Saturday, January 30, 2016

PopSugar Reading Challenge

Happy Saturday!  This week I read Prohibition Bakery by Leslie Feinberg with Brooke Siem, which is a book I can finish in a day and Situation Momedy: A First-Time Mom's Guide to Laughing Your Way Through Pregnancy & Year One by Jenna Von Oy, which is a book written by a celebrity.

Previously, I've read:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which is a book set in Europe.

The Fireflies Book by Brett Ortler, which is a book that's under 150 pages.

What We Lost in the Dark by Jacquelyn Mitchard, which is a murder mystery.

The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith, which is a book with a blue cover.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, which is a book from the library.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Diviners by Libba Bray | Book Review

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)

Flashback Friday Review!

I originally read The Diviners in March 2013, gave it 4 of 5 stars on Goodreads, and didn't write a review.  But I'm going to review the sequel, Lair of Dreams, on Monday so I wanted to post my rating and the book's synopsis here now in preparation.

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic.  It's 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets.  The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he'll discover her darkest secret:  a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.  But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps.  A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds.  A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past.  A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret.  And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

See you Monday for my review of Lair of Dreams!

*I checked out my copy of The Diviners from my local library.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan | Audiobook & Book Review

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)

Today I'm over at Tynga's Reviews, reviewing The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan.  Click on the cover image above to find out why I give it (and the series, really) 5 of 5 stars!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke | Book Review

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II

Elephant Company is such a good book!  Like, I am not very much the travel adventurer type, and this book had me wanting to go to the Burmese jungle!

Elephant Company is, in my humble opinion, slightly mis-titled.  Don't get me wrong:  fantastic book about an incredible guy... but very little of the book is about the elephants in WWII.  A little over 2/3 of the book is about James Williams and the start of his career in Burma with a logging company.  He was hired to oversee the elephant "workers" at multiple camps throughout the northeast of the country.  On the job, he learned a ton about the elephants and their care, and the culture of the uzis (the elephant caretakers) and mahouts (elephant overseers/trainers).  With this knowledge and his empathy for the gentle giants, Williams institutes new training and management techniques.

Then toward the end of the book we get to hear about the elephants in WWII.  I don't remember ever learning much at all about WWII in Burma, but it was not good.  Lots and lots of lives lost, unfortunately, and many of those were civilian lives.  Over and over, Williams worked to coordinate teams of elephants to help ferry supplies and build "elephant bridges" to help the Allied troops.  I don't want to give any spoilers; you'll have to read the book to find out about the incredible human life rescue mission that the elephants helped with!

Not overly dense, this is a great narrative nonfiction.  Oh, and lots of pictures throughout.  Not all crammed onto five glossy pages in the middle, but scattered among the text!  I love love love that.

*I checked out my copy of Elephant Company from my local library.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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've Recommended Recently

This week is technically a "freebie" week on The Broke and the Bookish, so I thought I'd share the top ten books I've recommended to others recently!  These are in no particular order.

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
1. Elephant Company by Vicki Croke.  Recommended to the hubby; he read it and loved it.  (I read it and loved it too.)

No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII
2. No Better Friend by Robert Weintraub.  Recommended it to the hubby; he's currently reading it and loving it.  (I haven't read it yet.)

3. Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins.  Recommended it to an aunt; she agreed with my consensus that it's adorable for reading with little ones.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
4. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.  Recommended it to a coworker; she hasn't read it yet.

Little Brother (Little Brother, #1)
5. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  Recommended to a teen at work who is really into hacking.  Haven't heard yet whether or not she read it and/or enjoyed it.

Penguins with People Problems
6. Penguins With People Problems by Mary Laura Philpott.  Recommended to my sister; I don't think she's read it yet.

The Isle of the Lost (Descendants, #1)
7. The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz.  Recommended it to a teen at work; she watched the movie but didn't read the book (yet).  Close?  ;)

The Bookman’s Tale
8. The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett.  Recommended this one to a whole handful of people, it was so good!  At least three of them told me that they read it and enjoyed it.

The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey, #1)
9. The Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans.  Recommended these to a friend's teen, who read all of them in under three weeks, he liked them so much!

Confessions of a Murder Suspect (Confessions, #1)
10. Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson.  I recommend this one to teens at work on the regular.

And the reverse.... books recommended to me lately!

