Thursday, October 31, 2013

8-Bit Christmas

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 76.

I would like to thank NetGalley and DB Press for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book.

8-Bit Christmas by Kevin Jakubowski

Summary (via Goodreads):
It's 1980-something and all nine-year-old Jake Doyle wants for Christmas is a Nintendo Entertainment System.  No Jose Conseco rookie card, no GI Joe hovercraft, no Teddy friggin' Ruxpin - just Nintendo.  But when a hyperactive Shih Tzu is accidentally crushed to death by a forty-two-inch television set and every parent in town blames Nintendo, it's up to Jake to take matters into his own hands.  The result is a Christmas quest of Super Mario Bros. proportions, filled with flaming wreaths, speeding minivans, lost retainers, fake Santas, hot teachers, snotty sisters, "Super Bowl Shuffles", and one very naked Cabbage Patch Kid.  Told from a nostalgic adult perspective, 8-Bit Christmas is a hilarious and heartfelt look back at the kid pop culture of the 1980's.

My Opinion:
I was browsing on NetGalley and randomly decided to give this book a try.  I'm so glad I did because it was fantastic!  I liked it for the same reasons I like to watch A Christmas Story every year...a straightforward plot (boy wants toy. how will boy get toy?)  but a super fun nostalgic ride.
Highly recommended, especially if you're a child of the '80's like me and/or you can identify the following things (just a few of the throwback references that made me smile): Family Double Dare, Domino's the Noid, Mr. Wizard, Book It (with the free personal pan pizza), and Nintendo (obviously).

Quote of the Blog:
*Since I read an ARC, I couldn't quote from the book directly like I normally do.  I will end with Nintendo's original slogan - "Now you're playing with power!"

Awesome Snacks and Appetizers

Although I normally don't review the books I read with my kids, I am making an exception for this book to show my appreciation to NetGalley and Lerner Publishing Group for the opportunity to read it.
I have a daughter that also read this book, and my review will include opinions from her as well.

Awesome Snacks and Appetizers by Kari Cornell

A cookbook for beginners.  Includes photos for every recipe as well as definitions, equipment, and safety tips.  

Megan's Opinion (my 7 year old):  "It was nice.  I thought that it was interesting.  It had very good recipes that I would like to try sometime.  I thought the pigs in a blanket looked gooood.  I love to cook and I thought that the recipes looked good."

My Opinion:
I liked the variety in this cookbook - they went beyond the normal kids' fare, including things like spicy meat samosas, homemade guacamole, and black bean quesadillas.  The beginning was very thorough and the page of definitions for things like "bake", "grease", etc.  was helpful.
If you have a beginner that wants to do everything themselves, this book may be a little too advanced (browning hamburger, flipping quesadillas, etc.) but if you're like me and have a beginner that just wants to help and have fun working together, I recommend this book.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pictures of You

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 75.

Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

Summary (via the book jacket):
Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway.  The survivor of the fatal accident is left to pick up the pieces not only of her own life but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman left behind.  As these three lives intersect, the book asks, how well do we really know those we love and how do we open our hearts to forgive the unforgivable?

My Opinion:
An emotional story; I read the entire thing with a lump in my throat (but no tears).  Although there were some abrupt transitions, what I appreciated about this book is that it shows life is messy and gray and there isn't a perfect solution that will make everyone happy and whole again.  I didn't understand how some characters could make the choices they did, but that's realistic (and maddening) as well.  The characters did the best they could and while I was angry and sad as the story progressed, I was happy with where everyone ended up.  Sort of.
Quote from the Book:
"How could you ever know what choice was the right one and what opportunity might be a mistake you would regret all your life?"

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Motif for Murder

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 74.

Motif for Murder by Laura Childs
Book 4 of the Scrapbooking Mystery series

Summary (via Goodreads):
In the terrible wake of Hurricane Katrina, scrapbooking shop owner Carmela Bertrand has her hands full getting Memory Mine back in business - and her relationship with her ex-husband Shamus back on its feet.  But the reconciliation is shattered when Shamus is kidnapped from their home.  And when Carmela hurries to tell Shamus's Uncle Henry, she finds him sitting in his library - with a bullet through his forehead.
As a memorial to Uncle Henry, Carmela puts together a sentimental scrapbook of memories and keepsakes.  What she doesn't realize is that her book holds a clue that could identify the fiend behind the kidnapping and killing.  And when the murderer finds out she may be on to him, he's going to try to close the book on Carmela once and for all.

