The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel

Lilly and Val have been friends their whole lives.

Yet the story starts with an e-mail where you soon learn that they have not talked to each other in over two decades.

Although you are initially introduced to Val and Lilly in the 21st century, you quickly jump to their first letters and the start of their Recipe Club some thirty years earlier when they are young girls. Although the story is told in epistolary fashion - I found it quite unique and entertaining to read it this way. Through their letters and e-mails you learn of Valerie and Lilly's friendship, their parents, school and how each girl grows up to be the woman you first encounter at the beginning of the story. You are taken through a young girl's insecurities, to first sexual encounters, college, drugs, dreams of being famous, etc., and through it all there is a recipe that somehow coincides and goes perfectly with whatever situation or mood they are in.

I loved all the little details - from the doodling on the corners, to the different fonts, titles and colored papers used for the recipes. I love the signatures at the bottom of each letter (ValPal; Lillypad) - just by that you could tell how each girl was growing up as they slowly change throughout the course of the book.

I will forewarn that since it is basically a compilation of e-mails and letters, you are only privy to their lives as they write about it - you only get glimpses as to what happens between each letter, and that includes the times when the girls are together, unless they write about it you don't truly know what goes on. But in the end it really worked for me. I found it engrossing andI couldn't help but want to read more and more in order to get to the heart of their strife.

It is a heartwarming tale of two girls that you can only hope can overcome their differences and make it through stronger in the end. It is a story about friendship, love, loss, forgiveness and hope. This is feel-good chick-lit that I can definitely recommend.

This book was provided for review by FSB Associates.

Manic Monday Recaps (Week 11/30/09)

God, is it really the last day of November?

I had an extended long weekend since I took Wednesday off too, so now I'm sitting here at my desk contemplating whether or not I'd get fired if I called in sick tomorrow... lol - I went through the same thing this morning when my alarm clock went off. No, I know, I'm not calling in sick, but I just wish I were still home. Although I did accomplish a lot on my days off, I did not get much reading done [bows head in shame]. I only read two books all week long... how terrible right? But, I got my house all cleaned, had the dog groomed, was hostess on Thanksgiving, didn't sleep all night in order to partake of Black Friday sales (because yes, Toys R Us opened at midnight), put up the Christmas tree, had numerous trips up into my attic, baked cookies and cupcakes (I've never done cupcakes before so I was a bit worried, but luckily they came out perfect), and had a bbq yesterday at my house to watch the Dolphins play football. So yes, it was a hectic weekend but nevertheless it was perfect.

Here's what I plan on reading this week:

Last week I read the following:
- The Devouring - Simon Holt
- When Autumn Leaves - Amy S. Foster

I reviewed the following:
- Perfect Timing - Jill Mansell [review]
- Over the Moment - Garret Freymann-Weyr [review]
- Over the Holidays - Sandra Harper [review]

How was your weekend? What are you reading this week?


Bookcase of the Week [5]

Isn't this just adorable?! I actually really like this for a kids room. I love the messy, colorful, clutter, yet neatness of it all. I think this would be a lovely addition to any corner really. le sigh.

Seen any great bookshelves lately? Link them here:



Giveaway: Knight of Pleasure

Lady Isobel Hume is an expert swordswoman who knows how to choose her battles. When the king asks her to wed a French nobleman to form a political alliance, she agrees. But that's before the devilishly charming Sir Stephen Carleton captures her heart-and tempts her to betray her betrothed, her king, and her country.

Sir Stephen Carleton enjoys his many female admirers-until he dedicates himself to winning the lovely Isobel. So when a threat against the king leads Isobel into mortal danger, Stephen has a chance to prove that he is more than a knight of pleasure...and that love can conquer all.

GIVEAWAY: I have 5 copies of each up for grabs - thanks to the lovely Anna at HBG.

As always, leave a comment for one entry. If you'd like extra entries just say so in your comment or separate comments (extra entries for followers, Twitter, sidebars, Facebook, etc.) ; and for putting my spiffy little button on your blog. Make sure to leave an e-mail address, especially if you are leaving a comment under Anonymous.

