Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Bookmark Giveaway

For the month of April, I'm doing something different: A bookmark Giveaway. It's a book clip. It measures 2" by 4" total and I stitched it. :) The pattern, floss, and clip itself all came from a kit from Crafter's Pride.

I simply had no books that I could giveaway on here this month and I stole this idea from my friend, Tanzanite. See her blog: where she always has a bookmark giveaway going on. Please enter hers. Tanzanite gets full credit for this idea and for turning me on to cross stitching in the first place. She is also more talented than me and makes her own patterns!

So, leave a comment anytime the month of April for a chance to win this bookmark clip. The winner will be chosen from Jazzy's food bowl at the end of the month, on the last day, at her and my convenience. Be sure to provide a way of contacting you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The de Lacy Inheritance by Elizabeth Ashworth

The De Lacy InheritanceThis is a decent YA historical novel. It's a bit of an overdone tale.. girl in medieval England is shut up in a castle after she attempts to run away to avoid be married off to an old man with a wart. However, there is a unique twist to this as the heroine's brother is a leper and a hermit who tries to save her from her unhappy fate.

I liked the heroine enough. Though she had her damsel in distress moments, she also had moments when she donned boy's clothes and forged rivers on her trusty steed. I grew tired of her brother's parts though and they are much more plentiful than Johanna's. So much of the book was Richard traveling, Richard being a leper (slightly interesting, this), Richard praying, Richard dousing himself in holy wanter, Richard blabbering about his sins and he new dedication to the lord, Richard remembering Leila.. It should really be the Holy Hermit on the cover, not that lovely girl. 

I also got tired of the religious stuff. I don't think this is a "Christian" novel, but it is way too heavy on the prayer and lord talk.

Nevertheless, it is aimed at the young crowd and I have kept that in mind as I rate and review it. It's not a bad story.. Richard tries to ensure Johanna's and her brothers' inheritance as she experiences first love, forbidden love, and all that medieval stuff.  Just a bit too predictable for me.

Three stars. I received this from the publisher.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison

Trencarrow Secret is a Victorian novel about family relationships, growing up, and marriage. Isabel is a young woman vacationing with her family for the summer. She discovers her father in a questionable situation with her ailing mother's nurse. This brings up numerous questions for Isabel. She discovers her parents had a marriage on convenience. Is she willing to marry Jared (which is expected of her) for the same reason or does she wish to find love? Should she find love, will she have the courage to pursue it? And can she forgive her father for betraying her mother?

The story rarely leaves the summer household, but rather than feeling confined, I was intrigued by the family and their scandals, personalities, and witty remarks at the dinner table. Jared is a pompous arse and has something up his sleeve. Laura is infatuated with a young man and means to have him by any means necessary. Aunt Margot is just Aunt Margot and she made me laugh. Amelia is battling her love for a married man. Ashton is feeling guilty about Amelia. Evaline is frothing at the mouth for Henry who really desires Isabel. And Isabel.. is too blind to see it. There is much miscommunication and minunderstandings fly left and right.

Very slowly, however, Isabel grows up. She begins to come to the conclusion, "marriage isn't about weddings and announcements in the papers." The question is: what is she going to do about it? Jared thinks they are to wed and she thinks Henry wants Evaline. Can all the misunderstandings be corrected before she makes a dour mistake?

Favorite quote: When Henry is speaking to Isabel about her fears (she is terrified of both water and a maze) he says, "You aren't the only one who has demons to fight. The mistake we often make is to believe we have to battle them alone."
Great book and I was thoroughly entertained. When I first read it, it had not been through final edits and I complained that the heroine was not feisty enough. However, I later received some additional scenes that had me thinking, "I see a timid girl, but I also see the woman she will grow to be." The changes made, the glimpse into the woman Isabel will become, and the surprise ending make me give this a five.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Books: Treats For Humans

Look what I made this weekend! I have been wanting a pug bookmark for some time.. well I searched everywhere and I found a cute puppy bookmark on I asked the designer if they could turn the puppy into a pug and she did! Kitty City Creations provided me a pattern for download and I made a few changes I had Pudgy Pug right in front of me and I literally held bits of floss up to her fur and did some color adjusting. I also changed the text. The pattern said "Is it getting good?" That's cute, but Pudgy wanted it to say something about treats... her favorite thing in the world.

