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February 2011

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


February in Review: 02/28/11

I read about half of what I did in January. I'm back in school and taking four classes. Much of what I'm reading is now for school, even the picture books. I am still though working through my wishlist. I finished six books from my wishlist. Unfortunately, I added about ten times as many titles to my list!

I read twice as many library books as from my own collection. You'll see quite a few astronomy books among the picture books. They are part of a school project. March will have a few more.

I mostly reviewed science fiction and picture books. The average rating was 3.9, with half of the books rating a 5. I wrote reviews for three abandoned books and had one more that I read this month and will review later. My ROOB score was -2.7, the best score I've had in six months.

Books reviewed this month

    Rating out of 5 stars (as posted on GoodReads)

    Five Stars:

  1. The Batman Handbook by Scott Beatty
  2. Cook-a-doodle-doo by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
  3. The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington
  4. Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Epidapheles and the Insufficiently Affectionate Ocelot by Ramsey Shehadeh
  6. The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King
  7. The Gypsy's Boy by Lokiko Hall
  8. The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg
  9. The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters
  10. My Big Dog by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
  11. Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot
  12. Stardust (Audio) by Neil Gaiman
  13. Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss
  14. Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R.L. LaFevers

    Four Stars:

  1. Oops-a-Daisy by Claire Freedman
  2. Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink by Victoria Kann
  3. Seven Sins for Seven Dwarves by Hilary Goldstein
  4. The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn
  5. Yo, Jo! by Rachel Isadora

    Three Stars:

  1. At Home with Books by Estelle Ellis and Caroline Seebohm
  2. Pokémon Adventures Volume 08 by Hidenori Kusaka
  3. Sharing Geographic Information edited by Gerard Rushton and Harlan Joseph Onsrud

    Two Stars:

  1. Influences: A Lexicon of Contemporary Graphic Design Practice by Anna Gerber
  2. Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks
  3. Nanosferatu by Dean Whitlock

    One Stars:

  1. Class Trip by Rand B. Lee
  2. Saving Max by Antionette van Heugten
  3. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Genre Source

Books and stories read this month (reviews coming)

    Personal Collection

  1. Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. "Introduction to Joyous Cooking 200th Anniversary Edition" by Heather Lindsey (July / Aug 2010)
  4. "The Lost Elephants of Kenyisha" by Ken Altabef (July / Aug 2010)
  5. "Pining to Be Human" by Richard Bowes (July / Aug 2010)
  6. "The Precedent" by Sean McMullan (July / Aug 2010)
  7. "Mr. Sweetpants" and the Living Dead by Albert E. Cowdrey (July / Aug 2010)
  8. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  9. "The Tale of the Nameless Chameleon" by Brenda Care (July / Aug 2010)
  10. West Coast Journeys: 1865-1879 The Travelogue of a Remarkable Woman by Caroline C. Leighton

    Library book

  1. Ambient Findability by Peter Morville
  2. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  3. Busy Woman Seeks Wife by Annie Sanders
  4. Hard Hat Area by Susan L. Roth
  5. Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  6. The Falling Raindrop by Neil Johnson
  7. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa
  8. Going Around The Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes
  9. How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim
  10. June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
  11. Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers
  12. Jupiter (Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers: Space Science) by Christine Taylor-Butler
  13. MoonBall by Jane Yolen
  14. No Castles Here by ACE Bauer
  15. Once I Was a Cardboard Box — But Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears! by Anton Poitier
  16. Once Upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations by Jacqueline Mitton
  17. Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration by Peter Glassman
  18. The Planets by Gail Gibbons
  19. Planets Around the Sun by Seymour Simon
  20. Red-eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley
  21. The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier
  22. The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague
  23. See You Soon Moon by Donna Conrad
  24. Shape Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple
  25. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  26. Twin Spica Volume 3 by Kou Yaginuma
  27. Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand
  28. William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey
  29. Work and Play by Sydnie Meltzer Kleinhenz

    Review copy

  1. Poor Rich by Jean Blasair


Comments (6)


Saving Max 02/28/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Saving Max by Antionette van Heugten sells itself as a thriller about a whip smart autistic boy who is accused of murder and the mother who does everything in her power to support her son and see him exonerated. Those points are there but the story is too flawed for me to recommend.

The novel has four main flaws that kept me from wanting to finish the book. First is the characterization of Max. Second is his mother, Danielle, who is supposed to carry the story but is an unlikeable and unbelievable character. Third is the medical staff which seems out of place in a novel set in modern times. Finally, there's the plotting and pacing of the mystery which takes far too long to get started.

Let's start with Max. He's the titular character. He's the reason for there even being a book. He's described as "whip smart" and a highly functioning autistic child. The problem though, is that these are attributes only. In the 120 pages I read, he hardly has any lines, any actions, any purpose other than to be talked about by the adult characters in the novel. Informed attributes do not make believable characters. Characteristics should be shown, not told!

Then there's Danielle who is supposedly a devoted mother and brilliant (perhaps "whip-smart"?) attorney who is up for partner. Except, she doesn't show any of this brilliance. Instead of using the legal system to her advantage to help her son, she rants and raves when the hospital staff aren't giving her access to her son. Then after he's accused of murder she again ignores the legal system to skulk around like Jessica Fletcher to investigate on her own. No. I don't buy that for one moment.

So then there's the medical staff. They might as well be photocopied right out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or perhaps the even older Snake Pit. Patients rights have progressed some since then and parental rights along with them. Had Saving Max been set thirty years ago, I would ignore their outrageous behavior. But all the way through the first hundred pages I'm wondering why Danielle doesn't just sue their asses instead of flailing around.

The final straw for me was the pacing of the mystery. I don't expect there to be a body on the first page or even at the end of the first chapter. I do however, expect the mystery to happen in the first fifty pages. Saving Max, though, waits until after one hundred pages to finally produce a body and frame Max. Those first hundred pages are just Danielle regretting her decision to take her son to this horrible hospital but doing nothing useful to undo her mistake.

So by the time the mystery actually started I realized I would never get to know Max, I hated his mother, I didn't find anything credible about the setting and I didn't care who had actually killed the other patient or why.

I received the book for review.

One star.

Other posts and reviews:

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Comments (4)


What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: February 28, 2011: 02/27/11

This week I wasn't as swamped with academic research and writing. I am working on a project for my materials for children ages 5 to 8 class and that means lots of trips to the library to pick up appropriate books.

I did, however, finish a bunch of books I've been working on. The best book from last week was Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace.

My Currently Reading List is mostly text books. My fun reading: Azumanga Daioh, Kraken and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie has mostly sat unread this week. It's not that I'm not enjoying them; I just have been too busy to read them.

A book I'd like to start soon is The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. I've swiped it out of my son's room. I'll probably start it after I finish The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Alone on a Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  2. Busy Woman Seeks Wife by Annie Sanders (library book)
  3. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace (review copy)
  4. Going Around The Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes (library book)
  5. How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim (library book)
  6. June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner (library book)
  7. Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration by Peter Glassman (library book)
  8. The Planets by Gail Gibbons (library book)
  9. The Psychology of Management by Lillian Gilbreth (ebook)
  10. The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague (library book)
  11. See You Soon Moon by Donna Conrad (library book)
  12. The Toynbee Convector by Ray Bradbury (personal collection)
  13. Twin Spica Volume 3 by Kou Yaginuma (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Almost Single by Advaita Kala (library book)
  2. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  3. Essentials of Children's Literature (7th Edition) by Carol Lynch-Brown (personal collection)
  4. From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning (personal collection)
  5. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  6. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  7. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  8. The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier (library book)
  9. Shattered Glass by A.C. Katt (review copy / ebook)
  10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington
  2. The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg
  3. Oops-a-Daisy by Claire Freedman
  4. Seven Sins for Seven Dwarves by Hilary Goldstein
  5. Stardust (Audio) by Neil Gaiman
  6. Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R.L. LaFevers
  7. The Tilting House by Tom Llewellyn

Comments (24)


The Improbable Cat: 02/27/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I spotted The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg sitting on the recommended shelf in the children's library. I liked the cover an was curious about the title. I'm glad I read it even though it wasn't what I was expecting.

The cover, the silhouette of a cat sitting before a fire doesn't look especially ominous. The title invokes a slight sense of mystery. What exactly makes a cat improbable?

When David's family takes in a sickly gray kitten and begin to lavish more attention on it than they do the family dog, Billy, I expected a story in the vein of the Bad Kitty books or maybe a wild cat like Angus in the Georgia Nicholson books. This cat though, is something other, something belonging in an X Files or Doctor Who episode than a chapter book.

There's no actual violence, just an ever growing ill at ease mood. The cat becomes more and more of an obsession for the family and less and less catlike in the process. Think of Stitch raiding the refrigerator in Lilo & Stitch where he lets his guard down and Nani sees his extra appendages. This "cat" is like Stitch but with far less good will.

Middle graders and tweens who are beginning to discover Gothic horror, like Poe, will like The Improbable Cat.

Five stars.

