Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray, 398 pages

The fascinating sequel to a really good trilogy featuring the daughter of Cleopatra. I'm a fan of historical fiction and this was well-done.

Anno Dracula-Johnny Alucard by Kim Newman, 441 pages

I'm a fan of vampire books but not as big a fan of revisionary fiction (where the author imagines a different history) so the Anno Dracula books aren't my favorite cup of tea. But I'll gladly read them when sent the books by Night Owl Reviews. I have to say I do prefer the early novels because I like history better in these books.

The Spanish Queen by Carolly Erickson, 276 pages

I love historical fiction, especially English history, so Carolly Erickson is always a favorite read. Her newest book covers Catherine of Aragon and her love affair with Henry VIII that so turned religion and England upside down.

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio, 382 pages

A review book from Night Owl Reviews that featured 18-year-old May Dugas trying to make a success of her life in 1887 Chicago. Wanting to help provide for her family and have enough money to feel secure, May takes up life in a bordello. She has a chance to get out when she gains a wealthy fiance, until Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton detective enters her life. He continues to show up at inopportune times, but May will continue to survive, at all costs.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (370 pgs)

This wonderful book is by Blogger/Author Allie Brosh whose blog of the same name was the inspiration for the "ALL THE THINGS!" posters throughout JPL.

It is a collection of essay/stories and illustrations.  Some hilarious.  Some heartbreaking.  All worth reading.

Ginny by Mary Carson (215 pgs.)


I have read this book many times over the course of my life and it is always a little different based on where I am in my life. 

Ginny is a true story, published in 1971, by Ginny's mother.  It tells the story of Ginny, who was hit by a truck  when she was 6 years old in 1966.  It shows the medical strides that were made to care for her and the family's faith journey along the way. 

The faith of this large Catholic family is evident throughout, but it is far from preachy or holier than Thou.  It is honest and heart-felt. 

I would love to find follow up information on how Ginny is doing today.

In the Beginning, There Was Chaos by Lynn Johnston (408 pgs.)

For Better or For Worse is one of my all time favourite comics.  This book is the 2nd "Treasury" with comics from the early years plus a few completely new ones to fill in story gaps.  Lynn also added personal notes and photos.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (166 pgs.)

I read this for a book club.  I imagine it will lend itself well for interesting discussion. 

I did not much care for the dark, depressing nature of the story, however it is a very well-written book.  The characters are well developed and it is easy to picture what is going on.  The end is intriguing.

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray, 351 pages

I'd discovered this trilogy when I was sent the 3rd book to review. This looks at the life of Selene, the only daughter of Cleopatra, who was brought to Rome as a royal war trophy and raised by Augustus' sister as a royal ward. This was a well-done piece of historical fiction, and really brought alive this tumultuous time period in Roman history. I'm almost through the second book as well because I'm eager to catch up on the back story I'd missed reading the last book first.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda, 224 pages

I'd become interested in reading Alan Alda's biography after reading about his early childhood on the burlesque travel circle because of his father being a singer/stand-up man. He's had an interesting life, especially with a famous father and a mentally ill mother. The only difficulty was separating the real person from his Hawkeye personae, which is how I will probably always think of him as.

The Mystery of Cabin Island by Franklin Dixon, 178 pages

While the Hardy Boys' books can be a little hokey at times, they still remind me of my childhood and picking them up off the library shelves for the first time.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller, 256 pages

This was an engrossing read about the daughter of hoarders. These books are a not-so-secret pleasure, and I always finish one with an urge to clean my house. This was interesting and well-written.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (288 pages)

I wrote this review for the Sunday, December 29th edition of the Joplin Globe.

The title of today’s review was on last year’s Mark Twain Award nominee list—meaning that Missouri students, in grades four through six, had a chance to read it, along with three of the other nominees, and then vote for it to win the state award.  It did not win the award, but it must have made a big impact on students in the Joplin area because at least once a week for the past year I have been asked by an elementary-age child for help finding this book. 

I have had children ask for it for numerous reasons: because they wanted to read it again, their teacher was currently reading it aloud to them, their friend had recommended it or they were looking for the sequel. And almost every time I was asked to help locate the book, the child would to tell me why they were looking for it. This is rare. Usually I show a child where a book is located, and they are so focused on getting the book they are not interested in having much dialogue about it. It is even rarer that I will notice a non-bestselling title or non-award winning book based purely on student interest. 

All of these rare happenings piqued my interest, so I “checked out” a digital copy of the e-book from the library’s molib2go.org website and read half of it in one sitting.  In looking back, I can definitely understand why children were so drawn to it—which I hope becomes clear in my review below.

