Saturday, December 31, 2011

...And Then I Surpassed It! Book #36: Cat Lover's Daily Companion: 365 Days of Insight and Guidance for Living a Joyful Life with Your Cat by Kristen Hampshire, Iris Bass, and Lori Paximadis

I began "Cat Lover's Daily Companion" on January 1, 2011 and planned to read each day's entry. Of course, I would get behind and end up reading a week's worth at a time.

I kept the book by my bed all year and loved the variety of entries it offered. Every day (or week) I could look forward to a different topic. Mondays would be about practical information regarding cats. Tuesdays were probably my favorite, as they discussed felines in history, literature, and art. Wednesdays dealt with health and wellness. Thursdays were the ones I would find myself sometimes skimming, as those topics were about crafts and decor. Fridays introduced a different breed every week and was very informative. Saturdays and Sundays were lumped together for the weekend and were focused on bonding and relationship building between a cat and their human.

The fact that there were different topics for different days kept the book interesting. I learned quite a bit and plan to keep the book handy so I can look back through when I have a question about something. It's a wonderful guide for both new cat owners and experienced pet parents. This would make a great gift any time, but especially as a welcome home gift for a new cat. There is even a spot on the cover to add your cat's picture. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this book at my bookstore!

I Met My Goal Again! Book #35: Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

I hit my goal of 35 books read in 2011 with another of the Stephanie Plum novels. "Twelve Sharp" by Janet Evanovich was a hit, as they always are.

In "Twelve Sharp" Stephanie is back working for Vinnie at the bonds office. She has quite a mystery on her hands, but it doesn't have to do with one of her skips. This time it's all about Ranger. She has to come to his rescue and help him out, while he is once again watching out for her. And don't forget, Morelli is always there too. In this novel, Stephanie and Morelli reach a new level in their relationship.

For some reason, this book had a different feel than the others. I never could put my finger on it. The only thing that stood out to me was that the language Stephanie used seemed to be a bit harsher at times (although that didn't bother me). It wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as previous books had been, but the great plot and mystery made up for it. I didn't want to put the book down!

I think Ms. Evanovich did a great job keeping the storyline fresh this far into the series. Most of the time the books stand alone, but at this point in the series I think it's best to have some background on the characters. I not only recommend this book, but I recommend the entire series.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Book #34: Eleven On Top by Janet Evanovich

My 34th book of the year was another installment of the Stephanie Plum series, "Eleven On Top" by Janet Evanovich. In the eleventh novel of the series, Stephanie has quit her job as a bounty hunter and has decided to get a "normal" job. Unfortunately, she still ends up being stalked by a maniac who seems to want to blow her up. And yes, there are car explosions in this book!

It was a nice change to the series to have Stephanie trying different career paths while trying to stay alive. Lula still comes around to have Stephanie assist with some apprehensions, but that isn't the focus. Morelli and Ranger are still in her life as well, keeping things hot and complicated.

"Eleven On Top" was funny, as always and left me excited to read the twelfth book in the series. I wonder if Stephanie will go back to work for Vinnie or stay with the job she has. I'll have to read the next one right away to find out!

Book #33: Entanglements by P.R. Mason

I like it when I'm able to step outside of my reading comfort zone and read something I wouldn't normally even consider. That's what happened when I read "Entanglements" by P.R. Mason.

"Entanglements" is a young-adult paranormal/fantasy book that forced me to try to believe things that I can barely grasp. It follows teenager Kizzy Taylor as she discovers alternate dimensions and has to save her stepsister after she accidentally opens a vortex and her stepsister is sucked away.

Not being familiar with the idea of vortexes (vorteces?) or alternate dimensions, "Entanglements" was a good way for me to venture into the genre. P.R. Mason does a great job of explaining the ideas succinctly yet clearly so that even a noob like me could understand what was going on. In actuality, it made me a little curious about these types of theories. I can't wait to read what she writes as a follow-up!

There was also a bit of romance involved in the story, but it was just under-the-surface enough that it didn't get in the way of the storyline or seem cheesy. It simply added a bit of realism to the characters, even if one of them was not of our dimension.

"Entanglements" is a great book for teenagers and for those of us not familiar with the paranormal/fantasy genre.

Book #32: Blockade Billy by Stephen King

Once again, I got behind on my book reviews so today is catch-up day!

For book #32 of 2011 I read Stephen King's "Blockade Billy." The only other Stephen King book I have read was about baseball, so when I saw this on the shelf at the bookstore I knew I had to read it.

"Blockade Billy" tells the story of a catcher, William Blakely, who played for the New Jersey Titans for a very short period of time. He was an amazing player, but his existence has been removed from the record books because of his horrific story.

"Blockade Billy" is written in a way that should only be read in a single sitting. It isn't long and there are no divisions of the book such as chapters. It's written like an old man is sitting there, telling you the gruesome story.

In addition to the baseball story, there is a bonus story included at the end titled "Morality." It's also a very short story, this one about a couple who has to decide if they are going to accept an offer to make a large sum of money.

I thoroughly enjoyed "Blockade Billy" and would recommend it to anyone who likes short horror stories or baseball. It's a quick read and would be a great book to read on a short flight.

By the way, I still have not figured out if William Blakely actually existed or if he was a character completely from the mind of Stephen King.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book #31: Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.

I first heard about Oscar several years ago when he made national news. If you aren't familiar with him, here's the quick backstory: Oscar is a cat that lives at a nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island: Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He lives on the floor that contains the unit where patients with dementia are cared for. It was discovered that, although most of the time Oscar isn't overly concerned with the patients, he will go and sit with them a few hours before they die. He knows when it's time and holds vigil until they pass and are taken away.

