Sunday, June 29, 2014

Home is Where You Hold Your Books

BBooks ar
I love my bookshelves. I recently put another in my bedroom which enabled me to pull some of my favorite books out of storage after six long years since our last move. It wasn't until those well loved volumes were readily accessible in my room that I finally felt like I truly had finished moving in. The fog of temporary arrangement dissipated and suddenly I inhabited the space. 

I don't believe in going anywhere without books. If I don't have something to read, then I've probably brought something I'm writing, because I always carry a story with me. I collect them, and I share them. They're a fundamental piece of what makes me tick. So of course, I like book shelves. I carry a bookbag rather than a purse, because books are joy, even when they're full of heart ache and suspense. They fill the gaps between our experiences and the experiences of others, they help us learn and grow, heal and flourish. 

Carry a book wherever you go. It' a wonderful way to improve almost any day. Keep books near you. Fill your world with them. They're a wonderful way to improve a home and give new perspective on life.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cover Reveal: A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley – Guest Post and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley

presented by Month9Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Besides the dream of seeing your book in print, one thing so many authors daydream about is what the cover will look like. I come from an artistic background. My grandmother was a watercolorist, and I actually spent time in college as an art major before switching first to forensic pathology (don’t ask—it obviously didn’t last) and eventually English. As someone who’s visual, I was excited and, to be honest, nervous for what Month9Books would come up with as the design for the cover of A MURDER OF MAGPIES.
Georgia McBride asked for my input, which I know is rare because so often authors don’t get much say, if any, in their cover art, but I still didn’t know what to expect. Yet when I saw it, I adored my cover. How could there be any other cover for A MURDER OF MAGPIES? The design brings in details like the cobblestone roads of the book’s setting, Black Orchard, Wisconsin. I could imagine walking down that road in the fog and knowing someone was watching. The antique-style light plays off Vayda’s family’s business in the antiques trade as well as her ability to take emotion and turn it into electricity. Then the bird . . . I love the bird’s position as it is hunched over to peck at the ground as if uncovering a secret, and this is a story where everyone has secrets.
FINAL_ A Murder of Magpies_Bromley
Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.
No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it's not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.
Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.
Unwanted. That's all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can't explain the hold she has on him--inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn't know what her powers can do. Yet.
Just as Vadya and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn't so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.
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Title: A Murder of Magpies
Publication date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Sarah Bromley
Sarah Bromley
Sarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and two dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she's not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!
(Winners will receive their book on release day)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fries and a Novel

So, you live in an area with a thriving library system, but just never manage to get to the library? The community we visited the other day's Culver's is making access to books one step more simple by hosting a Little Free Library. It may not be on the drive-through, but it certainly stands to get a lot of traffic from people hungry for more than just a butter burger. Stocked with enjoyable books, their LFL was a beacon of light in a well landscaped picnic area.
Keep your eyes peeled for these little guys, you never know when you may stumble across one in the most unexpected places.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rebuilding Communities, One Book at a Time

About sixteen years ago I drove through the town directly north of where I live, and it was falling apart. I remember visiting the downtown area and thinking how very sad it was that the community was dying. Soon after the mall closed, then the largest factory. Store after store seemed to be toppling. The roads were in bad condition, there was a liter problem, the town was becoming a dilapidated area people shook their heads when talking about, then shrugged their shoulders, asking "whaddya gonna do?"
Well, through a massive coordinated effort between municipal planning, corporate philanthropy, and a lot of vision, that community has been transformed. I frequently marvel at the resurgence of independent business, the thoughtful landscaping, the arts driven initiatives, and the amazing progress that's taken place in this community of some 30k people. But the last time I drove in for the Saturday morning farmers' market, for which they block off the heart of downtown for a live music and dog friendly open air street vending experience, I noticed something that made my heart even happier.
Within less than two blocks I came across two little free libraries.  Wow. Right? But it doesn't stop there. Turns out, that within just a few blocks, there are six. Six Little Free Libraries. To me that says that this community cares about rebuilding not just on the outside, but on the inside. They believe in educating as well as employing, and that sends a powerful message to the people who visit the community as well as those who live there. So hat's off to you, Beloit, WI. All in all, Beloit houses sixteen. 

To find out more about the Little Free Library program, check out the movement that is revolutionizing communities and access to books.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Win a Kindle Fire HDX, $229 Amazon Gift Card, or $229 Paypal Cash

Enter to win 1 of 2 great prizes. Winner’s choice of a Kindle Fire HDX or $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 Paypal Cash! The first prize is available via the rafflecopter below. The 2nd is available only to bloggers who post about this giveaway. You can find info on how to enter the 2nd giveaway in the rafflecopter. June Kindle Fire  
Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HDX (US Only - $229 Value)
  Or $229 Gift Card (International)
  Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

We're the Center of the Universe: Science's Biggest Mistakes About Astronomy and Physics

One of the great things about science is that it is a method by which we get to seek answers to the really big questions. Of course, science gets it wrong, a lot, along the way to getting it right. When I was young, a science teacher once introduced himself and then immediately apologized for lying. He said he didn't mean to, but that when you taught science, it was pretty much guaranteed that something the scientific community supported would eventually be proved wrong, but that was okay. Science gets new data, reforms it's ideas, adapts and moves on to solve bigger questions. That's why science is cool.

