Boss Babes: A Happy Book and Giveaway

Boss Babes: A Coloring and Activity Book for Grown-ups, Michelle Volansky

Published September 20th 2016 by Workman Publishing Company
Paperback, 96 pages
Source: Copies received from Publisher

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A playful and play-filled ode to strong women, BOSS BABES is a coloring and activity book filled with fun facts and whimsical black-and-white line drawings celebrating female powerhouses from Beyonce to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dolly Parton to Malala, Tina Fey to Serena Williams. On every page is a portrait to color or an activity to complete: Connect the dots to conjure J.K. Rowling’s patronus. Complete the Beyonce crossword (12-DOWN: Who run the world?). Decorate Flo-Jo’s nails, decode Cher’s most recent tweet, design a new jabot for RBG, color in Frida Kahlo’s flowers, and more!

My brain is too mentally and emotionally tired to read at night given the state of the world and my own life, so Boss Babes has brought some much needed levity to my house.  Here’s how I can best tell you this is a fun book – nearly every day I’ve been stealing my copy back from my 6 year-old who wants it only for herself.  How to make it clear that I need to design RBG’s jabot and not her?  

The activities are definitely adult, though they aren’t going to make you think too hard. I love the range of women Volansky included though obviously RBG is my favorite!  What other book can you think of that includes Cleopatra, Sally Ride and T. Swift?  Pick it up for yourself or I think this would be very fun in a Christmas stocking for your personal best boss babe.

So to spread the joy and the awesome women, here’s a Rafflecopter Giveaway for one copy! US only.  No giveaway accounts please and the entries close 11/22.

Who’s your best Boss Babe that you’d like to see included?

Thank you Workman Publishing for this super fun book and giveaway copy! 

Review: Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue: My Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish, Christine Gilbert

Hardcover, 336 pages

Published May 17th 2016 by Avery

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Imagine negotiating for a replacement carburetor in rural Mexico with words you’re secretly pulling from a pocket dictionary. Imagine your two-year-old asking for more niunai at dinner—a Mandarin word for milk that even you don’t know yet. Imagine finding out that you’re unexpectedly pregnant while living in war-torn Beirut. With vivid and evocative language, Christine Gilbert takes us along with her into foreign lands, showing us what it’s like to make a life in an unfamiliar world—and in an unfamiliar tongue.

Gilbert was a young mother when she boldly uprooted her family to move around the world, studying Mandarin in China, Arabic in Lebanon, and Spanish in Mexico, with her toddler son and all-American husband along for the ride. Their story takes us from Beijing to Beirut, from Cyprus to Chiang Mai—and also explores recent breakthroughs in bilingual brain mapping and the controversial debates happening in linguistics right now.

Gilbert’s adventures abroad prove just how much language influences culture (and vice versa), and lead her to results she never expected. Mother Tongue is a fascinating and uplifting story about taking big risks for bigger rewards and trying to find meaning and happiness through tireless pursuit—no matter what hurdles may arise. It’s a treat for language enthusiasts and armchair travelers alike.

Welcome to a #WeekofReviews hosted by Andi at Estella’s Revenge.  I’m going to do my best to clean out my long list of books to review starting now!  First is a book that made me want to take off and travel the world.

I love the idea of packing up my family and living somewhere else.  I spent a semester in Rome in college and I loved learning Italian, exploring Roman neighborhoods and finding all the gelato and chianti that I could.  I would pick up and move to Europe if our careers could take us there absolutely!  When I heard about Christine Gilbert chronicling her journey to take her family through three completely different countries while trying to gain language fluency in each I had to read it.  While the countries that Gilbert and her husband chose wouldn’t be mine I was still fascinated by their adventure.

I loved how Gilbert wove her personal story with her research into how we learn languages.  (Shocking – there is no one answer)  She shared the many theories she studied without weighing down the flow of their journey.   As much as I liked reading about her efforts with schools, flashcards and tutors (at a minimum) I thought it was even more fascinating how her young son picked up bits and pieces of Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish each as they moved.  I was really impressed at the level of commitment Gilbert gave to this project.  I can’t imagine hours of language lessons on top of audio recordings, homework and research – all while living in a new culture with a young family.  

