Friday, August 5, 2016

SPOILER-FREE book review: harry potter and the cursed child!

Part of me kind of can't believe that I'm sitting here writing a book review on a new Harry Potter book. It's crazy. It's amazeballs. Dare I say it's...magical?

Ha. Sorry. I couldn't resist.

I have to say I wasn't totally bummed when I learned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be in play format, but not totally on board either. I was just a smidge hesitant, I guess. It turned out that that didn't have a huge impact on my enjoyment of the story. I was still able to digest it and sort of translate it pretty smoothly into non-play, regular story format in my head. That's how I chose to read it, anyway. I just sort of translated the stage directions into the sorts of visuals the more traditional narratives in the rest of the HP books would have evoked for me. My biggest complaint on the script topic is that I wish I could have read it without having seen the actors cast in the roles first--not because I have any problems whatsoever with the casting, because I don't, AT ALL. I'll be the first to defend the Hermione casting, for instance. But I would've just preferred to not have that confusion of two different versions of my favorite characters kind of competing with the flow of the story. I'd have been able to just skip the confusion of whom to picture in my mind for the characters.

Moving on...

I will keep this brief and spoiler-free. I just have to say that at first, I wasn't sold. It started out a bit slow and a bit depressing. Then it got even more depressing and darker. But turned a corner and it all came together gloriously. And I loved it. I loved it and I am now once again depressed because Harry Potter came back for a minute just to end again! How cruel! 

Anyway. I have to say my favorite characters in this were good old Ron Weasley--I don't know what people are complaining about because to me, he was 100% Ron except BETTER--and Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius was perhaps the most well-written new character, and his one liners and personality were so great. I want a new series of seven books that focus on Scorpius. To tell you more would just spoil it if you haven't read it. Just go read it and be prepared to love Scorpius.

A couple of criticisms: the story actually didn't 100% make sense to me. And Ron, Hermione, and Harry all felt a little out of character for themselves. Draco, too. Some of their lines just didn't sound like them. Those sound like big problems, really, but when I quickly read through this in the format it's in, they didn't really seem like problems that impacted my overall impression or enjoyment, I guess. I suppose that was all part of taking into account while I was reading that this was going to play out a little differently than a HP novel by JK. If that makes sense?

Okay, that's where I am going to end this, because if I don't shut up now, I will continue to blab on about this forever. Just go read it. It's amazing that it even exists and it's pretty great in and of itself. Yay!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

book review: miss peregrine's home for peculiar children by ransom riggs.

I know I was supposed to read another classic for my Classics Catch-Up next, but I went ahead and hopped into Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs because I've been meaning to for awhile, and I wanted to make sure I knew what was up since the movie is coming out in September. I'm sure glad I picked this one up! So good!

It wasn't quite what I expected. I was imagining a much more horror-heavy, stylized, Victorian-esque dark horror fantasy. It was nothing of the sort, really. It was more like a good episode of Doctor Who (think Tennant) mixed with Series of Unfortunate Events (sort of) and the X-men, with a splash of Neil Gaiman, perhaps? But the narrative was pretty unfussy and straightforward. It read like a lot of YA I've read in that sense.

The concept of this story being built around all these eerie old photos is pretty novel and intriguing, but I think the thing that really drew me in was the story. It had its moments and parts were a bit underdeveloped, but in all it was just a good story that drew me in. I liked Jacob, the main character, and found his narrative to be well-paced and easy to get drawn into. The story of a boy discovering his grandfather's tall tales were true, and that he was a part of a time travel / WWII / dark fantasy / monster fairy tale type story in ways he couldn't have even imagined, kept me interested.

The story follows Jacob as he tracks clues left by his grandfather, who died a disturbing death, to discover the home for "peculiar children" he told tales of through Jacob's childhood was real. Then Jacob gets caught up in friendship, romance, adventure, danger, and makes shocking discoveries about himself and the world around him. Vague, I know, but to explain it in more detail would ruin it! The plot has enough twists and turns that you'll want to see for yourself.

