Sunday, June 30, 2013

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Women, Sex, Power and Pleasure, by Evelyn Resh

Before I go on vacation for the summer, I thought I'd leave you with a BOOK GIVEAWAY! Hoorah!

Enter to win a copy of Women, Sex, Power and Pleasure: Getting the Life (and Sex) You Want, by Evelyn Resh! You can read my review here

Contest ends September 30, 2013. Open to residents of U.S. and Canada over the age of 18. Winner will receive one paperback copy of the book by mail. Use the widget below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Strange Foods, by Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy (illustrated by Doug Jones)

Strange Foods
Authors: Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy 
Illustrator: Doug Jones
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2013 
I love these "gross but true facts" books for kids, but I wish this one had gone further. Don't get me wrong. The authors made some great choices for which "strange foods" to showcase--including various bugs, long fermented fish, egg and cheese dishes, and several odd foods made of feet. Oh, and bird's nest soup and that coffee made of animal poop. Those are definitely all strange, but I wanted more! The book could have been three times longer and I would have been happy. Where was balut? I wondered (if you don't know what balut is, I urge you never to Google it. It's icky.). Where was turkey casserole? my daughter Magda wondered (I told my daughter that most people would not consider that a "strange" food but she remained unconvinced).

Even though the book is short, it's very well done. The combination of photos, cartoon drawings and brief descriptions of each entry is sure to satisfy the curiosity of foodies and fans of the strange (and gross) alike. Perhaps they'll do a sequel? (Magda says they should include turkey casserole next time. Sigh.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Let's Make a Difference: We Can Help Oranguatans, by Gabriella Francine and Solara Vayanian

Let's Make a Difference:
We Can Help Orangutans 
Authors: Gabriella Francine and Solara Vayanian 
Publisher: BBM Books 
Publication Date: October 1, 2013

My three-year-old (well, she'll be four by the time this review is published, but she was three when we first read it) and I both loved this book, with its big, glossy photos of mother and baby orangutans. It has a lot of information about things that threaten orangutan habitats and how we can help. 

I do wish it had gone further though. As Magda pointed out, it looked like all of the photographs were just of the same mother and baby and she wasn't sure if there were any adult male orangutans pictured at all (I think she's right). 

The advice for how kids can help is limited to things like gathering change from couch cushions to send to charity organizations. After reading Joe the Monkey Learns to Share, from the Money Mammals series, Magda and I were both filled with ideas about having "Spend-Share-Save" jars so children can make charity a regular part of their money management, even at a young age (an idea that we did adapt at home). So by comparison, this seemed like limited advice, especially considering it's supposed to be a "Coins for Causes" book.

Overall, it's great BUT I wish it had included a lot more information. There are ways to make it accessible to both very young and much older kids, by including both large photos AND extra information (in the back or in information boxes). 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature, by Suzette Field

A Curious Invitation:
The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature
Author: Suzette Field
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
At first I was skeptical about a book about literary parties. I mean, what was the point? Still, I was--as the title suggested--curious. But it didn't take long for me to be convinced. By mid-way through the introduction, Suzette Field had me intrigued by the literary party as a means by which an author groups characters together, has them reveal things to each other, has them hide things from each other, has them on their very best and very worst behaviour, and sets the stage for dramatic outcomes. Plus, as she points out, reading about the party highlights of forty famous novels would, at the very least, provide the reader with things to talk about to make them sound parties of course.

I was particularly fascinated and delighted by which forty parties she chose to include. Some seem like obvious choices--Jay Gatsby's Saturday Night Parties or Finnegan's Wake, for instance--while others are more unexpected, such as references to The Bible or Satyricon. And quite a few were simply delightful inclusions: Queen Alice's Feast from Through the Looking Glass, A Pooh Party from Winnie-the-Pooh, The Flying Party from Life, the Universe and Everything, Bilbo Baggins' Eleventy-First Birthday from The Lord of the Rings and the high school prom from Carrie, to name but a few. For each party she describes the host, the guests, the setting, the food, the conversation and, of course, the legacy. There are quite a few spoilers though so you should proceed with caution.

Another great thing that the author does (at least in the advanced review copy) is include her email address so you can write to her and make a case for your personal favourite parties in literature so she can consider them for future editions of the book. I'm going to write to her about the merits of Sir Nicholas' Deathday Party from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Turkey Curry Buffet from Bridget Jones' Diary, and Bilbo Baggins' Unexpected Party from The Hobbit ("Carefully carefully with the plates!").

