by Doreen Cronin

Giggle, Giggle, Quack

The farmer goes on vacation, leaving his brother in charge, with written instructions. But duck has the typewriter and replaces the instructions with his own notes. So the animals all get pizza ordered, have a movie night, and the pigs have a bubble bath in the house. When the farmer calls to check on things, he’s appalled to hear all the animals sniggering in the background!

34 pages, 2002

 

Click, Clack, Quack to School

The farmer gets invited to visit a local school, and the animals invite themselves along. They’re all very excited. The farmer sternly tells them school is a place to be serious and calm. Chastised, the animals put on their best behavior. They happen to arrive at the school during recess time, and the animals are delighted to drop their calm demeanor and romp on the playground with the children- who are just as rowdy! (Except for the mice, who read graphic novels in the shade under the slide, ha).

34 pages, 2018

 

Click, Clack Surprise

It’s the duckling’s birthday, so the farmer and all the animals are throwing a party. Little duck has never been to a party and doesn’t know what to expect. He watches how the other animals prepare: duck takes a bath, cat washes herself with her tongue, the sheep get a haircut, the hens have a dust bath, and the pigs! Well, they get refreshed in the a mud spa. Little duckling copies them all- and by the time the party is starting, he’s in quite a state! Funny.

42 pages, 2016

Both borrowed from the public library. Very silly, I’m sure kids love these.

Rating: 3/5

by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

Two friends who are opposites, but they do enjoy some of the same key activities. Especially roller skating (the skates were drawn very well!) Three little stories in here. Bink loves her new outrageously colored socks, but Gollie thinks they are an affront to look at and refuses to make her friend pancakes until she takes them off. Eh. I laughed at the picture where Bink, tired from roller skating to the store and back, is struggling to take off her knee-high socks, looking quite cross. They come to a compromise. Second story, Gollie goes on an (imaginary) trek up a mountain and doesn’t want interruptions, but Bink keeps knocking on her door. (This reminded me of Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit). In the last story, Bink gets a new friend- a pet fish. Gollie rolls her eyes at all the unsuitable things Bink does with her fish- like bringing it along to the breakfast table (in its bowl) and taking it out roller skating. Yes, roller skating while carrying a fish in a bowl. Disaster. Gollie saves the day. And the last scene really made me smile. While I thought some of the situations were a bit over the top (the fish going skating, and what kind of friend refuses to be around someone because of their socks?) I did like that it showed friends don’t always have to like the same things, they can support each other and find ways to get along anyway. I like the sketchy style artwork drawn by Tony Fucile, too.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
82 pages, 2010

made by Ceaco ~ artist Chris Cummings ~ 550 pieces

I thought I would like this puzzle. I enjoyed putting the horses together. The rest, not so much. The sky took some time and started to feel tedious- lots of just trying every possible piece in a spot until one fit. The grass was also difficult. And a bit boring to do. I noticed the puzzle had a lot of four-knob pieces, so amused myself by trying to fit everything but those in place for a section first, and then all the four-knobs last. You can see that in the progress shots if I get around to uploading them here. Some finger pain. Completed on 1/18/24.

thrift store find

Chocolate Lab Water’s Edge

made by Ceaco  ~  artist Mark Fredrickson  ~  550 pieces

Although I am finding that I’m not a fan of Ceaco puzzles in general (the piece cut is always the same, and hurts my skin, and the pictures are often very bright and “busy” for lack of a better word) I really like this image. The details are great. It’s one where there’s so much going on, but relatively subtle- other little animals in the background, the dog looking so intense and alert but not noticing the bird alongside, the fish darting away from his paws (I feel like I should recognize what species this is, but I don’t. Bass?)

There’s also a frog, turtle, ducks, and a snail in there.

And a hummingbird, pulling a tuft of fiber out from the cattail.

From CList, bought used. Completed on 1/14/24

 

Chocolate Lab 2

made by Ceaco  ~  artist Mark Fredrickson  ~  550 pieces

While this one was fun, I’m not quite as keen on it as the other. This lab leaping through a stream just looks so goofy with wild excitement. I feel the same about the puzzle quality itself as the companion one. The fur texture is just incredibly detailed. This one has lots of animals in the background- some looking quite alarmed- a heron, owl, some kind of rosy passerine bird, two deer, a frog, turtle, squirrel, three skunks, a bear,

fox

and a raccoon barely visible, hurrying away through the trees.