And what does Pudgy say about it? She says that now that I've completed my weekend project on the fake pug, I need to pay attention to the real pug. She has also demanded approximately five treats extra in the course of the day to pay her for all the time she spent modeling and posing for me.

What a demanding doggy!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wings by Karl Friedrich

What a novel! One of the best WASP (Women Air Service Pilots) books I have read to date. For that do not know, WASP was created during WWII and was an organization of women pilots that trained at Avenger Field and ferried badly needed aircraft around the United States.

Fifinella, the WASP mascot
This novel contains a colorful cast of characters. The heroine is Sally. She's both tough and frightened. She's a terrific pilot, but she carries some baggage: a dead boyfriend and an abusive father. Thus, she has some confidence issues.

She meets up with other WASP trainees at Avenger, Twila, Geri, and Dixie. Each one of these women has things you like and don't like about her. Twila is strange, but has some good philosophies. Geri is a spoiled rich girl, but she can fly. Dixie.... oh my. This quote is self explanatory:

"I've got balls. They didn't come with this package" -she indicated her body- "but after watchin' my daddy float in a sea of prosperity while everybody around him drowned, I decided I'd better grow me a pair. And I did. They're the first thing I strap on every mornin' before I got outside to meet the world, and the last thing I unstrap at night before I slip into my frilly little pajamas. I've got balls!"

Dixie almost steals the show at times.

PT-19, What the girls first fly at Avenger

The men are colorful as well. There's Skinner, my personal favorite. He's an instructor with a hillarious way of stating things.

"That air was so still yesterday morning, I could have heard an ant fart."

"You don't know your ass from a whole in the ground!"

"But talk about this, and I'll stick my foot so far up your butt you'll feel my toes around your tonsils."

There's Beau who is Sally's love interest. He's partly a coward who wants to avoid the draft, a lousy pilot, but in the end, he has some good traits as well. A nice parting shot from him, "You try so hard at succeeding at life that you fail at living."

And we cannot forget Mr. Waterman. He's def the villian of this tale. For some reason, he not only wants to disband the WASP, but he is out to get Sally. He wants her license revoked and her life ruined and he has the power to do it.

I got to know all of the characters and I felt as though I was in the PT-19s with them. I felt as though I was the one shut up in a manure filled barn while my aeroplane got hailed on and stuck in mud. I cried with the WASP when they received word that their organization was no more. And I laughed. I laughed so much, my husband had to ask me why.

My favorite moment is when Sally is being rebuked by a Colonel who does not think women belong in the Army and is saying as much. He basically implies women belong at home having babies somewhat like the Nazi's women and Sally says, "If you're suggesting, Colonel, that I could better serve my country by whoring, let me assure you that airplanes are the only things I ride."


I highly recommend this one and readers, you won't regret flying with these gals.

An onion eyed moment, "I wouldn't trade a moment for anything. To be part of the war, and to be around those wonderful planes. To fly 'em. And the adventure . . . There'll never be another time like it. We were so lucky. So lucky. Of all the women in America, only a little more than a thousand of us got to be a WASP. My God, but we did fly the wings off those airplanes. We did it as well as any man!"

Five stars. I got this ARC from the publisher, thus some quotes may not be exact. A week from today, I will be posting an interview with Karl Friedrich.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Once, Two Islands by Dawn Garisch

This has been an intriguing look at secluded island life.. Ergo Island is a fictional island in the South Atlantic sea. It has a very small population, one doctor, a mayor, a police officer, and no school past junior high. It's also tore between old traditions of the ancestors (witchcraft) and modern day technology (a doctor from the mainland.)

No one is more tore than Gulai. Her mother died just four days after birthing her and she was nursed by the local "witch" against her father's wishes.. Her father is the doctor I mentioned above.. Gulai is forced to adhere to her father's way of thinking, but something keeps drawing her back to the witch's cottage (abandoned) and the island a ways away that the witch was exiled too. Then the witch's son comes to live on Ergo....

All the while, Gulai battles with inner guilt as she blames herself for her mother's death. "The world without her would have been a better place. Without her, her mother would have lived and her father would've been happy."

There's a story behind the "witch's" exile and after her exile, things start going wrong on the island (from deaths to politics to earthquakes) and Gulai grows up in the middle of it. She's a very likable character as she has normal growing pains (EXCEPT for her dad giving her a pelvic exam... not normal!) and puppy love in an abnormal place, a place where it's considered acceptable to marry at seventeen and no one frowns on Gulai's dad making her forgo school on the mainland to stay home and take care of him.

