Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review: A Breast Cancer Alphabet By Madhulika Sikka


By: Madhulika Sikka

Published: February 25, 2014

Publisher: Crown, First Edition


I am part of the TLC Book Tour for A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET. To see other stops on this book tour including reviews from other book bloggers and giveaways, click HERE

During this month of October, I felt it was especially appropriate to share this book. A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET isn't just for the person with cancer, but for those who love and care for the person with cancer. I would even offer that even though this book focuses specifically, in certain chapters, about breast cancer, this book could be helpful to anyone with any form of cancer. 

While working as a producer with NPR, Sikka found out she had breast cancer. As she traveled through chemo and hair loss, surgeries and sickness, she found there wasn't a book to tell you exactly what you wanted and needed to hear while going through the days of cancer. Sikka wrote this book to remind those with cancer and their families and friends that you can still smile, life still goes on and most importantly, you have every right to feel the way you do.

The book is laid out exactly as you would expect. Each chapter begins with a letter of the alphabet that explains a part of living with cancer.  In the "A is for Anxiety" chapter, you will find that anxiety isn't a feeling experienced just during the waiting game after a lump is found, but a part of life that continues years after you are "cancer free". The anxiety during your treatments is just as real as the anxiety you feel in the back of your mind, always wondering if your cancer will come back.  In the "E is for Epiphany" chapter, Sikka explains that all those dreams and wishes you had in your "pre-cancer" life are nothing compared to the dreams you have in your "after-cancer" life. Realizing that your life was pretty great just as it was may be the epiphany you needed. There are also practical chapters like "P is for Pillows" in which the author shares the practicality and necessity of a three-by-six-inch pillow. 

I found A BREAST CANCER ALPHABET to be a practical, yet emotional book. Just because I am a woman makes me a large target for the wretched breast cancer beast. Reading this book made me fearful, yet encouraged. I get my annual mammograms. I perform monthly self-checks. But, I also have a family history of breast cancer. I know the risk for me is high and I found comfort in the pages of this book. Sikka was honest, thorough, and creative in her informative book. I am more aware of how cancer patients feel, physically and emotionally, because of her honesty.  This is a book that should be shared with every woman you know. We can become better patients, caregivers, and friends with the knowledge in this book. 

Madhulika Sikka
Madhulika Sikka is a veteran broadcast journalist with decades of experience. Among other media outlets, she has worked at NPR News and ABC News. For more on Madhulika Sikka, visit her website, http://www.abreastcanceralphabet.com/.

To watch the book trailer, click the video below:

To purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated for this review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you spending a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Children's Book Review: Stormin Norman the Soggy Doggy By Andy Allen


By: Andy Allen

Illustrated By: Brian Barber

Published: November 7, 2011

Publisher: Beavers Pond Press

I met author, Andy Allen at author event I attended a few weeks ago. You can read more about that event, HERE. We had a great chat and I really love his fabulous children's book.

Andy Allen wrote this book after his experience with his own dog during the Flood of 2008 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The floods were devastating to that city as well as many other towns in Iowa. He has taken this experience with his own dog and made it into a wonderful children's book that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

On the first sunny day after many days of rain, Andy and Norm went out for a walk. Their walk along the trail took them near a stream that was abnormally high after all the rain. Norm spied a stick in the water. Like any normal dog would, Norm went after the stick and ended up in the stream. Will Andy be able to save him?

This story shows the love between an owner and his pet. It shows how a normal day can turn into something quite unexpected. Most of all, it teaches a lesson about the danger of high waters. After reading it with your child, you can have a conversation about how important it is to stay away from flooded water.

Each page is written in rhyming scheme and makes it fun and lyrical. But, what I really love about the book is the illustrations. In my conversation with the author, he shared his pride in the pictures and how they depict the true feelings of Andy and Norm, as well as the beautiful Iowa landscape. Even the fish in the stream have expressions.

I am excited to say that there is more to come from Andy and Norm. Another book will be making its way onto bookshelves in the next few months. Stay tuned as I am planning to review Andy Allen's next adventure with Norm.

Andy Allen will forever be an Iowan at heart. He holds a B.S. in psychology and a Master’s Degree in early childhood education. Andy has been an elementary school teacher for nine years.  When he is not composing new rhymes for his Norm stories, Andy coaches basketball and enjoys a good crossword puzzle. He lives in Cedar Rapids with his wife Mary, two cats, Mila and Oscar and two dogs, Simon and of course Norman. For more on Andy Allen and his adventures with Norman, check out www.andyandnorm.com. You can also find Andy and Norm on Facebook, HERE

If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

I will be linking this review up on Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. Every Saturday, you can find other great reviews of children's and YA books from other bloggers. Click HERE, to see all the Kid Konnection posts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Product Review: Nut Milk Bag

I had the opportunity to review Everyday Kitchen Essentials Nut Milk Bag.