Purchased new. Completed on 1/15/24

Sea Serenity

made by Masterpieces ~ artist Steve Read ~ 500 pieces

I was surprised that I really enjoyed this one. Ribbon piece cut but it ran in waves instead of straight lines, and had plenty of variety within the standard shapes. Nice picture- more realistic than some (like below). I found myself enjoying the details even though I couldn’t find all the hidden images. Realized partway through that there were images in the shapes of things- nicely done, too- plus other outlines that show up if you look at it in the dark. Glow-in-the-dark. Both kind of disappointing- the hidden images were hard to make out on the actual puzzle, I only found a few because I noticed them on the box picture, and there was no indication of how many. The glowing lines showed up if the puzzle had bright light on it for a while right before being switched into the dark- which wasn’t the situation very often. That had (as far as I could tell) outlines of main parts of the picture, plus some additional dolphins and other things. It was hard to make out. But aside from those details, I liked it as just a plain puzzle! From the neighborhood free exchange.

Completed on 1/12/24

Ocean Harmony

made by Ceaco  ~  artist Howard Robinson  ~  550 pieces

Another dolphin puzzle, felt packed with as many sea creatures as the artist could think to put in there. It was engaging to put together, but not my favorite kind of picture. Piece cut felt very repetitive. Some parts, particularly with all the blue, and corals with the same shape repeated over and over, were tricky. Made my fingers sore, too.

Completed on 1/13/24

I took a photo of the two together on my board, just for fun:

OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought

by David Adam

A blend of personal account, medical history and looking into how the brain is wired. What OCD feels like to the person afflicted by it. Why treatments in the past didn’t work (some sound quite horrific) and what new ones are far more promising. Have to remember that the things doctors tried that sound awful now, were groundbreaking for their time and turned into something others could build on later, to figure out what actually was effective. Doesn’t make it sound much better though. They just didn’t have enough understanding back then. The book is personal and clinical by turns, covering some of the wide variety of expression this disorder takes on. Making some things far more clear to me (it’s not the compulsions that are the issue) and others I still don’t really understand. It book merits a re-read in more familiar format, especially because now I’m struggling to recall enough to say something coherent here. I do note: it explained pretty adeptly how unwanted, random, odd and often downright offensive or frightening thoughts pop into everybody‘s head- it’s just that most people immediately forget or dismiss them. The person with OCD dwells on them, and the more they dwell on a particular thought, the more it gets repeated in a feedback loop that’s extremely difficult to escape. That’s the point at which compulsive behaviors come in, as an attempt to drive the thought away. Missing a lot here- the notes I took down after I finished this audiobook weeks ago, while puzzling soon after my injury, are rather scanty. I was very intrigued and did listen closely the whole time I assure you, even though it was quite lengthy compared to some of the other audiobooks I’ve done.

There was one section that talked in depth about two brothers who lived alone in a house full of stuff they hoarded- which I’d also read about in this other book. I immediately recognized them from some of the details, and it was pretty interesting to hear about their predicament from another viewpoint.

Borrowed from the public library. Audiobook, narrated by Daniel Philpott, 7 hours 53 min listening time. Completed on 1/11/24

Rating: 4/5
336 pages, 2016

Little Mischief

made by Masterpieces ~ photographer Keith Kimberlin ~ 500 pieces

Very nice relatively easy puzzle. Wonderful shape variety. I put it on the floor when done, for a quick photo (the one taken night before came out with too much glare) and didn’t notice that a piece or two got knocked a bit loose. Below the paws. Oops!

Completed 1/10/24

 

Bluebird Blossoms

made by Buffalo Games ~  photographer Marie Read ~  500 pieces

This one was definitely tricky, being based on a photograph (like the puppy) but having very little shape variety past the standard ribbon cut. The vivid blue of that bird so intense I couldn’t stop staring at it. Once past the bird, all the flowers a confusion and the background color pieces pretty indistinguishable from each other. Required lots of repeated try-every-possibility-in-this-one-spot, which feels tedious. But I was very satisfied to put the last piece in! The pieces caused me some slight pain, which I ignored or rubbed off my fingers periodically. Resorted to washing hands after longer sittings.

Completed on 1/11/24

thrift store finds

a true tale of adventure, treachery, and the hunt for the perfect bird

by Joshua Hammer

About a very specific and rather obscure (to the best of my knowledge) crime: the illegal acquisition of eggs from nests of endangered birds of prey, for sale to falconers in foreign countries (chiefly in the Middle East). It seems to have a little bit of everything encircling this racket. A brief history of falconry and description of the sport. An in-depth exploration of several characters- both the man who became renowned for stealing falcon eggs, and the investigator who was determined to track him down, and several others involved as well. These sections a little tedious as admittedly I did not really care what cafe they sat in when the men met with someone, or what they ordered to eat, or what they were wearing. I was however fascinated by the details about why certain men found egg-collecting such an obsessive hobby, or how the thief first became involved in groups that studied and followed the habits of birds of prey, becoming very familiar with their nesting locations long before he started taking eggs. There’s a lot more in here, but what really stood out to me at the end were two things: the thief was such an affable man, knowledgeable and easy to talk to, that the men trying to pin him down for his crimes couldn’t help admiring him as a person. And that even though the thief was caught several times, convicted, and ceased his nefarious activities for years, eventually he would go back to it. He couldn’t stop, it seemed. There was some thrill of the challenge: could he reach distant nesting ledges in the arctic without being detected, could he get away with smuggling eggs containing live chicks on flights, etc. . .

