Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ways to Save: TopCashBack

Somethings you just need to go to the store for. Others? Not so much. I love thinking of something I need, adding to the appropriate store's cart, and doing this till I have enough for free shipping. It's pretty great.

What makes it even better is earning cash back on the purchase. I've used a few rewards programs over the years for this. TopCashBack is, in my opinion, the best. Why? Compare it to what other reward programs are offering ... every time I've checked, TopCashBack gives you the highest payout. Hence their name - it's actually accurate!

How TopCashBack works is pretty much like any other cash back (or points earning) site you'd use. You log in on their website, pull up the retailer you want to shop at online, click through and make your purchase! That's it. They'll add the cashback to your account in a few weeks once the retailer processes everything and gives them the official ok.

Plus, they sometimes have little games you can participate in to earn entries or a little extra cash. Right now they have a Valentine's Game where you can enter to win a $2,000 romantic getaway for two!

I've rarely had an issue with claims or anything, but when I have they have been very responsive ... also not the case with other sites I've tried.

Another thing I like? There is no minimum needed to cash out your cashback. This is awesome because I always got frustrated with trying to earn enough points to be able to get a gift card on other sites. On TopCashBack you can either get cash via PayPal, or you can get the Cash Back in form of a gift card, usually at a slightly higher rate than you would get for cash.

It's free to join, and easy to use. I really love using them! What are you waiting for? 

original logo image full disclosure: if you sign up through my referral link, I will receive a small compensation for your joining after you have reached $10 in cashback.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Curtain: Poirot's Last Case

Week 4: A mystery or detective novel

by Agatha Christie

A Good Read, but Not Quite Satisfactory

Christie rarely disappoints in her delivery of mysteries. This was a good read, but not as satisfactory as many other of her mysteries. In part, we are not given all of the information Poirot possesses - this feels like us readers are put at a decided disadvantage. Like with Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, mysteries where the detective has key evidence we lack can make for enjoyable reads, but are not completely satisfactory as we lack the means to solve them ourselves. 

Furthermore, the book seemed rather a wasted way to end Poirot's career. I was hoping for something not so ... unnecessary, though I understand the thought behind it. 

Still, though, unlike many mystery/detective novels out there, this one does leave you guessing and conflicted and is a good read.

4 stars.

This review appears as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Frontier Bishop

Week 3: A book by or about a missionary

Frontier Bishop: Simon Gabriel Brute
by: Riley Hughes 

Historical Fiction, Not a Biography

As I'm reading this book, I start asking myself questions like "how do we know what his mother thought?" "Did Simon write this down for us to know this?" "How do we know this conversation took place?" Some of the material I had no reason to doubt, but some of it left me wondering. It isn't until the last paragraph of the book that the author informs us that this is a work of fiction based upon historical fact.

That is something that ought to be disclosed at the beginning of a work as it changes expectations. I expected a biography of the "Frontier Bishop" written for children, not a loosely accurate account of his life written for children.

The book was still interesting, as I assume the key points are factual. And I always enjoying seeing how events intersect worldwide, which is something this book does a good job of incorporating as Simon lives in various places.

With the title of Frontier Bishop I expected the majority of his life to have taken place on the frontier, and the book to focus primarily on that as a result. This is not the case. It is not till nearing the end of Simon's life that he is a "Frontier Bishop" and by that point you're almost done with the book. 

This book was a good and informative read, it just didn't meet a few expectations I had going into it.

3 stars.

This review appears as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Week 2: A book more than 100 years old

by: Howard Pyle

Drags if You Already Know the Legends

Before I picked up this book I knew I was familiar with most of the legends regarding Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Still, I had heard that Pyle had the best telling of these stories, and I thought I ought to make sure I was acquainted with all the tales of this most famous band of outlaws. 

If you are not familiar with these legends, you should probably read this book given how famous Robin Hood is. If you, like me, are familiar with the stories ahead of time, reading this is not necessary. I believe there might have been one or two stories I had forgotten, but truthfully I knew the tales already which made the work drag - I expected to be finished with the book before I was even halfway! 

This isn't to say that the stories aren't well told, but they are not written in today's style of action. They largely are larks while taking time to note the beauty of the world. These stories are much better suited to children than to adults. For adults, Stephen Lawhead's King Raven Trilogy would likely be more a more appealing telling of the tales. 

3 stars.

This review appears as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again

Week 1: A book for children 

Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (The Case of the Secret Pitch) 
by: Donald J. Sobol

I Forgot How Fun These Are!

Encyclopedia Brown is NOT your typical child detective. No Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys type of story here! Each short chapter provides all the needed information for Encyclopedia (and the reader) to solve the mystery. The solution to every case is provided in the back of the book. 

What is great about these is that it teaches children to think through scenarios using known information to figure out the missing piece of the puzzle. As an adult I didn't have trouble catching most of the "giveaways" but there was still a case or two that had me scratching my head. 

Highly recommended, particularly for elementary to middle school aged students.

5 stars.

This review appears as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016

You may have seen this reading challenge from Chailles. It offers four levels of challenges for different kinds of readers. I like reading, but don't like being tied down to particular picked-out-for-me books. This challenge is perfect because it provides direction while still giving me the freedom to pick my books. If you haven't checked out the challenge, you should do so now. I'll wait here.

