Thursday, May 31, 2012

"My Boyfriend is a Monster #5: I Date Dead People" by Ann Kerns, 126 pages

This is another graphic novel I snagged from the Teen Department to fulfill a square on my adult summer reading book bingo, "read a book about ghosts." It was ho-hum. Not really scary, despite the presence of ghosts. The characters were one-dimensional, and the romance was sappy. In looking at some of the other books in the series online, I gathered they are intended to be a satire of the whole angsty teen paranormal romance craze. Blech. I hope the other books in the series are better, 'cause this one was kind of weak. But at least I knocked out a square on my bingo.

"All Ghouls School" by Mark Sumerak, 112 pages

I must admit that I originally snagged this book to fulfill one of the squares in my book bingo for the library's adult summer reading program. I figured it met the requirement that I read a paranormal book from the Teen Department. And, in an added bonus, Danya reviewed it for this blog several months ago, so I was able to knock out the "read a book from the JPL Book Blog" square, as well. Score!!! Anyway, I enjoyed "All Ghouls School" much more than I thought I would. It was kind of like "Mean Girls" meets "X-Men." Becca Norman is a popular high school sophomore who is suspended after being framed for cheating on a test. Because she has to miss her finals, she can either repeat her sophomore year, which would make her a social pariah, or she can attend the nearby Darkmoor Academy, which is the subject of much local mystery and urban legends. Becca opts to attend Darkmoor and soon discovers that the school is indeed populated by literal monsters -- some kind, some cruel. She finds some friends, makes some enemies, and learns things about herself. I found the writing kind of funny, and I enjoyed the colorful artwork in this graphic novel. It reminded me a little of an old-school A
rchie comic gone bad. I'll have to see if there are any other installations in this series that have been published yet.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (334 pgs.)

After a good start on the homestead on Silver Lake, Pa gets warnings of a hard winter to come.  The first blizzard strikes in October and the horrible storms last until May!  The small lonely town on the prairie is cut off from all outside help when the trains stop running.  Will they make it through until spring or will they freeze or starve?

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (290 pgs.)

Life had been very hard on Plum Creek.  After illness left Mary blind, things were looking grim when suddenly Pa has an offer of a job... if only they move west again.  Ma was not in favour of moving, but finally they agreed to go.  This is the Ingalls family's final move west.

Laura learns the workings of building the railroad.  Again, putting an adult perspective on what I know of the building of the railroad and matching it up with her memories adds interest to the story.

Betty & Friends by Betty White (286 pgs.)

This is a fun book full of quick stories (and fun pictures) that Betty shares about some of her favourite animals encounters.  Betty White is very much an animal advocate and is active with the L.A. Zoo.  If you love Betty, this should be on your must read list.

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, 274 pages

This features a group of people trying to survive in a lifeboat after their ocean liner sinks. Just how far will you go to live, even at the cost of others? I especially liked how the author weaved the main character's struggle in the life with their struggle before and after the lifeboat. Just how weak is the "weaker" sex?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gay Men Don't Get Fat by Simon Doonan, 254 pages

I'd seen this book on Lisa's hold pile and it looked interesting. I must say I felt like I was reading a foreign language at times, because it was filled with a ton of lingo that I'm not cool enough to know. I learned more about "bears" in the gay subculture than I ever knew, lol. The author seems like he would be a blast to hang out with.

Peculiar People The Story of my Life by Augustus Hare

Rebecca, 298 pages, autobiography,history

House of Secrets by Beverly Lewis

Another in the series of YA novels by Beverly Lewis. Same characters as the other book I reviewed. Good inspirational fiction for a junior high student.

Forgiving Hour by Robin Lee Hatcher 400 pgs.

Inspirational novel about forgiveness. The premise of this book is really a reach -- Claire struggles with forgiveness after her husband's infidelity and the breakup of their marriage. Years later, she is finally coming to the place of forgiveness when the unthinkable happens. And the unthinkable is really a stretch to think it would happen......... I got tired of Claire's whining too. It killed a few hours of driving time to listen to it, but.............