Other posts and reviews:

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Comments (2)


The Tilting House 02/26/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)My goal this year is to read books from my wishlist. That list consists of books I have come across either as citations in my research or as recommendations on blogs or from friends. That said, I'm still a sucker for a pretty cover and I'm especially vulnerable to the new books on display at my library. The Tilting House by Tom Llewllyn falls into that category.

The Peshik family has moved into a Victorian style home in Old Tacoma, Washington. The house though has a few problems, like floors that tilt, a disappearing porch, and talking rats.

The episodic chapters in The Tilting House will please fans of books like The Wayside School by Louis Sachar or Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. The house and all its oddities is a catalyst for different adventures that the Peshik family and their friends have.

While there is some progression in character development and in plot, neither is as well defined as it is some children's literature. The episodic nature though leaves a number of questions unanswered. That open-ended aspect to the book leaves room for a sequel or two. I hope that's the case because there's so much left to explore inside the Titling House.

Other posts and reviews:

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The Diary of Pelly D: 02/25/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)In my last month of working for the Census when I needed something different to read. Megan at Posey Sessions suggested The Diary of Pelly D by L. J. Adlington. I'm glad she did.

This dystopian homage to The Diary of Anne Frank opens with Toni V. finding a diary while he's digging at a construction site. He's supposed to turn in anything he finds but decides to keep the diary. Every night after work when he's back at the flop house style dormitory, he reads from Pelly D's diary.

Pelly and Toni's stories are woven together into the tapestry that is their country's history. Instead of having lengthy passages of exposition or the question and answer style of world building (as used in The Maze Runner by James Dashner), Pelly D lets both characters live in their world and experience it for the good and bad.

For Pelly's part of the novel society comes unraveled as genetic markers become the basis for a new caste system. In Toni's time the damage is done but maybe just maybe there's a glimmer of hope for improvement.

I liked the open ended feel to the book. There's room for interpretation and discussion about the nature of Pelly and Toni's country. Readers who enjoy dystopian social commentary such as 1984, Lord of the Flies or Fahrenheit 451 will like The Diary of Pelly D.

Five stars.

Other posts and reviews:

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: February 26, 2011: 02/25/11

Reading wishlist books is so fulfilling. Last weekend when I wasn't entertaining my in laws or working on my papers, I had my nose in Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand. If you haven't read the book and like urban fantasy / horror, you must!

Much of my wishlist reading right now is curtailed by a project I'm working on for school. I have to put together a themed list of twelve books on astronomy for the ages five to eight. The books have to be spread across nonfiction, picture books, a chapter book, poetry, biography and mythology. Also two of them have to be DVD or audio books. For the books, they have to be in print and hardcovers. I can't just compile the list, I also have to read all the books. This means I'm checking out lots and lots of books to compile the list.

What this means to my wishlist reading project is two fold. One, I have about twenty books checked out right now just for this project. Two, much of my extra reading time is going to this project.

I do though have a couple wishlist books at home to read soon. They are Almost Single by Advaita Kala, Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand, The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez and The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss.

My ten new wishes are actually from last month.

Cover artBlue Beetle Vol. 1: Shellshocked by Keith Giffen & John Rogers and illustrated by Cynthia Martin & Cully Hammer (recommended by impatientape)

Collecting THE BLUE BEETLE #1-6! Tearing its way through the events of DAY OF VENGEANCE and INFINITE CRISIS, the mystical Blue Beetle scarab has chosen its new guardian: teenager Jaime Reyes! But supernatural powers can be a blessing or a curse, and when it comes to the powers of the Scarab, you don't get one without the other.

Cover artAmerican Nightmares: The Haunted House Formula in American Popular Fiction by Dale Bailey (Recommended by IRoSF)

When Edgar Allan Poe set down the tale of the accursed House of Usher in 1839, he also laid the foundation for a literary tradition that has assumed a lasting role in American culture. “The House of Usher” and its literary progeny have not lacked for tenants in the century and a half since: writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Stephen King have taken rooms in the haunted houses of American fiction. Dale Bailey traces the haunted house tale from its origins in English gothic fiction to the paperback potboilers of the present, highlighting the unique significance of the house in the domestic, economic, and social ideologies of our nation. The author concludes that the haunted house has become a powerful and profoundly subversive symbol of everything that has gone nightmarishly awry in the American Dream.

What happens when you wish for something terrible ... and your wish comes true? Young Sarah is about to find out. Left at home to mind her baby brother, Toby, she finds herself trying to comfort a screaming infant as a wild storm rages about the house. In a fit of temper, she wishes that the goblins would come and take the child away. Unfortunately, they do.

Sarah then plunges into a whirlwind adventure. If she cannot reach the center of the mysterious Labyrinth within thirteen hours, Jareth — King of the Goblins — will keep Toby forever. In the twists and turns of her dangerous journey to Jareth's castle, she meets an extraordinary variety of strange characters, some more friendly than others. But none of them will be able to help her unless she musters the courage to challenge Jareth -- no matter what the odds.

Cover artNatural History by DK Publishing (Recommended by Freida's Voice)

A landmark in reference publishing and overseen and authenticated by the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, Natural History presents an unrivaled visual survey of Earth's natural history. Giving a clear overview of the classification of our natural world-over 6,000 species-Natural History looks at every kingdom of life, from bacteria, minerals, and rocks to fossils to plants and animals. Featuring a remarkable array of specially commissioned photographs, Natural History looks at thousands of specimens and species displayed in visual galleries that take the reader on an incredible journey from the most fundamental building blocks of the world's landscapes, through the simplest of life forms, to plants, fungi, and animals.

Cover artThe Devil's Share by Kris Farmen (Recommended by The Black Sheep Dances)

Can we ever own land — or does the land instead possess us? That question underpins this elegantly written account of a young man's action-filled year in the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness, where mountains rise to pierce the sky. There he faces the dangers hidden behind both the smiles of humans and the beauties of the vast country where Canada and Alaska meet.

In the spring of his eighteenth year, Jack enters those mountains to work at a lakeside wilderness lodge near his birthplace — a homestead from which his family had been evicted by federal action when he was a toddler. What starts out as a simple summer job assisting a family friend with his guiding business becomes a complex struggle for survival among the snares set by bears and glaciers, smugglers and park rangers, bitter weather and one beautiful, troubled young woman. Jack's adventure makes for a unique coming of age story; a genuine mountain man cannot fit comfortably in the early years of the twenty-first century, and he becomes truly a man out of time.

Alaska author Farmen, who has lived and worked in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, knows both the mountain landscape and the corners of the human heart; here his knowledge fills the pages with gripping prose.

(Taken from the publisher's website)

Cover artCity of Fire by by Laurence Yep (Recommended by A Fantatic's Book Blog)

When her older sister dies trying to prevent the theft of one of her people’s great treasures, Scirye sets out to avenge her and recover the precious item. Helping her are Bayang, a dragon disguised as a Pinkerton agent; Leech, a boy with powers he has not yet discovered; and Leech’s loyal companion Koko, who has a secret of his own. All have a grudge against the thieves who stole the treasure: the evil dragon Badik and the mysterious Mr. Roland.

Scirye and her companions pursue the thieves to Houlani, a new Hawaiian island being created by magic. There, they befriend Pele, the volatile and mercurial goddess of volcanoes. But even with Pele on their side, they may not be able to stop Mr. Roland from gaining what he seeks: the Five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu. Together, they will give him the power to alter the very fabric of the universe.

(Laurence Yep is one of my favorite children's authors)

Cover artNative Star by M.K. Hobson (Recommended by The Allure of Books)

In the tradition of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, this brilliant first novel fuses history, fantasy, and romance. Prepare to be enchanted by M. K. Hobson’s captivating take on the Wild, Wild West.

The year is 1876. In the small Sierra Nevada settlement of Lost Pine, the town witch, Emily Edwards, is being run out of business by an influx of mail-order patent magics. Attempting to solve her problem with a love spell, Emily only makes things worse. But before she can undo the damage, an enchanted artifact falls into her possession—and suddenly Emily must flee for her life, pursued by evil warlocks who want the object for themselves.

Dreadnought Stanton, a warlock from New York City whose personality is as pompous and abrasive as his name, has been exiled to Lost Pine for mysterious reasons. Now he finds himself involuntarily allied with Emily in a race against time—and across the United States by horse, train, and biomechanical flying machine—in quest of the great Professor Mirabilis, who alone can unlock the secret of the coveted artifact. But along the way, Emily and Stanton will be forced to contend with the most powerful and unpredictable magic of all—the magic of the human heart.

Cover art The Seer of Shadows by Avi (Recommended by Eating YA Books)

Newbery Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales—about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge.

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora.

Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her.

Rich in detail, full of the magic of early photography, here is a story about the shadows, visible and invisible, that are always lurking near.

Cover artThe Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton

In a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister's murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance—even against the advice of Constable Al Grant, who takes her protection surprisingly to heart.

Lady Law puts Scotland Yard to shame. She's apprehended Jack the Ripper and solved countless other cold-case crimes. No one knows how she does it, but it's brought her fortune, renown and even a title. But is she really what she claims to be—a genius at deducting? Or is Al right and she is not be trusted?

