Nonfiction

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THE ULTIMATE MEMORY ACTIVITY BOOK by Alexis Olson. Puzzles by Phil Fraas

Nonfiction, Self-help, Memory

5*****

Blurb: Give your brain a boost with 130 memory-stimulating puzzles and activities. Adjusting to changes in memory and cognition can feel frustrating and discouraging. Make it fun to strengthen your thinking skills with The Ultimate Memory Activity Book! Curated by a clinical neuropsychologist, 130 entertaining exercises and puzzles will keep you both entertained and challenged―engaging your mind while also supporting your brain’s health. Dive in to a variety of word and number puzzles, games, and activities. Three different challenge levels make it easy to choose the right memory game, so you can work on building up your mental abilities. Fresh, new activities help stimulate your brain, counteract the effects of cognitive decline, and add more fun to your day! Boost your cognition and sharpen your recall with this activity-packed memory book.

Thoughts: The first section of this book is full of good information about our aging brains and what we can do to help keep them active and healthy. There are chapters on word play puzzles, number puzzles, and engaging activities with varying levels from easy to challenging. And answers are included. (thank goodness!). The lowest levels help you out with parts of the answers while the hardest levels are more challenging. I found the puzzles intriguing and the activities fun and creative. I especially loved the “New Language Challenge” where you learn common English phrases in Spanish, Italian, Farsi, Chinese, and more. There are also good references/resources listed at the end.

Recommendation: Highly recommended. This would be a first on my shelf for a purchase not just for the memory exercises, but just for the fun of the book. I received this as an ebook for review, but it is definitely on my “must buy” list for the print copy.

Disclaimer: as noted above, I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Vicky

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MIND DIET FOR BEGINNERS by Kelli McGrane

Nonfiction, Cookbook, Diet

5*****

Blurb: Feed your brain with the MIND diet—a beginner’s cookbook and meal plan. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or the MIND diet, is a brain-building way to eat that’s proven to treat hypertension, support your brain health, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia—all while enjoying delicious and nutritious meals. Kick-start your MIND diet with an easy step-by-step guide, plus a 7-day meal plan—complete with shopping lists. And dig in to 85 tasty beginner recipes that keep your brain (and body) healthy and happy.

Thoughts: This is a really good introduction to the MIND diet. It takes the basics of both the Mediterranean and DASH diets and pares them down to specific foods that help keep your brain healthy. The author explains the science behind the diet as well as defines Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline in a way that is easy to understand even for a non-scientist. She also goes into what your brain needs to function well. Things like: omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, flavonoids, etc. Once she’s done with the science and explanations, she has charts and lists of what you should have on hand, shopping lists, a 7-day menu, food trackers and advice for success. She also suggests non-diet things to do like exercise, get enough sleep, reduce stress, etc. for better health overall. The recipes are easy to follow and contain number of servings, prep and cook times, gluten free, vegetarian/vegan, notes, swaps, tips, and nutrients. They are broken down into breakfasts, poultry, soups/salads, fish, and more.

What I liked: the nutrient lists as well as all the helpful charts and shopping lists to help you keep track of what you’re having and what you need. There is even a chapter on desserts – not something a lot of “diet” books have.

What I didn’t like: Very little. Yes, there are recipes I will never use due to other food allergies, but most of them look really good and I can’t wait to try some of them.

Recommendations: I would definitely add this one to my cookbook shelves, especially if you’re interested in healthier eating and focusing on brain power.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Callisto Publishing for providing this book in hopes of a review. All opinions are my own.

Vicky 12/20

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LOW-CARB DIET FOR TWO by Bek Davis

Nonfiction, Cookbook, Diet

5 Sparklers

Blurb: Cooking healthy meals for two on a low carb diet doesn’t have to be expensive―or end in excessive leftovers. Low Carb Diet for Two makes it easy with shopping and meal-planning tips alongside 100 flavorful, healthy low-carb recipes―all created with two people in mind. This cookbook guides you through your low carb diet journey, letting you eat deliciously while on the path to better health together.

Learn what carbs are, how they affect your body, and why eating a low carb diet can be so beneficial. Find grocery shopping advice, lists of kitchen essentials, and simple ingredient swaps to make the food you already enjoy lower-carb. All the beginner-friendly, two-serving recipes include complete nutritional info.