The Nightingale
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  Recommended to me by a sister-in-law; read it and loved it!

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  Recommended to me by a coworker; am still waiting my turn on the library's holds list.

StrengthsFinder 2.0
Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  Recommended to me by a coworker, but haven't read yet.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma.  Recommended by a sister-in-law; read it and loved it!

Want more details about why I recommend any of these?  Ask in the comments!  (Didn't want the post to be pages and pages long, and I can totally gush over these 10 books.)  Leave a link in the comments and I'll be sure to check out your Top Ten also!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan | Book Review

Under the Wide and Starry Sky
(Unfortunately, I feel that this cover is somewhat misleading.)

Under the Wide and Starry Sky is the story of Fanny de van Grift Osbourne.  In the late 1800s, she leaves her husband in America and moves to Paris with her three children.  Just that sentence alone tells you what an independent-spirited woman she was!  In that era, a woman didn't just leave her husband.  Not only does she leave her husband behind in America, but while in France she meets and falls for a younger man, a Scottish lawyer-cum-author named Robert Louis Stevenson.  (Somehow I missed that detail when I read the synopsis.  Made for a pleasant surprise around about chapter 10.)

While Fanny is featured prominently on the cover, and the muted blues make me think a bit of romance, this book is much more adventure than anything else.  Oh, and biography.  Yes, it's fiction, but Nancy Horan does a ton of research to stick as close as possible to the actual events of Stevenson's life.  (This is explained in a historical afterword at the end of the book.)  I had no clue that Stevenson did so much traveling in his life!  He and Fanny nearly completely circle the globe!

While Under the Wide and Starry Sky did have a little bit of a slower start, it quickly picks up once Fanny meets Stevenson, and the adventures never end after that.  Seeing Robert Louis Stevenson through another's eyes (Fanny's) is quite intriguing.  It was also fascinating to read about such free spirits during a period of history when most people stuck much closer to home.  Even the back stories of the two involved unusual occupations and/or travel!  Fanny and her first husband had lived in the wild West at one point, and Stevenson's family were lighthouse builders.  They met at an artists' retreat resort.  Not only did they love life with a passion, they also exhibit a fierce love for each other over and over.

I definitely recommend Under the Wide and Starry Sky!

*I received an advanced copy of Under the Wide and Starry Sky from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

PopSugar Reading Challenge Update

Happy Saturday!  This week I read The Fireflies Book by Brett Ortler, which is a book that's under 150 pages and The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith, which is a book with a blue cover.

Previously, I've read:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which is a book set in Europe.

What We Lost in the Dark by Jacquelyn Mitchard, which is a murder mystery.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, which is a book from the library.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl | Audiobook Review

The Last Bookaneer

What a wonderful book!  I saw on the book jacket that a bookaneer is "a literary pirate; an individual capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors, and readers must not have a part in."  I love it!  I love the idea of "literary pirates."  (As part of a story... not advocating people actually going out and committing what now constitutes severe copyright infringement.)

The Last Bookaneer is mostly written as an old, former bookaneer telling his tale to a young man.  As the story progresses in both contemporary time and the past, the bookaneer and the young man grow closer and closer, and their lives start to influence each other.

This book has many things I like!  Cross-generational/cross-socio-economic relationships (the bookaneer is an elderly white store owner in the early 1900s; the young man is a black railroad dining car server), books!, history, and an author-as-character.

There's two kinds of history to The Last Bookaneer:  the "contemporary" time in which the story is being told by the retired bookaneer (the early 1900s) and the time during which the bookaneer's last exploit takes place, in the late 1800s.  There's also author-as-character:  Robert Louis Stevenson!  The bookaneer's last journey was to Samoa, where Robert Louis Stevenson is living out the end of his life.

(I totally didn't know that about Stevenson.  And, incidentally, I read Under a Wide and Starry Sky at the same time as I listened to The Last Bookaneer, which is also about Robert Louis Stevenson.  I'm surprised I didn't get confused!  But now I want to read all of Stevenson's works, and a nonfiction bio of him.)

The Last Bookaneer did get off to a little bit of a slow start, but once it got going (and it didn't take too terribly long to get going) it really got going.  A journey to Samoa (at that time practically the end of the world) to commandeer--bookaneer--what might be Stevenson's last book?  YES PLEASE!

