Tuesday, December 21, 2010


  • Even though I hadn't been posting (busy at work, then got a cold), I'd been reading. Read a couple of good ones too so I'm glad!
  • Argh I'm sick of the cold and snow already... already have 2 feet of snow and expecting 5-7" today/tomorrow.... Last week it was -30F with windchill... It's nice to have a white Christmas when you get to be inside by a fire with a hot chocolate (or your choice of drink) - but more than one day of it is enough :) Have just watched New In Town with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. Gotta laugh (supposedly set in a small town in MN, not the one I live in though but we went there last year during Oktoberfest.) They filed in Winnipeg, Canada though at -57F, so I shouldn't complain too much!
  • Anyway, here's a list of reviews coming up!
  • Not by Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist by Elliot Aronson - love this! May not appeal to others though
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - disappointed
  • Semper Cool: One Marine's Fond Memories of Vietnam by Marry Fixler - interesting
  • Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - really enjoyed this!
  • Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette - eh.
  • Reading now: PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern (no haven't watched the movie). 1/3 to go... okay so far but already wish it's shorter. Since I don't usually read chicklit, I thought I'd at least give it a couple of try this year (this one and Simply from Scratch - both with similar themes - widows at an early age (30/early 30's). 
  • Hopefully I can have the reviews up by this weekend... we're not hosting anything so should give me some time! 
  • Stay warm!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Review - Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children's Story about Interracial Adoption by Andrea Nepa

Title: Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children's Story about Interracial Adoption 
Author: Andrea Nepa
Year: 2008
Page: 28
Genre: Children's Book, Graphic Book

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Maybe
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? Anywhere
FTC Disclosure: Given an electronic copy to review by Tribute Books as part of the December Blog Tour

Summary (from
The journey of adoption is beautifully depicted with the comforting imagery of a poppy flower who is welcomed into a garden family. It is a charming story of "seeds" being planted in the perfect place - exactly where they belong. Children and adults will enjoy this simple yet meaningful story and homespun illustrations. The book's loving approach helps children to understand adoption. Andrea Nepa has captured the essence of adoption and family, and has illustrated it beautifully with images and poetry that even a small child can comprehend and enjoy.

First Sentence:
One day, a seed dropped from a poppy flower onto the earth below.
Why did I pick this book?
I was approached by Tribute Books to see if I was interested in reviewing this book. Since I don't have children so I hardly read any children's books. However, since this book was about adoption, and one of my sisters-in-law was adopted, I was curious. 

My thoughts:
  • What a cute and colorful book!
  • It is hard for me to rate this book since I don't usually read children's book, and with no children, I won't know how they'd like it. So I'd have to judge it from an adult's perspective
  • I think this is a book that would be understood more by an adult than a child - the implied message, the symbolism, and the metaphor. The description said "the book's loving approach helps children to understand adoption" -- I wonder how much children would truly understand about adoption from this book. Maybe I am underestimating how much children know nowadays... or maybe I was just a dumb kid :) (I suppose, children can be anything from 0-18 years old... so it's hard to say at what age would the child see through the story)
  • I hope when the author's adopted daughter read it when she grew up, she'd understand the love from her mother for her


    Rating: 3.5 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Give Away - Chronicle Books Happy Haulidays!

    Wow, Chronicle Books is having a amazing give away!

    Post a list of Chronicle Books valued at up to $500 that you’d like to haul in, and you’ll be automatically entered into a drawing to WIN your list of books! And, one of your readers who comments on the post will win the list too! Last day to submit entries is December 10th!

    $500 worth of books!! Okay, here are my choices, I am choosing mostly cook books as I'd love to learn to cook better! I'm so grateful that my husband cooks everyday (I'd probably cooked a total of 5 dinners during our 6 years of marriage...)

    Be sure to leave a comment if you wish to win these books (if I win, you win these books too!)

    I Love Macarons

    I Love Macarons By Hisako Ogita

    The Big Book of Easy Suppers

    The Big Book of Easy Suppers By Maryana Vollstedt


    Flour By Joanne Chang with Christie Matheson. Photographs by Keller + Keller

    Crème Brûlée

    Crème Brûlée By Lou Seibert Pappas. Photographs by Alison Miksch





    Biscotti By Lou Seibert Pappas. Illustrated by Piet Halberstadt

    Luscious Chocolate Desserts

    Luscious Chocolate Desserts By Lori Longbotham. Photographs by William Meppem

    Luscious Lemon Desserts

    Luscious Lemon Desserts By Lori Longbotham and Photographs by Alison Miksch

    Luscious Creamy Desserts

    Luscious Creamy Desserts By Lori Longbotham. Photographs by France Ruffenach

    Luscious Coconut Desserts

    Luscious Coconut Desserts By Lori Longbotham. Photographs by Lucy Schaeffer




    Milk and Cookies By Tina Casaceli. Foreword by Jacques Torres. Photographs by Antonis Achilleos

    Sweet Miniatures

    Sweet Miniatures By Flo Braker. Photographs by Michael Lamotte

    Quick & Easy Korean Cooking

    Quick & Easy Korean Cooking By Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee. Photographs by Julie Toy and Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

