Monthly Archives: April 2009

Accept Review Books…Or Not

Over the last couple of months I have read with interest the many posts regarding ARCs and whether or not bloggers should or shouldn’t accept them; and if they accept them are they obligated to give a positive review. Even more interesting than the actual posts, are the comments they generate. It bothers me to see criticism being leveled at bloggers who accept ARCs or review books because I think there are a lot of myths out there around this subject. As someone who receives her fair share of review books, I’d like to dispel some of them.

Myth #1: Bloggers who accept review books are being forced to read books they don’t like

I get review books (finished copies) and ARCs from a number of sources:

NEVER have a I been pressured or forced to accept a book I did not want to read. In most cases, I specifically requested a book which looked interesting to me. When I get an unsolicited email with a request, I do my homework (which includes googling the book, checking out other book reviews, looking at the author’s website, etc…) before considering whether or not to accept the book. I actually do more research on the books I take for review than when I go to the bookstore and buy a book. But the bottom line is, every single book I take for review is one I WANT to read and review.

Myth #2: If you accept a book for review, you must give it a positive review

Wrong. No one has ever mandated that I give a book a positive review in order to receive it (and if they DID mandate that, I would not accept it). I have given review books less than glowing reviews here and here and here (for example), and I have continued to receive books from those sources.

I’ve read comments which question the number of positive reviews a particular book generates if it is an ARC. I can only speak for myself, but I suspect I am not in the minority when I say that if I give a book a positive review it is because it deserved it, not because it came as an ARC. A book which has been around a long, long time is To Kill A Mockingbird…it garners far more positive reviews than negative, but no one is questioning the judgment of readers who like the book. Why not? How is THAT book any different than a well-written new release? My reviews of ARCs (as well as books I have purchased) lean toward the positive because I research each and every one of them and only select the ones I think I will love.

Some bloggers think that if you don’t like a book you get for review, you should not post ANY review. I don’t agree. I have a policy on my blog that I post a review for EVERY book I read – no matter the source. On the other hand, I think bloggers have a responsibility to be professional in their reviews – steer clear of being cruel or mean, while still being honest. But again, that is my policy no matter the source of the book.

Myth #3: You are obligated to finish every book and review it – even if you don’t want to

Again, this is not a requirement for accepting a book for review. Is it nice to read and review every book that comes your way? Yes. But it is not a requirement. If you never review an ARC or never finish reading a review book, most likely your source for those books will dry up; but if it happens once in awhile, I think you will find that it is not the horror some people think it is. Most publicists are well aware that reviewers get more books than they can read (and this goes for “professional” print reviewers, not just bloggers) or receive books they think they will like, but then find they cannot finish the book. Publicists hope for a review, but they understand if sometimes it doesn’t happen.

Myth #4: Bloggers who accept review books must participate in Blog Tours of those books

Only if you agree in advance that you are accepting a book for tour are you obligated to participate in a tour of that book. So far, I have not agreed to a tour and then found out I disliked a book. I believe this is because I am pretty selective about the books I tour. I have really enjoyed touring books for TLC Book Tours because they are professional, consistently accept books which are outstanding, and make sure that the bloggers get books well in advance of the tour date. Bloggers who tour books are not told what to post – they may get a plethora of links and ideas, but ultimately the content of their tour post is up to them. Personally, I like to have a book be a spring board to other discussions or issues and it is these books that I like to tour the most (for example, Breathing Out The Ghost).

Myth #5: Review books and ARCs are “free”

Some people are going to argue this point with me, but I still stand by it…bloggers may not have to purchase a book for review, but they pay for it with their time. I’m not sure exactly how long on average it takes me to read a book and review it (because some books I read faster than others), but let’s say it takes me 10 hours (which is conservative). If a brand new book costs $26 (my “payment”), then I am making a whopping $2.60 an hour to accept a book for review. The bottom line is that the exchange of ARCs and review books between publishers/publicists/authors AND bloggers is mutually beneficial. The blogger gets a book they want to read and the publisher/publicist/author gets exposure for their book. Even if I don’t get a review posted, the book gets exposure on my blog at least once because I highlight books that arrive at my house in my weekly Mailbox Monday post. Is this advertising? Yes. But how is this any different than if I purchase a book at the bookstore and read and review it on my blog; or share with my readers the books I picked up at the store or library; or talk about a book I saw reviewed on another site that made it to my wish list? All book bloggers advertise books no matter the source of the book.

