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January 2011

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Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8


January in Review: 01/31/11

I had one of my busiest reading months in ages. While on vacation I got through the short list of the Cybils graphic novels nominations. I also focused on reading books off my wishlist and from my to be read pile. One of my wishlist reads, Proust and the Squid ended up being a text book for Spring Semester.

The long list of library books are mostly picture books and manga. My children love reading to me or having me read to me. Since I hadn't had time to read to them last month when I was so busy with my papers, I did more reading this month.

I mostly reviewed science fiction and non fiction books. The non fiction books reflect last semester's reading, either as text books or research. The average rating was 3.5, with the bulk of the ratings falling in the three and four star range. This month I had an abandoned short story and an abandoned book, Who Censored Roger Rabbit. My ROOB score was -2.4, a little better than last month.

Books reviewed this month

    Rating out of 5 stars (as posted on GoodReads)

    Five Star books:

  1. Bastard Tongues by Derek Bickerton (library book)
  2. Gallop by Rufus Butler Seder (personal collection)
  3. Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr. (library book)
  4. Looking for Lost Bird by Yvette Melanson (library book)
  5. Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath (library book)

    Four Star books

  1. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin (personal collection)
  2. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald (personal collection)
  3. Foiled by Jane Yolen (library book)
  4. The Frog Comrade by Benjamin Rosenbaum (personal collection)
  5. Patricia von Pleasantsquirrel by James Proimos (library book)
  6. Peekaboo Baby by Rachel Isadora (library book)
  7. Pinkalicious: Tickled Pink by Victoria Kann (personal collection)
  8. The Portable MLIS edited by Ken Haycock and Brooke Sheldon (personal collection)
  9. Remotest Mansions of the Blood by Alex Irvine (personal collection)
  10. Silence by Dale Bailey (personal collection)
  11. Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz (library book)
  12. Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers (library book)

    Three Star books

  1. Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature by John Mullan (library book)
  2. A Barnstormer in Oz by Philip José Farmer (library book)
  3. Fundaments of Geographic Information Systems by Michael DeMers (library book)
  4. Indigo Blue by Cathy Cassidy (library book)
  5. Information Seeking in Electronic Environments by Gary Marchionini (personal collection)
  6. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (library book)
  7. Lucifer Rising by Barbara Fifield (review copy)
  8. On the Bluffs by Steven Schindler (review copy)
  9. Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch (library book)
  10. A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell (library book)
  11. A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris (personal collection)

    Two Star books

  1. The Osiris Alliance by Jack Ford (review copy)
  2. Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins (library book)

    One Star books

  1. Fort Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History by Albert E. Cowdrey (personal collection)
Genre Source

Books and stories read this month (reviews coming)

    Personal Collection

  1. "Advances in Modern Chemotherapy" by Michael Alexander (FSF July / Aug 2010)
  2. Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray by Nick Bruel
  3. Benny Bakes a Cake by Eve Rice
  4. The Doorbells of Florence by Andrew Losowsky
  5. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
  6. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart
  7. Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori
  8. "Recrossing the Styx" by Ian R. McCloud (FSF July / Aug 2010)
  9. "The Revel" by John Langan (FSF July / Aug 2010)
  10. Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf
  11. Yotsuba & (Volume 1) by Kiyohiko Azuma
  12. Yotsuba & (Volume 2) by Kiyohiko Azuma

    Library book

  1. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
  2. Benny Bakes a Cake by Eve Rice
  3. The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer
  4. Chester by Mélanie Watt
  5. The Clock Without a Face by Gus Twintig
  6. The Daddy Book by Todd Parr
  7. Dark's Tale by Deborah Grabien
  8. Doodlebug by Karen Romano Young
  9. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa
  10. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2 by Hiromu Arakawa
  11. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa
  12. Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg
  13. Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry
  14. Hattie the Bad by Jane Devlin
  15. Havana Mañana by Consuelo Hermer
  16. How Many Cats by Lauren Thompson
  17. Kitten in Trouble by Maria Polushkin Robbins
  18. Looking for Lost Bird: A Jewish Woman Discovers Her Navajo Roots by Yvette Melanson
  19. Mañana Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul
  20. Mr. Maxwell's Mouse by Frank Asch
  21. My Dog Toby by Andrea Zimmerman
  22. No, David! by David Shannon
  23. Picture a Letter by Brad Sneed
  24. The Princess Academy (audio) by Shannon Hale
  25. Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
  26. The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings
  27. Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton
  28. Snow by Cynthia Rylant
  29. The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn
  30. True Things by Jimmy Gownley
  31. Tuesday by David Wiesner
  32. Twin Spica Volume 2 by Kou Yaginuma
  33. Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson
  34. Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
  35. Welcome to Monster Town by Ryan Heshka
  36. The Yggesey by Daniel Pinkwater

    Review copy

  1. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O'Connor
  2. Frost Moon by Anthony Francis
  3. Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel
  4. Mercury by Hope Larson
  5. Night Owls Volume 1 by Peter and Bobby Timony
  6. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  7. Twin Spica Volume 1 by Kou Yaginuma
  8. The Unsinkable Walter Bean by Aaron Renier
  9. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri


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FSFSilence: 01/31/11

Bullying has been in the headlines. It's also been a recurring theme in teen fiction since at least the mid 1970s.

"Silence" by Dale Bailey is a depressing retelling of E.T. The main character is a suffering through school being the target of the bullies. He's a latchkey kid and basically lives his life alone.

The alien he finds is really an after though to the story, an excuse to put it in a science fiction magazine. The alien is injured and dying. It's there as a reminder of just how much worse things could be for the protagonist.

The story is well written but it wasn't one of my favorites from the issue. The whole point seemed to be that bullying is bad. Got that. Check. And then? But there's not then there. Just the message that bullying is bad.

Other posts and reviews:

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: January 31, 2011: 01/30/11

My current reads reflect the fact that I'm back in school. Three of the books on that list are text books: Essentials of Children's Literature, From Cover to Cover and Ambient Findability. They are so far all very interesting! The rest of the list consists mostly of manga I'm reading.

The one chunkster I'm still slowly working through is Kraken by China Miéville; I'm on page 170. By next week I should be in the mid 200s. Maybe by the end of March I'll be finished!

The Finished Last Week list looks long but it's mostly picture books and manga. The only books of any serious length on the list are The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart and Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary Wolf. Fans of Sherlock Holmes adaptations (like the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King) should read Nicholas Meyer's books.

Upcoming in my reading: more picture books (both with my children and as homework), more manga, more Kraken and possibly The Hunger Games.

Finished Last Week:

  1. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert (library book)
  2. Benny Bakes a Cake by Eve Rice (library book)
  3. The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer (library book)
  4. Chester's Masterpiece by Mélanie Watt (library book)
  5. The Daddy Book by Todd Parr (library book)
  6. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  7. Kitten in Trouble by Maria Polushkin Robbins (library book)
  8. Mañana Iguana by Ann Whitford Paul (library book)
  9. Mr. Maxwell's Mouse by Frank Asch (library book)
  10. My Dog Toby by Andrea Zimmerman (library book)
  11. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (personal collection)
  12. No, David by David Shannon (library book)
  13. Tuesday by David Wiesner (library book)
  14. Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert (library book)
  15. Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary Wolf (personal collection)
  16. Yotsuba & (Volume 1) by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  17. Yotsuba & (Volume 2) by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. Alone on a Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  2. Ambient Findability by Peter Morville (library book)
  3. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  4. Essentials of Children's Literature (7th Edition) by Carol Lynch-Brown (personal collection)
  5. From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning (personal collection)
  6. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  7. Poor Rich by Jean Blasair (review copy)
  8. Twin Spica Volume 2 Kou Yaginuma (library book)
  9. West Coast Journeys by Caroline C. Leighton (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. A Barnstormer in Oz by Philip José Farmer
  2. Looking for Lost Bird by Yvette Melanson
  3. Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath
  4. Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch
  5. Patricia van Pleasantsquirrel by James Proimos
  6. Remotes Mansions of the Blood by Alex Irvine
  7. Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz

Comments (38)


FSFRemotest Mansions of the Blood: 01/30/11

When I was working on my Critical Studies masters I took a class on Brazilian film adaptations. It involved a ton of reading of Brazilian literature (in translation) and watching a smaller number of Brazilian films. That class coupled with the literature reading I had to for A.P. Spanish in high school, has been my introduction to magical realism.

Reading "Remotest Mansions of the Blood" by Alex Irvine in the May / June 2010 issue of The Magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction brought to mind both of those classes. The story is magical realism with a Japanese horror atmosphere.

It is the story of a man obsessed with a woman named Maria whom he dreams about every night. These dreams begin after an earthquake. He is drawn beyond his own better judgement to find this woman Maria who has the reputation of being a black widow.

I loved this story. It was the right balance of character, atmosphere, suspense and ultimately horror.

Other posts and reviews:

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Looking for Lost Bird: A Jewish Woman Discovers Her Navajo Roots: 01/29/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I am in the process of converting this book blog from one that took review copies to one that tracks my wishlist reading. When I was so focused on writing reviews for authors and publicists, I was stopped having fun with my posts. The writing became formulaic and to some degree, so did the reading. Now that I am back to doing this blog for fun (as it should be) I'm going to go back to telling the stories behind the books I chose to read. These are my stories. They might be nonsense but I want to tell them. You can, of course, skip ahead to when I actually talk about the book.

Looking for Lost Bird, Yvette Melanson's memoir has two stories attached to it. The first part comes with my choosing to read the book. The short version is, the book was research.

An on-going project of mine involves a series of books set in the distant future, on a distant planet. One of my characters is a doctor and a Navajo who has left the rez for his own reasons and will never be able to return. Being that far from home and not being able to return, even if he has some uncomfortable memories, has dredged up a need to return to traditions, rituals and beliefs he had abandoned years ago. I don't want any of my characters to be stereotypes or paper doll cutouts. I want them to be well rounded, flawed, and believable. I also don't want Mary Sues or Marty Stus.