What about you? What are your favourite parties in literature? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists, edited by Chris Duffy

Fairy Tale Comics:

Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists 
Various Authors 
Editor: Chris Duffy 
Publisher: First Second Books 
Pub Date: September 24, 2013 
Fairy Tale Comics is an anthology of fairy tale interpretations by various artists so it's only natural that you might like some of them more than others, depending on your taste. I know I did.   

Some of the stories in the book are definitely not worth the price of admission, as they say (or in this case, the price of the book). "Hansel and Gretel", for instance, is crudely drawn--and not in an endearing way--and needlessly adds that the children are sent away by their stepmother. Was it their stepmother in the original? I'm pretty sure it was their parents. Why must we continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about stepmoms? It's ridiculous. 

Others are fantastic and charming. "Little Red Riding Hood" is beautifully drawn in a simplistic but extremely expressive style that I can't get enough of. Plus the lumberjack is a woman and I think she's my new favourite superhero. I wish I had a picture to show you. So good!

One thing that most of the stories have in common is that they stay fairly true to the original fairy tales. Except for a few minor tweaks (the aforementioned female lumberjack, for one) most of them are straight re-tellings of the classic tales, not re-interpretations. These are not Fractured Fairy Tales, Modern Fairy Tales, Feminist Fairy Tales, Twisted Fairy Tales, New Fangled Fairy Tales, or Fairly Stupid Tales. They're Fairy Tale Comics (just like they promised in the title!). That's about it. 

Sure, there are a few tweaks here and there. One family of princes drives pickup trucks while wearing Renaissance clothing (I didn't get it) and there is a version of "Beauty and the Beast" that uses cats and dogs (it's cute, but the themes of kidnapping and abuse are still the same). So if you love the classic fairy tales as they are and you love comics, you'll love this book. Personally, I loved some of the stories in the collection but certainly not all. Again, it's a matter of personal taste.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales, by Marta McDowell

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life
The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales
Author: Marta McDowell
Publisher: Timber Press
Publication Date: September 18, 2013
Oooh I love this book so very, very much! I, like the author, did not grow up reading a lot of Beatrix Potter books but I'm now obsessed with them. I've been reading them with my three-year-old Magda and we both love the world that Beatrix Potter creates, filled with rabbits, cats, hedgehogs and, of course, plants. 

Marta McDowell gives some marvellous insights into Beatrix Potter's life, influences and gardens. For instance, did you know that Mr. McGregor was probably the hired gardener, not the garden owner? THOSE WERE HIS EMPLOYER'S LETTUCES! 

If you didn't get that last reference, perhaps it's time to brush up on your Beatrix Potter. And you definitely should because she's wonderful! And after you've done that, you'll want to check out this book. It's filled with photos, illustrations and insights into Beatrix Potter and her wonderful cast of characters.

Do you think I could knit a Beatrix Potter doll for Magda? 

Also, since I first published this review, the book's publicist contacted me to let me know that the book's cover has been changed. The above image is the new one, but if you're interested in seeing the old one, you can check it out after the break.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go! by J. M. Hirsch (Introduction and Notes by Rachel Ray)

Beating the Lunch Box Blues: 
Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go!

Author: J. M. Hirsch

(Introduction and Notes by Rachel Ray)

Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: September 3, 2013 
J.M. Hirsch is the foodie for the rest of us. In an age in which the Food Network convinces us all we could be chefs if only we knew how to make things into foam, and Pinterest brags about all the things we should be making in mason jars (Hint: It's everything. Pinterest thinks we should be making everything in mason jars.), it's enough to make the average mom throw in the towel and buy some lunchables and call it a day. But J.M. Hirsch assures us there's a better way and it doesn't have to be hard.

In our household, lunch is that oft-neglected "freebie" meal that doesn't get much thought. Our three-year-old has peanut butter sandwiches and raw veggies more often than not, her dad grabs some pizza pockets to take to work, and I usually heat up some canned soup for myself. No one photographs anything and nothing is presented in mason jars (sorry, Pinterest). The Hirsch household is different. J.M. Hirsch is a bona fide foodie and his son Parker gets sent to school with lunches that are not only photographed and blogged, but are genuinely interesting (not so for every plate that gets photographed these days). 