I liked the vibe--dark, but not too dark, more historical fantasy fiction than anything. My biggest complaint is, again, that some of the story's threads seemed a little thin, and could have strengthened the story if they had been woven a big tighter and fleshed out more.

But, yeah, I really enjoyed it! Enough that I had to pick up the next book, Hollow City, right away. Looking forward to the movie this fall!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

double book review: smile and sisters by raina telgemeier.

Double graphic novel book review time! I devoured both of these graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier so quickly, and they were so closely tied together, there was no reason not to combine their reviews. Kind of how sisters get stuck sharing a bedroom? Ha.

I read both of these children's / YA (depends on where your library shelves it) graphic novels for my reader's advisory goal at work. I have seen so many young girls pick up copies of these two, I thought I should see what the fuss was about. I'm so glad I did!

Smile is the autobiographical story of Raina's pre-teen and early-teen years, centering around the ordeals she went through with her teeth and orthodontic work. Sounds like kind of odd, mundane subject matter, but it was far from it. On the contrary--Raina went through a lot of harrowing drama when it came to her teeth, which had a huge impact on her coming-of-age in that awkward stage of life we all go through. We follow her ups and downs, as she faces troubles and learns more about herself in the process. It's really a well-told story, the art is great, and the '90s references are the icing on the cake!

Sisters is the follow-up to Smile, illustrating Raina's relationship with her younger sister Amara through a series of flashbacks laced throughout a particularly dramatic episode in their lives as they braved a family trip together. Smile was my favorite of the two, but Sisters makes a great companion read and adds more background and depth to supplement the story you just didn't want to end in Smile.

These were both great reads! I'm pretty new to graphic novels, and these two were a great place to get my feet wet. I will certainly be recommending them to library patrons, and anyone looking for a good coming-of-age story!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

book review: hello, bicycle by anna brones.

I have loved bike-riding since I was a kid. I've never been a great cyclist, but I do love riding casually for fun and for exercise. It's one of those few physical activities I don't see as a chore! I haven't had the time or means to ride my bike much in the last few years, but I've had it on my mind for awhile to get my bike back in working order and get back into riding. Cue Hello, Bicycle by Anna Brones! The quirky, cute cover art and subject matter quickly caught my eye, so I had to grab a copy. Just glancing at the cover and at the illustrations throughout made visions of being a cute little hipster bike lady cycle through my head. ;)

Brones' book is dense and comprehensive, but well-organized and very readable. It stirred up my excitement to get back in the saddle. It covers everything from the rules of the road and safety, bicycle purchasing and maintenance, history, gear and accessories, information for cyclists with all sorts of levels of enthusiasm and purposes for riding in mind, bike culture, and even recipes for snacks to take along and some nifty bike DIYs. Again, this is a fairly intense and information-packed book, but there's something for every kind of cyclist in there, and I think just about anyone could skip around and find useful info in there. My only wish is that there was more extensive info and tips for riding with small children or pets in a bike trailer--I'm interested in purchasing one, but would like to research more before making that plunge. My area is growing up quickly and becoming more urban, so riding with my kiddo in tow to run an errand or do something fun is looking like more of a possibility for the future. But, regardless of the lack of info on towing a tot, there's plenty of other good stuff to dig into here.

For more on Anna Brones and her new book, check out the following links:
Happy riding & reading!

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

book review: vinegar girl by anne tyler.

I usually don't stray too far from my favorites: kid lit, fantasy, sci-fi. But I decided I should start diversifying a bit. Enter: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler! I caught the NPR review and was intrigued, especially by the comparison to Jane Austen. The idea of a fresh take on a Shakespeare classic by an acclaimed author piqued my interest, as well. And the pretty cover didn't hurt, either!

So, basically, Vinegar Girl is a modern take on The Taming of the Shrew. It follows Kate Battista, the April Ludgate-esque daughter of scientist Louis Battista, whose treasured lab assistant Pyotr faces impending deportation. Hijinks ensues, as you might imagine. To go into further detail would spoil the fun of this brief novel, so, go read it yourself!