My Opinion:
I understand that with "amateur sleuth" mysteries, the reader must suspend disbelief as the main character puts together clues the professionals missed and comes out of very dangerous situations relatively unscathed.  However, this book reealllly tested the limits (can't say more to avoid spoilers).  For example, if you rescue someone from kidnappers and must flee the scene at 120 mph because they're chasing you, you shouldn't stop at a diner down the road, sit down for biscuits and gravy, and let the person you just rescued step outside the diner to make phone calls. *face palm*
It isn't a terrible book but since light mysteries are a huge genre with so many options, continuing this series won't be high on my priority list.

Quote from the Book:
"I've been eating and drinking for three solid hours, and if I have to run one more step I swear I'm going to either burp, belch, or hurl!  And you don't want to be in the line of fire for any of them."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Reading

For me, fall reading = light reading (cozy mysteries, short stories, biographies, etc.).  Snuggling under a blanket with a book is one of my favorite ways to unwind and I don't have a lot of mental energy to spare at the moment...fall is a very hectic season for my family!  So the next few weeks will probably have a lot of blog posts (I've already reviewed 3 books this week and it's only Wednesday) as I plow through quick reads.  Enjoy!

All There Is

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 73.

All There Is: Love Stories from Storycorps by Dave Isay

Dave Isay is the founder of Storycorps, an oral history project started in 2003 in which participants (relatives, friends, etc.) spend 40 minutes interviewing each other; one copy goes home with them and one copy goes to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
All of the stories in this book are about romantic love.

My Opinion:
Considering I could sit with elderly people and listen to them talk all day, this book was fascinating to me (not all the people in this book were elderly but those were my favorite stories).  Add in the fact that all of the stories were about looove...swoon.  It was joyful, heartbreaking (Beverly Eckert's story especially just tore me up), and inspiring.
Recommended for human interest saps like me.

Quote from the Book:
"It lasted fifty-three years, two months, and five days.  It's been rough, but every morning when I wake up she's included in my prayers, and I talk to her every night when I go to bed.  She was something.  One thing: If they ever let me in those pearly gates, I'm going to walk all over God's heaven until I find that girl.  And the first thing I'm going to do is ask her if she would marry me and do it all over again." ~ Leroy Morgan, age 85, remembering his late wife Vivian

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 72.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Summary (via Goodreads):
In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals in rural Mississippi.  Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother.  Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond.  But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again.  She was never found and never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit.  The incident shook the county and perhaps Silas most of all.  His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.
More than twenty years have passed.  Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion.  Silas has returned as a constable.  He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again.  And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades.

My Opinion:
Considering that I just started this book last night for my book club meeting tonight, I'm very lucky it was a quick read and I finished it with time to spare!
Both Larry and Silas were interesting characters and this book kept my attention.  It's the kind of book that drives me a bit crazy sometimes, where we know everything that is happening and the characters would be able to figure things out much faster if they would just TALK to each other, but it didn't drag on for too long before the story caught up to where the reader already was.
Perfectly neutral about my recommendation... 

Quote from the Book:
"M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I. - How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi" ~ this blurb at the beginning of the book explains the title but I'm not sure how it tied in to the story.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Some Assembly Required

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 71.

Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott

Summary (via Goodreads):
In Some  Assembly Required, Anne Lamott enters a new and unexpected chapter of her own life: grandmotherhood.
Stunned to learn that her son Sam is about to become a father at nineteen, Lamott begins a journal about the first year of her grandson Jax's life.
In careful and often hilarious detail, Lamott and Sam - about whom she first wrote so movingly in Operating Instructions - struggle to balance their changing roles with the demands of college and work, as they both forge new relationships with Jax's mother, who has her own ideas about how to raise a child.  Lamott writes about the complex feelings that Jax fosters in her, recalling her own experiences with Sam when she was a single mother.  Over the course of the year, the rhythms of life, death, family, and friends unfold in surprising and joyful ways.
By turns poignant and funny, honest and touching, Some Assembly Required is the true story of how the birth of a baby changes a family - as this book will change everyone who reads it.