While I'm not sure I could get most adults to be as food-venturous as Hirsch's son is (he once sent him to school with kangaroo steak and elk sausage, for goodness sake), I was inspired by the ideas in the book. I particularly liked the simple ideas, like making a "mini" lunch with baby cucumbers, baby bell peppers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, sliced baguette bread and small cheese. It's great for portion control for adults, as the author points out, and kids love the novelty of it. But it's still all healthy stuff. So simple and easy, but so clever. Another so-simple-it's-obvious-but-still-clever tip is to separate components bento-box-style so kids (or adults) can assemble it themselves. It saves breads from getting soggy and meatballs from getting cold (for meatball subs, for instance) and it also gives kids a sense of DIY, which they love.

One of my favourite features of the book is the "One Dinner, Two Lunches" idea. Hirsch presents a dinner menu idea, then shows you exactly (with gorgeous photos) how you would translate the leftovers into two different killer lunch ideas. Again, so simple but SO helpful.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears, by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.

The Opposite of Worry:
The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears
Author: Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.
Publisher: Ballantine
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
This book is full of practical, easy to understand and--more importantly--easy to implement ideas for cultivating and modelling positive coping skills for your anxious child. I was first drawn to this book not because I have a particularly anxious child but because, at three, my daughter has a few fears that send her into a tailspin (mostly related to animals and insects, and occasionally new experiences) and I wanted to help her get a handle on it before they became full-on phobias. I guess that's a pretty anxious reason to read this book. But I'm so glad I did!

Dr. Cohen begins by talking about an experiment he did in school with two chicks (I mean actual baby birds here, in case you were thinking anything else). He did an experiment in which he took one chick away from the other one and held it down briefly (he didn't hurt it). Then he stared at it "trying to imagine how a hawk would look at a chicken" to see how long the chicken would stay immobilized before deciding there was no danger. After a while, the chicken did indeed get back up. The second experiment involved taking both chickens and immobilizing them both, then releasing them. It took a lot longer for the chicks to get back up in that case. In the third experiment, he took both chicks but only immobilized one while the other walked around. In that case the immobilized chicken got up much faster than in either other case. From that, Cohen concluded that the scared (immobilized) chicken looked to the second chicken for reassurance that everything was clear. If the other chicken was walking around (not getting eaten) everything must be fine. If the other chicken is also crouching down immobilized, the danger must not have passed. 
File:K√ľken vor dem ersten Ausflug.jpg
photo credit: wikipedia

Dr. Cohen says that children behave in a similar manner. When they are alarmed by something (which causes anxiety) they have to wait for the "all clear" signal to know the danger has passed. If their "second chicken"--which is often their parents--behaves in a way that indicates everything is fine, the child will relax sooner. If the parent is also showing anxiety, the child will remain anxious longer. Of course many children who experience high anxiety do so because their "danger warning" trigger is set too high (i.e. they see danger everywhere, even in mundane things) or their "all clear" trigger is set too low (i.e. they have difficulty believing the danger has passed, even after being shown that it has).

The analogy of the second chicken is a great introduction to the book because it helps lay the groundwork for seeing anxiety in children as heightened responses to normal behaviour. It's important for us to recognize danger and to remain on high alert until we're sure the danger has passed, and it's natural for us to look to others around us to gauge their reactions to the situation. Sometimes helping children deal with their heightened anxiety is as simple as helping them lower their alarm response or exaggerating their "all clear" response. Well, it sounds simple but it can actually be quite frustrating for parents when your child refuses to walk into a room because she saw a bug in there an hour ago (true story).

That's why I'm so glad I found this book. Although my daughter's fears are not what I would classify as "high anxiety" she still has things that scare her to the point that she can't calm herself down, even if we reassure her that everything is safe. This book has already helped me find new approaches that are really working. I'll give an example from just a few days ago.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook, by Joe Yonan

Eat Your Vegetables:

Bold Recipes for the Single Cook
Author: Joe Yonan
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
I love, love, love the tone of this book. It's slightly scolding, as you can glean from the title ("Eat your vegetables!") but in a good way. In the introduction the author basically comes right out and says that if you live alone you probably eat crap and you should knock it off. Stop saving the fancy dishes for the dinner parties you're never going to have and cook yourself a proper meal! So true. I don't even live alone and I can relate to that. Plus even those dinner parties (that almost never happen) can benefit from some fancy vegetable recipes. How many holiday meals have I attended in which the vegetables are a total afterthought? A side dish boiled and thrown on the plate? Too many!