Rules: This contest is open to U.S. & Canada residents only. No P.O. Boxes. Winners will be drawn Friday, December 18.


Giveaway: It Happened One Night

Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it.

Lana Biel has always wanted to shake the dust of Vermont off her feet and see the world, one exotic country after another. But when a lighthearted spring fling changes her life forever, she turns to the one man whose strong shoulders can lighten any burden: her best friend, Eli Ward. Eli has always been there for Lana--after all, that's what best friends do. But Lana isn't the only one hiding something. Eli is keeping secrets of his own that threaten their relationship. Yet as summer turns to fall, new desires awaken between them, even as old fears tear them apart. Then, when another Vermont winter fills the valleys with snow, Eli and Lana are given the chance for an adventure greater than they ever dreamed possible...and a love that will last for all time.

GIVEAWAY: I have 5 copies of each up for grabs - thanks to the lovely Anna at HBG.

As always, leave a comment for one entry. If you'd like extra entries just say so in your comment or separate comments (extra entries for followers, Twitter, sidebars, Facebook, etc.) ; and for putting my spiffy little button on your blog. Make sure to leave an e-mail address, especially if you are leaving a comment under Anonymous.

Rules: This contest is open to U.S. & Canada residents only. No P.O. Boxes. Winners will be drawn Friday, December 18.

i heart

this picture.

I know I've said this post would be book-related... and, well, there is a book in the picture thus qualifying it for my weekly i heart meme's. ;)

This picture actually comes from Anthropolgie's winter catalog. I'm absolutely smitten with their colorful, glossy layouts of snowy goodness. But out of all the pictures, this is my favorite. Why? Well, there's a book in it, duh. Plus I love the snowy awesomeness... just the thought of all that fluffy snow scattered throughout this home just brings a smile to my face. Maybe it's because I live in Florida and for me to see snow I have to pay a couple of hundred bucks to get myself out of South Florida... but snow makes me happy.

Thus, I'm spreading the joy.

Have a...

Click here for fun turkey trivia - which I might add was much harder then expected. (I only got 7 right - sheesh). If you do it, tell me how many you got right... I'm nosy like that. Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. :D


Giveaway Winners

Pictures of food always make me happy... and food with happy faces even more :D

I've been busy with work and just life and I have been remiss in posting my winners for several giveaways that have now ended. Sorry you guys... I try for that not to happen too ofter. So without further procrastination,

the winners are:

The Historian
Virginia C
I Heart Book Gossip

The Last Song [audiobook]

A Change in Altitude [audiobook]

Kate DiCamillo Giveaway

Way to go you guys! Winners were chosen using I will be e-mailing each of you - by the end of the week, I promise. But, feel free to email me your address if you see that you've won. You have until Wednesday to get back to me, if I haven't heard from you by then, a new winner will be chosen.

If you're still interested in more giveaways, check out my giveaways page [here]. More giveaways will be posted soon - so stay tuned.

Over the Holidays by Sandra Harper

The best holiday traditions are meant to be broken.

It's only December 1, and Vanessa Clayton has been dreading Christmas since she spotted tinseled trees at her local mall in September. Thankfully, she and her husband, JT, can't afford to drag their twin boys across the country to New England for the annual celebration at her stuffy sister-in-law Patience's home. Not that Vanessa has prepared a proper Christmas for her family in years, and she has less time than ever since she agreed to consult on the script of a local play. Her older sister, Thea, is no help -- she'd rather make art and flirt with surfers than babysit her nine-year-old nephews. Then Patience drops a holiday stress bomb: Her family will come to California instead.

