Twitter Tumblr FlickrFacebookContact me
This Month Previous Articles Author Title Source Age Genre Series Format Inclusivity LGBTA Portfolio

September 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



 

Zen Ties: 09/30/12

 cover art (Muthk goes to Powells)Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth is the sequel to Zen Shorts. Stillwater helps Michael prepare for his spelling bee while teaching the neighborhood children the importance of perspective.

The book opens with a visit from Stillwater's nephew, Koo, who speaks only in haiku. Stillwater has offered to help a neighbor who is feeling poorly. He invites the children along to help. Although they go, they are reluctant, believing the neighbor is too grumpy to want them visiting. It turns out she is a retired English teacher. She ends up being both a new friend and the perfect person to help Michael.

Zen Ties like Zen Shorts is a very quiet book. It's also as many of the reviews have noted, "deceptively simple." On the surface the story's just about preparing for a spelling bee, meeting a nephew and helping out a neighbor. But each of these scenes are lessens that can be expanded through conversation in the classroom.

Four stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


There Are Cats in this Book: 09/29/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)While writing my wishlist post for There Are No Cats in this Book, I realized I hadn't written about the previous book: There Are Cats in this Book by Viviane Schwarz.

The inviting red cover sports the ears and eyes of three cats: a red one, a yellow one and a blue one. Inside the book there are flaps to move to reveal the cats.

The cats address the reader directly. There are parts in the book where the children are encouraged to do something to make the story progress. This sort of one on one was a hit with both of my children.

As the flaps are paper and not reinforced cardboard, I recommend saving the book for ages three and up.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There: 09/28/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M Valente is the sequel to the similarly long-titled The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It is also very much an homage to Dorothy's second trip to Oz (and the 4th book in the series), Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.

Whereas Alice first gets to fairyland through falling down an impossibly deep hole, Dorothy and September save this method of travel for their return trip. For Dorothy, it's a giant California earthquake (quite possibly the 1906 San Francisco quake). For September, the trip downwards takes the form of an elevator — but not with the underworld / Hades overtones as The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. So although September is essentially exploring / questing through the land below Fairyland, there still remains that odd combination of magic and technology (much in the way that the Land of Oz embraces and brings to life the commonplace technology of the early 1900s)

Dorothy's second journey to Oz is as unexpected as the first, but September goes willingly. She has been waiting anxiously for an entire year to return. Dorothy's time away from Oz is never fully outlined, but it was long enough for her and her aunt and uncle to travel to Australia (Oz of our world). It is on their landing in California for the trip home that she and her cousin, Zeb, are plummeted beneath Oz via the earthquake.

It is September's desire to revisit Fairyland and upon arrival, fix the broken pieces of it (caused, perhaps by her own hand) that sets her apart from either early Dorothy (before she campaigns to move herself and her family to Oz on a permanent basis) and Alice. Alice and Dorothy both focus on seeking a way home — even if for Alice she must be moved through the land like a pawn on a chessboard.

September has a greater sense of purpose and a stronger free will than her earlier fantasy counterparts. It is her strength of character that gives the Valente's Fairyland books an adult appeal to them, even though these darker themes will probably go over the heads of most of the series's younger readers. THIS IS A GOOD THING. The books will grow with their audience on subsequent re-reads.

I have been cagey about describing specific characters or specific scenes. I don't want to spoil anything. I also don't want to give false expectations. Yes — September's friends are there. But her visit isn't a rehash of her previous adventures (although a pair of crows do follow a familiar route). Instead, it's an exploration of uncharted (for us as readers) areas and the meeting of new characters. Without getting too spoilerly, let me just sign off by saying the last quarter of the book took my high expectations (which I'd felt had already been satisfactorily met), and thrown them out the window, resulting in many squeals of joy and thrusting of the ARC into the hands of kith and kin so that I'd have someone to talk about the book with.

I have, by the way, pre-ordered an audio copy of the book and will later buy a hardback copy so I can have all the glorious illustrations. The ARC I will continue to share with my book club friends.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


The Phatom Limb: 09/27/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Phatom Limb by by William Sleator and Ann Monticone is about a boy trying to adjust to a new life brought on by his mother's prolonged illness and the move to a new school, where he is the target of a bully.

Isaac lives with his grandfather while his mother is at the nearby hospital. To take away some of the sting of being the odd man out at the new school, Isaac has started collecting optical illusions. His newest acquisition is a mirror box, a device designed to help amputees deal with phantom limb syndrome.

Although Isaac should be able to control the reflected limb in the box, the limb appears to have a mind of its own. Soon Isaac realizes that the mirror limb belongs to someone else and the box is their way of communicating! The boy in the mirror box knows things about Vera's illness — things that could be a matter of life or death!

The events in The Phantom Limb require a similar amount of suspended disbelief as the old Goosebumps series. There are leaps in logic and some pacing issues, especially in the last third.

