Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Dining and Driving With Cats: Alice Unplugged by Pat Patterson


Dining and Driving With Cats - Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life's hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse's detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant. 
They, along with the cats, dine frequently during a sometimes hilarious but always romantic auto trip across the South. As the miles flip the odometer, we are given insight into how this unusual relationship between the couple came to be, evolved, and gradually, at the end revealed in a secret you didn’t see coming. What, you say? There is a twist in a dining dialogue? Yes! And you’ll just have to read it for yourself–no spoilers here. Dialogue is so natural between the two; you’ll swear he recorded the entire trip. Alice is revealed in the first pages as a real life brainy, successful business woman enjoying life in San Miguel de Allende a small cathedral town high in the Central Mexican foothills. For over thirty years she lived in Washington D.C.. When she was fresh out of grad school and managing her firm’s D.C. office she captured the heart of a young man who came in from the rain. He fell hard. He pursued her. She said no –she told him she had cats. What she didn’t tell him was that she also had a secret. Over thirty years have passed since Alice revealed her secret. The young man is no longer young but he still pursues her. She calls him hubby. This is their story of a shared love for travel and history, for food and for their sweet and wily cats Munchie and Tuffy. 
You might also say the book is unusual in that it totally engages the reader from the first page without a hint of violence, bloodshed, graphic sex, drugs or language. The author's main character (besides the two cats) Alice, does say "you bastards" once. Alice is supremely self-confident and comfortable in her own skin as we learn early on when she promises the author a vehicle of his dreams if he will join her in a multi-state road trip from Mexico across the South and help wrangle two cats into restaurants, diners, cafes and hotels. He expects to find a Suburban or maybe an Escalade in the drive. Alice surprises with a Japanese sub-compact - a Honda Fit. She says it's "flexible". They drive - Scott La. & the Boudin War. They dine - New Orleans at Gautreau's, Clancy's, and Herbsaint. They laugh - the Carousel Bar. They cry - tragic death. If you come along on this moveable feast you will find yourself caught up in a romantic love story that involves the Other Woman and a secret that Alice cannot keep. You will dine on scrumptious creations from America’s most acclaimed chefs from Austin and New Orleans to the Procope and Odeon Relais at Buci Market in Paris. Along the way you will laugh at cats stuck in boxes, fight with a Pirate, terrify a US Vice-President, discover cat smuggling, and learn how the Other Woman persuaded Alice to accept the author's ring. So what’s keeping you? Hop in ‘cause these cats don’t bite. Besides, “The Get In Here and Eat” pop-up food truck is waiting just up the Austin highway.

My Thoughts

I've always wanted to want to be a traveler... but, I am a homebody.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy small trips here and there.  However, I'm good with a week vacation, maybe two weeks if it's a wonderful vacation!  With that being said, this book makes me want to go on an extended road trip!  Well, it makes me want to want it even more!

Diving and Dining With Cats: Alice Unplugged is a wonderful story of a fun, and sometimes pretty interesting, trip with Pat, Alice, and their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy.  Pat is such a great story teller, you can picture every bit of the story right down to the details!  And the food!  Oh how I want to visit all of the yummy places that Pat described!

I enjoyed every bit of this book!  From the first chapter right to the last sentence.  This will definitely be a book to read all over again!

*Note:  I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Fatness by Mark A. Rayner


Keelan Cavanaugh is fat. That’s why the government put him in prison.

They placed him in a Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC), where trained staff work to help him and many others slim down. Well, that was the intention, anyway. The powers that be had decided chubby citizens must either go there or lose their health care coverage.

When he meets Jacinda Williams, an activist lawyer researching this new system, Keelan is more determined than ever to slim down. But Keelan discovers losing weight is more difficult than it seems, especially when he also has to fight against a ridiculous bureaucracy and policy wonks with hidden agendas. Can he succeed, and will the CRC-crossed lovers ever sit at love’s banquet together?

From award-winning author Mark A. Rayner, The Fatness is a contemporary satire of socialism, capitalism, and the so-called “obesity epidemic”. This is Catch-22 for a new generation, with a distinctly tender undertone, even as it mercilessly spoofs the establishment.

My Thoughts

Have you ever had a book that you were excited to read and yet nervous to read it at the same time?  That's how I felt with this book.  It sounded great and yet I could see how it could be a bit touchy as well.

I now know that I didn't need to feel nervous to read it.  While I was somewhat right in thinking that it can be a touchy subject, it was written in a way that humor made it less 'serious'.

