Posts filed under ‘book review’

Book Review: O.M.G. Official Money Guide for Teenagers Book


The O.M.G. Official Money Guide for Teenagers Book is a short and very concise book that introduces teenagers to a wide variety of financial concepts including budgeting, emergency funds, debt, credit cards, inflation, investing, protecting your identity and insurance.

It reads somewhat like a comic book. It’s a very small book with few pages and lots of bright graphics to help explain concepts in ways that are easy to understand.

For example, in the chapter on budgeting the book depicts an image of a young man balancing on a tight rope with a very long pole. On one side of the pole is a sign for income on the other is a sign for expenses. The details read “Picture yourself with a long pole to keep your balance with income on one end and expenses on the other. You need to keep them in balance so you don’t fall off the rope.” Comparing budgets to a balancing act is a great example of the accessibility of this book. It’s easy to create a mental snapshot of this concept and to keep it in mind.

The budgeting chapter was actually my favorite of the book. For a short book the authors actually hit the mark on the most important pieces of creating a budget. They stress the need to know your income and expenses and to check your balance often to know how much money you have available.

They discuss variable costs versus fixed expenses by pointing out that an allowance may provide steady money but gifts and babysitting payouts do not. The authors also detail the importance of needs versus wants and why its important to distinguish between the two. That is a vital concept to controlling your finances at any age.

There are a lot of key ideas included in this tiny book. In the chapter on credit the author’s write, “The first thing to know is credit is really debt.” I am in love with this sentence! If you purchases items you cannot afford and do not pay your credit card in full each month you will immediately be in debt! Credit cards are a direct link to debt and its a very important concept for anyone receiving their first card to understand.

This book would provide a great introduction to any teenager beginning to manage his or her own money. I would suggest parents and teenagers read it together. While It does not go into great depth on any of the subjects it does provide a solid starting point for discussing financial topics with your children.

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

January 27, 2015 at 9:44 AM Leave a comment

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl

The Martian Girl

Book Description:

Crop circles magically appear in Farmer Johnson’s field. A mysterious light sweeps over the night sky and awakens Farmer Johnson and Gilbert, the boy next door.

Curious, Gilbert ventures out to discover the source of the light and stumbles into a beautiful Martian girl sitting in a crop circle. Farmer Johnson also investigates the strange light, and thinking that Gilbert and Aoléon are vandals, he chases them. But they sprint to Aoléon’s saucer and escape only to be pursued by the U.S. Air Force.

Gilbert has never been attacked by swarms of giant killer robots. Never met strange aliens from other worlds. Never skyboarded across a megalopolis hidden deep inside an extinct volcano. Never trekked across a vast Martian desert. And never been eaten alive by a gigantic slor (well, almost never, unless you count Billy the fat bully at school).

And luckily, he has never ever confronted an evil ruler of Mars bent on conquering the Earth to steal its cows.

Never…until now!

This may be the adventure Gilbert always wished for.

If only he can survive.

My Thoughts:

I remember looking up at the stars as a young child and wondering what existed beyond our world. I still believe other forms of life must exist in far off galaxies. Somewhere it seems there must be a planet similar in nature to our own that can sustain life in some form. Haven’t we all wondered what life must look like on other planets? We may not ponder this question often as adults, but as children the unknown fascinates us. This book will speak to those children who wonder what might exist outside of our world.

Part One of this book, (the only part I was given to review), is full of action and adventure. The story begins with a young boy staring into a telescope, wishing to get away from his feuding parents and wondering why the crop circles were forming in wheat fields in Nebraska. As the boy stares out into the sky he notices an object moving quickly toward him, followed by a bright light at a nearby farm. His adventure begins when he encounters a Martian who takes him on a fast paced spin around the globe while the United States Air Force pursues the space ship at record speeds.

The rapid chase is followed by a journey to the aliens home on Mars where the sheer advancement of technology make the young boy’s head spin in amazement.

The book includes colorful illustrations that appear to be computer generated. They add a comic book like effect to the story that helps the reader envision the alien, the chase around the globe and the Martian homeland. The images of the planets and moons as seen from outer space definitely help the reader feel like they are flying.

I think most children would love to read this book. You never know what a young Nebraska farmhand is going to encounter next on Mars and the speed at which this story moves is certain to capture their interest.

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

December 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Book Review: Corporate Cowboy

Corporate Cowboy

Book Synopsis:

Restaurant Management: First Hand Lessons from the King of Steak Houses
Black Angus Beef Chain Founder shares business tips, food recipes and personal memoir

Stuart Anderson had led a fascinating life for the past 90 years. He built Black Angus, America’s #1 restaurant chain of the 1980s, and ranched on a 26,000 acre spread where he raised cattle. His circle of friends has included Hollywood stars and corporate bigwigs. You’ll discover his personal history is a lot like the man – larger than life!

Anyone seeking to go into the restaurant business or moving into a food industry management position will benefit from the lessons offered in this book as Stuart Anderson shares both his success and failures. Told with wit, simple cowboy logic and clever business savvy, there are numerous vignettes included in this memoir to include tales from World War II, Business Startups, Management Feuds, Love Affairs, Community Service and semi-Retirements.

