Archive for May, 2014


Leibster Award 2014

So I just realized it’s been two weeks since I reblogged someone else’s post and even longer since I actually posted anything, so it is definitely time. I’m sorry but my personal life has been really crazy the last two weeks and I’m only now getting some free time to blog like I want to, although it is not any less up in the air.

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One of my best friends over at Dewey Decimal’s Butler gave me the Leibster Award again. Here is the post from the first time I was nominated last year. Thank you very much! I must say that I appreciate it, although I’ve been less than diligent in keeping up with writing. I hope to correct that in future. Now I have a lot more ideas about what to write as I have had plenty of time to brainstorm, so should be a lot easier.

Here are the rules:

  • Share which blogger(s) nominated you.
  • Answer the ten questions they asked in their post.
    • Refers to following 3 points: I went through my list of bloggers I follow and all of them had over 200 followers, most were closer to 1000 people following. However, I enjoy answering questionnaires, so I have answered her questions.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers of your choosing who have less than two hundred followers each.
  • Ask eleven questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Contact your nominees!

Here are the questions, she wants me to answer as part of the award.

1. Hamlet – was he really insane or just faking it? I would say (though let it be known that I’ve not read this play since high school, though it was one of my favorites), that he was probably faking most of it. I think he was probably more frustrated and angry more than anything else. I mean his mother marries his uncle a month after his father the king dies, though that sort of thing would have been the norm for royalty, to guarantee the safety and stability of the realm. I feel sorry for poor Ophelia as she does actually go insane after being mistreated by Hamlet, as he is a supreme douchebag in his quest to get revenge on Claudius for killing his father. His mother even lies for him to her new husband, saying the reason he killed Polonius is because he’s mad, even though he thinks she’s a whore for marrying his uncle. Then there’s the whole to be or not to be speech where Hamlet talks about how insignificant and fleeting life is and how we have no control over it. I don’t think that’s madness talking, just philosophizing over a common fate. Unfortunately Hamlet’s attempts at revenge only succeed in getting him and everyone around him killed.

2. Cats or dogs?  Defend. Dogs definitely. I used to be a cat person, but they are too fickle and alliance-changing. I love their independence though. I’ve become a dog person since I got married. Ok yes, they do have some disgusting habits like eating poo, but they are excited when you come home no matter how your day has been (even better when you’ve had a tough day), are great snuggly nap partners, and genuinely love you unconditionally.

3. Why are you drawn to certain authors? I would say because of the kind of book they write. I tend to be drawn to primarily British writers who are witty and great storytellers, like Brian Jacques, Neil Gaiman and Philip Reeve. I read a lot of children and YA books because I’m trying to keep up with what comes out and because I enjoy reading them, and am particularly drawn to writers who don’t dumb books down for kids. That will tell a great story even if it does get a little complicated at times, when dealing with difficult or interesting subjects. Great examples of writers like this Rick Riordan, Jonathan Stroud, Gail Carriger (her Finishing School series), John Flanagan, L.A. Meyer, and Eoin Colfer.

4. What was your last guilty-pleasure read? Lol, probably The Ghost in the Graveyard (Knight Games #1)a freebie romance/erotica/fantasy e-book I got on Amazon. It was equally bad and entertaining at the same time.

5. Have you ever found a movie that exceeded the book upon which it was based? Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is like that for me (saw the animated movie version called The Secret of NIMH first), as every time I’ve tried to read the book, I get bored and quit after a few pages. I’m hoping the audiobook will be better, as I need to read it for my Newbery Challenge. Aside from that, I would say the miniseries version of The Thornbirds was better, as was Franco Zefferelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet and Kenneth Branagh’s or Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing. I would also have to add Miyazaki’s version of Howl’s Moving Castle. I saw the movie first, which got me into the book, which I enjoyed but liked the movie much better.

6. On that note, are you as angry about the upcoming The Giver trailer as I am? Honestly I’m not sure. I read the book but can’t remember much of it, but I’m sure they’ll probably do a hash job out of it like most great books (though I didn’t like it as much as other people, only gave it 3 out of 5 stars).

7. If you could take one author out to dinner to thank him/her for writing, who would it be?  (Life status is a non-issue for this question.) Probably JRR Tolkein because I love his books and would love to pick his brain about The Silmarillion and ask him to explain it to me. I’ve tried to read it several times but cannot get through it, even though the subject matter is interesting.

8. What is your opinion on sports?  I like to watch college-level American football on TV occasionally, but hate pro (it’s too boring). Most sports I could do without like golf, basketball, and tennis. The only sport I can actually tolerate watching is real Football (soccer) on TV, though it is better in person. I would love to be able to go to a footie game in Liverpool with my husband, as I know it is one of his dreams.

9. Will there ever be such a thing as world peace? I think it’s possible, but getting everyone to agree to it is quite another thing. Most people and governments are too wrapped up in their own issues to really consider it, as it wouldn’t be good for the economy, or so they keep telling us.