I have to admit, I had never heard
of a Nut Milk Bag before.
I have purchased almond milk, but never once thought of making my own almond milk.
But, now I can say that I have done just that, and it is delicious! 

is a strong nylon mesh bag.
It comes packaged in a plastic wrapper so it is protected.
Once you open the bag, I recommend rinsing it out before use.
This Nut Milk Bag
can be purchased on Amazon, HERE,
for around $8 and can be used many times over. 

For my review, I decided to go ahead and try making my own almond milk using raw almonds I already had in my pantry.  You can get the recipe to make your own almond milk by going to the website provided with your Nut Milk Bag.

First I had to soak the almonds overnight. 
I used 2 cups of almonds and just enough water to cover them in the bowl.
I covered the bowl lightly with a paper towel 
just to make sure a gnat or something didn't decided to join the almonds for a swim.

The next morning I took half the almonds and 
placed them in my blender with 4 cups of water 
and a couple tablespoons of pure maple syrup for a sweetener.
You can use other syrups or sweeteners, this was just what I had on hand.
I then blended it on the highest setting for 5 minutes.

While the nuts were blending, I placed the Nut Milk Bag
in a large mixing bowl. 

I slowly poured the blended nuts into the mesh bag.
As you can see there was a foam on the top of the mixture
and pieces of nut shell in the milk.
This is where the Nut Milk Bag
becomes important to this process.

As I began to squeeze out the milk in the bag,
all the pieces of the nut shells stayed in the bag,
while the good, creamy milk went into the bowl.

What was left in the bag was a nut paste, kind of like 
that moon sand stuff that kids like to play with.

Then, I started the process over again for the second cup of almonds.
Once I finished I had just a little over 8 cups of almond milk.

I placed a lid over the bowl and set it in the fridge to chill.
Then I started the clean up process.
Aside from setting the blender pitcher in the dishwasher,
I just had to wash and rinse out the Nut Milk Bag.
I wasn't sure how quickly this process would go,
but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to clean up.
This entire process of making the almond milk and cleaning up took just 30 minutes.
Frankly, it takes me longer to drive to the grocery store to buy almond milk, 
than it did for me to actually make it.
The bag cleaned up really quickly 
and I just propped it in my dish drainer to dry for the day.

Later that day I took my first sip of almond milk.
It. Was. Amazing.
It was creamy, with just a hint of sweetness.
I could drink it just by itself with a meal.
Really delicious.

Other uses for the Nut Milk Bag
include straining quinoa before cooking, 
straining juices when canning or making broth, 
and making yogurts or cheeses.

If you normally use a cheese cloth for straining, I highly recommend
using the Everyday Kitchen Essentials Nut Milk Bag
for ease of use, durability and quick cleaning.

To purchase your own Nut Milk Bag, click the photo below:

Thanks to Everyday Kitchen Essentials for sending this product for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review. If you choose to purchase this product through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thank you for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: Crazy is Normal By Lloyd Lofthouse


By: Lloyd Lofthouse

Published: June 14, 2014

Publisher: Three Clover Press


I'm participating in the book tour for CRAZY IS NORMAL with Virtual Author Book Tours. After teaching for twenty years, Lofthouse decided to keep a journal sharing the ups and downs of teaching freshman English and journalism. He kept this journal during the school year of 1994-1995. Twenty years later in 2014, his experiences teaching in the California public school system are still seen in classrooms all over the country today.

CRAZY IS NORMAL is a great way to describe the setting in his classrooms. It was rare to have an entire class that listened, did their work, and followed through on their homework. The bright light in his day was his time with his journalism students. These students were motivated to work, intelligent, and made him laugh, unlike most of his freshman English students.

Nogales High School in La Puente, CA is located in a prime gang community. Drive-by shootings and acts of vandalism occurred on a regular basis. Mr. Lofthouse had to work with students from the gang community that didn't care about school, to students who had a second-grade reading level and were continually given a passing grade, to students who truly wanted to learn and do their best to succeed. These different groups of students brought daily challenges which the author shares through his weekly journal notes. The reader will be able to feel frustrated right along with the author as he sends the same students again and again to what he calls BIC, which is basically an in-school suspension. It became quite monotonous to read the same type of situations day in and day out, but it was reality for Mr. Lofthouse.

