Wednesday, November 30, 2011
This is a Sweet Valley High book that covers books #20-#30 via Elizabeth's diary entries. I don't feel like I gained anything new since it covers the exact same stuff as when I read the original books, but it is my goal to read all the books. I've only got about 40 to go before I finish.
Set in Savannah, this is almost like two books in one. First, a collection of stories about some very eccentric Southern characters, second, a murder trial featuring a wealthy antiques dealer and his young, handsome handy man. This was a book that I wouldn't have picked up on my own, but ended up reading it for book club. I'm glad I did because I enjoyed it as a fun, fluffy read that didn't really expect anything of me. I always like books about odd people, and this fit the bill.
Murdered vampires, each having been branded, keep turning up. Madison must help the Vampire Council figure out who's behind this, or else someone she cares about could turn up staked next. This author also writes the Odelia Gray plus-size mysteries that I'm a fan of, and this vampire books are enjoyable also.
William Shatner has become a larger than life character, almost better known for his Priceline commercials than as the guy who played Captain Kirk. This book was a funny look at how even he sees it as a personae, and has fun with it. A great, light-hearted read that had me laughing.
Excellent series, I think it will be very appealing to kids once they realize it is there. Rick Riordan has a gift with teaching through fantastic stories. I have learned so much about Egyptian mythology through this series, and I'm already excited for the next book.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
So I've been a vegetarian for 19 years. I consider myself pretty strict -- no meat, fish or seafood; no broth derived from meats or seafood; no byproducts such as gelatin or fish sauce. However, I am not a vegan. I do consume honey, eggs, and dairy products. I've gone vegan for a few weeks at a time, but dang it, I love cheese soooo much. Soy cheese is just not a good substitute. That being said, even as an ovo-lacto vegetarian (meaning I consume eggs and dairy), many of my meals end up being vegan, accidentally. And I'm always looking for new recipes, since I try to cook one new dish a week. "Vegan Diner" features somewhat familiar, hearty dishes for people looking to go meatless. I'm always particularly excited about veggie "burger" recipes, as I'm constantly pursuing a good homemade alternative to the processed, frozen kind that you can get at the grocery store. I thought I'd found it in the Brown Rice Hazelnut Burgers in this book, but it was a lot of work and I found the results kind of bland. I might modify the recipe a bit, substitute oats for the rice, throwing in some nutritional yeast for flavor and -- gasp -- maybe adding an egg or cheese to bind it all together. Who knows. That's what I love about cooking. I tend to follow a recipe closely the first time, then put my own spin on it for future use.
Although I'm a fan of cooking shows, I'd not heard of the author, who hosts a Food Network show bearing the same name as this cookbook. The book delivers on its title. Although the hearty recipes are far from pedestrian, they feature basic ingredients and not too many steps. I love Mexican (and Tex Mex) food but tend not to get too adventurous when preparing it myself. This book is simple but creative enough that it is inspiring me to expand my menu options a bit. And as a vegetarian, I often don't find much in Mexican cookbooks to suit my dietary restrictions. Not so, this book, which features plenty of salads and side dishes. I'm particularly interested in what looks to be a yummy yukon potato, poblano and corn gratin ...
Much to my displeasure, JPL doesn't usually buy short story collections, but I'm grateful that the collection development librarian purchased "The Outlaw Album." And really, she needed to, because Daniel Woodrell doesn't live that far from this area. (I'm hoping one day we can coax him here for an appearance; I first suggested him a while ago when our director sought authors for the Bramlage Author Series.) I love Woodrell's writing. I slow down when I'm reading his work so that I can savor his language, pacing and characters. Although I must admit that I'm a latecomer to his fiction, having read his novel "Winter's Bone" only after seeing the acclaimed movie. "Winter's Bone," the book, stole my breath. It was one of the most beautifully written novels I'd read in a very long time, a marked contrast to the harsh subject matter. His style has been dubbed "country noir." This collection of short stories is no different. The stories are dark and gritty, yet the language is careful, poetic, meaningful. There's always a lot going on beneath the surface. And some of what's going on is downright chilling. In the opening story, a husband seeks revenge after his wife's dog is killed. The second, entitled "Uncle," features a girl acting as caretaker for an injured rapist, until she can't take it anymore. Underneath the darkness of these stories, though, there is love and loyalty and a profound appreciation for the land one comes from, where one lives. And that land for Woodrell is the Missouri Ozarks.
“Stitches,” by David Small, is not a new book; but it is new to me.
Not only was this book new to me, I had not read this genre before. “Stitches” is a graphic novel published in 2009.