David Dosa, M.D. is a geriatrician working in the same nursing home. He wasn't aware of Oscar's gift right away and once he found out, he was a bit dismissive about it. He began to ask people who experienced Oscar's vigils with the dying about their experiences and out of those discussions was born this book, Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.

Although Oscar is on the cover and his name is in the title, the book is more about Dr. Dosa's journey in trying to figure out what was happening with dying patients and the cat on the floor of the unit. It is a wonderful journey to follow along with, watching this scientist trying to explain how a cat knows when someone is about to die.

A bonus with this book is that Oscar is still alive and doing his job at the nursing home. In fact, you can like his page on Facebook, Oscarthecat. You can also follow Dr. Dosa on Twitter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all of my cat-loving friends. It brought back memories of the cat, Suki, that lived in the nursing home my own grandma was in when she had dementia. I'm glad that so many nursing homes are pet friendly and hope that Oscar's story brings more attention to the fact that pets can be valuable additions in settings such as long-term care facilities.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book #30: Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale by Laurie Myers Illustrated by Michael Dooling

My most recent read is a children's book given to me by my dear friend @kayakgal. She has a knack for sending me great books from varying genres. Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale is a historic children's story written by Laurie Myers that is based on the actual journals from Lewis and Clark. It contains illustrations by Michael Dooling.

The dog of A Dog's Tale is Seaman, Meriwether Lewis' Newfoundland. He accompanied the explorers to the Pacific and back. There are stories of Seaman hunting with the men as well as protecting them. At the end of every chapter, there is a quote from Lewis' journal.

I really enjoyed the book and think it would be a great way to introduce younger readers to United States history. It is basic, with few details, but touches on some of the experiences the men had while making the trek across the West. And it never hurts to have a dog telling the story!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book #29: Awkward Family Pet Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

Mike Bender and Doug Chernack hit the jackpot with their websites Awkward Family Photos and Awkward Family Pet Photos, and both sites have now been turned into books.

Awkward Family Pet Photos is made up of photos that were sent into the website by people who openly acknowledge the awkward positions they sometimes put their pets in. I was one of those people. After finding the website, I submitted a picture and was thrilled when the authors asked to use my photo in the book.

As odd as my photo is, there are many others that really outdo mine! There are photos of cats and dogs, of course, but then there are photos of exotic pets, farm animals, and birds. There are pictures of pets dressed up, pets during the holidays and pets included in formal family portraits.

In addition to the photos, there are some "Behind the Awkwardness" stories and some stories shared by a veterinarian. Of those, my favorite was a story told about a woman with low-vision who brought her cat to the vet for a visit. She took in a stray and fell in love with the kitty. When the vet looked in the carrier, she saw that it wasn't a cat at all. The woman had taken in a possum!

I recommend not only the book, but the website. If you need a good laugh, you'll find many there!

Although my photo is included in the book and I was compensated for the use of the photo, I purchased the book myself and the opinions expressed in this review are my own and are not influenced by anyone else.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book #28: Haunted Pet Stories: Tales of Ghostly Cats, Spooky Dogs, and Demonic Bunnies by Mary Beth Crain

I was shopping shortly before Halloween and saw Haunted Pet Stories: Tales of Ghostly Cats, Spooky Dogs, and Demonic Bunnies on a table amongst other horror books. What could be more perfect for a lover of both animals and Halloween?

The book is a compilation of stories put together by author Mary Beth Crain. The stories range from animals coming back in spirit form to animals who sense spirits to animals who are possessed by demons. Some stories are modern, some take place over 100 years ago; some are told first-hand by the people who experienced the haunting and others are more legendary tales.

I really enjoyed reading Haunted Pet Stories. I liked that the chapters were made up of several short stories and they were all entertaining. It was a fun read and something that would be appropriate for adults and older children alike. I also think that it would make a great Halloween gift (if, like me, you give gifts for Halloween!).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book #27: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

The tenth installment of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Ten Big Ones, starts off with a bang. An explosion, really. Right away, Stephanie's car explodes. Since her car remained intact during the ninth book, it was nice that it got torched so soon in this one.

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter that always seems to get herself involved in crazy situations that she can't quite get out of on her own. This time, she ends up on a gang's hit list and she has to go into hiding. Of course, hiding to Stephanie still includes going out and finding skips, but if it were any different it just wouldn't be Stephanie.

This book brings back a character from earlier in the series, Sally Sweet, a big, ugly transvestite who is now driving a bus and becomes Stephanie's sister's wedding planner. As funny as that visual is, this book didn't make me laugh as much as the previous books. Don't get me wrong, I laughed. I'm not sure that Stephanie could not be funny. This book just didn't seem as laugh out loud hilarious as the ones before.

As always, I recommend this book. You don't have to start at the beginning of the series, but it's totally worth it if you do!

Book #26: Promise of the Wolves by Dorothy Hearst

Promise of the Wolves is the first in The Wolf Chronicles series by Dorothy Hearst. I was not familiar with this series until I saw this book at the BlogPaws conference I attended in Washington D.C. in August. Ms. Hearst left copies of the first and second books in the series on the swag swap table for people to take. Of course, I don't turn down free books about animals so I grabbed one of each!

Promise of the Wolves is set 14,000 years ago. It is a fantasy grounded by research that tells the story of the relationship between humans and wolves. The main character, a young wolf named Kaala, is drawn to humans even though she has been told that she is to stay away from them. We follow Kaala's story from the time she is born, through being a pup and a young wolf. All that time, she struggles with the fact that she is an outsider in her own pack and wonders if she fits with the humans instead. She is taught pack rules but there is a constant pull outside of the pack that she doesn't understand.

