Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Books of 2011

     The end of the year is upon us once again. So, here’s our list of Best Books of 2011. If you missed one or two, we recommend that you visit your local library or bookseller soon. You’ll want to have read these!

Rebecca & Esso



Rebecca says:

Esso says:


 by Veronica Roth

Divergent made me question values, choices, and ideals and wonder who/what one can trust.

 I couldn't put this book down. I love the action and watching Tris develop new skills.


The Knife of Never Letting Go / The Ask and the Answer
 by Patrick Ness

I enjoyed the non-stop action and the unstoppable devotion of Todd’s dog, Manchee.

 I'm dreading starting the last book because the first two are so suspensful. Full of action and no end in sight.


 The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey


 This book is my top pick for 2011. Yancey creates characters that you would really like to meet. And, the writing is extraordinary!


by Ally Condie

It combined the best parts of The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, and The Hunger Games. 

I liked it because I could see a real change in Cassia's acceptance of society. 


 by Myra McEntire

The breathless read kept me awake to all hours of the night trying to unravel the mysteries contained within it. 

Time travel and cute guys, who could ask for more? A sure read for any Doctor Who fans out there. 


 City of Thieves
by David Benioff


One of the best historical fiction novels I've read in a long time. The characters were great and their journey was believable. Kolya may be my new literary BFF.


 Eon / Eona
 by Alison Goodman

 I liked this because Eon(a) is a strong female character navigating her way through a life and death world full of dragons and deception. 

I enjoyed these books because of the fantasy world and sword play. The characters made me want to hope for change. 


 Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The futuristic world where humankind tries to salvage what is left of society is very believable. 

 It was an entertaining book that read like a cross between a crime-solving mystery and a true young adult dystopia. A little shocking during parts, ATU kept me guessing at what life aboard a centuries-old spaceship would really be like.


 by Katie Kacvinsky

I enjoyed Madeline’s journey to find herself as she experiences life and her first love. 

 Although some of the ideas in this book are beyond obvious, it is still an exciting read complete with James Bond-type gadgets and car chases.


 Between Shades of Gray
 by Ruta Sepetys

 I enjoyed this book because it gave an insider's perspective on Stalin's attempted mass genocide of "unfavorable people." Sepetys's message "Be kind and loving to one another" strikes home as a truism.  


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meet the Family (Part 2): Lacey

AKA: Goose

Stats: 6 year old yellow lab with a habit of overeating.

Book character she most admires: Manchee (The Knife of Never Letting Go). Lacey and Manchee share a deep love for their owners and a desire to please. Lacey looks up to Manchee as the ultimate image of man’s best friend.

Favorite Activities: Carrying toys around the house and sticks around the yard, helping Himself and me do chores, and wagging her tail.

Bio: Lacey was a Christmas gift from me to Himself the second year we were married. Her primary job in the family is to be Himself’s hunting partner. (She’s our only puppy with a real job). She spends her days helping out around the house and never goes anywhere without her “baby” (teddy bear). She loves to sneak into our bed at night. Usually, she asks to get on the bed, I answer with a no, and if she’s feeling really daring she’ll time her jump at the exact moment I turn out the light and she’ll lay down quickly, thinking that I won’t notice her if she’s really still. Unfortunately for her, I usually notice when 65 pounds is laying on my legs.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Opposition Rising: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

What’s Worth Fighting For: Freedom or Love?

Just the facts:

Overall: 4 stars

Addiction Level: I ignored the hubby and puppies until I finished the book. (Actually Himself was hunting, but my poor girls went without attention.)

Believe-ability: I daydream about the created world and wonder how I fit in. (What might I be graced with, I wonder? Himself says, “Blowing your nose like a trumpet”. … Yeah, not cool. How’s that going to save me when we have a full-scale rebellion?!)

Favorite quality: Sheer kick-ass-ness. (I may have made that up, and I’m pretty sure you won’t find it listed as a Fruit of the Spirit.)


First, a quick note about the book. I’m not one for writing a lengthy description of what you will find in a book. In fact, I usually don’t give away much of anything that you’ll find in a book-maybe two or three sentences of randomness. (That’s one of the reasons why Rebecca and I are such great partners, because she writes a great synopsis.) So here it goes - Graceling is a shining example of a fantasy story complete with its own dragons that, in this case, are not dragons at all but rather Gracelings. When Katsa, graced with killing, runs across a stranger on her way home from completing a job for her Uncle, her world begins to unravel. Soon Katsa realizes that there may be more dangerous Gracelings lurking in the Seven Kingdoms than herself.

On to the good stuff. Like why you should read the book and REALLY LIKE it (ahem, Rebecca)! First off, we finally have a book with a decent heroine! (Katniss aside, of course.) There are so few books that have a really powerful heroine. So, forget about stumbling damsels in distress when you can have a torture inducing, hard headed female hit man. Katsa is independent, strong willed, and courageous. Plus, she doesn’t need a man to get things done or show her how to do it. Check one for the ladies.