According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a graphic novel is “a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.” There is debate over how this may or may not differ from comic books, what exactly is a graphic novel, when graphic novels began and myriad other points, but I won’t go into that now.
At any rate, I had not yet read a graphic novel, but a professional journal I read recommended this book. “Stitches” is a 329-page book with its story told through the medium of black and white illustrations. Author Davis Small is an award-winning children’s book illustrator who won the Caldecott Award in 2001 for illustrating Judith St. George’s book “So You Want to be President?”
“Stitches” is autobiographical and spins Small’s coming-of-age story. I generally have a aversion for coming-of-age tales, but I made an exception for this book. Because of my distaste, it took me almost a full checkout period plus renewal, before I ever got around to picking it up to read.
One phrase on the book jacket sums up exactly what this book is: “A silent movie masquerading as a book.” It was surprising to me how deeply this book was able to make me feel.
Words are minimally used, yet the pictures take us into the author’s imagination and into the stark reality of his life. Every person in Small’s family hid. His mother hid behind “a cone of silence” and anger; his father hid behind his work and his punching bag in the basement; his brother hid by banging on drums; David hid in his art and in sickness.
A sickly baby and child, David received heavy doses of radiation for respiratory problems when he was young. Later, when he was 14, he entered the hospital for a supposedly minor surgery.
He awoke from that surgery functionally mute, with a bloody scar reaching across his neck -- “slashed and laced back up like a bloody boot.”
The cone of silence that reigned in his house also kept his diagnosis of cancer and his parents’ expectation he was going to die away from him. He discovered that information on his own. Even after his discovery, his parents refused to talk to him about his experience. For Small, as always, art was his solace.
At 16, he left home to live on his own. There is a rest-of-the-story, but I will not divulge.
The pictures are the story. There is so much detail, it takes going back and looking at pieces and parts of the drawings again and again. Each time I revisit the book and the drawings, I gain insight and nuances into his story and see more symbolism in his pictures.
“Stitches” is a quick read -- at least until you go back to search out what you missed the first time through. It is worth the time it takes.
Now that I’ve had my first foray into graphic novels, I think my next read in this genre will be “Maus” by Art Spiegelman. “Maus” is a biography of the author’s father, who was a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.
It is the only graphic novel ever to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Perhaps there is more to graphic novels than I’d given them credit.
It's a cat story; what more can I say?? Oscar is a nursing home cat with an uncanny ability to predict someone's death. He keeps vigil over dying patients and families. Dr. Dosa sets out to try to understand what is happening with Oscar. Oscar's story, along with facts about Alzheimer's Disease is told through vignettes of people in Dr. Dosa's practice at a nursing home.
A historical novel I found out half-way through the book that is based on actual facts. This is part of a trilogy. I have parts two and three on hold through Overdrive. It was an interesting enough story I went online to research more the actual happenings and characters. According to the local history museum in the area the story took place, Kirkpatrick's novels are spot-on as to accuracy.
This is the story of the founding of the children's home we went to visit in India. The author is now deceased, but while we were there, the co-founder, then 92 years old was still alive and a pleasure to meet. She has died since our visit. It was fun to read about the history of where we had just been.
Written by the doctor that delivered two of our three kids, this is a memoir of his trip to India -- visiting the same people we went to visit this Fall. It was interesting to read his "take" on the same people and places.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
by Suzanne Collins, 400 pages.
SPOILER ALERT? I am not about to give away actual detail, but a little bit of mood, so don't read on if you plan to read this series, which you totally should.
Finished the trilogy. It is bittersweet because the resolution wasn't lengthy enough, but that's my problem with a lot of books. I want descriptive happily-ever-after!!! I want to revel in the good at the end of trying, nightmare-inducing books with twisty-badness at every turn!! Which brings me to: I was very terrified of this series. I really got sucked in and it felt very realistic to me. I read Chuck Palahniuk and my next read will be the third in the Monstrumologist series, but THIS series is the one that genuinely gave me nightmares. I might be off dystopias for awhile.
Anyway, I'm excited about the upcoming movies (don't get me started about Lenny-freaking-Kravitz as Cinna because I was imagining him as Austin from Project Runway, but Woody Harrelson as Haymitch makes total sense, so that kind of makes up for it.) and this series was very effective. I may not be normal again for awhile, I fear.
Confessions of a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered Smart-ass, or why you should never carry a Prada bag to the unemployment office, by Jen Lancaster, 398 pgs.
This is a memoir of a spoiled and mean-spirited executive girl who loses her job and how she has to adjust to life away from her penthouse suite and Saks Fifth Avenue shopping sprees. She never stepped foot in a soup kitchen or had to take charity to keep her utilities on. Her big shame was in not feeling worthy enough to invite her friends over because she couldn't afford the season's newest furniture or fancy bottles of booze and had to *gasp* drink box wine. She has a loving supporting boyfriend-turn-husband, and a family with money which cares about her.
