Monday, October 31, 2016

A Red Herring Without the Mustard + Ghostland - Mystery Review + DNF

A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia de Luce #3) by Alan Bradley (Amazon link)
Aspiring chemist and frequent Know it All Flavia de Luce is back for her 3rd book with a new mystery.  This one gets off to a rather ominous start as Flavia gets a rather terrifying fortune while visiting Gypsy, Finella,  at the church fair.  Anytime Flavia is involved in a situation chaos tends to break out and the fair is no exception ending with a fire and Finella needing a place to stay.  I enjoyed getting to see more of Flavia and getting a little more insight into her mother Harriet who has always been a shadow in the background.  The mystery itself was interesting though it felt a little convoluted with a missing baby, multiple violent attacks, and lots of stolen property.  I'm not sure if it was the book itself or the fact that I had a lot going on while I was listening but I never really felt like the story fully came together.  I did feel like I got the answers I wanted and their were a few tantalizing clues dropped that have me anxious to read the next book in the series.

This was a series I hesitated to read because the main character is a young girl.  However, while Flavia does come off as immature at times but it didn't come off as annoying.  I do feel for her a number of times because despite her brilliance you get flashes of the lonely little girl she really is.  This book isn't my favorite in the series but I did enjoy it and it's definitely a series I plan on continuing with.  If you enjoy audio books at all this series is read by the fantastic Jayne Entwistle.  I love her voice and her ability to really bring scenes to life. Rating - Good

And then there's Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey.  Words cannot describe how much I wanted to love this book.  I was so sure I was going to love it that I ordered it new, in hardcover, without a gift card, and then put it on the very top of my TBR pile despite never having read any of Colin Dickey's other books.  I love history, I love ghost stories, I love learning bits of odd information so I was so excited.

That excitement lasted until I actually started reading the book. I was still on board when I saw the places listed in the table of contents.  Some were places I had heard of - the Winchester Mansion, The House of Seven Gables, The Stanley Hotel, and Myrtles Plantation - and some were completely new to me.  The book itself is exquisitely researched.  I have no doubt that the author spent hours on each location researching the actual place, history, as well as attitudes of the time and literature references.  My problem is that not only did I feel all the time spent researching while I was reading but all the information felt a bit disjointed and I lost the focus of the actual story that he was trying to tell a number of times.  I made it to page 119 before I finally called it quits.  There was so much information that got lost in the sheer load of data and I finished several chapters not quite sure exactly what the subject was. Honestly, this book just wasn't for me.  While I love the idea of the book I found that the actual book just felt like all the fun had been left out.  Rating - DNF

Sunday, October 30, 2016

This Week in Reading - October 30

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Old Bones by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - Bones found in the garden of a house a girl disappeared from 20 years earlier. I love old secrets, old bones, and missing persons cases so I'm really excited about this one! (NetGalley)

First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley - This is the 4th book in a cozy mystery series about a not very outdoorsy outdoors reporter in Oregon.  I've really enjoyed getting to know Meg and I'm looking forward to this mystery which involves a murder at a 5K.  Unlike a lot of other outdoors events I think this one is very relatable as it seems like every 3rd person is training for a 5K or wants to train for a 5K.  (NetGalley)

I actually went to a bookstore tonight and left without any books!  I saw several I want to check out later but I was pretty proud of my self control.


Reading: Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman and Send in the Clowns by Julie Mulhern.  I'm up to my ears in mystery goodness!

Listening:  Podcasts right now but I'm downloading Moonraker by Ian Fleming which is the 3rd James Bond to start Monday.  J is not super enthusiastic about having the movie Moonraker in his future.  Apparently he saw it in the theaters when it first came out and was not a fan.

Watching:  Football (War Eagle!) has been taking up quite a bit of TV time.  I've also been watching Heir Hunters on Netflix and am still enjoying it.  I've become the expert on inheritance laws in the UK which does me absolutely no good but is a lot of fun.  Of the new fall shows we watched American Housewife and were pretty meh about it.  I love the commercials but the actual show just wasn't as funny.  We watched the first Designated Survivor and enjoyed it but haven't watched anymore.  I'm liking the way Criminal Minds, NCIS, and NCIS: New Orleans are going so I've really enjoyed those.

Off the Blog:

Halloween is tomorrow and the Tornado is bouncing off the walls.  He's going to be a Ninja and is beyond excited about his costume.  We've been invited to go trick or treating with some friends and also a local museum where my mother works is having a big to do and she's trying to convince us to go to that.  J and I are leaning to just going on our own as this is probably the last year where not going with friends will be okay and it'd be nice having it be simple.

I have an appointment at an allergist Wednesday and am finishing off day 2 of no Benadryl.  It's rough! It's kind of scary how dependent I am on it.  I actually had an appointment at the end of September but there was so much out there that I was allergic too that I just couldn't do 5 days without any medicine.  I'm curious to see what my options are for treatment and my goal is to make an informed decision even if it's just to keep doing what I'm doing.

Bookfair at the Tornado's school is this week and I think we're all looking forward to it!  I'm volunteering at it on Monday and then J is going to lunch with him and to it later on in the week when they have a big parent lunch and shop.  I have a feeling we will not be hurting for books!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: A Red Herring Without Mustard + Ghostland - Mystery and DNF Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books to Read if Your Book Club Likes Children's Literature
Wednesday: Send in the Clowns - Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Review + Giveaway
Thursday: Without a Doubt - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups featuring Current Book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

52 Pins in 52 Weeks - October Edition

I love Pinterest.  I love pinning recipes from my favorite food blogs or scrolling down the Everything section to see what everyone else has been pinning.  I love the idea of all the crafts and recipes and everything else right there at my fingertips.

