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Three and one half moon gifSimon & Schuster (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-7432-0308-9
What's made of chocolate but contains neither sugar nor fat, and doesn't engender guilt by its consumption? Chocolate for a Woman's Blessings, the latest tasty offering in the series of "Chocolate" anthologies confected by Kay Allenbaugh.

Book: Chocolate for a Woman's BlessingsReminiscent of the "Chicken Soup" series, Chocolate for a Woman's Blessings presents 77 real-life snapshots with a twist: every contributing author is female, and their stories illuminate issues vital to women's lives. Relationships with parents, men and children; coping with illness, rejection, grief and loss; honoring traditions and cultivating new ones -- these represent but a smattering of themes.

Organized into categories such as "Turning Up Your Light," "Our Favorite Furry Ones" and "Dancing With Angels," the anecdotes present an array as diverse as a Whitman's Sampler. Some made me laugh until my sides ached. Others sent me dashing for the tissues. A few left me feeling ambivalent, though I suspect that happened because I never experienced those situations (divorce, for example), rather than any perceived lack of merit in the stories themselves.

Book: Kay Allenbaugh, Chocolate for a Lover's HeartTherein lies the power of the "Chocolate" series or, for that matter, any written work that evokes intimate kinship with the reader. Through depictions of the most devastating tragedies and soaring triumphs -- and events at many levels in between -- Chocolate for a Woman's Blessings reinforces the message that we are not alone. Other women bearing similar burdens survived, perhaps suffering bruised bodies, frayed emotions and tattered spirits in the process. In Chocolate for a Woman's Blessings, they emerge to share their hard-won lessons. Only one word describes the level of encouragement this book offers: priceless.

Daughter, wife, mother or sister -- you cannot err by indulging yourself in this type of "chocolate." And, men, trust me when I tell you it makes the perfect gift for the special woman in your life. It provides emotional satisfaction, it won't cause her to bewail her post-holiday figure -- and I guarantee you'll earn major sensitivity points.

"Chocolate" doesn't get any better than this.

Kim D. Headlee

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