Thoughts: There are lots of easy-to-follow recipes (100 of them) are scaled for two people with little to no leftovers. The book starts off with explanations of what exactly carbs are and how to count them. It also emphasizes that this is not a Keto/Paleo cookbook, but that it is low-carb (80-100 grams per day). Each recipe tells you whether it is gluten free, vegetarian, low sodium, etc. There are also cooking and prep times, servings, tips for swaps (lettuce for lo-carb tortillas for white bread), nutrients and more. I loved the seasoning recipes! At the end, the author has resources and apps you can use as well as references and a good index.

Recommendation: I would definitely add this to my cookbook collection. Even if you’re cooking for more than two, I believe you could just increase the amounts and still have them come out right. But I love that it is for two people. Not many cookbooks are.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Callisto Publishing for providing this book in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 12/20

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30-MINUTE DASH DIET COOKBOOK by Andy De Santis

Nonfiction, Diet, Cookbook

4 Sparklers

Blurb: Adopting a low-sodium diet may feel like a challenge, but this supportive cookbook will make your transition to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) as enjoyable as it is rewarding. With a straightforward overview of the diet, 90 delicious recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, and a 21-day meal plan, the 30-Minute DASH Diet Cookbook is for anyone looking to lower their blood pressure through flavorful, easy to prepare food.

Thoughts: I thought this was a pretty good book. The authors explained what the DASH diet is (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) – in other words, how to lower your blood pressure through what you eat. There are three weeks’ worth of meal plans as well as shopping lists so you can have everything on hand. I loved the seasoning mixes recipes so you can make your own seasonings. Each recipe includes number of servings, prep and cook times, tips, and (most important to me) nutrient information. And some really good recipes too with ingredients that aren’t too hard to find or “once and done” – you know, those recipes that call for that one ingredient you don’t have, you will never have, and will never use again except for that specific recipe.

Recommendation: I’d definitely add this one to my cookbook stash, especially if you’re looking to work toward a healthier lifestyle.

Thanks to Callisto Publishing for providing this ARC in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 12/20

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30-Day Healthy Weight Loss Plan and Cookbook: 100 Easy Recipes and Workouts for a Balanced Life by Kelli Shallal

Nonfiction, Diet, Cookbook,

5 Sparklers

Blurb: If you’re looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle but don’t know where to begin, you’re in luck. This healthy cookbook is all about starting fresh. It’s your template for developing skills and habits around cooking, nutrition, and exercise that will set you up for weight loss success, and help you stay positive and realistic about your body and your health.

Thoughts: This is a book for those who want to, and can, do it by themselves. She walks you through not only what losing excess weight will do for you, but how to do it by setting SMART goals, not just for what you eat, but for exercise as well. There is also information on how to calculate your BMR (basic metabolic rate) and the number of calories you’d need to follow. The exercises and charts she includes will help you reach your goal. There are four weeks of meal plans and the shopping lists and recipes needed for those days. The recipes include information on whether they are gluten free, vegetarian, nut free, etc. The number of servings, prep and cook times, and nutritional information as well. And there are bonus recipes at the end for swapping out if there’s something you don’t like or can’t have. At the end, there are references and a decent index. All in all, a good book for starting your healthy weight journey.

What I liked: the allergen and nutritional information as especially important to me and not all cookbooks include these. I like that this info was there. The recipes are clear and easy to follow and most of the ingredients are readily available even in small town grocers. For those that aren’t there are online options for ordering. The calculations, though challenging, give you good information for what you need to know on your journey.

What I didn’t like: Very little. It’s a well-thought-out, well-done book with a lot of good information.

Recommendation: If you are looking to gain a healthier lifestyle and lose some weight, this is a good book to add to your collection. I definitely recommend it.

Thanks to Rockridge Press and Callisto Publishing for providing this ARC. All opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 12/20

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CANDLE MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS by Mystic Dylan

Nonfiction, How To, Magic

5 *****

Blurb: Are you new to candle magic, but with a burning desire to learn? Light the flame with Candle Magic for Beginners, the comprehensive guide to beginning your candle magic practice. With detailed, step-by-step instructions for everything from choosing the right candle to performing the perfect ritual, you’ll find everything you need to know to start magically manifesting your goals. Discover the different types of candles and their ideal uses, and find out how shape, size, color, and burn time can influence your results with candle magic. Learn how to create a sacred altar, prepare your candle for spellwork, and focus your intentions. Select a spell like Mental Health Magic, Kemetic Flame of Protection, Lucky Cat Candle, Aphrodite’s Beauty Ritual, or Druid’s Circle of Serenity, and get started!

