Archive for August, 2013


His Lordship Possessed (Disenchanted & Co., Book 1, Part 2) by Lynn Viehl

His Lordship Possessed

I was really excited to read this second part of the first book after the first part was so good. I really enjoyed this second book, though it was almost like the author was trying to squeeze too much information in this book instead of perhaps trying to make it several books (like this should’ve been Book 2 of the series instead of Part 2 of Book 1). The excess information/story kind of bogged down the book in the middle and made it a little hard to slosh through. However the ending was well-done and I was surprised (in a good way) at all the storyline revealed by the end of it. I can’t wait to read the 2nd book in the series!

In this volume, Kit has escaped from Dredmore, the deathmage, only to be captured by the police and brought to court on use of magic charges, of course orchestrated by the wealthy Nolan Walsh, who seems to want to reek vengeance on her for meddling in his affairs. She manages to get out of those charges only to land in an even bigger crazier mess involving her dead grandfather Harry, whose ghost she can see and Dredmore, and evil forces set on destroying Toriana, from Rumsen to the rest of the country. Will she be able to stop the dark forces from overtaking Rumsen and her and the town’s way of life? Will Kit and Dredmore ever sort out their feelings for each other? To find out read the exciting conclusion to Book 1 of Disenchanted & Co. 4 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review #8

I feel like I’ve not gotten nearly as many books read in the past month, mostly because it’s been very hit or miss (mostly miss) when trying to select good adult books to read. I went through three different choices before settling on the book I just finished, and even it wasn’t stellar. I am trying to decide which Netgalley book to tackle next, as my latest choices have just flat out sucked. I think I might read some fluffy nonfiction books from the library for awhile until I can make up my mind. I started listening to the Game of Thrones audiobook, as I don’t have cable and they just finished the 3rd season, which I won’t get to watch until the next DVD set comes out, and figured that since I liked the show, I would probably like the printed version. The series actually does follow relatively close, but there is of course a good amount of creative license used. I will say, at this point, I like the books way better than the series. The audiobook is 28 discs, which makes sense if you think about the fact that the actual printed book is nearly 900 pages. I got nearly 20 discs into it before I had to return it (the hold list on the book is insane, it took me over 2 months to get my copy). I think I’m gonna have to break down and buy the first book so I can finish the story, which of course was just starting to get good as I had to return it. You think the show is crazy with its incestuous couples, sex and violence? The book is way more so, but it just makes the story-telling more fascinating  (though I could do with a whole lot less stomach ripping open scenes).

I am proud of myself though for reading 228 of the about 300 Caldecott Winners/Honors list! It’s been taking longer lately because my son hasn’t been interested in listening to the stories, only the ones he wants me to read (lately it’s been Daddy Cuddles by Anne Gutman). I’m still not finished of course, but that is definitely making some headway. Plus my local library finally put their Caldecott Collection where it is easier to access, so I might be able to slip away for a few hours in the near future to catch up on the 1940s-60s books I can’t check out. 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.

Children

Daddy Cuddles by Ann Gutman, illustrated by Georg Hallensben

This book is currently my son’s favorite story to read at bedtime. It is a cute book which shows different animals and how the fathers cuddle with their babies. Recommended for ages 1-4, 3 stars.

Goldilocks and Just One Bear  by Leigh Hodgkinson

Goldilocks and Just One Bear

I picked this one up because the description sounded interesting. I loved the brightly colored buildings of the city and the way it all looked as if a child could’ve drawn them. A variation of the Goldilocks story, in this version a bear gets lost in the woods and ends up in a big city. To get out of all the noise of traffic, he goes into an apartment building and finds a very upscale place where he can eat, sit down, and have a nap. He dreams he is back home until he realizes there are people in the apartment and they’ve found him and everything he has done there. The mommy person and the bear look at each other and think they each look very familiar, and then realize they know each other. It is Baby Bear and Goldilocks! She fixes him a big bowl of porridge, and then he goes home. Cute story. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Hey, Al by Arthur Yorinks, illustrated by Richard Egielski

Hey Al

I really enjoyed this 1987 Caldecott winning book, especially colorful illustrations and the banter between Al and Eddie. Al is a janitor who lives in a studio apartment with his dog Eddie, and they do everything together. Eddie can’t wait for them to move out and have some change, but Al is resistant. One day, a beautiful brightly colored bird invites them to a floating island paradise, where they happily remain with all the other birds until they realize that something is not quite right. They start turning into birds and decided that now it is time to leave, and just barely make it back alive and fully human and dog. They decide that their life isn’t so bad after all. Recommended for ages 4-9, 4 stars.

