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May 2012

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



The Bora-Bora Dress: 05/31/12

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The Bora-Bora Dress by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Catherine Stock is about a sensible girl who has no desire to wear a dress being forced to wear a dress her Aunt Fiona's party. After lots and lots of hideous dresses, she finds a magical dress made in Bora-Bora.

My daughter picked this story out. She likes wearing dresses. I don't. And I'm at a stage in my life that I've decided never to wear another dress again. I don't even own any dresses or skirts. So I felt sad when there was no compromise at all for Lindsay. It was wear a dress or don't go. Why not a nice suit?

Lindsay's Bora-Bora dress is in fact magical. The pattern changes according to the scenery at hand. The colorful illustrations capture this magic nicely. I just wish there could have been a different outcome.

Three stars

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A Bad Kitty Christmas: 05/30/12

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A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel is the first picture book in the series after a long run of the hybrid graphic novels. It's Christmas time and Kitty is up to her old tricks — making for a disastrous Christmas for her family and Poor Puppy.

The book could have just been another alphabetic rhyming picture book that chronicles Bad Kitty's antics. That would have been cute. The first ABC list shows all the creative and demented ways Kitty destroys the Christmas themed things in the house. The second list outlines all the presents she hopes to receive. It's a Christmas themed reprise of Bad Kitty.

But the book has more drama and more heart to it. Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy are separated from their family for Christmas. In the last ABC list, Bad Kitty learns about the importance of family, especially during holidays. Except for the Christmas theme — the family part is pretty inclusive of all types of families.

Five stars

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Angelina Ballerina: 05/29/12

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Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird through the animated series. We were in Bend, Oregon on a trip. Harriet was getting over a stomach bug and I was coming down with one. We were holed up in our hotel room eating take out and watching kids television. Harriet was just learning to walk at the time. I don't know if her first exposure to Angelina Ballerina made any lasting impression or not.

Fast forward two and a half years to Harriet being in preschool. She started taking a dance class that teaches both tap and ballet. She loves her dancing class and even participated in the recital. She'll be doing that again this year.

Around the same time we started getting Netflix through our Wii. There were the Angelina Ballerina episodes. Harriet started watching them and fell completely in love with them, both the older traditionally animated ones as well as the weirder CGI version.

So with Harriet so passionate about her dancing and interested in the Angelina Ballerina episodes I decided to check out the book that inspired the series. Despite her love of the series, we read the book only once. I guess once was enough.

In this first book, Angelina is just a young mouse but she's passionate about dancing. She desperately wants to take dance lessons but her parents think it's just a passing phase. Of course it isn't and eventually the parents give in, allowing her to take lessons with Miss Lily.

The ending of the book explains why it is that Angelina is so often the lead in the school performances. She does grow up to be a star ballerina.

Although it's a simple story, it was nice to see where everything began.

Five stars.

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So, What's It Like to Be a Cat? 05/28/12

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So, What's It Like to Be a Cat? by Karla Kuskin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin is an interview between a child and cat. The child wants to know what it's like to be a cat and the cat gives detailed but somewhat snarky answers. It is a cat, after all.

Like Mo Willems's transitional reader books, this one uses textual clues to help young readers spot the difference between the two speaking characters. This book though is probably best used either during story time as a group read or a parent / child read along.

Lewin's playful illustrations capture the cat's attitude and emotions perfectly. Or maybe that's purrfectly.

Four stars

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What Are You Reading: May 28, 2012: 05/28/12

What Are You Reading?

I normally start writing this post on Saturday so I can post it late Sunday evening. This weekend though, I've been under the weather. It started with a sore throat on Friday night and was a full blown fever by yesterday. Now I'm congested. So since I spent my time in bed, I didn't get around to writing this post ahead of time.

My favorite read last week was Amulet 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi. I am eagerly awaiting the fifth book in the series which comes out this fall.

I am still listening to The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams. I am in the last six discs now. I hope to finish the book this week. If I don't, I will most certainly get it finished by the week after.

My goal this week is to finish Emily the Strange: Dark Times by Rob Roger.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts by Kevlin Henney (library book)
  2. Amulet, Book 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi (personal collection)
  3. Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States by Pete Jordan (library book)
  4. Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt (library book)
  5. Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton (library book)
  6. Rules for Hearts by Sara Ryan (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Body and Soul by Stacey Kade (personal collection)
  3. Emily the Strange: Dark Times by Rob Reger (personal collection)
  4. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams (personal collection)
  5. In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente (library book)
  6. One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath (review copy)
  7. People of Darkness (audio) by Tony Hillerman (library book)
  8. Swahili for the Broken-Hearted by Peter Moore (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo (library book)
  2. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (personal collection)
  3. Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen (library book)
  4. Meeow and the Pots and Pans by Sebastien Brau (library book)
  5. Pinkalicious and the Pink Pumpkin by Victoria Kann (personal collection)
  6. Railsea by China Miéville (review copy)
  7. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (library book)



Comments (24)

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Pinkalicious and the Pink Pumpkin: 05/27/12

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Pinkalicious and the Pink Pumpkin by Victoria Kann is a Lift-the-Flap addition to the Pinkalicious series of books. Pinkalicious and her family are searching for the perfect pumpkins as Halloween is around the corner.

