Golden

//by Cameron Dokey//published 2006//

Alright, first off, I’m sorry but my computer is being kind of stupid and not letting me post an image of this book so.  You’ll either have to use your imaginations or look it up.  ;-)

Anyway, Golden is a title in a series of books that are all retellings of various fairy tales. They aren’t connected in any way, and are written by several different authors, so you can read them in any order you like.  I had read Golden before many years ago, but really couldn’t remember anything about it at all, so it felt like a completely new read.

In Dokey’s version, Rapunzel’s mother rejects her child and allows the enchantress to have her baby.  Rapunzel, who narrates the story, grows up with Melisande and works with her on their small farm.  It is a rather simple tale, as good fairy tales are, but with a depth to the telling that leaves the story resonating with you later.

It might have been better if I had been deliberately unkind.  A will to be unkind is like a sickness.  It can be healed or driven out.  But to be unkind because you are thoughtless is the worst kind of blindness: difficult to cure because you cannot see the fault even as you commit it.

This is a book I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy fairy tales.  Golden was a comfortable 4/5.  While not a long or complicated book, the very simplicity of the story gives it depth.

French Leave

//by P.G. Wodehouse//published 1956//

So, as I mentioned in my April Rearview Mirror, spring always puts me in a bit of a reading slump.  Two things brought me out of the slump:  a crazy werewolf-paranormal-YA series that was completely out of my usual realm of reading but completely engaging (review to appear whenever I finish the third book in the trilogy… do you have any idea how sad it is to wait weeks for the third book in a trilogy?!), and, of course, my hero: P.G. Wodehouse.

French Leave is a pretty average Wodehouse read, if I’m honest.  There are all the usual ingredients – a dashing and slightly-shady elderly uncle-type, a hardworking and handsome young man, a spunky and adorable heroine, an overbearing and terrifying mother/aunt, another nice although not-quite-as-smart young couple to get mixed up with the primary couple, and a bumbling law enforcement officer.  Why, and this is a legitimate question, why is Wodehouse so perfect?  How can he take the same ingredients and yet manage to consistently emerge with a book I can hardly put down and that makes me laugh out loud at regular intervals?  It’s not as though it’s the element of surprise – his books are frequently predictable – but there is something about them that makes each one unique, even if it is a variation on his favorite song.

I thoroughly enjoyed French Leave, and it was really nice to finally read a book I really wanted to dig into, after several very MEH reads, and even a couple of DNFs.  While there is still too much springtime in the air for me to be a full-on winter-reading capacity, French Leave definitely helped get me back into the reading gear.  Wodehouse is highly recommended whether you are in a reading slump or not because it is always a perfect time for Wodehouse!

4/5

Rearview Mirror: April 2015 (+ Minireviews)

Yeah, so, as you read in my last post, I’ve been going through a major spring reading slump!!  It’s a combination of just being outside, of reading a lot more reference/nonfiction than usual, and not really reading any fiction that spoke to my heart.  I only actually reviewed three books in April!  (Who am I!?!?)

However, I did read a lot of other books, some of which I enjoyed and wanted to review, and several about which I felt super MEH.

The other weird thing that happens when I’m not reading a lot is that I don’t really feel like adding books to the TBR.  When I’m reading a lot, literally any review that looks remotely interesting pretty much ends up on the list.  But when my reading slows down, I automatically get a lot more finicky, so I only added a very few books to the TBR in April.

  • FictionFan added The Defence by Steve Cavanaugh – I love thrillers, and actually have a soft-spot for ones that are a bit over-the-top, ones that you would never believe if you stopped to think about them, but, in the midst of reading, convince you that all these coincidences are completely plausible!
  • Cleopatra Loves Books added two reads – how could I resist one she says will make her Top 10 of 2015??  So obviously Disclaimer by Renee Knight had to go on.  She also managed to intrigue me with her review of The Sudden Departure of the Frasures by Louise Chandlish… actually quite the feat, as I did not add many books from the end of April!  :-D
  • Finally, since Reading, Writing & Riesling informed me that I (and all her other readers!) had to read The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer, I obediently added it to the TBR!  :-D