This collaboration is the last of Sleator's novels. He passed away in August 2011, three months before the book's release. Some of the book's feeling of incompleteness might stem from his death. The Phantom Limb has a unique premise but it just doesn't quite come together.

Read via NetGalley

Three stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Yesterday: 09/26/12

Yesterday cover art (Link goes to Powells)Yesterday by CK Kelly Martin is a YA science fiction that's part dystopia and part time travel. Freya wakes up in 1985 after escaping from something awful in the "not to distant future" (with apologies to MST3K). Except, 1985 Freya has no memory of what she has escaped from, believing instead that she and her mother and sister have recently moved to Canada after her father's accidental death.

What begins, thus, as a high action, in media res, dystopian science fiction, settles into being a rather drab YA angst fest set in 1985 — I suppose for the adult women who are feeling nostalgic and like to read YA fiction. Sure, I fit that bill and yes, I can assert that the details are convincing for it being 1985 but I'm not sure how all this attention to detail is going to play with the intended readership. I'm not saying that today's teens can't or won't get something from reading books published in previous decades but this book reads like nostalgia — and not a period piece. And it's nostalgia for a decade that was over for years before today's teen readers were even born.

Eventually, though, Freya begins to get her memory back. She sees a boy she thinks she recognizes — Garren. After stalking him until he's forced to give in to her craziness, they realize that something is, in fact, amiss with the stories they've both been told. This realization finally heralds the return of the long missing action.

But wait, there's more! Two thirds of the way through the book, when things should be moving towards either a resolution or the set up for a cliffhanger, Yesterday goes into info-dump mode. Rather than being filtered through Freya's point of view (as the rest of the plot before and since), the narration moves into third person omniscient and we are given pages and pages and pages and pages and pages (yawn) of the history between 1985 and the future year that Freya and Garren are from. After that were told why people are sent back in time and Freya and Garren have to decide wether or not they want to play along with their newly assigned roles.

Up until this point, I really expected 1985 to be some sort of Matrix-style simulation. There are parts where Freya and Garren are too easily found and their piece of Canada seems much too small and much to simplistic to be the real thing. Time travel, though, for me, doesn't fit.

For better versions of the same story I recommend:

  • "Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo" from season 2 of Phineas and Ferb
  • Back to the Future II
  • Meanwhile by Jason Shiga (a CYBILs winner)

Other posts and reviews:

CEC Reads

| | |

Comments (2)

Permalink


The Damned Highway: 09/25/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Damned Highway by by Nick Mamatas and Brian Keene mixes together Hunter S. Thompson, H. P. Lovecraft's monsters and Watergate. Thompson, reeling from his unintended fame from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas gets caught up in a plot that involves the invasion of monsters that hinges on the re-election of Richard Nixon.

The book is written in first person, with Thompson as the narrator. His first person observations are written in a voice that wobbles between something similar to Thompson's actual writing style and Lovecraft's Gothic horror.

For me, Thompson's voice seemed forced. It didn't flow. There was too much emphasis on making it as wacky and moody as possible. There wasn't any room for Thompson to take a breadth — or the reader.

Maybe a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Call of Cthulu mashup would have worked. Tossing in Richard Nixon, though, was a distraction. It was one element too many.

Read via NetGalley

Two stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Inside Out: 09/24/12

 cover art (Snyderk goes to Powells)Inside Out by Maria V Snyder is dystopian social commentary in a similar vein to 1984 by George Orwell, Fritz Lang's Metropolis and the recently published Worldshaker by Richard Harland. They are all closed, heavily controlled societies where everyone has their place for better or worse.

What sets Inside Out apart from the other closed society dystopians I've mentioned is that it's told from the point of view of the lowest members of society. So often these stories begin in a privileged position, with a character who can't believe things are as bad as the rumors say. He then gets a chance to set himself apart from his peers by actually going amongst the lowest caste and after living their experience first hand, going home to make things better for them.

Trella, though, and her peers, are the lowest members of society. Her perspective gives an appropriately inside-out view of oppression. Furthermore, by making her female, there's another layer of scrutiny on privilege, specifically, male privilege.

The protagonist, Trella is a scrub. She cleans the things that keep the world functioning. The pipes connect all the levels together and are the one thing uniting the Uppers and Lowers.

Trella, though, gets a chance to rebel and learn the truth behind their society. She is brought together with a rebellious Upper who reminds me of Freder, the male lead from Metropolis. A tenuous romance does spark between them but it's secondary to their desire to protect the Broken Man and uncover long buried secrets.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (2)

Permalink


What Are You Reading: September 24, 2012: 09/23/12

What Are You Reading?My favorite book last week was Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. Princess Celie, her brother and sister have to save the kingdom when their parents are attacked and presumed dead. It's an interesting mix of castle politics and magic, presented at a level that tweens can sink their teeth into. What makes this book even more special is the fact that the castle is a sentient creature and can change itself to suit the needs of the royal family (as well as its own whims). There's a sequel coming out next year called Wednesdays in the Tower and I can't wait to read it.