10. Favorite music, what is it and why? Hmm, I guess I would say salsa because it is fun to listen and makes you wanna jump up and dance no matter where you are. I started listening to it in college after I was dating a Guatemalan guy who took me to a latin dance club for our first date (I couldn’t dance it back then). He started my love for it and I started listening to Celia Cruz and later Tito Puente, as he mixes salsa with funk and that’s even more fun to listen to.

11. When was the last time you put your foot in your mouth (figuratively speaking)? Honestly I don’t remember, but most likely it was probably during an argument with my husband.

I can totally identify with this teacher/librarian. I love reading, especially reading for pleasure and thankfully I can do that pretty much all the time now. Sorry for the dark lettering, if you go to the original, it is much clearer.

Nerdy Book Club

Hello, my name is Tiffany and I am a reader.  Always have been and always will be.  Reading is more than a hobby or a pleasurable activity.  It is a true need in my life.

It all started early.  I don’t remember learning to read.  I clearly remember the day the words began to make sense to me.  I was about five years old and sitting at the kitchen table with the Sunday comics.  I got up to ask my mom to help me with a word and I never looked back.

From that day forward, I was unstoppable.  Aided in large part by extremely supportive parents and grandparents, as well as key teachers and librarians, I became a voracious reader.

Books were my constant companion throughout my childhood.  I received countless books as gifts.  I haunted my public and school libraries.  I would lose myself in stories, making new…

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Book Reviews May 2014

I have read about 125 books so far this year. It probably would be more but I got stalled a bit this past month trying to decide what to read. So many good books have come out in the last few months or will come out very soon, and I keep putting them on hold at the library. However, they have been arriving at my house too quickly. I’m currently reading the behemoth last book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor called Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I’m on listening hiatus until I can get to the library on Wednesday, so I’m just rocking to my mp3 shuffle list now.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I am still trying to finish my Caldecott Challenge, and with all the winners and honors. I’m down to 13 books left to read. I’m also completing a Newbery Challenge, where I’m reading all the award winners and at least one honor book.

Children

A Moose That Says Moo by Jennifer Hamburg, illustrated by Sue Truesdell

A Moose That Says Moo

I rather enjoyed this very silly book, probably more than my son did. With rhyming text, we find a girl is sitting in the backyard who says that if “the moose ever says moo then she will decide to create her own zoo, which would include sharks reading books.” There are singing tap-dancing pigs, an all-duck jazz band, a goose serving juice, and tigers lazing in trees and making macaroni and cheese. Then the animals start causing mayhem and things start getting out of control, and she must step in to save everyone. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Window Music written by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Wade Zahares

Window Music

According to the Publishers Weekly review of the book, the title refers to 1880s railroad slang about “passing scenery.” The one thing that really stands out to me in the book is the gorgeous pastel-painted illustrations. My son asked me to re-read this one multiple times as the pictures were so fascinating to him. The story is about a young girl who travels with her mother from her grandparent’s house back to her father and their own house. It is cool because the train goes everywhere, through farmlands of grapes and orange groves, by the ocean, through a snowy mountain range and back into the bright lights of the busy city. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Daisy and Josephine written by Melissa Gilbert, illustrated by Julia Kuo

I love French bulldogs, which is why I picked up this book. Apparently Melissa Gilbert, star of “Little House on the Prairie” does also, although she actually owns one. This book was based off the actresses’ own childhood. Daisy’s father is a famous singer and entertainer, and travels all over the world. His daughter Daisy follows along with her homeschool teacher. Daisy adores her father, but she is lonely, so her daddy gets her a friend. Josephine is a French Bulldog who can actually speak French and her and Daisy play dress-up and have all sorts of fun. This was a very girly book. Neither my son or I really enjoyed it, as there wasn’t much of a story. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

A House for Hermit Crab written and illustrated by Eric Carle

This was a cute book which my son and I enjoyed. Hermit Crab is too big for his shell. He goes in search of a new one, but it is too plain. So he adds a sea anemone, a starfish, some coral, a sea urchin and a lanternfish to make it more beautiful. By the time he finishes decorating his house is too small and he needs another. He is not happy to give up his lovely home and friends, but finds a younger crab who will take care of them. Then he finds a new shell and can decorate to his heart is content. The back of the book has informational blurbs on the sea animals featured in the book. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

I’m Fast! written & illustrated by Kate & Jim McMullan

My son really liked this one, though I think most boys would as it is a race between a sports car and a train. You would think the train would be slower because of the different freight it has to pick up before it can start, but it has some tricks up its sleeve. Even though the car is faster and lighter, it comes in second. My son and I loved the illustrations and no wonder as this done by the same husband and wife team that did the rhyming trash truck book “I Stink!”, which my son also loves. You can even hear the same intonations in the way both books are worded. Very fun to read aloud. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Emma’s Turtle written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Marsha Winborn

Emma has a pet turtle that she keeps in her backyard. She takes good care of him and always reads to him about far-off places like India and Africa. One day the turtle decides to escape and see these places and after walking for what seems like forever, he believes that he sees these places in the everyday details like a beetle and a striped cat (which he mistakes for a tiger at first). He is finally found by his owner and put back in his enclosure and given his dinner. She was very worried about him. He is amazed when he learns that he only made it across the backyard. My son liked the book because it was about a turtle. It was an alright story, but nothing to write home about. Recommended for ages 3-7, 2 stars.

