Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
2006 Candlewick Press

It is my firm rule that I read the book before I see the movie. Most times it turns out that I love the book and subsequently hate the movie because it differs too much from the book. That said, I have NOT seen the movie version of The Tale of Despereaux and I am scared to see the movie because I adore this book! It was a great young adults book. The conversational tone was fun and used in an effective way.

The book is about an unusual mouse who doesn’t fit into his mouse community, a wannabe princess with more brawn than brains and a vengeful rat. The mouse, our hero Desperaux, is nothing like his peers and finds himself ostracized by his family and friends. But he also finds himself with a quest to save the Princess Pea, the love of his life, and arch enemy of the rat Roscuro.

This book is a great moral tale that teaches without being preachy. The lesson is, be nice to the different kid, you can never be sure what they will grow up to be. I bet the kids who grew up with Bill Gates wish they had been nicer to him when he was younger. While Desperaux is small, with big ears and an unusual amount of fear Desperaux is also an emotional animal who loves hard and true. Is there a better quality for a knight?

Maybe, I will have to revise my book buying ban and purchase this for my nephews.

Amazon.com Review

Kate DiCamillo, author of the Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie, spins a tidy tale of mice and men where she explores the "powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous" nature of love, hope, and forgiveness. Her old-fashioned, somewhat dark story, narrated "Dear Reader"-style, begins "within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse." Despereaux Tilling, the new baby mouse, is different from all other mice. Sadly, the romantic, unmouselike spirit that leads the unusually tiny, large-eared mouse to the foot of the human king and the beautiful Princess Pea ultimately causes him to be banished by his own father to the foul, rat-filled dungeon.
The first book of four tells Despereaux's sad story, where he falls deeply in love with Princess Pea and meets his cruel fate. The second book introduces another creature who differs from his peers--Chiaroscuro, a rat who instead of loving the darkness of his home in the dungeon, loves the light so much he ends up in the castle& in the queen's soup. The third book describes young Miggery Sow, a girl who has been "clouted" so many times that she has cauliflower ears. Still, all the slow-witted, hard-of-hearing Mig dreams of is wearing the crown of Princess Pea. The fourth book returns to the dungeon-bound Despereaux and connects the lives of mouse, rat, girl, and princess in a dramatic denouement.
Children whose hopes and dreams burn secretly within their hearts will relate to this cast of outsiders who desire what is said to be out of their reach and dare to break "never-to-be-broken rules of conduct." Timothy Basil Ering's pencil illustrations are stunning, reflecting DiCamillo's extensive light and darkness imagery as well as the sweet, fragile nature of the tiny mouse hero who lives happily ever after. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to the
Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3 Up-A charming story of unlikely heroes whose destinies entwine to bring about a joyful resolution. Foremost is Despereaux, a diminutive mouse who, as depicted in Ering's pencil drawings, is one of the most endearing of his ilk ever to appear in children's books. His mother, who is French, declares him to be "such the disappointment" at his birth and the rest of his family seems to agree that he is very odd: his ears are too big and his eyes open far too soon and they all expect him to die quickly. Of course, he doesn't. Then there is the human Princess Pea, with whom Despereaux falls deeply (one might say desperately) in love. She appreciates him despite her father's prejudice against rodents. Next is Roscuro, a rat with an uncharacteristic love of light and soup. Both these predilections get him into trouble. And finally, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can become a princess. With a masterful hand, DiCamillo weaves four story lines together in a witty, suspenseful narrative that begs to be read aloud. In her authorial asides, she hearkens back to literary traditions as old as those used by Henry Fielding. In her observations of the political machinations and follies of rodent and human societies, she reminds adult readers of George Orwell. But the unpredictable twists of plot, the fanciful characterizations, and the sweetness of tone are DiCamillo's own. This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NYCopyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

by Rick Riordan

It’s no secret that I enjoy young adult books a little too much. For th most part there is a minimum of romance drama or sex that can drive a story down. As I have said before and probably will continue to say until I have no breath left I love Rick Riordan. All of his YA books are fun, fast and expect the reader to have a good vocabulary. There is no annoying attempt at slang or kiddie language that changes by the week. That said I found a new Rick Riordan book that I read cover to cover when I should have been sleeping.

