March in Review: 03/31/11
I read half again as many books in March as I did in February. Some of that increase is a result of the children's book project I was working on for school. The rest is a result of my return to reading manga. I am addicted to Fullmetal Alchemist.
As predicted last month, the vast majority of the books I read this month were from the library. I'm reading a ton of picture books for class. Also, my daughter is now reading, so she and her brother are both now reading books to me. I've included what they read in my list of books finished.
Ignoring the picture books which are blowing out the results, I mostly reviewed nonfiction, science fiction/ fantasy and graphic novels. My ROOB score rose to -2.42 due mostly to all those library picture books. I suspect April will have a similar score for similar reasons.
Books reviewed this month
Rating out of 5 stars (as posted on GoodReads)
Books and stories read this month (reviews coming)
Golden Conspiracy: 03/31/11
Golden Conspiracy by Robert James Gilder is in the vein of a Clive Cussler mystery featuring Dirk Pitt. Jacsen Kidd and his partner Pericles Schmoond are professional treasure hunters. They have a lead on a sunken ship that could prove the Spanish had set foot in Hawaii much earlier than ever recorded. There are others who want to find the treasure first and others who don't want it found at all.
The Spanish in Hawaii isn't a new plot. Magnum P.I. did an episode around the same plot in season 2, "Dead Man's Channel." But for me, that's a bonus and Jacsen's adventure while sharing a similar starting point to Magnum's is very different.
The book is full of action with all the usual hallmarks of an adventure / thriller. It has short chapters, multiple character points of view and numerous locations across the world, though most of the action takes place in Hawaii and Florida.
I was sent this book for review.
Other posts and reviews:
Nature's Building Blocks: 03/30/11
Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements by John Emsley has a beautiful cover. It's a guide to the periodic table that's laid out like the London A to Z. It sounded like a nifty idea to me so I decided to give the book a try.
I have to say that after working my way through the the letter A entries, I decided that alphabetical just isn't the most logical way to read a casual book about the periodic table. The problem is that the table as it's currently laid out by atomic weight makes sense. Sure the names aren't in alphabetical order but one can see how the elements are related to each other and why certain groups of elements behave the way they do. Taken out of their placement, that building logic is missing and the elements described seem random, illogical, confusing and baffling.
The other problem I had with the book is its one size fits all approach to the elements. Every element is described by the same rubric (things like toxicity, medical uses, and so forth) whether or not everything in the rubric applies. Shoot, I might as well have been reading a spreadsheet with the boxes ticked for different categories.
The book could have been better, even still kept in alphabetical order, if the different pieces of the periodic were color coded on the edges of the pages, the book would be useful for readers expecting that order. It would also give a good visual for readers learning about the table and elements.
The other thing I would have done differently is do away with the rubric or at least make it more flexible. Personally I would have gone with paragraphs with sidebar of the most interesting chemical features or trivia. Color photographs would have been good too. Or even some illustrations!
Other posts and reviews:
Storm Cats 03/29/11
In Storm Cats by Malachy Doyle, a fierce rainstorm brings together across the street neighbors when their cats go missing. A black cat and a white cat both outside when the storm hits, seek shelter to wait it out. Their boy and girl owners have to work together to find their pets. The book ends a few weeks later with a black and white litter of kittens.
The book has some interesting talking points, the fierceness of storms, how to find a lost pet, cat biology and the importance of spaying and neutering.
The illustrations by Stuart Trotter though are lovely. The cats are realistically done and the weather looks menacing and dangerous.
The Noisy Way to Bed 03/28/11
Remember Harriet's flair for bizarre humor? Now that she can read, she's found that she can pick out books that fit her sense of humor. A recent pick of hers was The Noisy Way to Bed by Ian Whybrow which she delighted in reading to me.
A young boy living on a farm decides it is time for bed and heads back to the farmhouse. Along the way he meets up with a number of farm animals who in their own "noisy way" make it known that they want to go to bed too.
So a long line of animals follow the boy home, a pig, a sheep, a horse and so forth. Each animal makes its own sound, something that is fun for children to mimic. As I was the one being read too, Harriet left the animal noises to me. Moo. Oink. Baa!
The watercolor illustrations are a nice mixture of realism and cartoon sketch, giving enough wiggle room to make the whole barn yard bedtime scene seem plausible. Parents and children can use this book to talk about how and where animals sleep.
Fans of the Woods' The Napping House will enjoy The Noisy Way to Bed.
What Are You Reading: March 28, 2011: 03/27/11
This week I am on Spring Break. So is my son. Although we are not in school, we both have projects to work on. He has a diorama to make and has chosen The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan.
Meanwhile, I plan to create my list for my award winning children's book project and get as many of the books from that list read and annotated as possible. Most importantly, though, is the building of the list and the collecting of the books. The project is due at the end of April.
I also hope to work through some of the wishlist books I have at home. One of those books is The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie. I also have volumes two and three of Clamp's XXXholic from the library to read but first I have to finish volume one.
Looking at the books I finished last week, the breakdown is six picture books, read both for school and with my daughter, five for fun and one for review.
This week's current reads include three for fun, six for school and three for review.
Finished Last Week:
The Battle of the Labyrinth: 03/27/11
Note: I wrote this review at the start of the year. Now that it's time to post it, it happens to be the eve before my son starts working on his first book report diorama. He has decided to do a scene from this book. I am not one of those parents who build the projects for my children but I am taking him to the craft store tomorrow for supplies. I am curious to see what he comes up with!
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan is the fourth in the Percy Jackson books. It expands the famed labyrinth of Minos into a worldwide, underground maze, death trap, and in the right hands, short cut between any two points in the world. It's also the way that Kronos's army plans to invade Camp Half Blood.
Here the quest is straight forward, find Daedalus, the creator of the labyrinth and learn how to navigate through the structure without falling prey to any of its traps or monsters. Along the way Grover gets a chance to find the long lost Pan and Percy has more adventures that parallel those of Odysseus.
My favorite part of the book was the labyrinth itself. I love how Riordan takes the old forgotten architecture of the world through out time to cobble together Daedalus's magical structure. I also like the way in which their mortal companion is able to spot the markings in every day locations that point to entryways to the labyrinth.
What I'm not fond of is excessive use of flashbacks done in the forms of dreamtime visions. I understand the need to include background of the original myth for readers who may not be familiar with the story but the dream sequences were too long and too much of a disruption from the action for me. Parallel chapters of flashbacks and present day or alternating points of view between Daedalus and Percy as Riordan used for Carter and Sadie in The Red Pyramid would would have worked better.
That said, it's still a fun and action packed installment in the series.