This one took awhile to win me over, in spite of its brevity. I felt like Kate started out a bit disappointingly two-dimensional, and took awhile to feel like a fleshed-out character. The dialogue was also a bit old-fashioned and off for a modern 29-year-old and those around her. If you took out the cell phones, the novel could've easily taken place in the '60s or '70s. 

All that said...Vinegar Girl took awhile to draw me in, but draw me in it did. I don't know, I guess what seemed like sloppy threads at first sort of sorted themselves out and were woven into a compelling arc that ended up totally hooking me. By the end, my biggest complaint was that the last act ended well, but not in the way I wanted. I wanted a satisfying spelling-out of some of what Tyler employed as negative space instead. She did the less-is-more thing with tying things up, which I can respect, but by then I was emotionally invested enough to want more juicy details! Good problem to have, though, no?

So. This was a good one! Yay for reading a grown up book with no magic or spaceships and liking it! 

For more on Vinegar Girl and Anne Tyler:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

classics catch-up: sense & sensibility.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am starting to catch up on some classics that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. And, let me tell you, there are a lot of them I've missed. It's the curse of the incurable re-reader with a short attention span...

Anywho. I figure I'll start alternating my new/newer reads with these classics. So, first up on the Classics Catch-Up list: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

I guess I kind of figured I'd start off small. I'm a huge Pride & Prejudice fan (and re-reader), so it's not such a huge leap for me to tackle other Austen. I had heard that none of her other works compare to P&P, though, so I have always been a bit hesitant to give them a shot. But I went ahead and gave Sense and Sensibility a try.

The rundown: basically, it's a story about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and the ups and downs they experience through disappointed love and some pretty dramatic shakeups. The themes seem to be that love never goes as smoothly as you expect and pretty often veers off the course it seems to be taking you along; and, also, this book makes the case for dealing with the dramas of life and love with reserve, calm, and a level head. Elinor is the level-headed, outwardly poised sister ("sense") and Marianne is the romantic one, an open book who feels everything large and loud ("sensibility").

Being a big Pride & Prejudice fan, I just can't help but frame my impressions of any other Austen book by comparison to P&P. I mean, you could compare just about any romantic comedy to Pride & Prejudice. It's kind of the basis on which they're all built, right?

As far as the side by side goes with S&S and P&P...there are a lot, lot, lot of familiar themes, situations, tropes, and characters. But yet the characters are different, and I think a bit more three dimensional, in Sense and Sensibility. I also think the arcs the characters follow as they grow and evolve throughout the story are more nuanced and realistic. That said, I think the overall story of Pride & Prejudice is better-written and a tighter narrative with a tidier flow.

My favorite thing about Sense and Sensibility was the characters. I know that you are pretty much intended to admire Elinor and see her as the no-nonsense, feet on the ground sort of girl who demands respect and preference, but I can't help but see her as stodgy and too worried with appearances. That said, she's still someone I can relate to. I can also relate quite a lot to Marianne, whose romantic, frank, intensely feeling personality is probably more similar to my own and also perhaps a more modern silhouette than Elinor's. Elinor and Marianne still don't hold a candle to Elizabeth Bennet, mind you, but I think Austen threw some of their better qualities into the mix when she was creating the definitely more captivating heroine of Pride & Prejudice.

So the Dashwood sisters were pretty good, but the side characters were a hoot. I loved Colonel Brandon, Mrs. Jennings, and Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, as well as Edward, to perhaps a lesser extent. Even the intentionally dislikable and antagonizing characters were good ones, most especially the more-than-meets-the-eye heartbreaker who shall remained unnamed for those who haven't read it. ;)

My main complaints are that the story has a lot of hurry-up-and-wait which feels a little clunky, and that the end (I won't spoil it) gets tied up a little sloppily. I would have gotten a lot more satisfaction from having the end less rushed and more elaborated on, rather than getting some quick explanations to sum up a couple of events that could have been a lot more emotionally rewarding had they been shown instead of just quickly told. It almost took some of the believability out of some of the ways things were tied up, to be honest. I think Austen worked that kink out to a T with Pride & Prejudice, because you get to that moment you'd been waiting for, and your heart can't help but pound in anticipation right along with Elizabeth's. The end of Sense and Sensibility is, much like Elinor, a little too tidy and businesslike.