Echoes in the Wind by Beverly Lewis

A YA book by Beverly Lewis. While the protagonist is not Amish, there are Amish characters in the book. Definitely for younger teens.

Daisy Chain by Mary E. DeMuth -- 361 pgs.

This is the beginning of a trilogy featuring Jed, the son of a dysfunctional preacher. This book centers on his relationship with Daisy, who disappears, and whose whereabouts are unknown for most of the book. The book leaves a lot hanging. If you want to know the whole story, it will be essential to go on to others in the series.

First Girl Scout by Ginger Wadsworth, 210 pages

I'd brought this book home for my youngest so she could learn more about the woman who brought the Girl Guides to America and transformed it into Girl Scouts, but I ended up reading it myself. I've been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, wearing the Brownie uniform, selling cookies, earning my Silver, and now have two daughters that are Girl Scouts. So it was intriguing to learn about the fascinating Juliette Low. She was from the South, married an Englishman, was presented to the Queen, almost divorced at a time that was a social no-no, and was a force to behold. She affected the lives of more girls and women than she'll ever know with Girl Scouts.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming, 150 pages

I had recently picked up the new children's book that was a sequel to this. The movie has always been one of my favorites (because who doesn't love Dick Van Dyke) but I'd never read the book. So, I decided it was time to read this children's classic by the author of the James Bond series (yep, that Ian Fleming). Well, I hate to say it, but this was one time that I liked the movie better than the book. The candy played a very minor role, the mother was still alive, and they didn't have the toymaker or evil ruler at all in the story. The book wasn't bad by any means, it just wasn't the wonderful story that I've loved since I first saw it as a kid. But I'm glad I can now say I've read this book.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, 342 pages

I had brought this book home for Samantha (my 10-year-old) and she loved it. She finished it and then went around the house asking all of us to read it so she would have some to talk about it with. I picked it up and realized she was right about how wonderful it was.
The book starts with Sage, an orphan being picked up along with two other boys by Conner, a nobleman with a devious plan. Their country stands on the brink of war because the king's family is dead and there is no one to take the throne except for the king's long-believed son. Conner plans to sit an impersonator on the throne to save the country from a power-struggle. Sage knows that Conner can't have two "princes" running around, so Sage must win this contest or be killed. But secrets abound in all the players, and the truth could be a death sentence for anyone.
This book grabbed me from almost page one, and was great. I am definitely hoping that the author writes a sequel, because I really want to see what happens next with the characters and the country. One of the best children's books I've read.

Scotched by Kaitlyn Dunnett, 263 pages

This is a Scottish-themed mystery series set in Moosetookalook, Maine. One of the things I enjoy most about these books is that they are generally fun, fast reads. This one featured a cozy mystery convention, something I would love to attend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Austenland" by Shannon Hale, 196 pages

I'm usually wary of Jane Austen follow-ups, whether they're direct sequels to her novels or modern adaptations. I tend to be an Austen purist, and my affection for Jane goes way back, from my first reading of "Pride and Prejudice" as a 12 year old, to the seminars I took entirely devoted to her work when I was in graduate school. But I loved this book. It wasn't badly written like so many Austen follow-ups are. It was sweet, funny, and kind of true to the original novel while still looking at things from a thoroughly modern perspective. I won't go into great detail about the plot because Danya has already reviewed this book, but basically the heroine, Jane, decides to rid herself of her Mr. Darcy/Colin Firth (for those of you not in the know, Firth starred as Mr. Darcy in a superb telling of "Pride and Prejudice" for British TV back in the mid-90's) obsession. A relative bequeaths her a trip to Austenland, where she will experience Jane Austen's England for a few weeks, and her adventure begins. "Austenland" was a charming, fast read. And I discovered to my delight over the weekend that I had downloaded it to my Kindle several months ago and then forgot about it, so I might give it another read while on vacation in June. And I also plan to read the sequel, "Midnight in Austenland."

