Masthead header
Under A Gray Sky bio picture
  • WELCOME!

    This is my little corner of the world where I can do whatever I want...review some of my favorite (and not so favorite) books, whine about yet another gray sky, or just share a little of what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest after a lifetime of living in the sun.

    Reading As you spend time on my blog, you may notice that my reading tastes are a bit eclectic. I used to be what I call a "book snob". That was before I began work on my master's degree and needed light recreational reading and discovered that while some books might not be "critically acclaimed", they could still be some great fun to read! Now I read a little bit of everything.

    Writing One of my lifelong dreams (besides meeting John Taylor from 80's Duran Duran fame) has been write the next great American novel . I'm sure many of you share this dream (you might even share my dream of meeting John Taylor, who knows). I've always been afraid to start writing. I put "writing" in the sub-title of the blog hoping that it will force me to begin writing something or else I will have to crawl away in shame...

    Living I'll also be sharing stories about my experiences living and parenting in the PNW. If you're expecting great tips on how to organize your schedule or how to prepare gourmet meals on a shoestring budget...sorry, you won't find that here. I am chronically messy, chronically disorganized, and chronically planning gourmet meals that never get prepared. It's just going to be me...sharing my trials and tribulations of not only leaving 365 days of sunshine for 350 days of gray skies but also the oh so fun adventure of parenting two "tweens" who think they know more than me.

Book Review: Zoo Borns Motherly Love

Title: Zoo Borns Motherly Love 
Author:  Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Genre:  Non-Fiction / Animals / Photography
Source:  Publisher
Rating:  5
Locate It:   Amazon

 Synopsis:  

ZooBorns Motherly Love is all about mothers and their babies. Photographs that capture the power of a mother’s love consistently attract explosive interest on the wildly popular ZooBorns website, and now, for the first time, they have been collected in this book. ZooBorns Motherly Love explores the special role mothers play in our lives: they do more for us than they do for themselves, worry about us more than we’ll ever know, and love us more than anyone else can, no matter their species. By highlighting these adorable and recognizable moments, from a sea otter cradling her newborn pup to a lioness gently tugging her cub back to her side, ZooBorns connects you to the animals featured here and builds awareness for the challenges these species face in the wild. Remember, these babies are much more than just irresistible furry faces. They are ambassadors for their species, helping educate about conservation while they entertain. In fact, 10 percent of all ZooBorns revenue from the sale of these books goes directly to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund.

This book is sure to put a smile on your face and warm your heart.

 

My Thoughts:

My children and myself are huge fans of the Zoo Borns series so we were excited to receive a copy of Zoo Borns: Mother Love.  This newest addition to the popular series is just as wonderful as the previous books, maybe even a little more wonderful since we get to see the babies with their mothers.

SUMATRAN TIGER
Photographer: Sussi Kober/Aalborg Zoo

With Zoo Borns Mother Love, you not only get beautiful images, but the authors include a small paragraph or two about each family pair educating readers about the particular animal’s “mothering” habits.  Mimi, the Wolf’s Guenon in the image below, would actually use a large planter as a playpen for her baby, Zuri.

WOLF’S GUENON
Photographer: Mike Owyand/Sacramento Zoo

I really like how the authors have included selections from the entire animal kingdom, not just cute and fluffy animals.  I thought my twelve year old daughter’s favorite would be the Red Pandas or the Snow Leopard but I think her favorite was actually the baby Giant Spiny Walkingstick riding on its mother’s back.  It is a really cute photo!

Zoo Borns: Mother Love would actually make a great gift (and Mother’s Day is coming up!) for anyone with a love of animals.

And here is one more photo,  just because…

SIAMANG
Tampas Lowry Park Zoo

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  This review is my own opinion.

Literary Blog Hop Giveaway

It’s time for one of my favorite blog hops and giveaways…the Literary Blog Hop.  Literary fiction has always been a favorite genre of mine.  In fact, for many years, it was the only genre I would read.  I’ve since branched out and have read less literary fiction as I find myself wanting “lighter” storylines but my heart will always belong to well-written lit fic.

So, to celebrate all things literary, I am giving away a $10 gift card for one lucky winner to purchase the literary novel of their choice from either Powell’s, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.  Oh, and don’t forget that the cool thing about blog hops is that there are eleven other giveaways going on right now.  So be sure to check out all of the participating blogs linked below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

 

April 3, 2015 - 7:26 am

Anne - I don’t have an absolute favorite book, but many of my top ten series are urban fantasy.

