Tag Archive: cookbooks


Book Reviews March 2015

I will admit, besides the numerous picture books I’ve been reading with my son for the Winter Reading Challenge (we managed to read 20 minutes a day for 30 days, granted not consecutively but still impressive to keep a 3-year old in one location long enough to get it done), I’ve not read a whole lot this month. Most of that was because the last couple of ARC’s (with the exception of Prudence) I’ve really had to wade through as they dragged about halfway through. I am a little behind with reviews again this year, but most are picture books, so I will try to catch up ASAP. I just started a newer translation of Geoffrey Chauncer’s The Canterbury Tales, as it is something I’ve always been meaning to read but have never gotten around to, on audiobook. I’m trying to read A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin again, as I have started watching Season 4 of the show.

Children

Hedgehog’s Magic Tricks written and illustrated by Ruth Paul

I have been trying to find books for my “Prickly Things” Toddler Storytime, and this book came up. It was an alright story about a young hedgehog who is trying to do some magic tricks for his friends but they keep not working correctly. So his friends bring a cake and distract him long enough so that they can eat it, so he thinks he can do magic. Recommended for ages 2-6, 2 stars.

Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue written and illustrated by Naoko Stoop

Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue

I love this character and the original and adorable illustrations on plywood. Red Knit Cap Girl is playing in the forest with her friends when she spots something crying for help far out on the lake. It’s a little lost polar bear cub, and with the help of her forest friends (plus her friend Moon), they take their new friend to his mama in the North. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3-1/2 stars.

Dancing with Dinosaurs written and illustrated by Jane Clarke

I picked this up as a possibility to read for my Toddler Dance Storytime, but it was really bad. The premise is the whole book is a dance contest with all sorts of dinosaurs, which is okay, until the judges start disappearing and the host is eating everyone, contestants and judges. Plus the rhyming just wasn’t funny. Recommended for ages 2-6, 1 star.

Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story written and illustrated by Kara LaReau

Another book I picked up for Prickly Things Toddler Storytime, but decided it was probably too long to us. Plus I don’t think they would pick up on the subtleties of the story. It is about a porcupine named Mr. Prickles, who just wants to show the other animals (racoon, skunk and squirrel) that he is cool and fun to hang out with. Sadly, they do not agree and the more they exclude him, the angrier (pricklier) he gets on the inside. One night he is glaring at them for excluding him, when he sees another porcupine, named Miss Pointypants (love the names!). They start hanging out and soon they are in love and she lets him see that he doesn’t need the other animals; the two of them together do just fine. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Hedgehog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend written and illustrated by Lena Anderson

It is rather hard, I’ve discovered, to find books about hedgehogs and porcupines for toddlers. This was another attempt of mine to find a book for a Toddler Storytime on Prickly Things. It was a short cute story, but one thing just rubbed me the wrong way. Hedgehog is settling down to some tea and crocheting after putting her baby to bed, when she hears a tiny squeak. She goes outside and calls out for whomever it is to come in, but no one comes. Eventually after her friend Pig has come over for some dinner, she realizes that the squeak was from a tiny girl pig. They invite her inside and realize she is lost and hungry. They feed her and she spends the night. In the morning, they realize that her mom is the town baker, who awards them with 100 sweet rolls for returning her daughter Fia. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

My problem with the book is the questionable relationship between Pig and the little lost girl pig Fia. I assumed because he was eating late at night with Hedgehog that he is an adult, but he is wearing sort of little boy clothing so I’m not sure. At any rate, based on his size, he looks substantially older. Pig keeps saying that Fia is “the sweetest thing” and he is in love with her, and the whole relationship just came off as kind of creepy. She looks to be a toddler or perhaps as old as five. I’m not sure that the author intended it to be that way, but that’s the way it looked to me.

Harriet Dancing written and illustrated by Ruth Symes

Harriet Dancing

I originally picked this book up to possibly read for a Toddler Storytime on Prickly Things, but decided it was too long. It would work for a Preschool Storytime, though. My son and I enjoyed the book, and thought it was a cute story.

Harriet the hedgehog is going to her friend Ivor’s house and on the way she says hello to all the animals. She sees a group of butterflies dancing and cheerfully joins them dancing all around until she realizes that they’ve stopped. They only want to dance with other butterflies, hedgehogs aren’t allowed. She is very sad at this news and leaves to find her friend. One the way, she trips and falls down a hill and is covered with the petals of flowers. When she arrives at Ivor’s door, she tells him about what happened and he says she looks like a flower, which makes her so happy that they both start dancing, and eventually all of her friends, and even the butterflies, join in. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Meet Einstein by Mariela Kleiner, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli

Meet Einstein

I picked this book up as part of my Gravity DiscoveryTime, for preschoolers, as Albert Einstein is one of the three scientist who did major work on the subject. In this book, kids learn about what a scientist does, who they are, and the kinds of things Einstein studied, such as light and gravity. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

ZooZical written by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown

It is the middle of the winter and all the zoo animals are bored. So they decide to put on a show, a musical. All of the animals are dancing and singing variations of popular children’s songs and even the snakes are real hula hoops. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Dinosaur Rescue! Written and illustrated by Penny Dale

Another awesome book from Penny Dale, which of course my son loved, this one is all about rescue vehicles. A group of dinosaurs in a pickup truck have broken down on the train tracks. They call Dinosaur Rescue to help them. The police car tells the Engineer Dinosaur that there is a truck on the tracks up ahead and he needs to stop. Once the train finally does stop (just in time!), there is a fire truck to help put out the pickup fire, an ambulance to make sure they are okay and a helicopter helping to monitor the scene. At the end of the day, the rescue dinosaurs go back to their compound to rest and relax. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

Shark and Lobster's Undersea Adventures

^Lobster talking about tigers

I originally picked this up as a possible book for my upcoming Shark DiscoveryTime for Preschoolers, but decided it probably wouldn’t work well for storytime (though it was nice to find a non-scary picture book about sharks). This was a very silly story, but both my son and I rather enjoy reading it together. The whole book is longways, so it is top to bottom vs left to right pictures.

Shark is very afraid of the tiger, a stripey, teeth-filled monster. His fear makes his friend Lobster afraid and they decide to built a fort. They are joined in the fort by a small cuttlefish who just happens to overhear their conversation, along with the cuttlefish, his friends and their families. Then they decide that the fort isn’t enough, they need an even bigger monster to combat the dreaded tiger. So they go down to the deepest ocean and find the biggest monster they can find and bring the sleeping beast up to their fort to protect it. Only things don’t go exactly as planned. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

What To Do If an Elephant Stands on Your Foot written by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

What to do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot

My son loved this book so much, he asked me to read it to his Preschool class on Dr. Seuss Day (March 2)! We’ve been reading it a lot since we first read it in February. It is a pretty funny book, though it did go over the heads of most of the kids in his class.