Now, I’ve read many accusations that Cashore wrote Graceling with a primarily feminist agenda. I have no idea if that is the case, and to me, it doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist by any means, but I do like a story that provides a character that young girls can look up to. (Perhaps my love of kick-ass characters (male and female) stems from my love of Jackie Chan? You know, kung-fu awesomeness and all that.) Does Katsa make some choices that I would disagree with? Yes. Did I make some choices that my mother disagreed with? Probably, I’ll have to ask her.

Secondly, the fictional world of the Seven Kingdoms really intrigues me. The idea of people “graced” with such mundane to amazing skills is delightful. I truly enjoy fantasy stories with all the medieval qualities that go along. Sword play, hand to hand combat skills, and the knowledge of how to take care of yourself is something I adore. Can you imagine the absolute responsibility you would have? I don’t think half my family would make it. Actually, I know they wouldn’t.

Lastly, Graceling has plenty of action and adventure. A fantasy story just isn’t complete without it. If for nothing else, you have to admire the story for its action. Katsa is constantly running across the Kingdoms completing missions for her Council, the King, and herself. You can’t tire of a story where the main character never slows down.

So there you have it, a young adult fantasy that features an intense heroine, an intriguing fictional world, and plenty of action and adventure. What’s not to like?


Just the Facts:

Overall Rating: 2 Stars = It was ok.

Addiction Level:
  • At first I read it every waking moment.
  • Then I read it when I had spare time.

Believe-ability: The setting is believable.

Graceling was exciting, thrilling, odd, and somewhat disappointing. It is about a young woman trying to discover her identity and mission in life. I admire her for trying to navigate through manipulation, lies, and truth. As she learns who she is and what she can do, she becomes quite invincible. It is set in the time of castles, kingdoms, and kings and queens. Katsa begins the book as a thug and ends the book more sure of herself. Go Woman Power! (Her independence is not what I object to Esso!)

The first third of the novel I was on edge of my seat devouring pages. Once I hit the journey with her soon to be lover (only), my heart dropped. I never fully recovered from her "romantic lifestyle" choice. I continued to read hoping she would change her mind. I kept repeating "Please reconsider!" as a mantra in my head as I devoured the final pages. Our value systems are so different that her choice ruins the book for me.

I think I reject her choice for several reasons. 1) I know how hard it is to find true, and I think she is selling herself and her lover short by only committing to lover (come and go as you want) status. I think they can each have everything they want and need out of being married to their friend and lover. 2) I think it is incredibly selfish to only think about oneself. I believe she is only considering herself in this matter. Love is a two way street; it gives and takes. 3) I think the message it sends to teen readers is misleading. Though not intentionally, I think it advocates doing what feels right (sex or otherwise).

If one is able to step into a fantasy world full of choices and independence, go for it! Read Graceling.

If one objects to “do what feels right at the expense of others,” then reader beware.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Meet Ember: The World's Cutest Ninja Dalmatian

AKA: Puppy Dog, Princess Ember, Ember Puppy, Ember Doggie, Pretty Puppy, Yo Dog, etc. As Ember is a Dalmatian, she must have a good fire dog name.

Stats: Ember is a 3 1/2 year old Dalmatian.

Book Character She Most Admires: Katniss, because she is bad to the bone and kicks butt!

Favorite Activities: running, walking, playing, cuddling, and being a 40 pound lap dog.

Bio: Ember is an only puppy who enjoys demands daily walks. She enjoys walking and playing with her doggie BFF: Skye. While her owners are at work, she is an undercover police dog and ninja. While they are home, she is their loyal, cuddly, puppy!

P.S. Ember is totally ready for the National College Football Game. Roll Tide!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Meet the Family: Allie

     Since Rebecca and I frequently reference our puppies, we figured it would be good to introduce them to our wonderful readers. So here's the first of our introductions, featuring Allie.

AKA: Al, Albie, Albert, Bert, Bertie, or whatever else I come up with. Her Harry Potter inspired name - Bertie Bott’s Every Color Spots.

Stats: 7 year old (almost) walker hound with an intense case of doggie OCD.

Book character she most admires: Sam Goode (I Am Number Four). They share a belief in alien conspiracy theories and overall nerdiness.

Favorite Activities: Sleeping, barking at nothing, and stealing deer meat off the grill.

