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July 2013

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





Cardboard: 07/31/13

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Cardboard by Doug TenNapel was on the long list for the 2013 Cybils. TenNapel returns to the theme of family bonds being strained as the catalyst for a fantasy adventure. Here, it's a widower and his son, trying to scrape a living out of what's left of the post housing boom construction work.

When it's the son's birthday, the father can only afford to buy a cardboard box but he hopes he and his son can have some making some toys from it. Of course, this being a TenNapel graphic novel, it's a magic cardboard box and it's dangerously powerful. Cam and his father's creation comes to life and he instantly becomes a welcome member of their family.

But next door, there's Marcus — the neighborhood bully, whose family situation is even more strained than Cam and his father's. Marcus is full of pent-up rage. Anger plus magic, makes for a potential disaster which Cam, his father, and eventually, Marcus, have to stop.

As with the other TenNapel graphic novels I've read, the artwork is the biggest draw. His drawings are bold, colorful and eye catching. He could easily do a wordless graphic novel. The recurring them of family is another appealing factor, as is the oft-times bizarre fantasy elements. Magic cardboard, isn't something that pops up on a regular basis. All these pieces come together to make TenNapel's books memorable and satisfying.

Five stars

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Tough Cookie: 07/30/13

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Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson is the ninth in the Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery series. It's winter again. Goldy's catering catering business is suffering because her kitchen doesn't have an up to date drainage. To keep busy, she's taken on a cooking show on the local PBS, which is filmed at the top of the nearby ski resort.

Goldy in her usual well meaning way, ends up in the middle of an old mystery — an avalanche death. In fact it seems lots and lots of people seem to have trouble getting down the mountain uninjured (or alive).

Toss into the mix the usual colorful characters who all have a reason or two to want to go on a killing spree. Of course, Goldy ends up being both the focus of the investigation, and the prime target!

Five stars

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Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa: 07/29/13

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Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa by Shonto Begay is a collection of poetry and artwork that describes his life as a Diné. The poems are chronological as well as thematic, introducing his personal history, the Diné culture and beliefs and the balance between traditional and modern life.

While the poetry is beautiful, it was Shonto's paintings that I kept coming back to. While rich in the details of the mesa, they also have details more subtly worked in. There might be horses or other animals in the shapes of the snow patches, for instance. Stylistically his art work reminds me of Rob Gonsalves's surreal paintings.

Four stars

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The Deeds of the Disturber: 07/28/13

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The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters is the fifth book in the Amelia Peabody series. It's one of two books that doesn't take place in Egypt (the other being the last in the series, which takes place in Palestine).

It's the off season and while the Emersons are home in England. Amelia is tricked into caring for her niece and nephew. Ramses, their precocious son, is in for months of hell.

Although this should be their quiet time, the Emersons are pulled into a murder mystery involving a body left in an ornate Egyptian coffin. There is also an opium den and a man dressing as an Egyptian priest to cast doubt on the nature of the murder.

As it happened, I was listening to this audio (read by Barbara Rosenblat) as I was also reading The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer. Both share similarities in the threat of forced marriage and far away problems surfacing in violence in London. I suspect that both are nods in their own way to Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet.

Four stars

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The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street: 07/27/13

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The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street by Ann Redisch Stampler is about a pair of cats who bring together long time neighbors. The story is set in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Mr. Modiano runs the Fish Palace and his place is understandably very popular with the local stray cat population. His neighbor and best customer, Mrs. Spiegel cares for two cats, but can only keep one in her apartment.

Although Mr. Modiano isn't a fan of cats, he does like Mrs. Spiegel. So he comes to her rescue, searching on his motor scooter all night for her missing cat. It is through Mrs. Spiegel that Mr. Modiano's feelings towards cats soften.

It's a sweet picture book about friendship and the way animals can enrich our lives.

Read via NetGalley

Three stars

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The Viper's Nest: 07/26/13

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The Viper's Nest by Peter Lerangis is the seventh of the original 39 Clues books. Of the original set, this one is my favorite. Although it did leave me humming "Marching to Pretoria" for about a week after finishing the audio book.

