Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Re-Release of the Alanna- Song of the Lioness Quartet, by Tamora Pierce

One of my all time favorites growing up, the Song of the Lioness Quartet was one of those defining books of childhood for me.  It introduced  me to the kick ass girl, and ever since then I've wanted to be one too.  So I couldn't be more thrilled that they're being re-released for a new generation to fall in love with!
But I'm a little jealous their covers are way cooler than mine.

Check out my reviews of the series and my guest post I did for Tempting Persephone's Tamora Pierce challenge- Pursuing the Lioness.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gratitude Giveaway winner!

So I forgot about it all day long! Yesh, what a bad way to thank my followers.  I know, I know!  But I remembered before the day was over, and that must count for something.  Right?

Ok then, I solemnly beg for all of your forgiveness, all 111 people who entered (but not the two people who cheated the one rule and then were honest about cheating it.  Weird, right?).

But the good news is in, and I'll be emailing it to her shortly.....but....The WINNER is......
Michelle Miller of the True Book Addict!!!

Well I'm sorry I couldn't give one to everyone  (but honestly, that would have cost me 4995$ plus shipping), but on the up side I'm very happy I can give it to one of you!

Stay tuned, starting in January I'll have some more awesome giveaways for you all.  That's right, I'll just have to award stuff to you one at a time.  Much more affordable!

So Happy Monday, and thank you again to all my loyal followers, I would really be talking to nobody if it wasn't for you.  As well thank you to Kathy, from I'm a reader not a writer for hosting such fab group events.  I wouldn't be able to offer these fun prizes to half the people I do if it wasn't for her enormous networking in the big group giveaways.  It must take her forever! So a big shout out to her for all her hard work.

No Hope for Gomez super B-day Bash

So the author of No Hope for Gomez, Graham Parke, has kindly asked me to let you know about this super celebration for his award nominated book. I haven't had the chance to read it yet but I've seen great things said about it across the blogosphere. But even better yet, there are great prizes to be won! So check it out:

“It's the age-old tale:
     Boy meets girl.
     Boy stalks girl.
     Girl already has a stalker.
     Boy becomes her stalker-stalker.”

It's hard to believe, but it's been a year since I handed in the final proofs for my weird little book ‘No Hope for Gomez!’ To celebrate this, and the fact that it just became a finalist in 2010's Best Book Awards, I decided to throw an international party. As I’ve had a debilitating fear of throwing parties and no-one showing up since early childhood, I’d be more than delighted if you’d come!

Of course, with every cool, international party comes a gift bag. Here's just some of the stuff attendants will get:

  • Exclusive short story collection
  • No Hope for Gomez: The Lost Chapters
  • Making of Gomez: behind the scenes eBook
  • Signed hi-res poster + bookplate

(These are all exclusive items and will not be available again)

Additionally, several lucky attendants will win a Kindle or an iPod!

Oh yeah, you can bring as many friends as you like, just don't bring your crazy uncle who drinks too much and then tries to get me to go to the attic with him to see something wonderful. I've fallen for that before and I don't mind telling you, I came away very disappointed!

Find out how to attend HERE

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi- Review

The Hubby has been doing house reno's for one of our neighbors for close to a year now.  Him  and Mary-Louise have become good friends and through their chats about books got talking about comics.  Now I'm not sure if it was purely inspired by the hubby or if ML was thinking she needed to try them out, but one way or another she headed out and bought a variety of indie comics and while Ryan lent her his, she lent him hers.  Which is how I came to read Persepolis.

Now I haven't read many comics lately, the hubby has gone all download on me and I have to say it's the bane of my existence trying to read on the computer.  I really greatly prefer the comfort of the couch and the texture of the paper in my hands. 
You know, old school page turning. 
So I've missed out on Walking Dead and various other collections he's burned through free of charge online.  But he enjoyed Persepolis so much he insisted I pick it up before delving into the Strain's sequel, the Fall.  Which is how I found myself reading my first comic in months.

The very first thing that impressed me was how political it was.  I mean the hubby has no interest in politics, getting through the first few episodes of ROME was painful, he just kept tuning out and then crabbing that he didn't know what was going on.  So it was shocking to me something so political not only held his interest but totally engrossed him.  Then I read on and realized it had such a sweet and subtle humor, so totally dry, that no matter how political it was you had to love it.

Telling the story of her childhood in Tehran, Persepolis covers the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the success of the Islamic Revolution, and the horrors of war with Iraq (which I vividly remember from my own childhood perspective, watching it on TV 24 hrs a day in Canada).  Deep material to read as an adult, even deeper to have your childhood shaped by these events.  Marjane manages to make it both enlightening and even at times light, with unforgettable imagery, like her grandma getting undressed and having dead flowers falling out of her brazier, or all the little girls arguing and playing with the veil in the school yard right after the edict to wear it goes through.

Of course there is plenty of dark as well, and she doesn't shy away from graphically describing both torture and executions, not to mention the after math of bombings.  But one of the more interesting aspects of the story is Marjane's family's ties to the history- she's the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, a discovery she makes when she's still a young girl but which has been kept a secret from her for many years.  When she sits down with her grandmother to hear the story it feels remarkably like when I discovered my grandparents lived through German occupied Holland and sat down to hear the stories of when my Opa was put on a train bound for one of the prisoner work camps as a young boy or the night my Oma's family had a dud grenade hit the house.  So although I didn't live in a culture of strife and war she still manages to find common ground I could relate to.  I look forward to reading part two.