I could go on and on, I really could, but to come down to it, I really do heart Jane Austen's writing voice, style, and characterizations, and I can be convinced to hang on to her plots and see them through to the end. Where the stories lack in modern relatability--no one has jobs, they all base their lives solely around who they're going to marry and how much money potential spouses possess, and they all just sit around or take walks and talk and do very little--they make up in Austen's snappy, witty, often tongue-in-cheek prose. If you're going to tackle classic lit, you can do much worse and much more boring than Jane Austen.

a little Jane Austen sketch I did awhile back

Yay, Sense and Sensibility! I'm definitely inspired to include much, much more Jane Austen on my to-read list after this gem. I truly enjoyed it, in spite of my criticisms, and couldn't put it down.

What is your favorite Jane Austen book? Which one should I tackle next?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

classics catch-up!

I am on a mission, folks...a mission I'm calling the Classics Catch-Up!

I can't be the only one this happens to: I have hit a few of the classics here and there, especially when I was younger and forced to read them in school, but I've missed the boat on a LOT of them. And, being the bookish bookworm and library faerie that I am, I feel a deep sense of needing to make amends for that. So, here I am, embarking on a mission to stretch myself a little and choose classics to catch up on in between my usual fare of mostly kid lit, sci-fi, fantasy, or combinations of those three.

Soon I will be posting my first Classics Catch-Up review, which I guess is a little redundant or unnecessary, to share reviews of books that so, so many other people have read and discussed before. But, they're new to me, and maybe someone else out there will stumble on a review of mine that will convince them one way or the other that a particular classic is, or isn't, worth going back and snagging? At the very least, whether anyone sees my reviews or not, I am enjoying getting them out there into the world for posterity's sake.

So! Check back soon for my very first Classics Catch-Up review. Want a hint at which one of the above stack of beauties it will be? Here's a clue...

Happy reading! And let me know if you have any suggestions for classics I should add to my to-read list!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

book review: star wars: jedi academy by jeffrey brown.

Graphic novel time! I just finished reading Star Wars: Jedi Academy, which is book one in a graphic novel series by Jeffrey Brown. You may know his other books, like Goodnight, Darth Vader, Darth Vader and Son, or Vader's Little Princess. We own all of the above at my house!

Not only did I have a reader's advisory goal for work to read some children's graphic novels, but I also wanted to read this one in particular because it seemed like a great option for lovers of the Origami Yoda series (myself included) and I wanted to check it out to see if it's suggest-worthy to my library kiddos who love those books. Newsflash: it is! And to boot, I'd recommend it to any adults who are into Star Wars and love reading children's books for the humor and light touch.

A brief rundown: this quick read is part one of the story of Roan Novachez, a young boy from Tatooine who wants to go to Pilot Academy Middle School (ha) but ends up at the Jedi Academy instead. Adventures, mishaps, laughs, and triumphs ensue.

I would totally recommend this one to kids of any age--this would be the perfect read for a young reader who is advanced in reading ability but needs the content to be younger-kid appropriate. I'd also recommend it, as I said, to big "kids" like me who love Star Wars and enjoy reading humorous kid lit.

On that same note, I'd also recommend the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger to both of those crowds, too! Hilarious, adorable, nerdy, fun, light, quick reads.

I'll definitely read the follow-ups in the Jedi Academy series at some point. And now I'm excited to try another children's graphic novel. Any suggestions? (No Pokemon, please! Ack!)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

book review: armada by ernest cline.

I know I'm a little late to the game, but I've finally gotten around to reading Armada by Ernest Cline!

I loved-loved-LOVED his first book, Ready, Player One, which grabbed me with the tone, sense of humor, and plot, and intrigued me with its pop culture references. I mean, big nerd here, lover of video games, watcher of '80s movies, and sometimes-player of DnD, all of which were vital parts to the plot of RPO. Some of the references in RPO were probably 5-10 years before my time, but though the book was heavy with them, it still worked for me. So, maybe it's not fair to judge Cline's second book on the merits of his first one, but...I did anyway. I went into Armada expecting something at least somewhat in the same vein--great plot and dense with nerd culture references but not enough to bog it down too much. For the most part, I was not disappointed.