So, should bloggers accept ARCs and review books? Well, that is up to each individual blogger, and I completely respect everyone’s choice.

I’ve nurtured my connections and have actively sought out books for review – it is hard work and time consuming – but, I like getting the latest books. I love getting mail. I get excited about every book that comes into my house. Lately, I’ve started turning down more books because I’ve overextended myself. But I will continue to accept new release books that I want to read, while I continue to also read the “older” books on my shelves.

I hope that readers of my blog enjoy my posts… I know I enjoy writing them. And I suppose that is the point…most bloggers are not making money from their blog. They blog because they love it. They love the connections with others. They love talking about books – new, old, classic – it doesn’t matter. The day that my blog  becomes “work” is the day I close it down. But for now, I am loving what I do here.

Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Mailbox Monday – April 27, 2009

mailboxmondayIt’s my favorite blogging day of the week – Mailbox Mondays hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. This week my cup runneth over with great books:

bestintentions Best Intentions by Emily Listfield is a finished hard cover which arrived from Lauren, publicist for the author. I have not read any books by Listfield, but after checking out her website and the dedicated site for the book, I was intrigued enough to accept this review copy. Publisher’s Weekly writes about Best Intentions: “A writerly page-turner… deft pacing keeps the action moving and the reader guessing. Listfield ensures no character is above suspicion, and in the end, no one is without blame.” Emily Listfield has written six other novels, including Waiting to Surface, Acts of Love, The Last Good Night, and the New York Times Notable Book It Was Gonna Be Like Paris. Best Intentions is due for release May 5th.

actsoflove Acts of Love by Emily Listfield arrived unexpectedly in the same package as Best Intentions (thank you, Lauren!).  Published in trade paperback last year and the author’s fourth novel, Acts of Love is a mystery and courtroom drama that revolves around a murder trial involving a husband and wife and their two young daughters. I’m looking forward to reading this one!

nooneyouknow No One You Know by Michelle Richmond arrived direct from the author. I read The Year of Fog last year and loved it, so when Michelle contacted me to ask if I wanted a copy of her latest book I said “yes” immediately. The Boston Globe wrote about No One You Know: ‘Richmond never strikes a false note in No One You Know…an intelligent, emotionally convincing tale about a family tragedy and the process of storytelling.‘ To read more about the author and her books, visit the author’s website. To win a signed copy of this book in trade paperback come back to Caribousmom on its release date (May 19th) to enter my contest!

angelsgame The Angel’s Game by Carolos Ruiz Zafon arrived from Doubleday through a Shelf Awareness offer. I loved Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, so when I saw an ARC of his latest book available for early review I requested it. This novel has already been #1 on the bestseller’s lists in Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Norway, and Portugal. Due for publication in the United States in mid-June, The Angel’s Game is set in 1920s Barcelona and explores the perilous nature of obsession in literature and love. Read more on the publisher’s website.

liberation2 tourmaline

Liberation AND Tourmaline, by Joanna Scott arrived together from Miriam at Little Brown and Company. I just finished reading Scott’s latest release (Follow Me) which I reviewed here. When Miriam asked if I wanted copies of these other two novels, I jumped at the chance. And to sweeten the pot, I am offering Liberation and Tourmaline, as well as an ARC of Follow Me for give-away here at Caribousmom beginning TODAY. To enter the contest, use this link. To read more about Joanna Scott and all of her work, visit the author bibliography page at Little Brown and Company.

yearofpleasures The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg arrived unsolicited from the publisher because I signed up for their book club. I read this book in 2007 and (as with all Berg novels) really enjoyed it (read my review). I’ve decided to send this on to my oldest sister who I think will love this book.  To read more about Elizabeth Berg and her fantastic body of work, visit the author’s website.

localnews The Local News by Miriam Gershow arrived in finished hard cover from the publisher. I actually received an ARC of this book not too long ago, and then I saw that TLC book tours would be touring it in June and July and jumped at the chance to be involved in that tour. Because of that, I now have a finished hardcover of the book – so my ARC will most likely be finding a home with someone else. Look for my review on July 9th. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from the book here, and more about the author here.