I could not relate much to the story, but I do enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time; and this book set me up for the two other memoirs I'm now reading, so score!
Two magicians use The Night Circus as a playing field in a game that soon has them working together to create a magical place. But their competition can't be set aside, even for love.
This was a darkly evocative book, rich with imagery and character development. I found it really hard to believe that it was the author's first book. Outstanding!
Jessica Wakefield and her best friend, Lila Fowler, are at war! The battlefield is the white sandy beach of Club Paradise, a fabulous island resort owned by Lila's uncle. Jessica's dreams of lounging by the pool and dancing the night away are shattered when she learns that Lila's uncle has less relaxing plans for them; Jessica and Lila aren't guests, they're hired hand! Jessica's going to make Lila pay for this, and she's determined that the price will be Lila's new Club Paradise boyfriend. Back home in Sweet Valley, Jessica's twin sister, Elizabeth, makes a shocking discovery. While researching her family history, she unearths a secret about her mother's past that could change the future of the Wakefield family.
Elizabeth Wakefield and Todd Wilkins are living together! Their parents are away, so Todd has set up house at the Wakefields'. He wants to create the perfect love nest, but Elizabeth has more important things on her mind. Not only has Elizabeth discovered that her mother was once married to Mr. Patman, Bruce's father, but now they're having an affair! Horrified by their parents' behavior, Elizabeth and Bruce decide to investigate. What could down-to-earth Alice Wakefield and flashy Hank Patman possibly see in each other? Through their sleuthing, Bruce and Elizabeth begin to understand their parents' attraction-because they too are feeling an attraction-to each other.
A fun graphic novel that I brought home for Samantha, and Renee and I both ended up reading it. Written and illustrated by the same guy who does Earthworm Jim. This was really outstanding. It had a skeleton horse, a giant radioactive firefly, ghosts, mummies and lots of action.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Madison Spencer is the daughter of Hollywood celebrities, who has died at the young age of 13. She has arrived in Hell and soon is making friends. Her goal is becoming Satan's fun, witty, fat sidekick.
This is a really quirky book, basically Judy Blume's "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" meets almost any Christopher Moore book. I'd never read a chuck Palahniuk book before but I will be picking up more of his now. This was really entertaining.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
This teen book features genetically altered teens with doggy powers, pirates, and debs, what more could you want? This is the second book in Kathy Reichs series featuring Temperance Brennan's niece, Tory. They are fast-paced, action-packed with lots of science and history thrown in, making them a fun read.
Monday, November 21, 2011
by Simon Pegg, 356 pages.
It took me over two weeks to read this book. Pegg is incredibly intelligent and insightful. There are sweet little bits of philosophy throughout and he's terribly appreciative of all of his influences (what's not to like? why is it taking me forever to read this book?!)...
It took me until I finished it today to realize what was stalling me. He's writing the book as a fanboy. The book is one big thank you to everyone that has ever influenced him. About a third of the book is a worship-letter to Star Wars. I have no problem with appreciation, don't get me wrong, but I wanted a little more of that philosophical-insightfulness. I wanted his Buddhist moments of epiphany smushed into a smaller book. The fan-worship wasn't doin' it for me. That said, it's incredibly well-written, funny, and reminiscent of Patton Oswalt-style writing, so if you like Patton and/or extreme fan-love, you'll like this book.
Now on to Hunger Games!!
This is the 3rd book in the Monstrumologist series by Yancey. Dr. Warthrop is on the trail of the monster of all monsters "The Faceless One". He ends up leaving Will Henry behind, taking an eager young monster-hunter assistant, Arkwright. Will Henry doesn't trust Arkwright and soon ends up going after Dr. Warthrop himself. Together, they will chase down this monster, but who knows if they will survive the trip.
This is one of the darkest series I've ever read, especially for a teen book. I don't like Dr. Warthrop at all, I just want to wrap Will Henry up and take him home with me. These books would make amazing movies, especially if handled by Tim Burton. I could see a young Tim Curry playing Warthrop, or Johnny Depp.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Will is adapting well to his life as a Ranger. Even though his world is plunging into war with the evil warlord Morgarath, things are still looking pretty good. However, when a routine quest goes dramatically awry, Will finds himself fighting the evil forces without the help of his Ranger mentor, Halt, or any other adults. His only aids are two other teenagers: his friend Horace who is a battle school apprentice, and the alluring but secretive newcomer Evanlyn.