After their disastrous trip to Indonesia, Amy and Dan are understandably on edge. Nellie's new skills (like being able to fly a plane) is also making them suspicious.

Lerangis doesn't gloss over South Africa's history. Dan, initially taken in by a slim biography of Shaka Zulu ends up taking the lead on this piece of the clue hunt. Along the way they learn about Winston Churchill, the Boer War, Apartheid, and Grace Cahill's time in South Africa.

Five stars

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How Did You Get This Number: 07/25/13

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How Did You Get This Number is Sloane Crosley's follow up collection of essays. I listened to the audio, read by the author. Although I do plan to listen to her first book, I Was Told There'd Be Cake, I chose to start with number two because I had heard the author read from it on NPR.

The book starts off with an exploration of her name. It's certainly one I've not heard before, although I did get the pronunciation correct before hearing her say her own name. She recounts her parents' attempt to explain where her name came from, and her eventually discovery that they must have misremembered or just created the reason out of whole-cloth.

Much of the book, though, focuses on her problems with spatial reasoning. As it so happens, I read (listened to) the book right after reading (listening to) Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. I couldn't help but find similarities between Crosley and Tammet in their learning disabilities and in their coping mechanisms — as well as their dry senses of humor.

This memoir was definitely enhanced by hearing it read by the author. I recommend it to anyone who likes to read essays or likes off the wall memoirs.

Five stars

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Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part 1: 07/24/13

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Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang starts where The Promise ends. Perhaps now after seasons of asking, we'll finally learn what happened to Zuko's mother.

Zuko, still reeling from the war feels his best hope for finding balance is in finding his mother. How can he help unite the different tribes when he can't even unite his family?

Part of this plan involves giving Azula a second chance. I think I'll be holding my breath throughout the remaining three part series, waiting for her to snap again.

Most interesting, though, are the flashbacks for Ursa's teenage years and early marriage. Her time before being the Fire Lord's wife hints at why she's missing now and shows why the family is as messed up now as it is.

Five stars

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Grandfather's Journey: 07/23/13

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Allen Say's picture books are always somewhat autobiographical. Grandfather's Journey is no different as it tells of his grandfather's life in the United States and his return to Japan.

As a young man, Allen's grandfather traveled to the United States. Through odd jobs he worked his way across the country. Says gorgeous paintings show his grandfather against many different American landmarks and landscapes. My favorite shows the small figure of his grandfather against the massive shapes of Monument Valley.

Later though, the grandfather had settled in San Francisco. He married and the had a daughter (Say's mother). Being a parent changes one, makes one nostalgic. He made the decision to move back to Japan. It was there that Say was later born and raised.

Say's story isn't just a biography of his grandfather. It is also an exploration of life and death and that sense of home. Say like his grandfather, calls both Japan and California his home. He says that bouncing homesickness as he travels has made him understand his grandfather and miss him.

Grandfather's Journey is a good introduction to different pieces of recent history. It also could be used to enhance a geography lesson or a genealogy one.

Five stars

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My Father's Dragon: 07/22/13

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My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is the first book in a children's trilogy about a young man (the narrator's father) and his baby dragon. It was a 1948 Newbury Honor.

Elmer Elevator decides he is in need of some adventure. He has heard rumor of a bullied baby dragon on Wild Island, accessible only via a string of rocks from Tangerine Island. Elmer must face dangerous, talking animals, out smarting them.

For younger readers, My Father's Dragon offers a silly adventure similar to the Pipi Longstocking books. For me, the best part of the book was the artwork. The illustrations and included map are wonderful. Reading, it though, as an adult, I found the story lacking somewhat. I'm sure if I were still in elementary school, though, it would have been a favorite.

Recommended by Book a Day Almanac

Three stars

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Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs: 07/21/13

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Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola is about a boy who is close to his grandmother ("Nana downstairs") and his great-grandmother ("Nana upstairs").

