Sunday, March 31, 2013

Homeschooling: A Family's Journey by Gregory and Martine Millman (265 pgs.)

As a homeschooler, I enjoy picking up a homeschooling book now and then.  This book was not what I expected or hoped for.  Though the family was trying to demonstrate the "everybody can do this" aspect of homeschooling, having 2 parents who stay at/work from home and having world travel as part of the job and therefore part of the homeschooling experience takes away from that.  The tidbit about living across from Mother Teresa and occasionally visiting with her also gives the idea a bit of a blow. 

Their story started off interesting, but lost me as they went into traveling and their methods and such that I did not find I could relate to at all.  The writing style was not a "family's journey", but quite business like and, frankly, boring. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay - 415 pgs

Shelter Me takes us through the aftermath of Janie LaMarche's husband's death.  It chronicles the first year following her husband, Robbie's, death in a cycling accident.  Left with two young children, she is navigating the maze of grief when one day a contractor shows up at her house to begin construction a porch that was apparently going to be a gift to Janie from her husband -- turning out to be a surprise last gift.  Janie learns much through an unlikely band of friends.  People she was most unlike and people she didn't like at all turn out to be her biggest supporters and deepest friends.  It was interesting to watch Janie grow from an unlikeable protagonist (all because of grief) to a stronger and more complete person by book's end.

Predator by Terri Blackstock -- 334 pages

In Predator, Krista's sister was murdered by a person who stalked her through a social networking site, Grapevyne.  Grapevyne appears to be a mashup of Facebook and Twitter.  Krista is convinced that her sister is one of many girls murdered after being stalked through this website.

She decides to operate her own sting operation to catch the killer because the police aren't doing enough to solve the crime.  She puts out the bait and sees if the killer will take it. 

Her premise that a serial killer is stalking through the website puts her danger.   There were places in the book where I was kept in suspense.  The ending left me with some questions, and a certain character should have been more fully developed, but overall I enjoyed the book.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Famous Players, by Rick Geary, 76 pages

Another installment in Geary's "Treasury of XXth Century Murder" graphic novel series. I hadn't heard of the case featured in the last one I read, but this one I most definitely have: the murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor, who was found shot in his Los Angeles home in 1922. His death was quite a scandal, not only because of his fame, but because of the suspects: his butler, film comedienne Mabel Normand, young actress Mary Miles Mintner, even Minter's protective mother. The exposure of shocking details about Taylor's life also fed into the scandal. The mystery remains unsolved today and has gone down in history as one of many Hollywood scandals. I like Geary's work, but I particularly enjoyed "Famous Players" because it depicts the world of silent films, something that has fascinated me since I was a kid.

The Adventures of Blanche, by Rick Geary, 103 pages

I definitely need to ILL some of Rick Geary's work. I dug around in our collection and found a couple more books, including "The Adventures of Blanche," a collection of his earlier works, but this is it. Looking to read about a smart, independent woman who lives an adventurous life? This graphic novel, found in the Teen Department, might be for you. Blanche travels to New York City from her small hometown in 1907. Her intent is to take music lessons from a renowned teacher and launch her concert career. It's an exciting time to be in NYC: Skyscrapers are being built, tunnels for the subway system are being dug, "moving pictures" have become popular. Blanche soon finds herself embroiled in a mystery that takes place in the very house where she stays, one that involves secret societies, hidden passages, and odd creatures. As her adventures continue in other tales, she works in silent pictures, gets involved in anarchist and union activities, and becomes stranded in Paris. "The Adventures of Blanche" is a fun read. It's nice to see a heroine in a graphic novel who isn't busting out of her already skimpy clothing, waiting to be saved by the hero, or sporting exaggerated physical measurements. Plus, I love this time in American history, the first 30 years of the 20th century, so this graphic novel was a treat.

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, by Emily Ansara Baines, 254 pages