April 3, 2015 - 8:15 am

Brittany @ The Crafty Engineer's Bookshelf - It’s so hard to pick one favorite book! As far as literary fiction goes I really enjoyed Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina

April 3, 2015 - 8:30 am

holdenj - Tough question! I guess if we mean of all time, not just something for this year, I would go with To Kill A Mockingbird. So readable, time and again! Thanks!

April 3, 2015 - 8:42 am

Emily Elizabeth Endrizzi - I really liked The Poisonwood Bible. Not sure if I would call it my favorite, but it has left an impression on me.

April 3, 2015 - 8:50 am

Debbie Rodgersd @Exurbanis - Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

April 3, 2015 - 9:32 am

Kayley - I messed up my Bloglovin link in the rafflecopter, sorry!

I’m following you with this account: https://www.bloglovin.com/people/kayleyfc-4839363

Thanks for the giveaway. :)

April 3, 2015 - 9:41 am

Carol Wong - I don’t have one book that is my favorite but I have many favorites. The Kitchen House is one of them.

April 3, 2015 - 10:00 am

Piroska - My favourite book is Doctor Zhivago.

April 3, 2015 - 12:28 pm

Alina Popescu - Nalini Singh’s books, kind of all of them :)

April 3, 2015 - 4:44 pm

Sara Zielinski - I love the hunger games

April 3, 2015 - 5:33 pm

Sabrina - Catch-22, Heart of Darkness, Code Name Verity, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Last Unicorn.

April 3, 2015 - 6:24 pm

Rita Wray - Love Taylor Dean’s books.

April 3, 2015 - 6:43 pm

Claire McAlpine - My favourite book that I read in 2014 was Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement, my all time favourite is probably Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres.

April 3, 2015 - 7:39 pm

Jessica Cox - My all time favorite book is Little women

April 3, 2015 - 9:08 pm

Sarah M - My favorites are the fantasies I read as a little kid. Those books kept my interest up in reading, leading me to read harder things WILLINGLY (I read Gulliver’s Travels in sixth grade…) The Dark is Rising, Harry Potter, The Lost Years of Merlin are the ones that really stand out in my mind. Going back a little more, the Magic Tree House books were fantastic :D I also adored Wishbone and Reading Rainbow. Such a dork :)

April 3, 2015 - 9:09 pm

Lucybird's Book Blog - I already follow by other RSS, so haven’t added the e-mail.

My favourite book is a hard one. Recently probably err…Life after Life, but it’s constantly changing!

April 3, 2015 - 11:58 pm

TayteH - Hmm…Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. :D

April 4, 2015 - 12:23 am

Danielle C - I read almost all genres but I prefer British and Russian classics. I love that eras stlyle of writing.

Thanks for the giveaway!

April 4, 2015 - 12:57 am

Jessica Snow - I personally love romance books.
Thanks for the giveaway! =)

April 4, 2015 - 2:19 am

Susan Smith - Harry Potter books

April 4, 2015 - 4:09 am

Judy Cox - My all time favorite book has been Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen for many years!!

April 4, 2015 - 4:43 am

Janet Lee - I like thrillers and suspense and some paranormal :)

April 4, 2015 - 6:39 am

Isa - I love The Lumarater Chronicles, The Book Thief and A Song of Achilles. Thank you for the giveaway, enjoy your day.

April 4, 2015 - 8:43 am

Mollie Katie - My favorite book is “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. It may not exactly be ‘literary’ enough to make the list, but it makes my heart so happy that I don’t care. Thank you for the giveaway! :)

April 4, 2015 - 9:22 am

Mary Preston - I have a lot of favourites & it changes all the time. Right now Terry Pratchett’s books are favorites.

April 4, 2015 - 11:50 am

Emma @ Words And Peace - i think my favorite so fare this year is The Ravens, by Tomas Bannerhed

April 4, 2015 - 4:04 pm

Elizabeth - There are so many, but I do love Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books

April 4, 2015 - 6:06 pm

Judith Henstra - Thanks for the giveaway!
My favorite book at the moment is Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum – which you can win on my blog. :-) Leeswammes.wordpress.com

April 5, 2015 - 7:07 am

BookAttict - One of my faves is The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline.