Right now I have around 10,000 pins in 60 boards.  I do use Pinterest a pretty good bit but tend to stick to the boards regarding Dinner and let other delicious looking recipes or fun crafts languish unused and ignored.  This year I'm trying to get more use out of Pinterest so at the beginning of the year I created my 52 Pins in 52 Weeks Board as well as a Results Board to keep track of it.  I'll be posting my results the last Saturday of each month.

This month was fun!  I did some Halloween treats and also ended up having to get a little creative due to some incomplete links,  All in all I think it turned out pretty well.

Week 40:

Reason Picked: Honestly, I thought I had made these before and remembered them as being fun and pretty easy.

Basic Idea:  Take a Fudge Stripe Cookie and turn it upside down.  Put an unwrapped Hershey Kiss over the center of the cookie and line with a thin ring of colored icing.  

The Results:  Pretty good!  I hit a snag with the actual link because it was more a how-to on the packaging and not the cookies themselves.  Also, it turns out I hadn't made these I'd made Pilgrim hats which are basically the same thing except a mini Reese's cup instead of a Hershey Kiss.  I bought the pre-made icing in the little tube and it was really easy to make it look good.  I also added a Halloween sprinkle to the icing "ribbon" and really liked how it looked.  I'm definitely planning on making these next year as even someone of my limited decorating experience can make these look really cute.  The only thing I'll do differently is make sure that I don't get a gel color as the translucent of the purple gel icing I got just made it look black and not stand out very much.  

Week 41:

Reason Picked:  This is one of my favorite food blogs and Dreamsicles are a favorite of J's.

Basic Idea:  An orange flavored loaf cake with a ribbon of cream cheese and an orange vanilla icing.

The Results:  Disappointing.  I was a little worried going in as the recipe only featured a quarter cup of actual orange juice for 3 loaves but called for 3 teaspoons of orange extract in the cake and another teaspoon in the frosting.  Now I don't mind a little bit of orange extract here and there to bump up the flavor but there being so little orange juice and no zest concerned me.  Unfortunately, it turned out I was right to be concerned as the cake ended up tasting artificial.  I also didn't find that the cream cheese ribbon was very apparent and was disappointed in the texture of the frosting.  This is still one of my favorite food blogs but next time I think I'll trust my instincts a bit more.

Week 42:

Reason Picked:  I liked the idea of having themed coasters

Basic Idea:  Take a tile, slather it with Mod Podge, top with cut out paper of your choice.

The Results:  Super easy and also easy to customize.  I followed her instructions exactly and was really pleased how easily it all came together and how quick it is to do.  I'm more than a little craft-impaired but I was pleased with the results.  I used a confetti vellum paper on one tile and patterned scrapbook paper (not cardstock) on the other.  I will say the scrapbook paper was easier as the vellum got wrinkled looking.  Both pieces attached to the tile with no problem especially after I made sure and got a good seal around the edges.  She gives timelines for usage after completion (24 hours before any use, 30 days before something hot) which I appreciated.  My one concern is how well these will hold up over time as the paper isn't sealed or waterproofed in anyway. However, if the paper begins to look worn I think it'd be pretty easy to scrub off and do another one on the same tile.  Since I like the idea of changing these up seasonally and it's super quick this isn't a problem for me.

Week 43:

Reason Picked: It's so cute and seemed reasonably easy.

Basic Idea:  A Pretzel Bark coated with chocolate and topped with spooky eyes and other fun Halloween candies.

The Results:  SOOOOOOO sweet.  Like messed up my blood sugar for the rest of the day kind of sweet.  That being said I don't think this is a total loss.  It's so fun to make and so easy to customize and I love the basic idea of sweet and salty.  Seriously - chocolate covered pretzels are my favorite!  BUT I think the problem lies with the combination of the buttery brown sugar coating on the pretzels and the white chocolate topping.  I think the two together pushes it into way to sweet zone.  I really loved the bits I got that was just the pretzels, brown sugar and dark chocolate.  So next year I'm planning on making this again but leaving out the white chocolate entirely and going with a really good dark chocolate to cut down on the sugar overload.  I think it'd still be sweet enough to be kid friendly (especially when topped with spooky eyes, M&Ms, Halloween sprinkles and whatever else you can throw on it) but not so overwhelming for the rest of us.

This week I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Linkups: Bunnicula

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
You've been invited to a costume party and the theme is classic literature characters.  Who would you go as?

My Answer:
Even though Great Expectations is far from my favorite book I'd love to go as Miss Havisham.  Second place would be Anne from Anne of Green Gables.

This week's book is one that I was completely unaware of for far too long.  Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe was published in 1979 and so was around when I was growing up but I completely missed this hilarious and quirky story of a rather suspicious looking bunny, Harold the dog, and Chester the cat.  Luckily, Stormi over at Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! is very aware of it and I was fortunate enough to win a copy in a giveaway last year.  This year I've been reading it as a bedtime book to the Tornado (age 6) and he's been loving it.  It's perfect to get a good taste of Halloween without getting too scary.

The Beginning:
I shall never forget the first time I laid these now tired old eyes on our visitor.  I had been left home by the family with the admonition to take care of the house until they returned.  That's something they always say to me when they go out: "Take care of the house, Harold.  You're the watchdog."

My Thoughts:
I love that the narrator is a dog and I love that it's not really apparent until it explicitly says that he's the watchdog!

The 56:
There was Chester, with Mr. Monroe's towel draped across his back and tied under his neck like a cape.  That was strange enough, but on his face was an expression that sent chills down my spine.

My Thoughts:
I feel the need to point out that Chester is a cat and I absolutely love the mental image of a cat with a cape around his neck.  The chilling expression isn't too hard to picture though!

