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Introduction to Joyous Cooking 200th Anniversary Edition: 06/30/12
I have a small collection of cookbooks, maybe ten. Certainly no more than a dozen. Of that group, there are only three I use on a regular basis: The American Woman cookbook (my grandmother's favorite), Betty Crocker and The Joy of Cooking. The copy of Joy of Cooking I have is old enough to still have the Depression era recipes for cooking things like opossum.
So it was with familiarity and fondness that I dove into Heather Lindsey's story "Introduction to Joyous Cooking 200th Anniversary Edition" in the July / August 2010 FSF issue. The story delighted from the first paragraph and was sadly too short but it was a delightful read.
The book covers through the evolution of recipes the rise and fall of humanity, alien contact and changes in diet as the environment changes and food becomes scarce. It tells as much about the future through showing as the montage of Fry's time in stasis does in the first episode of Futurama.
If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet 06/29/12
Leslie McGuirk spent many years collecting interesting rocks on the Florida coast. The result of those years of searching is If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet.
As this is an alphabet book, each page illustrates some letter from the alphabet. A is for addition, C is for couch potato, N is for nose, S is for seahorse and the like. This book though relies on the found rocks for the letters as well as most of the illustrated items. What's most striking about these photographs is how closely the rocks resemble the real things.
This book is perfect for anyone of any age who loves rock collecting. If my rock obsessed grandmother were still living, I would be giving her a copy of this book for Christmas. Instead, I am reminiscing about her love of rocks (they were everywhere in her house and yard) with my two rock-collecting children.
Navajo ABC 06/28/12
Navajo ABC: A Diné Alphabet Book by Lucy Tapahonso and illustrated by Eleanor Schick is an ABC book that introduces children to the Navajo (Diné táá) culture and to lesser degree, their language.
The book goes through each letter of the alphabet and gives a word that represents a piece of the Navajo Way. Some words are English, some are Spanish and some are Diné bizaad.
What the book gives children is a glimpse of Navajo living, not an introduction to the language. Instead it shows how multi lingual the area is, being influenced by English and Spanish. It's really no different than how a California ABC would probably have a mixture of English, Spanish and maybe even some Chinese or Japanese.
The Z Was Zapped 06/27/12
Sean and I independently both picked The Z Was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg for it's great title. I picked it because Z is my favorite letter of the alphabet. Sean picked it because he wanted to see something get zapped.
The Z Was Zapped is a black and white alphabet book. Although the title starts with Z the book actually begins at the conventional point with A. Each letter gives a stage performance, something related to its self.
While he and I liked the artwork it wasn't quite what we had hoped for. Some of the letter performances are very dark, like the D being drowned.
The Canadian Book Challenge #6: 06/27/12
July 1st is Canada Day and it means the start of the Canadian Book Challenge. It's my favorite of all the book blog challenges. I've been participating since 2009, the year my Canadian niece was born. The goal is to read and review 13 books in that year. For the last challenge I read seven extra books. I hope to match and possibly beat that amount for Challenge 6.
This year was a little different. John Mutford, the host of the challenge had a logo design contest. He wanted:
And so following his instructions I came up with the doughnut eating Mountie in the style of Jeff Lemire. It ended up being the winning entry. Woohoo! But mostly, though, I'm in for the reading!
As always, I'm including last year's completed books in case you want an idea of what to read. Here are 2010-11 and 2009-10 lists.
2011-12 List of Completed Books:
2012-13 List of Completed Books:
ABC Book 06/26/12
ABC Book by CB Falls was published in 1923. It is twenty-six woodcut prints. Unlike modern day ABC books that often have a story with the illustrations, or a central theme, there isn't one here. I suppose these are just words the author / illustrator thought children of the 1920s should know.
The illustrations cover the mundane to the exotic. There is a yak, a jaguar, and a unicorn as well as more common things like a turkey, a horse, and a bear. My all time favorite, though, is C is for cat, featuring a gorgeously rendered calico before a bowl of milk. She has similar spots to my own calico.
The artist behind this gorgeous book is Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960). According to the National Heritage Museum site Falls worked in all sorts of media and industries including posters, book binding, advertising, and furniture.
