Monday, January 31, 2011

Meditations on the Tarot (Chapters 1 - 7), Anonymous, 170 pages

This book comes highly recommeded by many members of the Catholic community, especially Trappist abbots. The book was published posthumousl yand anonymously in 1985 per the authour's request, but is obviously written by a Roman Catholic (or one strongly influenced by Catholicism). It is most commonly accepted that the author is Valentin Tomberg (1900 - 1973), whom wikipedia describes as "a Russian Christian mystic, polygot scholar and hermetic magician". The chapters are referred to as "Letters", and each begins with the greeting, "Dear Unknown Friend," followed by a mystical Christian interpretation of the Tarot Tump being discussed, beginning with Key I, The Magician and ending with Key XXI, The World. The first seven "letters", therefore cover Trumps I - VII: The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Heirophant, The Lovers, and The Chariot. Although the author is deeply entrenched in Catholicism -- and uses the letters to clarify and empower elements of traditional Catholic thought -- he or she is definitely not dogmatic nor confined by doctrine, and uses many sources from Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Hermeticism, et al , to explain and set forward ideas to the reader (recipient). The first five chapters deal with mystical expoundings upon the Franciscan / Dominican vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, culminating in the enumeration of the five mystical wounds of Christ: 1. (Right Hand) Taking, at another's expense; 2. (Left Hand) Withholding, to another's detriment; 3. (Right Foot) Advancing, at another's loss; 4. (Left Foot) Not intervening to assist another; & 5. (Punctured Eye & Side) Desiring worldly power and greatness -- The tremendous spiritual importance of overcoming all of these natural tendencies is greatly emphasized. The 6th Letter, concerning The Lovers, is a comparison and contrast of the Serpent of Wisdom and the Serpent of Deception. The 7th Letter, concerning The Chariot, describes the body as the instrument of the Spirit through the reins of the mind, and it draws heavily upon the Bhagavad Gita in support. I will post more next month as I continue to read this book.

Gateway to Atlantis, by Andrew Collins, 362 pp.

This is a survey of the Atlantis legend, published in 2000. It starts with a synopsis of ancient writings concerning the subject, including writers such as Plato, Critias, and Aristotle. Aristotle was a scoffer at the idea of the myth having any foundation in reality, but Plato and Critias both seem to have believed in its validity -- though they certainly could have been just pretending in order to set a literary mood. Collins looks into the records of Phonecian, Carthaginian, and other Mediterranean-based seafaring cultures and compares records of what could well be the Sargasso Sea and islands just beyond, requiring approximately 40 days sail. Collins sites the archaeological evidence of American tobacco and cocaine being present in ancient Egyptian mummie as the most solid evidence for an ancient trans-Atlantic exchange. In Greek texts, some islands past the Atlantic expanse were often referred to as the "Hesperides", sacred to Atlas, whose name shares llinguistic similarities to Atlantis. Collins further goes into comparative linguistics of Central American, European and Western Semitic words and roots, especially those containing the "tl" or "atl" structure, finding many similarities. He also looks into ancient creation myths of Central America and the consequences and sources of their belief in the return of Quetzlcoatl, a fair-skinned, bearded technology bringer and judge-god from the eastern ocean. He even looks into possible tidal wave and flood scenarios, citing proven Carolina Bay asteroid impact physical features of the area. He lets the reader decide what to think from the evidence he's collected, though he is quite vocal in his belief that Cuba is the remains of the political center of an ancient civilization that had contact with the Old World hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years before Columbus.

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore, 304 pages

Welcome to Pine Cove, California, a quaint tourist town is finally quieting down after the tourist season. Well, kind of... That is until a local house wife hangs herself, the local psychologist starts substituting all her patients medication with sugar pills, and the giant shape shifting lizard shows up.

In the Shadow of Gotham, by Stefanie Pintoff, 385 pages

I'm not the biggest fan of mysteries, but I do enjoy a good historical mystery -- preferably set in the Victorian London or turn of the 20th century New York City. I love the n0vels of Caleb Carr and Will Thomas, and I can now add another author to that list: Stefanie Pintoff. This, her first novel, is set in 1905 and features Detective Simon Ziele, who fled New York City after a personal tragedy. He is soon drawn back to the city, however, by a series of grisly murders. He also finds himself teamed with an interesting partner, Columbia University Professor Alistair Sinclair, who studies the criminal mind to determine why people do what they do and attempts to rehabilitate them. The story is well-written and well-researched, with lots of local color and history. It's obvious the writer knows New York. I must admit that I was kept guessing until the very end about who was committing the murders and why. Pintoff is definitely one of my must-read authors now. I've started her second book in the series and look forward to others that she might write.

Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3, by Todd Wilbur, 422 pages

I admit it: I'm a sucker for cookbooks. I'm also a sucker for dining out, though my tastes tend to favor locally owned restaurants instead of the mega-chains. So this book kind of captures both of those interests. It ranges from the exotic (PF Chang's vegetarian lettuce wraps) to the homestyle (Cracker Barrel's Macaroni and Cheese), and there are enough spinach dip recipes in this volume to satisfy die-hard fans of that gooey, yummy concoction. The lengthy introductions to each dish, dessert, or beverage are rather interesting, as the author discusses how he came to replicate the secret recipes. Just a warning: Don't read this book while hungry ...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Treasure of the Golden Cheetah: A Jade del Cameron Mystery by Suzanne Arruda ,384 pages

This is the fifth book in the Jade del Cameron series. Our heroine and adventurer, Jade, helps lead a safari to Mt. Kilimanjaro. She is in charge of four actresses that are part of a Hollywood film crew doing a movie about a reincarnated king and the lost treasure of King Solomon. Jade is accompanied by Biscuit, her cheetah, who is her pet and protector.

There is plenty of action in this book...from murder to supernatural happenings. Like always, the author has written a book where I can see myself following them through the camps and trails. I feel like I am part of the safari team.

I would suggest reading the other four books in this series first. They are also full of mysteries and exciting adventures.

You Suck by Christopher Moore, 328 pages

This continues the "eternal" love story of Thomas C. Flood and his vampire girlfriend Jody. This book is just as funny and offbeat as the first one in the series, Bloodsucking Fiends. I really haven't read a Christopher Moore book yet that I haven't found myself laughing out loud while reading. How many vampires do you think contemplate the significance of their last bowel movement?

The Enemy by Charlie Higson, 440 pages

A plague has hit, with everyone over 16 getting sick and dying or turning in mindless, flesh-eating zombies. Kids are forced to hole up and forage for supplies, while avoiding all adults. In London, groups of kids have gathered in supermarkets and such, while being picked off slowly by hungry grownups. A teen shows up one day, promising safety at Buckingham Palace if they can make it across the city.
This was a good read, though very dark and depressing at times, watching child after child die. I think I have read too many zombie books this month so I need to read something upbeat next, lol.

Blood Suckers: The Vampire Archives Volume 1, 394 pages

This is a collection of vampire short stories by a collection of well-known authors ranging from Bram Stoker to Stephen King. Some of the stories were really odd and some were really good. My favorite was the Stephen King story. I found myself plodding through some of them, but this is still worth reading if you like vampire stories.

Virals by Kathy Reichs, 454 pages

Kathy Reichs is best known for her mystery novels featuring Temperance Brennan and the tv show Bones from her books. She has started a new teen series featuring Tory Brennan. Tory is a fourteen-year-old girl living with the father she just discovered after her mother died in a car accident. Living on a island with a tiny population of scientists, she has made friends with 3 other teens. Her and the 3 boys spend time exploring the local area. When they break a dog/wolf puppy out of a lab, they quickly find themselves smack dab in the middle of a conspiracy needing investigating. Exposed to something that is changing them, these 4 teens must find out what is happening to them and what a decades old murder of a teenage girl has to do with it.
I have read all of Kathy Reichs' books and am a big fan. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this new teen series but it was great. I can't wait to read the next one featuring these teens. This is definitely Maximum Ride meets Bones.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, 442 pages

This futuristic teen adventure focuses primarily on two drastically different but linked characters. One, Finn, a captive in the omniscient prison Incarceron. This prison watches all, thinks, speaks, and even recycles all dead matter within to create new prisoners, half flesh-half metal men and women. There is no escape, hardly anyone inside even believe that any other world exists beyond the vast landscape within. Finn has been told that he was born of this prison and has no memory of his life before he awoke in a dark cell a few short years back. But Finn sees visions during violent fits, among these visions, stars. He is convinced that there is an outside, and he will find it.
The other character, Claudia, is the warden's daughter. Her world is ruled by "Protocol", a power strategy enacted forcing all people to live as if they were back in the 17th century. She is treated almost as a princess, betrothed in fact to a shallow, vapid prince. She is headstrong and rebellious and will do almost anything to not go through with the arranged marriage. Among her schemes, finding a way to breach Incarceron.
There is something strangely and detachedly compelling about the dark mystery and utter weirdness of the novel. It seems at times that you, as the reader, are on the slow, slogging journey of escape with Finn. The end result seems hopeless at the end of the 442nd page, but you've got to try. The characters seemed to lack likability. All in all, I'm glad I read the novel and I will probably read the sequel, Sapphique that was recently released. However, it was a long, slow journey and whether or not the conclusion is satisfying enough to make it worth the while is questionable.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Walking Dead, Vol. 13 by Kirkman, Adlard, & Rathburn, 132 pages

Boo-hoo! This is the last book in this series so far, so I will have to wait a while to find out what happens to the survivors of the zombie plague that has hit the world. I have enjoyed this series so much that I bought the first 8 books in a giant collection myself. Books-A-Million might be glad to not see so much of me though, lol.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 12 by Kirkman, Adlard, & Rathburn, 132 pages

Awesome, awesome, awesome. This series continues to hold my attention, the only sad thing is waiting for the next ones to come out.