Pinkalicious, having heard of the Pink Pumpkin Patch decides that's the place to go. She goes expecting a field of pink pumpkins and is disappointed to find orange pumpkins grown by a man with the surname Pink. Undaunted, she searches high and low for a truly pink pumpkin.

My daughter enjoyed lifting the flaps to help Pinkalicious in her search. And while Pinkalicious does (sort-of) find a pink pumpkin, my daughter and I both wished for something more for our pink loving heroine. As my daughter put it — if too much pink frosting can turn a girl pink — why can't there be a real pink pumpkin?

Four stars

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Meeow and the Pots and Pans: 05/26/12

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Meeow and the Pots and Pans by Sebastien Braun is from the Meeow series. In this book Meeow invites his friends over to make music from the different things in the kitchen, especially pots and pans.

The book uses simple, brightly colored illustrations, a clean typeface and a limited vocabulary to make the book easy to read aloud (or easy to read for a beginning reader). The illustrations will be easy to see during story time and the book could be used during an interactive story and music time at a library.

Harriet enjoyed this book last year during one of her many cat only phases. She was able to recognize some of the words (pot, pan) and enjoyed pointing out the different kitchen items either to me or to herself if she was "reading" the book on her own.

Four stars

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The Tiger Who Came to Tea: 05/25/12

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The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr was published in 1968 and was recently turned into a stage play in London. Children's books as theater seems to be having a renaissance of sorts. My inner child is feeling miffed at missing the show.

A mother and daughter sit down to tea (a most wonderful excuse for a mid afternoon snack) when the doorbell unexpectedly rings. The daughter asks who it could be but all the mother can say is that it won't be daddy because he has a key. Upon opening the door they are greeted by a tiger.

When faced with a hungry tiger at the door, there are only two things you can do: slam the door and hide, or invite him in and hope for the best. They invite him in. Although polite (in that he doesn't eat them), the tiger is ravenous. He eats and drinks them out of house and home, including drinking all the water out the tap!

The parents' matter-of-fact reaction to the absurdities of a talking tiger coming to tea and devouring everything is priceless. Their deadpan solutions: go out to a cafe for dinner and buy a giant tin of tiger food is just the perfect solution to a silly book.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr is for me, a forgotten childhood favorite. The glee of sitting down with my grandfather as he read it to me had slipped my memory until I had to catalog a copy.

When I was a child I had a toy tiger I took everywhere. I used to imagine that he would under very special circumstances come to life as a man-sized (sort of like Tony the Tiger but cooler) talking tiger. He'd take me to school and make the cool kid. You can imagine then how The Tiger Who Came to Tea played into that fantasy a bit.

Five stars.

Comments (4)


The Amazing Story Of Adolphus Tips: 05/24/12

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The Amazing Story Of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo is about a girl, her cat, D day training and a friendship with an American soldier. It's framed with a letter received by a boy named Michael from his beloved grandmother as she heads out on her first adventure in a long time. She includes her diary of the time her village was forced to relocate for D-Day training as an explanation for her current actions.

Most of the story then is Lily's flashback. Her father is a pilot in the war and now she and her family are being forced to pack up their belongings. The entire town is to be evacuated so it can be used for D-Day training by American troops using live ammunition.

Tips, the family cat, doesn't keep with the plan and runs off after they've evacuated. It's Lily's attempts to rescue her cat that give her the chance to meet the Americans. One of them, a young soldier named Adie becomes her good friend.

How all these different events in Lily's childhood play out and how they relate to her present day actions is explained by the end of the book. It was a fascinating and sometimes heart stopping read. The ending took me by surprise (as well it should).

Five stars

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Daddy-Long-Legs: 05/23/12

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Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is a hundred year old epistolary novel about a young woman getting a chance to follow her dreams because of the sponsorship of an unnamed benefactor. The story follows Jershua "Judy" Abbott through her college education and the early days of her career as a writer.

I come to the book, though, through the 1955 film adaptation staring Fred Astaire as the titular character and Leslie Caron as Judy (renamed Julie for the movie). While the gist of the film is the same as the book: older man provides money for a younger woman's college education — the set up is completely different and more troubling. At the time the film was made, Fred Astaire was more than twice Leslie Caron's age. Although he plays a young-at-heart character (one enamored with rock and roll drumming), he is still clearly old enough to be her father.

So it was with an uneasy curiosity that I read Jean Webster's book.

