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The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide – Stacey Graham

31 May

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Released: April 24th, 2012
Genre: MG non-fiction, how-to
Review copy from publisher

What was that noise? The cat? The wind? 
Little brother stealing a peek at your diary?
Or is it a ghost?

The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide will help you identify the creepy crawlers from the spooky spirits, the howling winds fromt he haunting phantoms. And with this guide you can learn from real experts how to investigate and contact your very own ghosts!

Everything a girl needs for a night full of fun, including:

• Spooky urban legends to set the mood
• Must-have stuff for your ghost hunting kit
• Pointers for leading the best-ever ghost hunt
• Tips for writing your own ghost
• With fun quizzes, games, recipes, and more!

So gather your friends if they are brave enough, grab a flashlight, and go investigate!

From Sourcebooks website.

First of all, I have to say I am  in love with the ghostie on the cover. And she actually appears throughout the book. I’ve love to have one. Not, you know, haunting me or anything. But maybe a stuffed one on my desk.

Okay, so the book. What a cool combination of informative, creepy, scary, funny, fun stuff! I loved the tone. I think kids will find it’s like talking to a cool older sibling or cousin. It was very informal while jam-packed full of ghost hunting information.

The ghost hunting: I watch a lot of ghost hunting shows, and the information was dead on. Ghosts are serious business, but Graham made sure throughout the whole book to keep things light. She still made sure that the reader understood the seriousness of ghost hunting and the responsibility that comes with it, but she did it in a way that it shouldn’t scare the crap out of most kids. And mixed in with the ghost hunting info are urban legends, ghost stories and even a couple of nommy recipes. Graham also includes interviews with female ghost hunters, which I thought was awesome.

The layout of the book was super fun, also. The pages are glossy, there’s lots of colour used and different fonts. For me, this also helped lift some of the scariness of the subject. There are also interactive sections, little quizzes and at the end blank pages that you can use on your first ghost hunting case.

I think this book is going to be a hit among girls, but the topic IS all things ghost, so I think for certain personality types, it could be a bit too scary, even with the light tone. But of course, that’s where mom and dad come in. If you daughter is a bit on the anxious side, you may want to take a peek at The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide before handing it over to her.

This was just a cool mix of fun and informative. And if you are interested in reading it, pop by tomorrow for a giveaway. :)

Huck – Janet Elder Blog Tour and Giveaway

21 Nov

“Michael was four when his relentless campaign for a dog began. At seven he made a PowerPoint presentation, “My Dog,” with headings like “A Childhood Without a Dog is a Sad Thing.” His parents, Janet and Rich, were steadfast; bringing a dog into their fast-paced New York City lives was utterly impractical.
However, on a trip to Italy, a chance happening leads Janet to reconsider, a decision then hastened by a diagnosis of breast cancer. Janet decides the excitement of a new puppy would be the perfect antidote to the strain on the family of months of arduous treatments for her illness. The prospect of a new puppy would be an affirmation of life, a powerful talisman for them all.
On Thanksgiving weekend, soon after the grueling months of treatments are over, Huck, a sweet, mischievous, red-haired, toy poodle joins the family and wins everyone’s heart.
A few months later the family ventures to baseball’s spring training, leaving Huck with Janet’s sister in Ramsey, New Jersey. Barely twenty-four hours into the trip, Janet receives the dreaded phone call: Huck has slipped through the backyard fence and run away.
Broken-hearted and frantic, the family catches the first plane to New Jersey to begin a search for their lost puppy. It is a race against time, for little Huck is now lost in an area entirely unfamiliar to him, facing the threat of bears and coyotes, swamps and freezing temperatures, rain and fast cars.
Moved by the family’s plight, strangers – from school children to townspeople to the police lieutenant – join the search, one that proves to be an unyielding test of determination and faith.
Touching and warm-hearted, Huck is a spirit-lifting story about resilience, the generosity of strangers, and hope.”

I have a house full of animals. And I do mean a house full. Our large farmhouse is filled with cats, dogs, birds and a spoiled bunny. I couldn’t imagine the panic and heartache I would feel if ANY of them went missing. Hell, I’d probably freak out if one of the barn chickens disappeared. After all they are hand raised and love getting hugs and pets. So naturally from the moment I picked up Huck, my heart was breaking for this family that finally decided to get a puppers for their son, only to have the dog run away a few months later.

