Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The Walking Dead Compendium 1" by Robert Kirkman, 1008 pages

Whew, I finally finished this collection in time for the 2011 blog! It feels like I've been devouring it in bits and pieces since Danya loaned it to me a while back. This compendium contains the first 8 volumes of the "Walking Dead" graphic novel, or issues 1-48 of the comic book. Robert Kirkman's classic series has spawned a hit AMC show. For those of you not in the know, Kirkman's series depicts life after a zombie apocalypse. Its main character, the moral center of the story, is Rick, a sheriff who, after being shot in the line of duty, wakes up in a deserted hospital to a world of horror. In the beginning of the series, all he wants is to find his wife and son. Once he finds them, he becomes the defacto leader of a small group of survivors. I'd read the first 8 volumes a few years ago, as the library has them in the teen collection, but I decided to revisit them once the AMC series started airing. I love the TV series, which differs enough from the graphic novels to keep fans interested, but I also love the novels. Both are violent, horrifying, and nihilistic. One thing you should know: No one is safe from harm, so don't get too attached to any one character. I thoroughly recommend these graphic novels -- and the TV series!

"The Isle of Blood" by Rick Yancey, 12 discs or 560 pages

Rick Yancey's "Monstrumologist" series is one of my favorites, and has been from the first line of the first book. (I've also said from its first reading that these books would make fantastic movies, in the hands of the right director.) "The Isle of Blood" is the third installment, following "The Curse of the Wendigo" and "The Monstrumologist," and it doesn't disappoint. The quarry of Dr. Pellinor Warthrop and his assistant Will Henry this time? The Holy Grail of monstrumology, a creature that uses human beings to make its nests and causes its victims' blood and flesh to rain from the sky. Their quest takes them around the world, to the island of Socotra, and along the way they encounter both friends and enemies. "The Isle of Blood" was different from the others in several ways. Will Henry really comes into his own in this book. He is braver, harder, more practical, no longer the innocent boy frightened or sickened by what he sees in the course of his duties as the doctor's apprentice. More about the doctor's past is revealed, including the circumstances of Will Henry's birth, and the reader is treated to further glimpses of how important Will Henry is to him; his vulnerabilities become more obvious, as well. (Danya and I go round and round on this subject. She thinks he's horrible to Will Henry. I think he loves him in a deep but complicated way but has a hard time showing it.) For a time, the two are separated, when Dr. Warthrop departs for Socotra with a new assistant, leaving Will Henry behind. This section of the book dragged for me a bit, as I most enjoy the interplay between Warthrop and Will Henry. This book is just as gross and gory as the others, though mostly at the beginning and the end, so consider yourself warned. I can't say enough good things about this series. Unlike many books, I feel I could read them again and again. I love the characters, the plots, the gore, but most of all I think I love the gothic language and sensibility of the series. I'm already looking forward to book number four! Oh, and I highly recommend the audiobook versions, too. Steven Boyer does a fantastic job narrating these books.

Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia, by Rob Brezsny , p.388

"Or, How the Entire Universe is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings"

I began reading this gem in June and finished it just in time to count for 2011. I took this book with me on many adventures, including a 2 day train trip. It is a neat work book filled with all kinds of neat stories, prayers, tricks, and poems. I recommend it to anyone who likes to look through keleidescopes, stretch out of their comfort zones, or sees beauty at every turn. Not for the timid.

How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse by Cressida Cowell, 244 pages

Hiccup's best friend is dying from the deadly and always fatal Vorpentitis. He has less than a day to find the cure and faces pretty much impossible odds. But with the help of old and new friends, this unlikely hero might just pull it off.

How to Speak Dragonese by Cressida Cowell, 225 pages

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is back and just as much an unlikely Viking as before. His dragon Toothless has been captured by the Romans, there's a bloodfeud between his clan and another, and an old foe has returned. What's a not so heroic hero to do?
This is a great juvenile series, funny, sweet and tons of fun to read. Toothless has to be my favorite characters, I love reading his dialogue.