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  What are your favorite Halloween books?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Obsession - Review

The Obsession by Nora Roberts

Rating: Very Good
Source: Library

Description:  Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods.  In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father's crimes and made him infamous.  Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she's ever known, Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up - especially the determined Xander Keaton.  Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she's always secretly craved.  But as she's learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.  (from Goodreads)

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Why I Picked This Book:  It's Nora Roberts.  Her books are basically auto-buys.  Especially her romantic suspense titles.

My Impression:  Nora Roberts has this ability to just draw me into the world of her stories and make me not want to leave until the end.  It made it super disappointing when her books over the last few years just haven't done that.  I was pleased when last year's stand alone title, The Liar, had that ability but worried that that was a fluke.  If anything The Obsession was even better - like an episode of Criminal Minds but with a love story and really likable side characters.  Roberts' takes us inside the serial killer's lair and in the 2nd half of the book inside his mind.  While it isn't super gorey there are some details that the more squeamish readers might want to avoid.

Naomi is smart and talented and a little skittish with people.  She's always been on the go without dependents and is surprised when she suddenly finds herself with a house, a dog and even more surprising - friends.  I loved the uncles and appreciated the struggle Naomi's mother went through.  You can see that's she's trying but is just so lost.

There are two basic plots in this book.  One centers around Naomi and her trying to adjust to the idea that she's really making a home here in Sunrise Cove.  The second centers around a serial killer who lurks in the shadows.  Both were fascinating and kept me turning pages and they went together well.  I liked the spaces where Naomi is thinking about her house or her family or her dog.  It lightened the book up a bit from the grimmer scarier stuff that was going on in the past and present day.

I'd absolutely love to see a book with Naomi's brother Mason as the main character.  He's absolutely fascinating and I found his and Naomi different methods for dealing with their past interesting and could see both sides. Jenny and Kevin were also great side characters and I found it impossible not to like them and would really love to see some of Jenny's work!  This is definitely a town I'd like to spend time in - minus the serial killer of course.

If you're a fan of romantic suspense this is a good one that has a good mix of both elements.  If you're familiar with Roberts' books I'd say this is similar to The Witness in terms of intensity and level of bad guys.  Overall, this is everything romantic suspense should be - entertaining, page turning, with a lot of suspense but also a lot of heart.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I can't wait to pick up Bay of Sighs - the latest in her newest trilogy - and I'm really looking forward to her next romantic suspense title.

Would I Recommend this Book?: If you love romantic suspense this is a must read!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lovers and Newcomers - Fiction Review

Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas (Amazon link)

Rating: Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Rosie Thomas, beloved by readers for her brilliantly realized characters and twisting, page-turning plots, turns her "sharp nib" (Washington Post Book World) to a group of older friends in this evocative story of camaraderie and its challenges.

Miranda Meadowe decides a lonely widowhood in her crumbling country house is not for her. Reviving a university dream, she invites five of her oldest friends to come and join her to live, and to stave off the prospect of old age. All have their own reasons for accepting.

To begin with, the omens are good. They laugh, dance, drink and behave badly, as they cling to the heritage they thought was theirs for ever: power, health, stability. They are the baby boomers; the world is theirs to change.

But as old attractions resurface alongside new tensions, they discover that the clock can’t be put back. When building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen, the outside world descends on their idyllic retreat, and the isolation of the group is breached. The past is revealed – and the future that beckons is very different from the one they imagined.

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book: I adored Thomas' Iris and Ruby earlier this year and definitely wanted to try more of her books.  I liked how different this one sounded from Iris and Ruby as well.

My Impression:  I'm pretty sure inviting 5 friends to come live with me even in separate houses may be one of the ideas that appeals to me the least in real life so I was curious to see what I thought of it in fiction form.  The answer?  So not for me but very entertaining to read about!

I did find that with this one, like many books with an ensemble cast, it took me awhile to get drawn into the novel and really get a feel for the characters.  In addition to the 5 friends Miranda invites to her home there are also several characters from the town, members of an archaeological team, and a handful of children of some of the friends.  With all the characters there is also quite a bit going on with backstories both from long ago and recently, current relationship issues, coming to terms with aging, ancient discoveries and dealing with adult children.  I didn't find it confusing but it was hard not to be a little detached at first.  However, even when I wasn't as engaged as I wanted to be I was still interested.

Once I did get to know the characters and understand what was going on a bit better it swiftly became a book I didn't want to put down.  Something about how the relationships between the characters reminded me of Rosamunde Pilcher - especially Shell Seekers and September.  I did feel like it was a bit darker but there was the same matter of fact dysfunction that Pilcher excels at portraying.

If you enjoy fiction packed with characters that have interesting backstories than I think you'd enjoy Lovers and Newcomers.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  While I didn't enjoy this book as much as Iris and Ruby I'm looking forward to seeing where else Thomas takes me!

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would definitively recommend this author and I would recommend this book but be prepared for a slower start.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Halloween Reads

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a Halloween Freebie.  I thought I'd talk about some of my favorite Halloween reads.  While I don't tend to read a lot of horror there are a few book of varying degrees of scariness that I feel the urge to read when the weather starts getting cooler and pumpkins start appearing.

1.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - I see this book on horror lists occasionally and I really wish it wasn't because I don't think it's really a horror book.  If you go in expecting that I think you're going to be disappointed.  However, it is incredibly creepy and all kinds of eerie and fantastic for this time of year!

2.  The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde - There is nothing scary about this book featuring a traditional English ghost in a traditional manor house who is not at all happy when an American family moves in and is decidedly un-scared by his ghostly behavior.  While the ending is a little odd I love the rest of this short little incredibly entertaining book!

3.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I just read this one for the first time and really enjoyed it.  I'm not sure if I'll be rereading this every year but I can definitely see trying to get it in audio next Halloween!

