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March 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


 


Golden Conspiracy: 03/31/11

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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.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


Nature's Building Blocks: 03/30/11

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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!

Two stars

Comments (0)


Storm Cats 03/29/11

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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.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


The Noisy Way to Bed 03/28/11

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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's The Napping House will enjoy The Noisy Way to Bed.

Five stars.

Comments (4)


What Are You Reading: March 28, 2011: 03/28/11

What Are You Reading?

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:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. The Bora-Bora Dress by Carole Lexa Schaefer (library book)
  3. Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov (library book)
  4. Catch That Cat: A Picture Book of Rhymes and Puzzles by Monika Beisner (library book)
  5. Coco The Carrot by Steven Salerno (library book)
  6. The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss (library book)
  7. Farm by Elisha Cooper (library book)
  8. Fullmetal Alchemist, Volume 08 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  9. Fly Free! by Roseanne Thong (library book)
  10. Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics by Hillary L. Chute (review copy / ebook)
  11. In Dog Years I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25 by Jim Davis (library book)
  12. Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Mélanie Watt (library book)
  13. Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning (personal collection)
  2. Girls Night In by Lauren Henderson (personal collection)
  3. Hot X by Danica McKellar (review)
  4. How to Survive a Killer Seance by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  5. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  6. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  7. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  8. Nick Of Time by Ted Bell (library book)
  9. Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 2 by Bisco Hatori (personal collection)
  10. The Seventhfold Spell by Tia Nevitt (review / ebook)
  11. The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie (library book)
  12. XXXholic Volume 1 by CLAMP (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. An African Tale by Enna Neru (review copy)
  2. The Battle of the Labyrinth (personal collection)
  3. The Boggart and the Monster by Susan Cooper (library book)
  4. Jellaby: Monster in the City by Kean Soo (library book)
  5. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (personal collection)
  6. The Morning Star by Nick Bantock (library book)
  7. Tsunami Warning by Taylor Morrison (library book)

Comments (42)


The Battle of the Labyrinth: 03/27/11

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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.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


Tsunami Warning: 03/26/11

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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.

Three stars.

Comments (0)


Jellaby: Monster in the City 03/25/11

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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.

Comments (4)


The Boggart and the Monster: 03/24/11

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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.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


The Little House: 03/23/11

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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.

Five stars.

Comments (4)


An African Tale: 03/22/11

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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.

Comments (0)


The Morning Star 03/21/11

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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.

Four stars

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: March 21, 2011: 03/21/11

What Are You Reading?

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:

  1. The Bora-Bora Dress by Carole Lexa Schaefer (library book)
  2. Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix by Graham Salisbury (library book)
  3. The Case of the Great Granny: Bradley Daggers Investagates by Thomas Emmon Pisano (review copy)
  4. Coco The Carrot by Steven Salerno (library book)
  5. Daily Comet, The: Boy Saves Earth from Giant Octopus! by Frank Asch (library book)
  6. Ghosts for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki (library book)
  7. The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (library book)
  8. Impossible by Nancy Werlin (library book)
  9. The Organization of Information: Third Edition by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  10. Sam and the Tigers: A Retelling of 'Little Black Sambo' by Julius Lester (library book)
  11. Shattered Glass by A.C. Katt (review copy / ebook)

Currently Reading:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov (library book)
  3. The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss (library book)
  4. From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning (personal collection)
  5. Fullmetal Alchemist, Volume 08 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  6. Girls Night In by Lauren Henderson (personal collection)
  7. Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics by Hillary L. Chute (review copy / ebook)
  8. How to Survive a Killer Seance by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  9. In Dog Years I'd Be Dead: Garfield at 25 by Jim Davis (library book)
  10. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  11. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  12. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  13. Nick Of Time by Ted Bell (library book)
  14. Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 2 by Bisco Hatori (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Alison's Zinnia by Anita Lobel (library book)
  2. Christmas Eve by Suçie Stevens (library book)
  3. Epidapheles and the Inadequately Enraged Demon by Ramsey Shehadeh (personal collection)
  4. Gerry Tales by Gerry Boylan (review copy)
  5. A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann (personal collection)
  6. No, David! by David Shannon (library book)
  7. Tim and Pete by James Robert Baker (personal collection)

Comments (40)


No, David! 03/20/11

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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.

Four stars

Comments (4)


Epidapheles and the Inadequately Enraged Demon: 03/19/11

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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.

Four stars

Comments (0)


Tim and Pete: 03/18/11

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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.

Two stars.

Comments (0)


A Kitten Tale: 03/17/11

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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.

Three stars.

Comments (0)


Christmas Eve: 03/16/11

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Last fall Harriet went through a holiday book phase. For awhile she set aside her interest in princesses, characters named Harriet and dance books, for nothing but holiday books.

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.

