Posts filed under ‘book review’

Book Review: Whiny Whiny Rhino

Whiny Whiny Rhino big (640x800)

Book Synopsis:

Can Tiny Tiny Rhino have a fun day?

Or will all of his whining get in the way?

If you’ve ever been worried to try something new, then Whiny Whiny Rhino is the book for you!

The story’s message is like the Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” We all get apprehensive when encountering new experiences and this often leads us to avoid ever trying anything new. Just having a little courage to try new things can often lead to a much more exciting and enriching life.

My Thoughts:

Whiny Whiny Rhino tells the tale of a young rhino who is afraid to try new things. It’s about a shy and anxious character who must overcome his fears in order to join in the fun with his friends.

The illustrations in this book are great. In fact, I thought it felt more like a shiny comic book than your typical children’s story. The characters are well drawn and dynamic and I think any child would delight over the colorful images displayed on each page. The story is well told and the rhymes are interesting and pleasant when reading aloud.

The moral of this story is a good one. You have to leave your house, get out into the world and explore new possibilities. It’s important to try new things and you’ll often be pleasantly surprised by the joy you’ll experience when you do.

While I enjoyed this book I thought the author spent quite a long time expressing the negative emotions of the whiny, whiny rhino and very little time focusing on the positive results at the end. The majority of the book the rhino is anxious and unhappy. His attitude doesn’t change until just a few pages short of the end.

While I understand the author’s desire to show the rhino’s transformation I wish he had spent a little more time on the final outcome.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I was quite anxious as a child and believe this book may have helped me work through some of the negative emotions I felt growing up.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

September 23, 2014 at 8:00 AM 2 comments

Book Review: 25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About


There are a lot of books on the market to help you save money. I could line my bookshelves with at least twenty or thirty that I’ve read over the past ten years. Many regurgitate the same concepts over and over. Don’t buy lattes and don’t rack up credit card debt on things you don’t need. Seems simple enough.

When I received a copy of 25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About I was skeptical it would be any different and while some of the ideas are the same the overall approach to saving is a bit more radical.

Among the advice I found quite funny was dumping your significant other to save. After all the high price of flowers and dining out can get quite expensive and you might go on many dates between now and the time you find the right one.

The author also tells his readers to move back home with their parents. While this book is intended for the younger crowd, he points out that you can save an awful lot of money by living with mom and dad until you reach your mid-twenties.

It’s not always feasible to move back home. My parents didn’t live anywhere near the job I landed just after college, but I do agree in finding roommates to save on monthly expenses. Having one roommate is great, but if you can find a group house with three or four different people you’ll do even better. I paid a little over $300 a month in rent and split utilities with five other people. It wasn’t the best experience of my life, but it did enable me to save a boatload of money in my first year out of college. Thanks to that year I paid off my car within one year and began saving for my first house.

25 Money Saving Strategies Your Teacher Forgot to Tell You About focuses quite a bit on avoiding the luxuries in life. In essence, minimize the amount of things you have, don’t drive fancy cars and retain a constant living standard.

These are all wise lessons for those just graduating from college. If you keep your tastes in line with your budget when you are young you will continue that trend as you get older.

All in all I enjoyed reading this book. The advice is rather straight forward and to the point. It focuses on saving money on the big things in life, not just the $5 lattes.



September 10, 2014 at 5:26 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: What Counts Most is How You Finish

What Counts Most is How You Finish

About the Book:

What Counts Most is How You Finish is a book of short essays that shares ideas for addressing life’s challenges. The book (which uses experiences from the author’s life and the lives of others) is written with two ideas in mind: 

• Each person has to find his or her own way in life
• We can learn worthwhile things from each otherTo make it easier to find an essay that can help the reader address life situations in real time, What Counts Most is How You Finish is divided into seven topic areas: Being You, Taking Care of You, Dealing with People, Overcoming Challenges, Staying Focused, Achieving Success and Making a Difference.

While the primary audience for What Counts Most is How You Finish is people between the ages of 16-25, the book has received positive feedback from many older than that who say it’s a good reminder for them.

