Monday, August 31, 2015

The World on a Plate: 40 Cuisines, 100 Recipes, and the Stories BehindThem by Mina Holland | Cookbook Review

The World on a Plate: 40 Cuisines, 100 Recipes, and the Stories Behind Them

Impressions While Reading:
VERY informative. Learned a lot. Cool to see the interconnectivity between different culture's cuisines.

No pictures of food. NONE. 

Only found 2 recipes to try. 

Lots of foreign-language names of ingredients and dishes... And no clues to pronunciation. :(

Author's pescatarian leanings come through loud & clear- lots of fish and vegetarian dishes; very little meat. She's honest about it though, so is it bad? Or ok?

Recipes I Tried:
Pickled Cucumber Salad: Delicious!  Cold, so perfect for summer.  Easy.

Tomato Salsa: FANTASTIC!  And the hubby and I have gone "real food" so I try to make as much of our food as possible from scratch, so it's awesome to have an easy salsa recipe to whip up for Taco Night.  :)

*I checked out my copy of The World on a Plate from my local library.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

PopSugar Reading Challenge Update!

Here's the title I added in the last week:
Dodger by Terry Pratchett is a book I started but never finished.  (I had a failed audiobook download, so I only got to listen to the first two chapters!  But then I checked out a hard copy from my library to finish.)

The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma is a book with more than 500 pages.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a book that became a movie.

How (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts is a book published this year.

Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Sophia Yin is a book with a number in the title.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini is a book written by someone under 30.

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 22: 1993-1994 by Charles M. Schulz is a book with nonhuman characters.

CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong by Heather Mann is a funny book.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman is a book with a female author.

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett is a mystery or thiller.

Ink by Amanda Sun is a book with a one-word title.

Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich is a book set in another country.

Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt by Mark Will-Weber is a nonfiction book.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a popular author's first book.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor is a book by an author I love that I haven't read yet.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is a book that a friend recommended.

Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot's Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield is a book based on a true story.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is a book my mom loves.

A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd is a book that scared me.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is a book based entirely on it's cover.

Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons From an Extraordinary Life by Louis Zamperini is a memoir.

The Red Deaths by Casey Eanes with Seth Ervin is a book that I can finish in a day.

Dark in the City of Light by Paul Robertson is a book with antonyms in the title.

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson is a book set somewhere that I've always wanted to visit (London)!

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is a book with bad reviews.  (My review, however, wasn't so bad!)

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is a book with a love triangle.

Loop by Karen Akins is a book set in the future.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver is a book set in high school.

A Magic Dark & Bright by Jenny Perinovik is a book with magic.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a book by an author I've never read before.

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan is a book I own but have never read.

Modern Crochet: Crochet Accessories and Projects for Your Home by Molla Mills is a book originally written in another language (Finnish)!

The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers by Mark Hatch is a book written by an author with my same initials.

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz is a book turned into a (made-for-)TV show(movie).

And I'm currently reading March by Geraldine Brooks, Dodger by Terry Pratchett, and Lingering Echoes by Erica Kiefer, none of which will fulfill list items.

But still, as always, feel free to comment with any suggestions for the remaining checklist items!  (One can never have too many books to read.)

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dodger by Terry Pratchett | Audiobook AND Book Review


I thought Dodger was absolutely delightful, but I'm not sure of the teen appeal.

Let me back up even a little further:  I downloaded the audiobook version this summer from Audiobook Sync.  It's a great summer program (FREE!) that's aimed at teens, but anyone can participate.  You sign up at the beginning of summer and every week they text you two new titles available for download for free.  It's always a classic or nonfiction paired with a contemporary, related fiction title.  This particular week was Oliver Twist and Dodger.  I don't have summer reading assignments, so I went straight for the "fun" one: Dodger.  However... when I was listening to it, I got to Chapter 3 and the recording stopped!  Oh no!  The download had failed, and I'd failed to notice, and it was by then the next week in the program.  So I checked a hard copy out of my library to finish it.

This is the tale of Dodger, a tosher in Industrial London.  He's a teen, which is probably why this book gets put in the YA section, and he earns his living traveling through the sewers of London, looking for coins or other small items he can sell that have fallen down the drains from the streets above.  Dodger is eternally optimistic and positive, and pretty well-known/powerful in his own little circles.  One night while toshing, he overhears screams and witnesses a young lady struggling to escape some mean looking guys, and he steps in and saves her.  This is all the very, very beginning of the book!  After this the reader gets to go along on the ride with Dodger, as he meets increasingly powerful people in town (Charles Dickens, Disraeli, even Sweeney Todd) and really comes of age.

