Tag Archive: crafting

Lots more reading and Book Reviews

Nothing that exciting has been going on lately. My grandfather is coming to visit from Alabama on the weekend so I am rather excited about that, even got my hair cut for the occasion. I don’t want to look sloppy as I’ve not seen him for about 2 years. He’s not yet met my son, so looking forward to them spending some time together. Liam is the second of his two great-grandchildren, and my sister-in-law is pregnant with her second child. I have, for whatever reason, suddenly started reading adult books again. Frankly for awhile, there wasn’t really anything I was really interested in reading. I’m currently reading the third book in the Yashim the Eunuch historical fiction/mystery series, called The Bellini Card, which I’m hoping will be as good as the first two books. I’m about to finish up the audiobook Erak’s Ransom by John Keating. My next very ambitious read is The Shahnameh: the Persian Book of Kings, which is the epic poem of the Persian empire done in the 11th century and translated to English (eek at 886 pg poem!). I’ve heard about it for years but never was able to find a copy.

Anyways, on to the reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.


City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J Muth

I love Mo Willems and Jon J Muth’s books, so I figured this one ought to be a great collaboration. City Dog is running free for the first time, with no leash! He meets Country Frog and they play together through the seasons, until Dog can’t find Frog anymore, and finds a new playmate. I loved the expressive watercolor illustrations of Muth, especially the first fall picture with the oranges and blues. Great story as well. Definitely want to own this book! Recommended for ages 1-6, 5 stars.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems

Normally I love the Pigeon books, but this one I thought was too whiny and annoying. The Pigeon wants a puppy so much, until he actually gets one and realizes how big and scary it is. Then he decides he wants a walrus instead. I like how the end pages reflect the beginning and end of the story. Recommended for ages 1-6, 2 stars

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

Gerald and Piggie are ready to play outside, but as soon as they go out, it starts raining. Piggie is so frustrated! But soon she learns that she can play in the sun and the rain. Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion by Mo Willems

I thought this was a nice end to the series. Trixie is going to Holland to visit her grandparents and of course, brings her trusty buddy Knuffle Bunny along. She leaves it on the plane and is miserable without him. Her grandparents try to replace it, but Trixie isn’t satisfied until she dreams about Knuffle Bunny and all the places he is going to go and all the people he will meet while on the plane. Once she gets back on the plane, she finds him again, but decides that she’s old enough to be on her own without him. She gives Knuffle Bunny to a crying baby sitting behind her, which blows away her parents, the baby, and his mother. My favorite part was the end, which shows her growing up and having a family of her own. Recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.

Socksquatch by Frank W. Dormer

I had this on Liam’s to read list for awhile because the cover illustration was cute. I thought it would be a monster book for little kids, which it kind of was, but not exactly. Socksquatch has lost his sock and his foot is cold, so he goes around to the other monsters to ask for one. The illustrations were cute, as well as the end pages, but the story didn’t do anything for me. Recommended for ages 1-5, 2 stars.

The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury: Celebrated Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud

I was interested in getting this book because there were so many books in one volume, that it would keep my son occupied for a week or so. I didn’t read all of the stories in the book because I either had read them before or weren’t interested in them. I will review the new ones I read below:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
I admit that I never read this book because I thought it was overrated, and everyone seemed to want to recommend it to me. It wasn’t a bad book, in fact I loved the illustrations and the story was cute and perfect for those just learning the alphabet. Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Freight Trains written & illustrated by Donald Crews
I enjoyed this concept book which teaches children about colors and numbers through the medium of a freight train. Recommended for ages 1-4, 4 stars.

A Million Fish…More or Less by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Dena Schutzer
I had never heard of this story before, though I had heard of the author. It was a fun read because of the Southern backwater Creole way that they talk, as the main characters all live in a Louisiana swamp. I liked the story because it was full of tall tales that may or may not have happened, depending on your point of view. I especially liked Mosley, the bandit leader. Recommended for ages 6-9, 5 stars.

Millions of Cats written and illustrated by Wanda Gag
This was a cute story about a little old man and woman and their search for the perfect cat, picked out amongst “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.” Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Anita Jeram
A great book for fathers to read to their sons, this book shows a father hare explaining to his young son how much he loves him. Usually these kind of books get too sappy, but this book managing to make it fun and delightful read. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall
This was a great story, which makes me wish that all teachers would do this now and again. The kids in Room 207 are bad; they don’t pay attention to their teacher Miss Nelson, they make too much noise, and they don’t do their work. That is, until they meet their substitute teacher Miss Viola Swamp, who makes them behave, keep quiet, and do their work. They realize how much they miss Miss Nelson, and are the perfect kids when she returns. Recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Titch written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins
This was a cute short story about Titch, the youngest of three siblings and their adventures together. Recommended for ages 1-5, 2 stars.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton
I enjoyed her book “The Little House,” and decided that this might be a good read too, and it was. I will say that since I’ve started reading all these Caldecott honors & winners that children’s books in the 1930s-40s tended to be longer than present day books. Not that it is a bad thing, just an interesting observation. Mike Mulligan had a steam shovel named Mary Anne and they built many roads and cellars for skyscrapers together. But then the gasoline, electric and Diesel shovels were pushing Mike and Mary Anne out of business. One day Mike read that the town of Popperville was going to build a new town hall, and Mike swears that they can dig the cellar in a day. They manage it with a lot of encouragement from the locals, but then Mary Anne is trapped in the cellar and can’t get out. So they build the town hall around her and she becomes their boiler, and Mike the janitor. Recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.

The Stinky Cheese Man written by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
I didn’t read all the stories, just the headlining one. This was a cute re-interpretation of “The Gingerbread Man” story, with great illustrations by Lane Smith that make the story even funnier. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Ten, Nine, Eight written and illustrated by Molly Bang
This was a fun counting concept book about a little girl getting ready for bed. Recommended for ages 1-5, 3 stars.

I am a Bunny written by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
I always loved the Richard Scarry cartoons, and this book was just as delightful. The story is about a bunny named Nicholas and the things he likes to do in every season, with those great illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

Harry the Dirty Dog written by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
A great classic tale about a little dog who hates getting a bath and loves getting dirty. That is until his family can’t recognize him and he must take a bath to prove who he is. Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Whose Mouse are You? by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego
I love Jose Aruego’s work, so I knew this book would be adorable. It is a story about a mouse whose family is lost and he must recover them, so he can belong again. Recommended for ages 1-4, 3 stars.

Owen written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Owen is very attached to his blanket Fuzzy, he takes it everywhere. When the nosy neighbor sees him with the blanket, she keeps offering strategies to Owen’s parents on how they can get rid of it. His parents don’t want him to bring it to school and Owen is very upset until his mother comes up with a great answer to their problem. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

The Story of Ferdinand written by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson
I had honestly never heard of this book till it was mentioned on the true life movie “The Blind Side,” as it was some of the character’s favorite books. Ferdinand is not like the other bulls. Instead of playing, he likes to sit quietly and smell the flowers. So he did this all his life until he is one day stung by a bee, and some men who had come looking for bulls to put in the arena with a matador think that he is the fiercest bull around. But once he is put in the ring, he does not know what to do, so he just sits and smells the ladies’ flowers. Because he wouldn’t fight, they send him back home where he does what he always does and is very happy. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

The Sneetches written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
I have seen the cartoon version but never read the book, so I decided to read it to my son. I love the name Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Recommended for ages 3-6. 4 stars.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians of Childhood, #1) by William Joyce

This is how I think of William Joyce, the author of the Guardians of Childhood series. It’s like Philip Reeve (of the children/YA series “Larklight”) and Tony DiTerlizzi were part of a big writing family, and William Joyce is their cooler older brother. I’m saying this because he has elements of Reeve’s writing style with the cool illustration abilities of DiTerlizzi. Plus there’s also a dash of L. Frank Baum in there too, another author that I love.

Anyways, I really enjoyed the first book in the “Guardian of Childhood” novel series. The story is about a brigand named Nicholas St. North, North for short, who gives up a life of crime to help the children of Santoff Claussen and their wizard, Ombric. The King of Nightmares, Pitch (first introduced in “The Man in the Moon” picture book) and his Fearlings, have come to give kids nightmares and bring fear into their hearts, which he feeds off and becomes more powerful. He’s trying to stop North and Ombric as they travel to find the relics of the Golden Age, which will help stop the Nightmare King. Will Pitch succeed or will Ombric and North find what they are looking for? Read this awesome short book to find out.