Thoughts: This is a good book for those just starting out in using candles for spellcasting. I found the directions easy to follow, the background and explanations on using different colors, shapes, sizes, etc. interesting. I never realized there was so much difference in working with candles. There are spells for healing, protection, love, and more with step-by-step instructions. There are even instruction on the three Cs – how to clean, consecrate, and charge your candles. I also found the bits on lighting, relighting, letting candles burn down, etc. interesting. I learned a lot from this book. Especially useful were the tables of correspondence at the end – what types/colors of candles are best for what uses, herbs to use, oils, days of the weeks to cast, lunar cycles, and stones to use in casting. There was also a section on resources such as podcasts, where to get supplies and more. All in all, I thought this a very good resource book.

What I liked: it was easy to read, easy to follow, and had an abundance of good information without being dry and boring.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. I thought this a well-written, informative book.

Recommendation: If you are at all interested in doing candle work with spellcasting, definitely pick this book up. It is a good addition to any spellwork reference library.

Disclaimer: I received this book gratis from Rockridge Press via Callista Publishing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 11/2020

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Create Your Own Graphic Novel: A Guide for Kids by David Wayne Chiu

Nonfiction, YA, Writing

4****

Blurb: Create your own graphic novel and bring your coolest stories to life.Do you have a story to tell? Now you can write your own books for kids by creating your own graphic novel! With this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the storytelling skills of sequential art. For budding young storytellers with fantastic tales to tell, this guide will get you drawing in no time. Write your own books for kids with the guidance provided on outlining, scripting a story, pacing the action, and planning transitions. Then break out of the traditional comic book panel with a variety of blank templates to fill in! Place your own captions, speech balloons, and sound effects―or don’t! It’s all up to you when you write your own books for kids. With this book, you can experiment and explore to create a graphic novel of your very own.

Thoughts: This is a brightly colored book that will appeal to young persons. It explains technical terms like emanata, panel bleeds, pacing, planning panels, and more. And it does so in a way that is entertaining while being informative. There are a lot of blank pages for the reader to practice the exercises, but I believe this is better geared toward middle-teens rather than younger kids. There are exercises that show kids how to develop story outlines and plan the story out, including coming up with titles.

What I liked: the bright colors are inviting and interesting. There are plenty of blank pages for the budding author to practice what they are learning. It guides the reader on planning out panels and gives guidelines on how to fill them out. It even shows the reader how to express sounds and motion in the panels.

What I didn’t like: Although I read this as a PDF, this is a bound book that can make it difficult to work in. Spiral binding might be better for this than standard binding.

Recommendation: I definitely recommend this book for budding graphic novelists.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 10/26/2020

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THE 5-MINUTE PRODUCTIVITY JOURNAL by Jennifer Webb

Non-fiction, self-help

5*****

Publisher blurb:

Thoughts: This is a good book for those who want to become more productive through journaling. There are two main parts—Starting Out and Journal Entries—along with resources and references. If I had any criticism at all, it would be that both the resources and references were a bit thin, but…it’s a jounaling book which doesn’t take a lot of research. Each journal entry gives space for your feelings, productivity, setting priorities, and more. Including a place to vent/rejoice/plan. The first section gives you ways to set SMART goals, find a routine, how to tackle large tasks, planning and prioritizing, evaluating and more. It also encourages you to create a “life wheel” as a way to understand what is important to you and figure out what you really want.

What I liked: I liked the quotes the author uses to move you into a positive place and the little challenges offered each day. Those are interesting and fun—like go for a walk or meet someone new. Each day is the same as far as what needs to be filled out, but the challenges and quotes change. That makes it easy to get into a routine but keeps it fresh.

What I didn’t like: very little. I thought this was a good journaling book.

Recommendation: If you like journal books that help you become more productive, this is a definite pick for you. It’s easy to read and understand and will help you set your priorities.

Vicky 9/20/2020

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CRAFTING CATEGORY ROMANCE by Amy Lane

Non-fiction, writing

5 Sparklers

Blurb: Category romance is a precise art. With such a small word count, writing the perfect category romance is a little like writing a haiku. But how do you write a book in seventeen syllables? How can you cram compelling conflict, satisfying character development, and toe-curling romantic tension into less than sixty thousand words? In Crafting Category Romance, two-time RITA™-nominated author of nearly one hundred books Amy Lane describes the rules of engagement, traps to watch out for, and how to leverage common tropes to create conflict, craft a character, develop a plot, and leave readers with a happy ever after that’s different every time—all in a tidy package. With practical exercises in plot, conflict, and character development, Crafting Category Romance will teach you how to use the rigid rules and expectations of the genre to your advantage and win a loyal readership following for life.