In 2008 I started another round of research. Most of the titles that came up where either ones I'd already read or were college texts that I didn't have easy access too. Then there was Melanson's memoir that had two points in its favor: it was written for a general audience and her being raised Jewish just piqued my interest.

Fast forward now to New Year's Eve 2010. We were driving down to Southern California and Looking for Lost Bird was my current read. While my husband drove I had my nose buried in Melanson's memoir. By the end of the first chapter, I couldn't put the book down.

Yvette Melanson doesn't bog down her story with too many extraneous details. So many memoirs and biographies start with grandparents and only get to the titular subject fifty or a hundred pages in. Melanson jumps right into things: weaving together her decision to move with her husband and daughters to the reservation with her own birth and adoption.

She and her twin brother were stolen from the hospital when she had been jaundiced as a newborn. She ended up as a three or four year old being adopted by a Jewish family but after her adopted mother's death and her father's remarriage she found herself without a loving home and no sense of belonging.

After years of dead ends, the internet offered her a new tool. It lead her down an unexpected path and she found family who had been looking for her all her life. I'm not going to go into the details of what she found or how her reunion went. Those parts are the heart and soul of the book.

The book was a page turner. The long trip flew by. Although I'm skeptical about some of the details here and there, I still loved the book. I would some day like to add a copy to my personal collection.

Other posts and reviews:


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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: January 29, 2011: 01/29/11

I'm back in school. My text book arrived and I returned all those books I talked about last week. I'm a little worried because one of the books I returned on Thursday is still showing up as checked out. Since it's a Link+ book it doesn't get automatically scanned like the regular books. I hope it's just sitting in the back room.

Now that I'm back in school I'm being introduced to tons of new books indirectly through my assigned reading. A lot of the wishes I'll be posting about at a later date are coming from Peter Morville's Ambient Findability. It's not a required book but is used by other professors who teach the same topic. Since it's an O'Reilly book, I had to check it out. I'm glad I did.

In the mean time, I've added these books to my ever growing list:

cover imageThe Odyssey by Gareth Hinds (Recommended by the1stdaughter)

It was on the long list of Cybils nominations.

World Cat description:

Retells, in graphic novel format, Homer's epic tale of Odysseus, the ancient Greek hero who encounters witches and other obstacles on his journey home after fighting in the Trojan War.

cover imageOphelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook by Sarah Schmelling (Recommended by Booknaround)

When humorist Sarah Schmelling transformed Hamlet into a Facebook news feed, it launched the next big humor trend-Facebook lit. This hilarious book is the first to bring more than fifty authors and stories from classic literature back to life and online. Schmelling uses the conventions of social networking-profile pages, status updates, news feeds, and applications-to retell everything from The Odyssey to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Lolita.

Every day 150 million active users of Facebook log on to reconnect with old classmates, add pictures, share quizzes, and post news stories, notes, and videos. In Schmelling-s network, Satan and Beelzebub connect using the fiend finder, Don Quixote vows vengeance against Superpoke, Jane Eyre listens to Jay-Z-s -Hard-Knock Life- on repeat, Ernest Hemingway completes the -Are you a real man?- quiz, and Oedipus works on his family tree.

A loving spoof of the most-trafficked social networking website in the world and a playful game of literary who-s who, Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don-t Float will have book lovers and Facebook addicts alike twittering with joy.

cover imageThe Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter (Recommended by An Abundance of Books)

Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who’s away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar sea village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal. . . .

In this wickedly dark, unusual, and compelling novel, Ellen Potter masterfully tells the tale of one deliciously strange family and a secret that changes everything.

cover imageThe Long Skeleton by Frances Lockridge (Recomended by My Reader's Block)

Remember Mr. & Mrs. North — one of the all-time favorite detective teams? This time the action starts when they check into a hotel to escape the fumes from their freshly painted apartment — and find a corpse in their room! The murdered woman is a famous television personality, and the Norths are prime suspects; and they even face a libel suit as a result of their sleuthing. Then the trail leads to the hills of Arkansas and to a nerve-tingling climax.

cover imagePop's Bridge by by Eve Bunting and C.F. Payne (Illustrator) (Recommended by Kinderbooks)

The Golden Gate Bridge. The impossible bridge, some call it. They say it can't be built.

But Robert's father is building it. He's a skywalker--a brave, high-climbing ironworker. Robert is convinced his pop has the most important job on the crew . . . until a frightening event makes him see that it takes an entire team to accomplish the impossible.

When it was completed in 1937, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge was hailed as an international marvel. Eve Bunting's riveting story salutes the ingenuity and courage of every person who helped raise this majestic American icon.

cover imageA Little Fruitcake: A Boyhood in Holidays by David Valdes Greenwood (Recommended by Michelle / The True Book Addict)

Ah, the sweet memories of Christmas. Gifts under the tree. Cookies for Santa. And, of course, the annual fruitcake.

For young David Valdes Greenwood, the indomitable “little fruitcake” at the center of these tales, nothing is sweeter than the promise of the holidays. A modern-day Tiny Tim, he holds fast to his ideal of what Christmas should be, despite the huge odds against him: Sub-zero Maine winters. A host of eccentric relatives. And his constant foil: a frugal, God-fearing Grammy who seems determined to bring an end to all his fun. A book that’s “fa-la-la-licious” (Louisville Courier Journal) and filled with funny, charming Yuletide memories (from building a Lego® manger to hunting for the perfect Christmas tree), A Little Fruitcake will inspire even the biggest Grinches around.

cover imageStrange Men in Pinstripe Suits & Other Curious Things by Cate Gardner (Recommended by Freda's Voice)

Zombies, robots, and dragons, oh my! A collection of strange, surreal, and magical short fiction from Cate Gardner.

8. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien (Recommended by In the Next Room)

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.
Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, Birthmarked explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

cover imageSee What I See by Gloria Whelan (Recommended by Amanda's Books and More)

Kate Tapert sees her life in paintings. She makes sense of the world around her by relating it to what she adores—art. Armed with a suitcase, some canvases, and a scholarship to art school in Detroit, Kate is ready to leave home and fully immerse herself in painting. Sounds like heaven. All Kate needs is a place to stay.

That place is the home of her father, famous and reclusive artist Dalton Quinn, a father she hasn't seen or heard from in nearly ten years. When Kate knocks on his door out of the blue, little does she realize what a life-altering move that will turn out to be. But Kate has a dream, and she will work her way into Dalton's life, into his mind, into his heart . . . whether he likes it or not.

Meanwhile, Sean's first boyfriend has taken off to Mexico and she has no idea exactly where he is. But a girl has to follow her heart. Sean leaves Beverly Hills determined to find her lover, even if it means joining a traveling circus and getting lost in a world of drum rolls and lions and Mayan glyphs. Even it means having knives thrown at her for a living, and facing a loaded machine gun in the hands of her rival. Somehow, she will find Frank, even if means going deep into the jungle, just in time to view a total eclipse, on the back of her favorite elephant.

cover imageRefresh, Refresh by by James Ponsoldt, Benjamin Percy, Danica Novgorodoff (Recommended by Schuyler Esperanza)

Fathers, sons, and the war that comes between them.

There's nothing Josh, Cody, and Gordon want more than their fathers home safely from the war in Iraq — unless it's to get out of their dead-end town. Refresh, Refresh is the story of three teenagers on the cusp of high school graduation and their struggle to make hard decisions with no role models to follow; to discover the possibilities for the future when all the doors are slamming in their faces; and to believe their fathers will come home alive so they can be boys again.

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A Barnstormer in Oz: 01/28/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)When I was in the third grade I was nearly held back a year. Although I had tested into the advanced track, I wasn't a very motivated student. My third grade teacher gave my parents an ultimatum. I had to learn my multiplication tables and I had to improve my reading. Multiplication was tedious but doable; it was just memorization.

Reading though, that sounded like torture. But being held back a year sounded even worse. So I agreed to read. I can remember sitting on my brother's floor and reading him all of the Golden Books on his shelf (probably a hundred of them). I can remember digging out my old copy The Hobbit (with the awesome illustrations from the 1977 animated film) and reading it for myself. Before my mother had always read it to me.

My mother of course got books for me to read too, based on suggestions from the teacher. I started to notice something about reading. The assigned stuff was frustrating and and the stuff I read for fun, was well fun. So for every assigned book I read, I also read something I wanted to.

Still feeling unsure of reading, I stuck with stories I knew. I went with books where I had seen the movie: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

The Baum books were something else. They sparked something in me I didn't know was possible. Each book made me want more. I loved the stories. I loved the illustrations. I had a total crush on Ozma (I still sort of do).

Along the way I began to realized I liked fantasy and science fiction. Also along the way I noticed in the adult section of science fiction, some covers sporting characters I knew like Alice. These characters were on books by Philip José Farmer.

The first book of Farmer's that I ever tried was A Barnstormer in Oz. I had run out of Oz books and I knew about barnstorming from the stories my grandmother had told of her old barnstorming friend. So over the summer before 4th grade (yes, I passed!) I made my first attempt at A Barnstormer in Oz.

In the twenty-seven years since first reading it (and probably not understanding much beyond Dorothy's son flying an airplane through a green cloud to Oz and meeting Glinda) I forgot the plot and decided to re-read it last year when Farmer passed away at age 91. All the time I read the book I had nagging feelings of deja vu as bits and pieces flashed into my memory.

This time around I couldn't help but compare Farmer's book to two other Oz inspired stories: Tin Man (a three part miniseries) and Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Farmer's version of Oz feels more closely tied to the Baum books than Maguire's version. In fact Farmer through Hank Stover's observations while in Oz makes it clear what details from Oz he is working from and which ones he has tossed aside.