    Quick and Easy Thai

    Quick and Easy Thai By Nancie McDermott. Photographs by Alison Miksch

    Love in Spoonfuls

    Love in Spoonfuls From the editors of Parenting





    Eat Ate By Guy Mirabella. Photographs by Earl Carter

    Savory Baking

    Savory Baking By Mary Cech. Photographs by Noel Barnhurst

    The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever

    The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever By Beatrice Ojakangas. Photographs by Susie Cushner





    Sunday Soup By Betty Rosbottom. Photographs by Charles Schiller


    Pops! By Krystina Castella

    Foodie Fight

    Foodie Fight By Joyce Lock




    Perfect Pops By Charity Ferreira

    The Glorious Pasta of Italy

    The Glorious Pasta of Italy By Domenica Marchetti. Photographs by France Ruffenach

    Brittles, Barks & Bonbons

    Brittles, Barks & Bonbons By Charity Ferreira. Photographs by Karen Steffans

    kittenwar Card Game

    kittenwar Card Game By Fraser Lewry and Tom Ryan



    Total = $498.9!

    Remember to comment if you want to win these books too!


    Book Review - Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

    Title: Open: An Autobiography 
    Author: Andre Agassi
    Year: 2009
    Page: 388
    Genre: Non-Fiction - memoir / autobiography

    New to me author? Yes
    Read this author again? Maybe
    Tearjerker? No
    Where did it take place? US
    FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

    Summary (from
    A stunning memoir by one of the world’s most beloved athletes—a nuanced self-portrait, an intensely candid account of a remarkable life, and a thrilling inside view of the pro tennis tour. 

    First Sentence:
    I open my eyes and don't know where I am or who I am.  

    Why did I pick this book?
    I enjoy reading memoir. I have heard that this is a brutally honest memoir. While I am not a big tennis fan (don't watch it anymore), I used to watch quite a bit of tennis, especially the Australian Open when I lived there - and that was exactly when Agassi, Sampras, Graf, Seles were at the top of the rankings. I read Seles' memoir, Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self, last year and enjoyed it - brought back memories of the games and found new respect for tennis players. So why not give this one a try?

    My thoughts:
    • I have to admit, during the Agassi Vs Sampras rivalry, I preferred Sampras - I liked that he was quiet and not flashy, seemed well mannered and nice. Well some called him dull and boring, but hey he was a tennis player not a Hollywood star! In contrast, Agassi seemed like such a bad boy with the funny hair and loud mouth. Now that I'd read his memoir, it could be said that he was misunderstood. I won't spoil it for you about what he revealed about his hair (if you haven't already heard from TV talk shows!) Let's just say that I would have never guessed!
    • I didn't know that his father was born in Iran, and he came to the US illegally, and Americanized his name.
      • He was really quite honest about his childhood and tennis career. While some may not like that he badmouthed some other players and Brooke Shields and their marriage, he also had nice things to say about other players too so it wasn't just all negative. Oh, I didn't know Brooke Shields' middle name is Christa!
      • I am not good at any sports, and had no idea how brutal tennis could be physically (well apart from seeing players having to play in extremely hot weather in Australia sometimes). I mean, they physically had to be hoisted onto a trainer table after a tough match because they couldn't move (but they still looked like they were fine at the end of the match!)
      • It was interesting to read about how Agassi read his opponents - like where they were going to served by the little gestures they unknowingly did (where they looked, how long they looked, where their tongue pointed etc), and how his coach helped him analyzed how to tackle the next player (their strengths, weaknesses, what it means if they started playing like this or that...)
      • It was fun to see how he matured over time, and I think Graf really is good for him. It sounds like they have a great relationship. And his children changed him and his outlook (now, I don't really like that he started pursuing Graf when he hadn't even divorced Shields yet... but that's besides the point. I hope Shields didn't get too upset about how he talked about their marriage... it sounded like they had some great things going in the beginning, and then they just grew apart and probably both were at fault)
      • I was touched by his farewell speech. And admired the charter school he has built for disadvantaged children, even though he dropped out in 9th grade himself.
      • While this wasn't the best memoir I'd read, I enjoyed reading it. It made me want to watch highlights of the games he mentioned (though they could get a bit repetitive and long, but he had an amazingly long career, so it's a fine balance how much to include and how much to omit). It showed us a side we didn't know about him - especially since he lied quite a bit throughout his career, to please his fans and father properly.  