Terry Pratchett has this fantastic writing voice!  I love it.  It flows really smoothly and often makes me laugh out loud.  I don't say this too often, but I feel like his books don't have a single wasted word.  Such rich character development too.  Even Dodger's dog, Onan, is 3D!

The only problem I had with the book was the historic slang and nuance.  As I made sure to mention earlier in the review, Dodger is a tosher.  Although he's introduced that way very early on, it's only later, through context clues, that the reader is able to discern what toshing is.  (Unless you get frustrated and Google it, like I did.)  And that's not the only bit of historic slang.  It's not a huge amount, but enough that it would throw a reluctant reader off of the book.  Also, there are some oblique references to events and activities of the time period without much, if any, background; another thing that could chase a teen away from the book, if they don't have a point of reference.

As I mentioned earlier, I did listen to the first two chapters on audiobook.  I liked it alright, but I ended up liking the hard copy better.  The audiobook is read by a narrator with a British accent; authentic, but with all the historic slang and all it can be a bit more difficult for the American brain to keep up with.

I'm definitely recommending this to the hubby (a big Terry Pratchett fan), and perhaps a few other adults, but I can't see too many opportunities to recommend to teens.

*I received part of an audiobook of Dodger from Audiobook SYNC (my fault, not theirs'), and then checked out a copy from my library to finish the story!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Every Day by David Levithan | Book Review

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, talking about how much I loved this very unique read!  Click on over to find out why.

*I checked out my copy of Every Day from my local library.

Tuesday, August 25, 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'd Assign if I Taught High School 


So I know that I might be perceived as stepping on toes, but I don't intend to.  I do understand that principals, school districts, and curriculum often weigh heavily on the decision process.  But if I was a teacher, and didn't have to answer to a school board, these are the books I'd assign:

1. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina:  great, powerful story that brings up lots of good discussion points about bullying & it's effects.

2. 45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson:  great story about positive body image, with a heroine that you really care about.

3. Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen:  another one that brings up bullying, this one from the bully's point of view.

4. Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver:  dual point of view... maybe?  Great book for talking about unreliable narrators and different types of writing (prose & diary entries).

5. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis.  I'd teach this on alongside the original Snow White story, as it's a retelling.

6. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko:  fun, fun, fun and leads to discussions of history (takes place in the 1930s), social issues (takes place on Alcatraz), and differently-abled kids (main character's sister has autism).

7. The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen:  This one actually shows up on summer reading lists sometimes!  So yay!  It's a great book about overcoming adversity with a positive attitude, and helping others even when you think you're the lowest.

8. The Martian by Andy Weir.  Technically an Adult book, but I'd teach this to seniors.  Incredibly entertaining, and then we could talk about record keeping and problem solving.

9. Every Day by David Levithan:  this one is just so unique!  The main character has no identity:  no gender, no name, no permanent address.

10. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein:  I loved this WWII historic novel!

And these are in no particular order; I love them all!  What about you?  What books would you like to teach?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Smoothies: Plus Bonus Juicing Section! by Betty Crocker | CookbookReview

First Impressions:
Lots and lots of yummy smoothie concoctions!

But only found a small handful of "real food" ones. A lot called for flavored yogurts or frozen "fruit & yogurt chips."

Traditional fruit or fruit & veggie recipes + frozen smoothie pops + alcoholic smoothies + juicing section (with "recipes" for good juicing combos)

Color pictures of every smoothie.

Ones I Tried:
Watermelon-Kiwi-Banana Smoothie:  Sweeter than I'm used to, but definitely good!

Berries and Mango Smoothie:  So it was supposed to be strawberries, raspberries, and mango, but I ran out of strawberries so I doubled the raspberries.  Maybe not the best problem-solving.  A bit tart.  But I would definitely do this one again with the proper ingredients!

Tropical Papaya Smoothie:  Pretty good, but I think maybe papaya just isn't my favorite fruit.  It came together great, just not my fave.

I'd recommend.  Lots of great ideas, and I could probably get creative and find subs for some of the non-whole foods ingredients.  And I'm always a fan of cookbooks with lots of pictures!