I absolutely loved the illustrations, esp those of Nightlight, the robot djinni, Ombric’s owls, the Yeti and the Lunar Lamas. Highly recommended for ages 7-12, 5 stars.

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Battle of the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core by William Joyce

Again, I loved this book and this series. The first book was excellent, and wasn’t sure it could get better, but it did. This story is a continuation of the “Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King,” where Ombric, North and Katherine are trying to find another relic of the Golden Age, but first they must rescue the children of Santoff Claussen who have been abducted by Pitch, in an attempt to ransom them for the entirety of Ombric’s vast library of spells and other magic. They enlist the help of the sole surviving member of the Pooka Brotherhood, E. Aster Bunnymund and his egg army. I love his costume and the whole chocolate part of the story! I think he’s my favorite character so far. Will Pitch get the library? Will Ombric, North and Katherine be able to save everyone? To find out those questions and more, read this brilliant second novel in the “Guardians of Childhood” series. Again, this book has fantastic illustrations and story and it is a fun quick read. Highly recommended for ages 7-12, 5 stars.

Otto the Book Bear by Katie Clemenson

OMG I love this book! I had put it on Liam’s to-read list because it looked adorable, and it was a great story. Otto is a book bear, which means he lives in a book and can come out and explore when no people are around. One day he comes out and everything in the house is gone, so he leaves the house and goes looking for a new place to live. He eventually finds a library, where there are many others like him that live in books. I want a book bear! Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

On Our Way Home by Sebastien Braun

This is a great book for dads to read to their sons, or as a Father’s Day storytime. A father bear and his cub are walking home together. On the way, they raced, counted falling leaves, and ate berries. They watched the sunset together and then watched the stars come out. I loved the illustrations which were so warm and inviting. Recommended for ages 1-6, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

April’s Kittens by Clare Turlay Newberry

This won the 1941 Caldecott honor award. The story is simple, April’s cat Sheba has kittens and since her and her parents live in a very small NYC apartment, they have to give the kittens away. But April is too attached to one kitten and its mother, so the family decides to move into a bigger apartment. I thought the story was too long and drawn-out, but I loved the charcoal illustrations of the cats, which the author was famous for and used her own cats as models. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2 stars.

Marshmallow by Clare Turlay Newberry

I had seen the book before tons of times at various libraries, but had never picked it up. While I loved her drawings of cats in “April’s Kittens,” I thought the story sucked and dragged on for way to long. This book, which won a 1943 Caldecott Honor award, was much better. First off the illustrations were ridiculously cute. Marshmallow is about a young woman who has a grey tabby cat named Oliver and adopts a baby bunny named Marshmallow. At first Oliver is scared of the rabbit, but learns to love him. I love the illustrations of them cuddled up together and Oliver grooming Marshmallow. Recommended for ages 1-6, 4 stars.

Abraham Lincoln by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

I had heard of the authors/illustrators before as they had written my favorite book on Norse mythology. This book has their awesome illustrations as well, which they did with a technique called stone lithography. This book won the 1940 Caldecott Award. Considering the only other book I’ve read from that year is “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans, I don’t have a lot of comparison as to whether it deserved to win or not. I thought the story was good, though a bit longer than it needed to be, and was surprised that they didn’t mention the president’s death. I mean you don’t have to say that he was shot in the head, but I’m sure they could’ve said something like ” A man who didn’t agree with the president and his ideals killed him in Ford’s Theater, blah blah blah.” In fact, the story about the Lincoln ends after the Civil War ended. There is a lot on his birth, childhood and early adulthood. It is interesting to note that while I’ve been reading this to my son, I’m also reading “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” on my own. Anyways, I would recommend this book for kids ages 5-11, 3 stars.

Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

The author wrote this prayer for her daughter Hannah, and I thought it was sweet. It won the 1945 Caldecott Medal, no doubt for the loving way the little girl prays for her bed, toys, shoes, furniture, friends and family, and all children everywhere. The full prayer is in the beginning and then it is broken up with illustrations throughout the book. Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Rain Drop Splash by Alvin Tresselt

This book won a 1947 Caldecott Honor award. I enjoyed this simple tale of the sounds of rain and how a little can turn into a puddle and eventually make it down to the sea. Great book to read aloud, as the kids can see and hear how the rain effects the animals and people of the story. Recommended for ages 1-6, 4 stars.

Many Moons by James Thurber

This book won the 1944 Caldecott, but this must’ve been another year where there wasn’t much competition. I liked the book, though the story drones on for a bit. The book tells the story of a princess who falls ill and wants the moon, but all of her father’s advisors say that the moon is impossible to get, until he asks the Court Jester, who takes a more logical-to-a-child approach to the situation. She gets her moon and gets well again. The next night, when the moon reappears, the king is frantically worried and consults all of his advisors again, who don’t provide a good solution. The Court Jester just goes up and asks the princess what she thinks of the new moon and she says that of course there is a new moon, because when you take something away like teeth or flowers, there are always something of the same sort to replace it. This book, like “Frederick” by Leo Lionni, can be taught in the classroom as part of a philosophical discussion: http://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/wiki/Many_Moons. Recommended for ages 6-9, 3 stars.

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss

This book won a 1950 Caldecott Honor, but like “Bartholomew and the Ooblecks,” which also won a honor that year, I don’t agree with the award. The story is very simple. All the animals, birds and insects of the forest are hibernating for the winter until spring arrives. I liked the black and white illustrations, esp the snails. Recommended for ages 1-7, 2 stars.

The Rooster Grows: a Book of American Rhymes and Jingles by Maud and Miska Petersham

This book won the 1946 Caldecott medal, which makes me wonder how bad the other books of this year were for this to win. The only reason I didn’t give this one star was because I liked the illustrations. The rhymes were primarily nursery rhymes which mostly didn’t originate in America, but rather in England. I’d never heard of most of the counting rhymes and they butchered “Ring around the Rosy.” I didn’t care for their selection as most were odd or morbid. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

There was one rhyme that I hadn’t heard of, and wasn’t sure of the purpose of it, but I enjoyed it and wanted to share:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is blythe and bonny and good and gay.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

As I was reading this earlier today, I realized that I had seen it before, though I’d never read the book. In the 1950s, the Walt Disney Company made an animated short about the book, which was pretty much taken directly from the book. This book won the 1943 Caldecott Award. This was a cute story about a little house that is built in the country in the 1870s/80s and loves growing up with the children where there is lots of room and she (the house) is surrounded by apple trees and daisies. As time passes, the city, which was so far away she could barely see it, gets closer and closer. Until it is modern times (the 1940s) and she is smack dab in the middle of downtown surrounded by high-rises, the trains and traffic. It is then that she is rescued by the great-great granddaughter of the original owner/builder of the Little House, who decides to move her back to the country, where she will be more comfortable and where she belongs. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty

This book won a 1939 Caldecott honor award. It is based off the Aesop’s fables of the Lion and Mouse and Androcles and the Lion. The book tells the story of Andy, a young boy who loves to read and check out library books, his current fascination being lions. One day on the way to school, he finds a lion with a thorn in his paws, which Andy quickly take out and they go their separate ways. Later in the spring, the circus comes to town and Andy is excited to see the lion show. Suddenly, the lions escape and just as Andy is about to be eaten by one, his lion recognizes him and they are so happy to see each other. Andy is awarded a medal for bravery and the lion follows him to the library the next day to get more books. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Trina Schart Hyman’s favorite story as a young girl was Little Red Riding Hood. Her mother even mader her own red velvet cape. Therefore it was natural for her create her own version, in which the illustrator as a child is the model for Elisabeth or Little Red Riding Hood. It is no surprise that this book won the Caldecott Honor in 1984. The rich details in the main painted illustrations themselves, along with the border details and patterns, just make the story that much more interesting. Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

I have fallen in love with Ezra Jack Keat’s books ever since seeing an exhibit on the author, done by the DeGrummond Children’s Literature Collection at University of Southern Mississippi (who has the complete archives of the author). It is the story about a young boy named Peter who goes out to play in the snow, makes tracks, and snow angels. He tries so hard to keep a snowball till the next day, but it melts. What was revolutionary about this book that won 1963 Caldecott Medal, according to the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation website, is that the book “broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s publishing.” It was the first time a book featuring an African-American child had been taken seriously. Peter appears as a 4 year old in this book and he goes on to star in 6 more of the author’s books, and grows up along the way.