The Maze of Bones is not just a book. It’s a game, too. Like dungeons and dragons was a book series with a matching game component. Only this time there are prizes to win, which because the state decides its workers shouldn't view a lot of really good sites, I don’t have access to and cant tell you what they are. I will be trying later this week to log on at the library so I can try the game myself. Back to the book.

He first book in The 39 Clues series is about the brother sister orphans of Amy and Dan Cahill, who upon the death of their grandmother find that they are part of a long and gloried family with links to most of the major names in history. Their task is to find the thirty-nine clues left around the world and figure out the family secret, which will not only save the family but also, [drum roll!] the WORLD! But the have to fight not only themselves but not so nice family members who see them as a threat.

I read this book in one night and then reread it again this morning at work when I should have been doing something else. What can I say? Its fun. Its fast. Its funny. I loved it. Unfortunately, the whole series will not be written by Riordan so it will be a toss-up if I enjoy each book as much as I enjoyed the first. Oh well.

If I didn’t have to return it to the library I would have given it to one of my nephews for Christmas to see what they thought. Instead I will have to ask for reader feedback.
Did you read the book? What did you think? Hard questions, I know.

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.

Built around a ripe conceit—wealthy matriarch scatters cryptic clues to a mysterious fortune around the globe—this first installment in a projected 10-book series is tons of fun. Lead-off hitter Riordan (The Lightning Thief) mixes just the right proportions of suspense, peril and puzzles in a fast-paced read (Riordan mapped the narrative arc for all 10 volumes, but other high-profile authors will be writing for the series, too). Likable orphans Amy and Dan Cahill have moxie (plus Dan can memorize numbers instantly) and frailties (Amy hates crowds). As the siblings compete with less honorable members of the Cahill clan, all distantly related to Benjamin Franklin, to win the fortune by collecting all 39 clues (only two are found in this first book), they learn about their dead parents, each other and world history. The humor is spot on—one uncle is credited with inventing the microwave burrito. The only flaw? The story does not end so much as drop off a cliff. (The second book, One False Note by Gordon Korman, is set to arrive in December.) While waiting, readers can collect cards, each of which contains evidence, and play the online game (www.the39clues.com), for which Scholastic is offering over $100,000 in prizes. This ought to have as much appeal to parents as it does to kids—it's Webkinz without the stuffed animals, and a rollicking good read. Ages 9–12. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

2008 – Shadow Mountain Publishing

Lately, I have found that I really enjoy young adult books. Especially the series. My current favorites are the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull and the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. I have read quite a few young adult books and I get disheartened when I read ones that are patronizing or try to be hip and current but come off as if my great-grandmother tried to talk slang to me. I can understand why my students didn't enjoy reading if they had to slog through piles of patronizing crap to get to one decently written book. It is with great joy that I read the third book in the Fablehaven series. This book is by far my favorite of the three.

The series centers around a brother and sister, Kendra and Seth, who find out that there grandparents are caretakers of a secret reserve where mythical and magical creatures abound. They are the latest in a long line of protectors of this sanctuary, protecting its inhabitants from both internal and outside enemies. There are centaurs, water nymphs, fairies and brownies as well as other magical creatures that the two have to fight or defend.

I read this book almost without stopping. It was fast – paced, fun and challenging. There are plenty of plot twists and battle scenes to interest even the most reluctant reader. It boasts both a male and female lead character, and this book has a little bit of romance, to lure the girls. My only complaint is that some of the characters do not seem to learn or grow as the story progresses, which is unfair to the reader who is watching the two main characters mature.