An elephant stands on a boy’s foot and he naturally screams in pain, which frightens the elephant and alerts the nearby tiger. The rest of the book is basically the kid screwing up and doing the absolutely wrong thing and getting a huge number of animals to chasing him. The boy makes too much noise with the tiger, and a rhino hears and starts chasing him, and then he runs up a tree (which is full of snakes of course). Finally he’s about to be eaten by a crocodile when he is rescued by the monkeys. Remembering his manners, he thanks them and is about to apologize to the original elephant, when he accidentally starts the whole thing over again. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Mousetronaut written by Mark Kelly, illustrated by C.F. Payne

Meteor is part of a group of mice training to go in space with the astronauts. No one thinks Meteor will get picked because he is so small. But he does. When they first breach the earth’s atmosphere, the other mice are scared of the weightlessness of space, but not Meteor. He relished it. One day, an astronaut notices the control panel key is stuck between monitors. All the astronauts try to get it out, but then Meteor says the day and everyone congratulates him. He truly is a Mousetronaut! Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

I used this as part of my Gravity DiscoveryTime for preschoolers. It was suggested by my supervisor and I thought it was a cute little story, plus it was written by Arizonian Astronaut Mark Kelly (most would probably know him as husband of former US Representative Gabby Giffords). Apparently it was based off a real mouse that Kelly flew with in a mission that enjoyed the weightlessness of space. The kids liked the book especially counting down till blast off!

Down a the Dino Wash Deluxe written by Tim J. Myers, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan

Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe

Another of my son’s favorites, this book is all about washing different kinds of dinosaurs in the city. I just like saying Quetzelcoatlus (a kind of giant flying pterosaur), plus it’s a fun story for different voices. A young boy owns a dino wash with a bunch of his friends. We meet an ankylosaurus, a pachycephalosaurus, a finicky stegosaurus, and a spinosaurus. They warn the protagonist, a young boy who works at the dino wash, that a T-Rex is coming into town. The boy is scared, especially when the T-Rex demands to know how he will be cleaned. Turns out, he is afraid of getting shampoo in his eyes, but the boy knows just what to do to take care of him. Afterwards, he is a big softie. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Love from Paddington written by Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum

Surprisingly I’ve never read any Paddington before. So when I saw this little book in the children’s fiction section, I just had to pick it up. This is a new book, but it goes back to the beginning and tells Paddington’s backstory through letters to his Aunt Lucy in Peru (where he is originally from). He was named Paddington as that was the label he was wearing and called that by the family that ended up adopting him. He never tries to get into so much mischief, but it seems to find him nonetheless. A short quick read and a good introduction to Paddington. Recommended for ages 6-9, 4 stars.

Saint-Saens’s Danse Macabre written by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Joann E. Kitchel

I thought this biography picture book could’ve been a lot better, as the biographical info was a little sparse. The story was interesting though. Apparently compose Camille Saint-Saens was walking through the Parisian catacombs with his friend when he became inspired to write about Death and his dancing skeletons. At first the music comes off too romantic, so he redoes the whole piece. Audiences are a bit shocked to say the least at the final production (I figured it was probably similar to the reaction gotten from Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”). The book also has a CD so the kids can hear Saint-Saens’s “Danse Macabre” themselves. Recommended for ages 6-10, 3 stars.

Children and Young Adults

Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid by H.P. Newquist

I have had a longtime fascination with cephalopods, and was excited to see this book in the library. I had picked it up for myself, but my 3 yr old son got so into it, we ended up reading it together for his Winter Reading Challenge. The book is essentially the story of the Kraken, a sailor’s tale of a giant sea creature that attacked ships. Later on, scientists realized that the Kraken is essentially the giant squid (scientific name: architeuthis), though never near as big as the stories would have you believe. The book goes into great depth about how scientists first started studying architeuthis by discovering that once a hundred years, they would start washing up on shore. It also goes on to explain how they discovered the existence of the an even larger squid, called the colossal squid, and how they were finally after about 150 years, able to capture a live giant squid on film and video. They did finally in about 2008 manage to get a colossal squid, albeit a dead one, to study. It was a very fascinating read and included information on the films and books that feature the giant squids. Highly recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

Young Adult

Prudence: The Custard Protocols, #1 by Gail Carriger

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1: Cosmic Avengers (Guardians of the Galaxy #1) written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Steve McNiven and Sara Pichelli

I was hoping this was the original series but it seems to be a spinoff, following the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie (which I really enjoyed). The comic also features a bit of backstory and a hint of things to come  for the other members of the Guardians: Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora. We get a bit of a backstory on Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, which explains how his father came to Earth, what really happened to his mother (it wasn’t cancer), and how the Guardians were working together with Iron Man. Peter’s father, as King of the Spartax, has decided that Earth is now off limits to outsiders and this includes Peter, who is half-human himself. This of course doesn’t stop the Badoon from attacking the planet and it is up to the Guardians to save it. Peter’s father is up to something, but no one is quite sure what his master plan is and as a result, Peter and the Guardians are captured by his father’s own men and imprisoned. Just what is the King of the Spartax up to? To find out, read this exciting first volume of the series. Recommended for ages 15+, 3 stars.

Adult

Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore, narrated by Euan Morton

“The Serpent of Venice” is based off of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of the Amontillado”, and Shakespeare’s “Othello” and “The Merchant of Venice”, with a bit of original Christopher Moore thrown in to make the stories flow better and frankly to make them funnier. Pocket, the title character from Moore’s “Fool” is sent to Venice as the English Ambassador to Venice to make sure the Venetians know Queen Cordelia’s view on another Crusade (she’s against it). Because of her and her husband Pocket’s meddling in the affairs of Venice, Cordelia is poisoned and they try to kill Pocket as well. They send his apprentice Drool and monkey Jeff away as well. Pocket miraculously survives with the help of what he thinks is a mermaid. He vows revenge and starts plotting it against all the men who have wronged him and his queen and the rest of the book involves his and other’s revenge on various Venetians and other characters. 5 stars.

I adored this book, but not quite in the same way as “Fool”. There was a lot more backstabbing, plotting, and crazy shenanigans happening in this book than in the previous one. I did miss Drool and Pocket’s interactions, which were less in this book as Pocket spent the majority of the text trying to find his apprentice and Jeff. The addition of Marco Polo was an interesting twist, but makes sense when you connect him to the infamous Serpent. I have honestly not read “The Merchant of Venice,” but of course have heard of it, so it was interesting to see how he handled discussions of greed and racism. There is an in-depth discussion at the end of the book, by the author, about racism in Shakespeare’s time, which was pretty fascinating. I did enjoy the twisted Othello ending and the whole last scene with the Doge. Moore did leave it wide open for a third book, and I’m curious to see if he pursues it. Euan Morton was a fabulous narrator as per usual.

The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, The Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar by Gail Carriger

Alessandro Tarabotti works for the Templars neutralizing supernatural elements and was sent to Egypt to do just that and leave no records behind. An archaeologist contacts Mr. Tarabotti and he goes to investigate. But the British government also has eyes on the situation and send one of their agents. Just what will they discover in an ancient Egyptian tomb? 3 stars.