Great! So, while I exceeded my Goodreads challenge of 100 books in 2015, most of them were books for children or "middle grade"/"young adult" ... whatever exactly those mean. I wanted to do something more substantive this year, so I decided I would take the Committed Reader challenge (but pick and choose my types from all the categories) which would make up 52 books this year.

One book every week. Perfect for blogging a review about every book on each Monday! And I will start this coming Monday.

Here is what I propose to read each week (the type of book and the actual book). I may shuffle these around, and you will notice there are a few books I haven't picked out yet, but that will be filled in in due time. You are welcome to join me in this challenge! There are four ways you can do this:

  1. Follow my course exactly. I provide you with a list of the books I will be reading, so you can read along too if you wish! (If you want to do this I even made it easy for you by including a direct link to each book on Amazon for those I haven't reviewed yet!)
  2. Follow my course with the type of book to be read, but pick your own book.
  3. Strike your own course and pick your own course & book each week.
  4. Do a different plan (reading more or less than I do from the challenge).

Most of the books I have chosen are books that I already own, but have not previously read. If I have read a book before, I will note it in my review.

As I share my weekly reviews, I will be linking the titles below to the appropriate review so you can use this page as a handy place to keep up with my challenge throughout the year.

Reading Challenge 2016

(Types in purple are from the Light Reader section, green is Avid Reader, red is Committed Reader, and blue is Obsessed Reader)

Week 1: A book for children: Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (The Case of the Secret Pitch) by: Donald J. Sobol
Week 2: A book more than 100 years old: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by: Howard Pyle
Week 3: A book by or about a missionary: Frontier Bishop: Simon Gabriel Brute by: Riley Hughes
Week 4: A mystery or detective novel: Curtain by Agatha Christie
Week 5:  A classic novel: The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition (includes Alice's Adventures in WonderlandThrough the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, and The Wasp in a Wig) by: Lewis Carroll, notes by Martin Gardner
Week 6: A book whose title comes from a Bible verse: A Cote of Many Colors by Janette Oke
Week 7: A book by Lewis or Tolkien: The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien
Week 8: A Christian novel: Beneath the Forsaken City (Song of Seare, book 2) by C.E. Laureano
Week 9: A novel set in a country not your own: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Week 10: A book by Austen: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Week 11: A book with 100 pages or less: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Week 12: A graphic novel: The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
Week 13: A book you own but never read: Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill
Week 14: A book written by a first time author: The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
Week 15: A book with magic: The Mabinogion translated by Lady Charlotte Guest
Week 16: A book by or about Martin Luther: Spy for the Night Riders (Trail Blazers series) by Dave and Neta Jackson
Week 17: A book you have read before: In Praise of Folly by Erasmus
Week 18: A book written in the 20th century: The Sign of the Beaver by: Elizabeth George Speare 
Week 19: A historical book: The Story of Sacajawea: Guide to Lewis and Clark by Della Rowland
Week 20: A book about science: Stories Read from the Rocks by Bertha Morris Parker
Week 21: A biography: Daniel Webster by Robert Allen
Week 22: A book of poetry: Cricket in a Thicket by: Aileen Fischer
Week 23: A book about the natural world: Bears in the Wild by: Ada and Frank Graham
Week 24: A book of comics: Some Clever Title by: Bill Amend
Week 25: A book by a female author: Hymns in Prose for Children by: Mrs. Barbauld 
Week 26: A book about food: Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
Week 27: A book published in 2016: Teenage Treasure Hunter by: Daniel Kenney
Week 28: A book about the second World War: Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw 
Week 29: A book based on a true story: The Doll Shop Downstairs by: Yona Zeldis McDonough 
Week 30: A photo essay book: BatDad by Blake Wilson
Week 31: A book about suffering: Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect: A Holocaust Boy by Jeffrey N. Gingold
Week 32: A book with a one word title: Bully! by Ryan Stallings (buy)
Week 33: A book by an author under 30: Magemother (series) by: Austin J. Bailey
Week 34: A book written by an author with initials in their name: St. Francis of Assisi by: G.K. Chesterton (buy)
Week 35: A book written by a Puritan: The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxtor (buy)
Week 36: A book about ancient history: Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus (buy)
Week 37: A book by David McCullough: John Adams by David McCullough (buy)
Week 38: A book by or about the church fathers: The Spirit of Early Christian Thought by Robert Louis Wilken (buy)
Week 39: A book about philosophy: The Consolidation of Philosophy by Boethius (buy)
Week 40: A book about abortion: Tilly by Frank Peretti (buy)
Week 41: A book about prayer: Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis (buy)
Week 42: A book by or about a martyr: Hearts of Fire by: Voice of the Martyrs (request free copy)
Week 43: A book by your favorite author: The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott (buy)
Week 44: A book by Schaeffer: Genesis by Francis Schaeffer (buy)
Week 45: A book about a country or a city: Timeless Mexico by: Hudson Strode (buy)
Week 46: A book about the church: The Medieval Church by Carl Volz (buy)
Week 47: A book that  has a fruit of the Spirit in the title: Allegory of Love by C.S. Lewis (buy)
Week 48: A book on adoption: In on It by: Elisabeth O'Toole (buy)
Week 49: A novel longer than 400 pages: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (buy)
Week 50: A book about worldview: Universe Next Door by James W. Sire (buy)
Week 51: A book by or about a Russian: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (buy)
Week 52: A book by or about Charles Dickens: The Life of our Lord by Charles Dickens (buy)

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