Thursday, December 12, 2019

#Review: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman #multicultural

Have you ever thought about bringing your dragon to the library? Don't do it! You might have the best intentions, but that dragon will cause nothing but trouble. Using rhyming text and a diverse cast of characters, this charming picture book will provide some important--and some not so important--library etiquette in a very entertaining way.

My review:

This multicultural and diverse book, tells the tale of a young boy who wants to bring his pet dragon to the library. In fact, several different children have pet dragons and try to sneak their pets into the library.

The librarian insists though that no pet dragons can be in the library because they cause a ruckus in a myriad of ways. The boy pleads his case that there is so much to learn in a library and that his dragon deserves to have access.

The librarian sticks to her rules but does come to a compromise at the end. That is, he should use his library card to take books home and read with his friend.

The illustrations are boldly done with larger than life characters. The colors are bright but done in more primary colors which adds to the feel of the overall book.

I loved this book and think young readers will laugh along with the antics but get the ideas.

I give this 5 stars because this is a book kids would want to read over and over. It would make for a great read in the library too. *grins*

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The review expressed here is 100% my own opinions and may differ from yours. ~Michelle

Where to find the author:

Friday, December 6, 2019

#Review: The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck #Christmas #ChristmasSpirit


Based on a deeply personal true story, The Christmas Sweater is a warm and poignant tale of family, faith and forgiveness that offers us a glimpse of our own lives -- while also making us question if we really know what's most important in them.

My review:

I want to first say that I do not watch or listen to Glenn Beck. I never have so, I do not know his opinions or anything much about him. Having said that this review is not based on the celebrity himself but simply on the book.

When I first got a copy of this book (two years ago), I only read a few chapters. It was the end of the Christmas season and I felt it to be a Christmas book so, I put it away until this year. I have found even though the book is set at Christmas time, it could be read at any time of the year because the message is the same. Be grateful! Be grateful for the people and things you have in your life because, in an instant, they could be gone.

I liked this book...such three stars...but I was not wowed by it either. Amazingly, this book was somewhat, memoir but disappointedly, not either. The character, Eddie, was 12/13 years old and was nothing but a whiney preteen throughout most of the book. He felt he was wronged and entitled. Truly, this grated on my nerves but I plowed through the book and got to a formidable ending. The only problem I had with the ending was it was one of those soap opera kind of endings where it was all a dream. Ugh! Was this not supposed to be somewhat a memoir?

However, as I said the point was made and it was a decent story. The best part of the whole book was how Glenn Beck himself wrapped the book up. With a tear dropping back story the author tells about the real characters in his life and how it took him a lot longer to come to terms with death and reality. Again, for me, that made the whole book.

The book is still worth the read for me. 

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book. The review here is 100% my own and may differ from yours. ~Michelle

Sunday, December 1, 2019

#Review: Christmas, Present by Jacquelyn Mitchard #Christmas #ChristmasSpirit

A fourteenth wedding anniversary is nothing to sneeze at, Elliott Banner knows, but it's not exactly a landmark year—like fifteen, or twenty, when he plans to take his wife, Laura, to Paris. But when a headache on the drive home from their anniversary date—two days before Christmas—turns out to be more than a migraine, he wishes he had celebrated every year as though it were their last.

In this poignant, touching, uplifting story, a woman calmly gathers her family around her during the Christmas holiday to celebrate their lives together—both past and future—and to truly count their blessings.

A family history unfolds in a single night in this deeply affecting story that speaks volumes about love, trust, and letting go—a perfect holiday read that underscores the true meaning of the season.

My review:
This book is a marvelous story that can be read in a few hours. I do caution though that this is not a sweet, sappy, or even happy Christmas book. The truth is, the only real "Christmas" thing about the book is it is placed during this season.

No, in fact, it is a sad book and reminds the reader that even though there may be a holiday in the mix of things, that life and death still go on. It reminds to be grateful for life and to live in the "present" and to enjoy it as it is now.

It also reminds us that even in the face of tragedy that life will continue and that even though loved ones may not be here for the big things, like Christmas, that there is hope, love, peace, and joy. 

That my dear readers, is what it is all about.  4 stars.