So what did I read in April?  Actually, a fairly decent little pile of books.  Some of them were too boring/unengaging for me to bother keeping around and have already been shipped back to the library, but below are a few of the highlights – books I fully intended to write regular reviews for but…  well, it just isn’t going to happen.  And I can’t keep renewing them forever!  :-D

//Pollyanna in Hollywood//by Elizabeth Borton//published 1931//

Well, this book marked the end of a beautiful relationship for me: it is the last Pollyanna book I’m reading.  :-/  I’m actually quite saddened by the rather abrupt end – there are technically several more books in the series – I personally own five more – but I barely made it through this one, and have been stalled, halfway through Pollyanna’s Castle in Mexico for over a month.  I just can’t do it.

You may recall that Eleanor Porter wrote the original two Pollyanna books.  After that, the series was authored by Harriet Lummis Smith.  I have absolutely loved Smith’s interpretation of Pollyanna’s character, and her development of Pollyanna’s life/story.  However, a new author picked up the baton with Pollyanna in Hollywood, and it was everything that I initially feared Smith’s sequels would be – sickeningly sweet, boring, preachy, and aimless.  With both Hollywood, and the section of Mexico I managed to plow through, Borton has seized upon the popular trend of the 1930’s – writing more about a place than a story.  She “sells” her story by plumbing her characters down in a completely unlikely location, then introduces them to people who can explain about the place.  The whole thing reads more like a travelogue than anything else – and one pretty poorly written at that.

For instance, in Hollywood, there’s the coincidence of the Pendeltons ending up in Hollywood to begin with.  Then they end up with a perfect house.  Then, on a beach, they just so happen to run into one of the most famous movie stars of the day!  And of course they inspire him! And he becomes their Best Friend and shows them all around Hollywood, explaining, in excruciating detail, all the ins and outs of the movie-production world.

Meantime, because it’s Pollyanna, Borton feels obliged to drag the Glad Game into everything – instead of allowing it to flow naturally through the story, from Pollyanna’s character, it becomes very forced and weird.  Pollyanna becomes a caricature of herself.  So tragic.

And then there’s the fact that Borton basically ignores the history/character development from the last several books – suddenly, Pollyanna is calling her husband “Jimmy Bean!”, James has gone back to Jamie (even though his requesting to be called James instead was a sort of turning point for the maturity/development of his character), and Borton even has the audacity to age Nancy by about 25 years – it’s obvious, from the original books, that Nancy is only a few years older than Pollyanna herself, but Borton turns her into an elderly, ailing old woman (and actually kills her off in the Mexico book!  !!!!)

And so, I have resigned from the rest of the series.  While I highly (highly) recommend the books by Porter and Smith, Borton’s additions to the series are too dreadful for words, and incredibly disappointing.

//Forty Acres//by Dwayne Alexander Smith//published 2014//

18870436I read about this book somewhere initially, and then again when FictionFan reviewed it a while back, and knew that it was a book I wanted to read.  I strongly recommend this incredibly engaging thriller.  I could barely put it down.  I literally dreamed about this book when I was reading it, which almost never happens.  This book got in my head and challenged me at a level that thrillers rarely do.  Smith does an absolutely brilliant job of asking a lot of hard questions, and forcing his readers to realize that there are no easy answers, no clearly defined paths of right and wrong.  There are ways and means to justify every action – the question is, are those justifications …  just?

Definitely scamper over the FictionFan for a more in-depth overview of the book’s plots and finer points.  For this little minireview, I’m just going to hit a few of my personal high points.

First, I really appreciated Smith’s honesty and openness in dealing with these deeply-rooted racial issues.  And it’s easy to see where the justifications for their actions could be appealing.  I absolutely loved the way that the protagonist, Martin Grey, was lured down the path of this (basically) cult.  Each step seemed logical and reasonable, but at some point, he realizes that they’ve crossed a line, even if he isn’t sure where exactly that line was.