If you've read the Oz series you know the series changed over time. As Dorothy's popularity with fans increased Baum gave her a permanent home in Oz (along with her aunt, uncle and of course Toto) and she was elevated to being a "Princess of Oz." Baum also provided more and more fan service, working in suggestions from the fan mail he received. The final Oz books weren't even written by Baum but by then Oz was basically an early 20th century franchise. So Farmer in his book drew a line in the sand with the first book on one side and all of the others except for a few tidbits on the other.

A Barnstormer in Oz though isn't just Farmer having a sentimental romp through Baum's creation. Farmer takes the time to think about how Oz and the other kingdoms work, what their language might be like and the ethical issues of inanimate objects gaining sentiency.

There is also a discussion of war and weaponry. First there is a war between the witches of the south and north. This though is only a precursor to a larger planned invasion from Earth. Here is where the book lost me, and I suppose it did the last time as well. The method of making the invasion possible and motivation behind the invasion seemed forced to me. It felt like filler when Farmer ran out of ideas for his social discourse.

Other posts and reviews:

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Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for January 28, 2011: 01/28/11

Classes have started. Although I'm taking a full load with four, they are fun and none of them have any term papers. There are projects, a lot of reading and a lot of discussion.

This week's question asks what books being published this year are we most excited about.

I have four books: How to Survive a Killer Seance by Penny Warner, Pirate King by Laurie R. King, Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh by R. L. LaFevers and The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan. They are from the very short list of series I actually follow. The first two are adult mysteries and the last two are middle grade/tween fantasies.


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Otto's Orange Day: 01/27/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)My library had Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso on display as a recommended read. I was instantly taken in by the bright orange and blue cover.

Otto's Orange Day is a cautionary tale, as many genie stories are. Otto loves the color orange above all other things. He wishes for a world in which everything is orange. He quickly though realizes that there might be such a thing as too much orange. Otto needs to find a way to undo his mistake without making things worse.

The best part of Otto's Orange Day is the artwork. The illustrations are wonderful. It's one of those books that can be flipped through just for the artwork. Unfortunately the artwork is not enough to make the book a must re-read.

For beginning readers, the story's probably just about right in terms of complexity and vocabulary. For more advanced readers the plot is somewhat lacking and the moral at the end of the story is too heavy handed.

Other posts and reviews:

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Ten Tiny Babies: 01/26/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz is yet another one to ten counting book for the pre-K set. Harriet chose to the book to read to herself on a recent library book.

The book features babies doing different things like eating, playing and getting ready for bed. The illustrations are bright and colorful. The text is easy enough for a beginning reader to handle without help.

Harriet loved the story. She likes books with babies. She also likes counting books. I'm glad she was able to read the book on her own because it didn't have a lot to make for an interesting re-read for me.

Other posts and reviews:

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Northward to the Moon: 01/25/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I saw Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath on the newly acquired shelf at my library. Before even realizing that it was the sequel to My One Hundred Adventures I realized I wanted to read it.

The book begins with the family being forced to move from Saskatchewan when the school Ned's teaching at figures out he doesn't know a word of French. They had moved the summer before when Jane's mother had married Ned but Jane isn't happy with her new life and is thrilled to be hopefully on the way back to Massachusetts.

Instead of heading to her home, Ned takes the family on a search to find his magician brother. The trip takes them to a First Nation's village in western Canada and then to the family homestead near Las Vegas.

The only annoying part of the book (and not so bad to warrant dropping a star from the rating) is Maya's on going know-it-all attitude. What's revealed in the trip is just how little Maya actually knows and some hints as to why she always wants to be right. While it's nice to see character development beyond that of the main character at times the approach felt heavy handed.

The book has the similar episodic chapters of the first book but they are more closely knit together. Throughout Northward to the Moon there is the goal of finding Ned's brother. Although the book ends on a cliffhanger, I felt that more was accomplished in this one than in the first. I hope the ending means there is another book in the works.

Other posts and reviews:

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Patricia Von Pleasantsquirrel: 01/24/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Back when Harriet was going through the worst of her pretty princess book phase, I slipped in a few "subversive" books just to add a little variety and maybe, just maybe, make her reconsider her assumptions about princesses. One of the subversive books I chose was Patricia Von Pleasantsquirrel by James Proimos.

Patricia is an average girl and as princess crazy as Harriet was a few months ago. She is determined to become a princess and she gets her wish. The only problem: her subjects are hippopotami. Worse yet, there's a lot of work involved with being a princess.

It's a cute and bizarre book. The hippos remind me of George and Martha taken to new extremes. Patricia is also prone to extremes and the combination is surreal and entertaining.

I think I liked the book more than Harriet did. Being a princess of hippopotami didn't strike her as a good idea. The book also wasn't quite in her vein of humor.

Shortly after reading it she stopped requesting nothing but princess books. So maybe Patricia Von Pleasantsquirrel did the trick.

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: January 24, 2011: 01/23/11

I finished my Cybils reading. This week beings my Spring Semester so soon I will be back to reading text books and articles and books for research.

My finished list looks large but I had a bunch of books I was slowly reading all finish at the same time. Seven of the books were very short, being either graphic novels or picture books.

You'll see that most of my current reads are from my own book shelf. I have finished most of my library books but will be picking up some new ones (text books on hold while I wait for the copies I purchased to arrive). I don't want to get carried away with library checkouts when I know my semester will be crazy and busy.

Last week's reviews are heavily slanted towards non-fiction. It's not something I planned but that's how the reviews ended up lining up for posting. Many of them are the result of last semester's reading. Yes, I reviewed my text books.

Finished Last Week:

  1. The Clock Without a Face by Gus Twintig (library book)
  2. Dark's Tale by Deborah Grabien (library book)
  3. The Doorbells of Florence by Andrew Losowsky (personal collection)
  4. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (personal collection)
  5. Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (review copy)
  6. Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg (library book)
  7. Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry (library book)
  8. Mercury by Hope Larson (review copy)
  9. Night Owls Volume 1 by Peter and Bobby Timony (review copy)
  10. Picture a Letter by Brad Sneed (library book)
  11. "The Revel" by John Langan (FSF July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  12. Snow by Cynthia Rylant (library book)
  13. True Things by Jimmy Gownley (library book)
  14. The Unsinkable Walter Bean Aaron Renier (review copy)

Currently Reading:

  1. Alone on a Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  2. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  3. The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer (library book)
  4. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  5. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (personal collection)
  6. Poor Rich by Jean Blasair (review copy)
  7. West Coast Journeys by Caroline C. Leighton (personal collection)
  8. Yotsuba & (Volume 1) by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
  2. Gallop by Rufus Butler Seder
  3. Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr.
  4. Information Seeking in Electronic Environments by Gary Marchionini
  5. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
  6. A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell
  7. Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins

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The Egg and I: 01/23/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Although I can read fast, I don't tear through every book I'm reading. Take for instance, The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. I read it slowly, only about ten pages a week for ten months.

I read a review of The Egg and I at the start of 2010, I think on The Pioneer Woman blog, but I'm not sure. Shortly after adding it to my wishlist I spotted a copy at the Friends of the Library sale. Bonus! (Yes, I really think like this when finding books.)

So anyway, the book is a memoir and was made into a movie. Chances are I've seen the movie but I don't remember seeing it. The memoir is about life on a run down chicken ranch in Chimacum, Washington. There's the stove that works only when it wants to, the house that needs constant repair. And so on and so forth.

The book's divided into seasons and each one goes into lengthy detail about how the seasons affect the work on house, the work in the garden, the attitudes of the neighbors and the author's basic attitude towards life.

While I enjoyed the book, reading it at about a pace of two pages a day, I can't say it's perfect, or even close. The author is annoying and whines throughout about one thing or other. She takes out her frustrations on everyone and everything but never bothers to admit that she made the mistake of agreeing to move to that run down farm in the first place.

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Information Seeking in Electronic Environments: 01/22/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Information Seeking in Electronic Environments by Gary Marchionini was published the year I first started grad school. It was a time when the internet was still relatively new and Google was still a graduate student project. The book covers ways of finding information with the aid of computers and was a supplemental textbook for my Information and Society course.

Although the specific programs and screenshots used as examples in Information Seeking in Electronic Environments are out of date (and in many cases, nonexistent), the methodology behind those programs is still in use in modern day programs. I suspect the methods will continue to be useful even as future generations of programs and services are created.

The book covers topics like browsing versus searching, the reasons behind information seeking, the process of finding information, mechanisms to aid searching and the continuing evolution of information seeking. These are all topics we covered in both of my classes this semester and continue to be topics of interest in library science.

Pages 124-37 of the "Why Browse" gives the best snap shot of where internet technology was in 1995. Of especial interest to me is Figure 6-11 on page 137 is a Semantic map display of files searched on a computer. Boxes are drawn around the different topics and the larger boxes represent the topics of most interest. In other words, it's an early version of a tag cloud, something that is being used more and more in Web 2.0 applications.

So while the book was supplemental reading and has out of date screenshots, it's still a fascinating and useful reference book that I plan to hold on to.

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Here Are My Hands: 01/21/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Now that my daughter can read, her library book choices are changing. Although she still likes to be read to and for those will opt for her favorite themes: cats, princesses and characters named Harriet, the books she picks to read for herself most often reflect what she's currently learning in school.

When she was learning anatomy in school she chose Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr. The book features the basic parts of the body, each one doing some sort of action. The models for the action are children from various ethnicities.

Although the book isn't specifically an early reader with carefully selected vocabulary, it was easy enough for Harriet to read aloud to me with very few mistakes. She would read a page and then she and I would act out the page together. It was a good book to listen to.

