Audiobook Review: Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger by Terry PratchettTitle: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Narrator: Stephen Briggs
Publisher: HarperCollins
Running Time: 10 hours, 31 minutes
Source: Download from the Audiobook Sync program
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s…Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl–not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy’s rise in a complex and fascinating world.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you probably already know how I feel about Terry Pratchett. The man was hilarious and created such wonderful worlds in his writing. What I’m consistently struck by was how much his love for his writing shines through in his works. Dodger is a story about the a poor young man living in Victorian England written by a man who clearly loved writing about all the weirdness and darkness of Victorian England.

In a word, Dodger is simply: fun. There’s mystery, intrigue, drama, and humorous callouts to notable 19th century figures, both fictional and non-fictional. I loved the tie-in to Dickens and Sweeney Todd, and I especially enjoyed learning about Dodger’s world — a world that, I’m sure, was shared by many 19th century London dwellers. This book is plain entertainment, and I love Pratchett for that. The one and only complaint I have for this story is that I didn’t think the ending was paced perfectly, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment very much, so it’s a small negative thing.

Stephen Briggs did such a good job with narrating this book. When I’m listening to a book, I’m — sadly — probably not paying as much attention as I should be, and I sometimes get lost in terms of who says or does what. Briggs makes it incredibly easy to distinguish between the characters, especially — it seems — paying attention to the social status of each character and letting that reflect in their accent and mode of speaking. Some of the minor characters were given a lot more life than just reading the book would have given them, and I really appreciated the listening experience.

Overall, I recommend Dodger if you have any interest at all for Terry Pratchett books, or if you enjoy a good Victorian England mystery. I had a lot of fun listening to it and think it’s well worth anyone’s time.

Audiobook Sync is LIVE!

This is kind of a late announcement, and I’m so sorry for that. I’m usually all over the Audiobook Sync event.

For those of you who don’t know what Audiobook Sync is, every summer this program teams up with publishing partners and offers TWO free audiobook downloads every week for about a month or two. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer, and I have become the owner of a lot of great audiobooks from this program over the past years — titles like Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer have all been offered in past years. Here’s a look at what they’re offering this year:



If any of these look interesting to you, or if you just want to get your hands on some free audiobooks, check out Audiobook Sync and get downloading!

Book Review: Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens


Summer of Lost and Found.jpg
Buy from the Book Depository

Title: Summer of Lost and Found
Author: Rebecca Behrens
Publisher: Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 288 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went—or why.

While Nell misses the city—and her dad—a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose—an equally curious historical reenactor—they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone—or something—is keeping watch over their quest for answers.

It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.

*I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Historical fiction was one of my very favorite subjects when I was about 10 — around the age group this book is written for, actually. So, I occasionally like to break up my adult reading with some children’s/middle grade reading just to make things interesting. What really drew me to this book was the fact that it had something to do with Roanoke, which is a fascinating topic.

There isn’t much of a waiting period in terms of getting things set up and then getting into the story — instead, the story starts right away and the reader is left to figure things out as it goes along. I love this. It’s my favorite way of reading, because I tend to skim over all those setup paragraphs. Give me something to hold on to, then I’ll trudge through location, description, etc. Behrens does that, which I so much appreciate. More than that, she starts off with a real, gripping topic: Nell’s dad’s toothbrush isn’t in the bathroom and he’s gone. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that something is happening between Nell’s parents, but she’s too scared to ask questions, so she goes along with it and accompanies her mother to a trip to North Carolina, around where the Roanoke colony was established.

Overall, I thought this book was really cute. As a ten-year-old, it probably would have been one of my favorites. Ghost stories, mysteries, historical fiction? Heck yes! Sign me up. As an adult, it doesn’t quite hold up in terms of complexity and story telling. I thought that the friendship between Nell and the girl she meets during her summer vacation to be strange, and I don’t think that current slang/technology was used to its best advantage. I’ve never personally heard a kid tell me, “She’s not really my friend, she’s my frenemy,” straight up like that. I think it’s more of an understood thing than a thing that kids actually say, but that might just be me. Nell also describes a lot of what she does on her cell phone, which might have been better used just as straight dialogue or text instead of summarized within the narration. Again, kind of nitpicky things that I don’t think will necessarily bother the age group/reading level this is written for.

What is great about this book is that I had a ton of questions about the actual historical colony of Roanoke, and I wanted to get my hands on history books about it right after I finished reading Summer of Lost and Found. I can see a younger reader having the same reaction, which means this might be a great companion piece/gateway to learning about some colonial history for kids. I also really love that it deals with a hard, complicated topic: parents not getting along and not dealing with it very well. It’s a great way for kids to take a look at coping mechanisms and ways of resolving conflict.

