Wednesday, January 27, 2016

REVIEW: Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting

Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting
Author/Artist: Brian Gordon
Genre: humor
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: March 2016

*I was provided an advance copy of this publication in exchange for providing an honest review*

As a mom and a grandma, I know from experience that parenting takes a lot of serious work, but also requires a good sense of humor. Without being able to laugh at mishaps, every parent would be a basket case by the time their children reach adulthood. 

Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting is a collection of cartoons that really strike at the heart of the matter. As a parent, we all experience delightful things such as bodily fluids at inopportune moments, bad music recitals, school plays, embarrassing questions, temper tantrums....and this lovely collection of hilariously cute cartoons covers the wide spectrum of parental emotions and situations. Good and bad. 

Kudos to Brian Gordon for a job well done. This book is witty and very clever! I loved it! Parents and grandparents of any age will enjoy this collection of cartoons. It would even be a good gift for first time parents-to-be, so they know what they are getting into. ;) Then it won't be a surprise the first time their clothing is covered in vomit or poo, or their toddler is kicking and screaming on the floor at
the grocery store. It isn't often that cartoons make me laugh out loud, but I was cackling almost the entire time I was reading. I even called my husband into the room a few times to read with me. Soon we were sharing memories of parental moments that live in infamy in our household....walls smeared with baby poo, a toddler running naked through a family barbecue, our son sharing his ice cream cone with the dog....

Just a joyful read! The book is 130 pages with full color art, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. 

Rating: 9/10
Not for children...some profanity and adult topics
Absolutely hilarious! 
Ages 16+

Meet my new foster cat: Hoss Cartwright

This is my new foster cat. Hoss was found wandering outside at a local trailer park. His owners had moved & left Hoss behind. The recent cold had made Hoss sick, and he was desperately begging for someone to take him in. 

With the help of the Rutherford County Humane Society, Hoss is now fully vetted, microchipped & neutered. He was also treated for an upper respiratory infection caused by stress from being abandoned & being left outdoors in the cold. Just like his name-sake he is a big, sweet, wonderful boy. 
smile emoticoHe is litter box trained and making friends with our cats & chihuahuas at my house. He is learning to not be afraid of little dogs that don't understand personal space! lol 
Hoss has had a heckuva life so far. Not only was he abandoned by his family, but at some point he lost half his tail (wish he could talk to tell the story). He has a disposition that is just endearing. This sweet boy is available for adoption through the Rutherford County Humane Society. An approved adoption application and adoption fee is required. This boy deserves a furever home with a loving family! What's not to love? Half a tail and he wears a tuxedo wherever he goes! That's swagger! smile emoticon I don't usually foster adult cats....I only take in orphaned kittens normally. But Hoss was a special case. He is truly a phenomenal cat!

Help me find Hoss a wonderful new home -- please share his photo and information with your friends! The adoption application for Rutherford County Humane Society is here: Rutherford County Humane Society Cat Adoption Application

 If you have any questions about Hoss, please feel free to PM me. He thanks you kindly for your consideration. 

Just in case you don't know who Hoss Cartwright is..... 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

REVIEW: Freezer I'll Shoot

Freezer I'll Shoot
Author: Victoria Hamilton
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Genre: Mystery
293 pages

I decided to take a break from my TBR pile and read a cozy mystery by an author that was new to me. Victoria Hamilton was the featured cozy author on a Goodreads group I joined, so I decided to give her Vintage Kitchen Mystery Series a try. My local library didn't have the first book, but they did have the third book in the series. So I checked it out and spent a pleasant afternoon reading.

The book was an enjoyable, quick read. Nothing fancy. It follows the usual formula....easy, quick read; a murder without spurting blood; and the good guys win at the end. The book was well written and the story was interesting and engaging. My only problem with it was the characters. The main character, Jaymie, has a very pushy mother. She's 30+ years old and does nothing to stand up for herself. I found the main character to be aggravatingly wishy-washy. She allows herself to be controlled by a manipulative mother, and by her boyfriend's mother as well. And often, she puts her foot in her mouth and acts like an embarrassed child rather than an adult. I found it difficult to like her. The two mothers in the story were insufferable stereotypes and made me roll my eyes on several occasions. For instance, the main character loves to collect vintage kitchen items -- hence the series title Vintage Kitchen mysteries -- but her mother (who has for some reason moved back in with her daughter in their family home)  hates the vintage items, constantly berating her for junking up her house with them. Now what 30 year old woman wouldn't stand up and say....but mom...this is my home and if I wish to have antiques, I'm going to have them...?? 