Thoughts: This is a break from the author’s standard romance writing. Though it is still about romance, it is a well-written non-fiction book about how to write the stories. She has exercises you can follow to help you set up your book, how to brainstorm ideas, tropes, plots, and more. I have read a lot of “how to write” books, and this one definitely makes the cut. It’s something everyone who thinks of writing romance should read—whether you’re writing category or stand-alones. She highlights the hows and whys of writing a category romance—as well as the different types (sub-genres).

What I liked: Everything. Well, almost. You can skip the intro pages and get right to the meat of the book. Follow the exercises and you can start getting ideas on writing your own book. As she says in the book: Grab your notebook. Follow her exercises. Her style is easy to follow and understand. Go through this step by step and you will learn. I did. And I’ve been in this game for a very long time.

What I didn’t like: For me, the whole “haiku” bit didn’t work. I understood the analogy, but I liked the “Flavor” of your story better. That hit home more for me.

Recommendation: If you have any idea at all about writing a romance book, especially a category one, pick this book up and read it. It’s a great place to start. And even if you’ve been in the business a while, it’s a good reference book. Highly recommended.

I received this book from the publisher with the wish I’d write an honest review.

Vicky 10/5/2020

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THE BIG BOOK OF GLUTEN FREE BAKING by Paola Anna Miget

Nonfiction, Cookbook, Gluten Free

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Blurb: The complete cookbook for gluten free bakers. Staying gluten free no longer means missing out on delicious baked goods. With more than 100 recipes and a comprehensive guide to baking success, this is the only gluten free cookbook you’ll need to create your favorite breads, cakes, and confections―without the gluten. Start things off with a detailed look into the science of gluten free baking before moving on to a giant collection of recipes perfect for all tastes and occasions. Whether you’re in the mood for something quick, indulgent, simple, or showstopping, this gluten free cookbook has got you covered.

What I liked: the recipes! I tried a few and they are easy to follow and delicious. I intend to try more as time allows. There are nice photos scattered throughout and the explanations are detailed without being boring. I also liked the conversion table at the end.

What I didn’t like: There is no nutrient information and weights being in grams instead of ounces (or ounces included).

Recommendation: If you’re gluten free, definitely add this one to your library. Yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darned close and is a good addition to any cookbook library.Vicky 7/18/2020

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THE EASY BAKED DONUT COOKBOOK by Sara Mellas

Nonfiction, cookbook

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Blurb: The deliciously easy donut cookbook for heavenly homemade baked donuts. Who doesn’t love a good donut? From sugared or sprinkled to frosted or filled, donuts are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and sweeten your day. The best part is you don’t need to fuss with frying to whip up these fun, flavorful treats at home. The Easy Baked Donut Cookbook shows you how mouthwatering―and mess-free―donuts can be right from your oven or donut maker, providing plenty of tried-and-true tricks and tasty recipes for beautifully baked donuts, donut holes, mini donuts, and more. From sweet staples, such as Old-Fashioned Cake Donuts to creative savory bakes like Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread Donuts, this donut cookbook serves you dozens of delightfully simple recipes to match every craving, along with perfectly paired frostings, glazes, and toppings. Easy Baked Donut Cookbook has everything you need to whip up bakery-worthy baked donuts―no fryer required.

Thoughts: Yum. Sixty mouth-watering recipes for donuts that you can do at home. Most of the recipes are from scratch, but a few use things like boxed cake mix or canned biscuit dough. That there are also a few gluten free and vegan options is also a plus. I will note that the GF ones are exactly the same as the regular ones with the exception of using GF flour instead of regular flour so I’m sure some of the others can be adapted in this same way as long as you use a 1-to-1 GF flour mix. The introduction includes information on essential ingredients, techniques, and more. Each recipe includes the list of ingredients, time needed, options for full-sized donuts, mini-donuts, or donut holes where appropriate, as well as how many of each the recipe makes. There are even “adult” recipes that contain alcohol. There are also some tips and variations with the recipes. What there isn’t is nutritional information or pictures (except for a very few at the beginning of some sections). The recipes contain a mix of cake, yeast-raised, and filled, sweet and savory. And there’s even a final “doggie donut” recipe for your favorite canine (also the only one that is relatively “healthy” with whole wheat flour and no sugar).

What I liked: the recipes look amazing and I am definitely going to be trying some of them. I liked that the recipes are clear and easy to read and follow and don’t require special equipment beyond a donut pan (which I already have). Loved the wide variety from “Cider Donuts” to “Gluten Free Old Fashioned” to “Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread Donuts).