The differences between the film and original source material are immediately apparent. First and foremost — the setting is domestic. Judy, though still an orphan, has been raised in the United States. She is not an exotic — post WWII French teacher of French orphans. She is, instead, an American contemporary with LM Montgomery's Anne Shirley. Judy's experience at the orphanage and her sponsorship into an American university, is therefore, recognizable and credible — something the film version can't pull off.

In the film, there is a heavy dose of voyeurism of the dirty old man variety as Julie's benefactor befriends her under false pretenses and otherwise keeps an eye on her. Of course voyeurism is part and parcel of film story telling but it's clearly at odds here with the source material. In the book, Judy and Jervys (changed to Jervis in the film), do meet and become friends, as he keeps up the secret identity as her benefactor. But their meeting is circumstantial and as he's significantly closer in age to her (late twenties/early thirties to her late teens/early twenties), it is far more plausible that she and he would become more than just friends.

Judy's letters are written in a believable, charming voice that rings true a century later — and I suspect well into the next century. Along with her quirky turns of phrase are drawings, little sketches that Judy sometimes sends along in her missives. They too add to the overall appeal of the novel.

Keeping all those thoughts in mind, I adore the novel. It is delightful. Anyone who loves LM Montgomery's books or anyone who is a fan of Louise Rennison's books, will enjoy Daddy-Long-Legs.

Five stars

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Railsea: 05/22/12

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Railsea is China Miéville's second YA fantasy. After adoring every last word and illustration in Un Lun Dun I was overjoyed to get an egalley for review. I think this is a time where expectations have outrun reality.

Sham (of a much longer name which I won't bother repeating here) works on mole train. He'd rather work salvage but this is the job he could find. And so like Ishmael, he's stuck with an insane captain on an equally insane hunt. Except he lives in a barren world where the earth is covered with endless crisscrossing railroad tracks and the land beneath is teeming with bloodthirsty, man-eating creatures — like the dreaded moldywarpe.

Moldywarpe to me sounds like a Flannimal — and while they can be fierce, they are often more crude and silly than deadly. Just as I was trying to get Ricky Gervais's creations out of my mind and focus on Mieville's book, there is an illustration of a naked mole-rat. Sure, it's large, hungry and dangerous but it's still a naked mole-rat. Forget Flanimals, now I'm thinking of Kim Possible and Ron's pet, Rufus — for the remainder of the book.

Just like Un Lun Dun, Railsea is metafiction. It plays with conventions and genre expectations. One way it does this is through the re-definition of common words like "philosophy" and the use of anagrams for character names. A little bit of this goes a long way. Here there is an over abundance.

Those puns in turn lead to parodies of Moby-Dick and Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate stories. Unfortunately Miéville is out of his comfort zone and can't keep pace with either Melville's humor or Stevenson's high seas hijinks.

& then there are the ampersands. Apparently these are intended to show the twists and turns of the Railsea. In an egalley where often we are given works still in the process of final edits, I took these ampersands to be stand-ins for and because looks unpolished and incomplete.

While most of the book blogosphere is falling down in adoration for Miéville's latest work, I just can't join in the fun. I want to but for me the book does not work.

Read via NetGalley

Two stars

Comments (6)


Elsie's Bird: 05/21/12

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Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen has the distinction of being her 300th book. She explains in her blog that the book was inspired by a Smithsonian article about the madness some women were plagued with when moving from the big city out the rural territories. Those with canaries faired better for having something familiar to listen to.

Elsie is a young girl who is moving out west with her father. She has a canary, Timmy Tune, her only tie to the hustle and bustle she is leaving behind and so desperately misses. One day she lets him fly free and of course he escapes and she follows him out into the untamed grasslands that stand over her head.

When I read Elsie's Bird I had not read the Smithsonian article. Instead, I was lured to read by the gorgeous artwork done by David Small. Throughout the book Small recreates both Elsie's environment and her mood. His illustrations are worth a second look once the book is done.

Three stars

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What Are You Reading: May 21, 2012: 05/21/12

What Are You Reading?

I normally start writing this post on Saturday so I can post it late Sunday evening. This weekend though, I was so busy between attending the MLIS convocation and traveling up north to see the annular eclipse, that I just didn't have time. I didn't get to bed until 1 AM last night after getting home from the eclipse.

You'll see that I have nine books I'm listing as currently reading. The truth is, it's more like seven. Bride of the Rat God I've decided to give up reading as an ebook for NetGalley and read it in paperback. It's a re-issue anyway, so it will be easier to read in traditional form. There's no rush to review it as it isn't new.

Rules For Hearts by Sara Ryan is due this Wednesday and I missed placed it on Friday night. The last place I remember for certain reading it is at the park. After that we rushed over to El Pollo Loco to get dinner. We were going to eat there but it was so crowded we ended up doing drive through. As I was in the passenger's seat I ended up with the bags of dinner.