Tommy likes to eat lunch with Nana upstairs and listen to her stories. She's very old and very frail and one day she dies. Tommy has to come to terms with losing Nana Upstairs and how his life will change now that there is just one Nana.

The book is a very gentle but matter of fact approach to the temporary nature of life and the ever changing aspects of families. The book ends with a brief glimpse at Tommy all grown up to see how he and his family has changed.

The book brought back memories of the routine my grandmother and I had when I was little. We would frequently go to Norwalk to visit my great grandmother who was too ill to live at home any more. We would visit her first and then go on the rounds to visit her friends. There was a lady who would always save her banana for me and another one who made dogs out yarn tied to frames made from bent coat hangers.

And then when I was about seven we stopped going because my great grandmother had died. Now I'm grown up, have my children and my grandmother has passed away too.

Four stars

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Angelina on Stage: 07/20/13

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Angelina on Stage by Katharine Holabird is the fifth book in the Angelina Ballerina series. It's the third book I've read with my daughter. The book is similar to the animated episode, "The Show Must Go On" in which Angelina has to contend with taking a secondary roll because she can't carry a tune.

In the book Angelina is picked to play a small roll as a fairy but cousin Henry ends up steeling the show as he's cast to play a troll. Henry, as he is in the cartoons, has no sense of direction, on or off stage. That which endears him to the cast may also ruin the show.

The most interesting aspect of Angelina on Stage is the fact that she's dancing with an adult troupe. Usually the focus is on Angelina and her friends dancing or Miss Lily reminiscing of her days as a dancer. It's nice and educational to see how a professional performance is put together.

Four stars

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Emile: 07/19/13

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I wanted to read Emile by Tomi Ungerer after reading Crictor. Both are picture books about unusual friendships between exotic animals and people. Emile, as the cover shows, is an octopus.

The book opens with Captain Samofar having his life saved by Emile. The captain invites the octopus home and he agrees. For a while he is content to live in a bath tub of salt water. But soon he wants more from life.

While above the sea, Emile tries a number of things including working as a lifeguard and fighting crime. All the adventure, though, wears on one. Even a brave octopus might crave a quiet life eventually.

It's a charming book about friendship, adventure and being true to oneself. The book is currently out of print but is worth tracking down.

Five stars

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Ruth Fielding in the Saddle: 07/18/13

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Ruth Fielding in the Saddle by Alice B. Emerson is the twelfth in the Ruth Fielding series. It's one of five books I purchased years ago at Cliff's Books in Pasadena.

Ruth Fielding is one of those early to mid twentieth century book series for teenagers, written under a pseudonym. Think of it as an early example of YA. In this case, Ruth has been attending an all girls school and is now attending college.

In a previous book, Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures, she sold a silent movie script and now on spring break has a chance to sell another one. There's just one catch, she and her classmates (one of them is a budding actress) must make their way to rural Arizona. Although the area mentioned is completely fictionally, it's approximately at the western edge of the Navajo Nation.

I bring that up because it's a big part of the problem with the book. In the other Ruth Fielding book I read (and since I've only now read two, I can't if it's normal or not for the series as a whole), Ruth was a plucky, level headed, young woman who was willing and able to make friends with anyone, while helping those in need with their problems. Here, though, in the outer reaches of Arizona, there's a tone of racism and sexism that just wasn't in the Moving Pictures book.

Ruth and company need to hire a guide to take them to the shooting location. They end up meeting the man's daughter, who by her description is probably the daughter of a prospector and either a Navajo, Hopi or Zuni — though by her attire, I'd say Navajo. Rather than taking this fact in stride (as the daughter initially seems to), Ruth and company are horrified, frightened and completely put off by the circumstances of their guide's existence.

So much of the book is spent not on the mystery of the gold mine (really, a gold mine?) or on the movie shoot, but on the sad state of the guide and her "tragic" back story. Here she is living a self sufficient life and at the appearance of a few out of towner college girls, she goes completely to pieces, wishing for dresses and girlie things. Ugh.