I wait breathlessly until the fourth installment comes out in April 2009~

A few customer reviews from amazon.com:

Picking up where the last novel left off, Kendra and Seth are still at Fablehaven with their grandparents. Suspicions have been cast on the Sphinx and his loyalties. Kendra has been recruited as a Knight, and the family agrees that she should infiltrate with hopes of claiming the next artifact before the Sphinx can get to it. And Fablehaven is under attack by a mysterious darkness that is spreading extremely fast. Can Seth and the rest of his family and friends discover the cause and stop it before all of Fablehaven is lost? Each installment in the Fablehaven series has been more action-packed and exciting than the next. Grip of the Shadow Plague has a fast-paced plot where danger and intrigue run rampant. New and interesting characters appear. Dark secrets and betrayals are uncovered. And more mysteries unfold. Kendra and Seth are ordinary children who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Fablehaven is full of mystery and wonder that comes alive. Kendra's humility and wisdom is admirable. And Seth's enthusiasm and bravery is inspirational. Fablehaven is easily on par with the Harry Potter series. And if you've been waiting for something to fill the HP loss, look no further.

The Sorenson kids are only a few weeks from heading home and starting school when a new threat to Fablehaven makes the likelihood of going home anytime soon unlikely. Creatures of light on the preserve begin to turn dark. Along with that Kendra's abilities imparted by the kisses of hundreds of fairies in book one seem to be evolving to such an extend that she could be a target of the Society of the Evening Star if she goes home. As if that is not enough, she is invited to become a Knight of the Dawn, an organization pledged to protect magical preserves. Traveling to meet them, then on a secret mission to another preserve, and the growing threat within Fablehaven fill this volume of the the Fablehaven series with some of the best writing, action, and story-telling of the series so far. Valuable lessons for kids and families are deftly woven into this volume, like the others, without being preachy. The action is even more intense so small kids will not be ready for this, but adolescents and teens will love this one, too. I can't wait to see what happens in volume 4! Brandon Mull is becoming a favorite at our house.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

I don’t know what to say about this book. I liked it. That much I can say with certainty. But I don’t know why. Most times I can easily isolate a character or a scene that was the turning point for me. No such luck now.

The book has an interesting, and in these modern times, inevitable, setting; the characters of the book are on a reality show scavenger hunt. Each pairing has the necessary interesting twist that TV viewers demand but unfold, mostly for the reader. I found myself enjoying most of the characters, not so much the ones that the book declared the main characters, but the other contestants on the show. Who doesn’t love ex-gays trying to be straight? Or childhood TV stars trying to reclaim their former glory? In a lot of ways, this book was like watching reality TV but better.

The ending left a little to be desired. Maybe I am the only one who likes neat endings but I really would have liked to learn more about the fate of the other characters in the book, not the mother- daughter team who were the main protagonists.

Lost and Found is a great story, an enjoyable rainy day read.

From the Publisher:
New from the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Dogs of Babel, seven unlikely couples scour the globe searching for love, treasure, fame, family--and themselves--in an astonishing new novel.
Seven oddly matched pairs--a mother and daughter, two business partners, two flight attendants, a born-again Christian couple, two former child stars, and other unlikely couples--are thrown together to compete in a high-stakes, televised contest. It is the new reality show, Lost and Found, a global scavenger hunt whose initial purpose is entertainment, but with each challenge, the drama builds as the number of players is whittled down.
Laura signed on to try to reconnect with her recalcitrant teenage daughter, Cassie. But Cassie knows they were only selected because of a secret she hides, one the show's producers hope will be revealed as the pressures of the competition mount. Justin and Abby aim to use the million-dollar prize to spread their message of faith, but they soon find the game putting their marriage to the test. Juliet and Dallas, deep in the "where-are-they-now" stage of stardom, just hope to spark some life back into their flagging careers.
But as the game escalates, tensions mount, temptations beckon, and the bonds between teammates begin to fray. The question is not only who will capture the final prize, but at what cost?
Author Biography: Carolyn Parkhurst is the author of the bestseller The Dogs of Babel. She holds an MFA in creative writing from American University. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their son.