The book I read was a gorgeous first edition that belongs to the K-12 collection at Holy Names University. It was one of the hundreds of books I cataloged for my fall internship.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 06/25/12
I started off 2010 with a review of Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr. I lamented the confusing nature of this edited book, being drawn from the latter half of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
My daughter had her first Scholastic book order at Kindergarten last Fall. She was adamant that she had to get a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, her favorite book from preschool. As soon as her order came in, she read it to me over lunch.
Until my daughter read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to me, I'd only heard parts of it. I'd heard the first half on Blue's Room and I'd read bits and pieces of the second half in Chicka Chicka ABC but taken apart like that the story lacks the same humor and dramatic timing as the complete book.
The book is about the lowercase letters climbing into a coconut tree one at a time. They all worry if there will be room for them. As Z comes in, they all fall out.
But there's more. There are the adult (or upper case letters) there to clean them up, dry their tears. The book lists all the different bumps and bruises they've had and how they are comforted. It's a charming way to introduce children to upper and lower case letters using familial support to make the connection between the two cases.
What Are You Reading: June 25, 2012: 06/24/12
This week's list of finished books contains one more of the road trip audio books. Mostly though, it was a week of pushing through books I wasn't truly enjoying. It was also a week of getting my husband ready for his business trip and ridding the house of fleas. We haven't had fleas in the house in over a decade but the stray kitten we welcomed into the family last September brought a few friends. The summer heat resulted in a population explosion that had to be dealt with ASAP.
My favorite read last week was Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 1 by Kanata Konami. It's the first in a manga series about a little kitten who is separated from her litter and is adopted by a family with a toddler. The toddler and the kitten have many of the same things to learn. Since we just went through the fun of raising a kitten — with my youngest helping a great deal, the book was perfect.
The runner up was A State of Change by Laura Cunningham. The author is also an artist who specializes in historical landscapes. By historical, I mean, predevelopment. She researches the flora and fauna and the original land formations and then brings them to life on canvas. The book includes discussion of her research methods, discussions of the different species she has researched and the ways in which the landscape has changed.
My goal this week is to finish The Bride's Kimono by Sujata Massey and maybe f2m by Hazel Edwards. Then I plan to start Once in a Lifetime by Cathy Kelly and A Timely Vision by Joyce and Jim Lavene.
What about you?
One Boy 06/24/12
One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a counting book that also promotes early reading skills through the use of cutouts. A young boy, the "one boy... alone" makes a series of pictures for the numbers two through ten.
Like the one is revealed through the hole to actually be part of the word "alone" the other counting words are parts of larger words.
At the counting up stage, the pictures seem unrelated except for the conceits of the book: the counting and the cutouts. As the book unwinds, though, it ends with "one boy... all done." Turning the page to reveal the "done" shows how the pictures all relate to each other.
For a child just beginning to read, it's a great starter. It takes something familiar — counting books — and uses it to build reading confidence. For children comfortably in the easy reader stage, it's a fun, quick read. It can also be used for story time to teach numbers.
Perfect Square 06/23/12
I spotted Perfect Square by Michael Hall on the new picture book shelf at the library. It has a fetching red cover with a big white grin and a multicolored title. The book is about a square who transforms itself each day into something beautiful after being somehow deconstructed.
The square is first cut up and holes punched out of its shape. It rearranges those pieces into a decorative fountain, using the circles as drops of water. A couple birds are drawn on in black line art to complete the effect. Other things created from the square include a garden, a park, a bridge and a mountain.
After a week of learning to enjoy and anticipate new chances to build something beautiful from its remains, the square is left alone. Instead of being happy to be left intact, its disappointed. So rather than mope, the square finds something it can still be while still being a square.
While I checked out the book for my artistically inclined preschooler, my 4th grade son was the one who immediately took a liking to it. I'm thinking of getting him some colorful origami paper so he can make his own square scenes.
Monkey Food: 06/22/12
Monkey Food by Ellen Forney is the omnibus of her 1990s comic, "I Was Seven in '75." As a child of the 1970s I was drawn in both by the title and the cover art.
