Holiday Hats for Babies

Holiday Hats for Babies: Caps, berets & beanies to knit for every occasion - Debby Ware

A collection of patterns for knitting charming hats and caps for babies. Some are quite complicated, and a few are decidedly odd. Most, however, are cute and seem doable for the average accomplished knitter.


What Went Well:

  • Nice photography
  • Cute babies!


Even Better If:

  • Rethink some ideas - does it REALLY need a teacup full of hearts perched on the top?


The publisher provided this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Release date 2 September 2014.

A Kirribilli Christmas

A Kirribilli Christmas: Destiny Romance - Louise Reynolds

The holidays may be over, but I've got a backlog of Christmas books to read!


Louise Reynolds has written a sweet novella about family and romance. Unsatisfied with her current relationship, Shelby unexpectedly returns to her childhood home, and in the end, gets a better welcome than she expected.


What Went Well:

  • A fun look at Christmas in summer
  • Very sweet with no earth-shattering drama


Even Better If:

  • Longer!


The publisher provided this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Release date 2 December 2014.

Gollywood, Here I Come!

Gollywood, Here I Come! - Terry John Barto

Gobbleville resident Anamazie wants to be a star. And she becomes one.


The problem is that at no point is Anamazie seen to be working for her success. It all falls in her lap, apparently through no action of her own. (For example, Anamazie is edged out for the win on Gobbleville's Got Talent, but she's talent-scouted for Gollywood anyway.) The book's stated message is "You can do anything you put your mind to," but the one I actaully heard was, "Don't worry, success will fall into your lap if you want it really bad."


Illustrator Mattia Cerato has given the rather flat story a lift. The images are bright and saturated, with lots of fun background details.


What Went Well

  • Illustrations


Even Better If:

  • Anamazie had to work for her success

Two Old Fools on a Camel

Two Old Fools on a Camel: From Spain to Bahrain and back again - Victoria Twead

Ex-pat Brits Vicky (the author) and Joe Twead leave their Spanish village to teach English for a year in Bahrain. Their adventure coincides with the Arab Spring.


This was quite an interesting little book. I always enjoy these fish-out-of-water sort of memoirs, but the overlap with the political uprising was a bonus. As if the spoiled students and strange American teachers aren't bad enough, Vicki and Joe must face the dangers of a city under martial law and in danger of invasion!


What Went Well:

  • Interesting account of outsiders caught in the midst of the Arab Spring


Even Better If:

  • Writing was more polished. Needs a good editor.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken

Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of) - Elaine Lui

Listen to the Squawking Chicken is an intriguing memoir of growing up in Canada and Hong Kong – with The Squawking Chicken for a mother. The cultural differences are both mesmerizing and horrifying, but always fascinating. Elaine Lui's childhood made me cringe and howl with laughter by turns. Recommended for any North American who wants a look a a completely different mother/daughter relationship!


What Went Well:

  • Liu is great at cultural interpretation of things most North Americans wouldn't otherwise understand
  • The absurdity of things really shines through


Even Better If:

  • Some of Mother's actions weren't defended - they are indefensible!
  • Liu didn't universally refer to her mother as "The Squawking Chicken"


The publisher provided this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Release date 22 April 2014.

Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?

Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?: An Adventure in the Frying Pan of Spain - Alan Parks

Alan (author) and Lorna Parks move from Britain to Spain to retire and raise alpacas. They are prepared for nothing about the experience.


This is a sweet, amusing little memoir. I enjoyed reading it. Although the alpacas aren't the main focus of the story, anybody who's contemplating getting into raising any sort of large animal ought to read it!


Of particular note:

The decision to publish the book without any photos and instead ask the reader to purchase an entire other "book" of snapshots with captions is well calculated to irritate the reader (at least this one). Yes, it's true the photos aren't expensive, and I surmise that the decision was made in the interest of keeping digital delivery charges down. However, black and white, low-resolution snapshots could have been included with the text for a modest increase in file size. From what I saw in the preview of the photos, they aren't professional quality images that are going to suffer from display at low resolution. And the story would have been much enhanced by a few photos of the farm, the animals, etc.


What Went Well:

  • Realistic level of drama: not downplayed, but not over the top
  • Chapter intros listing the current animal count


Even Better If:

  • A little more introspection and interpretation - less "thing A happened. Then B happened. Thing C happened. We were happy. Thing D happened." etc.
  • More details about the alpacas
  • A few photos were included



Top Secret Twenty-One

Top Secret Twenty-One - Janet Evanovich

This is, of course, the last of the Stephanie Plum books, with all the mayhem, automotive damage, and slapstick that implies.