In that spirit, Christine Zuchora-Walske's book, We're the Center of the Universe: Science's Biggest Mistakes About Astronomy and Physics really makes me smile. It sums up not only the ideas of yore, but why they made sense to the people who came up with them. I like it because it makes me feel like the kid who reads this is going to say "so even if I get the science wrong, there's something to gain from the process of seeking the solutions." I like that.

I like this book because it approaches the history of ideas and illustrates that what seems like the common heiliocentric view of a vast universe we inhabit, in a relatively unpopulated solar system is a very recent concept. These are important ideas and they're presented in a fun and accessible voice. 

This was a fun read and I can think of about ten of my nieces and nephews who  need to read it.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version

If you come to adulthood as an ardent lover of fairy tales, then this book may know your true name. An anthology of tales both familiar and somewhat obscure, these are not precisely the tales we all grew up on, but instead are more the tales that were before they were made modern-child-friendly. Of course, I pulled it down off a library shelf that was most assuredly not in the juvenile section, so that doesn't surprise me. In this compilation, Pullman not only takes the reader through the woods and into the realm of the classic fairy tale, but also journeys the extra mile, detailing common variations and explaining the origins of the stories that have so greatly influenced western literature.
I don't recommend a cover to cover read through of this gem. Pick up a tale, read it through. Set it down, let it roll around and stew. Come back to it and enjoy it some more, or else the overwhelming archetypes and formulaic plots may begin to wear you down. Don't blame Pullman, after all, these all started as folk tales. Be warned, these are not the coddled tales you watched as a child, nor are they the safe tales you might read to a small child at bedtime. These are simply fairy tales that speak to the collective unconscious and stir memories we forgot we had. Enjoy them.

Then when you're thoroughly steeped in fairy tales,the rich culture behind them, and the surprising crassness and brutality of them, I recommend picking up Jane Yolen's Briar Rose for something vaguely familiar, and yet completely different.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers from the Past

Seldom does a book offer a sweet poetic tale for children and a more in depth poetic journey for the caregiver, but Ivy in Bloom does just that. Illuminating the story of a girl who longs for spring and then delights in it's waking and blooming around her, and filled with lovely illustrations, Ivy in Bloom captures the yearning for spring and the soul refreshing qualities inspired by early flowers and the joy of warmth. Of course, I then moreover relished the wealth of spring poems collected at the end from which the inspiration for Ivy's story was taken.
This is a lovely book, and I enjoyed sharing it with my child.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag

If you've ever struggled to make your own bag and thrown your hands up in dismay, this is the book you want on your studio's shelf. If you've ever wondered how to "press" your seams when working with leather, you want this book on your studio's shelf. If you've ever gotten tongue tied trying to describe the bag you wish you had, fumbling for the word to describe it, this is the book you need. Complete with a working lexicon of bags, Anna Mazur's Handbag Workshop will help you understand the difference between a messenger, a satchel and the more ladylike Kelly, and why a Minaudiere isn't the same as just any old clutch.

Complete with instructions, pictures, and really key warnings, like a friendly reminder that leather isn't going to heal if you pin it, Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag walks you through a plethora of projects, including the hard things, like how to attach diverse bits of hardware and trims for the one of a kind professional and artisan look.

Now, not every project in the book was my cup of tea, but the techniques from every project can be applied to my own designs, and I'm all about that. Ultimately, a good workshop book needs to be adaptable and full of useful tidbits that can be applied to other projects rather than techniques that are so project specific that one will literally never use them for anything else, and Anna  M. Mazur's book really hits it out of the park in terms of knowledge that adds to the reader's functional technique repertoire. Because the instructions are clear and the pictures relieve any remaining questions, this is an easy book to use. The author gets bonus points for breaking down her bag designs into different sections for varying difficulty levels. I think I see a Tiffany Inspired Reversible Tote in my future- and a Cross-Body Sling Bag with Tablet Pocket. I'm a cross-body purse wearer, at the end of the day. It may not be the most elegant, but it is the most functional.

Happy Sewing!

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014



"I can't read this passage in a language I was never taught."

Poetry is a curious beast. As Potts wrote in Fable, the piece illustrated on the coverhis collection "began innocently enough." In the classic sense of a trickster poem, the first poem invites one into a simple setting, then twists the scenario masterfully. However, my favorite poems throughout this collection were the ones that encapsulated complex moments and ideas.