So the book is:

  • maybe left at the park (unlikely)
  • in my trunk (possible but I've looked and not seen it)
  • in the backseat mixed up with the kids' stuff (possible but I've looked at not seen it)
  • in the kitchen (possible)
  • where ever my husband put it in the house (possible and frightening)

My favorite read last week was On the Beach (audio) by Nevil Shute. It's one hell of a depressing story but so well written. The audio gave me nightmares.

My current car audio book is still The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams. For the most part the book is wonderful but the woman they picked to do the couple stories with a woman as the main character is ghastly. I don't care that she has a long resume of successfully completed audios — all her characters end up sounding like the Voodoo Queen from the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I had to skip through the first story she narrated and would have done the same for the second except it was written by Laurie R. King.

My goal this week is to finish Amulet 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi and to find my missing library book.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. 101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic . . . but Didn't! by Tim Maltin (review copy)
  2. Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs (personal collection)
  3. The Digital Diet by Andrew Churches (library book)
  4. Diners, Bowling Alleys, And Trailer Parks by Andrew Hurley (library book)
  5. How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz (library book)
  6. I'm a Shark by Bob Shea (library book)
  7. Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr (personal collection)
  8. On the Beach (audio) by Nevil Shute (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Amulet, Book 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi (personal collection)
  3. Body and Soul by Stacey Kade (personal collection)
  4. Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly (review copy)
  5. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams (personal collection)
  6. One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath (review copy)
  7. People of Darkness (audio) by Tony Hillerman (library book)
  8. Rules for Hearts by Sara Ryan (library book)
  9. Swahili for the Broken-Hearted by Peter Moore (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John (personal collection)
  2. Expletive Deleted by Ruth Wajnryb (personal collection)
  3. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (audio) by Catherynne M. Valente (personal collection)
  4. Pigs Make Me Sneeze by Mo Willems (personal collection)
  5. A Sick Day for Amos McGee (library book)
  6. Steadfast Castle by Michael Swanwick (personal collection)
  7. Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf (personal collection)



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Pigs Make Me Sneeze!: 05/20/12

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It's almost summer vacation and that means summer reading. My daughter has picked up some Mo Willems books, including Pigs Make Me Sneeze!

Piggie has come to play with Gerald but he has a sudden case of the sniffles. Soon he's sneezing and he's convinced that he's now allergic to his best friend. There's only one thing to do, go to Dr. Cat for a cure!

Gerald of course doesn't end up allergic to Piggie. The solution is more obvious than that. It's cute to see him so happy over finding out it's not allergies. Piggie, though, isn't jumping for joy over the answer.

I'm curious if Dr. Cat is the same cat as Cat the Cat. They look similar but I could be mistaken. Anyone know if they're the same character?

Five stars.

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit?: 05/19/12

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K Wolf has the honor of being on my to be read list the longest, 28 years (or 3/4 of my life). I bought the book when it was first released at the corner book store when I was nine years old. I was one of only a handful of kids allowed in unsupervised because I had proven myself a bibliophile (although by today's standard's I was only a fledgling).

Other books and obsessions got in my way and the book sat unread at the bottom of my yellow built-in bookshelves. Then in 1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out and by then I had forgotten I even had the book. Instead, I read the sequel, Who P-P-P-lugged Roger Rabbit? which while set in the comic book world was more in line with the film.

After that, college, marriage, grad school, a move to the other end of the state, children, work, and grad school again. Somehow the book stayed with me and when I was cleaning off my shelves, I decided to give it a read.

The basic plot is the same even if the set up is different. Roger Rabbit, star of a comic strip has been accused of a crime. Eddie Valiant, the toughest PI in Los Angeles, wants to find out who's behind it.

The book just didn't take off like the film or the sequel did. Eddie seemed to have trouble finding his voice and the pacing seemed sluggish in parts.

What the book needs is to be reissued as a graphic novel. Or even an illustrated novel. The interplay between humans and comic strip characters needs more play.

In the end I didn't manage to finish the book. I tried on and off for about six months.

1 star

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All My Friends Are Dead: 05/18/12

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All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John has been making the rounds at our local BookCrossing group. It looks like a children's book but it's aimed at adults.

The book starts with a dinosaur lamenting that all his friends are dead. It goes from there. There are things like a milk jug saying that all his friends are expired.

Along with the silly observations on life and death are illustrations reminiscent of Mo Willem's easy chapter books. Although designed for adults, it does appeal to children. Both of mine have read it and laughed at it.

Four stars

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: 05/17/12

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente is a modern day retelling of the Persephone myth with nods to L. Frank Baum's Oz, Lewis Carroll's Wonderland and Norton Juster's Phantom Tollbooth. September, stuck in Omaha washing dishes as her father is away fighting in a war and her mother is working late at a factory, is invited to Fairyland by the Green Wind.