Joanna Scott – Book Giveaway

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Follow Me



Contest Open April 27 – May 5, 2009

Thanks to Miriam at Little Brown and Company, I am thrilled to be able to offer a giveaway of THREE of Joanna Scott’s novels. I recently read her latest book Follow me (read my review) and can recommend it. The other two books are on my TBR pile and I hope to get to them soon. A brief synopsis of each book as follows:

Follow Me (published April 2009)

On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin’s invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally’s life, it’s an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally’s father–a man she has never known–enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother’s secret history.Read more on the Publisher’s website

To read reviews of this book, visit blogs touring the book on April 27thAll tour blogs are listed here.

Liberation (published November 2005)

Adriana Nardi is only 10 years old when Allied forces occupy her lush island home during World War II, plaguing the quiet Italian village with violence and uncertainty. Amdu is a Senegalese soldier who abandons his comrades and befriends Adriana after witnessing an unspeakable act that has far-reaching repercussions.

Decades later, on a commuter train bound for Penn Station, 60-year-old Adriana revisits her memories of the war and her doomed relationship with Amdu, even as a present crisis threatens her life. Read more on the Publisher’s website

Tourmaline (published October 2002)

Read a Chapter excerpt

In 1956, extravagant, debt-ridden Murray Murdoch takes his wife and four young sons on a vacation to Elba, where he becomes convinced that he can profit from the island’s abundant deposits of semiprecious gems. When the summer comes to an end and Murray still hasn’t found the valuable tourmaline that he’s looking for, the Murdochs decide to postpone their departure indefinitely. Their idyllic existence is shattered when a mysterious local girl goes missing and the community begins to suspect that the “investor from the United States” is somehow involved. The story is told by Ollie, the youngest of the four boys, who was five when the family arrived on the island and is 50 now.

A little about Joanna Scott (from the Publisher’s website):

Joanna Scott is the author of four novels, including 1997 Pulitzer Prize finalist The Manikin, and a short story collection, Various Antidotes, which was a finalist for the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award. She has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a Lannan Award. She lives in Rochester, New York.

To enter this contest:

  • Contest is open ONLY to U.S. and Canada mailing addresses (no PO boxes please).
  • Leave me a comment on this post by May 5th at 11:00 pm PST. Please let me know if you have already read any of the books, and I will make sure you don’t get that book in the drawing. Otherwise I will be using to pick THREE winners in the order that the books appear above.
  • I will post the winners to my blog AND email each one – so please make sure that you leave a valid email in the comment form (no need to leave your email in the body of the comment if you have left it in the correct spot on the form). Winners will have FIVE days to email me their snail mail address.
  • PLEASE – if you have entered this contest and then win the book through another site, let me know so I can withdraw your name from THIS contest! THANK YOU!
  • Miriam will be mailing out Tourmaline and Liberation directly (finished copies)
  • I will be mailing an Advance Reader’s Edition of Follow Me

Good Luck!

Follow Me – Book Review

followmeShe entrusted me with her version of this story late in her life. In fact, it’s a long story when all the pieces are added together, and it begins many years before my father jumped from the pedestrian bridge, when my grandmother was young and set out to follow the Tuskee River north. She confided in me because she wanted me to understand, as she put it, how one thing led to another. But I had to promise never to repeat what she told me to anyone. She would be furious to hear that I’m about to break my promise. I’d like to hope, though that by the end she would forgive me. – from Follow Me, page 7 –

Sally Werner is only sixteen years old in 1946 when an unexpected sexual encounter with her cousin Daniel results in the birth of a baby boy. On impulse, Sally abandons her baby on her parents’ kitchen table and flees, heading north along the fictional Tuskee River in Pennsylvania to seek a bigger life and leave her shame behind. Sally Werner recreates herself many times – changing her last name along the way (from Werner to Angel to Mole to Bliss), and starting her life over again each time fate delivers a bad hand.

