Saturday, May 31, 2014

Armchair BEA - Wrap Up


Whew, busy week!

I wasn't able to post every day for Armchair BEA, but I did manage it several days. On the downside, that left me little time for writing reviews this week. Most of all, I enjoyed "meeting" other bloggers and discovering some new-to-me book blogs.

Here's what I posted this week for Armchair BEA:
And I did manage one review this week, of Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern.

And, just a few of the many book blogs I discovered this week:

Becca at I'm Lost in Books - I not only enjoyed her posts but discovered we have a lot in common!

Lisa at Just Another Rabid Reader

Juli at Universe of Books

Charlotte at Charlotte's Library

There were many more wonderful blogs that I visited for the first time this week, but I seemed to have a lot in common with these four and signed up to follow them on Twitter and Blogger.

How was your Armchair BEA week? I hope you enjoyed it, too!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Armchair BEA - Beyond the Borders

Fun topic for today's Armchair BEA! I love books that transport me to a different world, let me travel someplace I have never been before, or give me insight into a different culture. I think that is one of books' primary purposes (besides entertainment).

My various book groups have really helped me to branch out to more diverse reading over the past 10 years or so. I often read books for book clubs that I might not have picked up on my own but that I end up enjoying...and very often, those are books set in other places or immersed in other cultures.

For the past 4 years, I have participated in Book Journey's Where Are You Reading Challenge, so I have tracked books set in various states, as well as in other countries. Last year, I read these books set in 13 different countries around the world:

Australia: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Canada: In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood
England: The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein, Crispin -The Cross of Lead by Avi, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Japan: The Yokota Officer's Club by Sarah Bird, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa
North Korea: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson 
Germany: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, City of Women by David Gilham
France: The Infinity Ring #2: Divide and Conquer by Carrie Ryan
ItalyBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
South Africa: The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
Russia: Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine
Ireland: In the Woods by Tana French
Lithuania: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
ScotlandFlyaway by Lucy Christopher

Of these, I would say that  The Orphan Master's Son had a particularly strong (and scary) sense of place, and The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein, City of Women by David Gilham, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh, Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine, and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys all had a strong sense of place but in a particular time in history.

So far, in 2014, I've visited 3 different countries listed in my Where Are You Reading Challenge:
France: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Czechoslovakia: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
India: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
India is one place I seem to visit frequently in books - oddly, it is the only place that I have a separate category for on this blog! You can see all the books I've read set in India here.

I love to make top ten lists, and three of my past lists fit perfectly with this topic:
It was fun going down memory lane, remembering all of these wonderful books that expanded my horizons and broadened my views! I would love to hear about your transporting reading experiences.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Armchair BEA - Author Interaction

Today's Armchair BEA topic is Author Interaction. Book authors are like rock stars to me, and I am a total fangirl when it comes to meeting them or interacting with them!

The first thought that came to mind when I read this topic was my recent experience. I just started a new Twitter account for this book blog recently, and one of my first Tweets was a quote that I love from Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick ("I am practicing being kind rather than right"). Soon after, Matthew Quick favorited my Tweet - I was so excited! My first week of Tweeting about books, and Matthew Quick himself responded! I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. So, yeah, that's how excited I get about interacting with authors.

I have had the pleasure of attending several book signings and/or talks by favorite authors, and every time, I was bowled over by how fun, funny, and intelligent they were.

My first encounter with an author was talking my sons to see Brian Jacques at our local Borders back in 2007. My oldest son was a HUGE fan of Jacques' books, especially the Redwall series, and I'd read about the author appearance in the newspaper that morning. So, it was a last-minute kind of thing, but we all enjoyed it immensely. This blog post has more details of his appearance, and some pictures of him, including this one where he shared a laugh with my sons.

Brian Jacques laughing with my sons

Our county library system does an All-County Reads program, and always invites the author of the chosen book to talk. I have been fortunate enough to attend two of those talks so far. The first was Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a novel that I had loved. I expected Ford to be interesting, but he also had a great sense of humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing him speak.

Last year, our All-County Reads book was March, and the libraries brought Geraldine Brooks in to speak. I have read every one of Brooks' novels and loved every one of them. She is one of my favorite authors, so I was very excited to hear her speak. As with Jamie Ford, Brooks was interesting, personable, and had a great sense of humor. I didn't have the stamina to stand in line to get a book signed, but I did snap a photo.

This year, just last month, Silver Linings Playbook was our county's chosen book, and Matthew Quick came to talk. I had plans to go but wasn't feeling well enough and had to cancel at the last minute. I was so disappointed! So, you can see why I got so excited when a couple of weeks later, he favorited my Tweet.

How about you? What have been your favorite author interactions?

Nonfiction Review: Time Management from the Inside Out

I started the new year determined to get better at time management, to reduce my stress and feeling of constantly being overwhelmed, and to get better at achieving my goals. I got two books out of the library that I’d heard good things about. The first, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, was helpful to me in several ways (you can read my full review at the link). The second book that I got out of the library was Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule – and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern, whom I’d heard in an NPR interview several years ago. I liked this one so much that I bought my own copy when it was due back at the library. I’ve actually read through it twice now and have implemented some of her recommendations.

