Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review of Aurora of the Northern Lights by Holly Hardin

Aurora of the Northern Lights
"Named for the Northern Lights, Aurora faces a woeful plight. To many lands, she must roam, searching for her true home."

Aurora of the Northern Lights is a delightful story, beautifully illustrated and told entirely in verse.

Aurora is the child of a beautiful and pale young Northern lady named Mistletoe and handsome William, a visitor from the South. William finds the Northern climate difficult, so they make their home in the temperate South.

When Aurora is orphaned, she is unable to stay in her old home. As she searches for her new home, those that she meets along the way are quick to chase her off. To some extent the story is one of intolerance. But fortunately, with perseverance and luck, Aurora finds a place where she is welcomed and loved.

I found the book a fun and engaging read. I imagine that the pictures and verse will go over very well with children. I highly recommend Aurora of the Northern Lights.

Publisher: Outskirts Press (July 22, 2009), 32 pages.
Courtesy of Bostick Communications and the author.

Thanks so much to Bostick Communications and the author for this opportunity!

Loving Mr. Darcy Blog Tour: Visit with Sharon Lathan + giveaway

Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley 

I am very excited to participate in the Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley Blog Tour.  Please welcome Sharon Lathan to Starting Fresh!!


Sharon Lathan Guest Blog, "Inspiring Happily Ever After"

On my website I write that nothing disappoints me more than watching or reading a romance story where I am not convinced that the lovers will live blissfully together forever. The oft considered elusive “happily ever after” is the expectation of a good romance. If for some reason I reach the final page or see the credits roll and am left empty or disillusioned, then the creator has not done the intended job. Do we not all feel that way? The payoff isn’t just the kiss, but the envisioned belief of happiness throughout the untold years to follow. 

Gaby requested I talk about what has inspired me to write a saga that centers on the happily ever after life of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In my saga, which began with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One and now contining in Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, I have simply done what most of us females are imagining when we close the book: I tell of the married life. So I guess you could say that my primary inspiration is the same that impels every writer of romance. We love to be in love.

Before I ever became a writer myself, or even an avid romance reader, I figured that the driving force behind why we women devour romantic stories – and thus why people write them – was that deeply seeded, divinely gifted desire to find our soul mate. We women are simply hardwired for it. Men are too, although it materializes a bit differently! But the point of my blog is not to discuss the differences in the sexes, as fun as that would be!

I suppose one of the reasons so few after-the-wedding-bell stories are written is because we fear the illusion will be shattered. It is all well and good to dream of endless felicity, but we live in the real world, right? Well, yes, the real world can be heartbreaking and downright ugly. Yet we continue to hope not because a fairy tale says we should but because we can find numerous examples of true love in this cruel world.

Enter my real life inspiration. I have been married for 23 years to a man who, even with his flaws, is the love of my life. I have taken to teasingly calling him my Mr. Darcy, not because his personality is like my written creation, but because he daily and hourly showers me with a love that is amazing, romantic, eternal, and utterly for me. I truly could go on and on about this remarkable man I am blessed to spend my life with, but to sum up I’ll share with you this one thing: When we were dating he wrote a poem for me; the first of many titled, “Your Smile Stops the Minutes.” A week rarely passes without him reciting that poem to me. And he means every word of it still to this day! With his permission I included his poem in my fourth book, with Mr. Darcy writing and speaking it to Lizzy. Fantasy? I think not!

Finally and most importantly, I have faith. I know we live in a world of grief and decay, but I also know that is not how it was intended to be. Perfection may not be wholly obtainable this side of heaven, but I do believe we can strive for it. And this includes in our relationships. Do I give Darcy and Lizzy an almost too perfect marriage? Yeah, probably. My excuse? Why not! Immerse yourself in a light, entertaining, hopeful story. How can that be a bad thing? And maybe, just maybe, you too will begin to believe that it can be.

Thanks, Gaby, for allowing me to share with your readers. I hope I have adequately answered your question.