It is also a cool book because of the collage illustrations, according to the Foundation’s biography on the author, which used “cutouts of patterned paper, fabric and oilcloth; homemade snowflake stamps; spatterings of India ink with a toothbrush—were methods Ezra had never used before. “I was like a child playing,” he wrote of the creation process.” I think part of what makes the book so successful is the fact that the illustrations do look like a child, perhaps even the main character himself, created them. Highly recommended for ages 1-6, 5 stars.

Goggles! by Ezra Jack Keats

While I had heard of the author, I had never heard of this book, nor the fact that it had won a 1970 Caldecott Honor award. This is a continuation of the Peter story, started in “The Snowy Day.” Peter and his best friend Archie are playing in the city, when they find a pair of motorcycle goggles, which they think are super cool. On the way over to Archie’s house, they run into a gang of older boys who demand the goggles, but with some quick thinking thanks to Archie and his dog Willie, they manage to escape the boys with the prize. This is a good book about dealing with bullies. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

A Child’s Good Night Book by Margaret Wise Brown

This book won a 1944 Caldecott Honor award, and I like it better than Goodnight Moon (which I’ve always thought was over-rated). This book is also a bedtime story, and as you read along, all sorts of animals, birds, fish and finally children get sleepy and go to bed. I enjoyed the prayer at the end: “Dear Father, hear and bless thy beasts and singing birds, and guard with tenderness small things that have no words.” Compared to Goodnight Moon, this book has better illustrations, done with hand-drawn lithographic plates by Parisian artist Jean Charlot, who also illustrated another Wise Brown book entitled Two Little Trains. Recommended for ages 1-6, 3 stars.

Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni

I think this one might be my favorite Leo Lionni book. This book won a 1970 Caldecott Honor award. Alexander is a real mouse that no one likes and is lonely, until he discovers Willy, the wind-up mouse. Everyone loves him and he even gets to sleep in a child’s bed next to the stuffed animals on the pillow. Alexander comes to love him as well and spends all his free time playing with Willy. Willy tells him of a lizard magician who lives in the garden and grants wishes, so Alexander finds him, does the task that he asks and ends up with a real mouse friend. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

Young Adult

The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl #8) by Eoin Colfer

This book started off with a bang and ended with a shocker. It was a quick read for me because after starting the Artemis Fowl series a few years ago, I have fallen in love with the character. In this volume, the evil pixie Opal Kolboi has planned her most dastardly plan of all, which involves her opening the dreaded Berserker Gate (filled with the spirits of bloodthirsty fairy warriors) located under Fowl Manor and trying to get to the second gate which will unleash the wrath of a god and kill all humans. These spirits have inhabited the bodies of Artemis’s little brothers and Butler’s sister Julia. It is up to Holly, Artemis and Butler to stop her and the Berserkers, with a little side help from Foaly and Mulch riding a troll. The ending was a bit surprising, and I’m hoping it is the last book in the series. Because of the graphic deaths in the beginning and the end, I wouldn’t recommend this for children (even though it was filed there in my library), but rather for ages 12+, 4 stars.


Lizzie Siddal: Face of the Pre-Raphaelites by Lucinda Hawksley

I have been fascinated with Pre-Raphaelites since I first saw an exhibition of them in the Tate. My favorite PRB member is Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and since she was his lover and muse for so long, of course I had heard of her. Lizzie Siddal was a tragic and depressed woman, partly of her own making and partly because Rossetti was a douchebag who promised to marry her for 8 years and then only did so because she was dying (she got better). His influence, although harmful in the long run, did her some good as it encouraged her to write poetry, do sketches and eventually paint. Plus it earned her a patron for awhile, the famous art collector John Ruskin. Sadly most of her work is lost. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, which not only told the story of Lizzie Siddal but also a bit of gossip about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and its artists and associates, enough to make it interesting. It’s sad to note that Lizzie’s death could’ve possibly been prevented if only she hadn’t relied so much on laudanum (which was basically the aspirin of the day and doctors prescribed it for any ailment) and Rossetti would’ve stopped being such a philanderer and either married her right off or told her he wasn’t interested in marriage from the get-go. It is interesting to note that Lizzie was essentially the world’s first supermodel and popularized red hair, which before that was seen as the mark of the devil. Highly recommended, 4 stars.

The Janissary Tree (Yashim the Eunuch, #1) by Jason Goodwin

I really enjoyed the first book in the series and the introduction to Yashim, the impromptu detective for the sultan and yes, a eunuch. The book was set in the Ottoman Empire in 1836 and you can tell the author knows his stuff. He really goes into great detail about the past history of the empire and how the Turks were trying to change with the influences of the European powers and modernize not only their culture, but also their military. Yashim is called to the palace by the commander of the New Guards and told about 4 missing officers, one of which has already turned up killed in a gruesome fashion. He must find the officers and try to prevent their deaths, as well as trying to help the sultan’s mother find her stolen jewels and figure out who murdered one of the harem girls. The Janissaries were a group of mercenaries that made up the might of the Ottoman army for hundreds of years. They were gotten rid of during a coup about 10 years previous to the story, but Yashim believes they might be resposible for the murder, but he needs more proof. Lots of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting and good ending. Can’t wait to read more of the series! Highly recommended, 5 stars.

The Snake Stone (Yashim the Eunuch, #2) by Jason Goodwin

This book was another excellent mystery about Yashim and his adventures in nineteenth century Turkey. I love the attention to detail about Ottoman history (this time it was set right before the death of Sultan)and the cooking done by Yashim through the book just makes your mouth water. This time, the book is set in 1839. Yashim is trying to find out who attached his friend the vegetable seller George, who killed a bookseller in the marketplace and a French archaelogist named Max Lefevre. Yashim meets Lefevre twice before his death and is trying to clear his name after he ends up a suspect in the Frenchman’s death. Will Yashim be able to find the killer in time? How is Lord Byron, who died at Missolonghi during the Greek war of Independence, connected to the victim? Read this great second mystery in the Yashim the Eunuch series to find out! 5 stars.

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

I wasn’t sure how to review this, which is why I left it for so long. The book read pretty much like it was taken straight from the Gospels, with a few crucial changes. The basic premise is that Mary gave birth to not just Jesus, but also a twin brother named Christ. Despite the title, Jesus is the rascally one growing up, and it is Christ who saves him from trouble all the time. It is Christ who comes up with the idea of a church, but Jesus doesn’t think it should work like that. Christ is the one who hears the voice of God, not Jesus. But Jesus is the chosen one, the one everyone calls “King of the Jews”. I can’t give away too much plot or else ruin the story. But suffice it to say, that Jesus’s rant in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he dies actually makes a lot of sense. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who won’t read this book because they think it is blasphemous, but as the author himself said in 2010 after someone asked if the book was offensive:
“It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That’s all I have to say on that subject.”

If you would like more info on the book, check out this review done by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/03/good-jesus-christ-philip-pullman. 3 1/2 stars.

Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan

I will admit that I originally picked this up for the recipes, because I love Persian food. Once, I got into it though, the story was excellent as well. It is a memoir about the author and her parents, and starts with Donia cleaning up her mother’s kitchen after her death. From there she tells her story and how so many of her memories were wrapped up in food, especially those of her mother. The author tells of her childhood and early teen years growing up in Tehran, Iran with her parents and sisters. Her parents owned a hospital where her father was the doctor and her mother a nurse. When Donia was 16 and on vacation with her family, they found about the Islamic Revolution on the radio and because of her mother’s political involvement, decided to send Donia to America to finish high school while they tried to get visas to come over as well. Donia eventually decided that she wanted to become a chef and went to France to study at Le Cordon Bleu and various other restaurants. In the end, she ends up opening her own restaurant, with Persian, American and French influences, which runs for 10 years. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Despite the trashy cover, it is actually a pretty good book…if you can wade your way through it. Let me explain. The story is about a young Spanish girl named Esther, whose family is Jewish and trying to escape Spain right before the Inquisition, when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand gave the Jews a few months to get out of the country. Her mother dies along the way and the girl grows up in Rome. Her father works for the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, and has managed to get Esther a place in the household of Lucrezia Borgia, who is about to be married to her third husband, Alfonso d’Este. Esther must convert to Christianity and her name is changed to Donata (and later Violante). Almost immediately, she falls for Duke Valentino, Lucrezia’s brother Cesare, but he is married and has many mistresses. I personally like all the behind-the-scenes intrigue that goes on in this household before and after Lucrezia marries Alfonso, it just makes the book more interesting. Violante eventually does grab his attention, but things don’t exactly come out as planned. I will admit, that I didn’t make it completely through his book because I started losing interest as the story continued to drag on. I mean nearly 300 pages into it and the pope dies, but the story keeps going. But overall, I enjoyed it. It does make me want to read a biography on Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia though, as I find them the most fascinating. 3 stars.