Even though this was written in a satirical way, it does bring up the good point of body image.  What is considered "healthy" is often overlooked and what "looks attractive" to most people is what is put ahead.  The idea that people can be put in a Calorie Reduction Center or lose their insurance isn't that hard to imagine!

This was a pretty decent read!  Thank you, Mark A. Rayner, for sending it to me!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween is Murder


Beware of all that goes bump in the night…
Sean and Sara McKinley are excited about the haunted house they’ve set up as a Halloween charity fund-raiser, but things take a ghoulish turn when the reporter covering their story is found dead. With the media keeping mum about how she died, Sara’s curiosity is piqued, and she convinces Sean to take on the investigation through their PI firm.
But this case is not without its challenges. The police are actively investigating it, as well, and it’s not even clear that the woman was murdered. It will take a little cloak-and-dagger, dress-up, and finesse for the McKinleys to get to the bottom of it, but they aren’t the kind to give up.
As they troll for leads and work through the skeletons in the reporter’s closet, they unearth a few suspects, but they’ll need to carve out the whole truth if they’re going to find her killer. If they do so fast enough, there might even be time for a little trick-or-treating.

My Thoughts

Such a fun book!  I really enjoyed it!

I was a little concerned when I saw that Halloween is Murder is book #11 in the McKinley Mysteries but I soon realized that I didn't need to worry at all.  I didn't really need a back story.  This book can stand alone easily.

The characters are fun and entertaining.  I love the relationship between Sean and Sara McKinley.  They are great together!  And, while I didn't need a back story, there were little tidbits here and there that let me in on some things from past books.

I am so glad that I remembered that I had a halloween book on my tar in time to pick it up before halloween!  Such a fun read!  Thank you, Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc, for sending this book my way!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Post! Author Andrew Joyce

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce. I’m here today to try to sell a few books. I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. And I thought it might help if I brought my dog along because he’s a bit more articulate than I am. We’re here to discuss a few of our favorite things. But first, I’d like to introduce you to Danny the Dog.
Say hello, Danny.
Could you be a bit more enthusiastic?
Could you get on with it? You dragged me away from a Lassie rerun. She was just about to save Timmy, who fell into a well. I wanted to see how she was gonna do it, seeing as she has no opposable thumbs. You never know, I might have to save you from a well someday. Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t let me finish watching my show.
Okay. Let’s just get down to it. I’ll say my favorite things first and then you can tell the nice people about your favorite things.
Why do you get to go first?
It really doesn’t matter to me, Danny. Do you want to go first?
Boy, oh boy! You are something else. I’m sorry, folks, but Danny seems to be in a mood today. I’ll start the ball rolling by telling you some of my favorite things.
Make sure they’re not too sappy.
Be quiet, Danny. Okay, here goes. I like getting up early to see the sun rise out of the ocean. I like rainy days when I can stay inside and read a good book. I like a good cup of coffee, and happy endings in movies. Now it’s your turn, Danny.
Whoa! Are you kidding me? What are you trying to do, fool these poor people? I’ll tell ’em what you really like.
No need to do that, Danny. I’m just trying to sell some books here.
Hush. If you want to sell books, then be honest with the people. It’s my turn and I’ll use it to tell the people what you’re really like. Andrew’s favorite thing is vodka. Then there’s his obsession with beer. You should see him when he has a snootful. He’s just like Hemingway. I don’t mean he can write like Hemingway, but he sure can drink like him.
Thanks a lot, Danny.
I’m not done yet. Sunrises? Andrew hasn’t seen a sunrise since I was a pup. And coffee? Of course, he loves coffee. He puts three shots of vodka in every cup. I will admit he does read a lot, rain or shine.
You are a bad doggie, Danny. Alright, you blew my cover, but we still haven’t heard about your favorite things.
I thought you’d never ask. I love to sniff where other dogs have peed. I love our walks in the morning when it’s just the two of us. I love it when, after our walks, you give me those treats. But do you want to know what I love the most?
I’m afraid to ask.
I love you. I’m hard on you because I’m trying to keep you on the straight and narrow. An impossible task, I think. But I’ll keep trying.
Aww shucks, Danny.
Can we get out of here now? There’s an old Rin Tin Tin movie on TCM that I don’t want to miss.
Sure, Danny. Let me just thank Carrie for having us over.
Thank her for me too. It wasn’t so bad.

Thank you, Carrie.