The Queen's Rival by Diane Haeger, 406 pages

Elizabeth Blount, known as Bessie to her friends and families, has wanted nothing more than to follow her parents to court. She is elated when she is able to go and serve as a maid of honor to Katherine of Aragon. But her expectations are quickly diminished when the Spanish queen's court is quieter and more devoted to prayer than filled with revelery than Bessie was lead to believe. Bessie though soon finds the excitement she hoped for when the young and dymanic King Henry VIII returns from war. She has set the king on a pedestal, believing that the King and Queen have a courtly love that no one can come between. But the king's wandering eye soon lands on the beautiful and naive Bessie. Will Bessie's maidenly attraction for the king survive reality?

There are many books depicting the lives of King Henry VIII and his many wives, but very few covering the mother of his firstborn son. Diane Haeger's book "The Queen's Rival" brings to life one of the lesser known but no less interesting figures in one of history's most dynamic and intriguing times. As a fan of English history, I have read tons of books surrounding this time period, and Diane Haeger promises to become one of my favorite authors.

This is another review book from NightOwl Reviews that I got to read before it comes out. I love historical fiction and this was a great read that I totally recommend to fans of English history.

The Tudor Secret by C. W. Gortner, 327 pages

The court of King Edward VI abounds with conspiracies, secrets and danger in the summer of 1553 when Brendan Prescott, a foundling raised by the noble Dudley family is set to London to serve Robert Dudley. Before he has even spent a day at court, Brendan is drafted by William Cecil, to help Princess Elizabeth as a spy. The princess has come to London to visit her brother who has not been seen publicly for a while. While royal secrets and intrigue swirl around, Brendan also finds himself in the middle of secrets surrounding his own birth. Brendan must walk a fine line between intrigue and treason if he hopes to survive this tumultous time with his life intact.

C. W. Gortner always does a wonderful job bringing historical characters to life, and "The Tufor Secret" is no less entertaining than his other books. With a segment of history that is filled with real-life spies, intrigue, danger and royal secrets, Gortner has created a book that will delight fans of history for years to come. A new Gortner book is always something I look forward too and "The Tudor Secret" covers one of my favorite times, Elizabeth's life. I can't wait to see who he writes about next.

When this book comes out in February, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

The Princess of Nowhere by Prince Lorenzo Borghese, 308 pages

Pauline, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, is beautiful, young, and nothing more than a bridal pawn for her brother. She is widowed, but hopes to find happiness in marriage to her new husband Prince Camillo Borghese. But Pauline's zest for life proves to be too much for her husband's sensibilities. Disappointment and misunderstanding continue to pull these two farther and farther apart. Yet, can a love between these two ever be truly destroyed?

"The Princess of Nowhere" by Prince Lorenzo Borghese (definite relation) tells the story of Pauline through the eyes of a cousin, Sophie. While many know of Napoleon, his siblings remain lesser known but no less intriguing. I loved this book from the very first page, with the wonderful descriptive settings, characters larger than life, and sweeping passions. For anyone who enjoys historical entertainment, this a must have for their bookshelves.

Seduced by Destiny by Kira Morgan, 330 pages

Josselin Ancrum grew up learning all manners of combat from her adopted fathers, intent on avenging her mother's death at the hands of English soldiers. She becomes one of Mary's, Queen of Scotland, operatives, glad to have a chance to fight against the English. But Josselin feels an attraction for a golfer, Drew MacAdam, that threatens to distract her from her work. Drew may seem to be nothing more than a golfer, intent only on filling his pockets with winnings, but he is actually English, trained by his uncles to fight the dreaded Scottish. His attraction to Josselin quickly grows into something deeper. These two lovers quickly find their future together threatened not only by their different nationalities and loyalties, but also by family secrets. Can an English golfer and a Scottish barmaid ever have a chance for life long love, or will it all come tumbling down around them?

"Seduced by Destiny" by Kira Morgan was one of the first historical romances I read that featured golf's Scottish beginnings, but still was interesting and romantic. While the book was too short on developing these characters into deeper, more belivable personalities, it contained a lot of humor and fun seduction. This is a great book for a fun, lighthearted read for anyone who enjoys historical romances and doesn't have a lot of time.