Disclosure: I own a copy of this book. The views expressed here are 100% my own and may differ with yours. ~Michelle

Saturday, November 30, 2019

#Review: The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements #Christmas #ChristmasBooks


For Hart Evans, being the most popular kid in sixth grade has its advantages. Kids look up to him, and all the teachers let him get away with anything -- all the teachers except the chorus director, Mr. Meinert. When Hart's errant rubber band hits Mr. Meinert on the neck during chorus practice, it's the last straw for the chorus director, who's just learned he's about to lose his job due to budget cuts. So he tells the class they can produce the big holiday concert on their own. Or not. It's all up to them. And who gets elected to run the show? The popular Mr. Hart Evans.

Hart soon discovers there's a big difference between popularity and leadership, and to his surprise, discovers something else as well -- it's really important to him that this be the best holiday concert ever, and even more important, that it not be the last.

My Review:

I enjoyed reading this middle grade book. The students in the book are kids I have encountered as a student and teacher. The fact that there is an obnoxious, yet popular kid is no surprise.  However, the big surprise is the teacher in the book.

Although I can relate to the teacher's frustration with the students, it seems rather implausible that a professional teacher would completely relinquish his/her class without at least direction. But, that is certainly what happened in this book and is what makes it appealing for the reader. Kids would totally see the fun in having control of a class.

The fact of the matter is, in some ways, it is brilliant as problem solving has to happen and ultimately respect and compromise has to take place.

Terrific read and gets 3 stars from me.

Disclosure: I own a copy of this book. The review here is 100% my own opinions and may differ from yours. ~Michelle

Friday, November 29, 2019

Christmas Spirit & Christmas Read-a-thon: Now in full swing! #CSReadathon #ChristmasSpirit

Hey, there! The holidays are now upon us and I start thinking about books I want to read to go along with the season. This year is no different. I also join Michelle S. as she revs up the Christmas spirit with eating, movies, and of course, reading. The fun has already started but that does not mean you cannot jump in and join in decking the halls too. I may not post all of the books I read here on the blog but you can catch them on my Goodreads page or on the official Facebook even page. Happy reading! Michelle

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Guest Interview of Author Ron DeFore #memoir

I want to welcome to my blog, Author Ron DeFore talking today about his book, "Growing Up in Disneyland". This post is written and reviewed by another blogger. ~Michelle

The Interview:

·         Your book, Growing Up in Disneyland, is actually two books in one. The first half is a biography of your father, Don DeFore, and the second half is your own memoir. Why did you decide to structure the book in this manner?
One of the most common, positive comments the book has received on Amazon, Reader’s Favorite and elsewhere is readers like the blending of the life of a well-known, and well-liked actor and his son’s perspective growing up with all the glamour and attention that comes with it.  The telling of both lives bring back memories of a wonderful era in America when things seemed simpler and more wholesome. 

After twenty years of giving presentations to various Disney enthusiast groups, my brother and I have added more about our own fantastic experiences after which audiences would say, “You should write a book.”  So, I have, both about my celebrity Dad, and me. One more element that makes the book unusual and that readers enjoy is that most of the first half of the book is in my Dad’s own words.  For more than thirty years, transferred from all my computers, I have had his unpublished memoirs, Hollywood – DeFore ‘n’ After, that is now in print for fans to enjoy and is the greatest tribute I could possibly bestow upon him.

·         So let’s start by talking about your dad. Most people remember him as I do, for his role as the star on the popular 60s TV series Hazel, but, before that, he had quite a career in movies in the 1940s and 50s. Tell us something about his experiences.

Those that remember Don DeFore and what they remember about him varies with age.  Over the years, and after conducting many book signings, I’ve learned that those who remember him are not just baby boomers.  I’ve met teenagers that remember and like my Dad’s performances on Hazel because they’re watching re-runs carried on various cable channels or on DVDs.  Likewise, with his feature film roles.  People that are older than sixty also often remember his weekly iconic role in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as the Nelson’s next-door-neighbor, “Thorny.”

