Monday, 31 December 2012

Review: 'Death on Heels' by Ellen Byerrum

Death on Heels by Ellen Byerrum, 2002, Obsidian, $7.99, softbound, 328 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: colorful and clever. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Lacey Smithsonian, fashion reporter for the Eye Street Observer, is returning to Sagebrush, Colorado to talk to Cole Tucker, a rancher and Lacey's ex-boyfriend, who's been arrested for murder. Her current boyfriend, Vic Donovan, is also going, because he was the Sagebrush chief of police when the first murder victim disappeared. There have been 3 victims total, all found with bare feet -- a fact which strikes Lacey, who seems to have a penchant for solving murders with her fashion sense.
One of the victims was dating Cole; however, there are other suspects for the disappearance of the first girl, and Lacey just can't believe Cole is responsible for the murders.
There are other things for Lacey to contend with, too, including her old boss, Dodd Muldoon, whom Lacey suspects of skullduggery. Lacey's mother and sister also don't make life easy for her since they've gotten on a crime-solving kick.
This book is less formulaic than some cozies, in that Lacey doesn't live in a small town, but in Washington, DC (although Sagebrush, where the novel takes place, is small), and she doesn't find a body. The ending is unusual, though a bit unlikely, & unfortunately, the police don't see the obvious connection between the murder victims. Lacey's ability to solve murders using fashion sounds ludicrous, but Byerrum pulls it off. 
The book includes fashion tips from Lacey's column. 
Note: some strong language.   

If you like this one, try: A Fitting End by Melissa Bourbon. 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Review: Listerine Zero

Listerine has been a staple of our home for many years now, but it wasn't until fairly recently that we finally tried Listerine Zero Clean Mint. We always liked Listerine Cool Mint (we're big on mint for our oral health, as it gives our mouths a fresh feeling); we'd heard that the orange was really good, but we didn't want orange for our mouthwash.

So we finally tried Listerine Zero, which has zero alcohol & so less of a burning sensation. Because we weren't actually dissatisfied with Listerine Cool Mint, we're surprised by how much we've grown to like Listerine Zero. It was good from the start, with a lighter flavour than the Cool Mint. Now we wouldn't go back to Cool Mint, preferring instead the less 'in your face' effect of Listerine Zero. 

It also seems to do a very good job (as regular Listerine does): our mouths feel clean after we use it, & it's a nice complement to the toothpaste we use.   

Friday, 28 December 2012

Recommended Reading: What You Like

We're spending a lot of time telling you what we recommend; now's your turn to tell us what you like. At the end of the month, we'll post recommendations from you; just tell us what you like, why, & the pertinent information about the book -- author, title, publisher. 

Read on!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Review: 'Missundaztood' by P!nk

'Missundaztood,' P!nk, 2001, Arista Records, Inc. Cover: alluring. The CD itself has an image of P!nk ripping her shirt, also cool. Lyrics are included. 

True to the album title, this CD is a must-have for anyone who's ever felt like they didn't fit in. P!nk's voice has a texture that suits her music, & she helped write 11 of the 14 tracks on the album, offering an intriguing insight into her personality & background. Most moving (arguably) is 'Family Portrait,' which paints a picture of P!nk's home life growing up, though 'Don't Let Me Get Me' is also revealing, & could be used as a theme song for misfits everywhere.

Other tracks include the danceable title song (the beat grabs you from the very start) & the party-friendly 'Get the Party Started.' Attitude abounds in the sassy 'Respect' (featuring Scratch), which is all about girl power. 

Power -- & the lack of it -- also features in other tracks, like '18 Wheeler.' This one is a triumphant song & would be good to exercise to. 

P!nk's unforgettable voice is accompanied by excellent musicians. There's a nice guitar riff in 'Don't Let Me Get Me,' & the more danceable tunes wouldn't get anywhere without the driving drums, played by Damon Elliott & Linda Perry.  