This was an amazing piece of work, and it's obvious why it received the accolades it did.  Although the information is probably a bit complex and violent for younger audiences this was a top of the line adult comic.  Diversify your reading and pick it up for yourself or the comic/ political guru of the family.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
Published by Pantheon, June 2004

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The BBC book list

Popping up all over the book blogosphere today was this:

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

• Copy this list.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
• Italicise the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

Now obviously book bloggers are bound to be prolific folks so our number will likely be out of the norm, but I was scrolling through comparing number and thought: yup, I need to know!  So below you'll find the list and then at the end my completed number, but more than anything I want to know how many you've read.  Because seriously I can't picture how anyone has only read six of these!

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible - parts of it, long dull read!
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare- almost, i think I've missed one or two plays only. Tall order!
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma -Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte's Web- E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

43 is my completed number, and I have several of the others on my shelf awaiting the day I get to them.  Honestly though, if you had a childhood in the past 20 years, or took an English class wouldn't you have read at least 12 of these?

Just a few more hours and a signed copy of Jamie Olivers America could be yours!!

Did you enter yet? You won't win it if you don't enter!
You have until midnight tonight (toronto time) though to be honest I won't likely be up and on the computer at midnight so you likely have until 7am tomorrow morning to get your entry in.

Look, he signed it LOVE JAMIE X!!!

Just click on Contests and enter, It's open to US and Canada and the only requirement is that you're a follower of this blog (old or new).  P to the S- if you're keen to pay shipping then email me and i'll enter you if your international.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Feline Fridays get tech savy

So this week there was some major technology updating in our household.  Most unfortunately all of our Mac's were pre-intel chip, groan, meaning if we wanted anything but the most useless results it was time to invest in some new, pretty toys/computers.  Anywho, while in the Apple Store I got to thinking about this YouTube video I saw in the spring with a cat going bananas for the IPad, and it made me wish we were wealthy enough to grab one for the cats!

So I've looked it up, apparently Iggy has been busy since I last looked:

My first thought originally was, wow, that screen won't last long.  But for my wealthy cat lovers, apparently the IPad has a glass cover to the screen, making it unscratchable!  Mental note to self, buy the cats an IPad when I finally win the lottery.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to some, happy Thursday to others!

I had planned, this Thursday morning, to sit down and write a nice little review about Persepolis.  A great graphic novel delving into a little of the Iranian revolution of the 80's but more importantly a snapshot of what it is to grow up in that environment.  Then I scrolled through the 580 thanksgiving blog posts in my feed today and decided this was maybe a bit of a heavy topic for a day filled with even heavier food.

So Instead I thought I'd post about meeting Suzanne Collins.

On this past Saturday the hubby and I made the long trek up to Yorkdale mall so we could be one in 250 people to meet Suzanne Collins and subject our Hunger Games books to her Mockingjay tour stamp.  At 1pm, Suzanne promptly appeared, dressed all in black, her signature strawberry blond hair loose and her hand wrapped in one of those shaped tensor support gloves.  After receiving her Indigo Teen choice award, she did an extended reading for us from both book 2 (Catching Fire) and book 3 (Mockingjay).  Her choice reading was really interesting as the two parts are very spread in the actual story but mesh together as meant to do so when she's reading them.  She read from Katniss's wedding dress fire ending with the dress in ashes and her as a Mockingjay then seamlessly moved on to the first chapter of Mockingjay with Katniss walking through the ashes of District 12.

Now I have to say, Suzanne's vision about District 12's "futuristic Appalachian accent doesn't agree with me.  I suppose partly because she didn't write their voices in dialect, but also because it is wildly divergent from my imaginings of their voices.   But aside from that blip the reading was great.  Once done the line made it's slow crawl towards her as she took the time to both carefully stamp each book (the stamp was enormous!) and then to pose with the person and book for each person who'd brought their camera!

By the time I made it too her I have to say I was feeling a little star struck.  I managed to babble that it was really exciting she made it to Canada,  before we were asked to pose for the picture (notice I look slightly stunned) and that was the end.
Hahahahahah, and I'm usually so good about asking at least one question! Oh well!

Sadly the paper the books were printed on were too porous so you can see the stamp kind of blurred out.  Too bad, it was super cool.

All in all another fun meeting with another seemingly charming author.  I have to say we then went on to buy new computers, and then go to the new Harry Potter movie, so by the end of that day I was done in on excitement.  Seriously, what a jam packed week of excitement!

