Archive for June, 2014


Book Reviews June 2014

First off, I would like to apologize for the infrequency of my posts lately. I just finished my second week at my new job in the Youth Services dept of my local public library (which is awesome by the way) and even though it has less hours than my last job, I am more busy than before. Plus I’m also watching my son on my off days, so I don’t get as much computer time as I normally have been getting. I am really backed up on writing up book reviews as a result. I’ve finished all the ones for May and a few for June, but still have about 14 to do, so those will be on next month’s post. I kinda got burned out on the Newbery Medal/Honors List this last month, but will try to pick it up again after a break. I have managed to read 155 books so far this year, which is pretty good since the year is half over.I’ve been having pretty good luck with my Advanced Reader’s Copies too and there are a lot of interesting books coming out soon, so there will definitely be more posts about them in the future. I’m currently listening to Lloyd Alexander’s 3rd book in The Chronicles of Prydain series, called The Castle of Lyr. This sounds like it may be the most exciting book in the series so far! Crazy to think that these books were written in the late 1960s as they seem very modern and timeless. I just started an interesting nonfiction book called Sorry! The English and Their Manners by Henry Hitchings. I’m hoping to get some insights into the English, as I am an Anglophile and my husband and his family are from there.

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 11 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

Dog Loves Counting written and illustrated by Louise Yates

Dog Loves Counting

I adored her other book Dog Loves Books, so when I saw this in the library, I decided to get it for my son as his teacher says he needs to see more numbers in print form. It had the same precious illustrations as the last book, but even cuter (if that’s actually possible) with the addition of a dodo and a baby sloth! Dog loves books but loves reading so much he can’t fall asleep. So he picks up a book on creatures and starts counting them from 1 – 10 and back down again. I’m looking forward to checking out Dog Loves Drawing as well. Recommended for ages 2-5, 4 stars.

Little Chicken’s Big Day by Katie and Jerry Davis

Little Chickens Big Day

This book just grabbed my attention at the library with its bright happy colors and simple illustrations (I thought it was adorable), so decided to get it for my son. Little Chicken does everything his Momma orders him to do and always responds with “I hear you cluckin’ Big Chicken!”. One day while out with him Momma, he wanders off after a butterfly and gets lost. She soon finds him and they go home, where they read a story together and go to bed. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Hey Mr. Choo Choo, Where Are You Going? written by Susan Wickberg, illustrated by Yumi Heo

Another train book I picked up for my son, the rhyming text and collage/painted illustrations really bring you into the story of this train taking children to the beach. My only gripe was that the book was a little long for my son. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

And the Train Goes… written and illustrated by William Bee

And the Train Goes...

I think my son’s favorite part of this book were the end pages with the many different colored train wheels. It’s kind of amazing that this whole book was done, illustration and text, on a computer. It’s also funny that without realizing till the end of the book that the author was English, I gave most of the characters English accents. The book is about a train leaving the station and all the people and cars of the train. At the end, a parrot repeats everything that was said, all the sounds and phrases. I liked the book but got bored with it as it just kept going on forever. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2-1/2 stars.

Waking Dragons written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson

This has been a repeat read for my son, though the story is very simple. A young knight’s mother has left him a note to wake the dragons, so he does and gets them ready for the day. They take off their jammies, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, say goodbye to their mother and fly the young knight to Knight School (of course!). Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners written and illustrated by Laurie Keller

When I saw this at the library, I knew I had to check it out. I love otters and as always, my husband and I want our son to have good manners, so this seemed like the perfect vehicle for that. The book is about Mr. Rabbit and his new neighbors, an Otter family. He is telling another animal how he hopes the new neighbors aren’t rude, like his last neighbor, but have good manners and gives examples. It was a cute book but a bit long-winded. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Dinosaur Train written and illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Dinosaur Train

I think my son loves this book for the cover image alone. He kept going on and on about the giant feet and the T-Rex inhaling all the smoke. It is about a young boy named Jesse who really loved dinosaurs and trains (just like my son), and after drawing a picture of the two together, he gets invited on a real train operated by them. After exploring the train car by car, the whole train leans over to look at a volcano that Jesse has seen and it topples over. After helping to right the train, he gets to ride up front with the engineer and they head back to Jesse’s room. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train (Mr. Putter and Tabby #8) written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

I thought this was a pretty cute book, but I think my son was a little lost. Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby are friends with their next-door neighbors, Mrs. Teaberry and her bulldog Zeke. Mrs. Teaberry calls up Mr. Putter and asks him to join her on a short train trip. He reminisces and says how much he loves trains, even though he’s not been on one since he was a boy, and then agrees to go if they can take their respective pets. She assures him that it is possible but when they go to buy tickets, the ticket seller says no pets allowed. So they smuggle them on-board and have a grand old time. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Another Dr. Seuss book I’ve never read, I picked this up for my son because I know he likes the author/illustrator. This was an odd book. It was almost like he took all these single 2-page rhymes with illustrations that he had lying around and put them all in one book because it is not one continuous story, i.e. the fish, but a bunch of little stories. It was fun to read though, as it was rather silly, just a bit long for a nearly 3 year old. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2-1/2 stars.

