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October 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



 

I Must Have Bobo! 10/31/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal is an adorable story about a little stuffed monkey and the boy and cat who both love him. Bobo gets carried everywhere the boy goes except one day he can't find him!

Observant readers will see that the little gray and white kitty has Bobo. In every room the boy goes, there's the kitty and Bobo. The only way to have Bobo is to be with the kitty!

I thought this was cute book when I first read it last summer. It has since taken on a new, endearing meaning, now that I have a little kitten who loves to carry toys around.

There's now two sequels, I'll Save You Bobo! (2012) and Bobo is Lost! (2013).

Recommended by Kiss the Book

Five stars

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The School for Cats: 10/30/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The School for Cats by Esther Averill is one of the Jenny's Cat Club books. I've been trying to read the series on and off since reading The Hotel Cat. The stories seem to be at all different reading levels and they've gone out of print and come back into print, making them all the more difficult to sort out and read.

In this one, Jenny, the adorable black cat with the fetching red scarf, is heading to cat school for the summer. The set up reminds me of the times I've taken Caligula cat to "cat camp" for boarding while I visited my family. In Averill's world, though, cats are self sufficient enough to get there on their own. Pickles, the fire cat, for example, drives his miniature fire engine to the school!

Pickles's over abundance of energy and Jenny's natural timidity makes for a volatile combination. Poor Jenny ends up with the scare of her life but she learns from her experience and grows in the process. While Jenny runs off, I couldn't help but be reminded of Jane, the youngest of the Ursula Le Guin Catwings cats, especially in Jane on Her Own. Jenny, though, I like better.

Recommended by Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Love

Four stars

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Chi's Sweet Home 01: 10/29/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Chi's Sweet Home 01 by Kanata Konami is about a little kitten and the family who adopts her when she is separated from her mother and siblings. I read the book because we recently took in a stray kitten and I was looking for something different to read.

I normally shy away from stories told from the point of view of an animal because most authors can't pull it off. Konami is a rare exception. This mangaka gets cats both in terms of personality and in body language.

Although the artwork is amazingly cute it's also spot on. Anyone who has cared for a tiny kitten and watched it grow into cathood will recognize Chi's unstoppable enthusiasm.

The book isn't entirely about Chi, though. It's also about the human family who takes her in — a young couple and their potty training toddler. It's the toddler's misspeaking of the Japanese for pee that ends up giving the kitten her name. Just as Harriet ended being the one who instinctively knew how to pan train Tortuga, so does this toddler.

To add drama to the series, Chi is taken in by a family who isn't allowed to have cats. Of course there's rumor of a giant black cat also living in the building. But they are still wary of having Chi in their home. At one point, when Chi discovers the front window, they try to disguise her by filling the window sill with cute stuffed animals!

I recommend this series to anyone who has cats. My entire family: daughter, son, husband and I are all laughing our way through the manga series.

Volume 09 is currently nominated for a CYBILS in the middle grade graphic novel category.

Recommended by All About Manga

Five stars

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What Are You Reading: October 29, 2012: 10/28/12

What Are You Reading?I'm still reading through the CYBILS books. I've mostly finished the stack I brought home from the library. Now I am waiting for the next set to arrive. I have maxed out the number of holds I can order on both my library card, and my son's library card. I've also started using my work library card! I can't imagine how the picture book judges cope with round one reading.

My favorite non-CYBILS read was How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale. People either love or hate the book. I think you have to know San Francisco and be interested in its history to appreciate the book.

I still want to finish How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner. I also want to read as many more CYBILS books as possible. I also still have Forget-her-nots by Amy Brecount White, and Suite Scarlet by Marueen Johnson to read by Wednesday. Then I'll start Ghouls Gone Wild by Victoria Laurie, and Me, Myself and Why? by Mary Janice Davidson.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver (personal collection)
  2. Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World by David L. Pike (review book)
  3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier (CYBILS)
  4. Explorer by Kazu Kibuishi (CYBILS)
  5. Hades: Lord of the Dead by George O'Connor (CYBILS)
  6. How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale (library book)
  7. Ichiro by Ryan Inzana (CYBILS)
  8. Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  9. Kosher Nation by Sue Fishkoff (library book)
  10. A Midsummer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison (library book)
  11. The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder (library book)
  12. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (personal collection)
  13. Scored by Lauren McLaughlin (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Airborn (audio) by Kenneth Oppel (library book)
  3. The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux (CYBILS)
  4. How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  5. The Main Corpse (audio) by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  6. The Mummy Case (audio) by Elizabeth Peters (library book)
  7. The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones (personal collection)
  8. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (library book)

Reviews Posted:

  1. A Cat Named Squeeky by Vic Reskovic (library book)
  2. Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman (library book)
  3. How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale (library book)
  4. Jam & Honey by Melita Morales (library book)
  5. The Paper Crane by Molly Bang (library book)
  6. Pickles to Pittsburgh by Judi Barrett (library book)
  7. Prime Cut (audio) by Diane Mott Davidson (library book)



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How to Wash a Cat: 10/28/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M Hale is the first of the Cats and Curios series. It's set in and around Jackson Square, San Francisco, California. The setting and it's emphasis on San Francisco history seem to be two details that either make it or break it for readers. Let me be up front and say, I LOVED THE BOOK.