But because it wouldn't be the same if I didn't share it, I have to remind you all, don't forget to enter for your chance to win the SIGNED copy of Jamie Olivers- Jamie's America!  He signed it love Jamie, you know you want it!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan- Review

I suppose I've proven myself a bit of Rick Riordan fan girl over the past year of this blog.  I was bananas about the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and found the ending one of the most satisfying since Harry Potter; than I had the privilege of meeting him to get my sweet new copy of The Red Pyramid signed.  Of course he didn't disappoint!  Not only was he perfectly lovely and answered each persons question as they came up, while signing HUNDREDS of books (the indigo staff estimated 500!!), he also took the time to talk about the books, what inspired them and to announce the new Olympians series- The Heroes of Olympus

Then I read The Red Pyramid and decided it was official, he was now one of the authors I quite fervently admired- not only for his skill in writing great characters and stories but for his very unique crazy writing schedule!  Two books a year??! Almost unheard of!  Except for Cassandra Clare I can't think of another author out there doing this.

Anyhow, it stands to reason that I would love The Lost Hero and it quite honestly killed me to wait an ENTIRE month to read it.  Such self restraint, I know.

Now listen, I loved The Red Pyramid, didn't even mind the much maligned narration (in fact kind of enjoyed it once I got used to it), so I'll be the first to admit I may be a little inclined to love all Rick writes.  That said I have to say I enjoyed The Lost Hero immensely.  I've refrained from reading any other reviews until I'd read it myself so I'm not sure what everyone else is saying yet, but for me this was just as magical as the first series.

The Lost Hero starts with Jason at Wilderness camp.  He has no memory of anything that's come before in his life, but his Girlfriend Piper and best friend Leo can vouch he's been with them the past several months at this school for the difficult.  If that isn't weird enough they're almost immediately beset by monsters, their "coach" reveals he's a satyr and two kids come charging in on a chariot flown by Pegasus looking for some kid named Percy.  And thus begins the story started with the next great prophecy announced at the end of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

One of the big differences in The Heroes of Olympus is that Rick follows three Demigods instead of just the one (it was Percy's book through and through for the other series).  The chapter heading lists the character, just like in The Red Pyramid, and for the chapter the story continues on but from a different view point.  What I loved about this was how quickly he was able to give the reader background on each Demigod.  Obviously with Percy, these revelations had to come out in a moment of bonding, and so it took quite a bit of time to get to the personality quarks of each of the people he was getting to know.  But since this series will eventually encompass 7 Demigods it was nice to get each of the first three backgrounds out there in the first book, and I think it helps you bond with all three of the Demigods at the same time.

Obviously questing teenagers, with godly powers, coupled with monsters and craziness makes for a page turning read, but like always Rick throws in some great comic moments, not to mention some fab new reveals.  The twist to this prophecy and these Demigods was lots of fun to discover and had me dying to share with someone. Unfortunately I'm the first of my little reading circle to read it so I'll just have to suck it up and wait.
Le Sigh.

The ending, with the reveal of the next books title- Son of Neptune- was so exciting I might not make it to next fall to read it.  Honestly, I'm just going to wish my life away in the interim.

The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney Hyperion October 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Clockwork Prince and City of Fallen Angels teasers for November

Because no month would be complete without Cassandra Clare's much beloved teasers I present to you one for both City of Fallen Angels as well as the Halloween Special from Clockwork Prince (which somehow or other I read but didn't share! sorry!).  P to the S- December will be the last CoFA teaser since starting in January her publisher will be presenting their own publicity leading up to the March release.

CoFA November teasers:
 Teaser 1)

The Queen’s eyes glittered. “You told me that you did not wish to make a compact with me, for there was nothing I could give you. You said there was nothing in the world you wanted. When you imagine your life without him, do you still feel the same?”

*Why are you doing this to me?* Clary wanted to scream, but she said nothing, for the Faerie Queen glanced past her, and smiled, saying: “Wipe your tears, for he returns. It will do you no good for him to see you cry.”
Teaser 2)

“That wasn’t fair,” Simon said.

“Maybe,” said Isabelle. “But I watch my brothers give their hearts away and I think, Don’t you know? Hearts are breakable. And I think even when you heal, you’re never what you were before.”
Clockwork Prince teaser:
From mid-book:

Will looked at Jem. His eyes were bluer than blue, his cheeks flushed. He said, “Then you have wasted your time.”

Jem stared back at him. “God damn you,” he said, and hit Will across the face, sending him spinning. He didn’t lose his footing, but fetched up against the side of the carriage, his hand to his cheek. His mouth was bleeding. He looked at Jem with total astonishment.

“Get him into the carriage,” Jem said to Tessa, and turned and went back through the red door — to pay for whatever Will had taken, Tessa thought. Will was still staring after him.

“James?” he said.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Meeting Jamie Oliver!

So Meeting Jamie Oliver was so fantastically fun that I ended up high as a kite on adrenaline (OK and caffeine too) for the rest of the day.  I mean I even had joy de vivre in my late night staff meeting, which is saying something because they're usually the most insane kind of torture.  It sets me up for some high expectations for Suzanne Collins today, poor Suzanne! She wrote one wonderful series, but can she out Charm Jamie??

So we lined up around 11am, on Thursday, me and my good friend in reading Jenna.  The store had a distinct feeling of excitement but not too many people lined up yet which was hardly surprising.  It was early on a work day after-all.  As we were chit chatting and waiting some cops went by, which was surprising, but not as surprising as when, 20 minutes later Jamie Oliver came strolling by!  Somehow nobody expected him from the back of the store so as he walked along the now very long line he had to start saying hi to get everyones attention.  Even flanked by police officers he was charming and he had everyone (lots of guys included) sighing over him immediately.