The story unfolds at a good pace, slowly revealing shocking secrets, leading to a surprising ending.. I am not going to reveal any more.

Laugh out loud moment: "The earthquake resulted in little structural damage, except to the mayor's back fender when it came suddenly to rest against a boulder, and to a wall of Jojo's outhouse, which collapsed while he was busy in it. Thus is was that history would remember this as the day the mayor drove over himself, and that Jojo, horribly exposed and the survivor of a near-miss, contracted sudden performance anxiety and thereby constipation; he too ended up at the hospital in need of help."

This island is based on a real island, Tristan da Cunha. 

With a population of only 263, it's said to the most uninhabited place on Earth. They did not get television until 2001. The people that reside there are said to all be descended from 15 original people. They have one school teaching children ages five to sixteen. They depend on fishing and there is no airplane access. One must arrive and depart strictly be sea. To view more about this place, check out this website:

The book had a rough start. I almost discarded it in disgust especially when the crazy redhead started suckling the witch's breasts... WTH? However, I stuck with it, got adjusted to the slightly different writing style and in the end, enjoyed the story as I was sucked into the intrigue of island life and its people's unique stories.

Four stars. I got this from the publisher.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This was an amazing book. I was still reeling long after I turned the last page. In 1941, while Germany was rounding up Jews and throwing them into concentration camps, Russia, led by Stalin, was doing the same to people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Entire families were gathered in the dead of night, thrown into cattle cars, and carted for days to other areas and placed in work camps. Why? Simply because they did not agree with Stalin.

This is narrated by Lina, who is fifteen in the beginning. She, her mother, and her younger brother are pulled from their home and lugged by cattle car to a work camp. They deal with starvation, scurvy, beatings, and being hauled out of their huts in the middle of the night at gunpoint. Lina's mother must choose between spying for the Russians or watching her children starve. Lina battles with hatred for her captors and the teachings of forgiveness from her parents. All three wonder and worry constantly about their father and husband. Where is he?

From this camp, they are once again hauled away.. to Trofimovsk, the very top of the arctic circle where they deal with lice, scurvy, starvation, and trying to survive the cold, dark winter.

Through all of this misery, Lina experiences first love and tells their story in drawings that she hopes will reach her papa.

The entire novel is well told. There are flashbacks into Lina's past here and there that graudally reveal why she is in the camp.. I found this very well done. I don't normally like flashbacks, but this book does it "just so," not too much, not too little and only what you need to do.

This is actually made my eyes moist so five stars. Beautifully done and educating. I had no idea of this tragedy in history until now. Here is a part of Lina's narrative that just resonated with me, "The NKVD's hostilities strengthened my defiance. Why would I give in to people who spit in my face and tormented me each and every day? What would I have left if I gave them my self-respect?"

I received this ARC from the publisher via Shelf Awareness.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Compact with the Devil by Bethany Maines

I LOVED the first book in this series, Bulletproof Mascara. See Review here: So I was thrilled when I was offered an ARC of the sequel. And even though, it's not as good as the first one, I do plan on reading the third..

In the first one, there was more about training and Nikki Lanier took on her first case with Carrie Mae's secret women agents. There was a rogue agent and her friends, Jenny and Ellen were always in tow. And Val... is a character that I greatly miss. Nevermind that she was one of the bad chicks. She needs to be resurrected. Some of the new characters, such as monkey man, though he's obviously a one book thing, didn't work for me.

Thus, without Val's wit and sarcasm and without her friends in tow as Nikki follows around a rock star from Germany to Paris, it felt lacking. I didn't have any laugh out loud moments in this one. I also didn't like the whole rock star theme. I don't like rock stars. I think they are overpaid, petulant brats and Kit was no exception. And my final complaint: I can't stand Z'ev. He was sexy in the first one, but in this one, what little there was of him (backflashes) has him as a sexist pig.

Nikki, dump his ass!

I didn't LOVE this book, but I did LIKE it despite my above complaints. I may not have roared with laughter, but I did chuckle at this scene here:

(Nikki is on the phone with Carrie Mae, asking for supplies to be sent to her.)

"Oh, and if you can get me a manual on airbrush makeup techniques, I'd appreciate it." There was a pause on the other end of the line.

