Saturday, September 17, 2016

Graphic Novel Review of The Silent Grove by David Gaider

Read for: Graphic Novel Challenge
Synopsis: "Available in print for the first time, Dragon Age: The Silent Grove is the perfect introduction to BioWare's dark fantasy universe In this essential, canonical story from David Gaider, lead writer of the games, King Alistair, accompanied only by rogues Isabela and Varric, embarks on a quest deep inside the borders of Antiva - a nation of assassins Together, they will encounter a prison break, dragons, the mysterious Witch of the Wilds, and one of the greatest secrets in the history of the world!"

My Review: This was an interesting one, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy it at first because it seemed like the story was from a video game and in the past I have found those to be lacking. While it was a little rocky start with not enough backstory to really understand the start, it did improve. There are some really unique and fun characters in the book, though some of the humor felt a little awkward and ill timed. There are still some holes in the storyline for me but I believe the quest continues in additional volumes.
My Rating: The art was stunning in this one, the story lacking but the characters were unique and interesting. That makes for a mediocre book so I give it a rating of Two Paws and a Stump Wag.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bedtime Story: Pug in a Truck by Nancy Coffelt

Read for: Children's Book Challenge & Munchkin loves trucks!
Synopsis: "Pug and his friend travel far and wide. They deliver goods in their big red truck. Sometimes they see toothpicks, and dragon wagons, even ground clouds...

So hop in—and make sure to keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down. Because when you’re on the road with Pug, there’s plenty of trucker talk and adventure around every corner!"

My Review: Munchkin received this book for his birthday and we immediately had to read it. This one may not be for everyone but for a big truck loving little boy who comes from a family of truck drivers it was a perfect book. It is a little long for really little ones to sit through but older kids will enjoy it. There is a lot of "trucker lingo" in the book but it has a nice little glossary at the end to help clarify. It will definitely be a book that will bring together some generations in this family.
My Rating: While this book may not be perfect for everyone, it was perfect for Munchkin and our family. I can't even tell you how many times we have read this book since he received it for his birthday! We give it a rating of Four Paws!
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Beginning Reader Review of Just Critters Who Care by Mercer Mayer

Read for: Early Reader Challenge
Synopsis: "When Little Critter® finds out one of his neighbors is in need, he and his friends rally together and volunteer their help. They soon learn community service is rewarding . . . and fun! Who can the Critters help next?"

My Review: This is a great little critter book. It is a little more advanced than most pre-level books but that seems to be the norm for Little Critter books. The story though is fantastic, it will teach young readers about not judging others, kindness, charity and volunteering. Munchkin really enjoyed this one and pointed out to me that he helps our elderly neighbors with their yard and shoveling.
My Rating: This might be one of my favorite Beginning reader book this year, not so much for the reading itself but for the message in the story. I give this one a rating of Four Paws!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

After Dark Review of Bear to Want by Amy Lamont

I have added After Dark Reviews to my blog as a way of notifying you of a review of a book with Adult themes and scenes. From now on I will keep my reviews of all books I read that have explicit scenes in them for late night posts for those of you who prefer to avoid them or easy to find for those of you who seek them out ;)


Synopsis: "Curvy waitress Alyssa Parker swore off werebears before she was old enough to date. But in a town like Kodiak where bear shifters far outnumber humans, her pledge has put a major crimp in her love life. Add to that the fact she’s always felt like an outsider in the tightknit community, and it’s no wonder Alyssa wants to move far away from the small Alaskan town and forget shifters exist.

But the dream of escaping seems impossible when her mother leaves town, taking Alyssa’s life savings with her. Adding insult to injury, Kaden Black, the one werebear who could tempt her to break her vow, just moved back to town. And for reasons she can’t fathom, the wildly sexy ex-Special Forces shifter is determined to claim her as his mate.

Can Kaden convince Alyssa that he’s just the shifter to give her the love and family she’s always longed for?"

My Review: I picked this one up because it was free and Amy Lamont is expected at an event I am going to in October. I really enjoyed this one, especially considering I am a little worn out on the shifter romances. I enjoyed the characters, though I would have liked a little more backstory on Kaden. We got to know Alyssa pretty well but I feel like while I enjoyed Kaden I still didn't really get to know him. It was a quick read that left you wanting more, thankfully this is the first in a series of book and the next one is already out.
My Rating: I really enjoyed this book and the characters, the sub-characters are great too and I am looking forward to seeing more of everyone. I give it a rating of Three Paws and a Stump Wag.

