Friday, October 28, 2016

Children's Book Review: Star Wars Poster-A-Page: Creatures, Ships, & Droids By Walt Disney Company


By: Walt Disney Company

Published: October 25, 2016

Publisher: Time Inc. Books


The Star Wars fan in your house or on your Christmas gift list must have this book. This book features all the favorite characters from the Star Wars movies including the ships that make the fight scenes so awesome.

Each page is full of vivid pictures, including many poster pages ready to pull out and hang up.

There are quizzes and puzzles throughout the pages including this poster asking you to find the different R2-D2 among all the others. There is even a full-size poster for all the Yoda fans out there. One of the quiz questions asks how old Yoda is. I had no idea he was THAT old.

The pages describe the characters and give you moments from the movies including movie scenes and quotes as you turn the pages. Our sons are huge Star Wars fans and would have loved this book and all the posters as kids. I can't wait to give this book to a Star Wars fan I know.

To purchase a copy of STAR WARS: CREATURES, SHIPS, & DROIDS, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review with Booking Mama's Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. Other bloggers will share posts related to YA and children's books. Click HERE to see all the posts. 

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. 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 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Enjoy the Beauty of Your Day

We have been fortunate to have one of our most beautiful Octobers that I can remember in awhile. The weather has been warm and sunny and hardly any rain and cold to speak of until yesterday. 

October is my favorite month of the year. I love watching the changing of the leaves and the crispness in the air.  It's the month that holds my birthday, my husband's birthday, as well as a slew of other family members. I remember growing up that it was a month of celebrating. 

Last week, as our son was preparing to run his last cross country meet of the season, I found myself surrounded by the beauty of nature. The golf course in NE Iowa where the meet was held was full of trees that were in the process of changing over to fall. I was standing by myself and just took that moment to look around and enjoy the beauty of it. It helped calm me as I was extremely nervous for our son. This was his chance to make it to the state cross country meet.  Even though he didn't make it (he finished 20th and they take the top 15), I have looked back on this photo often as a reminder of the beauty in that day.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you can take a moment to enjoy the beauty of your day.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: Working Stiff By Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

By: Judy Melinek, M.D. and T.J. Mitchell

Published: August 12, 2014

Publisher: Scribner


For some reason, I am fascinated by medical memoirs. This one is kind of on the other end of medical...more in the morgue, but still an interesting look at the life of a medical examiner.

Judy Melinek and her husband, T.J. Mitchell have chronicled her two years working as a New York City medical examiner. She discusses some of her most bizarre and intense deaths during that time, including murder scenes, drug overdoses, and accidents. Life in New York City is never dull and each day was full of surprises.

I mostly listened to this on audio, narrated by Tanya Eby. I had both the Kindle and audible narration but found it was easier to listen to than to read. I will warn you that the material is quite graphic. Melinek does not hold back with her descriptions of the death scene or examination of the body. If you are at all squeamish, this book would NOT be for you. But, I found it easier to listen to the graphic descriptions rather than to read them. I did find myself cringing a bit while driving though at the descriptions. Eby's voice was easy to listen to and even found ways to change her voice for the various medical doctors and law enforcement that were on each scene. Eby was actually an Earphones Winner for her narration of WORKING STIFF.

Melinek obviously meets the various people after their life has ended, but finds ways to bring each of them to life by offering various background information either through the police reports or conversations with family. Melinek's own father committed suicide and she spends several pages discussing that impact on her life and attending other suicides while on her job. She even found a way to offer support to one grieving family which, I'm sure, gave her a sense of comfort as well.

The most difficult part of the book to listen to was her chapter discussing her work after 9/11. Even when I started the book and knew what year she was working in New York City, it never even occurred to me that she would be working on September 11, 2001. So, as she started describing her morning I realized the horror she was going to take the readers through on the following pages...and it was beyond horrific. I can't imagine what the first responders, fire department professionals, and law enforcement went through in the days, months, and years following 9/11. What they had to witness and go through was disastrous and life-changing. Listening to this section of the book actually caused me to pull my car over as I was crying too much to drive while listening. This part of the book has left quite an impact on me and will forever change how I view 9/11.

What most impressed me about Melinek was that she was able to separate her work life from her home life. During these early years in her career, she was a wife and mother to a toddler and then pregnant again. After viewing the unimaginable every day, she seamlessly went home and led the role of wife and mother. I, on the other hand, would have had a difficult time separating the two.  She talked about her day just like any other spouse would and then got on with the business of motherhood. She is a great example of working parents in stressful careers.

Judy Melinek, M.D. - source
Judy Melinek, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard University. She trained at UCLA in medicine and pathology, graduating in 1996. Her training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York is the subject of her memoir, Working Stiff, which she co-wrote with her husband. Currently, Dr. Melinek is an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF, and works as a forensic pathologist in San Francisco. She also travels nationally and internationally to lecture on anatomic and forensic pathology and she has been consulted as a forensic expert in many high-profile legal cases, as well as for the television shows E.R. and Mythbusters. For more info on Judy Melinek, click HERE

Tanya Eby - source
To find out more about this award-winning narrator and see all the books she has read to listeners over the years, click HERE.