Kaala is a very relatable character that I found myself pulling for throughout her difficulties. She is young, but driven and strong. I liked the way time and distance were described using "wolf terms" and how the author was able to immerse me in this long-ago world. I will definitely be reading Secrets of the Wolves to follow Kaala's story. I can't wait to see what the second book brings for her!

Disclosure: I received this book for free, but my review is based on my true thoughts and feelings about the book.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book #25: Duplicity Dogged The Dachshund by Blaize Clement

Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund is the second installment in the Dixie Hemingway Mystery series by the late Blaize Clement. In the series, Dixie, a former law enforcement officer is now a pet sitter in Sarasota, Florida. During her pet sitting duties, she finds herself  discovering dead bodies and subsequently involved in the investigation.

In this installment, Dixie is walking a dachshund when the dog finds a body. Dixie is once again in the middle of the case, at times alongside Lieutenant Guidry who is handsome and a bit mysterious. Dixie, not able to fully escape her law enforcement past, begins asking questions and ends up in the sights of a psychopathic killer.

I enjoyed this book a bit more than the first. I felt like Dixie's character was changing a bit and for the better. She was becoming more aware of how she was running away from people emotionally. Toward the end, there were definite improvements in her outlook on life. I hope that this positive change carries on to the next book.

Speaking of the next book, I plan on reading the entire series. There is going to be one more Dixie Hemingway Mystery published (the seventh installment) that Ms. Clement wrote before her passing. After that, it is planned that her son will carry on the series.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book #24: Our Lives Have Gone To The Dogs by Audrey Spilker Hagar and Eldad Hagar

"Our Lives Have Gone To The Dogs" is a lovely coffee table book full of uplifting stories about dogs (and other critters) that have been rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed by the book's authors Audrey Spilker Hagar and Eldad Hagar.

Although some of the stories start out sad, describing abandoned or abused animals, the ending is always uplifting. The stories are brief; a synopsis of the time they spent with the animal. The book is full of before and after color photos of the animals that have been in and out of their lives.

The book is self-published, but you would never know it from the quality of it. There are some editing mistakes, but I really enjoyed reading the true voice of the rescuers. I felt like I was sitting down with them and going through photo albums of all of their success stories.

The book is available on their website: It would make a wonderful gift for dog lovers, rescuers, vets or shelter volunteers. The purchase of a book helps to support their cause so even more pets can be rescued and adopted.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book #23: Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure by Craig Robinson

My most recent read is yet another gift from my thoughtful friends @kayakgal and @BlueberryCat. They know what a big baseball fan I am and sent me what I believe is the most unique baseball book ever. "Flip Flop Fly Ball" has relatively little text; it is made up mostly of infographics. It was so much fun to read!

In order to make the whole thing even more interesting, the author, Craig Robinson, is English. He didn't even grow up with baseball! I am amazed how he has taken the Great American Pastime and combined it with American pop culture. If he had not described how he began watching and learning about baseball, I never would have guessed that he wasn't American himself.

This book gave such a fresh perspective on the game of baseball. It compared teams, players, stadiums and uniforms in ways I never thought about. A few of my favorite infographics from the book were: A comparison of players homeruns and their involvement with performance enhancing drugs; outlines of each of the Major League fields (I picked out Fenway with no problem!); Green Monster height comparisons; and Kevin Costner's baseball movies vs. his non-baseball movies.

If you are a fan of the game of baseball you really must take a look at this book. It not only looks at Major League Baseball, but Minor League Baseball, Independent Leagues, Japanese Baseball and even the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

On his website,, Craig Robinson mentions that Kauffman Stadium is his favorite stadium that he has never visited. I want to offer Mr. Robinson an open invitation to come to Kansas City and visit the K with me (it could even be for a Yankees game). That way I can tell him in person how spot-on he was with his infographic "Ichiro Is Awesome."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book #22: To The Nines by Janet Evanovich

Here I am, halfway through the Stephanie Plum series and I finally figured out who the bad guy is before the end of the book! Don't worry, I won't give it away, but I'm feeling quite proud of myself.

Janet Evanovich hit the mark once again with "To The Nines". Stephanie is out to find a skip AND the dog he disappeared with. This leads to a trip to Vegas with Connie and Lula. Stephanie thinks she will be safer there since she seems to have a stalker in Trenton. That turns out not to be the case.

In order to keep her safe, Morelli and Ranger take turns as Stephanie's bodyguard. Along the way, a couple of Ranger's Merry Men fall victim to Stephanie's bad luck, but her yellow Escape stays intact throughout the book!

As I always say, you don't have to start at the beginning of the series to enjoy the books, but I highly recommend doing so because they're so good!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book #21: Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? A Rock 'N' Roll Memoir by Steven Tyler

The title of this book is quite accurate. "Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?" by Steven Tyler, lead singer of the iconic American rock band Aerosmith, clearly displays what is going on in his head.When you read this memoir, you'd better buckle up, because this is not a gentle journey!

Having been an Aerosmith fan for many years, I couldn't wait to read Steven Tyler's book. I read the band's autobiography "Walk This Way" when it first came out, but not to worry, this is certainly not a rehashing of the stories in the previous book. This is very clearly a book about the author, not Aerosmith. Of course, Steven Tyler IS Aerosmith, so the band is discussed, but only as far as he is related to it.