Three stars

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The Monstore: 07/17/13

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The Monstore by Tara Lazar and illustrated by James Burks (of Bird and Squirrel on the Run is a delightful debut picture book. Zack has a pesky younger sister whom he wants to get out of his hair. He decides the best way to do this is to buy a pet monster from the monstore.

The monstore though, doesn't accept refunds. The first monster Zack purchases takes a liking to the pesky sister. Rather than see that his sister might not be frightened by monsters, he tries with another monster.

You can see where this is going. And so could my daughter, who happens to be (at least from my son's point of view) a monster loving pesky younger sister. There just couldn't be a better fit for my daughter and that shows with how many times she's re-read the book in the month she's own the book.

James Burks's illustrations are a great match to story. They are colorful and creative with each monster being unique and memorable — even the ones who don't play major roles in the book.

Five stars

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Arthur and the Invisibles: 07/16/13

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Arthur and the Invisibles by Luc Besson is an audio book comprising Arthur and the Minimoys and Arthur and the Forbidden City. Frankly I can't imagine reading these as separate books as the break between the two seems arbitrary. Together the two halves tell one complete story — an adventure story about a ten year old boy trying to save his grandmother's farm and a 1000 year old princess trying to save the kingdom.

Arthur is sent to his grandmother's home to celebrate his tenth birthday. His parents, though, won't be there as they are in the city looking for work. It's a tough time economically and everyone is suffering. His grandmother, meanwhile, is struggling to keep the house from foreclosure by a greedy land developer.

The grandmother, though, has the money — in the form of a cache of rubies brought back from Africa, and buried somewhere in the garden. Her husband couldn't remember where he had hid them, and now he's gone. The tale of the rubies is tied up with a tale of warriors who are for lack of a better description, like magical Maasai. At their side, they have a companion race (species?) of warriors, called the Minimoy. It is the Minimoy who know where the rubies are hidden.

Through that delightful magical logic of children's fantasy, Arthur finds a way to enlist their help. He comes though at a moment of crisis — they are under attack by M the cursed. And here is where things get interesting.

In the book(s), Besson takes his time recasting the grandmother's garden as a fantasy world with a rich, vibrant culture — very different than Arthur's. Through the world building, the characters come to life and their actions are explained — including the villain's (something often over looked in children's fantasy).

Four stars

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Amelia Peabody's Egypt: 07/15/13

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As part of my goal to read my own books, as well as books I have been given as gifts, I spent a lazy weekend reading Amelia Peabody's Egypt by Elizabeth Peters and friends.

I have mentioned before that I maintain an extensive wish list of books I want to read. It's only in the last two or three years that I've made a concerted effort to actually find and read books off the list. Amelia Peabody's Egypt, though, has the honor of being my first wishlist book ever. My mother was also nice enough to purchase it for me that Christmas. While many books linger on my wishlist for months, if not years, this one was there for only a few weeks. Of course, then I neglected to read it for a decade! Sorry Mom!

Amelia Peabody's Egypt is a classic example of a folio. Besides being oversized and full of interesting pictures, it defies easy classification. On the surface it's an illustrated history of Egypt and Egyptology in the years covered by the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries. Except the book tosses in "facts" about fictional characters, including Amelia Peabody Emerson, her husband and their son.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is an avid fan of the series and wants a thematic discussion of the series canon. I would also recommend it for libraries also looking for a complete collection. For armchair Egyptologists, there's nothing "new" in this book except for the fictional elements.

Three stars

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Daisy's Defining Day: 07/14/13

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Daisy's Defining Day by Sandra V Feder is the sequel to Daisy's Perfect Day. Daisy likes words and keeps a journal where she writes down all her favorites.

The younger brother of one of Daisy's friends learns about rhyming words. He decides to start calling Daisy, "Lazy Daisy." To her it feels like bullying. Rather that go to an adult for help, she decides she needs to invent a new name for herself.

As this is a series about word play, the title alone should give a hint at what type of name Daisy decides to create — an alliterative one. Daisy and her best friend come up with as many fantastic names as they can — the longer the better as long as they are alliterative.