He took his time with each person, no hurry at all, and chatted and signed with lots of one on one.  The first thing he said to me as he turned to me? I love your hair, very punk rock!  Since I only changed my hair two weeks ago this was super exciting (I made a drastic change going from platinum to dark brown with a red streak).  We talked about my hair for a couple of minutes (he asked if this was a Canadian trend to go dark) and once I was fully flustered from his attention he reached across the table, put his hand on my hand and said "Sweetie, since my psychic abilities aren't what they used to be, who would you like these books made out too?".   It's a sad thing that hands need to be washed regularly. Sigh.

I asked which was his favorite recipe or experience from the America cook book and he answered that a chef never reveals a favorite recipe, but that he loved the Mexican experiences, the immigrant New York folks (especially the Chinese) and of course the Navajo.

He signed the books Love Jamie, in a nice big flourish across the front pages, and I moved on so that Jenna could have her turn.

Let me just say, there is nothing as satisfying as meeting someone you admire and discovering they are 100% worth your admiration, and that really, in person they are even better.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dreaming of Jamie on Feline Fridays

Even Baxter wants a piece of Jamie Oliver!  He wishes he could win this awesome Cookbook that says Love Jamie inside.  He wanted me to remind you all that you only have until Sunday at Midnight to enter, so make sure to get in while you can!  And tell all your Jamie loving friends.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Secret of Ka, by Christopher Pike- Review

Like so many others I was a great fan of Christopher Pike growing up.  His teen thrillers were positivly iconic, and i'm thrilled to see he's still going strong (his thirst series is a New York Times Bestseller), but even more excited to see he's branching into a slightly younger audience.

The Secret of Ka follows Sara on her bored ramblings through Turkey while her father spends all day everyday ensconced on a work site she's not allowed to visit. Until, that is, she discovers the Magic Carpet of Ka.  At which point everything changes, possibly for the worst, and Sara's world quickly comes tumbling down.  Between her new friend Amesh's problems with a seriously bad news Dijinn, her own tricky relationship with a powerful Dijinn and the voice of the carpet trying to guide her it'll be a miracle if everyone survives.

To be honest I found the narration a bit stiff.  From a first point perspective of a 15 year old I expected a little more personality, but there are some strangely formal paragraphs, which isn't something I remember being a problem with Christopher Pike.  But what the narration lacked the story made up for. Fast paced and very engrossing Sara's enormous mis-adventure through Turkey and beyond had me flipping pages fast. 

The story is original enough to seem fresh and different while at the same time referencing historical myth that most people will feel at home with.  Aladdin anyone?  I'm not sure that it painted Turkey in the best possible light but then writing about it from a white Americans perspective might be tricky.  In any case the country was just a bit player in a mostly mythical tale.

I was surprised to find the ending was definitely an open ended thing suggesting this was just the beginning of a series. I perused online but couldn't find any mention of a planned second book, but I'm assuming there is one being written in the wings possibly as I type this review.  I'm intrigued to see where this story is headed, it has distinct possibilities of being a very fun series.

The Secret of Ka , by Christopher Pike
Published by Harcourt Children's Books, September 2010

Very Kindly mailed to me from the folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Gratitude Giveaway- Oh it's a biggie people!- think Charming, British and Naked!

Well, Thanksgiving is over out here but Christmas is fast approaching and all thoughts are turning to gift giving in a mighty big way.  So in honour of the fast approaching holidays I'm providing all my followers (new and old) with the chance at a fantabulous Christmas gift.  And yes, the Christmas gift can defiantly stop at you, I won't tell!

Jamie Oliver's America, an awesome cookbook I've been enjoying since the start of the summer, could soon be gracing your cookbook shelves.  But the really exciting part? It's signed! That's right folks, tomorrow afternoon I will be walking it up to the very personable Mr. Oliver himself to have it signed just for you.
How can you make this happen? Well it's simple, fill out the form below and make sure you're a follower (this is after all to thank all my wonderful readers), open to the US and Canada (sorry International folks, much too close to Christmas to ship such a heavy book so far!).  Enter before Midnight Sunday November 28th, and I'll announce the winner and ship it off first thing Monday so if you want to give it as a gift you're still able (no shame in keeping it though!).

Afterwards check out the list below and find more great giveaways as more than 175 bloggers are participating!!! Seriously, you could cover a lot of Xmas gifts that way (or... you know, gifts for you)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

All things Christmas- buying for the cook

In the past few years (i.e.- since finishing full time schooling) I've gone from loathing the idea of having to deal with cooking supper to looking forward to it.  But this has been with some serious cookbook magic, especially the part where somewhere along the line I became not to shabby in the kitchen.  So I thought I'd review some of my favorites, because nothing says Merry Christmas like a good cookbook for new and old chefs! Plus you get to benefit from their stellar new menus. Win, win!