The plot also uses a tired staple of cozy mysteries: The love triangle. In this case, it's a potential love triangle. Jaymie is torn between two polar opposite men -- the multimillionaire she's dating and the brooding, physically attactive cop that she barely knows. I found that storyline to be a bit tiresome. It was a bit much when the brooder showed up in a suit out of nowhere looking very GQ, mistaking the boyfriend's mother for Jaymie's mother. He told the woman how wonderful Jaymie was, realized his mistake...then just walked off?  Bit contrived there? 

So, I did find the characters to be stereotyped, a bit old-hat and annoying at times. But, cozy mysteries are meant to be quick formula reads filled with kitsch. This one kept my attention to the end, even though the characters made me roll my eyes and mutter to myself many times. 

It did not bother me, but some cozy readers will not like the use of curse words in the book. There were several times characters used profanities. I didn't have a problem with it, but some readers might. 

The book also included a vintage recipe for a layered sandwich loaf. Jaymie made a sandwich roll in the book....sliced bread with 3 different kinds of sandwich filler, frosted over with creme cheese that had been dyed pink with food coloring. While I have seen meals like that in retro cookbooks, it did not sound appetizing at all. In the 50's they also made gelatin with meat and vegetables in it. Gag. Some things retro need to be left in the past -- for me, this sandwich loaf concept is one of them. I would have much rather had a recipe for the tarts mentioned elsewhere in the book. 

All in all, the book was an enjoyable read. But I don't like the characters, and find the plot to be a bit too stereotypical for me. I don't plan to read any more books in this series. 

Victoria Hamilton is a pseudonym for Donna Lea Simpson, who also writes under the name Amanda Cooper.  As Hamilton she has another cozy series, the Merry Muffin Mysteries. The Teapot Collector Series is written as Amanda Cooper. Simpson writes romance and mystery novels. Check out her website: .   I will try a book in one of her other cozy series and see if I like those characters better. For me the problem wasn't the writing.....I just didn't like the characters. 

Rating: 6/10
Some mild violence, not graphic. Mild, occasional use of profanity. 
Ages: 12 and up. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

REVIEW: No Bones about it: The Temperance Brennan series

As someone who is often disappointed in movies based on books I have read, I have to say that television adaptations also rarely resemble their book counterparts. What is exciting on the page must not be as engaging on the small screen because there are often major plot and character changes.

The Temperance Brennan books and the television show Bones is an example of this.  "Based on the books by Kathy Reichs'' is a very loose statement. The plots and characters are nothing alike if you compare the two. The only thing in common is both main characters are named Temperance Brennan and work in the field of forensic anthropology. There, the similarities pretty much stop.

Author Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist based in Charlotte, NC and Quebec, Canada. Her main character, Temperance Brennan, holds the same job in the book series. I've been reading the Temperance Brennan series off and on for 10 years now. There are 18 books and 3 shorter novellas in the series. I read a couple...then move on to other books....and come back. That's just my reading style. So many books to read....I have a vast collection to read through. And I'm flighty....I have to have variety. This means, it takes me a long time to finish a series. I visit favorite characters like long lost friends. I pulled book #6, Bare Bones, off my shelf earlier this month because I wanted a Temperance fix. I had read the book before, but didn't remember much about it.

In the books, Temperance Brennan has an ex-husband, a daughter, and on-again off-again boyfriend and is a completely different character than the television version. She is clinical, but very human. The TV persona reminds me of Sheldon Cooper as a forensic scientist.....very socially awkward in a egotistical manner, but still very likable for some reason.  I like the books. I like the show. I just have to forget that the two are supposedly related in any way...because in reality, they aren't. In the books, Temperance Brennan works in Charlotte NC and Canada, just like the author. She investigates bones found in all sorts of situations from mass burials following genocide to investigating old graves found in construction sites....situations that might actually happen. Brennan on the television show works for the Jeffersonian Institute...something akin to the Smithsonian. She consults with the FBI on cases, and has access to all these cool (and non-existent) computerized forensic tools that help her assist FBI Agent Seely Booth catch the bad guys. The plots are more melodramatic -- serial killers burying the main characters alive, a staff member being a murderer,etc. The usual Television fare. Grab you fast.....hold you firm for 45 minutes or so....then let you go with a joke at the end. Great hour episodes of dramatic television that have absolutely no tie to the book series. Zippo in common.

My question has always been....why call the character Temperance Brennan if the show is not really based on the books?  Her name could have been Dr. Susan Miller and the show would have been the same. Maybe that was the agreement between Reichs and the studio....she would assist with the show if they kept the character name? Who knows. I enjoy both, but have to keep them separated in my mind.