Because this book basically consists of journal entries, there is little plot or story construction. As you read through the year, you read about the same students and you want to know how the school year ends for them, good or bad.  But there is little to draw you in and keep you reading. I was uncomfortable with his attraction to his "star journalism student", Amanda. Even though he was attracted to her, I believe it was inappropriate for him to write about it, although, thankfully, he didn't act on his feelings. I appreciated that he made sure he wasn't in a situation with a student that could have caused concern, such as being alone in a room with a female student. But, it still made me cringe. I also took offense to his frustration with substitute teachers. As a substitute teacher, I take my job seriously and do my best to carry out the plans left by the teacher. I would much rather teach something than sit and read all day. Not all subs are in the classroom to have a good time or mess up the teacher's plans as he discussed. Some of us really care about the students and their learning.

His frustrations with teaching, his feelings of burnout, and annoyance with out-of-touch administrators are common themes in schools today. Fellow teachers will empathize with Mr. Lofthouse and respect his convictions to teach students the proper way to read and write.

The following video is an interview with the author, Lloyd Lofthouse. In the interview he gives his opinion on how his book, based on a year in his classroom in 1994, is worth reading today, even twenty years later. He also shares his opinion on No Child Left Behind and the solution to education reform today. I have to say that I actually agree with his solution. The importance of reading to your children at the beginning of their life and continuing to reinforce the values of reading will have a substantial impact on your child's educational future.

If you would like to purchase a copy of CRAZY IS NORMAL, you can click the photo below. Through November 15, the book is only $.99 on Kindle.

There are several other blogs participating in the book tour for CRAZY IS NORMAL. To read interviews with the author, see other reviews and even enter to win copies of the book, click on the blogs below. 

Crazy Is Normal Web Tour Schedule

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Oct. 1 Review & Giveaway
Inspire to Read Oct. 2  Guest Post & Excerpt
Cassandra M's Place Oct. 6 Review & Giveaway
Pinky's Favorite Reads Interview & Excerpt
Dr Bill's Book Bazaar Oct. 8 Review                                          
Being Tillys Mummy Oct 9 Guest Post & Excerpt
Unselfish Oct 13 Review                                               
Back Porchervations Oct 14 Review, Interview, & Excerpt
Sincerely Stacie Oct. 15 Review                                               
Heck Of A Bunch Oct. 17 Review & Giveaway
Books, Books & More Books Oct 21 Review                                        
Rockin' Book Reviews Oct 22 Review, Interview, and  Excerpt
The Book Binder's Daughter Oct. 23 Review & Interview
The News in Books Oct. 29 Review & Guest Post
M. Denise Costello Oct. 30 Review & Excerpt
She Treads Softly Nov. 3 Review                                              
CelticLady's Reviews Nov 4 Review                                          
My Devotional Thoughts            Nov. 5 Review & Excerpt
Manic Mama of 2 Nov. 6 Review & Excerpt
Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 7 Review, Interview, & Excerpt
What U Talking Bout Willis? Nov 10 Review & Excerpt
From Isi Nov 11 Review

Lloyd Lofthouse

Little did Lloyd Lofthouse know in 1999, when he married Anchee Min, that he was beginning a journey of discovery. His first trip to The Middle Kingdom was on the honeymoon with his bride, who introduced him to China and Robert Hart (1835-1911), the main characters in Lloyd’s first two novels, My Splendid Concubine andOur Hart. The next decade was a journey of discovery. Lloyd now lives near San Francisco with his wife–with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Lloyd earned a BA in journalism in 1973 after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. While working days as an English teacher, he enjoyed a second job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub. His short story, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was named as a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.
Lloyd has won 15 awards for My Splendid Concubine and 5 awards for Running With the Enemy.
Thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours for providing me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Reluctant Reader No Longer

As a substitute teacher, I come in and do my job and leave. Even though I know most of the kids and am able to keep track of their school progress and social life, I feel like I really don't make much of an impact. I basically check in, do my job, and go home.

A few years ago, I was a long-term sub for a teacher that worked with kids who needed extra help with their reading. They were all what I would call "reluctant readers" and it was a daily struggle to get them to do their daily reading.

There was one student in particular, who I knew had the ability to read but wasn't doing it. After talking with him I found that he couldn't find any books that were interesting to him. So, I talked to him about finding a book on a subject he is interested. I remember he mentioned he liked dragons and fantasy type of books but there weren't a lot of books like that at the school, especially at his reading level. He didn't want to read about sports or vampires or romances.