So for the beginner cooks I ALWAYS recommend my absolute favorite- Donna Hay
There are several reasons why.
  1. She has a picture of everything
  2. Her meals are super simple but have big bang for your buck
  3. She almost never uses anything exotic and for the most part sticks to the staples in the average Joe's kitchen cupboard.  Meaning you're beginner cook will be ready to take on her recipes without any investment on their likely minimal kitchen supplies and ingredients.
 Now with Donna you have two awesome options.  Cookbook, or Magazine.  I've had a subscription to her magazine for the past 4 years or so now, and religiously hunted each issue down as it released from when she first launched it, prior to the subscription.  The Magazine is nice because it's an inexpensive investment to try out her recipes.  Each magazine generally has about 100 recipes in it and they're all based on season.  It sells for about 10$ Canadian per issue but I suspect its less in the states and obviously much less in New Zealand and Australia (where it originates).

For the Cookbooks you can't really go wrong with any of them, though Modern Classics is awesome for covering all the basics of cooking.  How to cook rice, how to cook roast chicken, roast beef, roast lamb, how to make Bolognese sauce, lasagna, or pad thai, not to mention all the other basics including veggies as well as meat. Her original bi line- Simple made Special, 100% applies and trust me when I say I've never had a disappointing Donna Hay meal. 

After becoming confident with Donna's wonderfully easy recipes I started to branch into more demanding waters.  My first step was Jamie Oliver.  I'd loved his show for years but always felt daunted by  his endless lists of ingredients and talk of using your local butcher and finding local produce, yada, yada.  Of course this all becomes less challenging when you have a better idea of what you're doing and have moved beyond cooking minute rice (thank god for Donna).  In the meantime, however, Jamie also got into the business of beginner cooks.  Jamie's Food Revolution, also called Jamie's Ministry of Food in the UK was meant to start a revolution of people cooking again, by promising to teach you one great easy recipe, if you promised to pass it on.  Obviously if you bought the cookbook you get way more than one great recipe!

I really like this cookbook, he's got some easy and innovated ways to do a number of things and I love that he first gives you the recipe for something basic- like rice- than shows you 3 or 4 ways to fancy it up.  Something beginner cooks wouldn't normally attempt on their own, but which shows you how to confidently add your own touches to a recipe.  I did have one recipe that was a total bust from this cookbook, which was really frustrating, but overall it's a great one.

For the slightly more advanced cook I'd highly recommend Jamie at Home or Jamie's America, which are both awesome cookbooks of his being both pretty to look at, informative and full of delicious recipes.  Jamie at home is sort of the all natural, do-it-yourself of fresh cooking, growing, canning and more.  Some of my favorite recipes are a potato and onion, balsamic vinegar roast of pork tenderloin, his BBQ salmon with crispy skin and his winter salad, yum!

Jamie's America is definitely for the slightly more adventurous cook as it bounces around through all sorts of cultural food across the states and includes things like Alligator Bites, Cowboy Campfire Chili (to die for) and Asian Fiery Dan Dan Noodles not to mention things like the L.A Steak with Two Sauces (one of my faves!), and NYC cheesecake.  I think this is my favorite of all his cookbooks, every recipe feels like something new and exciting and I love the diversity in it.  Not to mention all his chat about the people he met and how they taught him to cook their signature dish, is very engrossing even just on a reading level.  Lately when looking for inspiration I almost always turn to this cookbook.

Now for the masterful chef on your list I have two suggestions, my two favorite cookbooks I've acquired in the past couple years after discovering I not only loved to cook but, was only scratching the surface of what I could master. 

Julia Child's Classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is the most recent of the two.  After eating my way through Paris I went on a year long quest for the best french cookbook I could find.  It was hardly surprising  it was Julia Child's well known book that came out the winner. 

Completely pictureless, with the original french titles heading each recipe and rife with instructions this cookbook is not for the faint of heart in the kitchen.  But if you love to cook, know what you're doing and looking for a challenge then you won't get better results in genuine french food anywhere else.  Point in case, her Beef Bourguignon recipe, an all time classic and absolutely mouthwatering, but which will easily take you an hour to prep and 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook in highly specialized cookware (cast iron dutch oven).  Because this is such a classic make sure to spy your chef's cookbook shelf before buying it as they may already own it.  If they do, get the second one Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Volume 2 (the darker blue one of the newer reprints, the aqua one is the first).

Finally any chef who's worth their salt will find themselves pining to master ethnic food at some point.  My personal favorites (outside of french), Indian and Mexican have been part of my personal quest for the perfect cookbook for sometime.  That is, until the hubby consulted his Aunt (who married a charming fellow who's mother was an astounding East Indian cook).
Ta Da!

I will venture to say this cookbook will take you from good cook to a chef with outstanding meals to put on the table, even if you only master two or three of the recipes.  At 816 pages you're getting virtually any vegetarian Indian dish you can name (no pictures), and if you can deal with the 500 ingredients for each dish, and the elongated prep time to cut and dice all the 500 ingredients, than prepare to have you and your guests socks blown off. 

Now for any truly special occasion the hubby and I put in the time to make an all Indian feast, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!  But the best part about this cookbook is how creative it makes you after using it. You develop so much confidence with all these ingredients you might not normally cook with, and start using them in a million other simple ways.  Who knew I was mad about cumin and turmeric?  I mean when is the last time you made an omelet with Cumin and chili's?  Because I have, amongst other things.
The best part about giving this gift is the likely hood your recipient will have never seen or even heard of it.  Chances are very very slim they own it, so feel secure in your amazon order.