Finalist of The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, What Counts Most is How You Finish is filled with insightful lessons.

My Thoughts:

Although this book is a completely different genre from To Hold the Sun it reminded me a lot of that story. Probably because I recently read and reviewed it, but also because both authors attempt to impart life lessons upon their readers.

The style of this book is very different from To Hold the Sun and I thoroughly enjoyed Shelia Payton’s narrative. Her ability to relate events from her own life into stories for teenagers and young adults made the book an easy read with valuable life long lessons. I think we all need feel good stories in our lives. We often read these as children, but I think the 16-25 year old crowd, (the intended audience of this book), is often forgotten.

But isn’t this the time when we begin leaving our parents nest and forging out onto our own? Isn’t this the time when we begin to create a life for ourselves; learning how to navigate life while keeping our head above water?

As a parent of a two year old son I can only imagine what he will be like fourteen years from now. As he begins to form his own theories on life and forge his own path into this world I would definitely hand him a copy of What Counts Most is How You Finish.

This books speaks to the character of being a good person. It focuses on learning how to form relationships with others without losing the most important part of ourselves. I think this book would make a great gift for those graduating from high school or college. It’s the kind of book that focuses on the good in being human.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

August 18, 2014 at 8:00 AM 1 comment

Book Review: Supreme Macaroni Company


About the Book:

In The Supreme Macaroni Company, Adriana Trigiani transports readers from the cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village to lush New Orleans to Italy and back again while exploring the tricky dynamics between Old World craftsmanship and New World ambition, all amid a passionate love affair that fuels one woman’s determination to have it all.

For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This ancient business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the schoolteacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

But after the wedding celebrations are over, Valentine wakes up to the hard reality of juggling the demands of a new business and the needs of her new family. Confronted with painful choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” Now the proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves—the bitter and the sweet of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: an unforgettable narrative about family, work, romance, and the unexpected turns of life and fate.

My Thoughts:

The author portrayed Valentine as an overly ambitious woman who struggled to maintain her business while beginning a new family. The first words that come to mind are: self-centered and ambition seeking. It was difficult to get behind this character, to root for her or hope that her marriage would be successful.

It’s an easy book to read, but I was so discouraged by the attitude of the main character that I really didn’t enjoy reading it. I’m sure the author intended the reader to cheer for Valentine and Gianluca, but instead I found myself wishing they would just end their disastrous marriage. Valentine treated her husband quite badly, but the reasons for this were unclear.

I thought this book would make a great beach read as the two previous books in this series received solid reviews, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps reading the first two would have given me a greater understanding of the characters and their conflicts. It was difficult to understand the characters’ motives and why the author chose to create a main character who seemed so nasty and unlikable.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

August 5, 2014 at 3:44 PM 1 comment

Book Review: To Hold The Sun

To Hold the Sun

Description (from iRead Book Tours):

This delightful and engaging story outlines the experiences of a young, poor, and disillusioned reporter who is enticed to do a series of articles about Paul, an unconventional philosopher and motivational speaker. In lieu of payment, he gets to travel to and dive on Roatan, arguably one of the most beautiful, pristine islands in the Caribbean. Through a series of meetings, the reporter gets to know Paul’s innermost philosophies. He learns an alternate way of living from a man who strives to perfect handstands on a dock and practices the art of happiness. 

The author developed the book as a guide to help his children live their lives in a way that would allow them to enjoy the journey. Drawing on wildly diverse disciplines including stoicism, neuroscience, skepticism, behavioral economics, and spirituality; the reader is taken on a journey that exposes the author’s philosophy of life. He demonstrates that happiness is indeed a choice. 

My Thoughts:

I was geniunely interested in reading this book after learning that the author created it for his own children. My son is only two years old now, but as time passes there are so many things I want to teach him about being a happy, well adjusted human being. I started a journal shortly after he was born and continue to write in it every month. I hope one day he will take the time to read it and learn from my words.

I wish to impart many of the lessons cited in this book including, learning to control how you react to situations, asking empowering questions, accepting change, simplifying your life, living without regret, treasuring your health and learning to help others.