"V" for Victory by Kate William, 199 pages

The Sweet Valley High cheerleaders are going to the nationals! Although Jessica Wakefield and Heather Mallone have declared a truce as cocaptains, Jessica is determined that this time the spotlight will be hers alone. But Jessica soon learns Heather is the least of her problems. Sweet Valley High's biggest rival is Heather's old squad, and even Jessica is shocked by their low-down tricks. When Heather flubs her big routine, Jessica suspects that there's more behind it than nerves. Does someone have a secret hold on Heather? Jessica and her twin sister, Elizabeth, are locked in a battle of wills, and Ken Matthews and Todd Wilkins are desperate to make peace. Will the boys' meddling help them make up-or will love for the same guy tear Elizabeth and Jessica apart forever?

The New Mythic Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke, Liz Greene and Giovanni Caselli, 226 pp

The book comes along with the deck, which is a remake of the first Tarot deck I bought nearly 20 years ago. The foregrounds are very similar, but the backgrounds have been improved dramatically.

Exodus and Leviticus in Hebrew and English facing by Some Old Patriarch, 127 pp

I've always loved Exodus with its magick and imaginative vision of the tabernacle, but this is the first time I have ever gotten through Leviticus in English, let alone Hebrew.

Kaballah on Love by Yehudah Berg, 111 pp

There is only one kind of real love: Unconditional. The end.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die" by Jon Katz, 166 pages

This book has been the proverbial albatross around my neck for a few months now. I'd checked it out multiple times but returned it, unable to even open it. I was -- am -- grieving the sudden death of Toby, my dog of 11 years, and I just couldn't bring myself to read the book. I survived the May 22 tornado, got through that difficult, chaotic summer, and then my dog -- whom I'd kept going despite his epilepsy, low thyroid, liver disease and arthritic hips -- died after being bitten by a damn spider, most likely a brown recluse. Last night, with the end of 2011 looming, I finally opened the book. I read it straight through, and I cried the entire time. But I finished it. Katz has written a simple, compassionate book about mourning a beloved pet. He is not a grief counselor, and he has not written an academic treatise on loss. Rather, he is someone who has lost animals whom he loved deeply -- and one in particular, his border collie, Orson -- and learned some lessons from the experience. Knowing that every pet, every person is different, he offers gentle advice and attempts to help the reader put the loss, and their relationship to the pet, in perspective. My heart still hurts, and not a day goes by that I don't miss my Toby. But Katz has given me some things to think about, and that's a start.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (870 pages)

This was probably one of my least favorite Harry Potter books so far, but it was still fantastic. I'm getting sad that I only have two books left to read. . .

"Meals in Minutes" by Jamie Oliver, 287 pages

I heart Jamie Oliver. I've been a fan since his early days as the young, upstart "Naked Chef." At first I just thought he was adorable, but I grew to love his approach to food and cooking. He's passionate about delicious, healthy, home-cooked food for people of all ages, all skill levels, all social classes. He puts great emphasis on relying on fresh, seasonal, locally grown food instead of just opening a can or heating something pre-packaged in the microwave. The premise behind "Meals in Minutes" is simple: These are recipes you can throw together for your busy family. I don't know that all the recipes lend themselves equally well to this premise, but it's worth a shot. Most, if not every meal, includes a main dish, a salad and/or vegetable side, and a dessert or beverage. Oliver offers methodical, step-by-step instructions in getting everything ready at once, including photographs. (The food photos are gorgeous, BTW). I've already tried several of the recipes in the book (I confess to photocopying a few of them as soon as I unpacked the book from its box a while back), and I had no problem adapting them to suit my vegetarian diet. The salads are simple and scrumptious, especially the Tomato Salad and the Arugula Salad. The Dan Dan Noodles were spicy and yummy, perfect for a dreary day. And the Wonky Summer Pasta is to die for. Its ingredients? Egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, fresh basil, and lasagna sheets (I used fettucine). I prepped all the ingredients while the pasta boiled, including the accompanying Tomato Salad (couldn't find good arugula in the store), and threw my dinner together. The pasta ingredients are so basic, but together they are a real palate pleaser. I own several of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, and I'll probably end up buying this one, too, despite my promise to myself to stop acquiring so many cookbooks. I hope to really revisit this cookbook during the summer, when fresh produce from local farmers markets is bountiful. And someday I'd like to see him do a vegetarian cookbook. I have confidence he could pull it off admirably.

