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Blog Description:

A book blog with book reviews plus a smattering of parenting, art, cooking, and more. Looking for audiobook recommendations, new cookbooks, Very Serious book reviews, much less serious book reviews, and some photos of Austin? Please come say hi.
Blog Added: March 01, 2018 09:16:38 PM
Audience Rating: General Audience
Blog Platform: WordPress
Blog Country: United-States/Texas   United-States/Texas
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Total Visits: 280
Blog Rating: 4.00
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Book Review: How to Walk Away

Margaret’s boyfriend Chip ignores her fear of flying and takes her for a ride in a Cessna to romantically propose even though he hasn’t earned his pilot’s license yet (WTF, CHIP?). A strong storm... The post Book Review: How to Walk Away appeared first on Shrew and...

book cover for how to walk away by katherine center, red background with a propeller airplane and flowers

Margaret’s boyfriend Chip ignores her fear of flying and takes her for a ride in a Cessna to romantically propose even though he hasn’t earned his pilot’s license yet (WTF, CHIP?). A strong storm blows the plane arse over teakettle. Badly injured, Margaret has a long road to recovery in the hospital, where in addition to attempting to walk again she will have to deal with her sister Kit’s antics, trying to figure out if she still has the dream job she just landed, and her demanding but handsome Scottish physical therapist. And of course Chip, who escapes uninjured, will have to deal with the consequences of his dumbassery.  How much can Margaret endure, and how will she put her life back together?   How to Walk Away by Katherine Center is chicklit at its best.

I don’t want to dig in too much on the plot, because you should discover it for yourself. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys reading about family relationships, finding your feet again after trauma, and hot Scottish physical therapists. It’s also quite funny, and wraps up with some hilarious and sweet escapades in Belgium. The theme of recovering after trauma is heavy, and Center doesn’t flub it or make it saccharine-sweet. Being in the hospital sucks, and it’s hard, and that is all there in the book. Center also handles the issues of disability very well, and is not complimentary to her characters who engage in ableism. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that we have a happily ever after in this book.  It’s a 5-star chicklit book.  Pick it up! It’s romance but it is totally closed door.

Looking for more romance? Check out my review of Courtney Milan’s After the Wedding.

My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for a free e-galley of this book. Full disclosure: I went to school with Katherine in Houston. Her family is lovely.  My opinions are my own.

The post Book Review: How to Walk Away appeared first on Shrew and Snail.



Book Review: After the Wedding by Courtney Milan

I knew I would love Courtney Milan because of her hilarious and righteous Twitter account. I devoured two four of her books in an embarrassingly short time, including After the Wedding,which is #2 of 7... The post Book Review: After the Wedding by Courtney Milan appeared first on Shrew and...

I knew I would love Courtney Milan because of her hilarious and righteous Twitter account. I devoured two four of her books in an embarrassingly short time, including After the Wedding,which is #2 of 7 in the Worth Saga.

Book cover for Courtney Milan's After the Wedding, a woman in a bright purple dress and a wedding veil rests in a field of red flowers

“But here’s a bit of wisdom I’ve acquired over the years: However terrible women are, they’re usually better than men.”

“Thank you.” Mr Hunter folded his arms in annoyance.

“You’re welcome.” Mrs Martin smiled beautifully. “You’re entirely welcome. Come back if you ever need to hear it again.”

Camilla is a servant girl in a rector’s house, the most recent of 9 homes she has lived in after being estranged from her family. Adrian is pretending to be a valet in an effort to win over his uncle, Bishop Denmore, by spying on another bishop (the religious types don’t come off so great in this story!). Camilla and Adrian end up being married at gunpoint, and embark on a long journey to annul their marriage…. or not.

Courtney Milan's tweet "AFTER THE WEDDING in emoji"

My thoughts on After the Wedding

The romance in After the Wedding is very sweet, and we’re going with the “strangers get married” trope here, or possibly the “strangers forced to work together to solve a common problem,” where the problem happens to be that they are married. Adrian is mixed race, his mother is white and his father is black. His white uncle, the bishop, has refused to recognize his family and Adrian thinks he can win his uncle over. Adrian is vulnerable, trusting, wise beyond his 22 years, and a natural leader. He has one surviving brother, the others having perished in the Civil War in America. Camilla has been psychologically abused, passed from house to house, and possibly abandoned by her family. By all accounts she should be psychologically damaged beyond repair, but in Adrian’s company (on their quest for an annulment after their literal shotgun wedding) she realizes that she is worthy of love.