September's adventures through there follow the classical path: land at the edge of the world or country, find the way to the center (and capital), be directed out on a new quest by the person in charge, accomplish extraordinary things all along the way, collect unusual but loyal friends and return home a changed person. I don't mean this simplistic description as a bad thing — it's a wonderful comfort for exploring the unique nooks and crannies of Fairyland.

Although September's initial quest is the "find her way home," she doesn't mean it. It's a lie to allow her entry into Fairland, as part of an intricate ritual to unlock the space between Earth and Fairyland. In that regard, then, September is more of an Alice, than she is a Dorothy. She wants to explore the world, if she can survive long enough to find her bearings.

Valente fills Fairyland with copious amounts of details. It may seem as though she is just filling the pages for a sense of rhythm or to make the mundane seem fantastical, but after listening to the audio twice, there is not one extraneous detail. The narrative is a complex and rich tapestry, befitting the capitol of Fairyland.

There are so many wonderful characters. I could write an entire separate post just on them. My favorite, though, is Ell (L-through-M) who is part Wyvern and part Library — Wyverary. Although September is dubious about Ell's background, I choose to believe him.

Like Dorothy and Alice, September will be returning to Fairyland. There's a short story already about Queen Mallow's adventures, The Girl Who Rules Fairyland — For a Little While and a sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.

I happened to listen to the audio, expertly read by the author. Both times, the book has made me cry. I also have a hardback on hand to enjoy the lovely illustrations by Ana Juan.

Five stars

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Expletive Deleted: 05/16/12

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Expletive Deleted by Ruth Wajnryb does for swearing what Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss does for punctuation. The book examines the fine art of swearing, how it used, it's history and the different kinds of swearing.

While I normally keep the swear words to a bare minimum on this blog, I don't in this post. If you don't like swearing you won't like this review or the book. Please take time instead to peruse my archive instead.

I learned my go-to swear words from my grandmother (damn, shit and fuck, in that order). I learned a few other choice ones (in German) from my grandfather. I learned even more in Spanish from growing up in California. Then in French class I learned a few more. Toss in a trip to Australia and lots of British TV on cable and I expanded my repertoire.

My oldest has learned grandmother's go-to words from me and when to use them (mostly in times of emergency or great bodily harm). We aren't day to day swearers; we save them for special emphasis.

Expletive Deleted looks at the different ways of swearing and the history of swearing including some etymological looks at the most common swear words. There's extensive time spent on fuck, shit and cunt.

The cunt chapter was presented as being the most shocking chapter but I found the fuck one far more jarring to read. Believe it or not, I have never heard cunt used as an expletive in California. I don't know if that's because it's such a taboo to have been removed from the local lexicon or if we just have enough other ways of swearing. So this chapter brought to light that swearing isn't as universal as one might think, even within the bounds of the same mother tongue.

Four stars

Other posts and reviews:

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Steadfast Castle: 05/15/12

"Steadfast Castle" by Michael Swanwick is a detective story set in a near future where houses come with their own AIs. Just as cellphones today are often times much more than cellphones, so are now are houses.

But crimes still happen and detectives are still needed. Steadfast Castle is presented as an interview between a detective and a witness.

Thematically and stylistically I'm reminded of Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett. Then toss in some Alfred Hitchcock and you've got a great and surprising short story.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee: 05/14/12

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C Stead won the 2011 Caldecott Medal. Amos McGee is an elderly zookeeper dedicated to his work. He loves his job and the zoo animals love him. The book is about a day when Amos can't go to work and what happens next.

Amos has a daily routine that involves chess with an elephant, a footrace with a tortoise and bedtime stories with an owl who is scared of the dark. When he has stay home with a cold, his animal friends come to repay the kindness and take care of him.

Erin Stead uses woodblocks and colored pencils in her illustrations which bring to mind the classic illustrations of earlier picture books. They fit the quiet mood of the story perfectly. Children will learn about the value of friendship and extended families.

I read this book originally for the materials for children ages 5 to 8 class I took during the Spring 2011 semester.

Four stars

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What Are You Reading: May 14, 2012: 05/13/12

What Are You Reading?

Everything is turned in. I get hooded on Saturday! Now I'm just trying to get ready for the big day, so I haven't been reading loads and loads.

My favorite read last week was The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson. I know the series has reached it's logical conclusion but I'd love to revisit the characters. Oliver was such an interesting addition and I want to know more about his story.

My current car audio book is The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams. The stories are a lot of fun but boy does Adams love to babble in between the stories. Each story has its own long introduction. I get it — he loves Sherlock Holmes and had fun on the project but sheesh — this audio collection could be half the length (9 CDs instead of 18) without all his babbling.