OK, books like this one are a big pet peeve of mine. They are published to capitalize on current trends. This trend, obviously, is the obsession with the PBS miniseries "Downton Abbey." (Which I'm over. Enjoyed the first season, thought the second was okay, didn't even bother with the third. I've seen far better treatments of this time period, and, despite all the discussion about the class system, "Downton" is nothing more than a soap opera in costume. I'd much rather spend my Sunday nights with "The Walking Dead." When a book has the word "unofficial" in the title and a disclaimer ON THE COVER, I tend to look askance at the project. This book is merely an imagining of what the fictitious characters, below and above stairs, might cook or consume. As far as authenticity goes, the cookbook seems pretty accurate. Lots of soups (including turtle soup), lamb, beef, duck, asparagus with Hollandaise, etc., for the upper crust. The servants eat simpler fare such as porridge, oxtail soup, steak and kidney pie, eel, mushy peas, etc. -- although I question whether English servants pf the time would be eating a walnut and celery salad made with Pecorino, an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. The recipes are easy to follow, and I enjoyed the blurbs at the bottom covering everything from etiquette to the history of the dishes. Some of the information was lacking, though. I was surprised to see the modern ingredient of cream cheese used in a recipe. To determine if this inclusion was anachronistic, I did a little research. Turns out cream cheese has been around in England since the 18th century. It would have been nice if the author had included that tidbit.

The New Deadwardians, by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard, 176 pages

A zombie graphic novel? I’m so there. A zombie graphic novel with vampires, set in Edwardian England? Now, don’t roll your eyes just yet. Following the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert, a zombie outbreak among the lower classes threatens to bring down the British Empire. To combat the epidemic and regain control, the upper classes take The Cure, becoming vampires. Years after these events, George Suttle of Scotland Yard is tasked with investigating when a vampire is found dead on the banks of the Thames. He soon finds himself navigating a variety of worlds and uncovering a greater conspiracy. The zombies aren’t particularly scary, and the story drags in parts. However, I did appreciate some aspects of “The New Deadwardians.” The commentary on the class system has relevance in our contemporary society. The artwork subtly makes a statement, appearing dull much of the time but becoming saturated with color to reflect the life force of certain people and places. But it was Suttle’s characterization that made this graphic novel worth reading. He’s a thoughtful, conflicted aristocrat with a conscience and a progressive streak. So if you’ve had enough of “Downton Abbey” and its soap opera story lines, “The New Deadwardians” might be an antidote.

The Body in the Piazza by Kathering Hall Page, 207 pages

This is the newest Faith Fairchild murder mystery. I haven't missed one yet, and I'm always excited when a new one comes out.

The Forgetful Lady by Jacqueline Diamond, 108 pages

There's nothing I like more than getting to read books sent to me by authors, to review for Night Owl.

A Lady of Letters by Jacqueline Diamond, 124 pages

I was asked to review this for Night Owl Reviews. I really enjoyed it, it was a fun, totally mindless, Regency romance.

The Sheik by E.M. Hull, 196 pages

I'd heard of this book and knew the movie starring Valentino was based on it, but had never read it. One of the books I'd read lately (The Pirate King) mentioned it, so I decided to give it a whirl. This was considered the 50 Shades of Grey for it's time, being incredibly racy for when it came out.
It features a young girl who has just come into her majority, so to celebrate, she decides to travel across the desert. Of course, she is taken by a sheik who has been attracted by her beauty and spirit, and also wants to revenge himself on the English. He ravages her repeatedly (polite way of putting what it nothing more than rape) and determines to break her spirit. Of course she falls in love with him, and finally he falls in love with her. Gaggg!!!! While I love a good historical bodice-ripper, I prefer mine rape-free. Not a book I really enjoyed at all, but I can cross it off my list of want-to-read books.

Sweet Life: Bittersweet by Francine Pascal, 85 pages

Even though these are totally trite and formulaic, I still hope this isn't the end. They truly are a guilty pleasure.

Sweet Life: Cutting the Ties by Francine Pascal, 83 pages

Sweet Valley High, will anyone get a happy ending?

Sweet Life: Secrets & Seductions by Francine Pascal, 69 pages

Sweet Valley High, but with sex, ooo-la-la.

Sweet Life: Too Many Doubts by Francine Pascal, 93 pages

Still all the drama, now just grown up.

The Sweet Life: Lies & Omissions by Francine Pascal, 80 pages

This takes place 3 years after Sweet Valley Confidential, which is when the twins are 30. Still all the drama, now just more of it.

To Have and To Hold by Jane Green (352 pages)

Despite the predictability of most of her books, I still love Jane Green.  This is an older title that I stumbled across when I was browsing

Here's the plot in a nutshell (spoiler alert):
  • Mousey, sweet English girl meets charming, handsome English bachelor.  
  • Girl and bachelor get married.  
  • Wife turns into head turning, blond stunner.  
  • Husband is perpetually unfaithful, though wife has no clue.  
  • Couple relocates to New York City and buys a country vacation home in Connecticut.  
  • Wife reverts back to comfy, mousey ways, and immerses herself in gardening and house restorations. 
  • Wife discovers that husband is a cheating, lying dog.
  • Couple divorces.  
  • Wife meets lovely, honest gardener.  
  • The End.
 Predictable, but fun and easy to read.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Little F'd Up: Why Feminism is not a Dirty Word (249 pages).