Ellen's strips are autobiographical snippets of her very liberal childhood. Most of what she covers is a mixture of what her parents did (smoke pot), what they did as a family (go to a nudist camp), and what she did alone (read Judy Blume). There are also fashion tips and other oddities about life in the 1970s.
Although Forney was a child and she's depicting her childhood memories, the language and situations are taken from an adult point of view. Nothing is glossed over, which can lead to embarrassing situations. In my case, I realized during the nudist camp section that my daughter was reading over my shoulder.
It was fun to compare her experiences with my own. Hers were a bit more extreme than mine, but I did have friends who had parents like hers.
Mio, My Son: 06/21/12
Sometimes my book reviews require some story telling as set up. This is one of these posts. Scroll down if you don't want to wallow in my nostalgia.
When I was a child I wanted to be Pipi Longstocking's next door neighbor. I figured I wasn't cool enough or strong enough to live on my own, eat nails and carry a horse with my bare hands but I sure wanted a friend who could! I read everyone of Astrid Lindgren's Pipi books and watched all the poorly dubbed movies more times than I can count.
But somehow I never wondered if Astrid Lindgren had ever written anything else. That is until I was in graduate school and one of my classmates was Swedish. She was a huge fan of Lindgren and had grown up reading all of her books.
Now it's 15 years later and I'm finally making the effort to read her other books.
The first one I picked was Mio, My Son. It begins like so many children's fantasy novels do, with an orphan, Karl Anders Nilsson, wondering about his real parents. Karl, like, Pipi, isn't really an orphan; he's just been separated from his father by extraordinary circumstances.
Then one day he gets the chance to be reunited, being taken to Farawayland by a genie. There the boy learns his name is actually Mio and he settles into his new life.
If had one complaint about Mio, My Son, is the ease at which he adapts to a new life, a new (to him) father, new duties and a new name. But, that seems to be Lindgren's style. Pipi's adventures are always rather matter-of-fact. There's no logical reason for me to expect different rules or behavior for Mio's world than Pipi's and yet part of me does.
That said, it's a quick read with lots of heart.
Other sites of interest:
The Road to Oz 06/20/12
The Road to Oz by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Kevin Hawekes is a nonfiction picture book biography of L. Frank Baum. The book covers highlights of Baum's childhood, early adulthood and the events that lead up to him writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Kevin Hawkes's acrylic paintings bring together the Victorian era and the motifs of Baum's Oz books. Artistically the paintings try to show the real world inspirations for Baum's fantasies.
Thematically the book is about the struggles of doing something you love and the responsibilities of providing for a family. I've seen it with my own family and I'm going through that now as I transition careers.
What's missing though is a sense of cohesion. As it's a picture book there's not much time spent on any particular time of Baum's life. It's mostly a sampling of his life.
If I had to point to one early childhood favorite who sparked a passion for books, art and poetry, the answer is easy: Remy Charlip. The other day I stumbled upon one of the books from my childhood that I had somehow missed, Thirteen by Remy Charlip and illustrated by Jerry Joyner.
Thirteen is thirteen stories told in one hundred and sixty-nine pictures. There are some with words but mostly it's just pictures. The stories are related but how they relates takes a page or so to figure out. It's one to read forwards and backwards as everything clicks into place.
The artwork is in the style of Arm in Arm, my all time favorite Charlip book. The soft pastel shapes blend and mix and change from one thing to another, while others tell apparently straightforward silent stories. One is just a two word comic of the prince endlessly trying on the remaining slipper as the woman replies, "Doesn't fit." All these things come to conclusions that either require a leap of faith or a sense of humor.
Fans of David Wiesner or Brian Selznick should check out Remy Charlip's books.
Blackout by Connie Willis: 06/18/12
Blackout by Connie Willis is another of her Oxford time travel books. It has a sequel, All Clear. While not as silly as To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout is more lighthearted than Doomsday Book.
Three Oxford researchers in 2060 are preparing for their trips back to WWII. Time travel works like the old days of scheduling time on the supercomputer. Time is precious and limited in the Net and budget cuts are making access to it even more tenuous.
The rescheduling of launch times and the need to scramble to prepare sets the tone for this book. Going unprepared to the past, combined with the dreaded time slip, gives each of the three researchers an impossible task — conduct the research and make it to their pick up location at the agreed up on date.