I picked this up after reading the author’s newest book “Prudence: The Custard Protocols, #1”, though I have had it on my to-read list for awhile. I sort of wish that this book was full-length as there are so many questions I have for the author in regards to Alexia Tarabotti Maccon’s father, and she just agonizingly scratched the surface with this short story. The reader does find out how Alexia’s father and mother managed to get together though, I must say I was curious given how crazy she acts in “The Parasol Protectorate”series, I always wondered what Mr. Tarabotti ever saw in her.

Poetry Aloud Here!: Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library by Sylvia M. Vardell

I’ve been wanting to incorporate poetry into my Kids Cafe program for April, since it’s National Poetry Month. There are so many great suggestions in this book. For example, I’m thinking about becoming an ESL tutor and was pleased to know that you could use poems to increase fluency, especially in reading aloud. There’s a list of twenty classic poems not to be missed, plenty of examples of good multicultural poetry to use with kids (which is excellent as my program tends to be pretty diverse), lists of fifty children’s poets I should know, ten picture book poems I should definitely use, online resources I could use to find poetry, as well as ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. There are also ways to pair classic and contemporary poems, pairing nonfiction and poetry, ten strategies for sharing poetry out loud, ways to pair art and poetry together, as well as an example of how to do biography poems. So I should be set in trying to find activities and ways to share poetry with the kids. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Feb 2015 Book Reviews

I honestly have not read much this month as I keep starting and stopping books after I get bored or don’t like the book. But I have mostly caught up with the majority of my previous reviews from 2014 and Jan 2015, just a bit behind on this month’s reviews, but overall I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve managed to read 50 books so far this year. Right now I am listening to the very hilarious and bawdy Shakespeare re-telling of King Lear by Christopher Moore, entitled Fool. The book does have a bit of Macbeth and Hamlet thrown in for good measure as well. I might try his brand new book about the same character named Pocket, though the new book (The Serpent of Venice) is a re-telling of Othello and The Merchant of Venice with a bit of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of the Amontillado. I have heard very mixed reviews on it so far. With Fool, I actually had to wait until I could laugh properly again (without having a coughing fit because of the bronchitis I just got over). I had tried listening to Eoin Colfer’s book The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1), which has been on my to-read list forever, but I just couldn’t get into it (which really sucks because I loved all of his Artemis Fowl books). So that will be going back in my donated books pile. I’m about to finish up a Children’s Advanced Reader’s copy (ARC for short) mystery book entitled The Case of the Cursed Dodo, by Jake G. Panda. I’m super psyched because I finally got approval to read Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger, the newest book and the first in the series about Alexia Maccon’s (from her Parasol Protectorate series, which I adore) daughter. I’m actually pretty good until probably the end of March set up with sounds-really-interesting ARCs. Fingers crossed that they are.

On to the book reviews. As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add illustrations from picture books that I particularly liked.

Children

Hooray for Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won

Hooray for Hat

I loved the illustrations, though the concept was a little too simplistic for my taste. Basically, Elephant wakes up grumpy and is so for the day until a surprise package arrives at his door with 6 hats inside. He puts all of them on at once and feels better. Hooray for hat! he says. Then he goes around distributing the unique hats to his grumpy friends until they are all happy. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Dancing with Dinosaurs written by Jane Clarke, illustrated by Lee Wildish

I picked this up as a possibility to read for my Toddler Dance Storytime, but it was really bad. The premise is the whole book is a dance contest with all sorts of dinosaurs, which is okay, until the judges start disappearing and the host is eating everyone, contestants and judges. Plus the rhyming just wasn’t funny. Recommended for ages 2-6, 1 star.

Found written and illustrated by Salina Yoon

Found

My son really likes this book and it has been a frequent repeat read lately. Bear finds a floppy bunny toy in the woods and wants to keep it, but feels it probably has a family somewhere. So he puts up “Found” flyers all over the forest but no one is claiming the bunny. Bear has fallen in love with it and spends his whole day playing with it until it is seen by Moose. Bear very reluctantly gives it back, but is pleasantly surprised when Moose gives it back, saying “special toys should be passed along for others to enjoy”. Bear goes home happy with his new toy. For those who like this author/illustrator’s work, you will notice a profusion of pinecones and an occasional penguin in this book (which refers to her other Penguin books). This would be a great book for a toy storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Baby Bear’s Big Dreams written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Baby Bears Big Dreams

I found this book when I was getting ready for my Toddler Bear Storytime and just had to read it aloud. It is an adorable book about growing up, or at least what a small bear believes happens when you grow up and outlines all the things he will do. He’s going to bed late, not picking up his toys because he’s going to play all the time, living in a treehouse surrounded by honey and berries and writing his “grown up” poem. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

If I Had a Dragon written and illustrated by Tom Ellerly

Morton does not like playing with his little baby brother, until he imagines him as a dragon. Only every time he imagines trying to play something with his dragon, it doesn’t quite work out. Morton discovers that maybe a brother isn’t so bad after all. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Hug Machine written and illustrated by Scott Campbell

hug+machine+spread

Me and my son thought this book was funny. The little boy on the cover is the Hug Machine. He hugs anyone and everything, from his family to dogs to blue post boxes. He refuels on pizza. He does it all day and almost never gets tired. This is a cute book to read with your little hug machine, and you will definitely get a lot reading it. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Dinosaur Rescue! written and illustrated by Peggy Dale

Dinosaur Rescue

Another awesome book from Penny Dale, which of course my son loved, this one is all about rescue vehicles. A group of dinosaurs in a pickup truck have broken down on the train tracks. They call Dinosaur Rescue to help them. The police car tells the Engineer Dinosaur that there is a truck on the tracks up ahead and he needs to stop. Once the train finally does stop (just in time!), there is a fire truck to help put out the pickup fire, an ambulance to make sure they are okay and a helicopter helping to monitor the scene. At the end of the day, the rescue dinosaurs go back to their compound to rest and relax. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Read It, Don’t Eat It! written and illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

readitdonteatit_cover

I enjoyed this cute rhyming book, which told kids about how to handle books and going to the library, though some of the terminology needed to be explained further. Book discussions are always good though, and this book got my son thinking about right and wrong, which is always a good thing. Promoting the library is always something I try to do, not only as an employee, but as a parent and lover of libraries. The illustrations were adorable, and my favorite was the one with the sweatered bunny in the magic hat with a wand and the phrase “Rips and tears won’t magically heal”. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

A Library Book for Bear written by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Bear does not want to go the library and thinks he has all the books he could ever want at home, all seven of them. His friend Mouse convinces him to go, but he is determined not to like it. He only wants to pick books at the library on pickles, honeybees and kings and queens. That is, until he overhears a storytime told by the librarian and is enraptured by it. Soon he is changing his tune and checking out all kinds of books. This book would be great for a preschool storytime about the library and how to behave at one. Apparently this book is the sixth in a series on Bear and Mouse. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Speed written and illustrated by Nathan Clement