Morgenstern begins the book by asking you to take a look at what your motivations are and what obstacles stand in your way.  I especially liked the section on obstacles, which she divides into technical errors (things like your home or office is disorganized or you tend to miscalculate how long tasks will take), external realities (like you have a job or life where you are frequently interrupted), and psychological obstacles (like a fear of success or that you thrive on being busy and in crisis mode). One thing that really appealed to me about this book right from the beginning was that one of the external realities Morgenstern includes here is “Health Problems Limit Your Energy.” That is definitely true of my own life, since I have a chronic illness, and I am often frustrated by time management advice that assumes I have unlimited energy and plenty of time.

Additional sections of the book deal with how you currently spend your time (a topic I was well-prepared after doing the time-tracking outlined in Vanderkam’s book), learning how to estimate how long a task will take (something I have learned I am very bad at!), defining goals (something I am almost too good at already – I probably have too many goals), and getting organized. Since Morgenstern wrote an earlier book called Organizing from the Inside Out (which I also purchased), her sections on organization and clutter were especially good. She also introduces her WADE formula:
  • Write it down (in one place)
  • Add it up (estimate time required)
  • Decide what you will actually do
  • Execute Your Plan 
I have already implemented several pieces of the advice offered in this book. I have been working on time estimation, which as I mentioned, is not a natural skill for me! I am always underestimating how much time something will take and overestimating how many tasks I can manage in a day or a week. Another chapter, Where Paper Meets Time, included a quick-start process for quickly getting rid of paper piles. I applied this process to the ever-present piles on my kitchen counter, and it worked like magic! Within an hour, I had weeded the multiple piles into one small pile, and with time estimates written on each one, I quickly got through several simple tasks that I had been putting off.

I am still using the book, which is filled with dog-eared pages and Post-it notes, and am still working on several of the action items she outlines. I wouldn’t say that my life has been miraculously changed, but I am definitely making progress, a little at a time, in reducing my stress and making my to-do lists more manageable. I am excited to keep working on the advice she provides and also to read her book on organizing so that I can tackle some of the clutter in the house! All in all, I’ve found Time Management from the Inside Out to provide helpful guidance that I will continue to use.

262 pages, St. Martin’s Griffin

 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Armchair BEA 2014 Introduction


Someday, I hope to attend the annual Book Expo America (BEA) in person, but for now, I enjoy participating in Armchair BEA from home, joining in the bookish fun this week!

Today's topic is Introductions, so I have chosen 5 of the intro questions to answer so that you can get to know me and my blog better:

  1. Please tell a little about yourself. OK, My name is Sue Jackson, and this is my book blog, Book By Book! I grew up in Rochester, NY, used to live in New Orleans, and now call Delaware home. I also write a blog about living with chronic illness. I started this book blog in 2006 - wow, that's 8 years now! For most of those years, I also maintained a second book blog, Great Books for Kids and Teens. Even though I recently merged the two blogs into this one, you can still find hundreds of archived reviews for kids/teens/YA there. Here is my very first Book By Book post that explains why I started blogging about books.
  2. Describe your blog in one sentence, with links to social media. Book By Book features reviews of good books for both adults and for middle-grade, teen, and YA readers. Like Book By Book on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.
  3. Favorite book read last year and so far this year? My favorite book overall last year was The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - blew me away! You can see the rest of my 2013 Top Ten here. My favorite so far this year? That's a tougher one...I guess I would choose Moloka'i by Alan Brennert as my favorite adult novel so far and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys as my favorite YA (that's not cheating, is it??)
  4. Share your favorite book. It's hard to pick just one, but one of my favorite books for the past 20 years now has been Replay by Ken Grimwood. It's about a guy who keeps reliving part of his life over and over again, making different choices each time, and I find it so thought-provoking! I've read it three times so far and love it just as much each time.
  5. Some of my favorite blogs. These are a few of my favorite book blogs - their authors feel like friends to me by now!
Tanya at Girlxoxo

Anne at My Head is Full of Books

Julie at My Book Retreat

Tanya at Mom's Small Victories

So, that's me! Leave your link if you are also participating in Armchair BEA - I'd love to get to know you, too!

It's Monday 5/26! What Are You Reading?


Happy Memorial Day for those in the US! Hope you are enjoying the long weekend.

Whew, this time of year is sooo busy! This week is my high school son's last week of classes, my college son's last 2 final exams and then moving back home for the summer, and my mom coming to visit for a couple of days.

As Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer here, I launched my annual Big Book Summer Challenge on Saturday! This is a summer challenge, so I keep it low-key and easy...you only need to plan to read 1 book of 400 pages or longer in order to participate. Check out my own plans for my big book summer and then hop over to the challenge page to sign up!

Here's what we've all been reading this week:
  • I finished Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven, a historical novel about a young woman on her own for the first time who becomes a pilot during World War II. My book group all enjoyed the novel very much.
  • Next, I jumped right into my next book group pick (I belong to a few too many book groups!), The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom on my Kindle. I haven't read an Albom novel since The Five People You Meet in Heaven, probably 10 years ago. It's interesting so far, and I am looking forward to discussing it with my family book group.
  • I finished Popular by teen author Maya Van Wagenen on audio and loved it. It's a teen/YA memoir about following the advice of a 50's popularity guide in the modern world. The teen author is a wonderful writer, and her story is an interesting one.
  • I am now listening to another teen/YA book, The Here and Now by Ann Brashares (of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame). It's about a teen girl and her community who traveled from the future to live in our time after plagues decimated earth. I love time travel plots, so this story has me captivated so far!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King and enjoying it. That one definitely qualifies as a Big Book!
  • Jamie, 19, is still reading The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham, the first book in The Dagger and the Coin fantasy series. He is enjoying it, though his reading time is limited since it's finals week.
Lots of fun posts here at the blog this week:
Review of The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, a teen/YA novel

Launch of my annual Big Book Summer Challenge - choose your big book(s) and join the fun!