I love that while Janet’s cancer was the catalist for getting Huck, it wasn’t the center of the story. In fact, while she does talk about it a bit, it’s more in passing. This is definintely Huck’s book. Huck, and all the wonderful people who helped with the search effort.

While I was touched by all the amazing people who dropped what they were doing to help search for Huck, it saddened me a bit that Janet and her family seemed so surprised by it. I live in a small community and all the help that was offered just seemed natural to me. And it made me very grateful to live somewhere where kindness and helpfulness are just a part of daily living.

This was just a sweet, uplifting read. Once I started, I had a hard time putting it down. I needed to know how it ended. And Janet’s writing never entered that overly dramatic or overly sentimental area, even though what she was writing about was both of these things at times.  I really enjoyed Huck and will be recommending it to all my animal- loving friends.

Giveaway time!

Okay, guys I have three, yes that’s THREE copies of Huck to giveaway. All you have to do is comment and let me know your favorite book, TV or movie dog. Besides Huck (of course) my fave is Paul Anka from the Gilmore Girls. Contest is open to Canada and the US and will close 11:59 EST November 30th. *I’m extending this until Dec 3rd.*

Blog tour and giveaway: Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier

30 May

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Released: May 10th, 2011
Genre: non-fiction, health, food
From publisher for blog tour.

What impact do food choices have on your health? Have you ever been curious as to where your food came from, who grew it, and the path it took to get to your table? Have you every wondered how much of each natural resource was used to produce your food—in other words, the soil-to-table environmental cost? In Whole Foods to Thrive, Brendan Brazier clearly explains how nutrient-dense, plant-based foods are the best choice, not only for your health but also for the health and sustainability of the planet.

Versatile and packed with flavor, whole foods have an abundance of health benefits for those who want sustainable energy, high-quality sleep, physical strength, and mental sharpness. Whole Foods to Thrive builds upon Brendan’s stress-busting, energy-boosting approach to nutrition and food introduced in his acclaimed bestseller The Thrive Diet, and includes 200 delicious, easy-to-make, plant based recipes that are all allergen-free and contain no wheat, yeast, gluten, soy, dairy, or corn.

• Breakfast Cereals • Salads • Dressings, Dips, and Sauces • Soups and Sides • Burgers, Wraps, Pizza, and Rice Bowls• Cookies, Ice Cream, and Pies • Kale Chips and Nori Crisps• Energy Bars and Gels

Features recipes for dishes such as • Gorilla Food Green Tacos • Quinoa Falafels • Indian-Spiced Lentil Hemp Burgers • Maple Crispy Rice Treats.

From Penguin Canada website.

This book seriously gave me some food for thought (no pun intended. Well maybe just a little). Brazier talks about food in relation to stress and this is definitely something I’ve never really thought about.  I mean, I know that eating healthy is important but he explains how there’s eating healthy and then there’s eating healthy.  I’m not going to go into it here in the review because I would most likely screw up the science, but he presents a solid case for eating whole foods and explains that there’s a huge difference between filling up and being full. And the way he explained everything, although very scientific, also made a lot of sense and I found myself going  “Uh huh, yup” a few times.

This isn’t just a book where Brazier explains the concept of whole foods: about half of the book is recipes using the recommended whole foods.  There are a lot of great recipes in this book, folks. So it’s kinda like getting two books for the price of one.

Here’s just one of the recipes from the book. You’ll notice it has chocolate in it. :)

Chocolate Almond Smoothie with Sacha Inchi Milk
Rich in protein and omega-3, this smoothie will keep you going for hours with
sustainable, non-stimulating energy.
Time: 5 minutes • Makes about 3 ½ cups (2 large servings)
1 banana
2 fresh or presoaked dried dates
1 cup water
1 cup Sacha Inchi Milk (or chocolate variation) (see p. 126)
¼ cup almonds (or 2 tbsp raw almond butter)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp hemp protein powder
1 tbsp roasted carob powder
• In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

Giveaway time!!!!