I also had fun re-reading (for the third time) Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This time I listened to the audio performed by Barbara Rosenblat. I am planning to re-read the series on audio on my commute.

This week I'd like to finish My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek — which is a fun and mind bending bit of meta fiction. It reminds me both of 1Q84 (which I am still slowly reading) and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

I also plan to finish the delightful audio, Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. After that I'll The Serpent of Shadows which I didn't get to last week (or the week before).

What about you?

Finished:

  1. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (library book)
  2. El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans (review copy)
  3. Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde by Bill Nichols (library book)
  4. Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus (library book)
  5. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (personal collection)
  6. Whad'ya Know? by Michael Feldman (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Comfort & Joy by Jim Grimsley (library book)
  3. Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline W. Smith (review copy)
  4. How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  5. Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  6. My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek (library book)
  7. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (personal collection)
  8. Twenties Girl (audio) by Sophie Kinsella (library book)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Dot by Patricia Intriago (library book)
  2. Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos by Ed Emberley (personal collection)
  3. Fire and Flood by Emily Diamand (library book)
  4. Four Valentines in a Rainstorm by Felicia Bond (library book)
  5. Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson and Rob Gonsalves (library book)
  6. Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst (library book)
  7. Worldshaker by Richard Harland (library book)



Comments (32)

Permalink


Flood and Fire: 09/23/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Flood and Fire by Emily Diamand continues the adventures of Lilly, Lexy, Zeph and PSAI. Lexy still hasn't been returned to her Prime Minister father and PSAI is in desperate need of repairs after having been tossed into the water. Zeph, meanwhile finds himself the head of the Raiders.

For me, the best parts of the book were those that centered on Lilly, Lexy and PSAI. PSAI's knowledge of the time before the flood give the best hints of what has happened and how things have changed.

With this book, I found myself wanting Google Maps open and possibly the London A to Z guide. Flood and Fire is more dependent on knowledge of present day locations than Raiders' Ransom is.

Flood and Fire like Raiders' Ransom has alternating points of view between Lilly and Zeph. In the first book I mentioned being confused at first by this swapping. This time, though, the story is mostly told by Lilly. The half dozen times that Zeph takes over the story telling aren't really needed and feel more like padding than actual plot progression.

Three stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Worldshaker: 09/22/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Worldshaker by Richard Harland is a steampunk / alternate history story with a strong social commentary. Although it's set in the present, it's a world of juggernauts walking over the earth and stopping only to refuel every few months. These juggernauts are in response to instability from the French Revolution.

While there is this well planned alternate history, the plot is all on a single juggernaut with a small range of characters. The protagonist is a teen named Col. He is heir to the position of Supreme Commander of the Juggernaut Worldshaker. It is the moving embodiment of the British Isles. Living on board is also Queen Victoria II and her consort. There are three strata to society: upper levels (the aristocracy), the lower levels (working class) and Below.

When Col meets an escaped Filthy who doesn't want to be converted into a Menial he's forced to re-examine how life on the Worldshaker works.

Although this book is written for middle grade readers, it's one of the most compelling steampunks I've read. Worldshaker both as a machine and a society is well realized and believable. Col's awakening to the injustices built into his world is well laid out and yet shocking.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (2)

Permalink


Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos: 09/21/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos by Ed Emberley is a collection of some of my favorite how-to draw monsters, weirdos and other magical creatures from his 1970s era of drawing books.

As a child I was addicted to Ed Emberley's books. I had nearly every one and the few that I didn't have, I kept checked out from the library on a nearly permanent basis. These books are brilliant because they take simple shapes: circles, triangles, squares, rectangles and a few wiggly lines to draw things. At their most basic, they are stick figures. At their most complex, they are intricate things like trains, buildings, and in the case of this book, creatures like Frankenstein's monster.

In the old days the books were grouped by color: The Little Book of Green, for example. You had to remember which color the thing was to find the right book. Horses, for example were orange. Frankenstein, was green. Witches were blue.

Now my children are learning a thing or two about drawing from the reissues of his books. It's fun to see what they come up with after being inspired by his step by step instructions.

Five stars

| | |

Comments (2)

Permalink


Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt: 09/20/12

Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt cover art (Link goes to Powells)Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst is a delightful book about quilting, the stupidity of gender roles and the importance of cooperation. Sam after mending a tear in his clothing decides he likes sewing and wants to try something more creative, like quilting. When the women won't let him into their quilting group, he wrangles up the men to start their own.

The men's quilting group and the women's quilting group are both competing in the upcoming fair. With them working so hard on their quilts, the book covers a number of quilting patterns. These patterns could be replicated in class to teach geometry or to do an art project.