Most importantly, it’s just plain fun. I loved following Nell in her adventure to find the lost colony of Roanoke, making my own theories and guesses as she discovered more and more about the colony and the area. It was a cute story and a quick read that I think a lot of younger (and older) readers will appreciate.

Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

aeronaut's windlassTitle: The Aeronaut’s Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires, Book 1
Publisher: Roc
Paperback: 630 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m a huge fan of Butcher’s Dresden Files series, so when I saw that he wrote a sort of sci-fi/high fantasy book, I needed to check it out right away. Luckily, Chicago Public Library is the best and has it available for OverDrive, so it was super easy to find.

This is a great set-up book, and as long as the sequel(s) deliver, I’ll consider it totally worth it. I love the foundation that Butcher lays for this world and these characters. If we get the chance to see them grow and see this world fleshed out with more information and complexities, then it’s totally worth it. However, if this is all that we get, then I’ll be disappointed. The characters a little bit too cliche for me, and the world wasn’t described as much as I would have liked it to be — again, if I get growth and description later, perfect; well done on the pacing. If not, it’ll be a bit of a problem.

With that said, it’s a fun book. Butcher offers lots of action, a touch of romance, and a wonderful new world to learn about and explore, which really is exactly my kind of book. It’s everything I look for with this kind of genre, and I was completely satisfied with it. While it took me a bit to get into it, I greatly enjoyed after the initial set-up and can’t wait to read more. I’m greatly looking forward to the next book in the series, but can’t recommend it in good conscience without first having that one out to read, just to see how all this pans out.

Alton Brown Adventures: Shepherd’s Pie

I am a fan of the Shepherd’s Pie. Everything in it just feels so comfort food/homey to me — ground beef and mashed potatoes? Yes please! The problem is that some recipes might be bland, but when we took a look at Alton Brown’s recipe, we knew that definitely wouldn’t be a problem.

As always, we had a little difficulty in the actual cookware department. The only pan we had that would work for this dish was a little too small for what the recipe called for (we registered for a bigger one, though!), so there was some smushing and rearranging involved, but that was really the only difficulty. That, and being super hungry while the meat filling cooked because it smelled so good.

Mmmm. Meat filling.
We maybe should have also drained some of the grease out. So much smushing in the pan!

It turned out delicious, and it lasted a while, which is nice for two working people who like eating homemade food for lunch. We haven’t made it again, but I’m looking forward to when we do!


Want the recipe? Find it on Alton Brown’s website!

We Also Went to BookCon!

BEA being in Chicago was the best thing that’s happened in a long time book-wise, and I wanted to take advantage as much as possible. Unfortunately, with the wedding and honeymoon coming up this summer, Andrew and I didn’t really have the available time off that we would have liked to fully enjoy BEA, but we do work Mon-Fri jobs, so BookCon was the first thing we registered for.

Obviously, it’s not really like BEA. The lines are longer, the people are bit crazier, and there isn’t as much time to really connect with the authors, publishers, and other attendees. But, it’s about books, so we were in — especially once we found out that Hannah Hart would be making an appearance.

I went through a lot of emotional phases with BookCon. First, I was super excited, and then I read about people lining up at 3:30 AM just to get author wristbands at 8 AM or to get onto the floor at 10 AM, and I almost didn’t want to bother — seriously, guys? I already told Andrew that since we had such a good time at BEA Thursday, I just wanted to take it easy and not go too crazy, so we were already planning to go there a little bit later, but I was already psyching myself up for disappointment if it was too crazy busy. Luckily, I was happily surprised to find that it really wasn’t that bad, and we were still able to get free books! Andrew was a hero and mentioned that he wanted to stop by Hachette before we headed to our first panel, and the man was absolutely spot on. We both really liked Hachette’s way of dealing with galley drops and stopped by there often — like I said, we don’t like lines, and there wasn’t that much of a problem with lines at Hachette. Total win.

What we really wanted to do was see the Diverse Books panel about Love and Loss with Sherman Alexie, Jenny Han, Gene Luen Yang, Francisco X Stork, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Leigh Bardugo. We got a pretty good seat and really enjoyed hearing these authors’ experiences with love and loss, how that relates to their culture, and how it’s reflected in their writing. So lovely.

So many cool authors!