I wasn’t particularly wowed by the author’s story, but I did appreciate the underlying themes within it. If you are looking for a quick read that will also help you get a handle on negative emotions and life’s changes this book may be of interest to you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

July 31, 2014 at 11:18 AM Leave a comment

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia

Maria Loggia’s kitchen door is always open. Her home and garden are a gathering place for friends and family, who come to share her easygoing enthusiasm and generosity – and her inspired Italian cuisine. In this, her second book, Loggia celebrates the seasons with 16 sumptuous menus – from a spontaneous al fresco garden party to a slow-simmered midwinter feast and a traditional Sunday family lunch.

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia is on a spotlight tour from July 14 to 18.

Author & Chef: Maria Loggia

Category: Non-fiction

Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine, 176 pages

Publisher: Cardinal Publishing

Published: Oct 1, 2012


Try One of the Recipes!


Petto di Pollo Farcito con Uva e Noci

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Grapes and Walnuts




For filling:

1 tbsp (15 ml) unsalted butter

2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

¾ cup (180 ml) walnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, quartered

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh chives

2 tbsp (30 ml) bread crumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

7 oz (200 g) soft goat cheese, cut in 6 slices


For chicken:

6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

6 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, softened

1 orange, cut into wedges

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, each cut in half

5 bay leaves

To serve:

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange


Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

To prepare filling: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté shallots until soft, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grapes, chives and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. Leave goat cheese aside for now.

To prepare chicken: Oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or roasting pan with 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil and set aside. On a baking sheet, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise slit in each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. (This will form the pocket for the stuffing.) Rub remaining 4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil into the chicken (including in the pockets). Divide stuffing equally among chicken breasts, stuffing it into the slit in each breast, and top with a slice of goat cheese. Pull the chicken skin over the filling and secure with toothpicks. Smear butter over the skin and season again to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently transfer chicken to prepared tiella. Scatter orange wedges, rosemary and bay leaves around chicken. Roast 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced. Then broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden. Drizzle with orange juice and serve warm with pan juices.

Serves 6

Tips from Maria:

Consigli di cucina (kitchen tips)

The chicken breasts can be assembled the day before, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring chicken to room temperature and cook as instructed. Doing it this way allows the flavours time to meld together beautifully.

Che cos’è? (what is it?)

I’m convinced food tastes better when cooked in a shallow, glazed earthenware dish known in Italian as a tiella. I find earthenware dishes distribute heat slowly and evenly as the food cooks. Aromas and flavours are intensified and casseroles never stick or dry out.

To season a tiella: Before using your tiella the first time, immerse the dish in cold water to soak overnight. The next day, empty the tiella and wipe it dry. Rub the inside with olive oil and place in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 1½ hours. Remove seasoned tiella from oven and place on a wooden board or thick tablecloth to cool. (If placed on a surface like granite or a cold stovetop, it will crack.) To clean a tiella, soak it in warm, soapy water, then scrub with a soft sponge.


Meet the Author


Maria Loggia is one of Montreal’s best-loved Italian cooking teachers. Her Tavola Mia cooking school in the village of Hudson is a warm, inviting place to learn about Italian cuisine. She also appears regularly on television, is featured in newspapers and magazines, and leads culinary tours in Italy.

Maria finds inspiration in her Italian heritage and draws on family recipes that go back generations. She founded Tavola Mia, her at-home cooking school in 1999. Through her study of Italy’s regional cuisines, which has included numerous sojourns back to her native country, she has acquired great expertise in the art of Italian cooking. Her passion, humor and dedication to excellence have made her an inspiring teacher. Using fresh local ingredients, Tavola Mia celebrates the seasons in authentic, irrepressible Italian style.


An Interview with Maria Loggia


Maria Loggia from Pierre Blais on Vimeo.



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July 15, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Book Review: Effortless Savings

Effortless Savings

I received a copy of Effortless Savings: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Saving Money Without Sacrifice a few weeks back and finally found the time to settle into a comfy chair to read it.