Call Me Sunflower by Miriam Spitzer Franklin


Sunny Beringer hates her first name—her real first name—Sunflower. And she hates that her mom has suddenly left behind her dad, Scott, and uprooted their family miles away from New Jersey to North Carolina just so she can pursue some fancy degree. Sunny has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, and she’s had to leave her beloved cat and all her friends behind. And no one else seems to think anything is wrong.

So she creates “Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”—a list of sure-fire ways to make her mom and Scott fall madly in love again, including:

Send Mom flowers from a “Secret Admirer” to make Scott jealous and make him regret letting them move so far away.
Make a playlist of Scott’s favorite love songs—the mushier the better—and make sure it’s always playing in the car.
Ask them about the good old days when they first fell in love.
But while working on a photo album guaranteed to make Mom change her mind and rush them right back home, Sunny discovers a photo—one that changes everything.

Sunny’s family, the people she thought she could trust most in the world, have been keeping an enormous secret from her. And she’ll have to reconcile her family’s past and present, or she’ll lose everything about their future.

 My Thoughts

Call Me Sunflower is a pretty good middle grade novel that, when the plot twist came to light, caught me completely off guard!  I won't say what it was because I certainly don't want to ruin the book for anyone else, but I really didn't see it coming!  Not at all.

There were several things that I enjoyed about this book.  First of all, for a middle grade book, the storyline had a lot of deep, impactful subjects and they were all written very well.  I felt so bad for Sunny, having to move from her dad, cat, and friends isn't an easy thing.  Especially at that age.

Something that didn't sit well with me was some of Sunny's behavior.  Maybe it's because I am a mom that it stood out to me so much.  Another thing I didn't like has to do with the big family secret.  I really don't understand how a family could keep something like that a secret.  I wouldn't do that to my children.

I still enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.  As a matter of fact, I already have!  My daughter just finished reading it and she definitely liked it!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Girl Who Wouldn't Die by Randall Platt


It’s 1939 in Poland, and Arab knows that standing up for anyone—especially her Jewish family—only paints a target on her back. So she plans to survive the Nazi occupation the way she always has: disguise herself as an Aryan boy, lead her street gang, and sell whatever she can steal.

But though Arab starts the war with the one goal of staying alive, others have different ideas for her. When a stranger asks for her help with a covert rescue mission, Arab has to make a choice. Trying to be a hero is a surefire way to get killed. But if she doesn’t do it, who will? 

Hard-hitting and unforgettable, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is a story about survival, the necessity of resistance, and the hope that can be found when the world is at its darkest.

My Thoughts

I.  Am.  So.  Confused.

When I finished this book I thought I really liked it!  I realize how stupid that sounds but hold on a minute and I'll explain.  Like I said, I honestly put the book down and let out one of those breaths that you don't really realize that you're holding when you get to the end of a really impactful book.  I really, really liked it!

Now here I am, starting to type out a review and I go to Goodreads to snag a copy of the cover of the book.  I scroll down to see if many people have already posted reviews and I see a ton of reviews that just trashed this book!  More 1 star ratings than I've ever come across before.  So, I read some and discovered how problematic this book seems to be.

I am not Jewish.  I sadly do not know much about Jewish history.  I knew that there were things in the book that made me cringe at times but I didn't really realize why.  Apparently, this book seems to be very offensive to the Jewish culture.  I hate that I didn't see it for myself.

This is where my problem comes in.  As someone who didn't know and recognize the problematic content, I really liked the book.  The story itself kept me engaged and not wanting to have to put it down.

I think that I will just post this review and not give the book a star rating at all.

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Around the World in 80 Tales by Dave Tomlinson


80 Stories, 25 Countries, 5 Continents, One Heck of a Ride! 

Come with me on a journey of captivating true travel stories from around the world. This fascinating kaleidoscope of people, places, history, food and culture will inspire, amuse and even amaze. Experience the challenges, rewards and fun of budget travel without leaving home!

My Thoughts

Around the World in 80 Tales is a wonderful book filled with Dave Tomlinson's stories of travels and adventures!  The pictures are a great added bonus.  They really add to the reading experience.

The book does start a little slow and, honestly, I was a little worried that I wasn't going to like it at all.  And, as I've said before, I hate having to give negative reviews!  The good news is, if you stick with it, you won't be disappointed.

I am not able to travel the world, but through books like this one, I am able to learn about different places and live vicariously through travelers like Dave Tomlinson!  There is nothing better than a book that is perfectly detailed to the point that you can picture it in your mind. And like I said, the pictures are a wonderful bonus!

*Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.