Martin couldn’t believe it.  He couldn’t.  “Are you saying that you made Junior your slave?”  

“That is exactly what I’m saying.”

“But that’s – “

“Go on, say it,” Dr. Kasim urged.  “Illegal?”

Martin had another word in mind: wrong.

For me, this book examined something deeper than racial questions – it looked at the very idea of right and wrong.  Are things that are wrong always wrong?  And is it right if the people who were wronged wrong the ones who wronged them to begin with?  Is saying that that’s wrong merely a way for the original oppressors to get out of their just desserts?

Martin was proud to be a member of the black race, but first and foremost he was a member of the human race.  What was true hundreds of years ago was still true today and will forever be true.

Enslaving another human being was an unredeemable act of evil.

I read this book over a month ago, but I really wish that I had been able to review it when it was still fresh.  This is most definitely a worthwhile read.  I personally found the ending to be a bit rushed and slightly inconclusive, but overall this was deep, thought-provoking, engaging, and exciting read.  Smith is definitely an author I will watch out for in the future.

//Big Red//Irish Red//Outlaw Red//by Jim Kjelgaard//published 1945, 1951, 1953//

Kjelgaard-Big Red CoverBig Red is probably Jim Kjelgaard’s most famous book, mainly because Disney made a cheesy movie out of it. (I’ve never watched this movie.  I’m just assuming that it’s cheesy and dreadful.  They always are.)  It’s classic Kjelgaard – poor, woods-wise boy falls in love with intelligent, owned-by-rich-guy dog.  But Danny is a really likable guy, and Red is a beautiful and brilliant dog.  While the story is, in many places, predictable, the story is still engaging.  As with most of Kjelgaard’s books, attributes like loyalty, hard work, and intelligence are emphasized and rewarded.

irish_redIn Irish Red, Danny and his dad, Ross, have to prove the worth of the Irish Setters versus the English setters being supported by the rich guy’s snobby nephew.   Unfortunately, they find themselves dependent on Red’s goofy, slap-dash son Mike to make that point.  This story, as an adult, makes me laugh a little because the character of Mike is much more developed than that of Danny or Ross.  We really have no idea of what happened to Danny’s mother, presumed dead (although perhaps merely not around…  it always reminds of that classic scene in the movie “Support Your Local Sheriff” – “She’s named for her dearly departed mother.”  “I’m sorry, she died?”  “No, just departed.”  HA), and Danny is apparently completely contented leading a bachelor lifestyle in the wilderness, as no lady friend makes an appearance in any of the three books.  (Although a couple of the dogs find romance.)

7e6ab5cf6428da973d1b56c1e16d83d9Kjelgaard actually didn’t do very many sequels, and the fact that he wrote a third book for this series is a sign that either the books were quite popular, or he just really enjoyed Danny and Ross as much as his readers.  Another of Red’s sons, Sean, is the main dog in Outlaw Red.  Accidentally abandoned in the wilderness, Sean has to go from a pampered show dog to a wild survivor.  Of course he manages to do so.  This book has a little bit more tension as the main human element, a backwoods boy who has been working for Danny and Ross, becomes a fugitive due to circumstances beyond his control, so the reader is also engaged in his story.

I actually thoroughly enjoyed rereading these stories, and not just because they bring back loads of happy, nostalgic memories of my childhood.  They are simply fun stories, stories that made me yearn to work as a dog handler when I was a kid.  They are easy reading, relaxing yet engaging.  They aren’t full of deep character study, but they emphasize clean, honest living, and the joy of a hardworking life with good companionship, and I highly recommend them.

//The Chessmen//by Peter May//published 2015//

15832513Okay, so this is the most tragic thing – I’m reducing this book to a minireview!  I AM SO SAD ABOUT THIS.  However, I did not do this book justice at the time I read it, and consequently am not going to do it justice when I review it.  Weirdly, it’s yet another FictionFan rec (?!?!  I promise, she doesn’t completely run my TBR!) She (as usual) does a far superior job of reviewing it, as well.