Savory Sweet Life: 100 Simply Delicious Recipes for Every Family Occasion by Alice Currah

So my favorite food blogger, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, recommended this cookbook after using it herself. I’d never heard of the blog “Savory Sweet Life,” but I figured I would give the cookbook a try. The author is a mother of three so most of the recipes are simple and easy to make, a big plus in my book. Recipes like Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins, Coconut Chicken Tenders, Thai Marinated Grilled Chicken Skewers with Peanut Coconut Sauce, Mango Frozen Yogurt Pops, and Eggnog Coffee are easy enough to make, plus there are some challenging recipes like the one for Cinnamon Rolls and the All-Occasion Vanilla Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Sour Cream Raspberry Filling that look like they could be keepers. Highly recommended, 4 stars.

Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes by Michael Natkin

I found out about this cookbook through stumbling upon the author’s website while looking up information on Middle Eastern spices, and then was again recommended it by the lady in charge of the Savory Sweet Life blog, whose cookbook I also recently reviewed. I thought the author had a wealth of new and interesting vegetarian dishes that even meat-eaters could appreciate. Some of them were a bit over the top, but there were a good solid 13 or so recipes that I would love to try. Recipes such as the Garlic Miso Broth, Ten-Minute Chickpea Salad with Feta and Basil, Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto, Vietnamese Bun with Ginger-Grapefruit Sauce, Stuffed and Baked Polenta and several more all looked very tasty. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes from Veggiestan by Sally Butcher

I loved this one, but then again I love Middle Eastern Food so I had a feeling that I would enjoy this cookbook. It’s not just the food, but the tips, bits of history, herbal remedies, cheese of the region, and spice mixes scattered throughout the book, as well as the additional reading resources in the back of the book. The author has a unique perspective of a London food writer married to an Iranian, so it is like an outsider’s viewpoint on the food and culture, which is nice when you are one. There are more traditional recipes like Turkish Pide (hollow bread made with yogurt that can occupy any number of fillings) and Persian Jeweled Rice with Barberries and spices. Then there are more interesting incarnations of Middle Eastern food that I’ve not seen before, like Cucumber and Pomegranate Salsa, Figs and Halloumi, Carrot and Cardamom Soup, Sweet Hummus, and Pumpkin Jam with Garam Masala. Overall, a very interesting cookbook and one I would love to own. 5 stars.

Ploughman’s Lunch and the Miser’s Feast: Authentic Pub Food, Restaurant Fare and Home Cooking from Small Towns, Big Cities, and Country Villages Across the British Isles by Brian Yarvin

I originally picked this up for my hubby, who is English, as we are always on the lookout for good British cookbooks. It was written by an American who is fascinated by British traditional food and culture, thus making a thorough study of the countries it contains. It was cool because the week before my hubby had a Full English Breakfast at one of few British-run establishments in the area and we were talking about making British beans for my son, and then I opened this cookbook and that was one of the first recipes I found. Anyways, a lot of the recipes I marked were not for things I had heard of before, but new things, like: Staffordshire Oatcakes, Dumplings and Mince, Lamp Dopiaza, Tofu Tikka Masala, Fidget Pie, and Cumberland Pudding. They even had a recipe for homemade Clotted Cream, which is normally like $6-9 for a small imported jar in the States. I liked that he done so much research on the cuisine and highlighted items such as British bacon, tea, Haggis, the awesome food markets in London and pubs, just to name a few. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Traditional Country Cooking: 90 Timeless Farmhouse Recipes Using Fresh, Natural Ingredients by Sarah Banberry

This was an English cookbook masquerading as “country cooking,” and the recipes were pretty traditional in that respect. I will say they do have some nice accompanying photos in the book. I marked a couple of recipes. 2 stars.

Re-Creative: 50 Projects for Turning Found Items Into Contemporary Design  by Steve Dodds

I like the idea of using found items to make new things, so this book seemed like a perfect instruction to get started on that. I was disappointed by the lack of really cool projects and the fact that most of them you would need a professional for because I’m sure I couldn’t do them on my own. I did like the ideas for the CPU computer cover case table, the Wine Crate Table, Stone Drawer Pulls, Electric Fan/Wok Lid Bowls, Tin Can Pen Rack, and the CD Case Photo Display. 3 stars.

The Big-Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano

I picked this one up after browsing around the craft section looking for re-usable crafting. Despite the fact that there are “more than 150 crafts to fill your home, give to friends, decorate the yard, or send to Mom,” I found most of them to ugly and impractical. The author obviously doesn’t have small children or pets, as most of his designs would be destroyed by one or both of these. I did find some good designs/products here, such as the Relaxing Bath Crystal Body Scrub, Foot Balm and homemade Toothpaste, Bound Journals, Marble Mason Jar Lamp, Domino Side Table, Glass-Chip Magnets, and the Wineglass Candleholders or Vases. 2 stars.


Crocheting and Book Reviews

So I finally have some yarn so I can start on a new craft project, which is just in time for my Crafty Book Club meeting this Thursday. I’m making a scarf or a hat, just haven’t decided which pattern I’m gonna use yet. There are a few to choose from, like this wavy scarf, this basket-stitch one, or this hat. The yarn is a really nice dark teal color and I’m thinking about maybe sending it to a friend of mine, if it’s not totally screwed up at the end of it. My last scarf was pretty uneven because I hadn’t done any crocheting in over a year, and that one was finished something like 6 months ago. Thankfully, a lot of the women at the Book Club crochet so I could probably ask if I have any questions. I’ve been on a roll reading, due to trying to finish up the baby’s summer reading and being really bored because of my lack of employment. But good news on that front, I have an interview next week, so fingers crossed that I get it!

I am currently reading a volume of Steampunk short-stories, but I know that will get put on the sidelines when I can get to the library to get Cassandra Clare’s newest YA book City of Lost Souls. On to the book reviews. As usual, I rate everything from 1-5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 the highest.


 The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty

I enjoyed this sequel to Jeremy Draws a Monster better than the original. Jeremy gets a call from his monster, the one he sent away in the first book, saying that he’s bored and he’s coming back home. So Jeremy calls up the kids on the street and gives them magic pens to draw their own monster with, so the monster has some friends to play with. Jeremy also gains some friends. Love the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

Hey Rabbit! by Sergio Ruzzier

This was another summer reading selection for my son, though he couldn’t really focus on this one because it was a half-wordless book. Rabbit has a magic suitcase that gives his friends Dog, Toucan, Bear, Cat, Mouse, and Crab whatever they are asking for, but Rabbit wonders if it has enough for him too. It does, it is full of his friends and a giant radish for Rabbit. The repetitiveness got boring after the second time, but I liked the imagination of the book. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Happy Hector: A Tilly and Friends Book by Polly Dunbar

This is another book I got for my son’s summer reading program, which he enjoyed as did I. It is a cute and simple book about Hector the pig, who is perfectly happy sitting on his friend Tilly’s lap. That is, until all the other animals that live in Tilly’s house all decide that they want to do the same thing. Hector is now upset because he didn’t want to play with the other animals, he just wanted Tilly, so she paints a picture of Hector. He loves it and then gets to sit in Tilly’s lap again, which makes him even more happy than before. Loved the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Remembering Crystal by Sebastian Loth

I originally picked this up for my son because of the adorable illustrations, but he couldn’t pay attention. So I read it. It is a neat and sympathetic way to prevent death to a child. Zelda the goose is friends with Crystal the Turtle. Zelda is very young, while Crystal is much older. One day, Crystal is not there anymore and Zelda searches everywhere for her, but cannot find her. She has passed away, but Zelda remembers all the great things that Crystal taught her and all the fun they had together. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Clarence and the Great Surprise by Jean Ekman Adams

Clarence the pig and his friend Smoky the purple horse are going on a trip together to see a great surprise. On the way they meet an old dog who doesn’t hear very well but can dance and has a tiny hat. Clarence experiences all kinds of new things for a city pig, but none of them is the surprise Smoky has planned for him. Until they reach the Grand Canyon and both Clarence and Smoky are blown away by the grandness (no pun intended) of it. I liked that it was a Smithsonian Notable Book, and the author lives near Phoenix. The illustrations were bright and colorful, which kept the attention of my 11 month old even though the story was a little long. I got this for his summer reading. Recommended for kids age 1-7, 4 stars.

