Thursday, December 31, 2015

Austenland by Shannon Hale | Book Review

Austenland (Austenland, #1)

Throwback Thursday Review!

I originally read Austenland in October 2012, and I only gave it two of five stars on  I think it was up for or won an Alex Award that year, and that's why I read it.

Here's the synopsis:  Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret.  Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life:  no real man can compare.  But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen; or maybe even, she suspects, the actors who are playing them.  It's all a game, Jane knows.  And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders:  Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

And here's what I wrote about it:  Well-written, but not really my thing.  It's a girly-girl book, so I would recommend it to readers who want a happy ending, romance but no sex-mance, light reading, etc.  Not a bad book at all, just not my cup of tea.

And yet I didn't give up on the series!  Look for my review of the sequel, Midnight in Austenland, next week!

*I checked out my copy of Austenland from my local library.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy: Fresh and Practical Advice for Navigating the Next Nine Months by Erika Lenkert | Book Review

The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy: Fresh and Practical Advice for Navigating the Next Nine Months

I give The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy a solid "meh."  It was full of anecdotal advice and stories, which can be reassuring and even entertaining, but it wasn't very full of actual factual advice.  I read both this one and the classic What to Expect to When You're Expecting, and found the combo to be good.  This book is definitely much lighter, and more concerned with what's happening to the mother-to-be's body; What to Expect... is much more dry and more concerned with the health of the mom and unborn child together.

There were a few pages in here that I totally laughed out loud at.  There were a few pages that scared me a little.  It did feel very much like talking to a girlfriend rather than talking to a doctor.

Erika Lenkert peppers the text with stories from her own pregnancies, as well as having done the legwork to collect extensive survey answers from hundreds of other moms.  I did like that.  I also liked how the book "gave permission" to me to feel a little lousy, or tired, or bleh.  I'm working full time, and I do hold it all together at work (only one sick day, despite "morning" (all day) sickness the whole first trimester!) but sometimes I don't feel it on the inside.  So I did appreciate Lenkert's tips for relieving aches, and suggestions on how to perk yourself up.

I wouldn't say this is "required reading" for pregnant women, but I would say that it's a pretty good lighthearted companion to the heavier reading.

*I checked out my copy of The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy from my local library.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2016

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)
1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Hunt (The Cage, #2)
2. The Hunt by Megan Shepherd

United as One (Lorien Legacies, #7)
3. United as One by Pittacus Lore

4. Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Salt to the Sea
5. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Yellow Brick War (Dorothy Must Die, #3)
6. Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige

7. Illusion by Martina Boone

Dreamfever (Dreamfire, #2)
8. Dreamfever by Kit Alloway

Tiger's Dream (The Tiger Saga, #5)
9. Tiger's Dream by Colleen Houck
(Upon more investigation, looks like this one isn't happening.)

Charlotte Cuts it Out
10. Charlotte Cuts it Out by K.A. Barson

And you?  What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson | Book Review

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Narrative nonfiction!  Oh, how I love thee!

Erik Larson has done it again with his latest book.  Pure excellence.  To emphasize:  I'm not usually into books about WWII and I don't do boats and I couldn't put this one down!

Dead Wake is the story of last voyage the Lusitania made from NYC to England.  The European part of WWII was in full swing, but the boat was filled to the gills with passengers (including lots of women and children), who were crazily unconcerned about any potential danger.  This is nonfiction, so it's not a spoiler that that ship sinks, with major loss of life.

Larson tells the story from multiple points of view; from the captain's, a few different passengers', and even the submarine captain who torpedoed the Lusitania!  I loved this.  I'm all about some human interest in my nonfiction.  (The hubby read this too, and he actually didn't care for getting "bogged down" (his opinion) in all the extra background.  I disagree.  But to each their own!)

In between all of the development around the various "characters," Larson also gives plenty of information about the greater world and war in order to provide point of reference.  He weaves this in very skillfully, so there aren't any lengthy dry parts.

I highly recommend!  Even if, like me, you're not usually into WWII nonfiction.  This isn't your mother's history text!