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: January 22, 2011: 01/21/11

I finished my Cybils reading and am in the last few days of vacation before my spring semester begins. I have no idea if I will have time to read for fun for the next bunch of weeks. My text books are ordered and I'm just waiting for them to arrive. In case they arrive late, I also have them put on hold at my library.

In the mean time, I've added these books to my ever growing list:

cover artThe Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (Recommended by Book Nut)

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers—all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother's strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

cover artGone by Michael Grant (Recommended by Mel's Random Review)

Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...

cover artQueen of the Dead by Stacey Kade (Recommended by A Simple Love of Reading)

After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - 'helping of others' is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she’d like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will's 'friend' or 'more' status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona’s most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She’s only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She’s the first ghost-talker Will's ever met—aside from his father—and she may hold answers to Will’s troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the 'clearly not' column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea.

Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.

cover artRosebush by Michele Jaffe (Recommended by Coffee, Books and Laundry)

Instead of celebrating Memorial Day weekend on the Jersey Shore, Jane is in the hospital surrounded by teddy bears, trying to piece together what happened last night. One minute she was at a party, wearing fairy wings and cuddling with her boyfriend. The next, she was lying near-dead in a rosebush after a hit-and-run.

Everyone believes it was an accident, despite the phone threats Jane swears were real. But the truth is a thorny thing. As Jane's boyfriend, friends, and admirers come to visit, more memories surface not just from the party, but from deeper in her past . . . including the night her best friend Bonnie died.

With nearly everyone in her life a suspect now, Jane must unravel the mystery before her killer attacks again. Along the way, she's forced to examine the consequences of her life choices in this compulsively readable thriller.

cover artOperation Terror by Murray Leinster (Recommended by Joy's Blog)

Sometimes called the "Dean of SF," Murray Leinster (the pen name of William Fitzgerald Jenkins) won both a Hugo Award and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for his science fiction tales. First published in 1962, Operation Terror is a novel of alien invasion — about non-human beings landing on Earth with the intent of conquest. It's the story of how we respond to the threat. The hero of the story is Lockley, who suspects that human traitors may be involved in the alien attack and develops a portable device that deflects the alien terror beams with amazing and unforeseen circumstances.

cover artOphelia by Lisa M. Klein (Recommended by What's Your Story)

In this re-imagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. She catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, and their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and ultimately, Ophelia must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever ... with one very dangerous secret, she is pregnant with Hamlet’s child. Sharp and literary, dark and romantic, this dramatic story holds readers in its grip until the final, heartrending scene.

cover artDeadly Little Games by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Recommended by A Simple Love of Reading)

Camelia and Ben have discovered a powerful bond: They both possess the power of psychometry, the ability to sense things through touch. For Ben, the gift is a frightening liability. When he senses a strong threat or betrayal, he risks losing control and hurting people. Camelia's gift is more mysterious. When she works with clay, her hands sculpt messages her mind doesn't yet comprehend.

Before either teen has a chance to fully grasp these abilities, an unresolved family tragedy resurfaces in Camelia's life, irrevocably changing everything she cares about...

cover artThe Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (Recommended by A Page Turner 4 U)

Strange things are happening in Maya's tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya's home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.

It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy—her paw-print birthmark.

cover artElephant Milk by Diane Sherry Case (Recommended by The World of Book Reviews)

Sean Hayes is driving a lime green dune buggy that a friend of hers traded from Elvis Presley for angel dust. A major motion picture is about to be released with Sean's accidentally naked breasts in it and she has just watched her best girlfriend shoot heroin, while Keith Richards nodded on the couch. Sean parks the dune buggy on Coldwater Canyon, walks down the hill, and lights a joint to calm down. There she finds a pile of black clothes, wet with blood. The Tate murders? It is 1969 and things are starting to get really icky.

Meanwhile, Sean's first boyfriend has taken off to Mexico and she has no idea exactly where he is. But a girl has to follow her heart. Sean leaves Beverly Hills determined to find her lover, even if it means joining a traveling circus and getting lost in a world of drum rolls and lions and Mayan glyphs. Even it means having knives thrown at her for a living, and facing a loaded machine gun in the hands of her rival. Somehow, she will find Frank, even if means going deep into the jungle, just in time to view a total eclipse, on the back of her favorite elephant.

cover artThe Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway (Recommended by The Book Bee)

Alli-Kar, a white-hole portal from another universe, rains meteoroids onto the surface of the planet Kelanni. But the so-called "lodestones" behave according to different physical laws, transforming Kelanni's society.

With the aid of the fearsome Keltar in their flying cloaks, the Kelanni are being put to forced labor to mine the lodestones.

Shann, an orphan with a fiery disposition, witnesses a battle between a Keltar and a stranger bearing a similar flying cloak. She tracks down the stranger, learning of the technology behind the Keltars' power and joining him on a mission to free the slaves and cut off their supply of lodestones.

Meanwhile Keris, a Keltar, is sent on a mission to track down the rebels. She is attacked by a flying creature and saved by the enigmatic Chandara. At their Great Tree, she learns that a mysterious "Prophet" is out to destroy the Kelanni people. Their only hope is a powerful instrument hidden in the distant past.

Pursued by Keltar, the party will encounter bizarre creatures, ancient technologies and terrifying dangers. Finally, they must seek to cross a massive storm barrier in order to reach the other side of their world, where a world-shaking revelation awaits.

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Textual Poachers: 01/20/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)In the middle of my Patron 2.0 research I came across Fans, Bloggers, and Games: Media Consumers in a Digital Age by Henry Jenkins (review coming). Knowing his books from my previous life as a film theory student, I added the book to my research pile. As that book is in some regards a sequel to Textual Poachers, I also checked it out to compare texts.

Textual Poachers is an examination of fandom, or the fen as they sometimes call themselves. As this one was written in the days before blogs, it looks at the fan fiction shared in the days of usenet and before.

There are long chapters on slash and to my disappointment a recurring assertion that men and women are fundamentally incapable of reading the same text the same way. Apparently my ovaries make me want to see a homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. Um no. You know how I spend most of my time watching Star Trek? I spend my time wondering why the male actors are all wearing blue eye shadow. It seems so illogical.

So anyway, I read this book primarily for fun. It wasn't on topic for my Patron 2.0 paper. It was interesting but it felt dated. It also felt too simplistic in some of its conclusions. If, though, you are a reader or a writer of fanfic, you should read Textual Poachers.

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The Lace Reader: 01/19/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I read The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry for a book club. It is not a book I would have chosen for myself. Please keep that in mind while reading this post.

From the very first page I knew I would have to struggle to finish the book. The opening line: "My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time." Right there, with an opening that sounds like a rehash of the Knight and Knave logic puzzle, I was losing interest.

Those lines were warning alarms for me. Knowing immediately that there was going to be a whole bunch of mental anguish amongst a modern day setting only to be ended with the floor dropping out when the riddle is finally answered, I skipped to the end and read the trick ending first.

Having gotten the "surprise" out of the way I went back to reading the rest of the book. I struggled with the first thirty or so pages while Towner sets up the foundation of her elaborate riddle. I suppose I should have cared about her mental breakdown and her shock therapy and her gaps in memory. But I didn't. It all felt like a literary gimmick to me, window dressing to hide the trick ending. The problem is she showed her hand at the very beginning.

As I said, it wasn't a book I would have chosen for myself. I stuck with it to the end but I did it with lot of skimming. Every time Towner gets into one of her moods, I started skimming. If you like unreliable narrators, then you'll love this book. If you don't, pass on this book.

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Gallop: 01/18/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Gallop is the first of Rufus Butler Seder's "scanimation" books. Each page features a fluid black and white animation of an animal in motion. The movement is fluid and beautiful and as captivating as the old Muybridge motion study films.

Not to be confused with the scanimate analog video animation system of the 1960s-1980s, Seder's images work more like the kinetoscopes and zoetropes of the turn of the last century. Raquel Jaramilla discovered Seder's artwork at a trade show where he was displaying greeting cards using the technique.

Harriet and her grandmother are huge fans of Seder's books. Harriet owns Gallop and Waddle and I'm sure she'd love to own the others.

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A Short History of Rudeness: 01/17/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I put A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell on my wishlist shortly after it came out. It's been on the list so long that I can't remember the reason behind adding the book or even what my initial impression of it was. When I spotted the book, a reissue, at my library I snatched it up.

A Short History of Rudeness from the outset looks like it will be a slightly off color romp through a history of Americans acting poorly. While that's certainly there, it's mostly a scholarly look at the evolution of manners and morals in western society with an emphasis on recent American history.

The book's chapters focus on a specific taboo or point of etiquette with examples from points of history with citations of historical commentary along with modern day analysis of the same event across a broader social rubric. In other words, it's a very academic book. Had I not been in the middle of a small mountain of other reading commitments I would have read it very carefully and taken copious notes. As it was, I scanned through for names I recognized and focused my attention on those choice bits.

So go into the book expecting to spend some time with it if you really want it to soak in. Or scan the index and look for your favorite famous names from history and go from there.

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: January 17, 2011: 01/16/11

I have two Cybils graphic novels to finish. My goal is to finish them this week so I can be done with them before school starts up again.

My other reading has been short stories as I'm terribly behind in my issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, wishlist reading, reading for fun and reading with my children. Ghostopolis has the distinction of being both a Cybils book and a wishlist book.

On my currently reading, I am very slowly going through Kraken by China Miéville. I am reading ten pages a night before bed. The Canary Trainer is another wishlist book and it starts with the same Sherlock Holmes book as the Beekeeper's Apprentice does. Reading Meyer's book brought back fond memories of first starting King's series so I have checked out the first book to re-read.