"Zombie High Yearbook '64" by Jeff Busch, 128 pages

This is a fun little novelty. The author created (or heavily PhotoShopped?) a vintage yearbook for the fictional Zombie High. It looks just like a yearbook -- except for the fact that the students and teachers are rotting, walking corpses, or "revenants," as they prefer to be known. In addition to the usual pictures of all students, faculty and clubs, there are snaps of "student personalities," such as "Most Polite," "Cutest Couple Without Mandibles," "Most Refined," etc. Some of the captions are normal, but then there are ones like this: "Jean Maurer and William Simundza are always there to open a door, pull out a chair, or reattach a limb for you." Hee, hee. Like a real yearbook, people have signed their names, written personalized messages, and added their own illustrations or words to the photographs. The pages appear splattered with blood, bile, and other nasty fluids. All in all, a fast, fun read. I was amazed at the attention to detail. You have to look closely at some of the pictures to see things like a missing foot or chewed-on limb. And I'm still wondering if the author made this thing from scratch or just altered an old yearbook ...

Dearest Friend, A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey, 369 pages

Abigail Adams was in the very midst of the Revolution and the early stages of American history as the wife of John Adams. She not only ran the family and their farms so he could serve the government, she also was John's sounding board and helped with his political career. Abigail was very much for women's education and early rights, while strongly believing in a woman's place in the home, struggling to walk that fine line that women still struggle with today. John and Abigail's marriage was for love, and that strong love continued their whole life, even with the multiple and long separations because of John's political career. Abigail Adams was a fascinating woman and I'm even more interested in seeing the outstanding HBO documentary about the Adams' now. This book also gave me an intriguing look behind the scenes at the founding of our country, leaving me even more amazed that we not only survived those early years but that we're still going strong.

The Pom-Pom Wars by Kate Williams, 193 pages

Jessica Wakefield has started her own cheerleading squad! Determined to outdo obnoxious Heather Mallone, the new captain of the official team, Jessica is going to make sure that the Sweet Valley cheerleaders don't get to the state competition without her. Secretly holding her marathon cheerleading practices, Jessica prepares to show up her old team in front of the whole school-in the greatest cheer-off ever! Elizabeth Wakefield's secret diary isn't so secret anymore! Furious with Elizabeth, Jessica tells Todd Wilkins her sister's most scandalous secret: Elizabeth once had a sizzling romance with Ken Matthews, Jessica's new love!

Jessica Quits the Squad by Kate William, 195 pages

Jessica Wakefield finally meets her match when beautiful Heather Mallone moves to town. Not only is Heather glamorous and popular, but she's also the best cheerleader Sweet Valley High has ever seen! She has big plans for the squad, including stealing Jessica's role as captain. Outraged at the idea of sharing the spotlight, Jessica starts the biggest feud in cheerleading history! Elizabeth Wakefield should be happy that Jessica is falling in love with Ken Matthews, but instead she tries to keep them apart. Is Elizabeth really in love with her boyfriend, Todd Wilkins-or is she harboring a secret passion for Ken?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Morning Glories, Volume 1" by Nick Spencer, 192 pages

I was eager to read this graphic novel from the teen department, but my reaction when I was finished was "Meh. Coulda been better." I don't know if the problem is that the cold I'm battling has left me exhausted or that I only had volume 1 to work with, but I didn't feel like I cared that much about the characters or what happened to them. Even the cliff-hanger ending, so common in graphic novels and comics, didn't have me groaning in frustration at having to wait for the next installment. Here's the premise: Six kids -- all with the same birthday, it turns out -- have gained admittance to a prestigious prep school. Once they're there, weird things start to happen: their parents seem to forget who they are, people are trying to alternately kill or brainwash them, and the faculty have another agenda besides a quality education. The artwork was okay; there wasn't much difference between the characters -- if not for the character names and dialogue, I couldn't have known that one was Indian and another Japanese. I didn't feel like the characters were well-developed beyond standard types found in other books or movies: the rich kid, the poor but brainy kid, the beautiful but brainy girl, the troubled Goth, etc. Not sure if we have plans to acquire the other volumes in the series, and I'm not sure I'd read them anyway.