Happy Christmas Shopping!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Drowned Sorrow by Vanessa Morgan- Review

I have to say, after reading the Strangers Outside I was disappointed by Drowned Sorrow.  A short novella horror story, I was expecting a fast paced read that would likely only last me a day tops, instead I ended up dragging it out for several days often putting it down a page or two into reading because I just wasn't getting into it.

Now to be fair I don't think it was a character development thing, her characters were nicely fleshed out for a short story, but they did some unbelievable things at the end which I thought didn't jive with the development throughout the start of the book.  But my biggest complaint was really the editing. 

Possibly this was just my copy but there were repeated paragraphs I had to read twice to understand. For instance Megan and her daughter arrive at the beach and comment on how it's empty, than one sentence later are commenting on all the people.  Or they would be on a walk and suddenly the dog would be with them.  It was very confusing.  And I'm guessing it was the biggest reason I became so put off and kept loosing interest.

But at the very end, the kicker was the twist.  After half a week of thinking about it, I still don't see how the twist made sense with the rest of the story, but that could just be because I was too busy trying to understand what was happening one paragraph at a time.

Of course this is just my opinion, to be taken with a grain of salt as I have read other reviews of the story who liked it more than I did.  Check them out and decide for yourself:
Reader Reccomended

Drowned Sorrow, by Vanessa Morgan
Published by Llumina Press December  2008

Kindly emailed a copy from the author, Vanessa Morgan

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Suzanne Collins signing and Jamie Oliver all in one week!

So I'm still out of breath from racing out to get my wristband for the Suzanne Collins signing!!
You heard me right, next Saturday, the 20th of November Suzanne Collins is doing a limited signing at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto at 1pm.  Wristbands are available at Yorkdale Mall, though the number could be anything as they're being very mysterious as to how many are left.  I've been told by the manager that she's not a fan of big crowds so if you don't have a wristband then you won't even catch a glimpse of her.
She's still injured so she'll be stamping books, and staff will take your picture as she "signs".

Also for the past week they've been hosting various cooking guru's, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsey were yesterday and tonight, but on Thursday afternoon I'll be heading out to meet the super charming Jamie Oliver!  I won't give away all the details but suffice it to say this has something to do with my Gratitude Giveaway announcement on Wednesday.  Exciting, right?!

It's starting to rank as astounding how many authors have trundled through the city this year, I've met Rick Riordan, Jeff Lindsay, Lesley Livingston, Adrienne Kress, Kelley Armstrong, Aprillynn Pike and a couple of others.  It makes me wonder who many authors I've missed on years when I wasn't paying super close attention!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pre-christmas Feline Friday (oops!)- All things Christmas (that's right, that's what I said... the dreaded "C" word)

So the Christmas season is officially upon us.  My neighbors have lit up their christmas lights (you can see them a block away, no jokes), the stores and fliers are full of christmas decor and helpful hints for presents; but most tellingly... I  have a desperate feeling I'm already wayyyy behind on all the things I have to do before December 25th!
Point in fact, this post.

The baking, prepping, shopping and organizing travel and plans has begun full scale, and I figure I can't be the only one being sucked into the holiday season vortex.  So in honor of the Season I've decided to do a series of gift suggestion posts, because lord knows we all have someone we get completely stumped by every year.

Since this is a Feline Friday post I thought I would start with your most impossible person to buy for, the person who has everything.  We all have one of these.  Either they don't like "stuff" or they fulfill all their own needs in advance of christmas leaving nothing for the rest of us to buy them.  Let me suggest that these types of gift-receivers are possibly the easiest ones to buy for.
Shocking! I know!
Recently I've started donating money to charities for these people on my list.

Now I know, it can seem like a cop-out to hand someone a card with a letter in it saying "we bought a family in Africa a goat on your behalf this year", but honestly, there are some very cool donations you can do around the holidays, as each charitable foundation gears up for the big fundraising drive.  UNICEF is one of the Big biggies, and generally the first to pop into anyones mind, but have you considered your local animal shelter or rescue group, or even World Wildlife Fund?

Obviously if your difficult gift recipient isn't an animal lover then this wouldn't be the first choice (i.e.: go with something that means something to them, if they're readers do a reading foundation, into clothes then do a dress for success type charity) but if they're inclined towards the furry/feathery/scaly creatures than I highly recommend the animal support.  The best part is there are often options outside of just the straight financial donations, this time of year shelters and rescue groups often have donated goods you can buy where all or most of the funds go directly to the charity but you still come away with something to give.

This year the charity I volunteer with, Annex Cat Rescue, will be doing six weeks of Saturday events.  Today until 4:30 we are down at Pawsway selling Cat nip purr pads, Catnip mice and sausages, grooming tools, treats, and toys all for the benefit of the Kitties in our care.  And for the following four saturdays you can find us at the Tranzac Club on Brunswick Ave (toronto) at the Artisans Gift Fair selling not only the fun stuff mentioned above for the fuzzy kids but also earrings, necklaces, and bath bombs for their owners (slaves) own pleasure.  So if you're in the area, consider stopping in and picking something up for Christmas that goes to a good cause.