I probably would’ve liked this book more if the copy we borrowed from the library wasn’t completely torn up and I didn’t want to get charged for it. My son loved it, as it is all about stock car racing. It plays out pretty much just like a Nascar race, or in the case of my son, the movie Cars. The stock cars are lined up behind the pace car to start, then roar around the track, racing each other and even crashing. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza written and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Annie Hoot

Annie Hoot loves to knit, especially for other birds. Her friends don’t appreciate her gifts though, so she travels around the world knitting for other birds and animals. Eventually she decides to come home where her friends had missed her and her knitting and finally agreed to be taught how to knit themselves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Ok, first off, I love books about owls and especially children’s books that add crocheting or knitting to the story. The distance between the different animal habitats was totally off, but I’m guessing the author made them closer to move the story along. Also, penguins and polar bears do live on opposite ends of the Earth, but are two animals that kids can identify so that’s why they’re in the story together (I’m guessing). And of course there’s the whole how can knitted vessels fly and float question. Aside from all that, I thought it was a cute rather imaginative story.

Hansel & Diesel written and illustrated by David Gordon

This was a bit of an odd adaptation of the Hansel and Gretel story, with two trucks named Hansel and Diesel. They are out of fuel and stumble into the junkyard surrounding their house. Soon they are lured to a gas stop by the Wicked Winch who nearly captures them, until they are saved at the last minute by their parents who get rid of the Winch and set up shop at the gas station. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Maude: The-Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton written by Lauren Child, illustrated by Trisha Krauss

All of the Shrimptons go out of their way to be noticed, whether it is with a outrageous hat, facial hair, or sense of humor. Maude is completely different. She goes out of her way to blend in, literally, to the furniture. She asks for a goldfish for her birthday, but her mother thinks that is too bland and gets her a pet tiger instead. This immediately causes chaos and everyone gets eaten except the girl who can blend in. This was a weird and kind of morbid, almost an Edward Gorey-like story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 2 stars.

Young Adult

Silverwood (Silverwood, Book 1) by Betsey Streeter

Adult

Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic by Kate Colquhoun

Geez, I can’t believe it took me three weeks to read this book! Part of the reason was because the book rather dragged in the beginning as it was setting up the story before the trial. I was completely absorbed in reading about the last part of the story about the trial and its outcome. I especially enjoyed the debates for and against Florence because of her gender, outward sexuality, the feminist movement she unwittingly became part of and the changing attitudes of women in regards to marriage and family during the late Victorian era.

The book is the story of Florence Maybrick and her marriage to the significantly older Liverpudlian cotton merchant James Maybrick, and his subsequent murder trial. Death by arsenic poisoning is what she was convicted of, although they never actually proved that and really what she was being punished for was her adulterous affair with another man. The all-male jury and biased (possibly mentally deficient) judge, in addition to the inability to testify on her behalf (something that apparently wasn’t allowed in court until after her trial), in my opinion, contributed to her guilty verdict. Was she guilty of murder? I don’t think so, as the author clearly outlined James Maybrick’s addiction to poisons such as arsenic and strychnine, which were prescribed for everything in those days as they were thought beneficial to one’s health. Read the book and decide for yourself whether she was guilty or not. 4 stars.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris

Renee is a 54 year old concierge of a very ritzy apartment building in Paris. She maintains the aura of simple mindedness and routine that people in her profession are supposed to exhibit, but in private she is really quite brilliant. Despite only going to school till age 12 (as was common in her rural agricultural village), she has a passionate love of books, especially Russian literature. Paloma is a genius 12 year old that lives in Renee’s building. Her family is full of stupid Socialist-leaning individuals and she has decided that enough is enough. If she doesn’t find something worth living for, she will kill herself and set her apartment on fire. In the meanwhile, she has these two journals of profound thoughts that she daily adds to. One of the long-term residents has died and the family sold his apartment to a mysterious Japanese gentleman named Kakuro Ozu. Renee accidently befriends Mr. Ozu. He in term befriends Paloma, who are both convinced that Renee has “the elegance of the hedgehog”, i.e. one that is not expected but you see touches of it in unusual ways. Will Renee be able to let herself truly be friends with Mr. Ozu? To find out, read this book. 3 stars.

This was a pretty pretentious book. I would consider myself pretty educated but discussing philosophy is something I have just never been able to wrap my head around. And there was a lot of it in the beginning of the book, almost enough to put me off. However, thanks to Barbara Rosenblat’s excellent narration (really I think I would listen to her read anything, she’s that good), I decided to keep listening to the story. I rather enjoyed the middle and up to the very end of it, but not the ending (though I can see why the author ended it like she did). Renee was my favorite character, although I liked Kakuro as well. The whole scene with the bathroom toilet and the Mozart Requiem was so hilarious, and definitely my favorite one in the book. The book was all about class warfare, philosophy, beauty, life and death, and other complex material. All in all an interesting read.

Jan 2015 Book Reviews

I feel like I’ve been kind of slow this month with reading. I haven’t gotten through as many as I would’ve wanted, especially in regards to adult level books. Ever since they moved the new nonfiction upstairs at my library, I don’t go through them as much. My current tally is 29 books read for the year. I’m getting better with my reviews this year, and have only not completed 5, mostly for picture books. I am almost finished listening to The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which started slow but I am rather enjoying right now (again narrated by the wonderful Barbara Rosenblat). I will follow this for the audiobook of The Curse of the Pharaohs (Amelia Peabody #2) by Elizabeth Peters, which  I had started listening to before. I am also reading the badly titled but fascinting Did She Kill Him? A Victorial Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic by Kate Colquhoun.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add illustrations from picture books that I particularly like (and this month there were a lot).

Children

Quiet! There’s a Canary in the Library written and illustrated by Don Freeman

Whenever I think of Don Freeman, I always think of Corduroy the Bear (which I’ve somehow never read), although I did enjoy his book “Fly High, Fly Low”. This book was adorable. Although a little long, I think it would be great for a toddler storytime on reading or the library. Cary is a young girl who loves going to the library and picking out books to read, recommended by Mrs. Curtis the librarian. One day, as she is reading a book about the zoo, she imagines that she is a librarian. The first thing she does is have a day that all the animals and birds can visit the zoo. My son loved naming all the different animals in this book and liked that they all liked to read too. Pandemonium almost breaks out when some mice come in the library, but the day is saved by a canary. After accidently shouting, Cary realizes that she is still in the library and picks out a book to read at home. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Dinosaur Zoom! written and illustrated by Penny Dale