"Now when you say the airbrush manual you're referring to. . . "

"Oh, uh, the real one. I've got a slight makeup crisis to deal with."

For those that didn't read the first one (and shame on you!), Carrie Mae's makeup products are actually disguised items such as weapons or sprays that knock people out.

I also enjoyed the bike chase scene, but excuse me, Triumph is way better than Harley!

And even though I really didn't like him, Kit had some good insight, "We all get caught up in what we are. Our label. Sometimes it's our job or what friends tell us we are, sometimes it's our addiction... we do it to ourselves. We put ourselves in this little box. At first the box is comfortable, but after a while.."

That's a point to ponder.

Overall, three stars. I liked it, but I missed too many characters and jokes that were in the first one. I received this ARC from the author and I'm very grateful.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shortcomings by Ginger Simpson

This is a story about acceptance. It's about accepting others the way they are, shortcomings and all and about accepting YOURSELF, shortcomings and all.

Cindy's "shortcoming" is one leg being two inches shorter than the other. She's got a limp. The kids at school call her names, won't sit with her at lunch, laugh when other tease her, or just plain avoid her alltogether (which is no better).

Having grown up with a disability myself, I felt as though I was reading my own story, except it's a leg issue, not a hearing issue. I think the author pulled this off nicely and I feel it's a story that should be read by the masses, especially the young ones that this novel is aimed at. This moral cannot be repeated enough: "Our shortcomings don't define who we are, unless we let them." And as Cindy's friend says in the book, "You're never going to find someone who likes you until you like yourself."

And I'm getting off track here... Cindy is 17 and never been kissed. When the star of the football team asks her for tutoring, Cindy thinks, "Oh he just needs to pass math class and stay on the football team.." When he asks her to the school dance, Cindy thinks, "Oh he is playing a joke on me!"

Is bitterness ruining things for Cindy? Is she seeing ulterior motives where there are none? Except for that nasty chick, Sally, does anyone really have a problem with Cindy's handicap? Or is it just Cindy with the problem? Perhaps she is making it into more of a problem than it is.. Again, there's a strong lesson here.

There's more going on in this story, however. There's a bad accident, there's young love, there's jealousy, there's coveting thy neighbor's furniture, and there's first job excitement. There were a few minor irritations. Momma irritated me. As an independant working woman, I found myself frowning at mama.. She is always in the kitchen making dinner, preparing to make dinner, or doing dishes. (Woman, this is 2011! You have rights! Tell the man to eat a Hot Pocket!)

And the brother, that's a future sexist pig right there and I would have loved to see someone set him straight...

 "Why does Cindy get to do everything?" he whined.

"What do I get to do that you don't?" Cindy asked, with hands on her hips. "I'm home a lot more than you are. While you're out playing with your friends, I'm here helping Momma."

 "Well, you're a girl, and you're supposed to."

Say what???? Is that right?? I would go up one side of that kid and down the other. LOL

Nevertheless, this book is aimed at the younger crowd, eleven and up and judging it for the crowd it is intended for, I rate it a five. I highly recommend kids everywhere read it. If they are being mistreated in school, this will give them hope and teach them to not be ashamed of themselves. If they are doing the mistreating in school, well, obviously they need to read it even more.

I bought this on Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Totally Scared: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses by Dawn Colclasure and Martha Jette

This book had me totally scared. No joke. One night as I was reading this in bed, I got to the pictures of ghostly orbs and began reading about Dan Guthrie's demon ghost and I got scared. I had to set the book aside for fear that it would give me nightmares..

Orbs in Rob Rapiti's haunted Hamilton, Ontario home. When the picture is sideways like this,
one can see a face.. see it?? In the center.... Click on it...blow it up. Trust me. Are you scared yet? 

Two words come to mind as I attempt to describe this book. Spine-tingling and informative. Don't believe me? Ask my husband. The entire time I was reading this book, I was turning to him and either telling him about the Winchester Mansion or making spooky ghost noises or repeating the Lizzie Borden chant and adding my own evil laughter.

Obviously, I really enjoyed it...

A quick summary: It's a book about haunted houses. It talks about different haunted houses, buying a haunted house, dealing with ghosts, getting rid of ghosts, movies about haunted houses, and more.

I am going to recap some of the things that fascinated me.