That's as far as I can go without venturing into spoiler territory.



I was expecting - hoping - for some romantic resolution in this last book, and I feel sort of emotionally cock-blocked that I didn't get it! She could have chosen Morelli, the smart choice! She could have chosen Ranger, the HOT CHOICE! They could have had a kinky threesome! Somebody could have DIED TO SAVE HER. ANYTHING, MY GOD, SOMETHING! AGGGGGGGH!


  • What Went Well:
  • "You think about marrying me?" "Well, at least sharing my closet." "It's a nice closet." (however that went).


Even Better If:

  • There had been Ranger sexytimes since the vordo. I could be remembering this wrong, but I'm pretty sure that was the last of the Ranger sexytimes. THIS WAS THE LAST BOOK, DAMMIT.
(show spoiler)


Ok, I feel better now.

Will It Waffle?

Will It Waffle?: 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron - Daniel Shumski

The subtitle says it all: Bacon and Eggs to Mac 'n' Cheese, Bibimbap to Chocolate Chip Cookies--53 Irresistible, Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron.


Author Daniel Shumski was been waffling away over at Serious Eats for over a year now. The question the book asks is, "What can a waffle iron do besides waffles?" The answer is surprisingly diverse - just about the only thing missing is soup. I'm looking forward to trying the Waffled Croque Madame first!


What Went Well:

  • Fun premise
  • Well thought-out book design
  • Delicious photography


Even Better If:

  • More waffleized recipe names (e.g. Wapple Pie, Stuffles)
  • Push the boundary further! Soup dumplings? Ramen noodles? Spaghetti?


The publisher provided this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Release date 26 August 2014.

The Bath Time Book

The Bath Time Book - Michael Yu, Rachel Yu

I have a friend with three children under the age of four. While visiting, I happened to peruse this title on her kindle.


Now, I get that the right book can help with a lot of things, and I know that bath time is a struggle for many parents.


I hate to pan a book, but there's got to be something better than this. The artwork is simplistic and unimaginative. The text is uninspired.


"Can I play? he asked his Mom.

“No,” she said. “It’s bath time.”

"Can I play? he asked his Dad.

“No,” he said. “It’s bath time.”

"Can I play? he asked his sister, Cathy.

“No,” she said. “It’s bath time.”

He didn’t know who else to ask.


What Went Well:

  • Not much

Even Better If:

  • Pretty much everything was different.

Served Hot

Served Hot (Portland Heat) - Annabeth Albert

Served Hot is a sweet, novella-length title set in Portland. Robby, a barrista, serves a vanilla latte to David every day. Will Robby be able to turn his crush on David into something more?


This was a fun read with a satisfying conclusion. There's enough dramatic tension to make the story interesting without going over the top into "DRAMA!" which I appreciate, and there are a few steamy scenes. I'm looking forward to reading more titles in the series, and more from author Annabeth Albert.


What Went Well:

  • Likable characters
  • Realistic level of drama


Even Better If:

  • I'd love three or four of these novellas in a book.


The publisher provided this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Release date 3 March 2015.

Every Day is a Holiday

Every Day Is a Holiday - George Mahood

I came across George Mahood's first book (Free Country) available for free on Book Bub. Free Country starts with two guys setting off to travel the length of Great Britain with nothing but their underwear. When I saw he had a second book available, I had to have it. This is not the sort or storytelling you can pass up.


Every Day is a Holiday is George's journal of six months celebrating the weird and inexplicable Days that clutter the calendar. He squeezed in as many as possible per day, every day, which makes for some awesome juxtapositions. I promise, you do want to know how a guy who works from home celebrates Ride Your Bike to Work Day.


What Went Well:

  • Journaling style
  • The less entertaining days weren't edited out.
  • Photos


Even Better If:

  • There were more photos
  • The rest of the family was involved more often.
  • George finishes out the year. Oh look! He has!

Big Boy Potty

Big Boy Potty - Mary Lee

Author Mary Lee's text and illustrations are ridiculously simplistic. The art is fuzzy and not well reproduced. Some of her other books look to be of better quality, but I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone.

Hidden Dragons

Hidden Dragons (Hidden, #4) - Emma Holly

This is the fourth title in Emma Holly's Hidden series, which I am enjoying quite a bit. It was pitched to me as erotica, but I'm enjoying it as a fantasy series (if a very steamy one). The stories are set in the city of Resurrection, created by the fae as a pocket of reality between our world and theirs. Resurrection is filled with all sorts of fantastical beings; a pack of werewolf cops features prominently in the stories so far.