The Train to Glasgow written by Wilma Horsbrugh, illustrated by Paul Cox

The Train to Glasgow

Based off Horsbrugh’s poem from 1954 and illustrated by modern-day illustrator Paul Cox, we see the delightful rhyming text that tells the story about a young boy trying to catch a train to Glasgow from out in the country. He is dragged aboard by the conductor, and stops some chickens from escaping into the carriage and causing total chaos. He is rewarded by the conductor and his wife by being invited to have tea with them. It was a little too long for my son, but I loved it for the illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! By Dr. Seuss

I’ve never read this book before, so it was fun to discover it with my son. Even though the older cat in the hat could read with his eyes shut, or so he claims, he was telling the younger cat in the hat about all the things you can do with your eyes wide open, like reading and learning new things. The book rhymed and as it went on, the rhymes got sillier and sillier. Things like owls on noses and crocodile pants were mentioned. I definitely want to add this book to my Seuss collection. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

I grew up with Dr. Seuss, so I’ve seen this book in various animated and live-action movies and cartoons. However, I’ve never actually read it. And since he’s Dr. Seuss’s unofficial symbol (on all the Dr. Seuss easy reader books), I figured it was time to read it to Liam. Geez, the book was long. Even I got bored with reading it about halfway through, as I tried to re-gain my son’s attention so I could finish reading. Everyone knows the story, so I’ll just sum up. Sally and her brother are stuck at home on a rainy day, while their mother is out running errands. They are bored. The Cat in the Hat shows up, but their pet Fish thinks he is bad news from the beginning. He pretty much is, especially as he starts trashing their house with kites. Then he invites out Thing One and Thing Two, who also make a huge mess. Their mom is coming home and the Cat in the Hat quickly cleans up the mess and gets rid of Thing One and Thing Two right before the mom steps through the door. The kids don’t mention any about what happened. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2-1/2 stars.

Horton Hatches the Egg written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Surprisingly, I’ve never read this book. My son was interested in elephants, so I decided to give this book a try. I actually enjoyed reading the story, as hit features the famous line, “An elephant is faithful, one hundred percent,” plus it has a good moral. Horton the elephant is tricked into sitting on a mommy bird’s egg, after the mommy decides she’s had enough and wants to go on a vacation. She leaves for nearly a year. Horton, meanwhile, is still patiently sitting on the egg. Some hunters come and intend to shoot him, but after they see him sitting in a tree on an egg, they decide to sell him to the circus instead. This was the only part of the book I was a bit unhappy with, as it just reminds me how cruel people can be sometimes when taking an animal out of its natural habitat and exploiting it (well not completely natural in this case, but you get my point). Horton is sad to be part of the circus, but happy when the egg finally hatches, which of course happens just as the mother bird find him again. It is an elephant bird, and the people at the circus are completely overwhelmed at the sight of it. Horton did all the hard work and is rewarded by a baby elephant bird. My son liked the book, but not sure he understood most of it. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

Pamela Camel written and illustrated by Bill Peet

Pamela lives with the circus but can’t do any tricks and so is on display with the rest of the animals. She knows there are bigger and better things out there in the world, and so escapes from the circus, following the railroad tracks. She comes upon a torn-up rail and remembers a train wreck she saw, long ago, when she was still in the circus. She knows she should tell someone about the track but is not sure how to until a train does come down the track. She does the only thing she can do, which is stand in front of the broken rail and pray the engineer will stop in time. He does, though he is very angry with her for blocking his path. Then he realizes how she has saved them and she becomes a hero. The circus claims her back and she becomes the star of the show. I wasn’t a great fan of this book, but my son liked it because there were animals and a train. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Lion written and illustrated by William Pene Du Bois

I will admit that I actually found a copy of this book awhile back at a library booksale, but it looked kind of boring, so I didn’t buy it. But as I am at the end of this Caldecott Challenge, I need to read the last twenty books and this is one of them. It won a 1957 Caldecott Honor award, and actually isn’t as bad as I originally thought, rather it’s kind of a cute concept. Angels are in charge of creating new creatures on earth and the Foreman is in charge of these Drawing Angels. Only he hasn’t actually drawn anything in years. So he decides to create a creature called a Lion, which has four thin legs, a mane and face covered in feathers, a body covered with fluffy fur and a tale with fish scales on the end. Only he doesn’t feel that it is quite right, so he asks other angels’ opinions and corrects it until he feels it is right. His finished drawing has four sturdy legs, smooth fur and a puffy mane, what we think of when we think of a lion. The cute thing is that he thinks the lion should say “Peep Peep”, until he shows the Creator his drawing, and he says the lion should say “Roar!” instead. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Bear Party written and illustrated by William Pene Du Bois

This was an odd book. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked this up if it weren’t for the fact that it was a 1952 Caldecott Honor winner. The Koalas cannot get along. So the eldest wisest Koala decided that they should have a costumed ball, so they can be together in the same room without being angry. I liked that they all had head-to-toe costumes complete with headwear, outfits and shoes. They also had a band so they everyone could dance. Unfortunately it didn’t really work the first time when they tried to remove their costumes and be together, as they took everything off and they couldn’t identify each other after being separated and mad for so long. So they put the costumes on again and the elder said they could have one piece of their costume on and after awhile, they could live together without any costumes. Both my son and I were bored by this book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Newbery Challenge