My goal this week is to finish Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr and then get started on Amulet 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (personal collection)
  2. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (personal collection)
  3. My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day (library book)
  4. Watchlist: A Serial Thriller (audio) by Jeffery Deaver (personal collection)
  5. The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic . . . but Didn't! by Tim Maltin (review copy)
  2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  3. Body and Soul by Stacey Kade (personal collection)
  4. Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly (review copy)
  5. Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs (personal collection)
  6. Diners, Bowling Alleys, And Trailer Parks by Andrew Hurley (library book)
  7. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams (personal collection)
  8. Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr (personal collection)
  9. On the Beach (audio) by Nevil Shute (library book)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 16 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  2. The Happy Hippopotami by Bill Martin Jr. (library book)
  3. Horrible Harry Goes to the Moon by Suzy Kline (personal collection)
  4. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (library book)
  5. Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Volume 02 by CLAMP (library book)
  6. Twin Spica Volume 04 by Kou Yaginuma (library book)
  7. xxxHolic Volume 09 by CLAMP (library book)

Comments (32)


Horrible Harry Goes to the Moon: 05/13/12

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Horrible Harry Goes to the Moon by Suzy Kline, Harry and his friends learn about astronomy, especially the moon, and hold a bake sale to make their trip to the moon possible.

An argument over who gets to sit on the moon patterned couch starts a class-wide research project on the moon. The students learn about the lower gravity on the moon by doing a hopping experiment in front of the blackboard. Harry decides the class needs to go to the moon. Since getting a field trip in a rocket isn't possible, he convinces the class to hold a bake sale to purchase a used telescope. To celebrate their success, the children host a moon viewing party. The book introduces students to recent research into there being water (in the form of ice) on the moon. It also has information on the geography of the lunar landscape and what can be seen through a telescope.

I originally chose this book for my astronomy materials project. While a little dated here and there, it still holds up. It's an entertaining introduction to basic astronomy.

Four stars

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The Happy Hippopotami: 05/12/12

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The Happy Hippopotami by Bill Martin Jr. is about a family of hippos going to the beach for a picnic. They have numerous misadventures over the course of the day, all of which is set to rhyme.

The illustrations aren't done by Eric Carle. Without his collages it just doesn't seem like a Bill Martin Jr. book. I realize that's a silly way to think but the two work so well together.

The book is meant to be read aloud but the forced rhymes tripped me up in a bunch of places. If you plan to read this book to a group of children, I recommend practicing a few times before doing it live.

Three stars

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Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute: 05/11/12

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The most popular series at my children's school are Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. My son and daughter insisted that I read the first of the Lunch Lady books: Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute.

There's a new substitute for a teacher who has never missed a day. The Lunch Lady and her faithful assistant, Betty, immediately realize something is up. Using their secret gadgets and their own secret hideaway below the school, they set out to solve the mystery of his substitute.

The graphic novel is done in a style similar to the Babymouse books with mostly monochrome illustrations. Instead of pink, black and white, the lunch lady is rendered in yellow, gray and white. The artwork is visually appealing and the lettering is easy to read.

For my children (and I'll extrapolate out to children in general) the cafeteria themed gadgetry is the big draw. For instance: the Lunch Lady has a lap top hidden inside a lunch tray, and a Spatu-copter for flying. Whenever I talk to kids about the series, they always mention the gadgets first and the bad guys second.

For me, though, the gadgetry wasn't enough to distract me from a rather ho-hum plot. As it's only the first book, I will try the second book before I decide whether or not to continue.

Three stars

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xxxHolic Volume 09: 05/10/12

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xxxHolic Volume 09 by the mangaka group CLAMP has three stories all which reveal something about Watanuki's situation. By now Watanuki has come to realize he's probably not a normal teenage boy. It's not his missing parents per se that make him usual but they are part of the equation.

The first story introduces the power of dreams. Watanuki accidentally buys a dream and in return he has to sell a dream. The power and currency of dreams comes late in the series but resonates all the way through from the very beginning. Readers also following Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle will recognize similar themes and circumstances between Syaoran and Watanuki.

If Syaoran and Watanuki are spiritual twins, one might wonder who Sakura's twin is. The introduction of a young and emotionally abused medium might the a clue. Wantauki first befriends her over the state of a haunted cherry tree. Like the spider grudge arch, her story will take more than chapter in this and upcoming volumes.

Along with the medium, a new mentor for Watanuki is introduced, Dômeki's grandfather. He is rendered to look just like his grandson but he clicks with Yûko's protege in ways that the real one has yet to.

For me this is the point where I got serious about reading Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. Too many xxxHolic questions are now answered with clues from the other series to ignore it.

Five stars.

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Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 16: 05/09/12

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Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 16 by Hiromu Arakawa takes the series in a new direction. Friends and colleagues are scattered.