My own Big Book Summer Challenge plans

Weekend Cooking post, with several easy, tasty, nutritious meals
What are you and your family reading this week?    

What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.     


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Weekend Cooking 5/25

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

I didn't cook a lot this week - I got worn out at the end of the week, so we went out twice and ditched our Paleo diet for a couple of meals!

But we did have a few good homemade meals this week. One night when my son had friends over, I made his favorite, pulled pork, in the crockpot. However, since we're trying to limit sugar, I left out the typical store-bought barbeque sauce and instead used a dry rub, from a recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork in the summer issue of Low Sugar Living. It was delicious! And so flavorful that I never missed the sauce. Although I had regular kaiser rolls for the boys, I made Paleo Hamburger Buns from the Against All Grain cookbook for my husband and I. They were very good! Alongside the pulled pork sandwiches, we had homemade cole slaw (I used the recipe from the Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight! cookbook). All in all, a great meal.

Another night, I made one of my own recipes, Holubtsi in a Pot. Holubtsi is the Ukrainian word for cabbage rolls, staple of holidays in my family. This is a simple but delicious recipe that uses the same ingredients (minus the rice, to keep it Paleo). I've included it below.

Hope you are enjoying great food and fun cooking this holiday weekend!

Be sure to check out my Big Book Summer Challenge and join the fun!

 
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Holubtsi in a Pot
(Serves 4)
A simple, Paleo version of a traditional Ukrainian favorite

1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter or ghee
1 pound lean ground beef (grass-fed, organic if you are eating Paleo)
1 large onion, chopped
16 oz. chopped tomatoes (we like Pomi, with no BPA)
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
sea salt & pepper to taste

Whole wheat egg noodles, cooked per instructions (optional)

In a large skillet, sauté onion in butter/ghee and olive oil until soft. Add ground beef to skillet and sauté until brown. Add tomatoes and cabbage, reduce heat to medium, and cover skillet. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

If you are eating Paleo, serve as is. For family members who eat grains, serve over whole wheat egg noodles.

© Suzan L. Jackson 2014
(Do not reprint or publish without written permission from the author)

     

Saturday, May 24, 2014

My 2014 Big Book Summer Challenge

I have just announced the third year of my challenge, Big Book Summer Challenge, so I guess I should be the first to sign up!

I really enjoyed tackling some big books the last few summers, and I'm looking forward to doing it again and finally reading some of these bricks that have been collecting dust on my shelf (NOTE: for this challenge, a Big Book is defined as anything with more than 400 pages).

I don't know if I will get to all of these, but I like to have some options to choose from.  These are all currently on my shelves, waiting patiently to be read (along with many others!). I actually chose 6 this year because none of them are 700-1000 pages long, as in previous years - these are all in the 400-550 page range:
  • Emma by Jane Austen, 487 pages (I have never read a Jane Austen!)
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, 538 pages
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, 444 pages
  • Good Fortune by Noni Carter, 482 pages
  • Unsouled by Neal Schusterman, 404 pages
  • Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, 483 pages
    I like to alternate between grown-up books and kids/teen/YA books, so I have three of each on this list.  Some of these, like Emma and Fly By Night, have been collecting dust on my shelf for many years! I also chose some books that will help me in other challenges this year, like Emma for my classics challenge, plus all but one of these qualifies for my TBR Challenge. I also chose a couple of summer-themed books this year - The Interestings and Prodigal Summer - just for added fun. This looks like a long list, but none of the books is over 538 pages, and I suspect the kids/YA ones will go pretty quickly.




    I'm so excited for summer now! I still have two more book group books to read before I dig into these, but I am looking forward to it.

    How about you?  Are you up for tackling a Big Book (or two or three) this summer?  Join me and sign up for the Big Book Summer Challenge!

    2014 Big Book Summer Challenge



    Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    A few years ago, I came up with the idea to use the relaxed freedom of summer to tackle some of the biggest books on my TBR shelf that I'd been wanting to read but never seemed to have the time for.  Both of my book groups take time off during the summer, so with no interfering commitments, I declared it The Summer of the Big Book and really enjoyed delving into some hefty tomes, like The Passage and Pillars of the Earth.

    It was so much fun that two years ago, I created this challenge so that YOU can join me! Here is my post from last year's Big Book Summer Challenge. And here it is Memorial Day weekend again and the official start of summer 2014. So join in the fun!

    The Details:
    Hey, it's summer, so we'll keep this low-key and easy!
    • Anything over 400 pages qualifies as a big book.
    • The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend (May 24-26 this year) through Labor Day weekend (Labor Day is September 1 this year).
    • Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal.  Wait, did you get that?  You only need to read 1 book with over 400 pages this summer to participate! (though you are welcome to read more, if you want).
    • Choose from what's on your shelves already or a big book you've been meaning to read for ages or anything that catches your eye in the library - whatever peaks your interest!
    • Sign up on the links list below or on the 2014 Big Book Summer Challenge page.
    • Write a post to kick things off - you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to this blog.
    • Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.
    • You can write progress posts if you want to and/or reviews of the big books you've read...but you don't have to!  There is a separate links list below for big book review posts.
    That's it!  Go check out your shelves and your TBR list and sign up below!