4.  Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe - I don't think I'd heard of this little book about a vampire bunny until Stormi mentioned it as her favorite Halloween book a year or two ago and then I was lucky enough to win it in a giveaway.  It's been the bedtime book for the Tornado this past week and he's loving it.  I was worried it'd be too scary but it really isn't and it's just wildly entertaining.  I see there are more books in the series and I'm looking forward to getting them next year.

5.  The House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels - I love Michaels' spooky gothic-y stories and this one about a spooky house with a long history is one of my favorites.  Plus, I have a little house envy as none of my family members has yet to leave me a big house crammed to the gills with boxes of who knows what!

6.  The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud - I really enjoyed this first one in the series about a group of adolescent ghost hunters.  The main characters are smart and entertaining and the ghosts are definitely menacing.  This is a series I'm really looking forward to continuing.

7.  Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side by L.M. Montgomery - When you think of Montgomery books what tends to come to mind are stories of optimistic hard working people who always look on the bright side of things.  In this short story collection things take a bit of a different turn with unsettling events, miserable characters and more than a couple of ghosts.  While most do have a happy or at least positive ending they're much darker than I would normally expect from the creator of Anne, Emily, Jane, and Marigold.

8.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle - I read this years and years ago but as I've been getting reacquainted with Holmes through reboots like Sherlock and Elementary I'm anxious to reread this one!

9.  The Moonstone Castle by Carolyn Keene - I have this one on my nightstand ready for a reread before Halloween happens.  While I devoured all of the Nancy Drew books as quick as I could as a child this one really sticks out in my head as one that gave me a serious case of the creeps. I'm looking forward to seeing just what it was that I found so creepy!

10.  Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey - After Liberty Hardy describe this book on the Book Riot All the Books Podcast I knew there was no way I could pass it up!  She compares Colin Dickey to a somewhat more morbid Mary Roach and it's all about ghosts!  I just started this one and I'm so excited about it!

What reads do you want to pick up at Halloween time?

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Graveyard Book - Review

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Amazon link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Purchased

Description:  After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

Genre: Children/YA

Why I Picked This Book: I've been wanting to try Neil Gaiman's books for years and this one intrigued me.

My Impression: My only real exposure to Gaiman is through the episodes of Doctor Who that he's written and to be honest they weren't my favorite.  They're on the weird side - even for that show and I just never really clicked with them.  When I saw a review awhile ago for The Graveyard Book I knew that was one I wanted to start with.  For one thing I love graveyards and love wandering through and looking at the names and inscriptions so I figured a book set in one couldn't go wrong.  But I did wonder how on earth this could be a children's book?  I mean there's a grisly murder in the first paragraph of the blurb!
But somehow Gaiman really does make this a children's book - a weird one yes but one I think a child in late elementary school would love.  It's also one that I think captures the imagination of adults as well as it definitely captured mine!  The story is told in a series of stories as Bod grows from a toddler into a young man.  Each story gave me a better picture of the graveyard world he lives in and I felt like I got to know Bod himself better.
The book itself has an almost magical hazy quality that sharpens into focus with the telling of each individual story.  The writing felt almost stark but also managed to bring the inhabitants of the graveyard to life.  There is poignancy, sweetness, and humor running throughout the book with a constant undertone of dread.  While it wasn't a book that I read in one sitting it was one that I was immediately pulled into anytime I put it up and one that stayed with me even when I wasn't reading.  There is a bizarreness that wouldn't work for everyone but I think this would appeal to many readers. I've heard raves about the audio version and after reading this I can see how it would be amazing.  I'd definitely "reread" this through audio.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  While I'm not sure I'm ready for his full on adult stories I'm looking forward to reading Coraline and Neverwhere soon.

Would I Recommend this Book?: I would but with some reservations.  This is definitely a captivating story but you have to be in the right mood for it and be okay with a heaping spoonful of magical.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

This Week in Reading - October 23

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Dead and Breakfast by Kate Kingsbury - This is the first in a new series featuring a Bed and Breakfast.  If that wasn't enough there are rumors that the place is haunted and an actual skeleton in the closet!  I can't wait!  (NetGalley)

And that's it!  I have a few requests pending but they're all for 2017 books and therefore don't count.


Reading:  Ghostland by Colin Dickey and Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas

Listening:  Everything Everything by Nicole Yoon

Watching:  We finished season 3 of The Blacklist with mixed feelings.  I think we're going to go on and watch season 4 but we need improvement quick!  I've also been streaming a show called Heir Hunters that's on Netflix.  Basically it follows researchers looking for heirs for unclaimed estates in England and I'm soo in love with it at the moment.  It's my new dream career!

Off the Blog:

This week was pretty busy on the school volunteer front.  Wednesday I chaperoned the Tornado's field trip to a local pumpkin patch/farm.  Because nothing says fall like standing in a field in 90 degree heat.  Than on Friday the school did a celebration for all the A and A/B students and I helped with that.  It was really fun to see the kids so excited.  Monday I get to help pass out cookie dough from the fundraiser and the week after is the book fair.  We also tackled the Halloween costume issue this past weekend and settled on a Ninja costume.  This is the first year he hasn't been a Star Wars character so it's taking some getting used too!

Tonight (Sunday) I'm going to go see Sarah Vowell speak and I'm looking forward to it.  I've only read her book Assassination Vacation but I really enjoyed it so I'm curious how she is in person.  The interviews I've seen of her seems like a little could go a long way so it should be interesting.    I've been exhausted lately.  I've really tried to go to bed early all week but all that's happened is I'm just as tired but without as much free time.  I think I may just up my coffee intake and hope it evens out!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: The Graveyard Book - Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Halloween Freebie
Wednesday - Newcomers and Lovers - Review
Thursday: TBD
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: 52 Pins in 52 Weeks - October Edition

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cuba - Cookbook Review + Recipe

I think the first time I had Cuban food was in this little restaurant when we were in Tampa, FL one summer.  The restaurant was kind of a hole in the wall so my hopes weren't high but the food was amazing and I've been in love with Cuban food ever since.