A moving and diverse collection filled with earthy and naturalist reflections as well as visceral reminders of humanity's relationship with the animals with whom we coexist and upon which we depend for our food. At times, the grit and brutality with which Potts reduces breathing life to meat and bone unsettled me, I far prefer unsettling poetry that made me feel than simple rhymes that failed to evoke an emotional response. Through his exploration of the natural world and man's interaction therewith, Potts seldom fails to deliver on the promise of emotional awakening.

Trickster, from University of Iowa Press, is a diverse collection, and of course every poem will not appeal to every reader, and likely each reader will find some poems off putting while others will knit themselves to the reader's heart. Trickster is filled with images that will haunt and short turns of phrase that will echo in the reader's mind for years to come. This is a fine collection to enjoy in a light breeze under the evening sky, or perhaps in one's favorite reading chair in a living room that doesn't fill with smoke- though I suggest reading it on paper, because in a literary world seemingly devoid of modern technology,  there is something of a cognitive dissonance in reading it on one's e-reader.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Hand Stitched Home: Projects to Sew with Pendleton® & Other Wools

Filled with spirit bolstering photographs of great projects to make out of wool blankets that may be sitting underloved in your cedar chest, Hand Stitched Home: Projects to Sew with Pendleton® & Other Wools by Susan Beal offers a plethora of inspiration that doesn't drop off just because you don't own any Pendeltons. I, for one don't, but that doesn't stop me from eying all of the lovely underused wool that has accumulated in my house for the thrilling (maybe I need to get out more) pennant project she outlined. I admit, I have a thing for pennants.
I enjoyed the diversity of projects Susan Beal's book offered, and for me, it was the right book at the right time. I've been on a bit of a purging kick lately. Nobody wants to be a hoarder, but being wasteful is even worse in my head, so a whole book devoted to the repurposing of iconic textiles struck a chord with me. In addition to offering a wide variety of ideas, Hand Stitched Home offered careful and easy to comprehend instructions, and scaleable pattern pieces.
For anyone familiar with using patterns found in magazines or other books of this kind, it will be easy to fall right in with the directions and quickly find yourself on the road to turning vintage flea market finds and linen closet inhabitants into functional pieces in which you take great pride.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pizza on the Grill Expanded: 100+ Feisty Fire-Roasted Recipes for Pizza & More

Mind blown.
Hi. My name is Slee and I'm a pizza addict. When I was a kid my parents used to bribe me to study for my timed tests (yay basic math) with pizza for dinner every time I passed one. Let's just say that my mom was foundered of pizza by the end of the school year, but I could multiply fifteen three digit numbers in a minute with no trouble. I love pizza, and I think that this cookbook was written just for me. So, Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer, if you're reading this review: thanks guys!
I've been saying that we needed to figure out a way to properly cook pizza on the grill for years, so again, thank you. You've changed the way I look at the whole pie.
With a new spin on toppings, and a great walk through on dough making, this recipe book will have you walking through the farmers market eyeing things that before hand might never have gone near a pizza that now most certainly will have to.
I haven't had a chance to hone my skills yet, but I think this technique is completely masterable, and the fact that they've gone the extra mile to develop a gluten free dough? Well, hats off to Karmel and Blumer.
So, if you're a pizza aficionado, own a grill, and want to take the flavor to the next level, I highly recommend this book.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes: 100 Best-Ever Recipes

Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes: 100 Best Ever Recipes
I don't know if I am enjoying the pictures, the possibilities, or the few desserts I've ventured into attempting so far. Full disclosure here- my aunt is the genius in the kitchen (read: five-star pastry chef)- I'm just a woman who really likes some delightful cakes and cupcakes. I mean, what is better than a cake? A cupcake. What's better than a cupcake? Just about nothing.
I like the witty upside-down upside down cake photos. I love that this cookbook breaks down the recipes into easy to understand and follow directions, and that the good folks at Fine Cooking Magazine also included the nutritional information on every recipe. It stopped me from trying a recipe or two that I wanted to, but it also gave me the conviction that a few I might have shied away from were absolutely a-okay to go ahead and give a whirl.
Fine Cooking Cakes & Cupcakes: 100 Best Ever Recipes has a lot of great points, one of which is that it doesn't focus on just one type of cake, or just on traditional flavors. Instead of a plethora of chocolate and vanilla and a smattering of fruits, there are ginger and cinnamon, and all sorts of delightful goodies, like caramel.
There are recipes for breakfast cakes as well as the decadent indulgences one imagines when looking a cake and cupcake book.
I'm very glad to have this in my arsenal for entertaining and for when I have to pull something fabulous together for a potluck.
Full points for optical eye candy, and full points for a great set of recipes.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Saving Container Plants: Overwintering Techniques for Keeping Tender Plants Alive Year after Year