Finished Last Week:

  1. "Advances in Modern Chemotherapy" by Michael Alexander (FSF July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  2. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O'Connor (review copy)
  3. "Brothers of the River" by Rick Norwood (FSF July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  4. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  5. Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel (review copy)
  6. Hattie the Bad by Jane Devlin (library book)
  7. How Many Cats by Lauren Thompson (library book)
  8. "Recrossing the Styx" by Ian R. McCloud (FSF July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  9. Smile by Raina Telgemeier (review copy)
  10. Twin Spica Volume 1 by Kou Yaginuma (review copy)
  11. Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson (library book)
  12. The Yggyssey by Daniel Pinkwater (library book)
  13. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri (review copy)

Currently Reading:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer (library book)
  3. The Doorbells of Florence by Andrew Losowsky (personal collection)
  4. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (personal collection)
  5. Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (review copy)
  6. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  7. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (personal collection)
  8. West Coast Journeys by Caroline C. Leighton (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature by John Mullan
  2. Foiled by Jane Yolen
  3. The Frog Comrade by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  4. Indigo Blue by Cathy Cassidy
  5. The Portable MLIS edited by Ken Haycock
  6. A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

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FSFThe Frog Comrade: 01/16/11

After Rapunzel, enchanted frogs seem to be hot ticket items. The most recent one of these stories I've read is "The Frog Comrade" by Benjamin Rosenbaum.

In this story, much like The Frog Prince, Continued by Jon Scieszka, the frog in question doesn't want to be human. I don't know if Scieska's frog could talk before he was transformed, but Rosenbaum's can. This frog is adamant: there will be no kissing!

Meanwhile, there's been a revolution. The frog has been given to the younger daughter of a deposed king and queen. Rather than be kissed and transformed, the frog takes up politics in the new government.

After all this hilarious political wrangling which had me imagining Michigan J. Frog running for office, the story ends with a delightful twist. It's really almost a shaggy dog (shaggy frog?) story but I wish the twist had been played out a little longer.

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Foiled: 01/15/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Foiled is Jane Yolen's first graphic novel. She is a prolific author, having written 300 books and her books cover as many genres and nearly as many age groups as Neil Gaiman's books do. Yolen writes about being a fan of Gaiman's in her post about writing foiled so the comparison is a fair one.

As Yolen ex plains in her blog, she started the story when her grand-daughter took up fencing. Her experiences brought up memories of fencing in college. My brother briefly did fencing too so the fencing details seemed spot on and knowing the history behind the book really brings it together. Even the set up of losing the foil in Grand Central Station has its roots in Yolen's life.

Now of course the book is fantasy but I don't want to spoil the big reveal. What I will tell you is this: pay attention to the artwork. It provides important clues to what's really going on.

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: January 15, 2011: 01/15/11

I have two more Cybils books to read and in about ten days Spring Semester begins. So soon I have to buy my text books and then I'll be back to doing mostly assigned reading and research.

In the mean time, I've added these books to my ever growing list:

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Recommended by Irregular Tammie)

This breakout book by Alison Bechdel takes its place alongside the unnerving, memorable, darkly funny family memoirs of Augusten Burroughs and Mary Karr. It's a father-daughter tale pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel's sweetly gothic drawings and like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis a story exhilaratingly suited to the graphic memoir form. Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian house, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift ... graphic ... and redemptive.

Cover artStoryteller by Patricia Reilly Giff (Recommended by Kiss the Book)

While staying with her aunt, Elizabeth finds something remarkable: a drawing. It hangs on the wall, a portrait of her ancestor, Eliza, known as Zee. She looks like Elizabeth.

The girls' lives intertwine as Elizabeth's present-day story alternates with Zee's, which takes place during the American Revolution. Zee is dreamy, and hopeful for the future—until the Revolution tears apart her family and her community in upstate New York. Left on her own, she struggles to survive and to follow her father and brother into battle.

Zee's story has been waiting to be rediscovered by the right person. As Elizabeth learns about Zee, and walks where Zee once walked and battles raged, the past becomes as vivid and real as the present.

Cover artIn this beautifully crafted, affecting novel from beloved author Patricia Reilly Giff, the lives of two girls reflect one another as each finds her own inner strengths.

Santa's Twin by Dean Koontz and Phil Parks (Recommended by The Man Eating Bookworm)

Two sisters save Christmas from Santa's evil twin brother who delivers worms, spiders, spinach, and Brussels sprouts candy.

Cover artRobot Santa by Dean Koontz and Phil Parks (Recommended by The Man Eating Bookworm)

The Claus family's bad seed, Bob, is back and dishing out a second helping of holiday havoc and headaches for his twin brother, Santa. Exactly a year has passed since Bob kidnapped Santa and visited Charlotte and Emily in his stead, bearing gifts of mud pies, cat poop, and broccoli. After his defeat at the hands of the two brave sisters, Bob has worked hard to redeem himself in Santa's eyes. Unfortunately Bob's spare time has been spent secretly building a robot Santa Claus. Super Santa One was designed to help Santa halve his delivery time, but Bob has left a screw loose on his creation (several screws, actually), and this Christmas Eve, a badly malfunctioning robot Santa Claus is coming to town.

Cover artThe Night of Wishes by Michael Ende (Recommended by Joseph-Daniel Peter Paul Abondius Letendre)

Beelzebub Preposteror, sorcerer, and his aunt Tyrannia Vampirella have received an ultimatum: complete their annual quota of devastation (pollution, extinction of species, rapacious business deals, etc.) or be hauled off to the nether regions by emissary Maledictus Maggot.

Cover artKing Scratch by Jordan Krall (Recommended by Andersen Prunty)

"Keith watched a version of himself being dissected, the body parts being used along with those of Lincoln and Booth in order to make some sort of mechanized assassin-victim hybrid. It would spend eternity annihilating itself, finding new ways to explode, puncture and penetrate its own body parts."

Moonshine smuggling in New Jersey unleashes a Civil War hangover of squid parts, car crashes, stove pipe hats, urethral insertion fetishism, and a hankering for pancakes. King Scratch, a nightmare from the mind that birthed Piecemeal June and Fistful of Feet.

"With King Scratch Jordan Krall has delivered a unique and twisted tale that brilliantly exudes the limitless imagination of the author and, in my opinion, elevates Krall to the upper echelon of the Bizarro lit scene." Kevin Woods, director of Bath, Survival, and Wise Guys VS Zombies "Krall has quite a flair for outrage as an art form." Edward Lee, author of The Big Head, Goon and Brides of the Impaler

Cover artKeywords by Raymond Williams (Recommended by Harrison Brace)

Now revised to include new words and updated essays, Keywords focuses on the sociology of language, demonstrating how the key words we use to understand our society take on new meanings and how these changes reflect the political bent and values of society.

Cover artPeople of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy by Peter S Beagle; et al (Recommended by Rachel Swirsky)

From Sholom Aleichem to Avram Davidson, Isaac Bashevis Singer to Tony Kushner, the Jewish literary tradition has always been one rich in the supernatural and the fantastic. In these pages, gathered from the best short fiction of the last ten years, twenty authors prove that their heritage is alive and well - in the spaces between stars that an alphabet can bridge, folklore come to life and histories become stories, and all the places where old worlds and new collide and change.

Seaplane Solo by Francis Chichester (Recommended by Kansas City Star)

Flight of the Elijah from New Zealand to Norfolk island; thence to Lord Howe island; thence to Australia.

Cover artThe Hole in the Wall by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (Recommended by Megan O'Sullivan)

Eleven-year-old Sebby has found the perfect escape from his crummy house and bickering family: The Hole in the Wall. It's a pristine, beautiful glen in the midst of a devastated mining area behind Sebby's home. But not long after he finds it his world starts falling apart: his family's chickens disappear, colors start jumping off the wall and coming to life, and after sneaking a taste of raw cookie dough he finds himself with the mother of all stomachaches. When Sebby sets out to solve these mysteries, he and his twin sister, Barbie, get caught in a wild chase through the tunnels and caverns around The Hole in the Wall — all leading them to the mining activities of one Stanley Odum, the hometown astrophysicist who's buying up all the land behind Sebby's home. Exactly what is Mr. Odum mining in his secret facility, and does it have anything to do with the mystery of the lost chickens and Sebby's stomachache? The answers to these questions go much further than the twins expect.

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Indigo Blue: 01/14/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Indigo Blue by Cathy Cassidy was on the recommended shelf at my public library. I can see why they added it but I'm not sure how review the book.

Indigo is twelve when she is abruptly moved from their comfortable but somewhat broken home into a damp, cold and moldy flat. Her mother has had enough of her abusive relationship with her current boyfriend and has to flee to save herself and her children. After that though the mother and her daughters are too stubborn and too proud to ask for help. So of course things go from bad to worse until they reach a breaking point.

So back to the why the book was on the shelf. The shelf tends towards fantasy or uplifting stories. For children going through something similar to Indigo's situation, a book like Indigo Blue could be reassuring. That said, the book lacked something its storytelling. I never really connected with Indigo even though I felt sorry for her situation. The book needed something to connect everything together.

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Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for January 14, 2011: 01/13/11

We're two weeks into 2011 and about two weeks away from starting my spring semester. I need to buy my text books soon. Turns out one of the required books is Proust and the Squid, a book I read for fun over the Christmas break!

This week's question asks why we read the genre we do. Genre? Singular? Not me. I'm not such a niche reader or blogger. I won't go so far to say I read everything but I do read a wide range of things.

Looking at my archive by genre, you'll see that I've reviewed a large number of children's books (picture books, middle grades, tweens and young adults). As my son loves monster books, I also have an archive of monster books. I could probably do the same thing with cat books given my daughter's and my own interest in cats. I also have a list of fiction books, graphic novels and manga, mysteries and thrillers, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy and horror and finally, short stories.

For the picture books I'm a sucker for illustrations, ditto the graphic novels and manga. I prefer character driven stories over plot driven ones. In terms of fantasy, that means I don't read many quests. In the mysteries and thrillers, I tend to avoid the many characters, many plot points happening simultaneously.