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I’d never read a book on the Hitler Youth, though I did have some basic previous knowledge gleaned from other historical texts. When I discovered that this book had won a 2006 Newbery Honor and a Robert Sibert Honor, I knew this would be a good place to start to learn more. Hitler and Nazi Germany is not an easy subject matter to broach, but I thought she did a very good job. I was especially horrified on the section on how the Nazi systematically prescribed euthanasia to get rid of disabled people because they were deemed “defective”, and how the technology from this program allowed them to discover how they could use these same gas chambers in the concentration camps for mass extermination.

The book is taken from the viewpoint of twelve children who were involved with or protested against the Hitler Youth organizations, and uses their interviews to supplement the historical research on the subject matter. The Hitler Youth programs started in 1926 before Hitler really came into power in 1933. To really understand the popularity of the Hitler Youth Programs, you have to understand about the Treaty of Versailles, which effectively ended WWI. The Germans had to pay the equivalent of $20 billion in reparations, which pretty much bankrupted the country and put millions out of work. In addition, they had to give up Alsace-Lorraine to France and the Rhineland area of NE Germany to Poland, and reduce their once great army down to 100,000 troops. This severely disheartened many Germans, and all of these things combined to lead to a worse Depression than the US was experiencing at the same time. Therefore, when Hitler came onto the political scene and promised jobs, returned land, and employment, the citizens of Germany were undoubtedly excited about him. This extended, to an even greater extent, to their children who became some of his biggest supporters, not to mention his biggest labor force.

The Hitler Youth programs were from ages 10 – 18. After the Nazis came into power in 1933, they started teaching their propaganda in the schools and isolating the Jewish population. Because of this continually aggressive campaign, the Nazis were able to enact Kristallnacht where they destroyed Jewish synagogues, businesses, and homes. This led to these same Jews being relocated into ghettos, and later being killed by firing squad and concentration camps. The Nazis instituted military training for boys and girls as young as twelve, which prepared the boys for future military service in SS, the Army, Navy or Air Force. The girls were prepared for air raids and helping with nursing duties. When Hitler decided to reclaim areas where Ethnic Germans were living in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland, the Hitler Youth was there evacuating the former residents and helping the German people resettle there. In 1936, Hitler Youth membership became the law. Despite this, there were still young people called Swing Youth (as they liked to say Swing Heil instead of Heil Hitler), in addition to college age youth, fighting against the Nazi party. These young people all ran the risk of ending up in special concentrations camps for youth, specifically created for these brave souls.

One of the things I always wondered was whether or not the German people outside of the military actually knew about concentration camps or not. According to one Holocaust survivor and author quoted in the book, they practiced “willful ignorance,” as the Germans became used to Jewish people being rounded up and sent to camps. Not only that, but former Hitler Youth members were recruited into the SS, which staffed the camps as guards. Recommended for ages 11+, 5 stars.

Number the Stars written by Lois Lowry, narrated by Blair Brown

I’ll admit, I was hesitant to read another depressing book about World War II, even one that was a 1990 Newbery winner. Lois Lowry really surprised me with this book. It was a very grown-up and hopeful book, despite being about a ten year old girl and how she deals with the Nazis. I liked that children can learn about the true meaning of “pride” and “bravery” through the story. I also thought the author’s note at the end was particularly fascinating, especially the part about the boat captain’s handkerchiefs.

Ten-year-old Annemarie lives with her younger sister Kirstie, her parents in Denmark in 1943 during the German-occupation of her country. Her best friend is a young Jewish girl named Ellen Rosen, who lives right next door to Annemarie, with her family. One day the Germans start re-locating the Jewish people of Copenhagen and her family decide immediately that they will help the Rosens. The Johannesen’s split up the Rosens so they will be easier to transport, taking Ellen with them as their daughter. They go out to the country where Uncle Heinrich lives as a fisherman in the family home. Will the Rosens be able to escape to safety or will they be found out by the Germans? Will Annemarie be able to face her fears to save her friend? To find out, read this fantastic book. Recommended for ages 8-12, 4 stars.

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, narrated by Joanna Ward

I, Juan de Pareja is about a black slave boy born in Seville, Spain in 1607, who belongs to a wealthy older woman. His mother, also owned by the woman, died when he was a boy. His mistress treats him well and teaches him the alphabet and how to write letters. Sadly she and the rest of the household die from the plague. Juan is sent to live with the woman’s nephew, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (known predominantly as Velazquez in the book), a painter in Madrid. Juan longs to paint, but is unable to because of a law forbidding slaves to learn the arts. So he helps his master in any way he can, by prepping the master’s canvasses, paint, and arranging props. Eventually Velazquez becomes the court painter to the Spanish King Phillip IV, and his studio is moved into the palace. He meets the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens, and on Ruben’s recommendation travels to Italy with Juan, to copy and buy Italian works for the king. While there, Juan secretly teaches himself to draw and paint.