    (Don't have a blog?  No problem!  You can still participate in the challenge - just leave a comment in the Comment section, stating your goals for the Big Book Summer Challenge.)

    Check out my own list of books to read for the challenge.

    Be sure to include a link to your kick off blog post (not your homepage):







    Come back to this page during the summer to add a link whenever you review a Big Book or post a progress report:






    Friday, May 23, 2014

    Teen/YA Review: The Dream Thieves

    My 19-year old son and I both enjoyed The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and couldn’t wait to read book two in the series, The Dream Thieves. Stiefvater didn’t disappoint – this second novel in the YA series The Raven Cycle was just as good as the first one.

    I don’t want to give away too much for those who have not yet read the first book, Raven Boys (and if you are in that group, what are you waiting for?). In this second book, the quirky and lovable Blue is back, along with her group of unlikely friends, boys from the exclusive private school, Aglionby Academy. Blue is a teen girl who grew up among a family of psychics, though she has no special powers of her own, other than amplifying the psychic abilities of others in her presence.

    In The Raven Boys, Blue met and became friends with the Raven Boys: Gansey, a privileged and handsome young man from a wealthy family; Adam, a boy who grew up amidst poverty and abuse and is working hard to earn enough money to stay at Aglionby since the tuition was raised past the amount of his scholarship; the kind but quiet Noah; and Ronan, who is full of anger and has no one left in the world for him except his two brothers and the other Raven Boys.

    The boys – and now Blue, too – are on a quest to find a dead Welsh king named Glendower, who they think was hidden somewhere in the hills near their small Virginia town. Legend has it that whoever finds Glendower will have a wish granted. That quest continues in this book, though there are several new developments that were introduced in book one.

    Ronan has a secret that explains the mysterious appearance of his pet raven, Chainsaw, in the first book. And there is a new character in this book, a secretive and dangerous man known only as the Gray Man at the start of the book, who seems bent on somehow harming the close group of friends.

    Like The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves is full of action and magic, with elements of romance, suspense, and mystery thrown in. Blue’s affections are torn between moody Adam, whose background is more like hers, and handsome, easy-going Gansey, but her lifelong curse – that if she kisses the boy she loves, he will die – hangs over her head. The quest for Glendower continues, but now there are other challenges the group of friends must deal with, including Ronan’s secret power and the mysterious Gray Man. This book is a bit darker and more suspenseful than the first, but it still has Stiefvater’s wonderful sense of humor to balance the tone and keep it fun. My son and I can’t wait to see what will happen in book three!

    437 pages, Scholastic

     

    Monday, May 19, 2014

    It's Monday 5/19! What Are You Reading?


    Quiet Monday morning...ahhh! We had a busy weekend but at least this one was both productive and fun. We got a lot of paperwork done - bills, medical insurance claims, FASFA, etc. Our younger son was at sleep-overs all weekend, so my husband and I went out to dinner twice. That's a wild weekend for me!

    But I am glad it's Monday, with our kitchen counter all cleared off and a stack of bills/claims to go in the mail, and I'm ready to face a new week. I love fresh starts!

    Last week was a good reading week for all of us:
    • I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about a young woman's hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and her emotional journey after the death of her mother. It was excellent, and I am so glad to have finally read it!
    • Now I am reading Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven, a historical novel about a young woman on her own for the first time, set during World War II. It's my neighborhood book group's selection for May, and I waited too long to start it. I am enjoying it, but I'm not sure I can finish it by Wednesday! We'll have to do a no-TV night.
    • I am still listening to Popular by teen author Maya Van Wagenen on audio and loving it. It's a teen/YA memoir about following the advice of a 50's popularity guide in the modern world. Maya is an excellent writer and an amazingly mature young woman - her story is fascinating.
    • My husband, Ken, finished The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch on his Kindle. It's a thriller set in Germany in 1660. He enjoyed it and was interested to read that the author is himself descended from a family of executioners.
    • Now, Ken has just started reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, which my father lent him.
    • Jamie, 19, finished Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. He is loving this series that combines mystery and suspense with fantasy and loved that book 2 was set partly on a ship.
    • Now, Jamie is reading The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham, the first book in The Dagger and the Coin fantasy series. He likes it so far. Finals start this week, and by the end of next week, he will have a lot more reading time!
    I posted a lot last week - it's easier with just one book blog to keep track of!
    My Summary of Books Read in April

    Book By Book is now on Twitter! I know, I exchanged an extra blog for a new Twitter account, but I'm having fun with it! Come join me.

    Teen/YA Review: Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin

    Weekend Cooking: about a new food magazine, Low Sugar Living
    And come back later this week for the official start to my Big Book Summer Challenge, now in its third year! Come and join the fun this year and finally get to that big book (or two or three) on your shelf or TBR list. For a sneak peak at what's in store, check out last year's Big Book Summer page.

    What are you and your family reading this week?    

    What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.    

