The Good Life for Less: Giving Your Family Great Meals, Good Times, and a Happy Home on a Budget

Amy Allen Clark (creator of MomAdvice.com) has written a gem of book.  I must say the title of the book got my attention immediately.  Who doesn’t what to live the good life for less?  We all do, right?  I must admit I have gotten more skeptical with age, but by end of the first chapter I was hooked.  Clark has such a down-to earth, conversational style you practically feel like you know her!  She and her husband struggled early in their marriage with finances, and although they have made their way out of debt, they still choose to live simply and within their means.  I was impressed by Clark’s many smart and creative ideas for families living on a budget. She also includes a chapter of good recipes I have already introduced to my family, and most importantly, they liked them! This book is a guide for everyone who finds themselves challenged to juggle all the roles that come with working and parenting  Amy Allen Clark gives you the tools, the guidance, and the inspiration you need to run your own household with wisdom, wit, love, and style.  As a Librarian at Missouri River Regional Library, I purchased the book for the library and checked it out.  I wasn’t even half-way through reading the book before I decided I need to invest in my own copy, and that is truly the best endorsement I can give any book!

03. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Christmas : a Candid History by Bruce David Forbes., read by Kira, on 01/17/2014

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Did you know that the Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas in the US & UK for almost 2 Centuries!  So working Christmas was the norm, when Bob Cratchit asked Scrooge for the day off.  The christmas-a-candid-historyChristmas Carol story makes it seem as if, Scrooge is being a mean person, as opposed to a law-abPURITAN-BAN-ON-CHRISTMAS-WAS-TO-PREVENT-DEMONIZATIONS-OF-CITIZENS-IN-COMMUNITYiding citizen, a shrewd business person.  The biggest reason for the revival of the winter holiday celebration in Britain & America was the book, the Christmas Carol; the 2nd reason for the revival of celebrating Christmas, was the press’ fascination with the young Queen Victoria & Prince Albert from Germany who captured the royal families’ Christmas Tree in the newspaper.  The “tradition” caught on.cmaspuritans

01. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Revived by Cat Patrick, read by Sarah, on 01/30/2014

  What if there was a drug that could be administered when you die that would revive you?  Daisy has been revived five times in her short life and is a part of a secret government case study.  Each death means a move to conceal the secret, so putting down roots has been a problem until she moves to Omaha.  Here she makes good friends with a brother and sister who make her realize that she wants more of a normal teenage life.  This experiment is more sinister than Daisy realizes and a thriller ensues that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.  This was a very enjoyable book!  I had read Cat Patrick’s The Originals last year and loved it, too.  I highly recommend it!

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A pioneer in the world consciousness effort, Shakti Gawain details the practical technique of using mental imagery and affirmation to produce positive life changes.  creative-visualization-complete-book-on-tape-shakti-gawain-audio-cover-artThis includes the Pink Bubble Technique, Grounding and Runnbook covering Energy.  I find these exercises very useful and recommend work by Shakti Gawain.Visualization

30. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

100 Cats who Changed Civilization: History's most Influential Felines by Sam Stall, read by Tammy, on 01/09/2014

100 cats True stories about cats that created laws, inspired their owners or were present at historical moments. Each story is about a different cat and ranges from 1 to 3 pages in length. Quick fun read for cat lovers, history lovers or trivia nuts.

30. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Inspirational, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags:

For Everything a Season: Simple Musings on Living Well (Porch Talk series #4) by Philip Gulley, read by Tammy, on 01/12/2014

for everythingAuthor Philip Gulley started writing by doing newsletter essays for his twelve member Quaker congregation in Indiana. Much to his surprise one found its way to radio commentator Paul Harvey Jr., and was read on the air to 24 million listeners. Now he has fourteen books in print including this collection of his newsletter essays.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, True Crime

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, read by Courtney, on 01/21/2014

