Tag Archive: sci fi


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.

Smek for President!

Smek for President

Smek for President! (Smek #2) by Adam Rex

To be published: Feb 10, 2015

Even though it was Tip (real name Gratuity) and J.Lo (the Boov alien not the celebrity) who actually saved the world from the Gorg invasion two years ago, they get no credit for it. Instead, most humans think Dan Landry is the real hero. The Boov blame J.Lo for sending the signal which alerted the Gorg to Earth originally, which was a total accident, and have nicknamed him “The Squealer”. J.Lo is determined to clear his name, and so he and Tip hop into their flying car Slushious (which J.Lo recalibrated in the last book) and head for New Boovworld, his homeworld on one of the moons of Saturn. They go to see the infamous Captain Smek, who contrary to popular opinion, isn’t as welcoming as they thought. The Boov are in the middle of an election for the first time ever and Smek has to fight for his title of HighBoov. He believes that J.Lo is a threat to Boov security and has him thrown in prison. Will Tip be able to save him? Will she also be able to get back to earth? Will J.Lo ever be able to clear his name and Tip get the recognition she deserves for saving the Earth? To find out, read this crazy journey into an alien civilization. Recommended for ages 9-13, 3 stars.

I really loved the first book, so when I saw the second one, I jumped at the chance to read it. I don’t know if the author was rushed to finish it or they demanded he split it into three books, but it just wasn’t as good as the first one. Don’t get me wrong, it had its moments of absolute hilarity, but mostly it just came across forced. The comic-like illustrations greatly added to the hilarious parts of the book, as well as helping to explain some Boovish terms and accessories that would otherwise have been lost in translation. My favorite part of the book was the explanation of Stickyfish, a Boovish sport, listed in Appendix A at the end of the book. Random and uproarious, it kind of reflected the political commentary of the rest of the book. I also liked Tip’s interactions with Bill the advertisement bubble and her description of hell.

I am quite excited to learn that they are planning to make a movie (unfortunately named Home) about The True Meaning of Smekday, so hopefully it will bring new fans to the series (despite the fact that they have changed our favorite Boov’s name from J.Lo to O). The trailer looks really adorable though.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

50th Anniversary Special2

My husband I finally finished watching the first seven of the new seasons of Doctor Who for the 9-11th Doctors, including the 50th Anniversary Special (pictured above) and the 2013 Christmas Episode. Once you’ve seen the Anniversary Special, which discusses what exactly the War Doctor (the one in between the 8th and 9th Doctors – played by the amazing John Hurt) did, you’ll understand more about the later Doctors, nine through eleven. The War Doctor was the one at the very end of the Time War between the Time Lords of Gallifrey and the Daleks (their sworn mortal enemy) of Skaro.  All of the later incarnations are always feel ashamed or very conflicted about what they did  and whether or not it was the right thing to do. As I’ve not watched a lot of the older episodes, I really had no idea, so it was nice for them to explain it a bit more.

donna4

I really enjoyed watching all the episodes and I definitely gained a new appreciation for Matt Smith, who played the 11th Doctor. I talked about the 9th and a bit about the 10th Doctor in this previous post, both of which I loved watching. David Tennant (the 10th Doctor) is my favorite version. Plus he had my favorite companions, Rose and Donna (pictured above). I actually liked Martha Jones, the 10th Doctor’s companion in-between the other  two, though my husband did not much care for her. FYI all the links to the Doctor Who Wikia above for Rose, Donna and Martha do give away a lot of plot, so if you want to watch the episodes, don’t read all the way through the articles).

Amy, Rory and the Doctor

The 11th Doctor took a little getting used to as he was totally different from the other two, and not just in the fact that the actor himself was quite a bit younger. The 11th Doctor is also brooding, but he gets really angry, while at the same time managing to act very child-like. It’s hard to explain without watching the show, but I think the child-like wonder and curiosity part of his personality is why he got along so well with the women in the show, as they share this trait. He discovered Amy Pond when she was 7, and he is frequently dealing with children throughout the show. He sees River Song when she is a baby and can calm her down no problem. This was also the first show where there was a husband and wife companion team, in the guise of Rory Williams and Amy Pond (pictured above), who the Doctor loved to call “The Ponds”. Rory definitely grows on you, though it did take a season or two. Despite what my husband thinks, I actually like Amy as a Companion, though I much prefer Clara (pictured below). She was more like Rose and Donna – feisty, curious and not taking any crap from the Doctor. Another reason I like Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor is that one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman, wrote two of the episodes. I loved The Doctor’s Wife episode as I could totally see the TARDIS behaving like that is she was a real person. In Nightmare in Silver, we saw the two halves of the Doctor, and it was very Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

doctor-and-clara3

The only problem with 50th Anniversary Special and a few others during Smith’s tenure, including the last Christmas episode and most of the ones we deemed “too weird” like the one where there are two Amys (The Girl Who Waited), or the last Amy/Rory/Weeping Angels episode (The Angels Take Manhattan) are that they were written by Stephen Moffat. He is the show’s lead writer and executive producer, who took over after the brilliant writer Russell Davies left for Hollywood. You know that gesture where you shake your fist at the sky bemoaning a particular fact. Well my husband and I apply that to Moffat whenever he gives us insanely weird plots or paradoxical endings, like the final non-Christmas episode of Season 7. Despite this, I still think he is a good writer, as he did write for the BBC show Sherlock and the movie The Adventures of Tin-Tin (both of which I enjoyed). Plus I do like the majority of his episodes, and he has written some pretty memorable Doctor Who quotes. I can’t wait to see Season 8, though it sucks that it won’t start until August.

I’ve written a little poem, which describes the show and the different Doctors (nine through eleven once again) and their companions. I don’t get excited to write poetry much anymore, so I’ll take inspiration from wherever I can find it.

Raggedy Doctor and The Destroyer of Worlds
My hubby and I started re-watching
the new Doctor Who series
that started back in 2005,
at the end of last year.
We’ve seen them all before,
or at least through the end of the sixth season,
when my hubby lost interest the first time around.
Now it’s funny
because my two-year old son gets so excited
and can’t wait to watch the show.
Watching them again
has made me start watching
some of the old doctors from the 1960s and 70s.

I can name most of the major villains
including Daleks, Sontarians, and Cybermen.
I know the meaning of the word TARDIS,
and can identify the sound of one landing.
I wish I had a Sonic Screwdriver,
and find that the phrases Allons-y
and Are You My Mummy?
have become part of my Whovian lexicon.
I frequently get the show music
stuck in my head.
I’ve even thought about wearing
a Doctor Who costume
to my local Comic Con.

The Ninth Doctor
sadly only lasted one season.
I loved Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor
because he was so brooding,
probably contemplating his role in the last Time War,
which had occurred not that long ago.
Yet you can see
how much he wants to help people.
The flip-side of his personality was
that he was always saying something cheeky,
making you want to slap him for his impudence.
Rose was his companion,
and we got to see her go from
a loud Chav to a person willing to fight for the people she loves,
and changing the Doctor for the better.

The Tenth Doctor is my favorite.
David Tennant just brought so much curiosity,
quirkiness, and passion to the role,
as well as a real love of all things Whovian.
Rose really fell in love with this version of the Doctor,
and was devastated
when she was trapped in a parallel universe
without him.
Martha Jones was his next companion,
and she really grew into her own with him,
as an independent woman and as a doctor,
though she had to leave
because of her unrequited love.
Donna Noble was his last companion,
and in my opinion the best.
“Donna Noble has left the library;
Donna Noble has been saved,”
was one of the most memorable lines
during her time as a companion.
Though a bit daft,
she could hold her own with him,
and would always tell him her opinion.
She was one of the few women
who could travel with him
and not fall in love.
Sadly, he had to leave her behind,
with her memory erased.

The Eleventh Doctor,
Matt Smith,
really helped to mainstream
and popularize the show
in the US.
Amy Pond’s Raggedy Doctor
first shows up
when she is seven years old,
and shows up again twelve years later.
She is reluctant to go with him,
and will only do so
if he returns her in the morning.
She is engaged to goofy Rory,
who loves her more than anything,
but you can’t help but wonder at first
if she is settling,
because the Doctor wasn’t there.
My hubby believes
Rory is the most annoying person
on the planet,
and at one point
made a drawing of him
being blown up by Daleks.
He is the reason
my husband stopped watching
the first time around.

There is a crack in the universe
that manifests itself on Amy’s bedroom wall,
and this allows her to become an anomaly
in regards to space and time.
This becomes especially apparent
when Rory is erased from space and time,
but comes back as the last centurion,
Someone every woman wishes she had,
the man who waited for 2000 years
for his true love.
Amy and Rory are the first wife-husband team
to travel with the Doctor.

River Song should be mentioned
in this ode to Doctor Who
even though she’s not technically
his companion.
She’s the badass archaelogist
with enough spunk
and knowledge of the TARDIS
to impress anyone.
Ican’t give too much more away,
because that would be “Spoilers”,
as she likes to say.
She’s my favorite character on the show.
Sometimes I wish they would do
a spin-off show,
where we can see more of her adventurous hijinks.

Clara is the last companion
of the eleventh Doctor,
and she is one of my favorites.
She,
like River, Donna, and Rose
have the most personality.
She is someone I would want
in my corner
if I was ever in a bind.
The Doctor can’t figure her out,
as he keeps meeting up with her
throughout history.
This conundrum
is eventually explained,
But finding out,
definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat,
until the answer is finally revealed.

Book Reviews Feb 2014

This year I am trying to read at least 300 books again. I’m doing pretty well so far, having read 39 books. I’m hoping to tackle more Newbery books in audiobook format as they are usually so short, and I’m on a bit of an audiobook lull at the moment (at least in regards to adult books). I finally finished Book 3 of the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones to the uninitiated). I’m currently reading an ARC called The Setting Sun: A Memoir of Empire and Family Secrets by Bart Moore-Gilbert. I’m currently listening to another Newbery-winning book The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron.

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. I’m also completing a Newbery Challenge, where I’m reading all the award winners and at least one honor book. I will include some photos of illustrations that I like with the reviews.

Children

The Goodnight Train written by June Sobel, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

The Goodnight Train

Feeding into my son’s train fascination, this book is another great example of imaginative writing. Set to a rhyming text, the story is about a train full of beds and small children that is going through a magical countryside, on the way to Dreamland. My son loves this book and has requested it pretty much every night for a week. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

I Love Trains! written by Philomen Sturges and illustrated by Shari Halpern

This was a cute but very simple book about a young boy who loves trains, not only the different parts of the train, but also because his daddy works in the caboose of one. I like the brightly colored blocky illustrations, which are perfect for toddlers. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

No T. Rex in the Library written by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

I like books about the library and am always on the lookout for picture books in that setting. I figured this one would interest my son as it has dinosaurs. A woman puts her daughter Tess in time-out for ten minutes for being a “little beastie” in the library and causing mischief, and while there Tess imagines a T Rex coming out of one of the books she knocked over and causing plenty more mischief and mayhem in the library, including ripping books. For this, Tess punishes the dinosaur by putting it in time out and back inside its book. I get that they’re trying to teach kids to have good behavior in the library, but that message kind of gets lost about halfway through the book.  My son loves it though, mostly just because there is a roaring rampaging dinosaur, so this book gets three stars from me instead of two. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

The Boy Who Loved Trains written by Jill Kalz, illustrated by Sahin Erkocak

I picked this one up because my son likes trains. Not the best book, as I thought the story fell a little flat and the illustrations weren’t that good, but it would be good for a beginning reader, which is the intended audience. The book is about a young boy who is obsessed with trains, in fact the only words he will say is “Woo! Woo!”. It is his birthday and he gets a new present from his aunt, a shiny race car, so soon afterwards he is obsessed with cars and the only words he will say is “Vroom! Vroom!”. My son enjoyed the book more than me. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

The Little Engine that Could written by Watty Piper, illustrated by Loren Long

I never really wanted to read this book, though of course I knew about it as it has been around since 1930. Again, influenced by my son, I picked it up in desperation after not being able to find many train books at the library. I actually enjoyed the story, though it is rather lengthy for reading out loud to small children. My son loved the story though, so that made it worth it.

A small happy train is pulling cargo of toys and good things to eat for the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain, when he suddenly breaks down. The toys ask three passing trains to help them to get to the children before daybreak, but each refuse. When all seems lost, a fourth smaller train happens by and she agrees to take them, though she has never hauled cargo before. All the way up the mountain, she chugs “I Think I Can” to herself, and manages to make it to the top. The toys are ecstatic as they make their way down to the little town in the valley of the mountain. This is a cute story that teaches children about determination and perseverance. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

The Caboose Who Got Loose written and illustrated by Bill Peet

THE CABOOSE WHO GOT LOOSE

I’ve been fascinated by Bill Peet ever since I read his autobiography for the Caldecott Challenge. I knew he wrote some children’s books, but had no idea that he did so many (34 total). His work reminded me a lot of Dr Seuss, with the crazy rhymes for the book. I guess you have to get pretty creative when working with the word “caboose”. He worked for Walt Disney and you can definitely see the influence in the way he draws houses and even Katy Caboose, from his work on the animated shorts Susie the Little Blue Coupe and The Little House.  I loved the rhyming storyline and it had great illustrations. As this was a train-related book, my son kept wanting me to read it over and over to him.

Katy spends her day at the end of a very long freight train and longs to be free and surrounded by nature. It is only after she is near a switchman’s house that wants to be her because her life looks so glamorous that she gains appreciation for herself. Her wish for freedom is unexpectedly granted when the train she is hooked up to is coming up a steep curvy mountain track, and she is accidentally uncoupled. She flies off the track and is caught between two evergreen trees and the rescue team is unable to find her. And so she lives out the rest of her days in nature with a great view. Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Smokey written and illustrated by Bill Peet

Yay for Bill Peet! While I didn’t like this one as much as Katy the Caboose, my son kept wanting me to read it. Smokey is an old engine who is a bit worn down. After overhearing some other engines talk about how will be retired to the junk yard, he decides to go on an adventure. He is chased by Native Americans who misinterpret his smoke signals (this part was a little racist, but the book was written in the 1960s, so congruent with the times). He is almost run off the rails by a fast freight train and end up in a farmer’s duck pond. After the farmer complains to the North Central Line, they come and rescue him and bring him back to the train yard. His smoke stack has been bent in his fall into the pond, and now he can puff letters and numbers. A teacher returning from summer vacation sees the letters and gets her school board to buy Smokey from the North Central Line, where the kids fix him up. He goes from a sad black and white engine to a colorful one, after the kids paint him. He learns simple words and happily teaches the kids for many years. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 1/2 stars.

Steam Train, Dream Train written by Sherrie Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Steam Train Dream Train - Turtle Cars

I loved the book Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, as it was a great book for my son, so when I found out the author/illustrator did a train book, I leapt at the chance to read it. She did not disappoint. How can kids not love a book with trains, animals, and dinosaurs! The book tells the rhyming story of a group of animals who help load a train with supplies and when the finish, they board the train and go to sleep. My son especially liked the polar bears and penguins loading ice cream, the elephants loading colorful paint and the dinosaurs. It has fantastic illustrations that really draw you into the story. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Sidney, Stella, and the Moon written and illustrated by Emily Yarlett

Sidney, Stella and the Moon

I picked this one up in the New Book section of the Children’s Room. It looked interesting and it was about the moon, which my son loves reading about, so I gave it a try. I must have British book radar, because I always seem to gravitate towards British writers, even if I have no idea where they are from are to begin with. I really liked the artwork, which was a blend of digital art and collage. The story was kind of boring though.

Sidney and Stella are twins who do everything together. One day, they are fighting over a bouncy ball, when it slips from their grasp, bounces way up and shatters the moon. What are two children to do! Why, they must fix it before anyone can find out. Of course, it is all over the news so it is not a secret for long. Sidney eventually finds a partially eaten round of cheese to replace the moon and with his sister’s help, the put it back in the sky. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

No Such Thing written and illustrated by Bill Peet

This was an odd book. It was almost like Peet was trying too hard to be like Dr. Seuss with his descriptions of crazy original creatures and their abilities. My favorites were the colorful narcissistic horses called Fandangoes and the Snoofs, mountain goats whose horns are so long they can use them for skis. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2 1/2 stars.

The Adventures of Obadiah written and illustrated by Brinton Turkle

The Adventures of Obadiah

I love Obadiah! He is so precious. I was so excited after having read the Caldecott honor winning book Thy Friend, Obadiah by the same author, that he did a few more books on our Quaker boy Obadiah.

In this book, Obadiah keeps getting in trouble with his teacher and family for telling outrageous fibs. The family’s big event in the story is a sheep shearing and fair, where they go with all the other Quaker families to socialize. Obadiah is warned against going to the sideshow tents. While there, he is separated from his family but finally makes his way back to them at the end of the day. He tells them what seems like another crazy story about him riding an out-of-control sheep when he was saved by a sideshow performer who showed him around the area. He got to see fire-eaters and go dancing. That is pretty exciting stuff for a young Quaker boy. They don’t believe him, until his story is confirmed by a neighbor. Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

Tea Rex: A Young Person’s Guide to Tea Party Etiquette written and illustrated by Molly Idle

Tea Rex

I really picked this up for me rather than my son, though I thought he might like the dinosaur. I enjoyed the concept of this book, but the execution would be hard for small children to enjoy. A lot of the story ideas were visual, which were hard to explain to a two-year old. It would be fun for a slightly older child who can pick up on visual clues.

The book is a guide for children who want to have a tea party and shows the correct and not-so-correct ways to handle guests and put on a successful tea party. As a child who grew up with tea parties, both real and imagined, I found the idea of a huge roaring T Rex trying to be genteel and hold a cup of tea hilarious, and the pictures made it even more so. Recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

The Flying Tortoise: An Igbo Tale retold by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by Barbara Spurll

The Flying Tortoise

I found this book at the library book sale this weekend and picked it up because I love folktales and my son loves turtles. The story reminded me of the West African stories about Anansi the spider, as he is also a trickster, although Mbeku the tortoise seems much more greedy and unredeemable compared to Anansi.

The story comes from the Igbo people of Nigeria. Mbeku the tortoise had a beautiful shiny shell. He tricked the birds into giving him their feathers and becoming their spokesman after they were all invited to the Skyland for a feast. Mbeku got his friend the lizard to create some wings for him, which he uses to fly up with the birds and eat all their food. In punishment, they destroy his wings and leave him stranded in the sky. He plans on jumping down, but after the birds learn that he has fooled them for a third time, they sabotage his soft landing. Mbeku falls and breaks his shell, and his friend the lizard tries to repair it but it is now rugged and ugly. Recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Fish in the Air written and illustrated by Kurt Wiese

I managed to slip this short read into our bedtime story routine in one night. The book won a 1949 Caldecott Honor. This is only my second Kurt Wiese book but he seems to predominantly write books about China and the books are a little dated, as evidenced by the clothing in the story. This was a cute story about a young Chinese boy named Young Fish who wants to fly the biggest Fish kite. His father, Old Fish, buys it for him and on the way to flying it, Young Fish promptly gets swept away by a strong wind and end up in the river. He is caught by a napping fisherman, and rescued by his father. He quickly decides that he would much rather have the smallest fish kite. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Bambino the Clown written and illustrated by Georges Screiber

I wasn’t a huge fan of this book because it just came off as super creepy and slightly pedophilic to me, though I know it wouldn’t have been considered this way when it was written. It won a 1948 Caldecott Honor. Bambino the Clown is a man who sees a little boy crying and decides to take him under his wing by inviting him back to his house to see how he turns himself into a clown. He is invited to the circus the next day and we are treated to Bambino’s show with his seal companion Flapper. Recommended for ages 4 – 7, 2 ½ stars.

Children and YA

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus #4) by Rick Riordan, narrated by Nick Chamain

This book was a non-stop action fest, but also had plenty of character development as well to keep the story going. As usual, this series introduces me to lesser-known Greek and Roman mythology that I might not have seen unless I was very thorough. I applaud Rick Riordan for his addition of a gay main character, something I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting from a well-known children/young adult author who also happens to be Southern (I am also Southern and unfortunately we are not known for our open-mindedness – with exceptions of course).

The story picked up right where The Mark of Athena left off. Frank, Piper, Hazel, Leo, and Jason are taking the Athena Parthenos statue to Epirus, Greece to stop Gaia and close Doors of Death from the mortal side. Nico has joined the crew as well, as is the only one who can locate the doors. Meanwhile, Percy and Annabeth who fell into Tartarus in the last book are attempting to close the Doors from the Underworld. Only no mortal has ever survived walking through Tartarus, so there is a lot of pressure from their end. All of the demigods do a lot of growing up in this book, which in Frank’s case is literal and everyone else’s figuratively. The Greek and Roman gods are warring with each other, so they’re no help at all. The demigods must rely on themselves and each other if they are going to get through this. The book ended on a cliffhanger though, so I’m dying to know what happens next (have to wait a year till next book comes out L). Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

            Newbery

The Dark-thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural written by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

I probably would not have picked this book up except that it won a 1993 Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Author award. But I’m very glad I did. The book is a fascinating glimpse into African-American folktales from the Southeastern US. I’ve never heard any of them. Patricia McKissack is a fabulous storyteller. There’s a little bit of everything in this book: ghosts, voodoo, Sasquatch, daring escapes, demons and protector spirits and monsters. The woodcut illustrations by Brian Pinkney are great, though I wish there were more of them. My favorites were “We Organized”, “The Woman in the Snow”, and “The Gingi”. Recommended for ages 7-12, 5 stars.

A Single Shard written by Linda Sue Park, narrated by Graeme Malcolm

At first, I was wondering why they picked this particular narrator to voice a story about a young Asian boy, but Graeme Malcolm had a very nice range of different voices and intonations and did an excellent job. I could picture Tree Ear in my mind after listening to his narration and really rooting for him to succeed. This book made me smile and cry, but still ended on a happy note.

Tree Ear is an orphaned boy about twelve years old who lives with his friend one-legged Crane-Man under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a small Korean village, a place known for its fine celadon pottery. One day, Tree Ear’s curiosity gets the better of him and he accidentally breaks a piece done by Min, the finest potter in the village. As penance, he has to do back-breaking labor for nine days for free. After completing this, he is taken on as an apprentice to Min, though he will not let him throw a pot on the pottery wheel. To create a beautiful vase is Tree Ear’s dream, so he is heartbroken. One day, an emissary comes to the village to select a potter for a royal commission. One of the other potters in town Kang has created a new style of incising designs into the pottery. He gets a royal commission because it is new and different, but the emissary prefers Min’s work as Kang is not as skillful. Tree Ear is charged with bringing two vases with the incised style done in Min’s more skilled hand to the emissary. Will he be able to make it? If he does, will he finally learn how to throw pots? To find out, read this beautifully written book, which won a 2002 Newbery award. Recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.

Young Adult

Library Wars: Love and War, Volume 9 written and illustrated by Kiiro Yumi

I had totally forgot about this series until I was browsing manga on my local library’s website the other day. This series is a little predictable, but I still enjoy it and want Kasahara to find true love, whether or not that turns out to be her “prince”.

In this volume, Kasahara is acting as bait for a groper in the library, who felt up the deaf girl Marie. Once the groper is caught, Marie is given a whistle to blow in an emergency. Since finding out that Instructor Dojo is her “prince”, things have been awkward between the two, especially after she blurts out that she’s grown out of her prince one day. The test for the next rank of Sergeant is coming up, and Kasahara and Tezuki have to take a written test and a skills test, which involves entertaining a group of kids. Kasahara passes the skills test with flying colors, and barely passes the written (thanks to tutoring from Instructor Dojo), while Tezuki aces the written and manages to hold the attention of the children. Kasahara realizes that despite her best efforts, she may be falling for Instructor Dojo for real. Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars

Library Wars: Love and War, Volume 10 written and illustrated by Kiiro Yumi

In this volume, the enemy of the Library Task Force (the Media Betterment Committee) is censoring a piece of artwork in the Museum of Modern Art in the hometown of Kasahara, and she is chosen along with Dojo and the others to represent the Task Force in the town. They are going to protect the freedom of speech of the artist. The only problem with this is that Kasahara’s parents do not like the idea of her being in the Task Force to begin with, as they say it is unladylike. Once there, Kasahara is tormented by the female librarians, who do not like that she is there with the Task Force. She manages to work her way through it and holds her own, which Dojo praises. The bonus manga was very fascinating, and makes me wonder if Dojo really likes Kasahara as well. Can’t wait till the next volume comes out! Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

Adult

Madam: A Novel of New Orleans by Cari Lynn and Kelli Martin

At the King’s Table: Royal Dining Through the Ages by Susanne Groome

As I am fascinated by British Royalty and food history, this seemed like a very appropriate topic for me to read. It gives a history of royal dining from the time of Richard II in the mid 14th century to the present day. As far as styles of cooking goes, there was a lot of French influence on the British court, depending on whether or not they were at war with the French at that time or not. The earlier courts pretty much up until King George II had prodigious appetites, then there was a lull during the reign of Mad King George III due to his illness and his wife’s pickiness. The banqueting picked up again during George IV’s reign as he was a prodigious eater, followed by a lull during the Victorian era due to Victoria and Albert’s strict upbringing of their children, and renewed again by their son Edward VI. He was a lover of all things French and it was during the Edwardian era that the French style of cooking really came into prominence in Great Britain. Once you get into modern times, the World Wars effectively put an end to the multiple-course menus. I loved all the illustrations in the book, which really set the stage for the history. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire #3 by George R.R. Martin

I thought the last book was crazy, but this one was even more so. I ended up giving this book 4 1/2 instead of 5 stars because it really dragged in the beginning and middle. I guess that’s because he was building up so much storyline to really sock it to you at the end, and boy did he. I mean how ballsy is the author to kill off 3 ½ major characters (the half part is explained in the epilogue) and at least two secondary characters all in the second half of the story!

This book picks up about where the other book left off. First, we visit the Starks and family, which leads into the rest of the major characters. Catelyn Stark has gotten this crazy idea in her head that if she releases Jaime Lannister to the care of Brienne of Tarth (her sworn protector after Renly Baratheon was killed in the previous book), and delivers him to King’s Landing that Cersei will give her back Sansa and Arya. So she does and that causes a mighty uproar with her son Robb, the King in the North, as he was a valuable bargaining chip. We actually get to see Jaime as a real person and not just as the “Kingslayer”. Jon Snow has joined the wildings, under orders from a Night Watch superior, to see what they are planning for the Black Brothers. He definitely gets a little life experience under his belt after he claims Ygritte for his own. I found the character of Mance Rayder to be particularly interesting as there were only hints of his character before. John really came into his own in this book and grew up a bit.

Arya is still on the run and falls into the hands of Lord Beric Dondarrion, the lightning lord, who runs with group of commoners. He is another follower of the Lord of Light. She spends some time with the Hound, who has been on the run ever since Stannis Baratheon was defeated at the Battle for King’s Landing. She also manages to tick a few names off her death wish list, some through her actions and some through others. Bran, Hodor and the Reed heirs (retainers of his father) have escaped from Winterfell and are heading North. King Joffrey breaks his marriage plans to Sansa and is engaged to be married to Margery Tyrell, the former wife of Renly Baratheon. Sansa spends most of the book being bullied by Joffrey and his thugs. After the Battle for King’s Landing, and despite his great role in protecting the city, Tyrion is essentially discarded and his father Tywin takes over the role of Hand to the King. Daenerys is becoming totally bad-ass after conquering a few eastern cities and getting a warrior-eunuch army to follow her. The dragons are growing up.

Davos Seaworth gets rescued and brought back to “King” Stannis who first throws him in prison and then names him Hand of the King. The Others, the undead horde that keep following the Night’s Watch, attack the small army set up by Lord Commander Mormont. Samwell Tarly kills one of the Others with an obsidian blade given to him by Jon. Afterwards, they are staying at Craster’s (a wildling who sometimes gives aid to the Black Brothers) house, when some of the remaining Brothers rebel, and kill Mormont. Samwell manages to escape with the help of Gilly, who has just given birth. He must bring them back to Castle Black to safety.  To find out more about the story, read this excellent third book in A Song of Ice and Fire series. 4 1/2 stars.

Murder as a Fine Art written by David Morrell

I picked this book on a recommendation from one of my favorite historical fiction/mystery YA authors, Y.S. Lee. She had read the book and gave it positive reviews for accuracy and I love this type of book so decided to give it a try. I had no idea that the author originally became famous for writing First Blood, the book that first introduced Rambo to the world. Morrell was very thorough in researching for this book, and shares his sources in the back. Although I had never read anything about Thomas de Quincey, I had heard of his famous book. I am definitely interested after reading this book.

A man brutally murders a young family and their servant in the East End of London and the city’s newly created Scotland Yard is on the case. Inspector Ryan and his associate Constable Becker are assigned to the case and begin to explore what might have happened. Eventually they decide to involve the author Thomas de Quincey in the investigation. He is the author of the infamous book The Confessions of an English Opium Eater, the world’s first real book about drug addiction, a very taboo subject during the Victorian era. Thomas de Quincy believes the murders are from a copycat killer of an earlier set of murders done in the same area of Ratcliffe Highway. They are meant to cause panic and riots so that the police won’t be able to catch who is responsible. De Quincey and his daughter Emily help Ryan and Becker, but De Quincey is himself implicated in the murders due to his continued laudanum use and the fact that he knows so much about the earlier killings. Will Ryan and Becker be able to stop the murderer before he strikes again? Will they be able to solve the case and free de Quincey? To find out, read this incredible Victorian thriller. 5 stars.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman

How can you not love a man who is both detailed in research and precise in cooking directions? I’ve been a fan of Mark Bittman for awhile, and after reading his VB6 book and liking the idea but wanting more vegetarian options, I got this book. This book is a behemoth at about 900 pages, but like I said before, Bittman is very thorough in his description of every kind of vegetable and fruit imaginable, plus whole grains, different kinds of breads and a small dessert section. I figure I found at least 20 new ways to prepare things, but with recipes that won’t overwhelm me. Some of the recipes I’d like to try include Raw Beet Salad, Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Peppers, Goat Cheese  and Mushroom Tart with Potato Crust, Smashed Edamame and Potatoes with Miso, and Plum Rosemary Upside-Down Cake. 5 stars.

The Mark of the Dragonfly

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

The Mark of the Dragonfly

I got this book as an advanced reader’s copy from Netgalley, and the summary sounded interesting so I decided to get it a go. The beginning was a little slow, but I quickly found myself invested in the characters and reacting along with them as the story progressed. I especially liked the addition of the feisty green-eyed boy with many talents. This sci-fi book had elements of dystopia and steampunk in it as well.

 The main character Piper is an orphaned junk scrapper on the planet of Solara, in the MerrowKingdom, who makes her living fixing machines that have fallen to the ground from the sky from other planets. Her friend Micah is caught out during the meteor shower and she goes to rescue him. He is unconscious but survives and she also find an unconscious girl who was part of a caravan whose remaining passengers have died. She takes the girl back to her house but she has amnesia and can only remember her name, Anna. Piper discovers a dragonfly tattoo on the girl’s arm. A man comes looking for Anna but Piper doesn’t want to give him to her, as his intentions seem a little sketchy. She runs to the 401, a supply train heading to the neighboring DragonflyKingdom and when they see Anna’s tattoo, they let the both of them on the train heading for the capital city. Will Anna and Piper be able to really escape from the mysterious man who seems determined to keep Anna for himself? Will Anna be able to regain her memory and find her family? To find out, read this exciting adventure. I loved this book and would love to see more books with these characters. Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

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

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