April 5, 2015 - 7:05 pm

bn100 - pride and prejudice

April 5, 2015 - 10:03 pm

Carol - The outlander by Diana Gabaldon!

April 6, 2015 - 2:49 am

Ashfa - Pride and Prejudice!!!

April 6, 2015 - 2:55 am

Dovile - My favorite of all time are the Harry Potter series. But I read a lot of genres, except contemporary.

April 6, 2015 - 8:05 pm

Lisa Mandina - So many to pick! I love It by Stephen King for sure!

April 7, 2015 - 9:42 am

Cynthia R - I love anne of green gables, cold mountain, gone with the wind, and the history of love.

April 7, 2015 - 10:10 am

Lory @ Emerald City Book Review - I’m one of those annoying people who can’t pick a favorite book. I think my favorite book that I’ve read and blogged about so far this year is Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather. I was never forced to read her in school so I’m rediscovering her now and finding her amazing.

April 7, 2015 - 9:15 pm

Beth W - Jane Eyre. I re-read it every few years and I always find something new to relate to.

April 8, 2015 - 12:39 am

Vicki Summers Newell - I love Zoya by Danielle Steele, even though it’s not my usual genre.

April 8, 2015 - 8:07 am

Jessica D - I’m not sure if I have a favorite book but my favorite author is Stephen King

April 8, 2015 - 9:31 pm

Soo Tan - I love Jane Austen – my favorite book is Pride and Prejudice.

April 8, 2015 - 9:58 pm

Diane Elizabeth - My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. Thanks for participating in the hop!

April 10, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Anubha - Some of my favorite books are Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, The Forever Girl Series by Rebecca Hamilton, Heather Wells series by Meg Cabot etc.

April 11, 2015 - 4:28 am

Donna Newman - I love Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

April 11, 2015 - 4:39 am

Tina Tyler - Lords of the underworld by gena showalter

April 11, 2015 - 8:41 am

Judy Schechter. - Watchers by Dean Koontz and Insomnia by Stephen King are my all-time favorite books! Oh, and Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt and David Wright!

April 11, 2015 - 6:51 pm

neer - Thanks for the giveaway. Right now it happens to be THE BURNING COURT by John Dickson Carr.

April 11, 2015 - 10:39 pm

Betül Erikci - Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

April 12, 2015 - 9:03 am

Francine Anchondo - Harry potter books

April 12, 2015 - 1:29 pm

Karen Mikusak - My favorite recent book is The Vixen and the Vet by Kate Regnery. Thanks for the giveaway.

April 12, 2015 - 7:32 pm

amy bowens - The hunger games and the hobbit

April 12, 2015 - 8:24 pm

Breanne - I like Fablehaven.

Book Review: One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

Title:   One Plus One
Author:   JoJo Moyes
Genre:   Contemporary Fiction/Chick Lit
Source:   Audible Purchase
Rating:  4.5
Locate It:  Powell’s  or  Amazon

 Synopsis:  
One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

My Thoughts:

Oh my gosh, how I have not read JoJo Moyes until now?  One Plus One was great.  I loved the storyline.  I loved Ed. I loved Jess.  I loved Nicky.  I loved Tanzie.  And I even loved smelly old Norman.  This was truly one of the most loveable groups of quirky characters that I’ve read in a long time.

The audiobook uses different narrators as the story is told from multiple viewpoints.  I enjoyed each narrator and really feel like listening to this was a bonus that actually enhanced the story.

This is “chick lit” at it’s best!  If you haven’t read anything by JoJo Moyes, I definitely recommend picking this one up.

 

April 3, 2015 - 11:28 am

Merrieann Mowery - Your blog is alway fun to read.

Book Review: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

Title:  The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden
Author:   Karen Newcomb
Genre:   Non-Fiction/Gardening
Source:   Publisher
Rating:  5
Locate It: Amazon

 Synopsis:  
This classic gardening bestseller (over 500,000 copies sold) uses ecologically friendly, intensive biodynamic methods to produce large amounts of vegetables in very tiny spaces. Revised for an all new generation of gardeners, the 40th anniversary edition includes brand new information on the variety of heirloom vegetables available today and how to grow them the postage stamp way.