We got all the books we could carry surprisingly quickly, and so spent the next couple of hours eating lunch and reading, which was wonderful. Then, it was off to the Hannah Hart panel.

Our happy faces! Waiting for Hannah Hart!

This was so exciting for us. Hannah Hart’s channel was a staple of mine when I was going through grad school and Andrew and I like to go through past My Drunk Kitchen episodes when we feel like watching something fun and silly. We really enjoy her and so much appreciated being able to hear her speak about her new book, Buffering, and her experiences with writing it.

Second row — there’s Hannah!

We were also lucky enough to go to a Meet and Greet with her and were actually able to hug her and take a picture with her! SO COOL! It really just made our week being able to see her in person, and it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


We Went to BEA!

When I first started book blogging, I salivated over people’s stories of BEA — how cool it was to meet all the authors, talk to the publishers, and, of course, get books. In 2013, I was lucky enough to be a grad student and was able to take some time off studying to visit New York for a few days, and I went with my mom and godmother, who also blogged with me. It was exhausting, but everything I ever wanted it to be.

I know some people were upset at BEA being in Chicago this year, but it was a dream come true for me, because my fiancé is a high school English teacher, and I’ve told him of the wonders of BEA, and I just knew that he’d love it. To have it take place just a 10-minute drive away was too good to pass up, so we both took Thursday off (just Thursday, unfortunately) to talk to people and grab some books.

Our plan was basically for me to use the copies I got for us to read and review on the blog, and for the copies he got (of appropriate books) to be donated to his classroom library for students to read. We didn’t bring a rolling suitcase and we both got way more books than we expected (is it just me, or is it a really solid upcoming year for YA?!), so we were pretty tired by 2:30, what with walking around and carrying dozens of pounds of books along with us. Once we did our “musts” we headed out, happy with the day.

Andrew: My students aren’t at all interested in reading, but I brought back all of what I got for my classroom and I loaned at 13 books on Friday, because they’re so excited to read these brand new books that not everyone has access to. I told them they had to, at the very least, tell me what they think of them after finishing, and also am giving them extra credit for posting book reviews. They were just excited to read books and be able to give their opinions on these stories, which made taking the day off actually worthwhile and productive.

Waiting in line to enter the show floor — early morning, but not as early as work!
The first thing we did was get in line for Laurie Halse Anderson — signing Ashes
Andrew trying out a virtual reality game created  for Sunborn Rising — really cool stuff!

These guys were really awesome, so I want to give a shout out to Neoglyphic, who’s creating this multimedia story — Sunborn Rising by Aaron Safronoff. Along with a novel, they’re also creating a gaming app and virtual reality game to help students find a way in to the story, which is just the best.Check out their website and what they’re doing all right here.

Books! Can’t wait to review these and share them with you all!

We’re hoping that maybe we’ll be able to take the whole time off (or Thursday and Friday, at least) for next year and make the trip to New York to experience it again. We had so much fun and really enjoyed being able to connect to people over what we love. Next time, we’ll make sure to bring a rolling suitcase, though!

Book Review: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Autobiography of Malcolm X.jpgTitle: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Authors: Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Publisher: Ballantine
Paperback: 466 pages
Source: Owned
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

From hustling, drug addiction and armed violence in America’s black ghettos Malcolm X turned, in a dramatic prison conversion, to the puritanical fervour of the Black Muslims. As their spokesman he became identified in the white press as a terrifying teacher of race hatred; but to his direct audience, the oppressed American blacks, he brought hope and self-respect. This autobiography (written with Alex Haley) reveals his quick-witted integrity, usually obscured by batteries of frenzied headlines, and the fierce idealism which led him to reject both liberal hypocrisies and black racialism.

Vilified by his critics as an anti-white demagogue, Malcolm X gave a voice to unheard African-Americans, bringing them pride, hope and fearlessness, and remains an inspirational and controversial figure.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Andrew’s second major in college was African-American studies, so there’s a lot of African-American literature he’s read that I have not, so when his turn came up to recommend a book for me to read, he recommended this one. Mostly because it’s an amazing book about a man who made history with his dedication to civil rights, but also because I refuse to watch movies based on books before reading the book, and he really wants to watch the Denzel Washington Malcolm X movie with me, so there we go.

This one took me a while. It was a little frustrating, because I felt like it held up the other books on my reading list. The print is small and it reads like a textbook — there’s just a whole lot to digest in all the words on the page. I took my time with it because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it justice skimming and not giving it my full 100% attention. However, it’s so worth it. Reading this book and learning about this man who was raised from the slums to a prominent figure in the civil rights movement is something that I think everyone absolutely needs to do at some point in their life. I feel like just from reading this, I understand so much more about the civil rights movement and the context in which it was fought.