I have, for one lucky Canadian, a wonderful prize pack containing six Vega smoothie mixes (either Shake & Go Smoothie mixes or Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer mixes) in an assortment of flavours like Vanilla Chai, Bodacious Berry, and Choc-a-Lot. Yummy!

Entering is easy (as always). Just leave me a comment. Say hello. Tell me what the weather’s like in your neck of the woods. Talk about your favorite summer food. It really doesn’t matter what you want to chat about. :) Contest ends June 5th at 11:59 Est and is open to Canada only.

Blog Tour and Giveaway: There’s Lead in your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon

29 Apr

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Released: Dec 28th, 2010
Genre: non-fiction, environmental, health
From publisher for review.

By the time she heads out the front door, the modern woman has spritzed, sudsed, and slathered herself in more than 127 different chemicals, many of them more toxic than beautifying.

So how can you look and feel great while safeguarding your health? Get smart and go green from head to toe with the help of eco-expert Gillian Deacon. In The Green Body Guide, you’ll learn how to read the ingredients to identify and understand the preservatives that are bad for your body and damaging to the earth, including formaldehyde in deodorant, nail polish, soap, shampoo, and shaving cream; coal tar in hair dyes; lead in lipstick; and many more. This is an indispensable handbook of personal-care choices that are sustainable, both for your health and for the earth.

From Penguin Canada website.

I have a new bible and it is Gillian Deacon’s There’s Lead in Your Lipstick. I finished the book, put it down, went into the bathroom and got rid of pretty much ALL by beauty products. Why? Because Deacon’s book helped solidify something I kinda knew for awhile now: most beauty products are full of all kinds of icky and toxic ingredients aren’t all that great for us.

I went on a big all natural kick a few years ago but found myself discouraged by false advertising and a confusing list of ingredients. A product would say “all natural” then sneak in one or not not so natural products. So I found myself slowly going back to my old ways and picking up products based on price, scent and what it promised me. Well, no more.

The great thing about this book is it isn’t all that preachy. Deacon basically tells it like it is, backs it up with stats, studies and websites and then lists alternatives. I LOVE that for each chapter she gives readers a list of companies that have products that are better for us. The idea of having to study ingredients in products and see if they are harmful or not is a bit stressful to me. I was also happy to discover that I was actually using a few products that were on her lists. :)

While there is a lot of science in this book (the list of ingredients to avoid reminded me of studying for grad ten chem) the tone was very conversational which made for a quick read. A scary read at times, but a quick one.

Deacon also sprinkles the books with some DIY recipes to replace your traditional cosmetics and beauty products. She’s made and tested them all herself. Here’s one that’s pretty much good enough to eat:

Make It Yourself: Moisturizing Mask
Greek yogourt is also very moisturizing and can be used as
a base for this mask.
1/2 medium to large avocado 1/2
1 to 2 tbsp honey 5 to 15 mL
Puree ingredients together in a blender or whip by hand.
For dry, sensitive skin, add one tablespoon of oatmeal and
on tablespoon of water.
Mix together into a smooth paste and apply to the face and
neck area, leaving on for about ten minutes.

*From There’s Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon (Penguin Canada). Copyright © Backbone Inc. FSO Gillian Deacon, 2011

If you use beauty products, this book is a MUST HAVE. Honestly. I learned a lot and now I can start making sure that I don’t put any toxins or chemicals on my skin. Every household should have a copy of this book.

GIVEAWAY

Okay, I want to clone myself, change my name and enter this giveaway. That’s how awesome it is. I have, for one lucky Canadian reader, not only a copy of Gillean Deacon’s There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, but also a BabyBearShop Eco Kiss Kit from SaffronRouge. Told ya it was pretty awesome.

Now, you have to do a bit of work for such an awesome prize, but don’t worry. It’s fun and educational. Deacon mentions the Skin Deep website as a must-have resource for finding out just exactly how bad our products are. To enter the contest grab one of your favorite beauty products, go to the Skin Deep website and do a search for it. Then pop back here and in the comments tell me your product’s score. On the 5th of May I’ll randomly choose a winner.

Being with Animals by Barbara J. King: review and giveaway

19 Apr

Publisher: Random House Canada
Released: Jan 26th, 2010
Genre: non-fiction, animals
For blog tour.

What do Mickey Mouse, Ganesh, a leopard-skin pillbox hat, A Lion Called Christian, and the Aflac duck have in common?  They all represent human beings’ deeply ingrained connection to the animal kingdom. In Being With Animals, anthropologist Barbara King unravels the complexity and enormous significance of this relationship.    

Animals rule our existence.  You can see this in the billions of dollars Americans pour out each year for their pets, in the success of books and films such as Marley and Me, in the names of athletic teams, in the stories that have entertained and instructed children (from The Cat in the Hat back to well before Aesop created his fables), in the animal deities that pervade the most ancient forms of religion (and which still appear in sublimated forms today), to the paintings on the cave walls of Lascaux.  The omnipresence of animal beings in our lives–whether real or fictional–is something so enormous that people take often it for granted, never wondering why animals remain so much a part of human life.  It has continuously maintained a powerful spiritual, transcendent quality over the tens of thousands of years that Homo sapiens have walked the earth.  Why? 

King looks at this phenomenon, from the most obvious animal connections in daily life and culture and over the whole of human history, to show the various roles animals have played in all civilizations.  She ultimately digs deeply into the importance of the human-animal bond as key to our evolution, as a significant spiritual aspect of understanding what truly makes us human, and looks ahead to explore how our further technological development may, or may not, affect these important ties.

From Random House Canada website.

My name is Colleen and I love animals. You could almost say that my life revolves around them. When we bought our house a year and a half ago we didn’t really care about the flooring, or the wall color or the kitchen. We were looking to see if we could fit all of our bird and bunny cages into the space. And during renovations, 6 wild cats moved into our house. We now have 6 dogs, 12 cats, 2 bunnies and 6 birds. Most of them rescues. So I felt a deep connection to Barbara J. King and her book Being with Animals. A book all about our connection with animals? Yeah, I was all over that.

I found this book enjoyable. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. It’s cool that way, way, way back in time people loved and worshiped animals. I mean, I knew about Egypt and how cats were worshiped, but I didn’t realize that there were other cultures and even earlier time periods that had a special bond with animals.

I think the thing I found the most appealing was King’s obvious enthusiasm for the topic and her deep, deep love and appreciation of animals. For me, it made all the difference. There’s a lot of factual information in this book and it had the potential to come off textbooky and I think it would have been fairly dry if someone else had written it. But King puts in just the right amount of her own personality and experiences that the book is interesting to read.

I think that anyone that loves animals or is interested in our history with animals will enjoy Being with Animals.

Giveaway time!!!!!

Okay, I have one copy to give away to someone in the US or Canada. All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me something animal-related. It can be how many animals you share your life with, your favorite TV or movie animals or the weirdest/coolest pet name.  The contest will run until the end of the month and then I’ll randomly pick a winner. :)

Plants for Atlantic Gardens: Handsome and Hard-Working Shrubs, Trees and Perennials by Jodi DeLong

21 Mar

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Released: Feb 4, 2011
Genre: non-fiction, gardening
For review from author via publisher.

I am so not a fan of gardening. Everybody told me that would all change once I owned my own house. Yeah, not so much. Thankfully my massive 7 acre yard came with ready-made flower gardens, rose bushes, trees and lilac bushes, cuz God knows I had no desire to plant gardens. I also had no freaking idea HOW to plant a garden.

So what the heck am I doing reviewing a gardening book, you may be asking. Well, when the opportunity arose I thought, “Why not? Maybe it’ll help me with my gardening issues.” And I’m so glad I did. Jodi and her book may just turn me into a gardener yet.

This book is a great resource for Atlantic gardeners of any level. Jodi doesn’t assume the reader is an expert, but she also doesn’t talk down to the reader, either. Rather than coming off as an expert herself (which she is), it’s kinda like having a really knowledgable friend helping you to figure out what to plant in your garden. It’s this conversational tone that really made me embrace Plants for Atlantic Gardens. I love how Jodi throws in little snippets of her own life and gardens into the book.

There’s a lot of information in the pages of Plants for Atlantic Gardens – too much info for this chick to take in with just one reading. Thankfully the layout of the book is perfect for flipping through and browsing.