It starts out with his childhood in Sunapee, New Hampshire and works through his different bands, relationships, drug addictions and songs he has created. It's fascinating to read how he writes a song. It is beyond anything I can really grasp because he seems to think musically, live musically. It's like songs are all around him and he's made up of music.

He discusses his feelings toward the rest of the band, stating that they point fingers at him for his behavior when they engage in the same behavior. It looks like a love-hate relationship, that neither side can live without. They're so good together, making music and performing, but off-stage they cut each other down.

The part that touched me the most was his love for his mother. She passed away 3 years ago and his recollection of that time is both heart-wrenching and beautiful. I almost get the sense that she was his one true love.

If you are a fan of rock music in general or Aerosmith in particular, this is a book you need to read. It's not a linear read by any means, but once you get used to the way Steven Tyler thinks (there really is a lot of noise in his head!) it's a fun ride.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book #20: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun

"The Cat Who Could Read Backwards" is the first book in the lengthy series by recently deceased author Lilian Jackson Braun. First published in 1966, this book kicked off a series of 29 books featuring newspaper reporter Jim Qwilleran.

In this first book, Koko the Siamese cat (who can read newspaper headlines backwards) does not actually belong to Qwilleran, but belongs to his landlord and art critic at the Daily Fluxion, George Bonifield Mountclemens. Qwilleran also works at the Daily Fluxion but he is in the Features Department, writing feel-good pieces on the artists that Mountclemens has offended with his harsh criticisms.

Qwilleran is used to writing more serious articles, at one time working as a police reporter. When a local art gallery is the scene for a brutal murder, Qwilleran's old instincts kick in and he begins to ask questions, trying to figure out who might have committed the crime. When two more deaths occur, Qwilleran develops new theories and is even assisted by Koko, who leads him to clues.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book is the fact that it was written in the 60s. There are no cell phones or computers. If someone wants to make a phone call, they must track down a telephone. Articles are typed on manual typewriters, not emailed or dropboxed in. Qwilleran notes at one point when visiting a local wealthy artist how his house is "wired to do all kinds of tricks" such as having electronic gates and an intercom at the driveway.

There are lots of potential suspects in this book. Artists who are angry with the local critic along with the galleries and museum in town that connect them all make for a labyrinth of possible scenarios. I developed my own theories along the way, but never considered the way in which it actually turned out.

"The Cat Who Could Read Backwards" is a fun mystery that I would recommend to fans of cozy mysteries. If you have read the series, I would love to know what you thought of the books and whether the series should be read in order or if you can skip around.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book #19: The Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka & Coleridge Cook

"The Meowmorphosis" is a mash-up by Quirk Classics based on "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. Coleridge Cook (a pseudonym used by a fantasy author) puts his twist on the classic dark novella. Instead of Gregor Samsa, salesman, waking up as a cockroach as in the original, he wakes up as a kitten. The book is essentially the same as the Kafka story, but with a section in the middle that seems to include a twist on another Kafka work (unfinished at the time of his death), "The Trial".
As much as I enjoyed the original work, I had hoped that this new mash-up would have a bit more of a change to it. Instead, it was pretty much the same story with "kitten" replacing "cockroach". I must say, though, the "biography" and Discussion Questions at the end are quite humorous and certainly worth reading!

This is a dark, rambling work that not all readers will appreciate. I'm not sure that I would recommend it if you aren't already familiar with Kafka. Then again, if you're familiar with Kafka, I don't know that it needs to be read.

Book #18: A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

Okay, I'm way behind on my reviews, so this is my attempt to get caught back up.

Abigail Thomas wrote her memoir "A Three Dog Life" focusing on her life after her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury. The title is a play on the phrase "A three dog night" used by Australian Aborigines to describe the coldest of nights since they slept with dogs to keep warm. Her three dogs help to keep her going and normalize her life after it is turned upside down following her husband's accident.

Although the book is written because of a tragedy, I don't think it is dark or depressing. In fact I find it inspirational that this woman, who has had her normal life ripped away, keeps going and starts a new "normal" life. In this new life, her husband lives in a care facility, sometimes speaks in riddles and has lost his short term memory. Still, she loves him just as she always had.

The timeline of Ms. Thomas' life is not set out chronologically in the book. Some people may find this to be disjointed, but I was not bothered by the fact that it jumps back and forth. I found it to be reflective of how her husband's life must have been after the accident; no real consciousness of the passing of time, just now.

As a dog lover, I think this book subtly states how much some of us rely on our pets for normalcy. In order to be able to keep going, the simple act of napping with a dog can be refreshing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book #17: with just one click... by Amanda Strong

"with just one click..." by Amanda Strong looks at the way our lives are affected by Facebook. It tells the story of three women-Chloe, Morgan and Brynn-who are each at different points in their lives, but all of whom end up with their lives turned upside down by their activities on the uber-popular social networking site, Facebook.

I was interested by the premise of the book since I am such an active user of social networking myself, but was hesitant since this is a self-published book. I was very impressed at the way Ms. Strong built the story. I was interested in these women's lives from the very beginning of the book and that interest never waned. She built well-rounded characters who could have been myself or any female friend in my life. I felt like grabbing them by the shoulders and shaking them from time to time, noting to myself how involved I felt in their fictitious lives.

The drawback to a self-published book always seems to be the editing. Sometimes the writing got a little confusing. There were several grammatical mistakes that jumped out at me. The most irritating however, was that the spelling of one of the characters names was inconsistent.