What I didn’t like: no nutritional information and “stock” photos instead of some real pictures of some of the recipes.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for something different to make in your oven, definitely pick this up. The recipes look amazing and will satisfy any sweet tooth. Yes, the lack of nutritional information is an issue for me, but beyond that, this is a good cookbook to have on your shelf.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.Vicky 6/1/2020~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FAMILY TREE WORKBOOK by Brian Sheffey

Nonfiction, Reference

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Blurb: Detail generations of your family’s unique history in one convenient workbook. Organizing your genealogical information is a snap with the Family Tree Workbook. This versatile workbook assists you in your research by providing a variety of forms, charts, and worksheets that help you categorize and track critical information. It also suggests ways to expand on the ancestral information you have already uncovered. The companion book for Practical Genealogy, the Family Tree Workbook is also suited for your own independent investigations. Featuring everything from pedigree charts and DNA trackers to marriage records and family lore sheets, this family tree workbook offers an expansive approach and unmatched versatility when it comes to recording your family’s history. The Family Tree Workbook includes: Worksheet variety―Discover dozens of different ways to expand and explore your family tree―including forms that help with bookkeeping and managing your research. Special documentation ―This workbook is inclusive of all types of family histories thanks to specialty forms, migration maps, and blended family worksheets. Treasured keepsake―Create a comprehensive history of your family that will make a wonderful and heartfelt heirloom for future generations.Thoughts: If you’ve ever been interested in looking deeper into your ancestry, this is a good place to start. It will help you get organized and delve deeply into your ancestry. The 30+ worksheets go into great detail. They will help you with working through names/nicknames, dates of birth/death/marriage, addresses, migration maps, land records, military history, medical backgrounds, and more. There are even sections on enslavement, and Native American sections. The final section offers guidelines on what to do if you’re stumped, an extensive glossary, resources, and more. The depth of information you are encouraged to go into is amazing. There are even pages for family heirlooms.What I liked: the depth of information you can go after and how to do that. It is very well-organized and will help you get organized as well.What I didn’t like: Nothing. This is a really good book that will help you find your roots and more.Recommendation: If you are at all interested in looking into your family background, I’d definitely recommend you get this book. It’s an amazing place to organize your information.Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.Vicky 6/4/2020~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE ESSENTIAL SELF-COMPASSION WORKBOOK FOR TEENS by Katie Krimer

Nonfiction, self-help

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Blurb: Replace your inner critic with a big self-hug―an interactive workbook for teens Feelings of anxiety, sadness, insecurity, and shame are challenging obstacles that may come your way while growing up, and they are difficult to manage alone. Self-compassion is a remarkable, life-changing superpower that will help you develop a healthier outlook and a more balanced, accepting view ofyourself. The Essential Self Compassion Workbook for Teens is an interactive guide filled with practical and interesting activities and exercises rooted in research-based strategies that will help you calm your inner critic, deal with difficult emotions, and learn to love yourself. Inspired by the Mindful Self Compassion program developed by Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff, author Katie Krimer puts her own spin on some of their most tried and true principles, and infuses her unique, impassioned voice into the pages of this workbook. By learning core elements of self-compassion and coping skills, you can embrace yourself, overcome self-criticism, and cultivate kindness. Designed to teach you all the aspects of this beneficial practice, this hands-on workbook will help you take that brave first step in a journey that will create a kinder and more empathetic you.Thoughts: Though I no longer have teens, I do have grandkids who are teens, and this is a perfect book for them—and me. I actually got a lot out of the book myself. Yes, the situations and exercises are for the (much) younger set, but…they are good for anyone. The writing is lighter than what you get in an “adult” themed self-help book and is geared toward teens. There is colorful artwork that enhances the book. The introduction and explanations are clear and well-written and there are real-life examples and responses that you can read over to see what would be a good way to deal with these situations. The end of the book has room for journaling with questions to get you started on a subject and the resources include things for both parents and teens.What I liked: The light style without being denigrating. I wish more self-help books were written in this style. I liked the resources that were split into ones for teens and ones for parents. And I liked the real-life examples and suggestions.What I didn’t like: Nothing. I though this was a helpful, well-written book.Recommendations: A must for all parents/teens who want to be more self-compassionate. I will definitely be passing this on to my teen grandkids.Disclaimer: I received this book gratis from the publisher. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.Vicky 6/4/20~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DAIRY-FREE MEAL PREP by Silvana Nardone