Not all of the recipes in the book are for vegetables (or even just for side dishes), but a lot of them are fruit and veggie heavy because the author's right. I do eat like crap too much. Way too much.

Now to plan my next dinner party...NO WAIT, I'VE LEARNED NOTHING!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Knit Christmas Stockings: 19 Patterns for Stockings and Ornaments (2nd Edition), by Gwen W. Steege (ed.)

Knit Christmas Stockings:
19 Patterns for Stockings and Ornaments
(2nd Edition) 
Editor: Gwen W. Steege
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Publication Date: August 21, 2013
If you really love the look of knitted Christmas stockings, this is a good book for you. The patterns seem simple enough and there are lots of variations on the same basic pattern. But...well...that's about it. Most of the stockings in the book look pretty much the same to me. There aren't a lot of "outside the box" ideas for stockings (like there are in Knit Your Socks on Straight, for instance, which had tassels and buttons and everything), and the "and Ornaments" part of the title is a little misleading. There are hardly any ornament patterns in the book, which I found very disappointing as that was the part I was most looking forward to. I'm not sure how this compares to the first edition, but I found myself underwhelmed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cozy Little Book Journal is Going on Summer Vacation!

Cozy Little Book Journal is going to be taking a much needed break for the months of July and August. It'll be a chance to catch up on my reading, do other things, focus on my Shakespeare project, and just generally catch up with life. There will be no new reviews from June 30, 2013, until September 1, 2013 (except for blog tours I've already signed up for), though I may occasionally post book news and the like. 

I will also not be accepting any new review requests for the summer months. I apologize for any inconvenience. Publishers and authors, rest assured that any books that I've already agreed to review will be reviewed, but just not until September.

In the meantime, I plan to post more of my reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, Chapters-Indigo, Book Depository, Shelf Awareness (do they publish reviews? I can't remember), 49th Shelf, as well as publishers' sites, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. So there will be plenty of places for you to check out my reviews!

Have a great summer and happy reading!

Rifka Takes a Bow, by Betty Rosenberg Perlov (illustrations by Cosei Kawa)

Rifka Takes a Bow
Author: Betty Rosenberg Perlov 
Illustrator: Cosei Kawa
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 1, 2013 
This book doesn't come out until August 2013 (I'm writing this in May) but I'm already going to go talk to the children's department at my local library to ask them to order it for their collection. This book is an amazing find. It's about a little girl (Rifka) who hangs out backstage at the Yiddish theatre where her parents are both actors. That is, until the day she accidentally walks out on stage!

It's a lovely book about the drama and excitement of theatre, the precociousness of children who find themselves at their parents' workplace, the thrill of an audience and the little known history of Jewish theatres in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. It's a story from the childhood memories of the author, who is now in her nineties. More than any of that, it's a spectacular picture book. The artwork is, well, art. It's whimsical and fluid and I can almost hear music playing when I look at it. I'm not sure if you know what I mean by that last statement, but it's like the drawings are so lively and animated that I can easily picture them being part of an animated short film. They're absolutely lovely.

The artwork also reminds me of something but I can't quite put my finger on it. It's been driving me crazy since I read this book, but I'm not sure what it is. I thought maybe I had read some other books illustrated by Cosei Kawa, but I don't think that's it. I'll definitely be seeking out future books with her illustrations though!

I also liked that the story featured a little girl who learned about the appeal of the stage without just wanting to be a ballerina or a princess. I don't mean that as an insult to ballerinas AT ALL because I know they are very hard working performers who spend years perfecting their art. But children's literature has a lot of idealized images of ballerinas already and it was nice to see a little girl in a book exploring some other aspects of performance. Rifka not only learns about acting but also costume design, set construction, etc. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Crafty Creatures: Follow the steps to sew and knit the cutest critters, by Jane Bull

Crafty Creatures:
Follow the steps to sew and knit the cutest critters
Author: Jane Bull
Publisher: DK Adult
Publication Date: August 19, 2013
I liked this book but I really thought I'd like it more. The projects in it are all easy and cute, but most of them look more like decorative items than actual toys, so I'm not sure what I'd use them for. They're simply too cute (the word I'm looking for is "twee") for my taste, at least if they're just going to be sitting on a shelf or adorning a gift or something. I guess they could work as toys, but a lot of them are very small and two-dimensional (well, not REALLY two-dimensional, but nearly flat and only meant to be looked at from one know what I mean) so I don't know if my daughter would play with them much. 

