Hetaera: Agathon's Daughter Book One by Suzanne Tyrpak

A home run for Suzanne Tyrpak; this was another enjoyable and suspenseful read from the same author of the book Vestal Virgin. Tyrpak's engrossing tales of ancient Rome and Athens are hard to put down once they are started and the tales are all multi-level: there are more details going on then what the characters see and the author brings that to life.

Hetaera: Agathon's Daughter is set in Ancient Athens, and the story begins on the deathbed of Agathon, a wealthy Athenian. A slave girl, Hestia, shortly before Agathon's passing suddenly learns she is his illegitimate daughter. The household is in uproar, and the budding romance between Agathon's son and her begin, and no one is who they really think they are. I've noticed with all of Tyrpak's characters in the books I've read, there are strong female roles who are educated and smart no matter their social status. Hestia is no exception, and her intelligence is what makes her attractive to others in the story. Hestia ends up being the Hetaera (female companion or Greek courtesan) to a sadistic statesmen, and a rival of Agathon.

The only negative I can say about it - this is part one or book one in a series, so while one plot ends, another hangs in the balance yet to be resolved. Good for the author, though, as the next one is eagerly awaited.

Book Information:
Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author. Any opinions are my own.

The Marx Brothers Meet Robin Hood by Dan Castell

The Marx Brothers Meet Robin Hood (Dan Castell, 2011) is a longer-short story (small novel) where the Groucho Marx meets Robin Hood who mistakes him for a spy. As with the original comedy works of the Marx Brothers, there are simple comedic jokes throughout.

In this version of Robin Hood, Robin and Maid Marion are married and have kids, and the familiar characters are in the book (Little John, Sheriff of Nottingham - although just at the end). Good book, very fast paced. Perfect YA Fiction for boys.

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author. Any opinions are my own.

Two Great Cake Pop Books

Like other people, I'm addicted and attracted to cake pops. I even have a cake pop board on Pinterest with all the cake pops I want to try for my kids when I have the time (yeah, right). Cake pops are everywhere. If you've never heard of them, they are those sweet little treats made of crumbled cake and frosting dipped in candy coating that are decorated in fanciful shapes or fun figures. And if you think they are complex and difficult, think again. Two books out there make them approachable to anyone wanting to tackle a cake pop.

For the review of both books, visit the Pastry Sampler Blog.

Google AdWords by Anastasia Holdren

Online advertising for a company can translate into more sales if done right. Google AdWords is one form of advertising, and Google AdWords (Anastasia Holdren, O'Reilly, ISBN 9781449308384) is a great primer on setting up a Google AdWords account, how it is structured, and understanding campaigns and keywords. Anyone interested in setting up an account but didn't know where to start, this would make a good beginning.

There are eleven chapters in the book: Getting Started (intro to AdWords); Account Structure; Navigating Your Account; Campaign Settings; Understanding the Auction; Keywords; Writing Ads; Making Ads Stand Out; The Google Display Network; Additional Ad Formats; Bids, Budgets, and Billing; and Measuring Success.

Holdren's graphics and screen shots throughout the book highlight points she is trying to make. It also puts emphasis on areas that may be difficult to understand. Her helpful 'warning or caution' and 'tip or suggestion' icons make it easy to spot things that should not be ignored when first setting up the account and later finding ways to make it easier to navigate. This would be a very good book for anyone interested in starting a new campaign, or thinking about starting a brand new account.

Book Information:
  • Google AdWords; by Anastasia Holdren
  • O'Reilly Media; 2011
  • ISBN13: 9781449308384
  • E-book format

Google AdWords: Managing Your Advertising Program is available through Amazon or the publisher, O'Reilly.

Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

The Cemetery Vote by Steve Silkin

The Cemetery Vote pretty much has it all: political suspense, drug runners, dancing girls, gangs, and the violence isn't too graphic. Either side of the aisle a person is politically, the book shows that there are flaws everywhere. The premise and story line were both good, the action was riveting, and I thought he hit it out of the ball park. Highly recommended political drama, with humorous elements kicked in. The characters are believable and even the really bad guys are sort of likable.

Read the full review on Sand and Succotash Blog.

Kitchen on Fire! Mastering the Art of Cooking in 12 Weeks (or Less)

Let's say you need a primer on cooking and the culinary arts but didn't have time to go to cooking school? Picking up a Larousse Gastronomique will give you all the details you need, and a Professional Cooking book will provide a great backbone - but what you really need is an easy to follow 'cooking class' in your own home. Kitchen on Fire! by Olivier Said and Chef Mike C. (Da Capo Press, ISBN 9780738214535) provides that, and more.

Read the full review of Kitchen on Fire! on the Sand and Succotash blog.

Life Promises for Couples by Gary Chapman

This is a pocket hardcover book with short, easily read (and digested) passages from the bible to encourage communication between partners. Each topic comes with three passages as well as a page dedicated to real life examples. There are no chapters, so you can dive in where ever and whenever you want to.

It is well illustrated, not with photographs of scripture in action, but pleasing borders which give a little pleasure while reading it. Life Promises for Couples is an easy-to-read devotional made for couples.

Book Information:
  • Life Promises for Couples; by Gary Chapman
  • Tyndale; 2011
  • ISBN13: 9781414363912
  • Hardcover, 207 pages

Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

The title of this book is Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Partnership and Life Together, but it could also be called "All The Things You Wanted to Ask Your Paster/Priest/Clergyman But Were Afraid to Ask". Real Marriage (Thomas Nelson, 2012, ISBN 9781404183520) by the husband and wife team of Pastor Mark and Grace Driscoll tackle all the usual questions about marriage and intertwine them with those topics that are difficult to ask.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One deals with Marriage: New Marriage, Same Spouse; Friend with Benefits; Men and Marriage; The Respectful Wife; and Taking Out the Trash. Part Two deals with the difficult subject of Sex: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift?; Disgrace and Grace; The Porn Path; Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers; and Can We...? The last part, Part Three, is probably the most important in the book: The Last Day: Reverse-Engineering Your Life and Marriage.

Sometimes the book is a bit too harsh on Grace Driscoll and her actual and preceived indescretions, with no mention of faults made by Mark. In this way, it makes the book seem a little one-sided in parts and makes Grace seem flawed throughout the early years of their marriage together.

The Driscolls' have tackled an already difficult subject to counsel (marriage) but have added topics that many couples have questions about or have felt themselves but were afraid to put it into words. While the book deals with sex in a straight-forward manner, the entire book isn't all about sex. It is about helping couples help themselves be better people, thereby creating a real marriage that both parties want to spend the rest of their lives in.

Book Information:
  • Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together; by Pastor Mark and Grace Driscoll
  • Thomas Nelson, 2012
  • ISBN: 9781404183520
  • Hardcover, 249 pages

Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the pubisher. Any opinions are the author's own.

To Be Perfectly Honest: Telling the Truth Every Day of the Year

The premise of this book: a Christian comedian took a 365-day challenge to tell the truth every single day. To Be Perfectly Honest (Phil Callaway, Multonomah Books, ISBN 9781590529171) is written in diary form and details the sometimes funny attempts at the author's struggles with telling the truth every single day.

It is done in journal form so it actually makes for an easier or quicker read. Even though it was written by a comedian, not every part was humorous, but it will make you think about how hard it is to actually try telling the truth every day for a year.

Book Info:

  • To Be Perfect Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie.; by Phil Callaway
  • Mulnomah Books, 2011
  • Paperback and ebook versions
Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.