"1,000 Easy Recipes" by Food Network Magazine, 393 pages

This is a good cookbook for someone who wants to put together homemade or semi-homemade meals in a quick fashion. On the plus side, "1,000 Easy Recipes" has a variety of things to make, from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. It also has nice photos, is laid out in a user-friendly fashion, and keeps recipes short and simple. But it was too simple for me. I eagerly tried some of the veggie burger recipes but found them sorely lacking. I even added my own steps, like roasting the walnuts, toasting the breadcrumbs and adding nutritional yeast and soy sauce. The result was a more flavorful veggie burger than I've encountered in other cookbooks, but the texture was far too mushy and soft. I think next time if I try the recipe again I will add an egg to bind everything together and maybe use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs. I wouldn't recommend buying this cookbook, but it's worth checking out. If you lead a busy life and find yourself at a loss at mealtime, "1,000 Easy Recipes" might give you some ideas.

"Raylan" by Elmore Leonard, 263 pages

I usually don't read Elmore Leonard's fiction; it just never appealed to me. But I snagged this novel when it arrived a while back. I'm a fan of FX's "Justified" (Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat, need I say more?), which features a character first introduced in a Leonard short story years ago. Reading "Raylan" was a lot like revisiting the most recent season of "Justified." It followed some of the plot lines but threw in some extra characters and twists
for good measure. The dialogue is funny in a dry sort of way, although I was distracted somewhat by the occasional lapse into Kentucky hill-folk dialect, and there's a ton of violence -- both things that are common to the TV series. So if you're a fan of Elmore Leonard's writing or the TV series "Justified," you might might think about picking up "Raylan."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Fowlers of Sweet Valley by Kate William, 343 pages

This looks at Lila Fowler's ancestors starting in France during the Revolution up to her parents' tumultuous relationship.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Circus of the Damned, The Scoundrel, 116 pages

This is the graphic novel retelling of the Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton. Seeing them visualized through comic book makes for an intriguing new look at these novels. I am interested in seeing how they handle the more sexually explicit storylines that are coming.

Bewitching by Alex Flinn, 342 pages

I've really enjoyed the fairy-taled books by Alex Flinn. This one tells the story of Kendra, the witch from Beastly, who tells the story of her first 300 years. This has Hansel and Gretel, the Princess and the Pea, and the Little Mermaid, plus Cinderella. One of the best parts was the current-day story weaved with stories from the past. This is a great read for fans of the Sister Grimm books looking for a more grown-up read.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Queen of the Conqueror by Tracy Borman, 296 pages

Matilda is the wife of William the Conqueror, and is one of the least written about English queens. Matilda came from a lineage of strong and smart women, and proved herself both during her marriage. William has been long known for his winning of England in 1066, but Matilda ruled his duchy during his campaigns away, one of the few women to hold that sort of power. Her background made William a more acceptable choice of king for the English, and she proved a fertile mother, with nine children. She also was a determined mother, who went against her husband to protect her oldest son's rights, at the cost of her husband's trust.
I'm a fan of English historical fiction, reading almost everything there is about English royalty, but I've not read anything about Matilda or this time period. Tracy Borman did a superb job bringing Matilda to life, shining a light on a woefully under-examined female role model. Her book reminded me of Alison Weir's wonderfully crafted books, making Tracy Borman a must-read author for history fans. I look forward to seeing what historical figure she writes about next.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano (341 pages)

I read Wither last summer when it came out, and loved it.  Fever is the sequel, and to avoid any spoilers, I'll skip the summary.  Fever was good, but not nearly as good as Wither.  I felt like it was just a "filler" book between the first and last of a trilogy.  Unfortunately, the third book, Sever, doesn't come out til next year and it's killing me! I follow Lauren DeStefano on Twitter and she keeps tweeting little snippets of the last book and it's making me really anxious to read it!!  If you like dystopian fiction, you need to read this series.

