Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Cozy Little Book Journal!

Cozy Little Book Journal and The Bookish Elf are taking a bit of a break, trying not to read the news too much before bed, and just generally enjoying time with family and friends. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and recharge your batteries for the year ahead!

CLBJ and TBE will return soon with new reviews, as well as some "year in review" type posts, including some of my favourite--and possibly LEAST favourite--books of 2012. See you soon!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bruno and the Carol Singers: A Christmas Story (A Christmas Mystery of the French Countryside), by Martin Walker

Bruno and the Carol Singers: 
A Christmas Story 
(A Christmas Mystery of the French Countryside)
Author: Martin Walker
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: December 18, 2012
I admit when I saw this title available on Edelweiss I assumed it was a full-length novel--preferably a cozy murder mystery---so I was more than a little surprised to find out it is an e-book short story (only 19 pages long!). I suppose it's meant to be a teaser for those, like me, who are unfamiliar with the "Bruno, Chief of Police" series. In that sense I suppose it worked because I'm now eager to read a novel in the series, hopefully one with a little more intrigue than just petty theft.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yes, Chef: A Memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef
A Memoir
Author: Marcus Samuelsson
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
I expected the memoir of Marcus Samuelsson--possibly the most likable person to ever wear the mantle of "celebrity chef"--to be interesting, but I never expected it to be so poetic. It starts with Samuelsson's description of his birth mother, or rather his inability to describe her properly. He has no photos of her because no photos of her exist. But there is so much he can learn about her by learning about her food, the food of the region where she lived, the flavours of Ethiopia where he spent his very earliest years. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was just two years old, after walking for miles and miles to take him and his sister to a hospital in Ababa Addis. Marcus and his sister survived--thanks to his mother--and were adopted by a family in Sweden. Today, Marcus Samuelsson's food is influenced by his two families, his extensive travels and the place he now calls home: Harlem in New York.

There is not a great deal of celebrity gossip in Yes, Chef, though he does speak frankly about his dislike of Gordon Ramsay and the exhaustion he felt while filming Top Chef Masters at the same time he was preparing for the first state dinner for the Obamas. Mostly the book is about food. About gravlax and berbere spice and smoked salmon and fried chicken. It's about the food memories of a person whose life story is not only unusual but remarkable.

I've Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella

I've Got Your Number
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Sometimes I just need a break from serious literature--heart-wrenching tales of families torn apart by war, brave individuals rebuilding their lives in foreign lands, children struggling in abusive homes, love stories riddled with symbolism and metaphor--and want to settle in with a nice, easy Sophie Kinsella novel. I used to like her Shopaholic series but after a while I tired of the main character, who never seemed to learn from her mistakes or grow out of her insecurities and foibles. I've Got Your Number seems to fix a lot of those complaints, first because it's a brand new character (and not necessarily one who will have a series) and despite her fair share of foibles, she's much more assertive than Becky Bloomwood--aka The Shopaholic--ever was. 

The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, by Natalie Goldberg

The True Secret of Writing:
Connecting Life with Language
Author: Natalie Goldberg 
Publisher: Atria Books 
Publication Date: March 19, 2013 
Imagine having a teacher whom you very much admire--say, a theatre instructor or an art history professor--and you have nothing but fond memories of her. But then you go back to your old school years later only to realize that she's a blithering old hippy dippy whose great insights are all about "vibes" and "vapors."

That's how I felt reading Natalie Goldberg's latest book.

Oh, Natalie Goldberg. It's so hard for me to criticize her, since I spent much of my twenties valuing her insights on writing and applying them in my own writing and in various writing workshops I ran. Well, sort of. I liked her books but I may have overestimated my admiration for her because I was constantly confusing her with Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, author of my hands-down favourite book of writing instruction of all time, poemcrazy. Still, I thought of Natalie Goldberg warmly, as one who wrote fairly helpful books about writing (if not many books about anything else).

And then I read The True Secret of Writing. Sigh.

The Guy Under the Sheets: The Unauthorized Autobiography, by Chris Elliott

The Guy Under the Sheets:
The Unauthorized Autobiography
Author: Chris Elliott 
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (Penguin) 
Publication Date: October 11, 2012 
I've been telling myself I'm a huge Chris Elliott fan based on how much I remember loving The Shroud of the Thwacker, but after the slightly disappointing Into Hot Air and the virtually unreadable The Guy Under the Sheets, I'm going to have to rethink my stance. I'm almost tempted to go back and reread The Shroud of the Thwacker to see if it's actually as good as I remember because now I'm starting to wonder.
The problem with this book, I think, is that it's a parody of something that I don't know enough about to understand (or care about) the jokes--namely, Chris Elliott's life story. The title of the book is a play on the fact that he apparently started out as a bit character performer on Late Night with David Letterman and one of his characters was "the guy under the stairs." Except, am I supposed to remember that? I'm not sure that anyone under 45 would remember that...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Paper Bag Princess (Read-Aloud Edition), by Robert Munsch (illustrated by Michael Martchenko)

The Paper Bag Princess
(Read-Aloud Edition) 
Author: Robert Munsch 
Illustrator: Michael Martchenko 
Publisher: Open Road Media (Read-Aloud Edition enhanced e-book) 
(Originally published by Annick Press, 1992) 
Publication Date: June 26, 2012 
Buy Now on (original paperback) 
Buy Now on (board book) 
Available as enhanced e-book from Open Road Media 
Well, try as I might, I wasn't actually able to fully appreciate the "enhanced e-book experience." I think I just don't have the hang of it. The publishers sent me several digital copies of this book and finally sent me separate text and audio files for me to read and listen to on my computer. They were nice enough, with music and sound effects to accompany the narration by Robert Munsch, but to my taste they weren't so much better than all the other versions of this book available that it made it worth the effort. This is probably Munsch's most adapted book, with numerous print, digital, audio, and even animated cartoon versions available already. I'm not sure I quite see the point of this new edition. But I suspect I'm not quite as tech-savvy as some. Perhaps on an iPad it's a smoother experience to enjoy e-books with enhanced content. 

Although I did quite enjoy the variation on the "Mission: Impossible" theme song as it Princess Elizabeth went off in search of the dragon. Perhaps that moment was worth at least some of the hassle I went through to hear it.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Candy Experiments, by Loralee Leavitt

Wow! This book is so exciting as I was reading it I wasn't even thinking, "Oh my daughter would like this" or "The kids in my class will like this" as much as I was thinking, "OMG CANDY! I WANT CANDY! I want to melt it and blow it up and separate the dyes and OMG CANDY!!"

Did you know that if dissolve Pixy Stix in water the water will get colder, but if you dissolve crushed Jolly Ranchers in water it will get warmer? Did you know you can make Peeps Hearts appear to beat? Did you know you can reshape candy canes into fun shapes by heating them? 

This book makes me want to be a science teacher on November 1st. What a great way to get kids to give up some of their Halloween candy! Unfortunately, this book isn't scheduled to be published until January 2013, so in the meantime I recommend checking out the author's website,!