Julia is determined to find out the truth, even if it means turning sleuth herself—and turning the tables on Lady Law.

Cover artEmily's Surprising Voyage by Sue Purkiss and illustrated by James de la Rue (Recommended by Library Mice)

Emily is prepared for a long, monotonous voyage to Australia, but then she meets Thomas - and notices a small head and two beady eyes peeking out from his pocket. It seems that adventure may lie ahead after all! Emily and her parents have embarked on the famous SS Great Britiain, the first-ever iron ship, designed by the great Victorian engineer, Brunel, and are bound for Australia. Emily assumes the journey will be long and boring, but soon she meets Thomas and his pet rat, Barney. It has become increasingly difficult for Thomas to look after his pet and so he asks Emily to help. Then the children hear about a ghost.

Cover artGuyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Recommended by Sacramento Book Review)

The wind and I play
tug-of-war with my new kite.

The wind is winning. When you’re a guy, nature is one big playground—no matter what the season. There are puddles to splash in the spring, pine trees to climb in the summer, maple seeds to catch in the fall, and icicles to swordfight with in the winter.

Nature also has a way of making a guy appreciate important stuff—like how many rocks it takes to dam up a stream, or how much snow equals a day off from school.
So what kind of poetry best captures these special moments, at a length that lets guys get right back to tree-climbing and kite-flying? Why, guyku, of course!

Comments (12)


Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for February 25, 2011: 02/24/11

Today's question asks if I wish I had chosen a different name for my blog. Sometimes maybe but I've had the same name and site since August 1997.

It's been a while since I've explained the reason behind the name "Puss Reboots" and my moniker "Pussreboots."

Back in 1997 when I was first setting up my site I needed a name for it. At the time Caligula cat was a spry eighteen month old. Like now she liked to keep me company while I was working on he computer. At the time I had a Macintosh clone which had a huge glowing power button right at her eye level. She quickly taught me to save often and early as she was apt to bop that button and reboot my computer.

Since I wanted to do a calico themed color scheme anyways, the pun on "Puss in Boots" popped into mind. Given her ability to reboot my computer, I named the site Puss Reboots.

Later when I converted the website into a blog and set up a Google / Blogger ID to make commenting on blogs easier, I took the space out of Puss Reboots because it's easier type it as all one word. Then I added a Gravatar account, a Twitter account and other social media accounts. It just made sense to keep the Pussreboots "brand" for the Puss Reboots site.


Comments (78)


FSFSeven Sins for Seven Dwarves: 02/24/11

When I'm reading, I am always drawing connections between my current read with previous books. Sometimes those connections are obvious, when an author is drawing from known works. Sometimes though, it's my own strange internal cataloguing making the connections.

For the case of Hilary Goldstein's short story, "Seven Sins for Seven Dwarves" in the May / June Fantasy and Science Fiction, it's a mixture of both. Obviously from the title alone we have Snow White and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The sins, though, refers doubly to Snow White having her choice (or not) of seven able bodied dwarves, and to their assigned jobs of keeping seven sins locked away from the world of man.

But here's where things get strange, not so much for the story but for my own odd ball way of thinking. The brothers you see are named for their order. And so I couldn't help but think of Stardust and the brothers vying for control of Stormhold. So while Goldstein's seven were clearly dwarves, I kept imagining them as miniature versions of the brothers (as portrayed in the film).

Silly connections aside, I enjoyed the story very much. It wasn't a perfect read for me but still very entertaining. Thus it's a four out of five stars.

Other posts and reviews:

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Stardust (Audio) 02/23/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Ah... Stardust. Except for the original graphic novel, I have now enjoyed every version available. Stardust by Neil Gaiman was the very first book I'd read by him. I wasn't reading graphic novels at the time so he and his Sandman series was right off my radar. But Stardust was just my speed and I loved it.

Then I forgot out it. It was one of the last library books I read before we moved across the state. I was so busy with moving and looking for a new job and adjusting to living in the Bay Area that Neil Gaiman didn't stick in my mind.

In the time that I moved and settled and started a family, Gaiman wrote other prose books. My bookish friends were reading them and recommending them, two in particular, Good Omens and Coraline. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, Stardust was adapted to film and the pieces began to fall into place.

When I was reading The Graveyard Book I heard from those same book blogger friends that Gaiman was reading his own books for the audio versions. They uniformly said I had to listen to them. I kept that in mind when this last November we had to drive down to San Diego for my brother's wedding. We wanted audio books to keep the children entertained and Stardust seemed like the perfect choice.

The book comes on five discs with a sixth one containing an interview with Gaiman where he talks about the many forms of Stardust, including the film, and what it is like to record an audio book.

The story itself is a gentle quest. Tristan Thorn has grown up in the village of Wall where every nine years there's an open air market held on the other side of the hole in the wall. The market though isn't what draws him across the wall, it's the quest for a fallen star to win the hand of the girl he loves.

There's just one small problem, the star is a pretty and very angry young woman with a broken leg. There's also the fact that she's holding something that will determine who will be the next Lord of Stormhold.

The plotting in the novel is slower in its set up, something I had forgotten, being more familiar now with the film. But listening to Gaiman read his own words and do the voices for the characters made even the slow bits delightful.

Gaiman doesn't just read, he creates his characters. He does remarkably well with all the different voices. While they weren't the voices I might have imagined for them, they work. Even if you have read the book before, you should listen to the audio version.

Other posts and reviews:

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Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus: 02/22/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R. L. LaFevers is the third in this middle grade paranormal mystery series. It's one of the very short list of series I am actively following. It also breaks my usual rule of only reading series books that can be read out of order.

In book three, Theodosia is still trying to pick up the pieces from the Staff of Osiris mess. There are those who continue to insist she is more than just a precocious London child. To add to the chaos, a mysterious and sinister looking hypnotist claims to know something about Theodosia's origins that could have repercussions for the whole world.

The introduction of the hypnotist / seer reminded me of The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King (review coming). That in turn made me think of the film Young Sherlock Holmes for the Egyptian connection. What's different about Theodosia, though, is that magic is real in her world. Spells and curses and dark magic are a constant threat to her.

One part of the book that initially worried me was the return of Theodosia's brother, Henry. He's so different from his sister that I was afraid his return would upset the flow of the plot. He, thankfully didn't. But he does act as a catalyst for Theodosia to question why he and she are so different and why she has skills in recognizing curses that so few seem to have.

Coming out this year is book four, Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh. While book three is my current favorite from the series, I suggest new readers start with the first book and work their way through in order.

Five stars

The Theodosia Throckmorton series includes:

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Oops-a-daisy! 02/21/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Oops-a-daisy by Claire Freedman was a Harriet favorite over the summer. It's the story of a young rabbit learning how to hop. Each time she hops she falls over one way or another.

The accompanying illustrations are adorable and charming. They capture the mother's loving patience and Daisy's range of emotions from determination, frustration, and confidence.

Daisy learning to hop is much like a young child learning to walk. Harriet was reading the book in the final run up to her October dance recital. She was getting nervous about knowing all her steps and the words to the song. Seeing Daisy learn how to hop was just the boost she needed to keep practicing herself.

Four stars.

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: February 21, 2011: 02/21/11

What my Finished Last Week list doesn't show is the twenty or so academic articles I read for an essay due today. Nor does it show that I had Reference Desk observation paper to write as well.

My Currently Reading List is mostly text books. My fun reading: Azumanga Daioh, Alone on a Wide Sea, Kraken and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie has mostly sat unread this week. It's not that I'm not enjoying them; I just have been too busy to read them.

A book I'd like to start soon is The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. I'll have to swipe it out of my son's room.

Finished Last Week:

  1. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King (library book)
  2. Once I Was a Cardboard Box — But Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears! by Anton Poitier
  3. Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Alone on a Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  2. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  3. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace (review copy)
  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. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  7. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  8. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  9. The Psychology of Management by Lillian Gilbreth (ebook)
  10. The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier (library book)
  11. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. The Batman Handbook by Scott Beatty (personal collection)
  2. Cook-a-doodle-doo by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (library book)
  3. The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King (personal collection)
  4. Influences: A Lexicon of Contemporary Graphic Design Practice by Anna Gerber (library book)
  5. Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks (library book)
  6. My Big Dog by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (library book)
  7. Nanosferatu by Dean Whitlock (personal collection)

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Influences: A Lexicon of Contemporary Graphic Design Practice 02/20/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)A lexicon is a language's vocabulary. Influences: A Lexicon of Contemporary Graphic Design by Anna Gerber and Anja Lutz tries to build a vocabulary of influences in the graphic design profession.

The book sports a pretty pink cover and inside it's laid out like a dictionary, alphabetical entries. What's different though, is these entries are done by responses from graphic designers.

In book form, Influences is a bit overwhelming to read. I suppose if I were a graphic designer and more familiar with more of the represented artists and agencies, I would have gotten more from the book. I think in the right hands it would be an excellent reference.