Gideon and Otto by Olivier Dunrea

Absolutely adorable story about a russet colored goose named Gideon and his stuffed octopus, Otto. One day Gideon goes off to play with some bunnies and leaves Otto on a stump. When Mama Goose calls for Gideon to come home, he goes to find Otto, but he is not there. He looks everywhere for him and eventually find him on the back of a turtle. Gideon and Otto are together again. I picked this one up for my son’s summer reading and he loved it. Recommended for ages 1-4, 3 stars.

Ollie the Stomper by Olivier Dunrea

This was the last book I read to my son for summer reading (yay he’s finished 20 books!). Ollie the gosling wants to go stomping with Gossie and Gertie, who have boots to do this with. So they each give him one boot and they got stomping together, until he gets bored with it and they decide to go swimming instead. My son enjoyed the story and illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-4, 3 stars.

Doodle Bites: A Tilly and Friends Book by Polly Dunbar

This book had a cute story, though not as good as the “Happy Hector” book I previously read. Doodle is a alligator who just feels like she needs to nibble, crunch, and bite things. All is well until she decides to bite Tumpty the elephant’s behind, and then in his anger, he steps on her tail. Tilly and Pru the chicken sort everything out and everyone apologizes and is happy again. Love the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-5, 3 stars.

Little Quack’s New Friend by Lauren Thompson

I picked this up at the library after I bought “Little Quack’s Hide & Seek” and my son really liked it. This book is about Little Ribbit, Little Quack’s new frog friend. At first, Little Quack’s siblings don’t like him because he is green, little, a frog and doesn’t quack. But as the day wears on, they realize that it is okay for him to be different, when they have one thing in common – they all like to play. My son loved the illustrations and “sound effects” in the book. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood

I’ve been waiting forever to read this book, after I fell in love with “The Quiet Book”. The Loud Book is just as great with it’s different kinds of loud, from Deafening Silence Loud to Fireworks Loud. I love the illustrations as well. My son enjoyed the book, especially when I made sound effects for him. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

I picked this up for my son as I thought it might be a simpler nonfiction Steve Jenkins book that he could listen to now. I had previously gotten the book “Actual Size” but it’s a bit too advanced for him. Sadly, there is still a lot of text in it, and I would say he would need to wait about 4 yrs before he could really enjoy it and have the attention span to sit down and read it. It is a cute book with Jenkins’ trademark cut-paper illustrations, which I love so much. It tells little stories about each animal/bird/insect and what they eat. The book also has a more detailed description in the back of the book of each creature. Great book for boys ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Another book I picked up for my son that was a little too advanced for him at the moment. Again love the illustrations and the facts and descriptions about the animals/amphibians/birds/fish are better I think than “Time to Eat”. For example, giraffes sleep less than two hours and a group of giraffes is called a corps or tower. The wood frog hibernates by freezing solid and thawing in the spring. Or that bottlenose dolphins “keep one half of their brain awake and one half asleep. The awake half tells the dolphin when to go up to breath, and the two halves take turns sleeping.” I like fun factual information like that. Recommended for ages 5-9, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

All the World by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon

This book won a 2010 Caldecott Honor, and deservedly so as it is a well-done and beautiful book. While my son wasn’t that interested in the poem or the illustrations, I loved them, especially the soft gorgeous colored pencil and watercolor designs. The poem is about how all the world is in all of us and everywhere. As another reviewer has put it, I liked how the setup for the next group of images was in the 2 page spreads. My two favorite images was the one of the giant tree overlooking the Spanish Colonial-style building with the kids climbing in it, and the last double page spread with the words “Hope and peace and love and trust” under a lightning and gradually darkening sky. It is hard to beat a Jerry Pinkney book for the Caldecott Medal, but this book comes a very close second. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

I picked this up because it was a 2011 Caldecott honor book and it’s been on my to-read list for a while, plus a lot of people have been raving about it. It is a very cute and funny story about a father chicken trying to read bedtime stories to his “interrupting chicken” daughter, who can’t help but give her opinion in the fairy and folk tales he reads her. In the end, it is Papa Chicken who falls asleep and not his daughter. This book cracked me up because my son totally does this, although he interrupts by dropping his bottle repeatedly while I’m trying to read him stories. Highly recommended for ages 1-7. 5 stars

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I picked this one up because it won a Caldecott Honor in 2004, but I think the selection must’ve been slim that year for it to have won. The whole story is about a girl wearing a kooky collection of clothes because she and her friends are getting together for a dress-up tea time. Other than the brightly colored illustrations and the tea time at the end, this book didn’t have much going for it. Recommended for kids aged 1-5, 2 stars.

Children and Young Adult

A Hero for Wondla (Wondla, #2) by Tony DiTerlizzi

I loved the last book, “The Search for Wondla” and honestly thought he couldn’t do any better. The author proved me wrong by creating an even more spectacular book in which I saw the main character, Eva Nine, grow in ways I didn’t think possible. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

This book starts off where the last left off. Eva Nine and Rovender (Rovee for short) are going with Hailey to New Attica, the current home of humans on Orbona/Earth. She is excited at the prospect of meeting others like her. Once Eva Nine enters the city, she is greeting enthusiastically by Cadmus Pryde, who founded New Attica and is the reason for her creation (babies raised by robots in separate facilities called Sanctuaries). At first things seem great, she meets some girls her age and they show her around the town. But as the day wears on, she starts to feel uneasy. The humans seem in the dark about everything outside of the city, thinking they are the only inhabitants. Eva Nine meets another “reboot” named Eva Eight and finds out they are from the same Sanctuary. Eight tries to escape with Eva Nine, but they get caught by Cadmus’s henchmen. It is during her captivity that she finds out the truth behind what Cadmus has been doing and manages to rescue some friends, new and old. Hailey, Rovee, Eva Eight and Nine and some others manage to escape back into the Wandering Forest. Will they find the Vitae Virus generator before Cadmus? Will Rovee ever be united with his clan? To find this and what really lurks at the Heart of the Wandering Forest, read this fantastic book. I know this review may not do this book justice, but it is a great read and has fabulous illustrations. Recommended for ages 10 and up, 5 stars.


Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5) by Gail Carriger

I would just like to say that I am very sad that this is the last book of the Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia, Lord Akeldama, Biffy and Professor Lyall are so fantastically done in this book. The story is that it is about 2 years since the end of “Heartless,” and a lot of things have happened. Felicity was exiled to Europe, Biffy has settled into being a werewolf and taken over Madame Lefoux’s hat shop, and Alexia and Conall are living in Lord Akeldama’s second closet secretly raising their metanatural daughter Prudence and discovering all her powers and their restraints. Life seems relatively normal, by Alexia’s standards anyways, when suddenly the Beta of the Scottish pack has disappeared in Egypt and then been mysteriously killed. Then Alexia and Prudence are summoned to the local vampire queen’s hive to get a summons from the most ancient of all vampires, the Alexandrian Queen. As the Maccons are patrons to Ivy & Tunstell’s acting company, they use them as a cover to go to Egypt to meet the Queen. Madame Lefoux, who has been indentured to London’s local queen vampire goes on the trip, but Alexia is never quite sure where her allegiances lie. They discover that Egypt has an outbreak of the God-Breaker Plague, which makes supernaturals mortal. Meanwhile trouble is brewing at home between Lady Kingair of the Scottish pack, Professor Lyall and Biffy. What will they find out about the plague and who has started it? What secrets will be revealed? Will everyone survive? To find out, read this great final book to the Parasol Protectorate series!