Now before I go into the review itself, you should know a few things about me. I am the daughter of an antique dealer. I grew up in a home very much like the Green Vase (including the occasional packing crate and odd home repair job). I have two cats. I live within sight of San Francisco. I used to work within walking distance of The Palace Hotel (discussed heavily in this book). My father had a friend who was called to building sites to appraise the junk dug up (usually glassware) for its historical value. So right off the bat, I share many connections with the unnamed female protagonist whose cats happen to resemble heavily the authors own cats.

Some negative reviews I read point to the protagonist's missing name. Frankly, I didn't notice. I was having too much fun exploring the tunnels with her to care what her name might be. So often now in mysteries, the protagonist is given an idiotic name — I figure no name is a step up.

Although Uncle Oscar's death (maybe by stroke, maybe not) should be the start of a whodunit type murder mystery, it really isn't. Even when the modern day criminal is caught, Oscar's death is left hanging. The author leaves open the possibility that Oscar might be faking his death and all his tulip wearing friends might be in league with him. In this regard, Oscar is this series's Robin Masters (who in Magnum PI originally was a separate character but quickly morphed into an aspect of Jonathan Quayle Higgins).

No — the real meat of the mystery was a historical one — set in the post Gold Rush days of the City. The two main characters are historical figures: William Alexander Leidesdorff and William Chapman Ralston. Their rivalry and their deaths have been spruced up a bit for dramatic license but their roles in building the city remain close enough to fact to either be fascinating (for SF history buffs, like me) or boring (for anyone not interested in SF history). The rest of the mystery is wrapped up on some diamonds, some historical cats, and a tunnel spreading from Jackson square, along the edge of the financial district and to the edge of SoMa (South of Market). While there are dozens of tunnels (and some are in fact abandoned), the tunnel in this book is most likely completely fiction.

Again, though, it doesn't matter. It was fun to believe there was a tunnel. Who doesn't want to discover a secret passageway? Apparently, though, not many reviewers. Our heroine, while afraid of some things, isn't afraid of tunnels. I'm not either. Like her, I'd be down there with a flash light (and my camera) to see where it went. Unlike her, though, I'd also be wearing a hard hat (just in case).

I definitely plan to continue with the series.

Five stars

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A Cat Named Squeeky: 10/27/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)A Cat Named Squeeky by Vic Reskovic is a memoir of a stray cat who befriended the author and decided to make her home there. Because of her unusual vocalizations he named her Squeeky.

Reskovic explains early on that he and his wife had never had a pet. They weren't looking to get a cat. But they quickly learned that cats often pick their homes and their people.

The book reminded me of Dewey by Vicki Myron. This is another memoir of the life of a cat with all the details of someone unfamiliar with cats learning how to live with a cat. Like Dewey, Squeeky had a long life, even if it did start out as a stray.

Although A Cat Named Squeeky sat on my wishlist for nearly two years, I happened to read it after a stray kitten charmed her way into my life. So I read it while making mental comparisons to my own experiences with Tortuga kitten.

I recommend the book to cat people.

Three stars

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The Paper Crane: 10/26/12

 cover art (Bangk goes to Powells)The Paper Crane by Molly Bang is story about the good luck a magical crane brings a struggling restaurant. According to the author, it's a retelling of the "Dancing Yellow Crane" fable from China.

A struggling restaurant gives a free meal to a weary traveler. To repay them for their generosity, he folds his napkin into a paper crane. Upon leaving, the paper crane comes to life. The heart and soul of the book is the power of thoughtful gifts to enrich life.

The illustrations are done in a multimedia, collage that highlights the cut paper crane. The style selected was one of trial and error. Molly Bang describes the many different methods she tried: pencil drawings, Chinese ink drawings, and two different collage styles.

Four stars

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Fortune Cookies: 10/25/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Once Harriet started reading, she started selecting her own books. It's been fascinating to see which books she picks. The third book she read on her own was Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman.

A girl receives a package with seven fortune cookies. She reads one each day and relates the fortune to what happens to her that day. Not everything goes as the girl hopes they will but it works out for the best.

Each page has the fortune cookie, with a pull out fortune. That's a nice bit of interaction for older children. I suspect the fortunes won't last long in library copies as eager and perhaps clumsy hands try to pull them out.