That afternoon, as soon as school got out, I went to our local library and started looking for some books I thought this student might like and ones that were in his reading level. Luckily, I found a series of books (I can't remember now what series it was) that I thought he might like. I checked out the first book in that series and took it to school the next day.

He came back to me just a couple days later with the book finished and anxiously wanting the next book.  So, I went and checked out the next book for him.  This pattern followed as we moved through the series. Because he was a middle school student, he wasn't able to get to the library himself. So, as I finished out that school year with him, I continued to check out books for him that I thought he would like.


Fast forward to this student now being a junior in high school. I was subbing the other day and this same student was in my class. As soon as his work was done, I noticed he was reading. Since we are a 1:1 school, usually a student is doing something on their iPad during their down time. But, I was surprised to see this student reading. I went over to see what he was reading and it was a Rick Riordan novel, no surprise. I told him I was so glad to see that he was reading, by choice. I told him it made me happy.Then he said the one thing that made tears come to my eyes. 

He told me he now LOVES to read. 
Because I showed him back in middle school 
that there were books 
he could read and be interested in. 
He now LOVES to read.

This made my day. Heck it made my week! The fact that this student is no longer a reluctant reader, but one that can't read books fast enough. That is what reading is supposed to be about. Finding a genre you love, being eager to move through the story, and then moving on to the next one.

If your child is a reluctant reader, try to find books that are in a level they can understand. If your child is in school, their teacher should know their AR book level or some other testing level that can guide you when finding an appropriate book. Once you have their level, start asking what they might like to read about...

  • Sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball, cheerleading
  • Friendships
  • Dragons
  • Vampires
  • Ghosts
  • Families
  • Baking
  • School
  • History: Civil War, WWI, WWII, Pioneer
  • Non-Fiction: places, animals, people

There is truly a book for everyone if you can just find a starting point. One book will lead you to another either through the author or subject. Sites like goodreads and Amazon will lead you to books you might like if you liked a particular book. Keep trying. Don't give up. Like I told one of my students in that same middle school class, even if you read the sports page of the newspaper, you are reading. Find something you are interested in and read it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: The Last Breath By Kimberly Belle


By: Kimberly Belle

Published: September 30, 2014

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Fiction/Women's Fiction

Kimberly Belle packs a punch with a gripping prologue and keeps you turning the pages, assessing your beliefs and leaving you holding your breath all the way to the end. This is Belle's debut novel and hopefully more are to come.

The book begins with the murder of Ella Mae in a small Appalachian community. We know that Ella Mae knew her murderer, but is the murderer the man who spent sixteen years in prison for the crime? Gia, Ella Mae's step-daughter, has spent her adult life traveling the country assisting with disasters, feeding the hungry, and doing everything she can to stay away from her home full of bad memories. After being gone since high school, she must now come home to care for her father Ray, the murderer. He has been released from prison to live out his final days at home with hospice. Gia is thrown into chaos with a father she hasn't seen since he was taken to prison, two siblings who want nothing to do with their father, a street full of protesters, and a nagging doubt about her father committing the crime the entire community thinks he did.

As Gia returns to the home Ella Mae was murdered in, a slew of emotions surface. Her siblings refuse to answer her calls and run out the back doors of their office. Her uncle, Cal, who is also her father's lawyer, continues to fill her with lies about the case and the local bartender's food (and sex appeal) are too hard to resist after living in third-world countries.  Gia begins to unravel memories that were long buried and starts to piece together the night that Ella Mae was murdered. When she finds out the truth about Ella Mae's murderer, it may be more than she can handle.

This is definitely a page turner and one that will keep you guessing all the way to the end. There were several occasions where I was sure I knew who the murderer was and then my opinions were abruptly changed, only to be changed again a few chapters later. There is plenty of family drama and secrets to keep the reader interested and eager to start the next chapter. I'm sure you will be on the edge of your seat in the final chapters.

Along with the telling of Gia's story, we are taken back to Ella Mae's final days. We learn some of Ella Mae's secrets and are given more insight into who may have been Ella Mae's murderer. You will wish there had been a different outcome for Ella Mae. Her choices in life, as well as her murder, left ripple effects on her family and the whole community.

Each character in the story has their own personality and is vividly portrayed. From Ray, suffering through his final days, to Fannie, his spunky hospice nurse, Belle shows she can paint each scene with dramatic details.

The only negative about this book was the explicit sex scenes. Sometimes I prefer to leave these pieces of the story to the imagination rather than read the passionate details. Everything else about the book held my attention including the emotions Gia and Jake experienced as well as her siblings. Ultimately, this story is about betrayal and the importance of forgiveness, both for the living and the dying.