Publishers Weekly:
Parkhurst's novel of a disparate group of people traveling the globe on an Amazing Race-like reality game show shines on audio. The alternating points of view work especially well when read aloud: each chapter is told in first person by a different character, and Brown's superb narration makes it feel as though the characters are telling their intimate stories directly into the listener's ear. Brown does not create drastically different voices for the characters; instead, she makes her voice a bit higher or a bit deeper or adds a touch of an accent. The strength of her performance is that she truly acts out the roles, becoming each character and using her voice to convey his or her essence and personality. Characters include Cassie, whose eye-rolling teenage sarcasm hides insecurity and vulnerability; prim, judgmental Justin, a supposedly reformed homosexual preaching how religion has saved him, and his Southern wife, Abby, who's not nearly as convinced that she can leave lesbianism behind; down-to-earth New Yorker Carl; and self-centered, manipulative former child star Juliet. Lost and Found is an entertaining book that works even better in the audio format. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 10). (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe

Lydia Bennet’s Story
By Jane Odiwe

2008 - Sourcebooks Landmark

I must admit that I have been getting pretty sick of the Austen books. I have read all the ones that cross my hand and very rarely, VERY RARELY, do I find one that I enjoy. It seems that some of these authors get so caught up in continuing the story of the Jane and Darcy and Lizzy and Bingley that they don’t take the time to create a thoughtful and entertaining story. At least to me.

On that note, I loved this book.

I fully expected to hate this book. I expected to finish it and thank my lucky stars that I only had one Austen related book on my desk. I was sad when this book ended.

Of all the Bennet sisters I always liked Lydia. She seemed like she would be fun to be around. What young girl doesn’t like to party every once in a while? However, we never really learned much about her. She was given to the reader as a silly, thoughtless and self-concerned girl who didn't warrant much consideration by the original Austen. What Odiwe has given us, in this go round, is a girl like any other. She is young, naïve, trusting and foolish. She doesn’t understand consequence at all. At the end of the book the reader is left with a woman, a woman who knows her own heart and goals.

This book started slow. The first thirty pages were torture but once past the introductory pages it picked up pace. The reader travels all over England with Lydia as she straightens out her life and tries to free herself from Wickham. Wickham is everything he is in Pride and Prejudice and a really delicious character to hate.

It is with great reluctance that I pass this book on to a friend. Lydia Bennet’s Story is a book that I would love to be able to revisit whenever I needed a fun book on a rainy afternoon.

Happy Reading!

From the Publisher:
Lydia Bennet is the flirtatious, wild and free-wheeling youngest daughter. Her untamed expressiveness and vulnerability make her fascinating to readers who'll love this imaginative rendering of Lydia's life after her marriage to the villainous George Wickham. Will she mature or turn bitter? Can a girl like her really find true love?In Lydia Bennet's Story we are taken back to Jane Austen's most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia's eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, complications arise. When Lydia is reunited with the Bennets, Bingleys, and Darcys for a grand ball at Netherfield Park, the shocking truth about her husband may just cause the greatest scandal of all ..."A breathtaking Regency romp!"-Diana Birchall, author of Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma

Publishers Weekly:
In this pleasant addition to the growing microgenre of Austen knockoffs, Odiwe pays nice homage to Austen's stylings and endears the reader to the formerly secondary character, spoiled and impulsive Lydia Bennet. Odiwe begins partway through the original tale, with Lydia heading to Brighton. Shifting between a third-person narrative and Lydia's first-person journal entries, Odiwe grants readers unfettered access to Lydia as she flirts with her many beaus and falls hard for George Wickham, with whom she elopes. After the pair is married and settled in Newcastle, Lydia has a hard time keeping her jealousy in check as George, a notorious flirt, does not change his ways. Her marital discontent leads to frequent visits to her sisters, and it's during one of these visits that a massive scandal befalls the Wickham household. In a pleasantly foreshadowed if too abrupt conclusion, a slightly matured Lydia finds true happiness in the most unlikely of places. It won't convert anybody who doesn't already worship at the church of Jane, but devotees will enjoy. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Birthing the Elephant by Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman

Birthing the Elephant
by Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman

2008 - Ten Speed Press

I have started two small businesses in the past. The first was a tutoring company that serviced only No Child Left Behind students and the other was a cosmetics retailer. I loved each company for different reasons and while they did NOT fail, and are actually both going strong this book would have said me a lot of heartache and tears. Aberbanel and Freeman have taken a lot of what goes wrong with opening a small business and made these problems easier to navigate and resolve without losing your business and all your money.