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn, 470 pages

This was an intriguing look at Rome during the reign of Emperor Domitian as told by a Jewish slave girl, Thea, and a gladiator, Arius. Both are held captive to the desires of others, unable to have a life together, torn apart by the petty whims of a vicious master. When they both catch the eye of Emperor Domitian, his attention threatens not only all they hold dear, but also their lives.
I always enjoy historical fiction, and I'm not as familiar with Roman history as I like so this was a pleasant treat. It was intriguing and captivating, and was an interesting look at a tumultuous time. It was also nice to learn more about the Vestal Virgins and the gladiator system.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig, 388 pages

The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig is always outstanding, I love the blend of Regency historical romance with intrigue combined with modern England ala shades of Bridget Jones' Diary. This one has Augustus Whittlesby in France with a cover as a horribly bad poet, using his reams of unreadable poetry to hide his reports. American born Emma Delagardie is a widow who is a close family friend of the Bonapartes. Whittlesby uses her connections to get close to Napoleon, trying to discover information about a secret device that could enable Napoleon to invade England. But Whittlesby finds himself falling for Emma.
One of the things I enjoyed in this book was a look at The Pink Carnation, I'm hoping we get to see her fall in love in an upcoming book. Eloise and Colin's relationship has also been one of the things that keeps me picking up each new books. I'm interested to see what happens via the treasure hunt (I don't want to give anything away.) As I've said before, it's Jane Austen meets James Bond in these books, so they're a delightful treat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Social Problems: A Service Learning Approach by Corey Dolgon and Chris Baker 365p

I finished this textbook this month, and yes: I read the whole thing. I am very much geared toward service, I grew up volunteering and was in Learn and Serve America Club. Service learning "combines formal instruction with a related service in the community," according to Wikipedia. This textbook addressed many areas of social problems including poverty, gender, race, LGBT, environment, and more. It spotlighted many case studies where like-minded students tackled particular social problems head on. For our project, my group Eagle S.E.A.L. (Students Engaged in Agricultural Learning) created a project that went into the community to teach the environmental impact of the industrial food complex and how much oil is consumed with our current system in order to get most meals to the table. We went to East Middle School for a month and taught students the reality of grocery store and restaurant purchases (including Confined Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs). We also shared alternatives such as farmers markets and gardening at home. Each student had hands-on experience with their own container gardens that they got to take home after re-potting at the end of the project.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale, 277 pages

This was the sequel to "Austenland" and I think I liked this one even better than the first. This time, it's Pembrook Park and Charlotte Kinder is heading there after a divorce leaves her reeling. Throw in a brooding Mr. Mallery, a mystery sickness, a "brother" who makes her heart beat a little faster, and a dead body, and it's sure to be a vacation Charlotte never forgets.
I would so love to go visit a place like this on vacation. I loved the addition of a murder mystery to this, plus, I loved getting to see little bits of Charlotte's past. I am an Austen fanatic, and I recommend this book whole-heartedly.

Prometheus Rising by Dr. Robert Anton Wilson, 284 pp

This is my second read of this book by my favourite author.  Perhaps the best overview of it could be quoted from the Introduction by Israel Regardie (another of my favourite writers): "Imagine anyone trying to make sense of an amalgam of Timothy Leary's eight neurological circuits, Gurdjieff's self-observation exercises, Korzybski's general semantics, Aleister Crowley's magical theorems, the several disciplines of Yoga, Christian Science, relativity and modern quantum mechanics, and many other approaches to understanding the world around us!"  A more succinct description is given from the author himself : "A user's guide to the human mind".  On my second reading, I am focusing most on an understanding and development of the eight neurological circuits, described as thus:

1. The Biosurvival Circuit (the Breath of Consciousness)
2. The Emotional-Territorial Circuit (Freud's Ego)
3. The Symbolic or Neurosemantic-Dexterity Circuit (the Rational Mind)
4. The Domestic or Sociosexual Circuit (the "Adult" Personality)
5. The Neurosomatic Circuit (Zen-Yoga Mind-body Connection)
6. The Neuroelectric or Metaprogramming Circuit (Psionic Electronic-Interface Earth Grid Mind)
7. The Neurogenetic or Morphogenetic Circuit (Buddha-Monad "Mind")
8. The Psychoatomic or Quantum Non-local Circuit (Overmind)

Wilson asserts that the first four circuits are functions of the left hemisphere of the brain and are generally accepted by modern Western culture, but that the following four are functions of the right hemisphere of the brain and, therefore, not so widely accepted by modern Western culture.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, and the Truth About Reality.

By Brad Warner, 207 pages.

This book has a lot of good going for it. It's zen explained simply. About 2/3 of it is really succinct and relevant, but even Buddhism feels too mystical for me these days. I don't think I believe in enlightenment. I don't think I believe that sitting and not-thinking brings you to ultimate reality consciousness. Again, this book used to mean more to me than it does now, but it's still a really good read for someone that wants to enjoy a book about Buddhism. We don't have it at the 'brary, but if this book sounds interesting to you, I'll happily loan you my copy. It looks like it's survived a tornado, 'cause, you know, it has, but it's cooler that way anyway.


Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen & David Oliver Relin, 349 pages

Greg Mortenson has promoted himself as a savior who has spent years building schools in Pakistan. While the premise of this book is wonderful, because what is better than fighting terrorism through educating boys and especially girls, but this book is very heavy on the self-promotion. At one point, he is able to get in to see Mother Theresa's body while she lays in state, and he considers himself as selfless as her. There is a ton of controversy swirling around Mortenson and his claims, but this was not a bad read if you look at it as nothing more than fiction. Unfortunately, that is not how he sold this book.

Heart of Lies Landis, Jill 445 pages

Friday, May 18, 2012

"This is How" by Augusten Burroughs, 230 pages

As a long-time fan of Augusten Burroughs, I was thrilled when I learned he was releasing a new book. I've read all of his work, memoirs and essays alike, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on "This is How." Then I saw the subtitle: "Help for the Self, Proven Aid in Overcoming & More for Young and Old Alike." Okaaay. So it's a self-help book. Then I thought, maybe it's a satire of the self-help genre. Nope, it's a straight-up self-help book. I had mixed reactions to "This is How" while I was reading it. Part of me thought, "Really? Who are you to offer this kind of advice? Yeah, you've had a screwed-up life and overcome a lot, but you're a writer, not a therapist." But then I appreciated how straight-forward and honest the advice was. Burroughs doesn't sugar-coat things or couch them in traditional self-help speak. There were moments when I rolled my eyes, and moments when I had tears in my eyes. In retrospect, this was a good book for me to read at this moment in my life. Parts of it made me laugh, 'cause Burroughs does sneak in some snarky comments, but parts of it really resonated with me after the year I've had. After losing my beloved dog and surviving an EF-5 tornado, the anniversary of which is looming, I needed to be reminded of some things. So, to summarize, "This is How" is not what I expected, but I'm glad I read it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Complete Chinese Cookbook" by Ken Hom, 352 pages

If you're looking for a diverse, authentic guide to Chinese cooking, "Complete Chinese Cookbook" by Ken Hom is for you. The much-revered authority on Chinese cuisine has gathered recipes from China's various regions. The first 47 pages of the book summarize the different "schools" of cooking, discuss the typical ingredients that might not be wholly familiar to Western cooks, describe cooking techniques and necessary equipment, and offer menu suggestions for certain occasions. The recipes themselves are as diverse as China's cuisine. Some are more labor-intensive than others, some are vegetarian, some are served cold. All have excellent introductions that touch on the cultural significance of the dish, as well as offer helpful hints from Hom in regards to preparation and serving. I'm always looking for more eggplant dishes, and there are quite a few in "Complete Chinese Cookbook," along with ones that use my favorite protein, tofu. The vegetable side dishes look fast and simple to prepare, though I definitely want to give the more complicated recipes a try, such as the Curried Vegetarian Spring Rolls. I look forward to trying some of the cold recipes during the heat of summer. And I cannot wait to hit the Webb City farmer's market, where there are quite a few Asian greens and vegetables available from growers.