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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, Stacking the Shelves!  To see what I've brought home this week, and to join in the fun yourself, click on the image above!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Under a War-Torn Sky by L.M. Elliott | Audiobook Review

Under a War-Torn Sky
(Gotta say- I love this cover.  Notice the bullet holes in the title!)

Under a War-Torn Sky is an action-packed WWII historical adventure novel.  The main character, Henry, is an American bomber pilot who's shot down over Switzerland.  He parachutes to relative safety and makes it to a Red Cross hospital.  After a short recovery there, he finds himself evading Germans as he moves (on foot!) from town to town across Switzerland, into France, and toward Spain.  Along the way he sees the best in people and the worst.  

As you can see from even that short description, the book is packed with adventure in every sentence.  No matter where I tried to put down the book, I was always worried for Henry.  The things that he had to endure on his path back to American forces were incredible.

The only fault I found with the book was that Henry seemed just a little "hokey."  He was doggedly upbeat and positive, no matter what.  And he was always telling those around him to look on the bright side.  I know this was written for a young adult audience, but I'd say that the book could be appropriate for those readers as young as middle school; it's that clean.  Personally, I found it just a little unbelievable.  If he'd broken down and gotten mad at someone or cussed at an injury a time or two, that'd be more believable.  I recently read Unbroken, a nonfiction WWII survival story, and the main subject persevered but did admit the hardship.

On a more positive note myself, I was impressed with the historical note at the end.  Turns out the author wrote this story based loosely on her grandfather's experience during WWII, and his fellow pilots' experiences.  It really seemed like Elliott put a lot of effort into research!  The hubby reads quite a bit of WWII nonfiction, and I kept asking him about some plot points and he always verified their validity.  So that was cool.

And to wrap things up, a note on the narration:  it was pretty good.  Not spectacular.  Not the reader's fault.  Just a little odd to hear Henry's story told in a female voice.  But there was some French sprinkled in (not enough to confuse or deter a reader; don't worry) and the reader did that very well.  She might have been a French speaker!

So I may or may not recommend this.  I wouldn't hesitate to assign it as a reading assignment if I was a teacher, but teens may or may not get into this work of historic fiction on their own.

*I received a copy of Under a War-Torn Sky for free via Sync Summer Reads.  Awesome!

**On a little bit of a personal note.... today is my birthday and I'm now 30!  Can't believe it.  New decade; new, exciting things ahead!

Tuesday, August 18, 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!

My Top Ten Five Auto-Buy Authors
So.... I don't actually buy too many books.  At least, not anymore.  Every so often I'll "find" a new-to-me author and fall in love and buy their whole backlist, like I did with Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Edward Abbey, but mostly I'll buy one or two books from an author then move on.  And I get books as gifts, and they're not always part of a larger collection.  So these are my top five auto-buy authors!

1. Jan Karon.  I even pre-order her stuff.  And I don't pre-order anyone else!  (Her next book is due out in September!!!  SO. EXCITED.)

2. Stephen King.  Kinda.  He was a definite auto-buy for quite a while, but I must admit that I haven't bought his latest half dozen or so.  But there was a couple of years when I went on a King buying blitz and bought 40 or so.

3. Michael Crichton.  Was.  But he was still alive when I "discovered" him, and he was an auto-buy after that.  So now the hubby and I own every single one.  Even the screenplay Westworld.

4. Megan Shepherd.  LOVED The Madman's Daughter, met her just after Her Dark Curiosity was published, and auto-bought A Cold Legacy.  Proof that her books are awesome:  I bought the hardcovers even though they have deckled edges.  And I don't care at all for deckled edges.

5. J.K. Rowling:  the Harry Potter books.  When these were being released, I auto-bought them all in hardcover, within a week of their releases.  Haven't bought her new adult titles, though.

What about you?  What authors do you auto-buy?  Leave a link and I'll definitely visit!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe | Book Review

The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, talking about this delightfully dark read!

*I received an ARC of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.  Thank you!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lingering Echoes by Erica Kiefer | Book Review

Lingering Echoes (Lingering Echoes, #1)

Summary from Goodreads:  “You can’t change the past… no matter how much you want to.”
If only Allie Collins could go back to that tragic day one year ago, perhaps she could escape the guilt that haunts her. In reality, there was no altering her cousin’s death or the role she played. Then she meets Damien Michaels, a dark-haired stranger on a dirt bike, who seems to watch Allie and know more about her than he should. Veiling his own secrets, including a mysterious scar and unexplained tattoo, Allie knows she shouldn’t trust him—especially as she digs up a past Damien desperately wants to forget. She also doesn’t believe in summer romances, yet she finds her attraction to him growing beyond his striking grey eyes.