More than sixty years later, the story of Sally’s life is retold by her granddaughter and namesake who has the benefit of pitting her grandmother’s story against another version…that of her biological father who one day sends her a package of tapes which reveal his side of the story.

There’s her side of the story, there’s mine, we’re lichen, our stories, the way they relate, they remind me of lichen. Lichen, you know, is made up of fungus and algae, it’s really two plants in one, the fungus is a parasite, it draws the carbohydrates from the algae, but the algae don’t seem to mind. I like to cite lichen as a prime example of symbiosis. Doesn’t every story involve symbiosis in a way, a relationship of dependence between two parts? Your mother’s story, what she knows, it’s a partial version, but so is your grandmother’s. – from Follow Me, page 313 –

Follow Me is a magical tale of one woman’s life and how her decisions impact others long after she is gone. Thematically, it is a novel about the selective process of memory and how history is defined by who is telling the story. Like the river which parallels Sally Werner’s life, Follow Me is filled with secrets and murky half-truths and things are never entirely how they first appear.

Joanna Scott is a gifted story teller. Her prose flows smoothly and the interconnected lives of her characters are revealed from several viewpoints. Embedded in the story of Sally is a larger story – that of the struggle of single women faced with unplanned pregnancies and the shame that often accompanies them. Sally is not a wholly likable character, and yet I found myself admiring her resilience and determination. Her mistakes, her desire for forgiveness, her effort to make things right again – all resonated with me.

My only complaint with the novel was its length. At times I felt impatient for the story to unravel faster. I wanted the secrets revealed sooner. Follow Me is a leisurely story. It meanders. But despite my impatience, I turned the final page with admiration for Scott’s writing, as well as a deeper understanding of her characters.

For readers who enjoy literary fiction, family sagas, and character-driven novels –  Follow Me will appeal.



Sunday Salon – April 26, 2009

Sunday Salon

April 26, 2009

9:30 AM

I hope this finds all of you enjoying your Sunday. We have had a mix of very hot days, broken up by cooler days here in Northern California – but today looks to be in the mid-70s and gorgeous in the mountains where we live. I hope to park myself on the porch later and read while the puppy naps. Speaking of the puppy, Raven experienced her first full day of puppy daycare on Thursday and loved it. I arrived to pick her up at 5:00 PM and she was romping with five other puppies (under the age of 6 months) – she was filthy, happy and exhausted. I’ve scheduled her for two days a week so that I can work longer days and not worry about her. Not only is she getting excellent socialization, but the owner is a certified trainer and is working with Raven on some things she is still having trouble with (like getting over excited and biting or jumping, and not coming to us if she is distracted). The best part is that she comes home tired and sleeps ALL NIGHT!

I finished reading Follow Me by Joanna Scott this week and will be posting a review and give-away tomorrow. I thoroughly enjoyed Scott’s writing – she is a good story teller and her prose transported me to the Pennsylvannia countryside. Although I really liked the book, I did think it went on a little longer than it should have – there were times I found myself impatient for the secrets to be revealed. On the other hand, books like this are not written to be rushed through. Ultimately it is a book I can recommend to those who enjoy character-driven family sagas. I received two other novels written by Joanna Scott from Miriam at Little Brown and Company (Tourmaline and Liberation) and I am eager to read more of Scott’s work.