New Blog Devotes Itself To The Escapades Of A Haunted PaintingThere is a haunted painting of an octagonal house. Bought in an antique shop, a woman named Meena Svara took it home (a previous buyer freaked out so bad he had returned it to the store packaged in layers and layers of covering) and the painting would move from from horizontal to sideways (unaided) and scared Meena's cat. It also had a "cloud-like black shadow" pass across it and envelope it entirely before disappearing. Meena also swears she seen figures moving back and forth across the windows in the painting. Her cats even pawed at the windows. "She has also seen faces at the windows and changes to the house and grounds." There's much more about this painting and I was intrigued by all the data about it.

A girl named Pamela was accidentally pushed by her father down the stairs of a house in 1930, Ontario. She died. Her ghost began to haunt recent inhabitants of the home and an Ouija Board got some answers. She led the current residents and ghost investigators to the attic where they found a locket with her parents' pictures in it wrapped in a newspaper from 1930. With the locket returned to her, the nine year old agreed to move on to the next world.

Hamilton Paranormal took this photograph of the first landing of the stairway where Pamela tumbled to her death in 1930. Her image showed up in the upper half of the landing’s window and looks like she might be holding a doll."

Reading about LaLaurie House in New Orleans had me gasping with shock. The atrocities committed there on slaves were appalling. In 1834, it was discovered that the mistress of the house was keeping slaves chained to a wall and committing "medical experiements" on them. "One woman, for example, had both arms and legs cut off with patches of skin in a circular motion dotting her body.. Another had her mouth sewed shut with animal feces inside."

I could go on but it's really pretty gruesome. It's no wonder that place is said to be haunted.

Winchester Mansion in San Jose, CA was built by the widowed Sarah Winchester. Her husband was the son of Oliver Winchester, owner of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Sarah was supposedly haunted by spirits who had been killed by Winchester rifles. When he husband died, leaving her 50% ownership of the company and an income of $1000 dollars a day (in 1880!!!), she used it to build a home for 38 consecutive years straight. A medium told her to build a house for the spirits and as long as she continued building, she would never die. The house stands today with 60 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 windowpanes, and three elevators. There's more to this too..

Even the younger George Bush has seen a ghost! In the White House!

In the Hollywood section, I was surprised to learn that George Clooney hired a psychic to help him contact his deceased but very loved 300 pound pot belly pig. 

Nevertheless, there's no end to the interesting or spooky stuff in this book. I'm glad one of the authors, Dawn Colclasure, contacted me about reading this and sent me a copy. I never would have heard of it otherwise and I was on the edge of my seat throughout the reading of it.

Highly recommended, but not before bed! 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

This is a lovely and informative novel. The setting is India, both 1947 and 1858. There are five love stories in a way.. There's the heroine, Evie and Martin. They are married with a five year old boy. Their marriage was wonderful until Martin went to serve in WW2... now things are falling apart. Evie thought that coming to India would bring them closer together, but they have simply "exported" their unhappiness... In order to save their marriage, Martin must get rid of his inner demons and both of them must learn to live for joy..

Evie finds old letters and a journal from 1858 chronicling the lives of Felicity and Adela. Adela has a love story.. Adela was a lesbian in a time when lesbianism was frowned upon.. Adela had an affair with a maid in England despite her great love for Felicity...

Felicity is in love with India and has a dangerous affair of her own, with an Indian man.

That's three love stories. The last two are different kinds of love stories, love between mother and child. Throughout the novel, I was impressed with the bond between Evie and her son, Billy. The book really shows how strong a mother's love is and how far she will go for her child. I loved Billy and his, "Aw, nuts." What a cute kid.

Adela experiences motherhood in her own way... with a child not of her blood. The bond is there, nevertheless.

In the middle of all these wonderful stories is the story of India.. of British rule, of Ghandi, of Partition and the chaos resulting from it. Partition was when Britain withdrew their rule and divided the country between Hindus and Muslims, India and Pakistan. I found myself pondering this... Is it better to live divided and possibly breed hate and resentment or to live together and learn to love one another?

I found this educational regarding Indian history and I felt the book had a strong moral throughout: Whether in relationships or life in general, life is what you MAKE IT. You have a choice: live with joy and forgiveness or live with hate and resentment.

Four stars only because Adela's journal entries were dull at times.