In between "baking" cinnamon rolls for the school potluck and overbearing Patience testing her patience, Vanessa can't stop thinking about the difficult but charming playwright at work. Meanwhile, Patience's teenage daughter, Libby, obsesses over a college boy she has met by the pool, and Thea searches desperately for the meaning of Christmas -- for her latest installation, of course. As their holiday plans go comically awry, these four women discover the true spirit of the season is hidden in every festive surprise. [borrowed from GoodReads]

Three women, three different ideas for the perfect Christmas... and, of course, nothing going as planned. I thought each character - Vanessa, Patience, Thea - were well fleshed out and, although flawed, were fun to read about.

Patience had that Martha Stewart appeal to me. She wanted the perfect Christmas - I sympathized with her the most, because I myself get all stressed and worried about making everything absolutely perfect for the holidays (sans the snow since we're in South Florida). Vanessa was the most relateable though. She was the one dealing with her kids, job, stressing over money, impressing her sister-in-law and her family; all while trying to make their Christmas traditions as perfect as possible with everything that could go wrong, going wrong. Thea was just a free spirit with no cares - you just had to love her.

This was a fun, fluffy read. All sorts of holiday hoopla ensues. It had plenty of laugh out loud moments. Ms. Harper's writing was fun, young and hip. I will forewarn there was some cussing, but nothing that can't be overlooked. I really enjoyed this and though t it was the perfect read for this time of year. I guarantee there is at least one moment in this book that you can relate to. If you are a fan of chick lit with a fun holiday twist or just in the mood for a light, entertaining read, you won't want to miss out on this one.

This book was provided for review by Pocket Books.


After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr

Leigh Hunter is getting ready for the summer before his senior year in high school, he’s going out with an amazing girl, is already worrying about college applications, and the like - he’s a typical 17 year old boy. But when his step-sister Millie requests that he come live with her at her time of loss, he has no qualms about picking up and moving to a different state to live with his father, stepmother and stepsister.

Although his main goal is to help Millie overcome her loss - he soon begins to fall for Millie's friend Maia. Maia Morland is a veritable train wreck. She has issues with her mother, her beloved step-father is in jail, she's suffering from anorexia, cuts and has even burned herself at times. Leigh can't help but want to help Maia, but sometimes best intentions don't always work out as planned.

I absolutely love how this story starts. Leigh is at a party at a posh apartment in New York City and in walks Maia... it's been years since they've seen or heard from each other. And although you are reading in the third person, you know Leigh still has some feelings for Maia. What happened? How did they get here? Why? I love that!

Thus my interest was piqued and I read the whole thing in a few hours flat. I loved Leigh. He was such a good boy. He was helpful, selfless and just the all-around perfect boyfriend that all girls dream of. Maia, although flawed, was also likeable. Although she had issues with self-mutilation, you just couldn't help wanting to take her under your wing and protect her from everyone, including herself.

I am surprised that this is considered a YA novel - since it did touch on some heavy issues, yet I can understand why since most of the main characters are all teens. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this.

It is a story about love, loss, heartbreak, trust and betrayal. It is about coming-of-age and first loves. Ms. Freymann-Weyr's writing is simple, her characters are relatable, and her story is immensely engrossing. This is one that shouldn't be missed.

This book was provided for review by:


Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell

Poppy Dunbar and her friends are out on the town - having a good ‘ol time celebrating Poppy’s last night as a single lady. But when Poppy stumbles - practically into Tom’s arms - he definitely throws a kink in her plans. Before the night is out, Poppy comes to terms that marrying Robbie might not be the best thing for her. She breaks the news to her father and to Robbie and his family and quickly packs up her bags and heads off on a new adventure.... a new life in London.

Poppy's life in London - is the perfect romantic comedy. The acquaintances she makes, her new living arrangement, flatmates, possible love interests, and all these comic mishaps, that will have you laughing out loud.

This is my first Jill Mansell book - and I can't believe what I've been missing out on. I need to get my hands on another one stat. This was fabulous. It is British Chick Lit and it is just plain wonderful. I loved Poppy and all the shenanigans that ensue shortly after you start reading about her. All the characters you meet along the way are just so unique and quite special really. This was a ton of fun to read, with plenty of nail-biting moments as to who Poppy's love interest would finally be. I read this rather quickly as I was intrigued from the start. This is chick lit at it's best - especially with all the hilarious situations Poppy finds herself in. I highly recommend.