The site Objects in Space had an article on Influences that explained the project was originally designed to be a wiki but grew into a book. A wiki with clickable links and maybe a tag cloud to see how the different influences stack up would work better than the book. I'd love to see videos and mind maps and other visuals linking together the collective creative process.

Two stars

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My Big Dog 02/19/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Harriet picked My Big Dog by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel on a recent trip to the library. She initially chose it for the cute Golden Retriever face on the cover but ended up loving it because it's the story of a cat who doesn't want to learn how to live with a dog.

As soon as we cracked the book open and saw that the narrator was a cat talking about he does not want to share his home with a dog, we were in love. We were also reminded of another favorite, Alice: the Cat Who Was Hounded by Jules Rosenthal. Both are stories of house cats content in their lives and having everything turned upside down by the introduction of a new dog. Another great example of cats and dogs learning to live together (or not) is Poor Puppy by Nick Bruel.

What sets My Big Dog apart is the point of view. The others are told from a human perspective. This one though is told from the cat's point of view. Another difference is that the cat and the dog become friends on their own. There is no human intervention as there is in Alice nor is the rivalry allowed to continue as it does in the Bad Kitty books.

If you have cats and dogs in your life, My Big Dog is a great book to read.

Five stars.

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The Batman Handbook 02/18/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)One of the huge temptations in life is the Friends of the Library bookstore. A severe lack of shelf space and more importantly, money, has forced me to curb my old buying habits. So I get only the rare gem, maybe one book every couple of months. One of those gems is The Batman Handbook by Scott Beatty.

The book is printed in blue, gray, black and yellow and stands out from the average book. It really is what it says, a handbook for anyone who wants to be Batman. There are sections on equipment, vehicles, suits, fighting techniques and so forth.

Along with the instructions are lots and lots of illustrations. It has the look of a graphic novel or graphic memoir but it's something else. It's a parody, a discussion of the DC Canon, insights into Batman's personality and the different Robins he's worked with.

The book was a delightful read and something that my husband, son and I all enjoyed. I'm sure we'll be re-reading it.

Five stars.

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Adrienne J

Small Victories

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Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for February 18, 2011: 02/18/11

The question this week asks us which book we'd like to see turned into a film. The answer for me is simple: Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun.

The book is set in Rome and was set in contemporary times. So although that means horses and carriages, the book to me felt more modern than that.

If I were to adapt it to film I would set the book in the 1920s before the economic crash, before Fascism, when things were still optimistic in the rebuilding from the Great War. The main characters, young American girls, would be perfect flappers.

Regardless of what you think of Hawthorne's most famous works, you must try The Marble Faun. It is light and airy and magical.


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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: February 19, 2011: 02/18/11

I finally finished my re-read of The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. I'm impressed by how many future plots are foreshadowed in this book.

Now that I'm done I'm diving into reading the wishlist books I've checked out from the library. My current wishlist read is Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand.

My ten new wishes are actually from last month.

Cover artThe Cloud Searchers (Amulet #3) by Kazu Kibuishi

In the third installment of the thrilling Amulet series, Emily, Navin, and their crew of resistance fighters charter an airship and set off in search of Cielis, a mythical city believed to be located on an island high above the clouds. The mysterious Leon Redbeard is their guide, and there's a surprising new addition to the crew: the Elf King's son, Trellis. But is he ally or enemy? And will Emily ever be able to trust the voice of the Amulet?

Cover artThe Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Recommended by @mactavish)

Robin was always "wandering off" (her mother's words) to get away from the confusion she felt inside her. It was not until Robin's father found a permanent job at the McCurdy ranch, after three years as a migrant worker, that Robin had a place to wander to. As time went by the Velvet Room became more and more of a haven for her--a place to read and dream, a place to bury one's fears and doubts, a place to count on.

Cover artLabyrinth by A.C.H. Smith, Terry Jones, and Jim Henson (Recommended by Black Fingernailed Reviews)

(I think I've already read this novelization but I wouldn't mind a re-read.)

What happens when you wish for something terrible ... and your wish comes true? Young Sarah is about to find out. Left at home to mind her baby brother, Toby, she finds herself trying to comfort a screaming infant as a wild storm rages about the house. In a fit of temper, she wishes that the goblins would come and take the child away. Unfortunately, they do.

Sarah then plunges into a whirlwind adventure. If she cannot reach the center of the mysterious Labyrinth within thirteen hours, Jareth — King of the Goblins — will keep Toby forever. In the twists and turns of her dangerous journey to Jareth's castle, she meets an extraordinary variety of strange characters, some more friendly than others. But none of them will be able to help her unless she musters the courage to challenge Jareth — no matter what the odds.

Cover artThe Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright (Recommended by a An Abundance of Books)

From Newbery Award-winning author Elizabeth Enright comes the reappearance of the four-book series about the heartwarming Melendy family. In this first book, the children form a club to keep busy on rainy Saturday afternoons.

Cover art Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Recommended by Chic Fit Geek)

This may be one of the most frightening novels you'll ever read. It's certainly one of the most unforgettable. Genova's debut revolves around Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife, and mother of three grown children. One day, Alice sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. It's a route she has taken for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Is her forgetfulness the result of menopausal symptoms? A ministroke? A neurological cancer? After a few doctors' appointments and medical tests, Alice has her diagnosis, and it's a shocker -- she has early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

What follows is the story of Alice's slow but inevitable loss of memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book,
or to recall information she heard just moments before. To Genova's great credit, readers learn of the progression of Alice's disease through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so they feel what she feels — a slowly building terror.

In Still Alice, Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, uniquely reveals the experience of living with Alzheimer's. Hers is an unusual book — both a moving novel and an important read.

Cover artThe Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill (Recommended by Reading Envy)

Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur finds himself in the American South, living in a trailer park and working as a line cook at a steakhouse. No longer a devourer of human flesh, the Minotaur is a socially inept, lonely creature with very human needs. But over a two-week period, as his life dissolves into chaos, this broken and alienated immortal awakens to the possibility for happiness and to the capacity for love.

Cover artCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (Recommended by Midnyt Reader)

Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution.

Tayo's quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremny that defeats the most virulent of afflictions — despair.

Cover artCycler by Lauren McLaughlin (Recommended by On the Nightstand)

As far as anyone at her high school knows, Jill McTeague is an average smart girl trying to get her dream date to ask her to the prom.

What no one knows, except for Jill's mom and dad, is that for the four days Jill is out of school each month, she is not Jill at all. She is Jack, a genuine boy—complete with all the parts. Jack lives his four days per month in the solitude of Jill's room. But his personality has been building since the cycling began. He is less and less content with his confinement and his cycles are becoming more frequent. Now Jill's question about the prom isn't who she'll go with, but who she'll be when the big night arrives.

Cover artThe Unit by Ninni Holmqvist and translated by Marlaine Delargy

One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state-of-the-art recreation facilities, and live the remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty - single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries - are sequestered for their final years; they are considered outsiders.

In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and ... well, then what?

The Unit is an exploration of a society in the throes of a system geared toward eliminating those who do not contribute by conventional means, in which the "dispensable" ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the "necessary" ones. It also looks deeply into the nature of the female psyche, at its resilience and creativity under dire conditions.

Cover art13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro (Recommended by A Journey in Reading)

American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts from World War I as he settles into his new office in Paris. The pictures, letters, and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a feisty, charming Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.

As Trevor examines and documents the relics the box offers up, he begins to imagine the story of Louise Brunet's life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbor in her building at 13 rue Thérèse. The more time he spends with the objects though, the truer his imaginings of Louise's life become, and the more he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: Josianne, his clerk, who planted the box in his office in the first place, and with whom he finds he is falling in love.

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Mirrorscape 02/17/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks has a gorgeous cover and an intriguing premise. There's an artistic and magical battle going on between the Fifth Mystery (the artist's guild) and the Rainbow Rebellion, a strange but colorful underground society that wants to expose the corruption that runs rampant through the Mysteries and the very core of Vlam.

The book starts off strongly with Melkin Womper being apprenticed by Ambrosius Blenk, a master of the Fifth Mystery. He's sent to the capitol city to begin his work, able to finally be an artist without worries of repercussions for not being able to pay for the necessary licensing (or Pleasure as it is called).

Once at his apprenticeship the story loses its momentum. Mel is given menial tasks to perform which of course he doesn't want to do. These chores could have been a great way to further introduce us to Mel's world and to life in the capitol. It should have been a chance to discuss the mores of Mel's society.

But it isn't. It's the excuse to introduce Mel to the bullies of the school and to railroad him to point where he discovers the true power behind artwork the Fifth Mystery masters create. The bullying felt forced and really took me out of the world.

Finally, with all the descriptions of the artwork and the fascinating world of Vlam and given the author's illustration background, Mirrorscape needs to be a graphic novel. The illustrations would give Wilks a chance to show his world without bogging down the plot. If there ever is a graphic novel version, I would love to give Mirrorscape a second chance.

Two stars

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FSFNanosferatu: 02/16/11

With a title like "Nanosferatu" one might expect a vampire story with modern technology. That's sort of true but it reads more like a Batman Beyond origin story than a modern retelling of a classic vampire film.

