Monday, February 10, 2014

Valentines Day: Will You Be My Valentine? A Potpourri of Reading Fun and Love!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Hi, Everyone! Happy Valentine's Day. All this month I have books about various aspects of love. Novels (Endless Love and Therese Raquin), and even a spiritual approach to love and healing (The Path to Love, by Deepak Chop- ra). Today's post is strictly about love and Valentine's Day. I've selected a few books, quick picks, really, for you to consider reading. Hopefully, these quick little reviews will be helpful in selecting a book for your reading enjoyment. I also have a few personal Valentine's Day comments for you to consider, first, so here we go. . . .

     On Valentine's Day, we usually focus on other people in our life whom we love. We need to remember that to be truly happy in life, we need to love ourselves, too. Our hearts are boundless and we have enough room in our hearts to love both ourselves and everyone else in our life. The funny thing about love is that the more love we give away, the more love we have. Our love is not depleted, but, instead, is constantly replenished. It's as if we were digging a hole on the beach by the ocean, the ocean constantly refilling the hole that we keep bailing the water out of. Remember that you are precious and loved. 

Take a small bunch of carnations to a convalescent home
and walk around giving out a flower to each person you see.
     Today I would like to suggest that after you have given your sweetheart their cards and candy, dinner and movie, kind words and sweet kisses, that you take a few minutes to help a lonely neighbor, give to a charity of your choice, write a letter to an estranged family member, visit someone in the hospital, jail, or convalescent home, or perhaps say a few extra prayers for those in need. 
     Don't forget, you can always do the little acts of kindness that cost you nothing more than a minute of your time and some small amount of consideration: 
  • Like saying thank you to your bag boy/girl at the grocery store for their help;
  • By complimenting your bank teller or lawn service workers for always doing a good job; 
  • By giving a hug to everyone in your family; 
  • By smiling at someone who looks sad or bitter;
  • By telling the wait staff they have helped your day be better by providing great service and don't forget to send your compliments for the meal to the chef;
  • By telling your beautician that you feel great on the inside because of how good you look on the outside;
  • Get a box of inexpensive Valentines (the kind the kids give out, 20+ in a box), and on the back put a sticker or draw a smiley face. Take them with you in the morning on Valentine's Day--Pass them out to EVERYONE you meet all day long--stranger and acquaintance alike; 
  • Don't TELL someone to Smile.
    Just give them one of yours!
  • And ... well, you get the idea...say thank you, and smile, smile, smile. Remember that when you take that little extra bit of time to help someone else along with a compliment or smile, you will feel good on the inside, as well. Love is multiplied!

     OK. I guess I got a little long-winded, here. I couldn't help myself. Sorry about that. Let's go ahead and look at the first book.
Hearts, Cupids, and
Red Roses: The Story of
the Valentine Symbols

by Edna Barth.
Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses: The Story of the Valentine Symbols by Edna Barth, and Illustrated by Ursula Arndt.

The Table of Contents illustration:
A basket of flowers.
     Although the age range, as indicated by the publisher, is 8-12 (grade level 4-6), I found this lively book to be both engaging and informative to me as an adult. The illustrations, all done in black and white, are clear and interesting with some of the line drawn illustrations being quite pretty.

     I appreciated that no excess verbage was found in the book, the author getting right to the point with each subject. I especially liked the history of Valentines and Valentine's Day. A lot of information is succinctly packed into just a few pages for this topic.

     Another thing I liked was the variety of information provided. The author included such varied topics as Valentine customs in other countries, arts and crafts projects, goodies you can cook for Valentine's Day, discussion of various Valentine symbols (hearts, cupid, flowers, candy, tokens and games, etc.), and a reference list of stories and poems for Valentine's Day. Moreover, the price was right for this paperback book at $7.95; I, however, picked mine up used on Amazon for $4.00 with free shipping and handling because I'm an Amazon Prime member. I would rate this great little book at 4.5 stars out of 5.

How To Survive Valentine's Day:
Guide to Not Being Alone
on Valentine's Day
Soluciones Tainas.
How To Survive Valentine's Day: Guide to Not Being Alone on Valentine's Day by Soluciones Tainas.

     This little book is really more of a guide to, well, I'd like to say mostly singles, but really, to anyone who faces the possibility of spending Valentine's Day alone. This book provides strategies for getting you through Valentine's Day.

     The tips cover singles, yes, but included in that group is certainly those recently divorced, or those with children. The book covers, practically speaking, the most basic of tips, like not giving into self pity and getting beyond feeling blue and depressed.

     It suggests things for you to do, like "look on the bright side." Meaning, you won't have to waste precious time or money in an effort to impress can take that time and money and invest it in yourself. The tips also counsel you to not act out to hurt someone else in bitterness just because you are feeling "miserable."

Chocolate for any occasion!
     After the basics are addressed about your feelings, the author suggest a few practical, concrete things you can do to lift your own spirits, like not spending an excessive amount of time by yourself--to get out and move around even if it means talking to friends and family. You get the idea. The author has too many tips to list, here.