At the end of the book, you find out how the three women's lives are intertwined. In one way, it gives the book a nice ending, but it leave so many details hanging. It might just be me, but I would have liked a little more closure to each of the characters' stories.

I think that Ms. Strong is a talented author and I would love to read more from her in the future. The fact that I was so involved in the characters' lives means a lot to me-I love to be truly invested in a book and that was certainly the case with this one!

If you are a Facebook enthusiast, you will enjoy this book, so give it a try!

I received a free copy of this book from the author after winning it from First Reads on This in no way affected my review of the book. My review reflects my true thoughts about the book.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book #16: A Pug's Tale by Alison Pace

"A Pug’s Tale" by Alison Pace follows Hope McNeill who works in the Conservation Studio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When a valuable painting comes up missing (mysteriously, with a fake left behind) Hope and her colleagues decide to try to find it on their own. They hire a detective but do not go to the police. Hope suspects everyone and feels like everyone suspects her as well.

This all happens at a time when her boyfriend, Ben, is living out of the country and she is left to care for his pug, Max. Max is all Hope has at the moment and she feels very alone with no one to confide in. Without Max, however, Hope would never be able to piece together the clues that lead to the person responsible.

Ms. Pace does a beautiful job of setting the various scenes. Having never been to New York, let alone Central Park or the Met, I am given a picture of words that allows me to experience it as if it were my own backyard. She develops a likable character that I can relate to in Hope. I can sense her anxiety and her obsession with the mystery. Of course, when you add in a lovable, snorting Pug, that’s a bonus!

A Pug’s Tale was a fun read and a page turner. Many times I didn’t want to put the book down but was forced to. I always looked forward to being able to get back to it and read some more. Ms. Pace has written several other books with dogs playing prominent roles, I suspect that I’ll be picking those up as well!

I would recommend this book to fans of mysteries, Pug lovers and art aficionados.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher after winning it from This in no way influenced my review of the book. My thoughts here are my honest review.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book #15: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White

I hope this doesn't constitute cheating, but I didn't actually read this book. It is in audio book format and I listened to it on a trip to Wichita last weekend. What makes it super-awesome though, is that it was read by the author herself, Betty White!

"If You Ask Me" is a collection of the author's thoughts on many different subjects. She talks about Hollywood, health, and my favorite subject, pets. You really get to understand what a down to earth person Betty White is. She discusses the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland. You get to hear her feelings about Saturday Night Live and the Snickers commercial. There are tons of funny and touching stories!

I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy listening to a book, but I really did! One of the perks to an audio book is you know exactly what the author's inflection is. I often wonder if I misread certain things and don't get the full understanding of what the author is saying. Not so in this situation. You get the story exactly as it should be told, not just your interpretation of it as you read.

Whether you pick up the traditional book or the audio version, you'll get wonderful insight from a funny lady who has seen a lot in her life!

Book #14: Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

"Visions of Sugar Plums" by Janet Evanovich is a "Between-the-Numbers" novel in the Stephanie Plum series. It is really more of a novella; very short and not as detailed as the regular series.

In "Visions of Sugar Plums" Stephanie is faced with something completely new: a man appears in her kitchen out of nowhere. She can't figure out what kind of supernatual being he is, but isn't too frightened of him. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's hot (kind of like every man in her life-how lucky is she?). She lets him tag along on her current apprehension since she's feeling frazzled at the fact that it's a few days before Christmas and she's trying to pick up a skip named Sandy Claws. I mean really, at that point, what's a hot, supernatural guy going to hurt?

I read this book in about two hours. It was just as hilarious as all of the other Stephanie Plum books, just quicker to read and with fewer twists. It would make a great read for a work commute or a short flight. Just be open to the fact that the supernatural element is never explained. Who needs an explanation with Stephanie's life though?

Book #13: Warriors: Rising Storm by Erin Hunter

"Rising Storm" is the fourth book in the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. The Warriors books are about a clan of cats who live in the forest. In this installment, Fireheart is now the deputy of ThunderClan and is still dealing with issues from some of his clanmates resulting from the fact that he was once a kittypet-not clanborn.

ThunderClan still faces danger from its former deputy, Tigerclaw. On top of that, Bluestar, the clan leader is not herself after Tigerclaw's betrayal, leving Fireheart to make some very important decisions regarding the clan.

I felt that this book in the series was rather dark and depressing. There was so much turmoil and tragedy that it was hard to enjoy the happier moments that occurred. There is a huge twist at the end though, that keeps me wanting to continue the series.

Even though "Rising Storm" was full-and I mean FULL-of sadness, I still really enjoyed it. The good thing about reading a series is that even if one book is a downer, you can look forward to an upswing in the coming books. I still highly recommend this series, but you MUST start from the beginning with "Into the Wild."

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this series. Although it's a children's series, I think it's a great option for adults too. What is your opinion?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book #12: Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids by Melanie Notkin

"Savvy Auntie" by Melanie Notkin is more than a book-it's a movement. I first came across Ms. Notkin on Twitter under the handle @savvyauntie. I started following her right away, as I consider myself a savvy auntie. I loved the way she celebrated my unique situation as a PANK (professional aunt, no kids). I finally felt like there was a cool group that I belonged to and in that group it wasn't weird that I was married, in my mid 30s, and didn't have kids.

In "Savvy Auntie" Ms. Notkin defines the "auntisms" used in the book and online. You're instantly in the know about the auntie lingo! There are fun facts sprinkled throughout the book as well. There are several pages regarding the early stages of aunthood, even before the baby is born. She gives great ideas on how to help the expectant parents and advice on what to expect with a newborn baby-even how to hold or swaddle a baby for those of us who are rookies or have never been comfortable with brand-spanking-new humans!