But the big message beyond boys and girls can have the same hobbies, is cooperation. When both quilts fall into the mud the two have to come together to make one good quilt out of the left overs. It's a pretty one, too.

Four stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Four Valentines in a Rainstorm: 09/19/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Four Valentines in a Rainstorm by Felicia Bond is also published as The Day it Rained Hearts. It's a delightful picture book about friendship.

Cornelia Augusta goes out to collect hearts that rain down during a most unusual storm. She takes them home and decides to use them to make Valentines for her friends. She gives one to a one to a dog, one to a mouse, one to a turtle, and the last one to a rabbit.

My daughter loves doing art projects and loved the book. A number of teacher blogs use the book as an introduction to Valentine's day craft projects.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Dot: 09/18/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Dot by Patricia Intriago is an opposites book that uses pairs of dots to illustrate concepts. Like many other reviewers, the cover art made think of Press Here by Hervé Tullet (review coming) but Dot ended up having much more re-readability.

Many of the dots are black circles against the start white background. Sometimes the dot isn't a dot or it's distorted. For example, in the "hard dot, soft dot" spread, a finger presses down on the dots. One dot remains circular while the other one appears to give under the pressure. When color is needed, it's used but sparingly.

Early on, red and green are used for "stop dot, go dot." The simplicity of the book reminds me of the earliest pages of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. It had a similar appeal as Seuss's fish book for my daughter. Before returning it to the library she read it at least a dozen times.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Imagine a Day: 09/17/12

 cover art (Thomsonk goes to Powells)Imagine a Day is another collaboration between author Sarah L. Thomson and Canadian painter, Rob Gonsalves. This book is themed around day time adventures, all of which have a surreal twist to them.

The book asks the reader to imagine days when mirrors become lakes and moats are used to invite guests over instead of keeping them out. There is a fast approaching train being held up by a bridge of circus acrobats. Cities become blocks and sky scrapers are like the pickets in a fence around a yard.

My children and I read the book three times together. Then they each took turns with the book to examine the paintings and to read it with their grandparents.

The Imagine A series is so popular with them I am considering finding copies to add to our personal library.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


What Are You Reading: September 17, 2012: 09/16/12

What Are You Reading?My favorite book last week was Life As We Knew It (audio) by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I had some problems believing the initial set up — the severity of the tidal changes — but otherwise liked how things played out. I plan to read the second book (as it's not on audio at my library). Frankly, I found the perkiness of the narrator as performed grating at times, especially when everyone was either getting sick or dying.

This week I'd like to finish Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus — another of the creepy boarding school YA books. This one has a history with a hospital so it's got a good Stephen King vibe to it. I would also like to finish Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. It has political intrigue and is set in a sentient, magical castle.

I plan to start The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah and The Serpent of Shadows which I didn't get to last week.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New by Margot Rosenberg (library book)
  2. Life As We Knew It (audio) by Susan Beth Pfeffer (library book)
  3. Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Tokunaga (library book)
  4. One False Note (audio) by Gordon Korman (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (library book)
  3. El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans (review copy)
  4. How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  5. Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  6. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (personal collection)
  7. Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus (library book)
  8. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (personal collection)
  9. Whad'ya Know? by Michael Feldman (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (review copy)
  2. Drift House by Dale Peck (personal collection)
  3. Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready (review copy)
  4. Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull (personal collection)
  5. Liberty Falling by Nevada Barr (personal collection)
  6. Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst (library book)
  7. The Wing on a Flea (original) by Ed Emberley (library book)



Comments (16)

Permalink


The Wing on a Flea (original): 09/16/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)In April 2010, I reviewed the reissued version of The Wing on a Flea by Ed Emberley. That's the 1988 reissue with completely new illustrations and edited text. While interning at Holy Names I came across the 1961 version, a book that is more in keeping with how I remember Emberley's books being.

The Wing on a Flea (original) introduces children to basic shapes: triangles, circles, squares and rectangles. Except for the red cover, the only colors inside are white, black, blue and green. Mostly it's black line drawings on white paper with a few highlighted shapes or areas done in either blue or green.

For me, Ed Emberley means how to draw books, all of which use basic shapes to build complex shapes. The Wing on a Flea does the same thing by showing many different things that use triangles, circles, squares and rectangles. Each shape has a dozen or so examples, all woven together artistically and poetically.

The 1961 version is by far the superior of the two versions. It's beautiful to look at and delightful to read. The examples are interesting with just enough complexity to inspire young readers to draw their own illustrations of triangles, circles, squares and rectangles.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (12)

Permalink


Round Like a Ball: 09/15/12

Little Bo cover art (Link goes to Powells)Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst is a die cut riddle book. Each page reveals another clue to what is being described. The book opens with an invitation to play a guessing game.

One by one the clues introduce children to another aspect of what makes the Earth the Earth. It's a nice gentle book that's a good way to get children talking about Earth sciences, geography, the environment, Earth day, and so forth.