Today I will be diving into The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo. This is an ARC that came to me from Caitlin at Unbridled Books. It is being released on May 5th and that is also the launch of a week long blog tour, so I imagine you will all be reading lots about this book then. It is an historical fiction and looks wonderful, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

In two weeks I will be heading East for a two week vacation to visit family and friends. So I’ve been contemplating what books I’ll be taking with me. I always get so stressed about what to bring! So far I’ve decided on:

  • A Thousand Veils by D.J. Murphy (which was just selected as a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards)
  • The Scent of Oranges by Joan Zawatzky
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • In the Woods by Tana French

Recently I went back to peruse my Friday Finds posts. I was interested to see how many books I’d placed on my wish list (due to great reviews by my fellow bloggers) had actually made it to my physcial TBR pile and been read. Here’s the results:

  • 109 books were “wished for” beginning in July 2008 until now
  • 21 of those books found their way onto my physical TBR pile (either I purchased them, they were gifted to me, or I received them as ARCs or review books)
  • Out of those 21 books, I’ve read and reviewed 6 (read my reviews from the review page):
  1. Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center
  2. Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks
  3. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
  4. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
  5. House and Home by Kathleen McCleary
  6. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Of the 21 books that made it to my physical TBR pile, 8 are slated to be read within the next 6 months

So how about you? How often do you wish for a book and then actually read it?

Well, I am off to enjoy my Sunday – and I hope you also are enjoying yours. Have a wonderful week full of great books!

Mailbox Monday – April 20, 2009

mailboxmonday Visit Marcia at The Printed Page today to share your Mailbox Monday. Here is what arrived at my house this week:

rightofthirst Right of Thirst by Frank Huyler arrived from Stephanie at Harper Perennial. Not only was I attracted to this gorgeous cover, but the story sounds wonderful too. The press release reads: ‘A haunting, resonant tour de force, Frank Huyler’s newest novel Right of  Thirst tells the story of an American doctor’s search for redemption that lands him halfway across the world on a disastrous relief mission.‘ Stewart O’Nan calls Right of Thirstclear and deep and wise...‘ This novel is due for release tomorrow. Read more about the book at the Harper website. Frank Huyler is an emergency physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the author of the essay collection The Blood of Strangers as well as the novel The Laws of Invisible Things. He grew up in Iran, Brazil, and Japan. Get a taste of his writing here.

Sunday Salon – April 19, 2009

Sunday Salon

April 19, 2009

8:45 AM

Today promises to be a gorgeous and hot day in Northern California. Already the sun is shining warm through the pines and I have flung open the windows to let in the delicious smell of Spring.

This weekend was Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, and from what I could see it was a huge success thanks to the efforts of many bloggers led by Nymeth, Hannah, and Trish. Congratulations to all those readers who completed this event – it can be a daunting task, but is always fun! I really missed not being able to participate this year (although I tried to unofficially go out and cheer readers on). I am determined to participate in the next one in October.

This week I finished reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (read my review) which is set in Salem Massachusetts and involves a mystery surrounding the Salem witch trials. I mostly enjoyed this debut novel.

Next I raced through Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center (read my review). As with her first novel, I loved this wonderful book which was full of humor and explored the challenges women face. I can highly recommend this book, and cannot wait until her third novel is released!

On Friday I finished reading a book which has been sitting in my TBR stack for far too long. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (read my review) is a comfort read. Lush and full of terrific food descriptions, it takes a look at the lives of eight people who attend a cooking school.

I began reading Follow Me by Joanna Scott yesterday and it hooked me in the first paragraph. Scott is a new to me author. Her prose is wonderful. I have a feeling I have found another favorite author. Watch for a review of this book on April 27th when I will be participating in a virtual book tour. I will also be offering a giveaway of this book in ARC form, as well as two other finished novels by this same author thanks to Miriam at Hachette.

What are you reading today? Whatever it is, I hope it is something wonderful. Have a great week!

The School of Essential Ingredients – Book Review

schoolofessentialingredientsThe more she cooked, the more she began to view spices as carriers of the emotions and memories of the places they were originally from and all those they had traveled through over the years. She discovered that people seemed to react to spices much as they did to other people, relaxing instinctively into some, shivering into a kind of emotional rigor mortis when encountering others. By the time she was twelve, Lillian had begun to believe that a true cook, one who could read people and spices, could anticipate reactions before the first taste, and thus affect the way a meal or an evening would go. – from The School of Essential Ingredients –

Lillian is drawn to food and its magic from the time she is a small child – intuitive and open, she sees food as a way to reach out to others emotionally. When Lillian grows up, she opens a restaurant and starts a cooking school. But the school is less about cooking and more about the people who arrive at the restaurant to learn about food.