Nonfiction, Cooking

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Blurb: Take the guesswork out of dairy free meal prep with 6 weeks of plans and 70 tasty recipes. Whether you want to avoid allergens, save money and time, or eat healthier, preplanned dairy free meals have a multitude of perks. Simplify your daily routine with Dairy-Free Meal Prep, a complete guide and dairy free cookbook with 6 weeks of meal plans and 70 scrumptious recipes. Helpful info about meal planning, convenient grocery lists, and step-by-step prep directions mean you’ll be able to spend less time in the kitchen and more time living your life. With simple recipes like Chicken Pasta with Creamy Vodka Sauce, this dairy free cookbook is so easy and enticing, you’ll never miss dairy again.Thoughts: While this book looks really good on the surface, I did have a few issues with it. But first… the introduction is good in that it discusses why you should be dairy-free, foods to avoid (dairy free does not always mean milk free), and the basics to have on hand to help you. There are sections on prepping, fundamentals, and storage as well as what not to prep ahead of time. There’s an excellent chart in the back on storage times. The meal prep menus start out extremely simple and repetitive (same thing every day) but gradually increase in difficulty and variety. There are shopping lists and step-by-step prep directions that are easy to follow. Finally, the last section is just extra meal-specific recipes.What I liked: There are some really good recipes here and good directions, including how to make your own staples like oat milk, cashew milk, and other non-dairy necessities. I loved that the recipes included nutritional information. I liked that many of the recipes are gluten free (or easily adaptable), but they do seem to be heavily on the side of Mexican-style ingredient.  I believe this is a decent basic book, but…What I didn’t like: An awful lot of the recipes are still dairy-centric even though they use non-dairy substitutes. There are many recipes out there that don’t use dairy at all so I believe the author could have used some of those instead. I also didn’t like that the recipes are not necessarily healthy. They use a lot of fats (some healthier but still…). I wasn’t enamored of the “beginners” prep – having the same thing every day… no thank you. I don’t care how easy it is.Recommendation: There are some decent recipes in here and the more varied meal-prep menus are good. There’s some good information and this will be a decent addition to any cooking library, but I’m not sure I’d use it as my only reference.Disclaimer: I received this book gratis from the publisher. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.Vicky 6/4/2020~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ACTUALLY, THE COMMA GOES HERE by Lucy Cripps

Nonfiction, Writing, Reference

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Blurb: Fun, funny, and factual–the most complete guide to punctuation for beginners and experts alike. Period. No one’s ever said that learning punctuation is fun–until now. Actually, The Comma Goes Here takes a lighthearted yet highly informative approach to ensuring you never misplace a comma again. Whether it’s semicolons or exclamation points, this primer has you covered with chapters that dive deep into the correct use for each and every piece of punctuation. You’ll find plenty of fun (and funny) examples of proper writing while also learning how punctuation has changed throughout history.Actually, The Comma Goes Here includes: A complete crash course–Keep things simple with chapters that progress from the most basic punctuation (like periods) to more advanced or uncommon punctuation (like brackets). Memorable advice–Never mix your clauses up again thanks to easy-to-remember breakdowns, handy mnemonics, and entertaining sample sentences.Matters of style–Discover a quick reference chart that details the differences between the most common style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press. Perfect your punctuation with the help of this comprehensive guidebook.Thoughts: My husband made fun of me as I sat down to actually read a grammar book. But it was so much fun. And I should know, I have a bunch of them. This was a light (much lighter than the Chicago Manual of Style on which it is based) read with fun examples of different types of punctuation. It targets anyone who wants to learn the finer points of grammar, but does note that this is based on CMoS and that there are other styles depending on what you’re writing—including APA, Turabian, MLA, Associated Press, and individual house styles. In fact, that’s the only nit I have with the book. The author gives you the basics but then tells you to do what you want depending on which style you want to use. However, it is also something every writer should read. I’ve reviewed way too many books of late where there is barely a passing grade when it comes to proper punctuation and grammar. This book is laid out in fifteen chapters, each one focusing on a specific punctuation mark like periods, commas, parentheses, em dashes, and more, when to use each—and when *not* to use them.What I liked: She uses the Oxford comma! Yay! I also enjoyed that it was on the light-hearted side. There is a lot of good information here that is easily accessible and understandable. I loved the chart at the end that compared all the different styles.What I didn’t like: The multiple references to other styles. I suggest just mentioning the styles—including house styles—once at the beginning and note that this is based on CMOS and let it go at that. Grammar is confusing enough without muddling it even more. Also, there is a complete lack of references, resources or anything else for more information.Recommendation: This is a brief, light introduction to punctuation and has enough good information to be useful. It’s a good place to start, but if you really care about grammar, it’s not the place to end. Keep going. But I’d definitely recommend this as a decent starting reference point.Disclaimer: I received this book gratis from the publisher. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.Vicky 6/4/2020~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 INNER PEACE: A Guided Meditation Journal for Beginners by Jordana Reim