The last anyone saw of Shannon was as she ran panicking from house to house in a small suburban neighborhood near New York. The police were called, but the girl was gone. So was the SUV seen in the neighborhood. As it turned out, Shannon was an escort and the SUV was her driver. She had placed an ad on Craigslist and met up with a resident of the neighborhood. At some point in the night, she freaked out and called the police (something escorts don’t do very often). She ran from the house she had been working at and ran from her driver. She knocked on door after door, hoping to be let in and helped. The last anyone saw of her was her slight form darting off into the shadows.
Shannon’s family pushed for the investigation, in spite of the police’s clear reluctance due to her profession. The search turned up a body, but it wasn’t Shannons. More searching revealed four complete skeletons, all wrapped in burlap, as well as a number of body parts and unidentified remains. Still no Shannon. Police soon pieced together the identities of the burlap-wrapped girls. Each of them was an escort, just like Shannon. They could only conclude that this was indeed the work of a serial killer.
Lost Girls is, as the title implies, the story of an unsolved serial murder case. Kolker begins by letting the reader get to know the victims. Each of their stories are told in detail and without judgement. Each woman’s life is different. The one thing they all have in common is that they all found their way to the Craigslist escort game. From the girls to the circumstances of their last known whereabouts to the family, community and press response, Lost Girls tells a heartbreaking story of a broken society. To blame the women for their circumstances would be only addressing a miniscule part of the equation. Lost Girls is exceedingly well-researched and humane. The lack of resolution will frustrate, but it may also serve as a catalyst for change in how crimes like this are handled.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Informational Book

The Black Belt Librarian by Warren Graham, read by Courtney, on 01/08/2014

Black Belt Librarian is a practical guide to making sure your library is a safe space, both for you and your patrons. Written not by a librarian, but by a security professional, this slender book is filled with tough questions and great advice. This should probably be required reading for anyone in a supervisory or managerial role and highly recommended reading for front-line staff. I, for one, am really glad I read it and am currently encouraging all of my colleagues to do the same.

28. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Cookbooks, Fiction, How To's, Humor, Informational Book, Noelle, NonFiction

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris, read by Noelle, on 01/08/2014

Cute. Quirky. Weird. Adorable.  INAPPROPRIATE!  Charming. Hilarious. Delicious.  Those are just a few words that come to mind when reading this book, which was a great deal of fun.  If you’re familiar with Amy Sedaris, then you’d expect nothing less.

Are you lacking direction in how to whip up a swanky soiree for lumberjacks?  A dinner party for white-collar workers?  A festive gathering for the grieving? Don’t despair. Take a cue from entertaining expert Amy Sedaris and host an unforgettable fete that will have your guests raving.  No matter the style or size of the gathering-from the straightforward to the bizarre-I LIKE YOU provides jackpot recipes and solid advice laced with Amy’s blisteringly funny take on entertaining, plus four-color photos and enlightening sidebars on everything it takes to pull off a party with extraordinary flair.  You don’t even need to be a host or hostess to benefit-Amy offers tips for guests, too!  (Number one: don’t be fifteen minutes early.)  Readers will discover unique dishes to serve alcoholics (Broiled Frozen Chicken Wings with Applesauce), the secret to a successful children’s party (a half-hour time limit, games included), plus a whole appendix chock-full of arts and crafts ideas (from a mini-pantyhose plant-hanger to a do-it-yourself calf stretcher), and much, much more!

27. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, read by Angie, on 01/26/2014

This book has been on my “to read” list for a while, but with the movie coming out I thought I had better move it to the top of the list. It was definitely worth the read. While this is a work of nonfiction it reads like a mystery. Robert Edsel makes sure the reader connects with the men and women who were part of the Monuments Men during WWII. You get to know them and their families and their motivations.

I find it fascinating that not only did Hitler want to conquer Europe he also wanted to conquer its culture and artifacts. Hitler believed himself to be a connoisseur of art and set about acquiring as much as possible to build his collection and the collections of the museums he wanted to create. This meant the pillaging of Jewish art collections and the pillaging of museums in conquered lands. No one really knew the extent of his acquisitions and the acquisitions of his men until near the end of the war.

While the creation of the Monuments Men came from the top of the military brass, it was never fully staffed or given the materials needed to do the job properly. However, with little to help them out the Monuments Men were able to find and restore thousands of pieces of stolen art. I really enjoyed reading about how little conversations or bits of information would lead them to more bits which would lead them to a cache of stolen treasure. The Monuments Men were detectives on the trail of the biggest art heist in history. The fact that all of the stolen materials were found doesn’t not in any way diminish their acts of heroism and determination. These men and women were and went on to be some of the pillars of the museum and art world and I am glad they are finally getting the recognition they so richly deserve.

27. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, NonFiction

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., read by Angie, on 01/26/2014

I recently watched the documentary Forks over Knives and decided to see what else the book had to offer. It is basically a narrative of the movie, but it still has some really good information on why you should change the way you eat. Forks Over Knives promotes a plant-based whole foods (vegan) diet. Doctors Campbell and Esselstyn have been researching the connections between nutrition and health for decades and their research has led them to this diet. Removing animal products and processed foods from the diet has been shown to greatly reduce the risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health issues according to their studies. The book highlights why the diet is better for you, the environment and animals. It also provides a lot of recipes to get you started. I’m not sure if I could ever go completely vegan, but it does make me think about what I eat and how I eat.

22. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Children's Books, Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books, Teen Books

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, read by Rachel, on 01/21/2014

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

Journey into the land beyond the wardrobe! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been captivating readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like journey back to Narnia, read The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

15. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Classics, History, Rachel, Teen Books

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, read by Rachel, on 01/15/2014

Anne Frank, June 1929 – March 1945 Anneliesse Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Anne’s father was a factory worker, who moved his family to Amsterdam in 1933 to escape the Nazi’s. There he opened up a branch of his uncle’s company and Anne and her sister Margot resumed a normal life, attending a Montessori School in Amsterdam.

The Germans attacked the Netherlands in 1940 and took control, issuing anti-Jewish decrees, and forcing the Frank sisters into a Jewish Lyceum instead of their old school. Their father Otto decided to find a place for the family to hide should the time come that the Nazi’s came to take them to a concentration camp. He chose the annex above his offices and found some trustworthy friends among his fellow workers to supply the family with food and news. On July 5, 1942, Margot received a “call up” to serve in the Nazi “work camp.” The next day, the family escaped to the annex, welcoming another family, the van Pels, which consisted of Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter. Fritz Pfeffer also came to stay with them, causing the count to come to eight people hiding in the annex.

Anne, Margot and Peter continued their studies under the tutelage of Otto, and all of the captives found ways to entertain themselves for the long years they remained hidden. On August 4, 1944, four Dutch Nazis came to arrest the eight, having discovered their hiding place through an informant. Anne’s diary was left behind and found later by one of the family’s friends. The eight were taken to prison in Amsterdam and then deported to Westerbork before being shipped to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the men were separated from the women and Hermann van Pels was immediately gassed. Fritz Pfeffer died at Neuenganme in 1944.

Anne, Margot and Mrs. van Pels were taken to Bergen-Belson, leaving behind Anne’s mother, Edith, who died at Auschwitz of starvation and exhaustion in 1945. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot contracted typhus and died of the disease in March of 1945. Anne was 15 and Margot was 17. The exact date and the place they were buried is unknown. Otto Frank was the only one of the original group of eight who were hidden in the annex to survive. He was left for dead at Auschwitz when the Russian Army came to liberate the camp. It is due to him that Anne’s diary was published and became the success it is.

13. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

Divergent by Veronica Roth, read by Sarah, on 01/03/2014

  Divergent is an awesome, thrill-ride full of an attempt at a utopian society, romance, death-defying experiences, and life choices that will change the world.  Society is divided into five different factions with each focusing on a different personality characteristic that is believed to be the best.  Courage, pursuit of knowledge, selflessness, and peacefulness are a few of the ideal traits.  When a person reaches 16, he or she can choose which faction to join for the rest of their lives.  This decision can make all the difference in how your life unravels afterward.  I highly recommend this book.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached, read by Courtney, on 12/30/2013

A Game for Swallows is a graphic memoir of life in Lebanon during their civil war in the ’80′s. Zeina and her family live in an apartment building that is situated right next to the dividing line. One night, Zeina’s parents leave home to check on family members across town, risking their lives to pass through various security checkpoints and sniper territory. While the parents are out, the neighbors drop in to check on Zeina and her little brother. As time passes, more and more of the apartment’s inhabitants make their way down to Zeina’s apartment because the foyer there is the safest room in the building. Before long, everyone they live with is grouped together in the small room. As the bombs start falling, the adults tell the children stories and fix them food to help them keep their mind off of their absent parents. The reader learns a bit about each character and how the war has affected them.
It’s a sweet story and it gives the reader a bit of perspective on how everyday citizens dealt with an ongoing civil war in their own backyards. The artwork will definitely draw comparisons to the now-classic graphic memoir, Persepolis, with its bold, black-and-white illustrations. It is, however, stylistically different and well-suited to the story it tells. I wish there were more to the story. Readers not familiar with the region’s troubled history will probably be left with more questions than answers. The ending feels very abrupt and anti-climatic, which is probably best for the real-life individuals involved, but not as exciting or compelling for the reader.

07. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Informational Book, NonFiction

How to find out anything by Don Macleod, read by Claudia, on 12/19/2013

In How to Find Out Anything, master researcher Don MacLeod explains how to find what you’re looking for quickly, efficiently, and accurately—and how to avoid the most common mistakes of the Google Age.

Not your average research book, How to Find Out Anything shows you how to unveil nearly anything about anyone. From top CEO’s salaries to police records, you’ll learn little-known tricks for discovering the exact information you’re looking for. You’ll learn:

  • How to really tap the power of Google, and why Google is the best place to start a search, but never the best place to finish it.
  • The scoop on vast, yet little-known online resources that search engines cannot scour, such as refdesk.com, ipl.org, the University of Michigan Documents Center, and Project Gutenberg, among many others.
  • How to access free government resources (and put your tax dollars to good use).
  • How to find experts and other people with special knowledge.
  • How to dig up seemingly confidential information on people and businesses, from public and private companies to non-profits and international companies.

Whether researching for a term paper or digging up dirt on an ex, the advice in this book arms you with the sleuthing skills to tackle any mystery.

07. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Informational Book, NonFiction

Discover your optimal health by Wayne Scott Andersen, read by Claudia, on 12/12/2013

Go from surviving to thriving! Anyone who has ever lost weight only to ultimately gain it back will benefit from this life-changing breakthrough program that shows you not only how to reach and maintain your healthy weight, but how to create a life of renewed vibrancy and become as healthy as you can. Thousands of people worldwide have gone from discouragement to confidence by following this easy-to-use guide by Dr. Andersen, one of America’s most esteemed and compassionate practitioners of weight loss and optimal health. Discover Your Optimal Health teaches you how to live better, happier, and healthier into your eighties, nineties, and beyond.

31. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sarah

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker, read by Sarah, on 11/23/2013

Stella loves living with Great-aunt Louise in her big old house near the water on Cape Cod for many reasons, but mostly because Louise likes routine as much as she does, something Stella appreciates since her mom is, well, kind of unreliable. So while Mom “finds herself,” Stella fantasizes that someday she’ll come back to the Cape and settle down. The only obstacle to her plan? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. Angel couldn’t be less like her name—she’s tough and prickly, and the girls hardly speak to each other.

But when tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Stella and Angel are forced to rely on each other to survive, and they learn that they are stronger together than they could have imagined. And over the course of the summer they discover the one thing they do have in common: dreams of finally belonging to a real family.

From one of the foremost authorities on education in the United States, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, “whistle-blower extraordinaire” (The Wall Street Journal), author of the best-selling The Death and Life of the Great American School System (“Important and riveting”—Library Journal), The Language Police (“Impassioned . . . Fiercely argued . . . Every bit as alarming as it is illuminating”—The New York Times), and other notable books on education history and policy—an incisive, comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair; an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement that is draining students and funding from our public schools.
​In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point. ​She argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education, some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. Many who work with equity funds are eyeing public education as an emerging market for investors.
Reign of Error begins where The Death and Life of the Great American School System left off, providing a deeper argument against privatization and for public education, and in a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, putting forth a plan for what can be done to preserve and improve it. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can fix it.

​For Ravitch, public school education is about knowledge, about learning, about developing character, and about creating citizens for our society. It’s about helping to inspire independent thinkers, not just honing job skills or preparing people for college. Public school education is essential to our democracy, and its aim, since the founding of this country, has been to educate citizens who will help carry democracy into the future.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Madeline, NonFiction

How to be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, read by Madeline, on 12/20/2013

Everyone knows someone who’s sick or suffering. Yet when a friend or relative is under duress many of us feel uncertain about how to cope.

Throughout her recent bout with breast cancer, Letty Cottin Pogrebin became fascinated by her friends’ and family’s diverse reactions to her and her illness: how awkwardly some of them behaved; how some misspoke or misinterpreted her needs; and how wonderful it was when people read her right. She began talking to her fellow patients and dozens of other veterans of serious illness, seeking to discover what sick people wished their friends knew about how best to comfort, help, and even simply talk to them.

Now Pogrebin has distilled their collective stories and opinions into this wide-ranging compendium of pragmatic guidance and usable wisdom. Her advice is always infused with sensitivity, warmth, and humor. It is embedded in candid stories from her own and others’ journeys, and their sometimes imperfect interactions with well-meaning friends. How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick is an invaluable guidebook for anyone hoping to rise to the challenges of this most important and demanding passage of friendship.