For about a week, Harriet kept the book in my car to read to and from school. While the book was in the car, I had no idea that the book had the pull out tabs, nor was I entirely sure how the book went.

See, Harriet's reading, was still a little wonky. There's a line that goes: "I lost my kite but I found a cat." Except she reads it: "I lost my kitty but I found a cat."

Five stars

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Prime Cut: 10/24/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Prime Cut by Diane Mott Davidson opens with Goldy helping her old semi-retired teacher cater a modeling session at a local historic cabin. She needs the gig for money to finish a remodel of her kitchen, abandoned by the local no-good contractor.

Soon Goldy has to contend with two deaths, food sabotage, competition from a showy but crap caterer, and a missing heritage cookbook. If you know anything about simple codes you'll figure out big chunks of this mystery well before Goldy does. I certainly did, but I still had fun waiting for Goldy to put it all together.

Prime Cut is the eighth in the Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries. I'm listening to the Recorded Books productions as I can get a hold of them. That means I'm reading them out of order. I could read the paperbacks my library has but I think Barbara Rosenblat makes this series something extra special.

I like to listen to the Goldy books while I'm doing chores, especially cooking. Although the books all have about a dozen recipes included, I haven't tried any of them. I either already know how to make the included dish or it's not something I would normally eat. That said, it's still a fun series to cook to.

I also have to make a confession. I've got a crush on Julian. I'm listening more and more just for his parts.

Five stars

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Pickles to Pittsburgh: 10/23/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Pickles to Pittsburgh by Judi Barrett is is the sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Food continues to rain down in Chewandswallow. It's gotten larger and larger and more out of control. Now that the residents have evacuated they have to decide what to do with their weather problem.

Rather than see this oversized food as a problem (as it is in the movie adaptation of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), the food is seen as a blessing. There's a chance to share the bounty, hence the Pickles to Pittsburgh.

As I mentioned in my review of the first book, the artwork, while retro feeling, did provide much of the artistic inspiration for the film. That holds true for the sequel. As the food here is naturally occurring, it's seen as a natural resource.

If you read the book with a child who has seen the movie, take a chance to talk about how it's similar and different. They will recognize many of the scenes from the second half of the movie but they might be surprised at how differently these scenes are described in the book.

Four stars

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Jam & Honey: 10/22/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Jam & Honey by Melita Morales is reminiscent of Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Instead of a girl and a bear, it's girl and bee. But the goal is the same again: collecting food for the winter.

The first half of this rhyming tale is told from the point of view of the girl who is hunting for berries. She and her mother will be making jam. The girl picks berries from an urban berry patch, one of those community run gardens that are gaining popularity.

The second half is told from the bee she meets while picking berries. The bee repeats a similar rhyme to the girl, except that she is in search of nectar for honey. The bee, like the bear cub, is just as nervous about the girl as she is of seeing the bee.

The book was a perfect summertime read. It's a time when the farmer's market is going and the local beekeeper is selling locally produced honey. Meanwhile at home we are picking and canning plums from our trees.

Five stars

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What Are You Reading: October 22, 2012: 10/21/12

What Are You Reading?Don't panic when you see the length of my lists. They represent three weeks of reading and blogging. Two weeks ago I had to take a break from this meme. Our one year old tuxedo cat had gone missing. It took us ten days to find her. Rather, it took her ten days to decide she was done doing whatever it was she was doing and come home. Thankfully she's had her shots and is spayed so we don't have any surprises to worry about! But as you can imagine I just wasn't in the mood to spend my time on a meme!

Another big edition to my list (and upcoming lists) are all the graphic novels I'm reading for the CYBILS. In previous years I've been a second round judge. This year, though, I'm a first round reader. I've read fifteen of sixty-six nominated graphic novels. I have a bunch more to pick up from my library. I will be busy!

When looking at my favorite book in the last three weeks, I won't be including CYBILS. In the interest of being impartial until we're all done reading and have made the short list, I will only look at NetGalley, library and PC books. My favorite book, therefore, was Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. It has the goofiness of his earlier books but there's an underlying maturity I haven't seen before in his writing. The book includes some full color reproductions of artwork mentioned in the novel, but they're given some silly captions that are from the context of the novel.