     If this guide looks appealing to you, know that it can be purchased for practically a song. On Amazon, you can get this title for $.99, or if you have Amazon Prime, you can check it out of the Lending Library for free and return it when you've finished reading it.
Bitten By Cupid by Lynsay
Sands is an Anthology of three
stories. This is the Kindle Edition
from Amazon. The e-edition of the
book is $2.99, the mass market
paperback is $7.19, and used and
new from $.01 to $1.99.
         Bitten by Cupid by Lynsay Sands. This book is from the paranormal romance genre. For fans of the Argeneau Novels, the characters and story settings are all taken from that series and have been created specifically with the Valentine's Day Holiday in mind. It can, however, be read as a stand alone book containing three delightful and romantic stories. Average Amazon rating: 3.5 Stars from 68 Reviewers.

     The first of the three stories is Vampire Valentine; this story is about a very popular character who doesn't yet have his own book, Tiny McGraw. Tiny teams up with guard Mirabeau LaRouche to complete a body guard assignment on Valentine's Day--their assignment, to protect a young girl and get her to safety. Unfortunately, the group must flee to the underground of New York's tunnels where Mirabeau's dress is ruined; but fortunately for Tiny, the sparks fly between the two guards. Has Tiny found a partner for more than just a body guard assignment?

     The second story, Hearts Untamed, centers on Zeeland who left Washington, D.C., to join up with the "Therian Guard," and then returns to find the young Julianne has grown up in his absence. During Valentine's Day celebrations, Zeeland discovers Julianne is angry with him for leaving--but there is also life-threatening intrigue and deadly peril for the two contentious lovebirds.

     A serial killer graces the pages of the final story in Kiss and Kill Cupid. Kat Morgan is jaded about love because she can overhear other people's thoughts; this makes any romantic relationship nearly impossible for her. Kat "overhears" a serial killer's thoughts about targeting her for death on Valentine's Day. Understandably, Kat is scared. And then, she doesn't know what to make of one man whose thoughts she can't hear--is he the serial killer or is he her rescuer?

Bee Mine: A Pop Up Book of Valentines.

Bee Mine: A Pop Up Book of Valentines by Olive Ewe and Illustrator: Daniel Moreton. 

     The publisher indicates the age range for readers to be between 4-8 years of age--although, I must say, the little girl in me was quite delighted with this charming book of pop up Valentines. Because that's just what this book is...a book of Valentines.

     The page displayed, just below, is one of the Valentines. When opened, the frog jumps up and says, "You make me jump for joy. Love, Lucy Leapfrog." How charming is that? All the Valentines are of a similar nature, each one featuring a little animal with a charming Valentine's Day quote.

     Though the ages indicated is for children ages 4-8 years, I think you could gift this book to a teacher or friend in lieu of buying a Hallmark Valentine card--or put it in a gift basket. Each of the Valentines are utterly cute.

I loved this little pop up. When the page opens, the little
frog leaps up. I think this is just so endearing.
     Unfortunately sellers have dramatically marked up the price of this little book, charging $105.61 for a new book and $41.65 for a used copy. Obviously, they marked up the book for Valentine's Day sales. I bought mine in November in anticipation of doing this blog post for $6.85 (Used - Like New Condition) from a third-party vendor on Amazon, plus $3.99 sh/h. So, you can see just how dramatically sellers have marked up this book in order to cash in on the holiday.

     If you can find a copy for a reasonable price, I'd buy it and gift it to a teacher or friend. The book really is charming, but I wouldn't pay $41.65, let alone $105.61, for this book.

Don't Be My Valentine:
A Classroom Mystery
by Joan M. Lexau.

DON'T Be My Valentine: A Classroom Mystery, by Joan M. Lexau.
      Publishers indicate this book is suitable for ages 4 and up, but I'm not so sure I agree. I don't think children at age 4 are ready to deal with "hate" Valentines. I think it more appropriate when the guidelines are followed as an "I can read book": Level 2 (Grades 1-3).

     Don't Be My Valentine: A Classroom Mystery by Joan M. Lexau with pictures by Syd Hoff is a paperback book of 65 pages. After reading the book, it brought back my own memories about "mean" Valentines in Second Grade. But first, let's briefly look at the book.

     Succinctly, the back book cover describes the simple plot: "Amy Lou is always trying to help Sam, and it bothers him. So when it's time for valentines, Sam makes a mean one for her. But the valentine is delivered to Sam's teacher instead of Amy Lou. How did that happen?" Valentine's Day isn't a happy day for everyone. In this story, a boy and girl do not see eye to eye and seem to have constant friction between each other. Sam's mean Valentine causes unintended problems.

These two pages show how agitated some of the children
became after the "mean" Valentine had been discovered.
     One of the reasons I selected this book is because it seems that every year parents, teachers, and students often have to deal with a few students who give "hate" or "mean" Valentines. This book addresses that issue. In grade school, one year, I received a number of "hate" or "mean" Valentines. My feelings were hurt and whenever I think of the holiday that occurred that year for me in grade school, I feel sad.

     I think it is wonderful that this author courageously addresses an issue that seems sorely neglected. I applaud Joan M. Lexau for her work in trying to help children/students celebrate the true spirit of Valentine's Day. Help your child to celebrate appropriately, too.