More good news:  the narration is excellent.  There are two narrators, so the young man and retired bookaneer each have a very distinct voice.  They both do a great job with pacing and clarity of enunciation and volume modulation.  I was hooked!

*I checked out my copy of The Last Bookaneer from my local library.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard | Audiobook Review

What We Saw at Night (What We Saw at Night, #1)

Often, I'll have a book on my to-read list and I'll dive in without reading the synopsis.  This was one of those.  For some reason, I'd thought this was dystopian or sci-fi... it's not.  But it's SUCH. A. GOOD. BOOK!

Two buzz words to throw at you:  xeroderma pigmentation and parkour.  This book has both!  You might think that's a lot going on, and the plot would get lost, but it's not.

The three main characters all have xeroderma pigmentation* and they all live in the same small Maine town because that's where a hospital clinic for the disorder is located.  Their conditions mean that they can't go outside during the day, so they roam the town at night.  They're teens!  For teens, they get into surprisingly little trouble having free reign at night.  Unfortunately, not much of anything is open at night in small towns, so they have to be creative to entertain themselves.  They come upon parkour**.  

One night, Allie sees something while they're tracing^ an apartment building.  She sees a man attacking a woman.  This begins a tense game of cat-and-mouse as she tries to deal with what she's seen, while feeling like the man is out to get her.

While not at all a dystopian or sci-fi, this is more of a thriller.  I was on the figurative edge of my seat the whole book!  It was so well-written.  And I loved the extra, unusual parameters of the characters having XP^^ and training in parkour.  I'm totally looking forward the sequel!

*xeroderma pigmentation:  a rare heretitary defect of the enzyme system that repairs DNA after damage from ultraviolet rays, resulting in extreme sensitivity to sunlight and a tendency to develop skin cancer.

**parkour:  a training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training.  Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible.  Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement, and other movements as deemed most suitable for the situation.  Parkour's development from military training gives it some aspects of a non-combative martial art.

^tracing:  the act of performing parkour in/on a space or building.

^^XP:  xeroderma pigmentation.

*I checked out What We Saw at Night from my local library.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood byDiana Henry | Cookbook Review

First Impressions Upon Read-Through:
Gorgeous, hardcover cookbook!  Could even be a display piece.

Not spiral bound, but it does lay open pretty well.

Matte pages with about half of the recipes photographed.  Gorgeous, gorgeous, hunger-enducing photographs!

Unfortunately, plenty of recipes calling for ingredients that I just don't keep around, including quite a few references to Indian or Moroccan ingredients.  The author is British; perhaps some of these things are easier to find there than in the American South (where I am)?

Recipes I Tried:
Chicken with Thyme and Lemon and Smashed Garlic Potatoes: chicken as excellent, with crispy skin & juicy insides. Potatoes were mediocre. Not bad, but not as good as another recipe I already have for garlicky potatoes. 

*I checked out my copy of A Bird in the Hand from my local library.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins | Book Review

Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball

A Goodreads friend of mine read this and posted a short review, and I immediately thought of a family member who loves snow and loves sharing books with her grandchildren.  I knew I had to request it from my library and check it out!

I'm so glad I did!  What a wonderful book all over!  Emily Jenkins writes a great story.  I couldn't believe how much personality she gave to a red rubber ball!  (I loved all of the toys' personalities.  You'd be hard pressed not to identify with one of them.  I think I'm most like StingRay.)  Couple that with Paul O. Zelinsky's gorgeous illustrations... winner all around!

I definitely recommend that you check out this delightful book chronicling three toys first experiences in the snow.  You know you want to see what kind of snow angel a stuffed buffalo makes!  :)

*I checked out Toys Meet Snow from my local library, and added it to my wishlist for my own baby's library!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

PopSugar Reading Challenge Update

Happy Saturday!  This week I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which is a book set in Europe, and What We Lost in the Dark by Jacquelyn Mitchard, which is a murder mystery.

Previously, I read:
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, which is a book from the library.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Babar: To Duet or Not to Duet by Laurent de Brunhoff with Elaine Waisglass and Jean de Brunhoff | Book Review

Babar Story Book: To Duet Or Not to Duet (Babar Series)

Babar: To Duet or Not to Duet is a cute picture book about saying what you mean and following through.  It is out of print now, but you may be able to find it at your local library or through your local library's interlibrary loan service.  I requested this through my library to share with my nieces and nephews, who also thoroughly enjoyed it.  The story's pacing is excellent, and the drawings are nice and colorful.  A short and sweet review of a short and sweet book.