I picked up this book after enjoying another of the author’s books, Dinosaur Dig. This one was actually cuter than that book. Dinosaurs come from all over, in all different kinds of vehicles, bringing party supplies and birthday presents. They assemble in the forest and get ready for little Dinosaur’s surprise birthday party. My son liked all the cars and of course, the dinosaurs. Would be a good book for storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Doodleday written and illustrated by Ross Collins

doodleday02b

My son loved this one! Harvey’s mom warns him not to draw on Doodleday, but the temptation is just too much. He draws a fat hairy fly and it comes to life! He needs to get rid of it, so he draws a huge spider, who quickly looses interest in the fly and instead tries to eat his dad. Then he draws a bird to get rid of the spider and a giant squid to get rid of the bird, which of course immediately starts destroying the neighborhood. So he calls for the one person who can save him, his mom. Can she save the day? To find out, read this adorable book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Dog Loves Drawing written and illustrated Louise Yates

Dog Loves Drawing

Dog loves reading and books, which is why he opened his own bookshop. One day his aunt sends him a blank book to draw in, so he starts creating a fantastical adventure with some new friends. This was a cute follow-up to “Dog Loves Books,” which I adored. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

King Jack and the Dragon written by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

King Jack and the Dragon

Three young boys play at being a King and his knights, building a mighty castle and fighting dragons and other beasties, before they are taken away by “giants” and brought home. King Jack lasts the longest before he is scared by “the Thing” and is later brought home. A cute book about imagination and play, would be a great book for a preschool storytime. Loved the illustrations. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Otto: The Boy Who Loved Cars written by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon

I picked this up at the library because my son loves cars, almost as much as Otto does. Otto eats, sleeps, breathes and plays with cars. One day he becomes one and is frustrated that no one understands him and he can’t eat or play with his friends (who all have car names), and he is obviously upset. When he wakes up the next day (not as a car), he is relieved and vows to be more open to other things. It didn’t seem to penetrate my son, that he can like more than one thing, but then again he is only three, lol. Anyways, it was a cute story. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Turtle Island written and illustrated by Kevin Sherry

Turtle Island

I picked this up for my son because it featured turtles (which he loves), but I ended up liking it more than he did. The book was about a giant turtle who is very lonely until a group of animals shipwrecks and builds a house on top of him. They live together for awhile and become like a family, but eventually they build a ship and go back to their original home. The turtle is sad until they come back with more animals to live on the “turtle island”. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Monster Needs His Sleep written by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Wendy Grieb

Monster Needs His Sleep

This was a cute bedtime book with a young boy and his friend Monster. The boy is trying his hardest to get Monster to bed but he keeps stalling. The boy eventually realizes that his friend is afraid of the dark and dutifully brings a night light to help him. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Hi, Koo!  written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Jon J. Muth always does awesome books, so I’m not surprised that this one is great too. This book is about seasonal haikus and is a great introduction for children. I love his watercolor and ink illustrations of Koo and the two children (based off the author/illustrator’s twins). Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

The Book with No PicturesText from the book

I’d been hearing about this book for a couple of months, from librarians who loved it, before I was able to get a copy. It didn’t really capture my son’s attention, like I wanted it to, but I loved it. It is a great chance for parents to just be silly while reading a book to their kids because since the book has no pictures, you have to say everything (no matter how crazy) that is on the page. Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend written and illustrated by Dan Santat

beekle_2

I adored this book, especially the imaginative illustrations, though I’m not sure how much my son really understood it. Beekle is an imaginary friend who lives on a magical island. He keeps waiting to be created by a real child, but is never picked. So he decides to take matters into his own hands and goes to find his creator, who finally names him. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

The Muppets: Bunsen and Beaker Save the Show written and illustrated by Lucy Rosen

It definitely helps to have an appreciation of the Muppets before reading this book, but it can be read by those who have never heard of them. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker of Muppet Labs are always coming up with ways to improve life, and tonight they want to help the Muppet Show. First they invent a combination ticket/timer/inflatable pillow to replace the regular tickets, then they show Kermit the Curtain clapper (the curtain falls when it hears applause), and last but not least, the Burning Bulbs of Brilliance. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Autumnblings written and illustrated by Douglas Florian

I’ve had this forever, well since I did my Autumn Preschool storytime back in November, so I figured it was about time I stopped renewing it and started reading it. Since Autumn is my favorite season and I love poetry, this book seemed like a good fit. The book is a very creative group of short poetry about Autumn, and also has original painted illustrations by the author. I especially like the concrete poems. My favorites were “Apple Picking”, “Up and Down”, “Geese Piece”, and “The Colors of Autumn”. Recommended for ages 5-9, 5 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Smek for President! (Smek #2) written and illustrated by Adam Rex

Adult

A.D. 30: A Novel by Ted Dekker

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

Amelia Peabody is an English independent woman of means. She inherited her father’s small fortune, plus his love of Egypt, and so travels with a companion to that country following his death. Unfortunately her companion gets sick and she is on the lookout for a new one. While in Rome, she discovers a beautiful young woman abandoned in the Forum. The woman, whose name is Evelyn, tells Amelia her sad story of ruin and despair and thinks she will be rejected by her as she has been by everyone else. Amelia is not that kind of person though and quickly adopts Evelyn and makes her a companion. While in Alexandria with Amelia, she falls in love (though she will of course not admit it) with a young handsome man named Walter Emerson. He and his brother Radcliffe (who goes by Emerson) are set to dig at Armana, at the court of the heretic king Akhenaten, which is where Amelia and Evelyn eventually follow. Amelia cures Emerson from a nasty infection and fever, and they stay on to help with the archaelogical dig. After staying for a few weeks, they are terrorized by a mummy. Who is the mummy and what does he want? Is he really a priest of Amon (the king of the gods and the wind) set on cursing all those who set foot in the heretic king’s realm or something else? To find out, read this amazing first book of the series.

Barbara Rosenblat was an excellent narrator as the haughty but incredibly perceptive Amelia Peabody and I loved her narration of the other characters as well. I understand that this book was written in 1975, and was set a century earlier, so that would technically excuse the racially insensitive attitudes of all the characters. I did find it a bit offensive at times though. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and was surprised how much the author could really get into the stiff-upper-lip Britishness of the book, as she was American. Amelia is definitely my favorite character as she is witty and hilarious, as Evelyn was a bit too sighing and girly for my taste. I loved the interactions between Amelia and Emerson, and was honestly surprised at the ending (though I had figured out parts of it earlier). I am looking forward to reading more books in the series. 4 stars.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Georgie McCool’s marriage is in trouble. She loves her husband Neal and he loves her but they’re not sure it is enough. Georgie is a TV writer in Los Angeles and two days before leaving for Christmas in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and two daughters, she finds out she has to stay. Relations have been very strained with Neal and this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. He refused to speak to her once he’s arrived in Nebraska, and she goes to stay with her mother. After trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with Neal on her cell phone, she tries an ancient rotary phone in her mother’s house and somehow manages to contact Neal in the past before he proposed to her. Will she be able to work out things with Neal in the future by talking to him in the past? 5 stars.

