Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Twilight's Dawn by Anne Bishop

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Twilight's Dawn: A Black Jewels Book (Black Jewels Trilogy)
          Eyriens called it red rain. The gritty mist made from the flesh, blood, and bones of bodies exploded by unleashed power sometimes hung over killing fields for days, suspended by the very power that had destroyed the bodies.
The young Warlord who waited at the edge of the killing field couldn't see much, not with the rain hanging so thick around the center of the field, but he could still hear the fighting -- the snarls of enraged men, the clash of war blades.
He hadn't expected Yaslana to last this long, not with so many superior fighters working to bring him down. Not when a half-breed was fighting against real Eyriens. - pg. 225, Twilight's Dawn: A Black Jewels Book (Black Jewels Trilogy) by Anne Bishop

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione

Eternal Rider (Lords of Deliverance)Book Details:
Eternal Rider (Lords of Deliverance)
By Larissa Ione
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2011, Grand Central Publishing
Paperback, 402 pages
ISBN: 9780446574495

          They are here. They ride. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
His name is Ares, and the fate of mankind rests on his powerful shoulders. If he falls to the forces of evil, the world falls too. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he is far stronger than any mortal, but even he cannot fight his destiny forever. Not when his own brother plots against him.
Yet there is one last hope. Gifted in a way other humans can't-or won't-understand, Cara Thornhart is the key to both this Horseman's safety and his doom. But involving Cara will prove treacherous, even beyond the maddening, dangerous desire that seizes them the moment they meet. For staving off eternal darkness could have a staggering cost: Cara's life.
I loved that this book took a concept that I am very familiar with, the Four Horsemen from Revelation, and turned it on its head. For all of the repetitiveness of fantasy fiction using the same species over and over again - from mermaids to vampires - the horsemen are definitely new vehicles for enticing literature.
The background of the story is that all of the horsemen once lead human lives, but were cursed to become the horsemen after reacting very badly to the news that Lilith is their mother. Another interesting quirk on the common tale is that one of them is actually female, Limos. The four are destined to either fulfill the Biblical prophecy or the demonic equivalent - which none of them want to do. In addition, each of them have a unique method by which they fall into the demonic prophecy's designated role and must fight to keep said method from playing out.
Ares, whom the story says the Greek god of war is named for, is destined to become War should the being bearing his seal, or agimortus, dies. Thanks to Cara, a human, inadvertently crossing paths with a hellhound, she becomes the bearer of the agimortus. Luckily, she has a few tricks of her own to aid her in her new role. I liked Cara and the way she seemed to blossom despite her captivity and impending death, as well as how easily she could stand up to Ares. I would have liked a little more character development, as it did not feel like her character arc was complete.
Ares is also an interesting character. Even though he is drawn to wars and violence, with his very presence inciting violence and rage among humans, Cara is immune to this ability. Because of how her presence weakens him, Ares shows a vulnerability characteristic of the humanity he left behind thousands of years ago. Around Cara, he is simply a normal guy falling in love, and the way he attempts to "macho-up" to deal with it is positively adorable.
The violence in the book is both believable and quite gritty. Of course, the horsemen's supernatural abilities of strength and healing allow it to be especially intense and dramatic. The sexual scenes in the book are also quite graphic and detailed, without feeling cheesy or awkward.
The laws built into Ione's world of horsemen, angels, and demons is complex without being confusing. The reader is introduced to its structure piece by piece throughout the novel without being bombarded by the details, and all of the pieces fit together nicely. In addition, Ione even includes a glossary at the beginning of the book to help the reader become more accustomed to the world.
The other siblings are all unique and show lots of promise for future books in the series. Thanatos, destined to become Death, has a seductive air of mystery that had me wondering several times throughout the book if something would occur between him and Cara. The sister, Limos, destined to be Famine, also shows many interesting characteristics, such as a certain hidden madness that she struggles to keep leashed, and the chemistry she shares with Arik is palpable. Even though Reseph becomes Pestilence early in the book, I have a feeling he may prove to be the most interesting of the siblings under a theme of redemption. I only have to wait till December for Immortal Rider (Lords of Deliverance), which centers on Limos, to find out what happens next!

