Category: Books-DVDs

Take a Guided Tour Through China’s Forbidden City

Posted on Oct 23, 2014 by No Comments

In the Forbidden City tells the story of one of China’s most famous landmarks.

Guided by a mischievous cat, young readers go on a tour of the classic architectural structure in the center of Beijing that was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty.

Along the way, they encounter emperors, empresses, rebel leaders, and others who provide exciting tales about what it was like to live in the palace that was home to 24 different emperors.

In the Forbidden City is written by Chiu Kwong-chiu, an artist, designer, and professor who is dedicated to finding innovative ways to promote Chinese art and culture. He founded the CnC Design and Cultural Studies Workshop in Hong Kong, where he provides guidance and leadership to those who are studying both traditional and contemporary Chinese culture.

My favorite part of this book is that great care has been taken to encourage children to interact with the story. There is a plastic magnifying glass included to allow careful examination of the detailed black and white illustrations — which are essentially a more sophisticated version of the popular “Where’s Waldo?” pictures.

Several pages also fold out to give kids a better grasp of the size of the Forbidden City. However, I wish that the text itself was a bit larger. My eyesight is notoriously bad and I have to squint to be able to make out some of the type.

In the Forbidden City is recommended for children ages 9 and up. Even though it is sized like a children’s picture book, the text is quite detailed and the intricate illustrations are designed to appeal to older children.

Younger children might enjoy using the book’s plastic magnifying glass to look at the illustrations, but I think the text would be above the comprehension level of most.

You can purchase In the Forbidden City on Amazon for $13.46.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Want to Give Your House a Makeover? Look to the Young House Love Book for Ideas.

Posted on Oct 20, 2014 by 1 Comment

Confession time: I really don’t like my house. Besides the fact that I’m not thrilled with its location or the (lack of) yard, it’s stuck in the 90s, the rooms all flow into one another so changes in one area almost demand more changes in other areas, and the layout is just not my cup of tea.

I can’t change the layout, but I can make some smaller changes that make it feel more like home, which it doesn’t now and hasn’t for the past eight years.

I went to the bookstore looking for a different book, but decided that one wasn’t really what I was looking for. I was about to leave when I saw the Young House Love book by John and Sherry Petersik on a low shelf. I remembered running across a blog with that same name before, so I picked it up and looked through it, and I was instantly impressed.

The fixes are relatively simple in most cases. These are practical, cute ways to update your home without going broke, and they’re cute without coming across as if they’d seem a little silly if you were to try to use them in real life.

The instructions are always clear and they don’t just assume you know how to do parts of the projects. You get a total walk-through of whatever it is you’re looking at doing.

The photos are high-quality, the instructions are clear and concise, and the projects are creative. As I went through the book, I made a list in a notebook of all the changes I want to make in my house, and I can’t wait to dive in.

I was so inspired as I went through the pages, it’s going to take me a while to check everything off of this list!

Photo credit: Amazon

The Magic Treehouse Book Series Is Engaging Even for Kids Who “Don’t Like to Read”

Posted on Oct 15, 2014 by No Comments

Though my daughter has been able to read for a couple of years, she still claimed to “hate reading” until recently.

My husband and I are both avid readers, and can think of no better way to spend an afternoon, evening, or weekend than with a book (we don’t get to do that much, but that’s another story).

She was at the awkward stage where the books were either too easy or too difficult. We kept finding easy readers that didn’t challenge her and chapter books that intimidated her.

One day, we ran across The Magic Treehouse book series by Mary Pope Osborne at the book store. It caught my eye because they had a book about dolphins (Dolphins at Daybreak), a topic she actually has enjoyed reading books about in the past.

I bought her that one and she devoured it. We went back and got more for an upcoming trip and she couldn’t hold herself back from reading another one and getting halfway into the first in just two days. Finally, books she likes!

The topics are so varied, there’s something for any kid. There are the regular chapter books with stories about the adventures of brother and sister, Jack and Annie, as well as a “Fact Checker” nonfiction series that goes along with them for extra exploration of kids’ favorite topics.

To find out more about the books, read a sample, check out events, play some games, and more, visit

Photo credit: Amazon

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls Is a Beautifully Written Memoir

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 by No Comments

I had been hoping to find a book that would really move me. Lately, I’ve read a lot of “good” books, but none of them really stuck with me and made me feel like I had to go tell everyone I know to go read them.

The Glass Castle is different. I love memoirs anyway, but this one has to be my favorite.