To give you a brief run-down without spoiling it for you...basically, this is the story of Zack Lightman, a high school senior whose love of sci-fi alien butt-kicking video games turns out to be useful in a real-deal alien invasion that is suspiciously just like those in his favorite movies and video games. It turns out there is way more going on than meets the eye, and different things at stake than anyone realizes.


--Cline's narrative was more focused and tighter in Armada than in Ready, Player One. I guess that's a positive and a negative for me, though; I felt like the story flowed better, but I actually missed some of the layers and texture RPO seemed to possess through the heavy plot.

--The nerd references were present, as in RPO, but they were better-executed. Less unnecessary description and more in line with the narrative instead of extraneous to it. And, bonus for me, the video games and sci-fi movies referenced were ones I was much more familiar with.

--Decent characters, fun plot, overall a pretty great and enjoyable story. It was an approachable sci-fi story that fans of the genre and those not as hardcore about it could appreciate and enjoy.

Less awesome:

--I felt like most of the supporting characters were underdeveloped. They were great, but I was left wanting more of them! The focused narrative meant that the details kind of suffered. I felt like Cline sort of overcorrected a little bit after many complained he overdid the descriptive tangents in RPO.

--I guess the same could be said for some of the plot and action throughout the book, as well--I was left wishing it had dug deeper into everything. It just felt a little rushed.

--Things tied up a little too quickly and too neatly in the end. There was a crucial, emotional scene that hit me in the appropriate feels, but it almost took me by surprise and then ended almost too abruptly. Again, a little rushed.

All that said, I really enjoyed this second outing from Ernest Cline! I can't wait to read whatever he writes next. Tone and sense of humor are probably the biggest things I read for and judge on, and he hits those RIGHT on the head for me.

For more on Armada and Ernest Cline, check out these links:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

avy's faves: board books | may 2016.

It's been awhile! That could be due, in part, to the fact that recently Avy's faves were not going to sleep and not staying asleep...but we have gotten over that hump, thank goodness. I think she decided to hit her 18 month sleep regression a little early. Overachiever.

Another thing this little overachiever has been up to? Oh, just walking, running even, all casual like she's been doing it forever. She went from tentatively cruising on walls and furniture one day to running laps around the house the next. Yet another reason why mama = tired! we're back with another installment of Avy's Faves.

Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back by Jack & Holman Wang

Oh. My. Goodness. How cute is this series?!? The original Star Wars trilogy, retold with one-word descriptions of beautiful felted scenes. Avery adores this one. The kid has good taste; she knows which Star Wars episode is the best. Her favorite character is Yoda (Mommy does a pretty mean Yoda voice), so this is of course her fave since Yoda features on two pages.

Sleep (Baby Faces) by Roberta Grobel Intrater

We love reading this one at bedtime. Avy loves looking at the babies' faces, and the short, sleepy, soothing text. She cuddles into Mom when it says to "cuddle away," and turns around to give me a kiss when it shows a mom giving a baby a kiss. So cute!

Night-Night, Forest Friends by Annie Bach

We read this one most nights before bed, too. It was a sweet gift from my friend Laura and her little boy, Chase, and it is an adorable one! Avery is all about animals, so she loves seeing each family of animals (which, I might add, appear to be diverse kinds of families--always nice) settle down for the night. Then on the last page, when you see all the animal families at once as they all drift off to sleep, Avy always waves at all the animals and says, "Bye-bye!"

Well, that's all for the third edition of Avy's Faves! Her book collection needs some new additions, I've noticed, so hopefully we'll have some fun new ones to share next month.

Friday, April 29, 2016

crickets on the book front.

I know, it has been a good while since I posted a book review! That was supposed to be my new direction here, right? So, where are all the book reviews?