This book was provided for review by Sourcebooks.

2010 100+ Reading Challenge


Once again, J.Kaye is hosting the 100+ Reading Challenge. I absolutely loved this challenge this year and finished it much sooner than expected. Actually, I've almost read 200 books this year so I'm sooo very proud of myself. Hopefully next year will be the same.

Click here for challenge sign-ups and rules.

Manic Monday Recaps (Week 11/23/09)

Phew... gosh it was hectic last week and that even includes the weekend. So much to do so little time.

So did you see New Moon? I did! I liked it. I thought it stayed true to the book and the parts that were changed for the movie (which were not many) I thought only added to the story. I dragged the hubs to watch it (since he has not read the books) and he says it's a decent storyline... obviously not his taste, but it is watchable. My only complaint is the acting. For some reason I don't think the acting is very good. It might just be me, but I always feel as if it's just "TOO" fake.

Other than the excitement for New Moon, had plenty to do with getting the house up to snuff for Thanksgiving and getting a new cell phone (which by the way, can almost take as long as getting a new car these days - urgh). Did not get as much reading done as I would have liked. I only read 4 out of the 5 books I wanted to so I'm carrying one over this week.

Here's what I plan on reading this week:

Last week I read the following:

- Viola in Reel Life - Adriana Trigiani
- Eyes Like Stars - Lisa Mantchev
- After the Moment - Garret Freymann-Weyr
- Matchless: A Christmas Story - Gregory Maguire [review]

I reviewed the following:

- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate DiCamillo [review]
- Hannah - Kathryn Lasky [review]
- Thirsty - Tracey Bateman [review/giveaway]
- Sins of the Flesh - Caridad Piñeiro [review/giveaway]

The 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge is well under way - with several reviews already linked up - the first giveaway for the challenge will be held on Saturday. I'm a little late on choosing winners for the giveaways I had ending Friday and Saturday so stay tuned and a post will be up shortly on who the winners are.

I also signed up for two challenges for next year - Young Adult Reading Challenge (I agreed to 50 YA books- yikes) and the 2010 Support Your Local Library Challenge. So if you're interested you can find the links directing you to the challenge sites by clicking on the above links. If you're into audio books, check this giveaway out.

That's all I got for you. TTFN.


Bookcase of the Week [4]

I love these! I love that you can slip them and slide them around. Very neat and art deco-ish look. Very unique and they look so simple and clutter-less. I love the white walls - which also make the colorful books or knick knacks stand out. I think this would be great in an apartment, studio or flat. Love 'em. What do y'all think?



Audiobook Giveaways

When Marilyn Monroe became famous in the 1950s, the world was told that her mother, Gladys Baker, was either dead or simply not a part of her life -- depending on the publicity campaign of the moment. However, that was not true. In fact, her mentally ill mother was very much present in Marilyn's world. The complex family dynamic that unfolded behind the scenes as Miss Monroe blazed a path to iconic glory is a story that has never before been told...until now.

David Foster Wallace made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets near. In his exuberantly acclaimed collection, BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, he combined hilarity and an escalating disquiet in stories that astonish, entertain, and expand our ideas of the pleasures that fiction can afford.

After a decade spent in isolation in the Ugandan jungles thinking about stuff, David Cross has written his first book. Known for roles on the small screen such as "never-nude" Tobias Funke on Arrested Development and the role of "David" in Mr. Show With Bob And David, as well as a hugely successful stand-up routine full of sharp-tongued rants and rages, Cross has carved out his place in American comedy. Whether deflating the pomposity of religious figures, calling out the pathetic symbiosis of pseudo-celebrity and its leaching fandom, or merely pushing the buttons of the way-too-easily offended P.C. left or the caustic, double-standard of the callous (but funnier) right, Cross has something to say about everyone, including his own ridiculous self.

