Archive | April, 2011

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.


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.

Blog Tour: Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent

28 Apr

Publisher: Tundra Books
Released: March 22nd,2011
Genre: MG/YA historical
From publisher for blog tour.

Corlie Roux’s farm life in South Africa is not easy: the Transvaal is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left with a mother who is as devoted to her sons as she is cruel to her daughter. Despite this, Corlie finds solace in her friend, Sipho, and in Africa itself and in the stories she conjures for her brothers.

But Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boer families like hers from their farms. Some escape into the bush to fight the enemy. The unlucky ones are rounded up and sent to internment camps.

Will Corlie’s resilience and devotion to her country sustain her through the suffering and squalor she finds in the camp at Kroonstad? That may depend on a soldier from faraway Canada and on inner resources Corlie never dreamed she had….

From Tundra Books website.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction and I NEVER read historical fiction about war. I took an early dislike to history around grade 8 and I never looked back. But when I read books like Trilby Kent’s Stones for my Father, I really, really wish that historical fiction had been used as an effort to get me interested in history when I was younger. Reading about character’s such as Corlie and what she went through makes me want to learn more about the past.

I was surprised by how quickly I became engrossed in Corlie’s story. It was obvious from the get-go that there was more going on than the Boer War. Her mother doesn’t treat her nice AT ALL, doting on her little brothers and treating Corlie more like an annoyance than a daughter.  Yet there were times that I felt sorry for her mother. Kent did an excellent job of making the mom a stern, unlikable character that the reader could still identify with at times.

Before reading Stones for my Father, I never realized that there were interment camps besides the ones during WWII (like I said, I know very LITTLE about history). I was shocked by the way they were treated, but I was also amazed that in these camps the occupants did their best to create a life.

This is great YA historical fiction. Oh, and there’s a monkey. And who doesn’t love a monkey? 🙂

I have one copy of Stones for my Father to give to a lucky fellow Canadian. Just comment below. Say hello. Tell me about your current read. Or let me know why you want to read this book. I’ll randomly choose a winner on the 5th of May.

Freefall by Mindi Scott

27 Apr

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Released: Oct. 5th, 2010
Genre: YA contemporary
Purchased for Coco my Kobo.

How do you come back from the point of no return?

Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend, Isaac, alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time when Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn’t wake up.

Convinced that his own actions led to his friend’s death, Seth is torn between turning his life around . . . or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he’s ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth soon realizes he isn’t the only one who needs saving . . .

From Simon and Schuster Canada website.

There’s just something about a messed-up main character that gets me every time. I think it’s because most of us are messed-up in real life, so it’s easy to identify with those characters. They come off as realistic. And when they are as well written as Mindi Scott’s Seth, they tug at your heart, piss you off and make you want to hug and slap them at the same time.

Freefall is a perfect example of what YA contemporary should be. It wasn’t over the top, even though some over the top things happen during the course of the story. Nothing was written or added to the book for mere shock value. And the characters were realistic and, more importantly, believable.

Scott’s writing style was a perfect fit for the story. And never once did it seem like it was written by a female writer who was assuming to know what a 16 year old guy would think and feel. Seth was real and true and Scott did an amazing job.

If you like YA contemp, especially the darker stuff, then you have to pick up Freefall. Seriously. You’ll thank me.

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

26 Apr

Publisher: Random House Canada
Released: March 24th, 2011
Genre: YA dystopia
For review from publisher.

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

From Random House Canada website.

Sheesh, what can I saw about the final Forest of Hands and Teeth book? That it’s totally, completely amazing? That every once in a while I’d stop reading, close the book and hug it? That when I finished I was in tears, not because of the horrible, traumatic things that happened in the book, but because Ryan ended the trilogy PERFECTLY? Sure, I could tell you all these things, but would they really get my point across? I’m not sure they would. So, I’m going to try something a little different. Here goes: here’s my review of The Dark and Hollow Places

Okay, so I totally can’t draw, but you get the picture. I LOVED this book. LOVED IT! For me, it was the perfect ending to the trilogy. Ryan gives reader the perfect balance of hopefulness and sheer desperation. Every time something positive happened and I started to feel like, okay, things are fine, she pulled the rug out from under the characters and then my heart was beating and I was mumbling “Oh no, oh no, oh no” under my breath. Some people may not like this back and forth stuff, but I ate it up.

