exercise led me to my inaugural "Sunday Smiles" post on Bons Vivants.

Any person who enjoys quiet introspection and desires personal growth will enjoy Wow: A Handbook for Living by Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono. Impressive is Reminder List's rating of Wow: A Handbook for Living, giving it two out of three stars.



Free books (?)

Photograph courtesy of Billy Alexander

Earth Day came and went, and all I did to acknowledge the day was to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store. Had I planned, I'm sure that I could have better honored the day. In the spirit of Earth Day, here are a few suggestions on how to recycle unwanted books. My suggestions will help you re-home your gently used books, and you can find almost free books for yourself. I used the word almost, because the following sites do not currently charge a fee for their service. While, the books are free, the shipper must pay postage. Using media mail, the shipping for most books averages three dollars. With the exception for the price of shipping and packaging, book swapping is an excellent source to find free books.

Book swapping is similar to a barter exchange between owners of books. There are several websites which act like the middle man, pairing owners of a books with someone who wants a book. Each site has its nuances. Here are the summaries of three well known book swapping sites.

BookMooch.com is a points based swapping site. Points based means that you can send out books you want to part with, and you will earn one point for sending the book to a person requesting your book. Additionally, you earn a tenth of a point for every book you list on your bookshelf.  You can also earn a tenth of a point for confirming receipt of a requested book. The benefit of this system is that you can clean off your book shelves, while earning points which will accumulate until you are ready to use them.

PaperBackSwap.com is similar to Book Mooch, except that the books cost credits. Credits are earned by mailing out books or you can buy credits. Upon signing up, the company offers you free credits for listing ten books to be swapped on your bookshelf.  Each book costs one credit, audio books are two credits each.

Books are traded on a "first in, first out" basis. Basically, if there are 500 copies of a book listed, and you just listed the 501 copy, you will have a significant wait before book leaves your shelf. Also, wished for books are granted in the same fashion. PaperBackSwap, or PBS, also offers a subscription service in which you can directly swap with another member.  Finally, PBS has an active forum which discusses all genres of books and book related topics.

SwapTree.com is a media swapping site. Books, video games, CDs, and DVDs are all eligible to be traded for each other. When an item is listed for trade, the owner indicates its condition, such as "like new." Swap Tree differs from Book Mooch and PaperBackSwap in that you immediately send out your item and receive an item once when they have negotiated a trade for you. There is no accumulation of points. 

Before joining, read the terms for any site that you choose to sign up for.  Each site has a disclosure that their terms may change at any time. It is always a smart idea to read the fine print.  However, having had experience with all three swap sites that I mentioned, I can strongly recommend Paper Back Swap. By clicking on the banner beneath to join PBS, I can earn a referral fee. Leave me a comment if you join, and I will check out your shelf to see what books you have to offer.
PaperBackSwap.com - Book Club to Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.

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Book Blogger Hop: April 23 - April 29, 2010

Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books hosts the fabulous Friday Book Blogger Hop! This is the first week that I am participating, and I invite you to join in the fun!  The BBH is about connecting with other book bloggers and offering each other encouragement and support while learning about new books.

New book bloggers I was introduced to from the April 23, 2010 hop include:

Want to join the fun? Hop over to Crazy-For-Books!

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The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

Carolyn Meyer's latest edition to the Young Royals series is the historical fiction novel, The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette. With an authentic voice, Meyer illustrates the life of a young Antonia, the name Marie Antoinette was known as during her youth in Austria. Written as a first person account, The Bad Queen reads like a diary of a young woman whose life begins and ends as being nothing more than a political pawn. Divided into four parts, the reader is introduced to the woman history has attributed with saying, "Let them eat cake!"

Fans of young adult fiction will enjoy Meyer's novel which begins in the year 1768. Part one of The Bad Queen documents the struggles of a young Antonia, who has been forced into an arranged marriage at the behest of her mother, the Empress. Each chapter begins with a rule given to Antonia, with the first rule for the Dauphine being to "marry well." The reader cannot help but sympathize with a young girl forced to change her name and appearance in an effort to benefit Austria, her native country.