“You can’t steal love…. You can only earn it. And I want to be the kind of person who can still believe, after all this time, that I will deserve it.” -Camilla in After the Wedding

The best and worst aspect of this book was that the characters are so compassionate and self-aware.  These are not angst-ridden lovers, but adult humans who care for and respect others.  The lack of angst and conflict and those difficult psychological growing pains that 20 and 22 year old people normally experience means that the book doesn’t have the OOMPH that it could.  The conflict between the bishops happens largely in the background, and doesn’t really drive the novel either. I feel like Milan just liked these characters too much to make them act like needy jerks. I have to admit, I like them too and would hate to see them act like that. It is really nice reading about people who can heal and have compassion for others. I want to be more like that! But even though I know we should all want to hang out with our self-actualized friends, sometimes we need those loopy, immature friends to bring a little excitement.

Luckily Milan is a witty writer, and she has fun with the characters. There are some hilarious scenes, and some truly sweet moments between these characters. I loved the story of Adrian’s family, and I really adored (i.e. have a huge crush on) his brother.  The romance is good but it’s not smutty. Oh and can we talk about how happy I am to see some interracial relationships in historical romance? I don’t want to lay the burden of racial harmony on Courtney Milan’s shoulders, or on the Romance genre in general, but reading this book felt a little bit like healing.  The whiteness of the romance genre (and other genres) is suffocating and not historically accurate, reading books with non-white main characters is just a breath of fresh air.

If you’ve read the first book, Once Upon a Marquess, you’ll know this character already. Like most romance series, this book can be read as a stand-alone.

TL;DR

Courtney Milan writes great historical romance, and this book is going to satisfy her fans and new readers as well. Interracial romance, some great humor, and really smart characters make this book fun to read. The plot is almost too easily resolved because the characters are self-actualized and mature. But then again I flew through it in 2 days, so it’s not exactly boring. 4 stars!

If you liked this review, check out my other romance novel recommendations and my review of Audible’s new Romance Package.

My thanks to Courtney Milan for sharing an Advanced Readers Copy free of charge. My opinions are my own.

The post Book Review: After the Wedding by Courtney Milan appeared first on Shrew and Snail.



Audible’s New Romance Package

I have jumped on the romance genre bandwagon. There seems to have been a cultural shift for the genre away from the “guilty pleasure” or even “deep and hidden shame” to being taken more... The post Audible’s New Romance Package appeared first on Shrew and...

I have jumped on the romance genre bandwagon. There seems to have been a cultural shift for the genre away from the “guilty pleasure” or even “deep and hidden shame” to being taken more seriously and, I don’t know, more socially acceptable? I have definitely had some qualms about putting my Romance reads on Goodreads where my coworkers and cousins can see them, but heck. I’m in it to win it now. I went ahead and signed up for the Audible Romance Package.

How It Works

As a relative newbie I was not convinced that the Audible Romance Package was for me, but I signed up for it anyway to check it out (this is not a sponsored post). And I might just keep it! It’s been really fun trying out new authors and seeing what is available.

Four book covers, each displaying an "R" in the upper right hand corner for the Audible Romance Package.

The package is free the first month then $6.95 each month after that for Audible members. It includes unlimited access to certain Romance books, which are denoted with the purple box with an “R” in it in the upper right hand corner. The package includes a lot of classics, as you can see here, along with newer titles.  There are some limitations, for example in Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series, only books 3 and 4 are available through the Romance Package, you’ll have to use credits or buy books 1 and 2. Not every romance novel is included in this package. 

You can add Romance Package titles to your library just like any other book, but unlike your regular audible library items you can remove them when you’re done listening. I’ve only had a couple at a time, I’m not sure if there is a limit. The downside of being diligent about removing them is that Audible doesn’t record what you’ve read, so make sure to note it in Goodreads if you’re forgetful like I am!

Each book also has a rating for “How steamy is it?”– so far this seems pretty arbitrary, I’m not sure what their criteria are. I haven’t gone too far over to that OMG side though! Also, who named it that? Ugh. Here is an example where you can see the button to add it to your library and the steamy-meter.

Courtney Milan's book The Governess Affair as displayed on the Audible Romance Package site.

What I’ve Read So Far Using Audible Romance Package

The Governess Affair  by Courtney Milan was my first listen, and it was a good one! Rosalyn Landor was the narrator, and she did a great job. I also read The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan, which I loved, also narrated by Rosalyn Landor. Feminist Romance? I love it. Speaking of feminist writers, I also read Meljean Brook’s Riveted — she was the first Romance author I read, and her books remind me a lot of the Piers Anthony books I read in middle school but without the disgusting sexism. I love the world-building, the character development, the strong female characters, and the steampunk elements. Goodreads recommended Bec McMaster based on one of the Meljean Brook books, so I listened to her book Kiss of Steel, which was also narrated by Alison Larkin. She does not write the strong female characters or other elements that Meljean Brook does, the story was just ok. I would not recommend it. My next download was good old Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, a familiar voice by now!

