Tag Archive: Edelweiss


Prudence

Prudence

Prudence (The Custard Protocol: Book One) by Gail Carriger

Published 3/17/15

Prudence (Rue to her friends) has been raised by Lord Akeldama (a vampire), while her mother Alexia (preternatural – one who has no soul) and father Conall (a werewolf) are living in his 3rd closet next door. Rue is a metantural, and has the ability to neutralize and temporarily steal supernatural powers. Set about 20 years after the events of The Parasol Protectorate series, Prudence is now a very proper young lady and has been given a dirigible and given the mission to get some very special tea from India. She promptly painted it red and black to look like a giant ladybug and named the ship “The Spotted Custard”. Her best friend Primrose is coming as her companion, along with Prim’s brother Percy (the resident scholar) and the rogue engineer Quesnel. Once they get to India, they realize that things are not as they seem. A brigadier general’s wife has been abducted and with the help of some very familiar werewolves, Rue and her crew set out to find her and the reason why she was abducted. Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.

I have been waiting for this book forever, ever since finishing the last book in The Parasol Protectorate series, which I adored. This book was awesome and definitely worth the wait, though I had to re-read Timeless as I couldn’t remember anything from it because it had been 3 years since I read it. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot-line, but suffice it to say, there are way more were-creatures than you can possibly imagine. Miss Sekhmet was a very intriguing character as well, and I’m hoping we will see more of her as the series progresses.

As other reviews I have read have mentioned, there was a distinct lack of romance in this book. The author several times hinted at a possibility, but it seems we’ll have to wait till the second book for that scenario to come to fruition. The book was hilarious, as is usual with her books, usually involving occasions where Rue has stolen someone’s powers and then in left bereft of clothing and has to walk back starkers, or arguments with her mama. In Chapter Seven, there is this quote about vampires: “One could not blame people for not disliking vampires. Vampires were like Brussels sprouts – not for everyone and impossible to improve upon with sauce.” Or that section in Chapter nine where she basically propositions Quesnel to tutor her in the ways of l’amour, “in a trial position…a low risk, scientifically experimental situation,” which pretty much scandalizes playboy (despite his reputation). There is a lot of negativity towards foreigners, especially those who are not white skinned, but that goes with the time period the book is set in (i.e. the 1890s).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

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.

Book Reviews June 2014

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

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I am still trying to finish my Caldecott Challenge, and with all the winners and honors. I’m down to 11 books left to read. I’m also completing a Newbery Challenge, where I’m reading all the award winners and at least one honor book.

Children

Dog Loves Counting written and illustrated by Louise Yates

Dog Loves Counting

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

Little Chicken’s Big Day by Katie and Jerry Davis

Little Chickens Big Day

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

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

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

And the Train Goes… written and illustrated by William Bee

And the Train Goes...

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

Waking Dragons written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson

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

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

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

Dinosaur Train written and illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Dinosaur Train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caldecott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Adult

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult

City of Devils: A Novel by Diane Bretherick

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

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

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

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

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

City of Devils: A Novel

City of Devils

City of Devils: A Novel by Diana Bretherick

ARC from Edelweiss

To be published: July 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

Bittersweet: A Novel

Bittersweet

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

ARC from Edelweiss

To be published: August 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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