Definitely a book I’ll want to read again someday, paper version. I am fairly sure my attention drifted away a few times and I missed something. Completed on 1/7/24.

Borrowed from the public library. Audiobook version, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies, 8 hours 23 min listening time

Rating: 4/5
317 pages, 2020

illustrated by Tammie Lyon

by Lisa McClatchy

Eloise Skates!

Disappointing compared to the original, but then this book is obviously aimed at beginning readers, so I’m the worst judge. Yes, it has the same character but lacks (of course) the lengthy prose, which was so fun in all its engaging detail. Very simple sentences and abbreviated storyline. Eloise goes ice skating with her Nanny and takes her dog along. Ridiculous, to put ice skates on a pug, but that’s funny in a silly kid’s book- the kind of absurd scenario I can shrug off and laugh at. What irked me was the very unrealistic way the people were depicted in ice skates! Nobody exists a rink looking like they did (walking strides, heel and opposite toe on the ice). That aside, the illustrations were fairly accurate to the original style, also the way Eloise continually gets into trouble with all her flair (and the adults ignore it or do nothing about it).

Borrowed from the public library.   32 pages, 2008

 

Eloise Visits the Zoo

I knew what to expect now, but I had it in hand, and was bored in the bath, so I read it. Another simple early-reader take on Eloise. This one seemed rather plain, more or less just a trip to the zoo, a list and depiction of all the animals they see. Eloise doesn’t get up to any hijinks- she’s scolded by Nanny for doing relatively mild things: letting a giraffe lick her hand, begging to take a goat home with them from the petting zoo, allowing the lorikeets to land on her head. In the end she gets hugged by a baby elephant’s trunk. That’s it. Endearing but dull. However, I’m not the intended audience so take all this with a big heap of salt.

Borrowed from the public library.   34 pages, 2009

Rating: 2/5

by Robert T. Bakker

I recall now that I tried reading this book a few years ago, and gave up before finishing the first chapter. Something about the writing style just put me off. I was pleasantly surprised that it was much easier to listen to. Maybe because I could tune out the parts that didn’t quite interest me and focus on what I was doing (usually a puzzle or some household chore), or maybe because some of the duller parts were cut out. There was inclusion of some dramatic music and sounds in the background (rustling leaves, insects, rain, animals screaming, etc) which was sometimes an enhancement, sometimes a distraction. It was also kind of odd to hear a woman’s relatively gentle voice describing scenes with blood, gore and violence- as the dinosaurs were often attacking each other or killing their prey.

It’s about dinosaurs. A female utahraptor is the main character, though the story is told in third person. It’s basically her life story, as she leaves her natal group and strikes out into new territory. How she encounters other utahraptors, forms a new hunting group with a sibling and helps raise its young, finds her own mate and struggles with the conflict- stay with her sibling whom she is strongly bonded to, or follow the pull of a new relationship with the attractive male. She mourns the loss of young, struggles to learn how to survive in a new ecosystem, scavenging along the seashore. Facing new predators, and trying to learn to catch new prey. Really cool was the depiction of a loosely symbiotic relationship with a pterodactyl, an aerial scavenger, which developed gradually over time. I liked that detail. I was kind of surprised at the adamant sense of kinship the raptors felt in this story, and intrigued by the author’s description of how they detected that. The visual imagery, sense of movement and presence of the landscape is keen in this story and sometimes had my attention riveted with the pictures it painted in my mind. But then I’d be distracted by a modern reference, something described as a move in a bowling game, for example. It really threw me out of the narrative several times.

It was interesting to see how self-aware the author made these dinosaurs- and the contrast in their minds between instinct and reason or emotion. (I think the only other book I’ve read that explores that so clearly is Ratha’s Creature and its sequels). But then there were constant references to the future (to this story) arrival of humankind, pointing out over and over that unlike any other animal, only humans were self-aware, could look into the past, etc. Felt a bit inconsistent.

Borrowed from the public library, audiobook abridged version. Narrated by Megan Gallagher, 2 hours 52 minutes listening time. (Disappointingly, this means I might have missed out on quite a lot- one of the online reviews says that the audiobook version is only two or three hours long, only has a few chapters, and ruins the story with its incompleteness. I did feel like a lot of the chapters started and/or ended abruptly, so now I really wonder what was missing). Completed on 1/4/24 (some of my catch-up has gotten out of order).

Rating: 3/5
250 pages, 1995

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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