Journey Cake, Ho! by Ruth Sawyer, illustrated by Robert McCloskey

Journey Cake Ho

I would just like to say again how weird children’s books from the 1940s -1960s are, as far as content goes. I sometimes wonder where in the heck they came up with the subject matter. This is not to say books from these years are bad, but very different. This book won a 1954 Caldecott Honor award. The author, Ruth Sawyer, was mother-in-law to the illustrator, Robert McCloskey and apparently his wife was a children’s librarian. Though I have not always been a fan of Robert McCloskey (with the exception of “Make Way for Ducklings”), I absolutely adore his brown and blue illustrations done for this picture book. They made me crack up! Especially the one in the beginning with Old Man Grumble laying back in his chair. This story was basically a mountain folktale version of “The Gingerbread Man”.

Johnny is a bound-out boy (basically an indentured apprentice) who works for Merry and her husband Grumble, on their farm. Everyone has their own work to do. One day, the animals either run away or are stolen, and so Merry and Grumble must let go of Johnny to find his own way in the world, as they can no longer afford to feed him. So he is sent off with a Journey Cake (a giant round cornbread) and some tools. Everything is fine until the Journey Cake pops out of his bag and rolls off town the hill, and gets some pigs, cows, sheep and chicken to follow it. They end up back at Merry and Grumble’s farm, which is now saved thanks to all these free animals showing up. Johnny is welcomed back to the farm. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

The Golem: A Jewish Legend by Beverly Brodsky McDermott

I had heard of the Golem story before, through David Wisniewski’s wonderful 1996 version and other books. I was curious to see another person’s interpretation of the story and this one was definitely interesting. This book won a 1977 Caldecott Honor award, and was rather hard to find (finally managed to get an interlibrary loan copy from Georgia). It is basically the same story of the Wisniewski verson except that it ends more suddenly. Rabbi Lev is the leader of the Jewish Ghetto in Prague in the sixteenth century and one night he has a prophetic dream about trouble between the Jews and Christians of that city. This prompts him to create a golem, a powerful clay man, who serves as the guardian and protector of the ghetto. This is especially true when the rabbi’s dream comes true and the golem must stop a riot, but instead of simply stopping it, he runs rampant throughout the ghetto burning down houses and uprooting trees. The rabbi, therefore, must destroy his creation. This version is different in that it uses Expressionist painting, with its indistinct shapes, bright colors and black outlines, to show the violence of the story. Recommended for ages 7-11, 2 1/2 stars. 

The Village of Square and Round Houses by Ann Grifalconi

The Village of Square and Round Houses

I will say that though it is taking me forever to read all of the Caldecott Winners and Honors, I am discovering a lot of hidden gems, like this book. I probably would have never picked up this one on my own, but it had won a 1987 Caldecott Honor. The author/illustrator went to the village of Tos in Cameroon, and met with the African people on which the book is based. My favorite part of the story was when the grandmother started telling her story about the mountain.

We see the village in West Africa through the eyes of a young girl named Osa who is learning about the reason behind the segregation of men and women from her grandmother. They live under a volcano, which has long been silent until one day, it explodes laying waste to the surrounding countryside. But the villagers are spared along with two houses, one square and one round. So the village elder gave the men the square one and the round one to the women. This system works because as the grandmother explains “Because each one has a place to be apart, and a time to be together.” Recommended for ages 5-9, 4 stars.

Duffy and the Devil by Harve and Margot Zemach

This story is based off a Cornish (the Southwestern coast of England) folktale, but it is also a variation of Rumpelstiltskin. I will admit that though I have read tons of fairy and folk tales over the years, I have never heard this version before. It was an interesting story, though a bit long-winded.  This book won the 1974 Caldecott Medal.