This week I will finish How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale and How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner. I also want to read as many more CYBILS books as possible. For fun, I'll read Forget-her-nots by Amy Brecount White, Suite Scarlet by Marueen Johnson, Scored by Lauren McLaughlin, A Midsummer Tights Dream by Louise Rennison and Kosher Nation by Sue Fishkoff.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. Babymouse for President by Jennifer L. Holm (CYBILS)
  2. Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires (CYBILS)
  3. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (CYBILS)
  4. Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez (library book)
  5. Comfort & Joy by Jim Grimsley (library book)
  6. Crunch by Leslie Connor (library book)
  7. The Curse of the Pharaohs (audio) by Elizabeth Peters (library book)
  8. Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver (CYBILS)
  9. Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian by Michael Rex (CYBILS)
  10. The First Eagle (audio) by Tony Hillerman (library book)
  11. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton (CYBILS)
  12. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (CYBILS)
  13. Ghostland by Jory Strong (library book)
  14. Her Permanent Record by Jimmy Gownley (CYBILS)
  15. Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian (library book)
  16. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (library book)
  17. If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle (library book)
  18. Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford (library book)
  19. Marzi by Marzena Sowa (CYBILS)
  20. Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa by Shonto Begay (library book)
  21. Pandemonium by Chris Wooding (CYBILS)
  22. Play Ball by Nunzio DeFilippis (CYBILS)
  23. The Power of the Parasite by Jennifer L. Holm (CYBILS)
  24. Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George (review copy)
  25. Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky (library book)
  26. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (personal collection)
  27. Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd by John Bengtson (library book)
  28. The Sword Thief (audio) by Peter Lerangis (library book)
  29. Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap (CYBILS)
  30. The Trouble with Normal Michael Warner (library book)
  31. Twenties Girl (audio) by Sophie Kinsella (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Airborn (audio) by Kenneth Oppel (library book)
  3. The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver (personal collection)
  4. Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World by David L. Pike (review book)
  5. Drama by Raina Telgemeier (CYBILS)
  6. How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  7. How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale (library book)
  8. Ichiro by Ryan Inzana (CYBILS)
  9. Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  10. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming (review copy)
  2. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (personal collection)
  3. Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires (library book)
  4. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer (library book)
  5. Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner (review copy)
  6. Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones (library book)
  7. Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh (review copy)
  8. The Days of the King by Filip Florian (review copy)
  9. The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems (personal collection)
  10. I Don't Want to Take a Bath! by Julie Sykes (personal collection)
  11. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (audio) edited by John Joseph Adams (personal collection)
  12. Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (library book)
  13. Mary's Rainbow by Clementia (personal collection)
  14. Old Man's War by John Scalzi (personal collection)
  15. Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl (personal collection)
  16. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella (personal collection)
  17. The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier (library book)
  18. Silverlicious by Victoria Kann (personal collection)
  19. A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine (library book)
  20. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (personal collection)
  21. The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau (review copy)



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Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown: 10/21/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the fourth book in the Lunch Lady series. Dee, Hector and Terrence are spending their summer at camp. And so is the Lunch Lady and her faithful assistant. Good thing too, because there's a swamp monster terrorizing the camp!

This mystery reads like a classic Scooby Doo. There's a monster to catch, clues to find and of course the Lunch Lady's gadgets. By book four, the characters have settled down and everyone has a role to play. That puts the emphasis instead on the story.

The artwork continues the strong use of yellow (with some green thrown in for the swamp monster). There are strong lines and easy to read lettering.

Four stars

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Silverlicious: 10/20/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Silverlicious by Victoria Kann is the fourth of the Pinkalicious picture books. There is also a series of level one readers for children ready to move on in their reading skills.

As the main character has gotten older, it's time for her to start losing her teeth. Unfortunately she loses her sweet tooth! With it gone, none of treats she's given taste like anything good. Feeling jilted, she also starts to lose her sweet personality.

The reason I don't count the level one readers in the same series is that they are far more grounded in reality than their picture book counterparts. Here, the Tooth Fairy is real and she works with other magical, holiday based creatures: Cupid and the Easter Bunny for example. They even fill in for her when she's too busy.

This magical element gives more room for elaborate and outlandish illustrations. In this book, we're shown the girl's room decorated for a variety of different holidays as she tries to get back her sweet tooth.

Three stars

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A Tale of Two Castles 10/19/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine is about Elodie making her mark in the world. She leaves her farming village to cross the sea to Two Castles where she hopes to apprentice to become a mansioner (actress). Unfortunately, the apprenticeship rules have changed and she doesn't have the money to return home.

Elodie, who hates being called Lodie, quickly finds her bad luck getting worse. Like September in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, she ends up finding a very unusual mentor, in the form of a dragon, Meenore.

Dragons in this world are too mysterious for one to presume ITs gender. They are always referred to as IT or in the case of a mentor and student relationship, as masteress. The dragon's ambiguous gender and how it plays against traditional gender roles was an interesting aside to the book.

But things really take shape when Elodie is entrusted by the dragon to keep an eye on Jonty Um, the lord and Ogre of Two Castles. There is a threat against his life that takes the classic Puss in Boots tale and turns it on its head (in a far more clever way than Shrek 2 did).