At the end of the day, the projects all look like exactly what the title promised they would be..."crafty." They look like overly cute arts and crafts projects. If you love them, you'll love the book. If you don't, you probably won't. I've included some illustrations from the book to help you decide for yourself.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Last Minute Father's Day Book Ideas

Father's Day is tomorrow! Here are some last minute book ideas (you may need to turn off your ad-blocker to see them):

Friday, June 14, 2013

Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overeating, Underperforming, and Coping with My Crazy Family, by Mark Brennan Rosenberg

Eating My Feelings:
Tales of Overeating, Underperforming, and Coping with My Crazy Family 
Author: Mark Brennan Rosenberg 
Publisher: Three Rivers Press 
Publication Date: August 6, 2013

OMG I feel like I just met Mark Rosenberg and already I want to hang out with him, like, everyday. He can come shopping with me and Ross Matthews who is definitely my new best friend. We'll gossip about celebrities, or better yet, '90's celebrities that we all still remember and wish would become famous again. He could make his case for Taylor Dayne and then he could help me track down the current whereabouts of Roxette. And there would be cake. Obviously.

But it's not all stories about cake and celebrities. There are also some poignant and sometimes heartbreaking stories about his childhood (he did not get along with his stepmother AT ALL), about growing up as a fat little gay kid with parents and stepparents who disagreed about everything from religion to which summer camp to send him to (his mom wanted to let him keep going to the obviously superior theatre camp while his stepmom overruled the decision and sent him to basketball camp...which actually turned out to be fat camp. No wonder he didn't like her).

I didn't know anything about the author before I read this book, but it turns out he's the author of the blog, The Single Life of a Manhattan Homo (already bookmarked it) and the previous book, Blackouts and Breakdowns (which is going on my TBR pile IMMEDIATELY). Also--and he doesn't know this now so don't ruin it for him--he's now my new best friend. Well, him and Ross Matthews. Obviously.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Out of the Frying Pan (A Poppy Markham Culinary Cop Mystery), by Robin Allen

Out of the Frying Pan
(A Poppy Markham Culinary Cop Mystery)
Author: Robin Allen
Publisher: Midnight Ink Books
Publication Date: July 8, 2013

It was pretty good. With an amateur sleuth in the form of a food safety inspector (but I like "culinary cop" better) and a murder that takes place on an organic farm, it satisfies the cozy mystery fan AND the wannabe foodie in me. And a lot of the characters are fantastic, particularly the socialite stepmother (whom I pictured as a slightly younger Lucille Bluth). But at times I felt like I needed the out of state translation guide. It seemed VERY Texas at times, with more references to college football than I could keep up with. There were entire passages I had to reread slowly just to figure out which things I needed to look up. This should not be a problem for people who know about Texas, American colleges, or sports, but I fit into none of those categories. 
Apart from being a little confusing (almost convoluted) at times, I'd give it a solid B+.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Get Started: Knitting (Learn Something New), by Susie Johns

Get Started: Knitting
Author: Susie Johns 
Publisher: DK Adult 
Publication Date: December 17, 2012 
Hooray! Finally! This is the beginner knitting book I've been looking for! As some of you may know if you follow my reviews, I started knitting a few months ago, almost by accident (okay, from spite, but that's another story) and I've been looking for books that would help get me from "someone who can make a knit stitch and a purl stitch" to "someone who actually knits things." There seems to be a step missing in there that a lot of books and instructional videos (and ladies at the library who knit socks and sweaters) seem to leave out. They all seem to say, "If you can knit and purl you can make anything! That's all you need!" Um no. That's ridiculous. There's a LOT more to it, like understanding patterns, figuring out the eighteen million versions of adding and decreasing stitches or casting on or off, changing colours and making patterns, not to mention buttonholes and...really the list goes on and on. 