"The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier" by Ree Drummond, 293 pages

Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, puts together some nice cookbooks. They're accessible, with recipes ranging from traditional home-style to bistro-style dishes, and preparation isn't overly complicated. The photographs, most of them taken by Ree herself, are gorgeous, whether they're step-by-step food prep pictures or snaps of her family at work and play on their Oklahoma ranch. I just discovered her blog a couple years ago, but I've become quite a fan, even more so now that she has a show on the Food Network. I like her recipes, but I think I just like her more. She's charming, down-to-earth, and kind of goofy. I've already tried a few recipes from this cookbook, and her Simple Sesame Noodles are some of the best I've made. They're easy to throw together, and they don't come out gluey like a lot of sesame noodles do. I look forward to trying even more recipes
this summer when fresh produce is abundant.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Do You Remember Me Now by Karen Hanson Stuyck, 301 pages

Deciding to seek revenge for bullying inflicted during high school, a killer is knocking out members of The Six, a group of the popular and mean leaders from high school. Kate Dalton suffered at the hands of The Six, but has managed to re-invent herself and returns home to nurse her sick mother, little knowing it will place in the lineup as a suspect. She must team up with detective Sam Wolfe if she not only wants to clear her name but survive her reunion.
I hated a lot of high school, so this book hit too close to home at times. While I would never actually knock off some of my high school bullies, this book was a good read.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (608 pages)

Brian Selznick is a genius!  He takes two stories--one told solely through pictures and one with text and weaves them together to make one beautiful book.  Reluctant readers will appreciate this title because with the addition of the pictures, the book is a whopping 608 pages(!), but it is such a fast read.  It'll definitely make them feel like they've accomplished something, plus the storyline is such to hook anyone, right from the start. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Pack by Jason Starr, 341 pages

Simon Burns has lost his job as an ad exec, and decides to be a stay-at-home dad for his 3-year-old son. This change stresses his already rocky marriage and introduces his to a group of dads at a local playground in New York City. While Simon is glad to make some new friends, there seems to be something off about them. Little does he suspect that they are werewolves, and Simon soon finds himself fighting to save not only his marriage, but his life and humanity.
This was a little to much of a guys book for me, and I felt the werewolf storyline wasn't done proper justice. But, because I read everything, I would pick up the sequel.

The Patmans of Sweet Valley by Kate William, 340 pages

This traced the family of Bruce Patman from the first member, Henry Patman, who came to America in the early 1800s up to his parents relationship.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce, 216 pages

I have been a fan of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang since the first time I saw the movie. When I discovered it was actually a book written by the same person who brought us James Bond (Ian Fleming) I loved it even more. So discovering a new sequel made me hesitant, wondering how they mangled a beloved favorite. But I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this new update. The sequel has a family in England restoring an old family camper, and the father putting in an engine that turns out to be from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Chitty takes the family across the world gathering some of it's old parts, while being chased by a nefarious figure. The illustrations in the book really added to the story. I loved how very English this was. While it can never measure up to the original movie (yes, the one time I like the movie better than the book) it was still a great read.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Landis, Jill Heart of Stone 467 pages

An inspirational book about forgiveness. We try to categorized sin, putting one sin worse than the other. Sin is sin no matter how big or little it is, it's all the same.