I will say that overall I really enjoyed the book, although the ending was a bit disappointing. The relationship between Biffy and Lyall was a surprise, but I was glad that they both finally found someone. I’m very excited at the prospect of the series continuing sort of, with a grown up version of Prudence in “The Parasol Protectorate Abroad” series. 4 stars.

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents by Debbie Koenig

I’ve been waiting forever to get a copy of this from the library and it was finally available a few days ago. I really enjoyed the recipes, but I will say that I would not be cooking them with a baby strapped to me. I guess that would work if your baby wasn’t over 8 pounds at birth. Aside from that, I thought the recipes, especially the slow-cooker and big batch ones looked particularly good. If I ever decide to have another child, the galactagogue recipes are definitely the ones to use (foods that help you produce breast milk, like oatmeal, barley, fennel, buckwheat and almonds). I liked the author because she was 40 when she got pregnant and I could relate to her stories, especially the ones about breastfeeding. Some of the recipes I enjoyed included Balsamic Beef Stew, Korean Beef Stew, Sfiha (Middle Eastern Meat Pies), Amy’s Slow-Cooker Thai Brisket, Little Gram’s Sauce (which is apparently the best pasta sauce ever), and A Greekish Orzo-Tomato Salad. 5 stars.

Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott

I picked this up because I love tea services and I figured there might be some cool recipes in here. Most of them were pretty typical, and the advice was pretty common sense (like mixing and matching tea cups and servers, what other equipment to get etc). I did like the history of the tea service and how tea came to England and became a popular drink. They also explained the kinds of tea times, and I had no idea there were tea + alcoholic drinks. 2 1/2 stars.

Lethal Legacy (Alexandra Cooper #11) by Linda Fairstein

I was very impressed by this book, especially as I had never read anything by the author before. She was very thorough on researching the New York Public Library and getting all her facts straight, and showing her love for librarians. All this is mentioned in her acknowledgement section in the back of the book. She is obviously a great supporter of librarians and libraries. So she gets kudos for that.

The story is about Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper and this is Ms. Fairstein’s 11th book featuring her (thankfully this is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to have read the previous 10). Ms. Cooper is a part of the Sex Crimes Unit (as was the author in real life), and she is called to investigate Tina Barr, a woman that was attacked and left naked, though nothing seemed to have been taken and the woman wasn’t hurt, just knocked out with chloroform. She is taken to the hospital but decides not to give a statement and instead just runs away, and isn’t until the following week, when a dead woman is found in Tina’s apartment that the police begin to suspect something is going on. Tina is a conservator who used to work at New York Public Library, but is now a freelancer working for some of the Library Board’s trustees. Well she was until she also mysteriously shows up dead in Bryant Park, and the police and Alex are now trying to solve just what she was involved in. All they know is it centers around some rare books and an even rarer map from 1507. Will they figure out who was behind the killings? Will they find the map? To find out read this most excellent mystery. 5 stars.

The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! by Anne Byrn

I had heard of the Cake Doctor from a friend of mine, who swears by her cake recipes. So I decided to give her newer basic cookbook a try. I will say that she does know what she is doing as most of the recipes seem relatively simple and fun to make. I like that she doesn’t just do layer cakes, but also poundcakes, bundt cakes, brownies, bars, cookies, cupcakes, and frosting. I’ve been looking for a cake to do at my son’s birthday party and I think I may have found it in the Lemonade Chiffon Layer Cake with Raspberry Filling, though I am considering switching the filling to a blueberry one as the theme is Rubber Duckies (blue and yellow). Either way, I’m sure it will be delicious. It is a little annoying that the only color pictures are in an index in the front, instead of with the recipes themselves. I like that she includes lots of tips and tricks to help the reader. I’ve never made a layer cake, so any tips I can get are helpful. I am hoping to make Easy Coconut Refrigerator Cake for my grandfather as it is his favorite, but would also like to try the Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake, Apple Butter Spice Cake, Caramel Tres Leches Cake, Music to my Mouth Brownies (with Symphony Chocolate Bars inside), and many more. 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol. 1: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis

Do not read this if you offended by bad language, graphic violence or are a conservative/fundamentalist Christian! That being said, I enjoyed the hell out of this first volume (the first seven comics) in the Preacher series. I was recommended to read this by an old friend of mine and I’ve been unable to find it in a library until now. This is the basic gyst of the story. An angel and a demon fell in love and had a kid named Genesis that God didn’t know what to do with, so he threw his hands up and left Heaven. Genesis wants a soul and escapes to earth, where he goes into Rev Jesse Custer and accidently annihilates a whole congregation of people at church on Sunday. The angels realize that Genesis has escaped and call this ruthless dead guy called the Saint of Killers to go after Genesis and kill him. This starts Jesse’s bad luck, he realizes the true story behind Genesis and orders an angel down to explain things properly (side power that Jesse gets is the Word of God that can basically order people around and do what he wants). So Jesse decides to start a quest to find God. He is traveling with his trained hitman ex-girlfriend Tulip and an insanely old Irish vampire named Cassidy. Oh and Jesse has been advised (and still advised to this day) by John Wayne as a cowboy. To find out what goes on with the rest of their adventures together, you gotta read this volume. 5 stars.

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 by Gail Carriger

First off, I would like to say that this is a manga in the sense of the type of illustrations and the newspaper it is printed on. However, it does not read like one (aka back to front, nor directionally). Aside from that, I really loved this adaption of Soulless, the first book of The Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia was just like I thought of her, though I would’ve put more meat on her bones. The front cover pictures on the books themselves make her out to be too thin, whereas the author describes her as more plus-size curvy. Conall was pretty much as I would’ve pictured him, handsome and dashing, though I would’ve put him a little bit older-looking than Alexia’s 26 years. Now for whatever reason, I’m guessing because it is classed as a manga, they filed this in the teen section, but I’ve always thought the series was just a little bit too adult, especially the first book (my personal preference). This is just the next step into making them into movies. 5 stars.

Book Club and Book Reviews

Sorry I have been MIA lately, but not much to say really since I lost my job. I finally got my hands on the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, entitled Timeless. I did start going to a new book club, which is on the first Thursday of the month. I like it because not only are the readers in the group crafty (all either crochet or do fabric arts), but the book selection is entirely up to the reader. The group just picks the kind of book to read and we get to discuss it at the meeting. I intend on finding some yarn for a scarf for the next meeting. I picked the book The Perfect Nazi for the June meeting, since I wanted to learn more about how the German people could’ve wholeheartedly submitted to the ideals of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime and Hitler, after listening to the book In the Garden of Beasts a few weeks prior. Our next book for July has to be a mystery, so I think I already have a book picked out for that one. Since I’ve been reading a bit more lately, I figured it was time again to post some book reviews. As before, I rate the books from 1-5 stars, 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. Enjoy!


Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak

I must admit that I was curious about the book as I knew that it was the first book he had written/illustrated in a while (apparently for 30 years). I had no idea that Bumble-Ardy was originally an animated sketch created by Sendak and the great Jim Henson, who he was apparently good friends with. That point alone makes it awesome.  The story starts out with poor Bumble-Ardy, a pig who never celebrated a birthday until he was nine years old. He is taken in by his aunt, who promises him a great party. He decides to have a party without her and invites everyone to a masquerade ball, which quickly gets out of hand. I liked the rhyming text and the illustrations in the beginning of the book, but as the book progressed the story/pictures got weirder. Recommended for ages 5+, 2 1/2 stars.