Comments (0)


Alison's Zinnia: 03/15/11

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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!

Comments (0)


Gerry Tales: 03/14/11

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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.

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: March 14, 2011: 03/14/11

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:

  1. Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird (library book)
  2. Another Jar of Tiny Stars by Bernice E. Cullinan (library book)
  3. Banana by Ed Vere (library book)
  4. The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez (library book)
  5. Cat the Cat, Who is That? by Mo Willems (library book)
  6. Cats' Night Out by Caroline Stutson (library book)
  7. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (library book)
  8. The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (library book)
  9. Essentials of Children's Literature (7th Edition) by Carol Lynch-Brown (personal collection)
  10. Fullmetal Alchemist, Volume 06 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  11. Fullmetal Alchemist, Volume 07 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  12. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black, et al (library book)
  13. Horrible Harry Goes to the Moon by Suzy Kline (library book)
  14. Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly! by Mo Willems (library book)
  15. Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson (library book)
  16. The Phone Book by Ammon Shea (library book)
  17. Ruby of the Realms by Dan Kamin (review copy)
  18. Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei by Peter Sis (library book)
  19. Stella, Princess of the Sky by Marie-Louise Gay (library book)
  20. The Sun by Fran Howard (library book)
  21. Under the Night Sky by Amy Lundebrek (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. The Case of the Great Granny: Bradley Daggers Investagates by Thomas Emmon Pisano (review copy)
  3. From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning (personal collection)
  4. Girls Night In by Lauren Henderson (personal collection)
  5. How to Survive a Killer Seance by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  6. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  7. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  8. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  9. Nick Of Time by Ted Bell (library book)
  10. Shattered Glass by A.C. Katt (review copy / ebook)

Reviews Posted:

  1. The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern (library book)
  2. Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray by Nick Bruel (personal collection)
  3. Cuckoo by Lois Ehlert (library book)
  4. From the Devotions by Carl Philips (personal collection)
  5. Night-Night Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton (personal collection)
  6. The Scrambled States of America Tallent Show (library book)
  7. Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson (library book)

Comments (38)


Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray 03/13/11

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>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.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


Angel of Forgetfulness 03/12/11

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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.


That said, I know the book won't stick with me. I guess my "forgetfulness" is truth in advertising on the part of the book's title.

Three stars.

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Night-Night Little Pookie: 03/11/11

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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.

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Two Bobbies: 03/10/11

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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.

Four stars

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The Scrambled States of America Talent Show: 03/09/11

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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.

Three stars

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From the Devotions 03/08/11

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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.

Four stars.

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Cuckoo: 03/07/11

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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.

Three stars

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What Are You Reading: March 7, 2011: 03/07/11

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:

  1. Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater (library book)
  2. Almost Single by Advaita Kala (library book)
  3. "Eating at the End-of-the-World Café" by Dale Bailey (FSF Sept/Oct 2010) (personal collection)
  4. Another Jar of Tiny Stars by Bernice E. Cullinan (library book)
  5. Fullmetal Alchemist, Volume 05 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  6. "How Seosiris Lost the Favor of the King" by James L. Cambias (FSF Sept/Oct 2010) (personal collection)
  7. Jupiter by Christine Taylor-Butler (library book)
  8. Kraken by China Miéville (personal collection)
  9. Lin Yi's Lantern by Brenda Williams (library book)
  10. Once Upon a Starry Night by Jacqueline Mitton (library book)
  11. The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier (library book)
  12. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (personal collection)
  13. Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin (library book)
  14. "The Window of Time" by Richard Matheson (FSF Sept/Oct 2010) (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (personal collection)
  2. Essentials of Children's Literature (7th Edition) by Carol Lynch-Brown (personal collection)
  3. From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning (personal collection)
  4. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification by Arlene G. Taylor (personal collection)
  5. Management Basics for Information Professionals by Edward G. Evans (personal collection)
  6. The Phone Book by Ammon Shea (library book)
  7. Shattered Glass by A.C. Katt (review copy / ebook)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Aging with Grace by Greg Liberman (review copy)
  2. Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox (personal collection)
  3. The Costume Copycat by Maryann MacDonald (library book)
  4. Here is Greenwood, Vol 1 by Yukie Nasu (library book)
  5. Little Ballet Star by Adèle Geras (library book)
  6. Saving Max by Antionette van Heugten (review copy)
  7. Uh-Oh! by Rachel Isadora (library book)

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The Costume Copycat: 03/06/11

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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!

Four stars

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Here is Greenwood Volume 1 03/05/11

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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.

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Always Looking Up 03/04/11

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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.

Two stars.

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Little Ballet Star 03/03/11

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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.

HarrietTo 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.

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Uh-oh! 03/02/11

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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.

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Aging with Grace 03/01/11

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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.

Two stars.

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