So when I saw Cuba: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen by Dan Golberg, Andrea Kuhn, and Jody Eddy on Blogging for Books I couldn't resist.  And this cookbook is gorgeous. The photographs are vivid and stunning showing everything from scenery to mouthwatering food to the people of Cuba.  This cookbook could double as a coffee table book since in addition to all the eye catching photos there are small stories that accompany each chapter and each recipe.

The chapters are divided a little unusually.  There is one on basics - stocks, rice, and plantains.   Then there are recipes on snacks, sandwiches and salads, main courses, small plates, and desserts and ending up with a number of cocktail recipes.

Unfortunately for me the cookbook involves a lot of seafood.  This isn't a shock given Cuba's location but I had hoped for more meat or vegetarian dishes.  A few things like Savory Goat Stew, Fried Whole Snapper with Salsa Verde, and Grilled Octopus with Jicama Slaw and Yuca Fries probably won't be made here anytime soon though they do sound delicious.  There are a number of recipes that have my mouth watering and I'm really looking forward to trying Fried Plantain Chips with Mojo, Roasted Pork Chop, Pork Chops with Warm Grapefruit Vinaigrette, Pureed Plantain Soup with Crispy Shallots, Chicken Stew with Corn, and a Cubano.  For dessert I might just have to have a big slice of Mojito Cake with Rum-Infused Whipped Cream and Lime Zest and maybe a Cafe Cubano Batido to go with it!

For now since the temperature has finally decided to drop below 90 here I thought I'd share the recipe for the

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

2 pound dried black beans
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, halved, and seeded
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup Lime Crema (recipe below)

Put the beans, the halved onion, the halved pepper, and the bay leaves in a large pot and cover with water by at least 3 inches.  Place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

Pour the beans and their soaking liquid into a large pot.  Make sure the water covers the beans by 1 inch, adding or removing water if necessary.  Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the beans are tender, 45 to 55 minutes.  Stir in the salt.

Let the beans continue to simmer while you make the sofrito.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.  Stir the sofrito into the beans.

Remove the now mush halved onion and pepper and the bay leaves from the bean pot and discard the bay leaves.  Place the vegetables in a blender and ladle in about 2 cups of the beans.  Puree the beans and vegetables.  Stir this puree back into the beans in the pot.  Add the chicken stock.  Bring the soup to a simmer and add the oregano, cumin, sugar, and vinegar.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot with dollop of Lime Crema.

Lime Crema
1 cup Mexican crema
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest

Whisk together all ingredients except the salt.  Season to taste with salt.  Refrigerate the crema until ready to serve.

While this cookbook isn't one I'm planning on using all the time it is one I'll reference for special occasions or when I'm the mood for something a little different.  It's definitely one I recommend browsing through.

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Linkups: The Woman in White

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
Instead of giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, you're going to give out homemade bookmarks.  What would the bookmarks look like?

My Answer:
I think I'd use a picture of Nancy Drew with her magnifying glass.  I love the look of the Nancy Drew illustrations and it's kind of Hallween-y.

This week's book is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  This is one of those books that I really have no idea why I haven't read it yet or why it took so long to get on my radar.  Going in I knew nothing about it other which added an extra bit of fun!

The Beginning: 
This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.

My Thoughts:
Hmmm.... Not sure what I was expecting but this wasn't it.  It seems a little more "classic" than I expected.  Also, I wonder what the woman here is enduring.  It doesn't sound like anything good!

The 56:
Our morning meal - once so full of pleasant good-humoured discussion of the plans for the day - was short and silent.

My Thoughts:
Things definitely don't sound like they are going well - maybe it's all the enduring that the Woman at the beginning was doing?

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Honor Bound - Blog Tour Contemporary Romance Review + Giveaway

Honor Bound (Montana Hamiltons #6) by B.J. Daniels

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with B. J. Daniels

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Description:  Ainsley Hamilton has always been the responsible one of the family. As the oldest daughter of presidential candidate Buckmaster Hamilton, she's also a potential target. For months she's sensed someone following her. When an expedition to scout locations for a commercial takes a terrifying turn, she's rescued by a natural-born cowboy who tempts the good girl to finally let loose.

Sawyer Nash knows just how reckless it is to fall for someone he's gone undercover to protect. Yet masquerading as an extra on set, he starts to see beneath Ainsley's controlled facade. And with the election—and a killer—drawing closer, Sawyer stands to lose not just his job and his life but the woman for whom he'd gladly risk both.

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been warming up to the Western Romances and Daniels is a name I've seen a number of times and have really been wanting to try her books!

My Impression:  Whew!  I think I need a nap after this one.  There is a LOT going on and tons of action.  I love a good romantic suspense and most of the Western romances I've read seem to be lacking the suspense element so I was pleased that this one seemed to have a good dash of danger.  And it really did!  This isn't overblown manufactured danger to throw the main characters together. The danger is very serious and coming from just about everywhere.

Ainsley Hamilton has been feeling like someone has been watching from the shadows for months but always chalked it up to her father's political position.  Normally when a character refuses help or seems to ignore danger but in this case it made sense.  She doesn't have any real proof - only a feeling and an occasional glimpse of a man disappearing into a crowd.  I think most people would think they were imagining things in that situation which is exactly what Ainsley thinks.  She's basically spent her life staying below the radar and not causing trouble and plans on continuing that pattern.  While Ainsley doesn't have the biggest personality I liked her.  She struck me as a real person and a nice one.  Sawyer is similar.  He's good at his job, loves a puzzle, and specializes in rescuing damsels in distress.  While I wasn't exactly sure of the relationship between him and Sheriff Curry the decision on Curry's part to call him in made a lot of sense.  I also really loved that Sawyer felt obligated to make sure Ainsley knew the whole truth before any relationship developed between them.  Honesty in a romance completely makes my day.