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Press Here was very fun and imaginative book, which will make kids laugh and smile (it sure did for me). I would love to add this book to my collection! Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein

I picked this one up for my son’s summer reading because it looked cute. I liked it more than he did. Apparently the author was trained at a Spanish cooking school, so this book was a natural extension for her as baker and mother. Chef George has a desert cooking school and his new class is about to begin. However, his students don’t know the first thing about cooking deserts, so he must teach them the basics: how to train their noses, learning how to measure correctly, teamwork, and concentration. In the end, Little Bunny is the only one who successfully bakes a dessert, which everyone can eat. I especially like the end pages with CG’s (Chef George’s) dessert recipes. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

 Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jerry Pinkney

I picked this up on the recommendations of the Children’s Dept at our local public library, and I’m glad I did because I loved it. Mr Pinkney not only did an imaginative take on a classic children’s bedtime rhyme but it also has amazing illustrations. With the song, we follow an adventuresome little chipmunk who flies through the air and into the water and finally back home in his own bed. Even the end pages are gorgeous, depicting both the dawn and after the chipmunk drifts into sleep. I enjoyed the Artist’s Note in the back explaining why he used the chipmunk and why children dislike bedtime. Recommended for children ages 10 months – 8 yrs, 5 stars.

Pomelo Begins to Grow by Ramona Badescu

I tried to read this to my son, but he got bored after awhile. I thought it was a rather clever way of looking at growing up and how it changes a person (animal in this case). Pomelo is a tiny garden elephant who learns that growing up isn’t as scary as he thought. It is about making choices, making discoveries and having new experiences. However it is also about being able to laugh at old fears. Pomelo is ready for big adventures. I loved the whimsical illustrations, especially the ones about him trying new things (sushi and hot peppers), but I’m not sure most kids, especially younger ones, would get this book. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby

A very cute picture book about a little rabbit named Squish, who was so small he was frequently forgotten or stepped upon. Squish is lonely and so creates a pretend friend, but that doesn’t last for long. It’s not until he throws a tantrum and kicks an apple, does someone notice him and think he is playing. So Squish gains a squirrel friend. The illustrations are simple but adorable and my son liked this book. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin

I found the first Pete the Cat book online by accident, so when I found this book in the new kid’s book section at the library, I immediately picked it up. I Love My White Shoes was a really cute book with a really catchy song attached to it, so I knew this one would be fun. With its bright primary colors and one really cool cat named Pete, my 10 1/2 month old really liked this! Plus it’s a fun way to learn about subtraction. Highly recommended for ages 1-6, 5 stars.

Marvin Wanted More! by Joseph Theobald

 I picked this up for my son for summer reading because it looked cute. It reminded me of  The 300 Pound Cat that I used to read as a kid. Marvin the sheep was sad because he wasn’t as big as the other sheep and couldn’t run and jump like they could. So he started eating and didn’t stop. He ate trees and mountains, and drank up lakes. Soon he started gobbling up countries until he jumped up on the moon and ate the world. But then he was sad again and missed his friend Molly. So he threw up everything and things went back to normal. Moral is liking yourself no matter how big or little you are. Recommended for kids ages 1-5, 3 stars.

Noah’s Ark by Jerry Pinkney

I normally don’t read picture books of Bible stories, but with my son here now, I feel like I should at least check them out. He enjoyed the illustrations as did I. I thought they were masterfully done by Mr. Pinkney. This book won one of the 2003 Caldecott Honor awards, and so I’m reading it for the challenge, but also because I have lately become obsessed with reading as many Jerry Pinkney books because I think he’s an amazing illustrator. I also thought I would try to create a list of Biblical picture books which I could share with a friend of mine in Christian Education. I thought the story was really well done. Recommended for ages 1-8, 4 stars.

Maisy Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins

I didn’t read these books for the longest time because I had heard one person say that they were really annoying and too simplified. I enjoyed this one, even if my son’s attention wasn’t completely there when I was reading it to him. Maisy the mouse goes to the museum on a rainy day with her friends Charly, Tallulah, Eddie and Cyril. They see dinosaur bones, and old cars, toys, bikes, planes and a double decker bus. They see brightly colored stuffed birds, a bug exhibit, and a woolly mammoth. I like that they have so much fun at the museum because there is so much to do there. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems

I liked this one much better than Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! I think the Duckling made the book, so I’m glad he’s come out with more Duckling/Pigeon books. I like the way he almost manages to trick the Pigeon into giving him the hot dog, but the Pigeon figures it out and tells him to get his own, but they end up sharing it in the end. My son liked this book. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator by Mo Willems

A cute picture book with 6 1/2 stories about Amanda, a young girl who likes to read and her stuffed animal friend Alligator. While he waits for her, she brings him back a friend named Panda, so he is not lonely. This is my least favorite Mo Willems book so far, though I did like the illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

 This book won one of the 2005 Caldecott Honors, so I am reading it for my Caldecott Challenge this summer. I was hoping it was something I could read with my 10 1/2 month old but his attention span isn’t long enough for a wordless picture book. It is a cute story about a girl who finds a red book who points to a lonely boy on an island, and he finds another red book with a snowy cityscape. They realize that they are looking at each other through the book, and so the girl takes a bunch of balloons to find the boy on the island. Then the red book is picked up again. Not sure this should’ve won a Caldecott honor. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

I will admit that I put off reading the Pigeon books forever because they were so commercialized. But I love Mo Willems and seeing as this was a 2004 Caldecott Honor Book, I figured it was time to read it for my challenge. While the text and illustrations are very simple, reminiscent of the Elephant and Piggy books, the Pigeon reminded me of a toddler frustrated at not getting his way (which is probably why it is so popular with kids, because they can relate to him). Overall, I liked the book and would be interested in reading more Pigeon books. Recommended for ages 1-7 yrs, 3 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: Vol. 4 – The Devoted Friend/The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by P. Craig Russell

I picked this up randomly while looking for books for my son, for summer reading. The book features two fairy tales created by Oscar Wilde, but they (The Devoted Friend and The Nightingale and the Rose) are rather dark tales. The Devoted Friend is about little Hans, a generous soul who gives and gives to his “friend” the Miller, while the Miller gives nothing in return. Little Hans dies at the end. I had never read this story before, but I had read the second story before. The Nightingale and the Rose tells the story of a young student in love with a vain young woman. He wants to take her to the Prince’s ball and spend an evening with her, but the only way she will come with him, is if he has a red rose. He can’t find one and the Nightingale, who has been watching the whole time, prepares to sacrifice herself on the thorn of a rosebush, so he can give the rose to the girl. When he turns up with it, the girl rejects his gifts for other better ones that she has received. He comes home dejected and studies instead. Honestly, the main reason I liked this book was for the fantastic comic-style illustrations by P. Craig Russell. Definitely want to try out more of his books in the future. Recommended for ages 8-12, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix

This book was a little strange and took me awhile to get used to all the terminology, and then it started out slow, but once I got into the story, I was hooked. Tim Curry was absolutely perfect for this book as the narrator and does great voices, especially Mogget and Kerrigor.

I will try to explain the story as best I can, but I warn you that the terminology can get a bit confusing. Sabriel has been thrust into the role of Abhorsen, a title previously claimed by her father, which basically equates to a good necromancer who helps the dead stay dead, or cross over if needed. She spent her life in an Ancelstierre boarding school, while her father stays and works in the Old Kingdom (both of which are divided by a wall, which basically contains the magic and spirits). The Old Kingdom has been falling apart for 200 years, but was once ruled by Charter magic, which is what the Abhorsen possesses and uses on a daily basis. Sabriel, a seemingly normal 17 yr old girl, is equipped with a sword covered in Charter magic and a set of seven bells which “bind the dead to Death.” She eventually teams up with Mogget, a Free Magic creature bound in the shape of a cat, who helps her on her mission to find her father who may or may not be dead. She later meets Touchstone, a young man she originally found as wooden figurehead on the front of a ship, but brought back from death. As the story goes on, we realize that Sabriel’s new job is to kill Kerrigor, a Free magic being bent on controlling the Old Kingdom and generally causing destruction and mayhem. Will Sabriel succeed in killing Kerrigor? Will she save her father? Will she finally find love? To find out, read this great book by Garth Nix. I am now very curious to read the second book in the trilogy, and I hope Tim Curry continues to narrate the series. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.


Simply Truffles: Recipes and Stories that Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond by Patricia Wells

I was first introduced to the black truffle in Italy, and fell in love. I had Tartufo, a black truffle sheep’s milk cheese and later in Scotland, I had Truffle Butter. Now I know the black truffle in Italy and France are supposed to be different, but I think this cookbook is more of a celebration of the black truffle in general. She researched her materials well, which shouldn’t be hard given that she lives in Provence in the middle of truffle-hunting country and the markets. Her introduction is very thorough and informative and I enjoyed the timeline, as I never knew the history behind the truffle which was “black as the soul of the damned” according to the Spanish Inquisition. I also enjoyed the quotes and stories scattered throughout the text, such as this one on page 62: “Lord Byron (1788-1824) kept a truffle on his desk because he believe it fed his imagination.” The legend about Napoleon was my favorite story. Most of the recipes I liked were because they featured both truffles and goat cheese, which sounds amazing together. 4 stars.