*I received my copy of Dead Wake from the publisher, via  Thank you!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon | Book Review

Come Rain or Come Shine

Mitford #11!  Oh, how I love love love love love love love these books!  I've explained in previous reviews why these books are so special to me, and how my mom and I connected over them.  In 2014, Mom and I even got to go meet Jan Karon at an event in "Mitford" (Blowing Rock, NC), where she heavily hinted at this book.  I looked forward to it all year!

The Mitford books are so heartwarming, and this one is no different.  What is different is the point of view and shift in main focus.  In the first ten books, Father Tim is the sole point of view and focus of the story.  (No problem with that: I love me some Father Tim!)  In this latest installment, Dooley and Lace are the main focus, and there are multiple points of view.

We first met Dooley at age 10 in At Home in Mitford.  He wasn't well-spoken, and he was dirty.  Fast forward many, many years, and Dooley is graduating vet school, getting married to Lace, settling down on the former farm of Hal & Marge.  And they're doing one more big thing that's a total surprise to everyone!  The majority of the story focuses on the wedding... the wedding that Mitford fans have been waiting for!  I will own up to a few tears.  I cried at a fictional wedding.  I don't recall ever doing that before...  Crazy, huh?  But I feel like I know these folks.  I grew up with them!  And now Dooley and Lace are getting married!  Just keep that in mind and maybe keep a tissue handy when you read.

The shift in point of view is new to this book too.  I rather liked it, even though it was a tiny bit disorienting at first.  (Jan Karon doesn't announce the point of the view at the start of the chapter; you just have to dive in and figure it out.  Took me a moment; I was used to the solitary point of view from previous Mitford books.)  This allows us to see and experience lots of different aspects of the wedding, and to reconnect with all our favorite Mitford folks!

I give Come Rain or Come Shine an enthusiastic everyone-in-the-world-should-read-this six out of five stars... but I'm biased and I know it.  ;)  Still, I do highly recommend this series.

*I checked out my copy of Come Rain or Come Shine from my local library (and asked for a copy of my own for Christmas)!

*Update:  I DID receive a copy for Christmas!  From my mom.  :)  And guess what?  I had bought her the same book for Christmas!  How awesome is that?  Great minds think alike.  I hope all of you had a merry Christmas too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fox Bunny Funny by Andy Hartzell

Fox Bunny Funny

This book was recommended during a diverse books readers advisory training that I attended at work last year.  My library owns it, so I checked it out.  What an interesting read!

First, it should be noted that Fox Bunny Funny is a wordless graphic novel.  My library shelves it in the adult graphic novel section, but it has definite teen appeal.  It takes place in a world inhabited by foxes and bunnies, where the natural order is that foxes eat bunnies.

(But wait, you say:  isn't that obvious?  Of course foxes eat bunnies!)

What takes this scenario up a level:  in this world, foxes and bunnies wear clothes and go shopping and go to school and drive cars.  So it feels a bit more malicious than the known prey-predator relationship we're used to.

The story primarily follows one fox of undetermined gender, who appears to be about teenaged.  The reader experiences the fox/bunny world through their eyes, and are allowed to form their own opinions about what is happening.  

Fox Bunny Funny isn't terribly discreet about it's message:  it's very obviously anti-racism/anti-sexism.  Anti- some-kind-of-ism.  It's hard to tell what the exact "-ism" is since it's played out between foxes and bunnies.  Even with a kind of heavy-handed message, it's still a good story, with good pacing.

And now I can say that I've read my first wordless book!

Oh, and the artwork!  Clean black-and-white.  I liked it.  And it very much fit the story line.

*I checked out my copy of Fox Bunny Funny from my local library.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree

1. Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich.  I love this series!  They make me laugh.  I've read the first 21, and am looking forward to #22.

2. The Twisted Deliverance of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe.  I mentioned in my review of The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant how much I'm looking forward to this one!  It releases in Canada in Feb, but Santa could bring me an ARC.  :)

3. Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe by Erin Taylor Young.  This one really is on my Christmas wishlist that my mom always requests!  It looks adorable.  It's about a boxer puppy.  I have a boxer puppy.

4. Something by Cory Doctorow.  I read Little Brother this year and loved it; I'm totally ready to try another one!  Santa can surprise me.

5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling.  Ohmygoodness... this book is gorgeous!  And now that I've got Baby Harris on the way... what a great introduction to the Harry Potter series!  (And I hope that they end up doing all seven illustrated!)