So we have the Sawyer/Ainsley relationship plus a stalker but this is the 6th book in the series and a LOT has happened in the previous books.  We have jewel thieves, politics, a crazy dysfunctional family, escaped killers, and a terrorist group as well as amnesia and a presidential election.   While Daniels did a good job of making me understand what was going on and who everyone was I think I would have benefited greatly from reading the previous books in the series.   While I liked the main characters and understood what was going on there were a few subplots I really wasn't invested in.

Because of all that was going on I kind of went back and forth on how I felt about the book itself.  I always found it incredibly readable but there were some moments in the middle where the book seemed to drag and I felt a bit overwhelmed with all that was happening.  Overall, this was an enjoyable read if you like romantic suspense but I do recommend starting at the beginning of the series.  After finishing this one I'm really looking forward to going back to the beginning!  Rating: Good

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Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would.  While I enjoyed this one I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the series from the beginning.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  I would recommend this series if you like romantic suspense but I think you'd enjoy it more if you started from the beginning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

All the Little Liars + Real Murders - Review

Rating:  Very Good
Description:  Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids vanish from the school soccer field in an afternoon. Aurora’s 15-year-old brother Phillip is one of them. Also gone are two of his friends, and an 11-year-old girl who was just hoping to get a ride home from soccer practice. And then there’s an even worse discovery—at the kids’ last known destination, a dead body.
While the local police and sheriff’s department comb the county for the missing kids and interview everyone even remotely involved, Aurora and her new husband, true crime writer Robin Crusoe, begin their own investigation. Could the death and kidnappings have anything to do with a group of bullies at the middle school? Is Phillip’s disappearance related to Aurora’s father’s gambling debts? Or is Phillip himself, new to town and an unknown quantity, responsible for taking the other children? But regardless of the reason, as the days go by, the most important questions remain. Are the kids still alive? Who could be concealing them? Where could they be?

With Christmas approaching, Aurora is determined to find her brother…if he’s still alive.

After more than a decade, #1 New York Times bestseller Charlaine Harris finally returns to her fan-favorite Aurora Teagarden series with All the Little Liars, a fabulously fun new mystery.

My Thoughts:  I can't even begin to describe how excited I was when I discovered that a new Aurora Teagarden mystery was coming out!  Way before I had even heard of Sookie Stackhouse I discovered Harris' Harper Connolly series which had me wanting to try all her other books.  Aurora's story was definitely my favorite!   And I'm thrilled to say that this book takes up just about where the last one left off.  The characters felt just the same and not like strangers with familiar names slapped on them. 

  The mystery kept me turning pages and I was holding my breath waiting to find out just what had happened.  Harris drops enough clues to keep me guessing and feeling like the story is progressing but I really didn't have a clear idea of what was happening until the end.  There is a bullying aspect that is absolutely heartbreaking and while it isn't easy to read I liked that Harris didn't just fix it with a wave of her magic author wand.  This is a quick read and thoroughly enjoyable!

Before I dove into All the Little Liars I wanted to reread the earlier Aurora Teagarden books.  While I didn't have time to reread the whole series, I did get the very first one read.  Real Murders is the very first murder that envelops quiet librarian, Aurora Teagarden.  The concept is an intriguing one that involves a club that focuses on discussions of historic crimes.  When members start being killed in scenarios that mimic those historic crimes they know something has gone horribly wrong.  

While this book was published in 1990 it really didn't feel dated.  There's an occasional mention of payphones and answering machines but the actual book felt completely modern.  The main issue is that I don't think a club that discusses old murders would raise any eyebrows now though it seemed to at the time.    Rating: Very Good

While there are a lot of cozy elements in this book I'd hesitate to call this series a cozy.  There are several scenes that go into graphic territory either discussing the brutality of a crime or an emotionally brutal attack on a very vulnerable character.  These non-cozy moments are pretty short and easily skippable but just keep that in mind when reading this series.

If you're new to the series you can jump right in with All the Liars and I don't think you'd have to much trouble figuring out who is who.  Or you could just read Real Murders because all the important characters in All the Little Liars are introduced there.  One thing I really love about this series is that the characters really seemed to grow in a natural fashion which really made me feel that these characters, especially Roe, are real people.  

If you want to get a taste of the series before diving into the book Hallmark Mysteries and Movie channel has a series of movies (I think they're on #4) which is somewhat based on the books.  They're a bit lighter and not entirely accurate but are lots of fun.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Characters I'd Name a Pet or Child After

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is 10 Characters I'd name a book or a child after.  This topic ended up being way harder than I expected!  A lot of my favorite characters either have really generic names or names I can't get my head around actually calling a cat or dog!  The timing is actually pretty good because we are most likely getting a kitten in the pretty near future and I need some serious name help!

1.  Penelope from The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher- I've actually had a cat named this after this book.  She died a number of years ago and I must say she didn't resemble the dignified but slightly bohemian Penelope at all!

2.  Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Anne (or Anna) was actually on the short list for if the Tornado had been a girl because of this book. While Anne isn't my favorite character I just couldn't name an infant Marilla!

3.  Bilbo from the The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - This is actually J's idea and I think it would be a fantastic name for a dog!

4.  and 5.  Daisy and Gatsby from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Though I hope they'd both be happier pets or children than their namesakes!

6.  Agatha because of Agatha Christie - I think this would be fantastic for an adult cat!  But only one that is dignified with just a dash of mischief!

7.  Tuppence from The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie - The only problem I have with this one is that I can't come up with a way to shorten it and Tuppence could be a bit of a mouthfull.