As I was reading this book, I even began to develop my own ideas about things to do with/gifts to give to my great-nieces. The book is quite the motivator! Since I became an aunt at such a young age (8 years old), now that my niece and nephew have kids of their own, it's like becoming a DebutAunt all over again! Back then, the babies were fun for me to take to show-and-tell at school, but that was about it. These days, I'm very close to them as adults and hope to have the fun with their kids that I missed out on with them. "Savvy Auntie" not only gives me great ideas, but it serves as a way for me to define the "kind" of aunt I want to be.

I would recommend this book to a number of people. If you've got kids in your life that aren't yours, but you love them like they are, take a look at "Savvy Auntie." As the title says, this book isn't just for the traditional aunt. You could be an auntie by relation (ABR) or an auntie by choice (ABC). You might have kids of your own, be child-free or have become a ParAunt to children in your life. It's all there, in the book. Know what else is there? Some super-cool cocktail recipes. I can't wait to try them-when I'm not doing auntie duty, that is!

I received a free copy of the book from the author. This in no way influenced my review of the book. The review posted here is my honest opinion.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book #11: On The Job: Behind the Stars of the Chicago Police Department by Daniel P. Smith

Daniel P. Smith is a journalist who comes from a family of cops. He understands the mentality of a cop and has done an enormous amount of research, part of which comes simply from being around cops his entire life. I attended a training session Mr. Smith gave regarding the perceptions police have of the public and vice versa. It was a valuable training session and I was engaged throughout the entire session. It was during this training that I received a copy of "On the Job" and was lucky enough to have it personally autographed by Mr. Smith.

Unfortunately, I didn't find the book nearly as engaging as the training session. I wish more of Mr. Smith's personality would have come through in his writing, but it did not.

The book focuses on individuals in the Chicago Police Department and how the job influenced their lives. There are some fascinating stories about officers in different divisions and in different stages of their careers; from the street cop to the former Deputy Superintendent; and from the rookie to the retired cop. I'm sure this would have been much more interesting if I was from the Chicago area. Since I am not, I had trouble really getting into the book. It was also very dry reading, without much to draw me in. Not to mention, there were some glaring editorial mistakes that distracted me.

If you are from the Chicago area or have a personal tie to the Chicago Police Department, this might be a good book to read. For me, it was just okay. I feel that I got a brief overview of how the CPD works, but it wasn't much more for me than that.

On a positive note: if you ever get the chance to see Daniel P. Smith give a presentation in person, by all means, attend!

I received a copy of this book at no charge from the author. This in no way influenced my review of the book.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Book #10: Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich

Here I go, revisiting Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, in "Hard Eight." The eighth book in the series brings new twists to Stephanie's life both in the romance department and within her family. Her sister Valerie has split from her husband, moving back in with Stephanie's parents, along with her two daughters. Valerie was always the "good" daughter, the one Stephanie should have been more like, according to their mother. Things have changed now that Valerie's life has been turned upside down.

Mooner and Dougie are nowhere to be found in this book, but rest assured, there is a new character hanging around Stephanie. Albert Kloughn (pronounced "clown") is a lawyer who fancies himself a tough guy and wants to be in on the action with her.

Morelli is around, but the relationship is anything but "on" at this point and things are heating up with Ranger, much to Stephanie's fear.

She's got her usual issues trying to bring in FTAs (failure to appear) but is focused on a non-paying case of finding her mother's neighbor's granddaughter and great-granddaughter. This brings her into contact with some of Trenton's unfriendliest people and gets her car bombed by a giant rabbit. (This is not at all unusual if you have read other Stephanie Plum novels!)

Janet Evanovich once again keeps me laughing out loud. The scenarios that Stephanie gets herself into are ridiculous and hilarious. I found the Ranger-Stephanie storyline a little anti-climactic, but then again, it turned out exactly as I thought it would.

If you need a good laugh and a fast-paced read, jump in. As I always say, you don't need to start with the first Stephanie Plum book in the series, but why wouldn't you? It's totally worth it!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book #9: Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America by S.L. Price

When I opened up the box of books that came in the mail from my friend @kayakgal, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the book on the very top. I never saw the title-my focus was immediately on the cover photo: a view from behind of a man holding two small boys, his jersey said "Coolbaugh." I froze. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. @kayakgal knows I'm a baseball fan, but I don't think there was any way for her to know that I was once a season ticket holder for a Texas League team in Wichita, Kansas or that I knew exactly who this story was about and the tragedy that befell him and his family. I had no idea that a book had been written about him, so I was absolutely stunned to have received it.

"Heart of the Game" follows two "lifers" in baseball: Mike Coolbaugh and Tino Sanchez. Their paths became forever entwined on July 22, 2007 when Tino hit a foul ball that struck Mike in the neck, killing him almost instantly. On that day, Mike was coaching and Tino was playing for the Tulsa Drillers, a Texas league team and AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

Each chapter discusses first Mike, then Tino. The reader learns about their youth, their road to professional baseball and about their lives outside of baseball. The book gives an inside glimpse into the world of baseball and what it's like for most of the men who play it, like Mike and Tino. Along with telling about the ups and downs of a lifer's career, some eerie coincidences are revealed.

If you are a baseball fan, especially a minor league fan, this is a great book to read. It has it's happy moments, but it is a melancholy tale of what life is really like when you're trying to break into the majors or fighting to stay there. I feel like by reading it I was let into a secret club where I got to know what is really happening on the field when I'm cheering on my favorite team.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book #8: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

If you have followed my blog, you already realize how much I love the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I can always count on them to draw me in, make me laugh and keep me coming back for more! "Seven Up" follows right along that same path.