    Sunday, May 18, 2014

    Weekend Cooking 5/18

    Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

    As you may recall from earlier posts, our family switched to a Paleo/low-sugar diet earlier this year for medical reasons, to help with the chronic illness (an immune system disorder) that three of us have, and my husband happily went along with it for weight loss. It's become second-nature to us by now. We usually have simple dinners with meat or fish and two veggie sides, but I am always looking for new Paleo recipes, to break up the routine!

    I recently picked up a copy of Low Sugar Living magazine at  Whole Foods (it is also sold at Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble and other stores), so I thought I'd tell you a bit about that today. Whether you are eating Paleo, are diabetic, have yeast/candida problems, or just want to eat healthier and reduce sugar in your diet, this is a great magazine, chock-full of recipes.

    Apparently, it is a brand-new magazine. The issue I picked up (their summer 2014 issue) is only their second. They don't even seem to have a website yet, so unfortunately, I couldn't find their recipes online to share with you. However, they do have  Low Sugar Living magazine Facebook page and a page from the publisher where you can order a subscription (only $8!).

    Photo © Low Sugar Living magazine
    We have tried three recipes from the magazine so far, and all have been delicious! What we've tried so far has been full of flavor, easy to make, and perfectly fitting for a Paleo diet, even though that's not their focus (many of their recipes are Paleo, though some contain some dairy or whole grains).

    The first dish we tried was Sukuma Wiki, an East African dish that is super-easy to make and so tasty! We've already had it twice, and it is already a favorite. The main ingredients are lean ground beef, collard greens, onions, and grape tomatoes, with a mix of about a dozen spices that make the dish heaven for your taste buds! Our 16-year old son liked it, too. You can see from my photo that the magazine is already well-used.
    Photo © Low Sugar Living magazine

    This week, I tried two of the magazine's recipes for one dinner. I made Grilled Peach Chicken, a super-simple dish of grilled chicken breasts that have been marinated in sugar-free peach preserves (I used apricot since that's what we had) and some other simple ingredients.

    Photo © Low Sugar Living magazine
    On the side, I served roasted asparagus and Grilled Zucchini with Basil, Mint, and Lemon (I subbed cilantro for the herbs since that's what I had on hand). We have zucchini a lot, so I was thrilled to try a new recipe that added some extra flavor - the roasted hazelnuts on top also added a nice crunch. I will definitely make that one again, too.

    So far, so good! If you are cooking for someone with diabetes or other health problems helped by a low-sugar diet, I recommend finding a copy of this magazine (or ordering a subscription) and giving it a try. We're really enjoying it so far!

    Saturday, May 17, 2014

    Saturday Snapshot 5/17


    Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

    May Flowers! All the flowering trees in our neighborhood finally bloomed last week - it's so beautiful when they are all in flower at once. Now, everything is green, but they are at their peak:


    A neighbor's weeping willow tree in bloom.

    This tree reminds me of cotton candy when it blooms!

    A close-up of the previous tree

    Bright pops of pink all over the neighborhood from the cherry trees.

    Our own contribution - daffodils and grape hyacinth - almost gone 1 week later!


    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

    Note: Remember that Book By Book is now on Twitter!

    You can also follow Book By Book on Facebook.

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    Teen/YA Review: Loud Awake and Lost

    I listened to Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin on audio and was spellbound by the quiet but emotionally powerful story of a young girl with a traumatic brain injury who is struggling to recover her memory.

    As the novel opens, 17-year old Ember is finally leaving the rehab facility where she spent eight months after a horrible car crash. Not only does Ember not remember the accident itself, but she also has no memory of the six weeks leading up to it. She knows that her passenger – a boy her age named Anthony – died in the crash, but she has no idea who he is or why he was riding with her, a long way from home.

    Ember is welcomed home by her loving but worried parents and her longtime best friend, Rachel. Even these people closest to her don’t seem to know much about what Ember was doing in the weeks before the crash or the circumstances of the accident itself. To add to the mystery, as Ember resumes her old life, she keeps encountering things that feel vaguely familiar and people who seem to know her that she has no memory of. There are girls who act as if Ember is a close friend, places she doesn’t remember that seem to have played a big role in her pre-crash life, and mysterious graffiti symbols all over the area that tug at her damaged brain.

    Her family and old friends are glad to have Ember back, and even her old boyfriend is back in her life, but Ember knows she is missing some key pieces of information, parts of her old life that she can’t remember and no one else seems to know about. All of the characters here – Ember’s parents, her friends, her old boyfriend – feel real, as they struggle along with Ember. As Ember works hard to strengthen her physically damaged body, her lack of progress with her equally damaged brain frustrates her.

    Ember’s story has some elements of suspense and mystery to it, though it is not an action-packed book. Instead, the action takes place in Ember’s head, as she tries desperately to remember what she’s lost and recover that part of her life again. I really enjoyed this engrossing, emotional novel. And when Ember finally makes an unexpected discovery about both her past and her present, I was taken entirely by surprise. The audio production was excellent, with reader Abby Craden doing a great job with all the different characters. Loud Awake and Lost is not just about recovery but also about growth and change, something that all teens (and adults, too!) can relate to.

    Random House Audio/Listening Library

    Listen to an excerpt: 




    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    Book By Book is Now on Twitter!

    About a month ago, I started using Twitter for my chronic illness blog (@livewithmecfs). I've been enjoying it but was really itching to Tweet (and follow) book-related stuff, too.