This book is written for women entrepreneurs who have an idea but no idea what to do with that idea. Each stage of business development is patiently and thoroughly covered, which in such a small book (only 200 pages long) is amazing. The two best features are the resources at the end of the book and quick tips. The quick tips serve as a gentle reminder of points in the chapter that are important to remember. The resources are invaluable. While only a few pages there are quite a number of resources that I wish I had known about when I started thinking about my first business.

Women considering opening a franchise business would find a lot of helpful information at http://www.bizymoms.com/com, for example.

I LOVE this book! I got a free copy that I had to return (didn't really want to do that!) but immediately went out and bought a copy of my own. Even if you aren't opening a business this book would be a great and useful addition to any library.

If you have read this book or have started a small business send me an email and tell me about your experience.


Publishers's Summary

Customized for the female entrepreneur's unique psychological experience of launching a business, BIRTHING THE ELEPHANT goes beyond logistics to prepare women for the emotional challenges they will face, with expert advice on reshaping one's business identity, giving up the paycheck mentality, anticipating problems, and avoiding costly mistakes. This supportive handbook gives the small-business owner the staying power to survive and succeed in the business of her dreams.

  • A female entrepreneur's guide to navigating the psychological aspects of launching and building a business during the critical first 18 months.

  • Women-owned businesses are increasing at twice the rate of other startups, with 500,000 launches each year.

  • With a foreword by cosmetics guru Bobbi Brown.

From Publishers Weekly
Starting your own business is tough, but learning to think like an entrepreneur is half the battle, say small-business consultants Abarbanel and Freeman. Part portable success coach, part step-by-step guide through the life cycle of a small-business launch, the book presents real-life stories—from the famous, such as makeup entrepreneur Bobbi Brown and stylish maternity-wear pioneer Liz Lange, to startups in the worlds of baking, filmmaking and high tech software. A great deal of space is given to tools for developing the emotional mind frame to succeed outside the comfort of the traditional workplace, and the authors devote particular attention to commitment, courage, persistence and other traits. Later chapters delve into the nitty-gritty of asset assessment, money management, support systems, success strategies and common pitfalls. This information is backed up with handy chapter-closing quick tips, checklists, action steps, real-life examples and a helpful resource guide. With the number of women-owned businesses growing in the U.S. at the rate of one every 60 seconds—roughly 600,000 launches a year, according to the authors—the audience for this positive, cheerful, practical book should be substantial. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description
As the largest growing group of entrepreneurs, women need encouragement and guidance to push past those make-or break first 18 months. While most start-up guides address the practicalities of launching a business, "Birthing the Elephant" prepares women for the psychological and emotional challenges they will face, with expert advice on reshaping one's business identity, giving up the pay check mentality, anticipating problems, and avoiding costly mistakes. This supportive handbook gives the small-business owner the staying power to survive and succeed in the business of her dreams.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Believers by Zoe Heller

The Believers by Zoe Heller

March 2009; HarperCollins Publishers

I started off not liking this book. To be honest I despised the characters, hated them for their self-indulgence and prejudices for all they protested to be anti-discriminatory. They seemed to have little insight into themselves. But when I read the book again, and maybe, to be honest, I grew up a little, they seemed like people I know. We are born with the gift of insight and self-review; if we choose not to use that is our own problem. It doesn’t make us bad people, just willfully ignorant. This lack of insight by the characters made them much more sad to me but also much more real. I felt for Audrey, trying to keep her family intact and moving forward, when she didn’t know how to be a loving caring mother. I felt for Joel who needed to feel young and alive by creating a child with his mistress and then leaving his wife to pick up the pieces when he died. I cried for Lenny, the adopted son, who did not have enough faith in himself to make a life-saving decision. The characters that you feel the most dislike for are the ones that you champion at the end of the novel

This book is a sad commentary on modern life. For all of our modern conveniences we really are asking ourselves the same questions that our forefathers asked themselves. How does one deal with infidelity? How does one rediscover dampened religious beliefs and incorporate them into an uncooperative family? How does one go about reinventing themselves?

