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Andrea (Ontario, Canada)

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The Looneyspoons Collection: Janet & Greta's Greatest Recipe Hits plus a Whole Lot More
The Looneyspoons Collection: Janet & Greta's Greatest Recipe Hits plus a Whole Lot More
by Janet Podleski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.91
13 used & new from CDN$ 8.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favourite, April 28 2012
This is the first Janet and Greta cookbook I've ever owned but it has quickly become my new favourite. The pictures are vibrant and make every dish look tempting. The nutrition trivia throughout the book is interesting and I've learned quite a lot from just reading the book. The girls have a pretty cheesy sense of humour, but I do watch their show so I'm used to it and, truth be told, their puns do make me giggle every now and then. The book is well organized, nicely laid out, and easy to follow.

I've tried several of the recipes and have liked them all so far. My favourites are the Hawowii Meatball Kebobs, the pistachio-crusted whitefish, the Mexican pizza, and the linguine with chicken, veggies, and an Asian vinaigrette. I made the banana blueberry muffins for a book club meeting last week and they were a hit.

This book has really brought a new life to my cooking, which was starting to feel tedious. I look forward to flipping through the book when I'm planning meals and I even enjoy grocery shopping again. It was a Christmas gift and I'm so glad I got it - it was just what I needed!

I HIGHLY recommend this one!

Three Cups of Tea
Three Cups of Tea
by Greg Mortenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
409 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An incredible story, Sept. 21 2010
This review is from: Three Cups of Tea (Paperback)
In 1993, Greg Mortenson attempted to climb K2 and ended up lost on a mountainside in Pakistan, extremely sick. He spent several weeks recovering in the mountain village of Korphe and during his time there, he made a promise to the village that one day, he'd return and build them a school. What makes Mortenson's story so incredible is that even after he realizes how much money the project would require, how difficult it will be to get the supplies and bring them up the mountain, and how confounding it can be to deal with a culture and politics so different from his own, Mortenson keeps his word. Three Cups of Tea chronicles his experiences and details how the Korphe school led to several others in Pakistan, and eventually to the founding of the Central Asia Institute.

Mortenson's drive to get things done under the most hostile of circumstances is inspiring. At one point, he is even kidnapped by extremists near the Afghan border. Through it all, Mortenson persists where others don't even try, maintaining that the most effective way to fight terrorism and extremism is through education and attempting to understand each other rather than bombing. We do get to find out about how some of the first graduates of Mortenson's Korphe school fared and their success is a very convincing argument for his philosophy.

My only criticism of this book is that David Oliver Relin's writing style leaves a lot to be desired. Relin is lucky that Mortenson's story is compelling enough to overshadow the often inconsistent writing. Towards the end of Three Cups of Tea, Mortenson makes a promise to build the Central Asia Institute's first school in Afghanistan. This is where the next book, Stones Into Schools, picks up. I'm very much looking forward to this second book, especially as it was written by Mortenson himself.

The Mistress of Nothing
The Mistress of Nothing
by Kate Pullinger
Edition: Paperback
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars well written, not very satisfying, Sept. 16 2010
In 1865, Lady Lucie Duff Gordon's Letters From Egypt were published, telling of her experiences as well-respected English woman forced to relocate to a warmer climate in order to survive tuberculosis. In her letters, she mentions Sally, her lady's maid, but gives very little information about her. With this novel, Kate Pullinger attempts to fill that gap and tell Sally's story.

The story is well written; I really liked Pullinger's sparse style. The premise was interesting and I loved the way Sally's first view of Egypt from their boat was described. Her sense of awe and her joy were conveyed perfectly. I also really enjoyed all of the details of Egyptian life.

A couple of elements made the book unsatisfying, despite the good writing. First, the love story between Sally and Omar seemed unrealistic. There wasn't any build-up leading to it, it just happened and even though Sally is aware that Omar is already married, that fact never really comes into play until very late in the story. That left me wondering the entire time, 'But what about...?' In addition, Lady Duff Gordon's reaction to Sally and Omar's relationship seems very inconsistent with the way her character was developed throughout the novel and is never explained. In the end, I was left with more questions than any resolutions to the story.

Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself
Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself
by Judy Blume
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from CDN$ 3.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Brought back memories, Sept. 8 2010
One of my reading goals this year was to reread some my old favourites. I read my share of Judy Blume books way back when and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (along with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret) has stayed with me. I was curious how the story would hold up over time and if I'd still be able to appreciate what I loved about it the first time.

The story is set in 1947, when Sally is ten years old. The Freedmans ' Sally, younger brother Douglas, their mother and grandmother - relocate from New Jersey to Miami so that Douglas can recuperate from an illness. Sally has to negotiate a new home, a new school, new friends, a tense relationship with her mother, missing her father, and spying on their elderly neighbour whom Sally is convinced is really Hitler is disguise. With all of this going on, it's no wonder I always remembered this book being much thicker than it actually is!

The thing that struck me most in rereading this story is how dark it actually is when you're old/mature enough to realize what all of the subtext is referring to. Sally's grandmother has relatives that were killed in Dachau, Sally often plays games of make-believe where she is a spy in Germany on a mission to capture Hitler, and in the snippets of phone conversation between Sally's parents, an adult reader will recognize that there are more serious issues in their marriage than the kids are led to believe. I don't think any of these things are necessarily inappropriate for younger readers, though I do think that if I was a parent, I'd want to be aware of these topics and be prepared to discuss them with my child if they came up. In all likelihood, it may not come up; I was a fairly mature reader when I was in the tween/early teen stage and I don't remember picking up on all of this.

Another thing that struck me, and I have found this in re-watching some of my old favourite movies as well, is that I now tend to see things from the grown-up characters' perspectives than the kids. In this case, I felt for Mr. Freedman and really wanted to give Mrs. Freedman's head a shake. Ma Fanny (the grandmother) was great.

The story is entertaining and as it turns out, is semi-autobiographical. I can't say I loved it as much this time around but it did bring back some fond memories.

Midnight's Children: A Novel
Midnight's Children: A Novel
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.88
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but confusing, Sept. 6 2010
Salman Rushdie's writing style is easily to fall in love with, but it didn't take long before I realized that no matter how much I loved the way the words flowed on the page, I didn't really get what was going on. Rushdie's Midnight's Children is a densely packed tale of babies switched at birth, a nation divided, magic, history, love, prejudice, and war. It's beautifully written and often laugh-out-loud funny. It can also be confusing and frustrating.

"Midnight's Children" are those born within the first hour of the newly independent India. The story of Saleem's life is intended to parallel the events in India at the same time. It may be my own lack of historical knowledge of India and Pakistan during the 1960s/70s that made this a more difficult read than I'd anticipated.

I found that I had a hard time connecting with any of the main characters. The ones I was most sympathetic to were only around for a chapter at a time. The use of Padma as a means of addressing the reader got very tiresome after a while and didn't seem to be necessary. The whole novel seemed to be leading up to some sort of payoff that, in the end, never materialized. After a month of slogging through this novel, it was disappointing and unsatisfying.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
68 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good characters but overrated, Aug. 31 2010
Given the amount of hype surrounding the Millennium Trilogy, I had high expectations when this novel got picked for my book club. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The novel started off with a lot of information to absorb at once, most of which ended up being irrelevant. The pacing was awkward since it started off that way, then got intriguing, then got bogged down by too much detail again. By the time the mystery was solved, it was already pretty clear what the twist was going to be and some of the details seemed included just for the shock value. Larsson's writing style didn't really do it for me; his constant need to specify the exact brand or model of everything the characters are using drove me crazy.