Harriet picked out this book from the library. She enjoyed it enough to re-read it a few times before returning it. She also read it to me a couple times.

Four stars

Other posts and reviews:

100 Scope Notes

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Grip of the Shadow Plague: 09/14/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull is the third of the Fablehaven books. After listening to the first two on CD, I decided to switch to print. I'm glad I did.

In the previous two, Kendra and Seth work together except at points where they are separated for means beyond their control. Here, though, Kendra's fairy touch is needed at another reserve — one located within (or very near) the Navajo Nation. Given (my albeit limited knowledge of) the Diné's taboos against magic, it strikes me as an odd but awesome location. Perhaps by placing it in such a location, it is highly unlikely that anyone will willingly venture into the reserve.

Meanwhile at Fablehaven, shadows have begun invading. Anyone touched becomes one. Seth investigates with the help of the satyrs. The scenes of this creeping, all invasive shadow are some of the most disturbing ones I've read in any of the Fablehaven books.

For a middle of a series book it's quite the page turner. The relationship between Seth and Kendra has improved and matured considerably, making them powerful allies, rather than annoying, squabbling siblings.

I have the fourth book and plan to continue with the series in print form.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Liberty Falling: 09/13/12

 cover art (Barrk goes to Powells) Liberty Falling by Nevada Barr is the seventh in the Anna Pigeon mystery series. It is set in New York City, Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Anna is there because her sister is in intensive care. When she's not working as a park ranger, she's sitting at her sister's bedside in the hospital.

Anna, though, is preoccupied at work by two very similar deaths at the Statue of Liberty. Her anger over both of them, combined with her sister's ill health put her in a very poor and self destructive mood all the way through.

She spends her late nights exploring the ruins of Ellis Island, often putting herself in danger from the poor repair of the structures. While I normally love following along as a character explores old, crumbling buildings, I felt a disconnect here that just pulled me out of the story. Part of that disconnect was the realization that fictional Anna was there at the same time my family and I were there. The other part, stemmed from Anna's own recklessness — going at night without a partner, no ropes or other safety equipment.

Finally, there's the mystery itself. Once all of Anna's anger and self destruction is pushed aside, the actual who done it and why is pretty basic. I think for this volume of the series, too much time was spent on character development at the cost of the mystery.

Three stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Drift House: 09/12/12

 cover art (Peckk goes to Powells)The reviews I've read of Drift House by Dale Peck either ignore the World Trade Center destruction or gloss it over. Regardless, it is the grim starting point of the book and the loss of life is one of the dominant themes of the book. It is also a pirate tale full of derring-do and time travel.

The book begins with Susan and her brothers, Charles and Murray, being driven to Canada from their home in Manhattan. Their mother wants them out of the city until she feels it is safe again for them to return. Although they never speak of the attacks in a direct manner, Susan, as the oldest, is well aware of what has happened. Their flight north, much like the evacuation of the children in WWII at the start of The Magic Bed Knob by Mary Norton, leaves the oldest children with a good sense of how much danger the remaining parents may very well be in.

Susan reminds me a lot of Wendy Darling in that she both wants adventure but also wants to protect her younger brothers. Where Wendy is brought on board to be the mother of Captain Hook's pirates, Susan, briefly gets to captain her own ship. She also has to save her brothers and uncle from some treacherous mermaids.

Susan is the brave sibling. Charles is the clever one. But Murray is extraordinary. He starts as just another annoying youngest sibbling but goes on to have the most amazing and sometimes heartbreaking growth as a character.

I listened to the audio version of the book, performed by Richard Poe. He brings the characters to life and there were times I had to pause the book when I was getting too emotionally caught up in the story.

Five stars.

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Flirting with Forever: 09/11/12

 cover art (Creadyk goes to Powells)The Blog Critics Books post sums up my feelings about Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready perfectly: I should have read the pitch more closely. The pitch didn't have cover art, which would have made it obvious that it's a bodice ripper, so I went on the time travel description alone. Big mistake.

In the present day there's Campbell "Cam" Stratford, an art historian and author, with a scandalous "fictographies." Then in the afterlife there's Peter Lely, once famous artist, who is now tasked with stopping Cam by any means possible.

To bring the two together, a web search, opens a time portal sending Cam back to Lely's time when he was portrait painter for Charles II. Cam makes up a bunch of lies to buy herself some time but ends up being really quickly seduced by Lely.

And it goes down hill from there. Somehow Cam and Lely both gain control over this unexplained time portal. With no explanation of how it works it becomes just a convenient way of switching locations. There's similarly little in way of motivation for Cam to hook up with Lely. Sure he paints well, and sure her fiance might be more trouble than he's worth, but she goes from scared to seduced too quickly.

The parts that aren't time travel or sex are lengthy scenes of painting. This is the part of the book that one reviewer on GoodReads describes as The Girl with the Pearl Earring with severe brain damage. While I personally wouldn't go that far, it did read like a whole bunch of filler.