Guys, I absolutely loved the first two books in this trilogy – The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man.  And don’t get me  wrong – The Chessmen was also definitely fabulous.  The problem was 100% with me, the reader.  I read this book at the beginning of my reading slump, and I just didn’t do it justice.  This book deserved to be read in large, engaging chunks, and I just didn’t have that kind of time.  So I read it in snatches here and there, and that just doesn’t work for this book, especially at the beginning when May actually has three different time/storylines going.  I definitely will reread this book in the future in order to really delve into its depths, because I freaking am in love with Fin.

But the main feels this book left me with were ones of slight sadness – there really didn’t seem to be a lot of resolution for Fin.  I’ve come to love him so much, and I’ve really been pulling for him and Marsaili to work through their past and come out of all this as a team, determined to face the future together.  I wanted to finish these books and feel like Fin might not have all the answers, but was at least finding himself.  And I just didn’t feel that way.  At the end of the book, Fin and Marsaili are still uneasy and uncertain in their relationship, and Fin is still homeless and jobless, plus almost all of his childhood friends have now died/been murdered.  I really wanted to feel like Fin was reestablished in his childhood home, rerooted and ready to grow there, and instead it felt like his future was still bleak and uncertain.

It was additionally frustrating because I did feel like Fin was more committed to his relationship with Marsaili, but that he simply never bothered to tell her??  Like he faces and overcomes these temptations with Mairead (do all women’s names begin with M in Scotland??  Even his exwife’s name is Mona??), but Marsaili doesn’t know that; all she knows is that he went with Mairead when she (Marsaili) asked him not to.

What I did like was the final resolution in the end at the clerical trial.  I actually felt like Fin really got it, and he did a great job of confronting the self-righteousness of the so-called church.

“Your God will judge you, Donald.  And if He’s half the God you think He is, then He probably helped you pull the trigger.”

I was so glad that Donald didn’t lose his faith in the end.

So I definitely liked The Chessmen, and definitely want to reread it when I’m in a better reading mood.  However, I really feel like there could definitely be another book with these characters – I want to see more of them, and to be reassured that Fin and Marsaili go on to live a long and happy life together.

//Conclusion//

So this brings us to the end of the minireview blitz!  I am now caught up on book reviews (well, mostly).  Hopefully May will be more conducive to reading…  although maybe not, since this weekend’s weather looks gorgeous and we already have a million outdoorsy plans!  :-D

Spring + Non-Fiction Mini Reviews

Okay, so spring always gives me a bit of a reading slump. Basically, it suddenly turns warm and sunny and super happy outside, and I lose all interest in being inside.  Instead, I want to plant things and even though I’m a terrible gardener, I spend all sorts of time pouring over seed catalogs, browsing garden centers, reading about homesteading, and yes, even planting.

This is our first spring in our new house, so I’m especially excited about outside stuff this year – I think I’ll be around to see it again next year!  Plus, we can plant trees, dig up shrubs, and plan flowerbeds without asking anyone’s permission!  It’s amazing!  So, if you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been doing instead of reading, feel free to check out the house blog!

So Tom and I both interested in becoming a bit more self-sufficient, especially now that we have a little bit of space to call our own.  Even though we only have about an acre here, we are full of plans for food-producing plants, chickens, and rabbits.  Who knows how much of it will actually  happen…  the hardest part is pacing ourselves so that we can actually do some stuff all the way, and do it right, instead of starting everything and completing nothing!

In that spirit, this year we’re trying to focus on some stuff that takes longer to grow, like fruit trees and bushes.  I’ve been working on developing an herb/perennial garden along the side of the house, and we’re just kind of working from there!

The point is, my way of doing stuff is by starting with books.  I go to the library website, type in the topic I’m researching, and check out a dozen books on the subject, and then go from there!  So I thought that I would share a few of my non-fiction reads of late…  while I haven’t really sat down and read any of them straight through, these are some of the books I’ve been referencing and flipping through (although not even close to all of them!)