It’s about a life “on the run” for the author, her siblings, and her parents. Her dad was a highly intelligent alcoholic who, despite his faults (the alcoholism, ideas that the family needed to pick up and leave because different groups of people were after them, the inability to hold down a job for very long, and others), still obviously loved his kids and wanted them to have fulfilling lives. Jeannette was his favorite, and she believed in him even when no one else did, so their relationship was especially interesting to follow.

Walls’ mom was an emotional artist (and teacher, when she had to be) with her own addictions and quirks (some of which will make you want to shake her and ask what she was thinking), and she thought everything they did—the running from state to state, having to look for food in dumpsters, being homeless or in the very least, hungry—were exciting adventures. And she was addicted to excitement.

I’m always in awe when an author can take a character in a novel and make them seem real, but even though these characters were real people, I’m still in awe of Walls’ ability to convey so much about their life, conflicts, character, and struggles that I felt like these people were my family by the end.

I was sorry when I had finished the book because I enjoyed it so much, but I was satisfied with the ending and never bored over the course of the whole story. It’s not just an interesting—and at times, shocking—story. The simple elegance of language painted the imagery and emotions in a way that encouraged me to settle in and get lost in someone else’s past for a while.

Photo credit: Amazon

The Dollhouse Book Is an Easy Way to Encourage Imaginative Play

Posted on Oct 9, 2014 by No Comments

Dollhouses can provide hours of imaginative play, but they can’t always be personalized in the way that your child wants. However, The Dollhouse Book can be customized for on-the-go dollhouse fun.

This clever book features 30 cut out blank pages to create a 15 room dollhouse. Each open spread becomes a room and the elastic cords allow you to join up to four different books together to make one larger dollhouse creation.

I think joining books together would be a fabulous activity for a birthday party, since each child could take home her own dollhouse at the end of the celebration.

The Dollhouse Book is made in the UK. It measures 14.4 x 9.4 inches. The pages are made from a premium heavyweight paper and individually hand finished.

dollhouse book 01I can see hundreds of possibilities for how your child can decorate this dollhouse.

For example:

  • Cut out pictures from magazines of different dollhouse furniture.
  • Use strips of washi tape to make patterned wallpaper borders.
  • Make a mural on the wall with tiny stickers.
  • Stamp your doll’s name above her bedroom door using tiny rubber stamps.
  • Use glitter glue pens to draw on sparkly curtains for the windows.
  • Use construction paper to make furniture that folds out from the pages, similar to how a Murphy bed folds down from the wall.
  • Glue a picture behind one of the windows or doors to show a special view or a friend who is coming to visit.

The Dollhouse Book is available from Rock and Pebble for $35. The peg dolls shown on the store’s website are not included with the book.

Photo credit: Rock and Pebble

What Makes You Happy?

Posted on Oct 7, 2014 by No Comments

It’s written to appeal to little ones, but there’s plenty for Mom to love in 100 Things That Make Me Happy by Amy Schwartz.

This whimsically illustrated picture book features a total of 100 everyday joys, ranging from fuzzy sweaters and long letters to pony rides and shiny slides. When you’re finished reading this to your little one, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood! What’s not to love about a celebration of chocolate chips, camping trips, hula hoops, and double scoops?

My favorite part of this book is that the back of the book jacket features an adorable poster with each of the 100 things to be happy about. When my son was still in the picture book stage, I always removed the book jackets on hardcover books since he was likely to tear them apart if I 61bNJvH981Lleft them on. So, I love the idea that the jacket can be used as a cute decoration for your child’s room.

I also really like that Schwartz has taken care to promote diversity in her illustrations. There are boys and girls from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds — sending a message to children that we’re all the same underneath our skin. After all, what kid doesn’t like flip flops and lollipops?

If your child’s teacher does a special celebration for the 100th day of school, this book would be a fun thing to bring for show and tell.

In kindergarten, my son’s class had a week long celebration of the number 100 to celebrate their 100th day of school. I’m sure his teacher would have loved having this book to read to all the children.

You can purchase 100 Things that Make Me Happy on Amazon for $12.71.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Learn to Look at Saving Money As an Adventure

Posted on Oct 2, 2014 by No Comments

Do you remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child? I loved this series in junior high, so I thought Melea Politis Johnson was extremely clever to have used the same concept in Create Your Own Money Saving Adventure: The Standard Edition.

The founder of, Johnson is a stay-at-home mom sharing her money saving tips in a fun, conversational format.