The above paragraphs were part of my official review for NightOwl Reviews where I try to say how the book was while being nice. Luckily here I can be a little less tactful (which I do best.) This book would have been good when I was 15 but now I don't expect people to instantly fall into bed, have huge differences that threaten their very lives, and throw everything aside to live "happily ever after." I want a little character development with believable romance. If you want nothing more than total mind fluff, you will love this book.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The knot guide for mother of the bride by Carley Roney, 108 pgs

Did I tell you my daughter got engaged while we were on vacation?? Well, she did, so now I've got to figure out what my place in the upcoming nuptials is. This book isn't a heck of a lot of good. This book pre-supposes a much fancier wedding than this shindig is going to be, even though there will be a lot of folks there. Wouldn't recommend this book very much. I'm hoping a couple of the other wedding books I checked out will be more help!

Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow, 400 pages

Can't tell you how many pages -- read it as an ebook. Got it as a free download from Kindle.

I like Christian fiction as a rule. I've not read any with a main character like this one. The main character was an ultra-conservative w home schooled student though high school, now attending law school. As an intern for a city law firm, she is assigned a subject to defend in a misdemeanor case. Her involvement with this person ties her into a decades old disappearance of a young girl.

The book was alright, but I didn't feel like the final "explanation" was adequate. I still had questions and the answers given weren't enough for me. There were times I felt the story was secondary to the "preaching" of the author. I will probably read the other two books in the series, but not because they or the writing was super-compelling.

Giant Ripley's Believe It Or Not by Robert Ripley, 132 pages

I have always loved Ripley's Believe It or Not, heck, I even went to the museum in Branson, MO. So I was very excited to find this old book at an estate sale last week. It's about 1 foot by 2 foot, so it had tons of interesting stories. Unfortunately, due to it's age, by the time by daughters and myself finished reading it, the last 50 pages come off. But considering that I paid a whole 40 cents for the book, it didn't owe me anything. For anyone who has been living in a cave, Robert Ripley traveled the world collecting odd stories and published with little illustrations. The stories only go to show that the truth is stranger than fiction.

Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort; 32 pages

If you ever wondered what really happened to cause the dinosaurs to go extinct, this book will clarify things. Apparently, it had a bit to do with dinosaurs and their love for underpants.

This is an amusing book that kids, especially boys, are going to love.

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French 288 pages

This is an adult non-fiction story about Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. It starts out with elephants flying...Really! The author writes about how some of the animals came to be at the zoo and where they came from. You will get to know the personalities of some of them, like Herman the chimp from West Africa and Enshalla a Sumatran tiger. Herman spent the first five years with a human family and possibly thought he was human, whereas Enshalla always knew she was a tiger.

The book also takes a look at vanishing species and what's happening to their natural habitats. You will also find a description on what it takes to run the zoo, the dedication of the people that work there and the fascinating care of the animals. It's about stories of tragedy and stories of new life.

I learned many new animal facts and and had a lot of "WOW! I didn't know that!" moments. The zoo even has a term for people like me "bunnyhugger."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dizzy Izzy by Jon Scieszka; 24 pages

If you are looking for a fun beginning reader book for boys, this is a series you should look into. Repetition of words and rhymes will make it easy for a beginning reader, fantastic illustrations and humor will pull any reader into the simple stories. Featuring a variety of trucks as the main characters, Scieszka may have a new generation of boys excited to read.

Banana! by Ed Vere; 32 pages

This book may have only one or two words, but it was fantastic! I read it aloud to Indigo, my 5 month old son and though I have read many books to him, this was the first book that made him laugh and laugh. He laughed harder than I have ever heard him laugh before. I read this to him a second time, just because his reaction was so wonderful! He loves books! WOO!

This may be a simple book with bright colors about a couple of monkeys and a single banana, but my son definitely got a kick out of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blog Request

When creating your posts, can you please list your name as one of the tags or labels? That way it will be easier for me to keep track of who has read how much and what. Plus, you don't have to but if you want to add a picture of the book cover that would be great. You should be able to find the book cover at
I hope everyone is having fun so far. We have a wide range of books read by staff people so far and we aren't even 3 weeks in. Keep up the reading!

The Walking Dead, Vol. 11 by Kirkman, Adlard, & Rathburn, 132 pages

I have enjoyed this series so much that I ended up buying the collection that has volumes 1-8 in it. Until they come out with the next big collection, I'm forced to go to Books-A-Million and Hastings and sit and read.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 3 by Kirkman, Adlard, & Rathburn, 132 pages

Yet another great book in a great series. Read them, now, come on!

The Walking Dead, Vol. 2 by Kirkman, Adlard, & Rathburn, 132 pages

Somehow I missed posting about a few volumes of these books so I'm playing catch up. This series has been really great from the very first book. Zombies, survivors fighting to find a safe place while holding onto humanity, plus it's a comic book. How much cooler does it get.