Here's a list of things I don't typically read. Of course I make exceptions for specific books if its recommended to me by a trusted source:

  • historical fiction
  • paranormal fiction
  • religious fiction
  • self-help
  • sports books (although I do have a fondness for golf fiction)
  • chick lit
  • true crime
  • celebrity gossip or biographies
  • series (unless the books can stand by themselves and be read out of order)


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Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature: 01/13/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I spotted Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature by John Mullan at the library right after I had been part of a couple interesting discussions on male vs. female authorship. What had come up in all the discussions was that it's not always easy to guess the sex of an author especially if the author is writing either anonymously or under a pen name. So in light of those online discussions, I checked out Mullan's book.

Each chapter covers a different reason for writing anonymously. The chapters include examples of authors who fall into the category being illustrated. There are lengthy notes and citations to back up the examples.

In fact I have to admit to being surprised by the scholarly nature of the book. The cover's light-hearted illustrations of all sorts of authors and the blurb in the dust-jacket set up an expectation of an informative but quick read. The book ended up requiring more time than I had budgeted.

Sometime when I have more time and I'm in the right mood to really think about the nature of authorship, pen names and anonymity, I would like to revisit the book. If you are interested in the topic and are considering reading the book yourself, I recommend you read the review posted on The Daily Waffle Blog (included below).

Other posts and reviews:

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A Touch of Dead: 01/12/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Sookie Stackhouse series is very popular with my Bookcrossing book club friends. As I'm reluctant to start a new-to-me series and am not that interested in edgy Southern vampires, I have been ignoring the novel length books as they've been passed back and forth. When the short story collection, A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris appeared containing all of the Sookie Stackhouse short stories in one volume, I decided that would be my compromise and a chance to see what the hoopla is all about.

Sookie turns out to be a very talkative character. The protagonist who likes to chit chat is a chicklit feature (no matter which subgenre). Sookie acts as if she and the reader are BFFs and that super chumminess gets old fast.

The stories themselves follow the timeline of the novels so familiarity with larger plot points probably helps. While the stories could have stood alone better than they do, not having read the novels wasn't that much of a hinderance to following along.

My favorite of the five short stories is "Dracula Night." I liked the idea of trying to lure out the real Dracula to a cheesy vampire bash.

The rest of the book though made me appreciate what my book club friends see in the novels. It also confirmed that I probably wouldn't enjoy the novels.

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The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts: 01/11/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Portable MLIS edited by Ken Haycock and Brooke Sheldon was the main textbook for my Information and Society course. It is a collection of essays on different aspects of librarianship and policies and laws that affect libraries and librarians.

Each week we had to read an essay or two and post an answer to a question posed by our professor. Later in the week we would then have to respond to two other posts by fellow students. All of that extra writing and thinking about that book has left me feeling split-brained between enjoyment and exhaustion.

Let me explain. The individual essays are by themselves academic papers full of tips, insights, research and generally useful stuff. But the constant need to analyze the essays and respond to others' analyses has left me burned out. I need to let the book sit on my shelf of textbooks until I am ready to re-read the most interesting essays without the stress of a grade hanging over my head.

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: January 10, 2011: 01/10/10

I had every intention of making this post earlier today. I wanted to blog while my son was doing his homework because I knew we would be busy tonight. That plan didn't work out though. My husband misplaced his cell phone and he, my son and I ended up spending homework and blogging time looking for the phone. We found it but it took our homework and blogging time to do it.

This week begins my Cybils reading. You will see through the rest of January the rest of short list of graphic novels for tweens and young adults. This week I finished two short list books: Meanwhile by Jason Shiga and Smile by Raina Tegemeier.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray by Nick Bruel (personal collection)
  2. Doodlebug: My Book in Drawing and Writing by Karen Romano Young (library book)
  3. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  4. Havana Mañana by Consuelo Hermer (library book)
  5. Meanwhile by Jason Shiga (review copy)
  6. The Mummy's Mother by Tony Johnston (library book)
  7. Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf (library book)
  8. The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings (library book)
  9. Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton (library book)
  10. Smile by Raina Telgemeier (review copy)
  11. The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn (library book)
  12. Welcome to Monster Town by Ryan Heshka (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. The Doorbells of Florence by Andrew Losowsky (personal collection)
  3. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (personal collection)
  4. Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (review copy)
  5. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  6. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (personal collection)
  7. West Coast Journeys by Caroline C. Leighton (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin (personal collection)
  2. Bastard Tongues by Derek Bickerton (library book)
  3. Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems by Michael DeMers (library book)
  4. On the Bluffs by Steven Schindler (review copy)
  5. The Osiris Alliance by Jack Ford (review copy)
  6. Peekaboo Bedtime by Rachel Isadora (library book)
  7. Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers (library book)

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Peakaboo Bedtime: 01/10/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Rachel Isadora is one of Harriet's current favorite authors. She loves the playful illustrations and the fact that books are easy enough for her to read by herself.

Peekaboo Bedtime is a bedtime story staring the same child as Uh Oh! (Review coming). It's also apparently a follow up to Peekaboo Morning but we haven't read that book yet. The book goes through the routine of getting a toddler ready for bed but with the peekaboo game thrown in for laughs.

What the boy is looking at is revealed with a turn of the page. Being familiar with him and his family as characters helps in making the peekaboo game more fun. I think if this book had been our first we wouldn't have found it as entertaining.

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Baby Proof: 01/09/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Baby Proof by Emily Giffin poses a question: what does it take to be a family? More specifically it asks do a married couple have to children to be happy? Yes, no, maybe.

I read the book not because I needed answers to these questions. My husband and I had already made our decision. I read it because it was an orphaned book. No one else at the monthly book club wanted to.

Claudia Parr doesn't want children. She never has. She figures she'll never get married because the men she dates all seem to want children. That is until she meets Ben. They fall in love, get married and that should be that. Except that a few years down the line, Ben has a change of heart.

The book is fairly typical of American chick lit. It's set in Manhattan with a well to do, hardworking Caucasian protagonist. There's a lot name dropping and location dropping and it's no different than Presley musing about San Francisco and Treasure Island. Claudia is as madly in love with Manhattan as she is with Ben.

What kept me reading though was Claudia's steadfast sense of self. She doesn't want children and she has her reasons and won't be bullied into compromising even though all around her friends and family are deciding to become parents.

Thankfully not all the baby plots are happy ones. There's an unplanned pregnancy, and another couple struggling with infertility. Both of these stories play against Claudia's separation from Ben over her refusal to have a child.

I was afraid I would hate the ending. Either Claudia would give in or she would some how be punished for not giving in. Thankfully neither of those outcomes happens. Instead there's something different that took me by surprise.

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FSFFort Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History: 01/08/11

In my earlier rant in lieu of review of "Waiting for the Phone to Ring" by Richard Bowes, I mentioned my love/hate relationship with Albert E. Cowdrey's short stories. "For Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History" goes into the hate category.

First and foremost, I don't especially like framing stories in literary fiction. When there's a narrator who is hanging out with characters and they all snuggle up to hear his story, my eyes start to glaze over. It feels like I'm hearing it third hand or something. There's nothing for me to connect to, no personal point of contact with me and the characters, no matter how many amazing plot points there might be.

Take for instance, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Looking just at the plot: a man in search of another man presumed lost in the upper Congo, the novel is both a mystery and a study of the human psyche. But it's presented in a lame framing story with a bloke on a ship stuck in a storm telling about his adventures to a bunch of bored passengers. They're bored and I'm bored.

That's exactly what happens with the Fort Clay story (and many of the other Cowdrey stories I don't like). There's a photographer who has recently taken a bunch of fantastic shots of an old forgotten fort that had a minor role in the Civil War. A bloke comes over to see her photos and begins to tell its "tragical history" to her. Even though there are mysterious and horrific events in the past (and later in the present), the framing story has put me into full on bored mode.

The other problem I had with the story is it's title. See it's very similar to the excellent Neil Gaiman and David Keene, The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch. So part of me was wishing the story had David Keene illustrations. It probably would have been better that way in the same way that Apocalypse Now is a more compelling story than Heart of Darkness is.

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: January 08, 2011: 01/08/11

I'm still trying to shake the cold I got over New Year's. It's giving me bad sinus headaches the last couple of days. I don't think it's sinusitis because I don't have a fever.

Meanwhile I am waiting for the second half of my Cybil's short list graphic novels to arrive at my library. Those that I put on hold I already have but the Link+ books take a little longer. They are all on their way so hopefully next week I'll be getting my Cybil's reading done.

In the mean time, I've added these books to my ever growing list:

Cover ArtSneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

Blossom and Rocky are sheep—very sneaky sheep. And they are not very good decision makers. Poor Murphy, the sheep dog, has rescued them from many adventures, like cliff diving and sunbathing on the railroad tracks. And then there was the unfortunate incident with the knitters....But Rocky and Blossom are always looking for greener grass, and there's no telling what they'll try next.

Cover ArtHot Rod Hamster! by Cynthia Lord (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

Old car, new car, shiny painted blue car

Rust car, clean car, itty-bitty green car.


Newbery Honor-author Cynthia Lord and New York Times bestselling illustrator Derek Anderson put the pedal to the metal in this endearing, rhythmic, rip-roaring race to the finish line where a hamster creates a sizzling hot rod with a little help from his new furry friends and YOU!

Cover ArtMostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

Bernadette might seem like an ordinary monster, but sometimes she likes to do some very unmonsterlike things, like pick flowers. And pet kittens. And bake.

When the time comes for Bernadette to go to Monster Academy, she's just a teensy bit nervous. Her classmates just don't understand her. They'd rather uproot trees than sing friendship songs. And they prefer fried snail goo to Bernadette's homemade cupcakes with sprinkles. Can Bernadette find a way to make friends at school and still be herself?