Blackout is the longest and most complex of the Oxford time travel stories. There are some slow bits and some incorrect details — I still found it a compelling read. I think it helps to have an understanding of how academic research works — and how it is often affected (for better or worse) by budgetary concerns.
What Are You Reading: June 18, 2012: 06/17/12
This week's list of finished books is a little longer because the family and I drove down to Southern California to see our family. My sister-in-law and her daughter were visiting from Canada so it was our only chance to see them! All that driving, though, means lots of time to listen to audio books.
My favorite read last week was Body and Soul by Stacey Kade. It's the last of the Ghost and the Goth series. The most memorable, book, though goes to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which I listened to on audio.
My oddest read, though, is Fairest by Gail Carson Levine. I started reading it in hardback but I knew my kids would like it, so we also listened to it in the car. The Full Cast Audio version adds in all the alluded to music (presented in the book as poetry). The audio, therefore is more dramatic to listen to than the book is to read, but it also takes longer!
My goal this week is to finish Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey and Mary's Rainbow by Mary Hughes Clementia. After that I'll finish Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett and whatever's next in my NetGalley queue.
What about you?
Mark Tidd in the Backwoods: 06/17/12
Mark Tidd in the Backwoods by Clarence Budington Kelland is the sequel to Mark Tidd, His Adventures and Strategies. It's also his third novel out of a long career of more than 60 novels and numerous short stories.
Mark Tidd, though the titular character for a series that includes nine books and three serializations, is not the narrator. That honor goes to a boy nicknamed Biddey.
In this one, Biddey is invited to spend the summer with his eccentric uncle and he can bring along his best friends. So Biddey, Mark and a couple other boys take the train and head out to the countryside for a summer of adventure.
As is the norm for teen adventure books, the boys quickly discover a plot aimed against the uncle to bilk him out of some valuable but forgotten property. The villains seeing the boys as a threat to their con, go to incredible measures to scare the boys off or keep them out of the way long enough to run the con.
As this book is aimed at a much younger audience than the later Kelland books I've read, the emphasis is on adventure, danger and cliff hangers, to the determent of plot and character development.
The book is also more dialect heavy than other Kelland books I've read — although all of them have had some dialect written in. As I'm not much of a fan of phonetic dialect writing, I found the inclusion an unfortunate distraction.
So while it's not my favorite Kelland book I've read, I still am glad I found a copy and had a chance to read one of his earliest works!
Other sites of interest:
The Window of Time: 06/16/12
"The Window of Time" by Richard Matheson was reprinted for the September / October 2010 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It's a bittersweet nostalgic walk through one's life. It was written when Matheson was a young man and now sixty years later, it takes on different meaning perhaps.
An old man goes to a retirement home but gets restless. He decides to play hooky from his new situation. Instead of just walking out the front door, and thus admitting that he's unhappy, he sneaks out the window like he would have done as a child. He finds himself on the block he lived on many years ago and begins to experience moments from his past.
The story, though, isn't a chance to change things for the better. He can watch. He can chat with people. But he can't make changes. He can't undo his decisions or convince his younger self to make new ones.
I liked the story. It was mostly a mood piece and reminded favorably of "Unpossible" by Daryl Gregory.
The Night Fairy: 06/15/12
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Angela Barrett begins with Flory, a young night fairy, losing her wings. She's left vulnerable to whatever predators might be interested in her.
In order to survive, Flory needs to adapt. The first thing she must do is learn how to be a day fairy. This part reminded me of Yvaine from Neil Gaiman's Stardust being kept awake by Tristran after she falls to Earth. Both characters show their strength and ingenuity through how they adapt, although neither does it with much happiness.
Flory though isn't alone. She's in a garden full of different creatures. Most of the book is how she comes to know her new garden home and the other animals that live there. Schlitz descriptions and characterizations of the other animals has a similar naturalism to the cats in The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George.
Angela Bartlett's beautiful illustrations make The Night Fairy something special. They are the right blend of realism and fantasy. They bring forth the creatures' personalities while still making them recognizable backyard creatures.
From a Changeling Star: 06/14/12
From a Changeling Star by Jeffrey A. Carver is a mystery in a science fiction setting. It opens with Willard Ruskin running for his life, dying and coming to, with no memory of what has happened to him.