Well, life has been a little hectic, and I've been a little bit all over the place with my reading. here's a quick update to prove I'm still reading--

///I just finished reading the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger for my library book club for kids! The whole series was hilarious, light, silly, nerdy, and I would totally recommend it to adults as well as kids--especially nerdy, Star Wars-loving adults. It was written for kids, but it was written by one of US, and that makes it a super fun read.

Oh, also? I posted about my most recent installment of my Origami Yoda book club on Instagram, and guess what? The author, Tom Angleberger, commented on my post!! Squeeeee!!!

How cool is that?!?

///I'm currently reading: Armada by Ernest Cline. I *loved* his book Ready, Player One, and I'm looking forward to making some progress with this one (I just started it) and getting into the story. I'll post a review as soon as I can manage to finish it!

///I must admit that a portion of my time lately has also been spent watching a tv show: the SyFy adaptation of one of my favorite book series ever, The Magicians (by Lev Grossman). It's all kinds of good and all kinds of not at the same time. Adaptations are always a mixed bag for something you love this hard. I plan to post some more detailed thoughts on this one soon.

On that note, there's also the new season of Game of Thrones to monopolize more of my time. But, sorry-not-sorry, I'm diving head-first into this season. I can't wait to see where this story goes now that the book readers and tv-only folks are on the same page, so to speak.

Well, I guess that's it for now. I'm off to hopefully squeeze in more reading time!

Friday, April 15, 2016

avy's faves: board books | april 2016.

Time for another installment of Avy's Faves! This girl is loving books more than ever. However, in true toddler fashion, she likes to read many of the same greatest hits repeatedly. So, it's a quality-over-quantity post this month.

Here are Avery's current favorite board books:

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

We love all things Sandra Boynton in our house. (Well, most things. There are a couple of her books that don't quite click with us, but most of her stuff is pure gold.) This one is Avery's favorite. We've been reading it to her before bed most nights (Baby Beluga got a little old). The story is sing-song-y with a nice, soothing bedtime cadence, and the animals are cute and silly.

Where is Baby's Belly Button? (and others) by Karen Katz

Avery loves anything by Karen Katz, too. She seems to especially connect with the babies in the illustrations, because she has to wave at every one, every time. And she loves lifting the flaps in this one to see baby's hidden belly button / hands / feet / mouth / etc.

Hello, Animals! by Smriti Prasadam & Emily Bolam

This one's another waver. Avy loves the simple black-and-white animal illustrations, which she waves at every time, and the short and sweet text. It's a good, brief book for bedtime, too.

So, that's the second edition of Avy's Faves on the books. I'll post another batch when she gets hooked on some other good reads!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

books: my favorites to re-read.

I have a confession to make. I may be The Library Faerie, I may love books with a passion, I may work in a library where I have aspirations for my own books to be on the shelves one day, but...

I am not the voracious reader I could be.

Sometimes it's because I let life get in the way of carving out much time to read. Which is a huge sin for someone who claims to be a bookworm, I know!

Sometimes it's because I have the tendency to read many books very slowly and languorously, savoring and digesting the story to make sure I don't miss a single detail. Not very efficient, I know.

And sometimes it's because a NOTORIOUS re-reader. I re-read the crap out of my favorite books. And frequently, when I'm paralyzed by the inability to choose my next read, it's often due in part to the fact that I keep circling back in my mind to books I'm wanting to re-read.

I just can't help it. When I was younger, I used to devote a lot more time to plowing through new books, but I also was just as guilty of frequent rereading back then as I am now. There's just something so comforting about returning to an old friend of a well-loved book from my reading history. I'm very attuned to the mood and atmosphere of books, and so there are many times when I recall and seek out returning to a particular mood by rereading a certain book that provided it. Plus, I just love reliving a great story that made a big impact on me the first time through.

So, without further ado, I'm sharing with you today my favorite books to re-read.
((To make this list, I have to have re-read these books at least once or twice.))

The Harry Potter series.

I mean, need I say more? The Harry Potter books are the ULTIMATE re-read if you are a fan. I love them more every time I read them. I can't wait to read them to Avery for the first time.

The Hobbit.