Other posts and reviews:
Tsunami Warning: 03/26/11
Note: I pre-write my book reviews. This one was written months before the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Parents or teachers looking for away to discuss what has happened with children can use Tsunami Warning as a starting point.
The 2004 deadly tsunami that hit Indonesia inspired Taylor Morrion to write and illustrate Tsunami Warning. It begins with another deadly tsunami, the 1946 Hawaii tsunami. From that start the book tries to outline the history of tsunami studies and the set up of the tsunami warning system.
Although Tsunami Warning is a picture book, it is aimed at grades four to six. The book doesn't sugar coat the danger of tsunamis and does include numerous references to death.
Tsunami Warning can serve as an introduction to tsunamis but at thirty-two pages there isn't enough space to go into any detail. The book can be summed up as a brief recent history of tsunamis, some of the big names who have studied it and a summary of how the tsunami warning system works.
Other posts and reviews:
I've decided to approach the "On My Wishlist" meme differently. I had been doing ten a week with the hope of catching up to the end of my list. It was a completely folly to think I could. I read hundreds of blogs a week and add ten or more wishes in an average week. Catching up under those circumstances isn't possible.
So instead of continuing with listing ten wishes added two or three months ago, I shall just highlight the most recent wish, whatever it may be. I will also make updates on my progress to read books off the list because that's a lot more fun!
This week I have been busy with school work, trying to get as much done before the start of Spring Break. With school work as my priority I didn't get as much reading done off the list. In fact, I only finished one wishlist book: The Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov. I added that book to my list back in 2009.
My current wishlist read is Dazzle of the Day by Molly Gloss. It's the story of an a slow ship run by Quakers with the goal to colonize a new planet. I'm about a quarter of the way through it and I hope to finish it either this weekend or early next week (my vacation).
Upcoming wishlist reads include:
The upcoming list contains all the books I currently have out from the library that were on my wishlist. I don't expect to read them all this coming week. My goal is to finish Dazzle of the Day and The Widow's Season.
The Featured Wish for March 26, 2010:
A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly (recommended by Read with Tea - My Books)
"It is 1833. In the midst of Marti Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d'Orleans when the evening's festivities are interrupted by murder. And soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben, for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat."
I added this book to my list during this week's Book Blogger Hop. It was listed on Read with Tea - My Books as an answer to the question, "What book or series would you like to live in?" In this case, the entire Benjamin January series was listed for its setting, Civil War era New Orleans. The main character is a doctor and a musician. I had to add at least the first book to my list.
Jellaby: Monster in the City 03/25/11
Two years ago I read Jellaby for the Cybils short list. What I hadn't realized was that the first volume was allowed to go out of print just as Jellaby: Monster in the City was published.
In Monster in the City Portia and Jason find a way to get Jellaby to Toronto where he can hook up with his family. The adventure involves a ride on a train, a trip to the fair, a mysterious door and secrets in the sewers below the city.
As with the first book, I adore Kean Soo's illustrations. He uses a limited pallet of purples and oranges mostly. It's bold and eye catching. It also works well with the story.
This volume does wrap up the story lines nicely but it sure would be nice to revisit all the characters one more time. So far there doesn't seem to be any news regarding a third volume.
Other posts and reviews:
Today's question asks what book I would physically visit if I could. Oh how very Michael Ende or Jasper Fforde!
When I was a child the answer would be simple and of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The second book in the series has Dorothy returning to Oz via a California earthquake. As a kid growing up in California, I suppose I was always a little hopeful.
Answer as an adult, I suppose my answer would be more selfish. I'd like to enter my own books. These are ones I've written for fun. Most of them take place on a planet in the far future called New Albion. There is a tongue of cheek Arthurian theme running through many of the books. When I'm hurting for an idea for NANOWRIMO, I revisit the planet.
My reason for wanting to visit is to really see things so I could take copious notes. It would make things so much easier!
The Boggart and the Monster: 03/24/11
When left to my own devices, I have this uncanny knack for picking the second book of a series instead of the first. That said, The Boggart and the Monster by Susan Cooper, though the sequel to The Boggart is still a delightful read as a stand alone.
In The Boggart and the Monster Emily and Jess return to their ancestral home in Castle Keep near Loch Ness in Scotland. There's a new owner who isn't as chummy with the Boggart and it's up to the siblings to sort things out. In the process they end up solving the mystery of the Loch Ness monster and I have to admit that connection took me by surprise, despite the "monster" in the title.
The book is a good mixture of haunted atmosphere and lighthearted adventure. There's an interesting family legend tied into the story that connects the boggart to the children and the castle that made things all the more interesting.
I enjoyed the book enough to track down a copy of The Boggart. It's now sitting on my massive to be read pile.
Other posts and reviews:
The Little House: 03/23/11
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton earned the Caldecott Medal in 1943. It's the charming story of a little house that was built far from the city and the city grows up around it. The house is moved again to the countryside and the book ends with the sense that the city will someday meet up with the house again.
The book can be seen as an anti urban sprawl story but it's really more about the passage of time and the little reminders that are left, like the little country houses tucked between factories, strip malls and skyscrapers. Sometimes these houses get a second chance at the countryside, like the cabin my parents bought twenty years ago. It had been two little houses down in San Diego and moved up by truck to the mountains.
This book is on my very short list of favorite childhood books that has made a lasting impression with me. All through my life I have been keeping my eyes open for little houses nestled in between city buildings. My current home town has dozens of them. They are there in any city.
Other posts and reviews:
An African Tale: 03/22/11
An African Tale by Enna Neru is set in Botswana and covers many centuries from the time of a rural village through to modern day. It tells the story Botswana's water supply through myth and allegory.
The main character is Ledimo, once human, now coming to the end of his life as a demigod of rain. As his powers fade he has to do what he can to bring two of his descendants together, one living in a rural village and the other in a modern city.
The book is written in a style reminiscent of Aesop and other folktales. There's not much in the way of dialogue or action and there aren't any illustrations. But it's still an interesting and relatively quick read. It would probably be best read aloud.
I received the book for review. Three stars.
Other posts and reviews:
The Morning Star 03/21/11
The Morning Star is the last episode of Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine epistolary series. This book focuses mostly on Dr. Mattheson and his fiancée and how their lives and their romance parallels that of the original two.
I have mixed feelings about this final book. Four characters is nearly too many to handle for a story told through postcards and letters. On the other hand their discoveries help explain the magical nature of Griffin and Sabine's relationship.
The book was also part of an internet based contest. These sorts of picture pictures seem to go hand in hand now with contests. I wish they wouldn't. I wish the books would just be left alone to be fun, self-contained mysteries and not temporary gimmicks.