"Zombie Spaceship Wasteland" by Patton Oswalt, 191 pages

This book was not at all as I'd expected. Because it's written by a comedian perhaps best known for voicing an animated rat (that would be "Ratatouille"), I thought it would be pretty light and funny stuff. Parts of it were certainly light and funny, but I was surprised by some of the thoughtful, literate essays found within "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland." Even those that were quite amusing had a deeper meaning just beneath the surface. The author touches on everything from working in a crappy suburban movie theater as a teenager, to his obsession with Dungeons and Dragons and other nerdy past-times, to his schizophrenic Uncle Pete, to working the road as a stand-up comedian. Oswalt's humor is alternately satirical, self-righteous, self-deprecating, even wistful. One of my favorite pieces was a pretend wine menu, with vintages ranging from the pretentious to the non-palatable. ("A 'drinkable merlot' from Gary, Indiana: A bunch of grapes, and they're smooshed, and then they get kind of rotten, and we drain off the alcohol part and that's the part you drink and then you're drunk. Are you going to finish that burger?") If you want a diverse, fast read, you might want to check out "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland."

Missouri by four authors, Hannah Alexander, Tracey Bateman, Freda Chrisman & Joyce Livingston 458 pages

These are inspiration stories. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading light romance and positive endings.

"Johns Hopkins Medicine Patients' Guide to Cancer in Older Adults" by Gary Shapiro; 187 pages.

Checked out this book when seeking information on how to help an older family member diagnosed with cancer. The fact that the copyright date is 2012 made me feel as though I was getting the newest info from the newest perspective possible.
It highlights some of the issues an *older* cancer patient might face, their special needs, and how chemotherapy can affect them differently.
I would love to own this book.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano; 384 pages

I listened to this book and it was mesmerizing. It was beautifully written and I am now anxious to find out what happens in the next books!

"The Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond, 247 pages

OK, so I'd been hearing about Ree Drummond for a while. She lives on a ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, where she writes a popular blog and raises a family with her husband Ladd, aka, The Marlboro Man. She has also authored a best-selling memoir and recently hosted a Food Network show. I was prepared not to like her, as I snobbishly tend to equate homestyle cooking with that God-awful "Taste of Home" magazine. I thought for sure Drummond's recipes would entail massive amounts of Velveeta, cream of mushroom soup, and Crisco. Well, color me surprised, but I find her very engaging. Her voice as an author is warm, down to earth, and funny. Her recipes look scrumptious and range from the sophisticated to the familiar, such as Potato-Leek Pizza or beans and cornbread. There's something for just about everyone in this cookbook. The pictures are gorgeous, and the book offers a closer look at her life on the ranch. This book is fun to read, even if you don't cook.

"Dead of Night" by Jonathan Maberry, 357 pages

Whoa. This book scared me silly. And I loved every minute of it; it was all I could do to put the book down long enough to live my daily life. Those of you familiar with Maberry's work know that zombies are his thing; we have his books in our teen and adult collections. "Dead of Night" is the story of a zombie apocalypse that begins in rural Pennsylvania, told over the course of 24 hours, from multiple perspectives. It begins with a mystery surrounding an executed serial killer (but is he really dead?) and ends with complete chaos and horror. The author was very effective in cranking up the tension. By the last page, I was convinced that a zombie apocalypse could happen and started wondering if my baseball bat could be used as an effective weapon. I also enjoyed the multiple nods to TS Eliot's "The Hollow Men." And I wondered if Maberry was acknowledging George Romero, the grandfather of zombie films, by setting his book in rural Pennsylvania, the setting for Romero's classic "Night of the Living Dead." One complaint: I found typos throughout the book, a huge pet peeve of mine. I could find a typo in a snowstorm, and I hate them. But if you want to read a scary zombie book, "Dead of Night" is for you. (As is Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" and Max Brooks' "World War Z.")