Cover ArtChildren Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

Check out this rollicking, humorous, and heartwarming twist on the classic "first pet" story about a young bear and her favorite pet boy!

When Lucy, a young bear, discovers a boy in the woods, she's absolutely delighted. She brings him home and begs her mom to let her keep him, even though her mom warns, "Children make terrible pets." But mom relents, and Lucy gets to name her new pet Squeakers.

Through a series of hilarious and surprising scenes, readers can join Lucy and Squeakers on their day of fun and decide for themselves whether or not children really do make terrible pets.

Cover ArtMy Garden by Kevin Henkes (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

The girl in this book grows chocolate rabbits, tomatoes as big as beach balls, flowers that change color, and seashells in her garden.

How does your garden grow?


Cover ArtThe Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

When bestselling author Karma Wilson follows the farmer as he feeds his barnyard animals, readers are in for a surprise because THE COW LOVES COOKIES!



Cover ArtThe Thingamabob by Il Sung Na (Recommended by 100 Scope Notes)

One day, he found the thingamabob.

He had no idea what it was or where it came from. . . .

So begins the story of a curious elephant and a mysterious red object. But what is it?! When none of his friends can tell him, the little elephant decides to experiment. He thinks: Maybe I can fly with it? (Maybe not.) Maybe I can sail in it? (Maybe not.) Maybe I can hide behind it? (Maybe not.) Nothing seems to work, until big drops of rain begin to fall. The little elephant does not want to get wet. Luckily, with the thingamabob (an umbrella), he does not need to get wet!

With bright, adorable illustrations and a simple, playful text, Il Sung Na captures the excitement of making—and sharing—an unexpected discovery.

Cover ArtGreat House by Nicole Krauss (Recommended by Bibliosue)

For twenty-five years, a solitary American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police; one day a girl claiming to be his daughter arrives to take it away, sending her life reeling. Across the ocean in London, a man discovers a terrifying secret about his wife of almost fifty years. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer is slowly reassembling his father's Budapest study, plundered by the Nazis in 1944.

These worlds are anchored by a desk of enormous dimension and many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or give it away. In the minds of those it has belonged to, the desk comes to stand for all that has disappeared in the chaos of the world-children, parents, whole peoples and civilizations. Nicole Krauss has written a hauntingly powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.

Cover ArtCalvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix by Graham Salisbury (Recommended by Eating YA Books)

Calvin Coconut needs to fix things with Stella—and fast!

Stella from Texas is now officially a member of the Coconut household. As if getting a bossy babysitter isn't bad enough for Calvin, Stella teases him mercilessly. What's a nine-year-old boy to do? Calvin decides to “fix” her, and he dumps his neighbor's cat Zippy on Stella's bed, knowing she's allergic. But when Stella breaks out in hives and misses her first big date, Calvin realizes his “zippy fix” went too far. He's got to make it up to her, and decides to give her a birthday present. But he has no money. Along with the help of his loyal friends and little sister, Darci, Calvin works hard, and comes up with enough cash to give Stella the best birthday gift ever.

Graham Salisbury's voice perfectly captures the inner workings of Calvin's mind, and Jacqueline Rogers' delightful pictures add zest and humor to The Zippy Fix.

Cover ArtGender Outlaws by Kate Bornstein, S. Bear Bergman (Recommended by eclectic / eccentric)

In the 15 years since the release of Gender Outlaw, Kate Bornstein's groundbreaking challenge to gender ideology, transgender narratives have made their way from the margins to the mainstream and back again. Today's transgenders and other sex/gender radicals are writing a drastically new world into being. In Gender Outlaws, Bornstein, together with writer, raconteur, and theater artist S. Bear Bergman, collects and contextualizes the work of this generation's trans and genderqueer forward thinkers — new voices from the stage, on the streets, in the workplace, in the bedroom, and on the pages and websites of the world's most respected mainstream news sources. Gender Outlaws includes essays, commentary, comic art, and conversations from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives.

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Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems: 01/07/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems by Michael N. DeMers is another of the GIS books I read early on in my research for a term paper I had to write this semester. I had been working with a couple of GIS sites when I was working for the Census so I picked GIS as my topic to learn more about the tools I had been using with no training.

The book does exactly what it says, it outlines the fundamentals of GIS. It has the theory behind the tool, the history and the physical demands of setting up such a system (computers, software, networks and so forth).

There are also discussions of making and using maps, layers, themes and other data that can be stored in such a system. The book is a little dry in parts and a little basic in others but it just what I needed when I was first narrowing down my topic from GIS to disaster response using GIS.

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Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for January 7, 2011: 01/07/11

It's a new year. I'm back from my ping-pong travels up and down the state. My husband's currently in New Orleans on business. He'll be home soon. But for now it's just me, the kids and the cat.

While I'm on vacation before the Spring Semester, I'm doing freelance writing. I'm aiming for an article a day. It's not much but it adds up.

This week's question is what book changed my life. I read too much to have a single book. The good books, those that earn a four or five stars, earn their high stars for leaving a mark on me. Reading should leave a mark. If a book doesn't make any sort of impression on me the book earns only one or two stars no matter how popular the book is.


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Bastard Tongues: 01/06/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)My reading of Bastard Tongues by Derek Bickerton coincided with getting hired by the Census. It ended up being a mental preparation for the wide range of languages I might face in the field. Now nearly a year later, my review writing lines up with my husband packing for a business trip to New Orleans, a place where Creole is spoken.

Derek Bickerton's book is that perfect blend of memoir and research I crave in my nonfiction reading. I mark this book among my favorites, along with Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin and The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson.

He begins his book with his arrival to Ngemelis Island where his first big linguistics research position. But before he jumps into what makes Ngemelis Island linguistically interesting he steps back in time to how he got interested in linguistics. Normally I would roll my eyes at an a flashback so early but in this case, the flashback belongs there. Ask any academic how they got to their chosen field of expertise and there is always a story. Bickerton's is one of the more fantastic ones.

Bickerton's story goes back to South Africa and a chance to change directions. If he was willing to study linguistics, he could transfer to Cambridge and live with a small stipend. It's the sort of story I could completely relate to and it put me in the mood to love the book.

The book is a region by region study of creoles and pijins and creoles. Bickerton looks for grammatical links between different languages for some larger human connection. Is grammar in born or a result of complex interactions? Are we reinventing the same patterns over and over again because we're programmed to? Or are we following the same pattern learned and passed down over the ages?

Bickerton has his opinions on those questions. He discusses the pros and cons of his theories in a fascinating, clearly outlined chapters interspersed with his own experiences as his linguistic career has progressed. If you are at all interested in language, you must read Bastard Tongues.

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On the Bluffs: 01/05/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)On the Bluffs by Steven Schindler is another review book that fell through the cracks of my review schedule. It's a shame too, because I enjoyed the book.

Brian DeLouise is burned out from his graveyard shift job at a conspiracy theory heavy radio talk show. His wife has been cheating on him and he's reached a breaking point. A Google search brings up the current information of his first love and he decides to leave everything he hates about his life behind and go to Cape Cod to reconnect with her.

If the gender roles were reversed and Brian was instead a thirty-something woman named Brianna, On the Bluffs would comfortably fit in the chick lit genre. It reads like chick lit. It has the bad relationship set up, the lover who got away, regret over poor decisions and the change of scenery. For all of those reasons, I found the book to be a page turner.

There are unfortunately points in the book where the emphasis moves away from the character driven plot to extraneous details. While a little bit of detail is great for developing setting and relating it to characters, too much stalls the action. On the Bluffs needed tighter editing in spots to really shine.

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The Osiris Alliance: 01/04/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I received a copy of The Osiris Alliance by Jack Ford a little more than a year ago. I liked the title, which I admit is a shallow reason to pick a book.

The novel is about nuclear weapons being smuggled from the United States to Russia. The investigation stirs up ties to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

The reviews I've read have been fairly positive except for complaints about an unnecessary relationship between the main characters and an excessive amount of swearing. Both are just triller tropes. They're to be expected in the genre.

The book though really feels like it has two competing mysteries vying for the reader's attention. The modern day nuclear arms mystery has been done to death. It's hackneyed. Then there's the Lindbergh mystery which really felt like it wanted to be a novel all by itself but was crammed into this one instead.

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Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris: 01/03/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris by R. L. LaFevers was actually my first introduction to Theo and the rest of her family. But by the end of the second chapter it was clear I was missing a lot by reading this book before the first in the series. So I did something I don't normally do, I returned the second book unread and checked until I had read the first book.

So nearly a year later, I returned to the book and cracked it open with a wary anticipation. I had enjoyed the The Serpents of Chaos but I was worried the first couple of chapters would still fail to draw me in. I was wrong. Coming in its proper order, the book was a delightful Gothic mystery.

In this volume Theodosia's parents return from Egypt with the Staff of Osiris. Shortly thereafter the mummies on display in London go missing and to Theodosia's consternation, end up in their basement.

Theodosia has to find a way to remove the staff's power while keeping it out of the hands of different secret societies who lay claim to it. The plot is more complicated than the first book but rewards for the extra work of keeping the different threads straight.

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: January 03, 2011: 01/02/10

Over the Christmas and New Year's holidays I caught a cold. Between having a cold and being busy with my relatives, I didn't get much reading done. But that's okay. It felt good to have a break. Instead of reading I was going through my digital photos and I was updating my Zazzle store.