Other posts and reviews:
What Are You Reading: March 21, 2011: 03/20/11
Two new school projects are gearing up. My poor library card is going to be worked to the max in the next month. One project is award winning and notable books for children ages 5 to 8. The other is a subject pathfinder on livestock in Alameda County.
This week's finished reading comes down to five picture books I read either for school or with my children. I had one book I did not finish, Shattered Glass. I finished one review book, The Case of the Great Granny. For school I finished a textbook, The Organization of Information. I also read three books for fun: Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix, The Great Turkey Walk and Impossible.
My current reads are three on-going manga: Azimanga Daioh which is a massive omnibus, Ouran High School Host Club Volume 2 which I keep misplacing and Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8, a series I am calling "my current obsession." I have six books going for fun which is far more than I would normally be reading at one time but some of them are coming due. Of those six the one I'm focusing on most is Brain Thief as it's a Link+ book and I need to get it back to the library ASAP. I also have two review books going, one on graphic novels and a golfing novel. Finally I have three remaining text books.
Finished Last Week:
No, David! 03/20/11
No, David! by David Shannon is is one of those picture books that both my children discovered on their own and love. It's Harriet's turn now to be fascinated by it.
David Shannon explains at the end of the book that his mother gave him a copy of the book he had written as a child. The word he knew most was "No!" and David, being his own name, seemed like a good one to use for the book. I have to wonder if there's not a tiny bit of roman à clef in picture book form happening here too.
So David is this nearly bald, snaggle-toothed toddler who gets into everything and has lots of bad ideas. While not every page is a "No, David!" the phrase is used often throughout.
I'm still not as enamored with No, David! as my children are, preferring instead Duck on a Bike and A Bad Case of Stripes but I am warming to the book. There are other books in the series including David Goes to School and David Gets in Trouble. We haven't read them but I think we will in the near future.
Other posts and reviews:
My first semester of library science had me completely swamped. Although I'm taking twice the load this semester the workload seems more balanced. That balance has allowed me a little bit of time to begin catching up on my reading, especially my back issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
I just finished reading the July / August 2010 issue. One of my favorite stories from it is "Epidapheles and the Inadequately Enraged Demon" by Ramsey Shehadeh. It's the follow up to "Epidapheles and the Insufficiently Affectionate Ocelot" (March / April 2010).
I remembered Door (the invisible and overly intelligent animated chair) staying with the queen in the first story. Door though is back with Epidapheles so I don't know if my memory is incorrect or these stories aren't told in chronological order. Regardless, it doesn't matter. The inept wizard and his condescending but helpful familiar make a good comedic team.
The problem at hand this time is the kidnapping of a woman by a demon. While Door has absolutely no confidence in Epidapheles's ability to open a doorway to the demon's world, he must do whatever he can to help. What he and the wizard don't realize is that the kidnaped woman has been working methodically on her own escape.
As I've mentioned before, I'm always making connections between what I'm reading and what I've previously read. In the case of this delightful farce, I was reminded not of another story, but of an episode of Futurama: "Spanish Fry" from season four.
Other posts and reviews:
This week's ten wishes bring me almost to the end of January of this year. Most of these wishes are recommendations from book blog reviews I read. The exceptions are the third of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and My Theodosia.
My reading from my wishlist project goes well. For my fun reading this week I've finished three books: Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix by Graham Salisbury, Impossible by Nancy Werlin and The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr. I am currently working through two more delightful books off the list: How to Survive a Killer Seance by Penny Warner and The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss.
Farlander by Col Buchanan (recommended by SQT)
The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.
Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.
When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfill the Roshun orders, their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports…into bloodshed and death.
I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal and Marc Rosenthal (Recommended by Kiss the Book)
When Willy woke up there was trouble. Where was Bobo? Willy needs Bobo. But, Earl the cat likes Bobo, too. A favorite toy is hard to share…even when it’s a sock monkey. With sparse text and a modern-nostalgic vibe, this retro-fun book about friends (sock monkeys) and frenemies (devious cats) is an ode to favorite toys everywhere. Oh, Earl! Leave Bobo alone.
The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri (Recommended by Kiss the Book)
The leaves have started to fall. The air is cold. Squirrel needs to get ready for winter. He cannot nibble with the mice. He does not have time to hop with the frogs or run with the dogs. Will this busy little squirrel ever slow down?
Focusing on all the charming features of the fall season, this sweetly illustrated story features country animals, pumpkins, leaves, apples and other signs of autumn. Now available as a sturdy board book, the newly redesigned Classic Board Book logo calls out this title's seasonal theme on the front cover.
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
Join the Mysterious Benedict Society as Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance embark on a daring new adventure that threatens to force them apart from their families, friends, and even each other. When an unexplained blackout engulfs Stonetown, the foursome must unravel clues relating to a nefarious new plot, while their search for answers brings them closer to danger than ever before.
Boom by Mark Haddon (Recommended by Your Neighborhood Librarian)
In explosive, highly charged, and hilarious middle-grade adventure from Mark Haddon, acclaimed author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. From the moment that Jim and his best friend, Charlie, bug the staff room and overhear two of their teachers speaking to each other in a secret language, they know there's an adventure on its way.
But what does "spudvetch" actually mean, and why do Mr. Kidd's eyes flicker with fluorescent blue light when Charlie says it to him? Perhaps Kidd and Pearce are bank robbers talking in code. Perhaps they're spies. Perhaps they are aliens. Whatever it is, Jimbo and Charlie are determined to find out.
There really is an adventure on its way. A nuclear-powered, one-hundred-ton adventure with reclining seats and a buffet car. And as it gathers speed and begins to spin out of control, it can only end one way . . . with a BOOM!
Soup Day by Melissa Iwai (Recommended by Great Kid's Books)
On a cold, snowy day, a young girl and her mother shop to buy ingredients for vegetable soup. At home, they work together—step by step—to prepare the meal. While the soup is cooking, they spend the time playing games and reading. Before long, Daddy's home and the family sits down to enjoy a home made dinner. This book celebrates the importance of making a nutritious meal and sharing in the process.
Rescue by Anita Shreve (Recommended by As Usual I Need More Books)
A rookie paramedic pulls a young woman alive from her totaled car, a first rescue that begins a lifelong tangle of love and wreckage. Sheila Arsenault is a gorgeous enigma — streetwise and tough-talking, with haunted eyes, fierce desires, and a never-look-back determination. Peter Webster, as straight an arrow as they come, falls for her instantly and entirely. Soon Sheila and Peter are embroiled in an intense love affair, married, and parents to a baby daughter. Like the crash that brought them together, it all happened so fast.