I appreciated Gilbert’s honesty even when her choices weren’t the best – when she realized Shanghai was not liveable for her family because of pollution or when she realized she had been too strict with her education plan to really forge a life as an expatriate.  This crazy adventure definitely had moments of great beauty and inspiration –  with learning both news languages and cultures.  

For an added reading bonus – I had a flashback to Hausfrau and to Anna’s language lessons. As much as I loved that book I’m glad Christine’s was a very different kind of story!

Avery has kindly offered two copies for me to giveaway!  Here is a link to a Rafflecopter giveaway so go and enter!  Would you pick up and move to another country?  If so where would you go?

Bon Chance!  US Only, giveaway ends 6/20.  No spam giveaway accounts!

Thank you Avery for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review and Giveaway: Locally Laid

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm – from Scratch, Lucie Amundsen

Published March 1st 2016 by Avery

Hardcover, 336 pages

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When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.

To create this pastured poultry ranch, the couple scrambles to acquire nearly two thousand chickens—all named Lola. These hens, purchased commercially, arrive bereft of basic chicken-y instincts, such as the evening urge to roost. The newbie farmers also deal with their own shortcomings, making for a failed inspection and intense struggles to keep livestock alive (much less laying) during a brutal winter. But with a heavy dose of humor, they learn to negotiate the highly stressed no-man’s-land known as Middle Agriculture. Amundsen sees firsthand how these midsized farms, situated between small-scale operations and mammoth factory farms, are vital to rebuilding America’s local food system.

With an unexpected passion for this dubious enterprise, Amundsen shares a messy, wry, and entirely educational story of the unforeseen payoffs (and frequent pitfalls) of one couple’s ag adventure—and many, many hours spent wrangling chickens.

Let me say I am firmly a city girl.  We sold my car, we take the el, we walk to the grocery, and we walk to school.  I may have shrieked when I had to pick up a baby chick for my daughter at the petting zoo last year.  Maybe.  Why I thought I should read a book about a chicken farm I really don’t know – but let me tell you I am so glad that I did!  I enjoyed it so much that along with Avery I’m giving away a copy – so read all the way down!

Lucie tells a great story of how her husband convinced her to go from a small backyard flock of 5 egg laying chickens to owning thousands on a rented Minnesota farm.  She was not an easy sell (I don’t blame her).  I enjoyed reading about their small triumphs and was frustrated at the bureaucracies and stumbling blocks on the way to production.  Locally Laid is a labor of love for Lucie’s family and that shines through their story.  

Lucie talked not just about her own story but how the industry has changed over decades and how poultry is treated.  She pointed out that most of the egg laying birds in this country NEVER GO OUTSIDE.  In their whole lives – how scary is that?  So aside from an entertaining personal story, Lucie got me thinking about where my food comes from and why buying local food is important.  It’s scary to think about all the mileage behind some of the food we eat!  

I may not be a farmer, but I do live in the Midwest and I love it here. This was an eye opening read for me about small agriculture vs. middle vs the giant ag corporations out there.  I think as things like genetically modified crops become more common and water and land run out these are really important things to think about and talk about.   I even put my money where my mouth is and tried a dozen LoLa eggs this weekend – they were delicious!  I’m very curious to follow Locally Laid and see how they do – and I am seriously tempted to order a t-shirt.   In the meantime I’m going to think a lot harder when I shop and I’m going to be counting down until it’s CSA and Farmer’s Market season in Chicago!  

Do you want to read Lucie’s story?  I’m giving away one copy of Locally Laid and a fun LoLa button.  Here is a Rafflecopter link to the giveaway.  Must be US based and no spam giveaway accounts!

Don’t you want to get Locally Laid?

Library of Souls Tour and Giveaway!

Are you a peculiar reader?

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Ransom Riggs’ fantastic and photographically bizarre trilogy is coming to a close next month.   I adored Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and I reviewed the sequel Hollow City here.  I can’t wait to see how this series ends!

Quirk Books wants to send YOU to see Ransom Riggs on tour!   Basically what you need to do is:

  • Snap a selfie of your most peculiar costume and send Quirk Books a link.
  • Tag your photo with the #StayPeculiar hashtag.
  • Visit the Library of Souls page for all the info!

But before you go do that Quirk is giving me this super fun #StayPeculiar tote to give away too!

StayPeculiar Tote

Enter this Rafflecopter link  and good luck Peculiar readers!

