I have been keeping busy the last month rediscovering Netgalley again. There are some pretty decent books coming out now and I love being able read them early. I also found Edelweiss through another blogger that I follow, which is an additional Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) website. Through that site, I was lucky enough to get the ARC of Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School, Book the Second) by the awesomely talented Gail Carriger. However I can’t post my review on that book until 2 weeks before the release date in November. I am currently reading an actual book copy of Neil Gaiman as editor of Unnatural Creatures, a collection of short stories. I’m also listening to Libba Bray’s audiobook version of The Diviners, a book that had not heard of but found the last time I was browsing the teen section at my library. I’ve read half of the newest two-volume set by Gene Luen Yang (author of American Born Chinese). The first volume is called Saints and the second is called Boxers, and they are both on the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 20th century, but taken from two different viewpoints or rather from characters on different sides of the conflict. Saints was a complicated story and I’m not 100% sure how to review it, which is why I’m waiting on finishing the second to do that. On to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge, which I started last May, is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present. This year, I will include some photos of illustrations that I like with the reviews. Because I have previously reviewed the Netgalley books on my blog, I will just list the titles and provide the links to them.
Perfectly Percy by Paul Schmid
I’ve been waiting for a copy of this book for what seems like forever and it finally came in last week. I loved the playful illustrations by the author/illustrator of a young porcupine named Percy who loves balloons, but due to his prickly exterior, they keep popping. It takes some serious thinking and imagination for him to come up with a solution. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.
Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-El
Liam and I loved this book about being different! I think kids and parents alike can appreciate this book. Crispin is not your typical 7 year old dragon. Instead of spouting fire out of his mouth on his birthday, whipped cream comes out instead. At first his family is ashamed, so Crispin runs away from home and meets a knight named Sir George. Neither seems to be a typical example of what their parents expect. Sir George tries to help Christian breathe fire, but it doesn’t go as planned. As it gets dark, Sir George escorts Crispin home. After he manages to save his parent’s house and Sir George’s father, Crispin’s family embraces his differences and celebrates them. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.
Feather Mountain by Elizabeth Olds
This book won a 1952 Caldecott Honor, otherwise I probably never would have picked it up. It is based off a Native American tale and tells the story of how birds got their feathers. Like a lot of books from this time period, I think it’s too long to hold the attention of both the reader (myself) and my 2 year old (I’m sure anyone under 5 would have trouble). The illustrations were not that interesting either. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2 stars.
When Will the World Be Mine? by Miriam Schlein
Even though the story was a little long and had to be broken into two days, I really enjoyed this tale of a little snowshoe rabbit growing up and asking questions about the world around him. I absolutely loved the illustrations done by Jean Charlot, who is known for doing Mexican murals though he did quite a few children’s books as well. This book he did with crayon on acetate and only used two colors. To learn more about this technique, check out this paper from the University of Hawaii (about 19 paragraphs down in “A Child’s Good Night Book” sections). Recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.
Dash and Dart by Mary and Conrad Buff
My first thought with this 1943 Caldecott Honor winner unfortunately was geez this book is long! I realize that that was the habit with books from the 1930s-50s, but this may be the longest one so far at 73 pages. Granted it is a poetry book and one continuous story, but it took 3-4 nights to read this to my son. I enjoyed the mostly black and white illustrations and story through rhyming poetry about two young fawns named Dash and Dart, who grow up in the forest. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
This book is a bedtime counting story about a young African-American girl who is being put to bed by her father. It was a short sweet book, where the child learns to count backwards from ten to one. My son enjoyed looking at all the illustrations. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.
Alphabatics by Suse McDonald
I enjoyed this fun and simple Alphabet book, which won a 1987 Caldecott Honor. The letter morphs into the word on the opposite page, like N turning into Nest or G turning into a Giraffe. My son loved the brightly colored pictures in this simple picture book, and I liked that I could point to the picture in the book and then to the wall stickers that corresponded to that animal/object (like T for Tree or L for Lion). Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.
Children and Young Adult
Perigrine Harker and the Black Death by Luke Hollands
House of Many Ways (Howl’s Moving Castle #3) by Diana Wynne Jones, narrated by Jenny Sterlin
I thought this was the second book in the Howl’s Moving Castle series but apparently it’s the third. Eventually I will get to read Castle in the Air (the actual second book). It was a little bit of a slow start at first, but once the story got going, I was hooked. I loved her choice of words in the book and enjoyed seeing more storyline involving Howl, Sophie and Calcifer.