Luckily this book has me covered. It's a step-by-step guide to about a million different aspects of knitting that a lot of other books just take for granted that I either already know how to do, or will at least pick up with minimal instruction. This book doesn't make any assumptions. It's just a broad, easy-to-follow overview of everything. The photos are easy to follow, plus each step also uses illustrations, written instructions and photo examples of finished products. And if that isn't enough, they also explain each technique using the various "knit-speak" names for that technique, so it'll be easy for me to look up specific things on the internet (or at the library knitting circle, which still intimidates me) if I want to see videos of the process.

There are some projects included in the book, mostly for the purposes of encouraging beginner and intermediate knitters to test out new skills with increasingly difficult patterns and ideas.

In short, I love this book. Although I do wish I had the print copy instead of just the digital copy. I might have to go buy it (or borrow it from the library).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Amy, My Daughter, by Mitch Winehouse

Amy, My Daughter
Author: Mitch Winehouse
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Publication Date: May 29, 2013
(Originally Published June 26, 2012)
I do feel bad for Mitch Winehouse. No matter what else you may say about him, he is a father who has had to bury a child, and that's an experience no one would wish on another. So it's hard for me to criticize him too harshly because, at the end of the day, he's a grieving father and he has a right to his own memories and his own side of the story. He did, however, translate those memories into a book for everyone to see. So I can't read the book without criticizing him just a little.

Amy Winehouse was a troubled person with a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol. She was also a singular talent with a voice that comes along only once in a long while. She made poor choices in her personal and romantic life and died far too young. These are all facts that the whole world could see. And unfortunately her story is not unique. From Etta James to Whitney Houston, her story is one that has been told before. Of course that doesn't make it any less tragic. Like many fans, I was curious to read her father's book, even if I was a little skeptical about his motives. Was he trying to show the world the "real" Amy? Was he exploiting her death to sell his own book? Or was he just using the whole thing as an opportunity to reiterate that Amy was fine and that the press was just exaggerating everything? Shockingly, it was the last one. 

Somehow, despite the fact that he knew his daughter had an addiction to alcohol and hard drugs--an addiction that eventually killed her--and despite the fact that he had tried to get her to go to rehab many times, Mitch Winehouse still managed to spin her life story as "not that bad." Numerous times throughout the book he recalls incidents in which people told him that Amy was doing drugs but he responds by insisting that she wasn't or that it was greatly exaggerated. Even his stories about her rehab stints are filled with his own enabling behaviour, like helping her find "alternatives" to rehab that she would find easier (i.e. easier to sneak drugs into). I know it must be an impossible situation to live with an addict, particularly if it's your own child, but sometimes I found his stories maddening. 

She obviously was not fine, even if her Daddy thought she was.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye: The World's Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible's Ultimate Mysteries, by Len Bailey (foreword by Warren W. Wiersbe)

Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye:
The World's Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible's Ultimate Mysteries 
Author: Len Bailey 
Foreword by: Warren W. Wiersbe
Publisher: Thomas Nelson 
Publication Date: May 7, 2013 

I really, really enjoyed this book! Since it's a book about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson travelling through time to solve Biblical mysteries--complete with Bible study questions and notes on scripture--it's sort of fan fiction on multiple levels. Because of that, I feel I should disclose my own bias--i.e. where on the fan-fiction fan spectrum I fall. 

First of all, I LOVE mysteries, particularly Sherlock Holmes. Actually, I have a particular fondness for modern day mysteries set in Victorian London and written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (so, fan fiction, essentially). That alone was enough to make me want to read this book. But I'm not Christian (despite my frequent reviews on Booksneeze), so I may not exactly be the target audience for this book. BUT here's a little secret: I actually love reading religious books, albeit in a non-religious way. I even have a degree in Religious Studies. So I've done my fair share of Bible reading, even though it was in a classroom more than a church.

Okay, now that I've alienated the atheists and the Christians alike, here's my review:

I really, really liked this book! The tone was just right to appeal to the Sherlock Holmes fan in me and the pace was that great combination of tension and intrigue. I honestly did want to know what conclusions Holmes and Watson would come to about each of these Bible "mysteries." I even found the bit about time travelling fun, what with them calling the device "The Needle's Eye" and all. (Get it? As in "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to reach the kingdom of heaven.") 