After much practice, he is able to paint a Virgin Mary, though his secret shames him so much that he finally tells an apprentice of his master Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo (great name, right?) the truth. Thankfully Murillo is kind to him, and praises his skill, but tells him to hold off telling Velazquez until later. Juan goes with his master to Italy a second time, and Velazquez ends up getting a commission to paint Pope Innocent X’s portrait, along with many Roman nobles and their families. Disaster almost strikes Juan’s master before they get to Rome when his painting hand becomes infected, but Juan’s prayers to the Virgin Mary are heard and his master is healed. Of course, Juan had promised the Virgin that he would tell his master his secret if he became well. They come back to Spain and paint for several more years before Juan finally admits, before the King, that he has been painting secretly and begs forgiveness. He is forgiven and freed by his master Velazquez, who then hires him as an assistant. He soon after marries his former mistress’s slave and they live with the Velazquez family until they die. Recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.

I picked this up after a quick browse of the children’s audiobook section. It looked interesting as I saw it was about painters, specifically Velasquez, whom I did not know much about. I had no idea until after I finished the book that it had won the 1966 Newbery Medal, and rightly so. The visual description and rich language of the story is what makes it so well-done, as it really draws you in from the beginning. The reader can really imagine what life was like in 17th Century Spain and Italy. I thought maybe the narrator had a speech problem as she read the text, but according to my mother (who has lived in Spain), the lisping is an affectation, particularly for Castilian Spanish people. Learn something new every day. The only slight downside to this book is that it is a bid dated in the “modern” terminology at the end of the book. In the afterword by the author, she notes that major points of the story is true, although not much is known about Velazquez himself or Juan de Pareja. Juan was owned by the master, who did later free him and add him on as an assistant. The King Phillip IV did have a good solid relationship with his court painter and did posthumously bestow upon him the Knighthood of the Order of Santiago (St. James), the highest honor in Spain. See here for more information.

Young Adult

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicki Alvear Shechter

Library Wars: Love and War, Volume 11 written and illustrated by Kiiro Yumi

Ever since I found out there was a Volume 11 (back when I got Volumes 9 & 10), I’ve had this on hold. So I was very excited to get the newest book to the series. This volume was way more high-octane than the others I’ve read, in more ways than one. I wish it didn’t take so long to get English translations, as I know I will have to wait forever for the next volume to come out L.

At the end of the last volume, the Library Task Force was set to guard a controversial exhibit from the Media Betterment Committee (MBC), who wanted to get rid of it. The MBC, in this volume, attacks the Task Force and Kasahara experiences her first real battle with guns, which leaves her a bit traumatized, thinking she has killed people (she just stunned them). Instructor Dojo helps her work through it. After the attack is over, the Task Force heads inside where they are ambushed first by the Anti-Violence League and then by a couple of MBC operatives, who try to destroy the artwork. Their commander steps in front of the work, physically protecting it with his body and they try to gun him down. In a work room, the director of the museum (who has been working with the Anti-Violence League) tries to burn the exhibition pamphlets but the leader of the local military base stops her, but is injured doing so. Once Kasahara finally comes back home, she realizes the depth of her feelings for Dojo and finally tells her roomie the truth (she is of course overjoyed having known forever). Dojo tells her that they are to meet up for tea (an actual date!!) in a few weeks time. My favorite part was the bonus manga at the end where Dojo, Kasahara and the instructor who likes Marie (whose name escapes me right now) are trapped in this un air-conditioned basement helping with holds and they start hallucinating. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars.

A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 written and illustrated by Kaoru Mori

This volume starts with the twin girls Laila and Leily from Volume 4 getting married. So much preparation was needed to decorate, make sure the brides were properly decked out, that enough food was prepared not just for each of the families involved but their neighbors and even strangers. The wedding preparation and ceremony reminded me of a Pakistani wedding I’ve gone to, at least in the length and the rituals involved. The twins cracked me up because they got so bored they made their husbands-to-be sneak them food and help them escape as they had been sitting under heavy veils for hours. The twins cry when they finally realize they are no longer part of their father’s house. Mr. Smith and Ali sneak away in the middle of the celebrations and head towards Ankara. Amir and Karluk and his family come back into the story in the second half of the volume. Yay! It also seems that they are to be the subject of the future books. My favorite story was the “Queen of the Mountain” where Karluk’s grandmother uses a goat to climb the side of a mountain to save a stranded child. Amir is further settling into her duties as wife. There was also the cool story at the end of the book where Amir is out hunting with her bow and kills a large goat to bring back home. While she is out there, she discovers a wounded hawk and takes it back home. Since the men in her family take care of the hunting hawks, she’s not exactly sure how to proceed, but starts spending a lot of time with the injured hawk. This makes Karluk jealous for the first time in his life and Amir must attend to him. In the end, the hawk has to be put down, but Amir and Karluk grow closer because of it. Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra

I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile as all the people I know who read YA books have said it was awesome. So I was excited to finally get a copy. It starts off a little weird and took me about 1-1/2 discs to really get into the story. I liked that there were two narrators, one for each of the main characters. As other reviewers have mentioned, I loved the first hand-holding episode, where he describes her hands as “butterflies” or “heartbeats”. I love that he’s so fascinated with her, even just lightly touching her hands or her arms. I was a little frustrated with the ending, but enjoyed the book overall.