The School of Essential Ingredients is about the lives of eight different people who gather each Monday at Lillian’s restaurant. They arrive isolated from each other, but soon their lives interconnect in ways they could not have guessed. They each gain insight into themselves and others, and are transformed by the lessons they learn about food. There is an older married couple whose lives have been touched by betrayal; an Italian woman who is finding her way in America; a man whose sadness permeates the room; a young girl who needs to learn to believe in herself; a mother who has lost herself in giving to her family; a man whose belief in perfection has left him lonely; and an elderly woman whose memory has forsaken her. And then there is Lillian – the woman who brings them all together and seems to know what each person needs before they do.

Erica Bauermeister has written each character’s story as a series of interconnected narrations – almost like short stories with a central theme. Her language is rich and evocative. Her descriptions of food are lush and sensual – bringing in the colors, aromas, textures and flavors of food in a way which brings the meals to life. As Bauermeister uncovers the mystery of each character’s background, she offers the reader a glimpse into forgiveness, sadness, joy and self-discovery. And she shows us that food is much more than what we put into our mouths – instead it can be healing while it feeds our souls and stimulates our memories.

I thoroughly enjoyed this charming book. Bauermeister’s effortless prose and deep understanding of the human condition provide insight into her characters and give new meaning to the idea of cooking.



Friday Finds – April 17, 2009


April 17, 2009

It is Friday again…and time to recap all those fantastic books which tempted me and have now ended up on my wish list. As always, clicking on the book title will take you to Amazon; clicking on the featured blog will take you to that blogger’s review of the book.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton as featured on Lesley’s blog Lesley’s Book Nook. Leslie did not actually enjoy this book – but she wrote: “I have a strong feeling that fans of The Thirteenth Tale, The Shadow of the Wind, and The Tea Rose (the latter of which I adored) might love it and give it rave reviews.‘ While I have not read The Tea Rose (I did enjoy The Winter Rose by the same author), I loved the other two books…so I think I need to give this one a try. I also read Morton’s first book (The House at Riverton) and really liked it.

The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger as featured on Lesley’s blog Lesley’s Book Nook. Lesley featured this book as one of her historical fiction favorites. In her review of the book she wrote: ‘I laughed out loud and I cried. I hugged the book to my chest when I finished and whispered, “Great book!” I thought about various actors, wishing this were a movie as well as a book. I’ll read it again and recommend it to everyone. Yep, great book.‘ This epistolary style book sounds like one I would also love. Thanks for the recommendation, Les!

Conscience Point by Erica Abeel as featured on Nicole’s blog Linus’s Blanket. Nicole writes: ‘Conscience Point is an ambitious novel in a lot of ways.  The language is rich and dense while being haunting and beautiful.  It has its own particular cadences and rhythms.AND ‘This novel reaches out and touches so many genres that whether  you’re looking for Gothic, suspense, mystery, romance or a literary novel, you’ve come to the right place.I love books with rich language, and I always enjoy a little bit of Gothic, suspense and mystery…so this one has been added to my wish list!

Little Face by Sophie Hannah as featured on Jackie’s blog Farm Lane Books. I have learned to trust Jackie’s reviews – we often share similar likes and dislikes – so when she wrote: ‘Little Face is the best thriller I have read in a very long time‘ I sat up and took notice. This is a story about a missing baby and is a psychological thriller. I love these kinds of books to sandwich into more slow moving reads. This one goes straight to my wish list.

So what books caught your attention this week and where did you find them? Visit Jenn at Should Be Reading today to link to your post and see what other reader’s are finding to read.

The Evolution of a Puppy

(All photos are clickable to enjoy a larger view)

Puppies grow fast. When I look back on the first photos of Raven, I can hardly believe it was less than 3 months ago Kip and I picked her out of the litter. I thought you all might enjoy a look back…



At 3.5 weeks:


At 5.5 weeks:

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At 8 weeks (13 pounds):

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At 10 weeks:

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At 12 weeks (20 pounds):

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