*I checked out my copy of Babar: To Duet or Not to Duet from my local library.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton | Audiobook Review


At my church, we have a "Pastor's Book Club" and participants can read books selected by our head pastor and then gather to discuss them.  I haven't been able to attend a meeting yet, but I try to read as many of the books as possible.  Orthodoxy was one of the selections.

This was a deep book.  In hindsight, it was maybe not a listen-to-while-commuting book.  I might need to re-read in the future.  For a short book, it packs a big punch!

Orthodoxy is the story of G.K. Chesterton's own conversion in his very young adult years.  The first chapter introduces the book as a "positive" counterpoint to his other book, Heretics.  If this is the positive counterpoint, I don't know if I want to read Heretics!  This book is definitely convicting.  (Which isn't always a bad thing; don't get me wrong.)

There were lots of great quotes to be taken from this one, though.  It is great for apologetics, as it takes unarguable historical facts and uses them to build a basis for faith.  Unfortunately, I read this a couple months ago (while in the throes of grad school) and don't remember any exact quotes to share.  You'll just have to check it out!

I do recommend Orthodoxy, but I think I recommend a physical copy rather than an audiobook.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith | Audiobook Review

The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #5)

Yup; continuing to read these books!  I got a late start on them, so there's already quite a few available to me.  And, conveniently, my library has them available through our eaudiobook service, so I can download them right away!

The Full Cupboard of Life definitely made me laugh out loud more than any of the previous books!  The detective assignment in this one is to sort through potential suitors for a wealthy owner of a chain of beauty parlors.  My goodness!  Both the owner and the suitors have personality for miles!  On top of that, the proprietor of the orphan farm manages to talk Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni into jumping out of an airplane for a charity fundraiser!  Poor Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.  A bonus: we readers get to know Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's two apprentices better in this book, and they're interesting guys.  Especially in their interactions.  :)

This whole book just flew by too quickly.  The same narrator reads The Full Cupboard of Life and does the same great job.  I continue to recommend this series.

*I checked out my copy of The Full Cupboard of Life from my local library.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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 2015 Releases I Meant to Read and Didn't
When I sat down to write this post, I came up with a list of thirty three books!  This is the much-pared down list.  :)  (First ten are in order of desire to read in 2016; Honorable Mentions are in order by author's last name.)

Go Set a Watchman
1. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The Cage (The Cage, #1)
2. The Cage by Megan Shepherd

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)
3. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum, #22)
4. Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

The Murder of an Angel (Confessions, #4)
5. The Murder of an Angel by James Patterson

Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird, #2)
6. Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

All Fall Down (Embassy Row, #1)See How They Run (Embassy Row, #2)
7. All Fall Down and See How They Run by Ally Carter

Unleashed (Uninvited, #2)
8. Unleashed by Sophie Jordan

Spinning Starlight
9. Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

All the Bright Places
10. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Honorable Mentions
Persuasion by Martina Boone
No Such Person by Caroline B. Cooney
The Precious One and Connect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos
The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis
Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
Killer Within by S.E. Green
At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Finders Keepers and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Another Day by David Levithan
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
The Lake House by Kate Morton
The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige
A New Season by Alan Robertson
The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Stand-Off by Andrew Smith
Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

And you?  What books did you mean to get to in 2015 and didn't?

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith | Audiobook Review

The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #4)

Oh, how I love this fun series!  I have had the best luck finding good series for audiobook listening on my commute.  First the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich (fun stories + good narrator) and now The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith (also fun stories + good narrator + good setting).  The Kalahari Typing School for Men is the fourth book in this series.

I think The Kalahari Typing School for Men is one of my favorite No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books so far!  Up until now, Precious' detective agency hasn't only be the No. 1 Ladies' detective agencies in Botswana; it's been the only detective agency in Botswana.  In this story, a new detective agency opens in town in competition!  I loved reading how Precious handles this "threat" with her very strong feelings about propriety and all.  Also in this book, we get to learn a lot more about her assistant, Mma Makutsi.  I really enjoyed learning more about her background, and her current home life, and her hopes and dreams.  At one point I think I started liking her as a character even more than Precious!  Turns out she's a very strong person, and very smart, and very kind.  The titular Kalahari Typing School for Men is all her idea.