There are essentially three plots here: Daisy's unwanted new name, her trouble with Emma (caused primarily from insisting on too long and difficult of a nickname), and Daisy's usual exploration of words. I would have preferred more word play and less emphasis on the bullying.

Three stars

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Pippi in the South Seas: 07/13/13

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Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren is the last of the original Pippi novels. There were later some comics or picture books, which I haven't read.

Pippi is the prototype of many of my favorite female characters. Anytime you see a red-head young woman who has the confidence and strength of ten men and seems capable of doing anything and quite possibly rescuing the world, she's probably a Pippi.

A modern day Pippi, I would argue, is Clara Oswin Oswald — the impossible girl. She has what it takes to make people do things and she can hack her way through any situation or any computer.

Now sure — Amy Pond did (at least in one timeline) live by herself — but it wasn't by choice and she wasn't happy doing it. She waited. She's known as The girl who waited. The Pippis of the world never wait unless they want to.

Pippi might let you rescue her, but that's only because she thinks you need know that you can rescue someone. Were you to fail, she'd rescue herself, and then you.

So in this book, Pippi decides it's high time to visit her father. He's no longer a prisoner but he has pretty much given up being a pirate, deciding instead to live in the South Seas among a group of islanders.

To make the adventure all the more memorable, Pippi convinces the parents of her best friends to let them go with her. This trip means missing Christmas with the family (or at least delaying it) and possibly missing some school. Pippi, though, has that bravado to her that makes her ever so convincing.

As with the other two novels, the chapters are basically episodic tales of sheer Pippi mayhem. Pippi makes friends on the island. She learns from them and teaches the island children a thing or two.

And then, at long last it's time to go home. But Pippi has one last trick up her sleeves — a promise of a forever childhood. For her, it's a pill, a ritual and a short spell. For Clara — it's a leaf of faith (pun intended). For Radical Edward — she's probably copied herself into the computer network. Pippi transcends and continues to inspire.

Five stars

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A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table: 07/12/13

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I read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg right on the heels of finishing A Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. While Wizenberg's book is a memoir, and Bender's book is fantasy, thematically they belong together.

Wizenberg begins her book with her father and his death from a particularly nasty cancer. Her parents (especially her father) had loved to cook at home and from scratch (except, oddly, for the box pancakes). So it is through her memories of food that the author celebrates her father and finds herself.

Now the book's description puts its emphasis on Wizenberg's trip to France. It sounds like she was fleeing her responsibilities to mourn. The actual memoir though, doesn't spend that much time on the few months she spent there. Instead, most chapters are centered on a specific recipe and the stories behind it. There will be the description of how to make the dish, the people she associates with the recipe and a story that defines her memories of it.

Five stars

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: 07/11/13

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is an exploration of the emotions captured in food. Although Bender specializes in placing the extraordinary in ordinary settings, there's still a recognizable truth to what Rose Edelstein experiences.

Just before her 9th birthday, as Rose and her mother are baking a chocolate frosted lemon cake, she realizes the cake she and her mother have made countless times doesn't taste right. It's not that the recipe is different or that the ingredients are off. No — there's a crushing sadness to it.

From then on, Rose can taste the stories behind every meal she eats. It's not just emotions, but also the foods' origins. She learns a new geography based on the things her meals tell her. In order to keep her sanity in all this on rush of information and raw emotion, Rose must learn how and what to eat.

The book follows Rose through her teenage years into early adulthood. She grows into her special ability and finds herself in the process. Along the way she learns she is not alone in having powers — her brother and her father.

As with Bender's short stories, Rose's narration is told with detachment. It's not that she doesn't care — it's just that she is looking back on her life through the new normal. The events of her life, while extraordinary are just part of who she is.

Although the first couple of chapters took some getting used to, I loved watching Rose grow. I recommend reading Bender's book in conjunction with the memoir: A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg.