Despite the criticisms, though, I will say that Larsson has created some interesting characters, especially Lisbeth Salander. I was interested enough in her that I ended up reading The Girl Who Played With Fire, which turned out to be a much more satisfying read.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why
by Amanda Ripley
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 23.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Eye-opening, Aug. 31 2010
I found the information presented here really interesting and eye-opening. Ripley takes us through the three stages of response in a crisis: denial, deliberation, and decision. I learned quite a lot that I didn't know before, for example: talking on a cell-phone causes tunnel vision, even for a short period after the call has ended (making talking on the phone while driving that much more dangerous!), one can have a genetic pre-disposition to PTSD, and the requirements for a situation to cause panic. That last one was particularly interesting to me since I have had my share of anxiety attacks in the past and one full-on panic attack which was scary at the time. I now have a much better understanding of why that happened. One of the things Ripley tries to stress throughout this book is that it is crucial to know your own 'disaster personality,' and have a well rehearsed plan in place so that when disaster does strike, you can jump into action right away. It made me more confident about my own ability to handle a crisis situation.

Penguin Classics Vanity Fair
Penguin Classics Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.92
82 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and Entertaining, Aug. 31 2010
Going into Vanity Fair, I had expected it to be something like Jane Austen meets Anna Karenina. I planned to read it just like I did Anna Karenina, in (roughly) 100 page blocks with breaks for shorter books in between. As it turned out, I got so into the story that I read it straight through. It was entertaining and funny. I enjoyed Thackeray's commentary on society. There were parts where he rambled on unnecessarily (in my opinion, at least) but never long enough to make the story drag. All in all, a satisfying read. I'd suggest, however, not getting the version of this novel with Reese Witherspoon on the cover. She is NOT Becky Sharp and I found her picture really distracting because it made it that much harder not to picture Becky as her.

A Thread of Sky: A Novel
A Thread of Sky: A Novel
by Deanna Fei
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.80
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written and deeply moving, April 8 2010
[Cross-posted to LibraryThing]

After the death of her husband, Irene feels the strain of loneliness and the resentment of her daughters, who hold her responsible for the circumstances of their father's death. Her three daughters are estranged from her, and from each other. Irene is estranged from her own mother and sister. This is a family that just doesn't know how to be together. In an effort to reconnect, Irene plans a two week tour of China for herself, her mother, her sister, and her three daughters. They all grudgingly agree, with very low expectations.

As the women travel around China together, we learn about how they came to have such strained relationships with each other, about their struggles to find a cultural identity that feels right as Chinese Americans, and about their fears of becoming the 'wrong' kind of women. While there is a distinct plot that moves forward throughout the novel, the story is primarily character driven. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the six women on the trip, and they are all incredibly complex and well drawn. At first, they seemed a little cold and not entirely likeable. As I learned more, I found them to be completely human. I could relate to some aspect of each character and while I didn't always agree with their choices, I sympathised with them.

China itself almost becomes a seventh character in the novel. Fei describes many of the sights that the women visit and gives some insight into China's revolutionary history. The culture and some of the current social issues that the Chinese people face are also presented here. I've always been fascinated by the country and its people, so this aspect of the novel was really interesting to me.

A Thread of Sky is a beautifully written and deeply moving story. Definitely recommended!

Miles from Nowhere
Miles from Nowhere
by Nami Mun
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.64
73 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Better if read as a series of short stories, April 3 2010
This review is from: Miles from Nowhere (Paperback)
If you plan to read this book, here is something I wish I had known before I started: this is not a novel proper. It reads much better as a collection of short stories. In fact, several chapters appeared in literary publications as short stories before ending up in the book. Knowing this in advance, and knowing that the chapters don't necessarily appear in chronological order would have saved some confusion and would have lessened the sense of disconnectedness I felt while reading it.

All of the chapters tell the story of Korean immigrant Joon, a teenage runaway in 1980s Bronx, NY. Her father left the family, her mother had a breakdown, and Joon took off on her own. She experiments with drugs, prostitution, petty crime, and a stint in a homeless shelter. Joon's story should have been deeply moving but I was never really able to connect with her or sympathize with her completely. It was written so matter-of-factly, with such a detachedness (that is odd considering how autobiographical some parts of the story are for the author) that I never felt much of an emotional pull. If I had not been expecting a proper novel, I probably would have appreciated the way the story was told much more than I did, and would have not have found it so forgettable.

For a story with similar themes, I'd recommend something like Lullabies For Little Criminals: A Novel instead.

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