So for your tough to buy for on your christmas list, consider the donation option!
Here are some great Ontario Charities to consider (if you're from around here, if not you can certainly help them too, or search some local ones!):

Toronto Cat Rescue
Toronto Humane Society
Annex Cat Rescue
Abbey Cats
Toronto Animal Services
4 Legged Love
Ugly Mutts
Caring Canine

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler-Review

What would happen if an anorexic teenager decided to end it all, only to be offered an alternative by Death upon arrival?  Would you pick being Famine, one of four horseman of the Apocalypse instead of an irreversible death?  Lisabeth Lewis picks Famine, although it takes her a few days to realize she did.  Now how is she going to live with that decision?

Hunger plunked through my mail slot, courtesy of the infinitely kind folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, last week while I was laid up with a dreadful cold.  It was a short commitment, 180 pages, and had an intriguing premise, so on Friday night I picked it up and by Saturday night I had whipped through it.

It's funny, every couple of days I feel like some new celebrity is coming forward about struggling with an eating disorder, and yet this is the first YA book I've come across that deals with it.  As TV, the Internet, and Media in general go postal through IPhones, IPads, Blackberries as well as all the old school devices (anyone watch a Television anymore? anyone....anyone?) it seems obvious to me people are more and more aware.  They're more aware of their looks, their hair, their weight, their hording, their singing, their dancing, their child rearing.  And I can't help but wonder what it's doing to children and teenagers, the forerunners of almost every new gadget and technological gizmo.  I certainly wouldn't be surprised if statistics were to show more of them then ever before feel fat, ugly, untalented or just generally lacking in the pizazz everyone in the Media have. 

So it was refreshing to see a paranormal book, so appealing looking and sounding, touching on the subject.  Instead of marginalizing her problem, becoming Famine helps to put it into perspective, and it's interesting to watch Lisabeth grow into her new role and basically rediscover herself.  I also really like that this book didn't pretend to offer all the answers to her problem, instead presenting a really believable version of Lisa struggling with regaining a healthy perspective.

Of course mixed into all this was her interactions with the other three horsemen, War, Pestilence, and Death.  And Death really amused me, especially when War was gripping about how weird he could be.  The idea that Death could look like Kurt Cobain, be philosophical and fairly creepy all at the same time worked really well for me.  I loved Death.

Part of all the proceeds go to the National Eating Disorders Association, and there's a lovely bit at the end where the author talks about her own brief sojourn in the realm of eating disorders.  This was a great mix of being a thoughtful look at a serious problem, and an intriguing paranormal teen story, and I can't be happier that another book along these lines comes out in April- Rage (about War! who else).  I can only hope it'll become a series, one book for each of the Horseman.

Hunger by, Jackie Morse Kessler
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 18th 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group, by Catherine Jinks- Review

Courtesy of the lovely folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group popped through my mail slot in early October and became part of my ambitious list of reading for October.  Well...I almost made it, only a few days out!

Somehow I had missed The Reformed Vampire Support Group when it came out this September, so I wasn't immediately aware of what a funny, fantastic series I was getting myself into.  But before I start to rave I should really give you a brief idea of what it's about.

The books starts right in the middle of things, Tobias has woken up in the hospital and is informed he was found in the Dingo cage at the zoo.  Nobody is more shocked then Tobias himself who last remembers falling asleep in his bed at home, before waking up in the hospital. But things are going to get more bizarre before he figures it all out, because next up is a visit from a priest and a gruff and rough looking guy named Reuben, who are there to tell him he's a werewolf.  Obviously this doesn't end up sitting to well with him and his mom, go figure, right?!  Anywho, between his devilish two best friends and some bad guys who believe he's a werewolf even if Tobias doesn't agree, there's some major trouble abrewin'.

To start with the characters in this book are wonderful. Tobias and his two closest friends are so full of mischief and bad ideas, that right away you know this story is going to be enjoyable.  But then start throwing in various members of The Reformed Vampire Support Group, their very patient family and friends, an out of control crazy Werewolf, and a revengeful kidnapped young werewolf and the story quickly takes off into the territory of constantly shifting, page-turning action coupled with some seriously funny situations and one liners. 

So very different from the heartsick teen angsty vampires and werewolf's quickly taking over the YA genre, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group instead takes the non-romantic but much more practical view of what happens when some stranger points to a few weird physical traits and one weird incident and tells you you're a mythical human hybrid. Cold turkey, just like that.  The mom's particularly belligerent refusal to accept her son's heritage even when faced with the most extremely weird situations seemed so honest I could see my mom reacting the same way.  But funny at the same time!  I was almost rolling with laughter by the end of the book as the situation became more out of control and ridiculous and the characters sort of just rolled their eyes as if this was, sigh, just their lot in life. 

By the end of the book I was jonesing to get my hands on all of Catherine Jinks other books.  Lucky me I was also kindly given part three to her The Genius Wars, so now I just have to get out to a book store and find me part 1, part 2 and (of course) The Reformed Vampire Support Group and I'll be set up for a small Catherine Jinks marathon!  Talk about an author to watch out for, especially if like me you haven't stumbled on her work before.