Can you ever really save another person? Eighteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone. But Rowan is veering dangerously off track, and for the first time in their ordered existence together, Webster fears for her future. His work shows him daily every danger the world contains, how wrong everything can go in a second. All the love a father can give a daughter is suddenly not enough.
Sheila's sudden return may be a godsend — or it may be exactly the wrong moment for a lifetime of questions and anger and longing to surface anew. What tore a young family apart? Is there even worse damage ahead? The questions lifted up in Anita Shreve's utterly enthralling new novel are deep and lasting, and this is a novel that could only have been written by a master of the human heart.
Hogwash by Arthur Geisert (Recommended by Scope Notes)
It’s bath time! All the little piggies have had lots of fun playing, and now they’re dirty, muddy, and covered in paint. But their mamas aren’t worried—they have just the machine to turn this Herculean task into an adventure. Anyone who has ever been captivated by the swaying brushes and spinning jets of soap and water at the car wash will be in hog heaven as Arthur Geisert’s intricate etchings reveal the inner workings of an enormous contraption that can lather and scrub a whole farm full of dirty little piglets in no time at all—and that’s not just a bunch of hogwash!
My Theodosia by Anya Seton
The short life of Theodosia Burr (1783–1813) is hauntingly realized in this bestselling historical novel about the daughter of Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s vice president. A central figure in her father’s political fate, Theodosia was immortalized in her father’s famous letter that began, “To my dearest Theodosia.” From the unsettling calm surrounding Burr before his duel with Alexander Hamilton to Theodosia’s passionate relationship with a young soldier, the delicate relationship between one father and daughter is poignantly captured.
Rumi: The Big Red Book by Coleman Barks (Recommended by Krista the Krazy Kataloguer Hartman)
Considered one of the masterpieces of world literature, The Big Red Book is perhaps the greatest work of Rumi, the medieval Sufi mystic who also happens to be the bestselling poet in America.
Rumi was born in 1207 to a long line of Islamic theologians and lawyers on the eastern edge of the Persian Empire in what is now Afghanistan. In order to escape the invading Mongol armies of Genghis Khan, his family moved west to a town now found in Turkey, where he eventually became the leader of a school of whirling dervishes. It was a fateful day in 1244 when he met Shams Tabriz, a wild mystic with rare gifts and insight. The renowned scholar Rumi had found a soul mate and friend who would become his spiritual mentor and literary muse. "What I had thought of before as God," Rumi said, "I met today in a human being."
Out of their friendship, Rumi wrote thousands of lyric poems and short quatrains in honor of his friend Shams Tabriz. They are poems of divine epiphany, spiritual awakening, friendship, and love. For centuries, Rumi's collection of these verses has traditionally been bound in a red cover, hence the title of this inspired classic of spiritual literature.
Tim and Pete: 03/18/11
Tim and Pete by James Robert Baker is a short, angry novel about a pair of opposites who are thrown back together after breaking up. Their whirlwind day together leads to trouble and death.
I wanted to like this book. I should have. It's set in areas I know well and like to read books populated by characters like Tim and Pete. What I mean is, I try to avoid slash fiction; it's not my thing. I want to read books populated by real characters with real problems, quirks, flaws and so forth. I appreciate the authors own troubled life and his suicide but a book has to stand on its own and Tim and Pete didn't for me.
Time and Pete has some of the same problems as Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mystery series does. Both are aimed at Boomers and populated by Boomers. For Tim and Pete that means characters who are straddling both sides of recent gay history, Stonewall, free love, drugs and the early days of AIDs. Though published in 1993, Tim and Pete as characters haven't managed to move on from the darkest days of the 1980s.
Some of their emotional turmoil and reckless behavior can be attributed perhaps to Baker's own troubled life. But frankly there was so much anger in the novel that there were no nuances nor quiet moments to reflect. The anger robs the characters of their dimensionality. Instead of a debate, the novel presents a diatribe.
Other posts and reviews:
A Kitten Tale: 03/17/11
A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann is one of my daughter's collection of cat books. We bought it at last year's book fair. I knew she'd like it from the adorable four kittens on the cover.
The story teaches the seasons of the year. From spring through fall three of the four kittens worry about the upcoming winter snows. The fourth kitten says he's looking forward to trying something new.
When winter comes the adventurous kitten eagerly goes out to try the snow. The others need some convincing. I wasn't sure how things would play out. Would the three be vindicated when the fourth came back cold? Or would the others learn to have fun in the snow?
The book reaches a happy medium between being nervous about the unknown and being willing to try new things. The illustrations are delightful all the way through.
Other posts and reviews:
Today's question asks if I read more than one book at a time. Anyone who reads my weekly "What am I Reading" post knows the answer is yes.
How many books I have going at any given time depends on a number of factors. The first is the length of the book. Next comes assigned reading and research. Then there are the library due dates. Finally there are ebooks. And let's not forget reading with my children!
I don't like to read chunksters, especially fictional ones, fast. Although I can speed read, I prefer to read the long books slowly. So for a typical book over 400 pages I will read only five or ten pages a night. It can take several weeks or even months for me to read a long book. Kraken by China Miéville, for example, took me almost three months to finish.
So while I'm reading the chunkster at night I don't want to slow all the rest of the my reading down. I fill in the blanks of my fun reading with shorter books or non fiction. I can tear through a non-fiction chunskter in a day or too. For the shorter books, I am especially fond of manga, graphic novels and tween fiction. I'm trying to "graduate" into young adult fiction since it's so popular now.
Assigned reading, though, has to take precedence. I'm currently a library science student. I'm taking four classes and therefore have four text books to read from each week. Along with the text books I have research to do. That can mean journal articles, picture books, nonfiction, blogs or any number of other things. This is reading that must be done!
Library books! They are the main source of my reading. After tracking my reading stats for the last couple of years I can say with confidence that 60% of the materials I read come from the library. Another 35% comes from my personal collection (books I've bought or been given). The remaining 5% are review galleys. I hate to send books unread or unfinished to the library books that are coming due take priority.
EBooks come next. I don't have a device: no Kindle, no Nook, no Smart Phone, etc. Nor do I want one. Mostly I read to get away from electronic devices. The only e-reading I do is either for school or galleys from NetGalley. I read these on my computer.
Finally my children. They can both read now but both like to be read too. So for my youngest, I'm reading picture books to her. For my son it's mostly chapter books or longer fiction. Sometimes we read manga together.
How do you keep track of so many books?
I get asked this every week. Sometimes multiple times in a week (or day). Here's my answer: it's no different a skill than keeping track of multiple television series. How many of you watch more than one series a week? Raise your hands. OK. Well, instead of watching a lot of TV, I read a lot of books.
Christmas Eve: 03/16/11
One of the books she chose was Christmas Eve by Suçie Stevenson. A pair of rabbit siblings work together to make the perfect Christmas gift surprise for their parents.