100 Magnificent Muffins and Scones by Felicity Barnum-Bobb

This was a British author’s take on muffins and scones, though not a very original one in my opinion. There are about four recipes in here that I would like to try, which caught my attention: Blueberry Cinnamon Scones, Sticky Ginger and Golden Syrup Muffins, Oatmeal and Raspberry Muffins and Lemon & Lavender Birthday Muffins. 2 stars.

The Korean Table: From Barbeque to Bibimbap 100 Easy-t0-Prepare Recipes by Debra Samuels

I did not know too much about Korean food, aside from their most famous noodle dish Japchae and Korean BBQ, so I decided to give this book a gander to see if I could learn some more about it. I like that it was written by a native Korean who cooks professionally and lives in Japan and an American  who discovered Korean cooking through her teacher, the other author of the book. The book gives a solid foundation for learning about Korean cooking and how it was developed. It is similar to Japanese food, in that it is based on five colors, though I believe it differs in the five tastes. The reader is introduced on how to stock your Korean pantry and a starter kit to Korean Cooking, which include rice, sauces, pastes and dressings which form the building blocks of each recipe in the book. Though I am pretty familiar with Asian food and ingredients, I’ve never eaten Daikon Radish, however the Daikon Kimchi is intriguing and might be my entrance into making homemade Kimchi. Aside from the basic sauces and pastes, I would be interested in trying the Egg Custard Beef Soup, Pan Fried Tofu with Mushrooms, and their recipe for Japchae (as the last time I tried to make it, it failed). 4 stars.

Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies

I picked this up by accident one day when I was at the library, and figured I would give it a try as it was a 2005 Eisner Award winner. It is a true story of the author/illustrator Brian Fies and his mother’s struggle with stage IV lung cancer and the brain tumor caused from it. It shows the effect not only on his mother, but what it did to him and his sisters as they took care of her through the rounds of chemo. I’ve known several family members and friends with cancer and I’m not sure I could be as strong as they would’ve had to be to survive, so I am very impressed with their strength and determination. Four stars.

Hanoi Street Food: Cooking and Travelling in Vietnam by Tom Vanderberghe

I really enjoyed this travel food diary by the author and culinary tour director, Tom Vandenberghe. He really gives you a behind-the-scenes view on street food in Hanoi, the Northern Vietnamese city most American recognize. I like that the book featured not just traditional favorites like Bun, various fried dumplings/rolls and Pho, but also a lot of recipes I had never heard of before, like the Vietnamese version of Beef Bourguignon called Bo Xot Vang. Learning how to make Bun cha (Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles), something I always get when I go to my local Vietnamese restaurant, is going to be awesome! 5 stars.

 Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaption adapted by Seymour Chwast

I read about half of Dante’s inferno in college with my Italian professor, so I know the basic storyline. But when I picked this up by accident at the library, I thought it would be interesting to see the Divine Comedy explained in graphic novel form. It was a good interpretation for the complicated text, which is filled with politics and Italian history, and is sometimes hard to get through. I really enjoyed Chwast’s adaptions of the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. 4 stars.

 The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather’s Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation by Martin Davidson

After listening to the most excellent biography “In the Garden of Beasts,” which was about the American Ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler, I was curious to know about how the common people fell under Hitler’s spell. This book was a good introduction to the reasoning behind while everyday Germans fell for the persuasiveness of National Socialism (Nazism to the rest of the world). The book is about the author’s grandfather, Bruno Langbehn, who joined the Nazis in the 1920s when membership was under 40,000 people and was committed to them until the war ended in 1945. He joined the SA when they were out terrorizing and beating up Communists in Berlin, then when their effectiveness was waiving, he managed to join the SS. While he didn’t help with the concentration camps, he knew the people that did and instead worked with foreign spy interests. He managed to escape persecution by changing his name and it wasn’t until after his death, that his family knew the extent of his crimes.

While Bruno’s story was interesting, I found the more commonplace history post World War I (the Weimar Republic), much more informative. When the Germans lost WWI, they blamed the Communists in Germany for their defeat, hence their enmity towards them which continued throughout the war and was the reason for the Eastern Front campaign. The Germans believed that “they had suffered not just military defeat, but a complete failure of nationhood. Only an act of national salvation could make Germany rise from the ashes (pg 69).” The country’s reasoning behind the hatred of the Jewish people was because they believed “they were financial predators, Communists, and global conspirators (pg 78),” therefore they needed to be eliminated, hence the Final Solution. This was the thinking of the party elite, but I wondered if common people really thought this, to which my answer came later in the book. After the Nuremberg laws were passed in 1938, more restrictions came on the Jewish people. They were being fired simply for being Jewish. As one older German told the author, “You have to understand, the Jews owned everything – the department stores and the newspapers. It just couldn’t go on (pg 192).” When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, it not only created a Great Depression in America but also Europe. Germany got his especially hard because they had a complete withdrawal of American money, which caused massive unemployment. “In 1929, 31,800 Berliners were out of work. By April 1931, the number was over 700,000 (pg 115).” All of these factors let to Germany supporting Hitler and his messages of support and nationalism, and eventually to WWII.

One thing I found intriguing was something that was mentioned “In the Garden of Beasts,” about a song that was always played at Nazi functions but I had never heard of before. It is explained in this book. Goebbels, as head of propaganda for the Nazi party, played up how members of the SA found and beat up Communist thugs and how this made them martyrs and fallen heros. One young man, Horst Wessel was killed and Goebbels raised him up as the ultimate hero, to the point that they “composed a marching song, which they entitled the Horst Wessel Song, and became the movement’s most potent anthem (pg 127).” They played it at every major party function and even just normal occasions, and everyone was meant to stand up and Heil Hitler while listening to it. Overall I thought it was a well-done history and biography, so I give it 4 stars.

The Meat Free Monday Cookbook by Annie Riggs

I had found the website for this idea of a Meat Free Monday awhile back and thought it was a great idea, so naturally when I found out they had created a cookbook for it, I had to get my hands on it. Convincing my husband to have a meat-free meal is another thing entirely, but I’ll definitely have ammunition now with all these great recipes. They broke the book down into seasons, and have 13 weekly menus per season. Every weekly menu has recipes for breakfast, lunch, packed lunch, side/snack, dinner and dessert. While I don’t particularly like the menus the way they have them listed, I think that there are a lot of fantastic recipes in there, that you can make up your own. Some of the tasties recipes are for Banoffee Pie, Spinach Tart, Peanut Butter and Banana Cupcakes, Apricot and Oat Bars, Basil-Scented Braised Fennel, Potato and Gruyere Foccacia and so many more. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

 The Healthy Baby Meal Planner: 200 Quick, Easy, and Healthy Recipes for Your Baby and Toddler

I had read the 2010 version of this book, and was excited to find a new one when I went to library the other day. This one has even better recipes, especially for stage 3 weaning (nine to twelve months) and toddlers, which is where my son is right now. Since he is getting older, I’m always on the lookout for easy to chew food for him, since he’s not really a fan of the purees anymore but he can’t chew very well either. This cookbook has recipes for Healthy Fish Sticks, Lovely Lentils, Popeye Pasta (with you guessed it – spinach, Gruyere and cream cheese), and Summer Fruits Muesli, just to name a few. 4 stars.

Classic Artisan Baking: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Muffins, and More by Julian Day

I found this in the new cookbook section of the library and decided to give it a try, as I love baking cookbooks. Turns out the cookbook is from an artisan bakery business in England that makes traditional baked goods, like Dundee Cake, Christmas Pudding, Rock Cakes etc. I know most of the recipes due the fact I’m married to a Brit, but they did have some interesting interpretations of classics that I wanted to try. The Ginger Cake, Coffee and Walnut Cake, Bakewell Slices, and Lavender Loaf all looked intriguing enough to try. 4 stars.

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