To Summarize

I had a lot of questions about the Audible Romance Package that I felt like I could only answer by trying it myself, and with a free first month that seemed like the way to go. I’d encourage anyone curious about it to do the same. I love audiobooks , and listen to them frequently, so the $6.95 a month is totally reasonable for me to continue this subscription.  I’m a new Romance reader, so I’m glad for the opportunity to try out a bunch of new authors and see what I like (although Audible’s generous return policy is so helpful with that! I have returned so many books that I hated. Jim Dale reading Harry Potter, I’m looking at you.) I’m also persuaded by the inclusion of classics, because I love reading classics on audio.  I’m looking forward to getting more familiar with the audiobook narrators, it matters so much who is reading a book! Rosalyn Landor and Alison Larkin are already favorites.

 

 

Looking for more? Here are my reviews on Audible, and my favorite romance novels from earlier this year.

 

The post Audible’s New Romance Package appeared first on Shrew and Snail.



Book Review: The Displaced

The Displaced by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a book of essays by refugee writers. These essays give a voice to the individuals in the burgeoning refugee crisis, specifically in reaction to Trump’s anti-refugee policies.... The post Book Review: The Displaced appeared first on Shrew and...

The Displaced by Viet Thanh Nguyen book cover

The Displaced by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a book of essays by refugee writers. These essays give a voice to the individuals in the burgeoning refugee crisis, specifically in reaction to Trump’s anti-refugee policies. The Displaced is a book of harrowing escapes but also of the people who are called refugees, their identities, their journeys, and their inner lives.

“We should remember that justice is not the same as law. …[If] borders are legal, are they also just?” -Viet Thanh Nguyen

By definition refugees are people fleeing their homes because of war, famine, or political threats. As a person who grew up in the most diverse city in the U.S., my family always had people in our lives who were refugees. My godmother fled Cuba as a child because her father was a target of the Castro government.  Houston is home to largest Vietnamese community in the U.S. outside of California, and I went to school with a large number of the children of refugee parents.  We have a friend who fled Guatemala during the Civil War there, and another friend from El Salvador.  I can’t imagine uprooting your family and fleeing your country. I know how rooted we are, and when I think about what it would take for me to find it necessary to seek refuge, it makes me want to take in every single refugee. How could they be refused?  Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who is also a refugee, wanted to amplify the voices of refugees so that they could be heard. In the introduction, he tells his own story of fleeing Vietnam as a child and being in a refugee camp in Pennsylvania, then later moving to California where his parents opened a grocery store (razed by San Jose to build a parking lot).

The Displaced lets refugees tell their own stories. There are stories from all over the world, addressing not just the origin and destination of their journey, but including everything from choosing a name (“Last, First, Middle” by Joseph Azam) to the expectation that refugees constantly express gratitude to their host country (“The Ungrateful Refugee” by Dina Nayeri).  It is a well-edited collection of essays.  I could see this being a good text for a high school or college class, or a gift for someone who enjoys reading personal stories.  And while you may want to give this book to your racist uncle (go ahead and do that! Your racist uncle needs to broaden his horizons, though it is sadly unlikely he will open the book), it’s really for everyone. The essays I mentioned above, by Azam and Nayeri, really stuck in my brain for a while and made me reflect on the inner lives of refugees in a foreign country (our country!) in a way that I hadn’t before.  So don’t think that this book won’t reach the eyes that need to see it. We all need our eyes on this book, if only for that glimpse into another person’s life that gives us a new perspective on our own.  I will never forget my own (not-at-all-racist, very cool) uncle giving me a book for my high school graduation with stories of Rescuers during the Holocaust, it was eye-opening in such a good way.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys hearing the stories of other people (are you a fan of Humans of New York?), and for anyone who would benefit from contemplating the experience of humans forced to leave their homes and make a new home in a foreign country. In other words, everyone should read this book.

Five stars.

I am grateful to Netgalley and Abrams Press for providing an abridged digital copy (containing 10 of the 17 essays) of this book free of charge. My opinions are my own.

If you are interested in this book, you might also be interested in my review of How to Think by Alan Jacobs.

The post Book Review: The Displaced appeared first on Shrew and Snail.