In a time when we are struggling financially, it was nice to have a book about making gifts instead of buying them. This book was part of our inspiration for making our own gifts and ornaments for Christmas.
Alison's Zinnia: 03/15/11
Living close to the coast in California means year round flowers. What the flowers are changes by the season and certainly spring and summer provide the most variety and amount of flowers but there will still be roses, poppies and daisies in fall and winter.
So growing up with such variety I feel like I should be more familiar with flower varieties. My grandmother certainly was and she did try to teach me beyond the basics but somehow her encyclopedic recall for flowers and plants just didn't take with me.
Now I'm a parent and I have two children who love flowers. They are always asking me what such and such flower is and I'm hard pressed to know the answer most of the time. I'm grateful therefore for the many picture books available for us to read together.
Our most recent floral picture book, Alison's Zinnia by Anita Lobel is also an alphabet book. Better than the average alphabet book, there's a clever round-robin aspect to the story. It begins with Alison receiving a Zinnia from a friend. She in turn gives an amaryllis to her friend Beryl and so forth. Until the last friend is revealed.
Besides the fun round robin introduction to old fashioned names and beautiful flowers, Anita Lobel's illustrations are gorgeous. I would love to have a copy just as a quick pictorial reference for flowers!
Gerry Tales: 03/14/11
Gerry Tales by Gerry Boylan is a collection of autobiographical essays in the same vein as Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story.
The book and the essays themselves are short. They are usually a single scene or small number of scenes on a tight theme, like a misguided attempt to rescue a neighbor from a burning home or the birth of one of his children.
As it turns out I did most of my reading of this book while stuck at a dreadful birthday party. It was at one of those themed pizza parlors and aimed at children much older than any of the children at this party. The places was over their heads both literally and figuratively. That odd birthday experience matched well with the overall tone of Gerry Tales.
Of this type of autobiography, Gerry Tales wasn't my favorite. It's best for Baby Boomer Catholics or perhaps their adult children if they were raised in the faith.
Three stars. I received the book for review.
Other posts and reviews:
I turned in my children's book project today. The reading I did for it last week accounts for almost a third of my list. The other third is also picture books. These I either read to my daughter or she read to me. The fun reading comes down to four books: two more Fullmetal Alchemist volumes, a nonfiction and a mystery from Argentina. I also list two books that I did not finish because they just weren't my cup of tea: Geektastic and Ruby of the Realms.
Finished Last Week:
Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray 03/13/11
Uncle Murray first appears in Bad Kitty when Kitty threatens to "eat Uncle Murray" if she's not fed any of her favorite foods. Since then he's been a recurring comic foil for Kitty.
In Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray the rivalry is explained and turned into another cat behavior lesson. This time the focus is on why cats are prone to spooking. Among the lessons are why cats howl, why they poof themselves up and why they won't eat when their human family leaves.
Interjected with the lessons are the points of view of both Kitty and Murray. Kitty's part of the story is reminiscent of the two picture books, Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy. Contrasted against Kitty's horror movie view of the world is Murray's rather gentle but confused state. He wants to take good care of Kitty and Puppy but just can't seem to get Kitty's trust. Murray seems to be a nice guy.
Fans of the series and owners of high strung cats will enjoy the book.
Other posts and reviews:
Angel of Forgetfulness 03/12/11
The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern was one of those long-term wishlist books. It was on there long enough for me to forget the reason behind it's inclusion.
The plot synopsis certainly sounded promising: a struggling writer inherits the tattered, unfinished manuscript from his aunt. Saul must delve deep into his aunt's history in order to finish the book. Along the way he uncovers a romance between his aunt and a fallen angel.
Unfortunately the plot is tied up in an unnecessarily complicated narration. First there are numerous flashbacks, stacked up like matroyska dolls. Each flashback has its own point of view told with a rambling prose. Missing though are the well-needed segues and hooks to help the reader navigate through the scenes.
Last week I spent some of my spare time updating my GoodReads account. I've kept a list of books I've read since 1987 and I'm slowly putting that data into the website. The downside of entering all that data in is that sometimes I come across other interesting sounding books. Those books in turn get added to my wishlist.
I also managed to read a couple more books from my wishlist. Geektastic wasn't quite what I was hoping. The other book, The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez surpassed my expectations. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books.
This week's list of wishes are from January 18 through Janury 24, 2011. I add books faster than I can post them on this weekly meme.
Modern Ruins: Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region by Shaun O'Boyle and Geoff Manaugh (recommended by The Black Sheep Dances)
A collection of photographs and essays focusing on postindustrial landscapes and abandoned buildings in Pennsylvania.
The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven't given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.
Cranes in My Corral by Dayton O. Hyde
Four sandhill cranes, raised by humans, dominate life on an Oregon ranch.
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher (Recommended by Book Purring)
Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil-and worth killing for
Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget.
Ice by Arthur Geisert (Recommended by Scope Notes)
A gorgeously rendered wordless tale of discovery and adventure that is meticulous in architectural detail and bursts with inventiveness. Arthur Geisert's ingenuity engages the child's imagination as well as the adult's through seamless storytelling and zany wit. Invested as always in his porcine universe, here Geisert tells the story of a community of pigs that is suffering from the heat. Rather than be sapped of energy and miserable, they go on an adventure in search of ice. The pigs' inventiveness and great can-do spirit create a joyful tale of change and adventure. The illustrations bring the action to life, making this a real page-turner and a great read-aloud book!
Time's Edge by J.M. Dattilo (Recommended by Rick)
Commander Michael Blayne of the Galactic Armed Forces is highly suspicious of his orders to retrieve a malfunctioning probe from an Old Earth sidetime. After all, the job is a basic training mission, not a usual assignment for an officer of his rank and caliber. However, his Chief-Commander, Alrick Zartollis, has assured him that he is perfect for the mission so he prepares to depart accompanied by a smart-mouthed, know-it-all computer named Max.
The "simple assignment" rapidly becomes complicated when he meets Kate, a young woman who prevents him from retrieving the lost probe. When he and Kate are literally blasted from Old Earth to another place and time, Michael realizes he has been set up by his esteemed Chief-Commander. "Probe retrieval, indeed," he mutters as he surveys his new surroundings and the odd individuals who live there: Edgar, a mechanical servant, who disdains the implication that he is a robot. "The robot was my ancestor," he sniffs to Michael, "just as the amoeba was yours."; Jafrey, an irreverent old man with a long gray ponytail, sharp tongue, and a dangerously powerful talent; Nick the giant Sarzonian monster who can quote Shakespeare; Ivar, the master of a mysterious place called Belencourt, who got so tired of powerful visitors blowing up his electromagnetic door that he had it replaced with an old-fashioned hinged door which was less susceptible to strong auras.