The Future Of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler (356 pages)

After reading a previous review by Cherokee about this book I knew I had to check it out.  It takes place in 1996 (the year I graduated high school, yikes!), the Internet is just becoming accessible to high school students and it has an element of time travel.  All combine to make a highly entertaining teen title.  I'm glad I was brave enough to check out a seven day title and even though I had to renew it, it really was a quick read.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching.

by Thich Nhat Hanh, 304 pages.

This book "changed my life" when I was 20 (ish--give or take a year or two).  I was new to the concepts of Buddhism and the idea that everyone is made of the same stuff as the trees and the grass and all that hippie stuff has always been very attractive to me (and most of Buddhist ideas can be backed up by thermodynamics, which is cool).  When I started to reread this, I was struck by how messy Buddhism is with all the Precepts and Folds of the path, ya da, ya da.  I started crossing things out in the book (don't worry, I own my copy) which I have NEVER done to a book before.  I started making notes in the margins, translating the teachings into what I wanted them to be, and I felt so guilty.  Later, after highlighting, crossing-out, making changes, skipping chapters, I realized that THIS is why Buddhism has so many practices and concepts.  SOMETHING in this din of conceptual thought will resonate with anyone.  Buddhism is the indecisive friend that doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  The peacemaker of the religions.

Drishta dharma sukha viharin (dwelling happily in the present moment): This is a phrase I remembered from the first reading of this book and while the text doesn't resonate with me the same way it did then, I still want this tattooed on my arm because I believe we could all use a little more dwelling in the moment.

Namaste....or something.

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, 444 pages

This was a new look at the story of Catherine the Great as told by Varvara, a spy in the court of Empress Elizabeth, Catherine's mother-in-law. It brings new depths to the story of Catherine's arrival in Russia, her marriage, her children, and her seizure of the throne. This was a engrossing book, a great read for fans of historical fiction.

How to Ride A Dragon's Storm by Cressida Cowell, 254 pages

Hiccup is competing in the annual Intertribal Friendly Swimming Race, except the winner is the first one back, it's the last one. But knowing how Hiccup's life works, nothing goes as it's supposed to. Hiccup finds himself on a ship bound for the "imaginary" America, followed by a dinosaur of a dragon, with nemesis Norbert the Nutjob who is determined to kill Hiccup. So, it's everything as normal.
These are some of the funniest kids' books, I've really enjoyed all of them so far.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Austenland by Shannon Hale, 196 pages

Jane has an obsession, "Pride and Prejudice", that is, Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy. She has not been able to find love, looking for an ideal that, so far, doesn't exist. When an aunt passes away, and as a bequest, leaves Jane three weeks at Austenland, a Regency-era playworld, Jane decides to go and live this obsession out, and then bid it goodbye once and far all. But the fantasy soon becomes hard to distinguish from reality. Jane must decide if Mr. Darcy is worth chasing after all.
I am a big Jane Austen fan and this was a wonderful treat. It felt very Bridget Jones' Diary meets Jane Austen. I would so love to go to a place like this if I ever won the lottery. This was a wonderful book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all Jane Austen fans.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth, 368 pages

Arthur Conan Doyle heads to a spa in Hamburg, Germany, determined to get some rest and sort through all of Sherlock Holmes' fan mail. But almost immediately upon arrival, he meets up with his friend, Oscar Wilde, who is never restful. The two discover a set of grisly clues in the mail consisting of a lock of hair, a finger, and a severed hand, with the trail leading to Rome. Oscar insists that they answer the call for help sent to that intrepid detective, Sherlock Holmes, and they quickly find themselves enmeshed in a mystery that centers around the Vatican. Wilde calls upon Sherlock's investigative techniques, hoping to solve this case before him or Doyle end up dead.
I am a newly come fan to the Wilde mysteries by Gyles Brandreth, but I'm a convert, through and through. Each one I've read has been a delight, mixing Wilde's many witty quips and sayings with Sherlock Holmes and his exasperated creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Each one alludes to Oscar Wilde's future downfall, creating a sense of tragic foreboding, but as Wilde would want, but the novels are still entertaining and intriguing. Fans of Oscar Wilde, Sherlock Holmes, and historical mysteries will all enjoy these wonderful books.

"Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy" by Albert Marrin, 182 pages

Many Americans today don't know about the fire at New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. One hundred forty-six people died, and until 9/11, it was viewed as one of the most lethal workplace accidents in New York City, and even in America. As the factory burned around them, workers -- most of them women and young girls -- tried to escape in a panic. Some were able to make it down the narrow stairs or in the elevator, but many died in the building or plunged to their deaths to the sidewalk below. It was a tragedy that didn't need to happen; a door that could have led to freedom was kept locked, buckets of water weren't enough to stop the rapidly moving fire, and hoses were never hooked up to a water supply. "Flesh and Blood So Cheap" is about more than the fire. It covers immigration, since most of the factory workers were Italians and European Jews who had traveled to America in search of a better life. It also details the fight for women's rights, as well as workers' rights and the rise of unions. It provides an excellent overview of this crucial period in American history. I only wish it had been more detailed, but this is a book aimed at teens. I've been interested in the Triangle Fire since I was a teenager, and I've never been able to find enough to read about it. I think a writer such as Erik Larson, author of "Isaac's Storm" and "The Devil in the White City" could write an excellent book on this tragic chapter in the early 20th century.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard (307 pages)

Emma has moved from foster home to foster home ever since her mother up and left her at a friend's house when she was a kid.  One day she sees a video on YouTube of a girl who looks exactly like her, and after doing some research she believes that this girl is her long lost twin sister.  So when she finds her sister, whose name is Sutton, on Facebook, she sends her a message and asks if maybe she was adopted.  Sutton writes back telling her that she is adopted and to come to Arizona to meet her.  When Emma arrives, she discovers that Sutton has been murdered, but no one knows it yet. In fact, they all think Emma is Sutton and when she protests, no one believes her.  Turns out, Sutton and her group of friends have this thing going called The Lying Game where they play horrible, mean jokes on people and pretty much the only rule is that every new joke has to be better, meaner, and funnier than the last one.  So obviously, Sutton has a lot of enemies who would want her dead, and it's up to Emma to find out who killed her twin.

Ahh, leave it to Sara Shepard to write trashy, dramatic, suspenseful teen lit.  I sort of liked Pretty Little Liars, but I felt like it was way too much of the same thing, which is why I only read 2 or 3 of the books.  The Lying Game is pretty much the same kind of book, but I actually liked it a lot better, although I haven't really figured out why.  I've already checked out the sequel, Never Have I Ever, but I'm really hoping this series isn't going to be as long as the Pretty Little Liars series because frankly, I can't handle 10+ books of the same constant drama.

Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay (432 pages)

When Marcie's father confesses he is bisexual and begins dating a man, her mother moves her to New Hampshire.  Marcie hates it at first, because she's had to leave her boyfriend and her group of best friends, who call themselves the Leftovers, but soon she starts making new friends and even starts to fall in love with someone else.  Then her father decides to bring her back home to Iowa and when she gets home she realizes how much she has neglected her friends and her boyfriend.

I read this book in one sitting.  Not really because it was super great, mostly just because I was bored and had nothing else to do.  The book is written in poetry format, so it was a pretty fast read despite being almost 450 pages.  Anyways, it was an alright book, but I didn't love it.  Marcie was annoying, and I didn't connect with her as a character. She spends the whole book cheating on her boyfriend back home and then when she comes home she expects him to still be there waiting for her? Sorry, but life usually just isn't like that.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp, 378 pages

This examines the last Russian tsar Nicholas and his last years as told by Mathilde Kschessinska, the ballerina who captured his heart and had his first, though illegitimate, son. It was intriguing and captivated me from page one.

Blood Work by Holly Tucker, 304 pages

This looks at the history of blood transfusions, including the first dog to dogs and a calf to man. It's hard to believe that more people didn't die from these early transfusion attempts.