As Ruskin recovers physically and pieces together the facts of his life, he uncovers his involvement in a huge project to observe Betelgeuse going supernova. Somewhere along the way, Ruskin uncovers evidence of sabotage.
The novel has a great, dramatic start. The overall plot is something right out of Hitchcock if he were to have written science fiction.
Unfortunately the book is padded with extensive blackouts by Ruskin as he fights the nanobots he's been infected with. The nanobot mystery competes to heavily with the sabotage mystery. For me it made the book too confusing and disjointed.
Imagine a Place: 06/13/12
After my kids and I read Imagine a Place by Sarah L. Thomson and Rob Gonsalves. Since then we've been wanting to read their other collaborations. Gonsalves is a Canadian artist specializing in surrealistic paintings. Sarah L. Thomson writes short poems to describe his paintings and each book is centered on a theme.
Imagine a Night is themed around nighttime: sleep, snow, winter, candle light and similar. There are blankets of snow that become beds. Moon lit shapes become people (a woman walking from the water and a row of monks). Homes allow the outside in, such as a toy train becoming a real train and a forest growing out of the floor boards.
When we read the book together, we would stop to examine the painting. We were looking for how the words captured the painting. Then we looked at what was "off" about the painting, that point where one thing blends into another.
The endnotes have all the titles of the paintings. We stopped to read each title. Then we discussed the titles. We talked about the titles' meanings and whether or not they were a good fit for the painting.
The Blessing Way: 06/12/12
I have been collecting the Navajo Mysteries by Tony Hillerman since I first read Talking God in college. The early Hillerman books contain a lot ethnographic observations on Diné culture and language. So much, so, that they were used as required reading for a non-western art class I took as a freshman.
Although the books stand by themselves and can be read out of order, I've decided to go back and read the series in order, filling in the ones I've missed.
The series opened with The Blessing Way, published in 1970. The cold war is still going strong, so is the Vietnam War. There are no cellphones, making the quarter million miles of wilderness that is the Navajo Nation a very remote location even though it sits within Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
For fans of the later books, the older cop, younger cop dynamic is missing. There's no Jim Chee to get under Joe Leaphorn's skin. Instead, there's what I can guess is an attempt at an authorial insert in the form of a belagaana professor who specializes in Navajo culture. He gives an expert but decidedly outsider's observations.
The problem though, is Dr. Bergen McKee, as an outsider doesn't have the same motivations to solve the murder as Joe Leaphorn does. And although he may know some of the different Sings, he's not actually studying them to perform them as Jim Chee tries in Talking God.
But the grains of what will be in later novels is here. There are thoughts on Navajo beliefs and motivations and questions about what would make someone break from form. Differences in Navajo subcultures are discussed but not fleshed out as they will be in later books.
Despite the discrepancies, some very dated material, as well as a somewhat clunkier writing style, I still enjoyed the book. I listened to an audio version performed by George Guidall. He had the perfect voice for the mystery and brought all the characters to life. I enjoyed his work so much I plan to listen to book three, Listening Woman, on CD as well.
Twin Spica, Volume 05: 06/11/12
Twin Spica Volume 05 by Kou Yaginuma has two plot threads: a three day training challenge and puppy love friends, past and present. Asumi and her classmates are about to start their second year but they have one last test.
The book starts with a present day friendship brewing between Asumi and an orphan boy who shares her love of outer space. He was orphaned by the Lion crash and feels compelled to act as if he's anti space exploration, even though he secretly loves rockets.
Their friendship is paralleled with a flashback romance between Mr. Lion and the mother (?) of the ill rich girl. It explains the girl's love of space and gives insight to how frail she might actually be.
Mostly though the book is about survival training. The kids are dropped into the forest and have only a few days to figure out where they are and find their way to the rendezvous. Although it isn't stated outright, it's implied that if they don't make it by the deadline, they won't make it to the next year of school.
The book ends casting doubt on whether Asumi will be able to get to the finish line in time.
What Are You Reading: June 11, 2012: 06/10/12
Yesterday I celebrated my 25th year of keeping a list of everything I've ever read. If you're curious, I'm up to 6253 total and 553 things read in the last year.