The Cover: This is a pretty generic romance novel cover - about the only thing that I can specifically relate to the novel is the water behind the male model.

First Line: "Her name was Lilith, and she was an evil succubus."
If that doesn't strike the fancy of any fan of fantasy fiction, nothing will!

Favorite Quote"...and horror of horrors, he realized that he was experiencing some sort of a crush. He needed to kill something." 

Read For: Off The Shelf Challenge, Twenty-Eleven Challenge

*I won this book free by random draw at Pimpin' Reads.*

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Fade Out by Rachel Caine

Fade Out (Morganville Vampires, Book 7)Book Details:
Fade Out (Morganville Vampires, Book 7)
By Rachel Caine
Genre: Young Adult
Published Nov. 2009, Penguin
Paperback, 237 pages
ISBN: 9780451228666

          Without the evil vampire Bishop ruling over the town of Morganville, the resident vampires have made major concessions to the human population. With their newfound freedoms, Claire Danvers and her friends are almost starting to feel comfortable again...
Now Claire can actually concentrate on her studies, and her friend Eve joins the local theatre company. But when one of Eve's cast mates goes missing after starting work on a short documentary, Eve suspects the worst. Claire and Eve soon realize that this film project, whose subject is the vampires themselves, is a whole lot bigger-and way more dangerous-than anyone suspected.
Yet another good addition to the Morganville Vampires series, Fade Out is all about entertainment, but with a sinister twist. Eve wins a major part in the town's production of Tennessee Williams' A Street Car Named Desire and Claire's quirky boss, Myrnin, seems to have gained his sanity. But underneath this calm surface, rebellion is simmering while Amelie grieves, Ada-the-computer has it in for Claire, and the other goth chick in town, Kim, has less-than-honest designs for Morganville with a suspicious film project in the works.
Claire seems to have worked out a truce with her parents, which I liked since they just seem to get in the way. Her relationship with Shane is adorable and sweet, and I love their loyalty to each other even as they navigate the familiar territory of new romance. In contrast, Eve and Michael have hit a major bump in the road that I saw coming several books back - and I'm still a little annoyed that we don't get more details from Eve's perspective.
Myrnin has to be my favorite character in the series. Even as a sane individual, he is still incredibly unique  - from his fashion sense, to the unexpected things he randomly spouts, to his mercurial behavior and unpredictable loyalties among the town's inhabitants. What develops with Ada's subplot in the book shows that beneath the vampire still lurks some humanity, and he obviously has many more secrets that have yet to be revealed.
Amelie grieves for the loss of Sam, and the way she randomly appears in Claire's day-to-day life during this period of stark vulnerability is equal parts mystifying and encouraging. While the downside of this is that the rebellious factions feel stronger, the upside is that the readers gets to see some of the characteristics typical only to humans show themselves in Amelie.
As for Claire herself, Shane makes an observation about her that I think sums her up quite nicely. Some people come to Morganville and disappear, but when Claire came to Morganville, she began to thrive.
Every time I pick up one of the books in this series, I simply can not stop reading until I've finished it - always the perfect blend of suspense, mystery, and supernatural elements to keep me hooked.

The Cover: Eve always makes a good subject for the covers of this series, but I must say I expected the dragon necklace in the picture to have more significance in the plot than it actually did.

First Line"Eve Rosser's high-pitched scream rang out through the entire house, bouncing off every wall, and, like a Taser applied to the spine, it brought Claire out of a pleasant, drowsy cuddle with her boyfriend."
The shock of typical Eve behavior is the perfect start for any book in this series.