GOODREADS  l  RANSOM RIGGS  l  AMAZON

Important stuff:  US ONLY, ENDS 08/17 @ 12am/c.  Winner has 48 hours to respond to my email or I will draw another.

Review and Giveaway: In a French Kitchen

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Tradition of Everyday Home Cooking in France, Susan Herrmann Loomis

Published June 16th 2015 by Gotham

Hardcover, 320 pages

Source: ARC received from publisher

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From Goodreads:

With In a French Kitchen, Loomis—an expat who long ago traded her American grocery store for a bustling French farmer’s market—demystifies in lively prose the seemingly effortless je ne sais quoi behind a simple French meal.

One by one, readers are invited to meet the busy people of Louviers and surrounding villages and towns of Loomis’s adopted home, from runway-chic Edith, who has zero passion for cooking—but a love of food that inspires her to whip up an array of mouthwatering dishes—to Nathalie, who becomes misty-eyed as she talks about her mother’s Breton cooking, then goes on to reproduce it. Through friends and neighbors like these, Loomis learns that delicious, even decadent meals don’t have to be complicated.

Are French cooks better organized when planning and shopping? Do they have a greater ability to improvise with whatever they have on hand when unexpected guests arrive? The answer to both is: Yes. But they also have an innate understanding of food and cooking, are instinctively knowledgeable about seasonal produce, and understand what combination of simple ingredients will bring out the best of their gardens or local markets.

This was a delicious read!  Susan Herrmann Loomis shares what she has learned living in France for years; and not just cooking French cuisine – but eating her fair share of it as well.  Loomis tells stories from her own kitchen and also those of her French friends.  Basically I want to move to France now so I can shop daily in my own village from my own produce market, cheesemonger and boulangerie.  Let’s be honestly, my life would be complete with my own cheesemonger.  I also clearly need my own French friends to teach me to cook the way that Loomis describes and invite me to dinner.

In a French Kitchen is full of stories about learning to cook with the kitchen you have (much smaller than an American kitchen) and the delightful sounding ingredients available.  How to stretch a meal for an unexpected dinner party – solved!  What to serve for dessert – last minute cake!  What to do with those leftovers- yummy!  How to find your best bread or best cheese – now I know.  This wasn’t a book to sit down and read cover to cover I’d say, but definitely one to turn to when you’re in the mood to cook or just read a chapter or two.

Each chapter is also filled with helpful tips about cookware and product selection – definitely something I can see myself going back over when I’m getting ready to cook.  The attention to detail was impressive – I lost count of the number of steps Loomis went through simply to prepare a salad.  Yet it really wasn’t too daunting for the untrained home cook.  I really plan to try a few of these recipes – such as:

Sweet Beet and Goat Cheese Towers

Roast Apple and Pear Chicken

Mushrooms and Chorizo

And I could go on!  I was going to pass my copy on but now I refuse.

Because I can’t let go of my copy of In a French Kitchen Gotham has kindly offered a copy for a giveaway.  Important question to answer here- if you had to give up one thing which would it be — Chocolate or Cheese?  

Giveaway to close 8/14 at midnight and I’ll pick a random number to win.

Merci!

Thank you so much Gotham for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Books and Swoon Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Just for fun, we’re joining in with Fic Fare and the Swoony Boys Podcast for a Valentine-themed post and giveaway. 25 blogs are hosting giveaways and a scavenger hunt. We’ve got a special giveaway (details below) and you can also enter a big giveaway for a bracelet and an amazon giftcard – each participating blog has an assigned word or phrase (highlighted) somewhere in the post that you need to find to enter the grand giveaway (find a list of all the blogs to visit below).

Anyway, for our 14 Days of Fictional Swoon post, we are bringing you on a date. Or two.

If you could plan a double-date with any fictional characters, who would you bring? You just think about your answer for a minute, then you can scroll down for our’s!

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Amanda

I decided first that our double date would have to be a triple date so that Holly and I and our husbands could all be together.  Then because I decided I had two of the best couples I could think of and didn’t want to make up my mind it’s now a quadruple date.  Holly is inspiring me to be a rule breaker clearly.  It would be an amazingly hilarious date I want you to know.  My date includes my sister and the husbands, as well as Samir and Mili from Sonali Dev’s fantastic new book A Bollywood Affair and the delightful Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones’s Diary.  (I’m pretending Bridget Jones #3 has never happened and if you try to tell me otherwise I am not responsible for my response.)  Basically this dream date involves Samir cooking all the delicious sounding Indian food described in A Bollywood Affair in Mark Darcy’s posh London home.  It also involves drinking ALL of the wine with Bridget and hilarious and intelligent conversation with Mili  Don’t you wish you could be invited too?!