6. What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff.  Speaking of Baby Harris being on the way... by next Christmas he'll be here!  I'll need to know what to expect that first year!

7. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I checked this out of the library last year at Christmas and it was absolutely delightful!  I pored over it.  Tolkien wrote letters to his children every year under the guise of "Father Christmas," and they're illustrated!

8. The Map of the Sky and The Map of Chaos by Felix J. Palma.  I own the first in this trilogy, and I've read the second one too (from the library).  Excellent trilogy; definitely worth owning; and I haven't read the third one yet!

9. Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray.  I own the first one in this series, and I loved it!  Now I'll need to keep purchasing them as they're released, of course.  ;)

10. The Miss Peregrine's trilogy by Ransom Riggs.  I bet Santa could find me a nice boxed set.  I love the stories and the photos!

What about you?  What books do you hope Santa will bring you?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Idiot's Guides: Dog Tricks by Debra Eldredge with Kate Eldredge | Book Review

Idiot's Guides: Dog Tricks

First Impressions While Reading:
Fully photographed!  In color!

Adorable/beautiful canine models for all the tricks.

A Trick I Taught Tucker (my 1-yr-old boxer):
Come & Carry!  This is a build-upon trick.  In our house, though, we call it a "task" rather than a "trick" since it's so useful.  We first taught Tuck to "get it," which means that he should pick up whatever toy we point at.  We'd already taught him "come" long ago.  We combined the two with the "come and carry" command.  So first we tell him to "get it" and then we tell him "come and carry" and he does!  Now I don't have to pick up his chewed-on toys; he'll carry them from room to room for us!

This book is stuffed full of tricks/commands!  There's everything from the useful ("come," "heel," etc.) to the fun for-show ("roll over," "shake hands," "play dead," "jump through hoop," etc.).  

*I checked out my copy of Idiot's Guides: Dog Tricks from my local library.

I can't resist... since the post is about dog tricks... here's my pup!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, stacking the shelves.  Click the image below to join me and see what I've brought home recently!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney | Audiobook Review

Janie Face to Face (Janie Johnson, #5)

The fifth and final Janie book!  I started this series forever ago, when I was in middle school.  That was more than 15 years ago!  I'm so glad that I took a little time this year to finish up the saga.  It was such fun to revisit a series from my childhood!  I think I read The Face on the Milk Carton multiple times (I owned it), but I'd never gotten past #2, The Voice on the Radio.

Janie Face to Face is told in multiple viewpoints, which definitely adds to the suspense.  By now, Janie is in college, and has a pretty good relationship with both of her families.  She's ready to leave all the kidnapping business behind her and start her life as an adult.  Life has other plans for her, of course:  a true-crime writer is contacting all of her friends and family for interviews, and miles away on the West coast (unknown to Janie et al), Janie's kidnapper is also on the move.

This story unfolds simultaneously from Janie's and Hannah's viewpoints, which had me on the edge of my seat!  We also get a little bit of her brother's and Reeve's viewpoints as well.  I can't say much on this plot point (no spoilers); you'll just have to read the book to find out if they meet and how that goes!

I felt like Janie grew up a lot as a person between books #4 and #5, and I liked this new maturity.  She comes across much less self-centered and whiny.  We see how much she cares for both her mothers and her siblings.  We see her struggle with deciding whether or not to trust Reeve.

Overall, this was definitely a satisfying conclusion to the series!  I'm not disappointed at all.  No ends left dangling, and the ending didn't feel rushed or thrown together.  Caroline B. Cooney is just a superb author.

I listened to Janie Face to Face on audiobook, and it was fine.  I don't recall anything spectacular or horrible about it.  I guess I was just too lost in the story!

*I checked out my copy of Janie Face to Face from my local library.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Duck Commander Kitchen Presents Miss Kay Celebrating Family &Friends: Recipes for Every Month of the Year by Kay Robertson WithChrys Howard | Cookbook Review

The Duck Commander Kitchen Presents Celebrating Family and Friends: Recipes for Every Month of the Year

First Impressions on Read-Through:
Very full menu of about a dozen recipes for each month! Apps, mains, sides, grains, desserts.