Favorite Quote: "Because you've got guy parts, you're automatically a better mechanic than me? I don't think so."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blogger Tour and Giveaway: Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier (CA Only)

The Thrive Diet: Whole Foods to Thrive
Book Details:
The Thrive Diet: Whole Foods to Thrive
By Brendan Brazier
Genre: Cooking
Published 2011, Penguin Canada
Paperback, 343 pages
ISBN: 9780143176909

          What impact do food choices have on your health? Have you ever been curious as to where your food came from, who grew it, and the path it took to get to your table? Have you every wondered how much of each natural resource was used to produce your food—in other words, the soil-to-table environmental cost? In Whole Foods to Thrive, Brendan Brazier clearly explains how nutrient-dense, plant-based foods are the best choice, not only for your health but also for the health and sustainability of the planet.
Versatile and packed with flavor, whole foods have an abundance of health benefits for those who want sustainable energy, high-quality sleep, physical strength, and mental sharpness. Whole Foods to Thrive builds upon Brendan’s stress-busting, energy-boosting approach to nutrition and food introduced in his acclaimed bestseller The Thrive Diet, and includes 200 delicious, easy-to-make, plant based recipes that are all allergen-free and contain no wheat, yeast, gluten, soy, dairy, or corn.
• Breakfast Cereals • Salads • Dressings, Dips, and Sauces • Soups and Sides • Burgers, Wraps, Pizza, and Rice Bowls• Cookies, Ice Cream, and Pies • Kale Chips and Nori Crisps• Energy Bars and Gels
Features recipes for dishes such as • Gorilla Food Green Tacos • Quinoa Falafels • Indian-Spiced Lentil Hemp Burgers • Maple Crispy Rice Treats.
Recipe: Chocolate Almond Smoothie with Sacha Inchi Milk
Rich in protein and omega-3, this smoothie will keep you going for hours with
sustainable, non-stimulating energy.
Time: 5 minutes • Makes about 3 ½ cups (2 large servings)
1 banana
2 fresh or presoaked dried dates
1 cup water
1 cup Sacha Inchi Milk (or chocolate variation) (see p. 126)
¼ cup almonds (or 2 tbsp raw almond butter)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp hemp protein powder
1 tbsp roasted carob powder
• In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

My Review:
The face of Brendan Brazier blazes across the opening page of the book, along with a full body shot of him again at the beginning of the introduction. He certainly has an intimidating litany of accomplishments, from a former profession as an Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50 km Ultra Marathon champion to designing the Vega product line to supplement the plant-based diet taught in his previous books, Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life and Thrive Fitness: The Vegan-Based Training Program for Maximum Strength, Health, and Fitness. The list goes on, and this is only on the first page of the book.
The Introduction explains what drove Brazier to write this book, namely an avid curiosity about the source of a food's nutritional quality as well as the environmental cost of these sources. He then describes what each of the first five chapters focus on, followed by 200 recipes created with the help of top chefs, "all made with nutriet-dense, plant-based whole foods that are both health-boosting and easy on the environment." The contributing chefs are Julie Morris, Amanda Cohen, Matthew Kenney, Chad Sarno, and Tal Ronnen; and many recipes are also pulled from Brazier's favorite restaurants across Canada and the United States.
In the first chapter, Brazier discusses the hurdles he overcame in becoming an Ironman triathlete in regards to proper nutrition and how this drove him to study nutrition in-depth and formulate his own conclusions about how to achieve a proper diet. Chapter Two takes proper nutrition one step further by exploring the environmental impact of all aspects of the food industry with both high nutrient-dense foods and low nutrient-dense foods. Chapter Three investigates the various solutions offered for both the environmental toll of the food industry and the initiatives to achieve higher nutrient density in food, as well as compares the ratios of nutrients to environmental toll in various foods. Chapter Four lists the eight components of healthy food with its purpose, best sources, and specific benefits. Chapter Five uses the information from the previous chapter to list and discuss the most nutrient-dense foods available. In addition, each of the chapters have a quick summary of that chapter in "Thrive at a Glance" for quick reference.
The end of the book has a detailed Guide to Nutrients, which covers phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, followed by a list of Brazier's favorite restaurants and cafes, complete with addresses and short blurbs. The book concludes with a list of calculations that compare the emissions of a variety of foods to nutrient density that are discussed in chapter three, as well as a glossary and list of resources.
I was incredibly impressed with the knowledge that Brazier provides between the pages of this book, and how well he illustrates the knowledge so that anyone can understand it. While I do not completely agree with everything that Brazier is preaching with his"Thrive" diet, most of it does make sense and with the right amount of dedication I think that it could work for most people - and you don't have to be a triathlete to do it.

The Giveaway: In recognition of Brendan Brazier's new release and thanks to Penguin Canada, I am giving away one prize pack contains six Vega smoothie mixes (either Shake & Go Smoothie mixes or Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer mixes) in an assortment of flavours like Vanilla Chai, Bodacious Berry, and Choc-a-Lot.

This giveaway is for Canada only, please. To enter, you must be a follower of Jacob's Beloved's Books. This can be through either RSS Feed, Google Friend Connect, or Email Subscription, which are all found in the right-hand column. This giveaway ends May 31, 2011. I will contact the winner by email for a mailing address, who will have 48 hours to respond. You can only enter this giveaway once. To enter, please fill out the form below.

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Read For: Foodie Challenge, Off the Shelf Challenge

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Pale Demon (The Hollows, Book 9)Book Details:
Pale Demon (The Hollows, Book 9)
By Kim Harrison
Genre: Fantasy
Published March 2011, HarperCollins Publishers
Hardback, 439 pages
ISBN: 9780061138065

          Condemned and shunned for black magic, Rachel Morgan has three days to get to the annual witches’ conference and clear her name, or be trapped in the demonic ever-after . . . forever after.
But a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car going across the country? Talk about a recipe for certain disaster, even without being the targets for assassination.
For after centuries of torment, a fearsome demon walks in the sunlight—freed at last to slay the innocent and devour their souls. But his ultimate goal is Rachel Morgan, and in the fight for survival that follows, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.
One of the things I have grown to love about Rachel Morgan through all of these nine books is her constant positive and hopeful perspective with others, despite how contrary their behavior. Though her friends and partners are telling her in so many ways that the rulers of her kind, the witches' council, will never let her make it to the coast and are more interested in killing her than anything else, she won't believe it until she sees for herself. And then there is her odds-defying ability to always find a way to survive against all attacks - she truly has become one of a kind, as is revealed in several ways in this book, with her match-up against the just-released demon creation that is her genetic match, as well as the sad speech that Ivy gives her about how Rachel is leaving her and Jenks behind with the way she can create change across all species.
And if that is not enough to keep her busy, Rachel's love life only becomes more complicated, since Pierce has professed his love for her in the previous book, and Rachel feels a certain obligation to him. Of course, Al continues to pursue Rachel despite her refusals, and one violent-turned-steamy moment showed the kind of lust-filled potential that exists between them. Towards the end of the book, Rachel also makes a rather interesting observation about demons in general that could put Al in the potential category for future books. If two men is not enough to keep her busy, a very obvious growing attraction between her and Trent seems to show the most promise, and is ironically the one I found myself most rooting for, especially with some of the scenes in the book.
Trent's part in the book is an elf quest of sorts that he is particularly silent about, but gets him in all kinds of trouble and just creates more work for Rachel and crew. Of course, the outcome of this quest makes Trent more likable in the end, but he has to do much to prove himself to Rachel. The newest element to the series in this book was the use of wild magic by the elves, which has an untamed, old world quality that Rachel dislikes immensely. Trent wields it well, though often secretly and against Rachel's wishes.
In the end, the revelations that Rachel undergoes regarding herself and the people around her mark a major turning point for her and the series. I only wish I knew when the next book was due for release!

The Cover: I love this cover and the obvious power that Rachel is wielding. I also love how it puts her in the white leather suit that Al gives her in the book - connecting the cover with the actual plot.

First Line: "Brown or green for the drapes, Rache?"
Jenks showing concern for such a simple household task reminds me of what he lost in the last book. I must keep reading, if only to discover how he recovers.

Favorite Quote"The car was full of unhappy people heading west. It was the Great American Family Road Trip, all right. Whaaa-hoo!" 

Read For: Strong Heroine Challenge

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Eternal Rider (Lords of Deliverance)
          A sudden vision of herself, decapitated and disemboweled, the hound feeding on her corpse, flashed in her head. She'd always possessed an empathic ability to sense an animal's emotions, but this went beyond feelings. She was reading the animal's thoughts, what he wanted to do to her. Another flash went through her brain, of Ares, screaming silently, his body mutilated, his bones shattered as a pack of hounds fed on him. Around his neck, his Seal was broken, and across the dark space was Pestilence, smiling. - pg. 166, Eternal Rider (Lords of Deliverance) by Larissa Ione

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr

Darkest Mercy (Wicked Lovely)Book Details:
Darkest Mercy (Wicked Lovely)
By Melissa Marr
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2011, Harper
Hardback, 327 pages
ISBN: 9780061659256

          The Summer King is missing; the Dark Court is bleeding; and a stranger walks the streets of Huntsdale, his presence signifying the deaths of powerful fey.
Aislinn tends to the Summer Court, searching for her absent king and yearning for Seth. Torn between his new queen and his old love, Keenan works from afar to strengthen his court against the coming war. Donia longs for fiery passion even as she coolly readies the Winter Court for battle. And Seth, sworn brother of the Dark King and heir to the High Queen, is about to make a mistake that could cost his life.
Love, despair, and betrayal ignite the Faery Courts, and in the final conflict, some will win . . . and some will lose everything.
The thrilling conclusion to Melissa Marr's New York Times bestselling Wicked Lovely series will leave readers breathless.
The final book in the Wicked Lovely series, this book does a thorough job of wrapping up all of the sub-plots that were left hanging throughout the books. As with any decent book series, there were lots of what-ifs that I never got to see play out, but Marr's focus seemed to be on resolving the obstacles that blocked a number of romantic relationships within the series, such as Donia and Keenan's. Many of the main players made an appearance in the book, with quite a number of them exchanging point-of-view for the benefit of the reader. A few new characters were even introduced, such as the king of the water fey that Keenan sought out.
With the build-up to Aislinn deciding between Keenan and Seth in the previous books, her final decision seemed sort of anti-climactic, though I still liked her decision. I also really liked what followed, though I get the feeling that this series was more about female power, than a balance of power between male and female.
Reading about Niall's disconnection and madness was quite fascinating, though I believed for most of the book that it was for reasons other than what was revealed. I was quite thrilled when Leslie showed up, though her part seemed rather short and abrupt. Seth's part in the book also seemed stilted. For all his talk and potential, he is not allowed to do much due to poor circumstances, and I was really quite disappointed, as he has always been my favorite character in the series.
The final battle in the faery war was gruesome, but short and filled with more talk than necessary. The two faeries whose specialty was death seemed to have much potential for creating obstacles, but in the end they just seemed to have rather simple lives - even to the point of ignorance.
I actually would love for this series to continue, if only to focus more on the politics and power games, since this book seemed to be all about everyone's romantic happily ever after.

The Cover: This cover is just as beautiful as the other covers in the series. It doesn't even bother me that I can't see how the image connects with the plot - it's too gorgeous to matter.

First Line: "Niall walked through the ruins of the tattoo shop."
A simple beginning, but it reminds me of where the last book left off. I can only imagine what Niall is feeling at this point.

Favorite Quote: "If you get killed. I'm going to be furious." 
"I love you too. Come on."

Read For: Strong Heroine Challenge

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Clean, Nontoxic Space

The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year
The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year
By Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D.
Published by Alpha Books
April 5, 2011;$16.95 US/$21.00 CAN; 978-1-61564-086-7

          From the moment your baby is born, she depends on you for every aspect of her care and well-being. The next 12 months are exhilarating and exhausting, with more than a few sleepless nights and stressful moments. If you're already feeling overwhelmed, you're not alone.
The next best thing to a personal on-call pediatrician, The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year outlines the milestones your baby will go through during her first year so you know what to expect when. You'll find suggestions on establishing schedules and sleep routines, guidance on feeding your baby and introducing her to solid foods, and tips for understanding what your baby needs when she cries -- and how to get her to stop. In addition, you get the latest information on vaccines and advice on what to do if your baby gets sick. Information on handling teething, discovering and diagnosing food allergies, and baby-proofing your home when your baby becomes mobile are included, along with fun ideas for playing and interacting with your baby and helping her develop her motor skills.
Written by a top-rated pediatrician and based on expert medical knowledge, The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year offers first-time parents a companion through the sleeping and crawling, crying and teething illnesses and everything else that comes with your baby's first year of life.

A Clean, Nontoxic Space
By Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D.,
Authors of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year

When it comes to babies, keeping toxins out of the air in your home as much as possible is important. Chemicals used for general household cleaning can do a terrific job removing grease and grime, but they can be particularly dangerous for the young, developing respiratory system of a newborn -- and to his or her skin.Fumes from paints and materials used in carpeting can have an impact on breathing. Of course, smoke, dust, and mold are other known culprits that can cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions.
Window seals, screens, fans, curtains, and upholstery should be freshly cleaned before the newborn comes home, because dust and grime accumulates on them. Make sure that the air conditioner filters are changed and that the heating system is checked and ducts are cleaned if necessary. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are absolutely necessary to install and/or check near every room.

Reducing Chemicals 
Well before your baby arrives, it's a good idea to get your home improvement projects done and to thoroughly clean your home. You will likely be painting a nursery, which ideally should be done at least a few weeks prior to the baby moving in -- using only low- or no- VOC (volatile organic components) paint. Even if the paints you use are organic, some of these fumes can still cause harm. Finishing the painting weeks ahead of time gives the room a chance to dry and the paint fumes to dissipate. It's never a good idea to allow a baby to sleep in a freshly painted room (such as painting it after the baby is home), because the fumes are very dangerous to a baby.
Pregnant women should not be exposed to toxins of any kind including paint, as well as household cleaners, especially aerosol products, insecticides, etc.
Also, if you have other household projects such as removing and/or installing new carpeting, do it two to four weeks before the baby comes home -- especially if it is going in the nursery. This allows time for the fumes and odor to subside and the carpet to get worn in a little bit. New carpet has toxic agents sprayed on it at the factory that smell the strongest when it's brand new. It helps to have a window open and a fan on for 24-48 hours after it's installed. If possible, buy carpet made of natural fiber -- and of course, one that is non-flammable.
When it comes to household cleaning, choose cleaning products that are environmentally safe and non-toxic. Because you are bringing home your most precious possession, you will want your home to be as clean and safe as possible.

Natural Cleaning Products
In general, the chemical products used for cleaning are harsh; they can cause eye irritation, pulmonary problems, nausea, and allergies. In addition, they can be rather expensive. It's actually very easy to clean an entire home using only natural products that are readily available at the store and often much less expensive. Here are some "staples" of natural cleaning products that are much safer to use, especially when a newborn is living in the house:
Vinegar: Regular white vinegar mixed with equal amounts of water will clean windows, mirrors, floors, and the bathroom.
Baking soda: Mixed with equal amounts of vinegar, this combination will clean sinks, the bathroom, and toilets. On its own with water, it will clean hard surfaces.
Olive oil: Olive oil (extra virgin not necessary!) works great for polishing furniture.
Lemon: Lemons and all citrus fruits cut grease really well.
Tea tree oil: Dilute 8-10 drops in 2 cups water for a good disinfectant.
Borax: This product can be used to combat certain fungi, cockroaches, and fleas.
On a regular basis, try to maintain a clean, safe, and non-toxic environment by dusting regularly, opening windows for fresh air, vacuuming with a filter and changing the filter frequently. Also refrain from using room deodorizers, because they have chemical components.

Household plants are good to have in your home because they purify the air by absorbing toxins and breaking down chemicals. Don't place them directly in the baby's room, but do place them around your home, away from where your baby will be regularly.
Be very careful of the plants you buy for your home. Some plants can be poisonous to children and pets. Good non-toxic plants include:
  • African violets
  • Jade plant
  • Reed palm
  • Boston fern
  • Weeping fig
  • Spider plant
  • Begonia
  • Zebra plant
Toxic plants to avoid in the home include:
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Philodendron
  • Bird of paradise
  • Elephant ears
  • Chrysanthemums
Find a complete list of safe and unsafe plants at the American Academy of Pedial website, AAP.org.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year by Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2011 Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D., authors of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year