The fifth-grade school year is just starting for the story’s seven narrators—shy Anna, prankster Peter, brainy Luke, new girl Jessica, bully Alexis, timid Danielle and grumpy Jeffrey—and their teacher Mr. Terupt.  Mr. Terupt is a new teacher at Snow Hill School, but his students quickly discover that he is not a typical teacher.  In fact, he turns out to be an unbelievable teacher. 

He encourages group work by seating his students in tables, rather than rows. He creates fun and challenging assignments like “Dollar Word” math. He forms a partnership with a special-education classroom. And he stands up for his students’ artwork when the fire marshal threatens to tear it down.  In doing so many things to help his students, he manages to create a unique classroom atmosphere that fosters respect and hands-on learning, while making a huge impact and creating a special bond between him and his students.

This special bond is challenged when, in the middle of the year, a tragic accident happens on the snowy playground.  What was supposed to be a fun-filled reward for their classroom turns into a surreal, nightmare for Mr. Terupt, his students and everyone at Snow Hill School.     

Debut novelist Rob Buyea has written a special story, and his use of seven child narrators for it lends a unique multidimensional perspective that bringing realness to the story.  Some narrators are more effective than others, but the combination of all of them to create the story works well.  Readers are sure to identify with one or more of the students and gain a better understanding of what others in their classes might be going through on a personal level.    

Hopefully readers will have had a teacher like Mr. Terupt, but if not Buyea has created a well-rounded and inspiring role model to fill that spot.  Students, teachers and parents alike should check out this quick-reading story about fear, hope, love, understanding and forgiveness. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith, 242 pages

I've been reading this series from the very beginning. While some of the later books have dragged just a little, this one was very well done and enjoyable. It's interesting to see how the relationships between the characters have developed and grown, especially Charlie in this book.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Once Upon a Time edited by Paula Guran, 384 pages

This is a dark collection of fairy tales with new updated versions. I'm a sucker for fairy tales, so I was eager to pick this up. While it's not the best collection I've read, it was still a good read.

Hild by Nicola Griffith, 546 pages

I'd seen this reviewed on Unshelved's Friday book club and thought it looked interesting. Hild is an early English saint that I knew nothing about. She is the niece of a king in early seventh-century England, and uses her birthright as "light of the world" and her ability to read nature's signs to help find her place. The only problem is surviving in that role.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Castle Rouge by Carole Nelson Douglas, 485 pages

Another fabulous read in the Irene Adler series. There is a reason that I keep picking these books up and re-reading them over the years. This is one of the darker ones.

DC Comics Covergirls by Louise Simonson, 208 pages

This was a Christmas present from my sister. It looks at the women who graced the covers of DC Comics from the very early days, some as sidekicks, villainesses, bit players, many with their own titles. Starting with Wonder Woman (my favorite) the book works through BatGirl, CatWoman, Lois Lane, Poison Ivy, Power Girl, and many other woman. While I really only read Wonder Woman, it was interesting to read about the roles women had on the pages of comics, and I may end up picking up more titles.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, 525 pages

Michael Valentine Smith was born on Mars. When he was brought to Earth by human astronauts he had to adjust in many ways (different atmosphere, language, and society to name a few) in order to "grok" (understand/know) meaning and right action on this planet without losing his own fundamental knowledge which was passed along to him by the "Old Ones" from Mars when he was just an egg. By sharing water he became one with his "nest" and his "water brothers" on Earth such as nurse Jill, father Jubal,and brother Ben. Mike could make people and things "discorporate" or vanish into thin air never to return. I liked this classic sci-fi quite a bit, except that sometimes its blatant misogyny made me cuss out loud (like when one of the main female characters, a nurse, stated that 9 times out of ten when a woman is raped that it's her fault!) Overall I would recommend this book, especially if you're interested in polyamory, religion, sociology and/or psychology.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Odyssey by Anne Perry, 315 pages

This was the December book club book. Spun from the Monk series, it features Henry Rathbone, Squeaky Robinson, and almost Dr. Crow searching for a prodigal son. It takes you through the deepest underbelly of London society in a search for truth and redemption.

The Imperfect Environmentalist by Sara Gilbert (198 pages)

I read a lot of books that are about saving money or the planet (which often goes hand in hand by the way) and I would place this book in my top 10! I really enjoyed how she truly encompassed all walks of life and what you can do within your current situation to make some lasting changes to help yourself and the planet. With headings like "Cut to the chase hippie: what's the least I need to know, " to "I'm sleeping on my friend's couch and eating Ramen Noodles" about every subject this book is sure to be a crowd favorite and offer solutions for all walks of life.