The friendship between Jonty Um and Meenore and their interest in Elodie as a student and friend is what makes A Tale of Two Castles something special.

The only detractor to this well crafted tale is the Princess's numerous oaths. She comes off sounding like she was possessed by Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson. As much as j'adore Georgia and her unique take on the English language, it doesn't working coming out of the mouth of an otherwise refined princess of the realm.

Four stars

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Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things: 10/18/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh is the first in a YA paranormal graphic novel series. Although published originally in 2003, it's been reissued in color.

The book opens with Courtney and her family moving in with a great uncle. He's basically a hermit, shacked up in his dilapidated mansion on the edge of a wealthy but severely dysfunctional (think Stepford Wives) town.

At home Courtney faces all sorts of strange night creatures invading the house and her room. At school she faces alienation and bullying. Courtney, though, quickly grows sick of both bad situations and takes manners into her own hands.

Now while The Stepford Wives had a manmade problem, this town is at the mercy of something completely paranormal. Fans of The Replacement or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making will probably like the Courtney Crumrin series.

My only minor complaint is the artwork. I'm not a fan of the claw like fingers that Naifeh's characters usually have. Here though, I got so wrapped up in the story that I began to neglect the artwork.

Read via NetGalley

Five stars

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Castle of Shadows: 10/17/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner follows Princess Charlotte, aka, Charlie, as she does whatever she can to track down her missing mother. A letter recently found is her only solid clue.

That missing letter is the crux of the book. Things do really take off when Charlie finds it but it doesn't come until about a third of the way through the book! The first third is wasted on Charlie's neglect: being poorly feed and poorly dressed. The reasons behind her treatment, though, is never adequately explained except to show that the bad guys are bad!

So while the book does eventually pick up speed, by the time it does, I was already bored with Charlie and her world. While her kingdom is clearly inspired by Victorian England, it has it's own history and customs that are for the most part ignored in lieu of highlighting Charlie's own humdrum life as a semi-prisoner within the castle.

There's a sequel, City of Thieves.

Read via NetGalley

Three stars

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The Days of the King: 10/16/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Days of the King by Filip Florian is a Romanian historical fiction that was published in translation in 2011. Joseph Strauss, a Prussian dentist and frequent client of the local brothel, follows a dragoon captain to Romania, where the captain will one day be crowned.

The brief description and the glorious cover art intrigued me. Unfortunately the "aggressively dense" writing (as described in the Literary Omnivore review) combined with reading an egalley made for a difficult and unpleasant reading experience.

There are notes at the end of the book that explain the historical and cultural context of the novel but in an ereader without a proper table of contents built in, it's damn near impossible to flip between the notes and the text. Therefore, after reading and re-reading the same passages for clarity, I started skimming. When the skimming didn't seem to hinder my understanding any, I decided to stop reading.

Days of the King is best suited for readers who have a physical copy, and patience. An understanding of Prussian and Romanian history will help too.

Read via Net Galley

Two stars

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The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets: 10/15/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer opens with John Watson going missing. Enola, meanwhile, feels she must close up shop because her brothers have gotten to close to finding her. She has no desire to let them run her life. But there's a new threat she needs to think about, the mad house, where women are being sent who don't play by Victorian rules.

Despite her own fears and joblessness, Enola decides to investigate Watson's disappearance. With the help of the disguise shop she knows Sherlock uses, she creates a new persona for herself and sets out to befriend Mrs. Watson.

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets takes its name from a strange set of flowers delivered to Mrs. Watson's home upon the disappearance of her husband. Although Enola had a rather Bohemian childhood, she and her mother did enjoy sharing messages with the language of flowers. That shared hobby comes in handy here and she sees a message that her brother first misses.

In so many of the books set in Victorian times I've read the women are presented in a very narrow spectrum. They are prostitutes, aristocrats, maids or flower sellers. Enola's London has many more types of women, up and down the entire social ladder. These women make London seem more real and certainly more interesting.

And sometimes, more dangerous. Enola's adventures in this third volume are more dangerous than the typical tween mystery I've read. Her life is threatened. She gets hurt. Much of what happens to her is her own misjudgment. It's both shocking and refreshing to find a tween protagonist who is vulnerable.

Five stars

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Conrad's Fate: 10/14/12

 cover art (Lechermeierk goes to Powells)Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones is the fifth Chrestomanci book. Like the Chronicles of Narnia series, publishing order is different than the chronology of the series. Chronologically this book is second (I think).

The book opens with Conrad's uncle telling him that he has bad karma. He's probably under a curse and the only way to break it is to apprentice himself to the lord on the hill to find out who there has made the curse.

Conrad's new life gives a glimpse of the British class system but in an alternate Earth where the Alps extend to England and there isn't an English channel.