Felicity: an American Girl Story Collection by Valerie Tripp, audiobooks narrated by Carrie Hitchcock, running time 7 hours

The Joplin Public Library Children's Department's American Girl Club featuring Felicity is fast approaching, this Saturday, January 22nd from 11 AM to 12:30 PM. For those of you unfamiliar with American Girl, it is a popular line of Children's fiction books and dolls highlighting ethnically diverse girls living in different historical eras in America. Children Kindergarten to 5th Grade are welcome. We will have games, crafts and food all about our colonial girl - Felicity.
Preparing for this program I have listened to the audiobook collection and read through the hardcover versions of:
Meet Felicity
Felicity Learns a Lesson
Felicity's Surprise
Happy Birthday, Felicity!
Felicity Saves the Day
Changes for Felicity
(each book is around 80 pages)

I really enjoyed these books, they are fun, short reads. Sure to be a hit with American Girl fans of all ages. Felicity is very likable, headstrong, adventurous and moral. There are also great historical and cultural facts about the 1770s scattered throughout and even whole sections dedicated to learning at the end of each book.

For more American Girl stories, please check out our display table currently up in the Children's Department featuring the series. We hope to see you on Saturday!

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, 228 Pages (Playaway: Narrated by Johnny Heller, running time 5.75 hrs)

Moose Flanagan, a twelve year old from San Francisco's life is about to dramatically change. His father has accepted a job as electrician and guard at America's most infamous prison - Alcatraz. The year is 1935 and inmate Al Capone is the most notorious gangster in the world, everyone loves to hate him, everyone is fascinated by him, including Moose and the handful of other children who live on Alcatraz island because of their father's jobs.
If this detail does not make Moose different enough, he also must spend a great deal of time caring for his older sister Natalie who suffers from a severe form of what we would now call autism. This syndrome being undiagnosed in this time period, Moose and Natalie's parents struggle to find the right place in the world for Natalie so that she may have a more productive and well-rounded life.
This novel, one part a coming-of-age story of sorts, one part a deeply detailed history lesson of this American landmark, may lose some picky younger readers. However, it is a story of great heart and the playaway (MP3 version) is voiced perfectly by Johnny Heller with just enough grumpiness and angst for the 12 year old protagonist. I truly enjoyed getting to know Moose, his family, his friends, and in some ways, the inmates of 1935 Alcatraz.

The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness (519 pages)

This is book 2 of the Chaos Walking Trilogy. The Knife of Never Letting Go is book 1.

Haven has become New Prentisstown, Mayor Prentiss is now President Prentiss and things are bleak. Todd and Viola have been separated and each is being manipulated by a powerful adult--Todd by Mayor Prentiss and Viola by Mistress Coyle. Mistress Coyle is the leader of The Answer, a guerrilla military force set on defeating President Prentiss. At all cost...

With just as much heartache and action as The Knife of Never Letting Go, I recommend it highly, but with this caveat: its subject matter and the expertise of Ness's storytelling makes it an intensely felt book. So much so, that I will probably have to give myself some time before finishing the series.

I listened to both books and think they are some of the finest audiobooks out there. The Knife of Never Letting Go even got a nod from the ALA for its excellence.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis (199 pages)

Intelligent, but socially detached Emma-Jean Lazarus is truly a memorable character. Her fellow seventh grade classmates think she is strange--she spends a lot of time observing, but not much time interacting--but that is okay, because she does not get them either. She does not understand why they are so mean to one another, why they cry or act irrational a lot of the time and it is this reason that she keeps herself apart, simply observing them.

Until one, fateful day, when she finds Colleen Pomerantz sobbing in the girls' restroom. Their conversation is just the push that Emma-Jean needs to become involved in her classmates affairs and soon she's not only helping solving Colleen's dilemma, but those of her other classmates, teachers and family members.

At first glance the plot of Lauren Tarshis's first novel seems simple, but there is a lot going on in this tale centered around the importance of making connections with others. Secondary characters, combine with rational Emma-Jean and sensitive Colleen, to provide depth and make a (mostly) realistic, enjoyable read. While the majority of readers may not be drawn to the book's cover--it's pink with a bluebird sitting on a small tree branch--once they crack it open they won't stop until they find out what comes of Emma-Jean's schemes.

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore, 290 pages

My daughter has raved about this vampire book for ages, until my husband finally picked it up. He laughed out loud, stayed up too late reading it, and immediately started book two when he finished this. With that kind of rave, how could I not pick it up. I have always enjoyed Moore's odd sense of humor, and this was just as good as his others.
Jody never gave any thought to being a vampire because she never thought they existed. That is, until she is attacked one night and wakes up under a dumpster with a burnt hand, super human strength and a thirst for blood. Jody must figure out how to spend eternity. Tommy moved to San Francisco from Indiana determined to be the next great writer. Jody and Tommy quickly come together, but forces are determined to pull them apart. Throw in an Emperor of San Francisco and his loyal subjects, turkey bowling Animals, a bored vampire, and cops intent on solving murders, and you have one of the funniest vampire books of all time.

Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin Anderson and Sam Stall, 253 pages

Jim Pike had been a huge Star Trek fan, that was until he had completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Now all he cares about is making it through each day, being responsible for no one else. But the Houston hotel that he is assistant manager at is the site for a huge Star Trek conference. Just hours into the conference, Jim notices people acting odd, even for Trekkies. A virus has turned people into flesh-eating zombies. Now Jim must lead his ragtag band of survivors to safety, utilizing all that Star Trek has taught them. Can they survive this no-win scenario?
This was a really fun read. I'm a fan of zombies and Star Trek, but I wasn't sure how this would combine. It was well-done, hilarious without being too campy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (278 pages)

Lia's best friend, Cassie, has just died from a disorder that they both suffer from: Anorexia. Lia is haunted by Cassie's memory, and the desire to lose more and more weight.

I couldn't put this book down. My heart was hurting for Lia, for her family, and especially for her 9 year old stepsister who loves Lia more than anything. Laurie Halse Anderson has written a fantastic novel about a difficult subject, much like she did with Speak.

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (249 pages)

I had been waiting to read this book for almost a month and, let me tell you, it was worth the wait. I first saw it at Judy Freeman's What to Read Next workshop, but had to wait for JPL's copy to arrive. I started it yesterday at lunch and finished it last night. It's rare that I finish a book in one day, so that should give you some indication of how much I liked it.

Debut author, Adam Gidwitz, combines original Grimm's fairy tales with twin, main characters, Hansel and Gretel, to take reader's on a bloody and terrifying, yet magical adventure.

But consider yourself warned, this book is not for the faint of heart or young children--as Gidwitz stresses throughout the book by periodically stopping the narrative to offer his two cents. For example, in the introduction, he states, "Before I go on, a word of warning: Grimm's stories--the ones that weren't changed for little kids--are violent and bloody. And what you're going to hear now, the one true tale in the The Tales of Grimm, is as violent and bloody as you can imagine. Really. So if such things bother you, we should probably stop right now." Gidwitz spares no bloody, gory detail, which may give parents pause, but most children (recommended age range is fourth grade and above) will not be able to put this one down.

When I first started reading it, my mouth was probably hanging open, especially since Hansel and Gretel are beheaded (and thankfully, reheaded--is that a word?) in the first chapter, but honestly, it only makes sense. Grimm's fairy tales are ghastly affairs that center around greed, envy, jealousy, lust, cowardice, and most importantly in this tale, bad parenting. Children will be entranced by Gidwitz's use of Grimm's stories to weave a new one about Hansel and Gretel.

I had to include the cover in this post. Can it get any better than evil, glowing-eyed parents; a blood stained sword; a dragon; and three fierce-looking ravens? I think not. Another positive about this book, it will make readers seek out and read the original Grimm stories. Or at least it did me. The entire time I was reading this book, I keep thinking, I cannot wait to read the original tales and find others that Gidwitz did not included in the book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman

I started reading this book when Megan suggested it to me after I read the The Book Of Elsewhere. The Graveyard Book is written by Neil Gaiman. This was the first book I have read by this author. This book is about a boy who spends his life in a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered by a "a man named Jack." The boy escapes to a near by graveyard where the people buried there (dating from way back) decide to take him in and raise him as one of their own in the graveyard. The book continues with the boy, now with the name Nobody "Bod" Owens telling about his adventures, encounters and lfe growing up in a graveyard. I really enjoyed this book. After the murder of the boys family in the beginning of the book the story seems to move a little slow, but in spite of that I was really interested in how this boy was going to live his life in a graveyard and what challenges he would face. Also, the events that occur later in his life really help move the story along.

Bear Stories for Storytime (288 pages)

This week's storytime is about BEARS. In addition to going on a bear hunt, we'll be sharing bear stories and sing bear inspired tunes. In preparation for the storytime I'm leading on Saturday morning, I read the following (which I'm combining under one heading because it's easier):

  • What About Bear? by Suzanne Bloom--Fox wants to play with Bear and Goose, but someone ends up getting left out. Goose remedies the problem and soon all three animals are having fun.
  • Bear in the Air by Susan Meyers-this cumulative tale takes Bear on an adventure at the seashore, but thankfully, has him ending up where he started.
  • Thank You, Bear by Greg Foley--Bear has a present for Mouse, but as he shows it off to his other friends he begins to have doubts about whether Mouse will like it.
  • Bossy Bear by David Horvath--the title says it all. Bear is bossy and after driving almost everyone away, he starts to reevaluate his behavior.
  • Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson--in this addition to the popular series, Bear does not make it back to the cave before night and his friends come to his rescue.
  • Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows--it's time to hibernate and the forest animals meet at the train station to prepare for a long winter's nap.
  • Bear of My Heart by Joanne Ryder--Mama Bear promises Baby Bear that she'll always be there for him.
  • Bear on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau--at first it seems perfect--four bears, four chairs, no problem. But when Big Brown Bear enters the story, the five friends have to work together to find a solution to their chair-shortage dilemma.
  • Don't Worry, Bear by Greg Foley--Caterpillar is making a cocoon and Bear is worried about his friend, especially after he finds the cocoon abandoned on the ground.