Good Night, Tiptoe by Polly Dunbar (Recommended by my 1stdaughter)
The inspired Polly Dunbar wraps up her series about Tilly and Friends with two beguiling new adventures.
"I'm not sleepy," insists Tiptoe as Tilly gives him his goodnight kiss. Tilly tries singing him a good-night lullaby, but the rambunctious rabbit is busy banging away on his drums. ItÕs not until Tilly reads a bedtime story that Tiptoe finally seems to drift off. But who will tuck TILLY in and kiss HER good night?
Moon Flower by James P. Hogan (Recommended by SFF Chat)
Something strange is happening on the planet Cyrene, which is in the early phases of being "developed" by the mammoth Interworld Restructuring Corporation. Terrans from the base there have been disappearing. Myles Callen, a ruthlessly efficient "Facilitator," is sent to investigate. Also with the mission is Marc Shearer, a young, idealistic quantum physicist, disillusioned with the world, who's on his way to join a former colleague, Evan Wade. On arrival he finds that Wade too has vanished and doesn't want to be found by the Terran authorities. Wade has arranged contact via the Cyreneans, however, and accompanied by two companions that he has befriended, Shearer embarks on a journey to find his friend that will change Cyrene and Earth itself.
Emitown by Emi Lenox (Recommended by Permanently Weird)
From the whimsical to the tragic, EMI LENOX brings you into her world with superb cartooning, a brilliant cast of characters, and an innocent perspective often left on the cutting room floor of other diary comics. With a broad range of styles, everyday is an adventure from the morning breakfast burrito to metaphoric tales of superheroes and battlefields of love. Emi proves that life is never dull in her first annual collection of EmiTown!
Based out of her hometown, Portland, Oregon, Emi has spent the last year doodling everyday in her diary sketchbook and taking on internships within the comics community. Having been raised on manga (via her Japanese mother) she has dreamed about becoming a cartoonist at a young age. In her early twenties the works of Jeff Smith, Adrian Tomine, and Craig Thompson entered her life and super inspiration struck! This is Emi's first published work. Introduction by JAMIE S. RICH
Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst (Recommended by my son)
The rest of Alexander's family is moving a thousand miles away, but there's NO way Alexander is going to leave his best friend, his favorite babysitter, or all the places and people he's known all his life. Even if he has to live in a tree house or a tent or a cave!
Night-Night Little Pookie: 03/11/11
Every December the preschool does a holiday book swap. Each child brings in a wrapped book and then gets to pick a book from the pile to open and keep. Night-Night Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton was the last book we will ever get from the exchange now that Harriet is in her final year at the school.
Sandra Boynton is a popular author in our house, although it's been ages since we've read any of her books. Night-Night Little Pookie was our first Pookie book but an instant hit with Harriet.
It's Pookie's bed time and his mother is trying to get him to bed. He's not exactly ready or willing to go quite yet and does everything he can think of to stall. Slowly but surely he is herded to bed.
While most of the book is told from the mother's point of view, some of the pages have responses from Pookie. Harriet can read the entire book by herself but she prefers it if I read the mother's parts and she reads Pookie's parts.
For Harriet's enthusiasm for the book and the way it encourages participation, we're giving it 5 out of 5 stars.
Other posts and reviews:
Today's question asks what books I would purchase if someone gave me $80. Two books came immediately to mind: Silverlicious by Victoria Kann and How to Survive a Killer Seance by Penny Warner. As a family we are huge fans of the Pinkalicious series and I'm just as big a fan of Penny Warner's newest series.
Those two books bring me to about $21.00. I went to my massive GoodReads wishlist (hovering around 700 books) and narrowed it down four more books: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Feed by Mira Grant and The Adventures of the Vin Fiz by Clive Cussler.
That brings my total up to $70.16. I'm getting my price estimates from Title Wave. The remaining ten dollars would take care of price differences at the local book store and sales tax (roughly 10% where I live).
Two Bobbies: 03/10/11
The events of Hurricane Katrina and its effects on New Orleans are still fresh in my mind. I've only been to the city once and it was a business trip. I spent most of my time behind stage at the Convention Center and would have to walk back to my hotel every night because the roads were blocked for the various Mardigras parades. The walking helped me get a sense of the geography and architecture (at least for the corner of the city I was in).
Disasters and recoveries have many stories associated with them. Those stories inspire books. When I heard about the rescue of a blind cat and his companion dog, I had to read their story. It's told lovingly in the picture book, Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery.
The book avoids the gorier details while still giving children a basic timeline of what happened. As it focuses on a cat and a dog, the emphasis on the struggle to survive during and after the flooding is put on the animals. It's nice to remember the animals who were left behind because so many shelters weren't set up to take pets.
The struggles that Bob Cat and Bobbie go through gave Harriet and me moments to talk about how the flooding affected the people in the area too. Our reading of the book was especially well timed as Ian was in New Orleans on a business trip.
Other posts and reviews:
The Scrambled States of America Talent Show: 03/09/11
The Scrambled States of America Talent Show by Laurie Keller was one of Harriet's picks to read over the summer. She was learning geography at the time in school and recognized some of the states from her classwork.
The book is a follow up to The Scrambled States of America. We have not read the first book. Nor were we aware of the original's popularity when it was first published in 2002. Some of the reviews I've read suggest that this book is best read as a sequel and not as a stand alone.
At the start of the book, New York decides the states should have a talent show. The other states jump in volunteering their skills either on stage or behind the scenes.
The talent show is supposed to an off the wall framing story for teaching geographic facts about the states. While the book was entertaining I can't say that any of its lessons stuck with either of my children. It was from their perspective too weird.
Other posts and reviews:
From the Devotions 03/08/11
Poetry is one type of literature that I feel like I don't understand. Poetry remains one of the great big mysteries. I have tried my hand at writing different forms of poetry and have tried reading different kinds of it. But it's not something I feel like I have a grasp on.
I have a friend who loves poetry. He reads through anthologies like I read through graphic novels. He's also my main source of poetry reading. The most recent book I borrowed from him is From the Devotions by Carl Philips.
The collection mixes religious imagery and mythology with explorations of the human condition. The poems are beautiful and emotionally charged. Many of them I read more than once.
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Cuckoo by Lois Ehlert is a retelling of a Mexican folktale about how the cuckoo got its black feathers. The book is written in both English and Spanish and uses traditional styles of Mexican arts and crafts for its illustrations.
When the book begins Cuckoo is shunned by the other birds. She is colorful and loves to sing. She's so busy singing she doesn't think to help the other birds save their seeds for the winter. For this she is called vain.