I received this ARC from the publisher.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Minding Ben by Victoria Brown

This is a novel about slavery in the 1990s. I'm serious. Slavery. Only it doesn't take place on a southern plantation, however, but in a Manhatten apartment. The slave, the heroine, Grace, is not brought on a slave ship against her will either. She comes via airplane from Trinidad and she willingly enslaves herself. This is what I had a problem with more than anything. I personally, would rather live an uneventful life in a cottage by the sea than enslave myself. Anyways, Grace agrees to work as a "nanny" for this snotty white family for a lousy two hundred bucks a week.

She minds Ben, bathes Ben, feeds Ben, cooks Ben dinner, cooks his parents dinner, irons their shirts, does their laundry, carries their grocery bags, mops their floor, allows them to dock her pay despite the fact she works more hours than she is supposed to and doesn't say a thing, I can go on.... I realize that Grace is illegal and seeking sponsorship, but give me a break! To make matters worse, her slaving away doesn't end with her white employers. On her days off, she lives with this chick named Sylvia and does whatever Sylvia tells her to do while she sits on her fat a**. She takes care of Sylvia's kids, cleans Sylvia's apartment... Good gawd!

Normally books with weak, submissive, docile heroine show the heroine growing some balls by the end of the book.. Not so, Minding Ben. I could not believe it. When she is basically booted out of the job over the stupidest stuff, she thinks to herself as she gathers her things, "What they could have done was filed my imigration papers, or told me they were moving, or not paid me forty dollars less for taking last Friday off. I was so tempted to tell him these little things that they could have done, or to ask him what specifically he was offering to do, but all I said was, "Thanks, Mr. Bruckner."

The girl never grows any balls, never speaks up for herself, never gives a piece of her mind..

Top that off with awful speech habits... First of all, I get that most of the people Grace hangs with are immigrants and their English is less than perfect, but to have every character at all times practically speaking like this, "Ah, what you chat 'bout? Me bet say you look better than any woman what sit down in there right now...."

I'm not kidding. I typed that word for word and most of the conversation in the book is like that. It's too much. I had to re read sentences over and over to figure them out half the time.

I didn't like this one. Two stars.

I received this ARC from the publisher and I'm sorry I didn't like it. Quotes may be slightly different in the published book.

Love whoo you are...

Look what I made today! A friendly and cute reminder that I am going to put by my mirror so everyday when I'm counting my flaws.. "Oh a zit! Oh a wrinkle! Oh a gray hair! Is my chin fat??" I can look at this little reminder and remember to simply love myself the way I am.

The kit came from Pine Mountain Designs. It's just a little less than 5"x5" total after framing so it's an easy one day project and best of all.. there's no backstitching!! YEA! AND another bonus in Pine Mountain's favor: they put good quality floss in their kits. There were hardly any knots. So many x stitch kits today come with cheap a** floss that tangles and knots constantly...

And that's all I wanted to share. Check out their website for yourself sometime: They also got a blog.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women who behave rarely make history.

Look what I made!! It's going on my wall.. :) Very true saying... most of the time. The pattern is by Sue Hillis Designs. I didn't follow it to a tee though. I put only one rose on the hat and I got the pink colors messed up. See I started stiching thinking I had it all figured out with shell pink and very light shell pink and forgot there was supposed to be an ULTRA light shell pink so actually, all the pink is a mess.. but anyways.. it's on 14 count.

You can find this design and more on Some, like this one, come with little charms. (See the handcuffs up there.)

Some of these patterns are for sale (where I actually found and bought this pattern) at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pink Boots and a Machete, My Journey from NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer by Mireya Mayor

I'm pleased to feature this book here for many reasons. 1. This is a about a STRONG, independent woman that I think we can all learn something from. 2. She's LATINA! 3. It's also about animals.

Mireya takes us on  a journey from her Cuban roots in Miami to her brief stint as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader to the jungle of a Madagascar and so on. She also touches briefly on how having a "pretty face" has made it difficult for her to be taken seriously, how she had to work harder. It paid off for her. She became Nat Geo's first female wildlife correspondent.

And if you need more proof that she's more than a former cheerleader/pretty face, read this book! She travels to South America and the Congo both and braves worms in her feet, scorpion bites, killer bee stings, cock roaches in her pants, possible gorilla attacks, blood infections, and all for the love of monkeys.

This woman also discovered the tiniest lemur in the world (2 ounces), got in the ocean with a killer shark and caught a 70 lb giant "red devil" squid.

Besides fascinating information about the rare and almost extinct lemurs she searches down in the rain forests and jungles to study, the book contains some other tidbits that I found really interesting and I want to share them.