Squire Lovel is in search of a maid to do the knitting and sewing when he runs into Duffy and her mother having an argument. He decides to take Duffy home after she swears she can knit and sew well, only she can’t, which we discover once she heads up to the attic. That’s when the devil shows up. He spins some magnificent stockings for Duffy to give to the Squire, but she must guess his name within three years or he can take her away. The Squire and everyone in town is so impressed with his stockings that he demands more things to be knitted. Duffy agrees to the devil’s plan, and he starts right away making garments for the Squire. He likes her garments so much that they get married and it around this time that her three years are up and she still hasn’t guessed his name. So she gets a bit of help from Old Jone, the Squire’s elderly housekeeper, who also turns out to be a witch. She guesses his name correctly and lives happily every after with the Squire. Recommended for ages 8-12, 3 ½ stars.

Hawk, I’m Your Brother by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall

Normally I love Byrd Baylor books but this one was the exception. I just thought the poem went on for way too long that the story started to drag. Thankfully Peter Parnall’s incredibly detailed illustrations saved the book from being a total failure, with the possible exception of his far away drawings of the boy, as it makes him look like an alien.

The poem is the story of Rudy, a Native American boy who wants to fly like the hawks he sees near the mountain. In order to get closer to his goal of flying, he abducts a baby hawk and keeps it with him, keeping it tethered on the end of a string. The more time he spends with the bird, the more he sees how the hawk yearns to fly and how wrong it is to keep him from doing it. So he sets the hawk free. Recommended for ages 7-12, 3 stars.

Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri

This was a cute and sweet book about a duckling who wanders away from the nest while chasing a moth. It won a 1984 Caldecott Honor award. Momma Duck and the rest of his brothers and sisters go looking for him. She asks a crane, a turtle, another momma duck, a beaver and some fish if they have seen her duckling. Meanwhile, on every two-page spread the missing duckling is hiding in the illustration and it is fun to find the duckling with kids. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Young Adult

Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman

I picked up this book because it is a collection of short stories collected/edited by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite writers. I wanted to read one of his other new books, Ocean at the End of the Lane, but it is on endless hold at the library. It turned out to be a really great collection of stories on creatures such as mermaids, werewolves, witches, interdimensional gods and other characters. The book included a short story from Neil Gaiman entitled “Sunbird” which I had first read in his other short story collection entitled Fragile Things. It is a great edition to book as well. I enjoyed that he included a Frank R. Stockton story called The Griffin and the Minor Canon, as I had recently discovered the 19th century writer and his tales. I thought it was brilliant that he included as story by Nnedi Okorafor, as I loved her book “Who Becomes Death”. A totally new to me author was E. Lily Yu’s who interestingly titled story “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” immediately grabbed my attention. The only story I couldn’t get through was “The Flight of the Horse”. Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1) by Jonathan Stroud

 A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair #1) by Emma Jane Holloway

 Ostrich: a novel by Matt Greene

Adult

Fun with the Family Southern California: 8th Edition: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with Kids by Laura Kath

I skimmed this travel guide, focusing on the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. It is obvious though while the author was very good at describing all the fun things you can do with children, particularly those 10+, there was not much description of events/activities for much younger children or those on a budget. 2 stars.

The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Las Vegas: Secrets of Living the Good Life–for Less! by Shaena Engle

This book was a very good introduction to Las Vegas and the free or rather cheap entertainment and services you can get there. The book gave me a lot of ideas for places to go that I had not thought about, including things to do with kids. It makes a trip to Vegas for the weekend seem possible, assuming you don’t gamble all your money away. 3 stars.

Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

Ostrich: a novel by Matt Greene

Ostrich

I really wanted to like this book. After all, it was toted as a coming-of-age story which was very similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I loved. So I figured I would give it a chance. And it did start out like it, but then the similarity ended pretty quickly. I got really bored with the book about 50 or so pages in, but kept hoping it would get better. It kept getting weirder and weirder. The writing style definitely changed between the beginning and the end. The book was told in a stream of consciousness, but through the eyes of a 13 year old boy, which just made it seem more disjointed. As I have no experience as a boy, maybe they do think like that, I don’t know. I’m still not 100% sure if what I think happened in the end happened or if I’m reading too much into it.