With each successive rule, Meyer clearly paints a portrait of Marie Antoinette that contradicts the overwhelming impressions most closely associated with the famous Queen of France. Throughout part one, I could not help but pity Marie Antoinette. She was desperately trying to please her mother, while marrying a man who showed no interest in her and was unwelcome by the Parisians. Blamed for everything, Marie Antoinette is an easy scapegoat for all the ills of the era.

The Bad Queen begins from a little known perspective of Marie Antoinette. After the death of her mother, the story begins to flow with Marie Antoinette evolving into the frivolous persona she is most closely associated with. Due to the way Meyer introduces the reader to Marie Antoinette, the reader cannot help but feel compassion for her. Deprived of love and ridiculed for her inability to produce an heir in a timely fashion, Marie Antoinette seeks solace in superficial belongings and the arms of a devoted lover.

Historical fiction fans and any reader who enjoys a tragic romance will surely enjoy Caroline Meyer's The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette. Reminder List rates this book as unforgettable, earning it three stars!

Obedience by Will Lavender

Some thrillers are page turners with each page leaving the reader wanting more. Obedience by Will Lavender is classified as a thriller. Unfortunately, with every turn of the page I was wanting more substance. With every turn of the page I was wanting the book to finally end. I could not avoid finishing the book, because I had high hopes that with the next turn of the page, the action would begin. That was not the case.

The plot of Will Lavender's Obedience centers on "the Polly experiment." Students in a college philosophy class are given the hypothetical case of Polly, a female who has been kidnapped. Polly will be murdered if the students are unable to save her before the end of the semester. It does not take long before the lines begin blurring the reality from the fantasy. A few students become too emotionally involved in the case of the missing girl, forgetting that she is fictional. The book ends with a Romeo & Juliet twist.

While the premise of Obedience is promising, the execution was disappointing. Will Lavender falls short of the mark with the development of not only the plot, but the characters were weak, as well. Obedience is nothing more than a social experiment to see how many people will plod through reading this torture device that is disguised as a book. At best, Reminder List can only rate Obedience as ordinary.

Will Lavender
ISBN: 9780307396105
Rating: Ordinary


The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

In 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz first published his 138 page book of Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements. Thirteen years later, his book continues to be a guide for those with the desire to live “a way of life, distinguished by the ready accessibility of happiness and love.” In four simple guidelines, Ruiz enables the reader to break free from habits which limit one’s ability to experience happiness, love and freedom.

The four agreements include:

1. Be impeccable with your word

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions

4. Always do your best

Ruiz introduces the importance of these four simple agreements which, when put into action, can change a person’s life experience. Each agreement is defined and illustrated with examples of how easily one can implement the agreement. Conversely, living without the simplicity of Toltec wisdom can lead to a life of frustration, anger and resentment.

One of the most poignant statements Ruiz makes is in the chapter titled, “The Toltec Path to Freedom.” He states, “As children we are not afraid of the future of ashamed of the past.” The Four Agreements coaches the reader into recapturing the joy of living once thought to be reserved for childhood.

The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz
ISBN: 1-878424-31-9
Rating: Unforgettable

*Don Miguel Ruiz's anticipated sequel, The Fifth Agreement, is available now!


Everyday Greatness by Stephen R. Covey

David K. Hatch has compiled a collection of stories and quotes that truly provide the reader "inspiration for a meaningful life." Everyday Greatness is divided into seven examples of living a meaningful life, each example is then examined through three principles. The commentary from Stephen R. Covey introduces the three principles which illustrate an aspect of living a meaningful life. Each of the twenty-one chapters concludes with a wrap-up and questions for reflection.

Everyday Greatness is more than a compilation of short stories first published in Reader's Digest. This publication is an accumulation of motivating words compelling the reader to choose to act, to live with purpose and with principles. After reading over four hundred pages of thought provoking anecdotes, Covey provides an afterword with six suggestions on how to put the principles of Everyday Greatness into practice.