    This is probably really stupid since I just merged my two book blogs into one to reduce my workload, but I started a new Twitter account just for books! I hope it will be fun and not too much extra work, though I already got confused and posted an illness-related Tweet to the book account. They should make it easier to manage two Twitter feeds with one account...but they don't.

    I am looking forward to posting favorite quotes from books, bookish news, what I'm reading, and to follow favorite authors.

    So, if you are on Twitter, you can follow me at @SueBookByBook - hope to see you there!

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    Books Read in April


    Hey, it's only May 13, and I'm getting to my April summary. That's not too bad for me, compared to recent months! April seemed to go by in a flash, and our weather skipped from winter directly to summer, with only a few weeks of nice spring temperatures.

    But it was a great reading month! Here's what I read:



    So, that's 6 books total, all fiction and two were audio books. My favorite book was Silver Linings Playbook, though Out of the Easy was a close runner-up.

    I added just one state (New Jersey) and two new countries to my Where Are You Reading Challenge 2014 this month.  I didn't read a single book from my TBR shelves for my 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, and I just added 5 new books from Mother;s Day plus another library book to my shelf today - they are piling up!  I listened to two more audio books for my 2014 Audio Book Challenge, so that one's going well so far. No more nonfiction books this month, but I am counting The Unbearable Lightness of Being as a modern classic for my Classics Reading Challenge 2014, so that makes a total of...ONE so far!

    What was your favorite book read in April? 

    Monday, May 12, 2014

    It's Monday 5/12! What Are You Reading?


    In case you missed the news last week, Great Books for Kids and Teens has merged with Book By Book, and now you can find content from both blogs right here! That includes book reviews of books for middle-grade readers through adults, all in one place. You can still visit Great Books for Kids and Teens to search the archives for great book recommendations for kids, teens, and YA.

    Hope all the moms out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday! We spent the weekend at my mom’s house in Connecticut, to celebrate both her birthday and Mother’s Day, an annual tradition. It was good to see everyone, though a very tiring weekend for me. Now I am by my husband’s side, waiting for him to get eye surgery this morning (no WiFi at the hospital so posting will have to wait).

    And today is International ME/CFS Awareness Day. ME/CFS is a debilitating immune disorder that I have had for the past 12 years, and both of my sons have it, too. It has dramatically changed our lives, so if you want to know more about it, head over to my CFS blog.

    And that’s all the news – now onto the main subject: books! Here’s what we’ve been reading this week:
    • I am reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, though with our busy weekend, I haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d like. It’s a memoir about how the author hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in an effort to heal after her mother died and she became self-destructive and lost. It’s excellent so far, a chronicle of both physical challenges and emotional pain and growth.
    • I also started - and finished - a graphic novel last week – that’s the only kind of book I can read at the same time as another, since I can squeeze it into little bits of time. This One Summer by cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki was wonderful, the story of two adolescent girls’ summer spent at their families’ cottages on a lake in Canada and all of the changes they are dealing with.
    • I finished – yes, finally finished! – Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morganstern. I actually read it through twice and have been starting to implement some of her advice as I read. It’s been helpful so far.
    • And I started listening to a new audio book, Popular, written by teen author Maya Van Wagenen. It’s wonderful so far – the true chronicle of a modern 8th grader’s quest to become popular, with the help of a 1950’s popularity guide for girls. Hard to believe the author is just a teen!
    • My husband is still reading The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch on his Kindle. It's a thriller set in Germany in 1660. He hasn’t had a lot of reading time lately, either.
    • Jamie, 19, unbelievably finished The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (at over 700 pages) this week and started book 2, Red Seas Under Red Skies. He is loving this series that combines mystery and suspense with fantasy.
    • Craig, 16, is officially finished with books in his Brit Lit class – unfortunately, they ran out of time to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, as planned. I still hope to read it myself this year.

    As I mentioned above, I merged my two book blogs into one blog (this one!) to save myself some duplicate effort. So, now all of my book reviews – for all ages – will be posted here. Here are the reviews I posted last week:

    Review of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, a teen/YA novel

    Reviewof The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, an adult novel set in India
    What are you and your family reading this week?    

    What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.   

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Snapshot Saturday 5/10


    Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

    Last weekend, I experienced a rare treat: 24 hours away at the beach with my two closest friends. We stayed at my friend's house which is right on a beautiful creek, went kayaking, took a walk on the beach, ate crabs, and talked and laughed nonstop! Here are some of the pictures of the gorgeous and rejuvenating scenery:

    Kayaking on the creek behind the house.

    My two friends kayaking and paddle-boarding

    Geese and 5 fluffy little goslings (see them in the grass?)
    Sunset over the creek

    Perfectly still water reflects the trees in the early morning

    The dock (and my friend sitting on the end of it)

    Walking along Cape Henlopen beach

    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend...and Happy Mother's Day!

    Friday, May 09, 2014

    Fiction Review: The God of Small Things

    One of my book groups recently read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Unfortunately, I missed the discussion last night, but I read the book. It’s a well-written novel set in India, about a terrible family tragedy that affects all of its members for the rest of their lives.

    Rahel and Esthappen are fraternal twins (“two-egg twins”) just eight years old in 1969, living on their family estate in Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India. Their family is a broken one. They live with their mother, Ammu, who is lovely but lonely; their uncle, Chacko, who is Oxford-educated but returned home after his divorce; their blind grandmother, Mammachi, who plays the violin and started a pickle factory; and their great-aunt, oddly named Baby Kochamma, who is an ex-nun.