Bare Bones is a good read. A baby's skeleton is found in a wood stove and the child's teenage mother has disappeared. Add in a plane crash in a nearby NC cornfield and mysterious bones found on a farm, and you have the setup for a good bunch of forensic sleuthing by Brennan. It was a good read, but I did feel the plot lacked most of the excitement of earlier books in the series. It was....ok.  Well written, the story flowed well, the characters were acting as they normally act. But for me, this one was a bit....well, boring.   I will read the next book in the series, and I'm sure I will enjoy it just as I have the others. Not every book in a crime procedural series will knock you off your feet and leave an impression as a great piece of monumental fiction. Just like the last couple seasons of Bones have jumped the shark a bit for me.  It happens. I still love both characters, and will continue to read and watch until their stories are completed and finished.

Rating: 7/10 (only because the plot line didn't wow me)
Adult themes, violence & mild sexual situations, although not graphic.
Ages 16 & up

Sunday, January 24, 2016

REVIEW: Cookies and murder! A great cozy mystery series

Key Lime Pie Murder
Author: Joanne Fluke
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp, 2007
Genre: Mystery
342 pages

In the wintertime when it finally gets chilly here in the South, I love to spend a Sunday afternoon on the sofa with my chihuahuas, a warm blanket & fuzzy socks, a cup of hot tea, and a cozy mystery novel. Cozies range from cute kitschy stories with sleuth dogs and cats to more serious mysteries, but they all follow some basic rules:  keep it hard core spurting blood or profanities; make it fun; and the good guys always win in the end.

Basically, a cozy is a nice afternoon murder mystery that leaves you feeling energized not traumatized.

One series that I have been reading off and on for years is the Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke. The kitsch in this series is the main character runs a dessert bakery and the books are filled with recipes from her shop, The Cookie Jar. Hannah is from Lake Eden, a small town in Minnesota. She has not one, but two, love interests (one of which is a cop, of course), a nosy mother who is trying desperately to marry her off, a sister who is married to the police chief.....just a great setup for a cozy series!

The books are light reads....a perfect distraction for an afternoon or two. No sex, no cursing, no blood spurting, and lots of kitsch (and yummy recipes!)....formula cozy mystery. The book I have pictured here, Key Lime Pie Murder, is the 9th book in the series. There are 18 books in the series so far, with #19 Wedding Cake Murder coming out in March. If you know which love interest she finally decided to marry....don't tell me! I still have six more books to read! :) No spoilers! Dentist or Detective.  So hard to choose!

In Key Lime Pie Murder, Hannah is judging the baking contest for the county fair when a fellow baking contest judge is murdered on the Midway.  Soon Hannah is sifting through suspects and looking for clues. A fun read!

I like Joanne Fluke's writing. Her characters are engaging and fun, without being over-developed. Just the right amount of fluff and no plodding or extra padding to weigh down the story. The books are fun romps just like they are meant to be. She doesn't go short on the recipes either. Key Lime Pie Murder includes 16 recipes ranging from the required Key Lime Pie recipe to instructions on how to make deep fried candy bars (I gained a pound just typing that, by the way).

Hallmark Channel has made 3 of the books into made-for-television movies called Murder, She Baked (yes,they went there -- and it's cute).  The movies are on their new Halmark Movies & Mysteries channel. I've watched all 3 -- the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (book 1), A Peach Cobbler Mystery (book 7) and A Plum Pudding Mystery (Book 12). They star Allison Sweeney, who used to be the host on Biggest Loser (and she also portrayed Sami Brady on Days of our Lives). She does a great job in the role of Hannah, although in the books Hannah has red hair and is slightly overweight.

The Hallmark Channel website has some neat extras including outtakes and interviews with the cast from the movies here:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery Movie

Plum Pudding Mystery Movie

Peach Cobbler Mystery Movie

The Plum Pudding Mystery website has a download link for a free ebook version of  A Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

My rating: 8/10
Some mild violence...not graphic.
Ages 10 & up

Saturday, January 23, 2016

REVIEW: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

Author: Dorothy Gilman
Publisher: Fawcett/Random House, 1966
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Spy

I had no clue this series existed until I was searching on YouTube for a movie to watch. Sometimes I just search for actors I like and see what pops up. This time I was trolling for Angela Lansbury. I wanted to see her in something besides Murder, She Wrote. And up popped a made for television movie from 1999. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.

I saw it was based on a book....that intrigued me. Then, after watching about 10 minutes of the movie, I turned it off. Not because I didn't like it, but because I wanted to read the book first. I made a mental note to come back and see Angela Lansbury's version after I had read the book. This is one time where my rule about reading the book before watching a movie version really was spot on.