Nonfiction, self-help

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Blurb: Anyone can enjoy the benefits that come from mediation—they just need to know how to achieve them. Inner Peace is a guided journal that shows you how to get the most out of meditation and achieve a newfound sense of peace and balance. Filled with a variety of mantras, prompts, and intentions to help you reflect, this meditation journal is an ideal choice for people starting this ancient and proven practice…guides you down your path to serenity, helps you track your growth, and shows you how you can spread your newfound peace back into the universe.Thoughts: There is a good introduction as to why you should use both meditation and journaling to help you find peace. There are quotes and affirmations sprinkled throughout that are thought-provoking and inspirational. The book is broken into four sections: Find Inner Peace, Focus Your Mind, Overcome Obstacles, and Foster Gratitude and Spread Joy. Each section contains different types of meditations including ones for walking. With each meditation, there are guided questions to help you write down your thoughts concerning the prompts. At the end, there are resources and apps where you can go to further your studies.What I liked: the meditations and prompts—they are thought provoking and make you look deeper into yourself. Also the quotes and affirmations are good. And good spaces for writing your thoughts.What I didn’t like: Very little. It’s a good book for the beginner.Recommendation: Definitely recommended for those looking to find a little internal peace and willing to do the work to get there.Thanks to the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.Vicky 6/1/2020~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SELF-CARE CHECK-IN by GG Renee Hill

Nonfiction, self-help

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Blurb: Self-care isn’t about escaping life’s problems. It can actually help you solve them. This is a guided journal packed with research-based techniques to help you manage stress, nurture your values and goals, and take steps toward concrete change. Equipped with these tools, you can open the door to a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. Actionable journal prompts and inspiring quotes guide you through thoughtful reflection, goal setting, decision making, and active planning. Identify unhelpful behavioral patterns along with positive creative impulses and discover how to make constructive adjustments in your life. Commit to happiness by committing to self-care, because even small, simple choices can cultivate greater joy and wellness. Each exercise begins with observation and awareness, focuses your intentions, then guides you toward practical change. Work your way from thoughts to action plans with colorful, easy-to-use format that includes room to write. Every short one-or-two page exercise stands on its own so you can flip through and find the perfect strategy for your needs at the moment.Thoughts: I found this book very useful, especially in this time of upheaval. The prompts guide you through different challenges you might face to help you find what works for you. They include ways to set boundaries, how to deal with annoying people, social media, and a lot more. There are inspirational quotes scattered throughout and a bright, colorful format.What I liked: the overall “happy” feel of the book. It’s colorful but the designs are around the outer edges so you can actually read the questions and guides. I liked the wide variety of guides and how each guide has three parts: Reflect (asks the question), focus (how to look at it), do (how to approach a solution).What I didn’t like: Nothing. I really think this is a good book to have.Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All the opinions here are my own and are not influenced by anyone.Vicky~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ESSENTIAL FONDUE COOKBOOK by Erin Harris

Nonfiction, Cookbook

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Blurb: What’s better than a dinner party centered around a bubbling pot of delectable, melted goodness? The Essential Fondue Cookbook is your guide to a communal feast that unites different cultures and flavors, offering countless ways to indulge in a delicious life. Start by learning all of the important tips for throwing a fondue gathering—from how to pick the right fondue pot to how to select the finest cheeses. With this fondue cookbook, you’ll dive into 75 deliciously dippable recipes ranging from classic cheese dishes to savory desserts that will elevate any get-together from mundane to memorable. Cook. Dip. Enjoy. Check out what else this fondue cookbook includes: Fondues and don’ts—Discover why swirling your dipper in a figure eight is good and eating straight from your sharpened long-handled fondue fork is bad.
Beyond conventional—Not only do the recipes in this fondue cookbook feature chocolate and cheese dishes, there are also lesser-known favorites and techniques like Fondue Bourguignonne.
Cheese wisely—Learn how to select the proper cheeses to ensure your meals taste like they were imported from a Swiss restaurant. Treat yourself and your guests to the tasty flavors found in this essential fondue cookbookThoughts: I really appreciated the fact that this book gave instructions for absolute beginners of fondue, but also included tips and recipes for those who are experienced in the art of fondue cuisine. There are many incredible looking recipes in this book that I am dying to try; unfortunately, living where I do, it will take a special trip into a city to find some of the specialized ingredients needed. I was able to sample the baked brie fondue and the cheddar ale recipes, and they were phenomenal! The recipes are made for appetizer size portions, and we doubled them to make a meal out of them. All in all, I think this is a great book for anyone looking to experiment with fondue cooking.What I liked: Really interesting recipes I’m dying to try. And the information on different types of pots that I didn’t know.What I didn’t like: some unusual ingredients that are difficult to find in my area. Also, no nutritional information or pictures, both of which would have been helpful.Recommendation: If you are a fondue lover already, add this one to your shelf. If not…it’s not the easiest book for newbies.Vicky & Jeannine~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