But when a fire comes, Cuckoo is given a chance to prove herself. She loses her beautiful voice and her colorful plumage but she gains something in return.
My children are divided on Cuckoo. My son considers it one of his favorite picture books. My daughter, while she likes the bright illustrations, found the story too long for her tastes. I'm somewhere in the middle. I love the illustrations and I liked the English text but the Spanish translation lost some of the rhythm in the process. Certainly the meaning but the simple English became a tongue twister in Spanish.
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I've listed fourteen things as finished. More than half of those things are pictures books for my school project or short stories from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. My currently reading still includes my text books.
Kraken, the massively huge novel by China Mièville is something I've been reading since Christmas. Finishing it meant reading about two hundred pages this week. It might have been as few as 150 pages. What I'm trying to say is, don't imagine me reading all of Kraken last week because I didn't. Not even close!
Now that Kraken is done, I'm reading The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. Although it has as many pages as Kraken it has about half as many words on any given pages. It's a nice change from the dense book I was reading earlier.
When I finish with The Lost Hero I will probably switch to Blackout by Connie Willis. It's been sitting on my to be read pile at home for a while.
Finished Last Week:
The Costume Copycat: 03/06/11
Harriet picked out The Costume Copycat by Maryann MacDonald because she liked the picture of the younger sister in her fairy princess costume. It was also getting close to Halloween at the time so costumes were on her mind.
The story's about sibling rivalry and how children vie for attention from adults. In this case, the older sister is the one who usually has everyone's attention. Her younger sister tries to get the same praise her sister got the year before by wearing big sister's costumes. Eventually though things come to a head when the older sister gets sick on Halloween and the younger sister is left to make up her own costume.
I have mentioned before my children's fascination with Halloween books. This particular book, while cute for the initial read didn't make it into the "re-read" stack. Harriet, as the second child, didn't relate to the main character. She is far more out going than her older brother and so usually steals the spotlight from him!
Other posts and reviews:
Here is Greenwood Volume 1 03/05/11
Here is Greenwood (Volume 1) by Yukie Nasu begins with Kazuya Hasukawa starting late at Greenwood because he was in an accident and was in the hospital for a month. He's been raised by his older brother after the death of their parents and the woman he loves is now his sister-in-law. The only thing to do is to move into the boys dorm to get away from the family drama.
Unfortunately for Kazuya, Greenwood has its own problems for him. Namely, his roommate is obviously a girl but she's living in the boys' dorm and pretending to be a boy. Everyone else is in on the secret and Kazuya has to put up and shut up because it's better than going home.
The first volume was hilarious. My husband and I both enjoyed it and read it through twice. As melodramatic the set up is, it works.
There are many more volumes in the series but as far as I know my library system doesn't have them. I plan to find and read more of the series but it will take me time to locate them.
Other posts and reviews:
Last week I was so burried in school work I hard read anything except text books and picture books for one of my class projects. If I'm not reading, I'm not crossing books off my wishlists. I was also too busy to read any of the book blogs I like so I didn't add many new wishes either.
My ten new wishes are still from January. I was on vacation back then and actively keeping up with the book blogs.
Telling Tales edited by Faye Yong and Chloe Citrine (recommended by The Forbidden Planet International)
Contains (via Worldcat)
Author: A True Story by Helen Lester (Recommended by my son)
So begins the story of Helen Lester, author of Tacky the Penguin and many other popular books for children. By sharing her struggles as a child and later as a successful author, she demonstrates that hurdles are part of the process. She even gives writing tips, such as keeping a "fizzle box." Helen Lester uses her unique ability to laugh at her mistakes to create both a guide for young writers and an amusing personal story of the disappointments and triumphs of a writer's life.
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (Recommended by Midnight Book Girl)
Rachel has always been the good girl- until her thirtieth birthday, when her longtime friend Darcy throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy's fiance. Rachel is completely horrified. She pretends it didn't happen, maybe it will all go away-and so will her feelings for this guy.
She prays for fate to intervene, but when she makes a choice she discovers that the lines between right and wrong are blurry, endings aren't always neat, and you have to risk all to win true happiness.
Something Blue by Emily Giffin (Recommended by Midnight Book Girl)
Darcy Rhone thought she had it all figured out: the more beautiful the girl, the more charmed her life. Never mind substance. Never mind playing by the rules. Never mind karma. But Darcy's neat, perfect world turns upside down when her best friend, Rachel, the plain-Jane good girl, steals her fiance, while Darcy finds herself completely alone for the first time in her life with a baby on the way.
Darcy tries to recover, fleeing to her childhood friend living in London and resorting to her tried-and-true methods for getting what she wants. But as she attempts to recreate her glamorous life on a new continent, Darcy finds that her rules no longer apply.
It is only then that Darcy can begin her journey toward self-awareness, forgiveness, and motherhood. Something Blue is a novel about one womans surprising discoveries about the true meaning of friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. It's a novel for anyone who has ever, even secretly, wondered if the last thing you want is really the one thing you need.
Don't Die, Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton (Recommended by iLive iLaugh iRead)
After getting kicked out of school and sent to live with her grandmother, Sabine Rose is determined to become a "normal" teenage girl. She hides her psychic powers from everyone, even from her grandmother Nona, who also has "the gift." Having a job at the school newspaper and friends like Penny-Love, a popular cheerleader, have helped Sabine fit in at her new school. She has even managed to catch the eye of the adorable Josh DeMarco.
Yet, Sabine can't seem to get the bossy voice of Opal, her spirit guide, out of her head . . . or the disturbing images of a girl with a dragonfly tattoo. Suspected of a crime she didn't commit, Sabine must find the strength to defend herself and, later, save a friend from certain danger.
Last Dance by Linda Joy Singleton (Recommended by iLive iLaugh iRead)
Sabine can't wait to show off her new boyfriend at the upcoming school dance, but she's also worried about her grandmother, Nona, who's suffering from a fatal hereditary illness. The only cure lies within a remedy book, lost long ago.
Determined to save Nona, Sabine goes to Pine City to visit a distant relative who may have clues. But there's someone else clamoring for Sabine's attention: a fifty-year-old ghost named Chloe who's been appearing in her dreams.
Celebrated by Pine City every year on the anniversary of her tragic death, Chloe has become a town legend. Despite death threats and missing the school dance, Sabine must use her psychic skills to solve the mystery surrounding Chloe's untimely demise . . . and lay her soul to rest.
The Return of Sherlock Holmess and His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle (Recommended by my husband)
This is the book that Nicholas Meyer and Laurie R. King are pulling from for their versions of Sherlock Holmes. It's also the one book I somehow haven't read. I want to read it to better understand the spin-offs.