The most distinguishable characteristic of Everyday Greatness is that it reads as though it was custom written for me. In each story, I could relate to either the person I am, or the person I aspire to be. In chapter ten, Covey begins with,
"All things are created twice. All things. Vision is the first creation."
Without vision, there can be no action. In the ensuing pages, I realized that I had lost my vision a long time ago. Everyday Greatness replaced my blindness with a desire to envision the life I want, so that I can act upon that vision. I highly recommend Everyday Greatness to any reader wanting to find more greatness in their life.

Everyday Greatness
Stephen R. Covey, David K. Hatch
Thomas Nelson
Self-Help/Personal Growth
ISBN-13: 978-1-4016-0241-3
464 pages
Hardcover- pub. October 10, 2006
Rating: Unforgettable

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a complimentary copy of Everyday Greatness!


Donatella Cooks

Despite the availability of recipes online, nothing replaces a genuine cookbook to flip through during those times when you need to find just the right menu for an occasion -- whether it be a mundane Tuesday evening or a dinner party to celebrate a milestone. I have found few cookbooks which I can honestly say that I would try each recipe, and Donatella Cooks is definitely one of them. Each recipe is the perfect blend of artisan and sophisticate.

Beginning with hors d' oeuvres and progresses through a six course meal, ending with dessert, author Donatella Arpaia provides clear instruction and precise advice on where to find specialty ingredients. Some recipes include the notation, "Donatella Clicks," which lists the alternatives for where one might find specialty items or a directs you to a website for purchase. The recipe for "Baked Buffalo Ricotta" includes the suggestion to find fresh ricotta at www.buonitalia.com. In addition to the purchasing suggestions, Arpaia provides menu suggestions for seasons and occasions.

Donatella Arpaia is a restaurateur in New York City and well as a judge on the Food Network's Who will be the next Iron Chef? On Tuesday, April 13, 2010, Ms. Arpaia appeared on NBC's Today to demonstrate how to prepare the Gruyere and spinach souffle from Donatella Cooks. The instructional video and recipe can be found on Today's website by clicking here.

Photographer Anna Williams must be acknowledged for capturing the recipes to mouth watering perfection. Between the recipes, food styling and photography, Donatella Cooks is an unforgettable cookbook!

Donatella Cooks
Donatella Arpaia
Rodale Books
ISBN-13: 978-1605296425
272 pages
Hardcover- pub. April 13, 2010
Rating: Unforgettable


Readathon Progress Report

The books I would have liked to have read during the readathon:
  1. The Late Bloomer's Revolution: A memoir by Amy Cohen
  2. Buddha by Deepak Chopra
  3. The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore
  4. Finding Grace by Donna VanLiere
  5. The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal
  6. Everyday Greatness edited by Steven Covey
Instead, I reviewed "What's New, Cupcake?" and had a craving from something fresh baked, so I paused the readathon to bake these:

Progress so far:

Pages read:
14pgs- The Kitchen Boy
2 Pages - Bleeding Heart Square
20 pages - The Postmistress
34 pages - Everyday Greatness

Brownies Eaten:
medium sized- 2
2 bite sized- 3

Books reviewed:
1- What's New, Cupcake?

I suppose all progress is relative, yes?

What's New, Cupcake?

Every parent of a young child needs to have this cupcake decorating book in their personal library! What's New, Cupcake? is filled with breathtaking designs for every occasion. Authors Karen Tack and Alan Richardson deliver page after page of simply stunning photographs of confectionery feats. In nine chapters, the authors guide the reader from the basics on how to bake a firm cupcake (the secret ingredient is buttermilk) to selecting decorating supply and tools, and recipes to decorate eye catching cupcakes. The book ends with advice on how to manipulate box cake mixes into a variety of unique flavors, as well as an "almost homemade butter cream frosting" and variations to that.