It is 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska and Eleanor is a 16 year old white girl who has recently moved back into her mother’s house after previously being kicked out by her abusive stepfather. She is getting used to a new smaller house with her four brothers and sister and a new school. Her real dad’s presence is non-existent. She is a natural red-head, a bit chubby, and dresses weird. She doesn’t fit in at school because of this. Park, a skinny half Korean 16 year old boy, has been at the school for awhile and hangs out with the cool kids. He’s very quiet and keeps to himself mostly, listening to music on his Walkman and reading comics. They form an unusual friendship after Eleanor ends up sitting next to him on the bus, and starts reading his comics. He starts making her mix tapes (aww the ultimate declaration of love back in the day) and she borrows his Walkman to listen to them, and they bond on how much they both like the music. Soon seeing Park is the highlight of her day, and thinking about him makes her forget how screwed up her life is right now.

She is so down on herself that she can’t believe that anyone, let alone Park (who she thinks is absolutely perfect), can really want to be with her. In order to be with him, she lies to her mother and stepfather and tells them that she is seeing her friend Tina (a girl she not only hates but who returns the feelings), but just heads over to Park’s house instead. Things are going pretty good until her brother and sister find out about Park, and Eleanor is sure that it is only a matter of time before her mother and stepfather find out and they are separated. When he finally does find out, all hell breaks loose and she runs to Park for help. Will they be able to escape her vicious stepfather? Will they ever really be happy together? Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other Tales of Terror written by Robert Louis Stevenson, narrated by Michael Kitchen

I picked up this audiobook because I had just finished Jessica Verday’s advanced reader’s copy Of Monsters and Madness which borrowed heavily from the text, so I figured it was about time I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had seen movie and musical versions before reading Verday’s book. I will say one thing about Stevenson. He is fun to read as his vocabulary is so rich and descriptive. The basic story is that Dr. Jekyll, a good man and well-respected older doctor decides that he wants to do an experiment to see if he can isolate his other half, the evil side of him. In doing so, he literally becomes a different person. Whereas Jekyll is a tall, thin, and well-put together elderly man, Edward Hyde (his alter ego) is short in stature, young and looks a bit off. He has all the bad influences that Jekyll could never have and uses his strength for ill, i.e. trampling a child and killing a lord. We learn their true story at the end, after Dr. Jekyll writes a confession to his friend and lawyer, Mr. Utterson. The novella is very well-written and even though I knew the story, it kept me in suspense about how it was done until the very end. I was a little surprised at the ending, as it seemed a little unresolved.

The first short story is called The Body Snatchers and I can see how these were considered scary stories back in the day. This tale was set in Edinburgh, Scotland and is about two medical students, Fetters and MacFarlane. Their instructor was Dr. K, who is based off Dr. Robert Knox, who famously bought cadavers from the infamous murderers and resurrectionists Burke & Hare in Edinburgh 1828. He teaches anatomy and because of the restrictions on obtaining cadavers (they were only to get bodies of criminals that were condemned and executed), many anatomy teachers including Dr. K turned to Resurrectionists, or Grave Robbers, to get a surplus. At first, Fetters and MacFarlane just pay the men who give them the bodies and get them set up in the operating theaters. However they soon graduate to snatching bodies themselves, until they have “the fear of God put into them,” and stop their wicked ways.

The second short story is called Olalla (pronounced O-lie-a) and is about a Scottish military commander staying at the home of a formerly-aristocratic family in the Spanish countryside for his health. He is fascinated by the family whose son and mother are both slow-witted, probably do to all the in-breeding of the family. The daughter Olalla, however, is a well-read mysterious young woman who the visitor falls in love with at first sight. The only problem is that their mother might also be a vampire, as evidenced when she attacks the foreigner later on in the story. I was not a fan of this story, it was way too long and rambling without ever really having a climax to the tale, plus Stevenson just seemed really condescending towards women. Yes I know it’s the time period, but it seemed worse than usual. Recommended for ages 14+, overall I would give it 3 ½ stars.

Adult

My Paris Kitchen by David Leibovitz

The All-New Vegetarian Passport by Linda Wooven

I finally finished this book after having it forever; had too many other cookbooks I needed to sort through. I thought it was a pretty good cookbook as it featured vegetarian cuisine from all over the world. Plus the recipes are really easy to make; a double bonus in my book. I would be interested in making the Chickpea, Greens and Walnut Soup, Thai Mango Salad, Shiitake and Adzuki Bean Soup, and the Peach Tofu “Mousse”. 3 ½ stars.

Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro by Makini Howell

Always on the lookout for vegan and vegetarian dishes that I can try, I was drawn in by the lovely photos of the food in this book. The author and owner of the Plum Bistro was raised vegan and encourages veganism, though she no longer completely practices it herself. I will admit that almost all of the dishes looked tasty, this like a lot of other restaurant-inspired cookbooks, have dishes that I’d rather eat in the actual restaurant by professionals. Of course there were three or four dishes that didn’t look as complicated and I would definitely attempt like the Tempeh Vermouth, the Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad with Cilantro Pesto, and the Polenta and Orange Salad with Fennel Salsa. 3 stars.