I found the first in this series mostly enjoyable, so I thought I'd give this one a try. It is a sound book, full of rich descriptive facts about the mysterious landscape and the thrilling battles. But I have to say, as much as I hate to admit it, I miss romance and good old character development. It is a great series for pre-teen to early teenagers. I would almost recommend this one to only boys as well, or a girl who enjoys a good three paragraph description of a long sword. Very good writing and narration on the audio. Although, I'm not sure if I'll continue this series or not.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
This book covers a lot of murders everyone knows about even if you are not a true crime buff. Most of us have heard of Lizzie Borden, Jeffrey MacDonald, the Clutters (In Cold Blood), and Sam Sheppard (The Fugitive). For others we probably remember the event if not the name: James Huberty who killed 21 people at a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California; Sarah Johnson convicted of killing her parents because they tried to separate her from her boyfriend; and Pam Smart who seduced a high school student into killing her husband.
You'll get a thorough if brief treatment of each case and find some things you don’t find in most compilations. This is not an impartial telling of these and other famous murders. The Philbin brothers definitely have their own opinion on the guilt or innocence of those charged.
It has been years since Jane took the Cure and the Damned helped save England from the French. The Damned have been cast out from London Society, and some have made their way to Jane's quiet little town. The close quarters have started Jane back down the path towards vampirehood, just when she's rediscovered her writing ability. Her niece is way to close to the vampires and a friend is ruining Jane's stockings while associating with their Damned neighbors. Jane must fight her vampire tendencies, battle rogue vampires, and try to settle a civil war between feuding vampire neighbors while trying to find time to write.
I enjoyed Janet Mullany's book "Jane and the Damned" so I was very excited to see "Jane Austen:Blood Persuasion". This book was a great revamping of Jane Austen history, bringing new blood to the canon, this is a definite must read that Jane Austen fans will want to sink their teeth into.
Amy is a survivor, one of the few humans, or frail as they're called, left after a plague has hit, leaving almost everyone either an ex-zombie or ex-human. The ex-humans and ex-zombies are left with an extreme hunger and an ability to heal, leaving them almost completely immortal. Amy is told that her mother is dead but she refuses to believe it. Stalked by feral dogs that exist in her imagination and real life, Amy is taken under wing by Lisa, an ex-human. They are captured by a group of exes who use humans as a labor pool. Amy doesn't know who to trust, and doesn't know if she's going crazy, but she's determined to survive at all costs.
"Frail" by Joan Frances Turner is a new twist on the zombie genre. It's extremely dark and convoluted at times, laying the groundwork for a series that promises to be different. This novel was hard to follow sometimes, with Amy being a difficult character to like at times. "Frail" is one of the oddest and strangest zombie books I've read. This wasn't my favorite read, way too depressing and not any humor.
Another great read by Child. Jack Reacher is one of my favorite characters although his violent tendencies sometimes give me pause. This one takes you back to the time just before the first Reacher novel took place - makes me want to read that first one again.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I had read Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry and thought it was an outstanding teen zombie book. So I was very excited to see this, thinking it would be similar. Instead, this book totally blew it away, being much darker, horrifying and kept me on the edge of my seat the whole book. If you are a fan of The Walking Dead, this is a book you won't want to miss. A serial killer is slated for execution, killed, and wakes up in a body bag...hungry. As the book says "This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang...but a bite." I finished this book very disturbed and decided I needed to read something lighter and fluffier for my next book.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
A collection of people who have been forgotten by history and perhaps shouldn't be. The list includes the person who developed the grape eaten most in America today, writers, forgers, scientists, and artists galore. If you like history and interesting tidbits, you should pick this book up.
Another book by the author of Ella Enchanted. This had a dragon, an ogre, thieving cats, and a girl who must make her own way in the world. Gail Levine is one of my favorite fantasy writers and this was a great book.
Agatha Raisin is back, grouchy and obsessive as ever, and still falling over dead bodies. This time it's discovering a cop roasting at a pig roast, unfortunately, the list of suspects is long due to his unpleasantness.
This is one of my favorite characters, mainly due to Agatha being such a character. The setting, dialogue and secondary characters all lend themselves to these books.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Hopkins' latest book follows the lives of four teens trying to be "perfect." Kendra struggles with anorexia and her future career as a model, Cara with her closeted lesbianism, Sean with his steroid addictions, and Andre with his dreams of being a dancer.
I respect Ellen Hopkins' books because they're so real. These are real issues that real teens face and Hopkins doesn't shy away from the tough parts. However, sometimes it becomes emotionally exhausting if you, like me, become completely wrapped up in the story you are reading. Hopkins is an excellent author though, and her ability to capture the beauty in hardship always amazes me.