Only about every third or fourth recipe is photographed.  Bummer.

True holidays, like Christmas, Mother's Day, etc. plus "holidays" like family reunions, baby/bridal showers, summer picnics.

Approximately 2-page intro to each month: memories, how the food ties to the event of the month, kitchen tips, Gospel.

Scripture at start of each chapter.  Yay!

All recipes sounded WONDERFUL but not many are very healthy.

Recipe I Tried:
Snap Beans with New Potatoes:  pretty good, but made a ton, and the beans were pretty soggy.  Perhaps cooks' error?

I'd definitely recommend to Duck Commander fans, even if just for the family memories backgrounds to the recipes and the Scripture tie-ins, but I don't know that I'd recommend this to someone just casually looking for a general cookbook.

*I checked out my copy of The Duck Commander Kitchen Presents Miss Kay Celebrating Family & Friends from my local library.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes From Grandmas Around the World byGabriele Galimberti | Cookbook Review

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World
(All I needed to see was the word "grandmas" on the cover to be sold on this cookbook!)

Impressions on Read-Through:
Fantastic & heartwarming

Intro explains that author went on a year-long couch-surfing "expedition" for a photography mag; this was a happy side-project. 

Each recipe: picture of grandma in her kitchen with all her ingredients + picture of the prepared dish + very short bio/intro to the dish with grandma's town/city + recipe

Found very few recipes to try myself; still very much enjoyed reading the cookbook

Not for the faint at heart: some recipes call for moose, shark, and even caterpillars!

World map on endpapers showing the location of all the grandmas. Super helpful!

Recipe I Tried:
Inkoko Nama Spices from Grandma Joyce Muape of Zambia: delicious & pretty easy!  Will make again.

Definitely recommended!  Even if you don't find many (or any) recipes to try yourself, it's so fun to see all the grandmas from around the world and see what meals they love to prepare for their families.

*I checked out my copy of In Her Kitchen from my local library.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  For more information, or to join the fun yourself, check out their blog!

Top Ten Fifteen Best Books I Read in 2015

Come Rain or Come Shine
1. Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
2. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
4. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges

Little Brother (Little Brother, #1)
5. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
6. Dead Wake by Erik Larson

A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter, #3)
7. A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
8. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)
9. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The Map of the Sky (TrilogĂ­a Victoriana, #2)
10. The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)
11. Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

The Bookman’s Tale
12. The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)
13. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #4)
14. Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

The Naturals (The Naturals, #1)
15. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

And you?  What were the top ten (or more) books that you read this year?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Special Edition Top Ten

Top Ten Classic Children's Books I'd Love to Own

I was approached recently by to do a special edition blog post- all they asked was that I create a wishlist for Christmas!  How easy is that?  Since I'm not expecting (a boy, due in late April), I thought I'd create a wishlist of 10 classic children's books that I'd love to have as a foundation for his library.

Feel free to check out the children's books on  (And you can go directly to the "bid" page by clicking on any of the images!)

1. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne.  Who doesn't love this classic?

2. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

3. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.  This was definitely a favorite of mine as a kid, and I can't wait to pass along the story.  The picture and link take you to a bid for a gorgeous serigraph.

4. Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. W. Awdry.  My family is big on trains, and I have many happy memories of Thomas stories and TV shows.  I also plan to put up boxcar book holders in the nursery to hold Baby's growing library!

5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  What child's library would be complete without this?

6. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Not everyone knows this, but this was originally published as a serial in a boys' magazine.  What better book for my boy?

7. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.  Oh, how I loved loved loved this one when I was a kid!  I so wanted to be one of the silly monkeys.

8. Corduroy by Don Freeman.  We didn't own this one, but my grandparents did.  Every time we would visit them (a few times a year), my grandmother would read it to me.

9. Curious George by H.A. Rey.  Another silly monkey story!  I hope to inspire joy in life and silliness in my boy, as you can probably tell.

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Ignore the fact that hubby and I already own about a dozen copies.  (We actually already own the edition pictured, even.)  Baby Boy will need his own also!  Perhaps someone has done an illustrated abridged version?  Otherwise it'll be a few years before he's ready for the full-blown text.  We can't wait to share The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings with him!

What about you?  If you got to pick any ten items from, what would they be?