The book is a simple read. I probably read it from cover to cover in less than an hour. It’s broken down into eleven main chapters, which cover saving money in the following categories:

  1. Telecom Services
  2. Insurance
  3. Home Energy
  4. Grocery Shopping
  5. Health and Beauty Products
  6. Clothing and Household Items
  7. Automotive Expenses
  8. Additional Shopping Strategies
  9. Restaurants and Entertainment
  10. Vacations and Travel Expenses
  11. Credit Cards and Banking

While we all know that we can clip coupons we also recognize that the big ticket items can help us save much more money. Syrop provides a list of simple yet cost effective strategies for saving a bundle. For example, increase the deductibles on your insurance coverage and you can save hundreds a year; wrap a cover around your water heater and save a hundred more.

I appreciated the author’s point of view, reviewing a few policies here and there, keeping an eye on your water and energy usage and spending wisely will certainly help you save. Syrop’s book provides a lot of suggestions and choosing to implement just a few would go a long way to helping you hold onto your money.

Effortless Savings focuses on ways to save without feeling deprived. While a lot of personal finance gurus might suggest attending a matinee to save money, Syrop explains how to save and still see the evening show.

The author suggests using the Entertainment Book or Costco to attain discounted tickets. You won’t save quite as much as you might be watching the afternoon, but the evening experience might be worth the slightly elevated price.

Syrop recommends the Entertainment Book to help with a number of different spending categories. He suggests maintaining a list of offers that appeal to you by reading through the book and recording the name of the business, value of the coupon and it’s corresponding page number. That way you’ll be able to perform a quick glance at your notes when deciding where to eat or what activities to partake in.

I haven’t had much luck with this particular savings mechanism in the past, (I think I used one coupon in the Entertainment Book that was gifted to me), but I will admit that part of the issue was forgetting about the coupons before heading out on the weekends. Syrop’s suggestion to maintain a running list is a good one.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Effortless Savings. It’s an extremely quick read with a lot of helpful advice for saving money. I implemented many of the suggestions listed in this book before I read it, but I still found quite a few suggestions I never considered.

June 18, 2014 at 11:58 PM 2 comments

Book Review: Let There By Light

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light was written by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and illustrated by New York Times best selling author Nancy Tillman. I was unbelievably excited to receive this book. Tillman is the author of On the Night You Were Born, which is one of my favorite children’s stories.

I received that book as a gift just before my son was born and could not read it aloud without crying for the first few months after his birth. In fact, since his birth I have gifted it to a number of friends that had children. In my opinion On the Night You Were Born is the quintessential book for every new child. It received five stars on Amazon with over 522 reviews.

I suppose I had my sights set incredibly high when I received Let There Be Light and as a result I was a bit disappointed. Let There Be Light is a children’s book that captures the story of Genesis and God’s creation of the world in seven days.

Based on the illustrations I would rank this book quite highly. The artwork of landscapes and animals is truly stunning.  I love how the images correspond to the beauty God creates in seven days. I did think the final verse was lacking a bit. After all that God created Archbishop Desmond Tutu simply writes “God looked at everything that he had made and clapped his hands together in delight, ‘Isn’t it wonderful.'” I didn’t think this was a particularly powerful statement for such a miraculous undertaking and the text did not flow as cleanly as the words written on other pages.

I did enjoy this book and my two year old son asked me to read it to him multiple times. He loved pointing to the pages with animals and explaining all that he recognized.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze® book review  program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

February 5, 2014 at 3:19 PM 1 comment

The Beauty Experiment

The Beauty Experiment

I was contacted a few months ago by a book publisher who wanted to send me a copy of The Beauty Experiment.  I love reading and jumped at the chance to dive into a book I would not have picked for myself. The book tells the story of Phoebe Baker Hyde, a new mother who finds herself living in Hong Kong with an overworked husband who often leaves for long periods of travel.

One afternoon she spends a large sum of money on a dress for her husband’s holiday party. While in the dressing room she thinks she looks glorious, but the evening of the party she realizes that her fashion choices were horribly misguided. She is devastated by this realization and decides to undergo a makeover of sorts. Believing that she’s obsessed with her looks and appearance she throws out all of her make-up and refuses to purchase any new clothes.