In this installment of the series, things are getting hotter with Ranger and more serious with Morelli. Stephanie is still at war with Joyce and Lula still has her back. Her big case is finding Eddie DeChooch which, as is normal, proves to be harder than it should be. Especially since Eddie is an old man who can barely see. At least he rarely hits what he shoots at!

Along the way, Dougie and Mooner (friends she made in "Hot Six") both end up missing. She has to figure out how they are tied into the DeChooch situation and find them before something bad happens to these harmless stoners.

As a change of pace, Stephanie doesn't have a car blown up in this book. That doesn't mean something doesn't happen to it, though. This is Stephanie Plum we're talking about!

If you want a fun read, one that goes fast and keeps you interested-not to mention howling with laughter-read this book! You don't have to start with the first book in the series since there is a synopsis at the beginning to give you an idea of what the series is about, but seriously, they are all worth reading. Janet Evanovich has created fascinating characters that are flawed in all the right ways.

Book #7: Ever By My Side by Dr. Nick Trout

This book was yet another win from the First Reads program from! I had not heard of Dr. Nick Trout when I saw this book, but I can never resist an animal memoir. I signed up and was thrilled when I won.

Dr. Trout has written a lovely memoir in "Ever By My Side." It isn't just a look back at the pets in his life, but more of a memoir tracing his journey from a young boy in England, wanting to please his father; becoming an adult and following his own path; to moving to the United States and starting his career and family.

I found it very touching how much Nick as a boy (even later as a grown man) wanted to please his father. He shows a strong bond between the two of them and my heart ached when he had to tell his dad that he wasn't going to be the kind of veterinarian his father wished he would be. Instead of being the country vet, he wanted to be a surgeon and that is what he did. Not to mention, he did it in another country across the ocean.

It was also very touching to see how he reacted differently to the varied pets in his life. His grandmother's dog, Marty, left quite the impression on him! Dr. Nick Trout gave me reason to believe that when I take my own pet to the vet, the doctor has probably been in my shoes at one time or another. I guess you could say, this book humanized the veterinarians in my life.

I will certainly be reading more books by Dr. Nick Trout. In fact, I just added his book, "Tell Me Where It Hurts" to my to-read list. I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

This was a book that I received for free from the author. Winning a copy in no way influenced my review of the book or the author. The opinion expressed in this review is my honest opinion about the book.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book #6: Here We Go Again: My Life In Television: 1949-1995 by Betty White

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a HUGE Golden Girls fan. I watch it every night. If there is a marathon, I watch that, too. I also own the entire series on DVD, so if I can't find something to watch on TV or need background noise while I'm working around the house, I pop one of those in and I'm all set.

Adding to that, my love of the last surviving Golden Girl, Betty White. I was thrilled at her commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl. I watched Saturday Night Live (a show I never watch) the night she hosted. I faithfully watch every episode of her current show, Hot In Cleveland. Last but not least, I have a Betty White calendar in my office.

When my dear friend, @kayakgal, asked if I knew about (or had read) Betty White's book, Here We Go Again, I was surprised that I hadn't. She made sure I received a copy and I couldn't wait to delve into it! I, of course, loved it!

Betty White is most certainly a television pioneer. She was there, doing live TV, before most people even had television sets. There are no tapes, obviously, of the first television shows she was on, so it was a pure delight to read her recount those days and what it was like for her, blazing a trail in this new frontier.

I was surprised to find out about her relationships prior to the love of her life, Allen Ludden. It was wonderful to read about their special relationship and how much they loved each other. She told stories about her famous friends as well. She showed them to all be such down to earth souls. It brought to mind many episodes of the Golden Girls that some of them guested on. I figure that they did the show because of Betty White!

The book reads just like Betty is sitting down with you, telling stories over coffee. Because of this, sometimes she jumps around in time. There were several times when I wasn't sure what year something happened, but all in all, it probably doesn't matter. Each tale was a joy to read.

If you have any interest in the history of television or, like me, are a Golden Girls junkie, you simply must read this book! Betty White is a hoot and she makes me wish I was along for the ride all those wondrous years.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book #5: Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen

My fifth book of 2011 was quite short. "Good Dog. Stay." by Anna Quindlen has just 82 pages and over half of those are pages with only pictures on them. It is about Ms. Quindlen's black Lab, Beau.

To be exact, although it is about Beau, it isn't a memoir. It is more of a brief look back at the author's own life and how the dog played a role in it. You don't get much of a look at his personality, but you do get a good glimpse of hers.

It is a pleasant little story and you can feel the love she and her family had for Beau. If you have 30 minutes and don't mind a couple of tears, read about Ms. Quindlen and her dog. I know I would want everyone to get a glimpse of my pets if they could and I bet that is why she shared her Beau in this story.

Book #4: Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

I had heard about this book long ago and thought I should read it. I saw favorable reviews and it was recommended by friends. I thought it would be a book that I would love. Instead, I just kind of liked it.

"Dog On It" by Spencer Quinn is a Chet and Bernie mystery; the human, Bernie, is a private investigator and Chet is his dog who didn't quite make it through police K-9 training. Together they make up the Little Detective Agency. Bernie is hired by a mother to find her missing teenage daughter. Not a few hours after he is hired, the girl comes home on her own. Case closed. Until she goes missing again, this time for real.