Unfortunately, Allie discovers too late that he is hiding a dark past which is far from over, endangering her life and those she loves.

I included the summary from Goodreads, because I'm afraid I don't have any positives to talk about for this book.  I hope you believe me, reader, that I do NOT enjoy writing negative reviews, but I slogged through the entire book and it just never improved.  The plot was flimsy to start with, and got more unbelievable as the book went on.  There's a "reveal" near the end that involves a one-in-a-million chance occurrence.  The characters were incredibly flat, and the secondary characters were downright caricatures.  And the main character even describes them as such!  Speaking of the main character describing things... Allie uses internal language to describe people, places, and events that is totally disingenuous to ordinary teen experience.  To top it off, Allie makes some very questionable decisions in the first half of the book that had my inner "squeevy" alarm going off.  You've just met a 19-year-old guy ten minutes ago?  (Allie's 17.)  Sure, let's get on his motorcycle and go to who-knows-where for the day!  Scrolling through Goodreads, I see that I'm in the minority with my review, so perhaps the fault is with me and not with the book.  I was glad to see that I was not alone, however, in noticing the very thinly veiled racism near the end of the book.  Goodness.  Didn't expect that in a book published after 1950.  Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one.

*I received a copy of Lingering Echoes from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Captive: A Guard's Tale From Malachi's Perspective | Book Review

Captive: A Guard's Tale from Malachi's Perspective (Guards of the Shadowlands #1.1)

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, talking about this Guards of the Shadowlands novella.  See you there!

*I purchased my copy of Captive.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Take Note! George Washington the Reader by Amanda C. Isaac | Book Review

The hubby and I went to Washington, D.C. back in May, and while there we spent one day at Mount Vernon.  I absolutely love George (yeah, I feel like we're on a first name basis), and was super excited to find this book in their store.  It's a pretty slender paperback, produced in conjunction with an exhibit they hosted.  (The exhibit had been taken down by the time we visited.)

Take Note! is broken down into the different topics that George read in, such as agriculture, religion, and political theory.  The best part:  tons and tons of full-color pictures.  So even though the special exhibit wasn't around anymore when we visited, I still got to "see" some of George's books.

As a library employee, I thought it was super cool to see his library "card" from the New York Public Library!  They had a policy that government officials, while not residents of New York City, were able to borrow books still.  So cool to see "George Washington... President... Book Title!"  Wouldn't you have loved to be that librarian?

Because this is such a short review, here's a picture of me and the hubby in George's backyard!

Tuesday, August 4, 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 Fairytale Retellings I've Read

Stitching Snow
1. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis.  A space-age retelling of Snow White.  The "dwarves" are drones!

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter, #2)A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter, #3)
2. The Madman's Daughter trilogy by Megan Shepherd.  They heavily reference The Island of Dr. MoreauDr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein.

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2)The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London, #3)
3. Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson.  Incorporates the Jack the Ripper tales.

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)
4. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.  A continuation of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

Charming (Pax Arcana, #1)Daring (Pax Arcana, #2)
5. Charming and Daring by Elliott James.  The main character is Prince Charming.

Confessions of an Ugly StepsisterMirror MirrorWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1)Son of a Witch (The Wicked Years #2)
6. All the books by Gregory Maguire.  (At least, all the ones I've read.)  Most notably, the Wicked Years series, which is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

Peter and the Starcatchers (Peter and the Starcatchers, #1)Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Peter and the Starcatchers, #2)Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (Peter and the Starcatchers, #3)Peter and the Sword of Mercy (Peter and the Starcatchers, #4)The Bridge to Never Land (Peter and the Starcatchers, #5)
7. Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  Continuation of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Strands of Bronze and Gold
8. Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson.  A retelling of the Bluebeard fairytales.

Cruel Beauty
9. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.  A darker (if you can believe it) take on Beauty and the Beast.

Hood (King Raven, #1)Scarlet (King Raven, #2)Tuck (King Raven, #3)
10. King Raven trilogy by Stephen Lawhead.  Retelling of Robin Hood.

And what about you?  What have been your favorite retellings?  (And can you believe I still haven't read a single Lunar Chronicle?)