Lots of fun and super highly recommended, shake up your paranormal reading and pick it up when it comes out in April, until then make sure to join me in some Vampire fun with the Reformed Vampire Support Group which sounds just as great (fingers crossed!).

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group, By Catherine Jinks
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 4th, 2011

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Great Authors even Greater Cat on Feline Fridays

Behind every great author, I suspect, there's a great pet.  One who lays across from them as they write, frolics across the keyboard and even causes some inspiration (or at least a de-stressing point) from time to time.

Tamora Pierce often talks about her cats and other rescues clambering around her office and both Adrienne Kress and Cassandra Clare have talked about their cats on their blogs at some point.  Rick Riordan did an entire blog dedicated to a cat he rescued off the road who later went to live with his parents, and Lauren Oliver blogged about what a dedicated writer her dad was and mentioned how even the new dog was good at sitting down to write with him (including a most adorable picture).   

My cats make the most unusual edits to my blogs every now and again, and Cheddar is down right determined to have his say in all the emails I write.  So it just stands to reason that pets make excellent writing partners, which is why today I'm featuring the fantastic Kitty behind charming author Michelle Lovric.  Rose la Touche of Harristown Morrison Lovric is a beautiful tabby rescue, she holds down the fort in Michelle's London home and is even said to be Michelle's muse.

1. She stops me from leaving the house on distracting, non-writing errands, by following me to the door with a reproachful look. There have been times when I have put down the shopping bag and sloped back to my desk.
2. As long as I keep working, she sits on the back of my chair purring, nuzzling and generally reinforcing the work ethic. Illustrated is the gaze she gives anyone coming to distract me with a cup of tea or a bit of gossip. The look and the accompanying silent miaow eloquently suggest that the visitor takes himself and his business to another rift in the space-time continuum, preferably a deep one. Few pass.
3. She always answers enthusiastically when I consult her on a plot or character question. (It goes like this:
WRITER: ‘Do you think the mermaids should fancy Signor Alicamoussa?’
CAT: ‘Yes! I fancy a cuddle.’
WRITER: ‘How shall Teo help Renzo when he’s imprisoned in Newgate?’
CAT: ‘Food would certainly help. Chicken breast? Now?’)
4. She hates me chatting on the telephone, and squalls until I put the receiver down and get back to work. (excerpt- My Costly Muse- ABBA blog post) 
Although Michelle Lovric has an impressive list of published works, The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium included, I think it's safe to say that at least some of her success must be attributed to the enchanting Rose.  A fact I'm sure Rose La Touche would be happy to have acknowledged, after all, it's hard work being a Muse and a task driver.  Thankless work really!

To see more about Rose and Michelle, check out Michelle's website.  Make sure to check out my reviews of The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium as well, they're wonderful books you don't want to miss out on!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Strain, By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan- Review

By far the creepiest book I've ever read, The Strain was officially the creepiest book I read during Giving me the Creeps October (though technically I didn't finish until yesterday).  Hardly surprising since one of the co-authors, Guillermo Del Toro wrote and directed the very creepy Pan's Labyrinth.
Largely following two doctors from the Center for Disease Control, and one elderly gentleman who owns a pawn shop, The Strain is the first part in a three part series dealing with what would happen if Vampirism was highly contagious, and purposely set loose in New York City.  Interspersed with some time jumps to WW2 and the death camp Treblinka, where Abraham (the pawn shop owner) first encounters the Ancient who is seemingly responsible for the events in NYC.
So what made this creepier than the average Vampire book?  Part of it was the slow build up to the actual vampire spread.  Since I knew it was vampires before I even opened the book, I was on tinter hooks waiting for it to happen, but I have to say the start of the book was mysterious enough I still didn't really know what was going on.  As for the descriptions of the Ancient, also called Mr Leech, ughh! Talk about giving a person the serious creepy crawlies, the flight captains description of him had me petrified of getting up to pee during the night! Couple him with the rat disturbances and the zombie like quality of these vampires and I have to say, I was starting to worry it might just be too scary for me.  Alas it was too good to put down so I stuck with it, and I'm proud to say that unlike the hubby (who has nerves of steel) I did not have any actual nightmares!
Part two, The Fall, came out earlier last month, and I'm eager to get my hands on it.  There were some interesting twists come the end of The Strain and I can't wait to have them explained some more.  But mostly I'm dying to see if Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro are going to let Humanity survive this outbreak.
A great book promising an exciting three part series, but be warned, this is no Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Be prepared for one dark, chilling page turner.

The Strain, By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Published by Harper Collins July 2009

Monday, November 1, 2010

Big Spooktacular Winner announcement!

So thank you everyone for entering my Big Bang Finish to Giving me the Creeps October.  I had 107 entries! And an astounding number of new followers so thank you!

I used Random.org to pull names and the winners are:

1st Place (Prize pack including signed Dexter)- Anne Jolly
2nd Place (Copy of Drowned Sorrow)- BJ
3rd Place (PDF of Kindle short story The Strangers Outside)- Vicki Wurgler

Congratulations! Your prizes will be going out in the mail (and email) shortly!