Alex is a 13 year old boy with a brain tumor, and has epilepsy as a result. As a result, he is sort of like an ostrich, the odd-man out. He is in middle school and about to transition into high school, but he talks like a seen and done it all adult. Alex is a great student and trying to get into a good secondary school with the help of a scholarship. Some of his observations are hilarious, and make for some great quotes. Like this one “I can swear in sixty-seven different languages. But I can apologize in only three, which means I could get beaten up in sixty-four countries.”

His parents are having a tough time dealing with his medical problems, and Alex spends most of the book trying to decide if one of his parents is having an affair and what exactly the other one is doing in the dark room. There is something wrong with his hamster, Jaws 2, and he can’t seem to figure out what is really going on between him and Chloe Gower, a girl whose been paying more and more attention to him lately. Will he be able to figure out what is really going on with his parents, Chloe and Jaws 2? Will he get into a good school? To find out, read this intriguing debut novel from Matt Greene. Recommended for ages 16+, 2 1/2 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The Bookstore

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

The Bookstore

I picked up this book because I love independent bookstores and I’ve always wanted to work in one. There was a lot of namedropping in this book and it is a good thing that my undergraduate degree is in art history or I probably would’ve have got most of the art references she makes in the book (though truth be told, I did still have to look some of the names up as I’m not as well-versed in modern art as pre-20th century). It is also a good thing that I’ve spent some time in Great Britain, or a lot of the other references in the book I would’ve been able to get either.

The main character is a 23 year old English woman named Esme, who has come to New York City, specifically Columbia University, to complete a PhD in art history on the American artist Wayne Thiebaud. She is dating this rich guy named Mitchell and they seem to be getting along just fine, until he suddenly dumps her. Then she finds out she is pregnant with his child, and he wants her to terminate it. She tried to, but just couldn’t do it in the end. They end up getting back together and are very soon after engaged. The whole time she is with this guy all I can think is “Why on earth is she with this guy? I know he is the father of her baby, but he is a complete douchebag. Surely she must see that he is bad news.”

Esme finds this little used book store called The Owl when she first arrived in the city and after she becomes pregnant, she ends up working there. She gets to know all the quirky characters that make up the regular clientele and workers. In the end, Esme finds their friendship and support more valuable than her fiancée’s. The ending of the book was awkward and sudden. 3 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

A Study in Silks

A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair, #1) by Emma Jane Holloway

A-Study-in-silks3

Ever since watching the BBC show Sherlock, I have been fascinated with Sherlock Holmes. So another spin-off book definitely got my attention. My only gripe about this book is the length. I do not mind reading long books but this is supposed to be the first book in a series and frankly, I thought the story went on for way too long (like 200+ pages too much), which made the story drag in the middle. This was the reason it too me so long to finish the book and I’m a fast reader. I will say though that despite my gripe, I really enjoyed the story and thought it was well-written and as others have said, it really puts you into the heart of this steampunk world in London. I love feisty heroines and I thought Evelina was a great character, though I know it must be difficult to be common born trying to fit in with all the rich nobs, and a female with not only a thirst for knowledge but with great mechanical ability as well.

 The story is set in an alternative Great Britain, one where steam barons run the show (and all the utilities) and magic is outlawed. The book focuses on Evelina Cooper, who is the niece of Sherlock Holmes. Her mother shamed the Holmes family after eloping with a captain whose low-born family was part of a circus. After her parents died, the circus was where Evelina ended up living, until she was rediscovered by Grandmama Holmes, who took her under her wing and gave her an education. Evalina is super smart and can animate clockwork creatures through magic, two things that are very dangerous for anyone, especially women. She is about to attend her first Season in London, when suddenly a brutal murder happens in the house she is staying in with her friend Imogen. She figures that she can solve it but she doesn’t know who to trust. Can she trust Imogen’s handsome scoundrel of a brother or her childhood love, Nick who like her can use magic? Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.

 Disclaimer: I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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