Please note, I estimated the page numbers, as most were unpaged. On average, storybooks have 32 pages, so I multiplied that by nine books for a total of 288 pages.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (275 pages)

Julia Whelan narrates this story of seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker. Band geek Lennie has recently lost her nineteen-year-old sister Bailey and is struggling to control her grief. And to make things more complicated, she has taken a newfound interest in boys. Two boys in particular, her sister's boyfriend Toby, and Joe, a new boy in town. Toby is able to comfort her because he understands what she is going through in her grieving process, but being with Joe allows her to forget her sorrow.
The first part of the story is a bit slow, as readers gather the background information about Lennie's life, but the second half of the story does not disappoint, so stick with it.

The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie.

..A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us
by Tanya Lee Stone
109 pages.

I have long had a love/hate relationship with Barbie. I dressed her up, I cut her hair, I changed her makeup (fingernail polish remover can give you a blank slate with which to apply all manner of makeup to Barbie), but I also burned her at the stake, covered her in fake blood, amputated her limbs, and made her go naked for years on end. I've also been one of those feminists that proclaimed that if Barbie were a real girl, she'd be too thin to menstruate while secretly loving her anyway. I kept Barbies on display until my mid-twenties and this book made me want to get them out again and brush their hair lovingly. This book chronicles all stages of loving your Barbie, including the burning-her-hair stages. It's not terribly well-written, but it was a fun Sunday read and trip down Barbie memory lane.

Ooh, wouldn't it be fun to dress a Barbie up like Lady GaGa? OMG, I totally AM getting those Barbies out!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
384 pages.

A feel-good apocalypse story. Very British in that understated matter-of-fact outlandish humor kind of way. Sort of like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", but not. An antichrist that just doesn't FEEL like destroying the world right now. This is my second time reading it, and though it confused me at every turn and took me over a month to finish, I kind of love it.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; 304 pages

Melody Brooks is the smartest kid in her school, but no one knows it. She has words that float around in her head like beautiful snowflakes, a photographic memory, and no delete button. She is ten years old, almost eleven, has never taken a step, and has never spoken a single word. Melody Brooks has cerebral palsy.

This is a beautifully written book that will wrap you up in a blanket of words and show you a new perspective on life. Sharon Draper has done an amazing job developing characters that will melt your heart, make you want to stand up and fight for them, then wrap them in your arms and cry with them. I felt the frustration that Melody felt when her mind was her cage; when no one knew her limitless mental capabilities.

Whether you are a person who has dealt with physical or mental disabilities, have someone in your life who has, or you are blessed with able body and mind, this book will change your view on life.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (217 pages)

At least once a day someone asks me, "Where are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?" The books are rarely checked in, but when I saw the first one on the shelf I had to check it out and see what all the hype is about.

After his mom decides that he needs to keep a diary (although he adamantly refuses to call it a diary!), Greg Heffley records in it, through words and clever cartoon drawings, his daily life, everything from trying out for the school play (another thing his mom made him do) to writing a comic strip for his school newspaper.

While I didn't much care for Greg as a character, there were quite a few parts of the book that literally made me laugh out loud. If you're looking for a quick, hilarious read, I'd recommend this one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (187 pages)

It's 1935 and money and jobs are scarce, so after eleven-year-old Turtle's mother takes a housekeeping job for a lady who does not like kids, she is sent from New Jersey to Key West to stay with her aunt Minnie. It's Turtle's first trip to Florida, and while she has never met her aunt, nor her three cousins, Beans, Kermit and Buddy, she's smart, tough and determined to make the best of a hard situation. She quickly settles in and eventually finds herself opening up to her relatives and new found friends.

Many of Jennifer L. Holm's stories are inspired by her family and Turtle in Paradise is no exception. It is based on her great-grandmother who emigrated from the Bahamas to Key West in 1897.

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

I was first exposed to this beautiful beginning reader by the fact that it won the 2011 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award earlier this month.

The bright whimsical cover grabs your attention right away. Here we are introduced to the two main characters: short, spunky, blond spazzy-haired Bink and tall, lanky, brunette, understated Gollie. These may not be the most conventional of friends but this truth is the adhesive of their raucous and adventuresome friendship. We travel with the two friends through three short but memorable adventures. I was captivated on every page by the beautiful black and white illustrations, splashed strategically with the garish colors that Bink so adores.