In this volume, half-fae Cass returns to Resurrection after living in the mundane world for many years. Her high-school crush (a werewolf) turns out to be just the guy to help her survive fulfilling her totally unsuspected destiny.


What Went Well:

  • Plot (there is one)
  • Emotionally relevent erotic scenes
  • Resurrection itself


Even Better If:

  • Tony (secondary gay character) gets his own story!
  • The opening scene was chopped in half; it dragged for me



Favorite Montana Recipes: With Bits Of History Stirred In

Favorite Montana Recipes: With Bits of History Stirred In - Patricia Black

This book was a gift from a family member who found it at a thrift shop, and boy am I glad! It's circa 1994, and full of the sort of recipes I like: unpretentious stuff at home on the ranch table or a church potluck buffet. There are canned cream soups called for, and packets of onion soup mix, and whipped topping. But there is a definite Montana sensibility: the occasional presumption that the cook will be grinding their own flour or cornmeal, ingredients like elk and pheasant, a preponderance of cold-hardy vegetables, recipes scaled to feed a harvest crew. I'll definitely be cooking from this book.


Most recipes are accompanied by a snippet of Montana trivia or history, which made for a fun read. There are also hand-drawn sketches of Montana subjects on about half of the pages. It's too bad this title is out of print; it would have made a great gift. Hopefully author Patricia Scott Black will consider a fifth printing.


What Went Well:

  • Recipe selection
  • Bonus trivia


Even Better If:

  • Better bound - I have a real dislike of comb binding


Thorn - Intisar Khanani

Thorn is the debut novel from fantasy writer Intisar Khanani, based on the fairy tale of the Goose Girl. It's listed various places as YA, but I don't think I'd peg it as such. Certainly, it could be enjoyed by younger readers, but it has themes and complexities suitable for adults.


Khanani takes what is often a simple fairy tale and makes it into a three-dimensional novel. Princess Alyrra has mixed feelings when she is betrothed to the prince of a neighboring kingdom. Her marriage will provide an escape from her family, but she has learned that those closest to her are not necessarily trustworthy. When she is betrayed during her journey, she must choose between embracing the freedom and anonymity of a life she has made for herself, or taking up the mantle of the Princess once again with all it's emotional and physical dangers and responsibilities. Thorn's voice is distinct: formal, almost distant or detached, which is appropriate for telling her story. I'm looking forward to reading more books from Khanani.


What Went Well:

  • Thorn's voice.
  • Good pacing.
  • Beautiful cover!


Even Better If:

  • Horse was more completely developed/integrated into the story. There are a few dangling plot threads, scenes that don't pay off, and his voice is much more modern than Thorn's.
  • Plot threads of several secondary characters were resolved.
  • Better developed magical system. 

The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge!

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25

          The Convergence Theory; Lia Cooper; 15 September 2015

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65

          Tricky Twenty-two; Janet Evanovich; 12 December 2015

A collection of short stories


A book published by an indie press

          Favorite Montana Recipes; Patricia Black; 8 January 2015

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ

          Served Hot; Annabeth Albert; 10 January 2015

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own

          Every Day is a Holiday; George Mahood; 10 January 2015

A book that takes place in Asia

          Kaminishi; Jan Suzukawa; 17 December 2015 

A book by an author from Africa


A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture

          Pukawiss the Outcast; 6 December 2015;

A microhistory


A YA novel

          Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; Becky Albertalli; 27 November 2015

A sci-fi novel

          Fearless Leader; Tricia Owens; 22 September 2015

A romance novel

          Carry the Ocean; Heidi Cullinan; 12 August 2015

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade

          Mockingbird; Kathryn Erskine; 23 December 2015

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, etc.)

          Thorn; Intisar Khanani; 3 January 2015

An audiobook

          One Summer: America, 1927; Bill Bryson; 17 December 2015

A collection of poetry

          Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats; TS Eliot; 22 December 2015

A book that someone else has recommended to you

          The Paper Magician; Charlie N Holmberg; 20 December 2015

A book that was originally published in another language


A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind

          The Hockey Saint; Howard Shapiro & Marcia Inoue; 14 December 2015

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure

          The Lightning-Struck Heart; TJ Klune; 12 November 2015

A book published before 1850


A book published this year

          Carry On; Rainbow Rowell; 10 November 2015

A self-improvement book

          Furiously Happy; Jenny Lawson; 14 December 2015


Personal rules:

One book may only fulfill ONE challenge.

Re-reads DO NOT count towards fulfilling challenges.