Thank you so much, Sharon!! Living the happily ever after isn't written about often and am glad that Sharon's books take us there.   I look forward to reading the poem Your Smile Stops The Minutes.  Congratulations on Loving Mr. Darcy and on the wonderful romance with Mr. Latham!  Please do keep these wonderful books coming!

About the Author

Sharon Lathan is a native Californian currently residing amid corn, cotton, and cows in the sunny city of Hanford. She divides her time as homemaker nurturing a husband and two children, plus the cat, dog, and fish; while also working as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. Somewhere in there she finds time to write! Sharon Lathan can be found on her website/blog at:, on Facebook as “Sharon Lathan, “ on Twitter as “@SharonLathan,” and on the Casablanca Authors’ blog at:

Loving Mr. Darcy is the second volume in the Darcy Saga. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One is the first in the series. The Darcy's At Year End: An Amazing Journey into Love Everlasting comes out in 2010.

Sharon, Danielle and SourceBooks are generously sponsoring a giveaway of the first two books of the Darcy Saga.  One lucky winner will receive Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One and Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Into Pemberley. 


To enter, please leave a comment for Sharon Lathan or ask her a question. Please include your email address so I can get in touch with you if you win. No contact details, no entry. Limited to U.S. and Canada only. Contest ends at 5 pm on September 20, 2009.

Thank you so much Sharon, Danielle and Sourcebooks for visiting Starting Fresh and sponsoring this giveaway! 

NY Reads

Today's NY Times has an interesting piece on how New Yorkers read on the subway.

I almost never ride without a book, and reading on the subway gives a distinct pleasure. The train moves slow enough that you're never dizzy (unlike when I read on the $15 Chinatown bus to Boston), it gives me a chance to zone out, stave off boredom, and ignore others on the train. It's fun to see what other people are reading, too. I hadn't thought that this would be something unique to NYC though. Do you read when you commute? On your way to work? I love paperbacks that are easy and light to carry. Do you own a Kindle?

Words on Rails
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Published: 20090906
Most of New York’s subway system is still devoid of Internet access, so many riders look to the printed word. What they read is as varied as the riders themselves.

Photo slide show
Article -

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Book Review: To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

To Beguile A Beast (Legend of the Four Soldiers, #3)

Review of To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt


Beautiful Helen Fitzwilliam escapes London with her two young children and heads to Lord Alistair Munroe's castle in Scotland. Armed with a letter from Lady Vale but knowing little about Alistair, Helen Fitzwilliam arrives in the middle of night and introduces herself as the new housekeeper. From the start, Helen wonders whether she's made the right decision. The castle is filthy, neglected, and without servants. Alistair is gruff, irritable and horribly scarred, but this may be the safest place for them to hide, so Helen sets about learning to keep house and make herself indispensable. Though Alistair seems scarred and irritable, she starts to notice his patience, kindness, and tall lean body.

Reclusive Alistair Munroe is puzzled by Helen Fitzwilliam and her children. Helen is too beautiful and well dressed to be a housekeeper, though she might be a member of the ton on a dare. Her horror at his scars convinced him that she hadn't known about him or his history. He had gotten used to avoiding human contact and wasn't looking forward to having to see the horrified looks of these newcomers. When he inadvertently learns that Helen is hiding from someone, he takes sympathy and welcomes them to his home.

Meanwhile, Helen's lover is determined to find her and teach her never to run from him again.


I thoroughly enjoyed To Beguile A Beast. It's a light romantic read with just the right mix of suspense, romance, and humor. I liked Helen and her children. The children and their interaction with Alistair Munroe added another dimension to the story.

If you're looking for a historical romance and a quick read, I recommend giving Elizabeth Hoyt's To Beguile A Beast a read.

Publisher: Forever (May 1, 2009), 368 pages.
Courtesy of the publisher.