The first half of the book focuses on her struggle to deal with this drastic experiment. She doesn’t just stop wearing makeup. She chops all of her hair off and stops shaving her legs.

I’ll be honest I found parts of this book quite frustrating. I don’t think a woman needs to stop shaving and get a man’s haircut to stop obsessing about her looks. In fact, her actions were so dramatic that they forced her to focus on her appearance more than ever before. She worried about what people thought about her, why she couldn’t tell others about her appearance and how the culture of Hong Kong could not deal with a woman who didn’t discuss new department stores and fashion.

I believe the undercurrent of this book has absolutely nothing to do with her beauty experiment and almost everything to do with the author’s place in life. She was a new mother, struggling to raise her daughter alone as her husband frequently left the house for extended work trips, she lived in an unfamiliar country and had few friends and family members to help out. When I read the book I immediately thought she seemed rather depressed.

In the final chapters she final digs into the real problems in her life. I suppose the author felt the need to provide chapter upon chapter of details about her beauty experiment in the book before reaching this realization, but really I wish she would have skipped a few of those middle chapters and landed more quickly at this realization.

As a stay-at-home parent the author details how she felt left out of the financial equation with her husband. She also felt that her work at home was going unrewarded and believed spending money on spa packages, hair care and luxury goods would boost her self-worth. She termed this beauty-revenge spendingpassive aggression and survival technique.

Near the end of the book she points out that her husband was also experiencing pain. As a stay-at-home mom of an infant I remember thinking that everything had changed in my life, but my husband’s life had remained virtually unchanged. One day I looked up and realized my husband was suffering alongside me. His issues and troubles were slightly different, but he was struggling nonetheless.

Despite getting frustrated as I read chapter after chapter of this book I did like the place the author landed. By the end of the book she recognizes that there are more important things in life than appearances. I love this paragraph:

And I think: it’s fear that so often leaves us feeling empty – fear that causes empty hearts and sometimes empty philanthropy jars as well. Some of us buy diversions and delights, hoping to cheat time and forget death. Others sit on savings forever, budgeting for imagined wolf at the door. All we can truly assess ourselves is the quality of our daily, hourly, minute-by-minute calculations: how nimbly we count life’s riches; how skillfully we fill our emptiness so we may sum to joy.

I never wear much makeup myself. In fact, I didn’t start consistently wearing eyeliner and mascara, (the only makeup I wear), until just before my son was born, but after reading this book I underwent my own beauty experiment. I spent two weeks without wearing any makeup at all. It didn’t bother me much not to wear it. The only real difference I noticed was feeling more tired. As I looked in the mirror I noticed that my eyes didn’t sparkle quite the way I expected and that looking at my tired face made me feel more exhausted then ever. I don’t need makeup to feel whole, but I will admit that I have a happier attitude when sparkling eyes are looking back at me from the mirror.

January 22, 2014 at 11:30 AM 9 comments

Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a wacky, mostly true memoir written by The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. The book is comprised of a series of stories about Lawson’s life from early childhood, up through her marriage and beyond.

As you read this book you’ll find yourself shaking your head in utter disbelief that anyone could grow up the way the author describes. Lawson, provides photographic proof throughout the book and honestly without those pictures you would never believe that her stories were even remotely real.

The funniest stories revolve around Lawson’s father, a taxidermist who brings home road kill on a regular basis to amuse his children. Of course, Jenny and her younger sister are absolutely frightened by his antics, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing dead animals into their home.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. There are a lot of curse words thrown in for good measure and Lawson herself states that many people will be offended by her words.

The book feels a bit like an ode to the dysfunctional. Many of her stories are both funny and disturbing. As I read the book I often wondered if I should cry for the author or laugh at the antics she described. I think that may be the point of this book. Perhaps the goal is to realize that no matter how messed up your upbringing might be humor makes it all much easier to swallow.

If nothing else this book will probably help you realize that ‘normal’ is all relative. If you didn’t grow up with raccoons wearing shorts and turkeys following you to school then you probably started off a lot differently then Lawson did.

Note: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

March 7, 2013 at 8:00 PM Leave a comment

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