Prior to television however, Don DeFore had already become a household name because of the more than thirty-five feature films he made, co-starring in more than a dozen with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars – John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Betty Hutton, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy, Groucho Marx, Veronica Lake, Joel McCrea, Rock Hudson, Claudette Colbert, William Bendix, Gale Storm.  He received co-star billing in the movie debuts of Doris Day, Charlton Heston, Lizabeth Scott, and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. 

·         If you could select one of your dad’s films to recommend for people to watch, which one would it be and why?

It’s not easy to select the “best” film my Dad made as evidenced by years of debate on the Don DeFore Fan Club Facebook group I created.  There is one—a family favorite—I would recommend particularly if one were not familiar with Dad’s acting career: It Happened on Fifth Avenue.  The film stars my Dad, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore, and Gale Storm.  It was made in 1947 and received an Oscar Nomination for Best Original Story.  It is often played on Turner Classic Movie channel especially around the Holidays and is similar in sentimental value to Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life.”  In fact, the famous director of the later, Frank Capra, was originally slotted to direct It Happened on Fifth Avenue.  It’s possible if he had, this film might have become as well-known.

·         Much of your dad’s movie career took place before you were born, but you were around during the making of Hazel. What was your opinion of the show back then and how has it changed over the years?

I write about growing up in Brentwood (west Los Angeles) among many celebrities whose kids attended my schools and some were playmates next-door.  Because I thought this was just the way life was, I was never really impressed with it all.  In middle school I was embarrassed that my Dad was on Hazel—to me and friends it was a nerdy show.  It wasn’t as cool as, Bat Man, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or Gunsmoke for example.  But later in life, as one might expect, I realized that it was, and still is, very popular with millions of viewers and personally I now pay more attention to the brilliant acting by both my Dad and Shirley Booth as Hazel.

·         As the title of your book suggests, you spent quite a bit of time at Disneyland when you were a kid and, in fact, you even took part in the opening day parade. What were your favorite memories of the park?

The book’s title, Growing Up in Disneyland is both a metaphor for my life in a celebrity family but is also to be taken literal as my Dad was the only person to ever own a concession in Disneyland bearing the name of a living person, “Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo” barbecue restaurant in Frontierland from 1957 to 1962.  Dad was friends with Walt Disney so even before being offered to have his own restaurant, our entire family was in Disneyland’s opening day parade July 17, 1955, the photo of which is on the cover of the book. 

We had a second home next to the Park and were at Disneyland for weeks at a time during the summer and many weekends throughout the year.  Many of my Disneyland enthusiast friends with annual passes can’t believe that we got bored being there.  In fact, one of the chapters is titled, “Gee, Do We Have to Go to Disneyland, Again?”  I did have fun, however, when I brought a friend.  You talk about being able to show-off!  This was showing off on steroids! 

I don’t want to reveal to many of the shenanigans I’ve got in the book, but one of my favorites was being able to use all the employee entrances and hidden passageways or playing hide and seek on Tom Sawyer’s Island for hours at a time.  Some of the mischief even occurred well after the restaurant closed and it’s because of this we’ve had to remove some of these stories when my brother and I give official Disney presentations as we’ve done at two D23 conventions.

·         Another event you mention in the book that I’m sure must have been exciting was that you attended an exclusive party for the Beatles during their first American tour. What was that like?

In each successive Disney presentation, my brother, David, and I have added more of the exciting adventures the family enjoyed outside of Disneyland like getting to meet the Beatles at a private fundraiser in Brentwood during their first U.S. tour.  It turns out that I’m the only person to have film of the VIP guests shaking hands with the “Fab Four.”  Later in my professional career I met Led Zeppelin and was an on-stage photographer at their 1972 Los Angeles Forum concert.  I was also Mike Love’s (of the Beach Boys) public relations guy at the Live Aid Concert in 1986.  I did a show with Robin Williams and Donna Summer.  We had Jonathan Winters over for dinner.  These are but a few tidbits that have been part of my life worth writing about.

·         You’ve had quite a varied career and you even title one of the sections in your book, “My Twenty Careers.” But acting wasn’t one of those 20 careers. Why didn’t you pursue an acting career?