Operation Love Match by Kate William, 199 pages

Bruce Patman's parents are getting divorced, and Elizabeth Wakefield has promised Bruce that her twin sister, Jessica, an expert in matters of the heart, will help get the Patmans back together. But just how much can Jessica do? When Jessica reads in her horoscope that everything in her life is about to go wrong, she's skeptical. But then she finds that all her plans-including arranging for Bruce's parents to fall madly in love again-aren't working. Bruce is beginning to wish Jessica would butt out, and Jessica is beginning to wish she had never been born! Will Jessica be able to keep Elizabeth's promise to Bruce and not destroy the Patmans' marriage for good?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daughter of the Queen of Sheba, Jacki Lyndon, 257 pgs

This memoir written by war correspondent Jacki Lyndon, pays homage to her mentally ill mother, Dolores "Gimbels" (name legally changed after the department store during a manic episode.) The author beautifully weaves a disconserting tale of pain, madness, illusion, helplessness, and bravado.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, sound media player (actual book 312 pgs)

I am not generally an audio book kind of girl. When I was a small child I would to listen to Beatrix Potter stories over and over again as I followed along, teaching myself to read; but once I mastered reading, audio books kind of fell to the wayside.

That being said, it was weird for me to listen to this story about a boy named Bod on a medium that I wasn't too familiar with. Nobody Owens, called "Bod" was raised in a graveyard after his parents were killed by a man named Jack. The story is good. Gaiman narrated it well. Perhaps I'll listen to it again and catch some of the parts I may have missed, or better yet, read the story myself.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Favored Queen by Carolly Erickson, 295 pages

Jane Seymour started out as a Maid of Honor to Catherine, Henry the VIII"s Spanish wife. She watched Catherine struggle to give Henry the prince he so strongly desired, and fail multiple times. Anne Boleyn, another of Catherine's Maids, schemed her way to Henry's affections, overthrowing a marriage and the Catholic church, only to fail herself in the goal of a prince for England. Jane Seymour finds herself the object of the king's attraction in his obsessive goal of a son, but Jane isn't sure she's willing to throw away her hopes for love.
Carolly Erickson is one of the best known names in English historical entertainment, and "The Favored Queen" is her latest offering. Filled with intrigue, scandal and sex as only King Henry's court can do it, this book will keep you eagerly reading to the end. While at times the novel seems loose with reinterpretation, it is fictionalized history, and should be read for enjoyment. Fans of historical entertainment won't want to miss this book.

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, by Daniel Stephanski, 43 p

This book was written by an autistic boy in an effort to communicate how important it is to treat kids with autism with respect and compassion. He sheds some light on how and why autistic kids behave the way they do, and shows that they are more than just their "disability."

I know many wonderful kiddos with this particular issue, and I would recommend this book to everyone for better understanding and encouragement. The moral of the story, I would say, is that the golden rule applies to everyone.

Flawless by Sara Shepard (330 pages)

The second book in the Pretty Little Liars series, Flawless has twice as much drama, suspense, and scandal as the first book. The girls think they have finally figured out who Alison's murderer is. . . and they're next on the list.

Eat Sleep Poop by Scott W. Cohen, MD (279 pages)

The book's subtitle is, "A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year." It was written by an award-winning pediatrician during his daughter's first year of life. It has a doctor's perspective, but also a common sense "daddy" perspective. I highly recommend it to all first time parents.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (617 pages)

Brian Selznick captured the attention of readers everywhere with his award winning novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. His newest book, called Wonderstruck, follows the same format, told partly in words and partly in beautiful pencil drawings.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known, and Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Ben's story is told in words and Rose's in pictures, but they intertwine throughout the story to a brilliantly touching ending. If you liked The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you definitely should put this on your reading list!

A Deadly Christmas by Kate William, 231 pages

Jessica Wakefield is in danger! Finally convinced that her fiance', Jeremy Randall, is nothing but a two-timing criminal, Jessica plots to get even. But when her devious plan goes wrong, Jessica is caught in her own trap-seconds away from a fiery death. Elizabeth Wakefield is scared for her twin sister, and she doesn't know whom to trust. Has Sue Gibbons really joined their side, or is it Sue and Jeremy against the twins? If Elizabeth's instincts are wrong, Jessica will go up in flames!

One Year to an Organized Life With Baby by Regina Leeds (323 pages)

Regina Leeds, professional organizer and New York Times best-selling author of One Year to an Organized Life helps soon-to-be mothers get ready for baby. Set up in an easy week-by-week format that starts at week eight and takes readers through twenty weeks postpartum, Leeds makes getting organized a snap.

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon (236 pages)

This is a handy book to have in addition to Husband-Coached Childbirth as it provides a shortened overview and illustrations (though they are somewhat outdated looking black and whites).

Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, M.D. (350 pages)

Dr. Bradley believed that women and their partners should work together to achieve a natural childbirth, so he developed "The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth" in the 60's. This is the fifth edition of his revolutionary book. I highly recommend it for all pregnant women, even if they are not planning to have a natural childbirth because it gives a lot of helpful information about the stages of labor and relaxation techniques.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Best Ghost Stories Ever Told edited by Stephen Brennan, 559 pages

People having been telling ghost stories probably from the first cave men sitting around the campfire, and it has been a favored genre for writers. The stories in "The Best Ghost Stories Ever Told" feature some of the literary world's best known writers, such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Joseph Conrad, along with some lesser known authors. I have always found "The Monkey's Paw" a truly creepy and terrifying story, along with "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe. Most of the stories in this collection were ones I'd never come across, but I enjoyed them. Fans of vintage literature will enjoy this book as a prized addition to their collection.

Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood, 306 pages

I had just gotten my new Kindle Keyboard and was excited to try it out using the Missouri Libraries 2 Go website. However, most of the books I most wanted to read had long waiting lists. In my search to find a book available at exactly that moment, I saw this title. I had seen the movie and am always curious about book adaptations so I gave it a try.

Charlie St. Cloud is a typical teenager growing up in Massachusetts. He has a single mom who works long hours. His favorite person in the world is his little brother Sam. However, one night Sam and Charlie get into a terrible car accident and they both die. Sam permanently, Charlie only for a few moments. Charlie is brought back to life by paramedics, but, this foray into the in-between has left Charlie with the ability to see and have contact with the dead who have not yet crossed over. Fast forward ten years and Charlie works in a cemetery where his talents are best used. This special gift comes into play later with an otherworldly romance.

This book was VASTLY different from the movie. Character names and location were spot on, but plot points, character ages, descriptions, and just the storyline in general was very changed. Yes - the movie version starred Zac Efron and was a sappy, cheesy love story. But, I must say, the book is even more sappy and cheesy than the movie was. A good one to try out if you like Nora Roberts or Nicholas Sparks, otherwise the overwhelming sweetness will give you a toothache.
Also, just to note, the book is only available at JPL as a Kindle or adobe book on MOLib2Go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stitches by David Small, 329 pages

Our esteemed Library Director has already reviewed this book for both the blog and the Joplin Globe, so I won't go into too many details here. But this memoir in graphic novel format is worth reading. The author delves into his childhood, which was far from ideal. What a dysfunctional nightmare of a family. It's a wonder the author made it out of his childhood to become the successful adult that he is. The book is a fast read, particularly because it has very few words in it and relies more on images to tell a powerful story. Definitely worth checking out.

Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson, 230 pages

I love the circus. There's just something about it that grabs me. One of my earliest childhood memories is of attending a Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus performance. I remember the red and white striped big-top tent, the smell of popcorn and sawdust, the exotic animals, the daring feats of balance and strength, the clowns. I'm much older now, and my tastes run more toward animal-free circuses and avant-garde performances like those of Cirque du Soleil, but I still love the circus. The recent PBS mini-series "Circus" had me tuning in for every episode. So it was with great eagerness that I picked up "Circus Mania" by Douglas McPherson. I quite enjoyed it. The book covers circus history and brings you behind the scenes of circus life. My only complaint? I didn't realize the book was a British publication and thus has an England-centric point of view. American circuses are such a different creature from those found in other countries.

The Mad Frontier edited by Albert Feldstein, 192 pages

Mad books, baby. Lots of fun.

Viva Mad by Sergio Aragones, 192 pages

Another Mad book, by one of my favorite Mad artists. Reading Mad always makes me laugh. I feel subversive when I read them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mad Power edited by Albert Feldstein, 192 pages

Renee got a bunch of old Mad magazines and books as a Christmas present from my brother. I love those old Mad books, they're still really funny. I read a bunch of them this weekend.

Mad's Dave Berg Looks at Modern Thinking by Dave Berg, 192 pages

Renee got a bunch of old Mad magazines and books as a Christmas present from my brother. I love those old Mad books, they're still really funny. I read a bunch of them this weekend.