Two stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Amped: 09/10/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Amped by Daniel H. Wilson explores the potential backlash and misuses of biotech to improve the human experience. Owen Gray is a teacher, and an amp; he has a device in his head to control his epilepsy. That's what he's been told but he's forced to re-examine the truth after one of his amped students commits suicide at the school.

Her death comes on the eve of sweeping regulations that criminalize the use and possession of amped technology. Citizens, including soldiers who were amped in the service of their country, have their rights removed and they are rounded up and shipped to concentration camps. It sounds preposterous but we've done things like this before — to the Japanese in WWII and to numerous native American tribes/nations. Let's also not forget our history of slavery or the current political climate in which there is a war on women and as well as on gay marriage. Amped is social commentary in the proud tradition of H.G. Wells and George Orwell.

As it's more parable than post-apocalyptic horror, it comes in a hundred pages shorter than Robopocalypse and is in its structure, a more straightforward story. It does, though, share some of the same world building (automated cars, for instance). I don't know if the two are in the same universe or not — but they do share some technology.

I found Amped as compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking as Robopocalyse. I also found the book a quicker read. Wilson clearly understands the conventions of the different genres he writes for and can craft well told stories to work within those tropes.

Read via NetGalley

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


What Are You Reading: September 10, 2012: 09/09/12

What Are You Reading?My favorite book last week was Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie. It's the third of the series. I feel like the author hit her stride here. She knows her characters and how they work together. She's also thrown in a new psychic to work with her main character. He's a nice diversion from the sexy boyfriend and neurotic but loyal business partner.

From last week's crazy amount of reading, all that's left to finish is Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunda. I do have to admit that I sent back two books unread because I just wasn't in the mood for them: X-Isle and Shine. That, though, gave me time to finish two from my own collection: The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella and Flu by Wayne Simmons.

This week I'd like to finish two audios: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and One False Note by Gordon Korman. I would also like to start The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan and Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King. I guess it will be my week of shadows. From my library pile, I need to read: Eutopia by David Nickle and get started on: The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New by Margot Rosenberg, Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus, and The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. Alanna by Tamora Pierce (library book)
  2. Blind Huber by Nick Flynn (library book)
  3. Crow Girl by Kate Cann (review copy)
  4. A Dance for Emilia by Peter S. Beagle (library book)
  5. Flu by Wayne Simmons (personal collection)
  6. Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie (library book)
  7. How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce (library book)
  8. Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde (library book)
  9. Naomi and the Horse-Flavored T-Shirt by Dan Boehl (review copy)
  10. The Wedding Officer Anthony Capella (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans (review copy)
  3. Life As We Knew It (audio) by Susan Beth Pfeffer (library book)
  4. One False Note (audio) by Gordon Korman (library book)
  5. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (personal collection)
  6. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (personal collection)
  7. Whad'ya Know? by Michael Feldman (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Amulet 5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi (review copy)
  2. Corduroy by Don Freeman (personal collection)
  3. Emily the Strange: Dark Times by Rob Reger (personal collection)
  4. Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger by Rob Reger (personal collection)
  5. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 18 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  6. Mansfield Park (audio) by Jane Austen (library book)
  7. One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath (review copy)



Comments (50)

Permalink


Amulet 5: Prince of the Elves: 09/09/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)In Amulet 5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi starts in the aftermath of Max's betrayal in The Last Council. This time we get to learn more about the Elf Prince — his history and his current motivations.

Along with learning the Elf Prince's history, there's plenty of backstory on the stones themselves. We learn how they work and the dangers of being a stonekeeper. Both are shown through a combination of flashbacks and time travel. The action is fast paced and the plot, satisfyingly complex.

In the early volumes, I wasn't sold on the artwork. The story has always been solid but the artwork left me cold in places. That's changed. This volume is chockful of vibrant and beautiful vistas that both celebrate and enhance the story. As I was reading the egalley, I stopped in a number of places just to show my husband how gorgeous the book is.

The library
The library on page 135.

As I own the previous four volumes, I plan to purchase a copy of volume 5 to add to my set.

Read via NetGalley

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 18: 09/08/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells) In Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 18 by Hiromu Arakawa the homunculi finally show their cards. Part of this is their own foolish pride but mostly it's due to the ticking of the clock. They are on a deadline and it is rapidly approaching.

Riza Hawkeye begins working for the Bradleys and she quickly realizes Selim's secret. Meanwhile in Fort Bragg, they figure out what the tunnels are for. Communications are then sent in the language of flowers.

All of this scrambling about gives characters a chance to develop, something that hasn't happened in the last couple of volumes. The relationship between Hawkeye and Mustang, as well as Mustang's background. It's the first real glimpse of what makes him tick.