I loved the LoTR movies, and loved the books, too, but I probably won't go back and reread them. On the other hand, I thought the Hobbit movies were a big bummer, but I think The Hobbit wins as my number one most re-read book. I am not sure how many times I've read it,'s been several. If you've never gotten around to giving it a try, and if the movies have made you even more wary, take my advice and READ IT.

Pride & Prejudice.

The first time I read P&P, I re-read it again within the same year. And I've re-read it again since then, too. It's just that good. I had some pretty big reservations before reading this one the first time, too--I didn't expect to love it like I do. There is a good reason why it's such a classic.

A Wrinkle in Time.

I read this book for the first time when I was in the 4th grade, and I fell in love with it. I've revisited Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, and the mysterious Mrs. Ws several times since. I've also read all its follow-ups...but this first adventure will always be my favorite.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. (Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, Talking to Dragons)

By chance, I grabbed the first book from this series in a free book giveaway at my school in the 7th grade. I devoured it quickly, and found the following three books in the series at my local library. I've since bought books 2-4, and love to revisit them. This series has it all--humor, magic, fairy tale elements, feminism, adventure, drama, tragedy, and lots of cherries jubilee.

Anne of Green Gables.

I've read several of the Anne books (not the whole series), but honestly I love the first book so much I'd just rather re-read it then read the rest of the books! I can really relate as a fellow red-haired, book-loving kindred spirit.

Ender's Game.

Either you love this book, or you can't even finish it--I'm in the first camp. I am not typically a huge sci-fi book fan--I love sci-fi t.v. shows and movies, but don't often enjoy sci-fi books--but this is far and away my favorite book in the genre. I love that it's so focused on the characters, particularly Ender, and their struggles, rather than being a dry space military story with not enough human element. This one's far from that.

The Snapper by Roddy Doyle.

Best dialogue I've ever read. This short book takes me no time to read, it's hilarious and heart-wrenching all at the same time, and I just can't help but return to it. I also can't help but imagine the dad as Colm Meaney, who played him in the movie version. Which makes it even more awesome.

Anna and Her Daughters by D.E. Stevenson.

My great-aunt June gave me her copy of this book before she passed away, years and years ago when I was a little girl. This 1950s coming-of-age story was a bit ahead of me at that time, but after a few years I picked it up and read it...and have re-read it several times since. I don't remember much about my Aunt June, but I'll always be grateful she passed this priceless book along to me! You just can't not see yourself in Jane, the protagonist of the story and backbone of the family.

So...what are YOUR favorite books to re-read? Or are you staunchly against re-reading?

Friday, April 1, 2016

book review: the illustrated compendium of amazing animal facts by maja säfström.

Oh, my goodness. I love. This. Book. The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Säfström combines three things I love: animals, seemingly random facts, and whimsical, quirky illustrations. I knew as soon as I spotted this baby, it had to be mine.

This book is simple and sweet. It is what it says it is--a collection of animal illustrations and facts. Some are odd. Some are surprising. They're all great. I've included a few snaps of some of my favorites below, but you'll have to check the book out yourself to get the full effect!

Aww. How cute is ^ that?!

Whoa. Never would have guessed it.

Heh! The mob! I love it.

Yer a wizard, armadillo!

The illustrations in this book are exactly what I had hoped they'd be--beautiful, cute, and quirky all at the same time. And the text is never boring--the amazing animal facts suck you in, and the funny animal commentary and little jokes are icing on the cake! This book is geared toward people of any age, but I can totally foresee curling up with my daughter and this baby (when she's old enough not to rip paper pages) and spending lots of time poring over the pictures and fascinating tidbits.

I highly recommend checking out Maja's Instagram, which I'm sharing below along with some other handy dandy links:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

Monday, March 28, 2016

book review: spritz by talia baiocchi and leslie pariseau.

Is it weird that I enjoy reading / leafing through / collecting cocktail recipe books? Maybe it is a little, since I don't drink very much at all. But I've always been interested in looking through cocktail recipe books. I guess it makes me feel fancy? I have a few very vintage "Old Mr. Boston" cocktail recipe books I found by chance at a used bookstore one time, and I think that may be what got me hooked on them.