In my chapter, “My Twenty Careers” I include selling lemonade in front of our house because it truly was the beginning of my business education.  My parents made us kids work for money which I didn’t’ appreciate as a teen as friends would get whatever they wanted just by asking.  Most are dead now, and many never left home.  I knew the value of work and earning a living when I left home at the age of eighteen.  I didn’t get a college degree, so my official career started sooner than most of my friends.

I was the Associate Director of the Steve Allen Show at the age of twenty-one and then Production Coordinator at Paramount Television when we were producing Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, Mannix, Odd Couple, and other shows.  I also held this title at Billy Jack Productions.  My mid-life crisis came at age 26 but after becoming serious again I ultimately became an Appointee in the Reagan Presidential Administration and ultimately formed my own public relations firm in Washington, D.C. with two other partners.

I never had the desire, during my earlier career, to follow my Dad’s footsteps into acting.  I was not as confident then and got extremely nervous speaking in front of people.  Giving a book report in school would have me shaking before I even got to school.  However, later in my career, to this day, I love public speaking.  In my twenty years running my company I not only loved giving sales pitches or client presentations but I served as a spokesperson for several entities so I conducted literally hundreds of interviews many on-camera for network news.  I had gained much more confidence in myself and the subject matter and came to feel like I was channeling my Dad’s DNA and acting ability.  My line has been, “I never met a microphone or camera I didn’t like!”  Now, I know I’d enjoy acting.  To this day, as I’ve been doing media interviews and book signings and people say how much I look and sound like my Dad I say, “If you know any producers that want to do a remake of Hazel I want to try out for the part of “Mr. B!”

·         One career you did pursue for a while was as a popular disc jockey on the Los Angeles nightclub scene in the 1970s who was dubbed “the flying DJ.” Tell us something about that experience.

My mid-life crisis came after Tom Laughlin, who played “Billy Jack,” literally blew me out of the film business with his brash temper and ego the size of Rhode Island.  I stumbled into the mobile DJ business in the mid-1970s when very few people knew what it was.  It was prior to disco music making it big so we were playing danceable rock and roll mostly at private parties, weddings, etc.  When disco music started gaining popularity and the disco clubs started opening, I was in the perfect position with “Captain Disco” (the mobile company) to supply DJs and music for more than a dozen clubs in the Southern California area.  I was in the top slot when contracts would come in, one of which was to become “The Flying DJ” of Dillon’s Discotheque in downtown Los Angeles.  I was attached to a monorail on a thirty-foot ceiling and “flew” above the crowd.  I have a hilarious story about the next gig that came up to open the largest entertainment center in Australia…and what happened when “The Flying DJ” landed there!

·         You’ve known many celebrities over the years. Other than your father, who made the greatest impression on you?

Of all the celebrities I knew growing up, without a doubt, the one that had the greatest impression on me was our next-door-neighbor, Anthony Caruso.  Tony was a great character actor who was not so well-known by name but one look at his face and most would immediately recognize him.  He was in more than two hundred films and TV shows—many more than my Dad.  Tony was my brother’s Godfather and father to my best friend, his adopted son, Tonio.  He was like my second Dad who taught me a number of life’s lessons including some salty words my Dad chose not to use!

·         In closing, Growing Up in Disneyland is your first book, and I’m sure that the research and writing brought back a lot of memories. How has this experience affected you?

Writing this book has brought more to my life than I could ever imagine.  I’ve learned more about my Dad than I had ever known.  One of my sisters recently commented that she’s learning something new on almost every page.  As kids, we just didn’t pay attention because it was just a part of life.  We didn’t know how “heavy” everything we were experiencing was to the rest of the world.  Yes, we met the Beatles, and it was “cool” when it happened, but my gosh, over the years, just that incredible brush with history has grown so much larger than life.
It took nearly two years researching, writing, and editing the book with a lot of help from my brother David.  It came with many instances of tearing up and literally sobbing the day I held the final print copy in my hands.  The main impetus for writing it was to honor my Dad.  I did a live TV interview on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles recently which was awesome enough because that’s where I started my career and Stage Six in which their news is produced is the same stage we produced the Steve Allen Show.  If that were not enough emotion, when one of the anchors asked me at the end if writing the book was therapeutic, I hesitated.  I literally was lost for words and almost broke up.  I just said, “Don’t get me started.”