Book-loving Charmain Baker is asked to watch up her Great Uncle William’s house. He is a magician who works for the King of High Norland, but has become ill and must be taken care of by the elves. It turns out his house is magical and is bigger than it looks. Charmain must also look after Great Uncle William’s stray dog Waif and a would-be apprentice named Peter, who is horrible at magic. Charmain also has to deal with a group of kobolds who are mad at Wizard Norland and scary creature called a lubbock who wants to implant his eggs in her. She ends up working in the library of the palace for the King and his daughter Princess Hilda, who are trying to figure out where all the kingdom’s money has gone and what the Elfgift is. They’ve also asked the wizard Howl, Hilda’s friend Sophie Pendragon and the fire demon Calcifer to help. Will they ever find the money and discover the true nature of the Elfgift? To find out, check out this great book. Recommended for ages 9+, 4 stars.
If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff
The Girl with the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles #3) by Kady Cross
I found this book rather hard to review because really there’s not much going on story-wise. Now there’s a ton in the feeling development department, at least for the two main couples who have finally revealed their true feelings to each other. But there isn’t much character development aside from the feelings, and Jasper has almost no role in the story at all. Despite this, I had been waiting forever for this book to come out and was super excited to pick it up from the library last week.
Emily, Sam, Griffin, Finley and Jasper have returned from America after the adventures from the last book, The Girl with the Clockwork Collar and the opening of this book with the Kraken was very exciting. Things settle down a bit until Emily (the girl in the title) is kidnapped by automatons who serve the Machinist, who the gang supposedly killed in the previous book, but who is being kept alive by his machines. Meanwhile Griffin is struggling with something in the Aether and is wearing himself down, but will tell no one who or what it is. Before she was kidnapped, Emily told Sam she loved him and he’s desperate to tell her his feelings. Jack makes an appearance in the beginning, which of course bugs the crap out of Griffin and you kind of get the feeling that his rough Cockney accent is more of a put-on to annoy Griffin than him actually being from South London. I would personally love to have more story with Jack, so am excited to hear about an e-book coming out on the topic. Griffin and Finley finally reveal their true feelings to each other. Will Emily go through what she has been ordered to do by the Machinist? Will the rest of the gang ever figure out where Emily is? To find out, read the third book in this exciting steampunk series. Recommended for ages 12+, 4 stars.
City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire #1) by Miriam Forester, narrated by Shannon McManus
I picked this up randomly while browsing the teen audiobook section, as the summary sounded interesting. The narrator was not the best choice, in my opinion, though as other reviewers have commented on, it could be the book itself. I just thought as the book was supposed to be set in an Asian-like setting they should’ve picked someone from that part of the world who was better at doing voices. Despite the poor choice in narrator, I stuck with the book because I found the story fascinating and enjoyed the plot twists. I really did not know who did it until the very end.
The City of a Thousand Dolls is a place where the people of the Bhinian Empire can take their unwanted girls, necessary because of the Empire’s two child policy. The houses train each girl up as novices in various fields such as healing, seduction, music/dance, and fighting. Nisha came to the city when she was 6 years old, and she doesn’t remember her parents all that much. Who were they and why did they leave her here? She is taken under the wing of an older girl named Taniya and they become good friends. The story opens up 10 years later, right before the Redeeming Ceremony (where girls can be selected for marriage, apprenticeships and to become a mistress). Taniya has been groomed for years as the bride of the Crown Prince, and he is coming to claim her this year. Nisha is hoping that the guy she has been seeing will speak up for her. She has been working for the Matron (the person in charge of the City of Dolls) as a spy and assistant. Nisha is also unique because she can mind-speak to the local spotted cats. Shortly after the story begins, a girl is murdered and there are no suspects. Then another two girls die. Who is killing them and why? Nisha must find out, with the help of the cats she does so. Recommended for ages 13+, 3 1/2 stars.
Her Ladyship’s Curse (Disenchanted & Co., #1) by Lynn Viehl
The Cute Girl Network by MK Reed and Greg Means, illustrations by Joe Flood
Crucible: Star Wars by Troy Denning
My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family by Debra Samuels
I want to own this book! The author spent a total of 10 years in Japan, living and working there, so she knows what she is talking about. I love Japanese cuisine, but it can sometimes be a bit unapproachable when it comes to actually cooking it due to trying to find ingredients or cooking techniques. The recipes here were simple and easy to make, and although most of them were things I had heard of or seen before, there were some new interesting things to make. Sauteed Daikon Radish (which I’ve recently discovered that I like, though I’ve never tried them like this) with Citrus Miso Sauce, Matcha Cupcakes with Adzuki Bean Filling, and Japanese Mushroom Mélange with Butter and Soy are just a few of the great dishes I would love to try. 5 stars.