Pen to Paper: Incoming Organization

Good morning friendly mail folks! I hope you are having a wonderful week and have founds some happy treasures in your mailboxes.
I wanted to continue the conversation started last week about pen pal organization and talk about incoming mail.  It is important to keep your incoming mail organized so that you can respond to letters in a timely fashion. I must admit my system doesn't always work (especially if I take a letter with me to respond on the road and it gets tucked into the wrong place of my planner or lost in my purse) but I do the best I can. So here is my little system. . .
I picked this lovely little desk organizer up at Hobby Lobby some time ago and it has been wonderful.  It sits on a little cut through from our kitchen and dinning room (when I am at home my planner also sits right next to it). I keep a variety of writing instruments in one front slot, in the other front slot I put incoming mail, with the most recent in the front (so when I am writing I grab from the back).  In the very back section I keep some stationery I plan on using soon and any oversized envelopes.   This little box has helped keep everything in place and in order so I can quickly grab what I need if I have a bit of time to write.
Some things to keep in mind for your incoming organization
~ Keep it in a place that you frequent and is visible so things don't get forgotten
~ Keep letters in order of who you need to write first (whether in order of incoming or if you have a pal that needs faster responses). This is so a letter doesn't get shuffled so much the response becomes extremely late.
~ Keep writing supplies with your incoming letters again for less prep for writing.
Do you have anything else to add? How do you keep track of your incoming mail?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tasty Attempts: Favorite Repeat Dishes

I am now posting Tasty Attempts every other Tuesday. The posts will include a variety of recipes, maybe some of them turn out tasty, maybe others are failed attempts.
So I have been posting Tasty Attempts every other week (for the most part) for quite some time and I have come across some really great recipes.  Lately I haven't been making new ones at home but have been revisiting some of our favorites, so I thought I would share a couple of my go-to favorite recipes that I have featured on Tasty Attempts.
This is a recipe I had been using before I started posting recipes here and it is a simple go to favorite for the whole family.  I have even gotten comfortable enough with the recipe to start making changes to it, last time I added mushrooms and some peas to it.
These are another go to favorite, especially on the weekend when we sometimes have a lot of company.  I just made them 2 weekends ago for 7 people and it was an inexpensive but tasty dish that we could make reasonably quickly.
Another fast, easy dish that I usually have the ingredients on hand to make. I have adjusted the salt level and now only use the parmesan cheese and a little sprinkling of a basil sea salt mix I have for a little added flavor.  This is another dish that the whole family enjoys and can be paired with any veggie you have on hand and maybe a side dish of pasta or rice if there are extra mouths to feed.
This is a simple recipe I keep going to because it is easy for Munchkin to get involved with cooking and is easy to eat like a sandwich (and makes for a super simple school lunch). I love this for a fast weeknight dinner when I am feeling especially lazy but refuse to cook anymore Mac & Cheese or chicken nuggets for Munchkin.
So there are just a few of our go to favorites from Tasty Attempts, we have several more dinners that fall back on when creativity is running low.  What are some of your favorite go to dinners?

Audio Book Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Read for: Audio Book & Because everyone has been raving about it!
Synopsis: "Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself."

My Review: I have been hearing a lot about this book, especially since the second book just came out. I found it on sale on Audible so thought I would give it a try, but I never expected this! Wow, really this book blew me away. The world building was a little rocky at first but the connection with the characters was instant, I loved them right way and was a little irritated every time a view point chapter would end and leave you hanging. With that said the book moved along so quickly, there is constantly something happening, new twists being pulled out of the plot line and a never ending emotional rollercoaster. I really enjoyed that this book was also narrated by two people, it helped differentiate both Elias and Laia's view points and find their individual voices. You are definitely left at a bit of a cliffhanger ending so I suggest having the next book ready to go, I myself will be downloading as soon as possible!
My Rating: I totally understand why everyone was raving about this book, I got so sucked in well before the second half of the book (which is early for most books for me) that I just didn't want to stop reading. I think the narrators on this one really added to the story too. I give this one a rating of Four Paws!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Magic Tree House Monday: Book 32 - Winter of the Ice Wizard

Welcome to Magic Tree House Monday!