To accommodate today’s lifestyles, a garden needs to fit easily into a very small plot, take as little time as possible to maintain, require a minimum amount of water, and still produce prolifically. That’s exactly what a postage stamp garden does. Postage stamp gardens are as little as 4 by 4 feet, and, after the initial soil preparation, they require very little extra work to produce a tremendous amount of vegetables–for instance, a 5-by-5-foot bed will produce a minimum of 200 pounds of vegetables.

When first published 40 years ago, the postage stamp techniques, including closely planted beds rather than rows, vines and trailing plants grown vertically to free up space, and intercropping, were groundbreaking. Now, in an ever busier world, the postage stamp intensive gardening method continues to be invaluable for gardeners who wish to weed, water, and work a whole lot less yet produce so much more.

My Thoughts:

I love gardening.  When we “shopping” for a new house last year, one of the critical items on my list was that the house have a sunny location suitable for a vegetable garden.  The backyard and raised garden beds are what truly sold me on the house we ended up purchasing.  Here is a photo of the garden side of our yard that I took a few weeks ago.  It’s still winter here in Portland so there is nothing growing but you’ll get the idea.  There are four beds in staggered length.

I received The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden just in time to start planning this springs garden.   This book is great!  It’s a similar concept as the Square Foot Garden (I actually think that concept may have been based on the original Postage Stamp Garden book) but allows for more freedom in space and planning.

The book has comprehensive sections on soil, types of vegetables (with when to plant, special requirements, when to harvest, and best choices for this type of garden), companion planting, pests, etc.  There is also a section at the beginning of the book about the history and evolution of this type of planting that I found very interesting.

I have many gardening books (almost as many cookbooks as I have) but I find The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden to be a great addition to the collection.  In fact, I foresee it being my go-to guide this spring and summer as I plan and plant my garden.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

 

Book Review: In Her Kitchen

Title:   In Her Kitchen
Author:   Gabriele Galimberti
Genre:   Non-fiction/Cooking
Source:   Publisher
Rating:  3
Locate It: Amazon

 Synopsis:  

In a gorgeous keepsake volume based on the slideshow that captured the world’s attention, Gabriele Galimberti’s beautiful portraits of grandmothers from all over the world with their signature dishes stunningly illustrates the international language of food and family.

On the eve of a photography trip around the world, Gabriele Galimberti sat down to dinner with his grandmother Marisa. As she had done so many times before, she prepared his favorite ravioli—a gesture of love and an expression of the traditions by which he had come to know her as a child. The care with which she prepared this meal, and the evident pride she took in her dish, led Gabriele to seek out grandmothers and their signature dishes in the sixty countries he visited. The kitchens he photographed illustrate both the diversity of world cuisine and the universal nature of a dish served up with generosity and love. At each woman’s table, Gabriele became a curious and hungry grandson, exploring new ingredients and gathering stories. These vibrant and intimate profiles and photographs pay homage to grandmothers and their cooking everywhere. From a Swedish housewife and her homemade lox and vegetables to a Zambian villager and her Roasted Spiced Chicken, this collection features a global palate: included are hand-stuffed empanadas from Argentina, twice-fried pork and vegetables from China, slow-roasted ratatouille from France, and a decadent toffee trifle from the United States. Taken together or bite by bite, In Her Kitchen taps into our collective affection for these cherished family members and the ways they return that affection.

In Her Kitchen is an evocative, loving portrait of the power of food and family, no matter where in the world you sit down for dinner.

My Thoughts:

As a lover of photography and food, the concept of In Her Kitchen truly appealed to me.  I thought it would be one of those cookbooks that just pulls me into images and the stories each recipe tells.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.

This is a nice book and the images of the “grandmas” in their kitchens are sweet but something was missing.  I think I would have liked a more in depth story on each grandmother rather than one or two paragraphs.  And maybe two or three recipes from each grandmother would have made the cookbook feel more complete (to do this, the editor/author would probably have had to choose fewer grandmothers to represent).

 *I received a copy of In Her Kitchen from the publisher via bloggingforbooks.com  This review is my honest opinion.

February 27, 2015 - 9:27 am

Susan (Bloggin' 'bout Books) - I love the concept of this book. Too bad it didn’t live up to its promise. I hate that!

T w i t t e r
G o o d r e a d s
R a t i n g   S c a l e