It’s not really apparent from the title or book jacket description, but Create Your Own Money-Saving Adventure is heavily focused on learning how to coupon. Johnson has several useful tips for beginning couponers, including remembering to always carry a copy of the store’s coupon policy with you when you shop in case you run into problems, what stores are most “coupon-friendly” for newbies, and how to make the most of any overage you accumulate with your couponing.

But, if you’re opposed to using coupons because you don’t want to invest the time in getting started, you have a lot of dietary restrictions that make it hard to find coupons for useful food items, or you’re super picky about your personal care products, you’re going to end up skipping over half the book.

I would have loved to see Johnson expand on her ideas for household savings and debt elimination. If you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a financial pickle, realizing you can save $100 or more a month by dropping cable TV and watching your favorite shows on Netflix and Hulu Plus is a more significant savings than learning how to get free toothpaste.

The tips Johnson provides are useful, but I would have enjoyed Create Your Own Money Saving Adventure more if she would have devoted an equal amount of time to couponing and non-couponing ways to save money. Nevertheless, I would still recommend this title to anyone in search of a quick read providing basic money-saving tips for the modern family.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Posh Coloring Books Make Coloring Fun for Grown-ups

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 by No Comments

Coloring isn’t just for kids any more. Grown-up coloring is quickly becoming an alternative to traditional crossword and Sudoku puzzles. It’s an established activity in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, where adult coloring books are now outselling cookbooks!

Regardless of your age, coloring is a therapeutic, almost meditative activity. It requires almost no brain power, yet is a creatively fulfilling way to unwind and relieve stress. I used to color alongside my son, but now it’s something I’ll do while watching TV to help me resist the temptation to snack mindlessly.

For adults interested in something more challenging than the typical child’s coloring book, Andrews McMeel has introduced a line of new Posh coloring books featuring intricate, high-quality line drawings designed to appeal to the more advanced tastes and coloring skills of adults.

poshThere are three titles available:

Each title is available in the original Posh format (7×9 inches) as well as the smaller Pocket Posh size (4×6 inches). The smaller size is the perfect option to slip inside your purse or briefcase for on-the-go fun.

If you’re a cardmaker or a scrapbooker, I also noticed that the finished pages from the smaller size can easily be incorporated into these paper crafting projects.

I would suggest using colored pencils or fine tipped pens to color in the designs in these titles. The drawings are too intricate to color with crayons, but the paper is not thick enough to allow you to color with markers without bleeding through the reverse side. I’ve been using a set of colored gel pens with glitter flecked ink, which adds a fun sparkle to the finished picture.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: Andrews McMeel, Dana Hinders

Fairy Tale Success Inspires Young Entrepreneurs to Reach Their Goals

Posted on Sep 26, 2014 by No Comments

Fairy-Tale Success: A Guide to Entrepreneurial Magic by Adrienne Arieff and Beverly West aims to guide aspiring entrepreneurs through all the steps of starting a business.

Adrienne Arieff is a digital and marketing communications professional formerly with one of the top PR agencies in the United States. Beverly West is President of Our Kitchen Table Books and Media, working with publishers, literary agents and individuals to develop successful books for the commercial marketplace.

In Fairy Tale Success, they turn the traditional Cinderella story on its head by encouraging female readers to take control of their destinies and create their own happy ending.

Taking the fairy tale metaphor from start to finish, the chapters in Fairy Tale Success include:

  • Reveal Your Noble Roots: Embrace Your Value
  • Wish Out Loud: Write Your Business Plan
  • Make Practical Magic: Get Funding
  • Summon Your Fairy Godmothers: Networking
  • Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Harness Social Media
  • Make a Grand Entrance: Launch Your Brand
  • Keep Your Eye on the Crown: Stay Focused
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve, Don’t Panic: Deal with Obstacles
  • If the Glass Slipper Fits, Wear It: Enjoy Your Success

Most business books are fairly dry, but this title keeps the reader’s interest by incorporating success stories from female entrepreneurs such as Jessica Cervantes of PopsyCakes, Tavi Gevinson of The Style and Susan Gregg Koger of ModCloth.

The success stories are informative and inspirational, but it seemed to me like they were heavily skewed towards women with an interest in fashion and beauty. I would have liked to have heard from more women in engineering, software development or other traditionally male-dominated fields.

The book is written to appeal to teens or young adults, but you’ll find some general advice to use if you’re looking to start your own home based business. The section on writing a business plan gives much more relatable tips than the entrepreneurship course I took in college and I thought the section on dealing with obstacles like a cash flow shortage or bad press via social media had some very insightful advice.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Adams Media