This book.....I have been trying to come up with just the right just DELIGHTFUL. And whoever cast Angela Lansbury as Emily Pollifax was so correct! While I was reading the book, I heard the dialogue from the main character in Angela Lansbury's voice. :)

What's delightful about it? Well, I won't give any spoilers, but just set the scene:   A widow who lives in New Jersey is bored with her life. She is sick of garden club meetings and doctors appointments. Her doctor tells her she needs some excitement in her life...volunteer, travel, etc.  Emily Pollifax is no shrinking violet though and she decides she wants to work for the CIA. Yes, Emily Pollifax walks into the CIA offices and declares she wants to be an operative.

The funny part is.....she is accidentally sent on an assigment to Mexico to retrieve some top-secret microfilm.

Excitement follows. More than she banked on, of course.

But the old bird is up to the challenge. She takes on her first assignment, mistake or not, like a trooper.

The characters, the dialogue, the flow of the story......just delightful. It was a lovely romp. Totally without any of the spurting blood, weird sex and nonsense that bogs down a lot of spy stories or mysteries today. It was just a breath of fresh air and an altogether fun read.

Was it elegant, witty fiction? No....but it wasn't meant to be!

I highly recommend this book series to anyone who enjoyed Murder, She Wrote, Miss Marple, or any of that sort of "grandma kicks butt'' line of tales.

The series has 14 books. As soon as I got close to finishing this first book, I went to Barnes & Noble to buy book 2! The books are available in print and on audio. They are short reads .... about 200-250 pages each. Spend a joyful afternoon with Mrs. Pollifax, the spy.  I guarantee that you will enjoy it! '

I sure did!

My rating: 9/10
Some violence, but not graphic. 
Appropriate for ages 10 and up. 

What's your reading style?

Everyone has a reading style....that perfect setup needed to lose yourself in a book. Music on. Music off. Tea. Coffee. Snacks. Laying down. Sitting up. Hardback. Paperback. Ebooks. We're all different. Not to mention that we all prefer certain genres over others. Or some not at all. So many, many ways to enjoy the same activity with a personalized bent.

My husband and I are completely different styles when it comes to reading.

My husband is a snippet reader. He reads little bits of chapters here and there in "lost time'' moments. Waiting in line to pick our son up at school....he's reading. Waiting at the Doctor's office.....reading. Dinner isn't ready yet? Book time. He also reads one book at a time, and usually sticks with a series until he's read all the available books. Then he trolls the internet to find out how long he has to wait for the next book, if it's a continuing series. And he picks another book or series to fill that time until he can continue.

I drive him crazy. 

I'm an ADHD reader. :) I start a series and get partway through a book.....then switch to reading something else, coming back to the first book a few days later. I often have a stack of 7 or 8 books that I'm currently reading. And I flit back and forth between them.  When I read a series, I might read one or two books....then switch to a totally different genre and leave that series for awhile. It drives my husband nuts. 

Let's take the Dresden series, for example. We both enjoy it. My husband battened down the hatches and plowed his way through them all. Clear up to #15, Skin Game, that came out in 2014. I had it pre-ordered and delivered to him on it's pub day, just so he wouldn't go into hysterics that it was out there and he didn't have it yet. Crisis averted.

But....I'm meandering along. Enjoying the series like a fine wine. I get a Dresden Fix....then move on to Simon Green for awhile....then cozy mysteries....then YA fiction....maybe some classic science fiction....then Dresden again. 

I just finished book #9. Our reading conversations sound like this:  "Oh have you gotten to the part where he......oh wait, I can't tell you that.''  or "Just wait til this one thing won't believe it.''  "Has the dog done this really cool thing yet?''  Now I feel badly because my husband wants to have bookish discussions with me.....but I'm 6 books behind (and Jim Butcher has announced the working title of the next book in the series, which he plans to expand to at  least 20 books). My husband is in hysterics bugging me to catch up so he can talk about the series.

That's just not my style. I read a Dresden novel and then move on for something completely different. Then I come back. For me, a good series is something to be savored. Every time I have rushed my way through an entire series because I just couldn't put it down - it's come back to bite me in the ass. Cliff hanger ending --- no new book for years.  I can't even bring myself to talk about Game of Thrones. Sigh. Or the time I read a comic series before the compilation came out.....Hulk and Wolverine fighting. Hulk throws Wolverine's legs up a damn mountain! Cliff hanger ending.....and then NO MORE ISSUES for YEARS. And a stupid conclusion when it did finish. Every time. Total bite to the ass. I enjoy a series slowly and methodically and let the author stay ahead of 2 year cliffhangers, no delay to my gratification.