8.  Cinder from Cinder by Marissa Meyers - This one just seems like it should be done!

9.  Wimsey from Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books - This one just sounds kind of fun and definitely unexpected.  I think only diehard mystery readers would figure out where the name is from!

10.  Miranda from The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright - Though Miranda goes by Randy in the book.  I guess either could work?

Those are my ideas.  What are yours?  Have you named a pet (or a child) after a literary character?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rambling from the Stacks - What I'm Looking for in a Book

One of my favorite podcasts right now is What Should I Read Next? from Anne Vogel over at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  One of the things she does before giving reading suggestions is ask each visitor to list 3 books they loved, 1 book they hated, and what they're reading next.  After that she kind of does a quick summary based off all that on what she thinks they're looking for in a book.  I'm so in love with the concept and it's really gotten me thinking - What am I looking for when it comes to a book?

A few months ago I did this post about certain themes that always seem to draw me in and the few that repel me but those are specific topics and not the general theme which is what Anne normally focuses on.  So I've been looking over my Read list on Goodreads and going over some old posts about favorites to try and answer that question.

For me when it comes to picking the perfect book I'm looking for something with a historical element and either strong character growth or a fast moving plot.  I'm looking for a book that will teach me something and pull me into it's world so I'm not just reading I'm actually seeing the story unfold.  I like books that make me use my brain and teaches me something new but doesn't make me feel like I'm reading a textbook.

I'm not looking for a book centering around a hot button or controversial topic.  I don't like books that feel like they have the author is writing with an agenda or is lecturing me.  I don't want a book that feels like it is trying to make me cry

While I don't expect all action all the time I do want to feel like the book has a full story arc even if everything isn't tied up in a neat little bow.  I prefer books that aren't stream of consciousness writing or an open ended snapshot of someone's life or experience.

This year I've been trying to read out of my comfort zone with some success and I think knowing what I'm really looking for in a book will really help me step outside my usual box but still be able to choose a book that I'll enjoy or get a lot out of.

Big picture, what are you looking for in a book?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

This Week in Reading - October 16

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Pressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss - I really enjoyed the first book in this cozy series about a haunted museum and am really looking forward to this 2nd book.  I love that so far each book has really focused on one haunted item at a time.  (NetGalley)

Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino - I'm really curious about this one.  Originally I thought it didn't look like something I wanted to read but the more I mulled it over the more interested in the concept I became.  Basically, it's 3 close families that decide to knock down the walls between their houses and live in more of a commune type situation.  This is so opposite of anything that I would ever want to do that I'm curious to see what kind of conflicts arise in this story.  (Publisher)

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins - I've read a few of Higgins' straight romance books and enjoyed her writing style.  This one looks a little more emotional and less of a straight up romance.  I'm curious to see how she tackles a more serious book and I love books about sisters!  (Publisher)


Reading:  All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris and Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels 

Listening:  I finished with the 3rd Flavia de Luce book (not my favorite but still good) and am waiting for my turn for the next audio book.  Until than I've been listening to podcasts.  My current favorite is Most Notorious which focuses on historic crimes and is fascinating.  The host interviews authors of true crime books and they really explore different crimes.  I just listened to The 1876 Northfield Bank Raid by James-Younger Gang and couldn't stop listening.  And of course now I'm an expect on Jesse James and the Younger Brothers!  

Watching:  We're finishing up season 3 of Blacklist and I'm liking the 2nd half of the season a little better than the 1st but the first 2 seasons are WAY better.  I haven't really started on any of the new shows but I'm looking forward to the American Housewife sitcom.  It looks hilarious.

Off the Blog:

This week was tons of appointments.  It always seems like the week after vacation ends up being that way.  Not sure why it works out like that but I'm looking forward to being back on regular schedule next week.  On the plus side the Tornado has no cavities and I got my hair cut!

This weekend we're going camping and we're all looking forward to it.  The weather here has been in the mid-70s and just gorgeous this week and I'm excited about the campground where we'll be staying.  Also on the list this weekend is getting the Tornado's Halloween costume.  He has announced that he wants to be either a Ninja or a ghost which don't seem to hard to find.  This is the first year he hasn't been a Star Wars character so that's taking some time to get used too!

Eleanor and her boyfriend were over for dinner earlier this week and it was nice to catch up with them.  Eleanor just got a part time job at Starbucks and so far is really enjoying it.  She's got about another year or so of school left and they sound pretty organized and willing to work with her schedule which is a big plus.

That's about it here.  Nothing too exciting which is usually the best way. This coming week I'm looking forward to getting in some scary or spooky movies to get in the Halloween spirit so I'm working on picking a few that look good. 

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Ramblings from the Stacks - What I'm Looking for in a Book
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Characters I'd Name a Child or Pet After
Wednesday:  All the Liars - Mystery Review
Thursday: Honor Bound - Contemporary Romance Blog Tour Review
Friday:  Friday Linkups with teasers from current book
Saturday:  TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Charming Voodoo - Blog Tour Review + Scavenger Hunt Giveaway

A Charming Voodoo by Tonya Kappes (Amazon link) Rating: Good
Source:  Author


Bubble. . . bubble. . .
Whispering Falls is abuzz with the new
housing development and new shops
popping up all over the magical
village right before the annual All
Hallow’s Eve celebration.

Cures and trouble. . .
June Heal’s intuition
is on high alert and she just can’t shake
that something bad is about to happen.

Magic stirs . . .
June finds Violet Draper standing over a dead body
In the new pumpkin patch hours before it’s supposed
to open for hayrides.

And trouble doubles . . .
Once again, June has to put her sleuthing skills to work
and figure out who the real killer is before the new
citizens pack up and move right back out of town.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I've enjoyed other books by Kappes before and liked the setting for this one.  Who doesn't want a magical village?