Kimberly Belle - source
Kimberly S. Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. Her four years at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta were a quick pit stop on her quest to see the world. After a bit of wandering she landed in the Netherlands, where she lived among the windmills and tulips for more than a decade. But the draw of Dixie was too strong. Kimberly returned and put down roots - permanent ones this time - in Atlanta, though she always makes sure to keep her passport current. Belle is currently working on two more novels. For more information, you can check out her website, HERE. You can also find her on Twitter, HERE and Facebook, HERE

To purchase a copy of THE LAST BREATH, click the photo below:

Thanks to Harlequin MIRA for sending me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Review: Prescription for Life By Richard Furman

Three Simple Strategies to Live Younger Longer

By: Richard Furman, MD

Published: October 7, 2014

Publisher: Revell


Dr. Furman has spent 30 years fixing clogged arteries as a vascular surgeon. He knows what has clogged the thousands of arteries and watched patients leave his hospital only to consume the same foods that caused the patient to end up in his operating room. In his book, PRESCRIPTION FOR LIFE, he completely lays out his plan for your best life. He gives you the foods to eat and not eat. He gives you an exercise plan for even those who are currently couch potatoes. Then he offers the drastic news of what will happen if you don't follow these steps. He doesn't mince words and tells you this plan won't be easy, but is necessary for living a longer, healthy life.

When I am reading books like this, I want a straight-forward approach.  I don't want the author to be wishy-washy and leave room for judgment.  I don't want the book to be bogged down in medical terminology or studies. I want the author to convince me, whole-heartedly that this is what I should do and give me ways to make it happen.  Richard Furman does exactly that. Reading this book will scare you, shock you, and make you realize what you are putting in your body, no matter what age you are, really does make a difference.

Richard Furman began this plan at the age of 42. I read this book at the age of 42. It is never too late to make a change in your life. The parts of the plan that were helpful for me included his basic explanation for reading nutrition labels and what exactly to look for in the food you are buying. I also appreciated that Dr. Furman gave examples of people who were either his patients or just his friends and how the plan changed their life. In contrast, he gave examples of people who were given the plan and didn't follow it.

Richard Furman lays out the six foods you must remove, not cut back on, but remove from your diet right now. These six foods are guaranteed to be foods you eat on a regular basis. I would bet that the one food he insists you give up is one you eat nearly every single day. In fact, this one food was his absolute favorite food. One he was given as gifts from his co-workers and patients. Once he realized what this one food was doing to his arteries, he stopped eating it and it was his absolute favorite food. He doesn't just tell you to remove the foods, but explains, in lay-man's terms, why you should remove them from your diet and what they do to your body. This part of the book was an eye-opener for me. He explains why you need to stop them cold-turkey and not just eat them once in a while. Dr. Furman offers his ten minute plan as a way to give up things like smoking, snacking, and giving up certain food items.

This book opens your eyes to the food you eat, the lifestyle you live, and the future you deserve. His patients that followed his plan, as well as those who didn't, give great examples of his program. This "prescription for life" isn't for just the overweight or obese, or for those with heart problems, diabetes or cancer. This plan is for everyone including the physically fit. He gave one example of a man who was very active as a coach, running and lifting weights every single day. But, because of the food this coach was eating, he was a walking heart attack waiting to happen. Thankfully, he took Furman's advice with amazing results.

It is never too late to begin this plan to be healthy and active. You deserve to live a long life and a quality life. The author doesn't stop here in his "prescription for life". He wants your soul to live on into eternity. As you read, the author shares Bible verses and guidance to make sure, once death comes, that you are living out your life in eternity.

If you are concerned about the health of a friend or loved one or if you want to enhance the years you have left on this Earth, then I highly recommend you read this book and start the plan. It certainly won't be easy, but the results will be worth it.

The proceeds from this book will be donated to Samaritan's Purse for World Medical Mission to help build housing for doctors serving at mission hospitals abroad.

Richard Furman, MD
Richard Furman, MD, FACS, spent over thirty years as a vascular surgeon. He is passionate about helping people prevent the problems that kill over half of all Americans. Furman is past president of the North Carolina Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, past president of the North Carolina Surgical Society, and a two-term governor of the American College of Surgeons. He is cofounder of World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan's Purse, and is a member of the board of Samaritan's Purse. He lives in North Carolina. For more, visit his website, http://www.prescriptionforlife.com/.

To purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

Thanks to Revell for sending me a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews.