Tag Archive: nonfiction


Jan 2015 Book Reviews

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

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

Children

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

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

Dinosaur Zoom! written and illustrated by Penny Dale

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

Doodleday written and illustrated by Ross Collins

doodleday02b

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

Dog Loves Drawing written and illustrated Louise Yates

Dog Loves Drawing

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

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

King Jack and the Dragon

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

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

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

Turtle Island written and illustrated by Kevin Sherry

Turtle Island

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

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

Monster Needs His Sleep

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

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

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

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

The Book with No PicturesText from the book

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

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

beekle_2

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

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

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

Autumnblings written and illustrated by Douglas Florian

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

Children and Young Adult

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

Adult

A.D. 30: A Novel by Ted Dekker

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

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

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

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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

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

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

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

Top Books of 2014

Blue Happy New Year 2015 Greeting Art Paper Card

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

Younger Children

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

Older Children/Young Adult

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

Young Adult

Adult

Cookbooks

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

Children and Young Adult

The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1) written and narrated by Chris Colfer

the_land_of_stories_map

The author plays Kurt Hummel on the TV musical show “Glee”, and he is one of my favorite characters. I had no idea that he was a writer as well, and but I love fairy tales retellings, so I figured why not give the book a try. I thought he did a pretty good job considering this is his first novel. I especially liked him singing the Magic Harp’s song. The story was a little predictable, but there were enough twists to keep it interesting. I am interested in what happens with the rest of the series.

The book is about twins Alex and Conner, who couldn’t be more different. Alex is an incredibly smart and perceptive bookworm, who most of her classmates resent and tease because of it. Conner is completely laid-back and is constantly falling asleep in class, but never lacks for friends. The twins’ dad died in a car accident about a year ago, and they had to sell their house. Their mother takes double shifts at the hospital to pay for the growing number of overdue bills, and can’t see her children as much as she would like. So the whole family is dealing with a lot. For their twelfth birthday, the twins receive the book their paternal grandmother always read to them growing up, The Land of Stories. They quickly learn that this is not the average book, as the fall into it and end up in another world. Once they arrive there, Alex does not want to leave, but feels she owes it to her brother to try. So they set out on a quest to find the mythical Wishing Spell, by following a map and journal, and meet many famous fairy-tale characters along the way. The only problem with this quest is that they’re not the only ones trying to find the items for the Wishing Spell, so the twins have to get there first. Will the twins ever be able to make it home? Recommended for ages 9-13, 3 ½ stars.

Newbery Challenge

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

I’ve heard about and seen this book for years, but never managed to pick up a copy until I needed one for my Newbery Challenge. This book won the 2007 Newbery Award and rightly so, as it was a great book, though a bit random. Lucky was a quirky fascinating character and I kept hoping that things would get better for her, and they eventually did. I liked how the author described in the interview after the book how she “wanted to create a book that makes you cry and hope, like Charlotte’s Web.” I know I did.

Lucky is a 10 year old girl whose birth mother is killed by a lightning strike in the beginning of the book. Her father’s French ex-wife takes up guardianship of her, and they live together in her mother’s trailer in Hard Pan, California (population 43). Her best friend is Lincoln, a quiet sincere boy who loves to tie knots. Lucky’s dog is named H.M.S. Beagle, after Charles Darwin’s exploration ship to the Galapagos, and Lucky wants to be a famous scientist like Darwin. She carries around a survival kit because you never know what will happen.

Lucky cleans up trash outside the FoundWindchimeMuseum, which is home to Hard Pan’s 12 Step programs for Alcholics, Overeaters and Smokers. She is convinced after listening in on a couple of the meetings that she needs to find a higher power, but she doesn’t know what that would be. After hitting rock bottom, she decides to run away. Will Lucky ever discover her higher power? Will she find the love she has been seeking since her mother died? To find out, read this great story. Recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.

Maniac Magee written by Jerry Spinelli, narrated by S. Epatha Merkerson

I probably would never have picked up this book if I wasn’t reading it for the Newbery challenge. This book was the 1991 Newbery Award winner. The description is not very appealing. However, the writing is fabulous and vividly descriptive. It is a great story for kids (especially boys), as the author made it sound like a classic tall tale, plus it has short chapters to keep them interested longer. I loved the story about McNab, the baseball pitcher at the beginning of the book and the interactions later between Grayson and Maniac. The narrator, S. Epatha Merkerson (you probably know her from the TV show “Law & Order”) did a fantastic job at getting all the nuances of how kids talk and their incredulity at Maniac’s story. I was totally drawn in by her narration of the story.

Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee’s parents died when he was little and he lived with his aunt and uncle for about 8 years before finally having enough at age 11 and leaving. He starts running and eventually ends up in Two Mills, Pennsylvania, where he starts creating his legend. He ends up staying and creating a family, first with the Beall’s in the East End of town, with a lonely old man named Grayson at the baseball stadium, with the McNab family (although this was short-lived) on the West End of town, and finally again with the Bealls.

There is a lot in the story about race relations and prejudice, as the town is very definitively separated into white (West End) and black (East End) sections of town. These two topics are very hard to discuss, especially with children, but I think the author handled it really well. Maniac never seems to understand the term “black,” as he doesn’t see the inhabitants of the East End as such. He sees them as “gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black.” In the end, it doesn’t matter that he is a homeless white kid, he is welcomed by everyone, and makes friends on both sides of town. Highly recommended for ages 9-13, 5 stars.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe

I picked this one because it seemed the most interesting out of the 2014 Newbery Honor award winners. I enjoyed this story way more than I thought I would, to be honest. I guess it’s because I can always identify with children who are slightly different from other kids, as I was always seen as a bit of a weird loner as a pre-teen/teenager. The narrator, Lincoln Hoppe, really grew on me through the course of the books. I liked that the story was semi-autobiographical, and the main character’s real name is even closely related to the author’s name.

We are introduced to the protagonist, Vincent, although we don’t find out his name till the very end of the book, in the summer of his eleventh year. He is living in segregated Memphis, Tennessee in 1959. He has a stutter, and uses what his speech therapist calls “gentle air” to push his letters out, so he stutters less. Vincent is looked after by his African-American live-in housekeeper, Ms. Nellie, who he calls M’am as it is easier for him to pronounce. As a result of his stuttering, he is kind of isolated from other kids and most adults just think he is slow-witted. Vincent tries to pronounce his name, but has trouble with the consonants that start it. He is best friends with Art, who he calls Rat because it is, again, easier to pronounce. He is an excellent baseball pitcher, but accidently busts Rat’s lip when Rat was catching for him one day. So Vincent decided that he would take over Rat’s paper route for the month of July while Rat was at his grandparent’s farm.

The paper route is a big deal for the narrator, who is not only taking on more responsibility, but also must put up with some interesting characters on his route during the week and on Friday especially, when he is charged with picking up subscription money. He sees a young boy with his face right up against a TV and nicknames him TV Boy as he is always watching the screen. Vincent meets Mrs. Worthington, a housewife who drowns her sorrows in whiskey, with whom he is smitten (probably for the first time in his life). My favorite character is Mr. Spiro, a Merchant Marine, who spends all his spare time reading books. He doesn’t talk down to the narrator like the other adults in his life tend to do, and the narrator loves listening to him talk and having conversations with him.

The other adult that he deals with on a regular basis is Ara T, the local African-American junk man. M’am does not like him and is always warning the narrator to stay away from him, but usually his curiosity gets the better of him. He loans Ara T his knife for him to sharpen, but Ara T won’t give it back. Once M’am finds out about the knife, she disappears for a few days and comes back all beat up. What is really going on between M’am and Ara T? Will the narrator ever get his knife back? To find out, read this well-done book. Recommended for ages 9-12 (though B**** is used a couple of times), 4 stars.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd

Good Masters Sweet Ladies

I have been fascinated by Medieval History since I was probably about 12 years old or so, so I am always interested to read books about the period. This book has been on to-read list for awhile, but I’ve not managed to get around to it until I decided to do the Newbery Challenge. I think it is so cool that this 2008 Newbery Award winning book was created by a children’s librarian/storyteller/playwright whose kids were studying the Middle Ages and she wanted to create monlogues for them all to have a part. I loved the illustrations by Robert Byrd! I also find it fascinating that the author uses so many period terms and phrases. For example a “villein” is a term to describe a person who is owned by the lord and is essentially a slave and a “sniggler” is someone who catches eels.

The book follows a group of children that live in the manor, work for the local lord, and/or live in the village surrounding the manor. It’s pretty fascinating because the text of the monologues is taken from all the different children’s perspectives and backgrounds, like the lord’s daughter who gets mud on her silk dress (which is now ruined), followed by a girl who threw mud at her because she was frustrated with her lot in life (but realizes that deep down they’re probably not that different). There is  the miller’s son who no one likes because they think his family cheats them and his only friend, the village half-wit (who is actually pretty clever in some ways). It also gives informational text for the history and culture brought up in the text, like why the Crusades happened, why people in the Middle Ages went on pilgrimages and Jews in Medieval Society. Recommended for ages 7-12, 5 stars.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen

The Mushrooms from The Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

I had already read One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia as one the Newbery Honor winners for 2011, but I love owls and poetry, so I decided to give this book a try as well. It was a very quick read, as the poems are only one page long and the opposite page is one giant print and then there is a small scientific description on what is featured in the print/poem. I loved the gorgeous illustrations by Rick Allen. They reminded me of artists like Mo Willems, not for the style but for the fact that each page and nearly every picture featured a little Red Newt (Willems always puts the Pigeon in his books, usually in the end pages). The poems, as the title suggests are about creatures that only come out at night. My favorite poem is the one about the owl, aka “the dark emperor”, because it is a concrete poem and it is in the shape of an owl. I also enjoyed the one about the baby porcupine, which are called porcupettes. I thought it was a really-well done book that is not only informative, but fun to read as well. Highly recommended for ages 6-10, 5 stars.

Young Adult

Dust of Eden written by Mariko Nagai

The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

Adult

The Setting Sun: A Memoir of Empire and Family Secrets by Bart Moore-Gilbert

Around the World in 80 Dishes by David Loftus

 I got to say that despite not really caring for most of the recipes, I thought the concept of this cookbook was ingenious. As you probably guessed, it is a riff off of the Jules Verne classic “Around the World in Eighty Days,” except it is 80 dishes. I’ve never read the original book, but after reading this cookbook, it is definitely on my to-read list. Each section starts with a selection from the book and the area that it details. Our voyage starts in London, goes from there to India, Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, across the US to New York City, and from there back to London. Loftus got his good friend Jamie Oliver to contribute several recipes, in addition to other famous chefs like Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal and many more. The food photography in the book is stunning. I marked a couple of recipes including Overnight Lamb Shanks with Figs and Honey, Aouda’s Champagne Cocktail, Chilled Minted Cucumber and Honeydew Soup (would be great for the summer here in Phoenix), and Pomegranate and Persimmon Salad. 4 stars.

The Ghost and the Graveyard (Knight Games #1) by Genevieve Jack

Grateful Knight is a down-on-her-luck nurse, whose ex-boyfriend ran off with all her money. Her father bailed her out by setting her up in a house in Red Grove, a place out in the country, for her to put her life back together. The only thing he neglected to tell her was that it was right next to a cemetery. Oh yeah, and it is haunted by two ghosts, one of which helped bring her into this world. On her way to the house, she notices the incredibly hot cemetery caretaker named Rick, who is very interested in getting to know her better. The only problem is, one of the ghosts named Logan, is also very appealing to her. Who will she choose?

Overall I enjoyed the book, especially because although it was clearly a romance/erotica story, the majority of the book was about the Grateful discovering who she really is and the supernatural elements that are attached to that. My only gripes were the corny aspects of the main storyline, particularly the explanations of how she will come into her powers, the main character’s name, and the ending (it ended rather abruptly). After awhile, though the name seems to matter less, and is definitely a memorable one. I’m curious to see what will happen in the next book. 3 ½ stars.

A Fine Romance: Falling In Love with the English Countryside written and illustrated by Susan Branch

This book was recommended by my friend Rebecca because she thought I would like it, as my husband is English, I love traveling around the UK, and I am a bit of an Anglophile. I was lucky to find it via interlibrary loan from Albuquerque. It’s an interesting book because it reads like a diary, but includes drawings, watercolor illustrations, and photographs taken by author.

The book is about the author meeting and falling in love with the man who would eventually become her husband in 1987, despite the fact that she had given up on love after a messy divorce. They visited England in 2004 together and loved it, but had always wanted to go back and explore the country more in-depth. So for their 25th Anniversary, they take the trans-Atlantic ocean liner Queen Mary 2 back to England. It is a very luxurious ship and reminds me, as the author also notes, of movies from the 1930s and 40s, when everyone traveled by boat across the Atlantic.

They landed in Southampton, England and then had to tackle driving on the other side of the road and car (with no prior experience), which was rather hilarious to read. I’ve lived in Scotland, so I know how confusing the signs and roads can be at times, as a passenger or pedestrian. Susan and her husband have roughly two months to visit the country, and start driving and visiting the South (called the Garden of England), and heads up towards the Lake District in NW England, where she finally gets to visit Hill Top (the farm of Beatrix Potter, who is someone the author really admires). From there, they go to York and then the Cotswolds. They visit small villages, a lot of National Trust historic properties, and a Cathedral. They also get to stay in a lot of gorgeous cottages. The book also features recipes of food that they ate along the way, such as Roasted Shallots, Pimm’s Cup, and Orange-Lavender Polenta Cake. 4 stars.

The Setting Sun

The Setting Sun: A Memoir of Empire and Family Secrets by Bart Moore-Gilbert

To be released May 14, 2014

I found this book to be a rather slow read, as the text was really dense, but it definitely got easier to read the more you got into it. I really enjoyed the snippets of memories about his father as a game keeper in Tanzania and his growing up there, which were interspersed among the narrative about the author and his father’s past. Although I know about the expansiveness of the British Empire, I sometimes forget that were British citizens living in Africa, outside of South Africa.

What would you do if you found out that your father, a man you always idolized, was not who he seemed to be? That is just what happened to the author, after being contacted by an Indian historian researching the Parallel Government, right before the Indian Independence from Britain. So the author sets out on a quest to discover the truth about his father, who was stationed there during the last days of the Raj (the period of the British dominion in India), and his role with the Indian Police from 1938-1947. Through the course of the author’s investigation into his father, I learned more about British-controlled India and the Indians’ first attempts at becoming their own separate country, and about how terrorism is perceived throughout the world. Because of his trip to India, the author is able to have some closure on his father’s death, and reconcile how he saw his father versus how his father really was as a man and as a professional. 3 stars.

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

Book Reviews #10

I’m on a bit of a book slump the past month. It seems like every book I’ve started recently I either couldn’t finish it because it was boring or bad writing, or because I simply didn’t have the concentration to do so. For example, I started reading this fascinating biography called Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life, but it was so long (700 pages of nonfiction) that I was reading so slowly that I knew it would take me probably a couple months to finish it. Thankfully, I’m started to get a little bit better quality books. I finally got back a copy of The Invention of Murder from the library and I’m hoping to finish the last 70 pages of that book after the short children’s chapter book I just picked up called Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things. I’m on the last disc of the audiobook version of Game of Thrones, which I loved (review below). I think I might try to actually read the second book in the series though, to see if it goes a bit better for me than the audiobook. The one thing I am proud of is that I’ve only got only about 60 books left in my Caldecott Challenge (out of about 300+), and working hard to finish it by the end of the year.

As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge, which I started last May, is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present. This year, I will include some photos of illustrations that I like with the reviews.

Children

Cat Tale by Michael Hall

Cat Tale

This book has been on my to-read list for my 2 year old son for awhile after seeing it on a Goodreads list, and they finally had a copy in the library free so I put it on hold immediately. Both my son and I loved the brightly colored cats named Lillian, Tilly and William J and their rhyming adventures, and wanted to look through it multiple times. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

GHI from LMNO Peas

I’ve been wanting to read this to my son for awhile and yesterday I got a free copy from the public library who had come to his daycare to talk about Literacy Training for parents. I loved it and so did my son. The peas are the star of this book and features alphabetical jobs, hobbies, activities, as shown by the in-detail illustrations of the peas. My son even picked up on the hidden ladybug in on all the two-page spreads before I did. Can’t wait to check out more artwork by this author/illustrator! We have a paperback copy of this book. Recommended for ages 2-6, 5 stars.

Toulouse-Lautrec: The Moulin Rouge and the City of Light by Robert Burleigh

I picked up this book first after reading Christopher Moore’s book Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Arte because I was fascinated with Moore’s interpretation of Henri Toulouse-Latrec and wanted to find out more. Before delving into a thick academic book, which I also got, I decided to see how a children’s nonfiction author would handle the artist. I was honestly wondering if would be possible to pull a book like this off, especially as a book for older elementary school children, without going into a discussion about drugs, alcohol and sex, three things which let’s face it, did influence Toulouse-Lautrec’s artwork. I thought the author did an good job at explaining the basics about Toulouse-Lautrec’s life. He was a considered a dwarf because of a hereditary bone condition and having broke both his legs as a child and they never healed properly, so the man was not quite five feet tall. Despite this, as the book explains, he was quite popular with everyone and very entertaining. Even though he came from an aristocratic family, he painted everyday scenes of contemporary Parisian life, such as the people that went to the various dance halls and circuses of the time, which were the main source of entertainment for those that lived in and around Montmartre. The amount of artwork the artist did in a 15 year period is mind-blowing. Very well-researched book, and the author does explain a bit more about the artist in the author’s note in the back, along with a thorough bibliography. I am very interested in learning much more about Toulouse-Lautrec in the future. Recommended for ages 9-12, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode

I enjoyed this 1983 Caldecott Honor much more than her other Honor winning book from two years later, The Relatives Came. This book was about her growing up in the Appalachian Mountains, in a coal-mining town in West Virginia, and lived with her grandparents. It reminded me of summers as a child at my maternal grandparents’ house in Alabama (they lived in the country, not the mountains but similar things happened there). The story is from a simpler time and that is reflected in the illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-8,  4 stars.

It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale retold and illustrated by Margot Zemach

I had previously read the book she created with her husband, Duffy and the Devil, which was a bit of an odd book, but a fascinating story. I appreciated the humor in this 1978 Caldecott Honor book, which was a retelling of a Yiddish folktale. It is about a man whose wife, six children and mother all live in a one-room shack together. He comes to the Rabbi complaining about his family and the fact that they are all living together in this small house, so in order for the man to appreciate what he has, the Rabbi tells him to keep adding more and more animals to the house until he can’t take it any longer and then he tells the man to remove them. The quiet and peacefulness that follows leaves the man very thankful. One good way to get the point across to students would be to follow the questions from this website. Recommended for ages 7-12, 3 1/2 stars.

Fables by Arnold Lobel

When I originally picked this one up from the library, it was rather relevant to the English Conversation program I volunteer with as we were doing a program on proverbs and superstitions, and fables are related to proverbs. This 1981 Caldecott Award winner features a collection of 20 fables created by Arnold Lobel, of Frog and Toad fame, and features his one-of-a-kind full-page illustrations to compliment his one page fables. It took us awhile to read these, despite their short length as my son only had eyes for his favorite board books. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Hosie’s Alphabet words by Hosea, Tobias and Lisa Baskin, illustrated by Leonard Baskin

Hosies Alphabet

This was a well-done alphabet book with clever uses of each letter and fascinating accompanying watercolor illustrations. I liked that this was created by Leonard Baskin’s two sons and their mother, to accompany the artwork of their father.  It won a 1973 Caldecott Honor award. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3  stars.

A Story, A Story: An African Tale retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley

A Story A Story

I have loved Anansi stories from Africa and the Caribbean ever since I read Neil Gaiman’s book Anansi Boys. This 1971 Caldecott Award winner is definitely a great book in my opinion as it not only has a fascinating story but also great illustrations. The bright colors that the author/illustrator used, as well as the fact that they were woodblock prints, really made them stand out. My son couldn’t stop flipping through the book to check them out.

In this story, Anansi the spider man (who is also the storyteller of this tale) goes to the sky god and asks for all the stories of the world, which the god keeps locked in a box. He says yes but only if he can complete three impossible tasks. Anansi manages to complete them by using his brain and outwitting his opponents. He gives his results to the Sky God, who commends him for his efforts and gives him the stories, which he spreads all over the world. Recommended for ages 4-9, 5 stars.

Hildilid’s Night by Cheli Duran Ryan, illustrated by Arnold Lobel

This was a very strange book. I will admit that I probably would’ve never picked it up had it not won a 1972 Caldecott Honor. It is about a woman named Hildilid (which took me forever to figure out how to pronounce) who lives in England and doesn’t like the night. She spends the book trying various ways to get rid of it, resulting in her being so tired that she sleeps throughout the day (which she had been trying to get back into the whole time). The black and white illustrations, done by Lobel, reminded me of Edward Gorey. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Drummer Hoff retold by Barbara Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley

Drummer-Hoff-Major-Scott

Despite how much toddlers love repetition, my son was not interested in this book at all. This book won the 1968 Caldecott Award, though my favorite book that year was probably The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen. I must say though that the illustrations were lovely brightly-colored woodcuts. The book was based off a folk verse and retold by Barbara Emberley. It follows a company of men who are taking many steps in order to put together a cannon to fire, which was done by Drummer Hoff. At the end of the story, the cannon is returned to nature after having fired once and exploded, which subtly reminds the reader of the futility of war. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen

A Visit to William Blakes Inn

Honestly, if it hadn’t won a Caldecott or a Newberry, I probably would never have picked up this book. But I’m glad I did. This book was rather hard to find, even though it’s only from 1981, relatively recent in terms of the Caldecott Challenge. It won a 1982 Caldecott Honor and rightly so, as I found it very fascinating. That year was a very good year for picture books with Outside Over There, On Market Street, and Where the Buffaloes Begin all winning a Caldecott Honor as well as Jumanji winning the Medal. This book also won the Newberry award for that year.

The book is almost a verse-novel, as it describes the continuous events going on in the magical world of an inn owned and operated by the poet William Blake.  The author created a play on words to come up with the title of this book, based off Blake’s own tiles of poetry, Song of Innocence and Song of Experience. While I’ve never been a big William Blake fan, aside from “The Tyger,” I really enjoyed this whimsical book of poetry on the author and the creatures that live in his inn. I especially liked the “Blake’s Celestial Limousine” poem in the beginning. Willard’s text along with Alice and Martin Provensen’s brilliant illustrations make the book amazing. This book would be a great way to get older elementary aged kids interested in poetry and using their imagination. Recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.

The Judge: An Untrue Tale by Harve Zemach, illustrated by Margot Zemach

This was a weird story. I definitely liked Duffy and the Devil better than this one. The illustrations weren’t as good as other books Margot has illustrated. It won a 1970 Caldecott Honor award, and it must have been an odd year for books as most of the books I read that won the award or honors weren’t great.

Five criminals are brought in front of a judge to explain their crimes, which I’m guessing must be lying. Each tale gets more and more fantastical and the judge is so frustrated that he calls them all liars and throws them in jail. It isn’t until what they were talking about appears does the judge believe them, but by then it is too late. In hindsight, it was a little scary for my two year old, but I think preschoolers and older would like the rhyming text and the conclusion to the book. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2 stars.

Pop Corn and Ma Goodness by Edna Mitchell Preston, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

This was an odd book. I’m not sure what it is about it is about 1940s and 1960s books, but they had some weird topics for picture books during those decades. This one is no exception. It won a 1970 Caldecott Honor award, but was published in 1969. The story has a rhyming text and is about a man and a woman who get together and have a farm, a pet goat and later some children. I will give a warning to parents as this book does mention whipping children and killing bears. I was reading out loud to my two-year old on Sunday and my husband was convinced that whoever wrote the book must’ve been on drugs. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2 stars.

Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book by Muriel Feelings, illustrated by Tom Feelings

I read the Feelings’ other book Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book and I enjoyed that one more than this book. I do like that it is multicultural and the children reading the book would be able to count from 1-10 in Kiswahili (the true name for the Swahili language). Each number is phonetically sounded out and has a sentence or two about an area, animals or culture in East Africa, and include great illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky retold by Elphinstone Darrell, illustrated by Blair Lent

Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky

This book definitely gets a mention for having one of the strangest author names I’ve ever seen.  Aside from that, it was a really good version of a Nigerian folktale recreated by the author in 1910. The illustrations, which my son couldn’t stop flipping through, are brightly colored and feature African tribesmen of the  Efik-Ibibio peoples dressed up as the elements with ceremonial masks as faces. This book won the 1969 Caldecott Honor award.

The Sun and Water are friends that live on the Earth. The Sun is always visiting his friend at his house but Water never returns the favor. Water warns him that him and his  creatures take up a lot of room and Sun needs to have a really big house in order to accommodate everyone. Sun and his wife Moon build a large house, but Water and his creatures take up so much room that Sun and Moon must take refuge in the sky to escape. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Mother Goose: Seventy Seven Verses illustrated by Tasha Tudor

This book was a collection of 77 Mother Goose rhymes, and included a lot of strange ones that everyone has heard of. I loved the illustrations, with a few exceptions where they were a little unintentionally creepy (like the one for See Saw Margery Daw on page 17, or the one for Bonny Lass, Pretty Lass, Wilt Thou Be Mine on page 37).  The book won a 1945 Caldecott Honor award. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Saints written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

This graphic novel was an ARC that I got from Netgalley back in July, in exchange for my honest review. I never got a chance to read the first half of this graphic novel series, Boxers, hence the long gap in-between actually reading the book and posting the review. I enjoyed the graphic novel, even though the subject matter was a bit difficult to read at times. The book documents the Boxer Rebellion, which revolved around a peasant uprising that occurred in 1900 and involved China getting rid of foreign powers (including Britain, Germany, Russia, Japan, America, Austria-Hungary, and Italy) and Christian missions from its country. To find out more on the topic, check out this article from the author/illustrator’s website.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Four-Girl, so named because she is the fourth daughter in her family. As there are so many girls in family already and because daughters are not preferred in Chinese society, she is isolated and doesn’t find love or respect from her family.  She does find love and respect from a local Christian mission, so she leaves her family and changes her name to Vibiana. The Boxers, so named because their martial arts fighting reminded Europeans of Boxing, were called The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists by the Chinese. They begin persecuting and killing foreigners and Chinese Christians, and Vibiana finds herself in the middle of the conflict, quite literally. Whose side does she chose? To find out, read this second volume of the Boxers & Saints series. Recommended for ages 12+, 4 stars.

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

I have mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I enjoyed it and was  pleasantly surprised by the ending, at least for the main part of the story (the secondary ending was rather predictable from about halfway through the book). It seemed like the author took the cover photo and       made the story up from that, and not the other way around as it should be. It also seemed like she was trying too hard to incorporate the speech of modern teenaged girls, which made them sound a bit airheaded, which kind of played into the stereotype in the book that women are “the gentler sex”. I expected the story to be more steampunk, and it really wasn’t. Yes, there were some inventions ahead of their time and steam-powered dirigibles, but it was more of a historical fiction book set in late Victorian/early Edwardian times. I enjoy books with strong female lead characters and the main three characters were likable, but didn’t have as much depth or descriptive setting as other YA books from the same time period that I have read and loved (like Gail Carriger).

Cora is an East London girl who has been apprenticed to the almost-fatherly Lord White, a secret inventor, for many years now. She thinks she is being replaced by a young nobleman named Andrew Harris, and is rather frustrated with her employer because of this turn of events. And yet, she is strangely attracted to Mr. Harris. Nellie is the assistant of The Great Raheem, a Persian magician, who she sees as a protector. Michiko is a sword-wielding Japanese girl who is unable to really communicate in English. She performs fighting routines with her hated master, Callum. Michiko is secretly training a younger apprentice named Hayao, in exchange for him teaching her how to silently run (which reminds me of parkour). Through a series of chance occurrences, the three girls meet and decide to work together to solve the mystery of the dead bodies of scientists and flower girls that have been popping up all over London. Nellie soon develops feelings for a young cop named Officer Murphy, who has been assigned to the case they are working on. Someone has also threatened the city of London and demands a ransom be paid. Will they be able to catch the killers and find out who is the criminal mastermind behind everything? To find out, read this exciting book. Recommended for ages 12+, 3 stars.

Adult

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D’Art by Christopher Moore, narrated by Euan Morton

I found it rather amusing that the library filed this one under Romance, as there is some in the story, but isn’t one in the strictest terms. Morton was a great narrator, by the way, and I loved his portrayal of all the different characters in the book. It’s hard to gather the book under just one genre as it is part art historical lesson, part historical fiction, party mystery with a great deal of humor thrown in. I especially like the main character’s mother musing about whether or not she is capable of committing violence and what one should use. I also loved this story because all of the detail in regards to art, artist and the time period. I’ve always been fascinated with the Fin de Siècle, as it produced some of my favorite artists. I occasionally write about art history on my blog and the book gave me a whole wealth of interesting topics to discuss in the future.

The book starts off with the death of artist Vincent Van Gogh. The main part of the story focuses on a young artist named Lucien who works in his family’s bakery in Montmartre or “The Boot” as it affectionately known in the story. He is an painter and shares a studio with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and knows many other famous artists such as Renoir, Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh. At the beginning of the story, Lucien had been pining over a girl named Juliet, who mysteriously returns after leaving 2 years prior, and wants him to paint her nude. He, naturally, is very excited at the prospect. After Lucien begins spending all of his time with Juliet, his family becomes nervous for him and enlists the help of Henri, who realizes that Juliet is linked with a shady figure known only “The Color Man”. Juliet disappears a second time. The more he, and later Lucien, looks into her history, the more they realize that she has been involved with more and more artists that they know. Just who is Juliet really and why is she involved with the color man? Will Juliet ever return to Lucien? To find out, read this fascinating and hilarious book. 5 stars.

The Southern Vegetarian Cookbook: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table by Justin Burks and Amy Lawrence

I was pleasantly surprised by this cookbook. I was raised in the Southern US, so there are times when I crave cuisine from that area. However, with its propensity to be fried and/or covered in pork, I was not having much luck finding it here, other than cooking some fried okra at home. The only soul food restaurant I’ve been to here in Arizona was overpriced, pretentious and not very good. So when I found out about this book I was intrigued as “Southern” and “Vegetarian” were two words I would have never associated with each other. But it works, and I must say that the recipes look surprisingly tasty, and there are some items I could probably even get my extremely carnivorous husband to eat. Some of most yummy sounding recipes included the Sweet Potato Grits with Maple Mushrooms and a Fried Egg, Okra Fritters with Creole Mustard Sauce, and the Lemon Thyme Pimento Cheese (which can be made into sandwiches or stuffed into pickled peppers). I checked out their blog too (which stared everything) and they had some excellent recipes on there too. 5 stars.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice

I originally picked this book up after loving the TV show, but as I don’t have cable, waiting a year to see the next season of the show is an eternity. I will say, the book is way better than the show. The way he creates the Seven Kingdoms from scratch is just phenomenal, and everything is so richly detailed, especially the storyline and character development. The story is seen through the viewpoint of eight major characters. There are many many more characters, but all of the chapters are told from the viewpoints of the eight major ones. My favorites, as in the show, were Daenerys (Dany) and Arya, though I also enjoy following Tyrion’s story as well. Dany’s story with Drogo was much more exotic and fascinating in the book. I was a little disappointed at how little Arya was really in this book. I’m hoping she makes more of an appearance in the second book. Tyrion made me laugh a lot, and he is just a really fun character to see developing throughout the storyline. The young adult characters in the book were a bit younger than they were portrayed to be in the show. For example, Rob Stark looks about 17-18 (though the actor is definitely a bit older) in the show but is in actuality only 15 – which makes a difference when he is leading a large army towards the end of the book. This to me is significant as most of the major characters go through some seriously hard decisions, that no teenagers should have to make. Ok and yes, I love the direwolves and their addition to the story as well.

The only thing I didn’t like about this first book in the series was the fact it was so freaking long. The book itself is nearly 900 pages and on audiobook it comes out to 28 very long discs. I had to check out the book twice from the library to listen to it all. The narrator definitely gets better as the book goes on. At first I was really annoyed with him because for some reason he decided to make Tyrion sound Welsh, which didn’t fit in because he didn’t voice Cersei or Jaime like that, and it wasn’t until I heard Tyrion’s father Tywin, also sounding Welsh, did I find it appropriate. Now this book has been out since 1996 and countless people have reviewed it, or watched the show. So I’m not gonna try to summarize it for you. But do check out this review, which I enjoyed reading while I made up this review. 5 stars.