Roy Mustang's squad is broken up and deployed to the four corners of the country, with Hawkeye being made Bradley's assistant. Mirroring their deployments, Ed, Al and the others split up. Ed and Al head north while others head east and west in hopes of keeping the scent off the brothers.

There's hope in frozen north of Fort Briggs in the form of a cut-throat leader and her well trained troops. There's danger beyond Briggs and the Homunculi have something planned below the surface.

This far along in the series there's no point in starting here. You're either following it from the beginning or you're not. It doesn't stand alone but it does expand the world building.

Five stars.

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Twin Spica, Volume 04: 05/08/12

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Twin Spica Volume 04 by Kou Yaginuma turns away from the drama and expense of building a special space suit to the actual training. Asumi and her classmates get to do buoyancy training, robotic arm exercises and a long ride in the vomit comet.

Weaknesses in the characters are revealed, like an injury in Asumi's left arm as well as more hints about the fainting spells Marika.

And at long last there's some explanation behind Mr. Lion. I like him as a mentor ghost. He connects the past and present day stories.

If anything, I wish these volumes were a little longer. I want more character development mixed in with the training. Right now it seems to be one or the other in each volume, and except for the first one, never both.

Five stars.

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Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Volume 02: 05/07/12

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Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle by the mangaka group CLAMP is the other side of the xxxHolic coin. It is because of that connection alone that I'm reading the series.

My husband read through about half of this series four or five years ago and made me watch the first disc of the anime which covers books one and two. Then when we got into xxxHolic we went back to Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle since the two are so tied together. We've rewatched the anime twice again and after suffering through the anime again I was ready to move beyond this part of the series, even in manga form.

In volume two the group arrives in a place that looks like modern day Osaka and for anyone familiar with Osaka will get all the puns and visual jokes built into the world. Everyone has a spirit animal as protection. These Kudan can be used in battles and are an awful lot like Pokémon. The only difference is that you can't "catch 'em all."

There's also a lot of fighting, drawn out in the fashion you'd see in Bleach or similar. Coming this early on the fighting is a distraction both in the anime and the manga. In the manga it's probably worse because it's basically filler for the book, even when it's obviously being a parody.

Three stars.

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: May 07, 2012: 05/06/12

What Are You Reading?

All I need to do now is edit my last term paper. Then I'm done with my MLIS studies! As you can see, though, that week of serious paper writing has left me little time to read. I only finished five books and most of them were short.

My favorite read last week was Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson. As with the other books in the series, I listened to the audio. I plan to keep going with the series but right now I have some other audios on hand I want to listen to.

I still haven't finished Watchlist: A Serial Thriller edited by Jeffery Deaver but I in the last hour or so. I plan to finish it by Tuesday night so I can give it to a friend at the next Bookcrossing meeting. I would also like to finish Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs. Of course, that was my goal last week too. I might also finish The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson.

What about you?

Did Not Finish:

  1. Seeking Sara Summers by Susan Gabriel (library book)

Finished:

  1. Blackout by John Rocco (library book)
  2. The Cereal Murders (audio) by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  3. Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa (library book)
  4. Library Wars: Love & War 1 by Kiiro Yum (library book)
  5. What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly (review copy)
  3. Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs (personal collection)
  4. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (personal collection)
  5. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (personal collection)
  6. My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day (library book)
  7. Watchlist: A Serial Thriller (audio) by Jeffery Deaver (personal collection)
  8. The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare (library book)

Reviews Posted:

  1. And Then There Were Gnomes by Colleen AF Venable (review copy)
  2. Beachcombing by Maggie Dana (personal collection)
  3. Dandelion Fire by ND Wilson (library book)
  4. The Glass Collector by Anna Perera (review copy)
  5. Silent Music by James Rumford (library book)
  6. A Study in Scarlet by Ian Edginton (library book)
  7. Through the Triangle by CP Stewart (review copy)



Comments (34)

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A Study in Scarlet: 05/06/12

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A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Beeton's Christmas Annual. It's been more than 20 years since I first read it but after seeing Moffat's take on it as "A Study in Pink" I wanted to refresh my memory. Ian Edginton's graphic novel version of A Study in Scarlet was a fun way to revisit the original mystery.

This is the story that introduces Dr. Watson, newly returned from Afghanistan, to Sherlock Holmes. Watson is in need of affordable housing and Holmes is in need of a roommate who won't be put off by his odd hours, odd profession and numerous experiments.

Their first case together involves a man who is lying dead in a pool of blood without any sign of trauma. In the blood he has written Rache but where the blood came from and what the German word for revenge has to do with anything has the police stumped.

I didn't have the original text with me to compare editing choices that must have been made but the text and dialog is still recognizably Doyle. The lettering is clear and easy to read. The color pallets tend towards monochrome and sepia, mimicking old style newspapers and photographs.