The Mad Worry Book by Tom Koch & Bob Clarke, 191 pages

Renee got a bunch of old Mad magazines and books as a Christmas present from my brother. I love those old Mad books, they're still really funny. I read a bunch of them this weekend.

The Ides of Mad edited by Albert Feldstein, 192 pages

Renee got a bunch of old Mad magazines and books as a Christmas present from my brother. I love those old Mad books, they're still really funny. I read a bunch of them this weekend.

The Mad Self-Improvement Yearbook by Tom Koch and Bob Clarke, 190 pages

Renee got a bunch of old Mad magazines and books as a Christmas present from my brother. I love those old Mad books, they're still really funny. I read a bunch of them this weekend.

Jessica's Secret Diary by Kate William, 323 pages

This diary covers the Sweet Valley High books #30 through #40 showing secret stuff involving Jessica. It was kind of neat but I am ready to get to the end of these books. I'm getting closer and closer.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seriously, I'm Kidding...

by Ellen DeGeneres, 256 pages.

Ellen is a delightful human being, but her books are a little too fluffy and pointless for me. They're not LOL funny most of the time and her genuine positivity and charm is lost in print. Perhaps the audiobook would be fun, though!

Book Club by Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum, 120 pages

In honor of the upcoming visit of Bill and Gene, I picked up a collection of Unshelved to enjoy. I love how they perfectly capture all the quirks, troubles, and wonderful moments of working in a library. Now, just the long wait till April 2013.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unwind by Neal Shusterman, 335 pages

Connor is a troubled kid in a troubled world. This teen title takes place in our nation's bleak future. A war, the "heartland war" was fought over reproductive rights and the result was a disturbing constitutional amendment. In order to please both the pro-life and pro-choice sides, no longer is any baby from conception forward to be harmed. However, when a child reaches puberty, (13, I think) his or her parents or guardian may-from then until the child reaches 18-decide that he or she has not lived up to the standard of life they see fit, and have them retroactively aborted in a grotesque process called "Unwinding". They have justified in their minds that this is not murder, because 99% of the Unwind's body parts are used as transplants for others. Their justification is, these teens don't actually die, but get to live on in more productive members of society.
So the story then follows Connor, an escaped Unwind and several others he meets along the way in his desperate journey to remain in one piece.

I was excited to read this book, with the intriguing subject matter and the fact that the nationally known and loved author Neal Shusterman is actually visiting JPL in a couple of months. However, I found that I was not as in love with it as I had hoped. Maybe it is my pregnancy, but I found this to be too dark and depressing. Beautiful writing and very engaging but definitely not uplifting. I especially found an entire chapter that takes place in Joplin, MO very interesting(this book was written in 2007, and from what I've heard it was just a coincidence that Shusterman picked Joplin off a map). Overall definitely a worthwile read, but as with Coramc McCarthy's The Road, I just didn't have the stomach for it.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt, 191 pages

Stephanie reviewed this book and it looked interesting so I picked it up. I'm a big fan of Patton Oswalt, especially since "King of Queens" so I figured any book by him should be funny. It was quirky, odd, snarky, and humorous, just like him. I must say I think I'm a Spaceship after reading this book.

At The Mercy Of The Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill, 432 pages

At fifteen, all Lady Margaret Shelton wants is the quiet life in the country she's had so far. But she is sent to court to serve her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn. Known as Pretty Madge, her innocence and naive beauty is used to gain the king's interest, as a ploy to help Queen Anne hold onto to her position. All Madge wants is the chance for love and a life outside court, if that is even possible. Forces are sweeping the nation and court, threatening not only the Queen's position, but her very life.
As a fan of historical English novels, this was a wonderful read, told from the little used viewpoint of one of Queen Anne's maids. This was one of the most politically tumultuous time periods in English history, with scandal and religion creating massive upheavals. "At the Mercy of the Queen" by Anne Clinard Barnhill is a well-crafted addition to this genre, sure to be a delight to fans of Philippa Gregory and Carolly Erickson alike.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, 212 pgs.

The American version of this story (both literary and cinematic) ends with Our Humble Narrator Alex being "cured" from his mind-altered condition which had been imposed upon him by the State. This is the British version, with an extra chapter of adventure and contemplation which I am very glad to finally have read. The language was real horrorshow and I recommend this read to any veck or ptitsa.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011