Finished Last Week:

  1. The Graveyard Book (audio) by Neil Gaiman
  2. Looking for Lost Bird: A Jewish Woman Discovers Her Navajo Roots by Yvette Melanson (library book)
  3. The Princess Academy (audio) by Shannon Hale (library book)
  4. Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori (personal collection)
  5. Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bagigalupi (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. Doodlebug: My Book in Drawing and Writing by Karen Romano Young (library book)
  3. Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (review copy)
  4. Havana Mañana by Consuelo Hermer (library book)
  5. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  6. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (personal collection)
  7. Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf (library book)
  8. West Coast Journeys by Caroline C. Leighton (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Boundaries of Home by Doug Aberley (library book)
  2. The Fairy's Return by Gail Carson Levinson (library book)
  3. Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 (library book)
  4. Lucifer Rising by Barbara Fifield (review copy)
  5. Maid of Murder by Amanda Flower (review copy)
  6. Pinkalicious: Tickled Pink by Victoria Kann (personal collection)
  7. Waking Up Wendell by April Stevens (library book)

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Pinkalicious: Tickled Pink: 01/02/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Pinkalicious: Tickled Pink by Victoria Kann was a fortuitous find. Ian had taken the kids book shopping while I was doing a presentation for school. Sean chose a joke book and Harriet chose Pinkalicious: Tickled Pink, a story about Pinkalicious learning to tell jokes.

Pinkalicious ends up in a joke telling contest with one of the Goth girls from Purplicious. She goes home, much like Anne Shirley does in many of the Green Gables chapters, to panic over the contest and struggle to come up with the perfect joke. The book shows how one can be creative and true to one's self while still being entertaining. It's also nice to see the adversarial relationship between Pinkalicious and the Goth girls evolve into something more positive.

My children are Pinkalicious fans. We own the original three picture books and have read them more times than I can count. Now that my daughter is learning to read, the shorter early reader paperbacks are perfect for her and her brother to share. She can read most of the book with him helping on the words she doesn't know. It's great way for them to spend time together on a car trip.

Pinkalicious books reviewed here:

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Lucifer Rising: 01/01/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Lucifer Rising by Barbara Fifield is a slim novella about the dangers and allures of cults. I received it in late 2009 for review and like so many books, the review slipped through the cracks. Although I read the book in April, I am only getting to the review more than a year after receiving the book.

The book begins in media res with Elsa having decided to join the cult run by the enigmatic but devilishly charming Tyrell. They quickly become lovers and nearly forgets her goal to infiltrate and expose the cult for what it is.

In an ending reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin, it's hinted that Tyrell may very well be Lucifer but the hint is abrupt and not allowed to play out to its full potential. What Lucifer Rising needs is more time to let the story unfold.

More time needs to be spent explaining why Elsa is so set on exposing the truth behind the cult. There should be a longer set up showing the cult moving in and its affect on the community. As it is, we are forced to take Elsa at her word. It's too long to be a short story but it's too open ended to really connect with the characters.

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: January 01, 2011: 01/01/11

Happy New Year. The Rose Parade just ended and I'm sitting in my jammies working on the first blog post of the year. New Year's also means the announcement of the Cybil's short list. So for the next six weeks, I will be reading and debating with my fellow panelists, these titles from the Middle Grades and YA graphic novels lists. I've got all the books on hold or coming via Link+ in the next few days. I can't wait to get started!

In the mean time, I've added these books to my ever growing list:

Cover ArtFables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (Recommended by Kai Charles)

Goodreads description:

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown's sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

Cover ArtClaude Monet: The Painter Who Stopped the Trains by P. I. Maltbie and Jos. A. Smith (Recommended by Abby the Librarian)

GoodReads Description:

Young readers will learn how Claude Monet came to paint trains as well as how he forever changed the minds of critics about his art and about the Impressionists in general. When his nine-year-old son raves over trains passing by in the countryside, Monet wishes his own art could excite critics as much as trains captivate his son. The book explains his painting technique, how critics viewed him and the other Impressionists, and how he came to paint trains.

Cover ArtStardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (Recommended by Neil Gaiman)

GoodReads description:

In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to beautiful Victoria Forester. But Victoria is cold and distant, as distant, in fact, as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky on a crisp October evening. For the coveted prize of Victoria's hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain into a world that is strange beyond imagining, a world populated by evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, and goblin press-gangs, a world redeemed only by true love.

(I've read the reissued paperback, seen the movie and listened to the audio book. I want to read the original graphic novel)

cover artMirrorMask by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Goodreads description:

Helena is about to embark on a most amazing journey.

Raised in a family of circus performers, she's always dreamed of leading a more ordinary life. But when haunting music draws her into a strange and magical realm, one where anything can happen, her real life is stolen by a runaway from the other side. Helena must rescue the realm from chaos in order to win back her own not-so-ordinary life.

MirrorMask is a breathtaking film written by bestselling author Neil Gaiman and brought to life through the vision of acclaimed artist and director Dave McKean. This original novella is Helena's tale in her own voice, written by master storyteller Neil Gaiman and accompanied by original art by Dave McKean and images from the film; it is a stunning and magical journey.

cover artThe Things of the World: A Social Phenomenology by James A. Aho (Recommended by Sara Ahmed)

GoodReads description:

What does it mean to be a social being in the ordinary life-world? This clear and compelling introduction to social phenomenology examines the experiential features of the basic things comprising our life-world, namely me, you, abstract others (enemies, communities, and associations), and attributes of the lived body (emotions, pain, and pleasure).

Each of these entities is phenomenologically described, with the aim of reducing reports of personal experiences and other primary documents to the presumed prototypical experience of the thing in question, its "ideal essence." Another aim of this study is to account sociologically for how the various entities of the life-world have been "accomplished;" that is, how the typical experiences of the things in question have come to be. By showing the life-world to be our joint project rather than a fixed, unalterable coherency, this volume destabilizes our naive attitude towards the things of the world.

Examples are drawn from the author's own research on issues such as violence, religion, health, and race, from classic and contemporary anthropological research, and from the works of some of the most innovative philosophers of the twentieth century. This study actually does phenomenology instead of merely arguing for its necessity and will appeal to both social scientists and philosophers.

cover artQueer Race: Cultural Interventions in the Racial Politics of Queer Theory by Ian Barnard (Recommended by Sara Ahmed)

GoodReads Description:

One of the first extended and theoretically informed investigations of queer theory's racial inscription, Queer Race understands race as inextricably sexualized, as sexuality is always racially marked. The book critically and playfully explores intellectual and political deployments of the term "queer," gay pornographic videos about South Africa, contemporary literary representations of interracial gay desire, the writings of Gloria Anzaldua, and Jeffrey Dahmer's criminal trial. Through these explorations, Queer Race charts a framework for understanding the "race" of queer theory that both tests queer theory's limits and suggests its future interrelations with anti-racist work.

cover artCartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities by Avtar Brah (Recommended by Sara Ahmed)

GoodReads description:

By addressing questions of culture, identity and politics, Cartographies of Diaspora throws new light on discussions about 'difference' and 'diversity', informed by feminism and post-structuralism. It examines these themes by exploring the intersections of "race," gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity, generation and nationalism in different discourses, practices and political contexts.

The first three chapters map the emergence of "Asian" as a racialised category in post-war British popular and political discourse and state practices. It documents Asian cultural and political responses paying particular attention to the role of gender and generation. The remaining six chapters analyse the debate on 'difference', 'diversity' and 'diaspora' across different sites, but mainly within feminism, anti-racism, and post-structuralism.

Cartographies of Diaspora offers a new approach to the study of 'difference' and 'commonality', exploring and deconstructing questions of identity, culture and politics. It will be essential reading to students of women's studies, cultural studies and anthropology and will also appeal to teachers, youth community workers, and social workers.

cover artThe Ecco Book of Christmas Stories by Alberto Manguel (Recommended by Peggy @ Answer Line)

GoodRead's Description:

Christmas is the storytelling time, the beginning of things expected but not yet seen, of tales suspenseful and mysterious, and full of a comfort of sorts. Internationally acclaimed anthologist Alberto Manguel offers an immensely enjoyable collection of twenty-three brilliant stories from across the globe, written under the merry canopy of Christmas.

The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories includes tales by the best master storytellers, such as "The Turkey Season" by Alice Munro; "Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor" by John Cheever; "Crêche" by Richard Ford; "Horatio's Trick" by Ann Beattie; "Another Christmas" by William Trevor; and "The Leaf-Sweeper" by Muriel Spark.

The collection also features voices of writers whose work has seldom or never been translated into English, such as "A Risk for Father Christmas" by Siegfried Lenz and "The Night Before Christmas" by Theodore Odrach. Eminently readable, The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories is a celebration of the most magical of seasons.

cover artHere Is Greenwood: Volume 2 by Yukie Nasu

GoodRead's Description

If 15-year-old Kazuya Hasukawa's stomach wasn't perforated in a car accident, it would have been perforated by an ulcer! The woman he loves just married his older brother, and worse, he is bringing her home to live with them! Kazuya has no choice; he has to leave, and the only option is to enter the exclusive all-male boarding school, Ryokuto Academy. But since the car accident sidelined Kazuya for quite some time, and he ended up missing a little over a month of school! Entering school, Kazuya is introduced to the Student Body President, Shinobu Tezuka, and Kazuya's dorm's Head Resident, Mitsuru Ikeda, who both seem like nice, good-looking young men. They escort Kazuya to his new home, the dorm named Ryokurin-ryû but because that is so difficult to pronounce, they call it by its English translation, Greenwood. And because Kazuya arrived at school late, he is introduced to his new roommate in the last available room, Shun Kisaragi, the cutest girl in the guy's dorm!

The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker

Any small town surely has secrets that may eventually seep out from the cracks, but when they're buried under salt mines, they're bound to be sprinkled with mystery. Claire and Jo Gilly, sisters just about as different as can be, grew up at Salt Creek Farm in tiny Prospect, MA. The Gilly lot is a hard one, with very little money, a year-long commitment to mining the salt, and suffering at the hands of the townspeople who believe they may be witches.

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