    The novel begins by telling you that it will end in tragedy. Within the first few pages, you find out that the twins’ British cousin, Sophie Mol, somehow dies during a Christmas visit to their home. The rest of the novel slowly moves back and forth between the present (when the twins are 31-years old) and the past, to fill in the details of exactly what happened on that fateful day and all the history that led up to it. That day forever changed every resident of the estate.

    In case you can’t tell from that description, this is a very dark and depressing story. You know from the beginning that it ends in tragedy, and it keeps its promise: there is no happy ending here for any of the characters. There is plenty of foreshadowing, too, right from the very first pages, so there isn’t much suspense or mystery to the story.

    Instead, it’s a story about a family and how this one tragic event shaped their lives forever. It’s about how, as the twins say, Everything Can Change in a Day. Despite knowing much about how it ends from the beginning, it is a convoluted story, as the author moves back and forth between present and past, gradually filling in details of each of the characters’ lives and history. Some people in our group didn’t like that moving back and forth and found it confusing (the author doesn’t really tell you when she is shifting to a different time period).

    While it is tragic, this novel is also rich in imagery and detail, bringing the steamy jungle atmosphere of the estate to life and giving insight into a world very different from our own. The book also includes political and historical elements, with some detail of the dynamic history of that region, including British rule, independence, and communism - much of which I didn't know.  Many people in our book group enjoyed the descriptive writing, even if they weren’t thrilled with the story itself. It’s an interesting story, just one full of tragedy – there’s not much room for hope here. Personally, I prefer my novels with at least a bit of hope and an uplifting tone, though I am glad to have read it. It definitely left me wanting to know more about that region of India, its history and its customs. It’s always interesting when a novel carries you off to new places.

    321 pages, Random House

     

    Thursday, May 08, 2014

    Teen/YA Review: Out of the Easy

    Last year, I read Ruta Sepetys’ first novel, Between Shades of Gray, and was so blown away by the powerful historical novel that I gave it to me 14-year old cousin for her birthday. She was blown away, too, and we had a great time talking about that amazing book and its horrifying historical context. When I heard that Sepetys’ second novel takes place in New Orleans, where I used to live, I knew I had to read it. Although completely different than her first novel, Sepetys has written another winner with Out of the Easy.

    Seventeen-year old Josie Moraine lives in the French Quarter in 1950, but this isn’t the New Orleans of tourists. Josie lives in the real New Orleans, where her mother works as a prostitute in a local brothel. Josie moved out of the brothel when she was just eleven years old, and has been living by herself in a small room on the second floor of a bookstore in the Quarter. She works in the bookstore and also as a maid at the brothel, going there early each morning to clear away the detritus of the night before.

    Although Josie’s mother is horribly neglectful of her daughter, the brothel’s madam, Willie Woodley, has taken Josie under her wing and treats her like a daughter. Willie shares Josie’s dream that she will go to college next year, though Willie wants her to stay in New Orleans, and Josie wants to get as far away as possible. To do that, she needs money – a lot of it – and a plan. Josie has a lot of challenges to face, but things get even more complicated when she and her mother get entangled in a police investigation of a murder in the French Quarter. All she wants is to escape and be a part of respectable society, but New Orleans’ wealthy and powerful residents look down on her.

    As with Lina in her first novel, Sepetys has created an endearing, real heroine in Josie. As a reader, I was rooting for her right from the first chapter. Josie loves books, has a fierce thirst for knowledge, and a fervent desire to escape the life she’s been trapped in. I got pulled into her story immediately and read the book very quickly, wanting to know if Josie would succeed in her quest. The action here is fast-paced and compelling.

    The city of New Orleans – and especially the French Quarter – is like another character in this novel, and Sepetys does a wonderful job of bringing it to life: the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are also plenty of other fully formed characters here, both friends and foes of Josie. Obviously, the subject matter – with a brothel at the center of the story – may be a bit sensitive for younger readers. When I read the first sentence, “My mother’s a prostitute,” I realized my conservative aunt might not want me sharing this novel with my young cousin! Although there is nothing graphic here, the story does include both sex and violence, with Josie put in a very difficult and potentially devastating position at one point.

    But for older teens, young adults, and adults, this is a wonderful novel with a strong sense of place and time about an intelligent and strong young woman trying to find a way to a better future for herself without giving up on her ideals. I loved every moment of it.

    346 pages, Philomel (imprint of Penguin)

     

    Wednesday, May 07, 2014

    Great Books for Kids and Teens Moving Here!

    I have decided to merge my two book blogs into one, so from now on, you can find reviews of great books for kids, teens, and YA - as well as adult book reviews - all right here in one place at Book By Book!

    This change will eliminate some duplicate work I've been doing to maintain two different book blogs
    so that I will have more time to focus on content - reviews, book news, and more fun stuff!

    Great Books for Kids and Teens will remain in place because it contains hundreds of archived reviews of books for middle-grade, teen, and YA readers, so if you are looking for a good book for those age groups, head over there and use the keyword search or the categories list to find what you are looking for...or you can always ask me for recommendations!

    And, remember, you can follow Book By Book on Facebook, too!