 In Alice and Brian McGowan's new book, Saving Container Plants, they give their readers a solid walk through to saving a wide variety of plants that it's fairly likely their readers were rebuying year after year in order to enjoy them year after year. Of course, that's wasteful, and so the McGowans have stepped up to the plate and offered some detailed advise on how to keep those tender plants alive without the benefit of the climates to which the plants are accustomed.  As a gardener at the northern edge of zone 5, I appreciate their advice tremendously.
In Saving Container Plants, I got a quick reminder on the actual difference between a perennial and an annual, with an emphasis on the fact that just because I treat it like an annual in zone 5, that doesn't mean it is really an annual, and then a walk through on how to choose which plants are likely to benefit most from overwintering via their recommended methods, always keeping in mind my own preferred overwintering patterns. No, no I'm not willing to turn my thermostat down below 65 degrees, but yes, yes my basement just might be about that temperature. Sunny windowsill in the basement, I've got... one.

A great thing about Saving Container Plants is that Alice and Brian McGowan don't assume the reader knows a thing about keeping a plant alive indoor or out of doors, and they don't assume the reader has remembered that they want to protect their floors or furniture from their containers, so they even remind the reader of the little things like saucers under the pots. They also point out that some plants, particularly  tropical ones, are probably going to like to be treated like houseplants and enjoy sitting in a sunny window or even benefit from artificial light, at room temperature, but that doesn't apply to all of the plants one might want to save. Drawing a distinction between plants based on origin, the authors outline different environments better suited to plants which require various degrees of dormancy during the winter months. Yes, Virginia, that may even mean putting some plants in a dark cold closet. Really. I know I had heard of overwintering some bulbs in boxes or bags before, but hadn't really read up on it before this, but now it makes a lot more sense.

In addition to outlining basics like how to meet the needs of tender perennials based on their origins, Saving Container Plants delves into techniques for taking cuttings to save a plant for the next season while saving space, as well as options for transplanting  and downsizing larger plants for the same reason.

The plant by plant breakdown of overwintering, propagation, and common pest problems is probably my favorite portion of the book, because if you know what you have, it can help a gardener quickly determine what to do with it, or if overwintering it is something feasible for  his/her space, energy, and commitment level. I do admit a twinge of guilt on reading the Aloe section as I didn't expect our sudden hard freeze that came so early last fall, and all my aloe died. I'll get it right this year. Promise.

Having Saving Container Plants on hand has also given me the courage to try try again to overwinter fuchsia. It is one of my favorite not-quite-hardy-enough-to-actually-grow-here plants, and my kids enjoy the berries all summer, so this year, we'll see if we can make a go of keeping it alive year round. I think if I couple a little tenacity with the advice in this book, I can do it.

All in all, I liked Saving Container Plants: Overwintering Techniques for Keeping Tender Plants Alive Year after Year. It contains a wealth of information to help keep one's plants healthy, and the words of wisdom necessary to keep it from overtaking one's entire home. I admit a moment's disappointment that my eye-candy seeking wasn't particularly rewarded this time. I freely admit that one of the reasons I garden and read gardening books is I like pictures of plants. The many gradations of greens always please me and I feel like I learn a lot from photos. That said, I think that in choosing to go the route of illustration, Saving Container Plants gains something for limiting distraction and focusing the reader's eye on what they're going to actually be looking for in practice. Besides, dormant plants aren't exactly the most photogenic.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book, only, in return for an honest review. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making

Beginning with a basic course in color theory which touches on the importance of both hue and balance, and helps to explain why designs work when both are in harmony, as well as walking designers through methods of fixing things when their palates are just a touch off, Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making is a treasure trove of accessible information.  I began quilting in 1999, but didn't become serious about it until 2003. Some of my quilts have worked gloriously, and some have remained UFOs in my closet because of palate or scale fail. I appreciate that Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making nips that problem in the bud.
Focusing on a set of ten workshops, each with directions, patterns, and it's own feel because they're each written by a different expert quilter, this guide will help anyone who wants to break away from traditional patterns and move into something that blends modern styles and sensibilities with the time honored traditions of patchwork and quilting. All in all, Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making is a great book for a quilt maker who wants to expand his or her repertoire of designs and learn to flourish in the negative space.  Despite the boring cover, I liked it. I enjoyed reading the simple to follow instructions, and found a lot of inspiration within the pages of this guide. This is a great book for those who love quilting but are growing tired of Ohio Stars and Dresden Plates.

Happy reading, and even happier quilting.

I received a free eARC of this title for review purposes. I have not been compensated in any other way for my review, which was not swayed in any way by the free nature of said ARC.