My only problem with the book is the character design of Sherlock himself. I realize Sherlock is described as tall, with broad shoulders and a strong chin, but the chin drawn on him is bizarre and gawk-worthy. His chin is so long that there's a line drawn on it where his chin should stop to make the facial expressions work, except then the chin extends well on beyond it.

Three stars

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And Then There Were Gnomes: 05/05/12

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And Then There Were Gnomes by Colleen AF Venable is the second book in the Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series. It and the first one were nominated for a Cybils.

In this volume there appears to be a gnome on the loose. The pet shop owner is too clueless to even know what animals he has. So it's up to the guinea pig with the rabbits to figure out what's going on.

I couldn't get into the series. Maybe the problem was the fact that I started with the second book first. I never got the hang of why the pet shop owner is so clueless. The plot is as disjointed as the pet shop owner.

Two stars.

Comments (2)


The Glass Collector: 05/04/12

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The Glass Collector by Anna Perera follows Aaron, a Zabbaleen (Coptic Christian) teen. The Zabbaleens are the garbage collectors of Egypt. They collect it in horse drawn carriages and recycle it and feed the food scraps to their live stock (pigs).

The book opens with Aaron believing he sees the Virgin Mary in in the glass of one of the tourist hotels. That strong opening with a hint of magical realism set up expectations for the direction this novel was going to take. But after that initial sighting, the book settles into a far more mundane routine of collecting garbage, talking about family (the good and bad of it) and thinking about girls.

Aaron begins to steel perfume instead of collecting the empty bottles. Of course his thievery (while completely understandable given his situation) has consequences.

While the descriptions working with garbage and living in extreme poverty are well done, the tone of the book remains flat. There's no ebb and flow to the emotional impact. Aaron does his thing but he never truly comes alive.

Read via NetGalley

Two stars

Comments (2)


Silent Music: 05/03/12

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Silent Music by James Rumford tells the story of Ali who lives in Baghdad, loves loud music and soccer. When the bombings get too scary, he turns to the art of calligraphy, the "silent music" for comfort. His art is inspired by the words of master calligrapher Yakat who lived and worked 800 years ago.

Accompanying the text are intricate illustrations that weave together Ali's calligraphy with pictures from his life and that of Yakat's. It's done in a style evocative of Arabic mosaics. They appear to be multimedia collages but were apparently done in pencil and finished on the computer.

Although it's a picture book, it would best be suited for upper elementary grades. Besides the history and language lessons of Arabic script, the book covers the invasion and bombing of Baghdad. The book could be used in tandem with a social studies or history unit.

Before using the book in class, read the Blogs Burt Lit post. It has an in depth analysis of the book in terms of language, themes, and historical context.

Five stars

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Through the Triangle: 05/02/12

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Through the Triangle by CP Stewart has to be the first Bermuda Triangle story I've read or watched since the "New Jersey Parallelogram" episode of The Real Ghostbusters. Given that the cartoon went off air about twenty or so years ago, it was time.

The book starts like a Clive Cussler mystery, with a man committing murder and stealing his victim's identity. That puts him on board a Florida fishing trip. He has plans to kill them and take the ship but he ends up trapped just like they do in an barely recognizable Florida.

The rest of the book is set in this unusual Florida. It has three acts: investigation of the mystery, discovery of danger, and building a new community. The investigation phase is where the initial world building is done as the passengers come ashore and find ways to survive in the ruins. Like Planet of the Apes there are roadmarks left behind from their present day to help piece together their location and how long they might have been gone.

The danger part gives a heavy nod to H. G. Wells's The Time Machine but with it's own Bermuda Triangle twist. The world has people who have been born there, those who have been living there for some number of months or years from their own trip through the triangle, as well as an evolved form of creature with its own sinister history.

My only complaint is that the last part, the building of a new society from the bits and pieces of a once advanced society fallen into ruin is that it's only a few pages compared to the other two parts. It reads more like a hastily written epilog than a satisfying conclusion.

Four stars.

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Beachcombing: 05/01/12

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Beachcombing by Maggie Dana is a mature romance that spans both sides of the pond and about forty decades. The main character, Jill, is not the typical twenty or thirty-something woman with everything she could dream for except for a good man. Instead, Jill is in her mid to late fifties and is established in her life and career.

Jill grew up in England but made a life for herself and her two sons on a beach in Connecticut. After years of being disconnected from her childhood friends and her first crush she's given an invitation she can't refuse. That trip reunites her with her first love and her life quickly spins out of control for better or worse.

As with the few romances I read the middle section is cluttered with a lot of sex and very little in the way of plot. That said the first and last thirds of the book more than make up for it with good character development, plot twists and believable but interesting situations.

As it is a romance, it has a happy ending. The ending though, came with an unexpected twist. It could be fun to re-read the book to see the actual romance developing subtly in the background.

Five stars

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