    Monday, May 05, 2014

    It's Monday 5/5! What Are You Reading?


    Happy Cinco de Mayo! I really can't believe it is May already...April went by in a flash!

    I spent a lovely, relaxing weekend at the beach with my two closest friends. We went kayaking out on a quiet, peaceful creek, walked on the beach, played games, and talked and laughed nonstop!

    So, I am feeling refreshed and rejuvenated this morning, ready to start a new week! Here's what my family and I have been reading this past week:
    • I am almost finished with The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, book 2 of the Raven Boys series. It's been wonderful, just as good as the first book, and I should finish it today.
    • I am also almost finished with Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morganstern. This one has taken me a long time to get through because partway through I decided to return the library's copy and get my own copy and then I reread parts of it. I have also been implementing some of her advice as I read. Last week, I did her Quick Sort to get rid of all the paper piles on my kitchen counter, and it worked wonderfully!
    • My husband, Ken, is reading The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch on his Kindle. It's a thriller set in Germany in 1660.
    • Jamie, 19, is reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, one of the new purchases he made with a gift card last week that he's very excited to read! It's a medieval fantasy with "the suspense and wit of a crime caper," pretty much combining all of my son's favorite things.
    • Craig, 16, finished MacBeth for his Brit Lit class (and did very well on the exam for it!). Unfortunately, his teacher ran out of time and is going to have to skip their last planned book, Frankenstein. I told my son I was sorry he wouldn't get to read that one, but he said, "That's OK - MacBeth was actually pretty good." Music to my ears from my son who normally claims he doesn't like reading!
    I was able to catch up on some reviews last week:

    Review of The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, a modern classic.

    Review of The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, which I loved!

    Review of The Carpet People, written by famed author Terry Pratchett when he was just 17.

    What are you and your family reading this week?    

    What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.     

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    Fiction Review: The Silver Linings Playbook

    I really liked the movie adaptation of The Silver Linings Playbook and had heard all the rave reviews of the book, so my expectations were high when my library book group recently read the popular novel by Matthew Quick. That can sometimes ruin a perfectly decent book, but in this case, the novel about mental illness exceeded my high expectations.

    Pat, a volatile man in his early 30’s, has spent several years in a mental health facility and finally comes home to live with his parents in New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. Pat is in a difficult place, but he is determined to get back in shape, both physically and mentally, so that his wife Nikki will come back to him and end Apart Time. He sticks to a daily fitness routine of working out and running that would leave a professional athlete exhausted, he is meeting with a local therapist named Cliff, and he embarks on a mission to read all of the literary works that Nikki teaches to her high school English students in order to prove how devoted he is to her.

    Pat has a volatile temper, but he is also an eternal optimist, believing whole-heartedly in happy endings and silver linings, even when everything around him indicates otherwise. His whole life is focused on getting Nikki back, but he has trouble adjusting to his old world. His mother cries often, his father won’t speak to him, and all of his family and friends refuse to talk to him about Nikki. He is glad to be reunited with his brother and his lifelong best friend, Ronnie. Ronnie’s wife, Veronica, has a sister named Tiffany who has plenty of problems herself. Tiffany’s a little odd, but she and Pat begin to spend time together – often silently – and to slowly become friends.

    That’s the basic set-up, but there is so much depth to this novel, both in its plot and its emotions. A deep, abiding love for the Philadelphia Eagles football team is a bonding agent for Pat and his family and friends; a win could even mean that Pat’s dad will speak to him briefly. Their avid fandom (such an understatement!) provides a lot of the humor in the book. Anyone not from this area will probably think the author used a lot of hyperbole in those passages, but having moved here 25 years ago (and having made the mistake of going to an Eagles game in our Saints shirts), I can tell you firsthand that none of that is exaggerated!

    Cliff the therapist is also a source of both humor and warmth, as he shares Pat’s fervor for the Eagles and tries to gently guide him back to real life. Pat’s – and Tiffany’s – journey back to a form of mental health that is acceptable to the rest of the world is at the heart of this novel, and it is heartwarming and also heartbreaking at times. And as an avid reader, I absolutely loved Pat’s honest critiques of the works of literature he reads!

    The entire novel is told in Pat’s voice, and it is a unique and unforgettable voice. You root for him as he fights his demons and struggles to regain control over his life. Sometimes, he seems rather childlike, but I found that endearing – I think it makes him seem very authentic, as he learns to be true to himself. I absolutely love his focus on silver linings and this oft-repeated line which I think I will adopt as my own life motto: “I am practicing being kind instead of right.” He is one of the most memorable characters I have ever met in a book.

    This novel was like a rollercoaster ride for me – I laughed out loud at many passages and teared up at others. I should note that not everyone in the book group agreed – a few were disappointed in the novel – but others, like me, were enchanted and delighted with it. Having already seen the movie did not in any way ruin the book for me because the two share many qualities but are different expressions of the same story. There was so much depth to the novel that wasn’t possible to fit into the movie, though I still highly recommend the movie – the dance scene alone is worth the price!

    The Silver Linings Playbook is a moving, warm, and often hilarious story about mental illness and life that is ultimately uplifting and positive. The characters felt like friends to me, and I read the novel greedily, never wanting it to end. I am now very eager to read all of Matthew Quick’s other novels…and to watch the movie again!

    289 pages, Sarah Chrichton Books (imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)