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge and Sandy Gluck

I had watched reality TV show on “The Beekman 1802”, which I really enjoyed. Two of the authors Josh and Brent are a gay couple from Manhattan that decided to move out to the country, buy a historic house and raise goats and an organic garden. Josh is the cook and Brent is the manager. So when I found out they wrote a cookbook, I snatched it up at the library. They were trying to focus on classic desserts handed down from generation to generation, but also included some new ones as well. I would try out the Malted Milk Chocolate Cake, the Sugarplums, Lemon-Toasted Poppy Seed Cake, Lemon Lavender Squares, and the Baked Stone Fruits with Cannoli Cream.

Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking by Rich Landau and Kate Jacob

I had never heard of the vegetable restaurant Vedge in Philadelphia, but I had heard good things about the cookbook from some of the vegetarian and vegan blogs I frequent, so I decided to give it a try. I will say that I am impressed at not only the selection of vegetables used in the cookbook (and therefore in the restaurant), but also the many different and ingenious ways to cook them, especially as the recipes are entirely vegan. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to create such simple and yet sophisticated dishes, especially ones that also look very appetizing. I will say that this book, like the cookbook for Plum, mostly feature recipes I’d rather try in person rather than create at home. Though in the case of this cookbook, it’s because of the ingredient list instead of the complicated nature of the recipes. I know I could sub ingredients, but the originals just sound so intriguing, I’d rather try them instead. I’d love to try the Shiitake Dashi, Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade, Hedgehog Mushroom, Turnip and Barley Stew, Figgy Toffee Pudding with Madeira-Quince Ice Cream, Sweet Potato Turnovers with Sweet Kraut, the Sherry Temple and the Kyoto Sour.

Curses and Smoke

(one of two covers for the book)

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Published May 27, 2014

Sixteen year old Lucia is betrothed to Vitulus, a significantly-older wealthy man, and is not pleased with the arrangement. Her father runs a gladiator school in Pompeii and is hoping Lucia’s future husband will allow him to break into gladiator fighting in Rome. Tag is a medical slave in the gladiator school like his father before him. Tag and Lucia played together as children, but he was sent to Rome for a few years as punishment and has only recently come back to Pompeii. They start to have feelings for each other, but both know it is impossible given their difference in social status.

A pretentious young rich man named Quintus comes to stay at Lucia’s villa, and train in the gladiator school. After Tag helps Quintus out of a jam in gladiator school, he manages to get Lucia’s father to agree to train Tag as long as Tag trains with him. Tag had trained as a gladiator previously in Rome, and saw it as a way to achieve his freedom. He reluctantly agrees to train with Quintus. Meanwhile, Lucia has been noticing all the strange natural phenomena around Pompeii and knows something is wrong, but can’t quite figure out what. Will Lucia and Tag be able to move forward with their lives and love? Recommended for ages 12+, 3-1/2 stars.

I really liked this book. The way the author seamlessly blended in Latin names with English ones, making it so even those who didn’t study Latin in high school or college understand almost everything. She had very vivid descriptions of everything, so you can, for example, totally picture yourself walking with a Roman girl and her maid through the market in Pompeii on a beautiful summer day and seeing all the sights, sounds and smells around you. This goes double for the scenes of the actual eruption of Vesuvius. I can’t even imagine how that must’ve felt, even the descriptions were horrifying. I also liked that the author used the newly updated dates for the destruction of Pompeii and the surrounding cities, which she explains in the author’s note at the end of the book.

While I enjoy reading historically accurate fiction, I am very glad not to have been a woman during that time period. A daughter, like Lucia, no matter how intelligent and articulate could be treated as cattle and sold off to the highest bidder. The abandonment of female babies part of the story, as a mother, really bothered me. I know it was done in Greek and Roman times, but I find it selfish to get rid of a child simply because you don’t like the sex. I liked the romance between Lucia and Tag, especially the kisses. Although Cassandra Clare will probably always be my favorite writer for kisses, Ms Shechter comes in a close second. I also liked that Tag’s family came from Etruscan nobility, and that despite his slave status, he carries himself well.

I do have one comment about the countdown to the eruption. It took me forever to figure out that the time listed under the start of each chapter was the countdown to the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and not a time period at an earlier date. Not sure how to make it more obvious, but it was really confusing for awhile. I was also rather frustrated with the ending, as it seemed like they overcame such insane obstacles to escape only to be thwarted by fate in the end.