The best part is reading how Malcolm X grows as a person. It’s so interesting, because I found myself making judgments about him and his beliefs, but that reaction is only because he’s so honest about his feelings and thoughts. The most rewarding/interesting part of this book for me was seeing how Malcolm develops his viewpoints and changes his opinions based on each new experience. In that way, it’s an incredibly engaging read because of Malcolm’s ability to continuously learn more and inform himself about the world. I found myself growing and changing right along with him — it was an intense reading experience, to say the least.

I always find it hard to judge a non-fiction book. The most I can say is that I found it rewarding and informative — despite the fact that it’s told from Malcolm himself, this book gives an honest no-holds barred look at Malcolm and his life, and it is one of the best subjects you can inform yourself upon. I highly recommend it.

Alton Brown Adventures: Alton Brown Live!

While I hate the winter weather, it is wonderful to live in a city that actually has interesting things to do and is a draw for entertainers, celebrities, authors, plays, etc. When we found out that Alton Brown would be hosting a live show at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, we just had to buy tickets.

As mentioned Wednesday, we had a lovely (and filling!) brunch before the show, and then walked over to the theatre. While they didn’t allow photography during the show, I do have some beautiful pictures of the theatre that I took while we were waiting.

Sitting in the theatre
Sitting in the theatre


Alton Brown Live!

The show itself was wonderful — a great mix of cooking/food humor and actual cooking and some science explanations as to how cooking works the way it works. We think that the first non-science portion went on a bit too long — as always, he’s at his best when describing the science behind food. We especially liked the part of the show where he had an audience member spin a wheel to see what sort of cocktail she was going to get (Vodka + Campari + Cough syrup. Blech!), and then see how Alton Brown tried to fix it so that it would be somewhat drinkable. Very fun. I think it was just the right length for it to feel as though we got our money’s worth but have it still be enjoyable, and we loved the random musical performances throughout the show.

A nice thing he did at the end was answer audience questions that were asked through Twitter. Our question didn’t get packed 😦 but it was a fun way to try to include people and make sure we got what we wanted to see. I would definitely consider going to see him again if he decided to do another live show.


Places We Like: Bub City (Chicago)

Bub City
435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

We went to Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science on Saturday and needed a place to eat brunch and hang out beforehand, so we looked up some brunch places in the area and picked Bub City — Andrew was craving some chicken and waffles, and Bub City is a barbecue place, so we figured they’d do a good job with it.

Saturday was ridiculously windy, which we didn’t realize until after we left our place (of course), so our plan to drink a coffee and stroll down the river walk before brunch was changed to just heading straight to brunch and see if they’d take us early. We had 11:30 reservations, but the took us at a little before 11, no problem. Very nice of them, and we appreciated being able to get out of the wind.

Our waiter was incredibly nice and very helpful — he gave us recommendations for what were favorites on the brunch menu, and explained the Bloody Mary bar to us. It sounded amazing, and if you like Bloody Mary’s, I could imagine it being the big draw, but neither Andrew nor I enjoy Bloody Mary’s at all, so we went with a pomegranate margarita (me) and a sweet tea vodka drink (Andrew) to start off our breakfast.

As per usual, Andrew and I were planning to share our breakfasts, so we ordered the chicken and waffles and Brisket Benedict, which was a recommendation from the waiter. And let me tell you, both dishes were SO good. Putting brisket on biscuits over sausage gravy and under a fried egg is beyond genius and one of the best brunch foods I’ve ever had. The chicken and waffles were equally amazing (they serve it with butter, sausage gravy and a jalapeno honey on the side). I drenched one side of my portion with honey and then ate the other side with just butter, and both ways were delicious, though I really appreciated the honey and kind of want to find out how to make my own.

Chicken and Waffles
Almost-eaten Brisket Benedict

Of course, with the weather being so bad (and me being a little sick), our plans to walk around Chicago before our show at 2 PM were ruined a bit, so we were able to hang out and take our time. We got a second round of drinks. I got a Crispin Cider (yum!) and Andrew got the house beer, which is a lager. Andrew thought it was pretty good and though he’s not a huge fan of lagers, it was one of the more drinkable lagers he’s had in quite some time.

We had a good time listening to country music and watching sports, and definitely plan to make a trip back for their dinner menu, because if that brisket is any indication of their barbecue, their dinner menu is probably delicious.