Resurrectionist (Hawkwood #2) by James McGee

I found this book in the New Mysteries section and decided to give it a try based on the cover art and the subject matter. I was previously reading a book on murder and death in the Victorian era, so this seemed like a fitting follow-up, though the time period is a little bit earlier. I enjoyed the incredible detail given by the author, which really drew you into the story. There were a lot of twists and turns in the book, which really keep you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out how the story will resolve itself.

Officer Hawkwood is a Bow Street Runner, the precursor to the police in London, in Regency era England. He has come to Bedlam Mental Hospital to check out a recently murdered inmate, a Colonel Titus Hyde, recently back from the Peninsula War. Only things aren’t as they seem and now Hyde is on the loose. Hawkwood also goes to investigate a man who has been killed and crucified in a graveyard, with his tongue and teeth removed. As the story develops, he realizes that he has stumbled into a turf war between rival gangs of Resurrection men, who dig up and sell recently dead bodies to medical facilities. At this point in history, it was illegal to dissect anything but criminals in medical schools. Will Hawkwood be able to discover the truth behind Colonel Hyde’s escape? Just what is his true purpose and reason for escaping Bedlam? To find out, read the exciting 2nd book in the Hawkwood series. I didn’t know this was the second book until after I started it, so now I want to read books 1 and 3. 4 stars.

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne

This book has been on my to-read list for awhile, but my library only just got a copy of it. The book chronicles the life of its author Josh Hanagarne, a public librarian in Salt Lake City who has dealt with Tourette’s Syndrome off and on since he was 6 years old (though he wasn’t officially diagnosed until 8 years later). He has dealt with the condition by strength training, his faith (he’s Mormon) and a very supportive family. I honestly can’t even imagine dealing with what he has, especially working in such a very public field as librarianship. I loved that he grew up reading and continued the love throughout his life (feels like there are so little lifetime readers out there anymore). One of the things I enjoyed about this book were the number of excellent quotes in the book. For example, after he proposed to his now wife Janette and is questioning her about whether or not she can deal with someone who has Tourette’s Syndrome:
“When I stopped [having tics], Janette touched my face. She looked at me just the way Fern looked down at Wilbur the pig when he was in the stroller in ‘Charlotte’s Web’ [his favorite book when he was a child and his first girl crush]…Here’s what I’m sure of: When I’m with you–when I’m with out and things are bad with your tics–it’s hard. It hurts because I love you  and I don’t liked to see your pain. But it’s not nearly as bad as not being with you. I’ve spent most of my life without you and I know what I’m talking about.”
Or when he’s talking about the awesomeness of libraries: “A library is a miracle. A place where you can lean just about anything, for free. A place where your mind can come alive.” 4 stars.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1) by Douglas Adams, narrated by the author

I fell in love with Doug Adams’ writing after reading the five books of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, after my friend recommended it to me. It is random and hilarious and just really good writing. He’s one of my favorite writers because of this series of books. I’ve been meaning to check out this second series of his for awhile, but never got around to it. So when I had a bit of a gap in-between my long audiobooks (those with 10+ discs), I decided to give this book a chance. Parts of the book were brilliantly hilarious and witty, but it took awhile for the whole story to come together (pretty much the very end of the story). The story is filled with time travel, a bit of a murder mystery, aliens, ghosts and the author Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and just making sense of all the different elements of the story was challenging.

The book is about Richard, a computer programmer who begins the book visiting his old advisor from Cambridge University, before he remembers that he was supposed to have taken his much-neglected girlfriend Susan out with him. He breaks into her apartment and is spotted by Dirk Gently, a guy he went to university with, who now owns a detective agency. Richard is wanted by the police after his boss Gordon is killed, and it is up to Dirk and Richard to figure out who did it and why. I am rather curious to see how the second book of the series will be. 4 stars.

Eat St: Recipes From the Tastiest, Messiest and Most Irresistible Food Trucks edited by James Cunningham and Nicole Winstanley. 4 stars.

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Extraordinary Everyday

Alejandra Chavez

Inspiration for parents, teachers and anyone who loves teaching art

Ali Does It Herself

adventures in grown-up living

librarylyssa

Come for the library talk, stay for the food.

Inspirational Geek

Inspirational & creative ramblings of a self-confessed geek - Things I like, things I find and things I’m doing.

The Book Wars

💕📚💕

Steve McCurry's Blog

Steve's body of work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike - yet always retains the human element. www.stevemccurry.com

Nerdy Book Club

A community of readers

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

the quiet voice

vulnerable thoughts on mental health, society, and life at large

The Blurred Line

It's the thin line between reality and fantasy. It's the thin line between sanity and madness. It's the crazy things that make us think, laugh and scream in the dark.

David Lebovitz

Paris based chef baking and writing cookbooks