To purchase a copy of WORKING STIFF, click the photo below:

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If you choose to purchase 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 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Children's Book Review: Extreme Wildfire By Mark Thiessen

Smoke Jumpers, High-Tech Gear, Survival Tactics, and the extraordinary Science of Fire

By: Mark Thiessen with Glen Phelan

Published: August 30, 2016

Publisher: National Geographic Kids


Wildfires seem to be all over the nightly news in all parts of our country. Recently, the western part of our country dealt with losses of numerous homes and thousands of acres of forest. There are numerous men and women who risk their lives every day to fight and prevent these wildfires. They can happen with the touch of a spark and destroy memories and livelihoods in seconds.

My cousin's husband has been a firefighter for the government for several years. He has traveled to swampy areas of the south, to the National Parks in the West. He is also responsible for protecting the Chippewa National Forest in Northern Minnesota. Thiessen explores the training, the science, the daily activities, and the dangers of being a firefighter in our nation's forests. As a photographer on the front-lines of the fires, he shares photos, stories, and details of fighting the fires and how they can affect the communities they threat to encroach.

Children will learn how fires began and how they quickly get out of hand. Readers will find out how the fires are spotted in the earliest of stages, even in the depth of the forest. The fighters train rigorously to live in the elements and are often away from their families and civilization for 2 weeks at a time. Readers will learn that the fires are fought from the air, on the ground, and even from the middle of the fire.

There is a whole section about the dangers of fire and how to plan if you live in an area prone to fires or to have your family be prepared in a fire happens in your area. Even a simple grass fire can wipe out an entire community.

Thiessen's photos are dramatic and show the scary side of fires as well as the generosity of communities who come together after a fire. I especially loved his photos of life returning to the forest after a fire.

There is much to learn in every National Geographic Kids book I have ever read and this one doesn't disappoint. I recommend this for upper elementary through middle school for the reading level and maturity level. It would make an excellent addition to the classroom, especially a science or social studies classroom.

Mark Thiessen - source
A National Geographic staff photographer since 1990, Mark Thiessen has published numerous feature stories and covers for National Geographic magazine and other Society publications on subjects ranging from Peruvian mummies to Egyptian archaeologists to Russian smokejumpers. 

He recently documented film director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron's dive to the ocean's deepest location at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Mark's photographs for the July 2008 National Geographic cover story “Under Fire: Why the West Is Burning” earned first-place recognition by Pictures of the Year International. Mark also directs the National Geographic photo studio and was featured in "Out There", a series aired on the National Geographic Channel.

In 1996, Thiessen began a personal photography project on wildland firefighters that took him to the front lines of wildfires every summer. To better understand the world of this little-known subculture, he became a certified wildland firefighter. An award-winning online piece, FireCall, features Thiessen's photographs and interviews with a veteran wildland firefighter.

To purchase a copy of EXTREME WILDFIRES, click the photo below:

I'll be linking up this review with Booking Mama and other bloggers on her Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. To see all the posts related to YA and children's books, click HERE.

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase 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 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Children's Book Review: Sweet Pea & Friends The SheepOver By John &Jennifer Churchman

The SheepOver

By: John and Jennifer Churchman

Photo Illustrations by: John Churchman

Published: December 8, 2015

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers


I have always been a fan of books about sheep. We raised sheep while I was growing up and my very first pet was Lambie, a sheep that was raised on our farm for many years. Sheep are special to our family and when I saw this book, I knew I had to get it for my niece. I think this will be part of her birthday gift next month.

Sweet Pea is one of the many sheep on the Churchman's farm. One night, Sweet Pea gets very sick and they have to call in Vet Alison. All of the friends on the farm are deeply worried about Sweet Pea and share their concern on the pages. Keeper the goose, Prem the goat, and Laddie the dog are just some of the farm friends watching over Sweet Pea. Farmer John promises a SheepOver in the greenhouse if Sweet Pea gets better and that is just what Sweet Pea and her friends get.

The illustrations are actual photos from the Churchman farm yet have digital artwork mixed with it. It gives the photos that creative brilliance that will give children the magic of what happens between the animals on the farm.

I love how all the animals on the farm are like family and rally around their friend Sweet Pea when she is sick. Then celebrate together when she is healthy. What a wonderful lesson to teach children about loving and caring for their friends.

John Churchman 
Jennifer Churchman

SWEET PEA & FRIENDS: The SheepOver is author Jennifer Churchman's debut children's book written in partnership with her husband John Churchman.  John draws on his talents as an artist, photographer, and farmer as he brings this story to life with his enchanting photo-illustrations. 

Jennifer and John bring their talents together to give voice to the stories of the animals that surround them and add boundless enjoyment to their lives. They have made their home on a small farm in the beautiful countryside os Essex, Vermont, with their daughter Gabrielle.

They are currently working on their next children's book and a variety of related creative projects, including an interactive website that continues the day-to-day story of Sweet Pea & Friends. Visit their website, HERE. Your child can meet all the farm friends and even watch the Farm Cam!  