The most pleasurable thing about this book is that the characters aren’t static. Those that start out as bullies and villains at the beginning of the book are championed at the end of the book. I began the book not liking Audrey at all, wanting to blame her for the family’s problems but when the book ended I cried for her. It is not easy to care for your children and have to stand by as they direct their own life. There were times that she was brutal and cold but children cannot be babied forever. Especially grown children.

I do have one bone to pick with this book. I don’t think that the character of Lenny was as developed as the characters and I would have liked to learn more about him. What we do get is great reading but in the end really not much insight at all.


From the Publisher

When New York radical lawyer Joel Litvinoff is felled by a sudden, massive stroke, his wife, Audrey, uncovers a secret that forces her to re-examine both her belief in him and her commitment to their forty-year marriage. Meanwhile, her ne’er-do-well adopted son, Lenny, is back on drugs again and her daughters, Karla and Rosa, are grappling with their own dilemmas. Rosa, a disillusioned revolutionary socialist, has found herself increasingly beguiled by the world of Orthodox Judaism; now she is being pressed to make a commitment and must decide if she is really ready to forsake all her cherished secular values for a Torah-observant life. Karla, an unhappily married hospital social worker and union activist, falls into a tumultuous affair with a conservative newstand proprietor: can she really love a man whose politics she reviles? And how to choose between a life of duty and principle and her own happiness?
The highly anticipated new novel from the author of the acclaimed What Was She Thinking? Notes On a Scandal (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and adapted into an Oscar-nominated film) delivers on every level: with wit, heart, and -- as always with Zoë Heller --tremendous intelligence and verve.

Publishers Weekly

Heller (What Was She Thinking?; Notes on a Scandal) puts to pointed use her acute observations of human nature in her third novel, a satire of 1960s idealism soured in the early 21st century. Audrey and Joel Litvinoff have attempted to pass on to their children their lefty passions-despite Audrey's decidedly bourgeois attitude and attorney Joel's self-satisfied heroism, including the defense of a suspected terrorist in 2002 New York City. When Joel has a stroke and falls into a coma, Audrey grows increasingly nasty as his secrets surface. The children, meanwhile, wander off on their own adventures: Rosa's inherited principles are beleaguered by the unpleasant realities of her work with troubled adolescents; Karla, her self-image crushed by Audrey, has settled into an uncomfortable marriage and the accompanying pressure to have children; and adopted Lenny, the best metaphor for the family's troubles, dawdles along as a drug addict and master manipulator. Though some may be initially put off by the characters' coldness-the Litvinoffs are a severely screwed-up crew-readers with a certain mindset will have a blast watching things get worse.

(Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Real Girls Eat by Anthea Paul

It must be common knowledge that I am on a diet and I love to read. Cookbooks keep popping up everywhere I go, people leave them in my car when I’m at work, and my favorite librarian piles them up on the counter when I visit. It’s getting out of control. When I got home from the library last night I realized she had slipped me a copy of Real Girls Eat by Anthea Paul (2005 Everbest Printing Co.)

It’s okay for what it is; a book about food, nutrition and cooking aimed at teenage girls. It is a little heavy on organic and “natural” food, which has never really factored into my food related thoughts. I’m most likely wrong, and I’m sure someone will correct me, but I really only concern myself about the price. I don’t care if a bird is free-range, hand fed or whatever.

There’s some good wisdom in this book, especially if you have never learned to cook, if you eat a lot of fast food or don’t know anything about nutrition. The food groups are presented early in the book with a list of serving suggestions and nutrients. Paul has given the reader the breakdown of serving sizes for each of the food groups. Did you know that for fruit a serving is a medium sized apple, banana, orange, etc, ½ cup (3 oz) cooked or poached or chopped fruit, or ¾ cup (6 fl. Oz) fruit juice? I didn’t. I wanted to know so now I now.