Five stars

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Pie: 07/10/13

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Pie by Sarah Weeks is a tween historical fiction about a girl, a cat and a missing pie crust recipe. Alice, the girl, has inherited Aunt Polly's cat, Lardo (think of Crisco) and her famous Ipswitch pie shop (think the Pie Hole from Pushing Daisies). Her will, though, says that she left her award winning pie crust recipe to Lardo.

As you can imagine, Lardo, the highly disagreeable cat, is cat napped. Alice does everything in her power to find the cat, while her mother tries to master the recipes (even though she shows no talent or interesting in baking).

With each chapter there is a pie recipe. The afterword includes information on how the recipes were collected. I didn't try any of the recipes — as my daughter and I already have our own selection of favorites. I will, say, though, that my daughter makes a pie crust that could rival Aunt Polly's

The Pie Hole from Pushing Daisies

Five stars

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir: 07/09/13

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls is a memoir of her childhood living in steadily increasing poverty, mostly from her own parents problems (mother's obsessive interest in art and father's alcoholism). It's not a particularly pleasant book to read (or listen to) but it is certainly memorable.

After a brief "present day" scene where the author sees her mother digging through garbage on a New York City street, the book goes back in time to her first memory. It involves watching her dress catch on fire as she's trying to make herself hot dogs. Because her parents are too damn distracted to feed her.

Eating (and not being able to eat due to food scarcity) as well as dangerous living conditions (fire, cockroaches, crumbling foundations, rotting garbage, etc.) are recurrent themes.

As a parent struggling sometimes with finances, I listened to this book wondering at the mindset behind the parents. Especially later when it's revealed how much of the family's on going decline was self imposed.

Four stars

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The Shape Shifter: 07/08/13

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The Shape Shifter is the last of the Navajo mysteries written by by Tony Hillerman. His daughter is now restarting the series — the first of the new books being Spider Woman's Daughter in which Bernie Manuelito (now Mrs. Chee) will play a greater role.

My one complaint with Hillerman's novels is the sheer number of times witches / skinwalkers / shape shifters are initially blamed for a crime. Usually it's only taken as a piece of rumor, but it's still rather tedious.

Now while the Chees are enjoying being newlyweds, Leaphorn, retired, takes on a curious case involving a rug with ties to the Long Walk. The rug (rumored to possibly be cursed) surfaces in a magazine spread years after it was presumed lost to fire.

Tied up with the rug is the shape shifter in question. Here it's not a Navajo witch, but identity theft. Leaphorn uses the traditional stories to rationalize the thought process behind the crime.

When I first read the book it felt like a winding-up of the series. To me, Leaphorn felt like Hillerman's authorial stand-in. Although Hillerman wasn't a Navajo, I think he was of the same generation as Leaphorn. I think the future books, by Hillerman's daughter, it would be fitting to say a quiet goodbye to Leaphorn and let Jim and Bernie take center stage. I also have to wonder if Bernie will be Anne Hillerman's authorial stand in.

Four stars

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The Grilling Season: 07/07/13

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The Grilling Season by Diane Mott Davidson is the seventh in the Goldy Bear catering series. I'm catching up to the books I read early on before I decided to read them in order. So if my review seems more disjointed than usual, that's probably why. I should also note that as I listened to this book, read by Barbara Rosenblat, I have no idea how some of the character names are spelled!

Arch's father (aka, "the Jerk") is dating one of Goldy's clients. Of course, this client (who has a bit of a reputation for a temper, herself) ends up dead. All the evidence points to John Richard — all too conveniently. But Goldy, having survived through his abuse, is too blinded to see anything else except that her abusive ex-husband has finally gone too far. Arch, though, insists that she do her usual snooping around to prove that his father didn't do it. Either — he's an unusually dense child who is completely blind the abuse (doubtful) or he's inherited his mother's Spidey senses.

While Julian is away at college, Goldy is loaning his room to McGuire. He had been working as her assistant, but he's been laid up with mono (which I can tell you from personal experience, is no fun!) and even she can't get him to eat.