As the introduction to the book suggests, I read the book in order, simply enjoying each story as a mystery short story, only occasionally referring to the notes in the back or the Bible texts in question. But for the more serious Bible student, each chapter also has a series of study questions at the back of the book, with specific Bible passages to read and discuss. You can read those first and then compare your thoughts with the conclusions that our intrepid detectives make. It's pretty fun, actually.

Books like this are the reason I love the Booksneeze program. I may not be Christian, but I do love to expand my reading horizons and take chances on books I may not otherwise read. Though I have a feeling the Sherlockian in me wouldn't have been able to resist this one for long.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Shakespeare Roundup: Minimalist Shakespeare

I've started a new series of Shakespeare drawings using Facebook Graffiti called "Minimalist Shakespeare." So far I have illustrations for the 22 plays I've read this year. What do you think? If you like them, feel free to share them, just please credit and link back to me (either this blog or

Keep reading to see the rest!

Shakespeare Roundup: What I Learned from Henry IV, Part I

Here's what I wrote last week for My Shakespeare Year:

I admit I was apprehensive about the histories and so far I have found them a little intimidating, but it's almost impossible not to see the appeal of Falstaff and Prince Hal in Henry IV. Most of their scenes take place in a pub, either drunkenly planning or drunkenly recounting all manner of petty crimes unbefitting the heir to the throne. It's no wonder why King Henry wishes he could trade his son in for a better one.

Matthew Macfadyen as Prince Hal and Michael Gambon as Falstaff in Henry IV, National Theatre.
Photo: Catherine Ashmore (via

Falstaff and Prince Hal have been interpreted a number of ways, including as a street hustler and pimp in My Own Private IdahoBut as I was reading it I kept picturing them as the sort of characters who could be played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Sure, there isn't the age difference between them that there is between Falstaff and Prince Henry, but that same sort of slacker/wastrel/bad influence/best mate relationship is totally there. Can't you just picture Simon Pegg as the reluctant heir to the throne who spends all of his time at the pub with his up-to-no-good best friend who brings out the (hilariously) worst in him? If you've ever seen ANYTHING with the two of them in it, THEN OF COURSE YOU CAN.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg from Shaun of the Dead (2004) (via

There's even a scene at the end of Act III in Henry IV Part I in which Prince Henry realizes that he has to get up off his bar stool and actually go to war that reminds me of Simon Pegg's "this shit just got real" moment in Hot Fuzz

Prince Henry declares:

The land is burning. Percy stands on high,
And either we or they must lower lie.

To which Falstaff responds that he will gladly go to war with his friend...after a good breakfast.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg (with a swan) in Hot Fuzz (2007) (via

If Simon Pegg were a Shakespeare geek (which, FYI, he TOTALLY IS) he could definitely do justice to Henry IV. And maybe even have time for a Cornetto (which I just realized sounds like 'crown'--OH MY GOD IT'S SO PERFECT!). 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz (illustrated by Marie LeTourneau)

Is a Worry Worrying You?
Authors: Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz
Illustrator: Marie LeTourneau
Publisher: Tanglewood
Publication Date: April 7, 2007
I had heard about this book for years but had never read it. Since my own three-year-old, Magda, is prone to a few worries of her own (mostly nightmare related) I thought she might want to check this one out. It's about children who have "worries" in the form of a personified blue monster who pesters them. The things they worry about are deliberately silly, like having elephants over for tea and having nothing to serve them, or having a monkey steal your skateboard. And ultimately the advice is that you can make your worry go away by creative problem solving (serving lemonade instead of tea, borrowing the monkey's roller blades) or by ignoring it and refusing to let it in.

The book is cute but it left me with two new worries.

First of all, I was worried that the book would give Magda all kinds of new worries to worry about. Would elephants REALLY come over? If she's worried about something, does that REALLY mean a blue monster is lurking in the house somewhere? She already has enough dreams that a bear is trying to eat all of her stuffed animals, the last thing I wanted is for her to have new material for her nightmares.

And secondly, is this the best advice for worry-filled children? The problem-solving part is helpful, but I'm not sure how practical the "ignore it and it'll go away" part is. Fretful children (and fretful adults) often KNOW that they're being irrationally fearful and being told to "just stop worrying" can make them feel ashamed for not being able to do so.

I should explain that when I read this, I had just finished reading The Opposite of Worry: The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxiety and Fears, by Lawrence J. Cohen. If your child really does have serious worry or anxiety issues, I highly, highly recommend it.

from the author's website:
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.