The Child Thief by Brom (Recommended by Escapist)
With this haunting, provocative, relentlessly thrilling reconsideration of a timeless children's classic, the acclaimed artist Brom dramatically displays another side of his extraordinary talent. Exploring the stygian blackness that gathers at the root of the beloved Peter Pan legend, he carries readers into a faerieland at once magically wondrous and deeply disturbing.
Fourteen-year-old Nick would be lying dead in a Brooklyn park—murdered by drug dealers—had Peter not sprung out of the trees to save him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him into a strange and unsettling mist swirling around the bay. Even though he is wary of Peter's crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, nowhere in New York City is safe for him now. And what more can he possibly lose?
There is always more to lose.
Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars by Daniel Pinkwater (Recommended by Yggdrasil Birnbum)
(I saw it mentioned in The Yggyssy. So yes, I'm taking recommendations from fictional characters!)
Leonard's life at his new junior high is just barely tolerable until he becomes friends with the unusual Alan and with him shares an extraordinary adventure.
One Day by David Nicholls (Recommended by Midnight Book Girl)
Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows? Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY. From the author of the massive bestseller STARTER FOR TEN.
Always Looking Up 03/04/11
Always Looking Up, the sequel to Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox appeared recently at our monthly book club. Having enjoyed his first upbeat and informative autobiography about his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, I snatched up this book.
If the first book was about his life and his initial response to the diagnosis, this book was his "so now what?" response. For Fox it meant ending his acting career (for the most part) and beginning a career of fund raising and campaigning for stem cell research.
I am certainly interested in the progress (or lack there of) in Parkinson's research. Always Looking Up is more about the people involved in his work. It's about the process of campaigning, not about the results. It's a long list of name dropping and day to day details instead of the results or consequences. For such an interesting topic, the book is dull.
Other posts and reviews:
Today's question asks about our favorite villian.The sorts of books I read don't typically have villains. I'm not interested in straight up good vs. evil type plots even in the fantasy and science fiction I read.
But I do come across villains sometime so I will do my best to list the ones who have shown up in favorite books or stories:
The Wicked Witch of the West
She is a brief blip on the Oz radar, showing up in the first volume and being melted in the very same. But she's a good foil for Dorothy on her first trip through the four countries that make up the kingdom of Oz.
Captain James Hook
He has a long time rivalry with Peter Pan which I think goes back well beyond the point where the crocodile stepped in and ate both his hand and his clock. The need for revenge over losing his hand has further fueled his desire to beat Peter and his wretched Lost Boys.
Except for the very last Sherlock Holmes book by Arthur Conan Doyle I've read every single one and many of the spin-offs including those by Nicholas Meyer and Laurie R. King. While Moriarty isn't my favorite character and I frankly prefer the cases where Holmes isn't going up against his foe (or those related to his foe, or old drinking buddies of his old foe, etc) I have to accept that he is part and parcel of the Holmes universe. So be it.
Little Ballet Star 03/03/11
A year ago the local dance studio started offering in school classes at my daughter's school. Harriet was immediately smitten with the idea even though she had just barely turned three. I told her I would come to the free introductory class and see how she did. If she paid attention, had fun and was willing to put in the work to learn her dance routines, I would enroll her in the class. She agreed and I went to the class. She was the most focused child in the class. I think a lot of the other parents had pushed their kids into trying the class but Harriet was there willingly. She loved the class and so we enrolled her.
Six months ago we got a note in the folder where we sign her in and out of preschool saying the dance studio was putting together its annual dance recital. While it wasn't mandatory, participating was highly encouraged. I remembered with dread the recitals I had gone through at Harriet's age and thought about ignoring the invitation. It would mean extra work, extra expenses and possibly a bad experience for Harriet.
As tempting as that was, I didn't just ignore the invitation. Nor did I just flat out tell my daughter she couldn't participate. It wasn't exactly my decision to make. She'd be the one doing the work and putting on the performance, not me. So I told her all about the recital and read her the invitation and asked her if she was willing to do all the extra work including going to studio sometimes on the weekends if she was required. It didn't take her more than about a second to come to a decision. It was a "Yes!" with some added hops of enthusiasm.
To prepare her for her experience, I checked out Little Ballet Star by Adèle Geras and Shelagh McNicholas. The book is about a young girl who is studying ballet and has an aunt who is dancing on stage for the ballet. It's Tilly's birthday and goes dressed up in her favorite tutu and is invited backstage with her aunt as she prepares for her performance.
The book shows all the work that goes into putting on a ballet and being a ballet dancer. Harriet listened to the book very seriously. I think she was taking mental notes. Later, at the end of the performance, Tilly's aunt invites her on stage to dance a brief encore together.
I don't know if the book helped or not but Harriet did every piece of her recital preparation, from learning her song, her dance routine, getting measured for her costume, having her photograph taken, going to the dress rehearsal to her actual performance with professionalism and enthusiasm. When it came to the day of the performance, we had to leave her backstage with her teacher and later she and her dance partner sat up in the balcony with the other performers (all of whom were older). You'd think she'd been performing all her life. Of her class of four only Harriet and her best friend participated on stage. They were the youngest duo on stage and were adorable.
Other posts and reviews:
Uh-oh! is the second Rachel Isadora book Harriet chose recently at the library. This one she read to me (twice!) in the car on the way home.
The book is about a toddler who is having a day full of "Uh-oh" moments. Each page shows a before and an after. For instance, there's a bowl on the food and then it's on his head. So on and so forth, each one done with adorable, life-like illustrations.
For Harriet who is so desperately trying to prove herself ready for kindergarten but can still remember her first day of preschool as a "Tiny Tot," Uh-oh speaks volumes to her. On her second time through the book she analyzed everything the boy did and what he should and shouldn't have done, speaking in a very serious tone about each picture.
Other posts and reviews:
Aging with Grace 03/01/11
The titular character from Aging with Grace by Greg Liberman is described as a middle aged housewife who wants more from her life. She finds the thrills she's been missing when she reconnects with an old high school friend.
What that blurb doesn't tell you is that Grace is wealthy enough to decide on a whim that she needs a facelift. Nor does it tell you that she's willing to lie to her friends and family for her own self gratification. Nor does it explain why after he's been cheated on, lied to and endangered, why her husband would stand by her side and come to her rescue.
Plot wise the book is like Size Eight in a Size Zero World by Meredith Cagen with a main character taken straight out of the The Player by Michael Tolkin. That said, Grace isn't as likable as Cagen's protagonist, nor is she at the other extreme with Tolkin's antihero. That leaves her as a flat, shallow, unlikable and unmemorable character.
I received the book for review.
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