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for this opportunity!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Winners of So Into You by Sandra Hill

Winners of So Into You by Sandra Hill

castings - confirmed
kirar59 - confirmed
gcwhiskas - confirmed
ayancey - confirmed

Congratulations! Please send me your mailing addresses by 6 pm on Friday. Thanks for participating!

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring another generous giveaway!

Winners of The Ravens by George Dawes Green

Winners of The Ravens by George Dawes Green (audio)

catss99 - confirmed
BethsBookReviewBlog - confirmed

Congratulations! Please send me your mailing addresses by 6 pm on Friday. Thanks for participating.

Thanks so much, Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Winners of Daniel X by James Patterson (audio)

Winners of Daniel X by James Patterson

weloveourdogs - confirmed
lizzi0915 - confirmed

Congratulations! Please send me your mailing address by 6 pm on Friday. Thanks so much!

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Winners of The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand (audio)

Winners of Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

Andrea - confirmed
Denny, Alaska- confirmed

Congratulations! Please send me your mailing address by 6 pm on Friday. Thanks so much for participating!

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Winners of On The Line by Serena Williams

Winners of On The Line by Serena Williams

Shalela D. who said "I am thankful to be given the opportunity to attend the United States Military Academy and make my family proud and also to be a division I athlete in the sport of track and field."

C.Mundy7434 who said, "I am thankful for my mother and her wisdom, I lost my father when I was 13 in a plane crash and she has been an inspiration all my life, and now she is sick so I have to care for her. God Bless." (waldo) who said, "I am thankful for having met the love of my life under extremely unlikely circumstances." - CONFIRMED

Williamsfan99 who said, "I am thankful that my 3 nieces Stella, Josephine, & Helen, have a great role model in Serena Williams to look up to." - CONFIRMED

Sharon54220 who said, "I was adopted when I was 3wks old. I grew up as an only child and then through out the years I found out that I'm the oldest of 17. I also had the opportunity to meet both of my biological parents. I am very thankful for all of this." - CONFIRMED

Please email me your mailing addresses at gaby317nyc at gmail dot com by 6 pm on Friday.

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Winner of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

The winner of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange is Rue!  Congratulations!  

In response to, "Tell us your favorite romantic character and what you like about him or her." 

Rue said...

Being a big fan of The Princess Bride (the book as well as the movie), I've always loved Wesley...eyes like the sea before a storm (from the book...after from the movie. I always thought the description in the book sounded better.) So faithful, so determined to work and do anything required to get to be with his true love.

Please email me your mailing address at gaby317nyc at gmail dot com.  You have until 6 pm on Friday to respond.  

Thank you so much to SourceBooks and Danielle for sponsoring this giveaway!  

Winners of Rita Herron's Dark Hunger

Winners of Rita Herron's Dark Hunger

bluebelle0367 - confirmed
chinook92 - confirmed
megalon22 - confirmed

Congratulations! Please send me your mailing address by 6 pm on Friday. Thanks for participating.

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Book Giveaway: The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

About the Book:

"This sparkling novel about two sisters is both witty and stylish. Even if you don't have a sister of your own, you won't be able to resist LaZebnik's charming take on modern relationships. Read it!"
- Holly Peterson, bestselling author of The Manny

When Ava Nickerson was a child, her mother jokingly betrothed her to a friend's son, and the contract the parents made has stayed safely buried for years. Now that still-single Ava is closing in on thirty, no one even remembers she was once "engaged" to the Markowitz boy. But when their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Ava's prodigal little sister Lauren comes home to Los Angeles where she stumbles across the decades-old document.

Frustrated and embarrassed by Ava's constant lectures about financial responsibility (all because she's in a little debt. Okay, a lot of debt), Lauren decides to do some sisterly interfering of her own and tracks down her sister's childhood fiancé. When she finds him, the highly inappropriate, twice-divorced, but incredibly charming Russell Markowitz is all too happy to re-enter the Nickerson sisters' lives, and always-accountable Ava is forced to consider just how binding a contract really is . . .