The story also suffers from stereotyped characters and piss poor accent writing. Sprachmaus, especially, might as well be one of Goebel's scientists but the story is set in modern or near future times. Even given the conceit of the story, how is that possible?

And then there's the man they work for. Of course he has to try it on himself! He might as well be Derek Powers (minus the glow in the dark skeleton). What's missing is the superhero to put things to rights. Instead, being a horror story, the main character's greed and lust is his downfall.

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Cook-a-doodle-doo 02/15/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)When my son was a year and a half old my husband was teaching night school to help make ends meet. On nights when he was teaching I had to make dinner and keep my son out of trouble at the same time. The only way I could do both was to teach him how to cook.

The cooking lessons (scrambled eggs, biscuits and other simple things) were a hit. He and now his sister loves to cook. So Cook-a-doodle-doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel was a perfect picture book for the three of us to share.

The rooster main character is the grandson of the little red hen. He has inherited her cook book and sets out to make strawberry shortcake. The rooster though has better friends than his grandmother and knows how to ask them for help.

As someone who has taught (and is still teaching) two children how to cook, I found the book hilarious. The children enjoyed it too, recognizing the mistakes the friends were making.

The book includes the recipe the friends were baking. We didn't get a chance to try it out but maybe the next time we check out the book, we will.

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The God of the Hive 02/14/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The advantage of reading books slowly off the to be read pile, is that when there's a cliff hanger such as at the end of The Language of Bees, I was able to keep going with The God of the Hive with little more than a week of waiting.

I bought the book to celebrate the start of training for the Census. Although I started reading it immediately (rare for me, I tend to let them ferment a little before reading), it has been sitting on my to be reviewed list for nearly a year. It may well be a year by the time the review actually gets posted.

For anyone new to the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, most of the books can be read as stand alone volumes. The God of the Hive though should be read after The Language of Bees.

The book beings where the previous book left off. Mary and Estelle are an airplane trying to make it to London. But the remains of the cult are after them and they are forced to land in a remote and isolated landscape. Their only ally is a strange hermit named Robert Goodman. He is as enigmatic and strange as the Green Man.

Meanwhile, Holmes and Damian are across the channel and cut off from Holmes's usual network. Damian is injured and Holmes has to rely on a nurse he has wrangled into helping.

Finally there is Mycroft who has his own part to contribute the story. His part is woven together with Russell's and Holmes's chapters, making for the most complex book in the series yet. Had this book come earlier in the series, I don't think it would have worked as well as it does now. Mary Russell has had time to learn from her husband and has matured as a character. She's ready to hold her own part of the novel.

Some day if the author tires of the series or wants to take a tangent, I would love to read a stand alone book with Robert Goodman as the protagonist. He's such an interesting character and he clearly has more of a back story than is covered in The God of the Hive.

There's a new book in the series coming out later in 2011 called The Pirate King. From the author's blog, it sounds like she's having fun writing it. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: Feburary 14, 2011: 02/13/11

Normally I catch up on my fun reading on the weekends. This weekend though, I didn't have time. I was too busy doing research for an analytical essay due in a week.

The books I did manage to finish are mostly picture books that I read first for my materials for children class and later re-read with my own children for fun. Their favorites this week were The Falling Raindrop by Neil Johnson (my daughter's favorite), The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague (my son's favorite) and Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (my favorite). The only book of any sort of length that I finished was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I do own the other two (as my husband read them last year) and I will get to them as time permits.

My current reads are a mixture of text books and long fiction. After six weeks of reading Kraken I am only up to page 210. As I will be mostly writing my two papers and doing my assigned reading, I doubt I will finish much this week, except for picture books I either read for class or with my children.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (library book)
  2. The Falling Raindrop by Neil Johnson (library book)
  3. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  4. How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim (library book)
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (personal collection)
  6. Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers (library book)
  7. Red-eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley (library book)
  8. The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Alone on a Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  2. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  3. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace (review copy)
  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. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  7. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  8. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  9. The Psychology of Management by Lillian Gilbreth (ebook)
  10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. At Home with Books by Estelle Eliis and Caroline Seebohm (library book)
  2. Class Trip by Rand B. Lee (personal collection)
  3. Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier (library book)
  4. The Gypsy's Boy by Lokiko Hall (personal collection)
  5. Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot (library book)
  6. Pokémon Adventures Volume 8 by Hidenori Kusaka (library book)
  7. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (library book)

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Pink Brain, Blue Brain 02/13/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I don't normally read books about gender differences because so much of the so called differences strike me as utter crap. When I saw Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot on display in the new books section of my library I was instantly drawn to the cover. First there are two grumpy toddlers on the cover, a boy in blue and a girl in pink. Secondly there's the subtle message of the title: "Pink Brain" is in baby blue and "Blue Brain" is in bubble gum pink.

Lise Eliot who is an associate professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science begins by explaining she expected to find measurable differences between male and female brains. Turns out that boy brains and girl brains aren't all that different.

There are too many examples and too many facts to even begin to cover in my short review here. I recommend reading Eliot's editorial on the ASCD Inservice blog and following her blog if you want more detailed information.

The book is full of interesting graphs and statistical analysis. It was refreshing to read a gender studies book that actually mentions the overlap between the genders. At the back of the book is a lengthy bibliography and end notes section.

From my own limited experience parenting one of each, I can tell you my two while obviously different personalities and temperaments are also very similar. Both love the color pink. Both love Hello Kitty. They tend to like the same TV shows and same video games. They of course have their own personal favorites too: my son likes owls and monsters and my daughter likes princesses and cats. So it was nice to read a book that gives parents scientific data that backs up the wide range of likes and dislikes children of both sexes have and share.

Five stars

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Echoes from the Macabre 02/12/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier is a collection of short stories, many of which are also in the Don't Look Now collection. It was also the last book I read for the Tuesday Book Reads twitter book club. I'm just too busy with schoolwork to keep up with a weekly reading schedule.

The stand out story though in the collection is "The Birds." While the Hitchcock film is set in California, the original is set in England, in a rural village miles from anything. That isolation combined with the relentlessness of the birds makes for a nail-biter of a story. Although it's not specifically science fiction it is reminiscent of dystopian fiction.

I enjoyed the book, both for the new to me stories and for the re-reads from Don't Look Now, such as "Don't Look Now" and "Not After Midnight."

Other posts and reviews:

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: February 12, 2011: 02/12/11

This week I picked up a small pile of new wishlist books to read from my library. I haven't gotten to them yet. I was busy with my assigned reading and with finishing up The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins from my to be read pile.

The wishes listed this week reflect books I first heard about in the middle of January. From the list I will probably be buying Agatha H... and Silverlicious soon. Both are by favorite authors. The Pirate King I will purchase when it is out. The others I will read via my library.

Cover artScourge by David H. Burton (Recommended by a To Read or Not to Read)

Grim Doyle has always known his life was not exactly "normal", and things gets even more curious when he discovers a set of stones that sweep him and his family to the fantasy, steampunk world of Verne - a place they had escaped from years ago. Now that they've returned, Grim and his siblings hide from the evil Lord Victor and his minions. And while learning about Jinns, Mystics, and the power of absinth they try to discover who is trying to kill them with the deadly Scourge.

Cover artAgatha H and the Airship City by Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio (Recommended by a SFF Chat)

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. It has been eighteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by the Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over—and terrorizing—the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Hetrodynes’ return.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach—and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.

From Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the Hugo, Eagle, and Eisner Award-nominated webcomic Girl Genius, comes Agatha H and the Airship City, a gaslamp fantasy filled to bursting with Adventure! Romance! and Mad Science!

Cover artThe Taking Tree by Shrill Travesty (Recommended by a Kiss the Book)

We all know the story of the "selfless" tree that gave all she had just to make sure a young boy was "happy".

Snore. This is a different tree. This is a different boy. This is a very different book.

The Taking Tree is not so happy when the boy takes her twigs to pick on his sister, or takes her apples to sell for college (she's an oak tree for goodness sake), or when he cuts off her branches to build a house that he burns for insurance money. And the boy is not sorry at all. Ever. In fact, he's kind of a jerk. And the boy asks for more, and more, and more until the oak tree is so fed up she just can't take it any longer. While another story might end sweetly with an old man sitting on a stump. This one does not.

Cover artComfort by Ann Hood (Recommended by Vasilly)

In 2002, Ann Hood's five-year-old daughter Grace died suddenly from a virulent form of strep throat. Stunned and devastated, the family searched for comfort in a time when none seemed possible. Hood—an accomplished novelist—was unable to read or write. She could only reflect on her lost daughter—"the way she looked splashing in the bathtub...the way we sang 'Eight Days a Week.' " One day, a friend suggested she learn to knit. Knitting soothed her and gave her something to do. Eventually, she began to read and write again. A semblance of normalcy returned, but grief, in ever new and different forms, still held the family. What they could not know was that comfort would come, and in surprising ways. Hood traces her descent into grief and reveals how she found comfort and hope again—a journey to recovery that culminates with a newly adopted daughter.