Between trying to get McGuire to eat and trying to help Arch (against all of her better judgment), Goldy also has the Babsie Doll conference to cater. Think Barbie meets American Girl. Then throw in the crazy cosplay that sometimes goes hand in hand with conferences.

I enjoyed the book. Goldy seemed more out of sorts than usual but given the circumstances, her emotional state makes sense. As I am coming up on books I've already listened to, I had some deja vu moments — mostly in recognizing people who will be important in future volumes. For anyone paying close attention, all the clues are there. The how, why and and who are all there.

Five stars

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Don't Forget the Bacon!: 07/06/13

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Don't Forget the Bacon! by Pat Hutchins is a picture book about a boy sent on his own the market for the first time. His mother recites the list along with some actions she hopes will help him remember the list. Then at the end she includes, "Don't forget the bacon," presumably because she almost forgot to add it to the list.

Along the way the boy tries to recite his mother's list. The interesting walk down the high street is understandably distracting. Like a game of telephone his list becomes muddled with each iteration.

An antique shop is nearly the final blow to his mother's list. But he eventually sorts it out. He remembers the correct list and does his shopping. Except...

While the humorous review preserved on the Internet Archive admonishes the boy for what he forgets, I think the real moral of the story is to write things down! If for some reason you can't, make sure the person running the errands can repeat the entire list before leaving. Don't trust hearing it once to be enough for it to stick.

Five stars

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Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research: 07/05/13

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As part of the 2009-2010 CYBILS, I was introduced to Thomas Siddell's web comic, Gunnerkrigg Court, via volume one, Orientation. Although I was eager to read volume 2, Research, it fell out of print about as quickly as it was in print. So quick in fact, that none of my local libraries had managed to purchase a copy (although they did have volume 3, Reason).

Yes — I could have read online. It is a web comic, after all. My husband has read it since the beginning and continue to stay current with the series online. Web comics and ebooks, are two things that I find incredibly frustrating to read on a regular basis. I prefer stepping away from my screen to read print.

Thankfully last year, Archaia Entertainment started producing a new edition of Research. Gleefully I purchased a copy (along with Reason, review coming).

Research in print is 296 pages. It covers Chapter 15 through the end of Chapter 22. I've included the links if you'd prefer to read it online.

Annie and Kat are back for their second year. The first year / volume was an introduction both to the school and to the characters. This year, it's all about exploration both of the castle and of its history. I'm a sucker for stories that treat the architecture almost like another character — subterranean tunnels, secret passage ways, boarded up rooms — all make me turn the pages faster. Research is full of all these goodies.

Sometimes the plot in second book in a multi-part series languishes. These even number books become the pause for breath between the intense, action-packed odd number volumes. Not so, here. There's a good balance between new revelations and answers to questions posed in Orientation.

Five stars

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Yoga for Cats: 07/04/13

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Yoga for Cats by Traudl Reiner is a German book (translated and published in Britain in 1990). It features cartoon drawings of cats learning how to do yoga.

I think the book is best suited for cat lovers who are into Yoga. While some of the positions are specific to cats, most of them are the standard affair.

I read it for the cats more so than the yoga. I would donate the book, except that it's my daughter's book. She's not into yoga either — although I can see her doing it when she's older.

Three stars

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The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan: 07/03/13

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The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan by Nancy Springer is the fourth of the Enola Holmes series. It's a follow up to The Case of Left-Handed Lady.

Enola while on an investigation happens to meet up with Lady Cecily. With the help of a cheap pink fan, Cecily begs Enola for help. It doesn't take her long to figure out that Lady Cecily is being kept prisoner somewhere and needs her help again.

The color pink in a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, homage or spinoff is usually a nod to the first of the stories, A Study in Scarlet. Now usually these mysteries focus on the murder with the scrawled message, RACHE. Springer, though, takes the other half of the original as her inspiration — keeping her focus on feminism in the Victorian era — namely the forced marriage of a young woman.