No one can deny that the authors delivered "ingeniously simple designs for every occasion." While some decorating recipes are more intricate than others, such as the Pork Lo Mein cupcake, every chapter includes at least one "EZ" decorating idea. My only criticism of this book is that these cupcakes are meant to be looked at, and not eaten. Who wants to eat a cupcake decorated in strips of Wrigley's Wintermint gum or Circus Peanuts and Laffy Taffy? Cupcakes covered in candy is essentially the backbone of each recipe.

What's New, Cupcake? serves as a wonderful inspiration to be a little more creative with how you frost and decorate cupcakes. Elementary school children with enjoy the aesthetic of the cupcakes and will be able to have their cake and eat the candy, too.

What's New, Cupcake
Karen Tack & Alan Richardson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Cookbook- Desserts
ISBN-13: 978-0547241814
240 pages
Paperback - April 1, 2010
Rating: Noteworthy


How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World

"It won't be pretty for a while, my friends, but we'll get through it together," from page 73 of Jordan Christy's "How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World" sums up Christy's approach to mentoring women who want to live "with style, class and grace." Unlike a self help book, Christy has written a reference manual of modern etiquette that draws on the wisdom of old-fashioned advice.

In the introduction, Christy acquaints the reader with the "Stupid Girls," who epitomize the antithesis of living with style, class and grace. Christy's aim is to
"make intelligent look attractive! Can we do it? Again, I say YES! But first, you must know what you're up against in a Stupid Girl world. It's easy to slide into stupidity with just a few small, bad choices, so we need to be on the lookout for them ahead of time."
The ensuing chapters provide concrete examples of how one can make the choices that will reap huge benefits towards building the character of a woman who emulates style, class and grace. Her advice may not cover new ground, for example one of her key points is the importance to maintain eye contact during conversation, but what is unique is her ability to convey valuable life lessons in a non-preaching manner. Instead of lecturing on how a woman should act, Christy shares her insight on how a woman can respect herself.

"How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World" reads almost like a diary complied of advice from a woman who with a strong sense of self respect. Jordan Christy inspires the reader to demonstrate self respect from how you spend your time to the people you spend time with, from your words to your actions. In a flawless manner, "How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World" nudges the reader into being a stronger woman.

Unforgettable is the best description for "How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World," as well as this reader's rating. This is a fantastic gift for a high school graduate!

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World
Jordan Christy
Center Street
ISBN-13: 978-1599951836
196 pages
Hardcover - August 13, 2009
Rating: Unforgettable


Denial of Sunlight

Robert Troy's first novel, Denial of Sunlight, is 333 pages of mystery, shock and awe. Beginning with a life changing discovery made by two brilliant, yet greedy, post-doctoral candidates on Christmas eve 1987, the story hooks the reader into a world of chemistry and physics leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The independent story lines and their characters are woven together to create an explosion of strong characters driven by a cohesive plot. While much of the mystery is based on an engineering project with details only a physics professor would be familiar with, Troy explains just enough of the science to allow the lay man to understand its importance to the plot.

The heroine of Denial of Sunlight, Katherine Murkowitz, is an engineer at a professional crossroads due to an unexplained accident at her previous employer. With her tail between her legs, she moves back to her hometown, depressed and financially unstable. Once Pittsburgh Power Pegs, "PPP," offers her a position that seems too good to be true, the action begins to heat up. Katherine finds herself and the small staff of PPP transferred to a production facility in China, working on a secretive project. Censorship, espionage and terror ensue.

Fans of medical mystery writers Michael Palmer and Robin Cook will most likely enjoy Denial of Sunlight, as the book is a provocative peak into the world of physics and its applications, twisted into a thrilling dooms day scenario. The element of political corruption heightens the thrill. An unexpected surprise awaits the reader as the book draws to a close. Denial of Sunlight certainly has me curious to read the next book by Robert Troy.

Denial of Sunlight

Robert Troy
Outskirts Press
ISBN-13: 978-1432751265
333 pages
Hardcover - December 1, 2009
Rating: Noteworthy
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