To purchase a copy of SWEET PEA & FRIENDS: The SheepOver

To purchase a copy of the Churchman's newest book, SWEET PEA & FRIENDS: Brave Little Finn, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review with Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. Every Saturday, Booking Mama offers bloggers an opportunity to share posts related to YA and children's book. To see all the posts, click HERE

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If you choose to purchase a book through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cookbook Review: Good Taste By Jane Green

Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends

By: Jane Green

Published: October 4, 2016

Publisher: Berkley/NAL


There is no doubt that Jane Green is a talented author. She has written numerous widely-popular novels including her latest, FALLING, that I reviewed HERE. But besides writing best-selling novels, Jane Green loves food. While leafing through the pages of her cookbook and salivating over the recipes and photos, you realize that she also loves the experience of making the food and sharing it with her family and friends.

Jane Green truly loves gathering with her friends and family and the best way to do that is through food. She takes great pleasure in making food and enjoying it with her friends and family, hosting parties, brunches, and intimate gatherings. She is good at it and you can tell by reading the pages of her book.

Green begins with recipes for the "Beginnings..." including soups, breads, and appetizers, The "Middles...." remind me of the best of comfort foods with a flair towards Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Dishes like Asian Orange Chicken, Maple Pork Chops, and Shephard's Pie are all on my list to try.

Finally, she closes out the book with the "Endings..." that will fix that sugar craving. Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake, as well as, the Lemon and Almond Cake Tart have made my mouth water just looking at the photos. Actually, I should mention the photos because they are gorgeous. There are photos of her lavish home, photos of every recipe, and pictures of Jane cooking in her kitchen or setting up for a party. There is no doubt that she loves cooking and entertaining and this book embodies that.

I can't review a cookbook without trying a recipe or two from it. I knew I wanted to try a couple of the recipes right away and got the ingredients. First I tried the Sweet Corn and Chili Soup and it was a hit. It went together pretty quickly....the most time consuming was chopping the onions and celery. I don't have a handheld blender so I couldn't puree the soup, but we liked it just fine without that step. The red pepper flakes gave the soup some heat and it was filling. Of course, the guys were missing the meat but still liked it enough. I could easily add chicken, bacon, or sausage to this and make it heartier.  Next up to try is the Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake. YUM!


1 medium white onion, chopped
2 TBS butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 medium red chili or dried chili flakes to taste (I used 1 -2 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 bag frozen corn kernels
1-quart vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half

In a large pan, soften the onions in butter, add garlic after 1 minute and celery 1 minute later. Cook gently for around 5 minutes until soft. Add chili pepper/flakes, frozen corn, and vegetable stock. season well with salt and pepper.

Bring to boil, then cover and turn down to simmer for half an hour.

Take off heat, puree soup with a handheld blender. Add half-and-half at the end and garnish with slices of red chili/flakes or kernels of roasted corn.

Jane Green - source
Jane Green is a bestselling author of many popular novels. She has been featured in People, Newsweek, USA Today, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. She lives in Connecticut with her family. 
For more information, connect with Jane at

To purchase a copy of GOOD TASTE, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review with Beth Fish Reads and other bloggers for her regular feature, Weekend Cooking.  This linkup is open to anyone with food related posts including book reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, gadgets, restaurant reviews, or fun food posts. Grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. To see all the Weekend Cooking posts, click HERE

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Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase the book thorugh the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Product Review:

With the recent remodeling of our home, I was in need of new artwork for our walls. Just at the right moment, I had the opportunity to review my experience with I had a really hard time narrowing down my choices. But, since I still wasn't sure what I was going to do with our new areas, I narrowed it down to a fun print that completed my wine corner.

We have a wine fridge and since it isn't really decorative, I wanted to dress up the area a bit. I have an old glass jug that I put wine corks in and found this neat sign at a local shop in town. I needed something to tie the whole look together.

When you visit, there are a plethora of options for you to choose from. It would be extremely overwhelming if you didn't have some sort of sense of what you were looking for on the site. So for me, I knew I was looking for framed wine prints and entered that in my search.You can filter your searches by color, style, subject matter, size, and shape. So, once I chose wine prints, it then offered me red, white, champagne, or corkscrew. Since I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for, I looked through all my options.

Once you find the print you like, then you can choose the mat and frame you want.

It can be overwhelming, but the picture actually changes once you select a color of mat or frame, so you can visualize what the print will look like in your frame and mat choices.

The process is really very simple and quite reasonable. The print, mat, and frame I purchased was just under $74.00 and arrived well packaged. I can't speak to delivery time since I was going through a different process than you would if you ordered directly off the website.

The other neat feature of this website is you can search by artist. Once I chose the "Good Wine" print, I also clicked on the artist, Marla Rae, which took me to a page with all of her artwork. If you find an artist you really like, you can see everything they have to offer on In fact, I found another print of hers, that I will definitely be getting soon!

I am so thrilled with this artwork and how it brings my wine corner together. I would highly recommend purchasing art through the next time you are looking for some artwork for your walls.

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Thanks to for providing this product for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review.