        It is no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature. (p8)

        "Que lindo es sonar despierto, he says. How lovely it is to dream while you are awake. Dream while you're awake, Andre. Anybody can dream while they're asleep, but you need to dream all the time, and say your dreams out loud, and believe in them." (p155)

        Her suffering, her resilient smile in the face of that suffering, my part in easing her suffering -- this, this is the reason for everything. How many times must I be shown? This is why we're here. To fight through the pain and, when possible, to relieve the pain of others. So simple. So hard to see. (p256)

        Rating: 3.5 Stars

        Have you read this book? 
        If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

        100+ Reading
        Memorable Memoir

        Book Review - The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume by Tilar J. Mazzeo

        Title: The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume
        Author: Tilar J. Mazzeo
        Year: 2010
        Page: 304
        Genre: Non-Fiction

        New to me author? Yes
        Read this author again? Maybe, depends on topic
        Tearjerker? No
        Where did it take place? France, US
        FTC Disclosure: ARC from HarparCollins (in exchange of an unbiased review)

        Summary (from
        In a world saturated with perfume aromas, Chanel No. 5 stands out. For nine decades, this celebrated fragrance has maintained its popularity even against thousands of more recent competitors. In fact, this iconic scent remains the world's bestselling perfume: According to Chanel, a bottle is purchased every 55 seconds. Tilar J. Mazzeo's The Secret of Chanel No. 5 unwraps the package of its captivating history and elusive appeal. Intimate and elegant.

        First Sentence:
        For the better part of a century, the scent of Chanel No. 5 has been a sultry whisper that says we are in the presence of something rich and sensuous.  

        Why did I pick this book?
        I was contacted by HarperCollins to see if I was interested in reviewing a few of their upcoming books. I looked through their catalog, and was especially interested in their non-fiction offerings. Now, I am NOT into designer brands, and I don't even use perfume (I work in healthcare, even though I don't have direct patient contact, I see a lot of patients in the hallway / different buildings each day. Due to their conditions, some may be sensitive to perfume smell, so I choose not to wear perfume to work. While our policy does not ban perfume - just can't wear strong scent - I hardly ever smell perfume from others at work either). However, I was interested in reading about the business of luxury products, and I have heard of Chanel No.5, so thought I'd give this a try to see why this perfume is so famous.

        My thoughts:
        • As mentioned, I don't really know anything about designer brands, so I learned quite a bit about Coco Chanel. I didn't even know Coco wasn't her real name (it was Gabrielle). I didn't know that after her mother passed away, her father gave her up to the orphanage. I didn't know about her love life, or what her earlier "career" was before becoming a designer. So it was quite interesting to read about that. Even though this book concentrated on Chanel No. 5, it also provided some background of Coco so we understood why she designed to make a perfume
        • Also learned a little bit about the science / chemistry of perfume (e.g. aldehydes are a major component). I didn't know that "nearly 350 pounds of jasmine  -- over a half-million flowers -- go into a pound of jasmine concrete, and in each small, 30ml bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume is the essence of more than 1000 jasmine flowers and the bouquet of a dozen roses". Today, a pound of jasmine absolute sells for more than $33,000! (p145)
        • I didn't know back at the beginning of the twentieth century, "there was a noted difference between the scent of a courtesan and the scent of a nice girl. Some aromas -- like jasmine and musk, patchouli and tuberose -- made a woman smell openly sexual, and only an actress or courtesan would dare to wear them. Respectable girls wore delicate floral scents of roses or violets." (p18)
        • What made Chanel No.5 different is that it is a blend of the 2 scents from the 2 worlds - a respectable girl who can also be sexy - using jasmine and roses. I don't even know what Chanel No.5 smells like, but after reading this book, I'll go find a perfume counter at the department store next time I am at the mall, to see if it smells like the way it was described in the book!  
        • Did you also know that a bottle of Chanel No.5 is sold every 30 seconds? (p xvii)
        • Many of you probably heard of the saying, that a perfume smells differently on each woman because everyone has a different skin chemistry? Well, it was actually invented for a Chanel No.5 ad campaign! (p189)
        • The most interesting tidbits, I found, was how Coco decided to test how the public would receive Chanel No.5. She wore it to a restaurant, and tested people's reaction to it. She got this idea from someone else when they were trying to get shelf-space for their perfume - the person went to a department store, and while talking to the manager, he accidentally dropped his perfume so the bottle would shatter. This way, the manager, and the other shoppers in the store, had no choice but to smell the perfume. And because it smelled so good, everyone wanted to know what the smell was! Clever huh?
        • While I did learn quite a few interesting facts from the book, I found the book a little dry and took me over a week to read it even though the actual story was about 217 pages (the rest of the books were notes - yes the author did a lot of research, which I applauded her for).
        • I also didn't quite like the writing style - there were quite a lot of references about what would happen next in a previous paragraph or chapter, before it then went into details what happened. Now I know sometimes this technique was used to entice the readers to keep reading, but when overused, it just took the surprise away and made it predictable. E.g. "Coco Chanel decided that it might be a good idea to place the product in the hands of a talented marketing professionals whose job would be to manage not just its distribution but its image. Soon afterward, she would do precisely that. She would always regret it." (p91);
        • And sometimes it got a bit too repetitive: E.g. it kept referring to the fact that "Chanel had no thought yet of creating a signature perfume" on p14, p15 and p22 (granted, the actual words were not exactly the same, but they pointed to the same thought)!
        • So overall, not a bad read and I am glad I learned a few things. But for someone who doesn't care too much about perfume or designer brands, I think a magazine article on the topic would have been enough. For those who ARE Chanel or perfume fans, you will probably like it. 

          "Suffering makes people better, not pleasure." (p90)

          Rating: 3 Stars

          Have you read this book? 
          If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

          100+ Reading
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