EVERYDAY STRESS RELIEF by Ruth C. White

Nonfiction, self-help, health

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Blurb: Stress is a natural part of life, and there’s no way to eliminate it entirely, but we can control how our bodies respond to difficult situations. (This book) is the guide to understanding your own stress and finding personal strategies that work to focus your mind so you can calm your body. Learn what causes stress and how your body reacts to emotional triggers. Then, research-backed exercises and thoughtful advice give you the tools to effectively control the influence that stress has on your everyday life.Thoughts: Stress? We don’t have stress, do we? No. Not at all! LOL. Yes, everyone has stress and we all have to learn to deal with it. Nobody has the same issues, reacts the same way, or handles things in the same way. This book helps you work through different issues by using movement, writing exercises, mindfulness, reflection, and other techniques. Though each exercise has a specific technique to go with it, I can see where some of the other ones could be applied to each one. There is a comprehensive introduction to stress and how it affects our bodies.What I liked: I liked the various techniques used throughout. It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” answer to everything. Yes, each example (getting married, deadlines, children, spouses, illness, etc.) has a specific way of dealing, but I believe the various actions could be applied to any of the challenges. I especially liked the resources at the end: websites that offer stress assessment tests, management tips, organizations and support groups.What I didn’t like: nothing. I thought this a very useful book.Recommendation: If stress is something that you struggle with—and who doesn’t?—this book has all kinds of ideas to help you with your issues. A definite plus for any bookshelf.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.Vicky 5/20~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A YEAR OF MINDFULNESS FOR BEGINNERS by Lee Papa

Nonfiction, self-help, health

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Blurb: 365 days, 365 ways to master mindfulness—a guide for beginners. Start your journey to living better, being present, and acting with intention today. A Year of Mindfulness for Beginners is the perfect choice for people looking to internalize the practice and develop beneficial, lifelong habits. Featuring daily doses of affirmations, exercises, meditations, and inspiring quotes, A Year of Mindfulness for Beginners helps you live in the moment and be more aware of yourself.A Year of Mindfulness for Beginners includes: Beginner-friendly—Embrace mindfulness for beginners with simple, beginner-friendly exercises that help you take things one day at a time. A year of practice—Find out how to be more mindful with 365 entries that let you progress at your own pace.Memorable quotes—Be inspired as you discover how the ideas behind mindfulness have resonated with great thinkers, writers, and more—including Dalai Lama XIV, Oscar Wilde, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Bruce Lipton.Thoughts: The book contains a lot of inspirational quotes from people like Norman Vincent Peale, Martin Luther King Jr., Mark Twain, and more. It also has affirmations for you to use to help with stress and become more centered. It also stresses that mindfulness “is a part of every decision. It is a philosophy of life. Mindfulness is the nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts, actions, and the world around you.” (Lee Papa). With that in mind, some of the things in the book were a little too “out there” for me. Which is okay. Not everything is for everyone. Which brings me to the biggest issue with the book. It is very colorful—not necessarily a bad thing—but for a person with color issues, I had a lot of trouble reading some of the pages—especially white print on yellow pages. Plus, I honestly believe this book would do better as a daily calendar than a book. It just seems to lend itself to that format.

What I liked: the various quotes from famous people. They were nice to read. Also, some of the exercises/mantras/etc. did pique my interest enough to want to follow them—maybe not on a daily basis, but definitely once in a while.

What I didn’t like: a lot of the colors made it difficult to read. Really – just stick to black on white, please. Or black on yellow. I wish publishers would keep readability in mind when producing these books. Also, as noted above, the format of this book would seem to lend itself better to being a calendar.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a way to get deeper into mindfulness, this is a good place to start. Not all the daily offerings may resonate with you, but that is normal and part of mindfulness. If nothing else, enjoy the uplifting quotes and affirmations.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All the opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.Vicky 5/2020~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~