This fast read will be great for beginning readers who, even if they may not be able to pronounce every word in the brainy Gollie's complex dialog, will no doubt relate to one or the other, or both of the characters. But the true joy may be for the parents in this great read. The fact that these girls are personas of the actual writers, Bink representing Kate DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Desperaux) and Gollie, Alison McGhee (Bye-Bye Crib, Countdown to Kindergarten) and their mismatched but strong friendship make this read all the more lovable and memorable.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Library Wars v. 1 written and illustrated by Kiiro Yumi (190 pgs)

I received this shojo (romantic) manga from a Secret Santa in PA and was so excited to read it!! (JPL doesn't own it... yet)

Set in the near future, Japan's national government created the Media Betterment Committee to clean up (ahem censor) media. Libraries, run by local governments, are the only organization with the power to fight this censorship. The libraries' power comes from their librarians and from the Library Defense Force, a specially trained military group.

Iku Kasahara signed up for the Library Defense Force (the first woman to do so) after one of its members protected her favorite book from the Media Betterment Committee. This anonymous Defense Force member has become the man of her dreams and she aspires to be just like him. Unfortunately, her training is a little more difficult than she imagined. Her struggles aren't helped much by Sergeant Atsushi Dojo, the handsome but difficult drill instructor.

I'm sure we can all see where this is going!

Probably my favorite part of this book is the last sentence of the first page: "When libraries are imperiled, librarians will join together to secure their freedom."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan; illustrated by Peter Sis (372 pages)

This book just won the Pura Belpre Award on Monday, January 10th. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the award, it was established in 1996, and is “presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” There are two awards given—one for outstanding author and one for outstanding illustrator—and while The Dreamer does have illustrations, it won the author award.

The Dreamer is a fictionalized account of Nobel prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda’s childhood. Pam Munoz Ryan combines factual details from Neruda’s past with storytelling elements, and Peter Sis’s illustrations, to create a magical story.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny! by Jan Thomas (40 pages)

AH! Megan beat me to writing about this one! =D

Our favorite dust bunnies are back in this colorful sequel to Rhyming Dust Bunnies. Fred, Ned, Ted, and Bob rhyme all the time! (Okay, so Bob has a little trouble sometimes...) This time, however, there’s a new dust bunny in town... and boy, is he scary!

When I saw this book on the new shelf I couldn’t wait to read it and I wasn’t disappointed. If you enjoy Jan Thomas’ other books (and how could you not?!) then you’ll love this one, too.

Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems (57 pages)

"Today I will fly!" says Piggie. When Gerald the elephant tells her she will not ever fly, she retorts, "I will try. Goodbye." Piggie tries numerous things that she thinks will help her fly, and in the end Gerald has decided that he wants to fly too.

The simple illustrations and easy to read text makes this series great for beginning readers, but adults will thoroughly enjoy them as well.

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit by Catherine Rayner (22 pages)

Ernest is a very big moose. In fact, he is so big that he can't even fit on the pages of this book. Ernest is very upset about this fact, but lucky for him, his little chipmunk friend has the perfect idea to help him out.

Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny! by Jan Thomas; 40 pages

The rhyming dust bunnies are back in this colorful new storybook by Jan Thomas. There is a new bunny in town, a rhyming dust "bully".

Jan Thomas is clever, as always, infusing her bright books with humor and a smidgen of education. This was a fun read, but I didn't think it was quite as good as the original.

Days Mis51ng by Phil Hester et al (159 pages)

  • The Steward exists outside space and time and has the ability to fold any 24 hour period so that it never existed. He uses this power to be the protector of humanity. He intervenes when we're about to destroy ourselves and he protects fragile ideas that have the power to better society.

"Days Mis51ng" is a full color graphic novel that collects various stories (written and illustrated by different people) centering around instances when the Steward intervened on our behalf. These instances aren't told chronologically and range from saving us from plague to saving Mary Shelly's unborn child. While the art varies from story to story, each artist's work is vivid and engaging. Overall, this collection was highly entertaining.

Oh yeah! The cover logo is actually code! Here it is if you want to try to crack it:
2 8 5 1 2 1 2 D A Y S 1 4 5 2 2 5 1 8 2 5
3 1 1 2 1 5 1 4 M I S 5 1 N G 7 1 9 1 5 6

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade (278 pages)

Modo, a disfigured boy with a hump on his back, is a changeling. That is, he can make his face and body look like any other person just by willing it to happen. Modo has been locked away from the world since he was discovered in a traveling freak show, but is extensively trained and educated to become a secret agent that will fight the forces of evil found in the Clockwork Guild.

This book details Modo's life growing up and his first assignment as an agent in a steam punk, Victorian setting. While entertaining, this is definitely a building book--it's building towards a sequel. I am hopeful that the next book in this series will pick up where this one left off and contain all the action-packed secret agent stuff I was expecting from this one.