These books aren't terribly deep or dense, but they are definitely enjoyable.  Especially, in my humble opinion, as audiobooks.  I'd have no clue how to pronounce all the Botswana names!  I'm quite content to let a narrator read the book to me.  On top of the lovely little insights into the characters' lives, you also get a mystery or two for the detectives to solve, and a great setting.  Alexander McCall Smith describes Botswana in such a way that makes me want to go there!

*I checked out my copy of The Kalahari Typing School for Men from my local library.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2016 Update

Happy Saturday!  2016 is off to a good start; I'm already able to check a book off the list!  This week I read:
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, which is a book from the library.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith | Audiobook Review

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3)

What a fun series!  I don't read these because they're earth-shattering or award-winning or recommended by coworkers.  I read these because they're light and enjoyable during my commute.  I love how with every book in the series I get more and more familiar with Mma Ramotswe's Botswana village.  If it were a really place, I feel like I could find her cozy house on Zebra Drive and hang out with her.  (If she'd let me.)

Morality for Beautiful Girls continues the saga of Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (nope; still not married), and also gives us a nice mystery for Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi to solve.

This has been my favorite mystery so far.  Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate the four finalists of Botswana's national beauty pageant, and make sure that all of them are upstanding young ladies.  We are all familiar by now with Mma Ramotswe's rather strict sense of Botswana social mores, so this assignment is right up her alley.  Also, all of her traveling around Botswana lets us "see" even more gorgeous African scenery.

I do these books as audiobooks during my commute, and sometimes find myself laughing out loud.  The narrator's gently lilting accent keeps me calm even when other drivers are acting the fool on the road.  I definitely recommend.

*I checked out my copy of Morality for Beautiful Girls from my local library.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff | Book Review

What to Expect When You're Expecting

Yes, of course I read What to Expect When You're Expecting!  I'm a reader/researcher through and through, and I'm pregnant.  My doctor told me to go ahead and read anything/everything I wanted, just so long as I came back to them with any questions before making lifestyle changes.  My friends told me not to read it; that it was too much information and would scare me.

I ended up reading a lot of it very late at night, unable to sleep due to morning (ha ha ha... it's 24/7, y'all) sickness, aches, and/or tooth/gum pain.  I ended up feeling really reassured by the book.  I had some symptoms that felt horrible in the moment, but there was a chance they wouldn't last (they didn't; I feel great now in my 2nd trimester), and I wasn't alone, and it could be much worse.  

I give What to Expect When You're Expecting two thumbs up.  I would continue to caution people that it is quite dense in information, and not all of it will apply to every person.  But overall, I loved learning more about what I was experiencing, and what was to come.

The book is broken into different sections.  First there's pre-conception, about how to eat right and track ovulation and what to expect with IVF (if needed).  I skipped this; I didn't buy the book until I was two months in!  My favorite section is the one that walks you through the pregnancy month by month, with what to expect and what you should try to accomplish.  There's tons of great advice about what to eat to make sure Baby is getting enough of the nutrients they need and what simple exercises you can do to stay in shape and to prevent/treat some of the aches.  It also tells about Baby's development month by month.  I was so excited to read that at a certain week, my baby was developing a beating heart, or now able to flex fingers and toes.  You can't see in there, so I loved that connection of reading what Baby might be up to!

There's a section on labor and delivery of course too, that I only skimmed.  I plan to re-read more thoroughly when I get closer.  It has lots of advice on what to ask or look for on a hospital tour and advice on finding a doula/midwife if you'd like one, and on what to pack for the hospital.  I do remember seeing that I should pack snacks for Hubby, because I might be there in labor in the middle of the night!  At the end of the book is the "scary" section; everything that might go wrong during the pregnancy and/or labor.  I only skimmed this section too.  I can see why someone might recommend that a pregnant lady skip that section.  But my doctor keeps telling me that Baby & I are fine, so I'm not worrying.  (Especially since I feel so much better!)

Overall, I'd say this is a great reference.  I read a lighter book, The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy, concurrently for some more simple, real-life advice too.  It was a good balance.  I would recommend that.

*I own my copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe | Audiobook Review

No Longer at Ease (The African Trilogy, #2)

Such a good book!  It feels a little weird to say that, though, as the story is that of the downfall of Obi Okonkwo.  Obi is a good boy from a good family who "makes it big" in securing a government job.  It's the 1950s in Nigeria, and bribes are almost taken as a normal part of doing business.  Obi is pressured from the start to exchange favors for money.  At first he's able to resist... until he meets a girl.  (That's not a spoiler; it's all in the book's synopsis.)