On the personal front, Enola seems to be gaining ground with Sherlock. There's a great scene where Enola has to come to her brother's rescue. While he doesn't completely capitulate to her demands, he does silently agree to be her ally.

It's a short enjoyable edition to the series. It has the usual fun stuff of cyphers, disguises, and secret forms of communication.

Five stars

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Bad Machinery: The Case of the Team Spirit: 07/02/13

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Bad Machinery: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison is a web comic now being printed. Two sets of investigating teams — one made up of three boys, and one made up of three girls — compete to uncover mysteries at their grammar school.

As there are six main characters and two intertwined plots, as well as minor characters and the usual web comic wackiness, it took a dozen or so pages to fall into the story. I think part of the trouble was in reading it as an egalley. Sometimes graphic novels don't play nicely as egalleys and this was one of those cases. The print version is a 9x12 folio and the artwork would certainly shine at that size.

What took me in finally was Mrs. Biscuit. While seems like the usual, somewhat daft, elderly character to so often shows up in tween fiction, she's more than that. Mrs. Biscuit's part of the story adds something special.

Four stars

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Let's Meet a Librarian: 07/01/13

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Let's Meet a Librarian by Gina Bellisario is a short picture book that introduces preschool and kindergarten aged children to the library.

As the book is meant for children who might have just gotten their first library card, its focus is on the things they will probably see in the parts of the library they frequent (the school library, the classroom library and the children's library at their local public library).

On the positive side, the book shows children that libraries are more than just books and librarians do more than just check out books. Also, the book includes a male librarian. It also shows how librarians use and maintain the library computers.

Now as a "behind the scenes" librarian, I'm sad to see that there's not much there for what I do. There's no talk of cataloging (beyond an a brief mention of Dewey classification, which is only one method, by the way) or book repair. Nor is there book acquisition — or interlibrary loans.

But, it is an introduction to libraries and librarians — not a text book. It does include a glossary as well as some suggested reading.

Four stars

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The Canadian Book Challenge #7: 07/01/13

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July 1st is Canada Day and it means the start of the Canadian Book Challenge. It's my favorite of all the book blog challenges. I've been participating since 2009, the year my Canadian niece was born. The goal is to read and review 13 books in that year. For last year's challenge, I read 28 books. For the 2013-4 challenge, I'd like to match or best that effort.

As always, I'm including last year's completed books in case you want an idea of what to read. Here are the 2012-13, 2010-11, 2009-10 lists.

2012-13 List of Completed Books:

  1. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  2. The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
  3. Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires
  4. Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World by David L. Pike
  5. Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs
  6. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe
  7. Everything on a Waffle (audio) by Polly Horvath
  8. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
  9. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  10. The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and Kyrsten Brooker (Canadian illustrator)
  11. I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows by Alan Bradley
  12. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  13. Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thomson and Rob Gonsalves
  14. Lost Cities by Dale Peck
  15. The Lowdown on Denim by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
  16. Monoculture by FS Michaels
  17. One False Note by Gordon Korman
  18. One Moon, Two Cats by Laura Godwin
  19. One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath
  20. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and illustrated by Anne Mortimer
  21. Planting Dandelions by Kyran Pittman
  22. Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender by Carrie Jones
  23. The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra
  24. Skywalkers: Mohawk Ironworkers Build the City by David Weitzman
  25. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
  26. Spork by Kyo Maclear
  27. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
  28. Zed: A Cosmic Tale by Michel Gagné

 

2013-14 List of Completed Books:

  1. In Lucia's Neighborhood by Pat Shewchuk
  2. Cat Comes Too by Hazel Hutchins
  3. The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman
  4. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
  5. The Boggart by Susan Cooper
  6. Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson
  7. The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A.E. van Vogt
  8. The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
  9. The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
  10. Into the Unknown by Stewart Ross
  11. The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
  12. The Medusa Plot by Gordon Korman
  13. Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
  14. Along a Long Road by Frank Viva
  15. Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires
  16. The Chairs Are Where the People Go by Misha Glouberman
  17. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
  18. Looks Like Daylight by Deborah Ellis

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