Friday, December 20, 2013

The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats by Constance Corcoran Wilson, Art by Gary McCluskey

I am honored today to be a part of the Virtual Author Book Tours for the review of The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats.

In The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats, the Christmas cats have been sent to an Environmental Lab to control the Christmas rat population.  Once there, the cats discover that the Christmas rats are actually nice guys and that they do an important job.

I love Christmas books and my children do too.  They look forward to each year after Thanksgiving when I put away their Thanksgiving books and get out their Christmas books.  They have standard favorites (they love when their Daddy reads them The Grinch Who Stole Christmas), but they love just about every Christmas book they can get a hand on.

They were excited when The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats by Constance Corcoran Wilson showed up in the mail.  Not only do they love Christmas books, but they also have two cats, Mr. Rufus and Miss Baby.  They were pleased to see that two of the Christmas Cats matched their cats, one grey and one orange.

My seven year old son, Kile, pronounced it a good book.  He is in second grade and thought it was an easy read.  He said his favorite part was that he loved the “festive” hats on the cats.
My five year old son, Daniel, loved this book and has had us read it to him many times.  He is in Kindergarten and can’t read it for himself yet.  He loves the story a lot, but his review is that he believes it is more of a lesson story than a Christmas story.  He likes the lesson that we should be nice to everyone.

My three year old daughter, Penelope, also has enjoyed listening to this story several times.  She really likes the cats and how they match her own cats.  She likes the pictures a lot and likes the moral of the story.

I thought the story was an interesting and unique one.  I liked how it was set in an environmental testing lab and explains the important job that the mice do.  I also thought the moral of the story, to be nice to everyone, is an important one.  I thought the illustrations were cute and clever.

Overall, The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats is a unique and fun story to share with the family.   You can enjoy it even after the holidays for its great lesson!

Book Source:  Author Constance Corcoran Wilson for review as part of the Virtual Authors Book Tour.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury

Title: Fifteen Minutes
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Read by: Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: 10 CDs, approximately 11.5 hours
Source: Review Copy from Simon and Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!

Zach Dylan decides to compete on a reality singing competition show, Fifteen Minutes, for a chance to win enough money to save his family’s horse farm in Kentucky.   He wants to use his singing voice to shine for God.  His girlfriend, Reese Weatherly, is a beautiful therapeutic horse trainer that is also the love of his life.  Zach dreams of saving the farm so that he can eventually continue on the family inheritance and marry Reese.

After getting to Fifteen Minutes, Zach soon finds himself one of the top competitors and beloved by fans.  He also finds himself caught up in the production where the producers have decided to script a romance between him and another contestant, Zoë.  He is also told to lay off the God talk.  Zach finds himself entranced by fame, but what will the fame cost him?  Zach also had two judges on his side, Chandra Olson and Kelly who have seen the price that fame has had on their own lives.

Overall, I enjoyed this audiobook.  The story was very interesting and definitely kept me intrigued while on the road.  I could see the point that Kingsbury was making about fame changing people and not always for the better, but I thought she failed in not showing that there is also a positive side to fame.  I’m sure as a well-known Christian romance novelist, she couldn’t argue that sometimes fame can allow you do things in life that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.  I’ll also admit to being annoyed at two other items.  One, I was really annoyed that Zach wanted to use his voice to glorify God  and kept saying that is really wanted to be on the show.  Truthfully that is not why anyone goes on any such show.  You are doing it to glorify yourself and make money, which I think was one of the points that Kingsbury was trying to make.   I get annoyed at all famous people who seem to think God is worried about who is going to win a basketball game or a singing reality show.  I think he has much more to be concerned about.  I was also annoyed by Kelly’s story.  She was portrayed as the bad person in her marriage, when her husband PAID someone to pretend to be his girlfriend for the tabloids and that is what started their problems.  I think they both had issues in their marriage and it wasn’t one party’s fault.

As you can see, the audiobook did elicit passionate results from me, mostly because I enjoyed the characters, and the story.  I thought Kirby Heyborne was a great narrator for the audiobook as well.  I really enjoyed listening to him, although I do wish he could have sung Zach’s songs.

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

Title: George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution
Author: Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
Read by: Brian Kilmeade
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Length: 5 CDs, approximately 6 hours
Source: Review Copy from Penguin Audio.  Thank-you!

Brian Kilmeade is a passionate narrator of this audiobook that he co-wrote with Don Yaegar.  The story is riveting and one to get passionate about.  It starts off with a quote from the British military saying that General Washington didn’t beat them with military might, but because of his superior spy network.  This was a view of the Revolutionary War that I did not know about, and find very fascinating.