There are more pictures of P!nk on the inside of the album. From the rocking tracks to the tragic ones, as well as the bluesy 'Misery' (featuring Aerosmith's Steven Tyler), this album will get stuck in your head for days . . . in a good way. Linda Perry's mark is all over the record; not only is she featured in 'Lonely Girl,' but she wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 14 tracks. Other songwriters include D. Austin, S. Storch, & R. Supa. This is a great introductory album to P!nk's music. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Review: 'A Fitting End' by Melissa Bourbon

A Fitting End by Melissa Bourbon, 2012,Obsidian, $7.99, softbound, 309 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: a little garish, but manages to draw you in. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

Harlow Jane Cassidy, former Manhattan fashion designer, has returned to her old hometown of Bliss, Texas. Now she owns Buttons and Bows, a custom dress making boutique. She has a family gift, passed down to all the Cassidy women from their ancestor, Butch Cassidy -- what they call the "Cassidy charm." The charm manifests itself in different ways for different people; for Harlow, when she creates dresses for people, their wishes and dreams -- both good and bad -- come true. Harlow's great-grandmother, Meemaw, lends her a hand from beyond the grave. 
Harlow has been commissioned to create 3 dresses for this year's Margaret pageant. Then Mrs. Zinnia James, the chair of the pageant, is arrested for murder. Harlow is sure Zinnia is innocent, and sets out to prove it.
The 1 real flaw we found with this book is that Bourbon doesn't properly explain that Nana is Harlow's grandmother (as opposed to her great-grandmother) when she's first introduced. This may be somewhat confusing to those readers who are not as familiar with the terms "Nana" and "Meemaw."  And also confusing to those reviewers who may have been reading the book a little too quickly . . . 
There are sewing tips and a surprising ending, as well as interesting characters and tons of magic. 
Note: strong language. 

If you like this one, try: Death on Heels by Ellen Byerrum.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Review: Mama Mary's Pre-made Pizza Crust

Recently, our brother found Mama Mary's pre-made pizza crusts & got us in on the idea that we could make our own pizzas -- something we had never tried before. Though we're not exactly enthused when we're forced to make dinner, this was actually kind of fun, & the end result was quite tasty.

The pizza crusts come in packages of two; you can get gourmet, which tastes a bit cheesier, but we personally prefer the original (plain), which has an edge around it (the gourmet doesn't). 

Firstly, we used Ragu spaghetti sauce for the sauce instead of pizza sauce, which may have been a mistake . . . It tasted good, but the crust got soggy because the sauce absorbed into it, & the sauce liquefied & kept running off the pizza. Messy. 

The outer part (edge) of the crust was also a little moist, though, & that wasn't where the sauce was, so likely the crust itself was a bit moist to begin with. It helped to broil it, as was suggested on the package. They didn't specify whether to broil it instead of baking, or just afterwards; we took a chance & did it afterwards. The original style crust has a tendency to crack during baking.  

After our first attempt, we added a teaspoon (tsp) of flour to the sauce to try to thicken it. It may have helped some, but it's really best to use pizza sauce instead of spaghetti sauce. Unless you like your pizza runny. 

Adding the olive oil as suggested on the package improves the taste of the crust (although it was good to begin with). We used silky tofu, too -- not the best option (firm is better), because this consistency is really ideal for making smoothies & such, not for slicing onto pizza. We just sprinkled it on instead; it worked. 

If you're interested, we added slices of white mushrooms, green peppers, tofu, broccoli, and sliced water chestnuts as well as shredded mozzarella cheese to make a delicious & veggie-filled pizza.     

All in all, we really liked this product. It was easy to use, & tastes terrific. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review: 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' CD by Michael J. Lewis

'The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe,' Music Composed, Orchestrated, & Conducted by Michael J. Lewis, 1979. Cover: Terrific font, highly reminiscent of the time in which the CD was made. 