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cozy Food Cookbook! #Giveaway & Recipe! Edited by Nancy Jarvis #cookbooks #cozy #anthologies

Purchase – Amazon - Kindle Amazon Paperback 

I don't know about you but I like to eat and I like to read. Reading a good cozy is a lot of fun and I have reviewed and spotlighted a few on this blog. 

Now, 128 cozy mystery writers have come together and are sharing some of their favorite recipes possibly found right out of their books. Wow!

Check out these two recipes and then see more about the cookbook below.....

Here are a couple of recipes from Hawaiian mysteries.
Cindy Sample shows you how to end an afternoon or start happy hour with a Tiki Goddess from Dying for a Daiquiri

After a tough day chasing deadly villains in Hawaii, it’s time to relax on the beach with a cool tropical drink. Although the calorie count may be deadly, there’s nothing tastier than Laurel’s favorite cocktail.

 1 oz. pomegranate juice or ½ oz Pomegranate liqueur
1 oz. white rum
2 oz. pineapple juice
1 ½ oz coconut milk or cream of coconut
Pour mixture in a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Add pineapple wedge, maraschino cherry and umbrella. Party on!

You may want to end the day with a slice of Hawaiian Chocolate and Coconut (Haupia) Pie

From The Islands of Aloha Mystery series by JoAnn Bassett

This is a truly “pull-out-all-the-stops” dessert based on a heritage sweet served in Hawaii—haupia pudding. If you really want to impress your friends or family with a Hawaiian-style dessert that will leave you groaning for more, give this a try!

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 cup milk
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
½ cup cornstarch
1 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups sweetened whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175 C.) Bake the crust for 15 minutes or until golden brown and then let it cool.
In a saucepan whisk together the milk, coconut milk and 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil.
In a bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water.
Reduce the coconut mixture to simmer and whisk the cornstarch mixture into the coconut mixture. Stir the mixture over low heat until it starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Take it off the stove.
In a glass bowl microwave the chocolate chips just until melted (about 1 minute or less).
Divide the still-warm coconut mixture into two bowls. Mix melted chocolate into one-half of the coconut mixture and spread it on the bottom of the baked pie crust.
Pour the remaining coconut mixture on top and spread it smooth.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Cover top of cooled pie with the whipped cream and decorate with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Cozy Cookbook Good Read Mysteries
 (May 15, 2014) 
Number of Pages: 241 (167 of recipes, 70 of contributor bios and books) 
ISBN-10: 0983589178 ISBN-13: 978-0983589174 Kindle ASIN: B00KGZSEQ6
What happens when 128 cozy mystery writers get together to do a cookbook? You get more than 220 recipes that are as varied and interesting as an amateur sleuth’s day job.
Regional recipes come from every part of the United States and England — a couple find their way from Australia and Italy, too — and from diverse times. There are recipes from people looking to keep gluten out of their lives, eat vegetarian, or make a treat or two for their furry four-legged friends. And yes, there are recipes that appeal to the sweet tooth, lots of them, in fact.

There’s no mystery about what happens when cozy writers get together. They bring the wit, inventiveness, and adventure found in their books right along with their recipes.
The recipes are introduced by their authors and linked to the writer bios in the back of the book. You can look up your favorite cozy writer and see which recipes are their favorites; they'll tell you what the recipe means to them. Or you can enjoy a dish and then link to the recipe's author's biography and books.
Either way you enjoy the cookbook, you're sure to find great new recipes to make and terrific new cozy authors to read.

About Editor Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years before she fell in love with writing and let her license lapse.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well. She has written seven Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries; a stand-alone novel “Mags and the AARP Gang” about a group of octogenarian bank robbers; edited “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” and a short story anthology, “Santa Cruz Weird;” and even done a little insider’s book, “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” about her first year as a host.
Her newest venture is “The Glass House” is the first book in a planned series of PIP Inc. Mysteries. Now she’s trying to figure out when to work on another series she’d love to do called “Geezers with Tools” about two older handymen who will solve mysteries in the course of doing their work, and setting up writer retreats at her house.

Editor Links Website –
Facebook –
GoodReads –

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