After General Washington had to retreat from New York City, he had to work to put together a spy ring on the inside that could feed him with information.  His first attempt with poor infamous Nathanial Hale was a failure, but also a valuable lesson to General Washington.  He couldn’t send a spy in from the outside, he needed an insider.  Soon a spy network for six spies was formed, known as a Culper Ring.  With codes and invisible ink, they were the epitome of what a spy ring should be and were so secret that one member is still unknown.  They were also one of the major reasons that the Americans won the Revolutionary War by providing information that was necessary for the victory.

This audiobook was moving and very, very interesting.  I greatly enjoyed it.  Kilmeade veered a bit from strict non-fiction by having some of the characters have conversations that it is unknown whether they had or not.  It worked really well listening to it as an audiobook however.  My only complaint is that I want more, especially more detail on the Culper Ring after the Revolution.  I definitely need to look for more books on this topic.  I highly recommend this audiobook.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I was very excited when Gone Girl was picked for the December book for my FLICKS Book and Movie Club. I have wanted to read it since it came out, and I’ve been starting to feel like I am the last person who has yet to read it.

It is hard for me to do a review of this book as I don’t want to give too many details away.   I enjoyed going into this book myself not knowing what was going on and seeing the mystery unwrap before my eyes.  I will say that it was unexpected and an unpredictable book and ending.  I loved it.  I love to be surprised!

Nick Dunne gets a call on the morning of his fifth anniversary from a neighbor saying that his front door is open and his cat his outside.  Nick tries to call his wife Amy, but can’t get a hold of her.  He goes home to check out the scene and finds signs of a struggle.  He calls the police and the investigation begins.  Every other chapter is Nick’s story starting with this day, and then the other chapter is Amy’s story from her journal starting with their first meeting and marriage.  From both points of view, the reader soon realizes that something is not right with their marriage and that two people can see two very different sides of one story.

 I won’t say more as I don’t want to ruin the story, but I feel the book was worth the hype.  I thought it was a fast read and very intriguing.  I thought the writing style was beautiful, although I didn’t like some of the very vulgar language in Part 2.  I also liked how all of the narrators are unreliable narrators which give the story a very unique spin.  I highly recommend this book.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Friday, December 13, 2013

Longbourn by Jo Baker

As most readers of my blog know, I am obsessed with all things Jane Austen.  What you might not know is that I am also an avid Downton Abbey fan.  I love Masterpiece Theatre in general, but as soon as I saw this series I was hooked and devoted.  My entire family loves it as well.

In Longbourn, author Jo Baker brings together my two obsessions.  Longbourn is the story of the staff behind the scenes that make Pride and Prejudice possible.  Author Jo Baker is descended from a family that was “in service” and was able to incorporate just what it would be like to be the staff at a regency manor.

Sarah was taken in as a young orphan and raised by the infamous Mrs. Hill (infamous in that Mrs. Bennet is constantly calling for her in the novel and can’t seem to get along without her).  Her childhood is spent learning to be a housemaid in a small estate.  There is Mr. Hill, Mrs. Hill, Sarah, and young Polly working at the estate by the time Sarah becomes a young woman.    The house is put into an uproar when Mr. Bennet hires newcomer James as a footman.  He is a great help with the work, but is also very mysterious.  Sarah finds herself suspicious and trying to solve the mystery of him.

Sarah also finds herself captivated by Ptolemy Bingley, a young mulatto footman that arrives at Netherfield with the exciting new family in the neighborhood, the Bingleys.  Ptolemy is different than anyone Sarah has ever met.  He was born a slave on the Bingley estate in the West Indies, but is now a free man in England. Will Sarah find love with Ptolemy or the mysterious footman James?
I LOVED this novel.  Longbourn opened up an entirely different world to the Austen novels than I have ever read before.  How are all of the ladies able to get ready, eat, and get to their dances?  There is an entire team that works behind the scenes to make it possible.  It was wonderful to finally read a story about the pros behind the scenes and to know that they have a story too.  

I also loved James’s backstory in the Napoleonic Wars.  I was also intrigued by so many secrets to Pride and Prejudice that would make sense.  So slavery is where the Bingley’s made their fortune, etc.   I felt like the secret of this novel is that it in no way changed Pride and Prejudice, but instead expanded the story and gave a back story to so many intriguing plot lines.  I loved learning more about Mr. Bennet and Mr. Wickham.  I love how Sarah thinks to herself that Miss Elizabeth wouldn’t be taking such long walks through the mud if she had to scrub her own petticoats.    

Overall, Longbourn is a great historical fiction novel about the fascinating people often overlooked in literature, the servants who made all of the great events possible.  It was a fascinating story

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library