After reading “Eleanor & Park” and enjoying it, I decided to give her adult book a chance after reading the synopsis. I can’t even express how much I loved this book. I finished it in 2 days. I could totally identify with Georgie. She is a woman whose career is of utmost importance in her life, and but who also feels like sometimes she is a bit lost. She loves her husband but sometimes wonders if she screwed up his life by insisting he move to LA permanently even though he hates it. I even agree with the way she thinks about love and marriage. On page 203, Georgie says this about love, “It’s more like you meet someone, you fall in love, and you “hope” that that person is the one–and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope you’re right.” There was also this great quote about kids and marriage on page 220. “Georgie was pretty sure that having kids was the worst thing you could do to a marriage. Sure you “survive” it. You could survive a giant boulder falling on your head–that didn’t mean it was good for you. Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy…And they took it first. They had the right of first refusal on everything you had to offer.” And then there was that glorious moment at the end of the book on page 253 when Georgie is looking at pictures of Neal from her Save Box and thinking about when he proposed and he said “I think I can live without you, but it won’t be any kind of life.” Le sigh. Anyways, I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it especially if you’re married with kids.

Men’s Pie Manual: The complete guide to making and baking the perfect pie by Andrew Webb

I love British pies! I know everyone likes to complain about British food, but one thing that they do really well is pies, especially cheese/onion/potato pasties and Melton Mawbry Pork Pies. So when I saw this book that was geared towards guys, but really is just a good beginner guide to creating all sorts of predominantly savory British pies. It breaks it down into the basics like equipment, good crusts, sauces and stocks, and then onto the fillings. It even goes into recipes for sausage rolls, Beef Wellington, and other almost pies. 4 stars.

Top Books of 2014

Blue Happy New Year 2015 Greeting Art Paper Card

I hope everyone had a Happy New Year’s Eve last night. Ours was pretty quiet, in fact I’m a little surprised we managed to make to midnight as my hubby and I were both tired. Anyway, I figured since it was the first day of 2015 that I would start the year off right by posting about my favorite books that I read last year. These are not, for the most part, books published in 2014. Not surprisingly, a lot of the children and young adult books are award winners, and justifiably so. As you can probably tell, most of my reading are in these two categories. I did find it interesting that almost all of my favorite cookbooks this year were vegan or vegetarian. These books are in no particular order. If you like to know more about them, click on the link for my book reviews.

Younger Children

  • Machines Go to Work in the City written and illustrated by William Low – my son Liam really liked this book and with all the fold out pages, it was a fun book to read to learn about all the different machines. I will say that I definitely know more names for construction/work vehicles because of books like this that I’ve read to him.
  • Little Owl’s Orange Scarf written and illustrated by Tatyanna Feeney – owls + knitting = awesome
  • Fortunately, the Milk written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young – hilarious adventure story by Neil Gaiman with whimsical illustrations (really for older kids but was filed in picture books so it is in this section)
  • The Tiny King written and illustrated by Taro Miura – graphically probably my favorite children’s book this year
  • Locomotive written and illustrated by Brian Floca – great introduction to the early railroad in America, plus richly detailed illustrations
  • Chu’s First Day of School (Chu #2) written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex – didn’t think it could get better after the first Chu book, but it was
  • Thank You, Octopus written and illustrated by Darren Farrell – this book has been part of 2014 vocabulary for the entire family
  • It’s an Orange Aardvark written and illustrated by Michael Hall – another graphically awesome book
  • Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke – a fun whimsical kind of book, perfect for sharing (although honestly I want this one for my personal collection of picture books)
  • Quest written and illustrated by Aaron Becker – even better than Journey
  • Hug Me written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo – hugging and cute cactus named Felipe = win for me and my son
  • Tea Rex and Flora and the Flamingo written and illustrated by Molly Idle – the first book got me into the author/illustrator and I’m very impressed by all her work so far
  • The Adventures of Obadiah written and illustrated by Brinton Turkle – this little Quaker just stole my heart, I love this series of picture books!

Older Children/Young Adult

  • The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman – I had not read any of his books before though he is pretty prolific, but I really enjoyed this nonfiction biography of a great singer and lady who stood up for what she believed in.
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – a totally unknown book to me before I picked it up for my Newberry Challenge; I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to children or adults who want a good story
  • Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti – a hard story to read but vital I think, makes me understand so much more about how regular Germans actually reacted to Hitler
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli – honestly never thought I would like this book until I gave it a try
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Philip M. Hoose – an in-depth look at the start of  Civil Rights movement in Alabama, which for someone who used to live there but didn’t know about, was eye-opening
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen – love the poetry and the illustrations, esp the description of an owl as the “dark emperor”
  • The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus #5) by Rick Riordan – end of the series, but what an end!
  • The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians #4) by William Joyce – seriously, this man is a fantastic writer, I love all his stuff
  • The Battle for Wondla (Wondla #3) written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi – love all this man’s written and illustrated works, great book to end a series
  • Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate Di Camillo and illustrated by K.G. Campell – a funny story with even more hilarious illustrations

Young Adult

Adult

Cookbooks

  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman – he is a genius, great easy-to-understand recipes; this was the one cookbook I bought last year
  • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – a former vegetarian (so has lots of those recipes), I liked her recipes b/c of the stories that went with them and they looked fantastic
  • Roots: The Definitive Compendium – literally everything you could ever want to know about root vegetables, plus lots of tips on how to cook the lesser-known ones
  • The VB6 Cookbook: More than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Meals at Night by Mark Bittman – an interesting expansion of recipes on his original diet concept (which the author himself uses)
  • Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry – I love it that he takes very meat-centric food and makes delicious-sounding vegan food from it
  • Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi – this man can make even the most boring vegetables look decadent

Book Reviews Dec 2014

I can’t believe this year is nearly at an end. It has definitely been an interesting one, especially in regards books and my professional life. I finally got a library job after 4 years of searching, and it’s in the area I want to be in, i.e. Youth Services. I get to do storytimes and help kids and parents find the books and other material that they need. I have beat my reading goal for the year with 345 out 321 books read. I have, unfortunately, gotten really far behind in writing reviews. But I am working to catch up on that for the new year and get back on a good schedule of writing and posting them. I am definitely going to try and write more blog posts in 2015. I already have a few ideas rolling around in my head. My son has been growing like a weed and though he is a handful, he is becoming more independent. He’s getting better with the alphabet, though we’re going to have to over the numbers again as he seems to have forgotten them in the meantime. I’m hoping he’ll be able to read soon and we can read more together.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like (and there was a lot this time around).