What ticks me off is that there is no nutritional information included with the recipes. I know that the book is geared toward young girls who should not be considering a diet, counting calories or obsessing over fat content but for everyone else give a little info or a link to where we can find that info. That would have been nice. The book is a little hard to read. Varying fonts and colors make it hard to follow at times. It is VERY colorful with loads of pictures which made the book a lot of fun to look at.

For future reference for all you cookbook writers out there there are a few things a cookbook needs to have to be welcome in my house. Pictures, easy to read font and NUTRITIONAL information!

Here’s a recipe I enjoyed. It’s easy and yummy.

Lychee Slushy

Shopping List:
13 oz can lychees in syrup (for core choose light syrup)
Fresh mint

How to make it:
The night before you want to eat this, empty contents of the can into a durable plastic or ziplock bag or Tupperware freezer container. Seal tightly and place in freezer

24 hours later, remove from freezer 10 minutes before churning so it has a chance to soften.

Place in blender and whiz quickly in spurts. You may need to use a wooden spoon (when stopping the blender naturally!) to quickly mix the chunks if the blender isn’t getting through them.

Scoop out into your serving bowls and garnish with fresh mint.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

authors website:http://www.avi-writer.com/


Horace Carpetine is an apprentice to MR. Middleditch, self-styled “Society Photographer” in 1872 New York. When forced to deceive a client, the evil Mrs. Von Macht and her husband, Horace finds himself with the ability to bring ghost’s to life through photography. Horace brings to life the angry and vengeful ghost of Eleanora Von Macht, niece of Mr. and Mrs. Von Macht. With the help of Pegg, “sister” of Eleanora Horace must stop the destructive ghost from exacting revenge on those who wronged her in life.


I normally hate ghost stories and mysteries. Why? Because I never seem to understand how the protagonist figures out who did it and how, even though it most usually is clearly laid out for me. That said, I LOVED this book! It was a brilliantly written novel that didn’t shy from including the political, racial and social climates of the time. It is not condescending, which is completely abhorrent in children focused literature, and forces a reader of any age to actively employ their vocabulary. The book is a great late night read. It has just enough suspense to keep the reader going but not so much that you have to put the book down. As an adult I found The Seer of Shadows to be a page-turner. I did not put down the book until I was finished and promptly restarted it.

I only recently began reading Avi and I am so mad at myself for not discovering him earlier. He blends history with good story telling so effortlessly. For example:

“My name is Horace Carpetine. I was born in New York City and spent my youth there. Perfectly happy years they were too, though my childhood occurred during the vast upheaval known as the Civil War. And I can assure you there was nothing civil about that conflict, certainly not in New York City.” (ch.2, para. 1)

It's not everyday that I find myself wanting to learn more about the history of photography!

Book Blurb:

From the Publisher
Newbery Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales—about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge.
The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.
Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora.
Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her.
Rich in detail, full of the magic of early photography, here is a story about the shadows, visible and invisible, that are always lurking near.

Publishers Weekly
Newbery Medalist Avi (Crispin: The Cross of Lead) sets this intriguing ghost story in 19th-century New York City, where a photographer's apprentice has a horrifying run-in with a spirit bent on revenge. In the fall of 1872, 14-year-old narrator Horace Carpetine reluctantly becomes involved in his employer's scheme to dupe a superstitious client, wealthy Mrs. Von Macht. The plan is to make a tidy profit by producing a double exposure and offering her an unusual portrait, one incorporating a superimposed image of her dead daughter, Eleanora. Events depart from the expected when the ghost of Eleanora literally enters the picture, and Horace discovers his ability to capture departed souls on film. Suspense builds as the Von Machts' servant, Pegg, reveals secrets about the Von Macht family and explains that Eleanor's angry spirit, brought back into the world through the camera lens, may want revenge on both Mrs. Von Macht and her husband. Mirroring both the style and themes of gothic novels of the period, the story takes ghastly and ghostly turns that challenge Horace's belief in reason. Details about photographic processes add authenticity, while the book's somber ending will leave spines tingling. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.