Zella, Zack, and Zodiac written and illustrated by Bill Peet

I rather enjoyed this little story from Bill Peet, as did my son, who has become one of my favorite children’s book writers this year. Zella the zebra discovers an abandoned ostrich chick and rescues him by letting him ride on her back. She adopts him and names him Zack. As he gets older and can no longer ride on her back, they become distant. Eventually she has her own child, an awkward colt named Zodiac who is always tripping over his own hooves, a real danger when predators are lurking all around. Zella believes she has lost Zack forever until he rescues Zodiac from a lion. From then on, he is Zodiac’s protector. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Caldecott

Book of Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Marguerite de Angeli

Book of Nursery & Mother Goose RhymesOld Mother Hubbard from Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes

I will admit since this is my 3rd out of 4 Nursery and Mother Goose books I’m having to read for the Caldecott Challenge, that I skimmed this one. It was massive, for a children’s book, at 192 pages! This book won a 1955 Caldecott Honor and I knew the illustrator because of her book Yonie Wondernose (which I rather enjoyed), that had won Caldecott Honor exactly ten years prior. I thought they were a delightful mix of black & white small pencil-drawn illustrations and full-color single page illustrations with a variety of known and previously unknown nursery rhymes. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

The Most Wonderful Doll in the World written by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Helen Stone

I will admit that I did not want to read this book for a long time because it is about dolls, as I’ve always found them a little creepy. This book won a 1951 Caldecott Honor book, and is about a little girl named Dulcy (this name really dates the book) who has a large collection of dolls to play with but has just lost a doll named Angela she just received as a gift from a friend of the family. She goes on and on about the doll, each time inventing better and better things that it does. When she finally finds it again, she realizes that it didn’t do anything of things she said it did, but she was just imagining it. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Mr. T.W. Anthony Woo written and illustrated by Marie Hall Ets

Marie Hall Ets, the bane of my existence. Just kidding. This is actually one of her better books that won some sort of Caldecott, this one having won the 1952 Caldecott Honor. It’s a rather random story though. The title refers to the name of a mouse who lives with a shoemaker, along with a cat and a dog that are constantly fighting with each other. One day, the shoemaker goes out to run some errands and his meddlesome sister stops by and sees the shop in an absolute mess from the cat and dog. She decides that she must move in with her brother and take care of him, so she and her annoying repeating parrot move in without his permission and the first thing she does is get rid of the dog and the cat. The shoemaker comes back home all confused but is too nice to tell her to leave. He rescues the cat and dog from outside and they all plot together with the mouse to get rid of the sister (she is scared of mice). They do and all three and the shoemaker live the rest of their days in harmony. The illustrations are rather plain in black and white but tell the story nicely. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

First off, I would like to say that this book is very hard to summarize, especially for anyone who has not read the rest of the series. The author is so good at storytelling and universe-building that she reminds me of George R.R. Martin, as they’re universe and character lists are so huge. So I recommend reading the first two books first so you won’t be totally lost by what I am going to describe. Let us proceed to the summary.

The Angels (Seraphim) have come to Earth and humankind is freaking out, thinking it is the apocalypse. The Angel’s leader Jael heads right to Rome and tells the humans that the Beasts (Chimera) are coming. This is really just a ploy to get his hands on some human weapon technology to finally destroy the Chimera. Akiva and his sister Liraz have managed to convince the Misbegotten Angels to combine forces with their former enemies, the Chimera, so they have a chance to defeat Jael. The mysterious Stelian Queen Scarab tries to kill Akiva but can’t as she discovers that his mother was Stelian. Throughout the book, we learn more background about Akiva and his mother Festival, and the Stelian’s role in Eretz and beyond.

Meanwhile, humans have discovered the resurrection pits left behind by the Chimeras and are mystified and horrified by them. A young woman named Eliza is one of the scientists allowed to study the bodies, and she believes that the Beasts are from another universe. It turns out that she knows this because she is descended from an angel, which becomes evident when she starts spouting Seraphic in front of everyone. Will Eliza ever figure out who she really is and what her purpose is? Will Akiva and Karou be able to stop Jael and have a chance at peace and a better life? To find out read this exciting conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Recommended for ages 15+, 5 stars.