Informative book that reinvigorated my love of feminism, but it is a bit TOO wordy.


The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt (170 pgs)

Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
The Civil War is over, but there are still battles to be fought. In this western/horror/fantasy graphic novel, 6 guns with extraordinary powers are at the center of these battles. On one side is Drake Sinclair, an unscrupulous fortune hunter, and Becky Montcrief, an innocent farm girl who morns the loss of her step-father. On the other side is a group of mostly dead and fully undead: General Hume, who seeks the gun bound to Becky so he can unleash a force of evil, and Mrs. Hume whose gun has given her youth, beauty and regeneration.

This graphic novel is so good, you guys!  Just read it, okay?

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (619 pages)

I read this for my March book club meeting.  I'd read it before, but had forgotten most of what happened so now I'm all set to watch the movie and complain about how they messed it up (and if the trailer is any indication, wow, did they ever.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, 419 pages

I don't remember where I saw this book first mentioned, but it had seemed interesting enough that I had put it on my "want to read" list. After a few months I finally got around to it, and it was really good.
 Bagoas is a Persian boy whose family is killed when he is only 10 due to political upheaval, intrigue and betrayal. Bagoas is the only one to survive, due to his good looks he is sold to be an eunuch. After just a few years, he is taken into the court of the Persian ruler, King Darius. After Darius' death, Bagoas is given to Alexander the Great, and soon becomes not only a member of his household, but close to Alexander's heart. He is part of Alexander's life during his last years, including his India campaign.
I knew a little about Alexander but not much. This book really brought him to life and showed a little window into what was a fascinating time period. The author used a light and delicate touch dealing with the sexual aspects of the book, considering the cultural and historical viewpoint differences on sexuality. I may have to read more of her books dealing with Alexander.

Road Trip by Francine Pascal, 181 pages

What good road trip doesn't have a detour to Las Vegas?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Close to You by Francine Pascal, 181 pages

Just when you thought there couldn't be anymore drama, they've added underage drinking, GASP.

Stay or Go by Francine Pascal, 176 pages

We keep getting closer to the end of senior year.

Style Me Vintage by Naomi Thompson (272 pgs)

This is a great book for general knowledge on styles from the 1920s to the 1980s!

It discusses clothes, gives examples of specific outfits, talks about shapewear, and has how-tos for hair and makeup.  Great stuff!

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone (144 pgs)

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection is chock-full of action! The New 52 Batgirl series opens with Batgirl, recently recovered from a paralyzing gunshot wound, thwarting a gang of would-be murderers only to get entangled with The Mirror, an ex-agent turned psychopath. She also faces down a really creepy villainess (who I assume and hope will appear in later volumes).

I did not love this graphic novel. I think I liked it a little, but only a little.  The writing "tells" more than it "shows" (which is difficult to do, this is a comic book for Pete's sake) and the art... ug.  The bulk of the art is good.  The drawings are detailed, the color work is vivid, and the facial expressions are impressive.  But.  There are a couple of pages where the entire page is devoted to a gratuitous Batgirl Crotch-Shot.  Not only is this over-sexualization offensive, the awkward poses Batgirl has to be in to make her crotch the main focus of the piece makes the entire thing bad art.  It's just bad.

And the cherry on the top of my complaint sundae?  Barbara Gordon is no longer a librarian, you guys!  She has a degree in Forensic Psychology... What?!

The writing does get better as the story progresses, but it's difficult to slog through the negative feelings to get there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Uglies by Scott Westerfied (406 pgs.)

This series was recommended to me by our most awesome teen librarian.  Her description captivated me.  After reading this first book, I am sure I am hooked for the whole series.

The premise of the stories is a future time where society has determined that the problems of the past were caused by people's differences.  The solution is to  make everyone the same.  At age 16, you become "pretty".  The problem is, there is a dark secret behind the pretty face...

The Tiger's Child by Torey Hayden (264 pgs.)

Torey Hayden has a number of books about her experiences as a special ed. teacher and a child psychologist/counselor with a focus on mutism that does not have a biological cause.  This book is a sequel to "One Child" (a book that I have read many times).  It tells more of Sheila's story... what happened in her life after "One Child" and what happened during her teen years.  It is an amazing story of what a person can survive... sometimes, whether they want to or not.