Cassava is the Amerindian staple diet. While living amongst villagers in South American seeking out a rare species of monkey, Mireya participates in some fascinating meal making. Cassava "has a high level of toxic cyanogenic glycosides, a pure 40 milligram dost of which can kill a cow. Improper preparation of cassava can cause neurological disease." To release the toxins before cooking, it is soaked in water for several days but the enzymes in saliva further the process. Thus, the people spit in the food while they cook it. Mireya is a brave woman!!

This "cat" is called a fossa (pronounced foosa) and is native to Madagascar. Mireya has no love for them because they eat her prized lemurs, but she shares a fascinating fact about them. "What gets scientists' attention is the fossa's penis. An adult fossa is about 3.5 feet long and has a penis of about 7 inches, a sixth of its body length. If a man had the same ratio, he would be 3 feet tall and very smug."

LOL. I had to share that. This woman has a sense of humor. I had to tell all the fellows at work about this cat...

Lemurs are the creature of choice for Mireya. This is sifaka lemur, one that she talks about in the book. This excerpt is about lemurs in general, however. And this I thought was really cool. "Lemurs are female dominant. Male lemurs have it rough. They are booted out of the best sleeping sites, displaced from preferred feeding trees, and as a general rule, made to feel useless and inferior."

And not trying to be offensive here...(I did manage to refrain from posting a picture of one.. he he he) but this was too funny not to share. Tampons make excellent fire starters while trekking thru the rainforest where everything, from your gear to the surrounding timber is damp. Whoda thunk it?

Terrific memoir. There's really so much more to it, but I risk making this review far too long. Particularily of interest was the way gorilla's live a "soap opera" life with teenage gorillas angering their dads and the females often leaving the males.

Uncool: Gorilla poachers.

Favorite quote: "I want to set the example my mother set for me: a strong female role model, who faces challenges, takes risks, and conquers fears. I want my children to know that as women, they can do whatever they dream, as long as they believe in themselves."

I highly recommend this for anyone that admires strong women and has a love of animals. I received this from the publisher, but I honestly believe it's a 5 star read. I was never bored!

Countdown: Rome

Time for this month's Countdown!  What is Countdown?  It's a feature I have started in which I pick a topic, genre, country, or subject and list five books that I have read related to that topic or subject.  There is a 5 star read (loved it!), a four star read (liked it), a three star read (it was okay but had some issues and I'm not recommending it to 5000 people), a two star read (had a LOT of issues, I struggled with it), and the dreaded one star read (I hated it).

This month, the topic is a setting: Rome. The following are books I have read that occurred in Rome and what I rated them and why.

5 star read:
Gladiatrix (Paperback) by Russell WhitfieldGladiatrix by Russell Whitfield. First published in 2008. Heroines don't get any tougher than this. Amazing look at ancient Rome from the eyes of a female gladiator. There's love among women, hate, blood, gore, revenge. Would make a superb movie as well. Sequel due out this month.

4 star read:
Lily of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter, #1)Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray. First published in 2011. A fictional novel about Cleopatra's daughter, Selene and her young years in Rome growing up in the Emperor's household. There's forbidden romance, politicial intrigue, and religious strife. Heroine was just a tad too passive for my taste, but I understand it's just the beginning.. this is the first in a series. Sequel due out later this year.

3 star read:
Pope JoanPope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. First published in 1996. A historical novel about the woman who was pope.. this is much debated, but I believe. This woman passed herself off as a man and became pope. The first half was an intriguing look at her young life. The second half was fully of details about the papacy and war and I grew a bit bored.

2 star read:
Mistress of RomeMistress of Rome by Kate Quinn. First published in 2010. Historical novel revolving around two women and a gladiator. Lots of sexual depravity.  Seems everybody is doing everybody else. Thea has a strange addiction to cutting herself, Lepida is addicted to sex, Arius just loves to kill people, and the Emperor is just plain demented and perverted.

1 star read:
Den of Wolves (Empress of Rome)Den of Wolves by Luke Devenish. First published in 2008. The narrator is over a hundred years old. People are obsessed with breasts and women piss on their husbands. "She raised her long, white stola from the coals and stood astride him, giving him his final view of her privates. Then she let go a hot stream of urine, dousing his face and hair with it until she had put out the last of the embers." EWWWWW.