This is the first gardening book where I haven’t felt over-whelemed while reading. Jodi explained things in a way that makes me feel like I can do – and enjoy – this gardening thing.

Even if we don’t see eye to eye on goutweed. :)

One Bird’s Choice by Iain Reid

30 Nov

Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Released: August 23, 2010
Genre: Memoir, non-fiction, humour
For review from author via publisher

Meet Iain Reid: an overeducated, underemployed twenty-something, living in the big city in a bug-filled basement apartment and struggling to make ends meet. When Iain lands a job at a radio station near his childhood home, he decides to take it. But the work is only part time, so he is forced to move back in with his lovable but eccentric parents on their hobby farm. What starts out as a temporary arrangement turns into a year-long extended stay, in which Iain finds himself fighting with the farm fowl, taking fashion advice from the elderly, fattening up on a gluttonous fare of home-cooked food, and ultimately easing (perhaps a little too comfortably) into the semiretired lifestyle.

A hilarious and heartwarming comic memoir about food, family, and finally growing up, One Bird’s Choice marks the arrival of a funny, original, and fresh new voice.

From publisher’s website.

 

As a book blogger I sometimes get emails from authors and publicists asking if I would be interested in reviewing a certain book. This is fine with me. If fact, I’m at the stage where it doesn’t happen a lot, so I usually end up giggling like a twit when it does. The emails are almost always polite and it’s always a bonus when the pitch is one that actually fits my blog.

I probably would never have heard of One Bird’s Choice if not for the fact that the author emailed me and said that he thought it would be a good fit for my blog. No it isn’t YA. And it isn’t paranormal or urban fantasy. But Iain was right: it was the perfect fit for me and my blog. Because it was a book I could relate to. And it was funny. Oh, and it was well written. VERY well written. In short I loved it.

It’s a memoir, a genre I tend to steer clear of. I read a couple of memoirs that were very boo-hoo it’s so hard being me even though I’m a privileged upper classer. There wasn’t a purpose or a story to those memoirs, and it turned me off the genre completely. Well, One Bird’s Choice has done the opposite.  It’s reconfirmed my new belief that I’ll enjoy reading in any genre as long as the book is good.

I loved this book. Really. As someone who did a return stint at home in her early 30s, I could totally identify with Iain and what he was going through. It’s not an easy thing to do, but my generation seems to be the “boomerang kids”. (Yes, Iain is younger than me and not quite my generation, but you know what I mean.)

There’s a lot of humor in this book, particular in the scenes where he deals with his parents. The great thing is, never once did I feel that that he was taking any cheap shots at them. Sure, his interactions with them were often snort out loud funny, but they were never the butt end of the jokes. He portrayed them as loving and caring, if sometimes overbearing and nosy (but in that good way that parents are overbearing and nosy).

This is more than just a funny look at Iain’s life: there is a thread of desperation and despair running underneath. After all, he’s back home, somewhere he never thought he’d end up again. And he’s clearly floundering, unsure really where his life is headed. But he doesn’t get all woe is me angsty about it. In fact, he shows us his state of mind through his actions (or sometimes inactions) rather than coming out and saying exactly how he’s feeling, which is great. I got the distinct feeling that sometimes he wasn’t even aware that he was a bit depressed and feeling “meh” about where his life was. For me, it made the book, and his story, much more enjoyable than if he had been hitting me over the head with the “my-life-sucks-so-I-wrote-about-it” stick.

The only thing I thought was weird about One Bird’s Choice was that it was written in the present tense. Since it’s a memoir, I thought it odd that I was reading about things as if they were currently happening. But in all honestly I was only aware of this for the first chapter or so. After that Iain’s story and writing style drew me in and I forgot about the fact that it was written in present tense. Now that I think about it, it’s really a matter of preference: I generally prefer books written in the past tense than the present tense. But like I said, it wasn’t a biggie and didn’t distract me from enjoying the book.

I also enjoyed all the animals and the interactions Iain had with them. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s one scene involving a chicken that had me laughing my ass off.

This was a great read and a pretty quick one too. It flowed easily and when I was done I was left with a smile on my face and the desire to know the next chapter in Ian’s life. Both signs of a successful memoir in my books.

 

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