The house he's working in is a Bluebeard's Castle. There are lots of forbidden areas and serious consequences for going where he's not allowed. That doesn't stop Conrad, though. Does it ever with that sort of set up? Conrad meets up with another boy there for something other than apprenticing. Together they discover the many secrets of the house.

The house is what makes Conrad's Fate something special. It's an ever changing structure and it appears to be haunted. It's a building that belongs in a Doctor Who episode. It's both the setting and the biggest clue to what's really going on.

Conrad's Fate is commentary on class systems. It's also a mystery in a fantasy setting.

Five stars

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The Secret Lives of Princesses: 10/13/12

 cover art (Lechermeierk goes to Powells)The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier is presented as an encyclopedia to all things princess. It includes biographies of princesses, like Claire Voyant, Tangra-La, and Babbling Brooke to name a few. There are also pages about castles, elephants (for travel) and other miscellany.

For each entry there is a gorgeous, intricate and whimsical illustration. These paintings are so amazing that we could only get through about five pages a night as we were spending most of our time examining each page.

I originally checked this book out to read to my daughter before bed. She was going through a phase where the only books she wanted to read were princess stories. What I didn't expect was to have my son joining us for story time. He loved the book as much as she did.

Five stars

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Mary's Rainbow: 10/12/12

Read for free on Googe BooksI picked up Mary's Rainbow by Clementia some time ago, either at a used book store or a Friends of the Library sale. I've had the book for so long, I don't remember exactly where or when I got it. I bought the book because of the pretty blue flower motif on the cover.

From reading the publisher's information, Mary's Rainbow is the last (or was when published) of a long series of children's books about a girl named Mary who lives with her beloved Uncle for most of the time while her parents are traveling for important matters.

In this volume, Mary must first say goodbye to old beloved governess, a nun, I think but quickly makes friends with her replacement. Thus follows numerous overly earnest with lots and lots of exclamation points and em dashes.

Although the book is mercifully short, I had a difficult time finishing it. Mary is the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sue characters. She is so perfect and so beloved by all her friends and family that it's frankly sickening. Midway through the book there's a chance for her to snap out of this perfect revere when it appears she may have been orphaned. But the book seems hell bent on giving Mary a happy ending.

One star

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The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: 10/11/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams is a collection of short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes written by contemporary authors such as Neil Gaiman, Laurie R. King, Michael Moorcock. Roughly half of the stories assume a supernatural solution to the mystery, whilst the others find a mundane solution.

These stories were written anywhere from 20 years ago until the year the collection was published. The collection starts off with a story that brought to mind the 1999 movie, Mimic. Laurie King's story, meanwhile, fills in some gaps in her debut Sherlock Holmes book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Another story asks the question — what if Moriarty and Sherlock's roles were reversed?

For the audio book, two narrators were brought on board: Simon Vance for the stories where most of the characters are male, and Anne Flosnik for the ones where the main character was female (Mary Russell, for instance). I wish they had just let Vance do all the stories.

By the time the first of Flosnik's pieces comes around, I had grown accustomed to Vance's style and cadence. Flosnik, for reasons unknown to me, tries to give her women regional accents. None of them work, though, and all of her characters end up sounding like Zecora from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. With the exception of Laurie King's story, I ended up skipping most of Flosnik's narrated stories because her performance was got in the way.

Zecora

Three stars

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Amelia Lost: 10/10/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming is a combination biography and history of the search for Earhart's plane after it went missing over the Pacific in 1937. It looks at both pieces of Amelia Earhart's life with a candid skepticism.

Amelia Earhart, besides being a dare devil pilot, was one of the first modern celebrities. As Fleming explains, the autobiography that (even through my childhood) was taken as canon, was full of the story Earhart wanted remembered — even if details were completely fictional. Fleming isn't trying to discredit Earhart's genuine accomplishments or the tragedy of her disappearance over the Pacific. Rather, she's trying to put the myth into perspective with the facts and the time period in which Earhart lived.

As other reviews have mentioned, Amelia Lost isn't a rehash of previous books. I went into reading this book thinking I knew everything there was to know. I was wrong — even about the search and rescue efforts in 1937.

The book includes numerous photographs and copies of materials from Earhart's life. There is also a decent bibliography for readers who want to continue learning about the aviatrix.

Cybils Award Winner for YA Non-fiction 2011

Five stars

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Remember Me?: 10/09/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella is a standalone romantic comedy by the author best known for her Shopaholic series. In it Lexi is trying to peace together the events of the last three years of her life after waking up in hospital with amnesia.

Lexi's last memory is getting in a fight with Loser Dave and falling off the curb after a night of drinking. Now she finds herself married to a real estate developer, living in a posh London flat, the director at a carpeting store and with a whole new set of friends. To confuse things even more, she apparently has a lover on the side — giving her two men who vying to be the one to awaken her memories.