Bernie and Chet are on the case even though others think the girl will just turn up again. Bernie follows his intuition and Chet follows his nose. There are a couple of twists that probably should have really interested me, but I just couldn't seem to get into it. Bernie pretty much has the case figured out and lets the reader know "whodunit" in a rough sense. The only mystery at that point is finding the girl and piecing together the details.

I never found myself looking forward to reading what came next. Maybe the fact that I didn't have anything to ponder is what bored me. The characters were very likable, but it didn't seem to matter too much when something seemingly bad happened to them. I knew it would work itself out and I didn't care much how it would happen.

Although I wouldn't tell people it is a "must-read", it's not a bad little story. If you like mysteries, give it a try. If you read it too, let me know what you thought of it.
Just as an aside, I would recommend you check out Chet's blog; it's pretty cute!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book #3: Dewey's Nine Lives by Vicki Myron

My third book for 2011 was "Dewey's Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions" by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter. It is a follow-up to their best-seller "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World."

"Dewey's Nine Lives" tells nine stories from people whose lives were touched not only by Dewey (either in person or through his book) but were touched by cats personally as well. These aren't simply cat stories, either. They really reveal the person and what their life is like presently as well as before they had their special cat. It's not always pretty, but the story is more complete that way.
My two favorite stories in the book were numbers seven and nine. The last story had a little twist to it-they definitely saved the best for last! Some of the stories I felt were a bit drawn out, but again, it gave you a complete look at a person's life.

This was a great book, but I would suggest you read "Dewey" before you read "Dewey's Nine Lives". You'll need your tissues for both! There are also some children's books about Dewey: "Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library"; "Dewey: The True Story of a World-Famous Library Cat"; and "Dewey's Christmas at the Library".

If you want more information about Dewey, you can check out his website at or the website for the Spencer Public Library, where he was abandoned, found by Ms. Myron, and lived for many years.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book #2: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer

This book was yet another gift from my friend @kayakgal. (What can I say? She's awesome and sends me great books I wouldn't otherwise know about!) With the book she included a note that it was her favorite non-fiction book so I was very intrigued. A coincidence about her sending me this particular book is that I love elephants. I have collected them since childhood and they have always been my favorite zoo animal.

"Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived" by Ralph Helfer starts out on the day that both Modoc and her lifetime friend and handler, Bram Gunterstein, were born. They were soul-mates and had a special connection from that day forward. They grew up together and shared a silent language which allowed Bram great success in training her differently than what was typically done in the early part of the 20th century.

The book tells tales that are, at times, unbelievable. There is the sale of the circus Modoc belongs to and the doomed ship that Bram stows away on to be with her. There is the time spent with the maharajah and his mysterious white elephant. The teak forest where the war tears everything apart. The New York circus where Modoc becomes a star. The author explains at the beginning of the book that it is a true story, pieced together as well as possible, from his research and what he has been told. He admits to a little "poetic license" but states that as far as he can tell, it is all true.

It reads very much like a novel and the stories are so far-fetched that I found myself oftentimes thinking there was no way any of this could have possibly happened. I decided at one point to quit doubting and just believe and enjoy the story. Once I did that, I found myself getting lost in the book. I hoped that every struggle would be the last and they would live happily ever after, a man and his elephant.

I would say to any reader of "Modoc" that you need to keep an open mind and believe that it all happened just as Mr. Helfer says it did. Believe that this elephant really was that special.

I do.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book #1: Paper Towns by John Green

My first book for 2011 was a gift from my lovely friend @kayakgal. She has quite the knack for sending me awesome books! This was no different.

"Paper Towns" by John Green is a young adult novel about Quentin Jacobsen, a high school senior in Orlando, and how his life is turned upside down by his neighbor and childhood friend, Margo Roth Spiegelman, when she takes him on a wildly adventurous journey late one night, then promptly disappears. He follows the mysterious clues that she leaves behind hoping to find her alive, but worried that he will find her dead. His best friends and classmates, Ben and Radar, along with Ben's new girlfriend Lacey, jump on board with the search, but none of them as engrossed as Q.

"Paper Towns" had me laughing hysterically and turning pages as quickly as I could. I found myself thinking about the book while I was at work, anxious to get back to reading it so I could learn where the clues would lead Q next.

Although the book is centered around high school students, it didn't feel like a book for kids at all. I loved every minute I spent reading this book and think it would appeal to a broad audience.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year, A New Challenge

After (barely) successfully completing my reading challenge for 2010, I feel like I'm ready to step things up a bit. A very little bit. Last year I read and reviewed 30 books. Most of them were books I enjoyed and some of them I absolutely fell in love with. Since things went so well in 2010, I will challenge myself to read and review 35 books in 2011.

There is a change I would like to make to my reviews. I feel as though I should develop some kind of rating system for my reviews, so that is at the top of my list for 2011. I'm not sure when it will be implemented, but I will be creating it in my mind as I go along.

Something I am also hoping to accomplish with my reading this year is to get caught up on a couple of series I have been reading. First, I want to get up to speed in the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. This really shouldn't be hard, but I also want to pick up the "Between the Numbers" books as well. Because of this, I may be reading several of these books in a row this year.

Another series I discovered this year was the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. I would love to work through that series as well.

I appreciate all the suggestions I get via Twitter and Facebook about books I should read. I look into each of them and if I think they suit me-or even if I don't, but the suggestion came from a reliable source-I add them to my "to-read" list on Goodreads. I enjoy feedback from readers of books I have reviewed, so please add a comment if you have read a book that I have posted about. Just remember, if there is a spoiler in the comment, give a heads-up first!