My favorite read last week was Swahili for the Broken-Hearted by Peter Moore. It's a memoir of his trip from South Africa to Egypt and all the interesting people he met along the way.
I've finished The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams. I think this collection would be best read, rather than listened to. The performances just aren't compelling enough to make a 21 hour audio book worth the effort.
My goal this week is to finish Body and Soul by Stacey Kade and start f2m by Hazel Edwards. I might also finish The Moffats by Eleanor Estes.
What about you?
Snowmen at Night 06/10/12
Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner is the first book in a series of picture books about the adventures snowmen have when no one is looking. The other two are Snowmen at Christmas and Snowmen All Year.
This book looks at what they do on those cold snowy nights when everyone else is tucked in warm beds asleep. The snowmen gather for races, ice cold coco and all number of other games.
The picture book story is cute and similar to the wordless classic, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. What sets it apart, though, is the inclusion of a subtle eye spy game. At the back of the book there's a list of four items hidden on all the pages. The items are the same on each page but level of difficulty in finding them varies wildly, making it fun and challenging.
Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings 06/09/12
For the astronomy project I was required to include one book of poetry. I chose Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian. Along with the poetry, it has delightful collage style illustrations.
It covers the solar system with a poem per planet. Pluto's poem tells how it has been "fired" or re-classed as a dwarf planet. The other minor plants have their own page. After finishing with Pluto it has a poem about comets, one about the constellations, one for black holes and finally one for the universe in general.
To further tie everything together some of the pages are die cut to allow a circular piece of the next illustration through. So what will appear to be a planet with star shaped continents will end up being part of the night time sky, and so forth.
Twenty-Five Years of Reading: 06/09/12
Twenty-five years ago I realized I couldn't remember the titles of books I had enjoyed. The one that sent me over the edge was The Active Enzyme, Lemon Freshened Junior High School Witch. Since I didn't want to forget any more titles, I began keeping a handwritten list of every thing I've read: books and short stories. As college undergraduate I also included all the academic articles I had to read because I felt like all my fun time reading was being away by the assigned reading. Now that I'm older, I don't include the articles but everything else still goes into there.
The most I've ever managed to read was back in 2009-10. It was the first year after losing my job as a web producer. I hadn't started library school yet, so I had a lot of time on my hands. I read to keep myself sane during the unfruitful and frustrating job search.
Now, though, I'm slowing down. Part of that is due to school work (now finished) and part is due to spending more time on longer books. My youngest is now able to read to herself so I'm not reading as many picture books any longer. Sure, she still likes to hop on my lap for a story here and there but it's not the three or four books a day routine that we had going for a while.
You'll notice that in my month by month chart, I include June twice. That's because my calendar year for this list runs from June 9th-June 8th. So The first June on the chart is last year's set. Back then I was still reading to my daughter on a regular basis, so there's a huge jump there.
The frustrating thing, though, about reading so much while running a book blog is that I just can't possibly review each and every book in real time. I used to try that back in 2006-8. It was frustrating and resulted in poorly written reviews. Now, though, I've restricted myself to only one review per day. So if I read more than 365 books in a year, some of those books will have be left out of the reviews. Also, I keep two lists: one of reviews I still need to write and another list of reviews I've written but haven't had the time to post. I currently have enough reviews to last me to about April of next year! I also have my review posting roughly scheduled through to about mid November. Of course the order of reviews can (and probably will) change as I read more and write more reviews.
Also Known as Rowan Pohi: 06/08/12
Also Known as Rowan Pohi is a new YA by long time author Ralph Fletcher. My son's been recommending his books to me for about a year now, so I jumped at the change to read his newest.
Rowan Pohi reads like the YA version of I Am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. I say that fondly as both are great stories of self acceptance and self improvement. Joey Pigza which is aimed at a slightly younger set of readers is a more light hearted take, while Also Known at Rowan Pohi pulls fewer punches.
Bobby Steele, Marcus and Big Poobs spend their free time at IHOP. It is there that they make up Rowan Pohi and apply to the local private high school in his name. When Rowan is accepted, the three friends decide they must kill him off before things get any farther out of hand. Except, Bobby sees Rowan as a chance to escape from his current underfunded, crappy public high school. He can reinvent himself.