//The Backyard Homestead//edited  by Carleen Madigan//published 2009//

51Vx1mQE6-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

FAVORITE HOMESTEADING BOOK OF ALL TIME

Okay, the truth of the matter is that I could probably focus this entire post on this particular book. If you’ve ever considered trying to become a bit more self-sufficient, this book is the first one I would recommend as a go-to.  The Backyard Homestead is perfect in every way.  It has loads of information that is concise, well-organized, and easy to understand.  While this book isn’t the end-all reference, it definitely covers all the basics.  It’s a great place to read about something and decide whether or not you’re interested enough to pursue the topic with more depth.

I absolutely love the illustrations in this book, plus it’s full of recipes, plans, and tons of other useful stuff.  I bought this book when I was on vacation in 2010, before I had a house of my own or was married, because I fell in love with the table of contents – who could resist???

I SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS TABLE OF CONTENTS YOU HAVE NO IDEA

I SERIOUSLY LOVE THIS TABLE OF CONTENTS YOU HAVE NO IDEA

Anyway, as you can see from the awesome table of contents, this little book covers all the basic areas of self-sufficiency/homesteading, and it does it with the idea that you’ll be working with a small(ish) space.  Actually, the book starts by showing possible ways to utilize a tenth, half, or whole acre.  The chapters each look at a different aspect of homesteading basics, like vegetable gardening, raising herbs, and planting fruits.  Then, within each chapter there are tons of facts, tips, charts, recipes, and instructions.  For instance, in the herb chapter, there are four pages of an herb chart, listing herbs, whether they are hardy perennials, tender perennials or annual/biannuals; their height; whether they prefer dry or moist soil; whether they prefer direct sunlight or shade; how they’re propagated (seed, cuttings, root division); and what part of the herb is used (leaves, roots, flowers, berries/seeds).  It’s fantastic!

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I genuinely love the way this book has garden layouts and tons of recipes – just loads of great starter ideas. So perf.

This book is published by Storey publishers, and I highly recommend them as another great starting point for homesteady topics.  Usually, when I’m getting ready to delve into something (like planting an herb garden), I look through Storey’s list of books on the topic and work from there.  I really, really love their books.

There are at least three more books published in the same style as the original book – one on livestock, one on building projects, and one energy self-sufficiency.  Actually, I didn’t know about the building project one until just now when I was finding an image of this book’s cover…  guess what book I’m reserving at the library next???

 

 

 

 

 

 

//Five-Plant Gardens//by Nancy J. Ondra//published 2014//

The subtitle for this book is “52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants.”  It’s this spring’s addition to the outdoorsy-book library. I just couldn’t resist the way the book was organized!!

Plus this book is almost square. I really love square books.

Plus this book is almost square. I really love square books.

The basic concept of the book is that even a small(ish) area can be turned into a lovely little garden, and it doesn’t take a huge selection of plants to make that happen.  Ondra divides her book by garden location.  The first half of the book is devoted to full-sun areas, while the second half is partial/full shade.  Within each of those categories, each garden is then planned either to fit a certain type of soil/area, e.g. a hillside, a boggy area, sandy soil, etc., or are categorized some other way, such as color (a blue or white or red garden), or because they are all plants that attract butterflies or are plants that are commonly seen in cottage gardens, or whathaveyou.

For each garden, Ondra lays it out in a sort of “plant by number” plan.  The gardens come in a variety of shapes and sizes – squares, rectangles, triangles, long “edging” gardens, etc.  The shapes can easily be combined or repeated to fit the area where you are planting.  Ondra also always labels the “1” plants as the largest/tallest, and the “5” plants as the smallest, so if you like a type of garden (say, the butterfly garden), but have an area that is more triangular instead of square, as the butterfly garden is laid out, you can use a triangle pattern and insert the butterfly garden plants.  I feel like I’m describing this poorly, but it’s actually brilliantly simple and fantastic.

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I am a visual learner like whoa… I LOVE NONFICTION BOOKS WITH LOTS OF ILLUSTRATIONS TO EXPLAIN THINGS!

Ondra does a wonderful job describing and listing the plants for each garden, and then providing several options if you can’t find that particular type of plant.  There are drawings of her preferred plants for each garden, and drawings of each garden, as well as the actual layout for each one.