One of our pleasures is the 1979 animated 'The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe.' This was the first movie we ever saw of our beloved book (C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe), & it came along just as we finished reading the book for the first time. 

It enthralled us. We wanted to watch it again & again, just as we wanted to read & re-read the book. Narnia enchanted us then, & still does. So it's only fitting that this is the first CD we review on this blog.  

Firstly, let us say that some of the tracks are a bit repetitive -- appropriately so. They continue a theme; & the cartoon was intended for children, & as such is likely to have some repetition.  

Track One, 'Opening Titles,' is the beginning of the adventure. It has a flute, drums, & strings, & is wonderfully evocative of the mysterious big house in the rain.

Track Two, 'First Entry into Narnia,' builds appropriate suspense. In Track Four,  'Return from Tumnus to the Wardrobe,' danger abounds. Many of the tracks have a feeling of suspense & danger, not the least of which being Tracks 12, 13, 15, 16, & 17, all of which have to do with the White Witch chasing her quarry.  

Track Twenty-three, 'To Crucifixion,' is sad, sweet, & surprisingly hopeful. A delightful contrast is 'Dawn' (Track Twenty-six), which reintroduces the main theme from Track Fourteen as a triumphant, rather than adventurous, piece. Another particularly noteworthy track is number Twenty-five, 'Dance Macabre,' which will have you picturing the many horrible creatures the White Witch employs. 

A thrilling audio ride. If you enjoy Narnia -- even if you've never watched the animated special -- this is a CD you will love. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

New Genre Challenge: January 2013

For a long time now, we've been hearing about Steampunk books, & though we've been intrigued, we've never tried any of them. So we thought now might be a good time: a new year, a new genre. 

Do you have a genre you've never tried before -- mystery, hard SF, history, memoir? This is the challenge: to read a book, any book, in any genre, just as long as it's a genre that's new to you.

You have the whole month of January to read your book. Then drop us a line & let us know how it went. Did you like the book? Hate it? Why? Do you think you'll try the genre again? Why or why not?

Above all, this challenge is meant for you to have fun. So select your genre with care.  

A Call for Reader Recommendations

In addition to our sharing with you the books we read & enjoy, we'd like to hear from you. Please send us your recommendations (even if you only have one) at, & we'll share them with everyone at the end of each month. Please give us the title, author, & why you want to recommend the book. 

If your selection doesn't show up, it may be because we didn't get your recommendation in time, in which case it will be posted at the end of the next month.

Thanks for sharing, & happy reading!

Review: 'Now Write!: Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers' edited by Sherry Ellis

Now Write!: Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers edited by Sherry Ellis, 2006, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, $13.95, softbound, 269 pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: kind of gives the impression it's a grammar book. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

This book doesn't even have an introduction; it's made up entirely of writing exercises by such authors as Steve Almond, Amy Bloom, Robert Olen Butler, and Jill McCorkle. 
Just a few of the exercises are: 'My Pet,' by Allison Lurie, in which you are to write about a pet you have never had (it may be a kitten, a dragon, whatever); you are to describe the animal, tell how you got it and how he/she gets on with others, and what the motives are for keeping this pet (protection, affection, etc.). 
'The Photograph,' by Jill McCorkle, has you choosing an image, such as a photograph or a picture in an art gallery, and write about it. Ask yourself how the image came to be and what came after it. She uses this exercise herself to sharpen or focus a scene. 
Clyde Edgerton's 'You -- Me -- I -- You in the Cafeteria' asks you to write about going into a cafeteria and seeing the person you dislike most in the world. Then you are to write the same scene from the other person's point of view. 
There are 86 exercises to help you with getting started, point of view, character development, dialogue, plot and pacing, setting and description, craft and revision. Some of them sound like they'd be fun to try. Author websites are provided at the back. 
If you're looking for exercises to help you with your writing, this book may very well do it for you. 

If you like this one, try: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing, Second Edition, by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.