Read Tod's notebook for yourself.

Pirate King by Laurie R. King

It's the next in the Russell and Holmes series. I don't know anything more about it. But I've been following the series since it first started. I loved the last two and I'm excited about this new one.

Cover artArtichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari (Recommended by a Maw Books)

Twelve-year-old Mira comes from a chaotic, artistic and outspoken family where it’s not always easy to be heard. As her beloved Nana Josie's health declines, Mira begins to discover the secrets of those around her, and also starts to keep some of her own. She is drawn to mysterious Jide, a boy who is clearly hiding a troubled past and has grown hardened layers - like those of an artichoke - around his heart. As Mira is experiencing grief for the first time, she is also discovering the wondrous and often mystical world around her.

Cover artSilverlicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann

When Pinkalicious loses a tooth, it's not just any tooth—it's her sweet tooth! Suddenly candy no longer tastes sweet! With her pinkatastic pen, Pinkalicious writes a note to the Tooth Fairy and tucks it under her pillow... only to hear from Cupid, the Easter Bunny, and a Christmas elf instead. It is not until the Tooth Fairy finally responds—and works some magic—that Pinkalicious discovers where sweetness really comes from.

Fairy-tale characters and sparkling scenes make Silverlicious a sweet treat for all.

Cover artThe Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway (Recommended by Heidikind)

From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, a sweeping tale of passion, music, and the human heart’s yearning for connection

Martin is a forty-year-old lawyer who, despite his success, feels disoriented and disconnected from his life in post-9/11 Manhattan. But even as he comes to terms with the missteps of his past, he questions whether his life will feel more genuine going forward.

Decades earlier, in the New York of the 1960s, Anna is destined to be a grande dame of the international stage. As she steps into the spotlight, however, she realizes that the harsh glare of fame may be more than she bargained for.

Cover artTarzan Alive by Philip José Farmer (Recommended by Jim DeRosa)

Through the tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs, generations of readers have thrilled to the adventures of Lord Greystoke (aka John Clayton, but better known as Tarzan of the Apes). In this biography Philip José Farmer pieces together the life of this fantastic man, correcting Burroughs’s errors and deliberate deceptions and tracing Tarzan's family tree back to other extraordinary figures, including Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Doc Savage, Nero Wolfe, and Bulldog Drummond.

Tarzan Alive offers the first chronological account of Tarzan's life, narrated in careful detail garnered from Burroughs’s stories and other sources. From the ill-fated voyage that led to Greystoke's birth on the isolated African coast to his final adventures as a group captain in the RAF during World War II, Farmer constructs a comprehensive and authoritative account.

Cover artOak Bluffs by Peter A. Jones

Oak Bluffs, originally incorporated in 1880 as Cottage City, is located on the northeast shore of Martha's Vineyard. Oak Bluffs: The Cottage City Years on Martha's Vineyard traces this historically significant town from its early years as the site of a renowned religious camp meeting to its incorporation as Cottage City and later as Oak Bluffs. Using historic images, it captures the religious and social spirit of the community and the fun times of promenading on the bluffs, bathing at the beach, playing croquet, and celebrating with parades and illuminations. This book evokes memories of a bygone era: the canvas Tabernacle and tents in Wesleyan Grove, the Sea View House and Martha's Vineyard Railroad in Oak Bluffs, the horse-drawn trolley, and the Martha's Vineyard Summer Institute in the Vineyard Highlands. Also captured is the remarkable preservation of Oak Bluffs, as seen in early photographs of its parks, cottages, and buildings, such as the Tabernacle, Union Chapel, and Arcade.

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Unseen Academicals 02/11/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I introduced my husband to the Discworld series back when we were dating in college. He has since gone on to be a fan of the series and I have settled into a love/hate relationship. Pratchett's books either completely wow me or completely turn me off.

Unseen Academicals is the 37th Discworld book. In this one, the faculty of Unseen University have to participate in a football game in order to keep their accreditation. There is also a strange sub plot involving fashion that never really went anywhere as far as I could tell.

My husband who has been in academia for most of his adult life either as a student or most recently as a professor, found the book hilarious and spot on. For me though I found the academic jokes few and far between, hidden amongst a whole bunch of dishwater dull sub plots. I skipped to the end and when the book even there refused to end (which is apparently funny), I gave up.

For a similar and better done version of the plot, I recommend episode 11 of Best Student Council, "Winning Five." Same plot but shorter and sillier.

Other posts and reviews:

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Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for February 11, 2011: 02/11/11

The question this week asks us to share a link from earlier in the week. Well, rather than share just one link, I would like to direct your attention to the right column. There under "Recent Posts" are all the posts I've made this month. They are mostly reviews, followed by memes, with one challenge I've joined.

In terms of reviews, so far this month I've posted reviews of nonfiction, short stories, mysteries, graphic novels and picture books.

My upcoming reviews will be a similar mix. I have about two months of reviews pre-written and ready to post. Coming up next week I have a couple science fiction reviews, another nonfiction, a mystery, and some children's graphic novels.


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FSFClass Trip: 02/10/11

"Class Trip" by Rand B. Lee in the March / April issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction has the honor of being the first story in the magazine I could not finish.

It's apparently another installment in a series of short stories involving human and alien contact. This one recounts one of the earliest contacts between the humans and the aliens and just to make things "interesting" aka tedious, is told in a non-linear fashion.

Let me put it this way. Besides being incomprehensible, it was boring. Dull as dishwater. I normally adore first contact stories. The more alien the better. I normally love xenolinguistics. But this one put me right to sleep. Then it gave me a headache. Then it made me throw the magazine across the room, which wasn't good since I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop at the time.

Other posts and reviews:

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FSFThe Gypsy's Boy: 02/09/11

"The Gypsy's Boy" by Lokiko Hall is the story of a boy who is traded to a gypsy for a horse. The trade ended up poorly for both parties: the horse died and the boy went blind. So the boy is taken in by an old woman in the gypsy camp and trained to do chores.

Everything is fine until the old woman dies. Then the, now blind man, is left on his own. But his other senses have grown stronger and he can hear things others can not, including the voice of a wind spirit.

The romance that plays out in the second half of the book reminds me quite favorably of Stardust by Neil Gaiman. The wind is shocked to be heard by anyone human and is unwilling to trust her heart to him, much as Yvaine is angry at and mistrustful of Tristran for most of Stardust. In both cases, though, things run their course and both pairs become unlikely couples. Both supernatural women are left alone in part because their very natures ultimately betray their hearts.

"The Gypsy's Boy" is another beautiful story from the May / June issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I would like to read more stories by Lokiko Hall.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

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Pokemon Adventures Volume 8 02/08/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)My son's liked Pokémon since he was two and a half. He's moved away from reading the books to just playing the games. Sometimes he still watches the cartoons. Recently he found Pokémon Adventures Volume 8 of this tween managa by Hidenori Kusaka and slipped it into my library book bag.

Although it's the 8th in the series, it's actually the start of a new story arc and it's tied to the recent video game. The story follows a new Pokémon trainer as he sets out on a new adventure after his Pokémon (and one of Professor Ash's) are stolen.

There are the usual early days of a Pokémon quest: the introduction of the characters, doubts about one's ability to quest and of course the bad guys up to mysterious but silly plans.

Since I haven't been keeping up with the series the characters in this volume haven't stuck with me. Fans though who are current with the series will enjoy it.

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At Home With Books 02/07/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I have curbed my willy-nilly library borrowing to focus instead on reading books from my wishlist. I have started with my oldest wishlist books first. Many of these early ones I no longer remember why I wanted to read them in the first place. At Home with Books by Estelle Ellis and Caroline Seebohm is an exception to that rule.

In fact I remember perfectly where I learned about the book; Bookcrossing. I was a fairly new member and read about it in the Book Talk forum. The book sounded fascinating, especially to someone who just gone through the fourth move in short succession and who no longer had a good clear idea which books were in my personal library.

At Home with Books is a coffee table book that looks at a select group of large personal libraries. These are libraries of people who can afford to have a lot of books, displayed beautifully. These aren't libraries like mine or like people I know where books are stacked two and three thick on shelves, are stuffed in boxes under the stairs, are under beds and in dresser drawers.

These are libraries where someone has decided on a theme; like the one that is devoted only to New York books. Each book is labeled and catalogued and different subjects are in different rooms. But the whole library itself is only about New York.

While I found the photographs gorgeous to look at and some of the stories fascinating, the overall effect of the book was overwhelming. After awhile the book got to be too much and I believe it or not, I felt like my library was inadequate. Sure I've catalogued my entire family library, but there isn't a central theme (beyond we like these books) and they aren't shelved with specific call numbers. Nor are our books in perfect shape or especially rare or unique. They are old, new, dog eared, and odd ball.

Three stars.

Other posts and reviews:

| | Caroline Seebohm | |

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What Are You Reading?What Are You Reading: Feburary 07, 2011: 02/07/11

A third of my current reads are still text books. The rest are mostly books off my wishlist or to be read pile. From that list I will probably only finish The Hunger Games and Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 as both are short, relatively easy reads.