You know how you have silly day dreams that you know are a little crazy?  Well, one of mine is to have a yard that is entirely garden.  And for some reason, this book makes me think I could accomplish that… just plant one little square at a time!!

Anyway, Ondra aims her gardens towards middle zones – most of the gardens are zones 3-8ish; she has purposely chosen plants that can survive in a fairly wide range of zones.  Some of her “other” options for each plant are more zone specific.  We’re in zone 5/6 here – 6 in a normal year and zone 5 about every five years, so this book is full of plants that I can definitely use.

I also really like the way that she includes all of the Latin names – when I was looking up some of these plants at nurseries online (now there is a dangerous way to spend an afternoon!) I was not always able to locate the plants by the common names listed, but could usually find them by the Latin names.

Even though I haven’t planted any gardens exactly as planned in the book, it’s also a great place to get ideas for certain plants – for instance, I love combining specific colors, so flipping to the garden of all-pink plants is a great place for ideas for pink plants!

While Five-Plant Gardens isn’t for everyone, if you’re like me and you like things to be super organized and to get clear, straight-forward instructions, this book is a great place to start – it can really help you take a blank-slate area and turn it into a nifty little garden (at least in your mind!).

//The Water Gardener’s Bible//by Ben Helm & Kelly Billing//published 2008//

51hgsdp0bSL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_So if you’ve checked out the house blog, you know that I’m busily working on our side garden area.  It’s slowly becoming a happy herb garden.  But Tom and I are also super interested in installing a small fish pond (with a waterfall, of course), because the garden is right outside of our kitchen/off the front porch, and it just seems like it would be fantastically happy.

However, neither of us really knows a whole lot about water gardening.  I, of course, checked out about half-dozen books on the topic, and while they have all been informative, The Water Gardener’s Bible lives up to its name – it is an excellent overview on the topic, with enough detail to really get you going.

This book is laid out in an order that makes sense:  Planning/Construction/Installation, Stocking Plants & Fish, Common Problems & Solutions, Plant Directory, Fish Directory, Pond Management.  I appreciate how-to books that, if you start at the beginning and read straight through, take you through the process in the order you’ll need the information (kind of like reading a recipe, except on a larger scale).  This book does just that – it starts by telling you what supplies you’ll need, and then explains how to combine them (and in what order!) so you end up with a pond that suits your area and desires.

As an aside, this is the only non-Storey publishing book in this post.

We haven’t started the practical application of this book yet, but it has definitely been an informative one to flip through and garner ideas from!

//Kiss My Aster//by Amanda Thomsen//published 2012//

kissmyasterDo you ever wish nonfiction books were a little more… interactive?  Thomsen says that she decided to write a gardening/landscaping how-to book based on the concept of those crazy books we had when we were kids – you know, the ones where every couple pages you had to decide what the protagonist was going to do and then turn to the appropriate page?  (Frank decides to check out the abandoned shed – go to page 62.  Frank obeys his mother and stays in his own backyard – go to page 41.)  Anyway, Kiss My Aster has somehow managed to capture that concept and has turned it into a rather zany, unique, and engaging reading experience.  I found this book to be completely addictive.  And, unlike those books I read when I was a kid, there really isn’t a plot – so I would flip this book open to a random page and go from there!  Thomsen says that the idea is that you only end up reading the information you need (if you aren’t planting trees, you don’t read the tree pages because you’ve chosen another option), and, theoretically, one should be able to read through the book and come out at the other end (probably not on the last page) with a plan for creating an engaging outdoor area.

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For me, the truly attractive part of this book was simply the fact that it was chock-full of happy illustrations and different types of fonts.  Did I mention that I love books with pictures??

Thomsen also has a very casual, conversational writing style that fits the book.  It’s not something I would appreciate in, say, a biography about Thomas Jefferson, but it works really well for what she’s doing.  Not all books could get away with telling you that a reason for growing your own food is because “A sun-warmed tomato brings you close to God (or Dog, if you’re dyslexic).”  But Thomsen’s writing is warm, friendly, and funny, and it really helps make the whole book flow.