My Opinion:
I read this book because I liked Operating Instructions and wanted to see their journey continue.  I thought they would be similar since the premise and author are the same, but I was incorrect.  Unless you count her opinions that other people aren't making the right choices, there isn't nearly as much about her feelings and emotions as there was in the first book.  She still wrote with unflinching honesty and revealed very vulnerable moments but they weren't really her moments to share.  I'm sure my personal experiences as a daughter-in-law are shaping my opinion but there were times I thought Amy (Jax's mother) should have a few sentences of rebuttal to defend herself, and I thought some of the descriptions of Amy and her family were unnecessary (just because Amy fell in love with the son of a writer may not mean they wanted such personal family moments revealed).
I'm sure there are people that would love this book, especially her spiritual journey to India, but for me it wasn't what I expected and not my cup of tea.

Quote from the Book:
"We as parents have the illusion that we make our kids stronger, but they make us stronger." ~ Sam

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Case Histories

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 70.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Book 1 of the Jackson Brodie series

Summary (via Goodreads):
Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night.

Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac's apparently random attack.

Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making - with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband - until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.

Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge...

My Opinion:
This book had potential but never really took off for me.  It lost focus and the resolutions of the cases were anticlimatic, some because I saw them coming a mile away and some because I didn't see them coming but they were presented so casually that there was little time to have a reaction before the story moved on to something else.
I have other books by the author on my "to-read" shelf and am still planning to read them, but I wouldn't recommend this particular book.

Quote from the Book:
"It didn't matter how much you hated it, [your children] were always going to have secrets."

Monday, October 7, 2013

W is for Wasted

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 69.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton
Book 23 of the Kinsey Millhone series

It begins when a homeless John Doe is found dead with Kinsey's name and number in his pocket.  She investigates his identity but discovering who he is only brings more questions, and soon Kinsey finds herself caught up in family drama, fraud, and murder.

My Opinion:
Another solid installment to the series.  What I like about the series is that Kinsey is matter-of-fact.  Personal details and relationships are used to expand the character but the cases are the focal point.  While she's dated various people throughout the series, there is no love triangle angst to be found, a lovely change from another female private investigator series that I'm growing tired of (I'm looking at you Stephanie could learn a thing or two from Kinsey).  The mystery was fresh, there was enough action to be interesting but not completely over-the-top, and it wrapped up nicely.

Quote from the Book:
"Two dead men changed the course of my life that fall."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Operating Instructions

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 68.

Operating Instructions: a Journal of my Son's First Year by Anne Lamott

Published in 1993, this book is (as the title states) an account of the first year of her son Sam's life, from the mundane pleas for sleep to the deeper struggles of being a single mom and watching her dear friend battle cancer.

My Opinion:
I really like the author's writing style.  It's conversational and calm and while it does have great emotion, she doesn't beat you over the head with it.  It felt very personal but also global, so even though I don't know the people she talks about and we don't have many experiences in common, I could still relate.  Even though it was written over 20 years ago, it wasn't dated since it was mainly about her feelings and concerns as a mother and those base instincts (am i doing okay? are they healthy? are they happy?) never change...if you overlook the occasional references to Polaroids and Walkmans (and the quite frequent references to George H.W. Bush for some reason), it could have been written yesterday.
I'm interested to see how their family journey continued and plan to read Some Assembly Required, which has the same format but is about Sam's son, her first grandchild, very soon.        

Quote from the Book:
"Still, you know what the name Samuel means?  It means 'God has heard', like God heard me, heard my heart, and gave me the one thing that's ever worked in my entire life, someone to love."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 67.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

The story of Star Wars retold in Shakespearean style.

My Opinion:
There isn't much to say for a review of this book...what you see is exactly what you get.  A novelty book for fans of Star Wars and Shakespeare, you must be a pretty big fan of both to enjoy this book.  

Quote from the Book:
"O help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, help.  Thou art mine only hope." ~ Leia