I read it straight through.  I don't recommend picking it up right before bed.

Quilled Flowers by Alli Bartkowski (128 pgs.)

I am already a reasonably experienced quiller, but the cover of this book showed a type of dimensional, free-standing design that I had not yet tried, so the book followed me home from the library.

As with all good craft books, the beginning is a basic introduction to what the craft is, the supplies needed, and basic techniques.  The vast majority of the book is well-illustrated (with colour photographs) and clearly described steps to making many various projects as well as different ways to use the created flowers. 

I so enjoyed this book that I ordered a copy for my own craftbook library.

New Crewel - The Motif Collection by Katherine Shaughnessy (111 pgs.)

Spotting a new book for a craft that I don't (yet) do can be quite a temptation.  The cover art alone was enough to make me pick up the book.

The author did a fine job of listing/explaining needed materials.  There are also written, illustrated descriptions of the various stitches to be used. 

The motifs given are wonderful with pictures of finished designs and various ways to use them (pillows, on clothing, wall hangings, etc.) and patterns that can be copied.

I love the kitschy look of crewel work.  The retro look of it is fabulous... even with more contemporary designs.  This is a definitely a craft to put on my "must try" list.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (384 pgs)

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
In I Hunt Killers, Jasper "Jazz" Dent is the son of the most notorious serial killer in American history. He has been raised and groomed to be an even better killer than his father.  Four years after his father is arrested by the local sheriff, a new serial killer comes to town.  Jazz decides to help law enforcement solve the murders (whether they want help or not) in order to keep his name off the suspect list and to figure out whether he will follow in Dear Old Dad's footsteps. 

My husband suggested that I tweet my reactions as I read I Hunt Killers so I did.  You can find my thoughts (beware of spoilers) on twitter (@rhymeswcarrot or #IHuntKillers), but I've also pasted them below in order.

Tweets & Spoilers follow:

March 13 

9:59pm: Just started I Hunt Killers by . wants me to live tweet it instead of telling him every little detail.  

10:11pm: Pg 13. I'm hooked. Premise (son of serial killer raised to be serial killer) is great, but the "Gee, William" line cinched it.  

10:25pm: Must sleep. More tomorrow.

March 14

12:38pm: I think I'm going to love Howie.  

1:05pm: My reading is now colored by the lens of parenthood. Makes reading teen books more difficult. is good, but I it'll be rough.

March 15

11:14am: Does that nose bleed remedy really work? Wish I had known that when I was younger & having nosebleeds all the time!  

11:27am: Hello, Red Herring? What's with you, Deputy? You a killer? A psycho? Or just stone cold?

1:59pm:  I very much love it when I get the killer's perspective too. Hello, Impressionist.

2:32pm: What are the other 2 names on the list with "The Impressionist"? It's all I can think about now.  

March 16

8:46pm: "Connie gave good lessons in being human." I think if you have a Connie and a Howie in your life, you're going to be alright.

9:43pm: Vicarious tattoos! Love it!  

March 17

1:47pm: Murders, Howie slashed, a home invasion, & possible foster care! How much more can Jazz take? I can't read fast enough!

6:39pm: I don't think this interagency task force or press conference is going to be good for our boy Jazz...

8:59pm: Connie please be okay! I have a feeling your silent exit from the Hideout was not by choice. Does the Impressionist have you?  

9:32pm: Oh Yay! Connie's okay!  

10:23pm: Oh no. What's under the bird bath? There's got to be some horrible reason Billy wants it moved, right?! Is it Jazz's mom?!  

10:23pm: Is the bird bath some signal from Billy to the Impressionist?!  

10:31pm: Huh. Now that I know who you are, Impressionist, I'm not sure I'm surprised... But does Jazz know yet?  

11:02pm: Oh schnikeys! Oh crap! This is bad. This is really bad. (chapter 35)  

11:37pm: Wow. I'm glad I don't have to wait long for Game to come out! was so good, you guys! Disturbing, but good.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (342 pages)

This title has already been reviewed so I won't say much.  I'll simply tell you, like Danya told me, "If you're a fan of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series you should read this one, too."  And if you haven't read the Queen's Thief series, shame on you--it's one of the best!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Where We Belong by Francine Pascal, 178 pages

Nothing beats a Sweet Valley High book when you want a fast, mindless read. Really, they're like the one night stands of the book world.