No Longer at Ease is the story of Obi's coming into adulthood and starting out on his own, away from his village.  It's also the story of how someone handles the transition from a secure culture in which they are assured of their role and into a newer, faster culture, in which they may not quite know how to operate.  Obi grew up in a very traditional home, but had the good fortune to attend school in England.  At this time in Nigeria, government jobs were mostly held by European immigrants, but Obi's education allows him to receive a government job as well.  As soon as his family and friends find out, they begin asking him for money.  He's the one with a salary, after all.  I felt bad for Obi, having to try to balance his own most needs for shelter in the city and food and all with the demands of his family far away.  On top of that, he's just starting a new job and he really wants to succeed.  That's a lot of pressure for a young man!  I was impressed with his ability to handle it all.

Then, as I mentioned earlier, he meets a girl.  As their relationship progresses, he becomes distracted by her and their growing life together, and begins to give in to some of the outside pressures to grant favors and give money.  And... you'll need to read the book to find out if Obi is able to find balance between the culture of his youth and the culture/needs of adulthood!

Speaking of reading the book, I read this one on audiobook and it was great.  I'm an American who's barely ever left the country, so I'm hopeless when it comes to pronouncing African names, even in my head.  I really appreciate audiobooks for this type of book.  And this narrator had a nice lilt to their voice that made for very pleasant listening.

*I checked out my copy of No Longer at Ease from my local library.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

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 Bookish Resolutions for 2016

I have one bookish resolution for 2016:  complete my Reading Challenge.  Last year I didn't.  :(  I don't like failing at things, even little inconsequential things like arbitrary reading challenges.  So this year my resolution is to complete the Reading Challenge!

(I would give ten resolutions, but if I'm honest with myself, I know that I won't finish them all.  If I only set one, there's a good chance I'll accomplish it!)

What about you?  What are your top ten (bookish or not) resolutions for 2016?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale | Audiobook Review

Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)

Midnight in Austenland is more of a companion novel than a sequel.  We get a fresh new main character with a fresh new perspective.  The setting is the same, and Jane (from Austenland) is a supporting character.

Midnight in Austenland follows divorcee Charlotte Kinder, and I found her much more "real" and relatable.  She's pretty down to earth, even insisting that the resort allow her access to her cell phone once a day so that she can call her kids.  She's not boy-crazy; she's treating herself to a much-needed retreat to rest, relax, and regroup.  This is the kind of visitor to Austenland that I would be; able to immerse myself in the costumes and games for fun, but remembering that I would return to a real 21st-century world in two weeks.

Another feature of Midnight in Austenland that I thoroughly enjoyed:  the mystery!  The book almost begins to read a little like a real-life game of Clue.  I love a good whodunnit!  And just as Austenland was kind of "romance lite," Midnight in Austenland is "murder mystery lite."  There's no gratuitous blood and gore, and the scare factor wasn't very high at all.

I did listen to this one on audiobook, and I'm not sure if that colored my opinion at all.  It was a good listen, with a clear-voiced narrator.

Overall, this still wasn't a five-star book, but it was definitely better than Austenland.  It's too bad all the setting development occurs in Austenland, or I'd actually just recommend that readers jump straight to this one!

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

Saturday, January 2, 2016

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2016!

I'm going to try again!  I didn't complete the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge, but I'm not a quitter.  I'm going to see if I can make the 2016 Challenge happen!  Here it is:

Keep checking back on Saturdays; that's when I'll update.  And feel free to recommend again!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe | Book Review

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)

Flashback Friday Review!

I read Things Fall Apart in high school, for class, and I actually really enjoyed it.  I don't remember which year I read it, but I do remember really enjoying all my English/Literature classes in high school.  I must have had one great teacher after another.  

Fast forward many years, and I finally read the follow-up book, No Longer at Ease.  I really enjoyed it too!  Look for that review next week.  But for continuity's sake, I'd like to let you know that I gave Things Fall Apart 5 of 5 stars on Goodreads, and to give you the book's synopsis (so that we're caught up and all):

Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a "strong man" of an Ibo village in Nigeria.  The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries.  These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.  Things Fall Apart is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.

*I own my copy of Things Fall Apart.