Children

Wow! Said the Owl written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Wow said the Owl

This was a very cute story about a young owl discovering all the colors that occur during the day. Added bonus about this book is that I can use it for ToddlerTime on owls and a Discoverytime (Preschool storytime + science) on rainbows. I am very happy about the last part. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

I Love to Dance written and illustrated by Anna Walker

I was looking for another book about dancing for my Toddler Storytime, when I found this book. I liked the soft but simple ink on watercolor illustrations about Ollie, who I think is some kind of dog sock monster or maybe stuffed animal, who loves to dance. I liked the descriptions of his dancing, especially “I love to dance like jelly and shake my wobbly belly.” Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

I’m Not Cute! written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen

This was another adorable owl book that I plan to use for a Toddler storytime on owls (not trying to be pun-y but it was). Baby Owl insists he’s not cute even though everyone he meets say he is. He insists that he is instead “a huge and scary hunting machine with great big soft and silent wings.” In actuality, both statements are true, as it is later confirmed by his mother. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

except if written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

except if

I really enjoyed this book and the concept of it, and planned to use it at my Egg Preschool DiscoveryTime (though it would also be great for a Toddler storytime; didn’t arrive in time unfortunately). It’s all about an egg hatching and the possibilities about what could be hatching from it. For example, it could be a bird except if it is a baby snake, etc etc. My son loved this book. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Cats Night Out written by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Cats Night Out

This was another book I chose for my dancing Toddler Storytime. The book featured dancing cats at night with all kinds of amusing costumes and dance styles/positions. Plus Jon Klassen’s illustrations are just so detailed but the cats all seem to remind me of the Jets and Sharks (ala West Side Story) as they just look so cool and relaxed dancing. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars.

Rap a Tap Tap written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

RapATapTap

I was looking for a book for my Toddler Storytime on dance when I came across this gem from Leo & Diane Dillon. It’s a book about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, one of the world’s most famous tap dancers and has a rhyming repeating text. I had heard of him before this book, but this was the first time I’d seen a children’s book based on the his life and dancing skills. Recommended for ages 2-7, 3 stars.

Waiting is Not Easy! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Waiting is Not Easy

I borrowed a copy of this book because A. I love Elephant and Piggie and this was one of the newest ones and B. I hoped it would explain patience better to my 3 yr old son who is quite possibly the most impatient person in the world. He does kind of get it now, though he’s still pretty impatient, but is a good book for explaining the concept. Gerald is having a hard time waiting for the surprise promised by Piggie. He waits all day and is getting really tired of it, when his surprise finally comes and he realizes it was worth waiting for. This book can definitely be appreciated by kids and parents alike. Recommended for ages 3+, 4 stars.

The Littlest Owl written by Caroline Pitcher, illustrations by Tina Macnaughton

I have been looking for books to use with my owl Toddler storytime and this book was a bit too much for them. But a cute book nonetheless. I just feel like quoting Despicable Me and say that that little baby “is so fluffy I’m gonna die!”. A mommy barn owl has laid four eggs and three have already hatched. The fourth takes a bit longer and is smaller than the rest. When a storm hits, the four babies and their mother must fly away from the willow tree that is their home. The first three go with no problem, but the fourth hasn’t flown before and is hesitant. Eventually he gathers up his courage and flies for the first time. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

I’m Going to Catch My Tail! written and illustrated by Jimbo Matison

I'm Going to Catch My Tail!

 I saw this book while browsing for storytime books and just had to get it. The illustrations are so adorable and a bit cartoony. The book is about a silly cat who decides to catch his tail, who speaks with a separate voice, as he goes about his crazy everyday life, you know messing with the laundry, tearing up toilet paper and generally causing mischief. I was more enthused than my son was, but he still thought it was funny. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Snippet the Early Riser written and illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Marguia

Snippet the Early Riser

I picked this one up because I love books about snails. Honestly I liked the illustrations more than the story. Snippet is a very energetic snail, pretty much like a normal under 7 year old and likes to play soccer, draw, and get piggyback rides. Like small children, he wakes up way earlier than his parents and sister and does everything in his power to wake them up so they can all play together. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: Race Car written by Liza Baker, illustrated by Kevin Murawski

My son loved this book, but he loves cars (especially racing ones), so I’m not surprised. Harold is playing with his toy car in his room when he decides to he wants to drive a real one. So he draws one with his magic purple crayon and a second car and has a car race, along with his dog Lilac. They face fog, snow, the desert, and still manage to save the second car and finish the race. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke

julias house for lost creatures 2

I picked this up originally while I was looking up storytime books and thought the cover looked cool. When I found out First Second books was the publisher, I knew it was gonna be awesome (they just always seem to do cooler than normal books and graphic novels). The book starts off with Julia’s house being on a giant tortoise, which delighted my son to no end. She comes to a new area but is bored, so she puts a sign outside for welcoming in lost creatures. In no time at all, some start to show up, like a patchwork kitty, a bridge troll, and mermaids. The illustrations are super cute and really help to tell the story. Like Kirkus Reviews has mentioned in their review, the creatures do start up a bit of a Wild Rumpus, ala Where the Wild Things Are, and Julia quickly tires of it. She establishes some ground rules and things quickly settle down again and become more like a family. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon by Harriet Ziefert

Another book I picked up for Autumn Preschool Storytime, I liked this one for its great illustrations. It is a story about the Autumnal Equinox on Sept 22 or 23. A farmer and his crew have been busy harvesting and go to bed exhausted. After he goes home for the night, the leaf people come out to celebrate the Harvest Moon/the Autumnal Equinox with their families. They play games like bobbing for apples and making popcorn necklaces. The leaf kids try to see who can stack pumpkins the highest. The best part was the dessert party, where the kids proudly announce that they get to eat pie. The only thing that was off-putting about this book was the fact that the leaf people (whose heads were pumpkins) ate pumpkin pie and played with pumpkins, but I guess you have to extend your imagination to not look at their head and remember that they are made up of leaves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

When Blue Met Egg written and illustrated by Lindsay Ward

I thought I might use this book when I did a Preschool DiscoveryTime on eggs, but it didn’t quite work. But I thought it was cute and so brought it home to read with my son. He liked the story, though it was a bit long. Blue is a bird who lives in New York City and one day she meets the lonely Egg, who she sort of adopts as she takes him around the city trying to find his mom. They are together winter to spring when he hatches into something special. I had to explain the ending to my son as he didn’t pick up on it. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

In November written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

I am doing a Preschool Storytime on Autumn and I found this book. I think it is a more winter book than autumn but I will probably use it as a backup book. It tells about all the different things that go on during November. There are no leaves on the trees, animals and insects are hibernating or getting ready to do so. Snow is coming down, people are baking and getting together for Thanksgiving. I loved this line from the text “In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning…” I loved the oil painted illustrations, which just made everything seem more homey and snuggly. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Max’s Castle written and illustrated by Kate Banks

I have not read the first two books in this series, but found this while browsing for storytime books and thought it looked fun. Max finds some forgotten wooden alphabet blocks in his room and he and his brothers uses their imagination to create a castle with the blocks forming words that make up the features of the castle. I loved the illustrations of this fun and creative book, though it was a bit too long for my son. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Pele and the Rivers of Fire adapted and illustrated by Michael Nordenstrom

Pele and the Rivers of Fire

I was looking for a book to do with Preschool DiscoveryTime storytime and found this book. Thankfully there is a pronunciation guide in the back of the book as some of the Hawaiian names are rather hard to pronounce. This book tells the story of the volcanic fire goddess Pele and how she came to the Hawaiian islands. I loved the beautiful acrylic/watercolor on paper collage illustrations. It’s really cool that this book was written by a librarian and you can definitely see his passion for the subject in the book. Recommended for ages 4-9, 4 stars.