But my husband prefers the read & fret mode.  Reads everything.....then stews for months trying to find another series he likes to fill in the time. Publishing delays ..... oh my.....I hear about those for days. I finally told him not to even mention George R. R. Martin to me.  Then I told him I knew the story outline -- everyone dies...only one left is Hodor.....he becomes king.  I don't understand why everyone else can't see that? It's totally obvious. :) Yeah, I poked him right in the reader anxiety. We all jab at those we don't understand. :) And that series....well another bite to the ass for me. Big large almost decade long bite to the ass. 

That's why I'm sticking with flitting. My ass can't take any more.  I usually change genres at the toss of a hat, while hubby prefers to stay in his comfort zone of sci-fi/fantasy with an occasional biography.  I'm flitting from sci-fi to classics to YA to humor get the idea. I think it's a bit like wine tasting. I love books -- all books.  And when I get the taste of one genre in my's time to clear it, and try another vintage.  If I've enjoyed the bliss of a great sci-fi's time for a little Bronte, or maybe a biography of an old Hollywood star. Something to clear the palate and send my imagination off in a totally new direction. 

But in the end, it's wonderful to be married to a person who enjoys books. He understands when I pre-order a book months in advance, and he understands how despondent I am when I loan out a book and don't get it back. We just differ in our reading style. 

I finished a Dresden novel yesterday while snowed in.  Only six more to go.....7 soon. And my husband is giving me those "I wish you would just catch up'' looks in expectation of the new novel. 

I fixed the problem. Re-direction.  I went to my shelf and pulled out book one of Simon Green's Nightside series. "Here.....try this.''  He was immediately enthralled and immersed. "Oh my.....the train! What did you think about the train?'   Smile & nod.  I've read through book 5 of I'm safe on the book discussions for awhile.  So I can meander my way through White Night, while also reading The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, The City of Ember, Serafina and the Black Cloak, Labryrinth, The Second After, Bare Bones & the Key Lime Pie Murder.  

Compromise. It's a beautiful thing. :) 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Going Back in Time.....

Since childhood I have loved old books. Every Sunday we traveled to visit my uncle. His house had an upstairs sunny bedroom that had a tiny attic door off to one side. Inside that little attic room was several shelves of old, dusty books. I would pick one off the shelf and lay across the old four-poster bed and read. I discovered Lord of the Rings, Treasure Island, Captain Blood, Jane Eyre and other classics this way. But I also found many more obscure, simple & forgotten stories. Old tomes that were never classics, and had been out of print for a very long time.

All those Sunday afternoons started in me a love for old books. It doesn't matter what the story is....good, bad, poignant or ridiculous....I love them all.  I troll used bookshops and thrift stores looking for just the right ones. Interesting covers. Strange titles. Old inscriptions inside. Faded bookplates. I always wonder, with a feeling of joyful nostalgia about all the people who owned the books before me. Did they enjoy the story? What was their life like? Makes this Bibliophile happy in her soul! About once a month I take an afternoon, brew a pot of Earl Grey, and curl up on the couch with an old, forgotten story from a bygone era. It's wonderful!

There are many places to find these old sales, thrift stores, library sales. Some I keep.
Others I pass on to other book lovers who have an interest. And some lead me on sleuthing missions to find the rest of a series. For instance, I found a beautiful book from 1917, Polly's Senior Year at Boarding School by Dorothy Whitehill. I discovered it was but one volume from the Polly Pendleton series of books. There are at least 13 books. Senior Year is Book #3. Book one was published in 1916...100 years ago! Book #13, Polly and Priscilla, came out in 1932. Whitehill wrote two other similar book series: The Page Twins and The Joyce Payton Series. Two of the other Polly books are available online, Polly's First Year at Boarding School and Polly Sees the World at War. And has a classic reprint of the series. See? Just one book, with its nearly 100-year old pages and cover faded, sent me on a most interesting research project. All those years ago, these books were the YA genre for teenage girls. It was a totally different world back then. Diversity, and discussions of sex or gender equality were off in the future. Whitehall's books were fluff stories about a wealthy girl going off to boarding school and her adventures...she even helps apprehend a German spy in Polly Sees the World at War.

Today, it's snowing outside. I live in the south. Snow means everything is shut down. So, today I'm going to hunker down with my chihuahuas, Earl Grey and Polly's tales of senior term. It's a good day to travel back to another place in time. I will enjoy my short venture back to 1917, and then this beautiful book will go to its place on my mantle shelf.