It’s been at least a year since I last read the second book in the series, and it definitely took me awhile to remember what last happened in the book, as there were hardly any clues at the beginning of this one. I forgot how confusing this book can be trying to remember all the place and character names. It took me about 100 or so pages to really get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. It’s nice that the romance between Akiva and Karou is still one of the main focal points. I liked that despite all the bloodshed and pain, there was still time to dream about hope, love and a home together. Cassandra Clare definitely has some competition for who can write the best kisses, as Laini Taylor is quite good with the lead-up to them and the description of love. I loved the section about Zuzane and her mad eyebrow warfare skills in Italy! If I had to fight at the end of the world, she is definitely someone I would want on my team because she fights so hard for the ones she loves. I also loved (and was totally blown away) by the encounter between Jael and Akiva in the Papal Palace. He is one badass angel. I loved the story and I was sorry to see it end, though I’m glad it ended the way it did.

Ask the Passengers written by A.S. King, narrated by Devon Sorvari

Seventeen-year-old Astrid Jones feels really unappreciated by her friends and family. Her younger sister Ellis gets all the love and attention from their mother. Their dad is too stoned to really care about anything other than his office supplies at work. No one can understand why her friend Kristy, one of the most popular girls in school, hangs around her. Astrid may possibly be in love with her best friend Dee, who is already out of the closet. She lives in a really small town where everyone gossips about every little thing you do, so she has to worry about that as well.

The only thing she really enjoys is her AP Humanities class, where she is learning about Greek philosophers. In an attempt to feel more wanted, she sends waves of love towards passengers flying in airplanes above her house and everyone she sees. She does this even if they ignore or hate her. When she is sending out love to the anonymous passengers of the airplanes, every now and again, we hear their stories. It seems at first that these people have no connection to her, but after awhile, we can see that their stories are kind of like an extension of Astrid, if she were older.

Astrid feels like she is straddling two worlds. The very private one she shares with Dee and the public one she shares with Kristy and her family. Will she be able to figure out who she is and what she wants? Can she be truthful with everyone? Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.

I had gotten the idea to read this book from Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say shhh!, and because she raved about it so much, I decided to give it a try. I’ve never read anything by the author but have heard for years that her books were good. I enjoyed hearing about the AP Humanities class and her learning about Greek philosophers, and how well it surprisingly blended with the story. I loved that she gave Socrates a first name (Frank) and made him kind of her protection, when things get too weird in her life. I’ve lived in small towns before and I know how limiting and frustrating it can be, so I could really identify with Astrid’s views on living in one.

Astrid’s mom, wow, she was a piece of work. I can identify with one parent loving your sibling more than you, but getting drunk with your teenage daughter is a whole other thing. And she thinks she’s the normal one in the family, geez.

Adult

City of Devils: A Novel by Diane Bretherick

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life: Cruelty-Free Crafts, Recipes, Beauty Secrets and More by Melisser Elliott

I’m always trying to get as much information as I can on the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as I become more interested in joining it. I will admit also that after reading about how all types of meet including veal is processed in great detail, I was rather put off meat for a couple weeks. The book features useful information for those new to the idea of going completely vegan, which aside from eating a plant-based diet with no dairy or meat, also entails not wearing it in any form for clothing and shoes. For example, in addition to leather, you can’t wear wool from any animal, no fur naturally and silk. The author includes becoming involved with activism, profiles of vegans who have various food and apparel businesses and/or websites centered around the fact that they are vegans. I particularly liked the profiles as they not only had some good websites for references, but also seemed to profile real people and ask them why they went vegan, their favorite dish, favorite “accidently vegan” treat, item they can’t live without and more. She also discusses vegan companies that provide skincare products. The back section of the book is all about food and recipes, and I’d like the try the Tangy Cabbage Beet Slaw, Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Tempeh Over Soft Polenta, and Moroccan Chickpea and Kale Tangine with Quinoa. 3 stars.

Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland

Ok, first things first. This is not strictly a vegetarian cookbook but rather a pescetarian (vegetarian + fish) one. That out of the way, the recipes I found were delicious-sounding and easy to make. The photos they had were gorgeous, though I wish there were more of them. I in particular wanted to try the Mushroom-Almond Milk Soup (as I’m trying to use more cow’s milk alternatives), Cheese Grits with Black Beans and Avocado, Artichoke Enchiladas, Sunny-Side Up Yam and Black Bean Tostadas with Avocado, Quinoa Bowl with Avocado, Red Cabbage and Walnut, and the Peanut Butter/Amaranth Cookies. 4 stars.

City of Devils: A Novel

City of Devils

City of Devils: A Novel by Diana Bretherick

ARC from Edelweiss

To be published: July 15, 2014

Dr. James Murray has come to the University of Turin in 1867, to become the assistant of Professor Cesare Lombroso, who is teaching the newly-established field of criminal anthropology. This was the era that science first started to be used in criminal investigations, and James assisted with that in Edinburgh before coming to Italy. His father was involved in the study of the criminal brain, so this field is natural to him. James left behind a sister with a religious aunt as since his parents died, he has been the breadwinner and needs a proper job to do that. Right in the middle of his interview for the assistant position, the carbinieri (police) come in and inform Professor Lombroso of a gruesome murder they would like his assistance with, as his name has been mentioned in a note left by the killer.