Four stars

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


One Year in Coal Harbor: 09/07/12

 cover art (Horvathk goes to Powells)One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath is the sequel to Everything on a Waffle. Although Primrose returns to narrate, she isn't the main character. That honor goes to Evie and Bert's newest foster child, a troubled boy named Ked.

Ked spends one year with his foster parents. In that time Primrose does her best to help him fit in. She can still remember the time when she was ridiculed for being a foster child.

Primrose's uncle and the owner of the Girl on the Red Swing continue to compete. Now it's all about cooking. Nudged on by Primrose, Kate Bowzer is convinced that Uncle Jack doesn't think she can do French cooking. She wants to show him a thing or too about her skills!

Meanwhile outside of town there's a protest over the proposed clear cutting of the nearby mountain. It seems as though Coal Harbor is on the eve of becoming a very different place. Primrose observes and reports on the adults' protests and meetings over the logging.

Although Coal Harbor is a fictional small town on Vancouver Island, it's history as laid out in Horvath's two books bear an uncanny resemblance to that of the city of Vancouver. Readers familiar with the story of Stanley Park — next door to an area named Coal Harbour, might see some similarities with this fictional Coal Harbo(u)r.

The Canadian edition, by the way, is One Year in Coal Harbour and frankly I wish the U.S. edition kept the Canadian spelling.

Four stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (2)

Permalink


Corduroy: 09/06/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)It's perhaps ironic that I'm writing this review on a night when I have given away two bags of my childhood stuffed animals. I was quite the collector when I was younger, all the way up through college. Living in a small home with three other people and two cats with inadequate storage space has curbed my urge to collect.

Corduroy by Don Freeman is the first in a long series of picture books about little teddy bear. In this one he's living in an apartment store, forgotten on a shelf long enough he's lost one of his buttons.

To make himself presentable for the little girl who wants to buy him, Corduroy goes on a night time quest through the department store to find a replacement button. In the end, though, Corduroy's little girl returns and doesn't care that he's missing a button. The little bear learns the important lesson of unconditional love.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (6)

Permalink


Emily the Strange: Dark Times: 09/05/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Emily the Strange: Dark Times by Rob Reger is the third of the Emily the Strange series. A new book, a new town and a new adventure. This time, she's going back in time to save her great aunt Lily from the white fever.

Emily, though, has a few problems. The first one is, she has only enough black rock for her Time Out Machine (TOM for short) to take her back to August 1790. To make matters worse, she can't get any more because Black Rock, the town, has become unhinged in time and space. Then there's Lily, who needs a cram session in girl power.

Throughout all of Emily's adventures this time are her homework assignments. She's been given permission to homeschool herself. That means giving herself homework with points. There's an appendix with some of her turned in assignments.

But even back in 1790, Emily has secret tunnels to explore and unusual characters with equally unusually talents to meet. This time, though, she has to be careful to keep her family tree safe while trying to get home.

There's of course discussion of parallel universes, the butterfly effect and other time travel tropes. Along with the time travel jokes, there's the usual black, white and red illustrations.

But there's a twist. While it might seem that the title is a play on the "'Curiouser and curiouser' said Alice" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the title is more literal than literary. See, Emily has duplicated herself. But not it seems her twin is out to get her and her mother is no help at all, deciding to keep both daughters.

One Emily spends her time making a secret sanctuary (with help from a strange neighbor boy) in an abandoned bit of the city sewer. The other Emily meanwhile is honing her mad skateboarding skills and pulling pranks. All of their exploits are captured in diary form. There's just one problem... it's not always easy to tell which Emily is writing.

Emily the Strange: Dark Times is a book I had to re-read long parts of. This was a good thing. It was fun to track down the subtle changes in each Emily and figure out which one was writing.

While the setting is new there is a similar mixture of odd ball characters to round out this hybrid graphic novel. Emily's mother, while not a mad scientist, is just as delightfully odd as her daughter(s). There's also the boy in the sewer, and the dangerous next door neighbor who has her own agenda.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger: 09/04/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)In my mind, Emily the Strange is a young Abby Sciuto in that she's a mad scientist Goth with her own code of ethics that may or may not align with everyone else. In Emily the Strange: The Lost Days, Emily has to rediscover herself and her strengths and weaknesses. By the second book, Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger by Rob Reger, Jessica Gruner and illustrated by Buzz Parer, Emily has her memory restored so we get to see more of what she might really be like.

But there's a twist. While it might seem that the title is a play on the "'Curiouser and curiouser' said Alice" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the title is more literal than literary. See, Emily has duplicated herself. But not it seems her twin is out to get her and her mother is no help at all, deciding to keep both daughters.

One Emily spends her time making a secret sanctuary (with help from a strange neighbor boy) in an abandoned bit of the city sewer. The other Emily meanwhile is honing her mad skateboarding skills and pulling pranks. All of their exploits are captured in diary form. There's just one problem... it's not always easy to tell which Emily is writing.

Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger is a book I had to re-read long parts of. This was a good thing. It was fun to track down the subtle changes in each Emily and figure out which one was writing.

While the setting is new there is a similar mixture of odd ball characters to round out this hybrid graphic novel. Emily's mother, while not a mad scientist, is just as delightfully odd as her daughter(s). There's also the boy in the sewer, and the dangerous next door neighbor who has her own agenda.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink


Mansfield Park: 09/03/12

 cover art (Austenk goes to Powells)I've found that audio books are the best way for me to listen to and actually finish a Jane Austen novel. I chose Mansfield Park first on a bit of a whim. In Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford, Jane says her favorite heroine is Fanny Price. Curious to see why vampire Jane might feel that way, I decided to start there.

Mansfield Park is Austen's third novel. It opens with Fanny Price, age ten, being sent to live with her wealthy cousins at Mansfield Park. Though she is the most quiet and best behaved, she is forever treated as an inferior and an outsider, especially by Mrs. Norris, the middle sister of the three adult sisters who make up Fanny's family (mother and two aunts).

It was not through Fanny, that I found my connection with the novel. Instead, it was Mrs. Norris. She is the prototype for Hyacinth Bucket of Keeping Up Appearances. From there I couldn't help but continue to draw comparisons between the novel and the television comedy.

If Mrs. Norris is Mrs. Bucket, then Fanny is from Daisy's side of the family. She is sent, then, to Violet, the wealthy and successful sister. Of course Hyacinth's family is far more dysfunctional than Fanny's but there's still some odd ball family dynamics.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (2)

Permalink


What Are You Reading: September 03, 2012: 09/02/12

What Are You Reading?My favorite book last week was Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith. Though it's very different from Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation, the most memorable scenes are straight out of the book. Highsmith is one of my favorite thriller authors but I've only read a handful of her books. I need to rectify that STAT!

I have three books due at the end of the week that I want to read: A Dance for Emilia by Peter S. Beagle, Shine by Lauren Myracle, and How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce. I also have a couple of interlibrary loan books due soon. Eek! That adds two more books to my MUST READ NOW pile: Blind Huber: Poems by Nick Flynn and Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunda. Anyone want to predict how well I'll do at finishing all of them before they're due?

From my personal collection, I would like to finish The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella and Flu by Wayne Simmons. Then I'll start The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan. I also want to start the Books of Elsewhere series if I can find book one in my son's stash of books.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson (library book)
  2. Crescent Dawn (audio) by Clive Cussler (library book)
  3. The Land of Oz (audio) by L. Frank Baum (library book)
  4. Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (review copy)
  5. Song for Papa Crow by Marit Menzin (review copy)
  6. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith (library book)
  7. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Flu by Wayne Simmons (personal collection)
  3. One False Note (audio) by Gordon Korman (library book)
  4. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (personal collection)
  5. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (personal collection)
  6. The Wedding Officer Anthony Capella (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (personal collection)
  2. The Homecoming by Ray Bradbury (personal collection)
  3. How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  4. How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino (personal collection)
  5. If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black (personal collection)
  6. Llama Llama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney (personal collection)
  7. The Watchlist (audio) edited by Jefferey Deaver (personal collection)



Comments (30)

Permalink


How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: 09/02/12

 cover art (Sambuchinok goes to Powells)How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino offers advice on how to avoid being murdered by those cute and innocent looking garden gnomes. Beneath that painted exterior lies a blood thirsty killer.

Each page contains a full color photograph and some very pointed advice. There are things like recognizing foot prints, knowing your weapons, how to fortify your home, traps for the garden and so forth. After reading this book I'm convinced that it won't be vampires or zombies who will over run humanity — it'll be garden gnomes.

The book is written in a humorous, accessible language with appeal for all ages. My son poured over the book after I was finished and have recommended it to his friends.

According to the Screen Rant site, Roger Zemeckis is working on a movie adaptation of the book for Sony Pictures.

Recommended by Karissa's Reading Review.

Four stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (4)

Permalink


Llama Llama Home with Mama: 09/01/12

 cover art (Dewdneyk goes to Powells)Llama Llama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney is the fifth of the Llama Llama books and the first one I've read with my daughter. I don't know if she's been reading them at school or just heard about them from her friends, but she insisted on adding this volume to her collection of books.

Llama Llama wakes up not feeling right. After a failed attempt at breakfast, Mama Llama sends him back to bed. He's staying home from school today. Mama knows just what he needs and later when she catches the same cold, it's his turn to take charge.

Told in an easy rhyming scheme and adorable illustrations, this is a book that lends itself to group reads and re-reads. My favorite page has Llama Llama in bed, sticking his tongue out. He looks so fed up with being sick and he's only just been put to bed.

I think we'll go back and read the other four books.

Five stars

Other posts and reviews:

| | |

Comments (0)

Permalink