Each Monday (other than when special events are planned) I will review one book of the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne.
The Winter of the Ice Wizard, book 32, sends Jack and Annie on another fantasy adventure to the Land Beyond the Clouds to many missing and stolen items. They have to complete the mission on their own but can they bargain with those who cannot see their own true selves?
My Review: I really enjoyed this book in the series, more than the previous Merlin Missions books. I really enjoy how Osborne integrated so many Nordic myths into one smooth story. It is quite the adventure for Jack and Annie, with some help from Teddy and Kathleen, but the also need to rely on each other. This conclusion of this book also brings together the 3 previous Merlin missions and explains the connection of the 4 book set, so it is nice to see that the format of 4 book sets within the encompassing series will continue, even if it is in a little more of an obscure way.
My Rating: This was by far my favorite of the Merlin Missions so far. I have started getting used to the new format and storytelling in these books compared to the earlier Magic Tree House books.  I give this one a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

Summer of the Sea Serpent by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House)
War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love by Rebecca Frankel
My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase (After Dark)
Charlie the Ranch Dog Goes to the Doctor by Ree Drummond (Early Reader)
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney (Bedtime Story)

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

Popcorn = 1pt
Llama Llama Misses Mama = 1pt
Fly Dumbo Fly = 1pt
An Ember in the Ashes = 3pts
My Wild Irish Dragon = 3pts
Winter of the Ice Wizard = 5pts
Bear to Want = 3pts
The Silent Grove = 3pts
Currently Reading:

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith - Audio - 36%

 Books to be Read Soon:

Tale of Elske by Cynthia Voigt


Total Points Earned
     185 points + 20 points earned + 10 points (24 hrs listening)= 215 points

Total Points Earned this Year: 1000
Total Points Spent this Year: 789

Pages Read/ Time Listened
199:59 Hours Listened (15:22 listened this week)
34,227 Pages Read (760 this week)

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



I was so hoping to have a calm quiet week to read and catch up on things, but that is never the case the second half of the year! I did get quite a bit of reading done and Ember in the Ashes totally had me wrapped up in it! Even though my week wasn't quite as productive as I would have liked I did get a decent amount of planning for the next couple of months done, and got a huge jump on Christmas shopping and crafting!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Usborne Books Experience

So I have been holding this post back for quite a while but I think it is time to share it with all of you.  As with all my book reviews, I try to be entirely honest with all of my book related experiences (as well as everything else). My Usborne book experience has been quite an up and down journey, so here we go.
I have owned a few Usborne books in the past (well they were Munchkin's), some we received as gifts and others I have purchased second hand from a local independent bookstore, and others I was able to purchase through the Scholastic Reading club. I have been very happy with my books in the past, the non-fiction books were perfect for when Munchkin went through his astronaut phase. The quality has been outstanding and they have held up so good, especially some of them were second hand books. 
Anyway, back in the beginning of July a friend of mine invited me to a Facebook Usborne book party she was hosting (she was not the consultant). I was excited that I could pick up so new books for Munchkin's birthday as well as help her earn books for her own kids.  The party went fast and was really fun, I ordered some great books, won a prize and learned some more about the company.  The consultant did state that the shipping time was a slow process but you usually received your books within 3 to 4 weeks (that was fine as they were for Munchkin's birthday at the end of August).
As I was rather interested, the consultant invited me to a group to find out more about Usborne books and what being a consultant was all about. I found out some really interesting aspects of the company and it sounded like a great way to support reading and earn a little extra on the side.  I however decided to hold off, talk to my Hubby about it and see my own books. I am glad I made the decision to wait.
By early August I was a little concerned that I hadn't received my order yet, so I checked the website and it said my order was still processing. I checked with my friend and she had long since received her order. I thought it was maybe that mine was a large one so gave it another week. When nothing changed I decided to call customer service (since all the books are shipped by the warehouse I figured it was faster than going through the consultant who had the party).  It was not easy to find the main customer service number, I was on hold for nearly 2 hours before I got to speak with someone.  The woman who answered the phone was very nice and checked everything and said that she would take the order to the warehouse personally and email me when the order shipped.
Unfortunately after giving it another 2 weeks, I still had not received my email or my package.  So I emailed my consultant, she was very kind about it and contacted the warehouse while she was on vacation.  She did let me know that the order would be shipped by the following business day (Monday). 
I did get the package the very next week! Unfortunately, Munchkin's birthday had passed, the baby shower I bought books for had passed as well as one other birthday I had ordered books for but I am okay with that, I had gifts to cover them so no one went without and Christmas is coming. However, when I got my order one of the items was not available (but was at the time of the purchase), so I received a certificate for "Book Bucks" to purchase a different item or the item again when it comes back into stock. I was also missing the prize I won through the party (I have sent a message to my consultant and expect to hear back from her soon, she has always been kind and very responsive).  Anyway, the books I did receive are excellent, high quality books that I am sure Munchkin will love, but I am very glad that I decided to hold off on becoming a consultant, I can't possibly back a company that has such sloppy order handling and poor shipping and processing departments.

So there you have it, I just wanted to make you aware of my own experience with the company. The books are fantastic but the shipping and handling are sadly failing. It is a shame that such a great book company should be tripped up by getting the books into customer and reader hands.