The characters are beautiful and desperate and selfish and selfless all at the same time.  The group dynamics between the four main characters was pitch perfect and added so much drama to the plot.

If you haven’t read this trilogy, get off your ass, buy it or borrow it from your library and READ IT. Easily one of my favorite trilogies.

Red Glove by Holly Black

22 Apr

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Released: April 5th, 2011
Genre: YA paranormal
For review from publisher.

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

From Simon and Schuster website.

Mghdfft  hgfdtres  kdmskff!!!!

What, you didn’t understand that? Sorry. I was just eating my words. Enjoying some crow. Having a slice of humble pie. See, I didn’t like Holly Black’s White Cat AT ALL. It got a kinda snarky review from me. Then the second book in her Curse Workers’ series, Red Glove landed as a surprise on my doorstep. I figured, meh I’d at least give it a go. And I did. And I finished it. And I loved it. And now I feel a bit like an ass.

I don’t know, maybe I was in a bad head space when I read the first book. Or maybe the second book is just a lot better. Either way, I was totally surprised by how engaging and addictive Red Glove was. From the opening pages I was drawn into Cassel’s world. Black did an excellent job of making a somewhat dodgey guy likable.  Cass isn’t very moral and doesn’t always walk on the right side of law and society, but he’s not a bad guy compared to some of the other characters that we meet. And he’s struggling to be a better guy, he is. It’s just that sometimes it’s easier not to be.

I really enjoyed the whole whodunnit aspect of the plot and I thought it was great that even though there are good guys and bad guys, things aren’t always black and white. Everything tends to be shades of gray and that makes it really hard for the characters to even know if what they are doing is the right thing or not.

If you like your YA paranormal gritty and dark and just a bit dangerous, then you should like Red Glove.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more pie to eat.

Words that Start with B by Vikki VanSickle

21 Apr

Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Released: Sept 1, 2010
Genre: MG/early teen contemp
For review from publisher.

Brilliant. Best-ever. That was how grade seven was supposed to be, but so far things aren’t turning out as well as Clarissa Delaney had planned. It’s hard enough being the unexceptional daughter of a bona-fide beauty queen, but lately her best friend Benji can’t seem to stand up for himself, Michael Greenblat keeps giving her strange gifts and Mattie Cohen, world-class goody-two-shoes, seems to think they are friends. Things can’t possibly get any worse . . . Or can they?

In this year of surprises, you’ll laugh as Clarissa tackles boys, bullies and the one B word she can’t bring herself to say.

From Scholastic Canada website.

I can’t explain enough how much I love quirky, off-centered characters. There’s just something so honest about them. And for me, the weirder, the better. After reading the first page of Words that Start with B I knew I was going to like it. Clarissa, while not overly weird, was quirky enough for me.  As was her story.

I love the balance of humour vs seriousness in this book. VanSickle tackles topics that could have turned Words that Start with B into a hand-wringing, preachy melodramatic mess. But instead she approaches the issues head on and while there are emotional scenes in the book, non of them felt over-the-top.  And despite the fact that there’s a lot going on, I didn’t feel that any of the story lines were rushed or thrown in. Each one was fleshed out, well developped and they complimented each other.

This was just a really great book, plain and simple.

The Case Against Owen Williams by Allan Donaldson

20 Apr

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Released: Aug 23, 2010
Genre: murder mystery
For review from publisher.

Following a night at The Silver Dollar dance hall, a teenage girl turns up dead in a gravel pit. The last person reported to have seen her is Owen Williams, an introverted soldier stationed with the local garrison of “Zombies”-conscripted men unwilling to serve overseas. When Lieutenant Bernard Dorkin, a young lawyer from Saint John, volunteers to defend Williams, whom he believes is innocent, he finds himself up against a theatrical local favourite leading the prosecution and a public mostly hell-bent on a foregone conclusion. The Case Against Owen Williams explores the potential for wrongful conviction and the gaps in the justice system that allow it to flourish.

From Nimbus Press website.

There was a time when murder mysteries and courtroom dramas were all  I read. But over the past several years I’ve moved away from the genre. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read a murder mystery. Well, The Case Against Owen Williams may just be the book that pulls be back into the genre.