Of course, the book’s unique layout is also, in some ways, its weakness…   because, just like with those childhood stories, I wanted to read all the pages.  I felt like this book could have done a better job of linking the reader back through some of the options.  Several times pages ended as deadends when they definitely could have just sent me off to some other random page and made me super happy.

Overall, though, if you’re a beginner gardener with no idea where to start – you’ve just moved into a new place and the yard is barren and dreadful – this book is a fun and low-stress way to start thinking about what to do with the space.  Thomsen covers not only gardens, but other landscaping areas, like trees and shrubs, creating a water garden, planting grass or groundcover, putting up a hammock, building a compost pile, etc.  She also does a great job of assuming you know nothing – she gives you the basics you need without talking down to you.  (I’ve read many a beginning gardening book that manages to come off just a tad patronizing…  like, “Wow, you’re 32 years old and you didn’t know that you need two different varieties of blueberries to make the bushes produce well?  Just.  Wow.”)  Thomsen instead manages to sound like that crazy aunt you always wanted who knows how to do a little bit of everything and when you stop by to visit her she’s probably climbing a tree or planting a boxwood maze.

//Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook//by Ron Kujawski & Jennifer Kujawski//published 2010//

51aGq8u5Y2L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Someday, I am going to plant a vegetable garden, and it is going to be beautiful.  And when I do it, it will be with the help of this absolutely delightful book.  This father-daughter author duo has accomplished a wonderful thing with this book – they’ve created a guide that is easily adaptable to wide variety of gardening zones by basing all of their instructions around the frost date. While frost date varies from zone to zone (and even within zones!), the Kujawskis work around this by allowing you, the reader, to manually fill in the dates that fit your situation.

Our average frost date is May 15, so, working from that date, I filled in the dates for the weeks before and after frost.  The book, after covering some basics like where to put a vegetable garden, soil types, etc., starts with “20-15 weeks before average date of last frost” – e.g., late winter.  For the beginning of each section (dates far away from frost, like the beginning one, cover a longer period of time – in the height of planting/growing season, the sections are only one week at a time), the authors list out what should overall be accomplished during this time – with a checklist – and then go into details about each item.  There are also diary areas for several years for note-taking purposes.  Throughout, there are tons of tidbits and tips on specific vegetables, different varieties, gardening methods, harvesting, saving seeds for next year, etc.  They also do fun little sections of she says/he says, where Jennifer and Ron discuss a subject where they have differing opinions – underlining the fact that a lot of gardening is personal preference!

The authors are friendly and personable.  While the main part of the book is fairly formal, it is still written in first person, almost as if they are writing a letter to the reader.  Many of box sections throughout are personal anecdotes from their years of gardening experience.  This book, like all of Storey’s books, is just full of useful, accessible information, with plenty of pictures, explanations, ideas, and directions for where to look next.

///Conclusion///

Well, illustrating the fact that I’m way too engaged with the great outdoors, it’s taken me over a week to finish this post!  I can’t really complain, though – I’m super excited to be outside and enjoying (/attempting) gardening.  This is only a handful of the many, many books I’ve been flipping through over the last month or so, but they are definitely my favorites.  I don’t own Kiss My Aster or The Water-Gardener’s Bible, but the other three are cherished favorites – The Backyard Homestead has especially been my close companion these many years, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in even very basic/minimal homestead practices.

And, by the way, no, Storey did not perk me for plugging their books – it’s just a natural result of the fact that their books are freaking awesome.  :-D

It looks like my fiction backlog of reviews will probably be in minireivew format as well (plus maybe an April Rearview…  although there isn’t much to look back on!), hopefully very soon.  And I read straight through an entire Wodehouse book in less than 24 hours, so my reading slump may be at an end (nothing like Wodehouse to get you back in the groove!).  I haven’t been tooling around the blogosphere much either, so hopefully you’ll start seeing my little “like” stars again soon, too!  :-)   Hope all is well out there… happy gardening!