     You can purchase this book on Amazon new for $5.99 and used from $.01 and up. I purchased this book as a paperback, for $3.85 (Used - Acceptable Condition).

It Happened One Valentine's
Day: An Avon Romance Sampler
by Multiple Authors.
It Happened One Valentine's Day: An Avon Romance Valentine's Day Sampler by Various Authors.
     This book is comprised entirely of the first chapters of books by the included authors. It is a true "Sampler" of not only the listed authors, but of different genres of romance--from simple romance to historical and even paranormal romance. I chose to download and read this book because I don't, generally, read romance novels and wanted a good sampling. I got it in spades!

     This book, entirely free on Amazon, is rated by the average reader at 3.0 stars out of 5. I decided to look over the reviews on Amazon to discover why the ratings were so low; I discovered that most of the low marks for this book is because readers didn't realize they were downloading a sampler. Apparently, some readers thought the stories were full stories--an anthology (a collection of short stories), not just a sampler. Then, when they realized that the stories were only the first chapters of books, they became upset and gave the book low marks. If readers had read the book description more closely and realized that the purpose of this book is just to give you a taste of the genre and the particular author, perhaps the rating would have been higher. . . hard to know. Hmmm. Personally, I did not have a problem with this book being a "sampler," versus an anthology.

     As for me, I read all the stories and discovered I was interested in one enough that I actually went and bought the full book. . .I'll leave you to imagine which one. I have listed for your convenience the authors and story titles; they are as follows:

     List of the Stories (First Chapter of Each Book) and the AuthorsOnce Upon a Tower by Eloisa James; Immortal Ever After by Lynsay Sands; Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost; Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle; "V is for Vampwoman," by Kerrelyn Sparks; "A Forever Love, by Pamela Palmer; The Trouble with Valentine's Day by Rachel Gibson; True Love at Silver Creek Ranch by Emma Cane; "Love Me Tender," by Cheryl Harper; Saved by the Rancher by Jennifer Ryan; The Earl in My Bed by Sophie Jordan; What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston; Destiny's Embrace by Beverly Jenkins, and The Maclean Groom by Kathleen Harrington.

Brava Srega Nona! A Heartwarming
Pop-Up Book
 by Tomi dePaola
and Paper Engineers: Robert
Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.
Brava Strega Nona! A Heartwarming Pop-Up Book by Tomie dePaola; Paper Engineers are Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.

     Oh, do I ever LOVE this book; I just know you will, too. The original Strega Nona book won a Caldecott Honor in 1976. The paper engineer, critically acclaimed and award-winning, Robert Sabuda, helped create this book with Matthew Reinhart and award-winning author Tomie dePaola. What a pairing of talents and abilities.

     The story is utterly charming, creative, and as the book title indicates, "heartwarming." The story focuses on the ingredients of a magical life. dePaola has chosen: Famiglia - Family; Mangia - Eating together; Amici - Friends; Pazienza - Patience; Celebrazione - Celebration; and, the 
Just look at this beautiful pop-up from Brava Strega Nona! The book is
about Strega Nona's magical life and all the ingredients that make it so.
See her cooking pot in the center? It is overflowing with love. As the page
indicates: Amore--Love. The ingrediente segreto--secret ingredient.
Always share your love and it will bring you a magical life.
wonderful, magical, secret ingredient... well, it is none other than, Amore - Love. 

     Together they combine to create a magical life. How fitting to read this book on Valentine's Day, but I think it could be read any day. Any day, that is, you want to smile, feel love, and experience a magical life.

     This beautiful book is available on Amazon as a collectible from $29.95, as new, starting from $17.74, and as used from $15.27. This book is the very first new book I purchased in 2014 (the first week of January), and I have enjoyed it immensely. I am exceedingly happy I bought this book. This hardbound book is on very good quality paper, it has a heartwarming story, the paper engineering is masterful, the use of color throughout is exciting and the price is right. My recommendation? Buy it...for yourself...or...for someone special in your life.

     I want to thank you for joining me this week to help celebrate Valentine's Day, and to discover a few quick pick books that you can enjoy. I hope you find something in this potpourri of books that will suit your taste in reading. If not, go to a library, on-line book store, or take something down from one of your own book shelves and start reading. Remember that you are precious and that you are loved.

Until next time . . .

. . . many happy pages of reading!


_______________________________________ - Happy Valentine's Day; - Convalescent Home visit; - How to give a good compliment; - Smile; - Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses: The Story of the Valentine Symbols; - Bee Mine: A Pop Up Book of Valentines; - Don't Be My Valentine: A Classroom Mystery by Joan M. Lexau; - How to Survive Valentine's Day: Guide to Not Being Alone on Valentine's Day by Soluciones Tainas;'s+day+alone&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=_& - Chocolate for any occasion; and, Chocolate; - The Rules of Love: A Personal Code for Happier, More Fulfilling Relationships; - It Happened One Valentine's Day: An Avon Romance Sampler, by Multiple Authors; - The Path to Love by Deepak Chopra; - Bitten by Cupid by Lynsay Sands; - Strega Nona! A Heartwarming Pop-Up Book; - White Rose.