Among my finished reads, many are picture books. Those picture books were homework for the collection building for ages 5 to 8 that I'm taking. Specific picture books weren't assigned but I was supposed to read books that illustrated specific points in our lecture notes and text book reading.

The titles in quotes are short stories. I spent a couple hours on Saturday reading through my back issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I finally finished the July / August 2010 issue. Now I'm on the September / October issue.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Ambient Findability by Peter Morville (library book)
  2. Hard Hat Area by Susan L. Roth (library book)
  3. "Introduction to Joyous Cooking 200th Anniversary Edition" by Heather Lindsey (July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  4. "The Lost Elephants of Kenyisha" by Ken Altabef (July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  5. "Mr. Sweetpants" and the Living Dead by Albert E. Cowdrey (July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  6. No Castles Here by ACE Bauer (library book)
  7. "Pining to Be Human" by Richard Bowes (July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  8. Poor Rich by Jean Blasair (review copy)
  9. "The Precedent" by Sean McMullan (July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  10. The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague (library book)
  11. Shape Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple (library book)
  12. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (library book)
  13. "The Tale of the Nameless Chameleon" by Brenda Care (July / Aug 2010) (personal collection)
  14. Twin Spica Volume 2 Kou Yaginuma (library book)
  15. West Coast Journeys by Caroline C. Leighton (personal collection)
  16. William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey (library book)
  17. Work and Play by Sydnie Meltzer Kleinhenz (library book) (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Alone on a Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  2. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  3. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace (review copy)
  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. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (personal collection)
  8. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  9. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  10. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  11. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Epidapheles and the Insufficiently Affectionate Ocelot by Ramsey Shehadeh
  2. The Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters
  3. Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink by Victoria Kann
  4. Sharing Geographic Information edited by Gerard Rushton and Harland Joseph Onsrud
  5. Silence by Dale Bailey
  6. Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss
  7. Yo, Jo! by Rachel Isadora

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Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink 02/06/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)We've been reading the Pinkalicious series by the Kann sisters since the first book came out. Although the books are heavy on the pink and princess themes, it was my son who first introduced the rest of us to the first book. He and his sister remain diehard fans of the series.

Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink by Victoria Kann is a departure from the original format. The series started as a trio of picture books, hardbacks with over sized pages and gorgeous pastel collages. Pink Drink though is a move towards early reader books. Like my two, their original audience is growing up with the series and they've gone from being read to, to being able to read. It makes sense to have books that promote and encourage free reading.

The story is fairly typical for the series and reminds me most of the original. In the original Pinkalicious bakes pink cupcakes with her mother while it rains outside and she's stuck inside. She then goes on a cupcake binge and ends up turning pink from all the frosting. This book also focuses on her cooking exploits. She decides to make pink lemonade to make some money on a hot summer day. Her choices for the recipe, while the correct color don't make sense gastronomically. The results are less than ideal and she needs some help to fix the recipe.

It's a cute book. It entertained both children and it was something that my son could read by himself and that Harriet could mostly read without help. For me though, it's not my favorite. I prefer the picture books.

Silverlicious, the latest in the picture book series is coming out soon. I'm sure we will be buying a copy to add to our family library.

Four stars.

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Sharing Geographic Information 02/05/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)From September to December I have been read a pile of books about geographic information systems (GIS). I was working on a paper about GIS for one of my two classes. I chose the topic because I was working directly with two GIS implementations and the maps of a third when I was working for the Census over the spring and summer.

Sharing Geographic Information edited by Gerald Rushton and Harlan Joseph Onsrud was one of the books that came up during my research. I saw it as a potential source.

The book is a collection of essays about GIS and sharing information across agencies. The book though won't make into my paper for two reasons: age and focus. The book was published in 1995, and while it's not the oldest reference on my list by any means, it didn't cover any new or different ground from my other reference sources. There are only so many times and ways that I need terms defined. Had I read the book earlier in my research process I may very well have read it more closely and taken notes from it.

The second problem, from the point of view of my paper is the book's focus. For my paper I am most interested in how GIS can be used to plan for and respond to disaster. While this book does have essay on interagency sharing of information, none of them were really focused on the problems of including the general public in the equation.

The essays are informative but were not on topic for my paper. Three Stars.

| | Harlan Joseph Onsrud | |

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The Laughter of Dead Kings 02/04/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Vicky Bliss series started in 1973 but I didn't discover it until 1999. We were in the middle of a grueling multi-part move from Southern to Northern California. We were moving as much of the furniture and stuff (books mostly) in our tiny Civic Hatchback (a method I don't recommend). For one of the trips back down to Los Angeles my husband picked up an audio book of Night Train to Memphis not having ever heard of Elizabeth Peters.

I had been reading Peters's Amelia Peabody series since the early 1980s so I was thrilled when he came back to the car with this audiobook. It made the remaining drive much more entertaining especially with the couple off handed remarks about a certain female Egyptologist.

The book was so much fun that I made the effort to collect the first four books in the series and of course read them. I did this all before I started book blogging so I don't have reviews of them to share. Then when I caught up with myself and re-read Night Train to Memphis, this time in book form, I hoped there would be a sixth Vicky Bliss book. For a long time though, the answer was a decided no. The author was concentrating on her much more popular Amelia Peabody series and that was that.

Until 2007 when I saw a rumor posted about a sixth book, though no title was given. I held my breath (but didn't turn blue) and then in 2008 a miracle happened, The Laughter of Dead Kings was published. OK, maybe not a miracle, but it felt like it to me.

If having Vicky Bliss weren't enough, it was set once again in Egypt. And even better, the mystery involves the missing mummy of Tutankhamen. Squee.

Vicky Bliss isn't an Egyptologist but John "Smythe" Tregard has been fingered and she can't resist another caper with him. Interestingly the book is set in the present day, the books always are, but Vicky isn't fourteen years older, nor is she 36 years older from her first appearance. Peters explains in the foreword that Vicky is her present day character and she likes giving Vicky, John and Schmidt access to the latest gadgets.

That said, there are a lot of Easter Eggs for Amelia Peabody fans which makes this every creeping timeline fall into the Dr. Who "timey wimey wibbly wobbly" zone for everything to work. I suppose I should dock the book a star for that, but I'm not going to. I thoroughly enjoyed it, enough so that I even read passages out loud to my husband. I squeed at all the Easter Eggs and loved seeing them traipse around in present day.

Other posts and reviews

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On My WishlistOn My Wishlist: February 05, 2011: 02/05/11

Looking back at my January wishes, and I ended up adding seventy (yes seventy) to my wishlist. These ten reflect what I was wishing for on or about New Years.

On the other end of the wishlist, my reading titles off the list is going well. Last week I finished two books from the list: The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer and William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey. For next week I have three more to pick up from my library: The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr, The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie and Walking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand.

Cover ArtDirt Road Home by Watt Key (Nominated for a Cybils)

After his recapture at the end of ALABAMA MOON, gutsy 14-year-old Hal Mitchell is sentenced to live at Hellenweiler, an institution that is more like a jail than the boys' home it's supposed to be. Hal could walk out in just a few months if he keeps out of trouble. But in a place like Hellenweiler, the more he tries to avoid the gangs and their violence, the stronger Hal's fellow inmates try to make him fail.

Cover ArtHarmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly (Nominated for a Cybils)

Sixteen-year-old, music- and sound design-obsessed Drea doesn’t have friends. She has, as she’s often reminded, issues. Drea’s mom and a rotating band of psychiatrists have settled on “a touch of Asperger’s.”

Having just moved to the latest in a string of new towns, Drea meets two other outsiders. And Naomi and Justin seem to actually like Drea. The three of them form a band after an impromptu, Portishead-comparison-worthy jam after school. Justin swiftly challenges not only Drea’s preference for Poe over Black Lab but also her perceived inability to connect with another person. Justin, against all odds, may even like like Drea.

It’s obvious that Drea can’t hide behind her sound equipment anymore. But just when she’s found not one but two true friends, can she stand to lose one of them?

Cover ArtI Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan (Nominated for a Cybils)

Here Comes the Bride — If She Can Pass Chemistry.

Eighteen-year-old Bronwen Oliver has a secret: She's really Phoebe, the lost daughter of the loving Lilywhite family. That's the only way to explain her image-obsessed mother; a kind but distant stepfather; and a brother with a small personality complex. Bronwen knows she must have been switched at birth, and she can't wait to get away from her "family" for good.

Then she meets Jared Sondervan. He's sweet, funny, everything she wants — and he has the family Bronwen has always wanted too. She falls head over heels in love, and when he proposes marriage, she joyfully accepts. But is Jared truly what she needs? And if he's not, she has to ask: What would Phoebe Lilywhite do?

Cover ArtScrawl by Mark Shulman (Nominated for a Cybils)

od Munn is a bully. He's tough, but times are even tougher. The wimps have stopped coughing up their lunch money. The administration is cracking down. Then to make things worse, Tod and his friends get busted doing something bad. Something really bad.