Aside from the personal story and professional information, readers – especially those who ever ate at a Black Angus restaurant in the past – most notably in the 1980s – will enjoy such recipes like the BLACK ANGUS POTATOES AU GRATIN, ORIGINAL BLACK ANGUS RANCH BREAD, BREAKFAST STIR FRY and BAKED STEAK WITH MUSTARD SAUCE just to name a few.

My Thoughts:

As a co-owner of a small company I really enjoyed reading about the entrepreneurial success of Stuart Anderson. This is one of those whimsical, easy to read memoirs that makes you smile. Anderson makes you feel like you are right in the room with him through every step of the way. Their is a candidness in his words. When he talks about the local liquor inspector he mentions mumbling, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

Or the way he talks about the patrons that lined up at his bar waiting to be seated for dinner. “Say there’s a couple sitting in the bar looking straight ahead, rarely speaking, and when they do, they’re certainly not looking at each other. They want to be called to dinner NOW. Couple Number One consists of two spouses married to the wrong people. ” He goes on to talk about “Couple Number Two, who can’t get enough of each other. They don’t look at anything or anyone else and could not care less about when they’re called. You would love to move them down the list and move Couple Number One up.” The problem is you have to follow the order of the list. You can’t just move people up and down because some of them seem more uncomfortable sitting across from one another.

I love the way he speaks to the human nature of the patrons and employees of his restaurants. As you read his words you can picture the uncomfortable couple seated across from one another experiencing a blind date or the unhappy married couple who are going through the paces of going out to dinner even though they seem absolutely miserable in doing so.

There is an honesty and rawness in this memoir that I truly enjoyed. Despite his success Anderson certainly doesn’t come off as pretentious. He seems like the kind of guy you’ve known for years who is sitting around the card table stories. It’s an easy read with a lot of entrepreneurial advice particularly for those interested in creating a food service related company.

As a bonus the book includes a couple recipes in the back that sound utterly delicious. I have my eyes set on making Breakfast Biscuit Brulee.

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

December 15, 2014 at 1:56 PM 5 comments

Book Review: Little Things Long Remembered


Book Synopsis:

As digital devices take over family life in subtle and seductive ways, what will happen to child development and family bonding when children spend more time with screens than they do at school or with their parents?

Life swirls at a hectic pace in most families today. That reality places a high premium on finding family time. Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, is updated for today’s digitally driven and time-strapped families, offering hundreds of easy ways to create treasured childhood rituals that your children will look back on fondly.

The book hinges on 10 Cardinal Rules designed to help parents let go of work or social obligations and commit to spending time with their children. Rules include:

At home, focus as much as possible on your kids.
Put away electronic devices so you can really ‘be’ with them
Choose activities you like; children can tell when you are not having fun and are ‘faking it.’

Little Things Long Remembered is designed to help maximize parents and children’s available time. Slow down to grab pockets of time—even a few minutes here and there.

Establishing Ties (gestures that take seconds or a minute or two to strengthen parent-child bonds)
Five Minutes More or Less
Half and Hour to an Hour or So
Weekend Fun
Special Circumstances — When You Travel
Special Circumstances — Sick Days
Special Days — Happy Holidays
Special Days — Memorable Birthdays

Readers are encouraged to pick and choose to match their needs and their children’s ages and personalities. The time you spend with children and what readers choose to embrace from within these pages will become as memorable and meaningful to parents as they will be to children.

My Thoughts:

I like how the author divided this book into sections primarily based on the amount of time you might have available to spend with your child. Whether you have five minutes, a half an hour or an entire weekend this book will provide suggestions that help you connect and bond.

I particularly like the idea of involving children in the decisions of every day life. Suggestions like ask them what groceries should be added to the weekly list, what meal to make for dinner or what activities to participate in that evening.

Two of my favorite ideas were sending your child a thank you note. For example, “Thank you for helping me rake the leaves” or “thank you for helping out with your baby brother.” While we say please, thank you and your welcome quite often throughout the day, I love the idea of reinforcing this with a note that will make my son feel extra special.

I also like the suggestion of writing a letter once a month to explain what your child is doing or the fun that he’s been having. I keep a journal of major events and milestones for my son. This makes him feel special today, but will also be something he can look back on later in life.

The author highlights the need to “relive the experiences to ingrain them in your child’s mind.” I completely agree with this sentiment. Before my husband and I put my son to bed each evening we recite the events of our day. We highlight the best parts, but also talk about the disappointments or discouraging moments that made up the major events of the past twenty four hours.

Telling these stories is now one of his favorite activities. At three he is now telling me his own versions and adding new ones about adventures and activities that define our daily lives.

If you are looking for a very quick read with simple suggestions for bonding with your child this might be the book for you. It’s so tiny I think it would also make a great stocking stuffer for any parent.

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

December 11, 2014 at 8:00 AM 1 comment

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

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