Again like Joey, Bobby comes from a broken family. Here though, it's him, his much younger brother and their father, who a couple years back burned their mother with an iron. The fact that she left her children with the man who had sent her to the hospital and forever scarred her, is the one detail that leaves me scratching my head. It also put me on edge for the remainder of the book, afraid that Bobby's alternate life as Rowan Pohi would send his father over the edge again.
Although the set up of Also Known as Rowan Pohi is a bit goofy, it plays out well. There's a chance for a smart kid to better himself but there are also consequences for his deception.
Read via NetGalley
Gemini Bites: 06/07/12
I read Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan because I had enjoyed In Mike We Trust. Plus the vampire love triangle parody caught my attention.
Although it's a short book, there's a lot going on. In all honesty, there's probably too much going on. First there is the long time rivalry between fraternal twins Judy and Kyle Renneker. In the last few years Judy's taunting has turned cruel. Kyle has recently come out to his parents and best (and also gay) friend. Judy, meanwhile is pretending to find religion so she can chase the hot boy. Finally, there is Garrett, the dark and moody Goth who is coming to live with the already crowded Renneker family for the last month of school. And if you believe the rumor mill, he might be a vampire.
To further complicate things, the book is narrated in the alternating voices of Judy and Kyle. Judy, though, is such a nasty, shallow and self-centered character that I cringed every time her chapters came up. She does, though, grow as a character but early on she is a distraction from Kyle's more interesting and sympathetic half of the book.
While Kyle isn't in a relationship, he has been sexually active. There's a similar frankness about teenage sexuality as in Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys.
Despite the crowded plot, the book is a page turner. I enjoyed it but I thought it could have been tighter and more focused.
Dying for Chocolate: 06/06/12
Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson is the second of the Goldy culinary mystery series. As with the others, I listened to the Barbara Rosenblat audio. Unfortunately for the earliest books (except for the first) the CD audios are all abridged. My library offers it for download through Oneclick but those bastards put a non-Mac friendly DRM on it. So I ended up having to buy a digital copy from iTunes as I will probably have to do for book three.
In this book, Goldy and Arch have moved from their previous home to escape the ever abusive ex-husband. Goldy for room and board is cooking and answering phones in a massive home. Meanwhile Arch is attending summer school at the local private academy along with a petulant, mohawk sporting Julian.
Things go horribly wrong with the death of Philip Miller. It's a rather gruesome description of how he dies. Goldy is understandably distraught. Interestingly, though, her feelings for him change as she learns more about him.
Besides Miller's death, Goldy has a competing caterer complaining that she has stolen their name, a newspaper reviewer dubbed "Pierre" who is writing nothing but negative reviews of her food, and Arch bugging her to have a magic show swim party.
Although I've figured out other mysteries in this series, I didn't this time. It had the right amount of herrings to keep me confused and interested.
I also must admit that I have a complete and utter literary crush on Julian.
Keeping You a Secret: 06/05/12
Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters is a lesbian coming of age romance. Holland lives with her mother, stepfather and much younger half brother whom she is helping to raise. Her life is turned upside down by two young women: Faith, her stepfather's Goth daughter and CeCe, an out and outgoing girl, who transfers to her high school.
Most of Holland's troubles come from her manipulative, erratic and slap deserving mother. The mother, fearing her daughter will make the same mistakes she did (get pregnant in high school). But the same mother, feeling like her life ended when she got pregnant is trying to live vicariously through Holland by orchestrating every minute of her life.
What isn't on mother dear's agenda is her daughter falling in love with CeCe. Peters shows how quickly things can spiral out of control when a parents' bigotry gets in the way of anything else. Like nearly one in four out gay teens in America, Holland quickly finds herself homeless — with even the locks on the door changed to prevent her from getting her things!
My only quibble with the book is my standard one, the set up. With most of the LGBT YA books I've read, the main character is so often shown as having a long, steady relationship with a popular teen of the opposite sex before BAM! the new kid who is of the same sex comes and is too alluring to resist. I don't know if it's to cover the bases by hinting the main character is bisexual without actually having to write about bisexuality or if it's to show that even popular kids can be members of the LGBT community. Whatever the reasons, it's a trope that is rapidly becoming cliché.