So, naturally, I was drawn to Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes
by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. The physical book itself satisfies my old-cocktail-book-collecting little heart. It very much has the look and feel of a vintage drink recipe book. And what's inside is even better!

Spritz begins with a fun delve into the history of the spritz, basically a mixed drink consisting of some variation involving wine with sparkling / soda water and other ingredients. It's meant to be a low-alcohol beverage to be consumed at the beginning of the evening (if you're all fancy and care about which beverage you drink when). I really enjoyed the history lesson, which was breezy, informative, and enlightening--kind of like an Alton Brown treatment on the subject. And something about the idea of the spritz definitely calls out to me--could be the low-alcohol portion, or perhaps it's the self-indulgent idea of making a wine beverage fancier. Oh la la, am I right?

Then came the section of collected drink recipes, which covered more traditional spritzes to funkier twists. I decided to try my hand at a sort of combination of a couple of the recipes, based on what I had on hand at home: dry red wine, mandarin flavored soda water, pineapple juice, and lime juice. It was similar to the "Sangrita" recipe on page 120, and it was definitely tasty.

The last section of the book shares some related recipes for nibbles to go along with your fancy spritzes at your aperitivo table. Many sound quite yummy--I will have to try the ricotta, prosciutto, and fresh seasonal fruit crostini for a future movie night with my bestie. The fare in this book is right up her alley.

So, Spritz is definitely a winner for me! Want to know more? Check it out:

  • More Info
  • Author Bio

  • **Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

    Friday, March 11, 2016

    avy's faves: board books | march 2016.

    I knew my soon-to-be-one-year-old daughter was pretty advanced, but I didn't expect her to be writing her first blog post before her first birthday. Well, technically, I guess I wrote the post on her behalf. But we won't quibble over technicalities. She certainly chose the content with her careful and discerning taste in books. Avy can be pretty picky and critical when it comes to the quality of her reading material.

    Without further ado, please enjoy her selections:

    The Jungle Book: An Animals Primer (BabyLit series) by Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver

    This is Avery's all-time favorite book. I'm not sure why this one specifically enchants her so much, but it does. She loves it and gets excited every time I read it to her. We usually gloss over the quotes on each page from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book in favor of a simpler reading: I read the name of each animal, say what type of animal it is, and make that animal's sound to the best of my ability--what the heck do porcupines sound like? Jackals? Peacocks? Anyway. She always looks at me expectantly, waiting for each animal's sound. It's adorbs.

    Baby Beluga by Raffi & Ashley Wolff

    Mike and I read-sing Baby Beluga to Avery every night at bedtime as part of her nightly routine. It's part of her bedtime wind-down. So, this beautifully-illustrated board book is a definite fixture in her little life! Sometimes she really enjoys it, and sometimes I think perhaps she gets a little annoyed by it if she's wanting to resist bedtime, which it's a pretty clear signal of. But mostly she loves it.

    Tickle by Leslie Patricelli

    Avery loves the Leslie Patricelli board books I've checked out from my library. Tickle is an especially cute one, and Toot is another one she really likes! The pictures are just simple enough while vibrant and eye-catching. The text is brief enough but maintains a great sense of humor baby and grown-ups can appreciate. And the baby starring in these books is totally gender-neutral, too, which is cool.

    Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss

    Who can resist a silly, sing-song Dr. Seuss book? This one is a classic, and it seems to hold Avery's attention well with the rhythmic, rhyming text. I mean, what's better than a Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz, or Itchy-Itchy-Ichabod?

    First 100 Animals by Helen Parker

    This book is just one example of the host of similar books Avy loves--board books featuring bright, clear photos of real-life animals, people, and objects. She especially loves looking at farm animals and babies/toddlers. She also loves staring at family photos in our house and my mom's house; I really need to make her a photo album / book with photos of all her family members to look at. I really think she'd love that.

    Well, that's it for this first edition of book reviews on Avery's behalf. I have to say, the girl has good taste! I'll share again soon when I have another good batch of Avy's faves. :)