The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen, 331 pages

I'd read the first book in this trilogy when I'd brought home "The False Prince" for Sammi to read. She'd finished it quickly, came up to me, and said "You have to read this so I have someone to talk about it with!!!" I started it and quickly found myself devouring the book. It was a long wait for this one to come out, but as soon as it did I brought it home. From the first sentence, my daughter was hooked. I mean, with an opening sentence like "I had arrived early for my own assassination." how can you not be? As soon as she finished it, I started it and read it in just one day. I don't really want to go into plot details since it's the second book and many people haven't read the first one yet. I will say, it reminds me a lot of "The Thief" by Turner and is extremely well written, with captivating characters, and lots of action. Now, the only thing that has my family sad is the wait for the third book in what is a great series.

An Autobiography by Agatha Christie, 576 pages

I've always enjoyed Agatha Christie's novels and heard she'd had an interesting life. Her autobiography really showed her voice, it sounded like a favorite aunt telling you stories about some of the neat and amazing things she done, jumping around a little but still moving along her life. Because of this I've decided to start reading more of her novels and start adding them to my collection.

Young Miss Holmes Casebook 3-4 by Kaoru Shintani, 384 pages

This is the second manga collection featuring Sherlock Holmes' niece that I've read so far. Once I got over reading the book backwards and the big eyes on all the women, it was pretty enjoyable. I did like how they took the original Holmes' stories and stayed true, while making them new and different.

A Wolf at the Table (242 pages).

by Augusten Burroughs.

I read this very upsetting memoir about an abusive, alcoholic dad compulsively in about two days, just to get the tragedy over with! I had nightmares both nights during the reading of it. It is very very sad, so don't read if you're susceptible to emotional upset from true stories. What Augusten and his older brother John have been through seems insurmountable to me. I really HAVE to stop reading the memoirs from this tragic family!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fairest: Wide Awake, 156 pages

I am a big fan of the Fables graphic novels and this a new series featuring the women. I may have to end up buying all of these for myself.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Aspergirls (236 pages).

By Rudy Simone.

For now I will say only that I have read it, I identify with about 85% of the content describing women with Asperger's, and I may seek formal diagnosis. Some of the stuff in this book should be taken with a grain of salt as it's mostly anecdotal, but it was, and can be for others with friends/family/self with Asperger's, encouraging, reassuring, and informative.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed (64 pages)

Three words: short, simple, sweet.  A children's tale of the different types of ice and how a family lives during winter.  It was a strong contender for the Newbery Medal this year, though it did not come away with a medal.

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas (351 pages)

I really enjoyed this book.  I think it was helpful for me personally as well as professionally.  It gave me a new understanding and appreciation of boys, especially the mental aspect of their development.  If you have a boy or work with boys, I highly recommend you reading it.

Cooking Skills by Stephanie Turnbull (32 pages)

cooking skills by stephanie turnbull
It's not that I can't cook... It's that I lack practice, confidence, and forethought. Oh and cooking takes time, you guys!  Time I'd rather spend playing with my child and hanging out with my husband.
With all that in mind, I checked out Cooking Skills hoping I would get some more practice, confidence, and skill.  It wasn't a far-fetched hope... the subtitle promises "recipes, techniques, and tips to help you become a super cook!" It's a very slim book, so I knew it wasn't going to be super thorough, but I figured it was worth a shot.

I'm pretty disappointed with the instruction portion of the book. The tips are so basic and so general that they're not really tips... more common sense. The book's instructions on chopping, for instance, are basically, "don't cut yourself." Turnbull doesn't discuss the difference between chopping, finely chopping, roughly chopping, etc (nor are they defined in the glossary) and then uses those terms in the recipes... Also, Turnbull numbers her steps, but lumps multiple actions within each step, then scatters the steps around the page in a way that makes them hard to follow.  Lastly, I like illustrations as much as the next person, but with cookbooks, I prefer actual photos of finished meals, not artist renderings...

I ended up making the "Perfect Pasta" (or spaghetti and meatballs) recipe from the book.  I've never made meatballs, so we had some issues getting them completely done.  (Andre has since cleared those issues up).  The recipe was tasty, but I imagine a teen just learning how to cook would be overwhelmed and daunted by the recipe and maybe by the whole book.

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, 298 pages

This is the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. These are really odd books, not bad, just odd. I enjoyed them, I'm just not sure how much I liked them if that makes sense. This was kind of a new take on Aladdin (the original, not the Disney movie) and I did like that.