Sofia, one of Lombroso’s servants intrigues James with the way she has no problem looking right at him, far different from the reserved manner of Scottish women. Lombroso is having a symposium at the university and has invited scholars from all over Europe to assist him. James is excited to be invited to go because he will finally get to meet all the people whose work he has read about. As the symposium continues, more and more people are being killed as a “Tribute to Lombroso”. Will they ever be able to figure out who the killer is and why he or she is doing this? To find out read this fascinating book. 4 stars.

I had never heard of Cesare Lombroso, although I had heard of Dr. Bell. Forensic and criminal anthropology have been fascinating to me for awhile, as is true crime, so I was interested, after reading the book, to read the author’s note at the end which described the field and its champion. My biggest gripe with the book was the middle part, which really dragged, and nearly made me lose interest. Another thing to mention about the book is that the killings were pretty horrific, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Bittersweet: A Novel

Bittersweet

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

ARC from Edelweiss

To be published: August 19, 2014

This book is the story of the four Latimer sisters, two sets of twins, named Edda, Grace, Tufts and Kitty. They live with their father, a Church of England rector, and their stepmother in 1920’s Australia. The girls are going to be the first formerly trained nurses in Corunda, a prosperous town outside of Sydney. There is a lot of resistance to them to be thus trained not only by the un-trained female nursing staff already in the hospital as well people who don’t think the girls should be able to live on their own as unmarried women. The book chronicles not only the girls settling into their jobs as new trained nurses (which made me think of the Call the Midwife book and TV series, though it was set about 30 years later in England), but also how they each matured on their own in their personal and emotional lives. The story chronicles not only the sisters but also the lives of common Australian folk during the Depression of the 1930s, a story not usually told outside of the US. 3-1/2 stars.

Ok, I will admit that I originally picked up this novel because I had read The Thornbirds by the same author after watching the 1980s miniseries, and really enjoyed them. This one sounded just as interesting, so I decided to give it a try as well. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, even though it seemed to have suddenly ended just as it was getting interesting. I really think the author should’ve divided this story into two books or possibly one book per sister as that would make a better “romantic saga” as the publishers are terming the book. One of the things I did really like about the book is that the author had excellent vocabulary. The complex nature of the words used impressed me, and I found myself looking a lot up, which doesn’t bother me. I like books that educate me. I also liked learning about the Australian Depression, which I did not previously know that much about. I knew a little bit it as my paternal grandmother had grown up around Sydney during this time period, and she had told me some things.

 Edda was probably my favorite sister, or the one I could most identify with as she was not afraid to speak her mind and was the most independent and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. Grace and Kitty started out weak, but eventually became much more complex characters as the story progressed. I also really liked Tufts as she ended up being the more research-minded sister, content to be a teacher though she does end up with a much more public job by the end of the book. I thought Jack’s character was a little weak, but I’m glad he was able to find happiness in someone. Charles Burdum was an interesting character, and I have definitely met men like him before. I would’ve liked to hear more about Dorcas as she was only included in the last part of the book.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

RIP Rik Mayall

Drop Dead Fred

Comedy genius and actor Rik Mayall passed away today at age 56. I’m sure most people have no idea who he was and I probably would’ve been the same about 10 years ago. I actually first discovered him in the corny, bizarre, but really funny 1991 film Drop Dead Fredthough I had no idea it was him until years later. In fact, I for some reason always confused him with Aussie comedian Yahoo Serious. I didn’t really appreciate him until I saw him in the BBC Comedy Blackadder from the 1980s, where he played the outrageous and hilarious Lord Flashheart in the second Elizabethan-era season of the show, as well as in the fourth season as WWI flying ace for the RAF. He’s such a great character because he only appears for a short amount of time but is always more popular and steals the ladies from the main character Blackadder (masterfully played by Rowan Atkinson). Mayall is quoted as saying this after being offered the part of Flashheart, “I was surprised when they asked me. Very honouring that they asked me. ‘Alright,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it as long as I get more laughs than Rowan.'” Mayall is one of the reasons season two of Blackadder is my favorite one. He’s also really famous for the alternative comedy shows The Young Ones, The New Statesman, and Bottom. He will be missed. To see more of his best work, check out this article from The Independent. Below is my favorite clip of his:

After a lot of things being up in the air, it has finally been confirmed. I have been offered a job as a Library Assistant in the Youth Services Department at Phoenix Public Library!! I am so freaking excited! Currently creating a happy mix on youtube and having a dance party. I should feel more inspired now that I have something to look forward to every day.

Calvin and Hobbes Animated

 

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