The set up is a bit hokey but Lexi is such a well rounded, believable and sympathetic character that I was willing to go with the set up. Following through with Lexi on her quest to connect with her old friends, to sort out her marriage and to figure out the truth about the possible affairs was completely fascinating and addicting.

Remember Me? though isn't a fantasy romp. Lexi doesn't use her opportunity to stay perpetually 24. Instead, she does her best to be the 27-year-old she was before the accident. There are some heart wrenching scenes too as she tries to come to terms with suddenly (from her current state of mind) being older and changed.

Five stars

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Old Man's War: 10/08/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Old Man's War is is the start of John Scalzi's well known series of the same name. It opens with John Perry, aged seventy-five, visiting his wife's grave and then joining the army. Earth is at war with a variety of extra terrestrial species and her army is made up of volunteers who have lived their lives and want the chance at an extended life.

The book has three parts: life before the transformation, life on the ship after the transformation and then the war itself. Although John meets a variety of different and equally interesting characters, it's not an ensemble cast. Being friends with John doesn't guarantee anyone a clear passage to the end of the book. There is a lot of bloodshed — as to be expected from a war novel.

Along with the discussions of war, there are themes of death, rebirth and humanity. What makes a person a person? Is it the base DNA? Is it the memories and experiences?

Four stars

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Big Stone Gap: 10/07/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani is both a debut novel and the start of the Big Stone Gap series. Ave Maria Mulligan is a thirty-five-year-old pharmacist, uninterested in marriage but pursued by a local bachelor. The big excitement in this sleepy Appalachian town is the announced arrival of Elizabeth Taylor.

Apparently the one chapter about Elizabeth Taylor, tucked in about two thirds through the book, is based on fact. How though it inspired the rest of this sleepy book, I have no idea.

Removing the actress from the book, the next BIG EXCITEMENT is the weekly arrival of the bookmobile. I like bookmobiles and libraries and librarians — heck, I even am a librarian. But as a riveting plot point, the bookmobile isn't much of a happening.

Near the end of the book — well after Elizabeth Taylor — the lengthy and dull character studies finally end and POOF a family secret appears. I guess the plot missed the bus and arrived on a later one.

Three stars

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The Wednesdays: 10/06/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)The Wednesdaysis a debut middle grade fantasy by Julie Bourbeau that has a similar magic and danger as JM Barrie's Peter Pan. Max lives with family in a small village near Mount Tibidabo that is besieged by bad luck every Wednesday.

To avoid the wednesdays, the creatures believed to be the source of the bad luck, the village shuts its doors on Wednesdays. People stay in doors unless it's an absolute emergency. Max, though, on his birthday, decides he's had enough of being stuck in doors, and goes out in search of the wednesdays.

Just as Wendy's wish to meet Peter ends up being a whole lot more trouble than she had expected, Max's successful encounter with the wednesdays leaves him cursed by his own personal bad luck. A boy who can bring bad luck on any day of the week quickly becomes the town pariah.

Bourbeau keeps the problem at hand focused on Max, his bad luck and the town's on-going history with the wednesdays. By avoiding extraneous details, The Wednesdays is a magical, believable and compelling read.

Read via NetGalley

Five stars

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The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?: 10/05/12

 cover art (Willemsk goes to Powells)The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems is the newest Pigeon book. The Duckling, first introduced in The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, is back, and he has a cookie with chips and nuts.

Of course there's no way the Pigeon (who turned nine this year) wants the Duckling to either star in a book or have a delicious cookie. As you can imagine, the Pigeon does everything possible to steal the show and the cookie.

It's a cute book that works well both as a read alone book for level one readers and as a group read. When reading it aloud, be prepared to over act and have fun.

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Owl in Love: 10/04/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I bought Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl on a complete whim. It turns out to be the author's debut novel. In it, Owl Tycho, an owl "by name and by nature" spends her days as a teenage girl and her evenings as a barn owl (Tyto alba).

Her name is so similar to what she becomes, that one can just imagine the other characters in the book doing a double take whenever Owl is first introduced. Owl, though, has other obsessions — namely her science teacher who is more than twice her age. Why he intrigues her so is never fully explained, although Owl does try. The feeling, is thankfully, not mutual.

Things change when a mysterious boy appears — camping out in the teacher's backyard (how convenient). The boy, we are lead to believe, has similar talents and needs as Owl.

Where the book lost me though is in the spareness of character. Owl, in all her strangeness, is the most normal person in the entire book. Owl's human (but self-described witch) parents are less socially adjusted that she is.

Since I never managed to connect with Owl or the other characters, I didn't care to see how the book ended. Although I was only about thirty pages from completing the book, I decided to move on to something new.