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton

I love Virginia Lee Burton’s books, so I immediately picked this one up while looking for car books for my son. It is based off the true story of how the city of San Francisco banded together to save the cable cars, despite the city fathers wanting to get rid of them in the name of progress. Maybelle, as the title suggests, is one of the old cable cars that is thankfully spared the chopping block and her and her fellow cable cars are allowed to run up and down the hilly city. She eventually becomes friends with Big Bill, one of the new modern buses, who originally thought of her as old-fashioned and as competition. The book also tells in detail how the cable cars work, so I’m sure kids will be pretending to drive one of these while reading or listening to the story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Young Adult

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

This is the final showdown between the Shadowhunters and Sebastian (aka Jonathan Morgenstern). Sebastian is trying to turn as many Shadowhunters and Downworlders as possible into Endarkened (mindless zombies) by using the Infernal Cup and wants a final all-out battle to establish his dominance. Everyone must decide what side they will fight on. Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec travel to a demon world to find and defeat Sebastian on his own turf. Will they be able to in time? To find out, read the exciting conclusion to the Mortal Instrument series. Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

Holy Moly! What a crazy book and an intriguing end to the series! I mean killing off characters in the prologue was pretty ballsy, but it definitely gets your attention. This book was long at 725 pages, but I managed to get through it in a week because it kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what insane thing the author was going to do next. And she has brilliantly set the stage for her next series, entitled “The Dark Artifices”, though I will admit I’m kinda like “Geez, what else can she talk about for an entire series” as I already think this series went on for a book or two too long. However, I will probably check out at least the first book to see what she’s done. I will admit that I couldn’t for the life of me, despite having read all of the “The Infernal Devices” books, remember who Brother Zechariah actually was before he became a silent brother. I was really happy with the way the romances in the series ended, though I am curious about more Magnus stories in her e-books that I’ve yet to read (that will have to be remedied).

I would like to give a shoutout to Thomas from the blog “the quiet voice” for his excellent review of the book.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Ok yes, I totally judged this book by its cover. The story sounded intriguing as well, so I figured I would give it a try. This ended up being one of my favorite books of the year and I was pretty bummed when it ended because it was so good. If you don’t like totally bizarre stories, you are not gonna like this book. That being said, I think the weirdness really works in this case. This is the author’s first book, which is kind of crazy because the language is so gorgeous and quotable and really makes her seem like she’s been doing this all her life. The story kind of reminded me of elements from the movie “Amelie” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. To check out a more thorough review, check out this one.

The book starts off with a letter from the main character and tells the reader that to understand her story, she has to go back to the beginning and tell her grandmother and mother’s stories first. They feature nearly unbelievable tales of love and loss, which once told, make it is easier to understand the winged Ava and her silent brother Henry and how the story unfolds the way that it does. I don’t want to tell too much and give the story away, but I highly recommend this book. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.

Adult

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, narrated by Juanita McMahon

Tipping the Velvet is about a young teenage oyster girl named Nancy Astley living in Whitstable, an English seaside town, in the 1890s. She falls in love with a male impersonator, at her local music hall, named Kitty Butler. She agrees to become her personal dresser and embarks on a totally different life than she ever had before. Eventually the two of them become lovers and have a male impersonator act together, before she is cruelly betrayed by Kitty and has her heart broken. The story that follows is Nancy’s journey in growing up and becoming her own person, separate from Kitty. 4 stars.

Wow this was a crazy book! I finally had a chance to listen to it after watching part of the BBC miniseries version years ago and enjoying it. Seventeen discs though, geez! I’m not sure what it is about almost all the books I’ve picked recently but they start off great, get really draggy in the middle and then pick up again at the end (including this one). Ms. McMahon was a great narrator though, and definitely made the book more enjoyable (even in the dragging parts). If you ever wanted to know about British slang for all things sexual, this is definitely the book for you. It’s a good thing I have an English hubby and have always been a bit of Anglophile or I would probably have gotten really lost while listening to this book. I did really enjoy the frank discussions of gender, sexuality, socialism and feminism in the book. I would be interested in reading more of Sarah Waters’ books in the future.

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

Another brilliant vegetarian cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi, and this one is even better than “Ottolenghi”. I swear this man could make anything taste amazing. Plus there’s the gorgeous food photographs (nearly food porn lets be honest) that makes you just drool and make the recipes immediately, especially for the Taleggio and Spinach Roulade, Fig and Goat Cheese Tart and the Tomato and Pomegranate Salad. I’d like to try to make the Udon Noodles with with Fried Eggplants, Walnut and Miso (and I usually hate eggplants, but again he makes it sound amazing); Quinoa Porridge with Grilled Tomatoes and Garlic; Quinces Poached in Pomegranate Juice, and Walnut and Halvah Cake. 5 stars.

Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Anne Elliot was betrothed to Captain Frederic Wentworth when she was 19 and was persuaded by friends and family to call it. So she did and has regretted her decision ever since. Anne’s father has managed to nearly bankrupt the family with his extravagant spending, so they have to rent out their manor house and move to Bath, England. Anne does not go immediately there, but instead goes to stay with her sister Mary in the country. She is intrigued and a little bit scared to meet up with Captain Wentworth again at Mary’s in-law’s house. It seems he is there courting Mary’s sister in laws, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, and Anne must sit there and watch and sort out how she feels about this. Eventually Louisa, Henrietta, Captain Wentworth, Mary and her husband Charles, and Anne decide to visit the seaside town of Lyme and Louisa has a crazy accident which incapacitates her for awhile. Anne leaves to go visit her friend Lady Russell and eventually move back in with her father. Captain Wentworth later comes to bath which really makes Anne wonder if he does still have feelings for her. 4 stars.

I have tried to read the actual book of Pride and Prejudice a couple times but the story was so slow, I could never get through very much. So I thought it would be better if I tried Jane Austen as an audiobook, but go for another of her books (whose movie version I also loved) and so picked this one. The narrator, Juliet Stevenson, was excellent. The audio version was also really slow in the beginning and I’ll be honest, didn’t pick up for me until about disc 5 of 7. But I kept listening and finally the story got more interesting and I dreaded having to leave the car and being unable to continue it until I got back in again. Anne Elliot is one of my favorite characters so level-headed, intelligent and soft-spoken. It sucks that she had such bad advice from her friend Lady Russell. The letter Frederic gives to Anne at the end of the book is one of the sweetest and most romantic I’ve ever heard, and almost tops Mr. Darcy’s declaration to Elizabeth Bennet.

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