Holly

One time, Amanda came to visit me while I was in college and we went out for a nice dinner. It also happened to be Valentine’s day, so we were the literally the only two-some in the restaurant that was not out for a romantic evening together. Anyway, I am certain we had a good time, and considering that I am not a believer in celebrating romantic V-day’s, I decided that first and foremost, I would bring my sister on my fictional book character double-date.

[Note: I did try to think of a book that my husband and I have both read, to see if I could come up with a clever answer and invite him along, but I’m not fool enough to set up even a fictional rendez-vous with anyone from Game of Thrones.]

So then, I had to think about what fictional characters we could have a fun, platonic“date” with, and the answer was clear:

That’s right – we’re going out for second breakfast with hobbits Merry and Pippin. All romance will be repressed. In fact, there’s a good chance that these two would get stoned and blow us off, but that’s okay. Amanda and I will still have a good time.

In other words, I just completely broke all the rules about writing about Valentine’s Day swoony things. But, if you do want to read something more romantic, enter the giveaway below for a copy of A Bollywood Affair, which Amanda and I wrote about here and here.  US only -sorry!

Enter our Rafflecopter giveaway

Then check out the other blogs below

14 Days of Fictional Swooning Schedule

and enter the big giveaway!

Review (and Giveaway!): Dirty Chick

The very first post I wrote for this blog was a review of a historical fiction set in colonial New Zealand, which I read because a) it was $1.99 and b) it was set in NZ. I recently read Dirty Chick: Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer, a memoir about an American ex-pat living in a small farming community in New Zealand because a) the publisher offered me a review copy and b) it is set in NZ. The publisher also offered to give a copy of Dirty Chick to a reader, so leave a comment at the end of this post to win!

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I know, I sound a bit like a crazy person, but NZ is essentially my personal Shangri-La. I spent a summer there on an internship in college, followed by a few weeks of traveling around with my BFF/sister/co-blogger Amanda, and we had the best time ever. Besides, if anyone is going to judge me for being a crazy person, I’m pretty sure that it won’t be Antonia Murphy, author of Dirty Chick, because she sounds a bit like a crazy person as well.

Dirty Chick is Murphy’s personal account of the first year she and her family spent living on a farm on New Zealand’s North Island. She lists and details her and her husband’s reasons for going to, and staying, in NZ as:

  1. The ocean
  2. George W. Bush (“This was 2003 and 2004, the height of the Bush years, and Peter and I were unnerved by the wartime zeal in our country. Most of our fellow liberals were threatening to emigrated to Canada or New Zealand, but as it turns out, we were the crazy ones who did.”)
  3. Hobbits; and
  4. DNA (in the form of their developmentally delayed son)

There are surely many people who may be annoyed by this book. For instance, if you are annoyed by any of the following, maybe don’t read this:

  1. Educated, middle-class liberals on soul-searching journeys
  2. The discussion of home fermentation and cheese making
  3. Gross stories about farm animals, sometimes in the house.

I, however, can deal with all of the above, and I definitely found this an enjoyable read. In addition to the stories about racist zombie alpacas, seedy goat impregnation, and addiction to baby lambs, this is also Murphy’s story about parenting, and the trials of raising a disabled son. In those sections, you see the true struggles of life on the farm. As Murphy says on the subject, “compared to that, an angry rooster was a breeze.” Murphy brews a lot of fruit wine, and inexplicably wears animal ear headbands all the time, but she also proves that she will (literally, in fact) go to the ends of the earth to give her son a fighting chance at a healthy existence.

If you want a fun, quirky look into a life that is unlike your own (unless YOU are also living on a small farm in NZ raising two kids and a score of animals, drinking quince wine and aging cheese in your garage), check out Dirty Chick.

And, the giveaway! To enter, simply leave a comment below! What’s your personal Shangri-La? We’ll randomly select the winner on 1/29!

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher for review consideration. Quotes taken from an advance uncorrected proof.

Updated with the giveaway winner on 2/1: Congrats Kristi! Your book will be in the mail shortly!