Vacation Reading

We spent Spring Break in New Mexico! I didn’t get to sit on a beach or by a pool like in my daydreams, but it was pretty satisfying. It has been over a year... The post Vacation Reading appeared first on Shrew and Snail.

We spent Spring Break in New Mexico! I didn’t get to sit on a beach or by a pool like in my daydreams, but it was pretty satisfying. It has been over a year since I took more than a couple of days off at a time, and more than a year since I’ve left the state. I was ready to get away from the daily grind for a while, and to get some vacation reading in. We went to visit my husband’s family, to have some family adventures of our own, and to devour enchiladas at every opportunity.

Hiking at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas.

Bookish Fun

I visited two book stores in Las Cruces: Zia Comics and Coas Books. I missed out on visiting the Mesilla Book Center because the kids were done for the day, but it’s been my favorite in the past.

Coas Books

Mesilla Book Center

They always have great recommendations for the kids. The lovely lady at Zia Comics was super helpful and pointed out a couple of fun reads for my 6 year old, and Coas always has great deals (though their kids’ room could use some freshening up). I also bought a book on our day trip to Deming, which is home to the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, a volunteer-run history museum that has a fabulous collection of Mimbres pottery tucked away in a little corner. I have been in love with pictures of that pottery for a long time and not gotten to see it in person. I was not disappointed. The book I bought is Mimbres Painted Pottery by J.J. Brody, and I can’t wait to dive into it.

Mimbres pottery in Deming

Most of my vacation reading was done in the car, where the whole family listened to 3 Roald Dahl books (are all of his books revenge-themed?).  Everyone enjoyed the books, and the 3 year old was repeating lines from the BFG like a champ, in the narrator’s accent. “I is whizpopping all the time!” I managed to binge-read How to Walk Away by fellow Houstonian Katherine Center, which was a great vacation read. I toted around my hard copy (why did I choose to read this of all books in hard copy? It’s HUGE!) of The Count of Monte Cristo but really only got a few pages read. I’m seriously going to have to pick up some Cliff’s Notes to make sense of the political discussions about Napoleon and the king.

Other highlights

We managed to go hiking in Las Cruces on some trails just east of town; at City of Rocks just north of Deming; and at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas. The weather was beautiful and hiking felt so good. We ate so much food! Favorites were La Posta and El Sombrero. I am so burned out on rich food, though, I can’t wait to eat some veggies and fruit!

Did you get away for Spring Break or fit in some vacation reading?

 

 

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T5W: Childrens Books to Read as an Adult

It’s Top 5 Wednesday! Today the topic is children’s books to read as an adult. As a parent I have lots of time to think about this topic, though at this point my oldest... The post T5W: Childrens Books to Read as an Adult appeared first on Shrew and...

It’s Top 5 Wednesday! Today the topic is children’s books to read as an adult. As a parent I have lots of time to think about this topic, though at this point my oldest is only 6, she can sit through some long chapter books on audio. You can see some of our listening choices in my post about audiobooks for young children. In general, some children’s books stand the test of time and some just don’t. I am not reading my kids books that are full of rampant sexism and I try not to read them anything too sad or violent (this is why old Disney movies are just not as popular any more, I’m guessing). So this list is of books that I have re-read in recent years, with my kids or without, that I have enjoyed. I’ve listened to A Wrinkle in Time and many of the Roald Dahl books on audio and highly recommend those for anyone. Chris O’Dowd is the narrator for Fantastic Mr. Fox!

children's books for adults

My Top 5 Children’s Books for Adults

  1. A Wrinkle in Time– I re-read this last year before I knew that OPRAH was in the movie. The struggle of good and evil, the love of that super cool family, poor Meg, it’s just such a great story. And am I excited for the movie? Yes I am.
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe– This has been a favorite for me for a long time. If Harry Potter had never come along, I would have been re-reading this whole series instead. Always a favorite.
  3. Fantastic Mr. Fox, or anything by Roald Dahl.
  4. The Little Prince– Such a sweet book. I haven’t read this to my kids yet but need to do that soon. I love this book.
  5. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Adventure, museums, art, mystery! So good.

And a bonus #6 that I need to re-read soon… The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. I remember it making me ugly cry in front of my whole family, I had forgotten that it was also funny. I need to pick that one up again.

Those are some favorite children’s books for adults! Let me know if you have any other favorites.

This post is for #T5W, or Top 5 Wednesday. Check out the #T5W group on Goodreads!

The post T5W: Childrens Books to Read as an Adult appeared first on Shrew and Snail.



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