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

Pablo Neruda

Well, this was supposed to be published last week (the end of April) but looks like my publish scheduler isn’t working. My apologies, here it is now. I work with predominantly Mexican and other Latin American people when I volunteer at the public library once a week for an English Conversation program. I understand a little bit of Spanish, mostly owing to taking Italian in college (as they are very similar languages), though not enough to converse fluently. As with most things I get fascinated with, I want to know more about Latin American culture, art and history. One way, which is rather appropriate as it is National Poetry Month is through poems. I will admit, I am not well-versed in Hispanic/Latino poetry. The first person that comes to my mind is Pablo Neruda, who is not only the most famous writer from Chile (the second most famous being Isabelle Allende of course!), and a Nobel Prize winner for Literature, but one of my favorite poets. I fell in love with his Love Sonnets (especially Sonnet XVII) after watching the film Il Postino. I was trying to come up with one last poetry post to do and at first I thought, why not do some other famous Hispanic/Latino poets in addition to Neruda? I found some information on Ruben Dario and Octavio Paz, which I will probably post on in the future. Then I thought “Hey, it would be cool if I could find some famous female Hispanic/Latino poets.” After some brief searching, I came up with Sandra Cisneros and Gabriela Mistral, as I thought they were the most fascinating.

sandra cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American writer born in Chicago, though she spent most of her childhood going back and forth between the Spanish-speaking part of that city and Mexico City. She never felt at home in either one, and she did not make friends easily. According to this biography of the author, Cisneros said “We’re always straddling two countries, and we’re always living in that kind of schizophrenia that I call being a Mexican woman living in American society, but not belonging to either culture.” According to Deborah L. Madsen,

“Cisneros wishes to break the longing of Chicanas to be accepted by American or Mexican culture, because it is almost impossible if you are a Mexican-American. Cisneros reveals the conflict between society and women, between women and women, and between women and men. She emphasizes that in Mexican culture, for women, there are two main roles: the virgin or the whore. Cisneros uses main female characters to portray the border between culture and self, and the different identities that come with being a woman of mixed race.”

Gabriela Mistral

Gabriela Mistral (literary pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga) is famous not only for being a poet, but for being the first Latin-American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1945. She is still the only Latin American woman to receive the award. She was born in Chile in 1889.  According to this blog post, the early part of her life “was dotted with abandonment by her father, a marriage lasting only three years due to sudden widowhood, and more loss than many young women endure. Gabriela maintained her sense of self through her faith, and the body of her poems.” She was a teacher from early on, and taught in Chile and Mexico, and taught at Columbia University, Vassar College and Middlebury College in the US. She was the Chilean Ambassador to cities in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and the US.

According to the Poetry Foundation, she was

“Mistral defended the rights of children, women, and the poor; the freedoms of democracy; and the need for peace in times of social, political, and ideological conflicts, not only in Latin America but in the whole world. She always took the side of those who were mistreated by society: children, women, Native Americans, Jews, war victims, workers, and the poor, and she tried to speak for them through her poetry, her many newspaper articles, her letters, and her talks and actions as Chilean representative in international organizations. Above all, she was concerned about the future of Latin America and its peoples and cultures, particularly those of the native groups.”

I had never read anything by the Sandra Cisneros, although I have heard of her book The House on Mango Street. After finding this poem Loose Woman, which is also the title of one of her collections of poetry, I am interested in reading more of her work. For an in-depth examination of the poem, check out this webpage. I knew nothing about Gabriela Mistral’s poem The Stranger and really all of her work, but she sounds like an amazing woman and I would love to read more of her poetry. This webpage is the only interpretation of the poem that I could find.

Ode to a Lemon

by Pablo Neruda

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love’s
lashed and insatiable
essences,
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree’s yellow
emerges,
the lemons
move down
from the tree’s planetarium

Delicate merchandise!
the harbors are big with it-
bazaars
for the light and the
barbarous gold.
We open
the halves
of a miracle,
and a clotting of acids
brims
into the starry
divisions:
creation’s
original juices,
irreducible, changeless,
alive:
so the freshness lives on
in a lemon,
in the sweet-smelling house of the rind,
the proportions, arcane and acerb.

Cutting the lemon
the knife
leaves a little cathedral:
alcoves unguessed by the eye
that open acidulous glass
to the light; topazes
riding the droplets,
altars,
aromatic facades.
So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
wells
to your touch:
a cup yellow
with miracles,
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.

 

Loose Woman

by Sandra Cisneros

 

They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
man-hating, devastating,
boogey-woman lesbian.
Not necessarily,
but I like the compliment.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.
All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.

Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.

I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
like crinoline.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.

I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success–
I think of me to gluttony.

By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.
I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.

I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
¡Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.

I’m an aim-well,
shoot-sharp,
sharp-tongued,
sharp-thinking,
fast-speaking,
foot-loose,
loose-tongued,
let-loose,
woman-on-the-loose
loose woman.
Beware, honey.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
¡Wáchale!
Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.

 

The Stranger (La Extranjera)

She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands;

She prays to a formless, weightless God,

Aged, as if dying.

In our garden now so strange,

She has planted cactus and alien grass.

The desert zephyr fills her with its breath

And she has loved with a fierce, white passion

She never speaks of, for if she were to tell

It would be like the face of unknown stars.

Among us she may live for eighty years,

Yet always as if newly come,

Speaking a tongue that plants and whines

Only by tiny creatures understood.

And she will die here in our midst

One night of utmost suffering,

With only her fate as a pillow,

And death, silent and strange.

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