Bio: Allie is the oldest of my three girls. She prefers to stay inside and sleep the day away, which makes her the perfect writing companion. As a puppy, I trained her to sleep in with me, which is great except when I have to leave early in the morning. Now, I have to physically pick her up out of bed to make her go outside. Not an easy task with a 65 pound, limp animal with four appendages. What’s the saying? - Hindsight is 20/20. Yup. Allie's OCD tendencies can be overwhelming and include: freaking out if you touch her while she is standing on a hard surface, not being able to eat without first carrying a mouthful of food across the house, and many others. Currently, her biggest issue is not wanting to go outside for fear of getting snow on her feet. Sounds terrible, yes?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Leave the Light On, Will You? - The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Just the facts:

Overall: 5 stars! (Which is pretty rare from me.)

Addiction Level: I read it every waking moment. (And then couldn’t sleep for being afraid of the dark.)

Believe-ability: I daydream about the created world and wonder how I fit in.

Favorite quote: “Yes, my dear child, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.”

Favorite sentence: "How long had he lain thus paralyzed, I wondered, unable to move neither head nor limb, forced to stare hour after hour, day after day, upon that blank canvas, and what terrible scenes of hell unleashed, unbounded by the dictates of our Victorian sensibilities, had his imagination painted there in the vibrant colors supplied by his merciless memory?"

     Although this is not a book I would typically choose for myself (it’s horror!), I am learning not to second-guess my brother’s choice in titles. Yes, I said MY BROTHER. (Shout out!
) And, I am regularly coming to the conclusion that I should devour his suggestions with open hands and open eyes. Thus, this is the case for The Monstrumologist.

     The Monstrumologist is about a young orphaned boy, Will Henry, and his life as apprentice to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a monstrumologist. This particular book focuses on their quest to track down a commune of flesh eating monsters that should not be found in America. Is it as gross as it sounds? Yup. Is it as thrilling as it sounds? You bet.

     The Monstrumologist is written as a series of journals, penned by Will Henry, that Yancey has edited and published. Yancey writes as if he wishes to find Will’s family and that the journals are a work of fiction from a man that has no other significant ties to this life. But, the story does not need this. If Yancey chose to write just the journals as a work of fiction, it would have been perfect. Frankly, when I read The Monstrumologist I forget the present-day back-story entirely.
     Yancey writes a very compelling book. The book can be disturbing (in the way a good book is) and frequently gave me the creeps, not to mention keeping me awake for a couple of nights. But as the story continued, I had to find out what exactly happens to Will Henry (whom I adore!) and Dr. Warthrop (whom I have mixed feelings about), and who the eccentric Dr. Kearns really is. Yancey’s use of vocabulary is astonishing and his sentence structure is like nothing I’ve ever laid eyes on.

*sigh* I think I’m in love. 

In the words of Dr. Warthrop, “Snap to!” and read this book!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Survival of the Fittest: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Just the Facts:

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

Addiction Level: I ignored the hubby and puppy until I finished the book.

Believe-ability: I daydream about the created world and wonder how I fit in.

Dystopia Factor: The world has been turned upside down and all hope is lost, but maybe our hero/heroine can save it.

It seems trivial to write a review about The Hunger Games. To say we love it is an understatement. To say it has changed our lives is cliché. To say we are obsessed is putting the matter mildly.


Panem is a futuristic world in which the Capitol rules the nation. Capitol citizens live in luxury, while those in the Districts live in poverty. Seventy-four years ago the Districts tried to rebel against the Capitol but failed miserably. As a result District 13 was obliterated, and now the Districts are subjected to the annual Hunger Games. One boy and girl (tributes) are selected from each District to fight to the death. The surviving tribute receives great honor, glory, and prestige.

The two lucky tributes from District 12 are Peeta and Katniss. Peeta is chosen, and Katniss volunteers for her sister Prim. Peeta and Katniss are groomed, trained, and let loose in the arena. Check it out to see who wins and who loses.

Addiction Level:

The first chapter was a little slow, but I kept reading because I HAD to for my book group. Boy am I glad I kept reading. We enjoyed it so much, we devoured it in two weeks time and jumped immediately to Catching Fire.

Once I got going, I ignored the hubby and puppy until I finished the book. My husband learned not to talk to me, but the puppy never got over missed walks. =(


Yes, I pretend I am Katniss and dream about fighting others in the Hunger Games. Don’t you? Most of the time my dreams make school the arena. Don’t worry I make it out alive.

Collins does a great job of creating the setting of District 12, the Capitol, and the arena. The dialogue is believable and honest. As the story progressed, I realized I do care about Katniss, Peeta, Rue, and even Haymitch.

Dystopia Factor:

The world has been turned upside down by those greedy Capitolites. Please explain to be how gladiator combat between kids (ages 12 – 17) is entertaining! It is just like playing video games, right? So many people are killed that the death is commonplace. The oppression and entertainment factor makes me doubt our heroine, Katniss.

However, there is just something about her spark and snarkiness that makes me keep the faith. I root for Peeta and Katniss like they were tributes from my hometown. They must survive!


If you have not read The Hunger Games series yet, what are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this blog? Really? Get going!