This is a quiet book. It may be hard to explain, but let me try. While the court case itself may be sensational and emotional, the way Donaldson writes and describes it isn’t. His writing and pacing are quiet and slow, but in a very, very good way. I felt that it lent itself perfectly to the story and added to my enjoyment. If this was written as a face-paced, flashy story, I don’t think I would have liked it nearly as much as I did.

Even though Lt. Dorkin was always 100% convinced of Owen’s innocence, I never was, and I LOVED that. The mystery of the case remains until the end and when the truths eventually started to trickle out slowly they took me by surprise.

I really, really enjoyed The Case Against Owen Williams. The case, the characters, the writing and the pacing were perfect.

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. 🙂

Guest post by Barbara J. King

18 Apr

Books aren’t my only love in life. As some of you may know I am also an animal lover and have rescued/adopted enough animals in need to start my own petting zoo. Seriously. Animals seem to know and basically just show up in our yard. So I was tickled pink that Barbara J. King, author of Being with Animals could stop by the blog and talk a bit about the rescue work she does with cats.

Sometimes, the work of cat rescue is emotionally searing. Last year, a family friend called to say she’d found a newborn kitten on a boat near her house—curled up in a crab pot. The mom cat had moved her litter off the boat and hadn’t returned. What to do?

We collected the kitten and named her Marin. Because she needed round-the-clock feedings, we handed her off to a kitten fosterer. (We work hard for our rescued cats, but we need to sleep, too.) When she’d matured a little, Marin went into the “adoptable cats” program at a PetCo store. Unexpectedly, she refused to be handled, and bit people, marking her as unadoptable.

We weren’t ready to give up. Moving Marin into my study, I spent many hours playing with and socializing her, an endeavor that takes patience and a certain immunity to scratches and bites.

She and I bonded intensely. Still, the biting continued. Would giving her the run of the house help? Wham! Seven rescued cats went into feline overdrive at the sight of this small newcomer! The usual comical sequences resulted: stiffened-back stand-offs, low moans, hissing fits—but no serious conflicts.

Then one morning (and not for the first time), Marin bit me hard. We finally faced reality, and transferred her into our backyard pen– a spacious enclosure my husband built that houses 11 (now 12) ex-feral cats, all too shy or feisty for adoption.

These cats enjoy a two-story “house”; sun-dozing opportunities beneath bushes and on a picnic table, good food and our daily love. Marin will do fine there, but still, it was a hard decision.

More often, cat rescue is exhilarating. A while back, we took in John and Michael, kittens with medical problems and 24 hours away from euthanasia. Within a short period, John’s eye troubles cleared up; we adopted him to a young couple, thrilled with his exuberance.

Michael, we kept. He’s the most endearing, ear-tufted, big-pawed Maine Coon you’d ever want to meet. We treated his corneal ulcers, and love him for himself, with his harelip and a certain cognitive slowness. He is HIV-positive, and prone to secondary infections; we watch him closely and begin antibiotics quickly as needed.

Every morning, Michael rushes up onto a table near when I eat breakfast, to request “the ribbon game.” Deliberately, he bats at a favored red ribbon as we play together. Michael proceeds at a different speed than most cats, contacting a toy with his not-quite-right-eyes and a slow paw. But daily, he purrs, and purrs.

What does it take to be a cat rescuer? My husband (retired, he does most of the work) and I are fortunate to be able to pay bills for food, spay-neuter surgeries, and medical care for numerous cats. We bring to the task a high tolerance for those weeks when there’s one too many litterbox change, hairball, or hour spent at the vet.

Most of all, we’re primed to enjoy our cats as cherished individuals, with distinct personalities and needs. With this perspective, helping cats brings us happiness every single day.

Aw, rescued cats are the best! I should know, I have 9 living in the house and one on my sun porch roof!

Make sure to pop back in tomorrow for my review of Being with Animals and a giveaway.

Readathon update

9 Apr

So, it’s just a bit over the halfway mark, so I thought I should do a quick update.

Books read:
Alice I Think by Susan Juby
The Dread Crew by Kate Inglis
Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks
Sticks and Stones by Beth Goobie

Current read: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

I had a hard time this afternoon fighting off the groggies, but seemed to have caught my second wind (otherwise known as the coffee & chocolate kicking in). I am planning to try to pull an
all-nighter, but we’ll see.