Two stars

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I Don't Want to Take a Bath!: 10/03/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)I Don't Want to Take a Bath! by Julie Sykes was a favorite board book when my children were toddlers. I used to read it to them at bath time. I read it one last time before boxing it up to give to a friend.

Little Tiger likes to play. He likes to get dirty. He doesn't like baths. Even when all of his friends go home to take baths in the jungle river and watering holes, he refuses. It's not until his invitation to play is refused that he rethinks his no bath strategy.

The book includes many different kinds of animals. It's fun to have children name the animals and make sounds for them. It's also a good book for those times when little ones are being stubborn.

Five stars

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War Horse: 10/02/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is one of his earliest novels. It has since publication been adapted for stage and film. I have seen neither adaptations but I'm curious to see the film. Although the book suffers from being an early work I think the events could lend themselves to film.

The Library of Congress summery tells you all you need to know about the book: "Joey the horse recalls his experiences growing up on an English farm, his struggle for survival as a cavalry horse during World War I, and his reunion with his beloved master." Seriously, that's all there is to the book.

War Horse, while historically interesting, suffers mostly from being told from the horse's point of view. Joey's voice has a very limited range of emotions: either a dry, book report style recounting of events, and completely heartbroken longing for his master. He's just not an interesting enough or well rounded enough of a character to carry this novel.

Later Morpurgo books also blend together a very personal, character drive story against a historical setting. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, for instance, is about the forced evacuation of a British town during World War Two and the cat who was nearly lost in the process. Unless you're a fan of books told from the point of view of a horse (Black Beauty and its ilk), War Horse the book is worth skipping.

Two stars

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Binky to the Rescue: 10/01/12

 cover art (Link goes to Powells)Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires is is the sequel to Binky the Space Cat. This time Binky gets to put all his training to the ultimate test when he accidentally finds himself outside!

For anyone who has ever owned a cat, especially a house cat, Binky will delight. It will also ring true. From Binky's point of view, the house is a space station and the outside is outer space.

Of course outside isn't outer space, but Binky does his best to survive under the rules of his delusion. He tries to breathe air through a garden hose. He fears an alien attack when he sees wasps.

I currently have two house cats. The older one does go outside sometimes but the youngest doesn't. The on time she followed me outside she reacted as if she'd walked into the vacuum of space. She froze. She poofed out. She ran right back inside and stood there staring at me, expecting something bad to happen to me.

Four stars

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What Are You Reading: October 01, 2012: 10/01/12

What Are You Reading?My favorite book last week was Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline W. Smith. It's a new biography of Ted Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) and it focuses on his "midnight paintings." These were paintings, drawings and sculptures he did for his own enjoyment — rather than ones created for books or ad campaigns. The book is full of full color versions of his pieces. For that reason alone, I'm considering purchasing a copy. I read an egalley from NetGalley.

My daughter read to me her newest book, Red Cat, Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond. Red Cat and Blue Cat's squabbles reminds us both of our two cats, Caligula and Tortuga. Caligula, the elder, is slow and crafty, while Tortuga is young and bouncy. Sometimes, though, they try to act like each other — just as the cats do in the book.

Actually all the books I finished this week were excellent. Not a stinker in the lot!

This week I'd like to finish Crunch by Leslie Connor, another near future energy crunch book. i'm not going to call it dystopian yet because society seems to be holding up pretty well, even with the petroleum reserves all dried up. Instead of focusing on how bad things can get, it's exploring just how important the bicycle would be become.

I also want to finish Comfort & Joy by Jim Grimsley. After that I still want to start Serpent of Shadows by Rick Riordan. How many weeks in a row have I said that?! I also plan to start If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle and American Rust by Philipp Meyer.

What about you?

Finished:

  1. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (library book)
  2. Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline W. Smith (review copy)
  3. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (library book)
  4. My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek (library book)
  5. Nnnnn (audio) by Carl Reiner (personal collection)
  6. Red Cat, Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (personal collection)
  2. Comfort & Joy by Jim Grimsley (library book)
  3. Crunch by Leslie Connor (library book)
  4. The First Eagle (audio) by Tony Hillerman (library book)
  5. How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  6. Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson (personal collection)
  7. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (personal collection)
  8. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (personal collection)
  9. Twenties Girl (audio) by Sophie Kinsella (library book)

Reviews Posted:

  1. The Damned Highway by Nick Mamatas and Brian Keene (review copy)
  2. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (review copy)
  3. Inside Out by Maria V Snyder (library book)
  4. The Phantom Limb by William Sleator and Ann Monticone (review copy)
  5. There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz (library book)
  6. Yesterday by CK Kelly Martin (review copy)
  7. Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth (personal collection)



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