Author Bios
Erika Landau, M.D.,
 co-author of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year, is a New York pediatrician who completed her training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and was a research fellow at The Rockefeller University in New York. She is a fellow of teh American Academy of Pediatrics, has a private practice, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and director of teh Student Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Abigail Brenner, M.D., co-author of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year, attended New York Medical college and completed her internship and residency in psychiatry at New York University Bellevue Medical Center. A board-certified psychiatrist in practice for more than 30 years, she is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. She is the author of Transitions: How Women Embrace Change and Celebrate Life and SHIFT: How to Deal When Life Changes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree: A NovelBook Details:
The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel
By Elle Newmark
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2011, Atria Books
Hardback, 357 pages
ISBN: 9781416590590

          A sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India.
In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war.
But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857.
Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin’s dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers.
Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.
The book is like a story within a story. The book begins with the framing story of a woman, Evie, in 1947, who accompanies her husband and young son to India with the dual purpose of seeking adventure and hoping to mend her failing marriage with a man just returned from World War II, broken. When she discovers a bundle of 90-year-old letters hidden in the wall during a cleaning frenzy, the second story of the friendship between Felicity and Adela is revealed. From there, Evie's story diverges from that of Felicity and Adela's as Evie struggles to find more evidence of the two other women's existence and uses her fascination as a distraction from the political turmoil occurring around her.
The British are pulling out of India and separating the religious factions of Muslims and Hindus into the two countries of India and Pakistan, causing chaos and mayhem all over the country of India. The imagery and descriptions that Newmark fills the pages with are mesmerizing in their intensity and splendor. The colors, smells, and sounds have me half-falling in love with India to the point that I search for images online to match what I am reading to get a clearer picture of what the characters experience. Even though I struggled to stay interested in the plot for the first third of the book, the descriptions kept me reading and reading.
Felicity and Adela's story begins from childhood, describing how Felicity was born in India, but fostered with Adela's family. The infamous husband hunt brought them both back to India through different means, though neither had any interest in a husband, for different scandalous reasons. Residing in the same home that Evie now occupies, Felicity and Adela shun the conventional life of an Englishwoman in India, instead adopting an independent lifestyle and embracing India in all its diverse beauty.
Evie herself also seeks to shun what is expected of her, desiring to fully experience the culture of India all around her and use it to heal the problems in her own life. Eventually, she reconnects with the story of the two other women, even as major obstacles present themselves in both her private life and in the immediate villages. Letters take over the narration of Felicity and Adela's tale as Evie finds more to continue the story, instead of the author simply narrating what Evie can't find.
On the whole, the novel was beautifully written and contained a worthwhile plot, though I struggled to stay interested at the beginning. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a mystery and craves the beauty of India.

The Cover: Though the cover is quite beautiful, I found it to be a bit blurry. Artistically, it is a nice portrayal of a white woman entering India.

First Line: "Our train hurtled past a gold-spangled woman in a strawberry sari, regal yet sitting on the ground, patting cow dung into disks to dry in the scorching sun -- her cooking fuel."
Immediately, the reader is thrown into the vivid imagery that Newmark paints of the sights of India. Without knowing anything about the plot, I want more.

Favorite Quote: "My sense of sarcasm kicked in, and I thought, poor God, six thousand religions in the world and everyone claiming that He is on their side; what a headache."

Read For: Off The Shelf Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel
          I set off along Cart Road, enjoying the scent of incense drifting out of a tiny pink temple. Without Billy, I planned to hike up the narrow winding path to the Mall and get a few photos on the way. At the end of Cart Road, I stopped at a stall where a young man was selling some kind of mysterious red snack out of a brass vessel. I snapped a picture, then paused, trying to work up the courage to try some, when...
The ground shook and my hearing shut down. Men ran past me on Cart Road, their mouths stretched open, apparently shouting, but I heard nothing. Ridiculously, I thought of a silent movie with Keystone Kops running every which way with no sound but a frenzied piano in the background. I remembered Martin talking about the temporary deafness that came after bombs and mortar blasts. - pgs. 148-149, The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel by Elle Newmark

What are you reading this week?

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