About the Author:

Claire LaZebnik lives in Los Angeles with her TV writer husband and four children. She is the author of the novels Knitting Under the Influence (5 Spot, 2006) and Same as it Never Was and co-author of Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope That Can Transform a Child's Life. Learn more on Claire LaZebnik's website.

Audio and VideoAuthor's website:


To enter, please share something about yourself.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. For an extra entry, sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3. For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4. For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5. Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at 6 pm on September 30, 2009.

Thank you so much to Miriam and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring another wonderful giveaway!

Want to increase your chances of winning this book? Here are other participating sites:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dieting? Want a donut? A low fat donut?!

I feel like I've been on a diet forever and that I'm always back to day one. Sometimes I try to jump start change, but know that constant vigilance and small steps make a difference. Small steps and vigilance are tough though. Sometimes it's great to treat yourself with something tasty and not crazy fattening. I was very interested when I first heard about Holey Donuts. Great taste, less fattening? Lowfat donuts?

I haven't tried them yet, I don't trust myself with half a dozen donuts so I'm waiting for house guests before placing an order. But their September contest and promo are tempting. Check it out below! If it helps to know this, each donut is supposed to be 3 to 4 Weight Watcher Points.

Enter September 1st -30th 2009 to Win 3 boxes of Holey Donuts! Low Fat Gourmet Donuts! Maybe it will be you that finds the $1,000.00 inside this time!

5 Lucky winners will be selected to win 3 boxes each of Holey Donuts! Ultra Low Fat Gourmet Donuts! But wait! One winner will be the luckiest when they open their winning box of donuts with an ENVELOPE inside the box containing $1,000.00 Cash!

Great tasting, Low Fat Gourmet Donuts and a chance to win $1,000.00 Cash! It doesn't get much better than that!

How Can I Enter? - Just visit then send Holey Donuts! an email with the name of my blog (Starting Fresh) in the subject line and your name and that's it your entered! Winners will be randomly chosen by Holey Donuts! and will be announced the week after September 30, 2009.

*The $1,000.00 will be in the form of a corporate check made out to the winner. All 5 lucky winners will be notified via email but no-one will be told which lucky winner is getting the $1,000.00 until their shipment arrives and they see the SPECIAL ENVELOPE with a $1,000.00 check inside their shipment! How exciting is that? Winners are announced Holey Donuts's website the week after Sept 30th.

Holey Donuts is giving out a coupon code, effective Sept 1st. If you buy 2 boxes, get the 3rd box of 6 for $1.99! The code is SKINNY1

Curious? Here's what people have been saying about Holey Donuts/links to reviews:

Glamour Magazine
"I'm here to tell you yes--yes, yes, yes! I recently tried Holey Donuts and I can tell you they're beyond delicious. "

Voted "Best tasting product of 2007' Daily Candy @

FOX Morning Show @
The Today Show @
The Big Idea @

Latest sell out appearance on QVC!


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

I am excited and honored to share my excitement about William Kamkwamba and his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. It tells the true story of William's boyhood in Malawi, the challenges that his family faced and how William's curiosity and dedication enabled him to imagine and create the windmill that would change his life.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

About the book, courtesy of Amazon:

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala--crazy--but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.

Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.

Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity--electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.

Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo--his "electric wind"--spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.

Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.


Even if you don't usually read nonfiction or memoirs, I still think that you'll love this book for the writing, the story, and because of William Kamkwamba.

William tells the story of his childhood in the small agricultural village in Malawi. From the the general bias towards magic and superstition over science, the crippling impact of the drought, and the isolation and difficulties that William, his village, and Malawi, the obstacles that they face are huge and clear. Reading the book, I first thought that my experiences in the "Third World" helped me understand the William's life from the superstition to the the impact of the drought and the opportunistic price gouging during the famine. But that interpretation fails to give enough credit to William and his book. The power of his story and the clarity of the writing surely guarantee that The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will speak to people regardless of their experience and their home country. I cannot recommend this book more! I look forward to more news from William Kamkwamba and to meeting him during his book tour stop in NYC.