The Lost Hero: 06/04/12
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is the fist of the The Heroes of Olympus series. It opens with Jason waking up on a bus, presumably on a field trip, with no memory of how he got there.
Jason's day only gets stranger as wind spirits attack and he's soon whisked away to Camp Half Blood. He is as much a mystery to them as his missing memory is to him. His identity, though, is wrapped up in the disappearance of Percy Jackson and the kidnapping of a Goddess.
The Heroes of Olympus series introduces the Roman aspects of Greco/Roman mythology. In school the two mythologies often times get mixed together into a single summary of gods, goddesses and heroes. Riordan, though, pulls the two apart and shows with stark detail how a god with two different names has to play by two very different sets of rules depending on which name he's invoked by.
The most fun, though, for me was trying to figure out where the Roman twin to Camp Half Blood is. It's described in great detail as being in the Bay Area. As I live in the East Bay, not too far from the area described, I spent about an hour pin pointing different possible locations for the other camp.
I will have to wait until I read Son of Neptune to see if I'm right about the location. I do have the book on hand, I just need to make time to read it off my to be read pile.
What Are You Reading: June 04, 2012: 06/03/12
Here it is a normal Sunday, meaning I have the time and energy to write this post early! My favorite read last week was Emily the Strange: Dark Times by Rob Reger.
I am still listening to The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams. I didn't make much progress last week because my husband is mostly on summer break (except for a night class he's teaching). That means I'm chauffeuring him around. While I love the company, our conversations are getting in the way of my Sherlock Holmes audio time.
My goal this week is to finish In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente and get start on the sequel.
What about you?
Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend: 06/03/12
Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend by Carrie Jones follows a week in Belle's life as she recovers from the news that her boyfriend, Dylan, is gay.
Belle's transition from sadness, anger to reluctant acceptance relies heavily on music. The book is written in diary form. It's written in a raw, emotional and sometimes rambling fashion.
There's also a lot of repetition. Dylan, the ex, does follow a few stereotypes but he has enough non-stereotype aspects to his personality that I let the other parts slide. Gay men are as diverse a group as any other and some of them do fall into the stereotypes either by accident or by choice.
Annie on my Mind: 06/02/12
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden is number 42 on the list of the most banned / challenged books and according to the description on the 1992 reissue, it was even burned in Kansas City. For all of that publicity, it's an absolutely charming story of love.
The book opens with Liza in college writing a lengthy letter to Annie. The letter is the segue into a number of flashbacks about how Liza and Annie met. Just as Claudia (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg) finds herself through her adventures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Liza finds Annie.
Although both young ladies are in high school, they like to partake in roll playing and other childish behavior. While it may strike some readers as quaint or unrealistic, it struck a chord with me. My then boyfriend (now husband) once pretended to be Robin Hood to woo me. We were in college at the time — only a year or two removed from Liza and Annie.
As far as the romance goes, it's a pretty tame book. There's one mostly hinted at scene near the end. What is more shocking and saddening (because of its continued timeliness in some parts of the country) is the bigotry Liza faces at her private school.
I read the novel on a BART ride to and from San Francisco. It made an hour and a half round trip journey go by quickly. I plan to check out more of Nancy Garden's novels as I have time.
Recommended by Smells Like Library
The Monster Princess 06/01/12
The Monster Princess by DJ MacHale and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger is a picture book that appeals to both my princess loving daughter and my monster loving son. Lala, is a talented Rugabee. She, though, is disatisfied with her life underground, especially when there is a castle full of princesses so near by.
So Lala decides to become a princess. She manages to convince the princesses to help her. She's loaned a dress and invited to the ball. She, though, hasn't had enough practice dressing in such fancy attire and things don't go well for her.
Although the ball isn't a success, Lala manages to get herself together and redeem herself. She's able to put her unique skills to use to save the princesses and find her place.
Alexandra Boiger's illustrations are really cute. Lala is an adorable monster child. Her underground home, while not Lala's favorite, still is homey and inviting.
Recommended by This Purple Crayon