A Multi-Cast Production / Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A Separate Country is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins.

Uwem Akpan's stunning stories humanize the perils of poverty and violence so piercingly that few readers will feel they've ever encountered Africa so immediately. The eight-year-old narrator of "An Ex-Mas Feast" needs only enough money to buy books and pay fees in order to attend school. Even when his twelve-year-old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, his dream can't be granted. Food comes first. His family lives in a street shanty in Nairobi, Kenya, but their way of both loving and taking advantage of each other strikes a universal chord.

In the second of his stories published in a New Yorker special fiction issue, Akpan takes us far beyond what we thought we knew about the tribal conflict in Rwanda. The story is told by a young girl, who, with her little brother, witnesses the worst possible scenario between parents. They are asked to do the previously unimaginable in order to protect their children. This singular collection will also take the reader inside Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, revealing in beautiful prose the harsh consequences for children of life in Africa.

Akpan's voice is a literary miracle, rendering lives of almost unimaginable deprivation and terror into stories that are nothing short of transcendent.

GIVEAWAY: These are AUDIOBOOKS. I have 3 copies of each up for grabs - thanks to the lovely Anna at HBG.

Your comments will enter you in all giveaways unless otherwise specified. If you have a preference, also mention that in your comment.

As always, leave a comment for one entry. If you'd like extra entries just say so in your comment or separate comments (extra entries for followers, Twitter, sidebars, Facebook, All About {n} button, etc.) Make sure to leave an e-mail address, especially if you are leaving a comment under Anonymous.

Rules: This contest is open to U.S. & Canada residents only. No P.O. Boxes. Winners will be drawn Friday, December 11.

About Author

Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South.

Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire

Matchless is a “reillumination” of Hans Christian Andersen's story The Little Match Girl. This book was originally commissioned by NPR and read by Mr. Maguire on "All Things Considered" on Christmas day 2008.

The story is told in four parts. In it we meet Frederik. Frederik and his mother live in a fishing village. They are poor - have very little food and only one match to help keep them warm. His mother is the queen's seamstress and is constantly being called to rescue the queen from her "iron foot" (or so his mother calls it, since she constantly steps on the hems of her dresses).

Frederik has a vivid imagination and has found a way to entertain himself (while his mother is away) by making a small town out of cardboard boxes, broken bowls and even thread-less spools. This is his way of escaping the bleak reality of his life.

One night while prowling the town for more items for his little town, his path crosses that of the little match girl. If you've read Hans Christian Andersen's tale then you know how that part of the story ends, but Mr. Maguire leads Frederik and you, as the reader, down a path that will have you believing in miracles, the permanence of spirit, and the continuity that links the living and the dead.

Mr. Maguire did a fabulous job intertwining the story of The Little Match Girl (which he leaves mostly intact, except for some very minor details) and that of Frederik. The illustrations are all drawn by him - which alone were a treat. This very short (only 112 pages) story - brings the heartbreaking and desperate tale of The Little Match Girl and suffuses it with a bit of magic, yearning and warmth that will leave you feeling hopeful. This one should be read out loud and savored and, although a bit on the tragic side, it has a timeless feel to it.

I wouldn't say I recommend it to everyone, but for fans of Gregory Maguire, Hans Christian Andersen, or those who like fairytale remakes, this is one you should pick up.

2009 Holiday Reading Challenge Wrap-Up Links


So you've completed the challenge - leave your wrap-up post links here.

2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge

J.Kaye is once again hosting the 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge. Although I did not join this challenge last year, I am definitely IN this year. Why? Well because as of a few months ago I am the proud owner of a shiny Miami-Dade County Library Card. *sparkles*

Yes, I have become quite the supporter of my local library in recent months. The online resources and the quick runs to the library on the weekends have just become part of my weekly routine. *sighs*

I really don't know why I did not think about this before. I mean, my wallet is definitely suffering less with me not purchasing every single book I read. So yes, this is a good challenge for me.

For challenge info and sign up's, click here.

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