Lucky Tod must spend his daily detention in a hot, empty room with Mrs. Woodrow, a no-nonsense guidance counselor. He doesn't know why he's there, but she does. Tod's punishment: to scrawl his story in a beat-up notebook. He can be painfully funny and he can be brutally honest. But can Mrs. Woodrow help Tod stop playing the bad guy before he actually turns into one . . . for real?

Read Tod's notebook for yourself.

Cover ArtSome Girls Are by Courtney Summers (Nominated for a Cybils)

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard—falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be

Cover ArtSplit by Swati Avasthi (Nominated for a Cybils)

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret.

He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.

At least so far.

Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. First-time novelist Swati Avasthi has created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split—how do you begin to live again? Readers won’t be able to put this intense page-turner down.

Cover ArtStolen by Lucy Christopher (Nominated for a Cybils)

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back? The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

Cover ArtDevil in the Details by Jennifer Traig (Recommended by She is Too Fond of Books)

Devil in the Details announces Jennifer Traig as one of the most hilarious writers to emerge in recent years and one of the strangest! Recalling the agony of growing up obsessive compulsive and a religious fanatic, Traig fearlessly confesses the most peculiar behavior like tirelessly scrubbing her hands for a full half hour before dinner, feeding her stuffed animals before herself, and washing everything she owned because she thought it was contaminated by pork fumes. The result is a book so relentlessly funny and frank, its totally refreshing.

Cover ArtCounting Heads by David Marusek

The year is 2134, and the living is easy. The Information Age has given rise to the Boutique Economy, in which mass production and mass consumption are rendered obsolete. Almost everything one needs - clothing, food, furniture, medicine, electronics, etc. - can be easily fabricated in the home with nanotech assemblers. Life-extension therapies have increased the human life span by centuries. Loyal mentars (artificial intelligence) and robots do most of society's work. What they can't manage is performed by a contented labor force of human clones.

If this sounds like paradise, it is - but only as long as you make your payments. And that's the problem. The Boutique Economy has made redundant 99 percent of the world's fifteen billion human inhabitants. The world would be a much better place if they all simply went away. And conditions on Earth are about to get a lot worse.

Without much in the way of public debate, greater Chicagoland announces the deactivation of its canopy. Its canopy is a region-wide filtering dome structure that protects the city from airborne and waterborne viruses, toxins, and nanobots (a legacy of the terror wars of the mid-twenty-first century).

By 9:00 A.M. on the date Chicagoland plans to "break out of its shell" - its region-wide canopy will be deactivated during a ceremony with fireworks - the day has swerved off its tracks. Eleanor K. Starke, one of the world's leading citizens, is assassinated, and her daughter, Ellen, is mortally wounded. Her cryonically frozen head is in the hands of her family's enemies.

Cover ArtA ragtag ensemble of unlikely heroes joins forces to rescue Ellen's head, all for their own purposes. They include family retainers and friends and their artificial intelligence mentars and cloned human helpers, as well as destitute chartists, assorted robots, and a defrocked bishop of a radical Gaiaist movement.

Ouran High School Host Club Volume 2 by Bisco Hatori

The school-wide physical exam has thrown the members of the elegant Host Club for a loop. How can the doctor not discover that Haruhi is a girl?! And once the female customers learn the truth, Haruhi can kiss her job goodbye. But then life for the members will be unbearably boring if she leaves! So the guys start wracking their brains for a solution....

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Book Blogger HopBook Blogger Hop for February 04, 2011: 02/03/11

The question this week asks what we are reading and why. As I participate in the It's Monday, What Are You Reading? meme, I shan't reiterate what I've already posted.

Instead I will speak in generalities of what I will be reading for the next few weeks and why. My reading consists mostly of textbooks, picture books, books I own and books on my wishlist. There might be some other random stuff in there too as my whims take me. But I am trying to curb those whims so that I read what I actually want to read.

Textbooks: Why? I'm in my second semester of a library science degree. I'm a book blogger who wants to be a librarian. So the textbooks this semester are books on cataloguing, books on picking books for children ages 5 to 8 and books on library management.

Picture Books: Here's a tricky category. First and foremost, I am a parent. I have two children who are still reading picture books. So I already read a ton and a half of them. Now add in the fact that I'm taking a class about books for children ages 5 to 8. That tosses in assigned picture book reading!

My TBR Pile: Oh goodness. Where do I begin. I have two or three years' worth of reading sitting on shelves. It includes fiction from the turn of the last century, manga, young adult fiction, science fiction and some other miscellany.

Wishlist: I have around 600 wishes recorded on GoodReads and I'm adding about ten or so new ones each an every week. I'm reading about three books off my wishlist every week. You can see it's an uphill battle but at least I'm enjoying what I'm reading. I'm getting my books from the library for this project.


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Yo, Jo! 02/03/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Yo, Jo! is one of two books Harriet checked out at a recent trip to the library. The illustrations are colorful, probably done as collage. They were an immediate attraction for her.

Jo is a young African American boy living on a busy city block with brownstone buildings. He's walking down the block clearly with a goal in mind. But that doesn't stop him from talking to all his neighbors. It's clearly a tightly knit and safe block given Jo's youth. It's refreshing to see a positive portrayal of a childhood in the city, especially for a child of color.

He and his neighbors talk in slang until Jo comes to an old man. It's his grandfather. Then things become more formal. It was nice to see the counterpoint to the slang. It's a more subtle way to convey the same message as Don't Say Ain't, namely that there's a time and a place for different levels of formality.

Best of all though, the Grandfather, after having a completely formal conversation with Jo starts talking to him in slang too. It brought back fond memories of when my own grandmother would let her hair down a little and talk in slang, or admit to liking rock and roll, and so forth. The connection with Jo and his Grandfather feels genuine to me.

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FSFEpidapheles and the Insufficiently Affectionate Ocelot: 02/02/11

When I read stories or books or watch movies, I am constantly reminded of others ones I've read or watched. It's impossible for me to read or watch in a vacuum. I have a good memory for plots and characters. Sometimes a title will put me into a mindset before I even begin to watch or read as is the case with "Epidapheles and the Insufficiently Affectionate Ocelot" by Ramsey Shehadeh in the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

In this case the title made me think of the recent parodies of Victorian fiction. Specifically I thought of Sorcery and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. My initial gut reaction to the title wasn't too far off base.

The story is about a wizard and his unusual familiar who go to a kingdom to sort out the problem of a king who has become far to enchanted with his pet ocelot at the cost of all other things. Caligula had his horse and this emperor has his exotic cat. The wizard has an invisible, sentient chair named Door.

It took me a page or two to wrap my head around the situation. It's silly. It's delightful. It's the sort of "character driven" story that FSF prides itself on.

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Ten Apples Up on Top: 02/01/11

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Although I was a huge Dr. Seuss fan as a child, I missed Ten Apples Up on Top until my son started reading it. I probably missed it because he originally published it under his Theo LeSieg pseudonym. My son first discovered the edited board book version and the graduated to the full version in first grade. He in turn read it to his sister so now both children love it.

Ten Apples Up on Top is the story of three rollerskating friends, a lion, a dog and a tiger and their competition to see who can balance to most apples up on top. As they add more apples their rollerskating adventures become sillier and more extreme, highlighting the absurdity of balancing apples on one's head.

What I love abut Ten Apples Up on Top is that it's fun to read aloud but easy enough for early readers to handle by themselves. That means we can either join together on the couch for family story time or Sean or Harriet can read the book to themselves. Sometimes they even read it to me.

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GLBT 2011 Challenge: 02/01/11

Challenge imageI participated last year in the GLBT challenge and missed the announcement of the 2011 challenge. Although I am curbing my participation in challenges, this challenge matches perfectly my normal interest in reading. As I will be reading mostly from my own wishlist this year, I think the two activities will go hand in hand nicely.

Just for reference, I am including last year's finished list. I only got through nine qualifying books. I hope to at least double that amount this year.

Books Read in 2010:

  1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  2. Another Life by Charles Oberndorf (short story)
  3. Gravitation Volume 2 by Maki Murakami
  4. Icarus Magazine (Issue 5) by Lethe Press
  5. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  6. Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
  7. The Travesties by Giselle Renarde
  8. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  9. King & King by Linda de Haan

Books Read in 2011:

  1. Echoes from the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier (short story collection)
  2. The Frog Comrade by Benjamin Rosenbaum (short story)
  3. From the Devotions by Carl Phillips (poetry collection)
  4. Tim and Pete by James Robert Baker (novel)
  5. The New Gay Teenager by Ritch C. Savin-Williams (nonfiction)
  6. Queer Phenomenology by Sara Ahmed (nonfiction)
  7. In Mike We Trust by PE Ryan (fiction)
  8. At Ease by Evan Bachner (nonfiction)
  9. Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman (fiction)
  10. Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand (fantasy)
  11. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert (children's)
  12. The Best Cat in the World by Leslea Newman (children's)
  13. Donorboy by Brendan Halpin (fiction)
  14. Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
  15. That Day in September by Artie Van Why
  16. The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings


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