Publisher: William Morrow (September 29, 2009), 288 pages.
Courtesy of the Harper Collins and the author.

William Kamkwamba

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:

William Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, in 1987 and raised in Masitala village along the central plains. One of seven children born to sustenance farmers who grew maize and tobacco, his childhood was often interrupted by drought and hunger.

At age twelve, Kamkwamba became fascinated with electricity—a luxury enjoyed by only 2 percent of Malawi. He taught himself radio repair and began tinkering with bicycle dynamos, hoping to understand the inner workings of generators. During a devastating famine in 2001 –02, William dropped out of high school during his first semester. As thousands died across the country, he continued his education by visiting a small library near his village that was funded by the American government. After seeing windmills on the cover of an 8th-grade science book, he set out to build his own machine using scavenged parts from a scrap yard. His first windmill was made from PVC pipe, a tractor fan, an old bicycle frame, and tree branches, and powered four light bulbs and charge mobile phones. A second windmill pumped water for a family garden.

Local news outlets discovered Kamkwamba in 2007, which led to a stage appearance at the TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania. It was the first time he’d ever been on an airplane or seen the Internet. The appearance at TED, and a subsequent front-page feature in the Wall Street Journal, sparked a flood of international support, and soon William returned to school and completed much-needed improvements in his village farm, such as adding drip irrigation to shield his family against future drought. He’s now a student at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and recently completed a biography: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope with coauthor Bryan Mealer.

Bryan Mealer is the author of All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo, which chronicled his experience covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mealer is a former Associated Press staff correspondent and his work has appeared in several magazines, including Harper's and Esquire.

To read the BBC article about William Kamkwamba visit

Visit William Kamkwamba's blog at

Here are a few of the upcoming book tour events:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
ABC/Good Morning America

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
97 Warren ST New York, NY 10007

Thursday, October 01, 2009
Museum of Science and Industry

Thursday, October 01, 2009
WAMU-FM/Diane Rehm Show

Friday, October 02, 2009
1218 South Halsted Chicago, IL 60607

Thank you so much to Tavia, Harper Collins and William Kamkwamba for the opportunity to review the book!

Book Review: Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains by Dawn Menge

Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains

Queen Vernita is the active and outgoing leader of the Land of Quails with the Blue Ice Mountains. Queen Vernita enjoys spending time with children and invites 12 guests. Each guest stays for a full month and Queen Vernita takes the child to explore and learn about a different part of the world. While describing the adventures for the month, the book teaches children about the days in each month and the concept of the leap year.

Here's a summary of the things that Queen Vernita covers in the 12 visits:

January - the different types of crabs, their exoskeletons, lifespans, and physical characteristics.

February - sea otters, their fur and physical characteristics and their lifestyle.

March - learning how glaciers are made, how they get their blue color, the different types of glaciers, and their relationship to icebergs.

April - different wild flowers like monkshood, salmonberry, bunchberries, forget-me-nots, and irises.

May - different types of whales and how they breathe.

June - bald eagles, their characteristics and their skill in the air.

July - grizzly bears, polar bears, black bears, and glacier bears.

August - the animals, trees, and environment of a rain forest.

September - Aurora Borealis and its magnificent lights.

October - harbor seals, bearded seals, ice seals, spotted seals, ringed seals, and ribbon seals.

November - starfish, rockfish, sponges, sea whips, sea anemones, and tree coral in the ocean.

December - the North Pole, ringed seals, polar bears, artic foxes, artic birds and even an elf from Santa's workshop.

The drawings are colorful and the book is full of facts. I learned some things through this book, but it wasn't for me because I prefer children's stories with fantastic stories. I can see how it would be a fun and helpful book for curious children, parents, and teachers. The book is most definitely educational!

Thank you so much to Bostick Communications and Dawn Menge for the opportunity to review this book!