My Impression:  This book was absolutely bonkers and I mean that in the best possible way.  For starters this isn't just a pretty village with hints of magic this is a full on magical village where shops magically appear and have exactly what you need.  Candles change scents depending on what the smeller really wants to smell and the perfect item of clothing, book or cure for whatever ails you is right at your finger tips.  I'm so in love with the concept I can't even begin to describe it!  But things are completely unicorns and rainbows as there are new policies at work that are opening the town to "mortals" or non-magical people and there is the usual problems popping up with that growth.  Oh yeah - there's also a subdivision built around a 200 acre farm that constantly has a market going.  Seriously, I wish this village existed!

This is definitely a cozy mystery in the coziest of meanings with an amateur detective, her police officer husband and each character quirkier than the next.  There's a pretty good dash of busy body-ness as June pokes her nose into the doings of other people as she tries to figure out just who left the rather dead body on top of a pumpkin.  However, since it is a really small town and her husband is the detective in charge it does give her some credibility.  There are a lot of subplots and a lot of character that at times got a little confusing.  I sorted it all out pretty easily but occasionally I would have to think "Okay who was that again?"  Not a big problem but a pretty small hiccup.  Part of that could be that this is the 10th book int he series.  While I had no trouble understanding who everyone is and what they can do it might have been easier to keep track of the characters if I'd started with an earlier book.

All and all, this is a fun cozy mystery perfect for Halloween!  In addition to the fabulous Grand Prize Tonya Kappes is giving away a audio book at every tour site.  All you have to do is leave a comment below with your email address and let me know your absolute favorite Halloween candy!  My favorite are those little mini Reeses Pumpkins.  Anytime I spied one of those in one of my kids' Halloween bags I'd have to confiscate it!  That and Baby Ruths.  What are your favorites?

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Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely!  I have several of her books from other series waiting on me and I've really enjoyed every book I've read.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  If you love cozy mysteries and enjoy a good dash of magic than don't pass this one up!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Linkups: All the Little Liars

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
You come across an old library that has one book you've been searching for for years, but the library happens to be haunted by ghosts.  Would you go into the library to find the book?

My Answer:
I'm going to need more information on these ghosts!  If they're the weeping ladies in white I can definitely handle that - especially for a book that I've been searching for for ages.  However, if it's the type of ghosts who can actually harm me than I might have to give the old Amazon search engine another try and pay the ridiculous price someone has it listed at!  I can handle a good scare but I don't want to risk being driven mad and jumping off a balcony by some scary specter.

I'm so excited I can barely stand it about this week's book!  Pre-blogging days I stumbled upon Charlaine Harris and loved her Harper Connelly mystery series.  After I finished reading those I started looking for more books by her and struggled because at the time I wasn't really interested in anything paranormal other than the occasional ghost.  When I found her Aurora Teagarden series I was so thrilled and promptly got them all and thoroughly enjoyed them.  It was definitely a series I was sad to see come to an end.  Except it didn't!  Last week the 9th Aurora Teagarden book - All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris - was released and I'm so excited to be reading it!

The Beginning:
"They only made one mistake," I said, reaching over to the butter dish.  I applied butter liberally to my scone.  Yum.

My Thoughts:
Well now I want scones.  And lots of butter.

The 56:
"Yes, this is he," he said next.  "What happened?"
Then something terrible passed over Robin's face, and all the sleep left me as if I'd never closed my eyes.

My Thoughts:
I'm not here yet so I don't know what's going on but I have a sinking feeling just reading this.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Lightning Thief - Middle Grade Review

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson #1) by Rick Riordan (Amazon Link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Library - Audio

Description:  Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Genre: Middle Grade

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been meaning to read the book for years and when I saw that my library had it on audio I decided now was the time.

My Impression:  I am coming very late to the party on this one!  My daughter discovered this series shortly after it came out and has gone on to devour pretty much everything Riordan has written.  I love mythology and despite that and all the buzz about this series I somehow never managed to pick this one up.  I was thrilled when I discovered that my library had the audio on it's digital site and since this is the year I'm trying to take more risks and read books I've been meaning to read I decided now is the time.

I was a little worried that it was going to be Harry Potter with Gods but it really didn't feel like it.  While there are some similarities (a world hidden from regular people, 3 teenagers saving the day, a boy who has never fit in) the tone was so different that it definitely didn't feel like I was stepping into Potter land.  Percy is a challenging kid.  He's making his way through boarding school after boarding school and stuff just always seems to happen to him.  He's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder but he is never a bully and I couldn't help but like him.

Even before the quest gets going I never felt like the pace was slow or that we were bogging down in world building.  Annabeth and Grover are perfect companions for the impulsive Percy.  I loved how Annabeth always had to have a plan and is very confident in her own abilities.  I enjoyed seeing how the friendship between the three develops and I was on the edge of my seat to see how the quest played out.  I loved how Riordan wove in elements of Greek mythology to the modern world and I will certainly never look at garden statues the same way again!

I'm so glad I finally took my first visit to Half Blood Hill and this is definitely a place I'm looking forward to visiting again soon!  I have to know what happens next!

Age-wise I think this would be a great book for 4th grade or so and up.  While there is some suspense there really isn't any on the page violence and it would be a fantastic way to get kids interested in the myths!.  Jesse Bernstein did a fabulous job as narrator.  He just sounded like I would imagine Percy sounds.  My only complaint was that I didn't love his interpretation of the Gods' voices but that's such a small part of the book it wasn't really a problem.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!  I'm already looking forward to picking up the 2nd book soon.

Would I Recommend this Book?: Definitely.  This is a fun adventure story and I love the mythology elements and seeing how they were woven into a modern world.